“Editorial” American Sentinel 9, 8, pp. 57-59.

February 22, 1894

LAMST week we examined on its merits, and in the ligt of indisputable historical facts, the claim that the papacy is the source and stay of civilization.

WE found that in the great and leading opportunity which she first sought and found, for the establishment of a permanent “Christian civilization,” she proved herself a most deplorable failure—that, instead of purifying and enlightening anything, she corrupted and darkened everything.

WE found that the claim that is made by her, and in her behalf by “Protestants,” that she civilized the barbarians who destroyed the Western Empire, is a sheer unmitigated fraud: that instead of converting them she corrupted them; and instead of aiding them in every way, she retarded them in every way. And we promised to show now what she did for those whom she could not corrupt; and what she did within her own proper sphere in the way of helping or blessing mankind.

NOR is this in any sense “threshing over old straw.” As it has been authoritatively announced from the Vatican to the American people that “what ‘the church’ has done in the past for other nations, she will now do for the United States;” and as her “apostolic delegate” is here to guide in the doing of this, it is simply a practical object-lesson to enable the people to take a look at what she has done for other nations. And, assuredly, the time when she had the most untrammeled opportunities to do what she could or would for nations—that is the time which presents the fairest point from which to view her.

BESIDES this, as what she has done for others, she will now do for us; in looking at what she has done for others, we can find profitable lessons which will instruct us to-day, beforehand, that we may be the better able to know what to do. In studying these things we are but studying the lessons which faithful history has taught—alas, however, too much in vain. The Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy, under Theodoric, is the nearest parallel in all history to the situation of the United States Government, as it was established, as related to the papacy. The principles upon which the government of Theodoric was conducted, are almost identical with the principles upon which the Government of the United States was founded. And what the papacy did for that nation is worth knowing, in view of the statement that what she has done for others she will do for the United States.

THEODORIC ruled Italy thirty-three years, A.D. 493-526, during which time Italy enjoyed such peace and quietness and absolute security as had never been known there before, and has never been known since until 1870. The people of his own nation numbered two hundred thousand men, which with the proportionate number of women and children, formed a population of nearly one million. His troops, formerly so wild and given to plunder, were restored to such discipline that in a battle in Dacia, in which they were completely victorious, “the rich spoils of the enemy lay untouched at their feet,” because their leader had given no signal of pillage. When such discipline prevailed in the excitement of a victory and in an enemy’s country, it is easy to understand the peaceful order that prevailed in their own new-gotten lands which the Herulians had held before them.

During the ages of violence and revolution which had passed, large tracts of land in Italy had become utterly desolate and uncultivated; almost the whole of the rest was under imperfect culture; but now “agriculture revived under the shadow of peace, and the number of husbandmen multiplied by the redemption of captives;” and Italy, which had so long been fed from other countries, now actually began to export grain. Civil order was so thoroughly maintained that “the city gates were never shut either by day or by night, and the common saying that a purse of gold might be safely left in the fields, was expressive of the conscious security of the inhabitants.” [41] Merchants and other lovers of the blessings of peace thronged from all parts.

But not alone did civil peace reign. Above all, there was perfect freedom in the exercise of religion. In fact, the measure of civil liberty and peace always depends upon that of religious liberty. Theodoric and his people were Arians, yet at the close of a fifty-years’ rule of Italy, the Ostrogoths could safely challenge their enemies to present a single authentic case in which they had ever persecuted the Catholics. Even the mother of Theodoric and some of his favorite Goths had embraced the Catholic faith with perfect freedom from any molestation whatever.

The separation between Church and State, between civil and religious powers, was clear and distinct. Church property was protected in common with other property, while at the same time it was taxed in common with all other property. The clergy were protected in common with all other people, and they were likewise, in common with all other people, cited before the civil courts to answer for all civil offenses. In all ecclesiastical matters they were left entirely to themselves. Even the papal elections Theodoric left entirely to themselves, and though often solicited by both parties to interfere, he refused to have anything at all to do with them, except to keep the peace, which in fact was of itself no small task. He declined even to confirm the papal elections, an office which had been exercised by Odoacer.

Nor was this merely a matter of toleration; it was in genuine recognition of the rights of conscience. In a letter to the emperor Justin, A.D. 524, Theodoric announced the genuine principle of the rights of conscience, and the relationship that should exist between religion and the State, in the following words, worthy to be graven in letters of gold:—

To pretend to a dominion over the conscience, is to usurp the prerogative of God. By the nature of things, the power of sovereigns is confined to political government. They have no right of punishment but over those who disturb the public peace. The most [58] dangerous heresy is that of a sovereign who separates himself from part of his subjects, because they believe not according to his belief.” [42]

Similar pleas had before been made by the parties oppressed, but never before had the principle been announced by the party in power. The enunciation and defense of a principle by the party who holds the power to violate it, is the surest pledge that the principle is held in genuine sincerity.

The description of the state of peace and quietness in Italy above given, applies to Italy, but not to Rome; to the dominions of Theodoric and the Ostrogoths, but not to the city of the pope and the Catholics. In A.D. 499, there was a papal election. As there were as usual, rival candidates—Symmachus and Laurentius—there was a civil war. “The two factions encountered with the fiercest hostility; the clergy, the Senate, and the populace were divided;” the streets of the city “ran with blood, as in the days of republican strife.” [43]

The contestants were so evenly matched, and the violent strife continued so long, that the leading men of both parties persuaded the candidates to go to Theodoric at Ravenna, and submit to his judgment their claims. Theodoric’s love of justice and of the rights of the people, readily and simply enough decided that the candidate who had the most votes should be counted elected; and if the votes were evenly divided, then the candidate who had been first ordained. Symmachus secured the office. A council was held by Symmachus, which met the first of March, 499, and passed a decree “almost in the terms of the old Roman law, severely condemning all ecclesiastical ambition, all canvassing either to obtain subscriptions, or administration of oaths, or promises, for the papacy” during the lifetime of a pope. But such election methods as these were now so prevalent that this law was of as little value in controlling the methods of the aspiring candidates for the bishopric, as in the days of the republic the same kind of laws were for the candidates to the consulship.

Laurentius, though defeated at this time, did not discontinue his efforts to obtain the office. For four years he watched for opportunities, and carried on an intrigue to displace Symmachus, and in 503 brought a series of heavy charges against him. “The accusation was brought before the judgment-seat of Theodoric, supported by certain Roman females of rank, who had been suborned, it was said, by the enemies of Symmachus. Symmachus was summoned to Ravenna and confined at Rimini,” but escaped and returned to Rome. Meantime, Laurentius had entered the city, and when Symmachus returned, “the sanguinary tumults between the two parties broke out with greater fury;” priests were slain, monasteries set on fire, and nuns treated with the utmost indignity.

The Senate petitioned Theodoric to send a visitor to judge the cause of Symmachus in the crimes laid against him. The king finding that the matter was only a church quarrel, appointed one of their own number, the bishop of Altimo, who so clearly favored Laurentius that his partisanship only made the contention worse. Again Theodoric was petitioned to interfere, but he declined to assume any jurisdiction, and told them to settle it among themselves; but as there was so much disturbance of the peace, and it was so long continued, Theodoric commanded them to reach some sort of settlement that would stop their fighting, and restore public order. A council was therefore called. As Symmachus was on his way to the council, “he was attacked by the adverse party; showers of stones fell around him; many presbyters and others of his followers were severely wounded; the pontiff himself only escaped under the protection of the Gothic guard” [44] and took refuge in the church of St. Peter. The danger to which he was then exposed he made an excuse for not appearing at the council.

The most of the council were favorable to Symmachus and to the pretensions of the bishop of Rome at this time, and therefore were glad of any excuse that would relieve them from judging him. However, they went through the form of summoning him three times; all of which he declined. Then the council sent deputies to state to Theodoric the condition of affairs, “saying to him that the authority of the king might compel Symmachus to appear, but that the council had not such authority.” Theodoric replied that “with respect to the cause of Symmachus, he had assembled them to judge him, but yet left them at full liberty to judge him or not, providing they could by any other means put a stop to the present calamities, and restore the wished-for tranquillity to the city of Rome.”

The majority of the council declared Symmachus “absolved in the sight of men, whether guilty or innocent in the sight of God,” for the reason that “no assembly of bishops has power to judge the pope; he is accountable for his actions to God alone.” [45] They then commanded all, under penalty of excommunication, to accept this judgment, and submit to the authority of Symmachus, and acknowledge him “for lawful bishop of the holy city of Rome.”

FROM the foregoing facts as to both sides, the condition of civilization among the “barbarians” and that among the Catholics in the city of Rome, there can be no difficulty in deciding where civilization, and civil order, and peace, and good of every kind, really dwelt. All the blessings of civilization and enlightened principles were found with the “barbarians;” while the violence, the strife, and the determination to be chief, that belong to barbarians, were all fond in the Catholic Church, led on by her chief leaders, and in the city of her sole possession and government. The “barbarians” gave to Italy all the blessings of enlightened civilization. The Catholic Church gave to Rome such violence, strife, and bloodshed as could hardly be outdone by barbarians. Nor was this scene in Rome mere a spasmodic affair—this had been the customary procedure in the election of a pope for more than a hundred years.

