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through a full repentance, there is more gained than by the bloodiest spectacle of terror; than though his mangled limbs were broken on the wheel, his body gibbeted, or given to the fowls of the air." *
As might have been anticipated from this eloquent appeal, but still inore from the freedom of our institutions, the court held the priest exempt from answering the questions proposed to him. It was gratifying to Catholic feeling, that a guaranty was thus solemnly given to so sacred a trust. Had the decision been different, the venerable Jesuit father, rather than betray his ministry, would have doubtless gone to prison, like the Augustinian Gahan, who refused to manifest the nature of the communication which he had with Lord Dunboyne at his death,— nay, he would have sacrificed life itself, like St. John of Nepomuck, who was assassinated by order of Wenceslas, king of Bohemia, because he would not reveal the confession
of the queen.
A word in regard to the nature of the secrecy of the confessional may be allowed us, before closing this article. It implies no more than the inviolability of the confidence reposed by the penitent in the confessor, who, under no circumstances, can reveal, to any one whatever, any sin disclosed to him in consession, or any circumstance manifested in connection with it, or make any use of the knowledge so obtained to the pain or prejudice of the penitent. There is no obligation on the penitent to declare his name, or the name of his accomplice, or to make any specifications, beyond the acknowledgment of his sins, so that he may preserve a perfect incognito, but if he be known to the confessor, he is nevertheless sure that his confidence will never be betrayed.
It has puzzled us sometimes to understand a charge of immorality advanced by some against confessors on the score of this inviolable secrecy. They appear horrified at the principle laid down by St. Thomas, that a confessor, if summoned as a witness, may deny on oath all knowledge of facts known to him only on the confession of the penitent. Yet who does not know that evidence is sought for in courts of justice only as procured by ordinary means? The priest can testify fully, to the extent of any other witness, as to what he has seen, or what he has heard, in any way in which information can be had by others. It must be presumed that he is called on only as an individual deriving information through channels open to all; and were the design of the court manifestly directed to discover sacramental secrets, it is so unjust that a refusal to comply would be a vindication of natural right to be true to confidence reposed in the witness, and a denial of all knowledge of the fact would be necessarily understood in a qualified sense, of knowledge such as a witness could possess. The iniquity of the attempt would put the hearers on their guard against the danger of mistaking the reply as extending to sacramental knowledge. The culprit, pleading “ Not guilty,” is not thought to utter a falsehood, since his denial receives a modified interpretation from the circumstances; the lawyer, denying all knowledge of transactions which his client communicated in confidence, is understood of ordinary information, such as he might communicate without detriment to official relations; and the ambassador, who professes not to know the secrets of his royal master, is not branded as a liar by those who are acquainted with the language of diplomacy.
* Catholic Question, p. 89.
But it is time to relieve our readers from the consideration of a subject which, though of high importance, may not, as presented by us, have the attractions of many other topics of
ART. III.-An Essay on the Development of Christian Doc
trine. By John Henry Newman. New York : Appleton & Co. 1845. 8vo.
OUR readers do not need to be informed that the distinguished author of this work on the Development of Christian Doctrine, has, within the last year, been admitted to the communion of the Holy Catholic Church ; for who has not heard of the event, and what Catholic heart has it not filled with devout joy and gratitude ? Mr. Newman has stood for several years before the public as a man of rare gifts and acquirements; he was at the head of a very influential
party in the Anglican communion, and appears to have enjoyed a personal esteem, and exerted a personal influence, which seldom fall to the lot of any but the master minds of their age or country. We may well, then, look upon his conversion with more than ordinary gratitude to the great Head of the Church, and as an event of more than ordinary significance.
Mr. Newman appears, from all we know of his history, to have commenced his career with sincere attachment to the schismatical communion in which he was born and reared, and to have felt that he owed it all his genius, talents, attainments, labors, and affections; but almost from the first it was seen by close observers that he cherished aspirations and tendencies which, if faithfully followed, must ultimately lead him out of that communion, or destroy the communion itself by absorbing it in the Catholic Church. Hence the great importance which has been attached to his movements, and the lively interest with which his various publications have been read. Some almost flattered themselves that he and his friends would so far Catholicize the Establishment as to render its restoration to Catholic unity feasible and certain ; others, looking upon this as improbable, since it would find an insuperable obstacle in English politics, thought it more likely that his movement would end in his own individual conversion, and that of a considerable number of his friends and followers ; others, again, among whom were we ourselves, thought it still more likely that he would stop short in his course, and make up his mind to live and die an Anglican. We felt, on reading the famous Tract 90, that the man who could write such a tract would never want ingenious reasons to justify to himself any course he might choose to adopt. But we did not take sufficiently into the account the difficulties of the position of one standing, like Mr. Newman, outside of the Church, nor make sufficient allowance for the dimness and indistinctness with which Catholic truth ordinarily at first dawns on the Protestant mind, and for the length of time it usually requires to ascertain how much of our past life we may retain, and how much we must give up, in order to place the several parts of our new belief in harmony with each other. We humbly and devoutly thank Almighty God that we were wrong ; that we relied too little on the power of divine grace; and that, contrary to our expectations, Mr. Newman, and a large number of his friends, have already been permitted to enter that communion, out of which it is madness to suppose we can please God, or secure the salvation of our souls.
