On the other hand, it appeared that a blow which struck the Catholic scholars of Germany would assure to the victorious congregation of Roman divines an easy supremacy over the writers of all other countries. The case of Dr. Frohschammer might be made to test what degree of control it would be possible to exercise over his countrymen, the only body of writers at whom alarm was felt, and who insisted, more than others, on their freedom. But the suspicion of such a possibility was likely only to confirm him in the idea that he was chosen to be the experimental body on which an important principle was to be decided, and that it was his duty, till his dogmatic error was proved, to resist a questionable encroachment of authority upon the rights of freedom. He therefore refused to make the preliminary submission which was required of him, and allowed the decree to go forth against him in the usual way. Hereupon it was intimated to him—though not by Rome—that he had incurred excommunication. This was the measure which raised the momentous question of the liberties of Catholic science, and gave the impulse to that new theory on the limits of authority with which his name has become associated.
In the civil affairs of mankind it is necessary to assume that the knowledge of the moral code and the traditions of law cannot perish in a Christian nation. Particular authorities may fall into error; decisions may be appealed against; laws may be repealed, but the political conscience of the whole people cannot be irrecoverably lost. The Church possesses the same privilege, but in a much higher degree, for she exists expressly for the purpose of preserving a definite body of truths, the knowledge of which she can never lose. Whatever authority, therefore, expresses that knowledge of which she is the keeper must be obeyed. But there is no institution from which this knowledge can be obtained with immediate certainty. A council is not a priori oecumenical; the Holy See is not separately infallible. The one has to await a sanction, the other has repeatedly erred. Every decree, therefore, requires a preliminary examination.
A writer who is censured may, in the first place, yield an external submission, either for the sake of discipline, or because his conviction is too weak to support him against the weight of authority. But if the question at issue is more important than the preservation of peace, and if his conviction is strong, he inquires whether the authority which condemns him utters the voice of the Church. If he finds that it does, he yields to it, or ceases to profess the faith of Catholics. If he finds that it does not, but is only the voice of authority, he owes it to his conscience, and to the supreme claims of truth, to remain constant to that which he believes, in spite of opposition. No authority has power to impose error, and, if it resists the truth, the truth must be upheld until it is admitted. Now the adversaries of Dr. Frohschammer had fallen into the monstrous error of attributing to the congregation of the Index a share in the infallibility of the Church. He was placed in the position of a persecuted man, and the general sympathy was with him. In his defence he proceeded to state his theory of the rights of science, in order to vindicate the Church from the imputation of restricting its freedom. Hitherto his works had been written in defence of a Christian philosophy against materialism and infidelity. Their object had been thoroughly religious, and although he was not deeply read in ecclesiastical literature, and was often loose and incautious in the use of theological terms, his writings had not been wanting in catholicity of spirit; but after his condemnation by Rome he undertook to pull down the power which had dealt the blow, and to make himself safe for the future. In this spirit of personal antagonism he commenced a long series of writings in defence of freedom and in defiance of authority.
The following abstract marks, not so much the outline of his system, as the logical steps which carried him to the point where he passed beyond the limit of Catholicism. Religion, he taught, supplies materials but no criterion for philosophy; philosophy has nothing to rely on, in the last resort, but the unfailing veracity of our nature, which is not corrupt or weak, but normally healthy, and unable to deceive us. There is not greater division or uncertainty in matters of speculation than on questions of faith. If at any time error or doubt should arise, the science possesses in itself the means of correcting or removing it, and no other remedy is efficacious but that which it applies to itself. There can be no free philosophy if we must always remember dogma. Philosophy includes in its sphere all the dogmas of revelation, as well as those of natural religion. It examines by its own independent light the substance of every Christian doctrine, and determines in each case whether it be divine truth. The conclusions and judgments at which it thus arrives must be maintained even when they contradict articles of faith. As we accept the evidence of astronomy in opposition to the once settled opinion of divines, so we should not shrink from the evidence of chemistry if it should be adverse to transubstantiation. The Church, on the other hand, examines these conclusions by her standard of faith, and decides whether they can be taught in theology. But she has no means of ascertaining the philosophical truth of an opinion, and cannot convict the philosopher of error. The two domains are as distinct as reason and faith; and we must not identify what we know with what we believe, but must separate the philosopher from his philosophy. The system may be utterly at variance with the whole teaching of Christianity, and yet the philosopher, while he holds it to be philosophically true and certain, may continue to believe all Catholic doctrine, and to perform all the spiritual duties of a layman or a priest. For discord cannot exist between the certain results of scientific investigation and the real doctrines of the Church. Both are true, and there is no conflict of truths. But while the teaching of science is distinct and definite, that of the Church is subject to alteration. Theology is at no time absolutely complete, but always liable to be modified, and cannot, therefore, be made a fixed test of truth. Consequently there is no reason against the union of the Churches. For the liberty of private judgment, which is the formal principle of Protestantism, belongs to Catholics; and there is no actual Catholic dogma which may not lose all that is objectionable to Protestants by the transforming process of development.
The errors of Dr. Frohschammer in these passages are not exclusively his own. He has only drawn certain conclusions from premisses which are very commonly received. Nothing is more usual than to confound religious truth with the voice of ecclesiastical authority. Dr. Frohschammer, having fallen into this vulgar mistake, argues that because the authority is fallible the truth must be uncertain. Many Catholics attribute to theological opinions which have prevailed for centuries without reproach a sacredness nearly approaching that which belongs to articles of faith: Dr. Frohschammer extends to defined dogmas the liability to change which belongs to opinions that yet await a final and conclusive investigation. Thousands of zealous men are persuaded that a conflict may arise between defined doctrines of the Church and conclusions which are certain according to all the tests of science; Dr. Frohschammer adopts this view, and argues that none of the decisions of the Church are final, and that consequently in such a case they must give way. Lastly, uninstructed men commonly impute to historical and natural science the uncertainty which is inseparable from pure speculation: Dr. Frohschammer accepts the equality, but claims for metaphysics the same certainty and independence which those sciences possess.
Having begun his course in company with many who have exactly opposite ends in view, Dr. Frohschammer, in a recent tract on the union of the Churches, entirely separates himself from the Catholic Church in his theory of development. He had received the impulse to his new system from the opposition of those whom he considered the advocates of an excessive uniformity and the enemies of progress, and their contradiction has driven him to a point where he entirely sacrifices unity to change. He now affirms that our Lord desired no unity or perfect conformity among His followers, except in morals and charity; that He gave no definite system of doctrine; and that the form which Christian faith may have assumed in a particular age has no validity for all future time, but is subject to continual modification. The definitions, he says, which the Church has made from time to time are not to be obstinately adhered to; and the advancement of religious knowledge is obtained by genius, not by learning, and is not regulated by traditions and fixed rules. He maintains that not only the form but the substance varies; that the belief of one age may be not only extended but abandoned in another; and that it is impossible to draw the line which separates immutable dogma from undecided opinions.
The causes which drove Dr. Frohschammer into heresy would scarcely have deserved great attention from the mere merit of the man, for he cannot be acquitted of having, in the first instance, exhibited very superficial notions of theology. Their instructiveness consists in the conspicuous example they afford of the effect of certain errors which at the present day are commonly held and rarely contradicted. When he found himself censured unjustly, as he thought, by the Holy See, it should have been enough for him to believe in his conscience that he was in agreement with the true faith of the Church. He would not then have proceeded to consider the whole Church infected with the liability to err from which her rulers are not exempt, or to degrade the fundamental truths of Christianity to the level of mere school opinions. Authority appeared in his eyes to stand for the whole Church; and therefore, in endeavouring to shield himself from its influence, he abandoned the first principles of the ecclesiastical system. Far from having aided the cause of freedom, his errors have provoked a reaction against it, which must be looked upon with deep anxiety, and of which the first significant symptom remains to be described.
On the 21st of December 1863, the Pope addressed a Brief to the Archbishop of Munich, which was published on the 5th of March. This document explains that the Holy Father had originally been led to suspect the recent Congress at Munich of a tendency similar to that of Frohschammer, and had consequently viewed it with great distrust; but that these feelings were removed by the address which was adopted at the meeting, and by the report of the Archbishop. And he expresses the consolation he has derived from the principles which prevailed in the assembly, and applauds the design of those by whom it was convened. He asked for the opinion of the German prelates, in order to be able to determine whether, in the present circumstances of their Church, it is right that the Congress should be renewed.
Besides the censure of the doctrines of Frohschammer, and the approbation given to the acts of the Munich Congress, the Brief contains passages of deeper and more general import, not directly touching the action of the German divines, but having an important bearing on the position of this Review. The substance of these passages is as follows: In the present condition of society the supreme authority in the Church is more than ever necessary, and must not surrender in the smallest degree the exclusive direction of ecclesiastical knowledge. An entire obedience to the decrees of the Holy See and the Roman congregations cannot be inconsistent with the freedom and progress of science. The disposition to find fault with the scholastic theology, and to dispute the conclusions and the method of its teachers, threatens the authority of the Church, because the Church has not only allowed theology to remain for centuries faithful to their system, but has urgently recommended it as the safest bulwark of the faith, and an efficient weapon against her enemies. Catholic writers are not bound only by those decisions of the infallible Church which regard articles of faith. They must also submit to the theological decisions of the Roman congregations, and to the opinions which are commonly received in the schools. And it is wrong, though not heretical, to reject those decisions or opinions.
