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    November 11, 1897

    “After the Creed was Made: How the Papacy Ruled and Ruined. The Papacy Amidst the Wreck of Empire” The Present Truth 13, 45, pp. 710-712.


    AS out of the political difficulties of the days of Constantine, the Catholic Church rose to power in the State; so out of the ruin of the Roman Empire she rose to supremacy over kings and nations. She had speedily wrought the ruin of one empire, and now for more than a thousand years she would prove a living curse to all the States and empires that should succeed it.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.1

    We have seen how that, by the arrogant ministry of Leo, the bishop of Rome was made the fountain of faith, and was elevated to a position of dignity and authority that the aspiring prelacy had never before attained. For Leo, as the typical pope, was one whose “ambition knew no bounds; and to gratify it, he stuck at nothing; made no distinction between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood; as if he had adopted the famous maxim of Julius Cesar,—PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.2

    ‘Be just, unless a kingdom tempts to break the laws, For sovereign power alone can justify the cause,’PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.3

    or thought the most criminal actions ceased to be criminal, and became meritorious, when any ways subservient to the increase of his power or the exaltation of his see.” (Bower.)PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.4

    Nor was the force of any single point of his example ever lost upon his successors. His immediate successor,—PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.5

    HILARY, 461-467

    was so glad to occupy the place which had been made so large by Leo, that shortly after his election he wrote a letter to the other bishops asking them to exult with him, taking particular care in the letter to tell them that he did not doubt that they all knew what respect and deference was paid “in the Spirit of God to St. Peter and his see.” The bishops of Spain addressed him as “the successor of St. Peter, whose primacy ought to be loved and feared by all.” He was succeeded by—PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.6

    SIMPLICIUS, 467-483

    in whose pontificate the empire perished when the Heruli, under Odoacer, overran all Italy, deposed the last emperor of the West, appropriated to themselves one third of all the lands, and established the Herulian kingdom, with Odoacer as king of Italy.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.7


    IN fact, the more the imperial power faded, and the nearer the empire approached its fall, the more rapidly and the stronger grew the papal assumptions. Thus the very calamities which rapidly wrought the ruin of the empire, and which were hastened by the union of Church and State, were turned to the advantage of the bishopric of Rome. During the whole period of barbarian invasions from 400 to 476, the Catholic hierarchy everywhere adapted itself to the situation, and reaped power and influence from the calamities that were visited everywhere.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.8

    Moreover, it was not against religion as such that the barbarians made war, as they themselves were religious. It was against that mighty empire of which they had seen much, and suffered much, and heard more, that they warred. It was as nations taking vengeance upon a nation which had been so great, and which had so proudly asserted lordship over all other nations, that they invaded the Roman Empire.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.9

    And when they could plant themselves and remain, as absolute lords, in the dominions of those who had boasted of absolute and eternal dominion, and thus humble the pride of the mighty Rome, this was their supreme gratification. As these invasions were not inflicted everywhere at once, but at intervals through a period of seventy-five years, the church had ample time to adapt herself to the ways of such of the barbarians as were heathen, which as ever she readily did.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.10

    The heathen barbarians were accustomed to pay the greatest respect to their own priesthood, and were willing to admit the Catholic priesthood to an equal or even a larger place in their estimation. Such of them as were already professedly Christian, were Arians, and not so savage as the Catholics; therefore, they, with the exception of the Vandals, were not so ready to persecute, and were willing to settle and make themselves homes in the territories of the vanished empire.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.11


    AN account of the conversion of the Burgundians, and through them of the Franks, will illustrate the dealings of the papacy with the barbarians, and will also give the key to the most important events in the history of the supremacy of the Bishopric of Rome.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.12

    Ever since the time of Constantine, the god and saviour of the Catholics had been a god of battle, and no surer way to the eternal rewards of martyrdom could be taken than by being killed in a riot in behalf of the orthodox faith, or to die by punishment inflicted for such proceeding, as in the case of that insolent ruffian who attempted to murder Orestes. It was easy, therefore, for the heathen barbarians, victory and surest passport to the halls of the warrior god, was to die in the midst of the carnage of bloody battle,—it was easy for such people as this to become converted to the god of battle of the Catholics. A single bloody victory would turn the scale, and issue in the conversion of whole nation.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.13

    The Burgundians were settled in that part of Gaul which now forms Western Switzerland and that part of France which is now the county and district of Burgundy. As early as A.D. 430, the Huns making inroads into Gaul, severely afflicted the Burgundians, who finding impotent the power of their own god, determined to try the Catholic god. They therefore sent representatives to a neighboring city in Gaul, requesting the Catholic bishop to receive them. The bishop had them fast for a week, during which time he catechized them, and then baptized them. Soon afterward the Burgundians found the Huns without a leader, and, suddenly falling upon them at the disadvantage, confirmed their conversion by the slaughter of ten thousand of the enemy. Thereupon the whole nation embraced the Catholic religion “with fiery zeal.” (Milman.) Afterward, however, when about the fall of the empire, the Visigoths under Euric asserted their dominion over all Spain, and the greater part of Gaul, and over the Burgundians too, they deserted the Catholic god, and adopted the Arian faith.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 710.14


    YET Clotilda, a niece of the Burgundian king, “was educated” in the profession of the Catholic faith. She married Clovis, the pagan king of the pagan Franks, and strongly persuaded him to become a Catholic. All her pleadings were in vain, however, till A.D. 496, when in a great battle with the Alemanni, the Franks were getting the worst of the conflict, in the midst of the battle Clovis vowed that if the victory could be theirs, he would become a Catholic. The tide of battle turned; the victory was won, and Clovis was a Catholic. Clotilda hurried away a messenger with the glad news to the bishop of Rhiems, who came to baptize the new convert.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.1

    But after the battle was over, and the dangerous crisis was past, Clovis was not certain whether he wanted to be a Catholic. He said he must consult his warriors; he did so, and they signified their readiness to adopt the same religion as their king. He then declared that he was convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, and preparations were at once made for the baptism of the new Constantine, Christmas Day, A.D. 496. “To impress the minds of the barbarians, the baptismal ceremony was performed with the utmost pomp. The church was hung with embroidered tapestry and white curtains; odors of incense like airs of paradise, were diffused around; the building blazed with countless lights. When the new Constantine knelt in the font to be cleansed from the leprosy of his heathenism, ‘Fierce Sicambrian,’ said the bishop, ‘bow thy neck; burn what thou hast adored, adore what thou last burned.’ Three thousand Franks followed the example of Clovis.” (Milman.) The Pope sent Clovis a letter congratulating him on his conversion.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.2

    “If unscrupulous ambition, undaunted valor and enterprise, and desolating warfare, had been legitimate means for the propagation of pure Christianity, it could not have found a better champion than Clovis. For the first time the diffusion of belief in the nature of the Godhead became the avowed pretext for the invasion of a neighboring territory.” (Milman.) “His ambitious reign was a perpetual violation of moral and Christian duties; his hands were stained with blood in peace as well as in war; and as soon as Clovis had dismissed a synod of the Gallican church, he calmly assassinated all the princes of the Merovingian race.” (Gibbon.)PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.3


    THE Bishop of Vienne also sent a letter to the new convert, in which he prophesied that the faith of Clovis would be a surety of the victory of the Catholic faith; and he, with every other Catholic in Christendom, was ready to do his utmost to see that the prophecy was fulfilled. The Catholics in all the neighboring countries longed and prayed and conspired that Clovis might deliver them from the rule of Arian monarchs; and in the nature of the case, war soon followed.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.4

    Burgundy was the first country invaded. Before the war actually began, however, by the advice of the bishop of Rhiems, a synod of the orthodox bishops met at Lyons; then with the Bishop of Vienne at their head, they visited the king of the Burgundians, and proposed that he call the Arian bishops together, and allow a conference to be held, as they were prepared to prove that the Arians were in error. To their proposal the king replied,—PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.5

