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X: DÖLLINGER ON THE TEMPORAL POWER - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, The History of Freedom and Other Essays 
The History of Freedom and Other Essays, ed. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907).
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DÖLLINGER ON THE TEMPORAL POWER1
After half a year’s delay, Dr. Döllinger has redeemed his promise to publish the text of those lectures which made so profound a sensation in the Catholic world.2 We are sorry to find that the report which fell into our hands at the time, and from which we gave the account that appeared in our May Number, was both defective and incorrect; and we should further regret that we did not follow the example of those journals which abstained from comment so long as no authentic copy was accessible, if it did not appear that, although the argument of the lecturer was lost, his meaning was not, on the whole, seriously misrepresented. Excepting for the sake of the author, who became the object, and of those who unfortunately made themselves the organs, of so much calumny, it is impossible to lament the existence of the erroneous statements which have caused the present publication. Intending at first to prefix an introduction to the text of his lectures, the Professor has been led on by the gravity of the occasion, the extent of his subject, and the abundance of materials, to compose a book of 700 pages. Written with all the author’s perspicuity of style, though without his usual compression; with the exhaustless information which never fails him, but with an economy of quotation suited to the general public for whom it is designed, it betrays the circumstances of its origin. Subjects are sometimes introduced out of their proper place and order; and there are occasional repetitions, which show that he had not at starting fixed the proportions of the different parts of his work. This does not, however, affect the logical sequence of the ideas, or the accuracy of the induction. No other book contains—no other writer probably could supply—so comprehensive and so suggestive a description of the state of the Protestant religion, or so impartial an account of the causes which have brought on the crisis of the temporal power.
The Symbolik of Möhler was suggested by the beginning of that movement of revival and resuscitation amongst the Protestants, of which Döllinger now surveys the fortunes and the result. The interval of thirty years has greatly altered the position of the Catholic divines towards their antagonists. Möhler had to deal with the ideas of the Reformation, the works of the Reformers, and the teaching of the confessions; he had to answer in the nineteenth century the theology of the sixteenth. The Protestantism for which he wrote was a complete system, antagonistic to the whole of Catholic theology, and he confuted the one by comparing it with the other, dogma for dogma. But that of which Döllinger treats has lost, for the most part, those distinctive doctrines, not by the growth of unbelief, but in consequence of the very efforts which its most zealous and religious professors have made to defend and to redeem it. The contradictions and errors of the Protestant belief were formerly the subject of controversy with its Catholic opponents, but now the controversy is anticipated and prevented by the undisguised admissions of its desponding friends. It stands no longer as a system consistent, complete, satisfying the judgment and commanding the unconditional allegiance of its followers, and fortified at all points against Catholicism; but disorganised as a church, its doctrines in a state of dissolution, despaired of by its divines, strong and compact only in its hostility to Rome, but with no positive principle of unity, no ground of resistance, nothing to have faith in, but the determination to reject authority. This, therefore, is the point which Döllinger takes up. Reducing the chief phenomena of religious and social decline to the one head of failing authority, he founds on the state of Protestantism the apology of the Papacy. He abandons to the Protestant theology the destruction of the Protestant Church, and leaves its divines to confute and abjure its principles in detail, and to arrive by the exhaustion of the modes of error, through a painful but honourable process, at the gates of truth; he meets their arguments simply by a chapter of ecclesiastical history, of which experience teaches them the force; and he opposes to their theories, not the discussions of controversial theology, but the character of a single institution. The opportunity he has taken to do this, the assumed coincidence between the process of dissolution among the Protestants and the process of regeneration in the Court of Rome, is the characteristic peculiarity of the book. Before we proceed to give an analysis of its contents, we will give some extracts from the Preface, which explains the purpose of the whole, and which is alone one of the most important contributions to the religious discussions of the day.
This book arose from two out of four lectures which were delivered in April this year. How I came to discuss the most difficult and complicated question of our time before a very mixed audience, and in a manner widely different from that usually adopted, I deem myself bound to explain. It was my intention, when I was first requested to lecture, only to speak of the present state of religion in general, with a comprehensive view extending over all mankind. It happened, however, that from those circles which had given the impulse to the lectures, the question was frequently put to me, how the position of the Holy See, the partly consummated, partly threatening, loss of its secular power is to be explained. What answer, I was repeatedly asked, is to be given to those out of the Church who point with triumphant scorn to the numerous Episcopal manifestoes, in which the States of the Church are declared essential and necessary to her existence although the events of the last thirty years appear with increasing distinctness to announce their downfall? I had found the hope often expressed in newspapers, books, and periodicals, that after the destruction of the temporal power of the Popes, the Church herself would not escape dissolution. At the same time, I was struck by finding in the memoirs of Chateaubriand that Cardinal Bernetti, Secretary of State to Leo XII., had said, that if he lived long, there was a chance of his beholding the fall of the temporal power of the Papacy. I had also read, in the letter of a well-informed and trustworthy correspondent from Paris, that the Archbishop of Rheims had related on his return from Rome that Pius IX. had said to him, “I am under no illusions, the temporal power must fall. Goyon will abandon me; I shall then disband my remaining troops. I shall excommunicate the king when he enters the city; and shall calmly await my death.”
I thought already, in April, that I could perceive, what has become still more clear in October, that the enemies of the secular power of the Papacy are determined, united, predominant, and that there is nowhere a protecting power which possesses the will, and at the same time the means, of averting the catastrophe. I considered it therefore probable that an interruption of the temporal dominion would soon ensue—an interruption which, like others before it, would also come to an end, and would be followed by a restoration. I resolved, therefore, to take the opportunity, which the lectures gave me, to prepare the public for the coming events, which already cast their shadows upon us, and thus to prevent the scandals, the doubt, and the offence which must inevitably arise if the States of the Church should pass into other hands, although the pastorals of the Bishops had so energetically asserted that they belonged to the integrity of the Church. I meant, therefore, to say, the Church by her nature can very well exist, and did exist for seven centuries, without the territorial possessions of the Popes; afterwards this possession became necessary, and, in spite of great changes and vicissitudes, has discharged in most cases its function of serving as a foundation for the independence and freedom of the Popes. As long as the present state and arrangement of Europe endures, we can discover no other means to secure to the Holy See its freedom, and with it the confidence of all. But the knowledge and the power of God reach farther than ours, and we must not presume to set bounds to the Divine wisdom and omnipotence, or to say to it, In this way and no other! Should, nevertheless, the threatening consummation ensue, and should the Pope be robbed of his land, one of three eventualities will assuredly come to pass. Either the loss of the State is only temporary, and the territory will revert, after some intervening casualties, either whole or in part, to its legitimate sovereign; or Providence will bring about, by ways unknown to us, and combinations which we cannot divine, a state of things in which the object, namely, the independence and free action of the Holy See, will be attained without the means which have hitherto served; or else we are approaching great catastrophes in Europe, the doom of the whole edifice of the present social order,—events of which the ruin of the Roman State is only the precursor and the herald.
The reasons for which, of these three possibilities, I think the first the most probable, I have developed in this book. Concerning the second alternative, there is nothing to be said; it is an unknown, and therefore, indescribable, quantity. Only we must retain it against certain over-confident assertions which profess to know the secret things to come, and, trespassing on the divine domain, wish to subject the Future absolutely to the laws of the immediate Past. That the third possibility must also be admitted, few of those who studiously observe the signs of the time will dispute. One of the ablest historians and statesmen — Niebuhr — wrote on the 5th October 1830: “If God does not miraculously aid, a destruction is in store for us such as the Roman world underwent in the middle of the third century—destruction of prosperity, of freedom, of civilisation, and of literature.” And we have proceeded much farther on the inclined plane since then. The European Powers have overturned, or have allowed to be overturned, the two pillars of their existence,—the principle of legitimacy, and the public law of nations. Those monarchs who have made themselves the slaves of the Revolution, to do its work, are the active agents in the historical drama; the others stand aside as quiet spectators, in expectation of inheriting something, like Prussia and Russia, or bestowing encouragement and assistance, like England; or as passive invalids, like Austria and the sinking empire of Turkey. But the Revolution is a permanent chronic disease, breaking out now in one place, now in another, sometimes seizing several members together. The Pentarchy is dissolved; the Holy Alliance, which, however defective or open to abuse, was one form of political order, is buried; the right of might prevails in Europe. Is it a process of renovation or a process of dissolution in which European society is plunged? I still think the former; but I must, as I have said, admit the possibility of the other alternative. If it occurs, then, when the powers of destruction have done their work, it will be the business of the Church at once to co-operate actively in the reconstruction of social order out of the ruins, both as a connecting civilising power, and as the preserver and dispenser of moral and religious tradition. And thus the Papacy, with or without territory, has its own function and its appointed mission.
These, then, were the ideas from which I started; and it may be supposed that my language concerning the immediate fate of the temporal power of the Pope necessarily sounded ambiguous, that I could not well come with the confidence which is given to other—perhaps more far-sighted — men before my audience, and say, Rely upon it, the States of the Church—the land from Radicofani to Ceperano, from Ravenna to Cività Vecchia, shall and must and will invariably remain to the Popes. Heaven and earth shall pass away before the Roman State shall pass away. I could not do this, because I did not at that time believe it, nor do I now; but am only confident that the Holy See will not be permanently deprived of the conditions necessary for the fulfilment of its mission. Thus the substance of my words was this: Let no one lose faith in the Church if the secular principality of the Pope should disappear for a season, or for ever. It is not essence, but accident; not end, but means; it began late; it was formerly something quite different from what it is now. It justly appears to us indispensable, and as long as the existing order lasts in Europe, it must be maintained at any price; or if it is violently interrupted, it must be restored. But a political settlement of Europe is conceivable in which it would be superfluous, and then it would be an oppressive burden. At the same time I wished to defend Pope Pius IX. and his government against many accusations, and to point out that the inward infirmities and deficiences which undeniably exist in the country, by which the State has been reduced to so deplorable a condition of weakness and helplessness, were not attributable to him; that, on the contrary, he has shown, both before and since 1848, the best will to reform; and that by him, and under him, much has been really improved.
The newspaper reports, written down at home from memory, gave but an inaccurate representation of a discourse which did not attempt in the usual way to cut the knot, but which, with buts and ifs, and referring to certain elements in the decision which are generally left out of the calculation, spoke of an uncertain future, and of various possibilities. This was not to be avoided. Any reproduction which was not quite literal must, in spite of the good intentions of the reporter, have given rise to false interpretations. When, therefore, one of the most widely read papers reported the first lecture, without any intentional falsification, but with omissions which altered the sense and the tendency of my words, I immediately proposed to the conductors to print my manuscript; but this offer was declined. In other accounts in the daily press, I was often unable to recognise my ideas; and words were put into my mouth which I had never uttered. And here I will admit that, when I gave the lectures, I did not think that they would be discussed by the press, but expected that, like others of the same kind, they would at most be mentioned in a couple of words, in futuram oblivionem. Of the controversy which sprang up at once, in separate works and in newspaper articles, in Germany, France, England, Italy, and even in America, I shall not speak. Much of it I have not read. The writers often did not even ask themselves whether the report which accident put into their hands, and which they carelessly adopted, was at all accurate. But I must refer to an account in one of the most popular English periodicals, because I am there brought into a society to which I do not belong. The author of an article in the July Number of the Edinburgh Review . . . appeals to me, misunderstanding the drift of my words, and erroneously believing that I had already published an apology of my orthodoxy. . . . A sharp attack upon me in the Dublin Review I know only from extracts in English papers; but I can see from the vehemence with which the writer pronounces himself against liberal institutions, that, even after the appearance of this book, I cannot reckon on coming to an understanding with him. . . .
The excitement which was caused by my lectures, or rather by the accounts of them in the papers, had this advantage, that it brought to light, in a way which to many was unexpected, how widely, how deeply, and how firmly the attachment of the people to the See of St. Peter is rooted. For the sake of this I was glad to accept all the attacks and animosity which fell on me in consequence. But why, it will be asked—and I have been asked innumerable times—why not cut short misunderstandings by the immediate publication of the lectures, which must, as a whole, have been written beforehand? why wait for five months? For this I had two reasons: first, it was not merely a question of misunderstanding. Much of what I had actually said had made an unpleasant impression in many quarters, especially among our optimists. I should, therefore, with my bare statements, have become involved in an agitating discussion in pamphlets and newspapers, and that was not an attractive prospect. The second reason was this: I expected that the further progress of events in Italy, the irresistible logic of facts, would dispose minds to receive certain truths. I hoped that people would learn by degrees, in the school of events, that it is not enough always to be reckoning with the figures “revolution,” “secret societies,” “Mazzinism,” “Atheism,” or to estimate things only by the standard supplied by the “Jew of Verona,” but that other factors must be admitted into the calculation; for instance, the condition of the Italian clergy, and its position towards the laity. I wished, therefore, to let a few months go by before I came before the public. Whether I judged rightly, the reception of this book will show.
I thoroughly understand those who think it censurable that I should have spoken in detail of situations and facts which are gladly ignored, or touched with a light and hasty hand, and that especially at the present crisis. I myself was restrained for ten years by these considerations, in spite of the feeling which urged me to speak on the question of the Roman government, and it required the circumstances I have described, I may almost say, to compel me to speak publicly on the subject. I beg of these persons to weigh the following points. First, when an author openly exposes a state of things already abundantly discussed in the press, if he draws away the necessarily very transparent covering from the gaping wounds which are not on the Church herself, but on an institution nearly connected with her, and whose infirmities she is made to feel, it may fairly be supposed that he does it, in agreement with the example of earlier friends and great men of the Church, only to show the possibility and the necessity of the cure, in order, so far as in him lies, to weaken the reproach that the defenders of the Church see only the mote in the eyes of others, not the beam in their own, and with narrow-hearted prejudice endeavour to soften, or to dissimulate, or to deny every fact which is or which appears unfavourable to their cause. He does it in order that it may be understood that where the powerlessness of men to effect a cure becomes manifest, God interposes in order to sift on His threshing-floor the chaff from the wheat, and to consume it with the fire of the catastrophes which are only His judgments and remedies. Secondly, I could not, as a historian, present the effects without going back to their causes; and it was therefore my duty, as it is that of every religious inquirer and observer, to try to contribute something to the Theodicée. He that undertakes to write on such lofty interests, which nearly affect the weal and woe of the Church, cannot avoid examining and displaying the wisdom and justice of God in the conduct of terrestrial events regarding them. The fate which has overtaken the Roman States must above all be considered in the light of a Divine ordinance for the advantage of the Church. Seen by that light, it assumes the character of a trial, which will continue until the object is attained, and the welfare of the Church so far secured.
It seemed evident to me, that as a new order of things in Europe lies in the design of Providence, the disease, through which for the last half-century the States of the Church unquestionably have passed, might be the transition to a new form. To describe this malady without overlooking or concealing any of the symptoms was, therefore, an undertaking which I could not avoid. The disease has its source in the inward contradiction and discord of the institutions and conditions of the government; for the modern French institutions stand there, without any reconciling qualifications, besides those of the mediæval hierarchy. Neither of these elements is strong enough to expel the other; and either of them would, if it prevailed alone, be again a form of disease. Yet, in the history of the last few years I recognise symptoms of convalescence, however feeble, obscure, and equivocal its traces may appear. What we behold is not death or hopeless decay, it is a purifying process, painful, consuming, penetrating bone and marrow,—such as God inflicts on His chosen persons and institutions. There is abundance of dross, and time is necessary before the gold can come pure out of the furnace. In the course of this process it may happen that the territorial dominion will be interrupted, that the State may be broken up or pass into other hands; but it will revive, though perhaps in another form, and with a different kind of government. In a word, sanabilibus laboramus malis—that is what I wished to show; that, I believe, I have shown. Now, and for the last forty years, the condition of the Roman States is the heel of Achilles of the Catholic Church, the standing reproach for adversaries throughout the world, and a stumbling-block for thousands. Not as though the objections, which are founded on the fact of this transitory disturbance and discord in the social and political sphere, possessed any weight in a theological point of view, but it cannot be denied that they are of incalculable influence on the disposition of the world external to the Church.
