Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 14, 1954
NUMBER 23, PAGE 2-3a

"Full Of Dead Men's Bones" -- Matt. 23:27

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

"There is scarcely a Roman Catholic Church in Europe that does not possess a Golgotha of relics — disgusting objects, mostly defeating their own claims to authenticity by their impossible pretensions and absurd traditions, the belief in which is far more diligently inculcated than in the saving doctrines of scripture. The latter would put an end to these stupid impostures, but the former exalt the reputation of the several churches, and bring much treasure into their coffers. In fact, they are ecclesiastical museums, for which heretics pay to gratify their curiosity, and the faithful to adore, and gain the promised indulgences at the expense of their gifts left upon the altars. I have seen thousands flock around a miserable old Byzantine painting of the Virgin, of the twelfth century, scrupulously veiled in order to increase the mystery, except on certain holidays when the public are admitted to kiss the silver railing of the altar, for the purpose of devoutly leaving a sum of money with the priest for the edifying privilege. Ghastly heads and remains of martyrs, in silver or gold cases, are periodically exposed to similar adoration in the principle churches, or brought out in solemn procession on the occasion of drought or some public calamity, to induce the defunct possessor to intercede with God, or more generally the Virgin Mary, to arrest the evil. Who can view these imbecilities and not hold the Roman clergy accountable for withholding the bread of life, and substituting pageantry and superstitions not one whit superior to the classical paganism they supplanted? It is true that the early popes, despairing to abolish altogether the heathen customs of Rome, engrafted many of the ceremonies of the expiring ritual into their own. But their successors have allowed a dozen centuries to pass without a single endeavor to purify their religion from the corrupting influences which their predecessors deplored, and submitted to only from unavoidable necessity. Forms and names have been changed, but Rome of the nineteenth century, under a Christian pontiff and a learned clergy, in point of superstition and credulity, is as essentially pagan as in the days of Augustus. The miracles of ancient Rome, so prolific in the pages of Livy, are every whit as credible as those which figure in the annals of the church. When devotion flags or money fails to pour abundantly in at a certain shrine, a miracle is sure to ensue. Curiosity is excited, superstition stimulated, and the needed excitement produced. My readers will, I trust, agree with me, when they have visited a few of these idolatrous shrines, that the sooner they are swept from the earth the better will become the temporal and eternal prospects for mankind.

"In the church of the 'Ara Caeli,' which occupies the site of the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter, there is preserved a wretchedly-carved wooden doll, loaded with an incalculable amount of precious jewels. This doll belongs to the monks, and brings them in a yearly revenue which enriches them all. It is called the 'Most Holy Baby,' and the most diligent exertions are made to keep alive faith in its sovereign virtues. Every stranger visits it, as a matter of course, and pays the accustomed fee. But its chief revenue is from the sick. It has a larger practice than any physician in Rome. As soon as a Roman despairs of his life or his doctor, he sends for the 'Most Holy Baby,' which is brought to his bedside in great state. If he die, the baby has called him, which is all right; if he get well, the baby has cured him, which is right also. In either case the monks receive their fee. It is so rich that it has a handsome carriage of its own. Several times a year this idol is exposed to the adoration of the crowd, no other having so great a reputation in Rome.

"An old marble staircase which had seen much service in the ancient Lateran Palace, has contrived to gather to itself an astonishing reputation for sanctity. Sixtus V., (1585 A.D.) was the pope who brought it into notice. In rebuilding the palace he discovered that it was the same staircase on which Christ descended when leaving the judgment-seat of Pilate. Henceforth it became most holy and endowed with incalculable virtues. Sixtus enclosed it in a building opposite the church of St. John in Lateran, and provided lateral staircases for descent and for profane feet. Several thousand years' indulgence were promised to everyone who made the ascent on his knees, repeating at each step Paternosters and Ave Marias. Go now when you will, and it will be found occupied by sinners, male and female, nobles and beggars, side by side, painfully winning their way to the promised indulgence. At the bottom there is always on duty a monk who demands alms, and at the top, a contribution plate beside a crucifix, into which the pilgrims deposit their offerings while reverently kissing and repeating a prayer over each wound of Christ. So great is the concourse that wooden steps have been placed over the stones, to protect them from the pious. wear. After all, the pilgrims do not touch the veritable steps; a fact which they seem entirely to overlook, but which one would suppose would detract somewhat from the promised blessings.

