There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.
Thos. Macaulay, essay on Ranke’s History of the Popes of Rome, Edinburgh Review, October, 1840.
[E]t dabo vos in opprobrium sempiternum, et in ignominiam æternam, quæ numquam oblivione delebitur.
[You shall be a laughing-stock for ever, a by-word eternally; time shall never efface the memory of your shame.]
Jeremias xxiii. 40.
By the KING.
RIGHT trusty and welbiloued cousin we grete you well. And wher it is commen to our knowlaige that sundrie persons, aswell religious as seculer priests and curats in their peroches and diverse places within this our realme, do dailly asmoche as in them is, set forthe and extolle the iurisdiction and auctoritie of the bishop of Rome, otherwyse called pope, sowing their sediciouse, pestylent, and false doctryne, praying for him in the pulpit, and makyng hym a God, to the greate decyte, illuding and seducyng of our subgietts, bryngyng them into errors, sedicyon, and euyll opynyons, more preferryng the power, lawes, and iurisdictyon of the said bishop of Rome, then the most holly lawes and precepts of Almighty God. We therfore myndyng not only to prouide for an vnitie and quietnes to be had and contynued among our said subgietts, but also greatly couetyng and desyryng them to be brought to a perfectyon and knawlege of the mere veritie and truth, and no longer to be seduced, nor blynded, with any suche superstitiouse and false doctryne of any erthly vsurper of Goddes lawes, will therfore and command you, that wher and whensoever ye shall fynde, apperceyue, know, or heretell, of any such sedicious personnes, that in such wise do spreade, teche and preache, or otherwise set forth any suche opynyons and perniciouse doctryne; to the exaltatyon of the power of the bishop of Rome, bryngyng therby our subgietts into error, gruge, and murmuracyon; that ye indelaydly doo apprehend and take them, or cause them to be apprehended and taken, and so commytted to ward, there to remaine without bayle or mayneprise, vntill vpon your aduertisement thereof vnto vs or our councell ye shall know our further pleasure in that behalfe. Yeuen vndre our signet, at our manor of Grenwich the xvii day of Aprill.
To our right trustie and welbiloued cousin and counsellor Therle of Sussex.
— quoted in John Weever’s Ancient Funerall Monuments.
What Alanus Copus Nicholas Harpsfield and Father Henry Fitzsimons, of Dublin, have related about John Travers, an Irish doctor of sacred theology, who fell in Henry’s or Elizabeth’s time (I have not definitely ascertained which) is worth repeating. This man wrote something against the English heresy, in which he maintained the jurisdiction and authority of the Pope. Being arraigned for this before the king’s court, and questioned by the judge on the matter, he fearlessly replied — “With these fingers,” said he, holding out the thumb, index, and middle fingers, of his right hand, “those were written by me, and for this deed in so good and holy a cause I neither am nor will be sorry.” Thereupon being condemned to death, amongst other atrocious punishments inflicted, that glorious hand was cut off by the executioner and thrown into the fire and burnt, except the three sacred fingers by which he had effected those writings, and which the flames, — however piled on and stirred up, could not consume.
— Chapters towards a History of Ireland in the reign of Elizabeth, Chapter II,
Philip O’Sullivan Beare.
St. Patrick poured forth to God the following prayer: ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, lead me, I beseech thee, to the seat of the holy Roman Church, that, receiving authority there to preach with confidence Thy sacred truths, the Irish nation may, through my ministry, be gathered to the fold of Christ.’ And soon after, being about to proceed to Ireland, this man of God, Patrick, went as he had wished to Rome, the head of all churches, and having asked and received the apostolic blessing, he returned, pursuing the same road by which he had journeyed thither.
— Probus, Vita S. Patricii.
The Eucharist is the central dogma of our religion. It is called the generating dogma of Catholic piety. It is not the papacy, as you seem to think.
The Papacy is nothing other than the word-bearer of Christ. Thanks to the Papacy, the faithful keep the dogma and morality taught by Jesus Christ intact. It is this protection that keeps us on the right road, precisely marked out by our Divine Founder. But it is only Christ that remains, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Now, Christ is not a Being who disappeared someplace we do not know of, nor even the far away Being that we think of. He is alive. He lives among us. He is present in the Eucharist. And this is why the Eucharist is the base, the centre, the heart of religion. From whence comes every life. Not from anywhere else.
You do not believe it. But we believe it. We believe firmly, resolutely, from the depth of our being, that in the tabernacle of each of our churches, God truly resides under the appearance of the Host.
Dom Jean Baptiste Chautard, Abbot of Sept-Fons to Georges Benjamin Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France, in a dialogue related in the former’s Les cisterciens Trappistes, l’âme cistercienne.
(h/t to Rorate Cæli.)
The reckless (re-) abandonment of the regal and distinguishing appurtenances of the papal office, whatever the motivation, is not a true or practical humility. It debases the Petrine ministry and office and compromises the mission of the Ecclesia Catholica in the world. Nevertheless and always, oremus pro pontifice nostro Francisco:
Dominus conservet eum,
et vivificet eum,
et beatum faciat eum in terra,
et non tradat eum
in animam inimicorum eius.