NINE HINDRANCES TO THE SPREAD OF CATHOLICISM
IN his "Life of Cardinal Manning," Purcell relates that in a series of autobiographical Notes, written in the summer of 1890, Cardinal Manning entered into a most searching inquiry Into the " Hindrances " which stood in the was, of the spread of Catholicism in England.
They told of the difficulties which he had to encounter not .so much front opposition on the part of the people of England, as from apathy, ignorance and prejudice on the part of Catholics themselves.
Manning listed them as follows :
I. Ger° ne colto ne civile.
2. Predica superficiaie.
3. Reaction against Holy Scriptures.
4. Non-perception and unconsciousness of the Spiritual Life of England.
5. Sacramentalism. Objoelive and Mechanical.
6. Officialism. Not subjective. '7. Controversy v. Charity.
9. Society of Jesus.
As to culture, Manning wrote, the Anglican clergy have a literary and scientific culture more general and more advanced than the body of our prieets; sacred science and theology hardly exist among them.
. . Nevertheless they are liter. ary
Moreover, they have an interest in public iffairs, in the politics and welfare of the country, Thiy are therefore chiles, They share and promote the Civil life of the people. It is here that we are wanting, and mischievously wanting.
PUBLIC LIFE I The long persecution of the
Catholic Church by the laws of England has alienated the hearts of Catholics from the public and political life of England . .
The 200,000 English Catholics have much of John Bull in them, but the million of our people are born into an animosity against Queen Elizabeth, Cromwell, and William III. It is with difficulty Parlia
that our people will petition ment for anything....
By the law of nature a people grows up into social and civil life on the soil where they are born. By the sin and persecution of England Ibis has never been true of the people of Ireland.
They are the most Christian people on the face of the earth . . Christianity is their civilisation, and before God it is the highest, but for this world it is oat so.
We have a million of people, priests, and faithful of Irish blood, faith and civilisation in England, and they are not only alienated from our laws and legislature, but would upset the ink-bottle over the Statute book.
So long as this habit of mind lasts we shall never have a Civil priesthood; and so long as our priesthood is not Civil it will be confined to the Sacristy as in France, not by a hostile public opinion, but by our own incapacity to mix in the Civil life of the country; and this incapacity hitherto has sprung from hostility, suspicion, and fear.
A capacity for civil and public action springs from a love of our country. The Irish have this intensely for Ireland, but can hardly have it as yet for England.
Many English Catholics, also, from religious prejudice are quite as incapable and useless.
In truth, the whole civil and political life of England is open to us if we know how to enter and how to bear ourselves.
Our Faith roust go with us and govern us everywhere, but except on the rarest occasions it need not be proclaimed. If such occasion arise let
Ltd. way, and not only no offence is given it be done in an open and manly
or taken. hut confidence and respect are notably increased, In my forty years in London I have had all manner of proof of what I write. . .
Everything. therefore, that affects the human sufferings and state of the people it is the duty of every civilised man to note and tend. much more of every Christian man. and above all of every Catholic man and woman, and emphatically of every priest and Bishop.
PREACHING 2. spread of the Faith i s the A still greater obstacle to the
shallowness of our preaching.
This appears to me to come— first, from a want of wise choice of the subjects we preach upon; and, secondly, from a shallow mode of treatment.
As to the choice of subjects: compare the Epistles of St. Paul with a volume of modern sermons.
The chief and prominent topics of St. Paul are—God, the Incarnation, the Holy Ghost, that is, the Eternal
Truths from which all other truths descend. These are always present. Whatever details follow, they are as consequence Irons the theology, which is always present as the sun at noonday. St. Paul tells the Corinthians that he knew nothing among them hut "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." This truth contains and justifies the whole faith and piety of the Gospel.
But how often do we hear it preached upon? If the great Truths are Out perpetually held up, all consequent truths seem to he arbitrary and mere assertion; e.g. the title " Mother of God" is incomprehensible without the explicit knowledge of the Holy Trinity....
The articles of the Apostolic Creed ought to be so continually held up before the intelligence of the faithful that all other subjects, such as the dignity and sanctification of the Blessed Virgin, the real and substantial presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, may be seen to be direct and evident consequences.
There is also a majesty and greatness in these divine and eternal
realities that subdue and attract the intellect and conscience. It would seem inevitable that our preachers should preach the Gospel in all its length and truth and depth and height....
Why do we not draw men as Spurgeon and "General " Booth or Hugh Price Hughes?
I am afraid that there are two obvious reasons. We choose our topics unwisely, and we arc not on fire with the love of God and of souls.
