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LETTERS TO THE TIMES ON THE VATICAN DECREES - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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LETTERS TO THE TIMES ON THE VATICAN DECREES
To the Editor of “The Times.”
May I ask you to publish the enclosed preliminary reply to Mr. Gladstone’s public Expostulation?—Your obedient servant,
“Athenæum,” November 8.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I will not anticipate by a single word the course which those who are immediately concerned may adopt in answer to your challenge. But there are points which I think you have overlooked, and which may be raised most fitly by those who are least responsible. The question of policy or opportuneness I leave for others to discuss with you. Speaking in the open daylight, from my point of view, as a Roman Catholic born in the nineteenth century, I cannot object that facts which are of a nature to influence the belief of men should be brought completely to their knowledge. Concealment is unworthy of those things which are Divine and holy in religion, and in those things which are human and profane publicity has value as a check.
I understand your argument to be substantially as follows:—The Catholics obtained emancipation by declaring that they were in every sense of the term loyal and faithful subjects of the realm, and that Papal Infallibility was not a dogma of their Church. Later events having falsified one declaration, have disturbed the stability of the other; and the problem therefore arises whether the authority which has annulled the profession of faith made by the Catholics would not be competent to change their conceptions of political duty.
This is a question which may be fairly asked, and it was long since made familiar to the Catholics by the language of their own Bishops. One of them has put it in the following terms: “How shall we persuade the Protestants that we are not acting in defiance of honour and good faith, if, having declared that Infallibility was not an article of our faith while we were contending for our rights, we should, now we have got what we wanted, withdraw from our public declaration and affirm the contrary?” The case is, prima facie, a strong one, and it would be still more serious if the whole structure of our liberties and our toleration was founded on the declarations given by the English and Irish bishops some years before the Relief Act. These documents, interesting and significant as they are, are unknown to the Constitution. What is known, and what was for a generation part of the law of the country, is something more solemn and substantial than a series of unproved assertions—namely, the oath in which the political essence of those declarations was concentrated. That was the security which Parliament required; that was the pledge by which we were bound, and it binds us no more. The Legislature, judging that what was sufficient for Republicans was sufficient for Catholics, abolished the oath, for the best reasons, some time before the disestablishment of the Irish Church. If there is no special bond for the loyalty of Catholics, the fact is due to the deliberate judgment of the House of Commons. After having surrendered the only real Constitutional security there seems scarcely reason to lament the depreciation of a less substantial guarantee, which was very indirectly connected with the action of Parliament, and was virtually superseded by the oath.
The doctrines against which you are contending did not begin with the Vatican Council. At the time when the oath was repealed the Pope held the same right and power to excommunicate those who denied his authority to depose princes that he possesses now. The writers most esteemed at Rome held that doctrine as an article of faith; a modern pontiff had affirmed that it cannot be abandoned without a taint of heresy, and that those who questioned or restricted his authority in temporal matters were worse than those who rejected it in spirituals, and accordingly men suffered death for this cause, as others did for blasphemy and Atheism. The recent decrees have neither increased the penalty nor made it more easy to inflict.
That is the true answer to your appeal. Your indictment would be more just if it was more complete. If you pursue the inquiry further, you will find graver matter than all you have enumerated, established by higher and more ancient authority than a meeting of Bishops half a century ago. And then I think you will admit that your Catholic countrymen cannot fairly be called to account for every particle of a system which has never come before them in its integrity, or for opinions whose existence among divines they would be exceedingly reluctant to believe.
I will explain my meaning by an example:—A Pope who lived in Catholic times, and who is famous in history as the author of the first Crusade, decided that it is no murder to kill excommunicated persons. This rule was incorporated in the Canon Law. In the revision of the Code, which took place in the sixteenth century, and produced a whole volume of corrections, the passage was allowed to stand. It appears in every reprint of the Corpus Juris. It has been for seven hundred years, and continues to be, part of the ecclesiastical law. Far from having been a dead letter, it obtained a new application in the days of the Inquisition, and one of the later Popes has declared that the murder of a Protestant is so good a deed that it atones, and more than atones, for the murder of a Catholic. Again, the greatest legislator of the mediæval Church laid down this proposition, that allegiance must not be kept with heretical princes—cum ei qui Deo fidem non servat fides servanda non sit. This principle was adopted by a celebrated Council, and is confirmed by St. Thomas Aquinas, the oracle of the schools. The Syllabus which you cite has assuredly not acquired greater authority in the Church than the Canon Law and the Lateran Decrees, than Innocent the Third and St. Thomas. Yet these things were as well known when the oath was repealed as they are now. But it was felt that whatever might be the letter of the Canons and the spirit of the Ecclesiastical Laws, the Catholic people of this country might be honourably trusted.
