THE CATHOLIC PILGRIMAGE
Feed My Sheep
Witness to Christ
Age of Missionaries
Age of Reformers
Age of Teachers
Age of Critics
Age of Catholic Defenders
Age of Rationalism
Era of Liberation
WITNESS TO CHRIST (- - - 500 A.D.)
LIKE A TRAVELER, man must hurry through an ever changing world. The Bible tells
how the Jews wandered in the Sinai desert in transit from Egyptian slavery to their
God-promised Land of Palestine. Their course is symbolic of Christian man's historical
pilgrimage through an unbelieving world to the Promised Land of Heaven.
The Guide for this pilgrimage is Emmanuel, the Son of God. Who became man that
man might find his way back to God. In becoming man and dying for man, in defeating
sin and death through His resurrection, Christ fashioned brotherhood with men so that
all might be reborn of Christ's Holy Spirit to higher life and love. Christ's union with
man would not only be through the inner, personal help of grace, but would also
involve a sharing in a religious society, a Church, called His mystic body: "Now you
are the body of Christ, member for member" (1 Cor. 12:27). Through time and space
Christ continues His leadership of a new People of God so that basically: "Jesus Christ
is the same, yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Heb. 13:8).
APOSTOLIC WITNESSES (30-100 A.D.)
Christ chose to save men through men-freely. He had attracted disciples and from them
chose twelve leaders whom He called apostles (Luke 6:14), delegates. Their immediate
personal task was to be witnesses (Acts 1:8) to Christ's life, teaching, death, and
resurrection. Courageously they carried out this commission throughout the
Mediterranean civilized world. Once inspired and emboldened by the promised
coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:2f.), they testified: "This Jesus God has
raised up and we are all witnesses of it" (Acts 2:32), " Him God exalted with His right
hand to be Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, and
we are witnesses of these things" (Acts 5:30).
The official and long-term task of these apostles and their successors "unto the
consummation of the world" was to rule Christ's Church under Christ, its now invisible
Head, and the Holy Spirit, its soul. Christ had given them a custodian's power,
symbolized by keys. (Matt. 16:19;18:18). On one of them, Simon Peter, and his
successors Christ had promised to build His Church (Matt. 16:18), to him He had
pledged unfailing faith apt to rally others (Luke 22:32), to him this Good Shepherd had
committed His own flock: "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).
The inspired Acts tell how Peter and the Apostles discharged their duty with the
meekness of Christ (Acts 2-15). The early Church's greatest crisis came when convert
Jews would have imposed on convert Gentiles observance of the Mosaic Law. Under
Peter's presidency the Apostolic Council asserted: "We believe that
we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus," and then "the whole meeting
quieted down" (Acts 15:11-12).
The way lay open for mass conversion of the Gentiles, especially through the inspired
preaching and writings of Paul. As Gentiles came to prevail in what was at first a
Jewish sect, the disciples came to be called Christians (Acts 11:26), and Catholics (St.
Ignatius, , 8). Peter shifted his headquarters from Jerusalem to Greek
Antioch, and eventually to Rome itself where he was martyred along with Paul about
67. All the other apostles shared their martyrdom save John, guardian of Christ's
Mother Mary, Mother of Apostles, Mother of the Church (John 19:27; Acts 1:14). John
survived to the close of the first Christian century to ensure the Church's fidelity to the
Master and to predict its future in the Apocalypse.
AGE OF MARTYRS (100-313)
"Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife on account
of the office of episcopate. . .For this reason. . . they appointed that when these should
fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in the ministry. . ." (St. Clement,
. 1, 42, 44). The Apostles had worthy successors, not only in the office of
shepherding Christ's flock, but in fidelity to Christian witness. Hear but one of these, St.
Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 107). "There is only one Physician, both carnal and spiritual,
born and unborn, God become man, true life in death, sprung from Mary and from
God, first subject to suffering and then incapable of it: Jesus Christ our Lord"
(, 7). "You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed
that of the Father. . .Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where
Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (, 8). "Take care to partake of
one Eucharist, for one is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us
with his blood" (, 4).
Three centuries of testimony, written in the blood of martyrs like Ignatius, guarantee
the faithful transmission of the Gospel in the Catholic Christian Church.
Christ had demanded man's supreme loyalty to God without denying Caesar's rights
(Matt.22:22). But a totalitarian Roman Empire held its official idolatry to be the test of
patriotism and waged war on Christ's disciples for three centuries. The Church
survived this ordeal with divine protection (John 16:33) . It did more than survive, it
gradually won over its persecutors because of the exemplary lives of the average
Christians; the invincible courage of martyrs, especially women and children; the
apostolic zeal of believers; the international and classless outlook of a Church in a
melting pot of peoples; and the sublimity of its doctrine as contrasted with the outworn
misery of pagan myth and sensuality. When the great Constantine ended the
persecutions in 313, perhaps only a tenth of the Empire's 50,000,000 to 75,000,000
citizens were Christians. But they were the most able and progressive and the future
Christian life survived above or under ground-in the catacombs. The walls of these
cemeteries and escape tunnels still reveal Christian belief in Christ, the Good Shepherd,
in His Virgin Mother Mary. in the leadership of Peter, the new Moses. There are
pictured baptism in water; Eucharistic gatherings; there are inscriptions: "in Christ"; "in
peace"; "Marcella and 150 martyrs of Christ," etc. Such death was victory: "The blood of
Christians is seed" (Tertullian, , 50).
Already hermits and monks were beginning to people the deserts ofEgypt and
Palestine. Apologists pleaded the Christian cause before pagan persecutors; polemicists
defended Catholic orthodoxy and unity against self-willed innovators, for "he who has
not the Church for his mother cannot have God for a father" (St. Cyprian, , 4-6).
AGE OF THE FATHERS (315-565)
Constantine the Great, first Christian emperor, made it possible to hold the first general
council of the Church, at Nicea in 325. It had been provoked by the Alexandrian
rationalist Arius who argued from human analogy that if a son is always younger than
his father, Christ as Son of God could be neither everlasting nor divine. The 300
Catholic bishops at Nicea firmly replied that though faith never contradicts reason, the
norm in church teaching is not human intelligence but divine, that is, faith in God's
revealed word. One of the conciliar members, St Athanasius, noted: "The fathers of
Nicea never said of faith: 'It is decreed,' but: 'Thus the Catholic Church believes'; and in
declaring what they believed, they declared it to be not a recent, but an apostolic
doctrine. What they committed to writing was not discovered by themselves, but the
same things that the apostles taught, they taught" (On , 5). In rebuttal of
Arius, the Christian Church still recites the Nicene Creed: "We believe in one God, the
Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father,
God of God. . ."
Unfortunately the peaceful sequel of the Jerusalem council was not repeated after
Nicea. The primitive disciplined charity of the early Christians had been diluted by
self-willed scholars, ambitious politicians, and easy-going laxists, now that Christianity
during the fourth century was becoming favored, and soon the official, religion of the
Empire. Constantine, and especially his successors, were prone to "Caesaro-Papism":
the Christian imperial government desired to run the Church just as pagan Roman
rulers had regulated religion from time immemorial.
Arians and semi-Arians were only first of a long line of pressure groups that sought to
advance their ideas and interests by winning the government to endorse their stand.
But courageous bishops were not lacking. Hosius, president of the Nicene Council, told
the pro-Arian ruler Constantius: "Intrude not yourself into the Church's business and
give us no command regarding it, but instead learn from us. God has placed in your
hands the Empire; to us He has committed administration of His Church . . . It is not
permitted to us to bear rule on earth, nor have you the right to burn incense" (St.
Athanasius, , 44). And St. Ambrose later told Theodosius the Great:
"The emperor is in the Church, not above it" (, 36). Fifty years of
imperial coercion and church politics failed to overthrow the Nicene Creed. In 381 the
bishops met again in general session at Constantinople, reaffirmed the Creed, and for
benefit of those who had denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, added: "We believe in
the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life; He proceeds from the Father, is adored and
honored together with the Father and the Son; He spoke through the prophets." Lest
any in future doubt where doctrinal authority lay, the Fathers gave marks for the
Church: "We believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church." It required two more
councils, those at Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), to formulate the teaching on
Christ. For, declared the conciliar fathers, both Scripture and Tradition attest that God
revealed in Christ not a split personality nor a dual personality; not a ghost with the
appearance of a body; not a demi-god, half divine, half human; but Jesus Christ, God-
Man, two distinct but harmonious natures in one Person. God's humanity toward man
was assured. Meanwhile in the West, Bishops under St. Augustine's lead opposed the
Pelagian denial of grace. They defined that man does receive this share in the divine
nature, and that he does need this Christ-merited heavenly help in order to be saved.
The "Fathers of the Church," as they are called, holy and learned bishops and priests of
the early Church, worked out these basic theological principles, these words about God
that Christian men live by. Theirs was not the job of inventing doctrine; God's
revelation had taken care of that. Theirs was the problem of finding the first human
words to expound the doctrine aptly to the people of their age. To name but a few, Sts.
Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom, and the two Cyrils in the East, and Sts. Ambrose,
Jerome, and Augustine in the West expressed in classic terms the Church's meditation
on the word of God. Jerome made the lasting "Vulgate" version of the Bible in the
common western tongue, Latin. Augustine's genius provided the Church with a
theological analysis that was popular for a thousand years, and has never lost value.
His vision of a Christian City of God on earth became the ideal of the Middle Ages.
Liturgy in a Church emerging from the catacombs became organized. Admission to
baptism was preceded by a careful period of training and testing called the
catechumenate. Baptism, followed immediately by Confirmation was a community rite.
