Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Difficulties That Must Be Met

( Originally Published 1870 )


NOT WITHSTANDING all the feats of dexterity executed to show that we owe to Catholicism all that modern times have had, on the contrary, to win from Catholicism by hard fighting, Catholic writers have been compelled occasionally to consider a question which they would much have preferred to leave in the background. The Roman principle, is it, or is it not, compatible with liberty of thought and of faith ? Is it possible, yes or no, to be a Catholic, and yet not to resign one's personal sovereignty to the visible authority commissioned to teach in matters of faith, and to regulate in matters of discipline ?

In former days the answer would have been plainly no ; and even now, when the principle has to be established, and assailants repulsed, the answer is still no. Wiseman, for instance, in his first lecture, compares Catholicism to a city which may be approached by several roads, but has only one gate. You may, he says, go round her walls, admire from afar the beauty of her buildings and the extent of her ramparts ; but you can only obtain the rights of citizenship by entering through the one inevitable gate of absolute unreserved submission to the authority and teaching of the Church. And again, in the third lecture, he tells you that the moment a Catholic entertains doubts, he will not say respecting the principle of his faith, but respecting a single one of the doctrines that rest on that foundation, the moment he hesitates to believe one of the dogmas which the Church is commissioned to teach, from that moment the Church regards him as having broken all the links that bound him to her.

In that case what a contrast there is between all such declarations, which alone are official and true, and the eagerness with which the name of Catholic is applied to individuals or nations that, judged by this standard, are radically unworthy of it !

Take France in particular. Pastoral letters, newspapers, sermons, books, everything that comes from the Catholic camp, agrees in representing her as bound to Catholicism by indissoluble bonds. It is true that at other times they say exactly the reverse, and blacken the picture that had first been painted in such radiant colours. 'France has been Voltairian for the last hundred years, and Hegelian for the last thirty. Is it to be wondered at that she is now impious and sacrilegious ? . . . France is impious, not because she is, but because she is not, Catholic.' Thus speaks M. Nicolas ; but he does not therefore refrain, any more than his fellows, from representing that same France, which is Voltairian, Hegelian, and what is worse, Protestant, as being Catholic, very Catholic, and marching in the van of the Catholic nations. He even tells you that it is France which prevents the Protestant nations from going altogether to the bottom of that slope ` of materialism, down which they are sinking lower and lower.' If she be some-times more cruelly agitated and tormented than other nations, it is because she is like that 'sacred mount, where, through the darkness of the cloud and the bellowings of the thunder, God issued His commandments to the earth. France is the Sinai of Providence.' This is not very respectful towards Rome ; but Rome stands too much in need of France to object. M. De Maistre has said, 'Religion (Catholicism) has need of France.' And he added, ` There is among the French a certain theocratic and religious element which is always discoverable. The Frenchman needs religion more than any other man.' The Frenchman, on the contrary, can unfortunately do without it better than any one, and M. De Maistre is perfectly aware of the fact ; only it suits him in this place not to know it, and to settle that the Frenchman is religious, very religious —Catholic, and very Catholic.

In reality these declarations give evidence, not only of a desire to persuade France that she is the eldest daughter of the Church, but also, and especially among priests, of a desire to remove the impression that the writer is not a thorough Frenchman. He knows that he is suspected, and with reason, of having his country and his affections elsewhere, or at least of being a Frenchman only in the second place, and a Roman in the first. Hence those compliments addressed to France ; that patriotism always a little overdone ; that strange and often sacrilegious jumble —a Catholic has thus described it of things earthly, heavenly, political, religious, warlike, and mystical. ` Glory,' cried Lacordaire one day from the pulpit of Notre Dame, ` Glory that you are baptized, and especially that you are baptized as Frenchmen.' Now this was in the first sermon which he delivered in the Dominican garb, in full Ultramontane livery. The subject was 'the French Nationality;' and the sermon might serve as the type of all sermons and writings of the kind. You will find in it, for instance, an apology for the League, but based on a principle of the eighteenth century, and one, moreover, which the Revolution has crowned with horror. `The glorious and holy League,' says he, ` of which the greatness will every day be better appreciated, because when a people's nationality 'is saved, all faults are lost in glory.' This is word for word the language of the advocates of the Terrorists. And a propos of war ! What pictures ! What excitement ! How little care there is in this Catholico-French literature to make even the reservations which the merest humanity dictates to other authors ! The old saying, Gesta Dei per Francos, is made the most of. The pretended Catholic destiny of France is connected with its military destiny, and thus the end in this justifying the means the men who ought to be the ministers of charity and peace, exalt without scruple the warlike instincts of the country.

