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PRESENT POSITION OF CATHOLICS
ADDRESSED TO THE BROTHERS OF THE ORATORY.
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, D.D.
PRIEST OF THE CONGREGATION OF ST. PHILIP NERI.
BURNS & LAMBERT,
PROTESTANT VIEW OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
THERE is a well-known fable, of which it is to my purpose to remind you, my Brothers of the Oratory, by way of introducing to you the subject of the Lectures which I am proposing to deliver. I am going to inquire why it is, that, in this intelligent nation and in this rational nineteenth century, we Catholics are so despised and hated by our own countrymen, with whom we have lived all our lives, that they are prompt to believe any story, however extravagant, that is told to our disadvantage; as if beyond a doubt, we were, every one of us, either brutishly deluded or preternaturally hypocritical, and they themselves, on the contrary, were in comparison of us absolute specimens of sagacity, wisdom, uprightness, manly virtue, and enlightened Christianity. I am not inquiring why they are not Catholics themselves, but why they are so angry with those who are. Protestants differ amongst themselves, without calling each other fools and knaves. Nor, again, am I proposing to prove to you or to myself, that knaves and fools we are not, not idolaters, not blasphemers, not men of blood, not profligates, not steeped in sin and seared in conscience; for we know each other and ourselves. No, my Catholic friends, whom I am addressing, I am neither attacking another's belief just now, nor defending myself: I am not engaging in controversy, though controversy is good in its place; I do but propose to investigate how Catholics come to be so trodden under foot, and spurned by a people, which is endowed by nature with many great qualities, moral and intellectual ; how it is that we are cried out against by the very stones, and bricks, and tiles, and chimney-pots of a populous busy place, such as this town which we inhabit. The clearer sense we have of our own honesty, of the singleness of our motives, and the purity of our aims,—of the truth, the beauty, the power, of our religion, its exhaustless fund of consolation for the weary, and its especial correspondence to the needs of the weak,—so much the greater may well be our perplexity to find that its advocates for the most part do not even gain a hearing in this country; that facts, and logic, and justice, and good sense, and right, and virtue, are all supposed to lie in the opposite scale; and that it is bid be thankful and contented, if it is allowed to exist, if it is barely tolerated, in a free people. Such a state of things is not only a trial to flesh and blood, but a discomfort to the reason and imagination : it is a riddle which frets the mind from the difficulty of solving it.
Now then for my fable, which is not the worse because it is old. The Man once invited the Lion to be his guest, and received him with princely hospitality. The lion had the run of a magnificent palace, in which there were a vast many things to admire. There were large saloons and long corridors, richly furnished and decorated, and filled with a profusion of fine specimens of sculpture and painting, the works of the first masters in either art. The subjects represented were various ; but the most prominent of them had an especial interest for the noble animal who stalked by them. It was that of the lion himself; and as the owner of the mansion led him from one apartment into another, he did not fail to direct his attention to the indirect homage which these various groups and tableaux paid to the importance of the lion tribe.
There was, however, one remarkable feature in all of them, to which the host, silent as he was from politeness, seemed not at all insensible ;-that, diverse as were these representations, in one point they all agreed, that the man was always victorious, and the lion was always overcome. The man had it all his own way, and the lion was but a fool, and served to make him sport. There were exquisite works in marble, of Samson rending the lion like a kid, and young David taking the lion by the beard and choking him. There was the man who ran his arm down the lion's throat, and held him fast by the tongue ; and there was that other who, when carried off in his teeth, contrived to pull a penknife from his pocket, and lodge it in the monster's heart. Then there was a lion hunt, or what had been such, for the brute was rolling round in the agonies of death, and his conqueror on his bleeding horse was surveying them from a distance. There was a gladiator from the Roman amphitheatre in mortal struggle with his tawny foe, and it was plain who was getting the mastery. There was a lion in a net; a lion in a trap; four lions, yoked in harness, were drawing the car of a Roman emperor; and