Note on Essay V

{216} THERE is very little that I feel called on, as a Catholic, to add to the account which I have given above of Mr. Palmer's theory. Of course Catholics will differ from Anglicans in their respective views of the value of historical facts, such as those which Mr. Palmer adduces; for these rarely have in themselves so determinate a direction towards this and not that conclusion, as to be able to resist the stress of the personal tendencies of the controversialist who is handling them. "The Pope made Durandus, who had views of his own about the Eucharistic Presence, Bishop of Annecy;" what is the polemical value of this fact? is it decisive in favour of Mr. Palmer's thesis? or of some little worth? or of no worth at all? and so of all such small facts as are contained in pp. 164, etc. Of course details must be entered into, and facts may turn up which are really "stubborn things;" but, as regards Rome and England, the historical dispute "labitur et labetur," for neither party can oblige the other to see facts from its own point of view.

Putting aside, then, Mr. Palmer's facts, and turning to his principles, Catholics will not have much to complain of in him. Not only is he, in the work before us, one of the gravest and most temperate of writers, as well as one of the best furnished and most careful, as becomes a theologian, but he goes much farther than most—I may rather say than any—Anglican divines, in his recognition of the basis of argument on which the Catholic system rests. He disowns the Via Media, as Anglicans generally {217} understand it; he seems to allow that the Rule of Faith has not been fixed once for all from the beginning; he holds that the dogmatic teaching of the Church is capable of increase; that Councils have authority and power to make additions to it; nay, strange to say, that a mere majority of votes in a Council is the voice of the Infallible Church. No wonder that Fr. Perrone says of such a man, in comparison with the other Oxford writers, "Inter eos Palmer doctrinā et moderatione cęteris pręstari nobis visus est;" and, in another place, uses of him, in spite of his many errors, the often-quoted words, "Cum talis sis, utinam noster esses."

Such is the teaching of Mr. Palmer on the Rule of Faith; on the Unity of the Church he is not equally satisfactory. He maintains what is called the "Branch theory;" that is, that the Roman, Greek, and Anglican communions make up the one visible, indivisible Church of God, which the Apostles founded, to which the promise of perseverance was made; a view which is as paradoxical, when regarded as a fact, as it is heterodox, when regarded as a doctrine. Such surely is the judgment which must be pronounced upon it in itself, and as considered apart from the motives which have led Anglicans to its adoption; for these, when charitably examined, whether in Mr. Palmer or in his friends, are far from reprehensible; on the contrary, they betoken a goodwill towards Catholics, a Christian spirit, and a religious earnestness, which Catholics ought to be the last to treat with slight or unkindness.

Let it once be admitted that in certain minds misconceptions and prejudices may exist, such as to make it their duty in conscience (though it be a false conscience) to remain in Anglicanism, and then this paradoxical view of the Catholic Church is, in them, better, nearer the {218} truth, and more hopeful than any other erroneous view of it. First, because it is the view of men deeply impressed with the great doctrine and precept of Unity. Such men cannot bear to think of the enormous scandal,—the loss of faith, the triumph to infidels, the obstacle to heathen conversion,—resulting from the quarrels of Christians with each other; and they cannot rest till they can form some theory by which they can alleviate it to their imagination. They recollect our Lord's most touching words, just before His passion, in which He made unity the great note and badge of His religion; and they wish to be provided with some explanation of this apparent broad reversal of it, both for their own sake and for that of others. As there are Protestants whose expedient for this purpose is to ignore all creeds and all forms of worship, and to make unity consist in a mere union of hearts, an intercourse of sentiment and work, and an agreeing to differ on theological points, so the persons in question attempt to discern the homogeneity of the Christian name in a paradoxical, compulsory resolution of the doctrines and rites of Rome, Greece, and Canterbury into some general form common to all three.

