ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII
ON THE CHURCH IN SCOTLAND
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops, and Bishops of Scotland.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Blessing.
The ardent charity which renders Us solicitous of Our separated brethren, in nowise permits Us to cease Our efforts to bring back to the embrace of the GoodShepherd those whom manifold error causes to stand aloof from the one Fold ofChrist. Day after day We deplore more deeply the unhappy lot of those who aredeprived of the fullness of the Christian Faith. Wherefore moved by the sense ofthe responsibility which Our most sacred office entails, and by the spirit andgrace of the most loving Saviour of men, Whom We unworthily represent, We areconstantly imploring them to agree at last to restore together with Us thecommunion of the one and the same faith. A momentous work, and of all humanworks the most difficult to be accomplished; one which God's almighty poweralone can effect. But for this very reason We do not lose heart, nor are Wedeterred from Our purpose by the magnitude of the difficulties which cannot beovercome by human power alone. "We preach Christ crucified . . . and theweakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. i. 23-25). In the midstof so many errors and of so many evils with which We are afflicted orthreatened, We continue to point out whence salvation should be sought,exhorting and admonishing all nations to lift up "their eyes to themountains whence help shall come" (Ps. cxx.). For indeed that which Isaiasspoke in prophecy has been fulfilled, and the Church of God stands forth soconspicuously by its Divine origin and authority that it can be distinguished byall beholders: "And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lordshall be prepared on the top of mountains and shall be exalted above thehills" (Is. ii. 2).
2. Scotland, so dear to the Holy See, and in a special manner to Us, has itsplace in Our care and solicitude. We love to recall the fact that over twentyyears ago the first act of Our Apostolic Ministry was performed in favour ofScotland, for on the second day of our Pontificate We gave back to the Scottishpeople their Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. From that day forward, with yourefficient co-operation, Venerable Brethren, and that of your clergy, We haveconstantly sought to promote the welfare of your nation, which is naturallyinclined to embrace the truth. And now that We are so far advanced in years thatthe end cannot be delayed much longer, We have thought it meet to address you,Venerable Brethren, andthus give your nation a further proof of Our Apostolic affection.
3. The terrible storm which swept over the Church in the sixteenth century,deprived the vast majority of the Scottish people, as well as many other peoplesof Europe, of that Catholic Faith which they had gloriously held for over onethousand years. It is most pleasing to Us to revert to the great achievements ofyour forefathers on behalf of Catholicism, and also to allude to some of those,and they are many, to whose virtue and illustrious deeds Scotland owes so muchof her renown. Surely your fellow-countrymen will not take it ill that We shouldagain remind them of what they owe to the Catholic Church and to the ApostolicSee. We speak of what you already know. As your ancient Annals relate, St.Ninian, a countryman of yours, was so inflamed with the desire of greaterspiritual progress by the reading of Holy Writ, that he exclaimed: "I shallrise and go over sea and land, seeking that truth which my soul loveth. But isso much trouble needful? Was it not said to Peter: `Thou are Peter and upon thisrock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail againstit?' Therefore in the faith of Peter there is nothing wanting, nothing obscure,nothing imperfect, nothing against which evil doctrines and pernicious views canprevail, after the manner of the gates of hell. And where is the faith of Peter,but in the See of Peter? Thither, thither I must repair, that going forth frommy country, from my kindred, and from my father's house, I may see in the landof the Vision the will of the Lord and be protected by His Temple." (Ex Hist. Vitae S. Niniani a S. Aelredo Ab. cons.) Hence, full of reverence hehastened to Rome, and when at the Tomb of the Apostles he had imbibed inabundance Catholic truth at its very source and fountainhead, by command of theSupreme Pontiff he returned home, preached the true Roman faith to hisfellow-countrymen, and founded the Church of Galloway about two hundred yearsbefore St. Augustine landed in England. This was the faith of St. Columba; thiswas the faith kept so religiously and preached so zealously by the monks of old,whose chief centre, Iona, was rendered famous by their eminent virtues. Need Wemention Queen Margaret, a light and ornament not only of Scotland, but of thewhole of Christendom, who, though she occupied the most exalted position inpoint of worldly dignity,sought only in her whole life things eternal and divine, and thus spread throughout the Church the luster of her virtues? There can be no doubt she owed this her eminent sanctity to the influence and guidance of the Catholic Faith. And did not the power and constancy of the Catholic faith give to Wallace and Bruce, the two great heroes of your race, their indomitable courage in defence of their country? We say nothing of the immense number of those who achieved so much for the commonwealth, and who belong to that progeny which the Catholic Church has never ceased to bring forth. We say nothing of the advantages which your nation has derived from her influence. It is undeniable that it was through her wisdom and authority that those famous seats of learning were opened at St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, and that your judicial system was drawn up and adopted. Hence We can well understand why Scotland has been honoured by the title of "Special Daughter of the Holy See."
