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The Purpose of the Papacy

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It may seem an impertinence on the present writer's part to indite a preface to the work of a brother Bishop; and it would be a still greater one to pretend to introduce the Author of this little book to the reading public, to whom he is so well and so favourably known by a stately array of preceding volumes. Nevertheless Bishop Vaughan has been so insistent on my contributing at least a few introductory lines, that, for old friendship's sake, I can no longer refuse.

It is a remarkable and outstanding fact that never before in the history of the Church has the Roman Papacy, though shorn of every vestige of its once formidable temporal might, loomed greater in the world, ruled over such vast multitudes of the faithful, or exercised a greater moral power than at the present day. Never has the conscious unity of the whole world-wide Church with its Visible Head—thanks to the marvellous developments of modern means of communication and transport—been so vivid, so general, so intense as in these times. Not only does "the Pope's writ run," as we may say, by post and telegraph, and penetrate to the inmost recesses of every part of the globe, so that the Holy See is in daily, nay hourly communication with every bishop and every local Catholic community; but never has there been a time when so many thousands, nay tens of thousands of Catholic clergy and laity, even from the remotest lands, have actually seen the Vicar of Christ with their own eyes, heard his voice, received his personal benediction. Well may we say to Pius X. as to Leo XIII.: "Lift up thy eyes round about and see; all these are gathered together, they are come to thee; thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee" (Isaias, lx. 4, 5).

But not only is the present position of the Papacy thus unique and phenomenal in the world; as the Author of this little book shows in his first part, its career across the more than nineteen centuries of the world's chequered history, from Peter to Pius X., is no less unique and no less phenomenal. This is a fact which may well rivet the attention, not of the Catholic alone, but of every thinking man, be he Christian or non-Christian, and which surely calls for some explanation that lies beyond and above that of the ordinary phenomena of history. The only possible satisfactory solution of this problem is the one so concisely, yet so simply, set forth in the following pages.

The second part is concerned with a more particular aspect of the same problem, in its relation to the Church in this country, and especially to that incredible latter-day myth which goes by the name of "the Continuity Theory". It is difficult to us to realise how such a theory can possibly be held by thoughtful and earnest men and women who have even a moderate acquaintance with history....