Union of Christendom. —The Catholic Church is by far the largest, the most widespread, and the most ancient of Christian communions in the world, and is moreover the mighty trunk from which the other communions claiming to be Christian have broken off at one time or another. If, then, we limit the application of the term Christendom to this, its most, authentic expression, the unity of Christendom is not a lost ideal to be recovered, but a stupendous reality which has always been in stable possession. For not only has this Catholic Church ever taught that unity is an essential note of the true Church of Christ, but throughout her long history she has been, to the amazement of the world, distinguished by the most conspicuous unity of faith and government, and this notwithstanding that she has at all times embraced within her fold nationalities of the most different temperaments, and has had to contend with incessant oscillations of mental speculation and political power. Still, in another and broader sense of the term, which is also the more usual and is followed in the present article, Christendom includes not merely the Catholic Church, but, together with it, the many other religious communions which have, either directly or indirectly, separated from it, and yet, although in conflict both with it and among themselves as to various points of doctrine and practice, agree with it in this: that they look up to our Lord Jesus Christ as the Founder of their Faith, and claim to make His teaching the rule of their lives. As these separated communities when massed together, indeed in some cases even of themselves, count a vast number of souls, among whom many are conspicuous for their religious earnestness, this extension of the term Christendom to include them all has its solid justification. On the other hand, if it is accepted, it becomes no longer possible to speak of the unity of Christendom, but rather of a Christendom torn by divisions and offering the saddest spectacle to the eyes. And then the question arises: Is this scandal always to continue? The Holy See has never tired of appealing in season and out of season for its removal, but without meeting with much response from a world which had learnt to live contentedly within its sectarian enclosures. Happily a new spirit has lately come over these dissentient Christians, numbers of whom are becoming keenly sensitive to the paralyzing effects of division, and an active reunion movement has arisen which, if far from being as widespread and solid as one could wish, is at least cherished on all sides by devout minds.
In summarizing in this article the various matters that bear upon this question of the unity of Christendom, its present default, and the hopes for its restoration, the following points will be considered: I. The Principles of the Church‘s Unity; II. Unity in the Early Church and its Causes; III. The Divisions of Christendom and their Causes; IV. Reunion Movements in the Past; V. Reunion Movements in the Present; VI. Conditions of Reunion; VII. Prospects of Reunion.
I. PRINCIPLES OF THE CHURCH’S UNITY
A. As Determined by Christ
It is to the Gospels we must go in the first place if we desire to know what in the intentions of its Founder were to be the fundamental elements in the constitution of the Church, nor do the instructions He gave to His Apostles leave us in doubt on the subject. His last words, as reported by St. Matthew, are: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Going therefore make disciples [matheteusate] of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you all days until the consummation of the world” (xxviii, 19, 20). St. Mark’s account is to the same effect, but adds important details: “Going into all the world, proclaim the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that disbelieveth [o de apistedaz] shall be condemned. And these signs shall follow those that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils, speak with new tongues, and take up serpents, and if they shall drink any deadly drink it shall not hurt them; and they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall be healed…. And they going forth preached everywhere, the Lord cooperating with them, and confirming their words by the signs that accompanied them” (xvi, 15-20). St. Luke, in Acts, i, 8, preserves words of Christ which fit in with these two accounts: “You shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost that will come down upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”; whilst in his Gospel this Evangelist has recorded how Jesus Christ in His post-Resurrection discourses to His disciples enumerated as among the primary doctrinal facts to be thus attested by the Apostles and preached throughout the world, the fulfilment in Jesus of the Old-Testament prophecies, and the remission of sins through His name: “These are the words which I have spoken to you whilst I am still with you, for it is necessary that all things which are written of Me in Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms be fulfilled; and He said to them: For thus it is written that the Christ must suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day, and repentance be preached in His name for the remission of sins to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you shall be witnesses to these things. And I will send down upon you that [gift] which has been promised to you by My Father. Remain therefore in this city until you be endued with power from on high” (xxiv, 44-49).
Further, to go back to St. Matthew, this Evangelist tells us, in a most impressive passage intimately connected with the plan of his Gospel, that Christ made provision for unity of action among His Apostles by appointing one of them to be the leader of his brethren, and assigning to him a unique relation to the spiritual building He was raising. “And I say to thee that thou art Peter [i.e. the Rock], and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (xvi, 18, 19). St. Luke (xxii, 31, 32) has words spoken in the supper-room which imply this previous appointment of St. Peter, by describing in other terms the same firm support which it would be his to communicate to the faith of the Church. “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith may not fail, and do thou when thou art converted” (or it may mean, “do thou in thy turn”) “confirm thy brethren”. St. John, whose Gospel follows a different course from the Synoptics, and seems to select for narration previously unrecorded deeds and words of Christ which cast a fuller light on what the others had given, tells of Jesus Christ‘s final reiteration of the commission to St. Peter, rendered necessary perhaps to reassure him after his fall and deep repentance, and entrusting him anew with the supreme pastoral charge of the entire flock. “Simon, Son of John, lovest thou me more than these. feed My lambs. be the shepherd of my sheep” (xxi, 15-17). To St. John, too, we are indebted for our knowledge of a fact which accords well with the words, “Lo, I am with you always”, reported by St. Matthew; for he testifies that on the occasion of the Last Supper Jesus Christ promised to send the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, and “will bear testimony of me” (xv, 26), and “will lead you into all truth” (xvi, 13); also that on the same occasion He prayed an effectual prayer for His disciples and “those who through their word should come to believe in him, that they all may be one, even as Thou, Father, art one in me, and I am one in Thee, so that they may be one in us, and thus the world may believe that thou halt sent me” (xvii, 20-23).
Were we arguing with the Rationalistic critics we should have to meet their refusal to grant the authenticity of much that is in these passages, but the question of reunion is practical only for those who accept fully and in all respects the authority of the canonical Scriptures. If, then, we take these passages together as utterances of the same Divine voice, reaching us through these different channels, the conclusion is irresistible that the Church was founded by Christ on the principle of a revelation to which, as attested by the word of God, unquestioning assent is due from all to whom it is addressed; on the principle of an authority communicated by Christ to chosen representatives whom He set as teachers of the world, and to whom He requires that the world should render the obedience of faith; and on the principle of a single religious communion, under the rule of these teachers and their duly appointed successors, admission to which is through the gate of baptism and adherence to which is imposed on all under the most solemn sanctions.
For (1) the duty assigned to the hearers is simply to believe what the Apostles impart to them as teaching derived from Jesus Christ, no liberty being allowed for disbelief on the ground that the Apostolic teaching does not commend itself to the judgment of the disciple; and this duty is declared to be so imperative that the fulfilment of it places a man in the way of salvation, but disregard of it in the way of Divine condemnation—the implication being that, as this teaching comes ultimately from Christ, that fact in itself should be held to give the disciple a better guarantee of truth than any reasoning of his own could give. (2) The Apostles are sent by Christ in like manner as He was sent by His Father, and to the chief of them are given the keys of the kingdom of heaven with a far-reaching power to make binding laws, which must mean that He sends them forth to continue the work He had begun, to make disciples as He had done, and to rule them in the spirit of the Good Shepherd as He had done; consequently, that He delegates to these Apostles such share of the authority given to Himself as He deemed necessary for the discharge of their world-wide commission. (3) The community thus formed out of the Apostolic teachers and their disciples was necessarily one by a twofold bond of union, inasmuch as the teaching, being from God, was necessarily one, and the faith with which it had to be received was correspondingly one, inasmuch, too, as the visible society into which all were baptized was essentially one, being under the rule of a body of pastors united under the presidency of a single visible head. (4) The words, “I am with you always until the consummation of the world”, prove, what indeed was presumable from the nature of the case, that Christ was then instituting a system not intended for the Apostolic generation only, but for all the generations to come, and hence that He was addressing His Apostles, not as eleven individual men only, but as men who, with their legitimate successors, formed a moral personality destined to last through the ages.
We may further gather from the texts above cited (5) that the revelation thus brought down from heaven and imparted to the world to be the means of its salvation was not confined to a few ethical maxims, lit up by the splendor of a surpassing example and of such simplicity that all men in all ages could without difficulty reconcile them on intrinsic grounds with the dictates of their personal reason. On the contrary, it is expressed in terms of unlimited range- “teaching them all that I have commanded”—and is explicitly declared to contain first and foremost in its doctrinal whole the mystery which surpasses all others in baffling human speculation, namely, the mystery of the Holy Trinity-” baptizing them inthe name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost“—in other words, for this is the meaning, dedicating them by baptism to the worship of (eis to anoma), and therefore to belief in, the Trinity in Unity. (6) At the same time, that the human mind, in thus giving its assent to doctrines so difficult for it to conceive, may do no violence to its own rational nature, the above passages tell us of the promise of the Spirit to abide for ever in the Church, to guide at all times the mind of the teaching body, organized under its visible head, so that it may always be kept from corrupting the sacred doctrine, and presenting it for acceptance in a form foreign to its original purity. Lastly, (7) that we may understand the vital importance of this unity of communion, of this unity of truth, for the due carrying out of the Church‘s work, we have the prayer of Christ to His Father to teach us that the spectacle of it was intended by Him to furnish the world with the most signal and convincing proof of the Divinity of the Christian religion: “That even as the Father is in Me, and I in Him, so they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” We can appreciate the character of this motive, we who live in an age when the divisions of Christendom are cast in our faces as evidence of the uncertainty on which the Christian pretensions rest. We can see how it would facilitate Christian work at home and in the mission field, if we could still say, as in the time of the Apostles, “The universality of those that believe are of one heart and one soul.” We can understand how discerning observers, weighing the natural tendency of human minds to differ, would, in the presence of such a world-wide unity, be fain to exclaim, “This is something that surpasses the power of nature; the hand of God is here.”
B. As understood by the Apostles and their Disciples
In the Acts and the Epistles we have a record of the way in which the Apostles understood their commission, and it is obvious that the two things correspond. After receiving the promised gift of the Spirit, the Apostles go forth confidently and commence their preaching. Peter is their leader and, in those early days, so far their spokesman as for the moment to throw his fellow-Apostles almost entirely into the shade. Even St. John, great as he was, and, as we may gather from a comparison of the writings of the two, greatly St. Peter’s intellectual superior, accompanies him as a silent companion, thus illustrating the completeness of the union that bound together the Apostolic band. In his preaching St. Peter follows an easily recognizable plan. First he seeks to accredit himself and his colleagues by appealing to the character of their Master, Whose life had been led before the eyes of the people of Jerusalem. He was Jesus of Nazareth, “a man approved by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God wrought through him in the midst of you” (Acts, ii, 22), One, therefore, to Whose teaching the people were bound to attend and Whose representatives they were bound to receive. It was true that He who had thus been approved by God among them had afterwards fallen into the hands of wicked men who had taken and slain Him, thereby appearing to show signs of weakness hard to reconcile with such stupendous claims. But the Twelve, who were now addressing the people, were also known to them as having each and all been the companions of the Lord Jesus all the time He went in and out from the Baptism of John (Acts, i, 21, 22); and these could testify from their own immediate experience that what had befallen their Master, so far from being a real sign of weakness, had been ordained for His glorification “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God“, Who, after thus permitting Ms Son’s death for our sakes, had “raised him up” from the dead, whereof they, the Apostles, were the witnesses (Acts, ii, 33), as they were also of His subsequent Ascension.
Having thus declared and authenticated their commission, and having received a further confirmation of it by the miracles wrought through their inter-cession (Acts, iv, 10, 29, 30; v, 12, 16), which made a deep impression on the people, they take up a position of the utmost authority (Acts, v, 32), proclaim their Master’s teaching, and, on the faith of their sole word, demand credence for it and obedience to its requirements. “Therefore let the House of Israel know that God hath made this same Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts, ii, 36, 38). Thus did they teach and claim to be believed, and thus did they call upon their hearers to enter the nascent Church by Baptism and to place themselves as disciples under the Apostolic instruction and rule. And this is what the hearers did in large numbers. On the day of Pentecost itself there were added to the Church, we are told, three thousand souls (ibid., ii, 41), a number which a few days later, after another discourse from St. Peter, swelled into five thousand; and from thence the multitude steadily grew, not only in Jerusalem, but in Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth (iv, 4). In strict conformity with the words of Christ (make disciples of all nations.. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved), those who thus join themselves to the Apostles are described invariably as “believers” (pistoi, Acts, x, 45), or again as “disciples” (mathetai, Acts, ix, 1; xi, 26; xvi, 1), or in other places as “those who are being saved” (sozomenoi, Acts, ii, 47; I Cor., i, 18). On these principles the Church was founded, and from these principles unity of faith and communion resulted. “They continued”, we read, “steadfastly in the Apostles‘ teaching and communion, and in the breaking of bread and in prayer” (Acts, ii, 42); and again “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul” (iv, 32). Later indeed disputes arose and led to critical situations. That was to be expected, for human minds necessarily approach subjects that challenge their attention from the standpoint of their own antecedents, which means that their judgments are apt to be one-sided and to differ. But the point to note is that in those times the authority of the Apostles was universally recognized as competent to decide such controversies and to require obedience to its decrees. Accordingly, they were controversies which led to no breach of communion, but rather to a strengthening of the bonds of communion by eliciting clearer statements of the truths to which all believers were committed by their faith. One instance of a controversy thus happily terminated we have in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts. It is a valuable illustration of what has been said, for it was settled by the authority of the Apostles, who met together to consider it, and ended by affirming the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the Christian Church, together with the non-necessity of circumcision as a condition of participating in its full benefits; and by recommending to the Gentile converts a certain (apparently temporary) concession to Jewish feelings which might soften the difficulties of their mutual intercourse. “It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (xv, 28) was the ground on which those Apostles claimed obedience to their decree, thereby setting a type of procedure and language which subsequent rulers of the Church have consistently followed.
From the second part of the Acts and from the remaining books of the New Testament we have the means of ascertaining how St. Paul and the other Apostles conceived of their mission and authority. It is clear that they, too, regarded themselves as clothed by Jesus Christ with authority both to teach and to rule, that they, too, expected and received in every place a like assent to their teaching and a like obedience to their commands from their disciples, who just by this means were held together in the unity of the one undivided and indivisible Church which the Apostles had founded. The following texts may be consulted on this point, but it is not necessary for our present purpose to do more than refer to them: Acts, xv, 28; Rom., i, 5; xv, 18, 19; xvi,.. 19, 26; I Cor., iv, 17-21; v, 1-5; xv, 11; II Cor., 5, 9; x, 5, 8; xiii, 2, 10; Eph., ii, 20; iv, 4-6, 11, 12; I Thess., ii, 13; iv, 1, 2, 3, 8; II Thess., i, 7-10; ii, 15; iii, 6, 14; I Tim., i, 20; iii, 15; II Tim., ii, 2; Tit., ii, 15; Heb., xiii, 7-9; I John, iv, 6; III John, 10; Jude, 17, 20. We must not, however, pass over St. Paul’s jubilant description of this unity in his Epistle to the Ephesians, standing out so conspicuously as it does in the New-Testament writings, to convince us of its deep significance, its all-penetrating character, and the firm foundations on which it was set: “One body, one Spirit, one Hope, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, Who is over all and through us all, and in us all.” Such was the spectacle of Christian unity born of the Apostolic preaching which presented itself to the eyes of the enraptured Apostle some thirty years from the time when St. Peter preached his first sermon on the day of Pentecost.
