“Editorial” American Sentinel 9, 7, pp. 49-51.

February 15, 1894

IT is claimed and urged on behalf of the papacy that she is the best promoter of a proper and “Christian” civilization.

FOR this reason it is claimed and urged that the Republic of the United States cannot afford to ignore the papacy in the problems which confront the nation in the task of assimilating its immense immigration, so as not to be hindered in its onward march to a complete “Christian” civilization.

AND Mr. Satolli has officially announced that—

Catholic education is the surest safeguard of the permanence throughout the centuries of the Constitution, and the best guide to the Republic in civil progress…. The most public opinion and the Government will favor Catholic schools, more and more will the welfare of the commonwealth be advanced.

THIS claim that the papacy is the source and stay of civilization, not only now but through the ages of her existence, and is therefore an important if not an essential factor to the American Republic in the problems which it is called upon to solve in connection with its flood of immigration,—this, like her other claims which we have noted, is sanctioned by professed Protestant papers and leaders, such as the Independent, the Christian at Work, et al. In this they ignore as usual the palpable and suggestive fact that the “fearfully large proportion” of these dangerous and uncivilized immigrants come from Catholic countries, are themselves Catholics, and the direct product of papal “civilization.”

AMS the basis and sufficient proof that the papacy is the source and stay of a “Christian” civilization, there is presented by both Catholics and “Protestants,” and not less by “Protestants” than by Catholics, the stupendous “fact” that she civilized the barbarians of the fifth century and the middle ages, who annihilated the Roman Empire. This theory Dr. Philip Schaff constantly affirmed, though it clearly contradicted the undisputed and indisputable facts of the history which he himself had written. The truth is that there never was a clearer historical fraud put forth than this claim that the papacy civilized the barbarians who destroyed the Roman Empire, and occupied Western Europe in the middle ages. And since this fraudulent claim is now being so frequently made as the basis for the recognition of the papacy by the United States Government; and as Cardinal Gibbons asserts so plainly and positively that the papacy “is now precisely what she always has been,” and that she “can never change,” it is worth while to look a little into the connection and dealings of the papacy with the barbarians in the way of civilizing them.

IT must not be forgotten that the papacy had possession of the Roman Empire itself, with all the power of the empire at her command, for nearly a hundred years before the barbarians ever entered the Western Empire with any intention to stay, and more than a hundred years before she had any chance to “civilize” them. It must be remembered too, that her alliance with the empire, and her securing possession of it, were for the express purpose of assuring to it the benefits of a “Christian civilization” and consequent “salvation.” Surely here was ample time to test her powers in this direction, before she was ever called upon to “civilize” the barbarians. What, then, was the result? It was this: When, by the union of Church and State, church-membership became a qualification for political as well as every other kind of preferment, hypocrisy became more prevalent than ever before. This was bad enough in itself, yet the hypocrisy was voluntary; but when through the agency of her Sunday laws and by the ministration of Theodosius the church received control of the civil power to compel all without distinction who were not Catholics to act as though they were, hypocrisy was made compulsory; and every person who was not voluntarily a church-member was compelled either to be a hypocrite or a rebel. In addition to this, those who were of the church indeed, through the endless succession of controversies and church councils, were forever establishing, changing, and re-establishing the faith; and as all were required to change or revise their faith according as the councils decreed, all moral and spiritual integrity was destroyed. Hypocrisy became a habit, dissimulation and fraud a necessity of life, and the very moral fiber of men and of society was vitiated.

ALL the corruptions that had characterized the earlier Rome were thus reproduced and perpetuated under a form of godliness in this so-called Christian Rome, the Rome of the fifth century.