We have no disposition to speculate on the probable effect of the recent conversions in England. It may be that Almighty God is about to visit, in the riches of his mercy, the deeply sinning land of our forefathers, and, for his own greater glory, to restore her, contrary to her deserts, to the bosom of Catholic unity. Appearances everywhere indicate that our good God is at present interposing in a special manner in behalf of his Church, and by a thousand ways preparing the return of the misguided children of the so-called Reformation to their allegiance, to the love and embrace of their Holy Mother, who has never ceased to weep over their folly and madness, and to beseech her heavenly Spouse to save them from themselves. But, whatever may be the ulterior purposes of Him who orders all things well, the conversion of even one soul is sufficient to warrant the fullest joy and gratitude the heart of man can entertain ; and we have superabundant cause of devout thanksgiving in what he has already effected. It is enough for us to trust ourselves, and all, lovingly to him, and to pray unceasingly that his will may be done in all and in each.
The book before us appears to have been designed to indicate, to some extent, the process by which its gifted author passed in his own mind from Anglicanism to Catholicity, and to remove the principal objections to the Catholic Church, which he himself had raised in his previous publications. As the production of a strong, active, acute, and cultivated mind, enriched with various but not always well digested erudition, brought up in the bosom of heresy and schism, nurtured with false learning, false philosophy, vague and empty theories, gradually, under divine grace, working its way to the truth which gleams from afar, but which the intervening darkness renders fitful and uncertain ; it is a work of more than ordinary interest, and one which the enlightened and philosophic few, fond of psychological researches, and of tracing the operations of sectarian or individual idiosyncrasies, may read perhaps with profit. A Protestant, ignorant, as Protestants usually are, of Catholicity, may even fancy the work substantially Catholic, and regard its theory as a convenient one for the Church, and one which she may, without prejudice to any of her claims, if not accept, at least tolerate. It is evident, from the first page of the work, that the author has made up his mind ; that he is writing under the full conviction that he must seek admission into the Roman Catholic communion; and that, in his judgment, the theory he is putting forth in justification of the step he has resolved to take is, to say the least, perfectly compatible with Catholic authority and infallibility. He frankly accepts, and in some instances elaborately defends, the principal dogmas and usages of the Catholic Church, and especially those which are in general the most offensive to Protestants; and so little suspicion has he of the unsoundness of his work, so orthodox does he hold it,
that he does not scruple, even after his conversion, to publish it to the world. And yet we presume he himself is now prepared to concede, that, when he was writing this book, he was still in the bonds of Protestantism ; that he had not as yet set his foot on Catholic ground ; that he had not crossed the Jordan, had not even surveyed the promised land from the top
of Mount Pisgah, and that he knew it only by vague rumor and uncertain report. All, to his vision, is dim and confused. He stumbles at every step, and stammers at every word. He puts forth a giant's strength, but only to wrestle with phantoms; and gives us learned and elaborate theories to explain facts which he himself shows are no facts, - ingenious and subtile speculations, where all that is needed, or is admissible, is a plain yes
From first to last, he labors with a genius, a talent, a learning, a sincerity, an earnestness, which no one can refuse to admire, to develope Protestantism into Catholicity. Vain effort! As well attempt to develope the poisonous sumach into the cedar of Lebanon.
Whatever may have been Mr. Newman's estimation of his work when writing or consenting to publish it, we cannot doubt that he now judges it as we do. He has now a practical and a filial acquaintance with the Church. He has been permitted to approach her Holy Sacraments ; he has eaten “ the food of angels” ; his heart has been elevated and his vision purged. He is now not an alien, but a son, and a son who can have no will but that of his Holy Mother. No foolish pride of opinion, or mistaken notions of self-respect, can make him cling now to past utterances, because they were his, and labor to defend views which he could have entertained only while yet in ignorance, or, at best, seeing “men only as trees walking.” His glory is in getting rid of the old Protestant leaven, and in receiving, on the authority of God in the Church, all the sacred truths which she believes and teaches, and as she believes and teaches them. He cannot feel that it derogates from true dignity and consistency of character to give up falsehood for truth, or to abandon a once cherished theory, when once seen to be both unnecessary and inadmissible. It implies no reproach to him that he was not able, at the time and under the circumstances, from the position in which his Protestantism had placed him, with the training he had received, and the little recourse he had had to the authorized living teacher, to produce a work less uncatholic, and less open to grave objections. The work is all that he could have reasonably expected it to be ; and in
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