Sunday, July 17, 2005

From Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England

by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.

I allow there are true charges which can be brought against us; certainly, not only do I not deny it, but I hardly could deny it without heresy. I say distinctly, did I take upon me to deny everything which could be said against us, I should be proving too much, I should startle the Catholic theologian as well as Protestants; for what would it be but implying that the Church contains none within her pale but the just and holy? This was the heresy of the Novatians and Donatists of old time; it was the heresy of our Lollards, and others, such as Luther, who maintained that bad men are not members of the Church, that none but the predestinate are her members. But this no Catholic asserts, every Catholic denies. Every Catholic has ever denied it, back to the very time of the Apostles and their Divine Master; and He and they deny it. Christ denies it, St. Paul denies it, the Catholic Church denies it; our Lord expressly said that the Church was to be like a net, which gathered of every kind, not only of the good, but of the bad too. Such was His Church; it does not prove then that we are not His Church, because we are like His Church; rather our being like the Primitive Christian body, is a reason for concluding that we are one with it. We cannot make His Church better than He made her; we must be content with her as He made her, or not pretend to follow Him. He said, "Many are called, few are chosen;" men come into the Church, and then they fall. They are not indeed sinning at the very time when they are brought into His family, at the time they are new born; but as children grow up, and converts live on, the time too frequently comes, when they fall under the power of one kind of temptation or other, and fall from grace, either for a while or for good. Thus, not indeed by the divine wish and intention, but by the divine permission, and man's perverseness, there is a vast load of moral evil existing in the Church; an enemy has sown weeds there, and those weeds remain among the wheat till the harvest. And this evil in the Church is not found only in the laity, but among the clergy too; there have been bad priests, bad bishops, bad monks, bad nuns, and bad Popes. If this, then, is the charge made against us, that we do not all live up to our calling, but that there are Catholics, lay and clerical, who may be proved to be worldly, revengeful, licentious, slothful, cruel, nay, may be unbelievers, we grant it at once. We not only grant it but we zealously maintain it. "In a great house," says St. Paul, "there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some indeed unto honour, but some unto dishonour." There are, alas, plenty of children of the Church, who by their bad lives insult and disgrace their Mother.


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