Изображения страниц

brought about by the greatest politician of our day, Bismarck. The struggle entered upon against Rome, with a view to forcing priests to submit to the state regulations, was a mistake, for neither fire nor sword could be had recourse to to enforce the obedience of the bishops and the pope. Why, then, was the kulturkampf commenced? One of Bismarck's intimate friends, the German minister at Brussels, M. de Balan, explained the situation to me in this wise when the difficulty first arose:

"The German Catholics will never consent to the scepter of the Germanic Empire, which, since Charlemagne, has always been held by a Catholic, passing definitively into Protestant hands. As, therefore, the struggle is inevitable sooner or later, it is as well to enter upon it at once, for the nation is just now proud of its victory over the French, convinced of its own superiority, and ill disposed to submit to the orders of a few old Italian prelates.'

[ocr errors]

These reasons seemed plausible enough, especially as they sufficed to decide so far-seeing a politician as Prince Bismarck. Nevertheless, experience has shown his error. He was mistaken in his estimation of the power of the Roman Catholic Church, and of the means she possessed for subduing his resistance. He should not have forgotten that two sovereigns had already not only signally failed, but lost their crowns, in a similar enterprise. Joseph II., Emperor of Austria, wished to enforce a regulation that aspirants to the priesthood in Belgium should follow the course of studies at the University of Louvain. The clergy resisted this measure, and the revolution of 1788 followed. The King of the Netherlands, William I., attempted to enforce similar measures, and the revolution of 1830 ensued. Bismarck, finding himself incapable of resisting the clergy in the Catholic provinces of Prussia, and perceiving his mistake, turned completely and suddenly round. He made peace with the pope, and, over and above this, he contrived to become the abettor of the designs of his holiness, and an accomplice in his political plans. One by one he repealed the "May Laws"-those laws which imposed certain fixed conditions for the nomination of priests-then, in a quarrel with Spain respecting the Caroline Islands, he very cleverly referred to the decision of Leo XIII, thereby causing him to catch a glimpse of the bright papal dream of the middle ages-the pope the sovereign arbitrator in all con

tentions between Christian people and Christian sovereigns. Recently, in permitting the re-establishment of all religious orders save the Jesuits, Bismarck made the pope his electoral agent. In the last election the Catholics received orders to vote for the ministerial candidates, thus assuring the adoption of the law which accorded to the emperor a fixed military budget for seven years. Although this law was clearly directed against France, the pope unhesitatingly supported it, and in this way became an arbitrator in the home policy of the German Empire, which only latterly was so bitterly opposed to him.

Another recent triumph of the papacy has been achieved in England. In order to induce the Irish to cease their opposition to the English Government, Lord Salisbury dispatches the Duke of Norfolk as an envoy to Rome, where he represents the interests of the Irish landlords. Even Queen Victoria almost prostrated herself at the feet of the pope, if we may believe the official gazette of the Vatican, which reports that her majesty expressed the wish "that the Catholic religion be permitted to prosper more and more throughout the vast British Empire." In the London "Times" of Dec. 27, of last year, we read:

"The British special mission to the pope presented the gift of her majesty. On receiving the massive basin and ewer of gold constituting the gift, the pope, with evident pleasure, remarked that they would serve for his jubilee The basin and ewer were engraved with the inscription, To His Holiness Pope Leo XIII., from Victoria R. I., 1888.'”


[ocr errors]

Perhaps next spring we shall see the Queen of England and Empress of India kiss the toe of the sovereign pontiff. If Leo XIII. would consent to command the Irish priesthood to cease from supporting home rule, there is nothing that would be refused him; he might have a Catholic university, money for seminaries, and even an ambassador at the Vatican. Only it is doubtful whether the pope will allow himself to be purchased even at this price. It is, however, perfectly certain that Leo XIII. is an arbitrator in the Irish question, and that the future of England largely depends on his resolves. If he consented to act as desired, he would become an ally of the conservative party. At all events, his authority is admitted and recognized, and his influence is unquestionable.

In France, the majority in Parliament and the friends of liberty are anxious for the separation of church and state; but the republicans fear to support this, apprehensive, and justly so, that the republic might fall in the struggle against the national clergy and the pope, that its adoption would necessitate.