But in judging other nations, other weights and measures are employed, even where the strangest contradictions are involved. Catholicism is declared to have been the national religion of France. France is adjured by all her past history to seek for lier strength and its glory in that holy nationalism ; and when it is impossible to help admitting that Protestantism in England possesses all the characteristics of a true national religion, deeply rooted in the minds, the hearts, and the manners of the people, oh, then, we are asked with great disdain, what is a national religion ? No longer a religion at all, only a matter of politics ; the English-man is not a Christian, but a citizen. And so that union of the citizen and the believer which is pro-claimed and admired in France, where it does not exist, is looked upon as bad in England, where it does ; and when M. de Montalembert, when Père Hyacinthe, dare occasionally to be just towards the English people, the whole Catholic camp is filled with amazement and indignation.

It is also considered a great point to show that France, in the sixteenth century, was too Catholic ever to have been in danger of ceasing to be so. This is, of course, only another device to persuade her that she still is, and will remain Catholic.

Sometimes, however, Catholic writers forget them-selves. ` There is no doubt,' says M. Laurentie in his Justice in the Nineteenth, Century,1 ' that the new opinions would have established themselves in France if, in default of the religious authorities, who did not always offer a sufficient resistance to them, the civil authority, offering its support to the weakness of men's consciences, had not served the faith of our fathers by acts of severity which I shall not fear to call salutary.' This is frank. Without the acts of severity Protestantism had triumphed.

But generally the contrary is maintained. The Protestants are spoken of as never having been anything but an imperceptible minority in France. They could never have been anything else. Lamennais goes so far as to say that the idea of reading the Bible, of making every one read it, could evidently never be entertained by the French, considering 'that perfect reason, that exquisite feeling of religious and social fitness, which was the most marked feature in their national character.' Thus France is deceived with regard to her past, as well as to her present. She is told that she could not have ceased to be Catholic, and not only was that possible, but she never was Catholic in the Papal sense. She is assured that she is so now to the marrow of her bones, and this is to prevent her from perceiving that she is not so at all.


But when all has been said and done, it has still been found necessary to seek for some bona fide philosophical and psychological reconciliation between the two principles authority and liberty.

You may throw as much light or darkness as you like on the pages of history ; you may do your best to obliterate the large traces of blood which the system of authority has left ; you may use your utmost skill to dissimulate what that system was, and what were its works, even yesterday, wherever the Church held sway ; but as soon as you leave the region of generalities, as soon as the reader or hearer, indulgent so far, begins to ask or to reflect, What does the system lead to ? so soon will the question we have already asked, necessarily recur, ` Does the Catholic system leave me free, or does it not ? Whether or not it will, in its 'dealings with me, prove a system of oppression and persecution, I should like to know whether it allows to my reason, and my conscience, those rights which I neither will, nor can abandon ?'

This is the question to which a reply has been at-tempted. And we may say in limine, that the sophistries we have come across in the field of history were as nothing compared with those we find here.

Sometimes, after appearing to be willing to discuss the question on practical grounds, it is suddenly carried into cloudland. Thus, for instance, M. Donoso Cortes will seek to find, in the notion of divine liberty, an answer to any one who complains of not being free at Rome. ` If liberty,' says he (Essay on Catholicism, Book II.), ` if liberty consists in the full power to choose between two contrary impulses, then God is entirely without liberty ; for in God there are not two contrary impulses.' And he concludes from this, that a definition which would imply a denial of God's liberty is necessarily false ; that liberty therefore is not the right of choosing between two contrary opinions, but the right of accepting and professing the true. In other terms, God being necessarily always right, liberty for Him does not consist in choosing. Now liberty cannot be for man, created in God's image, what it is not for God; therefore, for us as for Him, liberty consists in being always right ; and as we cannot pretend always to be so of ourselves, our liberty will consist in a constant submission to the authority that keeps us in the right. This was repeated frequently last year in the discussions on religious liberty in Spain.

At this point I seem ,to see our inquirers dividing into three parties.

Some are dazzled, and bow their heads.

Others are dazzled also, but still distrustful, and find themselves at the same point as before : `These things are very fine ; but still, yes or no, am I free ? . . . etc.'

Others, finally, will see through the sophistry the two sophistries indeed, for there are two.

