The blow fell upon no one with greater violence than upon Manning. Not only was the supreme efficacy of the sign of the cross upon a baby's forehead one of his favourite doctrines, but up to that moment he had been convinced that the Royal Supremacy was a mere accident—a temporary usurpation which left the spiritual dominion of the Church essentially untouched. But now the horrid reality rose up before him, crowned and triumphant; it was all too clear that an Act of Parliament, passed by Jews, Roman Catholics, and Dissenters, was the ultimate authority which decided upon the momentous niceties of the Anglican faith. Mr. Gladstone also, was deeply perturbed. It was absolutely necessary, he wrote, to 'rescue and defend the conscience of the Church from the present hideous system'. An agitation was set on foot, and several influential Anglicans, with Manning at their head, drew up and signed a formal protest against the Gorham judgment. Mr. Gladstone however, proposed another method of procedure: precipitate action, he declared, must be avoided at all costs, and he elaborated a scheme for securing procrastination, by which a covenant was to bind all those who believed that an article of the creed had been abolished by Act of Parliament to take no steps in any direction, nor to announce their intention of doing so, until a given space of time had elapsed. Mr. Gladstone was hopeful that some good might come of this—though indeed he could not be sure. 'Among others,' he wrote to Manning, 'I have consulted Robert Wilberforce and Wegg- Prosser, and they seemed inclined to favour my proposal. It might, perhaps, have kept back Lord Feilding. But he is like a cork.'
The proposal was certainly not favoured by Manning. Protests and procrastinations, approving Wegg-Prossers and cork-like Lord Feildings—all this was feeding the wind and folly; the time for action had come. 'I can no longer continue,' he wrote to Robert Wilberforce, 'under oath and subscription binding me to the Royal Supremacy in Ecclesiastical causes, being convinced:
(1) That it is a violation of the Divine Office of the Church.
(2) That it has involved the Church of England in a separation from the Universal Church, which separation I cannot clear of the character of schism.
(3) That it has thereby suspended and prevented the functions of the Church of England.'
It was in vain that Robert Wilberforce pleaded, in vain that Mr. Gladstone urged upon his mind the significance of John iii 8. ['The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.'] 'I admit,' Mr. Gladstone wrote, 'that the words might in some way be satisfied by supposing our Lord simply to mean "the facts of nature are unintelligible, therefore, be not afraid if revealed truths be likewise beyond the compass of the understanding"; but this seems to me a meagre meaning.' Such considerations could hold him no longer, and Manning executed the resignation of his office and benefice before a public notary. Soon afterwards, in the little Chapel off Buckingham Palace Road, kneeling beside Mr. Gladstone, he worshipped for the last time as an Anglican. Thirty years later the Cardinal told how, just before the Communion service commenced, he turned to his friends with the words: 'I can no longer take the Communion in the Church of England.' 'I rose up, and laying my hand on Mr. Gladstone's shoulder, said "Come". It was the parting of the ways. Mr. Gladstone remained; and I went my way. Mr. Gladstone still remains where I left him.'
On April 6th, 1851, the final step was taken: Manning was received into the Roman Catholic Church. Now at last, after the long struggle, his mind was at rest. 'I know what you mean,' he wrote to Robert Wilberforce, 'by saying that one sometimes feels as if all this might turn out to be only another "Land of Shadows". I have felt it in time past, but not now. The theologia from Nice to St. Thomas Aquinas, and the undivided unity suffused throughout the world, of which the Cathedra Petri is the centre, isnow 1800 years old, and mightier in every power now than ever— in intellect, in science, in separation from the world; and purer too, refined by 300 years of conflict with the modern infidel civilisation—all of this is a fact more solid than the earth.'
WHEN Manning joined the Church of Rome, he acted under the combined impulse of the two dominating forces in his nature. His preoccupation with the supernatural might, alone, have been satisfied within the fold of the Anglican communion; and so might his preoccupation with himself— the one might have found vent in the elaborations of High Church ritual, and the other in the activities of a bishopric. But the two together could not be quieted so easily. The Church of England is a commodious institution; she is very anxious to please, but somehow or other, she has never managed to supply a happy home to superstitious egotists. 'What an escape for my poor soul!' Manning is said to have exclaimed when, shortly after his conversion, a mitre was going a-begging. But, in truth, Manning's 'poor soul' had scented nobler quarry. To one of his temperament, how was it possible, when once the choice was plainly put, to hesitate for a moment between the respectable dignity of an English bishop, harnessed by the secular power, with the Gorham judgment as a bit between his teeth, and the illimitable pretensions of the humblest priest of Rome?
For the moment, however, it seemed as if the Fates had at last been successful in their little game of shunting Manning. The splendid career which he had so laboriously built up from the small beginnings of his Sussex curacy was shattered—and shattered by the inevitable operation of his own essential needs. He was over forty, and he had been put back once more to the very bottom rung of the ladder—a middle-aged neophyte with, so far as could be seen, no special claim to the attention of his new superiors. The example of Newman, a far more illustrious convert, was hardly reassuring: he had been relegated to a complete obscurity, in which he was to remain until extreme old age. Why should there be anything better in store for Manning? Yet it so happened that within fourteen years of his conversion Manning was Archbishop of Westminster and the supreme ruler of the Roman Catholic community in England. This time the Fates gave up the unequal struggle; they paid over their stakes in despair, and retired from the game.
Nevertheless it is difficult to feel quite sure that Manning's plunge was as hazardous as it appeared. Certainly he was not a man who was likely to forget to look before he leaped, nor one who, if he happened to know that there was a mattress spread to receive him, would leap with less conviction. In the light of after-events, one would be glad to know what precisely passed at that mysterious interview of his with the Pope, three years before his conversion. It is at least possible that the authorities in Rome had their eye on Manning; the may well have felt that the Archdeacon of Chichester would be a great catch. What did Pio Nono say? It is easy to imagine the persuasive innocence of his Italian voice. 'Ah, dear Signor Manning, why don't you come over to us? Do you suppose that we should not look after you?'
At any rate, when he did go over, Manning was looked after very thoroughly. There was, it is true, a momentary embarrassment at the outset: it was only with the greatest difficulty that he could bring himself to abandon his faith in the validity of Anglican Orders, in which he believed 'with consciousness stronger than all reasoning'. He was convinced that he was still a priest. When the Rev. Mr. Tierney, who had received him into the Roman Catholic communion, assured him that this was not the case, he was filled with dismay and mortification. After a five hour discussion, he started to his feet in a rage. 'Then, Mr. Tierney,' he exclaimed, 'you think me insincere.'
The bitter draught was swallowed at last, and, after that, all went smoothly. Manning hastened to Rome, and was immediately placed by the Pope in the highly select Accademia Ecclesiastica, commonly known as the 'Nursery of Cardinals', for the purpose of completing his theological studies. When the course was finished, he continued, by the Pope's special request, to spend six months of every year in Rome, where he preached to the English visitors, became acquainted with the great personages of the Papal court, and enjoyed the privilege of constant interviews with the Holy Father. At the same time, he was able to make himself useful in London, where Cardinal Wiseman, the newly created Archbishop of Westminster, was seeking to reanimate the Roman Catholic community. Manning was not only extremely popular in the pulpit and in the confessional; he was not only highly efficient as a gleaner of souls—and of souls who moved in the best society; he also possessed a familiarity with official persons and official ways, which was invaluable. When the question arose of the appointment of Catholic chaplains in the Crimea during the war, it was Manning who approached the Minister, interviewed the Permanent Secretary, and finally succeeded in obtaining all that was required. When a special Reformatory for Catholic children was proposed, Manning carried through the negotiation with the Government. When an attempt was made to remove Catholic children from the Workhouses, Manning was again indispensable. No wonder Cardinal Wiseman soon determined to find some occupation of special importance for the energetic convert. He had long wished to establish a congregation of secular priests in London particularly devoted to his service, and the opportunity for the experiment had clearly now arisen. The order of the Oblates of St. Charles was founded in Bayswater, and Manning was put at its head. Unfortunately, no portion of the body of St. Charles could be obtained for the new community, but two relics of his blood were brought over to Bayswater from Milan. Almost at the same time the Pope signified his appreciation of Manning's efforts by appointing him Provost of the Chapter of Westminster—a position which placed him at the head of the Canons of the diocese.
This double promotion was the signal for the outbreak of an extraordinary internal struggle, which raged without intermission for the next seven years, and was to end only with the accession of Manning to the Archbishopric. The condition of the Roman Catholic community in England was at that time a singular one. On the one hand the old repressive laws of the seventeenth century had been repealed by liberal legislation, and on the other a large new body of distinguished converts had entered the Roman Church as a result of the Oxford Movement. It was evident that there was a 'boom' in English Catholicism, and, in 1850, Pius IX recognised the fact by dividing up the whole of England into dioceses, and placing Wiseman at the head of them as Archbishop of Westminster. Wiseman's encyclical, dated 'from without the Flaminian Gate', in which he announced the new departure, was greeted in England by a storm of indignation, culminating in the famous and furibund letter of Lord John Russell, then Prime Minister, against the insolence of the 'Papal Aggression'. Though the particular point against which the outcry was raised—the English territorial titles of the new Roman bishops—was an insignificant one, the instinct of Lord John and of the English people was in reality sound enough. Wiseman's installation did mean, in fact, a new move in the Papal game; it meant an advance, if not an aggression— a quickening in England of the long- dormant energies of the Roman Church. That Church has never had the reputation of being an institution to be trifled with; and, in those days, the Pope was still ruling as a temporal Prince over the fairest provinces of Italy. Surely, if the images of Guy Fawkes had not been garnished, on that fifth of November, with triple crowns, it would have been a very poor compliment to His Holiness.
