On all other Christian societies the Church of Rome pronounces a sentence of spiritual outlawry. She alone is the Church, and beyond her pale there is no salvation. She recognises but one pastor and but one fold; and those who are not the sheep of the Pope of Rome, cannot be the sheep of Christ, and are held as being certainly cut off from all the blessings of grace now, and from all the hopes of eternal life hereafter. In the hands of Peter's successor are lodged the keys of heaven; and no one can enter but those whom he is pleased to admit; and he admits none but good Catholics, who believe that a consecrated wafer is God, and that he himself is God's vicegerent, and infallible. All others are heathens and heretics, accursed of God, and most certainly accursed of Rome. This compendious anathema, it is true, gives Protestants no concern. They know that it is as impotent as it is malignant; and it can excite within them nothing but gratitude to that Providence which has made the power of this Church as circumscribed as her cruelty is vast and her vengeance unappeasable. God has not put in subjection to Rome either this world or the world to come; and the Pope and his Cardinals have just as much power to consign all outside their Church to eternal flames, as to forbid the sun to shine or the rain to fall on all who dare reject the infallibility.
But while it is a matter of supreme indifference to Protestants how many or how dreadful the curses which the pontiff may fulminate from his seat of presumed infallibility, it is a very serious matter for Rome herself. It is a truly fearful and affecting manifestation of Rome's own character. It exhibits her as animated by a malignity that is truly measureless and quenchless, and actually gloating over the imaginary spectacle of the eternal destruction of the whole human race, those few excepted who have belonged to her communion. Not a few Papists appear to be conscious of the odium to which their Church is justly obnoxious, on account of this wholesale intolerance and uncharitableness and accordingly they have denied the doctrine which we now impute to their Church. The charge, however, is easily substantiated. The tenet that there is no salvation out of the Church of Rome is of so frequent occurrence in the bulls of their popes, in their standard works, in their catechisms, and is so openly avowed by foreign Papists, who have not the same reason to conceal or deny this tenet which British Papists have, that no doubt can exist about the matter. Their own memorable argument, whereby they attempt to prove that the Romish method of salvation is the safer one, conclusively establishes the fact that they hold the doctrine of exclusive salvation, and that we do not. That argument is, in short, as follows:--That whereas we admit that men may be saved in the Church of Rome, and whereas they hold that men cannot be saved out of that Church, therefore it is safer to be in communion with that Church. Here the Romanist makes the doctrine of exclusive salvation the basis of his argument.
Equally explicit is the creed of Pope Pius IV. That creed embraces the leading dogmas of Romanism; and the following declaration, which is taken by every Popish priest at his ordination, is appended to it:--"I do at this present freely profess and sincerely hold this true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved; and I promise most constantly to retain and confess the same entire and unviolated, with God's assistance, to the end of my life." To the same purport is the decree of Pope Boniface VIII.:--"We declare, assert, define, and pronounce, that it is necessary to salvation for every human being to be subject to the Pope of Rome." Nor is there any mistaking the condition of those to whom the bull in Coena Domini has reference. This is one of the most solemn excommunications of the Romish Church, denounced every year on Maunday Thursday against heretics, and all who are disobedient to the Holy See. In that bull is the following clause, which has been inserted since the Reformation:--"We excommunicate and anathematize, in the name of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and by the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own, all Hussites, Wickliffites, Lutherans, Zuinglians, Calvinists, Huguenots, Anabaptists, Trinitarians, and apostates from the faith, and all other heretics, by whatsoever name they are called, and of whatsoever sect they be." If the words of the bull are not sufficient to indicate, with the requisite plainness, the fearful doom that awaits all Protestants, the action that follows certainly does so: a lighted candle is instantly cast on the ground and extinguished, and the spectators are thus taught by symbol, that eternal darkness is the portion which awaits the various heretical sects specified in the bull. The ceremony is concluded with the firing of a cannon from the castle of St. Angelo, which the Roman populace believe (or rather did believe) makes all the heretics in the world to tremble.
The very children in the popish schools are taught to lisp this exclusive and intolerant doctrine. "Can any one be saved who is not in the true Church?" it is asked in Keenan's Catechism; and the child is taught to answer, "No ; for those who are not in the true Church,--that is, for those who are not joined at least to the soul of the Church, there can be no hope of salvation." The true Church the writer afterwards defines to be the Roman Catholic Church. "Are all obliged to be of the true Church?" it is asked in Butler's Catechism. "Yes; no one can be saved out of it." Thus has the Church of Rome made provision that her youth shall be trained up in the firm belief that all Protestants are beyond the pale of the Church of Christ, are the objects of the divine abhorrence, and are doomed to pass their eternity in flames. An ineradicable hatred of Protestants is thus implanted in their breasts, which often, in after years, breaks out in deeds of violence and blood.
Papists who live in Britain, though they really hold this doctrine, are careful how they avow it. They know the danger of placing so intolerant a doctrine in contrast with the true catholic charity of Protestant Britain. Accordingly they endeavour, by equivocal statements, by jesuitical evasions and explanations, and sometimes by the fraudulent use of the phrase "fellow-Christians," addressed to Protestants, to conceal their true principles on this head; but foreign Papists, being under no such restraint, avow, without equivocation or concealment, that the doctrine of exclusive salvation is the doctrine of the Church of Rome. We cannot quote a more authoritative testimony as to the opinions held and taught on this important question by leading Romanists, than the published lectures of the Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the Collegio Romano at Rome. We find M. Perrone, in a series of ingenious and elaborately reasoned propositions, maintaining the doctrine of non-salvability beyond the pale of his own Church. On the assumption that the Church of Rome has maintained the unity of faith and government which Christ and his apostles founded, he lays down the proposition, that "the Catholic Church alone is the true Church of Christ," and that "all communions which have separated from that Church are so many synagogues of Satan." A following proposition pronounces "heretics and schismatics without the Church of Christ." M. Perrone then proceeds to argue that this character belongs to Protestants, and that it is plain that their faith is false, from their recent origin, and the little success which has attended their missions among the heathen. He then closes the discussion with the proposition, that "those who culpably fall into heresy and schism [i.e. into Protestantism], or into unbelief, can have no salvation after death." This is very appropriately followed by a short dissertation, showing that "religious toleration is impious and absurd." The same sentiments which he has given to the world in his published prelections, we find M. Perrone reiterating in language if possible still more plain, in a conversation with Mr. Seymour. "The truth of the Church was," said the reverend Professor, "that no man could be saved unless he was a member of the Church of Rome, and believed in the supremacy and infallibility of the popes as the successors of St. Peter." "I said," replied Mr. Seymour, "that that was going very far indeed; for, besides requiring men to be members of the Church of Rome, it required their belief in the supremacy and infallibility of the popes."
"He [the Professor] reiterated the same sentiment in language still stronger than before; adding, that every one must be damned in the flames of hell who did not believe in the supremacy and infallibility of the Pope."
"I could not but smile at all this," says Mr. Seymour, "while I felt it derived considerable importance from the position of the person who uttered it. He was the chief teacher of theology in the Collegio Romano,--the University of Rome. I smiled, however, and reminded him that his words were consigning all the people of England to the damnation of hell."
"He repeated his words emphatically."
From a statement which dropped at the same time from the learned Professor, it would seem that those even within the pale of Rome who deny this doctrine of the Church, do so at the risk of being disowned by her, and incurring the doom of heretics. Mr. Seymour was urging that the Roman Catholics of England and Ireland do not hold that doctrine, when his assertion was met by a decided negative. "He [the Professor] said that it was impossible my statement could be correct, as no man was a true Catholic who thought any one could find salvation out of the Church of Rome. They could not be true Catholics."
The solemn judgment of Rome, that no one can be saved who does not swallow an annual wafer, and live on eggs in Lent, gives us no more serious concern than if the head of Mahommedanism should decree that no one can enter paradise who does not wear a turban and suffer his beard to grow. It is equally valid with the dictum of any society among ourselves that might claim infallibility and so forth, and adjudge damnation to all who did not choose to conform to the fashion of buttoning one's coat behind. What ideas can those have of the Almighty, who can believe that he will determine the eternal destinies of his creatures according to such ridiculous niceties and trifles? "God so loved the world," says the apostle, "that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish;" but perish you must, says the Church of Rome, unless you believe also that a wafer and a little wine, consecrated by a priest, are the real flesh and blood of Christ. When we ask the reason for this compendious destruction of the whole human race save the fraction that belongs to Rome, we can get no answer beyond this, that the Pope has said it (for certainly the Bible has nowhere said it), and therefore it must be so. This may be an excellent reason to the believer in infallibility, but it is no reason to any one else. It may be possible that this half-foundered craft named Peter, with its riven sails, its tangled cordage, its yawning scams, and its drunken crew, may be the one ship on the ocean which is destined to ride out the storm and reach the port in safety; but before beginning the voyage, one would like to have some better assurance of this than the mere word of a superannuated captain, never very sound in the head, and now, partly through age and partly through the excesses of his youth, to the full as crazy as his vessel.
It is fair to mention, that Romanists are accustomed to make an exception in the matter of non-salvability beyond the pale of their Church, in favour of those who labour under "invincible ignorance." The Professor in the Collegio Romano, when pressed by Mr. Seymour on the subject of his own personal salvation, gave him the benefit of this exception; and we doubt not that all Protestants will be made abundantly welcome to it. How far it can be of any use to them is another question. The hopes it holds out are of the slenderest; for, so far as Romish writers have defined this invincible ignorance, none can plead the benefit of it save such as have had no means of knowing the faith of Rome, but who, if they had, would willingly embrace it. This exception of "invincible ignorance" may include a few heathens, so benighted as never to have heard of the Church of Rome and her peculiar dogmas; and it may comprehend also those Protestants who are absolutely idiots; but it can be of no use to any one else. Such is the whole extent of Rome's charity.
But though sectarian in her charity, Rome is truly catholic in her anathemas. What sect or party is it which she has not pronounced accursed? What noble name is it which she has not attempted to blast? What generous art which she has not laboured to destroy? What science or study fitted to humanize and enlarge the mind on which she has not pronounced an anathema? Those men who have been the lights of their age,--the poets, the philosophers, the orators, the statesmen, who have been the ornaments and the blessings of their race,--she has confounded in the same tremendous doom with the vilest of mankind. it mattered not how noble their gifts, or how disinterested their labours: they might possess the genius of a Milton, the wisdom of a Bacon, the science of a Newton, the inventive skill of a Watt, the philanthropy of a Howard, the patriotism of a Tell, a Hampden, or a Bruce; they might be firm believers in every doctrine, and bright examples of every virtue, inculcated in the New Testament; but if they did not believe also in the supremacy and infallibility of the Pope, all their wisdom, all their philanthropy, all their piety, all their generous sacrifices and noble achievements, though, like another Wilberforce, they may have struck from the arm of millions the chain of slavery, or, like another Cranmer or another Knox, conquered spiritual independence for generations unborn, all, all went for nothing. Rome could recognise in them no character now but the odious one of the enemies of God; and she could afford to allow them no portion hereafter but the terrible one of eternal torments. And while she closed the gates of Paradise against these lights and benefactors of the world, she opened them to men whose principles and actions were alike pernicious,--to men who were the curses of their race, and who seemed born to no end but to devastate the world,--to fanatics and desperadoes, whose fierce zeal and fiercer swords were ever at the service of the Church.
 Keenan's Controv. Cat. p. 11. [Back]
 Idem, chap. i. and ii. [Back]
 Butler's Catechism, lesson x. [A Catechism in very common use in Ireland.] [Back]
 The following, from the Tablet of July 19th, 1851, may explain the sense in which Protestants are termed Christians by Romanists:--"As the subjects of a temporal crown, when engaged in open rebellion, are still subjects, so are baptized heretics still Christians when living and dying in open rebellion to the faith and discipline of God and of his Church." [Back]
 Perrone's Praelectiones Theologicae, tom. i. pp. 163-278,--De Vera Religione adversus Heterodoxos. [Back]
 Mornings among the Jesuits at Rome, p. 138. [Back]
 Idem, p. 136. [Back]
 The notes on the Popish Bible, published in Dublin in 1816, under the sanction of Dr. Troy, and declared to be equally binding as the text itself, show the light in which Protestants are regarded by the Church of Rome. They are called heretics of the worst kind (note on Acts, xxviii. 22). They are described as in rebellion and damnable revolt against the truth (on John, x. 1). And they may and ought, by public authority to be chastised and executed (on Matt. xiii. 19). [Back]
 Butler's End of Controversy, part. ii. let. xxii. [Back]
Read Book Two, Chapter Nine: Of Original Sin.
Back to Dogmas of the Papacy Index
Back to Overview
Back to the Home Page