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Pius IX., on ascending the pontifical throne in 1846, found a crisis in papal affairs. Ages of misgovernment and superstition had borne their proper fruit,--universal decay and exhaustion. Nations were exhausted; the long thraldom they had endured had inflicted a fatal blight on their moral and industrial powers. Governments were exhausted; their numerous crusades and wars had sunk them into bankrupty. Churches were exhausted; superstition had worn out belief altogether, and plunged the masses into infidelity and atheism. Wickedness is short-lived, and in the end destroys itself. Thus, after twelve centuries of dominion and glory, it was seen that the Papacy was now verging to its fall, and that it was the author of its own overthrow. The Reformation had done much to weaken Popery: the progress of scientific discovery, and the working of a free press,--indirect consequences of the Reformation,--had contributed also to undermine this system. But, though it startles at first, Popery had done more than all these to work out its own ruin. Its superstition had passed into atheism, its tyranny into revolution, and the Papacy appeared doomed to a violent death at the hands of those evil principles which itself had engendered. His first glance at the Catholic world, after his elevation to the tiara, must have satisfied the Pope that the condition of western Europe was very different indeed from what it was in the fifteenth century,--different even from what it was in the middle of last century,--that the democratic element, which had burst out with such terror in the first French Revolution, and which had spent itself in the wars that followed, had been recruiting its forces during the period of quiescence since 1815,--that it now universally pervaded the west,--that it had summoned to its aid principles of unknown character, but of tremendous power,--and that there was not strength enough in either the secular or the sacerdotal system to withstand the coming shock, unless, indeed, both should come to be reinvigorated. Pius was aware especially, that in Italy a constitutional movement was in progress, and had been so in the latter years of his predecessor Gregory XVI. He knew that thoughtful Italians, both in and out of Italy, were painfully sensible of the demoralization of their country,--that they attributed that demoralization to the character and form of its government,--that they regarded the rule of a sacerdotal monarch as an anomaly, unsuited to the spirit and the wants of the age, and a barrier to progress,--that throughout all Italy, more especially in the States of the Church, where the evil was more felt, and even in Rome itself, the desire was universal among all classes for the disjunction of the temporal and spiritual sovereignties. All this was perfectly well known to Pius IX. on his elevation to the fisherman's chair; and it is necessary to keep this in view, as it explains the phase that Popery assumed, and the new tactics which it adopted, and likewise furnishes the key to its present state and prospects.1
Popery, though outwardly strong, is inwardly and essentially weak. The reverse is the fact as regards Christianity: it is outwardly weak, but inwardly and essentially strong. Its power is within itself, and inseparable from its essence. It can lead those on whom it operates, whether an individual or a nation, to act contrary to their passions and interests. It originates and guides great movements, but is never dragged in their rear. Not so the Papacy. All its power is without itself. It governs men only in accordance with their passions: it watches the rising of great movements, links itself on to them, and appears to guide, while in point of fact it is constrained to follow. The crisis in which Pius IX. found the Papacy offered him the alternative of opposing the movement, or of siding with it, and so appearing to lead it. Either alternative was attended with immense risk; but on the principle we have stated, that Popery is powerless in opposition unless she can wield the sword, and that her great strength lies in casting herself upon the popular current, in whatever direction it may chance to be running, Pius chose the last, as the least perilous of the two courses open to him. No one can yet have forgotten the amazement which seized upon all men when they saw that power which for ages had been the head of European despotism, place itself at the head of the Italian movement, now sufficiently developed to be seen to be part of a grand European movement towards constitutional government. A new prodigy was beheld. That power which had warred with liberty during ten centuries, and ceased to assail it with its thunderbolts only when it was prostrate beneath its feet,--that power which had been the bulwark of despotic thrones,--which had provided a dungeon for science, and a stake for the patriot and the confessor,--whose motto was immobility,--had become the patron of progress, and assumed the lead in a grand movement towards free government! Those who were able to penetrate the policy of Rome saw clearly that the movement was distasteful and abhorrent to the Papacy,--that it contained principles utterly destructive of the system,--and that it had placed itself at its head that it might strangle by craft what it was unable to crush by force.