C. As Resisted by the Earliest Heretics
To claim this wonderful unity as distinctive of the followers of Jesus Christ in the Apostolic days is not to forget that there were sad exceptions to the general rule. There were indeed no rival communions then which, whilst claiming to be Christian, were maintained in formal opposition to the Church of the Apostles. It is expressly stated by Tertullian (Adv. Marcion., IV, v) that the Marcionites, in the middle of the second century, were the first who, when expelled from the Church Catholic, created an opposition Church for the expression of their peculiar views. Before that time the dissentients contented themselves with forming parties and schools of thought, and of this mode of separation, which sufficed to put men outside the Church, we find clear traces in the New-Testament writings together with predictions that the evil thus originating would become more pronounced in after times. Men of what would nowadays be called independent temperament were dissatisfied with the Apostles‘ teaching in some particulars, and refused to accept it without further warrant than the mere “word of an Apostle”. Thus we may gather from the Epistle to the Galatians that, in spite of the decision of the Council of Jerusalem, there continued to be a party which insisted that the observance of the Jewish Law was obligatory on Gentile Christians, and from the Epistle to the Colossians that there was likewise a Jewish party, probably of Hellenistic origin, which mingled insistence on Jewish legalities with a superstitious worship of the angels (Col., ii, 18). At Ephesus we may detect the adepts of an incipient Gnosticism in St. Paul’s warnings against giving heed to “fables and endless genealogies” (I Tim., i, 4) and against “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of `gnosis’ falsely so-called” (I Tim., vi, 20). Hymenaeus and Alexander are mentioned by name as denying the resurrection of the flesh at the last day (II Tim., ii, 18. Cf. I Cor., xv, 12). St. John, in the Apocalypse (ii, 6, 15), tells us of the Nicolaites who seem to have fallen into some kind of Oriental admixture of immorality with worship, and in his second Epistle (verse 7. Cf. I John, iv, 2) he warns his readers that many “deceivers are entered into the world” who confess not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, which the church historians refer to the Doeetism of Cerinthus.
Our modern admirers of comprehensive Churches would regard the coexistence side by side of these beliefs with those of the Apostles as a healthy sign of mental activity in those early Christian communities, and it is instructive to compare such modern judgments with those of the Apostles, because the comparison enables us to realize better how strong was the feeling of the latter as to the essential importance of basing unity of communion on adherence to the Apostles‘ doctrine, and as to the exceeding sinfulness of dissenting from it. Thus St. Paul calls these alien doctrines “old wives’ fables” (I Tim., iv, 7), “doctrines of devils” (ibid., 2), and “profanities the preaching of which will spread and devour like gangrene” (II Tim., ii, 17). St. Peter calls them “fables skillfully made up” (II Peter, i, 16), and, in a passage where the word heresy under Christian influences has already acquired its traditional meaning, “damnable heresies”, or “heresies leading to damnation” (ibid., ii, 1). The preachers of these heresies St. Paul calls “men of corrupt minds” (I Tim., vi, 5), who “speak falsehood in their hypocrisy, and have consciences seared with a red-hot iron” (I Tim., iv, 2). St. Peter calls them “false teachers who deny the Lord that bought them and bring upon themselves speedy damnation” (II Peter, ii, 1), and St. John calls them “antichrists” (II John, 7; I John, ii, 18; iv, 3). Moreover, so far from wishing to tolerate such persons in the Church, St. Paul warns the faithful to avoid them (Rom., xvi, 17), calls upon those who are set over Churches to cast out the recalcitrant heretic, as one who is “subverted and self-condemned” (Tit., iii, 10, 11), and, in a particular instance, tells St. Timothy that he has “delivered” two such heretics “to Satan”—that is, cast them out of the Church– “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (I Tim., i, 20). Finally, St. John is most severe towards the Christians of Pergamos for neglecting to expel from their midst the two classes of heretics whom he describes (Apoc., ii, 14, 15).
In short, according to the teaching and record of the Scriptures, the Church is one every-where with a oneness which is desired by Christ on its own account as befitting the obedient children of one God, one Lord, and one Spirit, and likewise as the necessary outcome of faithful adherence on the part of its members to the concordant teaching of those whom He appointed to be its rulers, and whom the Holy Spirit preserves in all truth. Still, inasmuch as each is left free to accept or reject this one teaching, this wholesome doctrine, there were, side by side with the general body of the true believers, some apparently small groups who held alien doctrines, for which they had been rejected from the communion of the one Church, and these were regarded as having placed themselves outside the pale of salvation. There is not a trace, however, of any third class, separated from the communion of their brethren, but still regarded as members of the true Church.
II. UNITY IN THE EARLY CHURCH
In the writings of the early Fathers, which contain their testimony to the nature of the Church as it existed in their days, we find the same formative principles which moulded its origins continuing to determine the character of its structure and the distinctive spirit of its members. The Church is now widely spread through the known regions of the world, but it is still, as in the days of St. Paul, everywhere one and the same, all its members in whatever place being united in the profession of the same faith, in the participation of the same sacraments, and in obedience to pastors who themselves form one corporate body and are united by the bond of an intimate solidarity. We learn, too, from these contemporary witnesses that the principle of this remarkable unity is still that of a strict adherence to the Apostles‘ doctrine, but here a new element from the nature of the case comes in. The Apostles no longer live to proclaim their doctrine; it can be obtained, however, with perfect security from the Apostolic tradition. In other words, it has been handed down incorrupt by oral transmission through the lines of bishops who are the duly appointed successors of the Apostles, and who, like them, are guarded in their teaching by the assistance of the Holy Ghost. Thus the word tradition now comes into prominence, and, just as St. Paul said to Timothy, “keep the deposit” (I Tim., vi, 20), that is the sacred doctrine committed to him by the Apostle as a sacred trust, so the Fathers of the Church say, “keep the tradition.” This is ever their first and most decisive test of sound doctrine, not what recommends itself to the reason of the individual or his party, but what is sanctioned by the Apostolical tradition; and for the ascertaining of this tradition the Fathers of the second and third centuries refer the searcher to the Churches founded immediately by the Apostles, and before all others to the Church of Rome. We learn, moreover, from these early witnesses, that this Church of Rome, in proportion as the ecclesiastical system passed out of the state of embryo to that of full formation, became more and more explicitly recognized as the see which had inherited the prerogatives of Blessed Peter, and was, therefore, the authority which in all cases of controversy must ultimately decide what was in accordance with the tradition, and in all questions of jurisdiction and discipline was the visible head, communion with which was communion with the one and indivisible Church. As these points of ecclesiastical history are discussed elsewhere, we need not demonstrate them by bringing forward the copious Patristic testimonies which may be found in any good treatise on the Church. We may, however, usefully quote, not so much in proof as in illustration of what is said, a passage or two from St. Iren. us’s treatise “Adversus haereses”, he being the earliest of the Fathers from whom we have extant a treatise of any fullness, and this particular treatise dealing with just the points with which we are concerned.
“The Church which is now planted throughout the whole inhabited globe, indeed even to the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and their disciples that faith which is in one God, the Father omnipotent who made Heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in it; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was incarnate for our salvation, and in the Holy Ghost…. Having received this preaching, and this faith, as we have said, the Church, though spread throughout the whole world, preserves it with the utmost care and diligence, just as if she dwelt in one house, and believes these truths just as if she had but one and the same soul and heart, and preaches them and teaches them and hands them down [tradit] just as if she had but one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are diverse, the force and meaning of the tradition is everywhere the same. Nor do the Churches which are in Germany believe differently or pass down a different tradition, as neither again do the Churches in Spain or Gaul, or in the East, or in Egypt or Africa, or those situated in the middle of the earth [that is the Churches of Palestine]. But as the sun, which is God‘s creature, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so too does the preaching of the truth shine everywhere and illuminate all men who desire to come to the knowledge of the truth. And neither do those of the Church‘s rulers who are powerful in speech add to this tradition—for no one is above the [great] teacher—nor do those who are infirm in speech subtract from it. For since the Faith is one and the same, neither does he who can say more add to it, nor he who can say less diminish it” (Adv. haer., 1 x, n. 2).
This striking passage shows not merely how complete was the unity of faith throughout the world in those days, but how this unity of faith was the response to the unity of the doctrine everywhere preached, to the unity of the tradition everywhere handed down. Elsewhere St. Irenaeus testifies to the source of this uniform tradition, and what was understood to be the safeguard of its purity. In the first three chapters of his third book he is criticizing the heretics of his time and the inconsistency of their methods; and in so doing sets forth by way of contrast the method of the Church. “When you refute them out of Scripture“, he says, “they accuse the Scriptures themselves of errors, of lack of authority, of contradictory statements, and deny that the truth can be gathered from them save by those who know the tradition.” By “tradition”, however, they mean a fictitious esoteric tradition which they claim to have received, “sometimes from Valentinus, sometimes from Marcion, sometimes from Basilides, or anyone else who is in opposition”. “When in your turn you appeal to the tradition that has come down from the Apostles through the succession of the presbyters in the Churches, they reply that they are wiser than the presbyters and even than the Apostles themselves, and know the uncorrupted truth.” To this Irenaeus observes that “it is difficult to bring to repentance a soul captured by error, but that it is not altogether impossible to escape error by setting truth by the side of it.” He then proceeds to state where the true tradition can be found: “The tradition of the Apostles has been made manifest throughout the world, and can be found in every Church by those who wish to know the truth. We can number, too, the bishops who were appointed by the Apostles in the Churches and their successors down to our own day, none of whom knew of or taught the doctrines which these men madly teach. Yet, if the Apostles had known of these secret mysteries and used to teach them secretly, without the knowledge of others, to the perfect, they would have taught them to those chiefly to whom they confided the Churches themselves. For they desired that those whom they left behind them as successors, by delivering over to them their own office of teaching, should be most perfect and blameless, inasmuch as, if they acted rightly, much good, but if they fell away the gravest calamity, would ensue.”
To exemplify this method of referring to the tradition of the Churches, he applies it to three of the Churches: Rome, Smyrna, and Ephesus, setting that of Rome in the first place, as having a tradition with which those of the other Churches are necessarily in accord. The passage is well known, but for its intimate bearing on our present subject we may transcribe it. “But as it would take too long in a volume like the present to enumerate the successions of all the Churches, we confound all those who, in any way, whether through self-will, or vain glory, or blindness, or evil-mindedness, invent false doctrines, by directing them to the greatest and most ancient Church, well known to all, which was founded and established at Rome by the two glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to the tradition it has received from the Apostles and the faith it has announced to men, both of which have come down to us through the succession of the Bishops. For to this Church, on account of its greater authority”, the Greek text being defective here, it is impossible to say exactly what Greek word lies behind the Latin principalitas, but the context indicates “authority” as giving the intended sense- “it is necessary that every Church—that is, the faithful from all parts—should have recourse as to that in which the Apostolic tradition is ever preserved by those”—if we follow Dom Morin’s highly probable correction of an apparently defective reading- “who are set over it.”
One more quotation from St. Irenaeus we must permit ourselves, as it evidences so clearly the feeling of this Father and his contemporaries as to the relative conditions of those who were in the one Church or without it: “For in the Church God has set Apostles, prophets, and doctors, together with all the other operations of the Spirit, in which those have no share who do not fly to the Church, but deprive themselves of life by their evil opinions and evil deeds. For where the Church is there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is there is the Church and all grace, but the Spirit is truth. Wherefore those who have no part in it neither receive the life-giving nutriment from the breasts of their mother, nor drink of the most pure spring that flows from the Body of Christ; but such people dig for themselves broken cisterns out of earthly trenches, and drink out of the filth putrid water, flying from the faith of the Church lest they should be converted, rejecting the Spirit that they may not be instructed. Being alienated from the truth by just consequence, they are rolled and tossed about by every error, holding at one time one opinion, at another another in regard to the same subject, never having any fixed and stable judgments, caring more to cavil about words than to be disciples of the truth. For they are not built upon one rock, but upon the stone-strewn sand; and hence invent many gods, and plead ever in excuse that they are seeking, but, being blind, never succeed in finding” (ibid., III, xxlv).
A modern reader of St. Irenaeus’s “Adversus haereses” might be inclined to object that the heretics of those days held doctrines so preposterous that his severe language about them is intelligible without our having to suppose that he would have judged with similar severity doctrines opposed to the tradition which could claim to rest upon a more rational basis. But his principle of the authority of the tradition is manifestly intended to have universal application, and may be safely taken as supplying the test by which this typical Father of the second century would, were he living now, judge of the modern systems in conflict with the Church‘s tradition.
III. DIVISIONS OF CHRISTENDOM AND THEIR CAUSES
A. Extinct Schisms
The notable heresies that originated in the first four Christian centuries have long since expired. Gnosticism in its various forms occasioned serious trouble to the Apologists of the second century, but scarcely survived into the third. Montanism and Novatianism are not much heard of after the third century, and Donatism, which arose in Africa in 311, perished in the general ruin of African Christianity caused by the Vandal invasion in 429. Manichaeism came forward in the third century, but is not much heard of after the sixth, and Pelagianism, which arose at the very end of the fourth century, though for the time it provoked an acute crisis, received a crushing blow at the Council of Ephesus (431) and disappeared altogether after the Council of Orange in 529. Arianism arose at the beginning of the fourth century and, in spite of its condemnation at Nica in 325, was kept alive both in its pure form and in its diluted form of Semi-Arianism by the active support of two emperors. From the time of the First Council of Constantinople (381) it disappeared from the territories of the Empire, but received a new lease of life among the northern tribes, the Goths, Lombards, Burgundians, Vandals, etc. This was due to the preaching of Ulfilas, a bishop of Arian views, who was sent from Constantinople in 341 to evangelize the Visigoths. From the Visigoths it spread to the kindred tribes and became their national religion, until 586, when, with the conversion of Reccared, their king, and of the Spanish Visigoths, the last remnants of this particular heresy perished.
As these ancient heresies no longer exist, they do not concern the practical problem of reunion which is before us in the present age. But it is instructive to note that the principles they embodied are the very same which, taking other forms, have invariably motived the long series of revolts against the authority of the Catholic Church. Thus regarded, we may divide them into five classes. First there are certain intellectual difficulties which have always puzzled the human mind. The difficulty of explaining the derivation of the finite from the infinite, and the difficulty of explaining the coexistence of evil with good in the physical and moral universe, motived the strange speculations of the Gnostics and the simpler but not less inconsistent theory of the Manichaeans. The difficulty of harmonizing the mystery of the Trinity in Unity, and that of the Incarnation, with the conceptions of natural reason motived the heresies of the Patripassians, the Sabellians, the Macedonians, and the Arians, and again the difficulty of conceiving the supernatural or justifying the idea of inherited sin motived the Pelagian denial of these doctrines. A second source of heresies has been the outburst of strong religious emotions, usually based on fancied visions to which, as being direct communications from on high, it was claimed that the traditional teaching of the Church must give way. Montanism, that earliest example of what are now glorified as “religions of the Spirit“, was the most striking example of this class. Thirdly, the chafing under the rule of authority, with the desire to pursue personal ambitions, is discernible in the origins of Novatianism and Donatism, whose founders, although they alleged on the flimsiest grounds that the rulers they wished to displace had been irregularly appointed, must be held to have acted primarily from the desire to exalt themselves, even at the risk of dividing the Christian community. In the fourth place comes the principle of nationalism that is of nationalistic exclusivism, in those who ally themselves with a separatist movement not from any conviction personally formed of the justice of the arguments on its behalf, but because its leaders have contrived to present it to them as a means of emphasizing their national feeling. This has always proved a potent instrument in the hands of heretical leaders, and we have early examples of it in the way in which Donatism presented itself as the religion of the Africans, and Arianism as the religion of the Goths. A last class of motives which has often worked for separation is to be sought in the disposition of temporal rulers to intrude into the administration of the ecclesiastical province and mould ecclesiastical arrangements into forms that may assist their own political schemes. We have an example of this evil in the conduct of the Emperors Constantius and Valens, who so disastrously fostered the Arian heresy. To all these false principles the orthodox Fathers opposed, in the first place, the authority of the tradition that had come down from the Apostles, though not refusing to meet the heresiarchs on their own ground also, and refute them by argument, as many beautiful treatises testify.
