Macaulay on the Church
For no good reason at all...

There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.

Comments

Exile said…
A lovely use of language, so much so that we forget that he was talking bollocks...

Before the Saxons, etc, the Church was united under four Patriarchs of which the Bishop of Rome was only one - and not the most senior. The others were Jerusalem, Moscow and Constantinople.
Martin Meenagh said…
Given that the first Patriarch of Moscow emerged in 1589, I doubt that. I think Alexandria and Antioch should maybe be added to that list, though I doubt it.

Anyway, the Church as an institution believes differently, though it acknowledges with regard to the east that it is in schism. There has always been a different attitude to the orthodox from that directed at the sundry ecclesial communities and sects that arose from the reformation, I think. And of course, Macaulay presumably understood that truths might work on a few levels--unlike, say, the more fundamental sort of protestant or their inheritors...

Many thanks for the comment.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hey, I was wrong--Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople were part of the projected Pentarchy of Justinian, so A & A should be included; but since this came five hundred years after the establishment of the church by christ and its leadership under Peter, the sucessors of Peter, based in Rome, were nominally prime.

No evidence is extant for any other position at all. Mind the roads.
DBC Reed said…
Would camelopards have "bounded" around an amphitheatre?
Martin Meenagh said…
Only if Popes asked them to. Popes can do anything, like in 'Attack of the Clones' where Yoda rescues Princess Armani or whoever.
Martin Meenagh said…
It also occurs to me that the point is moot since the other patriarchates are gone or under
Rome now anyway. I'm on a train-many thanks for the stimulus! On an associated note, I think it won't be to long before this place does collapse anyway. The place is as desperate and grim today as one of my blog posts! Wish I was somewhere else, like most of the population from here.
Exile said…
Yup, you are right - I was sure that the number was four and Moscow was the only one I could think of to make up the number.
Martin Meenagh said…
To be fair, I am being a bit of a catholic fascist again. The people calling themselves patriarchs who are not catholics are of course not all gone. Catholic patriarchs, though, are real ones and everyone else is a bit more wrong and less right.

Bless you my son.
DBC Reed said…
You sure Popes supervised games in Roman amphitheatres? Seems a bit multi-cultural especially with Star Wars up-dates.
This quotation did finally make me realise what the oculus in the Pantheon was for:letting the smoke of sacrifices out.I could never understood why they had built a hole for the rain to come through.
Sorry to be so prosaically Protestant/ proddishly prosaic.
Martin Meenagh said…
I made that up. It's like the Irish peace process; you had the tedious ratiocination of events and chronologies, and we had riverdance, and the media loved one and not the other. I respect your point of view, by the way, I was just being glib and breezy.