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accepted as a rule of faith, it becomes not only a soft cushion on which the wearied or perplexed mind, as well of the layman as of the theologian, may repose softly, and abandon itself to undisturbed slumber, but it also supplies to the intellectual world in religious matters what our steam conveyances and electrical wires supply to the material world in the saving of time and labour. Nothing could be more economical or better adapted to save study and intellectual toil even for Rome herself; for the inevitable result of the principle would speedily bring us to this point, that the essence of Infallibility consists in the Pope's signature to a decree hastily drawn up by a congregation or a single theologian. The remark has frequently been made that it is chiefly converts, with little theological cultivation, but plenty of youthful zeal, who surrender themselves in willing and joyful mental slavery to the infallible ruler of souls; rejoicing and deeming themselves fortunate to have a master, visible, palpable, and easily inquired of. Christ seems to them so exalted and so distant, the Church so large and wide, so many-sided in its opinions, and so silent on many points people would like to know about. How much easier to get a dogmatic decision from a Pope by the proper amount of pressure ! We may call to mind, in this connexion, the decisions of Alexander VII. in favour of the newly discovered doctrine of attrition, the decrees of Clement XI. and Benedict XIII., and the powers which have thereby been called into operation.
But if raising the doctrine of Infallibility into an article of faith must, on the one hand, cripple all intellectual movement and scientific activity in the Catholic Church, it would, on the other hand, build up a new wall of partition, and that the strongest and most impenetrable of all, between that Church and the religious communities separated from her. We must renounce that dearest hope which no Christian can banish from his breast, the hope of a future reunion of the divided Churches both of the East and the West. For no one who is moderately acquainted with the history of the Eastern Church and of the Protestant bodies, will seriously hold it to be conceivable that a time can ever come in which even any considerable portion of these Churches will subject itself, of its own free-will, to the arbitrary power of a single man, stretched, as it would be, through the doctrine of Infallibility, even beyond its present proportions. Only when a universal conflagration of libraries had destroyed all historical documents, when Easterns and Westerns knew no more of their own early
in ti nity
history than the Maories in New Zealand know of theirs now, and when, by a miracle, great nations had abjured their whole intellectual character and habits of thought, —then, and not till then, would such a submission be possible.
What was it that gave the Councils of Constance and Basle, in the fifteenth century, so constraining an authority and such a lasting influence on the condition of the Church? It was the power of public opinion which backed them up.
And if at this day a strong and unanimous public opinion, at once positive in its faith and firm in its resistance to the realization of the Ultramontane scheme, were awakened and openly proclaimed in Europe, or even in Germany only, then, in spite of the utterances, so suggestive of gloomy forebodings, of the Bishops of Mayence, St. Pölten, and Mechlin, the present danger would happily pass away. We have attempted in this work to contribute to the awakening and direction of such a public opinion. It may, perchance, produce no more permanent effect than a stone thrown into the water, which makes a momentary ripple on the surface, and then leaves all as it was before ; but yet it may act like a net cast into the sea, which brings in a rich draught of fishes.
For many reasons no names of authors are placed on our title-page. We consider that a work so entirely made up of facts, and supporting all its statements by reference to the original authorities, must and can speak for itself, without needing any names attached to it. We are anxious that the reader's attention should be exclusively concentrated on the matter itself, and that, in the event of its evoking controversy, no opportunity should be given for transferring the dispute from the sphere of objective and scientific investigation of the weighty questions under review, conducted with dignity and calmness, into the alien region of venomous personal defamation and invective.
July 31, 1869.