The Faith of Our Fathers Part 23

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In confirmation of these a.s.sertions I shall quote from Ranke, a German Protestant historian, who cannot be suspected of partiality to the Catholic Church. "In the first place," says this author, "the Inquisitors were royal officers. The Kings had the right of appointing and dismissing them.... The courts of the Inquisition were subject, like other magistracies, to royal visitors. 'Do you not know,' said the King (to Ximenes), 'that if this tribunal possesses jurisdiction, it is from the King it derives it?'

"In the second place, all the profit of the confiscations by this court accrued to the King. These were carried out in a very unsparing manner.

Though the _fueros_ (privileges) of Aragon forbade the King to confiscate the property of his convicted subjects, he deemed himself exalted above the law in matters pertaining to this court.... The proceeds of these confiscations formed a sort of regular income for the royal exchequer. It was even believed, and a.s.serted from the beginning, that the Kings had been moved to establish and countenance this tribunal more by their hankering after the wealth it confiscated than by motives of piety.

"In the third place, it was the Inquisition, and the Inquisition alone, that completely shut out all extraneous interference with the state. The sovereign had now at his disposal a tribunal from which no grandee, no Archbishop, could withdraw himself. As Charles knew no other means of bringing certain punishment on the Bishops who had taken part in the insurrection of the _Communidades_ (or communes who were struggling for their rights and liberties), he chose to have them judged by the Inquisition....

"It was in spirit and tendency a political inst.i.tution. _The Pope had an interest in thwarting it, and he did so_; but the King had an interest in constantly upholding it."(321)

That the Inquisition acted independently of the Holy See, and that even the Catholic hierarchy fell under the ban of this royal tribunal, is also apparent from the following fact: After the convening of the Council of Trent, Bartholomew Caranza, Archbishop of Toledo, was arrested by the Inquisition on a charge of heresy, and his release from prison could not be obtained either by the interposition of Pius IV. or the remonstrance of the Council.

It is true that Sixtus IV., yielding to the importunities of Queen Isabella, consented to its establishment, being advised that it was necessary for the preservation of order in the kingdom; but in 1481, the year following its introduction, when the Jews complained to him of its severity, the same Pontiff issued a Bull against the Inquisitors, as Prescott informs us, in which "he rebuked their intemperate zeal and even threatened them with deprivation." He wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella that "mercy towards the guilty was more pleasing to G.o.d than the severity which they were using."

When the Pope could not eradicate the evil he encouraged the sufferers to flee to Rome, where they found an asylum, and where he took the fugitives under his protection. In two years he received four hundred and fifty refugees from Spain. Did the Pontiff send them back, or did he inflict vengeance on them at home? Far from it; they were restored to all the rights of citizens. How can we imagine that the Pope would encourage in Spain the legalized murder of men whom he protected from violence in his own city, where he might have crushed them with impunity? I can find no authenticated instance of any Pope putting to death, in his own dominions, a single individual for his religious belief.

Moreover, sometimes the Pope, when he could not reach the victims, censured and excommunicated the Inquisitor, and protected the children of those whose property was confiscated to the crown.

After a struggle he succeeded in preventing the Spanish government from establis.h.i.+ng its Inquisition in Naples or Milan, which then belonged to Spain, so great was his abh.o.r.ence of its cruelties.

To sum up: I have endeavored to show that the Church disavows all responsibility for the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition, because oppression forms no part of her creed; that these atrocities have been grossly exaggerated; that the Inquisition was a political tribunal; that Catholic Prelates were amenable to its sentence as well as Moors and Jews, and that the Popes denounced and labored hard to abolish its sanguinary features.

And yet Rome has to bear all the odium of the Inquisition!

I heartily pray that religious intolerance may never take root in our favored land. May the only king to force our conscience be the King of kings; may the only prison erected among us for the sin of unbelief or misbelief be the prison of a troubled conscience; and may our only motive for embracing truth be not the fear of man, but the love of truth and of G.o.d.

