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XIV: THE VATICAN COUNCIL - 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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THE VATICAN COUNCIL1
The intention of Pius IX. to convene a General Council became known in the autumn of 1864, shortly before the appearance of the Syllabus. They were the two principal measures which were designed to restore the spiritual and temporal power of the Holy See. When the idea of the Council was first put forward it met with no favour. The French bishops discouraged it; and the French bishops holding the talisman of the occupying army, spoke with authority. Later on, when the position had been altered by the impulse which the Syllabus gave to the ultramontane opinions, they revived the scheme they had first opposed. Those who felt their influence injured by the change persuaded themselves that the Court of Rome was more prudent than some of its partisans, and that the Episcopate was less given to extremes than the priesthood and laity. They conceived the hope that an assembly of bishops would curb the intemperance of a zeal which was largely directed against their own order, and would authentically sanction such an exposition of Catholic ideas as would reconcile the animosity that feeds on things spoken in the heat of controversy, and on the errors of incompetent apologists. They had accepted the Syllabus; but they wished to obtain canonicity for their own interpretation of it. If those who had succeeded in assigning an acceptable meaning to its censures could appear in a body to plead their cause before the Pope, the pretensions which compromised the Church might be permanently repressed.
Once, during the struggle for the temporal power, the question was pertinently asked, how it was that men so perspicacious and so enlightened as those who were its most conspicuous champions, could bring themselves to justify a system of government which their own principles condemned. The explanation then given was, that they were making a sacrifice which would be compensated hereafter, that those who succoured the Pope in his utmost need were establishing a claim which would make them irresistible in better times, when they should demand great acts of conciliation and reform. It appeared to these men that the time had come to reap the harvest they had arduously sown.
The Council did not originate in the desire to exalt beyond measure the cause of Rome. It was proposed in the interest of moderation; and the Bishop of Orleans was one of those who took the lead in promoting it. The Cardinals were consulted, and pronounced against it. The Pope overruled their resistance. Whatever embarrassments might be in store, and however difficult the enterprise, it was clear that it would evoke a force capable of accomplishing infinite good for religion. It was an instrument of unknown power that inspired little confidence, but awakened vague hopes of relief for the ills of society and the divisions of Christendom. The guardians of immovable traditions, and the leaders of progress in religious knowledge, were not to share in the work. The schism of the East was widened by the angry quarrel between Russia and the Pope; and the letter to the Protestants, whose orders are not recognised at Rome, could not be more than a ceremonious challenge. There was no promise of sympathy in these invitations or in the answers they provoked; but the belief spread to many schools of thought, and was held by Dr. Pusey and by Dean Stanley, by Professor Hase and by M. Guizot, that the auspicious issue of the Council was an object of vital care to all denominations of Christian men.
The Council of Trent impressed on the Church the stamp of an intolerant age, and perpetuated by its decrees the spirit of an austere immorality. The ideas embodied in the Roman Inquisition became characteristic of a system which obeyed expediency by submitting to indefinite modification, but underwent no change of principle. Three centuries have so changed the world that the maxims with which the Church resisted the Reformation have become her weakness and her reproach, and that which arrested her decline now arrests her progress. To break effectually with that tradition and eradicate its influence, nothing less is required than an authority equal to that by which it was imposed. The Vatican Council was the first sufficient occasion which Catholicism had enjoyed to reform, remodel, and adapt the work of Trent. This idea was present among the motives which caused it to be summoned. It was apparent that two systems which cannot be reconciled were about to contend at the Council; but the extent and force of the reforming spirit were unknown.
Seventeen questions submitted by the Holy See to the bishops in 1867 concerned matters of discipline, the regulation of marriage and education, the policy of encouraging new monastic orders, and the means of making the parochial clergy more dependent on the bishops. They gave no indication of the deeper motives of the time. In the midst of many trivial proposals, the leading objects of reform grew more defined as the time approached, and men became conscious of distinct purposes based on a consistent notion of the Church. They received systematic expression from a Bohemian priest, whose work, The Reform of the Church in its Head and Members, is founded on practical experience, not only on literary theory, and is the most important manifesto of these ideas. The author exhorts the Council to restrict centralisation, to reduce the office of the Holy See to the ancient limits of its primacy, to restore to the Episcopate the prerogatives which have been confiscated by Rome, to abolish the temporal government, which is the prop of hierarchical despotism, to revise the matrimonial discipline, to suppress many religious orders and the solemn vows for all, to modify the absolute rule of celibacy for the clergy, to admit the use of the vernacular in the Liturgy, to allow a larger share to the laity in the management of ecclesiastical affairs, to encourage the education of the clergy at universities, and to renounce the claims of mediæval theocracy, which are fruitful of suspicion between Church and State.
Many Catholics in many countries concurred in great part of this programme; but it was not the symbol of a connected party. Few agreed with the author in all parts of his ideal church, or did not think that he had omitted essential points. Among the inveterate abuses which the Council of Trent failed to extirpate was the very one which gave the first impulse to Lutheranism. The belief is still retained in the superficial Catholicism of Southern Europe that the Pope can release the dead from Purgatory; and money is obtained at Rome on the assurance that every mass said at a particular altar opens heaven to the soul for which it is offered up. On the other hand, the Index of prohibited books is an institution of Tridentine origin, which has become so unwieldy and opprobrious that even men of strong Roman sympathies, like the bishops of Würzburg and St. Pölten, recommended its reform. In France it was thought that the Government would surrender the organic articles, if the rights of the bishops and the clergy were made secure under the canon law, if national and diocesan synods were introduced, and if a proportionate share was given to Catholic countries in the Sacred College and the Roman congregations. The aspiration in which all the advocates of reform seemed to unite was that those customs should be changed which are connected with arbitrary power in the Church. And all the interests threatened by this movement combined in the endeavour to maintain intact the papal prerogative. To proclaim the Pope infallible was their compendious security against hostile States and Churches, against human liberty and authority, against disintegrating tolerance and rationalising science, against error and sin. It became the common refuge of those who shunned what was called the liberal influence in Catholicism.
Pius IX. constantly asserted that the desire of obtaining the recognition of papal infallibility was not originally his motive in convoking the Council. He did not require that a privilege which was practically undisputed should be further defined. The bishops, especially those of the minority, were never tired of saying that the Catholic world honoured and obeyed the Pope as it had never done before. Virtually he had exerted all the authority which the dogma could confer on him. In his first important utterance, the Encyclical of November 1846, he announced that he was infallible; and the claim raised no commotion. Later on he applied a more decisive test, and gained a more complete success, when the bishops summoned to Rome, not as a Council but as an audience, received from him an additional article of their faith. But apart from the dogma of infallibility he had a strong desire to establish certain cherished opinions of his own on a basis firm enough to outlast his time. They were collected in the Syllabus, which contained the essence of what he had written during many years, and was an abridgment of the lessons which his life had taught him. He was anxious that they should not be lost. They were part of a coherent system. The Syllabus was not rejected; but its edge was blunted and its point broken by the zeal which was spent in explaining it away; and the Pope feared that it would be contested if he repudiated the soothing interpretations. In private he said that he wished to have no interpreter but himself. While the Jesuit preachers proclaimed that the Syllabus bore the full sanction of infallibility, higher functionaries of the Court pointed out that it was an informal document, without definite official value. Probably the Pope would have been content that these his favourite ideas should be rescued from evasion by being incorporated in the canons of the Council. Papal infallibility was implied rather than included among them. Whilst the authority of his acts was not resisted, he was not eager to disparage his right by exposing the need of a more exact definition. The opinions which Pius IX. was anxiously promoting were not the mere fruit of his private meditations; they belonged to the doctrines of a great party, which was busily pursuing its own objects, and had not been always the party of the Pope. In the days of his trouble he had employed an advocate; and the advocate had absorbed the client. During his exile a Jesuit had asked his approbation for a Review, to be conducted by the best talents of the Order, and to be devoted to the papal cause; and he had warmly embraced the idea, less, it should seem, as a prince than as a divine. There were his sovereign rights to maintain; but there was also a doctrinaire interest, there were reminiscences of study as well as practical objects that recommended the project. In these personal views the Pope was not quite consistent. He had made himself the idol of Italian patriots, and of the liberal French Catholics; he had set Theiner to vindicate the suppresser of the Jesuits; and Rosmini, the most enlightened priest in Italy, had been his trusted friend. After his restoration he submitted to other influences; and the writers of the Civiltà Cattolica, which followed him to Rome and became his acknowledged organ, acquired power over his mind. These men were not identified with their Order. Their General, Roothan, had disliked the plan of the Review, foreseeing that the Society would be held responsible for writings which it did not approve, and would forfeit the flexibility in adapting itself to the moods of different countries, which is one of the secrets of its prosperity. The Pope arranged the matter by taking the writers under his own protection, and giving to them a sort of exemption and partial immunity under the rule of their Order. They are set apart from other Jesuits; they are assisted and supplied from the literary resources of the Order, and are animated more than any of its other writers by its genuine and characteristic spirit; but they act on their own judgment under the guidance of the Pope, and are a bodyguard, told off from the army, for the personal protection of the Sovereign. It is their easy function to fuse into one system the interests and ideas of the Pope and those of their Society. The result has been, not to weaken by compromise and accommodation, but to intensify both. The prudence and sagacity which are sustained in the government of the Jesuits by their complicated checks on power, and their consideration for the interests of the Order under many various conditions, do not always restrain men who are partially emancipated from its rigorous discipline and subject to a more capricious rule. They were chosen in their capacity as Jesuits, for the sake of the peculiar spirit which their system develops. The Pope appointed them on account of that devotion to himself which is a quality of the Order, and relieved them from some of the restraints which it imposes. He wished for something more papal than other Jesuits; and he himself became more subject to the Jesuits than other pontiffs. He made them a channel of his influence, and became an instrument of their own.
The Jesuits had continued to gain ground in Rome ever since the Pope’s return. They had suffered more than others in the revolution that dethroned him; and they had their reward in the restoration. They had long been held in check by the Dominicans; but the theology of the Dominicans had been discountenanced and their spirit broken in 1854, when a doctrine which they had contested for centuries was proclaimed a dogma of faith. In the strife for the Pope’s temporal dominion the Jesuits were most zealous; and they were busy in the preparation and in the defence of the Syllabus. They were connected with every measure for which the Pope most cared; and their divines became the oracles of the Roman congregations. The papal infallibility had been always their favourite doctrine. Its adoption by the Council promised to give to their theology official warrant, and to their Order the supremacy in the Church. They were now in power; and they snatched their opportunity when the Council was convoked.
Efforts to establish this doctrine had been going on for years. The dogmatic decree of 1854 involved it so distinctly that its formal recognition seemed to be only a question of time and zeal. People even said that it was the real object of that decree to create a precedent which should make it impossible afterwards to deny papal infallibility. The Catechisms were altered, or new ones were substituted, in which it was taught. After 1852 the doctrine began to show itself in the Acts of provincial synods, and it was afterwards supposed that the bishops of those provinces were committed to it. One of these synods was held at Cologne; and three surviving members were in the Council at Rome, of whom two were in the minority, and the third had continued in his writings to oppose the doctrine of infallibility, after it had found its way into the Cologne decree. The suspicion that the Acts had been tampered with is suggested by what passed at the synod of Baltimore in 1866. The Archbishop of St. Louis signed the Acts of that synod under protest, and after obtaining a pledge that his protest would be inserted by the apostolic delegate. The pledge was not kept. “I complain,” writes the archbishop, “that the promise which had been given was broken. The Acts ought to have been published in their integrity, or not at all.”1 This process was carried on so boldly that men understood what was to come. Protestants foretold that the Catholics would not rest until the Pope was formally declared infallible; and a prelate returning from the meeting of bishops at Rome in 1862 was startled at being asked by a clear-sighted friend whether infallibility had not been brought forward.
It was produced not then, but at the next great meeting, in 1867. The Council had been announced; and the bishops wished to present an address to the Pope. Haynald, Archbishop of Colocza, held the pen, assisted by Franchi, one of the clever Roman prelates and by some bishops, among whom were the Archbishop of Westminster and the Bishop of Orleans. An attempt was made to get the papal infallibility acknowledged in the address. Several bishops declared that they could not show themselves in their dioceses if they came back without having done anything for that doctrine. They were resisted in a way which made them complain that its very name irritated the French. Haynald refused their demand, but agreed to insert the well-known words of the Council of Florence; and the bishops did not go away empty-handed.
A few days before this attempt was made, the Civiltà Cattolica had begun to agitate, by proposing that Catholics should bind themselves to die, if need be, for the truth of the doctrine; and the article was printed on a separate sheet, bearing the papal imprimatur, and distributed widely. The check administered by Haynald and his colleagues brought about a lull in the movement; but the French bishops had taken alarm, and Maret, the most learned of them, set about the preparation of his book.
During the winter of 1868–69 several commissions were created in Rome to make ready the materials for the Council. The dogmatic commission included the Jesuits Perrone, Schrader, and Franzelin. The question of infallibility was proposed to it by Cardoni, Archbishop of Edessa, in a dissertation which, having been revised, was afterwards published, and accepted by the leading Roman divines as an adequate exposition of their case. The dogma was approved unanimously, with the exception of one vote, Alzog of Freiberg being the only dissentient. When the other German divines who were in Rome learned the scheme that was on foot in the Dogmatic Commission, they resolved to protest, but were prevented by some of their colleagues. They gave the alarm in Germany. The intention to proclaim infallibility at the Council was no longer a secret. The first bishop who made the wish public was Fessler of St. Pölten. His language was guarded, and he only prepared his readers for a probable contingency; but he was soon followed by the Bishop of Nîmes, who thought the discussion of the dogma superfluous, and foreshadowed a vote by acclamation. The Civiltà on the 6th of February gave utterance to the hope that the Council would not hesitate to proclaim the dogma and confirm the Syllabus in less than a month. Five days later the Pope wrote to some Venetians who had taken a vow to uphold his infallibility, encouraging their noble resolution to defend his supreme authority and all his rights. Until the month of May Cardinal Antonelli’s confidential language to diplomatists was that the dogma was to be proclaimed, and that it would encounter no difficulty.