The primitive rigor of discipline and manners was utterly neglected and forgotten by the ecclesiastics of Rome. The most exorbitant luxury, with all the vices attending it, was introduced among them, and the most scandalous and unchristian arts of acquiring wealth universally practiced. They seem to have rivaled in riotous living the greatest epicures of pagan Rome when luxury was there at the highest pitch. For Jerome, who was an eyewitness of what he writ, reproaches the Roman clergy with the same excesses which the poet Juvenal so severely censured in the Roman nobility under the reign of Domitian. [31]

The only possible result of such a course was constantly to increase unto more ungodliness, to undermine every principle of the foundation of society, and really to hasten the destruction of the empire. The pagan delusions, the pagan superstitions, and the pagan vices that had been adopted and brought into the Catholic Church by her apostasy and clothed with a form of godliness, wrought such infinite corruption that the society of which it was the greater part could no longer exist. It must inevitably fall by the weight of its own corruption, if from nothing else.

The uncontrollable progress of avarice, prodigality, voluptuousness, theater going, intemperance, lewdness; in short, of all the heathen vices, which Christianity had come to eradicate, still carried the Roman Empire and people with rapid strides toward dissolution, and gave it at last into the hands of the rude, but simple and morally vigorous, barbarians. [32]

AND onward those barbarians came, swiftly and in multitudes. They came, a host wild and savage it is true; but a people whose social habits were so far [50] above those of the people which they destroyed, that savage as they were, they were caused fairly to blush at the shameful corruptions which they found in this so-called Christian society of Rome. This is proved by the best authority. A writer who lived at the time of the barbarian invasions, and who wrote as a Christian, gives the following evidence as to the condition of things:—

“The church which ought everywhere to propitiate God, what does she, but provoke him to anger? How many may one meet, even in the church, who are not still drunkards, or debauchees, or adulterers, or fornicators, or robbers, or murderers, or the like, or all these at once, without end? It is even a sort of holiness among Christian people to be less vicious.” From the public worship of God, and almost during it, they pass to deeds of shame. Scarce a rich man but would commit murder and fornication. We have lost the whole power of Christianity, and offend God the more, that we sin as Christians. We are worse than the barbarians and heathen. If the Saxon is wild, the Frank faithless, the Goth inhuman, the Alanian drunken, the Hun licentious, they are, by reason of their ignorance, far less punishable than we, who, knowing the commandments of God, commit all these crimes. [33]

And Dr. Schaff remarks of this very period, and the consequences of this effort of the papacy at the civilization of the Roman Empire: “Nothing but the divine judgment of destruction upon this nominally Christian but essentially heathen world, could open the way for the moral regeneration of society.” This is precisely how the papacy gave “Christian civilization” and “salvation” to the Roman Empire, when she held full and undisputed possession of it for more than a hundred years. And her work of civilizing the barbarians was after precisely the same order. Indeed, how could it be otherwise, when Cardinal Gibbons assures us that the Catholic Church “is in this world the one thing that never changes.” The Burgundians were the first of the barbarian nations to be “converted” to the Catholic Church; and through them she “converted” the Franks. An account of this matter will illustrate the powers and efficiency of the papacy in the work of civilizing the barbarians and thus giving everlasting proof that she is the source of civilization and salvation to nations in general and the American Republic in particular.

THE Burgundians were settled in that part of Gaul which now forms Western Switzerland and that part of France which is now the county and district of Burgundy. As early as A.D. 430, the Huns making inroads into Gaul, severely afflicted the Burgundians, who finding impotent the power of their own god, determined to try the Catholic god. They therefore sent representatives to a neighboring city in Gaul, requesting the Catholic bishop to receive them. The bishop had them fast for a week, during which time he catechised them, and then baptized them. Soon afterward the Burgundians found the Huns without a leader, and, suddenly falling upon them at the disadvantage, confirmed their conversion by the slaughter of ten thousand of the enemy. Thereupon the whole nation embraced the Catholic religion “with fiery zeal.” [34] Afterward, however, when about the fall of the empire, the Visigoths under Euric asserted their dominion over all Spain, and the greater part of Gaul, and over the Burgundians too, they deserted the Catholic god, and adopted the Arian faith.