In a word, therefore, the Brief affirms that the common opinions and explanations of Catholic divines ought not to yield to the progress of secular science, and that the course of theological knowledge ought to be controlled by the decrees of the Index.
There is no doubt that the letter of this document might be interpreted in a sense consistent with the habitual language of the Home and Foreign Review. On the one hand, the censure is evidently aimed at that exaggerated claim of independence which would deny to the Pope and the Episcopate any right of interfering in literature, and would transfer the whole weight heretofore belonging to the traditions of the schools of theology to the incomplete, and therefore uncertain, conclusions of modern science. On the other hand, the Review has always maintained, in common with all Catholics, that if the one Church has an organ it is through that organ that she must speak; that her authority is not limited to the precise sphere of her infallibility; and that opinions which she has long tolerated or approved, and has for centuries found compatible with the secular as well as religious knowledge of the age, cannot be lightly supplanted by new hypotheses of scientific men, which have not yet had time to prove their consistency with dogmatic truth. But such a plausible accommodation, even if it were honest or dignified, would only disguise and obscure those ideas which it has been the chief object of the Review to proclaim. It is, therefore, not only more respectful to the Holy See, but more serviceable to the principles of the Review itself, and more in accordance with the spirit in which it has been conducted, to interpret the words of the Pope as they were really meant, than to elude their consequences by subtle distinctions, and to profess a formal adoption of maxims which no man who holds the principles of the Review can accept in their intended signification.
One of these maxims is that theological and other opinions long held and allowed in the Church gather truth from time, and an authority in some sort binding from the implied sanction of the Holy See, so that they cannot be rejected without rashness; and that the decrees of the congregation of the Index possess an authority quite independent of the acquirements of the men composing it. This is no new opinion; it is only expressed on the present occasion with unusual solemnity and distinctness. But one of the essential principles of this Review consists in a clear recognition, first, of the infinite gulf which in theology separates what is of faith from what is not of faith,—revealed dogmas from opinions unconnected with them by logical necessity, and therefore incapable of anything higher than a natural certainty—and next, of the practical difference which exists in ecclesiastical discipline between the acts of infallible authority and those which possess no higher sanction than that of canonical legality. That which is not decided with dogmatic infallibility is for the time susceptible only of a scientific determination, which advances with the progress of science, and becomes absolute only where science has attained its final results. On the one hand, this scientific progress is beneficial, and even necessary, to the Church; on the other, it must inevitably be opposed by the guardians of traditional opinion, to whom, as such, no share in it belongs, and who, by their own acts and those of their predecessors, are committed to views which it menaces or destroys. The same principle which, in certain conjunctures, imposes the duty of surrendering received opinions imposes in equal extent, and under like conditions, the duty of disregarding the fallible authorities that uphold them.
It is the design of the Holy See not, of course, to deny the distinction between dogma and opinion, upon which this duty is founded, but to reduce the practical recognition of it among Catholics to the smallest possible limits. A grave question therefore arises as to the position of a Review founded in great part for the purpose of exemplifying this distinction. In considering the solution of this question two circumstances must be borne in mind: first, that the antagonism now so forcibly expressed has always been known and acknowledged; and secondly, that no part of the Brief applies directly to the Review. The Review was as distinctly opposed to the Roman sentiment before the Brief as since, and it is still as free from censure as before. It was at no time in virtual sympathy with authority on the points in question, and it is not now in formal conflict with authority.
But the definiteness with which the Holy See has pronounced its will, and the fact that it has taken the initiative, seem positively to invite adhesion, and to convey a special warning to all who have expressed opinions contrary to the maxims of the Brief. A periodical which not only has done so, but exists in a measure for the purpose of doing so, cannot with propriety refuse to survey the new position in which it is placed by this important act. For the conduct of a Review involves more delicate relations with the government of the Church than the authorship of an isolated book. When opinions which an author defends are rejected at Rome, he either makes his submission, or, if his mind remains unaltered, silently leaves his book to take its chance, and to influence men according to its merits. But such passivity, however right and seemly in the author of a book, is inapplicable to the case of a Review. The periodical iteration of rejected propositions would amount to insult and defiance, and would probably provoke more definite measures; and thus the result would be to commit authority yet more irrevocably to an opinion which otherwise might take no deep root, and might yield ultimately to the influence of time. For it is hard to surrender a cause on behalf of which a struggle has been sustained, and spiritual evils have been inflicted. In an isolated book, the author need discuss no more topics than he likes, and any want of agreement with ecclesiastical authority may receive so little prominence as to excite no attention. But a continuous Review, which adopted this kind of reserve, would give a negative prominence to the topics it persistently avoided, and by thus keeping before the world the position it occupied would hold out a perpetual invitation to its readers to judge between the Church and itself. Whatever it gained of approbation and assent would be so much lost to the authority and dignity of the Holy See. It could only hope to succeed by trading on the scandal it caused.
But in reality its success could no longer advance the cause of truth. For what is the Holy See in its relation to the masses of Catholics, and where does its strength lie? It is the organ, the mouth, the head of the Church. Its strength consists in its agreement with the general conviction of the faithful. When it expresses the common knowledge and sense of the age, or of a large majority of Catholics, its position is impregnable. The force it derives from this general support makes direct opposition hopeless, and therefore disedifying, tending only to division and promoting reaction rather than reform. The influence by which it is to be moved must be directed first on that which gives its strength, and must pervade the members in order that it may reach the head. While the general sentiment of Catholics is unaltered, the course of the Holy See remains unaltered too. As soon as that sentiment is modified, Rome sympathises with the change. The ecclesiastical government, based upon the public opinion of the Church, and acting through it, cannot separate itself from the mass of the faithful, and keep pace with the progress of the instructed minority. It follows slowly and warily, and sometimes begins by resisting and denouncing what in the end it thoroughly adopts. Hence a direct controversy with Rome holds out the prospect of great evils, and at best a barren and unprofitable victory. The victory that is fruitful springs from that gradual change in the knowledge, the ideas, and the convictions of the Catholic body, which, in due time, overcomes the natural reluctance to forsake a beaten path, and by insensible degrees constrains the mouthpiece of tradition to conform itself to the new atmosphere with which it is surrounded. The slow, silent, indirect action of public opinion bears the Holy See along, without any demoralising conflict or dishonourable capitulation. This action belongs essentially to the graver scientific literature to direct: and the inquiry what form that literature should assume at any given moment involves no question which affects its substance, though it may often involve questions of moral fitness sufficiently decisive for a particular occasion.
It was never pretended that the Home and Foreign Review represented the opinions of the majority of Catholics. The Holy See has had their support in maintaining a view of the obligations of Catholic literature very different from the one which has been upheld in these pages; nor could it explicitly abandon that view without taking up a new position in the Church. All that could be hoped for on the other side was silence and forbearance, and for a time they have been conceded. But this is the case no longer. The toleration has now been pointedly withdrawn; and the adversaries of the Roman theory have been challenged with the summons to submit.
If the opinions for which submission is claimed were new, or if the opposition now signalised were one of which there had hitherto been any doubt, a question might have arisen as to the limits of the authority of the Holy See over the conscience, and the necessity or possibility of accepting the view which it propounds. But no problem of this kind has in fact presented itself for consideration. The differences which are now proclaimed have all along been acknowledged to exist; and the conductors of this Review are unable to yield their assent to the opinions put forward in the Brief.
In these circumstances there are two courses which it is impossible to take. It would be wrong to abandon principles which have been well considered and are sincerely held, and it would also be wrong to assail the authority which contradicts them. The principles have not ceased to be true, nor the authority to be legitimate, because the two are in contradiction. To submit the intellect and conscience without examining the reasonableness and justice of this decree, or to reject the authority on the ground of its having been abused, would equally be a sin, on one side against morals, on the other against faith. The conscience cannot be relieved by casting on the administrators of ecclesiastical discipline the whole responsibility of preserving religious truth; nor can it be emancipated by a virtual apostasy. For the Church is neither a despotism in which the convictions of the faithful possess no power of expressing themselves and no means of exercising legitimate control, nor is it an organised anarchy where the judicial and administrative powers are destitute of that authority which is conceded to them in civil society—the authority which commands submission even where it cannot impose a conviction of the righteousness of its acts.