Nor is this all; the kindliness of their theory is shown by the strong contrast which it presents to a persuasion, very strong and widely prevalent in the English Establishment, in regard to the Catholic Church. The palmary, the most effective argument of the Reformers against us, was that Rome is Antichrist. It was Mr. Keble's idea, that without this tenet the Reformers would have found it impossible to make head against the prestige, the imposing greatness, the establishment, the momentum of Catholicism. There was no medium; it was either from God or from the evil one. Is it too much to say, that, wherever Protestantism has been earnest and (what is {219} called) spiritual, there this odious imagination has been vigorous? Is it too much to say, that it is the received teaching of Anglican bishops and divines from Latimer down to Dr. Wordsworth? Have Catholics then no bowels of compassion for Mr. Palmer, when he, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, by birth and education of the strictest sect of zealots, an Irish Protestant, adopts such a Via media towards the Church as I have been describing? He, I know full well, can play the zealot too on an occasion,—as by token, in his Letters to Dr. Wiseman; still these are the writing of Mr. Palmer, the controversialist, not the theologian, and as a theologian I am considering him; and surely, whatever be the personalities in which he thinks it becoming to indulge in the former capacity, and however rightly we protest against him, he may fairly claim our admiration and praise on finding that, in his theological teaching, he is inconsistent enough to show us a goodwill, of which at first sight he seems to be incapable. It is gratifying that, though he will not be a Catholic, he should give it as his opinion that "some doctrinal errors and some superstitions prevailed among the Churches of our communion, but that no article of faith appears to have been denied or corrupted," and that men "ought not to judge too harshly or exclude from the Church of Christ so vast a multitude of believers, so many nations, such a crowd of ancient Churches." This is a great improvement on the ordinary language spouted forth against us by Irish Protestants at public meetings, amid "shudders and cheers."

The third motive which leads religious Anglicans to hold the doctrine in question is one of a personal nature, but of no unworthy sort. Though they think it a duty to hold off from us, they cannot be easy at their own separation from the orbis terrarum and from the Apostolic {220} See, which is the consequence of it; and the pain it causes them, and the expedient they take to get relieved of it, should interest us in their favour, since these are the measures of the real hold which, in spite of their still shrinking from the Church, Catholic principles and ideas have upon the intellects and affections.

These remarks, however, in favour of the advocates of what may be called the Anglican paradox, are quite consistent with a serious apprehension, that there are those among them, known of course only to God, who make that paradox the excuse for stifling an inquiry which conscience tells them they ought to pursue, and turning away from the light which otherwise would lead them to the Church. And next, as to this paradox itself, all the learning, all the argumentative skill of its ablest champions, would fail in proving that two sovereign states were numerically one state, even though they happened to have the same parentage, the same language, the same form of government; and yet the gulf between Rome and England, which is greater than this demarcation between state and state, men like Mr. Palmer merely call "an interruption of external union."

On this subject, many years ago I wrote as follows:

"It may be possibly suggested that the universality, which the Fathers ascribe to the Catholic Church, lay in its Apostolical descent, or again in its Episcopacy; and that it was one, not as being one kingdom or civitas at unity with itself, with one and the same intelligence in every part, one sympathy, one ruling principle, one organization, one communion, but because, though consisting of a number of independent communions, at variance (if so be) with each other even to a breach of intercourse, nevertheless all these were possessed of a legitimate succession of clergy, or all governed by {221} bishops, priests, and deacons. But who will in seriousness maintain that relationship, or that resemblance, makes two bodies one? England and Prussia are two monarchies; are they therefore one kingdom? England and the United States are from one stock; can they therefore be called one state? England and Ireland are peopled by different races; yet do not they form one kingdom notwithstanding? If unity lies in the Apostolical Succession, an act of schism is from the nature of the case impossible; for, as no one can reverse his parentage, so no Church can undo the fact, that its clergy have come by lineal descent from the Apostles. Either there is no such sin as schism, or unity does not lie in the episcopal form or in episcopal ordination. And this is felt by the controversialists to whom I am referring, for they are in consequence obliged to invent a sin, and to consider not division of Church from Church, but the interference of Church with Church to be the sin of schism, as if local dioceses and bishops with restraint were more than ecclesiastical arrangements and bye-laws of the Church, however sacred, while schism is a sin against her essence," etc., etc.—Developm. of Doctrine, chap. iv., Sec. 2, [chap. vi., sec. 2, ed. 1878]; (vid. also Loss and Gain, part ii., chap. 17, 18; Angl. Difficult., Lecture 6.)

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