History of the Conflict
Religion and Science


Chapter X.

Latin Christianity in Relation to Modern Civilization.

For more than a thousand years Latin Christianity controlled the intelligence of Europe, and is responsible for the result.

That result is manifested by the condition of the city of Rome at the Reformation, and by the condition of the Continent of Europe in domestic and social life. -- European nations suffered under the coexistence of a dual government, a spiritual and a temporal. -- They were immersed in ignorance, superstition, discomfort. -- Explanation of the failure of Catholicism -- Political history of the papacy: it was transmuted from a spiritual confederacy into an absolute monarchy. -- Action of the College of Cardinals and the Curia -- Demoralization that ensued from the necessity of raising large revenues.

The advantages accruing to Europe during the Catholic rule arose not from direct intention, but were incidental.

The general result is, that the political influence of Catholicism was prejudicial to modern civilization.


Latin Christianity is responsible for the condition and progress of Europe from the fourth to the sixteenth century. We have now to examine how it discharged its trust.

It will be convenient to limit to the case of Europe what has here to be presented, though, from the claim of the papacy to superhuman origin, and its demand for universal obedience, it should strictly be held to account for the condition of all mankind. Its inefficacy against the great and venerable religions of Southern and Eastern Asia would furnish an important and instructive theme for consideration, and lead us to the conclusion that it has impressed itself only where Roman imperial influences have prevailed; a political conclusion which, however, it contemptuously rejects.

Doubtless at the inception of the Reformation there were many persons who compared the existing social condition with what it had been in ancient times. Morals had not changed, intelligence had not advanced, society had little improved. From the Eternal City itself its splendors had vanished. The marble streets, of which Augustus had once boasted, had disappeared. Temples, broken columns, and the long, arcaded vistas of gigantic aqueducts bestriding the desolate Campagna, presented a mournful scene. From the uses to which they had been respectively put, the Capitol had been known as Goats' Hill, and the site of the Roman Forum, whence laws had been issued to the world, as Cows' Field. The palace of the Cæsars was hidden by mounds of earth, crested with flowering shrubs. The baths of Caracalla, with their porticoes, gardens, reservoirs, had long ago become useless through the destruction of their supplying aqueducts. On the ruins of that grand edifice, "flowery glades and thickets of odoriferous trees extended in ever-winding labyrinths upon immense platforms, and dizzy arches suspended in the air." Of the Coliseum, the most colossal of Roman ruins, only about one-third remained. Once capable of accommodating nearly ninety thousand spectators, it had, in succession, been turned into a fortress in the middle ages, and then into a stone-quarry to furnish material for the palaces of degenerate Roman princes. Some of the popes had occupied it as a woollen-mill, some as a saltpetre-factory; some had planned the conversion of its magnificent arcades into shops for tradesmen. The iron clamps which bound its stones together had been stolen. The walls were fissured and falling. Even in our own times botanical works have been composed on the plants which have made this noble wreck their home. "The Flora of the Coliseum" contains four hundred and twenty species. Among the ruins of classical buildings might be seen broken columns, cypresses, and mouldy frescoes, dropping from the walls. Even the vegetable world participated in the melancholy change: the myrtle, which once flourished on the Aventine, had nearly become extinct; the laurel, which once gave its leaves to encircle the brows of emperors, had been replaced by ivy -- the companion of death.

But perhaps it may be said the popes were not responsible for all this. Let it be remembered that in less than one hundred and forty years the city had been successively taken by Alaric, Genseric, Rieimer, Vitiges, Totila; that many of its great edifices had been converted into defensive works. The aqueducts were destroyed by Vitiges, who ruined the Campagna; the palace of the Cæsars was ravaged by Totila; then there had been the Lombard sieges; then Robert Guiscard and his Normans had burnt the city from the Antonine Column to the Flaminian Gate, from the Lateran to the Capitol; then it was sacked and mutilated by the Constable Bourbon; again and again it was flooded by inundations of the Tiber and shattered by earthquakes. We must, however, bear in mind the accusation of Machiavelli, who says, in his "History of Florence," that nearly all the barbarian invasions of Italy were by the invitations of the pontiffs, who called in those hordes! It was not the Goth, nor the Vandal, nor the Norman, nor the Saracen, but the popes and their nephews, who produced the dilapidation of Rome! Lime-kilns had been fed from the ruins, classical buildings had become stone-quarries for the palaces of Italian princes, and churches were decorated from the old temples.

Churches decorated from the temples! It is for this and such as this that the popes must be held responsible. Superb Corinthian columns bad been chiseled into images of the saints. Magnificent Egyptian obelisks had been dishonored by papal inscriptions. The Septizonium of Severus had been demolished to furnish materials for the building of St. Peter's; the bronze roof of the Pantheon had been melted into columns to ornament the apostle's tomb.

The great bell of Viterbo, in the tower of the Capitol, had announced the death of many a pope, and still desecration of the buildings and demoralization of the people went on. Papal Rome manifested no consideration, but rather hatred, for classical Rome, The pontiffs had been subordinates of the Byzantine sovereigns, then lieutenants of the Frankish kings, then arbiters of Europe; their government had changed as much as those of any of the surrounding nations; there had been complete metamorphoses in its maxims, objects, claims. In one point only it had never changed -- intolerance. Claiming to be the centre of the religious life of Europe, it steadfastly refused to recognize any religious existence outside of itself, yet both in a political and theological sense it was rotten to the core. Erasmus and Luther heard with amazement the blasphemies and witnessed with a shudder the atheism of the city.