Besides these notable heresies of the early centuries, which fixed the type, as it were, for all future divisions, Monothelitism in the seventh century, Iconoclasm in the eighth, together with the heresies of the Waldensians, Albigensian, Wycliffites, and Hussites of the medieval period, introduced strife and division into Christendom for periods shorter or longer. As, however, they too are extinct, it is enough just to refer to their existence, and we may pass on to the still-enduring separatist Churches of the East of which the most ancient is the Nestorian. The distinctive doctrine of the Nestorians is that which, as held by Nestorius, was condemned in the Council of Ephesus, in 431. It is the doctrine that in Christ there are not only two natures but also two persons, the Divine person, Who is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and the human person, Who was born of the Virgin Mary; and that the union between these two persons is not physical but moral, the Divine person having chosen the human person to be in a unique manner His dwelling-place and instrument. As Nestorius, after his condemnation, was first imprisoned in his former monastery at Antioch and then banished to the Greater Oasis in Upper Egypt, his personal influence over his disciples ceased. But his doctrine was undoubtedly derived from his former master, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and, as Theodore’s memory was cherished as that of the greatest theological light of Syria, the condemned doctrine found many friends in the Eastern Patriarchate, and was taken up with special zeal at Edessa. From thence it spread to the neighboring kingdom of Persia, where it was welcomed and protected by the Persian king as tending to emancipate his Christian subjects from Byzantine influence. Shortly afterwards the prevailing sentiment at Antioch became Monophysite, and the Nestorians of the patriarchate had to take refuge in Persia, with the result that the subsequent development of the heresy had its center of propagation in the Persian town of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, on the Tigris, where was its metropolitan see. These Nestorians had a fine missionary spirit, and evangelized many countries in the Far East, some even reaching China, and others founding those Christian communities on the Malabar Coast of India called the Thomas Christians, or Christians of St. Thomas. This Nestorian Church reached its highest pitch of prosperity in the eleventh century, but the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries involved its adherents in ruin, and the great mass of their posterity became absorbed in the general Mohammedan population. They are now represented by a small body, who dwell on the borders of Lake Urumiyah in Kurdistan and in the neighboring highlands. They are not a very civilized race and probably know little of the doctrine which was the original cause of their secession, or know it only as the patriotic watchword of their race. A still smaller body of Uniats of the same spiritual ancestry and the same liturgical rite are called Chaldees and live in the Euphrates and Tigris valley. In 1870 their catholicos seceded on a purely personal matter, and induced his people to refuse acceptance of the Vatican decrees. They returned to unity seven years later, but the episode seems to show that their faith is not very firm.
The Monophysite schism had still more serious consequences. Its distinctive doctrine is associated with the name of Eutyches, former archimandrite of a monastery near Constantinople, and Dioscorus, the nephew of St. Cyril and his successor in the patriarchal See of Alexandria. This doctrine, which was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, contrasted with Nestorianism by running to the opposite extreme. It maintained that in Christ there is not only a single personality, but also only a single nature. “Of two natures but not in two natures” was its phrase; for the Monophysites were zealous upholders of the decrees of Ephesus, and affirmed that Mary was the Theotokos, from whom her Son received a perfect human nature; but they maintained that the effect of the union was that the Divine nature absorbed the human so that there were no longer two natures, but one only; anything short of that seemed to them to dissolve the essential unity of Christ’s person. At Ephesus the two theologians mentioned had stood by the side of St. Cyril and had fought hard for the condemnation of Nestorianism just on this ground, that it amounted to a denial of the unity of Christ; and now it seemed to them that his doctrine, which had triumphed so splendidly at Ephesus, had been condemned at Chalcedon. Nor can it be denied that some unguarded expressions used by St. Cyril, though not so intended by him, were susceptible of a Monophysite interpretation. Besides Eutyches and Dioscorus, some of those who had signed the decrees of the new council felt that St. Cyril’s expressions were affected by its decisions, and they returned home dissatisfied.
But here, too, it was chiefly racial feeling which, by intensifying the crisis, precipitated a far-reaching schism. Although hellenized on the surface by their incorporation first in the Macedonian Empire and then in the Roman, the populations of Egypt and Syria were racially distinct from the Byzantines who governed them and the Greek colonists who had settled among them. Hence their attitude towards the dominant race was one of dislike and resentment, and they welcomed the opportunity which enabled them to assert in some measure their national distinctness. Accordingly, when the Egyptians were assured that their great hero St. Cyril had been out-raged by a condemnation of his doctrine, they rallied round Timothy Aelurus, the usurping successor of Dioscorus, and embraced his doctrine. The Greek colonists of course took the orthodox side, or rather took the side of the Court, just as it happened to be at the time, whether orthodox or Monothelite, according to the personal policy of the successive emperors; but from the time of Chalcedon the great masses of the Christian population of Egypt became Monophysite and was lost to the unity of the Church. Two centuries later the Mohammedan invasion came both to emphasize and to enfeeble this extensive schism. During the interval, though the people were set against orthodoxy, the imperial power could do much to enforce it, but when the Mohammedans came the whole influence of the caliphs was used to confirm the schism—that is, in those whom they could not succeed in gaining over to the religion of Islam. In the Patriarchate of Antioch and the smaller Patriarchate of Jerusalem events pursued a corresponding course. The Christians of Syrian race were predisposed to take up with Monophysitism just because their Byzantine rulers were on the side of orthodoxy, and so fell away into a schism which, although from time to time checked or modified by the action of the Court as long as Byzantium retained its sovereignty over those parts, settled down into a permanent separation, when the Mohammedans had obtained possession of the country, besides losing vast numbers of its adherents by perversions to Mohammedanism.
The Christians of the present day who represent the former populations of the three splendid Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem are few in number, and fall into five classes. First there are the schismatic Copts in Egypt, descendants of the native Egyptians, whose numbers are estimated at about 150,000. Secondly the Abyssinians. These were in early days converted from Alexandria, and so in due course passed into schism along with it. They form the great mass of the inhabitants of Abyssinia, about three million and a half, and have kept their faith well, but are very ignorant of its teaching and duties. Thirdly, the Jacobites of Syria, who bear the same relation to the ancient Syrians as the Copts to the ancient Egyptians, and are called Jacobites after Jacob Barradai (Baradaeus), who preserved the episcopal succession when it was threatened by Justinian. The Jacobites are to be found mostly in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Kurdistan, and are estimated as numbering some 80,000. Fourthly, the Thomas Christians on the Malabar Coast, who may number about 70,000. These were originally Nestorians, having been first evangelized, as we have seen, by the early Nestorians; the Portuguese sought to catholicize them by very harsh means, and succeeded only in attracting their dislike. When the Dutch succeeded the Portuguese in India, and began to persecute the Catholics, these Malabar communities returned to schism, but, not being able to find a Nestorian bishop, procured a Jacobite bishop from Jerusalem, to renew their episcopal succession, and thus ended in becoming Monophysites. Fifthly, the Armenians, if we include with those who dwell in Armenia Proper those of the same race and religion who are settled in Asia Minor, European Turkey, Galicia, Armenia, and elsewhere, may perhaps amount to some three millions and a half, though trustworthy statistics are difficult to obtain. As in the case of the Nestorians, by the side of each of these sections of Monophysites is a corresponding body of Uniats who, once Monophysites, have at one date or another in the past renounced their heresy and been reconciled to the Catholic Church, which has cordially sanctioned the retention of their native rites. Of these the Melchites, Coptic and Syrian included, amount to about 35,000, the Uniats of St. Thomas to about 90,000, and the Uniat Armenians to about 60,000 or 70,000. Of Abyssinian Uniats there are practically none.
The next great schism which divided Christendom was that which is known as the Photian schism, and led to the separatist existence of that vast body of Christians which has come to be called “the orthodox Church“. We shall employ both these names as names which have become current designations, though without accepting the implications that attach to them. Certainly Photianism is a name which well expresses the character of a separation motived, at all events in the first instance, not by any doctrinal reasons, but by one man’s endeavor to realize his personal ambitions, that one man being Photius, the usurping Patriarch of Constantinople in 857. It is true that the schism initiated by Photius did not long survive his death, but he was a man as remarkable for his learning and ability as for his unscrupulousness, and so was able to create doubtless out of pre-existing materials—and to equip with an effective controversial armory an ecclesiastical party animated by his own separatist ambitions and anti-Latin animosities.
The history and vicissitudes of this most lamentable of all schisms have been sufficiently told in other articles ( Ignatius of Constantinople; Photius of Constantinople; Michael Caerularius; Greek Church), but we must note here how entirely unprovoked it was, both in the time of Photius and in that of Michael Caerularius, by any harsh or inconsiderate action on the part of the popes. When Bardas, the uncle of the Emperor Michael III, presented himself to the Patriarch Ignatius to receive Communion while living in incest with his daughter-in-law when the empress mother and her daughter were brought to the patriarch against their will to receive the veil of religion—what else could a conscientious prelate do save refuse what was so improperly sought? Yet it was just for this that the Patriarch Ignatius, on refusing to resign his see, was banished to the island of Terebinthus, and under just these circumstances that Photius mounted the still occupied patriarchal throne and sought confirmation of his appointment from Pope St. Nicholas I. The letter which he addressed to St. Nicholas (“Opera”, in P.G., CII, 586-618) misrepresented the facts, and besides bore on its face such signs of unreality as could not but arouse the suspicions of the pope, who, when at last he found out what the true facts were, did the only thing that a conscientious pope could do, pronounced the election of Photius null and void, and laid Photius under excommunication. Later, when Photius saw that Rome could not be induced to sanction his usurpation, he threw off his disguise and, professing to have discovered that certain usages of the West were scandalous and even heretical, addressed an encyclical to the other Oriental prelates inviting them to meet in a general council at Constantinople and pass judgment on St. Nicholas.
Though the pope’s real offense, in the eyes of Photius, was that, as successor of St. Peter, he exercised an authority which stood in the way of Byzantine ambitions, the schismatic felt that, if he would recommend his cause to the religious world, he must provide it with a dogmatic basis, and accordingly he formulated the following charges, only one of which raised an issue which had even the appearance of being dogmatic. The Westerns, he said, fast on Saturdays, use lacticinia during the first week in Lent, impose the yoke of celibacy on their clergy, reconfirm those who have been confirmed by simple priests, and have added the “Filioque” to the creed. To these five points he added four others, in a subsequent letter to the Bulgarians, namely, that they sacrifice a lamb along with the Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday, oblige their priests to shave their beards, make their chrism of running water, and consecrate deacons per saltum to the episcopate. Nothing could be more trivial than these charges on the ground of which this man was prepared to break up the unity of Christendom; but for the time the schism thus caused was only transitory. Photius himself was quickly displaced by a fresh court intrigue, and though, on the death of Ignatius, he attained to a more legitimate possession of the patriarchate, he died in 867, after which there was a reconciliation with the Holy See which lasted for the next two centuries.
Then came the Patriarch Michael Caerularius, who in 1053—that is at a time when not only was there no tension between the emperor and the pope, but the Norman invasion of Sicily just then occurring made it peculiarly desirable that they should unite to oppose the common enemy—caused letters to be written and brought to the notice of the pope, in which he renewed the old condemnation of the Latins for fasting on Saturdays, consecrating the Holy Eucharist in unleavened bread, and requiring clerical celibacy. Also, at Constantinople, he invaded the churches built for the use of the Westerns, where the Latin Rite was used, and ignominiously handled the Blessed Sacrament there reserved, on the plea that, being consecrated in unleavened bread, it was not truly consecrated. Again there was a saint on the throne of St. Peter, and St. Leo IX in a temperate letter contrasted the violence offered by Michael to the Latin Church at Constantinople with the pope’s cordial approval of the many monasteries of the Greek Rite in Rome and its neighborhood. Further, at the request of the Emperor Constantine Monomachus, who by no means shared the patriarch’s bitter spirit, St. Leo sent two legates to Constantinople to arrange matters. There was nothing; however, to be done, as the emperor was weak, and the patriarch was allowed to carry all before him. So the legates returned home, having first left on the altar of St. Sophia a letter in the pope’s name by which Michael Caerularius and one or two of his agents were deposed and excommunicated. Of course the excommunication touched only the persons named in the document, and not the whole Byzantine Church; indeed the excommunication of a whole Church is an unknown and unintelligible process. If the whole Church or patriarchate from that time fell away from unity, and has remained out of it ever since, it was because, and in so far as, its members of their own initiative adhered to Michael and his successors in breaking off relations with Rome.
This fact, however, must remind us of the mistake we should make were we to regard the vagaries of a patriarch like Michael Cierularius as the adequate cause of so persistent and far-reaching an effect. Undoubtedly, he had with him in his secession, if not the whole population of his patriarchate, at all events a party strong and influential enough to compel the submission of the rest. This party was the one to which we have referred as formed and consolidated by Photius. In a less pronounced form it is traceable back to the secular struggle between the Greek and Latin races for universal dominion; and since the time of Photius its antipathies had been further stimulated by the growth of Western kingdoms hostile to the empire and by the amicable relations in which their rulers stood to the Roman bishops. This then was the main cause of the separation which has endured so long, and still endures, but to estimate it at its full strength we must take into account the accompanying negative cause. For, though Photius in one of his letters claimed for his see that it was “the center and support of the truth”, and though his followers would have us seek our standard of doctrinal purity exclusively in the prescriptions of the first seven ecumenical councils, St. Leo IX, in his letter to Caerularius, enumerated nineteen of the latter’s predecessors as having fallen under the condemnation of these seven councils, while Duchesne” (Eglises st parees, p. 164) calculates that in the interval of 464 years which separates the accession of Constantine the Great from the celebration of the Seventh Council (787), Constantinople and its ecclesiastical dependencies had been in schism for 203 years. This means that the sense of unity, so strong in the West, had in the East, owing to the perversity of emperors and patriarchs, no fair chance of striking deep roots among the people, and so could seldom offer effectual resistance to the forces making for schism.
Unlike the Nestorians and the Monophysites (whom the Orthodox regard as heretics just as much as do the Catholics), the Photian schism commenced nearly nine centuries ago by Michael Cairularius is now represented not by a few scattered groups which taken altogether number not more than six or seven millions, but by vast populations which, in the aggregate, number not far short of a hundred millions. This is chiefly, though not solely, because, the Russians having been converted by missionaries from Constantinople about a century before the time of Caerularius, their direct religious intercourse was with Constantinople and not with distant Rome; and accordingly they drifted gradually first into unconscious, and later into conscious, acceptance of its separatist attitude. The upshot is that out of the 95,000,000, at which the Orthodox Christians are estimated by statisticians, some 70,000,000 are Russian subjects, the remaining 25,000,000 being divided among the pure Greeks of the Turkish Empire and the Kingdom of Greece, the Rumanians, Servians, and Bulgarians of the Balkan Peninsula, the Cypriotes, and the comparatively small number, mostly Syrians, who reside in the former territories of the Alexandrian and two Eastern Patriarchates. (For particulars see Greek Church.) As against these must be set a group of Uniats who, since the disruption, have been converted from their schism and are now in communion with the Holy See, though keeping religiously to their ancient Byzantine Rite, whether in its Greek, Slav, or other vernacular form. These are estimated by the author of the article just cited as numbering in all about 5,000,000, of whom the greater part are Ruthenians and Rumanians in the Austrian dominions.
