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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 34

Appendix C

Appendix C.

For the accuracy of the following statement I have direct evidence:—

For several years past the Radical authorities of the Diocese of Basle have persecuted the Catholic Church, as they still continue to do. Formerly the persecution was carried into effect, partly by violence and partly by underhand means; but it was always specious and very injurious to religion. It was invariably carried on in the name of progress, liberty, and the welfare of the people, whom it pretended to free from the tyranny of the priesthood and the despotism of Rome.

The Catholic populations were thus oppressed by the so-called omnipotence of the State, and, incredible as it would seem under a republican form of government, the State, or rather a few individuals acting in its name, supported by a non-Catholic majority, and backed by the Radical element, have succeeded in monopolising power, and in maintaining themselves in it by terrorism and bribery for a length of years, assuming to themselves the page 189 functions of the Holy See and the Episcopate, and so adding to then temporal rule the spiritual government of souls. Not only have they possessed themselves of the direction of all public schools, and of the administration of all pious foundations, but they have destroyed all monastic, capitular, and ecclesiastical institutions, claimed the right to regulate the parochial system, the preaching of the Gospel, catechizing, confessions, first communions of children, the celebration of public worship, processions, burials and benedictions, and even extended their jurisdiction to matrimonial causes. More than this, by the Federal Constitution, which the recent revolutionary laws have just extended to the Catholic cantons, contrary to the will of the populations as expressed by the vote of an immense majority, the State has virtually and insidiously suppressed the Catholic Church by the introduction of that article of the Federal Code by which the ecclesiastical jurisdiction is abolished. (Art. 58.)

Finally, in five cantons of the Diocese of Basle, the Catholic populations have lost all liberty of worship in a more or less degree.

Since the Council of the Vatican more especially, the war against the Church has been waged with greater acrimony in the Diocese of Basle, and since the victories of Prussia, our enemies have acted more openly. The five governments of Soleure, Argovie, Basle-Campagne, Berne, and Thurgovie have sent their delegates to an assembly calling itself a Diocesan Conference, composed not of ecclesiastics, but in great part of Protestants, and of lay-Catholics notoriously hostile to the Church. Such a body of course possessed no legal authority, but notwithstanding its patent incapacity, it committed, among many other illegal and unjust acts, that of pronouncing a sentence of deprivation against the Bishop of Basle, on the 29th of January, 1873. The principal offence page 190 imputed to him was, that of having published the definition of Papal Infallibility in his diocese, and of having refused to withdraw the publication. Several minor accusations were brought against him; but it may be remarked that the authorities were unable to prove that he had violated a single law during the whole course of his episcopate. He was therefore deprived of his see solely because he had fulfilled the duties of a Catholic bishop, and because he would not separate himself from the unity of the Holy See, by refusing to publish the decrees of the Vatican Council.

Since the above attack on the liberties of the Catholic populations, the Holy See, and the Church, a series of laws favouring schism and apostasy have been passed by the five cantonal governments in question. They have forbidden the Bishop of Basle to exercise his episcopal charge throughout the five cantons composing his diocese; and they have also forbidden the clergy to maintain any official relations with him, so that the faithful suffer grievous injury in their most sacred rights, and in their most urgent religious needs, in common with the whole Catholic priesthood, which has been punished in all the cantons for having protested against these unjust acts.

But it is the Protestant Canton of Berne which has signalised itself beyond all others by its despotism and its cruelty. It has suspended all the parish priests of the canton from their pastoral functions, and has since then deprived them, as well as all their curates, to the number of sixty-nine. It next pronounced sentence of exile on the whole clergy, ninety in number, only excepting five or six aged priests, who were, however, forbidden to say mass save in their own rooms, or in any way to exercise their sacred ministry. The government then drove all the priests out of their churches and presbyteries, and confiscated all their benefices and revenues, so that they are page 191 deprived of all means of subsistence. Before the sentence of exile was carried out, many of them were moreover punished by fine and imprisonment. The Catholic laity has suffered there, and still has to suffer from every kind of injustice: fines, imprisonment, dismissal from public employment, are common occurrences, and men, women, nuns, and even children have been imprisoned for their faith.

There are, at the present moment, more than 60,000 Catholics in the Canton of Berne, who are deprived, as far as State influence can effect it, of all religious help, whether in life or in death, the exiled priests of the Bernese Jura being arrested and cast into prison if discovered within the cantonal limits.

The immense majority of the people, however, remain firmly attached to their pastors. In many parishes not a schismatic is to be found, and in others, containing a numerous population, the exceptions are very few. In a word, the Catholics of the Bernese Jura maintain their fidelity to the faith of their fathers, and the only partisans of the schism are apostates or persons long notoriously hostile to the Church.

But the most revolting feature of the present persecution is that the Government of Berne has sought in every part of Europe foreign priests in order to replace the lawfully appointed clergy of the Jura. It has succeeded in finding a certain number of suspended or apostate priests, who have consented to act as the instruments of State persecution. During the fourteen months which have witnessed the exile of the sixty-nine faithful parish clergy, twenty-five strangers have been brought to replace them. These men are of the worst moral antecedents. The government, notwithstanding, has imposed them on the parishioners, gives them profuse supplies of money, makes over the churches and presbyteries to them, and supports page 192 them in every way, while the native clergy are despoiled and exiled.

The Catholics of the Jura being thus deprived of their pastors, meet in farms or outhouses for common worship; and yet even this liberty is not always conceded to them. It is only in profound secret they can receive the sacraments, or hear mass, and they even bury their own dead without the assistance of a priest. It is thus that religious animosity, making common cause with Radicalism, tyrannises over its fellow-citizens, who commit no offence against the public peace, and who bear their proportionate share of the public burdens!

By the course it has pursued the Government of Berne has violated the treaties and constitutions which protect Catholic liberties within the cantons. In order to give a colour of legality to future persecutions, it has voted a new Ecclesiastical Constitution, expressly framed against the interests of the Catholic Church in Switzerland, and which it has imposed, against their will, on the Catholics of Berne by a preponderant non-Catholic majority.

One consolation remains to us, namely, the fidelity of the entire body of clergy to the Catholic Church. They have freely chosen to lose all rather than betray the faith.

In order to perpetuate the supply of schismatic or 'Old-Catholic' priests, the government has recently established a faculty of theology in Berne. It has brought professors from Germany, either Protestants or apostate priests, and has induced a small number of students to follow the courses, by paying them highly for their attendance.

In Soleure, too, the Radical authorities carry on the same persecution of the Catholics of the cantons. The government has succeeded in placing three schismatical priests in as many parishes. It has suppressed and confiscated the celebrated and ancient abbey of the Bene- page 193 dictines at Mariastein and the Chapters of Schœnnenwerth and of the Bishopric of Basle at Soleure. In the other mixed cantons, where the anti-Catholic Radicals are in a majority, the Catholics have much to suffer.

The Diocese of Basle includes seven cantons—viz. Soleure, Argovie, Thurgovie, Basle-Campagne, Berne, Lucerne, and Zug. The two last-named cantons are Catholic, and possess a just government. In the other cantons the majority is Protestant. To these must be added the city of Basle and the canton of Schaff hausen, both of which form part of the same diocese.

The Diocese of Basle comprises 430,000 Catholics and 800,000 Protestants and other denominations. It contains 800 priests, only seven of whom have become Old Catholics. The so-called Diocesan Conference has pushed its pretensions to the point of prescribing what authors are to be used by ecclesiastical students in the seminary! The bishop was not even free to appoint the superior and his assistants, but was obliged to obtain the 'Placet' of the State for such nominations, as well as for his Pastoral Letters.

London: Printed by Spotteswoode and Co., New-Street Square and Parliament Street