Rome at the Reformation.

The historian Ranke, to whom I am indebted for many of these facts, has depicted in a very graphic manner the demoralization of the great metropolis. The popes were, for the most part, at their election, aged men. Power was, therefore, incessantly passing into new hands. Every election was a revolution in prospects and expectations. In a community where all might rise, where all might aspire to all, it necessarily followed that every man was occupied in thrusting some other into the background. Though the population of the city at the inception of the Reformation had sunk to eighty thousand, there were vast crowds of placemen, and still greater ones of aspirants for place. The successful occupant of the pontificate had thousands of offices to give away -- offices from many of which the incumbents had been remorselessly ejected; many had been created for the purpose of sale. The integrity and capacity of an applicant were never inquired into; the points considered were, what services has he rendered or can he render to the party? how much can he pay for the preferment? An American reader can thoroughly realize this state of things. At every presidential election he witnesses similar acts. The election of a pope by the Conclave is not unlike the nomination of an American president by a convention. In both cases there are many offices to give away.

William of Malmesbury says that in his day the Romans made a sale of whatever was righteous and sacred for gold. After his time there was no improvement; the Church degenerated into an instrument for the exploitation of money. Vast sums were collected in Italy; vast sums were drawn under all manner of pretenses from surrounding and reluctant countries. Of these the most nefarious was the sale of indulgences for the perpetration of sin. Italian religion had become the art of plundering the people.

Its Political Condition.

For more than a thousand years the sovereign pontiffs had been rulers of the city. True, it had witnessed many scenes of devastation for which they were not responsible; but they were responsible for this, that they had never made any vigorous, any persistent effort for its material, its moral improvement. Instead of being in these respects an exemplar for the imitation of the world, it became an exemplar of a condition that ought to be shunned. Things steadily went on from bad to worse, until at the epoch of the Reformation no pious stranger could visit it without being shocked.

The papacy, repudiating science as absolutely incompatible with its pretensions, had in later years addressed itself to the encouragement of art. But music and painting, though they may be exquisite adornments of life, contain no living force that can develop a weak nation into a strong one; nothing that can permanently assure the material well-being or happiness of communities; and hence at the time of the Reformation, to one who thoughtfully considered her condition, Rome had lost all living energy. She was no longer the arbiter of the physical or the religious progress of the world. For the progressive maxims of the republic and the empire, she had substituted the stationary maxims of the papacy. She had the appearance of piety and the possession of art. In this she resembled one of those friar-corpses which we still see in their brown cowls in the vaults of the Cappuccini, with a breviary or some withered flowers in its hands.

Social Condition of Rome.

From this view of the Eternal City, this survey of what Latin Christianity had done for Rome itself, let us turn to the whole European Continent. Let us try to determine the true value of the system that was guiding society; let us judge it by its fruits.

The condition of nations as to their well-being is most precisely represented by the variations of their population. Forms of government have very little influence on population, but policy may control it completely.


It has been very satisfactorily shown by authors who have given attention to the subject, that the variations of population depend upon the interbalancing of the generative force of society and the resistances to life.

By the generative force of society is meant that instinct which manifests itself in the multiplication of the race. To some extent it depends on climate; but, since the climate of Europe did not sensibly change between the fourth and the sixteenth centuries, we may regard this force as having been, on that continent, during the period under consideration, invariable.

By the resistances to life is meant whatever tends to make individual existence more difficult of support. Among such may be enumerated insufficient food, inadequate clothing, imperfect shelter.

It is also known that, if the resistances become inappreciable, the generative force will double a population in twenty five years.

The resistances operate in two modes: 1. Physically; since they diminish the number of births, and shorten the term of the life of all. 2. Intellectually; since, in a moral, and particularly in a religious community, they postpone marriage, by causing individuals to decline its responsibilities until they feel that they are competent to meet the charges and cares of a family. Hence the explanation of a long-recognized fact, that the number of marriages during a given period has a connection with the price of food.

The increase of population keeps pace with the increase of food; and, indeed, such being the power of the generative force, it overpasses the means of subsistence, establishing a constant pressure upon them. Under these circumstances, it necessarily happens that a certain amount of destitution must occur. Individuals have come into existence who must be starved.

As illustrations of the variations that have occurred in the population of different countries, may be mentioned the immense diminution of that of Italy in consequence of the wars of Justinian; the depopulation of North Africa in consequence of theological quarrels; its restoration through the establishment of Mohammedanism; the increase of that of all Europe through the feudal system, when estates became more valuable in proportion to the number of retainers they could supply. The crusades caused a sensible diminution, not only through the enormous army losses, but also by reason of the withdrawal of so many able-bodied men from marriage-life. Similar variations have occurred on the American Continent. The population of Mexico was very quickly diminished by two million through the rapacity and atrocious cruelty of the Spaniards, who drove the civilized Indians to despair. The same happened in Peru.

