AUTHOR OF LECTURES ON MORAL PRINCIPLES AND MEDICAL PRACTICE, AND TEXT-BOOKS ON LOGIC AND METAPHYSICS, MORAL PHILOSOPHY, ORATORY, RHETORIC.
“Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt. xvi, 18.
That the true religion made by honored and loved by all men, the first requisite is that it be made clearly known to all. Many persons are aliens to Catholicity because they do not understand it as it is; many members of the Church do not love it as they should, and do not live up to its laws, because their knowledge of it is very imperfect. The conviction is general among educated Catholics, that a more thorough study of our holy religion is, just now, a special desideratum in this country. This study must be promoted chiefly among the young, on whose proper education the future of religion principally depends.
To accomplish this object, it is the received practice in many Catholic colleges and academies to teach religion to the more advanced students by series of lectures, rather than by recitations from text-books. This practice has much to recommend it. In particular, it enables the teacher to adapt himself to the capacity and the stage of mental development of his pupils, to address by the living voice their hearts as well as their intellects, to throw his whole soul into his subject, adding charm of style and elocution, which this study so richly deserves.
But there is one serious inconvenience in this system, which outbalances many of its advantages, namely that most students find it beyond their power to remember the explanations with such accuracy as the importance and the difficulty of the matter require. If attempts are made to take notes during the lectures, it is usually found to be impossible by such jottings to do justice to the subjects treated. A set of printed syllabi, put at the disposal of the hearers for reference and preservation, would certainly be of the highest value. By this means many details may also be supplied for the information of the students which the lecturer might judiciously have omitted in his discourse.
To furnish such an abridgement of a full course of Catholic doctrine is the direct purpose of these pages. In preparing them, the author has found it difficult to combine the necessary brevity of such syllabi with the clearness and fulness of doctrine desired in them. But instead of being induced by this difficulty to abandon his design, he has been the more convinced by it of the need of just such a volume as this for the systematic study of religion. If an old professor finds it a hard task to compose such a compendium of Catholic doctrine as is evidently needed, the notes taken in class by the average pupil must certainly be most unsatisfactory.
While thus providing a compendium of lectures supposed to be delivered orally to students, the author has taken care to make his work so clear, full, and explicit throughout, that even those pupils who have not the advantage of assisting at such lectures can use this volume with profit, either as a text-book to prepare for class recitations, or for private perusal without the aid of any teacher.
He takes pleasure in acknowledging his very great indebtedness, in the preparation of this work, to the excellent volumes of the late Rev. Sylvester Joseph Hunter, S. J., entitled “Outlines of Dogmatic Theology”. With the kind permission of the Jesuit Fathers in England, for which he is deeply grateful, he has followed the general plan of that able work, and availed himself of much information contained in it which is not usually found in Latin works on Theology. He has also reproduced, usually in a much abridged form, many of its judicious explanations, finding them peculiarly well adapted to the habits of thoughts of English-speaking students. By way of supplying for the various shortcomings of this brief text-book, the author would respectfully suggest that those who explain it should ever have at hand a copy of Father Hunter's learned work.
Creighton University, Omaha, Neb.
The present edition has been brought into conformity with the new Code of Canon Law.
1. By the word religion we may signify the virtue which disposes us to worship God; or we may signify a system of truths, laws, and practices by which this virtue is regulated or exercised. In this latter meaning, the Christian religion is that system of truths, laws, and practices for the worship of God which was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is taught in its fulness by the Catholic Church, and by the Catholic Church alone; that is by that conspicuous body of Christians which, while existing in all nations, and comprising as many members as all the other Christian bodies taken together, is yet perfectly united in doctrine and worship by submission to one Supreme Pontiff the Pope of Rome. For the word Catholic (κατα through, 'ολος whole) means “universal”; and therefore this name cannot be claimed without self-contradiction by any very limited body of men. The term “Roman” is often prefixed to the name of the Catholic Church, not to distinguish it from other Catholic church,--for there is evidently only one universal Church,--but to emphasize that this vast body of believers is united in obedience to the one Bishop of Rome.
2. The study of the Catholic religion is begun by the children of the Church from the first dawn of reason; and such is its importance, such also are its beneficial results, that it should be continued by them through life. We are now entering on a systematic study of this religion; and we shall make this study asscientific as the brevity of the present work allows. Science examines into the reason of things; it considers, not only what an object is, but why it is such, and how it came to be such. The scientific study of the Catholic religion therefore examines, not only what this religion is, and in particular what doctrines it teaches, but also how it came to be what it is, and why it teaches every one of these doctrines. If accounts for every point, so far as this is possible, from the principles of reason and of revelation.
3. The attitude of mind on the part of Catholics to the Church is one of deep reverence, of love, and of perfect docility, such as every dutiful child cherishes in regard to its parents. Well instructed Catholics can see no reason why they should distrust her guidance; and they would consider it as unwarrantable in them to question her authority, as it would be for sons and daughters of a respectable family to ask their parents for proof of their right to govern the home. Catholics, therefore, do not study the claims and the doctrines of the Church in a doubting spirit, but only as scientific students, that they may understand them distinctly and know how to explain and prove them to others.
4. But non-Catholics approach the Church as inquirers, looking, in a matter which is of the highest importance, for reliable guidance, such as they have not in their sects. For their sects do not profess to be infallible; they require that every man shall judge for himself. It is therefore the duty, as well as the interest, of all non-Catholics to search most carefully for the true religion. To do so successfully, they should rid themselves of all prejudices, and examine with earnestness and perfect impartiality the claims of so remarkable an institution as the Catholic Church evidently is. They should accompany their inquiries with humble prayer, that God may enlighten their minds and strengthen their wills. For it requires grace to know and follow the guide divinely appointed to lead men to Heaven; and grace is to be obtained by prayer.
5. The systematic study of the Catholic religion is usually divided into three parts. The first examines the reasons why all men should accept the claim to infallible teaching on the part of the Catholic Church; the second considers all her doctrines in detail; the third explains the duties imposed upon her members. We shall treat these parts respectively under the titles of, 1. The teaching authority, 2. The doctrines of the Catholic Church, 3. The duties of Catholics.
The first part of our work will embrace the study: 1. Of the Christian revelation, and of the credentials by which it is known to be from God; 2. Of the Catholic Church, as the Heaven-appointed teacher of the Christian revelation.
Under this head we are to consider: 1. The nature of revelation; 2. The credentials of revelation; 3. Pre-Christian revelations; 4. The Christian revelation; 5. The records of the Christian revelation; 6. The credentials of the Christian revelation; 7. The miraculous spread of the Christian revelation.
7. Revelation is the removal of a veil. When the discovery of truth is made by our natural powers, it is called natural revelation. By it man can easily know the existence of God as the First Cause and Master of all things, the Rewarder of good and evil; the survival of the soul in another life of happiness or misery; the principles of the moral law, in particular the duty of worshipping and serving God; etc. These truths have been known in all ages by all men who had the full use of reason. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, speaking of the ungodly, writes: “The invisible things of Him (of God), from the creation of the word, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal power also, and Divinity: so that they are inexcusable. Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified Him as God, nor given Him thanks” (I, 20, 21). And of the moral law he says that even the gentiles have the law “written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them” (II, 15). Many other truths concerning God can be known by reason; as is proved in Natural Theology, a division of Metaphysics.
8. The word “revelation” is however more commonly used in another meaning; and it is in this latter sense that we shall take it throughout this book; namely, to designate a manifestation of truth by God to man by a light superior to reason. In this meaning it is properly called “supernatural revelation”. It issupernatural, because such light is not part of our nature, nor due to it, nor attainable by its unaided power. It supposes a special action of God announcing the truth to man. He has made this announcement through Prophets, Apostles, and other sacred writers, but especially through His Divine Son. He has thus taught us that we are destined to a supernatural happiness to which our nature cannot possibly give us a claim, and which is to consist of seeing God face to face. A supernatural end cannot be reached but by supernatural means which our nature by its own powers can neither discover nor employ (n. 172).
9. To make known to us our supernatural end and the means of attaining thereto, a supernatural revelation was, therefore, absolutely necessary. Though it is not thus necessary for the knowledge of natural truths, even of such as regard religion and morality, still many difficulties impeded the acquisition of such knowledge by unaided reason. In particular, very few men have the talent and the opportunity to study such subjects deeply; and, even under the most favorable circumstances, owing to the depravity of the human heart, there always have been doubts and errors on many important points of morality and religion. This is abundantly proved by the history of past ages; and it is seen even to-day in the teachings of various philosophic systems which deny, or at least question, our most important duties to God. Therefore, a supernatural revelation is, not indeed absolutely, but yet relatively necessary for the proper understanding even of the natural law; it is necessary considering the condition of mankind. It may also be called morally necessary, the necessity arising from the fact that, while there is no physical impossibility, yet there is such a great difficulty in acquiring such knowledge as a man needs to lead a life worthy of himself and of his Creator. Those who reject revelation are fond of calling themselves “rationalists”, as if they were more rational than other men, while they are so irrational as to refuse additional light when it is offered them; and thus they act most rashly in matters in which the highest interests of man are concerned.
10. When we know a fact or truth, whether by our own powers or by revelation, we may still fail to see how the matter can be explained. It is then called amystery: a natural mystery, if we arrive at the knowledge of its existence by our natural powers; a supernatural mystery, if by revelation only. That the scenes which we have formerly witnessed are recorded in our memory, we know; but how they are there recorded, is a natural mystery; how the three Divine Persons are one God, is a supernatural one. It is absurd for any man to deny that there are natural mysteries; a fortiori, we cannot deny that there are supernatural ones: for the things of God must necessarily be more incomprehensible to us than the sensible things around us. “The things that are of God,” says St. Paul, “no man knoweth but the Spirit of God”; and he adds that we have received this Spirit, “that we may know the things that are given us from God” (1 Cor II, 11, 12). We have then no right to refuse acceptance of a revelation, on the plea that it contains mysteries.
11. While we should not be so irrational as to refuse credence to a revelation when we know that it comes from God, we should, on the other hand, not be so imprudent as to accept every thing that pretends to be a revelation, without thorough scrutiny of its claims to our acceptance. This caution applies both toprivate revelations, such namely as are intended for the recipient,--or at most for a limited number of persons,--and to public revelations, which are given to one person but are designed to command the submissive acceptance of all. With the latter alone we are here concerned. This submission cannot reasonably be demanded of us, unless the Divine messenger produce reliable proof that he has a warrant for his claim to our submission. Belief without proof may easily be a sin of imprudence. Now it is hard to conceive a mode in which such a messenger could be accredited except through miracles and prophecies; these are called thecredentials of revelation, and the Christian religion is ready to produce them.
12. A miracle may be defined as “a marvellous event, out of the ordinary course of nature, and produced by Almighty God.” A marvellous event is one that make men wonder. But nature is full of wonders, and yet we do not call them miracles; a miracle is out of the ordinary course of nature. It must besides come from God,either directly, or--which would be the same as far as our purpose is concerned--through His messengers, the good Angels. If the wonderful effect may, for all we know, have been produced by a man or by an evil spirit, or by some law of material nature, then we have no right to call the fact a miracle. We may distinguish two kinds of true miracles. If God interferes with the laws of material nature, we have a physical miracle, as when He restores the dead to life; if with the laws of moral nature, it is a moral miracle, as when a whole people, at the words of a preacher, suddenly abandons inveterate habits of vice and enters on a life of heroic virtue. A moral miracle, therefore, is an event depending upon the free-will of man, but which is inconsistent with the principles that ordinarily regulate human conduct, and which can only come from God.
13. If true miracles are known for certain to have been wrought at the word of a man who claims to have a mission from God, he must then be received as anaccredited messenger of the Most High, and his message as a true revelation. That real miracles are thus credentials from God is evident, since God alone can perform them. They are like His signature or His seal; and He certainly cannot put His seal upon the claims of an impostor.
Since however miracles, if they really happen, are convincing proofs of God's approbation of a doctrine, rationalists have brought all manner of objectionsagainst their occurrence and their very possibility; and they have striven hard to prove that, even if a miracle were worked, we could never know it to be genuine, really proceeding from God. It will suffice to answer them thus: 1. The testimony of science cannot be invoked against the possibility of miracles, since even the leading Agnostic scientist Huxley writes: “No one is entitled to say a priori that any given so-called miraculous event is impossible” (Science and the Bishops, XIX Cent., Nov. 1887). 2. The occasional working of miracles does not interfere with scientific knowledge; thus the fact that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, does not affect the science of medicine, nor throw doubt upon the truths of any other science. 3. The famous argument of Hume against the cognoscibility of miracles, when it is logically examined, is seen to be a wretched fallacy. He claims that we have physical certainty that the dead do not rise, and only moral certainty that Lazarus rose from the dead; but physical, he says, is stronger than moral certainty. Now we have no physical, nor any other certainty that the dead can never rise, but only that the dead do not rise by the powers or laws of nature; and we have metaphysical certainty that God is powerful enough to raise them to life, if he chooses to do so. The witnesses on the occasion had physical certainty that Lazarus did rise from the dead, and we have moral certainty that their testimony is reliable, for they testified what was against their own wish in the matter.
14. Yet the extraordinary importance of the claim to be a messenger from God, makes it necessary, whenever this claim is presented, that the credentials, and whatever regards the person and the circumstances of the claimant, and his very message itself, be most carefully examined. The tests, or criteria, to be applied are chiefly these: 1. Does the message contain anything contrary to truths which are already known by reason or by a former well-ascertained revelation? If so, the new message cannot be true, for one truth cannot contradict another. Such are the pretended revelations of Spiritists; for they deny the existence of eternal punishment, the Divinity of Christ, etc. 2. Is the pretended messenger known to be actuated in his claim by unworthy motives, such as vain-glory, greed of money, etc.? If so, we have reason to suspect his mission. 3. Is there any circumstance connected with the pretended miracles which is dishonorable to God or injurious to morality? If so, the works cannot be Divine. For instance, if they are intended for mere gratification of curiosity; as in the exhibitions of public showmen, who produce astonishing effects by what they call mesmerism, hypnotism, clairvoyance, second-sight, mind-reading, etc. All this is generally rank imposture, sometimes worse; while Spiritism, Christian-science cures, Theosophy, and other such sensational exhibitions, are directly anti-Christian in the doctrines which they inculcate. Besides, no virtuous man can have recourse to any practices in which there are good reasons to think that evil spirits are concerned; yet they may easily be concerned in the performances of false pretenders in matters of religion.
15. Prophecy is another of the credentials by which a messenger of God may be accredited to man. It consists of foretelling with certainty,--not as a mere guess or calculation--events which cannot be known at the time by any one but God; as, when the Prophet Micheas, more than seven centuries before the birth of Christ, foretold that the Messias would be born in Bethlehem (Mich. V, 2).
16. If it be objected that it is not always easy to discern true from pretended miracles and prophecies, we grant the assertion; and we conclude from it that no one should be hasty to pronounce an event miraculous, or a prediction a true prophecy. But it is not by doubtful miracles and prophecies that Divine revelation is proved to the careful student of the Catholic religion. We appeal only to such facts as are above all reasonable suspicion. Such, for instance, were the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and especially the Resurrection of Christ, and His prediction of it in His lifetime; such too was the sudden cure of the lame man by Saints Peter and John, which is related with copious details in the Acts of the Apostles (III). From the Old Testament we may select, as a good example of a true miracle and prophecy combined, the event narrated in the eighteenth chapter of the third book of Kings; namely, when Elias brought down fire from Heaven to consume his sacrifice and confound the priests of Baal. (See further nn. 27-31.)
17. We learn from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis that a Divine revelation was granted to our first parents. They were instructed by God Himself about the creation, their destiny to immortality, their dominion over all the earth with its plants and animals, the indissolubility of matrimony, their dependence on Almighty God, the prohibition to eat of the forbidden fruit, the consequences of their disobedience, the promise of a Redeemer, who was to spring from their race, the acceptability to God of the sacrifice of material objects, etc. All this is called the Primitive revelation. The knowledge of it was transmitted through subsequent generations; and it was easy to preserve the traditions in their integrity, owing to the long lives of men in those early ages, when Adam lived for over sixty years with Lamech, the father of Noe.
18. Noe was a new messenger from God to men, sent to warn sinners of impending punishment, and to restore the observance of the moral law. After the Deluge, he predicted the future lot of his sons and of their descendants, and declared in particular that the Messias should be born of the race of Sem. He transmitted the Primitive Revelation in its purity to his descendants; and, although idolatry seems to have begun with some of these during his lifetime, still many of the great truths regarding God and morality were remembered through many generations. Students of antiquity have discovered in the earliest writings and traditions of various peoples a much purer religion than that which was prevalent in the classic ages of Greece and Rome. They have thus strikingly refuted the theory of evolutionists which pretends that religion was evolved from the grossest fetishism, by constant improvements, to the gradual recognition of one only God. The opposite is known to be the truth. “It cannot be denied,” writes Frederick von Schlegel, “that the early Indians possessed a knowledge of the true God; all their writings are replete with sentiments and expressions noble, clear, and serenely grand, as deeply conceived and reverentially expressed as in any human language in which men have spoken of their God” (Aest. and Misc. Works, Let. VIII.--See also Thebaud's Gentilism, pp. 30 etc., where the same is shown to be true of other ancient races.) Prophets were also sent from time to time as special messengers from God to keep the Primitive revelation from corruption, and to prepare mankind for the coming of the Saviour.
19. When the nations generally were falling into idolatry, God selected Abraham to be the father of a Chosen People, from which the Messias was to be born, and in which the Primitive revelation was to be preserved in all its purity: “The Lord said to Abraham: Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee--and in thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed” (Gen. XII, 1-3). The Old Testament portion of the Holy Scriptures is almost entirely taken up with the history of that Chosen People, whose one great expectation was the coming of the Messias. Successive prophecies limited the ancestors of the Messias to the descendants of Isaac, Jacob, Juda, and later on, of David and Solomon, and determined the time of His appearance on earth. There were also meanwhile other revelations of God to other nations; at least to individuals who, like Job, lived among the Gentiles. We are expressly told in the New Testament that at no time God left Himself without testimony in the world; and that in every nation He accepts those who fear and obey Him (Acts XIV, 16.--See, for an apt explanation of this matter, Cardinal Newman's “Arians of the IV. Century,” p. 81).
20. Moses was the great Prophet sent by the Almighty to lead His Chosen People forth from Egypt, the land of bondage, to the promised land; and thus he was the most conspicuous type, or figure of the Saviour, who was to free all men from the bondage of Satan and open to them the Kingdom of Heaven. After Moses, by numerous miracles and prophecies, which are circumstantially narrated in the Book of Exodus, had proved his mission to be Divine, he communicated to the Israelites the law of God, and regulated their government, their dealings with one another and with the nations around them; also their religious observances, and most especially their public worship. This was to be a type of the perfect worship that would be instituted by Christ; for, as St. Paul writes: “All these things happened to them in figure” (1. Cor. X, 11). Moses foretold the coming of Christ in God's own words: “I will raise them up a Prophet out of the midst of their brethren like unto thee--and he that will not hear His word, which He will speak in My name, I will be the avenger” (Deut. XVIII, 18, 19).
21. The Book of Psalms is full of prophecies in regard to Christ, giving details concerning His birth, His life, His doctrines, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection and His everlasting Kingdom. After Moses, Prophets were sent from time to time, to keep constantly before the minds of the Chosen People the worship of the one God, the observance of the Mosaic Law, the expectation of the Messias, the time, place, and manner of His coming, etc.
It will be noticed that the words “Messias”and “Christ” are used promiscuously for each other; both mean the “Anointed”; of this term “Messias” is the Hebrew, “Christ” the Greek equivalent. Thus, during the Passion of Christ, when the High-Priest abjured Jesus to tell if He were “the Christ the Son of God,” he evidently asked whether he were the expected “Messias” (Matt. XXVI, 63); and St. John writes: “The Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (I, 41).
22. No more important fact is recorded in history than the establishment of the Christian religion, and its acceptance by all the most enlightened nations of the world. From Christ's birth we count the years forward to our own days, and backward to the days of Adam. Born with the Child Jesus in the stable of Bethlehem, then seemingly crushed by His ignominious death upon the Cross, yet rising with Him victoriously from the tomb, and informed with a supernatural life by the descent of the Spirit of God, the Christian religion entered upon a divinely appointed career of extending the Kingdom of Christ, and propagating His doctrines and religious observances to the uttermost bounds of the earth. After struggling for three centuries against all the persecuting power of the Roman empire, the once despised religion triumphed over the vices of an effete civilization, by establishing the reign of Christian morality and becoming the true civilizer of the nations. In the forward march of Christianity idols have disappeared and the true God has been preached and worshipped everywhere.
23. This origin of the Christian religion and the transformation it has effected in the morals of men must be accounted for from the pages of history. If they can be explained in no other way than by admitting that miracles were wrought in its behalf, then it is accredited as the messenger of God, and therefore we must acknowledge its Heavenly mission. We are therefore going to examine the early history of Christianity. We will go back to the time when its followers were still universally persecuted, when no earthly power could be suspected of having promoted its success.
About the year 112, the Younger Pliny wrote to the Emperor Trajan that the Christians existed in great numbers in the province of Bithynia, that they assembled on a particular day for religious worship, when they sang a hymn to Christ as God, and bound themselves by a sacred sanction not to be guilty of theft or other sins. This “contagion” prevailed in the cities, villages, and open country; the temples were deserted, the regular sacrifices discontinued. Some had been Christians for twenty years; all declared there was no evil in their practices, and large numbers persevered in defiance of torture and death. He asked what course he must follow in trying them. (Epist. 96, 97.)
Tacitus speaks of their origin. He relates that the Emperor Nero came under suspicion of having purposely caused the great fire in Rome in the year 64, that he threw the blame on person “whom the populace hated for their crimes and called by the name of Christians. This name is derived from Christus, who was punished by the procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius. The execrable superstition was suppressed for a time, but broke out again, and overran, not Judea alone, the country of its birth, but Rome itself.” Thus, in thirty or forty years after Christ's death, the religion had spread so as to count an immense number of followers in Rome (Lib. XV, C. 44).
24. To account for this rapid spread in spite of governmental power and mob prejudice, we have the Christian story, which has been received by millions of men throughout a long succession of centuries. Other explanations, in vogue for a while, have been abandoned as unsatisfactory. Now the Christian story is narrated in the four Gospels and other portions of the New Testament, whose reliability we shall prove below. It is briefly as follows:--
At the time pointed out by the Jewish Prophets, there was born miraculously, of the Virgin Mary, in the place designated by prophecy, a Child of the race of David, who by command of Heaven was called Jesus, that is Saviour, because, as was predicted, he would save his people from their sin. After giving for thirty years the example of all the virtues that adorn private life, He preached for three years in Judea and Galilee a doctrine of marvellous perfection, vastly superior to any that men had ever conceived; and he gained a number of disciples, plain, unlearned men, many of whom left all things to follow Him, though He held out no inducements but rewards in the future life. He preached a doctrine directly opposed to the human passions, and required its observance, claiming to be a messenger from God His Father, to be one with His Father, to be the expected Christ, or Messias, which name became His own by universal consent. Meanwhile He worked most numerous and most astounding miracles, and appealed to them as credentials of His Divine mission. For when asked by the disciples of St. John the Baptist whether He was the expected Messias, He pointed to His miracles, saying: “Go and relate to John what you have seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again” (Matt. XI 5). Later he said: “I have a greater testimony than that of John. For the works which the Father hath given Me to perfect, the works themselves which I do, give testimony of Me that the Father hath sent Me” (Jo. V. 36). He made many prophecies concerning His passion and His death, the future destruction of Jerusalem, etc. He appealed chiefly, in testimony of His mission, to the great miracle of His resurrection from the dead. This prediction was known to His enemies, who declared to Pilate: “Sir, we have remember that that seducer said when He was yet alive, after three days I will rise again” (Matt. XXVII, 63). And on the very day thus publicly predicted Christ rose victoriously from the dead; He appeared repeatedly to His disciples, on one occasion as many as five hundred together.
25. All the details of this history are clearly stated in the four Gospels and some of the Epistles of St. Paul. Four of his Epistles are practically admitted on all hands to be authentic and genuine: namely, his Epistle to the Romans, that to the Galatians, and the two to the Corinthians. Viewing these Gospels and Epistles only as historical documents, we find in them the clear statement of many of the facts just referred to. For instance, the main fact, that of Christ's Resurrection, is most emphatically appealed to by the Apostle in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (XV), in which he says that Christ died, and was buried, and rose again on the third day, and was seen by the Apostles, and by more than five hundred brethren at once, some of whom still survived when he wrote the Letter. His preaching, he says, is vain if Christ be not risen; and he claims to have himself seen the risen Christ, and to have received instructions directly from Him. The Letters show St. Paul to have been a man of conspicuous ability; he had been a persecutor, he was now persecuted; his sincerity is undoubted.
26. We will next consider the reliability of the Gospels. The word “Gospel” means “good tidings;” from the Anglo-Saxon “god,” good, and “spell”, tidings. The exact equivalent of Greek origin is “Evangel”. Each gospel is a biography of Christ; the “good news” narrated is the Redemption of the world by our Blessed Saviour, together with His saving doctrine, and the establishment of His Church, which is to last until the end of time. The first Gospel was written by the Apostle St. Matthew, probably about thirteen years after Christ's Ascension, and for the evident purpose of showing that Jesus was the expected Messias. It was first written in Hebrew, or Aramaic, and later translated in Greek, perhaps by St. Matthew himself. The second Gospel is by St. Mark, the companion of St. Peter, and is therefore often called the Gospel of St. Peter. The third is by St. Luke, the companion of St. Paul. These three are styled the Synoptic Gospels(συνοπτικς, that can be seen together), because they can easily be arranged in parallel columns. St. John, the Apostle, wrote the fourth Gospel to supplement the others, and in particular to prove the Divinity of Christ. St. Mark and St. Luke are simply styled “Evangelists,” as they were not Apostles.
Now the four Gospels, viewed as historical documents,--we are not yet viewing them as inspired,--are more fully reliable than any profane writings of the ancients. What writings, argues St. Augustine, will have the weight of authority if those of the Apostles have not? “No assertion seems to me more foolish,” he writes, “than that the Sacred Scriptures have been falsified (esse corruptas)” (De Util. Cred. 3). A book is reliable if it has these three qualities: 1. If it is genuine,written by the person to whom it is attributed, or at least one of equal authority. 2. If its text is incorrupt, that is not falsified by changes or interpolations. 3. If it is a trustworthy narrative, composed by well informed and sincere men. Now the four Gospels have these three qualities.
1. They are genuine. For their authorship was never questioned until the latter part of the nineteenth century; and it is not now questioned on historical grounds, but only on account of the miraculous events related in them. Not only was their authorship never questioned, but it was openly acknowledged in all ages, even the earliest, by both Catholics and heretics, and accepted by pagan adversaries, such as Celsus, Lucian, and Julian the Apostate. St. Irenaeus wrote: “Such is the certainty regarding the Gospels that the heretics themselves render testimony to them.” His contemporary Tertullian, in the second century, names the four Evangelists, while Saints Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement, disciples of the Apostles, quote from the Gospels in their letters and other writings. St. Irenaeus in his work “Against Heresies” quotes from them about four hundred times.
2. That the text of the Gospels has remained incorrupt, free from changes of importance, is evident from the fact that there existed from the earliest times manuscript copies, not only of the Greek text, in which three of the Gospels were originally composed, but also of numerous versions made into various languages in Apostolic or subapostolic times. These copies were in the hands of reverend friends and vigilant foes, so that falsification of the sacred books was impossible. Besides, quotations made by early writers agree with the present copies of the Gospels.
3. That the four Evangelists had full knowledge of the facts narrated is not disputed. Besides, all Jerusalem knew of the events; and so did all the nations from which the Jews flocked to Jerusalem every year; converts accepted the facts as unquestioned truth, for which they willing gave their lives. Of the writers'sincerity there can be no doubt, since they had nothing to gain by their labors but persecutions and death. Their very style shows the uprightness of their characters; for they tell with perfect simplicity of their low birth, their dulness of apprehension, their timidity and childish vanity. No one familiar with their style can suspect them of being cunning impostors. Beside, the religious doctrines they teach are superior to the speculations of the greatest philosophers, and could not have originated with themselves. Lastly, the Evangelists all agree with one another in substance and in a multitude of details; and yet they differ from one another sufficiently to show that they are independent witnesses.
27. We have now prepared the way for the main proof of the Christian Revelation, which may be logically stated as follows: If Christ's mission was supported by miracles and prophecies, then it was Divine (n. 13), and it ought to be accepted by all men; but it was so supported; therefore it was Divine, and it ought to be accepted by all men. We will first prove that it was supported by miracles. We have seen that a miracle is a marvellous event, out of the ordinary course of nature and produced by Almighty God (n. 12). Now such were many of Christ's works; and He appealed to them as proofs that God His Father had sent Him (n. 24). Of His countless miracles we will select two for special examination: the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the Resurrection of Christ. The raising of Lazarus is related with all its striking details by St. John (XI), who adds: “A great multitude, therefore, of the Jews ... came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. But the Chief priests sought to kill Lazarus also, because many of the Jews by reason of him went away and believed in Jesus” (XII, 9-11). This fact evidently fulfils all the conditions of a true miracle. It was not denied by the chief priests: “The chief priests, therefore, and the Pharisees gathered together a council and said: ‘What do we do? For this Man does many miracles. If we let Him alone so, all will believe in Him’--From that day therefore they devised to put Him to death” (Jo. XI, 47-53).
28. As to the Resurrection of Christ, the fact is (a) related by all four Evangelists, and, as we have seen, (b) appealed to by St. Paul (n. 25) as an unanswerable proof of Christ's mission. (c) Jesus Himself had predicted it while He was still alive. For, when the Scribes and Pharisees asked Him for a sign, He gave them this as the one great sign of His mission, saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, and a sign will not be given it but the sign of Jonas the Prophet. For, as Jonas was in the whale's belly three days and three nights, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matt. XII, 39, 40). The Death of Christ cannot be doubted. It had taken place in public, in the sight of a vast concourse of people. He had been put to death by Roman officials, in the presence of the Scribes and Pharisees and the chief priests, and the Body had not been taken down from the Cross till “one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water” (Jo. XIX, 34), and St. John adds emphatically that he saw it himself. At the burial, Christ's enemies sealed the sepulchre and placed guards, because He had foretold His Resurrection, and they said they feared lest His disciples might steal the Body (Matt. XXVII, 66). All these precautions served only to make the Resurrection, when it occurred, absolutely certain. The Jews did not deny that on the third day Christ had disappeared from the tomb; but they gave out that the disciples had stolen the Body while the guards were asleep. “What credit can be given to sleeping witnesses?” asks St. Augustine. And why were the guards not punished for neglect of duty? St. Matthew boldly charges the chief priests with giving them, instead, a great sum of money, promising them security from prosecution (XXVIII, 12, 13). Besides, the timidity exhibited by the Apostles during the Passion of Christ clearly showed that they were not the men to do so daring a deed. The only explanation which is not absurd is that which St. Peter publicly gave to the assembled Jews: “This Jesus God raised again, whereof we are witnesses” (Acts II, 32). His disciples saw Him repeatedly alive in their midst, touched Him, ate with Him, beheld His sacred wounds; and Thomas, because still incredulous, was invited by Christ to lay his finger in the wounds of the nails and his hand into the side; and, overcome by the evidence, he adored Christ as his Lord and God (Jo. XX, 28).
If Christ was not risen, then we must say that all the Apostles had conspired to practise this huge and wicked deceit on the world. What had they to gain by it in this life or in the next? Would they have given their blood in testimony of this false pretence? Men never act that way. Nor could they have deceived the world, even had they wished to do so. And the five hundred disciples who saw the risen Christ, were they all impostors? Did they deceive the many thousands of converts, some from among the Pharisees, and to such an extent that their imposture has never been detected? No fact in history is more certain than Christ's Resurrection: he who refuses to accept it will accept no historic proof whatever.
29. Another class of credentials that prove a messenger to be from God consists of prophecies, either verified in his person, or uttered by him and afterwards accomplished. Both classes of prophecies testify to the Divine mission of Christ. As we remarked before (19-21), the Old Testament Scriptures are full of prophecies concerning the expected Messias. Now Jesus Christ, and He alone, has evidently fulfilled these predictions, and exhibited in His Life, Death, and Resurrection the marks by which the expected Saviour was to be recognized. Here are a few of these prophecies. He was to be of the family of David (Ps. 109): St. Matthew gives us the line of descent from David to “Jesus, who is called the Christ” (I). He was to be born in Bethlehem of Juda, as the Prophet Michaeas had predicted seven hundred and forty years before (V, 2), and as the priests declared to Herod when the Wise Men had come to adore the Child: “In Bethlehem of Juda; for so it is written by the Prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come forth the Captain that shall rule my people Israel” (Matt. II, 5, 6). Now Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as St. Luke narrates (II). He was also to be born of a virgin, as Isaias had foretold (VII, 14): “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.” Christ alone in all history was born of a virgin, and He is “God with us,” which is the meaning of the word “Emmanuel”. The Messias was to perform many miracles (Is. XXXV, 4-6), and to die for our sins (LIII, 5); His hands and feet were to be pierced, His bones to be numbered, His garments to be divided among His executioners, who should cast lots for His vesture. All this is predicted in the 21st Psalm, which proceeds to describe the fruits of His suffering: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and shall be converted to the Lord; and all the kindred of the Gentiles shall adore in His sight,” etc.
The time of His coming was fixed by Jacob's prophecy: “The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He come that is to be sent, and He shall be the expectation of the nations” (Gen. XLIX, 10). Now the Holy Land became a Roman province shortly before Christ's birth, and the Jews soon after were scattered over the whole earth. Lastly, Daniel had determined the period of seventy weeks of years, at the end of which the Redemption was to be accomplished: “Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people and upon thy holy city that ... everlasting justice may be brought, and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled, and the Saint of Saints may be anointed. Know, therefore, and take notice that, from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again unto Christ the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks ... and after sixty-two weeks the Christ shall be slain: and the people that shall deny Him shall not be His. And a people with their leader that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (IX, 24-26). All this was fulfilled in Christ and in the destruction of Jerusalem.
30. When the Jews, His own people, had rejected the Christ, because His was not an earthly, but a Heavenly Kingdom, they strove hard to put a new interpretation on Jacob's and Daniel's prophecies. But it was too late: their own interpreters had applied the words of the prophecies to the expected Messias. In fact, the world, owing to these predictions, was in expectation of His coming at the time of His birth, as even pagan authors have recorded.
Thus Tacitus, writing of the year 70, a time within his own recollection, says: “There was a wide spread persuasion that, according to the ancient books of priests, the time had come when the East should regain its strength, and those should come from Judea that should master the world” (Hist. V, 13). Suetonius, also a contemporary, writes: “A steady conviction had long been ripe in the East, that at this very time those should come from Judea who were destined to master the world” (Vit. Vesp. 4). Josephus the Jew testifies that this prophecy was found in the sacred writings of his nation (Bell. VI, 5).
31. Christ Himself made many prophecies, which were strikingly fulfilled. In particular He foretold the details of His Passion, and the fact and the time of His Resurrection: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed to the Chief-Priests and the Scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day He shall rise again” (Matt. XX, 18, 19). He foretold also the treason of Judas, the fall and conversion of St. Peter, and in a most striking manner the destruction of Jerusalem: “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him: Master, behold what manner of stones and what buildings are here. And Jesus answering said to him: Seest thou all these great buildings? There shall not be left a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down” (Mark XIII, 2). This was manifestly verified when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed under Titus; and more signally still when Julian the Apostate undertook to rebuild the temple with the view to falsify the prophecy, and the attempt led only to its more complete verification. Christ also foretold the future fortunes of His Church, the miracles to be worked by those who should believe in Him, the persecution and death to which they should be subjected, the spreading of the Church throughout all nations, and its perseverance till the end of time.
32. We have seen that God's evident interference with the laws of moral nature is called a moral miracle (n. 12). When masses of men are led to act in a manner nobler, more heroic, and more constant, in the midst of lasting opposition, than can be expected from unaided human nature, then we know that a supernatural power is assisting them, which can be no other than the power of God. When this effect is produced in behalf of a doctrine which claims to be Divine, it must then be such, else God would lend His aid to an imposture. Now such effects have accompanied the preaching of Christianity; therefore it is Divine.
33. For the change that marked the progress of Christianity is such as human nature by itself could never have produced, such as has never been produced by any other agency in the world. First, the Apostles themselves, on receiving the Holy Ghost, were suddenly transformed into new men,--from cowards into heroes, from dull and ignorant men into sages more enlightened than any philosophers. By their preaching, similar changes were effected in countless men and women and mere children, who abandoned idolatry and immorality to embrace a pure worship and lead lives of superhuman chastity and heroism, enduring loss of property, ignominy, torture, and death, rejoicing that they were found worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Pliny's letter (n. 23) shows how in Bithynia a large part of the population was Christian as early as the year 112, though no Apostle is recorded to have preached there. Tertullian, about the year 200, thus addressed the Emperor: “We are but of yesterday, and we fill all that is yours; your cities, your islands, your military posts; your boroughs, your council chambers, and your camps; the palace, the senate, the forum: your temples alone we leave you” (Apol. C. 37). He testifies in his book against the Jews that the tribes of Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain; Sarmatians, Dacians, Germans, Scythians; all the peoples of the Latin world in short, had admitted Christ to reign, etc. The same movement in the propagation of Christianity has been going on ever since. All the nations of Europe have thus been converted, and brought to produce the same marvellous fruits of holiness. The work is still going on in America, Africa, Oceanica, Japan, China, Indo-China, Corea, Hindostan, etc. (See “New Glories of the Catholic Church,” “Marshall's Christian Missions,” etc.) If these supernatural results were produced without the aid of miracles, this, as St. Augustine argues, would be the greatest miracle.
34. It must besides be remarked that conversion to Christianity involved the acceptance of the strictest and naturally most unbearable restraints on all the passions of the human heart: in particular the practice of fasting and humiliation; respect for the sanctity of marriage at times when women were treated as mere slaves, when polygamy, divorce, and public immorality were almost universal, and when all these vices were sanctioned by the example of the great. It is difficult for us to realize the depth of degradation to which morals had sunk just before the spread of Christianity, and that in the very centres of pagan civilization, in the golden age of Roman literature. For instance, Cato the Elder advises the householder to “get rid of old harness and old slaves, sickly slaves, and sickly sheep,” while Christianity taught the equality of slave and master. Heathen morality allowed infanticide; and even Aristotle had laid down rules under which it ought to be practised. The records of pagan antiquity will be searched in vain for institutions in behalf of the needy, till Christianity came to preach the commandment of Christ, “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jo. XV, 12).
35. But were not Mahometanism and Protestantism propagated with similar rapidity, and yet without the aid of miracles? They were, indeed, but by unholy means. Mahometanism was forced on one nation after another by the bloody scymitar: “Conversion or death” was the Evangel of Islam; indulgence of lust here and hereafter, the allurement held out. It was not, like Christianity, a building up, but a pulling down of a pure worship and morality. Protestantism was a triumph of the natural over the supernatural; it removed those restraints of which fallen nature is most impatient: authority in doctrine; fasts, penance, and humiliation in practice; obligation of religious vows, the counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. By teaching that “free-will is a vain title: God works the evil in us as well as the good” (De Servo Arbitrio, n. 181), Luther implicitly denied all human responsibility, and consequently the need of restraint upon evil passions; thus he opened the way for the wide-spread depravity which followed quickly upon his revolt, and which he deplored and denounced in vain. Besides, princes were set free from all Papal checks to absolute power; while they and their courtiers were enriched by the plunder of churches and monasteries, once the patrimony of the poor. Nor was violence spared to promote conversion: Protestantism was established by main force in Iceland, Sweden and Norway, Denmark, and large portions of Germany. Of England the Protestant historian Hallam writes: “This is a somewhat humiliating admission that the Protestant faith was imposed upon our ancestors by a foreign army” (Const. 4 Hist. I, p. 93). Is it wonderful that, with such aids to diffusion, Protestantism should have spread like a forest fire?
36. The conversion of the pagan nations to Christianity, on the contrary, exhibits just the opposite features. That it cannot be accounted for by natural means becomes the more evident, if we consider the weak arguments to explain its progress which were invented by so able an advocate of paganism as the historian Gibbon in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” He can find no more plausible explanation of the rapid growth of Christianity than by attributing it to these five causes: 1. The inflexible, intolerant zeal of the Christians;--but this could only offend and alienate the proud Romans. 2. The doctrine of a future life;--but this was no new doctrine at all. 3. The miracles ascribed to the Church;--but these were not natural means. 4. The pure and austere morals of the Christians;--but the question is, what made them so supernaturally pure and austere? 5. Their spirit of union and discipline;--but what natural power made them submit to that discipline? Gibbon also mentions the wealth of the Church;--but whence came this wealth, except from the converts, who gave up their fortunes for the benefit of their needy brethren? (For a thorough discussion of these pretended causes see Newman's Grammar of Assent, Ch. X, § 2.)
37. What has been proved so far renders it certain that the Christian revelation is from God; therefore every man is obliged to accept it as the expression of the will of his sovereign Lord. The certainty here spoken of does not arise from such evidence of the truth as compels the assent of an unwilling mind, as does the evidence of first principles, which no one can doubt. But yet it is true certainty, which consists in this, that when the matter is fairly presented to a sensible man's consideration, he can see no reason for prudently refusing his assent. He can turn away his attention from the arguments presented in favor of the Christian revelation, and attend instead to objections to it, or difficulties connected with it. And therefore he remains free to assent or not; his free assent is asked by his sovereign Master. To such a man are applicable the words of Christ which He spoke when giving their mission to His Apostles: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark XVI, 16, nn. 117-120).
38. We have seen (n. 17) that the Primitive revelation was at first protected against adulteration by the long lives of the Patriarchs. But after the Deluge, when the span of human life was shortened, God set aside His Chosen People to guard and transmit His revelation. Besides, He established amongst them a perpetual body of teachers, called the Synagogue, to spread the knowledge of that revelation, and He sent them from time to time the inspired Prophets to be its infallible interpreters. Thus the pre-Christian revelation, Primitive, Patriarchal, and Mosaic, was preserved substantially intact till the coming of the Messias. It is true that the leaders of the Synagogue had by that time become unworthy of their Divine mission; but they had not ceased to teach substantially the true doctrine, so that Jesus could say to the multitudes and to His disciples: “The Scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do, but according to their works do ye not” (Matt. XXIII, 3). Amid all their vices, the High-Priests had not yet lost the supernatural light peculiar to their office; for St. John relates how Caiphas said in the council of the Jews, “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people”; and he adds: “This he spoke not of himself; but being the High-Priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not only for the nation, but to gather together the children of God that were dispersed” (XI, 50-52). We see thereby that God had made an adequate provision for the preservation of the pre-Christian revelations.
39. We are now to examine what provision the wisdom of God has made for the preservation of the final revelation, that of Jesus Christ, to keep it incorrupt till the end of time. For this purpose we are to consider: i. The formation of the Church; 2. The doctrinal treasures of the Church, in particular Holy Scripture and Tradition; 3. The work to be done by the Church; 4. The marks of the Church; 5. The constitution and the functions of the Church; 6. The Head of the Church; 7. The Bishops and the Councils of the Church; 8. The relations of the Church to the civil power.
40. In this chapter we shall have frequent occasions to quote from the Acts of the Apostles. Their reliability is acknowledged by all Christian denominations; it had not been questioned by any scholars before the recent rise of an infidel school of criticism, that of Tübingen, which has assumed the pretentious name of “higher criticism”. Still these critics have not found any objections to the Acts on historical grounds, or from extrinsic sources; they only question the intrinsic probability of the narrative. It purports to be from the same pen as the third Gospel, but some of them pretend that its style is different from that of the Gospel; others, that its author must have purposely misrepresented the facts, since these upset their theories. Now even the infidel Renan acknowledges that “one thing is certain, namely, that the Acts have had the same author as the third Gospel, and are a continuation of it.” He adds: “I will not pause to prove this proposition, for it has never been contested” (Cornely, Curs. Script. Introd. Vol. III, p. 316). That the Acts are worthy of all credit is evident from the fact that the learned early historian of the Church Eusebius classed them among those sacred Books whose Divine inspiration had never been disputed in the Church. And Tertullian, as early as the second century, reproaches Marcion with having rejected the Acts, and with having done so precisely because of their opposition to his heretical tenets. The Book is quoted from by St. Ignatius the Martyr, St. Polycarp, St. Clement of Rome, St. Justin, and was read in churches on Pentecost, as St. Chrysostom testifies (ib. p. 319).
41. The Acts begin their narrative with the Ascension of Christ into Heaven. All his work on earth had been done in a small country, among a people of no political importance, which exercised but little influence upon the world at large, and which was as much despised by the Romans, as itself looked down contemptuously upon all gentiles. The teachings of Christ had been accepted by little more than five hundred disciples, none of them conspicuous for learning, or power, or riches. The leaders among them were chiefly poor fishermen, ignorant and timid men by character and education, though after the descent of the Holy Ghost they became divinely enlightened and supernaturally heroic. Was this all the provision that God had made for the propagation of His revelation, the establishment of His religion in every land, and the preservation of it for all time till the consummation of the world? There must be another provision.
42. It should be noticed that Christ had not written a single line for the guidance of future ages. Nor do we read that He had instructed His disciples to record His teachings or their own, so as to leave written treasures as the repertory from which each man and woman was to draw the doctrines of salvation. He evidently had given no sign that He intended the enlightenment of the world to be procured chiefly by written documents. Besides, as only the very few in those and many subsequent ages knew how to read at all, such provision would have been little suited for the work to be done; nor do we find, in all the productions of the Apostles and Evangelists, or of other early Christians, any exhortations to scatter the written word among the masses, or to establish reading-schools, as is done to-day by Protestant missionaries among pagan nations. On the contrary, St. Irenaeus, a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself taught by St. John, has left written that the barbarians in his day believed in Christ without ink and paper (Adv. Haer. L. III, C. IV). Religion then was not designed to be learned from the Scriptures chiefly.
43. But Christ had made another provision to convert the world, and to secure both the extension of His religion into all lands, and its permanence in its integrity till the end of time, namely, by the establishment of His Church. (See n. 67.) He had formed a special body of select teachers, whom He had carefully prepared during His whole public career to continue the work after Him, and whom in due time He solemnly commissioned for this purpose, furnishing them supernaturally with such aids as eventually made their mission a success. Various stages in the formation and mission of this teaching body are clearly described in the New Testament.
1. St. Luke narrates how Christ prepared for the choice of His Apostles by a night spent in prayer: “He went out into a mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in the prayer of God. But when day was come, He called unto Him His disciples, and He chose twelve of them, whom also He called Apostles: Simon whom He surnamed Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon who is called Zelotes, and Jude the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot who was the traitor” (VI, 12-16). These had attended the teachings of Christ from the Baptism of John, and they remained with Him till the end, as St. Peter states in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts, I). And they had a ministry entrusted to them; for Judas “had obtained a part of this ministry,” says St. Peter on the same occasion. This body of twelve Apostles was the nucleus of the teaching Church, to which the following text refers.
2. St. Matthew relates how Simon Peter was made the rock on which the Church was to be built; that is, he was to be the chief prop of its strength and permanence, he was to be to the Church what the foundation is to a building. He also intimates in what was to consist the ministry intrusted to it, and that it was to be in a special manner intrusted to St. Peter as its head. Jesus said: “I say to thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven” (XVI, 18, 19).
3. In Chapter XVIII, the same Evangelist records the promise of Christ made to the Twelve: “Amen, I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in Heaven.”
4. St. Luke narrates how the same Twelve disciples, and they alone, were present when, at the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, and commissioned them, saying, “Do this for a commemoration of Me” (XX, 14-19).
5. St. John narrates how, after, the Last Supper, Jesus promised the same Apostles the Holy Spirit to teach them all truth (XVI, 13), and to abide with them forever. (XIV, 16).
6. St. Matthew, in the concluding verses of his Gospel, describes the important event of their mission in words which leave no doubt as to its character: “And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.... And Jesus, coming, spoke to them, saying, ‘all power is given Me in Heaven and in earth: going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’.” As the Apostles were not destined to live to the end of time, this assurance, like the promise cited in n. 5, was not limited to them personally, but was meant for the indefectible teaching organization of which they were the beginning.
7. St. Mark, in his concluding verses, narrates briefly the facts of the same mission of the eleven, and adds the promise of miraculous power; he then exhibits them entering on their mission: “But they going forth preached everywhere, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.”
44. After the Ascension of Christ into Heaven, we find the same eleven disciples mentioned again by name in the Acts (I, 13) as forming a select band, which is to be completed, before the descent of the Holy Ghost, by the choice of a substitute for Judas. They appoint two, but leave the choice to God, saying: “Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two Thou hast chosen to take the place of this ministry and Apostleship, from which Judas has by transgression fallen” (I, 23-25). When the Holy Ghost had come, the three thousand converts “were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles” (II, 42). This collection of believers was the Church of Christ, which had miraculously sprung into existence on the day of Pentecost, at the preaching of St. Peter and the other Apostles. (See nn. 97, 98.) It was these twelve who continued to govern the Church, who bade the faithful select seven deacons, saying, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” (VI, 2), thus showing that preaching was their special mission. When St. Paul was miraculously converted, “Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles ... and he (Paul) was with them, coming in and going out in Jerusalem” (IX, 27, 28).
45. From all these facts, and numberless others that might be gathered from the history of the early Church, it is evident that the provision made by Christ for the propagation and preservation of His religion consists in the mission of His Apostles. But the twelve were not able to accomplish the work by themselves alone. While remaining a distinct body,--to which only Saints Paul and Barnabas were aggregated by special command of the Holy Ghost (Acts, XIII, 2),--they sent many others to preach the good tidings of salvation. In the course of time they established permanent Bishops in all the new centres of Christian communities, directing them in their turn to ordain others. Thus the Acts inform us SS. Paul and Barnabas appointed priests in every Church (XIV, 22). St. Paul chose and ordained St. Timothy as his assistant, then placed him at Ephesus; and instructed him what kind of men he in turn was to select for the episcopal office (1 Tim. III). He also wrote to St. Titus: “For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldst ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee” (I, 5). Those appointed were commissioned to hand down the Apostolic doctrine to future ages. St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy: “The things that thou hast heard of me, the same commend to faithful men who shall be fit to teach others also” (2 Tim. II, 2).
46. St. Clement of Rome wrote about the year 97: “The Apostles made these appointments, and arranged a succession, that when they had fallen asleep other tried men should carry on the ministry” (Ep. I ad Cor., 44). We find the same method in full vigor in the second century, when St. Irenaeus wrote: “All that have the will to know the truth may find in every Church the Tradition of the Apostles, which is known to all the world” (Adv. Haer. L. III, C. 3). About the same time Tertullian wrote a work on “Prescription”, in which he lays down these rules to ascertain the true doctrine: The prescription of novelty is against any doctrine which can be shown to have originated after the time of the Apostles; the prescription of antiquity is in favor of a doctrine which can be shown to have been held at any time as part of the faith by all Christians. He refuses to argue with heretics on the basis of the Scripture, and appeals to the possessors of Tradition, that is, to the Churches founded by the Apostles or their successors.
47. Christ then had committed His teachings to the custody of the Apostles and their successors, and had promised to “be with them all days even to the consummation of the world” (nn. 43-45). This promise He fulfilled by sending them the Holy Spirit, who was not only to sanctify them personally, but also to teach them all truth (Jo. XVI, 13), and to abide with them in their appointed work, and therefore in their successors, forever (Jo. XIV, 16). How did the Holy Ghost accomplish His mission? In various ways. He is the Love of God, and therefore to Him is attributed the giving of all good things. In particular He has given to the Church two rich treasures, from which she is ever to draw her sacred doctrines, namely, the Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition. These we are to explain in detail. (Other workings of the Holy Spirit are explained in nn. 68, 87-89, 99, 108.)
48. We mean by the Holy Scriptures, or the Bible, that is, the Book (βιβλιον, book), those works which were written by men under the inspiration of God Himself. Therefore they are truly “the Word of God”. In consequence of this unique dignity, which distinguishes them from all other books, they were written without the slightest taint of error. These sacred Books form two sets: those written before Christ constitute the Old Testament; those after Him, the New. The Pentateuch, which consists of the first five Books of Scripture, we calculate to date from 1400 years before Christ; the latest Book of Scripture is commonly reckoned the Gospel of St. John, written perhaps A. D. 100. By far the greater part of the Old Testament was composed in Hebrew, which was the proper language of the Israelites; but certain portions were in Chaldee, or Syriac, a kindred language used East of the Euphrates, to which region the Jews, about 600 years before our era, were carried as captives by King Nabuchonosor. A large part of the Old Testament is still extant in Hebrew or Chaldaic, and this part constitutes the whole of what is recognized by the Jews, whom the Protestants follow. Besides these writings, the Catholic Church recognizes as parts of the Old Testament two Books of Greek origin, and five which seem to have been originally composed in Hebrew, but are now found in Greek only; the same is also the case with parts of the Books of Daniel and Esther. With the exception of St. Matthew's Gospel, which was written originally in Hebrew, the whole of the New Testament was composed in Greek.
49. It is pertinent here to inquire, how it has come about that the Protestant list, or canon (κανων, a rule), of sacred Books differs from the Catholic canon. To explain this matter, we must consider the way in which the Catholic Church first received the Books of the Old Testament; for in regard to these alone do the two canons differ. Of course the early Christians received their whole religion, the Scriptures included, on the authority of Christ and the Apostles, not on the authority of the Jewish Synagogue. Now there existed in the time of Christ two collections of the Old Testament, one in Hebrew and one in Greek. The Greek translation had been made, at least 250 years before Christ, at Alexandria, in Egypt; it is called the Septuagint. The inspired Books written after that date were associated with the rest. This collection was used by all Jews who understood Greek, and therefore it was more widely read than the original Hebrew. It was used by the write of the New Testament, who quote from it 300 times, and only 50 times from the Hebrew. They evidently regarded the Septuagint as the standard version. The canon of the Septuagint is the Catholic Canon. In the third century the question was discussed by some Catholic writers, whether the seven Books not contained in the Hebrew canon were inspired. Origen, then the greatest living authority on such matters, being consulted on the subject, said they were, and proved it by the testimony of the Church in his own day (about A. D. 240); he ridicules the idea that a Christian should humbly bow to the decision of the Jews, who accepted only the Hebrew collection. Still the discussion continued, till the Council of Carthage, in 397, confirmed the original Catholic canon, and its decision was accepted by the Church at large. The list was published by Pope Innocent I. in 410; finally it was confirmed, and its acceptance enjoined on all by the Council of Trent.
50. The Protestant canon, that is, the canon received by almost all the sects, is that found in the sixth of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Established Church of England; “In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books, of the Old and New Testament of whose authority these never was any doubt in the Church.” Then follows the Hebrew, or Jewish canon. Further on: “All the Books of the New Testament as they are commonly received we do receive and account them canonical.” No list is given. It will be observed that some of the Books of the New Testament were also a subject of doubt at one time in the Church, as well as the seven of the Old Testament; and yet the latter are rejected on account of the doubt, the former admitted notwithstanding the doubt. The same sixth Article also insists on the sufficiency of Scripture as the rule of faith; and yet it appeals to Tradition to know what is Scripture.
51. The Sacred Books rejected by most, if not by all, of the Protestant sects are those called Judith, Tobias, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, Baruch, and the two Books of Machabees. These are called deuterocanonical, that is, of the second, or Greek canon; in opposition to the proto-canonical, of the first, or Hebrew canon. Protestants however admit that these Books had a respectable origin, and that they may be read “for example of life and instruction of manners.”
52. On the Protestant theory that every one must learn his religion from the Bible, it is absolutely necessary to provide faithful translations, which, if they are to answer their purpose, should be as reliable as the original writings. But only the ignorant can imagine that it is all-sufficient to translate literally, “word for word”, as it is called. The first verse of Genesis, on this theory, would read thus: “In heading created Gods with the heavens and with the earth.” A sensible translation is an interpretation or commentary; and every translator reads his own dogmatic views into the passages interpreted. This is as it should be when these dogmatic views are supported by an infallible authority. But heretics thus make the Bible teach heresy. Protestants have often done so unconsciously, and not seldom on purpose. Besides, Bible societies have very frequently used very incompetent men for the task; as Marshal proves in his “Christian Missions”, they have published absurd parodies on the Sacred Scriptures (Ch. I).
Of Protestant translations into English, King James's Bible, first published A. D. 1611, is generally preferred to all others. And yet the Revision of 1870 made as many as twenty thousand corrections in its New Testament alone, some of which are very important. One of its editors, Dr. Ellicott, says: “It is vain to cheat our souls with the thought that these errors are insignificant.” For instance, in 1. Cor. XI, 27, the former translators had through “theological fear or partiality”, as Dean Stanley expresses it, substituted “and” for “or”; and had thus deliberately deceived ten generations, falsely inculcating the obligation of receiving Holy Communion under both kinds. The late translators have corrected this. They have also done away with the Protestant addition to the Our Father, and in many texts they have adopted or drawn nearer to the Catholic version, but not in all.
53. The Catholic Church watches carefully over new versions; she is mindful of St. Peter's warning about St. Paul's Epistles, “in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2. Pet. III, 16). The only version which she has formally approved is that called the Latin Vulgate, of which she says: “The sacred Council of Trent, believing that it would be of great advantage to the Church of God, to have it known which of the various Latin editions of the Bible is to be held authentic, hereby declares that the ancient edition commonly known as the Vulgate, which has been approved by the long-standing use of ages in the Church, is to be considered as the authentic Bible for official uses of teaching” (VI, 12). The same Council anathematizes those who refuse to receive as holy and canonical all Books of the Vulgate with all their parts.
All translations into modern languages must conform to the text of the Vulgate, and must contain notes for the explanation of such passages as are liable to be misunderstood by the unlearned; they should also have the approbation of the Ordinary. The English version in ordinary use among Catholics was first published partly at Reims in 1582, and partly at Douay in 1609; it was revised and annotated in 1750 by Bishop Challoner.
54. No Catholic is at liberty to put novel interpretations upon the texts of Holy Scripture not in accord with the true Catholic sense. Hence the Council of Trent forbids all interpretations at variance with the unanimous consent of the Fathers, when these speak as witnesses to the Tradition of the Church. But when the Fathers give their judgment as mere critics, or men of science, their authority is not at all decisive. Science has made great progress since their times, and criticism should keep step with it. Still we should not mistake for science the many rash theories which usurp its name. Prof. H. L. Hastings, in his “Higher Criticism”, states that since 1850 there have been published 747 theories, known to him, about the origin and authenticity of the Bible. Of these he counted some years ago 608 as then defunct; most of the other 139 are probably defunct by this time. Regarding the first chapter of Genesis, too, theories of interpretation are countless: The Fathers were not at all unanimous on the meaning of this chapter; and even if they had been, they were not handing down a doctrine of Tradition. In such cases we welcome all the light that Geology and kindred sciences may furnish (n. 153). (See also n. 57.)
55. The inspiration of the Scripture signifies God's speaking through its writers, so that it is truly the Word of God. The Church, in an early age, when she opposed the Manicheans, defined that the same God was Author of both the Old and the New Testament. In 1439, Pope Eugenius IV., in the Council of Florence, taught that the Saints of both Testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit. St. Peter himself designated the Scriptures as the Word of God when he said: “Men, brethren, the Scripture must needs be fulfilled which the Holy Ghost spoke by the mouth of David” (Acts I, 16). St. Chrysostom calls the Scriptures “letters written by God and brought to us by Moses”; and St. Augustine said: “What God wishes us to know concerning His doings, He bade be written by men as by His own hand”. (De Cons. Evan. L. c. 35.)
56. In the various Books of Scripture there is the greatest variety of style observable: each author wrote in his own style, which depended upon his race, his time, his education, his personal character, etc. The manner in which God inspired the writers has been the subject of much discussion. The following is the most natural account, and is conformable to the teachings of Pope Leo XIII. in his Encyclical of 1893, “Providentissimus Deus”. God influences the writer in three ways: 1. He stirs him up to compose the Book; the technical phrase is, “God inflames his will.” 2. He furnishes him the required knowledge, either directly by revelation, or indirectly by guiding him to consult the proper documents; thus the author may have to use much diligence, as St. Luke says he did (I, 3); technically, “God illumines the intellect”. 3. He guards the author against all error: “He supervises the work”. In a similar manner a magistrate bids his secretary write a document, furnishes him with the data or with references to books and papers, and looks over the draft before he sends it out as his own message.
57. Since God is the Author of the Scripture, whatever is contained in its genuine text is true; there can be no misstatements. This does not mean that an inspired passage may not contain an error, marking it as an error; as in Ps. 52: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘there is no God’.” In many cases there may be a doubt whether the prima facie meaning of a passage is its true meaning. There is a school of writers who think they are at liberty to judge whether a given passage is of doctrinal or moral importance; if they think it to be neither, they reject its authority. But the Fathers were far from admitting any such speculations. “In dealing with these Books,” says St. Augustine, “you must not say that the author made a mistake; but either the reading is corrupt, or the translation faulty, or you fail to catch the meaning” (Ep. 82 ad Hier.). St. Justin Martyr, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory of Nazianzum are not less emphatic on this subject.
58. The sacred Books being thus absolutely free from error, any text quoted in its true sense must be decisive on any point in debate. Among the early Christians they were constantly read in the assemblies, and made the basis of argument and exhortation. The writings of the Fathers consist, to a great extent, of such commentaries on the Books of Scripture. On no other books have so many commentaries been written by men of the greatest intellectual ability; and these have sought out the meaning of every phrase. The result has been that in all Catholic countries the minds of men are filled with the phraseology of Holy Writ; they were saturated with it in the Ages of Faith. The Jews have preserved the text with the greatest care; they have counted the verses in each Book, and noted which verse holds the middle place. It is certain that they did not tamper with the text: there is no trace of any attempt of the kind, though the Old Testament contains matter which redounds to the discredit of their nation; in the New Testament they are never accused of such tampering. Besides, they could not have changed the Scriptures secretly; for during eight centuries before Christ the Jews were divided from the Ten Tribes, both parties having the Scriptures and jealously guarding them. After Christ, the Greek, Latin, and Syriac versions were in the hands of the Christians, and any attempt at falsification on the part of the Jews would have been exposed by their opponents. In particular the great prophecies regarding the Messias are still found in the Hebrew as well as in the versions.
59. Together with the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon the Church a copious supply of sacred doctrine, which is contained in the Ecclesiastical Tradition. The term “Tradition” is not used here to denote some unreliable account, of which the source cannot be traced with certainty; but it means all the doctrines which Christ and His Apostles delivered orally to their disciples, and which were not written in the sacred pages. It thus includes the canon itself of the Scriptures, and the proper interpretation of all their contents. Without this Tradition, we should not know what is, and what is not, part of the Holy Scriptures, and whether they are inspired or not, nor what is meant by inspiration. Therefore, St. Augustine said that he would not believe the Scriptures if it were not for the authority of the Church; that is, he might accept them as valuable historical documents, but not as the Word of God, if the Tradition of the Church did not teach that they are such.
60. Protestants reject this Tradition entirely. Most of them maintain the doctrine found in the 6th of the Thirty-nine Articles, which says: “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite necessary to salvation”. As Chillingworth puts it, the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants. And yet this very doctrine, that the Bible contains all that is “requisite necessary to salvation”, is not found in the Bible (n. 50). The few passages in it which recommend the reading of the Scriptures refer to the Old Testament as pointing to the expected Messias (2. Tim. III, 15; Jo. V, 39); or to the Gospel of St. Luke and an Epistle of St. Peter, as recording certain events and instructions formerly taught by word of mouth (Luke I, 1-4; 2. Pet. I, 15). The text of St. John (V, 39) may mean equally, “Search the Scriptures”, as an advice; or, “Ye search the Scriptures”, as a statement of a fact. In the original Greek (ερευνατε) we do not know which of the two meanings is intended; all depends on the translator, who may read his own dogmas into the words. If it was a command, it was addressed to the Jews, bidding them look in their Writings for prophecies of the Messias. A system resting on such a foundation as these texts supply, is like a house built upon the sand.
In opposition to the Protestant system, which makes the Scriptures alone the rule of faith, as if they contained clearly all the teachings of Christ, we have seen (nn. 43-46) what provision Christ had really made for the propagation and preservation of His saving doctrine. He commissioned His Apostles, not to sit down and write a book, but to go and preach to all nations; and this they did, and they appointed others to continue this manner of teaching after them. If the Scriptures had been intended to be the sole guide of faith, the Apostles would necessarily have composed a systematic, full, and clear exposition of the faith. They did nothing of the kind. Only two of them wrote anything except letters; these letters were called for by special occasions, and they are partly unintelligible to the general reader who does not know the circumstances under which they were written. St. Peter cautions his readers against the difficulties found in St. Paul's Epistles (2. Pet. III, 16). St. John expressly states that he omits many things that Christ did (XXI, 24), and St. Paul bids the Thessalonians: “Hold the Traditions which you have learned whether by word or by our Epistle” (2. Thes. II, 14). The argument of Prescription too is against the Protestant plan (n. 46). For instance, St. Athanasius tells us that, in the first General Council, the Arians wished to use none but Scripture language in the definition of the faith; but the assembled Bishops refused to admit the principle, and chose the word “consubstantial”, which, though old, was not scriptural; they evidently did not believe that the Scripture is the only rule of faith.
61. The ecclesiastical Tradition has gradually become embodied in monuments of various kinds: The chief are:
1. The sacred Liturgy and Ritual which are common to the universal Church. Pope St. Celestine, about 431, calls these “the sacraments, or mysteries, of the prayers of the priests, handed down from the Apostles, as in constant use throughout the world and in every orthodox Church, so that the law guiding our supplications affords a rule for our belief”.
2. The history of the Church, and in particular the Acts of the Martyrs, many of which are of undoubted antiquity. St. Clement is recorded to have assigned the seven districts of Rome to as many notaries, or short-hand writers, to set down the records of the early martyrdoms.
3. Archaeology, which studies the relics of ancient art, in order to learn what was the belief of the Church in former ages. For instance we find an early representation of the Prophet Habakuk caught by the hair of the head as he carries a basket of provisions. The artist evidently accepted this part of the Book of Daniel, which is not in the Protestant canon.
4. Definitions of doctrines, and anathemas pronounced on errors. Both may proceed from the living Church through the Roman Pontiff acting alone, as when in 1854 Pius IX. defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; or through the Pope confirming the decrees of a General Council, as when in 1870 the same Pontiff confirmed the decrees of the Vatican Council (n. 99).
62. 5. The writings of the “Fathers of the Church;” that is, of Christian theologians who are later than the first and earlier than the twelfth century. Many of them were distinguished for their deep and varied learning, their ability, and their sanctity, which fact adds weight to their authority as witnesses of Divine Truth. It is an important consideration that they witnessed on very many points before any question was raised on those points. When they testify unanimously to a tradition, their evidence proves what was the belief of the Church in their age. But sometimes they speak only as critics, and give the conclusion to which they have personally come. Often the voice of a few authors expresses with certainty the mind of all, namely when they make important statements and the others do not contradict. For error in the early Church was sure to be contradicted, because it was so greatly abhorred. Thus St. John, the Apostle of love, writes of one who errs in doctrine: “Receive him not into your house, nor say to him, God speed you” (2 Jo. 10); and he feared to remain under the same roof with Cerinthus the heretic. His disciple St. Polycarp called the archheretic Marcion “the first-born of Satan” (Iren. adv. Her. L. III, C. 3). Even one witness may suffice, if he is a writer of unquestioned authority; St. Jerome considered St. Hilary of Poitiers to be such, and all give this praise to St. Gregory of Nazianzum. St. Augustinehas scarcely an equal among the Fathers; in particular on questions connected with grace, it would be rash for a private theologian to contradict him. But on certain other subjects, especially on that of free-will, phrases occur in his writing which, taken out of their context, are indefensible. Certain views on this subject which Baius professed to draw from St. Augustine were condemned by St. Pius V. in 1567; Jansenius made them the foundation of the Jansenist heresy (n. 215).
6. The writings of the “Doctors of the Church.” This title is conferred on certain Saints of eminent learning on whose feast-day a special Mass and Office are enjoined. The principal are, SS. Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzum, and Chrysostom, in the East; and SS. Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great, in the West.
63. Since many of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as other Ecclesiastical writers, are repeatedly quoted in these pages, we insert here a brief notice of the principal among them, mentioning them in chronological order.
St. Clement of Rome was a friend of St. Peter, and his third successor as Bishop of Rome. The authenticity and genuineness of his first epistle to the Corinthians are acknowledged. He was martyred about A. D. l00.
St. Ignatius, a disciple of St. John the Apostle, was Bishop of Antioch. While on his way to his martyrdom at Rome, he wrote seven short epistles, whose genuineness is acknowledged. He died gloriously between 104 and 107.
St. Polycarp, made by St. John Bishop of Smyrna, was, as St. Irenaeus testifies, “instructed by Apostles, and lived in familiar friendship with many who had seen the Lord.” His letter to the Philippians is known to be authentic. He was martyred soon after A. D. 160.
St. Justin, surnamed the “Philosopher,” wrote an eloquent Apology of the Church, and died a Martyr about A. D. 166.
St. Irenaeus, a disciple of St. Polycarp, became Bishop of Lyons in 177. His principal work extant is a treatise “Against Heretics,” which contains most valuable information; it is like a treatise on the Church.
Clement of Alexandria, a writer well versed in gentile philosophy and polite literature, flourished toward the close of the second century. He warns his readers that he wrote with the express design of hiding the Christian Mysteries from the pagans and the uninitiated.
Tertullian was born at Carthage in 160. Become a Christian in 196, he was, on the death of his wife, ordained a priest. He defended Christianity with much zeal and ability. But by his love of moral severity he was attracted to Montanism, and may have died in his heresy.
Origen, a disciple of the Alexandrian Clement, was born about 185. In 206 he was already head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria. He travelled much, and wrote copiously, with extraordinary learning and originality of thought, but not with perfect soundness of doctrine.
St. Cyprian was an African Bishop of great learning and zeal; but erring on a doctrine concerning Baptism he was corrected by Pope St. Stephen. He sealed his faith with his blood in 258.
St. Athanasius, born about 296, was during forty years Bishop of Alexandria. A most conspicuous and heroic opponent of the Arians, he was all his life persecuted by their faction, till his death in 372.
St. Gregory Nazianzen, born in 318, became Bishop of Constantinople. He was the bosom friend of St. Basil; from his great learning he was called “The Theologian.”
St. Basil the Great studied in Palestine, Constantinople, and Athens; then retired into the desert. Made Bishop of Caesarea, he was driven by the factious to resign his see, and died in 379.
St. Ambrose, born in 340, was but a catechumen when he was made Bishop of Milan. Learned, eloquent, and most noble-minded, he closed his life in 396.
St. John Chrysostom, or Golden-mouthed, was born at Antioch in 344, became Bishop of Constantinople, endured much for his constancy, and died an exile, A. D. 407.
St. Augustine, an African, first a Manichean heretic, later converted by St. Ambrose, became Bishop of Hippo, in Numidia, where he died in 430.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, the great champion of truth against Nestorius, was Patriarch of Alexandria; he died in 444.
St. Jerome, born about 331, died in 420. He was the greatest among the interpreters of Holy Scripture, of which he gave us the Latin translation which is known as the Vulgate.
Of the authors here enumerated, Tertullian, SS. Ambrose, Augustine, Cyprian, and Jerome wrote in Latin; all the others in Greek.
64. It must be remembered that the promise of Divine assistance was not made to any particular writers since the time of the Apostles, but to the teaching Church (n. 99), that is to the Bishops under the headship of the Roman Pontiff; all other Christians are “taught”. Yet priests and other men of theological learning, when they teach under the supervision of the Episcopacy, are the agents of the Church, occupied in our instruction; so that there is a close connection between contempt for such teaching and the bane of heresy.
65. Though Protestants put the Scripture as the rule of faith, as a matter of fact they receive the tenets of their belief from their preachers and parents. Hence it has come to pass that many doctrines are accepted by most of them which are not capable of proof from the Scripture alone. Such are the following:
1. Infant Baptism, which however is so very important (n. 239).
2. The discarding of the washing of feet as a sacred rite essential to salvation, and yet Christ washed the feet of His disciples and said to St. Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with Me,” and He added, “You ought also to wash one another's feet” (Jo. XIII, 8, 14).
3. The lawfulness of eating blood; and yet this practice was strictly forbidden to the Jews (Dent. XII, 23); and the Apostles in a circular letter insisted on the prohibition (Acts XV, 20).
4. The lawfulness of swearing; though Christ said, “I say to you not to swear at all” (Matt. V, 34); and St. James, “Above all things swear not” (V, 12).
5. The substitution of the Lord's day, the first day of the week, for the Sabbath, the last day. All that the Scriptures say is that some Christians met for worship on the first day, not that this was a substitute for the Sabbath.
6. The very canon of the Scripture itself is nowhere found in the Scripture; it can only be accepted on some authority other than that of the Scripture.
66. All these matters are easily explained on the Catholic principle, which is thus stated by St. Epiphanius, A. D. 390: “We must call in the aid of Tradition; for it is impossible to find everything in Scripture; for the holy Apostles delivered to us some things in writings, and other things by Tradition” (Adv Haer. 61, 6). St. Basil writes: “Most of our doctrines are accepted among us without writing” (Spir. S. n. 71). Origen wrote the following, and it is called by St. Pamphilus the key of his teachings: “That alone is to be believed to be the truth, which in nothing differs from the Ecclesiastical and Apostolic Tradition” (De Princ. n. 2).
The Catholic Tradition is often called “Apostolic”, to emphasize the fact that the whole of it has come down to us from the Apostles. Private revelations have added nothing to it. Only what was implicitly or less clearly contained in the original deposit of the faith may, in course of time, be explicitly and more clearly declared to be of faith. This usually happens when a doctrine of faith is assailed by opponents. In this sense we may speak of a development of Catholic doctrine, but not as if the deposit of the faith had become more copious. The progress is usually this: there is first unreflecting acquiescence in a certain view, for instance, that all the Books of the Greek canon are equally inspired; then critical doubts are raised; next the truth is explicitly recognized, and perhaps infallibly defined. In all this there is no change of doctrine; for a change would suppose the giving up of a truth which was at one time taught by the Church as of faith, or the adding of a point which was in no manner contained in the original teaching. Neither of these innovations has ever occurred in the doctrines of the Catholic Church.
While the Holy Scriptures and Tradition united are thus shown to constitute the doctrinal treasures of the Church, still they do not suffice to form the Catholic rule of faith. They need to be declared and interpreted by a living infallible voice, which is that of the teaching Church. This voice is, in the last resort, uttered by her infallible Pontiff, the successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome (n. 108). His teaching is therefore the rule of faith. We find this rule distinctly and explicitly laid down as early as the year 514, in the Creed of Pope Hormisdas: “Wherefore, following in all things the Apostolic See, and upholding all its decrees, I hope that it may be mine to be with you in the one communion taught by the Apostolic See, in which is the true and complete solidity of the Christian religion; and I promise also not to mention in the holy Mysteries the names of those who have been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, that is, those who agree not with the Apostolic See”.
67. When Christ said to St. Peter, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. XVI, 18), He stated clearly that He would establish a permanent institution which would derive its power of permanence from its relation to St. Peter. To prepare for this event, He had, on the occasion of His first meeting with that destined Apostle, said to him, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter” ([Greek: petros], a rock, Jo. I, 42). That which Christ promised to found on this rock He calls His “Church”; and what He means by “Church” is indicated by the name used by the Evangelist to designate it, Ecclesia (εκκλησια), which means an “assembly,” an “organized meeting”. Christ therefore promised to establish His “Assembly,” the congregation of His followers, in such a manner that it would derive its power of permanence from St. Peter. Now, “the assembly of believers in Christ, under the obedience of the successors of St. Peter,” is the very definition of the Catholic Church. As to the English word “Church” (the Scotch “Kirk,” the German “Kirche,” etc.), it seems to mean “house of the Lord” (κυριακον), and is used both for the building and for the assembly that meets in it. We find the plural “Churches” often used in the Scriptures to designate the several local assemblies; but the singular “the Church,” “My Church” etc., evidently denotes the congregation of all the faithful; as when St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Christ loved His Church and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life” etc. (V. 25, 26).
68. We have seen that, on the first Christian Pentecost, three thousand men, converted by the speech of St. Peter, were baptized, and were “persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles” (Acts II, 42), thus constituting this promised Assembly, with St. Peter at its head the Apostles were the “teaching Church,” the faithful were the “taught”. It is so to-day: the teachers, being the successors of the Apostles, derive their mission from them. It must be so till the end of time; else the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church, of which Christ said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Not can the Church ever cease to teach the true doctrine; for the Spirit of truth is to abide with her for ever: “I will ask the Father,” said Christ, “and He shall send you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth” (Jo. XIV, 16).
What is thus clearly taught in Holy Scripture is the unanimous doctrine of the Fathers. St. Jerome writes: “As long as the world shall last--the strength of the Church shall be tested, and it shall abide the test. This will be so, because the Lord God omnipotent, who is the Lord God of the Church, has promised that so it shall be; and His promise is an unchangeable law” (In Amos, Col. 358).
69. The importance attached by the Apostles to truthful doctrine, is emphatically declared in their several Epistles. St. Paul writes to the Galatians: “There are some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an Angel from Heaven preach a Gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (I, 7, 8). And he writes to St. Timothy of some who “have made shipwreck concerning the faith, of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1. Tim. I, 19, 20). We have seen before what St. John, the beloved Apostle, thought of false doctrines (n. 62).
70. That the successors of the Apostles have always attached the same importance to the truth of doctrine, is manifest by the emphatic language of the Fathers on the subject, and by the unceasing warfare which they carried on against heretics. Origen compares heretics to those who opposed Moses in the desert and were swallowed up alive into hell (Num. XVI): “Core is the type of those who rise up against the faith of the Church” (Hom. IX in Num.). The Church constantly raised her voice to condemn every rising error. Over and over again Councils, general and particular, were assembled to defend the deposit of the faith against rash innovators. The Church never hesitated to cut off from her communion all who pertinaciously refused submission to what had been infallibly decided. She thereby incurred the persecution of the Arian and the Iconoclast Emperors, and at various times lost large tracts of countries that were thus severed from her communion. Arianism at one time was more powerful against her than Protestantism became in later ages; and, like Protestantism, it was able to prolong the contest for several centuries. Yet then, as to-day, the Church never yielded one iota of her doctrine to appease the clamors of her enemies or compromise with the dominant faction.
71. This firm stand of the Church against errors in the faith, and her anathemas against heretics, cannot be attributed to indifference regarding the salvation of souls, nor to narrow-minded bigotry. No greater love of souls can be imagined than that which in all ages has been manifested by the Church in her Saints, her missionaries, her religious orders, her pastors, and even many of her laity. As to bigotry, it is defined as “blind zeal, irrational partiality for a particular creed or party”. But the zeal of the Church is neither blind nor irrational. She is only carrying out the precept of her Divine Founder, “If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican” (Matt. XVIII, 17); she is following in the footsteps of the Apostles (n. 69). Those who teach that, in religious matters, every one should judge for himself are irrational and bigoted when they condemn the belief of others; but whoever believes in “one fold and one shepherd” must look upon schism and heresy as most deplorable evils; and the commissioned guardian of the “one faith” must denounce all who assail its unity.
72. Yet this importance attached to the true doctrine by Christ, by the Apostles, and by their successors throughout all ages, would be unintelligible and unreasonable if we had no certain means of knowing what the true doctrine is. Now we cannot have such means unless the Church be endowed with infallibilityin her teaching (n. 99). Therefore she must be infallible. For no one can pretend that the Scriptures are so clear as to decide all doubts concerning the faith, even on matters of the gravest importance; for instance, on the necessity of Baptism for infants, or on the meaning of the words, “Amen, amen, I say to you; Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, you, shall not have life in you” (Jo. VI, 54). And who is to decide for certain what is and what is not of importance? Is every one to judge for himself? If so, why the words of St. Peter warning us that in the Epistles of St. Paul there are “certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. III, 16)? The fact is, those who pretend to draw their faith from the Scriptures are divided into more than three hundred sects, and in each sect there is much difference of opinion;--some members of the English Church call that holy which others in the same Church call an abomination. All this shows that the Scriptures are not sufficient to guarantee the truth of doctrine. Some Protestants suppose that the Holy Ghost teaches each pious reader of the Bible the true meaning of the inspired pages. If this were so, not two such readers would disagree; their faith would be concordant, which is not the case.
Besides, we have shown most clearly that the provision made by Christ for the perpetuity of His true doctrine is the institution of His Church (nn. 44-46). Therefore she must teach without error. Let us briefly sum up the proofs of her infallibility.
1. God could not bid us hear the Church if she could decide against the truth; and yet He bids us hear her (Matt. XVIII, 17).
2. He could not condemn a man for refusing to believe a false doctrine; and yet He says, “He that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark XVI, 16). Therefore the doctrine which we are to believe cannot be false.
3. Christ promised to be with His Church till the end of time. Now this expression “to be with” occurs in ninety places in the Scriptures, and uniformly means “to give success;” but for a teaching body to err in doctrine would not be success but failure.
4. The Spirit of truth is to teach her all the truth and to abide with her forever (Jo. XIV, 16; XVI, 13).
5. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. XVI, 18). If she erred, the gates of hell would prevail.
6. St. Paul calls her, “The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth” (1. Tim. III, 15).
7. The Church has claimed infallibility from the beginning; for the Council of Jerusalem issued its decree as proceeding from the Holy Spirit: “It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts XV, 28). Nor should it be supposed that this claim was made in the name of the Apostles only; for it is distinctly stated that the decree proceeded from the Apostles and the “Ancients” (πρεσβυτεροι), which name designated the bishops and priests.
8. It has ever been the practice of the Church to separate from her communion all who refused to believe her doctrine; and this separation has always been considered as the greatest evil, so that St. Augustine said “A Christian ought to fear nothing so much as to be separated from the Church of Christ; for if he be separated from the Church of Christ, he is not a member of Christ.” All this certainly supposes that the Church cannot teach a false doctrine, and this is meant by saying she is infallible (n. 99).
73. From the preceeding arguments it logically follows that there rests upon every one a strict obligation to be a member of the Church; so that any one who refuses to comply with this duty thereby puts himself out of the way of salvation. St. Augustine, speaking of the Catholic Church, says: “This Church is the body of Christ, as the Apostle says, ‘For His body, which is the Church’. Whence assuredly it is manifest, that he who is not in the members of Christ cannot have Christian salvation” (De Un. Ecc. n. 2). This is in fact the centre of all controversy between Catholics and non-Catholics, as it was between St. Augustine and the Donatists of his day. The truth is usually expressed in these words: “Out of the Church there is no salvation”. The meaning is: 1. That Christ has committed to His Church the dispensation of the ordinary means of sanctification, chiefly true doctrine and the holy Sacraments; 2. That He requires of every one to be a member of His Church; so that, if any one, knowing this obligation, refuses to comply with it, he puts himself out of the way of salvation; 3. That the same holds of any one who suspects the existence of such duty and neglects to examine properly into a matter of so great importance.
Now all this is demonstrated by our whole line of argument. For we have proved that Christ established His Church as a permanent body of teachers (nn. 44-46), who should teach in His name and command with His power, and whom all should be bound to believe, under penalty of condemnation. His words are clear: “All power is given to me in Heaven and on earth. Going therefore teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt., last lines); “He that believeth not shall be condemned” or, as the Protestant version has it, “shall be damned” (Mark XVI, 16).
Therefore, when St. Peter had preached his first sermon after the descent of the Holy Ghost, and “they that heard these things had compunction in their hearts, and said to Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, ‘What shall we do, men brethren?’ Peter said to them, ‘Do penance and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins.’--They therefore that received his word were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls, and they were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles” (Acts II, 37-42). These converts then by being baptized became members of the Church, and, having once become members, “they persevered in the doctrine of the Apostles”. If any of them had refused to become members of the Church, or if, after becoming such, they had subsequently rejected the doctrine of the Apostles, it is clear that they would have incurred the sentence of Christ, “He that believeth not shall be condemned.”
It must be so in all ages; for the teaching body was to be permanent; else how could Christ be with it till the consummation of the world? Or how could the Holy Spirit abide with it forever? Therefore, there is to-day an obligation for all men to be members of the Church. We can certainly apply to the teaching body instituted by Christ the words which He addressed to the seventy-two disciples, when He sent them on their temporary mission: “He that heareth you heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me” (Luke X, 16). Therefore, St. Cyprian wrote that no one can have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother (De Un. Ec. n. 6).
74. It does not follow however from these arguments that all who die out of the visible communion, or body of the Church, are certainly lost. If it is impossible for a person to join the Church, or if he is invincibly ignorant of this duty, he is excused from sin in this matter. If a doubt as to his duty arise in his mind, he is bound to use as much diligence to clear it up, as he would use if some very weighty temporal interest of his own were concerned. He should also pray earnestly and perseveringly for Divine guidance in a matter of such importance. But as long as he is really unable to remove this doubt, so that he cannot see that it would be prudent for him to join the Church, he is not to blame. Still his separation from its visible communion is a grievous misfortune; for it deprives him of the Sacraments, and of other means of sharing in the life-giving influence of Christ. If he is to attain salvation without being a visible member of the Church, he does so by virtue of an invisible membership; for, as Pius IX. declared (Denz. 1504, 1529), God does not inflict eternal punishment but for wilful fault; and yet, as the Fourth Lateran Council puts it, “Out of the Church no man can be saved” (Denz. 35).
75. The so-called Reformation of the 16th century was a formal refusal any longer to submit to the infallible teaching of any living authority on earth, together with an emphatic assertion that the Church had, for more than a thousand years, proved unfaithful to her Divine mission, and had taught as true and holy all sorts of false doctrines and abominable practices. If so, the gates of hell had prevailed against the Church of Christ. The Reformers did not generally claim to have received commission from Heaven to remove these corruptions and restore religion to its pristine purity. Such a pretense would have made it necessary for them to exhibit, as credentials of their Divine mission, the usual signs of miracles and prophecies; and they had none to show. In fact Protestants ignore all miraculous exhibition of God's workings in His Church, and His explicit promise: “These signs shall follow them that believe: In My name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents--they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover--But they going forth, preached everywhere, the Lord working withal and confirming the word with signs that followed” (Mark, last lines). Miracles have continued in the Church from that time till now; but the Reformers rejected all belief in them; they felt that a religion thus honored by Heaven could not be corrupt.
76. The whole strength of the Reformers lay in assailing the vices and weaknesses of many persons in the Church, and attacking various abuses, which worldly men, and especially tyrannical princes, had fostered among her ministers. When the Fathers and all Tradition were found to support her doctrines, they cast aside all regard for the Fathers and Tradition, and fell back on the Scriptures alone. Nor could they give to the Scriptures the traditional interpretation without defeating their own purposes; they were thus driven to the necessity of proclaiming a new rule of faith, “The Bible alone, interpreted according to the private judgment of every reader.” Even the very letter of the Scripture had to be accommodated to the new doctrine. Thus Luther, finding that the Epistle of St. James insisted forcibly on the necessity of good works for salvation, rejected the document, calling it contemptuously “an Epistle straw”; and to enforce his novel tenet, that we are saved by faith only, without good works, he boldly inserted the word “only” into St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (III, 28; n. 52).
77. That the Church, with which Christ had promised to remain till the end of time, should have become a mass of corruption, is so evidently impossible, that many Protestants reject this charge, and adopt another theory. They pretend that the visible Church had indeed been corrupted, but that the Church of Christ is invisible, consisting of all those who are in the state of grace; and therefore it is always holy. But the theory of an invisible Church is untenable. For how could we obey the command of Christ to “hear the Church,” if the Church were not made manifest to us? (Matt. XVIII, 17). Such is not the provision that Christ has made for the perpetuity of His religion (nn. 43-46); this theory is against the whole current of the Apostolic Tradition. How could an invisible Church hold Councils, and solemnly enact doctrinal and moral decrees? (Acts, XV). Even the Old Testament had a visible Church, in figure of what was to be in the New; and it predicted the enlargement of this type by comparing the future Church to a city upon a mountain into which all nations should flow (Is. II, 2). Christ too applied to His Apostles the images of a city upon a mountain, and of a light that is not put under a bushel (Matt. V, 14, 15). St. Chrysostom writes: “It is an easier thing for the Sun to be quenched than for the Church to be invisible” (In Oziam, Hom. 4, n. 2).
78. If all men are obliged to enter into the Church of Christ, as we have proved they are (n. 73), it is evident that the Saviour must have provided some signs, notes, or marks, by which His Church can readily and unmistakably become known to all earnest inquirers; for He could not impose a duty upon men without giving them the means necessary to fulfil it. What these marks are, it is not for any man arbitrarily to determine. That they may be obvious and unmistakable, they must shine forth from the Church into the eyes of the world at large, and be such as can belong to no other than the Church of Christ. As Cardinal Newman expresses it: “These notes are, as anyone knows who has looked into the subject, certain great and simple characteristics which He who founded the Church has stamped upon her, in order to draw both the reason and the imagination of men to her as being really a Divine work, and a religion distinct from all other religious communities” (Apolog., Append., VI). The principal notes of this kind are expressed in the Nicene Creed “I believe in--the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Since by these notes the most important matter on earth, the way of salvation, is to be determined, we shall make them the subject of most careful study.
79. That Christ intended His Church to be One, is evident from His own words: “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (Jo. X, 16). He teaches the same truth in all the figures that He applies to His Church, as ofa kingdom, a city, a household, an edifice that He is to build on a rock, a body, etc. St. Paul describes it as an organized body of which Christ is the Head: “From whom the whole body, being compactly and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation of the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity” (Ephes. IV, 16).
80. But not only is this unity thus clearly affirmed in Holy Scripture, it flows besides from the very nature of the Church of Christ. For we have seen that He instituted it as an assembly governed by the Twelve Apostles, who are uniformly presented as acting together, ruling and teaching as one body (nn. 43, 44). Thus the mark of unity is not something superadded to the Church, like a badge or mark of honor; but it is a quality with which she is born, which results from the very mission that gave her existence. Such qualities flowing from the very natures of things, philosophers name “attributes;” and it will be seen that all the marks of the Church are such attributes, or qualities inseparable from her essence.
81. Since this note of unity is so efficient a means to cover the true Church of Christ, we add here some further arguments to prove the necessity of this mark. 1. Christ Himself prayed for this unity, and He pointed to its existence among His followers as a proof of His mission from His Heavenly Father. For at the last Supper, after praying for His Apostles, He added: “And not for them alone do I pray, but for those also who through their word shall believe in Me, that they may all be one, as Thou, O Father, in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (Jo. XVII, 20, 21). 2. The Martyr St. Cyprian, in the third century, wrote as follows: “This is, my brother, and ought to be, our special study, to seek to secure, as far as in us lies, the unity delivered by the Lord, and through the Apostles to us, (their) successors; and as far as we are able, to gather into the Church the straying and wandering sheep, which the perverse factiousness and heretical efforts of certain persons have separated from the Mother,..... men who will have to give an account to God of the rupture and separation caused by them, and of their abandonment of the Church” (Ep. XLII ad Corn.). Elsewhere he says: “God is one, and Christ one, and the Church one, and the chair one founded by the Lord's word upon a rock (others read ‘upon Peter’).--Whosoever gathereth elsewhere scattereth. It is adulterous, it is impious, it is sacrilegious, whatsoever by human frenzy is instituted so as to violate a Divine arrangement” (Ep. XL ad Pleb.). Again: “As if there were to be no end of their frantic audacity, they are here too endeavoring to draw the members of Christ into their schismatical party, and to divide and mangle the body of the Catholic Church” (Ep. XLI ad Corn.).
82. The unity of the Church may be expected to exhibit itself in various ways, chiefly in her one faith, one government, one worship, and in the charity uniting all her members. All this St. Paul expresses when he writes to the Ephesians: “Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (IV, 3-5).
And first, the Church is one in her faith; for we have proved that she is infallible in her teaching (n. 72); therefore her doctrine is necessarily one and the same at all times and in all places; though, as we have seen (n. 66), it may be more fully and definitely stated, as occasions may call for more copious explanations or more strict definitions. St. Irenaeus, about A. D. 166, wrote that the faith of the whole Church is one and the same throughout the world (Adv. Haer. I, 10), and all the Fathers agree with him. That membership of the Church is consistent with differences in faith was unheard of before the rise of Protestantism.
83. Secondly, the Church is one in her government. Christ instituted His Church as an assembly (n. 67). His words did not refer to an accidental but to an organized gathering of men, and a permanent institution, signified by its resting on a rock. It was to be governed by appointed officers, who were to direct the members how to attain eternal happiness by the use of common means, teaching them to observe all that Christ had commanded them (Matt., last verse). Such an assembly is technically called “a society,” which is defined to be “a union of persons for the purpose of obtaining a common end by common means”. In it the Apostles and their successors were to be the governing and teaching body, acting in union with one another (n. 44). The figures applied to the Church, of a kingdoms, a fold, a city, all imply one government.
This unity of government is violated by schism, that is, by a portion of the members separating themselves from the society, refusing to submit any longer to its government. St. Irenaeus writes: “They that cause schism..... hew and rend the great and glorious Body of Christ, and, so far as in them lies, put Him to death” (Adv. Haer. IV, 33). St. Cyprian says: “If one is separate from the Church, turn from him, shun him; he is perverse and in sin, and stands self-condemned” (De Un. Ec., n. 17). A schism is formal if the principle itself of submission is rejected. Such is the Eastern schism, which began with Photius, about A. D. 880. At least since the definition of Papal infallibility, the Greeks are not only schismatics but heretics as well. What is called the Great Western Schism began in 1378, when there were two claimants for the Papacy, each of whom had a large following and a line of successors. But in 1417 Martin V. was chosen Pope in the Council of Constance, and recognized by all parties, with an insignificant exception. This schism was only material, not formal; for though there was great practical difficulty in recognizing the rightful claimant, the principle of obedience to the legitimate Pontiff was not denied.
84. Thirdly, the Church is one in her worship; for this is regulated by the one doctrine and the one government, which direct the use of the same Sacrifice, the same Sacraments, and in general the same means of sanctification. These must ever remain the same. For Christ bade the Church to observe all He had commanded (Matt., last verse). There may be diversities in special details to suit varying times and circumstances; these belong to discipline, not to doctrine.
85. Fourthly, the unity of charity was pointed out by Christ Himself as a note of His Church, when He said “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another” (Jo. XIII, 35). This unity, together with the intercommunion of the local churches with one another, was provided for in the early ages by two remarkable institutions, the Diptychs and Commendatory Letters. Diptychs, or folding tablets, were used in every church, and contained the names of those persons with whom the priest specially professed to be in spiritual communion. These included the Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant portions of the Church, the names of the Pope and the Bishop, the Emperors, Martyrs, benefactors, etc.; also the Great Councils, to show that unity of faith and worship went together. The Commendatory Letters are referred to in Scripture, where it is stated that the opponents of St. Paul at Corinth objected that he had brought no “epistles of commendation” (2 Cor. III, 1). Tertullian tells us that all the many churches were bound together by the exchange of “peace”,--perhaps the kiss of peace,--and by the name of “brother,” and by the tokens securing hospitality (De Praescr. 20). St. Augustine says that the “Letters” were an easy means of settling the question of communion (EP. 44, 3).
86. While a schism is opposed to the unity of government and of charity, what is called “the Branch theory” is destructive of every manner of unity. This theory holds that the English Established Church, the Church in communion with the Roman See, and the various bodies of Christians that make up the Greek Church, are so many branches of the one Catholic Church; the theorists profess readiness to submit to any pronouncement of the united Church. But it is evident that such an agglomeration as this is not conspicuous for unity, but rather for the absence of unity, both in government and in charity or intercommunion. This is supported by the fact that no Catholic priest would admit an Anglican to Holy Communion. Nor would there be unity of faith, for instance regarding the teachings of the Councils of Trent and the Vatican; nor union in worship, since, to take one example, the Holy Mass would be pronounced by Catholics to be most sacred, and by the Thirty-nine Articles to be an abomination.
87. Holiness, or sanctity, is nearness to God; thus an altar is holy, because dedicated to God; a day is holy if devoted to the worship of God; a man is holy if he is united to God by charity, and free from whatever separates the soul from God. The Church is holy in her Founder, the Fountain of all holiness; in her purpose to lead men to God; in her means of sanctification, the principal of which are her doctrines and her Sacraments. In the Acts of the Apostles the word “saint” is used as an equivalent for “Christian”, because a member of the Body of Christ is, or ought to be, holy.
In many of her members the Church produces heroic virtue, that is, virtue of superhuman excellence; for the ancients gave the name of “hero” ('ηρως) to those men whose great achievements were held to prove that they were children of the gods. This kind of virtue the Church requires in those whom she “canonizes”, or enrolls on the public list of her Saints. Theologians call virtue “heroic” when it rises conspicuously above common virtue. We say that in the Church there will always be men of heroic virtue, as they will show from time to time by acts which surpass the ordinary standard; as in an army there are often those who never fail in their duty to face the enemy, and who manifest their virtue by conspicuous acts of valor.
88. That the Church must be holy in her members is proved by many passages of Scripture. Isaias says: “It shall be heard in the ends of the earth that the Saviour cometh; and they shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord” (LXII, 11, 12). And St. Paul writes, “To all the saints that are at Ephesus,” saying that God had chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and unspotted in His sight in charity (I, 4). St. Irenaeus, in whose work “Against Heresy”, written in the second century, the whole doctrine on the Church is to be found, says “Where is the Church, there is the Spirit of God; and where is the Spirit of God, there is the Church and all grace” (L. III, C. 24). While the success promised to the Church is the sanctification of souls, and “it is well to be an abject in the house of the Lord rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners” (Ps. 80); yet the faithful observance of her precepts would also advance the true good of man in temporal respects. To answer objections against the holiness of the Church, we must remember that an institution is to be judged by the effects of its action on those members who are imbued with its spirit, not on those who are impervious to its influence.
89. The sanctity of the Church is likewise strikingly exhibited by the credentials of Divine messengers, miracles and prophecies (nn. 11-16). These sometimes attest the sanctity of men still living or already dead, sometimes the truth of doctrine. That Christ promised this power to His followers is evident; for He said: “He that believeth in Me, the works that I do he also shall do, and greater than these he shall do” (Jo. XIV, 12); again: “These signs shall follow them that believe: in My name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover” (Mark XVI, 17). In the Acts of the Apostles we read of many occasions when the preaching was confirmed by miracles (for instance, III; V, 12-16; XIV, 9; etc.). Similar events have occurred in all ages of the Church's history; the Acts of the Early Martyrs are full of them, they have ever been a powerful means to propagate the religion in pagan lands (n. 18), and they are frequent in our own times; for instance, at Lourdes, in France, where any one who wishes can verify the facts.
90. The Catholicity of the Church (κατα=through, 'ολος=whole), when the word is taken in its widest sense, means her existence in all places and all ages, and her preaching of Christ's doctrines in their entirety. That Christ intended all this, is clear from His own words: “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark. XVI, 15), “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” (Matt., last verse).
As a mark of the Church, Catholicity denotes her conspicuous diffusion everywhere. In the second century St. Ignatius wrote that wherever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Ep. ad Smyrn. 8); and the Church of Smyrna addressed a letter to all the parishes of “the Holy Catholic Church in every place” (De Mart. S. Pol.). Already in the same century St. Justin and Tertullian had described the universal diffusion of the Church (n. 32). St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, wrote in the fourth century: “If ever thou art sojourning in any city, inquire not simply where the Lord's house is (for the sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where is the Church, but where is the Catholic Church; for this is the peculiar name of this holy Church and mother of us all” (Cat. 18, n. 26). And St. Augustine: “Many things detain me in the bosom of the Catholic Church ... The name itself of ”the Catholic Church“ keeps me, a name which, in the midst of so many heresies, this Church alone has, not without cause, so held possession of that, while all heretics would fain have themselves called Catholics, yet to the inquiry of any stranger, ‘where is the meeting of the Catholic Church held,’ no heretic would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Con. Ep. Fund. C. 4).
91. The fourth mark of the Church is her Apostolicity. This term designates the fact that her governing and teaching body to-day and throughout all ages is nothing else than the continuation of the Apostolic body to which Christ gave His mission, and with which He promised to remain till the end of time, saying: “Go therefore, teach all nations, ... and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt., last verse).
Those teachers and rulers of religious organizations who do not truly derive their Orders and also their mission from the Apostolic body, cannot rightly claim to be sent by Christ, or to have the promise of His assistance their ministry. This union, or identity, with the Apostolic body is the mark of the true Church that is called “Apostolicity”. Hence all sects that are cut off from the living Church have no title to Apostolicity; and since the head of the Church is the Bishop of Rome because he is the successor of St. Peter, whosoever is not in communion with that See cannot possess union with St. Peter and the Apostolic body. This doctrine was explained by Tertullian in the second century; he says “Let them (the heresies) produce the origin of their Churches, let them unfold the lists of their Bishops, descending by successions from the beginning in such a way that their first Bishop had, as his author and predecessor, one of the Apostles or Apostolic men, who however persevered with the Apostles” (De Praescr. C. 32).
92. We have proved that it is every one's strict duty. to join the Church which Christ had founded (n. 72); and that this Church is to be known by the four marks just explained: we must therefore in the next place inquire which community of professed followers of Christ exhibits all four of these conspicuous marks.
We may classify such communities as follows: 1. That which acknowledges the Roman Pontiff as the Vicar of Christ; 2. The several communities that are collectively known as the Greek Church; 3. Those Protestant communities which have officers corresponding to our Bishops, and which therefore may be calledPrelatic. These are chiefly the Established Church of England with its offshoots, and Lutheran bodies in Sweden and Denmark with their offshoots; 4. The rest of the Protestant Sects, which we shall call Unprelatic.
I. Now the Unprelatic sects do not possess these marks. 1. They agree in not acknowledging any objective principle of unity; they vary in faith, worship, and government. 2. Though many of their members no doubt lead good lives according to their imperfect lights, few claim heroism or miracles, and their doctrines of faith or justification do not tend to produce holiness. Of course, the exceptional virtue of a few would not be a mark of the holiness of their sect. 3. Certainly these sects are not Catholic, except in excluding no error, as St. Leo said of pagan Rome. 4. Nor are they Apostolic, since none of them date back farther than the sixteenth century. (For the Protestant sects see Appendix, no. 361.)
II. Of the Prelatic sects the Eastern, besides other obvious defects, are evidently without Catholicity. The Protestant sects are far more destitute of the required notes than they. In particular, the Church of England, with its branches, 1. Has no real unity of faith, there being no authority to decide, while there are within it many varieties of opinions on matters generally acknowledged to be of vital importance. Nor has it unity of worship, since the Lord's Supper is with some of its members a mere commemoration, with others the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. Nor has it unity of government, since the Bishops acknowledge no spiritual superior, and large sections of the clergy and laity openly defy the authority of the Bishops. 2. With regard to sanctity, the same may be said of the Prelatic as of the Unprelatic sects; heroic sanctity and miracles are not even claimed. 3. The Prelatic sects are not Catholic, but confined to certain races; one section of the English Church claims to rank with Rome and the Eastern Churches as a branch of the universal Church; but its adherents have not the same faith that Rome has, since they reject the Pope's infallibility. Neither have they the same government, nor unity of worship, since no Catholic priest would admit an Anglican to holy Communion, and Rome would pay no regard to testimonials given by Anglican Bishops. 4. Apostolicity is wanting to the Anglican Church, owing to its separation from the Roman See (n. 91). Not only are its Orders invalid since the introduction of the Edwardine Ordinal (n. 270); but its mission was broken, when the Archbishop of Canterbury, by whom its Bishops are confirmed, ceased to derive his jurisdiction from Rome, whence he formerly used to obtain it. Whatever mission he has now, he derives from the secular power, and this is the only mission, if any, which he can transmit to others. When St. Paul wrote, “How shall they preach unless they be sent” (Rom. X, 15), he certainly did not mean “sent by the Crown or by Parliament”. (See Appendix, no. 361, IV.)
93. The Catholic Church--called Roman, because governed by the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter,--has all the four marks. 1. She has (a) Unity of faith, because she recognizes an infallible authority, and excludes from her communion all who refuse to hear it; (b) Unity of worship, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offered, though in various rites, by priests who are in communion with one another, and who mention in the canon of the Mass the Pope and their Bishop in communion with the Pope. (c) Thus she has also Unity of Charity or intercommunion. (d) Communion with Rome secures Unity of government: the Bishops receive directions from Rome, pay visits at stated intervals to the “threshold of the Apostles”, and then render an account of the state of their dioceses.
2. That the Church in communion with Rome is Catholic, will scarcely be questioned. She has penetrated everywhere; and in all lands she has produced true Christian virtue, which has often been exhibited in the heroic lives and glorious Martyrdoms of her new children. Many instances of this have occurred in our own age in Corea, China, Indo-China, etc.
3. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in each generation receives its Apostolic succession from the generation that went before, from the Apostles to the present Pope and Bishops.
4. The sanctity of the Catholic Church is strikingly exhibited in the high standard of virtue which she upholds, not in theory only, but also in practice. In particular it is conspicuous in the celibacy of her clergy; in the evangelical counsels practised by her numerous religious; in the zeal of her missionaries; in the gratuitous charity of those devoted to the care of the poor, the orphan, the sick, the aged, and all classes of the afflicted; also in the heroic and exemplary lives of very many, not of her canonized Saints only, but of the common ranks of her clergy and laity. Her sanctity is, besides, visibly approved by God Himself in the ever recurring miracles, worked to sanction her doctrines and her devotional practices, or to testify to the holiness of those whom she enrolls in the list of her Saints and Blessed. All can see proofs of her sanctity in the fertility of her labors for the propagation of Christianity, while the various Protestant sects have been barren of supernatural fruit, as is so abundantly shown in Marshall's book on “Christian Missions”. The Sandwich Islands used to be quoted as an almost solitary exception to the general sterility of the sects; now that the fruit has been matured by time, they are a byword of reproach to Protestant evangelization. On the American continent, all the Indian tribes that have fallen under Catholic influence have been christianized and partly civilized; all under non-Catholic influence have been demoralized and well-nigh exterminated. All the success of Protestant missions can be attributed to natural causes. True, the doctrines of the Catholic Church are often held up to reproach; but it is because they have been grossly misrepresented by her enemies; no one who has learned them from her own teachings and practices has found in them anything that is not admirable. Therefore her opponents have now begun to imitate what they formerly condemned in her. The superiority of Catholic over Protestant influence on the real happiness of nations is fully demonstrated in Balmes' “Catholicity and Protestantism Compared in their Effects on the Civilization of Europe”; while Young's “Protestant and Catholic Countries Compared” vindicates the more genuine happiness and more pure morality of the latter over the former. Objections taken from history will be found triumphantly refuted in the learned “Miscellanea” of Archbishop Spalding, and in many other similar publications.
94. We have seen (n. 83) that the Church is a “society”, that is an assembly of persons co-operating towards a common end by the use of common means.Three kinds of societies are necessary for man: the family, whose purpose is the generation and education of children; the State, intended to secure the welfare on earth of an aggregation of families; and the Church, instituted by Christ to procure the supernatural happiness of His followers. Each of these societies is complete and independent within its own sphere, because able to attain its own end; and yet each of them will find its advantage in fostering the welfare of the other two. Thus parents teach their children respect for civil and ecclesiastical authority; the State protects the rights of the family and of the Church; the Church sanctifies the family, and urges the doctrine of St. Paul that every soul should be “subject to higher powers, because there is no power but from God” (Rom. XIII, 1-5).
When parents grossly and plainly violate their duty, the State can control them. In like manner the Church can curb the gross excesses of the State by solemn condemnation and spiritual punishments. But as long as these societies act properly each within its own sphere, they are supreme there, and accountable to God alone. No conflict can then arise between these societies.
95. In every society the members are to be directed to attain the end or purpose for which the society exists; there must be governors and governed. It is so with the Church; this is implied in the figures by which Christ designated her, namely of a kingdom, a city, a body, etc. (n. 83), and in the Acts and Epistles we constantly read of Bishops, priests and deacons. All the prominent sects of Protestants have some organization. The title of “Bishop” is used by the Church of England, by some Lutherans and by certain branches of Methodists: these Bishops rule a district containing many congregations. Presbyterian congregations elect representatives to a ruling assembly of “Elders”, or each congregation has its own assembly separately. Nearly all Protestants however agree in regarding the office holders as merely servants of their constituents, and not as having authority over them.
This was far from being the view of the Apostles and the early Christians; for, as we have shown, (nn. 43-46), Christ had selected and commisssioned the Apostles, and they commissioned and empowered their successors; as St. Paul expresses it: “The Holy Ghost hath placed you Bishops to rule the Church of God” (Acts XX, 28). This governing body in the Church is called the Hierarchy ('ιερος, sacred, αρχη, rule), and it is spoken of on every page of Church history. “I exhort you,” writes St. Ignatius in the second century, “that you study to do all things in the unanimity of God, the Bishops holding the presidency in the place of God, and the Presbyters in the place of the Council of the Apostles” (Ad. Magn. n. 6).
96. Membership of the Church is obtained by means appointed by the Saviour: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark XVI, 16). Adults are capable of fulfilling both conditions; they must therefore “believe and be baptized”. Baptism then, without acceptance of the doctrine is not enough to make them members of the Church. Infants cannot make an act of faith; therefore it is not required of them, and Baptism alone makes them members of the Church of Christ. This will hold, even if he who baptizes is not himself a Christian, provided he intends to confer the rite which Christ instituted, and confers it correctly; for it is to the rite properly conferred that the efficacy of the Sacrament is attached. By a parity of reasoning, if an adult is validly baptized, and accepts the doctrine of Christ as far as he can know it, though it is presented to him by a sect which he inculpably mistakes for the Church of Christ, he receives the sanctifying effects of the Sacrament, and thereby belongs to the soul of the Church. But not being outwardly in her communion, he is not a member of her body, and is therefore debarred from her other Sacraments. Thus also a person baptized in infancy, and afterwards inculpably severed from the body of the Church, continues to belong to her soul.
97. Total separation from the Church cannot be incurred except by an open and guilty rejection of her doctrines by heresy, or of her government by schism, or as the result of a sentence of excommunication. “Heresy” ('αιρεσις, choice) is the sin of choosing one's tenets for oneself, so as pertinaciously to reject the teaching of the Church. “Schism” (n. 83) is a wilful rejection of obedience to the governing power of the Church, so as to sever oneself from her communion. “Excommunication” is a punishment inflicted by the external court of the Church on one guilty of a great crime. It is inflicted for the good of his soul or in vindication of the law; it deprives him of the reception of the Sacraments, and of a share in the public suffrages and in other spiritual privileges.
Some Protestants teach that all the predestined (361. II) and they alone, are members of the Church; and by the predestined they mean those who will eventually be saved. But it is evident from the language of the Holy Scripture that not all the members of the Church will be saved. St. Paul certainly considered himself a member of the Church, and yet did not think his own salvation secure (1 Cor. IX, 27); and St. John writes: “Look to yourselves that you lose not the things which you have wrought” (2 Jo 8).
98. We must next consider the work which the Church is to perform. Theologians, guided by the Scriptures, distinguish a three-fold office in Christ; for He is a Prophet, Priest, and King. His Church was instituted to exercise these three functions; for as the Father had sent Him, so He sent her. As Christ is a “King”, the Church is a perfect and independent society: she can make laws in spiritual things for all who by Baptism have become her subjects; she can judge them, and coerce the contumacious.
That she can do all this is unchangeable doctrine, but the mode of doing it belongs to changeable discipline. Her Priestly function is exercised in virtue of the Sacrament of Order. Her function of teaching belongs to the Prophetic office. We have proved before (nn. 69-72) that, in the exercise of her teaching office, the Church was endowed by her Divine Founder with the privilege of infallibility. We must here explain the exact meaning of this endowment, the objects to which it extends, and the various ways in which it is exercised.
99. Infallibility means freedom from liability to error. As a body of believers, she cannot believe what is false; as a teaching body,--and as such we consider her here,--she cannot teach what is false. This immunity from liability to error is not due to any inspiration, by which the Holy Spirit might be supposed to dictate to her what she is habitually to teach or explicitly to define; she has never claimed such inspiration. Therefore she does not profess to teach new doctrines divinely revealed. But the infallibility of her teaching consists in the protection which the Holy Ghost continually exercises over her ministry, guarding her from teaching any erroneous doctrine, contradictory to what is contained in the deposit of the faith which was delivered to her by the Apostles.
Since every supreme tribunal can define the limits of its power,--else it were not supreme,--the Church can define the limits of her infallibility. She does so by the very exercise of the prerogative. Now we find in her history that she has exercised it with regard to the following objects: 1. The doctrines, directly included in the deposit of revelation which she received from the Apostles; these doctrines may regard faith or morals; in fact this distinction is only made for the convenience of classification; 2. Those truths without which she could not properly preserve this deposit in its integrity; 3. Such conclusions from revealed doctrines as are required to explain those truths in their fulness and their practical applications. The last two classes may be said to pertain indirectly, or mediately, to the Apostolic deposit. To teach any truth involves, of course, the condemnation of errors opposed to it, and of writings in which these errors are contained. Thus the “Thalia” of the heretic Arius was condemned in the very first Ecumenical Council, A. D. 325.
The Church exercises her infallibility in various ways: 1. By her Bishops assembled in an Ecumenical Council (n. 112); 2. By the unanimous teaching of the Bishops dispersed through the world in union with the Pope; 3. By her Supreme Pontiff when he defines a doctrine ex cathedra. He does so, as the Vatican Council teaches, “when, discharging the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of His supreme Apostolic power, he defines a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church”. (n. 108). Of course no one should imagine that the teaching of the Church is to be limited to her infallible pronouncements.
100. But whether the Church utters explicit definitions, or simply performs her quotidianum magisterium, her daily office of instructing the faithful, she frequently judges of “Dogmatic Facts”; for instance, that such a person holds the office of Supreme Pontiff, that a certain Council is or is not Ecumenical, that certain systems of education are or are not injurious to faith and morals, that certain societies are immoral, that others are laudable, etc.; else she could not efficiently guide her members in matters necessary to salvation. In a stricter sense we call a “Dogmatic Fact” a pronouncement whereby the Church determines the true sense conveyed by certain words or writings. Thus in the fourth century she insisted on the word “consubstantial”, and at Trent she defined the fitness of the term “Transubstantiation”. Thus also when she condemned the five propositions of Jansenius, she declared that they were contained in his works. She must also be infallible in her canonization of Saints; for she proposes these for public honor to all her members; if they were not truly Saints, she would thus promote superstitious worship.
101. The Bishop of Rome is recognized by the Catholic Church as her lawful head, with the title of “Supreme Pontiff”, or “Pope”. She teaches that he holds the Primacy, not of honor only, but also of power, or “Jurisdiction”, as it is called, over all the Bishops; that he rules over the whole Church as the successor of St. Peter, in virtue of the institution of Christ Himself. The Vatican Council expresses the doctrine thus: “If any one say that it is not by the institution of Christ our Lord Himself, that is by Divine right, that Blessed Peter has an unbroken line of successors in the Primacy over the whole Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of Blessed Peter in the same Primacy, let him be anathema”. The doctrine is of Apostolic Tradition; for no time can be pointed out in history when this claim of the Roman Pontiffs had its beginning. On the contrary, we find that from the first centuries they have acted as having authority over the other Bishops, of the East and West alike. We mention a few examples: 1. St. Clement, the third successor of St. Peter, settled a dispute of great importance for the Church in Corinth, which had appealed to him, A. D. 97, while St. John the Apostle was still alive. 2. Pope St. Victor, in the second century, ordered the Asiatic Bishops, under threat of excommunication, to conform to the common usage of the Church in the celebration of Easter. 3. In the third century Pope St. Stephen compelled the African and Asiatic Bishops to abandon the custom of rebaptizing those baptized by heretics. 4. In the fourth century, Pope Liberius ordered the Bishops of the East to confess three Persons in God. And at the General Council of Ephesus, the Papal Legate Philip claimed for the Roman Pontiff the power of St. Peter, because, as he said before all the Council, this Apostle “still lives and exercises judgment in his successors”. There is no record in the early ages of any appeal from a Papal decision on a matter of faith to any higher tribunal. Appeals to a General Council were made at times by Catholics, but only on matters of discipline.
102. Reason itself shows the necessity of this doctrine. For, 1. We have seen that the Church of Christ is necessarily one (nn. 79, 80); but its unity would be practically impossible without a central authority, a one last judge of controversies. 2. We have also proved that the Church is infallible (n. 72); now this also requires an infallible voice, a judge of the faith. He need not be inspired,--inspiration is not claimed for the Pope,--he must be preserved from teaching erroneously by the Spirit of Truth, who abides with the Church forever.
If it be objected that the unanimous voice of the Bishops could act as the last court of appeal, the answer is obvious, that the decision is needed when the Bishops are not unanimous. Shall a bare majority of votes, or a two-third vote be required to secure infallibility? Christ has not said it. Who is to determine this point if there is no head? Now if there is a head, it is the Bishop of Rome; for he has no rival claimant.
103. The Holy Scriptures prove clearly that Christ conferred the Primacy on St. Peter and his line of successors.
1. The first proof is taken from the 16th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel. We find in Scripture that when God gave a new name to any person, it was ever a sign that the person was entering on some new position in the Divine economy, as when “Abram” became “Abraham”, the “Father of many nations” (Gen. XVII, 5). Now Christ changed the name of “Simon” into “Peter”, which means “a rock”, and He adds the reason, saying, “And upon this rock I will build My Church”. His Church was to be supported, and that solidly and permanently, by St. Peter, and of course by his successors, else it could not be a permanent support. It was to be so strong and durable that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. It is hard to conceive of a more telling figure: Christ makes Peter so necessary to His Church that without his aid it cannot stand, while with his support it shall stand forever. All this admits of no other plausible explanation than the Catholic traditional teaching, that St. Peter and his line of successors were to be throughout all ages the strength of the Church, maintaining it in its integrity. The Popes are such by giving it unity of government, of doctrine, of worship, and of charity: this four-fold unity belongs to the Church, as we have shown (nn. 79-85), and without the Popes such unity is impossible.
The occasion on which this great favor was conferred upon St. Peter was this. Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. It was to reward him for this open profession of faith that Christ said: “And I say to you that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, etc.” It was the reward of his faith. Therefore the Holy Fathers often say in their commentaries on this text “The rock is the faith of Peter”; a true saying, but not a full explanation of the text. St. Ambrose goes further and says, “Therefore where Peter is there is the Church” (In Ps. 40, n. 30); and Tertullian, “Was anything hidden from Peter, who is called the rock, whereon the Church was to be built?” (De Praes. n. 21).
2. The next verse in St. Matthew expresses the promise of the Primacy in another form. It says: “And I will give to thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven” (19). The promise of the Keys was made to St. Peter alone, while the power of binding and loosing was afterwards conferred on all the Apostles (Matt. XVIII, 18). Now what is betokened by giving to a man the keys of a house, or to a magistrate the keys of a city? It puts the house or city in his power, giving him control of it. Thus Christ gave to St. Peter the Primacy or highest power over His Church, which is His Kingdom on earth, that by means of this power its members may gain access to His Heavenly Kingdom.
3. The Primacy, promised in the texts just explained, was conferred on St. Peter after the Resurrection of Christ, when He appeared to His disciples by the sea of Tiberias (Jo. XXI, 15-17). He took St. Peter aside from the rest, and after asking him three times, “Peter, lovest thou Me more than these?”, and after receiving his triple protestation of love, He made him the shepherd of His whole flock, saying: “Feed My lambs ... Feed my sheep”. We read nowhere that Christ ever conferred any such charge for future times on any one but St. Peter. His sheep were to form one flock. “There shall be one fold and one shepherd” (Jo. X, 16); and the office of shepherd to this flock is an exact figure of the Primacy. The shepherd must keep the flock together, lead it to healthy pastures, and defend it against the wolves; so the Pope must keep the faithful united, furnish them sound doctrine, and protect them against the enemies of salvation.
That St. Peter was to direct or rule the whole Church, is expressed by the mention of both ‘lambs’ and ‘sheep’. He was of course to have assistant shepherds, the Apostles and the Bishops; but there were to be no independent shepherds who should own separate flocks. There is another text to show that Christ intended St. Peter to be the head of all the Apostles; namely, at the Last Supper, before warning him of His approaching fall, He said “Thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke XXII, 32).
4. The leadership of St. Peter is indicated in many other passages of Holy Writ. In particular: (a) He is always named first when the list of the Apostles is given. St. Matthew says distinctly: “The first Simon, who is called Peter” (X, 2); and yet he was not the first called by Christ, nor the oldest, nor the most beloved. How then was he first, except in authority? (b) It was Peter who invited the rest to choose another in the place of Judas (Acts I, 15). (c) He was the first to preach to the people on the day of Pentecost (Acts II). (d) He was the first to receive the Gentiles into the Church, being directed to do so by a vision from Heaven (Acts X). (e) In the Council of Jerusalem, he was the first to trace out the course of action which was adopted (Acts XV). (f) When Ananias had laid his money at the feet of the Apostles, it was Peter that rebuked him; he also announced her death to Saphira (Acts V). (g) It was to him that St. Paul went after his sojourn in Arabia (Gal. I, 18).
104. But did not St. Paul rebuke St. Peter? He did; just as a Cardinal to-day might call the attention of the Pope to the likelihood of scandal arising from his course of conduct on a particular occasion. When the facts are well understood, they afford additional proof of St. Peter's high position. They are as follows: Though the Law of Moses, on St. Peter's motion, had been declared abrogated, and himself had eaten freely with the Gentile converts, yet he thought it best to conform to the practice of the Jews: “He withdrew and separated himself” from the Gentiles, eating no longer with them; and the rest of the Jews, even Barnabas, followed his example. St. Paul then says: “When I saw they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews?” (Gal. II, 14). Notice that the example of St. Peter is said to “compel” the Gentiles; this is more than St. Paul's example did, and thus argues the superiority of St. Peter. Besides, in all this there is no question of belief but of practice. (Read all Gal. II.)
105. The arguments of the “rock” and of the “shepherd” prove that the Primacy was to be permanent in the Church, for a building always needs its support, and the flock its shepherd. And yet we do not read that, when St. Peter died, any other Apostle assumed the leadership. But it passed to his successor in the See of Rome, St. Linus; then to St. Cletus; then to St. Clement, whom we have seen settling the dispute for the Corinthians during the lifetime of St. John (n. 101). His letter to the Corinthians is extant and admitted to be genuine. The claim of the Bishops of Rome to exercise the Primacy has always been acknowledged to be valid. Thus St. Ignatius, who died in 107, called the Church of Rome “The head of the union of charity”, that is, “of Christianity” (Ep. ad Rom.). Tertullian calls its Bishop “The Supreme Pontiff, the Bishop of Bishops” (De Pu. C. 1). St. Cyprian wrote: “He who resists the Church, he who abandons the chair of Peter, on whom the Church is founded, shall he flatter himself that he is in the Church?” (De Un. Ec. 4). There is also the celebrated saying of St. Augustine: “Rome has spoken, the cause is ended” (Sermo 131, c. 10).
It is objected that St. Gregory the Great repudiated the title of “Universal Bishop”. He did so in the meaning in which he understood the Patriarch of Constantinople to claim it, as “sole Bishop”. He himself teaches that all Bishops are subject to the Bishop of Rome (Ep. ad Jo. Syr. 9, 12).
It may be remarked that the Synagogue was a figure of the future Church of Christ; and it had permanently a High Priest, whose office corresponded in many points to that of the Pope. Would God have given a more perfect organization to the figure than to the reality?
106. The Waldenses in the Middle Ages, and some modern writers, questioned the dogmatic fact (n. 100), defined by the Vatican Council, that St. Peter at his death was Bishop of Rome. But in vain: for all the claims of the Bishops of Rome to the Primacy (n. 101) have always rested on the fact that they are the successors of St. Peter. He was martyred at Rome A. D. 67. St. Cyprian, about the year 260, speaks of Rome as “Peter's place, the chair of Peter, the principal Church, the source of unity of the Priesthood” (Ep. ad Corn. 55, 14). A century earlier, St. Irenaeus had called it: “The Church founded and constituted by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul” (Con. Haer. 3, 3). Tertullian, Origen, St. Clement himself (Ep. ad Cor.), and others testify to the same. St. Peter says, in his first Epistle (V, 13), that he writes from Babylon; now Rome was to the Jews in his day what ancient Babylon had been to their ancestors, a name for oppression and wickedness, the home of their conquerors. It is called Babylon in the Apocalypse (XIV, 8, etc.); and the name Babylon in St. Peter's Epistle was unanimously so understood before the Reformation. St. Peter never preached in any other place to which the name Babylon could be applied; and no other city than Rome has ever claimed to be the the place of St. Peter's death and burial. The Protestant Dr. Whiston says: “That St. Peter was at Rome ... is so clear in Christian antiquity, that it is a shame for a Protestant to confess that any Protestant ever denied it” (Memoirs, London, 1750).
107. Finally, the fact that the Roman Pontiff holds to-day, and has held for centuries, the unique position which is his, cannot be accounted for except by his right of succession to the Prince of the Apostles. Whoever should maintain that the Pope either usurped his powers and imposed his authority on all the other Bishops, or that these freely chose to put a master over themselves, must first point out when and where such changes were made. But he betrays great simplicity of mind, and a strange ignorance of history, if he imagines that either of these alternatives was possible, was in conformity with human nature. Men in authority do not tamely submit to a usurper who has not the power of compelling submission; and there is no record of any protest against such usurpation, or of united action to establish the innovation. When England rejected the Pope's supremacy, this was not the doing of its Episcopacy, but of the secular power, and it was accomplished by the banishment and death of the true Bishops; the new Hierarchy was established by the throne. But of all such changes there are historical documents; of the Pope's alleged usurpation of the Primacy there are none.
Besides, whoever denies the Primacy ignores the difference between the power of “Order” and that of “Jurisdiction”, or commission. All validly consecrated Bishops have exactly the same powers of Order, but their rights of jurisdiction are limited to the territory or district over which they are appointed by higher authority. If there were no higher authority, there would be no such commission given, no special jurisdiction. The highest official cannot receive his commission except in virtue of a different arrangement; and since his power is not human, it cannot be derived from men, but must be of Divine origin. No such arrangement is spoken of in Scripture or Tradition except the succession of the Pope to St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles (n. 105).
108. As to the infallibility of Papal teachings, the Vatican Council defined in 1870 that the Roman Pontiff is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra (n. 99). The whole Church recognized this Council as General and this decree as conclusive. The decree adds: “Therefore these definitions of the Roman Pontiff, of themselves, and not through the consent of the Church, are irreformable.” Thus it puts an end to the teachings of a school, from the country of its origin known as the “Gallican”, which maintained that the Pope receives his authority from the Church, and that, as a consequence, his dogmatic decrees are not infallible in themselves, but only in virtue of their acceptance by the Church. It called these views “Cisalpine”, and dubbed as “Ultramontane” the doctrines maintained South of the Alps, namely, that the Papal Primacy is of Divine institution, and that the Pope is infallible in virtue of his office. It is to be observed that the decree (n. 99) explains ex cathedra utterances to be teachings, or definitions, not acts of government, still less of personal conduct; and only those teachings which regard faith and morals, and which the Pope addresses to the whole Church in the exercise of his supreme Apostolic authority. If there is room to doubt whether any particular utterance fulfils these conditions, the doubt is solved by considering the circumstances of the pronouncement; if doubt still remains, the utterance is not known for certain to be infallible. The decree states that the extent of Papal infallibility is the same as that of the Church's infallibility, and that it is not secured by any Divine inspiration, but “by the assistance of God promised to the Pope in the person of Blessed Peter”.
109. Objections against this doctrine are mostly drawn from historical statements of instances in which either the teaching of a Pope was not ex cathedra, or it was not heretical. These are the principal objections. 1. St. Peter denied Christ; Answ. This occurred before he had actually received the Primacy; and of course he was not teaching ex cathedra. 2. Points of doctrine were submitted by St. Peter to the Council of Jerusalem, and also by Pope St. Leo to the Council of Chalcedon. Answ. In neither case was appeal made to a higher authority. Conciliar decrees give greater solemnity and publicity to an infallible utterance. Besides, Councils are convened to investigate a disputed doctrine with a view to a final decision. 3. Pope St. Stephen was opposed by St. Cyprian. Answ. The Pope was right (n. 101, 3). 4 Pope Liberius is said to have subscribed an heretical formula. But it contained nothing positively heretical, and there is not even a pretense for saying that he taught heresy ex cathedra. 5. Pope Honorius is said to have been anathematized as a heretic by the Fourth General Council of Constantinople (n. 193). Answ. It was not for having taught heresy, least of all ex cathedra, but for not having made a sufficiently firm protest against heresy in a private letter. 6. It is sometimes said that the Popes have acquired their power by a forgery, the so-called “False Decretals”. Answ. These were compiled in the ninth century, long after the Popes had been recognized by numberless writers as possessing all the right ascribed to them at present. Therefore these rights could not have been acquired by means of those Decretals. 7. In the case of Galileo, the tribunal which condemned him was not infallible; for the Pope cannot delegate his infallibility to any tribunal. If he approved the decree, he merely confirmed a disciplinary measure, and did not formally define any doctrine whatever. (Dubl. Rev., July, 1901.)
110. Catholic Bishops are known to be such by their communion with the Holy See. They have authority to teach; and from the assured permanence of the Church (n. 68) we know that this teaching body will never fail, though individual Bishops may fall into heresy. Some think that the Pope himself may do so, except in ex cathedra teachings; but most theologians believe with Suarez that God will not allow this to happen. Every Bishop has authority to teach and govern his own subjects; but this teaching is not irreformable, nor can his laws oppose the general legislation of the Church.
111. Councils, or Synods, date from the days of the Apostles (Acts XV). Diocesan Synods consist of the clergy of a diocese, under their Bishop; ProvincialSynods, of the Bishops of the ecclesiastical province, under the Metropolitan; Plenary Synods, which are of rarer occurrence, represent a whole nation. All these Councils exercise in their districts the same sort of authority as the Bishop does in his diocese.
112. A General, or Ecumenical Council (οικουμενη, world-wide), is one gathered from the whole Church and has authority over the whole. It has no more power than the Supreme Pontiff, but it gives him strong moral support, (n. 113); and occasions may arise when some great evil cannot be checked without it. As representing the whole teaching body of the Church, it cannot fail in faith (n. 72). The right to convoke such a Council belongs to the Pope alone; and without his consent or ratification it is no General Council. Already in the time of Pope Julius I, about 340, we find the principle well recognized that nothing could be done validly without the consent of the Roman Pontiff. He has also the right to preside in every General Council, which right he has exercised by himself and by his legates.The right to be summoned to Ecumenical Councils belongs to Bishops in charge of dioceses. Cardinals, even when they are not Bishops, and Bishops without dioceses may also be summoned, and all these have a decisive vote. Generals of Religious Orders, theologians, and even laymen have been admitted; but they do not vote.
113. During the great Western Schism, from 1378 to 1417, before Martin V was elected and accepted by all parties as Supreme Pontiff (n.83), the Gallicans (n. 108) had prevailed on the assembly at Constance to decree that a General Council is superior to the Pope and can depose him. But Martin V. repudiated the decree, and many subsequent Popes have done the same. The Vatican Council, by defining the Divine institution of the Pontiff's power (n. 108), has settled the question forever.
114. We are now to consider certain points of contact between the Church and Catholic States. These relations do not directly concern such States as do not profess to be guided by Catholic principles; yet it is well for even these to understand our doctrine on this subject: they will learn that they have nothing to fear, but that, on the contrary, they receive strong moral support from the action of the Church; and they will see the wisdom of abstaining from encroachments upon her domain. The more fully a man is actuated by Catholic principles, the more useful a subject will he be in the State, being law-abiding, just, and charitable. Further, the two societies, the Church and the State, can help each other by their corporate action. If their views should differ, the higher and wider society should prevail. Besides, Catholic governors owe deference to the Church, whose members they are.
115. In Catholic States the Church claims immunity for her officials from the authority of civil tribunals; and this used to be very necessary for their just protection. If one of her ministers had offended, she would then judge him herself; and if he was highly criminal, she would “degrade” him, and then hand him over to the secular tribunal for punishment. On his part, the Pope, though all Catholics are subject to the Bishop of the diocese in which they reside, exempts princes from being liable to excommunication except by himself; and he inflicts this punishment on them very sparingly. Sometimes the Pope makes a “Concordat” with temporal rulers; that is, a treaty whereby, in consideration of certain promises of the latter, the Pope abstains from urging for the present certain of his rights. But the Church cannot recognize as rights certain privileges which the Gallicans claimed for themselves and which they called “Gallican Liberties”. These greatly limited the powers of the Supreme Pontiff. Among them were the Placitum Regium and the Exequatur, which it was pretended prevented the will of the Pope from taking effect in France till it had obtained the royal sanction.
116. The Church holds immunity not merely by a favor of the State, but as an essential right. She claims it chiefly in behalf of her Supreme Pontiff; for as his jurisdiction is unlimited, so is the necessity for his perfect freedom absolute. The Pope being clothed with the prerogatives that we have described, no Catholic can question the right of such a Pontiff to be exempt from the jurisdiction of any civil tribunals. The same immunity must also belong to the Cardinals and his other officials. Practically this cannot be secured without the Temporal Power. For it is not enough that the Pope be free, if he be not known to be free: suspicion of his being influenced by his sovereign would be fatal to his own influence. Thus while the Popes resided at Avignon, their authority fell into great contempt, among those who looked on them as creatures of France. For these reasons and others, the Pope cannot rule the Church efficiently unless he be himself independent, and therefore a sovereign of a State. Therefore Pius IX. condemned the opinion of those who think otherwise. Besides, no government in Europe can show a better title than that in virtue of which the Pope ruled for more than fifteen centuries. As the District of Columbia, the seat of the General Government of the United States, is independent of all States of the Union, so should the seat of the general government of the Church be independent of all countries of the earth (See Amer. Cath. Quart. Review, 1892).
117. According to all that has been explained and proved so far, the Catholic Church claims and makes good her claim, to be the Church that Christ has established, the continuation of the Apostolic body that Christ commissioned, saying: “Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. last verses); “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark XVI, 16). Every one to whom this claim of the Catholic Church is properly presented is obliged in conscience to accept her teaching (n. 73), with the alternative that, if he do not, he shall be condemned.
The evidence of this obligation is so strong that, to an unprejudiced mind, a fully sufficient motive is thus presented for yielding assent. Such assent is therefore highly reasonable, and the refusal to yield it is a refusal to accept the properly accredited messenger of God. When a messenger comes from an earthly sovereign, even though some doubt should rest on the genuineness of his credentials, it is not the part of wisdom to begin by rejecting him, and refuse him entrance into a city or state: the presumption is in his favor; and he is to be treated with honor, while everything is done that is possible to remove the doubt. Thus also, if any reasonable doubt remain in the mind of an earnest inquirer concerning the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Heaven-appointed teacher of religion, it is his duty--in this case an all-important duty--to pray for light, and seriously to investigate the matter till all reason of doubt be removed. To wait till the evidence of the claim become of its own power so overwhelming as to compel assent, is like asking for a special miracle, or Divine manifestation, as the Jews and as Herod did of Christ, and did in vain (Matt. XII; Luke XXIII, 8). Faith is a free assent; else it were not meritorious; it does not require sight, as Christ declared to St. Thomas, “Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed” (Jo. XX, 29). It is much to be feared that many to-day, in our own land, are repeating the mistake made by the Jews in the days when Christ was upon earth; they wait for special signs, and refuse to accept those given to all the world (Matt. XII, 39).
118. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebr. XI, 6): All forms of Christianity agree in recognizing the supreme importance of faith; but they differ very much, one from another, in the explanations that they give upon the matter (n. 361, I, II).
The English word “faith”, representing almost invariably the Greek πιστος and the Latin fides, occurs very frequently in the New Testament. The meaning of these words and of their derivatives is constant, and is equivalent to “certain judgment”, either in general, or, more specially, “certain belief on the testimony of another”; when this other is God, we have Divine Faith. It is an act of the intellect, not excluding the influence of the will. The Vatican Council says: “Faith is a supernatural virtue, through which, by the influence and with the aid of the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true,--not because of their intrinsic truth seen by the light of reason, but on the authority of God Himself, who has given the revelation, who cannot be deceived nor deceive”.
A variety of erroneous meanings have been attached to the word “faith” or “belief”; many Protestants confound it with “confidence”, especially in connection with their doctrine on justification. True it seems we might substitute “confidence” for “faith” in some texts, as in St. Matthew XV, 28, “O woman, great is thy faith”; for her confidence was the outcome of her belief in Christ's goodness and power. But in other texts the meaning of confidence is wholly out of place; for instance in the words of St. Paul: “If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God has raised Him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. X. 9).
119. Since faith is a supernatural virtue (n. 118), an act of faith requires the aid of Divine grace, both to give further light to our intellect and strength to our will, and also to raise the act to a supernatural dignity, capable of attaining a supernatural end. But all men receive, either proximately or remotely, the grace necessary to attain their end, and therefore the grace to believe. When this is obtained and complied with, the act of faith is commanded by the will and elicited by the judgment, both will and judgment being elevated by grace. “I believe, because I will to believe; and I will to believe, because I have realized that it is reasonable and right to believe.” Inquiry as to the motive can go back no farther.
After the act of faith is duly elicited, there results the certainty of faith. This certainty is much greater than would naturally result from the motives of credibility that were considered before the assent was given; for it is strengthened by the Divine light of grace, which enables us to accept the formal motive of faith, the authority of God speaking to us. The certainty of faith is the greatest that man can have in this life; in the next life it will be changed into vision. Nor is it necessary that the motives of credibility possess in themselves great logical force; the grace of God can supply the want of evidence. The nature and weight of these motives will vary infinitely with the variety of ability and attainments of different men. Whatever one sees to be sufficient to remove prudent misgivings from his mind is enough for him; it makes the matter credible. The rude and simple, and the young readily believe what is told them by those whom they trust.
When doubts occur regarding the faith, the Catholic, on his own principles, is not at liberty to suspend his belief, even provisionally, in order to institute an inquiry; for he can see no solid reasons for doing so. But one who is not a Catholic is bound to inquire when he sees reasons to doubt; and even to embrace a new doctrine, when he understands that this is the safer course.
120. In thus submitting to the teaching of the infallible Church, we do no injury to our reason. On the contrary, reason itself has helped us to find the Heaven-appointed guide, who is commissioned to instruct us further. By believing, we only acknowledge the limitation of our reason, and our need of God's aid to refuse to do so would be the sin of pride. Such refusal is indeed against the dictate of reason. For even in natural matters, all men habitually guide their conduct by their faith in mysteries, which neither they nor their fellows understand; for instance, no man on earth can explain fully how a message is carried by electricity; how much less can we understand the hidden things of God? All students of natural sciences accept the teachings of their professors, while some of them disdain to receive the teachings of the infallible representative of God. Faith assists reason by supplying it with many safe points of departure, useful in its study of natural knowledge; and reason assists faith by investigating the “motives of credibility”, and clearing up cases of apparent conflict between revealed and naturally acquired knowledge.
121. We have proved that the Catholic Church has been commissioned by Christ to teach all nations in His name, and that all men who become aware of this commission are bound in conscience to accept her doctrines. We are next to examine these doctrines in detail. We shall explain the exact meaning of the several dogmas, prove that the Church teaches them, and show how they are supported by arguments drawn from the Holy Scripture, from Tradition, and from reason.
122. The chief points of Catholic doctrine are contained in the Creeds, or symbols of faith, which are used in the Church.
1. The most ancient of these is the Apostles' Creed, which appears to have been composed by the Apostles themselves. Rufinus, about A. D. 400, wrote an exposition of it, and said that the Roman Church had preserved it in its original form because no heresy had ever arisen in Rome.
2. The First General Council, which met at Nice in 325, enlarged this Creed, chiefly with the intention to define more clearly the doctrines regarding the Divinity of Christ, which Arianism had assailed.
3. The Second General Council, held at Constantinople in 381, further enlarged the Creed, especially regarding the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, which Macedonius had denied. The Creed adopted at Nice, and thus completed at Constantinople, is what is usually called the Nicene Creed; it is recited by the priest at Holy Mass on all Sundays, on the feasts of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, of the Apostles, and of the Doctors of the Church.
It reads as follows: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten not made; consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven; and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was also crucified for us; suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried. The third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of the Father; thence He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, and the Son (see n. 146); who together with the Father and the Soil is adored and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets. And One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and life of the world to come.”
4. The Athanasian Creed, an elaborate statement of the Catholic faith on the Trinity and the Incarnation, is found in use in the seventh century. Though probably not composed by St. Athanasius, it explains the doctrines of which he was the chief champion. (nn. 141, 183.)
5. The Tridentine Creed was proclaimed by Pope Pius IV in 1563, and embodies the heads of doctrine adopted by the Council of Trent, in opposition to the Protestants.
6. The Vatican Creed, of Pius IX, 1870; adds to the Tridentine a clause expressing acceptance of the Vatican definitions. This is the form now used in the profession of faith required from converted heretics, and publicly read by all persons who receive any promotion in the Church.
123. In explaining the doctrines of the Church we shall follow the order of the Apostles' Creed, and consider successively, in as many treatises, the following points: 1. God in Unity and Trinity, 2. The work of the creation, 3. The Incarnation and Redemption, 4. The sanctification of the soul by grace, 5. The Sacraments, as means of sanctification, 6. The last Things.
124. All understand by the term God the Maker and Sovereign Lord of the world and of all it contains, the Supreme Lawgiver and Rewarder of good and evil. We shall consider, 1. His existence, 2. His perfections in general, 3. His quiescent attributes, 4. His operative attributes, 5. His Trinity in Unity.
125. St. Paul writes to the Hebrews (XI, 6): “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a Rewarder to them that seek Him”. It is asked by many:“Can man, without the light of faith, by his reason alone, know that God exists”? He certainly can. For the 18th Psalm says: “The heavens show forth the glory of God”; and St. Paul writes to the Romans (I. 20): “The invisible things of Him (of God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal power also and Divinity”. Hence the Vatican Council, in 1870, defined that it is possible for the existence of God, the Beginning and the End of all things, to be gathered with certainty from created things, by the aid of the natural light of human reason (Sess. III, Ch. 2).
This definition condemned the philosophical school of Traditionalism. In the 18th century, the Jansenists in France had endeavored to force upon men an austere standard of conduct; they had denounced as libertines all who taught that the yoke of Christ is sweet and His burden light. Restless under this excessive restraint, men rebelled against all law, Christian and natural, and soon the utmost licence prevailed. The independence of man was, proclaimed; the rule of God over the world, and His very existence were denied; duty was discarded, and the social order overthrown. All the extravagances of the Revolution were enacted in the name of “Reason”. In the Reaction that followed, a school of writers arose who taught that reason could not attain to a certain knowledge of God but for an original Divine revelation which was handed down by Tradition; they are called “Traditionalists”. St. Augustine urges that, as from the actions of the man before us we conclude that he is living, so from the creatures that we see before us we should conclude that their Creator lives. The texts just quoted from St. Paul prove that it is even easy for man to come by his reason to the knowledge of God, and those who fail to do so are said to be inexcusable (Rom. I, 2o); and St. Gregory Nazianzen declares that a man is very stupid who does not recognize the force of the demonstration (Or. 34, nn. 6).
It follows from this that Atheists are inexcusable. It is doubtful whether there are races or savages who know not God; if there are, their reason has not attained its normal development; they are to be regarded theologically as still infants. The cases mentioned by Sir John Lubbock and others do not prove that there exist nations of Atheists. Another school of philosophers have gone to an opposite extreme; they maintain that God is the first object of all our knowledge, and that we see all other things in God. These are called Ontologists; their system was condemned in 1861 by the Congregation of the Inquisition.
126. The arguments of reason which demonstrate the existence of God are chiefly three, which may be briefly stated as follows:
1. The Metaphysical argument proves that there is necessary Being,--a Being namely that must be on account of its intrinsic nature,--and that the world was made by it. The argument proceeds thus: There can be nothing without a reason for it; therefore there is a reason for the existence of the world. Now this reason cannot be the world itself; therefore it is another being. We say the world cannot be itself the reason of its existence; because, first, it cannot have made itself, else it would have acted before it existed, which is absurd; and, secondly, it cannot exist without a maker that originated it. For it is made up of a fixed number of particles of lime, carbon, gold, silver, oxygen, etc.; now it is absurd to say that every one of those particles is of such a nature that it must exist. And why are there just so many of each kind, neither one more nor one less? If one particle is necessary, why would not any others like it be necessary? or why just such a number of each kind? Some other being then must have made them all and determined the numbers of the various kinds. Therefore the world has a maker. If this maker is necessary, has in Himself the reason of his existence, then our proposition is proved. But if he is not necessary, then he too must be made by another being; and this again, if not necessary must be made by another. We must come in our reasoning to a necessary Being, or there must have been an infinite series of beings none of which was necessary. If none was necessary, then the whole series is unnecessary, and therefore has not in itself the reason of its existence; it must therefore have been made by another Being which is necessary. Therefore a necessary Being exists who is the cause of the world.
This argument may be proposed in the simple form in which St. Jane Frances de Chantal, when a child, proposed it to an Atheist; modern scientific speculations have only increased its appropriateness. “Tell me, sir”, she said, “where does a hen come from?” He answered, “Why, of course, from an egg”. “And whence the egg?” she asked.--“Why from another hen”.--“But which was the first, the hen or the egg?”--“The hen, I suppose”. “Then whence that hen?” He would not say, “from God”, and he could say nothing else.--A modern Evolutionist might think that he could help the Atheist out of his difficulty. For he would say that the first hen came, some way or other, from a lower species of fowl. But he would only shift the difficulty farther back. Where did the first fowl come from? If he said, from some other animal, or plant, the question must come at last, whence came the first living thing? If, without all rhyme and reason, he said, it came from the mere clod of earth, we ask, whence came the earth itself? He might say from a nebula, or a cloud of world stuff. But who made that world stuff, and made it just what it is? It cannot have made itself. There must, therefore, be a first Cause who made all things out of nothing; Him we call God, the Creator.
2. The physical argument proves that this Maker of the world, whose existence we have just proved, is most intelligent or wise. The skill of an artist is known from the beauty of his work, that of an inventor from the adaptation of his machine to produce an intended effect; thus all order shows the working of an intellect adapting means to ends. Now the world displays, in an endless variety of ways, the most admirable order, or adaptation of means to ends. This wonderful order is, and has always been, apparent to every man. “When we look in to heaven and consider the heavenly bodies”, says Cicero, “what can be clearer and more obvious, than that there is a Divinity of most exalted mind by whom these orbs are ruled”? Since his day, the telescope has revealed far more beauty in the heavens, and the microscope in the still more wonderful world of little things. Science can point out more wonders in an infidel's tongue in a minute than he can explain in a lifetime. Therefore the Author of the world is most wise.
3. The moral argument proving the existence of God is twofold: (a) Every man judges necessarily that he is bound in conscience to do certain acts and to avoid other acts; and also that he is responsible for his conduct to an unseen and Supreme Judge, a Rewarder of good and evil. A man who does not know these things is not in a normal state of mind. Now it were absurd to say that all sane men could be mistaken in such judgments; for if that could be, then we could never be certain of anything. Therefore it is certain that there is a Supreme Judge, the Rewarder of good and evil. (b) All nations have always worshipped God, and thus shown that human reason acknowledges His existence. If there are any barbarous tribes that practise no religion, (which is very doubtful), they can be such only as are degraded by vice below the normal condition of human beings.
127. As to the question whether there are real Atheists, we find that some persons of keen minds and extensive information have reasoned themselves, or have been led by others, into a state of doubt regarding the existence of God. Such men often call themselves Atheists. Their mental state arises either from pride, or from corruption of heart, or from a perverted education. But no one can reason himself in good faith into a firm and abiding conviction that there is no God. The Scripture says “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 52), indicating that it is not reason but passion, not the head but the heart, that leads men to Atheism.
Pantheists teach that all things are God (παν, all, θεος, God). This theory is rank with absurdities: for all men would thus be God, and God would be guilty of all the crimes committed. God would then do to Himself whatever we do to one another: He would hate Himself, kill Himself, teach Himself, etc., etc. Moreover, all men being God, they could do as they please; all morality would perish, and all society; of which morality is the necessary bond.
To escape the odium justly attached to Atheism, Huxley and his school call themselves Agnostics (α, not, and γνωστικος, knowing); they pretend not to know what to think on all the great questions that most concern the welfare of man, namely those regarding his soul, its future destiny, its duties, its relations to God, etc. They too, as well as the Pantheists and the Atheists, loosen the bonds of morality; for doubtful belief in duty is powerless to restrain passion, and so is doubtful belief in reward or punishment. Besides, those philosophers,--if philosophers they can be called who set aside as unattainable the great purposes of philosophy,--are ever carrying on an active campaign of attacks on the most sacred convictions of mankind; they are in reality destroyers of human happiness. Their system also contradicts the teachings of the Scriptures (n. 125).
128. By a “perfection” we mean any quality which it is better to have than not to have. The perfections of God are infinite, and therefore, as is declared by the Vatican Council, God is incomprehensible. This term, however, does not signify that we cannot know His perfections at all, but only that we cannot know them completely; for complete knowledge of an object supposes that the intellect knowing is as great as the object known. Eliu, the friend of Job whose utterances are adopted by the inspired writer, declares that God is “great, exceeding our knowledge” (XXXVI, 26); and St. Gregory of Nazianzum says that in this life our knowledge of God is a slender stream, a tiny ray from the mighty Light (Or. 28).
Since we cannot comprehend God, we cannot express all His perfections in language; this is meant when we say God is ineffable.
129. Moreover when we strive to learn the perfections of God, whether by reason, from the study of His works, or by supernatural revelation, we find that, not only is God very different from all other beings in many respects, but there is no perfection whatever which belongs to Him in exactly the same way in which it belongs to any creature. For all the words we have are primarily applied to creatures, and when we use them to designate God or His perfections, we do not take them in exactly the same sense as we do for creatures, but with a difference: we use them analogically. For instance, the very verb “to have” is not applied to God and to man in exactly the same sense. For we say both of God and of men that they have goodness, wisdom, mercy, etc.; but while a man has goodness, etc., he is not his goodness, wisdom, and mercy--since even without these qualities he would still be a man;--while God is his goodness, wisdom, and mercy, and all His other perfections, all being His very essence: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, says Christ (Jo. XIV, 6). Nor are God's perfections really distinct from one another in Him, but only in the partial or imperfect views we take of Him: His goodness is His wisdom, His justice, His eternity, etc. For in God there is no real distinction whatever, except only that between the three Divine Persons, as we shall explain when we shall treat of the Holy Trinity (nn. 141-148).
130. It is very necessary to bear in mind this analogical use of words, while we now proceed to consider what we really know of God by faith, and to a less extent by reason. We are going to map out, as it were, the knowledge we have of the most simple of beings, whose perfections, as seen by us, are the most diversified. In studying man, we find obvious distinctions between, 1. His essence, that is those characteristics without which we cannot conceive a man; 2. Hisattributes, or qualities which necessarily flow from the essence, as his power of speech; 3. His accidental qualities, which some men have and others have not, such as health, learning, contentment, etc. In God there are no such distinctions in reality. Nevertheless, theologians give the name of metaphysical essence to that perfection of God from which we can prove all His other perfections: this is usually considered to be His necessary existence. The other perfections, viewed as flowing from this, are called Divine attributes; accidental qualities, of course, cannot exist in the necessary Being.
131. The names given to God in Holy Scripture present Him to us under various aspects; the name “Adonai” calls for some special explanation. Adonaimeans “The Lord”. It was used by the Jews wherever a mysterious name occurs in the Scriptures which is composed of four letters, and is therefore called “Tetragrammaton”. Its vowel sounds were not known except to the High Priest and a few leading men, and, through reverence, were concealed from the people. It is called by Christians “Jehova”, or “Javeh”; but the true sound is unknown. The secret name was first revealed, it would seem, to Moses, when God appeared to him in the Burning Bush (Ex. III.). Moses asked: “If they should say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them? God said to Moses, ‘I am who am’”. It means that God is the fulness of being.
132. The Vatican Council, in 1870, defined that the following attributes belong to God: “There is one living and true God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, and incomprehensible; infinite in intellect and will and in all perfection; who being one, singular, absolutely simple, and unchangeable spiritual substance, is to be regarded as distinct really and in essence from the world, most blessed in and from Himself, and unspeakably elevated above all things that exist or can be conceived, except Himself” (Sess. 3, Ch. 1.).
133. We may class those attributes under two heads: the quiescent and the operative. The former are conceived by us as perfecting God in His modes of being, the latter in His modes of acting.
134. We shall briefly explain those of God's quiescent attributes about which it is most important for all Christians to have distinct ideas.
1. God is a spirit, that is, an immaterial substance having intellect and will. “God is a spirit”, said Christ to the Samaritan woman (Jo. IV, 24); and the whole seventh chapter of the Book of Wisdom describes God in terms that can belong only to a spirit.
If then He is a spirit, God has no human form: He is not anthropomorphic. But when the Scriptures attribute to Him hands, ears, feet, etc., they do so figuratively. This they declare by the words of job: “Hast Thou eyes of flesh? or shalt Thou see as man seeth? etc.” (X, 4). So too they speak figuratively when they attribute to Him human passions, as of hatred, joy, pity, repentance, etc. When God acts in a way in which a man would act if he repented, He is said to repent; just as He is said to use His hands if He does that which, if done by man, would be the work of his hands. When man is said to have been created in the image and likeness of God, the reference is to his spiritual soul. This matter is not now in controversy; but it was formerly taught by various heretics that God is anthropomorphic.
2. God is infinite, possessing all simple perfections formally and all mixed perfections eminently, that is, in a higher manner. We call a simple, or pure, perfection one that implies no imperfection; for instance, wisdom, power, knowledge. We call mixed perfections those which exclude some simple perfection; such would be improvement, repentance, recovery, etc.
That God is infinite follows from His being uncaused; for the limitations of an effect result from a cause which gives just so much and no more. Besides, God is the fount of all being, and therefore all being must be in some way in Him. “Of the greatness of God there is no end” (Ps. 144). The point is not attacked by any who believe in Scripture.
3. God is one. For He is infinite, and the co-existence of two infinite beings is absurd. For there can be no difference between two things except as far as one lacks something which the other has; now any lack is inconsistent with infinity. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord” (Dent. VI, 4). St. Irenaeus remarks that if there be two Gods, there is an end of their omnipotence; since, both being free, they could wish contradictory things to happen, which could not be realized.
4. It also follows from God's infinity that He is absolutely simple; that is, He does not consist of parts of any kind. This is clear to reason. For suppose God consisted of parts, that is, of things less than the whole and really distinct from each other. These parts could not be severally infinite; else they would not be less than the whole. Nor could they be finite. Certainly a finite multitude of finite parts could not make up an infinite being: and an infinite multitude is absurd. For imagine one part to be taken away; the remainder would be finite, and yet it would differ from the infinite by a finite part, which in absurd.
It follows from the simplicity of God: (a) That the three Divine Persons are not parts of God, but each is God whole and entire; (b) That God's existence is His essence, not something added to it; (c) That His wisdom, justice, mercy, and all His attributes are not really distinct from each other nor from His essence. We speak of them as distinct, because we thus express our limited and different views of God, conceiving Him now as knowing, now as rewarding and punishing, now as pitying, etc.; (d) That there is no real distinction between His power to act and His acts; for instance, whatever He wills, He wills from eternity. He is thus all act, which truth theologians express by saying He is a “pure act” (actus purus).
5. Since God is infinite, He exists without limit of space; this is called His immensity. Not only His knowledge and power, but His very essence is unbounded; He is not diffused like the extension of bodies, which have parts outside of parts, but He is whole and entire without any distinction of parts. All spirits are whole and entire wherever they are, but created spirits are limited to a portion of space; God alone is unlimited: “He is higher than heaven.... deeper than hell.... longer than the earth, etc. ” (Job XI, 89).
6. The immensity of God has existed from eternity; but He could not be present in any creature before creatures existed; His presence in all creatures is called His omnipresence. “He is a God at hand, and not afar off” (Jer. XXIII, 23); “Present in Heaven, in hell, and in the uttermost parts” (Ps. 138); “In whom we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts XVII, 28). St. Augustine says distinctly, “God is everywhere” (Ep. 20). When we speak of God as specially present in Heaven, in a just soul, in a church even when the Blessed Sacrament is not there, the meaning is that He produces there special effects. But if God is everywhere, what is the use of pilgrimages? God is pleased at times to grant special efficacy to prayer when it is made in certain places; He did so in the Old Law (3 Kings VIII, 29, 30). It may be asked, is it not unworthy of God to be in the devils? St. Augustine answers that in them He manifests His justice.
7. God being infinite can acquire nothing, and being simple He can lose nothing; therefore He is immutable: “With Him there is no change nor shadow of alteration” (James I, 17). How then, having been alone from all eternity, did He become Creator? Was that no change? There was a change, but not in God; His creatures began to exist, and from them He is denominated “Creator”.
8. Eternity properly signifies an existence which has neither beginning, nor end, nor change; it is defined by Boethius as a simultaneously full and perfect possession of interminable life. “Before the mountains were made, or the earth and the world were formed, from eternity to eternity, Thou art God” (Ps. 89). St. Gregory Nazianzen expresses the doctrine very neatly: “God ever was and is and will be, or rather He ever is”; for the was and will be of the time familiar to us are scraps belonging to a fleeting nature (Or. 38, 7).
Of course no man should pretend to explain all difficulties that can be suggested regarding matters so exalted as the perfections of God. We do not understand fully even the simplest things in nature; for instance, how we raise our hands. St. Augustine warns us to avoid perilous questions, and not to suppose we can understand everything (De Civ. Dei, 12, 15).
135. By God's operative attributes we mean those which perfect Him in His mode of acting; the chief of them are His knowledge, His power, and His will.
To begin with His knowledge. Since God is infinitely perfect, He must know all things in the most perfect manner, that is, by immediate knowledge, or intuition: “All things are naked and open to His eyes” (Hebr. IV, 13). Since He is unchangeable (n. 134, 7), He knows all things, not by successive acts, but by one all-embracing act of His intellect, which from eternity to eternity is ever the same.
The objects of His knowledge are: 1. His own being: “The Spirit of God searches all things, yea the deep things of God” (1 Cor. II, 10). 2. All things that are possible; for He sees how His perfections can be imitated in creatures, as an architect conceives the plans of His works. This knowledge of possible things is called the knowledge of simple intelligence. 3. God knows all actual things, past, present, and future, seeing them from all eternity in the order in which they will come into existence. This is called His knowledge of vision. Though He sees things as succeeding one another; still the past and the future, as well as the present, are all present to Him; in one glance He has them all before Him. If God did not know the future free acts of men, He could not know future human events; for almost all these depend, proximately or remotely, on some one's free acts: “All things are naked and open to His eyes” (Hebr. IV, 13). 4. Besides things possible and things actual, there is a middle class of things which are not, and which never have been nor will be, but which would be if some condition were fulfilled; and so they are more than simply possible. Man never can have more than a conjectural knowledge of these matters when they depend on some one else's free-will. The knowledge which God has of these future conditionals, as they are called, is commonly styled “scientia media”; “middle knowledge” would be the English equivalent, but this term is not in use. An example of it would be the answer to this question: If Christ had worked a miracle before Herod, would this king have believed in Him? The Church has never defined that God possesses this kind of knowledge; yet we cannot doubt it. At the present day there is a general agreement that the scientia media is implied in such texts as this: “Woe to thee, Corosain, woe to thee, Bethsaida; for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes” (Luke X, 13). The Fathers frequently appeal to this knowledge; and the faithful imply their belief in it when, under the guidance of the Church, they ask for temporal favors with the condition, expressed or implied, that the attainment of their wish will not be prejudicial to their higher interests.
136. Certainly we find great difficulty in trying to understand how the foreknowledge of God is to be explained so as not to interfere with the liberty of man. How can my act be free if God knows it beforehand? One answer is that with God there is no before and after, since His one act of vision embraces all things at once; and if we do not see how this is, we need not wonder that our finite mind cannot take in this infinite act of God. Besides, knowledge does not alter the object known. Thus God knows what I choose because I choose it, my act being the object of His vision; by His scientia media He knows what I would choose in given circumstances, because it is true that I would choose it, and the infinite mind grasps all truth.
137. The possession of absolute power is necessarily included in the infinite perfection of God. He can, therefore, give existence to whatever is intrinsically possible; that is, to whatever does not contain a contradiction: a round triangle, a created infinite being, an infinite number of things, would contain contradictions, and God cannot make any of them. “I know that Thou canst do all things”, says Job, speaking to God (LII, 2); ”With God all things are possible“, says Christ (Matt. XIX, 26). Many things which to a finite mind appear simply impossible, are feasible to the infinite Intellect, ”Who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand“ (Eph. III, 20).
138. We have proved (n. 134. 2) that the will of God is most perfect in every way; but how that will works is a question wrapped in deep mystery. This need excite no wonder, since we find much mystery surrounding the workings of our own free-will. The following points are certain: 1. The will, whether of God or man, cannot tend except to what is apprehended as good in some way. 2. The will embraces necessarily what the intellect proposes to it as necessary; and it may embrace freely what it apprehends as not necessary. Therefore God loves Himself necessarily, and when He loves a creature, He loves it freely; for creatures are unnecessary in themselves and unnecessary to God. 3. God cannot will any thing which is in opposition to any of His perfections; and therefore He cannot create any being with a purpose to make it unhappy: ”Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made“ (Wisd. XI, 25). 4. Though God has need of nothing, still He cannot act except with an ultimate view to Himself; for every other ultimate end were unworthy of Him: ”The Lord hath made all things for Himself“ (Prov. XVI, 4). The Vatican Council explains this truth as follows: it says that God has created the world of His own goodness, not to increase His happiness, nor to acquire, but to manifest His goodness, by means of the good things which He bestows upon His creatures (Sess. 3. Ch. 1.). 5. Though God thus wills the good of all, and chiefly the happiness of His intelligent creatures, (since these are the fittest objects of His love), still He usually makes this happiness dependent on their free compliance with His commands. His will that all of them shall be dutiful and happy, is called Hisantecedent, or conditional, will: but after taking account of their free choice, He determines that they shall be rewarded or punished by His consequent, or absolute, will. His permissive will consists simply in refusing to hinder their free acts; in this sense, He willed, for instance, the persecution by Nero.
139. As the human will can be perfected by moral virtues, so we ascribe analogous moral perfections to God, but such only as do not involve any imperfection. The principal ones are:--1. Wisdom, which makes the will employ the means that the intellect proposes as useful to a certain end; throughout a whole Book of Scripture God is pleased to speak of Himself by the name of ”Wisdom“. 2. Holiness, which makes God love moral good and abhor moral evil. This perfection of God is the pattern of the perfection to which we aspire (Matt. V, 48). 3. Justice; not commutative justice (n. 324)--for the creature has no rights against the Creator,--but such justice as is displayed, a) In legislation, providing His creatures with just laws, as by the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount, and by giving authority to rulers; b) In pronouncing judgment upon good and upon evil deeds; c) In sanctioning the law by rewards and punishments; 4.Veracity, so that God can neither deceive nor be deceived: ”God is not a man that He should lie“ (Numb. XXIII, 19). When He is said to have given a lying spirit into the mouths of all the prophets who promised success to Achab (8 Kings, XXII, 23), the meaning is that the false prophets were permitted to deceive because Achab preferred their advice. 5. Fidelity to promises, because God is just, holy, truthful, and unchanging; only His conditional promises and threats may be frustrated of fulfilment. 6. Bountifulness, displayed in His provisions for the welfare of His creatures. It is conspicuous everywhere; but especially in the pity, mercifulness, gentleness, long-suffering, and patience shown in God's dealings with sinners, as in Christ's lament over Jerusalem (Mat. XXIII, 37).
140. If God is good, how can we account for His permission of evil in the world? There are physical evils, such as bodily and mental pain, and moral evils, or sins, to be accounted for. This question is very ancient; it is the main theme of the Book of Job, which is perhaps the oldest of extant writings. To answer it, a system of two infinite beings was early devised, the one all good and the other all evil. But a being all evil is an absurdity; for it would at least have power to act, which is some good. Besides, if the evil being had existence of itself, it would be God; if it were a creature of God, it would be subject to Him, as Satan is. The Dualistic system, under the name of Manicheism, made its way among Christians, and gave much trouble to St. Augustine and other Fathers; and as late as A. D. 1252 the dagger of a Manichean gave the crown of martyrdom to St. Peter of Verona.
A sense of difficulty in reconciling the existence of evil with Christian teachings has led some men to reject Christian revelation and embrace Deism, while it has led others into Atheism. But to account for the existence of the world without a God is far more difficult. The Christian admits he can give no full explanation of mysteries, and that the existence of evil is one of these. To lessen the difficulty he remarks that,
1. His system must be taken as a whole, including the fall of man, and the whole life of man here and hereafter, knowing that tribulation ”worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory“ (2 Cor. IV, 17).
2. Moral evil flows from man's free-will, so that God is not the author of sin: His will regarding sin is only permissive (n. 138), and consequent upon man's choice.
3. To possess freedom, even with the terrible responsibility of sin attached to it, is a great good; for it makes us more like to God, and able to render Him much higher service than that of which the brutes are capable; it also enables us to merit the reward of endless bliss.
4. The chief difficulty flows from a tacit assumption that God is bound to do to all His creatures all the good He can. But, a) God can always do more than He has done; and b) He is not bound to do us all the good we may desire. When we have received a gratuitous benefit, we should be thankful, and not complain that it is no better.
5. The distribution of grace is at present a mystery to us, which God seems to keep jealously from our knowledge: the thing formed must not say to the potter, why hast thou made me thus? (Rom. IX, 20).
6. If there is an unaccountable inequality in God's gifts to men, we must remember that God is at liberty to do as he pleases, as is taught by the parable of the laborers (Matt. XX). God will judge all with full knowledge of each one's circumstances, internal and external, and ”will render to every man according to his works“ (Matt. XVI, 27).
141. The entire dogmatic portion of this book is a development of the Apostles' Creed, and of its amplification, the Nicene Creed. Now these Creeds are, in the main, expositions of the doctrines concerning the Holy Trinity: ”I believe in God the Father Almighty,..... and in Jesus Christ, His only Son,------ in the Holy Ghost..... “. Many truths, therefore, with regard to the Blessed Trinity need not be dwelt on in this chapter, since they are explained in other parts of this volume. There is another Creed, called the Athanasian (n. 122), which deals more exclusively, and far more copiously, with the special subject now before us. It is in part as follows: ”The Catholic faith is this: that we honor one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor separating the Substance. For one is the Person of the Father, another that of the Son, another that of the Holy Ghost. But of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost the Divinity is one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, such the Holy Ghost. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Ghost is uncreated...... The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God;..... and yet there are not three Gods, but there is one God...... The Father is not made by any one, nor created, nor born. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but born. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and the Son, not made, nor created, nor born, but proceeding.“
In this clear exposition of the Catholic faith the salient points are four:--1. That there is a real distinction between the three Persons, for the Creed says: ”One is the Person of the Father, another that of the Son, another that of the Holy Ghost.“ 2. That there is no real distinction between any of the Persons and their Divine Nature, or that each of the Persons is God, whole and entire; therefore that each of the Persons has all the Divine attributes in their fulness. For ”of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost the Divinity (that is the Divine Nature) is one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, such the Holy Ghost“. 3. That, nevertheless, there are not three Gods, but there is one God. 4. That the distinctions existing between the Persons are connected with the origin of each of Them, as will be explained farther on (n. 147).
142. In all these doctrines there is much mystery. For a mystery is a truth which we cannot comprehend: when we express it in a sentence, we know or believe that the predicate belongs to the subject, but we do not understand how or why it belongs to it. Thus we cannot understand how the one individual Nature of God subsists in three Persons. In the case of men, each man is a person, having his own individual nature distinct from the individual natures of other men, so that there are always as many men as there are human persons. But the three Divine Persons are not three Gods; and this is a great mystery to us. Reason by itself cannot prove it; but we accept it on the authority of God's word. Still reason cannot disprove it either. For while it would be against reason to say that three persons are one person, or that there are three Persons and yet not three Persons; it is no contradiction to say that three Persons have one Nature and are one God. For nature and persons are very distinct objects of thought. A nature, or essence, is the sum total of the characteristic perfections which make a being what it is, as distinguished from all beings of a different species. Thus the Nature of God is the union of all perfections to the exclusion of all imperfections. But a person is an individual substance which is a principle of action in a rational nature; thus God the Father begets God the Son. Now there is no contradiction in saying that the same individual Substance is a triple Principle, the three Principles in God having the same perfections in common. Each possesses them all in their fulness, or infinity; yet Each possesses those perfections in His own peculiar way. Still how this is remains a mystery.
The chief points to be proved regarding the Blessed Trinity are these:--1. That the three Persons are really distinct from one another; 2. That they are perfectly equal to one another; 3. That they are not three Gods.
143. The last point, the unity of God, has already been demonstrated (n. 134). To prove the other two points we must have recourse to the teachings of Scripture and Tradition.
The revelation of the Blessed Trinity was not necessary in the Old Testament, which insisted chiefly on the unity of God, in order to prevent the Jews from falling into idolatry, as did all the nations around them. Still this great mystery was not unknown to all the Chosen People, as is apparent from references to it in the Psalms, the Book of Wisdom, and other portions of the Ancient Scriptures. The second Psalm in particular speaks of the Father and the Son: ”The Lord hath said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee’, etc.“ So does the 109th Psalm: ”From the womb before the day-star I begot Thee“. Both these Psalms and others are shown by St. Paul to refer to Christ (Hebr. I).
But in the New Testament we find the Trinity of Persons in God most clearly revealed. In fact, without this knowledge the leading doctrines of Christianity,--the Incarnation, the Atonement, the mission of the Holy Ghost, and His work of sanctification,--would be unintelligible. We select some of these texts: 1. At the Annunciation, the Angel said: ”The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; and therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of the Most High“ (Luke I, 35). 2. At the Baptism of Christ, when He entered on His public life, St. John ”saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him; and behold a voice from Heaven saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’.“ (Matt. III, 16-17.) 3. In the discourse of Christ after the Last Supper, He said: ”I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of Truth“ (Jo. XIV, 16). 4. After His Resurrection: ”I ascend to your Father, and to My Father, to My God and to your God“ (Jo, XX, 17); ”Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost“ (Matt. XXVIII; 19).
In these texts we are told clearly of three Principles of intelligent action, three Persons, called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. These are seen to bedistinct from one another, as is clear from these words in particular: ”I will ask the Father, and He will send you another Paraclete, ... the Spirit of Truth“. For there is evidently a real distinction between the Person who asks and the Person of whom He asks, between the Person who sends and the One who is sent. 2. All the three are God, for that the Father is God is directly stated by Christ when He says: ”I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God.“ Besides, it is not disputed that the Father is God. The Divinity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost will be proved in connection with the refutation of the heresies which deny it (nn. 144-145).
144. Seeing that this mystery is the very groundwork of the Christian revelation, we are not surprised to find that the powers of darkness assailed it directly in the early Church through a variety of heresies. God's providence, drawing good out of evil, brought about the explicit teaching of the truth by the condemnation of these errors.
First, Arius denied that Christ was God, perfectly equal to the Father. But St. John had written his Gospel for the purpose of inculcating this very doctrine. He begins thus: ”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God“; and adds: ”And the Word was made Flesh“. Therefore,He who became flesh was God. His Gospel abounds in clear statements of Christ's Divinity; for instance, it narrates how St. Thomas adored the Saviour with the words, ”My Lord and my God“ (XX, 28). St. Paul teaches the same; he says distinctly that Christ ”is above all things, God blessed forever“ (Rom. IX, 5.--See n. 186). The writings of nearly all the Fathers of the second and third centuries are replete with such teachings. The first General Council, held at Nice, in 325, condemned Arius, and defined that Christ was ”the Son of God, only begotten of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things are made, both the things in Heaven and in earth“.
Arianism was patronized by several Emperors, and disturbed the Church for many generations. It infected the Eastern and Western Goths, spread through Thrace, Burgundy, and upper Italy, Spain, Africa, and parts of Asia. Spain was restored to Catholicity under her King Hermenegild, in and after 584; France under Clovis a century earlier; but in Africa the heresy lingered until all its Christianity was swept away by the Mahometan conquest.
After the Council of Nice, the Semi-Arians strove to substitute for the word ”consubstantial“ ('ομοουσιος) a word differing from it by only one letter ('ομοιουσιος), but which meant ”of similar substance“, not ”of the same substance“. They also were of course condemned, and like cut off branches withered away. Unitarianism to-day is a revival of Arianism: it admits the Divinity of God the Father alone, and denies the Blessed Trinity; many Protestants in various sects share this error with it (n. 361).
As Man, Christ is, of course, a Creature; and as such He said, ”The Father is greater than I“ (Jo. XIV, 28). If it be objected against the dogma of Christ's Divinity, that St. Paul calls Him ”the first-born of every creature“, we answer with St. Ambrose, that he calls Him ”born“, not ”created“: St. Paul adds words which make the matter evident; for he writes: ”In whom were all things created; for all things were created by Him“ (Col. I, 16). If all things were created by Him, then He was not created.
145. Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, who opposed the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, was condemned by Pope St. Damasus, in 378, and by the second General Council, which met at Constantinople in 381. The Creed adopted at Nice contained these words, ”and (I believe) in the Holy Ghost“. The second Council added ”The Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father; who, together with the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified, who spake by the Prophets“. In the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Ghost is called God: ”Peter said: ‘Ananias, why has Satan tempted thy heart, that thou shouldst lie to the Holy Ghost?..... Thou hast lied, not to men, but to God’“ (V, 3-4). In the formula of Baptism, He is put on an equality with the Father and the Son.
146. The Council of Constantinople just quoted had said, ”Who proceedeth from the Father,“ and had not added ”and the Son“; there was at the time no question raised on this matter. St. Epiphanius, in his Creed, about the same time, calls the Holy Ghost ”the Paraclete, uncreated, who proceedeth from the Father, and receiveth from the Son“ (Ancor. n. 121). And Christ had said, ”When the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send from the Father“, etc. (Jo. XV, 26). Now, in the case of a Divine Person, being ”sent“ implies procession from the Sender; thus the Father is said to send the Son and the Holy Spirit (Rom VIII, 3); this is the traditional interpretation. In fact, the Eastern Doctors, when interrogated by their Western brethren, answered in the words of St. Epiphanius, thus admitting, implicitly at least, the Catholic doctrine as now expressed. In the West it was soon explicitly stated by the insertion of the word Filioque, ”and of the Son“, in the Nicene Creed. This practice was begun at an early date in Spain, to oppose the Arians there; it was gradually extended throughout the West, till the supreme Pontiff, probably about the year 1015, gave it his formal approbation. But long before this, Photius, about 870, found in the insertion of the word ”Filioque“ a pretext for beginning the Greek schism (n. 83). The dogma was afterwards accepted by the Greek deputies to the second Council of Lyons, in 1274, and by those to the Council of Florence, in 1439; but on both occasions the acceptance was only temporary, lasting only as long as their submission to the Holy See.
147. We have said before (n. 142) that, while the three Persons in God have Each the same perfections, Each of Them possesses those perfections in His own peculiar way. We have also remarked (n. 141) that the distinction between the Persons is connected with the origin of Each. We must now explain this matter more fully. God the Father possesses His Nature, or perfections, from His own source, without deriving them from another Person; while the Son and the Holy Ghost have the same Divine Nature, but not of Their own source. For the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one Principle. To get some insight into a subject so fill of mystery, we shall do well to bear in mind that we are created to the image of God. This image is, of course, in our soul, in fact in the highest powers of our soul, our intellect and our will. Our intellectual life consists in the exercise of these powers. So too the life of God consists in the exercise of His intellect and will.Now the intellect works by forming within itself an image, or likeness, of its objects. Thus God the Father, understanding His infinite Nature perfectly, forms from eternity within Himself a perfect likeness of Himself. This image, being all perfect, is not a mere accident, as thought is in us, but a Person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Because produced by the intellect, the second Person is called ”the Word“, or, ”Wisdom“. Generation consists in producing a being like in nature to the parent. Because therefore the first Person communicates His Nature to the second by way of likeness, or image, of Himself, He is said to generate the second, and is called Father, ”Of whom all paternity in Heaven and earth is named“ (Eph. III, 15); and the second Person is begotten, or born, of the Father, and is called Son.
As the intellect forms an image of the object known, so the will aspires after, or loves, the good. Thus God the Father from eternity loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father with an infinite love. This mutual love of the Two, being infinitely perfect, is a Person, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is properly called Spirit, because He proceeds by way of love, by which the will aspires to the object loved; and Holy Spirit, because ”holy“ means ”belonging specially to God“. The Holy Spirit is thus seen to proceed from the Father and the Son as from one Principle, which is their mutual love.
148. From these considerations it appears that the Persons in God are distinct from one another by the relations of origin between Them, but not by any perfections of their Nature. They are not merely different views taken of God, as the Sabellian heretics taught; but the distinction among Them is real, founded in the very life of God. Theologians have given special names to every thing that we can to some extent understand about the Blessed Trinity. Besides the terms which we have already explained,--namely Nature, Person, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Paternity, Sonship, or Filiation,--they use the word Spiration to indicate the aspiring, or loving, by which the Father and the Son unitedly produce the Holy Ghost; and the word Procession to denote the fact that the Holy Ghost is thus produced by the Father and the Son, or proceeds from the Two together. The union of the Divine Persons with one another is so intimate, that they are said to be in one another: ”I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me“ says Christ (Jo. X, 38); this union is styled Circuminsession.
The term appropriation remains to be explained. As all perfections are common to the three Persons, so too all Their actions towards creatures are common to Them; for these proceed from Their intellect and will, which are perfections of Their common Nature. Still, because paternity is peculiar to the Father, therefore creation, adoption of sons, and all that bears some resemblance to paternity is by us attributed, or appropriated to the Father. So too the works of wisdom are appropriated to the Son; and the works of love, chiefly sanctification, to the Holy Ghost. But the Incarnation and Redemption are more than appropriated to the Son; they belong to Him strictly, because He, and not the other Persons has assumed our nature and has redeemed us in His human nature.
After the doctrines regarding God Himself, come those regarding His works. The first of these in the order of time is the creation of the world. It is also the first mentioned in the Apostles' Creed: ”I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth“. We shall treat, 1. Of the creation of the world, 2. Of the Angels, 3. Of man.
149. By the ”world“, or ”universe“, we mean the heavens and the earth with all they contain. To create is to make out of nothing, to give existence to a substance without using for its production any pre-existing substance. Creatures can only modify what exists; and none of the ancient philosophers had conceived any other mode of origination. Aristotle supposed that the world itself is a necessary being, and therefore without beginning. Plato thought its matter was necessary, but a wise God had put it in order. The Holy Scripture, in its very first lines, lays down the solemn truth: ”In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was void, and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said, 'Be light made'; and light was made.“
Notice the details. 1. ”In the beginning“: no event had happened before it; there existed only the eternal, unchangeable God, infinitely happy in His possession of all-perfect life. Christ said that He had glory with His Father before the world was (Jo. XVII, 5). There was no time; for time is the measure of succession in things that change, and before the creation nothing changed: the beginning of the world was the beginning of time. 2. The Hebrew word used here for ”created“ expresses an action which the Scriptures never ascribe to any one but God, and they never use it with the mention of pre-existing matter. 3. After God's act of creating, the earth was ”void and empty“, mere matter, chaos. It is remarkable that the latest speculations of scientists agree here strikingly with the letter of the Scripture; their Nebular theory traces all the material universe back to a chaotic mass of matter. 4. The words ”Be light made; and light was made“ point to the influence of God's will alone in creating.
150. The doctrine of the Church on the creation is clear. In the Apostles' Creed we declare that God is the ”Creator of heaven and earth“, in opposition to the Gnostics, who pretended to have higher knowledge than that of faith (γνωσις, knowledge); they taught the existence of certain beings more or less independent of God. In condemning that error, the Nicene Council defined that God is the Maker of all things ”visible and invisible“. Later on, the Manichean doctrine of two coequal, eternal principles was held by many; but these sectaries were not Christians. When a modification of their system began to get a hold upon some professing Christians, the Fourth Council of Lateran, in 1215, declared that there is one Principle of all, Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and material, who by His omnipotent power, at once, from the beginning of time, framed of nothing the two kinds of creatures, spiritual and material, the Angels and the world, and then man, who shared in both kinds, being made up of spirit and matter. To oppose modern errors of a Pantheistic tendency, the Vatican Council, in 1870, added that the one true God ”acted of His bounty and by His omnipotent power, not in order to increase His own happiness, not to acquire perfection, but to manifest it by the good which He imparts to His creatures, and this in accordance with His absolutely free decree. “ The Council adds that God produced things out of nothing ”as to the whole of their substance“.
The Fathers teach our doctrine explicitly: Tatian says that when the world was as yet untreated, the Lord of the universe was alone; Origen, that God, when nothing existed, caused all things to exist; Tertullian, that He produced all things out of nothing.
151. Since it is the part of wisdom to direct all things to a proper end, we naturally ask: What is the end or purpose for which God made the world? 1. If the question means, what impelled God to create?--we must answer, nothing impelled Him; He created because He freely chose to do so: ”Whatsoever the Lord pleased, He hath done“ (Ps. 134); and St. Irenaeus writes that God freely and of His own power disposed and perfected all things. It is, therefore, incorrect to say that God's own goodness impelled Him to create. 2. But if the question means, what good is the world intended to accomplish?--we answer: The immediate good is the happiness of the intelligent creatures, for whom all the others are made; the ultimate end is the glory of God: ”Every one that calleth upon My name I have made him for My glory“, says the Lord (Is. XLIII, 7); ”The Lord hath made all things for His glory, the wicked also for the evil day“ (Prov. XVI, 4.). The wicked are so by their own choice; they were created to give glory to God by knowing and loving Him: if they refuse to do so willingly and with happiness to themselves, the justice of God requires that they shall do it unwillingly by their punishment.
152. We should not imagine that, once the world had been created, it could maintain its existence unsupported by its Maker. The reason why any article of furniture lasts after its maker has put it together, is the durability of the material, be it wood, iron, or any thing else. But the world was not made of any material; its whole being is immediately dependent on the will and power of God, so that, if He ceased for a moment to conserve it in existence, it would cease to exist. Reason teaches this; and this truth gives a deep meaning to the saying of St. Paul before the Areopagus, ”In Him we live, and move, and are“ (Acts XVII, 28).
Besides this conservation of the world by the Creator, there is also His concurrence with every act of every creature. As the bird in its flight is not only supported by the air, but cannot move itself up or down, to right or to left, except by means of the air; so we depend in every act on the concurrence of God.
153. As to the meaning of the six days of the creation, little is known for certain. While the Scripture is the Word of God, the world around us is His work, and one is a commentary on the Other: the more we get to understand the world, the better we may understand the Book. What in one stage of natural knowledge was by most readers accepted unquestioningly as its meaning is found, in this particular, not to be its meaning. Ecclesiastes had warned us, saying: ”God hath made all things good in their time, and hath delivered the world to the consideration of man, so that man cannot find out the work which God hath made from the beginning to the end“ (III, 11).
The main purpose of Moses in the first chapter of Genesis was to insist on the supreme sovereignty of God over all things, so that none of them should be adored; and also to urge the observance of the Sabbath day (Ex. XX, 11.).
Various systems of interpretation have been proposed for the chapter.
1. Some non-Catholics reject the whole chapter except the first verse, as mere fanciful amplification. They should be consistent: if they admit the first verse as God's word, they should admit all as such.
2. St. Augustine assigns to the narrative allegorical, not historical truth: the six days he takes to be six successive revelations, made to the Angels concerning the works of God. This system is now generally rejected, as having no foundation in Scripture, and being less in harmony with the apparent meaning of the text.
3. The literal meaning was until recent times generally accepted, and was supported by an immense amount of authority; but there need be no hesitation in departing from it if good reason can be shown for so doing, as is taught by Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical on the Scripture (n. 56). Geology and Palaeontology now appear to show such reason. Most modern writers believe that they have deciphered portions of nature's commentary on the Scriptures. They also observe, with St. Augustine, that the word ”day“ is used in Scripture in several senses; in the second chapter of Genesis it stands for the period of the six days together. Still we should not say that the literal interpretation is absurd: God could have created all things as they are found to-day, if He had willed it.
4. Others suppose that the period of which Geology explores the remains occurred between the first creation and the beginning of the first day, and they take all six to be natural days. This theory has little to recommend it, and it raises new difficulties.
5. The theory which attributes all geological phenomena to Noe's flood is called the Diluvial theory; it appears to be untenable.
6. The periodic theory makes the six days so many indefinite periods of time. While it is admissible, and even to a degree plausible, attempts to apply it in detail are still premature.
7. Some modern writers hold the ”days“ to be so many visions successively granted to Moses, and representing the several stages in the formation of the earth. But Moses narrates all as facts, not as visions.
It is plain that the matter is involved in much obscurity. The Church was not instituted to lecture on science. On the other hand, the pretensions of theorists to find contradictions between the Holy Scriptures and the records of nature, have ceased to attract the attention of the acknowledged leaders of scientific thought. As we come to know more of God's works, we shall see more ground to praise His wisdom and the riches of His bounty.
154. The Angels are frequently mentioned in the Holy Scriptures; they have often been sent as messengers from God to men, hence their name (αγγελος, a messenger). They were probably created when ”in the beginning God created heaven and earth“; the word ”heaven“ thus signifying both the place and its inhabitants. The Nicene Creed refers to them, when it says that God is the Maker of all things visible and invisible, material and spiritual. Their number is vast; Daniel speaks of ten thousand times a hundred thousand standing before the throne of God (VII, 10).
155. They are known to be superior to men; for the eighth Psalm says of man: ”Thou hast made him a little less than the Angels“. Like our souls, they are spirits; that is, simple beings endowed with intellect and will. But, unlike our souls, they are pure spirits; that is, totally independent of matter, not in their substance only, but also in their actions; while the human soul is in many of its actions dependent on matter, with which it forms a complete substance. The natural working of their intellect is supposed to be different from our mental process, the Angels intuitively beholding the essences, and thus understanding the effects which those essences must, in given circumstances, necessarily produce. But they cannot thus know the free acts of other Angels or of men. Nor have they the power of knowing our inmost thoughts; since this power is spoken of in Scripture as exclusively possessed by the Lord. For Solomon prayed: ”Render Thou to every one according to his ways, which Thou knowest him to have in his heart; for Thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men“ (2 Par. VI, 30). Still, since the Angels are superior to us, and are, to some extent, entrusted with our welfare (n. 158), they must have natural means of learning much about our free actions; perhaps they can discover such of our thoughts as are accompanied by corresponding bodily changes. Of future free acts they have none but conjectural knowledge. They must have means of communicating their thoughts to one another; and this power may be called ”speech“: in this sense St. Paul refers to ”the tongues of the Angels“ (1 Cor. XIII, 1).
156. Seeing that science reveals to us the existence of at least one hundred and fifty thousand species of plants, and as many of animals, we may well conjecture by analogy that there are many varieties among the Angels. St. Thomas of Aquin thought on philosophical grounds, that each individual Angel differs specifically from all the rest. It is certain that there are at least nine Choirs of Angels, because so many are named in Holy Writ. These appear to be distributed into three Hierarchies; but the exact meaning of these terms is not known to us: the divisions are supposed to be connected with the functions assigned to each class. The Angels, Archangels, and Princedoms, or Principalities, make up the lowest Hierarchy; the Powers, Virtues, and Dominations, the middle; the Thrones,Cherubim, and Seraphim, the highest.
Of the individual Angels only three are known to us by their proper names; and we have no reason to invoke the names of any others. St. Michael, the Archangel, is the chief of all the Angels; his name means ”Who is like God?“ Formerly the guardian of the Chosen People, he is now the protector of the Church. St. Gabriel, ”the mighty man of God“, is the Angel of the Incarnation; St. Raphael, ”the Divine healer“, conducted Tobias on his journey, and healed his father's blindness.
157. All the Angels were created good; it is most probable that they were from the beginning constituted in sanctifying grace. They were to merit the beatific vision of God by their free compliance with some command laid on them. Those who obeyed, now enjoy the vision of God: ”Their Angels in Heaven“, said Christ of the little children, ”always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven“ (Matt. XVIII, 10). But many of these spirits,--some interpreters conjecture one third of all (Apoc. XII, 4),--rebelled through pride; for ”pride is the beginning of all sin“, says Ecclesiasticus (X, 15). These with their leader Lucifer were cast out of Heaven; for Christ said: ”I saw Satan, like lightning, falling from Heaven“ (Luke X, 18). They were cast into ”everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels“ (Matt. XXV, 41). If fire cannot torment spirits naturally, it may receive supernatural power to do so; for all things are possible with God (n. 137). There is no trace in Scripture of repentance and pardon being offered to the fallen angels; it is natural for them to be immovably fixed in the resolve of their will. The eternal condition of the good and the bad angels is substantially the same as that of good and of bad men.
158. Since God is one, we may expect to find unity in creation. Thus the Angels are not total strangers to us: ”Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?“ (Hebr. I, 14). The charity of the Guardian Angels towards their wards is beautifully portrayed in the Book of Tobias, whose Angel had assumed a human form. How they can act on matter, we do not know; they certainly cannot do so unless they be present to it. Their presence in a place, however, is not like that of bodies; but they are whole and entire in each place in which they act.
They show their love for us in various ways: 1. They pray for us: ”When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead..... I offered thy prayers to the Lord“, said St. Raphael to Tobias (Tob. XII, 12). 2. They exhort us to do good; thus an Angel directed Cornelius, the Centurion, to send for St. Peter (Act, X). 3.They protect us against evil of soul and body: ”An Angel of the Lord went down with Ananias and his companions into the furnace“ (Dan. III, 49); and we have the direct statement: ”He has given His Angels charge over thee to protect thee in all thy ways“ (Ps. 90).
159. From the text of St. Paul to the Hebrews just quoted (n. 158), it is clear that all the faithful who will eventually be saved have Guardian Angels: this is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. And there are few writers of weight who do not believe that the same blessing is enjoyed by all men from birth until death. For Christ said that the children round about Him had Angels (Matt. XVIII, 10); why they, if not all men? We may reasonably suppose that the benefits actually conferred upon each of us by our Angels depend, to a great extent, on our prayers for their assistance, and on our care to profit by it.
160. While the good Angels thus aid us to secure eternal happiness, the evil angels are allowed to tempt us, with a view to drag us down to their own condition of rebellion and ruin. God allows them to do so in order that, by our faithful conduct under trial, we may earn a richer reward; if we succumb, He knows how to draw good out of evil. The temptation of Adam and Eve is, in some way, repeated in the case of all who reach the age of reason: ”The devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour“ (1 Pet. V. 8). We see from the Book of job that the evil one cannot injure us without God's permission (I, 12, II, 6). His temptations are usually internal, produced, it would seem, by affecting our imagination. But besides this, St. James tells us that ”every man is tempted by his own concupiscence“ (I, 14). Still, if we pray as we ought, we can always overcome with God's grace; for ”God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will also with temptation make issue that you may be able to bear it“ (1 Cor. X, 13).
161. All means of producing effects by the aid of evil spirits are called magic. The name is derived from the Magi, a class or caste of sooth-sayers who enjoyed great influence in the Median Empire, on account of the more than natural powers with the possession of which they were credited (See Rawlinson, ”Ancient Monarchies“ III, 125). Similar castes to-day are the Shamans in Northern and Central Asia; such too were probably the Druids. The Roman Empire swarmed with Magian adepts, who pretended to cure and to poison with charms.
That magic has been used is plainly attested in Scripture (Ex. VII, VIII; 1 Kings, XVIII; Acts, VIII, etc.), and by an unbroken series of writers from the earliest times. Suarez holds that its existence is part of the Catholic faith. Satan at times hides and at other times displays his power. But before pronouncing an alleged occurrence to be diabolical, account must be taken of the possibility of mistake or falsehood in the reporter, or self-deception or conscious fraud in the operator, of mere coincidence, and of the existence of true miracles.
The reality of diabolical possession is also clearly taught in Scripture. By it an evil spirit controls the body of a living man, and compels him to utter its own words, and perform actions at its choice. Mention is repeatedly made of Christ and His disciples casting out devils; and the power of doing so is promised to His apostles and ”them that believe“ (Mark, XVI, 17). All three synoptic Evangelists relate that devils were allowed to enter into a herd of swine. It belongs to mystic Theology to discriminate between possession and such diseases as may resemble it. The will of possessed persons remains free and they may refuse assent to their bodily actions; for which they are then irresponsible.
At present Satan's work in Christian lands appears to be chiefly directed to discredit dogmatic religion, especially the Catholic Church; and, in particular, to destroy belief in eternal punishment, in the Incarnation, and in true miracles. This is the uniform tendency of Spiritism; it leads also to inordinate pride, and to gross immorality. No one is justified in trifling with such risks. Besides, it is impossible always to decide where imposture ends, and where deviltry begins; also to distinguish what is simply silly from what is foully wicked (n. 313).
With respect to man, the doctrines of revelation regard chiefly, 1. His origin, 2. His nature, 3. His supernatural elevation, 4. His fall, with its consequences.
162. St. Gregory of Nyssa remarks (De Hom. Op.) that, as a place is made ready before the arrival of the King, so the earth was prepared and supplied with all that was necessary to fit it for its lord and master. Its adaptation to the wants of man is most marvellous; the division of sea and land; the nature of the soil, of the atmosphere, of the water, fresh and salt; the countless varieties of beast and bird and insect life; the trees and grasses, the staple aliments of man and brute; the medicinal herbs; the brilliant tints of flower, feather, and shell; the abundance of metals and fuel, stored in deep yet accessible recesses; etc., etc., all proclaim with irresistible power the providence, the bounty, and the munificence of the Creator. Only a few of these treasures are of any use to each species of brute animals; but all of them contribute to the support, the comfort, the pleasure, the knowledge, and the mental and moral elevation of the human family.
163. There is, as it were, deliberation on the part of God before He enters on the creation of man: ”Let Us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth“ (Gen. I, 26). The compound nature of man, and his twofold origin, are distinctly marked in the narrative: ”And the Lord formed man out of the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life“ (ib. II, 7). No one who accepts the Divine authority of the Scriptures (n. 55) can refuse to see here a different origin for the body and the soul of Adam. In consequence of this revelation, and also because reason teaches that matter cannot, by any modification, become capable of thought, it has long been the practically universal teaching of Catholic Doctors that each soul is created immediately by almighty God. This consent constitutes that ordinary teaching of the Church which is no less infallible than her express definitions. Hence we look upon it as a part of the course of nature, that a human soul is created and infused into each body as soon as the body is fit to receive it. The science of Biology suggests many reasons to think, and no reason to doubt, that the specific life-principle of every species of plant and animal begins its work as soon as there is produced a new organism of the species. Theology does not settle this point with regard to man, except on the practical side: it absolutely forbids all wilful and direct destruction of life in the human embryo from the first moment of its conception.
164. Every one is familiar with the theory of certain modern scientists which pretends that man has originated by a natural process of constant evolutions, or ascents in the scale of perfection, from a lower animal, and this from a still lower one; ultimately from a most imperfect organism, perhaps from the very clod of inorganic matter. There are two very different schools of evolutionists. The atheistic school considers all the marvellous series of evolutions as the outcome of mere accidental changes, or of blind forces of matter, always tending towards an increase of perfection in all existing things. This school runs counter to some of the absolutely certain principles of reason; for instance, that order cannot come from chaos by mere accident, that there must always be a due proportion between a cause and its effects, and that there can never be a perfection in the result which was not in some manner contained in the cause. A theory so evidently unphilosophical is not worthy of further consideration.
Theistic evolution is very different from this. It supposes, though it does not claim to prove conclusively, that the all-wise Creator brought about the existence of plants and animals by endowing imperfect forms of life with certain wonderful powers, which, either by steady tendencies, or by a succession of sudden transitions, have eventually produced all the species of plants and animals. Most Christian scientists except man from the series of evolutions; but a few are willing to allow that the body of the first man was evolved from the body of a brute animal, though they do not pretend to know from which species: it would then have been made out of the earth, but not immediately. They maintain, however, that the soul of man ways immediately created by the Almighty, and united with Adam's body, which thus became human.
165. If the more perfect study of the book of nature should show, in course of time, that there has been an evolution from inferior to superior organisms, this would make the works of God more wonderful still than we now suppose them to be. In this theory, God would indeed have produced all the species of life, but He would have done so by mediate, not immediate causation. It would be as if a very skilful mechanic would construct a machine so ingeniously contrived that it would gradually evolve new capabilities. We may also grant that many assumptions of this theory do not conflict with the Holy Scriptures. But we must, by all means, take exception to the derivation of Adam's body from that of a brute animal; since this appears to be totally at variance with the inspired narrative. It is certainly so, if we take into account, as we must, the details of the formation of Eve from the body of Adam. (See Hurter's Comp. Theol. Dogm. II, n. 307).
But even with this retrenchment, the theistic view of evolution is so far from being demonstrated that we can scarcely call it a truly scientific theory. For to be such, it should give at least a plausible explanation of the leading phenomena of nature. We will briefly point out some of its important shortcomings in this respect.
We have no quarrel with what is called ”the Nebular theory“, though it too is not demonstrated. But, 1. The derivation of living from non-living bodies is totally opposed to all known facts; and, in Huxley's own words, after the scientific labors of Pasteur, spontaneous generation ”has received its coup-de-grâce“ (Origin of Spec., p. 79). There is no more evidence in nature of the evolution of any plant into an animal than there is of inorganic matter into an organism. 2. Many scientists maintain to the present day that there is not, either in the vegetable or in the animal kingdom, a single well authenticated case of the transition of one species into another. This is almost universally admitted by the learned as far as existing species are concerned. Thus Huxley granted that selective breeding had never produced a new species (Man's Place in Nat., p. 107); much less had natural selection been known to do so. It is pretended by some scientists that a few transitional forms between certain species have been found in a fossil state, in particular some strivings of nature to produce the horse. But they fail to prove that the specimens found do not represent perfect species. Besides, it must be remembered that the theory supposes every one of the known species of organisms to have been preceded by incipient stages. Why have all those missing links perished? 3. The explanations suggested by Darwin as accounting for evolution are now generally acknowledged to be unsatisfactory; and no better ones have been advanced in their stead. 4. Even Darwin grants that man's body could not have been evolved from the highest species of known brute animals, but only from some other supposed species of which all traces are lost. It was confidently asserted at first that further explorations would soon supply the missing links; but they have failed to do so.
166. It is a dogma of the faith that all men are descended from Adam; for the statement of this fact is clear from Scripture, and on it rest the doctrines of original sin and of Christ's atonement: ”As by the offence of one unto all men to condemnation, so also by the justification of One unto all men to justification of life“ (Rom. V, 18; nn. 177, 197). The Council of Trent calls Adam the first man, and speaks of all the human race as his offspring (Sess. 5). It was formerly objected that the various races of men could not have sprung from a common stock; if churchmen had said this, scientists would now sneer at their ignorance; but the objection came from scientists.
167. The age of mankind on earth is not determined by any teaching of the Church. Owing to differences which occur in manuscripts and various versions of the Scriptures, and to different interpretations of certain phrases, calculations of the years that elapsed from the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ vary considerably. St. Jerome counts 3,941 years; St. Clement of Alexandria, 6,621; the Roman Martyrology for Christmas day gives 5,119 years; the common reckoning, founded on the Vulgate, 4004. If in many nations there is a traditionary history reaching back indefinitely, it finds no sober defenders. Egyptian astronomical sculptures, supposed to represent the heavens as they were seen ten thousand years before Christ, have been proved to have been made during the Christian era. The most ancient nations, Egypt, Babylonia, and China, according to their trustworthy history, may have had their beginning not far from the year 4000 before Christ, a date which may easily be reconciled with the history given in Genesis.
Archaeologists find works of man in geological strata which are calculated to be very ancient; but these calculations rest on various unproved assumptions, regarding chiefly the rate of deposition of strata and the contemporaneousness of certain formations. Such names as ”stone age“, ”neolithic“, ”palaeolithic“, and ”tertiary period“, etc., denote stages of civilization, not periods of time.
168. The excellence of man over the brute animal is clearly seen from the history of his creation; for he was made to the image of God, and appointed to rule over the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth (Gen. I). Every thing that moveth and liveth is given to him for meat (ib. IX). The Psalmist proclaims him a little less than the Angels, crowned with glory and honor, and set over the works of God's hands; God has subjected all things under the feet of man (Ps. 8). The Fathers find the foundation of this excellence in man's spiritual soul, in his exclusive power to know and praise God. Since the world is created to give glory to God, and glory cannot proceed except from intelligent beings, man is the most important creature naturally known to us; he is the high-priest of this earthly temple, and probably of this whole material world.
169. While the body of man is vastly superior in its structure to that of the highest brutes, in particular in his upright posture, in the versatility and efficiency of his hands, the bony and muscular structure of his skull, the size and weight of his brain, the power of expression of his face, the suitableness of his vocal organs to the utterance of thought, etc.; his achievements mark him as the intended ruler of the earth and of all its living creatures. He has known how to adapt himself to every climate, and to draw nourishment from an endless variety of sources; he finds use for every part of each natural production. He makes the elephant and the horse do him service, he subdues the most savage beasts; he digs the earth for the supply of his wants, and utilizes all sorts of minerals. He alone can make and maintain a fire, and he uses it for the most varied purposes. The making and wearing of clothes, the fashioning of tools are also peculiar to man. The parade with which certain apparent exceptions to these facts are put forth proves how sorely our opponents feel the cogency of the argument.
170. The soul of man is a spirit; that is; a simple substance endowed with intellect and free-will, and therefore capable of actions in which matter has no intrinsic share. For the intellect can grasp simple and universal ideas, and the will can embrace spiritual good, such as holiness, justice, religion, morality, etc., objects beyond the reach of material forces. The brain forms phantasms, or brain images, of material objects, and as long as the soul is substantially united with the body, the two work in perfect unison; or, to speak more correctly, the one vital principle performs spiritual acts in itself, and organic acts in the body. But the brain, being material, may become diseased; and thus the action of the mind may be rendered abnormal, insanity being the result. Still it is not the intellect as such, nor the will as such, that is liable to bodily disease, but the organs that assist the simple soul in its functions. The Fourth Council of Lateran has defined that ”man is made up of spirit and matter“; and Ecclesiastes says that at man's death ”the dust returns into its earth from whence it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it“ (XII, 7).
But though soul and body are really distinct, yet their union is so intimate that, while it lasts, they constitute only one complete substance; for the body has all its powers from the soul, and this is meant by saying that ”the soul is the form of the body“, the principle of all its activity. This truth was defined by the General Council of Vienne in 1312. The actions of every man, therefore, belong to him as a whole.
171. The Fifth Council of Lateran has defined that the soul of man is immortal. All nations have ever believed this truth, and reason can demonstrate it. For the soul, being simple, cannot be dissolved into parts; and being able to act without intrinsic dependence on the body (n. 170), it can continue the main work for which it was created, namely, to know and love God, after the body is destroyed. It is thus naturally immortal, and cannot cease to exist unless it be annihilated by the Creator. But a wise God would not have given it an immortal nature if He had intended to destroy it; therefore the soul will not cease to be. Moreover, God has implanted in all men a desire to exist forever; and thereby He has pledged Himself to give us immortality. Again, His justice requires that the virtuous shall be ultimately more happy than the wicked; but such is not always the case in this life: therefore a future life must be provided, which, to suit the nature of the soul, must be everlasting.
172. In a wider sense, supernatural means ”above the nature of a being“; that is, not a part of its nature, nor due to its nature, nor attainable by the unaided powers of its nature. Theology uses the word ”supernatural“ in a more restricted sense, to mean ”what is above the order and exigency of all created nature“. Thus understood, the word applies particularly to adoption as sons of God, and consequent destination to the enjoyment of the beatific vision (n. 283). ”The supernatural state“, therefore, means the state of an adopted child of God.
Man is raised to this supernatural state by the infusion of sanctifying grace into his soul. This grace gives him a beauty superior to his nature, such as becomes a child of God. And this same grace is for man a principle of supernatural life, whereby he can produce such fruits of good works as merit a Heavenly reward.
173. That Adam was endowed with sanctifying grace is defined by the Council of Trent, which states that, by his sin, he lost the holiness and justice which was his condition; therefore he must have had that holiness before his fall. This doctrine lies at the root of the whole religion of Christ; for the purpose of His coming on earth was to restore to our race what it had lost by the sin of Adam. St. John Damascene sums up the doctrine of the Fathers in these words: ”The Creator imparted grace to the first man, and through grace communicated Himself to him“ (De Fid. Orth. II, 30). St. Irenaeus represents Adam as lamenting: ”I have lost that robe of sanctity which I received from the Holy Spirit“ (De Hier. II, 23). Modern theologians generally teach that Adam was endowed with this grace from the very moment of his creation.
174. Together with sanctifying grace, God bestowed on our first parent several other gifts not due to their nature; these are supernatural in the wider sense of the term (n. 172). These gifts were: 1. Great power of mind and abundance of infused knowledge: ”He (the Creator) gave them counsel and.... a heart to devise: he filled them with the knowledge of understanding. He created in them the science of the spirit, He filled their heart with wisdom, and showed them both good and evil“ (Ecclus. XVII, 5, 6).
2. Their will perfectly controlled their passions. Naturally each faculty tends to its own direct object, the senses to sensual pleasure. This craving for sensual pleasure, often against the dictate of reason, is called ”concupiscence“. It is not sin; for sin supposes a disorder of the free-will; while concupiscence only tempts the will to be disorderly. Adam and Eve were at first free from it; for ”they were both naked, and they were not ashamed“ (Gen. II, 25), because it did not arouse unruly passions in them. The order of justice, said St. Augustine, ”effected that, as the soul obeyed God, the body obeyed the soul“ (De Pecc. II, 22); and the Council of Trent teaches that concupiscence is the product of sin (Sess. 5, can. 5).
3. It is the nature of every animal to be mortal; but our first parents were gifted with immortality: ”God created man incorruptible;.... but by the envy of the devil death came into the world“ (Wis. II, 22, 24). St. Paul states explicitly that ”by a man came death“ (1 Cor. XV, 21), and adds ”as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive“ (ib. 22). And the Council of Trent says: ”Adam by his disobedience incurred death“ (Sess. 5, can. 1).
4. Exemption from suffering and decay is also indicated by the text just quoted, ”God created man incorruptible“; and the Council of Trent mentions pains of body among the effects of Adams' sin (ib. can 2). The supernatural state, in which our first parents enjoyed all these blessings, is called the state of original justice.
175. ”The Lord God took man, and put him into the Paradise of pleasure to dress it and to keep it. And He commanded him, saying: 'Of every tree of Paradise thou shalt eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. For in whatever day thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death'“ (Gen. II, 15-17). The purpose of the prohibition was evidently to put man's obedience to the test. Therefore, though the eating of an apple is a trifling matter, the obligation to abstain from it was strict and weighty; as is also indicated by the severity of the threatened penalty. Satan was permitted to tempt Adam; he did so through Eve. He gained control of the organs of a serpent, or he assumed its appearance, and thus spoke to her, promising that they should not die, but should be ”as gods, knowing good and evil“. She ”did eat, and gave to her husband, who did eat“ (Gen. III, 5, 6). The sin of Adam was a formal and grievous sin of disobedience (Rom. V, 19); it also implied pride, and ambition to be as gods.
176. The consequences of their sin were most grievous for both the souls and the bodies of Adam and Eve. They did not indeed lose whatever perfections belong strictly to human nature, as part of it, or due to it, or attainable by it; but they lost all their supernatural endowments enumerated in the preceeding article,--namely sanctifying grace, adoption as children of God, and a right to the beatific vision,--and also those gifts which we have called ”supernatural in a wider sense“. For their intellects were darkened, their wills weakened, their concupiscence left unchecked, their death and sufferings decreed. Thus man was changed for the worse in all his powers of body and soul. All these consequences are clearly stated by the Council of Trent, which teaches (Sess. 5, can. 1) that Adam by his sin lost holiness and justice, incurred the anger of God, death, subjection beneath the power of the Devil, and was wholly changed for the worse in soul and body.
177. These same consequences have descended to every one of Adam's posterity, all of whom are born deprived of those privileges. His sin was his own individual act; while our sin is the consequence of our origin from Adam, and is therefore called original sin; it is the sin in which we are born. The Council of Trent says (ib. can. 2) that holiness and justice were lost to us also, and that Adam has transfused, not death and poison only into the whole human race, but sin also, which is the death of the soul.
178. This canon of Trent rests on the clear teachings of Scripture. For St. Paul writes to the Romans: “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.... by the offence of one man unto all men to condemnation” (V, 12, 18). The canon rests also on the constant practice of the Church of baptizing infants; for Baptism, says the Nicene Creed, is conferred “for the remission of sin”; therefore the infants are believed by the Church to be in sin. Now infant Baptism is also practised by all those heretical sects which date back to the earliest ages; thus showing that the same doctrine was held by the first Christians. The Pelagians in the fourth century denied the doctrine of original sin; in his answers to them St. Augustine constantly appealed to Tradition, saying to their champion: “Original sin is not of my invention; the Catholic Church has held it from of old; you who deny it are unquestionably the teacher of novelty, the heretic” (Adv. Jul.).
179. The nature of original sin, as explained by many though not by all Catholic writers, is as follows: men are now born deprived of sanctifying grace, or without that grace which they ought to have; this privation had its origin in an actual sin, that of Adam; and it is identical with the state to which a Christian is reduced when he commits a mortal sin. This explanation commended itself to the great St. Anselm, who declares that he cannot understand original sin to be anything but the absence, due to the disobedience of Adam, of that robe of justice which ought to be ours.
The propagation of original sin is explained if we remark that, when God creates the soul and unites it with the body, which has the nature of the race to which it belongs, He abstains, in view of the sin of Adam, from conferring upon that soul the gifts above and beyond nature which He would otherwise have conferred.
180. The mystery of original sin consists in the Divine dispensation whereby the fortunes of mankind were placed in the hands of Adam. This does not violate the rights of men; for they have lost none but supernatural gifts, to which they had no right. And the punishment of original sin in the next world is not pain of sense, but privation of the beatific vision, which is not due to any created nature. Therefore God would have done us no injustice, even if, without the fault of any man, He had created us as we are now born, but without stain of sin. Gregory XI censured the contrary doctrine of Baius. Such an imaginary state of man as we have just supposed is called the state of pure or simple nature; but, owing to the Redemption, man is actually in the state of restored nature. The state of Adam and Eve before the fall was the state of original justice.
181. The Episcopalian doctrine on original sin makes this sin consist in the corruption of the nature of every man whereby he is inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit, and therefore every person deserves God's wrath and damnation; and, though there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the lust is sin (Article IX).
Most of the Protestant sects would probably agree with this teaching of the English Church. But the Unitarians do not admit original sin in any form, nor do the Remonstrants, or Arminians, who, however, never loved definite declarations of doctrine. It may be said that the very prevalent form of religion called by its friends “liberal” or “undogmatic” originated with Arminius, who died in 1609. All theological systems that deny original sin are spoken of as Pelagian (nn. 178, 361).
It is true that the rebellion of all the human passions against the rational will, which we call concupiscence, comes from Adam's sin, and it allures to sin; in this sense it is called sin by St. Paul, as the context shows (Rom. VII, 17, 20, 23). St. James distinguishes it from sin: “When concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin” (I, 15); there is certainly a distinction between that which bringeth forth and that which is brought forth.
If concupiscence itself were sin, then we should sin necessarily, for we all have it. St, Paul said: “I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind” (Rom, VII, 23). If we could not resist this concupiscence, it would follow that we have no free-will to do good or evil. This is in fact the radical error of Luther's whole scheme of “salvation by faith alone.” He denied man's free-will, and wrote a treatise “On the Slave-Will” (De Servo Arbitrio). He teaches that the will of man is like a beast of burden: if God rides it, He takes it to Heaven; but if Satan straddles it, he takes it to hell. It is strange that a heresy so insulting to God and ignominious to man should have found favor with liberty-loving races; nor could it ever have done so, if it had not been imposed upon the people by tyrannous princes (nn. 35, 361, I, VI).
But while the Reformers have exaggerated the degradation of man resulting from original sin, yet the real weakening of his intellect and will, the rebellion of concupiscence, with death and bodily infirmities, are humiliating enough to our pride. And in this humiliation we clearly see the wisdom of God, who wished to provide a permanent antidote against pride. For to this sin had Satan tempted men by promising that they should be like to God (n. 175).
182. The losses which man sustained by Adam's sin have been so richly repaired by the Incarnation and Redemption, that the Church sings in triumph: “O happy fault, which has merited to have such a Redeemer!” Whether the Word would have become incarnate if Adam had not sinned, is an interesting question, on which theologians have written sublime speculations: some suppose that the assumption of human nature by the Son of God was the foremost purpose of the creation; so that, whatever Adam might have done, all events were ultimately to glorify the Word incarnate. But we have no certain knowledge of this matter. It is simply our task to explain what we do know by revelation concerning these central mysteries of the Catholic religion. For this purpose we shall consider, 1. The Incarnation of the Word; 2. The Atonement and Redemption.
183. The Incarnation may be defined as the union of the Divine and human nature in the one Person of the Son of God. The Athanasian Creed states the doctrine fully: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God, of the substance of the Father, born before all ages; and Man, of the substance of His Mother, born in time. Perfect God and perfect Man; consisting of a rational Soul and human Flesh. Equal to His Father, according to His Divinity; less than His Father, according to His humanity. Although He is God and Man, still there are not two, but one Christ; one, not by the conversion of the Divinity into Flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity unto God. Perfectly one, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of Person.”
To study this great mystery systematically, we shall consider, 1. The two natures of Christ; 2. Their union in one Person.
184. We are dealing here with the central doctrine of Christianity, with the fact that the great, unique, historical Personage who was born at Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, who died upon the Cross and rose again from the dead, was truly both God and Man, being none other than the eternal Word made Flesh. We have shown that, while on earth, He proved Himself, by miracles and prophecies, and by His sublime teachings, to be a Messenger from God; not an ordinary messenger, but the One whose coming had for ages been predicted by the Prophets, and who was the the Expected of the nations (Part I, Chapters 3d. and 4th.). The doctrine now to be proved is that this same Jesus was, not figuratively, but really and substantially, both God and Man; or, as the Athanasian Creed expresses it, “perfect God and perfect Man”, etc. (n. 183).
185. We shall first consider His Divine Nature. The teaching of the Christian religion on this point is as clear and emphatic as human language can make it. For it is about this same Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, etc. that the Arian heresy arose, which was so clearly condemned in the First Council at Nice. In explaining this matter (n. 141), we quoted from the Nicene Creed the definition of the Catholic doctrine, and supported it with proofs from the Fathers and the Scriptures (n. 144), which it were superfluous here to repeat.
We shall however, out of the superabundant testimony on this subject, add some further texts: Isaias calls the Child of the Virgin, “God with us” (VII, 14); and he writes: “A Child is born to us, and His name shall be called.... God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace” (IX, 6). That Jesus was the then expected Messias is explicitly declared by the Angel to the shepherds: “This day is born to you a Saviour, who is the Christ, the Lord” (Luke, II, 11). Christ Himself said: “I and the Father are One.... Believe My works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in the Father” (Jo. X, 30, 38).
186. The objections brought against the Divinity of Christ are easily refuted. 1. It is urged that at some future time Christ will give up His Kingship and become a subject (1 Cor. XV, 28). Answer: “Of His Kingdom there will be no end” says St. Luke (I, 33). But as Head of the Church, He will present the fruit of His work to the Father, with whom and the Holy Spirit He will reign as God forever over the men whom He redeemed as Man, gaining for them admittance to His Kingdom.
2. Christ said: “The Father is greater than I” (Jo. XIV, 28). Answer: He spoke thus as man; as God He said: “I and the Father are One.” We must remember He subsists in two natures.
3. Most texts quoted to prove His Divinity are taken from St. John, whose writings are chiefly attacked by the objectors to our doctrine. Answer: St. John's Gospel is attacked chiefly because of his clear teaching on the subject of Christ's Divinity; but its authenticity is unquestionable. The recent discovery of the true nature of the Diatessaron--a life of Christ compiled by Tatian from the Gospel records as early as the second century--proves beyond doubt that all our four Gospels were then held in special honor. Besides, St. John is far from being our only authority (n. 144).
187. That Christ was truly Man, scarcely needs proof in our day. His historic existence was attacked in the eighteenth century, but it is now admitted. In early ages the Docetae taught that Christ had only an apparent body. They are refuted by the words of St. John, “The Word was made Flesh” (I, 14). St. Luke relates how the risen Saviour convinced the Apostles of the reality of the flesh and bones of His body, and ate before their eyes (XXIV, 39, 43). The Gospel tells of His human birth, His hunger and thirst, His weariness, etc. When St. Paul says that God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. VIII, 3), he indicates that the true Flesh of Christ was not truly sinful.
The Apollinarists held that the place of the Soul of Christ was supplied by the Divine Word. But this would deny the reality of His sufferings: His Soul was sorrowful even unto death (Matt. XXVI, 38), and on the Cross He commended His Spirit to His Father. The ambiguous expressions found in early writers must be interpreted by their distinct utterances. Tertullian uses vague language in the matter; but he also reasons clearly that the Soul of Christ, which saved us, was of the same nature as the souls of other men.
No trustworthy portraits of Christ exist, and in all probability none ever existed. The likenesses of Him found in the Catacombs are symbolical figures. True, Eusebius tells its of a monument which the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark VII, 26) set up in front of her house, to show her gratitude for her miraculous cure by the Saviour; but this image was destroyed fifteen centuries ago. The features assigned to Christ in modern art seem to have originated with Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519.
188. The main facts regarding the origin of Christ's manhood are thus narrated by St. Luke: “Mary said to the Angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the Angel answering said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke I, 34, 35). Later, “She brought forth her first-born Son” (ib. II, 7). It follows that Christ had no man for His Father. His Soul was created and infused into his Body as soon as this began to exist, and in the instant the Divine Word assumed this human nature, as St. Fulgentius emphatically declares (De Fide, c. 18, n. 59). At that same moment, as is the common teaching of theologians, He was as Man sanctified by grace, had the use of free-will, was capable of merit, and enjoyed the vision of God. His Soul was not hampered by the imperfections of His infant Body.
189. The passible nature of Christ was incapable of sin, and without any affection which supposes sin or is akin to sin, as is concupiscence; He was also without ignorance. With these exception, Christ assumed all those defects and infirmities which are in us as a consequence of Adam's sin: these are reducible to liability to pain of body and soul and destination to death. Thus when He “wept” He was truly pained. Yet He could control these liabilities, and, in particular, “He was offered because it was His own will” (Is. LIII, 7). He was not liable to such diseases as arise from acts of imprudence or from a bad constitution; for His sacred humanity was, as is generally believed, perfect in its own kind.
190. It is natural for every individual human nature to exist totally by itself, that is to subsist in itself as a human person. But the human nature of Christ does not, and never did, exist totally by itself, so as to be a human person. From the first moment of its existence, it was at once assumed by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity: “The Word was made Flesh” (Jo. I, 14); therefore there is no human person in Christ. The Son of God acts in each of the two natures by the power of each nature. All His Divine acts are common to Him with the Father and the Holy Ghost; for there is but one individual Divine Nature. But the acts which He does in His human nature are human acts; as when He wept and prayed, and ate and drank, or when He suffered and died. Still, since all His acts proceed from His Divine Person, they are all the acts of God, and therefore of infinite value, or merit. Those acts of Christ in which the powers of both natures were exerted together are called theandric (Θεος, God, ανηρ, man), as when He healed the deaf man by putting His fingers into his ears and saying 'Ephpheta', etc. (Mark VII, 34); the touching and speaking were acts of Christ done in His human nature, the miraculous healing in the Divine Nature.
Since Christ was truly Man, He truly suffered in His Soul and Body. He was also really free; for, as St. Jerome remarks and reason dictates, there is no merit in doing what one cannot help doing, and it deserves no reward; yet He certainly merited our redemption as His reward. Therefore He must have suffered and died freely. “He was offered because it was His own will”, says Isaias in prophetic vision (LIII, 7). He died in obedience to His Father's command, which He freely obeyed.
191. The various points of this doctrine were discussed and proved in the writings of the Fathers who commented on the Holy Scriptures, especially when they refuted false views held by various heretics. To understand the doctrine clearly, we shall consider the chief of these errors.
Nestorius taught that the Person of the Son of God is not the same as the Person of the Son of man; but that the Son of God dwelled in the Son of man as a Deity in His temple. It would follow hence that Mary, though Mother of the Man, is not “the Mother of God”, and that God did not “suffer in the Flesh”: on these two phrases the controversy turned. On June 22, 431, the celebrated session of the Third General Council was held in the church at Ephesus, which was already dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of “Mother of God”. The teaching of Nestorius was condemned, and he was deposed and excommunicated. That evening the people of Ephesus broke out into shouts of joy, and accompanied the Bishops with torches and fuming thuribles. At night the whole city was illuminated. St. Cyril of Alexandria had taken the chief part in exposing the heresy; he also presided at the Council, holding the place of Pope Celestine I. No new Creed was needed, since the Apostles' Creed declares that the only Son of God was born of Mary.
192. Eutyches, while opposing Nestorius, represented the human nature of Christ as being completely absorbed in the Divine Nature, so that it ceased to have a distinct existence. His heresy was condemned by the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held at Chalcedon in 451. But the sect maintained itself, under the name of Monophysites (μονος, one only, φυσις nature), not by argument, but by political intrigue; and some of its adherents exist in Egypt at the present day.
193. Early in the seventh century a party arose in Constantinople who endeavored to conciliate the Monophysites by teaching that in Christ all will and action came from the Divine Nature, the human nature yielding a merely passive concurrence, so that the acts of Christ were in no sense the acts of a man. The compromise, which in fact abandoned the cause of truth, was a failure, as all such attempts must be. The only result was the new sect of the Monothelites(μονος, one only, θελω, I will), who admitted only one will in Christ. Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, fell into the error, and wrote a cunningly worded letter to Pope Honorius, explaining his position. The Pope's reply dealt with the matter as Sergius had represented it, thus unconsciously favoring the heresy. The Fifth General Council, assembled at Constantinople in 680, condemned Sergius, and even Pope Honorius, his unintentional abettor (n. 109), and defined that there are in Jesus Christ two natural wills and two natural operations. This Catholic doctrine is easily proved. The Monothelites did not question that Christ willed and operated in virtue of His Divine Nature; but it is plain from Scripture that He also acted in virtue of His human nature; for it was as man that He prayed, preached, hungered, thirsted, suffered sorrow, and the like. In His prayer “Not My will but Thine be done”, He speaks of His human will; for His Divine will was His Father's will. His obedience involves the submission of His human will to the Divine will; for obedience is the submission of one will to another.
The Adoptionists, in the eighth century, taught that Christ as God was the natural Son of God, but as man the adopted Sort of God. The error was condemned by a Council at Frankfort, and the condemnation was approved by the Holy See.
Of Protestants, those who admit the Trinity of Persons are called “Orthodox”. These, as far as words go, probably accept the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation. But Nestorian views appear to be largely prevalent among their clergy and laity alike. The error is prevented among Catholics by calling the Blessed Virgin “the Mother of God”.
194. The “congruity”, or “convenience”, as theologians call it, of the works of God is seen when we can trace in them the manifestation of power, wisdom, and goodness. Now, (a) The Incarnation contains stronger proofs of power than even creation out of nothing. For it has exalted a created nature to the highest possible dignity, personal union with the Godhead. (b) The Incarnation manifests boundless charity and goodness towards us. (c) It also exhibits great wisdom, in devising due satisfaction for sin, rendered by a Person who was free from sin and yet had the nature which was sin-infected. Nor was it unworthy of God: if a child is drowning in a filthy pool, there is nothing degrading in the act of a nobleman who steps in to rescue the helpless victim. The more foul the abyss, the stronger is the evidence of love.
195. That Christ as man, from the first moment of His existence, enjoyed the Beatific Vision, by which He saw God as He is, follows from the substantial union between the two natures, and from the dignity of true Son of God enjoyed by the Man Christ. This privilege however did not prevent Him from suffering; for daily experience shows that it is possible for the same person at the same time to experience joy and sorrow.
As man, He had every perfection not incompatible with His state, and especially the fulness of infused knowledge (Col. II, 3). It is of His acquired knowledge, gathered by the use of His faculties, that St. Luke speaks when he tells us that Jesus “advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men” (II, 52). Another interpretation is that He advanced daily in manifesting His wisdom before men.
196. Since in Christ the same Person is God and Man, we can correctly attribute to Him whatever belongs to either nature, and whatever actions He has done in either nature, though these attributes be contradictory to one another. Thus we can say: God became Man, a Man is God, God suffered and died for us, this Man is almighty, the Almighty was bound and dragged along, God was born of Mary, etc. In fact, St. Peter said to the Jews, “The Author of life you killed” (Acts III, 15); St. John wrote: “By this we have known the charity of God, that He hath given His life for us” (1 Jo. III, 16). But since the two natures remained distinct in Christ, we cannot affirm of one nature what belongs exclusively to the other. Thus we cannot say: the Godhead died, nor Christ's humanity is eternal, nor the hands that were nailed to the Cross had fashioned the world. All novel expressions should be guarded against in matters so full of mystery.
197. The direct purpose for which God became man was to undo the evil done by Adam's sin. This evil was twofold: a grievous insult to God and grievous loss to mankind. Making amends for an insult is called “atonement”, or “expiation”. God could have pardoned man without requiring any expiation, or with a slight expiation, if He had wished to do so. But right order violated by sin is more perfectly restored by a full, or adequate atonement; this would also be more glorious to God, and, if man do his duty, more beneficial to man. An atonement for sin is adequate, if the honor done by it to God is as great as the insult offered to Him by sin. Now the insult was, in a true sense, infinite. For the more exalted is the dignity of the person offended, the greater is the indignity of the offence; but God's dignity is infinitely exalted; therefore the insult offered to Him by sin is infinite. Now all the good acts of created persons have only a finite value; therefore only a Divine Person can fully expiate sin. But God could not do so in His Divine Nature; for expiation implies an abasement, which is impossible to infinite greatness. Therefore it was most congruous that a Divine Person should make atonement to God in a finite nature.
The atonement was to be made to God, that is, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in their Divine Nature. For all we know, any of the Divine Persons might have become man; but as men were to be made adopted sons of God, it appears most appropriate that the Son of God should atone for the sin of His adopted brethren. When we say that He made atonement to His Father, we attribute to the Father what is common to the three Divine Persons (n. 148).
198. The second evil which Christ came to repair was that which Adam's sin had done to man. We have explained this evil in detail (nn. 176, 177). The most deplorable loss sustained by man was that of sanctifying grace, the sonship of God, and a right to the beatific vision. The loss of sanctifying grace constitutes the state of sin (n. 179), which makes us slaves of Satan. The Redemption freed us from this slavery by paying our ransom in the Blood of Christ. He thus became our “Redeemer”, not by the mere effect of His preaching and example, as some heretics have maintained, but by His bloody Death upon the Cross: “We are not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Pet. I, 18, 19); and “Christ bore our sins in His Body upon the Tree ... by whose stripes you were healed” (ib. II, 24).
199. The generations that lived before the Death of Christ were redeemed by His future Sufferings and Death. Therefore, all through the Old Testament, atonement was made by bloody sacrifices, whose value lay in their typifying the future Sacrifice of the Cross (n. 252). Christ was the Priest who offered this Sacrifice; He was also the Victim offered. The Altar was the Cross. He is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (Jo. I, 29). He continues to offer this Sacrifice in Holy Mass, under the appearances of bread and wine.
In Heaven, He is ever offering to His eternal Father the satisfaction which He made for our sins. But the consummation of the bloody Sacrifice, and therefore the centre of all sacrifice, is the Death of Christ on the Cross: “Christ by His own Blood entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption;..... How much more shall the Blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered Himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works?” (Hebr. IX, 12, 14).
200. By His Atonement and Redemption Christ has made Himself out permanent Mediator, or Intercessor, with His Father: “There is one God and one Mediator of God and man, the Man Jesus” (1 Tim. II, 5). He can use His intercession the more effectively, as He has both the Nature of God and that of man. This has brought about our reconciliation with God: “Who hath reconciled us to Himself by Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. V, 18).
To bring this reconciliation within the reach of all men, the Apostles were sent into the whole world, to “preach the Gospel to every Creature”; which words show that the Redemption was intended to be universal. St. John expressly declares that Christ “is a propitiation for our sins, and, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 Jo. II, 2); and St. Paul “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor XV, 22).
201. When Christ had died, His Soul descended into hell, “In which also coming He preached to those spirits that were in prison” (1 Pet. III, 19). This, evidently, is not the hell of the damned, but the abode of the just souls that awaited the coming of the Saviour; it is called “Limbo.” Meanwhile His sacred Body was, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, bound in linen cloths with spices, and honorably laid in a new sepulchre (Jo. XIX, 38). The Divinity remained united with the Body and the Soul. The precious Blood, being a part of His human nature, when poured forth during His Passion remained united with the Divinity; it was restored to the Body at the Resurrection, for Christ ascended to Heaven with all the integrity of His manhood. Any relics of the sacred Blood which may have remained on the instruments of the Passion, or may since have been poured forth by sacred Hosts or crucifixes, supposing their genuineness to be established, are worthy of reverence; but the Divinity is not united with them.
202. Regarding the honor rendered to Christ and to His sacred Body and Blood, we must remark that, when we worship Christ, we worship the person, who is God. This highest worship is called latria. The Fifth General Council teaches that one and the same adoration is due to the Word made Flesh and to the Flesh. For the homage goes to Jesus; and in the name of Jesus every knee is to bow (Phil. II, 10). Therefore St. Augustine writes: “No one eats that Flesh unless he has first adored. Not merely do we not sin by adoring, but we sin by not adoring” (In Ps. 98). St. John Damascene points out that we do not adore mere flesh, but the Flesh as united to the Divinity (De Fid. Orth. III, 8); “We feel dread”, he adds, “of touching a live coal, because of the fire united with the fuel; so too we adore the two natures of Christ, because of the Divinity united with the Flesh”. The Church, in giving holy Communion, uses this form: “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul to life everlasting”.
203. The wide-spread devotion to the Sacred Heart had its origin, about 1673, in a private revelation by Christ to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, then a simple nun of Paray, in France. He said that He had selected her to be His instrument in causing men to honor His Sacred Heart, which had loved men so much; and He instructed her to procure the assistance of the Jesuits, to whose Society the propagation of this devotion was especially entrusted. Its rapid and remarkable spread throughout the Catholic world is sufficient proof that it has been found to be a strong means of grace to the faithful. It was for a long time violently opposed by the Jansenists, who, in the synod of Pistoia, rejected it as new, erroneous, or at least dangerous. But this rejection was condemned by Pius VI, A. D. 1794, in the Bull “Auctorem Fidei”. The form of the devotion was new, as every devotion now in use must have been at some time; but its spirit had long been familiar to the Saints, and prayers suitable to it are extant written by St. Bernard.
The Church has never pronounced any judgment respecting the visions of Blessed Margaret Mary. But the Bull “Auctorem Fidei” explains that the object of the devotion is the Heart of our Lord, and therefore a lawful object of latria, no less than the precious Blood, or the sacred Body of the Man-God. The motive for rendering honor to that portion of His Body is, a) That He speaks of His Heart as the seat of His affections: “Learn of Me that I am meek and humble of Heart” (Matt. XI, 29); b) That the heart is usually spoken of among men, and even in Scripture, as the symbol of love; and therefore this devotion is a mode of honoring Christ's love for us, in particular as this love is manifested in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of love. Latria has for three centuries been paid to the Five Wounds as reminding us of the Passion of Christ; with equal right is it rendered to His Sacred Heart.
204. When the work of Redemption had been accomplished by Christ, the fruit of it was to be applied to men by the Holy Ghost, whose work is to continue till the end of time; for He is to abide with us forever (Jo. XIV, 16). His task is twofold: “He shall abide with you, and shall be in you” (ib. 17). a) He abides with the Church, by giving it permanence, infallibility, unity, sanctity, Catholicity, Apostolicity, as we have considered in the treatise on the Church. b) The Holy Spirit is in individual Christians, by accomplishing in their souls the work of sanctification, whereby He disposes them to enjoy hereafter the vision of God. Now this influence upon the soul, preparing it to receive eternal happiness, is called “grace”. The term denotes something that is given gratis, that is given without being due. It is limited in this treatise to signify those gifts which aid man to obtain the vision of God hereafter. This vision, as we have seen (n. 172), is not due to our nature, but is supernatural. Therefore it cannot be reached by our natural powers; but these need to be elevated and aided by supernatural grace, and it is of this grace that we are treating here. This aid to salvation may be something exterior to man, for instance the preaching of the word of God: it is then called exterior grace. Or it may be interior to man, consisting of the direct action of God on the soul; it is then called interior grace.
Grace is either actual or habitual. In Chapter I we shall treat of actual, in Chapter II of habitual grace.
205. In our present state of repaired nature (n. 180), we usually mean by actual grace a supernatural influence which God exerts upon the soul, by way of a passing impulse or aid, in order that we may do an act which tends to our supernatural end. That the Holy Spirit aids men to attain salvation, and that such aid is needed by man to attain it, are truths taught throughout the Holy Scriptures, and upon which, therefore, nearly all who call themselves Christians are agreed. But with regard to the extent to which we need this grace, utterly false teachings are common outside of our holy religion, and these are of various kinds. It will contribute to the right understanding of Catholic doctrine if we first consider these errors.
Pelagius in the like [sic] century, as do the Unitarians and Universalists to-day, denied the necessity of all actual grace, in the sense in which we have just defined it, namely as a supernatural passing action of God upon the soul. The Semi-Pelagians taught that free-will sufficed for the first step; and that when man, unaided by supernatural grace, took the first step, he thereby earned, or merited, the grace he needed for his further progress. Calvin, going to the opposite extreme, regarded actual grace as absolutely necessary to all men, and nevertheless refused to many. The Catholic Church, avoiding all extremes, teaches that it is both necessary to all and refused to none. We shall prove, 1. That actual grace is necessary to man; 2. That it is not refused to any one; 3. That, when present, it does not take away freedom of choice.
206. The manner in which actual grace influences our meritorious acts may be thus explained. No action of man has any supernatural value unless it be elevated above its nature by the influence of the Holy Ghost; for this purpose, it must be wholly permeated with grace, which must therefore affect both the intellect and the will. First, grace presents an object to the mind as in some way desirable: this is called stirring grace; it enlightens the intellect. Secondly, while we are considering whether we will embrace the object or not, both intellect and will are at work, and helping grace assists both powers. Thirdly, when the will finally consents by its free choice, grace assists it in so doing. The doctrine of the need of grace for the intellect is implied in such texts as state that the Lord has revealed to little ones things which are hidden from the wise and prudent (Matt. XI, 25); that of the need of grace for the will, is indicated in texts in which we beg that God would incline our hearts to His testimonies (Ps. 118). It may be well to remark that what we have called “stirring” grace is often styled preventing, while the helping grace is also styled subsequent or co-operating grace.
207. The Catholic Doctrine is thus stated by the Council of Trent (Canon 2 of Session 6th): “If any one say that Divine grace is given through Jesus Christ, only to enable man to live justly and earn eternal life, as if by power of his free-will he could without grace do both these things, although scarcely and with difficulty, let him be anathema.” (Canon 3): “If any one say that without the previous inspiration and aid of the Holy Spirit man can believe, hope, love, and repent as he ought, let him be anathema.”
The former of these canons condemns the Pelagian, the latter the Semi-Pelagian heresy. The phrase “as he ought” is important. Every man “ought” to attain his end; it means therefore “in a manner conducive to that end”.
First, grace is needed for the beginnings of faith, and even for that pious affection towards believing which is the first condition of saving faith. For we are not “sufficient to think anything of ourselves as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. III, 5). Now the beginning of faith is a kind of “thinking”, therefore it needs grace.
Again: “What hast thou that thou hast not received”? (I Cor. IV, 7). If faith were given as a reward for natural merit, it would not be grace, a gratuitous gift; “Otherwise grace is no more grace” (Rom. XI, 6). But may not a man who has not faith still believe some revealed truths? He may accept them materially, but not in the manner “he ought” that they may be helpful to salvation. Can God then require of us what we cannot do? He helps us to do what we cannot do of ourselves, when He requires us to do it.
Secondly, grace is needed for every good work that it may receive a supernatural reward. For no man can come to Christ “unless the Father draw him” (Jo. VI, 44); “Without Me,” He says, “you can do nothing” (ib. XV, 5).This grace must be interior (n. 204): for we can bear no fruit unless we remain as branches in the vine, which is Christ (ib. XV, 1-10); and no exterior influence on branches will suffice to make them fertile: the severed branch brings forth absolutely no fruit. St. Paul expresses the doctrine clearly; “It is God who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish” (Phil. II, 13). God offers to every adult grace to pray, and by prayer to obtain all other graces which are necessary for salvation: “Ask and it shall be given you” (Matt. VII, 7).
208. The grace so far explained is elevating grace, elevating the acts of man to a dignity superior to his nature; for evidently a merely natural act cannot earn a supernatural reward. We are now to consider our need of what is called healing grace. This is not necessarily a grace distinct from the elevating action of God; but it is viewed differently, namely as enabling us to overcome the leaning of our corrupt nature to evil, thus keeping us from falling into sin. The following is the doctrine of the Church regarding our need of this healing grace, the need varying with varying purposes, as we shall now explain.
1. Need of grace for sinlessness. The Council of Trent decreed: “If any one say that a man who is once justified can throughout his life avoid all sin, including even venial sin, except by a special privilege of God...., let him be anathema” (Sess 6, can. 23). It does not say that no one can hope with God's grace to escape mortal sin. It is even held by many that the ordinary aid of grace suffices to save a just man from the commission of fully deliberate venial sins. This incapacity to avoid all sin during a lifetime is moral, not physical; and it means that, while the will can always refuse its consent to sin, it will not always do so. The proof is clear: “There is no man that sinneth not” (2 Paral. VI, 36); “There is no just man upon earth that doth good and sinneth not” (Eccles. VII, 21); “In many things we all offend” (James III, 2). All are taught to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses” (Luke XI, 4). It is not known to how many the privilege of freedom from all actual sin has been extended.
2. Without God's protection no one could be long exempt from urgent temptation to grievous sin; and though he physically can, he morally cannot, that is he actually will not, resist many such temptations without the aid of grace. By a temptation is meant any influence which tends to lead the will to consent to sin; it may come from the world, i. e. from the allurements of external objects; or from the flesh, i. e. from the cravings of man's lower nature; or from the direct solicitations of the devil.
The Scripture teaches us to pray “Lead us not into temptation” (Luke XI, 4), and we are assured that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will also with temptation make issue, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. X, 13). This doctrine of our need of grace to enable us to resist grievous temptation, though not defined, is a certain theological conclusion, the denial of which would, to say the least, be rash.
3. Perseverance, in theology, is the fixed will of a just man to retain sanctifying grace; and Final Perseverance is the great gift enjoyed by those who die in this state of grace. It implies a series of actual graces, without which such perseverance would have been impossible; and it adds the special privilege of dying when in the state of grace. The Council of Trent calls it a “great gift”,--as it evidently is,--and defines that Perseverance is impossible for a just man without special aid from God, but that with this aid it is possible (Sess. 6, can. 22). This special grace belongs to the ordinary providence of God. All this is a corollary of our doctrine respecting grievous temptations. Evidently, “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching” (Luke XII, 37).
Apart from a special revelation, no one can know that he will receive this blessing; it is not annexed to any works of piety; prayer is indeed an infallible means to obtain all needed aids of grace (Matt. VII, 7), but Perseverance is conditioned on our co-operation. The words “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, are, as St. Augustine remarks, a prayer for Final Perseverance.
4. Confirmation in grace, granted to the Blessed Virgin, and, as is commonly believed, to the Apostles and others, is a Divine decree always to give a just man such grace as God knows will prevent all mortal sin.
5. While without grace man can do nothing that draws him nearer to the supernatural possession of God, nor can resist all temptations to grievous sin, we assert that he is capable to resist the less urgent temptations that assail him, and to do acts that have natural goodness. For the Council of Constance, in 1418, condemned the following error of John Huss: “If a man is vicious and does any act, he acts viciously; if he is virtuous and does any act, he acts virtuously”. Pope Leo X condemned the doctrine taught by Luther, that the just man sins in every good work. The Council of Trent condemned those who say that all works done before justification are truly sins, and the virtues of the philosophers are vices; that it is a Pelagian error to say that free-will has power to avoid sin; that whatever is done by a sinner, or servant of sin, is a sin. And the Bull Unigenitus condemned the proposition of Quesnel that the prayer of the impious is a new sin, and what God grants them is a new condemnation.
209. In opposition to the Catholic doctrine, the 13th of the 39 Articles of the English Establishment says “Works done before the grace of God and the Inspiration of His Spirit are not pleasant to God, for as much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or, as the school authors say, deserve grace of congruity; yea rather, for that they are not done as God commanded and willed them to be done, we doubt not but that they have the nature of sin.” This is the doctrine of Luther, less bluntly expressed.
All these forms of error suppose that an act is evil because it has no supernatural goodness. Now this cannot be; for sin necessarily takes men from God; but almsdeeds and prayers of sinners do not take them farther from God, for sinners are encouraged to pray (3 Kings VIII, 38), the prayer of the Publican procured him pardon (St. Luke XVIII, 14), and Daniel urged Nabuchodonosor to redeem his sins with alms (Dan. IV, 24); therefore such works are not sins.
210. As God wills all men to be saved, and Christ gave Himself as an atonement for all (n. 200), so likewise God distributes His grace in such a manner that all men who attain the use of reason receive, throughout their lives, the grace necessary to enable them to attain salvation, or at least the means of obtaining such grace. To explain and prove this doctrine, we shall consider various classes of men for whom grace is needed.
1. To begin with the Just. Jansenius taught that the observance of some commandments of God is impossible to the just. This was condemned as heretical by Innocent X in 1653. For, “God will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able” (I Cor. X, 13); and Christ says: “My yoke is sweet and my burden light” (Matt. XI, 30); and St. Augustine: “The Lord will never be wanting to you; be it your care never to be wanting to the Lord, never wanting to yourself” (In Ps. 39, n. 27).
2. Grace for Sinners. A man in sin needs grace to avoid further sin,--which grace, however, is given to all (n. 208, 1),--and also grace to turn away from his sin and gain the friendship of God. Luther and Calvin held that sinners were unable to escape from their sin; they were condemned for this teaching by the Council of Trent. For, “As I live, says the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezech. XXXIII, 11).
3. The Obdurate are those on whom the ordinary means of grace have been tried, but fruitlessly. Theologians regard it as certain that grace is offered even to these, in much measure that it lies with them to repent of their sins and regain the favor of God. For sinners are reproved in Scripture for their obstinacy, which is therefore wilful (Acts VII, 51). No priest would refuse to exercise his ministry in the case of some dying sinner on the ground that the man was obdurate and deserted by God, unless he was known to continue in his obstinacy.
But does not the Scripture say that God Himself hardens some sinners? The hardening spoken of is merely negative; God gives them grace sufficient by which they can be saved, but they will not co-operate. As to St. Paul's words, “It is impossible for those who were once illuminated.... and are fallen away, to be renewed again to penance” (Hebr. VI, 4-6), many of the Fathers understand them to mean that Baptism, which is often called “illumination”, cannot be received a second time. There is a famous difficulty concerning a sin which is often called “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”, which shall not be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come (Mark III, 29). St. Mark adds: “Because they said, He has an unclean spirit”, and thus indicates that the sin spoken of is that of the Jews, who maliciously and obstinately rejected the proofs of Christ's mission by attributing His miracles to the evil spirit. The same sin is committed by those who persistently, refuse to accept the truth when it is clearly presented to them, and die in this state of obstinacy. The pride involved in hardened malice is rarely vanquished by grace (n. 259).
Of Esau it is said (Hebr. XII, 16) that “he sold his birthright” and that “he found no place of repentance, though with tears he sought it”; but he regretted only the foolish bargain which he had made, and remained in sin, resolved to kill his brother (Gen. XXVII, 41).
4. Infidels are those who have not the faith; if they wilfully rejected it when it was proposed to them, they are called positive infidels, and these are included among the sinners considered in the preceeding paragraphs. If the Catholic faith has never been proposed to them in such a manner as to bring home to their minds that they cannot prudently decline it, they are negative infidels. That grace is given to them is taught by the Bull Unigenitus. All receive, proximately or remotely, such grace as is necessary for their salvation. For “God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. II, 4). Some writers of weight believe that these words apply to the human race at large and not to every man; but St. Thomas says (De Ver. q. 14. a. 11, ad 1); “It is the course of God's providence to supply every man with what is needed for salvation, if there be no hindrance on his part. For if one who is brought up in the woods, among brute beasts, follow the leading of natural reason by seeking good and avoiding evil, we must certainly hold that God would either reveal to him by internal inspiration what it is necessary for him to believe, or would send him a preacher, as he sent St. Peter to Cornelius” (Acts X).
211. Most Protestant sects, following the lead of Luther and Calvin, suppose that actual grace, when it is interior, that is, when there is a real influence exerted by the Holy Ghost upon the soul, cannot be resisted by the free-will of man. The Catholic Doctrine, on the contrary, teaches that a grace may be fully sufficient to enable a man to do a supernaturally good act, and yet the man may freely refuse to comply with it, so that, through his own fault, the grace is not efficacious. For the freedom of the will consists exactly in this, that, when every thing is ready for action, we can still act or not act, as we please, or do one act or another. The efficacy of grace depends, therefore, on the compliance of our free-will; and we call grace efficacious if it is freely complied with, while if it to rejected we simply call it sufficient. We shall next show that this is truly the doctrine of the Church and of the Scriptures.
212. The Council of Trent defines the share that our free-will has in working out our salvation: “If any one say that the free-will of man when moved and stirred by God, does not co-operate by its assent to the stirring and calling of God, so as to dispose and prepare itself for obtaining the grace of justification, and that it cannot dissent if it please, but, like an inanimate object, it does nothing, and remains merely passive, let him be anathema” (Sess. 6, can. 4). St. Augustine insists on the principle that God, who has created us without us, will not save us without our co-operation (Serm. 169).
Scripture is clear on this point: it praises the man “who could have transgressed and has not transgressed” (Ecclus. XXXI, 10), and “him that hath determined, being steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having the power of his own will” (1 Cor. VII, 37). If a man sinned because he cannot help sinning, what becomes of morality? The Reformers admitted that their doctrine had lain hid for many centuries.
They however object the words of Christ: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who hath sent me draw him” (Jo. VI, 44). If a thing is drawn, they say, it does not move itself. But that depends on the manner of drawing. For, as St. Augustine remarks on this very text, “A cart is drawn by a horse, a lamb by a tempting wisp of grass, a child by a handful of nuts; we are freely drawn by love” (In. Jo. 7). Whoever is freely drawn has the power to resist the attraction.
213. The limited intellect of man cannot reasonably pretend to answer all questions regarding the distribution and the efficacy of grace. If nature is full of mysteries, the supernatural is far more mysterious. In particular, much difficulty is found in trying to understand how the action of efficacious grace is to be reconciled with the free-will of man. In explaining this matter, theologians are divided into various schools. The account which we have given of efficacious and of sufficient grace (n. 211) is very commonly accepted. It reconciles the grace of God with the free-will of man in this way: God by his scientia media, explained above, (n. 135), knows whether a man would freely use a certain grace if it were given him, or freely reject it. If the man use it, (and he does so freely), he thereby makes it efficacious. If he freely refuses to comply with it, he freely makes in inefficacious. God knows that if another grace had been given, the man would have freely used it; but of course God was not bound to give such grace as He knew would overcome the bad will of the man. Why in a certain case He gives one grace and not another, is His own secret.
214. This remark opens up the question of predestination, which it is necessary, in this place, to speak of with some fulness. God has destined all men to everlasting happiness; and, as He has done so by His antecedent will, He may be said with truth to have predestined all for salvation. Still usage has confined the term “predestined” to those who will eventually obtain salvation. Now, 1. It is of faith that God seriously and sincerely wills the salvation of at least some who are not of the number of the predestined, and that Christ did not die for the predestined only; for the contradictories of these statements are declared to be heretical, one by the Council of Trent (Sess. 6), the other against Jansenius. The truth is clear from the fact that Christ declared: “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all that He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again in the last day” (John VI, 39). Judas was among those whom the Father had given to Christ, who gives thanks to His Father that of those that He had given none were lost but the son of perdition; where this solitary exception undoubtedly refers to Judas. And Judas is among the lost, else Christ could not have said, “It were better for him if that man had not been born” (Matt. XXVI, 24). Therefore this one whom the Father willed to be saved is lost.
2. That God's will to save embraces all mankind, is asserted in Scripture with no less plainness: “Who (our Saviour) will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator of God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a redemption for all” (I Tim. II, 4). He certainly wished to save those for whom He died.
As to the text in which Christ said, “I pray not for the world, but for them that Thou hast given Me” (Jo. XVII, 9), it will be noticed that He does not say that He never prayed for the world, but only on that occasion: and even then He prayed for it indirectly, “That the world may believe” (ib. XVII, 21).
The Fathers commonly confirm our doctrine. Even St. Augustine, who by some is quoted against us in this matter, writes: “The will of God is that all men should be saved, but not in such sort as to take from them their free-will” (De Spir. et Lit. c. 33, n. 57). The antecedent will of God is frustrated, in the case of adults, when they freely refuse to do their share of the work. But may not a sinner die and be lost because a priest has neglected his duty, or has failed to reach him without fault to any man? We answer that God's justice does not require that He shall interfere by miracle with the course of nature or the free-will of men; if the sinner is lost, he deserves it. When an infant dies in original sin, the antecedent will of God for its salvation is frustrated; but no injustice is done to the infant, because the vision of God is not due to it.
Certainly great responsibility thus rests on priests for the faithful performance of their sacred duties; and similar responsibility rests on those young men who, in God's mercy, are called to the priesthood, if they refuse to follow their holy vocation. On the other hand, the richest rewards are in store for all who generously cooperate with Christ in procuring the salvation of souls: “They that instruct many to justice (shall shine) as stars for all eternity” (Dan. XII, 3).
215. The false doctrine of Predestinarianism originated in the time of St. Augustine, and reappeared at various times in various shapes. The man who put this doctrine into its modern shape was John Calvin, from whom it is named Calvinism. The heads of Calvin's system are summarized as follows by Cardinal Franzelin: “Of men some are created for eternal life, others for eternal damnation: and so we say that a man is predestined for life or death according as he is created for one or the other end. To be ordained to death does not follow on sin; but the sin of Adam, and the ruin his sin entailed to the race, is itself the effect resulting from this antecedent Divine predestination of many to eternal death. This decree of God is put in execution when He grants, to those whom He has antecedently chosen, the call to faith and the external declaration that they are just: while to others who are antecedently reprobated He refuses all grace, and hardens them in iniquity. Faith and other gifts in the elect have no character of merit, but are symbols and testimonies of the antecedent election: similarly in the reprobate, their infidelity and sins are indication of their reprobation which has gone before” (De Deo Uno, Th. 54). A much later form of this heresy considered the Divine decree of reprobation as subsequent to the foreknowledge of Adam's sin.
Calvinism was adopted by the more radical sects of Protestants, especially in France, Switzerland, and Scotland; also in England by the Puritans, who are now represented both by the Low Church party, and by the Congregationalists and Baptists. The formularies of the Established Church have a convenient vagueness; its High and Broad sections prefer Arminianism, so named from a Dutch divine called Arminius, whose tenets, while unsound and vague on other points, scarcely differ from ours on the all-embracing will of God to save men (n. 361).
Certain doctrines akin to Calvinism were taught by Baius in the Catholic University of Louvain; and in 1567 seventy-six errors taught by him were condemned by Pope St. Pius V.
In 1640, a book called “Augustinus” was published, two years after the death of its author, Cornelius Jansen, of the same University. It contained a system of theology which pretended to be founded on the teachings of St. Augustine, but it reproduced some errors of Baius. Five of its propositions were condemned by Innocent X in 1653. But the Jansenists, real heretics, strove long to remain in the Church, appealing to the Church of the past and of the future. Theirs was a subtle and insidious spirit, putting private study of Scripture above the living authority of the Pope, setting up an impossible standard of morality, keeping away the faithful from the Sacraments as if unworthy of them, and vigorously opposing the spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart, which so directly promotes the spirit of love towards God. The heresy was supported by many of the statesmen of France, for the purpose of resisting the Pope and defending their Gallican liberties; its ultimate effect was to spread immorality among the people.
216. The Book of Life, frequently mentioned in Scripture, signifies God's knowledge of the eternal decree whereby He has predestined some to glory. This decree is formed in the light of the Divine foreknowledge of what the conduct of man will be. The Book of Life in the Apocalypse (XXII, 19) denotes the state of grace; for a name may be taken away from it.As to the number of the predestined, it is impossible to conjecture with confidence. Many think, with little probability however, that they form but a small proportion, even of those who belong to the body of the Church (n. 96); others believe that at least the great majority of Catholics will be saved; others that those saved bear no small proportion to the whole number of men. The Council of Trent teaches that no one without a revelation of it can be certain of his predestination (n. 208, 3); for “He that thinketh himself to stand let him take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. X, 12); and we are with fear and trembling to work out our salvation (Phil. II, 12). The reason is that God's decree is an act of His free-will, which cannot be known to us unless He make it known. We may have great, but not absolute confidence that we are in the state of grace; but who can know that he will not sin again? And yet Calvin made justification to consist in certain assurance of predestination.
Actual grace aids us to obtain the infusion and increase of habitual grace, and ultimately eternal happiness. We shall explain, 1. The true doctrine concerning habitual grace; 2. The chief modern errors on the subject; 3. Merit acquired with the aid of grace.
217. Habitual grace makes the soul holy, and is therefore called sanctifying grace. The Council of Trent defines it, in words taken from St. Paul, as “charity which is poured forth in the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them” (Rom. V, 5). Its nature is fully set forth in the Epistle to Titus (III, 5-7). “By it”, says the Council of Trent, “we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and.... actually are just when we receive justice in ourselves,.... which the Holy Ghost imparts to each as He pleases, and according to the disposition of each, and his co-operation” (Sess. 6, c. 7).
The principal effects of sanctifying grace, or justification, are. 1. The destruction of all grievous sin, both original and actual. For we have seen (n. 179) that the state of sin consists in the privation of sanctifying grace, which ought to adorn the soul; when therefore sanctifying grace is obtained, grievous sin is thereby destroyed. 2. We are made by it like to Christ: “As many of you as are baptized have put on Christ” (Gal. III, 27). 3. Holy and supernaturally pleasing to God, “Partakers of the divine Nature” (2 Pet. I, 4). 4. We thus become adopted sons of God, so that we are called and are sons of God (1 Jo. III, 1). 5. Sanctifying grace brings with it many infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost (n. 303).
218. There are many grades of habitual grace; for the Council of Trent teaches that men grow in grace when their faith goes along with good work (Sess. 6, ch. 10). Many texts of Scripture say the same thing: “Peter, lovest Thou Me more than these?” (Jo. XXI, 15); “He shall go from virtue to virtue” (Ps. 83); “Grow in grace” (II Pet. III, 18). If sin were only covered, or merit only imputed, all Christians would be equal in grace; and this equality is actually taught by Luther (n. 361, I). The following are some signs from which the presence of sanctifying grace in the soul may be inferred. 1. Faithful observance of God's commandments: “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me” (Jo. XIV, 21). 2. A love of our neighbor for the sake of God: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jo. XIII, 35). 3. If we love to think of God: “Where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also” (Matt. VI, 21). 4. If we love to hear the word of God: “He that is of God heareth the word of God”. 5. If we have within us the testimony of a good conscience: “If our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God” (I Jo. III, 21). But in applying these tests to ourselves, we must beware of self-deceit, lest we be of those “who trusted in themselves as just and despised others” (Luke XVIII, 9). A strong safeguard is perfect openness in our dealings with our confessor, and obedience to his directions.
219. The Council of Trent has also defined that one may fall from grace into sin (Sess. 6, can. 23). For the Apostles were in the friendship of God when Christ said to them: “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt. XXVI, 41); and yet St. Peter fell into sin. So did Saul, David, and Solomon: “He that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. X, 12). Calvin maintained that the man who sinned had never had grace. Luther more boldly declared that acts which would be sins in others, when committed by the just man were not sins at all; still he inconsistently admitted that one might fall from grace (n. 361, I).
Habitual grace is wholly lost by mortal sin; but there is a general agreement that it cannot be partially lost by venial sin; else multiplied venial sin would be equal to a mortal sin, which is a contradiction (n. 311). But venial sin tends to lessen the supply of actual grace, and thus paves the way for mortal sins.
220. The preceeding explanations of grace, actual and habitual, enable unto understand clearly the Catholic doctrine of justification, which may be stated thus. It is the mercy of God alone that offers to man supernatural happiness; He makes this offer known to man through the preaching of His Church, which He accompanies by an interior stirring grace (n. 206). If man co-operates with this grace, he believes the truth with a certainty that nothing can shake, and is moved on learning the love of God for mankind; he sees reasons to fear God's justice, and throws himself on God's mercy, trusting in the merits of Christ; hence he conceives a love of God and a detestation of sin. Thus, by the operation of grace and the co-operation of free-will, the way is prepared for justification; and, provided that man puts no obstacle in the way, the Holy Spirit works this justification by pouring charity into his soul, thereby destroying sin. The man now purified enters upon a virtuous life, hoping to become by the merits of his Saviour an heir of the kingdom of Heaven; but he has no certainty of salvation.
221. The leading Reformers of the sixteenth century have perverted this doctrine utterly. They totally denied sanctifying grace, or the real holiness of the soul, and made justification consist in freedom from responsibility for sin; the merits of Christ were simply imputed to the sinner without making any change in his soul (n. 361).
The Lutheran doctrine, as explained by Moehler in his Symbolik, is that justification is the work of the Creator alone, in which the creature does not even co-operate. The sinner, on hearing the Christian law preached, is seized with intense fear; and learning that the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world, he lays hold of the merits of Christ, by means of the faith which alone justifies. On account of Christ's merits God reputes the sinner innocent, though he remains guilty of his own sins and of original sin. Good works follow, but faith alone justifies, and this faith contains certainty that his sins are pardoned.
The Calvinist doctrine differs from the Lutheran in three points. 1. Fear does not precede faith, but the thought of God's mercy touches the sinner, and leads him to hate his sins, and so to pass to faith and repentance. 2. The Divine action is exercised on the elect alone, as was explained in n. 215. 3. The faith which saves a man is a firm belief that he is predestined to eternal happiness.
222. All Christians agree that faith of some kind is necessary for salvation: “He that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark XVI, 16). But what is meant by faith? Saving faith, say the Lutherans, is believing that for Christ's sake your sins are not imputed. It is believing that you are predestined to bliss, said Calvin. The Council of Trent condemns these doctrines, and teaches that by faith we believe all that God has revealed, as was explained above (n. 118). That faith thus belongs mainly to the intellect is fully explained by St. Paul (Hebr. X, 38 to XI, 7); and he puts fear among its fruits; now fear cannot be the fruit of confidence, which the Lutherans miscall faith.
That faith alone is not sufficient is explicitly taught by the Council of Trent. It was declared by Christ Himself, who said “Unless you do penance you shall all likewise perish” (St. Luke XIII, 3); and by St. Peter.: “Do penance and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts II, 38). It was already taught by Ezechiel: “When the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness which he hath wrought, and doeth judgment and justice, he shall save his soul alive” (XVIII, 27). And still the opposite doctrine, of justification by faith alone, is at the foundation of the whole Lutheran system. True, St. Paul had written: “We account a man to be justified by faith without the works of the law” (Rom. III, 28). But the context shows that he was speaking of circumcision and the other works of the Jewish law; and he had said in the same epistle (II, 13): “Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified”. St. James avowedly teaches the Catholic doctrine: “By works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (II, 24); solely on account of its doctrine, attempts have been made to exclude his Epistle from the Protestant canon.
223. By “merit” we mean a title to reward. It is called ”condign“ or strict merit, when the reward is due in justice; that is, when the person earning it acquires a definite right against a definite person, who is bound in justice to pay him. Merit is called “congruous” when is gives no right in justice, but only raises a claim to the generosity of another, which it would be unhandsome in him to disregard. But all merit, condign or congruous, supposes that the action done redounds in some way to the advantage of the person to whom it appeals, and that it is not already due to him.
224. Strictly speaking no action of man can be of any advantage to God; and therefore Christ tells His disciples: ”When you shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say we are unprofitable servants, we have done that which we ought to do“ (Luke XVII, 10). But God, in His bounty has deigned, of His own free choice, to promise us a reward for good works, as if they benefited Him; and He owes it to Himself to keep His promises. In this sense then we have a right to be supernaturally rewarded for supernatural acts: we merit in justice, or condignly. That we do so was defined at Trent (Sess. 6, can. 32); and it is taught by St. Paul, who says: “There is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day; and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming” (2. Tim. IV, 8).
225. But no supernatural reward is promised, or in any way due, for merely natural acts; for the effect cannot be greater than the cause. Besides, as merit is like the fruit which the soul produces for Heaven, and no fruit can grow upon a dead tree, a soul in grievous sin can gain no merit for Heaven. When we are not in sin, the life of grace flows into us from Christ, as sap from the trunk into the branches of the vine: “I am the vine and you the branches: he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jo. XV, 5). The intention too must be supernatural, that it may have a proportion to a supernatural reward (n. 206). With the end of life the time for meriting ceases; for “The night cometh when no man can work” (Jo. IX, 4).
226. Now what can be merited?
The first grace cannot be merited at all (n. 207). With the aid of grace both sinner and just man can congruously merit further actual grace; the just can thus merit final perseverance (n. 208), and he can condignly merit increase of habitual grace, eternal life and increase of glory.
All merit is lost when mortal sin is committed. When grace is recovered, it is the consentient opinion of theologians that the former merit is restored. They infer this from the text “For God is not unjust, that He should forget your work and the love which you have shown in His name” (Hebr. VI, 10). If merit were not restored, the loss would not be wholly repaired, yet the sin is certainly wholly forgiven; which seems to be inconsistent.
In this whole treatise “On Grace” we have quoted the Fathers but rarely, because the Protestant Reformers acknowledged that their own doctrine on this matter was an innovation, and they gloried in the fact; they granted that the Fathers are with us.
We shall treat in distinct chapters of 1. The Sacraments in general, 2. Baptism and Confirmation, 3. The Holy Eucharist, 4. Penance and Extreme Unction, 5. Holy Orders, 6. Matrimony.
227. The mission of the Church is twofold, to teach and to sanctify mankind. As she must teach the minds by speaking outwardly to the ears of the body--for “faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. X, 17),--so she sanctifies the souls by outward means, appointed for this purpose by her Divine Founder. Such, for instance, is Baptism “Teach ye all nations.... baptizing them” (Matt. XXVIII, 19). These outward signs instituted by Christ to effect inwardly the grace which they signify, are called“Sacraments”. They have been called by sacred writers: “precious vases of the Blood of Christ”, “fountains of eternal life”, “streams of Paradise”; their most common name for many centuries was “mysteries”, because they contained a hidden meaning not revealed to the uninitiated.
The peculiar nature of a Sacrament consists in this, that the outward sign, in virtue of its institution by Christ, effects the grace which it signifies. It does so by its own efficacy, ex opere operato, as theologians call it, and not through the piety of the minister nor of the recipient, which would be called ex opere operantis. Thus if a wicked man baptizes an infant, the same effect is produced as if a saintly priest did the act. Of course, God alone can thus make a human act an instrument of sanctification. Therefore the Church does not claim the power of instituting Sacraments; and the Council of Trent denies that she has any power over their substance. Few of the Protestant sects regard the Sacraments as any more than reminders which at most suggest to the recipients such acts of virtue as will benefit their souls.
228. As in the case of paper money the material is of little value, nor need the government stamp nor the official signatures be elaborate, but the wealth of the country is pledged to redeem it, and this fact gives it all its value; so the actions done by the human ministers of the Sacraments may be brief, and the words pronounced few, but the treasure of Christ's Sacred Blood is thereby applied to the soul. Moreover, Christ is really the principal Minister of the Sacraments; and for this reason their efficacy is not lessened by the sinfulness, or even the want of faith of the visible minister. This was defined at Trent. And as early as the third century St. Cyprian was taught by Pope St. Stephen that the Sacraments conferred by heretics are valid if no other hindrance exists; and St. Augustine asserted against the Donatists that the sinfulness of the minister does not invalidate them. But, of course, the minister must intend to do what the Church does; else he would not act as her minister in this matter, nor as the deputy of Christ; and therefore he would not confer the Sacrament.
229. The outward sign instituted by Christ is, in every Sacrament, composed of two elements, namely, some action done and some words pronounced. The action done is called the matter, and the words spoken are the form and the union of the two is required to constitute the Sacrament. Thus in Baptism, the washing with water is the matter, the water being called the remote matter, and the washing the proximate matter; and the form is the words: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The washing and the words together signify the cleansing of the soul by the power of God. Since, therefore, the conferring of grace has thus been attached by Christ to definite signs, any substantial change in these frustrates the act. But what will make a change substantial? Since the Sacraments are intended to be administered by sensible men under the guidance of the Church, it is for the Church and commonsense to judge of this. Thus, for the matter of the Holy Eucharist, that is wine which common sense calls wine; and whenever, in any Sacrament, the rubrics of the Church are substantially observed, the validity is known to exist. For otherwise the Church would have lost her means of sanctification; and thus the powers of hell would have prevailed, which Christ has pledged Himself to prevent (Matt. XVI, 18). The Sacramental signs instituted by Christ are accompanied by ceremonies instituted by the Church; these do not belong to the substance of the Sacraments.
230. There are other observances, called Sacramentals, most of which are instituted by the Church, and not directly by Christ, in order that the faithful, by the devout use of them, may obtain actual graces and other favors of soul and body. They do not produce grace by their own efficacy, ex opere operato, but by the devout acts of those who use them, ex opere operantis; and these acts are made specially efficacious by the prayers of the Church, asking God to grant those favors. For instance, St. Liguori says: “Many private prayers do not equal in value one only prayer of the Divine Office, as being offered to God in the name of the whole Church” (apud Lambing, Sacramentals, p. 33). The principal Sacramentals are the prayers of the Missal and Breviary, and the blessings of the Roman Ritual; in particular “the Our Father”, the Sign of the Cross, the approved Litanies, the “Angelus”, the use of holy water, of blessed ashes, candles, palms, beads, scapulars, the “Agnus Dei”, etc.
231. The Council of Trent has defined that there are seven Sacraments, neither more nor less. Prescription was clear on the subject; for it had been the teaching of the whole Church for centuries, and had never been questioned before the Reformation, that each of these seven rites was a Sacrament, and these alone. Still the 25th of the Thirty-nine Articles of the English Establishment acknowledges only two Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Of the other five it says: They “are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel.... for they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God”. We shall prove the contrary when treating of the Sacraments severally. But we may here remark that Anglican Orders can have no efficacy if the ceremony used in conferring them is not ordained of God (n. 270). Of the other Protestant sects some admit two Sacraments, and others none whatever.
232. Among the seven Sacraments, two can lawfully be received while the recipient is in the state of mortal sin, so that he may enter by them upon the state of grace, namely Baptism and Penance. These are therefore appropriately called “Sacraments of the dead”. In opposition to them, the other five are styled“Sacraments of the living”. To receive any of the latter kind in mortal sin would be a sacrilege. Still if the recipient does not suspect his sinful state, and is truly sorry for all his mortal, sins, the act would, of course, not be a sacrilege nor a formal sin. Nay more, since the Council of Trent teaches that the Sacraments infallibly confer grace on those who do not put an obstacle to its reception,--and such a man appears to put no obstacle,--it is the prevalent opinion of theologians that he would receive the grace. In respect to Extreme Unction, one of whose purposes is the remission of sin, it is commonly held that it has this power.
233. The Fathers teach, and the Council of Trent has defined, that Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders can be received only once, because they imprint on the soul of the recipient an ineffaceable mark, called the Sacramental character or seal. Thus the Apostle says: “God hath sealed us, and given us the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. I, 22). This character may be considered as a badge, or rather as an honorable brand, indicating the function in the army of Christ to which each person has been admitted; it remains forever as a mark of honor to the just, or a source of confusion to the traitor who deserts to the enemy.
234. All the Sacraments, if properly received, give sanctifying grace, or increase it if it exists already in the soul. Besides, since each Sacrament is instituted to supply some special need of the Christian life, each produces a peculiar effect of its own, which is styled its “Sacramental grace”. This disposes or entitles the soul to receive such actual graces as the special purpose of each Sacrament requires. For instance, in Confirmation actual graces are obtained which will aid, when cases of need arise, boldly to profess the faith.
But suppose Confirmation were received unworthily, the graces are not gained, and yet the Sacrament cannot be repeated. Are the needed graces then irretrievably lost? The common opinion is that the Sacrament, which was, as it were, dead owing to the state of mortal sin in which it was received, “revives”, as it is called, as soon as the soul regains spiritual life. This “reviving” probably takes place for all the Sacraments that cannot be repeated, and also for Extreme Unction and Matrimony, which cannot be repeated at pleasure.
235. The person on whom a Sacrament is conferred is called the subject of the Sacrament. He must, in general, have some kind of intention to receive the benefit. Yet an infant or an idiot from birth, can validly and licitly receive Baptism and Confirmation. In the Eastern Church to-day, and formerly in the Western Church also, a consecrated Particle was given to every infant after Baptism. Those who have lost the use of their senses can licitly and validly receive Baptism and Extreme Unction if they previously desired to do so; and some writers think it is enough if they had sorrow for sin and desired generally all necessary means of salvation.
236. Baptism is a Sacrament; for it has all the requisites (n. 228). 1. There is the outward sign, in the matter and form (n. 229); 2. There is the inward grace, in the cleansing from sin, signified by the matter and form; 3. There is the institution of Christ, who said “Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them” etc. (Matt. XXVIII, 19). That water is to be used for the washing, is clear from the words of Christ: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jo. III, 5). The washing must be done while the form is being pronounced; else the significance is lacking. The neglect of this rule makes Baptism as administered by some of the sects, of doubtful validity. The water must flow over the person; else he is not washed. Therefore sprinkling is not the safest manner of baptizing; it may moisten the clothes only, or the hair, or some minor part of the body, thus exposing the Sacrament to invalidity. The rubrics of the Church provide against these defects, especially in those lands where the Sovereign Pontiff is able to control all details. In the Western Church the law requires that the water be poured upon the head, while he who pours it pronounces the form “N. I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. It directs moreover, that if, after thorough examination of all the details, any doubt remain about the validity of the Sacrament, the ceremony be carefully repeated, premising the condition, “If thou art not baptized” (n. 238).
237. While the observance of these rubrics is obligatory, the Church admits that Baptism may also be validly administered by immersion or by sprinkling. In fact, immersion was the most usual manner during the first fourteen centuries; and St. Cyprian in the third century speaks of immersion or sprinkling as alternate modes of baptizing (Ep. ad Magn.). It is not likely that the three thousand men converted on the first Pentecost were all immersed, nor that this mode was applied to any in severe illness. We have the living Church to direct all things for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. While the form of Baptism is undoubtedly the one quoted above (n. 236), we read the words of St. Peter: “Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts II, 38); but he was not then laying down the form, but distinguishing between Christian Baptism and other rites known to the Jews, such as the rite of St. John the Baptist.
238. The ordinary minister of a solemn Baptism is the parish priest or the Bishop, or, with proper leave, any other priest or a deacon. But any man, woman, or child, that has the use of reason, can baptize validly, and, in danger of death, may do so lawfully. Therefore the Baptism given by Protestant ministers is certainly valid, if it is properly administered. But the Quakers and the Socinians do not confer this Sacrament at all; the Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Universalists treat it as of little importance; even most of the Episcopalians consider it as only a pious ceremony, not necessary for salvation. Therefore, in these sects, and in many others, little care is often taken to secure its valid administration. Every convert from Protestantism must, in consequence, be carefully questioned whether he was certainly baptized, and whether in a valid manner. If, in a matter of such importance, no certainty can be obtained, the person must be baptized under condition (n. 236). This condition is added through respect for the Sacramental character, which may already be impressed on the soul; and a similar precaution must be observed whenever any other Sacrament that imprints an indelible character is in question.
239. Every human being not already baptized is a subject capable of receiving Baptism. To do so worthily, adults should believe all the teachings of the faith, at least implicity, and should be sorry for their sins. But infants, and those perpetually deprived of reason, should be baptized as soon as possible; this was the practice of the faithful in the earliest ages. St. Irenaeus wrote in the second century: “He (Christ) came to save all through Himself, all, I repeat, who through Him are born again unto God: infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and elders” (Adv. Haer. L. II, c. 22). Infant Baptism was not assailed till the 16th century, when the turbulent faction of the Anabaptists began a crusade against it; the modern Baptists have adopted their error. (See nn. 241, 361, III.)
240. The effects of Baptism are the following: 1. Pardon of all sin, original and actual; for the Apostles baptised men for the remission of their sins (Acts II, 38). 2. Release from all temporal punishment due to sin. This and the first named effects are defined by the Council of Trent (Sess. 5, can. 5). 3. The Character impressed. 4. Adoption as sons of God, members of Christ (Gal. III, 27), and members of the Church (Acts II, 41).
241. The Council of Trent declares that, since the promulgation of the Gospel, justification cannot be obtained without Baptism of water, or the desire of it: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jo. III, 5). St. Irenaeus writes that the denial of Baptism is the suggestion of Satan (Adv. Haer. L. I, c. 21). But when the Sacrament cannot be received, pardon of sin can be obtained by the Baptism of Desire or that of Blood.
What is called the Baptism of Desire, or of the Spirit, or of Fire, consists of a perfect love of God and sorrow for sin, with the explicit or implicit desire of the Sacrament. That such love of God justifies, is clear from Christ's words: “He that loveth Me shall beloved by my Father” (Jo. XIV, 21). Such love contains implicitly the desire to obey God, and therefore to receive Baptism, as one of the ordinances of God. Pope St. Pius V, defined against Baius that charity is always conjoined with the remission of sin. With regard to the Baptism of Blood, it is the constant doctrine of the Fathers that all men who suffer Martyrdom for Christ attain remission of all sin and all punishment of sin, whether they be infants or adults. Now a “Martyr” (μαρτυρ, witness), as here understood, is one who patiently suffers death, or treatment which would naturally cause death, for the Catholic faith, or for the practice of any Christian virtue. We say “one who patiently suffers”, and by this we mean one who offers no resistance; for Tertullian expressly denies that soldiers who fall fighting in battle can be called Martyrs, however good the cause for which they die. The doctrines that Martyrdom forgives all sin, the Fathers deduce from Christ's words “Every one that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess before my Father, who is in Heaven” (Matt. X, 32). And St. Augustine protests that it is an insult to pray for a Martyr, to whose prayers we ought rather to recommend ourselves.
In the Creed read at the Mass we confess “one Baptism for the remission of sins”. When therefore St. Gregory or Nazianzen spoke of the Baptism of Water, of Martyrdom, and of Tears, he did not mean that there are three Baptisms, but that Baptism could be shared by adults in these modes. In the monuments of revelation no other mode of Baptism is found.
Therefore infants who die without Baptism of Water or of Blood, have, since the promulgation of the gospel, no means of reaching the supernatural vision of God, which constitutes the happiness of Heaven. Their nature gives them no right to a supernatural reward; they do not necessarily feel unhappy in consequence, as they do not long for what is not proportionate to their nature.
242. The second of the seven Sacraments is Confirmation. In it, by the imposition of the Bishop's hands and annointing with chrism, those who have been baptized receive the Holy Ghost to render them perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.
It has all the requisites of a Sacrament: a) The outward sign, in the matter and form; b) The giving of inward grace, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the soul; e) The institution of Christ. For only God can attach grace-giving power to an outward act. That Confirmation has such power is proved by Scripture and Tradition, and by the Council of Trent (Sess. 7). The Acts narrate that after the deacon Philip had baptized the Samaritans, the Apostles Peter and John “Laid hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost” (VIII, 17). St. Paul did the same at Ephesus (ib. XIX, 5). St. Cyprian, commenting on these texts, says: “This is also done among us, namely that those who are baptized in the Church are presented to the rulers of the Church; and by our prayer and imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Ghost and are perfected by the sign of the Lord” (Ep. 73). St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote an entire Catechism on this Sacrament, which also ranks among the seven Sacraments in all the ancient oriental sects.
243. We shall now explain Confirmation in detail. 1. Its remote matter is holy chrism, that is a mixture of olive oil and balm, blessed by the Bishop. Pope Fabian states that the Apostles received the composition of chrism from our Lord, and that they transmitted it to us (Ep. 3 ad Ep. Or.). The proximate matter consists most probably in the imposition of hands and anointing with chrism. The form is in the words: “I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”. 2. Tradition shows that the ordinary minister is a Bishop, but that a priest may be delegated by the Pope to confer Confirmation with chrism blessed by a Bishop. 3. The subject is any baptized person not yet confirmed. He should be in the state of grace; and, if he is of age, he should be properly instructed. 4. The effects of Confirmation are an increase of sanctifying grace, and copious actual graces openly and patiently to profess the faith, and to combat against our spiritual enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh. For such effects were manifestly produced in the Apostles, when they received the Holy Ghost at the first Pentecost (Acts II, 1-4); and these effects are signified by the matter and form of the Sacrament. For instance, oil, by its nature unctuous and fluid, signifies the plenitude of grace which flows from Christ our Head, “from whose fulness we have all received” (Jo. I, 16). Balsam, besides preserving incorrupt all it embalms, denotes that we are “the good odor of Christ unto God” (2 Cor. II, 15). The miraculous manifestations of the first Pentecost were often repeated in the early ages, but they do not belong to the ordinary course of God's providence, and therefore they are no part of the Sacrament. 5. Though Confirmation is not necessary for salvation; yet he who refuses or neglects to receive this powerful means of grace is careless of his salvation; and, by slighting such a gift of God, is guilty of an irreverence which may often amount to a mortal sin.
244. The history of its institution is briefly as follows. We have first the promise of Christ, narrated in the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel: “I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven. If any one will eat of this Bread he shall live forever; and the Bread which I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world ... Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you.... He that eateth this Bread shall live forever; etc.” We have next the fulfilment of the promise, narrated by each of the other three Evangelists and by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, Ch. XI. St. Luke says: “Taking bread, He gave thanks, and brake, and gave to them, saying, 'This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of Me'. In like manner the Chalice also, after He had supped, saying, 'This is the Chalice of the New Testament in My Blood, which shall be shed for you'.” (XXII, 19, 20). From the Greek word for “thanksgiving” (ευχαριστια) the word “Eucharist” is derived.
It is evident that what the Apostles then received had all the requirements of a Sacrament: 1. The outward sign; namely, the eating and drinking of what Christ distinctly called His Body and Blood, under the appearances of bread and wine. 2. The inward grace, an increase of spiritual life. 3. The institution of Christ. The command “Do this in remembrance of Me” was the provision of Christ to have the same Sacrament perpetuated in the Church.
245. We shall next consider how the Holy Eucharist was understood and appreciated by the Apostles and the early Christians. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians “The Chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? And the Bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the Body of the Lord?” (1 Cor. X, 16); “Whoever shall eat this Bread or drink the Chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord” (ib. XI, 27). St. Ignatius, the disciple of St. John the Apostle, writes of the Docetae (n. 186): “They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Flesh that suffered for our sins” (Ep. ad Smyrn. n. 7).
With regard to this great mystery especially, the early Church practised the discipline of the secret, disciplina arcani, because, as St. Clement of Alexandria explains, Christ has taught not to cast pearls before swine (Strom. 1, 12). Yet, as was to be expected, the heathens could not be kept in entire ignorance of what was so solemnly shrouded in mystery. Their very misconceptions of it give us a glimpse of the real doctrine. For it was spoken of by them as the murdering and eating of a child. Tertullian refutes this calumny in his Apology (n. 2): “We are said to be the most accursed of men, as touching a Sacrament of child murder, and thereon a feast”. Many Fathers speak of the same misrepresentation, and refute it; but never by denying the reception of the real Body and Blood of Christ. On the contrary, St. Justin, in his Apology, thinks it best to state the facts clearly, and says: “The Eucharistic food is both Flesh and Blood of the same incarnate Jesus”. Considering the nature of that document, a solemn address to the Emperor, and the explicit statement here quoted, there can be no doubt left as to what the early Christians thought of the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
246. The Catholic doctrine on the subject is thus stated in the Creed of Pius IV: “I profess that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory Sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly, really, and substantially the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there takes place a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood: which conversion the Catholic Church calls 'Transubstantiation”.
Luther did not deny the Catholic doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist; but he perverted its explanation by teaching “consubstantiation” or the simultaneous existence of the Body of Christ and the substance of bread, a view still maintained by many German Protestants (n. 361).
The formularies of the English Church are ingeniously so worded as to admit of various interpretations. Yet in 1661, a note was added to the Communion service in the Book of Common Prayer, saying that by the kneeling during the service “no adoration is intended nor ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there received, or unto any corporal presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Body. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain there in their very natural substance, and therefore may not be adored; and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ are in Heaven and not here” (The Annot. Book of Com. Prayer, p. 399).
The Council of Trent has defined Transubstantiation to be an article of faith, and has condemned consubstantiation, by declaring that the substance of bread does not remain with the Body of Christ in the consecrated Host (Sess. 13, can. 2). It thus teaches three things: 1. That Christ is present; 2. That the species only, and not the substance of bread and wine are there; 3. That the change is called by the Church “Transubstantiation”. This term was first used by the opponents of Berengarius in the eleventh century, and was adopted by the Fourth Council of Lateran, in 1215, as most apt to express the Catholic doctrine.
That there was truly a change of substance at the Last Supper is clear from the words of the Evangelist: “Taking bread He gave thanks and brake, saying, 'This is My Body, etc.'” No words could be clearer. What He took was bread, a well known substance; what He gave them to eat was, He said, His Body: “This is My Body”. Then He bade them do the same for a commemoration of Him. When on another occasion He said to them: “I am the vine, you the branches” (Jo. XV, 1-6), He explained the meaning of the figure. Here we have no hint of any figure; nor was any figure thought of till the time of the Reformation.
247. Difficulties in understanding so great a mystery, and all that is connected with it, are of course numerous; but the most learned men have found in them no reason to entertain the slightest doubt on the doctrine. We will briefly touch on the principal objections.
1. Our doctrine involves the simultaneous presence of the same Body in various places, say in each of the Apostles when they had “eaten”. We answer that God can do all that involves no contradiction; and philosophy cannot prove that multilocation involves a contradiction.
2. How can the Body of a Man exist within the small compass of a Host? We answer that the relation of matter to space is one of the most obscure questions in philosophy, as those who are conversant with the subject are most thoroughly convinced. Is then the omnipotence of God to be limited by our ignorance?
3. Are not our senses deceived in the perception of the color, shape, taste, etc. in the Holy Eucharist? Not at all: the color, shape, etc. are really there, and these accidental forms are the proper objects of sense perception. If we judge that these sensible qualities naturally belong to bread, we judge rightly; but if we say that God cannot, and did not at the Last Supper, miraculously separate them from the substance of bread, we speak like the unwise. All this does not prevent us from judging that in every case but this, such accidents belong to real bread.
4. Cannot the sacred Host decay, be burned, digested, etc., just like bread? Such changes affect the sacred species; and the Divine presence ceases when these species are corrupted. When the substance of the Body of Christ ceases to be in the corrupting Host, it is replaced by that of corrupting bread, and all goes on henceforth as if there had been no consecration.
5. Does not Christ thus expose himself to sacrilegious insults? He does; just as He did when, for love of man, He humbled Himself unto death.
6. “This saying is hard”. So the Jews said to Christ; and many “walked no more with Him”. And yet Christ did not call them back to correct their misunderstanding of His words. “Then Jesus said to the twelve: 'Will you also go away?' And Simon Peter answered Him: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life'” (Jo. VI, 67-69). The Church agrees with St. Peter.
248. The Council of Trent explains in detail what is contained under each species: “It has always been believed in the Church of God that, immediately after the Consecration, the true Body of our Lord and His true Blood exist under the species of bread and wine, together with His Divinity; the Body under the species of bread, and the Blood under the species of wine, by force of the words; but the Body under the species of wine, and the Blood under the species of bread, and the Soul under both, by the force of the natural connection and concomitance by which the parts of the Lord Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead to die no more, are linked together: and the Divinity, by reason of Its hypostatic union with the Body and Soul. Wherefore it is most true that there is as much contained under either species as under both; for Christ exists whole and entire under the species of bread, and under every part of the species, whole too and entire under the species of wine and under its parts” (Sess. 13, ch. 3). Thus when Christ allowed the Apostles to drink of the Chalice, the species was divided but not the substance. So it is to-day; when the sacred Host is broken, and, therefore, even before it is broken, the whole substance of Christ's Body is under every part; else the mere breaking would multiply the presence.
The mixing of a small quantity of water with the wine is an ancient rite, and reminds us of the union of the Divinity with the humanity of Christ.
The Council of Trent condemns the opinion current among the Lutherans that the Real Presence is confined to the time when the Eucharist is used as a Sacrament. The words of the institution give no reason for this distinction; and it is clearly against Tradition, as the early Church used to preserve the sacred Species for long periods of time.
It is evident from all these considerations that the sacred Host is to be adored with the supreme worship of Latria; for it is Christ Himself.
249. From Christ's promises in St. John's Gospel (n. 244) it is evident that this Sacrament gives grace; and from St. Paul (1 Cor. XI, 27), that it must be received in a state of worthiness, which can mean nothing less than a state of grace. St. Justin, in his Apology, declares this explicitly (I, 66), saying: “None may partake of it but they who believe our teaching to be true, and who have received remission of sin and regeneration in Baptism.” The outward sign of food and drink shows that it produces an increase of spiritual life; this consists in sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
As food restores vigor, so the Holy Eucharist works the forgiveness of those venial sins which correspond spiritually to the daily waste of the body. It does so, partly by its direct effects, partly by exciting us to actual fervor of charity. It also remits temporal punishments, and strengthens against temptations by curbing concupiscence and securing actual grace. St. Ignatius the Martyr calls it an antidote against sin and a pledge of future glory.
250. The necessity of receiving the Holy Eucharist is thus declared by Christ: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you” (Jo. VI, 54). There is not, however, a necessity of means, but one of precept only; and the precept is addressed to those who can understand it, and therefore it is not binding on infants. Moralists hold that the precept certainly obliges those in danger of death; and it obliges all once a year by distinct command of the Church. Apart from cases in which priests celebrate two or more Masses in one day, and some other rare occasions, it is not allowed to receive Holy Communion more than once a day. For the rest, it is left to Confessors to determine what frequency of Communion is expedient for each penitent. The Jansenists inculcated a false reverence, requiring for this Sacrament the pure love of God, free from admixture; they thus deterred the faithful from approaching the Holy Table frequently: large districts have not yet recovered from the mischief done by this baneful teaching. St. Thomas directs the confessor to consider, on the one hand, the penitent's desire for union with Christ, which points towards daily Communion; and, on the other, reverence for the Sacrament, which withdraws from this frequent reception. Experience will show what frequency will, in the particular case, increase love of God without lessening reverence (4 Dist. 12, Qu. 4).