But I will pass from the letter to the spirit which is moving men at the present day. It belongs peculiarly to the character of a genuine ultramontane not only to guide his life by the example of canonised saints but to receive with reverence and submission the words of Popes. Now Pius V, the only Pope who had been proclaimed a saint for many centuries, having deprived Elizabeth, commissioned an assassin to take her life; and his next successor, on learning that the Protestants were being massacred in France, pronounced the action glorious and holy, but comparatively barren of results; and implored the king, during two months, by his Nuncio and his Legate, to carry the work on to the bitter end until every Huguenot had recanted or perished. It is hard to believe that these things can excite in the bosom of the most fervent ultramontane that sort of admiration or assent that displays itself in action. If they do not, then it cannot be truly said that Catholics forfeit their moral freedom, or place their duty at the mercy of another.
There is waste of power by friction even in well-constructed machines, and no machine can enforce that degree of unity and harmony which you apprehend. Little fellowship and confidence is possible between a man who recognises the common principles of morality as we find them in the overwhelming mass of the writers of our Church, and one who, on learning that the murder of a Protestant sovereign has been inculcated by a saint, or the slaughter of Protestant subjects approved by a Pope, sets himself to find a new interpretation for the Decalogue. There is little to apprehend from combinations between men divided by such a gulf as this, or from the unity of a body composed of such antagonistic materials. But where there is not union of an active or aggressive kind, there may be unity of defence; and it is possible, in making provision against the one, to promote and confirm the other.
There has been, and I believe there is still, some exaggeration in the idea men form of the agreement in thought and deed which authority can accomplish. As far as decrees, censures, and persecution could commit the Court of Rome, it was committed to the denial of the Copernican System. Nevertheless, the history of astronomy shows a whole catena of distinguished Jesuits; and, a century ago, a Spaniard who thought himself bound to adopt the Ptolemaic theory was laughed at by the Roman divines. The submission of Fénelon, which Protestants and Catholics have so often celebrated, is another instance to my point. When his book was condemned Fénelon publicly accepted the judgment as the voice of God. He declared that he adhered to the decree absolutely and without a shadow of reserve, and there were no bounds to his submission. In private he wrote that his opinions were perfectly orthodox, that his opponents were in the wrong, and that Rome was getting religion into peril.1
It is not the unpropitious times only, but the very nature of things, that protect Catholicism from the consequences of some theories that have grown up within it. The Irish did not shrink from resisting the arms of Henry II, though two Popes had given him dominion over them. They fought against William III, although the Pope had given him sufficient support in his expedition. Even James II, when he could not get a mitre for Petre, reminded Innocent that people could be very good Catholics and yet do without Rome. Philip II was excommunicated and deprived, but he despatched his army against Rome with the full concurrence of the Spanish divines.
That opinions likely to injure our position as loyal subjects of a Protestant sovereign, as citizens of a free State, as members of a community divided in religion, have flourished in various times, and in various degrees, that they can claim high sanction, that they are often uttered in the exasperation of controversy, and are most strongly urged at a time when there is no possibility of putting them into practice—this all men must concede. But I affirm that, in the fiercest conflict of the Reformation, when the rulers of the Church had almost lost heart in the struggle for existence, and exhausted every resource of their authority, both political and spiritual, the bulk of the English Catholics retained the spirit of a better time. You do not, I am glad to say, deny that this continues to be true. But you think that we ought to be compelled to demonstrate one of two things—that the Pope cannot, by virtue of powers asserted by the late Council, make a claim which he was perfectly able to make by virtue of powers asserted by him before; or that he would be resisted if he did. The first is superfluous. The second is not capable of receiving a written demonstration. Therefore, neither of the alternatives you propose to the Catholics opens to us a way of escaping from the reproach we have incurred. Whether there is more truth in your misgivings or in my confidence the event will show, I hope, at no distant time.—I remain sincerely yours,
To the Editor of “The Times.”
Many persons have called on me, both in public and in private, to furnish the means of testing certain statements made by me in a letter of 8th November to Mr. Gladstone. Those statements are easy to verify. But I comply with their appeal in order to repel the charge that the facts were invented for a theory, or that a faithful narrative of undogmatic history could involve contradiction with the teaching or authority of the Church whose communion is dearer to me than life.
