Newark Daily Advertiser - February 11, 1853

The Madiai Controversy - Father Patrick Moran

Presuming that the Madiai controversy is now over, and that there is no danger of being wounded by a random shot, the combatants having retired, each rejoicing in the victory, I have ventured to take a peep at the battle field, not indeed with a view to pick up any spoils. The affair having taken place on premises which in some little appertain to me, I think I have a right to restore order where they left confusion, and adjust such things as they have misplaced. But as the parties appear to be strangers, having little knowledge of the ground selected for their contest, I do not mean to sue for damages, nor wish to pluck from the brow of any of them the laurels they have won.

The cause of the dispute appears to be the imprisonment of the Madiai for reading their Bible, and the intolerance of the Catholic Church in prohibiting the reading of the Sacred Scriptures. With regard to the first, I have little to say. I do not question the fact, that the Madiai have been imprisoned in Tuscany, neither do I deny that they have also read their Bible; but that the latter simply has been the cause of the former, I do not so readily admit. It requires authentic proof, and such proof as far as I could learn, has not been produced. My reason for questioning the statement that the Madiai were incarcerated for no other cause than reading the Bible, is founded on the fact, that the Bible in the vernacular tongue had been circulated in Tuscany and throughout all Italy long before the Madiai heard of Protestantism, or seen a copy of King Jame's Bible; and that the Pope had approved of the translation of the Bible into the Italian language, and earnestly recommended its perusal by the faithful at large, as is manifest from the letter of Pius VIth to the Most Rev. A. Martini, Archbishop of Florence, dated on the Knlends of April 1778. And that now, as well as before, the Bible in the Italian language can be had at any book store in Italy.

This Madiai affair reminds me of a story told of an English Courier, who, having met a personal enemy on a bridge in London, drew his sword, and after having cut off his head and thrown it in the Thames, hastened to his sovereign and cast himself on his knees before him, and in the most suppliant manner, craved pardon for a crime he had just committed. He stated that he had an altercation with one of his Majesty's subjects, and had the misfortune of throwing his hat into the river. The sovereign smiled at the man's simplicity, and instantly granted his request. After having obtained the royal amnesty, the courtier in returning thanks, observed that there was a little circumstance connected with the affair which he neglected to mention, namely, that the fellow's head was in the hat when he threw it into the Thames.

With regard to the charge of intolerance against the Catholic Church, for prohibiting the reading of the Scriptures, and placing the Bible on the index of prohibited books, it may be proper to ask, what Bible is meant, in connection with this charge? If the Catholic Bible be meant, the charge is unfounded, as is manifest from the above stated facts. If the Protestant Bible, or any version of King Jame's Bible in any language, be meant, then I admit the charge of prohibition, and affirm that it was the duty of the church authorities at Rome to place it on the index of prohibited books. For if they have a right to place any book on that index, (and who can deny them the right?) most certainly they ought to afford that book a most conspicuous place, which purporting to be a full and correct copy of the Holy Bible, is only a corrupt and mutilated copy of the sacred record of God's most Holy will and revelation to man; and this we believe King James' Bible to be. As to the charge of intolerance founded on the fact, that the Catholic Church does not permit her member to interpret the Scriptures in any sense contrary to her own teaching, I would say in the words of my Divine Master "Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thy own eye." I assert that the practical working or discipline of every Protestant sect or creed in this respect does not differ from the Catholic Church. Can this be denied? Does not the existence of every sect, as an independent body, essentially depend on this principle? Will Presbyterians permit their members to interpret the Bible in the strict sense of Episcopalians, Methodists, Unitarians or Baptists, and still retain them in the church as orthodox members, and admit them to all the privileges of the church as such? Will they listen to any of their members professing other doctrines of their church, but teaching Episcopal ordination as essential to a true Gospel ministry, that baptism by immersion of adults is requisite for admission to the communion table, or who should deny the Divinity of Christ? The like may be said of any other Protestant denomination. It is an undeniable fact, that the division and sub-divisions of Protestant sects are owing to the rigid adherence of the mother sects to this principle. Where then, I would ask, is the difference between Catholics and Protestants in this respect? It is simply in this, that the Catholic Church openly teaches that no person, either lay or clerical, who interprets the Scriptures in a sense contrary to her teaching can be retained as a member - that Protestants condemn this as anti-Christian and say to their members, take and read and judge for yourself. But the moment any Protestant, exercising this privilege, attempts to interpret his Bible is a sense different from the sect to which he belongs, he is immediately rejected by his church, and compelled either to fraternize with some other community more congenial to his views, or start a new creed of his own. Much more might be advanced on this subject, but I fear I have already trespassed too much on your space and time.

Yours very respectfully,
Father Patrick Moran
St. John's Roman Catholic Church


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