No Catholic can contemplate without alarm the evil that would be caused by a Catholic journal persistently labouring to thwart the published will of the Holy See, and continuously defying its authority. The conductors of this Review refuse to take upon themselves the responsibility of such a position. And if it were accepted, the Review would represent no section of Catholics. But the representative character is as essential to it as the opinions it professes, or the literary resources it commands. There is no lack of periodical publications representing science apart from religion, or religion apart from science. The distinctive feature of the Home and Foreign Review has been that it has attempted to exhibit the two in union; and the interest which has been attached to its views proceeded from the fact that they were put forward as essentially Catholic in proportion to their scientific truth, and as expressing more faithfully than even the voice of authority the genuine spirit of the Church in relation to intellect. Its object has been to elucidate the harmony which exists between religion and the established conclusions of secular knowledge, and to exhibit the real amity and sympathy between the methods of science and the methods employed by the Church. That amity and sympathy the enemies of the Church refuse to admit, and her friends have not learned to understand. Long disowned by a large part of our Episcopate, they are now rejected by the Holy See; and the issue is vital to a Review which, in ceasing to uphold them, would surrender the whole reason of its existence.
Warned, therefore, by the language of the Brief, I will not provoke ecclesiastical authority to a more explicit repudiation of doctrines which are necessary to secure its influence upon the advance of modern science. I will not challenge a conflict which would only deceive the world into a belief that religion cannot be harmonised with all that is right and true in the progress of the present age. But I will sacrifice the existence of the Review to the defence of its principles, in order that I may combine the obedience which is due to legitimate ecclesiastical authority, with an equally conscientious maintenance of the rightful and necessary liberty of thought. A conjuncture like the present does not perplex the conscience of a Catholic; for his obligation to refrain from wounding the peace of the Church is neither more nor less real than that of professing nothing beside or against his convictions. If these duties have not been always understood, at least the Home and Foreign Review will not betray them; and the cause it has imperfectly expounded can be more efficiently served in future by means which will neither weaken the position of authority nor depend for their influence on its approval.
If, as I have heard, but now am scarcely anxious to believe, there are those, both in the communion of the Church and out of it, who have found comfort in the existence of this Review, and have watched its straight short course with hopeful interest, trusting it as a sign that the knowledge deposited in their minds by study, and transformed by conscience into inviolable convictions, was not only tolerated among Catholics, but might be reasonably held to be of the very essence of their system; who were willing to accept its principles as a possible solution of the difficulties they saw in Catholicism, and were even prepared to make its fate the touchstone of the real spirit of our hierarchy; or who deemed that while it lasted it promised them some immunity from the overwhelming pressure of uniformity, some safeguard against resistance to the growth of knowledge and of freedom, and some protection for themselves, since, however weak its influence as an auxiliary, it would, by its position, encounter the first shock, and so divert from others the censures which they apprehended; who have found a welcome encouragement in its confidence, a satisfaction in its sincerity when they shrank from revealing their own thoughts, or a salutary restraint when its moderation failed to satisfy their ardour; whom, not being Catholics, it has induced to think less hardly of the Church, or, being Catholics, has bound more strongly to her;—to all these I would say that the principles it has upheld will not die with it, but will find their destined advocates, and triumph in their appointed time. From the beginning of the Church it has been a law of her nature, that the truths which eventually proved themselves the legitimate products of her doctrine, have had to make their slow way upwards through a phalanx of hostile habits and traditions, and to be rescued, not only from open enemies, but also from friendly hands that were not worthy to defend them. It is right that in every arduous enterprise some one who stakes no influence on the issue should make the first essay, whilst the true champions, like the Triarii of the Roman legions, are behind, and wait, without wavering, until the crisis calls them forward.
And already it seems to have arrived. All that is being done for ecclesiastical learning by the priesthood of the Continent bears testimony to the truths which are now called in question; and every work of real science written by a Catholic adds to their force. The example of great writers aids their cause more powerfully than many theoretical discussions. Indeed, when the principles of the antagonism which divides Catholics have been brought clearly out, the part of theory is accomplished, and most of the work of a Review is done. It remains that the principles which have been made intelligible should be translated into practice, and should pass from the arena of discussion into the ethical code of literature. In that shape their efficacy will be acknowledged, and they will cease to be the object of alarm. Those who have been indignant at hearing that their methods are obsolete and their labours vain, will be taught by experience to recognise in the works of another school services to religion more momentous than those which they themselves have aspired to perform; practice will compel the assent which is denied to theory; and men will learn to value in the fruit what the germ did not reveal to them. Therefore it is to the prospect of that development of Catholic learning which is too powerful to be arrested or repressed that I would direct the thoughts of those who are tempted to yield either to a malignant joy or an unjust despondency at the language of the Holy See. If the spirit of the Home and Foreign Review really animates those whose sympathy it enjoyed, neither their principles, nor their confidence, nor their hopes will be shaken by its extinction. It was but a partial and temporary embodiment of an imperishable idea—the faint reflection of a light which still lives and burns in the hearts of the silent thinkers of the Church.
[Footnote 340: Home and Foreign Review, April 1864.]
[Footnote 341: Lamennais, Correspondence, Nouvelle edition (Paris: Didier).]
[Footnote 342: April 12 and June 25, 1830.]
[Footnote 343: Feb. 27, 1831.]
[Footnote 344: March 30, 1831.]
[Footnote 345: May 8 and June 15, 1829.]
[Footnote 346: Feb. 8, 1830.]
[Footnote 347: Aug. 15, 1831.]
[Footnote 348: Feb. 10, 1833.]
[Footnote 349: July 6, 1829.]
[Footnote 350: Sept. 15, 1832.]
[Footnote 351: Oct. 9, 1832.]
[Footnote 352: Jan. 25, 1833.]
[Footnote 353: Feb. 5, 1833.]
[Footnote 354: March 25, 1833.]
[Footnote 355: Naturphilosophie, p. 115; Einleitung in die Philosophie, pp. 40, 54; Freiheit der Wissenschaft, pp. 4, 89; Athenaeum, i. 17.]
[Footnote 356: Athenaeum, i. 92.]
[Footnote 357: Freiheit der Wissenschaft, p. 32.]
[Footnote 358: Athenaeum, i. 167.]
[Footnote 359: Einleitung, pp. 305, 317, 397.]
[Footnote 360: Athenaeum, i. 208.]
[Footnote 361: Ibid. ii. 655.]
[Footnote 362: Ibid. ii. 676.]
[Footnote 363: Ibid. ii. 661.]
[Footnote 364: Wiedervereinigung der Katholiken und Protestanten, pp. 26, 35.]
[Footnote 365: Wiedervereinigung, pp. 8, 10.]
[Footnote 366: Ibid. p. 15.]
[Footnote 367: Ibid. p. 21.]
[Footnote 368: Ibid. pp. 25, 26.]
[Footnote 369: The prospectus of the Review contained these words: "It will abstain from direct theological discussion, as far as external circumstances will allow; and in dealing with those mixed questions into which theology indirectly enters, its aim will be to combine devotion to the Church with discrimination and candour in the treatment of her opponents: to reconcile freedom of inquiry with implicit faith, and to discountenance what is untenable and unreal, without forgetting the tenderness due to the weak, or the reverence rightly claimed for what is sacred. Submitting without reserve to infallible authority, it will encourage a habit of manly investigation on subjects of scientific interest."]
THE VATICAN COUNCIL
The intention of Pius IX. to convene a General Council became known in the autumn of 1864, shortly before the appearance of the Syllabus. They were the two principal measures which were designed to restore the spiritual and temporal power of the Holy See. When the idea of the Council was first put forward it met with no favour. The French bishops discouraged it; and the French bishops holding the talisman of the occupying army, spoke with authority. Later on, when the position had been altered by the impulse which the Syllabus gave to the ultramontane opinions, they revived the scheme they had first opposed. Those who felt their influence injured by the change persuaded themselves that the Court of Rome was more prudent than some of its partisans, and that the Episcopate was less given to extremes than the priesthood and laity. They conceived the hope that an assembly of bishops would curb the intemperance of a zeal which was largely directed against their own order, and would authentically sanction such an exposition of Catholic ideas as would reconcile the animosity that feeds on things spoken in the heat of controversy, and on the errors of incompetent apologists. They had accepted the Syllabus; but they wished to obtain canonicity for their own interpretation of it. If those who had succeeded in assigning an acceptable meaning to its censures could appear in a body to plead their cause before the Pope, the pretensions which compromised the Church might be permanently repressed.
Once, during the struggle for the temporal power, the question was pertinently asked, how it was that men so perspicacious and so enlightened as those who were its most conspicuous champions, could bring themselves to justify a system of government which their own principles condemned. The explanation then given was, that they were making a sacrifice which would be compensated hereafter, that those who succoured the Pope in his utmost need were establishing a claim which would make them irresistible in better times, when they should demand great acts of conciliation and reform. It appeared to these men that the time had come to reap the harvest they had arduously sown.