Nevertheless, for some time the policy of the Pope was completely successful; and there even appeared some likelihood of its being finally triumphant. Flambeaux were burned before the gates of the Quirinal, and Rome resounded day and night with vivas. The journalists of Paris and London wrote elaborate and eloquent panegyrics on the reforming Pope. It had almost been voted by acclamation that Popery was changed; that the bloody deeds of past times were to be attributed to the barbarism of the age, and not at all to the spirit of the Papacy; and that the pontifical system was perfectly compatible with constitutional and liberal government, and the progress of the human race. This was what Pius IX. wished the world to believe; and had he but succeeded in making the world believe this, he would have carried his point; he would have added a lustre and authority to the chair of Peter unknown to it for ages.2 The revolted masses would have returned to the creed they had abjured, and come thronging back to the altars from which infidelity had driven them away. Recognising in Pius at once the pontiff and the reformer,--the high priest of religion and the foremost champion of liberty,--how willingly would the nations have surrendered the movement into his hands! and, once in his hands, he would have known well how to turn it to account, making it the harbinger of a new era of dominion and glory to the popedom, and of iron bondage to Europe. Such were the visions of the Vatican. The conspiracy was wide-spread. The bishops and priests throughout the Catholic world were taught how to play their part. The Church ostentatiously marched in the van, as if she had been the originator of the movement, and was nobly guiding it to its goal. Prayers were offered in the cathedrals and parish churches of France for Pius IX. and his reforms. The banners were taken into the chapels and blessed. Trees of liberty were set up amid papal benedictions; and in the public processions priests of all orders were seen to mingle. The blouse of the democrat and the frock of the bourgeoise were interspersed with the robe of the parish curé, the cowl of the Capuchin, and the rope of the Franciscan. There was at that time no small danger of the infidelity of the masses passing into superstition, and of Popery thus rooting itself afresh in the popular mind of Europe. But from a calamity so great it pleased Providence to deliver the world, by writing confusion upon the counsels of the Vatican. And when we speak of deliverance, we would not insinuate that all peril from the Papacy is at an end, but only that the insidious and dangerous device of Pius IX., maintained with great plausibility, and carried out with immense eclat, during well-nigh three years, has been completely exposed and defeated; and this we are disposed to regard as no light mercy. A crisis arose in the movement, which might have been foreseen, but for which no amount of papal ingenuity could possibly provide. Big promises and sham reforms,--all as yet which the reforming pontiff had given,--could no longer suffice. The masses were in earnest, and boons were now demanded, great, substantial and sweeping, such as would have laid the papal supremacy in the dust,--a free press, the secularization of the papal government, and the introduction of the representative and constitutional element in the form of chambers. It was to prevent such demands ever being made that Pius IX. had placed himself at the head of the movement.3 As astute an upholder of the infallibility and supremacy as any pope who ever flourished in the dark ages, Pius IX. resolved not to yield; and, after a short space spent in shuffling, be openly broke with the movement, and cast himself into the arms of the absolutist and reactionary powers. He commenced his reforming career with an amnesty which set loose from prison thieves, robbers, and even worse criminals; and he closed it with an amnesty which consigned to a dungeon, or drove into exile, the most virtuous and patriotic citizens of Rome. And thus the spell by which Pius had hoped to charm into peace the furies of the Revolution broke utterly in his hands. Driven from this high ground, the Papacy has renewed the struggle in a much less advantageous position. Having been obliged to drop the mask of reform, it advances against Christianity and liberty under its own form, and with its old weapons,--coercion and the sword. This so far is well. One plan, organized by the Jesuits, and worked by them, is at this moment in operation in all the countries of Europe; and when we trace its workings, so far as we have access to