Probably, when the Photian schism was first effected it seemed to the Byzantine leaders that, though by an unfortunate chance the see from which they were separating was the one which could claim the inheritance of the promise made to Blessed Peter, it was with themselves rather than with the Westerns that the main portion. the very substance, of Christendom was and would always be found. Certainly the center of the world’s culture and civilization, religious as well as civil, was then on the Hellespont, and it may be that even in actual numbers the subjects of this one patriarchate surpassed the hordes of half-converted barbarians (as they would have called them) who formed the populations of the new Western kingdoms. Regarded under this aspect, however, it cannot be said that the comparison still tells in their favor or that the schism has profited them. Impressive as is the Orthodox Church numerically, it is far surpassed in that respect by the 260,000,000 or more who represent the old Patriarchate of the West, nor could anyone now compare, to the advantage of the former, the religious culture and activity of the East with that of the West. Indeed, until a quite recent date, stagnation and ignorance is the judgment passed on the Orthodox clergy and laity by observers of all sorts; and if during the last century there has been a distinct improvement in the leaders among priests and people, it has derived much of its inspiration from Protestant sources, chiefly from German universities, and has not been obtained without some sacrifice of the integrity of their ancient tradition and without some admixture of the modern Protestant spirit.
In another very serious respect the Orthodox Christians have lost by their separation from Catholic unity, for they have succumbed to progressive disintegration—the fate of all communities that are without an effectual center of unity. The Patriarch of Constantinople‘s original claim to be exalted to the second, if not to the first, place in Christendom was (though never formulated distinctly) that Old Rome had been chosen for the seat of primacy because it was the imperial city, and hence, with the transference of the empire, this primacy had passed to New Rome. Such a claim quite lost its significance when the Byzantine Empire was overthrown in the fifteenth century, and the sultans sat in the seat of the former sovereigns of the East. For the time, indeed, the new order of things brought with it even an accession of power to the patriarchs. The sultan saw the advantage of keeping alive a separation which alienated his Christian subjects from their brethren in the West. Accordingly he made the patriarchs, whom he could appoint, keep, or change at his pleasure, to be, under himself, the civil as well as the ecclesiastical governors of the Christians of whatever race, within his dominions. Still, the condition of patriarchs thus bound hand and foot to the chief enemy of Christendom was but a gilded servitude for which it was difficult to feel respect; and, as racial consciousness developed among the many nationalities of the patriarchate, it became more and more realized that the New Rome theory could now be given a fresh application.
Russia was the first to revolt, and in 1589 the Tsar Ivan IV insisted that the Patriarch Jeremias should recognize the Metropolitan of Moscow as the head of an autonomous patriarchate. Why should he not, when Moscow was fast becoming what Constantinople had formerly been, the metropolis of the great Christian Empire of the East? Later, to bring the ecclesiastical government more effectually under the thumb of the Crown and convert it into an instrument of political government, the whole constitution of the Russian Church was changed by Peter the Great, who, in contempt of every canonical principle, suspended the patriarchal jurisdiction of Moscow, and put the whole Church under a synod consisting of the three metropolitans, who sat ex officio, and some prelates and others personally appointed by the tsar, with a layman as chief procurator to dominate their entire action. Till the last century this was the only diminution of the Patriarch of Constantinople‘s jurisdiction; but, with the weakening of the sultan’s power, the various nationalities over which he formerly reigned supreme have succeeded one after another in gaining their independence or autonomy, and have concurrently established the autonomy of their national Churches. Though adhering to the same liturgy and to the same doctrine as the other Orthodox Churches, they have followed the example set by Russia and, casting off all subjection to the patriarch, have instituted holy synods of their own to govern them ecclesiastically under the supreme control of the civil power. Greece began in 1833, and since then the Rumanians, the Servians, and the Bulgarians, with their respective subdivisions, have followed suit; so that at present we must no longer talk of the Orthodox Church, but of the Orthodox Churches, seventeen in number, in no sense governmentally connected, torn with internecine quarrels, and offering no guarantee, especially in view of the infiltration of Protestant tendencies now going on, that their doctrinal agreement will continue.
In these three Eastern schisms, which broke up so disastrously the ancient union of Christendom, two things are specially observable from the point of view of this article. One is that, apart from the separation from the center of unity which constituted the schism, they have retained almost in its entirety the ancient system of Church organization and method. They have retained the threefold hierarchy endowed with valid orders, the sacrificial worship of the Mass, a spirituality based on the use of the seven sacraments, the Catholic doctrine of grace, the exaltation of the Virgin Mother, and the invocation of the saints. Above all they have retained the appeal to tradition as the sure test of sound doctrine and the principle of submission to a teaching authority. The other thing observable in these three schisms accords with what has already been noticed in the early schisms. Doctrinal considerations based on the exercise of private judgment may have influenced their founders to an extent greater or less, but reasons of quite a different order determined the allegiance of their followers. Nationalism exploited by their leaders, or more often exploited by civil rulers for political purposes, is the true formula which explains their origin and long endurance. The nationalism of Syria and Egypt in its antipathy to Byzantine rule, further exploited by Persian and Mohammedan sovereigns, is what explains the facts of Nestorian and Monophysite history; the nationalism of Byzantine hellenism in its antipathy to the Latins, as exploited by the Eastern emperors and their prelates, is what explains the separation of the Orthodox Churches from the Holy See; the nationalism of Greeks, Slays of different races, and Byzantines, which is the source of their mutual antipathies, is what explains their separation from Constantinople and their erection into so many autonomous Churches.
The fourth great breach in the union of Christendom was that caused by the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Of this movement it can by no means be said that it left the organization and methods of the Catholic Church largely untouched among the populations which it carried with it. On the contrary, it effected the most revolutionary changes of system where it prevailed, substituting church organizations constituted on a radically different principle and having codes of religious opinions unknown to previous ages. Luther, in the first instance, had no thought of breaking with the church authority; at all events he did not inscribe that object on his original program. Out of his own disordered spiritual experiences he elaborated a theory of sin and salvation founded on his peculiar doctrine of justification by faith. Only when the Holy See rejected this travesty of St. Paul’s teaching, together with the conclusions which Luther had deduced from it—only when it thus became necessary, if he would persist in his errors, that he should seek elsewhere for a principle on which to base them—did he fall back on the principle of the Bible privately interpreted as the sole and sufficient rule of Christian belief. He had, it must be acknowledged, forerunners in this course; for the Church herself has always preached the infallibility of Holy Scripture, and previous heresiarchs had been wont to justify their revolts against her doctrinal decisions by claiming that, as regards the particular doctrines in which they were interested, Holy Scripture stood for them and not for her.
What was special and novel in Luther and his colleagues was that they erected the principle of an appeal to the Bible not only into an exclusive standard of sound doctrines, but even into one which the individual could always apply for himself without dependence on the authoritative interpretations of any Church whatever. Luther himself and his fellow-reformers did not even understand their new rule of faith in the Rationalistic sense that the individual inquirer can, by applying the recognized principles of exegesis, be sure of extracting from the Scripture text the intended meaning of its Divine author. Their idea was that the earnest Protestant who goes direct to the Bible for his beliefs is brought into immediate contact with the Holy Spirit, and can take the ideas that his reading conveys to him person-ally as the direct teaching of the Spirit to himself. But, however much the Reformers might thus formulate their principle, they could not in practice avoid resorting to the principles of exegesis, applied well or ill, according to each man’s capacity, for the discovery of the sense ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Thus their new doctrinal standard lapsed even in their own days, though they perceived it not, and still more in later days, into the more intelligible but less pietistic method of Rationalism.
Now, if the Bible were drawn up, as it is not, in the form of a clear, simple, systematic, and comprehensive statement of doctrine and rule of conduct, it might not, perhaps, seem antecedently impossible that God should have wished this to be the way by which his people should attain to the knowledge of the true religion. Still, even then the validity of the method would need to be tested by the character of the results, and only if these exhibited a profound and far-reaching agreement among those who followed it would it be safe to conclude that it was the method God had really sanctioned. This, however, was far from the experience of the Reformers. Luther had strangely assumed that those who followed him into revolt would use their right of private judgment only to affirm their entire agreement with his own opinions, for which he claimed the sanction of an inspiration received from God that equalled him with the Prophets of old. But he was soon to learn that his followers attached as high a value to their own interpretations of the Bible as he did to his, and were quite prepared to act upon their own conclusions instead of upon his. The result was that as early as the beginning of 1525 only eight years after he first propounded his heresies—we find him acknowledging, in his “Letter to the Christians of Antwerp” (de Wette, III, 61), that “there are as many sects and creeds in Germany as heads. One will have no baptism; another denies the sacrament, another asserts that there is another world between this and the last day, some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that. No lout is so boorish but, if a fancy enters his head, he must think that the Holy Ghost has entered into him, and that he is to be a prophet”. Moreover, besides these multiplying manifestations of pure individualism, two main lines of party distinction, each with a fatal tendency to further subdivision, had begun almost from the first to divide the reform leaders among themselves. The Swiss Reformer, Zwingli, had commenced his revolt almost simultaneously with Luther, and, though in their fundamental doctrines of the Bible privately interpreted and of justification by faith, they were on the same lines, in regard to the important doctrines of predestination and the nature of the Holy Eucharist they took opposite views, and attachedd’ to them such importance that they became irreconcilable foes and leaders of antagonistic parties.
On such a foundation, if consistently held to, it was impossible to build up a Church which should stand out in the world like the old Church they were striving to destroy, for, if in the last resort the judgment of the individual be for him the supreme authority in matters of religion, it is impossible that any external authority can be entitled to demand his sub-mission to its judgments when contrary to his own. The early Reformers probably realized this, but they felt the necessity of building up some sort of a Church which could bind together its members into a corporate body professing unity of belief and worship, and which, in contrast with the pope’s Church, which they called apostate, could be called the true Church of God. And so, regardless of the contradictions in which they were involving themselves, they set to work to excogitate a theory of church-constitution to suit their purposes. This theory is exhibited in the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession of 1530, to which type the other Protestant Confessions, both Lutheran and Reformed (that is, Calvinistic), of the next few decades conformed. “The Church of Christ”, says the Augsburg Confession, “is, in its proper meaning, the congregation of the members of Christ, that is of the Saints, who truly believe and obey Christ; although in this life many evil men and hypocrites are intermixed with this congregation until the day of judgment. This Church, properly so termed, has, moreover, its signs, namely, the pure and sound teaching of the Gospel and the right use of the sacraments. And for the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree as to the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.”
This idea of the Church has some surface resemblance to the Catholic idea, but is in reality its exact converse. The Catholic, too, would say that his Church is the home of true teaching and true sacraments, but there the resemblance ends. The Catholic first asks himself which is the true Church that Christ has set to be the guardian of His Revelation, the teacher and ruler of his people. Then, having identified it by the marks set upon its face—by its continuity with the past, which, in virtue of its indefectibility, it must necessarily possess, its unity, catholicity, and sanctity—he submits himself to its authority, accepts its teaching, and receives its sacraments, in the full assurance that just because they are sanctioned by its authority its teaching is the true teaching and its sacraments are the true sacraments. The Protestant, on the other hand, if he follows the course marked out for him by these Protestant confessions, begins by asking himself, and decides by the application of a wholly distinct and independent test, what are the true doctrines and true sacraments. Then he looks out for a Church which professes such doctrines and uses such sacraments; and having found one, regards it as the true Church and joins it. The fatal tendency to disunion inherent in this latter method appears when we ask what is that distinct and independent test by which the Protestant decides as to the truth of his doctrines and sacraments, for it is, as the whole history of the Reformation movement declares, that very rule of the Bible given over to the private interpretation of the individual which is inconsistent with any real submission to an external authority. Important, however, and fundamental as this point is, the Augsburg Confession passes it over without the slightest mention. So, too, do most of the other Protestant Confessions, and none of them dare to go to the root of the difficulty.
The Scottish Confession of 1560 (of which the Westminster Confession drawn up in England during the Commonwealth is an amplification) is the most explicit in this respect. After claiming that the Presbyterian Church recently established by John Knox and his friends holds the true doctrine and right sacraments, it gives as its reason for so affirming that “the doctrine which we use in our Churches is contained in the written Word of God… in which we affirm that all things that must be believed by men for their salvation are sufficiently expressed”. It then goes on to declare that “the interpretation of Scripture belongs neither to any private or public person, or to any Church but this right and authority of interpretation belongs solely to the Spirit of God by whom the Scriptures were committed to writing”. This, no doubt, is what the other reformers in Germany, Switzerland, and elsewhere would also have said, but they prudently passed the point over in their confessions, half conscious that to claim the right of interpretation for the Spirit of God was but a misleading way of claiming it for each individual who might conceive himself to have caught the mind of the Spirit; foreseeing, too, that, if no Church could claim the right to interpret with authority, no Church, Protestant any more than Catholic, could claim the right to impose its doctrines or worship on others.
However, the Reformation leaders knew what they were about. They meant to have a Protestant Church, or at all events Protestant Churches, to oppose to the pope’s Church, and they intended that these new Churches should profess a very definite creed, and enforce its acceptance, together with sub-mission to its disciplinary arrangements, on all whom they could reach by the exercise of a very effective and coercive jurisdiction. Accordingly, these Protestant confessions of faith, which were the formal expression of their doctrinal creeds, contained and prescribed, quite after the manner of Catholic professions of faith or decrees of councils, lists of very definite articles, often with added anathemas directed against those who should venture to deny them. The ministers were to be “called” before they could exercise their functions, those entitled to call them being governing bodies consisting of clergy and laity in fixed proportions, and formed hierarchically into local, regional, and national consistories. To these governing bodies appertained also the right of administration, of deciding controversies, and of excommunicating. The difficulty was to equip them with coercive power, but for this the German Reformers had recourse to the secular power. The secular power was, they assured their princes, bound to use its sword for the defense of right and the suppression of evil; and it appertained to this department of its functions that in times of religious crisis it should take upon itself to further the cause of the Gospel—that is, of the new doctrines—and root out the old errors.
The German princes had hitherto stood off from the new evangelists, whose democratic tendencies they suspected, but this appeal for their intervention was baited with the suggestion that they should take away from the Catholics their rich endowments, and apply them to more becoming uses. The bait took, and within a few years, one after another, the princes of Northern Germany—no very edifying class—declared themselves to be on the side of the Gospel and ready to take over the responsibility for its administration. Then, from 1525 onwards, following the lead of Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, one of the most immoral men of the age, they seized the abbeys and bishoprics within their dominions, the revenues of which they mostly applied to the increase of their own, and proceeded to found national Churches, based on the principles shortly afterwards accepted by the Augsburg Confession, which should be autonomous for each dominion under the supreme spiritual as well as tem-p oral rule of its secular sovereign. For these national Churches they drew up codes of doctrine, schemes of worship, and orders of ministers, observance of which they enjoined on all their subjects under penalty of exile, a penalty which was at once inflicted on those of the Catholic clergy who remained faithful to the religion of their ancestors, as well as on multitudes of Catholic laymen.
This system of national Churches did not necessarily involve the imposition of Protestant creeds differing among themselves, for it was within the power ascribed to the princes that they should agree together as to what they would enforce, and no doubt to a certain extent this was what happened, and by happening caused Lutheranism to be the prevailing form of religion in Protestant Germany. Still the system did involve that the prince had the power, if he judged fit, to introduce a creed differing from that of the neighboring dominions, and eventually this was what occurred when the Lutheran and Reformed parties settled down within the limits of the Empire into formal opposition among themselves. Some principalities—and it was the same with the free cities which went over to Protestantism—enforced one of the forms of Lutheran confession, others one of the forms of Reformed confession, and there were even oscillations in the same principality as one sovereign succeeded another on the throne. The signal instance of this was in the Palatinate, the inhabitants of which were required to change backwards and forwards between Lutheranism and Calvinism four times within the years 1563 and 1623. This pretension of the German princes to dictate a religion to their subjects came to be known as the jus ref ormandi, and gave rise to the maxim, Cujus regio ejus religio. By the Peace of Augsburg, 1555, this pretension was reluctantly conceded as a temporary expedient to the Protestant princes, and by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) it received a more formal kind of imperial sanction, against which an ineffectual protest was made on behalf of Pope Innocent X by his nuncio, Chigi.