The Council did not originate in the desire to exalt beyond measure the cause of Rome. It was proposed in the interest of moderation; and the Bishop of Orleans was one of those who took the lead in promoting it. The Cardinals were consulted, and pronounced against it The Pope overruled their resistance. Whatever embarrassments might be in store, and however difficult the enterprise, it was clear that it would evoke a force capable of accomplishing infinite good for religion. It was an instrument of unknown power that inspired little confidence, but awakened vague hopes of relief for the ills of society and the divisions of Christendom. The guardians of immovable traditions, and the leaders of progress in religious knowledge, were not to share in the work. The schism of the East was widened by the angry quarrel between Russia and the Pope; and the letter to the Protestants, whose orders are not recognised at Rome, could not be more than a ceremonious challenge. There was no promise of sympathy in these invitations or in the answers they provoked; but the belief spread to many schools of thought, and was held by Dr. Pusey and by Dean Stanley, by Professor Hase and by M. Guizot, that the auspicious issue of the Council was an object of vital care to all denominations of Christian men.
The Council of Trent impressed on the Church the stamp of an intolerant age, and perpetuated by its decrees the spirit of an austere immorality. The ideas embodied in the Roman Inquisition became characteristic of a system which obeyed expediency by submitting to indefinite modification, but underwent no change of principle. Three centuries have so changed the world that the maxims with which the Church resisted the Reformation have become her weakness and her reproach, and that which arrested her decline now arrests her progress. To break effectually with that tradition and eradicate its influence, nothing less is required than an authority equal to that by which it was imposed. The Vatican Council was the first sufficient occasion which Catholicism had enjoyed to reform, remodel, and adapt the work of Trent. This idea was present among the motives which caused it to be summoned. It was apparent that two systems which cannot be reconciled were about to contend at the Council; but the extent and force of the reforming spirit were unknown.
Seventeen questions submitted by the Holy See to the bishops in 1867 concerned matters of discipline, the regulation of marriage and education, the policy of encouraging new monastic orders, and the means of making the parochial clergy more dependent on the bishops. They gave no indication of the deeper motives of the time. In the midst of many trivial proposals, the leading objects of reform grew more defined as the time approached, and men became conscious of distinct purposes based on a consistent notion of the Church. They received systematic expression from a Bohemian priest, whose work, The Reform of the Church in its Head and Members, is founded on practical experience, not only on literary theory, and is the most important manifesto of these ideas. The author exhorts the Council to restrict centralisation, to reduce the office of the Holy See to the ancient limits of its primacy, to restore to the Episcopate the prerogatives which have been confiscated by Rome, to abolish the temporal government, which is the prop of hierarchical despotism, to revise the matrimonial discipline, to suppress many religious orders and the solemn vows for all, to modify the absolute rule of celibacy for the clergy, to admit the use of the vernacular in the Liturgy, to allow a larger share to the laity in the management of ecclesiastical affairs, to encourage the education of the clergy at universities, and to renounce the claims of mediaeval theocracy, which are fruitful of suspicion between Church and State.
Many Catholics in many countries concurred in great part of this programme; but it was not the symbol of a connected party. Few agreed with the author in all parts of his ideal church, or did not think that he had omitted essential points. Among the inveterate abuses which the Council of Trent failed to extirpate was the very one which gave the first impulse to Lutheranism. The belief is still retained in the superficial Catholicism of Southern Europe that the Pope can release the dead from Purgatory; and money is obtained at Rome on the assurance that every mass said at a particular altar opens heaven to the soul for which it is offered up. On the other hand, the Index of prohibited books is an institution of Tridentine origin, which has become so unwieldy and opprobrious that even men of strong Roman sympathies, like the bishops of Wuerzburg and St. Poelten, recommended its reform. In France it was thought that the Government would surrender the organic articles, if the rights of the bishops and the clergy were made secure under the canon law, if national and diocesan synods were introduced, and if a proportionate share was given to Catholic countries in the Sacred College and the Roman congregations. The aspiration in which all the advocates of reform seemed to unite was that those customs should be changed which are connected with arbitrary power in the Church. And all the interests threatened by this movement combined in the endeavour to maintain intact the papal prerogative. To proclaim the Pope infallible was their compendious security against hostile States and Churches, against human liberty and authority, against disintegrating tolerance and rationalising science, against error and sin. It became the common refuge of those who shunned what was called the liberal influence in Catholicism.
Pius IX. constantly asserted that the desire of obtaining the recognition of papal infallibility was not originally his motive in convoking the Council. He did not require that a privilege which was practically undisputed should be further defined. The bishops, especially those of the minority, were never tired of saying that the Catholic world honoured and obeyed the Pope as it had never done before. Virtually he had exerted all the authority which the dogma could confer on him. In his first important utterance, the Encyclical of November 1846, he announced that he was infallible; and the claim raised no commotion. Later on he applied a more decisive test, and gained a more complete success, when the bishops summoned to Rome, not as a Council but as an audience, received from him an additional article of their faith. But apart from the dogma of infallibility he had a strong desire to establish certain cherished opinions of his own on a basis firm enough to outlast his time. They were collected in the Syllabus, which contained the essence of what he had written during many years, and was an abridgment of the lessons which his life had taught him. He was anxious that they should not be lost. They were part of a coherent system. The Syllabus was not rejected; but its edge was blunted and its point broken by the zeal which was spent in explaining it away; and the Pope feared that it would be contested if he repudiated the soothing interpretations. In private he said that he wished to have no interpreter but himself. While the Jesuit preachers proclaimed that the Syllabus bore the full sanction of infallibility, higher functionaries of the Court pointed out that it was an informal document, without definite official value. Probably the Pope would have been content that these his favourite ideas should be rescued from evasion by being incorporated in the canons of the Council. Papal infallibility was implied rather than included among them. Whilst the authority of his acts was not resisted, he was not eager to disparage his right by exposing the need of a more exact definition. The opinions which Pius IX. was anxiously promoting were not the mere fruit of his private meditations; they belonged to the doctrines of a great party, which was busily pursuing its own objects, and had not been always the party of the Pope. In the days of his trouble he had employed an advocate; and the advocate had absorbed the client. During his exile a Jesuit had asked his approbation for a Review, to be conducted by the best talents of the Order, and to be devoted to the papal cause; and he had warmly embraced the idea, less, it should seem, as a prince than as a divine. There were his sovereign rights to maintain; but there was also a doctrinaire interest, there were reminiscences of study as well as practical objects that recommended the project. In these personal views the Pope was not quite consistent. He had made himself the idol of Italian patriots, and of the liberal French Catholics; he had set Theiner to vindicate the suppresser of the Jesuits; and Rosmini, the most enlightened priest in Italy, had been his trusted friend. After his restoration he submitted to other influences; and the writers of the Civilta Cattolica, which followed him to Rome and became his acknowledged organ, acquired power over his mind. These men were not identified with their Order. Their General, Roothan, had disliked the plan of the Review, foreseeing that the Society would be held responsible for writings which it did not approve, and would forfeit the flexibility in adapting itself to the moods of different countries, which is one of the secrets of its prosperity. The Pope arranged the matter by taking the writers under his own protection, and giving to them a sort of exemption and partial immunity under the rule of their Order. They are set apart from other Jesuits; they are assisted and supplied from the literary resources of the Order, and are animated more than any of its other writers by its genuine and characteristic spirit; but they act on their own judgment under the guidance of the Pope, and are a bodyguard, told off from the army, for the personal protection of the Sovereign. It is their easy function to fuse into one system the interests and ideas of the Pope and those of their Society. The result has been, not to weaken by compromise and accommodation, but to intensify both. The prudence and sagacity which are sustained in the government of the Jesuits by their complicated checks on power, and their consideration for the interests of the Order under many various conditions, do not always restrain men who are partially emancipated from its rigorous discipline and subject to a more capricious rule. They were chosen in their capacity as Jesuits, for the sake of the peculiar spirit which their system develops. The Pope appointed them on account of that devotion to himself which is a quality of the Order, and relieved them from some of the restraints which it imposes. He wished for something more papal than other Jesuits; and he himself became more subject to the Jesuits than other pontiffs. He made them a channel of his influence, and became an instrument of their own.
The Jesuits had continued to gain ground in Rome ever since the Pope's return. They had suffered more than others in the revolution that dethroned him; and they had their reward in the restoration. They had long been held in check by the Dominicans; but the theology of the Dominicans had been discountenanced and their spirit broken in 1854, when a doctrine which they had contested for centuries was proclaimed a dogma of faith. In the strife for the Pope's temporal dominion the Jesuits were most zealous; and they were busy in the preparation and in the defence of the Syllabus. They were connected with every measure for which the Pope most cared; and their divines became the oracles of the Roman congregations. The papal infallibility had been always their favourite doctrine. Its adoption by the Council promised to give to their theology official warrant, and to their Order the supremacy in the Church. They were now in power; and they snatched their opportunity when the Council was convoked.
