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TWO CRITICISMS ON THE DUBLIN REVIEW.
TWO CRITICISMS ON THE DUBLIN REVIEW.
The Dublin Review. New Series : Nos. I.-XIV.
WHEN we started the New Series of this Review, we issued no kind of prospectus; and now also we are in some sense ashamed to detain the reader, even for a few pages, on a matter personal to ourselves. But we are told of two criticisms as very frequently made on this REVIEW, which show so complete a misapprehension—the one of our plan, the other of our principles,—that after much deliberation we have thought it better expressly to notice them.
Firstly then, we have received of late more than one friendly but urgent remonstrance, on what is considered the undue preponderance given by us to Theology. We feel the most sincere respect for many of our kind critics; and as we cannot show that respect by adopting their suggestion, we are the more anxious to show it by giving our reasons for dissent. Our simplest course then will be to explain distinctly what are the objects at which we have aimed throughout. For certainly if we had made any profession of treating, on their own ground, the various branches of secular science and literature, the execution of our plan would have been a most undeniable and signal failure. But then we never made the slightest profession of the kind. Is every periodical to write about everything? or may not an editor choose one particular class of subjects, and abstain from troubling his head about others? The latter certainly has been our own conception. We are most strongly of opinion that it is the one most likely to issue in important service; but we state a simple matter of fact in saying, that it is the only one which the present editor would find practicable.
In truth, the ends at which we have aimed have been such as the following; and we shall be surprised if any one calls them narrow and paltry. To assist our readers, so far as our humble position and opportunity may permit, in grasping those great Objects of Faith which are to be man's light during his pilgrimage : in sympathizing with sanctity, and detesting worldliness under its various disguises of naturalism, nationalism, and intellectualism : in apprehending the Church's full prerogatives and authority: in understanding her past history: in being proof against the shameful misrepresentations everywhere prevalent concerning that history: in rendering most unreserved loyalty and homage to the Holy See: in recognizing the infallibility of that See in its widest and fullest extent: in discerning the true position of the rock of Rome amidst the ocean of modern European politics: in appreciating the character and basis of Christian civilization: in abhorring the Revolution and its principles : in seeing through the sophisms of anti-Christian and anti-Catholic philosophy: in realizing the frightful evils of mixed education, whether to the lower or (still more emphatically) to the higher classes: in estimating the various secular questions of the day, according to the true and high Catholic standard; as God estimates them; as the Church teaches her children to regard them.
Of this kind is the course proposed by the Holy Father to a Catholic journalist, in his brief on the Civilta; * of this kind is the course which we have ourselves attempted to follow. Such ends by no means exclude a treatment of secular subjects; on the contrary, they absolutely require such treatment: but undoubtedly they determine its limits and its method. We hope henceforth, as hitherto, to present our readers with a fair proportion of such matter; only our selection of it will always mainly depend on its connection with religion. We by no means confine ourselves—like a purely theological Review—to the science of Theology; and yet this is the only science which we handle for its own sake. No portion of the secular field is external to our plans, so far as it has any bearing on the principles of Catholic morality; on the interests of the Church; on the salvation of souls. But on the other hand, secular science and literature in itself,—and so far as it has
* "We did not fail again and again to urge men .... that, principally under the guidance each man of his own bishop, they should by their writings defend our august religion, refute its assailants, detect, expose, overthrow so many monstrous prodigies of their opinions, and enlighten with truth especially the minds of unwary men and of inexperienced youth. . . .
"In order that there should ever be certain appointed men who, being heartily devoted to Us and to this Chair of Peter, and eminent for their love of Our most holy religion, and celebrated for sound and solid doctrine and erudition, may be able to fight the good fight, and by their writings to defend unintermittingly Catholic interest! and sound doctrine, and to vindicate the same from the fallacies, injustices, and errors of opponents," &c. &c. &c.
See the whole Brief, in our number for last July, pp. 229-233.
no relation to faith and morals,—is excluded from our design. Of course from time to time we may fill up a gap with such neutral and harmless matter as presents itself at the moment; but our choice of subjects lies wholly in the above-named direction.
