“THE Roman Catholic Church of to-day is not what it was in the Dark Ages,” is a belief widely entertained, and a saying oft expressed—in actions if not in words—by modern Protestants. We are told that the Catholic Church has changed; has become liberal, etc. We are assured that even if this is not true of the Catholic Church in general, it must at least be true of that church in the United States.
We call the attention of these Protestants and all others to the fact that all this is now expressly denied by Pope Leo himself.
The pope has written a letter to Cardinal Gibbons on “Americanism.” This letter was called forth by a book written by Rev. Walter Elliott, of the “Paulist Fathers,” giving an account of the life and teachings of “Father” Isaac Hecker, the founder of the Paulist order. “Father” Hecker was the leading exponent of views to which in general the term “Americanism” came to be applied. Of these the pope’s letter says:—
“The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas, if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the church proposes are recalled to mind.”
The letter then goes on to say of “Americanism” that—
“If by this name are to be understood certain endowments of mind which belong to the American people, just as other characteristics belong to various other nations, and if, moreover, by it is designated your political condition and the laws and customs by which you are governed, there is no reason to take exception to the name. But if this is to be so understood that the doctrines which have been adverted to above are not only indicated, but exalted, there can be no manner of doubt that our venerable brethren the bishops of America, would be the first to repudiate and condemn it as being most injurious to themselves and to their country. For it would give rise to the suspicion that there are among you some who conceive and would have the church in America to be different from what it is in the rest of the world.”
The Catholic “Church in America” is not “different from what it is in the rest of the world”—in Ecuador, Peru, or Spain, for example. “Liberal” Protestants mark that.
And this is not all; the pontiff takes equal care to  assert in his letter that the church in this age is not different from what it was in former ages. He says:—
“We, indeed, have no thought of rejecting everything that modern industry and study has produced; so far from it that we welcome to the patrimony of truth and to an ever-widening scope of public well-being whatsoever helps toward the progress of learning and virtue. Yet all this, to be of any solid benefit, nay, to have a real existence and growth, can only be on the condition of recognizing the wisdom and authority of the church.”
All liberality, progress, and enlightenment in the Catholic Church “can only be on condition of recognizing the wisdom and authority of the church.” And what is this “wisdom” and “authority”?—It is that of the “fathers” and the church councils, to the writings and decisions of which the letter makes frequent reference. This is the standard by which what is modern must be measured and judged.
A thing may be called liberal, but it must be in harmony with the teachings it is to be rejected. And as the writings of the “fathers” and the decisions of the councils were in existence back in the days when Rome ruled the world and persecuted dissenters to the death—as these very “authorities” and this very “wisdom” were employed by the church in combatting [sic.] the Reformation—it is perfectly plain that all the modern liberality and progress there is in the church of Rome to-day is such as is in harmony—year, must be in harmony—with the spirit of opposition to every principle of the Reformation by fire and sword, by the dungeon, the rack, the stake, and every other means that Rome ever employed.
And this, by the word of Pope Leo XIII., is true of the Catholic Church in the United States, as everywhere else.
We wish all Protestants everywhere would mark this and not forget it. The Roman Catholic Church in America is “not different from what it is in the rest of the world;” and the church of to-day, in all the world, is not different from what it was in other ages of the world. This is the word of Pope Leo himself. Some Protestants have not been willing to believe us when we have asserted this; we are able now to give them the pope’s own word that it is so.