In 1817 the Prussian Union added a new Church to the two original forms of Protestantism. But strict Calvinism is nearly extinct in Germany, and the old Lutheran Church itself has almost disappeared. It subsists, not in any definite reality, but only in the aspirations of certain divines and jurists. The purpose of the union was to bring together, in religious communion, the reigning family of Prussia, which had adopted Calvinism in 1613, and the vast Lutheran majority among the people. It was to be, in the words of the king, a merely ritual union, not an amalgamation of dogmas. In some places there was resistance, which was put down by military execution. Some thousands emigrated to America; but the public press applauded the measures, and there was no general indignation at their severity. The Lutherans justly perceived that the union would promote religious indifference; but at the accession of the late king there came a change; religious faith was once more sought after, believing professors were appointed in almost all the German universities, after the example of Prussia; Jena and Giessen alone continued to be seats of Rationalism. As soon as theology had begun to recover a more religious and Christian character, two very divergent tendencies manifested themselves. Among the disciples of Schleiermacher and of Neander a school of unionists arose who attempted a conciliatory intermediate theology. At the same time a strictly Lutheran theology flourished at the universities of Erlangen, Leipzig, Rostock, and Dorpat, which sought to revive the doctrine of the sixteenth century, clothed in the language of the nineteenth. But for men versed in Scripture theology this was an impossible enterprise, and it was abandoned by the divines to a number of parochial clergymen, who are represented in literature by Rudelbach, and who claim to be the only surviving Protestants whom Luther would acknowledge as his sons and the heirs of his spirit.
The Lutheran divines and scholars formed the new Lutheran party, whose most illustrious lay champion was the celebrated Stahl. They profess the Lutheran doctrine of justification, but reject the notion of the invisible Church and the universal priesthood. Holding to the divine institution of the offices of the Church, in opposition to the view which refers them to the congregation, they are led to assume a sacrament of orders, and to express opinions on ordination, sacraments, and sacrifice, which involve them in the imputation of Puseyism, or even of Catholicism. As they remain for the most part in the State Church, there is an open war between their confessional spirit and the syncretism of the union. In 1857 the Evangelical Alliance met at Berlin in order to strengthen the unionist principles, and to testify against these Pharisees. Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians—sects connected by nothing but a common hatred of Catholicism—were greeted by the union divines as bone of their bone, and welcome allies in the contest with an exclusive Lutheranism and with Rome. The confusion in the minds of the people was increased by this spectacle. The union already implied that the dogma of the Lord's Supper, on which Lutherans and Calvinists disagree, was uncertain, and therefore not essential. The alliance of so many denominations added baptism to the list of things about which nothing is positively known. The author of this measure was Bunsen, who was full of the idea of uniting all Protestant sects in a union against the Catholic Church and catholicising tendencies.
For the last fifteen years there has been an active agitation for the improvement of the Church among the Protestant divines. The first question that occupies and divides them is that of Church government and the royal Episcopate, which many deem the chief cause of the ecclesiastical decay. The late King of Prussia, a zealous and enlightened friend of the Protestant Church, declared that "the territorial system and the Episcopal authority of the sovereign are of such a nature that either of them would alone be enough to kill the Church if the Church was mortal," and that he longed to be able to abdicate his rights into the hands of the bishops. In other countries, as in Baden, a new system has been devised, which transfers political constitutionalism to the Church, and makes it a community, not of those who believe in Christ, but, in the words of the Government organ, of those who believe in a moral order. Hopes were entertained that the introduction of Synods would be an improvement, and in 1856 and 1857 a beginning was made at Berlin; but it was found that the existence of great evils and disorders in the Church, which had been a secret of the initiated, would be published to the world, and that government by majorities, the ecclesiastical democracy which was Bunsen's ideal, would soon destroy every vestige of Christianity.
In their doctrinal and theological literature resides at the present day the strength and the renown of the Protestants; for a scientific Protestant theology exists only in Germany. The German Protestant Church is emphatically a Church of theologians; they are its only authority, and, through the princes, its supreme rulers. Its founder never really divested himself of the character of a professor, and the Church has never emancipated itself from the lecture-room: it teaches, and then disappears. Its hymns are not real hymns, but versified theological dissertations, or sermons in rhyme. Born of the union of princes with professors, it retains the distinct likeness of both its parents, not altogether harmoniously blended; and when it is accused of worldliness, of paleness of thought, of being a police institution rather than a Church, that is no more than to say that the child cannot deny its parentage.
Theology has become believing in Germany, but it is very far from being orthodox. No writer is true to the literal teaching of the symbolical books, and for a hundred years the pure doctrine of the sixteenth century has never been heard. No German divine could submit to the authority of the early articles and formulas without hypocrisy and violence to his conscience, and yet they have nothing else to appeal to. That the doctrine of justification by faith only is the principal substance of the symbolical writings, the centre of the antagonism against the Catholic Church, all are agreed. The neo-Lutherans proclaim it "the essence and treasure of the Reformation," "the doctrine of which every man must have a clear and vivid comprehension who would know anything of Christianity," "the banner which must be unfurled at least once in every sermon," "the permanent death that gnaws the bones of Catholics," "the standard by which the whole of the Gospel must be interpreted, and every obscure passage explained," and yet this article of a standing or falling Church, on the strength of which Protestants call themselves evangelical, is accepted by scarcely one of their more eminent divines, even among the Lutherans. The progress of biblical studies is too great to admit of a return to the doctrine which has been exploded by the advancement of religious learning. Dr. Doellinger gives a list (p. 430) of the names of the leading theologians, by all of whom it has been abandoned. Yet it was for the sake of this fundamental and essential doctrine that the epistle of St. James was pronounced an epistle of straw, that the Augsburg Confession declared it to have been the belief of St Augustine, and that when the author of the Confession had for very shame omitted this falsehood in the published edition, the passage was restored after his death. For its sake Luther deliberately altered the sense of several passages in the Bible, especially in the writings of St. Paul. To save this doctrine, which was unknown to all Christian antiquity, the breach was made with all ecclesiastical tradition, and the authority of the dogmatic testimony of the Church in every age was rejected. While the contradiction between the Lutheran doctrine and that of the first centuries was disguised before the laity, it was no secret among the Reformers. Melanchthon confessed to Brenz that in the Augsburg Confession he had lied. Luther admitted that his theory was new, and sought in consequence to destroy the authority of the early Fathers and Councils. Calvin declared that the system was unknown to tradition. All these men and their disciples, and the whole of the Lutheran and Calvinistic theology of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, professed to find their doctrine of imputation laid down distinctly in the Bible. The whole modern scientific theology of the Protestants rejects both the doctrine and the Lutheran exegesis of the passages in question. But it is the supreme evangelical principle, that the Scripture is perfectly clear and sufficient on all fundamental points. Yet the point on which this great divergence subsists is a doctrine which is decisive for the existence of the Church, and most important in its practical influence on life. The whole edifice of the Protestant Church and theology reposes therefore on two principles, one material, the other formal—the doctrine of imputation, and the sufficiency of the Bible. But the material principle is given up by exegesis and by dogmatic theology; and as to the formal principle, for the sufficiency of the Bible, or even for the inspiration of the writings of the disciples of the Apostles, not the shadow of a scriptural argument can be adduced. The significance of this great fact is beginning to make its way. "Whilst Rationalism prevailed," says a famous Lutheran divine, "we could impute to its action that our churches were deserted and empty. But now that Christ crucified is everywhere preached, and no serious effect is to be observed, it is necessary to abandon this mistake, and not to conceal from ourselves that preaching is unable to revive religious life."
The religious indifference of the educated classes is the chief security for the existence of the Protestant Church. If they were to take an interest in matters of worship and doctrine, and to inform themselves as to the present relation of theological science to the teaching of the pulpit, the day of discovery and exposure would come, and confidence in the Church would be at an end. The dishonesty of Luther in those very things on which the Reformation depended could not be concealed from them. In Prussia there was a conscientious clergyman who taught his parishioners Greek, and then showed them all the passages, especially in the Epistles of St. Paul, which were intentionally altered in the translation. But one of the Protestant leaders impresses on the clergy the danger of allowing the people to know that which ought to be kept a secret among the learned. At most, he says, it may be necessary to admit that the translation is not perspicuous. The danger of this discovery does not, however, appear to be immediate, for no book is less familiar to the laity than the Bible. "There is scarcely one Christian family in a hundred," says Tholuck, "in which the Holy Scriptures are read." In the midst of this general downfall of Christianity, in spite of the great efforts of Protestants, some take refuge in the phrase of an invisible Church, some in a Church of the future. Whilst there exists a real, living, universal Church, with a settled system and means of salvation, the invisible Church is offered in her stead, wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of rhetoric, like the stone which Rhea gave her husband instead of the child. In a novel of Jean Paul, a Swedish clergyman is advised in the middle of winter to walk about with a bit of orange-sugar in his mouth, in order to realise with all his senses the sunny climes of the South. It requires as much imagination to realise the Church by taking a "spiritual league" into one's mouth.
Another acknowledgment, that the Church has become estranged from the people, and subsists only as a ruin of a past age, is the widely spread hope of a new Pentecost. Eminent theologians speak of it as the only conceivable salvation, though there is no such promise in Scripture, no example in history of a similar desire. They rest their only hope in a miracle, such as has not happened since the Apostles, and thereby confess that, in the normal process of religious life by which Christ has guided His Church till now, their cause is lost. A symptom of the same despair is the rise of chiliastic aspirations, and the belief in the approaching end of the world. To this party belongs the present minister of public worship and education in Berlin. Shortly before his appointment he wrote: "Both Church and State must perish in their earthly forms, that the kingdom of Christ may be set up over all nations, that the bride of the Lamb, the perfect community, the new Jerusalem, may descend from heaven." Not long before this was published another Prussian statesman, Bunsen, had warned his Protestant readers to turn away from false prophets, who announce the end of the world because they have come to the end of their own wisdom.
In the midst of this desperate weakness, although Catholics and Protestants are so mixed up with each other that toleration must soon be universal throughout Germany, the thoughts of the Protestants are yet not turned towards the Catholic Church; they still show a bitter animosity against her, and the reproach of Catholic tendencies has for twenty years been the strongest argument against every attempt to revive religion and worship. The attitude of Protestantism towards Rome, says Stahl, is that of the Borghese gladiator. To soften this spirit of animosity the only possible resource is to make it clear to all Protestants who still hold to Christianity, what their own internal condition is, and what they have come to by their rejection of the unity and the authority which the Catholic Church possesses in the Holy See. Having shown the value of the Papacy by the results which have ensued on its rejection, Doellinger proceeds, with the same truth and impartiality, to trace the events which have injured the influence and diminished the glory and attractiveness of the Holy See, and have converted that which should be the safeguard of its spiritual freedom into a calamity and a dishonour in the eyes of mankind. It seems as though he wished to point out, as the moral to be learnt from the present condition of the religious world, that there is a coincidence in time and in providential purpose between the exhaustion and the despair at which enlightened Protestantism has arrived, from the failure of every attempt to organise a form of church government, to save the people from infidelity, and to reconcile theological knowledge with their religious faith,—between this and that great drama which, by destroying the bonds which linked the Church to an untenable system, is preparing the restoration of the Holy See to its former independence, and to its just influence over the minds of men.
The Popes, after obtaining a virtual independence under the Byzantine sceptre, transferred their allegiance to the revived empire of the West. The line between their authority and that of the emperor in Rome was never clearly drawn. It was a security for the freedom and regularity of the election, which was made by the lay as well as ecclesiastical dignitaries of the city, that it should be subject to the imperial ratification; but the remoteness of the emperors, and the inconvenience of delay, caused this rule to be often broken. This prosperous period did not long continue. When the dynasty of Charlemagne came to an end, the Roman clergy had no defence against the nobles, and the Romans did all that men could do to ruin the Papacy. There was little remaining of the state which the Popes had formed in conjunction with the emperors. In the middle of the tenth century the Exarchate and the Pentapolis were in the power of Berengarius, and Rome in the hands of the Senator Alberic. Alberic, understanding that a secular principality could not last long, obtained the election of his son Octavian, who became Pope John XII. Otho the Great, who had restored the empire, and claimed to exercise its old prerogative, deposed the new Pope; and when the Romans elected another, sent him also into exile beyond the Alps. For a whole century after this time there was no trace of freedom of election. Without the emperor, the Popes were in the hands of the Roman factions, and dependence on the emperor was better for the Church than dependence on the nobles. The Popes appointed under the influence of the prelates, who were the ecclesiastical advisers of the Imperial Government, were preferable to the nominees of the Roman chiefs, who had no object or consideration but their own ambition, and were inclined to speculate on the worthlessness of their candidates. During the first half of the eleventh century they recovered their predominance, and the deliverance of the Church came once more from Germany. A succession of German Popes, named by the emperor, opened the way for the permanent reform which is associated with the name of Gregory VII. Up to this period the security of the freedom of the Holy See was the protection of the emperor, and Gregory was the last Pope who asked for the imperial confirmation.
Between the middle of the ninth century and the middle of the eleventh the greater part of the Roman territory had passed into the hands of laymen. Some portions were possessed by the emperor, some by the great Italian families, and the revenues of the Pope were derived from the tribute of his vassals. Sylvester II. complains that this was very small, as the possessions of the Church had been given away for very little. Besides the tribute, the vassals owed feudal service to the Pope; but the government was not in his hands, and the imperial suzerainty remained. The great families had obtained from the Popes of their making such extensive grants that there was little remaining, and Otho III. tried to make up for it by a new donation. The loss of the patrimonies in Southern Italy established a claim on the Norman conquerors, and they became papal vassals for the kingdom of Sicily. But throughout the twelfth century the Popes had no firm basis of their power in Italy. They were not always masters of Rome, and there was not a single provincial town they could reckon on. Seven Popes in a hundred years sought a refuge in France; two remained at Verona. The donation of Matilda was disputed by the emperors, and brought no material accession of territory, until Innocent III., with his usual energy, secured to the Roman Church the south of Tuscany. He was the first Pope who governed a considerable territory, and became the real founder of the States of the Church. Before him, the Popes had possessions for which they claimed tribute and service, but no State that they administered. Innocent obtained the submission of Benevento and Romagna. He left the towns to govern themselves by their own laws, demanding only military aid in case of need, and a small tribute, which was not always exacted; Viterbo, for instance, paid nothing until the fifteenth century.
The contest with Frederic II. stripped the Holy See of most of these acquisitions. In many cases its civil authority was no longer acknowledged; in many it became a mere title of honour, while the real power had passed into the hands of the towns or of the nobles, sometimes into those of the bishops. Rudolph of Habsburg restored all that had been lost, and surrendered the imperial claims. But while the German influence was suspended, the influence of France prevailed over the Papacy; and during the exile at Avignon the Popes were as helpless as if they had possessed not an acre of their own in Italy. It was during their absence that the Italian Republics fell under the tyrannies, and their dominions were divided among a swarm of petty princes. The famous expedition of Cardinal Albornoz put an end to these disorders. He recovered the territories of the Church, and became, by the AEgidian Constitutions, which survived for ages, the legislator of Romagna. In 1376 eighty towns rose up in the space of three days, declared themselves free, or recalled the princes whom Albornoz had expelled. Before they could be reduced, the schism broke out, and the Church learnt the consequences of the decline of the empire, and the disappearance of its advocacy and protectorate over the Holy See. Boniface IX. sold to the republics and the princes, for a sum of money and an annual tribute, the ratification of the rights which they had seized.
The first great epoch in the history of the temporal power after the schism is the election of Eugenius IV. He swore to observe a statute which had been drawn up in conclave, by which all vassals and officers of State were to swear allegiance to the College of Cardinals in conjunction with the Pope. As he also undertook to abandon to the cardinals half the revenue, he shared in fact his authority with them. This was a new form of government, and a great restriction of the papal power; but it did not long endure.
The centrifugal tendency, which broke up Italy into small principalities, had long prevailed, when at last the Popes gave way to it. The first was Sixtus IV., who made one of his nephews lord of Imola, and another of Sinigaglia. Alexander VI. subdued all the princes in the States of the Church except the Duke of Montefeltro, and intended to make the whole an hereditary monarchy for his son. But Julius II. recovered all these conquests for the Church, added new ones to them, and thus became, after Innocent III. and Albornoz, the third founder of the Roman State. The age which beheld this restoration was marked in almost every country by the establishment of political unity on the ruins of the mediaeval independence, and of monarchical absolutism at the expense of mediaeval freedom. Both of these tendencies asserted themselves in the States of the Church. The liberties of the towns were gradually destroyed. This was accomplished by Clement VII. in Ancona, in 1532; by Paul III. in Perugia, in 1540. Ravenna, Faenza, Jesi had, under various pretexts, undergone the same fate. By the middle of the sixteenth century all resistance was subdued. In opposition, however, to this centralising policy, the nepotism introduced by Sixtus IV. led to dismemberment. Paul III. gave Parma and Piacenza to his son Pier Luigi Farnese, and the duchy was lost to the Holy See for good. Paul IV. made a similar attempt in favour of his nephew Caraffa, but he was put to death under Pius IV.; and this species of nepotism, which subsisted at the expense of the papal territory, came to an end. Pius V. forbade, under pain of excommunication, to invest any one with a possession of the Holy See, and this law was extended even to temporary concessions.
In the eighteenth century a time came when the temporal power was a source of weakness, and a weapon by which the courts compelled the Pope to consent to measures he would otherwise never have approved. It was thus that the suppression of the Jesuits was obtained from Clement XIV. Under his successors the world had an opportunity of comparing the times when Popes like Alexander III. or Innocent IV. governed the Church from their exile, and now, when men of the greatest piety and conscientiousness virtually postponed their duty as head of the Church to their rights as temporal sovereigns, and, like the senators of old, awaited the Gauls upon their throne. There is a lesson not to be forgotten in the contrast between the policy and the fate of the great mediaeval pontiffs, who preserved their liberty by abandoning their dominions, and that of Pius VI. and Pius VII., who preferred captivity to flight.
The nepotism of Urban VIII. brought on the war of Castro, and in its train increase of debt, of taxes, impoverishment of the State, and the odious union of spiritual with temporal arms, which became a permanent calamity for the Holy See. This attachment to the interest of their families threw great discredit on the Popes, who were dishonoured by the faults, the crimes, and the punishment of their relatives. But since the death of Alexander VIII., in 1691, even that later form of nepotism which aimed at wealth only, not at political power, came to an end, and has never reappeared except in the case of the Braschi. The nepotism of the cardinals and prelates has survived that of the Popes. If the statute of Eugenius IV. had remained in force, the College of Cardinals would have formed a wholesome restraint in the temporal government, and the favouritism of the papal relations would have been prevented. But the Popes acted with the absolute power which was in the spirit of the monarchies of that age. When Paul IV. announced to the Sacred College that he had stripped the house of Colonna of its possessions to enrich his nephew, and that he was at war with Spain, they listened in silence, and have been passive ever since. No European sovereignty enjoyed so arbitrary an authority. Under Julius II. the towns retained considerable privileges, and looked on their annexation to the Papal State as a deliverance from their former oppressors. Machiavelli and Guicciardini say that the Popes required neither to defend nor to administer their dominions, and that the people were content in the enjoyment of their autonomy. In the course of the sixteenth century the administration was gradually centralised in Rome, and placed in the hands of ecclesiastics. Before 1550 the governors were ordinarily laymen, but the towns themselves preferred to be governed by prelates. By the close of the century the independence of the corporations had disappeared; but the centralisation, though complete, was not vigorous, and practically the towns and the barons, though not free, were not oppressed.
The modern system of government in the Roman States originated with Sixtus V. He introduced stability and regularity in the administration, and checked the growth of nepotism, favouritism, and arbitrary power, by the creation of permanent congregations. In connection with this measure the prelates became the upper class of official persons in the State, and were always expected to be men of fortune. A great burden for the country was the increase of offices, which were created only to be sold. No important duties and no fixed salary were attached to them, and the incumbent had to rely on fees and extortion. In the year 1470 there were 650 places of this kind. In eighty years they had increased to 3500. The theory was, that the money raised by the sale of places saved the people from the imposition of new taxes. Innocent XII., in 1693, put an end to this traffic; but it had continued so long that the ill-effects survived.
There was a great contrast between the ecclesiastical administration, which exhibited a dignified stability, resting on fixed rules and ancient traditions, and the civil government, which was exposed to continual fluctuation by the change of persons, of measures, and of systems; for few Popes continued the plans of their predecessors. The new Pontiff commenced his reign generally with a profound sense of the abuses and of the discontent which prevailed before his elevation, and naturally sought to obtain favour and improvement by opposite measures. In the cultivation of the Roman Campagna, for instance, it was observed that each Pope followed a different system, so that little was accomplished. The persons were almost always changed by the new Pope, so that great offices rarely remained long in the same hands. The Popes themselves were seldom versed in affairs of State, and therefore required the assistance of statesmen of long experience. In the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, when the election was free from outward influence, men were generally chosen who had held under one or two Popes the highest office of state,—Gregory VII., Urban II., Gelasius II., Lucius II., Alexander III., Gregory VIII., Gregory IX., Alexander IV. But in modern times it has been the rule that the Secretary of State should not be elected, and that the new Pope should dismiss the heads of the administration. Clement IX. was the first who gave up this practice, and retained almost all those who had been employed under his predecessor.
The burdens of the State increased far beyond its resources from the aid which the Popes gave to the Catholic Powers, especially in the Turkish wars. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the debt amounted to 12,242,620 scudi, and the interest absorbed three-fourths of the whole income. In 1655 it had risen to 48,000,000 scudi. The financial administration was secret, free from the control of public accounts, and the Tesoriere, being necessarily a cardinal, was irresponsible. There was no industry in the towns; they remained for the most part small and poor; almost all articles of common use were imported, and the country had little to give in exchange. All the interest of the public debt went to foreign creditors. As early as 1595 the discontent was very great, and so many emigrated, in order to escape the heavy burdens, that Cardinal Sacchetti said, in 1664, that the population was reduced by one-half. In the year 1740 the president De Brosses found the Roman Government the most defective but the mildest in Europe. Becattini, in his panegyrical biography of Pius VI., declares that it was the worst after that of Turkey. There were none of those limitations which in other countries restrained the power of the monarch, no fundamental laws, no coronation oath, no binding decrees of predecessors, no provincial estates, no powerful corporations. But, in reality, this unlimited absolutism was softened by custom, and by great indulgence towards individuals.
When Consalvi adopted the French institutions, he did not understand that an absolute government is intolerable, and must sink under the weight of its responsibility, unless it recognises the restraint of custom and tradition, and of subordinate, but not dependent forces. The unity and uniformity he introduced were destructive. He restored none of the liberties of the towns, and confided the administration to ecclesiastics superficially acquainted with law, and without knowledge of politics or of public economy. In the ecclesiastical States of Germany, the civil and religious departments were separate; and it is as wrong to say that the double position of the head must repeat itself throughout the administration, as to say that a king, because he is the head of the army as well as of the civil government, ought to mix the two spheres throughout the State. It would, in reality, be perfectly possible to separate the political and ecclesiastical authorities.
Leo XII. attempted to satisfy the Zelanti, the adversaries of Consalvi, by restoring the old system. He abolished the provincial Councils, revived the Inquisition, and subjected official honesty and public morality to a strict espionage. Leo saw the error of Consalvi, but mistook the remedy; and his government was the most unpopular that had been seen for a century. Where the laity are excluded from the higher offices, and the clergy enjoy the monopoly of them, that moral power which modern bureaucracy derives from the corporate spirit, and the feelings of honour which it inspires, cannot subsist. One class becomes demoralised by its privileged position, the other by its limited prospects and insufficient pay. Leo tried to control them by the congregazione di vigilanze, which received and examined all charges against official persons; but it was suppressed by his successor.
The famous Memorandum of the Powers, 31st May 1831, recommended the admission of the laity to all secular offices, the restoration of the provincial Councils, and the introduction of elective communal Councils with the power of local government; and finally, a security against the changes incident to an elective sovereignty. The historian Coppi, who was charged to draw up a plan of reform in reply to these demands, relates that the Pope and the majority of the cardinals rejected every serious change, and were resolved to uphold the old principles, and to concede nothing to the lay party, "because, if anything was voluntarily conceded, there would be no right of recalling it afterwards." Two things in particular it was determined not to grant—elective Councils in the towns and provinces, and a lay Council of State beside the Sacred College. In a general way, vague reforms were promised; but the promise was not redeemed. Austria would not tolerate any liberal concessions in Italy which were in contradiction with her own system and her own interests; thus all Italian aspirations for reforms were concentrated in the wish to get rid of the foreign yoke, and Austria never succeeded in forming a party amongst the Italians favourable to her power. Yet Gregory XVI. knew that great changes were needed. In 1843 he said:—
The civil administration requires a great reform. I was too old when I was elected; I did not expect to live so long, and had not the courage to begin the undertaking. For whoever begins, must accomplish it. I have now only a few more years to live; perhaps only a few days. After me they will choose a young Pope, whose mission it will be to perform the act, without which it is impossible to go on.
The Austrian occupation caused the Roman Government to be identified with the foreign supremacy, and transferred to it the hatred of the patriots. The disaffection of the subjects of the Pope had deeper motives. Except the clergy, that overshadows all, there are no distinct orders in the society of the Roman State; no country nobility, no wealthy class of peasant proprietors; nothing but the population of the towns, and a degenerate class of patricians. These were generally hostile to the ecclesiastical system. The offices are so distributed, that the clergy govern, and the laity are their instruments. In the principal departments, no amount of services or ability could raise a layman above a certain level, beyond which younger and less competent ecclesiastics were promoted over his head. This subordination, which led to a regular dependence of the lay officials on the prelates, drove the best men away from the service of the State, and disposed the rest to long for a government which should throw open to them the higher prizes of their career. Even the country people, who were never tainted with the ideas of the secret societies, were not always well affected.
It is more difficult for a priest than for a layman to put aside his private views and feelings in the administration of justice. He is the servant and herald of grace, of forgiveness, of indulgence, and easily forgets that in human concerns the law is inexorable, that favour to one is often injury to many or to all, and that he has no right to place his own will above the law. He is still more disqualified for the direction of the police, which, in an absolute State and in troubled times, uses its unlimited power without reference to Christian ideas, leaves unpunished acts which are grievous sins, and punishes others which in a religious point of view are innocent. It is hard for the people to distinguish clearly the priestly character from the action of its bearer in the administration of police. The same indifference to the strict letter of the law, the same confusion between breaches of divine and of human ordinances, led to a practice of arbitrary imprisonment, which contrasts painfully with the natural gentleness of a priestly government. Hundreds of persons were cast into prison without a trial or even an examination; only on suspicion, and kept there more than a year for greater security.
The immunities of the clergy were as unpopular as their power. The laws and decrees of the Pope as a temporal sovereign were not held to be binding on them unless it was expressly said, or was clear from the context, that they were given also in his character of Head of the Church. Ecclesiastics were tried before their own tribunals, and had the right to be more lightly punished than laymen for the same delinquency. Those events in the life of Achilli, which came out at his trial, had not only brought down on him no severe punishment, but did not stand in the way of his promotion. With all these privileges, the bulk of the Roman clergy had little to do; little was expected of them, and their instruction was extremely deficient.
At the end of the pontificate of Gregory XVI. the demand for reforms was loud and universal, and men began to perceive that the defects of the civil government were undermining the religious attachment of the people. The conclave which raised Pius IX. to the Papal throne was the shortest that had occurred for near three hundred years. The necessity of choosing a Pontiff disposed to understand and to satisfy the pressing requirements of the time, made it important to hasten matters in order to escape the interference of Austria. It was expected that Cardinal Gizzi or Cardinal Mastai would be elected. The latter had been pointed out by Gregory XVI. as his fittest successor, and he made Gizzi Secretary of State. The first measure of the new reign, the amnesty, which, as Metternich said, threw open the doors of the house to the professional robbers, was taken not so much as an act of policy, as because the Pope was resolved to undo an accumulation of injustice. The reforms which followed soon made Pius the most popular of Italian princes, and all Catholics rejoiced that the reconciliation of the Papacy with modern freedom was at length accomplished, and that the shadow which had fallen on the priesthood throughout the world was removed with the abuses in the Roman Government. The Constitution was, perhaps, an inevitable though a fatal necessity. "The Holy Father must fall," said his minister, "but at least he will fall with honour." The preliminary conditions of constitutional life were wanting—habits of self-government in the towns and provinces, security from the vexations of the police, separation of spiritual and temporal jurisdiction. It could not be but that the existence of an elective chamber must give to the lay element a preponderance in the State, whilst in the administration the contrary position was maintained. There could be no peaceful solution of this contradiction, and it is strange that the cardinals, who were unanimously in favour of the statute, should not have seen that it would lead to the destruction of the privileges of the clergy. But in the allocution of 20th April 1849, the Pope declared that he had never intended to alter the character of his government; so that he must have thought the old system of administration by ecclesiastics compatible with the working of the new Constitution. At his return from exile all his advisers were in favour of abrogating all the concessions of the first years of his reign. Balbo and Rosmini visited him at Gaeta, to plead for the Constitution, but they obtained nothing. Pius IX. was persuaded that every concession would be a weapon in the hands of the Radicals. A lay consulta gave to the laity a share of the supreme government; but the chief offices and the last decision remained, as before, in the hands of the prelates. Municipal reforms were promised. In general the old defects continued, and the old discontent was not conciliated.
It is manifest that Constitutionalism, as it is ordinarily understood, is not a system which can be applied to the States of the Church. It could not be tolerated that a warlike faction, by refusing supplies, should compel the Pope to go to war with a Christian nation, as they sought to compel him to declare war against Austria in 1848. His sovereignty must be real, not merely nominal. It makes no difference whether he is in the power of a foreign State or of a parliamentary majority. But real sovereignty is compatible with a participation of the people in legislation, the autonomy of corporations, a moderate freedom of the press, and the separation of religion and police.
Recent events would induce one to suppose that the enormous power of the press and of public opinion, which it forms and reflects, is not understood in Rome. In 1856 the Inquisitor at Ancona issued an edict, threatening with the heaviest censures all who should omit to denounce the religious or ecclesiastical faults of their neighbours, relatives, or superiors; and in defiance of the general indignation, and of the despondency of those who, for the sake of religion, desired reforms in the States of the Church, the Civilta Cattolica declared that the Inquisitor had done his duty. Such cases as this, and those of Achilli and Mortara, weighed more heavily in the scale in which the Roman State is weighed than a lost battle. Without discussing the cases themselves, it is clear what their influence has been on public opinion, with which it is more important at the present day to treat than with the governments which depend on it. This branch of diplomacy has been unfortunately neglected, and hence the Roman Government cannot rely on lay support.
After describing the evils and disorders of the State, which the Pope so deeply felt that he put his own existence in peril, and inflamed half of Europe with the spirit of radical change in the attempt to remove them, Dr. Doellinger contrasts, with the gloomy picture of decay and failure, the character of the Pontiff who attempted the great work of reform.
Nevertheless, the administration of Pius IX. is wise, benevolent, indulgent, thrifty, attentive to useful institutions and improvements. All that proceeds from Pius IX. personally is worthy of a head of the Church—elevated, liberal in the best sense of the term. No sovereign spends less on his court and his own private wants. If all thought and acted as he does, his would be a model State. Both the French and the English envoys affirm that the financial administration had improved, that the value of the land was increasing, agriculture flourishing, and that many symptoms of progress might be observed. Whatever can be expected of a monarch full of affection for his people, and seeking his sole recreation in works of beneficence, Pius richly performs. Pertransiit benefaciendo,—words used of one far greater,—are simply the truth applied to him. In him we can clearly perceive how the Papacy, even as a temporal state, might, so far as the character of the prince is concerned, through judicious elections, be the most admirable of human institutions. A man in the prime of life, after an irreproachable youth and a conscientious discharge of Episcopal duties, is elevated to the highest dignity and to sovereign power. He knows nothing of expensive amusements; he has no other passion but that of doing good, no other ambition but to be beloved by his subjects. His day is divided between prayer and the labours of government; his relaxation is a walk in the garden, a visit to a church, a prison, or a charitable institution. Free from personal desires and from terrestrial bonds, he has no relatives, no favourites to provide for. For him the rights and powers of his office exist only for the sake of its duties.... Grievously outraged, injured, rewarded with ingratitude, he has never harboured a thought of revenge, never committed an act of severity, but ever forgiven and ever pardoned. The cup of sweetness and of bitterness, the cup of human favour and of human aversion, he has not only tasted, but emptied to the dregs; he heard them cry "Hosannah!" and soon after "Crucifige!" The man of his confidence, the first intellectual power of his nation, fell beneath the murderer's knife; the bullet of an insurgent struck down the friend by his side. And yet no feeling of hatred, no breath of anger could ever obscure, even for a moment, the spotless mirror of his soul. Untouched by human folly, unmoved by human malice, he proceeds with a firm and regular step on his way, like the stars of heaven.
Such I have seen the action of this Pope in Rome, such it has been described to me by all, whether near him or afar; and if he now seems to be appointed to pass through all the painful and discouraging experience which can befall a monarch, and to continue to the end the course of a prolonged martyrdom, he resembles in this, as in so many other things, the sixteenth Louis; or rather; to go up higher, he knows that the disciple is not above the Master, and that the pastor of a church, whose Lord and Founder died upon the cross, cannot wonder and cannot refuse that the cross should be laid also upon him (pp. 624-627).
It is a common opinion, that the Pope, as a sovereign, is bound by the common law to the forms and ideas of the Middle Ages; and that in consequence of the progress of society, of the difference between the thirteenth century and the nineteenth, there is an irreconcilable discord between the Papacy and the necessities of civil government. All Catholics are bound to oppose this opinion. Only that which is of Divine institution is unchangeable through all time. But the sovereignty of the Popes is extremely elastic, and has already gone through many forms. No contrast can be stronger than that between the use which the Popes made of their power in the thirteenth or the fifteenth century, and the system of Consalvi. There is no reason, therefore, to doubt, that it will now, after a violent interruption, assume the form best adapted to the character of the age and the requirements of the Italian people. There is nothing chimerical in the vision of a new order of things, in which the election shall fall on men in the prime of their years and their strength; in which the people shall be reconciled to their government by free institutions and a share in the conduct of their own concerns, and the upper classes satisfied by the opening of a suitable career in public affairs. Justice publicly and speedily administered would obtain the confidence of the people; the public service would be sustained by an honourable esprit de corps; the chasm between laity and priesthood would be closed by equality in rights and duties; the police would not rely on the help of religion, and religion would no longer drag itself along on the crutches of the police. The integrity of the Papal States would be under the joint guardianship of the Powers, who have guaranteed even the dominions of the Sultan; and the Pope would have no enemies to fear, and his subjects would be delivered from the burden of military service and of a military budget.
Religious liberty is not, as the enemies of the Holy See declare, and some even of its friends believe, an insurmountable difficulty. Events often cut the knots which appear insoluble to theory. Attempts at proselytising have not hitherto succeeded among the subjects of the Pope; but if it had been otherwise, would it have been possible for the Inquisition to proceed against a Protestant? The agitation that must have ensued would be a welcome opportunity to put an end to what remains of the temporal power. It is true that the advance of Protestantism in Italy would raise up a barrier between the Pope and his subjects; but no such danger is to be apprehended. At the time when the doctrines of the Reformation exercised an almost magical power over mankind, they never took root in Italy beyond a few men of letters; and now that their power of attraction and expansion has long been exhausted, neither Sardinian policy nor English gold will succeed in seducing the Italians to them.
The present position of helpless and humiliating dependence will not long endure. The determination of the Piedmontese Government to annex Rome is not more certain than the determination of the Emperor Napoleon to abrogate the temporal power. Pius IX. would enjoy greater security in Turkey than in the hands of a State which combines the tyranny of the Convention, the impudent sophistry of a government of advocates, and the ruthless brutality of military despotism. Rather than trust to Piedmont, may Pius IX. remember the example of his greatest predecessors, who, relying on the spiritual might of the Papacy, sought beyond the Alps the freedom which Italy denied to them. The Papacy has beheld the rise and the destruction of many thrones, and will assuredly outlive the kingdom of Italy, and other monarchies besides. It can afford to wait; patiens quia aeternus. The Romans need the Pope more than the Pope needs Rome. Above the Catacombs, among the Basilicas, beside the Vatican, there is no place for a tribune or for a king. We shall see what was seen in the fourteenth century: envoys will come from Rome to entreat the Pope to return to his faithful city.
Whilst things continue as they are, the emperor can, by threatening to withdraw his troops, compel the Pope to consent to anything not actually sinful. Such a situation is alarming in the highest degree for other countries. But for the absolute confidence that all men have in the fidelity and conscientiousness of the present Pope, and for the providential circumstance that there is no ecclesiastical complication which the French Government could use for its own ends, it would not be tolerated by the rest of the Catholic world. Sooner or later these conditions of security will disappear, and the interest of the Church demands that before that happens, the peril should be averted, even by a catastrophe.
The hostility of the Italians themselves to the Holy See is the tragic symptom of the present malady. In other ages, when it was assailed, the Italians were on its side, or at least were neutral. Now they require the destruction of the temporal power, either as a necessary sacrifice for the unity and greatness of their country, or as a just consequence of incurable defects. The time will come, however, when they will be reconciled with the Papacy, and with its presence as a Power among them. It was the dependence of the Pope on the Austrian arms, and his identification in popular opinion with the cause of the detested foreigner, that obscured his lofty position as the moral bulwark and protector of the nation. For 1500 years the Holy See was the pivot of Italian history, and the source of the Italian influence in Europe. The nation and the See shared the same fortunes, and grew powerful or feeble together. It was not until the vices of Alexander VI. and his predecessors had destroyed the reverence which was the protection of Italy, that she became the prey of the invaders. None of the great Italian historians has failed to see that they would ruin themselves in raising their hands against Rome. The old prophecy of the Papa Angelico, of an Angel Pope, who was to rise up to put an end to discord and disorder, and to restore piety and peace and happiness in Italy, was but the significant token of the popular belief that the Papacy and the nation were bound up together, and that one was the guardian of the other. That belief slumbers, now that the idea of unity prevails, whilst the Italians are attempting to put the roof on a building without walls and without foundations, but it will revive again, when centralisation is compelled to yield to federalism, and the road to the practicable has been found in the search after impossibilities.
The tyrannical character of the Piedmontese Government, its contempt for the sanctity of public law, the principles on which it treats the clergy at home, and the manner in which it has trampled on the rights of the Pope and the interests of religion, the perfidy and despotism it exhibits, render it impossible that any securities it may offer to the Pope can possess a real value. Moreover, in the unsettled state of the kingdom, the uncertain succession of parties, and the fluctuation of power, whatever guarantee is proposed by the ministry, there is nobody to guarantee the guarantor. It is a system without liberty and without stability; and the Pope can never be reconciled to it, or become a dweller in the new Italian kingdom.
If he must choose between the position of a subject and of an exile, he is at home in the whole Catholic world, and wherever he goes he will be surrounded by children who will greet him as their father. It may become an inevitable, but it must always be a heroic resolution. The court and the various congregations for the administration of the affairs of the Church are too numerous to be easily moved. In former times the machinery was more simple, and the whole body of the pontifical government could be lodged in a single French monastery. The absence of the Pope from Rome will involve great difficulties and annoyance; but it is a lesser evil than a surrender of principle, which cannot be recalled.
To remove the Holy See to France would, under present circumstances, be an open challenge to a schism, and would afford to all who wish to curtail the papal rights, or to interrupt the communication between the Pope and the several churches, the most welcome pretexts, and it would put arms in the hands of governments that wish to impede the action of his authority within their States.
The conclusion of the book is as follows:—
If the Court of Rome should reside for a time in Germany, the Roman prelates will doubtless be agreeably surprised to discover that our people is able to remain Catholic and religious without the leading-strings of a police, and that its religious sentiments are a better protection to the Church than the episcopal carceri, which, thank God, do not exist. They will learn that the Church in Germany is able to maintain herself without the Holy Office; that our bishops, although, or because, they use no physical compulsion, are reverenced like princes by the people, that they are received with triumphal arches, that their arrival in a place is a festival for the inhabitants. They will see how the Church with us rests on the broad, strong, and healthy basis of a well-organised system of pastoral administration and of popular religious instruction. They will perceive that we Catholics have maintained for years the struggle for the deliverance of the Church from the bonds of bureaucracy straightforwardly and without reservation; that we cannot entertain the idea of denying to the Italians what we have claimed for ourselves; and that therefore we are far from thinking that it is anywhere an advantage to fortify the Church with the authority of the police and with the power of the secular arm. Throughout Germany we have been taught by experience the truth of Fenelon's saying, that the spiritual power must be carefully kept separate from the civil, because their union is pernicious. They will find, further, that the whole of the German clergy is prepared to bless the day when it shall learn that the free sovereignty of the Pope is assured, without sentence of death being still pronounced by ecclesiastics, without priests continuing to discharge the functions of treasury-clerks or police directors, or to conduct the business of the lottery. And, finally, they will convince themselves that all the Catholics of Germany will stand up as one man for the independence of the Holy See, and the legitimate rights of the Pope; but that they are no admirers of a form of government of very recent date, which is, in fact, nothing else than the product of the mechanical polity of Napoleon combined with a clerical administration. And this information will bear good fruit when the hour shall strike for the return, and restitution shall be made....
Meanwhile Pius IX. and the men of his Council will "think upon the days of old, and have in their minds the eternal years." They will read the future in the earlier history of the Papacy, which has already seen many an exile and many a restoration. The example of the resolute, courageous Popes of the Middle Ages will light the way. It is no question now of suffering martyrdom, of clinging to the tombs of the Apostles, or of descending into the catacombs; but of quitting the land of bondage, in order to exclaim on a free soil, "Our bonds are broken, and we are free!" For the rest God will provide, and the unceasing gifts and sympathies of the Catholic world. And the parties in Italy, when they have torn and exhausted the land which has become a battle-field; when the sobered and saddened people, tired of the rule of lawyers and of soldiers, has understood the worth of a moral and spiritual authority, then will be the time to think of returning to the Eternal City. In the interval, the things will have disappeared for whose preservation such pains are taken; and then there will be better reason than Consalvi had, in the preface to the Motu Proprio of 6th July 1816, to say: "Divine Providence, which so conducts human affairs that out of the greatest calamity innumerable benefits proceed, seems to have intended that the interruption of the papal government should prepare the way for a more perfect form of it."
We have written at a length for which we must apologise to our readers; and yet this is but a meagre sketch of the contents of a book which deals with a very large proportion of the subjects that occupy the thoughts and move the feelings of religious men. We will attempt to sum up in a few words the leading ideas of the author. Addressing a mixed audience, he undertakes to controvert two different interpretations of the events which are being fulfilled in Rome. To the Protestants, who triumph in the expected downfall of the Papacy, he shows the consequences of being without it. To the Catholics, who see in the Roman question a great peril to the Church, he explains how the possession of the temporal sovereignty had become a greater misfortune than its loss for a time would be. From the opposite aspects of the religious camps of our age he endeavours to awaken the misgivings of one party, and to strengthen the confidence of the other. There is an inconsistency between the Protestant system and the progress of modern learning; there is none between the authority of the Holy See and the progress of modern society. The events which are tending to deprive the Pope of his territory are not to be, therefore, deplored, if we consider the preceding causes, because they made this catastrophe inevitable; still less if, looking to the future, we consider the state of Protestantism, because they remove an obstacle to union which is humanly almost insurmountable. In a former work Doellinger exhibited the moral and intellectual exhaustion of Paganism as the prelude to Christianity. In like manner he now confronts the dissolution and spiritual decay of Protestantism with the Papacy. But in order to complete the contrast, and give force to the vindication, it was requisite that the true function and character of the Holy See should not be concealed from the unpractised vision of strangers by the mask of that system of government which has grown up around it in modern times. The importance of this violent disruption of the two authorities consists in the state of religion throughout the world. Its cause lies in the deficiences of the temporal power; its end in the mission of the spiritual.
The interruption of the temporal sovereignty is the only way we can discern in which these deficiences can be remedied and these ends obtained. But this interruption cannot be prolonged. In an age in which the State throughout the Continent is absolute, and tolerates no immunities; when corporations have therefore less freedom than individuals, and the disposition to restrict their action increases in proportion to their power, the Pope cannot be independent as a subject. He must, therefore, be a sovereign, the free ruler of an actual territory, protected by international law and a European guarantee. The restoration consequently is necessary, though not as an immediate consequence of the revolution. In this revolutionary age the protection of the Catholic Powers is required against outward attack. They must also be our security that no disaffection is provoked within; that there shall be no recurrence of the dilemma between the right of insurrection against an arbitrary government and the duty of obedience to the Pope; and that civil society shall not again be convulsed, nor the pillars of law and order throughout Europe shaken, by a revolution against the Church, of which, in the present instance, the conservative powers share the blame, and have already felt the consequences.
In the earnest and impressive language of the conclusion, in which Doellinger conveys the warnings which all Transalpine Catholicism owes to its Head as an Italian sovereign, it seems to us that something more definite is intended than the expression of the wish, which almost every Catholic feels, to receive the Pope in his own country. The anxiety for his freedom which would be felt if he took refuge in France, would be almost equally justified by his presence in Austria. A residence in an exclusively Catholic country, such as Spain, would be contrary to the whole spirit of this book, and to the moral which it inculcates, that the great significance of the crisis is in the state of German Protestantism. If the position of the Catholics in Germany would supply useful lessons and examples to the Roman court, it is also from the vicinity of the Protestant world that the full benefit can best be drawn from its trials, and that the crimes of the Italians, which have begun as calamities, may be turned to the advantage of the Church. But against such counsels there is a powerful influence at work. Napoleon has declared his determination to sweep away the temporal power. The continuance of the occupation of Rome, and his express prohibition to the Piedmontese government to proceed with the annexation during the life of the present Pope, signify that he calculates on greater advantages in a conclave than from the patient resolution of Pius IX. This policy is supported by the events in Italy in a formidable manner. The more the Piedmontese appear as enemies and persecutors, the more the emperor will appear as the only saviour; and the dread of a prolonged exile in any Catholic country, and of dependence for subsistence on the contributions of the faithful, must exhibit in a fascinating light the enjoyment of the splendid hospitality and powerful protection of France. On these hopes and fears, and on the difficulties which are pressing on the cardinals from the loss of their revenues, the emperor speculates, and persuades himself that he will be master of the next election. On the immovable constancy of her Supreme Pontiff the Catholic Church unconditionally relies; and we are justified in believing that, in an almost unparalleled emergency, he will not tremble before a resolution of which no Pope has given an example since the consolidation of the temporal power.
[Footnote 334: The Rambler, November 1861.]
[Footnote 335: Kirche und Kirchen, Munich, 1861 ("Papstum und Kirchenstaat").]
[Footnote 336: So late as 1791 Pius VI. wrote: "Discrimen intercedit inter homines, qui extra gremium Ecclesiae semper fuerunt, quales sunt Infideles atque Judaei, atque inter illos qui se Ecclesiae ipsi per susceptum baptismi sacramentum subjecerunt. Primi enim constringi ad catholicam obedientiam non debent, contra vero alteri sunt cogendi." If this theory had, like that of the Protestants, been put in practice by the Government, it would have furnished the Protestants with an argument precisely similar to that by which the Catholics justified the severity they exercised towards them.]
[Footnote 337: The works contained in Clark's library of translations are chiefly of this school.]
DOeLLINGER'S HISTORICAL WORK
When first seen, at Wuerzburg, in the diaries of Platen the poet, Dr. Doellinger was an eager student of general literature, and especially of Schlegel and the romantic philosophy. It was an epoch in which the layman and the dilettante prevailed. In other days a divine had half a dozen distinct schools of religious thought before him, each able to develop and to satisfy a receptive mind; but the best traditions of western scholarship had died away when the young Franconian obtained a chair in the reorganised university of Munich. His own country, Bavaria, his time, the third decade of the century, furnished no guide, no master, and no model to the new professor. Exempt, by date and position, from the discipline of a theological party, he so continued, and never turned elsewhere for the dependence he escaped at home. No German theologian, of his own or other churches, bent his course; and he derived nothing from the powerful writer then dominant in the North. To a friend describing Herder as the one unprofitable classic, he replied, "Did you ever learn anything from Schleiermacher?" And if it is doubtful which way this stroke was aimed, it is certain that he saw less than others in the Berlin teacher.
Very young he knew modern languages well, though with a defective ear, and having no local or contemporary attachments he devoted himself systematically to the study of foreign divines. The characteristic universality of his later years was not the mere result of untiring energy and an unlimited command of books. His international habit sprang from the inadequacy of the national supply, and the search for truth in every century naturally became a lecturer whose function it was to unfold from first to last the entire life of the Church, whose range extended over all Christian ages, and who felt the inferiority of his own. Doellinger's conception of the science which he was appointed to carry forward, in conformity with new requirements and new resources, differed from the average chiefly by being more thorough and comprehensive. At two points he was touched by currents of the day. Savigny, the legal expert of a school recruited from both denominations and gravitating towards Catholicism, had expounded law and society in that historic spirit which soon pervaded other sciences, and restored the significance of national custom and character. By his writings Protestant literature overlapped. The example of the conspicuous jurist served as a suggestion for divines to realise the patient process of history; and Doellinger continued to recognise him as a master and originator of true scientific methods when his influence on jurisprudence was on the wane. On the same track, Drey, in 1819, defended the theory of development as the vital prerogative of Rome over the fixity of other churches. Moehler was the pupil of Drey, and they made Tuebingen the seat of a positive theology, broader and more progressive than that of Munich.
The first eminent thinker whom he saw and heard was Baader, the poorest of writers, but the most instructive and impressive talker in Germany, and the one man who appears to have influenced the direction of his mind. Bishop Martensen has described his amazing powers; and Doellinger, who remembered him with more scant esteem, bore equal testimony to the wealth and worth of his religious philosophy. He probably owed to him his persistent disparagement of Hegel, and more certainly that familiarity with the abstruse literature of mysticism which made him as clear and sure of vision in the twilight of Petrucci and St. Martin as in the congenial company of Duperron. Baader is remembered by those who abstain from sixteen volumes of discordant thought, as the inventor of that system of political insurance which became the Holy Alliance. That authority is as sacred and sovereignty as absolute in the Church as in the State, was an easy and obvious inference, and it had been lately drawn with an energy and literary point to which Baader was a stranger, by the Count de Maistre, who was moreover a student of St. Martin. When the ancient mystic welcomed his new friend, he was full of the praises of De Maistre. He impressed upon his earnest listener the importance of the books on the pope and on the Gallican church, and assured him that the spirit which animates them is the genuine Catholicism. These conversations were the origin of Doellinger's specific ultramontanism. It governed one half of his life, and his interest in De Maistre outlasted the assent which he once gave to some of his opinions. Questions arising from the Savoyard's indictment against Bacon, which he proposed to Liebig, formed the connection between the two laboured attacks on the founder of English philosophy.
Much of that which at any time was unhistoric or presumptive in his mind may be ascribed to this influence; and it divided him from Moehler, who was far before him in the fulness of the enjoyment of his powers and his fame, whom he survived half a century, and never ceased to venerate as the finest theological intellect he had known. The publication of the Symbolik made it difficult for the author to remain in Wirtemberg; Tuebingen, he said, was a place where he could neither live nor die happy; and having made Doellinger's acquaintance, he conceived an ardent wish to become his colleague at Munich.
Im Verkehre mit Ihnen, und dem Kreise in dem Sie leben, habe ich mich aufs anmuthigste erheitert, sittlich gestaerkt, und religioes getroestet und ermuthigt gefunden; ein Verein von Einwirkungen auf mich wuerde mir gewaehrt, deren aller ich in fast gleichein Grade beduerftig war.
Doellinger negotiated his appointment, overcame the resisting ministerial medium through the intervention of the king, and surrendered his own department of theology, which they both regarded as the most powerful agency in religious instruction. Moehler had visited Goettingen and Berlin, and recognised their superiority. A public address to Planck, praising the Protestant treatment of history, was omitted by Doellinger from the edition of his miscellaneous writings. They differed so widely that one of them hesitated to read Bossuet's Defensio, and generally kept the stronger Gallicans out of sight, whilst the other warmly recommended Richer, and Launoy, and Dupin, and cautioned his pupils against Baronius, as a forger and a cheat, who dishonestly attributed to the primitive Church ideas quite foreign to its constitution. He found fault with his friend for undue favour to the Jesuits, and undue severity towards Jansenism. The other advised him to read Fenelon, and succeeded in modifying this opinion.
Sie werden vielleicht um so geneigter sein, mir zu verzeihen, wenn ich Ihnen melde, dass ich inzwischen recht fleissig die Jansenistischen Streitigkeiten, durch Ihre freundliche Zuschrift angeregt, studirt habe, und Ihrer Darstellung ohne Zweifel jetzt weit naeher stehe als frueher. Selbst die Bulle Unigenitus erscheint mir in einem weit guenstigeren Lichte als frueher, obschon ich die Censur mancher Quesnel'scher Saetze immer noch nicht begreifen kann. Sie schrieben mir, dass die Fenelon'sche Correspondenz einen grossen Einfluss auf Ihre Betrachtungsweise ausgeuebt habe. Auch bei mir ist dieses der Fall.
But in describing the failure of scholastic theology, the exaggeration of De Maistre, the incompetence of the Roman censorship, the irreligion of Leo X., and the strength of Luther's case against the Papacy, the sensitive Suabian made a contrast, then, and long after, with Doellinger's disciplined coolness and reserve.
Dann war wirklich die bestehende Form der Kirche im hoechsten Grade tadelhaft, und bedurfte der Reinigung. Die Paepste waren Despoten, willkuehrliche Herrscher geworden. Gebraeuche hatten sich angehaeuft, die im hoechsten Grade dem Glauben und der christlichen Froemmigkeit entgegen waren. In vielen Punkten hatte Luther immer Recht, wenn er von Missbraeuchen der Roemischen Gewalt spricht, dass dort alles feil sei.—Tetzel verfuhr ohnediess auf die empoerendste Weise, und uebertrieb, mit einer religioesen Rohheit und einem Stumpfsinn ohne Gleichen, das Bedenkliche der Sache auf die aeusserste Spitze.
The disagreement which made itself felt from time to time between the famous colleagues was not removed when one of them wished the other to change his confessor before his last illness.
Moehler claimed the supreme chair of ecclesiastical history as a matter of course, and by right of seniority. He apologised for venturing to supersede one who had gained distinction in that lecture-room, but he hinted that he himself was the least fit of the two for dogmatics.
Ich habe mich fuer die historischen Faecher entschieden. Ihr Opfer, wenn Sie Dogmatik lesen, anerkenne ich, aber ich bitte das meinige nicht zu uebersehen. Welcher Entschluss, ich moechte sagen, welche Unverschaemtheit ist es, nach Ihnen und bei Ihren Lebzeiten, Kirchengeschichte in Muenchen zu doziren?
Doellinger took that branch for the time, but he never afterwards taught theology proper. As Moehler, who was essentially a theologian, deserted divinity to compose inferior treatises on the gnostics and the false decretals, Doellinger, by choice and vocation a divine, having religion as the purpose of his life, judged that the loftier function, the more spiritual service, was historical teaching. The problem is to know how it came to pass that a man who was eminently intelligent and perspicuous in the exposition of doctrines, but who, in narrative, description, and knowledge of character, was neither first nor second, resolved that his mission was history.
In early life he had picked up chance copies of Baronius and Petavius, the pillars of historic theology; but the motives of his choice lay deeper. Church history had long been the weakest point and the cause of weakness among the Catholics, and it was the rising strength of the German Protestants. Therefore it was the post of danger; and it gave to a theologian the command of a public of laymen. The restoration of history coincided with the euthanasia of metaphysic; when the foremost philosophic genius of the time led over to the historic treatment both of philosophy and religion, and Hamilton, Cousin, Comte, severally converted the science into its history. Many men better equipped for speculation than for erudition went the same way; the systematic theology was kept up in the universities by the influence of Rome, where scholasticism went on untouched by the romantic transformation. Writing of England, Wiseman said: "There is still a scholastic hardness in our controversial theology, an unbendingness of outward forms in our explanations of Catholic principles, which renders our theologians dry and unattractive to the most catholicly inclined portion of our Protestants." The choice which these youths made, towards 1830, was, though they did not know it, the beginning of a rift that widened.
Doellinger was more in earnest than others in regarding Christianity as history, and in pressing the affinity between catholic and historical thought. Systems were to him nearly as codes to Savigny, when he exhorted his contemporaries not to consolidate their law, lest, with their wisdom and knowledge, they should incorporate their delusions and their ignorance, and usurp for the state what belonged to the nation. He would send an inquiring student to the Historia Congregationis de Auxiliis and the Historia Pelagiana rather than to Molina or Lemos, and often gave the advice which, coming from Oriel, disconcerted Morris of Exeter: "I am afraid you will have to read the Jesuit Petavius." He dreaded the predominance of great names which stop the way, and everything that interposes the notions of an epoch, a region, or a school between the Church and the observer.
To an Innsbruck professor, lamenting that there was no philosophy which he could heartily adopt, he replied that philosophies do not subsist in order to be adopted. A Thomist or a Cartesian seemed to him as a captive, or a one-armed combatant. Prizing metaphysicians for the unstrung pearls which they drop beyond the seclusion of system, he loved the disjecta membra of Coleridge, and preferred the Pensieri, and Parerga und Paralipomena to the constructed work of Gioberti and Schopenhauer. He knew Leibniz chiefly in his letters, and was perceptibly affected by his law of continuous progression, his general optimism, and his eclectic art of extracting from men and books only the good that is in them; but of monadology or pre-established harmony there was not a trace. His colleague, Schelling, no friend to the friends of Baader, stood aloof. The elder Windischmann, whom he particularly esteemed, and who acted in Germany as the interpreter of De Maistre, had hailed Hegel as a pioneer of sound philosophy, with whom he agreed both in thought and word. Doellinger had no such condescension. Hegel remained, in his eyes, the strongest of all the enemies of religion, the guide of Tuebingen in its aberrations, the reasoner whose abstract dialectics made a generation of clever men incapable of facing facts. He went on preferring former historians of dogma, who were untainted by the trail of pantheism, Baumgarten-Crusius, and even Muenscher, and by no means admitted that Baur was deeper than the early Jesuits and Oratorians, or gained more than he lost by constriction in the Hegelian coil. He took pleasure in pointing out that the best recent book on the penitential system, Kliefoth's fourth volume, owed its substance to Morinus. The dogmas of pantheistic history offended him too much to give them deep study, and he was ill prepared with counsel for a wanderer lost in the pervading haze. Hegelians said of him that he lacked the constructive unity of idea, and knew the way from effect to cause, but not from cause to law.
His own lectures on the philosophy of religion, which have left no deep furrow, have been praised by Ketteler, who was not an undiscriminating admirer. He sent on one of his pupils to Rosmini, and set another to begin metaphysics with Suarez; and when Lady Ashburton consulted him on the subject, he advised her to read Norris and Malebranche. He encouraged the study of remoter luminaries, such as Cusa and Raymundus, whose Natural Theology he preferred to the Analogy; and would not have men overlook some who are off the line, like Postel. But although he deemed it the mark of inferiority to neglect a grain of the gold of obsolete and eccentric writers, he always assigned to original speculation a subordinate place, as a good servant but a bad master, without the certainty and authority of history. What one of his English friends writes of a divine they both admired, might fitly be applied to him:
He was a disciple in the school of Bishop Butler, and had learned as a first principle to recognise the limitations of human knowledge, and the unphilosophical folly of trying to round off into finished and pretentious schemes our fragmentary yet certain notices of our own condition and of God's dealing with it.
He alarmed Archer Gurney by saying that all hope of an understanding is at an end, if logic be applied for the rectification of dogma, and to Dr. Plummer, who acknowledged him as the most capable of modern theologians and historians, he spoke of the hopelessness of trying to discover the meaning of terms used in definitions. To his archbishop he wrote that men may discuss the mysteries of faith to the last day without avail; "we stand here on the solid ground of history, evidence, and fact." Expressing his innermost thought, that religion exists to make men better, and that the ethical quality of dogma constitutes its value, he once said: "Tantum valet quantum ad corrigendum, purgandum, sanctificandum hominem confert." In theology as an intellectual exercise, beyond its action on the soul, he felt less interest, and those disputes most satisfied him which can be decided by appeal to the historian.
From his early reputation and his position at the outpost, confronting Protestant science, he was expected to make up his mind over a large area of unsettled thought and disputed fact, and to be provided with an opinion—a freehold opinion of his own—and a reasoned answer to every difficulty. People had a right to know what he knew about the end of the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark, and the beginning of the eighth chapter of St. John, the lives of St. Patrick and the sources of Erigena, the author of the Imitation and of the Twelve Articles, the Nag's Head and the Casket Letters. The suspense and poise of the mind, which is the pride and privilege of the unprofessional scholar, was forbidden him. Students could not wait for the master to complete his studies; they flocked for dry light of knowledge, for something defined and final, to their keen, grave, unemotional professor, who said sometimes more than he could be sure of, but who was not likely to abridge thought by oracular responses, or to give aphorism for argument. He accepted the necessity of the situation. A time came when everybody was invited, once a week, to put any imaginable question from the whole of Church history, and he at once replied. If this was a stimulus to exertion during the years spent in mastering and pondering the immense materials, it served less to promote originality and care than premature certitude and the craving for quick returns. Apart from the constant duty of teaching, his knowledge might not have been so extensive, but his views would have been less decided and therefore less liable to change.
As an historian, Doellinger regarded Christianity as a force more than as a doctrine, and displayed it as it expanded and became the soul of later history. It was the mission and occupation of his life to discover and to disclose how this was accomplished, and to understand the history of civilised Europe, religious and profane, mental and political, by the aid of sources which, being original and authentic, yielded certainty. In his vigorous prime, he thought that it would be within his powers to complete the narrative of the conquest of the world by Christ in a single massive work. The separated churches, the centrifugal forces, were to have been treated apart, until he adopted the ampler title of a history of Christianity. We who look back upon all that the combined and divided labour of a thousand earnest, gifted, and often instructed men has done and left undone in sixty years, can estimate the scientific level of an age where such a dream could be dreamed by such a man, misled neither by imagination nor ambition, but knowing his own limitations and the immeasurable world of books. Experience slowly taught him that he who takes all history for his province is not the man to write a compendium.
The four volumes of Church History which gave him a name in literature appeared between 1833 and 1838, and stopped short of the Reformation. In writing mainly for the horizon of seminaries, it was desirable to eschew voyages of discovery and the pathless border-land. The materials were all in print, and were the daily bread of scholars. A celebrated Anglican described Doellinger at that time as more intentional than Fleury; while Catholics objected that he was a candid friend; and Lutherans, probing deeper, observed that he resolutely held his ground wherever he could, and as resolutely abandoned every position that he found untenable. He has since said of himself that he always spoke sincerely, but that he spoke as an advocate—a sincere advocate who pleaded only for a cause which he had convinced himself was just. The cause he pleaded was the divine government of the Church, the fulfilment of the promise that it would be preserved from error, though not from sin, the uninterrupted employment of the powers committed by Christ for the salvation of man. By the absence of false arts he acquired that repute for superior integrity which caused a Tyrolese divine to speak of him as the most chivalrous of the Catholic celebrities; and the nuncio who was at Munich during the first ten years called him the "professeur le plus eclaire, le plus religieux, en un mot le plus distingue de l'universite."
Taking his survey from the elevation of general history, he gives less space to all the early heresies together than to the rise of Mohammedanism. His way lies between Neander, who cares for no institutions, and Baur, who cares for no individuals. He was entirely exempt from that impersonal idealism which Sybel laid down at the foundation of his review, which causes Delbrueck to complain that Macaulay, who could see facts so well, could not see that they are revelations, which Baur defines without disguise in his Dreieinigkeitslehre: "Alle geschichtlichen Personen sind fuer uns blosse Namen." The two posthumous works of Hegel which turned events into theories had not then appeared. Doellinger, setting life and action above theory, omitted the progress of doctrine. He proposed that Moehler should take that share of their common topic, and the plan, entertained at first, was interrupted, with much besides, by death. He felt too deeply the overwhelming unity of force to yield to that atomic theory which was provoked by the Hegelian excess: "L'histoire n'est pas un simple jeu d'abstractions, et les hommes y sont plus que les doctrines. Ce n'est pas une certaine theorie sur la justification et la redemption qui a fait la Reforme: c'est Luther, c'est Calvin." But he allows a vast scope to the variable will and character of man. The object of religion upon earth is saintliness, and its success is shown in holy individuals. He leaves law and doctrine, moving in their appointed orbits, to hold up great men and examples of Christian virtue.
Doellinger, who had in youth acted as secretary to Hohenlohe, was always reserved in his use of the supernatural. In the vision of Constantine and the rebuilding of the temple, he gives his reader both the natural explanation and the miraculous. He thought that the witness of the fathers to the continuance of miraculous powers could not be resisted without making history a priori, but later on, the more he sifted and compared authorities, the more severe he became. He deplored the uncritical credulity of the author of the Monks of the West; and, in examining the Stigmata, he cited the experience of a Spanish convent where they were so common that it became a sign of reprobation to be without them. Historians, he said, have to look for natural causes: enough will remain for the action of Providence, where we cannot penetrate. In his unfinished book on Ecclesiastical Prophecy he enumerates the illusions of mediaeval saints when they spoke of the future, and describes them, as he once described Carlyle and Ruskin, as prophets having nothing to foretell. At Frankfort, where he spoilt his watch by depositing it in unexpected holy water, and it was whispered that he had put it there to mend it, everybody knew that there was hardly a Catholic in the Parliament of whom such a fable could be told with more felicitous unfitness.
For twenty years of his life at Munich, Goerres was the impressive central figure of a group reputed far and wide, the most intellectual force in the Catholic world. Seeing things by the light of other days, Nippold and Maurenbrecher describe Doellinger himself as its most eminent member. There was present gain and future peril in living amongst a clever but restricted set, sheltered, supported, and restrained by friends who were united in aims and studies, who cherished their sympathies and their enmities in common, and who therefore believed that they were divided by no deep cleft or ultimate principle. Doellinger never outlived the glamour of the eloquence and ascendancy of Goerres, and spoke of him long after his death as a man of real knowledge, and of greater religious than political insight Between the imaginative rhetorician and the measured, scrutinising scholar, the contrast was wide. One of the many pupils and rare disciples of the former complained that his friend supplied interminable matter for the sterile and unavailing Mystik, in order to amuse him with ropes of sand: and the severest censure of Doellinger's art as an historian was pronounced by Goerres when he said, "I always see analogies, and you always see differences."
At all times, but in his early studies especially, he owed much to the Italians, whose ecclesiastical literature was the first that he mastered, and predominates in his Church history. Several of his countrymen, such as Savigny and Raumer, had composed history on the shoulders of Bolognese and Lombard scholars, and some of their most conspicuous successors to the present day have lived under heavy obligations to Modena and San Marino. During the tranquil century before the Revolution, Italians studied the history of their country with diligence and success. Even such places as Parma, Verona, Brescia, became centres of obscure but faithful work. Osimo possessed annals as bulky as Rome. The story of the province of Treviso was told in twenty volumes. The antiquities of Picenum filled thirty-two folios. The best of all this national and municipal patriotism was given to the service of religion. Popes and cardinals, dioceses and parish churches became the theme of untiring enthusiasts. There too were the stupendous records of the religious orders, their bulls and charters, their biography and their bibliography. In this immense world of patient, accurate, devoted research, Doellinger laid the deep foundations of his historical knowledge. Beginning like everybody with Baronius and Muratori, he gave a large portion of his life to Noris, and to the solid and enlightened scholarship that surrounded Benedict XIV., down to the compilers, Borgia, Fantuzzi, Marini, with whom, in the evil days of regeneration by the French, the grand tradition died away. He has put on record his judgment that Orsi and Saccarelli were the best writers on the general history of the Church. Afterwards, when other layers had been superposed, and the course he took was his own, he relied much on the canonists, Ballerini and Berardi; and he commended Bianchi, De Bennettis, and the author of the anonymous Confutazione, as the strongest Roman antidote to Blondel, Buckeridge, and Barrow. Italy possessed the largest extant body of Catholic learning; the whole sphere of Church government was within its range, and it enjoyed something of the official prerogative.
Next to the Italians he gave systematic attention to the French. The conspicuous Gallicans, the Jansenists, from whom at last he derived much support, Richer, Van Espen, Launoy, whom he regarded as the original of Bossuet, Arnauld, whom he thought his superior, are absent from his pages. He never overcame his distrust of Pascal, for his methodical scepticism and his endeavour to dissociate religion from learning; and he rated high Daniel's reply to the Provinciales. He esteemed still more the French Protestants of the seventeenth century, who transformed the system of Geneva and Dort. English theology did not come much in his way until he had made himself at home with the Italians and the primary French. Then it abounded. He gathered it in quantities on two journeys in 1851 and 1858, and he possessed the English divines in perfection, at least down to Whitby, and the nonjurors. Early acquaintance with Sir Edward Vavasour and Lord Clifford had planted a lasting prejudice in favour of the English Catholic families, which sometimes tinged his judgments. The neglected literature of the Catholics in England held a place in his scheme of thought, which it never obtained in the eyes of any other scholar, native or foreign. This was the only considerable school of divines who wrote under persecution, and were reduced to an attitude of defence. In conflict with the most learned, intelligent, and conciliatory of controversialists, they developed a remarkable spirit of moderation, discriminating inferior elements from the original and genuine growth of Catholic roots; and their several declarations and manifestoes, from the Restoration onwards, were an inexhaustible supply for irenics. Therefore they powerfully attracted one who took the words of St Vincent of Lerins not merely for a flash of illumination, but for a scientific formula and guiding principle. Few writers interested him more deeply than Stapleton, Davenport, who anticipated Number XC., Irishmen, such as Caron and Walshe, and the Scots, Barclay, the adversary and friend of Bellarmine, Ramsay, the convert and recorder of Fenelon. It may be that, to an intellect trained in the historic process, stability, continuity, and growth were terms of more vivid and exact significance than to the doctors of Pont-a-Mousson and Lambspring. But when he came forward arrayed in the spoils of Italian libraries and German universities, with the erudition of centuries and the criticism of to-day, he sometimes was content to follow where forgotten Benedictines or Franciscans had preceded, under the later Stuarts.
He seldom quotes contemporary Germans, unless to dispute with them, prefers old books to new, and speaks of the necessary revision and renovation of history. He suspected imported views and foregone conclusions even in Neander; and although he could not say, with Macaulay, that Gieseler was a rascal, of whom he had never heard, he missed no opportunity of showing his dislike for that accomplished artificer in mosaic. Looking at the literature before him, at England, with Gibbon for its one ecclesiastical historian; at Germany, with the most profound of its divines expecting the Church to merge in the State, he inferred that its historic and organic unity would only be recognised by Catholic science, while the soundest Protestant would understand it least. In later years, Kliefoth, Ritschl, Gass, perhaps also Dorner and Uhlhorn, obliged him to modify an opinion which the entire school of Schleiermacher, including the illustrious Rothe, served only to confirm. Germany, as he found it when he began to see the world, little resembled that of his old age, when the work he had pursued for seventy years was carried forward, with knowledge and power like his own, by the best of his countrymen. The proportion of things was changed. There was a religious literature to be proud of, to rely on: other nations, other epochs, had lost their superiority. As his own people advanced, and dominated in the branches of learning to which his life was given, in everything except literary history and epigraphies, and there was no more need to look abroad, Doellinger's cosmopolitan characteristic diminished, he was more absorbed in the national thought and work, and did not object to be called the most German of the Germans.
The idea that religious science is not so much science as religion, that it should be treated differently from other matters, so that he who treats it may rightly display his soul, flourished in his vicinity, inspiring the lives of Saint Elizabeth and Joan of Arc, Moehler's fine lectures on the early fathers, and the book which Gratry chose to entitle a Commentary on St. Matthew. Doellinger came early to the belief that history ought to be impersonal, that the historian does well to keep out of the way, to be humble and self-denying, making it a religious duty to prevent the intrusion of all that betrays his own position and quality, his hopes and wishes. Without aspiring to the calm indifference of Ranke, he was conscious that, in early life, he had been too positive, and too eager to persuade. The Belgian scholar who, conversing with him in 1842, was reminded of Fenelon, missed the acuter angles of his character. He, who in private intercourse sometimes allowed himself to persist, to contradict, and even to baffle a bore by frankly falling asleep, would have declined the evocation of Versailles. But in reasonableness, moderation, and charity, in general culture of mind and the sense of the demands of the progress of civilisation, in the ideal church for which he lived, he was more in harmony with Fenelon than with many others who resembled him in the character of their work.
He deemed it catholic to take ideas from history, and heresy to take them into it. When men gave evidence for the opposite party, and against their own, he willingly took for impartiality what he could not always distinguish from indifference or subdivision. He felt that sincere history was the royal road to religious union, and he specially cultivated those who saw both sides. He would cite with complacency what clever Jesuits, Raynaud and Faure, said for the Reformation, Mariana and Cordara against their society. When a Rhenish Catholic and a Genevese Calvinist drew two portraits of Calvin which were virtually the same, or when, in Ficker's revision of Boehmer, the Catholic defended the Emperor Frederic II. against the Protestant, he rejoiced as over a sign of the advent of science. As the Middle Ages, rescued from polemics by the genial and uncritical sympathy of Mueller, became an object of popular study, and Royer Collard said of Villemain, Il a fait, il fait, et il fera toujours son Gregoire VII., there were Catholics who desired, by a prolonged sorites, to derive advantage from the new spirit. Wiseman consulted Doellinger for the purpose. "Will you be kind enough to write me a list of what you consider the best books for the history of the Reformation; Menzel and Buchholz I know; especially any exposing the characters of the leading reformers?" In the same frame of mind he asked him what pope there was whose good name had not been vindicated; and Doellinger's reply, that Boniface VIII. wanted a friend, prompted both Wiseman's article and Tosti's book.