Should anyone desert baptismal pledges of loyalty to Christ in a serious and public
way, he was obliged to do public penance before God and His Church, penance severe
and humiliating, but also rich in faith and grace. Eucharistic liturgy was enhanced with
additional prayers and rites; this Christian sacrifice and meal was already called by St.
Ambrose "the Mass." Bishops and priests concelebrated, minor clergy ushered and kept
order, all of the Christian faithful took part in making offerings, in praying and singing,
and in receiving the body and blood of the Lord. Ritual also accompanied ordination to
the priesthood, marriage of Christian spouses with priestly blessing, and the "veiling of
a virgin," or religious profession. All in all, there was far more popular participation in
the life of the Church than in that of the State as the declining Roman Empire became
dictatorial while it collapsed in the West under barbarian infiltration. Liturgy, which
once meant public civil service, now came to signify public church service.
Not that there were not also titans of Christian individualism. Sts. Anthony, Pachomius,
and Benedict were pioneers in monastic lives of dedicated prayer and penance; Sts.
Basil and Chrysostom were organizers of elaborate Christian welfare centers in the
East. St. Fabiola, penitent divorcee, sponsored the first Christian hospital at Rome;
Almachius ended the pagan gladiatorial combats at the sacrifice of his life. Epitaphs
remind us that there were Christian soldiers, officials, hair-dressers, vegetable growers,
laborers, etc. Slowly the Christian spirit made some impression on the world; torture on
the cross was abolished; slavery was eased and regulated; Sunday became a holiday;
churches and shrines were built.
AGE OF MISSIONARIES (500-1000)
THE CIVILIZED WORLD in which Christianity had been born did not endure, save at
Constantinople. Barbarians of the stage of civilization of pre-Columbian American
Indians took over most of the Roman Empire from the fifth century onward, and for
nearly five hundred years disrupted and retarded its institutions. That anything of
Roman culture survived was due chiefly to the Catholic Christian Church which
eventually became the bond in fusing civilized Roman subjects with their barbarian
Teutonic conquerors into a single commonwealth. The Church's hierarchical structure
provided what order did survive, and tutored barbarian warlords into becoming
Christian princes. There were not lacking racists, both pagan and Christian, who
despised the newcomers, but the Church's leaders insisted that love of souls must come
before bodily snobbery. In this sense the whole Christian Church was a cultural
missionary of the first order.
National missionaries, however, had to be found and were found among the clergy and
monks of the old Roman world. While the Germans poured into Gaul, now France, St.
Patrick pressed beyond the ancient imperial frontier to bring Christian faith to Ireland.
Here he planted a tradition of learning and apostolic zeal that induced his converts of
later generations to re-civilize and re-Christianize the German invaders of Britain and
the Continent: such was the work of Sts. Columkil, Columban, and others.
Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604), last of Roman patricians, generously planned for
a Christian Teutonic future. He himself treated with the Lombard invaders of Italy; he
assisted the conversion of Visigothic settlers in Spain; and sent his aide St. Austin to re-
evangelize England. Subjected to Christian influences from both Rome and Ireland,
England became itself a mission center, sending out St. Wilibrord to the Frisians along
the North Sea, and St. Winifred alias Boniface to the Germans. When Boniface died a
martyr in 754 at the hands of the Saxons, central Europe had been converted or
reconverted. His dying words, "Take courage, weapons cannot harm souls," were taken
to heart by his disciples: St. Anscar or Oscar went to Denmark and Sweden, and St.
Adalbert to Bohemia, Hungary, and Prussia, where he was martyred. All these and
many others organized their converts under the Latin or Western Church under the
immediate supervision of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.
The Greek or Eastern Church, not yet separated from Catholic unity sent out Sts. Cyril
and Methodius to the Slavs, and eventually the Slavonic peoples of Russia and the
Balkans accepted instruction and liturgy from Constantinople. Unfortunately later they
shared in the unhappy schism arising in 1054 from the clash of a Greek patriarch and
the Roman Cardinal Humbert.
TO THE VERY ENDS OF THE EARTH
Nor was it to the Roman Empire or Europe that the "worldwide Catholic Church"
() confined her efforts. St. Gregory the Illuminator was
apostle of Armenians; St. Frumentius went to the Ethiopians; the Persians had heard of
Christianity by the second century; India had seen missionaries by the third century, if
not earlier. Monuments prove Christian arrival in China by the seventh century. In 800
Christians were in Iceland; before 1000 they were in Greenland. During the Middle
Ages a Catholic bishop presided over this north country from his see of Gardar in
Greenland. Christ's prediction had been verified: "You shall be witnesses for me in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the very ends of the earth" (Acts 1
Obstacles to yet further missionary growth were many. There was the rise of the
militant religion of Islam founded by Mohammed, which spread an iron curtain
around the Mediterranean Sea for centuries. It engulfed ancient Christian lands and the
centers of Carthage, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch. It barred access to the Holy
Land to all but the hardiest of pilgrims, and long delayed missionary expansion into
Asia and Africa. Even Europe was not spared: all of Spain and the south of Italy were
under Moslem rule for considerable periods, and the Balkans would later fall to the
Turks. Other restless peoples threatened Christian civilization: from central Asia
erupted periodically untamed Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Magyars, Mongols. From the
north Norsemen raided and invaded the British Isles and sailed up the rivers of the
Continent, looting churches and monasteries. No wonder that "Dark Ages" fell upon
religious and secular learning, and the help of bishops, clergy, and monks was sought
almost as much for social service as for religious instruction. Bishops were chosen as
governors, defense attorneys, as landlords and managers of agrarian cooperatives, and
even as generals.
Such in fact was the origin of the Papal States. Italians, attacked on the south by
Mohammedans and on the north by Teutonic Lombards, implored assistance from the
emperors, since 330 habitually resident at Constantinople. But the eastern rulers had
their own problems; after the death of Justinian the Great in 565, they gave little but
advice. Since imperial representatives in Italy failed to take effective action, the people
besought the popes for aid. Even during the fifth century St. Leo the Great went on
peace missions for the Roman Senate to Attila the Hun and Genseric the Vandal. Times
were far worse in the days of St. Gregory the Great (590-604), yet he did not neglect to
do what he could. He saved Rome itself from capture, kept open a corridor across Italy,
negotiated with Lombard chiefs, helped manage estates put under his protection.
Under his successors these unsought papal social services increased until the eighth
century pope and Italians, despairing of further help from Constantinople, sought it
from the new king of the Franks, Pepin. He proved as good as his word, saved Rome
from the Lombards, and placed the city and vicinity under direct papal administration.
The grateful Pope Stephen named Pepin patrician or protector of the Papal States.
Pepin's son, Charles the Great (768-814), completed this work. Once he had conquered
Boniface's murderers, the Saxons, had turned back the Moravians in the east and Moors
in the south, he freed the papacy permanently from the Lombard peril. On Christmas,
800, the grateful Pope Leo III with Roman approval crowned Charles emperor. As
secular head of the Christian Commonwealth, Charles inaugurated the thousand year
First German Reich. This "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" was to ensure
international unity and order in the West. Charles did bring peace in his time and
promoted a brief renaissance of law and learning. But his empire fell to pieces under
his ninth century successors. A Dark Age ensued when Feudal Iron Men little different
from more modern gangsters became local tyrants. Eventually, however, the Empire
was restored by Otto the Great (936973) and gradual improvement followed. But papal
institution of an empire in the West had alienated the East. Its rulers were deeply
offended and political estrangement was added to linguistic and cultural differences.
Soon a clash of personalities served to make the cleavage religious as well.
THE BENEDICTINE CENTURIES
Monastic rays of light were not lacking even in these Dark Ages. They shone from
abbeys isolated by choice from worldly turmoil and soon lacking anything worth
plundering. These were the "Benedictine centuries" when the monastery was the only
surviving refuge of culture. It furnished what hospitality it could to refugees and
travelers; it taught peasants of the surrounding countryside what scientific farming
survived from Roman days; it provided rulers and landlords who cared with the arts of
writing and computing. The chief work of the monastery was to praise God: the "work
of God," due performance of the liturgy of Mass and Office must go on. This always
presupposed a minimum of learning and preservation of the means for study. Copies
of the Holy Scriptures, the regulations of the Church, and the liturgical books were kept
and studied; if there was leisure, not only practical books like grammars, but classics
were available. It is difficult today to evaluate the quiet heroism of monks copying by
hand the tools of civilization so that its light might not be wholly extinguished.
Unavoidable losses occurred during this clerical-monastic crisis. Necessary
preoccupation with temporal affairs and social relief by clergy and monks always
carried with it the peril of worldliness, and this was increased if unworthy rulers,
secular or religious, gained control in the locality. Perhaps the chief danger may have
been the development of clergy and monks into a privileged class of experts, utterly
separate from the laity. There was risk that in ecclesiastical as well as contemporary
secular society, the ordinary folk would be reduced to passive second-class citizens, or
worse, imperfect, second-rate Christians. Providentially at no time during the Middle
Ages did this become wholly or universally true. Even if some prelates became "prince-
bishops" and "lord-abbots," others continued to be spiritual fathers and responsible
shepherds, while the rank and file of the parish clergy and the monks were always
close to the country people and sympathetic to them- sometimes unfortunately too close
and too sympathetic. But differences were inevitably rising. In a society where the
majority were illiterate and even most nobles could barely sign their names, the clergy
were the only comparatively learned group.
By the eighth century Latin was understood by the clergy alone; by its side were rising
the "vulgar tongues": early Italian, Spanish, French, etc., still largely unwritten, and
existing in hundreds of dialects. Hence the Latin liturgy gradually became
unintelligible to the common people, but there was no written or widely used
vernacular into which a convenient translation could be made-and even if it had been
made, who could have read it? The faithful by no means ceased to go to church; but
they became more silent. If their awe and reverence increased, their active participation
waned. The Eucharist was no longer their "daily bread"; in the thirteenth century they
had to be commanded to receive once a year.
Then, too, pagan superstitions, rough customs and morals, ordeals, duels, died hard.
Christianity required centuries to make thorough believers, and what is more, active
doers. Yet this must not be exaggerated; for this world as well as the next, the Church
was the medieval poor man's salvation. For centuries, it alone gave free service,
pleaded his cause, and offered him refuge and protection. Its liturgy gave him
consolation and wonder; its sermons inspired what idealism there was-for always
Epistle and Gospel were read and explained in ordinary language, along with the
Creed and Ten Commandments. The Church's holy days were the medieval serf's chief
holidays; its properties were available for gatherings, feasts, plays. The painted and
sculptured walls of the church were the illiterate's Bible and Church history.
AGE OF REFORMERS (950-1150)
THE DARK AGES were not of the Church's making, she had to make the best of
conditions following a breakdown of secular society. But she did not merely endure
these conditions, she launched a program of reform that eventually brought light and
order back to Europe.
The "Peace of God" movement has been traced to a meeting of bishops in Aquitaine 989
to condemn private warfare. Out of this protest grew with lay support the sworn
"Truce of God," a pledge for vigilantes who promised either to renounce private
warfare altogether, or to restrict it to certain days of the week, and to recognize at least
some non-combatants. In the absence of a state police force prior to restoration of strong
monarchy during the thirteenth century, this peace pact was a considerable
improvement; later it was endorsed by the general Church councils of the twelfth and
Another objective attempted by the Church was to provide the gangsters with a code of
honor: to remake them into chivalrous knights still armed horsemen, but men with a
mission. Before becoming a knight a candidate was supposed to fast and keep vigil in a
church. Then his sword was blessed with some such invocation: "Hear, O Savior, our
prayers and bless by the hand of Thy Majesty this sword with which your servant
desires to be girded in order to defend and protect the churches, widows, orphans, and
all servants of God against the cruelty of pagans." Out of this institution arose the
Crusades for recovery of the Holy Land and liberation of the Christian prisoners in the
Mediterranean area. Pope Urban II, preaching to those enlisted for the First Crusade in
1095, put the aim bluntly: "Soldiers of hell, become soldiers of Christ." The resulting
crusades were wars, but they were just wars that were primarily defensive, wars that
probably saved Europe and western civilization.
THE ORDER OF CLUNY
Monastic reform had started even earlier. St. Benedict's original plan had been to make
each abbey a self-governing "school of divine service." But when public order broke
down during the Feudal era, many monasteries fell into the grasp of local tyrants and
there was no redress. St. Berno of Cluny (d. 927) and a courageous line of succeeding
abbots conceived of a great monastic federation, the "Order of Cluny," for the purpose
of binding monasteries together under a unified administration in order to preserve
their spiritual ideals and to provide an alliance against local oppression. With papal
approval and physical support from the reviving Empire of Otto the Great, the Cluniac
organization spread over Europe until by the twelfth century it possessed 1184 houses.
This pattern for cooperation and federation became instructive for other reformers
outside the monastic pale who also wished to improve conditions. An ideal of mutual
Christian brotherhood was recaptured, and in practice other ecclesiastics began to
repeat the Cluniac axiom: "Away with anyone who thinks that God is merely local."
Clerical reform was even more urgently needed. It is true that during these troubled
times there were those parish priests who took advantage of the collapse of discipline
to disregard their ideals and duties, the Gospel standards of poverty, chastity, and
obedience. Yet even so it was always the delinquents who received the publicity. What
hampered the activity of even good parish priests was their subjection to feudal lords.
Although with ordination to the priesthood a man ceased to be a serf and became a
freeman, nevertheless his church was scarcely free. At a time when most of the people
lived in village farm communities subject to the lord of the manor, the majority of
churches were furnished and endowed by these same lords-who were thus often at
once the local governors, judges, landlords, and employers. Even well-intentioned
feudal lords spoke of "my church," "my priest," while kings referred to "my bishops."
Churches were sometimes left by will to heirs, to one of whom might be assigned this
altar or chapel, while another obtained this or that statue or shrine. Priests might be
installed by bestowal of the key to the church by the lord, and the latter might always
remove the key if satisfaction were not given. Bishops and abbots even before their
consecration or blessing might be handed crozier or ring by the king or lord, thereby
easily suggesting to an illiterate audience the notion that religious offices and
sacraments were derived ultimately from the secular power.
In Lorraine and Lombardy parochial revivals arose and won support. Bishop Rathier of
Verona now insisted: "In the priest it is Christ whom one honors." Bishop Wazo of
Liege did not hesitate to tell Emperor Henry III: "We owe obedience to the bishop,
fidelity to you, O King. To you we render account for secular administration, to him all
that concerns the divine office." This was a much needed distinction of Church and
State, but unworthy rulers at least were not prepared to surrender what they had
usurped. But out of these monastic and clerical reform movements came men of the
new ideals who attained the papacy. St. Bruno of Toul, previously a reformer in the
Lorraine area, became Pope Leo IX (1049-1054). Three times he made the journey across
the Alps to restore observance of ecclesiastical laws through direct personal
confrontation of the local authorities. Anselm of Baggio had launched at Milan the
"Ragpickers" clerical reform movement before he was chosen Pope Alexander II (1061-
73). Finally the Cluniac monk St. Hildebrand became the most famous of these
reforming pontiffs as Gregory VII (1073-85). He enforced all of the existing regulations
and sent legates throughout Europe to supervise their observance.
He also struck at what he deemed the source of much of the disorder: that practice of
lay investiture whereby a bishop, abbot, or pastor was inducted into ecclesiastical office
by the secular ruler using religious emblems. Emperor Henry IV (1056-1106) defied the
pope, but Gregory XII declared him suspended from office with the support of the
German Reichstag. Henry then startled Christendom by walking as a penitent in the
snow at Canossa before receiving papal absolution. The issue was not settled so easily,
in fact, it dragged on for fifty years and several popes were driven out of Rome. At
length, however, a reasonable compromise was reached: the emperor renounced lay
investiture, hile he was given the right to exact an oath of allegiance without clerical
trappings from such prelates as performed public secular office-for neither he nor other
medieval rulers could yet afford to dispense with the assistance of the clergy in the
management even of secular governmental affairs.
In this and similar contests between the Holy See and temporal rulers, however, the
principle was clearly established that the Church was independent of the State in the
fulfillment of her God-given religious mission. Little people took heart at an emperor
doing penance; they felt that now there was some chance for justice for all. For the
secret of papal victory in these contests lay ultimately in popular support. Such powers
as the popes exercised during the Middle Ages over temporal rulers -such as rebuking,
suspending or even deposing them-were derived from popular delegation of them as
judges of an international supreme court. Unlike the purely spiritual authority
bestowed by Christ, such temporal prerogatives were revocable at popular will, and
were tacitly withdrawn during the Renaissance-Reformation Era.
AGE OF TEACHERS (1150-1350)
THE SCHOLASTICS OR SCHOOLMEN were the characteristic medieval theologians
and philosophers. In Italy, the classic secular and Christian writings had never become
entirely extinct and a twelfth century revival of law promoted a number of flourishing
centers for legal studies, of which Bologna was the chief. There may have been a
medical school at Salerno as early as the tenth century; at any rate, medical centers now
developed at Salerno, Naples, and Montpellier to retail the medical lore of the Arabian
East. The lode of the Greek philosophers available in Moorish libraries had been tapped
as early as the tenth century by Gerbert d'Aurillae, later Pope Sylvester II. Presently a
philosophical revival, closely linked with Scripture and theology, got under way,
although the garbled condition of the Arabian sources was not entirely corrected until
direct contacts with Greece make the original texts available during the thirteenth
At Paris during the twelfth century Abelard's contentious personality gave publicity to
the Cathedral School of Notre Dame. By 1170 this and the Abbey School of Ste.
Genevieve had fused into a corporation, a "university" of masters. Popes, emperors,
and kings took Paris and other budding study centers under their protection, while
townsmen, with some grumbling about student rowdiness, agreed that they were good
for business. When haphazard student lodging had riotous results, various benefactors,
such as Robert de Sorbonne and Bishop Merton of Rochester, founded colleges-at first
supervised student dormitories. Later these institutions came to be regarded as
faculties or divisions of the universities. Religious communities also founded houses,
such as the Dominican convent of St. Jacques at Paris, to provide for their professors
and students attending the universities. Professors set standards which evolved into the
familiar degrees of bachelor, master, and doctor, while students tried to keep the
professors to the subject matter and on time, for academic freedom was, if anything,
excessive in the Middle Ages
METHOD OF INSTRUCTION
The Scholastic method of instruction developed in these surroundings. For religious
training, the Bible was the basis of all study, and other subjects were preparatory to it
or commentaries on it. Students were required to take notes, memorize them almost
verbatim-for books were at first costly-and exercise their wits with frequent debates.
So-called Scholasticism was a new order of theological learning introduced into
Christendom during the eleventh century which shifted stress from the religious and
patristic type of theology to philosophy and human science. But all the great
commentaries and summas professed to take the Bible as their authoritative basic text.
This was no mere pose for the better Scholastics, though some, especially during the
later medieval times, were prone to rely excessively upon subjective reasoning. After a
period of rash innovation, Scholasticism produced a number of renowned groups of
scholars: the Mystic School of St. Victor; the Augustinian Traditionalists with St.
Bonaventure as their great luminary; and the Aristotelian Progressives, led by Sts.
Albert and Thomas Aquinas. Duns Scotus who tried to harmonize the Augustinian and
Thomist traditions, actually inaugurated a new "modern" trend, critical and original.
Scotistic subtlety went to seed in the Nominalist School of the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries, when Scholasticism definitely began to decline. But one masterpiece, the
of St. Thomas Aquinas, had been bequeathed to Christian
theology, one that the conciliar fathers at Trent would designate as most useful and
reliable at the close of the Middle Ages.
The Thomistic synthesis was a lasting contribution to learning, for in this profound and
orderly "Summary" St. Thomas Aquinas combined order and clarity. He arranged the
theological doctrines to expound first of God, His self-contained life in a Trinity of
Persons, and then of His marvelous, generous loving concern for creatures whom He
had made sharers in His own goodness. Of all creatures, on earth man is the chief, and
in a second part of his Summary, St. Thomas treated of man, made to God's image: his
nature, virtues, and goal, but also of man's unfortunate straying from that heavenly
goal by sin. There followed a third part devoted to Christ, the God-man, the Saving link
to bind back in friendly contract the parties of the first two parts, God and man. Here
St. Thomas told of how Christ became man, founded His Church, and left in it seven
saving souvenirs of His Passion: the sacraments.
Western liturgy applied the merits of these sacraments to men. Medieval liturgy had
become a magnificent thing, indeed, in the great cathedrals of the "Age of Faith" when
the majority of Europeans publicly participated in services, festivals, and processions. If
this liturgy remained somewhat too clerical a province, the people's enthusiastic loyalty
to their Eucharistic Lord found expression in the introduction of the Elevation into the
Mass as a protest against Berengarius' denial of the Real Presence, in the introduction of
the Feast of Corpus Christi with its processions, and in Benediction with the Blessed
Sacrament. Devotion to Mary, Mother of God, was displayed in new ways: the Angelus
commemorated Emmanuel's coming; the Feast of the Immaculate Conception spread;
the Rosary beads became the people's own prayer. Other saints were influential, for it is
startling that in contrast with the present, the celebrities of the Middle Ages were less
statesmen, artists, and sportsmen, than men of God: courageous popes and bishops like
Leo IX, Gregory VII, Gregory X, Thomas of Canterbury, and Stanislaus of Cracow,
religious founders like Sts. Francis and Dominic; mystics like Sts. Gertrude, Bridget,
Catherine of Siena; the innocent and the penitent. If among the rank and file of
Christians there may have been too much veneration of these saints and not enough
imitation, it cannot be denied that ideals were high and were not ignored.
Eastern religious life meanwhile went on enhanced by the imperial magnificence of
Constantinople where the Hagia Sophia Basilica survives as a relic of a brilliant
liturgical system. But too thoroughly was the Eastern Church identified with the
Byzantine Empire so that disdain easily built up for those rough and boorish western
brethren, barbarized by the German invasions. It was a patriarch of Constantinople,
Photius, a learned and gifted man, who was none the less goaded into public
denunciation of papal and Latin practices. True, the rift was not lasting, but the
widening chasm of language, culture, and politics culminated in yet another
jurisdictional conflict in the eleventh century. This time Michael Cerularius of
Constantinople broke with the Roman See despite the pleas of another Oriental,
Patriarch Peter of Antioch: "We must not expect from these barbarians the same perfect
manners as we find among our civilized people . . . I beg you to give way. Consider
what would happen if that First and Apostolic See be divided from our churches . . ."
Unfortunately this break was not healed but instead still endures. It was even
accentuated when Greeks massacred Italian merchants at Constantinople and
plundered their churches, while the westerners later retaliated by seizing the city and
sacking it. Alas, "See how these Christians love one another," the pagans' exclamation in
the days of the primitive Church, could no longer be said.
THE MENDICANT ORDERS
The Mendicant Orders proved to be the form of religious life distinctive of the "High
Middle Ages," as monasticism had been of the earlier Feudal Age. For the greater
mobility of these new religious enabled them to minister to a more sophisticated class
of townsmen who were being brought to the fore by changing economic conditions.
With the revival of a money economy and of a strong profit motive, this new
capitalistic class was prone to be more critical of clerical and monastic possessions and
revenues; it was here that the corporate poverty of the Mendicant Orders served as an
effective rebuttal. It was the mission of these Orders to demonstrate-after the
Waldenses and Cathari had fallen into heresy on the same tack-that apostolic poverty
and disciplined orthodoxy were not incompatible. They also provided the learned and
fervent instruction which the advancing educational standards of the towns and
Four such Orders became famous. The Carmelites, founded in Palestine in 1155 by the
crusader, St. Bethold, were transformed into a mobile mendicant community by St.
Simon Stock, an Englishman, during the thirteenth century. The Augustinians,
originally local groups of hermits following a rule based on that of St. Augustine, were
given greater centralization by Popes Innocent III and Alexander IV during the
thirteenth century. The Franciscans, founded by Giovanni Bernadone (1182-1226),
nicknamed "Frenchy": Francisco of Assisi, always reflected the friendly, informal,
popular spontaneity of this unconventional but obedient lay reformer. The Dominicans,
organized by the canon and priest Domingo Guzman (1170-1221), displayed his greater
ability for organization and promotion of scholarship. Dominic's disciples came to
furnish some of the greatest theological faculties for the new universities. The
Dominicans were estimated at 7,000 in 1256, but they never became as numerous as the
Franciscans who were said to have numbered 5,000 as early as 1219.
Dissenters, unfortunately, were not met only with arguments. For there were periodic
medieval heretical movements, launched by men not content with traditional teaching
or clerical rule. What was new here was the anti-social character of the Manichaean
Albigenses: forbidding marriage, denouncing oaths and military service; rejecting the
sacraments of the Church. Popular reaction began with mob executions during the
eleventh century. At first bishops sought to restrain this popular lynch law. Later they
tried to prevent irresponsible prosecution and execution of social radicals by means of
special religious courts.
These courts of the Inquisition aimed at providing fair and expert trial of suspects on
theological points. In extreme eases it is true, a defiant and obstinate rabble rouser-
whose crime was deemed an attack on the State as well as on the Church-would be
handed to the secular government for the death penalty. Yet during his career the
model inquisitor Bernard de Gui pronounced by 42 such sentences out of 930;
penitential reconciliation was the rule. The Inquisition did achieve its original aim so
long as it was directed against violent anti-social groups. During the later Middle Ages
it declined, either losing popular support as intellectual dissent and protest created
confusion, or more often, as happened in France and Spain, coming under
governmental control and developing into a sort of special police whose norms were
political than religious.
AGE OF CRITICS (1350-1550)
ALL WAS NOT WELL, then, with Christian society at the close of the Middle Ages.
Not only were the Latin and Greek portions of the Church at odds, but the new
national monarchies coming into existence in Western Europe threatened unity under
Papacy and Empire. Once pope and emperor had clashed over primacy of the spiritual,
but now all international control was challenged. A French king defied the pope, and
his successors long maneuvered to confine papal residence at Avignon, in the midst of
France. Italian and French ecclesiastics contended and when the papacy broke away
from Avignon to return to Rome, a schism occurred. For nearly half a century (1378-
1417), there were two, and sometimes three, claimants to the papacy, with nations
jockeying for favor and funds. Attempts were made to solve the problem by general
councils, but here the clergy from outlying churches, affected by rising nationalism,
denounced alleged papal financial oppression to promote international causes. Many
erroneously asserted that a council was superior to a pope.
Though this "Great Western Schism" was finally healed, papal prestige had been
seriously weakened. National monarchs employed bishops and abbots as statesmen,
and of the latter many were too ready to oblige. Neglecting their spiritual duties,
alienated from the lesser clergy and the people, they became targets for criticism. As
discipline relaxed many clerics for whom standards seem to have been lowered since
the "Black Death," came to neglect their duties. Too many presumed on their assured
position as dispensers of sacraments necessary for salvation. That is why critics would
eventually arise to deny these sacraments, perhaps not so much out of dislike for the
sacraments, as to cut the ground from nder objectionable clergy. The monks in whose
hands lay much of the social service of the time were accused of being lazy, wasteful,
inefficient; all sorts of grasping men argued that property ought to be taken away from
clergy and monks and given to themselves to manage.
A new intellectual spirit, Humanism, was also abroad. This professed to despise the
Scholastic method with its plain, pragmatic Latin; classicists pleaded for a return to the
glorious language of Plato and Cicero. More serious was the accusation, only partially
true, that Holy Scripture was being neglected for word-chopping; that philosophy had
been substituted for true theology. Some began to demand: back to Scripture, back to
the way of the primitive Church-though in that most unhistorical of ages few really
knew what was the authentic spirit of the primitive Church.
Others asserted that Scholasticism was old-fashioned, out of step with "modern" times,
static in a universe expanded by geographical discoveries in America, India, and
Cathay. Enough of deductive speculation, it was said; we must have scientific induction
to prove or disprove everything. Enough of sacrosanct principles; one ought to doubt
everything, change and experiment with everything; to see if improvement and
progress were not possible. Enough of unity, of cooperation; let the age of the
individual dawn: let each man be himself, do what he wants without bothering about
laws and social taboos. Each man can pray for himself; each can work out his own
salvation; everyone could interpret Scripture as he sees fit. Each can go to heaven in his
own fashion, for "man is the measure of all things." Not all these things were thought or
said with full seriousness; exasperated men were letting off steam. Yet they confused
the people: frightened some, and made others delirious. The situation was tense,
explosive; a spark could ignite it.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546)
Luther's teaching began in pessimism: original sin has so ruined man's nature that he
can do nothing henceforth but sin, for Luther identified sin and its effect of unruly
concupiscence. Observance of God's law thus becomes impossible and man has but a
single recourse: to believe trustingly on the merits of Christ his Savior. But these merits
and Christ's justice remained exclusively His; in no way did salvation mean freeing
man from his own sins, or a giving to him of a share in the divine nature through grace
whereby he could work out his salvation with divine assistance. Instead man remained
in his satanic darkness, though if he persevered in faith, God would impute to him
As a consequence, man can in no way merit for any good works. While good works
ought to be done to demonstrate that faith is in us, one ought never to glory in them.
Since good works effected nothing for Luther, sacraments meant to him merely
symbols to excite faith-although inconsistently he held that Baptism and the Eucharist
were in some way necessary. To meet the difficulty brought up by Anabaptist rebels
that saving faith could not be excited in infant Baptism, Luther held that infants were
given a moment of reason. Throughout his life he defended a garbled notion of Christ's
Eucharistic Presence: Christ's body in heaven is ubiquitous and becomes present to the
believer, but only at the moment of his communion. But Luther denounced the Mass
and the doctrine of sacrifice as insults to the unique sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. He
had no ordained priests but only preachers or ministers of the Gospel. For him
marriage was a mere civil contract subject in all things to secular legislation.
For Luther, the Church was "altogether in the spirit . . . entirely a spiritual thing . . .
believed in but not seen. . ." Ministers were to be chosen and deposed by the
congregation according to Luther's original plan, but eventually he was constrained to
acknowledge that the prince is the "principal member of the Church," and to accept
royal superintendents to rule over the congregations. Thus began a tradition of
Lutheran subjection to the State that lasted until the Protestant revolt against Hitler's
new paganism. The Bible, as interpreted by Luther, was to be the sole rule of faith. But
the list of Scriptural books amounted to Luther's own judgment: he threw out the
Epistles of James and Hebrews, besides some Old Testament books, and rated the rest
"A" or "B" insofar as they contained good Lutheran doctrine. Luther did produce the
first good literary translation of the Bible into German, though there had been fifteen
vernacular versions before him.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-64)
John Calvin was a French townsman quite different from the German peasant Luther,
yet he built upon Lutheran ideas. Driven out of France by the royal inquisition, Calvin
eventually became the religious director of Geneva in Switzerland, which he made over
according to his notion of a "godly" community. While Lutheranism yielded to the
State, Calvinism tried to dominate it. The Geneva consistory, though never attaining the
international prestige of the medieval papacy, retained the notion of improving secular
society through religious direction and control. Calvin did not hesitate to put dissenters
to death in the same way as the medieval Inquisition. The early New England
ministerial influence mirrored many of Calvin's concepts.
While Luther wished men to be certain that they had been justified through Christ's
merits, Calvin, while agreeing with Luther on this point, went farther. He demanded
that men be also sure that they would remain justified, that is, that they would be
saved. Hence he argued that God's favor once given because of faith in Christ's merits
could never be lost: the elect were absolutely predestined. As for devout Calvinists,
then, they did not so much "receive" faith as to "perceive" that they had always
possessed it, that God had elected them from all eternity.
All this left very little for the sacraments of the Church. For Calvin, "the sacrament is
added like a seal to a document, not to give force to the promises, but merely to ratify it
in our regard, so that we may look upon it as more certain." Calvin rejected the Mass
and even Luther's notion of Christ's "corporeal presence." In consequence Calvin also
repudiated the Catholic priesthood, though unlike Luther he did hold that the clergy
were divinely called "ministers of the word of God," predestined to be ministers just as
the elect were predestined to be Calvinists. These ministers, with Calvin at their head
and lay elders at their side, rule the "reformed" congregations. The ministers
interpreted Scripture in closely supervised obligatory Sunday schools, as well as
dispensing the Lord's Supper several times a year. The elders assisted the ministers in
upholding the godliness of the congregation according to minute social regulations.
The result was an aristocratic religious society, represented by Presbyterianism in
Scotland, the Puritans in England and New England, the Huguenots in France, and the
Reformed in Holland. The town government of Geneva was controlled by Calvinists
until 1906. After Calvin's death, however, Arminians denied his absolute
predestinarianism and "pietists" placed more stress on warm feelings and good deeds
than Calvin's icy logic called for. One contribution cannot be denied the Calvinist
tradition: a moral seriousness and social decorum that left its impression for centuries.
Anglicanism was an original blend of Lutheran and Calvinist teaching and
organization. When Pope Clement VII and the Catholic Supreme Marriage Court
refused to allow King Henry VIII of England (1509-47) to divorce his wife of twenty
years, Catherine of Aragon, in order to wed his mistress, Anne Boleyn, the king broke
with the Roman communion. His own royal version of Christianity was set up by an
"Act of Supremacy," November, 1534, decreeing that "our sovereign lord, his heirs and
successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme
head on earth of the Church of England." An oath was exacted of important subjects;
Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, bishop and chancellor, refused. The latter
distinguished: while Parliament might choose a king independently of the pope's
wishes, it could not regulate the Church; More was willing to accept Henry as king but
not pope. But Henry put his critics to death and went on with his plans, which included
seizure of most of the Church property for his own and his noble allies' profit. While
Henry claimed to keep all other Catholic doctrines, after his death his ecclesiastical
aids, Thomas Cranmer, Primate of Canterbury, made decisive changes.
Cranmerian doctrine as formulated under King Edward VI (1547-53) and permanently
established under Elizabeth I (1558-1603), was a religious compromise. After a first
Book of Common Prayer had presented a transitional English version of the old Latin
Mass, a Second Book imposed pure Calvinism: the Eucharist is bread to the eyes but
Christ's body to the mind. All rites mentioning sacrifice now disappeared. A table
replaced the altar, and all vestments save a surplice were omitted. "True sacraments"
were reduced to Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Unlike Luther and Calvin, Cranmer
retained episcopal control while rejecting papacy. These bishops, henceforth appointed
by the Crown, were to be disciplinarians for a uniformly functioning clergy. Cranmer's
42 Articles-reduced to 39 by Elizabeth I-remain official Anglican doctrine. About half of
these articles retain the ancient Catholic teaching on the Trinity, Incarnation, etc. For the
rest, Cranmer followed conservative Protestant norms, while steering clear of doctrinal
extremism and social radicalism. Neither the Lutheran denial of human freedom nor
Calvinist predestinarianism were clearly enjoined, though justification by faith was
After putting down the Catholics, the Anglican establishment had to face the objections
of "Puritans" who wished to "purify" the Anglican organization yet more from alleged
remnants of Catholic practices. Primate Grindal was led to complain in 1565: "Some say
the service and prayers in the chancel, others in the body of the church; some say the
same in a seat made in the church, some in the pulpit with faces to the people; some
keep precisely to the order of the book, others intermeddle psalms in metre; some say
in a surplice, others without. Some receive kneeling, others standing, others sitting"
(Moorman, , 217). Though the Anglo-Saxon spirit of
compromise sought the assent of a majority to this middle of the road religious
solution, these differences of view and of practice have accompanied Anglicanism or
Episcopalianism throughout its history.
AGE OFCATHOLIC DEFENDERS (1500-1648)
THE FAITH OF SOME CATHOLICS had wavered because their charity had grown
cold; it is symbolic that one of the great impulses of the Catholic Counter-Reformation
arose from the "Oratory of Divine Love," founded by St. Cajetan (1480-1547). His group
and others like it pioneered a Catholic religious revival by uniting earnest men for
prayer, sacramental piety, and charitable deeds. Cajetan's associates practiced and
preached frequent Confession and Communion, retreats and missions for both the
clergy and the laity, and exercise of faith through charitable works. They upheld a
rigid, if not an abject poverty. In the wake of the Oratory came a host of original
religious communities, e.g., St. Philip Neri's democratic Oratorians; St. Ignatius
Loyola's military scholars, the Jesuits; St. Camillus' Hospital Workers; St. Angela
Merici's Ursuline teachers; St. Vincent de Paul's Daughters of Charity.
The papacy, however, was still handicapped by Conciliarism, that divisive view of a
minority that general councils were intended to be democratic international
conferences, and it was even more paralyzed by routine and sometimes corrupt
bureaucracy in the Roman court, subject to pressures and petitions of "operators" from
all sides. The Lutheran Revolt was a shock, but far in the north. Perhaps what really
galvanized the papal court into thoughts of reform was the Sack of Rome in 1527 by
mutinous imperial troops. Even lax curialists interpreted this as a judgment of God on
the abuses and confusion which had too long been tolerated in papal and episcopal
Paul III (1534-49) was to succeed in breaking through the dull weight of custom.
During his pontificate he filled the college of cardinals and the curia with a majority of
able and moral prelates. He sponsored a commission which during 1536-37 studied the
causes of the Catholic paralysis that had provoked the Protestant Revolution. The
commission gave its verdict frankly: " Holy Father, it was the fault of the canonists," the
curial lawyers. In particular, abuses were seen in: 1) curialist exaggeration of papal
financial powers, with frequent sales of offices and other favors; 2) laxity in standards
for admission to ordination and ecclesiastical offices; 3) nomination of the unfit or of
favorites to benefices; 4) holding of a plurality of benefices that were incompatible,
pensions from patrons, rebates, absenteeism; 5) excessive exemption for religious
orders resulting in controversies between parish and religious clergy; 6) disregard of
supervision of schools, academics, and books; 7) abuse of dispensations that let down
discipline through the indulgence of friends.
Pope Paul then set up a standing commission to follow up the reform of these abuses.
Beginning in 1542, he and his successors courageously and perseveringly proceeded
with an overhauling of the papal court. Abuses in censures and indulgences were
curbed, vigilance over doctrine and books was restored; new institutions were set up
for the training of the clergy and teachers; revenues were cut and supervised;
absenteeism and negligence were corrected. Eventually by 1587 a completely
reorganized and departmentalized papal curia had emerged. Long before, however,
Paul III had defied Conciliarism by summoning the reforming Council of Trent.
THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
The Council of Trent(1545-63) probably faced the most difficult task of any general
synod in history. It was obliged to lay down extensive plans for a restored church
organization while putting out the fire of "ecclesiastical anarchy." Unfortunately the
wars of so-called Christian princes delayed the opening of the council until a
generation after the Lutheran outbreak. Though Lutherans were invited to take part in
the discussions, by this time they had so long gone their separate way that they no
longer considered themselves Catholic. Years of argument and even physical violence
had diminished chances for calm discussion. Accordingly the council had to go on by
itself. Doctrinally the Council of Trent, like all its predecessors, professed reverence for
both Scripture and Tradition as interpreted in the living teaching authority of the
Catholic Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The list of divinely inspired
books was reaffirmed; the existing Vulgate version of the Bible was declared free from
doctrinal errors, though incidental mistakes of copyists might call for a textual revision.
Doctrinally, the Tridentine Council defended and re-explained the traditional teachings
that had been challenged by the Protestants. While all men did derive original sin by
descent from Adam, and as a consequence concupiscence, suffering, and death, these
latter effects of sin were not sins. Baptism entirely removed original sin despite the
survival of unruly passions; sin was not merely covered over. And man also received at
Baptism grace, a divine help necessary and sufficient for salvation, which man
remained free to use or abuse. If he used it, he might merit an increase of divine helps
so that no one was inevitably predestined to hell independently of anything that he
might do. Even though man is not justified by his own works but by Christ's merits, his
nature is not so impaired that he cannot, once armed with Christ's grace, cooperate in
his own salvation. Such help is given through the sacraments of the Church, sacraments
that work in virtue of the merits of Christ rather than those of the minister, bringing
grace to all who place no obstacle to their proper reception. Sacraments are not merely
signs, but true instruments, divine tools of grace. There are seven of these rites
instituted by Christ Himself, and therefore beyond anyone else's power to abolish.
Though all are not equally necessary for salvation, the judgment of Christ and of His
Church must be accepted as to their utility.
In particular, the Mass is a true sacrament and sacrifice in which bread and wine are by
divine power changed into Christ's true body and blood for man's spiritual
nourishment. The Mass is no supplement to Christ's death on the Cross; it only applies
to new generations the merits of Christ's unique Passion. At the Last Supper, when He
instituted the Eucharist, Christ had also made the Apostles priests with power to
consecrate the Eucharist in His name until He come again. Marriage is also a true
sacrament, good and holy, even if not a state superior to virginity. Besides the Church
Militant on earth, there is a Church of suffering souls in purgatory who can be helped
by our prayers, and especially by the Mass. The angels and saints constitute a Church
Triumphant in heaven; their intercession with God can be profitably invoked, and their
images and relics ought to be revered. The Council of Trent terminated its doctrinal
definitions where Luther had begun: with indulgences. While calling for the removal of
any abuses to which Protestants might legitimately object, the council asserted that
indulgences, as dividend shares in the super-abundant merits of Christ and of His
saints, were lawful and useful, though never as licenses to sin.
In disciplinary matters, the Council of Trent effected considerable overhauling. The
primacy of the pope, hailed by the council as "bishop of the Catholic Church," was
freely acknowledged, while the need for a centralized and somewhat more
internationalized curia of cardinals and their aides was recognized. It was noted,
moreover, that members ought to be of exemplary character and abilities. Bishops even
though of divine institution, were properly chosen or approved by the Holy See.
Bishops ought to take care to reside habitually in their dioceses, to have personal
concern in supervising the fidelity of their clergy - not excluding religious in matters
pertaining to care of souls-and they ought to instruct all of their flock by means of
sermons. Particularly they were reminded to be conscientious in selecting worthy
candidates for ordination and ecclesiastical office.
SEMINARIES ARE FOUNDED
To assist in this training a new system of specialized schools called seminaries was to
be set up for the candidates for ordination so that they might be adequately prepared in
piety and in ecclesiastical learning. Once ordained, this clergy ought to be faithful to
their duties, especially to the parochial care of souls. They too ought to reside at their
posts, and be diligent in visiting and instructing their flocks. Good order ought to be
observed and externally manifested in clerical dress and decorum. Adequate support of
the clergy ought to be provided in order to obviate abuses, and new parishes were to be
erected in order to provide for any of the faithful not now properly served. Religious of
both sexes must be obliged to return to the primitive observance of their rules, to
eliminate any abuses that might have crept in and to cooperate in the general work of
the Catholic Church.
Princely and lay control over ecclesiastical persons and properties was deplored-
though here the council was physically unable to force a remedy for all abuses.
Clandestine marriage was prohibited; henceforth for a proper ceremony, Catholics
were to be married before a priest and two witnesses. The Scriptural ban on divorce
with remarriage was reaffirmed, although the system of ecclesiastical impediments was
revised. Discipline was tightened up generally, and the need for catechetical instruction
noted-eventually a concilial commission published an official catechism.
Tridentine fulfillment began at once with the approval of Pope PiusIV in 1564, and the
energetic direction of his nephew and secretary of state, Cardinal St. Charles Borromeo.
St. Charles, as Archbishop of Milan, was a pioneer in putting the decrees into effect in
Italy and himself launched the seminary training program. Meanwhile Pope St. Pius V
(1566-72)-whose Dominican white cassock all of his successors have imitated-gave at
Rome the example of a holy pastor and vigilant administrator. Under his guidance
revised editions of the Mass and Office books were edited; good order and uniformity
were the principles of revision, and the liturgy became reverent, if not yet "popular."
Church music and furniture were revised, while the Renaissance genius of
Michelangelo redecorated Rome with magnificent artistry. A Confraternity of Christian
Doctrine was organized; a revised body of Canon Law was drawn up under Pope
Gregory XIII, who also revised the calendar. A corrected version of the Vulgate of St.
Jerome finally appeared under Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) after harassing labors. As
a work of textual research it was the best that could be had then, but the Church had
obtained what was most essential, a reliable doctrinal norm for Scripture.
Catholic revival seemed a new Pentecost. In Italy, the Oratory of Divine Love and the
pre-Tridentine reforming Bishop Giberti were now imitated in promoting reform by
many religious and clerical organizations. St. Philip Neri (1515-95), founder of the
Roman Oratory, was called Rome's second apostle. Mentor to the hierarchy and
religious founders, he promoted Catholic revival by conferences for priests; stress on
frequent Confession and Communion for the laity; the visiting of hospitals and
workshops; the promotion of Catholic literature and music; charitable assistance to the
poor; and interest in the training of youngsters and adolescents.
Spain had already witnessed the reforming efforts of Cardinal Ximinez (1436-1517);
now these were enhanced by those of St. Thomas of Villanova (1488-1555), St. Ignatius
Loyola (1491-1556), St. Pedro of Alcantara (1499-1562), St. John of God, St. John of the
Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila. Spain and Portugal diligently and generously provided
missionaries to bring the Christian Faith to newly discovered peoples in the New
World and the Old.
Germany was now re-evangelized by St. Peter Canisius (1521-97) and his Jesuit
confreres, who worked from a chain of colleges centered about Rome, Vienna, and
Ingolstadt. St. Peter Canisius' catechisms came in all sizes to revive and revolutionize
teaching of Christian doctrine. Allies were found in Cardinal Truchsess, Bishop of
Augsburg, and St. Lorenzo di Brindisi, with his Capuchin missionaries.
The Slavic lands witnessed the labors of Cardinal Hosius and Archbishop Stanislaus
Karnkowski of Gnesen in Poland, and of Archbishop Peter Pazmany in Hungary. St.
Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was the first martyr of the new Roman
Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, while St. Josaphat Munceyvic, (1580-
1623), Archbishop of the Ruthenian see of Polotsk, was a martyr for Catholic unity in
France and French Switzerland were rallied by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Bishop
of Geneva, the gentle apostle of reconciliation and spiritual revival. He was followed by
Cardinal Peter Berulle (1575-1629), founder of the French Oratory, who had as
disciples, Father Charles de Condren, Father Olier of St. Sulpice, St. Vincent de Paul, St.
John Eudes, and others who made the seventeenth a brilliant century for Catholic
Missionaries from Rome and Douay, Belgium went over to the British Isles. Others
penetrated into Protestant lands of the north: Holland northern Germany, and
Scandinavia. St. Francis Xavier wrote a Christian adventure saga in India, Japan, and
the rim of China. He was followed by those models of missionary adaptation to alien
peoples, the Jesuit Fathers Ricci in China and DiNobili in India. Two continents North
and South America, were won for Catholic Christendom by heroic Spanish, Portuguese,
and French missionaries-not to forget a few English Jesuits in Maryland. Reinvigorated
older communities, especially those of the Franciscans and Dominicans, were not
behind the newer congregations in these missionary efforts.
Scholastic theology, back in Europe, was being purged of its late medieval barnacles,
and given new solidity on the basis of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Cardinal Cajetan commenced the revival, Lainez and Salmeron defended it at Trent,
Vittoria, Soto, Cano, Suarez and the Salamanticenses carried it on in Spain. St. Robert
Bellarmine distinguished himself in apologetic theology against Protestant attacks,
while Cardinal Cesare Baronio paralleled the Lutheran "Centuries of Magdeburg" with
Catholic "Ecclesiastical Annals," forerunner of revived scientific Church history.
Medina and Lugo were prominent in moral theology, while St. John of the Cross, St.
Teresa of Avila, and Luis of Granada edited popular ascetical and mystical writings.
AGE OF RATIONALISM (1648-1789)
ENLIGHTENMENT" WAS A TERM which became current for a new philosophy of life
that followed the Protestant Reformation. Its norm was Naturalism and its method
Rationalism, as opposed to supernatural revelation and the authority of Holy Scripture.
"The Rationalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is a reaction against
Luther's doctrine of the irreformable corruption of human nature. With an unbounded
confidence in man's capacity to think, will, and act in virtue of his own inner power,
Rationalism rejected the doctrines of Revelation and Grace" (Ott, , 224). "The enlightenment is the logical outcome of philosophical as
well as Protestant religious individualism and the absence of tradition. It has three
roots: 1) Protestantism, or more specifically the disruption caused by Protestantism; 2)
Humanism; 3) the autonomous development of individualistic philosophy, built upon
mathematical-scientific discoveries" (Lortz, , 444). Here the term
may be used to describe the gradual transition from the chiefly theological
preoccupations of the age of Religious Revolt and the Religious Wars that followed
(1517-1648), to the philosophic and rationalist fixation of the period of the "Old Regime"
down to the French Revolution.
On the Continent of Europe, the Thirty Years War (1618-48) left Germany ruined and
much of Europe exhausted. That conflict, despite its numerous political ramifications,
had supposedly been a war for religious supremacy. Yet in this respect it had decided
nothing, for the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 basically upheld the fairly equal division
into Catholic and Protestant states that had been made at the Peace of Augsburg in
1555. At the same time Westphalia recognized similar divisions in Switzerland and the
Netherlands: modern Belgium and Holland. Many persons were now prone to draw
the conclusion that religion was not worth fighting for. If penal laws remained in most
countries, they were henceforth less often enforced.
THE IDEA OF TOLERANCE
An ideal of toleration developed simply because one side could not destroy the other,
and co-existence became imperative. Now of course the idea of tolerance has good
features in suggesting both Christian charity and encouraging free acceptance of truly
spiritual religious convictions. On the other hand, it suggested to some indifferentists
that truth and error were identical; it could lead to a pluralism of fantastic cults and
anarchic personal opinions. Especially it was now suggested that any revealed word of
God was hopelessly in dispute, so that the most that men could aspire to was
agreement on broad rational basis that there is a God and a "golden rule." As
Alexander Pope put it in his Essay on Man: "Whether with Reason or with Instinct
blest, know all enjoy that power which suits them best; to bliss alike by that direction
tend, and find the means proportioned to their end. Say, where full Instinct is the
unerring guide, what pope or council can they need beside? . . . God and Nature linked
the genr'l frame and bade self-love and social be the same . . . For modes of faith let
graceless zealots fight, his can't be wrong whose life is in the right. In faith and hope
the world will disagree, but all mankind's concern is charity."
Pope was an Englishman who had witnessed the Civil War, Commonwealth, and
Restoration (1642-60) produce in Britain much the same effects as the Thirty Years War
had brought about on the Continent. Toleration became politically expedient for several
strong Protestant denominations in England, if not yet for the small Catholic minority.
Meanwhile, in English America a practical solution was slowly worked out of
"separation of Church and State," which would become the working basis of an
American Republic, though it was not to be popular in Europe for some years to come.
Absolutism was the reason why the American principles were not yet welcome in
Europe. For during these centuries most European states aped the absolute monarchy
of Louis XIV (1643-1715), who is said to have boasted: "I am the State." An admirer
declared that in France there ought to be "one king, one law, one faith." If Louis XIV
treated Protestants as second-class citizens, his favor to Catholics was almost as
oppressive. Louis' doctrine of regalism-borrowed by other supposedly "Catholic"
monarchs-defied the pope to the edge of excommunication: refusing to allow papal
representatives, letters, decrees enter France without his own royal permission, and
appropriating papal prerogatives and properties with impunity. Nationalistic prelates
were encouraged to disregard the pope as well, and international religious superiors
were denied communication with their subjects. In fact, the Jesuits were eventually
suppressed for a time because of a conspiracy of these so-called Catholic monarchs.
Donations and legacies to religious houses were prevented or restricted or
appropriated; Church properties were confiscated on a variety of pretexts. Pressure was
brought to bear on the theological faculty of the Sorbonne at Paris to approve of the
royal wishes regarding doctrine and discipline.
The monarchs of Spain and Portugal did much the same in the Iberian peninsula and in
the East and West Indies in virtue of a "royal patronage" whereby they practically
appointed bishops and collected church revenues. The Josephinism of Austria and
Febronianism of Germany were similar theories, at least in aim. Privately the popes
might have sympathized with the free-thinking Tom Paine during the American
Revolution when he spoke of these absolute monarchs as "crowned ruffians." Certainly
it was a welcome surprise to the Holy See to hear in 1789 that the new American
federal government was not interested in interfering with papal selection of a bishop
for the new see of Baltimore.
Catholic theologians, indeed, did not let all this go without protest. In 1537 Pope Paul
III had forbidden the enslavement of the American Indians, and the popes consistently
condemned the slave trade from Africa. But they were largely disregarded. The
Spanish theologians, Vittoria and Suarez, denounced many features of their country's
colonialism - not that this was all bad or inhuman. St. Robert Bellarmine debated the
medieval Scholastic doctrine of government responsible to the people with James
Stuart, pedantic King of England and Scotland, who defended royal absolutism. Pope
Innocent XI under extreme provocation did dare excommunicate King Louis XIV of
France in 1687, and obliged him at least to make a few concessions and acknowledge
the principle of ecclesiastical independence. Theologians were working out sound
principles of conscience and under papal guidance steered a moderate middle way
between Jansenist rigorism that never allowed liberty any probability over against law,
and a Laxism which would destroy all order by making anyone's opinion or even
whim the norm of law.
Against Rationalism many ardent Christians reacted with a more earnest attitude
toward religion: there were the Catholic missionaries, Sts. Paul of the Cross, Leonard of
Port Maurice, and Alfonso di Ligouri; the Protestant preacher to the poor, John Wesley,
founder of Methodism, and Quaker efforts to abolish slavery, to mention but a few. St.
John de LaSalle founded the Christian Brothers to promote education, and they had
many imitators. And in the midst of these fashionably cold and conceited reasoners
lived St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitandine nun, who was instructed from heaven
to propagate an old Christian devotion under a new garb and title: a love of gratitude
and loyal service to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
ERA OF LIBERALISM (1789 AND AFTER)
THE FRUIT OF LIBERALISM was the French Revolution against the absolute
monarchy. Liberalism originally meant the spirit of that revolution. In a general sense it
involved freedom for the individual human spirit against social tyranny.
As such, liberalism is a creative and forward looking philosophy. Unfortunately,
libertarians often forget that individual good must be weighed against the common
good and that every human right involves human responsibility. Runaway
individualism is really not liberty but license.
The general upheaval in France and elsewhere in Europe after the Revolution is well
known. Royal houses toppled and popular movements struggled for national identity.
This was brought to a sudden halt for a time by Napoleon who brought back
authoritarianism with his imperial rule. Eventually he was defeated and removed from
the scene and the march of popular nationalism continued, not without much infighting
and social turmoil.
The Catholic Church suffered a great deal during much of this early period. Some of
the suffering had a purifying effect in that the Church's unhealthy attachment to the
"Old Regime" was dissolved and many of the clergy and laity became-as often happens
in time of adversity -more conscious of spiritual values and more committed to Christ.
Pope Pius VI and his successor, Pius VII, were humiliated and imprisoned by
Napoleon, events that actually merited for them the admiration of the anti-Napoleon
bloc. So brief were the pontificates of Pius VII's immediate successors, Leo XII (1823-29)
and Pius VIII (1829-30) that they had little impact on the history of the times. Gregory
XVI (1831-46) began to feel the first rumbling of the movement to consolidate the
various principalities of Italy into a single nation. It was Pius IX (18461878), however,
who was to live, suffer and almost die amid the actual struggle.
In the struggle, the Papal States were lost to the Church save for the small area now
known as Vatican City. Considered a great tragedy at the time, and the bone of
contention with the Italian government for many years afterward, the loss has had an
overall good effect. Freed from its role as a political power, the papacy is now in a
better position to provide spiritual leadership to Catholics in all lands and moral
guidance to all others who are willing to listen.
So much, for the moment, about "the official Church." Before taking up the subject
again, note must be taken of the incredible growth of spirituality in the Church in the
nineteenth century. A whole cluster of religious congregations of men and women
appeared to take their places side by side with communities of earlier ages to provide
pastoral care for the poor, to teach and staff hospitals, to carry the message of the
Gospel to distant places. Likewise, a whole litany of holy persons appeared on the
scene, some of whom were later canonized.
This too was the century of remarkable apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary-at
Lourdes, at La Salette, at Rue de Bac (Paris). None had a more profound effect than
those at Lourdes which to this day continues to be a place of pilgrimage and spiritual
renewal not only for Catholics but for others as well, something eloquently affirmed in
1946 by the popularity of the book and motion picture, ", " by the
Jewish novelist, Franz Werfel.
The first half of the twentieth century had its periods of peace for the Church but there
were also some areas of hostility on the part of some governments. Still great advances
were made in opening new mission fields, consolidating parish life (particularly in
places like Ireland, Canada, the United States and Australia), promoting studies in
liturgy, patristics, church history and the development of Christian ethics.
Tragically, the period also saw church life, and life in general, profoundly disturbed by
two world wars, and many other conflicts, the Russian revolution, the rise of
Communism, the bloody persecutions in Mexico and Spain. World War II proved to be
enormously destructive of the cultural and moral fabric, first of Europe, and then of
most other places. The going philosophy was a pessimistic existentialism. "Live for the
day, bear up as best you can. There is no life after death."
Now in the second half of the century, the abundance of books and other
communications on stress, anxiety and inner peace, are indicative of an age caught in
the crunch of a changing culture with all its side effects of despair, suicide, lawlessness,
violence and confusion. For all that, many are seeing here not a Church being
threatened but a Church being challenged. More and more persons are developing a
deeper spirituality and striving under the impulse of the Holy Spirit to develop truly
Christian lifestyles and communities.
Turning back our attention to the "Official Church" in the past and present century. the
pontificate of Pius IX saw the solemn declaration by that pope of the dogma of Mary's
Immaculate Conception (1854) and the declaration later of the dogma of Papal
Infallibility by the First Vatican Council. The Council made other important
pronouncements on Papal Primacy, the Church's teaching authority and the
compatibility of faith and reason. Unfortunately, the Council was interrupted by the
Franco- Prussian war, and was not able to complete its agenda. The lack of completion
contributed, no doubt, to many of the disagreements and bitter debates that followed in
some quarters among Catholics themselves and among other Christians.
The successors of Pope Pius IX in the Vatican are a remarkable group of learned and
holy persons. Leo XIII (1878-1903) was a scholar and proven administrator and one
keenly alert to the moral implications of an increasingly industrialized society. His
encyclical, , popularly called, "On the Condition of Labor" was a
careful exposition of Catholic social teaching that has had a lasting effect. It was
celebrated forty years later in Pope Pius XI's encyclical, . In the
same tradition of spelling out the rights and duties of employers and workers, are
of Pope John XXIII, of Paul VI and
of John Paul II.
Pope Leo XIII also restored the study of Scholastic Philosophy to an honored place in
Catholic education, promoted the missions, encouraged devotion to the Holy Spirit and
the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wrote extensively on the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin
Mary. Following Leo, Pope Pius X (1903-1914) made the renewal of Catholic life the
theme of his pontificate, choosing his motto from St. Paul "To restore all things in
Christ." He advanced studies in liturgy and catechetics, instituted the Confraternity of
Christian Doctrine, extended the Eucharist to young children, encouraged frequent,
even daily Communion. He came down hard on a budding heresy designated as
Modernism, dubbing it the synthesis of all heresies. He was canonized a saint by Pope
Pius XII in 1955.
Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) found much of his time taken up with the problems of
World War I. He worked hard to minimize the hardships of the prisoners of war, strove
to end the conflict and proposed a peace plan that urged forgiveness and charity. The
victorious powers, bent on reprisals, chose to ignore the pope's plan. It was a tragic
mistake since there is little doubt that the harshness of the peace terms helped to create
the climate in Germany in which National Socialism and Adolph Hitler came to power.
Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) saw his pontificate open in the post war era of reconstruction
and a period of peace. He took advantage of the time to develop life in the Church and
two Holy Years, one at the usual twenty-five year period (1925) and the other in 1933 to
celebrate the 1900th anniversary of Christ's Redeeming Death, were marked by great
pilgrimages to Rome and within dioceses around the world. He wrote several
remarkable encyclicals which are still studied: On Marriage, On the Education of
Youth, On the Priesthood, and, as already noted, On the Fortieth Anniversary
() of Leo's labor encyclical.
He saw the rise of Fascism in Italy and Naziism in Germany, and although he was able
to conclude a concordat with Mussolini that settled the Papal States question, he did
not approve of the Dictator's policies. In 1937, he roundly condemned the Nazi
developments in Germany in the encyclical "" and a few days
later published another encyclical .
By and large, it was a good time in the Church. There were many outstanding
Eucharistic Congresses and the canonization of some thirty saints including the
immensely popular St. Therese of Lisieux as well as the North American Jesuit Martyrs
and St. Thomas More.
Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) bore the brunt of the World War II years and bent his efforts
toward trying to bring the hostilities to a close. He encouraged people to pray for peace
and he worked through church and other agencies to help refugees. His wide
experience as Secretary of State under Pius XI and his vast erudition especially in moral
theology enabled him to give great guidance to those professionals who were
concerned about the ethical implications of a developing technology. Ecstatic at the end
of the war, he was able to foster a great era of popular devotion to Christ and the
Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Holy Year of 1950, he solemnly defined the Bodily
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a dogma of faith. This, plus his dedication of
1954 as a Marian Year (to commemorate the centenary of Pius IX's definition of Mary's
Immaculate Conception) and his dedication of 1958 as the Lourdes Year (to
commemorate the centenary of the apparitions of Mary to Bernadette of Lourdes), led
to a great upsurge in Marian studies and devotions, so much so that people spoke of a
For all the enthusiasm and popular piety in many parts, however, Pope Pius XII was
conscious of the devastating effects that the war had had on the faith of many. They
were being felt not only among Catholics but among other religious people also. A
Jewish author spoke for many when he wrote: "Can one believe in God after Dachau?"
There are those who say that Pius XII had thoughts of calling a General Council to
consider what the Church could do to bring to the modern world more effectively the
message of God's continuing love. It is possible that he did have such thoughts and, in
fact, much of his writing would be consulted in the Second Vatican Council.
But it was his successor, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) who actually convoked the great
council of bishops and other key persons in the Church, inviting also a number of
observers from other Christian traditions. His short pontificate was characterized by a
great feeling of warmth. His friendly "grandfatherly" approach (he was 77 when
elected) endeared him to all. His crowning achievement was the launching of the
Second Vatican Council which would complete the agenda of Vatican Council I and go
on to other concerns. Preaching optimism and hope and calling for creative renewal,
the pope lived to see the first year's session. Among his other initiatives were the
establishment of a commission to revise Church Law and of a Secretariat to promote
Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) saw the Council through the three following sessions until its
completion in 1966. The Council's deliberations resulted in a number of documents on a
great variety of subjects: Liturgy, Social Communications, the Church, Eastern
Churches, Ecumenism, Bishops, Religious Life, Priests, Christian Education, Divine
Revelation, Laity, Religious Liberty, Mission, Relations with Non-Christian Religions
and Relations of the Church with the Modern World.
After the Council, Pope Paul set in motion the implementation of many of the directives
of the Council. The smooth beginning soon gave way, however, to considerable tension.
As people became more and more aware of the changes that were being planned, some
applauded and others felt hurt and betrayed. The situation became worse in 1968 when
Pope Paul published his long-awaited encyclical on the Regulation of Births (Humanae
Vitae) repeating the Church's traditional opposition to all forms of artificial
Thereafter, obviously pained by the polarization in the Church and the exodus of great
numbers of priests and religious from their roles in the Church, Pope Paul carried on
valiantly and did a masterful job of translating many of the Council's ideas into reality.
To name but two of his memorable achievements, one would be the celebration of the
Liturgy in modern languages and the other would be his active promotion of good
relationships with other Churches. His meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch
Athenagoras in 1965 and their mutual nullification of the anathemas pronounced in
1054 were landmark events.
Pope Paul VI was also the first of the modern "Pilgrim Popes", travelling to the Holy
Land, India, the United Nations (New York), Portugal, Philippines, and other places.
On August 6, 1978, Pope Paul VI died. He was succeeded by the cardinal from Venice,
Albino Luciani, who paid tribute to his immediate predecessors by choosing the name
John Paul I. A man of great charm and simplicity, he was an immediate favorite with
the crowd that greeted him in St. Peter's Square. The "Pope of the Smile" he was called,
so broad and alive was his smile. Sadly, his pontificate lasted only thirty three days. He
died in his sleep of a massive heart attack. At his funeral, the eulogist, Cardinal
Confalonieri, spoke of him as a meteor who for a brief moment lit up our sky and our
The conclave in October elected Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II. A man of great
dynamism and intelligence, a gifted linguist, he has reached out in numberless ways to
carry the message of Christ to the ends of the earth. His travels are now legend. They
are also something of a miracle since he too might have had a brief career if an
assassin's bullets in May 1981 had not missed by inches from wounding him mortally.
John Paul's chosen agenda is manifold as can be seen in the numerous events that have
marked his pontificate thus far: dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Churches and with
the Western Separated Brethren; promotion of cultural studies between Eastern and
Western Europe; outreach to youth; defense of life and human rights, restoration of
order in the Church, a new enthusiasm for the saints; an abiding love for the Blessed
Virgin Mary and defense of her place in Catholic teaching; and so on. Many of these
interests have already been the subject of the Pope's encyclicals: one on the Redeemer,
one on Divine Mercy; one on Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavic peoples;
one on the Holy Spirit; and one on Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. Some other major
statements are an Apostolic Letter on suffering and an exhortation on the family.
So, with Pope John Paul II, most recent of the Pilgrim Popes, the Catholic Pilgrimage by
the grace of God moves toward the end or another century.
An overview of the Ages of Catholicism from 30 A.D. through 1789 and after.
Published in United States of America by:
Catholic Information Service
Knights of Columbus
P.O. Box 1971, New Haven, Conn. 06521
Most Reverend John F. Whealon,
Archbishop of Hartford