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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Pope Pius IX - years 1863-1869. 'Miracle' of St Agnes Basilica, and 'The Mortara affair'.

 In May 1863 Pius IX undertook a journey to the provinces of the south of Latium, also called the Ciociaria, visiting towns which he had not previously visited,  both as Supreme Pastor  to his flock  , and to reaffirm his temporal rights over territories which Italy was coveting,  In the space of ten days he visited nine of the region’s principle towns, meeting delegations from both town and country. He also arranged for Papal troops, together with the French troops stationed in Rome, to take whatever  action was necessary to curb the banditry by wandering Neapolitan brigands active in those areas.


In September 1864 the French and Italian governments concluded a secret agreement to deal with the Roman question, an agreement which precluded Pope Pius IX, the principal party concerned.
This agreement, aimed ultimately at the unification of Italy, included a stipulation that the Italian government ‘would not  attack the Holy Father’s present territory, and would obstruct if necessary by force, any attack coming from outside the territory’; also it would ‘bear the cost of a proportion of the debts of the former ecclesiastical states’. France, for its part, would gradually withdraw her troops from the Papal States within the space of two years.

 Meanwhile the Pope was fully occupied in attempting to re-establish the Italian hierarchy decimated by the various annexations of the Papal States. A total of nine bishops or archbishops had been brought to trial and condemned, thirty others had been tried and acquitted, five others had been banished from their dioceses and held in Turin, and forty-one had chosen the path of exile. Added to this number were tens of dioceses lacking a bishop, either because the Italian government was refusing to allow the consecrated bishops to take possession of their sees, or because the nominations, which initially depended on the civil authorities, had not been made.
 In April 1865 as a result of a written request from the Pope to King Victor Emmanuel, two envoys  arrived in Rome from Turin, to discuss this matter with Cardinal Antonelli. Initially the discussion progressed well, but then contrary to earlier promises, the envoys insisted that all new bishops must swear an oath of loyalty to the King. The Holy See, which did not recognise the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Italy, could not accept this, and the talks collapsed.
The proponents of Italian unity, Mazzini, Cavour, and Garibaldi, were Freemasons, and at this time Italian Freemasonry was attempting to unify its disparate groups.  The failure of the Venezzi mission   persuaded the Pope that Freemasonry was an increasingly influential and dangerous threat, and in an allocution in  September 1865 he  strongly condemned  “this perverse society of men, commonly called Masonic, which initially existed in shadows and in obscurity, has finally come out into the light of day, to the ruin both of religion and of human society.” He dismissed as a grave error the claim that Freemasonry “has no other aim but to help people and succour them in adversity.” He went on, “What claims are made by this association of men of all religions and of all beliefs? What is the purpose of these clandestine meetings and this oath that is so strictly required of initiates, who commit themselves never to reveal anything about these matters? And what is the meaning of the terribly severe punishments incurred by initiates if they should fail to keep faith with their oath?” The Pope solemnly recalled the prohibition against Catholics taking part in these ‘baneful assemblies’ under pain of excommunication. 

                                                     Coat of Arms of Pope Pius IX (courtesy of Peter Crawford)

 In the following months various Masonic publications retaliated by  alleging that the Pope himself had been initiated as a young man into the Lodge of Palermo, or that  he had been initiated as a young priest at Philadelphia on his way back from Chile. Both unsubstantiated allegations were strongly denied.

                                                                                Pope Pius IX

 The question of Catholic participation in Italian political life became particularly acute once the Romagna, the Marches, and Umbria had been detached from the Pope and annexed. The question was whether Catholics should get themselves elected to the Italian parliament in order to try to counter-balance the influence of the anti-clericals, or would it be better for them  to abstain from all participation in political life, until the Roman question had been solved. Pius IX urged the latter course, recommending instead, working with the hierarchy and  setting up associations for the purpose of defending the Church and the interests of Catholics in all the domains; social, economic, cultural, and educational. This was particularly important  as the religious orders, who in the past had devoted their resources to charitable and educational tasks, found their work restricted or prohibited by the infamous ‘Law on the Convents’. (see earlier post).  One result of the Pope’s condemnation of freemasonry, was the significant growth  of the ‘Catholic Movement’, exemplified by various organisations of Catholic Action.

In 1866 Prussia and Italy allied in a war against Austria, in which the Austrian forces were subsequently defeated, with the kingdom of Italy then annexing Venetia. Meanwhile France continued to withdraw troops from Rome, a process that was complete by December of that year.
Italy was now in a strong position, and once again two envoys visited Rome to negotiate. They stayed until the following March, with the talks on this occasion proving fruitful for the  Pope, in that he was able to nominate thirty-seven bishops and archbishops, twenty in different Italian provinces including the sees of Turin and Milan, and seventeen in the dioceses of the Papal States. Additionally agreement was reached regarding the State taking on part of the public debt contracted by the Holy See for the territories that had been annexed, and the improvement of the railway system. These accords made it possible to remedy in part, the great distress existing in certain Italian dioceses. The envoy's request that the annexations should be recognised as legitimate, was firmly rejected.

                                                         'Feed my Lambs'  by Raphael. 
                             Christ appointing Peter as Head of His Church.

In June 1867 in Rome, the commemorations celebrating the eighteenth centenary of the martyrdom of  Saints Peter and Paul unfolded in a spirit of relative optimism. Pius IX wanted this commemoration to demonstrate the Church’s unity around the Chair of Peter, with all the Bishops of the world  invited, and the occasion marked by the canonisation of  several martyrs, confessors, and virgins. On the day, the Pope was surrounded by 46 Cardinals, all the oriental Patriarchs, almost 500 archbishops and bishops, 20,000 priests, and about 150,000 of the faithful. At the conclusion of the celebration, in an address to the bishops, the Pope officially announced that he would summon an Ecumenical Council, although no date was fixed.

About two months later, a so-called ‘Peace Congress’ took place in Geneva involving various European revolutionary movements. The guest of honour was Garibaldi, who in his  propositions, which  included ‘World government’ and ‘Pacifism’, revealed his hatred of the Church, stating:-
‘We declare that the Papacy, the most noxious of sects, has fallen’;
‘The priesthood of ignorance and revelations must be replaced by the priesthood of enlightenment, truth and justice.’
 And in his final address:-
'There will be no improvement until priest-craft is defeated’. 
Interestingly, the Congress had to wind up in a hurry as the Swiss authorities became alarmed at the threatening tenor of the meetings, to the extent that they would have intervened had the Congress continued.

In October the same year, Garibaldi assembled a volunteer army in Florence, invaded the Papal States and gained possession of Monte Rotondo. In Rome his men exploded a large bomb in a barracks of the papal Zouaves, killing twenty-seven people. By early November Garibaldi’s troops had taken possession of Viterbo and were threatening the north of Rome, but were then defeated by a combination of Papal and French troops at the battle of Mentana. The towns of Viterbo and Monte Rotondo, abandoned by Garibaldi’s troops, were soon re-occupied, and the French and Papal Zouaves returned to Rome where they received a victor’s welcome.

                                                                    Battle of Mentana 1867

The Pope was well aware that one victory does not win a war, particularly a war going far beyond the frontiers of Italy, a spiritual as well as  territorial war waged against the Church by her enemies. For the Pope, the defence of his temporal sovereignty was driven more by religious motives than political, for his temporal sovereignty made possible the free exercise of his spiritual mission. In his view those hostile to his temporal sovereignty were in league with the Church’s adversaries.

For the Pope, unity within the Church centred around the Holy See, was of prime importance. In June1868, when addressing  the Cardinals who had come to Rome for the anniversary of his election, he said:-
    “The struggle between good and evil is as old as the world, and this struggle has followed the Church in her development down the centuries. We see this intense struggle before our very eyes, here in Italy, where profanations, spoliations, and insults succeed one another without interruption. It is most intense against Rome, which evil men have targeted. Here Satan is bending all his strength to destroy the centre of Catholic unity, in order to set up the centre of abomination. Yet this ceaseless, pitiless war has produced a salutary reaction in our favour. People of high aspirations have come over to our side; all good men are coming forward in our defence. Every day we are visited by priests and bishops from the remotest lands. They come here seeking light and strength at the tomb of the Apostles. This light and this strength are indeed here, in the Holy City.”

In April 1869,  Pius IX celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination, with guests and visitors from across Europe. The ceremonies and festivities lasted for several days, and included  solemn High Mass in St Peter’s; a banquet for 1500 people- including the exiled King and Queen of Naples;  the Pope celebrating Mass at  the hospice where he had said his first Mass; and a visit to the Basilica of St Agnes in memory of the miracle of April 12, 1855. The celebrations ended with the Pope addressing the Catholic Association of Italian Youth:- ”I am with you, and you are with me. Together we must fight against error, we must confront our enemies and try to extirpate the poison from their hearts, and shield those who have not yet been affected."

This emphasis on the importance of unity was repeated in his allocutions to the faithful, both religious and lay, in the months leading up to the Vatican Council:- “ Be united and then you will be strong, strong against hell and against those evil men who attack you and what you are bound to defend and bound to love, namely justice, truth, the Church, the Holy See’
 (to be continued)

 (Ack. 'Pope Pius IX, the Man and the Myth' by Yves Chiron. Published by Angelus Press)


Miracle at the Basilica of St Agnes, April 12, 1855.

A few words on the miracle of April 12, 1855, at the Basilica of St Agnes. (courtesy of

                   Miracle of the Basilica of St Agnes, Rome. April 12, 1855.

Extract from the New York Times of 13 April 1905:
ROME, April 12. -- an interesting ceremony took place this morning in the Basilica of St Agnes, 2 miles outside of Rome. The building stands over the catacombs, where among others, the body of St Agnes is buried.
While Pius IX on April 12, 1855 was receiving the College of the Propaganda in the Basilica, the floor gave way and all present were precipitated into the catacombs, 20 feet below. Nobody was injured, and this, by some persons, was considered a miracle.
The only living survivors of the accident are the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Burtsell of Rondout, N.Y., and Archbishop Rubian, the resident representative of the Armenians in Rome (both young seminarians at the time). In the Basilica this morning Dr. Burtsell celebrated High Mass and Archbishop Rubian intoned the Te Deum and bestowed the benediction on the members of the College of the Propaganda.
The Pope later in the day received Dr. Burtsell and Archbishop Rubian. The Pontiff took the occasion to speak of Pius IX. He says that many persons were urging him to begin the informative process towards his canonisation.
"Miracle of the Basilica of St Agnes," the Pope continued, "is one of the events which will be brought forward to establish the fact that Pius IX performs miracles. It is a good thing that there are living witnesses to give evidence."

"The Mortara Affair"
It also seems appropriate to mention here what became known as the ‘Mortara Affair’, in which Pope Pius IX was accused of abuse of power in his capacity as sovereign of the Papal States.
Edgardo Mortara Levi was born on 26 August 1851 to a Jewish family in Bologna. Contravening both the laws of the Papal States and Jewish practice, his parents put him into the care of a young Christian domestic servant, Anna Morisi. In August 1852 the little Edgardo fell gravely ill, and as he appeared  in danger of death, the servant baptised him, but in secret, supposing that the parents would have been opposed. As soon as he received baptism, the little boy quickly recovered.
    This event remained unknown for several years, until Anna Morisi casually mentioned it to friends, who in turn told the Archbishop of Bologna who then instructed the Dominican Father Pier Feletti, the town Inquisitor, to investigate the matter. He concluded that the baptism had been validly carried out and that consequently, Edgardo had to be considered a son of the Church, which in turn needed to provide him with a Christian education.
    The parents refused this, and in June 1858 the Inquisitor ordered the Pontifical Gendarmerie to remove the boy from his family and to take him to the Roman Catechumenate in Rome, where he would remain under the protection of the Pope. The boy’s parents were allowed visitation rights.
    There was immediate public outcry, with influential liberal voices, newspapers, foreign ministries and Chancelleries, throughout Europe, seizing on the issue and using it to discredit the Church. They accused the authorities in Bologna, and also the Pope, of having violated the boy’s human rights as well as the demands of nature. The Italian, French, and above all the British government were particularly active.
    The Pontifical position was vigorously defended by the Catholic Press, and in particular Louis Veuillet, editor of L’Univers, who accused the British government of hypocrisy, having interned in Anglican orphanages the children of Catholic soldiers, both English and Irish, who had died in battle. These orphans were educated in the observances of that religion which had persecuted their ancestors.
    Pius IX defended the Inquisitor of Bologna and refused to return Mortara to his parents. He commented,‘I would rather do anything than take away from Christ a soul which He has redeemed with His blood’.
    Supported by noted theologians, including Dom Gueranger, the Pope made the following points:- 

'By the laws of the Church it is forbidden to baptise an infidel by force, and  consequently it is forbidden to baptise a child against the will of both its parents.'

'However, if the child is in danger of death, then it is permitted to baptise him even against the will of his parents. The baptism then imparts to the child not the faith of his parents, but that of the Church, making him a Christian ‘ex opera operato’ without the need for any consent.'

'Once such a child has been baptised, having become a son of the Church, the Church has a duty to provide him with an education in conformity with the received Christian faith. Consequently, if the child’s parents refuse to provide such an education, the Church has the right to bestow it on him and to substitute itself for the family in its educational role, in virtue of the principle of subsidiarity. In this case, indeed, the rights of the family (which belong to the natural and divine order) are superseded by the superior rights of the Church (which belongs to the Divine and positive order); the law of God the Creator is included and superseded by that of God the Redeemer and Saviour, who realises himself in the Church.'

Pope Benedict XIV in his Instruction ‘Postremo mense’ published in 1747, laid down that although it is not licit to take a child away from infidel parents in order to baptise it, once the baptism had occurred the ecclesiastical authorities had the duty to provide the new son of the Church, and the new citizen of the Papal States, with a Christian education.

The political storm lasted for almost a year but the Pope stuck to his guns, and eventually  the controversy died down. There were negative consequences, for when Piedmont ‘acquired’ the Pontifical Legations in 1859,  both Inquisitor Feletti and the Gendarmerie involved, Lt Col Dominicis, were arrested and put on trial for ‘abuse of power’, ‘abduction’ and ‘violent removal of Edgardo Mortara.’ The Dominican’s defence was a refusal to recognise the secular jurisdiction over an affair which had been conducted according to the superiority of divine positive law over divine natural law. Furthermore the defence counsel emphasised that it was wrong to accuse Feletti for the simple fact of having carried out the law then in force, to which he, both as a prelate and a citizen, was beholden. The trial ended on 16 April 1860 with the acquittal of both defendants.

In 1870 when Rome was invaded by the Piedmontese army, the Prefect of Police sought out the young Edgardo in order to ‘liberate’ him and ‘satisfy public opinion’. By this time however he had decided to become a priest. Fearing that the government would force him to return to his family, the young man fled to the Tyrol. He was fluent in nine languages, and from 1872 onwards he devoted himself to preaching the Christian faith in Italy, France, Belgium, and Spain, especially to Jews. He always carried out his mission under the guidance and protection of Pius IX, whose spiritual son he considered himself to be and whose name he had added to his own. The Pope had entrusted him to the care of the Bishop of Poitiers, the saintly Edouard Pie. When the Pope died in 1878 and Bishop Pie in 1880, Edgardo wrote that this double loss left him ‘like an orphan’

Father Edgardo Mortara, with his mother and brother (1880)                             
Some years later, Edgardo became gravely ill, but recovered after recourse to Pius IX. He spent his final years preaching devotion to the Sacred Heart, and died in Belgium on 11 March 1940, aged 89 years.

(ack. ‘Blessed Pius IX’ by Roberto de Mattei. Published by Gracewing.)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Pope Pius IX - 'Quanta Cura' and the 'Syllabus of Errors' (1864)

(continued from 11 July)
For Pope Pius IX, the decade following the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was a period of increasing stress and uncertainty, with Rome and the Papal States  under constant threat of invasion and annexation by one or other of the armies of France, Piedmont-Sardinia, and the forces of the Risorgimento. Among the leading political figures in events of this period were Count Camillo Cavour,  Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia;  Emperor Napoleon III of France; King Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia; and Garibaldi; all to varying degrees and for perhaps different reasons, plotting against Pope Pius IX and the Catholic Church. Their ultimate aim was the acquisition of the papal states, and the setting up of a republican government in Italy.  The papacy was to be stripped of its temporal kingdom, with the Pope and the Church tolerated but largely subject to the laws of the new secular State. Such an  objective had the backing of the English and other anti-Catholic governments, together with Masonic and secular 
powers throughout Europe
    Pope Pius IX
This post is concerned with one particularly notable event of Pio Nono’s pontificate, namely the papal encyclical ‘Quanta Cura’ published on December 8, 1864, and its annex - the ‘Syllabus of the Principal Errors of Our Time’.
          The history of the Syllabus goes back to the year 1849, in the wake of the Roman revolution, when Cardinal Pecci (later Pope Leo XIII), together with the Bishops of Spoleto, wrote to Pope Pius IX asking him to “tabulate all the errors against the Church, against authority and property, as they present themselves in our time, and to condemn them, specifying the relevant note of censure”.
 In 1851, a layman,  Emiliano della Motta, in a work published in Turin, ‘Essay on socialism and the socialist doctrines and tendencies’ also called for a global condemnation of the ‘huge and highly pernicious errors of modern society.’ In 1852 when the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was being prepared, it had been suggested that a solemn condemnation of the errors of the time
should be included in the Bull defining the dogma, but this idea was ultimately abandoned.
After the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the work of the Commission  completed, it was instructed  to continue in the preparation of  the future Syllabus. In October 1859, at the Pope’s request, Abbot Dom Gueranger of Solesmes Abbey, and Mgr de Ram of the Catholic University of Louvain,  submitted their respective views on the chief errors of the time, with the Bishop of Poitiers, Mgr Pie, submitting his opinion on two specified errors, viz.
  “the order of faith and of the supernatural sacrificed to the order of nature”, and
  “the practical and absolute separation of the religious order from the civil order, raised to the level of a dogma and hailed as progress”.
The replies, consisting of detailed memorandi, were read and annotated by the Pope, and from these the commission initially drew up a collection of seventy-nine condemned theses.
          Some months later Mgr Gerbet, Bishop of Perpignan, on his own initiative, published a pastoral instruction on ‘various errors of the present time’, which amounted to eighty-five propositions. The Pope was sent a copy of this pastoral instruction and its annexed catalogue, and was sufficiently impressed to decide that it was to be used as a guide when preparing the Syllabus.

