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is a Divine revelation, but to convict of unreasonable unbelief any intelligence which shall reject its testimony. But the visible Church is not merely a human witness. It was instituted and is guided perpetually by God Himself, and is therefore a divine witness, ordained by God as the infallible motive of credibility, and the channel of His revelation to mankind.
I need hardly point out what errors are excluded by these definitions. The whole world outside the Catholic Church is full of doctrines diametrically contrary to these truths. It is affirmed that the reason of man is so independent of God, that Hé cannot justly lay upon it the obligation of faith ; again, that faith and science are so identified that they have the same motives, and that there is neither need nor place in our convictions for the authority of God; again, that extrinsic evidence is of no weight, because men ought to believe only on their own internal experience or private inspiration; again, that all miracles are myths, and all supernatural evidences useless, because intrinsically incredible; once more, that we can only believe that of which we have scientific proof, and that it is lawful for us to call into doubt the articles of our faith when and as often as we will, and to submit them to a scientific analysis, in the meanwhile suspending our faith until we shall have completed the scientific demonstration.
The fourth and last Chapter is on the relation of faith to reason. In this three things are declared : first, that there are two orders of knowledge; secondly, that they differ as to their object; thirdly, that they differ as to their methods of procedure.
The order of nature contains the subject matter of natural religion and of natural science. The order of faith contains truths which without revelation we might have known, though not certainly nor easily; and also truths which, without revelation, we could not have known. Such then are the two objects of reason and of faith. The two methods of procedure likewise differ, inasmuch as in the order of nature the instrument of knowledge is discovery; in the supernatural order, it is faith, and the intellectual processes which spring from faith.
From these principles it is clear that science and faith can never be in real contradiction. All seeming opposition can only be either from error as to the doctrine of the Church, or error in the assumptions of science. Every assertion, therefore, contrary to the truth of an illuminated faith, is false. “For the Church, which, together with the Apostolic office of teaching, received also the command to guard the deposit of faith, is divinely invested with the right and duty of proscribing science falsely so-called, lest any man be deceived by philosophy and vain deceit.” “For the doctrine of Faith which God has revealed, was not proposed to the minds of men to be brought to perfection like an invention of philosophy, but was delivered to the Spouse of Christ as a divine deposit to be faithfully guarded, and to be infallibly declared.”
The importance of this first Constitution on Catholic Faith cannot be over-estimated, and, from its great breadth, may not as yet be fully perceived.
It is the broadest and boldest affirmation of the
supernatural and spiritual order ever yet made in the face of the world; which is now, more than ever, sunk in sense and heavy with materialism. It declares that a whole order of being and power, of truth and agency, exists, and is in full play upon the world of sense. More than this, that this supernatural and spiritual order is present in the world, and is incorporated in a visible and palpable form, over which the world has no authority. That God and His operations are sensible; visible to the eye, , and audible to the ear. That they appeal to the reason of man; and that men are irrational, and therefore act both imprudently and immorally, if they do not listen to, and believe in the Word of God. It affirms also, as a doctrine of revelation, that the visible Church is the great motive of credibility to faith, and that it is “the irrefragable testimony of its own divine legation.” It moreover asserts that the Church has a divine commission to guard the deposit of revelation, and “a divine right to proscribe errors of philosophy and vain deceit," that is, all intellectual aberrations at variance with the deposit of revelation. Finally, it affirms that the Church has a divine office to declare infallibly the deposit of truth.
I am not aware that in any previous Ecumenical Council the doctrine of the Church, and of its divine and infallible authority, has been so explicitly defined. And yet the Council of the Vatican was not at that time engaged upon the Schema de Ecclesia, which still remains to be treated hereafter. It was not lowever without a providential guidance that the first Constitution on Catholic Faith was so shaped, especially in its closing chapter. Neither is it without a great significance that at its conclusion was appended a Monitum, in which the Roman Pontiff by his supreme authority, enjoins all the faithful, Pastors and people, to drive away all errors contrary to the purity of the faith ; and moreover warns Christians that it is not enough to reject positive heresies, but that all errors which more or less approach to heresy must be avoided; and all erroneous opinions which are proscribed and prohibited by the Constitutions and decrees of the Holy See.
When these words were written, it was not foreseen that they were a preparation, unconsciously made, for the definition of the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. If the first Constitution had been designedly framed as an introduction, it could hardly have been more opportunely worded. It begins with God and His revelation ; it closes with the witness and office of the Visible Church, and with the supreme authority of its Head. The next truth demanded by the intrinsic relations of doctrine was the divine endowment of infallibility. And when treated, this doctrine was, contrary to all expectation, and to all likelihood, presented first to the Council, and by the Council to the world, in the person and office of the Head of the Church.
In all theological treatises, excepting indeed one or two of great authority, it had been usual to treat of the Body of the Church before treating of its Head. The reason of this would appear to be, that in the exposition of doctrine the logical order was the more obvious; and to the faithful, in the first formation of the Church, the body of the Church was known before its Head. We might have expected that the Council would have followed the same method. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that the Council inverted that order, and defined the prerogative of the Head before it treated of the Constitution and endowments of the Body. And this, which was brought about by the pressure of special events, is not without significance. The Schools of the Church have followed the logical order: but the Church in Council, when for the first time it began to treat of its own constitution and authority, changed the method, and, like the Divine Architect of the Church, began in the historical order, with the foundation and Head of the Church. Our Divine Lord first chose Cephas, and invested him with the primacy over the Apostles. Upon this Rock all were built, and from him the whole unity and authority of the Church took its rise. To Peter alone first was given the plenitude of jurisdiction and of infallible authority. Afterwards, the gift of the Holy Ghost was shared with him by all the Apostles. From him and through him, therefore, all began. For which cause a clear and precise conception of his primacy and privilege is necessary to a clear and precise conception of the Church. Unless it be first distinctly apprehended, the doctrine of the Church will be always proportionally obscure. The doctrine of the Church does not determine the doctrine of the Primacy, but the doctrine of the Primacy does precisely determine the doctrine of the Church. In beginning therefore with the Head, the Council has followed our Lord's example, both in teaching and in fact; and in this will be found one of the causes of the singular and lu