Lessons Of Past History
The Catholic Church Unconquerable
FATHER Dudley, notable English author and lecturer, was an Anglican clergyman before he became a convert to the Catholic Church. The following is from his ' The Church Unconquerable," which has just been issued as a C.T.S. publication.
TOWARDS the end of the Great War we were assured that now, at any rate, the Catholic Church was doomed: she had proved her utter incompetence to deal with the situation. She had kept on the war; she had tried to stop it. She had interfered; she had done nothing. Anyhow, whatever she had done or hadn't done, she had failed. She was doomed. At the present moment, while Europe is still seething with divisions and discontent, the Catholic Church stands calm and serene, strong and united— the one stable moral force in the world. And, by way of demonstrating her complete failure, nearly 30 nations now send their representatives to the throne of Peter in Rome.
One notices, too, the grave concern of the secular press to-day over what it calls "the failure of Christianity." You doubtless are aware of the heroic efforts of newspapers to stem the tide of unbelief with highly paid articles from unbelievers, novelists and other theologians, "Has Christiainity Failed?" "Are Dogmas Doomed?" "Are Creeds Necessary?" "Is the Fall a Fable?" Dean Inge Abolishes Hell," and so on. "I feel it necessary to emphasise," said Sir Arhur Keith recently, voicing the world's opinion, "that no Church or creed can possibly be permanent." We might venture to remind Sir Arthur Keith that the test of time has alI ready been applied to the Catholic Church. Could he say the same of his own dogmas? The Catholic Church is a 2000-year-old fact, but the missing link is still missing.
A Living Church.
An unchanging Church does not mean a stagnant Church, as suggested by her critics. Her essential sameness does not deprive her of vital evolution. She is a living organism. She grows, for instance, in those stupendous, unchanging, truths committed to her care. She grows theologically. Again, owing to her indefectible constitution, she never changes those marks by which she perpetually identifies herself, the four-fold glory with which Christ marked her at the beginning. As the centuries roll by, her amazing unity becomes more manifest. By her innate holiness she grows more beautiful with age. Her obvious and undisputed catholicity put to shame the spurious claims of others to that mark. She alone can show you her Apostolical Line, her pedigree, reaching back for 2000 years to Christ and His Apostles. She alone received the commission of Christ: "As the Father hath sent Me, so also do I send you."
Will you forgive a slight digression here, of rather a personal nature? It is an impression of the unbroken Apostolical Line that I once experienced. I am a convert to the Catholic Church. Many years ago now, while I was still a Protestant, a member of the Established Church of England, I went out to Rome on a holiday. During my stay there I went one Sunday morning to St. Peter's. It happened to be the occasion of a canonisation. I found a vast multitude inside. Solemn Mass was being sung at the choir altar. I remember how I pressed my way up through the crowd, until I was within reasonable distance of the altar.
And then i stood there watching the great drama of the Mass— the Bishops, the priests, the ceremonies, the ease with which everything went, the matter-offact manner which comes from long custom and usage. There was an atmosphere of the centuries, subtle, yet insistent. As I watched, there came upon me the sense that there was something about it all that the Church of England lacked. This great act was connected with something age-long, something continuous, something that went right back. And I did not know what that something was.
The Apostolic Line.
To-day, as a Catholic priest, I do know what that something was.
It was the Apostolical Line. And to-day, as a Catholic priest, I can look down that great, long line, and at its end I can see Christ and His Apostles standing. And I can see a great, long chain of hands being laid on heads, hands-onheads, hands-on-heads — going right back.
And I know that to every single Bishop and priest in that great, long line—and even to myself as a Catholic priest - Christ has said: "As the Father hath sent Me, so also do I send you." The Apostolical Line, reaching back to the beginning, will reach forward, too, until the very end. That mark will persist with the others. For all time the Catholic Church will show the imperishable marks of Christ.
We may divide her would-be conquerors into two classes—first, the innovators, and second, our old foes, the world, the flesh and the devil. The innovators, who include most of the heretics, art those who fondly seek for something new to supersede the Catholic Church. The world, the flesk and the devil need no introduction. Concerning the innovators, they, from the beginning, have endeavoured to supplant God's scheme with a better scheme of their own. Prominent amongst them in the early days were the Gnostics, the Montanists, the Manicheans and the Donatists, all of whom sought something better than the Church for whom Christ sacrificed Himself that she might be sanctified in truth, all of them ignoring the parable of the tares and the wheat, all of them preaching and awaiting a new Pentecost upon themselves or their future followers. For such as these the Church of God is never good enough. The same spirit of innovation resided with the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism is supposedly an attempt to improve upon the Catholic religion. Its representatives, like their predecessors of the early days, have all claimed for themselves the special enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Ghost. Their refusal to submit to authority and to trust their spiritual life to a divinely guided body has resulted in at least three hundred splits; in contradictory and warring sects. This hopeless jumble of contradictions is a sufficient refutation of their own claims. The Holy Ghost cannot be the author of contradictions.