Whenever a state of disease has appeared in the Church, there has been but one method of cure,—that of an awakened, renovated, healthy consciousness and of an enlightened public opinion in the Church. The goodwill of the ecclesiastical rulers and heads has not been able to accomplish the cure, unless sustained by the general sense and conviction of the clergy and of the laity. The healing of the great malady of the sixteenth century, the true internal reformation of the Church, only became possible when people ceased to disguise or to deny the evil, and to pass it by with silence and concealment,—when so powerful and irresistible a public opinion had formed itself in the Church, that its commanding influence could no longer be evaded. At the present day, what we want is the whole truth, not merely the perception that the temporal power of the Pope is required by the Church,—for that is obvious to everybody, at least out of Italy, and everything has been said that can be said about it; but also the knowledge of the conditions under which this power is possible for the future. The history of the Popes is full of instances where their best intentions were not fulfilled, and their strongest resolutions broke down, because the interests of a firmly compacted class resisted like an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Hadrian VI. was fully resolved to set about the reformation in earnest; and yet he achieved virtually nothing, and felt himself, though in possession of supreme power, altogether powerless against the passive resistance of all those who should have been his instruments in the work. Only when public opinion, even in Italy, and in Rome itself, was awakened, purified, and strengthened; when the cry for reform resounded imperatively on every side,—then only was it possible for the Popes to overcome the resistance in the inferior spheres, and gradually, and step by step, to open the way for a more healthy state. May, therefore, a powerful, healthy, unanimous public opinion in Catholic Europe come to the aid of Pius IX.! . . .
Concerning another part of this book I have a few words to say. I have given a survey of all the Churches and ecclesiastical communities now existing. The obligation of attempting this presented itself to me, because I had to explain both the universal importance of the Papacy as a power for all the world, and the things which it actually performs. This could not be done fully without exhibiting the internal condition of the Churches which have rejected it, and withdrawn from its influence. It is true that the plan increased under my hands, and I endeavoured to give as clear a picture as possible of the development which has accomplished itself in the separated Churches since the Reformation, and through it, in consequence of the views and principles which had been once for all adopted. I have, therefore, admitted into my description no feature which is not, in my opinion, an effect, a result, however remote, of those principles and doctrines. There is doubtless room for discussion in detail upon this point, and there will unavoidably be a decided opposition to this book, if it should be noticed beyond the limits of the Church to which I belong. I hope that there also the justice will be done me of believing that I was far from having any intention of offending; that I have only said what must be said, if we would go to the bottom of these questions; that I had to do with institutions which, because of the dogmas and principles from which they spring, must, like a tree that is nailed to a wall, remain in one position, however unnatural it may be. I am quite ready to admit that, on the opposite side, the men are often better than the system to which they are, or deem themselves, attached; and that, on the contrary, in the Church the individuals are, on the average, inferior in theory and in practice to the system under which they live. . . .
The union of the two religions, which would be socially and politically the salvation of Germany and of Europe, is not possible at present; first because the greater, more active, and more influential portion of the German Protestants do not desire it, for political or religious reasons, in any form or under any practicable conditions. It is impossible, secondly, because negotiations concerning the mode and the conditions of union can no longer be carried on. For this, plenipotentiaries on both sides are required; and these only the Catholic Church is able to appoint, by virtue of her ecclesiastical organisation, not the Protestants. . . .
Nevertheless, theologically, Protestants and Catholics have come nearer each other; for those capital doctrines, those articles with which the Church was to stand or fall, for the sake of which the Reformers declared separation from the Catholic Church to be necessary, are now confuted and given up by Protestant theology, or are retained only nominally, whilst other notions are connected with the words. . . . Protestant theology is at the present day less hostile, so to speak, than the theologians. For whilst theology has levelled the strongest bulwarks and doctrinal barriers which the Reformation had set up to confirm the separation, the divines, instead of viewing favourably the consequent facilities for union, often labour, on the contrary, to conceal the fact, or to provide new points of difference. Many of them probably agree with Stahl of Berlin, who said, shortly before his death, “Far from supposing that the breach of the sixteenth century can be healed, we ought, if it had not already occurred, to make it now.” This, however, will not continue; and a future generation, perhaps that which is even now growing up, will rather adopt the recent declaration of Heinrich Leo, “In the Roman Catholic Church a process of purification has taken place since Luther’s day; and if the Church had been in the days of Luther what the Roman Catholic Church in Germany actually is at present, it would never have occurred to him to assert his opposition so energetically as to bring about a separation.” Those who think thus will then be the right men and the chosen instruments for the acceptable work of the reconciliation of the Churches, and the true unity of Germany. Upon the day when, on both sides, the conviction shall arise vivid and strong that Christ really desires the unity of His Church, that the division of Christendom, the multiplicity of Churches, is displeasing to God, that he who helps to prolong the situation must answer for it to the Lord,—on that day four-fifths of the traditional polemics of the Protestants against the Church will with one blow be set aside, like chaff and rubbish; for four-fifths consist of misunderstandings, logomachies, and wilful falsifications, or relate to personal, and therefore accidental, things, which are utterly insignificant where only principles and dogmas are at stake.
On that day, also, much will be changed on the Catholic side. Thenceforward the character of Luther and the Reformers will no more be dragged forward in the pulpit. The clergy, mindful of the saying, interficite errores, diligite homines, will always conduct themselves towards members of other Churches in conformity with the rules of charity, and will therefore assume, in all cases where there are no clear proofs to the contrary, the bona fides of opponents. They will never forget that no man is convinced and won over by bitter words and violent attacks, but that every one is rather repelled by them. Warned by the words of the Epistle to the Romans (xiv. 13), they will be more careful than heretofore to give to their separate brethren no scandal, no grounds of accusation against the Church. Accordingly, in popular instruction and in religious life, they will always make the great truths of salvation the centre of all their teaching: they will not treat secondary things in life and doctrine as though they were of the first importance; but, on the contrary, they will keep alive in the people the consciousness that such things are but means to an end, and are only of inferior consequence and subsidiary value.
Until that day shall dawn upon Germany, it is our duty as Catholics, in the words of Cardinal Diepenbrock, “to bear the religious separation in a spirit of penance for guilt incurred in common.” We must acknowledge that here also God has caused much good as well as much evil to proceed from the errors of men, from the contests and passions of the sixteenth century; that the anxiety of the German nation to see the intolerable abuses and scandals in the Church removed was fully justified, and sprang from the better qualities of our people, and from their moral indignation at the desecration and corruption of holy things, which were degraded to selfish and hypocritical purposes.
We do not refuse to admit that the great separation, and the storms and sufferings connected with it, was an awful judgment upon Catholic Christendom, which clergy and laity had but too well deserved—a judgment which has had an improving and salutary effect. The great conflict of intellects has purified the European atmosphere, has impelled the human mind on to new courses, and has promoted a rich scientific and literary life. Protestant theology, with its restless spirit of inquiry, has gone along by the side of the Catholic, exciting and awakening, warning and vivifying; and every eminent Catholic divine in Germany will gladly admit that he owes much to the writings of Protestant scholars.
We must also acknowledge that in the Church the rust of abuses and of a mechanical superstition is always forming afresh; that the spiritual in religion is sometimes materialised, and therefore degraded, deformed, and applied to their own loss, by the servants of the Church, through their indolence and want of intelligence, and by the people, through their ignorance. The true spirit of reform must, therefore, never depart from the Church, but must periodically break out with renovating strength, and penetrate the mind and the will of the clergy. In this sense we do not refuse to admit the justice of a call to penance, when it proceeds from those who are not of us,—that is, of a warning carefully to examine our religious life and pastoral conduct, and to remedy what is found defective.
At the same time it must not be forgotten that the separation did not ensue in consequence of the abuses of the Church. For the duty and necessity of removing these abuses has always been recognised; and only the difficulty of the thing, the not always unjustifiable fear lest the wheat should be pulled up with the tares, prevented for a time the Reformation, which was accomplished in the Church and through her. Separation on account merely of abuses in ecclesiastical life, when the doctrine is the same, is rejected as criminal by the Protestants as well as by us. It is, therefore, for doctrine’s sake that the separation occurred; and the general discontent of the people, the weakening of ecclesiastical authority by the existence of abuses, only facilitated the adoption of the new doctrines. But now on one side some of these defects and evils in the life of the Church have disappeared; the others have greatly diminished since the reforming movement; and on the other side, the principal doctrines for which they separated, and on the truth of which, and their necessity for salvation, the right and duty of secession was based, are given up by Protestant science, deprived of their Scriptural basis by exegesis, or at least made very uncertain by the opposition of the most eminent Protestant divines. Meanwhile we live in hopes, comforting ourselves with the conviction that history, or that process of development in Europe which is being accomplished before our eyes, as well in society and politics as in religion, is the powerful ally of the friends of ecclesiastical union; and we hold out our hands to Christians on the other side for a combined war of resistance against the destructive movements of the age.
There are two circumstances which make us fear that the work will not be received in the spirit in which it is written, and that its object will not immediately be attained. The first of these is the extraordinary effect which was produced by the declaration which the author made on the occasion of the late assembly of the Catholic associations of Germany at Munich. He stated simply, what is understood by every Catholic out of Italy, and intelligible to every reasonable Protestant, that the freedom of the Church imperatively requires that, in order to protect the Pope from the perils which menace him, particularly in our age, he should possess a sovereignty not merely nominal, and that his right to his dominions is as good as that of all other legitimate sovereigns. In point of fact, this expression of opinion, which occurs even in the garbled reports of the lectures, leaves all those questions on which it is possible for serious and dispassionate men to be divided entirely open. It does not determine whether there was any excuse for the disaffection of the Papal subjects; whether the security afforded by a more extensive dominion is greater than the increased difficulty of administration under the conditions inherited from the French occupation; whether an organised system of tribute or domains might be sufficient, in conjunction with a more restricted territory; whether the actual loss of power is or is not likely to improve a misfortune for religion. The storm of applause with which these words, simply expressing that in which all agree, were received, must have suggested to the speaker that his countrymen in general are unprepared to believe that one, who has no other aspiration in his life and his works than the advancement of the Catholic religion, can speak without a reverent awe of the temporal government, or can witness without dismay its impending fall. They must have persuaded themselves that not only the details, but the substance of his lectures had been entirely misreported, and that his views were as free from novelty as destitute of offence. It is hard to believe that such persons will be able to reconcile themselves to the fearless and straightforward spirit in which the first of Church historians discusses the history of his own age.
Another consideration, almost equally significant with the attitude of the great mass of Catholics, is the silence of the minority who agree with Döllinger. Those earnest Catholics who, in their Italian patriotism, insist on the possibility of reconciling the liberty of the Holy See with the establishment of an ideal unity, Passaglia, Tosti, the followers of Gioberti, and the disciples of Rosmini, have not hesitated to utter openly their honest but most inconceivable persuasion. But on the German side of the Alps, where no political agitation affects the religious judgment, or drives men into disputes, those eminent thinkers who agree with Döllinger are withheld by various considerations from publishing their views. Sometimes it is the hopelessness of making an impression, sometimes the grave inconvenience of withstanding the current of opinion that makes them keep silence; and their silence leaves those who habitually follow them not only without means of expressing their views, but often without decided views to express. The same influences which deprive Döllinger of the open support of these natural allies will impede the success of his work, until events have outstripped ideas, and until men awake to the discovery that what they refused to anticipate or to prepare for, is already accomplished.
Piety sometimes gives birth to scruples, and faith to superstition, when they are not directed by wisdom and knowledge. One source of the difficulty of which we are speaking is as much a defect of faith as a defect of knowledge. Just as it is difficult for some Catholics to believe that the supreme spiritual authority on earth could ever be in unworthy hands, so they find it hard to reconcile the reverence due to the Vicar of Christ, and the promises made to him, with the acknowledgment of intolerable abuses in his temporal administration. It is a comfort to make the best of the case, to draw conclusions from the exaggerations, the inventions, and the malice of the accusers against the justice of the accusation, and in favour of the accused. It is a temptation to our weakness and to our consciences to defend the Pope as we would defend ourselves—with the same care and zeal, with the same uneasy secret consciousness that there are weak points in the case which can best be concealed by diverting attention from them. What the defence gains in energy it loses in sincerity; the cause of the Church, which is the cause of truth, is mixed up and confused with human elements, and is injured by a degrading alliance. In this way even piety may lead to immorality, and devotion to the Pope may lead away from God.
The position of perpetual antagonism to a spirit which we abhor; the knowledge that the clamour against the temporal power is, in very many instances, inspired by hatred of the spiritual authority; the indignation at the impure motives mixed up with the movement—all these things easily blind Catholics to the fact that our attachment to the Pope as our spiritual Head, our notion that his civil sovereignty is a safeguard of his freedom, are the real motives of our disposition to deny the truth of the accusations made against his government. It is hard to believe that imputations which take the form of insults, and which strike at the Church through the State, are well founded, and to distinguish the design and the occasion from the facts. It is, perhaps, more than we can expect of men, that, after defending the Pope as a sovereign, because he is a pontiff, and adopting against his enemies the policy of unconditional defence, they will consent to adopt a view which corroborates to a great extent the assertions they have combated, and implicitly condemns their tactics. It is natural to oppose one extreme by another; and those who avoid both easily appear to be capitulating with error. The effects of this spirit of opposition are not confined to those who are engaged in resisting the No-popery party in England, or the revolution in Italy. The fate of the temporal power hangs neither on the Italian ministry nor on English influence, but on the decision of the Emperor of the French; and the loudest maintainers of the rights of the Holy See are among that party who have been the most zealous adversaries of the Imperial system. The French Catholics behold in the Roman policy of the emperor a scheme for obtaining over the Church a power of which they would be the first victims. Their religious freedom is in jeopardy while he has the fate of the Pope in his hands. That which is elsewhere simply a manifestation of opinion and a moral influence is in France an active interference and a political power. They alone among Catholic subjects can bring a pressure to bear on him who has had the initiative in the Italian movement. They fear by silence to incur a responsibility for criminal acts. For them it is a season for action, and the time has not yet come when they can speak with judicial impartiality, or with the freedom of history, or determine how far, in the pursuit of his ambitious ends, Napoleon III. is the instrument of Providence, or how far, without any merit of his own, he is likely to fulfil the expectations of those who see in him a new Constantine. Whilst they maintain this unequal war, they naturally identify the rights of the Church with her interests; and the wrongs of the Pope are before their eyes so as to eclipse the realities of the Roman government. The most vehement and one-sided of those who have dwelt exclusively on the crimes of the Revolution and the justice of the Papal cause, the Bishop of Orleans for instance, or Count de Montalembert, might without inconsistency, and doubtless would without hesitation, subscribe to almost every word in Döllinger’s work; but in the position they have taken they would probably deem such adhesion a great rhetorical error, and fatal to the effect of their own writings. There is, therefore, an allowance to be made, which is by no means a reproach, for the peculiar situation of the Catholics in France.
