Pius IX. And His Time
by The Rev. AEneas MacDonell
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One journal might be quoted, which alone collected more than one hundred thousand francs. The Archbishop of Cologne, Monsigneur Melchers, observed, in a pastoral instruction which he issued on the occasion, that never before had a Pope been in such intimate and universal relation with the heart of humanity. And indeed it was more consoling to the Supreme Pastor than all other demonstrations to reflect that so many millions on millions of faithful united with him in prayer at the Mass of the 11th of April, all on the occasion participating in the Holy Communion. He felt that the whole universe prayed with him and for him. "O God!" he exclaimed, in presence of some pilgrims who had come to congratulate him in person, "O God! have mercy on me! This is too much happiness! I dread when, ere long, I shall appear before Thy judgment-seat, lest Thou say to me: Thou hast had thy reward on earth! Not to me, but to Thee, O Lord! belongeth the love of Christians." He fully appreciated the numerous offerings and congratulations of the Catholic world. His servants conceived the happy idea of placing in symmetrical order throughout the apartments of the Vatican the rich and numerous gifts which were presented to him on the occasion of his jubilee. Beholding them, he exclaimed: "I also have my universal exposition! It is the fruit not of my industry but of the love of my children." Then, as he turned over the leaves of the gigantic manuscripts which were covered with addresses of devotedness, he added: "This is the true expression of the universal Catholic suffrage."

This auspicious time of peace and rejoicing was not without its sorrows. Among these were the fearful massacres of Christians in China. Nor were these the worst, for they carried with them their consolation. If the Church was cruelly persecuted in China, she won new glory in adding martyrs to the Triumphant army in heaven. The many scandals that occurred throughout Christendom were more truly afflicting. Above all, were truly trying to the paternal heart of the Holy Father those which happened among the Catholic people, who protected him in the possession of what remained of his dilapidated patrimony. A court and a political system which were destined soon to disappear were laboring to put an end to Christian education. The prince, cousin of the Emperor, Napoleon III., and the Senator and Academician, Sainte Beuve, held heathenish orgies in the Lenten season, even on Good Friday. To crown the list of evil, apostacy was not wanting. It was of little consequence that one who fell away, although a vehement declaimer, was a shallow theologian; his loss was, nevertheless, to be deplored. The progress of a low sect in Belgium called Solidaires, the success of a new revolution in Spain, under favor of which the members of religious communities, both of men and of women, were driven from their homes in the name of liberty, together with the opening of revolutionary clubs in Paris, caused Pius IX. to dread catastrophes in the near future. Severe domestic affliction came this year (1869) to aggravate the sorrows of Pius IX. His brother, Count Gabriel Mastai, met with an accident which, at his advanced age, ninety, proved to be serious. The Holy Father, immediately traversing Rome, ascended on his knees the scala sancta. A few days later the death of the patient was intimated to him. He shut himself up several hours in his private apartment, in order that none might witness the tears which grief made him shed. Finally, he repaired to the Vatican Basilica, where he prayed for a long time, both before the Holy Sacrament and at the tomb of the apostles.


Those states which formed the monetary division of Western Europe—France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Holy See, agreed at this time to refound their silver coinage. A model was chosen, which Greece, Portugal, Roumania and some other countries adopted in their turn, and it was understood that the new coinage for each state should be in proportion to its population. Hence it behooved the Pontifical State to issue forty millions of livres or thereby, for a population numbering from three to four millions of souls, including Romagna and Umbria, which the Pope still claimed. The Florence government remonstrated against the issue of forty million livres, on the ground that the Pontiff could not now actually count more than from 600,000 to 700,000 subjects. Napoleon III., always inclined to gratify the revolution, summoned Pius IX. to suspend the issue of his exaggerated coinage, three-fourths of which, it was insisted, should be cast anew with the effigy of Victor Emmanuel. This interference of Napoleon was considered inopportune and unacceptable, the operation of coining being almost completed. Cardinal Antonelli maintained the right of the Holy See. The French and Italian governments agreed to exclude from their circulation, and consequently from that of the whole monetary union, all silver coins which bore the meek and noble likeness of Pius IX. This they did without offering to the public any explanation. The revolutionary party, however, were too honest not to supply this want. They at once gave circulation to the rumor that the coinage of the Pope was of inferior quality. He was pointed out as a money-counterfeiter by the thousand organs of the infidel press. The people, grossly deceived, repelled with indignation, as if it were that of a robber, the likeness of the representative of justice on earth. The Catholics, meanwhile, observed with pain that while this storm of calumny was raging, one of their own number, once a champion of the temporal power, held in the French government the portfolio of finance. The Pontifical treasury subjected itself to considerable sacrifices, in order to diminish the losses and silence the recriminations of those who were compelled to stop its money, which could no longer be circulated. Chemists, in the interest of truth, analyzed the depreciated metal, and declared that it was exactly of the same value as the coinage of Napoleon III. But neither the officious nor the official press took the pains to publish this fact, and the calumny remained. The time was even then at hand, as French writers observe with pain, when France, in her downfallen and exhausted condition, would have been glad to possess this Pontifical money and dispense with worthless paper.


This time of sorrow, mourning and difficulty was succeeded by a period of unwonted activity. It was deemed expedient to convoke an OEcumenical Council. This important measure was thought of on occasion of the centenary celebration of the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul. After two years of serious and mature deliberation and consultation, Pius IX. issued apostolical letters, convening a council of the whole church at the Vatican Basilica. The 8th of December, 1869, was appointed as the day for its first assembling. The objects in view cannot be better described than in the words of the venerable Pontiff. After a few preliminary paragraphs in his Bull of Indiction, the Holy Father thus proceeds:

"The Roman Pontiffs, in the discharge of the office divinely confided to them in the person of Peter of feeding the entire flock of Christ, have unweariedly taken on themselves the most arduous labors, and used every possible means in order to have the various nations and races all over the earth brought to the light of the Gospel, and by truth and holiness to eternal life. All men know the zeal and unceasing vigilance with which these same Roman Pontiffs have kept inviolate the deposit of faith, discipline among the clergy, purity and science in the education given to the members of the church, the holiness and dignity of Christian marriage: how they studied day by day to promote the Christian education of the youth of both sexes, to foster among all classes the love of religion, the practice of piety and purity of morals as well as everything that might conduce to the tranquillity, the good order and the prosperity of civil society. Whenever great troubles arose, or serious calamities threatened either the church or social order, the Roman Pontiffs judged it opportune to convoke general councils, in order that with the advice and assistance of the bishops of the Catholic world, whom the Holy Ghost hath established to rule the Church of God, they might, in their united wisdom and forethought, so dispose everything as to define the doctrines of faith, to secure the destruction of the most prevalent errors, defend, illustrate and develop Catholic teaching, restore and promote ecclesiastical discipline and the reformation of morals.

"No one at the present time can be ignorant how terrible is the storm by which the church is assailed, and what an accumulation of evils afflicts civil society. The Catholic Church, her most salutary doctrines, her most revered power, the supreme authority of this Holy See, are all assailed and trampled on by the bitter enemies of God and man. All that is most sacred is held up to contempt; ecclesiastical property is made the prey of the spoiler; the most venerable ministers of the sacraments, men most eminent for their Catholic character, are harassed by unheard of annoyances. The religious orders are suppressed, impious books of every kind and pestilential publications are disseminated, wicked and pernicious societies are everywhere and under every form multiplied. The education of youth is, in almost all countries, withdrawn from the clergy, and, what is far worse, intrusted in many places to teachers of error and evil.

"In consequence of all these facts, to our great grief and that of all good men, and to the irreparable ruin of souls, impiety, corruption of morals, unbridled licentiousness, the contagion of depraved opinions, and of every species of pestilential vice and crime, the violation of all laws, human and divine, prevail everywhere to such an extent, that not only religion but human society itself is thrown into the most deplorable disorder and confusion.

"Wherefore, following in the footsteps of our illustrious predecessors, we have deemed it opportune to call together a General Council, as we had long desired to do.

