244. Do you say that the Protestant faith is false?
There is no such thing as the Protestant faith. There are hundreds of varieties of Protestantism, each variety containing some true things mixed up with its own particular errors. As religious systems I say that all Protestant sects are wrong.
245. How does Protestantism in general disobey Christ?
In general it says that Scripture is a sufficient guide to salvation, although Scripture says that it is not; it denies the authority of the Church established by Christ; it has no sacrifice of the Mass; it does not believe in confession; it denies Christian teaching on marriage; it rejects Purgatory, and very often its advocates refuse to believe in Hell. But I could go on almost forever. Meantime, if you give me any doctrine taught by one Protestant Church, I will produce another Protestant Church which denies it, save perhaps the one doctrine that there is a God of some sort.
246. Would you call Protestants heathens?
Christ said, "If a man will not hear the Church, let him be as the heathen." Matt. XVIII, 17. He referred, of course, to a deliberate and willful refusal of a known obligation. If a man knows that the Catholic Church is the true Church, yet refuses to obey it, he will certainly be as the heathen before God. But Protestants who are ignorant of the truth of the Catholic claims, and who believe in Christ, trying to serve Him as best they can, would not be regarded as heathens. An exception is made in their case because of their lack of knowledge and because of their good dispositions.
247. Protestantism is not a protest against Christ, but against the Roman Church.
Christ promised that His Church would not fail. The Protestant Reformers said that it did fail. Instead of protesting merely against the bad lives of some Catholics, and even of some Priests, they went too far, and protested against the Church as such, asserting that Christ had failed to keep His promise concerning it. This was a protest against Christ, who had promised to be with His Church till the end of the world. Protest as much as you like against individual abuses in the Church, but no man has the right to set up a new Church.
248. But a re-formed Church is not a new Church.
Protestantism was not a true reformation of the Church. The identity of the Church is indissolubly linked with a continuous identity of doctrine, worship, and discipline. The so-called Reformation involved the abolition of essential doctrines, worship, and discipline, substituting completely different and humanly invented alternatives.
249. The Protestant Churches have as much right to say they have the truth as the Churches of the Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc., in early times.
You are supposing that the Protestant Churches have the same doctrine, worship, and discipline as those early Churches. But this is an unwarranted supposition. Those early branch foundations of the one true Church had the true doctrine, and were in communion with St. Peter, Bishop of Rome, who addressed his first Epistle to the Galatians and several other Churches. Protestant Churches do not hold the same doctrine as those early Churches, nor do they acknowledge the same obedience. Also, in all the countries where Protestant Churches exist, there exists also the Catholic Church which corresponds exactly with the Churches of the Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc.
250. According to you, Christ was a Catholic. All followers of Christ, therefore, belong to the Catholic Church.
Christ, as the Founder of the Catholic Church, was of course a Catholic. But your conclusion does not follow. Many profess to believe in Christ, but do not accept the whole of His teaching. They are mistaken. Certainly the Anglican does not believe in the correct doctrines of Christ if the Baptist does. The Catholic Church alone teaches the complete doctrine of Christ, and the only way to become a Catholic is to submit to her teaching authority and disciplinary directions.
251. Since Christ forbade divisions in the Church, you must admit that every Christian Church is a branch of the true Church. The Protestant Churches are but offshoots from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Protestant sects constitute a breakaway from the Catholic Church. That is their condemnation, for there could never have been a valid reason for leaving the Church established and guaranteed by Christ. In any case, branches of the Church must be living branches still retaining their union with the parent tree. The Catholic Church as established in England, or in America, or in Australia, fits in with the idea of living branches. But at best, the Protestant sects are branches sawn off, and without the true life of the tree. Protestant Churches are divisions from the Church, not co-ordinated parts within the Church, and making up one complete body.
252. You have no right to deny our claims. Christ meant Protestantism to be, or it would not exist,
On the same reasoning you would argue that because sin exists Christ meant it to be! Christ predicted that heresies would arise, but distinctly forbade men to abandon the Church and originate them.
253. God sends all for our good, and it is our fault if we do not make good use of Protestantism.
Not everything is sent by God. He permits some things which the perverse will of men causes, and He permitted the evil of heresy. However, He never permits any evil without drawing some good from it. There are many good Protestants despite the sin of those who began Protestantism. And it is undeniable that Protestantism occasioned the reform of many abuses among the members of the Catholic Church.
254. What right has the Catholic Church to arrogate to herself powers given by Christ, rather than any other body of believers?
None whatever. No body of believers has any right to arrogate to itself any powers at all in this matter, just as no ordinary citizen has the right to enter a court and declare himself to be judge. Yet a lawfully appointed judge has the right to act in virtue of his commission. The Catholic Church takes nothing upon herself, but she does endeavor to fulfill the commission given her by Christ. Historically she alone can possibly inherit the jurisdiction given by Christ to the Apostles, and handed down through tiie ages. All other churches exist because men arrogated to themselves the right to coin new doctrines and set up churches of their own.
255. We have the Creeds, Saints' Days, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. These things guarantee that we are true Christians.
Some Protestants have those things, at least theoretically. Others have some of them. Others have none of them. But in any case they would not prove Protestants to be true Christians. At most they prove that some Protestants are attempting to do some Christian things. But a true Christian accepts the complete teaching of Christ, and does all that He commands. And all is accepted on the authority of Christ, not on the authority of one's own human judgment. A self-made religion built upon a personally approved selection from the teaching of Christ does not give us the Christian religion.