The population of England at the Norman conquest was about two million. In five hundred years it had scarcely doubled. It may be supposed that this stationary condition was to some extent induced by the papal policy of the enforcement of celibacy in the clergy. The "legal generative force" was doubtless affected by that policy, the "actual generative force" was not. For those who have made this subject their study have long ago been satisfied that public celibacy is private wickedness. This mainly determined the laity, as well as the government in England, to suppress the monasteries. It was openly asserted that there were one hundred thousand women in England made dissolute by the clergy.

In my history of the "American Civil War," I have presented some reflections on this point, which I will take the liberty of quoting here: "What, then, does this stationary condition of the population mean? It means, food obtained with hardship, insufficient clothing, personal uncleanness, cabins that could not keep out the weather, the destructive effects of cold and heat, miasm, want of sanitary provisions, absence of physicians, uselessness of shrine-cure, the deceptiveness of miracles, in which society was putting its trust; or, to sum up a long catalogue of sorrows, wants, and sufferings, in one term -- it means a high death-rate.

"But more; it means deficient births. And what does that point out? Marriage postponed, licentious life, private wickedness, demoralized society.

"To an American, who lives in a country that was yesterday an interminable and impenetrable desert, but which to-day is filling with a population doubling itself every twenty-five years at the prescribed rate, this awful waste of actual and contingent life cannot but be a most surprising fact. His curiosity will lead him to inquire what kind of system that could have been which was pretending to guide and develop society, but which must be held responsible for this prodigious destruction, excelling, in its insidious result, war, pestilence, and famine combined; insidious, for men were actually believing that it secured their highest temporal interests. How different now! In England, the, same geographical surface is sustaining ten times the population of that day, and sending forth its emigrating swarms. Let him, who looks back, with veneration on the past, settle in his own mind what such a system could have been worth."

Variations of Population.

These variations in the population of Europe have been attended with changes in distribution. The centre of population has passed northward since the establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire. It has since passed westward, in consequence of the development of manufacturing industry.

Condition of Europe.

We may now examine somewhat more minutely the character of the resistances which thus, for a thousand years, kept the population of Europe stationary. The surface of the Continent was for the most part covered with pathless forests; here and there it was dotted with monasteries and towns. In the lowlands and along the river-courses were fens, sometimes hundreds of miles in extent, exhaling their pestiferous miasma, and spreading agues far and wide. In Paris and London, the houses were of wood daubed with clay, and thatched with straw or reeds. They had no windows, and, until the invention of the saw-mill, very few had wooden floors. The luxury of a carpet was unknown; some straw, scattered in the room, supplied its place. There were no chimneys; the smoke of the ill-fed, cheerless fire escaped through a hole in the roof. In such habitations there was scarcely any protection from the weather. No attempt was made at drainage, but the putrefying garbage and rubbish were simply thrown out of the door. Men, women, and children, slept in the same apartment; not unfrequently, domestic animals were their companions; in such a confusion of the family, it was impossible that modesty or morality could be maintained. The bed was usually a bag of straw, a wooden log served as a pillow. Personal cleanliness was utterly unknown; great officers of state, even dignitaries so high as the Archbishop of Canterbury, swarmed with vermin; such, it is related, was the condition of Thomas à Becket, the antagonist of an English king. To conceal personal impurity, perfumes were necessarily and profusely used. The citizen clothed himself in leather, a garment which, with its ever-accumulating impurity, might last for many years. He was considered to be in circumstances of ease, if he could procure fresh meat once a week for his dinner. The streets had no sewers; they were without pavement or lamps. After nightfall, the chamber-shutters were thrown open, and slops unceremoniously emptied down, to the discomfiture of the wayfarer tracking his path through the narrow streets, with his dismal lantern in his hand.

Æneas Sylvius, who afterward became Pope Pius II., and was therefore a very competent and impartial writer, has left us a graphic account of a journey he made to the British Islands, about 1430. He describes the houses of the peasantry as constructed of stones put together without mortar; the roofs were of turf, a stiffened bull's-hide served for a door. The food consisted of coarse vegetable products, such as peas, and even the bark of trees. In some places they were unacquainted with bread.

Europe at the Reformation.

Cabins of reeds plastered with mud, houses of wattled stakes, chimneyless peat-fires from which there was scarcely an escape for the smoke, dens of physical and moral pollution swarming with vermin, wisps of straw twisted round the limbs to keep off the cold, the ague-stricken peasant, with no help except shrine-cure! How was it possible that the population could increase?

Shall we, then, wonder that, in the famine of 1030, human flesh was cooked and sold; or that, in that of 1258, fifteen thousand persons died of hunger in London? Shall we wonder that, in some of the invasions of the plague, the deaths were so frightfully numerous that the living could hardly bury the dead? By that of 1348, which came from the East along the lines of commercial travel, and spread all over Europe, one-third of the population of France was destroyed.

Such was the condition of the peasantry, and of the common inhabitants of cities. Not much better was that of the nobles. William of Malmesbury, speaking of the degraded manners of the Anglo-Saxons, says: "Their nobles, devoted to gluttony and voluptuousness, never visited the church, but the matins and the mass were read over to them by a hurrying priest in their bedchambers, before they rose, themselves not listening. The common people were a prey to the more powerful; their property was seized, their bodies dragged away to distant countries; their maidens were either thrown into a brothel, or sold for slaves. Drinking, day and night, was the general pursuit; vices, the companions of inebriety, followed, effeminating the manly mind." The baronial castles were dens of robbers. The Saxon chronicler records how men and women were caught and dragged into those strongholds, hung up by their thumbs or feet, fire applied to them, knotted strings twisted round their heads, and many other torments inflicted to extort ransom.