When Christine of Sweden was observed to gaze long and intently at the statue of Truth in Rome, a court-like prelate observed that this admiration for Truth did her honour, as it was seldom shared by persons in her station. “That,” said the Queen, “is because truths are not all made of marble.” Men are seldom zealous for an idea in which they do not perceive some reflection of themselves, in which they have not embarked some portion of their individuality, or which they cannot connect with some subjective purpose of their own. It is often more easy to sympathise with a person in whose opposite views we discern a weakness corresponding to our own, than with one who unsympathetically avoids to colour the objectivity of truth, and is guided in his judgment by facts, not by wishes. We endeavoured not many months ago to show how remote the theology of Catholic Germany is in its scientific spirit from that of other countries, and how far asunder are science and policy. The same method applied to the events of our own day must be yet more startling, and for a time we can scarcely anticipate that the author of this work will escape an apparent isolation between the reserve of those who share his views, but are not free to speak, and the foregone conclusions of most of those who have already spoken. But a book which treats of contemporary events in accordance with the signs of the time, not with the aspirations of men, possesses in time itself an invincible auxiliary. When the lesson which this great writer draws from the example of the mediæval Popes has borne its fruit; when the purpose for which he has written is attained, and the freedom of the Holy See from revolutionary aggression and arbitrary protection is recovered by the heroic determination to abandon that which in the course of events has ceased to be a basis of independence—he will be the first, but no longer the only, proclaimer of new ideas, and he will not have written in vain.
The Christian religion, as it addresses and adapts itself to all mankind, bears towards the varieties of national character a relation of which there was no example in the religions of antiquity, and which heresy repudiates and inevitably seeks to destroy. For heresy, like paganism, is national, and dependent both on the particular disposition of the people and on the government of the State. It is identified with definite local conditions, and moulded by national and political peculiarities. Catholicity alone is universal in its character and mission, and independent of those circumstances by which States are established, and nations are distinguished from each other. Even Rome had not so far extended her limits, nor so thoroughly subjugated and amalgamated the races that obeyed her, as to secure the Church from the natural reaction of national spirit against a religion which claimed a universality beyond even that of the Imperial power. The first and most terrible assault of ethnicism was in Persia, where Christianity appeared as a Roman, and therefore a foreign and a hostile, system. As the Empire gradually declined, and the nationalities, no longer oppressed beneath a vigorous central force, began to revive, the heresies, by a natural affinity, associated themselves with them. The Donatist schism, in which no other country joined, was an attempt of the African people to establish a separate national Church. Later on, the Egyptians adopted the Monophysite heresy as the national faith, which has survived to this day in the Coptic Church. In Armenia similar causes produced like effects.
In the twelfth century—not, as is commonly supposed, in the time of Photius and Cerularius, for religious communion continued to subsist between the Latins and the Greeks at Constantinople till about the time of Innocent III., but after the Crusades had embittered the antagonism between East and West—another great national separation occurred. In the Eastern Empire the communion with Rome was hateful to the two chief authorities. The patriarch was ambitious to extend his own absolute jurisdiction over the whole Empire, the emperor wished to increase that power as the instrument of his own: out of this threefold combination of interests sprang the Byzantine system. It was founded on the ecclesiastical as well as civil despotism of the emperor, and on the exclusive pride of the people in its nationality; that is, on those things which are most essentially opposed to the Catholic spirit, and to the nature of a universal Church. In consequence of the schism, the sovereign became supreme over the canons of the Church and the laws of the State; and to this imperial papacy the Archbishop of Thessalonica, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, justly attributes the ruin and degradation of the Empire. Like the Eastern schism, the schism of the West in the fourteenth century arose from the predominance of national interests in the Church: it proceeded from the endeavour to convert the Holy See into a possession of the French people and a subject of the French crown. Again, not long after, the Hussite revolution sprang from the union of a new doctrine with the old antipathy of the Bohemians for the Germans, which had begun in times when the boundaries of Christianity ran between the two nations, and which led to a strictly national separation, which has not yet exhausted its political effects. Though the Reformation had not its origin in national feelings, yet they became a powerful instrument in the hands of Luther, and ultimately prevailed over the purely theological elements of the movement.
The Lutheran system was looked on by the Germans with patriotic pride as the native fruit, and especial achievement of the genius of their country, and it was adopted out of Germany only by the kindred races of Scandinavia. In every other land to which it has been transplanted by the migrations of this century, Lutheranism appears as eradicated from its congenial soil, loses gradually its distinctive features, and becomes assimilated to the more consolatory system of Geneva. Calvinism exhibited from the first no traces of the influence of national character, and to this it owes its greater extension; whilst in the third form of Protestantism, the Anglican Church, nationality is the predominant characteristic. In whatever country and in whatever form Protestantism has prevailed, it has always carried out the principle of separation and local limitation by seeking to subject itself to the civil power, and to confine the Church within the jurisdiction of the State. It is dependent not so much on national character as on political authority, and has grafted itself rather on the State than on the people. But the institution which Christ founded in order to collect all nations together in one fold under one shepherd, while tolerating and respecting the natural historical distinctions of nations and of States, endeavours to reconcile antagonism, and to smooth away barriers between them, instead of estranging them by artificial differences, and erecting new obstacles to their harmony. The Church can neither submit as a whole to the influence of a particular people, nor impose on one the features or the habits of another; for she is exalted in her catholicity above the differences of race, and above the claims of political power. At once the most firm and the most flexible institution in the world, she is all things to all nations—educating each in her own spirit, without violence to its nature, and assimilating it to herself without prejudice to the originality of its native character. Whilst she thus transforms them, not by reducing them to a uniform type, but by raising them towards a common elevation, she receives from them services in return. Each healthy and vigorous nation that is converted is a dynamic as well as a numerical increase in the resources of the Church, by bringing an accession of new and peculiar qualities, as well as of quantity and numbers. So far from seeking sameness, or flourishing only in one atmosphere, she is enriched and strengthened by all the varieties of national character and intellect. In the mission of the Catholic Church, each nation has its function, which its own position and nature indicate and enable it to fulfil. Thus the extinct nations of antiquity survive in the beneficial action they continue to exert within her, and she still feels and acknowledges the influence of the African or of the Cappadocian mind.
The condition of this immunity from the predominant influence of national and political divisions, and of this indifference to the attachment of particular States and races,—the security of unity and universality,—consists in the existence of a single, supreme, independent head. The primacy is the bulwark, or rather the corner-stone, of Catholicism; without it, there would be as many churches as there are nations or States. Not one of those who have denounced the Papacy as a usurpation has ever attempted to show that the condition which its absence necessarily involves is theologically desirable, or that it is the will of God. It remains the most radical and conspicuous distinction between the Catholic Church and the sects. Those who attempt to do without it are compelled to argue that there is no earthly office divinely appointed for the government of the Church, and that nobody has received the mission to conduct ecclesiastical affairs, and to preserve the divine order in religion. The several local churches may have an earthly ruler, but for the whole Church of Christ there is no such protection. Christ, therefore, is the only head they acknowledge, and they must necessarily declare separation, isolation, and discord to be a principle and the normal condition of His Church. The rejection of the primacy of St. Peter has driven men on to a slippery course, where all the steps are downwards. The Greeks first proclaimed that they recognised no Pope, that each patriarch ruled over a portion of the Church. The Anglicans rejected both Pope and patriarch, and admitted no ecclesiastical order higher than the Episcopate. Foreign Protestanism refused to tolerate even bishops, or any authority but the parish clergy under the supremacy of the ruler of the land. Then the sects abolished the local jurisdiction of the parish clergy, and retained only preachers. At length the ministry was rejected as an office altogether, and the Quakers made each individual his own prophet, priest, and doctor.
The Papacy, that unique institution, the Crown of the Catholic system, exhibits in its history the constant working of that law which is at the foundation of the life of the Church, the law of continuous organic development. It shared the vicissitudes of the Church, and had its part in everything which influences the course and mode of her existence. In early times it grew in silence and obscurity, its features were rarely and imperfectly distinguishable; but even then the Popes exerted their authority in all directions, and while the wisdom with which it was exercised was often questioned, the right itself was undisputed. So long as the Roman Empire upheld in its strong framework and kept together the Church, which was confined mostly within its bounds, and checked with the stern discipline of a uniform law the manifestations of national and local divergence, the interference of the Holy See was less frequently required, and the reins of Church government did not need to be tightly drawn. When a new order of States emerged from the chaos of the great migration, the Papacy, which alone stood erect amid the ruins of the empire, became the centre of a new system and the moderator of a new code. The long contest with the Germanic empire exhausted the political power both of the empire and of the Papacy, and the position of the Holy See, in the midst of a multitude of equal States, became more difficult and more unfavourable. The Popes were forced to rely on the protection of France, their supremacy over the States was at an end, and the resistance of the nations commenced. The schism, the opposition of the general Councils, the circumstances which plunged the Holy See into the intrigues of Italian politics, and at last the Reformation, hastened the decline of that extensive social and political power, the echoes and reminiscences of which occasioned disaster and repulse whenever an attempt was made to exercise it. Ever since the Tridentine age, the Popes have confined themselves more and more exclusively to the religious domain; and here the Holy See is as powerful and as free at the present day as at any previous period of its history. The perils and the difficulties which surround it arise from temporal concerns,—from the state of Italy, and from the possessions of the pontifical dominions.
As the Church advances towards fulness and maturity in her forms, bringing forward her exhaustless resources, and calling into existence a wealth of new elements,—societies, corporations, and institutions,—so is the need more deeply felt for a powerful supreme guide to keep them all in health and harmony, to direct them in their various spheres, and in their several ways towards the common ends and purposes of all, and thus to provide against decay, variance, and confusion. Such an office the Primacy alone can discharge, and the importance of the Papacy increases as the organisation of the Church is more complete. One of its most important but most delicate duties is to act as an independent, impartial, and dispassionate mediator between the churches and the governments of the different States, and between the conflicting claims and contradictory idiosyncrasies of the various nations. Yet, though the Papacy is so obviously an essential part of a Church whose mission is to all mankind, it is the chosen object of attack both to enemies of Catholicism and to discontented Catholics. Serious and learned men complain of its tyranny, and say that it claims universal dominion, and watches for an opportunity of obtaining it; and yet, in reality, there is no power on earth whose action is restricted by more sacred and irresistible bonds than that of the Holy See. It is only by the closest fidelity to the laws and tradition of the Church that the Popes are able to secure the obedience and the confidence of Catholics. Pius VII., who, by sweeping away the ancient church of France, and depriving thirty-seven protesting bishops of their sees, committed the most arbitrary act ever done by a Pope, has himself described the rules which guided the exercise of his authority:—
The nature and constitution of the Catholic Church impose on the Pope, who is the head of the Church, certain limits which he cannot transgress. . . . The Bishops of Rome have never believed that they could tolerate any alteration in those portions of the discipline which are directly ordained by Jesus Christ; or in those which, by their nature, are connected with dogma, or in those which heretics assail in support of their innovations.
The chief points urged against the ambition of Rome are the claim of the deposing Power, according to the theory that all kinds of power are united in the Church, and the protest against the Peace of Westphalia, the basis of the public law and political order of modern Europe. It is enough to cite one of the many authorities which may be cited in refutation of the first objection. Cardinal Antonelli, Prefect of Propaganda, states in his letter to the Irish bishops, 1791, that “the See of Rome has never taught that faith is not to be kept with those of another religion, or that an oath sworn to kings who are separated from the Catholic communion may be broken, or that the Pope is permitted to touch their temporal rights and possessions.” The Bull in which Boniface VIII. set up the theory of the supremacy of the spiritual over the secular power was retracted soon after his death.
The protest of Innocent X. against the Peace of Westphalia is one of the glories of the Papacy. That peace was concluded on an unchristian and tyrannical principle, introduced by the Reformation, that the subjects may be compelled to follow the religion of the ruler. This was very different in principle and in effect from the intolerance of the ages of faith, when prince and people were members of one religion, and all were agreed that no other could be permitted in the State. Every heresy that arose in the Middle Ages involved revolutionary consequences, and would inevitably have overthrown State and society, as well as Church, wherever it prevailed. The Albigenses, who provoked the cruel legislation against heretics, and who were exterminated by fire and sword, were the Socialists of those days. They assailed the fundamental institutions of society, marriage, family, and property, and their triumph would have plunged Europe into the barbarism and licence of pagan times. The principles of the Waldenses and the Lollards were likewise incompatible with European civilisation. In those days the law relating to religion was the same for all. The Pope as well as the king would have lost his crown if he had fallen into heresy. During a thousand years, from the fall of Rome to the appearance of Luther, no Catholic prince ever made an attempt to introduce a new religion into his dominions, or to abandon the old. But the Reformation taught that this was the supreme duty of princes; whilst Luther declared that in matters of faith the individual is above every authority, and that a child could understand the Scriptures better than Popes or Councils, he taught at the same time, with an inconsistency which he never attempted to remove, that it is the duty of the civil power to exterminate popery, to set up the Gospel, and to suppress every other religion.
The result was a despotism such as the world had never seen. It was worse than the Byzantine system; for there no attempt was made to change the faith of the people. The Protestant princes exercised an ecclesiastical authority more arbitrary than the Pope had ever possessed; for the papal authority can only be used to maintain an existing doctrine, whilst theirs was aggressive and wholly unlimited. Possessing the power to command, and to alter in religion, they naturally acquired by degrees a corresponding absolutism in the civil order. The consistories, the office by which the sovereign ruled the Church, were the commencement of bureaucratic centralisation. A great lawyer of those days says, that after the treaties of Westphalia had recognised the territorial supremacy over religion, the business of administration in the German States increased tenfold. Whilst that system remained in its integrity, there could be no peaceful neighbourhood between Catholics and Protestants. From this point of view, the protest of the Pope was entirely justified. So far from having been made in the spirit of the mediæval authority, which would have been fatal to the work of the Congress, it was never used by any Catholic prince to invalidate the treaties. They took advantage of the law in their own territories to exercise the jus reformandi. It was not possible for them to tolerate a body which still refused to tolerate the Catholic religion by the side of its own, which accordingly eradicated it wherever it had the means, and whose theory made the existence of every religion depend on the power and the will of the sovereign. A system which so resolutely denied that two religions could coexist in the same State, put every attempt at mutual toleration out of the question. The Reformation was a great movement against the freedom of conscience—an effort to subject it to a new authority, the arbitrary initiative of a prince who might differ in religion from all his subjects. The extermination of obstinate Catholics was a matter of course; Melanchthon insisted that the Anabaptists should be put to death, and Beza was of opinion that Anti-Trinitarians ought to be executed, even after recantation. But no Lutheran could complain when the secular arm converted him into a Calvinist. “Your conscience is in error,” he would say, “but under the circumstances you are not only justified, but compelled, on my own principles, to act as you do.”1
The resistance of the Catholic Governments to the progress of a religion which announced that it would destroy them as soon as it had the power, was an instinct of self-preservation. No Protestant divine denied or disguised the truth that his party sought the destruction of Catholicism, and would accomplish it whenever they could. The Calvinists, with their usual fearless consistency, held that as civil and ecclesiastical power must be in the same hands, no prince had any right to govern who did not belong to them. Even in the Low Countries, where other sects were free, and the notion of unity abandoned, the Catholics were oppressed.
This new and aggressive intolerance infected even Catholic countries, where there was neither, as in Spain, religious unity to be preserved; nor, as in Austria, a menacing danger to be resisted. For in Spain the persecution of the Protestants might be defended on the mediæval principle of unity, whilst under Ferdinand II. it was provoked in the hereditary dominions by the imminent peril which threatened to dethrone the monarch, and to ruin every faithful Catholic. But in France the Protestant doctrine that every good subject must follow the religion of his king grew out of the intensity of personal absolutism. At the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the official argument was the will of the sovereign — an argument which in Germany had reigned so triumphantly that a single town, which had ten times changed masters, changed its religion ten times in a century. Bayle justly reproaches the Catholic clergy of France with having permitted, and even approved, a proceeding so directly contrary to the spirit of their religion, and to the wishes of the Pope. A convert, who wrote a book to prove that Huguenots were in conscience bound to obey the royal edict which proscribed their worship, met with applause a hundred years later. This fault of the French clergy was expiated in the blood of their successors.
The excess of evil led to its gradual cure. In England Protestantism lost its vigour after the victory over the Catholic dynasty; religion faded away, and with it that religious zeal which leads to persecution: when the religious antagonism was no longer kept alive by a political controversy, the sense of right and the spirit of freedom which belongs to the Anglo-Saxon race accomplished the work which indifference had begun. In Germany the vitality of the Lutheran theology expired after it had lasted for about two hundred years. The intellectual contradictions and the social consequences of the system had become intolerable to the German mind. Rationalism had begun to prevail, when Frederick II. declared that his subjects should work out their salvation in their own way. That generation of men, who looked with contempt on religious zeal, looked with horror on religious persecution. The Catholic Church, which had never taught that princes are supreme over the religion of their subjects, could have no difficulty in going along with public opinion when it disapproved of compulsion in matters of conscience. It was natural that in the new order of things, when Christendom had lost its unity, and Protestantism its violence, she should revert to the position she occupied of old, when she admitted other religions to equal rights with herself, and when men like St. Ambrose, St. Martin, and St. Leo deprecated the use of violence against heretics. Nevertheless, as the preservation of morality depends on the preservation of faith, both alike are in the interest and within the competence of the State. The Church of her own strength is not strong enough to resist the advance of heresy and unbelief. Those enemies find an auxiliary in the breast of every man whose weakness and whose passions repel him from a Church which imposes such onerous duties on her members. But it is neither possible to define the conditions without which liberty must be fatal to the State, nor the limits beyond which protection and repression become tyrannical, and provoke a reaction more terrible than the indifference of the civil power. The events of the last hundred years have tended in most places to mingle Protestants and Catholics together, and to break down the social and political lines of demarcation between them; and time will show the providential design which has brought about this great change.
These are the subjects treated in the first two chapters on “The Church and the Nations,” and on the Papacy in connection with the universality of Catholicism, as contrasted with the national and political dependence of heresy. The two following chapters pursue the topic farther in a general historical retrospect, which increases in interest and importance as it proceeds from the social to the religious purpose and influence of the Papacy, and from the past to the present time. The third chapter, “The Churches and Civil Liberty,” examines the effects of Protestantism on civil society. The fourth, entitled “The Churches without a Pope,” considers the actual theological and religious fruits of separation from the visible Head of the Church.
The independence of the Church, through that of her Supreme Pontiff, is as nearly connected with political as with religious liberty, since the ecclesiastical system which rejects the Pope logically leads to arbitrary power. Throughout the north of Europe—in Sweden and Denmark, in Mecklenburg and Pomerania, in Prussia, Saxony, and Brunswick—the power which the Reformation gave to the State introduced an unmitigated despotism. Every security was removed which protected the people against the abuse of the sovereign power, and the lower against the oppression of the upper class. The crown became, sooner or later, despotic; the peasantry, by a long series of enactments, extending to the end of the seventeeth century, was reduced to servitude; the population grew scanty, and much of the land went out of cultivation. All this is related by the Protestant historians and divines, not in the tone of reluctant admission, but with patriotic indignation, commensurate with the horrors of the truth. In all these countries Lutheran unity subsisted. If Calvinism had ever succeeded in obtaining an equal predominance in the Netherlands, the power of the House of Orange would have become as despotic as that of the Danish or the Prussian sovereigns. But its triumph was impeded by sects, and by the presence of a large Catholic minority, destitute indeed of political rights or religious freedom, but for that very reason removed from the conflicts of parties, and therefore an element of conservatism, and a natural ally of those who resisted the ambition of the Stadtholders. The absence of religious unity baffled their attempts to establish arbitrary power on the victory of Calvinism, and upheld, in conjunction with the brilliant policy abroad, a portion of the ancient freedom. In Scotland, the other home of pure Calvinism, where intolerance and religious tyranny reached a pitch equalled only among the Puritans in America, the perpetual troubles hindered the settlement of a fixed political system, and the restoration of order after the union with England stripped the Presbyterian system of its exclusive supremacy, and opened the way for tolerance and freedom.
Although the political spirit of Anglicanism was as despotic as that of every other Protestant system, circumstances prevented its full development. The Catholic Church had bestowed on the English the great elements of their political prosperity,—the charter of their liberties, the fusion of the races, and the abolition of villeinage,—that is, personal and general freedom, and national unity. Hence the people were so thoroughly impregnated with Catholicism that the Reformation was imposed on them by foreign troops in spite of an armed resistance; and the imported manufacture of Geneva remained so strange and foreign to them, that no English divine of the sixteenth century enriched it with a single original idea. The new Church, unlike those of the Continent, was the result of an endeavour to conciliate the Catholic disposition of the people, by preserving as far as possible the externals to which they were attached; whilst the queen—who was a Protestant rather by policy than by conviction—desired no greater change than was necessary for her purpose. But the divines whom she placed at the head of the new Church were strict Calvinists, and differed from the Puritans only in their submission to the court. The rapidly declining Catholic party accepted Anglicanism as the lesser evil; while zealous Protestants deemed that the outward forms ought to correspond to the inward substance, and that Calvinistic doctrines required a Calvinistic constitution. Until the end of the century there was no Anglican theology; and the attempt to devise a system in harmony with the peculiar scheme and design of the institution, began with Hooker. The monarch was absolute master in the Church, which had been established as an instrument of royal influence; and the divines acknowledged his right by the theory of passive obedience. The consistent section of the Calvinists was won over, for a time, by the share which the gentry obtained in the spoils of the Church, and by the welcome concession of the penal laws against her, until at last they found that they had in their intolerance been forging chains for themselves. One thing alone, which our national jurists had recognised in the fifteenth century as the cause and the sign of our superiority over foreign States—the exclusion of the Roman code, and the unbroken preservation of the common law—kept England from sinking beneath a despotism as oppressive as that of France or Sweden.
As the Anglican Church under James and Charles was the bulwark of arbitrary power, the popular resistance took the form of ecclesiastical opposition. The Church continued to be so thoroughly committed to the principle of unconditional submission to the power from which it derived its existence, that James II. could reckon on this servile spirit as a means of effecting the subversion of the Establishment; and Defoe reproached the bishops with having by their flattery led on the king, whom they abandoned in the moment of his need. The Revolution, which reduced the royal prerogative, removed the oppressiveness of the royal supremacy. The Established Church was not emancipated from the crown, but the Nonconformists were emancipated from the tyranny of the Established Church. Protestantism, which in the period of its power dragged down by its servility the liberties of the nation, did afterwards, in its decay and disorganisation, by the surrender of its dogmatic as well as of its political principle, promote their recovery and development. It lost its oppressiveness in proportion as it lost its strength, and it ceased to be tyrannical when divines had been forced to give up its fundamental doctrine, and when its unity had been dissolved by the sects. The revival of those liberties which, in the Middle Ages, had taken root under the influence of the Church, coincided with the progress of the Protestant sects, and with the decay of the penal laws. The contrast between the political character of those countries in which Protestantism integrally prevailed, and that of those in which it was divided against itself, and could neither establish its system nor work out its consequences, is as strongly marked as the contrast between the politics of Catholic times and those which were introduced by the Reformation. The evil which it wrought in its strength was turned to good by its decline.
Such is the sketch of the effects of the Protestant apostasy in the political order, considered chiefly in relation to the absence of a supreme ecclesiastical authority independent of political control. It would require far more space to exhibit the positive influence of heretical principles on the social foundations of political life; and the picture would not be complete without showing the contrast exhibited by Catholic States, and tracing their passage from the mediæval system under the influence of the reaction against the Reformation. The third chapter covers only a portion of this extensive subject; but it shows the action of the new mode of ecclesiastical government upon the civil order, and proves that the importance of the Papacy is not confined to its religious sphere. It thus prepares the way for the subject discussed in the fourth chapter, — the most comprehensive and elaborate in the book.
Dr. Döllinger begins his survey of the churches that have renounced the Pope with those of the Eastern schism. The Patriarch of Constantinople, whose ecclesiastical authority is enormous, and whose opportunities of extorting money are so great that he is generally deposed at the end of two or three years, in order that many may succeed each other in the enjoyment of such advantages, serves not as a protection, but as an instrument for the oppression of the Christians. The Greek clergy have been the chief means by which the Turks have kept down both the Greek and the Slavonic population, and the Slavs are by degrees throwing off their influence. Submission to the civil power is so natural in communities separated from the Universal Church, that the Greeks look up to the Turkish authorities as arbiters in ecclesiastical matters. When there was a dispute between Greeks and Armenians respecting the mixture of water with the wine in the chalice, the question was referred for decision to the proper quarter, and the Reis Effendi decided that, wine being condemned by the Koran, water alone might be used. Yet to this pusillanimous and degenerate Church belong the future of European Turkey, and the inheritance of the sinking power of the Turks. The vitality of the dominant race is nearly exhausted, and the Christians—on whose pillage they live—exceed them, in increasing proportions, in numbers, prosperity, intelligence, and enterprise.
The Hellenic Church, obeying the general law of schismatical communities, has exchanged the authority of the patriarch for that of the crown, exercised through a synod, which is appointed on the Russian model by the Government. The clergy, disabled for religious purposes by the necessity of providing for their families, have little education and little influence, and have no part in the revival of the Grecian intellect. But the people are attached to their ecclesiastical system, not for religion’s sake, for infidelity generally accompanies education, but as the defence of their nationality.
In Russia the Catholic Church is considered heretical because of her teaching on the procession of the Holy Ghost, and schismatical in consequence of the claims of the Pope. In the doctrine of purgatory there is no essential difference; and on this point an understanding could easily be arrived at, if none had an interest in widening the breach. In the seventeenth century, the Russian Church retained so much independence that the Metropolitan of Kiev could hold in check the power of the Czar, and the clergy were the mediators between the people and the nobles or the crown. This influence was swept away by the despotism of Peter the Great; and under Catherine II. the property of the Church was annexed to the crown lands, in order, it was said, to relieve the clergy of the burden of administration. Yet even now the Protestant doctrine that the sovereign is supreme in all matters of religion has not penetrated among the Russians. But though the Czar does not possess this authority over the national Church, of which he is a member, the Protestant system has conceded it to him in the Baltic provinces. Not only are all children of mixed marriages between Protestants and schismatics brought up in the religion of the latter, by which the gradual decline of Protestanism is provided for, but conversions to Protestanism, even of Jews, Mohammedans, and heathens, are forbidden; and, in all questions of doctrine or of liturgy, the last appeal is to the emperor. The religious despotism usually associated with the Russian monarchy subsists only for the Protestants.
The Russian Church is dumb; the congregation does not sing, the priest does not preach. The people have no prayer-books, and are therefore confined to the narrow circle of their own religious ideas. Against the cloud of superstition which naturally gathers in a religion of ceremonies, destitute of the means of keeping alive or cultivating the religious sentiments of the people, there is no resource. In spite of the degeneracy of their clergy, which they are unable to feel, the Russians cling with patriotic affection to their Church, and identify its progress and prosperity with the increase of their empire. As it is an exclusively national institution, every war may become a war of religion, and it is the attachment to the Church which creates the longing and the claim to possess the city from which it came. From the Church the empire derives its tendency to expand, and the Czar the hopes of that universal dominion which was promised to him by the Synod of Moscow in 1619, and for which a prayer was then appointed. The schismatical clergy of Eastern Europe are the channel of Russian influence, the pioneers of Russian aggression. The political dependence of the Church corresponds to its political influence; subserviency is the condition of the power it possesses. The certificate of Easter confession and communion is required for every civil act, and is consequently an object of traffic. In like manner, the confessor is bound to betray to the police all the secrets of confession which affect the interest of the Government. In this deplorable state of corruption, servitude, and decay within, and of threatening hostility to Christian civilisation abroad, the Russian Church pays the penalty of its Byzantine descent.
The Established Church and the sects in England furnish few opportunities of treating points which would be new to our readers. Perhaps the most suggestive portion is the description of the effects of Protestantism on the character and condition of the people. The plunder and oppression of the poor has everywhere followed the plunder of the Church, which was the guardian and refuge of the poor. The charity of the Catholic clergy aimed not merely at relieving, but at preventing poverty. It was their object not only to give alms, but to give to the lower orders the means of obtaining a livelihood. The Reformation at once checked alms-giving; so that, Selden says, in places where twenty pounds a year had been distributed formerly, not a handful of meal was given away in his time, for the wedded clergy could not afford it. The confiscation of the lands where thousands had tilled the soil under the shadow of the monastery or the Church, was followed by a new system of cultivation, which deprived the peasants of their homes. The sheep, men said, were the cause of all the woe; and whole towns were pulled down to make room for them. The prelates of the sixteenth century lament the decline of charity since the Catholic times; and a divine attributed the growing selfishness and harshness to the doctrine of justification by faith. The alteration in the condition of the poor was followed by severe enactments against vagrancy; and the Protestant legislature, after creating a proletariate, treated it as a crime. The conversion of Sunday into a Jewish Sabbath cut off the holiday amusements and soured the cheerfulness of the population. Music, singing, and dancing, the favourite relaxation of a contented people, disappeared, and, especially after the war in the Low Countries, drunkenness began to prevail among a nation which in earlier times had been reckoned the most sober of Northern Europe. The institution which introduced these changes has become a State, not a national Church, whose services are more attended by the rich than by the poor.
After describing the various parties in the Anglican system, the decay of its divinity, and the general aversion to theological research, Döllinger concludes that its dissolution is a question of time. No State Church can long subsist in modern society which professes the religion of the minority. Whilst the want of a definite system of doctrine, allowing every clergyman to be the mouthpiece, not of a church, but of a party, drives an increasing portion of the people to join the sects which have a fixed doctrine and allow less independence to their preachers, the great danger which menaces the Church comes from the State itself. The progress of dissent and of democracy in the legislature will make the Church more and more entirely dependent on the will of the majority, and will drive the best men from the communion of a servile establishment. The rise and fortunes of Methodism are related with peculiar predilection by the author, who speaks of John Wesley as the greatest intellect English Protestantism has produced, next to Baxter.
The first characteristic of Scottish Presbyterianism is the absence of a theology. The only considerable divines that have appeared in Scotland since the Reformation, Leighton and Forbes, were prelates of the Episcopal Church. Calvinism was unable to produce a theological literature, in spite of the influence of English writers, of the example of Holland, and of the great natural intelligence of the Scots. “Their theology,” says a distinguished Lutheran divine, “possesses no system of Christian ethics.” This Döllinger attributes to the strictness with which they have held to the doctrine of imputation, which is incompatible with any system of moral theology. In other countries it was the same; where that doctrine prevailed, there was no ethical system, and where ethics were cultivated, the doctrine was abandoned. For a century after Luther, no moral theology was written in Germany. The first who attempted it, Calixtus, gave up the Lutheran doctrine. The Dutch historians of Calvinism in the Netherlands record, in like manner, that there the dread of a collision with the dogma silenced the teaching of ethics both in literature and at the universities. Accordingly, all the great Protestant moralists were opposed to the Protestant doctrine of justification. In Scotland the intellectual lethargy of churchmen is not confined to the department of ethics; and Presbyterianism only prolongs its existence by suppressing theological writing, and by concealing the contradictions which would otherwise bring down on the clergy the contempt of their flocks.
Whilst Scotland has clung to the original dogma of Calvin, at the price of complete theological stagnation, the Dutch Church has lost its primitive orthodoxy in the progress of theological learning. Not one of the several schools into which the clergy of the Netherlands are divided has remained faithful to the five articles of the synod of Dortrecht, which still command so extensive an allegiance in Great Britain and America. The conservative party, headed by the statesman and historian, Groen van Prinsterer, who holds fast to the theology which is so closely interwoven with the history of his country and with the fortunes of the reigning house, and who invokes the aid of the secular arm in support of pure Calvinism, is not represented at the universities. For all the Dutch divines know that the system cannot be revived without sacrificing the theological activity by which it has been extinguished. The old confessional writings have lost their authority; and the general synod of 1854 decided that, “as it is impossible to reconcile all opinions and wishes, even in the shortest confession, the Church tolerates divergence from the symbolical books.” The only unity, says Groen, consists in this, that all the preachers are paid out of the same fund. The bulk of the clergy are Arminians or Socinians. From the spectacle of the Dutch Church, Dr. Döllinger comes to the following result: first, that without a code of doctrine laid down in authoritative confessions of faith, the Church cannot endure; secondly, that the old confessional writings cannot be maintained, and are universally given up; and thirdly, that it is impossible to draw up new ones.
French Protestantism suffered less from the Revolution than the Catholic Church, and was treated with tenderness, and sometimes with favour. The dissolution of Continental Protestantism began in France. Before their expulsion in 1685, the French divines had cast off the yoke of the Dortrecht articles, and in their exile they afterwards promoted the decline of Calvinism in the Netherlands. The old Calvinistic tradition has never been restored, the works of the early writers are forgotten, no new theological literature has arisen, and the influence of Germany has borne no considerable fruit. The evangelical party, or Methodists, as they are called, are accused by the rest of being the cause of their present melancholy state. The rationalism of the indifférens generally prevails among the clergy, either in the shape of the naturalism of the eighteenth century (Coquerel), or in the more advanced form of modern criticism, as it is carried out by the faculty of Strasburg, with the aid of German infidelity. Payment by the State and hatred of Catholicism are the only common marks of French Protestant divines. They have no doctrine, no discipline, no symbol, no theology. Nobody can define the principle or the limits of their community.
The Calvinism of Switzerland has been ruined in its doctrine by the progress of theology, and in its constitution by the progress of democracy. In Geneva the Church of Calvin fell in the revolutions of 1841 and 1846. The symbolical books are abolished; the doctrine is based on the Bible; but the right of free inquiry is granted to all; the ruling body consists of laymen. “The faith of our fathers,” says Merle d’Aubigné, “counts but a small group of adherents amongst us.” In the canton of Vaud, where the whole ecclesiastical power was in the hands of the Government, the yoke of the democracy became insupportable, and the excellent writer, Vinet, seceded with 180 ministers out of 250. The people of Berne are among the most bitter enemies of Catholicism in Europe. Their fanaticism crushed the Sonderbund; but the recoil drove them towards infidelity, and hastened the decrease of devotion and of the influence of the clergy. None of the German Swiss, and few of the French, retain in its purity the system of Calvin. The unbelief of the clergy lays the Church open to the attacks of a Cæsaro-papistic democracy. A Swiss Protestant divine said recently: “Only a Church with a Catholic organisation could have maintained itself without a most extraordinary descent of the Holy Spirit against the assaults of Rationalism.” “What we want,” says another, “in order to have a free Church, is pastors and flocks; dogs and wolves there are in plenty.”
In America it is rare to find people who are openly irreligious. Except some of the Germans, all Protestants generally admit the truth of Christianity and the authority of Scripture. But above half of the American population belongs to no particular sect, and performs no religious functions. This is the result of the voluntary principle, of the dominion of the sects, and of the absence of an established Church, to receive each individual from his birth, to adopt him by baptism, and to bring him up in the atmosphere of a religious life. The majority of men will naturally take refuge in indifference and neutrality from the conflict of opinions, and will persuade themselves that where there are so many competitors, none can be the lawful spouse. Yet there is a blessing on everything that is Christian, which can never be entirely effaced or converted into a curse. Whatever the imperfections of the form in which it exists, the errors mixed up with it, or the degrading influence of human passion, Christianity never ceases to work immeasurable social good. But the great theological characteristic of American Protestantism is the absence of the notion of the Church. The prevailing belief is, that in times past there was always a war of opinions and of parties, that there never was one unbroken vessel, and that it is necessary, therefore, to put up with fragments, one of which is nearly as good as another. Sectarianism, it is vaguely supposed, is the normal condition of religion. Now a sect is, by its very nature, instinctively adverse to a scientific theology; it feels that it is short-lived, without a history, and unconnected with the main stream of ecclesiastical progress, and it is inspired with hatred and with contempt for the past, for its teaching and its writings. Practically, sectaries hold that a tradition is the more surely to be rejected the older it is, and the more valuable in proportion to the lateness of its origin. As a consequence of the want of roots in the past, and of the thirst for novelty, the history of those sects which are not sunk in lethargy consists in sudden transitions to opposite extremes. In the religious world ill weeds grow apace; and those communities which strike root, spring up, and extend most rapidly are the least durable and the least respectable. The sects of Europe were transplanted into America: but there the impatience of authority, which is the basis of social and political life, has produced in religion a variety and a multiplicity, of which Europe has no experience.
Whilst these are the fruits of religious liberty and ecclesiastical independence among a people generally educated, the Danish monarchy exhibits unity of faith strictly maintained by keeping the people under the absolute control of the upper class, on whose behalf the Reformation was introduced, and in a state of ignorance corresponding to their oppression. Care was taken that they should not obtain religious instruction, and in the beginning of the eighteenth century the celebrated Bishop Pontoppidan says, “an almost heathen blindness pervades the land.” About the same time the Norwegian prelates declared, in a petition to the King of Denmark: “If we except a few children of God, there is only this difference between us and our heathen ancestors, that we bear the name of Christians.” The Danish Church has given no signs of life, and has shown no desire for independence since the Reformation; and in return for this submissiveness, the Government suppressed every tendency towards dissent. Things were not altered when the tyranny of the nobles gave way to the tyranny of the crown; but when the revolution of 1848 had given the State a democratic basis, its confessional character was abrogated, and whilst Lutheranism was declared the national religion, conformity was no longer exacted. The king is still the head of the Church, and is the only man in Denmark who must be a Lutheran. No form of ecclesiastical government suitable to the new order of things has yet been devised, and the majority prefer to remain in the present provisional state, subject to the will of a Parliament, not one member of which need belong to the Church which it governs. Among the clergy, those who are not Rationalists follow the lead of Grundtvig. During many years this able man has conducted an incessant resistance against the progress of unbelief and of the German influence, and against the Lutheran system, the royal supremacy, and the parochial constitution. Not unlike the Tractarians, he desires the liberty of establishing a system which shall exclude Lutheranism, Rationalism, and Erastianism; and he has united in his school nearly all who profess positive Christianity in Denmark. In Copenhagen, out of 150,000 inhabitants, only 6000 go regularly to church. In Altona, there is but one church for 45,000 people. In Schleswig the churches are few and empty. “The great evil,” says a Schleswig divine, “is not the oppression which falls on the German tongue, but the irreligion and consequent demoralisation which Denmark has imported into Schleswig. A moral and religious tone is the exception, not the rule, among the Danish clergy.”
The theological literature of Sweden consists almost entirely of translations from the German. The clergy, by renouncing study, have escaped Rationalism, and remain faithful to the Lutheran system. The king is supreme in spirituals, and the Diet discusses and determines religious questions. The clergy, as one of the estates, has great political influence, but no ecclesiastical independence. No other Protestant clergy possesses equal privileges or less freedom. It is usual for the minister after the sermon to read out a number of trivial local announcements, sometimes half an hour long; and in a late Assembly the majority of the bishops pronounced in favour of retaining this custom, as none but old women and children would come to church for the service alone.
In no other country in Europe is the strict Lutheran system preached but in Sweden. The doctrine is preserved, but religion is dead, and the Church is as silent and as peaceful as the churchyard. The Church is richly endowed; there are great universities, and Swedes are among the foremost in almost every branch of science, but no Swedish writer has ever done anything for religious thought. The example of Denmark and its Rationalist clergy brought home to them the consequences of theological study. In one place the old system has been preserved, like a frail and delicate curiosity, by excluding the air of scientific inquiry, whilst in the other Lutheranism is decomposing under its influence. In Norway, where the clergy have no political representation, religious liberty was established in 1844.
Throughout the north of Europe the helpless decline of Protestantism is betrayed by the numerical disproportion of preachers to the people. Norway, with a population of 1,500,000, thinly scattered over a very large territory, has 485 parishes, with an average of 3600 souls apiece. But the clergy are pluralists, and as many as five parishes are often united under a single incumbent. Holstein has only 192 preachers for an almost exclusively Lutheran population of 544,000. In Schleswig many parishes have been deserted because they were too poor to maintain a clergyman’s family. Sometimes there are only two ministers for 13,000 persons. In the Baltic provinces the proportion is one to 4394. In this way the people have to bear the burden of a clergy with families to support.
The most brilliant and important part of this chapter is devoted to the state of Protestantism in the author’s native country. He speaks with the greatest authority and effect when he comes near home, describes the opinions of men who have been his rivals in literature, or his adversaries in controversy, and touches on discussions which his own writings have influenced. There is a difference also in the tone. When he speaks of the state of other countries, with which he has made himself acquainted as a traveller, or through the writings of others, he preserves the calmness and objectivity of a historian, and adds few reflections to the simple description of facts. But in approaching the scenes and the thoughts of his own country, the interests and the most immediate occupations of his own life, the familiarity of long experience gives greater confidence, warmth, and vigour to his touch; the historian gives way to the divine, and the narrative sometimes slides into theology. Besides the position of the author, the difference of the subject justifies a change in the treatment. The examination of Protestantism in the rest of the world pointed with monotonous uniformity to a single conclusion. Everywhere there was the same spectacle and the same alternative: either religion sacrificed to the advancement of learning, or learning relinquished for the preservation of religion. Everywhere the same antagonism between intellectual progress and fidelity to the fundamental doctrines of Protestantism: either religion has become stark and stagnant in States which protect unity by the proscription of knowledge, or the progress of thought and inquiry has undermined belief in the Protestant system, and driven its professors from one untenable position to another, or the ascendency of the sectarian spirit has been equally fatal to its dogmatic integrity and to its intellectual development. But in the home of the Reformation a league has been concluded in our time between theology and religion, and many schools of Protestant divines are labouring, with a vast expenditure of ability and learning, to devise, or to restore, with the aid of theological science, a system of positive Christianity. Into this great scene of intellectual exertion and doctrinal confusion the leading adversary of Protestantism in Germany conducts his readers, not without sympathy for the high aims which inspire the movement, but with the almost triumphant security which belongs to a Church possessing an acknowledged authority, a definite organisation, and a system brought down by tradition from the apostolic age. Passing by the schools of infidelity, which have no bearing on the topic of his work, he addresses himself to the believing Protestantism of Germany, and considers its efforts to obtain a position which may enable it to resist unbelief without involving submission to the Church.
The character of Luther separates the German Protestants from those of other countries. His was the master-spirit, in whom his contemporaries beheld the incarnation of the genius of their nation. In the strong lineaments of his character they recognised, in heroic proportions, the reflection of their own; and thus his name has survived, not merely as that of a great man, the mightiest of his age, but as the type of a whole period in the history of the German people, the centre of a new world of ideas, the personification of those religious and ethical opinions which the country followed, and whose influence even their adversaries could not escape. His writings have long ceased to be popular, and are read only as monuments of history; but the memory of his person has not yet grown dim. His name is still a power in his own country, and from its magic the Protestant doctrine derives a portion of its life. In other countries men dislike to be described by the name of the founder of their religious system, but in Germany and Sweden there are thousands who are proud of the name of Lutheran.
The results of his system prevail in the more influential and intelligent classes, and penetrate the mass of the modern literature of Germany. The Reformation had introduced the notion that Christianity was a failure, and had brought far more suffering than blessings on mankind; and the consequences of that movement were not calculated to impress educated men with the belief that things were changed for the better, or that the reformers had achieved the work in which the Apostles were unsuccessful. Thus an atmosphere of unbelief and of contempt for everything Christian gradually arose, and Paganism appeared more cheerful, more human, and more poetical than the repulsive Galilean doctrine of holiness and privation. This spirit still governs the educated class. Christianity is abominated both in life and in literature, even under the form of believing Protestantism.
In Germany theological study and the Lutheran system subsisted for two centuries together. The controversies that arose from time to time developed the theory, but brought out by degrees its inward contradictions. The danger of biblical studies was well understood, and the Scriptures were almost universally excluded from the universities in the seventeenth century; but in the middle of the eighteenth Bengel revived the study of the Bible, and the dissolution of the Lutheran doctrine began. The rise of historical learning hastened the process. Frederic the Great says of himself, that the notion that the history of the Church is a drama, conducted by rogues and hypocrites, at the expense of the deceived masses, was the real cause of his contempt for the Christian religion. The Lutheran theology taught, that after the Apostolic age God withdrew from the Church, and abandoned to the devil the office which, according to the Gospel, was reserved for the Holy Spirit. This diabolical millennium lasted till the appearance of Luther. As soon, therefore, as the reverence for the symbolical books began to wane, the belief in the divine foundation departed with the belief in the divine guidance of the Church, and the root was judged by the stem, the beginning by the continuation. As research went on, unfettered now by the authorities of the sixteenth century, the clergy became Rationalists, and stone after stone of the temple was carried away by its own priests. The infidelity which at the same time flourished in France, did not, on the whole, infect the priesthood. But in Germany it was the divines who destroyed religion, the pastors who impelled their flocks to renounce the Christian faith.
In 1817 the Prussian Union added a new Church to the two original forms of Protestantism. But strict Calvinism is nearly extinct in Germany, and the old Lutheran Church itself has almost disappeared. It subsists, not in any definite reality, but only in the aspirations of certain divines and jurists. The purpose of the union was to bring together, in religious communion, the reigning family of Prussia, which had adopted Calvinism in 1613, and the vast Lutheran majority among the people. It was to be, in the words of the king, a merely ritual union, not an amalgamation of dogmas. In some places there was resistance, which was put down by military execution. Some thousands emigrated to America; but the public press applauded the measures, and there was no general indignation at their severity. The Lutherans justly perceived that the union would promote religious indifference; but at the accession of the late king there came a change; religious faith was once more sought after, believing professors were appointed in almost all the German universities, after the example of Prussia; Jena and Giessen alone continued to be seats of Rationalism. As soon as theology had begun to recover a more religious and Christian character, two very divergent tendencies manifested themselves. Among the disciples of Schleiermacher and of Neander a school of unionists arose who attempted a conciliatory intermediate theology. At the same time a strictly Lutheran theology flourished at the universities of Erlangen, Leipzig, Rostock, and Dorpat, which sought to revive the doctrine of the sixteenth century, clothed in the language of the nineteenth. But for men versed in Scripture theology this was an impossible enterprise, and it was abandoned by the divines to a number of parochial clergymen, who are represented in literature by Rudelbach, and who claim to be the only surviving Protestants whom Luther would acknowledge as his sons and the heirs of his spirit.
The Lutheran divines and scholars formed the new Lutheran party,1 whose most illustrious lay champion was the celebrated Stahl. They profess the Lutheran doctrine of justification, but reject the notion of the invisible Church and the universal priesthood. Holding to the divine institution of the offices of the Church, in opposition to the view which refers them to the congregation, they are led to assume a sacrament of orders, and to express opinions on ordination, sacraments, and sacrifice, which involve them in the imputation of Puseyism, or even of Catholicism. As they remain for the most part in the State Church, there is an open war between their confessional spirit and the syncretism of the union. In 1857 the Evangelical Alliance met at Berlin in order to strengthen the unionist principles, and to testify against these Pharisees. Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians—sects connected by nothing but a common hatred of Catholicism—were greeted by the union divines as bone of their bone, and welcome allies in the contest with an exclusive Lutheranism and with Rome. The confusion in the minds of the people was increased by this spectacle. The union already implied that the dogma of the Lord’s Supper, on which Lutherans and Calvinists disagree, was uncertain, and therefore not essential. The alliance of so many denominations added baptism to the list of things about which nothing is positively known. The author of this measure was Bunsen, who was full of the idea of uniting all Protestant sects in a union against the Catholic Church and catholicising tendencies.
For the last fifteen years there has been an active agitation for the improvement of the Church among the Protestant divines. The first question that occupies and divides them is that of Church government and the royal Episcopate, which many deem the chief cause of the ecclesiastical decay. The late King of Prussia, a zealous and enlightened friend of the Protestant Church, declared that “the territorial system and the Episcopal authority of the sovereign are of such a nature that either of them would alone be enough to kill the Church if the Church was mortal,” and that he longed to be able to abdicate his rights into the hands of the bishops. In other countries, as in Baden, a new system has been devised, which transfers political constitutionalism to the Church, and makes it a community, not of those who believe in Christ, but, in the words of the Government organ, of those who believe in a moral order. Hopes were entertained that the introduction of Synods would be an improvement, and in 1856 and 1857 a beginning was made at Berlin; but it was found that the existence of great evils and disorders in the Church, which had been a secret of the initiated, would be published to the world, and that government by majorities, the ecclesiastical democracy which was Bunsen’s ideal, would soon destroy every vestige of Christianity.
In their doctrinal and theological literature resides at the present day the strength and the renown of the Protestants; for a scientific Protestant theology exists only in Germany. The German Protestant Church is emphatically a Church of theologians; they are its only authority, and, through the princes, its supreme rulers. Its founder never really divested himself of the character of a professor, and the Church has never emancipated itself from the lecture-room: it teaches, and then disappears. Its hymns are not real hymns, but versified theological dissertations, or sermons in rhyme. Born of the union of princes with professors, it retains the distinct likeness of both its parents, not altogether harmoniously blended; and when it is accused of worldliness, of paleness of thought, of being a police institution rather than a Church, that is no more than to say that the child cannot deny its parentage.
Theology has become believing in Germany, but it is very far from being orthodox. No writer is true to the literal teaching of the symbolical books, and for a hundred years the pure doctrine of the sixteenth century has never been heard. No German divine could submit to the authority of the early articles and formulas without hypocrisy and violence to his conscience, and yet they have nothing else to appeal to. That the doctrine of justification by faith only is the principal substance of the symbolical writings, the centre of the antagonism against the Catholic Church, all are agreed. The neo-Lutherans proclaim it “the essence and treasure of the Reformation,” “the doctrine of which every man must have a clear and vivid comprehension who would know anything of Christianity,” “the banner which must be unfurled at least once in every sermon,” “the permanent death that gnaws the bones of Catholics,” “the standard by which the whole of the Gospel must be interpreted, and every obscure passage explained,” and yet this article of a standing or falling Church, on the strength of which Protestants call themselves evangelical, is accepted by scarcely one of their more eminent divines, even among the Lutherans. The progress of biblical studies is too great to admit of a return to the doctrine which has been exploded by the advancement of religious learning. Dr. Döllinger gives a list (p. 430) of the names of the leading theologians, by all of whom it has been abandoned. Yet it was for the sake of this fundamental and essential doctrine that the epistle of St. James was pronounced an epistle of straw, that the Augsburg Confession declared it to have been the belief of St. Augustine, and that when the author of the Confession had for very shame omitted this falsehood in the published edition, the passage was restored after his death. For its sake Luther deliberately altered the sense of several passages in the Bible, especially in the writings of St. Paul. To save this doctrine, which was unknown to all Christian antiquity, the breach was made with all ecclesiastical tradition, and the authority of the dogmatic testimony of the Church in every age was rejected. While the contradiction between the Lutheran doctrine and that of the first centuries was disguised before the laity, it was no secret among the Reformers. Melanchthon confessed to Brenz that in the Augsburg Confession he had lied. Luther admitted that his theory was new, and sought in consequence to destroy the authority of the early Fathers and Councils. Calvin declared that the system was unknown to tradition. All these men and their disciples, and the whole of the Lutheran and Calvinistic theology of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, professed to find their doctrine of imputation laid down distinctly in the Bible. The whole modern scientific theology of the Protestants rejects both the doctrine and the Lutheran exegesis of the passages in question. But it is the supreme evangelical principle, that the Scripture is perfectly clear and sufficient on all fundamental points. Yet the point on which this great divergence subsists is a doctrine which is decisive for the existence of the Church, and most important in its practical influence on life. The whole edifice of the Protestant Church and theology reposes therefore on two principles, one material, the other formal—the doctrine of imputation, and the sufficiency of the Bible. But the material principle is given up by exegesis and by dogmatic theology; and as to the formal principle, for the sufficiency of the Bible, or even for the inspiration of the writings of the disciples of the Apostles, not the shadow of a scriptural argument can be adduced. The significance of this great fact is beginning to make its way. “Whilst Rationalism prevailed,” says a famous Lutheran divine, “we could impute to its action that our churches were deserted and empty. But now that Christ crucified is everywhere preached, and no serious effect is to be observed, it is necessary to abandon this mistake, and not to conceal from ourselves that preaching is unable to revive religious life.”
The religious indifference of the educated classes is the chief security for the existence of the Protestant Church. If they were to take an interest in matters of worship and doctrine, and to inform themselves as to the present relation of theological science to the teaching of the pulpit, the day of discovery and exposure would come, and confidence in the Church would be at an end. The dishonesty of Luther in those very things on which the Reformation depended could not be concealed from them. In Prussia there was a conscientious clergyman who taught his parishioners Greek, and then showed them all the passages, especially in the Epistles of St. Paul, which were intentionally altered in the translation. But one of the Protestant leaders impresses on the clergy the danger of allowing the people to know that which ought to be kept a secret among the learned. At most, he says, it may be necessary to admit that the translation is not perspicuous. The danger of this discovery does not, however, appear to be immediate, for no book is less familiar to the laity than the Bible. “There is scarcely one Christian family in a hundred,” says Tholuck, “in which the Holy Scriptures are read.” In the midst of this general downfall of Christianity, in spite of the great efforts of Protestants, some take refuge in the phrase of an invisible Church, some in a Church of the future. Whilst there exists a real, living, universal Church, with a settled system and means of salvation, the invisible Church is offered in her stead, wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of rhetoric, like the stone which Rhea gave her husband instead of the child. In a novel of Jean Paul, a Swedish clergyman is advised in the middle of winter to walk about with a bit of orange-sugar in his mouth, in order to realise with all his senses the sunny climes of the South. It requires as much imagination to realise the Church by taking a “spiritual league” into one’s mouth.
Another acknowledgment, that the Church has become estranged from the people, and subsists only as a ruin of a past age, is the widely spread hope of a new Pentecost. Eminent theologians speak of it as the only conceivable salvation, though there is no such promise in Scripture, no example in history of a similar desire. They rest their only hope in a miracle, such as has not happened since the Apostles, and thereby confess that, in the normal process of religious life by which Christ has guided His Church till now, their cause is lost. A symptom of the same despair is the rise of chiliastic aspirations, and the belief in the approaching end of the world. To this party belongs the present minister of public worship and education in Berlin. Shortly before his appointment he wrote: “Both Church and State must perish in their earthly forms, that the kingdom of Christ may be set up over all nations, that the bride of the Lamb, the perfect community, the new Jerusalem, may descend from heaven.” Not long before this was published another Prussian statesman, Bunsen, had warned his Protestant readers to turn away from false prophets, who announce the end of the world because they have come to the end of their own wisdom.
In the midst of this desperate weakness, although Catholics and Protestants are so mixed up with each other that toleration must soon be universal throughout Germany, the thoughts of the Protestants are yet not turned towards the Catholic Church; they still show a bitter animosity against her, and the reproach of Catholic tendencies has for twenty years been the strongest argument against every attempt to revive religion and worship. The attitude of Protestantism towards Rome, says Stahl, is that of the Borghese gladiator. To soften this spirit of animosity the only possible resource is to make it clear to all Protestants who still hold to Christianity, what their own internal condition is, and what they have come to by their rejection of the unity and the authority which the Catholic Church possesses in the Holy See. Having shown the value of the Papacy by the results which have ensued on its rejection, Döllinger proceeds, with the same truth and impartiality, to trace the events which have injured the influence and diminished the glory and attractiveness of the Holy See, and have converted that which should be the safeguard of its spiritual freedom into a calamity and a dishonour in the eyes of mankind. It seems as though he wished to point out, as the moral to be learnt from the present condition of the religious world, that there is a coincidence in time and in providential purpose between the exhaustion and the despair at which enlightened Protestantism has arrived, from the failure of every attempt to organise a form of church government, to save the people from infidelity, and to reconcile theological knowledge with their religious faith, — between this and that great drama which, by destroying the bonds which linked the Church to an untenable system, is preparing the restoration of the Holy See to its former independence, and to its just influence over the minds of men.
The Popes, after obtaining a virtual independence under the Byzantine sceptre, transferred their allegiance to the revived empire of the West. The line between their authority and that of the emperor in Rome was never clearly drawn. It was a security for the freedom and regularity of the election, which was made by the lay as well as ecclesiastical dignitaries of the city, that it should be subject to the imperial ratification; but the remoteness of the emperors, and the inconvenience of delay, caused this rule to be often broken. This prosperous period did not long continue. When the dynasty of Charlemagne came to an end, the Roman clergy had no defence against the nobles, and the Romans did all that men could do to ruin the Papacy. There was little remaining of the state which the Popes had formed in conjunction with the emperors. In the middle of the tenth century the Exarchate and the Pentapolis were in the power of Berengarius, and Rome in the hands of the Senator Alberic. Alberic, understanding that a secular principality could not last long, obtained the election of his son Octavian, who became Pope John XII. Otho the Great, who had restored the empire, and claimed to exercise its old prerogative, deposed the new Pope; and when the Romans elected another, sent him also into exile beyond the Alps. For a whole century after this time there was no trace of freedom of election. Without the emperor, the Popes were in the hands of the Roman factions, and dependence on the emperor was better for the Church than dependence on the nobles. The Popes appointed under the influence of the prelates, who were the ecclesiastical advisers of the Imperial Government, were preferable to the nominees of the Roman chiefs, who had no object or consideration but their own ambition, and were inclined to speculate on the worthlessness of their candidates. During the first half of the eleventh century they recovered their predominance, and the deliverance of the Church came once more from Germany. A succession of German Popes, named by the emperor, opened the way for the permanent reform which is associated with the name of Gregory VII. Up to this period the security of the freedom of the Holy See was the protection of the emperor, and Gregory was the last Pope who asked for the imperial confirmation.
Between the middle of the ninth century and the middle of the eleventh the greater part of the Roman territory had passed into the hands of laymen. Some portions were possessed by the emperor, some by the great Italian families, and the revenues of the Pope were derived from the tribute of his vassals. Sylvester II. complains that this was very small, as the possessions of the Church had been given away for very little. Besides the tribute, the vassals owed feudal service to the Pope; but the government was not in his hands, and the imperial suzerainty remained. The great families had obtained from the Popes of their making such extensive grants that there was little remaining, and Otho III. tried to make up for it by a new donation. The loss of the patrimonies in Southern Italy established a claim on the Norman conquerors, and they became papal vassals for the kingdom of Sicily. But throughout the twelfth century the Popes had no firm basis of their power in Italy. They were not always masters of Rome, and there was not a single provincial town they could reckon on. Seven Popes in a hundred years sought a refuge in France; two remained at Verona. The donation of Matilda was disputed by the emperors, and brought no material accession of territory, until Innocent III., with his usual energy, secured to the Roman Church the south of Tuscany. He was the first Pope who governed a considerable territory, and became the real founder of the States of the Church. Before him, the Popes had possessions for which they claimed tribute and service, but no State that they administered. Innocent obtained the submission of Benevento and Romagna. He left the towns to govern themselves by their own laws, demanding only military aid in case of need, and a small tribute, which was not always exacted; Viterbo, for instance, paid nothing until the fifteenth century.
The contest with Frederic II. stripped the Holy See of most of these acquisitions. In many cases its civil authority was no longer acknowledged; in many it became a mere title of honour, while the real power had passed into the hands of the towns or of the nobles, sometimes into those of the bishops. Rudolph of Habsburg restored all that had been lost, and surrendered the imperial claims. But while the German influence was suspended, the influence of France prevailed over the Papacy; and during the exile at Avignon the Popes were as helpless as if they had possessed not an acre of their own in Italy. It was during their absence that the Italian Republics fell under the tyrannies, and their dominions were divided among a swarm of petty princes. The famous expedition of Cardinal Albornoz put an end to these disorders. He recovered the territories of the Church, and became, by the Ægidian Constitutions, which survived for ages, the legislator of Romagna. In 1376 eighty towns rose up in the space of three days, declared themselves free, or recalled the princes whom Albornoz had expelled. Before they could be reduced, the schism broke out, and the Church learnt the consequences of the decline of the empire, and the disappearance of its advocacy and protectorate over the Holy See. Boniface IX. sold to the republics and the princes, for a sum of money and an annual tribute, the ratification of the rights which they had seized.
The first great epoch in the history of the temporal power after the schism is the election of Eugenius IV. He swore to observe a statute which had been drawn up in conclave, by which all vassals and officers of State were to swear allegiance to the College of Cardinals in conjunction with the Pope. As he also undertook to abandon to the cardinals half the revenue, he shared in fact his authority with them. This was a new form of government, and a great restriction of the papal power; but it did not long endure.
The centrifugal tendency, which broke up Italy into small principalities, had long prevailed, when at last the Popes gave way to it. The first was Sixtus IV., who made one of his nephews lord of Imola, and another of Sinigaglia. Alexander VI. subdued all the princes in the States of the Church except the Duke of Montefeltro, and intended to make the whole an hereditary monarchy for his son. But Julius II. recovered all these conquests for the Church, added new ones to them, and thus became, after Innocent III. and Albornoz, the third founder of the Roman State. The age which beheld this restoration was marked in almost every country by the establishment of political unity on the ruins of the mediæval independence, and of monarchical absolutism at the expense of mediæval freedom. Both of these tendencies asserted themselves in the States of the Church. The liberties of the towns were gradually destroyed. This was accomplished by Clement VII. in Ancona, in 1532; by Paul III. in Perugia, in 1540. Ravenna, Faenza, Jesi had, under various pretexts, undergone the same fate. By the middle of the sixteenth century all resistance was subdued. In opposition, however, to this centralising policy, the nepotism introducted by Sixtus IV. led to dismemberment. Paul III. gave Parma and Piacenza to his son Pier Luigi Farnese, and the duchy was lost to the Holy See for good. Paul IV. made a similar attempt in favour of his nephew Caraffa, but he was put to death under Pius IV.; and this species of nepotism, which subsisted at the expense of the papal territory, came to an end. Pius V. forbade, under pain of excommunication, to invest any one with a possession of the Holy See, and this law was extended even to temporary concessions.
In the eighteenth century a time came when the temporal power was a source of weakness, and a weapon by which the courts compelled the Pope to consent to measures he would otherwise never have approved. It was thus that the suppression of the Jesuits was obtained from Clement XIV. Under his successors the world had an opportunity of comparing the times when Popes like Alexander III. or Innocent IV. governed the Church from their exile, and now, when men of the greatest piety and conscientiousness virtually postponed their duty as head of the Church to their rights as temporal sovereigns, and, like the senators of old, awaited the Gauls upon their throne. There is a lesson not to be forgotten in the contrast between the policy and the fate of the great mediæval pontiffs, who preserved their liberty by abandoning their dominions, and that of Pius VI. and Pius VII., who preferred captivity to flight.
The nepotism of Urban VIII. brought on the war of Castro, and in its train increase of debt, of taxes, impoverishment of the State, and the odious union of spiritual with temporal arms, which became a permanent calamity for the Holy See. This attachment to the interest of their families threw great discredit on the Popes, who were dishonoured by the faults, the crimes, and the punishment of their relatives. But since the death of Alexander VIII., in 1691, even that later form of nepotism which aimed at wealth only, not at political power, came to an end, and has never reappeared except in the case of the Braschi. The nepotism of the cardinals and prelates has survived that of the Popes. If the statute of Eugenius IV. had remained in force, the College of Cardinals would have formed a wholesome restraint in the temporal government, and the favouritism of the papal relations would have been prevented. But the Popes acted with the absolute power which was in the spirit of the monarchies of that age. When Paul IV. announced to the Sacred College that he had stripped the house of Colonna of its possessions to enrich his nephew, and that he was at war with Spain, they listened in silence, and have been passive ever since. No European sovereignty enjoyed so arbitrary an authority. Under Julius II. the towns retained considerable privileges, and looked on their annexation to the Papal State as a deliverance from their former oppressors. Machiavelli and Guicciardini say that the Popes required neither to defend nor to administer their dominions, and that the people were content in the enjoyment of their autonomy. In the course of the sixteenth century the administration was gradually centralised in Rome, and placed in the hands of ecclesiastics. Before 1550 the governors were ordinarily laymen, but the towns themselves preferred to be governed by prelates. By the close of the century the independence of the corporations had disappeared; but the centralisation, though complete, was not vigorous, and practically the towns and the barons, though not free, were not oppressed.
The modern system of government in the Roman States originated with Sixtus V. He introduced stability and regularity in the administration, and checked the growth of nepotism, favouritism, and arbitrary power, by the creation of permanent congregations. In connection with this measure the prelates became the upper class of official persons in the State, and were always expected to be men of fortune. A great burden for the country was the increase of offices, which were created only to be sold. No important duties and no fixed salary were attached to them, and the incumbent had to rely on fees and extortion. In the year 1470 there were 650 places of this kind. In eighty years they had increased to 3500. The theory was, that the money raised by the sale of places saved the people from the imposition of new taxes. Innocent XII., in 1693, put an end to this traffic; but it had continued so long that the ill-effects survived.
There was a great contrast between the ecclesiastical administration, which exhibited a dignified stability, resting on fixed rules and ancient traditions, and the civil government, which was exposed to continual fluctuation by the change of persons, of measures, and of systems; for few Popes continued the plans of their predecessors. The new Pontiff commenced his reign generally with a profound sense of the abuses and of the discontent which prevailed before his elevation, and naturally sought to obtain favour and improvement by opposite measures. In the cultivation of the Roman Campagna, for instance, it was observed that each Pope followed a different system, so that little was accomplished. The persons were almost always changed by the new Pope, so that great offices rarely remained long in the same hands. The Popes themselves were seldom versed in affairs of State, and therefore required the assistance of statesmen of long experience. In the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, when the election was free from outward influence, men were generally chosen who had held under one or two Popes the highest office of state,—Gregory VII., Urban II., Gelasius II., Lucius II., Alexander III., Gregory VIII., Gregory IX., Alexander IV. But in modern times it has been the rule that the Secretary of State should not be elected, and that the new Pope should dismiss the heads of the administration. Clement IX. was the first who gave up this practice, and retained almost all those who had been employed under his predecessor.
The burdens of the State increased far beyond its resources from the aid which the Popes gave to the Catholic Powers, especially in the Turkish wars. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the debt amounted to 12,242,620 scudi, and the interest absorbed three-fourths of the whole income. In 1655 it had risen to 48,000,000 scudi. The financial administration was secret, free from the control of public accounts, and the Tesoriere, being necessarily a cardinal, was irresponsible. There was no industry in the towns; they remained for the most part small and poor; almost all articles of common use were imported, and the country had little to give in exchange. All the interest of the public debt went to foreign creditors. As early as 1595 the discontent was very great, and so many emigrated, in order to escape the heavy burdens, that Cardinal Sacchetti said, in 1664, that the population was reduced by one-half. In the year 1740 the president De Brosses found the Roman Government the most defective but the mildest in Europe. Becattini, in his panegyrical biography of Pius VI., declares that it was the worst after that of Turkey. There were none of those limitations which in other countries restrained the power of the monarch, no fundamental laws, no coronation oath, no binding decrees of predecessors, no provincial estates, no powerful corporations. But, in reality, this unlimited absolutism was softened by custom, and by great indulgence towards individuals.
When Consalvi adopted the French institutions, he did not understand that an absolute government is intolerable, and must sink under the weight of its responsibility, unless it recognises the restraint of custom and tradition, and of subordinate, but not dependent forces. The unity and uniformity he introduced were destructive. He restored none of the liberties of the towns, and confided the administration to ecclesiastics superficially acquainted with law, and without knowledge of politics or of public economy. In the ecclesiastical States of Germany, the civil and religious departments were separate; and it is as wrong to say that the double position of the head must repeat itself throughout the administration, as to say that a king, because he is the head of the army as well as of the civil government, ought to mix the two spheres throughout the State. It would, in reality, be perfectly possible to separate the political and ecclesiastical authorities.
Leo XII. attempted to satisfy the Zelanti, the adversaries of Consalvi, by restoring the old system. He abolished the provincial Councils, revived the Inquisition, and subjected official honesty and public morality to a strict espionage. Leo saw the error of Consalvi, but mistook the remedy; and his government was the most unpopular that had been seen for a century. Where the laity are excluded from the higher offices, and the clergy enjoy the monopoly of them, that moral power which modern bureaucracy derives from the corporate spirit, and the feelings of honour which it inspires, cannot subsist. One class becomes demoralised by its privileged position, the other by its limited prospects and insufficient pay. Leo tried to control them by the congregazione di vigilanze, which received and examined all charges against official persons; but it was suppressed by his successor.
The famous Memorandum of the Powers, 31st May 1831, recommended the admission of the laity to all secular offices, the restoration of the provincial Councils, and the introduction of elective communal Councils with the power of local government; and finally, a security against the changes incident to an elective sovereignty. The historian Coppi, who was charged to draw up a plan of reform in reply to these demands, relates that the Pope and the majority of the cardinals rejected every serious change, and were resolved to uphold the old principles, and to concede nothing to the lay party, “because, if anything was voluntarily conceded, there would be no right of recalling it afterwards.” Two things in particular it was determined not to grant—elective Councils in the towns and provinces, and a lay Council of State beside the Sacred College. In a general way, vague reforms were promised; but the promise was not redeemed. Austria would not tolerate any liberal concessions in Italy which were in contradiction with her own system and her own interests; thus all Italian aspirations for reforms were concentrated in the wish to get rid of the foreign yoke, and Austria never succeeded in forming a party amongst the Italians favourable to her power. Yet Gregory XVI. knew that great changes were needed. In 1843 he said:—
The civil administration requires a great reform. I was too old when I was elected; I did not expect to live so long, and had not the courage to begin the undertaking. For whoever begins, must accomplish it. I have now only a few more years to live; perhaps only a few days. After me they will choose a young Pope, whose mission it will be to perform the act, without which it is impossible to go on.
The Austrian occupation caused the Roman Government to be identified with the foreign supremacy, and transferred to it the hatred of the patriots. The disaffection of the subjects of the Pope had deeper motives. Except the clergy, that overshadows all, there are no distinct orders in the society of the Roman State; no country nobility, no wealthy class of peasant proprietors; nothing but the population of the towns, and a degenerate class of patricians. These were generally hostile to the ecclesiastical system. The offices are so distributed, that the clergy govern, and the laity are their instruments. In the principal departments, no amount of services or ability could raise a layman above a certain level, beyond which younger and less competent ecclesiastics were promoted over his head. This subordination, which led to a regular dependence of the lay officials on the prelates, drove the best men away from the service of the State, and disposed the rest to long for a government which should throw open to them the higher prizes of their career. Even the country people, who were never tainted with the ideas of the secret societies, were not always well affected.
It is more difficult for a priest than for a layman to put aside his private views and feelings in the administration of justice. He is the servant and herald of grace, of forgiveness, of indulgence, and easily forgets that in human concerns the law is inexorable, that favour to one is often injury to many or to all, and that he has no right to place his own will above the law. He is still more disqualified for the direction of the police, which, in an absolute State and in troubled times, uses its unlimited power without reference to Christian ideas, leaves unpunished acts which are grievous sins, and punishes others which in a religious point of view are innocent. It is hard for the people to distinguish clearly the priestly character from the action of its bearer in the administration of police. The same indifference to the strict letter of the law, the same confusion between breaches of divine and of human ordinances, led to a practice of arbitrary imprisonment, which contrasts painfully with the natural gentleness of a priestly government. Hundreds of persons were cast into prison without a trial or even an examination; only on suspicion, and kept there more than a year for greater security.
The immunities of the clergy were as unpopular as their power. The laws and decrees of the Pope as a temporal sovereign were not held to be binding on them unless it was expressly said, or was clear from the context, that they were given also in his character of Head of the Church. Ecclesiastics were tried before their own tribunals, and had the right to be more lightly punished than laymen for the same delinquency. Those events in the life of Achilli, which came out at his trial, had not only brought down on him no severe punishment, but did not stand in the way of his promotion. With all these privileges, the bulk of the Roman clergy had little to do; little was expected of them, and their instruction was extremely deficient.
At the end of the pontificate of Gregory XVI. the demand for reforms was loud and universal, and men began to perceive that the defects of the civil government were undermining the religious attachment of the people. The conclave which raised Pius IX. to the Papal throne was the shortest that had occurred for near three hundred years. The necessity of choosing a Pontiff disposed to understand and to satisfy the pressing requirements of the time, made it important to hasten matters in order to escape the interference of Austria. It was expected that Cardinal Gizzi or Cardinal Mastai would be elected. The latter had been pointed out by Gregory XVI. as his fittest successor, and he made Gizzi Secretary of State. The first measure of the new reign, the amnesty, which, as Metternich said, threw open the doors of the house to the professional robbers, was taken not so much as an act of policy, as because the Pope was resolved to undo an accumulation of injustice. The reforms which followed soon made Pius the most popular of Italian princes, and all Catholics rejoiced that the reconciliation of the Papacy with modern freedom was at length accomplished, and that the shadow which had fallen on the priesthood throughout the world was removed with the abuses in the Roman Government. The Constitution was, perhaps, an inevitable though a fatal necessity. “The Holy Father must fall,” said his minister, “but at least he will fall with honour.” The preliminary conditions of constitutional life were wanting—habits of self-government in the towns and provinces, security from the vexations of the police, separation of spiritual and temporal jurisdiction. It could not be but that the existence of an elective chamber must give to the lay element a preponderance in the State, whilst in the administration the contrary position was maintained. There could be no peaceful solution of this contradiction, and it is strange that the cardinals, who were unanimously in favour of the statute, should not have seen that it would lead to the destruction of the privileges of the clergy. But in the allocution of 20th April 1849, the Pope declared that he had never intended to alter the character of his government; so that he must have thought the old system of administration by ecclesiastics compatible with the working of the new Constitution. At his return from exile all his advisers were in favour of abrogating all the concessions of the first years of his reign. Balbo and Rosmini visited him at Gaeta, to plead for the Constitution, but they obtained nothing. Pius IX. was persuaded that every concession would be a weapon in the hands of the Radicals. A lay consulta gave to the laity a share of the supreme government; but the chief offices and the last decision remained, as before, in the hands of the prelates. Municipal reforms were promised. In general the old defects continued, and the old discontent was not conciliated.
It is manifest that Constitutionalism, as it is ordinarily understood, is not a system which can be applied to the States of the Church. It could not be tolerated that a warlike faction, by refusing supplies, should compel the Pope to go to war with a Christian nation, as they sought to compel him to declare war against Austria in 1848. His sovereignty must be real, not merely nominal. It makes no difference whether he is in the power of a foreign State or of a parliamentary majority. But real sovereignty is compatible with a participation of the people in legislation, the autonomy of corporations, a moderate freedom of the press, and the separation of religion and police.
Recent events would induce one to suppose that the enormous power of the press and of public opinion, which it forms and reflects, is not understood in Rome. In 1856 the Inquisitor at Ancona issued an edict, threatening with the heaviest censures all who should omit to denounce the religious or ecclesiastical faults of their neighbours, relatives, or superiors; and in defiance of the general indignation, and of the despondency of those who, for the sake of religion, desired reforms in the States of the Church, the Civilta Cattolica declared that the Inquisitor had done his duty. Such cases as this, and those of Achilli and Mortara, weighed more heavily in the scale in which the Roman State is weighed than a lost battle. Without discussing the cases themselves, it is clear what their influence has been on public opinion, with which it is more important at the present day to treat than with the governments which depend on it. This branch of diplomacy has been unfortunately neglected, and hence the Roman Government cannot rely on lay support.
After describing the evils and disorders of the State, which the Pope so deeply felt that he put his own existence in peril, and inflamed half of Europe with the spirit of radical change in the attempt to remove them, Dr. Döllinger contrasts, with the gloomy picture of decay and failure, the character of the Pontiff who attempted the great work of reform.
Nevertheless, the administration of Pius IX. is wise, benevolent, indulgent, thrifty, attentive to useful institutions and improvements. All that proceeds from Pius IX. personally is worthy of a head of the Church—elevated, liberal in the best sense of the term. No sovereign spends less on his court and his own private wants. If all thought and acted as he does, his would be a model State. Both the French and the English envoys affirm that the financial administration had improved, that the value of the land was increasing, agriculture flourishing, and that many symptoms of progress might be observed. Whatever can be expected of a monarch full of affection for his people, and seeking his sole recreation in works of beneficence, Pius richly performs. Pertransiit benefaciendo,—words used of one far greater,—are simply the truth applied to him. In him we can clearly perceive how the Papacy, even as a temporal state, might, so far as the character of the prince is concerned, through judicious elections, be the most admirable of human institutions. A man in the prime of life, after an irreproachable youth and a conscientious discharge of Episcopal duties, is elevated to the highest dignity and to sovereign power. He knows nothing of expensive amusements; he has no other passion but that of doing good, no other ambition but to be beloved by his subjects. His day is divided between prayer and the labours of government; his relaxation is a walk in the garden, a visit to a church, a prison, or a charitable institution. Free from personal desires and from terrestrial bonds, he has no relatives, no favourites to provide for. For him the rights and powers of his office exist only for the sake of its duties. . . . Grievously outraged, injured, rewarded with ingratitude, he has never harboured a thought of revenge, never committed an act of severity, but ever forgiven and ever pardoned. The cup of sweetness and of bitterness, the cup of human favour and of human aversion, he has not only tasted, but emptied to the dregs; he heard them cry “Hosannah!” and soon after “Crucifige!” The man of his confidence, the first intellectual power of his nation, fell beneath the murderer’s knife; the bullet of an insurgent struck down the friend by his side. And yet no feeling of hatred, no breath of anger could ever obscure, even for a moment, the spotless mirror of his soul. Untouched by human folly, unmoved by human malice, he proceeds with a firm and regular step on his way, like the stars of heaven.
