Cled E. Wallace
Cardinal Hayes, popular “Prince of Catholic Church,” is dead. His body is merely a lump of clay, not unlike that of a dead hobo. Death is the great equalizer. The Grim Reaper is no respecter of persons. Millions pay idolatrous homage to the dead cardinal. Newspapers announce that “Majestic Pomp Marks Services for Prince of Catholic Church.” “In a mighty pageant of sorrow and majesty the Roman Catholic Church gave its last service Friday to the dead Patrick Cardinal Hayes—the pontifical mass of requiem.”
We naturally feel that restraint and subdued emotion which are a proper human reaction in the presence of the dead. But displays of “majestic pomp” over the body of a dead cardinal may well remind us of the distance the millions have wandered from the simplicity of the gospel. The pageantry of Catholicism is more pagan than Christian. It is the spirit of lawlessness which began in Paul’s day, grown up to the full stature of maturity. It was a gradual development, a disregard of, and a withdrawal from a revealed divine order in organization, doctrine and worship. The distinctive features of Romanism are centuries younger than the New Testament and exist in defiance of that all sufficient rule of faith and practice. Protestant parties in most instances have not gone into Rome’s excesses, nor have they embraced idolatry to the extent that Rome has. They have, however, in their creeds, unscriptural organizations, names and doctrines, surrendered or compromised the only principle which can be an effective weapon against the “pomp and majesty” of Rome.
There was a time when believers in Christ “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). At that time they were neither Catholic nor Protestant in the sense in which those terms are used today. They were simply Christians, recognizing Christ as Lord and His will as law. This will was revealed by men who spake and wrote under the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit. No pontifical honors were accorded the inspired mediums of the will of the Lord. When Cornelius, the Gentile centurion, fell down at the feet of Simon Peter, the apostle of the Lord immediately protested. “But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up: I myself also am a man” (Acts 10:26). This is a closed rebuke to papal pretensions and may be considered a rebuke also to the little popes and dignitaries of Protestantism who love their titles and preen their feathers of authority.
The whole business of “majestic pomp” is contrary to the spirit of the gospel. It is a playing with baubles when there are fundamental verities being trampled upon and ignored. The disciples were reaching for such trinkets of pomp when they quarreled over places of prospective power in the kingdom. The rebuke of the Lord was effective. His kingdom is not of this world. nor is spiritual majesty akin to the unscriptural pageantry which characterizes Rome and her sectarian copycats. The Lord castigated those that made “broad their phylacteries” and enlarged “the borders of their garments” and loved “the chief seats in the ‘synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called of men, Rabbi” (Matt. 23:5-7).