Cardinal Reisach was to have been the President of the Council. As Archbishop of Munich he had allowed himself and his diocese to be governed by the ablest of all the ultramontane divines. During his long residence in Rome he rose to high estimation, because he was reputed to possess the secret, and to have discovered the vanity, of German science. He had amused himself with Christian antiquities; and his friendship for the great explorer De’ Rossi brought him for a time under suspicion of liberality. But later he became unrelenting in his ardour for the objects of the Civiltà, and regained the confidence of the Pope. The German bishops complained that he betrayed their interests, and that their church had suffered mischief from his paramount influence. But in Rome his easy temper and affable manners made him friends; and the Court knew that there was no cardinal on whom it was so safe to rely.
Fessler, the first bishop who gave the signal of the intended definition, was appointed Secretary. He was esteemed a learned man in Austria, and he was wisely chosen to dispel the suspicion that the conduct of the Council was to be jealously retained in Roman hands, and to prove that there are qualities by which the confidence of the Court could be won by men of a less favoured nation. Besides the President and Secretary, the most conspicuous of the Pope’s theological advisers was a German. At the time when Passaglia’s reputation was great in Rome, his companion Clement Schrader shared the fame of his solid erudition. When Passaglia fell into disgrace, his friend smote him with reproaches and intimated the belief that he would follow the footsteps of Luther and debauch a nun. Schrader is the most candid and consistent asserter of the papal claims. He does not shrink from the consequences of the persecuting theory; and he has given the most authentic and unvarnished exposition of the Syllabus. He was the first who spoke out openly what others were variously attempting to compromise or to conceal. While the Paris Jesuits got into trouble for extenuating the Roman doctrine, and had to be kept up to the mark by an abbé who reminded them that the Pope, as a physical person, and without co-operation of the Episcopate, is infallible, Schrader proclaimed that his will is supreme even against the joint and several opinions of the bishops.1
When the proceedings of the dogmatic commission, the acts of the Pope, and the language of French and Austrian bishops, and of the press serving the interests of Rome, announced that the proclamation of infallibility had ceased to be merely the aspiration of a party and was the object of a design deliberately set on foot by those to whom the preparation and management of the Council pertained, men became aware that an extraordinary crisis was impending, and that they needed to make themselves familar with an unforeseen problem. The sense of its gravity made slow progress. The persuasion was strong among divines that the episcopate would not surrender to a party which was odious to many of them; and politicians were reluctant to believe that schemes were ripening such as Fessler described, schemes intended to alter the relations between Church and State. When the entire plan was made public by the Allgemeine Zeitung in March 1869, many refused to be convinced.
It happened that a statesman was in office who had occasion to know that the information was accurate. The Prime Minister of Bavaria, Prince Hohenlohe, was the brother of a cardinal; the University of Munich was represented on the Roman commissions by an illustrious scholar; and the news of the thing that was preparing came through trustworthy channels. On the 9th of April Prince Hohenlohe sent out a diplomatic circular on the subject of the Council. He pointed out that it was not called into existence by any purely theological emergency, and that the one dogma which was to be brought before it involved all those claims which cause collisions between Church and State, and threaten the liberty and the security of governments. Of the five Roman Commissions, one was appointed for the express purpose of dealing with the mixed topics common to religion and to politics. Besides infallibility and politics, the Council was to be occupied with the Syllabus, which is in part directed against maxims of State. The avowed purpose of the Council being so largely political, the governments could not remain indifferent to its action; lest they should be driven afterwards to adopt measures which would be hostile, it would be better at once to seek an understanding by friendly means and to obtain assurance that all irritating deliberations should be avoided, and no business touching the State transacted except in presence of its representatives. He proposed that the governments should hold a conference to arrange a plan for the protection of their common interest.
Important measures proposed by small States are subject to suspicion of being prompted by a greater Power. Prince Hohenlohe, as a friend of the Prussian alliance, was supposed to be acting in this matter in concert with Berlin. This good understanding was suspected at Vienna; for the Austrian Chancellor was more conspicuous as an enemy of Prussia than Hohenlohe as a friend. Count Beust traced the influence of Count Bismarck in the Bavarian circular. He replied, on behalf of the Catholic empire of Austria, that there were no grounds to impute political objects to the Council, and that repression and not prevention was the only policy compatible with free institutions. After the refusal of Austria, the idea of a conference was dismissed by the other Powers; and the first of the storm clouds that darkened the horizon of infallibilty passed without breaking.
Although united action was abandoned, the idea of sending ambassadors to the Council still offered the most inoffensive and amicable means of preventing the danger of subsequent conflict. Its policy or impolicy was a question to be decided by France. Several bishops, and Cardinal Bonnechose among the rest, urged the Government to resume its ancient privilege, and send a representative. But two powerful parties, united in nothing else, agreed in demanding absolute neutrality. The democracy wished that no impediment should be put in the way of an enterprise which promised to sever the connection of the State with the Church. M. Ollivier set forth this opinion in July 1868, in a speech which was to serve him in his candidature for office; and in the autumn of 1869 it was certain that he would soon be in power. The ministers could not insist on being admitted to the Council, where they were not invited, without making a violent demonstration in a direction they knew would not be followed. The ultramontanes were even more eager than their enemies to exclude an influence that might embarrass their policy. The Archbishop of Paris, by giving the same advice, settled the question. He probably reckoned on his own power of mediating between France and Rome. The French Court long imagined that the dogma would be set aside, and that the mass of the French bishops opposed it. At last they preceived that they were mistaken, and the Emperor said to Cardinal Bonnechose, “You are going to give your signature to decrees already made.” He ascertained the names of the bishops who would resist; and it was known that he was anxious for their success. But he was resolved that it should be gained by them, and not by the pressure of his diplomacy at the cost of displeasing the Pope. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and his chief secretary were counted by the Court of Rome among its friends; and the ordinary ambassador started for his post with instructions to conciliate, and to run no risk of a quarrel. He arrived at Rome believing that there would be a speculative conflict between the extremes of Roman and German theology, which would admit of being reconciled by the safer and more sober wisdom of the French bishops, backed by an impartial embassy. His credulity was an encumbrance to the cause which it was his mission and his wish to serve.
In Germany the plan of penetrating the Council with lay influence took a strange form. It was proposed that the German Catholics should be represented by King John of Saxony. As a Catholic and a scholar, who had shown, in his Commentary on Dante, that he had read St. Thomas, and as a prince personally esteemed by the Pope, it was conceived that his presence would be a salutary restraint. It was an impracticable idea; but letters which reached Rome during the winter raised an impression that the King regretted that he could not be there. The opinion of Germany would still have some weight if the North and South, which included more than thirteen millions of Catholics, worked together. It was the policy of Hohenlohe to use this united force, and the ultramontanes learned to regard him as a very formidable antagonist. When their first great triumph, in the election of the Commission on Doctrine, was accomplished, the commentary of a Roman prelate was, “Che colpo per il Principe Hohenlohe!” The Bavarian envoy in Rome did not share the views of his chief, and he was recalled in November. His successor had capacity to carry out the known policy of the prince; but early in the winter the ultramontanes drove Hohenlohe from office, and their victory, though it was exercised with moderation, and was not followed by a total change of policy, neutralised the influence of Bavaria in the Council.
The fall of Hohenlohe and the abstention of France hampered the Federal Government of Northern Germany. For its Catholic subjects, and ultimately in view of the rivalry with France, to retain the friendship of the papacy is a fixed maxim at Berlin. Count Bismarck laid down the rule that Prussia should display no definite purpose in a cause which was not her own, but should studiously keep abreast of the North German bishops. Those bishops neither invoked, nor by their conduct invited, the co-operation of the State; and its influence would have been banished from the Council but for the minister who represented it in Rome. The vicissitudes of a General Council are so far removed from the normal experience of statesmen that they could not well be studied or acted upon from a distance. A government that strictly controlled and dictated the conduct of its envoy was sure to go wrong, and to frustrate action by theory. A government that trusted the advice of its minister present on the spot enjoyed a great advantage. Baron Arnim was favourably situated. A Catholic belonging to any but the ultramontane school would have been less willingly listened to in Rome than a Protestant who was a conservative in politics, and whose regard for the interests of religion was so undamaged by the sectarian taint that he was known to be sincere in the wish that Catholics should have cause to rejoice in the prosperity of their Church. The apathy of Austria and the vacillation of France contributed to his influence, for he enjoyed the confidence of bishops from both countries; and he was able to guide his own government in its course towards the Council.
The English Government was content to learn more and to speak less than the other Powers at Rome. The usual distrust of the Roman Court towards a liberal ministry in England was increased at the moment by the measure which the Catholics had desired and applauded. It seemed improbable to men more solicitous for acquired rights than for general political principle, that Protestant statesmen who disestablished their own Church could feel a very sincere interest in the welfare of another. Ministers so utopian as to give up solid goods for an imaginary righteousness seemed, as practical advisers, open to grave suspicion. Mr. Gladstone was feared as the apostle of those doctrines to which Rome owes many losses. Public opinion in England was not prepared to look on papal infallibility as a matter of national concern, more than other dogmas which make enemies to Catholicism. Even if the Government could have admitted the Prussian maxim of keeping in line with the bishops, it would have accomplished nothing. The English bishops were divided; but the Irish bishops, who are the natural foes of the Fenian plot, were by an immense majority on the ultramontane side. There was almost an ostentation of care on the part of the Government to avoid the appearance of wishing to influence the bishops or the Court of Rome. When at length England publicly concurred in the remonstrances of France, events had happened which showed that the Council was raising up dangers for both Catholic and liberal interests. It was a result so easy to foresee, that the Government had made it clear from the beginning that its extreme reserve was not due to indifference.
The lesser Catholic Powers were almost unrepresented in Rome. The government of the Regent of Spain possessed no moral authority over bishops appointed by the Queen; and the revolution had proved so hostile to the clergy that they were forced to depend on the Pope. Diplomatic relations being interrupted, there was nothing to restrain them from seeking favour by unqualified obedience.
Portugal had appointed the Count de Lavradio ambassador to the Council; but when he found that he was alone he retained only the character of envoy to the Holy See. He had weight with the small group of Portuguese bishops; but he died before he could be of use, and they drifted into submission.
Belgium was governed by M. Frère Orban, one of the most anxious and laborious enemies of the hierarchy, who had no inducement to interfere with an event which justified his enmity, and was, moreover, the unanimous wish of the Belgian Episcopate. When Protestant and Catholic Powers joined in exhorting Rome to moderation, Belgium was left out. Russia was the only Power that treated the Church with actual hostility during the Council, and calculated the advantage to be derived from decrees which would intensify the schism.
Italy was more deeply interested in the events at Rome than any other nation. The hostility of the clergy was felt both in the political and financial difficulties of the kingdom; and the prospect of conciliation would suffer equally from decrees confirming the Roman claims, or from an invidious interposition of the State. Public opinion watched the preparations for the Council with frivolous disdain; but the course to be taken was carefully considered by the Menabrea Cabinet. The laws still subsisted which enabled the State to interfere in religious affairs; and the government was legally entitled to prohibit the attendance of the bishops at the Council, or to recall them from it. The confiscated church property was retained by the State, and the claims of the episcopate were not yet settled. More than one hundred votes on which Rome counted belonged to Italian subjects. The means of applying administrative pressure were therefore great, though diplomatic action was impossible. The Piedmontese wished that the resources of their ecclesiastical jurisprudence should be set in motion. But Minghetti, who had lately joined the Ministry, warmly advocated the opinion that the supreme principle of the liberty of the Church ought to override the remains of the older legislation, in a State consistently free; and, with the disposition of the Italians to confound Catholicism with the hierarchy, the policy of abstention was a triumph of liberality. The idea of Prince Hohenlohe, that religion ought to be maintained in its integrity and not only in its independence, that society is interested in protecting the Church even against herself, and that the enemies of her liberty are ecclesiastical as well as political, could find no favour in Italy. During the session of 1869, Menabrea gave no pledge to Parliament as to the Council; and the bishops who inquired whether they would be allowed to attend it were left unanswered until October. Menabrea then explained in a circular that the right of the bishops to go to the Council proceeded from the liberty of conscience, and was not conceded under the old privileges of the crown, or as a favour that could imply responsibility for what was to be done. If the Church was molested in her freedom, excuse would be given for resisting the incorporation of Rome. If the Council came to decisions injurious to the safety of States, it would be attributed to the unnatural conditions created by the French occupation, and might be left to the enlightened judgment of Catholics.
It was proposed that the fund realised by the sale of the real property of the religious corporations should be administered for religious purposes by local boards of trustees representing the Catholic population, and that the State should abdicate in their favour its ecclesiastical patronage, and proceed to discharge the unsettled claims of the clergy. So great a change in the plans by which Sella and Rattazzi had impoverished the Church in 1866 and 1867 would, if frankly carried into execution, have encouraged an independent spirit among the Italian bishops; and the reports of the prefects represented about thirty of them as being favourable to conciliation. But the Ministry fell in November, and was succeeded by an administration whose leading members, Lanza and Sella, were enemies of religion. The Court of Rome was relieved from a serious peril.
