The Daggers That Were Not Blessed
( Originally Published 1912 )
MEYERBEER'S grand opera, "The Huguenots," has an intensely dramatic scene. It pictures the Cardinal of Lorraine blessing the French daggers that were to do the bloody work of St. Bartholomew's Day. That scene, one of the most impressive in the brilliant opera, has had much to do with the quite general Protestant belief that the Catholic Church instigated, and through its agents carried out, the slaughter of Protestants in France that was begun in Paris on August 24, 1572.
From what historical authority, from what in the form of record or tradition, did Scribe, who wrote the libretto of "The Huguenots," take the inspiration for this great stage picture? No historian of that time, Protestant or Catholic, made mention of any such occurrence. The written record is that at the time of the massacre, and for some time before and some time after, the Cardinal of Lorraine was far from France: he was in Rome attending a conclave of cardinals assembled for the election of a pope. Whence, then, did Scribe get the idea of this scene? From the literature of the theatre, from another stage production, the frankly admitted invention of the Revolutionary poet Chénier, came this terrific arraignment that has ex-cited the honest horror of millions who believe it to be based upon the facts of history. The play was "Charles IX," presented for the first time in Paris in 1798, at which time Chénier published a "Dedicatory Address to the French People," containing this explanation :
"At the time of the massacre the Cardinal of Lorraine was in Rome. I do not think it is right to change history; but I think it is allowable, in an historical tragedy, to invent certain incidents, provided the privilege be used with moderation."
But the explanation is not read now, and, except by students of history, has been little read at any time; while deep in the souls of men has been printed the picture of the Catholic cardinal blessing the blades for the day of blood, and in their ears have rung his words :
"A humble and docile son of the immortal church, and made a priest of the living God by her hands, I am able to interpret the divine decrees. If your souls are filled with a burning zeal to devote themselves to the interests of Heaven, if you bring to murder religious hearts, you will accomplish a tremendous task. Serve well the God of nations, all of whose blessings I now shower upon you ! Know that in heaven God now breaks the chain of your iniquities : by the God who inspires me, I declare the forgiveness of whatever crimes you have ever committed. When the church impressed on my soul her ineffaceable mark, she forbade me to shed even the most guilty blood : but I shall follow in your path, and in the name of the avenging God I shall direct your blows. Warriors, whom divine Providence is about to lead; ministers of justice, chosen by his prudence; it is now time to accomplish the eternal decrees. Bathe yourselves holily in the blood of the wicked!"
These words were never uttered by the great prelate of the house of Guise; there was no blessing of the daggers. In France, as elsewhere, the so-called "wars of religion" were caused by politics—by the selfish and corrupt politics of kingcraft, that were the same essentially as the politics of the Tweed Ring in New York City, and of other corrupt political cabals in other cities only too familiar to modern American thought. More than once, in the article dealing with the Huguenots, is this expressly stated by the American Cyclopaedia, published in 186g, and edited by George Ripley and Charles A. Dana.
"The Reformation, which was far from being entirely religious even in Germany," says this work, "was much more the result of secular and local causes in France." And again, "It was during the reign of Henry II that the Huguenots gathered such strength as to entertain hopes of becoming the dominant political party."
Indeed, the political powers of France were at that-time more than half Protestant; the younger branch of the reigning house of Bourbon was wholly so. It was in the masses of the population that Catholicity kept a predominating strength; the same peasant sentiment that later was to bar the popular and victorious Henry of Navarre from the throne until he bowed the knee in the Catholic Church made it the part of political wisdom for Francis I to adhere to the old church, at war though he might be with the Papal States and allied, as he was, with the Protestant powers outside his own kingdom. In the day of Francis, no court in Europe was as gay as that of his sister, the famous Margaret of Navarre. Around her was a revelling, witty, and anything but devout society : her ladies blushed and giggled over those tales of light love in which the keen but unclean mind of Boccaccio delighted; and the butt of every ribald joke was the monk or the sacraments of the church. From the first the sympathy of the vivacious Margaret went out to the assailants of the church. Her court became their refuge. Farel, who did so much to establish the Genevan state on the basis of the new theology, was one of her favorites; to her fled John Calvin when Cop's preaching in the Sorbonne of the sermon he wrote made flight from Paris the part of prudence for preacher and author. Here were brought up Jeanne d'Albret, the mother of Henry IV, and the Bourbons of the younger branch—Antoine, afterward a Navarrese king, and Louis, the Prince of Condé, soon to be the gallant military chieftain of the Protestant faction. These younger Bourbons could not but despise the physically and mentally weak children of Catherine de' Medici, who stood between them and the throne of France; they ever entertained the hope of gaining that mighty sceptre, and they bore a deadly hatred toward the Guises, whose matrimonial alliance with the older branch was productive of an influence in the government of the realm of which those bold and enterprising politicians took full measure of advantage.