Nevertheless, when we give retreats or missions OUT priests can preach the Eternal Truths and the Gospel as fully and as powerfully as anybody. But why reserve these vital and sovereign Truths to once a year? Surely they ought to be proclaimed " upon the housetops."
If they were, the English people would feel that we are more scriptural and more evangelical than their own preachers.
When we preach pieties and controversies it does not touch their souls. They are neither won nor moved by us. But surely we ought to win and move, and draw and soften the souls of men as our Lord did, and by the same truths. His preaching of the Eternal Truth was "as fire, and as the hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces ..."
lhe other cause of our shallowness is our shallow treatment of the subject we have chosen.
No doubt overwork is the reason with some. But a priest who is overworked in the saving of souls can never he much at a loss to preach the Gospel. He is always habitually speaking of God, HIS will, His kingdom, and he has only to think aloud.
Our difficulty is in ourselves. It is what we are that preaches, and we are not only what we know but what we feel, what we realise, what by experience has become part of ourselves.
Every man speaks readily of that which chiefly fills his mind. If we lived more for God, with God, and in God, we should have little diffi
culty of speaking about Him.
But is this true of us?
Even good priests preach daily: and choose dogmatic or moral sub
jects rather than mystical or ascetic.
By mystical 1 do not mean in the sense of St. Tesesa's Visions — but
on such texts as Quoin magnet muttirade. etc., or Gustate et videte quonlam suavis est Dominust Is not this because our wells are shallow, or dry?
Another cause is hurry or haste. I have known men who have not even chosen their subject or their text till they are on their way to the church. Surely this is tempting God; if not doing his work deceitfully.
Others again take the first subject that comes to their mind, or that comes most easily to them because they have so often talked about it. But surely we ought first to think what our people most need.
THE SCRIPTURES 9 A third hindrance to the spread to. of the Faith is the reaction against the popular use of the Holy Scriptures—I say reaction because it has followed and been caused by the profane and heretical abuse of the Holy Scriptures by the so•ealled Protestants.
St. Teresa said that one of the chief causes of evil in her day was the ignorance of the Holy Scriptures. It is certainly so among us. It lowers the standard of Christian life and aspiration.
The Scriptures are the voice of the Divine Spirit, and they that know them aspire after a higher life. The standard of society, arid even good people is the human spirit at best, and its standard is immensely below the standard of the divine. This lowers the standard of our preachers and confessors.
The law of liberty is the most constraining we have to aim at perfection. It is used to sanction everything which is not intrinsically sinful.
All things are lawful to me, but nut all things are expedient or edifying. but we must not limit human liberty, and therefore what is expedient and edifying is not of obligation.
This gospel of narrowness and illiberality it in the ascendant. Some have been found to say that to keep souls out of mortal sin is all that
secular priests can do. Many of us, 1 fear, have earned this rebuke.
ANTAGONISM 4A fourth hindrance is the tin. consciousness of the hereditary Catholic of the spiritual state of the English people.
They and their forefathers have until 1829 been so shut out of the society and life of the English people, and so thrown in upon themselves, and so wounded by
the pride, suspicion, and religious prejudice of Englishmen, that they have been always in an antagonistic attitude of mind, bitter and hardly charitable.
They have, therefore, held with all rigour the axiom extra ecelesiam malt: salus (Outside the Church there is no salvation.)
They have believed Protestants, as a whole, to be without faith or baptism; or, even if baptised, to be none the better.
his has so possessed even priests, that I have known instances of Priests refusing to receive a convert into the Church: and also of a priest who said: " Thank God, 1 never received a convert into the Church."
I have found not only laymen but priests ignore absolutely the fact that
the greater part of the English people are baptised. and therefore are in the Supernatural state of grace.
7 hey take for granted that they have lost their baptismal grace by 7nortal sin.
And therefore, as they have not She sacrament of Penance they have no means of rising again to the grace of baptism. That for this reason their life is witholit merit.
And their salvation most uncertain. I do not believe one of these propositions to be true. and I am con
vinced that no one ever believes them without being checked in his action and chilled in his charity towards the non-Catholic people of England....
My experience among those who are out of the Church confirms all I have written of the doctrines of grace.
I have intimately known souls living by faith, hope and charity,
and the sanctifying Grace with the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, in humility, absolute purity of life and heart, in constant meditation on Holy Scripture, unceasing prayer, complete self-denial, personal work among the poor; in a word, living lives of visible saactitcation, as an
doubtedly the work of the Holy Ghost as I have ever seen.
1 have seen this in whole families, rich and poor, and in all conditions of life.