It is a sophistry, first, to argue thus from God to man in a matter in which, as you have just said, God and man are dissimilar. ` God, who does not require to make a choice, does not choose. You who have to make a choice, you shall not choose either.' This is the argument.

It is a sophistry, next, to assume as undeniable what is indeed the very point in debate, viz. that Catholic truth is the truth. ` You cannot pretend to be always right of yourself. Submit, and you will be so always.' Yes if you are so yourself ; but even if I desired with all my heart that you should be, still I must make sure of the fact, and for this I must examine.

Examine ! examine ! is cried from all sides. And this leads me to another series of efforts made to convince people that they are free, even when they have submitted fully and entirely.

One day it was in 1855, at the chapel of the Tuileries I heard M. de Ravignan. The text has escaped my memory, but I have not forgotten the sermon.

The first part consisted of a request not to condemn Christianity unheard. Here the preacher was neither a Catholic nor a Protestant ; he was a Christian lamenting over the levity of the age and the general indifference in religious matters. This first part was summed up in the one word inquire.

The second part appeared to be a continuation of the first, but in reality contradicted it. The verb to inquire received its complement, as we say in grammar, and the complement annihilated the verb. ' Inquire into what ? Into the foundations of the authority of the Church ; and having done that, submit.' This last word, however, was not uttered ; there were those present to whose ears such a word is ill adapted. It was in the name of inward peace, the peace of the mind, the peace of the heart, that the orator said in conclusion : ` To accept the teaching of the Church is the best means, in the midst of all the strifes of the age, of relieving one's self from all care and anxiety.'

This is true. It is certain that if you can attain to a perfect faith in the teachings of Rome, and if to have your mind at perfect peace it is enough for you to know what Rome thinks upon any question, why, then, the Syllabus and its eighty articles are the best code of happiness ever given to the human race.

And yet, even if the Syllabus were the truth itself, it would still be a question whether this peace of ignorance and passiveness is that which God wishes us to possess. In any case it is evident that this was not what He wished when He gave us His syllabus, the book we call His word, which is full of exhortations to seek, to find, to conquer the truth, and everywhere offers itself as the field on which this noble conquest is to be achieved.

The sermon therefore came to this : ' Use your liberty, but only to convince yourself that you must afterwards forego it.' The shape which the idea gene-rally assumes is this : 'You cannot say that a man, who has freely convinced himself of the authority of the Church, is not free when he afterwards obeys that authority.'

Even if this were philosophically true, it would, as a matter of fact, be doubly false.

First, the Church does not admit that a man can be freely convinced of her authority. This would be to admit that he may fail to convince himself of it, finding the foundations weak, and therefore refuse to submit ; it would be to abandon the right of laying down. an unquestionable law, to abandon a principle. Never has the Church, never have the Popes said what the preacher said in the first part of his sermon ; never, where the Church was in power, has any one been able to inquire freely — that is to say, with the right of rejection into the grounds of her supreme authority. The Syllabus (Art. 15) forbids you to think ' that every man is free to embrace the religion which he shall hold to be true by the light of his reason,' that is to say, by inquiry.

The Church, in the second place, does not recognise that a man may, having once submitted, afterwards throw off the yoke. Thus, even if there had really been freedom in the preliminary inquiry, it is thence-forward suppressed, as he is forbidden to resume it, forbidden in principle, and forbidden in fact wherever the Church enjoys the power of compulsion.


Setting aside the facts, what have we philosophically ? A paradox, a play upon words ; and, coming from such eloquent lips, affording a sad proof that a frank and real solution is impossible. I have submitted freely ; therefore, now that I have submitted, I am free. Free not to submit any longer ? No, certainly not. I am free because I possessed, or rather am supposed to have possessed, twenty, or forty years ago, the liberty of remaining free. It is just as if you were to maintain to a soldier that he is free, free now, because he enlisted freely, or, again, because he has freely recognised in theory the right of the Government to make him a soldier. Add that a soldier enjoys at any rate the prospect of being free some day ; add that he retains, as we have already remarked, the right to think that his chiefs are bad generals. Under the flag of Rome you must not only always obey, but always be convinced that what you have to do is good, that what you have to believe is true ; and you must, besides, according to the judgment of the modern advocates of Catholicism, remain convinced that your reason and conscience are free.

If this should strike you as going rather far, they will immediately go farther, as M. De Maistre was in the constant habit of doing. M. Gerbet, for instance, tells you, in the work already quoted, that not only does this despotism not destroy liberty, but that it actually acts as a safeguard to it, and that free inquiry, while appearing to be liberty itself, in reality restrains and oppresses it.

His argument is this : If you care at all for religious truths, you will not dare, with your free inquiry, to examine those of which you may fear that the proofs are weak ; your reason cannot therefore have free play. But the moment you stand on the terra firma of an infallible authority, these truths will be independent of all that you can think, or even say, respecting the weakness of the proofs given of them. Consequently ` you will have nothing to fear in putting these proofs to the test of the most rigorous examination, and the doctrine itself being replaced on its true foundation, is born again at the same time to liberty.'

One would be very curious to see this system at work, and to know what the Pope would think of the professor in a seminary who should bona fide put to the test of ` the most rigorous examination,' either the Immaculate Conception, or some point in the Syllabus, contenting himself with deciding the matter in conclusion in a Catholic sense, as if all he had said before was nothing, as if none of his objections had had, or could have, any validity.

The same certainty which the Abbé Gerbet regards as an element of liberty, is appealed to by Newman, in one of his lectures, as justifying exactly the reverse, viz. the refusal of the right of inquiry.

This refusal, according to him, is not a decree pronounced arbitrarily by the Church, it springs naturally from the very notion of faith. Faith, he says, is either a yes or a no ; either you have it, or you have it not. If a Catholic be not fully and entirely convinced of the truth of everything which the Church teaches, he is not a Catholic. If he have this conviction, if he be sure of actually possessing the truth, he cannot reasonably ask for freedom to change his opinion, for this would be asking to be free to fall into error. In short, if I am certain of being in possession of the truth, it would be mere foolishness on my part to reserve the right of losing it.

Here, then, we have another system. You cannot say that the Church deprives you of your liberty, for that liberty which she takes away, you could not logically ask to retain it.

Thus one tells you that, with faith in the authority of the Church, you may pass freely and fearlessly through all objections ; the other tells you, on the contrary, that with faith in the authority of the Church, there is no occasion to examine either objections or proofs, no occasion to wish to be free. Will Newman abstain, in consequence, from speaking of freedom ? Not in the least. He will remember, even he, that a little liberalism is necessary. The Catholic, he says, is free, entirely free. It is voluntarily and `from prudence' that he abstains from inquiry. From prudence ? But you have just said, on the contrary, that authority will be to him a guarantee that he shall not be shaken. No doubt, answers Newman. He does not fear that the objections will be strong in themselves ; he fears only that if he unnecessarily lends ear to them, God will punish him by the loss of his supernatural faith, that is to say, of the gift of believing notwithstanding objections. This is as if he were to say: 'Your objections would certainly not shake me ; only by listening to them I might lose the faculty of not being shaken, and then they would shake me.'


Have we had enough of these subtleties, enough of these efforts to help saying, and, if that be possible, to help believing, what Rome cries from the house-tops ? And in the face of these contradictions and sophistries, this chaos of avowals and disavowals, are we wrong in speaking of a universal protest of the conscience and the reason ?

The Abbé Gerbet was one of the disciples of Lamennais. Summoned, like his master, to return to his obedience, he deserted his master and complied. What traces this submission left upon his heart, God alone knows ; but the more we believe him to have been sincere in his return to the bosom of Catholic unity, the more right we have to show, underlying that sincerity, a permanent indestructible need of deluding himself as regards the weight, and even as regards the existence of the yoke. Being unable to stifle all objections in his own breast,---perhaps even finding in the study of them as it were a far off scent of freedom that gratified and yet frightened him, he strove to regard that study as justified, by the fact that authority would necessarily always be ultimately right. It is the case of the prisoner appealing even to his chains to show that he is allowed to stir.

As for Newman, he .bound the chain round himself, for he was born a Protestant. We do not examine his motives : there may be a great deal of pride in the abdication of one's self, in the humility in the name of which one preaches with the greater boldness sub-mission and self-abdication to others. And this is what Newman does, with his faith yes or 91o, with his Catholic who ceases to be a Catholic from the moment that he admits, even remotely, the possibility that he may cease to be one. In his eyes the reconciliation between liberty and authority is that, having once admitted authority, you should no longer think of being free, or wish to be so. Are you, or are you not, one of the Church's children ? That is the point. If you are not, you understand nothing about these questions ; if you are, then for you they are settled, and you have not got to think about them.

Another Englishman, Capes, has written a book developing this last idea. It is entitled, Four Years' Experience of the Catholic Religion ; and the main point he wishes to establish is, that not only has he not lost his freedom, but that he has discovered the only freedom that is real. The independence, he says, with which he reasoned previously, was no better than slavery, compared with the unlimited liberty he has enjoyed since he ceased to be a Protestant. . . . For the first time his faculties have reached their full liberty. . . . The Catholic Church is the only body in which the reason of man enjoys its full liberty. As the eaglet springing for the first time from its nest, so his reason rejoiced in the new faculties she had just acquired. These are statements against which one does not argue. We see here no longer even an advocate pleading a cause, but a courtier devoting himself to the task of turning all his master's vices into virtues ; and the person most interested in closing his lips would certainly be the master himself.

But the same author is occasionally more sensible, and we might take from his work several of the arguments attempted by others on the same subject.

According to him, then, there is not the shadow of servitude in believing without hesitation all that the Church teaches, since there is none in believing the affirmation of a competent judge.

Competent or not, if the judge forbids all examination, as well private in the recesses of the heart, as public, why, the servitude, on the contrary, is complete. We distrust these comparisons with common things. They are all necessarily inaccurate. No human authority is exercised as the Church pretends to exercise hers.

There is the same inaccuracy, consequently, when he asks whether there is any servitude for the peasant, who knows nothing of mathematics, in believing that the earth turns round the sun.

In the first place, as that peasant is altogether unable to verify the assertions of astronomers, his case is not in point ; for it is not on the ignorant alone, but on all, that the Church imposes her decrees. Moreover, though that peasant is unacquainted with mathematics, he has a right to study them ; and as soon as he had done so, your argument would fall to the ground. Again, if he cannot ask for mathematical proofs, of which he would understand nothing, he can ask for other proofs, and you would praise him for so doing. Finally, if that peasant were little disposed to believe you on your word, and you still told him that he must believe in the world's motion, that he must not ask for the proofs, could you still say that that was not servitude ?

You ask what we should think of a man who demanded freedom not to believe, for instance, that the earth is round. Why, that man would only be giving expression, in rather a strange way, to what we all express by the very fact of undertaking any inquiry whatever. I may believe in the roundness of the earth as much as I like, but the moment I begin to seek for the proofs of the fact, it is evident that I reserve to myself the right of not believing it, if the proofs should appear to me to be insufficient. There is no one who has not made use of this right many a time ; no one who has not altered his mind respecting matters that he had once held for certain ; no one, consequently, who can really give up the right of changing his mind in matters of religion.


But it is in the scientific interpretation of the Sacred Volume, in exegesis, that the champions of authority meet with most difficulty.

It is impossible here to drag in the case of the ignorant peasant. Exegesis may go wrong ; but, nevertheless, it is based on the most solid foundations of inquiry on the sciences of language, history, and archaeology. Now, in strict logic, exegesis ought to be banished from the pale of Catholicism, banished as useless, inasmuch as all interpretation belongs to the Church ; banished as tending to undermine the system, inasmuch as no exegetical inquirer can undertake be-forehand to see in the Scriptures nothing but what the Church directs that he should see there. But, on the other hand, openly to banish all exegesis would be an admission of fear somewhat too compromising. The Council of Trent only forbids it indirectly ; and in our own day it has been found necessary to appear to en-courage it a little more than the Council.

This has been done, among others, by the author of the famous Symbolism, MIoehler; but nothing can be more curious than his efforts to show how the liberty of the exegetical inquirer and the submission of the Catholic can be reconciled. These efforts, indeed, are only of a special application of the great sophistry, or the great word juggle we have already exposed. The Catholic believes in the teaching of the Church. He cannot, therefore, depart from it to the right hand or to the left, for this would be simultaneously to believe and not to believe. This, then, is the author's argument :

` The Catholic has the free conviction that the Church is a divine institution, that she receives help from above, that she is in possession of the truth. He believes, therefore, that every doctrine she rejects is contrary to Scripture, that all she teaches is contained in it. Thus the obligation, which the Church imposes on her own, of discovering in the Scriptures lier dogmas and her morality, is based on reason and the very nature of things.'

There is always, you see, at the starting-point that false idea false from a Catholic point of view that the Catholic has freely chosen the Catholic course ; there is always at the goal that kind of fatalism which irrevocably engages the mind and the heart, in short, the whole man ; the system is no longer even a system, but reason, the nature of things, and their natural and legitimate course, and consequently freedom. 'What a circuit to make ! And how much the author is like a man who should lead you about for a long time with your eyes bandaged, asseverating that he was taking you very far away, while all the time he was only con-ducting you round the cell in which you had complained of being confined !

` This, then,' he proceeds, ` is the only engagement entered into by the faithful ; outside this limit he is free from all restraint.'

If the author were speaking in irony, what else could he say ? Your only engagement is never to stray from the sense accepted by the Church ; beyond that you are entirely free. 'A vast field,' he adds, 'is open to the Catholic student of exegesis. He can exercise all his ability, all his learning ; he can constantly make new advances in the science of the Bible.'


Now, should you like to know what the Council of Trent has made of this vast field ? Why, it has fenced it round with a hedge which no science or labour can avail to pass.

The version long in use, the Vulgate, was composed from two versions, the one executed in the fifth century by St. Jerome, and the other of an earlier date, known by the title of the Italic. Till then, however, it had been formally sanctioned by no decree. The Church did no more than make use of it.

The revival of learning, and, one might say, the revival of Greek and Hebrew, almost lost during the Middle Ages, had soon brought about more than one painful discovery as regarded this old Latin version, corrupted by ignorance, and arbitrarily revised without any reference to the Greek and Hebrew text. From this the Council of Trent at first experienced considerable embarrassment. It had been declared that all matters were to be judged by Scripture. But can a judge deliver judgment unless he is certain that he holds in his hands the very text of the law, or an authentic and official translation ? Gradually, however, the Council remembered that, after all, it held the power of setting its seal on whatever it chose. On the 8th of April 1546 it ` ordains and decrees that, in all teachings, discussions, sermons, and public expositions, this ancient version be considered as authentic, and that no one do dare or pretend to reject it on any pretext whatsoever.'

No one, however, could say exactly where the version thus declared to be authentic and inviolable was to be found, for there were several editions varying consider-ably. An edition was therefore promised which should settle the text, and a commission appointed to compare it with the original. A wise proceeding, unquestionably, but one that makes the prior decree even more strange. You begin by declaring the Vulgate to be authentic and inviolable, which is equivalent to declaring it infallible, and you add that you are about to correct it.

The commission did nothing. Towards the close of the Council, Pius iv. appointed another, this time at Rome. Pius v. reappointed it. Twelve years later, at the accession of Sixtus v., the work was hardly sketched out. Sixtus v. made the task his own, and in 1589 announced by a bull that it was drawing to a conclusion. The new Vulgate was printed under his own eye at the Vatican ; he himself revised the proofs. ` We have corrected them with our own hand,' he says in the preface. The work appeared, ` and it was impossible,' says a learned Catholic, Hug, ` but that it should furnish matter for criticism and ridicule. There were found, especially in the Old Testament, a great number of passages covered with slips of paper on which new corrections had been printed ; others were obliterated, or else simply altered with a pen ; finally, the corrections were far from being the same in all the copies.'

The work had therefore to be done over again. The successor of Sixtus, Gregory XIV., set his hand to the task; and Clement VIII., after him, published in 1593 the text which has not since been changed.

What is the value of that text ? Cardinal Bellarmin admitted already in the preface that the revisers had been hurried, and that a few passages would have required further revision. To-day the errors which the learned discover in the Vulgate are counted by hundreds. In the Old Testament the errors are mostly of detail ; in the New, wherever the text offers any difficulty, the Vulgate is really not a translation ; Latin words are laid on Greek words, and form sentences pretty much at haphazard. It is evident, in many cases, that the object was to avoid making the Church responsible for any particular meaning, and that the absence of meaning was designed.

This is what, by the decree of the Council of Trent, is to have authority ` in all teachings, discussions, sermons, and expositions ;' this is what no one must ` dare to reject on any pretext whatsoever,' not even, consequently, in any case of evident and palpable error. Now go, after this, go and study exegesis ; go and place, if it be but a foot, on that ` vast field' about which you have been told. You have not the right to alter one word, not the right to reject, even with the Hebrew and the Greek in your hands, an evident mistranslation. You have only one way of escape from the strange and absurd position in which you would be placed by the discovery of the most trivial error : it is, to close as soon as possible the Greek and the Hebrew, and every scientific commentary, and the Vulgate itself, for you. might, in merely reading, discover errors and errors you are forbidden to find. Especially do not take refuge behind those Catholics who have made themselves some name as exegetical writers. They have violated the prohibition ; they ought, if strict discipline were maintained, to have been recalled to order. When Bossuet in his old age set himself to the study of Hebrew, he committed a grave fault. The decree of the Council is an indirect but absolute prohibition of all labours in connection with the Sacred Volume.

Home | More Articles | Email: