Thank you for your letter of this morning, which leads me to say that I did not use the word "curious" in a sense inconsistent with earnestness in inquiry, though I cannot be sorry for an accident which has been the occasion of your sending me so frank and ex animo an explanation.

I wish I could be shorter, but it is easier to ask than to answer questions. In what I wrote to you the other day I said that both good and bad were to be expected in the Catholic Church, if it came from our Lord and His Apostles, whereas you had ignored the good altogether, and had insisted there was in it an actual tradition or abiding system of bad, forming a whole and giving the Church a character; and worse, that, though it was so, Catholics would not confess it and renounce it. Now I do confess that bad is in the Church, but not that it springs from the Church's teaching or system, but, as our Lord and His Apostles predicted it would be, in the Church, but not of it. He says, "It must needs be that scandals come;" "many are called, few are chosen;" "the kingdom of heaven is like a net which gathereth of every kind." Good men and good works, such as we find them in Church history, seem to me the legitimate birth of Church teaching, whereas the deeds of the Spanish Inquisition, if they are such as they are said to be, came from a teaching altogether different from that which the Church professes.

It is on the Inquisition that you mainly dwell; the question is whether such enormity of cruelty, as is commonly ascribed to it, is to be considered the act of the Church. As to Dr. Ward in the Dublin Review, his point (I think) was not the question of cruelty, but whether persecution, such as in Spain, was unjust; and with the capital punishment prescribed in the Mosaic law for idolatry, blasphemy, and witchcraft, and St. Paul's transferring the power of the sword to Christian magistrates, it seems difficult to call persecution (commonly so called) unjust. I suppose in like manner he would not deny, but condemn, the craft and cruelty, and the wholesale character of St. Bartholomew's Massacre; but still would argue in the abstract in defence of the magistrate's bearing the sword, and of the Church's sanctioning its use, in the aspect of justice, as Moses, Joshua, and Samuel might use it, against heretics, rebels, and cruel and crafty enemies.

I think such insane acts as St. Bartholomew's Massacre were prompted by mortal fear. The French Court considered (rightly or wrongly) that if they did not murder the Huguenots, the Huguenots would murder them. Thus I explain Pope Gregory's hasty approbation of so great a crime, without waiting to hear both sides. After a period of luxury and sloth, the sudden outburst of the Reformation frightened the Court of Rome out of its wits, and there were those who thought the one thing needful was to put it down anyhow, as the destruction, at least eventually, of all religion, morality, and society. Perhaps they were right in this fear; and thus they got mixed up with mere politicians, unscrupulous men, and became in the eyes of posterity answerable for deeds which were not properly theirs. I was reading the other day a defence of Pius V. against Lord Acton, the point of which was that in no sense was it the Pope who sanctioned the plot for assassinating Elizabeth, but, the Duke of Alva. Yet who can deny, true as this may be, still that to readers of history the Pope and the Duke are in one boat? Then, again, their agents, or the sovereigns {363} who sought their sanction for certain courses or measures, went far beyond the intention of the Popes, who nevertheless, from their political entanglements, could not resume the powers that they had once given over to them. A large society, such as the Church, is necessarily a political power, and to touch politics is to touch pitch. A private Catholic is not answerable for the Pope's political errors, any more than the shareholder in a railway in 1875 is answerable for the railway's accidents in 1860, nay, or in 1875.

You say that at least the Popes ought publicly to confess, when it is proved they have gone wrong. Does Queen Victoria confess the sins of George IV? Do principals feel it generous to abandon their subordinates, or loyal children acquiesce in attacks on their parents? As to controversialists, they are pleaders at a bar, and are afraid to make admissions lest these should be turned against them. To speak out is in the long run the wisest, the most expedient, the most noble policy; seldom the possible, or the natural. Why are private memoirs kept back from publication for thirty or sixty years? No party can be kept together if there is no reticence. But in fact, except among controversialists, there is no want of candour and frankness among us; witness the fact that Protestant attacks on us generally are drawn from the admissions of Catholics. Baronius, writing under the Pope's eye, speaks in the strongest terms of the evil state of the Popedom in the dark age; Rinaldus, his continuator, speaks against Alexander VI.; St. Bernard, St. Thomas, and many others speak against the conduct of the Roman See in their own times. So do Pope Adrian VI., Paul IV., &c. So do holy women in their writings, such as St. Bridget.

As to the state of Catholic Europe during these last three centuries, I begin by allowing or urging that the Church has sustained a severe loss, as well as the English and German nationalities themselves, by their elimination from it; not the least of the evil being that in consequence the Latin element, which is in the ascendant, does not, cannot know, how great the loss is. This is an evil which the present disestablishment everywhere going on may at length correct. Influential portions of the Latin races may fall off; and if Popes are chosen from other nationalities, other ideas will circulate among us and gradually gain influence.

As to the unbelief of France, Italy, and Spain, allowing it to the extent facts warrant, still I had fancied that England, the most fiercely Protestant country of Europe, had begun the tradition of infidelity in Europe in its school of Deists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and thatGermany, the native soil of the Reformation, was now the normal seat of intellectual irreligion. Is it not something the case of the pot and the kettle?

Next, as to the bad government in the Papal States, I allow, or rather argue, that an ecclesiastical world-wide sovereign has neither time nor thought to bestow on secular matters, and that such matters go to rack and ruin, and cause great scandal in public opinion, as surely as would happen if I undertook to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. The shortness of the reigns of the Popes, an advantage ecclesiastically, and their political troubles, increase this evil. Another thing—till of late there was no science of government, and the Papal administration was not worse than its neighbours; but now we have a dozen sciences, political, economical, sanitary, social, agricultural, municipal, and the like, all tending to the tranquillity and prosperity of States, which secular Governments can carry out and profit by, but which ecclesiastics and theologians have no head for.

Further, all States have their course, their beginning and their end. It is not wonderful that those which were great three centuries ago should be waning or dying out now; while England, which then was barbarous compared with the Continent, and much more Prussia, Russia, and the United States, should be in the ascendant. There is nothing to show what the state of England will be two centuries hence. Its want of coal maybe its ruin; or, before that want is felt, Protestantism, which has made it great, may, by running into democracy, make it small again. At present the Catholic Church is encumbered by its connection with moribund nations, and, so far, Keble's application of the "Mortua quinetiam," &c., may be transferred to it. Catholics are certainly taken at great disadvantage now; but, as a loyal servant of Alfred or Bruce, knowing the greatness of his master's soul and the splendour of his gifts, might have no temptation whatever to mistrust his ultimate success, in spite of temporary disaster, so we feel about the defects and humiliations of the Papacy.

You see all along I have kept to my purpose of describing my own view of the difficulties of Catholicity on which you fasten, instead of attempting to deal with them controversially. The temporal prosperity, success, talent, renown of the Papacy did not make me a Catholic, and its errors and misfortunes have no power to unsettle me. Its utter disestablishment may only make it stronger and purer, removing the very evils which are the cause of its being disestablished.

I was rejoiced to be told by you that you recognised the truth of the power of prayer. Nothing else will clear our religious difficulties.