Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 34

V. Being True are the Propositions Material?

V. Being True are the Propositions Material?

But next, if these propositions be true, are they also material? The claims cannot, as I much fear, be denied to have been made. It cannot be denied that the Bishops, who govern in things spiritual more than five millions (or nearly one-sixth) of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, have in some cases promoted, in all cases accepted, these claims. It has been a favourite purpose of my life not to conjure up, but to conjure down, public alarms. I am not now going to pretend that either foreign foe or domestic treason can, at the bidding of the Court of Rome, disturb these peaceful shores. But though such fears may be visionary, it is more visionary still to suppose for one moment that the claims of Gregory VII., of Innocent III., and of Boniface VIII., have been disinterred, in the nineteenth century, like hideous mummies picked out of Egyptian sarcophagi, in the interests of archaeology, or without a definite and practical aim. As rational beings we must rest assured that only with a very clearly conceived and foregone purpose have these astonishing re-assertions been paraded before the world. What is that purpose?

I can well believe that it is in part theological. There have always been, and there still are, no small proportion of our race, and those by no means in all respects the worst, who are sorely open to the temptation, especially in times of religious disturbance, to discharge their spiritual responsibilities by power of attorney. As advertising Houses find custom in proportion, not so much to the solidity of their resources as to the magniloquence of their promises and assurances, so theological boldness in the extension of such claims is sure to pay, by widening certain circles of devoted adherents, however it may repel the mass of mankind. There were two special encouragements to this enterprise at the present day: one of them the perhaps unconscious but manifest leaning of some, outside the Roman precinct, to undue exaltation of page 22 Church power; the other the reaction, which is and must be brought about in favour of superstition, by the levity of the destructive speculations so widely current, and the notable hardihood of the anti-Christian writing of the day.

But it is impossible to account sufficiently in this manner for the particular course which has been actually pursued by the Roman Court. All morbid spiritual appetites would have been amply satisfied by claims to infallibility in creed, to the prerogative of miracle, to dominion over the unseen world. In truth there was occasion, in this view, for nothing, except a liberal supply of Salmonean thunder:—

"Dum flammas Jovis, et sonitus imitatur Olympi."*

All this could have been managed by a few Tetzels, judiciously distributed over Europe. Therefore the question still remains, Why did that Court, with policy for ever in its eye, lodge such formidable demands for power of the vulgar kind in that sphere which is visible, and where hard knocks can undoubtedly be given as well as received?

It must be for some political object, of a very tangible kind, that the risks of so daring a raid upon the civil sphere have been deliberately run.

A daring raid it is. For it is most evident that the very assertion of principles which establish an exemption from allegiance, or which impair its completeness, goes, in many other countries of Europe, far more directly than with us, to the creation of political strife, and to dangers of the most material and tangible kind. The struggle, now proceeding in Germany, at once occurs to the mind as a palmary instance. I am not competent to give any opinion upon the particulars of that struggle. The institutions of Germany, and the relative estimate of State power and individual freedom, are materially different from ours. But I must say as much as this. First, it is not Prussia alone that is touched; elsewhere, too, the bone lies ready, though the contention may be delayed. In other States, in Austria particularly, there are recent laws in force, raising much the same issues as the Falck laws have raised. But the Roman Court possesses in perfection one art, the art of waiting; and it is her wise maxim to fight but one enemy at a time. Secondly, if I have truly represented the claims promulgated from the Vatican, it is difficult to deny that those claims, and the power which has made them, are primarily responsible for the pains and perils, whatever they may be, of the present conflict between German and Roman enactments. And that which was once truly said of France, may now also be said with not less truth of Germany: when Germany is disquieted, Europe cannot be at rest.