AND the barbarism of the church in Rome was only the same sort as that which prevailed in the church throughout the empire where there were no heretic “barbarians” to keep order. In the eastern part of the empire the church had everything her own way, with no “barbarian” heretics to check her barbarism anywhere, and the results were correspondingly barbaric. By the council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, the faith of the world was finally “settled,” and all were forbidden, under severe penalties, “the dispute concerning the faith.” But in such barbarism as pervaded all the Catholic Church, neither “the faith,” now laws, nor penalties were of any avail. And there were more and more violent disputes over “the faith” than there had been even before, for the monks were now the ones who took the lead in the controversies and the consequent rioting and barbarism.

In Jerusalem a certain Theodosius was at the head of the army of monks, who made him bishop, and in acts of violence, pillage and murder, he fairly outdid the perfectly lawless bandits of the country. “The very scenes of the Saviour’s mercies ran with blood, shed in his name by his ferocious self-called disciples.” [46]

In Alexandria “the bishop was not only murdered in the baptistery, but his body was treated with shameless indignities, and other enormities were perpetrated which might have appalled a cannibal.” And the monkish horde then elected as bishop one of their own number, Timothy the Weasel, a disciple of Dioscorus. [47]

Soon there was added to all this another point which increased the fearful warfare. In the Catholic churches it was customary to sing what was called the Trisagion, or Thrice-Holy. It was, originally, the “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts” of Isaiah 6:3; but at the time of the council of Chalcedon, it had been changed, and was used by the council thus: “Holy God, Holy Almighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.” At Antioch, in 477, a third monk, Peter the Fuller, “led a procession, chiefly of monastics, through the streets,” loudly singing the Thrice-Holy, with the addition, “Who wast crucified for us.” It was orthodox to sing it as the Council of Chalcedon had used it, with the understanding that the three “Holies” referred respectively to the three persons of the Trinity. It was heresy to sing it with the later addition.

In A.D. 511, two hordes of monks on the two sides of the question met in Constantinople. “The two black-cowled armies watched each other for several months, working in secret on their respective partisans. At length they came to a rupture…. The Monophysite monks in the church of the Archangel within the palace, broke out after the ‘Thrice-Holy’ with the burden added at Antioch by Peter the Fuller, ‘who wast crucified for us.’ The orthodox monks, backed by the rabble of Constantinople, endeavored to expel them from the church; they were not content with hurling curses against each other, sticks and stones began their work. There was a wild, fierce fray; the divine presence of the emperor lost its awe; he could not maintain the peace. The bishop Macedonius either took the lead, or was compelled to lead the tumult. Men, women, and children poured out from all quarters; the monks with their archimandrites at the head of the raging multitude, echoed back their religious war cry.” [48]

These are but samples of the repeated—it might almost be said the continuous— [60] occurrences in the cities of the East. “Throughout Asiatic Christendom it was the same wild struggle. Bishops deposed quietly; or where resistance was made, the two factions fighting in the streets, in the churches: cities, even the holiest places, ran with blood…. The hymn of the angels in heaven was the battle cry on earth, the signal of human bloodshed.” [49]

In A.D. 512 one of these Trisagion riots broke out in Constantinople, because the emperor proposed to use the added clause. “Many palaces of the nobles were set on fire, the officers of the crown insulted, pillage, conflagration, violence, raged through the city.” In the house of the favorite minister of the emperor there was found a monk from the country. He was accused of having suggested the use of the addition. His head was cut off and raised high on a pole, and the whole orthodox populace marched through the streets singing the orthodox Trisagion, and shouting, “Behold the enemy of the Trinity!” [50]

THIS is enough, but it is not in vain to show the difference between barbarism and Christian civilization in the Roman Empire when the Catholic Church had everything in her own hands and was allowed to show fully what she could do. And what did she do with the Ostrogoths? Why, finding she could not corrupt them with her own barbaric religion, she secured from Justinian the armies of the Eastern Empire and swept them not only out of Italy, but out of existence. The Ostrogoths were one of the three nations that were “plucked up by the roots” to give full place to the papacy. Daniel 7:8, 20, 24, 25. And, behold, now she announces to the Government and people of the United States, that what she has done for other nations in the past she will now do for the United States. And there is not the least doubt that she will do all in her barbaric power to fulfill this avowed purpose. She will corrupt to the core the whole nation, so far as it is possible for her to do it; and such as she cannot corrupt she will do her utmost to destroy. But, thank the Lord, she cannot destroy them, for God had promised to all these “the victory over his mark and over the number of his name”—a complete and triumphant victory over her and all her barbarism—and these shall stand on the sea of glass before the throne of God. Revelation 15:2, 3.

WHO of the American, or of the world’s people, will favor Rome? Who will admit her claims? Who will sanction her pretensions? Who will yield to this mystery of lawlessness? this synonym of worse than barbarism? Who will share the perdition that must come, with the coming of this “saviour from the Vatican”? Who? It is time to decide.

A. T. J.

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