Efforts to establish this doctrine had been going on for years. The dogmatic decree of 1854 involved it so distinctly that its formal recognition seemed to be only a question of time and zeal. People even said that it was the real object of that decree to create a precedent which should make it impossible afterwards to deny papal infallibility. The Catechisms were altered, or new ones were substituted, in which it was taught. After 1852 the doctrine began to show itself in the Acts of provincial synods, and it was afterwards supposed that the bishops of those provinces were committed to it. One of these synods was held at Cologne; and three surviving members were in the Council at Rome, of whom two were in the minority, and the third had continued in his writings to oppose the doctrine of infallibility, after it had found its way into the Cologne decree. The suspicion that the Acts had been tampered with is suggested by what passed at the synod of Baltimore in 1866. The Archbishop of St. Louis signed the Acts of that synod under protest, and after obtaining a pledge that his protest would be inserted by the apostolic delegate. The pledge was not kept. "I complain," writes the archbishop, "that the promise which had been given was broken. The Acts ought to have been published in their integrity, or not at all." This process was carried on so boldly that men understood what was to come. Protestants foretold that the Catholics would not rest until the Pope was formally declared infallible; and a prelate returning from the meeting of bishops at Rome in 1862 was startled at being asked by a clear-sighted friend whether infallibility had not been brought forward.
It was produced not then, but at the next great meeting, in 1867. The Council had been announced; and the bishops wished to present an address to the Pope. Haynald, Archbishop of Colocza, held the pen, assisted by Franchi, one of the clever Roman prelates and by some bishops, among whom were the Archbishop of Westminster and the Bishop of Orleans. An attempt was made to get the papal infallibility acknowledged in the address. Several bishops declared that they could not show themselves in their dioceses if they came back without having done anything for that doctrine. They were resisted in a way which made them complain that its very name irritated the French. Haynald refused their demand, but agreed to insert the well-known words of the Council of Florence; and the bishops did not go away empty-handed.
A few days before this attempt was made, the Civilta Cattolica had begun to agitate, by proposing that Catholics should bind themselves to die, if need be, for the truth of the doctrine; and the article was printed on a separate sheet, bearing the papal imprimatur, and distributed widely. The check administered by Haynald and his colleagues brought about a lull in the movement; but the French bishops had taken alarm, and Maret, the most learned of them, set about the preparation of his book.
During the winter of 1868-69 several commissions were created in Rome to make ready the materials for the Council. The dogmatic commission included the Jesuits Perrone, Schrader, and Franzelin. The question of infallibility was proposed to it by Cardoni, Archbishop of Edessa, in a dissertation which, having been revised, was afterwards published, and accepted by the leading Roman divines as an adequate exposition of their case. The dogma was approved unanimously, with the exception of one vote, Alzog of Freiberg being the only dissentient. When the other German divines who were in Rome learned the scheme that was on foot in the Dogmatic Commission, they resolved to protest, but were prevented by some of their colleagues. They gave the alarm in Germany. The intention to proclaim infallibility at the Council was no longer a secret. The first bishop who made the wish public was Fessler of St. Poelten. His language was guarded, and he only prepared his readers for a probable contingency; but he was soon followed by the Bishop of Nimes, who thought the discussion of the dogma superfluous, and foreshadowed a vote by acclamation. The Civilta on the 6th of February gave utterance to the hope that the Council would not hesitate to proclaim the dogma and confirm the Syllabus in less than a month. Five days later the Pope wrote to some Venetians who had taken a vow to uphold his infallibility, encouraging their noble resolution to defend his supreme authority and all his rights. Until the month of May Cardinal Antonelli's confidential language to diplomatists was that the dogma was to be proclaimed, and that it would encounter no difficulty.
Cardinal Reisach was to have been the President of the Council. As Archbishop of Munich he had allowed himself and his diocese to be governed by the ablest of all the ultramontane divines. During his long residence in Rome he rose to high estimation, because he was reputed to possess the secret, and to have discovered the vanity, of German science. He had amused himself with Christian antiquities; and his friendship for the great explorer De' Rossi brought him for a time under suspicion of liberality. But later he became unrelenting in his ardour for the objects of the Civilta, and regained the confidence of the Pope. The German bishops complained that he betrayed their interests, and that their church had suffered mischief from his paramount influence. But in Rome his easy temper and affable manners made him friends; and the Court knew that there was no cardinal on whom it was so safe to rely.
Fessler, the first bishop who gave the signal of the intended definition, was appointed Secretary. He was esteemed a learned man in Austria, and he was wisely chosen to dispel the suspicion that the conduct of the Council was to be jealously retained in Roman hands, and to prove that there are qualities by which the confidence of the Court could be won by men of a less favoured nation. Besides the President and Secretary, the most conspicuous of the Pope's theological advisers was a German. At the time when Passaglia's reputation was great in Rome, his companion Clement Schrader shared the fame of his solid erudition. When Passaglia fell into disgrace, his friend smote him with reproaches and intimated the belief that he would follow the footsteps of Luther and debauch a nun. Schrader is the most candid and consistent asserter of the papal claims. He does not shrink from the consequences of the persecuting theory; and he has given the most authentic and unvarnished exposition of the Syllabus. He was the first who spoke out openly what others were variously attempting to compromise or to conceal. While the Paris Jesuits got into trouble for extenuating the Roman doctrine, and had to be kept up to the mark by an abbe who reminded them that the Pope, as a physical person, and without co-operation of the Episcopate, is infallible, Schrader proclaimed that his will is supreme even against the joint and several opinions of the bishops.
When the proceedings of the dogmatic commission, the acts of the Pope, and the language of French and Austrian bishops, and of the press serving the interests of Rome, announced that the proclamation of infallibility had ceased to be merely the aspiration of a party and was the object of a design deliberately set on foot by those to whom the preparation and management of the Council pertained, men became aware that an extraordinary crisis was impending, and that they needed to make themselves familiar with an unforeseen problem. The sense of its gravity made slow progress. The persuasion was strong among divines that the episcopate would not surrender to a party which was odious to many of them; and politicians were reluctant to believe that schemes were ripening such as Fessler described, schemes intended to alter the relations between Church and State. When the entire plan was made public by the alleging Zeitung in March 1869, many refused to be convinced.
It happened that a statesman was in office who had occasion to know that the information was accurate. The Prime Minister of Bavaria, Prince Hohenlohe, was the brother of a cardinal; the University of Munich was represented on the Roman commissions by an illustrious scholar; and the news of the thing that was preparing came through trustworthy channels. On the 9th of April Prince Hohenlohe sent out a diplomatic circular on the subject of the Council. He pointed out that it was not called into existence by any purely theological emergency, and that the one dogma which was to be brought before it involved all those claims which cause collisions between Church and State, and threaten the liberty and the security of governments. Of the five Roman Commissions, one was appointed for the express purpose of dealing with the mixed topics common to religion and to politics. Besides infallibility and politics, the Council was to be occupied with the Syllabus, which is in part directed against maxims of State. The avowed purpose of the Council being so largely political, the governments could not remain indifferent to its action; lest they should be driven afterwards to adopt measures which would be hostile, it would be better at once to seek an understanding by friendly means and to obtain assurance that all irritating deliberations should be avoided, and no business touching the State transacted except in presence of its representatives. He proposed that the governments should hold a conference to arrange a plan for the protection of their common interest.
Important measures proposed by small States are subject to suspicion of being prompted by a greater Power. Prince Hohenlohe, as a friend of the Prussian alliance, was supposed to be acting in this matter in concert with Berlin. This good understanding was suspected at Vienna; for the Austrian Chancellor was more conspicuous as an enemy of Prussia than Hohenlohe as a friend. Count Beust traced the influence of Count Bismarck in the Bavarian circular. He replied, on behalf of the Catholic empire of Austria, that there were no grounds to impute political objects to the Council, and that repression and not prevention was the only policy compatible with free institutions. After the refusal of Austria, the idea of a conference was dismissed by the other Powers; and the first of the storm clouds that darkened the horizon of infallibility passed without breaking.
Although united action was abandoned, the idea of sending ambassadors to the Council still offered the most inoffensive and amicable means of preventing the danger of subsequent conflict. Its policy or impolicy was a question to be decided by France. Several bishops, and Cardinal Bonnechose among the rest, urged the Government to resume its ancient privilege, and send a representative. But two powerful parties, united in nothing else, agreed in demanding absolute neutrality. The democracy wished that no impediment should be put in the way of an enterprise which promised to sever the connection of the State with the Church. M. Ollivier set forth this opinion in July 1868, in a speech which was to serve him in his candidature for office; and in the autumn of 1869 it was certain that he would soon be in power. The ministers could not insist on being admitted to the Council, where they were not invited, without making a violent demonstration in a direction they knew would not be followed. The ultramontanes were even more eager than their enemies to exclude an influence that might embarrass their policy. The Archbishop of Paris, by giving the same advice, settled the question. He probably reckoned on his own power of mediating between France and Rome. The French Court long imagined that the dogma would be set aside, and that the mass of the French bishops opposed it. At last they perceived that they were mistaken, and the Emperor said to Cardinal Bonnechose, "You are going to give your signature to decrees already made." He ascertained the names of the bishops who would resist; and it was known that he was anxious for their success. But he was resolved that it should be gained by them, and not by the pressure of his diplomacy at the cost of displeasing the Pope. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and his chief secretary were counted by the Court of Rome among its friends; and the ordinary ambassador started for his post with instructions to conciliate, and to run no risk of a quarrel. He arrived at Rome believing that there would be a speculative conflict between the extremes of Roman and German theology, which would admit of being reconciled by the safer and more sober wisdom of the French bishops, backed by an impartial embassy. His credulity was an encumbrance to the cause which it was his mission and his wish to serve.
