THE DOCTRINE OF THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
“…Infallibility is the only guarantee we have that the Christian religion is true. Actually, if I, at this moment, did not believe in an Infallible Teacher appointed by God, then nothing on earth would induce me to believe in the Christian religion. If, as outside the Catholic Church, Christian doctrines are a matter of private judgement, and therefore the Christian religion a mere matter of human opinion, then there is no obligation upon any living soul to believe in it. Why should I stake my immortal soul on human opinion? For that is all you have if you refuse the Infallible Church.
WHY SHOULD I STAKE MY IMMORTAL SOUL UPON HUMAN OPINION? FOR THAT IS ALL YOU HAVE IF YOU REFUSE THE INFALLIBLE CHURCH.
In itself her claim may be reduced to this: the Catholic Church, when she defines a doctrine of Faith or morals, when she tells us what to believe and what to do; in a word, what the Christian religion is – then, and then only, she is prevented by God from making a mistake, from teaching untruth. The Church is God’s mouthpiece – His voice. Could God’s voice speak untruth?
Protestantism, claiming the Holy Ghost and presenting a jumble of contradictions, declares, in effect, that God does speak untruth. And only blinded reason prevents its adherents from seeing and admitting that unpalatable fact. Sanity alone should compel every thinking man to halt before the Catholic Church’s very claim.
‘CATHOLICS CANNOT THINK FOR THEMSELVES.’
It is commonly assumed that submission to an Infallible authority in religion involves slavery, that Catholics cannot think for themselves, that their reason is stifled, that they commit intellectual suicide. ‘No educated man could accept the medieval dogmas of the Catholic Church.’ Examined in the light of horse sense and human reason, that shibboleth of the modernist leaders is revealed in all its naked stupidity, as an irrational and unscientific piece of snobbery for gulling the masses and blinding them to the claims of the Catholic Church. In intent, since the dogmas are the same today, it means: ‘No educated man could submit to what the Catholic Church claims to be infallibly true’: or, more simply, ‘No educated man could submit to Infallibility in the matter of religion.’ For acceptance involves submission to the one Church that claims it.
IS REASON STIFLED; IS IT INTELLECTUAL SLAVERY – TO SUBMIT TO THE INFALLIBLE TRUTH OF THE LAW OF GRAVITY; DO MEN JUMP OFF CLIFFS ON THE CHANCE OF GOING UP INSTEAD OF DOWN?
The obvious reply is: ‘In the name of all that is sane – why not?’ When in every other department of life he is submitting to infallible truth already? Is slavery involved; is reason stifled; is it intellectual suicide – to submit to the infallible truth of the law of gravity; do men jump off cliffs on the chance of going up instead of down? To submit, as every scientist does, to the fixed data of science, believing them to be infallibly true; could he be a scientist at all, if he refused. To submit? To submit, as every educated man does, by eating, to the infallible truth that the human body needs food? To submit, even if he was not there and never saw it, to the infallible truth of [World War I]? To submit, as every mathematician does, to the multiplication table? To the axioms of Euclid?
To submit, as every honest businessman does, to the infallible principles of business honesty? As all businessmen do to the infallible requirements for running a business at all? Were a businessman to conduct his business as the modernists conduct their religion, he would close down as the modernists have closed down Christianity for themselves and their adherents.
Examples could be multiplied to show that in every department of life every rational being is already submitting to infallible truth. Is it rational or irrational to proclaim that no educated man could submit in the hundredth case, that of religion, when he submits in the other ninety-nine?
THE RATIONALITY LIES WITH THOSE WHO SUBMIT IN THE HUNDREDTH AND MOST VITAL CASE OF ALL.
On the face of it the rationality lies with those who submit in the hundredth and most vital case of all. Is it a sign of education to human opinions in preference to the revealed truths of God, who Himself declares that they were to be taught and accepted, or else refused under pain of eternal damnation? To prefer the negations of modernism to dogmas of the Church that MUST teach infallibly if she teaches Christianity, i.e., the revealed truths of God? Of the Church that MUST be infallible when she teaches the truth, since truth is an infallible thing?
‘COURAGE, BE OF GOOD CHEER, IT IS I.’
When, as far as reason was concerned, I was satisfied as to the unique claim of Rome, upon which all else depended, I decided to present my case for no longer remaining in the Church of England to one or two prominent scholars among its clergy. I did so. As far as I can recollect, the ‘refutations’ given me made no impression whatever. Though easily my superiors in scholarship, I had sufficient knowledge and logic to perceive that the great chain of Scriptural and historical evidence for the Catholic claim remained unbroken by excerpts from St Augustine, St Cyprian, and others, conveniently interpreted according to the will of the reader and not the mind of the author. It is little less than amazing to me now that scholars of repute should endeavour to counter the vast weight of evidence against them with what they themselves must in honesty admit is the less likely interpretation – to fit the rock to the pebble rather than the pebble to the rock.
To my case for leaving a church which was so plainly devoid, in view of its contradictions, of any divine teaching authority, I received no valid answer at all. Every conceivable argumentum ad hominem was presented: sentiment, ‘Roman fever,’ ‘intellectual suicide,’ treachery to the ‘Church of my Baptism,’ ‘corruption of Rome,’ the whole well-worn gamut of ‘objections’ was paraded. I had read them all, though, already, and found them untrue. The great FACTS about the Catholic Church were left standing – unassailable.
And those facts demanded submission.
HOME-COMERS TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DON’T REALLY HAVE A MOTIVE BASED ON REASON; RATHER, THEY ARE ‘GOT HOLD OF,’ ‘CAUGHT BY ROMAN PRIESTS.’
I have been asked again and again since I became a Catholic, why I left the Church of England, and often, the implication behind the question, if not actually expressed, has been that my motive for doing so could not have been based on reason. There is a prevalent idea that converts to Rome are in some mysterious manner ‘got hold of,’ or ‘caught by Roman priests.’
I would like to assure any non-Catholic who may happen to read this that converts are not ‘got hold of’ or ‘caught.’ In my own case I had rarely even spoken to a ‘Roman priest,’ before, of my own free will and with my reason already convinced, I went to consult one at the London Oratory. It is true that in doing so I was still full of Protestant suspicion and imagined that he would be extremely gratified to ‘get hold of’ a real live Anglican clergyman; I should make a splendid ‘catch.’
HE RECEIVED ME MOST CALMLY AND SHOWED NO SIGN OF EXCITEMENT.
The priest in question received me most calmly. He showed no sign of excitement; he did not stand on his head or caper about. He did not even appear to regard me as a particularly good ‘catch.’ He answered my questions and invited me to come again, if I cared to, but no more. I left, feeling several sizes smaller.
I learned many things, however, from that interview. It was so entirely different from the interviews with Anglican scholars. For the priest there was no difficult case to bolster up. Not a single question that I put to him presented ‘difficulties’. There were no awkward corners to get round. I believe his candidness about the human side of the Catholic Church almost startled me. Never once was he on his defence. All that I had been groping toward so painfully and laboriously was so obvious to him as to leave me wondering how it could ever not have been obvious to myself.
‘…MUCH MORE THAN STEPPING OUT OF A SMALL BOAT UNTO AN ATLANTC LINER…’
I realised, too, from that interview that ‘going over to Rome’ would be very much more than stepping out of a small boat on to an Atlantic liner. It would be no less than coming into the Kingdom of God on earth – and the Catholic Church was that Kingdom of God.
I was not coming on my own terms, but on hers. I was not conferring a privilege upon her; she was conferring an inestimable privilege upon me. I was not going to make myself a Catholic, the Catholic Church was going to make me one. There would be a formal course of instruction [RCIA; Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults], a real testing of my faith, and finally, a real submission to a living authority – the living authority of God on earth.
I hope I am wrong, but I have sometimes suspected that there are some who have never made their submission to the Catholic Church, and yet who have reached the point at which I stood, after seeing that priest; those whose reason has led them to entrance gates of the Kingdom of God, who have seen inscribed above them that word SUBMISSION in all its naked, uncompromising meaning – and turned away. I wonder if they can ever forget that they once looked into their mother’s eyes – and refused.
Reason may submit; the will may refuse.
It is a matter of dispositions and the grace of God, once conviction of the reason has been attained. Actually, it involves an UNCONDITIONAL surrender of the will to God – no easy task for a Protestant whose whole outlook in the spiritual direction has been determined by likes and dislikes, who has been accustomed to a religion that costs him little and claims the right of private judgement, who has detested being TOLD what to believe and what to do; in a word, who has been habitually indisposed, mentally and spiritually, for anything approaching unconditional submission of the will. I have no intention of hurting feelings, but I am convinced that the supreme difficulty for most Anglicans who would ‘like to go over to Rome,’ but do not, is their (unconscious perhaps) inability even to contemplate submission to the one Church that demands it. When the late Archbishop of Canterbury publicly proclaimed that he and the adherents of the Established Church would NEVER pass under a doorway upon whose lintel was inscribed the word SUBMISSION, he was precisely expressing the Protestant mind. Mercifully he was unaware that submission to the Catholic Church is submission to God.
I claim no credit, in my own case, for submitting; but rather blame for delaying so long – for the moral cowardice that hesitates to lay the onus of the consequences upon Almighty God, to burn one’s boats and take the plunge.
TAKING THE PLUNGE
When, by Divine Grace, I was ready, and had made my decision, there was only one thing to do. I told my vicar, packed my bags, and left the East End. At the London Oratory I placed myself under instruction and, later on, was received.
I would like to mention that my Protestant vicar and a curate who succeeded me in the parish are now also, both of them – priests of the Catholic Church.
‘WELL – AND WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND?’
‘Well – and what have you found?’
I will tell you – and what I was told I should find.
I was told that the Catholic Church always placed the Church before Christ – that Christ was kept in the background. I have found, on the contrary, that she places me in a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST that can never be attained outside – that Christ is her very being, by whom and for whom she exists, and to whom to unite her children is her one ceaseless care.
I was told that if I became a Catholic, my mind would be fettered, my reason stifled; I should no longer be able to think for myself. I have found on the contrary that the Catholic Church placed me on a platform of truth from which even a poor mind like mine can rise to fathomless heights. I have found the truth that sets men free.
I was told that in the Catholic Church it was all decay and stagnation. I have found, however, the very life of God Himself pulsing through every vein of His Mystical Body. It was like coming out of a small stuffy room with all the windows closed, and striding up to the top of some great hill with all the winds of heaven roaring round. I have found Life.
‘I HAVE FOUND LIFE.’
Instead of the hard spiritual tyranny of which I was told, I have found a loving Mother who supplies my every human need. Instead of corruption, sanctity unknown outside.
And sinners, too. For the Church of Christ does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Like her Master she ever seeks and saves that which is lost. She is big enough and loving enough to hold even sinners in the fold; if she did not, she would not be the Church of Christ.
Instead of hatred, I have found compassion for those outside – for the sheep without a shepherd. And I would that I could show them right into the heart of him whom men call the Pope of Rome – the shepherd of the sheep, the Vicar of Christ on earth; for then I would show them no ambitious autocrat striving for worldly power, but a loving father loved by his children as no other man on earth is loved.
And I have found the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The City of God.
That City that ‘hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.’
– This is an excerpt of “Through Hundred Gates” by Fr Owen Francis Dudley. [Title of this post and capital-lettered headings in the text added afterwards.] Published by The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, WI, USA, 1938