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Salt of the earth Print E-mail
By John Henry Newman   
Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Popes, then, though they are infallible in their office, as Prophets and Vicars of the Most High, and though they have generally been men of holy life, and many of them actually saints, have the trials, and incur the risks of other men. Our doctrine of infallibility means something very different from what Protestants think it means. And so again, all the inconsistencies which they think they find in what we teach of the sanctity of the Priesthood compared with the actual conduct of a portion of the members of it, would vanish, if they understood that a priest, in a Catholic sense, as in St. Paul’s sense, is one “who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that err, for that he himself also is encompassed with infirmity.” Yet, strange to say, so little are they aware of our real doctrine on the subject, that even since these Lectures began, it has been said to me in reference to them in print, “A vulgar error in your Church is, that the Priests are so divinely protected that one of them can hardly err, can hardly sin. This notion is now at an end, as far as you are concerned.” Most marvellous! This writer’s idea, and the idea of most Protestants is, that we profess that all Priests are angels, but that really they are all devils. No, neither the one nor the other; if these Protestants came to us and asked, they would find that we taught a far different doctrine – viz., that Priests were mortal men, who were intrusted with high gifts for the good of the people, that they might err as other men, that they would fall if they were not watchful, that in various times and places large numbers had fallen, so much so, that the Priesthood of whole countries had before now apostatized, as happened in great measure in England three centuries ago, and that at all times there was a certain remnant scattered about of priests who did not live up to their faith and their profession; still that, on the whole, they had been, as a body, the salt of the earth and the light of the world, through the power of divine grace, and that thus, in spite of the frailty of human nature, they had fulfilled the blessed purposes of their institution.

 

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