Friday 27 October 2017

An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on The Reformation in General

A watershed moment in Christian History will be commemorated on October 31st. On that day 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The document, which was intended as an academic discussion of the sale of indulgences (a reduction of time in purgatory), sparked a schism known as the Reformation which has lasted to the present.

Today, members of Protestant and Catholic Churches work together for many common goals. However, this was not always the case, as we previously explained in this post on the evolution of ecumenism. The divide wasn't just spiritual; it poured over into the political and social as well. Here in the archives, we have lots of examples of arguments written to convince people to switch teams.

This booklet regarding transubstantiation (which was a big sticking point between Catholics and Protestants) helped influence John Elmsley, who was a very influential donor in the early days of the diocese, to convert to Catholicism. Perhaps it was this paragraph that changed his mind:
"For your part at least, Sir, reflect; I conjure you, on the danger to which you are exposed by the prejudices of your education. Have the courage to emancipate yourself from them; it certainly must cost you less to quit an opinion which is not of your own choice. Imagine yourself for a moment in the midst of the synagogue where the important affair was discussed, and that you witness all that passes. You distinguish our divine Saviour surrounded by his apostles and disciples: you attentively listen with them to the words that come from his mouth, and at the at part of his discourse where he comes to the mystery, you hear the confused murmurs, and afterwards the declared opposition of the multitude. In vain does our Saviour exert himself to persuade them, by repeatedly affirming what he had just announced; the multitude remain deaf: and soon you remark the repugnance even of many of his disciples, you notice their words of contradiction, and then their entire desertion from him. on the other side you admire the firmness, the liveliness of the faith of the apostles, and what is more striking through the whole of this scene, the calm countenance and unalterable sweetness of the Man-God. All this passes before your eyes; I suppose you to be present at it. Now what are you yourself going to do? You must declare yourself. On what side will you range yourself? Will you adhere with them to your divine master? Or will you turn your back upon him with the crowd of the murmurers? You are indignant at my question: is there any room for hesitation? You say to me. Well then! Sir, take now the part that you would then decidedly have taken with the apostles. The dispute unfortunately still continues. It has been renewed for nearly three centuries with more violence than at its birth, and with still more deplorable consequences. It is no longer between the Jews and in the synagogue, but in the Church, and among Christians: Jesus Christ is still in the midst of them; he continues to speak the same language to them. You have just heard him: surrender yourself therefore to him." 

Extract From a Celebrated Work Entitled An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on The Reformation in General


M AB14.01
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

The preface of the next booklet gives an account of the attitudes of Torontonians when Elmsley converted:
"In a free country where every man has the right to profess the creed which he finds most congenial to his conscience, we see no reason why a Catholic should be hunted down, for availing himself of the privilege which every sectarian in the land enjoys.  
"The desertion of the Hon. John Elmsley from the Church of England, and his embracing the doctrine of the Catholic Church, has raised such an alarm among protestants of all denominations in this city, that it appears to be a tocsin (sic) for those, of the most jarring and discordant dogmas to rally round their divided fabric, and bring their united artillery to bear upon Mr. Elmsely; not satisfied with the "triumphant and gentlemanlike" answer of the Venerable Archdeacon of Toronto, they must pour upon him, the most scurrilous and billingsgate abuse from the kennel of the Courier..."
Husenbeth's Defence of the Catholic Church: A Complete Refutation of the Calumnies Contained in a Work Entitled The Poor Man's Preservative Against Popery


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Bishop Macdonell Fonds

Father William Peter MacDonald, who was Vicar General of the Diocese of Kingston at the time, wrote his own book of arguments for the Catholic Church, with topics such as the sacraments, the Latin mass, the saints, the veneration of Mary, relics, fasting, purgatory, indulgences, and more. He explained,
"Protestant is the general appellation by which all those sects designate themselves, that have built their various and every-varying systems of belief upon the same bottom with the first Reformer, Luther; that is, on the right assumed by everyone of interpreting the Holy Scriptures for himself, and of forming his faith accordingly. This common title, which they have taken to themselves, is, in truth, the most appropriate one they could possibly have chosen; as all their doctrines purely such, and properly their own, are but so many flat denials, or open protests made against as many affirmative articles taught by the Catholic Church. They are all negatives, or nay; opposed to as many affirmatives, or yea. ...
"To protest against, is to oppose. But an opposer is an adversary. The Protestant then has assumed the very title, by which in Scripture the Devil is designated ... Another Scripture name of the Devil is ... destroyer. But the word Protestant, or denier, has the very same meaning; for, to deny is to pull down and destroy what previous affirmation has built up."

The Protestant, or Negative Faith Refuted, and The Catholic, or Affirmative Faith Demonstrated from Scripture


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Bishop Macdonell Fonds

Archbishop Lynch published a book of responses to common Protestant arguments against Catholicism. He wrote, 
"We designedly condensed the answers, that, the book might be small and cheap, in order to reach all classes.
"We have been informed that many Catholics bought several of these books to distribute, and to lend their Protestant neighbors, who became far less bigoted, in fact, more friendly in their intercourse, and were not afraid to enter a Catholic Church, and listen to the sermons which they had been erroneously informed were delivered in Latin.
"It was to give a ready answer to Catholics, as well as to inform Protestants, in search of true faith that this little book was composed. We exhort all Catholics to a greater zeal in propagating the truth whenever they can. Those who convert others from the error of their ways will have gained their neighbors' and their own salvation." 
Questions and Objections Concerning Catholic Doctrine and Practices


ARCAT Rare Book Collection

If arguments fail, perhaps peer pressure will work. This 1878 leaflet lists (in order of their social standing) citizens of England who have converted to Catholicism. In his introduction, Archbishop Lynch wrote, 
"There is a good object to be gained by the publication of these names. It will show to the weak-hearted and wavering that the most noble and learned personages, have, after prayer and self-sacrifice, entered a Church that is held up to the protesting world as corrupt and soul-destroying. That calumny is refuted at once. Those great personages would not, indeed, renounce many worldly advantages but for conscience sake, that they might securely treat the true path that leads to Heaven."
Recent Converts to the Catholic Church in England


ARCAT Rare Book Collection

And here's what the other side had to say. The preface states,
"Popery should be combated, not only with spiritual but political weapons - not only by the Church, but also by the state. 
"The author, however, does not advocate intolerance towards Roman Catholics. He would give them full liberty of worship and of discussion, and only deprive them, as a measure of self-defence, of the power of carrying out their persecuting system and canon law; and of such a position in the state as enables them to subserve politically the papal designs. He bears no ill will to Roman Catholics; on the contrary, his "heart's desire and prayer to God is, that they may be saved." It is always important to remember the distinction which exists between the person and the system - the sinner and the sin. 
"It is earnestly hoped that this condensation of evidence, on the antisocialism of Popery, may tend, under God, to open the eyes of many to the fearful evils of that system, and to the dangers to which we are exposed from its nefarious designs."
Popery in its Social Aspect: Being a Complete Exposure of the Immorality and Intolerance of Romanism


ARCAT Rare Book Collection
And just for fun, here's Fr. George Northgraves' book aimed at the mistakes of all non-Catholics in general:

Mistakes of Modern Infidels, or, Evidences of Christianity


ARCAT Rare Book Collection

Today we recognize that Catholics and Protestants have more in common than they don't, and we prefer peaceful dialogue to petty argument. For that we are thankful. 

Protestants and Catholics alike are invited to an ecumenical prayer service at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on Reformation Sunday, October 29th.

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