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The decree of the Synod of Constance concerning the superiority of a General Council to the Pope shall remain in force and unshaken.
The decree thus referred to, runs as follows:
This Synod, legitimately assembled in the Holy Ghost, constituting a General Council, representing the Catholic Church militant, has power immediately from Christ, to which everyone, of whatsoever state or dignity, even if it be the Pope, is bound to obey in those things which relate to faith, and to the extirpation of schism, and the general reformation of the Church of God, in its head and its members.?
This is the dogma which is still held in essence by the Roman Catholic body in the United Kingdom. They do not derive the authority of a general council from the Pope; but they build the authority of the Pope upon the greater and more certain authority of a General Council, as representing the whole Catholic Church, and which they believe to be infallible by the divine promises.
It may therefore be said of this body, that if they are Ultramontane, it is because they are first Gallican. Their Gallicanism is the base of their Ultramontanism.
If they were not Gallicans, Ultramontanism would have no hold upon them. They are essentially what their fathers were, and only accidentally of a different belief.
Synod. Constant. sessio iv., Harduin. Concilia, t. viii. p. 252.
§ 7. EXAMINATION OF THE FOUR ROMAN
The doctrine of the supremacy of the successor of St. Peter is held alike by Ultramontanes, Gallicans, Minimizers, Gallico-Ultramontanes, and universally in the Roman Communion. It is the doctrine which constitutes its distinctive idea, and which leads its members to reject the Churches of the Reformation, and those of the East, as beyond the pale of salvation. Consequently it is a doctrine of grand and vital importance, one which deeply affects the interests of Christianity, and one which has been at the bottom of half the wars and revolutions of the world.
The importance of the doctrine of the Papal supremacy to those who receive it, it would be impossible to exaggerate. If it be true, it is really the cardinal doctrine of Christianity; everything depends on it; for if it be necessary to know that Christ died to obtain salvation for the world, it is not less necessary to know that the salvation thus secured can only be obtained through the medium of Christ's Vicar; that if Christianity has been revealed, its interpretation remains solely in the hands of the successor of St. Peter. In fact, it becomes the central tenet of the Christian faith, from which everything else emanates. This has been clearly expounded by Count de Maistre, the famous advocate of Ultramontanism. He remarks with equal force and justice :
The Sovereign Pontiff is the necessary, sole, and exclusive basis of Christianity: to him belong the promises, and with him disappears unity, that is the Church.1
The Papal supremacy being the capital dogma without which Christianity cannot subsist, all churches which reject this dogma, of which they conceal the importance, are agreed without knowing it : everything else is merely an accessory.
The Pope's powers have no bounds except in the blindness and malevolence of sovereigns.3
Undoubtedly, if the Pontiff has been really appointed by God as His Vicar and representative on earth, the head of His Church, and the dispenser of salvation in virtue of being the divinely constituted centre of unity, it becomes the first duty of Christians to submit to his will and his teaching in all things. Whoever presumes to disobey his commands or to disbelieve his word, disobeys and disbelieves God, and is cut off from salvation. Ultramontanism is irrefragably established.
Ultramontanism, as a theory, undoubtedly provides perfectly for the security of Christianity from any taint of error. It supposes a divine oracle, ever living in the
i De Maistre, Du Pape, p. 298.
3 Ibid., p. 298.
? Ibid., p. 427.
Church, present in the world, ready at each moment to teach, to direct, to condemn, to command with divine authority. It checks all divisions, heresies, errors, disorders, sins, and offences of every description in the Christian world, whether those of individuals, nations, or princes, by propounding the will and commands of a living divine power. This power is necessarily infallible and unerring in all respects; because it is divine, and because all men are bound to submit to it under penalty of damnation.
This is Ultramontanism, and it is the only fair, distinct, and legitimate view of, and inference from, the cardinal doctrine of the Papal supremacy, acknowledged by all Roman Catholics.
Now if we compare with this the ‘Minimizing' theology which has been before described, we must say that the latter seems unable to realise the subject on which it is treating. It is true that it professes to believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, and to accept all the theological consequences which follow; but its view is merely theoretical, not practical or real. We have in it a system which, after acknowledging that God has appointed a vicar on earth, and that he has supernaturally invested him with infallibility, and that every one is bound to obey him, suddenly turns round and applies itself to discover principles by which the authority thus divinely instituted may be reduced to practical inefficiency and powerlessness. Minimism entirely exempts the individual from practical belief in the teaching, and practical submission to the
directions of the divinely appointed teacher and ruler of the Church. It is then absolutely subversive of the authority which it admits, and therefore it cannot for a moment hold its ground against the consistent course taken by Ultramontanism, which carries out into practice all that it holds in principle. Minimism is as entirely subversive of the Papal authority as Protestantism, and is far more so than Gallicanism, and wherever it exists the supremacy which all Roman Catholics acknowledge to have been divinely instituted is reduced to a mere name.
And now to come to the other theologies which have been mentioned the Gallican,' and the Gallico-Ultramontane.'
We may conveniently treat these theologies in connection, notwithstanding their bickerings, and the denunciations which some of their adherents bestow on each other, for they involve substantially the same ideas.
Both admit, with the Ultramontanes, that the Pope is the successor of St. Peter, and is by divine appointment head of the universal Church, so that out of his communion there is no salvation. So far, so well.
The Ultramontane, from these premises, immediately draws out by irresistible reasoning the whole of the Ultramontane system. There is no flaw in his argument.
The Gallican and the Gallico-Ultramontane, in conceding these principles, cut the ground from beneath their feet, as has been already shown (§ 5, near the beginning). They are hopelessly inconsistent in admitting the Papal