The only European country whose influence was felt in the attitude of its bishops was one whose government sent out no diplomatists. While the Austrian Chancellor regarded the issue of the Council with a profane and supercilious eye, and so much indifference prevailed at Vienna that it was said that the ambassador at Rome did not read the decrees, and that Count Beust did not read his despatches, the Catholic Statesmen in Hungary were intent on effecting a revolution in the Church. The system which was about to culminate in the proclamation of infallibility, and which tended to absorb all power from the circumference into the centre, and to substitute authority for autonomy, had begun at the lower extremities of the hierarchical scale. The laity, which once had its share in the administration of Church property and in the deliberations of the clergy, had been gradually compelled to give up its rights to the priesthood, the priests to the bishops, and the bishops to the Pope. Hungary undertook to redress the process, and to correct centralised absolutism by self-government. In a memorandum drawn up in April 1848, the bishops imputed the decay of religion to the exclusion of the people from the management of all Church affairs, and proposed that whatever is not purely spiritual should be conducted by mixed boards, including lay representatives elected by the congregations. The war of the revolution and the reaction checked this design; and the Concordat threw things more than ever into clerical hands. The triumph of the liberal party after the peace of Prague revived the movements; and Eötvös called on the bishops to devise means of giving to the laity a share and an interest in religious concerns. The bishops agreed unanimously to the proposal of Deak, that the laity should have the majority in the boards of administration; and the new constitution of the Hungarian Church was adopted by the Catholic Congress on the 17th of October 1869, and approved by the King on the 25th. The ruling idea of this great measure was to make the laity supreme in all that is not liturgy and dogma, in patronage, property, and education; to break down clerical exclusiveness and government control; to deliver the people from the usurpations of the hierarchy, and the Church from the usurpations of the State. It was an attempt to reform the Church by constitutional principles, and to crush ultramontanism by crushing Gallicanism. The Government, which had originated the scheme, was ready to surrender its privileges to the newly-constituted authorities; and the bishops acted in harmony with the ministers and with public opinion. Whilst this good understanding lasted, and while the bishops were engaged in applying the impartial principles of self-government at home, there was a strong security that they would not accept decrees that would undo their work. Infallibility would not only condemn their system, but destroy their position. As the winter advanced the influence of these things became apparent. The ascendency which the Hungarian bishops acquired from the beginning was due to other causes.
The political auspices under which the Council opened were very favourable to the papal cause. The promoters of infallibility were able to coin resources of the enmity which was shown to the Church. The danger which came to them from within was averted. The policy of Hohenlohe, which was afterwards revived by Daru, had been, for a time, completely abandoned by Europe. The battle between the papal and the episcopal principle could come off undisturbed, in closed lists. Political opposition there was none; but the Council had to be governed under the glare of inevitable publicity, with a free press in Europe, and hostile views prevalent in Catholic theology. The causes which made religious science utterly powerless in the strife, and kept it from grappling with the forces arrayed against it, are of deeper import than the issue of the contest itself.
While the voice of the bishops grew louder in praise of the Roman designs, the Bavarian Government consulted the universities, and elicited from the majority of the Munich faculty an opinion that the dogma of infallibility would be attended with serious danger to society. The author of the Bohemian pamphlet affirmed that it had not the conditions which would enable it ever to become the object of a valid definition. Janus compared the primacy, as it was known to the Fathers of the Church, with the ultramontane ideal, and traced the process of transformation through a long series of forgeries. Maret published his book some weeks after Janus and the Reform. It had been revised by several French bishops and divines, and was to serve as a vindication of the Sorbonne and the Gallicans, and as the manifesto of men who were to be present at the Council. It had not the merit of novelty or the fault of innovation, but renewed with as little offence as possible the language of the old French School.1 While Janus treated infallibility as the critical symptom of an ancient disease, Maret restricted his argument to what was directly involved in the defence of the Gallican position. Janus held that the doctrine was so firmly rooted and so widely supported in the existing constitution of the Church, that much must be modified before a genuine Œcumenical Council could be celebrated. Maret clung to the belief that the real voice of the Church would make itself heard at the Vatican. In direct contradiction with Janus, he kept before him the one practical object, to gain assent by making his views acceptable even to the unlearned.
At the last moment a tract appeared which has been universally attributed to Döllinger, which examined the evidences relied on by the infallibilists, and stated briefly the case against them. It pointed to the inference that their theory is not merely founded on an illogical and uncritical habit, but on unremitting dishonesty in the use of texts. This was coming near the secret of the whole controversy, and the point that made the interference of the Powers appear the only availing resource. For the sentiment on which infallibility is founded could not be reached by argument, the weapon of human reason, but resided in conclusions transcending evidence, and was the inaccessible postulate rather than a demonstrable consequence of a system of religious faith. The two doctrines opposed, but never met each other. It was as much an instinct of the ultramontane theory to elude the tests of science as to resist the control of States. Its opponents, baffled and perplexed by the serene vitality of a view which was impervious to proof, saw want of principle where there was really a consistent principle, and blamed the ultramontane divines for that which was of the essence of ultramontane divinity. How it came that no appeal to revelation or tradition, to reason or conscience, appeared to have any bearing whatever on the issue, is a mystery which Janus and Maret and Döllinger’s reflections left unexplained.
The resources of mediæval learning were too slender to preserve an authentic record of the growth and settlement of Catholic doctrine. Many writings of the Fathers were interpolated; others were unknown, and spurious matter was accepted in their place. Books bearing venerable names — Clement, Dionysius, Isidore — were forged for the purpose of supplying authorities for opinions that lacked the sanction of antiquity. When detection came, and it was found that fraud had been employed in sustaining doctrines bound up with the peculiar interests of Rome and of the religious Orders, there was an inducement to depreciate the evidences of antiquity, and to silence a voice that bore obnoxious testimony. The notion of tradition underwent a change; it was required to produce what it had not preserved. The Fathers had spoken of the unwritten teaching of the apostles, which was to be sought in the churches they had founded, of esoteric doctrines, and views which must be of apostolic origin because they are universal, of the inspiration of general Councils, and a revelation continued beyond the New Testament. But the Council of Trent resisted the conclusions which this language seemed to countenance, and they were left to be pursued by private speculation. One divine deprecated the vain pretence of arguing from Scripture, by which Luther could not be confuted, and the Catholics were losing ground;1 and at Trent a speaker averred that Christian doctrine had been so completely determined by the Schoolmen that there was no further need to recur to Scripture. This idea is not extinct, and Perrone uses it to explain the inferiority of Catholics as Biblical critics.1 If the Bible is inspired, says Peresius, still more must its interpretation be inspired. It must be interpreted variously, says the Cardinal of Cusa, according to necessity; a change in the opinion of the Church implies a change in the will of God.2 One of the greatest Tridentine divines declares that a doctrine must be true if the Church believes it, without any warrant from Scripture. According to Petavius, the general belief of Catholics at a given time is the work of God, and of higher authority than all antiquity and all the Fathers. Scripture may be silent, and tradition contradictory, but the Church is independent of both. Any doctrine which Catholic divines commonly assert, without proof, to be revealed, must be taken as revealed. The testimony of Rome, as the only remaining apostolic Church, is equivalent to an unbroken chain of tradition.3 In this way, after Scripture had been subjugated, tradition itself was deposed; and the constant belief of the past yielded to the general conviction of the present. And, as antiquity had given way to universality, universality made way for authority. The Word of God and the authority of the Church came to be declared the two sources of religious knowledge. Divines of this school, after preferring the Church to the Bible, preferred the modern Church to the ancient, and ended by sacrificing both to the Pope. “We have not the authority of Scripture,” wrote Prierias in his defence of Indulgences, “but we have the higher authority of the Roman pontiffs.”1 A bishop who had been present at Trent confesses that in matters of faith he would believe a single Pope rather than a thousand Fathers, saints, and doctors.2 The divine training develops an orthodox instinct in the Church, which shows itself in the lives of devout but ignorant men more than in the researches of the learned, and teaches authority not to need the help of science, and not to heed its opposition. All the arguments by which theology supports a doctrine may prove to be false, without diminishing the certainty of its truth. The Church has not obtained, and is not bound to sustain it, by proof. She is supreme over fact as over doctrine, as Fénelon argues, because she is the supreme expounder of tradition, which is a chain of facts.3 Accordingly, the organ of one ultramontane bishop lately declared that infallibility could be defined without arguments; and the Bishop of Nîmes thought that the decision need not be preceded by long and careful discussion. The Dogmatic Commission of the Council proclaims that the existence of tradition has nothing to do with evidence, and that objections taken from history are not valid when contradicted by ecclesiastical decrees.4 Authority must conquer history.
This inclination to get rid of evidence was specially associated with the doctrine of papal infallibility, because it is necessary that the Popes themselves should not testify against their own claim. They may be declared superior to all other authorities, but not to that of their own see. Their history is not irrelevant to the question of their rights. It could not be disregarded; and the provocation to alter or to deny its testimony was so urgent that men of piety and learning became a prey to the temptation of deceit. When it was discovered in the manuscript of the Liber Diurnus that the Popes had for centuries condemned Honorius in their profession of faith, Cardinal Bona, the most eminent man in Rome, advised that the book should be suppressed if the difficulty could not be got over; and it was suppressed accordingly.1 Men guilty of this kind of fraud would justify it by saying that their religion transcends the wisdom of philosophers, and cannot submit to the criticism of historians. If any fact manifestly contradicts a dogma, that is a warning to science to revise the evidence. There must be some defect in the materials or in the method. Pending its discovery, the true believer is constrained humbly but confidently to deny the fact.
The protest of conscience against this fraudulent piety grew loud and strong as the art of criticism became more certain. The use made of it by Catholics in the literature of the present age, and their acceptance of the conditions of scientific controversy, seemed to ecclesiastical authorities a sacrifice of principle. A jealousy arose that ripened into antipathy. Almost every writer who really served Catholicism fell sooner or later under the disgrace or the suspicion of Rome. But its censures had lost efficacy; and it was found that the progress of literature could only be brought under control by an increase of authority. This could be obtained if a general council declared the decisions of the Roman congregations absolute, and the Pope infallible.
The division between the Roman and the Catholic elements in the Church made it hopeless to mediate between them; and it is strange that men who must have regarded each other as insincere Christians or as insincere Catholics, should not have perceived that their meeting in Council was an imposture. It may be that a portion, though only a small portion, of those who failed to attend, stayed away from that motive. But the view proscribed at Rome was not largely represented in the episcopate; and it was doubtful whether it would be manifested at all. The opposition did not spring from it, but maintained itself by reducing to the utmost the distance that separated it from the strictly Roman opinions, and striving to prevent the open conflict of principles. It was composed of ultramontanes in the mask of liberals, and of liberals in the mask of ultramontanes. Therefore the victory or defeat of the minority was not the supreme issue of the Council. Besides and above the definition of infallibility arose the question how far the experience of the actual encounter would open the eyes and search the hearts of the reluctant bishops, and how far their language and their attitude would contribute to the impulse of future reform. There was a point of view from which the failure of all attempts to avert the result by false issues and foreign intrusion, and the success of the measures which repelled conciliation and brought on an open struggle and an overwhelming triumph, were means to another and a more importunate end.
Two events occurred in the autumn which portended trouble for the winter. On the 6th of September nineteen German bishops, assembled at Fulda, published a pastoral letter in which they affirmed that the whole episcopate was perfectly unanimous, that the Council would neither introduce new dogmas nor invade the civil province, and that the Pope intended its deliberations to be free. The patent and direct meaning of this declaration was that the bishops repudiated the design announced by the Civiltà and the Allgemeine Zeitung, and it was received at Rome with indignation. But it soon appeared that it was worded with studied ambiguity, to be signed by men of opposite opinions, and to conceal the truth. The Bishop of Mentz read a paper, written by a professor of Würzburg, against the wisdom of raising the question, but expressed his own belief in the dogma of papal infallibility; and when another bishop stated his disbelief in it, the Bishop of Paderborn assured him that Rome would soon strip him of his heretical skin. The majority wished to prevent the definition, if possible, without disputing the doctrine; and they wrote a private letter to the Pope warning him of the danger, and entreating him to desist. Several bishops who had signed the pastoral refused their signatures to the private letter. It caused so much dismay at Rome that its nature was carefully concealed; and a diplomatist was able to report, on the authority of Cardinal Antonelli, that it did not exist.
In the middle of November, the Bishop of Orleans took leave of his diocese in a letter which touched lightly on the learned questions connected with papal infallibility, but described the objections to the definition as of such a kind that they could not be removed. Coming from a prelate who was so conspicuous as a champion of the papacy, who had saved the temporal power and justified the Syllabus, this declaration unexpectedly altered the situation at Rome. It was clear that the definition would be opposed, and that the opposition would have the support of illustrious names.