In my endeavours to show that the safety of the State is not affected by the Vatican Decrees I affirmed that they assign to the papacy no power over temporal concerns greater than that which it had claimed and exercised before, and that the causes which heretofore deprived those claims of practical effect continue to operate now. The instance I chose was the deposing power which was renounced by the Catholic oath, and which most assuredly was present neither in the language nor in the mind of the Council. The facts I alluded to are these: King James I, whose sympathies were strong on the side of ecclesiastical tradition, and whose queen was a Catholic, repeatedly manifested a desire to be reconciled with Rome. He lived in the incessant terror of plots, and he proposed, through the French ambassador, to favour the English Catholics and to recognise the primacy of the Holy See on condition that the Pope would renounce the power of deposing kings. His overtures were rejected. Paul V was willing to discourage conspiracies, but he replied that to surrender his temporal authority would be to incur the reproach of heresy. The French ambassador writes from Rome, 19th August 1609: “Il me dit ne le pouvoir faire sans être taché d’hérésie” (Notices et Extraits des Manuscripts, vii. 310; Goujet, Pontificat de Paul V, i. 309). Cardinal Bellarmine relates that his Controversies were put on the Index by Sixtus V, not for denying this power, for he vehemently asserts it, but for denying the direct and universal dominion of the Popes over the whole world: “Sixtus enim, propter illam propositionem de dominio Papae directo in totum orbe, posuit Controversias ejus in Indice Librorum Prohibitorum, donec corrigentur; sed ipso mortuo Sacra Rituum Congregatio jussit deleri ex libro Indicis nomen illius” (Vita Card. Bellarmini, 22). Baronius proclaims it heresy to deny that the ecclesiastical power enjoys, by Divine institution, the right of judging in the temporal affairs of men (Analecta Juris Pontificii, 1860, p. 281). And Suarez, writing against James in 1613, holds that the deposing power is an article of faith: “Propositio haec, papa potestatem habet ad deponendos reges haereticos et pertinaces suove regno in rebus ad salutem animae pertinentibus perniciosos, inter dogmata fidei tenenda et credenda est” (Defensio Fidei Catholicae, 742). At that time the Venetian divines were attacking the doctrine which attributed to the Popes political authority beyond their own dominions. Paul’s biographer, Bzovius, calls the theory of these writers omnium perniciosissima haeresis, and the Pope himself said that their books were worse than Calvin’s (Notices et Extraits, vii. 305). Above a century later, an Italian divine, replying to Bossuet, affirmed that there is no foothold for Catholicism if the Popes have erred for many centuries on such a point as this (Bianchi, Potestà della Chiesa, i. 20).
The attitude of James I towards Rome is to be seen in Beaumont’s despatch of July 23, 1603; in those of La Boderie, June 21, 1606, and July 1, 1609; and of Puisieux, July 22, 1609; in Gondomar’s despatch of February 18, 1621; in a report of the journey of the Archbishop of Embrun to England in 1624; in the letters of the Tuscan agent, Lotti, and in a joint letter of James and Andrewes which is among the epistles of Casaubon (Mercier de Lacombe, Henri IV, p. 490; Siri, Memorie, i. 239; La Boderie, Ambassades, i. 130, iv. 387; Gardiner’s Spanish Marriage, i. 406; Mémoires Particuliers, iii. 224; Istoria del Granducato, v. 194; Casauboni Epistolae, p. 389, and his Ephemerides, p. 807). There were proselytes less likely than James I and Bishop Andrewes. I have seen in the library of St. Mark a letter from the Nuncio Rossetti, dated Ghent, July 19, 1641, in which he states that Archbishop Ussher applied to be received into the Catholic Church, and to be allowed to end his days at Rome, with a pension from the bounty of the Pope.
It was my object to show that the principle of imputing to the Catholics whatever may seem to be involved constructively or potentially in the Vatican Decrees, and throwing on us the burden of disproof, would lead to extravagant consequences; and I drew attention to the acts of two famous pontiffs of the Middle Ages, Urban II and Innocent III. Urban lays down the rule that it is no murder to kill excommunicated persons, provided it be done from religious zeal only, and not from an inferior motive: “Non enim eos homicidas arbitramur, quos adversus excommunicatos zelo Catholicae matris ardentes, eorum quoslibet trucidasse contigerit” (Urbani II Epistolae, ed. Migne, 122). The words are copied by Ivo of Chartres (x. 54), and by Gratian in the second part of his Decretum (causa 23, quaestio 5, cap. 47). This may fairly be taken to be one of those passages of which Roger Bacon says that much of Gratian’s jurisprudence was already obsolete. But it stands in the revised edition to which Gregory XIII prefixed the injunction that nothing should ever be omitted; and the gloss gives the following paraphrase: “Non putamus eos esse homicidas qui zelo justitiae eos occiderunt.” The spirit of the rule survived in the sixteenth century. Several citizens of Lucca, having imbibed Protestant opinions, fled into foreign countries. The government of the Republic, acting under pressure from Rome, made a law that if any one should kill one of these refugees his reward should be three hundred crowns; that if he had been outlawed for previous crimes, his outlawry should be reversed; and that, if he was not in trouble himself he might transfer his freedom to another who needed it (Archivio Storico Italiano, x. App. 177). The date of the decree is January 9, 1562. On the 20th, Pius IV replied. He congratulated the Republic on this wise and pious law, esteeming, he said, that nothing could do greater honour to God, provided it was diligently executed: “Legimus pia laudabiliaque decreta . . . Gavisi admodum sumus tam pie et sapienter hec apud vos acta et constituta fuisse . . . Nec vero quicquam fieri potuisse judicamus, vel ad tuendum Dei honorem sanctius, vel ad conservandam vestrae patriae salutem prudentius. . . . Hortamur vos, et ceteros qui in isto munere vobis successuri sunt, ut diligenter ea servanda et exequenda curetis” (p. 178).
