WE begin this week the publication of several articles on papal infallibility. We ask them a careful reading. Of course infallibility does not attach to the pope in any way, except in the minds of his votaries. It is altogether a vanishing quantity. It is claimed that it inheres only in a certain prerogative of the office of pope, namely, in ex cathedra utterances; and to this term the Vatican council of 1870 affixed such a definition that almost any utterance, on almost any subject, may be held to be ex cathedra or not ex cathedra, at the sweet will of the pope himself, or of those who are affected by the utterance. This is of course to leave a loophole by which to escape from the many glaring errors, to say nothing of the downright wickedness of many of the popes of Rome. That which part of the church accepts as ex cathedra may be denied by another part; or that which one pope has spoken “from the chair of St. Peter,” as he supposed and intended, may by another pope be ignored, or set down as simply an opinion on canon law or a deliverance on discipline. Three inquiries have recently been made from this office of as many high Roman Catholic officials in this country concerning ex cathedra utterances by the present pope. One of these officials (the highest in rank in the United States) replied: “It is not very often that the popes are obliged to speak in such a manner [ex cathedra]; but they have done so in many instances, as did Leo XIII. on a recent occasion.” When asked what the recent occasion was, and where an authentic copy of the utterance could be obtained, “the prince of the church” twice evaded the question. One archbishop and another archbishop’s chancellor replied that they had no knowledge of an ex cathedra utterance by the present pope. It is therefore evident that the pope’s infallibility is altogether chimerical, derived from an imaginary function of a man-made office, from the will of the “sovereign pontiff,” and dependent upon the interpretation of those to whom it is addressed. This is papal infallibility, and it is to faith in this that Leo XIII. invites “the rulers and peoples of the universe.”
ONE of the most significant of our “Significant Paragraphs,” this week, is that in which it is related that a Methodist preaching, in Ohio, exclaimed at a recent camp meeting: “God bless the Roman Catholic Church of to-day.”
“Rome never changes.” The Roman Catholic Church of to-day is, according to her own boast, the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. Cardinal Gibbons says, in “The Faith of Our Fathers,” page 71:—
Perpetuity, or duration till the end of time, is one of the most striking marks of the Church. By perpetuity is not meant merely that Christianity in one form or another was always to exist, but that the Church was to remain forever in its integrity, clothed with all the attributes which God gave it in the beginning. For, if the Church lost any of her essential characteristics…. she could not be said to be perpetual, because she would not be the same institution.
Again, on page 83 of the same book, we find these words:—
Amid the continual changes in human institutions, she [the Roman Catholic Church] is the one institution that never changes…. She has seen monarchies changed into republics, and republics consolidated into empires—all this has she witnessed, while her own divine constitution has remained unaltered.
That Rome adapts herself in some measure to different ages is true; but that she changes in character is not true. Her doctrines, her purposes are the same now as the Middle Ages, and if she could she would push back the car of human progress to the position it occupied when she dominated the civilized world, and the Inquisition tortured its victims and hunted its enemies where it would. Says Brownson, a Roman Catholic writer, whose work is on sale in all Catholic book stores: “Always will the period from the sixth to the end of the fifteenth century stand out as most glorious in the annals of the race.”—Liberalism and the Church, page 182.
No, “Rome never changes,” and she is sorry that the world has changed. She is sorry that there was ever such an era as that of the Reformation. She is much grieved at the existence of the various Protestant sects, of which the Methodist Episcopal Church is one. And yet a Methodist preacher says, “God bless the Roman Catholic Church of to-day.” If Rome is the Church of God, there is no excuse for Methodism; its inception was wickedness, its continuance is presumption. But if Rome is, as the Scriptures characterize her, “the mystery of iniquity,” “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” how dare any man bearing the name of Protestant, bid her God speed?