November 19, 1896
NOW THAT the great national campaign is over, and the elements have become quieted, it will be well to take a view of the things that were prominent there. This can be done now without even seeming to be partisan; and the lessons to be learned will not have lost their value. It must be said too that there are important lessons to be learned. Some vital principles were involved on both sides. As to what cast was given to these principles, is a question of interest and is worthy of most careful study. The SENTINEL proposes to review the situation, for the sake of the principles involved, and the lessons to be gained for the present and the future. The field is wide—wider indeed than perhaps many would suppose; but the study will well repay careful investigation and deep thought.
THE French Revolution, its characters and its characteristics, was one of the things that was frequently cited in illustration, or warning, in the late campaign. This too on both sides. Each side saw on the other side characteristics of that notable period. These things were not cited by the light-minded and for mere political effect at the moment, but by the most influential,—and in all seriousness, as real dangers to be seen and considered and avoided. This fact is of itself worthy of serious consideration yet by all the people of the land. If only one side had seen in the other these characteristics, and had seriously cited them in warning, it would have been worthy of careful thought; but when each side saw them in the other, and both were seriously citing them in warning to the people, the subject becomes doubly worthy of careful consideration by all. The SENTINEL hopes to look at this matter in a way that will be of interest, as we know it is of importance, to all.
HAVE you noticed how the papacy in the United States, in discussing and expounding the theory of the infallibility of the pope, speaks much of “the Supreme Court of the Church”? This phrase is adopted from a certain theory that is held regarding the Supreme Court of the United States. The papacy says that as the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States upon questions of the Constitution are final, so the decisions of “the Supreme Court of the Church” upon the Constitution of the Church—the Bible—are also final. She says that as there is no appeal from a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in interpreting the Constitution of the United States, so there is no appeal from the decisions of “the Supreme Court of the Church” in interpreting the Constitution of the Church—the Bible. She says that as the people are not allowed to interpret the Constitution of the United States, but must submit without question to the interpretation given by the Supreme Court, so the people are not allowed to interpret the Scriptures, but must submit without question to the interpretation given by the Supreme Court of the Church. Of Course this argues absolutism and infallibility for the Supreme Court of the United States, as it does for “the Supreme Court of the Church.”
But why is the papacy in the United States using this illustration this way in argument? There are two grounds as the cause of it.
First, The Supreme Court of the United States has declared that the constitution means that “this is a Christian nation,” and that “the establishment of the Christian religion” is in accord with this and other “organic utterances” “of the whole people.” It is therefore to the interest of the papacy in the United States to insist that this interpretation of the Constitution is final, that it must be accepted by all the people without question, and that the people are not allowed to interpret the Constitution for themselves, but must accept as final this interpretation given by the Supreme Court. By insisting upon this, and getting this theory spread and generally accepted, she knows that just as soon as she can get some of her doctrines recognized in the law, and a decision fixing the constitutionality of such law, she then has the country fastened under her “infallible” authority.
Secondly, Certain leading politicians of the country have taken, and the last summer have advocated everywhere, this very doctrine of the infallibility of Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution. The Papacy is glad of this, and promptly takes up the theory and passes it around as the infallible doctrine with respect to the Supreme Court and the Constitution. She is glad to have her position sustained by leading politicians of the country. It gives vast prestige to her theory. Not only this, but it greatly brightens the prospect of her getting the next step taken.
It becomes then a question for the serious consideration of the people of the United States, whether this papal theory of the Supreme Court is the correct one? Is that the view of those who established the Constitution? Is that the view of the statesmen who have shaped the course of the nation in its career of greatness? These are questions worth asking. They are questions for which it is worth while carefully to seek for the right answer. And to these questions the SENTINEL proposes to seek at original sources for the correct answer. Meanwhile, reader, what do you think of this papal theory of the infallibility of Supreme Court decisions?
A. T. J.