In Germany the plan of penetrating the Council with lay influence took a strange form. It was proposed that the German Catholics should be represented by King John of Saxony. As a Catholic and a scholar, who had shown, in his Commentary on Dante, that he had read St. Thomas, and as a prince personally esteemed by the Pope, it was conceived that his presence would be a salutary restraint. It was an impracticable idea; but letters which reached Rome during the winter raised an impression that the King regretted that he could not be there. The opinion of Germany would still have some weight if the North and South, which included more than thirteen millions of Catholics, worked together. It was the policy of Hohenlohe to use this united force, and the ultramontanes learned to regard him as a very formidable antagonist. When their first great triumph, in the election of the Commission on Doctrine, was accomplished, the commentary of a Roman prelate was, "Che colpo per il Principe Hohenlohe!" The Bavarian envoy in Rome did not share the views of his chief, and he was recalled in November. His successor had capacity to carry out the known policy of the prince; but early in the winter the ultramontanes drove Hohenlohe from office, and their victory, though it was exercised with moderation, and was not followed by a total change of policy, neutralised the influence of Bavaria in the Council.
The fall of Hohenlohe and the abstention of France hampered the Federal Government of Northern Germany. For its Catholic subjects, and ultimately in view of the rivalry with France, to retain the friendship of the papacy is a fixed maxim at Berlin. Count Bismarck laid down the rule that Prussia should display no definite purpose in a cause which was not her own, but should studiously keep abreast of the North German bishops. Those bishops neither invoked, nor by their conduct invited, the co-operation of the State; and its influence would have been banished from the Council but for the minister who represented it in Rome. The vicissitudes of a General Council are so far removed from the normal experience of statesmen that they could not well be studied or acted upon from a distance. A government that strictly controlled and dictated the conduct of its envoy was sure to go wrong, and to frustrate action by theory. A government that trusted the advice of its minister present on the spot enjoyed a great advantage. Baron Arnim was favourably situated. A Catholic belonging to any but the ultramontane school would have been less willingly listened to in Rome than a Protestant who was a conservative in politics, and whose regard for the interests of religion was so undamaged by the sectarian taint that he was known to be sincere in the wish that Catholics should have cause to rejoice in the prosperity of their Church. The apathy of Austria and the vacillation of France contributed to his influence, for he enjoyed the confidence of bishops from both countries; and he was able to guide his own government in its course towards the Council.
The English Government was content to learn more and to speak less than the other Powers at Rome. The usual distrust of the Roman Court towards a Liberal ministry in England was increased at the moment by the measure which the Catholics had desired and applauded. It seemed improbable to men more solicitous for acquired rights than for general political principle, that Protestant statesmen who disestablished their own Church could feel a very sincere interest in the welfare of another. Ministers so Utopian as to give up solid goods for an imaginary righteousness seemed, as practical advisers, open to grave suspicion. Mr. Gladstone was feared as the apostle of those doctrines to which Rome owes many losses. Public opinion in England was not prepared to look on papal infallibility as a matter of national concern, more than other dogmas which make enemies to Catholicism. Even if the Government could have admitted the Prussian maxim of keeping in line with the bishops, it would have accomplished nothing. The English bishops were divided; but the Irish bishops, who are the natural foes of the Fenian plot, were by an immense majority on the ultramontane side. There was almost an ostentation of care on the part of the Government to avoid the appearance of wishing to influence the bishops or the Court of Rome. When at length England publicly concurred in the remonstrances of France, events had happened which showed that the Council was raising up dangers for both Catholic and liberal interests. It was a result so easy to foresee, that the Government had made it clear from the beginning that its extreme reserve was not due to indifference.
The lesser Catholic Powers were almost unrepresented in Rome. The government of the Regent of Spain possessed no moral authority over bishops appointed by the Queen; and the revolution had proved so hostile to the clergy that they were forced to depend on the Pope. Diplomatic relations being interrupted, there was nothing to restrain them from seeking favour by unqualified obedience.
Portugal had appointed the Count de Lavradio ambassador to the Council; but when he found that he was alone he retained only the character of envoy to the Holy See. He had weight with the small group of Portuguese bishops; but he died before he could be of use, and they drifted into submission.
Belgium was governed by M. Frere Orban, one of the most anxious and laborious enemies of the hierarchy, who had no inducement to interfere with an event which justified his enmity, and was, moreover, the unanimous wish of the Belgian Episcopate. When Protestant and Catholic Powers joined in exhorting Rome to moderation, Belgium was left out. Russia was the only Power that treated the Church with actual hostility during the Council, and calculated the advantage to be derived from decrees which would intensify the schism.
Italy was more deeply interested in the events at Rome than any other nation. The hostility of the clergy was felt both in the political and financial difficulties of the kingdom; and the prospect of conciliation would suffer equally from decrees confirming the Roman claims, or from an invidious interposition of the State. Public opinion watched the preparations for the Council with frivolous disdain; but the course to be taken was carefully considered by the Menabrea Cabinet. The laws still subsisted which enabled the State to interfere in religious affairs; and the government was legally entitled to prohibit the attendance of the bishops at the Council, or to recall them from it. The confiscated church property was retained by the State, and the claims of the episcopate were not yet settled. More than one hundred votes on which Rome counted belonged to Italian subjects. The means of applying administrative pressure were therefore great, though diplomatic action was impossible. The Piedmontese wished that the resources of their ecclesiastical jurisprudence should be set in motion. But Minghetti, who had lately joined the Ministry, warmly advocated the opinion that the supreme principle of the liberty of the Church ought to override the remains of the older legislation, in a State consistently free; and, with the disposition of the Italians to confound Catholicism with the hierarchy, the policy of abstention was a triumph of liberality. The idea of Prince Hohenlohe, that religion ought to be maintained in its integrity and not only in its independence, that society is interested in protecting the Church even against herself, and that the enemies of her liberty are ecclesiastical as well as political, could find no favour in Italy. During the session of 1869, Menabrea gave no pledge to Parliament as to the Council; and the bishops who inquired whether they would be allowed to attend it were left unanswered until October. Menabrea then explained in a circular that the right of the bishops to go to the Council proceeded from the liberty of conscience, and was not conceded under the old privileges of the crown, or as a favour that could imply responsibility for what was to be done. If the Church was molested in her freedom, excuse would be given for resisting the incorporation of Rome. If the Council came to decisions injurious to the safety of States, it would be attributed to the unnatural conditions created by the French occupation, and might be left to the enlightened judgment of Catholics.
It was proposed that the fund realised by the sale of the real property of the religious corporations should be administered for religious purposes by local boards of trustees representing the Catholic population, and that the State should abdicate in their favour its ecclesiastical patronage, and proceed to discharge the unsettled claims of the clergy. So great a change in the plans by which Sella and Rattazzi had impoverished the Church in 1866 and 1867 would, if frankly carried into execution, have encouraged an independent spirit among the Italian bishops; and the reports of the prefects represented about thirty of them as being favourable to conciliation. But the Ministry fell in November, and was succeeded by an administration whose leading members, Lanza and Sella, were enemies of religion. The Court of Rome was relieved from a serious peril.
The only European country whose influence was felt in the attitude of its bishops was one whose government sent out no diplomatists. While the Austrian Chancellor regarded the issue of the Council with a profane and supercilious eye, and so much indifference prevailed at Vienna that it was said that the ambassador at Rome did not read the decrees, and that Count Beust did not read his despatches, the Catholic statesmen in Hungary were intent on effecting a revolution in the Church. The system which was about to culminate in the proclamation of infallibility, and which tended to absorb all power from the circumference into the centre, and to substitute authority for autonomy, had begun at the lower extremities of the hierarchical scale. The laity, which once had its share in the administration of Church property and in the deliberations of the clergy, had been gradually compelled to give up its rights to the priesthood, the priests to the bishops, and the bishops to the Pope. Hungary undertook to redress the process, and to correct centralised absolutism by self-government. In a memorandum drawn up in April 1848, the bishops imputed the decay of religion to the exclusion of the people from the management of all Church affairs, and proposed that whatever is not purely spiritual should be conducted by mixed boards, including lay representatives elected by the congregations. The war of the revolution and the reaction checked this design; and the Concordat threw things more than ever into clerical hands. The triumph of the liberal party after the peace of Prague revived the movements; and Eoetvoes called on the bishops to devise means of giving to the laity a share and an interest in religious concerns. The bishops agreed unanimously to the proposal of Deak, that the laity should have the majority in the boards of administration; and the new constitution of the Hungarian Church was adopted by the Catholic Congress on the 17th of October 1869, and approved by the King on the 25th. The ruling idea of this great measure was to make the laity supreme in all that is not liturgy and dogma, in patronage, property, and education; to break down clerical exclusiveness and government control; to deliver the people from the usurpations of the hierarchy, and the Church from the usurpations of the State. It was an attempt to reform the Church by constitutional principles, and to crush ultramontanism by crushing Gallicanism. The Government, which had originated the scheme, was ready to surrender its privileges to the newly-constituted authorities; and the bishops acted in harmony with the ministers and with public opinion. Whilst this good understanding lasted, and while the bishops were engaged in applying the impartial principles of self-government at home, there was a strong security that they would not accept decrees that would undo their work. Infallibility would not only condemn their system, but destroy their position. As the winter advanced the influence of these things became apparent. The ascendency which the Hungarian bishops acquired from the beginning was due to other causes.
The political auspices under which the Council opened were very favourable to the papal cause. The promoters of infallibility were able to coin resources of the enmity which was shown to the Church. The danger which came to them from within was averted. The policy of Hohenlohe, which was afterwards revived by Daru, had been, for a time, completely abandoned by Europe. The battle between the papal and the episcopal principle could come off undisturbed, in closed lists. Political opposition there was none; but the Council had to be governed under the glare of inevitable publicity, with a free press in Europe, and hostile views prevalent in Catholic theology. The causes which made religious science utterly powerless in the strife, and kept it from grappling with the forces arrayed against it, are of deeper import than the issue of the contest itself.
While the voice of the bishops grew louder in praise of the Roman designs, the Bavarian Government consulted the universities, and elicited from the majority of the Munich faculty an opinion that the dogma of infallibility would be attended with serious danger to society. The author of the Bohemian pamphlet affirmed that it had not the conditions which would enable it ever to become the object of a valid definition. Janus compared the primacy, as it was known to the Fathers of the Church, with the ultramontane ideal, and traced the process of transformation through a long series of forgeries. Maret published his book some weeks after Janus and the Reform. It had been revised by several French bishops and divines, and was to serve as a vindication of the Sorbonne and the Gallicans, and as the manifesto of men who were to be present at the Council. It had not the merit of novelty or the fault of innovation, but renewed with as little offence as possible the language of the old French school. While Janus treated infallibility as the critical symptom of an ancient disease, Maret restricted his argument to what was directly involved in the defence of the Gallican position. Janus held that the doctrine was so firmly rooted and so widely supported in the existing constitution of the Church, that much must be modified before a genuine OEcumenical Council could be celebrated. Maret clung to the belief that the real voice of the Church would make itself heard at the Vatican. In direct contradiction with Janus, he kept before him the one practical object, to gain assent by making his views acceptable even to the unlearned.
At the last moment a tract appeared which has been universally attributed to Doellinger, which examined the evidences relied on by the infallibilists, and stated briefly the case against them. It pointed to the inference that their theory is not merely founded on an illogical and uncritical habit, but on unremitting dishonesty in the use of texts. This was coming near the secret of the whole controversy, and the point that made the interference of the Powers appear the only availing resource. For the sentiment on which infallibility is founded could not be reached by argument, the weapon of human reason, but resided in conclusions transcending evidence, and was the inaccessible postulate rather than a demonstrable consequence of a system of religious faith. The two doctrines opposed, but never met each other. It was as much an instinct of the ultramontane theory to elude the tests of science as to resist the control of States. Its opponents, baffled and perplexed by the serene vitality of a view which was impervious to proof, saw want of principle where there was really a consistent principle, and blamed the ultramontane divines for that which was of the essence of ultramontane divinity. How it came that no appeal to revelation or tradition, to reason or conscience, appeared to have any bearing whatever on the issue, is a mystery which Janus and Maret and Doellinger's reflections left unexplained.
The resources of mediaeval learning were too slender to preserve an authentic record of the growth and settlement of Catholic doctrine. Many writings of the Fathers were interpolated; others were unknown, and spurious matter was accepted in their place. Books bearing venerable names—Clement, Dionysius, Isidore—were forged for the purpose of supplying authorities for opinions that lacked the sanction of antiquity. When detection came, and it was found that fraud had been employed in sustaining doctrines bound up with the peculiar interests of Rome and of the religious Orders, there was an inducement to depreciate the evidences of antiquity, and to silence a voice that bore obnoxious testimony. The notion of tradition underwent a change; it was required to produce what it had not preserved. The Fathers had spoken of the unwritten teaching of the apostles, which was to be sought in the churches they had founded, of esoteric doctrines, and views which must be of apostolic origin because they are universal, of the inspiration of general Councils, and a revelation continued beyond the New Testament. But the Council of Trent resisted the conclusions which this language seemed to countenance, and they were left to be pursued by private speculation. One divine deprecated the vain pretence of arguing from Scripture, by which Luther could not be confuted, and the Catholics were losing ground; and at Trent a speaker averred that Christian doctrine had been so completely determined by the Schoolmen that there was no further need to recur to Scripture. This idea is not extinct, and Perrone uses it to explain the inferiority of Catholics as Biblical critics. If the Bible is inspired, says Peresius, still more must its interpretation be inspired. It must be interpreted variously, says the Cardinal of Cusa, according to necessity; a change in the opinion of the Church implies a change in the will of God. One of the greatest Tridentine divines declares that a doctrine must be true if the Church believes it, without any warrant from Scripture. According to Petavius, the general belief of Catholics at a given time is the work of God, and of higher authority than all antiquity and all the Fathers. Scripture may be silent, and tradition contradictory, but the Church is independent of both. Any doctrine which Catholic divines commonly assert, without proof, to be revealed, must be taken as revealed. The testimony of Rome, as the only remaining apostolic Church, is equivalent to an unbroken chain of tradition. In this way, after Scripture had been subjugated, tradition itself was deposed; and the constant belief of the past yielded to the general conviction of the present. And, as antiquity had given way to universality, universality made way for authority. The Word of God and the authority of the Church came to be declared the two sources of religious knowledge. Divines of this school, after preferring the Church to the Bible, preferred the modern Church to the ancient, and ended by sacrificing both to the Pope. "We have not the authority of Scripture," wrote Prierias in his defence of Indulgences, "but we have the higher authority of the Roman pontiffs." A bishop who had been present at Trent confesses that in matters of faith he would believe a single Pope rather than a thousand Fathers, saints, and doctors. The divine training develops an orthodox instinct in the Church, which shows itself in the lives of devout but ignorant men more than in the researches of the learned, and teaches authority not to need the help of science, and not to heed its opposition. All the arguments by which theology supports a doctrine may prove to be false, without diminishing the certainty of its truth. The Church has not obtained, and is not bound to sustain it, by proof. She is supreme over fact as over doctrine, as Fenelon argues, because she is the supreme expounder of tradition, which is a chain of facts. Accordingly, the organ of one ultramontane bishop lately declared that infallibility could be defined without arguments; and the Bishop of Nimes thought that the decision need not be preceded by long and careful discussion. The Dogmatic Commission of the Council proclaims that the existence of tradition has nothing to do with evidence, and that objections taken from history are not valid when contradicted by ecclesiastical decrees. Authority must conquer history.
This inclination to get rid of evidence was specially associated with the doctrine of papal infallibility, because it is necessary that the Popes themselves should not testify against their own claim. They may be declared superior to all other authorities, but not to that of their own see. Their history is not irrelevant to the question of their rights. It could not be disregarded; and the provocation to alter or to deny its testimony was so urgent that men of piety and learning became a prey to the temptation of deceit. When it was discovered in the manuscript of the Liber Diurnus that the Popes had for centuries condemned Honorius in their profession of faith, Cardinal Bona, the most eminent man in Rome, advised that the book should be suppressed if the difficulty could not be got over; and it was suppressed accordingly. Men guilty of this kind of fraud would justify it by saying that their religion transcends the wisdom of philosophers, and cannot submit to the criticism of historians. If any fact manifestly contradicts a dogma, that is a warning to science to revise the evidence. There must be some defect in the materials or in the method. Pending its discovery, the true believer is constrained humbly but confidently to deny the fact.
The protest of conscience against this fraudulent piety grew loud and strong as the art of criticism became more certain. The use made of it by Catholics in the literature of the present age, and their acceptance of the conditions of scientific controversy, seemed to ecclesiastical authorities a sacrifice of principle. A jealousy arose that ripened into antipathy. Almost every writer who really served Catholicism fell sooner or later under the disgrace or the suspicion of Rome. But its censures had lost efficacy; and it was found that the progress of literature could only be brought under control by an increase of authority. This could be obtained if a general council declared the decisions of the Roman congregations absolute, and the Pope infallible.
