Americanism and the American Catholic
(This article is the third part of one entire piece: the first being on the Declaration of Independence, the second on the U.S. Constitution. Both parts examine the revolutionary, and thus anti-Catholic basis, of these foundational documents upon which the constitutional government and general life of the United States is based. This article therefore presumes the first two parts have been read.)
The late 18th and early 19th century was a period in which the forces of the Revolution against Christ the King and His Church were triumphant in the social and political domain. By the middle of the 19th century new anti-Catholic and revolutionary ideas were introduced and we will see that these ideas influenced Catholics in America to such a damaging degree that the Faith among them was (and still is) compromised, if not almost entirely lost. Two of the most dangerous ideas were promoted by men who not only consciously rejected the authority of Christ the King and His Church, but any and all influence His Church had upon society. These men were Karl Marx and Charles Darwin -both of whom were Jews. And God has revealed that the "Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, are enemies to all men" (I Thessalonians 2:14b-15). Thus, these men and their ideas are enemies to Christ, His kingdom, and the entire Christian social and moral order.
It shall be presumed that readers of this article have some knowledge of these ideas. But let it be said that the ideas of Marxism (or Communism) were derived from writings of Karl Marx (himself a student of the false "Enlightenment"), who held that all reality was limited to materialism, and that the State was of more importance than individuals, than the Church, than God. Marx also promoted the erroneous ideas of equality to such a point as to promote class warfare, which, in essence, rejects the Natural Law concerning the hierarchical order of society, and thus rejects God's will of accepting one's state in life and the duties enjoined to it. This philosophy has led to a direct attack on the Tenth Commandment wherein men became convinced that more was owed to them, and thus encouraged men to always want and desire more in the social-economic realm, leading to the sin of coveteousness.
In the area of science, the theory of evolution was developed by Charles Darwin. Evolution denied that God was in control, that He kept all things in existence, that the Providence of God guides men. It holds that God did not even create the world, and thus did not create human beings. Humans came from beasts, which themselves came from slime. In other words, there was no God (or at least there was no God who cares and is involved in men’s lives). Both ideas are anti-Catholic, anti-Christ, and thus anti-God in nature and content.
But evolution became more than a scientific theory, because its very presuppositions are based on erroneous and condemned philosophies. Evolution presumes that men do not have an eternal-spiritual soul, thus that there is nothing beyond this life. Thus men are the final authority, can formulate their own belief systems, can make up their own laws (just as with THE Revolution). This also is the essence of Liberalism, Rationalism (i.e., the belief that man’s reason is the final authority because it is held to be higher than God’s revealed truths), and Positivism (i.e., the belief that all knowledge can only be attained by means of sense experience, or experimental science, and thus rejects philosophy, theology, and God’s revelation), each of these philosophies were solemnly condemned by the Church at Vatican Council I in 1869-70.
These notions -so dominant today- hold that since men are supposedly evolving, and thus getting better, smarter, and more advanced, then new systems of belief, of values, and government must constantly replace the older systems. In other words, a revolution in each and every area of human life must constantly be taking place. Since there is (suppposedly) no God, nothing is stable, nothing can be unchanging, and this includes the area of faith and morals, of any and all religious beliefs. All systems must change; all must “evolve” into new and better ones. It should come as no surprise, then, that those who promoted the Revolution in its many forms also promoted these new and anti-Christian ideas.
Catholics influenced by the idea of evolution almost unconciously began to believe that the Church and her teachings should also change and adjust to modern times. The notion that doctrines and morals could evolve into more "enlightened" (and thus different) meanings began to take hold of American Catholics. The idea developed that men could determine their own beliefs (since they were supposedly more “advanced” and more knowledgeable than men in the past –including past popes), and this was the most influential and damaging to Catholics in America. As with other Americans, U. S. Catholics transferred the revolutionary idea of evolution to the religious realm.The Syllabus of Condemned Errors
We have noted before that many American Catholics accepted the revolutionary ideas of the so-called “Enlightenment.” They accepted the false notions of liberty, equality, authority from below in the areas of political life, law, and civil affairs and almost unconsciously applied these ideas to their religious beliefs. In accepting and living by these ideas, they corrupted their Faith. As the society around them held (and still holds), so many Catholics in America held that persons of different religions (and thus different beliefs and morals) were equal in God’s eyes, that men should have the “freedom” to believe what they want (as long as they are sincere), and God will not be offended with those who believe differently from what He has revealed as necessary for belief. The distorted revolutionary notions of liberty, equality, etc. were held by erring American Catholics as if they were doctrines themselves. Against them, courageous men like Redemptorist Father Michael Mueller (1825-1899) and Orestes Brownson (1803-1876) had to defend the traditional and unchangeable Catholic dogmas that teach that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ, that outside the Church there is no salvation, and that the Catholic Faith must be held in order for men to be saved.
Liberalism, that is, the false philosophy spawned by the so-called “Enlightenment,” had been attacking the Church and influencing the faithful since the end of the 18th century. By the middle of the 19th many Catholics in America believed a number of different errors and heresies condemned by the Church:
1. Some Catholics believed that all religions were the same or equal (after all, this was supported by the U.S. Constitution and national law);
2. Others believed anyone could be saved no matter what religion he practiced, as long as he was sincere and morally good (after all, this is what their Protestant neighbors believed, and they seemed to be moral);
3. Others believed that though the Catholic religion was “better,” the different Protestant sects could still lead people to salvation, only with more difficulty;
4. Others believed that though the Catholic Church is the true Church, many in other religions had what was called “invincible ignorance,” and that these others could be saved in their non-Catholic religions because of their ignorance of the True Faith.
5. Many believed that the social and moral teachings of the Church should not influence or guide, let alone be the basis of, civil laws and government policies.