256. Anyway, there are Protestants as good as Catholics, and the Protestant Church is as good as the Catholic Church.
The idea that there are Protestants as good as Catholics has no bearing on the question. There are very good and sincere Mahometans, but that does not make Mahometanism true. And again, there is not a Protestant Church, there are dozens of different brands of Protestantism. Tell me which brand of Protestantism is as good as the Catholic Church, and I shall tell you when it started and who started it. Christ certainly did not begin it.
257. Protestants at least are allowed to think for themselves.
And when they do they end in chaos, or with no religion at all! However, the chief characteristic of the majority of Protestants is absence of thinking on matters of religion.
258. If Protestantism continues because Protestants do not think, is not the same true of Catholicism?
No. There is no really rational foundation for Protestantism, and if Protestants did reflect soundly upon the subject they would discover this. But there is a rational foundation for Catholicism. All Catholics at least know that their Church would not be so vast and united, not to speak of its mere existence, after centuries of misrepresentation, hatred, and attack, were it not for the protection of God. And if they give deeper thought to the matter they find many other solid reasons for their conviction. Impartial study leads a man out of Protestantism. It never leads a man out of Catholicism.
259. Just the opposite is true. Catholics remain Catholics because they have never developed any reasoning powers on the subject of religion.
You show complete ignorance of Catholic theological works, written by the cleverest men of the centuries. St. Thomas Aquinas had the Catholic Faith very deeply, yet wrote probably the greatest masterpiece of religious thinking the world has ever seen.
260. You are most ungrateful, for your own change from Protestantism to Catholicism was due to the very freedom of thinking given you by Protestantism.
You are in a quandary. Catholics remain Catholics because they do not think, yet thinking led me to become a Catholic! However, Catholics are free to think as much as they like about religion, and the more the better. The Catholic Church merely keeps them from thinking wrongly. Protestants are free to think whatever they like, apparently, with no safeguard against error at all.
261. If all that you say is true, why is the British Empire Protestant?
Because the ancestors of its present members rejected and left the Catholic Church, setting up Churches of their own. But must the religion of the British Empire be the true religion? Is that the infallible test? If Anglicanism is true because it is British, we may as well add, "and because it is not French, or Spanish, or Italian, or German, or Austrian, etc." In other words, because it is not the religion for all nations established by Christ.
262. But surely the majority of the millions of Protestants would realise their mistake, if indeed they are mistaken. They would on any other important subject.
It is not certain that men would realize their mistakes on other subjects. In political and national affairs men differ hopelessly, and absurd political policies seem ever to find followers. Yet, even granted that men would realize their mistakes in other matters, they would not therefore realize the falsity of Protestantism. In the first place, religion is very different from other matters. It is not here a question of a merely intellectual admission. The acceptance of Catholicism is a complex matter demanding adherence of mind, heart, and will, under the influence of God's grace. The absence of one or other necessary condition can mean a dimming of one's powers of comprehension. And until a man sees the truth of Catholicism, he is liable to rest more or less content with the religion he has. Again, Protestant prejudice is a real, if unrealized, force in those educated under the influence of Protestantism, a force blinding people to the defects of Protestantism, and to the merits of Catholicism. I remember a man who went through many forms of Protestantism, ending in Agnosticism, and who replied to my question as to whether he had ever studied Catholicism, "No. But Catholicism can't be right!" Protestantism had ceased to grip him positively, yet still left the negative poison in his system, "Rome must be wrong—I would not even consider it." Finally, and especially with Englishmen, the Protestant religion has been so blended with nationalism that it has become a matter of sentiment and patriotism. Its adherents go far more by feeling and emotion than by reason and true faith. Indeed it has been said strongly, yet not without a degree of truth, that when an Englishman enters his Church, he leaves his brains on the doormat. In other words, the average Protestant gives little real thought to his religious position at all.
263. That Protestantism commends itself more to men is evident from the fact that it is not attacked as is Catholicism.
The world is not afraid of Protestantism, which has always been ready to water down Christian obligations to suit it. But instinctively the world hates and fears the Catholic Church, which will make no compromise, but insists upon the fullness of Christian doctrine, comfortable or uncomfortable. She insists upon the intellectual obedience of faith; disciplinary submission of the will; the impossibility of divorce and re-marriage; the iniquity of birth-control by evil means; the inadequacy of a merely secular education. Her repetition of Christ's axiom, "Deny thyself; take up thy cross; and follow Me," interferes too much with the comfort of men. If Christianity demanded merely the admission of a few religious doctrines, men would not object to it. But since it imposes moral obligations difficult for human nature, I am not surprised that men refuse it in its original and austere form when they are offered a less exacting substitute with the assurance that it is just as good.
264. Are not the Protestant Churches at least working for reunion?
Not for reunion with the Catholic Church. Meantime, if they were to unite among themselves, the union would not last a generation. As long as men refuse to submit to the Catholic Church, they will insist upon the right to think for themselves and build up systems accordingly. If Protestantism grants the right of private judgment, it may secure the cry, "Good. I think Catholicism wrong." But it must be prepared to hear the words, "And I think Protestantism wrong also." Already-established Protestantism can say nothing, and the man sets up for himself. So it will go on. The Catholic Church alone can preserve true unity. Every year finds Protestantism splitting up into still further sects, and in the end it will fall, as must every house divided against itself.
h/t to GonzoII