          In May 1861 a second commission was set up to examine Mgr Gerbet's propositions in more detail. After many working sessions a final list of sixty-one doctrinal propositions was drawn up, each with its relevant censure. When the Bishops met in Rome in June 1862, for the canonization of the Japanese Martyrs, Pius IX had a copy of this list distributed to each of them, under the
seal of secrecy, requiring  them to examine the condemned errors attentively and make their observations within two months. The majority of Bishops approved the proposed text, but about a third of them judged a condemnation of this kind inopportune or expressed disagreement concerning the censure to be applied to particular errors.
          Within a few weeks the secrecy requested by the Pope had been broken. The French Ambassador to Rome communicated the proposed list of condemned propositions to his Minister, and it was not long before it became widely known. Meetings were held by the French liberal-Catholic groups, also by scholars from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, with the details of the propositions severely criticised. A congress of ‘Belgian Catholics’ was held in Malines, with the liberal Catholic, Count Montalembert,  praising ‘Catholic and liberal Belgium’ but regretting that many Catholics ‘had not yet taken their part in the great revolution that has given birth to the new society, the new life of the peoples’. He advocated the separation of Church and State, praising ‘freedom of worship and of conscience, the most precious, the most sacred, the most legitimate, the most necessary freedom.’ His remarks scandalised many present, which included the English Cardinal Wiseman, and several Bishops subsequently demanded an official condemnation of his remarks.
               Count Montalembert (1810-1870)
The Pope valued Montalembert’s past battles for the Church, particularly for freedom of education in France, and was not prepared to publicly condemn him, however he wrote to him privately rejecting his ideas which were ‘in contradiction with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the acts of various sovereign Pontiffs.’ The liberal Catholics feared the forthcoming solemn condemnation, with Deschamps a friend of Montalembert, writing to the Pope and suggesting that condemning the very foundations of the modern constitutions would put the Church in danger of intensified hostility; sentiments echoed by Leopold I, King of the Belgians.
The author of the final version of the Syllabus was a Barnabite religious Fr Luigi Bilio, who as consultor of the Congregation of the Holy Office, had been responsible for examining the two addresses of Montalembert, and had concluded that the speaker had erred, resulting in the papal condemnation.    Fr Bilio had so impressed with his work, that he was charged with the task of finalising the Syllabus,  producing three different drafts over a six month period. His last draft, in contrast to the format of his earlier ones, was based on Pius IX’s teachings as expressed in his encyclicals dating from 1846, from which he extracted a list of eighty-four propositions explicitly censured by the Pope. The result was a list of quotations with references, concerning philosophical and theological questions and the relations between Church and State. Two quotations were withdrawn on account of duplication, and two more were withdrawn by Fr Bilio on his own initiative, who judged that they could be misunderstood. Thus the definitive version of the Syllabus, after twelve years of work and eight different draft versions, contained eighty condemned propositions drawn from thirty-two encyclicals, allocutions, and letters of Pope Pius IX.
The Syllabus, formally without signature or date,  with the eighty condemned propositions divided into ten categories, was sent to all the bishops of the world, together with the explanatory encyclical ‘Quanta Cura’ dated December 8, 1864.
The Syllabus of Errors.
          1. Propositions of pantheism’, ’naturalism’, andabsolute rationalism’ i.e. those which say that ‘God and nature are the same thing’; ‘all things are God’; ‘there is no difference between spirit and matter, necessity and freedom, true and false, good and evil, justice and injustice’; ‘the idea that reason is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations’; ‘the faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason.’
          2. Moderate rationalism’, in which the ‘theological must be treated in the same way as philosophical sciences’; ‘the decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the free progress of science’; and ‘that one can engage in philosophy without taking any account of supernatural revelation’.
          3/4Indifferentism and latitudinarianism were dealt with in four propositions. ‘Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true’; ‘man may in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation’. Socialism, Communism, Secret societies, Biblical societies, and Clerico-liberal societies, were also condemned.
          5. Twenty propositions manifested errors regarding the Church and her rights. For example, ‘it falls on the civil power to define the rights of the Church, and the limits in which she may exercise those rights’; ‘ that the Church has not any temporal power, direct or indirect’; ‘national churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established.’
          6. A sixth section condemned errors about civil society,  considered both in itself and in its relation to the Church. For example, ‘in the case of conflicting laws enacted by the two powers, the civil law prevails’; ’the civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality, and spiritual government’;  ‘ the laws enacted for the protection of religious orders and regarding their rights and duties, ought to be abolished.’
          7. Nine erroneous propositions on ‘Natural and Christian ethics’. ‘The science of philosophical things and morals and also civil laws, may and ought to keep aloof from divine and ecclesiastical authority’; ’it is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them.’
          8. Ten propositions covered the ‘errors concerning Christian marriage. For example, ‘the doctrine that Christ has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament cannot be at all tolerated’; ‘in many cases divorce properly so-called may be decreed by the civil authority’; ‘in force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage.’
          9. Errors regarding the civil power of the Sovereign Pontiff were dealt with in two propositions, one of which states that ‘the abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed, would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church.’
          10. Finally, Section ten listed four errors connected to modern liberalism. The last of these is probably the most publicised of the entire list, viz. ‘The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilisation.’
The encyclical and Syllabus struck a blow not only against the anti-clericals, agnostics, and atheists, but also against liberal Catholics. In France, the government and anti-clerical press showed great hostility to the Pope’s condemnations e.g. ‘the supreme insult offered to the modern world by a doomed papacy’ (Le Siecle), Emperor Napoleon III, through his Minister of Justice and Education, forbade the French bishops from publicising those parts of the Syllabus which contained  propositions contrary to the principles underlying the Empire’s constitution. Their reactions varied, with about eighty responding, some thirty sending a written letter of protest to the Minister, and the others using the traditional means of a pastoral letter which provided the opportunity of commenting on the encyclical and the catalogue of condemned errors. Two bishops ignored the prohibition completely, reading out the entire text of both encyclical and Syllabus in their respective Cathedrals. As a result they were brought before a Council of State and condemned for a breach of the law.
The most widely circulated episcopal reaction came from Mgr Dupanlou, the liberal Bishop of Orleans, who produced a pamphlet in which he suggested that the encyclical 'had not been interpreted, it had been misrepresented'. Enlarging on this he stated that the condemnation of a proposition does not necessarily imply that its opposite is being affirmed, nor should it be regarded as universal and absolute. He further stated that the Pope had condemned only ‘unlimited liberty’, not whatever is good in progress, whatever is truly useful in modern civilisation, whatever is truly liberal and Christian in Liberalism. He went on to say that the Church is not the enemy of political liberty, and that in fact no spirit is more liberal than hers.

             Mgr Dupanlou, Bishop of Orleans (1876)

The pamphlet was an immediate success, with 100,000 copies sold within three weeks. It offered encouragement to both liberal Catholics and to those loyal to the Pope. The Pope sent him a Brief of congratulations, praising him for the manner in which he had repudiated ‘the calumnies and errors of the newspapers, which had so lamentably disfigured the meaning of the teaching proposed by Us’. However he was not totally uncritical in his praise, reminding the Bishop, a liberal Catholic, of his lack of support in the past, and urging greater zeal and care  in the future.
Entirely contrary to the Bishop’s views, were those of another eminent Catholic Frenchman, the ultramontanist layman, Louis Veuillet, who produced his own pamphlet entitled ‘L’Illusion Liberale’:-
                ‘the liberal Catholic is neither Catholic nor liberal. What I mean by this - and I am not doubting his sincerity- is that he has lost both the true notion of liberty and the true notion of the Church. He may say that he is a liberal Catholic as much as he pleases, but he exhibits a much more well-known character, and all his features show us someone met with all too frequently in the history of the Church: his true name is SECTARIAN ……. Catholic liberalism and the spirit of the world are of the same blood; they tend towards each other by a thousand slopes ….. Heresy, which does not deny all the truth at once, which does not affirm all the error at once, opens a water-course
for these futile springs; they converge on it from two opposite sides, and so the torrent swells. If heresy breaks its banks, there is only one solid ground, only one refuge, the ROCK … Tu es Petrus …. Et non praevalebunt’

      Louis Veuillet (1813-1883) by Nadar

Veuillet called on Catholics to ‘rally around the Sovereign Pontiff, to follow his inspired directives unshakeably, to affirm with him those truths which alone will save both our souls and the world.’
The Pope was  delighted and his response enthusiastic - ‘these are my ideas, utterly and absolutely’.
 The anti-clerical Press took the opportunity to discredit the Church, and initially the governments of Austria and Italy tried to prohibit the publication of the two documents, but then abandoned the attempt. In the German speaking countries it was primarily the supporters of the Syllabus who made their voices heard. The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Rauscher, in his publication ‘The State without God’ praised the Pope for opposing the separation of Church and State.’

                 Cardinal Rauscher, Archbishop of Vienna (1853-1875)

The publication of the ‘Syllabus of Errors’ was one of the three great milestones of Pope Pius IX’s pontificate, the others being the proclamation of the ‘Dogma of the Immaculate Conception’, and the ‘First Vatican Council.’  The Pope’s intention of continuity between these events is evident by their respective dates:-  the dogma was proclaimed on December 8, 1854;  the Syllabus with the encyclical Quanta Cura, published December 8, 1864; and  the opening of the Council on December 8, 1869. 
 Ack.  'Pope Pius IX – the Man and the Myth' by Yves Chiron, published by Angelus Press.
'Blessed Pius IX' by Roberto Mattei, published by Gracewing.
'Pio Nono' by E Y Hales, published by Eyre and Spottiswood. 
(to be continued)

Monday, 4 August 2014

"Philip Speaks" by Caryll Houselander

' Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. When, therefore, Jesus had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great crowd had come to him, he said to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?" But he said this to try him, for he himself knew what he would do.
           Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not enough for them, that each one may receive a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a young boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes; but what are these among so many?" Jesus then said, "Make the people recline."
           Now there was much grass in the place. The men therefore reclined, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, distributed them to those reclining; and likewise the fishes, as much as they wished.  But when they were filled, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments that are left over, lest they be wasted."  They therefore gathered them up; and they filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.'    John 6: 1-13.

'Philip Speaks'

When we returned and told Him all we had done,
I for one was emptied out like a husk
that has scattered its seed upon hard ground.

We had not had time even to eat;
always the open hand,
always the blind eyes,
always the deaf ears,
always the wound to be healed.

My thoughts were like wild birds
beating the bars of the cage
for empty skies.

Even now the smell of the people
clung to my hair and clothes,
a rotten sweetness of oil and musk
that smells like death, it hung in my hair.

Their voices went on and on in my head,
monotonous waves wearing my mind away;-
rock is worn by the waves to sand.
I wanted to shut my mind, that my thoughts might close
on my own peace,  I wanted to close
the peace of my love in my heart
like dew in a dark rose.

He told us to rest.  
Jesus commands the Apostles to rest - James Tissot (1836-1902)
We went in a small ship,
the wind and water moving in her,
She lived in their sweetness of life, a bride.
Her sail a white wing, unmoving, moved with the tide.
She lay to the wind, and we gave our hearts with a sigh
to the breath of the spirit of love.

But when we came to the shore
the people were there;
they had found us out.
Always the open hand,
always the blind eyes,
always the deaf ears,
always the wounds to be healed!
They were there,
swarming there, everywhere,
insects there in the sun
when someone has lifted a stone.
I knew they would drain Him
and wring Him out – wring Him out
to the last drop of the fountain water of life.

I was sick of it all
with a dry husk for a heart.
But He saw the flocks wanting shepherd and fold,
Pity in Him rose in a clear spring
For the world’s thirst, and love was a pastureland.
So it went on all day
Always the open hand,
Always the dull mind,
Always the slow heart
Always the nameless fears,
And self-pity, self-pity and tears;

Until the sun went up in the blaze of the day’s heat
And with red wine burning through thin gold
It was lowered slowly onto the altar stone
Of the darkening world, where the sheep were in fold.
                          Sunset on the Sea of Galilee (ack. baumersabroad)
We thought ‘now it is night, He will send them away’
“The hour is late,” we said, “this is a desert place,
 send them away, Lord, to buy food and be fed!”
But He “you give them to eat!”

The grass in that place shone exceedingly green,
I remember, because when the brain is dust,
The cool greenness of grass is absurdly sweet.

“There is a lad here,” said Andrew,
“with two little fish and five loaves of bread,
but what are these if this crowd must be fed?”
“Bid them sit down on the grass and give them to eat,”
the Lord said.
The lad was one of the crowd, he went as he came.
As long as the world lasts, the world will remember him,
But no one will know his name!

They sat down on the grass.
My heart contracted, my mind was withered up,
But Christ poured out His tenderness,
Like wine poured out into a lifted cup.
Always the open hands,
Always the blind eyes,
Always the mouth to be fed,
And I for one was emptied out like a husk
That has scattered its seed upon hard ground.
But He saw the flocks wanting shepherd and fold;
Pity in Him rose in a clear spring
For the world’s thirst, and love was a pastureland.

The Lord blessed the bread.
He put it into our hands
And it multiplied,
Not in His hands but in mine!

Even now, remembering this,
My thoughts shut like a folding wing,
My mind is a blank sheet of light
In the mystery of the thing.

I gave and my hands were full, again and again;
Pity in Him fell on my dry dust,
It was summer rain,
And the husk of my heart expanded and filled again,
And was large with grain.
For me, the miracle was this,
That a clear stream of the Lord’s love
(not mine)
flowed out of my soul,
a shining wave, over my fellow men. 

These things I have told you happened a long while since.
Our cherished Lord is dead, He was crucified.
Now, as then, we go about in the crowd telling His love,
and how He rose from the dead, and risen in us
He lives in the least of men.
But I think nobody understands,
until I touch their wounds and they know
the healing of His hands.