6. Many believed that the Church and her teachings and disciplines should change and adapt to current ways of thinking.
Faithful Catholics never believed such things before, but in the 19th century the Church had to condemn each of these errors for they had become so wide-spread. In 1864, Blessed Pope Pius IX, in response to the spread of many errors, infallibly condemned these and others in his Syllabus of Errors. He solemnly declared:
“By Our Apostolic authority We reject, We proscribe, and condemn; and We will and command that they be considered as absolutely rejected, proscribed, and condemned by all the sons of the Catholic Church:
1. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which he, led by the light of reason, thinks to be the true religion. (i.e. condemned)
2. In the worship of any religion whatsoever, men can find the way to eternal salvation, and can attain eternal salvation. (condemned)
3. We must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.(condemned)
4. Protestantism is nothing else than a different form of the same true Christian religion, in which it is possible to serve God as well as in the Catholic Church. (condemned)
5. The Church is to be separated from the state, and the state from the Church. (condemned)
6. It is false to hold that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all of manifesting openly and publicly any kind of opinion and ideas, more easily leads to the corruption of the morals and the minds of people, and to the spread of the evil of indifferentism. (condemned)
(Syllabus of Errors, Propositions 15, 16, 17, 18, 55, 79)
Thus, we must absolutely condemn and reject the above beliefs because they are false. Let us briefly look at each of these condemned propositions.
Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which he, led by the light of reason, thinks to be the true religion.
Thus, regarding the first proposition, no man is actually “free”(morally-spiritually) to profess and practice just any religion, even one that he thinks to be true, because only the Catholic religion is in fact true. The word “free” here is understood to mean that there is no guilt, and thus no penalty from God, if a person chooses to embrace and profess any religion other than the true one. (As if God gives permission for men to believe and live differently from what He has revealed and commanded.) On the contrary, men are guilty for choosing a false religion, and thus there is a penalty, and that is the everlasting fires of hell. (We must remember this truth the Church defined at Vatican I: God is always pouring out His graces for men in error to come to know the truth. Thus, it is their own fault if men do not accept those graces by the end of their lives and believe the True Faith.)
In the same way, no government has the right to say that men have the right to choose any religion they wish, for this would mean that God allows men and nations to make laws that are against His will, but this is not true. Christ is King over all men and nations, and therefore men (and thus governments) have no right to enact laws that are not merely contrary to God’s laws, but which fail to recognize the kingship of Christ. God has declared: “All the nations that forget God, the wicked will be sent into hell” (Ps.9:18).
In the worship of any religion whatsoever, men can find the way to eternal salvation, and can attain eternal salvation.
As for the second proposition, it should be clear that only the worship belonging to the one, true religion established by Christ can lead men towards salvation. No other worship or religion can do so. As Pope St. Gregory the Great declared in his Sermons on Morals, “The holy universal Church teaches that God cannot be truly worshipped except within its fold: she affirms that all those who are separated from her will not be saved.”
We must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.
In regards to the third proposition, the Church teaches that no one can have real hope concerning the eternal salvation of those who are not in the true Church of Christ, because outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation. We can surely hope and pray for their conversion, and should make efforts to convert them. However, we simply cannot hope that those outside the true Church will be saved without entering the one Church established by Christ for our salvation. This belief is what has been condemned and which we must reject.
Protestantism is nothing else than a different form of the same true Christian religion, in which it is possible to serve God as well as in the Catholic Church.
In regards to the fourth proposition, we must absolutely reject the belief of those who say that Protestantism is nothing else but a different form of the same true Christian religion, in which it is possible to serve God (and thus conform to His will) as well as in the Catholic Church. Protestantism is false religion, invented by men, not established by Christ. It is not a different form of the same true Christian religion as many American Catholics wrongly hold. Protestants cannot please and serve God as He commands unless they repent from their heretical beliefs & immoral practices and enter the One True Church Christ founded for men’s salvation: the Holy Catholic Church.
The Church is to be separated from the state, and the state from the Church.
As for the fifth proposition, where the separation of Church and state is condemned, nations and states cannot establish laws that are contrary to morals, and the Church is the guardian and teacher of morals. Therefore, the state should not be separated from the Church, because it needs the Church’s guidance, as teacher of nations (Matt.28:19), in order to legislate laws that are not contrary to morals and natural law, as well as divine law. Pope St. Pius X also condemned the separation of the Church and state by calling it “an absolutely false and most pernicious thesis” (Vehementer Nos, 1906). As already mentioned, a state without the guidance of the Church is like a body without the soul. It is dead. ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ, not just spiritual authority, and this includes authority over society and governments. But by the end of the 19th century, nations around the world had rejected this truth. Pope Leo XIII had to declare:
The empire of Christ the King includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons…but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ. (Annum Sacrum, 1899)
Finally, in regards to the sixth proposition: It is false to hold that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all of manifesting openly and publicly any kind of opinion and ideas, more easily leads to the corruption of the morals and the minds of people, and to the spread of the evil of indifferentism.”
We must reject the idea that the civil liberty of every form of worship, other than the worship established by Christ (i.e., the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) does not corrupt the morals and minds of people. This is condemned because such a liberty which allows false worship does in fact corrupt the morals and minds of men, and this leads to the sin and error of indifferentism. (Indifferentism is the condemned belief which holds that it does not matter which religion one belongs to, that so long as one is sincere one can be saved. This belief became dominant in the 19th century.)
We also must reject the idea which holds that the open and public communication of any kind of opinion and idea does not corrupt the morals and minds of people, because it does. Error and falsehood can never have the same rights as truth. In fact, error has no rights at all. The so-called “right” to freedom of speech –of any kind- leads men to these errors. In 1885, Pope Leo XIII declared the Church’s constant teaching in his encyclical, Immortali Dei, when he condemned the opinions which hold that “individuals are free to form their own judgments about religion as they prefer,” or that “it is lawful for anyone to publish what he thinks,” and thus, “the unrestricted power of thinking and publicly expressing one’s opinions is not among the rights of citizens,” for the rights of God’s law and revealed truth are above all else. Nearly a century later Pope Pius XII had to reiterate this truth: “That which does not correspond to truth or to the law of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread, or to be activated.”