Such I have seen the action of this Pope in Rome, such it has been described to me by all, whether near him or afar; and if he now seems to be appointed to pass through all the painful and discouraging experience which can befall a monarch, and to continue to the end the course of a prolonged martyrdom, he resembles in this, as in so many other things, the sixteenth Louis; or rather; to go up higher, he knows that the disciple is not above the Master, and that the pastor of a church, whose Lord and Founder died upon the cross, cannot wonder and cannot refuse that the cross should be laid also upon him (pp. 624-627).
It is a common opinion, that the Pope, as a sovereign, is bound by the common law to the forms and ideas of the Middle Ages; and that in consequence of the progress of society, of the difference between the thirteenth century and the nineteenth, there is an irreconcilable discord between the Papacy and the necessities of civil government. All Catholics are bound to oppose this opinion. Only that which is of Divine institution is unchangeable through all time. But the sovereignty of the Popes is extremely elastic, and has already gone through many forms. No contrast can be stronger than that between the use which the Popes made of their power in the thirteenth or the fifteenth century, and the system of Consalvi. There is no reason, therefore, to doubt, that it will now, after a violent interruption, assume the form best adapted to the character of the age and the requirements of the Italian people. There is nothing chimerical in the vision of a new order of things, in which the election shall fall on men in the prime of their years and their strength; in which the people shall be reconciled to their government by free institutions and a share in the conduct of their own concerns, and the upper classes satisfied by the opening of a suitable career in public affairs. Justice publicly and speedily administered would obtain the confidence of the people; the public service would be sustained by an honourable esprit de corps; the chasm between laity and priesthood would be closed by equality in rights and duties; the police would not rely on the help of religion, and religion would no longer drag itself along on the crutches of the police. The integrity of the Papal States would be under the joint guardianship of the Powers, who have guaranteed even the dominions of the Sultan; and the Pope would have no enemies to fear, and his subjects would be delivered from the burden of military service and of a military budget.
Religious liberty is not, as the enemies of the Holy See declare, and some even of its friends believe, an insurmountable difficulty. Events often cut the knots which appear insoluble to theory. Attempts at proselytising have not hitherto succeeded among the subjects of the Pope; but if it had been otherwise, would it have been possible for the Inquisition to proceed against a Protestant? The agitation that must have ensued would be a welcome opportunity to put an end to what remains of the temporal power. It is true that the advance of Protestantism in Italy would raise up a barrier between the Pope and his subjects; but no such danger is to be apprehended. At the time when the doctrines of the Reformation exercised an almost magical power over mankind, they never took root in Italy beyond a few men of letters; and now that their power of attraction and expansion has long been exhausted, neither Sardinian policy nor English gold will succeed in seducing the Italians to them.
The present position of helpless and humiliating dependence will not long endure. The determination of the Piedmontese Government to annex Rome is not more certain than the determination of the Emperor Napoleon to abrogate the temporal power. Pius IX. would enjoy greater security in Turkey than in the hands of a State which combines the tyranny of the Convention, the impudent sophistry of a government of advocates, and the ruthless brutality of military despotism. Rather than trust to Piedmont, may Pius IX. remember the example of his greatest predecessors, who, relying on the spiritual might of the Papacy, sought beyond the Alps the freedom which Italy denied to them. The Papacy has beheld the rise and the destruction of many thrones, and will assuredly outlive the kingdom of Italy, and other monarchies besides. It can afford to wait; patiens quia æternus. The Romans need the Pope more than the Pope needs Rome. Above the Catacombs, among the Basilicas, beside the Vatican, there is no place for a tribune or for a king. We shall see what was seen in the fourteenth century: envoys will come from Rome to entreat the Pope to return to his faithful city.
Whilst things continue as they are, the emperor can, by threatening to withdraw his troops, compel the Pope to consent to anything not actually sinful. Such a situation is alarming in the highest degree for other countries. But for the absolute confidence that all men have in the fidelity and conscientiousness of the present Pope, and for the providential circumstance that there is no ecclesiastical complication which the French Government could use for its own ends, it would not be tolerated by the rest of the Catholic world. Sooner or later these conditions of security will disappear, and the interest of the Church demands that before that happens, the peril should be averted, even by a catastrophe.
The hostility of the Italians themselves to the Holy See is the tragic symptom of the present malady. In other ages, when it was assailed, the Italians were on its side, or at least were neutral. Now they require the destruction of the temporal power, either as a necessary sacrifice for the unity and greatness of their country, or as a just consequence of incurable defects. The time will come, however, when they will be reconciled with the Papacy, and with its presence as a Power among them. It was the dependence of the Pope on the Austrian arms, and his identification in popular opinion with the cause of the detested foreigner, that obscured his lofty position as the moral bulwark and protector of the nation. For 1500 years the Holy See was the pivot of Italian history, and the source of the Italian influence in Europe. The nation and the See shared the same fortunes, and grew powerful or feeble together. It was not until the vices of Alexander VI. and his predecessors had destroyed the reverence which was the protection of Italy, that she became the prey of the invaders. None of the great Italian historians has failed to see that they would ruin themselves in raising their hands against Rome. The old prophecy of the Papa Angelico, of an Angel Pope, who was to rise up to put an end to discord and disorder, and to restore piety and peace and happiness in Italy, was but the significant token of the popular belief that the Papacy and the nation were bound up together, and that one was the guardian of the other. That belief slumbers, now that the idea of unity prevails, whilst the Italians are attempting to put the roof on a building without walls and without foundations, but it will revive again, when centralisation is compelled to yield to federalism, and the road to the practicable has been found in the search after impossibilities.
The tyrannical character of the Piedmontese Government, its contempt for the sanctity of public law, the principles on which it treats the clergy at home, and the manner in which it has trampled on the rights of the Pope and the interests of religion, the perfidy and despotism it exhibits, render it impossible that any securities it may offer to the Pope can possess a real value. Moreover, in the unsettled state of the kingdom, the uncertain succession of parties, and the fluctuation of power, whatever guarantee is proposed by the ministry, there is nobody to guarantee the guarantor. It is a system without liberty and without stability; and the Pope can never be reconciled to it, or become a dweller in the new Italian kingdom.
If he must choose between the position of a subject and of an exile, he is at home in the whole Catholic world, and wherever he goes he will be surrounded by children who will greet him as their father. It may become an inevitable, but it must always be a heroic resolution. The court and the various congregations for the administration of the affairs of the Church are too numerous to be easily moved. In former times the machinery was more simple, and the whole body of the pontifical government could be lodged in a single French monastery. The absence of the Pope from Rome will involve great difficulties and annoyance; but it is a lesser evil than a surrender of principle, which cannot be recalled.
To remove the Holy See to France would, under present circumstances, be an open challenge to a schism, and would afford to all who wish to curtail the papal rights, or to interrupt the communication between the Pope and the several churches, the most welcome pretexts, and it would put arms in the hands of governments that wish to impede the action of his authority within their States.
The conclusion of the book is as follows:—
If the Court of Rome should reside for a time in Germany, the Roman prelates will doubtless be agreeably surprised to discover that our people is able to remain Catholic and religious without the leading-strings of a police, and that its religious sentiments are a better protection to the Church than the episcopal carceri, which, thank God, do not exist. They will learn that the Church in Germany is able to maintain herself without the Holy Office; that our bishops, although, or because, they use no physical compulsion, are reverenced like princes by the people, that they are received with triumphal arches, that their arrival in a place is a festival for the inhabitants. They will see how the Church with us rests on the broad, strong, and healthy basis of a well-organised system of pastoral administration and of popular religious instruction. They will perceive that we Catholics have maintained for years the struggle for the deliverance of the Church from the bonds of bureaucracy straightforwardly and without reservation; that we cannot entertain the idea of denying to the Italians what we have claimed for ourselves; and that therefore we are far from thinking that it is anywhere an advantage to fortify the Church with the authority of the police and with the power of the secular arm. Throughout Germany we have been taught by experience the truth of Fénelon’s saying, that the spiritual power must be carefully kept separate from the civil, because their union is pernicious. They will find, further, that the whole of the German clergy is prepared to bless the day when it shall learn that the free sovereignty of the Pope is assured, without sentence of death being still pronounced by ecclesiastics, without priests continuing to discharge the functions of treasury-clerks or police directors, or to conduct the business of the lottery. And, finally, they will convince themselves that all the Catholics of Germany will stand up as one man for the independence of the Holy See, and the legitimate rights of the Pope; but that they are no admirers of a form of government of very recent date, which is, in fact, nothing else than the product of the mechanical polity of Napoleon combined with a clerical administration. And this information will bear good fruit when the hour shall strike for the return, and restitution shall be made. . . .
Meanwhile Pius IX. and the men of his Council will “think upon the days of old, and have in their minds the eternal years.” They will read the future in the earlier history of the Papacy, which has already seen many an exile and many a restoration. The example of the resolute, courageous Popes of the Middle Ages will light the way. It is no question now of suffering martyrdom, of clinging to the tombs of the Apostles, or of descending into the catacombs; but of quitting the land of bondage, in order to exclaim on a free soil, “Our bonds are broken, and we are free!” For the rest God will provide, and the unceasing gifts and sympathies of the Catholic world. And the parties in Italy, when they have torn and exhausted the land which has become a battle-field; when the sobered and saddened people, tired of the rule of lawyers and of soldiers, has understood the worth of a moral and spiritual authority, then will be the time to think of returning to the Eternal City. In the interval, the things will have disappeared for whose preservation such pains are taken; and then there will be better reason than Consalvi had, in the preface to the Motu Proprio of 6th July 1816, to say: “Divine Providence, which so conducts human affairs that out of the greatest calamity innumerable benefits proceed, seems to have intended that the interruption of the papal government should prepare the way for a more perfect form of it.”
We have written at a length for which we must apologise to our readers; and yet this is but a meagre sketch of the contents of a book which deals with a very large proportion of the subjects that occupy the thoughts and move the feelings of religious men. We will attempt to sum up in a few words the leading ideas of the author. Addressing a mixed audience, he undertakes to controvert two different interpretations of the events which are being fulfilled in Rome. To the Protestants, who triumph in the expected downfall of the Papacy, he shows the consequences of being without it. To the Catholics, who see in the Roman question a great peril to the Church, he explains how the possession of the temporal sovereignty had become a greater misfortune than its loss for a time would be. From the opposite aspects of the religious camps of our age he endeavours to awaken the misgivings of one party, and to strengthen the confidence of the other. There is an inconsistency between the Protestant system and the progress of modern learning; there is none between the authority of the Holy See and the progress of modern society. The events which are tending to deprive the Pope of his territory are not to be, therefore, deplored, if we consider the preceding causes, because they made this catastrophe inevitable; still less if, looking to the future, we consider the state of Protestantism, because they remove an obstacle to union which is humanly almost insurmountable. In a former work Döllinger exhibited the moral and intellectual exhaustion of Paganism as the prelude to Christianity. In like manner he now confronts the dissolution and spiritual decay of Protestantism with the Papacy. But in order to complete the contrast, and give force to the vindication, it was requisite that the true function and character of the Holy See should not be concealed from the unpractised vision of strangers by the mask of that system of government which has grown up around it in modern times. The importance of this violent disruption of the two authorities consists in the state of religion throughout the world. Its cause lies in the deficiences of the temporal power; its end in the mission of the spiritual.
The interruption of the temporal sovereignty is the only way we can discern in which these deficiences can be remedied and these ends obtained. But this interruption cannot be prolonged. In an age in which the State throughout the Continent is absolute, and tolerates no immunities; when corporations have therefore less freedom than individuals, and the disposition to restrict their action increases in proportion to their power, the Pope cannot be independent as a subject. He must, therefore, be a sovereign, the free ruler of an actual territory, protected by international law and a European guarantee. The restoration consequently is necessary, though not as an immediate consequence of the revolution. In this revolutionary age the protection of the Catholic Powers is required against outward attack. They must also be our security that no disaffection is provoked within; that there shall be no recurrence of the dilemma between the right of insurrection against an arbitrary government and the duty of obedience to the Pope; and that civil society shall not again be convulsed, nor the pillars of law and order throughout Europe shaken, by a revolution against the Church, of which, in the present instance, the conservative powers share the blame, and have already felt the consequences.
In the earnest and impressive language of the conclusion, in which Döllinger conveys the warnings which all Transalpine Catholicism owes to its Head as an Italian sovereign, it seems to us that something more definite is intended than the expression of the wish, which almost every Catholic feels, to receive the Pope in his own country. The anxiety for his freedom which would be felt if he took refuge in France, would be almost equally justified by his presence in Austria. A residence in an exclusively Catholic country, such as Spain, would be contrary to the whole spirit of this book, and to the moral which it inculcates, that the great significance of the crisis is in the state of German Protestantism. If the position of the Catholics in Germany would supply useful lessons and examples to the Roman court, it is also from the vicinity of the Protestant world that the full benefit can best be drawn from its trials, and that the crimes of the Italians, which have begun as calamities, may be turned to the advantage of the Church. But against such counsels there is a powerful influence at work. Napoleon has declared his determination to sweep away the temporal power. The continuance of the occupation of Rome, and his express prohibition to the Piedmontese government to proceed with the annexation during the life of the present Pope, signify that he calculates on greater advantages in a conclave than from the patient resolution of Pius IX. This policy is supported by the events in Italy in a formidable manner. The more the Piedmontese appear as enemies and persecutors, the more the emperor will appear as the only saviour; and the dread of a prolonged exile in any Catholic country, and of dependence for subsistence on the contributions of the faithful, must exhibit in a fascinating light the enjoyment of the splendid hospitality and powerful protection of France. On these hopes and fears, and on the difficulties which are pressing on the cardinals from the loss of their revenues, the emperor speculates, and persuades himself that he will be master of the next election. On the immovable constancy of her Supreme Pontiff the Catholic Church unconditionally relies; and we are justified in believing that, in an almost unparalleled emergency, he will not tremble before a resolution of which no Pope has given an example since the consolidation of the temporal power.
[1 ]The Rambler, November 1861.
[2 ]Kirche und Kirchen, Munich, 1861 (“Papstum und Kirchenstaat”).
[1 ]So late as 1791 Pius VI. wrote: “Discrimen intercedit inter homines, qui extra gremium Ecclesiae semper fuerunt, quales sunt Infideles atque Judaei, atque inter illos qui se Ecclesiae ipsi per susceptum baptismi sacramentum subjecerunt. Primi enim constringi ad catholicam obedientiam non debent, contra vero alteri sunt cogendi.” If this theory had, like that of the Protestants, been put in practice by the Government, it would have furnished the Protestants with an argument precisely similar to that by which the Catholics justified the severity they exercised towards them.
[1 ]The works contained in Clark’s library of translations are chiefly of this school.