Now we are undoubtedly filled with shame on looking back at the career of this REVIEW, under its present editorship; but for a very different reason from that which our critics would suggest. We are ashamed of the deplorable inadequacy, with which we have performed so noble and so sacred a task; and we feel deeply, that to succeed in it at all satisfactorily, would require the highest and most concentrated energies of many minds of the very highest order. This, then, is the answer we would give to those friendly counsellors who wish us to extend our range. Our present enterprise by itself is too momentous and too arduous for our power; to avoid ignominious failure therein, we must give it our exclusive attention; to aim at more would be simply to break down. And at last, why should we wish to aim at more? Our large and increasing circulation is a complete proof that the number of Catholics is by no means inconsiderable, who are interested in what we offer them. Why are we to be more remiss in a work of considerable moment, on which we have been hitherto engaged;— in order to enter on one totally different, of greatly inferior importance, and for which we have neither inclination nor capacity?
Even while concentrating our energies on one field, we have failed deplorably in its due cultivation. There are two subjects in particular, on which we have been signally deficient. We have hitherto said nothing, or almost nothing, to meet the various objections brought in these days against dogmatic and revealed religion, on moral grounds; on grounds of history; on grounds of physical science. And we have been almost silent on those vitally momentous questions, which may be comprised under the general name, "interests of the Catholic poor." It has been a great consolation to us under our shortcomings in this latter respect, to find such excellent service done by our admirable and invaluable contemporary, The Month. No words of acknowledgement and gratitude can be too strong for its successive papers on workhouses, prisons, and now on Protestant proselytism in Ireland. We entreat those few of our readers who have not already done so, to procure The Month for March, April, May, and December, 1866; and lay practically to heart the facts they will see there set forth. May God bless and reward the writer for his pious labour! And returning to the DUBLIN REVIEW, it will be inferred from our remarks, that if we were able to obtain satisfactory contributions on the two particulars above mentioned, we would gladly assign to them a large and prominent place; so that (to this extent at least) our secular matter may possibly hereafter occupy even a less proportion of our pages than it has hitherto done.
Such then, in brief, is our plan. Whether a greater or less proportion of things secular shall be found in any given number, is a matter more or less of accident. But that things secular shall be treated, so far as possible, exclusively in their relation to things spiritual, this is our very aim and endeavour.
The second criticism of which we have heard is, that our tone is too peremptory and overbearing; that we erect our own private opinion into a kind of shibboleth (as it has been expressed to us); and that we speak of those who oppose our own private views, just as though they opposed the Church's authoritative teaching. We really do not think that this criticism would have been made, unless objectors had confused in their mind two questions most absolutely and entirely distinct. It is a most intelligible charge, e.g., to say that we stretch the Church's infallibility a great deal too far; and it is a most intelligible charge to say that we are peremptory and overbearing, on questions which we admit to be open. But the two charges are as distinct from each other, as a charge of forgery from one of burglary. Let us consider them successively.
Do we, then, stretch too far the Church's infallibility? We will begin with one particular on which we have spoken a good deal. There is a large body of teaching contained in Papal Allocutions, Encyclicals, and the like, which have been accepted (as in this day all such documents always are) by the Catholic Episcopate. We have carefully distinguished indeed (see e.g. Jan. 1865, p. 51) this actual teaching on one hand from arguments, obiter dicta, &c., on the other hand. But we have consistently maintained (1) that this body of teaching is infallibly true, and (2) that the contradictory opinion is unsound, censurable, condemned by the Church. Certainly—considering that some Catholics, both in England and Germany, avow this contradictory opinion—we should have pursued a peremptory and overbearing course, had we assumed our thesis to be correct without giving any grounds for the opinion. But we entered at great length on those grounds; and, to facilitate reference, Dr. Ward collected all the relevant matter into one volume. Liberals emphatically profess to go by reason; and we really indulged the hope that they would attempt to grapple with our reasoning. Fond delusion! They have shrunk from the field of fair and open argument, and betaken themselves to the easy and ready path of declamation and invective. If their procedure had been called "peremptory and overbearing," we could have understood what was meant; but how such terms can be applied to ourselves in this matter, it baffles us to conjecture.
A second thesis, advocated by us, has been that the Church is infallible (to use the language of theologians) not as "testis" only, but as "judex" and "magistra." In other words, we have maintained that her practical no less than her formal teaching is to be accepted as the Voice of God; and that the contradictory opinion is unsound and censurable. We entered into this matter at considerable length last April, pp. 421-438; but in this, as in the former case, there has been no attempt to answer our argument. Which line of conduct is justly considered "peremptory and overbearing"? That of giving reasons for one's intellectual position, or of refusing to give them?
