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St. Edmund Campion's First Reason: Holy Writ & Despair

10 Reasons to be Catholic | by St. Edmund Campion

The First of the Ten Reasons written by the famous English priest and Martyr, St. Edmund Campion will be a ten-part series of posts, with each going over one of the ten reasons, so that Catholics can deepen their Faith and be able to defend it against the attacks of falsehoods and heretics.

It was during the reign of King Henry VIII daughter, Queen Elizabeth, who should be remembered as "Bloody Elizabeth" because of her great torture and killing of Catholics, that Fr. Campion became a great Champion of the Holy Faith. Fr. Campion was a convert, and know as one of the best orators of England, even the Queen was drawn to him and wanted to raise him to high honors, but he refused in the end and became a Catholic Priest. His defense of the Faith is remarkable and saved countless souls. As an example, he told the Anglicans, who were denying the Real Presence in the Mass, (they claimed that the doctrine denied the bodily resurrection of Christ,) Campion broke out impatiently, "What? Will you make Him a prisoner now in Heaven? Must He be bound to those properties of a natural body? Heaven is His palace and you will make it His prison."

Fr. Campion wrote the Ten Reasons as a well-documented, highly reasoned argumentation for Catholicism and which was harder to be disputed by the Protestants. Fr. Campion and Fr. Parsons were bold and daring priests who worked together under this terrible persecution of Catholics to save the souls they cared for dearly. Once they got the Ten Reasons printed they secretly had it distributed into the pews of the Anglican churches. This resulted in confirming the Faith for those Catholics in doubt and converting others to the one True Faith.


The publication of the Decem Rationes was the last act of Campion’s life of freedom. He was seized the very next week, and after five months of suffering was martyred on 1 December, 1581. During that prolonged and unequal struggle against every variety of craft and violence the Ten Reasons continued to have their influence, and on the whole they were extremely helpful, for they enabled the martyr to recover some ground which he had lost while under torture. During those awful agonies he confessed to having found shelter in the houses of certain gentlemen. It is certain that these names were all known to the Government before, and that he was not betraying any secret. Nevertheless the gentlemen in question were at once seized, imprisoned and fined, on the alleged evidence of Campion’s confessions only. This of course caused much scandal among Catholics, and so long as he lay lost in the Tower dungeons, unpleasant rumours about his constancy could not be effectively contradicted. Thus far Elizabeth’s ministers had gained an advantage, which Pounde had foretold they were likely to win. But the remedy he had suggested also proved effective.

Though under ordinary circumstances Elizabeth’s ministers “meant nothing less” than having the disputation requested, nevertheless now that Campion was so terribly shaken and reduced, they hoped that they might arrange some sort of a meeting, which might in show correspond with what had been demanded in the Decem Rationes, and yet leave them with a certain victory. They were emboldened too, by finding that their prisoner was not after all, such a particularly learned man. He had never been a professor of theology, or written or made special studies, beyond the ordinary course which in those days was not a long one. It was, therefore, settled that four disputations should be held in the Tower of London. Theology was still taught at Oxford and Cambridge in something of the old mediaeval method and in syllogistic form. The men who were pitted against Campion had lately been, or were still, examiners at the Universities. Nor is it to be denied for a moment that they did their work well. The attack never faltered. Their own side quite believed they had won. The method they adopted was this. They assumed the role of examiners, and starting with the Decem Rationes before them, they plied Campion with crabbed texts, and obscure quotations from the Fathers. Then they cut short his answers, and as soon as one had examined for one quarter of an hour, another took his place, for they were anxious above all things to avoid defeat. The number of topics broached and left unsettled surpasses belief, indeed the scene was one of utter confusion, taunts, scoldings, sneers—a very, very different test from the academic argumentation, which Campion had requested.