"The church contains a wonderful assortment of relics; the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, as usual, in jeweled cases of silver; a lock of the Virgin Mary's hair, and a fragment of one of her petticoats; some blood of Christ; the table at which he ate the last supper — a small affair, suitable for a cafe tete-a-tete, but never intended for thirteen, an anomaly the relic manufacturers impolitically overlooked. Then there are the rods of Moses and Aaron, with a portion of the Ark of the Covenant; the pillar off which the cock crew when Peter denied Christ, and other wonders surpassing belief.

"The relics of the Virgin Mary in ecclesiastical museums are surprisingly numerous, while Joseph appears to have left no memorials behind him. At Loretto, we have her entire house, transported by angels from the Holy Land. Were all her property restored to it, one might get a tolerable insight into her domestic affairs; for we have quite a wardrobe of hers remaining, besides the cradle of the infant Jesus, preserved at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, in total forgetfulness of the scriptural fact that the new-born babe was laid in a manger.

"I will give a list of some of the most noted relics preserved at different shrines, to show what the Church of Rome exhibits instead of the simple Word of God. They exist in such profusion wherever the Roman Catholic priesthood have sway, that it is really difficult to select a collection which shall embrace the absurdities of all, as their number and variety are legion. One of the richest and most select, however, of these shrines is that of St. Mark's, at Venice. It is open at certain hours to the public for a stated fee. The wealth in precious metals and jewels lavished upon the vessels and tabernacles which contain these ghastly remains is incalculable. Were all the idle and idolatrous treasure of Italy actively employed for the benefit of the living, it would give her schools throughout her territory, or connect it by a network of railway; in either case affording education or work to her starving multitudes.

"The sacristan of St. Mark's ushered me into the sanctuary where its treasures are kept. At first glance one would suppose he had fallen into Aladdin's cave, so brightly shone the gold and silver, gleaming with rare and costly stones. Closer inspection, however, betrayed the contents of the glass vials in which most of them were preserved. There were arm and leg bones without number; fragments of morbid humanity of every shape and variety, labeled 'a piece of Saint' this, or Saintess that — precious to the faith of the believing, it was to be hoped, but repulsive to doubting eyes. The taste of Roman Catholics for the morbidly horrible in death's doings is strangely general. At Notre Dame, in Paris, they showed me the spine of the late archbishop, which had been dissected from his corpse to be exhibited to his late parishioners.

"The relics at St. Mark's that I particularly noticed were as follows: The thumb of St. Mark. A lock of the Virgin's hair, bright auburn, looking as if recently cut from a child's head. Some of the blood of Christ. Some of the earth soaked with it. A piece of his garment without a seam. Four pieces of the True Cross, one of which belonged to the Empress Irene of Constantinople. One nail of the True Cross. (There is another at Paris, one at Milan, one at Rome, and the iron crown of Lombardy is said also to have been made of them.) Two of the thorns of the Crown. A rib of St. Peter. A rib of St. Paul. A portion of the skull of John the Baptist. (The entire head is preserved at Geneva; but duplicates of saintly remains are no more miraculous than their preservation at all, and do not appear to weaken faith in their authenticity.) Two of the stones used at the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

"The most remarkable appeal to public credulity is to be found at Cologne, in the well-known collection of the relics of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgin companions, all of whom, the Church teaches her disciples to believe, were wantonly massacred by a horde of barbarians, somewhere between the years 237 and 451 of the Christian era, for refusing to submit to their embraces." (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, August, 1854.)