The bishops who began to arrive early in November were received with the assurance that the alarm which had been raised was founded on phantoms. It appeared that nobody had dreamed of defining infallibility, or that, if the idea had been entertained at all, it had been abandoned. Cardinals Antonelli, Berardi, and De Luca, and the Secretary Fessler disavowed the Civiltà. The ardent indiscretion that was displayed beyond the Alps contrasted strangely with the moderation, the friendly candour, the majestic and impartial wisdom, which were found to reign in the higher sphere of the hierarchy. A bishop, afterwards noted among the opponents of the dogma, wrote home that the idea that infallibility was to be defined was entirely unfounded. It was represented as a mere fancy, got up in Bavarian newspapers, with evil intent; and the Bishop of Sura had been its dupe. The insidious report would have deserved contempt if it had caused a revival of obsolete opinions. It was a challenge to the Council to herald it with such demonstrations, and it unfortunately became difficult to leave it unnoticed. The decision must be left to the bishops. The Holy See could not restrain their legitimate ardour, if they chose to express it; but it would take no initiative. Whatever was done would require to be done with so much moderation as to satisfy everybody, and to avoid the offence of a party triumph. Some suggested that there should be no anathema for those who questioned the doctrine; and one prelate imagined that a formula could be contrived which even Janus could not dispute, and which yet would be found in reality to signify that the Pope is infallible. There was a general assumption that no materials existed for contention among the bishops, and that they stood united against the world.
Cardinal Antonelli openly refrained from connecting himself with the preparation of the Council, and surrounded himself with divines who were not of the ruling party. He had never learned to doubt the dogma itself; but he was keenly alive to the troubles it would bring upon him, and thought that the Pope was preparing a repetition of the difficulties which followed the beginning of his pontificate. He was not trusted as a divine, or consulted on questions of theology; but he was expected to ward off political complications, and he kept the ground with unflinching skill.
The Pope exhorted the diplomatic corps to aid him in allaying the alarm of the infatuated Germans. He assured one diplomatist that the Civiltà did not speak in his name. He told another that he would sanction no proposition that could sow dissension among the bishops. He said to a third, “You come to be present at a scene of pacification.” He described his object in summoning the Council to be to obtain a remedy for old abuses and for recent errors. More than once, addressing a group of bishops, he said that he would do nothing to raise disputes among them, and would be content with a declaration in favour of intolerance. He wished of course that Catholicism should have the benefit of toleration in England and Russia, but the principle must be repudiated by a Church holding the doctrine of exclusive salvation. The meaning of this intimation, that persecution would do as a substitute for infallibility, was that the most glaring obstacle to the definition would be removed if the Inquisition was recognised as consistent with Catholicism. Indeed it seemed that infallibility was a means to an end which could be obtained in other ways, and that he would have been satisfied with a decree confirming the twenty-third article of the Syllabus, and declaring that no Pope has ever exceeded the just bounds of his authority in faith, in politics, or in morals.1
Most of the bishops had allowed themselves to be reassured, when the Bull Multiplices inter, regulating the procedure at the Council, was put into circulation in the first days of December. The Pope assumed to himself the sole initiative in proposing topics, and the exclusive nomination of the officers of the Council. He invited the bishops to bring forward their own proposals, but required that they should submit them first of all to a Commission which was appointed by himself, and consisted half of Italians. If any proposal was allowed to pass by this Commission, it had still to obtain the sanction of the Pope, who could therefore exclude at will any topic, even if the whole Council wished to discuss it. Four elective Commissions were to mediate between the Council and the Pope. When a decree had been discussed and opposed, it was to be referred, together with the amendments, to one of these Commissions, where it was to be reconsidered, with the aid of divines. When it came back from the Commission with corrections and remarks, it was to be put to the vote without further debate. What the Council discussed was to be the work of unknown divines: what it voted was to be the work of a majority in a Commission of twenty-four. It was in the election of these Commissions that the episcopate obtained the chance of influencing the formation of its decrees. But the papal theologians retained their predominance, for they might be summoned to defend or alter their work in the Commission, from which the bishops who had spoken or proposed amendments were excluded. Practically, the right of initiative was the deciding point. Even if the first regulation had remained in force, the bishops could never have recovered the surprises, and the difficulty of preparing for unforeseen debates. The regulation ultimately broke down under the mistake of allowing the decree to be debated only once, and that in its crude state, as it came from the hands of the divines. The authors of the measure had not contemplated any real discussion. It was so unlike the way in which business was conducted at Trent, where the right of the episcopate was formally asserted, where the envoys were consulted, and the bishops discussed the questions in several groups before the general congregations, that the printed text of the Tridentine Regulation was rigidly suppressed. It was further provided that the reports of the speeches should not be communicated to the bishops; and the strictest secrecy was enjoined on all concerning the business of the Council. The bishops, being under no obligation to observe this rule, were afterwards informed that it bound them under grievous sin.
This important precept did not succeed in excluding the action of public opinion. It could be applied only to the debates; and many bishops spoke with greater energy and freedom before an assembly of their own order than they would have done if their words had been taken down by Protestants, to be quoted against them at home. But printed documents, distributed in seven hundred copies, could not be kept secret. The rule was subject to exceptions which destroyed its efficacy; and the Roman cause was discredited by systematic concealment, and advocacy that abounded in explanation and colour, but abstained from the substance of fact. Documents couched in the usual official language, being dragged into the forbidden light of day, were supposed to reveal dark mysteries. The secrecy of the debates had a bad effect in exaggerating reports and giving wide scope to fancy. Rome was not vividly interested in the discussions; but its cosmopolitan society was thronged with the several adherents of leading bishops, whose partiality compromised their dignity and envenomed their disputes. Everything that was said was repeated, inflated, and distorted. Whoever had a sharp word for an adversary, which could not be spoken in Council, knew of an audience that would enjoy and carry the matter. The battles of the Aula were fought over again, with anecdote, epigram, and fiction. A distinguished courtesy and nobleness of tone prevailed at the beginning. When the Archbishop of Halifax went down to his place on the 28th of December, after delivering the speech which taught the reality of the opposition, the Presidents bowed to him as he passed them. The denunciations of the Roman system by Strossmayer and Darboy were listened to in January without a murmur. Adversaries paid exorbitant compliments to each other, like men whose disagreements were insignificant, and who were one at heart. As the plot thickened, fatigue, excitement, friends who fetched and carried, made the tone more bitter. In February the Bishop of Laval described Dupanloup publicly as the centre of a conspiracy too shameful to be expressed in words, and professed that he would rather die than be associated with such iniquity. One of the minority described his opponents as having disported themselves on a certain occasion like a herd of cattle. By that time the whole temper of the Council had been changed; the Pope himself had gone into the arena; and violence of language and gesture had become an artifice adopted to hasten the end.
When the Council opened, many bishops were bewildered and dispirited by the Bull Multiplices. They feared that a struggle could not be averted, as, even if no dogmatic question was raised, their rights were cancelled in a way that would make the Pope absolute in dogma. One of the Cardinals caused him to be informed that the Regulation would be resisted. But Pius IX. knew that in all that procession of 750 bishops one idea prevailed. Men whose word is powerful in the centres of civilisation, men who three months before were confronting martyrdom among barbarians, preachers at Notre Dame, professors from Germany, Republicans from Western America, men with every sort of training and every sort of experience, had come together as confident and as eager as the prelates of Rome itself, to hail the Pope infallible. Resistance was improbable, for it was hopeless. It was improbable that bishops who had refused no token of submission for twenty years would now combine to inflict dishonour on the Pope. In their address of 1867 they had confessed that he is the father and teacher of all Christians; that all the things he has spoken were spoken by St. Peter through him; that they would believe and teach all that he believed and taught. In 1854 they had allowed him to proclaim a dogma, which some of them dreaded and some opposed, but to which all submitted when he had decreed without the intervention of a Council. The recent display of opposition did not justify serious alarm. The Fulda bishops feared the consequences in Germany; but they affirmed that all were united, and that there would be no new dogma. They were perfectly informed of all that was being got ready in Rome. The words of their pastoral meant nothing if they did not mean that infallibility was no new dogma, and that all the bishops believed in it. Even the Bishop of Orleans avoided a direct attack on the doctrine, proclaimed his own devotion to the Pope, and promised that the Council would be a scene of concord.1 It was certain that any real attempt that might be made to prevent the definition could be overwhelmed by the preponderance of those bishops whom the modern constitution of the Church places in dependence on Rome.
The only bishops whose position made them capable of resisting were the Germans and the French; and all that Rome would have to contend with was the modern liberalism and decrepit Gallicanism of France, and the science of Germany. The Gallican school was nearly extinct; it had no footing in other countries, and it was essentially odious to the liberals. The most serious minds of the liberal party were conscious that Rome was as dangerous to ecclesiastical liberty as Paris. But, since the Syllabus made it impossible to pursue the liberal doctrines consistently without collision with Rome, they had ceased to be professed with a robust and earnest confidence, and the party was disorganised. They set up the pretence that the real adversary of their opinions was not the Pope, but a French newspaper; and they fought the King’s troops in the King’s name. When the Bishop of Orleans made his declaration, they fell back, and left him to mount the breach alone. Montalembert, the most vigorous spirit among them, became isolated from his former friends, and accused them, with increasing vehemence, of being traitors to their principles. During the last disheartening year of his life he turned away from the clergy of his country, which was sunk in Romanism, and felt that the real abode of his opinions was on the Rhine.1 It was only lately that the ideas of the Coblentz address, which had so deeply touched the sympathies of Montalembert, had spread widely in Germany. They had their seat in the universities; and their transit from the interior of lecture-rooms to the outer world was laborious and slow. The invasion of Roman doctrines had given vigour and popularity to those which opposed them, but the growing influence of the universities brought them into direct antagonism with the episcopate. The Austrian bishops were generally beyond its reach, and the German bishops were generally at war with it. In December, one of the most illustrious of them said: “We bishops are absorbed in our work, and are not scholars. We sadly need the help of those that are. It is to be hoped that the Council will raise only such questions as can be dealt with competently by practical experience and common sense.” The force that Germany wields in theology was only partially represented in its episcopate.
At the opening of the Council the known opposition consisted of four men. Cardinal Schwarzenberg had not published his opinion, but he made it known as soon as he came to Rome. He brought with him a printed paper, entitled Desideria patribus Concilii oecumenici proponenda, in which he adopted the ideas of the divines and canonists who are the teachers of his Bohemian clergy. He entreated the Council not to multiply unnecessary articles of faith, and in particular to abstain from defining papal infallibility, which was beset with difficulties, and would make the foundations of faith to tremble even in the devoutest souls. He pointed out that the Index could not continue on its present footing, and urged that the Church should seek her strength in the cultivation of liberty and learning, not in privilege and coercion; that she should rely on popular institutions, and obtain popular support. He warmly advocated the system of autonomy that was springing up in Hungary.1 Unlike Schwarzenberg, Dupanloup, and Maret, the Archbishop of Paris had taken no hostile step in reference to the Council, but he was feared the most of all the men expected at Rome. The Pope had refused to make him a cardinal, and had written to him a letter of reproof such as has seldom been received by a bishop. It was felt that he was hostile, not episodically, to a single measure, but to the peculiar spirit of this pontificate. He had none of the conventional prejudices and assumed antipathies which are congenial to the hierarchical mind. He was without passion or pathos or affectation; and he had good sense, a perfect temper, and an intolerable wit. It was characteristic of him that he made the Syllabus an occasion to impress moderation on the Pope: “Your blame has power, O Vicar of Jesus Christ; but your blessing is more potent still. God has raised you to the apostolic See between the two halves of this century, that you may absolve the one and inaugurate the other. Be it yours to reconcile reason with faith, liberty with authority, politics with the Church. From the height of that triple majesty with which religion, age, and misfortune adorn you, all that you do and all that you say reaches far, to disconcert or to encourage the nations. Give them from your large priestly heart one word to amnesty the past, to reassure the present, and to open the horizons of the future.”
The security into which many unsuspecting bishops had been lulled quickly disappeared; and they understood that they were in presence of a conspiracy which would succeed at once if they did not provide against acclamation, and must succeed at last if they allowed themselves to be caught in the toils of the Bull Multiplices. It was necessary to make sure that no decree should be passed without reasonable discussion, and to make a stand against the regulation. The first congregation, held on the 10th of December, was a scene of confusion; but it appeared that a bishop from the Turkish frontier had risen against the order of proceeding, and that the President had stopped him, saying that this was a matter decided by the Pope, and not submitted to the Council. The bishops perceived that they were in a snare. Some began to think of going home. Others argued that questions of Divine right were affected by the regulation, and that they were bound to stake the existence of the Council upon them. Many were more eager on this point of law than on the point of dogma, and were brought under the influence of the more clear-sighted men, with whom they would not have come in contact through any sympathy on the question of infallibility. The desire of protesting against the violation of privileges was an imperfect bond. The bishops had not yet learned to know each other; and they had so strongly impressed upon their flocks at home the idea that Rome ought to be trusted, that they were going to manifest the unity of the Church and to confound the insinuations of her enemies, that they were not quick to admit all the significance of the facts they found. Nothing vigorous was possible in a body of so loose a texture. The softer materials had to be eliminated, the stronger welded together by severe and constant pressure, before an opposition could be made capable of effective action. They signed protests that were of no effect. They petitioned; they did not resist.
It was seen how much Rome had gained by excluding the ambassadors; for this question of forms and regulations would have admitted the action of diplomacy. The idea of being represented at the Council was revived in France; and a weary negotiation began, which lasted several months, and accomplished nothing but delay. It was not till the policy of intervention had ignominiously failed, and till its failure had left the Roman court to cope with the bishops alone, that the real question was brought on for discussion. And as long as the chance remained that political considerations might keep infallibility out of the Council, the opposition abstained from declaring its real sentiments. Its union was precarious and delusive, but it lasted in this state long enough to enable secondary influences to do much towards supplying the place of principles.
