"In America as in England, the gravest of non-Catholics have expressed their ardent desire for conciliation. Schemes have been proposed; congresses have been assembled; bishops and clergy have drawn up “Certain Points of Agreement;” and though such experiments have come to naught, still every earnest-minded man says, “If it be possible, let us strive after reunion." The sole mistake of such admirable wishes or aspirations is in not recognizing that there must be submission. Why wish for so-called reunion, save because truth cannot be divided; and since there can only be one true Church why not submit to it, instead of wasting years in futile talk while millions of Protestants live and die outside the Visible Church, deprived of all the marvelous riches of her spiritual life, as well as of the exquisite enjoyments of her serenity, because they will not submit instead of speculating ; will not obey, instead of inventing a thousand excuses."
Why Not Submit to Catholic Authority?
Submission may well be distasteful to the Protestant. But how many real Protestants are there at this day? Fifty years ago it was possible to be a real Protestant, because the Catholic religion was not in the least understood by even the educated clergy of the Anglican Church. In these days, when the Catholic Church is in the midst of us, it would be impossible that any fairly educated Protestant should not at the least understand its main principles. Those main principles are authority and obedience. The High Church party confesses to the principles, but they will not hear of their being logically carried out.
“Authority I admit," says the Ritualist, “but this authority belongs to each National Church, which may approve a national creed, and may enforce it." So that Christianity is a geographical accident. If you happen to be born in London, you must believe in the Thirty-Nine Articles; if Paris should, by a natural accident, be your birthplace, you may call the Thirty-Nine Articles ludicrous heresy; but if Moscow should have the honor of introducing you to Christianity, then you must believe in "The Holy Synod," in the divine authority of Photius, and in the supreme pontiﬁcate of the Czar of all the Russias. So that the map of Europe, not the teaching of the Holy Spirit, is the infallible arbiter of both authority and doctrine. But if it be answered, “No, Anglicanism is the truth everywhere," then we have to deplore the inconvenience of the consequence that the Roman Catholic Church is true nowhere; so that the huge majority of all Christians, living and dead are and have been the dupes of the devil instead of being the One Family of God. Either way the theories are absurd. Whether we accept the geographical theory of authority, which changes truth with the climate or with conquests, or accept the theory of the alone Anglican verity, which makes nineteen-twentieths of all Christians to have been heretics—-and these heretics the only Christians who have been united-we have to accept an absurdity which, if men's minds were not accustomed to it, would make every Christian child to shout, "Folly !’" And the Christian child, if he heard mention of “ Reunion" between the one Divine authority and the human religions, would say, " No, not reunion, but submission; not compromise, but obedience to authority."
It is talking platitudes to afﬁrm that divine truths can be de ﬁned only by an authority which itself is supernatural; and that obedience of mind and heart, in matters of divine faith can be rendered only to the Representative of God. And it is talking wildly to affirm that two or more divine authorities can be commissioned by the same Almighty God to teach “truths” which contradict one another, or to divinely rebuke each other’s heresies. Why reason upon what has no reason in it ? The “ escape ” which some Protestants think they find from a dilemma which both rationally and spiritually is unbearable is in the assertion that “it is not upon essentials that the churches or the sects are divided." They forget that it is upon the very question “What is essential, what is not essential“ ; that the innumerable churches, the innumerable sects are divided. If the divisions are not upon “ essentials," there can be no apology, no excuse, for the myriad schisms; and if the divisions are upon essentials, the position is conceded for which we are now contending, that divine authority can alone determine the question. Since then, without a divine authority, we cannot know “ what is essential, what is not essential," it follows that such divine authority must exist, or there can be no difference between the essential and the non-essential. Yet no Protestant would affirm this last postulate. It follows therefore that there is a divine authority. And since it has been proved that no Protestant " Church” possesses it, it follows that the Catholic Church is the sole divine authority upon this earth for the deter mining the essential and the non-essential.
“Christianity,” it has often been urged, “cannot be reduced to a syllogism." No, that is true ; but Catholicity can be vindicated by common sense. Suppose that you were to put the question to an intelligent pagan who had never heard of the existence of Christianity: "If God should send His Son to this world, to live and die to teach us divine truths, would he be likely to ordain that there should be 110 living authorities who should interpret His revealed Truths through the ages?" The intelligent pagan would reply, “ What then would be the use of the Revelation; since it is certain that the human intellect by itself could not deﬁne a large number of divine truths, whether that human intellect were colossal and highly cultured, or the mere average intelligence of the vast multitude." And the intelligent pagan might continue, “The very fact of a Revelation of a number of divine truths prove that all those truths were superhuman and since the acceptance of all those truths——not of one truth, but of all truths through all ages, by all men, women, and children, would become intellectually and morally obligatory, common sense tells me that there would be a living divine authority to command obedience through twenty centuries of human resistance; and not only to command obedience but to punish by excommunication all who dared to oppose their judgment to one single truth." And then if you should proceed to put before the intelligent pagan the whole picture of the battling Protestant schisms, and should ask him his opinion about reunion, he would probably reply that he did not understand the question, for to his mind the submission of the disobedient must precede the request to be united. His common sense, unperverted by heresies, would grasp the case intuitively and as a matter of course; for he would apprehend that the divine mind, having established a divine authority would not admit of any compromises or discussions.
Yet we cannot wonder that non-Catholics, who have been brought up to obey themselves—to take themselves for their ﬁnal arbiter in matters of faith-should ﬁnd it difﬁcult to realize the attitude of the Catholic mind, which insists upon a divine authority in divine matters. Let us consider for a moment the Protestant attitude, so that we may realize its difﬁculty, its great effort. The Protestant has always regarded private judgment as not only his privilege but his duty; so that his idea of "religious liberty" has been the liberty of choosing a credo out of the whole scope of religious opinionism. He has always regarded dogma as of human creation; not as the infallible ruling of divine authority, but as a sort of authoritative consensus of a few clergy. Indeed dogma is very like an Act of Parliament, in the sense in which Protestants understand it; it is a human decree, not regarded as immutable, but as a convenient and useful formula for order's sake; so that to exalt dogma into the dignity of a divine certainty would be like exalting an act of Parliament into a divine law. This low estimate of the whole domain of Christian dogma has generated a low estimate of obedience; for why should a man obey a human dogma, save as he obeys an admittedly fallible act of Parliament, which may be altered next year, perhaps repealed? And as in the case of obedience to dogmatic verities, so in the case of submission to Catholic Authority. If the dogma be uncertain it must be because the authority is uncertain, and submission to an authority which is uncertain can only be rendered with uncertainty. Such a submission would be submission to a temporary law, not to the eternal divine wisdom ; the authority being fallible because it is human— not infallible because guided by God. Hence submission in the Protestant mind, to Catholic authority seems like a sort of idolatry rendered to men; the idea being that Catholic authority is a usurpation of Divine authority, not an authority which was established by the Most High. And if the Protestant theory were true that the authority of the Catholic Church were the authority of human beings-bishops or priests-——or were the authority of this or that human pontiff, Protestants would be quite right in regarding obedience and submission as conditional on their own estimate of human teachers. Since, however, the Catholic principle is that, in regard to faith and morals, God Himself teaches the Church through His rulers, it necessarily follows that Catholic obedience, Catholic submission, are not made to men but to God. Faith and morals belong to God, not to man; nor could any man who ever lived decree a dogma, if the decree issued from human penetration, it is the Holy Spirit guiding His Church into all truths, who alone decrees dogmas of faith and morals; and there fore, obedience to them, submission to them, are not humiliating, but are the most sweet and dignifying exercise of human intellect.
Why, then, not submit to Catholic authority? All Protestants whether they be Churchmen or Dissenters, are bewailing their ceaseless strifes and variations. In America as in England, the gravest of non-Catholics have expressed their ardent desire for conciliation. Schemes have been proposed; congresses have been assembled; bishops and clergy have drawn up “Certain Points of Agreement;” and though such experiments have come to naught, still every earnest-minded man says, “If it be possible, let us strive after reunion." The sole mistake of such admirable wishes or aspirations is in not recognizing that there must be submission. Why wish for so-called reunion, save because truth cannot be divided; and since there can only be one true Church why not submit to it, instead of wasting years in futile talk while millions of Protestants live and die outside the Visible Church, deprived of all the marvelous riches of her spiritual life, as well as of the exquisite enjoyments of her serenity, because they will not submit instead of speculating ; will not obey, instead of inventing a thousand excuses. And so death comes, with no Last Sacraments, no Last Blessing, no Requiem, no Invocation, no Indulgences, the naked soul being sent forth alone on its Protestant journey, without one supernatural aid or consolation. Yet one moment's submission would do it all! "I submit," even said interiorly, and with full intention, would unite the soul with the one Catholic Church. And then would follow conditional baptism; the ﬁrst enjoyment of a true confession ; the ﬁrst true communion; the ﬁrst true conﬁrmation; the admission into the Communion of Saints; the absolute certainty of a perfect faith and perfect worship; with an end forever of all Protestant doubt and human opinion, with all their necessarily accompanying heartaches and humiliations. “ I submit" is the grandest exercise of the human will; for it lifts up the intellect to union with God-to the most sublime realization of the eternal wisdom.