But it was not only the honest Protestants of England who had cause to dread the arrival of the new Cardinal Archbishop; there was a party among the Catholics themselves who viewed his installation with alarm and disgust. The families in which the Catholic tradition had been handed down uninterruptedly since the days of Elizabeth, which had known the pains of exile and of martyrdom, and which clung together an alien and isolated group in the midst of English society, now began to feel that they were, after all, of small moment in the counsels of Rome. They had laboured through the heat of the day, but now it seemed as if the harvest was to be gathered in by a crowd of converts who were proclaiming on every side as something new and wonderful the truths which the Old Catholics, as they came to be called, had not only known, but for which they had suffered for generations. Cardinal Wiseman, it is true, was no convert; he belonged to one of the oldest of the Catholic families; but he had spent most of his life in Rome, he was out of touch with English traditions, and his sympathy with Newman and his followers was only too apparent. One of his first acts as Archbishop was to appoint the convert W. G. Ward, who was not even in holy orders, to be Professor of Theology at St. Edmund's College— the chief seminary for young priests, in which the ancient traditions of Douay were still flourishing. Ward was an ardent Papalist and his appointment indicated clearly enough that in Wiseman's opinion there was too little of the Italian spirit in the English community. The uneasiness of the Old Catholics was becoming intense, when they were reassured by Wiseman's appointing as his co-adjutor and successor his intimate friend, Dr. Errington, who was created on the occasion Archbishop of Trebizond in partibus infidelium. Not only was Dr. Errington an Old Catholic of the most rigid type, he was a man of extreme energy, whose influence was certain to be great; and, in any case, Wiseman was growing old, so that before very long it seemed inevitable that the policy of the diocese would be in proper hands. Such was the position of affairs when, two years after Errington's appointment, Manning became head of the Oblates of St. Charles and Provost of the Chapter of Westminster.
The Archbishop of Trebizond had been for some time growing more and more suspicious of Manning's influence, and this sudden elevation appeared to justify his worst fears. But his alarm was turned to fury when he learned that St. Edmund's College, from which he had just succeeded in removing the obnoxious W. G. Ward, was to be placed under the control of the Oblates of St. Charles. The Oblates did not attempt to conceal the fact that one of their principal aims was to introduce the customs of a Roman Seminary into England. A grim perspective of espionage and tale-bearing, foreign habits, and Italian devotions opened out before the dismayed eyes of the Old Catholics; they determined to resist to the utmost; and it was upon the question of the control of St. Edmund's that the first battle in the long campaign between Errington and Manning was fought.
Cardinal Wiseman was now obviously declining towards the grave. A man of vast physique—'your immense', an Irish servant used respectfully to call him—of sanguine temperament, of genial disposition, of versatile capacity, he seemed to have engrafted upon the robustness of his English nature the facile, child-like, and expansive qualities of the South. So far from being a Bishop Blougram (as the rumour went) he was, in fact, the very antithesis of that subtle and worldly-wise ecclesiastic. He had innocently looked forward all his life to the reunion of England to the See of Peter, and eventually had come to believe that, in God's hand, he was the instrument destined to bring about this miraculous consummation. Was not the Oxford Movement, with its flood of converts, a clear sign of the Divine will? Had he not himself been the author of that momentous article on St. Augustine and the Donatists, which had finally convinced Newman that the Church of England was in schism? And then, had he not been able to set afoot a Crusade of Prayer throughout Catholic Europe for the conversion of England?
He awaited the result with eager expectation, and in the meantime he set himself to smooth away the hostility of his countrymen by delivering courses of popular lectures on literature and archaeology. He devoted much time and attention to the ceremonial details of his princely office. His knowledge of rubric and ritual, and of the symbolical significations of vestments, has rarely been equalled, and he took a profound delight in the ordering and the performance of elaborate processions. During one of these functions, an unexpected difficulty arose: the Master of Ceremonies suddenly gave the word for a halt, and, on being asked the reason, replied that he had been instructed that moment by special revelation to stop the procession. The Cardinal, however, was not at a loss. 'You may let the procession go on,' he smilingly replied. 'I have just obtained permission, by special revelation, to proceed with it.' His leisure hours he spent in the writing of edifying novels, the composition of acrostics in Latin Verse, and in playing battledore and shuttlecock with his little nieces. There was, indeed, only one point in which he resembled Bishop Blougram—his love of a good table. Some of Newman's disciples were astonished and grieved to find that he sat down to four courses of fish during Lent. 'I am sorry to say,' remarked one of them afterwards, 'that there is a lobster salad side to the Cardinal.'
It was a melancholy fate which ordained that the last years of this comfortable, easygoing, innocent old man should be distracted and embittered by the fury of opposing principles and the venom of personal animosities. But so it was. He had fallen into the hands of one who cared very little for the gentle pleasures of repose. Left to himself, Wiseman might have compromised with the Old Catholics and Dr. Errington; but when Manning had once appeared upon the scene, all compromise became impossible. The late Archdeacon of Chichester, who had understood so well and practised with such careful skill the precept of the golden mean so dear to the heart of the Church of England, now, as Provost of Westminster, flung himself into the fray with that unyielding intensity of fervour, that passion for the extreme and the absolute, which is the very lifeblood of the Church of Rome. Even the redoubtable Dr. Errington, short, thickset, determined, with his 'hawk-like expression of face', as a contemporary described him, 'as he looked at you through his blue spectacles', had been known to quail in the presence of his, antagonist, with his tall and graceful figure, his pale ascetic features, his compressed and icy lips, his calm and penetrating gaze. As for the poor Cardinal, he was helpless indeed.
Henceforward, there was to be no paltering with that dangerous spirit of independence—was it not almost Gallicanism which possessed the Old Catholic families of England? The supremacy of the Vicar of Christ must be maintained at all hazards. Compared with such an object, what were the claims of personal affection and domestic peace? The Cardinal pleaded in vain; his lifelong friendship with Dr.Errington was plucked up by the roots, and the harmony of his private life was utterly destroyed. His own household was turned against him. His favourite nephew, whom he had placed among the Oblates under Manning's special care, left the congregation and openly joined the party of Dr. Errington. His secretary followed suit; but saddest of all was the case of Monsignor Searle. Monsignor Searle, in the capacity of confidential man of affairs, had dominated over the Cardinal in private for years with the autocratic fidelity of a servant who has grown indispensable. His devotion, in fact, seemed to have taken the form of physical imitation, for he was hardly less gigantic than his master. The two were inseparable; their huge figures loomed together like neighbouring mountains; and on one occasion, meeting them in the street, a gentleman congratulated Wiseman on 'your Eminence's fine son'. Yet now even this companionship was broken up. The relentless Provost here too brought a sword. There were explosions and recriminations. Monsignor Searle, finding that his power was slipping from him, made scenes and protests, and at last was foolish enough to accuse Manning of peculation to his face; after that it was clear that his day was over; he was forced to slink snarling into the background, while the Cardinal shuddered through all his immensity, and wished many times that he were already dead.
Yet, he was not altogether without his consolations; Manning took care to see to that. His piercing eye had detected the secret way into the recesses of the Cardinal's heart—had discerned the core of simple faith which underlay that jovial manner and that facile talk. Others were content to laugh and chatter and transact their business; Manning was more artistic. He watched his opportunity, and then, when the moment came, touched with a deft finger the chord of the Conversion of England. There was an immediate response, and he struck the same chord again, and yet again. He became the repository of the Cardinal's most intimate aspirations. He alone sympathised and understood. 'If God gives me strength to undertake a great wrestling-match with infidelity,' Wiseman wrote, 'I shall owe it to him.'
But what he really found himself undertaking was a wrestling- match with Dr. Errington. The struggle over St. Edmund's College grew more and more acute. There were high words in the Chapter, where Monsignor Searle led the assault against the Provost, and carried a resolution declaring that the Oblates of St. Charles had intruded themselves illegally into the Seminary. The Cardinal quashed the proceedings of the Chapter; whereupon, the Chapter appealed to Rome. Dr. Errington, carried away by the fury of the controversy, then appeared as the avowed opponent of the Provost and the Cardinal. With his own hand he drew up a document justifying the appeal of the Chapter to Rome by Canon Law and the decrees of the Council of Trent. Wiseman was deeply pained: 'My own coadjutor,' he exclaimed, 'is acting as solicitor against me in a lawsuit.' There was a rush to Rome, where, for several ensuing years, the hostile English parties were to wage a furious battle in the antechambers of the Vatican. But the dispute over the Oblates now sank into insignificance beside the rage of contention which centred round a new and far more deadly question; for the position of Dr. Errington himself was at stake. The Cardinal, in spite of illness, indolence, and the ties of friendship, had been brought at last to an extraordinary step— he was petitioning the Pope for nothing less than the deprivation and removal of the Archbishop of Trebizond.
