WE MUST REPAIR THE DAMAGE OF 400 YEARS OF HERESY
By Mgr. BARTON BROWN
WE, who live in these years of war and disaster for the human race. are witnessing a great
crisis in the history of the world. We, who arc Catholics, will do well to examine the reasons, which have led the people of this country largely to abandon the foundations on which European civilisation rests. It is important to do this, because the future of the world will depend on whether its rulers and peoples are prepared to build on the foundations of Christianity, or abandon once and for all the religion of Jesus Christ.
The recent deputation to the President of the Board of Education by Christian leaders, and its results, are illuminating. For it showed quite clearly, first that the Board of duca
tion are uncertain as to the wisdom of placing Christianity in their curriculum, and, secondly, that the dieputatioe itself was a little vague, as to what exactly they wished to be taught in our schools. This seems to be a very ominous state of affairs. For it looks as if the whole matter is likely to be shelved until some indefinite period after the war, when, as the past has shown, the interest in religion is likely to have evaporated.
Nothing has been said about the Catholic attitude on this all-Important question. But if is fo be hoped that it Is realised that any " agreed syllabus of religious teaching " would be wholly unacceptable to rue Church of God, and that Catholics are prepared to fight to the end for Catholic teaching for Catholic children.
This proposed boiling down of Christian teaching, so that it will be acceptable to every conceivable sort of sect, is of the last and worst result of the so-called .Reformation.
The Church of God was gradually and deliberately deprival of her power and rights, and those who sought the destruction of religion have now arrived before the last bastion of her defences, namely, the family and Christian education.
The attack on the Church in this country began long centuries ago. In times. when other countries were more or less respectful of the rights of the Church, this country began to germinate that spirit of Nationalism, which has ultimately produced in Europe that state of affairs, which we all now deplore.
We can see the germ of these ideas as early as 1373 and 1377 when the Parliament protested against the paying of the first-fruits of benefices to the Holy See, whilst in 1387 and 1418 they demanded that these dues should be paid to the king. These demands were not granted until the time of
Henry VIII, who wanted the money, but the germ of rebellion was there.
KINGS PUT DOWN HERESY
It is to be noted that the king always put down heresy with a strong hand. The kingdom was in communion with the See of Peter and for the time being the Faith was safe.
The first martyr to suffer in this country for the rights of the Church was that great and glorious saint, Thomas a Becket. He, and he alone, of all the Hierarchy, realised what it meant, when the Church was to be stripped pf its rights. By his martyrdom he put off the day of disaster for England for many years.
Many have thought that it was not worth while to have fought the king over what Rppeared to be a small matter, namely, whether criminous ecclesiastics were to he tried in the King's or the Ecclesiastical Courts. But St. Thomas realised that give the State "an inch and it will take a mile." He sealed his opinion with his blood, and his death by the sword of sacrilegious inryrmicloms of the Crown, on the altar steps of his own Cathedral, was greeted by a wave of horror, which swept over the civilised world.
He was canonised in the hearts of men, even before Rome spoke, and his great shrine at Canterbury, the focus of pilgrimage for all Christians, stood as a warning to monarchs and rulers noteto " lay hands upon the Ark of God."
ONLY ONE BISHOP MARTYR
Thus when the next move took place, and Henry VIII, for his own domestic reasons, decided to abolish the authority of the Vicar of Christ, in England, the shrine of St. Thomas was the first to be looted, and the saint himself was proclaimed a traitor to his King.
Henry VIII could never have carried out his sacrilegious scheme. had there not been many, even amongst bishops and priests, who were tepid in their loyalty towards the Holy See. It Is significant that only one Bishop was found to die the death of a martyr for the See of PEfer: St. John Fisher. Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, of the Title of St. Yitalis, Bishop of Rochester.
Of St. John Fisher, that other great martyr for the rights of Peter, St. Thomas More wrote:—"I confess to Thee, 0 Lord, that I am not worthy of so great a crown, for I am not just and holy as is thy servant the Bishop of Rochester, whom Thou hast chosen for Thyself opt of the whole kingdom, a man after Thine own heart: nevertheless, 0 Lord, if it be Thy Will give me a shale in Thy chalice, (Roper, p. xlive And that chalice came to St. Thomas More.
Thus perished two great, learned and illustrious men, rather than deny their Faith. Priests and religious, and simple men died for Peter, hut these two stand out as the only leaders of the country who like St. Thomas of Canterbury, saw clearly what the King's actions impended. The personality and power of Henry VIII kept the rest of the Faith intact in England, during his lifetime, but at his death, when the boy Edward VI came to the Throne, the rot set in. Every form of heresy had its way, and the hereditary Faith of the populace began to be undermined. England had left the Rock of Peter, and the powers of darkness had a fair field.
LIKE HUNGRY BIRDS
Mary's brief reign only stemmed the tide, the plotters against religion, notably Cecil, conformed for the time being to the Church, awaiting the death of the Queen. Just retribution fell upon those who had been traitors to the Pope and to their Queen, to both of whom they had sworn allegiance, and on whose bounty they had lived.
