« PreviousContinue »
We remember how strenuously they at first insisted that Christian unity consisted in union with Christ the Head. But so plainly have they been shown that union with the Head implies the unity of the Body, and that union with the one Head is impracticable without membership in His one Body, that scarcely any one speaks now of Pusey's “ Christian bodies" as a substitute for the Body of Christ. So plainly has it been demonstrated that this position was identical with that of the Donatists, which St. Augustine demolished fourteen centuries ago, that no one can now seriously think of maintaining it. In their effort, then, to vindicate to themselves a share in the unity of the Body, they still cherish the grain of comfort that they seem to find in the Branch theory. But even this they now put forward with a lack of enthusiasm which shows how their confidence in it has weakened. He who made the most desperate fight of all for the Via Media, before he was compelled in conscience to surrender it, has written :
“ The ‘Branch Theory,' that is, that the Roman, Greek and Anglican communions make up the one visible, indivisible Church of God which the Apostles founded, to which the promise of perseverance was made, is a view which is as paradoxical, when regarded as a fact, as it is heterodox when regarded as a doctrine."
And this he and others have proved with arguments so unanswerable, and the practical absurdity of the notion is so palpable, that further refutation of it by Catholics would be a work of supererogation, and they who still seek shelter behind it seem more than half conscious that it is untenable and ridiculous. Instead, therefore, of yielding to the natural inclination to give the coup de grace to a vanquished adversary, it is better to imitate Him who "breaketh not the bruised reed, nor quencheth the smoking flax," and to hold towards them, not the weapons of controversy, but the arms of the Good Shepherd.
Instead of wasting energy in a bootless warfare on ramparts that are crumbling of themselves, it will be far more profitable, as well as nobler and pleasanter, to win them from their false position by the beauty and power of truth. Our object must be, not to silence and confound, but to persuade and attract. The magnet can attract only what is kindred to it, and we can best attract them to the fulness of truth through the truth which they already hold in common with us. It is no want of loyalty to the fulness of the truth to acknowledge and honor any portion of it wherever it may be found. Truth is the light of God, and we should love and wel. come any twinkling ray of it that has penetrated or lingered among those who have wandered from its full radiance. The heart of a true Catholic, enamored of the treasure which, through the mercy of God, he possesses, must rejoice at any particle of it, wherever found; and the more he compassionates the spiritual poverty of those not privileged like himself, the more must he thank God for any, even the least, part of the heavenly gift which His Fatherly compassion still preserves among them. Satan indeed seeks to abuse the lingering blessing, by persuading them that it is all they need; but we are not therefore to denounce it, but, on the contrary, by their appreciation of what they have, to win them to the fulness which they ought to possess and of which they have been robbed.
And this is assuredly the policy of practical good sense, as well as of truth and charity. No man is apt to come to meet you in agreement, if you begin by asserting that there is no common standing-ground between you. To tell him that he is simply an outside barbarian, is to tell him to give up all hope of understanding your language or accepting your position. That argument is naturally the most telling whose premises are found in the convictions of your opponent. The memorialists were not far astray when they wrote: “The truths we hold in common are more numerous, and of greater importance, than the points on which we differ.” When this yearning for reunion with the Church first began to manifest itself, and carping critics, as is their wont, assailed it with sneers, insinuations, and cheap logic, Cardinal Wiseman, with the nobleness of heart which always characterized him, publicly recommended that the basis of negotiations for reconciliation should be the points of agreement between the doctrines held by Anglicans and the teachings of the Council of Trent. And he adduced the exactly similar advice given by Bossuet, when consulted by the Pope concerning the best way of treating with the followers of the Augsburg Confession. This does not in the slightest degree imply a minimizing of Catholic truth or duty, but only the rendering of all possible justice to the convictions of those we have to deal with, which is simply fair play. This we ought, in simple justice, to do even with an avowed enemy; how much more with those who long to be our friends and brethren. It might be more heroic in them to begin with an absolute and sweeping act of self-condemnation. But heroism is not to be calculated on, and still less to be exacted. Nay, it would be an extreme that would not be commendable; for what constitutes their Protestantism, their error, forms but a small part of the sum of their religious convictions, and the wheat is wheat though the tares are tares. We are in danger of stretching to unjustifiable lengths the dictum : bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu.
The genuine spirit of the Good Shepherd and of His Church will never incline us to deal harshly or hardly with those who are longing to return to the fold. It makes us rejoice at their desire; it impels us to smooth the way for their return; it makes allowance for mental habits resulting from the misfortune of their exile and which no mere act of volition can at once eradicate; in matters not of faith or obligation, it has no procrustean bed to which every variety of individual or national temperament must adapt itself; it is quite willing to wait, in all patience and gentleness, for time and grace and Catholic influences to unmake the inclinations or disinclinations which time and hereditary training have naturally formed. Nay, it is willing to hear patiently the charges they make against us, and to bear charitably and humbly their being scandalized at us in some things. The Church does not need, and does not wish, that we should claim to ourselves impeccability, or resent the complaints of those who find things among us that ill befit the household of God. The integrity of the Spouse of Christ is guaranteed by her Lord; but her children, in high or low degree, may often be a grief both to Him and to her. Few are the epochs, if any, when there is not need of the reforming zeal of a St. Philip Neri, of a St. Charles Borromeo, or of the Council of Trent. Wherever there exists among Catholics a spirit of worldliness in the upper classes, a want of sobriety, of law-abidingness, of honesty or truth or chastity in the lower classes, a lack of spirituality in the manners or lives of ecclesiastics, an absence of charity and fraternal union in general, there is no wonder that our separated brethren complain of scandals and hindrances; and then it is our duty, instead of indulging in silly indignation or still more silly and injudicious self-vindication, to honestly and sorrowfully deplore the evils and zealously strive to correct them. “For the time is that judgment should begin at the house of God.” That our invitation to the erring may be efficacious, we must offer them all the truth they profess, and a great deal more besides, and all the moral virtue, too, that they profess and a great deal more besides.
There is one other requisite for the efficacy of our invitation, which is no less evident than these others, but the mention of which may to some appear not quite disinterested in us, considering the special task which the Providence of God has lately imposed upon us. Still, as a matter of simple duty to the great cause of Christian unity, we will ignore this personal consideration, and state this point as frankly as the rest. If we are bound by the very nature of the Church's vocation to offer them all the truth they have and more, and all the moral virtue they have and more, we are also bound by the nature of the world and the age in which the Church has to live and work to offer them all the intellectual aids, all the educational advantages they have, and more besides. Thus far we must humbly acknowledge we have been, in English-speaking countries, unable to do this. We can offer them elementary schools and intermediate colleges that will compare with those they can find outside the Church; but we have had no university to offer them. We have nothing to compare with Oxford and Cambridge in England, with Harvard and Yale in America. It is a terrible disadvantage which we cannot deny or ignore. We can give very good explanations of the fact, and amply prove that what is the result of spoliation and penal laws is in no way to the Church's discredit. But the fact remains; and while it is no discredit, it is unquestionably a great disadvantage. Nay more, while it would be easy to show that it is no discredit that we should have been deprived of it in the past, it would be quite a different matter to attempt to prove that it would be no discredit to continue without it in the future. Thanks be to God, we are no longer under the yoke of coercion and penal laws, and we have in our country to a large extent shaken off their consequences. The responsibility for the fact becomes, therefore, henceforth our own. And it is one that we cannot afford to assume. The demand and the need for higher education are universal, are and always have been a concomitant of a developed civilization. The Church has always and everywhere met the need by establishing and fostering universities, in which the various sciences, like the orbs in the firmament, are held in their places by the central sun of Divine truth. She must, in order to meet the needs which pre-eminently exist in the age and the country we live in, do the same in America. The desire to supply the need is shown in the various Catholic institutions which already bear the name of university, but which are frank to acknowledge that they are far from the ideal which the name implies, that it is the expression of an aspiration and a wish rather than of a reality. Its full realization is now undertaken by the Hierarchy of the country, and the glorious Leo XIII. spurs them on to its accomplishment with all the earnestness of his soul. His great mind and heart have done much towards preparing for an epoch of universal reconciliation and harmony; and believing that our cosmopolitan country is to be its chief home, he longs to have before the eyes and in the very heart of our people an embodiment of Catholic truth in all its fulness, in all its beauty and power, in all its far-reaching relationship and adaptability to all humanity and to all knowledge. That is why he has so blessed and urged the establishment of the Catholic University of America, and so approved of its being situated at the very capital of our country. It will remove a serious disadvantage under which the Church here labors, in an age which measures things by the standard of intellectual preeminence. It will give to our Catholic people what they have a perfect right to demand, a system of Christian education fully equal to what those outside the Church possess. It will be for many turning towards the fold the removal of a difficulty and a stumbling-block. It will be to all an exemplification of the Catholicity and unity of truth, which must naturally give powerful aid to the yearning for unity and Catholicity. It is a work that calls for the active co-operation of every one in whose heart that yearning finds an echo.
May the mercy of God restore peace and unity among Christians. May it be our happiness to behold the realization of our Saviour's prayer, and our privilege to contribute in some degree to its fulfilment. May we, who possess the fulness of truth and grace as our birthright, prove ourselves worthy of the treasure, and be magnanimous in offering it to those who have been too long deprived of it. May it be our united endeavor to “make the crooked ways straight and the rough ways plain, that all flesh may see the salvation of God."
GOLD FIELDS AND OTHER UNWORKED TREAS
URES OF IRELAND.
HE superiority of an abstract sentiment over a material rea
son as a sustaining power for a long and arduous struggle, is apparent in the case of Ireland. “To be free " has ever been the dream and the national cry, not “ To be wealthy,” though the promise of native riches and prosperity which Ireland holds out might well have appealed to the cupidity of her people.
But the time has come when Ireland's material resources demand consideration. When they are fully known, the outer world, judging in its nineteenth century way, will cease to wonder why Irishmen have kept up a national fight, without compromise, for seven hundred and twenty years, when the whole new world, in both hemispheres, tempted them to fresh and teeming lands. The truth will be made clear that Ireland, so long the poorest and most unhappy country, can easily become the richest nation of its size on the earth.
Ireland's geographical position is in itself an assurance of prosperity. She is set down in the high stream of the world's commerce. Her westernmost position in Europe will make her the place of entrance and departure for even English ships passing to and from the Atlantic. Sailing vessels leaving the western ports of Ireland (that are numerous, extensive and safe) often reach America before ships sailing from English ports on the same day