« PreviousContinue »
it is precisely this piety which constrains us to oppose, frankly and decisively, every disfigurement or disturbance either of the one or the other. And we hold it the more imperative on us to come forward, when not only hereditary evils are not to be got rid of, but are actually to be increased by new abuses, and that too at a time when the falling away from Christianity has become so general and cuts so deep—partly for this very reason, that, under the mass of rubbish it is overlaid with, its eternal, divine, and saving germ is hidden from the short-sighted gaze of the present generation. In proof that herein we are but acting in the spirit of the Church, we can appeal to sayings, the one of a Pope, the other of a highly-venerated saint. Innocent III. said, “Falsitas sub velamine sanctitatis tolerari non debet," and St. Bernard declares, “ Melius est ut scandalum oriatur quam veritas relinquatur.”
Every faithful Catholic is convinced—and to that conviction the authors of this book profess their adherence —that the primacy rests on Divine appointment. The Church from the first was founded upon it, and the Lord of the Church ordained its type in the person of Peter. It has therefore, from the necessity of the case, developed itself up to a certain point, but on this has followed, since
the ninth century, a further development-artificial and sickly rather than sound and natural—of the Primacy into the Papacy, a transformation more than a development, the consequences of which have been the splitting up of the previously united Church into three great ecclesiastical bodies, divided and at enmity with each other. The ancient Church found the need of a centre of unity, of a bishop possessed of primatial authority, to whom the oppressed might turn, and by whose powerful intercession they might obtain justice. But when the presidency in the Church became an empire, when in place of the first bishop deliberating and deciding in union with his “brethren” on the affairs of the Churchi, and setting them the example of submission to her laws, was substituted the despotic rule of an absolute monarch, then the unity of the Church, so firmly secured before, was broken up. When we inquire for definite, fixed, and universally acknowledged rights, exercised equally throughout the whole Church during the first Christian centuries by the bishop of Rome, as holding the primacy, we seem to lose sight of him again, for of the privileges afterwards obtained or laid claim to by the Popes not one can be traced up to the earliest times, and pointed to as a right uninterruptedly and everywhere exercised. But we meet with abundant facts which prove unmistakeably that the Roman bishops not only believed themselves to be in possession of a Divine right, and acted accordingly, but that this right was actually recognised by others. And if it was often affirmed, as by the Council of Chalcedon, that the Roman Church had received its privileges from the Fathers, we shall have to consider that the Primacy itself, the first rank among Churches, was not given to it by any Synod at any fixed time, but had always existed since the time of the Apostles, and that to any heathen who asked which among their Churches was the first and principal one, whose voice and testimony had the greatest weight and influence, every Christian would have answered at once that it was the Roman Church, where the two chief Apostles, Peter and Paul, sealed their testimony with their blood, just as Irenæus has expressed it.
But we shall be obliged to allow that the form which this Primacy took depended on the concessions of the particular local Churches, and was never therefore the same everywhere, acting within certain fixed limits prescribed by law. No one acquainted with Church history will choose to affirm that the Popes ever exercised a fixed primatial right, in the same way in Africa as in Egypt, in Gaul as in Mesopotamia; and the well-known fact speaks clearly enough for itself, that throughout the whole ancient canon law, whether in the collections preserved in the Eastern or the Western Church, there is no mention of Papal rights, or any reference to a legally defined action of the bishop of Rome in other Churches, with the single exception of the canon of Sardica, which never obtained universally even in the West.
A good illustration of this relation of the Primacy to the Church is afforded by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The position of Pope Leo, though he was not present, is evidently a very high and influential one; more honour was shown to him and his Church than had been ever shown at any Synod to any other bishop, and his legates presided with great authority at this most numerous of the ancient assemblies of the Church. Meanwhile matters came at last to a point, where the Council maintained, and eventually, after long opposition on the side of Rome, carried out its own will against the legates, and the instructions they had received from Leo.1
1 In the account of patristic teaching on the Roman primacy given below (pp. 87 sqq.), there is no mention made of one important name, St.
In this book the first attempt has been made to give a history of the hypothesis of Papal Infallibility from its first beginnings to the end of the sixteenth century, when it appears in its complete form. That hypothesis, late as was the date of its invention, and though for a long time it met with strenuous opposition, will yet always have numerous adherents, if it is to remain for the future in its former condition of a mere theological opinion, for it is recommended by its convenience and facility of application. It seems to attain, by the shortest road, in the simplest way, and with least waste of time, what the ancient Church expended so much trouble upon, with so many appliances, and for so long a time. But, if once generally Jerome's. As the omission might be considered intentional, we take this opportunity of making some remarks on him. His letters to Pope Damasus of 375 (Opp. ed. Vallarsi, i. 39), were written under the pressure of his distress in Syria from the charge of heresy; he was unwilling to use the received expression, “three hypostases,” instead of “three persons," and was therefore accused of Sabellianism. He then urged the Pope, with courtly and high-sounding professions of unconditional submission to his authority, but, at the same time, in a strictly menacing tone, to pronounce upon this term in the sense needed for justifying him. In fact, he gave St. Cyril of Jerusalem, to whom he sent his profession of faith, as high a place as the Pope. But Cyril, with good ground, thought the case a suspicious one, and gave him no answer. St. Jerome's well-known saying, “Inter duodecim unus eligitur, ut capite constituto schismatis tolleretur occasio,” gives the most pointed expression to the view then entertained by the faithful of the nature of the Primacy, only the notions current in our day of the privileges involved in this description of it are more extensive than was then the case.