In the reign of Henry II, the husband of Catherine de' Medici, this political force was gathering head. It found a ready ally in the queen, who was thoroughly in sympathy with the Rabelaisian humor of the court, in so far as it turned the church to ridicule, and was eager to get the Guises out of the way in order that she might sway, through the weakness of her son Francis, the government of France. For this beautiful and remarkable Florentine had but one passion, and that was for power. A fastidiousness or a political prudence kept her personally chaste, but she was quite willing to turn the moral lapses even of husband and son to the service of her cold policy; she shrank from no bloodshed if she conceived it to be in line with her purpose. She probably held all religion in contempt; it was more the novelty of the Lutheran creed than any feeling of sympathy with it, I think, that caused her to enliven her meals with Protestant sermons, as Santa Croce, the papal nuncio, complained in his reports.
Nor is it reasonable to think that this woman had any friendship for the younger branch of her husband's family, or any intention of allowing that branch to gain a decided ascendancy. The common sentiment that brought them together was their contempt for Catherine's sons, and their fear and hatred of the house of Guise. François, the head of that ducal family, was famous as a captain throughout Europe; to him and to his brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, their niece Mary, wife of Francis II, turned for advice and protection. The young king's passion for the beautiful Stuart, who was later to reign so unhappily in Scotland and to lay her lovely head at the last on the block in England because of too plausible a claim to the throne of that kingdom, maddened Catherine, who found her influence nullified by that of the valiant François. Of that politician she deter-mined to rid herself by a bold stroke, for which the strength and inclination of the younger Bourbons promised to furnish the means. It was planned by Catherine, by the King of Navarre, the Prince de Condé, and the great Protestant lord Coligny, to capture and imprison the young king, slay the Duke of Guise, and establish for the government of France a regency council of Huguenot powers under the leadership of the queen mother.
This was the conspiracy of Amboise. Its exposure put all the cards in the hands of the Guises—the duke François and Lorraine were more than ever the protectors and advisers of the monarch, and Catherine, without scruple, abandoned her Protestant allies and professed a sudden and excessive detestation of heretics and as sudden and remarkable a devotion to the house of Guise. The duke did not press his advantage to the utmost; he was quite content that Francis should know who the conspirators had been without subjecting them to punishment. Condé he did humiliate by compelling him to look on without protest while his own partisans were paying in blood the price that Condé himself should have paid for that treason.
By this time the faith of the French Protestants had been organized by Calvin, and already there was bitterness between those who followed the French doctor and those who accepted the Lutheran Confession of Augsburg. The princes of Navarre were the political heads of the Calvinist movement, and the Guises sought to weaken them by causing the toleration in France of Lutheran Protestantism. Bloody commotions in the Protestant ranks followed, and these disturbances of the peace of the kingdom did not increase the reputation of the Huguenots among the masses of Frenchmen. Condé was at the forefront of every armed uprising; he was arrested at Orléans, charged with high treason, and would undoubtedly have lost his head had it not been for the sudden death of Francis and the elevation to the throne of his brother, Charles IX.
For the moment Catherine's prospects brightened : no longer was Mary Stuart's white hand on the sceptre, no longer did her proud uncles exercise through her a dominating influence over the court. The first move of the new king was to pardon the foes of the house of Guise. Condé was no sooner free than he took the field at the head of his faction, and carried on open war until the Duke of Guise defeated him on the field of Drieux and took him prisoner.
Soon, however, was the great duke to pay the price of princely politics in those times. While he was con-ducting the siege of Orléans he was treacherously shot by a partisan of Admiral Coligny, and his family and the nation at large laid the blame of his assassination on the shoulders of the Protestant leader. His son, Henry of Lorraine, who was to take his place at the head of the house, saw him fall, and over his body swore an oath of vengeance against the admiral—an oath which he lost no opportunity of fulfilling.
The wavering policy of Charles, who swung like a pendulum back and forth, now inclining toward the Guises and now toward the Huguenots, favored at this time the Protestant leaders. His edict of Amboise freed the imprisoned Condé, who took immediate advantage of his freedom to raise his banner once more and claim the throne. His mints printed coins bearing his effigy with the inscription, "Louis XIII, First Christian King of France." He very nearly succeeded in capturing the king and queen at Mieux, but the royal forces overcame him at St. Denis, and once more he was a prisoner. The peace of Long-jumeau gave him his last opportunity to rebel; he fought with great bravery at Jarnac, and was shot by an officer of the Duke of Anjou.
Meanwhile the war went on and the Huguenots called to their aid German and English fellow-religionists, while the Guises began to receive support from Philip of Spain, who was hopeful of gaining France through their influence. Young Guise, who had received his baptism of fire in the war against the Turks in Hungary in his seventeenth year, pursued his vendetta relentlessly—at Jarnac and Moncontour his sword was reddened, and the great Coligny had to yield to his bitterest enemy at Poitiers. When Charles made the peace of St. Germain, Henry had to abandon public war for private vengeance, and the growing influence of the gallant Coligny with King Charles, the agreement that the two branches of the reigning house should be united by the marriage of Marguerite of Valois, sister of the king, to Henry of Navarre, the gallant son of Jeanne d'Albret, foreshadowed not only the ruin of the Guises but the relegation of the ambitious queen mother. Bitter, indeed, were the hatreds that poisoned the atmosphere of the French court in August of 1572, when a strange society assembled in Paris. Charles was for the time all for his new friends; he called Coligny, whose grave courtesy and noble bearing made a deep impression upon him, his father. Henry of Guise beheld with hot anger in his heart the elevation in esteem and influence of the man he believed to be responsible for his father's assassination. Catherine, shoved to one side by the new favorites, who hardly tried to dissemble their con-tempt for the king and their not unjustified suspicion of those who surrounded him, took counsel with Prince Henry, later to be the King of Poland and still later Henry III of France, and between them was hatched the plot for the killing of Coligny. It was through young Guise they worked. Catherine's plan, according to the conjectures of many historians, was to have Guise commit the crime and then have him beheaded for it; thus at one stroke ridding herself of her two principal rivals. The conspiracy missed fire; Guise's bravo wounded but did not kill Coligny, and Charles IX was highly incensed at the attempt upon the life of his new favorite. Catherine was now truly alarmed; the Protestant nobles were in bitter and rebellious mood and kept their hands on their swords in the royal halls, and Charles averted his face from her. To save herself she and her allies forced themselves into the presence of her son and alarmed him with the charge of a Huguenot conspiracy aimed at his throne and life. The bearing of the Huguenot leaders and their record lent color to the tale, the unsteady mind of the monarch was filled with terror, and he gave his consent to what he called "the execution" of the leadders of the conspiracy. And young Guise was selected as the instrument of justice—Guise, whose heart was panting for Coligny's blood, whose future fortune depended on the suppression of the Huguenot power ! He had made his preparations, he was ready. St. Bartholomew's Day blotched redly the history of France.
How many died? The estimates vary. De Thou says 30,000; La Popelinière, 20,000; Masson, 10,000; Lingard, 1,500. The author of the Huguenot martyrology gives an estimate of 30,000, but when he gives the figures by the cities and towns where out-breaks occurred they total 15,168, and when he at-tempts a roll of the martyrs of St. Bartholomew's Day, he brings forth the names of 768.
And now what part did the church play in all this? The story that flew through. Protestant Europe was that the Catholic Church instigated it; that from Rome came the impulse; that the massacre was long in preparation, the marriage but a lure to gather together the heretics; that upon its consummation the pope ordered a Te Deum sung in celebration. But the record is all against this; there is the report of Salviati, the papal nuncio, written in cipher to the cardinal secretary of state, giving the details of Catherine's intrigue, and the request of the cardinal secretary for all the information that could be obtained. It is a plain story, such as any diplomatic agent might send to his distant government; there is nothing of jubilation in it, nothing to indicate that religion had the slightest part in it. There are the memoirs of Margaret, Charles's sister, and the statement of the Duke of Anjou, his brother, to his physician, all to the effect that the plot was of sudden conception and due to the growing ascendancy of Coligny and the fear entertained by Catherine and others of the consequences of such an ascendancy. The Te Deum story has long had its simple explanation. Rome was celebrating the great victory of Lepanto over the Turks, and in the midst of the celebration came the version of St. Bartholomew which Catherine's prudence invented; it was merely that the king had escaped assassination at the hands of heretics, and that Condé and Navarre had abandoned the Protestant cause and accepted the ancient church. For that was the Te Deum chanted in Rome : the escape of a Catholic king and the accession of two powerful princes. Catherine's courier had beaten the courier of Salviati in the race from Paris to St. Peter's.
No sensible man need be informed of the danger of letting loose a mob. The report that the rebel Huguenots had treacherously attacked the king went through France, and those who are always willing to profit by disorder joyfully took advantage of the opportunity. There is plenty of contemporary Protestant evidence to the effect that even Guise, when Coligny and the leaders had fallen, rode through Paris, checking the murderous spirit to which he him-self had given rein; that everywhere respectable Catholics sheltered the hunted Protestants from the mob. The Catholic bishop of Lisieux opened the cathedral doors to the refugees, and throughout France monasteries and convents afforded them shelter. Twice the Protestant forces had massacred the Catholics of Nîmes, but not a single Protestant was molested in that city. Catholic France, no less than Protestant Europe, was horrified at the effusion of blood: but Catholic France knew it was the result of a political intrigue; Protestant Europe charged it up to religious persecution.
And this is the final cipher despatch which Salviati, the nuncio, sent to Rome :
"Time will show whether there be any truth in all the other accounts which you may have read of the wounding and death of the admiral, that differ from what I wrote to you. The queen regent, having grown jealous of him, came to a resolution a few days before, and caused the arquebuse to be discharged at him without the knowledge of the king, but with the participation of the Duke of Anjou, of the Duchess of Nemours, and of her son, the Duke of Guise. Had he died immediately, no one else would have perished. But he did not die, and they began to expect some great evil; wherefore, closeting themselves in consultation with the king, they determined to throw shame aside, and to cause him [Coligny] to be assassinated with the others; a determination which was carried into execution that very night."
The house of Guise was again in the ascendant and it was to maintain this ascendancy for many a year of bloody strife in France. Henry, its head, now known as Le Balafré because of a scar that a wound had left upon his face, cemented its power by his military achievements and by the formation in 1576—four years after St. Bartholomew—of the Catholic League. Charles IX was dead—some say he died of remorse, and some say he died of consumption—and Henry III had come back from Poland to take the crown of France. The massacre of 1572, in which he played a more effective part than did Charles, never weighed uncomfortably upon his conscience after his accession to the throne. He resented the power of Balafré and his house, and soon there was an open rupture and France became the theatre of the so-called "War of the Three Henrys." There had grown up at Guise's side his younger brother Mayenne, a warrior of the same type, and, with the League de-voted to them, these two brothers were more than a match for Henry of France and Henry of Navarre. Having defeated an army of Germans sent into France to aid the enemies of the League, Guise entered Paris boldly and the whole population rose for him on the "Day of the Barricades." The king was beleaguered in the Louvre; the city was in the hands of his great vassal. Guise's followers would have proclaimed him king but he waved the crown from him.
The States General were convoked, and at their stormy sessions Balafré demanded the royal appointment as high constable and general of the kingdom. It was quite evident that the Parliament was in his favor, and the king resolved on the Machiavellian expedient. Guise was treacherously slain by his order in the council-room, and the same day the Cardinal of Lorraine was murdered in prison.
But there was still a survivor of that lion brood : Mayenne escaped the king's assassins, and Henry was forced to seek safety in the camp of the King of Navarre. The Leaguers and the Huguenots again clashed with varying fortune, and at last the camp of the two kings was pitched outside the gates of Paris, which was held by the Duke of Mayenne. In the camp Henry acknowledged Navarre as his heir, but informed him that he would never occupy the throne until he became a Catholic. That this information was not despised by the Navarrese, when Henry III was assassinated and his right by birth to the crown unquestioned, is shown in his correspondence with the popes. In these negotiations also is the evidence of the political nature of these wars. The possibility of a reconciliation between Henry IV and the church enraged Philip II, and his agents at Rome and in France indulged in violent attacks on Pope Sixtus for entering into negotiations with Henry. Cardinal Cajetan, the Spaniard who was papal legate to the League, was so active in his opposition to the legitimate heir that the pope wrote to him, threatening him with severe penalties if he did not cease to act as the legate of Philip II and remember that it was the pope he represented in France. Mayenne, striving valiantly still against destiny, wrote to the pope, asking for men and arms, and begging him to support the League not only against Henry but against Philip, who was now no more desirous of a complete victory for the Leaguers than of a determinative triumph by Navarre. But France was weary of strife, and Henry's attachment to Protestantism was not strong. The king embraced the ancient faith, and France accepted the king; and the Huguenots thereupon ceased to be a considerable force in the political affairs of France.
Here again we find the political influences, the intrigues of princes, lighting the fires of bigotry to serve the purposes of politics. The politicians of a later day have other shibboleths, but similar methods. They generate hatred as the drivers of a locomotive generate steam; it is the force they need to accomplish their purpose. How long was the bitterness of the Civil War kept alive here, after the death of Lincoln, the forgiver, by cheap politicians who found profit to themselves in the waving of "the bloody shirt"? Have the demagogues of to-day forgotten the art—isn't the fomentation of class hatred the main occupation of more than half the ambitious and conscienceless self-glorifiers who so largely figure and loudly sound in the public life of our day? The form is changed, but not the substance. Ballots have to a large extent taken the place of blades, and an admixture of many creeds in the voting population has made the old shibboleths inconvenient for the vote-catchers ; but they still generate hate, they still seek spoil through destruction. It is a very old business, this of making profit out of the public. It doesn't belong to the mod-erns of America alone; every land and every age has had it: it was in the Greek cities and in the Roman Republic, it was in the Italian life and the German life of the middle ages, it was in the Catholic League in France and the "Protestant Boys" of England.
Politics put its impress on the Reformation by the nationalization of the churches. Henry VIII defined the Church of England. The Lords of the Covenant defined the Church of Scotland. And these names did not signify merely the location of the particular part of a universal church, as did the terms "the Church of Alexandria" and "the Church of Rome" among the early Christians. They meant churches with peculiarities of rite and dogma; the geographical limitation of a divine revelation. Even among the Germanic and Scandinavian states, where the acceptance of the Lutheran form preserved a surface uniformity of ritual and creed, there were national modifications inseparable from a complete ecclesiastical subserviency to the national ruler.
It may be true that the right of private judgment emerged from the Reformation, but it was a terrible gauntlet it had to run before it emerged. Burned and bloodied it was by Protestant no less than by Catholic hands. Draper quotes a Venetian envoy's report to the effect that in the Netherlands and in Friesland 30,000 suffered death for Anabaptist opinions. The "Six Articles" of Henry VIII are still known in English history as "the Bloody Six," the name bestowed upon them by the Tudor king's Catholic subjects; and his daughter Mary is still remembered by the name "Bloody Mary," which the Protestant subjects of her time bestowed upon her. John Calvin could still bring to the slow fire Michael Servetus, who preached a Protestantism differing from his own only as his own differed from that of Luther and Melanchthon.
And we have let politicians tell us these were the fruits of religious controversy ! We have accepted it as true that they and many another bloody deed—that all the persecution and all the cruelty—were caused by religion. And it isn't true. Not a single instance of so-called religious persecution that I have examined did not have a sufficient political reason. There was Catholic hatred in Ireland for the Protestants because of the massacres by Elizabeth's Protestant soldiery. Spenser, the English poet, who accompanied that soldiery, tells what was done : "In a short space there was none almost [of the Catholics] left; and a most populous and pleasant country was suddenly void of man and beast." Was this wholesale slaughter due to Elizabeth's zeal for the right of private interpretation? Spenser answers our question; he tells us he got, as his share, 3000 acres of the confiscated land of the slain Irish. The Scottish lords committed murder in the very presence of their Catholic queen. Was it in protest against "the sale of indulgences"?
Henry VIII's "Six Articles"—what real care had he for them? But he was a king, no subject might gainsay him; it was for lèse-majesté, for daring even to disagree with what he did not himself believe but said they must believe, that by the stake and the axe they died by whom his religious decrees were called "the Bloody Six."
And Mary was the very centre of a bitter political battle—around her a band of politicians seeking vengeance for the wrongs of the previous reigns, at her side a weathercock theologian, loyal to any faith that might be the fashion. Against her were the politicians who had been turned out of power at her accession. Even then she checked the persecutors until actual rebellions on the part of the Protestant faction endangered her throne : not until Wyatt's abortive revolt were her partisans permitted to punish her political enemies.
The Servetus affair? Calvin was fighting the Libertines—the party which had that name in Germany and in Geneva—fighting them for political power with the aid of Frenchmen who flocked into Geneva, and his political enemies endeavored to make use of Servetus against him. It was for that Servetus died.
No matter how pure the spirit of any of the religious movements of those days, politics placed its cruel hand upon them, seized them, directed them to ends altogether irreligious. This is what a Protestant churchman thinks of it:
"Where Protestantism was an idea only, as in France or Italy," says Bishop Stubbs, "it was crushed out by the Inquisition; where, in conjunction with political power and sustained by ecclesiastical confiscation, it became a physical force, there it was lasting. It is not a pleasant view to take of the doctrinal change to see that where the movements toward it were pure and unworldly it failed; where it was seconded by territorial greed and political animosity it succeeded. . . . The instruments by which it was accomplished were despotic monarchs, unprincipled ministers, a rapacious aristocracy, and venal, slavish parliaments."
In closing this chapter, we may look back with some profit, I think, upon those which have preceded it, and give form to the conclusions they all justify. We have endeavored to deal with those incidents in the history of the Catholic Church which have been most productive of prejudice and which have revealed the interplay of internal and external influences—the relationships of church and state. Throughout all of them there is manifest a continuous conflict; on one side secular politics, on the other a religious aspiration for freedom of action. Sometimes on the part of the churchmen there are means employed which shock our sense of right; but always on the part of the opposing secular powers are such means employed. If we look back over the history of the church organization we see sometimes a misuse of power, some-times a human ambition, sometimes shocking lapses from virtue on the part of high ecclesiastics. But if we look back over the history of secular politics, how utterly foul and cruel and murderous is the retrospect? What has secular politics to offer of good that was not impressed upon it by the church; what has the church to show of bad that was not due to the operations of secular politics? The tendency of the religious principle in the worst of times has been exalting and civilizing; the tendency of the other principle has been ever debasing and brutalizing. And today, when the politicians of the new school, when the special pleaders for an atheist school and an atheist age, turn to church history for illustrations of the injustice of the church and its evil effect upon social organization, they abstain from calling attention to the history of the thing they propose to substitute for religion in the life of men. They say that in past ages popes were bad, but dare they say that in the past ages worldly human government was not a thousand times more evil than the worst of the bad popes? Patrick Henry said the light of experience was the only lamp we had, but he meant the light of all experience, I think, not the light of a carefully selected part of experience.
The whole object of what I have written will be lost if this small work is considered as anything in the nature of Catholic apologetics. That church has her own apologists far more learned and far more eloquent. But that church has not a mere man of business apart from her own communion and therefore not predisposed in her favor, and it is the conclusion of such a man after a study of some historical events that I wish to set down here. It is quite possible to differ with the Catholic Church upon points of doctrine without accepting as true every fable that political animosity has invented to discredit it. We shall all be better Protestants, I think, for being fair. It is by no means necessary to my Methodism or another's Presbyterianism that we shall believe there was a Pope Joan, when there was not a Pope Joan; that we shall believe a religious spirit was responsible for St. Bartholomew's massacre when the real impelling force was secular and political. Nor need a man be now unduly excited over the right of Henry VIII to a divorce, or the question of Tudor or Stuart on the English throne, to be a devout and righteous member of the Church of England. Those old questions have hardened into history; they are no longer questions, they are facts. Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor have gone to God, who has judged between them, doubtless; the Guises and the younger Bourbons and the older, too—have long since been laid in sepulchre; Philip II is of less real importance than little Johnnie Jones who is playing outside the window. Let them all go; we have problems enough of our own without clinging to those we can never solve because the Lord in his own way solved them long before we were born. Let us not forget the past, but let us look at the past as we look at the present : let us bury its prejudices with its dead; its political animosities with its politicians. The Church of God is made up of human beings; its inspiration and authority are divine. And humanity has been weak even in the Church of God, but immeasurably weaker outside it. That is the lesson of the history of the church and the states with which it has held a relationship.
