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Internal Difficulties

( Originally Published 1870 )


ALL those, therefore, who have not decided, like M. De Maistre, to stifle the voice of their con-science, and to mould history as a potter moulds clay, are placed in a very strange position. Not only are they hampered by certain facts, but by the Papacy itself. If you do not regard it, like the Ultramontanes, as the source of all light and jurisdiction in the Church, you no longer know what position to assign to it, and, even apart from all fear of displeasure, you find yourself in the presence of an insoluble problem. Look once more at Bossuet. He certainly represents the Papacy as necessary to the unity of the Church ; he certainly connects it, as we have seen, with St. Peter. But, having said thus much, he does not, in some sort, know what to do with it, or what are the functions it should perform. One feels that he upholds it because it exists, and because it would not do for a bishop not to uphold it ; but that its disappearance would not, in his eyes, create a very great void, either in the Church or in Christianity. In short, he regards it rather as a great fact than as a great institution founded on a principle ; and the fact appears to him to be rather overgrown for the position to which he thinks it entitled in the Christian system. All this is Gallicanism, it will be said. No doubt ; but I speak of those passages in which he wishes to be very Catholic, in which he seriously sets himself to defend the Papacy, and it is there that I am struck by the very little connection he succeeds in establishing between Christianity and the high office assigned to the bishop of Rome. But to leave Bossuet. The same remark suggests itself in reading the works of many besides, of many who are less Gallican, and less heretical in the eyes of the Roman doctors. How many books, how many sermons, how many pastoral letters, until these last few years, in which the Papacy was scarcely mentioned at all ! If M. De Maistre makes it the subject of his great work, Lamennais, on the other hand, leaves it in the shade. No one who is not specially called upon to speak about it, goes out of his way to do so. In the numerous volumes of Massillon and Bourdaloue there is not one sermon on the Pope. Even controversialists are often completely silent, or very nearly so. It is to the Church that they call upon the Protestants to submit. The system was complete without him.

We have here another proof, therefore, how much of what is going on under our eyes is artificial and false, or at any rate feverish. There is not a single subject, small or great, dogmatic or disciplinary, historical, social, or moral, which is not regarded by the Catholic preachers and writers of today, as indissolubly connected with the Papacy ; connected, one would think, in such a manner that if the Papacy disappeared, all would disappear with it. M. De Maistre had said, ` Without the Pope there can be no Christianity.' Many Catholics thought this was going very far ; but since then they have heard statements that throw this completely into the shade. We said elsewhere, in speaking of this curious state of things, that now-a-days God seems only to reign in heaven in order that there may be a Pope at Rome. We might invert the idea, and say, ` It might seem now-a-days as if God only reigned in heaven, nay, only existed, because there is a Pope at Rome.'

All this, then, is new ; it would very much astonish, not only Bossuet, but many Ultramontanes of former ages. Even to-day we might oppose to this feverish verbiage the sobriety of authors who wish to retain a judicial attitude. These latter, however desirous of pleasing Rome, do not like the subject of the Papacy. They would prefer to separate the question from the history of the Popes, which is fraught with such terrible objections; they would like to discover a foundation for the Papacy that should be above all discussion, and not finding any such, they hasten to pass onward. They do as Moehler did, in his clever Symbolical. Moehler, who treats other questions so completely, says scarcely anything about the Papacy ; he deduces it summarily from the little he has said about the Episcopate, which is another question that the Roman system makes it difficult to treat. ' If the bishops,' says Moehler, 'must collect all the faithful into one flock, it is necessary that they themselves should have a centre of unity. Remove the supreme pastor, and harmony disappears, order is destroyed. If the successor of Peter had not established everything in unity, we should have been,' etc. This might do in a catechism, but evidently it has no scientific value whatever. And it is equally clear, that if in a work altogether scientific, or at least affecting that character, the author did not discuss this subject theologically, and with reference to principle, it was because he did not feel that he could do so with any chance of success.


And how, in truth, could any one acquainted with the history of the Council of Trent do it at all ? By what right can a Catholic theologian take upon himself to decide a question from which that Council recoiled ?

It is true that when the Council of Trent is not found equal to the boldness of today, people experience no difficulty in asserting for it, or setting it to one side. For instance, there were long deliberations at Trent to ascertain whether the sixth chapter of St. John refers to the Holy Communion ; and, particularly, whether the verses in which Jesus speaks of eating His flesh, and drinking His blood, can be quoted in proof of transubstantiation. The majority had the good faith to ac-knowledge that the sense of these words is purely spiritual, and consequently neither the verses nor the chapter were mentioned in the decree on the Real Presence. If now you refer to Wiseman, you will find this chapter and these verses boldly quoted as the most convincing proof of the Catholic doctrines relating to the Eucharist. The same assertion is made by M. Nicolas, and by many besides ; and we need not say that the infallible guardian of Catholic doctrine, the Pope, has never thought of reminding them that they were running counter to the Council. Every step in advance is permitted, when the step is one which the Popes think desirable.

Of course, therefore, we cannot expect them to recall those who travel out of the terms used by the Council of Trent to aggrandise and deify the Papacy. Still, it is curious to see how the Papacy is compelled, in any question relating to itself, to keep silence respecting that Council, which, on all other subjects, it is so fond of quoting. ` Let all remember,' says the Encyclical of 1832, ` that to the Roman Pontiff has been given by Jesus Christ the full power of feeding, governing, and directing the Chu ch, as was declared by the fathers of the Council of Florence.' Why not those of the Council of Trent, quoted a few lines farther on a propos of the infallibility of the Church ? Why ? Because at Florence, under the Pope's dictation, questions affecting the Papacy were decided without discussion ; while at Trent, where there was some discussion, the Papacy was only glad to escape being made the subject of a decree. The Council mentions the Papacy, no doubt, and recognises her ; and we are not prepared to assert that any voice in the assembly would have been given in favour of her abolition ; but not a single word was issued dogmatically respecting her position in the Church, and her rights in matters of doctrine or government. Yes, Catholics, there is not a word. That man, who is represented to you as being at the summit of the hierarchy the Council of Trent, in a long decree on the hierarchy, does not find occasion even to mention him. You might read that decree from the first line to the last, without suspecting that there was a Pope in the world. Of the eight canons that follow, you might read the seven first without suspecting it either ; and then, at last, you would find one condemning the opinion that bishops nominated by the Popes are not rightful bishops ; and, even there, it is not stated that they are the only rightful ones.

The defenders of the Papacy tell us : ' The Council did not define the Papacy dogmatically, because it appeared to them to have been already quite sufficiently defined by the universal consent of Christians.'

But, in the first place, the attention of the Council was in no wise restricted to what required definition. The decrees are a complete epitome of Catholic doctrine, and contain many things respecting which there had long been no uncertainty in the Church. There was no reason, therefore, why it should not have spoken about the Pope, even if there had already ceased to be any uncertainty among Catholics respecting his position and rights.

Observe, in the second place, that the decrees of the Council always related, in preference, to points attacked by the Reformation. Now, what had been more assailed than the Papacy ? On what point would it have been more natural to expound the doctrine of the Church, condemning afterwards, according to the ordinary form, all denials or contrary affirmations ? But no. In that vast collection of anathemas, there is not a single one launched against whoever shall deny the Papacy.

Finally, let us come to the facts. In order to prove that the Council omitted this capital point because it deemed that no mention of it was required, it would be necessary to show that the Council determined, with-out doubt or hesitation, to leave it to one side, and that no attempts were made to give it a place in the decree relating to the hierarchy.

Now the very contrary was the case. When first the articles on the sacrament of Order were presented, that is to say, more than eight months before they were finally published, the question of drawing up an article on the Pope was mooted. No formula was as yet definitely proposed, but nobody appeared to think it was possible to avoid trying to fix upon one. To speak of the Pope in a decree on the sacrament of Order appeared to all to be as natural, and as necessary, as to speak of the mass a propos of the Eucharist.

After five weeks of discussion, in which the question of the Papacy was not separated for a single day from that of the priesthood, the Cardinal of Lorraine pro-posed, in order to bring matters to an issue, two canons, one declaring the divine origin of the Episcopate gene-rally, and the other condemning the opinion that ' St. Peter was not appointed to be the prince of the Apostles, that a sovereign Pontiff was not necessary, and that the successors of Peter had not constantly held the primacy in the Church.' Assailed, on the one hand, as conceding too much to the Papacy, and, on the other, as not conceding enough, this article was the theme of discussion for a whole month. The legates sent it to the Pope. The Pope added what he thought was wanting, and sent it back to the legates. According to this new version, it was anathema to whoever should say, ` that the legitimate successors of St. Peter had not always been the fathers, the pastors, the teachers of all Christians, and that Jesus Christ had not given to them, in the person of Peter, the full power of ruling and governing the Church.' And the renewed discussion raged during three months. But it was found impossible, absolutely impossible, to come to any agreement. The foundations of the Papacy seemed to elude the grasp of those who were seeking for them. A deep feeling of uneasiness prevailed among the bishops. At last, the Cardinal of Lorraine withdrew his two articles, and the question of the Papacy was omitted.

It is proved, therefore, that neither the bishops, nor the legates, nor the Pope, nor any one, had ever intended from the first that there should be no article on the Papacy; and that consequently, as we have already stated, the only reason for this astounding omission was the impossibility of coming to any agreement. All, of course, spoke of the primacy of the Pope. No one, however, proposed to cut the Gordian knot by an article merely recognising that primacy. It was felt that it would be absurd to confine, within the limits of a single word, the radically divergent opinions that had come to light in the course of the discussion. It is matter of history, therefore, that the Council of Trent, after several months of deliberation, either dared not, or could not teach anything regarding the Papacy.

And let it not be said the remark has been made that the Gallicans were the source of all evil, and that the Council did wrong to yield to them. ` Nine-tenths of the fathers,' says the Jesuit Biner, ` were minded to recognise the superiority of the Pope over the Council ; and yet, owing to the remonstrances of a few French-men, the declaration was not made.' Nine-tenths is saying a great deal, though it is true that two-thirds of the bishops were Italians, a proportion, as we may observe, which the Court of Rome took great care to maintain during the whole Council, which was there-fore only slightly oecumenical. Let us admit, however, for the sake of argument, that the minority numbered only one-tenth. The first thought that naturally suggests itself is, that their arguments must have been very strong to deprive such a majority, devoted, and we might almost say sold, to the Pope, for many of the Italian bishops received a pension from him to remain at Trent, to deprive such a majority, we say, of the courage to override all objections. To this thought let us add a fact. It is, that the opposition was not composed only of Frenchmen, for at that time, strangely enough, its chiefs were Spaniards. The Cardinal of Lorraine, who had come as the chief of the Gallicans, had gone over to the side of the Ultramontanes ; the Spaniards had remained unshaken in their fiery Catholicism, terrible as against heresy, but singularly untinged with Popery. It was one of them, Avosmediano, who had been the first to declare openly that the intervention of the Pope in the institution of bishops was a matter of human and ecclesiastical law, and not consequently of absolute necessity. The words, says Pallavicini, were received with murmurs and scuffling of feet, and even hissing, which, as we may again remark cursorily, was not very edifying in a Council, —but there was no contrary vote. The Archbishop of Grenada, Guerrero, was even bolder. He declared that all bishops, including the Pope, are brethren and equal ; that the only inequality that can be recognised is one of jurisdiction, and purely ecclesiastical. He quoted all the facts furnished by the history of the first centuries in support of this assertion. He laughed especially at those who had said that the Apostles were made bishops by Jesus Christ, but that Peter alone had the right of making other bishops. He asked, whether they had ever read the book of the Acts of the Apostles. He laughed also at those who said that, before the Apostles began their labours, they had had themselves ordained bishops by Peter. Finally, he reminded his hearers of the famous letter of Gregory to John the Faster, and enlarged upon it. Again, murmurs more than once interrupted this speech ; but still the speaker's opponents did not dare to answer him by a vote, or to declare that what he had said had no weight. Thus all that we have said historically on this question has been sanctioned by the silence of the Council of Trent, and by the alacrity with which Pius Iv. consented that the Council should avoid coming to a decision.

Pius Iv. was reserving to himself the right of decision, and, consequently, as we need not say, the right of overriding objections. A year after the Council he published, in a bull, the form of oath to be taken thenceforward by all bishops. He declared that all the articles in this oath had been extracted from the decree of Trent, and among these articles may be read : ` I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Jesus Christ, and successor of St. Peter, the prince of the Apostles.' The Council had said nothing of the kind ; but then the Council was dissolved, and no one protested.


Another very strange history is that of the relations between the Council of Trent and the Popes who had successively to conduct it.

Five-and-twenty years of negotiation had preceded it, and the mere mention of the word Council was, at Rome, a subject of terror, a singular proof, assuredly, of the admirable harmony that existed, as we are assured, between the Church and its lie ad. This terror is admitted by Pallavicini. ' In the same way,' says he, ` that a single grain of dust in the pupil of the eye causes great pain, so, when things of the very highest value are in question, even the most remote dangers became an occasion of terrible alarm.' Now these alarms did not bear on any matter of faith ; Rome could have no doubt that the future Council would be unanimous to condemn the Protestants dogmatically. But Rome herself, her rights, the origin of all that she had in possession, and of all that she was acquiring this was what she feared that the Council might pry into and investigate. The Council of Bâle, a hundred years before, had already spoken in cruel terms of the fragility of her throne; what would it be in an age when everything was being discussed in the light of history, of common sense, and of that Book which there was no longer any means of hiding ?

Never, therefore would Rome have convened that Council of herself ; never would the Church, unanimous in demanding it by the great voice of the peoples, have obtained it from Rome. The sovereigns obtained it, but only after they had themselves been disgusted with it, by all that they had seen of the ill-will and the intrigues of Roman policy.

It is difficult to tell, moreover, which the Papacy dreaded most, that the Council should inquire into her rights, or into the way in which she had exercised them. How, too, could the separation of the two questions be obtained ? How could she arrange that her rights, even those that were most reasonable, should be presented without the fearful abuses and scandals that were their offspring, and followed in their train ? The whole Church had, more or less, imbued its hands in these abuses and scandals ; for, under a corrupt and corrupting government, every one seizes upon what he can ; but when the time of retribution comes, no one is the less ready to denounce what he has seen others do, and everything in the end falls on the shoulders of those whose duty it would have been to combat the evil.

Thus it happened at Trent, and this was what the Papacy had feared. In all that was said, in open Council, respecting the disorders of every kind, of which the origin was to be found in herself, in her avidity, in her want of care for the welfare of souls, in her indulgence for every evil that favoured or did not thwart her interests, in the detestable examples she had so often given to the world, in that omnipotence always at the service of whoever would recognise or pay for it in what the Council, we say, was destined to hear on these topics from the mouths of so many bishops, and of all princes, we might find a complete and crushing refutation of nearly all that is said so glibly now-a-days in honour of the Papacy in the Middle Ages.


But let us not go back to earlier days. Let us re-strict our attention to the respective positions of the Council of Trent and the Papacy, and show the progress that has been made from 1545 to 1869.

In 1542, Paul III. would scarcely have dared to take his stand upon the famous decree of Constance, which we have seen quoted by Gregory XVl. in 1832. His bull of convocation is of singular humility as compared with that of 1868. Paul III. speaks of the Council as of a sovereign assembly, which shall, ` having God for its guide, consult, deliberate, resolve, and execute all the things that may be judged necessary.' There are here no grand sentences about the Papacy, or about himself. He merely says, at the beginning, that he is called to ` steer the bark of St. Peter ;' and further on, in fixing the date of the Council, he simply reproduces the formula in which the Popes declare themselves to be invested with ` the authority of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and of the blessed Peter and Paul.' There is not a word about the enemies of the Papacy, the dangers of the Papacy ; he sees nothing but the misfortunes of the Church. As a man, Paul III. was far from being equal to Pius IX.; but his bull is unquestionably more moderate, more wise, more religious, and also more liberal. The Pope of the sixteenth century shows himself far less hostile to the modern movement, which had just snatched the half of Europe from his jurisdiction, than the Pope of the nineteenth.

But if Paul III. appeared to place everything in the hands of the Council, the sequel was to show that he was none the less determined to take everything back into his own. The history of the Council of Trent is, in some sort, only a record of the infinite dexterity which the Papacy had to display in order not to come out of the ordeal completely eclipsed, in order that, when all was over, she might still find herself on the road to absolute omnipotence. Whether you read that history in Sarpi, the enemy of the Popes, or in Pallavicini, their advocate, the impression left on your mind is the same. There was not, during these eighteen years, a single day in which frankness prevailed, a single day of real concord, a single day on which the Pope and the Council entertained the conviction that they were attaching the same meaning to words, and the same significance to facts. No one, indeed, ever made a mistake on this point. The sovereigns had their ambassadors, who informed them of all that was going on, and who did not require any extraordinary amount of perspicacity to discover secrets of which every one at Trent was cognizant.

We possess their correspondence, and even if we did not, there are many things that would still be quite clear to us, and Pallavicini is full of the most valuable and simple admissions. His zeal for the Papacy makes him regard as good and admirable all the means she employed to remain mistress of the Council. One feels that he would willingly laugh at all the tricks she played upon the bishops, and that he repeats, with ill-disguised glee, the profane jest of that irritated prelate who said, The Holy Spirit comes to us from Rome every Saturday in a valise !' And, in truth, nothing was voted that had not been dictated by the Pope, yet always as if he had not dictated it.

Europe, when not indignant, laughed too. Satires and caricatures were showered upon the Council, and that not only by the Protestants quite the contrary. Any one would have been laughed at who had appeared to believe that the labours of such an assembly were to possess grave and lasting authority. The very members of the Council often looked as if they had little faith in their own work. When they carried it on, it was either to please the sovereigns, who re-quested them to proceed, or to please the Pope, who urged them to conclude, for he was weary of keeping constantly on the alert against the same dangers. Towards the end the court of Rome was less fearful ; but it had not on that account more faith in the common work of the settlement of dogma, and the consolidation of unity, so many were the differences brought to light in the course of the debates, even on points considered certain, so much the Papacy itself had suffered from what had been said, and from the silence in which the Council had taken refuge as regarded its position. In short, no one at that time appeared to suspect the advantages which the Council was to confer both on the Church and the Papacy.

These advantages are due to the boldness and skill with which the whole history of the Council has been thrown into the shade, its decrees only being left visible, and among its decrees only those from which neither dogma nor discipline had anything to fear. Not content with this, when necessary, denials have been used. Moehler denies the doubts and uncertainties. The Catholic Church, he says, possesses the immediate certainty of the divine teaching. ` If she had had to attain to her doctrines by research, by inquiry, she would have contradicted herself, and have been annihilated.' In that case she certainly would long since have ceased to exist, for there were deliberations that lasted three and eight months. Others deny wholesale all that was not to the credit of the assembly ; a council of angels would not have been more perfect. In short, the collection of decrees has come to be regarded like a book sent down from heaven, or at least like one of which the origin is lost in the night of ages. The Council of Trent, that whole so prodigiously complex; that long and painful result of the toil of eighteen years, of a thousand debates, of a thousand intrigues, of a thousand divisions ; that result of the deliberations of several assemblies, in the latter of which scarce any member sat who had been present from the beginning; that chaos, finally, in which faith and discipline were mixed up together from session to session in so strange a manner, in which all proportion is wanting between the length of the decrees and the importance of the subjects to which they refer, in which anathemas are sometimes launched with ridiculous prodigality, and sometimes so timidly kept back, in which questions lying beyond the reach of human reason are solved, even to their minutest details, while questions perfectly accessible and clear are either eluded or left undefined, that chaos, we say, men have had the art to make it appear like a complete and perfect whole ; they have found means to base upon that moving quicksand, as upon a rock, Catholicism and the Church, and the Papacy itself, which during eighteen years had trembled lest it should swallow it up. A great revolutionist declared that the secret of his power was, ` Boldness, boldness, and again boldness.' Extremes meet ; and the motionless Papacy, if she made her confession, would say the samething.

But now that we have seen the Papacy launch forth triumphantly the convocation to an CEcumenical Council, an act which she only performed with trembling in the sixteenth century, we have a right to remind her of her old troubles, and to ask her whence she has obtained what she evidently did not possess then, at the termination of the ages of faith.

What excitement there was at Trent, at the outset, when the Bishop of Bitonte, Cornelio Musso, who had been commissioned to preach the inaugural sermon, took upon himself to represent the Pope as the source of the light that was about to flood the Church ! In an apostrophe to the mountains surrounding Trent, he called upon the rocks, the woods, the torrents, to make known to the universe that everything was to submit to the Council, failing which, he said, ` men will be able to say, with reason, that the light of the Pope is come into the world, and that the world has preferred darkness to light.' The light of the Pope ! Lumen papae ! The effect produced was so bad that the legates were nearly obliged to disavow the orator. As to Pallavicini, the historian, he does not see, he says, why the expression caused so much indignation. Does not everybody know that papae, in Latin, is simply an exclamation, like alas? What could be more natural, therefore, than to say, ` The light, alas ! has come into the world, and the world,' etc. ? Pallavicini is laughing at us, evidently ; but today he would not take the trouble to make a joke of the matter. He would openly approve of the expression used by the preacher at Trent ; openly he would call light of the Pope the light which the present Council, a reflex of the Papacy, is to shed upon the world. Is not this what we have been told, in every form, during these last few years ? Is not this what follows from the very publication of the Syllabus, which the Council will evidently do no more than develope ? Is not this what nearly all the bishops proclaim as they kneel before that light by which they are dazzled ?—so they say in their pastoral letters. And if there be a few who appear not to be so much dazzled as their fellows, they will, like them, as soon as the Pope so orders, be compelled to do this one thing only, viz. to cast down their eyes and vote.

Many bishops, however, and those among the most dazzled, could not but be a little anxious at the position assigned to the Episcopate in the present Council. The Pope himself, side by side with the Papal, ultra-Papal ideas contained in his bull, and which showed how completely the bishops were to be put into the background, yet endeavoured to maintain for them the appearance of a certain power.' They set themselves to make the most of this. They endeavoured to prove to their flocks that the bishops, though necessarily voting for and with the Pope, will yet not be set aside as a free deliberating body, nor even set aside individually as judges of the faith. But what precautions, what circumlocution had to be used to say this, so as not to make a breach in that sovereign authority which the Pope reserves to himself ! The Bishop of Belley, for instance, begins by declaring that a Council was in no wise indispensable, that the Pope had full right to rule and determine everything of himself ; then, as he is yet unwilling to say that the. bishops derive from him alone the right to vote in the Council, he takes refuge under the authority of St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, who, in the Council spoken of in the Acts, not only gave his opinion, but prefaced it by these words : ` I judge that . . . ' Therefore,' says M. De Langalerie bravely, ' the men whom the Pope calls together and consults are not simply advisers or advocates, but judges having the power and the mission to judge.' This, we very greatly fear, is more than the Pope admits ; in any case he has a right to think that the argument is a very bad one, for it consists merely in a play upon words. If you refer to the Greek, you will find that St. James said, ` I judge,' in the same sense as ` I think,' and that his use of the word does not imply any intention or system whatever. Others, again, still more prudent, have been content to adopt that old theory of the one authority, which has long been used as an answer to Protestant objections on the uncertainty as to the seat of authority in the Church. Authority, they say, is seated entirely in the Pope, entirely in the Council, entirely in both together. A Pope and a Council are not two authorities, two sources of light ; they are the same light and the same authority. Look at the Eucharist. Jesus Christ is wholly in the bread, and wholly the wine. You receive Jesus Christ in the bread alone ; you receive Him equally in the wine ; but you do not with both receive Him twice. In the same way the Holy Spirit has for its organ either the Pope alone, or the Council joined to the Pope. It is all one. To vote, therefore, with the Pope and for the Pope, is' not to abdicate one's own power ; it is to exercise, concurrently with him, a free and sovereign authority.

It may be doubted whether these metaphysics, which are good in theory to preserve the dignity of the Episcopate, will appear very good in practice to any one compelled either to vote against his conscience, or to disturb that unanimity which the theory presupposes. Few will really disturb it, perhaps. But the more beautiful the spectacle is for those who look at appearances only, the sadder will it be for those who look at realities, and think of the sacrifices made. The considerable minorities that existed at Trent are embarrassing, no doubt, in many points of view ; morally, they are at least a proof that, notwithstanding Rome, notwithstanding the pressing need of unity, the Episcopate had not yet been induced to abdicate its authority, and resign itself to annihilation.


Sovereigns at Trent had retained the right of intervening, not only in all general questions affecting the Council, but even in the march of the deliberations, in the choice and order of the subjects to be considered. Of this we wish it to be distinctly understood we do not in principle approve in any way. If it is a sad thing to see that the bishops are now only so many shadows of the Pope, it was sad then to see so many of them who, in the Council, represented much less the Church than the interests and passions of their temporal sovereigns. But, notwithstanding, our statement holds good historically ; and without going back to the time when the emperors themselves convened these assemblies, one might ask by what right the Papacy shakes itself free, in 1869, from what was still, in the sixteenth century, the universal custom of Catholic Christendom ? We are told that it was an abuse ; and the same pastoral letter which we quoted a moment ago requests us to observe that the civil authority took no part whatever in that same Council of Jerusalem. It is quite evident that the civil authority, which was then Jewish or Pagan, could not have thought of taking any such part ; but when that authority became Christian, it always did do so, and the Church never protested against the interference in any way. If the Church pretended that this should now be changed, at least the change should be made to rest on the modern idea of the separation between the two powers. But this idea is not accepted by Rome ; on the contrary, she combats it wherever it is her interest to do so. Wherever she dares, she demands that Catholicism should be the religion of the State. Wherever it is still possible, she claims, not protection only, but the support, the help, and the devotion of the civil authority. If, then, her system has not changed in this respect, by what right, we ask again, has she made the other change, excluding the Catholic sovereigns from all official participation in the convocation, the preliminaries, the opening and the labours of the Council ? If these sovereigns objected, what could she reply ? She would reply, probably, by that article of the Syllabus in which the Church is declared to be ` a true and perfect society, entirely free.' We have already said that in her eyes this liberty consists in the enjoyment of all the rights she may claim as belonging to her ; we may now add, ' and in being bound to no duties towards any one else.'


It was no easy matter, at Trent, to determine the position which should be held by the legates sent from Rome to preside over, and direct the Council.

At the outset, a grave question arose : Was their presence necessary to legitimate the assembly ? In the decree of the first meeting, the legates avoided the difficulty by giving to it the form of a statement of what had taken place. It is there said that the first legate had addressed the bishops, and asked if it was their pleasure that the Council should be declared opened, and that all answered, Yes. But, for the second meeting, a real decree was necessary. In whose name should that decree be published ? In the name of the Council alone, in the name of the Pope and the Council, in the name of the Council and the Pope ?—for even the order, in case both were named, was of great importance. To adopt either of the three forms was to decide a question which, it was felt, could not be decided without giving a deathblow to the Council. The superiority of that assembly over the Pope !Paul III. had said that he would rather die than suffer it to be proclaimed. The superiority of the Pope ! it was known that if it were decreed, or even hinted at, both Germany and France would protest in a very terrible manner. A commission of cardinals, appointed at Rome by the Pope to consider all questions relating to the Council, had long sought to find some formula of decree that should be agreeable to all. It was thought that such a formula had been discovered : `The Holy Council of Trent oecumenical, and general, the legates pre-siding (prcesidentibus legatis), decrees..' The majority seemed satisfied ; the minority demanded, if not a positive admission of the inferiority of the Pope, at least a clearer mention of the equality of the two powers. They distrusted the words prcesidentibus legatis ; they feared that, instead of indicating a simple president-ship, they might afterwards be held to indicate a necessary, and indispensable presidentship. Indeed, this was quite what the Italians intended. It was therefore proposed to replace the word oecumenical, by representing the universal Church; and, as these words would precede the mention of the legates, the Council would be in less danger of appearing to derive its authority from the Pope. An Italian applied the epithet of foxes to those who supported this formula ; but the epithet, indeed, was one that both parties might, without in-justice, have applied to each other daily. The majority, however, appeared disposed to admit the words, if not the thing signified ; but, on an order from the Pope, the legates obtained a refusal. Nay more, the words oecumenical and general were struck out. 'What is the use of these words ?' said the legates. ' Does not the Pope's bull sufficiently show that the Council is oecumenical and general ?' ' Yes,' was the reply; 'but it is the Pope who speaks in the bull. Must not the Council also assert itself ?' The Italians persisted how-ever, and the two words were struck out. But at the next meeting the opposition protested openly in the cathedral, and the two words were restored.

But the question of the presidentship, the praesidentibus, as it was called, continued for a long time to agitate men's minds ; and matters grew much worse when, later on, to the question of the prcesidentibus was added that of the proponentibus.

This was in 1562, at the first meeting of the third session of the Council. It was then perceived, but too late for any effectual protest, that the words ` and proposing' had been inserted after the words, ' the legates presiding,' which might too easily be interpreted as meaning that to the legates alone belonged the right of selecting, and proposing the subjects to be brought forward. As a matter of fact, this was what had always taken place ; but many bishops had absolutely refused to recognise such an arrangement as a matter of right. The protests, therefore, were so strong, that at the ensuing meetings it was found necessary to omit the unfortunate expression. But as it still figured in the decree of the reopening of the Council, predominating over all its subsequent acts, the protests continued, and the legates were compelled to consent that a note should be added to the decree of the twenty-fourth meeting, to the effect that the expression must not be understood as changing any of the old usages. This was another piece of finesse, for, according to the Ultramontanes, the old usage was that everything should proceed from the Pope, or his legates. But, nevertheless, this note was regarded as a victory achieved over the Pope.

This is what the Episcopate still dared to do three centuries ago, in. opposition to the Papacy. Today it would tremble at the bare thought of doing as much.

To dare to assert, to dare to insinuate, that the assembly of 1869 could be anything of itself, independently of the Pope, and be presided over by any one else but the Pope or his legate, would be a monstrous heresy ; and even if the Pope were to abandon the right of choosing a president for the assembly, there can be no doubt that it would hasten to choose a man entirely devoted to him. There can be no doubt, either, that it would never have dared to dispute the right of himself, or of his representatives, to select the subjects to be brought forward. Did he not appoint, long beforehand, the commissions that were to prepare all the work to be done ? It is true that these commissions, so it was said, were very much embarrassed, either by reason of the unexpected difficulties with which many questions were beset, or by reason of the difficulty of preparing everything, of doing everything, without having at the same time the appearance of leaving nothing to the Council. But today the Papacy has scarcely any need to have recourse to the caution, and artifices with which she was compelled at Trent to veil her omnipotence.


She is relieved, also, from the difficulties she experienced in publishing the decrees of that Council.

As those decrees were only officially communicated to her after having been openly and solemnly proclaimed at Trent, both the Pope and the Council found them-selves in a strange dilemma. If a decree required to be confirmed by the Pope, what was the use of the public proclamation ? If it did not require confirmation, why should the Pope have to give it ? How could he give it without declaring, by that very act, that the decree, though solemnly proclaimed, had not till then possessed any force ? At the first three meetings, as no decree properly so called had been made, the difficulty was allowed to slumber. At the fourth, this was impossible. But what both sides most dreaded, was a specific explanation. Paul III. would have trembled at the thought of provoking such manifestations as those that took place at Bale and Constance, when it was declared that it was possible to do without the pontifical sanction. The Council, on the other hand, did not wish either to break with the Pope, or openly to submit to him ; for this latter course would have been to abandon all influence out of Italy, and, as a matter of fact, in the eyes of all Europe, to abdicate its power. Hence sprang the compromise that was to unite Rome and Trent. The Pope ignored the solemn proclamation, and confirmed the decrees as if the Council had done no more than prepare them. The Council ignored the confirmation by the Pope, and continued to proclaim the decrees as sovereign, and final.

Such was at Trent the union, the unity that existed between the Council and the Pope. This is what is now depicted to us as the ineffable and mystic work of the Holy Spirit ! A compromise, a farce of which the whole of Europe possessed the secret ; a knot which existed only on condition that both parties consented to ignore it.

Many bishops wished the same course to be pursued to the end. The Council would separate ; the decrees would go to Rome ; the Pope would confirm them without further explanation. But the Roman party had, in the course of the debates, gained so many small victories, that it wished to finish with a great one ; it proposed that the assembly should itself request the Pope to confirm all the decrees as a whole, that is to say, the whole work of the Council. Three months before, such a proposal would have been the signal for a perfect tempest. But many burned to get away ; to begin such a struggle at the last moment would have been almost an act of heroism. Few, therefore, objected with any warmth. They were assured that the Papal confirmation did not necessarily imply the superiority of the Pope ; it was simply the act by which, as the chief of the executive power in the Church, he assumed the responsibility of executing the measures voted. As every one wished to be persuaded, persuasion was easy ; and there was finally only a single prelate, the Arch-bishop of Grenada, who persisted in refusing to ask for the Papal confirmation. This is what M. De Falloux describes poetically, in his life of Pius v., as a startling proof of divine intervention. 'At the moment,' he says, ` when all tended to disorder, God showed Himself ... ; harmony was restored, light broke forth, and Christendom was illuminated.' This did not prevent the legates from being in the greatest alarm up to the last moment. They distrusted the easy compliance of the chiefs of the opposition ; they feared some protest, some disturbance in the public assembly. None took place ; but the very fears serve to show how slender was the whole scaffolding.

These fears, however, had not prevented the legates from taking yet another measure for the maintenance of the authority of their master.

When the decrees were read in the public assembly, all heard, with no small surprise, a concluding article to this effect : ` The Council finally declares that, what-ever may have been the expressions and clauses employed in the decrees, . . . all has been decreed in such sort that the authority of the Holy See is, and shall be considered as being, intact.' The authority of the Holy See never having been defined, such an article constituted the Pope the sole judge of his own rights, and without distinctly proclaiming his superiority over the Council, allowed him every latitude in the interpretation, and application of the decrees. It was evident, moreover, that this article might be understood in the most purely Ultramontane sense. The authority of the Pope was there represented as being so far out of the reach of all discussion, that a Council could not even think of meddling with it in any way.

This article had been inserted by the legates during the night. It had previously been rejected many times. It was accepted like everything else. There were mur-murs, but no open protest.

This is how the Council of Trent recognised the plenitude of the Papal authority ; this is how, on this capital point, Christendom was illuminated.


But this was quite enough, when once the Council was dissolved, to give the Papacy all it wanted.

The Council had asked we have seen in what manner for the Papal confirmation. Pius iv. gave that confirmation, therefore, but at the same time attaching to the request a sense which many bishops had certainly never intended. ' Having recognised, after mature deliberation' so he says in his bull ' that all the decrees are Catholic, useful, and salutary for the Christian people, we confirm them in virtue of the Apostolical authority, commanding that they shall be accepted, and observed.'

Thus he not only recognises that the decrees are useful and salutary, but also that they are Catholic. He has therefore judged them judged them in a sovereign manner as affecting faith, and as affecting discipline. He decides, but only after mature deliberation. He allows, but he might have disallowed. What, in that case, would have become of the authority of the Council ? A question very easily answered according to the Ultramontanes ; the Council, they tell us, would then have become null and void. But the question for all, except Ultramontanes, is a terrible one, and one that would come constantly to the surface were it not every one's interest to keep it out of sight.

Pius Iv. therefore distinctly assumes a position superior to the Council, and judges its decrees. But even this is not enough. Though led by the Pope, the Council had, nevertheless, under the pressure of public opinion, and the influence of the Reformation, voted certain things that might be turned against the Pope. True, on the last day it had been made to state that it had no intention of weakening the authority of the Holy See ; but yet people might, at some subsequent date, seize upon such or such an article, and, seeking what the Council meant by it, use it as a dangerous weapon. At this thought Pius IV. had even asked himself whether he ought to confirm the whole, and for some days he hesitated. Several of his councillors hesitated also. At last, one of them, Hugo Buoncompagno, suggested to him the idea of expressly reserving to himself, by his bull, the right of interpreting the decrees, to the exclusion of every one whatsoever.

This was an unheard-of course, even in the annals of Papal despotism. Nicholas ni. had, indeed, when the very obscure Rule of St. Francis threatened to become a field of contention, reserved to himself the right of explaining it. In such a case the thing might be admissible. But to publish a complete and entirely new code of doctrine and discipline, and to append to it at the same time a prohibition to study its meaning, this was the last possible step in the subjection of men's minds and consciences.

Indeed, we should be tempted to regard the whole story as a fable, if it were not confirmed by a solemn bull. ' In virtue of the Apostolical authority, it is forbidden to all, to ecclesiastics, whatever be their rank, to laymen, whatever be the authority with which they are invested ; to the former, under pain of interdict, and to the latter, under pain of excommunication ; it is forbidden, in short, to every one whatsoever to make on the decrees of the Council either commentaries, or glosses, or annotations, or scholia, or interpretations of any kind.'

No one, we see, is forgotten, not even those who, a month before, entitled themselves, ` the Holy Council of Trent, legitimately assembled under the direction of the Holy Spirit.' Ecclesiastics, whatever may be their rank, have, like laymen, t ask the Pope in what sense they are to understand the decrees.

Go, after this, and reproach Catholicism with refusing to allow you the right of interpreting the Holy Scriptures ! Why, the very decrees which it has substituted for them, which it has elaborated, and pondered during eighteen years, it is not yet sufficiently sure about them to leave them to the conscience, and the reason of the faithful, or even to the conscience, and the reason of its ministers. It publishes this code, but with a prohibition, which, if rightly observed, would be a prohibition to read it ; for evidently you cannot open it, any more than you can open the Bible, without danger of finding, in some particular passage, something that does not suit the Pope, and consequently of being interdicted, if you are a priest, or excommunicated, if you are a layman, even though you may be the most pious and learned of Catholics.


This, then and it is good to make the statement over and over again, for the very excess of such a despotism often prevents people from believing in it, and gives an air of unlikelihood to our accusations this, then, is the yoke under which the Papacy holds the world. We are told that one of those emperors whom absolute power had rendered mad, conceived the idea of posting up his decrees too high for any one to read, in order that, as no one could be sure of not having infringed them, all should live in perpetual terror. In a less ridiculous form, Rome has something of this madness. One might be tempted to think that she wishes no one to have an absolute certainty that he has not displeased her, and that he is not a heretic on some point. She desires that all should ceaselessly deprecate a possible condemnation, and multiply their protestations of obedience. She wishes to see around her, throughout the whole Catholic world, only people on their knees, and looking to her to know what they must believe, do, desire, fear, love, and hate. Her dealings with the Council of Trent, first turning the whole to her advantage, by that confirmation which declared her sovereignty, and then boldly prohibiting all interpretation of particular decrees, are only a sample of her dealings generally, which are bold or skilful, as may best serve her purpose. She uses everything as a precedent, as a stepping-stone. The precedent may remain unacted upon during four centuries, or be appealed to in four days. Rome has sometimes that feverish impatience that cannot wait for the morrow, sometimes that unruffled patience that looks forward into distant ages. But patient or impatient, her eyes never leave the goal ; her steps, whether slow or rapid, tend towards it unceasingly ; and this is how it has come to pass that she has enlisted in her service, not the age, but, in spite of the age, in spite of all the ideas and instincts of the age, an army ever more blindly devoted to her.

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