Unfortunately, a majority of the English-speaking Catholics in America held these condemned beliefs (or at least allowed such errors to be spread without making the effort to stop them). Because of the influence of Romanticism, where the emotions and sentiments of the “heart” rule the will and mind instead of the other way around as God designed us, many “felt” that God would tolerate error and evil, and thus let ignorant persons into Heaven. Or they “felt” that since our constitution tolerated these things, and they did in the socio-political realm, that they should also tolerate them in the religious realm. They believed this since it “felt wrong” to them that God would not allow such men to be saved, for they were more conditioned by the cultural milieu than they were by actual Church teaching. They determined and measured God’s will according to their own personal sentiments and feelings, rather than according to what God has decreed. Unfortunately, this is an accurate description of most Catholics in America today.
Because many Catholics worked hard to “fit in” and be accepted by the predominant Protestant and increasingly secular society around them, they watered down the Faith in order not to cause problems with their non-Catholic neighbors. American Catholics had Protestant relatives, neighbors, friends, employers, doctors, district representatives, etc. They felt that they dare not say to these folks that they would not be saved if they did not believe the Catholic Faith and convert to the Church. If they said such things they would be socially outcast, possibly lose their jobs, lose their security, their influence (if they had any) on their government representatives, among other things. In other words, these American Catholics were guilty of the sin of the respect of man. They cared more for how others looked at them, desiring their respect and friendship, instead of pleasing God, proclaiming the truth and seeking the salvation of their neighbors souls. They feared men more than they feared God. Ultimately it meant that they loved security and peace more than they loved God. Assimilation into post "enlightenment" liberal society was preferred over persecution (as it is today). This was the situation in which many Catholics in America found themselves. What most did was believe and practice their Catholicism in America in a way that was contrary to Church teaching and thus was different from belief and practice in the rest of the world. Sadly, many of the leaders of the Church in the U.S. were guilty of fostering these errors. Everything just described above is the foundation of the condemned heresy known as Americanism.
The Syllabus of Blessed Pius IX caused much outrage and controversy here in the U.S. Articles in major newspapers centered on the fact that what the Church condemned was precisely what the U.S. Constitution upheld. The January 19, 1865, edition of the Chicago Tribune correctly stated that the Syllabus was “directly in conflict with the Constitution of the U.S. and of every state in the Union.” Church leaders in the U.S. tried to soften the condemnations, saying that they did not apply to the American situation. The liberal bishops believed the situation of the Church in America was different, and even unique. They did their best to assure their fellow non-Catholic Americans that they were as American as anyone else. In fact, in 1884, at the Third Plenary Council, the bishops of the United States declared their approval of the “spirit and ideas” of the U.S. Constitution. As we have already seen, this basis of American life and law is itself based upon the condemned revolutionary ideas of freedom, equality, and power from below. No room is allowed for Christ the King and His teachings as the basis of life and law. The fact that some of the ideas upon which the U.S. Constitution is based were previously condemned (i.e. by Popes Pius VI, Pius VII, Benedict XVI, Gregory XVI, and Bl. Pius IX) apparently did not bother any of the U.S. bishops at this council.
There was even a religious order that was founded based on Americanist ideas. Father Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), a convert himself, founded the Society of Paulist Missionaries (known as the Paulists) in 1858 for the purpose of converting America to Catholicism. But he redefined what it meant to “convert” by making Catholicism look attractive to Americans without ever demanding –contrary to what God requires- that they believe the Faith in its purity and entirety. This order, and its publishing arm, Paulist Press, has promoted and spread the liberalism of its founder ever since.
Led by James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 to 1921, a number of other Americanist/liberal bishops founded the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1889. Promoting the liberal ideas of the Revolution, this school has since its founding been more American than it has been Catholic. It quickly became the headquarters of Americanism in this country and was highly criticized by orthodox leaders such as Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York City and Bishop Bernard McQuaid of Rochester, N.Y. Nevertheless, many U.S. bishops themselves were promoting the revolutionary ideas solemnly condemned in the Syllabus of Blessed Pope Pius IX.The "Baltimore Catechism"
In 1884, the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore was held. Bishops from throughout the U.S. attended. In an attempt to both protect and teach the Faith to Catholics in America, the bishops decided to publish a catechism. This catechism, known as the Baltimore Catechism, was first published in 1885. However, soon after, changes in both content and format were made. In 1898, another edition came out with significant changes. Another edition with more changes was published in 1901; another with major revisions came out in 1921, and another in 1933. The editions American Catholics in the 20th century grew up being taught from were either the 1921 or 1933 ones. Thus, there is no such thing as THE Baltimore Catechism. There are numerous versions. Sadly, starting with the very first revision in 1898, the numerous changes reflected the Americanism and liberalism of the editors and those prelates who approved of them, including the leading Americanist of his day: Cardinal Gibbons.Americanism Condemned
This situation of the Church in the U.S. was so bad that in 1894 Bishop McQuaid of Rochester wrote to the Prefect of Propaganda (of the Faith) in Rome. He wrote:
“Of late years, a spirit of liberalism is springing up in our body under such leaders as Mgr. Ireland [Archbishop of St. Paul] and Mgr. Keane [Bishop and Rector of the Catholic University of America], that if not checked in time, will bring disaster on the Church. Many a time Catholic laymen have remarked that the Catholic Church they once knew seems to be passing away, so greatly shocked are they at what they see passing around them.”His voice was among a small minority among U. S. prelates.
Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) had to address this situation in the 1890s. A bishop from Europe, after touring America, also reported back to Pope Leo that the situation among Catholics in the U.S. was deplorable. Liberalism was everywhere. Catholic families were sending their children to public schools, of which, in 1875, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide declared that “evils of the gravest kind are likely to result from the so-called public schools… there the children will be sadly exposed to loss of their faith.” This was, in fact, what was happening (and is still happening today). Poisoned by secularism revolutionary ideas, millions were losing the Faith and leaving the Church. Many others were losing the Faith, but staying within the visible structure of the Church, and thus were living a deception (i.e. they called themselves ‘Catholic” but did not hold the Catholic Faith in its entirety and purity). Most American Catholics apparently believed in the condemned idea of the separation of Church and state as it existed in America. Reacting to what was reported to him, in January, 1895, Pope Leo addressed an encyclical, Longinqua oceani, to the bishops of the U.S.A. He stated that though the Church in America (at that time, at least) was experiencing freedom and no persecution, nevertheless,
it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or practical for State and Church to be, as in America, separated and divorced.
Sadly, this did not convince any of the leading bishops in the U.S., for they had already committed themselves to the liberalism of the time. After reading a biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker, and knowing the problems addressed in his earlier encyclical were not being resolved, in 1899, Leo XIII came out with an Apostolic Letter, Testem Benevolentiae, condemning Americanism as a heresy. The letter was addressed to Baltimore’s Archbishop James Cardinal Gibbons, Primate of the United States, himself, as already mentioned, a leading Americanist. The Archbishop attempted to block the letter by sending a cable to Rome, beseeching Pope Leo not to dispatch it. However the cardinal's cable did not arrive until after the text was ship-bound for transport to the U.S.
In his letter, Pope Leo said that Americanism was an error which led Catholics “to imitate that liberty which, though quite recently introduced, is now the law and foundation of almost every civil community.” In other words, Catholics in America were, unfortunately, conforming their lives and beliefs to that of the liberal secular society around them. The Pope then said that Americanism can be identified by certain "doctrines" (his word) which it promotes. These may be summarized as follows:
• Christian perfection can be attained without external spiritual guidance;
• natural virtues are superior to supernatural ones and should be extolled over them: even among natural virtues, the cultivation of "active" ones (doing good works), as compared to "passive" ones (praying or contemplating, or quiet suffering, for instance), is more suitable to modern times;
• religious vows are not in line with these times because they limit human liberty;
• traditional methods of winning non-Catholics to the Church should be abandoned for new ones.
Of these false "doctrines," the first and last interest us the most for purposes of tracing the historical background of this heresy which affects in some way nearly every American Catholic today. The first, that Christian perfection can be attained without external spiritual guidance, implies that we have no need for a spiritual superior to guide and teach us. This stems from the American idea of liberty and “self-governing” (i.e., no outside authority, no authority above men). It can lead to the view, when developed far enough, that the Church herself is not necessary to teach and guide us, and thus is not necessary for salvation, and thus non-Catholics do not need to convert.
As for the last "doctrine," it had always been the way of the Church to proclaim her truths "from the housetops" (Matthew, 10:27). That was so from the days when St. Peter on the first Pentecost preached to men from every nation, declaring the necessity of Baptism, and by means of this the Lord added daily to the Church such as should be saved (see Act 2:38, 47). It was still so with the North American Martyrs and St. Francis Xavier in India and Japan. Pope Leo XIII had to remind Catholics that it is our “duty to profess Catholic doctrine openly and firmly, and propagate it as much as each one can” (Immortali Dei, 1885). The fact is most American Catholics did not (and still do not) fulfill this duty. The Americanists- Bishops John J. Keene and Denis J. O'Connell, Archbishop John Ireland and Cardinal Gibbons were among the leading ones- believed it should be otherwise than what Pope Leo proclaimed. They encouraged American Catholics to learn to work with their non-Catholic neighbors, to “get along” with them, rather than disturb them by proclaiming the necessity of converting to the One True Faith.
They also saw that the evangelization of a Protestant nation suspicious of hierarchical and "undemocratic" Catholicism and "Popish plots" against separation of Church and state was a difficult problem. They proposed the "Americanization" of the Church as the solution. That would entail leaving untaught those teachings which truly were undemocratic. Among them would be that of an instituted organization beyond that of each individual which has authority over men (i.e., the Church, her nature and her mission); and also the teaching that membership in a particular religious body (i.e., the Catholic Church) was necessary for salvation. No democrat believing in the principle of equality--equality of beliefs as well as of men--would want to hear such things.
Pope Leo knew exactly what Americanism entailed. It is why he wrote that all of the "doctrines" summarized above were based on a single "First Principle" which he summarized: "That in order the more easily to bring over to Catholic doctrine those who dissent from it, the Church ought to adapt herself somewhat to [the Pope is being ironic] our advanced civilization, and, relaxing her ancient rigor, show some indulgence to modern popular theories and methods." The Pope expressed confidence that "the Bishops of America would be the first to repudiate and condemn" the First Principle. Otherwise, he stated, there would be raised, "the suspicion that there are some among you who conceive and desire a Church in America different from that which is in the rest of the world." The suspicion proved to be true.Excerpts from Testem Benevolentiae
The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient vigor and make some allowances to new opinions. Many think that these allowances should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching, as if of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to mind. The Vatican Council says concerning this point: "For the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared. Hence that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother, the Church, has once declared, nor is that meaning ever to be departed from under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them."
