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Sources Of Mr. Gladstone's Inspiration

( Originally Published 1875 )



The mixed universities forced upon their Catholic subjects by the policy of the German Governments have long been a source of troubles to the Church, and one remote result of these troubles has been to disturb the otherwise clear mind of the ex-Prime Minister. In those universities the chairs of Catholic philosophy and theology were placed under one roof with the chairs of professors who, in the name of philosophy, often sapped the foundations of reason ; and, in the name of theology, not unfrequently denied the divinity of Christ, the authority of revelation, or even the nature of God. It is impossible for such opposite schools of thought and doctrine to consort together without some of the Catholic professors and pupils contracting a taint from their unbelieving associates. For the doctrines of schools are not confined to lecture-rooms, and pupils themselves become professors in their season. If, through the force of faith and piety, very many Catholics escaped from the contagion, others less faithful contracted a laxity of principle that led them, as professors or teachers, to devise erroneous theories affecting the foundations of reason, the constitution of the Church, certain doctrines bearing on faith, or the relations of the Church with civil society.

By persistence in such teaching they drew disciples after them. Not seldom the admonitions of their Bishops proved in vain, and consequently their errors were denounced to the Holy See. Then followed examinations, decrees of the Sacred Congregations, and apostolic letters or encyclics from the Pontiffs. Let it suffice to give the names of Gunther, Froschammer, and the unauthorised assembly of divines in Munich of September 1863, which foreshadowed the heretical sect of the Dollingerites. Whilst some of these teachers bowed to correction, others fell back upon the disingenuous tactics of the Jansenists, either to evade the supreme authority or to question it. Irritated against the Holy See for the checks put on their uncatholic teaching, the professors fell back upon the ancestors of their unquiet spirit. They invoked the expiring Gallicanism which the court lawyers and theologians had framed for the use of the Kings of France. They had ancestors in Richard of the Sorbonne, in Drontheim of Treves, better known as Febronius, in Eybel of Vienna, in the Council of Ems and the Synod of Pistoia; all indeed condemned by Rome and reprobated by the Church, but all serviceable to men prepared to with-draw themselves from the decisions of the Apostolic Chair. Whatever else they might allow, the infallibility of the authority that condemned them they would not agree to.

The unsound taint was brought to England by certain young laymen, pupils of Dr. Dollinger or others associated with him, and exhibited itself in the later numbers of the Rambler, after it passed into their hands, in the Home and Foreign Review, the North British Review, and the Chronicle. But the Catholics of this country repelled the poison, and these publications dropped rapidly one after another into their grave.

To go back a moment, other errors had arisen in France, chiefly from the pen of the unhappy De la Mennais, errors subversive of the foundations both of Church and State. Although condemned by Rome at the instance of the French Bishops, and although his distinguished followers left him to stand alone in his resistance, yet other errors, milder but dangerous, sprang up as remnants of his teaching at a later period. In reaction against these errors there arose another class of unsound doctrines that touched upon the relations of reason with faith, whilst there was another class to contend against in which was advocated either Rationalism, or some sort of Pantheism.

Not only had the Popes of recent times to strive against these various errors infecting even members of the Church, but they had likewise to contend against a number of political assaults upon the rights and immunities of the Church that for many ages she had held in undisputed possession. From the time that Napoleon I. had foisted his Organic Articles into the Concordat concluded between him and the Pope, there had been successive violations of conventions with the Holy See on the part of various governments, and those of the most unjustifiable character. Civil marriages were forced upon Catholic populations ; ungodly systems of education were forced upon them against their will ; Bishops were imprisoned for maintaining the principles of their religion and the rights of their sees ; the Catholics of Russia and of the Polish kingdom were ruthlessly dealt with, especially under the Emperor Nicholas, their Bishops exiled to Siberia, and every-thing that the stiff politico-religious bigotry of the Greek schism could devise, was put in force to under-mine and destroy the Catholic faith in those regions.

The ecclesiastical revenues of Spain were seized by the revolution under Espartero, its monasteries suppressed, and their quiet inhabitants dispersed to starve or die. How the Papal States were seized upon, the Pope dispossessed, the Church denuded, the religious institutions destroyed, and everything devoted to God confiscated, and that mainly for the benefit of adventurers who have plundered the whole of beautiful Italy, no one knows better than Mr. Gladstone. But it must be kept in mind that every one of these acts was de-fended by the speech and pens of men who, to exhibit some shadow of reason for their perpetration, invoked the names of liberty, modern civilisation, and progress.

All the errors above intimated,-whether anti-rational or rationalistic, whether anti-Christian or pan-theistic, whether subversive of the Church or of civil society—for the secret societies, the revolutionists, and the communists were undermining states and destroying thrones—whether opposed to Christian marriage or to Christian education,—whether subversive of the rights of conscience or of established Christianity,—all these it became the sacred and solemn duty of the Popes to expose, denounce, and mark with their censure as anti-Christian errors. Not only had these numerous errors and irreligious acts to be noted and denounced in defence of religion and for the instruction of all Catholics, but likewise the false pleas and the deceptive language by which, under the pretence of freedom, civilization, and progress, these monstrous assaults upon truth, upon morality, upon religion, upon civil order, upon established rights and possessions, were in speech and innumerable writings defended. Against a combination of adversaries and adverse circumstances such as history gives no example of, and with a magnanimity and fortitude worthy the noble line of Pontiffs, this was done ; and the allocutions, apostolic letters, and encyclicals in which this was done, and which range from the reign of Pius VI. to that of Pius IX., but chiefly of Pius IX., from the nature of the case, are not aggressive, but defensive. Each one of these documents is addressed either to the Cardinals or to the Bishops upon the errors or events that had arisen at the period of its publication ; and from the text of these documents the now famous Syllabus was extracted.

It is important to observe that the Syllabus was published on the 8th of December 1864, exactly five years before the Vatican Council commenced, and that in July 1867 the Bishops assembled in Rome, to the amount of two hundred and sixty-five, for celebrating the canonisation of the Japanese Martyrs, presented a joint address to his Holiness, to which most of the Catholic Bishops of the world sent their adhesion, in which they solemnly accepted the doctrines of the Pontiff in the following terms : ` We have come free to the free Pontiff King, with equal good-will, devoted as pastors to the interests of the Church, and as citizens to the interests of our several countries. . . . That impiety may not pretend to ignore this, or dare to deny it, we Bishops condemn the errors that you have condemned, and reject and detest the new and strange doctrines that are everywhere propagated to the injury of the Church of Jesus Christ ; we reprobate and condemn the sacrileges, rapines, violations of ecclesiastical immunity, and other crimes committed against the Church and the See of Peter. This protestation, which we ask to be inscribed in the records of the Church, we likewise confidently proffer in the name of our absent brethren, whether detained at home by force, where to-day they weep and pray, or whether by reason of urgent affairs or sickness they cannot today be present with us.'

Two years and a half, therefore, before the Council of the Vatican assembled, the Bishops had given their spontaneous adhesion to the doctrines of the Syllabus, and to the Papal documents from which they were extracted. This is a proof added to hundreds given us in history that the Popes do not pronounce on the doctrines or affairs of the Universal Church except in the sense of the Universal Church. This chain of facts should be kept in mind by every one who would form a right appreciation of Mr. Gladstone's Expostulation. Another fact to be kept in mind is this, that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not defined in 1854, until petitions for it had been long pouring into Rome from every part of the Church, until every Bishop of the Church had been called upon to give the tradition of his See, the sense of his clergy and people, and his own view of the subject, and until the whole tradition of the Church from the Apostles had been investigated. The schismatic Greeks raised a complaint that the Pope should now first proclaim a doctrine that the East had always believed in. So far was this definition from being ` the deadly blow of 1854,' to use Mr. Gladstone's words, `at the old historic, scientific, and moderate school.' What ` bearing on civil allegiance this definition can have, it would be very difficult to say.

To return back on this narrative to the unsound German professors and their disciples ; no sooner did the Pope convoke the General Council than they took alarm. Whatever good was hoped from it by all stanch Catholics, who received its announcement with joy, these lax professors felt that it boded no good to their designs. When the Pope invited the Bishops to send theologians and canonists to Rome, inviting some men distinguished for learning and prudence from various parts of the world himself, that they might give their assistance in preparing drafts of decrees for the coming Council, it is a well-known fact that certain men of this party, one especially whom we need not here name, were bitterly disappointed at their being overlooked.

In the month of March 1869, nine months before the Council met, the party of whom I speak opened fire upon the coming Council in the Augsburg Gazette.-They proclaimed to the world that it was the work of the Jesuits ; that the Syllabus was to be made a dogmatic decree ; that the Infallibility was to be carried by a trick, a surprise, a sudden call for its acclamation by the Fathers ; that the rights of the Catholic civil powers in the Council were to be set aside—the fact being that the Catholic powers declared it to be their intention to watch the proceedings, but to abstain from interfering. It was proclaimed in a voice from Styria that ` the efforts of the Council were declaring war against civilization ; ' and the organ of the party especially devoted itself to the protection of State interests. They thus anticipated Mr. Gladstone by four years and a half, and proved him to be a tardy copyist. These and other points of like character were urged from day to day upon the world in every form of vituperation and sarcasm, and with every ' rusty weapon ' that the enemies of the Holy See of whatever age could furnish forth. All this professed to come from a Catholic point of view,' the one profession in which they differ from their great disciple of the Anglican establishment. Every one of these predictions proved false in the result ; yet thus was it that the professors threw their flaming torch upon the anti-Catholic world, and kindled a universal conflagration. Pamphlets followed this stream of fiery articles. A little knot of surviving Gallicans were hard at work in Paris, The Protestant world was keenly alive, of course, and the infidel and the atheistic world, and all their literary organs. Their cry they took with their arguments from the German professors, and this cry was : The civil power and society arc in danger from the Council of the Vatican, and the Infallibility is in-tended to crush the liberties of mankind.

Prince Hohenlohe, it is now admitted, was tutored by Dr. Döllinger before he sent his diplomatic circular to the courts of Europe, to invoke their repression of an evil so threatening. Count von Arnim, the Prussian Ambassador at Rome, was sent by Prince Hohenlohe later on to the same diplomatic teacher. The Emperor of the French promised that the Council should not be disturbed whilst sitting, but he likewise was put in motion against the definition ; and a newspaper was published under government auspices in Paris, which, though in milder terms than the Augsburg Gazette, had a good deal of its inspiration. It was daily sent to such Bishops of the Council as might be supposed to be open to its influence ; but I never could understand why it was sent to me. Mr. Gladstone was Prime Minister of England, and he had his representative at Rome. During the period of the Council three hundred despatches were sent home. This I know authentically. Were they all the work of his ostensible representative, or were there other agents at work who were nearer the Church, and more intimate with the Augsburg Gazette ? This has always been suspected. It is certain, however, that the then Prime Minister caught some of the infection that foreign statesmen had imbibed from the German professors, when he gave the hint of retaliation upon the Church for intruding into the civil sphere. Doubtless the notion of turning the Syllabus into dog-ma, and the Infallibility into an instrument against the civil power, had been already made to loom before his mind. Such a notion was, nevertheless, the pure result of heated imagination, and, as we shall hereafter show, never had the slightest ground in fact.

Who would not have assumed that these impressions had been effaced through better knowledge gained later on ? In the interval between the Council and Mr. Gladstone's article in the Contemporary Review, that statesman had been a most generous friend to his Catholic fellow-countrymen. He had protected our principles against strong opposition in the Elementary Education Act ; he had repealed the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, an immense boon to us ; he had freed Catholic

Ireland from the incumbrance of a State Church not in harmony with the religion of the people ; he had even intended well in his Irish University scheme, except that he was unable to realise the depth and tenacity with which Catholics hold to their principles, or to understand what experience of the evil of mixed universities we had already before us on the Continent. How sad it is that, by an outrage as unprovoked as it was unexpected, Mr. Gladstone should put our gratitude to a strain so intense !

The prejudice inflicted on Mr. Gladstone's mind during the Council had seemed to sleep, till his vindication of Ritualism woke it up again. His fierce attack upon the Catholics, and especially upon the converts, in the Contemporary Review, led to private expostulations from convert friends. Was it possible for Catholics to be silent under his imputations ? This seems to have surprised him, and to have stung his sensitive mind. He resolved to expostulate in his turn, and to hit a fierce blow at men who dared to think he could be wrong. The newspapers told us of his visit to Dr. Dollinger before his Expostulation appeared, and of his visit to Dr. Döllinger's principal English pupil immediately after it came out. The points raised in that production are the points raised by the Döllingerites before the Council commenced and during its sitting, when yet these men hung loosely on the Church, and they have been forced forward with still greater vehemence by them since they became an excommunicated sect.

We have next to examine Mr. Gladstone's own statement of his motives.

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