In Italy the pope has forbidden his partisans to take part in any parliamentary elections, ni elettori, ni eletti, because they must not recognize the kingdom which has annexed the States of the Church; but in municipal elections the clericals, the neri (blacks), as they are called, often have the best of it, even in large towns like Rome and Naples. The old monasteries have been suppressed, it is true, but on all sides, thanks to freedom of association, fresh convents are springing up, which will very soon exceed the old ones, both in number and wealth. In Austria, the clerical influence has been successful in restoring to schools their former denominational character, and in placing them entirely under ecclesiastical supervision. At the same time, an active propaganda is being carried on among the Slavs of the Eastern Church, and great concessions are being made in order to bring them within the pale of Catholicism. They have been authorized to continue to use the orthodox Greek liturgy, and even their priests may marry, a privilege accorded to the members of the united Greek Church. In Spain, although the liberals are occasionally in power, the bishops have so much the upper hand that the doctrine of intolerance is enforced by the civil authority, and the ostensible practice of Protestantism is strictly forbidden. Recently two Protestants were imprisoned for refusing to salute a Roman Catholic procession in the streets, and others were some years ago condemned to hard labor for reading the Bible. Autos da fé still take place from time to time, but, fortunately, only books are consumed just now.

In many countries, such as the Tyrol, the Rhenane Provinces, Belgium, and Lower Canada, the real sovereign is not the reigning monarch, but the pope, who rules through the medium of his bishops and priests. The pope will be obeyed in preference to the laws of the land, unless these are in accordance with, and accepted by, ecclesiastical authority.

Nothing more clearly proves the prodigious vitality of Cathol

icism than what occurred in France at the close of the last century. During the eighteenth century indifference as to religion was general amongst the well-to-do classes, and even amongst the nobility and the higher ranks of the clergy. The Revolution (1789-1793) neglected no means effectually to annihilate and wholly destroy the Catholic Church. Her possessions were confiscated and sold, and the sacred edifices dedicated to the goddess Reason; her priests were transported, shot, guillotined, or forced to swear obedience to the new constitution; and all religious festivals, including Sundays, were abolished. No more violent and systematic effort has ever been made to extirpate a worship whose most cultivated supporters were already very lukewarm in their adherence. A few unsettled years ensue, followed by Napoleon's signature of the Concordat and the reopening of all the churches. What happens then? The people flock to them, and to-day Catholicism is more truly living, more active, and more powerful, than it was a hundred years ago.

The jubilee ceremonies of the fiftieth anniversary of the pope's ordination seem to have been the consecration, the crowning point, of all the papal triumphs. Gifts and homage poured in from all sides, even from the Protestant Emperor of Germany, and from the chief of the free-thinking republic of France. The President of the United States sent Leo XIII., in his own name, as a jubilee gift, a magnificently bound copy of the American Constitution, where are inscribed all the liberties condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. Multitudes of pilgrims crowded the sacred edifice built by Michael Angelo, and when the pope, carried aloft on the sedia gestatoria, surveyed the throngs of the faithful surrounding him, he may well have thought that the moment of his universal reign was approaching.

Nevertheless, as has been already remarked, this important ceremony was far rather a manifestation of the spirit of tolerance and philosophy than a testimony to the power of Catholicism. The pope entering St. Peter's, adorned with the tiara sent by the Emperor William, grandson of Luther; using the basin and ewer of Queen Victoria, the successor of heretical Elizabeth; and wearing on his finger the ring presented him by the sultan, was indeed a strange spectacle, calling to mind the pantheism of the

Roman Empire, which admitted the worship of all gods in the Pantheon of Agrippa. The proof of this universal homage resides rather in the breadth of views of the spirit of modern philosophy than in the exclusive spirit of true Catholicism.

Struck by the grandeur of this papal jubilee, many eminent writers see in it the proof that the Catholic Church is destined to gather in all nations of the two hemispheres under Rome's authority, and thus to realize the ideal of a universal church; and she can, in truth, be aided by the two powerful movements which are now shaking and transforming the whole world, the democratic movement and the movement for social reform.

The Christian Church, at its origin, was the most democratic of all institutions. All those in authority were directly elected by the totality of members, without any distinction whatever, either as regards electors or elected. She was, in fact, a republic, and an international one. If she will but return to her early origin, and act purely in conformity with her essential principles, her opinions will acquire greater power than any in the universe, and she will in herself realize the most perfect of democracies that could be conceived. All that the kings would lose, the pope, as chosen chief of this democracy, would gain. The boundaries of states would be no limit to the conquests of the church, for is she not essentially cosmopolitan-the famous circle without a center, whose circumference is everywhere? The church need but bear in mind the conduct of her founders and the precepts of her fathers, and be guided solely by these, and the incalculable force of social renovation, now only at its onset, will bear her along with it. Did not the apostles of old go so far as to have all their possessions in common, and do not all the sacred writers defend the rights of the poor of this world? What, indeed, is the gospel save good tidings to the destitute?

Recently several Roman Catholic bishops have called to mind these traditions of Christianity. Leo XIII, while still Bishop of Perugia, wrote as follows in his pastoral letter of 1877:

"In view of so large a portion of humanity prematurely worn out by pitiless cupidity, we may well ask whether the adepts of this godless civilization, instead of aiding our progress, do not rather send us some centuries backward to that period of mourning when slavery crushed so large a portion of the human

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »