The Catholic Pilgrimage: Feed My Sheep

Author: Knignts of Columbus


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).


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 was theirs.

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).


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.


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.


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 :8) .

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.


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.


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 thirteenth centuries.

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.


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 century.

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


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 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 universities demanded.

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 Christ's merits.

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 stressed.

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.


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 administration.

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(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.


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 Lithuania.

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 France.

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.


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.


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.


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 "Marian Era."

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 Christian Unity.

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 contraception.

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 lives.

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

IMPRIMATUR: Most Reverend John F. Whealon, Archbishop of Hartford