The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers
and Bible Interpretation
Pope Issues 200 Page Document: "The Word of the Lord".
29. ... authentic biblical hermeneutics can only be had within the faith of the Church, ... The Bible is the Church’s book, and its essential place in the Church’s life gives rise to its genuine interpretation.
30. ... An authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church.
— Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, Benedict XVI, 30 Sept, 2010.
Now at the summit of the imposing mountain of documents the Roman Catholic must read and digest in order to know the authentic Catholic interpretation of the Bible, is the latest papal light on the subject: Verbum Domini. Just what does Benedict XVI mean? How does one find the official authoritative Catholic interpretation of a particular verse or passage in the Bible? How is this determined?
Council of Trent
Session IV, April 8, 1546, Decree Concerning the Edition and the Use of the Sacred Books:
... "Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, it [the Council of Trent] decrees that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,—in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine,—wresting the sacred Scriptures to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy Mother Church—to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures—hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries and be punished with the penalties by law established."
Source: Dogmatic Canons and Decrees, copyright 1912 by the Devin-Adair Company, pg. 11 (boldfaced emphasis added).
The Trentine / Tridentine Creed,
or The Creed Of Pius IV, from the Bulls
Injunctum Nobis, November 13, 1564 and In Sacrosancta, December 9, 1564:
... "I also admit the Holy Scriptures, according to that sense which our holy mother the Church has held, and does hold, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures; neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers."
[This Profession of Faith must be sworn to by anyone holding an ecclesiastical office in the Roman Catholic Church, and also by all converts from Protestantism.]
Source: Ibid, pg. 176 (boldfaced emphasis added).
The Vatican Council
Session III, April 24, 1870, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith:
... "And as the things which, in order to curb rebellious spirits, the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture have been wrongly explained by some, We, renewing the said decree, declare this to be its meaning: that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; and, therefore, that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense or likewise contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers."
Source: Ibid, pgs. 222-223, (boldfaced emphasis added).
Here in the decrees of two infallible councils of the Roman Catholic Church, and sworn to in a profession of faith, there is a most solemn proscription against interpreting Sacred Scripture contrary to Mother Church, or "the unanimous consent of the Fathers". There are absolutely no exceptions allowed in the prohibition, and all transgressors are subject to punishment under ecclesiastical law. The Catholic rule then, is if you want to know what the Bible really teaches with certainty, you must consult the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and "the unanimous consent of the Fathers", and they will always be right, which is to say the Bible is utterly incapable of clearly revealing the truth to you without the aid of the Church.
Could anything be more clear cut than the decrees of Trent and Vatican I? No one may ever contradict the biblical interpretations of the Roman Catholic Church, or the biblical interpretations of Church Fathers (where, allegedly, there is unanimous consent), even if, according to the Council of Trent, there may be no intent on the part of the Roman Catholic Church to ever publish them for public reading. This prompts some pertinent questions.
Has the Roman Catholic Church Magisterium ever published, in any language, an official Catholic Bible commentary, in order that their authoritative Bible interpretations might be made known to the faithful? No. Neither has the intent to publish an official magisterial commentary ever been announced by the Roman Catholic Church. To be sure, you can find Catholic Bible commentaries in Catholic bookstores, but these do not carry the authority of the Church with them, since they are not official magisterial documents. Almost anything that these private commentaries teach could conceivably be disowned and renounced by the Church as being in error, mere private speculations, and of no authority at all.
Next, has the Roman Catholic Church ever authoritatively and exactly defined just what body of authors make up the church "Fathers" that must, without exception, all agree with "unanimous consent" on any interpretation of any verse in the Bible? Note what one Pope has said regarding the relative degree of authority with which the Church and the "Fathers" allegedly speak:
Holy Scripture and Theology; Interpretation; the Fathers
14. ... Catholic doctrine, as authoritatively proposed by the Church, should be held as the supreme law; for, seeing that the same God is the author both of the Sacred Books and of the doctrine committed to the Church, it is clearly impossible that any teaching can by legitimate means be extracted from the former, which shall in any respect be at variance with the latter. Hence it follows that all interpretation is foolish and false which either makes the sacred writers disagree one with another, or is opposed to the doctrine of the Church. ... The Holy Fathers "to whom, after the Apostles, the Church owes its growth-who have planted, watered, built, governed, and cherished it,"(39) the Holy Fathers, We say, are of supreme authority, whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith or morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith.