The martyr did not show any remarkable erudition, indeed all opportunity to do so was carefully shut off. No University, I fancy, would have given him a chair of theology on the strength of his replies on that occasion. There was more than one premature assertion of victory on the Protestant side. But when the Catholic and Protestant accounts are compared, one sees that the advantages won against Campion were slight. They evidently hoped that by vigorous and repeated attacks they would at last puzzle or bear him down. But they were never near this. He was always fresh and gay, never in difficulties, or at the end of his tether. He stands out quite the noblest, the most sympathetic and important figure in those motley assemblies. The Catholics were delighted. They succeeded in getting their own report of the disputations, which is still extant, and they would have printed it, if they had been able. Philip, Earl of Arundel, by far the most important convert of that generation, was won over by what he heard in those debates.


First Reason | The Sacred Scriptures

Holy Writ

Of the many signs that tell of the adversaries’ mistrust of their own cause, none declares it so loudly as the shameful outrage they put upon the majesty of the Holy Bible. After they have dismissed with scorn the utterances and suffrages of the rest of the witnesses, they are nevertheless brought to such straits that they cannot hold their own otherwise than by laying violent hands on the divine volumes themselves, thereby showing beyond all question that they are brought to their last stand, and are having recourse to the hardest and most extreme of expedients to retrieve their desperate and ruined fortunes.

What induced the Manichees to tear out the Gospel of Matthew and the Acts of the Apostles? Despair. For these volumes were a torment to men who denied Christ’s birth of a Virgin, and who pretended that the Spirit then first descended upon Christians when their peculiar Paraclete, a good-for-nothing Persian, made his appearance.

What induced the Ebionites to reject all St. Paul’s Epistles? Despair. For while those Letters kept their credit, the custom of circumcision, which these men had reintroduced, was set aside as an anachronism.

What induced that crime-laden apostate Luther to call the Epistle of James contentious, turgid, arid, a thing of straw, and unworthy of the Apostolic spirit? Despair. For by this writing the wretched man’s argument of righteousness consisting in faith alone was stabbed through and rent assunder.

What induced Luther’s whelps to expunge off-hand from the genuine canon of Scripture, Tobias, Ecclesiasticus, Maccabees, and, for hatred of these, several other books involved in the same false charge? Despair. For by these Oracles they are most manifestly confuted whenever they argue about the patronage of Angels, about free will, about the faithful departed, about the intercession of Saints. Is it possible? So much perversity, so much audacity?

After trampling underfoot Church, Councils, Episcopal Sees, Fathers, Martyrs, Potentates, Peoples, Laws, Universities, Histories, all vestiges of Antiquity and Sanctity, and declaring that they would settle their disputes by the written word of God alone, to think that they should have emasculated that same Word, which alone was left, by cutting out of the whole body so many excellent and goodly parts!

Seven whole books, to ignore lesser diminutions, have the Calvinists cut out of the Old Testament. The Lutherans take away the Epistle of James besides, and, in their dislike of that, five other Epistles, about which there had been controversy of old in certain places and times. To the number of these the latest authorities at Geneva add the book of Esther and about three chapters of Daniel, which their fellow-disciples, the Anabaptists, had some time before condemned and derided.

How much greater was the modesty of Augustine (De doct. Christ. lib. 2, c. 8.), who, in making his catalogue of the Sacred Books, did not take for his rule the Hebrew Alphabet, like the Jews, nor private judgment, like the Sectaries, but that Spirit wherewith Christ animates the whole Church. The Church, the guardian of this treasure, not its mistress (as heretics falsely make out), vindicated publicly in former times by very ancient Councils this entire treasure, which the Council of Trent has taken up and embraced. Augustine also in a special discussion on one small portion of Scripture cannot bring himself to think that any man’s rash murmuring should be permitted to thrust out of the Canon the book of Wisdom, which even in his time had obtained a sure place as a well-authenticated and Canonical book in the reckoning of the Church, the judgment of ages, the testimony of ancients, and the sense of the faithful.

What would he say now if he were alive on earth, and saw men like Luther and Calvin manufacturing Bibles, filing down Old and New Testament with a neat pretty little file of their own, setting aside, not the book of wisdom alone, but with it very many others from the list of Canonical Books? Thus whatever does not come out from their shop, by a mad decree, is liable to be, spat upon by all as a rude and barbarous composition.