All over Europe, the great and profitable political offices were filled by ecclesiastics. In every country there was a dual government: 1. That of a local kind, represented by a temporal sovereign; 2. That of a foreign kind, acknowledging the authority of the pope. This Roman influence was, in the nature of things, superior to the local; it expressed the sovereign will of one man over all the nations of the continent conjointly, and gathered overwhelming power from its compactness and unity. The local influence was necessarily of a feeble nature, since it was commonly weakened by the rivalries of conterminous states, and the dissensions dexterously provoked by its competitor. On not a single occasion could the various European states form a coalition against their common antagonist. Whenever a question arose, they were skillfully taken in detail, and commonly mastered. The ostensible object of papal intrusion was to secure for the different peoples moral well-being; the real object was to obtain large revenues, and give support to vast bodies of ecclesiastics. The revenues thus abstracted were not infrequently many times greater than those passing into the treasury of the local power. Thus, on the occasion of Innocent IV. demanding provision to be made for three hundred additional Italian clergy by the Church of England, and that one of his nephews -- a mere boy -- should have a stall in Lincoln Cathedral, it was found that the sum already annually abstracted by foreign ecclesiastics from England was thrice that which went into the coffers of the king.

While thus the higher clergy secured every political appointment worth having, and abbots vied with counts in the herds of slaves they possessed -- some, it is said, owned not fewer than twenty thousand -- begging friars pervaded society in all directions, picking up a share of what still remained to the poor. There was a vast body of non-producers, living in idleness and owning a foreign allegiance, who were subsisting on the fruits of the toil of the laborers. It could not be otherwise than that small farms should be unceasingly merged into the larger estates; that the poor should steadily become poorer; that society, far from improving, should exhibit a continually increasing demoralization. Outside the monastic institutions no attempt at intellectual advancement was made; indeed, so far as the laity were concerned, the influence of the Church was directed to an opposite result, for the maxim universally received was, that "ignorance is the mother of devotion."

Dual Government in Europe.

The settled practice of republican and imperial Rome was to have swift communication with all her outlying provinces, by means of substantial bridges and roads. One of the prime duties of the legions was to construct them and keep them in repair. By this, her military authority was assured. But the dominion of papal Rome, depending upon a different principle, had no exigencies of that kind, and this duty accordingly was left for the local powers to neglect. And so, in all directions, the roads were almost impassable for a large part of the year. A common means of transportation was in clumsy carts drawn by oxen, going at the most but three or four miles an hour. Where boat-conveyance along rivers could not be had, pack-horses and mules were resorted to for the transportation of merchandise, an adequate means for the slender commerce of the times. When large bodies of men had to be moved, the difficulties became almost insuperable. Of this, perhaps, one of the best illustrations may be found in the story of the march of the first Crusaders. These restraints upon intercommunication tended powerfully to promote the general benighted condition. Journeys by individuals could not be undertaken without much risk, for there was scarcely a moor or a forest that had not its highwaymen.

An illiterate condition everywhere prevailing, gave opportunity for the development of superstition. Europe was full of disgraceful miracles. On all the roads pilgrims were wending their way to the shrines of saints, renowned for the cures they had wrought. It had always been the policy of the Church to discourage the physician and his art; he interfered too much with the gifts and profits of the shrines. Time has brought this once lucrative imposture to its proper value. How many shrines are there now in successful operation in Europe?

For patients too sick to move or be moved, there were no remedies except those of a ghostly kind -- the Pater-noster or the Ave. For the prevention of diseases, prayers were put up in the churches, but no sanitary measures were resorted to. From cities reeking with putrefying filth it was thought that the plague might be stayed by the prayers of the priests, by them rain and dry weather might be secured, and deliverance obtained from the baleful influences of eclipses and comets. But when Halley's comet came, in 1456, so tremendous was its apparition that it was necessary for the pope himself to interfere. He exorcised and expelled it from the skies. It slunk away into the abysses of space, terror-stricken by the maledictions of Calixtus III., and did not venture back for seventy-five years!

The physical value of shrine-cures and ghostly remedies is measured by the death-rate. In those days it was, probably, about one in twenty-three, under the present more material practice it is about one in forty.

The moral condition of Europe was signally illustrated when syphilis was introduced from the West Indies by the companions of Columbus. It spread with wonderful rapidity; all ranks of persons, from the Holy Father Leo X. to the beggar by the wayside, contracting the shameful disease. Many excused their misfortune by declaring that it was an epidemic proceeding from a certain malignity in the constitution of the air, but in truth its spread was due to a certain infirmity in the constitution of man -- an infirmity which had not been removed by the spiritual guidance under which he had been living.

To the medical efficacy of shrines must be added that of special relics. These were sometimes of the most extraordinary kind. There were several abbeys that possessed our Savior's crown of thorns. Eleven had the lance that had pierced his side. If any person was adventurous enough to suggest that these could not all be authentic, he would have been denounced as an atheist. During the holy wars the Templar-Knights had driven a profitable commerce by bringing from Jerusalem to the Crusading armies bottles of the milk of the Blessed Virgin, which they sold for enormous sums; these bottles were preserved with pious care in many of the great religious establishments. But perhaps none of these impostures surpassed in audacity that offered by a monastery in Jerusalem, which presented to the beholder one of the fingers of the Holy Ghost! Modern society has silently rendered its verdict on these scandalous objects. Though they once nourished the piety of thousands of earnest people, they are now considered too vile to have a place in any public museum.

How shall we account for the great failure we thus detect in the guardianship of the Church over Europe? This is not the result that must have occurred had there been in Rome an unremitting care for the spiritual and material prosperity of the continent, had the universal pastor, the successor of Peter, occupied himself with singleness of purpose for the holiness and happiness of his flock.

The explanation is not difficult to find. It is contained in a story of sin and shame. I prefer, therefore, in the following paragraphs, to offer explanatory facts derived from Catholic authors, and, indeed, to present them as nearly as I can in the words of those writers.

Social Conditions of Europe.

The story I am about to relate is a narrative of the transformation of a confederacy into an absolute monarchy.

In the early times every church, without prejudice to its agreement with the Church universal in all essential points, managed its own affairs with perfect freedom and independence, maintaining its own traditional usages and discipline, all questions not concerning the whole Church, or of primary importance, being settled on the spot.

Until the beginning of the ninth century, there was no change in the constitution of the Roman Church. But about 845 the Isidorian Decretals were fabricated in the west of Gaul -- a forgery containing about one hundred pretended decrees of the early popes, together with certain spurious writings of other church dignitaries and acts of synods. This forgery produced an immense extension of the papal power, it displaced the old system of church government, divesting it of the republican attributes it had possessed, and transforming it into an absolute monarchy. It brought the bishops into subjection to Rome, and made the pontiff the supreme judge of the clergy of the whole Christian world. It prepared the way for the great attempt, subsequently made by Hildebrand, to convert the states of Europe into a theocratic priest-kingdom, with the pope at its head.

Transformation of the Papacy.

Gregory VII., the author of this great attempt, saw that his plans would be best carried out through the agency of synods. He, therefore, restricted the right of holding them to the popes and their legates. To aid in the matter, a new system of church law was devised by Anselm of Lucca, partly from the old Isidorian forgeries, and partly from new inventions. To establish the supremacy of Rome, not only had a new civil and a new canon law to be produced, a new history had also to be invented. This furnished needful instances of the deposition and excommunication of kings, and proved that they had always been subordinate to the popes. The decretal letters of the popes were put on a par with Scripture. At length it came to be received, throughout the West, that the popes had been, from the beginning of Christianity, legislators for the whole Church. As absolute sovereigns in later times cannot endure representative assemblies, so the papacy, when it wished to become absolute, found that the synods of particular national churches must be put an end to, and those only under the immediate control of the pontiff permitted. This, in itself, constituted a great revolution.

Another fiction concocted in Rome in the eighth century led to important consequences. It feigned that the Emperor Constantine, in gratitude for his cure from leprosy, and baptism by Pope Sylvester, had bestowed Italy and the Western provinces on the pope, and that, in token of his subordination, he had served the pope as his groom, and led his horse some distance. This forgery was intended to work on the Frankish kings, to impress them with a correct idea of their inferiority, and to show that, in the territorial concessions they made to the Church, they were not giving but only restoring what rightfully belonged to it.

The most potent instrument of the new papal system was Gratian's Decretum, which was issued about the middle of the twelfth century. It was a mass of fabrications. It made the whole Christian world, through the papacy, the domain of the Italian clergy. It inculcated that it is lawful to constrain men to goodness, to torture and execute heretics, and to confiscate their property; that to kill an excommunicated person is not murder; that the pope, in his unlimited superiority to all law, stands on an equality with the Son of God!

As the new system of centralization developed, maxims, that in the olden times would have been held to be shocking, were boldly avowed -- the whole Church is the property of the pope to do with as he will; what is simony in others is not simony in him; he is above all law, and can be called to account by none; whoever disobeys him must be put to death; every baptized man is his subject, and must for life remain so, whether he will or not. Up to the end of the twelfth century, the popes were the vicars of Peter; after Innocent III. they were the vicars of Christ.

But an absolute sovereign has need of revenues, and to this the popes were no exception. The institution of legates was brought in from Hildebrand's time. Sometimes their duty was to visit churches, sometimes they were sent on special business, but always invested with unlimited powers to bring back money over the Alps. And since the pope could not only make laws, but could suspend their operation, a legislation was introduced in view to the purchase of dispensations. Monasteries were exempted from episcopal jurisdiction on payment of a tribute to Rome. The pope had now become "the universal bishop;" he had a concurrent jurisdiction in all the dioceses, and could bring any cases before his own courts. His relation to the bishops was that of an absolute sovereign to his officials. A bishop could resign only by his permission, and sees vacated by resignation lapsed to him. Appeals to him were encouraged in every way for the sake of the dispensations; thousands of processes came before the Curia, bringing a rich harvest to Rome. Often when there were disputing claimants to benefices, the pope would oust them all, and appoint a creature of his own. Often the candidates had to waste years in Rome, and either died there, or carried back a vivid impression of the dominant corruption. Germany suffered more than other countries from these appeals and processes, and hence of all countries was best prepared for the Reformation. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the popes made gigantic strides in the acquisition of power. Instead of recommending their favorites for benefices, now they issued mandates. Their Italian partisans must be rewarded; nothing could be done to satisfy their clamors,. but to provide for them in foreign countries. Shoals of contesting claimants died in Rome; and, when death took place in that city, the Pope claimed the right of giving away the benefices. At length it was affirmed that he had the right of disposing of all church-offices without distinction, and that the oath of obedience of a bishop to him implied political as well as ecclesiastical subjection. In countries having a dual government this increased the power of the spiritual element prodigiously.