Source: PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON THE STUDY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE, 18 November, 1893 (boldfaced emphasis added).
So Leo XIII is saying that any Bible interpretation that conflicts with doctrinal teachings of the Church, or the Holy Fathers, is both "foolish and false". Just who, precisely, is included in this august group of supremely authoritative Holy Fathers, and who is excluded? Are there 10 men in this authoritative group that need to be consulted regarding the meaning of the Bible, or 50, or maybe 100 or more such men? We cannot tell, for Rome has never authoritatively and specifically defined just who all the "Holy Fathers" are that absolutely must give their unanimous consent to all Bible interpretations in order to ascertain their validity. Without a formal definition from Rome, the rule is impossible to apply coherently.
Just to illustrate the immensity of the task, pick any 5 verses in the Bible, and then (here is the hard part) consult every writing of every alleged "Church Father" for their interpretations, to find all those Fathers who express the exact same understanding of those 5 verses, and thereby embody a "unanimous consent" in their interpretation. Then, for the next step, pick another 5 verses from the Bible, and see if the previously unanimous church fathers still interpret the second set of verses identically. Then repeat the process with another 5 verses, and another 5 verses, until the Bible is exhausted. Is there any group of Holy Church Fathers that could withstand this test repeatedly, and maintain a "unanimous consent" on their interpretations of the Bible? If not, then the "unanimous consent of the Fathers" is an obviously unworkable concept, which explains why it has never been defined, demonstrated, or proved by the Roman Catholic Church. It simply cannot be done, despite being decreed by Trent and confirmed by Vatican I. Interestingly enough, the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1994 by the Vatican, has apparently abandoned "the unanimous consent of the Fathers", as the phrase does not appear anywhere in its pages regarding Bible interpretation.
For example, if you wanted to know the authentic authoritative Catholic interpretation of the 7th chapter of Daniel, what would you have to read? According to Trent and Vatican I you would need to know the "unanimous consent of the Fathers" on Daniel 7. That would require consulting all the writings of the theologians, Doctors of the Church, Popes, and Councils for the last 2000 years that have commented on Daniel 7, despite the fact that it may only be in Latin, never translated to any other language or officially published by the Church. But how would you know which fathers wrote on Daniel 7, that constitute the authentic Catholic interpretation, recognized officially by the Magisterium? There is no such authoritative resource available to determine this. Since the Roman Catholic Church has never published an authoritative Bible commentary in any language in the 2000 years of its existence, and has never defined exactly who the "Fathers" are that embody and express the "unanimous consent" needed to correctly interpret the Bible, or officially published their works, one can only conclude that the Roman Catholic Church likely has no intention of ever doing so, for reasons that I believe are quite apparent. The Bible, therefore, will apparently remain largely unintelligible and uninterpreted by the Roman Catholic Church, since no one who reads the Bible can ever really know, or discover with any certainty, what interpretation is the official interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church as expressed by the "unanimous consent of the Fathers", since we know not who they are.
Apologists for the Roman Catholic Church will generally agree that only a mere handful of verses have ever been officially interpreted with magisterial authority, and even on this there is no consensus that can be discovered as to the exact number of such verses, and which ones are to be included. Yet, the Council of Trent says that uncertainty does not impede the Church from prosecuting those who contradict the official interpretations, published or not. What they were (and are) actually trying to say is the Roman Catholic Church is always right, however they interpret the Bible, and no one on the face of the Earth has the authority to contradict them ― period ― no matter what you think the Bible really says.
1. The Protestant rule is the Scripture. To the Scripture the Roman Catholic adds, 1. The Apocrypha; 2. Traditions; 3. Acts and decisions of the church, embracing eight folio volumes of the pope's bulls; ten folio volumes of Decretals; thirty-one folio volumes of Acts of Councils; fifty-one folio volumes of the Acta Sanctorum, or the Doings and Sayings of the Saints; 4. Add to these at least thirty-five volumes of the Greek and Latin fathers, in which is to be found the unanimous consent of the fathers; 5. To all these one hundred and thirty-five volumes folio add the chaos of unwritten traditions which have floated to us down from the apostolical times. But we must not stop here, for the expositions of every priest and bishop must be added. The truth is, such a rule is no rule; unless an endless and contradictory mass of uncertainties could be a rule. No Romanist can soberly believe, much less learn, his own rule of faith. — Delineation of Roman Catholicism, by Rev. Charles Elliot, D.D. Vol. I., New York, 1842, pg. 51.