The innovating heretics, for 20 centuries now, have been watching for the Catholic Church to crash into ruins. One by one they have endeavoured to shatter her claim to be for ever the unique Spirit-bearing Body of Christ. One by one they have been disappointed.
Long ago their fallacies were exposed. Saint Justin, Saint Ireneus and Saint Augustine saw to that. To one Church alone, built on a Rock, Christ promised ftie presence of His Holy Spirit—"that He may abide with you for ever." One by one the innovating sects have perished—and will perish. For their own spirit, and not the Spirit of God, is with them. And over their strewn corpses Church of God marches on.
The other would-be conquerors of the Catholic Church are, as I have already said, the world, the flesh, and the devil. All down the ages of Christendom these three have worked together to cast Christ and His Churh from the face of the earth. So intense is their hatred of the Light, so fierce, so ceaseless, so relentless their persecution of the kingdom of God that, if that kingdom were but a human institution, it would have perished centuries ago. From the beginning the world, knowing well that the foundation must first be shattered, has struck at the Rock on which that kingdom was built, on which it stands to-day. But every blow has been parried from above. Herod the king casts Peter into prison, bound in chains. Down comes the angel of God, blazing white, from the Eternal Presence, breaks the chains, flings open the gate. Peter is free, Herod struck dead. The Church of God marches on.
The kingdom grows, reaches the heart of the pagan Roman Empire, challenging the proud Caesars, challenging their gods! Its members are flung to wild beasts or burnt alive. They die smiling, upheld by some strange power, the name of "a Galilean peasant" on their lips. Their Popes are martyred one by one. But still the kingdom grows. The lusts and obscenities of paganism would strangle her in foul embrace, yet quail before the radiant purity of Christ's Bride, slink from God's beauty shining in her eyes. A Caesar is converted. The Roman Empire dies—and emerges in the Catholic Church of Christ. The Caesar yields his throne to Peter. "Thou hast conquered, Galilean!" The Church of God marches on.
Down from the North sweep the armies of the Huns, led by the mighty Attila—resistless, unconquered, to the gates of Rome. They surge about the Rock. Attila the mighty is met by the mightier Leo. The torrent recedes. Attila lies dead. The Church of God marches on. From the South comes the cry of Mohammed—the proud boast of the sword. On the Rock the sword is snapped.
And so we watch the efforts of the world all down the centuries, a world blinded by its own antagonism, unable even to bend the Catholic Church to its will, let alone destroy it, too blind to learn the lesson of Canossa; for there, at least, in the person of Henry IV, humiliated and in tears, it kissed the feet of Peter—Canossa, where Calvary was avenged. We watch the world's clumsy endeavours to capture the Church of God for its own ends. We watch the Church eluding it, as spirit eludes matter, smiling at such attempts. See Napoleon strutting before Pius VII, a crowned emperor alternately raging at and flattering a Pope. "Lend the spiritual power of your Church to the power of my empire." The Pope looks at him and replies: 'You comedian."
Or witness the revolutionaries of 1870 destroying the temporal power of the Church to strike down her spiritual power—Gari baldi, Crispi, Gambetta, Cadorna. The Church picks up the gauntlet and flings back in their faces the dogma of Papal infallibility! She marches or unconquered and unconquerable— unconquered by the world, unconquered by the flesh and the devil. For the devil not merely engineers the world and its hatred ; he also undermines by means of human passions. Time and again in the past the lusts of men have warred against the Bride of Christ, from without and even from within.
But for the lusts of Luther and Henry VIII and their followers it is questionable whether the tragedy of the Reformation would ever have come about. Their lusts were certainly its occasion. The first Protestants were bad Catholics— apostate traitors to the sanctity of the Mother who bore them. It would seem in these later days that Satan and his evil angels are preparing a further scheme, in spite of all their failures in the past. The steady growth of spiritism, of occultism, of freemasonry, and above all, of Godless humanitarianism, all point to an increased activity on the part of the powers of evil.
Will the world never perceive that there is something in the Catholic Church which it can never conquer, that her existence to-day is a fact for which no human or natural causes can account, that every earthly kingdom has crashed beneath what she has withstood, that she survives what only a divine kingdom could survive, that her continued presence in tho world is an abiding miracle of God. and that the Providence which keeps her will keep her to the end? But if the future does hold in store some such satanic empire of neo-paganism for the ousting of the Catholic Church, then we may, indeed, expect a persecution comparable with that of pagan Rome.
Satan has succeeded so far in turning nations against the Church. He will not rest until he turns the world against us. If he does that he will fail in his battle with the Church.
The Malaya Catholic Leader, SEPTEMBER 19, 1936, Vol 02, No 38, pg 1