In Switzerland there were no princes to put themselves at the head of the new national Churches, but their place was taken by the cantonal governments, wherever these had been captured by the Protestant faction. Thus Zwingli, who began his fiery preachings against the Catholic Church in 1518, and in a few years’ time had gathered round himself a band of fanatical followers, with their aid and by holding out the confiscation of the church property as an inducement, was able by 1525 to draw over to his side the majority of the members of the State Council of Zurich. By this majority the Catholic members of the council were overpowered and extruded, which done, at the instigation of Zwingli, the Catholic religion, though it had been the religion of their ancestors for many centuries and was still the religion of the quiet people in the land, was summarily proscribed, even the celebration of the Mass being forbidden under the severest penalties; while, to make its restoration forever impossible, fierce crowds led by Zwingli in person were sent to visit the various churches and strip them of their statues and ornaments on the plea that the Bible commanded them to put down idolatry. The ground being thus cleared, the state Council by its own authority set up a national Church conformed to the German type. Berne, Basle, Schaffhausen, St. Gall, and Appenzell followed quickly in the footsteps of Zurich, the same methods of violence being employed in each case. The desires of the people themselves counted for nothing. The opinions of yesterday adopted by the fanatical leaders were at once exalted into dogmas for which was claimed an authority over the consciences of all far exceeding that which had been exercised by the venerable Church of the ages.
Nor were these Protestant cantons satisfied with imposing their new doctrines on their own subjects. Having combined with certain cities of the Empire to form a “Christian League“, in its name they summoned the Catholic cantons, Sehwytz, Uri, Unterwalden, Zug, and Lucerne, to follow their example in supplanting the old Faith by the new. The latter, however, were resolute in their refusal and, although their military strength was inferior to that of their antagonists, they eventually inflicted on them a severe defeat at Kappell (October 31, 1531), a defeat in which Zwingli himself and several other preachers were slain on the field. It was a crushing blow to Zwinglianism, which, as such, never recovered, and it saved the Catholic cantons from the danger of per-version, while opening the way for the Catholic restoration that was to ensue. But, if Zwinglianism in Switzerland was now practically dead, this meant not that Protestantism had become extinct there, but that it was about to pass throughout Switzerland into Calvinism. John Calvin, a native of Picardy, after imbibing in Paris the Lutheran views which later on he recast, in his “Institutes”, into the form ever since associated with his name, settled down at Geneva in 1536. The desire of the citizens to cast off the yoke of Savoy by allying themselves with the Swiss Confederation gave him the opportunity of acquiring a power over them through the exercise of which he was enabled to force upon the city that all-penetrating theocratic despotism which stands out in history as the supreme example of spiritual tyranny.
From Germany and Switzerland, the sources respectively of Lutheranism and Calvinism, Protestantism was propagated into other lands, but in this respect Calvinism showed itself more successful than Lutheranism. Lutheranism spread into Denmark and the Scandinavian Peninsula, in each case owing its beginnings and consolidation to the compulsion and persecution practiced on an unwilling people by unworthy sovereigns; but, except that in Poland also it made some headway, this was the extent of its conquests. Calvinism, on the other hand, in Germany itself supplanted Lutheranism and became the dominant religion in some parts, especially in the Palatinate, besides gaining over a sufficient number of adherents in the predominantly Lutheran districts to make it an enduring rival to Lutheranism on German soil. Moreover, in Transylvania and Hungary, and still more in the Netherlands, where its domination was destined to be lasting, it superseded the Lutheran apostolate which had been first in the field. In France, though from the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1687) its adherents became a steadily decreasing number, for a whole century and a half it was so powerful that at times it seemed destined to absorb the country; yet there also it owed its progress chiefly to the military violence of its leaders. In Scotland it was tyrannically forced on the people by a corrupt and lawless nobility which, covetous of the church property, lent its support to the fiery energy of John Knox, a pupil of Calvin and a fervent admirer of his theocratic system.
England was a case apart. Henry VIII coquetted with Lutheranism, which was of service to him in his campaign against the pope, but he disliked Protestantism, whether in its Lutheran or its Calvinist form, and devised his Six Articles to aid him in suppressing it. Under Edward VI Calvinism was favored by the two regents and the more influential bishops, and their legislation was directed towards the establishment of this system in the country, with the sole difference that episcopacy, in name at least, was to be retained. The short-lived reaction under Mary left Elizabeth a free soil on which to build, and she preferred an episcopal system with a considerable toning down of the asperities of Continental Protestantism, as more in harmony with a monarchical and aristocratic regime and better adapted to gain over a population which was at heart Catholic. Still she had to employ the personnel at her disposal, a section of which was of the same mind as herself, while another section had strong Calvinistic leanings. The result was that a double tendency developed in her newly-formed Church, one which, though hating Catholicism as a system, clung to some of the characteristic features of Catholic worship and organization, the other which strove perseveringly for a root-and-branch subversion of the Elizabethan settlement and the substitution of one conformed to the Genevan model. During the Commonwealth the latter party obtained for the time the upper hand, but with the Restoration it was extruded altogether and became the parent of those Nonconformist sects whose progressive divisions and subdivisions have always been the gravest scandal of English religious life. The other party meanwhile, with some oscillations to the right or to the left (under the names of the High and Low Church parties), maintained itself with approximate consistency as exhibiting the distinctive spirit of the Established Church of the country.
Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, however, two quite novel tendencies asserted themselves in that communion (and these have since become so influential that before long they are likely to divide between themselves the race of Anglican Churchmen), one based on a far-reaching appreciation (but with some reservations) of the Catholic system, delighting to call itself Catholic, and striving to assimilate the national worship to the Catholic pattern, the other, which calls itself Liberal and, pushing to its bitter end the application of the Protestant principle of private judgment, has by its rationalistic criticism diffused a widespread scepticism as to the authenticity of the Christian records and the truth of the most fundamental articles of the Christian creed. This theological Liberalism has likewise exercised a disastrous influence on the English Non-conformist bodies, and one more deadly still on Continental Protestantism, Germany being the primary source from which it has sprung. Of Germany, in fact, it must now be said that, as in the sixteenth century it gave birth to what is called orthodox Protestantism, so in the present age it is engaged in throttling its offspring in the tight grasp of its criticism. Of the forms which Protestantism has assumed in the United States, Canada, and other countries colonized from Europe, it is sufficient to say that the immigrants have taken their beliefs and forms of worship with them to their new homes, and, the world of ideas being now one, this many-headed hydra has displayed in the new countries the same diversities as in the old.
Except for its Puritan variety, which depended for its propagation chiefly on the powers of physical coercion its leaders could dispose of, Protestantism was an easygoing religion which had abolished many of the ascetic observances and restrictions on liberty and license that held in the old Church. It was to be expected, therefore, that it should spread rapidly in an age when manners were alarmingly corrupt, nor must we be surprised that, with such a start, it was enabled soon to present the appearance of a group of Churches peopled by very many thousands of adherents. Since those early days, however, it cannot be said to have extended its conquests much, and the millions to which it has now grown are due not much to conversions, but rather to the natural increase of populations. In the present day the total number of Protestants is estimated at about 166,000,000, an enormous number, no doubt, but one which, unlike the 260,000,000 Catholics who all stand together, is only an aggregate made up of a multitude of separate communions, under separate governing bodies, which not only differ among themselves as to important points of doctrine, but—such is the increasing individualism among their members—are fast approaching a goal in which each member will have become a Church and a creed to himself.
It will be useful, as in the cases of the primitive and the great Eastern divisions, to fix attention on the forces making for disintegration which have brought these Protestant divisions into being. If the effect of such a summary is to show the essential similarity of the forces at work in all these cases, that will be advantageous, for it will reveal to us how few are these disintegrating forces, and how elemental is their character; how, in fact, they spring from the very heart of human nature, which can only hope to counteract the divisions towards which they tend if sustained and elevated by some other forces of a different order altogether. In two respects, then, these separatist bodies to which Protestantism has given birth need to be considered, in their separations from the parent communions and in their cohesion among themselves, as corporate bodies enduring for a certain time and in a certain degree. The principle of private judgment has been the undoubted cause of their separations and incessant subdivisions, for the principle of private judgment is essentially disintegrating. The cause of such cohesion as they have exhibited has been, as their history shows, of the following nature. First, under the influence of private judgment, one or more strong-willed men have conceived a doctrinal system antagonistic to that of the religious communions to which they originally belonged, have gathered a party of others like-minded around them, and have undertaken on behalf of their system a propaganda which has attained a certain success. Next, wishing to establish a Church which shall be an embodiment of their system, but finding themselves unable by pure persuasion to hold the multitude to their views, they have had recourse to the civil power, or some dominant faction of nobles or democrats, and have induced it, in view of the temporal advantages to be gained, to impose their system on the people and sustain it by physical force. Or, ex converso, resistance to the ruling power or its established Church, when it has been able to maintain itself with comparative success, has caused the separatists to realize that they must unite together under definite rule and government if they are to make their resistance effectual—as has been the case with the English Nonconformist bodies. Thirdly, realizing that no system imposed by violence can hope to be lasting unless the mass of its people can be brought round to voluntary acceptance of it, they have exploited the passions and prejudices of the people, particularly its race and class exclusivisms, and sought to foment these by campaigns of bitter controversy and calumny. Fourthly, where this policy has succeeded in the earlier stages of a schism, a more internal and durable principle of cohesion has eventually been generated under the influence of custom and heredity, of antagonisms and misconceptions hardened by long-continued isolations and estrangements, of affections deepened by long-continued intimacies, cherished memories, experiences, and associations, and of the good faith and even high spirituality nourished by the detached truths retained in such false creeds, which can prevail under these later conditions.
Such, speaking generally, has been the chain of causes which has welded into churches and congregations with definite creeds and organizations the bodies of men that have preferred the principle of private judgment as a rule of faith to that of submission to the authority of the Catholic Church. But the species of unity thus attained is always in its outer relations separative, in its inner relations precarious; for the very motives that cause the members of such a body to cohere among themselves are those that separate them from other similar bodies; whilst within it, eating away its structure, there is always the latent consciousness among its members that their ruling body and its doctrinal formula have no valid title to enforce submission; and it only needs a crisis, or that spirit of radical inquiry which is now so common, to arouse this consciousness to activity. (See Protestantism; Lutheranism; Calvinism; Anglicanism; Nonconformists; Ritualists; Rationalism.)
We ought not, perhaps, to conclude this survey of the history of religious divisions without touching on what some might consider to be such within the bosom of the Roman communion itself. There are and always have been opposite parties in this communion, whose adherents disagree on points of doctrine the importance of which may be estimated by the bitterness of their controversies. Thus there have been Jansenists and Molinists, Gallicans and Ultramontanes, Liberals and Infallibilists, Modernists and Anti-Modernists. It is true that a time has come for some of these parties when their peculiar tenets have been condemned, and a portion of their adherents have passed from the Church into schism. But this has not happened in all cases of party divisions; and even where it has happened, those ejected had for a long time previously been tolerated in the Church, holding their distinctive views, and yet not being denied the sacraments and other privileges of communion. Again, there have been, many times over, rival popes each gathering round himself a following and denouncing that of his rival; and during one notorious period of forty years’ duration the Church was rent by these rivalries into two, and even into three, parts, to the grave scandal of Christendom. Do not these divisions show that the Catholic Church is as unable as the separated communions to claim unity of faith and government as her perpetual note? In two respects, however, there is an essential difference between the sort of dissensions that may arise in the Catholic Church and those which constitute heresy and schism in the separated communions.
First, in the Catholic Church the points in dispute round which these dissensions gather are not the Church‘s accepted doctrines, but further points which the course of study within or without the Church has forced into prominence, and which one party thinks to be compatible with the accepted Catholic doctrine and to make for its vindication, but another thinks to be incompatible with it and dangerous. Secondly, on both sides the combatants embrace the formal principle of Church unity, the magisterium of the Holy See, and, should the Holy See think fit to intervene, they are prepared to submit to its determination of their controversy. So far there is nothing to justify the imputation of schism but only an illustration of the error of those who imagine that inside the Church thought and speculation must be stagnant. For these domestic controversies, though sometimes rendered harmful by the defective spirit of those engaged in them, have their useful side, as conducing to the fuller, deeper, and more precise comprehension of the meaning and limits of the accepted doctrines. It may happen, however, that when the course of a controversy has made clear what is involved in the new opinions advanced, the supreme authority in the Church will feel the necessity of intervening by some decree. In that case a crucial moment often arises for the side whose tenets are now condemned. If they have the true Catholic spirit, falling back on their formal principle of unity, they will submit to the voice of authority, abandon their former opinions, and in so doing act with the truest consistency. If, on the other hand, they attach themselves so stubbornly to the condemned opinions as to prefer, rather than abandon them, to abandon their formal principle of unity, there is no longer a place for them in the Church, and they become schismatics in the ordinary sense.
A similar distinction applies to the case of schisms in the papacy. It is true that many anti-popes have sprung up and caused division in their time. They were mostly the creatures of some despot who had set them up by his own will, in defiance of the lawful method of appointment, and it. is, and invariably was, easy to tell which was the true pope, which the anti-pope. The one exception to this general statement is that referred to in the objection, the case of the schism which lasted from 1378 to 1417. (For the fuller history of this distressing episode see Western Schism; Pope Urban VI; Pope Boniface IX; Gregory XII; Robert of Geneva; Pedro de Luna.)
What concerns us here is that the Conclave of 1378 was disturbed by the Roman mob, which, anxious lest the popes should go back to Avignon, demanded the election of a Roman or an Italian, that is to say, not a Frenchman. Urban VI, till then Archbishop of Bari, was elected and enthroned, and for some weeks was recognized by all. Then the main body of the cardinals dissatisfied with the administration of Urban, who certainly behaved in an extraordinarily tactless manner, retired to Anagni, declared that, owing to the pressure of the mob upon the Conclave, Urban’s election had been invalid, and elected Robert of Geneva, who called himself Clement VII. This latter was soon compelled by circumstances to with-draw to Avignon, and so the schism resolved itself into a papacy at Rome and another at Avignon. Of the Roman line there were four popes before the schism was finally healed, Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII; of the Avignon line there were two, Clement VII and Benedict XIII. The effects were terrible and world-wide, some countries, through their sovereigns, ranging themselves on the side of Rome, others on the side of Avignon, politics in some degree determining their choice. But earnest efforts were made from the first to repair the evil, the kings appointing commissions to ascertain the facts, and the canonists writing learned treatises to expound the questions of law involved. Proposals were also made from the first, recommending alternative plans for solving the difficulty, namely that both popes should simultaneously resign and another be then elected, that both should agree to go by the decision of arbitrators, or that a general council should be called which both popes should combine to authorize, and that the decision should be left to this. All these plans failed for the time, because neither pope would trust the other, and this prevented their meeting and arranging. Hence, in 1408, the cardinals of both obediences abandoned their chiefs and meeting together convoked a council to be held the following year at Pisa and end the schism. When it met it declared both Gregory XII and Benedict XIII to have forfeited their claims by their conduct, which, it was suggested, was unintelligible save on the supposition that they had an heretical disbelief in the unity of the Church. It then elected Peter Philargi, who took the name of Alexander V.. But this only made matters worse, for the Council of Pisa, not having been convoked by a pope, had no standing. Thus the sole effect of its action was to increase the confusion by starting a third line of popes. The end of the schism did not come till 1417. By that time John XXIII, the successor of Alexander V, had been deposed by the Council of Constance, a council of the same irregular kind as that of Pisa; and had also resigned. Benedict XIII had lost his following almost entirely, which was taken as a sign that he could not be the true pope, and Gregory XII, whose title is now generally held to have been the best founded, resigned after first legalizing the Council of Constance by a formal act of convocation, and authorizing it to elect a new pope. Then the council elected Martin V, who was forth-with universally acknowledged.