We know it is the practice of the warm defenders of the popish system to reject the sentiments of their best divines when pressed in argument by Protestants. When they teach their own people, then every thing called Roman Catholic is harmonious and one. But when heretics or Protestants are to be met, then uncertainty reigns in every sentiment uttered by every one of their divines. In the latter case Du Pin becomes traitor to Rome; the French were never true Catholics; Baronius was no pope; Bellarmine drew on himself, in some respects, the censure of the apostolic see; Dens' theology, though the principal text book of their modern schools, contains many things for which modern Catholics are not accountable. Or at any rate, as Dr. Milner teaches, "Protestants have no right to read or expound Scripture, and, therefore, they must be wrong." This is a decisive argument indeed.
XII. GENERAL REMARKS ON THEIR STANDARDS.
1. These then are the witnesses to which Protestants appeal for testimony relative to those doctrines and obligations of the Church of Rome which they reject. Romanists cannot affirm that these are Protestant or heretical witnesses. They cannot deny that they are their own standard authorities. For what can the Church of Rome's own representation of herself be, if it be not found in her creed of Pius IV., her oath of allegiance exacted from her bishops, her authentic catechism, her general councils, the bulls of her popes, her liturgical books, their own traditions, and Scripture as explained by them, and books of devotion? We cannot allow that every private priest or member of the Church of Rome should give his own opinions merely as the standard of doctrine. We will have recourse to the oracular response of the church, and insist that they be represented by themselves—not, however, by private individuals, but by their legal representatives. But, then, there is nothing which they dread so much as the testimony of their own church. It is like the conscience of the wicked, which is their worst enemy.
2. It is a principal aim of all their controvertists to employ every mode of evasion in order to disconcert their opposers. There is even a marked difference between the tone of these Romish divines who speak dogmatically for the instruction of their own members, and that of those who attempt to answer the objections of their antagonists. With the former, all is matter of downright certainty; with the latter, all is doubt, difficulty, subterfuge, and evasion. When the faithful are to be instructed, every priest becomes the sure depositary of the infallible decisions of an infallible church; but when Protestants are to be confuted, the declarations of their most illustrious men are of no authority. Councils are discovered to have been but partly approved; popes did not speak ex cathedra; cardinals and bishops are but private doctors; and who cares for the opinion of an obscure priest or friar? Thus nothing is so difficult as to know what the belief of Roman Catholics really is; and when a Protestant adduces their own writers as witnesses, he is frequently told that he is a misrepresenter of their church. — Ibid, pgs. 37, 38.
What follows are the sentiments expressed by a former Roman Catholic over 100 years ago, on the topic of the "unanimous consent of the Fathers".
The Priests of Rome and the Holy Fathers; or,
how I Swore to give up the Word of God to follow the Word of Men
There are several imposing ceremonies at the ordination of a priest; and I will never forget the joy I felt when the Roman Pontiff, presenting to me the Bible, ordered me, with a solemn voice, to study and preach it. That order passed through my soul as a beam of light. But, alas! those rays of light and life were soon to be followed, as a flash of lightning in a stormy night, by the most sudden and distressing darkness!
When holding the sacred volume, I accepted with unspeakable joy the command of studying and preaching its saving truth; but I felt as if a thunderbolt had fallen upon me when I pronounced the awful oath which is required from every priest:
"I will never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers."
Many times, with the other students in theology, I had discussed the nature of that strange oath; still more often, in the silence of my meditations, alone in the presence of God, I had tried to fathom the bottomless abyss which, it seemed to me, was dug under my feet by it, and every time my conscience had shrunk in terror from its consequences. But I was not the only one in the seminary who contemplated, with an anxious mind, its evidently blasphemous nature.
About six months before our ordination, Stephen Baillargeon, one of my fellow theological students, had said in my presence to our superior, the Rev. Mr. Raimbault:
"Allow me to tell you that one of the things with which I cannot reconcile my conscience is the solemn oath we will have to take, `That we will never interpret the Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers! We have not given a single hour yet to the serious study of the Holy Fathers. I know many priests, and not a single one of them has ever studied the Holy Fathers; they have not even got them in their libraries! We will probably walk in their footsteps. It may be that not a single volume of the Holy Fathers will ever fall into our hands! In the name of common sense, how can we swear that we will follow the sentiments of men of whom we know absolutely nothing, and about whom, it is more probable, we will never know anything, except by mere vague hearsay?"
Our superior gave evident signs of weakness in his answer to that unexpected difficulty. But his embarrassment grew much greater when I said:
"Baillargeon cannot contemplate that oath without anxiety, and he has given you some of his reasons; but he has not said the last word on that strange oath. If you will allow me, Mr. Superior, I will present you some more formidable objections. It is not so much on account of our ignorance of the doctrines of the Holy Fathers that I tremble when I think I will have `to swear never to interpret the Scriptures, except according to their unanimous consent.'"
"Would to God that I could say, with Baillargeon, `I know nothing of the Holy Fathers: how can I swear they will guide me in all my ways?' It is true that we know so little of them that it is supremely ridiculous, if it is not an insult to God and man, that we take them for our guides. But my regret is that we know already too much of the Holy Fathers to be exempt from perjuring ourselves, when we swear that we will not interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to their unanimous consent."
"Is it not a fact that the Holy Fathers' writings are so perfectly kept out of sight, that it is absolutely impossible to read and study them? But even if we had access to them, have we sufficient time at our disposal to study them so perfectly that we could conscientiously swear that we will follow them? How can we follow a thing we do not see, which we cannot hear, and about which we do not know more than the man in the moon? Our shameful ignorance of the Holy Fathers is a sufficient reason to make us fear at the approach of the solemn hour that we will swear to follow them. Yes! But we know enough of the Holy Fathers to chill the blood in our veins when swearing to interpret the Holy Scriptures only according to their unanimous consent. Please, Mr. Superior, tell us what are the texts of Scripture on which the Holy Fathers are unanimous. You respect yourself too much to try to answer a question which no honest man has, or will ever dare to answer. And if you, one of the most learned men of France, cannot put your finger on the texts of the Holy Bible and say, `The Holy Fathers are perfectly unanimous on these texts!' How can we, poor young ecclesiastics of the humble College of Nicolet, say, `The Holy Fathers are unanimously of the same mind on those texts?' But if we cannot distinguish today, and if we shall never be able to distinguish between the texts on which the Holy Fathers are unanimous and the ones on which they differ, how can we dare to swear before God and men to interpret every text of the Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of those Holy Fathers?"
"By that awful oath, will we not be absolutely bound to remain mute as dead men on every text on which the Holy Fathers have differed, under the evident penalty of becoming perjured? Will not every text on which the Holy Fathers have differed become as the dead carcass which the Israelites could not touch, except by defiling themselves? After that strange oath, to interpret the Scripture only according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, will we not be absolutely deprived of the privilege of studying or preaching on a text on which they have differed?"
"The consequences of that oath are legion, and every one of them seems to me the death of our ministry, the damnation of our souls! You have read the history of the Church, as we have it here, written by Henrion, Berrault, Bell, Costel, and Fleury. Well, what is the prominent fact in those reliable histories of the Church? Is it not that the Church has constantly been filled with the noise of the controversies of Holy Fathers with Holy Fathers? Do we not find, on every page, that the Holy Fathers of one century very often differed from the Holy Fathers of another century in very important matters? Is it not a public and undeniable fact, that the history of our Holy Church is almost nothing else than the history of the hard conflict, stern divisions, unflinching contradictions and oppositions of Holy Fathers to Holy Fathers?"
"Here is a big volume of manuscript written by me, containing only extracts from our best Church historians, filled with the public disputes of Holy Fathers among themselves on almost every subject of Christianity."