In the Bull Rem Crudelem Audivimus of 10th March 1208, Innocent III deprives and proscribes the Count of Toulouse in these words: “Cum juxta sanctorum patrum canonicas sanctiones, ei qui Deo fidem non servat fides servanda non sit, a communione fidelium segregato, utpote qui vitandus est potius quam fovendus, omnes qui dicto comiti fidelitatis seu societatis aut federis hujuscemodi juramento tenentur, auctoritate apostolica denuntient ab eo interim absolutos, et cuilibet Catholico viro licere, salvo jure domini principalis, non solum persequi personam ejusdem, verum etiam occupare ac detinere terram ipsius” (Teulet, Trésor des Chartes, i. 316). In the same Pontificate the Fourth Lateran Council determined that the Pope might depose any prince who neglected the duty of exterminating heresy, and might bestow his State on others (Harduin, Concilia, vii. 19). The same canon reappears in the Decretale of Gregory IX (lib. iv. tit. 7, cap. 13); and S. Thomas Aquinas declares that the loss of all claim to political allegiance is incurred by the fact of excommunication (Summa, 1853, iii. 51).
I have been asked whether I meant to hold Innocent III responsible for the maxim that faith must not be kept with heretics. He was speaking undoubtedly of the fidelity which is paid to princes, but the principle applied with equal force the other way, and was liable to be construed in a wider sense. In the days of the Council of Constance, Ferdinand of Aragon employed the same words to induce the Emperor to disregard the safe conduct he had given to Hus: quoniam non est frangere fidem ei qui Deo fidem frangit (Palacky, Documenta Joannis Hus, p. 540). A decree embodying this maxim, which is found among the Acts of the Council, is not authentic. But the theory remained. When Henry of Valois swore to respect the liberty of conscience in Poland, the Cardinal Penitentiary informed him that it would be a grievous sin for him to observe his oath, but that, if it was taken with the intention of breaking it, his guilt would be less: “Minor fuit offensio ubi mens ea praestandi, quae petebentur defuit” (Hosii Opera, ii. 367). At this time it was the common opinion of divines that a private person need not keep faith with a heretic: “Ob tanti hujus criminis pravitatem, communis doctorum sententia recepta est, fidem a privata praestitam haereticis servandam neutiquam esse” (De Roias, Opus Tripartitum, iii. 55).
In order to establish my point that a gulf divides the extreme opinions from the common sentiments of Catholics, I spoke of the conspiracy of Ridolfi and the massacre of St. Bartholomew. It would seem that a thoroughly consistent and unflinching partisan of those extremes must regard the slaughter of Protestants with feelings akin to favour if the act obtained the approval of the supreme authority, and could hardly look with horror on the murder of a queen if it was sanctioned by a saint. On the other hand, it would not be easy to point to a single English writer at the present day whom the prestige of canonisation and authority has inclined to applaud such deeds.
Queen Elizabeth had reigned ten years, and had nearly accomplished the suppression of the Catholic religion in England, when Pius V declared that she had forfeited her Crown, and forbade her subjects to obey her. The first insurrection failed, as the bulk of the Catholics pleaded that the Papal orders had not been brought to their knowledge. Many copies of the Bull had been delivered to Ridolfi, a Florentine who was the secret agent of the Pope (Acta Sanctorum, Maii, i. 661). By means of this man a new conspiracy was set on foot, and Ridolfi went to Rome to explain the details to the Pope, and to seek his aid. Pius earnestly recommended the matter to the King of Spain, assuring him that it was most important for religion. At Madrid Ridolfi was supported by the Nuncio Castagna, and he produced credentials which left no room to doubt that he spoke the real mind of the Pope, and presented truly the business on which he was sent. For Pius had accredited him in the following terms:—
“Has literas nostras Majestati tuae reddet dilectus filius Robertus Rodolphus, qui, adjuvante Deo, nonnulla ei praesens praesenti praeterea exponet, ad honorem ejusdem omnipotentis Dei reiquepublicae Christianae, non parum pertinentia utilitatem: super quibus ut ipsi, sine ulla hesitatione majestas tua fidem habeat vehementer illam in Domino requirimus ac rogamus a qua pro eximia sua in Deum pietate illud majorem in modum petimus, ut rem ipsam de qua cum majestate tua acturus est, animo ac voluntate suscipiens quidquid ad eam conficiendam opus atque auxilii ferre se posse judicaverit, id sibi faciendum esse existimet.”
When Ridolfi had exposed his commission it became apparent that it resolved itself into little more than a plot for murdering Elizabeth. We read in the report of the deliberations of the Council: “Ridolfi aseguró que los Catolicos de Inglaterra estaban resueltos a apoderarse de la Reina Isabel y matarla” (Memorias de la Academia de la Historia, vii. 361). Feria, who received the first communication from Ridolfi, says the whole question was, how to get the Queen killed without open war: “La empresa se ha de hacer de la persona de la reina de Inglaterra, que hecho esto es acavado toto. . . . Conviene atender a despachar a la reina. . . . Conviene no venir a rotura.” Another councillor, Velasco, describes the death of Elizabeth as the real object: “El verdadero efecto es la muerte.” Philip himself wrote to Alva on the 14th of July 1571: “Il dit que le moment le plus favorable à l’exécution de l’entreprise serait le mois d’Août ou de Septembre; que la reine Elizabeth quittant alors Londres, pour aller à ses maisons de campagne, ce serait une occasion de se saisir de sa personne, et de la tuer. . . . Le Saint Père, à qui Ridolfi a rendu compte de tout, a écrit au Roi et lui a fait dire, par son Nonce, l’Archevêque de Rossano, qu’il envisage cette affaire comme étant de la plus haute importance pour le service de Dieu.” The man who finally undertook to do the deed was Ciappin Vitelli. The letter of Pius V, and the remarks of Feria and Velasco are printed from the archives of Simancas in Mignet’s Marie Stuart, Appendix K; and the letter of Philip to the Duke of Alva is calendared by M. Jachard, Correspondance de Philippe II, ii. 185.
In common with many who have raised objections to my letter, I was long tempted to doubt the accuracy of this story on two grounds—because it seemed inconsistent with the many virtues of Pius, and because it ought to have been an obstacle to his canonisation. Neither of these objections is valid. The first allows too little for the influence of the Inquisition, over which Pius presided in the years of its greatest activity, on the minds of humane and charitable men. Pius V declared that he was willing to spare a culprit guilty of a hundred murders rather than a single notorious heretic (Legazioni di Serristori, p. 443). His Roman panegyrist relates that he caused men to be kidnapped in foreign countries that they might be brought to trial and punishment at Rome (Catena, Vita di Pio V, p. 158). He assured the King of France that he must not spare the Huguenots, because of their offences against God (Pii Quinti Epistolae, p. 103). He declared that a Pope who should permit the least grace to be shown to heretics would sin against faith, and would thus become subject to the judgment of men (Catena, p. 325). He required that they should be pursued until they were all destroyed: “ad internecionem usque . . . donec, deletis omnibus, exinde nobilissimo isti regno pristinus Catholicae religionis cultus . . . restituatur” (Pii Quinti Epistolae, p. 155). It was a cruel mercy, he said, to spare the impious: “nihil est enim ea pietate misericordiaque crudelius, quae in impios et ultima supplicia meritos confertur” (p. 242). He appears to allude to a theory which was current, that it is a mercy to heretics to shorten their opportunities of sin: “expedit eos citius tollere e medio, ne gravius postea damnentur” (Lancelottus, Haereticum Quare, p. 579). A declared heretic was considered a public enemy whom any private person might rob or kill: “Si infidelitas peccatum est notorium, et judices dissimulant, tunc quidem a privatis occidi possunt haeretici” (Stephanus, Episc. Oriolanus, De Bello Sacro, 146; Jacobus Septimancensis, Institutiones Catholicae, 166). Nothing in the character or the position of Elizabeth exempted her from the rigorous application of these maxims. In the judgment of the entire Catholic world, she was a bastard and a usurper, and she was by far the most ingenious, the most powerful, and the most successful oppressor of the Church then living. If the summary punishment of contumacy could ever be justified, it was reasonable to apply it to her.
Sovereignty was no protection, for it had been forfeited by the Papal sentence, and the common belief was that the Pope may lawfully ordain that condemned princes be put to death. John of Salisbury, the divine who obtained from the English Pope Ireland as a gift to the Norman kings, introduced the theory of tyrannicide into Christian theology; and it became generally popular under the presumed but not undisputed authority of St. Thomas. Long after the death of Pius the Fifth it continued to be taught by the most renowned divines—by Gregory of Valentia, for instance, and Suarez. The language of Suarez is explicit: “Post sententiam latam omnino privatur regno, ita ut non possit justo titulo illud possidere; ergo ex tunc poterit tanquam omnino tyrannus tractari, et consequenter a quocumque privato poterit interfici” (Defensio, 721). In a work on moral theology which was widely popular, and which was printed after the middle of the last century, we still find the maxim that a person lying under the ban of the Pope may be killed in any place: “Bannitus autem a Papa potest occidi ubique” (Zacharia, Theologia Moralis, i. 260).
The case of Tyrrell, in the time of Gregory XIII, resembles that of Ridolfi, but Mr. Froude gives, I think, good reason to doubt the evidence on which it rests. But the lawfulness of similar actions was scarcely doubted. On the 13th of January 1591, the Nuncio at Paris reports that a young friar had applied to him for permission to murder Henry IV. The Nuncio replied that he would know whether the spirit that impelled him was from above by taking the opinion of the Pope on his design; at the same time he wrote to Rome that the man seemed to him really inspired. The letter is in the Chigi Library. An extract is printed in the North British Review, li. 62.
One piece of evidence exists, which has never, I think, been employed in this inquiry. A petition from Ridolfi to Pope Gregory is extant at Rome in which he describes his services and his claims, but does not say that the plot was aimed at the life of the Queen. This circumstance appears to me to throw not a feather-weight into either scale. But if it is cited at all, it can only be cited to exonerate the memory of the Pope.
Having stated that Gregory XIII approved the massacre of St. Bartholomew, but complained that too little had been done, I have been assured by a Doctor, and former Professor, of Divinity, who has devoted twenty years to these researches, that this is a hackneyed story, which the veriest bigot is ashamed to repeat. I submit to the later and better judgment of my correspondent the facts which I am about to prove. When Gregory was informed that the Huguenots were being slain over the whole of France, he sent word to the king that this was better news than a hundred battles of Lepanto. On the 11th of September the Ambassador, Ferrals, wrote as follows to Charles the Ninth: “Après quelques autres discours qu’il me feist sur le contentement que luy et le collège des Cardinaux avoient receu de ladicte exécution faicte et des nouvelles qui journellement arivoient en ceste cour de semblables exécutions en vostre royaume, qui, à dire la vérité, sont les nouvelles les plus agréables que je pense qu’on eust sceu apporter en ceste ville, sadicte Saincteté pour fin me commanda de vous escrire que cest évènement luy a esté cent fois plus agréable que cinquante victoires à celle que ceulx de la ligue obtindrent l’année passée contre le Turcq, ne voulant oublier vous dire, Sire, les commandemens estroictz qu’il nous a feist, mesmement aux françois d’en faire feu de joye, et qui ne l’eust faict eust mal senty de la foy.” The Pope proclaimed a jubilee, principally to thank God for His great mercy, and to pray that the king might have constancy to pursue to the end the pious work he had begun. This Bull has not, I think, been reprinted. I take the words from one of the original placards distributed in Rome from the press of the Apostolic Chamber: “Nos ipsi statim hoc audito una cum venerabilius fratribus nostris S. R. E. Cardinalibus, in templo Sancti Marci quas maximas potuimus omnipotenti Deo Gratias egimus, et ut pro sua immensa bonitate Regem ipsum in persequendo tam pio salutarique consilio conservare et custodire, viresque ei ad Regnum antea religiosissimum a pestilentissimis haeresibus omnino expurgandum, et ad pristinum Catholicae religionis cultum redigendum ac restituendum subministrare dignetur, ex toto corde, totaque mente nostra precari et obsecrare. . . . Pro felici Christianissimi Regis contra haereticos successu gratias agant ipsumque orent ut quae idem Rex auctore Domino facienda cognovit, ipso operante implere valeat.” A rumour gradually spread that the slaughter, far from being an act of religion, had been provoked by the discovery of a Protestant conspiracy. The Nuncio Salviati informed the Pope that this was an utter falsehood, too ridiculous to be believed: “Cela n’en demeurera pas moins faux en tous points, et ce seroit une honte pour quiconque est à même de connôitre quelque chose aux affaires de ce monde de le croire” (Despatch of September 2. The letters of Salviati are preserved in Paris in copies made by Chateaubriand, and I am quoting his translation of them). There were signs of intermission, and Gregory required