While the protesting bishops were not committed against infallibility, it would have been possible to prevent resistance to the bull from becoming resistance to the dogma. The Bishop of Grenoble, who was reputed a good divine among his countrymen, was sounded in order to discover how far he would go; and it was ascertained that he admitted the doctrine substantially. At the same time, the friends of the Bishop of Orleans were insisting that he had questioned not the dogma but the definition; and Maret, in the defence of his book, declared that he attributed no infallibility to the episcopate apart from the Pope. If the bishops had been consulted separately, without the terror of a decree, it is probable that the number of those who absolutely rejected the doctrine would have been extremely small. There were many who had never thought seriously about it, or imagined that it was true in a pious sense, though not capable of proof in controversy. The possibility of an understanding seemed so near that the archbishop of Westminster, who held the Pope infallible apart from the episcopate, required that the words should be translated into French in the sense of independence, and not of exclusion. An ambiguous formula embodying the view common to both parties, or founded on mutual concession, would have done more for the liberty than the unity of opinion, and would not have strengthened the authority of the Pope. It was resolved to proceed with caution, putting in motion the strong machinery of Rome, and exhausting the advantages of organisation and foreknowledge.
The first act of the Council was to elect the Commission on Dogma. A proposal was made on very high authority that the list should be drawn up so as to represent the different opinions fairly, and to include some of the chief opponents. They would have been subjected to other influences than those which sustain party leaders; they would have been separated from their friends and brought into frequent contact with adversaries; they would have felt the strain of official responsibility; and the opposition would have been decapitated. If these sagacious counsels had been followed, the harvest of July might have been gathered in January, and the reaction that was excited in the long struggle that ensued might have been prevented. Cardinal de Angelis, who ostensibly managed the elections, and was advised by Archbishop Manning, preferred the opposite and more prudent course. He caused a lithographed list to be sent to all the bishops open to influence, from which every name was excluded that was not on the side of infallibility.
Meantime the bishops of several nations selected those among their countrymen whom they recommended as candidates. The Germans and Hungarians, above forty in number, assembled for this purpose under the presidency of Cardinal Schwarzenberg; and their meetings were continued, and became more and more important, as those who did not sympathise with the opposition dropped away. The French were divided into two groups, and met partly at Cardinal Mathieu’s, partly at Cardinal Bonnechose’s. A fusion was proposed, but was resisted, in the Roman interest, by Bonnechose. He consulted Cardinal Antonelli, and reported that the Pope disliked large meetings of bishops. Moreover, if all the French had met in one place, the opposition would have had the majority, and would have determined the choice of the candidates. They voted separately; and the Bonnechose list was represented to foreign bishops as the united choice of the French episcopate. The Mathieu group believed that this had been done fraudulently, and resolved to make their complaint to the Pope; but Cardinal Mathieu, seeing that a storm was rising, and that he would be called on to be the spokesman of his friends, hurried away to spend Christmas at Besançon. All the votes of his group were thrown away. Even the bishop of Grenoble, who had obtained twenty-nine votes at one meeting, and thirteen at the other, was excluded from the Commission. It was constituted as the managers of the election desired, and the first trial of strength appeared to have annihilated the opposition. The force under entire control of the court could be estimated from the number of votes cast blindly for candidates not put forward by their own countrymen, and unknown to others, who had therefore no recommendation but that of the official list. According to this test Rome could dispose of 550 votes.
The moment of this triumph was chosen for the production of an act already two months old, by which many ancient censures were revoked, and many were renewed. The legislation of the Middle Ages and of the sixteenth century appointed nearly two hundred cases by which excommunication was incurred ipso facto, without inquiry or sentence. They had generally fallen into oblivion, or were remembered as instances of former extravagance; but they had not been abrogated, and, as they were in part defensible, they were a trouble to timorous consciences. There was reason to expect that this question, which had often occupied the attention of the bishops, would be brought before the Council; and the demand for a reform could not have been withstood. The difficulty was anticipated by sweeping away as many censures as it was thought safe to abandon, and deciding, independently of the bishops, what must be retained. The Pope reserved to himself alone the faculty of absolving from the sin of harbouring or defending the members of any sect, of causing priests to be tried by secular courts, of violating asylum or alienating the real property of the Church. The prohibition of anonymous writing was restricted to works on theology, and the excommunication hitherto incurred by reading books which are on the Index was confined to readers of heretical books. This Constitution had no other immediate effect than to indicate the prevailing spirit, and to increase the difficulties of the partisans of Rome. The organ of the Archbishop of Cologne justified the last provision by saying, that it does not forbid the works of Jews, for Jews are not heretics; nor the heretical tracts and newspapers, for they are not books; nor listening to heretical books read aloud, for hearing is not reading.
At the same time, the serious work of the Council was begun. A long dogmatic decree was distributed, in which the special theological, biblical, and philosophical opinions of the school now dominant in Rome were proposed for ratification. It was so weak a composition that it was as severely criticised by the Romans as by the foreigners; and there were Germans whose attention was first called to its defects by an Italian cardinal. The disgust with which the text of the first decree was received had not been foreseen. No real discussion had been expected. The Council hall, admirable for occasions of ceremony, was extremely ill adapted for speaking, and nothing would induce the Pope to give it up. A public session was fixed for the 6th of January, and the election of Commissions was to last till Christmas. It was evident that nothing would be ready for the session, unless the decree was accepted without debate, or infallibility adopted by acclamation.
Before the Council had been assembled a fortnight, a store of discontent had accumulated which it would have been easy to avoid. Every act of the Pope, the Bull Multiplices, the declaration of censures, the text of the proposed decree, even the announcement that the Council should be dissolved in case of his death, had seemed an injury or an insult to the episcopate. These measures undid the favourable effect of the caution with which the bishops had been received. They did what the dislike of infallibility alone would not have done. They broke the spell of veneration for Pius IX. which fascinated the Catholic Episcopate. The jealousy with which he guarded his prerogative in the appointment of officers, and of the great Commission, the pressure during the elections, the prohibition of national meetings, the refusal to hold the debates in a hall where they could be heard, irritated and alarmed many bishops. They suspected that they had been summoned for the very purpose they had indignantly denied, to make the papacy more absolute by abdicating in favour of the official prelature of Rome. Confidence gave way to a great despondency, and a state of feeling was aroused which prepared the way for actual opposition when the time should come.
Before Christmas the Germans and the French were grouped nearly as they remained to the end. After the flight of Cardinal Mathieu, and the refusal of Cardinal Bonnechose to coalesce, the friends of the latter gravitated towards the Roman centre, and the friends of the former held their meetings at the house of the Archbishop of Paris. They became, with the Austro-German meeting under Cardinal Schwarzenberg, the strength and substance of the party that opposed the new dogma; but there was little intercourse between the two, and their exclusive nationality made them useless as a nucleus for the few scattered American, English, and Italian bishops whose sympathies were with them. To meet this object, and to centralise the deliberations, about a dozen of the leading men constituted an international meeting, which included the best talents, but also the most discordant views. They were too little united to act with vigour, and too few to exercise control. Some months later they increased their numbers. They were the brain but not the will of the opposition. Cardinal Rauscher presided. Rome honoured him as the author of the Austrian Concordat; but he feared that infallibility would bring destruction on his work, and he was the most constant, the most copious, and the most emphatic of its opponents.
When the debate opened, on the 28th of December, the idea of proclaiming the dogma by acclamation had not been abandoned. The Archbishop of Paris exacted a promise that it should not be attempted. But he was warned that the promise held good for the first day only, and that there was no engagement for the future. Then he made it known that one hundred bishops were ready, if a surprise was attempted, to depart from Rome, and to carry away the Council, as he said, in the soles of their shoes. The plan of carrying the measure by a sudden resolution was given up, and it was determined to introduce it with a demonstration of overwhelming effect. The debate on the dogmatic decree was begun by Cardinal Rauscher. The Archbishop of St. Louis spoke on the same day so briefly as not to reveal the force and the fire within him. The Archbishop of Halifax concluded a long speech by saying that the proposal laid before the Council was only fit to be put decorously under ground. Much praise was lavished on the bishops who had courage, knowledge, and Latin enough to address the assembled Fathers; and the Council rose instantly in dignity and in esteem when it was seen that there was to be real discussion. On the 30th, Rome was excited by the success of two speakers. One was the Bishop of Grenoble, the other was Strossmayer, the bishop from the Turkish frontier, who had again assailed the regulation, and had again been stopped by the presiding Cardinal. The fame of his spirit and eloquence began to spread over the city and over the world. The ideas that animated these men in their attack on the proposed measure were most clearly shown a few days later in the speech of a Swiss prelate. “What boots it,” he exclaimed, “to condemn errors that have been long condemned, and tempt no Catholic? The false beliefs of mankind are beyond the reach of your decrees. The best defence of Catholicism is religious science. Give to the pursuit of sound learning every encouragement and the widest field; and prove by deeds as well as words that the progress of nations in liberty and light is the mission of the Church.”1
The tempest of criticism was weakly met; and the opponents established at once a superiority in debate. At the end of the first month nothing had been done; and the Session imprudently fixed for the 6th of January had to be filled up with tedious ceremonies. Everybody saw that there had been a great miscalculation. The Council was slipping out of the grasp of the Court, and the regulation was a manifest hindrance to the despatch of business. New resources were required.
A new president was appointed. Cardinal Reisach had died at the end of December without having been able to take his seat, and Cardinal De Luca had presided in his stead. De Angelis was now put into the place made vacant by the death of Reisach. He had suffered imprisonment at Turin, and the glory of his confessorship was enhanced by his services in the election of the Commissions. He was not suited otherwise to be the moderator of a great assembly; and the effect of his elevation was to dethrone the accomplished and astute De Luca, who had been found deficient in thoroughness, and to throw the management of the Council into the hands of the junior Presidents, Capalti and Bilio. Bilio was a Barnabite monk, innocent of court intrigues, a friend of the most enlightened scholars in Rome, and a favourite of the Pope. Cardinal Capalti had been distinguished as a canonist. Like Cardinal Bilio, he was not reckoned among men of the extreme party; and they were not always in harmony with their colleagues, De Angelis and Bizarri. But they did not waver when the policy they had to execute was not their own.
The first decree was withdrawn, and referred to the Commission on Doctrine. Another, on the duties of the episcopate, was substituted; and that again was followed by others, of which the most important was on the Catechism. While they were being discussed, a petition was prepared, demanding that the infallibility of the Pope should be made the object of a decree. The majority undertook to put a strain on the prudence or the reluctance of the Vatican. Their zeal in the cause was warmer than that of the official advisers. Among those who had the responsibility of conducting the spiritual and temporal government of the Pope, the belief was strong that his infallibility did not need defining, and that the definition could not be obtained without needless obstruction to other papal interests. Several Cardinals were inopportunists at first, and afterwards promoted intermediate and conciliatory proposals. But the business of the Council was not left to the ordinary advisers of the Pope, and they were visibly compelled and driven by those who represented the majority. At times this pressure was no doubt convenient. But there were also times when there was no collusion, and the majority really led the authorities. The initiative was not taken by the great mass whose zeal was stimulated by personal allegiance to the Pope. They added to the momentum, but the impulse came from men who were as independent as the chiefs of the opposition. The great Petition, supported by others pointing to the same end, was kept back for several weeks, and was presented at the end of January.
At that time the opposition had attained its full strength, and presented a counter-petition, praying that the question might not be introduced. It was written by Cardinal Rauscher, and was signed, with variations, by 137 bishops. To obtain that number the address avoided the doctrine itself, and spoke only of the difficulty and danger in defining it; so that this, their most imposing act, was a confession of inherent weakness, and a signal to the majority that they might force on the dogmatic discussion. The bishops stood on the negative. They showed no sense of their mission to renovate Catholicism; and it seemed that they would compound for the concession they wanted, by yielding in all other matters, even those which would be a practical substitute for infallibility. That this was not to be, that the forces needed for a great revival were really present, was made manifest by the speech of Strossmayer on the 24th of January, when he demanded the reformation of the Court of Rome, decentralisation in the government of the Church, and decennial Councils. That earnest spirit did not animate the bulk of the party. They were content to leave things as they were, to gain nothing if they lost nothing, to renounce all premature striving for reform if they could succeed in avoiding a doctrine which they were as unwilling to discuss as to define. The words of Ginoulhiac to Strossmayer, “You terrify me with your pitiless logic,” expressed the inmost feelings of many who gloried in the grace and the splendour of his eloquence. No words were too strong for them if they prevented the necessity of action, and spared the bishops the distressing prospect of being brought to bay, and having to resist openly the wishes and the claims of Rome.
Infallibility never ceased to overshadow every step of the Council,1 but it had already given birth to a deeper question. The Church had less to fear from the violence of the majority than from the inertness of their opponents. No proclamation of false doctrines could be so great a disaster as the weakness of faith which would prove that the power of recovery, the vital force of Catholicism, was extinct in the episcopate. It was better to be overcome after openly attesting their belief than to strangle both discussion and definition, and to disperse without having uttered a single word that could reinstate the authorities of the Church in the respect of men. The future depended less on the outward struggle between two parties than on the process by which the stronger spirit within the minority leavened the mass. The opposition was as averse to the actual dogmatic discussion among themselves as in the Council. They feared an inquiry which would divide them. At first the bishops who understood and resolutely contemplated their real mission in the Council were exceedingly few. Their influence was strengthened by the force of events, by the incessant pressure of the majority, and by the action of literary opinion.