    If yours be the true doctrine, why do you not prevent the king of the Franks from waging an unjust war against me, and from caballing with my enemies against me? There is no true Christian faith where there is rapacious covetousness for the possessions of others, and thirst for blood. Let him show forth his faith by his good works. (Milman.)PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.6

    The Bishop of Vienne dodged this pointed question, and replied, “We are ignorant of the motives and intentions of the king of the Franks; but we are taught by the Scripture that the kingdoms which abandon the divine law, are frequently subverted; and that enemies will arise on every side against those who have made God their enemy. Return with thy people to the law of God, and he will give peace and security to thy dominions.” (Gibbon.) War followed, and the Burgundian dominions were made subject to the rule of Clovis, A.D. 500.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.7

    The Visigoths possessed all the southwestern portion of Gaul. They too were Arians; and the mutual conspiracy of the Catholics in the Gothic dominions, and the crusade of the Franks from the side of Clovis, soon brought on another holy war. At the assembly of princes and warriors at Paris, A.D. 508. Clovis complained,—PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.8

    It grieves me to see that the Arians still possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against them with the aid of God; and, having vanquished the heretics, we will possess and divide their fertile province.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.9

    Clotilda added her pious exhortation to the effect “that doubtless the Lord would more readily lend his aid if some gift were made;” and in response, Clovis seized his battle-ax and threw it as far as he could, and as it went whirling through the air, he exclaimed, “There, on that spot where my Francesca shall fall, will I erect a church in honor of the holy apostles.” (Gibbon.)PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.10

    War was declared; and as Clovis marched on his way, he passed through Tours, and turned aside to consult the shrine of St. Martin of Tours, for an omen. “His messengers were instructed to remark the words of the Psalm which should happen to be chanted at the precise moment when they entered the church.” And the oracular clergy took care that the words which he should “happen” to hear at that moment—uttered not in Latin, but in language which Clovis understood—should be the following from Psalm 18: “Thou hast girded me, O Lord, with strength unto the battle; thou hast subdued unto me those who rose up against me. Thou hast given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me.” The oracle was satisfactory, and in the event was completely successful. “The Visigothic kingdom was wasted and subdued by the remorseless sword of the Franks.” (Gibbon.)PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.11


    NOR was the religious zeal of Clovis confined to the overthrow of the Arians. There were two bodies of the Franks, the Salians and the Ripuarians. Clovis was king of the Salians, Sigebert of the Ripuarians. Clovis determined to be king of all; he therefore prompted the son of Sigebert to assassinate his father, with the promise that the son should peaceably succeed Sigebert on the throne; but as soon as the murder was committed, Clovis commanded the murderer to be murdered, and then in a full parliament of the whole people of the Franks, he solemnly vowed that he had had nothing to do with the murder of either the father or the son; and upon this, as there was no heir, Clovis was raised upon a shield, and proclaimed king of the Ripuarian Franks;—all of which Gregory, bishop of Tours, commended as the will of God, saying of Clovis that “God thus daily prostrated his enemies under his hands, and enlarged his kingdom, because he walked before him with an upright heart, and did that which was well pleasing in his sight.” (Milman.)PTUK November 11, 1897, page 711.12

    Thus was the bloody course of Clovis glorified by the Catholic writers, as the triumph of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity over Arianism. When such actions as these were so lauded by the clergy as the pious acts of orthodox Catholics, it is certain that the clergy themselves were no better than were the bloody objects of their praise. Under the influence of such ecclesiastics, the condition of the barbarians after their so-called conversion, could not possibly be better, even if it were not worse than before. To be converted to the principles and precepts of such clergy was only the more deeply to be damned. In proof of this it is necessary only to touch upon the condition of Catholic France under Clovis and his successors, as we shall do.PTUK November 11, 1897, page 712.1

    A. T. JONES.

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