II. What About The Ma.s.sacre Of St. Bartholomew?

I have no words strong enough to express my detestation of that inhuman slaughter. It is true that the number of its victims has been grossly exaggerated by partisan writers, but that is no extenuation of the crime itself. I most emphatically a.s.sert that the Church had no act or part in this atrocious butchery, except to deplore the event and weep over its unhappy victims. Here are the facts briefly presented:

First-In the reign of Charles IX. of France the Huguenots were a formidable power and a seditious element in that country. They were under the leaders.h.i.+p of Admiral Coligny, who was plotting the overthrow of the ruling monarch. The French King, instigated by his mother, Catherine de Medicis, and fearing the influence of Coligny, whom he regarded as an aspirant to the throne, compa.s.sed his, as well as that of his followers in Paris, August 24th, 1572. This deed of violence was followed by an indiscriminate ma.s.sacre in the French capital and other cities of France by an incendiary populace, who are easily aroused but not easily appeased.

Second-Religion had nothing to do with the ma.s.sacre. Coligny and his fellow Huguenots were slain not on account of their creed, but exclusively on account of their alleged treasonable designs. If they had nothing but their Protestant faith to render them odious to King Charles, they would never have been molested; for, neither did Charles nor his mother ever manifest any special zeal for the Catholic Church nor any special aversion to Protestantism, unless when it threatened the throne.

Third-Immediately after the ma.s.sacre Charles despatched an envoy extraordinary to each of the courts of Europe, conveying the startling intelligence that the King and royal family had narrowly escaped from a horrible conspiracy, and that its authors had been detected and summarily punished. The envoys, in their narration, carefully suppressed any allusion to the indiscriminate ma.s.sacre which had taken place, but announced the event in the following words: On that "memorable night, by the destruction of a few seditious men, the King had been delivered from immediate danger of death, and the realm from the perpetual terror of civil war."

Pope Gregory XIII., to whom also an envoy was sent, acting on this garbled information, ordered a "Te Deum" to be sung, and a commemorative medal to be struck in thanksgiving to G.o.d, not for the ma.s.sacre, of which he was utterly ignorant, but for the preservation of the French King from an untimely and violent death, and of the French nation from the horrors of a civil war.

Sismondi, a Protestant historian, tells us that the Pope's nuncio in Paris was purposely kept in ignorance of the designs of Charles; and Ranke, in his _History of the Civil Wars_, informs us that Charles and his mother suddenly left Paris in order to avoid an interview with the Pope's legate, who arrived soon after the ma.s.sacre; their guilty conscience fearing, no doubt, a rebuke from the messenger of the Vicar of Christ, from whom the real facts were not long concealed.

Fourth-It is scarcely necessary to vindicate the innocence of the Bishops and clergy of France in this transaction, as no author, how hostile soever to the Church, has ever, to my knowledge, accused them of any complicity in the heinous ma.s.sacre.

On the contrary, they used their best efforts to arrest the progress of the a.s.sailants, to prevent further bloodshed and to protect the lives of the fugitives. More than three hundred Calvinists were sheltered from the by taking refuge in the house of the Archbishop of Lyons. The Bishops of Lisieux, Bordeaux, Toulouse and of other cities offered similar protection to those who sought safety in their homes.

Thus we see that the Church slept in tranquil ignorance of the stormy scene until she was aroused to a knowledge of the tempest by the sudden uproar it created. Like her Divine Spouse on the troubled waters, she presents herself only to say to them: "Peace be still."

III. Mary, Queen of England.

I am asked: _Must you not admit that Mary, Queen of England, persecuted the Protestants of the British realm_? I ask this question in reply: _How is it that Catholics are persistently reproached __ for the persecutions under Mary's reign, while scarcely a voice is raised in condemnation of the legalized fines, confiscations and deaths inflicted on the Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland for three hundred years-from the establishment of the church of England, in 1534, to the time of the Catholic emanc.i.p.ation?_ Elizabeth's hands were steeped in the blood of Catholics, Puritans and Anabaptists. Why are these cruelties suppressed or glossed over, while those of Mary form the burden of every nursery tale?

Is it because persecution becomes justice when Catholics happen to be the victims, or is it because they are expected, from long usage, to be insensible to torture?

If we weigh in the scales of impartial justice the reigns of both sisters, we shall be compelled to bring a far more severe verdict against Elizabeth.