The precise details of what followed are doubtful. It is only possible to discern with clearness, amid a vast cloud of official documents and unofficial correspondences in English, Italian, and Latin, of Papal decrees and voluminous scritture, of confidential reports of episcopal whispers and the secret agitations of Cardinals, the form of Manning, restless and indomitable, scouring like a stormy petrel the angry ocean of debate. Wiseman, dilatory, unbusinesslike, and infirm, was ready enough to leave the conduct of affairs in his hands. Nor was it long before Manning saw where the key of the whole position lay. As in the old days, at Chichester, he had secured the goodwill of Bishop Shuttleworth by cultivating the friendship of Archdeacon Hare, so now, on this vaster scale of operations, his sagacity led him swiftly and unerringly up the little winding staircase in the Vatican and through the humble door which opened into the cabinet of Monsignor Talbot, the private secretary of the Pope. Monsignor Talbot was a priest who embodied in a singular manner, if not the highest, at least the most persistent traditions of the Roman Curia. He was a master of various arts which the practice of ages has brought to perfection under the friendly shadow of the triple tiara. He could mingle together astuteness and holiness without any difficulty; he could make innuendoes as naturally as an ordinary man makes statements of fact; he could apply flattery with so unsparing a hand that even Princes of the Church found it sufficient; and, on occasion, he could ring the changes of torture on a human soul with a tact which called forth universal approbation. With such accomplishments, it could hardly be expected that Monsignor Talbot should be remarkable either for a delicate sense of conscientiousness or for an extreme refinement of feeling, but then it was not for those qualities that Manning was in search when he went up the winding stair. He was looking for the man who had the ear of Pio Nono; and, on the other side of the low-arched door, he found him. Then he put forth all his efforts; his success was complete; and an alliance began which was destined to have the profoundest effect upon Manning's career, and was only dissolved when, many years later, Monsignor Talbot was unfortunately obliged to exchange his apartment in the Vatican for a private lunatic asylum at Passy.
It was determined that the coalition should be ratified by the ruin of Dr. Errington. When the moment of crisis was seen to be approaching, Wiseman was summoned to Rome, where he began to draw up an immense scrittura containing his statement of the case. For months past, the redoubtable energies of the Archbishop of Trebizond had been absorbed in a similar task. Folio was being piled upon folio, when a sudden blow threatened to put an end to the whole proceeding in a summary manner. The Cardinal was seized by violent illness, and appeared to be upon his deathbed. Manning thought for a moment that his labours had been in vain and that all was lost. But the Cardinal recovered; Monsignor Talbot used his influence as he alone knew how; and a papal decree was issued by which Dr. Errington was 'liberated' from the Coadjutorship of Westminster, together with the right of succession to the See.
It was a supreme act of authority—a 'colpo di stato di Dominiddio', as the Pope himself said—and the blow to the Old Catholics was correspondingly severe. They found themselves deprived at one fell swoop both of the influence of their most energetic supporter and of the certainty of coming into power at Wiseman's death. And in the meantime, Manning was redoubling his energies at Bayswater. Though his Oblates had been checked over St. Edmund's, there was still no lack of work for them to do. There were missions to be carried on, schools to be managed, funds to be collected. Several new churches were built; a community of most edifying nuns of the Third Order of St. Francis was established; and 30,000, raised from Manning's private resources and from those of his friends, was spent in three years. 'I hate that man,' one of the Old Catholics exclaimed, 'he is such a forward piece.' The words were reported to Manning, who shrugged his shoulders. 'Poor man,' he said, 'what is he made of? Does he suppose, in his foolishness, that after working day and night for twenty years in heresy and schism, on becoming a Catholic, I should sit in an easy-chair and fold my hands all the rest of my life?' But his secret thoughts were of a different caste. 'I am conscious of a desire,' he wrote in his Diary, 'to be in such a position: (I) as I had in times past; (2) as my present circumstances imply; (3) as my friends think me fit for; and (4) as I feel my own faculties tend to.
'But, God being my helper, I will not seek it by the lifting of a finger or the speaking, of a word.'
So Manning wrote, and thought, and prayed; but what are words, and thoughts, and even prayers, to the mysterious and relentless powers of circumstance and character? Cardinal Wiseman was slowly dying; the tiller of the Church was slipping from his feeble hand; and Manning was beside him, the one man with the energy, the ability, the courage, and the conviction to steer the ship upon her course. More than that; there was the sinister figure of a Dr. Errington crouching close at hand, ready to seize the helm and make straight—who could doubt it?—for the rocks. In such a situation the voice of self-abnegation must needs grow still and small indeed. Yet it spoke on, for it was one of the paradoxes in Manning's soul that that voice was never silent. Whatever else he was, he was not unscrupulous. Rather, his scruples deepened with his desires; and he could satisfy his most exorbitant ambitions in a profundity of self-abasement. And so now he vowed to Heaven that he would SEEK nothing— no, not by the lifting of a finger or the speaking of a word. But, if something came to him—? He had vowed not to seek; he had not vowed not to take. Might it not be his plain duty to take? Might it not be the will of God?
Something, of course, did come to him, though it seemed for a moment that it would elude his grasp. Wiseman died, and there ensued in Rome a crisis of extraordinary intensity. 'Since the creation of the hierarchy,' Monsignor Talbot wrote, it is the greatest moment for the Church that I have yet seen.' It was the duty of the Chapter of Westminster to nominate three candidates for succession to the Archbishopric; they made one last effort, and had the temerity to place upon the list, besides the names of two Old Catholic bishops, that of Dr. Errington. It was a fatal blunder. Pius IX was furious; the Chapter had committed an 'insulta al Papa', he exclaimed, striking his breast three times in his rage. 'It was the Chapter that did it,' said Manning, afterwards; but even after the Chapter's indiscretion, the fatal decision hung in the balance for weeks. 'The great point of anxiety with me, wrote Monsignor Talbot to Manning, 'is whether a Congregation will be held, or whether the Holy Father will perform a Pontifical act. He himself is doubting. I therefore say mass and pray every morning that he may have the courage to choose for himself, instead of submitting the matter to a Congregation. Although the Cardinals are determined to reject Dr. Errington, nevertheless I am afraid that they should select one of the others. You know very well that Congregations are guided by the documents that are placed before them; it is for this reason that I should prefer the Pope's acting himself.'
But the Holy Father himself was doubting. In his indecision, he ordered a month of prayers and masses. The suspense grew and grew. Everything seemed against Manning. The whole English episcopate was opposed to him; he had quarrelled with the Chapter; he was a convert of but few years' standing; even the congregated Cardinals did not venture to suggest the appointment of such a man. But suddenly, the Holy Father's doubts came to an end. He heard a voice— a mysterious inward voice— whispering something in his ear. 'Mettetelo li! Mettetelo li!' the voice repeated, over and over again. Mettetelo li! It was an inspiration; and Pius IX, brushing aside the recommendations of the Chapter and the deliberations of the Cardinals, made Manning, by a Pontifical act, Archbishop of Westminster.
Monsignor Talbot's felicity was complete; and he took occasion in conveying his congratulations to his friend, to make some illuminating reflections upon the great event. 'MY policy throughout,' he wrote, 'was never to propose you DIRECTLY to the Pope, but, to make others do so, so that both you and I can always say that it was not I who induced the Holy Father to name you— which would lessen the weight of your appointment. This I say, because many have said that your being named was all my doing. I do not say that the Pope did not know that I thought you the only man eligible— as I took care to tell him over and over again what was against all the other candidates— and in consequence, he was almost driven into naming you. After he had named you, the Holy Father said to me, "What a diplomatist you are, to make what you wished come to pass!"
'Nevertheless,' concluded Monsignor Talbot, 'I believe your appointment was specially directed by the Holy Ghost.'
Manning himself was apparently of the same opinion. 'My dear Child,' he wrote to a lady penitent, 'I have in these last three weeks felt as if our Lord had called me by name. Everything else has passed out of my mind. The firm belief that I have long had that the Holy Father is the most supernatural person I have ever seen has given me this feeling more deeply. 'Still, I feel as if I had been brought, contrary to all human wills, by the Divine Will, into an immediate relation to our Divine Lord.'
'If indeed,' he wrote to Lady Herbert, 'it were the will of our Divine Lord to lay upon me this heavy burden, He could have done it in no way more strengthening and consoling to me. To receive it from the hands of His Vicar, and from Pius IX, and after long invocation of the Holy Ghost, and not only without human influences, but in spite of manifold aria powerful human opposition, gives me the last strength for such a cross.'
MANNING'S appointment filled his opponents with alarm. Wrath and vengeance seemed to be hanging over them; what might not be expected from the formidable enemy against whom they had struggled for so long, and who now stood among them armed with archiepiscopal powers and invested with the special confidence of Rome? Great was their amazement, great was their relief, when they found that their dreaded master breathed nothing but kindness, gentleness, and conciliation. The old scores, they found, were not to be paid off, but to be wiped out. The new archbishop poured forth upon every side all the tact, all the courtesy, all the dignified graces of a Christian magnanimity. It was impossible to withstand such treatment. Bishops who had spent years in thwarting him became his devoted adherents; even the Chapter of Westminster forgot its hatred. Monsignor Talbot was extremely surprised. 'Your greatest enemies have entirely come round,' he wrote. 'I received the other day a panegyric of you from Searle. This change of feeling I cannot attribute to anything but the Holy Ghost.' Monsignor Talbot was very fond of the Holy Ghost; but, so far, at any rate as Searle was concerned, there was another explanation. Manning, instead of dismissing Searle from his position of 'oeconomus' in the episcopal household, had kept him on—at an increased salary; and the poor man, who had not scrupled in the days of his pride to call Manning a thief, was now duly grateful.
As to Dr. Errington, he gave an example of humility and submission by at once withdrawing into a complete obscurity. For years the Archbishop of Trebizond, the ejected heir to the See of Westminster, laboured as a parish priest in the Isle of Man. He nursed no resentment in his heart, and, after a long and edifying life of peace and silence, he died in 1886, a professor of theology at Clifton.
It might be supposed that Manning could now feel that his triumph was complete. His position was secure; his power was absolute; his prestige was daily growing. Yet there was something that irked him still. As he cast his eyes over the Roman Catholic community in England, he was aware of one figure which, by virtue of a peculiar eminence, seemed to challenge the supremacy of his own. That figure was Newman's.
Since his conversion, Newman's life had been a long series of misfortunes and disappointments. When he had left the Church of England, he was its most distinguished, its most revered member, whose words, however strange, were listened to with profound attention, and whose opinions, however dubious, were followed in all their fluctuations with an eager and indeed a trembling respect. He entered the Church of Rome, and found himself forthwith an unimportant man. He was received at the Papal Court with a politeness which only faintly concealed a total lack of interest and understanding. His delicate mind, with its refinements, its hesitations, its complexities—his soft, spectacled, Oxford manner, with its half-effeminate diffidence- such things were ill calculated to impress a throng of busy Cardinals and Bishops, whose days were spent amid the practical details of ecclesiastical organisation, the long-drawn involutions of papal diplomacy, and the delicious bickerings of personal intrigue. And when, at last, he did succeed in making some impression upon these surroundings, it was no better; it was worse. An uneasy suspicion gradually arose; it began to dawn upon the Roman authorities that Dr. Newman was a man of ideas. Was it possible that Dr. Newman did not understand that ideas in Rome were, to say the least of it, out of place? Apparently, he did not— nor was that all; not content with having ideas, he positively seemed anxious to spread them. When that was known, the politeness in high places was seen to be wearing decidedly thin. His Holiness, who on Newman's arrival had graciously expressed the wish to see him 'again and again', now, apparently, was constantly engaged. At first Newman supposed that the growing coolness was the result of misapprehension; his Italian was faulty, Latin was not spoken at Rome, his writings had only appeared in garbled translations. And even Englishmen had sometimes found his arguments difficult to follow. He therefore determined to take the utmost care to make his views quite clear; his opinions upon religious probability, his distinction between demonstrative and circumstantial evidence, his theory of the development of doctrine and the aspects of ideas—these and many other matters, upon which he had written so much, he would now explain in the simplest language. He would show that there was nothing dangerous in what he held, that there was a passage in De Lugo which supported him— that Perrone, by maintaining that the Immaculate Conception could be defined, had implicitly admitted one of his main positions, and that his language about Faith had been confused, quite erroneously, with the fideism of M. Bautain.
Cardinal Barnabo, Cardinal Reisach, Cardinal Antonelli, looked at him with their shrewd eyes and hard faces, while he poured into their ears which, as he had already noticed with distress, were large and not too clean—his careful disquisitions; but, it was all in vain— they had clearly never read De Lugo or Perrone, and as for M. Bautain, they had never heard of him. Newman, in despair, fell back upon St. Thomas Aquinas; but, to his horror, he observed that St. Thomas himself did not mean very much to the Cardinals. With a sinking heart, he realised at last the painful truth: it was not the nature of his views, it was his having views at all, that was objectionable. He had hoped to devote the rest of his life to the teaching of Theology; but what sort of Theology could he teach which would be acceptable to such superiors? He left Rome, and settled down in Birmingham as the head of a small community of Oratorians. He did not complain; it was God's will; it was better so. He would watch and pray.
But God's will was not quite so simple as that. Was it right, after all, that a man with Newman's intellectual gifts, his devoted ardour, his personal celebrity, should sink away out of sight and use in the dim recesses of the Oratory at Birmingham? If the call were to come to him to take his talent out of the napkin, how could he refuse? And the call did come. A Catholic University was being started in Ireland and Dr. Cullen, the Archbishop of Armagh, begged Newman to become the Rector. At first he hesitated, but when he learned that it was the Holy Father's wish that he should take up the work, he could doubt no longer; the offer was sent from Heaven. The difficulties before him were very great; not only had a new University to be called up out of the void, but the position was complicated by the presence of a rival institution—the undenominational Queen's Colleges, founded by Peel a few years earlier with the object of giving Irish Catholics facilities for University education on the same terms as their fellow-countrymen. Yet Newman had the highest hopes. He dreamt of something greater than a merely Irish University—of a noble and flourishing centre of learning for the Catholics of Ireland and England alike. And why should not his dream come true? 'In the midst of our difficulties, he said, 'I have one ground of hope, just one stay, but, as I think, a sufficient one, which serves me in the stead of all other argument whatever. It is the decision of the Holy See; St. Peter has spoken.'
The years that followed showed to what extent it was safe to depend upon St. Peter. Unforeseen obstacles cropped up on every side. Newman's energies were untiring, but so was the inertia of the Irish authorities. On his appointment, he wrote to Dr. Cullen asking that arrangements might be made for his reception in Dublin. Dr. Cullen did not reply. Newman wrote again, but still there was no answer. Weeks passed, months passed, years passed, and not a word, not a sign, came from Dr. Cullen. At last, after dangling for more than two years in the uncertainties and perplexities of so strange a situation, Newman was summoned to Dublin. There he found nothing but disorder and discouragement. The laity took no interest in the scheme; the clergy actively disliked it; Newman's authority was disregarded. He appealed to Cardinal Wiseman, and then at last a ray of hope dawned. The cardinal suggested that a bishopric should be conferred upon him, to give him a status suitable to his position; Dr. Cullen acquiesced, and Pius IX was all compliance. 'Manderemo a Newman la crocetta,' he said to Wiseman, smilingly drawing his hands down each side of his neck to his breast, 'lo faremo vescovo di Porfirio, o qualche luogo.' The news spread among Newman's friends, and congratulations began to come in. But the official intimation seemed to be unaccountably delayed; no crocetta came from Rome, and Cardinal Wiseman never again referred to the matter. Newman was left to gather that the secret representations of Dr. Cullen had brought about a change of counsel in high quarters. His pride did not allow him to inquire further; but one of his lady penitents, Miss Giberne, was less discreet. 'Holy Father,' she suddenly said to the Pope in an audience one day, 'why don't you make Father Newman a bishop?' Upon which the Holy Father looked much confused and took a great deal of snuff.
For the next five years Newman, unaided and ignored, struggled desperately, like a man in a bog, with the overmastering difficulties of his task. His mind, whose native haunt was among the far aerial boundaries of fancy and philosophy, was now clamped down under the fetters of petty detail and fed upon the mean diet of compromise and routine. He had to force himself to scrape together money, to write articles for the students' Gazette, to make plans for medical laboratories, to be ingratiating with the City Council; he was obliged to spend months travelling through the remote regions of Ireland in the company of extraordinary ecclesiastics and barbarous squireens. He was a thoroughbred harnessed to a four-wheeled cab—and he knew it. Eventually, he realised something else: he saw that the whole project of a Catholic University had been evolved as a political and ecclesiastical weapon against the Queen's Colleges of Peel, and that was all. As an instrument of education. it was simply laughed at; and he himself had been called in because his name would be a valuable asset in a party game. When he understood that, he resigned his rectorship and returned to the Oratory.
But, his tribulations were not yet over. It seemed to be God's will that he should take part in a whole succession of schemes, which, no less than the project of the Irish University, were to end in disillusionment and failure. He was persuaded by Cardinal Wiseman to undertake the editorship of a new English version of the Scriptures, which was to be a monument of Catholic scholarship and an everlasting glory to Mother Church. He made elaborate preparations; he collected subscriptions, engaged contributors, and composed a long and learned prolegomena to the work. It was all useless; Cardinal Wiseman began to think of other things; and the scheme faded imperceptibly into thin air. Then a new task was suggested to him: "The Rambler", a Catholic periodical, had fallen on evil days; would Dr Newman come to the rescue, and accept the editorship? This time he hesitated rather longer than usual; he had burned his fingers so often— he must be specially careful now. 'I did all I could to ascertain God's Will,' he said, and he came to the conclusion that it was his duty to undertake the work. He did so, and after two numbers had appeared, Dr. Ullathorne, the Bishop of Birmingham, called upon him, and gently hinted that he had better leave the paper alone. Its tone was not liked at Rome; it had contained an article criticising St. Pius V, and, most serious of all, the orthodoxy of one of Newman's own essays had appeared to be doubtful. He resigned, and in the anguish of his heart, determined never to write again. One of his friends asked him why he was publishing nothing. 'Hannibal's elephants,' he replied, 'never could learn the goose-step.'
Newman was now an old man—he was sixty-three years of age. What had he to look forward to? A few last years of insignificance and silence. What had he to look back upon? A long chronicle of wasted efforts, disappointed hopes, neglected possibilities, unappreciated powers. And now all his labours had ended by his being accused at Rome of lack of orthodoxy. He could no longer restrain his indignation, and in a letter to one of his lady penitents, he gave vent to the bitterness of his soul. When his Rambler article had been complained of, he said, there had been some talk of calling him to Rome. 'Call me to Rome,' he burst out—'what does that mean? It means to sever an old man from his home, to subject him to intercourse with persons whose languages are strange to him— to food and to fashions which are almost starvation on the one hand, and involve restless days and nights on the other—it means to oblige him to dance attendance on Propaganda week after week and month after month—it means his death. (It was the punishment on Dr. Baines, 1840-1, to keep him at the door of Propaganda for a year.)
'This is the prospect which I cannot but feel probable, did I say anything which one Bishop in England chose to speak against and report. Others have been killed before me. Lucas went of his own accord indeed—but when he got there, oh!' How much did he, as loyal a son of the Church and the Holy See as ever was, what did he suffer because Dr. Cullen was against him? He wandered (as Dr. Cullen said in a letter he published in a sort of triumph), he wandered from Church to Church without a friend, and hardly got an audience from the Pope. 'And I too should go from St. Philip to Our Lady, and to St. Peter and St. Paul, and to St. Laurence and to St. Cecilia, and, if it happened to me as to Lucas, should come back to die.'
Yet, in spite of all, in spite of these exasperations of the flesh, these agitations of the spirit, what was there to regret? Had he not a mysterious consolation which outweighed every grief? Surely, surely, he had.
'Unveil, 0 Lord, and on us shine, In glory and in grace,'
he exclaims in a poem written at this time, called 'The Two Worlds':
'This gaudy world grows pale before The beauty of Thy face.
'Till Thou art seen it seems to he A sort of fairy ground, Where suns unsetting light the sky, And flowers and fruit abound.
'But when Thy keener, purer beam Is poured upon our sight, It loses all its power to charm, And what was day is night...
'And thus, when we renounce for Thee Its restless aims and fears, The tender memories of the past, The hopes of coming years,
'Poor is our sacrifice, whose eyes Are lighted from above; We offer what we cannot keep, What we have ceased to love.'
Such were Newman's thoughts when an unexpected event occurred which produced a profound effect upon his life: Charles Kingsley attacked his good faith, and the good faith of Catholics in general, in a magazine article. Newman protested, and Kingsley rejoined in an irate pamphlet. Newman's reply was the Apologia pro Vita Sua, which he wrote in seven weeks, sometimes working twenty-two hours at a stretch, 'constantly in tears, and constantly crying out with distress'. The success of the book, with its transparent candour, its controversial brilliance, the sweep and passion of its rhetoric, the depth of its personal feeling, was immediate and overwhelming; it was recognised at once as a classic, not only by Catholics, but by the whole English world. From every side expressions of admiration, gratitude, and devotion poured in. It was impossible for one so sensitive as Newman to the opinions of other people to resist the happy influence of such an unlooked-for, such an enormous triumph. The cloud of his dejection began to lift; et l'espoir malgre lui s'est glisse dans son coeur.
It was only natural that at such a moment his thoughts should return to Oxford. For some years past proposals had been on foot for establishing there a Hall, under Newman's leadership, for Catholic undergraduates. The scheme had been looked upon with disfavour in Rome, and it had been abandoned; but now a new opportunity presented itself— some land in a suitable position came into the market. Newman, with his reviving spirits, felt that he could not let this chance go by, and bought the land. It was his intention to build there not a Hall, but a Church, and to set on foot a 'House of the Oratory'. What possible objection could there be to such a scheme? He approached the Bishop of Birmingham, who gave his approval; in Rome itself there was no hostile sign. The laity were enthusiastic and subscriptions began to flow in. Was it possible that all was well at last? Was it conceivable that the strange and weary pilgrimage of so many years should end at length in quietude, if not in happiness, where it had begun?
It so happened that it was at this very time that Manning was appointed to the See of Westminster. The destinies of the two men, which had run parallel to one another in so strange a fashion and for so many years, were now for a moment suddenly to converge. Newly clothed with all the attributes of ecclesiastical supremacy, Manning found himself face to face with Newman, upon whose brows were glittering the fresh laurels of spiritual victory—the crown of an apostolical life. It was the meeting of the eagle and the dove. What followed showed, more clearly perhaps than any other incident in his career, the stuff that Manning was made of. Power had come to him at last; and he seized it with all the avidity of a born autocrat, whose appetite for supreme dominion had been whetted by long years of enforced abstinence and the hated simulations of submission. He was the ruler of Roman Catholic England, and he would rule. The nature of Newman's influence it was impossible for him to understand, but he saw that it existed; for twenty years he had been unable to escape the unwelcome itterations of that singular, that alien, that rival renown; and now it stood in his path, alone and inexplicable, like a defiant ghost. 'It is remarkably interesting,' he observed coldly, when somebody asked him what he thought of the Apologia: 'it is like listening to the voice of one from the dead.' And such voices, with their sepulchral echoes, are apt to be more dangerous than living ones; they attract too much attention; they must be silenced at all costs. It was the meeting of the eagle and the dove; there was a hovering, a swoop, and then the quick beak and the relentless talons did their work.
Even before his accession to the Archbishopric, Manning had scented a peculiar peril in Newman's Oxford scheme, and so soon as he came into power, he privately determined that the author of the Apologia should never be allowed to return to his old University. Nor was there any lack of excellent reasons for such a decision. Oxford was by this time a nest of liberalism; it was no fit place for Catholic youths, and they would inevitably be attracted there by the presence of Father Newman. And then, had not Father Newman's orthodoxy been impugned? Had he not been heard to express opinions of most doubtful propriety upon the question of the Temporal Power? Was it not known that he might almost be said to have an independent mind? An influence? Yes, he had an influence no doubt; but what a fatal kind of influence to which to subject the rising generation of Catholic Englishmen!
Such were the reflections which Manning was careful to pour into the receptive car of Monsignor Talbot. That useful priest, at his post of vantage in the Vatican, was more than ever the devoted servant of the new Archbishop. A league, offensive and defensive, had been established between the two friends. 'I daresay I shall have many opportunities to serve you in Rome,' wrote Monsignor Talbot modestly, 'and I do not think any support will be useless to you, especially on account of the peculiar character of the Pope, and the spirit which pervades Propaganda; therefore, I wish you to understand that a compact exists between us; if you help me, I shall help you.' And a little later he added, 'I am glad you accept the league. As I have already done for years, I shall support you, and I have a hundred ways of doing so. A word dropped at the proper occasion works wonders.' Perhaps it was hardly necessary to remind his correspondent of that.
So far as Newman was concerned, it so fell out that Monsignor Talbot needed no prompting. During the sensation caused by the appearance of the Apologia, it had occurred to him that it would be an excellent plan to secure Newman as a preacher during Lent for the fashionable congregation which attended his church in the Piazza del Popolo; and, he had accordingly written to invite him to Rome. His letter was unfortunately not a tactful one. He assured Newman that he would find in the Piazza del Popolo 'an audience of Protestants more educated than could ever be the case in England', and 'I think myself,' he had added by way of extra inducement, 'that you will derive great benefit from visiting Rome, and showing yourself to the Ecclesiastical Authorities.' Newman smiled grimly at this; he declared to a friend that the letter was 'insolent'; and he could not resist the temptation of using his sharp pen.
'Dear Monsignor Talbot,' he wrote in reply, 'I have received your letter, inviting me to preach in your Church at Rome to an audience of Protestants more educated than could ever be the case in England.
'However, Birmingham people have souls; and I have neither taste nor talent for the sort of work which you cut out for me. And I beg to decline your offer.
I am, yours truly,
JOHN H. NEWMAN.'
Such words were not the words of wisdom. It is easy to imagine the feelings of Monsignor Talbot. 'Newman's work none here can understand,' he burst out to his friend. 'Poor man, by living almost ever since he has been a Catholic, surrounded by a set of inferior men who idolise him, I do not think he has ever acquired the Catholic instincts.' As for his views on the Temporal Power— 'well, people said that he had actually sent a subscription to Garibaldi. Yes, the man was incomprehensible, heretical, dangerous; he was "uncatholic and unchristian."' Monsignor Talbot even trembled for the position of Manning in England. 'I am afraid that the old school of Catholics will rally round Newman in opposition to you and Rome. Stand firm, do not yield a bit in the line you have taken. As I have promised, I shall stand by you. You will have battles to fight because every Englishman is naturally anti-Roman. To be Roman is and effort to an Englishman. Dr. Newman is more English than the English. His spirit must be crushed.'
His spirit must be crushed! Certainly there could be no doubt of that. 'What you write about Dr Newman,' Manning replied, 'is true. Whether he knows it or not, he has become the centre of those who hold low views about the Holy See, are anti-Roman, cold and silent, to say no more, about the Temporal Power; national, English, critical of Catholic devotions, and always on the lower side. ... You will take care,' he concluded, 'that things are correctly known and understood where you are.'
The confederates matured their plans. While Newman was making his arrangements for the Oxford Oratory, Cardinal Reisach visited London. 'Cardinal Reisach has just left,' wrote Manning to Monsignor Talbot: 'he has seen and understands all that is going on in England.' But Newman had no suspicions. It was true that persistent rumours of his unorthodoxy and his anti-Roman leanings had begun to float about, and these rumours had been traced to Rome. But what were rumours? Then, too, Newman found out that Cardinal Reisach had been to Oxford without his knowledge, and had inspected the land for the Oratory. That seemed odd; but all doubts were set at rest by the arrival from Propaganda of an official ratification of his scheme. There would be nothing but plain sailing now. Newman was almost happy; radiant visions came into his mind of a wonderful future in Oxford, the gradual growth of Catholic principles, the decay of liberalism, the inauguration of a second Oxford Movement, the conversion—who knows?—of Mark Pattison, the triumph of the Church.... 'Earlier failures do not matter now,' he exclaimed to a friend. 'I see that I have been reserved by God for this.'
Just then a long blue envelope was brought into the room. Newman opened it. 'All is over,' he said, 'I am not allowed to go.' The envelope contained a letter from the Bishop announcing that, together with the formal permission for an Oratory at Oxford, Propaganda had issued a secret instruction to the effect that Newman himself was by no means to reside there. If he showed signs of doing so, he was blandly and suavely ('blande suaviterque' were the words of the Latin instrument) to be prevented. And now the secret instruction had come into operation— blande suaviterque: Dr. Newman's spirit had been crushed.
His friends made some gallant efforts to retrieve the situation; but, it was in vain. Father St. John hurried to Rome and the indignant laity of England, headed by Lord Edward Howard, the guardian of the young Duke of Norfolk, seized the opportunity of a particularly virulent anonymous attack upon Newman, to send him an address in which they expressed their feeling that 'every blow that touches you inflicts a wound upon the Catholic Church in this country'. The only result was an outburst of redoubled fury upon the part of Monsignor Talbot. The address, he declared, was an insult to the Holy See. 'What is the province of the laity?' he interjected. 'To hunt, to shoot, to entertain. These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all.' Once more he warned Manning to be careful. 'Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England, and you will see that he will make use of the laity against your Grace. You must not be afraid of him. It will require much prudence, but you must be firm. The Holy Father still places his confidence in you; but if you yield and do not fight the battle of the Holy See against the detestable spirit growing up in England, he will begin to regret Cardinal Wiseman, who knew how to keep the laity in order.' Manning had no thought of 'yielding'; but, he pointed out to his agitated friend that an open conflict between himself and Newman would be 'as great a scandal to the Church in England, and as great a victory to the Anglicans, as could be'. He would act quietly, and there would be no more difficulty. The Bishops were united, and the Church was sound.
On this, Monsignor Talbot hurried to Father St. John's lodgings in Rome to express his regret at the misunderstanding that had arisen, to wonder how it could possibly have occurred, and to hope that Dr. Newman might consent to be made a Protonotary Apostolic. That was all the satisfaction that Father St. John was to obtain from his visit to Rome. A few weeks later, the scheme of the Oxford Oratory was finally quashed.
When all was over, Manning thought that the time had come for a reconciliation. He made advances through a common friend; what had he done, he asked, to offend Dr. Newman? Letters passed, and, naturally enough, they only widened the breach. Newman was not the man to be polite. 'I can only repeat,' he wrote at last, 'what I said when you last heard from me. I do not know whether I am on my head or my heels when I have active relations with you. In spite of my friendly feelings, this is the judgment of my intellect.' 'Meanwhile,' he concluded, 'I propose to say seven masses for your intention amid the difficulties and anxieties of your ecclesiastical duties.' And Manning could only return the compliment.
At about this time, the Curate of Littlemore had a singular experience. As he was passing by the Church he noticed an old man, very poorly dressed in an old grey coat with the collar turned up, leaning over the lych gate, in floods of tears. He was apparently in great trouble, and his hat was pulled down over his eyes as if he wished to hide his features. For a moment, however, he turned towards the Curate, who was suddenly struck by something familiar in the face. Could it be—? A photograph hung over the Curate's mantelpiece of the man who had made Littlemore famous by his sojourn there more than twenty years ago— he had never seen the original; but now, was it possible—? He looked again, and he could doubt no longer. It was Dr. Newman. He sprang forward, with proffers of assistance. Could he be of any use? 'Oh no, no!' was the reply. 'Oh no, no!' But the Curate felt that he could not run away and leave so eminent a character in such distress. 'Was it not Dr. Newman he had the honour of addressing?' he asked, with all the respect and sympathy at his command. 'Was there nothing that could be done?' But the old man hardly seemed to understand what was being said to him. 'Oh no, no!' he repeated, with the tears streaming down his face, 'Oh no, no!'
MEANWHILE, a remarkable problem was absorbing the attention of the Catholic Church. Once more, for a moment, the eyes of all Christendom were fixed upon Rome. The temporal Power of the Pope had now almost vanished; but, as his worldly dominions steadily diminished, the spiritual pretensions of the Holy Father no less steadily increased. For seven centuries the immaculate conception of the Virgin had been highly problematical; Pio Nono spoke, and the doctrine became an article of faith. A few years later, the Court of Rome took another step: a Syllabus Errorum was issued, in which all the favourite beliefs of the modern world— the rights of democracies, the claims of science, the sanctity of free speech, the principles of toleration— were categorically denounced, and their supporters abandoned to the Divine wrath.
Yet it was observed that the modern world proceeded as before. Something more drastic appeared to be necessary— some bold and striking measure which should concentrate the forces of the faithful, and confound their enemies. The tremendous doctrine of Papal Infallibility, beloved of all good Catholics, seemed to offer just the opening that was required. Let that doctrine be proclaimed, with the assent of the whole Church, an article of faith, and, in the face of such an affirmation, let the modern world do its worst! Accordingly, a General Council— the first to be held since the Council of Trent more than 300 years before— was summoned to the Vatican, for the purpose, so it was announced, of providing 'an adequate remedy to the disorders, intellectual and moral, of Christendom'. The programme might seem a large one, even for a General Council; but everyone knew what it meant.
Everyone, however, was not quite of one mind. There were those to whom even the mysteries of infallibility caused some searchings of heart. It was true, no doubt, that Our Lord, by saying to Peter, 'Thou art Cephas, which is by interpretation a stone', thereby endowed that Apostle with the supreme and full primacy and principality over the Universal Catholic Church; it was equally certain that Peter afterwards became the Bishop of Rome; nor could it be doubted that the Roman Pontiff was his successor. Thus it followed directly that the Roman Pontiff was the head, heart, mind, and tongue of the Catholic Church; and moreover, it was plain that when Our Lord prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail, that prayer implied the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. All these things were obvious, and yet—and yet— might not the formal declaration of such truths in the year of his grace 1870 be, to say the least of it, inopportune? Might it not come as an offence, as a scandal even, to those unacquainted with the niceties of Catholic dogma? Such were the uneasy reflections of grave and learned ecclesiastics and theologians in England, France, and Germany. Newman was more than usually upset; Monseigneur Dupanloup was disgusted; and Dr. Dollinger prepared himself for resistance. It was clear that there would be a disaffected minority at the Council.
Catholic apologists have often argued that the Pope's claim to infallibility implies no more than the necessary claim of every ruler, of every government, to the right of supreme command. In England, for instance, the Estates of the Realm exercise an absolute authority in secular matters; no one questions this authority, no one suggests that it is absurd or exorbitant; in other words, by general consent the Estates of the Realm are, within their sphere, infallible. Why, therefore, should the Pope, within his sphere— the sphere of the Catholic Church— be denied a similar infallibility? If there is nothing monstrous in an Act of Parliament laying down what all men shall do, why should there be anything monstrous in a Papal Encyclical laying down what all men shall believe? The argument is simple; in fact, it is too simple; for it takes for granted the very question which is in dispute. Is there indeed no radical and essential distinction between supremacy and infallibility? Between the right of a Borough Council to regulate the traffic and the right of the Vicar of Christ to decide upon the qualifications for Everlasting Bliss?
There is one distinction, at any rate, which is palpable: the decisions of a supreme authority can be altered; those of an infallible authority cannot. A Borough Council may change its traffic regulations at the next meeting; but the Vicar of Christ, when in certain circumstances and with certain precautions, he has once spoken, has expressed, for all the ages, a part of the immutable, absolute, and eternal Truth. It is this that makes the papal pretensions so extraordinary and so enormous. It is also this that gives them their charm. Catholic apologists, when they try to tone down those pretensions and to explain them away, forget that it is in their very exorbitance that their fascination lies. If the Pope were indeed nothing more than a magnified Borough Councillor, we should hardly have heard so much of him. It is not because he satisfies the reason, but because he astounds it, that men abase themselves before the Vicar of Christ.
And certainly the doctrine of Papal Infallibility presents to the reason a sufficiency of stumbling-blocks. In the fourteenth century, for instance, the following case arose. John XXII asserted in his bull 'Cum inter nonnullos' that the doctrine of the poverty of Christ was heretical. Now, according to the light of reason, one of two things must follow from this—either John XXII was himself a heretic, or he was no Pope. For his predecessor, Nicholas III, had asserted in his bull 'Exiit qui seminat' that the doctrine of the poverty of Christ was the true doctrine, the denial of which was heresy. Thus if John XXII was right, Nicholas III was a heretic, and in that case Nicholas's nominations of Cardinals were void, and the conclave which elected John was illegal— so that John was no Pope, his nominations of Cardinals were void, and the whole Papal succession vitiated. On the other hand, if John was wrong—well, he was a heretic; and the same inconvenient results followed. And, in either case, what becomes of Papal Infallibility?
But such crude and fundamental questions as these were not likely to trouble the Council. The discordant minority took another line. Infallibility they admitted readily enough, the infallibility, that is to say, of the Church; what they shrank from was the pronouncement that this infallibility was concentrated in the Bishop of Rome. They would not actually deny that, as a matter of fact, it was so concentrated; but to declare that it was, to make the belief that it was an article of faith— what could be more— it was their favourite expression— more inopportune? In truth, the Gallican spirit still lingered among them. At heart, they hated the autocracy of Rome— the domination of the centralised Italian organisation over the whole vast body of the Church. They secretly hankered, even at this late hour, after some form of constitutional government, and they knew that the last faint vestige of such a dream would vanish utterly with the declaration of the infallibility of the Pope. It did not occur to them, apparently, that a constitutional Catholicism might be a contradiction in terms, and that the Catholic Church, without the absolute dominion of the Pope, might resemble the play of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
Pius IX himself was troubled by doubts. 'Before I was Pope,' he observed, 'I believed in Papal Infallibility, now I feel it.' As for Manning, his certainty was no less complete than his master's. Apart from the Holy Ghost, his appointment to the See of Westminster had been due to Pio Nono's shrewd appreciation of the fact that he was the one man in England upon whose fidelity the Roman Government could absolutely rely. The voice which kept repeating 'Mettetelo li, mettetelo li' in his Holiness's ear, whether or not it was inspired by God, was certainly inspired by political sagacity. For now Manning was to show that he was not unworthy of the trust which had been reposed in him. He flew to Rome in a whirlwind of Papal enthusiasm. On the way, in Paris, he stopped for a moment to interview those two great props of French respectability, M. Guizot and M. Thiers. Both were careful not to commit themselves, but both were exceedingly polite. 'I am awaiting your Council,' said M. Guizot, 'with great anxiety. It is the last great moral power and may restore the peace of Europe.' M. Thiers delivered a brief harangue in favour of the principles of the Revolution, which, he declared, were the very marrow of all Frenchmen; yet, he added, he had always supported the Temporal Power of the Pope. 'Mais, M. Thiers,' said Manning, 'vous etes effectivement croyant.' 'En Dieu,' replied M. Thiers.
The Rome which Manning reached towards the close of 1869 was still the Rome which, for so many centuries, had been the proud and visible apex, the palpitating heart, the sacred sanctuary, of the most extraordinary mingling of spiritual and earthly powers that the world has ever known. The Pope now, it is true, ruled over little more than the City itself— the Patrimony of St. Peter— and he ruled there less by the Grace of God than by the goodwill of Napoleon III; yet he was still a sovereign Prince, and Rome was still the capital of the Papal State; she was not yet the capital of Italy. The last hour of this strange dominion had almost struck. As if she knew that her doom was upon her, the Eternal City arrayed herself to meet it in all her glory.
The whole world seemed to be gathered together within her walls. Her streets were filled with crowned heads and Princes of the Church, great ladies and great theologians, artists and friars, diplomats and newspaper reporters. Seven hundred bishops were there from all the corners of Christendom, and in all the varieties of ecclesiastical magnificence in falling lace and sweeping purple and flowing violet veils. Zouaves stood in the colonnade of St Peter's, and Papal troops were on the Quirinal. Cardinals passed, hatted and robed, in their enormous carriage of state, like mysterious painted idols. Then there was a sudden hush: the crowd grew thicker and expectation filled, the air. Yes! it was he! He was coming! The Holy Father! But first there appeared, mounted on a white mule and clothed in a magenta mantle, a grave dignitary bearing aloft a silver cross. The golden coach followed, drawn by six horses gorgeously caparisoned, and within, the smiling white- haired Pio Nono, scattering his benedictions, while the multitude fell upon its knees as one man. Such were the daily spectacles of coloured pomp and of antique solemnity, which so long as the sun was shining, at any rate— dazzled the onlooker into a happy forgetfulness of the reverse side of the Papal dispensation— the nauseating filth of the highways, the cattle stabled in the palaces of the great, and the fever flitting through the ghastly tenements of the poor.
In St. Peter's, the North Transept had been screened off; rows of wooden seats had been erected covered with Brussels carpet; and upon these seats sat each crowned with a white mitre, the 700 Bishops in Council. Here all day long rolled forth, in sonorous Latin, the interminable periods of episcopal oratory; but it was not here that the issue of the Council was determined. The assembled Fathers might talk till the marbles of St. Peter's themselves grew weary of the reverberations; the fate of the Church was decided in a very different manner— by little knots of influential persons meeting quietly of a morning in the back room of some inconspicuous lodging-house, by a sunset rendezvous in the Borghese Gardens between a Cardinal and a Diplomatist by a whispered conference in an alcove at a Princess's evening party, with the gay world chattering all about. And, of course, on such momentous occasions as these, Manning was in his element. None knew those difficult ropes better than he; none used them with a more serviceable and yet discreet alacrity. In every juncture he had the right word, or the right silence; his influence ramified in all directions, from the Pope's audience chamber to the English Cabinet. 'Il Diavolo del Concilio' his enemies called him; and he gloried in the name.
The real crux of the position was less ecclesiastical than diplomatic. The Papal Court, with its huge majority of Italian Bishops, could make sure enough, when it came to the point, of carrying its wishes through the Council; what was far more dubious was the attitude of the foreign Governments— especially those of France and England. The French Government dreaded a schism among its Catholic subjects; it disliked the prospect of an extension of the influence of the Pope over the mass of the population of France; and, since the very existence of the last remnant of the Pope's Temporal Power depended upon the French army, it was able to apply considerable pressure upon the Vatican. The interests of England were less directly involved, but it happened that at this moment Mr. Gladstone was Prime Minister, and Mr. Gladstone entertained strong views upon the Infallibility of the Pope. His opinions upon the subject were in part the outcome of his friendship with Lord Acton, a historian to whom learning and judgment had not been granted in equal proportions, and who, after years of incredible and indeed well-nigh mythical research, had come to the conclusion that the Pope could err. In this Mr. Gladstone entirely concurred, though he did not share the rest of his friend's theological opinions; for Lord Acton, while straining at the gnat of Infallibility, had swallowed the camel of the Roman Catholic Faith. 'Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galere?' one cannot help asking, as one watched that laborious and scrupulous scholar, that lifelong enthusiast for liberty, that almost hysterical reviler of priesthood and persecution, trailing his learning so discrepantly along the dusty Roman way. But, there are some who know how to wear their Rome with a difference; and Lord Acton was one of these.
He was now engaged in fluttering like a moth round the Council and in writing long letters to Mr. Gladstone, impressing upon him the gravity of the situation, and urging him to bring his influence to bear. If the, Dogma were carried— he declared, no man who accepted it could remain a loyal subject and Catholics would everywhere become 'irredeemable enemies of civil and religious liberty'. In these circumstances, was it not plainly incumbent upon the English Government, involved as it was with the powerful Roman Catholic forces in Ireland, to intervene? Mr. Gladstone allowed himself to become convinced, and Lord Acton began to hope that his efforts would be successful. But, he had forgotten one element in the situation; he had reckoned without the Archbishop of Westminster. The sharp nose of Manning sniffed out the whole intrigue. Though he despised Lord Acton almost as much as he disliked him—'such men,' he said, 'are all vanity: they have the inflation of German professors, and the ruthless talk of undergraduates'—yet he realised clearly enough the danger of his correspondence with the Prime Minister, and immediately took steps to counteract it. There was a semi- official agent of the English Government in Rome, Mr. Odo Russell, and around him Manning set to work to spin his spider's web of delicate and clinging diplomacy. Preliminary politenesses were followed by long walks upon the Pincio, and the gradual interchange of more and more important and confidential communications. Soon poor Mr. Russell was little better than a fly buzzing in gossamer. And Manning was careful to see that he buzzed on the right note. In his dispatches to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Clarendon, Mr. Russell explained in detail the true nature of the Council, that it was merely a meeting of a few Roman Catholic prelates to discuss some internal matters of Church discipline, that it had no political significance whatever, that the question of Infallibility, about which there had been so much random talk, was a purely theological question, and that, whatever decision might be come to on the subject, the position of Roman Catholics throughout the world would remain unchanged.
Whether the effect of these affirmations upon Lord Clarendon was as great as Manning supposed is somewhat doubtful; but it is at any rate certain that Mr. Gladstone failed to carry the Cabinet with him; and, when at last a proposal was definitely made that the English Government should invite the Powers of Europe to intervene at the Vatican, it was rejected. Manning always believed that this was the direct result of Mr. Russell's dispatches, which had acted as an antidote to the poison of Lord Acton's letters, and thus carried the day. If that was so, the discretion of biographers has not yet entirely lifted the veil from these proceedings Manning had assuredly performed no small service for his cause. Yet his modesty would not allow him to assume for himself a credit which, after all, was due elsewhere; and when he told the story of those days, he would add, with more than wonted seriousness, 'It was by the Divine Will that the designs of His enemies were frustrated'.
Meanwhile, in the North Transept of St. Peter's a certain amount of preliminary business had been carried through. Various miscellaneous points in Christian doctrine had been satisfactorily determined. Among others, the following Canons were laid down by the Fathers: 'If anyone does not accept for sacred and canonical the whole and every part of the Books of Holy Scripture, or deny that they are divinely inspired, let him be anathema.' 'If anyone says that miracles cannot be, and therefore, the accounts of them, even those in Holy Scriptures must be assigned a place among fables and myths, or that the divine origin of the Christian religion cannot rightly be proved from them, let him be anathema.' 'If anyone says that the doctrines of the Church can ever receive a sense in accordance with the progress of science, other than that sense which the Church has understood and still understands, let him be anathema.' 'If anyone says that it is not possible, by the natural light of human reason, to acquire a certain knowledge of the One and True God, let him be anathema.' In other words, it became an article of Faith that Faith was not necessary for a true knowledge of God. Having disposed of these minor matters, the Fathers found themselves at last approaching the great question of Infallibility.
Two main issues, it soon appeared, were before them: the. Pope's infallibility was admitted, ostensibly at least, by all; what remained to be determined was: (1) whether the definition of the Pope's Infallibility was opportune, and (2) what the definition of the Pope's Infallibility was.
(1) It soon became clear that the sense of the Council was overwhelmingly in favour of a definition. The Inopportunists were a small minority; they were outvoted, and they were obliged to give way. It only remained, therefore, to come to a decision upon the second question— what the definition should actually be.
(2) It now became the object of the Inopportunists to limit the scope of the definition as much as possible, while the Infallibilists were no less eager to extend it. Now everyone, or nearly everyone, was ready to limit the Papal Infallibility to pronouncements ex cathedra—that is to say, to those made by the Pope in his capacity of Universal Doctor; but this only served to raise the ulterior, the portentous, and indeed the really crucial question—to WHICH of the Papal pronouncements ex cathedra did Infallibility adhere?
The discussions which followed were, naturally enough, numerous, complicated, and embittered, and in all of them Manning played a conspicuous part. For two months the Fathers deliberated; through fifty sessions they sought the guidance of the Holy Ghost. The wooden seats, covered though they were with Brussels carpet, grew harder and harder; and still the mitred Councillors sat on. The Pope himself began to grow impatient; for one thing, he declared, he was being ruined by the mere expense of lodging and keeping the multitude of his adherents. 'Questi infallibilisti mi faranno fallire', said his Holiness. At length it appeared that the Inopportunists were dragging out the proceedings in the hope of obtaining an indefinite postponement. Then the authorities began to act; a bishop was shouted down, and the closure was brought into operation. At this point the French Government, after long hesitation, finally decided to intervene, and Cardinal Antonelli was informed that if the Definition was proceeded with, the French troops would be withdrawn from Rome. But the astute Cardinal judged that he could safely ignore the threat. He saw that Napoleon III was tottering to his fall and would never risk an open rupture with the Vatican. Accordingly, it was determined to bring the proceedings to a close by a final vote. Already the Inopportunists, seeing that the game was up, had shaken the dust of Rome from their feet. On July 18th, 1870, the Council met for the last time. As the first of the Fathers stepped forward to declare his vote, a storm of thunder and lightning suddenly burst over St. Peter's. All through the morning the voting continued, and every vote was accompanied by a flash and a roar from heaven. Both sides, with equal justice, claimed the portent as a manifestation of the Divine Opinion. When the votes were examined, it was found that 533 were in favour of the proposed definition and two against it. Next day, war was declared between France and Germany, and a few weeks later the French troops were withdrawn from Rome. Almost in the same moment, the successor of St. Peter had lost his Temporal Power, and gained Infallibility.
What the Council had done was merely to assent to a definition of the dogma of the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff which Pius IX had issued, proprio motu, a few days before. The definition itself was perhaps somewhat less extreme than might have been expected. The Pope, it declared, is possessed, when he speaks ex cathedra, of 'that infallibility with which the Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals'. Thus it became a dogma of faith that a Papal definition regarding faith or morals is infallible; but beyond that, both the Holy Father and the Council maintained a judicious reserve. Over what OTHER matters besides faith and morals the Papal infallibility might or might not extend still remained in doubt. And there were further questions, no less serious, to which no decisive answer was then, or ever has been since, provided.
How was it to be determined, for instance, which particular Papal decisions did in fact come within the scope of the definition? Who was to decide what was or was not a matter of faith or morals? Or precisely WHEN the Roman Pontiff was speaking ex cathedra? Was the famous Syllabus Errorum, for example, issued ex cathedra or not? Grave theologians have never been able to make up their minds. Yet to admit doubts in such matters as these is surely dangerous. 'In duty to our supreme pastoral office,' proclaimed the Sovereign Pontiff, 'by the bowels of Christ we earnestly entreat all Christ's faithful people, and we also command them by the authority of God and our Saviour, that they study and labour to expel and eliminate errors and display the light of the purest faith.' Well might the faithful study and labour to such ends! For, while the offence remained ambiguous, there was no ambiguity about the penalty. One hair's-breadth from the unknown path of truth, one shadow of impurity in the mysterious light of faith, and there shall be anathema! anathema!
anathema! When the framers of such edicts called upon the bowels of Christ to justify them, might they not have done well to have paused a little, and to have called to mind the counsel of another sovereign ruler, though a heretic—Oliver Cromwell? 'Bethink ye, bethink ye, in the bowels of Christ, that ye may be mistaken!'
One of the secondary results of the Council was the excommunication of Dr. Dollinger, and a few more of the most uncompromising of the Inopportunists. Among these, however, Lord Acton was not included. Nobody ever discovered why. Was it because he was too important for the Holy See to care to interfere with him? Or was it because he was not important enough?
Another ulterior consequence was the appearance of a pamphlet by Mr. Gladstone, entitled 'Vaticanism', in which the awful implications involved in the declaration of Infallibility were laid before the British Public. How was it possible, Mr. Gladstone asked, with all the fulminating accompaniments of his most agitated rhetoric, to depend henceforward upon the civil allegiance of Roman Catholics? To this question the words of Cardinal Antonelli to the Austrian Ambassador might have seemed a sufficient reply. 'There is a great difference,' said his Eminence, between theory and practice. No one will ever prevent the Church from proclaiming the great principles upon which its Divine fabric is based; but, as regards the application of those sacred laws, the Church, imitating the example of its Divine Founder, is inclined to take into consideration the natural weaknesses of mankind.' And, in any case, it was hard to see how the system of Faith, which had enabled Pope Gregory XIII to effect, by the hands of English Catholics, a whole series of attempts to murder Queen Elizabeth, can have been rendered a much more dangerous engine of disloyalty by the Definition of 1870. But such considerations failed to reassure Mr. Gladstone; the British Public was of a like mind; and 145,000 copies of the pamphlet were sold within two months. Various replies appeared, and Manning was not behindhand. His share in the controversy led to a curious personal encounter.
His conversion had come as a great shock to Mr. Gladstone. Manning had breathed no word of its approach to his old and intimate friend, and when the news reached him, it seemed almost an act of personal injury. 'I felt,' Mr. Gladstone said, 'as if Manning had murdered my mother by mistake.' For twelve years the two men did not meet, after which they occasionally saw each other and renewed their correspondence. This was the condition of affairs when Mr. Gladstone published his pamphlet. As soon as it appeared, Manning wrote a letter to the New York Herald, contradicting its conclusions and declaring that its publication was 'the first event that has overcast a friendship of forty-five years'. Mr. Gladstone replied to this letter in a second pamphlet. At the close of his theological arguments, he added the following passage: 'I feel it necessary, in concluding this answer, to state that Archbishop Manning has fallen into most serious inaccuracy in his letter of November 10th, wherein he describes 'my Expostulation as the first event which has overcast a friendship of forty-five years. I allude to the subject with regret; and without entering into details.'
Manning replied in a private letter:
'My dear Gladstone,' he wrote, 'you say that I am in error in stating that your former pamphlet is the first act which has overcast our friendship.
'If you refer to my act in 1851 in submitting to the Catholic Church) by which we were separated for some twelve years, I can understand it.
'If you refer to any other act either on your part or mine I am not conscious of it, and would desire to know what it may be.
'My act in 1851 may have overcast your friendship for me. It did not overcast my friendship for you, as I think the last years have shown.
'You will not, I hope, think me over-sensitive in asking for this explanation. Believe me, yours affectionately,
'H. E. M.'
'My dear Archbishop Manning,' Mr. Gladstone answered, 'it did, I confess, seem to me an astonishing error to state in public that a friendship had not been overcast for forty-five years until now, which your letter declares has been suspended as to all action for twelve...
'I wonder, too, at your forgetting that during the forty-five years I had been charged by you with doing the work of the Antichrist in regard to the Temporal Power of the Pope.
'Our differences, my dear Archbishop, are indeed profound. We refer them, I suppose, in humble silence to a Higher Power... You assured me once of your prayers at all and at the most solemn time. I received that assurance with gratitude, and still cherish it. As and when they move upwards, there is a meeting-point for those whom a chasm separates below. I remain always, affectionately yours,
'W. E. GLADSTONE.'
Speaking of this correspondence in after years, Cardinal Manning said: 'From the way in which Mr. Gladstone alluded to the overcasting of our friendship, people might have thought that I had picked his pocket.'
IN 1875, Manning's labours received their final reward: he was made a Cardinal. His long and strange career, with its high hopes, its bitter disappointments, its struggles, its renunciations, had come at last to fruition in a Princedom of the Church. 'Ask in faith and in perfect confidence,' he himself once wrote, and God will give us what we ask. You may say, "But do you mean that He will give us the very thing?" That, God has not said. God has said that He will give you whatsoever you ask; but the form in which it will come, and the time in which He will give it, He keeps in His own power. Sometimes our prayers are answered in the very things which we put from us; sometimes it may be a chastisement, or a loss, or a visitation against which our hearts rise, and we seem to see that God has not only forgotten us, but has begun to deal with us in severity. Those very things are the answers to our prayers. He knows what we desire, and He gives us the things for which we ask; but in the form which His own Divine Wisdom sees to be best.'