The following article is Chapter XLIV of an old book called Catholic Belief: or A Short and Simple Exposition of Catholic Doctrine, by the Very Rev. Joseph Faa Di Bruno, D.D.. It is copyright©1884 by Benzinger Brothers, and since I can't find any reprints currently in print, I assume it is in the public domain (all copyrighted books enter the public domain after 75 years, if the copyright is not renewed). So I present it here for everyone's information. If anyone knows of a current copyright on this book, please email me. Thank you.
Some Things that Catholics do not Believe.
We have already passed in review what seem to be the principal points of Catholic belief, and now, in order to meet the most common of the misapprehensions and misrepresentations on these matters, we will here state, hough it may be in part a repetition, some things that Catholics do not believe.
The strong, loving expressions used oftentimes by catholics, which seem to attribute to the Blessed Virgin more than is here stated, are to be understood in the limited sense meant by Catholics themselves, as here explained; that is, in a way consistent with the Cathoilc teaching and not in the unlimited, un-Catholic sense which persons not understanding that teaching may be led to apply to them. These tender expressions, I say, ought not to be judged of by cold or hostile criticism, for they spring from fervent, heart-felt devotion and unmeasured love.
If it were premitted to take offence at expressions which are only true in a limited sense, surely from those words of Scripture: "I have said; you are gods" (Psalm lxxxi. 6), one might argue that Holy Scripture holds certain men to be really gods. From the words of the Gospel: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, . . . . he cannot be by disciple" (St. Luke xiv. 26), one might pretend that Christ encourages the hating of parents and other relatives. That direction of our Lord: "If thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off" (St. Matth. v. 30) might be taken to justify self-mutilation. And from the words: "How knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife;" (I Corinth. vii. 16) some might argue that according to Scripture, a man can be the saviour of his wife.
If, therefore, even in the interpretation of Holy Scripture, it would be wrong to take in the full extent expressions that were meant in a qualified sense so still more unjust would it be to apply this wrong principle to expressions found in books of devotion or in religious poetical compositions, in which a certain latitude to the expansion of a warm heart is allowed.
It is a common practice among men to use expressions which are true only in a secondary and limited sense. For instance, a great poet or artist is spoken of as "divine," mothers often call their children their little "angels," "kings," and "queens," and are said to "adore" or "idolize" them, and no one thinks of blaming such tender exaggerations. And again, in the Marriage-Service in the Book of Common Prayer of the Established Church of England, the bridegroom has to say to the bride: "With my body I thee worship".
No one should take offence at these expressions; indeed, it would seem captious to do so; more especially when the speaker declares his meaning.
Cathoilcs hold that Protestants who have these dispositions, and who have no suspicion of their religion being false, and no means to discover, or fail in their honest endeavors to discover, the true Religion, and who are so disposed in their heart that they would at any cost embrace the Roman Catholic Religion if they knew it to be the true one, are Catholics in spirit and in some sense within the Catholic Church, without themselves knowing it. She holds that these Christians belong to, and are united to the "soul," as it is called, of the Catholic Church, although they are not united to the visible body of the Church by external communion with her, and by the outward profession of her faith.
Very different is the case of a person who, having the opportunity, neglects to learn from genuine trustworthy sources what the Catholic Religion is and really teaches, fearing, that were he to become convinced of the turth of the Catholic Faith, he would be compelled by his conscience to forsake his own religion, and bear the worldly inconveniences attached to this step. This very fear shows a want of good faith, and that he is not in that insurmountable ignorance which could excuse him in the sight of God, nut that he is one of those of whom it is said in Psalm xxxv. 4, "He would not understand that he might do well."
Fairness, no less than common sense, teaches that a man should study and examine the teaching of the Catholic Church from Catholic sources before condemning her. Surely no man ought to reject Catholic doctrine if he has not made himself well acquainted with them. Nor is is fair to form a judgment from misrepresentations made by ill-informed, interested, or prejudiced persons; one should rather, by the study of authorized Catholic works, judge of the truth with that calm and unprejudiced mind wich the all-important subject of Religion deserves. Thus having heard both sides, you will be in a state to pass a right judgment and not in danger of being misled by prejudice.
Our Saviour gave no hope of salvation to the Samaritan woman unless she entered the one true Church of the tine, saying to her who was destitute of a sure guide: "You adore that which you know not; we adore tha which we know; for SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS". (St John iv. 22.) So likewise there is no salvation for any one who, having by God's grace come to the knowledge of the truth, obstinately refuses to join the true Church of God.
There was no safety out of the Ark of Noë during the deluge, and no one can be saved who is in no sense within the true Church, prefigured by the Ark. According to St. Cyprian: "No one can have god for his Father who has not the Church for his Mother. If any one could escape the deluge out of the Ark of Noë, he who is out of the Church may also escape." (Book on the Unity of the Church.)
It is hard to understand how a Protestant can daily say in the Apostles' Creed, as many happily do still say, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," without at least a thought arising in his mind, that perhaps after all the Church which alone is truly Catholic or universal, both in name and in fact, has more claim on his love and obedience than his own denomination, which really is not Catholic.
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