"There are Holy Fathers who say, with our best modern theologians St. Thomas, Bellarmine and Liguori that we must kill heretics as we kill wild beasts; while many others say that we must tolerate them! You all know the name of the Holy Father who sends to hell all the widows who marry a second time, while other Holy Fathers are of a different mind. Some of them, you know well, had very different notions from ours about purgatory. Is it necessary for me to give you the names of the Holy Fathers, in Africa and Asia, who refused to accept the supreme jurisdiction we acknowledge in the Pope over all churches? Several Holy Fathers have denied the supreme authority of the Church of Rome you know it; they have laughed at the excommunications of the Popes! Some even have gladly died, when excommunicated by the Pope, without doing anything to reconcile themselves to him! What do we find in the six volumes of letters we have still from St. Jerome, if not the undeniable fact that he filled the Church with the noise of his harsh denunciations of the scriptural views of St. Augustine on many important points. You have read these letters? Well, have you not concluded that St. Jerome and St. Augustine agreed almost only on one thing, which was, to disagree on every subject they treated?"
"Did not St. Jerome knock his head against nearly all the Holy Fathers of his time? And has he not received hard knocks from almost all the Holy Fathers with whom he was acquainted? Is it not a public fact that St. Jerome and several other Holy Fathers rejected the sacred books of the Maccabees, Judith, Tobias, just as the heretics of our time reject them?
"And now we are gravely asked, in the name of the God of Truth, to swear that we will interpret the Holy Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of those Holy Fathers, who have been unanimous but in one thing, which was never to agree with each other, and sometimes not even with themselves.
"For it is a well-known fact, though it is a very deplorable one, for instance, that St. Augustine did not always keep to the same correct views on the text "Thou art Peter, and upon that rock I will build My church.' After holding correct views on that fundamental truth he gave it up, at the end of his life, to say, with the Protestants of our day, that `upon that rock means only Christ, and not Peter.' Now, how can I be bound by an oath to follow the views of men who have themselves been wavering and changing, when the Word of God must stand as an unmoving rock to my heart? If you require from us an oath, why put into our hands the history of the Church, which has stuffed our memory with the undeniable facts of the endless fierce divisions of the Holy Fathers on almost every question which the Scriptures present to our faith?"
"Would to God that I could say, with Baillargeon, I know nothing of the Holy Fathers! Then I could perhaps be at peace with my conscience, after perjuring myself by promising a thing that I cannot do."
"I was lately told by the Rev. Leprohon, that it is absolutely necessary to go to the Holy Fathers in order to understand the Holy Scriptures! But I will respectfully repeat today what I then said on that subject."
"If I am too ignorant or too stupid to understand St. Mark, St. Luke and St. Paul, how can I be intelligent enough to understand Jerome, Augustine and Tertullian? And if St. Matthew, St. John and St. Peter have not got from God the grace of writing with a sufficient degree of light and clearness to be understood by men of good-will, how is it that Justin, Clemens and Cyprian have received from our God a favour of lucidity and clearness which He denied to His apostles and evangelists? If I cannot rely upon my private judgment when studying, with the help of God, the Holy Scriptures, how can I rely on my private judgment when studying the Holy Fathers? You constantly tell me I cannot rely on my private judgment to understand and interpret the Holy Scriptures; but will you please tell me with what judgment and intelligence I shall have to interpret and understand the writings of the Holy Fathers, if it be not with my own private judgment? Must I borrow the judgment and intelligence of some of my neighbours in order to understand and interpret, for instance, the writings of Origen? or shall I be allowed to go and hear what that Holy Father wants from me, with my own private intelligence? But again, if you are forced to confess that I have nothing else but my private judgment and intelligence to read, understand and follow the Holy Fathers, and that I not only can but must rely on my own private judgment, without any fear, in that case, how is it that I will be lost if I make use of that same private and personal judgment when at the feet of Jesus, listening to His eternal and life-giving words?"
"Nothing distresses me so much in our holy religion as that want of confidence in God when we go to the feet of Jesus to hear or read His soul-saving words, and the abundance of self-confidence, when we go among sinful and fallible men, to know what they say."
"It is not to the Holy Scriptures that we are invited to go to know what the Lord saith: it is to the Holy Fathers!"
"Would it be possible that, in our Holy Church, the Word of God would be darkness, and the words of men light!"
"This dogma, or article of our religion, by which we must go to the Holy Fathers in order to know what `The Lord saith,' and not to the Holy Scriptures, is to my soul what a handful of sand would be to my eyes — it makes me perfectly blind."
"When our venerable bishop places the Holy Scriptures in my hands and commands me to study and preach them, I shall understand what he means, and he will know what he says. He will give me a most sublime work to perform; and, by the grace of God, I hope to do it. But when he orders me to swear that I will never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, will he not make a perjured man of me, and will he not say a thing to which he has not given sufficient attention? For to swear that we will never interpret anything of the Scriptures, except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, is to swear to a thing as impossible and ridiculous as to take the moon with our hands. I say more, it is to swear that we will never study nor interpret a single chapter of the Bible. For it is probable that there are very few chapters of that Holy Book which have not been a cause of serious differences between some of the Holy Fathers."
"As the writings of the Holy Fathers fill at least two hundred volumes in folio, it will not take us less than ten years of constant study to know on what question they are or are not unanimous! If, after that time of study, I find that they are unanimous on the question of orthodoxy which I must believe and preach, all will be right with me. I will walk with a fearless heart to the gates of eternity, with the certainty of following the true way of salvation. But if among fifty Holy Fathers there are forty-nine on one side and one only on the opposite side, in what awful state of distress will I be plunged! Shall I not be then as a ship in a stormy night, after she has lost her compass, her masts, and her helm. If I were allowed to follow the majority, there would always be a plank of safety to rescue me from the impending wreck. But the Pope has inexorably tied us to the unanimity. If my faith is not the faith of unanimity, I am for ever damned. I am out of the Church!
"What a frightful alternative is just before us! We must either perjure ourselves, by swearing to follow a unanimity which is a fable, in order to remain Roman Catholics, or we must plunge into the abyss of impiety and atheism by refusing to swear that we will adhere to a unanimity which never existed."
It was visible, at the end of that long and stormy conference, that the fears and anxieties of Baillargeon and mine were partaken of by every one of the students in theology. The boldness of our expressions brought upon us a real storm. But our Superior did not dare to face or answer a single one of our arguments; he was evidently embarrassed, and nothing could surpass his joy when the bell told him that the hour of the conference was over. He promised to answer us the next day; but the next day he did nothing but throw dust into our eyes, and abuse us to his heart's content. He began by forbidding me to read any more of the controversial books I had brought a few months before, among which was the celebrated Derry discussion between seven priests and seven Protestants. I had to give back the well known discussion between "Pope and Maguire," and between Gregg and the same Maguire. I had also to give up the numbers of the Avenir and other books of Lamenais, which I had got the liberty, as a privilege, to read. It was decided that my intelligence was not clear enough, and that my faith was not sufficiently strong to read those books. I had nothing to do but to bow my head under the yoke and obey, without a word or murmur. The darkest night was made around our understandings, and we had to believe that that awful darkness was the shining light of God! We rejected the bright truth which had so nearly conquered our mind in order to accept the most ridiculous sophisms as gospel truths! We did the most degrading action a man can do we silenced the voice of our conscience, and we consented to follow our superior's views, as a brute follows the order of his master; we consented to be in the hands of our superiors like a stick in the hands of the traveler.
During the months which elapsed between that hard fought, through lost battle, and the solemn hour of my priestly ordination, I did all I could to subdue and annihilate my thoughts on that subject. My hope was that I had entirely succeeded. But, to my dismay, that reason suddenly awoke, as from a long sleep, when I had perjured myself, as every priest has to do. A chill of horror and shame ran through all my frame in spite of myself. In my inmost soul a cry was heard from my wounded conscience, "You annihilate the Word of God! You rebel against the Holy Ghost! You deny the Holy Scriptures to follow the steps of sinful men! You reject the pure waters of eternal life, to drink the waters of death."
In order to choke again the voice of my conscience, I did what my Church advised me to do I cried to my wafer god and to the blessed Virgin Mary that they might come to my help, and silence the voices which were troubling my peace by shaking my faith.
With the utmost sincerity, the day of my ordination, I renewed the promise that I had already so often made, and said in the presence of God and His angels, "I promise that I will never believe anything except according to the teachings of my Holy and Apostolic Church of Rome."
And on that pillow of folly, ignorance, and fanaticism I laid my head to sleep the sleep of spiritual death, with the two hundred millions of slaves whom the Pope sees at his feet.
And I slept that sleep till the God of our salvation, in His great mercy, awoke me, by giving to my soul the light, the truth, and the life which are in Jesus Christ.
Source: Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, by Charles Chiniquy, chapter 16, first printed in 1885.
See also: Sola Ecclesia Romanus - Only the Church of Rome is the Rule of Faith.
Early Church Fathers on the Timing of the Rise of Antichrist.