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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Ecumenism Is Solemn Nonsense: Part IV

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This continues our reprint of the article, "Reunion or Submission" penned by Arthur Featherstone Marshall in The American Catholic Quarterly Review of 1893.

(Click Here for Part I , here for Part II, here for Part III)

Which is the Divine Authority?


Such reflections lead us easily to the conclusion that a reunion can mean only a submission; for, not to submit to divine authority would be insane; it would be not only wicked, it would be mad. The one question which every Christian has to ask himself, in searching for the answer to '' What is truth?" is, ''which is the divine authority among many authorities?" If there be no divine authority, there is no duty in believing; for no man can invent the Catholic faith for himself, any more than he can obey his own mind.   On the other hand, if there be a divine authority, all that we have to do is submit to it.   We must not talk about reunion, but about submission. God has not placed a divine authority in this world to make compromises with the" views'' of various sects, but to teach all men the whole truth unto salvation, and to be obeyed with the whole will, the whole heart.

Doubtless, one reason why so many Protestants mistake the question is, that they mistake the simple scope of Catholic authority. They confuse the purely natural side of the Catholic Church with the supernatural powers of the Divine Teacher-the mere accidents with the essentials of Catholic life.   Infallibility refers only to faith and morals-to the two provinces where the human reason by itself must be incompetent to define the divine truths. Catholic authority is infallible as to the truths of God, in so far only as they concern human salvation; beyond that, the supreme Pontiff, or all the bishops assembled in Council, can speak only with the wise discretion of saintly men.   A few weeks ago, a leading High Church newspaper affirmed that the Pope could not be infallible because he had found it prudent to modify his Irish policy in regard to Anglo-Irish complications. If highly­ educated Protestants can publish such nonsense, how can we wonder that the '' common people'' get confused? Yet it would be impossible for any truism to be more simple than that a teaching authority can teach only within its own limits; faith and morals-not politics, nor astronomy, any more than chemistry or botany-being the sole provinces of the teaching Church's infallibility.

To submit, then, to Catholic authority is to submit only upon such subjects as are confessedly beyond the reach of natural knowledge.   And surely, this is a perfectly reasonable submission.   If we may employ a weak analogy, a man does not go to a physician to learn arithmetic, nor to a chemist to learn music, nor to an opera singer to learn quadratic equation. And it is the most astounding thing in the world, that every Protestant, of every trade, imagines that he was necessarily born a pontiff, competent to decide at any moment on every mystery of faith, and to teach the Church and all the Saints what is truth. Even naturally, such an assumption would be fantastic. But, since the truths of which we are speaking are not natural-or, at the least, are equally supernatural and natural-the claim of every Protestant to be a born pontiff (so infallible as to be able to teach every pontiff) must be dismissed as the wildest folly and self·delusion.

May we not, then, affirm, with perfect confidence, that submission is the only rational attitude for all believers in the divine authority of Christ's Church?   We grant at once that if that authority be not divine, then reunion is as good a word a> submission, yet perhaps enough has been said to show that a Teaching Church must be either divine or it cannot teach. The Protestant theory is: God founded a Christian Church, within whose communion divine truths should be known, yet He purposely withheld from that Church the possibility of being assured as to which were the truths necessary to salvation.   He gave authority to a Teaching Church to define dogma, but only on the condition that she should not define it.   He ordained sacraments, He ordained priesthood, He ordained powers; yet only on the condition that no Christian should know for certain what was the true or false doctrine as to the sacraments, what was the true method of assuring a true priesthood, what were the powers which should govern the whole Church. He therefore created a divine authority which was not divine; He specified means of salvation which were to be submitted to private judgment; He created a priesthood which was to be judged and ruled by every layman, and He authorized powers of which every man, woman and child was to be justified in fixing the limits or the impotency. We do not see what use there was in founding an institution of which every affirmative might be negatived by every member. If this prominent theory were the right one, and if the Church in the very beginning had been the miserably human failure which Protestantism has warmly approved for three centuries, it is certain that there would never have been any creeds; there would never have been the anathema of any heresy; there would never have been even the possibility of unity; there would only have been free thinking plus the historic fact of the life of Christ, and there would have been no Pro­testantism! because there would have been no Church. The very existence of Protestantism proves the divinity of the Catholic Church ; for there must have been dogmatic truth before it could be denied, and there could not have been dogmatic truth without authority. To protest against authority is to admit authority ; for the act of protest is the personal assertion of authority, the only difference between the Catholic and the Protestant (in regard to this one question of authority) being that the Catholic says it resides in the teaching Church, whereas the Protestant says it resides in his own person. One Pontiff'' is the theory of every Catholic; ''one Pontiff as the Head of the teaching Church." "Every man is his own Pontiff'' is the theory of every Protestant; Divine authority to judge of everything and of everybody being lodged in each individual human soul.''

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