know them, we exhibit the present state and tactics of Popery. Popery, then, has gone back to its ancient and natural allies, from whom it had been parted for a brief space; and the two, having manifestly one interest, will probably remain united, till both sink into one common perdition. Matters have come to this pass, that nothing but the sword of the state can save the spiritual power, and nothing but the policy of the Church can wield the sword of the state. This both parties clearly perceive. Accordingly, the Jesuits, whom the revolutionary outbreak of 1848 had driven away, have been recalled, and a virtual compact entered into with them. Lend us your power, say the Jesuits, and we will give you our wisdom. We will save the vessel of the state, only we must sit at the helm. And at the helm they do sit. The Jesuits are at this moment the real rulers of Europe; and from the one end of it to the other they pursue the same object, and act upon the same tactics. Their scheme of reconquering Europe by the pretence of reform having come to nought, they have been compelled to fall back upon their ancient and approved method of rule,--open, undisguised force. Europe is at present under the government of the sabre. This is the Jesuit prescription for curing it of its madness. The first object of the Jesuits is to abrogate the liberties which the Revolution of 1848 inaugurated. They know that liberty and Protestantism are twin powers,--that the alliance between despotism and Popery is now of a thousand years standing,--and that the papal supremacy is incompatible with the order of things introduced by the Revolution, more especially with universal suffrage and a free press. The first requisites, therefore, to the restoration of their power is the suppression of the rights of 1848. They dare not by edict proclaim these rights null and void, but they provisionally abrogate them. The violence of the masses is the pretext alleged for placing the great cities and several whole kingdoms of the Continent under martial law. It is of course intended by the Jesuits that this provisional state shall become the permanent and normal condition of Europe. Thus they attempt insidiously to rivet their former chains upon the nations.
They are wise in their generation. A glance at the past history of Europe shows, that in every country in which Reformation advanced so far as to introduce constitutional government, Protestantism has kept its ground; whereas in those countries where the government was not reformed, whatever progress the reformed religion had made, the people have again fallen back into Popery. They know also enough of Europe at this hour to be aware that, were Poland, were Bohemia, were Italy, and, we may add, Spain, to acquire a constitutional government, these countries would not remain a single day under the papal yoke. It is their absolute regime alone that prevents the immediate erection of a Protestant national Church in Poland and Bohemia. A Christian Church would be formed at Rome, but for the sacerdotal government. No sooner did Piedmont become a constitutional kingdom in the spring of 1848, than the Waldensian Church obtained its religious freedom, and its members their constitutional rights; while the despotism of Russia to this day excludes the missionary from her Asiatic provinces. These facts show that the Jesuits have good cause for plotting the overthrow of the liberties of 1848.
They have attacked these liberties one by one. First, the press groans in its former chains. In France, in Austria, in Naples, and, in short, all over Catholic Europe, the press is the object of prosecution, of fine, and not unfrequently of actual suspension.4 This rigour is not limited to newspapers, but extends to all useful books, and especially to the Bible. As an instance, we may mention that, in the spring of 1850, the priests prosecuted two printers of Florence for having, under the government of the republic, printed a translation of the New Testament in Italian, and that on the express ground of "their having published the gospel in the vulgar tongue, so that every one may be enabled to read it." Thus they show their dread of letters, and their hankering after the darkness of bygone times. The excuse put forward for these tyrannical proceedings is, that a free press is propagating communism. These persons forget that under the rigorous censorship of Germany nothing flourished so much as an atheistic pantheism. Occasion is taken on the same ground to molest colporteurs in their distribution of tracts and Bibles,5 especially in France, where this work is mostly carried on.