4. But since then a great change has come to pass, the ancient faith having beenextinguished in the minds of the vast majority of your countrymen. Are we tosuppose that it will never be restored? There are indeed some signs which leadUs to hope that, by the grace of God, a brighter religious future awaits theScotch people. We see that Catholics are more liberally and kindly dealt with astime goes on, that Catholic doctrines are no longer publicly held up to scorn,as perhaps was formerly the case, but on the contrary are favourably consideredby many, and accepted by not a few. We also perceive that false views andopinions, which effectively prevent the perception of truth, are graduallydisappearing. May the search after truth spread more, for there is no doubt thatan accurate knowledge of the Catholic Religion, drawn from its own, and not fromextraneous, sources, will clear away many prejudices.
5. Great praise is due to the Scottish nation, as a whole, that they have always shown reverence and love for the Inspired Writings. They cannot therefore be unwilling to listen to a few words which in Our affection We would address to them on this subject with a view to their eternal welfare; since We find that in revering the Sacred Scriptures, they are in agreement with the Catholic Church. Why then should this not be the starting-point for a return to unity? We beg them to remember that they have the Books of the Old Covenant and of the Newfrom the Catholic Church and from the Catholic Church alone. If these InspiredWritings have passed unscathed through the many and dangerous vicissitudes ofcenturies, such a blessing is to be attributed to her never-failing vigilanceand unceasing care. History attests that in the early ages of the Church theintegrity of the Scriptures was preserved by the ever-memorable efforts of theThird Synod at Carthage and of Innocent I, the Roman Pontiff. At a later time noless watchfulness was shown, as we know, by Eugenius IV and by the Council ofTrent. We Ourselves, not unmindful of the necessities of the present day,published a short while ago an Encyclical Letter in which We gravely addressedthe Bishops of the Catholic world and diligently admonished them as to the meansto be adopted in order to safeguard the integrity and the Divine authority ofthe Sacred Writings. For owing to the restlessness of modern thought, there aremany whom the inordinate desire of superciliously inquiring into everything, andcontempt for antiquity, pervert to such a degree, that they either refuse allauthority to Holy Writ, or at least seriously curtail and minimize it. Thesemen, puffed up by an exaggerated estimate of their own knowledge, and having anoverweening trust in their own judgment, fail to perceive how rash and monstrousit is to try to measure the works of God by our own puny intelligence; nor dothey sufficiently heed St. Augustine's warning: "Honour God's Scripture,honour God's Word though not understood, reverently wait in order tounderstand" (in Ps. 146, n. 12). "Those who study the VenerableScriptures ought to be admonished . . . that they must pray in order tocomprehend." (Doct. Chr. lib. iii., c. 37, n. 56.) "Lest anythingunknown be rashly asserted as known . . . let nothing be rashly asserted, butall things cautiously and modestly examined" (in Gen. Op. Imp.).
6. But as the Church was to last to the end of time, something more was required besides the bestowal of the Sacred Scriptures. It was obviously necessary that the Divine Founder should take every precaution, lest the treasure of heavenly-given truths, possessed by the Church, should ever be destroyed, which would assuredly have happened, had He left those doctrines to each one's private judgment. It stands to reason, therefore, that a living, perpetual "magisterium" was necessary in theChurch from the beginning, which, by the command of Christ himself, shouldbesides teaching other wholesome doctrines, give an authoritative explanation ofHoly Writ, and which being directed and safeguarded by Christ himself, could byno means commit itself to erroneous teaching. God has provided for these needsmost wisely and effectively through His Only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, Whoplaced the true sense of the Scriptures in safety, when He laid upon HisApostles as His primary and most momentous injunction, not to devote themselvesto writing, nor to spreading the volumes of the Old Testament indiscriminatelyand unguardedly among the multitude, but to teach all nations with the livingvoice, and to lead them by speech to the knowledge and profession of HisHeavenly doctrine: "Going into the whole world preach the Gospel to everycreature." (Mark xvi. 15.) But the supreme teaching authority was committedto one, on whom, as on its foundation, the Church must rest. For Christ when Hegave the keys to Peter, gave him at the same time the power to govern those whowere charged with the "ministry of the word:" "Confirm thyBrethren" (Luke xxii. 32). And since the faithful must learn from the"magisterium" of the Church whatever pertains to the salvation oftheir souls, it follows that they must also learn from it the true meaning ofScripture.