I should feel less anxiety on this subject had the Supreme Pontiff frankly recognized his altered position since the events of 1870; and, in language as clear, if not as emphatic, as that in which he has proscribed modern civilization, given to Europe the assurance that, he would be no party to the re-establishment by blood and violence of the

* Æn. vi. 586.

page 23 Temporal Power of the Church. It is easy to conceive that his personal benevolence, no less than his feelings as an Italian, must have inclined him individually towards a course so humane; and I should add, if I might do it without presumption, so prudent. With what appears to an English eye a lavish prodigality, successive Italian Governments have made over the ecclesiastical powers and privileges of the Monarchy, not to the Church of the country for the revival of the ancient, popular, and self-governing elements of its constitution, but to the Papal Chair, for the establishment of ecclesiastical despotism, and the suppression of the last vestiges of independence. This course, so difficult for a foreigner to appreciate, or even to justify, has been met, not by reciprocal conciliation, but by a constant fire of denunciations and complaints. When the tone of these denunciations and complaints is compared with the language of the authorized and favoured Papal organs in the press, and of the Ultramontane party (now the sole legitimate party of the Latin Church) throughout Europe, it leads many to the painful and revolting conclusion that there is a fixed purpose among the secret inspirers of Roman policy to pursue, by the road of force, upon the arrival of any favourable opportunity, the favourite project of re-erecting the terrestrial throne of the Popedom, even if it can only be re-erected on the ashes of the city, and amidst the whitening bones of the people.*

It is difficult to conceive or contemplate the effects of such an endeavour. But the existence at this day of the policy, even in bare idea, is itself a portentous evil. I do not hesitate to say that it is an incentive to general disturbance, a premium upon European wars. It is in my opinion not sanguine only, but almost ridiculous to imagine that such a project could eventually succeed; but it is difficult to overestimate the effect which it might produce in generating and exasperating strife. It might even, to some extent, disturb and paralyse the action of such Governments as might interpose for no separate purpose of their own, but only with a view to the maintenance or restoration of the general peace. If the baleful Power which is expressed by the phrase Curia Romana, and not at all adequately rendered in its historic force by the usual English equivalent "Court of Rome," really entertains the scheme, it doubtless counts on the support in every country of an organized and devoted party; which, when it can command the scales of political power, will promote interference, and, when it is in a minority, will work for securing neutrality. As the peace of Europe may be in jeopardy, and as the duties even of England, as one (so to speak) of its constabulary authorities, might come to be in question, it would be most interesting to know the mental attitude of our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen in England and Ireland with reference to the subject; and it seems to be one, on which we are entitled to solicit information.

For there cannot be the smallest doubt that the temporal power of the Popedom comes within the true meaning of the words used at the Vatican to describe the subjects on which the Pope is authorized to claim, under awful sanctions, the obedience of the "faithful." It is

* Appendix C.

page 24 even possible that we have here the key to the enlargement of the province of Obedience beyond the limits of Infallibility, and to the introduction of the remarkable phrase ad disciplinam et regimen Ecclesiæ. No impartial person can deny that the question of the temporal power very evidently concerns the discipline and government of the Church—concerns it, and most mischievously as I should venture to think; but in the opinion, up to a late date, of many Roman Catholics, not only most beneficially, but even essentially. Let it be remembered, that such a man as the late Count Montalembert, who in his general politics was of the Liberal party, did not scruple to hold that the millions of Roman Catholics throughout the world were copartners with the inhabitants of the States of the Church in regard to their civil government; and, as constituting the vast majority, were of course entitled to override them. It was also rather commonly held, a quarter of a century ago, that the question of the States of the Church was one with which none but Roman Catholic Powers could have anything to do. This doctrine, I must own, was to me at all times unintelligible. It is now, to say the least, hopelessly and irrecoverably obsolete.

Archbishop Manning, who is the head of the Papal Church in England, and whose ecclesiastical tone is supposed to be in the closest accordance with that of his headquarters, has not thought it too much to say that the civil order of all Christendom is the offspring of the Temporal Power, and has the Temporal Power for its keystone; that on the destruction of the Temporal Power "the laws of nations would at once fall in ruins;" that (our old friend) the deposing Power "taught subjects obedience and princes clemency."* Nay, this high authority has proceeded further; and has elevated the Temporal Power to the rank of necessary doctrine.

"The Catholic Church cannot he silent, it cannot hold its peace; it cannot cease to preach the doctrines of Revelation, not only of the Trinity and of the Incarnation, but likewise of the Seven Sacraments, and of the Infallibility of the Church of God, and of the necessity of Unity, and of the Sovereignty, both spiritual and temporal, of the Holy See."

I never, for my own part, heard that the work containing this remarkable passage was placed in the 'Index Prohibitorum Librorum.' On the contrary, its distinguished author was elevated, on the first opportunity, to the headship of the Roman Episcopacy in England, and to the guidance of the million or thereabouts of souls in its communion. And the more recent utterances of the oracle have not descended from the high level of those already cited. They have, indeed, the recommendation of a comment, not without fair claims to authority, on the recent declarations of the Pope and the Council; and of one which goes to prove how far I am from having exaggerated or strained in the foregoing pages the meaning of those declarations. Especially does this

* "Three Lectures on the Temporal Sovereignty of the Popes," 1860, pp. 34, 46, 47, 58-9, 63.

"The present Crisis of the Holy See." By H. E. Manning, D.D. London, 1861, p. 73.

page 25 hold good on the one point, the most vital of the whole—the title to define the border line of the two provinces, which the Archbishop not unfairly takes to be the true criterion of supremacy, as between rival powers like the Church and the State.

"If, then, the civil power he not competent to decide the limits of the spiritual power, and if the spiritual power can define, with a divine certainty, its own limits, it is evidently supreme. Or, in other words, the spiritual power knows, with divine certainty, the limits of its own jurisdiction: and it knows therefore the limits and the competence of the civil power. It is thereby, in matters of religion and conscience, supreme. I do not see how this can be denied without denying Christianity. And if this be so, this is the doctrine of the Bull Unam Sanctam* and of the Syllabus, and of the Vatican Council. It is, in fact, Ultramontanism, for this term means neither less nor more. The Church, therefore, is separate and supreme.

"Let us then ascertain somewhat further, what is the meaning of supreme. Any power which is independent, and can alone fix the limits of its own jurisdiction, andean thereby fix the limits of all other jurisdictions, is, ipso facto, supreme. But the Church of Jesus Christ, within the sphere of revelation, of faith and morals, is all this, or is nothing, or worse than nothing, an imposture and an usurpation—that is, it is Christ or Antichrist."

But the whole pamphlet should be read by those who desire to know the true sense of the Papal declarations and Vatican decrees, as they are understood by the most favoured ecclesiastics; understood, I am bound to own, so far as I can see, in their natural, legitimate, and inevitable sense. Such readers will be assisted by the treatise in seeing clearly, and in admitting frankly that, whatever demands may hereafter, and in whatever circumstances, be made upon us, we shall be unable to advance with any fairness the plea that it has been done without due notice.

There are millions upon millions of the Protestants of this country, who would agree with Archbishop Manning, if he were simply telling us that Divine truth is not to be sought from the lips of the State, nor to be sacrificed at its command. But those millions would tell him, in return, that the State, as the power which is alone responsible for the external order of the world, can alone conclusively and finally be competent to determine what is to take place in the sphere of that external order.

I have shown, then, that the Propositions, especially that which has been felt to be the chief one among them, being true, are also material; material to be generally known, and clearly understood, and well considered, on civil grounds; inasmuch as they invade, at a multitude of points, the civil sphere, and seem even to have no very remote or shadowy connection with the future peace and security of Christendom.

* On the Bull Unam Sanctam, "of a most odious kind;" see Bishop Doyle's Essay, already cited. He thus describes it.

The italics are not in the original.

"Cæsarism and Ultramontanism." By Archbishop Manning, 1874, pp. 35-6.