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Tradition the Sustaining Power of the Protestant View

Lecture 2 of Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England.

Delivered on Monday, July 7, 1851.

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Considering, what is as undeniable a fact as that there is a country called France, or an ocean called the Atlantic, the actual extent, the renown, and the manifold influence of the Catholic Religion considering that it surpasses in territory and in population any other Christian communion, nay, surpasses all others put together, considering that it is the religion of two hundred millions of souls, that it is found in every quarter of the globe, that it penetrates into all classes of the social body, that it is received by entire nations, that it is so multiform in its institutions, and so exuberant in its developments, and so fresh in its resources, as any tolerable knowledge of it will be sure to bring home to our minds, that it has been the creed of intellects the most profound and the most refined, and the source of works the most beneficial, the most arduous, and the most beautiful, and, moreover, considering that, thus ubiquitous, thus commanding, thus philosophical, thus energetic, thus efficient, it has remained one and the same for centuries, considering that all this must be owned by its most virulent enemies, explain it how they will; surely it is a phenomenon the most astounding, that a nation like our own should so manage to hide this fact from their minds, to intercept their own vision of it, as habitually to scorn, and ridicule, and abhor the professors of that Religion, as being, from the nature of the case, ignorant, unreasoning, superstitious, base, and grovelling. It is familiar to an Englishman to wonder at and to pity the recluse and the devotee who surround themselves with a high enclosure, and shut out what is on the other side of it; but was there ever such an instance of self-sufficient, dense, and ridiculous bigotry, as that which rises up and walls in the minds of our fellow-countrymen from all knowledge of one of the most remarkable phenomena which the history of the world has seen? This broad fact of Catholicism as real as the continent of America, or the Milky Way which Englishmen cannot deny, they will not entertain; they shut their eyes, they thrust their heads into the sand, and try to get rid of a great vision, a great reality, under the name of Popery. They drop a thousand years from the world's chronicle, and having steeped them thoroughly in sin and idolatry would fain drown them in oblivion. Whether for philosophic remark or for historical research, they will not recognise what infidels recognise as well as Catholics the vastness, the grandeur, the splendour, the loveliness of the manifestations of this time-honoured ecclesiastical confederation. Catholicism is for fifteen hundred years as much a fact, and as great a one (to put it on the lowest ground) as is the imperial sway of Great Britain for a hundred; how can it then be actually imbecile or extravagant to believe in it and to join it, even granting it were an error? But this island, as far as religion is concerned, really must be called, one large convent, or rather workhouse; the old pictures hang on the walls; the world-wide Church is chalked up on every side as a wivern or a griffin; no pure gleam of light finds its way in from without; the thick atmosphere refracts and distorts such straggling rays as gain admittance. Why, it is not even a camera obscura; cut off from Christendom though it be, at least it might have a true picture of that Christendom cast in miniature upon its floor; but in this inquisitive age, when the Alps are crested, and seas fathomed, and mines ransacked, and sands sifted, and rocks cracked into specimens, and beasts caught and catalogued, as little is known by Englishmen of the religious sentiments, the religious usages, the religious motives, the religious ideas of two hundred millions of Christians poured to and fro, among them and around them, as if, I will not say, they were Tartars or Patagonians, but as if they inhabited the moon. Verily, were the Catholic Church in the moon, England would gaze on her with more patience, and delineate her with more accuracy, than England does now.

(Continue.)

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P.S. Thanks.

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Fri. 07/07/06 07:46:55 AM
Categorized as Historical & Literary & Religious & Speeches and Suchlike & The Present Position of Catholics.

   
         
         

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