The division between the Roman and the Catholic elements in the Church made it hopeless to mediate between them; and it is strange that men who must have regarded each other as insincere Christians or as insincere Catholics, should not have perceived that their meeting in Council was an imposture. It may be that a portion, though only a small portion, of those who failed to attend, stayed away from that motive. But the view proscribed at Rome was not largely represented in the episcopate; and it was doubtful whether it would be manifested at all. The opposition did not spring from it, but maintained itself by reducing to the utmost the distance that separated it from the strictly Roman opinions, and striving to prevent the open conflict of principles. It was composed of ultramontanes in the mask of liberals, and of liberals in the mask of ultramontanes. Therefore the victory or defeat of the minority was not the supreme issue of the Council. Besides and above the definition of infallibility arose the question how far the experience of the actual encounter would open the eyes and search the hearts of the reluctant bishops, and how far their language and their attitude would contribute to the impulse of future reform. There was a point of view from which the failure of all attempts to avert the result by false issues and foreign intrusion, and the success of the measures which repelled conciliation and brought on an open struggle and an overwhelming triumph, were means to another and a more importunate end.
Two events occurred in the autumn which portended trouble for the winter. On the 6th of September nineteen German bishops, assembled at Fulda, published a pastoral letter in which they affirmed that the whole episcopate was perfectly unanimous, that the Council would neither introduce new dogmas nor invade the civil province, and that the Pope intended its deliberations to be free. The patent and direct meaning of this declaration was that the bishops repudiated the design announced by the Civilta and the alleging Zeitung, and it was received at Rome with indignation. But it soon appeared that it was worded with studied ambiguity, to be signed by men of opposite opinions, and to conceal the truth. The Bishop of Mentz read a paper, written by a professor of Wuerzburg, against the wisdom of raising the question, but expressed his own belief in the dogma of papal infallibility; and when another bishop stated his disbelief in it, the Bishop of Paderborn assured him that Rome would soon strip him of his heretical skin. The majority wished to prevent the definition, if possible, without disputing the doctrine; and they wrote a private letter to the Pope warning him of the danger, and entreating him to desist. Several bishops who had signed the pastoral refused their signatures to the private letter. It caused so much dismay at Rome that its nature was carefully concealed; and a diplomatist was able to report, on the authority of Cardinal Antonelli, that it did not exist.
In the middle of November, the Bishop of Orleans took leave of his diocese in a letter which touched lightly on the learned questions connected with papal infallibility, but described the objections to the definition as of such a kind that they could not be removed. Coming from a prelate who was so conspicuous as a champion of the papacy, who had saved the temporal power and justified the Syllabus, this declaration unexpectedly altered the situation at Rome. It was clear that the definition would be opposed, and that the opposition would have the support of illustrious names.
The bishops who began to arrive early in November were received with the assurance that the alarm which had been raised was founded on phantoms. It appeared that nobody had dreamed of defining infallibility, or that, if the idea had been entertained at all, it had been abandoned. Cardinals Antonelli, Berardi, and De Luca, and the Secretary Fessler disavowed the Civilta. The ardent indiscretion that was displayed beyond the Alps contrasted strangely with the moderation, the friendly candour, the majestic and impartial wisdom, which were found to reign in the higher sphere of the hierarchy. A bishop, afterwards noted among the opponents of the dogma, wrote home that the idea that infallibility was to be defined was entirely unfounded. It was represented as a mere fancy, got up in Bavarian newspapers, with evil intent; and the Bishop of Sura had been its dupe. The insidious report would have deserved contempt if it had caused a revival of obsolete opinions. It was a challenge to the Council to herald it with such demonstrations, and it unfortunately became difficult to leave it unnoticed. The decision must be left to the bishops. The Holy See could not restrain their legitimate ardour, if they chose to express it; but it would take no initiative. Whatever was done would require to be done with so much moderation as to satisfy everybody, and to avoid the offence of a party triumph. Some suggested that there should be no anathema for those who questioned the doctrine; and one prelate imagined that a formula could be contrived which even Janus could not dispute, and which yet would be found in reality to signify that the Pope is infallible. There was a general assumption that no materials existed for contention among the bishops, and that they stood united against the world.
Cardinal Antonelli openly refrained from connecting himself with the preparation of the Council, and surrounded himself with divines who were not of the ruling party. He had never learned to doubt the dogma itself; but he was keenly alive to the troubles it would bring upon him, and thought that the Pope was preparing a repetition of the difficulties which followed the beginning of his pontificate. He was not trusted as a divine, or consulted on questions of theology; but he was expected to ward off political complications, and he kept the ground with unflinching skill.
The Pope exhorted the diplomatic corps to aid him in allaying the alarm of the infatuated Germans. He assured one diplomatist that the Civilta did not speak in his name. He told another that he would sanction no proposition that could sow dissension among the bishops. He said to a third, "You come to be present at a scene of pacification." He described his object in summoning the Council to be to obtain a remedy for old abuses and for recent errors. More than once, addressing a group of bishops, he said that he would do nothing to raise disputes among them, and would be content with a declaration in favour of intolerance. He wished of course that Catholicism should have the benefit of toleration in England and Russia, but the principle must be repudiated by a Church holding the doctrine of exclusive salvation. The meaning of this intimation, that persecution would do as a substitute for infallibility, was that the most glaring obstacle to the definition would be removed if the Inquisition was recognised as consistent with Catholicism. Indeed it seemed that infallibility was a means to an end which could be obtained in other ways, and that he would have been satisfied with a decree confirming the twenty-third article of the Syllabus, and declaring that no Pope has ever exceeded the just bounds of his authority in faith, in politics, or in morals.
Most of the bishops had allowed themselves to be reassured, when the Bull Multiplices inter, regulating the procedure at the Council, was put into circulation in the first days of December. The Pope assumed to himself the sole initiative in proposing topics, and the exclusive nomination of the officers of the Council. He invited the bishops to bring forward their own proposals, but required that they should submit them first of all to a Commission which was appointed by himself, and consisted half of Italians. If any proposal was allowed to pass by this Commission, it had still to obtain the sanction of the Pope, who could therefore exclude at will any topic, even if the whole Council wished to discuss it. Four elective Commissions were to mediate between the Council and the Pope. When a decree had been discussed and opposed, it was to be referred, together with the amendments, to one of these Commissions, where it was to be reconsidered, with the aid of divines. When it came back from the Commission with corrections and remarks, it was to be put to the vote without further debate. What the Council discussed was to be the work of unknown divines: what it voted was to be the work of a majority in a Commission of twenty-four. It was in the election of these Commissions that the episcopate obtained the chance of influencing the formation of its decrees. But the papal theologians retained their predominance, for they might be summoned to defend or alter their work in the Commission, from which the bishops who had spoken or proposed amendments were excluded. Practically, the right of initiative was the deciding point. Even if the first regulation had remained in force, the bishops could never have recovered the surprises, and the difficulty of preparing for unforeseen debates. The regulation ultimately broke down under the mistake of allowing the decree to be debated only once, and that in its crude state, as it came from the hands of the divines. The authors of the measure had not contemplated any real discussion. It was so unlike the way in which business was conducted at Trent, where the right of the episcopate was formally asserted, where the envoys were consulted, and the bishops discussed the questions in several groups before the general congregations, that the printed text of the Tridentine Regulation was rigidly suppressed. It was further provided that the reports of the speeches should not be communicated to the bishops; and the strictest secrecy was enjoined on all concerning the business of the Council. The bishops, being under no obligation to observe this rule, were afterwards informed that it bound them under grievous sin.
This important precept did not succeed in excluding the action of public opinion. It could be applied only to the debates; and many bishops spoke with greater energy and freedom before an assembly of their own order than they would have done if their words had been taken down by Protestants, to be quoted against them at home. But printed documents, distributed in seven hundred copies, could not be kept secret. The rule was subject to exceptions which destroyed its efficacy; and the Roman cause was discredited by systematic concealment, and advocacy that abounded in explanation and colour, but abstained from the substance of fact. Documents couched in the usual official language, being dragged into the forbidden light of day, were supposed to reveal dark mysteries. The secrecy of the debates had a bad effect in exaggerating reports and giving wide scope to fancy. Rome was not vividly interested in the discussions; but its cosmopolitan society was thronged with the several adherents of leading bishops, whose partiality compromised their dignity and envenomed their disputes. Everything that was said was repeated, inflated, and distorted. Whoever had a sharp word for an adversary, which could not be spoken in Council, knew of an audience that would enjoy and carry the matter. The battles of the Aula were fought over again, with anecdote, epigram, and fiction. A distinguished courtesy and nobleness of tone prevailed at the beginning. When the Archbishop of Halifax went down to his place on the 28th of December, after delivering the speech which taught the reality of the opposition, the Presidents bowed to him as he passed them. The denunciations of the Roman system by Strossmayer and Darboy were listened to in January without a murmur. Adversaries paid exorbitant compliments to each other, like men whose disagreements were insignificant, and who were one at heart. As the plot thickened, fatigue, excitement, friends who fetched and carried, made the tone more bitter. In February the Bishop of Laval described Dupanloup publicly as the centre of a conspiracy too shameful to be expressed in words, and professed that he would rather die than be associated with such iniquity. One of the minority described his opponents as having disported themselves on a certain occasion like a herd of cattle. By that time the whole temper of the Council had been changed; the Pope himself had gone into the arena; and violence of language and gesture had become an artifice adopted to hasten the end.