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Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume I. The History of Creeds.
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§ 22. Catholicism and Romanism.

The Roman Catholic Church embraces over 180 millions of members, or more than one half of nominal Christendom.160160   It is estimated that there are about 370 millions of Christians in the world, which is not much more than one fourth of the human family (1,370,000,000). Of these 370 millions the Roman Church may claim about 190, the Greek Church 80, the Protestant Church 100 millions. But the estimates of the Roman Catholic population vary from 180 to 200 millions. It is spread all over the earth, but chiefly among the Latin races in Southern Europe and America.161161   Geographically speaking, the Roman Church may be called the Church of the South, the Greek Church the Church of the East, the Protestant Church the Church of the West. It reaches in unbroken succession to the days of St. Peter and Paul, who suffered martyrdom in Rome. It is more fully developed and consolidated in doctrine, worship, and polity than any other Church. Its hierarchy is an absolute spiritual monarchy culminating in the Bishop of Rome, who pretends to be nothing less than the infallible Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. It proudly identifies itself with the whole Church of Christ, and treats all other Christians as schismatics and heretics, who are outside of the pale of ordinary salvation.

But this unproved assumption is the fundamental error of the system. There is a vast difference between Catholicism and Romanism. The former embraces all Christians, whether Roman, Greek, or Protestant; the latter is in its very name local, sectarian, and exclusive. The holy Catholic Church is an article of faith; the Roman Church is not even named in the ancient creeds. Catholicism extends through all Christian centuries; Romanism proper dates from the Council of Trent. Mediæval Catholicism looked towards the Reformation; Romanism excludes and condemns the Reformation. So ancient Judaism, as represented by Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets, down to John the Baptist, prepared the way for Christianity, as its end and fulfillment; while Judaism, after the crucifixion of the Messiah, and the destruction of Jerusalem, has become hostile to Christianity. 'Catholicism is the strength of Romanism; Romanism is the weakness of Catholicism.'

In Romanism, again, a distinction must be made between the Romanism of the Council of Trent, and the Romanism of the Council of the Vatican. The 'Old Catholics' of Holland and Germany adhere to the former, but reject the latter as a new departure. But the papal absolutism has triumphed, and there is no room any longer for a moderate and liberal Romanism within the reign of the Papacy.

The doctrinal standards of the Roman Catholic Church may accordingly be divided into three classes:

1. The Œcumenical Creeds, which the Roman Church holds in common with the Greek, excepting the Filioque clause, which the Greek rejects as an unauthorized, heretical, and mischievous innovation.162162   The Greek Church is as much opposed to this Latin interpolation as ever. The Encyclical Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs and other prelates, in reply to the Epistle of Pius IX., dated Jan. 6, 1848, urges no less than fifteen arguments against the Filioque, and reminds Pope Pius of the testimony of his predecessors, Leo III. and John VIII., 'those glorious and last orthodox Popes.' Leo, when appealed to by the delegates of Charlemagne, in 809, caused the original Nicene Creed to be engraved on two tablets of silver, on the one in Greek, on the other in Latin, and these to be suspended in the Basilica of St. Peter, to bear perpetual witness against the insertion of the Filioque. This fact, contrasted with the reverse action of later Popes, is one among the many proofs against papal infallibility.

2. The Roman or Tridentine Creeds, in opposition to the evangelical doctrines of the Reformation. Here belong the Council of Trent, the Profession of Pius IV., and the Roman Catechism. They sanction a number of doctrines, which were prepared in part by patristic and scholastic theology, papal decrees, and mediæval councils, but had always been more or less controverted, viz., tradition as a joint rule of faith, the extent of the canon including the Apocrypha, the authority of the Vulgate, the doctrine of the primitive state and original sin, justification by works as well as by faith, meritorious works, seven sacraments, transubstantiation, the withdrawal of the cup, the sacrifice of the mass for the living and the dead, auricular confession and priestly absolution, extreme unction, purgatory, indulgences, and obedience to the authority of the Pope as the successor of Peter and vicar of Christ.

3. The modern Papal and Vatican decisions in favor of the immaculate conception of Mary, and the infallibility of the Pope. These were formerly open questions in the Roman Church, but are now binding dogmas of faith.


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