Early in December the Archbishop of Mechlin brought out a reply to the letter of the Bishop of Orleans, who immediately prepared a rejoinder, but could not obtain permission to print it in Rome. It appeared two months later at Naples. Whilst the minority were under the shock of this prohibition, Gratry published at Paris the first of four letters to the Archbishop of Mechlin, in which the case of Honorius was discussed with so much perspicuity and effect that the profane public was interested, and the pamphlets were read with avidity in Rome. They contained no new research, but they went deep into the causes which divided Catholics. Gratry showed that the Roman theory is still propped by fables which were innocent once, but have become deliberate untruths since the excuse of mediæval ignorance was dispelled; and he declared that this school of lies was the cause of the weakness of the Church, and called on Catholics to look the scandal in the face, and cast out the religious forgers. His letters did much to clear the ground and to correct the confusion of ideas among the French. The bishop of St. Brieuc wrote that the exposure was an excellent service to religion, for the evil had gone so far that silence would be complicity.1 Gratry was no sooner approved by one bishop than he was condemned by a great number of others. He had brought home to his countrymen the question whether they could be accomplices of a dishonest system, or would fairly attempt to root it out.
While Gratry’s letters were disturbing the French, Döllinger published some observations on the petition for infallibility, directing his attack clearly against the doctrine itself. During the excitement that ensued, he answered demonstrations of sympathy by saying that he had only defended the faith which was professed, substantially, by the majority of the episcopate in Germany. These words dropped like an acid on the German bishops. They were writhing to escape the dire necessity of a conflict with the Pope; and it was very painful to them to be called as compurgators by a man who was esteemed the foremost opponent of the Roman system, whose hand was suspected in everything that had been done against it, and who had written many things on the sovereign obligations of truth and faith which seemed an unmerciful satire on the tactics to which they clung. The notion that the bishops were opposing the dogma itself was founded on their address against the regulation; but the petition against the definition of infallibility was so worded as to avoid that inference, and had accordingly obtained nearly twice as many German and Hungarian signatures as the other. The Bishop of Mentz vehemently repudiated the supposition for himself, and invited his colleagues to do the same. Some followed his example, others refused; and it became apparent that the German opposition was divided, and included men who accepted the doctrines of Rome. The precarious alliance between incompatible elements was prevented from breaking up by the next act of the Papal Government.
The defects in the mode of carrying on the business of the Council were admitted on both sides. Two months had been lost; and the demand for a radical change was publicly made in behalf of the minority by a letter communicated to the Moniteur. On the 22nd of February a new regulation was introduced, with the avowed purpose of quickening progress. It gave the Presidents power to cut short any speech, and provided that debate might be cut short at any moment when the majority pleased. It also declared that the decrees should be carried by majority — id decernetur quod majori Patrum numero placuerit. The policy of leaving the decisive power in the hands of the Council itself had this advantage, that its exercise would not raise the question of liberty and coercion in the same way as the interference of authority. By the Bull Multiplices, no bishop could introduce any matter not approved by the Pope. By the new regulation he could not speak on any question before the Council, if the majority chose to close the discussion, or if the Presidents chose to abridge his speech. He could print nothing in Rome, and what was printed elsewhere was liable to be treated as contraband. His written observations on any measure were submitted to the Commission, without any security that they would be made known to the other bishops in their integrity. There was no longer an obstacle to the immediate definition of papal infallibility. The majority was omnipotent.
The minority could not accept this regulation without admitting that the Pope is infallible. Their thesis was, that his decrees are not free from the risk of error unless they express the universal belief of the episcopate. The idea that particular virtue attaches to a certain number of bishops, or that infallibility depends on a few votes more or less, was defended by nobody. If the act of a majority of bishops in the Council, possibly not representing a majority in the Church, is infallible, it derives its infallibility from the Pope. Nobody held that the Pope was bound to proclaim a dogma carried by a majority. The minority contested the principle of the new Regulation, and declared that a dogmatic decree required virtual unanimity. The chief protest was drawn up by a French bishop. Some of the Hungarians added a paragraph asserting that the authority and œcumenicity of the Council depended on the settlement of this question; and they proposed to add that they could not continue to act as though it were legitimate unless this point was given up. The author of the address declined this passage, urging that the time for actual menace was not yet come. From that day the minority agreed in rejecting as invalid any doctrine which should not be passed by unanimous consent. On this point the difference between the thorough and the simulated opposition was effaced, for Ginoulhiac and Ketteler were as positive as Kenrick or Hefele. But it was a point which Rome could not surrender without giving up its whole position. To wait for unanimity was to wait for ever, and to admit that a minority could prevent or nullify the dogmatic action of the papacy was to renounce infallibility. No alternative remained to the opposing bishops but to break up the Council. The most eminent among them accepted this conclusion, and stated it in a paper declaring that the absolute and indisputable law of the Church had been violated by the Regulation allowing articles of faith to be decreed on which the episcopate was not morally unanimous; and that the Council, no longer possessing in the eyes of the bishops and of the world the indispensable condition of liberty and legality, would be inevitably rejected. To avert a public scandal, and to save the honour of the Holy See, it was proposed that some unopposed decrees should be proclaimed in solemn session, and the Council immediately prorogued.
At the end of March a breach seemed unavoidable. The first part of the dogmatic decree had come back from the Commission so profoundly altered that it was generally accepted by the bishops, but with a crudely expressed sentence in the preamble, which was intended to rebuke the notion of the reunion of Protestant Churches. Several bishops looked upon this passage as an uncalled-for insult to Protestants, and wished it changed; but there was danger that if they then joined in voting the decree they would commit themselves to the lawfulness of the Regulation against which they had protested. On the 22nd of March Strossmayer raised both questions. He said that it was neither just nor charitable to impute the progress of religious error to the Protestants. The germ of modern unbelief existed among the Catholics before the Reformation, and afterwards bore its worst fruits in Catholic countries. Many of the ablest defenders of Christian truth were Protestants, and the day of reconciliation would have come already but for the violence and uncharitableness of the Catholics. These words were greeted with execrations, and the remainder of the speech was delivered in the midst of a furious tumult. At length, when Strossmayer declared that the Council had forfeited its authority by the rule which abolished the necessity of unanimity, the Presidents and the multitude refused to let him go on.1 On the following day he drew up a protest, declaring that he could not acknowledge the validity of the Council if dogmas were to be decided by a majority,1 and sent it to the Presidents after it had been approved at the meeting of the Germans, and by bishops of other nations. The preamble was withdrawn, and another was inserted in its place, which had been written in great haste by the German Jesuit Kleutgen, and was received with general applause. Several of the Jesuits obtained credit for the ability and moderation with which the decree was drawn up. It was no less than a victory over extreme counsels. A unanimous vote was insured for the public session of 24th April; and harmony was restored. But the text proposed originally in the Pope’s name had undergone so many changes as to make it appear that his intentions had been thwarted. There was a supplement to the decree, which the bishops had understood would be withdrawn, in order that the festive concord and good feeling might not be disturbed. They were informed at the last moment that it would be put to the vote, as its withdrawal would be a confession of defeat for Rome. The supplement was an admonition that the constitutions and decrees of the Holy See must be observed even when they proscribe opinions not actually heretical.1 Extraordinary efforts were made in public and in private to prevent any open expression of dissent from this paragraph. The Bishop of Brixen assured his brethren, in the name of the Commission, that it did not refer to questions of doctrine, and they could not dispute the general principle that obedience is due to lawful authority. The converse proposition, that the papal acts have no claim to be obeyed, was obviously untenable. The decree was adopted unanimously. There were some who gave their vote with a heavy heart, conscious of the snare.2 Strossmayer alone stayed away.
The opposition was at an end. Archbishop Manning afterwards reminded them that by this vote they had implicitly accepted infallibility. They had done even more. They might conceivably contrive to bind and limit dogmatic infallibility with conditions so stringent as to evade many of the objections taken from the examples of history; but, in requiring submission to papal decrees on matters not articles of faith, they were approving that of which they knew the character, they were confirming without let or question a power they saw in daily exercise, they were investing with new authority the existing Bulls, and giving unqualified sanction to the Inquisition and the Index, to the murder of heretics and the deposing of kings. They approved what they were called on to reform, and solemnly blessed with their lips what their hearts knew to be accursed. The Court of Rome became thenceforth reckless in its scorn of the opposition, and proceeded in the belief that there was no protest they would not forget, no principle they would not betray, rather than defy the Pope in his wrath. It was at once determined to bring on the discussion of the dogma of infallibility. At first, when the minority knew that their prayers and their sacrifices had been vain, and that they must rely on their own resources, they took courage in extremity. Rauscher, Schwarzenberg, Hefele, Ketteler, Kenrick, wrote pamphlets, or caused them to be written, against the dogma, and circulated them in the Council. Several English bishops protested that the denial of infallibility by the Catholic episcopate had been an essential condition of emancipation, and that they could not revoke that assurance after it had served their purpose, without being dishonoured in the eyes of their countrymen.1 The Archbishop of St. Louis, admitting the force of the argument, derived from the fact that a dogma was promulgated in 1854 which had long been disputed and denied, confessed that he could not prove the Immaculate Conception to be really an article of faith.1
An incident occurred in June which showed that the experience of the Council was working a change in the fundamental convictions of the bishops. Döllinger had written in March that an article of faith required not only to be approved and accepted unanimously by the Council, but that the bishops united with the Pope are not infallible, and that the œcumenicity of their acts must be acknowledged and ratified by the whole Church. Father Hötzl, a Franciscan friar, having published a pamphlet in defence of this proposition, was summoned to Rome, and required to sign a paper declaring that the confirmation of a Council by the Pope alone makes it œcumenical. He put his case into the hands of German bishops who were eminent in the opposition, asking first their opinion on the proposed declaration, and, secondly, their advice on his own conduct. The bishops whom he consulted replied that they believed the declaration to be erroneous; but they added that they had only lately arrived at the conviction, and had been shocked at first by Döllinger’s doctrine. They could not require him to suffer the consequences of being condemned at Rome as a rebellious friar and obstinate heretic for a view which they themselves had doubted only three months before. He followed the advice, but he perceived that his advisers had considerately betrayed him.
When the observations on infallibility which the bishops had sent in to the Commission appeared in print it seemed that the minority had burnt their ships. They affirmed that the dogma would put an end to the conversion of Protestants, that it would drive devout men out of the Church and make Catholicism indefensible in controversy, that it would give governments apparent reason to doubt the fidelity of Catholics, and would give new authority to the theory of persecution and of the deposing power. They testified that it was unknown in many parts of the Church, and was denied by the Fathers, so that neither perpetuity nor universality could be pleaded in its favour; and they declared it an absurd contradiction, founded on ignoble deceit, and incapable of being made an article of faith by Pope or Council.1 One bishop protested that he would die rather than proclaim it. Another thought it would be an act of suicide for the Church.
What was said, during the two months’ debate, by men perpetually liable to be interrupted by a majority acting less from conviction than by command,2 could be of no practical account, and served for protest, not for persuasion. Apart from the immediate purpose of the discussion, two speeches were memorable—that of Archbishop Conolly of Halifax, for the uncompromising clearness with which he appealed to Scripture and repudiated all dogmas extracted from the speculations of divines, and not distinctly founded on the recorded Word of God,1 and that of Archbishop Darboy, who foretold that a decree which increased authority without increasing power, and claimed for one man, whose infallibility was only now defined, the obedience which the world refused to the whole Episcopate, whose right had been unquestioned in the Church for 1800 years, would raise up new hatred and new suspicion, weaken the influence of religion over society, and wreak swift ruin on the temporal power.2
The general debate had lasted three weeks, and forty-nine bishops were still to speak, when it was brought to a close by an abrupt division on the 3rd of June. For twenty-four hours the indignation of the minority was strong. It was the last decisive opportunity for them to reject the legitimacy of the Council. There were some who had despaired of it from the beginning, and held that the Bull Multiplices deprived it of legal validity. But it had not been possible to make a stand at a time when no man knew whether he could trust his neighbour, and when there was fair ground to hope that the worst rules would be relaxed. When the second regulation, interpreted according to the interruptors of Strossmayer, claimed the right of proclaiming dogmas which part of the Episcopate did not believe, it became doubtful whether the bishops could continue to sit without implicit submission. They restricted themselves to a protest, thinking that it was sufficient to meet words with words, and that it would be time to act when the new principle was actually applied. By the vote of the 3rd of June the obnoxious regulation was enforced in a way evidently injurious to the minority and their cause. The chiefs of the opposition were now convinced of the invalidity of the Council, and advised that they should all abstain from speaking, and attend at St. Peter’s only to negative by their vote the decree which they disapproved. In this way they thought that the claim to œcumenicity would be abolished without breach or violence. The greater number were averse to so vigorous a demonstration; and Hefele threw the great weight of his authority into their scale. He contended that they would be worse than their word if they proceeded to extremities on this occasion. They had announced that they would do it only to prevent the promulgation of a dogma which was opposed. If that were done the Council would be revolutionary and tyrannical; and they ought to keep their strongest measure in reserve for that last contingency. The principle of unanimity was fundamental. It admitted no ambiguity, and was so clear, simple, and decisive, that there was no risk in fixing on it. The Archbishops of Paris, Milan, Halifax, the Bishops of Djakovar, Orleans, Marseilles, and most of the Hungarians, yielded to these arguments, and accepted the policy of less strenuous colleagues, while retaining the opinion that the Council was of no authority. But there were some who deemed it unworthy and inconsistent to attend an assembly which they had ceased to respect.
