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American Unitarian Association.




JULY, 1849.

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The Roman Catholic Church has of late years attracted strongly the attention of Protestant observers. That attention has, with many, been blended with fear, lest a system which they regarded as greatly erroneous should acquire unrestrained ascendency. The hopes of others have been excited, that the mighty frame, which had stood for so many centuries, was about to be destroyed. There seemed enough, indeed, in the recent history of the papal Church, to give occasion for all these fears, or all these hopes, according as the mind of the observer was disposed to contemplate the dark or the bright side of the object before him.

There has been much to excite fear. The progress of the Roman Catholics in our own country has been great. Tens of thousands of immigrants, annually arriving from Ireland, have brought with them a devoted attachment to that religious system, which they have considered as identified with the cause of their country. They have come generally in poverty, and in that ignorance which gave little hope of their attaining more than poverty here. Yet, as they have spread themselves over our western regions, or


remained crowded in our eastern cities, churches have risen for the ceremonies of their ancient worship, rivalling in splendor those erected by Protestant wealth and zeal. Col. leges and nunneries have been established in every section of the country. The Jesuits, that class of priests devoted in all things to the service of Rome, and equally distinguished in past ages for their learning, their zeal, and their intriguing spirit, — the Jesuits, banished even by Catholic nations in Europe, are among us, wearing their formidable name without disguise, and exercising unquestioned all the rights of American citizens. Nor is it in our own country alone that we see marks of renewed vigor in the papal Church. The present head of that church, Pope Pius IX., has manifested, since his accession, the profound policy of his dynasty, in accommodating itself in all things, except doctrine, to the spirit of the age. His personal virtues, too, have given new dignity to his ancient throne; and though while we write he is an exile from the papal city, the treatment he has received from its inhabitants has endeared him the more to his spiritual subjects elsewhere, and his speedy restoration now hardly admits a doubt.

In England, meantime, a reaction in favor of Romanism has commenced and made no slight progress. Ecclesiastics of the national Church have relinquished her orders, to be received into those of the papal communion; and among many who remain, the tendency seems to be, as in the evil days of Laud, to avoid the supposed dangers of dissent by approximating as nearly as possible to Rome.

But to counterbalance these, other facts present themselves to our view. The Romish Church in our country loses adherents constantly, by the gradual transfusion of the immigrants and their children into the mass of a community which is still generally Protestant. In Europe, the

reformation in which Ronge and Czerski took the lead, has deprived Catholicism of many adherents, and is of still more importance as a sign of the inquiring spirit of the age. Nations among those most thoroughly Catholic have banished the Jesuits, and abolished the convents or placed them under new restrictions. Finally, the Pope himself has been deprived of his temporal power, and his restoration will not destroy the significance of the event, nor prevent its recurrence. Education and intelligence are spreading everywhere ; arbitrary governments are assuming constitutional forms; they who believe that the spirit of the Romish Church is opposed to intelligence and liberty cannot but discern, in the increase of these, at once indications and means of the decline of the papal power.

In these circumstances of the Roman Catholic Church, it becomes a question of importance to us how that great institution should be viewed. Some of us have occasion to associate with Catholics on terms of equality ; they furnish a great part of the domestics in our families and of the labor. ers in our employ. Their convents and schools in some places offer to aid in the education of our children. Their colleges seek from our legislatures the chartered sanction of the law. Are we to fear or to trust them? — to shun or to meet their arguments ? - by what means and to what extent to attempt their conversion, or to guard against our own?

We should learn how to conduct towards them, whether they appear among us in the character of immi. grants or of citizens, -as a migratory laboring class, as neighbours and associates, or as educational and spiritual guides.

Let us, in the first place, try to take a correct view of the Roman Catholic Church itself, granting to it that justice which it has a right to claim, but not becoming voluntarily

No. 264.


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