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But I will, by your leave, return to my former question and your answer.
"Can the POPE, in virtue of what the Roman Catholics believe his divine authority, command the assistance of the faithful in checking the progress of heresy, by any means not likely to produce loss or danger to the Roman Catholic Church; and can that CHURCH acknowledge the validity of any engagement to disobey the Pope in such cases?" My answer (you say) shall be short and explicit; and will, I trust, be satisfactory."
Your answer, Sir?-Was it not from a strong suspicion that the political bias of most English and Irish Roman Catholics, without weakening their disposition to obey the authority of their Pope and Church, had led them to misunderstand (I will not, when speaking in general, say, misrepresent) their doctrines and decisions?
Your answer?-It was to give weight to such answers that the expedient of consulting the foreign universities was thought necessary. I
certainly did not propose my question to have it answered by you; for I could easily conjecture how a Roman Catholic layman, living under the protection of the English Constitution, and wanted as a stalking-horse by your clergy, might evade the most searching question in writing, and under the certainty of not having another instantly urged. to bring out the whole truth. But let us, nevertheless, hear your answer.
"The Pope may, in virtue of what the Roman Catholics believe his divine authority, command the assistance of the faithful in checking the progress of heresy, by preaching and teaching, in the manner prescribed in the Gospel, BUT BY NO OTHER MEANS: and the Roman Catholics may acknowledge the validity of any engagement to disobey the Pope, in any case in which he should command them to check heresy, BY ANY OTHER MEANS than of preaching and teaching, in the manner prescribed by the Gospel*."
I really suspect, Sir, that any one who attentively examines this answer must think that you
* Vindication, page xxxvii.
have erected yourself into a pope of your own Pope. What right have you, as a Roman Catholic, to explain the Gospel to the head of that Church, "to which it belongs to judge of the sense of the Holy Scriptures*." Are you disposed to declare, that your Roman Catholic Churchyour Council of Trent, where she was visible and audible for the last time-misunderstood the Gospel, and acted against its precepts, when she passed the decrees about forcing baptized persons into obedience to her written and traditional precepts, by other punishments than that of excommunication? Read again, I entreat you, that and the other decrees which I have copied a few pages before; and if you are disposed to deny them, then do not call yourself any more a Roman Catholic; do not help to keep up the awful struggle which every honest man laments in this kingdom; and give your political ambition any other colouring but that of attachment to the faith of your Church.
After dwelling so long on the character of your
* Council of Trent, ubi supra.
arguments, the art with which you avoid the mention of the Church in your answer to my question, gives me little or no surprise. I ask,
can that Church (meaning the indefinite being to which you attribute supreme authority over your minds and consciences) acknowledge the validity of any engagements to disobey the Pope in such cases, i. e. of engagements not to check the progrees of heresy. -You answer, the Roman Catholics may acknowledge the validity of any engagement, &c. Sir, I did not word my question at random. I framed it with all the caution suggested by the idea, too familiar to my mind, of a Roman Catholic University, - by the idea of the broad gap which an assembled faculty of Roman Catholic Divines can make between a downright falsehood and the simple truth, when the interests of their Church are concerned. I knew that THEY would not dare to deny that the Church has solemnly declared the nullity of such engagements. THEY are too well acquainted with the xvith Canon of the third Council of Lateran, which says: "Nor let the saying of any one, that he is bound by oath to
keep the constitution of his own Church, oppose our decree. Oaths, which oppose the utility of the Church and the constitutions of the Fathers, should rather be called perjuries than oaths." Nec nostram Constitutionem impediat si forte aliquis, ad conservandam ecclesiæ suæ consuetudinem, juramento se dicat adstrictum. enim dicenda sunt juramenta sed potius perjuria, quæ contra utilitatem ecclesiasticam et sanctorum patrum veniunt instituta.
The foreign divines would on such an occasion be fully aware of the increased force of that declaration, when applied, not to contending interests of a particular Church and that which assumes the title of universal; but between the heretical Church of England and the (in their opinion) only true Church of Rome. I am far from denying, I indeed actually acknowledged, the probability that the foreign universities would have evaded my question; but they certainly would have evaded it by means of a more respectable sophism than that of slipping into the answer, the expression Roman Catholics, instead of Roman Catholic Church.