A third thesis of ours has been, that the Church authoritatively and infallibly condemns what many Protestants call the principle of religious liberty; or, in other words, the tenet that a State exceeds its jurisdiction in refusing toleration to religious error. Here, again, we have not based the statement on our own "ipse dixit." We have argued at length that the "Mirari vos" (January, 1865, pp. 58-66) and the "Quanta cura," with its appended Syllabus (April, 1865, pp. 487-492), indubitably establish our thesis. At the same time, we have been most careful on every occasion to argue, that the Church has never censured Catholic rulers for giving the fullest religious liberty to every hereditary Protestant sect, even in a country where Catholics are numerically very preponderant; and, moreover, that Catholics of the present day are unanimous in favour of such liberty being granted. We have only explained, in harmony with the Church's teaching, that that is a far higher and happier state of things, in which the whole people is Catholic; and in which the introduction of any non-Catholic worship is stringently forbidden. We have given at length, we say, our reasons for so interpreting the Church's language; while, as to those who accuse us of "peremptory and overbearing temper," not one of them has even attempted (so far as we know) to give it any different explanation.
And, to give another final instance, we have designated as a condemned error the opinion, that scholastic theology is no longer suitable to the Church's needs. But really on this matter the 13th proposition of the Syllabus is so very explicit, that no second interpretation is even imaginable.
Now, on these respective theses and such as these, we should be utterly ashamed of ourselves if we had ever so written, as to imply that the contradictory tenets can be lawfully held by a Catholic. We have felt it a sacred duty, whenever we have mentioned these theses, to indicate by our tone that whoever contradicts them (however excellent his character and his motives) is in real truth uttering unsound doctrine and, rebelling against the Church's authority. If this be what is called “peremptory and overbearing” — never to treat a denial of the Church's doctrine in any other tone than that of confident reprobation—we sincerely hope, by God's grace, we shall always continue to deserve the charge.
It may be said, perhaps, that Christian prudence and moderation require a writer to consider, not merely whether what he says is true; nor even whether it has been sealed by the Church's infallible impress: but also whether its inculcation at this particular time be conducive to the Church's benefit. A peremptory and overbearing spirit may be displayed, not only in pressing as certain a doubtful doctrine, but also in pressing unwisely and unseasonably a doctrine which is certain. We think this opinion so undeniably true and so very important, that we entreat the reader's careful attention to a somewhat long extract, in which we have treated it. After arguing last April against Dr. Pusey's projects of union, one of our concluding remarks was the following:—
An Unionist [we said] may address to us the following objection:—"You" have admitted, after all, in this very article, that truth is not invariably to "be placed before peace; you have admitted that this or that doctrine— "even though infallibly sanctioned by the Church—may yet under peculiar" circumstances be legitimately waived and put into abeyance, for the sake of Christian harmony. But in admitting this, you emphatically condemn the "course undeviatingly pursued by you gentlemen of the DUBLIN REVIEW." Let me take two tenets, which you have been forward in advocating: viz. (1) The infallibility of Papal Encyclicals or Allocutions; and (2) the legitimacy and advisableness, in certain countries, of the Catholic ruler refusing civil toleration to heretics. You will certainly admit that no tenets can tend more powerfully than these to inflame differences and exasperate spirits. Let me grant, then, for argument's sake (what in fact I totally deny) that these tenets are true; yet, have you not been arguing, in this very article, that the Church will often, under circumstances, forbear from insisting on what she regards as true, that Christian unity may be the better promoted? From your own mouths we judge you, reckless and mischievous firebrands that you are.
Such an objection may have occurred to many readers: it undoubtedly requires an answer, and we will express our answer with the utmost frankness. But we must first state our own principle somewhat more distinctly. There is a large body of truths, taught by God to the Apostles, and proposed by the Church as having been thus taught. These constitute the Deposit of Faith; and they are earnestly inculcated by the Church, in all places and under all circumstances. There is further a large body of doctrines, infallibly determined by the Church, which are intimately connected indeed with the Deposit, but are no integral part thereof. In regard to any one of these doctrines, there is a possibility, we admit, that under particular circumstances more harm than good may be done by its prominent exhibition. Supposing, therefore, a Catholic is called to account for bringing forward tenets, which cause public prejudice against the Church;—he gives no sufficient answer to the charge, by proving that these tenets are true; or even that the Church has infallibly sanctioned them: he was bound also to consider whether their enforcement at this particular moment were according to the rules of Christian prudence.