They who have stooped to this dire and execrable way of saving themselves surely are beaten, overthrown, and flung rolling in the dust, for all their fine praises that are in the mouths of their admirers, for all their traffic in priesthoods, for all their bawling in pulpits, for all their sentencing of Catholics to chains, rack and gallows. Seated in their armchairs as censors, as though any one had elected them to that office, they seize their pens and mark passages as spurious even in God’s own Holy Writ, putting their pens through whatever they cannot stomach. Can any fairly educated man be afraid of battalions of such enemies? If in the midst of your learned body they had recourse to such trickster’s arts, calling like wizards upon their familiar spirit, you would shout at them,—you would stamp your feet at them.

For instance I would ask them what right they have to rend and mutilate the body of the Bible. They would answer that they do not cut out true Scriptures, but prune away supposititious accretions. By authority of what judge? By the Holy Ghost. This is the answer prescribed by Calvin (Instit. lib. I, c. 7), for escaping this judgment of the Church whereby spirits of prophesy are examined. Why then do some of you tear out one piece of Scripture, and others another, whereas you all boast of being led by the same Spirit? The Spirit of the Calvinists receives six Epistles which do not please the Lutheran Spirit, both all the while in full confidence reposing on the Holy Ghost. The Anabaptists call the book of Job a fable, intermixed with tragedy and comedy. How do they know? The Spirit has taught them.

Whereas the Song of Solomon is admired by Catholics as a paradise of the soul, a hidden manna, and rich delight in Christ, Castalio, a lewd rogue, has reckoned it nothing better than a love-song about a mistress, and an amorous conversation with Court flunkeys. Whence drew he that intimation? From the Spirit. In the Apocalypse of John, every jot and tittle of which Jerane declares to bear some lofty and magnificent meaning, Luther and Brent and Kemnitz, critics hard to please, find something wanting, and are inclined to throw over the whole book.

Whom have they consulted? The Spirit. Luther with preposterous heat pits the Four Gospels one against another (Praef. in Nov. Test.), and far prefers Paul’s Epistles to the first three, while he declares the Gospel of St. John above the rest to be beautiful, true, and worthy of mention in the first place,—thereby enrolling even the Apostles, so far as in him lay, as having a hand in his quarrels. Who taught him to do that? The Spirit. Nay this imp of a friar has not hesitated in petulant style to assail Luke’s Gospel because therein good and virtuous works are frequently commended to us. Whom did he consult? The Spirit.

Theodore Beza has dared to carp at, as a corruption and perversion of the original, that mystical word from the twenty-second chapter of Luke, this is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which (chalice) shall be shed for you [Greek: potaerion ekchunomenon], because this language admits of no explanation other than that of the wine in the chalice being converted into the true blood of Christ. Who pointed that out? The Spirit. In short, in believing all things every man in the faith of his own spirit, they horribly belie and blaspheme the name of the Holy Ghost. So acting, do they not give themselves away? are they not easily refuted?

In an assembly of learned men, such as yours, Gentlemen of the University, are they not caught and throttled without trouble? Should I be afraid on behalf of the Catholic faith to dispute with these men, who have handled with the utmost ill faith not human but heavenly utterances? I say nothing here of their perverse versions of Scripture, though I could accuse them in this respect of intolerable doings. I will not take the bread out of the mouth of that great linguist, my fellow-Collegian, Gregory Martin, who will do this work with more learning and abundance of detail than I could; nor from others whom I understand already to have that task in hand.

More wicked and more abominable is the crime that I am now prosecuting, that there have been found upstart Doctors who have made a drunken onslaught on the handwriting that is of heaven; who have given judgment against it as being in many places defiled, defective, false, surreptitious; who have corrected some passages, tampered with others; torn out others; who have converted every bulwark wherewith it was guarded into Lutheran “spirits,” what I may call phantom ramparts and parted walls.

All this they have done that they might not be utterly dumbfounded by falling upon Scripture texts contrary to their errors, texts which they would have found it as hard to get over as to swallow hot ashes or chew stones. This then has been my First Reason, a strong and a just one. By revealing the shadowy and broken powers of the adverse faction, it has certainly given new courage to a Christian man, not unversed in these studies, to fight for the Letters Patent of the Eternal King against the remnant of a routed foe.



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