7. It is easy to perceive how unsafe, how inadequate, and how useless is the method propounded by those who think that the only way to interpret Scripture is by the help of Scripture itself. For on that principle the ultimate law of interpretation would rest with the individual judgment. But, as we have already stated, each one will undertake the reading of Scripture with entirely different feelings, views, and prepossessions, and will interpret God's written Word accordingly. The result will be that those divergent interpretations will necessarily produce discussions and disputes, and thus turn what was intended as a source of union and peace into a source of contention and strife.
8. The truth of what We have just stated is proven by what has actually takenplace since, of all the sects, deprived as they are of the Catholic Faith anddisagreeing among themselves on religious matters, each one claims that its ownteaching and practices are in accord with HolyWrit. There is no gift of God so sacred, that man cannot abuse it to his own detriment; since, according to the stern warning of Blessed Peter, "the unlearned and unstable wrest" the very Scriptures "to their own destruction" (2 Peter iii., 16). Hence Irenaeus, who lived shortly after the Apostolic age, and who is a faithful interpreter of Apostolic doctrine, always taught that a knowledge of the truth could only be had from the living voice of the Church: "Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the spirit of God is found, there is the Church and all grace, and the Spirit is truth" - (Adv. Haer. lib. iii.). "Where, therefore, the gifts of God are placed, it is necessary to learn the truth from those who have in the Church the Apostolic Succession"- (Adv. Haer. lib. iv.). And if Catholics, who may differ on all other matters, are found united in marvellous concord in the faith, there can be no doubt that this is chiefly owing to the authority and power of the "magisterium."
9. We know that many of the Scottish people, who do not agree with us in faith,sincerely love the name of Christ, and strive to ascertain His doctrine and toimitate His most holy example. But how can they obtain what they are strivingfor, if they do not allow themselves to be taught heavenly things in the wayprescribed by Jesus Christ Himself; if they do not give heed to the Church whoseprecepts they are commanded to obey by the Author of faith as if they were Hisown: "He who heareth you heareth me; he who despiseth you despisethme"; if they do not seek the nourishment of their souls, and the sustenanceof all virtue, from him whom the Supreme Pastor of souls made His vicegerent, towhom He confided the care of the universal Church? In the meantime We areresolved not to fail in doing Our share, and especially to be constant infervent prayer, that God may move their minds to what is good, and vouchsafe toimpart to them the most powerful impulses of His grace. May the Divine clemency,thus earnestly implored by Us, grant to the Church that supreme consolation ofspeedily embracing the whole Scottish people, restored to the faith of theirforefathers "in spirit and in truth." What incalculable blessingswould not accrue to them, if they were once more united to us? Perfect andabsolute truth would everywhere shine forth, together with the inestimable giftswhich wereforfeited by separation. There is one amongst all others, the loss of which is more deplorable than words can express; We allude to the most holy Sacrifice in which Jesus Christ, both Priest and Victim, daily offers Himself to His Father, through the ministry of His priests on earth. By virtue of this Sacrifice the infinite merits of Christ, gained by His Precious Blood shed once upon the Cross for the salvation of men, are applied to our souls. This belief prevailed among the Scottish people in St. Columba's day and in subsequent ages, when your grand and majestic cathedrals were raised throughout the land, which still testify to the art and piety of your ancestors.
