Imágenes de página

on the convictions, affection, and honest prejudices of the majority of the nation, and it is strengthened by ample privileges, splendid endowments, and a learned and vigilant clergy. The zeal, power, and activity of its members throw around it an impregnable rampart. And we may easily conceive how quickly the prospect of real danger would rouse. them to arms, when so much causeless alarm is created by the faint report of that which is imaginary. The true security of the church is entirely independent of disabling statutes, and were they abolished would remain uninjured.

At what period has the church been most secure? Not certainly when those vaunted barriers were kept in full repair. It is since they have fallen to decay that she has been left without molestation to pursue the objects of her institution. If those who were the most deeply concerned in the enactment of the laws which aggrieve the Catholics, were now alive, they would surely deem the panegyrics bestowed on their wisdom and piety not a little ridiculous.

[ocr errors]


'Protestantism is an essential part of the British constitution.' Would popish peers,' inquires, his Lordship, or popish members of the House of Commons enact laws for the security of the protestant government?' p. 14. This is his Lordship's great argument. It is however a mere play upon words. is not Protestantism, generally, but Protestantism in the episcopalian form that is the religion of the British government. his Lordship is at all correct in his reasoning, does it not follow that the Scotch presbyterians and the English dissenters ought to be expelled the House of Commons; since, by the Bishop's theory, it cannot be expected that they would enact laws for the security of an episcopalian government.


'Were papists invested with power,' continues the Bishop of Lincoln, they could not but be solicitous to overthrow an establishment which they believed to be heretical. Would they not repeal the whole Protestant code, and make Popery again the established religion of the country?' pp. 14, 16. To the argument comprised in this extract, and indeed to every thing else, contained in the "charge," a most ample and satisfactory reply will be found in Mr. Eustace's "answer. It will be sufficient for us to remark that the zeal of proselytism is not enflamed by indulgence. If the Catholics are now solicitous to procure the ascendancy of their religion, history warrants the conclusion that their solicitude will relax when they become eligible to offices of honour and profit. When the church no longer obstructs them in the career of ambition, she will no longer excite their hostility. Even if the Catholics, when the disabling statutes are repealed, should retain their present quantum of zeal, what reason is there to think they would suc

[ocr errors]

ceed in assailing the established church? Their physical force certainly would not be any greater than it is at this moment. The repeal would not lull the guardians of the church into silence and slumber. The arguments of a Chillingworth, a Barrow, and a Tillotson against the errors and absurdities of the Romish church would lose nothing of their weight or efficacy. The convictions and attachments of all classes of the community would remain the same. To make his Lordship's argument at all plausible, the repeal of the catholic disabilities must have some such effect upon the inhabitants of these kingdoms, as the fable ascribes to those who had the misfortune to look on Medusa's head. If the Catholics now find such mighty difficulties in obtaining the object of petitions which have at least the pearance of reason and justice, and which are urged by the eloquence and authority of the ablest and most enlightened Protestants of the three kingdoms, how is it likely, that, without any more weight or influence---not only forsaken, but opposed, by their present friends and advocates---they would succeed in obtaining objects evidently unreasonable and unjust.


The Bishop of Lincoln is confident that the Catholics would not enact laws for the security of the Protestant government.' He appears to have forgotten that the Catholics had no small share in procuring the act of uniformity*, which he no doubt ranks among its greatest safeguards.

We may fairly conclude, therefore, that the security of the established church, does not require the continuance of the Catholic disabilities. But it is pretended that the principles of the catholics totally disqualify them for the possession of the advantages common to other subjects of the empire. After enumerating some of these disqualifying principles, Mr. Thorp adds:

They have manifestly a dangerous political bearing, and threaten the subversion of the existing government; they are hostile to the principles of the British constitution, and incompatible with the faithful discharge of the duties attached to particular offices in this Protestant government; they withhold the pledge, which the community has a right to demand for the constitutional discharge of those duties, and by a natural and necessary result are destructive of civil and religious liberty.' Speech, p. 19.

If the catholics hold the principles here attributed to them, so far from being admitted to the full benefits of the constitution, they ought not to be tolerated at all. These noxious principles are, it is asserted, essential to the catholic religion. They form then, by consequence, the topics in the preaching of which the ministers of that religion are protected, and to prepare persons for the diffusion of which, a seminary is supported by the British government. Are men to be protected in the dissemination of

* See Hume's History of England, Vol. VII. p. 375.

doctrines incompatible with good government, and subversive of all the institutions of social life? Can it be believed that the nation supports an institution for the education of anarchists, apostles of disloyalty and sedition? As however, those who oppose the Catholic claims are at the same time most earnest in pleading for a complete toleration of the Catholics, it is difficult to suppose that they have any faith in their own representations. For in pleading for their toleration, they must deem them tolerable-which it is impossible they should do, if such accounts of their principles were correct.

When the penal laws against the Catholics, which are now abrogated, were first enacted, and as long as they continued in force, it was confidently affirmed, that they were unfit to discharge any of the duties belonging to the offices to which they are now admissible. But since the most scandalous and oppressive part of the penal code has been abolished, they have appeared not inferior to any of their fellow subjects in the fidelity and diligence with which they have executed the trusts reposed in them. This is so notorious that Mr. Thorp is somewhat displeased at the mention of it, as arguing an unwillingness in their opponents, to acknowledge the merits of the Catholics. Speech, For our part we do not see how it is possible to escape. the inference, that if the Catholics, to their own credit and the prosperity of the nation, fill stations for which it was formerly believed they were disqualified by their principles, they cannot with any shadow of plausibility be held unfit for other stations requiring no greater degree of loyalty or of attachment to the constitution!

p. 7.

If in any place the principles of the Catholics may be expected to discover themselves it is in Ireland. Were these principles subversive of the government, or incompatible with the duties of social life, the Protestant gentlemen who have been brought up in that country, or have, in official situations, passed considerable time in it, must have observed their pestilent operation. But what is the fact? From those very persons, who are in this case the most competent to form an accurate judgement, have the Catholics received the most unequivocal testimonies to their good conduct, and to their qualifications for all the functions of civilized life. These gentlemen, inferior to none in steady loyalty and enlightened patriotism, are their warmest and ablest advocates, a circumstance utterly irreconcilable with the supposition that they hold principles inimical to the laws and government of the British empire. Some of the functionaries of the government, who have gone into Ireland hostile to the claims of the Catholics, after conversing with and narrowly observing them, have returned, not confirmed in their hostility, but converted

into strenuous advocates for their admission to the full benefits of the constitution.


The manner in which it is attempted to fasten the belief of odious doctrines upon the Catholics is very singular, and gives reason to suspect that the whole is a groundless accusation got up to serve a purpose. Semper eadem," say the Catholics, "is more emphatically descriptive of our religion than of our jurisprudence." This maxim, which, if it were taken without limitation, would prove that the religion of the Roman Catholics of the present age is exactly the same as that of the primitive Christians, is the basis of all the charges made against them on the ground of their principles. Their opponents consider it as universal, not as general; and instead of endeavouring to ascertain the principles of their religion from the expositions given at present of them, they go back to the distance of centuries. Finding that pernicious principles were in past ages held by Roman Catholics, and received too much countenance even from the heads of the Romish church, they instantly ascribe them to modern Catholics, who are all the while protesting that they abhor and detest them, and affirming that they never made an essential part of their doctrine. Thus by virtue of the above maxim, without any further proof, the Catholics are charged with believing dogmas, which by their books, their declarations, and their oaths, they expressly disavow and reprobate.

There is nothing, however, by which the adversaries of the Catholics have made so strong an impression on the middling classes of society, as by this charge of their holding monstrous and pernicious principles: on which account, though the considerations already adduced seem sufficient to show that it is entirely void of foundation, it may be useful to examine briefly the separate heads of accusation. The odious doctrines, which the Catholics are said to hold, are partly political and partly moral.

The Catholics, it is pretended, are the abettors of arbitrary power, and think themselves bound to submit to a foreign jurisdiction. Upon both these charges the Bishop of Lincoln and Mr. Thorp expatiate at considerable length, and very much to their own satisfastion. As to the first, that the Catholics favour arbitrary power, it may be remarked that this charge is brought against them with a very ill grace, by members of a Protestant Church, which inculcates a blind and unlimited passive obedience to the prince, which, on no ac'count and under no pretence, it is ever lawful for subjects in the smallest article to depart from or infringe.' All the

* 66 Homily against Disobedience and unwilful Rebellion."

republics of the middle ages, and the greater part of those of modern times were founded and maintained by Catholics. Once it was contended that the genius of Presbyterianism was incompatible with submission to a monarchical government. But the conduct of the Scotch for above a century has overturned this theory, which was at least as plausible as the incompatibility of the catholic religion with liberty.

The second political principle, which is said to disqualify the Catholics for offices of trust, is, that they think themselves bound to submit to a foreign jurisdiction. They are the subjects of the Pope, and it is affirmed they cannot be good subjects of the British government. It seems in vain for the Catholics to say that they consider the authority of the Pope to be spiritual not temporal. For the Bishop of Lincoln will have it that the acknowledgement of the Pope's spiritual authority, being opposed to a fundamental law of the ecclesiastical constitution of these kingdoms, is alone sufficient to justify the exclusion of Papists from all situations of authority,' while Mr. Thorp and others contend that the acknowledgement of his spiritual, is a virtual acknowledgement of his secular authority. To this scholastic metaphysical reasoning, may be opposed the direct and positive proofs which the Catholics have given of their fidelity and allegiance to the British government. Their loyalty and patriotism have been sealed with blood; and the highest authorities in the empire have borne repeated testimonies to their merits. That to be good subjects it is not necessary to acknowledge a spiritual authority in the sovereign, is put beyond a doubt by the example of the Scotch nation and of the whole body of Protestant dissenters. Now we have the most satisfactory evidence that the Catholics do not consider the Pope as having any temporal authority whatever in these kingdoms. Upon this head the oaths that are taken both by English and Irish catholics are decisive and explicit. To the same purpose may be mentioned the replies of the foreign universities to the questions proposed to them by Mr. Pitt, the class-book of the College of Maynooth, and the resolutions of the Irish Catholic Bishops, by which they determined during the captivity of his Holiness to refuse whatever briefs or bulls might be alledged to come from him.

To refute the charges brought against the Catholics, on the score of their moral principles, is if possible a still easier task. The pernicious doctrines of a moral nature which they are accused of maintaining, are, the impossibility of being saved out of their own communion, the efficacy of absolution, the lawfulness of all means that may promote their religion, particularly of breaking promises made to heretics, and the utility of auricular

« AnteriorContinuar »