The debate on the several paragraphs lasted till the beginning of July, and the decree passed at length with eighty-eight dissentient votes. It was made known that the infallibility of the Pope would be promulgated in solemn session on the 18th, and that all who were present would be required to sign an act of submission. Some bishops of the minority thereupon proposed that they should all attend, repeat their vote, and refuse their signature. They exhorted their brethren to set a conspicuous example of courage and fidelity, as the Catholic world would not remain true to the faith if the bishops were believed to have faltered. But it was certain that there were men amongst them who would renounce their belief rather than incur the penalty of excommunication, who preferred authority to proof, and accepted the Pope’s declaration, “La tradizione son’ io.” It was resolved by a small majority that the opposition should renew its negative vote in writing, and should leave Rome in a body before the session. Some of the most conscientious and resolute adversaries of the dogma advised this course. Looking to the immediate future, they were persuaded that an irresistible reaction was at hand, and that the decrees of the Vatican Council would fade away and be dissolved by a power mightier than the Episcopate and a process less perilous than schism. Their disbelief in the validity of its work was so profound that they were convinced that it would perish without violence, and they resolved to spare the Pope and themselves the indignity of a rupture. Their last manifesto, La dernière Heure, is an appeal for patience, an exhortation to rely on the guiding, healing hand of God.1 They deemed that they had assigned the course which was to save the Church, by teaching the Catholics to reject a Council which was neither legitimate in constitution, free in action, nor unanimous in doctrine, but to observe moderation in contesting an authority over which great catastrophes impend. They conceived that it would thus be possible to save the peace and unity of the Church without sacrifice of faith and reason.
[1 ]The North British Review, October 1870.
[1 ]Fidem mihi datam non servatam fuisse queror. Acta supprimere, aut integra dare oportebat. He says also: Omnia ad nutum delegati Apostolici fiebant
[1 ]Citra et contra singulorum suffragia, imo praeter et supra omnium vota pontificis solius declarationi atque sententiae validam vim atque irreformabilem adesse potestatem.
[1 ]Nous restons dans les doctrines de Bossuet parce que nous les croyons généralement vraies; nous les défendons parce qu’elles sont attaquées, et qu’un parti puissant veut les faire condamner. Ces doctrines de l’épiscopat français, de l’école de Paris, de notre vieille Sorbonne, se ramènent pour nous à trois propositions, à trois vérités fondamentales: 1° l’Église est une monarchie efficacement tempérée d’aristocracie; 2° la souveraineté spirituelle est essentiellement composée de ces deux éléments quoique le second soit subordonné au premier; 3° le concours de ces éléments est nécessaire pour établir la règle absolue de la foi, c’est-à-dire, pour constituer l’acte par excellence de la souveraineté spirituelle.
[1 ]Si hujus doctrinae memores fuissemus, haereticos scil cet non esse infirmandos vel convincendos ex Scripturis, meliore sane loco essent res nostrae; sed dum ostentandi ingenii et eruditionis gratia cum Luthero in certamen descenditur Scripturarum, excitatum est hoc, quod, proh dolor! nunc videmus, incendium (Pighius).
[1 ]Catholici non admondum solliciti sunt de critica et hermeneutica biblica . . . Ipsi, ut verbo dicam, jam habent aedificium absolutum sane ac perfectum, in cujus possessione firme ac secure consistant.
[2 ]Praxis Ecclesiae uno tempore interpretatur Scripturam uno modo et alio tempore alio modo, nam intellectus currit cum praxi. — Mutato judicio Ecclesiae mutatum est Dei judicium.
[3 ]Si viri ecclesiastici, sive in concilio oecumenico congregati, sive seorsim scribentes, aliquod dogma vel unamquamque consuetudinem uno ore ac diserte testantur ex traditione divina haberi, sine dubio certum argumentum est, uti ita esse credamus. — Ex testimonio hujus solius Ecclesiae sumi potest certum argumentum ad probandas apostolicas traditiones (Bellarmine).
[1 ]Veniae sive indulgentiae autoritate Scripturae nobis non innotuere, sed autoritate ecclesiae Romanae Romanorumque Pontificum, quae major est.
[2 ]Ego, ut ingenue fatear, plus uni summo pontifici crederem, in his, quae fidei mysteria tangunt, quam mille Augustinis, Hieronymis, Gregoriis (Cornelius Mussus).
[3 ]The two views contradict each other; but they are equally characteristic of the endeavour to emancipate the Church from the obligation of proof. Fénelon says: “Oseroit-on soutenir que l’Église après avoir mal raisonné sur tous les textes, et les avoir pris à contre-sens, est tout à coup saisie par un enthousiasme aveugle, pour juger bien, en raisonnant mal?” And Möhler: “Die ältesten ökumenischen Synoden führten daher für ihre dogmatischen Beschlüsse nicht einmal bestimmte biblische Stellen an; und die katholischen Theologen lehren mit allgemeiner Uebereinstimmung und ganz aus dem Geiste der Kirche heraus, dass selbst die biblische Beweisführung eines für untrüglich gehaltenen Beschlusses nicht untrüglich sei, sondern eben nur das ausgesprochene Dogma selbst.”
[4 ]Cujuscumque ergo scientiae, etiam historiae ecclesiasticae conclusiones, Romanorum Pontificum infallibilitati adversantes, quo manifestius haec ex revelationis fontibus infertur, eo certius veluti totidem errores habendas esse consequitur.
[1 ]Cum in professione fidei electi pontificis damnetur Honorius Papa, ideo quia pravis haereticorum assertionibus fomentum impendit, si verba delineata sint vere in autographo, nec ex notis apparere possit, quomodo huic vulneri medelam offerat, praestat non divulgari opus.
[1 ]That article condemns the following proposition: “Romani Pontifices et Concilia oecumenica a limitibus suae potestati recesserunt, jura Principum usurparunt, atque etiam in rebus fidei et morum definiendis errarunt.”
[1 ]J’en suis convaincu: à peine aurai-je touché la terre sacrée, à peine aurai-je baisé le tombeau des Apôtres, que je me sentirai dans la paix, hors de la bataille, au sein d’une assemblée présidée par un Père et composée de Frères. Là, tous les bruits expireront, toutes les ingérences téméraires cesseront, toutes les imprudences disparaîtront, les flots et les vents seront apaisés.
[1 ]Vous admirez sans doute beaucoup l’évêque d’Orléans, mais vous l’admireriez bien plus encore, si vous pouviez vous figurer l’abime d’idolatrie où est tombé le clergé français. Cela dépasse tout ce que l’on aurait jamais pu l’imaginer aux jours de ma jeunesse, au temps de Frayssinous et de La Mennais. Le pauvre Mgr. Maret, pour avoir exposé des idées tres modérées dans un langage plein d’urbanité et de charité, est traité publiquement dans les journaux soi-disant religieux d’hérésiarque et d’apostat, par les derniers de nos curés. De tous les mystères que présente en si grand nombre l’histoire de l’Église je n’en connais pas qui égale ou dépasse cette transformation si prompte et si complète de la France Catholique en une basse-cour de l’anticamera du Vatican. J’en serais encore plus désesperé qu’humilié, si là, comme partout dans les régions illuminées par la foi, la miséricorde et l’esperance ne se laissaient entrevoir à travers les ténèbres. “C’est du Rhin aujourd’hui que nous vient la lumière.” L’Allemagne a été choisie pour opposer une digue à ce torrent de fanatisme servile que menaçait de tout englouter (Nov. 7, 1869).
[1 ]Non solum ea quae ad scholas theologicas pertinent scholis relinquantur, sed etiam doctrinae quae a fidelibus pie tenentur et coluntur, sine gravi causa in codicem dogmatum ne inferantur. In specie ne Concilium declaret vel definiat infallibilitatem Summi Pontificis, a doctissimis et prudentissimis fidelibus Sanctae sedi intime addictis, vehementer optatur. Gravia enim mala exinde oritura timent tum fidelibus tum infidelibus. Fideles enim, qui Primatum magisterii et jurisdictionis in Summo Pontifice ultro agnoscunt, quorum pietas et obedientia erga Sanctam Sedem nullo certe tempore major fuit, corde turbarentur magis quam erigerentur, ac si nunc demum fundamentum Ecclesiae et verae doctrinae stabiliendum sit; infideles vero novam calumniarum et derisionum materiam lucrarentur. Neque desunt, qui ejusmodi definitionem logice impossibilem vocant. . . . Nostris diebus defensio veritatis ac religionis tum praesertim efficax et fructuosa est, si sacerdotes a lege caeterorum civium minus recedunt, sed communibus omnium juribus utuntur, ita ut vis defensionis sit in veritate interna non per tutelam externae exemtionis. . . . Praesertim Ecclesia se scientiarum, quae hominem ornant perficiuntque, amicam et patronam exhibeat, probe noscens, omne verum a Deo esse, et profunda ac seria literarum studia opitulari fidei.
[1 ]Quid enim expedit damnare quae damnata jam sunt, quidve juvat errores proscribere quos novimus jam esse proscriptos? . . . Falsa sophistarum dogmata, veluti cineres a turbine venti evanuerunt, corrupuerunt, fateor, permultos, infecerunt genium saeculi hujus, sed numquid credendum est, corruptionis contaginem non contigisse, si ejusmodi errores decretorum anathemate prostrati fuissent? . . . Pro tuenda et tute servanda religione Catholica praeter gemitus et preces ad Deum aliud medium praesidiumque nobis datum non est nisi Catholica scientia, cum recta fide per omnia concors. Excolitur summopere apud heterodoxos fidei inimica scientia, excolatur ergo oportet et omni opere augeatur apud Catholicos vera scientia, Ecclesiae amica. . . . Obmutescere faciamus ora obtrectantium qui falso nobis imputare non desistunt, Catholicam Ecclesiam opprimere scientiam, et quemcumque liberum cogitandi modum ita cohibere, ut neque scientia, nec ulla alia animi libertas in ea subsistere vel florescere possit. . . . Propterea monstrandum hoc est, et scriptis et factis manifestandum, in Catholica Ecclesia veram pro populis esse libertatem, verum profectum, verum lumen, veramque prosperitatem.
[1 ]Il n’y a au fond qu’une question devenue urgente et inévitable, dont la décision faciliterait le cours et la décision de toutes les autres, dont le retard paralyse tout. Sans cela rien n’est commencé ni même abordable (Univers, February 9).
[1 ]Gratry had written: “Cette apologétique sans franchise est l’une des causes de notre décadence religieuse depuis des siècles. . . . Sommes-nous les prédicateurs du mensonge ou les apôtres de la vérité? Le temps n’est-il pas venu de rejeter avec dégoût les fraudes, les interpolations, et les mutilations que les menteurs et les faussaires, nos plus cruels ennemis, ont pu introduire parmi nous?” The bishop wrote: “Jamais parole plus puissante, inspirée par la conscience et le savoir, n’est arrivée plus à propos que la vôtre. . . . Le mal est tel et le danger si effrayant que le silence deviendrait de la complicité.”
[1 ]Pace eruditissimorum virorum dictum esto: mihi haecce nec veritati congrua esse videntur, nec caritati. Non veritati; verum quidem est Protestantes gravissimam commisisse culpam, dum spreta et insuperhabita divina Ecclesiae auctoritate, aeternas et immutabiles fidei veritates subjectivae rationis judicio et arbitrio subjecissent. Hoc superbiae humanae fomentum gravissimis certe malis, rationalismo, criticismo, etc. occasionem dedit. Ast hoc quoque respectu dici debet, protestantismi ejus qui cum eodem in nexu existit rationalismi germen saeculo xvi. praeextitisse in sic dicto humanismo et classicismo, quem in sanctuario ipso quidam summae auctoritatis viri incauto consilio fovebant et nutriebant; et nisi hoc germen praeextitisset concipi non posset quomodo tam parva scintilla tantum in medio Europae excitare potuisset incendium, ut illud ad hodiernum usque diem restingui non potuerit. Accedit et illud: fidei et religionis, Ecclesiae et omnis auctoritatis contemptum absque ulla cum Protestantismo cognatione et parentela in medio Catholicae gentis saeculo xviii. temporibus Voltarii et encyclopaedistarum enatum fuisse. . . . Quidquid interim sit de rationalismo, puto venerabilem deputationem omnino falli dum texendo genealogiam naturalismi, materialismi, pantheismi, atheismi, etc., omnes omnino hos errores foetus Protestantismi esse asserit. . . . Errores superius enumerati non tantum nobis verum et ipsis Protestantibus horrori sunt et abominationi, ut adeo Ecclesiae et nobis Catholicis in iis oppugnandis et refellendis auxilio sint et adjumento. Ita Leibnitius erat certe vir eruditus et omni sub respectu praestans; vir in dijudicandis Ecclesiae Catholicae institutis aequus; vir in debellandis sui temporis erroribus strenuus; vir in revehenda inter Christianas communitates concordia optime animatus et meritus. [Loud cries of “Oh! Oh!” The President de Angelis rang the bell and said, “Non est hicce locus laudandi Protestantes.”] . . . Hos viros quorum magna copia existit in Germania, in Anglia, item et in America septentrionali, magna hominum turba inter Protestantes sequitur, quibus omnibus applicari potest illud magni Augustini: “Errant, sed bona fide errant; haeretici sunt, sed illi nos haereticos tenent. Ipsi errorem non invenerunt, sed a perversis et in errorem inductis parentibus haereditaverunt, parati errorem deponere quamprimum convicti fuerint.” [Here there was a long interruption and ringing of the bell, with cries of “Shame! shame!” “Down with the heretic!”] Hi omnes etiamsi non spectent ad Ecclesiae corpus, spectant tamen ad ejus animam, et de muneribus Redemptionis aliquatenus participant. Hi omnes in amore quo erga Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum feruntur, atque in illis positivis veritatibus quas ex fidei naufragio salvarunt, totidem gratiae divinae momenta possident, quibus misericordia Dei utetur, ut eos ad priscam fidem et Ecclesiam reducat, nisi nos exaggerationibus nostris et improvidis charitatis ipsis debitae laesionibus tempus misericordiae divinae elongaverimus. Quantum autem ad charitatem, ei certe contrarium est vulnera aliena alio fine tangere quam ut ipsa sanentur; puto autem hac enumeratione errorum, quibus Protestantismus occasionem dedisset, id non fieri. . . . Decreto, quod in supplementum ordinis interioris nobis nuper communicatum est, statuitur res in Concilio hocce suffragiorum majoritate decidendas fore. Contra hoc principium, quod omnem praecedentium Conciliorum praxim funditus evertit, multi episcopi reclamarunt, quin tamen aliquod responsum obtinuerint. Responsum autem in re tanti momenti dari debuisset clarum, perspicuum et omnis ambiguitatis expers. Hoc ad summas Concilii hujus calamitates spectat, nam hoc certe et praesenti generationi et posteris praebebit ansam dicendi: huic concilio libertatem et veritatem defuisse. Ego ipse convictus sum, aeternam ac immutabilem fidei et traditionis regulam semper fuisse semperque mansuram communem, adminus moraliter unanimem consensum. Concilium, quod hac regula insuperhabita, fidei et morum dogmata majoritate numerica definire intenderet, juxta meam intimam convictionem eo ipso excideret jure conscientiam orbis Catholici sub sanctione vitae ac mortis aeternae obligandi.