These are the leading facts of the history. It is of course difficult to exaggerate the injury done to the Church by this unfortunate schism, for, apart from the harm it wrought in its own age, it provided a dangerous precedent for future disturbers of the Church to cite, and, by diminishing the reverence in which the papacy had hitherto been held, it went far towards creating the tone of mind which rendered the outbreak of Protestantism in the next century possible. Still, when we compare this schism with schisms like those of the Orthodox and the Protestants an essential difference between them appears. In the other cases the division was over some question of principle; here it was over a question of fact only. On both sides of the dividing line there was exactly the same creed and exactly the same recognition of the essential place of the papacy in the constitution of the Church, of the method by which popes should be elected, of the right to the obedience of the whole Church which attaches to their office. The only matter in doubt was: Had this person or that fulfilled the conditions of a valid election? Was the election of Urban VI due to the terrorism applied by the mob to the electors, and therefore invalid; or had it been unaffected by this terrorism and was therefore valid? If Urban’s election was valid, so too were those of his successors of the Roman line; if his election was invalid, Clement VII’s and Benedict XIII’s were valid. But the verification of facts is through the testimony of those who have taken part in them, and in this case the witnesses were at variance. To decide between them belongs to the special articles on that schism. In this article what concerns us is to appreciate the difference between a schism of this sort over a question of fact and a schism over a question of principle like the others that have been instanced. We may help ourselves by an analogy; for we may compare this difference with that between a sword-stroke which has dissevered a limb from the body and one which has caused a deep wound in the body itself. In the former case the life of the organism ceases at once to flow into the dissevered part, and it begins to disintegrate; in the latter, all the powers and processes of the organism are at once set in motion for the repair of the injured part. It may be that the injury wrought is too serious for recovery and death must be expected, but the life is still there in the organism, and oftentimes it is able to achieve a complete restoration. To apply this to the history, whereas in schisms properly so called a depreciation of the value of unity is wont to mark their commencement, in this schism it was most remarkable how strong was the sense of unity which expressed itself on every side, so soon as the news of the rival lines set up became known, and how steadily, earnestly, discerningly, and unanimously the different parts of the Church labored, with ultimate success, to ascertain which was the true pope, or to obtain the election of one.
IV. REUNION MOVEMENTS IN THE PAST
A. In the East
As Constantinople had so often been in schism for a season, the popes took some time to realize that the schism accomplished by the Patriarch Caerularius was destined to continue. Even when they were at last disillusioned, they never ceased to regard the Eastern Christians as a choice portion of Christ’s flock, or to work for the restoration of that portion to unity according to their opportunities. Thus it was not merely for the recovery of the Holy Places and the protection of the pilgrims that Urban II and his successors originated and sustained the Crusades, but for the far more comprehensive object of bringing the concentrated strength of the Western Powers to the aid of their Eastern brethren, now threatened by a Turkish invasion which bade fair to overwhelm them. It is true that the intermingling of human passions and the clash of animosities, for which Easterns and Westerns were both to blame, not only brought to naught the realization of this splendid ideal, but actually enlarged the chasm which separated the two sides by intensifying the antipathy of the Easterns for their aggressive allies. Nor can it be denied that the Western populations often showed a very unsatisfactory spirit in their dealings with the East and their feelings towards them; for the Westerns, too, were dominated by the un-brotherly passions that spring from excessive nationalism, and it was just this that increased so seriously for the popes the difficulty of bringing the two sides together for the defense of Eastern Christendom.
But the important thing to observe is that the popes themselves, with wonderful unanimity, stood outside all these racial animosities, and, whatever were their personal affinities, never lost hold of the pure Christian ideal or thought to subordinate it to worldly politics. Thus a succession of popes from Gregory VII down to our own days (conspicuous among whom were Urban II, Blessed Eugenius III, Innocent III, Blessed Gregory X, Nicholas IV, Eugenius IV, Pius II, Calixtus III, St. Pius V, Clement VIII, Urban VIII, and Clement XIV) have manifested their strong desires and have striven most pathetically for the healing of this saddest of schisms, never losing heart even when the outlook was darkest, welcoming each gleam of sunshine as an occasion for repeating their assurances of a truly brotherly feeling, and a readiness to concede in the terms of union all that was not essential to the Church‘s faith and constitution. On the Oriental side there has not been much response to this pathetic call of the popes; but two of the Eastern emperors made overtures which led on to the solemn acts of reunion in the Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439). Unfortunately, these negotiations were prompted, on the Oriental side, by the instinct of self-preservation in face of the Turkish danger more than by any adequate appreciation of the necessity of religious unity, and were, besides, undertaken by sovereigns the mass of whose subjects were not prepared to follow them in a course that ran counter to their traditional resentments. Still, the second of these councils had its solid results; for it won over the last two emperors of the East, the last three patriarchs under the old empire, the two distinguished prelates Bessarion of Nicaea and Isidore of Kiev, besides originating the Uniat bodies. Though adverse circumstances have sometimes disturbed their allegiance, and have prevented their numbers from attaining to any high figures, these Uniats have done good service to the cause of reunion by their standing testimony to the mode of reunion which is all that the popes ask for, namely, acceptance of the entire deposit of faith including the Divine institution of the Roman primacy, but beyond that a full-hearted adherence to those venerable rites and usages which are dear to Eastern hearts as an inheritance bequeathed to them by the highest Christian antiquity.
Although, since the Council of Florence, no more proposals for healing the schism have come from the main body of the Orthodox and their rulers, one must include among the reunion movements of the past the one which, initiated by some Ruthenian bishops, led to the union accomplished at Brest in Lithuania in 1596 (see Union of Brest). By this union a considerable portion of the Ruthenians, the race that had formed the original nucleus of the Russian Empire, was officially reunited with the Holy See, but it was not for some time, and after the fiercest opposition, that the main body of that people were gained over to the union. Having, however, at length accepted it, they remained firmly attached to it until the partition of Poland. Then one-half of these Uniats came under Austrian rule, the other under Russian rule. The former, meeting with toleration from their rulers, still remain constant, the latter have been the victims of a succession of the cruellest persecutions undertaken to drive them back into schism.
B. In the West
In the first outburst of Protestantism neither its leaders nor their followers had any scruples about their separation from the communion of the ancient Church. They regarded it as an apostate Church from which it was a blessing to be separated, and they anticipated the speedy advent of the time when, its members converted by the Protestant preachers, it would dissolve away, and their own purified Churches take its place everywhere. But, as new generations grew up which were not responsible for the schism, devout minds were inevitably led to contrast the sectarianism they had inherited with the beautiful ideal of religious unity praised by St. Paul and realized in their own lands in days previous to the Reformation. That there were many such minds is evidenced by the stream of converts to the Catholic Church, which from the days of the Reformers onward has never ceased to flow—of converts who invariably ascribe their first discontent with their previous Protestantism to the scandal of its divisions. The same deep sense of scandal motived the attempts to bring about reunion, whether among the Protestant sects themselves, or between these and the Catholic Church, which were made at various times during the succeeding centuries. All of these attempts failed because set on a false foundation, but some of them were certainly inspired by a genuine spirit of concord. We cannot indeed regard as so inspired the group of German Lutherans, represented by James Andrew and Martin Crusius, who, in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, proposed to the Patriarch Jeremias II of Constantinople a plan for the union of the Lutherans with the Greeks on the basis of the Lutheran Creed, a plan promptly rejected by the patriarch; nor the Dutch Calvinists and Anglican divines who, a generation later, negotiated for a similar union with the semi-Calvinist Patriarch Cyril Lucaris, but were finally repulsed by the Synod of Jerusalem (1672), which condemned their doctrines together with the memory of the patriarch who had coquetted with them; nor again the Gallivan priest, Ellies du Pin, and the Anglican archbishop, Wake, who in the first quarter of the eighteenth century negotiated a reunion between the Anglican and Gallican Churches. In each of these cases the predominant motive was not to heal division, but to aid the cause of separation by strengthening the opposition to the Holy See.
Very different, however, and in every way commendable, was the spirit in which the party led by George Callixtus in the second quarter of the seventeenth century, and that in which Molanus and Leibniz in their negotiations with Bishop Spinola of Neustadt and the great Bossuet, half a century later, worked for the elaboration of a reunion scheme which the Catholic Church and the Protestant bodies might both be able to accept. The last-mentioned episode, of which a full account may be read in M. Reaumes’ “Histoire de Bossuet”, is of peculiar interest, supported as it was by the Court of Hanover, with the approbation of many Protestant princes, and watched with sympathy by Clement IX and Innocent XI. But, though political reasons were the immediate cause of the discontinuance of these negotiations, they were doomed to failure for theological reasons also. Of attempts to unite the Lutherans and Calvinists who formed the two main varieties of Protestantism, several were made in Germany from the time of Melancthon downwards; but all failed until the occurrence of the tercentenary of the Reformation in 1817, when the scheme recommended by Frederick William III of Prussia achieved a partial success which still endures. By this scheme the two sides were to retain each its own doctrine, but they were to coalesce into one “Evangelical Church” and worship together according to a common liturgy, or agenda, which was drawn up on lines sufficiently vague to leave untouched the points as to which they were at variance among themselves. Even this modus vivendi, external and superficial as it was, would not have been able to establish itself had it not been for the pressure applied by royal authority, which in some districts had to resort to physical force; nor has it been able to embrace all the Lutherans in its fold tending as it did to favor their side less than that of their traditional adversaries.
V. REUNION MOVEMENTS IN THE PRESENT AGE
In the present age the divisions of Christendom not only furnish its assailants with their most effective taunt, but constitute the most serious hindrance in the way of Christian work. Hence, among those who have inherited the condition of separation, the value of Christian unity has come to be much more deeply appreciated than ever before, and many active movements have been set on foot, and schemes devised, for its restoration.
A. In the East
So far as the Orthodox Churches are concerned it does not appear that the solicitude for reunion is very marked, at least among the rulers and the great mass of the populations. During the last half-century some members of the High Church section of the Anglican party, and likewise some members of the Old Catholic party in Germany and Switzerland, have approached the adherents of Russian and Greek Orthodoxy, in hopes of inducing them to promote intercommunion between their respective Churches; but these negotiations, though they have led to occasional interchanges of ecclesiastical courtesies and concessions such as the more rigidly consistent Roman Church would deem to be compromising, have not yet attained, and are not likely to attain, their object; for the simple reason that the Orthodox Churches have no intention of uniting with Churches which permit the most fundamental heresies to be held and taught by prelates and men of standing in their communions, and yet they are perfectly aware that this is the case in the Anglican Church, and are likewise aware that the Old Catholics, since they broke away from the Holy See in 1870, have come under Protestant influence and have lost their hold on much Catholic doctrine. As for negotiations with the Holy See or even an inter-change of ideas with it, the rulers of these Eastern Churches are as ill-disposed as ever, and when invited to do so by recent popes—as by Pius IX, on his accession and when convoking the Vatican Council, and by Leo XIII on his accession and in his “Prwelara Gratulationis” of 1894—they have always opposed either scornful silence or words of studied offensiveness to the affectionate language of the popes.
A pleasant exception to this rule is the present (1912) Patriarch of Constantinople, Joachim III, who, contrary to the prevailing custom, has been left in office since 1902—an unusually long time. It is known that he is personally inclined towards reunion, but he is only one and when, in 1902, shortly after his accession, he addressed a letter to the heads of the autocephalous Churches of his patriarchate, proposing to them that they should all agree to enter into negotiations both with the Protestant bodies and also with the Churches in union with the Holy See, they were unanimous in refusing even to discuss the idea, so far as Rome was concerned (“Reunion Magazine”, September, 1910, p. 375, and February, 1911, p. 281). The only basis, they declared, on which the Orthodox Churches could entertain the thought of reunion with the Holy See was that of an acceptance of themselves as, by reason of their fidelity to the teaching of the seven ecumenical councils, “alone composing the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church“; and hence of a renunciation by the pope of all his innovations on this doctrinal standard, particularly of that worst innovation of all, the papal despotism. As there was no present likelihood of the pope’s assenting to that basis, what room was there for negotiations?
Such was the answer to this important invitation returned so recently by the highest authorities of these Eastern Churches, and, if it represents their real mind we must agree with them that negotiations would be useless; for one thing is quite certain, the Holy See can never accept conditions which would involve the renunciation of an office it knows to be of Divine appointment and vital for the maintenance of the Church‘s unity. Nor is this all, for these Orthodox prelates, if they will reflect, must needs see that their conditions are such as cannot possibly form a durable basis for reunion. They claim that their position and theirs only is sanctioned by what they call “the Seven General Councils“—that is, the Councils of Nicma (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Third Constantinople (680), Second Nicica (787). But this is just what Catholic historians deny; and, as it would appear, with a heavy balance of evidence on their side. Who, then, is to decide between the two contentions? In other words, is this Oriental claim more than a disguised appeal to the Protestant principle of private judgment, the very principle which, as the experience of four centuries of Protestantism has demonstrated, is essentially the principle of division, and not of unity? It will be replied that the authority to decide is with the next general council. But if it were at all conceivable that general councils could take the place of a living center of unity in the government of the Church, at least they would require to be held at short intervals, and then the question arises: Why, if our Eastern brethren appreciate the importance of unity, have they not during all these centuries taken the initiative in working for the holding of such a general council and invited the Catholic representatives to take a friendly part in it? Why, when the popes have taken that initiative and have invited the Easterns in the most cordial terms to join in such a council, or at least to join with them in some friendly conference to discuss the possibilities of a reconciliation, have they always so sternly refused? There are those who think that, as in the times of Photius and Cwrularius, the chief deterring causes that stand in the way of the reunion of the Orthodox with the Catholics are political, and to some extent that may be the case. But the tsars, who, if they were to put themselves at the head of a vast reunion movement, could probably carry the rest of the Easterns (Monophysites and Nestorians included) with them, cannot be unconscious of the splendid role which would become theirs as the leading Christian sovereigns and protectors of a united Christendom of such vastly increased dimensions.
Evidently, then, the primary cause why the East will not approach the West for the healing of the schism is still to be sought in that indefinable spirit of antipathy which the Easterns have inherited from past ages, when to some extent it was reciprocated in the West, and which makes them suspect every overture that comes from the West of being dictated by some malign ulterior purpose—such as to suppress their ancient rites, or transform their religious habits, or crush out their reasonable liberties by extravagant exercises of ecclesiastical power. To us in the West it seems unintelligible that such ground-less suspicions should be entertained. It may be that in some districts, where the East and West touch each other closely, and the blending of religious with political animosities causes tension, material for that sort of suspicion exists, but certainly there is no corresponding aversion to Easterns or their religious habits in the general area of Western Catholicism, and above all, as has already been observed, there is absolutely no ground for suspecting the integrity of the motives that have consistently animated the long line of popes. The Greeks who took refuge in Southern Italy under pressure of the Turkish invasion have never to this day found difficulty, but on the contrary much encouragement, from the popes, in their adherence to their Eastern customs, the marriage of their clergy included; and since the time of the Council of Florence it has been a fixed principle of papal government that Orientals passing into communion with the Holy See should be required to remain in their own rites and customs where no doctrinal error was involved, Leo XIII enforcing adherence to this principle by new sanctions in his “Orientalium ecclesiarum dignitas” (1893). Moreover, why should the popes or their adherents in the West cherish dislike for rites and customs so intimately associated with the memories of those venerable Fathers and doctors whom East and West agree in venerating and claiming as their own? Could the Easterns, then, only be induced to lay aside these suspicions, if but provisionally, and meet the pope or his representatives in friendly conference, the problem of reunion would already be half solved. For then explanations could be exchanged, and false impressions removed, particularly the false impression that it is lust of domination, and not fidelity to a Divine trust, that constrains the popes to insist on the recognition of their primacy. After that it might be necessary to discuss doctrinal points on which the two sides are at variance; but the discussion would turn on the application of ancient principles recognized on both sides. Seeing how shadowy are some of the points of disagreement, some of them would surely be cleared up completely by such discussions, and if others stood out, and thereby made any immediate act of reunion impossible, at least the better understanding arrived at might be hoped to impart to any further studies and discussions a convergent tendency and so lead on to intercommunion at no remote date.