Rights of every kind were remorselessly overthrown to complete this centralization. In this the mendicant orders were most efficient aids. It was the pope and those orders on one side, the bishops and the parochial clergy on the other. The Roman court had seized the rights of synods, metropolitans, bishops, national churches. Incessantly interfered with by the legates, the bishops lost all desire to discipline their dioceses; incessantly interfered with by the begging monks, the parish priest had become powerless in his own village; his pastoral influence was utterly destroyed by the papal indulgences and absolutions they sold. The money was carried off to Rome.

Centralization of the Papacy.

Pecuniary necessities urged many of the popes to resort to such petty expedients as to require from a prince, a bishop, or a grand-master, who bad a cause pending in the court, a present of a golden cup filled with ducats. Such necessities also gave origin to jubilees. Sixtus IV. established whole colleges, and sold the places at three or four hundred ducats. Innocent VIII. pawned the papal tiara. Of Leo X. it was said that he squandered the revenues of three popes, he wasted the savings of his predecessor, he spent his own income, he anticipated that of his successor, he created twenty-one hundred and fifty new offices and sold them; they were considered to be a good investment, as they produced twelve per cent. The interest was extorted from Catholic countries. Nowhere in Europe could capital be so well invested as at Rome. Large sums were raised by the foreclosing of mortgages, and not only by the sale but the resale of offices. Men were promoted, for the purpose of selling their offices again.

Pecuniary Necessities of the Papacy.

Though against the papal theory, which denounced usurious practices, an immense papal banking system had sprung up, in connection with the Curia, and sums at usurious interest were advanced to prelates, place-hunters, and litigants. The papal bankers were privileged; all others were under the ban. The Curia had discovered that it was for their interest to have ecclesiastics all over Europe in their debt. They could make them pliant, and excommunicate them for non-payment of interest. In 1327 it was reckoned that half the Christian world was under excommunication: bishops were excommunicated because they could not meet the extortions of legates; and persons were excommunicated, under various pretenses, to compel them to purchase absolution at an exorbitant price. The ecclesiastical revenues of all Europe were flowing into Rome, a sink of corruption, simony, usury, bribery, extortion. The popes, since 1066, when the great centralizing movement began, had no time to pay attention to the internal affairs of their own special flock in the city of Rome. There were thousands of foreign cases, each bringing in money. "Whenever," says the Bishop Alvaro Pelayo, "I entered the apartments of the Roman court clergy, I found them occupied in counting up the gold-coin, which lay about the rooms in heaps." Every opportunity of extending the jurisdiction of the Curia was welcome. Exemptions were so managed that fresh grants were constantly necessary. Bishops were privileged against cathedral chapters, chapters against their bishops; bishops, convents, and individuals, against the extortions of legates.

The Raising of Revenues.

The two pillars on which the papal system now rested were the College of Cardinals and the Curia. The cardinals, in 1059, had become electors of the popes. Up to that time elections were made by the whole body of the Roman clergy, and the concurrence of the magistrates and citizens was necessary. But Nicolas II. restricted elections to the College of Cardinals by a two-thirds vote, and gave to the German emperor the right of confirmation. For almost two centuries there was a struggle for mastery between the cardinal oligarchy and papal absolutism. The cardinals were willing enough that the pope should be absolute in his foreign rule, but they never failed to attempt, before giving him their votes, to bind him to accord to them a recognized share in the government. After his election, and before his consecration, he swore to observe certain capitulations, such as a participation of revenues between himself and the cardinals; an obligation that he would not remove them, but would permit them to assemble twice a year to discuss whether he had kept his oath. Repeatedly the popes broke their oath. On one side, the cardinals wanted a larger share in the church government and emoluments; on the other, the popes refused to surrender revenues or power. The cardinals wanted to be conspicuous in pomp and extravagance, and for this vast sums were requisite. In one instance, not fewer than five hundred benefices were held by one of them; their friends and retainers must be supplied, their families enriched. It was affirmed that the whole revenues of France were insufficient to meet their expenditures. In their rivalries it sometimes happened that no pope was elected for several years. It seemed as if they wanted to show how easily the Church could get on without the Vicar of Christ.

The Pope and the Cardinals.