the Nuncio to insist on the utter extirpation of heretics: “Je lui fis part de la très-grande consolation qu’avaient procurée au Saint Père les succès obtenus dans ce royaume pour une grace singulière de Dieu, accordée a toute la Chrétienté sous son pontificat. Je fis connaître le desir qu’avait sa Sainteté de voir pour la plus grande gloire de Dieu et pour le plus grand bien de la France, tous les hérétiques extirpés du royaume, et j’ajoutai que dans cette vue le Saint Père estimait très à propos que l’on révoquat l’édit de pacification.” Salviati wrote this on the 22nd of September. On the 11th of October he says: “Le Saint Père, ai-je dit, en éprouve une joie infinie, et a ressenti une grande consolation d’apprendre que sa majesté m’avait commandé d’écrire qu’elle espérait qu’avant peu la France n’aurait plus de Huguenots.” Cardinal Orsini having been despatched as Legate from Rome with extraordinary solemnity to congratulate Charles and to support the exhortations of Salviati, describes, on the 19th of December, his audience with the king. Orsini assured him that he had surpassed by this action the glory of all his forefathers, but he pressed him to fulfil his promise that not a single Huguenot should be left alive on the soil of France: “Se si riguardava all’ objetto della gloria, non potendo, niun fatto de suoi antecessori, se rettamente si giudicava, agguagliarsi al glorioso et veramente incomparabil fatto di sua Maestà, in liberar, con tanta prudentia et pietà in un giorno solo regno da cotanta diabolica peste. . . . Esortai . . . che non essendo servitio ne di Dio ne di sua Maestà, lasciar fargli nuovo pede a questa maladetta setta, volesse applicare tutto il suo pensiero et tutte le forze sue per istirparla affato, recandosi a memoria quello che ella haveva fatto scrivere a sua santità da Monsignor il Nuntio, che infra pochi giorni non sarebbe più un ugonotto in tutto il suo regno” (this letter may be found in the Egerton Manuscripts, 2077, and in the Paris Library, MSS. Ital., 1272).
This language is the expression of a spirit that has not passed entirely away, though it is no longer to be feared. Some months after the event the Cardinal of Lorraine, haranguing the king in the name of the assembled clergy of France, declared that he had eclipsed all preceding monarchs, not by the massacre only, but by the holy deceit with which he had laid his plans (Procés Verbaux des Assemblées du Clergé, i. App. 28). A writer of our day, distinguished by his valuable publications on the history of the Jesuits, describes the discourse in which these words occur as a favourable specimen of the tone which becomes a bishop. He compares it advantageously with the obsequious rhetoric of Bossuet, and he designates the speaker as a saintly and illustrious prelate, whose memory will ever be dear to Catholics (Documents Inédits Concernant la Compagnie de Jésus, xxii. 63-67).
From the midst of the applauding Cardinals one voice was raised in protest. Montalto, who was destined, as Sixtus V, to stand in the foremost ranks amongst kings and pontiffs, and who was a true type of the Catholic revival in its grandeur and in its strength, entreated the Pope to prohibit rejoicings which would convince the world that the Church was thirsting for blood. It was an act in keeping with the character of Sixtus, as an unsparing censor of preceding Popes. In spite of his deadly feud with Elizabeth he shared so little the feelings of Pius against her, that he spoke of her as the ablest ruler of her time, and commended her example to the King of France, for the plausible legality with which she achieved the ruin of Mary Stuart. He went so far as to say that Clement VII had upheld the marriage of Henry VIII with Catharine from a sordid motive, whereas it was a sinful and invalid union which Rome had no right to tolerate.
I affirmed that the apprehension of civil danger from the Vatican Council overlooks the infinite subtlety and inconsistency with which men practically elude the yoke of official uniformity in matters of opinion. I used the obvious illustration that astronomy flourished at Rome in spite of the condemnation of Copernicus and Galileo; and I stated that Fénelon, while earning admiration for his humility under censure, had retained his former views unchanged. “The Archbishop of Cambrai,” said Bossuet, “is very sensible of his humiliation but not at all of his error.” In his celebrated pastoral letter of the 9th of April 1699, Fénelon used these words: “Nous adhérons à ce bref, mes chers frères, tant pour le texte du livre que pour les 23 propositions, simplement, absolument, et sans ombre de restriction. . . . A Dieu ne plaise qu’il soit jamais parlé de nous, si ce n’est pour se souvenir qu’un pasteur a cru devoir être plus docile que la dernière brebis du troupeau, et qu’il n’a mis aucune borne à sa soumission.” Three weeks later, on the 1st of May, he writes to a friend: “Je n’admettrai rien d’ambigu ni sur la pureté de mes opinions en tout temps, ni sur l’orthodoxie de la doctrine que j’ai soutenue. . . . Si les gens de bien ne se réveillent à Rome, la foi est en grand péril.” These passages, as well as the others to which I made allusion, will be found among the letters at the beginning of the tenth volume of Fénelon’s works.
