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hundred Bishops at the centenary of St. Peter, in 1867, in which they unanimously declared that “ Peter had spoken by Pius:” for they well knew that many, even of those who joined most loudly in that acclamation, deny that these words ascribe infallibility to the Successor of Peter. Experience therefore proved, even if theology long ago had not, that an acclamation is not a definition; and that an acclamation leaves the matter as it found it, as disputable after as it was before. Nothing short of a definition would satisfy either reason or conscience; and nothing but this was ever for a moment thought of.
Such, then, is a slight outline of the internal history of this protracted contest. It passed through nine distinct phases; and it must be confessed that they who desired to avert the definition held their successive positions with no little tenacity.
The first attack came from the World without, in support of a handful of professors and writers, who denied the truth of the doctrine: the second position was to admit its truth but to deny that it was capable of being defined : the third, to admit that it was definable, but to deny the opportuneness of defining it: the fourth, to resist the introduction of the doctrine for discussion: the fifth, to render discussion impossible by delay: the sixth, to protract the discussion till a conclusion should become physically impossible before the summer heats drove the Council to disperse: the seventh, when the discussion closed, to defer the definition to the future: the eighth, after the definition was made, to hinder its promulgation : the ninth - I will not say the last, for who can tell what may
still come?—to affirm that the definition, though solemnly made, confirmed, and published by the Head of the Church in the Ecumenical Council, and promulgated urbi et orbi according to the traditional usage of the Church, does not bind the conscience of the faithful till the Council is concluded, and subscribed by the Bishops.
This last is the only remnant of the controversy now surviving. I can hardly believe that any one, after the letter of Cardinal Antonelli to the Nunzio at Brussels, can persist in this error. Nevertheless, it may be well to add one or two words, which you will anticipate, and well know how to use.
1. A definition of faith declares that a doctrine was revealed by God.
Are the faithful, then, dispensed from believing Divine revelation till the Council is concluded, and the Bishops have subscribed it ?
I hope, for the sake of the Catholic religion in the face of the English people, that we shall hear no more of an assertion so uncatholic and so dangerous.
2. But perhaps it may mean that the Council is not yet confirmed, because not yet concluded.
The Council may not yet be confirmed because not yet concluded ; but the Definition is both concluded and confirmed.
The Council is as completely confirmed, in its acts hitherto taken, as it ever will or can be. The future confirmation will not add anything to that which is confirmed already. It will confirm future acts, not those which are already perfect.
3. But perhaps some may have an idea that the
question is not yet closed, and that the Council may hereafter undo what it has done. We have been told that “ Its decrees may have to be corrected,” and that two years elapsed before the Ecumenical pretensions of the Latrocinium of Ephesus were formally superseded. Some have called it “ Ludibrium Vaticanum."
Let those who so speak, or think, for many so speak without thinking, look to their faith. The past acts of the Council are infallible. No future acts will retouch them. This is the meaning of “irreformable.” Infallibility does not return upon its own steps. And they who suspend their assent to its acts on the plea that the Council is not concluded, are in danger of falling from the faith. They who reject the Definitions of the Vatican Council are already in heresy.
THE TWO CONSTITUTIONS.
HAVING so far spoken on the less pleasing and less vital part of this subject, I gladly turn to the authoritative acts of the Council.
The subject matter of its deliberations was divided into four parts, and for each part a Deputation of twenty-four Fathers was elected by the Council. The four divisions were, on Faith, Discipline, Religious Orders, and on Rites, including the Missions of the Church.
Hitherto, the subjects of Faith and Discipline alone have come before the Council; and of these two chiefly the first has been treated, as being the basis of all, and in its nature the most important.
In what I have to add, I shall confine myself to the two Dogmatic Constitutions, De Fide and De Ecclesia Christi.*
The history of the Faith cannot be adequately written without writing both the history of heresy and the history of definitions ; for heresies are partial aberrations from the truth, and definitions are rectifications of those partial errors. But the Faith is co-extensive with the whole Revelation of Truth; and though every revealed truth is definite and precise, nevertheless, all are not defined. The need of definition arises when any revealed truth has been obscured or denied. The general history of the Church will therefore give the general history of the Faith ; but the history of Councils
* See Appendix, p. 192, etc.
2 will give chiefly, if not only, the history of those parts of revelation which have been assailed by heresy and protected by definition.
The Divine Tradition of the Church contains truths of the supernatural order which without revelation could not have been known to man, such as the Incarnation of God and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and truths of the natural order, which are known also by reason, such as the existence of God. The circumference of this Divine Tradition is far wider than the range of definitions. The Church guards, teaches, and transmits the whole divine tradition of natural and supernatural truth, but defines only those parts of the deposit which have been obscured or denied.
The eighteen (Ecumenical Councils of the Church have therefore defined such specific doctrines of the Faith as were contested. - The Council of the Vatican has, for this reason, treated of two primary truths greatly contested but never hitherto defined, namely: the Supernatural order and the Church. It is this which will fix the character of the Vatican Council, and will mark in history the progress of error in the Christian world at this day.
The series of heresy has followed the order of the Baptismal Creed. It began by assailing the nature and Unity of God, the Creator; then of