« AnteriorContinuar »
On the spiritual authority of the apostles and their successors, who were divinely commissioned to promulgate and teach the law of Christ to all nations; and on the uniform and universal testimony, belief, and practice of all Christian Churches from the beginning, the certitude of the Catholic is grounded, that all the doctrines which he believes, as articles of Catholic Faith, and all the sacred precepts and rites, which he observes, as the ordinances of Christ, were really revealed and instituted by Almighty God; and are the same, as were originally delivered by Christ to his apostles, and by them promulgated over all nations.
The Catholic is fully satisfied, that this method which he follows, for ascertaining what are the revealed doctrines of divine faith, is the right rule and that it leads him to the unity of truth.
Is he not at liberty to follow a rule which gives such satisfaction and security to his inind ?
Is it fair for others who, by following a different rule, are led into a countless variety of contradictory doctrines on matters of Christian belief, to disturb the tranquillity of the Catholic on this head, or to condemn him, for his submission to the authority of a ministry, which he is convinced was established by Christ for the purpose of bringing all nations to the certain knowledge of his law, and to the unity of faith? Is not this rule perfectly natural and reasonable? Can any human legislator condemn the principle and rule of the Catholic in this regard ?
On the Holy Scriptures. . In England the Catholic church is held out as an enemy to the reading and circulating of the Holy Scriptures.
Whereas the Catholic church venerates the Holy Scriptures as the written part of the word of God; she has in all ages been the faithful guardian of this sacred deposit; she has ever laboured to preserve the integrity of these inspired writings, and the true sense, in which they have been universally understood, at all times from the Apostolic age.
The Catholic Church has never forbidden or discouraged the reading or the circulation of authentic copies of the sacred Scriptures, in the original languages. She binds her Clergy to the daily recital of a canonical office, which comprizes a large portion of the sacred volume, and to read and expound to the faithful, in the vernacular tongue, on Sundays, the epistle or gospel of the day, or some other portion of the divine law,
As to translations of the Holy Scriptures into modern languages, thc Catholic Church requires that none should be put into the hands of the faithful but such as are acknowledged by ecclesiastical authority to be accurate, and conformable to the sense of the originals. There rever was a general law of the Catholic Church prohibiting the reading of authorized translations of the Scriptures; but, considering that many, by their ignorance and evil dispositions, have perverted the meaning of the sacred text to their own destruction, the Catholic Church has thought it prudent to make a regulation, that the faithful should be guided in this matter by the advice of their respective Pastors.
. Whether the Holy Scriptures, which ought never to be taken in hand but with respect, should be made a class-book for children, is a matter of religious and prudential consideration, on which the Pastors of the Catholic Church have a right to decide with regard to their own flocks; and we hold that in this matter none have a right to dictate to them.
The Catholics in England, of mature years, have permission to read authentic and approved translations of the Holy Scriptures, with explanatory notes; and are exhorted to read them in the spirit of piety, humility, and obedience.
Pope Pius VII., in a Rescript dated April 18, 1820, and addressed to the Vicars Apostolic in England, earnestly exhorts them to confirm the people committed to their spiritual care, in faith and good works; and for that end, to encourage them to read books of pious instruction, and particularly the Holy Scriptures, in translations approved by ecclesiastical authority; because, to those who are well disposed, nothing can be more aseful, more consoling, or more animating, than the reading of the sacred Scriptures, understood in their true sense they serve to confirm the faith, to support the hope, and to inflame the charity of the true Christian.
But when the reading and the circulation of the Scriptures are urged and recommended as the entire rule of faith, as the sole means by which men are to be brought to the certain and specific knowledge of the doctrines, precepts, and institutions of Christ; and when the Scriptures so read and circulated are left to the interpretation and private judgment of each individual : then such reading, circulation, and interpretation, are forbidden by the Catholic Church, because the Catholic Church knows, that the circulation of the Scriptures, and the interpretation of them by each one's private judgment, was not the means ordained by Christ for the communication of the true knowledge of his law to all nations—she knows that Christianity was established in many countries before one book of the New Testament was written that it was not by means of the Scriptures, that the Apostles and their successors converted nations, or any one nation to the unity of the Christian faith-that the unauthorized reading and circulation of the Scriptures, and the interpretation of them by private udgment, are calculated to lead men to contradictory doctrines on the primary articles of Christian belief; to inconsistent forms of worship, which cannot all be constituent parts of the uniform and sublime system of Christianity ; to errors and fanaticism in religion, and to seditions and the greatest disorders in states and kingdoms.
On the Charge of Idolatry and Superstition. IGNORANCE or nalice has gone so far as to charge the Catholic Church with IDOLATRY, in the sacrifice of the Mass in the adoration (as it is called) of the Virgin Mary, and in the worship of the Saints, and of the images of Christ and of the Saints ; and with SUPERSTITION, in invoking the Şaints, and in praying for souis in purgatory. Now idolatry consists in giving to any creature that supreme adoration, honour, or worship which is due only to Almighty God.
The Catholic Church teaches that idolatry is one of the greatest crimes that can be committed against the majesty of God: and every true member of this church shudders at the idea of such a crime, and feels grievously injured by so horrid an imputation. · But it is said that Catholics adore the elements of bread and wine in the Mass: that they adore the Virgin Mary; that they adore the cross; and that they worship the saints and the images of Christ and of the Saints. Before we repel these horrid imputations, in the sense in which they are made, we must explain the different meanings of the words adoration, honour, and worship, that the calumnious charge, and its denial, may be understood in the same explained sense.
We find that in the language of the sacred Scripture, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin*, as well as in the language of the ancient liturgies of the Christian church, these words, adoration, honour, and worship, are ambiguous terms, and are used in different senses, according to the nature of the object to which the act, implied by the term, is directed, and according to the intention of him, who performs the act. Hence we find them used as relating, sometimes, to God, and sometimes to creatures. Although, in modern times, the exclusive idea of that supreme homage, which is due only to God, is attached by some to the words adoration and worship; yet these words may still be retained by others, in a different meaning, without affording the remotest cause for the imputation of idolatry. In this different meaning they are still retained, in the unchanged language of the ancient liturgies used in the Catholic Church.
The words adoration and worship are equally referred, sometimes to God, and sometimes to creatures, as is the word honour. Now because we are commanded in scripture to honour God, and to honour the king; and chil. dren are commanded to honour their parents : it does not follow that the honour due to the king, or to parents, is the same as that which we owe to God. To God we owe supreme and sovereign honour, such as it would be a crime to pay to any creature. To the king, we owe the highest civil honour. To parents, children owe the honour of filial respect and obedience. How unjust would it be to say, that because a subject honours his king, he pays him that supreme and sovereign honour which is due only to God! The same is to be said of the terms adoration and worship, as used in former times, and sometimes used at present in the language of the Catholic church. To adore, even according to modern usage, often means no more than to express extreme affection or respect. To worship (in the translation of the Bible, published at .Oxford) is therein used to signify inferior as well as supreme worship. In the first book of Chronicles, xxix. 20. we read in that edition, that the assembly bowed down their heads and
with the same supreme worship which they paid to God? Certainly not. When a man says to the woman he takes to wife,“ with my body I thee worship,” can this be called idolatry ? Surely nothing can be more unfair than arguments drawn from ambiguous terms, construed in a sense disavowed by those, against whom the arguments are employed.
We answer therefore, that if by the terms adoration, honour, and worship, be understood that supreme adoration, honour, and worship which is due only to God; Catholics do not adore, nor honour, nor worship any other, than the one, only, true, and living God, the Creator and Sovereign Lord of the universe: they do not, in this sense, adore, nor honour, nor worship the Virgin Mary, nor any of the Saints, nor the cross, nor images, nor any other creature whatsoever.
In the Mass, Catholics do offer supreme adoration, not to the elements of bread and wine, which they hold not to be present after the consecration; · but to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom they believe to be truly, really and substantially present, under the appearances only of bread and wine, after the consecration, and change thereby of the elements into his body and blood. To adore Christ, by an act of supreme adoration, is no idolatry; because he is truly God, and consequently a legitimate object of supreme worship.
But if Catholics, using the ancient language of the Christian church, are said,
Ist. To worship the saints; this worship must be understood to be only an inferior worship, honour, and respect, paid to them proportionate to the limited perfections and excellences which God has bestowed upon them, but this worship is infinitely below that supreme worship which they pay to God. Catholics acknowledge no perfection or excellence in any Saint, not even in the Blessed Virgin Mary, which they do not profess to be the work and gift of God in them. So that in honouring the Saints, they celebrate the works of God, and consequently give glory to him. Whatever act of religious veneration we pay to the Saints, is ultimately referred to God.
2nd. To adore the cross : this word; if applied to the cross itself, means no more than an inferior and relative respect paid to the instrument of our redemption ; but if in view of the Cross it be applied to Christ himself, then it means, as it ought to mean, an act of supreme adoration.
3d. To worship the images of Christ or of the Saints: the word is here again understood by Catholics only of an inferior and relative respect shewn to images, in consideration of the respect due to the objects which they represent, and to which the respect, shewn to the images is referred. In this sense respect is shewn to the statue or to the throne of the King, in consideration of the majesty of the personage to whom they relate. An insult offered to his statue would be considered as intended to be offered to the king himself. In this sense a son respects the image or picture of his parent; a parent that of his child; a friend that of his friend; not for any intrinsic virtue in the material substance or work of art, but because it relates to, and brings to his mind, the object of his respect and affection.
To condemn this relative regard for images, or pictures, would be to condemn the very feelings of nature. To charge the Catholic with idolatry, be
eause the term worship, meaning only an inferior and relative regard, is found in the ancient and modern liturgies of his church, is not consistent with candour or charity.
The charge that the Catholic church sanctions the praying to images, is a calumny, and carries with it an imputation of stupidity too gross to be noticed. Catholics sometimes pray BEFORE images, because they serve to collect their thoughts, and fix their attention in their meditations and prayers; but they are not, on that account, to be supposed to be so void of reason and sense as to pray to the image: for they know that in it there is no virtue or power; and that it can neither see, nor hear, nor help them.
Catholics do solicit the intercession of the angels and saints reigning with Christ in heaven. But in this, when done according to the principles and spirit of the Catholic church, there is nothing of superstition, nothing which is not consistent with true piety. For the Catholic church teaches her chile dren not to pray to the saints, as to the authors or givers of divine grace; but only to solicit the saints in heaven to pray for them, in the same sense as St. Paul desired the faithful on earth to pray for him.
Catholics, according to the faith and pious practice of the Christian church from the age of the Apostles, do pray for the release and eternal rest of departed souls, who may be detained for a time in a state of punishment on account of their sins, but in this we cannot discover even the shadow of superstition.
By invoking the intercession of the Saints in heaven, and by praying for the suffering souls in purgatory, Catholics exercise acts of that communion of charity, which subsists between the members of the mystical body of Christ : the principle of which communion they profess to believe, when they say, “I believe the holy Catholic church, the communion of Saints.”
After this explanation and declaration, we hope that our countrymen will never be so unjust or so uncharitable, as to charge Catholics with idolatry or superstition, nor be so illiberal as to attempt to give a colour to these injurious charges, by fixing an exclusive meaning to terms, which, in the language of Scripture, Christian antiquity, and common usage, bear different senses, in different circumstances.
On the power of forgiving Sins, and the precept of Confession.
The Catholic church is charged with impiety, in usurping the power of for. giving sins, and with spiritual tyranny, in imposing on the people the yoke of confession.
The Catholic church cannot be charged with impiety, for exercising powers given by Christ to his Apostles and to their lawful successors ; nor with ty. ranny, in enforcing the observance of the precept of Christ.