Now, this very principle is urged against us to our condemnation. But let our readers carefully observe the qualification with which we have invariably accompanied it. Under particular circumstances, no doubt, the interests of the Church and of the Faith are better promoted by waiving some indubitable doctrine than by insisting on it . But who is to judge on the existence of such circumstances? We answer emphatically, the Church. The problem involved is so complex and intricate that no individual can, without the wildest presumption, dream of solving it for himself. It is the Church, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, which alone is competent to point out the true course. We are speaking throughout, as above explained, not on the dogmata of faith, but on other doctrines connected with those dogmata. And just as it is to the Church alone that we look when we desire to know which of these doctrines are infallibly true;—so it is to the Church alone that we look when we desire to know which of these doctrines, being infallibly true, should, under particular circumstances, be prominently and urgently enforced.
Here, then, is our vindication. We have laid earnest stress on the two tenets named above by our imaginary opponent. Why have we laid on them such earnest stress? Not through any trust in our own private judgment but because the Church herself called on us so to do; because in these times a Catholic writer would have disloyally failed in his allegiance, had he acted otherwise. For several years past the Holy Father has been energetically summoning all Catholics to hold interiorly a certain doctrine on his civil princedom. But this doctrine neither is, nor possibly can be, defined as of faith; he has therefore been energetically summoning all Catholics to hold interiorly a certain doctrine which is not of faith. It is the Pope himself, then, "the vicegerent of Christ," "the teacher of Christians," who has summoned Catholic writers to vindicate the due authority of those doctrinal determinations which are not definitions of faith. Nor has he been less emphatic [of late], whether by word or action, in denouncing that antiCatholic principle, called "liberty of conscience," which he and his predecessors have so often condemned under its various shapes. The "Mirari vos" —the recent Encyclical and Syllabus—use expressions quite as strong as any which we have employed; or rather considerably stronger. It has been our one wish, our highest ambition, to follow humbly his authoritative guidance,— not only as to what doctrines we shall believe, but also as to what doctrines we shall urgently proclaim and vindicate.
So much, then, in regard to those theses which the Church has infallibly taught. But there are various other opinions which we have earnestly maintained; opinions from which the best Catholics may most widely dissent. Have we been peremptory and overbearing in our mode of advocating these? We will not confidently assert the negative; but we will at least say that we have been constantly on our guard against the danger, and that we really doubt whether we have transgressed the bounds of tolerance and moderation. At all events we promise beforehand that, if any instance is shown of such transgression, we will publicly express repentance for our offence.
Two instances occur to us at the moment of open questions, on which articles have appeared; and on which both the respective writers and the editor have entertained extremely strong personal convictions. One of these is public school education: concerning which the editor feels intensely; for he spent the six unhappiest years of his life under a system, which (so far as his own bitter experience goes) he considers unmixedly demoralizing and hateful. A second is what may be called the negro question. That feeling towards the negro which prevails at this moment among very many Englishmen—a curious reaction from earlier excess on the opposite side—is, in our humble opinion, a very serious ethical disease and calamity. It is one, we think, which calls loudly for the animadversion of any periodical, which desires to promote true Catholic doctrine concerning the rights of our fellow-men and the claims of our co-redeemed. From this point of view we have considered in various articles both the American conflict and the Jamaican disturbances: our main interest in both these events having been our profound dislike of a certain anti-negro fanaticism, which seems to us just now dominant among some classes of Englishmen. These two instances may, perhaps, be taken as tests of the general spirit in which we have written. We ask, have we in either of them offended against due Christian moderation? While arguing earnestly for our own convictions, have we implied ever so distantly any disparaging remark against those Catholics, who might differ from us ever so extremely? We really believe that nothing of the kind will even be alleged.
Then, again, to take another illustration. While the Church has always protested most emphatically against the principle of mixed education (see e. g. prop. 48 of the Syllabus*), it was for some time an open question in England, whether the proposal of a Catholic college at Oxford were or were not consistent with the Church's doctrine. During that period (October, 1864) we argued most earnestly against the proposal. Whoever reads our article will see that we spoke throughout with the greatest respect of the writer to whom we were replying; though we certainly thought, and think, that English Catholics were then threatened with a more formidable danger than has impended since the days of Milner and C. Butler.
We must repeat our apologies for having brought these personal matters before the reader's attention. But we wish, of course, to do the Church the best service in our power, be that power great or small. And it is plain that we should be grievously impaired in every effort of the kind, if such misconceptions prevailed as it has been the purpose of our present article to remove.
In Christ our King,