Yet Clotilda, a niece of the Burgundian king, “was educated” in the profession of the Catholic faith. She married Clovis, the pagan king of the pagan Franks, and strongly persuaded him to become a Catholic. All her pleadings were in vain, however, till A.D. 496, when in a great battle with the Alemanni, the Franks were getting the worst of the conflict, in the midst of the battle Clovis vowed that if the victory could be theirs, he would become a Catholic. The tide of battle turned; the victory was won, and Clovis was a Catholic. Clotilda hurried away a messenger with the glad news to the bishop of Rhiems, who came to baptize the new convert.

But after the battle was over, and the dangerous crisis was past, Clovis was not certain whether he wanted to be a Catholic. He said he must consult his warriors. He did so, and they signified their readiness to adopt the same religion as their king. He then declared that he was convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, and preparations were at once made for the baptism of the new Constantine, Christmas day, A.D. 496. The pope sent Clovis a letter congratulating him on his conversion. The bishop of Vienne also sent a letter to the new convert, in which he prophesied that the faith of Clovis would be a surety of the victory of the Catholic religion; and he, with every other Catholic in Christendom, was ready to do his utmost to see that the prophecy was fulfilled.

THE Catholics in all the neighboring countries longed and prayed and conspired that Clovis might deliver them from the rule of Arian monarchs; and in the nature of the case, war soon followed. Burgundy was the first country invaded. Before the war actually began, however, by the advice of the bishop of Rhiems, a synod of the orthodox bishops met at Lyons; then with the bishop of Vienne at their head, they visited the king of the Burgundians, and proposed that he call the Arian bishops together, and allow a conference to be held, as they were prepared to prove that the Arians were in error. To their proposal the king replied: “If yours be the true doctrine, why do you not prevent the king of the Franks from waging an unjust war against me, and from caballing with my enemies against me? There is no true Christian faith where there is rapacious covetousness for the possessions of others, and thirst for blood. Let him show forth his faith by his good works.” [35]

The bishop of Vienne dodged this pointed question, and replied: “We are ignorant of the motives and intentions of the king of the Franks; but we are taught by the Scripture that the kingdoms which abandon the divine law, are frequently subverted; and that enemies will arise on every side against those who have made God their enemy. Return with thy people to the law of God, and he will give peace and security to thy dominions.” [36] War followed, and the Burgundian dominions were made subject to the rule of Clovis, A.D. 500.

The Visigoths possessed all the southwestern portion of Gaul. They too were Arians; and the mutual conspiracy of the Catholics in the Gothic dominions, and the crusade of the Franks from the side of Clovis, soon brought on another holy war. At the assembly of princes and warriors at Paris, A.D. 508. Clovis complained: “It grieves me to see that the Arians still possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against them with the aid of God; and, having vanquished the heretics, we will possess and divide their fertile province.” Clotilda added her pious exhortation to the effect “that doubtless the Lord would more readily lend his aid if some gift were made;” and in response, Clovis seized his battle-ax and threw it as far as he could, and as it went whirling through the air, he exclaimed, “There, on that spot where my Francesca shall fall, will I erect a church in honor of the holy apostles.” [37]

War was declared; and as Clovis marched on his way, he passed through Tours, and turned aside to consult the shrine of St. Martin of Tours, for an omen. “His messengers were instructed to remark the words of the Psalm which should happen to be chanted at the precise moment when they entered the church.” And the oracular clergy took care that the words which he should “happen” to hear at that moment—uttered not in Latin, but in language which Clovis understood—should be the following from "Psalm 18: “Thou hast girded me, O Lord, with strength unto the battle; thou hast subdued unto me those who rose up against me. Thou hast given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me.”” The oracle was satisfactory, and in the event was completely successful. “The Visigothic kingdom was wasted and subdued by the remorseless sword of the Franks.” [38]

Nor was the religious zeal of Clovis confined to the overthrow of the Arians. There were two bodies of the Franks, the Salians and the Ripuarians. Clovis was king of the Salians, Sigebert of the Ripuarians. Clovis determined to be king of all; he therefore prompted the son of Sigebert to assassinate his father, with the promise that the son should peaceably succeed Sigebert on the throne; but as soon as the murder was committed, Clovis commanded the murderer to be murdered, and then in a full parliament of the whole people of the Franks, he solemnly vowed that he had had nothing to do with the murder of either the father or the son; and upon this, as there was no heir, Clovis was raised upon a shield, and proclaimed king of the Ripuarian Franks;—all of which Gregory, bishop of Tours, commended as the will of God, saying of Clovis that “God thus daily prostrated his enemies under his hands, and enlarged his kingdom, because he walked before him with an upright heart, and did that which was well pleasing in his sight.” [39]

Thus was the bloody course of Clovis glorified by the Catholic writers, as the triumph of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity over Arianism. When such actions as these were so lauded by the clergy as the pious acts of orthodox Catholics, it is certain that the clergy themselves were no better than were the bloody objects of their praise. Under the influence of such ecclesiastics, the condition of the barbarians after their so-called conversion, could not possibly be better, even if it were not [51] worse than before. To be converted to the principles and precepts of such clergy was only the more deeply to be damned.

Into the “converted” barbarians, the Catholic system instilled all of its superstition, and its bigoted hatred of heretics and unbelievers. It thus destroyed what of generosity still remained in their minds, while it only intensified their native ferocity; and the shameful licentiousness of the papal system likewise corrupted the purity, and the native respect for women and marriage which had always been a noble characteristic of the German nations.

In proof of this it is necessary only to touch upon the condition of Catholic France under Clovis and his successors.

“It is difficult to conceive a more dark and odious state of society than that of France under her Merovingian kings, the descendants of Clovis, as described by Gregory of Tours … Throughout, assassinations, parricides, and fratricides intermingle with adulteries and rapes.

“The cruelty might seem the mere inevitable result of this violent and unnatural fusion; but the extent to which this cruelty spreads throughout the whole society almost surpasses belief. That king Chlotaire should burn alive his rebellious son with his wife and daughter, is fearful enough; but we are astounded, even in these times, that a bishop of Tours should burn a man alive to obtain the deeds of an estate which he coveted. Fredegonde sends two murderers to assassinate Childebert, and these assassins are clerks. She causes the archbishop of Rouen to be murdered while he is chanting the service in the church; and in this crime a bishop and an archdeacon are her accomplices.”

“MARRIAGE was a bond contracted and broken on the slightest occasion. Some of the Merovingian kings took as many wives, either together or in succession, as suited either their passions or their politics.”

The papal religion “hardly interferes even to interdict incest. King Chlotaire demanded for the fisc the third part of the revenue of the churches; some bishops yielded; one, Injuriosus, disdainfully refused, and Chlotaire withdrew his demands. Yet Chlotaire, seemingly unrebuked, married two sisters at once. Charibert likewise married two sisters: he, however, found a churchman—but that was Saint Germanus—bold enough to rebuke him. This rebuke the king (the historian quietly writes), as he had already many wives, bore with patience. Dagobert, son of Chlotaire, king of Austria, repudiated his wife Gomatrude for barrenness, married a Saxon slave Mathildis, then another, Regnatrude; so that he had three wives at once, besides so many concubines that the chronicler is ashamed to recount them.” [40]

THIS did the papacy for the barbarians whom she “converted;” and such as she could not thus corrupt she destroyed. And this is how she “civilized” the barbarians. The truth is the barbarians were compelled, wearily, to drag themselves toward civilization, weighed down and retarded by this terrible incubus. They were thus compelled to grope their way, and drag both themselves and her toward civilization and Christianity instead of being helped by her in any sense. What she did with those whom she could not corrupt, and what she did within her own proper sphere in the way of civilization, we shall see next week.

A. T. J.

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