[1 ]Dum autem ipse die hesterno ex suggestu hanc quaestionem posuissem et verba de consensu moraliter unanimi in rebus fidei definiendis necessario protulissem, interruptus fui, mihique inter maximum tumultum et graves comminationes possibilitas sermonis continuandi adempta est. Atque haec gravissima sane circumstantia magis adhuc comprobat necessitatem habendi responsi, quod clarum sit omnisque ambiguitatis expers. Peto itaque humillime, ut hujusmodi responsum in proxima congregatione generali detur. Nisi enim haec fierent anceps haererem an manere possem in Concilio, ubi libertas Episcoporum ita opprimitur, quemadmodum heri in me oppressa fuit, et ubi dogmata fidei definirentur novo et in Ecclesia Dei adusque inaudito modo.
[1 ]Quoniam vero satis non est, haereticam pravitatem devitare, nisi ii quoque errores diligenter fugiantur, qui ad illam plus minusve accedunt, omnes officii monemus, servandi etiam Constitutiones et Decreta quibus pravae eiusmodi opiniones, quae isthic diserte non enumerantur, ab hac Sancta Sede proscriptae et prohibitae sunt.
[2 ]In the speech on infallibility which he prepared, but never delivered, Archbishop Kenrick thus expressed himself: “Inter alia quae mihi stuporem injecerunt dixit Westmonasteriensis, nos additamento facto sub finem Decreti de Fide, tertia Sessione lati, ipsam Pontificiam Infallibilitatem, saltem implicite, jam agnovisse, nec ab ea recedere nunc nobis licere. Si bene intellexerim Rm Relatorem, qui in Congregatione generali hoc additamentum, prius oblatum, deinde abstractum, nobis mirantibus quid rei esset, illud iterum inopinato commendavit — dixit, verbis clarioribus, per illud nullam omnino doctrinam edoceri; sed eam quatuor capitibus ex quibus istud decretum compositum est imponi tanquam eis coronidem convenientem; eamque disciplinarem magis quam doctrinalem characterem habere. Aut deceptus est ipse, si vera dixit Westmonasteriensis; aut nos sciens in errorem induxit, quod de viro tam ingenuo minime supponere licet. Utcumque fuerit, ejus declarationi fidentes, plures suffragia sua isti decreto haud deneganda censuerunt ob istam clausulam; aliis, inter quos egomet, dolcs parari metuentibus, et aliorum voluntati hac in re aegre cedentibus. In his omnibus non est mens mea aliquem ex Reverendissimis Patribus malae fidei incusare; quos omnes, ut par est, veneratione debita prosequor. Sed extra concilium adesse dicuntur viri religiosi — forsan et pii — qui maxime in illud influunt; qui calliditati potius quam bonis artibus confisi, rem Ecclesiae in maximum ex quo orta sit discrimen adduxerunt; qui ab inito concilio effececunt ut in Deputationes conciliares ii soli eligerentur qui eorum placitis fovere aut noscerentur aut crederentur; qui nonnullorum ex eorum praedecessoribus vestigia prementes in schematibus nobis propositis, et ex eorum officina prodeuntibus, nihil magis cordi habuisse videntur quam Episcopalem auctoritatem deprimere, Pontificiam autem extollere; et verborum ambagibus incautos decipere velle videntur, dum alia ab aliis in eorum explicationem dicantur. Isti grave hoc incendium in Ecclesia excitarunt, et in illud insufflare non desinunt, scriptis eorum, pietatis speciem prae se ferentibus sed veritate ejus vacuis, in populos spargentibus.
[1 ]The author of the protest afterwards gave the substance of his argument as follows: “Episcopi et theologi publice a Parlamento interrogati fuerunt, utrum Catholici Angliae tenerent Papam posse definitiones relativas ad fidem et mores populis imponere absque omni consensu expresso vel tacito Ecclesiae. Omnes Episcopi et theologi responderunt Catholicos hoc non tenere. Hisce responsionibus confisum Parlamentum Angliae Catholicos admisit ad participationem iurium civilium. Quis Protestantibus persuadebit Catholicos contra honorem et bonam fidem non agere, qui quando agebatur de iuribus sibi acquirendis publice professi sunt ad fidem Catholicam non pertinere doctrinam infallibilitatis Romani Pontificis, statim autem ac obtinuerint quod volebant, a professione publice facta recedunt et contrarium affirmant?”
[1 ]Archbishop Kenrick’s remarkable statement is not reproduced accurately in his pamphlet De Pontificia infallibilitate. It is given in full in the last pages of the Observationes, and is abridged in his Concio habenda sed non habita, where he concludes: “Eam fidei doctrinam esse neganti, non video quomodo responderi possit, cum objiceret Ecclesiam errorem contra fidem divinitus revelatam diu tolerare non potuisse, quin, aut quod ad fidei depositum pertineret non scivisse, aut errorem manifestum tolerasse videretur.”
[1 ]Certissimum ipsi esse fore ut infallibilitate ista dogmatice definita, in dioecesi sua, in qua ne vestigium quidem traditionis de infallibilitate S. P. hucusque inveniatur, et in aliis regionibus multi, et quidem non solum minoris, sed etiam optimae notae, a fide deficiant. — Si edatur, omnis progressus conversionum in Provinciis Foederatis Americae funditus extinguetur. Episcopi et sacerdotes in disputationibus cum Protestantibus quid respondere possent non haberent. — Per eiusmodi definitionem acatholicis, inter quos haud pauci iique optimi hisce praesertim temporibus firmum fidei fundamentum desiderant, ad Ecclesiam reditus redditur difficilis, imo impossibilis.—Qui Concilii decretis obsequi vellent, invenient se maximis in difficultatibus versari. Gubernia civilia eos tanquam subditos minus fidos, haud sine verisimilitudinis specie, habebunt. Hostes Ecclesiae eos lacessere non verebuntur, nunc eis objicientes errores quos Pontifices aut docuisse, aut sua agendi ratione probasse, dicuntur et risu excipient responsa quae sola afferri possint. — Eo ipso definitur in globo quidquid per diplomata apostolica huc usque definitum est. . . . Poterit, admissa tali definitione, statuere de dominio temporali, de eius mensura, de potestate deponendi reges, de usu coercendi haereticos. — Doctrina de Infallibilitate Romani Pontificis nec in Scriptura Sacra, nec in traditione ecclesiastica fundata mihi videtur. Immo contrariam, ni fallor, Christiana antiquitas tenuit doctrinam. — Modus dicendi Schematis supponit existere in Ecclesia duplicem infallibilitatem, ipsius Ecclesiae et Romani Pontificis, quod est absurdum et inauditum.—Subterfugiis quibus theologi non pauci in Honorii causa usi sunt, derisui me exponerem. Sophismata adhibere et munere episcopali et natura rei, quae in timore Domini pertractanda est, indignum mihi videtur. — Plerique textus quibus eam comprobant etiam melioris notae theologi, quos Ultramontanos vocant, mutilati sunt, falsificati, interpolati, circumtruncati, spurii, in sensum alienum detorti. — Asserere audeo eam sententiam, ut in schemate jacet, non esse fidei doctrinam, nec talem devenire posse per quamcumque definitionem etiam conciliarem.
[2 ]This, at least, was the discouraging impression of Archbishop Kenrick: Semper contigit ut Patres surgendo assensum sententiae deputationis praebuerint. Primo quidem die suffragiorum, cum quaestio esset de tertia parte primae emendationis, nondum adhibita indicatione a subsecretario, deinde semper facta, plures surrexerunt adeo ut necesse foret numerum surgentium capere, ut constaret de suffragiis. Magna deinde confusio exorta est, et ista emendatio, quamvis majore forsan numero sic acceptata, in crastinum diem dilata est. Postero die Rms Relator ex ambone Patres monuit, deputationem emendationem istam admittere nolle. Omnes fere eam rejiciendam surgendo statim dixerunt.
[1 ]Quodcumque Dominus Noster non dixerit etiam si metaphysice aut physice certissimum nunquam basis esse poterit dogmatis divinae fidei. Fides enim per auditum, auditus autem non per scientiam sed per verba Christi. . . . Non ipsa verba S. Scripturae igitur, sed genuinus sensus, sive litteralis, sive metaphoricus, prout in mente Dei revelantis fuit, atque ab Ecclesiae patribus semper atque ubique concorditer expositus, et quem nos omnes juramento sequi abstringimur, hic tantummodo sensus Vera Dei revelatio dicendus est. . . . Tota antiquitas silet vel contraria est. . . . Verbum Dei volo et hoc solum, quaeso et quidem indubitatum, ut dogma fiat.
[2 ]Hanc de infallibilitate his conditionibus ortam et isto modo introductam aggredi et definire non possumus, ut arbitror, quin eo ipso tristem viam sternamus tum cavillationibus impiorum, tum etiam objectionibus moralem hujus Concilii auctoritatem minuentibus. Et hoc quidem eo magis cavendum est, quod jam prostent et pervulgentur scripta et acta quae vim ejus et rationem labefactare attentant; ita ut nedum animos sedare queat et quae pacis sunt afferre, e contra nova dissensionis et discordiarum semina inter Christianos spargere videatur. . . . Porro, quod in tantis Ecclesiae angustiis laboranti mundo remedium affertur? Iis omnibus qui ab humero indocili excutiunt onera antiquitus imposita, et consuetudine Patrum veneranda, novum ideoque grave et odiosum onus imponi postulant schematis auctores. Eos omnes qui infirmae fidei sunt novo et non satis opportuno dogmate quasi obruunt, doctrina scilicet hucusque nondum definita, praesentis discussionis vulnere nonnihil sauciata, et a Concilio cujus libertatem minus aequo apparere plurimi autumant et dicunt pronuntianda. . . . Mundus aut aeger est aut perit, non quod ignorat veritatem vel veritatis doctores, sed quod ab ea refugit eamque sibi non vult imperari. Igitur, si eam respuit, quum a toto docentis Ecclesiae corpore, id est ab 800 episcopis per totum orbem sparsis et simul cum S. Pontifice infallibilibus praedicatur, quanto magis quum ab unico Doctore infallibili, et quidem ut tali recenter declarato praedicabitur? Ex altera parte, ut valeat et efficaciter agat auctoritas necesse est non tantum eam affirmari, sed insuper admitti. . . . Syllabus totam Europam pervasit at cui malo mederi potuit etiam ubi tanquam oraculum infallibile susceptus est? Duo tantum restabant regna in quibus religio florebat, non de facto tantum, sed et de jure dominans: Austria scilicet et Hispania. Atqui in his duobus regnis ruit iste Catholicus ordo, quamvis ab infallibili auctoritate commendatus, imo forsan saltem in Austria eo praecise quod ab hac commendatus. Audeamus igitur res uti sunt considerare. Nedum Sanctissimi Pontificis independens infallibilitas praejudicia et objectiones destruat quae permultos a fide avertunt, ea potius auget et aggravat. . . . Nemo non videt si politicae gnarus, quae semina dissensionum schema nostrum contineat et quibus periculis exponatur ipsa temporalis Sanctae sedis potestas.
[1 ]Espérons que l’excès du mal provoquera le retour du bien. Ce Concile n’aura eu qu’un heureux résultat, celui d’en appeler un autre, réuni dans la liberté. . . . Le Concile du Vatican demeurera stérile, comme tout ce qui n’est pas éclos sous le souffle de l’Esprit Saint. Cependant il aura révélé non seulement jusqu’à quel point l’absolutisme peut abuser des meilleures institutions et des meilleurs instincts, mais aussi ce que vaut encore le droit, alors même qu’il n’a plus que le petit nombre pour le deféndre. . . . Si la multitude passe quand même nous lui prédisons qu’elle n’ira pas loin. Les Spartiates, qui étaient tombés aux Thermopyles pour défendre les terres de la liberté, avaient preparé au flot impitoyable au despotisme la défaite de Salamis.