The Jesuits are making prodigious efforts in all the countries of Europe to get into their hands the education of the youth. In Ireland, the Synod of Thurles condemned the government colleges, and prohibited the Romanist youth from attending them, because their chairs were not filled solely with Romanists. This Synod, which enacted, in effect, that darkness is better than light, and that the light ought to be put under anathema all over Ireland, and all over the world if possible, was fittingly presided over by a man who believes that the Pope is infallible, and that the earth stands still. In France a bill was introduced into the Assembly by the Jesuit Minister M. Falloux, and passed, giving to the prefects the power of dismissing the departmental schoolmasters. So early as April 1850, not fewer than four thousand schoolmasters, suspected of a leaning to Protestantism or to communism, had been dismissed, on the complaint of the parish curé. These discussions on education brought to light the existence of a feeling in favour of a spiritual or mental tyranny in quarters where it was least suspected. We allude to MM. Thiers, De Tocqueville, and others. No sooner did the Jesuits regain their ascendancy at Naples than they commenced their war against education. By a decree of the 27th of October 1849, whoever is engaged in public or private instruction must appear before a council, to be interrogated on "the Catechism of the Christian doctrine," and can only exercise their office by permission; which simply means that the Jesuits are to dictate what is to be taught to the youth at Naples, whilst the civil law will punish any deviation from their orders. By a decree of the Minister of Instruction at Naples, issued in December 1849, all students are placed under a commission of ecclesiastics, and are obliged to enroll themselves in some lecherous congregation or society. All schools, public and private, are placed under the same arbitrary law. The schoolmasters are bound to take all their pupils above ten years of age to one of the congregations, and to make a monthly return of their attendance. Since that time, the atrocious catechism described by Mr. Gladstone, which teaches that kings are divine, that popes can dispense with oaths, and that all liberals are the children of the devil, and will be eternally damned, has been introduced into the schools, and is now conned by the children. In Austria and Germany they are not less busy attacking knowledge under pretence of diffusing it. Thus do the Jesuits strive to lead back the mind of Europe to its dungeon. The shackles which infidelity taught the fathers to throw off are to be riveted betimes upon the sons.
In the latter years of Napoleon's career, the condition of Roman Catholicism seemed desperate. It was then that a small but brilliant band of literary men undertook to restore its fortunes. Lamennais, de Maistre, Bonald, wrote argumentative and eloquent works, defending Romanism and attacking its adversaries. Their works made a great sensation, and gathered a party around them. They leant mainly upon the Roman Court, the restored Bourbons, and Metternich: they were absolutist in their politics, and their great success seduced them into measures of an extremely despotic character. Under Louis XVIII. bloody persecutions were recommenced in the south of France, and the Jesuits kept assassins in their pay. Marshals of France were obliged to walk in processions and carry a candle, under the penalty of forfeiting the favour of their sovereign. As a consequence, the Revolution of 1830 broke out, and fell upon the Jesuits like a thunderbolt. They saw their error, and resolved henceforward not to lean upon governments, but to operate directly upon the people, through the instrumentality of the press, the pulpit, and the confessional. The interval since 1830 has been occupied in this way by the priesthood. But it does not appear that their success has been great; for it is a fact too obvious to be denied, that infidelity, under its various forms of socialism, communism, and atheism, is more widely spread among the French people at this moment than it was in 1830. But every new disaster that befalls their system, instead of discouraging them, only stimulates to greater activity. And since 1848 their zeal has been prodigious: they are in course of filling the schools with teachers thoroughly devoted to the priests; new school-books have been compiled; and the main object kept in view in their compilation is the initiation of the youth into the absurdities of Popery. The following may be taken as a sample of these books:--Of the tracts of the "blessed Alphonse de Liguori," which the priests are in the habit of putting into the hands of their scholars and catechumens, there is one in great ardour of sanctity in the seminaries, convents of young females, and in all the institutions under the influence of the Romish clergy, entitled Paraphrase de Salve Regina.6 It was designed to recommend the worship of the Virgin; and amongst other methods to gain this end, it condescended to tell the following story:--"There lived at Venice [when, it is not said] a celebrated lawyer, who had enriched himself by fraud, and all sorts of illicit practices. His soul was in a most deplorable state, and the only thing that saved him from the doom he so richly merited was his reverence for the Virgin, to whom he every day repeated a certain prayer. This appeared from the following melo-dramatic occurrence. One day a Capuchin father, was dining with him. The lawyer, after having shown him all the curiosities of his house, told his reverend friend that he had one thing more wonderful still to show him,--'an ape, the phoenix of its kind.' 'He serves me as a valet,' said the advocate, 'waits at table, washes the glasses, attends to the door, in fact does everything.' 'Ah!' said the Capuchin shaking his head, 'provided it is really an ape; let me see the animal.' The ape, after a long search, was found secreted under a bed, and would by no means move. 'Infernal beast!' cried the monk, come out; and I command thee, in the name of God, to say who thou art!' The ape replied that he was a demon, and that he waited for the first day that the advocate should omit to say his prayer the to the Virgin, to stifle him, and carry off his soul to hell, as the Lord had given him permission." Such is the instruction which Jesuitism furnishes to the youth of France. It would scarce be possible to show greater contempt for the human understanding.
"Signs and lying wonders" is one mark of the predicted apostacy. In all ages miracles have been wrought by the prophets of Rome in support of their pretensions. These are dangerous weapons in an age when knowledge is somewhat diffused. Nevertheless Rome has again in her straits had recource to them.7 Somewhere about the time that the Pope returned to Rome, a famous image of the Virgin at Rimini was seen to wink. Intelligence was quickly spread of the miracle; crowds were assembled; the prodigy was repeated day by day, and day by day rich offerings continued to be heaped upon the shrine of the Madonna. It was now reported that another image at another Italian town had been seen to wink; and presently there was a whole shower of winking Madonnas. We ask, Is the Pope infallible? and we are answered by a wink. It is difficult seeing the logical connection between the wink and the infallibility. The faithful, of course, will take the wink as a proof that the Pope is infallible; but others may take it as meaning just the opposite. Did Rome understand her position, an attempt to establish her doctrines by miracles would be the last thing she would think of. The infallibility is the ground on which she rests all belief. When, therefore, she brings forward a miracle as a proof of any dogma, she in reality shifts her ground; she commits a grievous solecism in argument; and, instead of proving that she is infallible, proves that she is an impostor.
Paris, too, was the scene of some miracles. A Peter Perimond, a plain obese peasant from Grenoble, appeared in Paris in March 1850, and announced that he had seen the Saviour, and received from him a commission to heal the sick and convert the world. He lay during passion week, the stigmata impressed on his body, and the blood distilling drop by drop from his "sacred" wounds. When the sun went down the wounds ceased to bleed. He cured the diseased who visited him, by the touch. Peter Perimond was evidently a tool of the priests, by whom the whole affair was arranged with great adroitness. Some of the first anatomists of Paris examined the miracle-worker, and pronounced "the whole a juggle."8 A Veronica was seen to shed tears at Naples, doubtless over the misfortunes of the exiled Pontiff. A Madonna at Rome was observed to nod with special grace to certain of her devotees; but the priest was a bungler, and permitted the cords to be seen. Veritable portraits of Christ and the Virgin, said to have been discovered in some subterranean vault of the ancient palace of the Senate at Rome, where they had lain undiscovered for eighteen centuries, were hawked about in France.9 During winter, the friars in Naples and in some parts of Italy have been zealously warning their flocks from the pulpit against the three great evils, Revolution, Communism, and Protestantism. "I heard," says a Continental correspondent, writing from Naples last December,--"I heard a preacher, a few days since, from the pulpit of a church exclaim, 'Mind what you are about! You may ere long fall into the deplorable state of the English, and lose all hope of salvation.'"10 A deep veil rests above the confessional; but the activity of the priests of Rome in every other department at this moment leaves no doubt that that powerful engine is worked with energy and effect.
The Church of Rome has carefully noted every phase of society at this moment, and, with her usual flexibility and tact, she suits herself to all, and has a separate argument for each particular class. To governments trembling in the presence of the "fierce democratie" she represents herself as the only bulwark of order. She bids kings lean on her, and so save their thrones and sceptres, which otherwise will be swept away. She calls on those shocked by the impieties and blasphemies of socialism to ponder the consequences of forsaking the true faith; telling them that if they rebel against the reaching of the Church, they plunge into the abyss of atheism. To the propertied man, who trembles at the confiscation and pillage which a triumphant communism would bring with it, she exhibits herself as alike able to preserve his earthly and to augment his heavenly goods. In the panic that is abroad, she knows that men have not the calmness to inquire whether the Church does not need protection, rather than posess the ability to bestow it. The upper strata of society in France, too, are pervaded by a great anxiety to create power,--to discover new principles and sources of authority; and what so likely as the influence of the Church to tame and subjugate those passions which the Revolution has let loose? Up to the present hour, ever since the great outbreak of 1848, they have found out no principle of authority save downright force. The army and the police, pretty much blended into one, is their only instrument of government. They are not unnaturally anxious to supplement their vast array of physical force with a certain amount of moral power, by enlisting the priesthood on their side. They look to the Pope as a kind of moral Fouché,--a spiritual prefect of police for Europe. These statesmen, speaking generally,--for we must except MM. Montalembert and Falloux--care nothing for the Church as a Church. They never go to confession or to mass; but they need the Church for the maintenance of their own authority. Their religion is that of Pope's Sir Balaam, who, whilst he himself was seeking to make his fortune in corrupt politics, sent his wife and family to sermon. How far this perfidious alliance, prompted by fear and necessity, is likely to promote the ends of either statesmen or churchmen, we shall inquire when we come to glance at the favourable symptoms of Europe. Meanwhile we note it as one of the grand currents in the Catholic world, and one of the main causes which have led to an apparent return of many of the higher classes to Romanism. Thus everywhere we behold a movement towards civil and religious despotism. Rome is in the van of the march.
1 "This movement is of some standing in Italy, and cannot now be suppressed." Mr. Seymour, in his "Mornings among the Jesuits," says that the feeling against the sacerdotal government he found universal in the States of the Church. That was in Gregory XVI.'s time. "If the States of the Church," said M. Von Raumer, upwards of twenty years ago "were surrounded by a high and continuous wall, shutting them out from all intercourse with the rest of the world, and preventing all foreign interference, the inhabitants would rise the next day and annihilate the priestly government, and with it perhaps the whole system of the Church of Rome in Italy."
2 Great movements intended to regenerate, but which have proved ultimately destructive of the Papacy, have before now come from popes. The case of Pius IX. finds its parallel, perhaps, in the great zeal displayed by Pope Nicholas V. for the revival of letters in the middle of the fifteenth century.
3 The Pope evidently calculated upon the principle enunciated by Sir J. Macintosh:--"A slender reform amuses and lulls the people, the popular enthusiasm subsides, and the moment of effectual reform is irretrievably lost." (Vindiciae Gailicae, p. 106; Lond. 1791.) It is so in ordinary cases; but in the present instance the movement was much too deep to be arrested by reforms so very slender as those of Pius IX.
4 As reported in the "Tuscan Monitor" of February 9,1850, on the doctrine that the Pope is Christ's vicar were legal proceedings instituted against the editor of the "Nazionale," who was sentenced to one month's imprisonment, and a fine of three hundred livres. Does not this illustrate all we have said respecting the vicious incorporation of Church and State under the Papacy, and that the dogma of the one necessarily guides the sword of the other?
5 Amusing mistakes sometimes occur. In April 1850, a gendarme stopped a colporteur, examined his pack of New Testaments, and happened to light on Rev. xxi 15, which he took for a picture of the Church of Rome. He took the colporteur before a magistrate; but the colporteur was set at liberty, owing to a priest, who happened to be present, declaring the gendarme's interpretation to be a mistake.
6 See "London Patriot," February 28, 1850. The little book is printed at Lyons, by the famous Roman Catholic publisher Rusand.
7 The author had the fortune to witness one of Rome's "lying wonders," some years ago, in Liege. It took place on the third Sabbath of July 1847. There had been a long continuance of drought, and the Papists of Liege were importunate with the priests to bring out a certain stone, which possessed such virtue that, if rolled through the streets in solemn procession, it would procure rain. The priests consented. On the Sabbath indicated, the stone was brought forth; and on Monday it rained from morning till night. The Papists were edified, and some Protestants knew not what to make of it. On the day of the procession the atmosphere showed manifest signs of rain; and the writer was afterwards told that on that day (Sabbath) it had rained Heavily in France. The scholar will recognise in this a piece of paganism. A ceremony precisely similar was practised in pagan Rome.
8 "Church and State Gazette," 13th April, 1850.
9 Price of the two portraits, one franc fifty cents (1s. 3d.).
10 "Daily News."