"This OEcumenical Council will have to examine most diligently, and to determine what it is most seasonable to do, in these calamitous times, for the greatest glory of God, the integrity of faith, the splendor of Divine worship, the eternal salvation of men, the discipline of the regular and secular clergy, and their sound and solid education, the observance of ecclesiastical laws, the reformation of morals, the Christian education of youth, the common peace and universal concord. With the Divine assistance, our labors must also be directed towards remedying the peculiar evils which afflict church and state; towards bringing back into the right road those who have strayed away from truth and righteousness; towards repressing vice and error, in order that our holy religion and her saving doctrines may acquire renewed vigor all over the earth, that its empire may be restored and increased, and that thereby piety, modesty, honor, justice, charity and all Christian virtues may wax strong and nourish for the glory and happiness of our common humanity."

It has been alleged and persistently maintained by the enemies of the Holy See, that Pius IX. sought only to promote his own importance by convening a General Council. Of this calumny the foregoing words, which so plainly and distinctly set forth the purposes of the council, afford an abundant refutation. No man holding a great public office can fulfil faithfully the duties of that office without exalting his own character in the estimation of mankind. Ought he then, because such things exalt him, to leave them undone? This would, indeed, be mistaken humility.

Councils, although not an essential element in the government of the church, are had recourse to in times of difficulty, in order to settle doctrinal disputes, promote morality and establish or restore discipline. With the exception of the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem, no council was held for the first three hundred years of the church's existence. The church, nevertheless, as regarded her spiritual state, was highly prosperous and extended rapidly. Councils came as exigencies arose, and when there was no insuperable impediment to their assembling. They were in their time a source of great and lasting good, whilst their record remains shedding light on the centuries as they pass. There had already been eighteen OEcumenical Councils, that of Trent, held three hundred years ago, having been the last. Causes like to those which occasioned the earlier councils, although in a different state of the world and human society, appeared to call for such action on the part of the church as should powerfully influence the passing age, and cause the light of Divine revelation to penetrate the dark places of the nineteenth century. It was resolved, accordingly, to convoke the OEcumenical Council of the age.


It was the duty of the Commission of Direction to decide as to who had a right to be called to, and to sit in, the council. This commission consisted of five cardinals who were presidents, eight bishops and a secretary, the Archbishop of Sardis. There was no difference of opinion. A question, however, arose as to the right of vicars-apostolic to be invited to the council. They were bishops, indeed, but without ordinary jurisdiction. Hence the doubt as to their right to be called. Neither their admissibility, if invited, nor of their decisive vote when admitted was at all questioned. The precedents and practice of the Holy See were in favor of their being called. It was also dreaded lest their exclusion should give rise to questions as to the oecumenicity of the council. All bishops, undoubtedly, were entitled to be invited. It was decided, therefore, that bishops, vicars-apostolic, should be bidden to the council. The Bulls by which former councils had been convoked called together archbishops, bishops, etc. The law, therefore, making no distinction between bishops in ordinary and such as were vicars-apostolic, neither could the commission. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distingnere debemus.

It was a far more serious matter to invite "the bishops of the Oriental rite who are not in communion with the Apostolic See." An earnest and affectionate letter of invitation was addressed to them. It was presented to the Patriarch of the "Orthodox" Greek Church, who did not consider it worth while to open it. On the same day, it is related, four millions of Bulgarians notified to this patriarch their withdrawal from his jurisdiction. Many bishops of the Greek patriarchate were deeply moved by the most kind and pressing appeal of the Holy Father. He had beseeched and conjured them in the most earnest manner "to come to the general assembly of the bishops of the West and of the whole world, as their fathers had come to the second Council of Lyons and that of Florence, in order that, renewing the charity which existed of old, and restoring the peace which prevailed in the early ages, the fruits of which time has snatched from us, we may behold at last the pure and bright dawn of that union which we so ardently desire." The separated bishops to whom these touching words were addressed, appear to have been profoundly moved. A goodly number, even, actuated by the paternal intentions of the Holy Father, were strongly inclined to meet his advances; but so powerful was the example of the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, that none of them dared to take the lead. The non-united Patriarch of Armenia replied that he would attend the council. But he failed to do so.

A very considerate letter was also addressed to Protestants and all non-Catholics. Needless to say it was not responded to. At the Council of Trent the same attention was shown, but with an equally unsuccessful result. Julius II. had published the condition on which alone non-Catholics generally could be invited, viz.: that they should recognize the Divine authority of the Church. It was not surely to be expected that, on occasion of the meeting of a General Council, the Catholic Church should abandon, in favor of a comparatively small number of dissenters, her fundamental claim to Divine commission, which was acknowledged throughout all Christendom. The bishops of the Anglican Church were astonished and irritated on finding that they were invited only as other Protestants, and not convoked along with the Fathers of the Council. Rome thus plainly intimated to them that they have yet to prove their consecration and right to episcopal dignity.

Rev. Dr. Cumming of London, a minister of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, asked, through Archbishop Manning, to be allowed to lay before the council such arguments as could be adduced in support of Protestant opinions. Pius IX. caused the following reply to be sent to the learned minister: "The decisions of former councils could not be shaken by bringing them anew into question, and by discussing what had been already examined, judged and condemned." Two months later, 30th October, 1869, having been informed that his words might have been misunderstood, and that certain Protestants imagined that all access to the Holy See was henceforth closed against them, the Holy Father, in a new Bull which he very considerately issued, declared that: "Far from repelling any one, we, on the contrary, make advances towards all. To those who, led astray by their education, believe in the truth of their opinions, we, by no means, refuse the examination and discussion of their arguments. This cannot be done within the council; but there are not wanting learned theologians whom we shall designate to them, and to whom they can open their minds. May there be many who, in all sincerity, shall avail themselves of this facility! We earnestly pray that the God of mercy may bring about this happy result."


A statement of the number of Fathers who attended the council, at any particular time during its celebration, can hardly convey an accurate idea of the numbers who took part in its proceedings. Some were always arriving and others departing. Some fell sick, and a few died. The number in attendance, however, was always considerable. An official list, published by the Apostolic Chamber, shows the number and quality of such as were entitled to be present, and who could have attended except on account of hindrances arising from sickness, age or impediments thrown in their way by the governments under which they lived. These included 55 cardinals, 11 patriarchs, 7 primates, 159 archbishops, 755 bishops, 6 abbots, 22 mitred abbots-general, 29 generals and vicars-general of orders; in all, 1,044. A later official list of 1st May states the total number at 1,050, new primatial, archiepiscopal and episcopal churches having been erected in the meantime.

On the 8th December there were at Rome: 49 cardinals, 9 patriarchs, 4 primates, 123 archbishops, 481 bishops, 6 abbots, 22 abbots-general, 29 vicars and vicars-general of orders; in all, 723 Fathers. On 20th December there were 743.

The following Bishops of England were in attendance at the council: The Most Rev. Archbishop Manning, of Westminster; the Most Rev. Dr. Errington, Archbishop of Trebizonde; the Right Rev. Dr. Grant, of Southwark; the Right Rev. Dr. Cornthwaite, of Beverly; the Right Rev. Dr. Uullathorne, of Birmingham; the Right Rev. Dr. Clifford, of Clifton; the Right Rev. Dr. Chadwick, of Hexham; the Right Rev. Dr. Amherst, of Northampton; the Right Rev. Dr. Roskell, of Nottingham; the Right Rev. Dr. Vaughan, of Plymouth; the Right Rev. Dr. Turner, of Salford; the Right Rev. Dr. Brown, of Shrewsbury.

There was a somewhat longer list of Irish bishops, viz.: His Eminence Paul, Cardinal-Archbishop of Dublin; the Most Rev. Dr. McGettigan, Primate of all Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh; the Most Rev. Dr. Leahy, Archbishop of Cashel; the Most Rev. Dr. McHale, Archbishop of Tuam; the Right Rev. Dr. Derry, of Clonfert; O'Keane, Fermoy; Kelly, Derry; Moriarty, Kerry; Leahy, Dromore; Gillooly, Elphin; McEvilly, Galway; Furlong, Ferns; O'Hea, Ross; Dorrian, Down and Connor; Butler, Limerick; Conaty, Kilmore; Nulty, Meath; Donnelly, Clogher; Power, Killaloe; McCabe, Ardagh.

The hierarchy had not yet been restored in Scotland; so that country could send only three bishops to the OEcumenical Council. These were the Right Rev. John Strain, Vicar-Apostolic, Edinburgh (afterwards, in the restored hierarchy, Most Rev. Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh); the Most Rev. Dr. Eyre, Archbishop, Glasgow; the Right Rev. Dr. McDonald (in the restored hierarchy, Bishop of Aberdeen), Vicar-Apostolic, Preshome.

All the other civilized nations, with scarcely an exception,(7) sent their bishops to the general assembly of the Church. France supplied the greatest number, eighty-one. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies came next, being represented by sixty-eight bishops. Next came the States of the Church, sending sixty-two bishops. From Great Britain and Ireland, with the colonies, including Canada, went fifty-five bishops to the great council. Austria and Hungary were nobly represented by forty-three bishops. Spain and the United States of America sent each forty prelates, and the States of South America, thirty; whilst of the Oriental rites there were forty-two bishops. Piedmont, Tuscany, Lombardy and Venetia, together with Modena and Parma, Prussia, Bavaria, Mexico, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Switzerland, the Isles of Greece, and even the Turkish empire, cheerfully willed that the Catholic prelates of their lands should bear their part in the grand OEcumenical Council which was now about to assemble. All these, with the cardinals, abbots, mitred abbots and generals of religious orders, who were also members of the great assembly, made up the goodly number which has already been adverted to.(8)


The subjects for discussion were expressed in schemata, or draft decrees, which were drawn up by a "congregation," or, as we should say, a committee of one hundred and two ecclesiastics, who were cardinals and others learned in theology and canon law, selected from many nations on account of their superior wisdom and experience. By these alone the schemata were prepared. They bore not so much as the shadow of the supreme authority. So the council was perfectly at liberty to accept or reject, to change or to modify them, as it should deem fit and proper. Of this we are assured by the words of the Pope, who, in his "Constitution," at the commencement of the council, informed the bishops that he had not given any sanction to the schemata, and that consequently in regard to them there was complete freedom.

The schemata, six in number, were very comprehensive. It is deeply to be regretted that the council was not allowed time to discuss them all. They concerned:

1. Catholic doctrine in opposition to the manifold errors flowing from rationalism.

2. The Church of Christ.

3. The office of bishops.

4. The vacancy of sees.

5. The life and manners of the clergy.

6. The Little Catechism.

The schema on the Church of Christ necessarily involved the question of infallibility. As this question, more than any other subject, appears to have disturbed the equanimity of the outside world, it may not be inappropriate to consider the preliminary labors, as regarded it, of the great theological commission. The schema on the Church of Christ extended to fifteen chapters. Having treated, at length, on the body of the church, the commission or committee of 102 theologians could not fail to treat also of the Church's Head. On this point they prepared two chapters. The one spoke of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, the other of his temporal power. In treating of the primacy, its endowments also necessarily came under discussion. Among these claimed the first place the Divine assistance in matters of faith which was promised to Peter, and in Peter to his successors. This is nothing less than infallibility.

On the 14th and 21st of January, the commission discussed the nature of the primacy. On the 11th of February, it took up the question of infallibility. It was enquired: 1st, whether the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff can be defined as an article of faith; 2nd, whether it ought to be so defined? The first question was answered unanimously in the affirmative. To the second, all, with one exception, replied, expressing concurrence in the judgment that the subject ought not to be proposed to the council unless it were demanded by the bishops. The wording of the judgment is as follows: Sententia commissionis est, nonnisi ad postulationem episcoporum rei hujus propositionem ab apostolica sede faciendam esse. ("The judgment of the commission is that this subject ought not to be proposed by the Apostolic See, except at the petition of the bishops.") One member of the commission considered the discussion of the subject inopportune. On account of his dissent, the chapter bearing on infallibility was never completed.

Thus for a second time was the question of infallibility deliberately set aside. As for Pius IX. himself, he had no desire any more than he had need to propose that there should be a dogmatical definition. Even as his predecessors in all preceding ages, he was conscious that his primacy was complete. He had acted on this conviction, exercising his sublime privilege with universal consent, in the face of all Christendom. In 1854, 1862 and 1867, the bishops had abundantly testified in his favor. If an authoritative declaration was called for, it could only be on account of the few who disputed and doubted, and the still smaller number who denied that the Head of the Church on earth can neither err in faith and morals, nor lead into error the church of which he is divinely constituted the Supreme Teacher.


On the 7th of December, 1869—Vigil of the Immaculate Conception—Pius IX., attended by an imposing suite, repaired to the Church of the Twelve Apostles, in order to inaugurate solemnly a period of nine days' prayer in honor of the Blessed and Immaculate Mary. The following day, at an early hour, the cannon of the Castle of St. Angelo announced to the holy city the great event that had been so long looked forward to. As early as six o'clock a.m. the three naves of St. Peter's were filled with a crowd of the faithful, and all the approaches to the Basilica were thronged with people. At nine o'clock was seen the magnificent procession of mitred abbots, bishops and archbishops, primates, patriarchs and cardinals, that preceded the sedia gestatoria which bore the Pope. The sacred cortege required about an hour to traverse the hall (atrium) and the chief nave of St. Peter's, and reach the left(9) arm of the cross which forms the immense Basilica, and which had been set apart and prepared as a vast chamber for the celebration of the council by that skilful architect, Virginius Vespignani.

1,044 Fathers were invited to be present as members of the council. 803 attended at the opening. Of these there were six archbishops who were also princes, forty-nine cardinals, eleven patriarchs, six hundred and eighty archbishops and bishops, twenty-eight abbots, and twenty-nine generals of religious orders. The entire number surpassed by one hundred and thirty-five the united numbers of all the Fathers of Nice, Constantinople and Ephesus. The day had gone by when the European sovereigns could be bidden to an OEcumenical Council. Several of their representatives, however, attended at the opening. The highest of the Roman nobility were also present. The Colonna and Orsini families enjoyed the honor of being princes attendant at the Papal throne on occasion of all the public ceremonials of the council. Others of the Roman nobility, sovereigns and princes, at the time in the city, were present. Among these were the ex-King of Naples, the Empress of Austria, the ex-Duke and Duchess of Tuscany, the ex-Duke and Duchess of Parma, together with the Doria and Borghese families. Several foreign princes, General Kanzler, commander-in-chief of the Papal forces, and General Dumont, who commanded the French battalions in garrison at Rome, likewise attended.

The hymn, Veni Creator, was sung, and immediately thereafter the first session of the Vatican Council was formally opened with the celebration of High Mass. At the conclusion of mass, the secretary of the council placed upon the altar the Book of the Gospels, which always remained open throughout the session. The council then heard a sermon, and the Holy Father intoned the Synodal prayers, which were followed by the Litany of the Saints. Immediately after the chanting of the Gospel, Pius IX. made an allocution to the following effect: "You are met, venerable brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, to bear witness with us to the word of God; to declare with us to all men the truth, which is the way that leads to God; and to condemn with us, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the doctrines of false science. God is present in His holy place; He is with our deliberations and our efforts; He has chosen us to be His servants and fellow-workers in the great work of His salvation. Therefore, knowing well our own weakness, and filled with mistrust of ourselves, we lift up our eyes and our prayers to Thee, O Holy Ghost, to Thee the source of true light and wisdom."

The Veni Creator having been once more sung, the Bishop of Fabriano read from the Ambo the decree ordaining the opening of the council. It was in substance as follows: "Is it the pleasure of the Fathers that the OEcumenical Council of the Vatican should be opened, and should be declared open for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity, the custody and declaration of the faith and of the Catholic religion; for the condemnation of errors which are widely spreading, and the correction of clergy and people?" The council replied unanimously placet. The Pope then declared the council to be opened, and fixed the second public session for the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1870. The session closed with the Te Deum and the Pontifical benediction. All the public sessions which were afterwards held were opened pretty much in the same manner.