We cannot consider as altogether blameless the silence which purposely leads to the omission or neglect of some of the principles of Christian doctrine, for all the principles come from the same Author and Master, "the Only Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father."-John 1, I8. They are adapted to all times and all nations, as is clearly seen from the words of our Lord to His apostles: "Going, therefore, teach all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world."-Matt. xxviii, 19. Concerning this point the Vatican Council says: "All those things are to be believed with divine and catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed." Let it be far from anyone's mind to suppress for any reason any doctrine that has been handed down. Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ. There is nothing closer to our heart than to have those who are separated from the fold of Christ return to it, but in no other way than the way pointed out by Christ…
[T]here are some among you who conceive of and desire a church in America different from that which is in the rest of the world. However, the Catholic Church is one in the unity of doctrine as in the unity of government, since God has established its center and foundation in the Chair of Peter, which is rightly called Roman…
The fully grown Americanist heresy did not emerge until the 19th century, however this attitude and desire which forms its basis arose in the 17th. We have already seen that, unlike the Spanish and French Catholics who came to America to evangelize, when English Catholics came over to America it was primarily to escape the Penal Laws of England. We also saw, however, that those same anti-Catholic laws were applied in the Colonies. Thus, to avoid direct persecution, English-speaking Catholic colonists would avoid attempting to spread the Faith and convert their neighbors. They did not want to cause trouble or disturb their neighbors. Rather, they wanted to be left alone and preferred to “fit in” with their non-Catholic neighbors. Now, it needs to be known that the formal heresy of Americanism did not first arise in America. Its birth place was France. However, it could not take root in that country in the late 19th century. It was only in America that it could possibly find the right soil at that time, and Pope Leo knew very well what it could one day mean for the Church Universal if it did anywhere. Equally well, he understood, despite the confidence he expressed, that among the U.S. bishops were men who did desire "a Church in America different from that which is in the rest of the world" and who believed the one in the rest of the world should be the same as theirs. Had he not understood that, he would not have followed up his encyclical letter of 1895 with his Apostolic Letter. It might be asked, why would the heresy of Americanism take root in America but not in France where it arose - and take root so deeply it would become known as Americanism? The answer is simple.
The heresy essentially represented an effort to accommodate the Revolution, the one that began with the Protestant Revolt commonly called the Reformation, which came to these shores in the ideas of the so-called “Enlightenment,” produced the American Revolution in 1776, erupted politically in France in 1789, subverted most of Spain's empire in the Americas at the beginning of the 19th century, erupted again in 1848 in France and elsewhere in Europe, then in 1917 in Russia, and the spirit of which has held sway almost everywhere in ex-Christendom since 1945. This Revolution, as mentioned previously, amounts to a revolt of man against God and it shows itself politically in the notion that society should be governed according to "the will of the people" instead of God's. But in France in the late 19th century there was a renewal of Catholic feeling, one so intense that monarchists for a time were the majority in the French parliament. It was this feeling that led to the construction, approved by the parliament as a public utility, of the spectacular Basilica of the Sacred Heart (the Sacre Coeur) in expiation for France's revolutionary sins. Thus, Americanism could not spread there at that time.
In contrast to France, the U.S. was the nation where "the will of the people" governed as nowhere else in the world, and given the fact of fallen human nature, "the people," if left uninstructed (and to speak in terms of the "doctrines" condemned by Pope Leo), will never readily admit of the need for authoritative external direction for anything; will not even acknowledge supernatural virtues; will not imagine, if only due to sentimentalism, that anything could be more important than doing good; and will (at best) turn a deaf ear to truth. (At worst -we have already seen it - the bearer of truth may have to suffer martyrdom.)
In any event, it was the arrival on these shores of English-speakers, especially including Catholics among them, which began to undo the Catholic America founded by the Spanish and French. It was natural for Protestant Anglos to want to undo it, but more important to what transpired was the attitude of the Catholics among the new arrivals. They did not resist the Protestant enterprise. Search the history books as you will, you can find no instance of an early-arriving English-speaking Catholic ever saying more than that Catholics simply wanted their Church in this country to be equal to other religious bodies.
The Carroll family, the first Catholic family to enjoy real prominence in the United States, are prime examples of all the Catholics of their day and ever since who were and have been American before they were anything else, and to such a degree that no one has ever spoken of Catholic Americans, but always of American Catholics.
Charles Carroll (of Carrollton), schooled by Jesuits in Maryland and Flanders, was the wealthiest man in the colonies when he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He held and promoted the revolutionary ideas of the “Enlightenment,” and supported the efforts of Free-masons. He also was a champion of strong centralized government, that deadliest of enemies to true political freedom. On the personal level, he had seven children, four of whom died young. Those who lived and married did so outside the Church.
John Carroll was the cousin of Charles and, like him, was Jesuit-trained. But John became a Jesuit. He was, of course, the first bishop named in the U.S., his see being that of Baltimore. The old Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) tells us that although he accepted his office from Rome, he "hoped that some method of appointing Church authorities be adopted by Rome that would not make it appear as if they were receiving their appointment from a foreign power." That is a delicate way of saying John Carroll advocated the popular election of bishops. Archbishop Carroll had already encouraged Catholics in America to adopt the ideas of the Revolution by encouraging in this country the separation of Church and state (as if the laws of men and governments are not required to conform to the laws of God and His Church).
Helpful also in erecting the famous wall of separation between Church and state in the U.S. would have been John Carroll's brother Daniel, one of the two Catholics present in Philadelphia in 1789 as framers of the Constitution. Daniel also owned the land, which he gifted to the United States, on which the U.S. Capitol was erected. (As already noted, the ceremonies for the laying of the Capitol's cornerstone, presided over by George Washington in the apron he wore as Grand Master of a lodge in Alexandria, Virginia, were Masonic.)
Such was America's first eminent Catholic family -supporters of the Revolution and the entire ideology behind it. In light of the lead they gave, there should be no surprise that when in a few decades the United States engaged in its first foreign war, the one it waged against Mexico in 1846, no important Catholic voice was raised against the aggression. That was so even though the proximate cause of the U.S. invasion of Mexico was a law enacted by the Mexicans which required that U.S. citizens settling in Texas (then a state of Mexico) should be Catholic or convert to the Faith. As already shown, this war was clearly anti-Catholic in nature, yet no bishop or prominent U.S. Catholic spoke out against it. (See "The U.S. Advances the Revolution, Part I: Remember the Alamo! The War Against Mexico")Catholic Defenders
By mid-19th-century, so anxious were Catholics in the U.S. to show themselves as Americans before they were Catholic that even the greatest Catholic apologist ever produced in this country, Orestes Brownson, felt obliged three years before his death to write: "I willingly admit that I made many mistakes, but I regard as the greatest of all the mistakes into which I fell...that of holding back the stronger points of the Catholic faith...of laboring to present Catholicity in a form as little repulsive to my non-Catholic countrymen as possible; and of insisting on only the minimum of Catholicity."
Having admitted his mistake, Brownson ended his life as a vocal defender of the teaching which declares that outside the Church there is no salvation. Doubtless it helps explain why his name and work were allowed to fall into obscurity after his death. (Brownson is buried in the crypt of the chapel at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.) Americans did not want to hear the undiluted truth, and American Catholics did not want to proclaim it, if they even believed it in the first place. Remember, one of the false doctrines of Americanism is to “soften” the stronger teachings of the Church so as not to be to offensive to one’s neighbors. (Maybe this is why the great gift of martyrdom has not been granted to a Catholic in America since 1823.)
There can certainly be no doubt as regards the reason for the silencing of the courageous Redemptorist priest Michael Mueller, another 19th-century figure. His medium of spreading and defending the Faith was at first newspaper articles and debates, and then books. Father Mueller authored over 30 books on the Faith, including an approved catechism published in 1875. When liberals began to attack what he wrote he began his defense of the Catholic dogma of the necessity of the Church for salvation, and thus the necessity of men to join it. His biggest selling, and most talked about, book was called The Catholic Dogma: Outside the Church There is Positively No Salvation. All the books were always best sellers for that era. Suddenly, people were interested in the controversy. Fr. Mueller's publishers could not print the volumes fast enough. Yet, he was finally silenced by his American superiors. Today, his name is hardly known. He died a holy death in 1899 in Maryland. To be silenced for teaching a most fundamental Catholic teaching, a truth revealed by God that is necessary for belief, by one’s American Catholic superiors exemplifies the tragic condition of the Faith in America by the end of the 19th century.
One of the necessary qualifications for sainthood is that one hold the Catholic Faith in its entirety and purity. What, then, did the saints of America who lived during this period have to say on the topic of salvation? The following are typical some examples:
Saint John Neumann, who was bishop of Philadelphia, and who wrote an approved catechism upon which the original Baltimore Catechism was loosely based (and then later changed and expanded), had this to say concerning those who do not convert and get baptized:
“A sinner will never obtain mercy and grace if he does not conform to the regulation prescribed and commanded by the offended God. And the means by which God promises and grants forgiveness of sins are the sacraments of Baptism and Penance. The unbaptized, therefore, being in a state of sin, must necessarily be baptized if they wish to please God and be saved.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who was sent to America by Pope Leo XIII specifically to help stop the loss of Italian immigrants to Protestant sects, declared on a number of occasions:
“Many Protestants have almost the same practices as we, only they do not see their way to submit to the Holy Father and attach themselves to the true Ark of Salvation... They do not want to become Catholics and unite themselves under the banner of truth wherein alone there is true salvation... These poor people do not enter the door of the true fold of Christ because they do not know Christ perfectly, or at least do not accept His sacred commands in their entirety. He who does not enter by the door of the fold shall not have salvation… But what can we do to draw down the mercy of God upon earth, so that everyone may join the Catholic Church, the Tree of Life, and be saved?”
As a result of the spread of Liberalism, not only in America, but throughout the world, Blessed Pope Pius IX had to remind all bishops with their solemn duty of protecting the true teachings of the Church concerning salvation. He declared:
“You must see to it that the faithful have firmly fixed in their minds this dogma of our most holy religion, namely: the absolute necessity of the Catholic Faith for attaining salvation.”(Nostis st Nobiscum; December 8, 1849)
The reader should be reminded that when something is absolute, by definition, it means there can be no exceptions. Sadly, neither the voices of the saints nor the binding and infallible teachings of the Church were enough to stop Liberals and Americanists from holding and spreading their views. The same holds true for most American Catholics today.
Another tragedy is that non-Catholics did not believe Church leaders in the U.S. did not intend to convert the nation. In other words, non-Catholics mistakenly believed that U.S. Catholics, in general, were still out to convert them. They looked at the Church in Europe and Latin America and supposed the one at home was the same and would do the same: convert, or at least attempt to convert, non-Catholics. Seeing that this is what they believed, Catholics in America, and especially the Catholic clergy, became all the more determined to prove they were as American as everybody else. They proved it by becoming exactly that, even though it meant ignoring our Lord's last Commandment to his followers, the one we have already recalled: to make disciples of all the nations. In time, they would feel driven to go beyond ignoring Christ's command. They would positively deny that the Church had a mission to convert the nation, and to deny also the reason for converting anyone: that outside the Church there is no salvation. In other words, they began by asserting that the Church sought no special position for herself in the U.S., she simply wished to be equal with other "denominations." The result of this attitude was Bishop Carroll's desire to push for the First Amendment whereby “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thus, false religions would have equal “rights” in America to the one true religion established by God. (As if what men establish is equal to that which God has established.) They ended by teaching that there is nothing special about the Church, period. You could get to Heaven without her. If pressed, some might allow that it was "better" to be Catholic, as it is "better" to ride first-class on an airplane. But you will still arrive at the destination if you are seated in coach.