Moreover, I have received into the Church I do not know how many souls in whom I could find no mortal
sin. They were evidently in the grace of their Baptism....
SACRAMENTALISM sy A fifth hindrance is what I, for . want of a better name, must
Priests have a danger of becoming Mass priests, or Sacramentmongers.
They possess, by Divine commission, the power of administering sacraments which confer grace ex opere operato, to which they can add nothing, nor can their own unworthiness hinder its effect.
It is easily possible for a priest, cilia peccatum mortale commission, to neglect his meditation, examination of conscience, and spiritual exercises, and therefore to become unspiritual and dry.
Still, he administers sacraments candy and mechanically. He has
committed no mortal sin. And a
thousand venial sins are venial still; but the man is dry, and everybody feels it when he preaches, or in the confessional, Or by a death-bed, or in a house of sorrow....
OFFICIALISM 6A sixth hindrance is what • may call officialism, that is, a dependence for our work not on our subjective fitness, but upon official powers.
It is certain that, as the objective is over-valued, the subjective is under-valued.
It is curious that in the Anglican body. High C'hurehmen are dry, and Low Churchmen exalt their own persons.
In the Catholic Church all priests are High Churchmen. And there is a danger of official assumption. But for this we should not have had the hatred and contempt of sacerdotalism.
am sorry to say that even good priests sometimes swagger; they think to magnify their office, but they belittle themselves. This has been the cause of endless troubles in hospitals and workhouses.
Unfortunately even good priests are not always refined. and they resent any hindrance in the way of their sacred office with want of self-control which gains nothing. and often loses everything.
I have often said that our priests are always booted and spurred like cavalry officers in time of war. But they will not fight worse for being chivalrous and courteous. .
7A seventh and grave hindrance S to the spread of the Catholic religion has been the controversial spirit both in matter and in tit; itinmganner of preaching and w There is no doubt that this was forced upon the Church in England by the so-called Reformation, which denied Catholic truth and affirmed doctrinal errors.
But controversy is at best polemical theology, and polemical theology is simply.if not wholly destructive. But destruction builds up nothing. At best it only clears the rubbish off the site so as to make building possible.
And yet positive theology will clear away 'rubbish, without seeming to do so. For clearness of statement Is evidence in itself. Evidentia is Truth looking out of the cloud and making itself visible like light.
The great majority of men are convinced, not so much by reasoning, as by a clear conception of Truth.
There are two ways of proving a problem. The one is to show that every other conception is impossible; this is polemical and destructive. The other is to show that the true conception is evident. This is positive and expository.
The advantage of this method is that you refute an adversary without naming him or his assertions, This is therefore peaceful and conciliatory.
There is no doubt, as the founder of the Quakers said, " when 1 am in argument I take care not to provoke my antagonist, for so long as he is cairn, all the grace of God there is in him is on my side."
UNDERSTANDING 8 ... another hindrance in our way. We do not sufficiently ascertain before we begin to teach what those who hear us already believe . . .
We have lost the people of England. They have lost the Faith, and, as a dead body generates all manner of corruption, the loss of Faith has brought on all manner of immoralities.
Half the population nearly is gathered in towns and cities. London alone has in its streets four millions, of whom half arc without God in the world.
From Wesley to " General " Booth the non-Catholics are working
among them. Is the Catholic Church to do nothing?
Certainly our first word is ad Intro on our own people, and grievously we need it. But are we to do nothing ad extra?
What can we do, a million and a half among twenty-six millions?
I believe we could do much. But it must be by a simpler and more self-sacrificing way of work. The Catholic Church has adequate means to its internal ends. The priesthood and the nuns can deal with the needs of the Church ad infra.
Its missionaries, priests and nuns are adequate in quality not in quantity to its work ad extra.
But London is a mission; and we need both priests and nuns for the English people out of unity....
I have said before that we ought to play at dominoes with the English people.
Where is the good of preaching on the Immaculate Conception to people who do not believe in the Incarnation? or on the Church to those who do not believe in Christianity?
Surely a procession through the streets would do better to sing or say the litany or the Holy Name than the litany of Loreto.
Give the English people what they can understand. and they will listen, and listen gravely.. .
We need open-air preaching, and instructions given anywhere and everywhere in secular places.
(The last of the " Hindrances" was not published in Purcell's work.)
" How great are .thy works. 0 Lord. Thou host made all things In wisdom; the earth is filled with thy riches: Psalm 101.
0 taste and see that the Lord Is sweet: blessed is the man Thal hopeth in him: Psalm 33.