But when Elizabeth came to the throne the flood of heresy was let loose anew. Like hungry birds of prey, the exiled heretics from the continent returned to pick up a livelihood and destroy religion. The power of the Pope had gone once more and the power of Peter no longer " confirmed the faith of (his) brethren " Thus, in England, the power or the Pope was destroyed, and the land was ripe
for spiritual disaster. Elizabeth, like her father Henry, desired to retain a semblance of the Church, and certainly would have fiercely repudiated the modern denials of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith, But separated from the Apostolic See, circumstances were too much for her, and whilst she herself would undoubtedly have been ready to submit, at any time, to the Church, if it had suited her political convenience, the growth of Protestantism went on apace, and the decay of Catholic teaching set in. The Sacraments lost their significance, they became symbols, for Elizabeth's bishops were not bishops, and her priests were not priests. Thc very idea or 4n Apostolic Succession was held up to scorn.
Elizabeth herself, on her deathbed, drove the Protestant bishops from the room with these words:—" Get you gone, for well I
know, you be only ' hedgepriestse " In future ministers were to be " hotgoserellers," the Mass was declared to be idolatry.
During Stuart times an attempt was made to stem the tide and bring hack Some semblance of Catholic teaching; the pious Bishop Andrewes of Winchester, and the learned and energetic Archbishop Laud taught much that was .Catholic, but their attempt ended with the execution of the king and the archbishop, whilst Oliver Cromwell purged the Established Church of all popery.
With the restotation of Charles 11 came a revival of Catholic ideas; order was re
stored in the Establishment. But. whilst Charles II knew very well that no stability could come to religion without the Pope, political considerations made it imprudent to take any steps in that direction, he had no desire " tO go on his travels again." But when his end came, a priest was huiriedly sent for, aid Father Roger lluddleston, 0.5.3. reconciled the monarch to the Church, and gave him the last Sacraments.
James 11, as a professed Catholic, incurred the hostility of Protestantism, owing to his desire to give toleration of religion io the people. When he was driven from the throne, and Dutch William usurped it, the best of the Bishops and Ministers of the Established Church were ejected from their benefices, for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the usurper. With them went all those who retained a belief in Catholic teaching. They formed a sect of their own, and were known as the Non-jurors. The last of them existed until the beginning of the XIX century, for they carried on a semblance of an organisation. and regularly consecrated Bishops, when necessary. But their influence was never very great, and with them the Estahlished Church lost those who might have kept some relics of the Faith.
HERE IS THE RESULT Now we can begin to see the gradual result of Henry Ville; rejection of the Papal Authority : the Mass has gone. the Priesthood has gone, the Sacraments have been reduced to two, and they mere rites.
So when the XVIII century came, and England was ruled by Lutheran monarchs from Germany, we find a people ministered to by latitudinarian divines, who brought no zeal, no Catholic teaching with them, and who confined their discourses to imparting to their flocks a dismal Deism. By the time Victoria came to the throne the mass or the people were entirely divorced from any Catholic feeling.
The result of Jacobite efforts, to place the legitimate kings upon the throne, had been to connect Catholicism, arid its teachings, with disloyalty to the House of Hanover. So when the Oxford Movement came, it was too late. That movement, it is true, was fruitful of many conversions to the Catholic Church, and many illustrious names have beta added to the episcopate and the priesthood. But things had gone too far, and when the first fury against Popery in the Established Church had died down, the only result achieved was to empty the village churches, which had. hitherto, been fairly well attended.
" Anglo-Catholicism " is essentially the religion of towns, it is the religion of the eclectic. It has done great things amongst the poor, hut it is " Congregational in its organisation. In other words, you are able to select for yourself the particular form of religion you wish to practice.
But a further movement was starting, a Modernist movement founded on the principles of the French Revolution. That movement proceedPed to strike at the very roots of Christianity. Great dogmas, like the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and even the very Divinity of our Lord came
to be questioned. These ideas permeated into the public life.
Mr. Bradlaugh, a professeel agnostic, took his seat in the House of Commons. It was no longer necessary to he a Christian to legislate for a supposed Christian country.
The Common Law of England, which in the past, rested 'rpm the Law of God, was, bit by hit, whittled away. The Divorce Laws, stuck at the root of Christian marriage, the laws against blasphemy have been repealed, and even the teachers of youth, in our government schools, may be professed atheists, ENGLAND NO LONGER CHRISTIAN
In other words, by the time George VI succeeded to the kingdom of his father, this England had ceased to be a Christian country. That process began with the repudiation of the authority of the Pope, and ended with the denial of the Divinity of Christ. Became there ale Churches of the Establishment with a so-called High Mass, it does not follow that the oareons al not Moder fists.
And now in the midst of war, the nation feels the need of religion. An appeal is made for religion in the schools.
What religion? How many steps must be retraced, how many wickednesses and follies .repented of? For how can you teach a reasonable and intelligible religion in the schools, if a large number 01 the ratepayers don't believe that Jesus Christ was God, nay, many of the ratepayers don't believe in a God at all?
If religion is to be taught, it must be the religion revealed by Christ, and that is the religion taught by Christ's Vicar. God Himself left His Church, presided over by Peter, to witness to the truth in the woi Id, and our Divine Lord promised His presence in that Church, " even to the consummation or the world." The first thing to do is to get the nation back, where they started from, to the feet of Peter. Then will it be possible to repair the damage of 400 years' persistent heresy.
For us is the task or defending our homes and schools from the attacks of those who would make our children the pawns of the State. We have seen the result in other lands. Let the Catholics of these islands unite and with one great voice proclaim, we have the natural right to educate our children in the religion of our forefathers. and that right we will surrender only by death.