Finally, is it reasonable to suppose that a church which has had experiences so unfortunate with state connections, should still desire them? In Italy there is still a desire for a restoration of the ancient political right of sovereignty; but the desire of Pius X is simply the desire of Zachary and his immediate successors in the days of Luitprand and Pepin, of Gregory in the days of the Germanic Empire, and Boniface in the days of Philip the Fair—a desire for a political shelter for a free church. The concordats, the con-cessions, the secular nomination for, or confirmation of, episcopal appointments : these are what "church and state" mean to the Catholic Church, and these things that church has hated historically and hates to-day. They are passing, and the church is glad. No more may a cardinal in conclave act as a vetoing agent of his political sovereign; the present pontiff has set his face and his word against the last faint shadow of secular interference. He has taken advantage of the public opinion of the twentieth century to reassert an ancient right fought for by his predecessors against oppressive external influences since that remote hour in which Constantine gave official recognition to the Christian church.
It has been charged against the Catholic Church that it shuts its eyes always to the changes in the world of men that come with the running generations, but this also is a misconception. No change has ever come over the world in all the long term of the pontifical succession which she has not adapted to her purpose. When they speak of an unchanging church it is of the doctrine they speak, of the deposit of truth which she boasts of carrying unchanged through all the vicissitudes of the troubled centuries. It is not the attitude of the church organization toward secular society. That attitude has ever been a changing one; it has conformed ever to the conditions of human life with which it had to deal; it fitted the catacombs, it fitted the court of the Caesars, it fitted the Church State, it fitted the enlarged world that the enterprise of Columbus and Magellan and Da Gama gave to the activities of mankind; it fitted feudalism and monarchism and democracy each in its turn.
That is why Macaulay could write in 184o, long after the Reformation, but not so long after the French Revolution :
"The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and useful vigor. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest end of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustine, and still confronting kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila.. . Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshiped in the temples of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigor when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."
Three score and ten years of crowded human history, of most marvellous material achievement, of tremendous political vicissitude and immeasurable extensions of the field of knowledge in the realm of physical science; three score and ten such momentous years have contributed their amazing dynamics to the onward march of mankind, and is there yet any sign of diminishing power in this ancient church? Is she not fitting herself to the swiftly moving procession with all her ancient facility, and from each rapidly forming condition drawing an increase of power? Not that she veers with every shift of the breeze or bends her head to every ripple on the surface of the sea. Her pontiffs and priests have suffered in person, her ancient estates have been stripped from her—these have been incidents of her progress; but in the large view the church herself has prospered, has ever kept her course. And as Macaulay found her flourishing seventy years ago, despite conditions the world conceived to be adverse, so we find her to-day flourishing in the freedom of our American Republic and rejoicing greatly in the separation of church and state. Time and again, in his sermons to his own people and in his published works, Cardinal Gibbons has expressed the complete satisfaction of his church with the conditions which the wisdom of the fathers of the Republic provided for our American people. Listen to a prelate of the Catholic Church on this point ! This is what Archbishop Blenk of New Orleans said in a sermon preached during the exercises in celebration of Cardinal Gibbons's golden jubilee and published in the New York Sun of October 11, 1911 :
"Religion here is untrammelled, thanks to our separation of church and state; and whatever the future may bring, we would desire no change here in the relations of church and state. That is one lesson surely taught us by European history, and bitterly driven home by the events of our day. No meddling official has a veto power over our preaching. No bureaucrat, more or less hostile to religion, draws up the list of names from which our bishops are chosen. The Holy Father's counsel or legislative acts need no indorsement of potentates before they may cross our borders. Our pastors are supported by the love and generosity of believing congregations, and not by the stipends of a government. Separation here is a real separation, not spoliation, not conspiracy to lessen the church's influence, nor restriction upon her liberty of action and liberty of teaching, nor tyrannical denial of the ministrations of religion to those who leave home to serve their country in army and navy. It means perfect freedom for church and state, each in its own sphere; but here, as there has been no divorce, there is no legacy of bitterness. On the friendliest of terms, neither has any desire for a closer union. The church here knows it can better do its work apart; it is freer and therefore more powerful, and, being unpaid by the state, and independent, it can uphold law and order without giving to any one an excuse to suspect its motives."
If in the brief and incomplete study of the past that has occupied these chapters, I have shown that what we have regarded here as religious prejudice is based very largely upon falsehood, and is the daughter less of doctrinal disagreement than of the corrupt politics of long ago; that the Catholic Church less than any other church, perhaps, desires a union of church and state; that, in any event, under modern conditions such a union is utterly impossible—if I have shown these things, then I may close this branch of my work and proceed to the consideration of the problem with which it is most concerned.