Is such a consummation impossible? For the present it would seem to be so, if we are to judge by the attitude of the rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, of the Orthodox Churches. But it is at least symptomatic that Joachim III, the present Patriarch of Constantinople, the same who in 1902 proposed conferences on reunion to the other autocephalous churches, has recently (Bessarione, January-March, 1911) expressed his desire for reunion and for preparatory efforts to come to an understanding with the Westerns. The career, too, of such a man as the late Vladimir Soloviev—who, starting from the ordinary Orthodox conceptions, set himself to study the whole question of reunion in the light of the patristic writings, and was led to enroll himself among the Uniats—may fairly be taken, seeing what influence he exercised, and his memory still exercises, over many of his fellow-countrymen, as a sign that there are others of like mind in that sealed empire, as indeed is known to be the case. Moreover, the imperial edicts of toleration published in Russia in 1905, though they were quickly to all intents and purposes revoked, sufficed to lift the veil and make manifest the true sentiments of the many Ruthenian Uniats who had been given out as willing deserters to the camp of schism. So, too, did the memorandum of the thirty-two Orthodox priests on the necessity of changing the organization of the Russian Church (published at St. Petersburg in 1905), together with the subsequent discussions and proceedings for the determination of this question in a national council (Palmieri, “Chiesa russa ‘, i), manifest the grave dissatisfaction of many of the Orthodox clergy with the suppression by the civil power of the spontaneous life and thought of their national Church.
Nor do we lack the direct testimony of witnesses familiar with Eastern lands to the existence there of many ardent aspirants after reunion. Thus Nicola Franco, a Uniat priest of the Greek Rite, in his instructive study of the question under all its aspects, testifies that “the reunion movement has manifested itself in the provinces of European Turkey among Greeks, Albanians, and Bulgarians, and in Asia among the Greeks and Melchites, not to speak of the Armenians, Syrians, and Chaldeans, and, which is more significant still, among the Russians, in whose midst Catholic groups of the Greek-Slav Rite keep on establishing themselves, and give promise of a wider extension of the apostolate for reunion” (Difesa del Cristianesimo, p. 199). It is perhaps the spectacle, which can now be seen in many places in the East, of Catholics of the Greek and Latin Rite working side by side in cordial cooperation, while on terms of friendly intercourse with the Orthodox of the same neighborhood, which is chiefly helpful in removing prejudice by the object lesson it offers of what reunion would bring to pass in all parts of the world in these days, when Easterns as well as Westerns are spreading and mingling in many lands. Especially impressive in this way seems to have been the object-lesson of the Eucharistic Congress held at Jerusalem in 1893 in which the Catholic clergy and laity of both rites took part under the eyes of numerous adherents of the separated communions. The solemn Eucharistic Liturgies, according to the rite of St. John Chrysostom celebrated at St. Peter’s in the presence of the pope on February 14, 1908, and that celebrated later in the same year at Westminster Cathedral in the presence of his legate, were examples of similar import. Moreover, if Leo XIII’s letter of June 20, 1894, addressed to “the Princes and Peoples”, received a rude answer from the patriarch Anthimus VII and his Synod (Duchesne, “Eglises separees”), there were not lacking devout minds in the East who contrasted the patriarch’s brutal language with the exquisitely tender and conciliatory language of the pope. Padre Franco reports the accession of over a hundred thousand persons to the Uniat Churches as the harvest gathered from this episode during the years that followed.
B. In the West
In the West the English-speaking countries must be distinguished from the others, which, like them, have inherited the state of religious isolation. In the latter no general sense of the evils of division appears to have been as yet awakened, and even in the former as much must be said of the great mass of the population, even of that section of it which is in earnest about its spiritual condition. Still, in England and the United States there are numerous groups of religious-minded persons who do take very much to heart the scandal of religious division which is brought home to them in diverse ways through their experience of the hindrances that block the path of Christian progress. Their sense of this scandal and the consequent desire for reunion goes back to the second quarter of the last century. It began with the Tractarians and sprang naturally out of the fuller realization, to which their Patristic studies had led them, of the nature and authority of the visible Church. This school is still the home of the most solid and fervent aspiration after reunion, but the aspiration has spread during the last few decades from this to other parties in the national Church, and even to the Nonconformists, who have grown ashamed of the multiplicity of their sects and are now anxious to find some basis on which they may coalesce among themselves. These latter, however, have no conception of unity in the Catholic sense of the term, and contemplate only a federation on the basis of sinking differences. The Free Church Council founded in England in 1894, and chiefly notorious for its political campaigns against the Anglican Church, is their principal achievement so far. The Presbyterians of Scotland have also felt the influence of the reunion ideal, but they too, except for some individuals, have not looked beyond the healing of their own intestine divisions.
The Anglicans (under which designation are included, as members of the same communion, the Episcopalians in America and elsewhere) have a wider vision, and have even fancied that to their Church, as holding a central position between the ancient Churches and the modern Protestant sects, is as-signed the providential mission of bringing these two extremes together, and serving the cause of reunion by enabling them to understand each other. During the last half-century, under the spreading influence of the High Church movement, this sense of vocation has been specially cherished, and has found frequent expression in the pulpit and religious literature. It has also given birth to some well-meant undertakings. Thus the A. P. U. C., or Association for Promoting the Unity of Christendom—by which is meant the union of the Roman, Eastern, and Anglican “branches”, others not excluded—is a league of prayer, founded in 1857, which is said to have by now many thousand members, drawn from various religious communions, though, as being under non-Catholic management Catholics are not allowed to join it; the Eastern Church Association (E. C. A.) and the recently founded Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Church Union (A. E. O. C. U.) both work for the union of the Anglicans with the Easterns, the latter, “while in no way antagonistic to efforts for reunion in other directions”, confining itself to those of the Eastern Churches which are in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople. This A. E. O. C. U. is particularly active in the United States, where the existence side by side of Westerns and Easterns offers special facilities for mutual intercourse. It is due mainly to its instances that the Orthodox Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn recently sanctioned an inter-change of ministrations with the Episcopalians in places where members of one or the other communion are without clergy of their own—a practice which, as coming from the Orthodox side, seemed strange, but was presumably justified by the “principle of economy” which some Orthodox theologians unaccountably advocate (see Reunion Magazine, September, 1910). This concordat did not, however, last very long: Bishop Raphael seems not to have understood, at first, the motley character of the Episcopalian communion, but having come to realize it, quickly revoked his concession (Russian Orthodox American Messenger, February 28, 1912).
Other societies of kindred aim are the Christian Unity Foundation, established in the United States in 1910; the Home Reunion Society, established in England in 1875, of which the object is to reunite the various English religious bodies with the National Church; the Evangelical Alliance for banding together the Evangelical Protestants of all nations, which was founded in 1846, and is thoroughly Protestant in its principles and aims; the Christian Unity Association of Edinburgh which is under Presbyterian management. Apart from these, as being the only Anglican, or Protestant, Association which directly contemplates the union of the Anglican with the Catholic Church, is the Society of St. Thomas of Canterbury, founded in 1904, and undertaking as its special work to clear the way for this species of reunion by studying and making known the real doctrines of the Catholic Church held by its own members, as opposed to the erroneous or colored accounts of the same doctrines which prevail so widely. This society being thus based on sound principles, though at present in its infancy, is capable of doing valuable work for the cause.
The annual Church Congresses in England are wont to give a place in their discussions to the reunion question, and even the decennial Pan-Anglican Conferences, in which the bishops of that communion come together from all lands, are increasingly affected by the movement; though, as consisting of prelates with very diverse views, they are always chary about committing themselves to definite statements. Their committees are allowed to be slightly more courageous, and in the Conference of 1888 the committee on Church Unity formulated four conditions as constituting the necessary and sufficient basis for all who might desire to enter into communion with themselves: (I) The Holy Scriptures as the rule of faith; (2) the Apostles‘ and the Nicene Creeds, as the statement of the Faith; (3) the two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself; (4) the historic episcopate locally adapted in the methods of its administration to varying needs. This offer, which has come to be known as “the Lambeth Quadrilateral”, has been renewed by the subsequent Pan-Anglican conferences and has been frequently discussed, but so far has not attracted any of those for whom it was intended. The same Committee of 1888 looked wistfully towards the separated communions of the East, but did not venture to do more than repudiate the idea of wishing to proselytize among them, and recommend that a statement of the Anglican position should be drawn up for their benefit. Subsequent Conferences have gone a little farther in this direction, and the Conference of 1908 went so far as to recommend in one of its resolutions that there should be an interchange of ministrations offered and accepted between members of the Orthodox and of the Anglican communion, in places where none of their own clergy were within reach—a recommendation which, as already mentioned, was for the moment reciprocated not indeed by the official representatives of the Orthodox Churches, but by two of their prelates in America. In the earlier Pan-Anglican Conferences the attitude taken up towards the Churches in union with the Holy See was hostile rather than friendly, warm sympathy being extended to those who had recently abandoned its communion. In the Conference of 1897 there was a slight improvement in this respect, and in the most recent of these Conferences, held in 1908, whilst recognizing, as they could not but do, that it would be useless to propose any terms of intercommunion to the Holy See, as they could offer none which it would accept, the Committee of reunion and Intercommunion recorded their “conviction that no projects of union can ever be regarded as satisfactory which deliberately leave out the Churches of the great Latin Communion” and then went on to urge the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the ecclesiastical authorities of that communion abroad, an excellent recommendation which will be cordially reciprocated by the authorities in question, whether abroad or at home.
Of individual workers in the cause of reunion four names should certainly be mentioned. Father Ignatius (George) Spencer (1799-1864) was reconciled to the Catholic Church in 1829; in due course he was ordained priest, and in 1849 joined the Passionists. During the last twenty-six years of his life, both in England and on the Continent, he labored with the utmost zeal to arouse men’s minds to a sense of the importance of reunion and to engage them in systematic prayer for that object. Mr. Ambrose Phillips de Lisle (1809-77) was another convert from Anglicanism and an intimate friend of Father Ignatius Spencer. He took up the same crusade and formed the most sanguine expectations of a consoling result. In 1877, in cooperation with the Anglican, Dr. Frederick George Lee, he founded the Association for Promoting the Union of Christendom, to which reference has already been made. Mr. de Lisle failed to see the theological impropriety of Catholics joining an association of this kind under Protestant management, but the sincerity of his faith and the single-mindedness of his zeal were beyond all question. Newman’s appreciation of these qualities in him caused him to say to de Lisle in 1857: “If England is converted, it will be as much due, under God, to you as to any one.” It might seem strange to count Dr. Pusey among prominent reunionists in view of his “Eirenicon”, of which the first part was published in 1864. But this book, as its name intimates, was written to promote reunion by raising a friendly discussion on certain points of Catholic practice which to Anglicans of the writer’s party caused difficulty. Inadvertently he used language in describing these Catholic practices which gave offense, and brought down upon him from the Catholic side a torrent of reproaches that was rather excessive. This, however, should not blind us to the underlying fact that Dr. Pusey came forward with the best intentions, as a pacificator, not an assailant, and was prepared to use his powerful influence on behalf of a reconciliation. Viscount Halifax has identified himself with a method of reunion which can never be practical, because it overlooks the essential character of the Catholic system. It was this that frustrated his well-meant overtures to Leo XIII in 1894-6, and stamps with hopelessness the movement connected with his name. None the less he stands out as the man who has done more than any other to set the attractive ideal of Catholic unity before the eyes of the present generation. “Public opinion”, he said, in his famous Bristol speech of 1895, “will never be influenced if we hold our tongues. It is influenced by those who, without any concealment, have the courage of their opinions. It is the interest of the whole Church of Christ, it is the interest of political order, it is the interest of the human race that these estrangements in the Christian family should cease. The cause is good, we have no need to be ashamed of it. Let us frankly avow it to be our own.” These words may be regarded as the text of his untiring public action. And so far as they go, nothing could be more encouraging.
VI. CONDITIONS OF REUNION
The longing for the restoration of unity to Christendom, which is active in these and other ways, must be regarded by Catholics as one of the most precious features of the present age, and should enlist all their sympathy. Even if these reunionists be working on lines that are in themselves hopeless, at least their desire is for a high object, and desires fondly cherished and energetically pursued tend to the acquirement of solid experience, and so eventually to the discovery of the true course for the attainment of their object. Nevertheless their schemes cannot have been worked out with much insight, for the principles on which they are based are such as could not possibly sustain a fabric of Christian unity—are in fact, the self-same principles which we have seen to be the cause of disunion in the past. What they contemplate is corporate reunion, that is to say, the reunion of whole Churches as such, each of which is to come into the union with its organization intact, its clergy remaining in their respective ranks, and the general body of its laity in theirs. It is from this standpoint that we need to consider the possibility of their projects. We ask, then, what kind of corporate reunion do they hope for and consider likely to prove satisfactory? The idea of reunion on a purely undenominational basis has been generally rejected by Anglican reunionists, and rightly. For, if it means anything, it must mean that the reuniting communions are to coalesce into a huge undogmatic Church in which the utmost license of religious opinion will be allowed, as long as it does not claim to be more than opinion; and in which, on that understanding, the sacraments will be accessible to all who seek them. Still, it is not out of place to reflect on this system, inasmuch as it is the system which, though not in any way sanctioned by its formularies, practically prevails in the modern Anglican Church, those of its members who hold the most subversive doctrines being not only allowed to approach its sacraments unchecked when they desire to do so, but often promoted to its posts of trust and authority. An individualism equally subversive has invaded the ranks of some of the Nonconformist bodies. Obviously, this scandal will need to be suppressed by a drastic discipline before the Churches affected by it can be in a position to propose a scheme of unity to other Churches. It is of little use for a group of Churches to pledge themselves to definite doctrines as long as their individual members are free to hold or reject these doctrines, or even condemn them, without forfeiting their right to its membership.
“Comprehension not compromise” is a phrase often employed to express what is considered fitting and possible. The reuniting Churches are not to be asked to renounce any of the beliefs and practices to which from long usage they have become attached. They are to come in just as they are—all, that is, who are agreed as to a substratum of fundamental doctrines and institutions—and on this basis they are to be in recognized sacramental communion with one another everywhere. This system seems to its advocates not only to remove the chief difficulties in the way of reunion, but to have positive advantages. Instead of a dull and deadening uniformity extending through-out, it will give unity in variety, a “synthesis of distinctions”, in which each reuniting Church will contribute to the general harmony some special gift which, under the Providence of God, it has cultivated with peculiar care and success. Under a slightly changed form we have here the self-same scheme, based on the distinction between essentials and non-essentials, which in the past has been put forward so often, and always so unsuccessfully. Is it likely to succeed any better now? First, what are to be deemed essentials? Is this a point on which agreement is likely to be reached? We have seen what four conditions the Pananglican Conferences have laid down as in their estimation essential, and we may be inclined to wonder at the liberality of the concessions involved in it. This “Quadrilateral” had in view, so it was understood, the Nonconformist Churches in England and perhaps the Presbyterians in Scotland and elsewhere. But general and indefinite as it is, it does not seem to have found favor with any of these; it does not go far enough for them.
But it will be found to go much too far for the Easterns, leaving it open, as it does, to anyone to believe that the sacraments are efficacious channels of grace or only nude symbols of the same, to believe that in the Holy Eucharist the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present or really absent, to believe that besides the two sacraments explicitly included there are or are not five others equally instituted by Christ and equally partaking of the true nature of sacraments, to believe that the historic episcopate does or does not involve the transmission of a mystic power over the sacraments such as is wont to be called the grace of Holy orders. Secondly, what guarantee is there that the assignment of essentials agreed to at the moment of union will continue to satisfy the contracting parties? What makes this question so pertinent is that in the “Quadrilateral”, for instance, the stipulation is only that the reuniting Churches shall in fact be agreed on these four points; there is no stipulation for any formal principle of unity. It will be said, perhaps. that the first-named condition, that Holy Scripture is to be accepted as containing all things necessary to salvation and hence is the sufficient rule of faith, is this formal principle. But does this mean, as it appears to mean, that the individual is to be the judge of what Holy Scripture contains? If so, surely it is a bold thing, after these four centuries of disastrous experience, to put forward this rule as calculated to ensure an all-pervading and durable doctrinal agreement. Or does it mean that the governing authorities of the reuniting Churches are to decide what is contained in Scripture, and are to be qualified to enforce their decisions? if so, another crop of difficulties springs up. Why is this further condition, supremely important as it is, not included in the first article of the “Quadrilateral”? And what is to be the nature of these governing authorities, and of their relation to one another? Are they to be each and all autonomous, and, if so, what guarantee is there that they will all agree—for instance, that the Easterns will not insist that the Bible shall be interpreted according to the decrees of the seven ecumenical councils, and the Anglicans that at least the decrees of the Seventh, which sanctions the veneration of images, shall be deemed inadmissible? Or are these governing authorities of the reuniting Churches to be subjected to one supreme authority, and, if so, what is to be its nature (the papacy being, of course, out of the question)? Also, is the submission of the individual to the decisions of the heads of his own Church, or the submission of the reuniting Churches to the supreme authority they have recognized as over them, to be treated as imposed under pain of sin by some Divine sanction, and, if so, what is that sanction, and why is it not explicitly stated in the “Quadrilateral”? Thirdly, if we grant the impossible, and assume that the system will be found to work on the lines indicated, could the result be claimed as a becoming realization of Christian unity? Although the essentials are to be firmly fixed and accepted by all, each reuniting Church is to be free to retain the further beliefs and methods it has built on this foundation; in fact, it is just through this superstructure of its own that it is to make its own contribution to that “synthesis of distinctions”, from which unity in variety is expected to result. But is it this that will result? If the Easterns, for instance, are to insist as they now do on the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the necessity of confession, on the invocation of saints and veneration of their icons; and the Anglicans, or at all events the Nonconformists whom we must suppose to have joined in likewise, are to teach that confession is soul-destroying; the Mass and invocation of saints idolatrous—will that be a synthesis of distinctions, and not rather a synthesis of contradictions? In short, if this system of “comprehension not compromise” were to obtain the general acceptance desired for it, in what respect would it differ from the present system of divisions, which is felt to be so scandalous, except that it would add the further element of scandal that those who preached these conflicting doctrines would come up together to the altar-rails, as if to show what light value they attached to the points about which they none the less contend so stubbornly?
Evidently, “comprehension not compromise” cannot be a guiding principle for those who wish to restore to Christendom such unity as our Lord prayed for, and the world will be constrained to recognize as an evidence of Divine handiwork. Neither can compromise help us, for truth does not admit of compromise, and what it is desired to restore throughout the world is unity in truth. What we do require is neither comprehension nor compromise, but conviction; for unity in truth must mean that all whom the system embraces profess one and the same creed in all its parts, that they are honestly convinced that in professing it they are adhering to the simple truth, and that in reality they are professing only the truth. How can a unity of that kind, a unity of conviction which is also a unity in truth, be brought about in such wise as to include the many separated Churches of Christendom and their members? That is the problem on which serious reunionists should concentrate their attention. They may begin by observing that in societies of all kinds—in kingdoms, armies, trade-unions, clubs, and even Churches—the principle of unity which holds them together is the authority of their chief rulers. If they submit to these—be they kings or presidents, bishops or moderators, parliaments, or committees, or conferences—they become one with them in their action, and (if the rulers have a recognized right to impose opinions) in their opinions also; and by way of consequence become one among themselves. On the other hand, in proportion as the members refuse submission to this ruling authority they become disunited and, if the insubordination continues, break up into parties, or drift away, or set up opposition societies. Almost any Protestant Church among the many around us will supply an illustration of this. At one time its ruling authority is recognized by all the members to be the authentic interpreter of its formularies, and all are prepared to submit to it. It is then a united Church in itself. Later comes a time when a number of its members grow dissatisfied with these formularies, and refuse to accept them at the hands of their church authority. Then disunion sets in; either dissent from the letter of the formularies is tolerated, and intestine divisions arise, or some split off and set up for themselves opposition Churches elsewhere.
If this is the law of all human societies, is it not to be anticipated that the Christian community is also subject to that law, in other words that its unity is to be secured by the submission of its members and component Churches to the one ruling authority which is duly set over them all? It will be objected that this principle of authority, if allowed to prevail, may suffice to secure unity in Christendom, but not unity in truth. As soon as the time comes when it is the conviction of individual members or groups of members that their ruling authority is departing from the truth, they cannot but give the preference to truth over unity, which in fact is what has happened in the history of Christendom, and has caused the present disunion. The answer to this difficulty is that the human mind is indeed bound to truth, and acts irrationally if it does not pursue it at all costs; but none the less it is rational for the individual mind to subordinate its personal judgments to those of a mind which can give it a securer guarantee of truth than it can derive from its own reasonings; it is, therefore, supremely rational for it to submit to the mind of Christ, whensoever this can be securely ascertained. If Christ communicated His own mind to His Apostles as to the doctrines and laws He desired His Church to receive and obey; if His Apostles transmitted these Divine communications by tradition to future generations; if a living authority duly set over His people has watched over the safe transmission of this tradition; and, if the Holy Spirit was sent by Him to abide in His Church and secure this living authority in the faithful discharge of its trust—then, so far as we can see, the duty to truth and the duty to unity are fully harmonized, and a way opened for the reunion of Christendom without any outrage being done to the nature of the human mind. This, it may be said, is only an inference based on the law of human societies and the nature of the human mind. Can it be safe to take it as sufficing to determine a question of fact, such as is the question whether our Lord really did make this particular provision for the safeguarding of His revelation? But if it were only that, at least it proves that this principle of a Divinely guarded magisterium is not irrational, but on the contrary is, so far as we can see, the only principle capable of harmonizing the two certain facts, that our minds are by nature bound to truth at all costs and that our Lord prayed and therefore provided that we might all be one in faith. A principle, however, of this value must be regarded as resting on a much firmer basis than mere inference, especially when it is associated with the massive historical fact that the oldest and greatest of all the Churches—which is also the only one that has known how to secure unity among its children with-out injury done to their sense of truth—has all along been ruled by this very principle in the sure belief that it rests on the express words of Christ. Should not this send us back to a study of the words as they came from Christ’s lips, and as they were understood by His Apostles, to see if those words do not correspond with this belief of the later Church?
And here we join on to the historical survey with which this article commenced, for in that survey has been epitomized the evidence from the New Testament and the early Christian writings, which shows that, if we are to credit these records, our Lord did establish and impose this very system; that the Apostles, whom He sent forth to lay the foundations of the Church, did so understand Him; that the Church of the second century, as represented by St. Irenaeus, likewise so understood Him.
VII. PROSPECTS OF REUNION
If corporate reunion were a practical ideal, capable of being realized at no distant date, it would have enormous advantages, for it would greatly facilitate the task of those who feel the sadness of their present isolation. But, the conditions of this mode of reunion being such as we have seen, it is unfortunately impossible to regard the prospect of its realization as other than discouraging. Why is it that those who tell us with transparent sincerity that they long for the time when Christendom will be united once more so persistently resist the rule of tradition and submission to the Holy See, though as capable as ourselves of appreciating the reasoning of the last section, and admiring the results which that rule can produce in the communion of the Apostolic See? Why is it that they continue, in the face of all their past disappointments, to stand out for their principle of comprehension, and to ask for reunion on the basis of mutual concession and contract? Obviously it is because they are still dominated by those self-same principles of religious division which we discerned in the earlier part of this article, when we were tracing to their ultimate causes the schisms that troubled the first four Christian centuries. We counted five such causes: “I cannot belong to a Church in whose doctrines I find insoluble intellectual difficulties”, or “which cannot find a place in its system for religious experiences I take to be the direct voice of God to me”, or “which claims to put fetters on my mental liberty”, or “which runs counter to my national attachments and antipathies”, or “which involves me in opposition to my temporal rulers”. These principles, we said then, all or some of them, would be found likewise at the root of all subsequent schisms, and have not the summaries above given proved the truth of this? In the Oriental schisms, though private judgment on doctrinal subtle-ties had its part, the chief agencies at. work were national antipathies and subservience to temporal rulers. In the sixteenth-century revolt all the five influences were fiercely active. Many Catholic doctrines—as, for instance, those of transubstantiation, the sacramental principle, the merit of good works—were condemned as offensive to the private judgment of the Reformers. The doctrine (Lutheran) of justification by faith was an egregious example of putting absolute trust in the assumptions of emotionalism, indeed was the first step towards transferring the basis of faith from the preaching of the word to the so-called testimony of experience. How repugnant to these Reformers was the idea of sub-mission to any teaching authority save their own is evidenced by their denunciations of popes and priests; how much they were possessed by the principles of Nationalism and Erastianism is evidenced by the way in which they allowed their rulers to split them up into national Churches and gain their favor for these by stirring up their national animosities. At the present time, among the Churches of England and America which are asking for reunion—or rather, some of whose members are asking for reunion—these same sentiments still prevail, with some modification as regards their particular application. Is not this sufficiently attested by the tone of the criticisms which come so readily to their lips? “I cannot bring my mind to believe in a Trinity in Unity, in a God-man, in a sinless man, in an atonement, in transubstantiation, in original sin, in the power of a little water to wash away sin, in a power of absolution entrusted to sinful men, in a gift of immunity from religious error vested in a succession of undereducated Pontiffs.” And again, “I know from my spiritual experience that I am saved, that the sacraments I have received are valid whatever reasons may be urged against them, that my particular form of religion is the true one though it contradicts the religion of others who can cite similar experiences on their behalf.” Or again, “I am not going to hand over the keeping of my conscience to any priest or Church, I am not going to surrender the open-mindedness which is the essential quality of a truth-seeker.” Or again, “I want a religion to suit my national temperament as an Englishman or an American, I am not going to submit to a foreign priest or listen to an Italian mission.” How is it possible that men saturated with principles so antagonistic to the obedience of faith should be induced to seek reunion in the only form in which, as we have seen, it can be solid and lasting, that is, by submission to the teaching of the Apostolic See? Indeed, how can one imagine that they would accept even a system of comprehension unless, like their own present systems, it should be one prepared to tolerate every variety of individualism? But the fact is, these Anglican reunionists strangely overlook the mentality of their fellow-churchmen, and persuade themselves that the comparatively small section which forms the moderately High Church party can be taken as duly representing their Church; and then, realizing that neither this small section, nor even they themselves, have the true Catholic disposition of submission to a teaching authority, they have taken refuge in a project of comprehension that would just include themselves.
But it will not do to take this over-hopeful view of the situation. The possibilities of an approaching corporate reunion must be judged by the mentality of the whole body, and what chance is there, humanly speaking, that—to say nothing of the Presbyterians and Nonconformists—the general body of Anglicans, which is every year becoming more and more radical in its tone, will be brought within a generation or two to such a degree of doctrinal unity and Catholic spirit among themselves as to make it likely that, as an organized body of bishops, clergy, and laity, they will approach the Holy See in the full spirit of sub-mission, and ask to be received into its communion? Moreover, if we can imagine these internal difficulties overcome, and whole Churches approaching the Holy See in this manner, we must not overlook the probability that the difficulty from state interference, dormant for the present, would quickly revive. The statesmen would be sure to take alarm, and work against the project with all their might as a danger to their own selfish schemes; and this all the more because aggressive Anticlericalism has captured so many of the governments of powerful countries, and would strive, by appealing to racial prejudices and fostering campaigns of misrepresentation and oppression, to stamp out a movement calculated, if successful, to add so greatly to the forces of Christianity. It must be repeated that individuals might hold out against this persecution, but the masses of men whom we are supposing to form the membership of Churches anxious to reunite would in all probability be shattered by it, and break up. We must not, indeed, forget that we are all in the hands of God, and God may at any time intervene by some signal providence to clear away the obstacles from the path of corporate reunion. But we have no right to count on interventions of this kind. Reunionists whose inquiries have convinced them that the way to unity is through sub-mission to the Holy See will be imprudent indeed if they delay their personal submission in expectation of a corporate act on the part of their respective Churches which, in the absence of any such Divine intervention, is, in view of the difficulties indicated, most unlikely to come till long after the present generation of men has passed away. Nor is it to the purpose to ask here if by this method of individual conversions there is any prospect of an eventual restoration of Christendom to the unity which once held it together. Possibly there is not; but why should there be? We may indeed look to a continuance, and perhaps to an expansion, of the process now going on whereby appreciable numbers are added to the Church through individual submissions, but it does not seem likely that, in this age of individualism, whole nations will be brought in by this method, nor is there any Divine promise that they will be. Another age may bring forth better things, but whether it will we know not. Still, though the prospects of corporate reunion appear discouraging, Catholics may well show themselves appreciative and sympathetic towards the efforts of those of other communions who are captivated by the splendid ideal and think that under one form or another it is capable of realization. We may safely leave to the Providence of God to determine what course the present reunion movement shall ultimately take, and meanwhile we may emphasize the substantial point that Catholics and other reunionists have in common: their mutual desire to see the barriers that separate them removed. They can cooperate, too, in working for the good cause in useful ways without any surrender of their own principles. For they can cultivate friendly personal relations, to the formation of which it will greatly contribute if they can work together for objects, social or otherwise, as to the value of which they are agreed. There is a special value in the personal friendships thus formed, for they tend to dissolve the obstacles which come from sheer misunderstandings and the animosities that these engender. And they can further cooperate for the removal of these same obstacles by positive efforts to understand one another correctly, particularly by the others seeking and the Catholics, if they are competent, showing a readiness to give simple explanations of the true character of their beliefs and practices.
The latter cannot indeed be too careful to avoid bitter controversies, for these, as experience has proved, serve more to harden estrangements than to cement reconciliations. But their explanations will be often welcomed, if it be known that they will be marked by candor, cordiality, and patience, for nowadays there is a growing number who have come to suspect that Catholicism is not as black as it has been painted for them, and are anxious to hear about it from those whom they can trust, and who have intimate knowledge of it from the inside. It would be rash, however, for Catholics to expect that their non-Catholic friends will be readily convinced by the explanations they give. Convictions are of slow growth; besides it is not for the human agent to intrude on the office which the Holy Spirit reserves to Himself. Lastly, there can be cooperation in efforts to promote reunion by earnest and assiduous prayer. Catholics cannot join an association for prayer like the A. P. U. C., which is under non-Catholic management, but they have the highest sanction for joining similar associations under Catholic management, such as the Confraternity of Compassion, which Leo XIII himself established in 1897, and entrusted to the administration of the Sulpician Fathers.
(See also Church; Pope; Tradition; Gnosticism; Marcionites; Montanists; Novatian and Novatianism; Manichaeism; Donatists; Arianism; Albigenses; John Wyclif; Hus and Hussites; Nestorius and Nestorianism; Saint Cyril of Alexandria; Council of Ephesus; Monophysites and Monophysitism; Eutyches; Eutychianism; Council of Chalcedon; Greece; Greek Church; Photius of Constantinople; Michael Caerularius; Russia; Protestantism; Reformation; Martin Luther; John Calvin; John Knox; Anglicanism; Presbyterianism; Nonconformists; Councils of Lyons; Florence, Council of Florence, and the bibliographies attached.
SYDNEY F. SMITH