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§ 23. Standard Expositions of the Roman Catholic System.

Italy, France, and Germany have successively furnished the ablest champions of the doctrinal system of Romanism in opposition to Protestantism. Their authority is, of course, subordinate to that of the official standards. But as faithful expounders of these standards they have great weight. In Romanism, learning is concentrated in a few towering individuals; while in Protestantism it is more widely diffused, and presents greater freedom and variety of opinion.

1. The first commanding work in defense of Romanism, after many weak attempts of a purely ephemeral character, was written towards the close of the sixteenth century, more than fifty years after the beginning of the Protestant controversy, and about thirty years after the Council of Trent, by Robert Bellarmin (Roberto Bellarmino). He was born 1542, in Tuscany, entered the order of the Jesuits in 1560, became Professor of Theology at Louvain in 1570, and afterwards at Rome, was made a Cardinal in 1599, Archbishop of Capua in 1602, Librarian of the Vatican in 1605, and died at Rome Sept. 17, 1621, nearly eighty years old. Although the greatest controversialist of his age, he had a mild disposition, and was accustomed to say that 'an ounce of peace was worth more than a pound of victory.' His 'Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith' are the most elaborate polemic theology of the Roman Church against the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation.163163   The Disputationes de controversiis Christianæ fidei adversus hujus temporis hereticos were first published at Ingolstadt, 1587–90, 3 vols. folio; then at Venice (but with many errors); at Cologne, 1620; at Paris, 1688; at Prague, 1721; again at Venice, 1721–27; at Mayence, 1842, and at Rome, 1832–40, in 4 vols. 4to. They are usually quoted by the titles of the different sections, De Verbo Dei, De Christo, De Romano Pontifice, De Conciliis et Ecclesia, Die Clericis, De Monachis, De Purgatorio, etc. The contemporary Annals of Baronius (d. 1607) are the most learned historical vindication of Romanism in opposition to Protestantism and the 'Magdeburg Centuries.' They abound in patristic and scholastic learning, 86logical acumen and dialectical ability. The differences between Romanism and Protestantism are clearly and accurately stated without any attempt to weaken them. And yet the book was placed on the Index Expurgatorius by Sixtus V. for two reasons; first, because Bellarmin introduces the doctrines of the Reformers in their own words, which it was feared might infect Romish readers with dangerous heresies; and, secondly, because he taught merely an indirect, not a direct, authority of the Pope in temporal matters. In France and Venice, on the contrary, even this doctrine of the indirect temporal supremacy was considered too ultramontane, and hence Bellarmin was never a favorite among the Gallicans. After the death of Sixtus V., the inhibition was removed. The work has ever since remained the richest storehouse of Roman controversialists, and can not be ignored by Protestants, although many arguments are now antiquated, and many documents used as genuine are rejected even by Catholics.

2. Nearly a century elapsed before another champion of Romanism appeared, less learned, but more eloquent and popular, Jacques Bénigne Bossuet. He was born at Dijon, 1627, was educated by the Jesuits, tutor of the Dauphin 1670–81, Bishop of Meaux since 1681, Counselor of State 1697, and died at Paris 1704. The 'Eagle of Meaux' was the greatest theological genius of France, and the oracle of his age, a man of brilliant intellect, untiring industry, magnificent eloquence, and equally distinguished as controversialist, historian, and pulpit orator. He is called 'the last of the fathers of the Church.' While the hypocritical and licentious Louis XIV. tried to suppress Protestantism in his kingdom by cruel persecution, Bossuet betook himself to the nobler and more successful task of convincing the opponents by argument.

This he did in two works, the first apologetic, the second polemical.

(a) Exposition de la doctrine de l’église catholique sur les matières de controverse.164164   First published in Paris 1671, sixth ed. 1686, and often since in French, German, English, and other languages. It was approved and commended by the French clergy, even by Pope and Cardinals at that time, and attained almost the authority of a symbolical book. But the Jesuit father Maimbourg disapproved it. This book is a luminous, eloquent, idealizing, and 87plausible defense of the characteristic doctrines of Romanism. It distinguishes between dogmas and theological opinions; presenting the former in a light that is least objectionable to reason, and disowning the latter when especially objectionable to Protestants. 'Bossuet assumes,' says Gibbon, 'with consummate art, the tone of candor and simplicity, and the ten-horned monster is transformed, by his magic touch, into a milk-white hind, who must be loved as soon as seen.'

(b) Histoire des variations des églises protestantes.165165   Paris, 1688, and often since in several languages. Compare also his Défense de l’histoire des variations contre M. Basnage. Sir James Stephen says of the Variations, that they bring to the religious controversy 'every quality which can render it either formidable or attractive.' The famous historian of the Decline and Fall of Rome was converted by this work to Romanism, but ended afterwards in infidelity. 'Bossuet shows,' says Gibbon in his Memoirs, 'by a happy mixture of reasoning and narration, the errors, mistakes, uncertainties, and contradictions of our first Reformers, whose variations, as he learnedly maintains, bear the marks of error, while the uninterrupted unity of the Catholic Church is a sign and testimony of infallible truth. I read, approved, and believed.' This is an attempt to refute Protestantism, by presenting its history as a constant variation and change; while the Roman Catholic system remained the same, and thus proves itself to be the truth. The argument is plausible, but not conclusive. It would prove more for the Greek Church than for the Latin, which has certainly itself developed from patristic to mediæval, from mediæval to Tridentine, and from Tridentine to Vatican Romanism. Truth in God, or objectively considered, is unchangeable; but truth in man, or the apprehension of it, grows and develops with man and with history. Change, if it be consistent, is not necessarily a mark of heresy, but may be a sign of life and growth, as the want of change, on the other hand, is by no means always an indication of orthodoxy, but still more frequently of stagnation.

Bossuet, with all his strong Roman Catholic convictions, was no infallibilist and no ultramontanist, but a champion of the Gallican liberties. He was the presiding genius of the clerical assembly of 1682, which framed the famous four Gallican propositions; and he wrote a book in their defense, which was, however, not published till some time after his death.166166    Defensio declarationis celeberrimæ, quam de potestate ecclesiaslica sanxit clerus Gallicanus 1682, ex speciali jussu Ludovici M. scripta, Luxemb. 1730, 2 vols.; in French, Paris, 1735, 2 vols. He carried on a useless correspondence with the great Leibnitz for a reunion of the Catholic and Protestant churches, and proposed to this end a suspension of the anathemas of Trent and a general 88council in which Protestants should have a deliberative vote. Altogether, although he sanctioned the infamous revocation of the edict of Nantes (as 'le plus bel usage de l’autorité royale'), and secured the papal condemnation of the noble Fénelon (a man more humble and saint-like than himself), Bossuet can no longer be regarded as sound and orthodox, if judged by the standard of the Vatican Council.167167   Döllinger (Lectures on the Reunion of Churches, 1872, Engl. translation, p. 90) says: 'Bossuet puts aside the question of infallibility, as a mere scholastic controversy, having no relation to faith; and this was approved at Rome at the time. Now, of course, he is no longer regarded in his own country as the classical theologian and most eminent doctor of modern times; but as a man who devoted his most learned and comprehensive work, the labor of many years, to the establishment and defense of a fundamental error, and spent many years of his life in the perversion of facts and distortion of authorities. For that must be the present verdict of every infallibilist on Bossuet.'

3. The same may be said of John Adam Möhler, the greatest German divine of the Roman Church, a man of genius, learning, and earnest piety. He was born 1796, at Igersheim, in the Kingdom of Würtemberg; was Professor of Theology in the University of Tübingen since 1822, at Munich since 1835, where he died in 1838. The great work of his life is his Symbolics.168168    'Symbolik, oder Darstellung der dogmatischen Gegensätze der Katholiken und Protestanten nach ihren öffentlichen Bekenntniss-Schriften.' It appeared first in 1832, at Mayence; the sixth edition in 1843, and was translated into French, English, and Italian. The English translation is by James Burton Robertson, and bears the title, Symbolism; or, Exposition of the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants, as evidenced in their symbolical writings (Lond. 1843, in 2 vols.; republished in 1 vol., New York, 1844). It is preceded by a memoir of Möhler, and a superficial historical sketch of recent German Church history. It is at once defensive and offensive, a vindication of Romanism and an attack upon Protestantism, and written with much freshness and vigor. It made a profound impression in Germany at a time when Romanism was believed to be intellectually dead or unable to resist the current of Protestant culture. Möhler was well acquainted with Protestant theology, and was influenced by the lectures and writings of Schleiermacher and Neander.169169   Neander told me that Möhler, when a student at Berlin, occasionally called on him, and seemed to him very modest, earnest, and inquiring after the truth. Hase calls him a 'delicate and noble mind,' and relates that when he began his academic career in Tübingen with him, Möhler was filled with youthful ideals, and regarded by Catholics as heterodox. (Handbuch der Prot. Polemik, Pref. p. ix.) He divests Romanism of its gross superstitions, and gives it an ideal and spiritual character. He deals, upon the whole, fairly and respectfully with his opponents, but makes too much argumentative use of the private writings and unguarded utterances of Luther. He ignores the post-Tridentine 89deliverances of Rome, says not a word about papal infallibility, and, although not a Gallican, he represents the antagonism of the episcopal and papal systems as a wholesome check upon extremes. He recognizes the deep moral earnestness from which the Reformation proceeded, deplores the corruptions in the Church, sends many ungodly popes and priests to hell, and talks of a feast of reconciliation, preceded by a common humiliation and confession that all have sinned and gone astray, the Church alone [meaning the institution] is without spot or wrinkle.170170   Symbolik (6th edition, p. 353): 'Unstreitig liessen es auch oft genug Priester, Bischöfe und Päpste, gewissenlos und unverantwortlich, selbst dort fehlen, wo es nur von ihnen abhing, ein schöneres Leben zu begründen; oder sie löschten gar noch durch ärgerliches Leben und Streben den glimmenden Docht aus, welchen sie anfachen sollten: die Hölle hat sie verschlungen. . . . Beide [Katholiken und Protestanten] müssen schuldbewusst ausrufen: Wir Alle haben gefehlt, nur die Kirche ist's, die nicht fehlen kann; wir Alle haben gesündigt, nur sie ist unbefleckt auf Erden.' Incidentally Möhler denies the papal infallibility, when he says (p. 336): 'Keinem einzelnen als solchen kommt diese Unverirrlichkeit zu.' His work called forth some very able Protestant replies, especially from Baur and Nitzsch.171171   Baur's Gegensatz des Katholicismus and Protestantismus (Tübingen, 1833, 2d ed. 1836), in learning, grasp, and polemical dexterity, is fully equal or superior to Möhler's Symbolik, but not orthodox, and elicited a lengthy and rather passionate defense from his Catholic colleague (Neue Untersuchungen, Mainz, 1834). Nitzsch's Protestantische Beantwortung der Möhlerschen Symbolik (Hamb. 1835) is sound, evangelical, calm, and dignified. It is respectfully mentioned, but not answered, by Möhler. Marheineke and Sartorius wrote, likewise, able replies. A counterpart of Möhler's Symbolik is Hase's Handbuch der Protestantischen Polemik gegen die Römisch-Katholische Kirche, Leipz. 1862; 3d ed. 1871. Against this work Dr. F. Speil wrote Die Lehren der Katholischen Kirche, gegenüber der Protestantischen Polemik, Freiburg, 1865, which, compared with Möhler's book, is a feeble defense.