Toward the close of the eleventh century the Roman Church became the Roman court. In place of the Christian sheep gently following their shepherd in the holy precincts of the city, there had arisen a chancery of writers, notaries, tax-gatherers, where transactions about privileges, dispensations, exemptions, were carried on; and suitors went with petitions from door to door. Rome was a rallying-point for place-hunters of every nation. In presence of the enormous mass of business-processes, graces, indulgences, absolutions, commands, and decisions, addressed to all parts of Europe and Asia, the functions of the local church sank into insignificance. Several hundred persons, whose home was the Curia, were required. Their aim was to rise in it by enlarging the profits of the papal treasury. The whole Christian world had become tributary to it. Here every vestige of religion had disappeared; its members were busy with politics, litigations, and processes; not a word could be heard about spiritual concerns. Every stroke of the pen had its price. Benefices, dispensations, licenses, absolutions, indulgences, privileges, were bought and sold like merchandise. The suitor had to bribe every one, from the doorkeeper to the pope, or his case was lost. Poor men could neither attain preferment, nor hope for it; and the result was, that every cleric felt he had a right to follow the example he had seen at Rome, and that he might make profits out of his spiritual ministries and sacraments, having bought the right to do so at Rome, and having no other way to pay off his debt. The transference of power from Italians to Frenchmen, through the removal of the Curia to Avignon, produced no change -- only the Italians felt that the enrichment of Italian families had slipped out of their grasp. They had learned to consider the papacy as their appanage, and that they, under the Christian dispensation, were God's chosen people, as the Jews had been under the Mosaic.

At the end of the thirteenth century a new kingdom was discovered, capable of yielding immense revenues. This was Purgatory. It was shown that the pope could empty it by his indulgences. In this there was no need of hypocrisy. Things were done openly. The original germ of the apostolic primacy had now expanded into a colossal monarchy.

Pecuniary Demoralization.

The Inquisition had made the papal system irresistible. All opposition must be punished with death by fire. A mere thought, without having betrayed itself by outward sign, was considered as guilt. As time went on, this practice of the Inquisition became more and more atrocious. Torture was resorted to on mere suspicion. The accused was not allowed to know the name of his accuser. He was not permitted to have any legal adviser. There was no appeal. The Inquisition was ordered not to lean to pity. No recantation was of avail. The innocent family of the accused was deprived of its property by confiscation; half went to the papal treasury, half to the inquisitors. Life only, said Innocent III., was to be left to the sons of misbelievers, and that merely as an act of mercy. The consequence was, that popes, such as Nicolas III., enriched their families through plunder acquired by this tribunal. Inquisitors did the same habitually.

Need of a General Council.

The struggle between the French and Italians for the possession of the papacy inevitably led to the schism of the fourteenth century. For more than forty years two rival popes were now anathematizing each other, two rival Curias were squeezing the nations for money. Eventually, there were three obediences, and triple revenues to be extorted. Nobody, now, could guarantee the validity of the sacraments, for nobody could be sure which was the true pope. Men were thus compelled to think for themselves. They could not find who was the legitimate thinker for them. They began to see that the Church must rid herself of the curialistic chains, and resort to a General Council. That attempt was again and again made, the intention being to raise the Council into a Parliament of Christendom, and make the pope its chief executive officer. But the vast interests that had grown out of the corruption of ages could not so easily be overcome; the Curia again recovered its ascendency, and ecclesiastical trading was resumed. The Germans, who had never been permitted to share in the Curia, took the leading part in these attempts at reform. As things went on from bad to worse, even they at last found out that all hope of reforming the Church by means of councils was delusive. Erasmus exclaimed, "If Christ does not deliver his people from this multiform ecclesiastical tyranny, the tyranny of the Turk will become less intolerable." Cardinals' hats were now sold, and under Leo X. ecclesiastical and religious offices were actually put up to auction. The maxim of life had become, interest first, honor afterward. Among the officials, there was not one who could be honest in the dark, and virtuous without a witness. The violet-colored velvet cloaks and white ermine capes of the cardinals were truly a cover for wickedness.

Hopelessness of the Condition.

The unity of the Church, and therefore its power, required the use of Latin as a sacred language. Through this, Rome had stood in an attitude strictly European, and was enabled to maintain a general international relation. It gave her far more power than her asserted celestial authority, and, much as she claims to have done, she is open to condemnation that, with such a signal advantage in her hands, never again to be enjoyed by any successor, she did not accomplish much more. Had not the sovereign pontiffs been so completely occupied with maintaining their emoluments and temporalities in Italy, they might have made the whole continent advance like one man. Their officials could pass without difficulty into every nation, and communicate without embarrassment with each other, from Ireland to Bohemia, from Italy to Scotland. The possession of a common tongue gave them the administration of international affairs with intelligent allies everywhere, speaking the same language.

Not without cause was the hatred manifested by Rome to the restoration of Greek and introduction of Hebrew, and the alarm with which she perceived the modern languages forming out of the vulgar dialects. Not without reason did the Faculty of Theology in Paris reëcho the sentiment that, was prevalent in the time of Ximenes, "What will become of religion if the study of Greek and Hebrew be permitted?" The prevalence of Latin was the condition of her power; its deterioration, the measure of her decay; its disuse, the signal of her limitation to a little principality in Italy. In fact, the development of European languages was the instrument of her overthrow. They formed an effectual communication between the mendicant friars and the illiterate populace, and there was not one of them that did not display in its earliest productions a sovereign contempt for her.