In early ages, Communion under the species of bread alone was certainly held to be valid; for we read of its being thus carried to confessors of the faith in prison. In the fifth century, when the faithful were at liberty to receive under one or both kinds, some secret Manicheans refused to accept the species of wine, because they taught that wine was the creature of an evil being. Pope St. Leo branded such refusal as a mark of heresy, and required the use of the two species. Afterwards the mode was again left optional; but the greater convenience of receiving the species of bread alone caused this mode to prevail exclusively, although not commanded. We find this state of things in England in 616. But when the Hussites attacked it as opposed to a Divine ordinance, the Council of Constance, to brand their error, made the practice obligatory. True, Christ commands us to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood; but we do this under one species (n. 248). He says: “If any one eat this Bread, he shall live forever” (Jo. VI, 52), and the change made by Protestants of or into and in St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians (XI, 27), is indefensible (n. 52). As to the law of receiving Holy Communion fasting, it is very ancient; for Tertullian speaks of it as familiar in the second century (Ad Ux. II, 5).
251. It is natural to man to show forth his inner sentiments by outward acts. Thus an obvious and usual way for subjects to express their loyalty to their sovereign is by making offerings to him. And though God has no need of our offerings for His use, yet most nations in all ages have felt the propriety of offering Him of their best, as to their highest Sovereign; and they have testified to His supreme dominion over life and death by the total or partial destruction of victims in His honor. This is what is meant by “sacrifice”, the offering of a victim in recognition of God's supreme excellence and dominion. It is therefore an act of supreme adoration, or latria; and victims can be sacrificed to God alone. While adoration is the first purpose of sacrifice, thanksgiving and impetration of favors are obviously suitable purposes.
St. Thomas of Aquin remarks that, even if man had not sinned, sacrifice would still have been his appropriate worship of God (2a. 2ae., Qu. 85, a. 1). But a sinful race has a special reason to find sacrifice appropriate. The sinner deserves destruction, and he offers the victim in his own stead. This vicarious atonement becomes the more suitable, because God has mercifully determined to offer Himself in satisfaction for the sins of men; thus the victims sacrificed become types of His own Passion and Death. This meaning of sacrifices was no doubt revealed to our first parents after their fall; for we find the practice was at once adopted: “Cain offered of the fruits of the earth gifts to the Lord; Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat” (Gen. IV, 3, 4). All ancient nations practised sacrifice as the chief of their sacred rites. The Chosen People did so every day by the direct command of the Lord. Up to the time of the Reformation the world generally offered sacrifice.
252. Since the sacrifices of the Old Law prefigured the Sacrifice of the Cross, they were of course to cease with the accomplishment of the figure. But it had been distinctly prophecied that they would be replaced by a purer Rite, commemorative, instead of prophetic, of the Atonement. This is one of the most remarkable predictions in Holy Writ, and it was made through the latest of the Jewish Prophets, Malachias, about 400 years before Christ. He first predicts the end of the old sacrifices, and then announces the new and purer Rite: “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of Hosts; and I will not receive a gift at your hand. For from the rising of the Sun even to the going down, My name is great among the gentiles, and in every place there is Sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation” (1, 10, 11). That this Sacrifice of Christ was to be celebrated under the appearances of bread and wine, had been predicted by the Psalmist, who thus addressed the expected Messias “Thou art a Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech” (Ps. 109). Now the sacrifice of Melchisedech was of bread and wine (Gen. XIV, 18). Christ offered His Sacrifice in the same unbloody manner on the eve of His bloody Death, and bade His Apostles to continue the same rite in commemoration of Him (n. 199). It is the one Sacrifice of the Cross, by which He offered Himself “an unspotted victim unto God” (Hebr. IX, 14).
The Apostles, immediately after the Descent of the Holy Ghost, began to celebrate this sacred Rite of the Mass,“Breaking Bread from house to house” (Acts II, 46). St. Paul speaks of a Christian “Altar” (Hebr. XIII, 10), and an altar is a place of sacrifice. St. Justin writes: “Of the Sacrifice which we offer in every place, that is of the Bread and Chalice of the Eucharist, Malachias had prophecied” (Dial. cum Tryph. n. 41). In the manuscript recently recovered of a still earlier work, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, we read “Being assembled on every Lord's day, break Bread and give thanks, after confessing your sins, that your Sacrifice maybe a clean one; for it is the Sacrifice of which the Lord has said: In every place, at every time, a clean Oblation shall be offered to My name” (c. 14). St. Irenaeus, whose master, St. Polycarp, was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, says: “Christ took that creature bread, and gave thanks, saying, 'This is My Body'. And in like manner He confessed the Cup--which, according to us, is a created thing--to be His Blood, and taught the new Oblation of the New Testament; which the Church receiving from the Apostles, throughout the world offers to God...... Respecting which Malachias, one of the twelve Prophets, thus predicted”, etc. (Adv. Haer. LIV. c. 17).
253. It is evident from all this, that the Holy Mass is not a mere prayer, but the great act itself of the Death of Christ mystically renewed. On Calvary, Christ offered Himself to His Father as a bloody Victim for the sins of men; and, to provide the Sacrifice instituted at the Last Supper, He offered at the same time the same Victim to be sacrificed in an unbloody manner in all Masses till the end of time. From that one Offering all Masses have their efficacy. As St. Chrysostom expresses it: “This word ('This is My Body') changes what is before Him (the bread and wine); and as that other word, 'Increase and multiply', was said once, but still gives power of generating to our nature for all time: so this word ('This is My Body') once spoken, makes a perfect Sacrifice in all churches, on every table (altar-table), to our time and to the time of His coming” (Ap. Franz. De Sacr. Th. XV). At the Mass the same words, “This is My Body..... This is the Chalice of My Blood ...” present His Body as if separated from His sacred Blood, in the state of a Victim for sin. This takes place at the Consecration, which therefore is most commonly considered as the moment of the Sacrifice, and as constituting its very essence. Still the Oblation immediately following, and the breaking of the sacred Host, and the Communion, are all integral parts of the Mass.
254. The effects of the Mass are the same as those for which all sacrifice is intended (n. 251), namely, adoration, thanksgiving, impetration, atonement, and pardon for the living and the dead. These effects are produced by the Sacrifice itself, ex opere operato; yet so that the forgiveness of sin is obtained by compliance with the actual graces procured for the living by the Sacrifice, and may be prevented by their want of compliance. The value of any one Mass is infinite in itself; but its effect applied to men is dependent on God's good pleasure, which is not revealed to us. This effect as applied to men is called the fruit of the Mass; it is produced by Christ ex opere operato, by the act done; and by the priest ex opere operantis, by his own devotion; in the latter respect the fruit may be more or less, as in other prayers.
The fruit of the Mass is applied variously to different classes of people: a) The general fruit benefits all the members of the Church, yet especially those present, and still more those ministering at the Mass. b) The special fruit goes to those for whom the Mass is offered. Not improbably when the Mass is offered for many, since its value is infinite, each receives the same benefit as if it were offered for himself alone; still this is doubtful, for it depends on the free-will of God, which is not revealed to us. The application of this special fruit is made by the will of the priest. c) The most special fruit belongs to the priest himself as a private person doing the good work; probably he cannot give this to another person.
255. Penance may be considered as a virtue, and as a Sacrament. As a virtue it means “penitence” or “repentance of sin”; of this we shall treat hereafter (n. 343). As a Sacrament it signifies an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to forgive sins committed after Baptism. Thus it gives sanctifying grace; for it is only by sanctifying grace that sin is destroyed, since mortal sin is the death of the soul and sanctifying grace gives spiritual life. The main questions regarding the Sacrament are these. 1. Is there in the Church the power to forgive sins committed after Baptism? 2. Is this power to be exercised by means of an exterior sign? Both questions are answered by the Church in the affirmative, and the reasons for the doctrine are certain and clear.
1. There exists in the Church the power to forgive sins committed after Baptism. For Christ gave to His Apostles the power to forgive sins, and to loosenall bonds that would keep back the soul from entering Heaven; therefore the power to pardon all sins committed after Baptism: those committed before Baptism are remitted by Baptism itself. Christ promised this power to St. Peter, saying: “I will give to thee (Peter) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth shall be loosed also in Heaven” (Matt. XVI, 19). A short time after, He made the same promise to all the Apostles, without however mentioning the Keys (ib. XVIII, 18). What Christ had thus promised to give, He gave on the day of His Resurrection: “As the Father sent Me, I also send you. When He had said this, He breathed on them, and He said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose you shall retain, they are retained” (Jo. XX, 21-23).
That this power was not to die with the Apostles, is evident from the fact that their mission was to continue till the end of time: “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. last verse). St. Ambrose states this explicitly: “It seemed impossible that water should wash away sin; then Naaman the Syrian believed not that his leprosy could be cured by water. But God, who has given so great a grace, made the impossible possible. In the same manner it seemed impossible for sin to be forgiven by penitence; Christ granted this to His Apostles, which has been from the Apostles transmitted to the offices of the priests” (Poen. II, 12).
256. 2. This power of the priests is to be exercised by an outward sign. For the Church being a visible body, its ministry must be visible (n. 77). Besides, the priests are to forgive or retain at their discretion; and it cannot be known which of the two they determine on in a given case, except by the outward expression of their judgment. The words “I forgive thee thy sins” are the direct utterance of this judgment; they are the form of the Sacrament. But the judgment cannot properly be pronounced unless the sins and the repentance of the sinner be manifested; this can only be properly done by his confession and his request for pardon, which acts of the penitent may be called the matter, to which the form is applied.
The use of the Sacrament is frequently referred to in the Scriptures and in the early writings of the Fathers. St. Paul says: “God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. V, 18); and the Acts narrate that, when he was preaching at Ephesus, “Many of them that believed came confessing and declaring their deeds” (XIX, 18). St. James bids the faithful call in the priests of the Church to anoint the sick man, and adds “If he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess therefore your sins one to another” (V, 14-16). The Apostles' Creed professes belief “in the remission of sins”. St. Cyprian says: “I beseech you, brethren, let each confess his sins, while he that has sinned is yet among the living, while his confession can be admitted, while the satisfaction and the remission made through the priests are pleasing before the Lord” (De Laps. p. 383). St. Chrysostom, commenting on the words, “Whose sins you shall forgive”, writes: “What power could be greater than this? The Father has given all power to the Son, and the priests have all of it entrusted to them by the Son” (De Sacerd. n. 5).
257. Besides, the Sacrament of Penance is the only ordinary means by which mortal sins committed after Baptism can be pardoned. For what would have been the use of giving to the Church the Keys of Heaven, to be used in the remission of sins, if anyone could enter Heaven without the Keys? Tertullian asks: “Is it better to be damned secretly than openly absolved? If thou draw back from confession, consider in thine heart that hell-fire which confession shall quench for thee..... When therefore thou knowest that against hell-fire, after that first protection of Baptism, ordained by the Lord, there is yet in confession a second aid, why dost thou abandon thy salvation?” (De Poenit. IX-XII.) True, perfect contrition obtains the pardon of sin, but it implies the desire of confession (n. 344).
258. Though public confession was practised in the early Church, and has been practised in all ages of her existence, even to the present day, yet already in the second century Origen wrote of it: “This should be prescribed with great deliberation, and on the very experienced advice of that physician” (In Ps. 37, n. 6). By “that physician” he designates the priest to whom, he says, the secret confession has first been made. Sozomen, who wrote in the fifth century, explains, in his History of the Church, how confession was practised in the early ages. He writes: “God has commanded to pardon sinners, even if they have often transgressed. Now, it is a grievous burthen to confess before the whole congregation. Therefore one of the priests was appointed, conspicuous for virtue, prudence, and fidelity to keep secrets; to him those who had sinned confessed their deeds, and he absolved the penitents, appointing for each a penance according to his faults, that he might make up for his sins” (L. VII, c. 16). What can be clearer, and more conformable to the present practice?
259. The Church has always claimed the power to forgive all kinds of sins. About the year 200, she condemned the Montanists for denying pardon to murderers, idolators, and apostates. When the Scriptures speak of “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” as a sin that shall never be forgiven (Matt. XII, 31, 32), they mean that it rarely is forgiven, because those guilty of it will rarely manifest such sentiments as would justify their absolution (n. 210, 3). Such modes of speaking are used in Scripture on other occasions also; as when Christ said it was impossible for the rich to be saved (Luke XVIII, 25). It was a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit when the Jews ascribed to Satan the miracles which Christ wrought in confirmation of His mission; the same sin is committed by those who obstinately refuse to accept the clear evidences of revelation. Certain texts of the Fathers require a similar interpretation (n. 210, 3).
260. The chief doctrines taught on the Sacrament of Penance by the Council of Trent (Sess. 14) are these:--1. Penance is a Sacrament instituted by Christ for reconciling the faithful to God, as often as after Baptism they fall into sin (can. 1). 2. Sacramental confession to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always practised, is not a human invention (can. 6). 3. It is necessary by Divine law to confess each and every mortal sin which, after due and diligent preparation, are in the memory, and this even if they are hidden sins, and forbidden only by the last two precepts of the Decalogue, together with the circumstances that change the species (can. 7). This Council also renewed the commandment, laid by the Lateran Council of 1215 on all the faithful, to confess at least once a year (can. 8).
What led to the enactment of the law of yearly confession was this. Peter of Blois, who wrote before 1200, states that in the beginning of the Church all who assisted at Mass communicated; that it was later on enacted that they should communicate every Sunday; later, at least three times a year, at Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas (Alzog, Church Hist. II, p. 504). The Council of Lateran, A. D. 1215, relaxed the former law relating to Holy Communion, limiting its obligatory reception to once a year; and it added explicitly the obligation, which St. Paul had taught, and which had been insisted on all along, of cleansing the conscience from sin before partaking of the sacred Body and Blood of Christ (1 Cor. XI, 23). Thus it required Confession at least once a year.
261. Luther was at first inclined to retain the Sacrament of Penance; but he sacrificed it to his fundamental doctrine of salvation by faith alone; and so do all his followers. The other Protestants seem to consider an abandonment of sin as an ipso facto remission of all sins. The English Church admits that Christians may fall into sin and rise again, but it denies that Penance is a Sacrament of the Gospel; and it is silent as to the steps to be taken to rise from sin, except that the Book of Common Prayer contains forms of absolution. The acts which penitents must perform to obtain the benefits of this Sacrament will be explained farther on (Part III, nn. 341-345).
262. The effects of the Sacrament of Penance are most salutary. 1. It pardons the guilt of the sins, mortal and venial, which are confessed and repented of. 2. It infuses or increases sanctifying grace. 3. It remits the eternal punishment, if it was due. 4. It secures actual graces to avoid sins in future. 5. It may also remit, wholly or in part, the temporal punishment still to be undergone for sins whose guilt is now pardoned.
But the Council of Trent teaches (can. 12): “The whole punishment of sin is not always remitted by God with the fault.” For when Adam's sin was pardoned in view of the merits of the promised Redeemer, he was still condemned to a long expiation (Gen. III, 19). “For this remaining debt”, says the Council, “satisfaction is made to God, through the merits of Christ, by such punishments as are inflicted by Him and borne with patience, or are enjoined by a priest; and by those which are voluntarily undertaken, such as fastings, prayers, alms, or other works of piety”. It teaches also (can. 15) that the penance enjoined by the priest in Confession is binding in virtue of the power of the Keys, which was not given for loosing only, but also for binding. This imposing of a penalty is well suited to the form in which this Sacrament is instituted, namely as a tribunal, which supposes a judicial sentence. The penance imposed should be (ch. 8) “Salutary and convenient, according to the quality of the sins and the power of the penitent”.
263. An indulgence is a special use of the absolving power. While in the tribunal of Penance the guilt and at least the eternal punishment of sin are taken away, an indulgence cancels, wholly or in part the remaining penalty still to be borne in this world or in the next. It is a privilege of sovereign power in the State to remit the death penalty, to commute any heavier to a lighter punishment, and to remove punishment altogether. Christ gave an analogous power to His Church when He said to Peter: “Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven” (Matt. XVI, 29). When the Sovereign Pontiff, and those who exercise authority under him, grant an indulgence, they apply to a soul the infinite merits of Christ's sufferings, and the superabundant satisfactions of the Saints. They require for this purpose that the person thus benefited shall perform some appointed good work, to which the gaining of the indulgence is attached. Most Protestants brand this practice with the note of laxity; but in reality the sects require much less for the entire cancelling of all punishment due to sin: in their theory; an act of faith in Christ's merits is all-sufficient.
The Church has defined only two points regarding her indulgences; namely that she has the power to grant them, and that they are salutary to the Christian people. As early as the third century we find that the Church, at the intercession of confessors of Christ, relaxed the canonical penances of those who had committed public sin, and considered this indulgence as valid before God. But the exact manner in which the indulgences are applied to souls is not known to us. Plenary indulgences release from all penalty, as far as the person, under the unknown laws of God's providence, is capable of being thus benefited. The effect of partial indulgences is in some way proportioned to the effect which would have been secured by a certain amount of canonical penance. Those applicable to the departed are offered to God on behalf of such souls; but God is not bound to accept them, or apply them to the souls prayed for; still less do we know the exact extent of the benefit obtained. St. Augustine said: “All suffrages offered for the dead profit those who while on earth lived so as to deserve to be profited” (Ench. 110). As to the duration of the future sufferings, we have no reliable information.
264. As Confirmation is, in a manner, the complement of Baptism, making the recipient a perfect Christian, so Extreme Unction, for those in danger of death by sickness, is the complement of the Sacrament of Penance. For it supplies the last purification for the sinner's soul which is about to pass into eternity; or, if the favor is desirable, it may remove the sickness, which is a penalty of sin.
It has all the requisites of a Sacrament. There is, 1. The outer sign, consisting of the matter and form. The matter is the anointing of the senses with olive oil especially blessed for the purpose, the form is the prayer pronounced for the pardon of the sins; 2. The grace signified, besides the increase of sanctifying grace, is the strengthening of the soul and the removal of the remnants of sin. For unction is often used to denote sanctifying grace, and also such actual graces as are analogous to the effects produced by oil, which gives light, soothes wounds, strengthens for contests, etc.; 3. The institution of Christ is shown by St. James, who says. “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he lie in sins, they shall be forgiven him” (V, 14, 15). St. James here evidently directs the use of this Sacrament for the obtaining of effects which may be confidently expected; and which God alone can produce. Therefore God must have connected them with that rite. St. Innocent I, in the fourth century, speaks of it as “a species of Sacrament”; he remarks that it is administered by priests “for this reason, that Bishops, hindered by their engagements; cannot go to every sick person” (Wp. 25 ad Decent.). The blessing of the oil belongs to the Bishop, but a priest can perform it if delegated to do so by the Pope.
This Sacrament should be given to all those who, after coming to the use of reason, are in danger of death by sickness. It is profitless, and therefore wrong, to renew Extreme Unction while the same danger of death continues. It is unwise to defer the reception of it too long, because many actual graces are thus prevented, and restoration to health is not in the ordinary course of Divine Providence when the patient is so ill that his cure would require an evident miracle (See also n. 232).
The definitions of the Council of Trent embrace these points: that Extreme Unction is truly a Sacrament, that it confers grace, remits sin, raises up the sick man when this is expedient for salvation, and that the grace of healing has not ceased; also that a priest is the minister of this Sacrament.
265. The most prominent features of religion under the Old Testament were the Tabernacle, the sacrifices, and the priesthood. God Himself had legislated for all things regarding them; they were to be types of the main constituents of Christian worship, namely, of the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, and the Christian priesthood. As the chief function assigned to the Jewish priests was the daily sacrifice, so that of the Christian priesthood is the offering, day after day, of the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass. This leading idea of a sacrificer is well expressed by the Latin name of a priest, sacerdos, which means “an offerer of holy things”; hence our adjective “sacerdotal”. The term “priest” is somewhat misleading; it is derived from the Greek word which originally meant “an elder” (πρεσβυτερος). But in the time of the Evangelists it denoted “a ruler”, or “governor”, being a title of dignity without reference to age (Lond. Encycl.). Its meaning to-day is definite and clear: “a priest” is a religious officer who offers sacrifices; and therefore no Protestant clergyman assumes the title, unless he also claim to perform such an office. The Sacrament which perpetuates the priesthood in the Church is “Holy Orders”. The name has a plural form because there are various Orders, and corresponding ranks among the ministers of the Altar.
266. The Council of Trent teaches: 1. In the New Testament there is a visible and external priesthood, and the power of consecrating and offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord, and of remitting and retaining sins. 2. Besides the priesthood, there are in the Catholic Church other Orders, greater and less, by which, as by so many steps, the priesthood is approached. 3. Order is truly a Sacrament instituted by Christ. 4. By sacred ordination the Holy Spirit is given, and it is not in vain that the Bishop says, “Receive the Holy Ghost”; by it a character is impressed, and who has once been a priest cannot become a layman. 5. The sacred anointing which the Church uses in ordination is required, and is not contemptible and harmful: so too of the other ceremonies of Order.
267. A leading idea of Luther and his followers was the denial of the Christian priesthood in the proper sense of the word (n. 265), which implies the offering of sacrifice; a new meaning was given to the Christian ministry. In the unprelatic sects (n. 92) a person becomes a minister by a “call” of the people, this being essential for a lawful ministry. The neighboring ministers next hold a “recognition service”, when hands are laid on the new minister, or the right hand of fellowship is extended to him. There is no pretence that grace is conferred, or that one who is once a minister is always a minister.
The prelatic bodies (n. 92) agree generally with the English Established Church, which says in Article 23: “Those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent which be chosen and called to the work by men who have public authority given them in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard.” Article 36 declares that “all those consecrated and ordered according to the Book of Consecration of Edward VI. are rightfully, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered”. It will be noticed that the 23rd Article does not determine who are those that have public authority to send ministers. The Erastian theory is that they are the civil governors, the Church being a department of the State.
268. We have seen (n. 244) that Christ gave to His Apostles the sacerdotal power to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice, when, at the Last Supper, after the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, He added, “Do this in commemoration of Me” (Luke XXII, 19). He gave them power to forgive sin, on the night after His resurrection (n. 255); He gave them power to rule the Church, when He said, “As the Father sent Me, I also send you” (Jo. XX, 21). We have also seen (n. 45) that the Apostles communicated their powers to some of their disciples, and instructed them to communicate the same to others. This transmission of powers was done by prayer and imposition of hands (Acts XIII, 3; 1 Tim. V, 22). St. Paul expressly states that grace was thus conveyed: “Neglect not the grace that is in thee by prophecy with imposition of the hands of the priesthood” (1 Tim. IV, 14); here is an outward ceremony instituted by Christ to produce grace. Thus we have in Orders all the requisites of a Sacrament. St. Augustine expressly treats of ordination as being a Sacrament in the same sense as Baptism is a Sacrament (C. Ep. ad Parm. II, 13), and all the ancient oriental sects have always maintained the same doctrine.
269. The subject of Orders is a baptized male person; the minister is a Bishop, that is, one who has received the fulness of the sacred ministry. The matter and form to be used are contained in the rites prescribed in the Roman Pontifical. Of this there is no dispute; nor could there be any without supposing that the gates of hell could have prevailed against the Church by depriving her of the Sacraments. Regarding the ordination of priests, theologians are not agreed at what part of the service the matter and form are applied.
It is essential that the matter and form should signify the grace; for this is the nature of a Sacrament. The imposition of hands, as explained by the accompanying words, does this sufficiently, and the present tendency of theologians is to regard it as being alone the essential matter and form. The decree of Eugenius IV, issued in the Council of Florence, A. D. 1439, “for the Armenians”, requires the tradition of the chalice with wine and the paten with bread; but this decree declares that its contents are partly disciplinary. Still the omission of this ceremony in the West would render the ordination doubtful, because many maintain that the Church requires it for the validity.
270. Anglican Orders are invalid for evident reasons; and therefore the Catholic Church ordains converted Anglican clergymen as she ordains mere laymen, without premising any condition. These Orders were all derived from Parker; and his episcopal consecration, if it took place at all, which is doubtful, was certainly invalid. So were likewise all the Orders, both of Bishops and priests, conferred in the English Church from 1549 to 1662; and thus all Apostolic succession was broken off. For, during those 113 years, the rites employed for the ordination were certainly wanting in one of the essentials of a Sacrament. For they were the rites of the Edwardine Ordinal, and had been changed from the old Catholic rites by purposely suppressing such words and actions as signified the grace and power of the sacerdotal office. But the matter and form in every Sacrament must signify the grace conferred: this significance belongs to the essence of the Sacrament (n. 228). True, the consecrator used the words: “Receive the Holy Ghost”; but these words occur also in Confirmation, and do not express sacerdotal grace and power; and this is the more strikingly true since they form part of a rite which had been newly designed for the purpose of excluding all sacrificial functions. Besides, by employing this vitiated rite, the minister sufficiently shows that he has not the intention to do what the Catholic Church does, but rather what the Anglican Church intends to do. Now this sect does not, or at least did not then, intend to confer priestly ordination, nor even to confer any Sacrament at all; since it does not acknowledge any Sacraments but those of Baptism and the Supper of the Lord (n. 231).
Anglican Orders were pronounced invalid by the Pontiff Clement XI. in 1704; there was no solid foundation for doubt on the subject. In 1896, Pope Leo XIII. allowed a thorough discussion of the whole matter to take place; after which, in the Encyclical “Apostolicae Curae”, he definitely declared the invalidity of Anglican Orders by reason of defect of form and intention.
271. The various Orders constitute the Hierarchy ('ιερος, αρχη), or sacred body of governors. The Bishops (επισκοπος) possess the fulness of sacerdotal power. The priests possess the same (n. 265), except the powers of confirming (n. 244) and ordaining. When the New Testament was being written, the verbal distinction between Bishops and priests was not yet fixed. But as early as the second century, St. Ignatius wrote that in any Church the Bishop presides in the name of God, and the priests represent the college of the Apostles (Ad Magn. n. 6). Deacons (διακονος, attendant) were first ordained to attend to “the daily ministrations”. The Apostles, praying, imposed hands on them (Acts VI, 6); and therefore the rite of their ordination appears to be Sacramental. The next Order is that of Subdeacons, the lowest of those which are called “Sacred Orders”. The “Minor Orders” are those of Acolytes, Exorcists, Readers, and Oatiaries, whose offices to some extent correspond with their names. The rites used to confer the Subdeaconship and the Minor Orders are not generally regarded as Sacramental. Preparatory to the reception of Minor Orders is that of the Tonsure, by which one becomes a member of the clergy, of those, namely, who have chosen the Lord as the portion (κληρος, a lot or portion) of their inheritance (Ps. 15). The rest of the faithful are called the laity (λαοσ, people). Tertullian condemns the proceedings of some early heretics, because among them “who is to-day deacon will be a layman to-morrow; for laymen are entrusted even with the functions of priests” (De Praesc. c. 4). This shows that as early as the second century the distinction of clergy and laity was Catholic doctrine.
272. Good order in the government of the Church requires that her ministers shall not exercise their functions in all places and over all classes of the faithful promiscuously; but only within certain limits, which are appointed, directly or indirectly, by the Supreme Pontiff. The right thus to exercise the sacred functions within appointed limits is called “jurisdiction”; it is required for the lawful performance of all the functions, and for the validity of some of them, namely of those concerned with governing and judging. Therefore the priest needs jurisdiction to absolve validly in the tribunal of Penance; but when a penitent is in danger of death, the Church grants jurisdiction to absolve him to any priest whatever.
The Roman Pontiffs have, by Divine institution, universal jurisdiction (n. 107). The other Bishops have power to govern their own dioceses only, to which they have been assigned by the Pope. Their jurisdiction is attached to their See, and is therefore called ordinary, to distinguish it from delegated power, which is granted to a cleric for functions lying beyond his special rights of office. None but clerics can hold jurisdiction. The Bishop's ordinary jurisdiction is shared by his Vicar-General, who forms one tribunal with him. A group of dioceses is called a province: its principal see is occupied by an Archbishop, or Metropolitan; the other Bishops are his Suffragans and he can entertain appeals from their decisions.
A Primate stands towards several Archbishops in pretty much the same relation that they stand toward their Suffragans. The Primates of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch have from early days been called Patriarchs; others also at present bear the title; it does not alter their jurisdiction. Even Patriarchs have been deposed by the Pope, which shows that they hold jurisdiction from him.
273. All those in Sacred Orders (n. 271), in the Latin portion of the Church, are bound, as a matter of discipline, to observe celibacy. They cannot validly marry, nor may a married man become a Subdeacon, unless his wife vow perpetual chastity. There are excellent reasons for this celibacy. Christ recommended the leaving of father and mother and wife for His sake (Matt. XIX, 29). St. Peter could say to Him: “Behold, we have left all things” (Mark X, 28); and St. Paul states, what reason also teaches, that care for a wife is apt to divide a man, and hinder his total devotion to the service of God; he invites all to follow his example of a celibate life (1 Cor. VII, 7, 8, 32, 33). Origen wrote in the third century: “It appears to me that it belongs to him alone to offer the unceasing Sacrifice, who has devoted himself to an unceasing and perpetual chastity” (Hom. 29 in Num. n. 3). Still, though the practice of celibacy was common in the early ages of the Church, it was not obligatory by law. In the Greek portion to-day, no priest can marry; but yet married men may receive Holy Orders, except episcopal consecration.
274. It is most honorable, and an inconceivable supernatural blessing, to be made a priest of the Most High; but no one should ambition the dignity for the sake of worldly advantages: “Neither does any man” says St. Paul, “take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was” (Hebr. V, 4). Thisvocation to the clerical state is known to exist whenever the following conditions are all verified. 1. The aspirant must desire this state for supernatural motives. 2. He must be judged fit for it by his spiritual director. 3. He must be accepted by the Bishop or the religious superior. 4. He must have acquired the habit of leading a chaste life. 5. He must be free from such natural obligations as have a prior claim upon his time and labor. Such would be the duty of supporting parents that could not be properly provided for if he entered the sacred ministry. But if they are not in great need of his support, he does not need their permission to devote himself entirely to God's service; as is clear from the example of Christ, who left His parents at the age of twelve, because He had to be about His Father's business (Luke II, 49). Parents should not presume to usurp God's rights over their children's service, but rather consider themselves highly honored if the Lord deigns to invite one of their sons to so sublime a dignity.
275. Christ has laid down clear laws for those who enter on the matrimonial state. He says: “From the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder..... Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark X, 6-12). From the teaching of Christ in this and other texts we see: 1. That the natural marriage instituted in the creation (Gen. II, 21-24), consisted in the agreement between a man and a woman to enter into life-long cohabitation: the contract itself to take each other as man and wife constituted the marriage; 2. That it excluded any third person from the partnership, and thus made polygamy unlawful; 3. That no one could dissolve what God had thus united; 4. That the two parties were bound by the contract to love each other and bear each other's burden, so as to live, not as two, but as one person; 5. That divorce, which Moses allowed under peculiar circumstances (Deut. XXIV, 1), was a departure from the original design of Matrimony; and had been allowed to the Jews, only on account of the hardness of their hearts; 6. That Christ abolished this relaxation of the law; for He says that, if a separation do take place, a second marriage during the life of both parties is adulterous, which it could not be if the former union had been dissolved. But He does not condemn repudiation of the guilty party “for the cause of fornication” (Matt. V, 32), yet without severance of the marriage bond. The only separation He allows is what is called “of bed and board”; 7. That the rights and duties of the married state are not derived from the civil power, since they existed before States were instituted, and are more deeply rooted in the nature and the wants of man than any civil allegiance. Therefore the State cannot legislate concerning the bond of matrimony, nor interfere with the duties essentially involved in it, for instance the education of the children. All it can do is to protect the natural rights of husband and wife, parents and children.
276. While Christ thus restored matrimony to its pristine purity, He also raised it to the supernatural dignity of a Sacrament. St. Augustine ranks it with Baptism and Holy Orders (De Nupt. Conc. I, c. 10). Tradition had taught this doctrine without any contradiction, before the Councils of Florence and of Trent (Sess. 14, can. 1) defined it to be of faith. St. Paul had said: “This is a great Sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church” (Eph. V, 32). It is not a Sacrament when contracted by the unbaptized; but between Christians marriage is always a Sacrament. Its essence lies, as is clear from the Council of Trent, in the contract freely made between man and wife: this contract itself, in the case of baptized persons, has been made by Christ productive of grace. The grace it confers is, first, an increase of sanctity, and secondly, actual grace to fulfil meritoriously the duties of the married state, especially those of love and fidelity between the married couple, and of proper care in the education of their children.
277. Since the contract itself is the Sacrament, the contracting parties are its ministers; their own persons are the matter affected, and the form consists in the signification, or expression, of their mutual consent. Christian Marriage has a special spiritual meaning: it represents the union of Christ with His Church; for St. Paul writes: “The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church..... Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be subject to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it” (Eph. V, 22-29).
From the fact that Christian Matrimony is a Sacrament, it follows that it is entrusted to the care of the Church, and subject to her laws, not to those of the State. As civil contracts refit upon the natural law established by the Creator, and yet are regulated by the laws of the land, which call even invalidate some of them; so the marriage contract between Christians rests on the Divine law, but yet is to be regulated by the legislation of the Church, which can also invalidate the contract in special circumstances (n. 351).
279. Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell are usually called the Four Last Things. These subjects may well give us thought: enough of them is made known to man to make it his highest interest to guide his whole life by these beacon lights; but the Holy Spirit has not been pleased to reveal the answers to many questions that are suggested on such matters to an inquisitive mind. Meanwhile the obscurity which hangs over the tomb is well suited to foster a salutary fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 110).
280. I. Of Death we know that “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebr. IX, 27); this is the sentence pronounced upon our race since Adam's sin, without whose fall we should have been exempted from this natural termination of animal life (nn. 174, 176). Henoch and Elias are the only men of whom it is written that they left the earth without dying (Ecclus. XLIV, 16; 4 Kings II, 11). We know not where they are; but we see no reason to suppose that they will ultimately be exempt from the sentence of death, to which the Saviour Himself deigned to submit. When we read that Christ shall judge “the living and the dead”, we must, it appears, understand by “the living” those who shall be alive at the beginning of the universal destruction. The time, manner, etc. of each man's death are most uncertain, so that Christ warns us to be ever ready, “For at what hour you think not, the Son of man shall come” (Luke XII, 40).
281. II. “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. XIV, 10). A Particular Judgment comes to each one immediately after death. While most Protestants appear to have very misty views on this subject, all Catholics are agreed on it, as on a certain doctrine of Tradition. This is founded on the obvious meaning of many texts of Scripture, such as these “After this (death), the judgment” (Hebr. IX, 27,); “The rich man died, and was buried in hell” (Luke XVI, 22); “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” (ib. XXIII, 43); Judas had “gone to his place” before his successor was elected (Acts I, 25). All these must have been judged immediately after death, and the sentence was at once executed; as Ecclesiasticus also implies, saying: “It is easy before God in the day of death to reward every one according to his ways” (XI, 28). As to the immediate execution of the sentence, we have an explicit definition of Pope Benedict XII, in the fourteenth century, teaching that the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go at once to hell.
282. III. The word “Hell” has various meanings; we use it here to designate the place where the reprobate are punished forever. That there must be rewards and punishments after death, is a dictate of reason which all men have ever acknowledged. For a just and wise God must appoint such sanction of His laws as will make it every one's highest interest to observe them; but such is not always the case in this life, in which the wicked often triumph over the good; therefore rewards and punishments must be provided beyond the grave. That those punishments must be eternal, is the clear and emphatic teaching of Christ and His Church. For we say in the Athanasian Creed: “Those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire”; Christ shall say to the condemned: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matt. XXV, 40; while on earth, He cautioned sinners against giving scandal, by three times in succession declaring the existence of “unquenchable fire, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished” (Mark IX, 42-47). On the interpretations of these texts, Tradition is uniform, and cannot be contradicted without rashness. It declares “the worm” to signify remorse, or mental anguish, but “the fire” to be in a true sense a creature distinct from the sufferer, and a source of excruciating torture to him. Its nature is unknown to us, as St. Augustine avowed it was to him (De Civ. Dei, XX, 16). Besides the pain of sense, of which the fire is the chief source, there is also the the pain of loss, or the utter disappointment of all hopes and frustration of all desires; it is depicted in an impressive passage of the Book of Wisdom, where the reprobate lament their utter discomfiture (V, 2-14). If a sin is not great enough to deserve eternal pain, it is then not a mortal sin, and will be atoned for in purgatory.
283. IV. Heaven is the place of eternal and perfect happiness, to which Christ will invite the just, saying to them: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. XXV, 34). It is to last forever; for Christ adds that “the just shall go into life everlasting” (ib., 46); and in the Apostles' Creed we profess belief in “life everlasting”. It is to produce perfect happiness, or beatitude, which will leave no desire unsatisfied. This beatitude will result from the clear vision of God, which is therefore called the “beatific vision”: “We now see through a glass, in a dark manner, but then face to face” (1 Cor. XIII, 12); “We shall be like unto Him (to God) because we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jo. III, 2). We cannot see God thus by our own power; for “God is an invisible King” (1 Tim. I, 17); but we shall be enlightened by the supernatural “light of glory”, as truly as our eyes on earth are enabled to see bodies by the rays of material light. In this vision of God will consist the essential happiness of the Blessed. There will also be sources of accidental happiness, such as the splendor and the love of the sacred Humanity of Christ and of His holy Mother, the fellowship of the Saints, the beauty of the place, which is described in the Apocalypse (XXI, 18-25); to all this will be added after the Resurrection the pleasures of the glorified senses, etc.: “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for those that love Him” (1 Cor. II, 9). It is of faith that there are various degrees of grace and consequent union with God, as was defined at Florence: for “God will render to every one according to his works” (Matt. XVI, 27); and “He that soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he that soweth in blessings shall also reap in blessings” (2 Cor. IX, 6). The conspicuous victors in the race are spoken of as adorned with the aureolae of Virgins, of Martyrs, and of Doctors, according to the special virtues in which they shall have excelled.
284. St. John says of Heaven that “there shall not enter into it any thing defiled” (Ap. XXI, 27); and yet “in many things we all offend” (James III, 2); therefore reason pleads for a place of further purgation after death. Besides, the temporal punishment for sin often remains after its guilt has been remitted (n. 263). The second Book of Machabees explicitly declares it to be “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins” (XII, 46). We also find inscriptions in the early Catacombs containing prayers for the departed. St. Augustine prayed for the repose of the soul of his mother, St. Monica. In fact, Tradition is clear and copious on the subject. Therefore, the Creed of Pope Pius IV. (n. 122, 5) professes that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the prayers of the faithful. This is the only defined teaching of the Church on the matter. But the Reformers found in the doctrine of Purgatory a complete refutation of their leading tenet of “salvation by faith alone”. Besides, the preaching of certain indulgences had been the first occasion of opposition to Rome. For these two reasons, they assailed this belief with especial acrimony; misconception of the Catholic doctrine in subsequent times perpetuated the prejudice. But a return to sober thought is rapidly dispelling the mists of error; many Protestants are resuming prayers for the departed, while the Universalists have converted the doctrine of an eternal hell into that of a general Purgatory, through which any sinner may ultimately reach Heaven.
285. Besides the Particular judgment, which takes place for each man immediately after death (n. 281), there will be a General Judgment for all mankind at the consummation of the world: “When the Son of man shall come in His majesty, and all the Angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His majesty, and all the nations shall be gathered together before Him” (Matt. XXV, 31-33). The purposes of that Judgment are obvious: the wisdom of God's dealings with men will thus be publicly vindicated; the blessed Saviour, formerly so shamefully rejected by His own, so outraged in His Person, so bitterly persecuted in His followers, will appear triumphant; His spouse, the Church, now, like her Lord, so maligned and illtreated, will then be exhibited in her spotless beauty; all the just will be glorified, and the wicked overwhelmed with confusion.
The signs which will announce the approaching Judgment are strikingly predicted in the 24th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel; they are, however, mixed up with forewarnings concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, which was intended as a figure of the final catastrophe; and a terrible image it is of the Day of Doom. The 25th chapter of the same Gospel gives a graphic description of the Last judgment itself, with the sentence to be there pronounced. It is not necessary that we should now understand the exact manner in which all these prophecies will be verified, nor does the Church profess to do so. Enough is known now, or shall be known in due time, to answer the purposes of Divine Wisdom. About the time when the Last Day shall come, we know nothing: “Of that day and hour no one knoweth, no not the Angels in Heaven; but the Father alone” (Matt. XXIV, 36); it was not a part of the mission of Christ to reveal it to the world.
286. One important feature of the Last Judgment is so distinctly predicted that it has been made an article of the Apostles' Creed, “The Resurrection of the Body”; this is the finishing stroke to the great work of the Redemption, since it totally undoes the work accomplished by Satan in Paradise. Christ has clearly announced it: “All that are in the graves shall hear the voice of God: and they that have done good things shall come forth