4. Giovanni Perrone, born in Piedmont, 1794, Professor of Theology in the Jesuit College at Rome, wrote a system of dogmatics which is now most widely used in the Roman Church, and which most fully comes up to its present standard of orthodoxy.172172   Prælectiones theologicæ quas in Collegio Romano Societatis Jesu habebat J. P. They appeared first at Rome, 1835 sqq., in 9 vols. 8vo; also at Turin (31st ed. 1865 sqq. in 9 vols.); at Paris (1870, in 4 vols.); at Brussels, and Ratisbon. His compend, Prælectiones theologicæ in Compendium redactæ, has been translated into several languages. Perrone wrote also separate works, De Jesu Christi Divinitate (Turin, 1870, 3 vols.); De virtutibus fidei, spei et caritatis (Tur. 1867, 2 vols.); De Matrimonio Christiano (Lond. 1861), and on the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Perrone defends the immaculate conception of Mary, and the infallibility of the Pope, and helped to mould the decrees of the Vatican Council. His method is scholastic and traditional, but divested of the wearisome and repulsive features of old scholasticism, and adapted to the modern state of controversy.


Note.—English Works on Romanism.—England and the United States have not produced a classical theological work on Romanism, such as those above mentioned, but a number of compilations and popular defenses. We mention the following: The Faith of Catholics on certain points of Controversy, confirmed by Scripture and attested by the Fathers of the Church during the five first centuries of the Church, compiled by Rev. Jos. Berington and Rev. John Kirk, Lond. 1812, 1 vol.; 2d ed. 1830; 3d ed., revised and greatly enlarged, by Rev. James Waterworth, 1846, in 3 vols. The End of Religious Controversy (Lond. 1818, and often since), a series of letters by the Rt. Rev. John Milner (born in London, 1752, d. 1826). Lectures on the Principal Doctrines and Practices of the Catholic Church, delivered in London, 1836, by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman (born in Spain, 1802, died in London, 1865).

At present the ablest champions of Romanism in England are ex-Anglicans, especially Dr. John H. Newman (born in London, 1801) and Archbishop Henry Edward Manning (born in London, 1809, Wiseman's successor), who use the weapons of Protestant culture against the Church of their fathers and the faith of their early manhood. Manning is an enthusiastic infallibilist, but Newman acquiesced only reluctantly in the latest dogmatic development.173173   The views of the older English Romanists are compiled and classified by Samuel Capper (a Quaker), in the work, The Acknowledged Doctrines of the Church of Rome . . . as set forth by esteemed doctors of the said Church, Lond. 1850 (pp. 608). It consists mostly of extracts from the comments in the Douay version of the Scriptures. Comp. an article in the (N.Y.) Catholic World for Dec. 1873, on 'Catholic Literature in England since the Reformation.'

The principal apologists of the Romish Church in America are Archbishops Kenrick and Spaulding, Bishop England, Dr. Orestes Brownson (in his Review), and more recently the editors, chiefly ex-Protestants, of the monthly 'Catholic World.' We mention Francis Patrick Kenrick (Archbishop of Baltimore, born in Dublin 1797, died 1863): The Primacy of the Apostolic See Vindicated, 4th ed. Balt. 1855, and A Vindication of The Catholic Church, in a Series of Letters to the Rt. Rev. J. H. Hopkins, Balt. 1855. His brother, Peter Richard Kenrick, Archbishop of St. Louis, was an opponent of the infallibility dogma in the Vatican Council, but has since submitted, like the rest of the bishops. In a lengthy and remarkable speech, which he had prepared for the Vatican Council, but was prevented from delivering by the sudden close of the discussion, June 3, 1870, he shows that the doctrine of papal infallibility was not believed either in Ireland, his former home, or in America; on the contrary, that it was formally and solemnly disowned by British bishops prior to the Catholic Emancipation bill.174174   See Kenrick's Concio habenda, at non habita in Friedrich's Documenta, I. 189–226.

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