10. Now the very essence of Religion implies Sacrifice. For the perfection ofDivine Worship is found in the submissive and reverent acknowledgment that Godis the Supreme Lord of all things, by Whose power we and all our belongingsexist. This constitutes the very nature of Sacrifice, which, on this account, isemphatically called a "thing Divine." If Sacrifices are abolished,Religion can neither exist nor be conceived. The Evangelical Law is notinferior, but superior, to the Old Law. It brings to perfection what the Old Lawhad merely begun. But the Sacrifice of the Cross was prefigured by thesacrifices of the Old Covenant long before the Birth of Jesus Christ; and afterHis Ascension, the same Sacrifice is continued by the Eucharistic Sacrifice.They greatly err, therefore, who reject this doctrine, as if it diminished thereality and efficacy of the Sacrifice which Christ offered on the Cross. He"was offered once to exhaust the sins of many" (Heb. ix., 28). Thatatonement for the sins of men was absolutely complete: nor is there any otheratonement besides that of the Cross in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As Religionmust ever be accompanied by a sacrificial rite, it was the Divine counsel of theRedeemer that the Sacrifice of the Cross should be perpetuated. This perpetuityis in the most Holy Eucharist, which is not an empty similitude or a merecommemoration, but the very Sacrifice flows from the death of Christ: "Forfrom the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among theGentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my namea clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles" (Mal. i. 2).
11. It remains for Us now to address the Catholics in a more special manner, and We do so in order that they shouldco-operate with Us in realizing what We have at heart. Christian charity bidseach one labour, according to his opportunities, for the salvation of his fellowmen. We therefore call upon them first of all constantly to offer prayers andsupplications to God, Who alone can give the necessary light to the minds ofmen, and dispose their wills as He pleases. And furthermore, as example is mostpowerful, let them show themselves worthy of the truth which through Divinemercy they possess, and let them recommend the faith which they hold by edifyingand stainless lives. "So let your light shine before men, that they may seeyour good works" (Matth. v., 16). Let them at the same time distinguishthemselves by the practice of virtue in public life, so that it should be moreand more clearly shown that Catholicism cannot be said, without calumny, to runcounter to the interests of the State: but that, on the contrary, nothing elsecontributes so much to the honourable and successful discharge of social duties.
12. It is likewise of vital importance to defend most strenuously, to establish more firmly, and to surround with every safeguard, the Catholic education of youth. We are not unmindful of the fact that in Scotland thoroughly efficient schools exist, in which the best method of teaching is to be found. But every effort must be put forth, and every sacrifice must be made, so that Catholic schools should be second to none in point of efficiency. We must not allow our youth to be inferior to others in literary attainments, or in learning, which the Christian faith demands as its honourable accompaniments with a view to its defence and adornment. The love of Religion and country requires that whatever institutions Catholics already possess for the purposes of primary, intermediate, or higher education, should, by the due and proportionate cooperation of all, be consolidated and extended. Justice similarly demands that the education and training of the clergy should be most zealously promoted, as they cannot now-a-days occupy worthily and usefully their position, unless they have the prestige of wide erudition and solid learning. In this connection, We can find no institution more worthy of being recommended than Blahs College. An excellent and noble work, begun with exceptional zeal and generosity by one devoted Catholic, this institution should not be allowed to decline anddisappear by neglect, but should be sustained by a similar charity, andcompleted as soon as possible. This will be tantamount to making provision thatfor nearly the whole of Scotland, priests will be trained and educated accordingto the needs of the present time.
13. All these things, Venerable Brethren, which Our affection for the Scottish people has suggested to Us, we commend to your thoughtfulness and charity. Continue to exercise that zeal of which you have given Us such abundant proof, so that everything may be effected which may conduce to the realization of what we have in view. The matter in hand is extremely difficult, and one the accomplishment of which, as We have repeatedly stated, surpasses all human efforts; but it is most holy and desirable, and in perfect harmony with the counsels of Divine Goodness. Wherefore, We are not so much deterred by the difficulties, as We are encouraged by the conviction that the Divine help will not fail, if you devote yourselves to the fulfilment of these Our wishes and behests.
14. As a pledge of Divine grace, and as a token of Our fatherly affection, Welovingly impart to you, in the Lord, Venerable brethren, to your clergy andpeople our Apostolic Blessing.
Given at St. Peter's, Rome, the 25th day of July, in the year 1898, and the twenty-first of Our Pontificate.
© Copyright 1898 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana