Part VIII of our serialization.
Why Only Roman Catholicism Can Protect Liberty
[In yesterday's installment Brownson set out his view that democratic liberty cannot survive in a culture whose main religious influence is Protestant. In this installment Brownson contrasts Catholicity's superior ability to provide a stable foundation for democratic government.]If Protestantism will not answer the purpose, what religion will? The Roman Catholic or none. The Roman Catholic religion assumes, as its point of departure, that it is instituted not to be taken care of by the people, but to take care of the people; not to be governed by them, but to govern them. The word is harsh in democratic ears, we admit; but it is not the office of religion to say soft or pleasing words. It must speak the truth even in unwilling ears, and it has few truths that are not harsh and grating to the worldly mind or the depraved heart. The people need governing, and must be governed, or nothing but anarchy and destruction await them. They must have a master. The word must be spoken. But it is not our word. We have demonstrated its necessity in showing that we have no security for popular government, unless we have some security that the people will administer it wisely and justly; and we have no security that they will do this, unless we have some security that their passions will be restrained, and their attachments to worldly interests so moderated that they will never seek, through the government, to support them at the expense of justice; and this security we can have only in a religion that is above the people, exempt from their control, which they cannot command, but must, on peril of condemnation OBEY. Declaim as you will; quote our expression, -- THE PEOPLE MUST HAVE A MASTER,-- as you doubtless will; hold it up in glaring capitals, to excite the unthinking and unreasoning multitude, and doubly to fortify their prejudices against Catholicity; be mortally scandalized at the assertion that religion ought to govern the people, and then go to work and seek to bring the people into subjection to your banks or moneyed corporations through their passions, ignorance, and worldly interests, and in doing so, prove what candid men, what lovers of truth, what noble defenders of liberty, and what ardent patriots you are. We care not. You see we understand you, and, understanding you, we repeat, the religion which is to answer our purpose must be above the people, and be able to COMMAND them. We know the force of the word, and we mean it. The first lesson to the child is, obey; the first and last lesson to the people, individually or collectively, is, OBEY; -- and there is no obedience where there is no authority to enjoin it.
The Roman Catholic religion, then, is necessary to sustain popular liberty, because popular liberty can be sustained only by a religion free from popular control, above the people, speaking from above and able to command them, -- and such a religion is the Roman Catholic. It acknowledges no master but God, and depends only on the divine will in respect to what it shall teach, what it shall ordain, what it shall insist upon as truth, piety, moral and social virtue. It was made not by the people, but for them; is administered not by the people, but for them; is accountable not to the people, but to God. Not dependent on the people, it will not follow their passions; not subject to their control, it will not be their accomplice in iniquity; and speaking from God, it will teach them the truth, and command them to practise justice. To this end the very constitution of the church contributes. It is catholic, universal; it teaches all nations, and has its centre in no one. If it was a mere national church, like the Anglican, the Russian, the Greek, or as Louis XIV in his pride sought to make the Gallican, it would follow the caprice or interest of that nation, and become but a tool of its government or of its predominating passion. The government, if anti-popular, would use it to oppress the people, to favor its ambitious projects, or its unjust and ruinous policy. Under a popular government, it would become the slave of the people, and could place no restraint on the ruling interest or on the majority; but would be made to sanction and consolidate its power. But having its centre in no one nation, extending over all, it becomes independent of all, and in all can speak with the same voice and in the same tone of authority. This the church has always understood, and hence the noble struggles of the many calumniated popes to sustain the unity, catholicity, and independence of the ecclesiastical power. This, too, the temporal powers have always seen and felt, and hence their readiness, even while professing the Catholic faith, to break the unity of Catholic authority, for, in so doing, they could subject the church in their own dominions, as did Henry VIII, and as does the Emperor of Russia, to themselves.
Tomorrow, Part IX: The Limits of Catholicism's Superiority