These condemned notions and ideas are now, and have been, the norm among U.S. Catholics and their leaders for over a century. The Catholic student of history must not let these condemned attitudes and ideas be a part of his life. True love of country, true patriotism (i.e., love of Patria, our Fatherland) does not mean conforming to the society around us, nor condoning government policies which work to undermine the traditional Christian social moral order. However, true patriotism must include the desire and effort to convert America to the one true religion, the Catholic Faith. As we enter the 20th century in this study, we shall see that the challenges to do such become greater. At the same time, the urgency to convert America also becomes greater.U. S. Bishops Organize
We have seen that, in addition to Fr. Isaac Hecker, the U. S. bishops were the leaders of the Americanist cause and ideology. This desire to de facto function “independently” of Rome (without being schismatic) gave birth to the idea of forming a ruling body within the states. This, the liberal bishops would use to influence and "guide" the faithful towards full assimilation into the "modern world," so they hoped.
On August 11, 1917, in response to needs created by the "Great War" at the time (WWI), representatives of 68 dioceses and 27 national Catholic organizations held a meeting at the Catholic university of America. At this meeting the National Catholic War Council was founded. Because of the mistrust most Americans had of Catholics, the council was established partly to convince the nation that U. S. Catholics were as patriotic as all other Americans.
The idea of such a national Catholic council was like so much by the majority of the U. S. bishops that when the war ended it was decided to continue a similar body. In February of 1919, the U. S. bishops decided to seek approval of the Holy See for such an organization, as well as for an annual meeting of the entire U. S. hierarchy. Pope Benedict VX sent a letter, with certain restricting conditions clearly stated, giving his approval of both projects in April 1919. At a preliminary committee meeting in May, headed by the leading Americanist, James Cardinal Gibbons, plans were made for a first annual meeting to be held in September. Gibbons sent a letter to all the U. S. bishops informing them of the Pope's approval and including his own plans for how the organization should develop. Notice the slight of hand by Gibbons: the Pope gave approval only to the proposal of an annual meeting; he did not give any approval to Gibbon's ideas for the committee, nor Gibbon's ideas for how it should develop. This distinction was not apparent to most of the bishops who received Gibbon's letter. (These types of slight-of-hand "approvals" fostering the revolution against Tradition continue to this day.)
At the first meeting of the U S. bishops in September, Cardinal Gibbon's ideas were accepted, and it was voted to change the committee's name to the National Catholic Welfare Council(NCWC). Of the 101 bishops in the United States at the time, 92 attended the meeting and voted in favor of the NCWC and its annual meeting. Only one bishop at the meeting, the Most Reverend Charles E. McDonnell, Bishop of Brooklyn, opposed the idea. He stated that the Council would ultimately work against the authority of the bishops in their respective dioceses. This brings us to consider an important point and thus the significance of the event in U. S. Catholic history.
The reader needs to know that the bishop of a diocese (or archbishop of an archdiocese) is the head of the local Church there, just as the Roman Pontiff is the visible head of the entire Church on earth. The only ecclesiastical authority above that of a bishop who is the head of a diocese is the Pope himself. An organization of bishops, such as the NCWC (or today's USCCB), has no proper authority over a bishop in his own diocese, and thus has no authority over any of the faithful of any particular diocese. However, the NCWC began to function as if it did, and most U. S. Catholics, ignorant of the nature of Church authority and its proper function, also began to believe the council had such authority. (Ah, the liberals are so clever!)
Aware of this danger, a few other bishops joined Bishop McDonnell and sent a request to Rome not simply for a change to Gibbon's proposals concerning the nature of the council (which was never approved by the Pope), but for the dissolution of the NCWC altogether. The Vatican Secretary of the Consistorial Commission, Cardinal De Lai, agreed with their assessment of the situation that the idea of the NCWC carried with it, at least in seed form, the danger of a national church in the United States. In other words, it was feared that the NCWC would not only attempt to exercise authority over bishops in their dioceses, but would act as if independent from Rome. Here, the reader should be able to recognize the influence of Americanism and the false "Enlightenment" idea of liberty in the idea behind the NCWC.
Cardinal De Lai prepared a decree to dissolve the NCWC for Pope Benedict to sign and promulgate. But on January 22, 1922, the Pope died before he could sign it. The new Pope, Pius XI (1922-39), was elected on February 6, did not find the unsigned decree among the papers of Benedicts unfinished business until a month later. The new Pontiff agreed to its necessity and the decree was signed on February 23, and would soon be promulgated. The NCWC was going to be ordered to be dissolved.
When news of this reached the Administrative committee of the NCWC, an emergency meeting was held at the beginning of April in Cleveland, following which a cable was sent requesting the Holy See to withhold publication of the decree in the Holy See's official record -the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Acts of the Apostolic See). Representing the NCWC, Bishop Joseph Schrembs of Cleveland was sent to Rome to lobby for the American side of the situation. Somehow, he convinced Pope Pius XI not to dissolve the council and, on June 22, 1922, a decree of approval of the Holy See was issued for the NCWC. However, a number of its points were in direct contradiction to some of the ideas Cardinal Gibbons had for the council. These were meant to limit the independence and authority of the NCWC. Below is a listing of a few of these purposely restricting conditions:
#2: In any case, to dispel misgivings [of certain bishops], it must be very well understood that Bishops are not bound to attend these meetings, either in person or by representative.
#3: Likewise, as the decision of the Bishops at these meetings have nothing in common with conciliar legislation, which is governed by a prescript of the Sacred Canons [of solemn Church Law], they will not have force of law...
#6: The minutes of the meeting are to be sent to the Holy See so that if need be the Holy See may duly intervene.
#9b: That no infringement of canonical authority of any Ordinary [i.e., Bishop] in the government of his diocese be made by any agent or committee thus established.
If anyone knows anything about what has in fact happened over the last half century or more is the fact that this organization of American bishops (USCCB now) functions as if these conditions have no force of law or do not apply to them. But that is wishful thinking by those who think this is the case. Another of these conditions, number eight of the decree, stated that the word "Council" in the title should be changed to "Committee" so as no confusion would occur among the faithful implying that the NCWC was equivalent to a Church council (which is binding on the faithful). The decree then declared "all should know that this organization however named, is not to be identified with the Catholic hierarchy itself in the United States." Unfortunately this is what has in fact happened here in the U. S. Most U. S. Catholics are not aware of this distinction, or that the decisions of this organization are NOT binding upon the faithful (see #3 above). At the annual meeting in September, 1922, the official title of the organization was change, not to "committee" as was suggested, but to "Conference" -thus displaying another example of the independent spirit of the U. S. hierarchy. In 1966, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops -NCCB- was formed and the NCWC was reorganized as the United States Catholic Conference -the USCC. Today it is known as the USCCB -United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Who knows what they will name themselves in the future, but the revolutionary ideology behind it will be the same (history shows that once one rejects authentic tradition, there is a perpetual and aimless itch for continual change).
As a result of this organization, the liberalism and Americanism of the U S. bishops would spread to a greater degree among U S. Catholics, and would greatly burden and reduce those Catholics who held to the traditions of the Church -in belief and practice. The same would occur to those bishops who had any inclination towards fidelity to Tradition. Despite the limitations mentioned from the decree of Pope Benedict that were designed to safeguard the Church in the U S. from becoming a national church, there were pressures place upon individual bishops to conform to the programs of the NCWC, and the ideas behind them. One of the first decisions made and passed at the 1922 annual meeting was to revise (once again) another edition of the "Baltimore Catechism," one marked by a greater degree of liberalism. It was from this edition that for the next fifty years most Catholic American children were taught the Faith.
Another proposed program of the NCWC was the "Bishops' Program for Social Reconstruction." Though it offered a few good points faithful to Catholic Social teaching, it also had Marxist/Socialist elements weaved throughout, and was considered quite radical at the time. Part of the basis of its social program was the condemned revolutionary "Enlightenment" idea of equality. What the NCWC never did was to proclaim the social Kingship of Jesus Christ and the duty of nations and governments (as well as individuals) to acknowledge Christ's authority, and for them to conform their laws to the laws of God. Apparently, the U. S. bishops were more concerned that their organization be viewed as less Catholic than American.
The Revolution against the traditional Christian social-moral order, whether under the form of Socialism, Communism, liberal democracy, or modern republics -all of which reject the Kingship of Christ and the laws of God as the basis of authority and civil law- was so well established by the 1920's that Pope Pius XI promulgated an encyclical in 1925 declaring the need for recognizing the Social Kingship of Christ. In Quas Primas, he established the Feast of Christ the King as an effort to stop the spread of the Revolution. In it he declared:
“Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only individuals, but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ… for His kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.”
Pius XI also made clear that because “Christ has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, that [He] will most severely avenge these insults.” Unfortunately, the U. S. bishops continued in their failure, even refusal, to demand that the Kingship of Christ be acknowledged here in America. Pope Pius XI ordered that the faithful throughout the world make a formal act of reparation to be recited on the Feast of the Sacred Heart for the sins of both rejecting Christ’s kingship among men and nations, and the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. The faithful are to “make amends,” not only for the sins of individuals, but “for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and the teaching authority of the Church." The encyclical, its demands, and the principles of its teaching were for the most part ignored, if not out-right rejected, by both clergy and laity here in America.
As mentioned before, until Catholics in America become more Catholic than they are American (for sadly it is the other way around), the social reign of Christ the King will not occur here. We must recognize duty -our duty to God and our state in life- comes before so-called "rights." If you are a Catholic and an American, and you recognize these condemned, yet suppressed, ideas and attitudes as part of your life –if not the dominant ones in your life- then you need to repent from these errors, stop being more American than you are a Catholic, and learn and embrace the unchanging-traditional teachings of the Church, in the social-moral realm, as well as in the dogmatic realm, for there is no conformity to Christ separate from conformity to His teaching and governing authority on earth -the Roman Catholic Church.
The acceptance of the false "Enlightenment" ideas of liberty, equality, and authority, along with the lack of recognition of the social Kingship of Christ, among Catholics here in America has also resulted in a complete lack of Catholic culture among Catholics of Anglo and Irish descent. As Solange Hertz has accurately recognized:
"The net result [of Americanism upon U. S. Catholics], among other fatal consequences, is that Catholics in the U S. general have little or no cognizance of previous Catholic cultures here, not only the German and Slavic, but especially the French, Indian and Spanish, which had taken root over far vaster areas of the continent than were ever occupied by the English colonies. These have been nearly obliterated from Catholic consciousness, to be replaced almost exclusively by what was essentially the impoverished Anglo-Saxon Protestant way of life which had already stunted the Irish themselves back in Ireland." (Star-Bangled Heresy: Americanism, p.87)
This must not continue if we Catholics love our Faith, if we love Holy Mother Church, and if we love our country. America must be converted and Christ's social kingship established as He desires. I shall end this final installment our three-part series on the Revolution with a quote from Pope Pius XI's encyclical on the Kingship of Christ:
If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth (cf. Matt28:19); if all men, purchased by His precious blood, are by a new right subjected to His dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our facilities is exempt from His empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He mustreign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things and cleave to Him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls.
Recommended reading for American Catholics who love their faith enough to investigate our situation here in America and want to see their country conform to Divine Law:
Quas Primas: On the Kingship of Christ, Pope Pius XI;
The Kingship of Christ and Organized Naturalism, Fr. Denis Fahey;
The Star-Spangled Heresy: Americanism, Solange Hertz
These and other excellent Catholic books can be ordered from Catholic Treasures
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