Catholicism And Americanism -- By: Austin Bierbower

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:274 (Apr 1912)
Article: Catholicism And Americanism
Author: Austin Bierbower

Catholicism And Americanism

Austin Bierbower

No power, perhaps, so tends to modify our American institutions and adversely affect the world’s progress as the Roman Catholic Church. The three ideas which underlie alike our government and man’s intellectual advancement are liberty, equality, and education. These embrace a variety of principles which find expression in our institutions, literature, and opinions; and these I shall consider with reference to this church.

The Roman Catholic Church is the most un-American, because most controlled by foreign influence. Others have severed their connection with other countries, and other ages. While holding friendly relations with churches everywhere, and considering ancient claims on their merits, the Protestant churches in America acknowledge no supremacy out of America. They are modern and local churches, holding that the people of the time and place should control their religion. As Roman Catholics, however, claim their church to be everywhere and always the same, they are largely controlled by other times and lands; so they have not the spirit of our age and country as Protestants have.

The principal idea of Roman Catholicism, which underlies its whole political and intellectual policy, is inequality, which is the opposite of our American principle, and places this church in opposition to our distinctively American aims. And

for this antagonism there is no remedy till the church ceases to be Catholic or our people to be American; and, as the Catholic Church is committed by its past against fundamental changes, and our people, by their increasing love of liberty and force of scientific thinking, are journeying in the opposite direction, there will never be a reconciliation, but rather a fatal conflict between the two.

This inequality of Catholicism appears, first, in the radical distinction between the clergy and the people, in which the former are deemed superiors, with a right of rule, and the latter subjects, obedient to them in the most important matters of life. The difference is radical, and of divine origin and sanction, and the separation final. The clergy, by reason of some “grace” or “initiation,” are never, when once clergy, anything else, and the people never assume their functions. Not only is it sacrilege to attempt it, but it has no effect if they do. Special powers ,are ascribed to the clergy, such as to change bread into the body of Christ, to declare the forgiveness of sins, to absolve from obligations, and to bind men in ways from which they alone can release them — in short, the clergy are thought to ,have many of the powers of deity and to direct what God may do with men. T...

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