Lastly, in support of my contention that the policy of Rome in modern times has seldom prevailed, even with the most zealous kings and the most Catholic nations, against their own ideas of political interest, I pointed to the resistance of the Irish, and to the attitude of Philip II and James II towards the Holy See. The quarrel between Philip and the Caraffas, and the opinion of Melchior Cano touching a war with the Pope, may be studied in books as common as those which tell how Adrian invested Henry with an emerald ring, which was the symbol of his lordship over Ireland. That William of Orange secured the sanction of the Pope for his expedition in 1688 was a circumstance already known to Carte. We now learn that the Emperor wavered long between hatred of Louis XIV and alarm for Catholicism in England; but that Innocent XI relieved his scruples by assuring him that the Government of James II was inspired not by religion but by France (Droysen, Friedrich I, p. 42). For James, though advised by Jesuits, did not live on cordial terms with Rome. Just then, indeed, the bonds that attached the Society to the papacy had somewhat relaxed. Innocent had set himself against the system of ethics taught in most of their schools, and he reproached them with having degenerated from their old fidelity to the Holy See. The general of the Jesuits, Gonzales, in his evidence for the beatification of Innocent (No. 180), reports his sentiments in these words: “Quod Societas Jesu hoc tempore videretur, oblita sui primitivi spiritus, quo eam S. Ignatius instituerat ad defensionem Apostolicae sedis, pro quo quondam tanta cum laude se gessisse ejus filii, quorum degeneres viderentur qui hoc tempore viverent, dum tam alte tacebant, quando nunquam major adesset necessitas loquendi.” The Jesuits on their side would not undertake to defend the Roman theory against the Gallican articles of 1682, which, in France, they afterwards brought themselves at last to adopt (Declaration of the 19th of December 1761, Procés Verbaux, viii. App. 349). In these circumstances Innocent persistently refused the prayer of James to make Father Petre either a Bishop or a Cardinal. Petre threatened vengeance, and James was induced to write a curt and angry letter warning Innocent that Catholics could contrive to live without the Court of Rome: “Li Giesuiti havevano inteso cosi male le repulse di Sua Santità, di quale natura elle si fussero, che era tempo ormai di monstrare a Sua Santità qualche risentimento; e proposera a sua maestà la richiamata del suo ministro da Roma, la discacciata del di lui Nuntio d’Inghilterra, come che attribuiscano a questo l’obbietioni tutti e l’esclusive, che vengano da Sua Santità. Ma fu resoluto in fine, e messo in esequtione, che scrivesse a Sua Santità la Maestà de Rè una secca e compendiosissima lettera, con la quale rimostrasse al Papa la Maestà Sua che non era più il vescovato, ma che era il cardinalato che si pretendeva al presente, concludendo finalmente, che si poteva bener esser Cattolico Romano e passarsi della Corte di Roma.”
This passage from the despatch of the Florentine envoy, Terriesi, was printed by Madame de la Campana in her work on the later Stuarts (ii. 148). The king’s letter is not extant, but Terriesi had the information from Petre, of whom he says: “Cadde in seguito a raccontarmi quanto ho di sopra descritto.” This I take from the Florence Transcripts at the British Museum, Additional Manuscripts, 25,375. There also will be found recorded, in a despatch of 12th January 1688, the words of the Jesuit speaking of the Pope.
I know that there are some whose feelings of reverence and love, are, unhappily, wounded by what I have said. I entreat them to remember how little would be gained if all that came within the scope of my argument could be swept out of existence—to ask themselves seriously the question whether the laws of the Inquisition are or are not a scandal and a sorrow to their souls. It would be well if men had never fallen into the error of suppressing truth and encouraging error for the better security of religion. Our Church stands, and our faith should stand, not on the virtues of men, but on the surer ground of an institution and a guidance that are divine. Therefore I rest unshaken in the belief that nothing which the inmost depths of history shall disclose in time to come can ever bring to Catholics just cause of shame or fear. I should dishonour and betray the Church if I entertained a suspicion that the evidences of religion could be weakened or the authority of Councils sapped by a knowledge of the facts with which I have been dealing, or of others which are not less grievous or less certain because they remain untold.—I am, sir, your obedient servant,
[1 ] Fénelon’s book Les Maximes des Saints was condemned in a Papal Brief, 1699. This closed the long conflict between Fénelon and Bossuet.