The rise of the many-tongued European literature was therefore coincident with the decline of papal Christianity; European literature was impossible under Catholic rule. A grand, a solemn, an imposing religious unity enforced the literary unity which is implied in the use of a single tongue.

While thus the possession of a universal language so signally secured her power, the real secret of much of the influence of the Church lay in the control she had so skillfully obtained over domestic life. Her influence diminished as that declined. Coincident with this was her displacement in the guidance of international relations by diplomacy.

Latin as a Sacred Language.

In the old times of Roman domination the encampments of the legions in the provinces had always proved to be foci of civilization. The industry and order exhibited in them presented an example not lost on the surrounding barbarians of Britain, Gaul, and Germany. And, though it was no part of their duty to occupy themselves actively in the betterment of the conquered tribes, but rather to keep them in a depressed condition, that aided in maintaining subjection, a steady improvement both in the individual and social condition took place.

Under the ecclesiastical domination of Rome similar effects occurred. In the open country the monastery replaced the legionary encampment; in the village or town, the church was a centre of light. A powerful effect was produced by the elegant luxury of the former, and by the sacred and solemn monitions of the latter.

In extolling the papal system for what it did in the organization of the family, the definition of civil policy, the construction of the states of Europe, our praise must be limited by the recollection that the chief object of ecclesiastical policy was the aggrandizement of the Church, not the promotion of civilization. The benefit obtained by the laity was not through any special intention, but incidental or collateral.

There was no far-reaching, no persistent plan to ameliorate the physical condition of the nations. Nothing was done to favor their intellectual development; indeed, on the contrary, it was the settled policy to keep them not merely illiterate, but ignorant. Century after century passed away, and left the peasantry but little better than the cattle in the fields. Intercommunication and locomotion, which tend so powerfully to expand the ideas, received no encouragement; the majority of men died without ever having ventured out of the neighborhood in which they were born. For them there was no hope of personal improvement, none of the bettering of their lot; there were no comprehensive schemes for the avoidance of individual want, none for the resistance of famines. Pestilences were permitted to stalk forth unchecked, or at best opposed only by mummeries. Bad food, wretched clothing, inadequate shelter, were suffered to produce their result, and at the end of a thousand years the population of Europe had not doubled.

If policy may be held accountable as much for the births it prevents as for the deaths it occasions, what a great responsibility there is here!

In this investigation of the influence of Catholicism, we must carefully keep separate what it did for the people and what it did for itself. When we think of the stately monastery, an embodiment of luxury, with its closely-mown lawns, its gardens and bowers, its fountains and many murmuring streams, we must connect it not with the ague-stricken peasant dying without help in the fens, but with the abbot, his ambling palfrey, his hawk and hounds, his well-stocked cellar and larder. He is part of a system that has its centre of authority in Italy. To that his allegiance is due. For its behoof are all his acts. When we survey, as still we may, the magnificent churches and cathedrals of those times, miracles of architectural skill -- the only real miracles of Catholicism -- when in imagination we restore the transcendently imposing, the noble services of which they were once the scene, the dim, religious-light streaming in through the many-colored windows, the sounds of voices not inferior in their melody to those of heaven, the priests in their sacred vestments, and above all the prostrate worshipers listening to litanies and prayers in a foreign and unknown tongue, shall we not ask ourselves, Was all this for the sake of those worshipers, or for the glory of the great, the overshadowing authority at Rome?

But perhaps some one may say, Are there not limits to human exertion -- things which no political system, no human power, no matter how excellent its intention, can accomplish? Men cannot be raised from barbarism, a continent cannot be civilized, in a day!

The Catholic power is not, however, to be tried by any such standard. It scornfully rejected and still rejects a human origin. It claims to be accredited supernaturally. The sovereign pontiff is the Vicar of God upon earth. Infallible in judgment, it is given to him to accomplish all things by miracle if need be. He had exercised an autocratic tyranny over the intellect of Europe for more than a thousand years; and, though on some occasions he had encountered the resistances of disobedient princes, these, in the aggregate, were of so little moment, that the physical, the political power of the continent may be affirmed to have been at his disposal.

Such facts as have been presented in this chapter were, doubtless, well weighed by the Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century, and brought them to the conclusion that Catholicism had altogether failed in its mission; that it had become a vast system of delusion and imposture, and that a restoration of true Christianity could only be accomplished by returning to the faith and practices of the primitive times. This was no decision suddenly arrived at; it had long been the opinion of many religious and learned men. The pious Fratricelli in the middle ages had loudly expressed their belief that the fatal gift of a Roman emperor had been the doom of true religion. It wanted nothing more than the voice of Luther to bring men throughout the north of Europe to the determination that the worship of the Virgin Mary, the invocation of saints, the working of miracles, supernatural cures of the sick, the purchase of indulgences for the perpetration of sin, and all other evil practices, lucrative to their abettors, which had been fastened on Christianity, but which were no part of it, should come to an end. Catholicism, as a system for promoting the well-being of man, had plainly failed in justifying its alleged origin; its performance had not corresponded to its great pretensions; and, after an opportunity of more than a thousand years' duration, it had left the masses of men submitted to its influences, both as regards physical well-being and intellectual culture, in a condition far lower than what it ought to have been.

Catholicity and Civilization.