At this time the council and the Catholic world had to bewail the death of two very eminent Fathers. Cardinal de Reisach was a man of great and varied learning, of large and refined culture of mind, and was fitted in a special way to understand the diversities of thought which met in the Vatican Council. His loss to the Holy See, great as it would have been at any time, was more seriously felt at the meeting of the council, in preparing for which he had borne a chief part. Cardinal de Reisach was not only one of the foremost members of the Sacred College in the public service of the church, but in private life he was greatly and deservedly loved for his genial and sympathetic character.

The late illustrious Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev. Thomas Grant, whose zeal induced him to proceed to Rome in the height of a serious illness, was also torn away from the cares of this life and the affection of many friends, when, a little later, he was about to address a luminous discourse to the assembled Fathers. Whilst he stood in the midst of them, there occurred a crisis of his malady from which he never rallied. He was visited on his deathbed, which was that of the faithful servant, by Pius IX., who held him in the highest esteem.


Preparatory to the second session of the council, various commissions were constituted. That of postulates or propositions was appointed by the Pope, and consisted of cardinals who had experience, both as residents of Rome and formerly as nuncios at foreign courts, together with archbishops and bishops selected from each of the chief nations in the council. Its members were twelve cardinals, two patriarchs—Antioch and Jerusalem—ten archbishops, among whom was the Archbishop of Westminster, and two bishops.

It was resolved that the other commissions should be elected by the universal suffrage of the council. The Commission of Faith was elected in the Third General Congregation, on the 20th of December. It was composed of twenty-five members, among whom were remarked the successor of Fenelon in the archiepiscopal see of Cambrai, the Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Cashel (Ireland), three American bishops, Baltimore, San Francisco, Rio Grande.

The Commission of Discipline consisted of twenty-four members, who represented as many nations—the Bishop of Birmingham, on the part of England.

The Commission on Religious Orders was also chosen; the Bishop of Clifton representing England.

No more being necessary at the earlier sittings of the council, the nomination of all other commissions was postponed.


The second public session was held on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, 1870. It had been always customary at general councils to make a profession of faith. This custom was not departed from at the Vatican Council. As at Constantinople, A. D. 381, and Chalcedon, A. D. 481, was recited the Creed of Nicea, and at subsequent councils was solemnly professed the faith as expressed by those which had preceded them; so at the Council of the Vatican were repeated the articles of Catholic belief, as handed down through Trent and the more ancient councils. First of all, the Holy Father, rising from his seat, read, in a distinct voice, the definitions of the Council of Trent, known as the Creed of Pope Pius IV. The same profession of faith was then read from the Ambo by the Bishop of Fabriano. As soon as he had done so, the other Fathers of the Council expressed their adhesion by kissing the Gospel at the throne of the Chief Pastor. Seven hundred bishops of the church, representing more than thirty nations and about(10) three hundred millions of Christians, thus solemnly professed, with one heart and mind, the same faith in the same form of words. In this wonderful unanimity there is more than nature and philosophy. Through all the changes of nearly nineteen hundred years, this intellectual unity of faith, although minutely defined at Nicea, Constantinople and Trent, has endured unchanged. We cannot but behold in this immutability of Divine faith something far beyond the power of human wisdom. It is surely providential that, in the face of so much unbelief, such witness should have been borne to the unity and universality of the Catholic faith.

And now closed the second public session of the Vatican Council.


Preparatory to the opening of the third public session of the council, the schema "on Catholic faith and on the errors springing from rationalism" was discussed by thirty-five bishops in the general congregations, between the 18th of December and the 10th of January. It contained eighteen chapters, and was sent back to the Commission on Faith in order to be completely remodeled. It was a grand theological document, and was cast in the traditional form of conciliar decrees, taking its shape, as they did, from the errors which it was intended to condemn. It was somewhat archaic, perhaps, in language, but worthy to rank with the decrees of the Councils of Toledo or of Lateran. Having been referred to the Commission on Faith, it was again distributed to the council in its new form on the 14th of March, wholly recast, and was received with general approbation. This new document is quite of a distinct character, and not to be compared with the schema by which it was preceded. It contained, instead of eighteen chapters, only an introduction and four chapters, in which every sentence is full of condensed doctrine, the whole having impressed upon it a singular beauty and splendor of Divine truth. The commission was engaged in recasting this schema until the end of February. Its subject-matter was what may well be considered the first foundations of natural and revealed religion, viz.: the existence and perfections of God, the creation of the world, the powers and office of human reason, revelation, faith, the relation of reason to faith and of faith to science. As a consequence of these truths came the condemnation of atheism, materialism, pantheism, naturalism and rationalism.

Whilst the non-Catholic world believed that the Pope and the Fathers of the Council were bestowing all their care on one subject which happened to be more prominently before the public, they were, on the contrary, laboring with the greatest pains to elucidate every subject as it came up for consideration. As has been seen, the most important schema on Catholic faith had been already very carefully discussed. On the 18th of March a second discussion took place in the general congregation (or committee of the whole council) on a report being made by the Primate of Hungary. Nine bishops then discoursed on the text of the schema, after which, no Father desiring to speak more upon it, the general discussion ended. Each chapter in particular now came to be discussed. In the debate on the first chapter sixteen Fathers took part; on the second, twenty; on the third, twenty-two; on the fourth, twelve; in all, seventy-nine spoke. This discussion occupied nine sittings, and only ended when no one desired to speak any further. The amendments of the bishops were sent with the schema to the commission. As soon as they were printed and distributed they were examined by the commission, when a full report was made in the general congregation on the introduction, and the amendments were put to the vote. The text of the introduction was then once more referred. Each of the four chapters was treated in the same manner. To the first there were forty-seven amendments, which, being printed and distributed, the commission reported, and the amendments were put to the vote. Still another revision, and the first chapter was adopted, almost unanimously, on the 1st of April.

The second chapter had sixty-two amendments. Referring to the commission, revising, reporting and voting followed, as in the case of the first chapter, when the second was referred back for final amendment.

The third chapter had one hundred and twenty-two amendments. The same process was followed, in regard to these amendments, as in the case of the first and second chapters. The proceedings lasted two days.

The fourth chapter had fifty amendments, which were subjected to the same process as those of the three first, and sent back to the commission. On the same day, 8th April, the second chapter as amended was passed, and on the 12th of April, the third and fourth, the former unanimously, the latter almost so. When the whole was put to the vote, no non placet was given, whilst there were eighty-three placets juxta modum. The amendments were all sent, as before, to the commission, and printed in a quarto volume of fifty-one pages. The report was made on the 10th of April, and on the same day the amended text was unanimously accepted. All the time between the 14th of March and the 19th of April was consumed in passing this first schema. Sixty-nine members of the council spoke. Three hundred and sixty-four amendments were made, examined and voted upon. Six reports were made by the commission upon the text, which, after its first recasting, had been six times amended. The decree was finally adopted unanimously by the assembled Fathers, all who were present, six hundred and sixty-seven, voting in the third public session, on Low Sunday (Dominica in Abbis), 24th April. This solemn vote of the council was confirmed by the Pope, who, on the occasion, spoke as follows: "The decrees and canons contained in the Constitution just read were accepted by all the Fathers, no one dissenting; and we, the Sacred Council approving, by our apostolical authority, so define and confirm them." Continuing, he addressed the Fathers of the Council: "You see, beloved brethren, how good and pleasant it is to walk in the House of God in unity and peace. As our Lord gave to His apostles, so I, His unworthy Vicar, in His name, give peace to you. That peace, as you know, casts out fear; that peace shuts the ear to unwise words. May that peace go with you in all the days of your life; may that peace be with you in death; may that peace be your everlasting joy in heaven."

After much deliberation and painstaking, the third public session of the council came to a close.

At less formal sittings was discussed the discipline relating to bishops. On this subject thirty-seven Fathers discoursed in the council. Seven sittings were employed in discussing discipline as concerns the clergy, and thirty-seven Fathers spoke. Forty-one Fathers took part in discussing the schema on the Little Catechism. The discussion occupied six sittings. There was no hurrying of matters in the council. None of the discussions were closed until none of the Fathers desired further to be heard. All the schemata, it is almost needless to say, having been discussed, were referred to their respective commissions, in order to be revised in accordance with the speeches and the written amendments of the bishops.

Pius IX., meanwhile, was most anxious to aid and promote the labors of the council. Notwithstanding the great increase of ecclesiastical business occasioned by the presence in Rome of so many prelates, the affairs of whose churches, as well as their own more personal matters, required no small degree of attention, he followed, with unabated interest, every stage of its proceedings, and caused a minute account to be given to him every day of what was done in the various committees. These unwonted cares, and the unusual amount of labor and fatigue which they entailed, never induced him to omit any of those devotional offices with which he was accustomed to renew and strengthen his soul. He would not hear of any hurrying in the discussions on the first schema—that on faith, but, on the contrary, gave due praise to the pains and labor bestowed by the Fathers on every chapter, word and sentence. It was their object to secure that complete accuracy and perfection of expression which could not fail to prove eminently useful in all time to come. As has been already remarked, the Fathers of the "Congregations" and "Commissions" labored most assiduously in preparing, for the acceptance of the council, the schema on faith and doctrine. In the course of the six weeks that it was under review, seventy-nine discourses were delivered, three hundred and sixty-four amendments proposed, examined and voted upon, while six reports were made upon the text of the schema, which had been six times amended. The introduction, the four chapters and the eighteen canons, having finally passed the council, were approved by the Holy Father, adopted and promulgated as a Papal "Constitution," which will be known in history as the Constitution Dei Filius. It is a masterpiece of theological science, and may be compared to priceless gems artistically arranged by skilful hands in the richest settings.

It would be idle, indeed, to recount all the hard and absurd things that have been said by the enemies of the council and the Catholic religion. One of their accusations, if well founded, would be truly crushing. Some scientists, who claim to be very profound, deem it necessary to abjure the Catholic faith, because the Vatican Council has placed an impassable gulf between religion and science, faith and reason. The council anticipated and met this accusation which is so vigorously and persistently urged by the false science of the day. Let us quote from its "Constitution:" "Although faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, and cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. The false appearance of such a contradiction is mainly due, either to the dogmas of faith not having been understood and expounded according to the mind of the church, or to the inventions of opinion having been taken for the verdicts of reason. And not only can faith and reason never be opposed to one another, but they are of mutual aid the one to the other. For right reason demonstrates the foundations of faith, and, enlightened by its light, cultivates the science of things divine; while faith frees and guards reason from errors, and furnishes it with manifold knowledge.

"So far, therefore, is the church from opposing the cultivation of human arts and sciences, that it, in many ways, helps and promotes it. For the Church neither ignores nor despises the benefits to human life which result from the arts and sciences, but confesses that, as they came from God, the Lord of all science, so, if they be rightly used, they lead to God by the help of His grace. Nor does the Church forbid that each of these sciences, in its sphere, should make use of its own principle and its own method. But while recognizing this just liberty, it stands watchfully on guard, lest the sciences, setting themselves against the Divine teaching, or transgressing their own limits, should invade and disturb the domain of faith."


There was only one point in the discussions on the Church of Christ in which the outside world appeared to take an interest, and it is one which the council did not at first contemplate taking into consideration. The Fathers appear to have resolved to limit themselves, in treating of the Church, and consequently of the Head of the Church on earth, to the discussion of the primacy of the Supreme Pastor and of his temporalities. The commission of one hundred and two cardinals, and other learned theologians, had even set aside the question of infallibility when it came before them, one of their number pronouncing a decision on it as inopportune. A great majority of the bishops, however, were strongly of opinion that in view of the outcry which had been raised on this point, the opportunity of an OEcumenical Council being held should not be allowed to pass without defining the belief of the Church in regard to the unerring nature of the decisions, in matters of doctrine and morals, of the successor of St. Peter. At their request, accordingly, it was ordered that the important subject should be introduced in the eleventh chapter of the schema on the Church, and prepared in the usual way for the consideration of the council. It could not be laid before the Fathers sooner than the 18th of July, when the fourth solemn session was held. It is proper to remark here that the doctrine in question was never discussed, either in the congregations or committees of the whole council, as to its Divine origin, or as to the fact of its having been revealed; not one of the seven hundred members of the council expressed any doubt as to this. There was no discussion except as to the opportuneness of defining to be of faith what all believed to be so. The schema having passed through all the preparatory stages, finally assumed the form of a "dogmatic constitution," which will be known in history as the Constitution, Pastor aeternus, from the words with which it commences. This Constitution was brought before the council at a solemn session, the fourth and last which it held, the 18th July, 1870. The session was opened with all the usual solemnities. The Pope himself presided in person. The Mass of the Holy Ghost having been celebrated, the Sacred Scriptures were placed upon the lectern on the high altar, and, as was customary, the Veni Creator was sung. The Bishop of Fabriano then read the Constitution, or decree de Romano Pontifice, from the Ambo (pulpit), and the Fathers of the Council were invited to vote. Each Father, accordingly, as his name was called, took off his mitre, rose from his seat and voted. Of the five hundred and thirty-five who were present, five hundred and thirty-three voted placet (aye), whilst there were only two nays. The secretary of the council, together with the scrutineers, advanced to the Pontifical throne and declared the result. The Holy Father then confirmed the decision in the usual form. He prayed, at the same time, that they who had considered such a decision inopportune, at a time of unusual agitation, might, in calmer days, unite with the great majority of their brethren, and contend with them for the truth. The insertion here of the allocution which he delivered on the occasion cannot but prove acceptable to all English readers:

"Great is the authority with which the Supreme Pontiff is invested. This authority, however, does not destroy. It builds up. It does not oppress. But, on the contrary, sustains. Very frequently it behooves it to defend the rights of our brethren, the bishops. If some have not been of the same mind with us, let them consider that they have formed their judgment under the influence of agitation. Let them bear in mind that the Lord is not in the storm (2 Kings, xix., 11). Let them remember that, a few years ago, they held the opposite opinion, and abounded in the same belief with us, and in that of this most august assembly, for then they judged in the untroubled air. Can two opposite consciences stand together in the same judgment? By no means. Therefore, we pray God that He who alone can work great things, may Himself enlighten their minds and hearts, that all may come to the bosom of their Father, the unworthy Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, who loves them and desires to be one with them, and, united in the bond of charity, to fight with them the battle of the Lord. Thus shall our enemies not dare to deride us, but rather be awed, and at length lay down the arms of their warfare in the presence of truth; so that all may say, with St. Augustine: 'Thou hast called me unto Thy wonderful light, and behold I see.' "

Te Deum was now chanted, the Pope intoning the sublime hymn, and with the Pontifical benediction, ended the fourth solemn public session of the Vatican Council. With this council also ended all discussion within the church on those questions in regard to which it pronounced authoritatively. No doubt the enemies of the Catholic faith would have been better pleased if there had been absolute unanimity when the final vote was taken on the widely-discussed question of infallibility. Such a coincidence would have afforded them a pretext, although, indeed, a groundless one, for asserting that there was either collusion or compulsion, whilst in reality there was complete liberty. The two Fathers who voted, nay, constituting a minority of two, acted according to their right, and it was not questioned. These Fathers were Monsignor Louis Riccio, Bishop of Casazzio, in the kingdom of Naples, and the Right Rev, Edward Fitzgerald, Bishop of Petricola (Little Rock, Arkansas), in the United States of America. Immediately after the confirmation of the "Constitution," these two prelates, advancing to the Papal chair, solemnly declared their adhesion to the act of the council. The four dissentient cardinals—Rauscher, Schwarzenberg, Mathieu and Hohenlohe—who had left the council when the fourth session was held, also, in their turn, expressed their assent to the decision of the assembled Fathers. The opposing bishops did in like manner. All of them, not excepting Strossmayer, Bishop of Sirmium, who was the most eloquent orator of the minority in the council, and who appeared to hesitate longer than the rest, ended by promulgating all the decrees of the council in their respective dioceses. This is more than could be said of Nicea, Chalcedon and Constantinople. For the first time, no bishop persisted in resisting the decisions of an OEcumenical Council. It was now acknowledged by the whole episcopate that those measures were timely, wise and salutary, which the Church, ever guided by the Spirit of God, had deemed it proper to adopt, but which so many, awed by the spirit of unbelief which was abroad, had judged were inopportune.

It may have been merely a coincidence. But there can be no doubt that grandeur was added to a scene, in itself sufficiently imposing, when, as on Sinai of old, lightning flashed and thunder pealed, as the Fathers of the Council solemnly rose to give their final vote. "The placets of the Fathers," writes the correspondent of the London Times (Aug. 5, 1870), "struggled through the storm while the thunder pealed above, and the lightning flashed in at every window, and down through the dome and every smaller cupola. 'Placet!' shouted his Eminence or his Grace, and a loud clap of thunder followed in response, and then the lightning darted about the Baldacchino and every part of the church and council-hall, as if announcing the response. So it continued for nearly one hour and a half, during which time the roll was being called, and a more effective scene I never witnessed. Had all the decorators and all the getters-up of ceremonies in Rome been employed, nothing approaching to the solemn grandeur of the storm could have been prepared, and never will those who saw it and felt it forget the promulgation of the first dogma of the church." Less friendly critics beheld, in this magnificent thunder-storm, a distinct voice of Divine anger, condemning the important act of the assembled Fathers. Had they forgotten Sinai and the Ten Commandments? All of a sudden, as the last words were uttered, the tempest ceased; and, at the moment when Pius IX. intoned the Te Deum, a sun-ray lighted up his noble and expressive countenance. The voices of the Sixtine choristers, who continued chanting the hymn, could not be heard. They were lost in the united concert of the venerable Fathers and the vast assemblage.


In whatever light we view the Council of the Vatican—the oecumenical of the nineteenth century—it strikes us as being, in ecclesiastical annals, the event of the age. It also marks, in a remarkable manner, the character and progress of the time. The Council of Trent was highly important in its day; and still, after a lapse of three hundred years, its teachings govern the Church. Whilst, as regards the wisdom of its decisions, it cannot be excelled, it was surpassed in many things by the Council of the Vatican.

Trent was attended by comparatively few bishops, who were from Europe, the Eastern Church and the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. The Vatican Council consisted of prelates from at least thirty different nations, from the remotest regions of the habitable globe, from the numerous churches in India which owed their origin to the apostolic zeal of St. Francis Xavier, from North and South America, China, Australia, New Zealand and Oceanica. One-fifth of the churches existed not as yet in the time of Trent which sent their bishops to represent them at the Vatican Council. The countries in which many of these churches flourish had no place, when the Council of Trent was called, on the map of the world. From those vast regions which now constitute the United States of America, there was not so much as one bishop at Trent. At the Vatican Council there were no fewer than sixty. There were never more than three bishops of Ireland present together at Trent, and four only were members of that council. Twenty Irish prelates attended the Vatican Council. England sent only one bishop to Trent. He is mentioned as Godveus Anglus, Episc. Asaphensis. The Catholics of England were represented by thirteen English bishops at the Council of the Vatican. Scotland had no representation at Trent. The Catholics of that country were most worthily represented at the Vatican by Bishop Strain, now Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh; Archbishop Eyre, of Glasgow, and Bishop McDonald, of Aberdeen. There was only a very small number of English-speaking bishops at Trent. At the Vatican Council they were particularly numerous, constituting, as nearly as can be calculated, one-fifth of the assembled Catholic hierarchy. At Trent there were not many bishops from countries speaking different languages. Twenty-seven languages, and various dialects besides, were represented by prelates at the Vatican.

The greater facilities for travelling, which this favored age enjoys, no doubt rendered it more easy to attend the Council of the Vatican than it was to journey to Trent, even from the nearest lands. Nevertheless, there was laborious journeying to the Vatican. Prelates from the vast regions of Asia and Africa, America and Australia, knew what they would have to encounter, but they were not deterred. Some, on their way to the Vatican, travelled for whole weeks mounted on camels before they could reach the ports at which it behooved them to embark. Bishop Launy, of Santa Fe, was forty-two days on his land-journey, and travelled on horseback. Such of the laity as visited Trent were comparatively few, and only from places not very distant. One hundred thousand pilgrims, many of them from the most remote regions, repaired to the Vatican. The number of Fathers at any one time in council at Trent was somewhat under three hundred. Seven hundred and eighty-three took part in the Council of the Vatican. The Council of Trent, however, must not be underrated. It was a most important council, and admirably calculated to meet the wants of the time. It marked an era in the history of the Church. It provided remedies for numerous evils, and safety in the midst of danger. It became a power which time has not diminished. For three hundred years it has guided the destinies of Peter's barque, prelates and people wisely accepting its discipline, and meekly obeying its rule. It added, no doubt, to the importance of the Vatican Council that it was held at Rome, in the very centre of Catholicity and of Catholic unity, and near the tombs of the martyred apostles, the founders of the Church. In this it contrasts with Trent, which, although the Fathers assembled at an obscure village in the Tyrol, was not less, on this account, an OEcumenical Council. Papal legates presided at Trent, whilst the Holy Father himself was present at all the solemn sessions of the Vatican Council which have as yet been held.


There was no intention at first, as has been shown, of laying the question of infallibility before the council. It happened, however, that a great clamor, in regard to this question, came to prevail both within and without the Church. The enemies of the doctrine railed so strongly against it, and they who did not deny it declaimed so loudly against the opportuneness of pronouncing any decision concerning it, that it was positively forced upon the attention of the assembled Fathers. When, therefore, they came to discuss the primacy and the temporalities of the Sovereign Pontiff in connection with the Church of Christ, they hesitated not to consider, at the same time, his immunity from error when speaking, as Head of the Church and successor of Saint Peter, _ex cathedra_ on matters of faith and morals. The learning of theologians and the ability of orators were brought into requisition, and the fact came prominently out that it had been according to the mind of the Church at all times, that the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, is divinely assisted when pronouncing solemnly _ex cathedra_ on questions of faith and morals. When so pronouncing, the decisions of the Supreme Pastor have always been accepted by the Church, whether dispersed or assembled in council. It is a received belief among Christians that to every legitimate office is attached a grace of vocation. Is it not, therefore, in accordance with reason and Christian faith, that such grace should belong, and specially to the highest and most important of all offices? Such grace or assistance was promised to St. Peter, and through him to his successors, who are appointed to bear witness throughout all time to the truths of Divine revelation. For our blessed Lord declared, "I am with you all days." He could not better have secured the permanence of his religion—the kingdom of God on earth, for the salvation of men in every age of the world. When the Supreme Pastor speaks in the exercise of his sublime office, the Church also speaks. The teaching and testimony of the Head of the Church and of the great body of the Church are identical. They must always be in harmony, as was so admirably shown by the decision of the council on infallibility and the confirmation thereof by the Holy Father—_confirma fratres tuous_—"confirm thy brethren." Let not the opponents of the Church and her salutary doctrines be carried away by the idea that a subservient council wished only to glorify their spiritual Chief by ascribing to him imaginary personal gifts. They were incapable of any such thing. They were an assembly of the most venerable men in Christendom, who felt all the weight of their responsibility to God and men in the exercise of their sacred functions. Their decision has not altered the position of the Supreme Pastor. Any writings or discourses which he may produce in his merely personal or more private capacity are received by the Christian world with that degree of consideration to which they are entitled on account of the estimation in which he is held by men as a theologian and a man of learning and ability. It is only when pronouncing solemnly _ex _ cathedra_, as the successor of St. Peter and the Head of the Church, on questions of faith and morals, that he is universally believed to be divinely assisted so as to be above the danger of erring, or of leading into error—in other words (and we cannot help who may be offended), that he is infallible.


Events were now at hand which made it impossible for the council to hold another session. The French Emperor had greatly fallen, in the estimation of the people of France, from the time of his shameful abandonment of the chivalrous Maximilian and the popular design of establishing a Latin empire on the continent of America. In order to make amends and regain his prestige, he had revived the idea, so dear to the French, of rectifying the Rhine frontier of France by resuming possession of Luxembourg and some other adjacent provinces. He formally intimated his design to Prussia. That Power, however, aware of its rights and conscious of its military superiority, declined all negotiation on the subject. From that moment Prussia held herself in readiness to repel, with the sword, if necessary, any insolence that, in the future, might proceed from her aggressive neighbor, for whose tottering throne war was a necessity. The candidature of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern for the throne of Spain now afforded a pretext, which Napoleon III. was only too anxious to find, for provoking by a fresh insult his powerful rival. It may be that he dreaded the accession of strength which might eventually accrue to Prussia if the crown of Spain were placed on the head of a Prince of the house of Hohenzollern. Napoleon remonstrated, and threatened war. The youthful German prince generously renounced a candidature which it was not hard to see would lead to a rupture between the two Powers, and cause a destructive war. The King of Prussia, head of the Hohenzollerns, sanctioned, if he did not command, this act of moderation on the part of the prince, his relative. But moderation was of no avail. Napoleon, surrounded by a Jacobinical ministry, insisted upon war. The very idea of proposing a German for the throne of Spain appeared to him to be a sufficient cause for issuing a declaration of hostilities. The gauntlet thus thrown down, the Prussian monarch was too chivalrous to decline the challenge. He relied on his great military strength, and could afford to despise the comparatively inferior preparations of the French Empire. With the vast resources of France at his command, the Emperor, one would suppose, might have managed, in the course of three years, to increase and discipline his army, garrison his fortresses and seek alliances. He might have taken more time if necessary. He had no need to precipitate events, as he so recklessly did, by declaring war when there was positively no preparation made for it. We shall presently see whether he were not one of those whom Providence deprives of reason when it has resolved on their destruction. In the absence of more effective preparations, the small garrison at Rome of five thousand men was withdrawn in order to augment the army which all France believed was destined to crush the formidable Teuton and capture Berlin. If, however, this had been Napoleon's only object in recalling the troops, he could have accomplished it as easily by ordering four thousand five hundred of the Roman garrison to join the invading army, leaving the remaining five hundred to guard the city of the Popes. This smaller number would surely have been as able as five thousand to repel a Piedmontese force of sixty thousand men. But there was question of more than mere physical power. So long as it was evident that France protected the Papal city, whether by a greater or smaller number of soldiers, the legions of Piedmont never would have marched against it. Napoleon's minister, M. de Gramont, revealed the pretext: "It is certainly not from strategetical necessity that we evacuate the Roman States, but the political urgency is obvious. We must conciliate the good-will of the Italian Cabinet." Much, indeed, it availed them.

Viterbo was evacuated on the 4th of August. The last remnant of French troops embarked at Civita Vecchia, partly on the 4th and partly on the 6th, the very days on which the French army experienced its first reverses at Weissemberg, Woerth and Spikeren. Instead of hesitating to perform a most cowardly act, which, viewing it only politically, proclaimed his weakness to all Europe, the Emperor Napoleon made all haste to complete it. He expressed regret. Who will say that he was sincere? Had he not perfected the master-work of his reign—his grand transalpine scheme? The Piedmontese minister, Visconti Venosta, gives a very distinct reply. Writing to the Piedmontese representatives at foreign courts, this minister says that as several governments had desired to know their views in regard to the relation of passing events with the Roman question, his government had no hesitation in making the clearest explanations. The convention of 15th September, 1864, had not sufficed to avert the causes arising abroad which hindered the settlement of the Roman difficulty. He then accuses the Roman Court of having assumed a hostile attitude in the centre of the peninsula, and that the consequences of such a position might be serious for Piedmont on occasion of the Franco-Prussian war and the complications to which it might give rise. Visconti Venosta further states that the basis of a new and definite solution of the Roman question had been confidentially recognized in principle, and was subject only to the condition of opportunity.

It is no pleasure, surely, to convict the late Emperor of a deep-laid conspiracy to revolutionize the Roman State, and rob the Holy Father of his time-honored patrimony. But there is no escaping the conclusion that he had never ceased to plot with the revolutionists. He was not yet vanquished and fallen himself when he left the Sovereign Pontiff to his enemies.

One of the chief calumnies of the time was directed by the revolutionists against Pius IX. They accused the venerable Pontiff of encouraging the Prussian monarch to wage war against France. The falsehood of this accusation can only be equalled by its absurdity. The Holy Father, on the contrary, earnestly endeavored, although in vain, before the commencement of hostilities, to avert the dire calamity of war. So early as 22nd July, 1870, he interposed between the two rival sovereigns. "Sire," he wrote to the King of Prussia, "in the most serious circumstances in which we are placed, it will appear to you unusual to receive a letter from me. But as I hold the office of Vicar of the God of peace in this world, I cannot do less than offer you my mediation. It is my desire that all preparations for war should disappear, and that the evils which inevitably follow should be prevented. My mediation is that of a sovereign who, in his capacity of king, cannot, on account of the smallness of his territory, excite any jealousy, but who, nevertheless, will inspire confidence by the moral and religious influence which he personifies. May God hear my prayers! and may He also accept those which I offer for your Majesty, with whom I desire to be united in the common bond of charity.

Pius PP. IX."

"I have written also to the Emperor of the French."

The King of Prussia replied from Berlin on the 30th July. The kindly monarch expressed himself beautifully and with the finest feeling: "Most blessed Pontiff—I was not surprised but deeply moved when I read the feeling words which you wrote, in order to cause the voice of the God of peace to be heard. How could I be deaf to such a powerful appeal? God is my witness that neither I nor my people have desired this war. In fulfilment of the sacred duties which God lays on sovereigns and on nations, we have drawn the sword in order to defend the independence and honor of our country, and we are prepared to lay it down as soon as these blessings shall no longer be in danger of being torn from us. If your Holiness could offer me, on the part of him who has so unexpectedly declared war, the assurance of sincerely pacific dispositions and of guarantees against a renewal of such violation of the peace and tranquillity of Europe, I certainly would be far from refusing to accept them at the venerable hands of your Holiness, united as I am with you by the bonds of Christian charity and true friendship. WILLIAM."

The letter of Pius IX. to the French Emperor has not been published, and it is not known whether Napoleon deigned to reply. One thing is certain. He did not either accept the mediation or heed the remonstrances of the Holy Father. He was equally deaf to the warnings of his old allies of Crimean fame. The British government despatched to Paris a member of the cabinet, who, in a prolonged interview with the demented Emperor, argued earnestly on the part of Queen Victoria and her ministry against his purposed violation of the peace of Europe by undertaking an unprovoked, unjust and irrational war.

The war broke out. It was waged disastrously to the French. Pius IX. was deeply grieved. "Poor France!" he exclaimed, as he heard of each new defeat of the nation that he loved so well. He interposed once more. But with the like ill success. Neither could the Germans be checked in their victorious career, nor could the vanquished French be induced to acknowledge their defeat and seek such terms of peace as might possibly have been obtained. On 12th November, 1870, the Holy Father wrote to Mgr. Guibert, Archbishop of Tours, in whose palace was resident a delegation of the French government.

"Neglect nothing," wrote the Pontiff, "we conjure you, in order to prevail on your illustrious guests to put an end to this war. Nevertheless, we are not unaware that it does not depend on them alone, and that we should vainly pursue the great object of peace, if our pacific ministry did not also meet with support on the part of the conqueror. So we have not hesitated to write to this effect to his Majesty the King of Prussia. We cannot, indeed, affirm anything as to the favorable result of the step which we have taken. We have, nevertheless, some ground for hope, as this monarch has in other circumstances shown us much good-will."

Unfortunately, the bold men who had assumed supreme authority in France, and had undertaken the difficult task of saving the country, were incapable of accepting good advice, especially when it came from a Pope. The King of Prussia and his minister, on the other hand, were of the number of those whom victory intoxicates, and whom the power to dare everything deprives of all sense of moderation. Pius IX. did not know them as yet. The representations of Mgr. Guibert to Messrs. Cremieux, Glais Bisoin and Gambetta, were not more successful than those of Mgr. Ledochowski, Archbishop of Posen, who hastened to the presence of King William at Versailles. The earnest endeavors of the archbishop met with less consideration, to all appearance, at least, although it does not appear that, on this occasion, William made any reply to Pius IX.

Notwithstanding these untoward circumstances, the Holy Pontiff never lost confidence in the nation of Charlemagne and St. Louis. France, he said, although sadly exhausted and bathed in blood, would yet show excellent fruits.

The Piedmontese government, which had been for some time established at Florence, now resolved to avail itself of the disasters of France to seize the city of the Popes, and to constitute it the capital of regenerated Italy. The minister, Visconti Venosta, in a circular letter, renewed his calumnies, pretending that a hostile power existed in the centre of Italy, and hypocritically declared that it had become necessary that the government of his master should assume the protection of the Holy See. They would not wait, he said, moreover, till the agitation at home should lead to the effusion of blood between the Romans and foreign forces, but would proceed, as soon as they could learn that the opportune time had come, to occupy what remained to the Holy Father of the Roman States. The information which the minister sought came with remarkable rapidity. The day after the circular alluded to was written, another minister, Signor Lanza, declared that the solemn moment had arrived when the government of his king was called upon, in the interest of the Holy See and of Italy, to take measures for the national safety. An envoy was despatched to Rome, with a letter to the Pope, assuring him that the king's government was firmly resolved to give the necessary guarantees for the spiritual independence of the Holy See, and that these guarantees would be hereafter the subject of negotiations with the Powers that were interested in the Papacy. In addition to this mockery of diplomacy, Victor Emmanuel himself wrote to the Pope, expressing his filial devotedness, while at the same time he was preparing, from an excess of affection, to bombard his city and slay his defenders, to rob him from an excessive zeal for justice, to imprison him in order to set him free, and, finally, that he ought to allow all this to be done without complaint, and even thank the good king who took so much care of him.

The Florentine Envoy, Signor Ponza di San Martino, when he came to Rome, made his first visit to Cardinal Antonelli, who received him politely, and did not refuse to ask for him an interview with the Pope. The cardinal, however, declined to have any conversation with him on the object of his mission. "I know already," said he, "all that you could tell me. You are also aware of the reply that I would give. Force, not argument, speaks at present." Pius IX. was more afflicted than surprised when he read King Victor Emmanuel's letter. He was particularly pained by the tone of this document. "How the revolution has abased a Prince of the House of Savoy! It is not satisfied with dethroning kings as often as it can, and with committing their heads to the guillotine. It must also dishonor them." The envoy insisted that the king was sincere; that he was more convinced than any other, that the independence of the Chief of the Church was a necessity; and that he offered real and substantial guarantees to this independence. "And who will guarantee these guarantees" asked the Pope. "Your king cannot promise anything. He is no longer a king. He depends on his parliament, which, in its turn, depends on the secret societies." The ambassador, more disconcerted than ever, remarked on the difficulties of the time. He claimed, although timidly, that the king ought to be judged according to his intentions, as at the time he was constrained by the aspirations of four-and-twenty millions of Italians. "Your statement is untrue, sir," replied Pius IX. "You calumniate Italy! Of these four-and-twenty millions, twenty-three millions are devoted to me, love and respect me, and only require that the revolution leave them and me in peace. The remaining million you have poisoned with false doctrines and inspired with base passions. These unfortunate people are the friends of your king and the instigators of his ambitious designs. When they have no longer need of him they will cast him aside. My answer will be communicated to you to-morrow. I am too much moved with grief and indignation to be able to write at present." Next day, accordingly, 11th September, the following reply to Victor Emmanuel was conveyed to Signor Ponza:

"SIRE,—Count Ponza di San Martino has handed me a letter which it has pleased your Majesty to address to me. This letter is not worthy of an affectionate son who glories in professing the Catholic faith, and who prides himself on being royally loyal. I dwell not on the details contained in the letter, in order to avoid renewing the pain which a first reading of it gave me. I bless God, who has permitted that your Majesty should overwhelm with bitterness the last years of my life. I cannot admit the demands made in your letter, nor adopt the principles which it contains. I call upon God anew, and commend to Him my cause, which is also wholly His own. I beseech Him to bestow abundant graces on your Majesty, to deliver you from all danger, and to grant you all the mercy which you require." This answer was not waited for. Victor Emmanuel made haste to become the declared enemy of Pius IX. On 11th September, the Pontifical territory was invaded by his orders at three different points—Aquapendente, in the north: Orte and Correse, to the east; and on the south, Ceprano. The invading army amounted to sixty thousand men. After the withdrawal of the French garrison, there remained only at Rome the few soldiers who constituted the army of the Pope. A great portion of these were, to the lasting honor of a remote British dependency, Canadians. They all deserved well of the Holy Father, and had imperilled their lives in his service. On occasion of the great difficulty which had arisen, accordingly, he was pleased to address to them in person special words of comfort and encouragement.

It was evident that, in the adverse circumstances of the time, the Council of the Vatican could not long continue its deliberations. Accordingly, the Holy Father authorized such of the bishops as desired to retire to return to their dioceses until the feast of St. Martin, 11th November following, at which date it was intended to resume the labors of the council. It was not, however, strictly speaking, suspended. Some general congregations (committees) were still held, and the various deputations continued their studies. During this time, the bishops of the minority, one after another, expressed their adhesion. The bishops, on returning to their dioceses, were received with magnificent proofs of the people's fidelity. Some parties pretending that the Constitution, Pastor aeternus, was not obligatory, because the council was not terminated, Cardinal Antonelli addressed to the Papal Nuncio at Brussels a letter under date of 11th August, which removed all doubt on the subject. The rapid march of events, however, rendered it necessary to interrupt the labors of the assembled Fathers. On 20th October, accordingly, Pius IX. published the Bull, Postquam Dei Munere, which suspended them for an indefinite period.


When all the Pontifical forces had returned from the outposts, on the approach of the formidable Piedmontese invader, and were concentrated at Rome, they numbered not more than some ten thousand men. Such an army was quite inadequate to cope with the superior power of the Florence government. Pius IX., therefore, in order to prevent an unavailing conflict, placed an order in the hands of his general-in-chief, to the effect that as soon as sufficient resistance was made, in order to show that violence was used against the Holy See, he should surrender the city. This was a trial to the devoted Papal Zouaves, who, during the few moments that fighting was allowed, conducted themselves in the most gallant style, and kept the enemy at bay. Their bravery deserved a better fate than that which befell them and the Roman State. Two lieutenants, Niel and Brondeis, fell, pierced with wounds, exclaiming with their last breath, "Long live Pius IX.!" A brave Alsacian fell by their side. A Canadian Zouave, Hormisdas Sauvet, was also wounded, and declared that he was more fortunate than so many of his fellow-countrymen who had been two years in the Pontifical service without the slightest accident. Another Zouave, whose name was Burel, when wounded in the mouth, and his tongue was destroyed, made a sign that he wished to write. Paper was brought to him, and he thus wrote his will: "I leave to the Holy Father all that I possess." He died the following day. The paper, all covered with blood, was taken to Pius IX., who, in his turn, bedewed it with tears, and desired to keep it as a memorial.

The Italian general Cadorna, an apostate priest, commenced bombarding Rome at five points. At one of these, between the gates Pia and Salara, they speedily effected a breach in an old wall about two feet in thickness, and built of bricks and tufa. It may be conceived with what feelings the brave Papal soldiers beheld the storming column enter the city, whilst they, in obedience to orders, remained inactive spectators. They bore in silence and without moving an arm the insults and even the violence of the fierce soldiery of Piedmont. Finally, after a white flag had been displayed for some time on the Pontifical side, almost in vain, General Kanzler had an interview with Cadorna, at the Villa Albani. It can hardly be said that a convention was resolved on. It would be more true to write that the terms of the conqueror were imposed on the vanquished, and, as a matter of necessity, accepted. The soldiers were better treated than in such circumstances could well be expected. They were allowed to march out of Rome with the honors of war, bearing with them their colors, arms and baggage. When once out of the city, however, they were all obliged to lay down their arms and their colors, with the exception of the officers, who were permitted to retain their swords, their horses and everything that belonged to them. Such soldiers as were foreigners were to be sent to their respective homes by the Italian government. The future position of the Pope's native troops was to be taken into consideration. By the articles of capitulation, it was settled that the Pope should be allowed only the Vatican Palace and that part of Rome which is called the Leonine city. Thus were carried into effect the views of those revolutionists of Paris and Turin who claimed to be moderate. Their programme was that which Prince Napoleon had concocted in 1861.

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