First-Mary reigned only five years and four months. Elizabeth's reign lasted forty-four years and four months. The younger sister, therefore, swayed the sceptre of authority nearly nine times longer than the elder; and the number of Catholics who suffered for their faith during the long administration of Elizabeth may be safely said to exceed in the same proportion the victims of Mary's reign. Hallam a.s.serts that "the rack seldom stood idle in the tower for all the latter part of Elizabeth's reign;"(322) and its very first month was stained by an intolerant statute.(323)

Second-The most unpardonable act of Mary's life, in the judgment of her critics, was the execution of Lady Jane Grey. But Lady Jane was guilty of high treason, having usurped the throne of England, which she occupied for nine days. Elizabeth put to death her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, after a long imprisonment, on the unsustained charge of aspiring to the English throne.

Third-Mary's zeal was exercised in behalf of the religion of her forefathers, and of the faith established in England for nearly a thousand years.

Elizabeth's zeal was employed in extending the new creed introduced by her father in a moment of pa.s.sion, and modified by herself. Surely, the coercive enforcement of a new creed is more odious than the rigorous maintenance of the time-honored faith of a nation.

Mary, therefore, insisted on perpetuating the established order of things; Elizabeth on subverting it.

Fourth-The elder sister was propagating what she believed to be the unchangeable and infallible doctrines of Jesus Christ; the younger sister was propagating her own and her father's novel and more or less uncertain opinions.

Fifth-While Mary had no private or personal motives in oppressing Protestants, Elizabeth's hostility to the Catholic Church was intensified, if not instigated, by her hatred of the Pope, who had declared her illegitimate. Her legitimacy before the world depended on the success of the new religion, which had legalized her father's divorce from Catherine.

Sixth-Hence as Macaulay says, Mary was sincere in her religion; Elizabeth was not. "Having no scruple about conforming to the Romish Church when conformity was necessary to her own safety, retaining to the last moment of her life a fondness for much of the doctrine and much of the ceremonial of that Church, she yet subjected that Church to a persecution even more odious than the persecution with which her sister had hara.s.sed the Protestants. Mary ... did nothing for her religion which she was not prepared to suffer for it. She had held it firmly under persecution. She fully believed it to be essential to salvation. Elizabeth, in opinion, was little more than half a Protestant. She had professed, when it suited her, to be wholly a Catholic.... What can be said in defence of a ruler who is at once indifferent and intolerant?"(324)

An intelligent gentleman in North Carolina once said to me tauntingly, What do you think of b.l.o.o.d.y Mary? Did you ever hear, I replied, of her sister's cruelties to Catholics? He answered that he never read of that _mild_ woman persecuting for conscience' sake. I was amazed at his words, until he acknowledged that his historical library was comprised in one work-_D' Aubigne's History of the Reformation_. That _veracious_ author has prudently suppressed, or delicately touched, Elizabeth's peccadilloes as not coming within the scope of his plan. How many are found, like our North Carolina gentleman, who are familiar from their childhood with the name of _Smithfield_, but who never once heard of _Tyburn_!

Chapter XIX.


The grace of G.o.d is that supernatural a.s.sistance which He imparts to us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation. It is called _supernatural_, because no one by his own natural ability can acquire it.

Without Divine grace we can neither conceive nor accomplish anything for the sanctification of our souls. "Not that we are sufficient," says the Apostle, "to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from G.o.d."(325) "For it is G.o.d who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish"(326) anything conducive to your salvation.

"Without Me," says our Lord, "you can do nothing."(327) But in order that Divine grace may effectually aid us we must co-operate with it, or at least we must not resist it.

The grace of G.o.d is obtained chiefly by prayer and the Sacraments.

A Sacrament is a visible sign inst.i.tuted by Christ by which grace is conveyed to our souls. Three things are necessary to const.i.tute a Sacrament, viz.-a visible sign, invisible grace and the inst.i.tution by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, in the Sacrament of Baptism, there is the outward sign, which consists in the pouring of water and in the formula of words which are then p.r.o.nounced; the interior grace or sanctification which is imparted to the soul: "Be baptized, ... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;"(328) and the ordinance of Jesus Christ, who said: "Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."(329)

The Faith of Our Fathers Part 23

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