On the night of the Pasch, before He died,
He blessed the bread and put it into my hands,
to increase and be multiplied to the end of time.
                              The Last Supper.  Dieric Bouts 1420-75
Now if I turned my face away from the market place,
I should be haunted,
hearing the rustle of wheat in the darkness,
striving, pushing up to the light.
I should hear His words falling like slow tears
in the Supper room,  -
when He prayed that we all be one,
even as they are one, the Father and Son, -
falling like slow tears
over the sown fields,
and I should see the world
like a young field of wheat
growing up for the grain
watered by Christ’s tears.

Always the open hands,
always the blind eyes,
always the slow mind,
always the deaf ears,
and always Christ, Our Lord,
crowned with the flowering thorn
and ringed with spears.

I know, - now that I never see
the print of His feet in the dust
where the Son of Man trod, -
that in every man for ever
I meet the Son of God.
                                        Caryll Houselander

‘Dedicated in gratitude to Dr J W McKail, O.M. in whose hands all that there is of good in “Philip Speaks” has been

(Ack 'The Flowering Tree' selected poems by Caryll  
Houselander, published by Sheed and Ward, London.)


Friday, 11 July 2014

Pope Pius IX - Immaculate Conception (1854) - the Piedmontese threat

(continued from previous post)

Whilst the re-establishment of the hierarchies of England and Holland was being considered, requests that the traditional belief in the 'Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary' be defined as a dogma of faith, were being received at Rome in increasing numbers.  The vision of the Blessed Virgin seen by the novice nun, Catherine Laboure, in the Rue du Bac, Paris, in 1830, which included the inscription, “O Marie, concue sans peche, priez pour nous qui avons recours a vous” (“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”), gave significant impetus to the  movement.  Pio Nono was  known to have a special devotion to the Mother of God,  and on 1 June 1848  he appointed a commission of twenty theologians, under the Jesuit, Fr. Passaglia, to study the merits and implications of such a proclamation.

       The Immaculate Conception - Francisco de Zurbaran (1630)

On 2 February 1849, the Pope issued the Encyclical ‘Ubi Primum’ from Gaeta, asking the Bishops for prayers and advice on this question. Of some 600 replies, only that of the Archbishop of Paris, Sibour, with one or two others, took the line that the belief was not definable; a few more, mainly from Protestant countries, regarded it as inopportune. The overwhelming majority were enthusiastic, and drafts were then prepared by the Jesuit priests, Fr Perrone and  Fr Passaglia.  The Pope anticipated any suggestion that the new dogma was 'the invention of the Jesuits', by allowing the Bishops whom he invited for the solemn proclamation on December 8th, 1854, to introduce a number of modifications into the text at the last moment. “We must accept this humiliation,” he is reported to have said, “so that it won’t be said that everything depended on the Jesuits”.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Rue du Bac, Paris, the site of Our Lady's appearance to St Catherine Laboure in 1830. Link below provides further information.

The belief in question, as it ultimately came to be defined, was that the Virgin Mary, at the moment of her conception, a normal, human conception, was miraculously exempted from the taint of original sin. There was no direct scriptural warrant for the belief, save that implicit in the salutation of the Angel Gabriel, “Hail Mary, full of grace”; and there was the difficulty, felt by St Bernard and by St Thomas Aquinas, that if the Virgin were thus without sin she was in no need of  redemption, of which all mankind stood in need. The reply to this was that of Duns Scotus, who professed that, in being freed from original sin, Mary was participating in advance, and in a more perfect way, in the redemption won by her Divine Son. The answer to the absence of direct scriptural warrant was simply the tradition of the Church and the deductions which it was logical to make from the great and unique privileges of Mary. The altogether exceptional nature of the sanctity of Mary was part of the belief of the early Fathers; her divine maternity was defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431; and her freedom from actual sin has never  been doubted.  The Feast of the Conception of Mary, of eastern origin, was being celebrated in England in the 11th century, and devotion to her Immaculate Conception was encouraged by St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109). In 1476, Pope Sixtus IV approved the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and explicitly encouraged the devotion. The Council of Trent (1545-63) carefully exempted the Virgin Mary from the taint of evil when defining the doctrine of original sin.

   Column of the Immaculate Conception, Rome - erected to commemorate dogmatic proclamation by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854

 For Pio Nono the proclamation of the dogma in St Peter’s was certainly one of the supreme moments of his life, and more than once he was overcome with emotion while reading it out. To commemorate the event he caused a very tall and graceful column to be erected in the piazza di Spagna, at Rome, surmounted by a statue of the Virgin as she had appeared to the novice, Catherine Laboure, at Paris. It is one of the more striking of the many monuments which he left in the city.

From the point of view of the future policy and procedure of the Holy See, however, the most significant thing was not the dogma itself, but rather the manner in which it was proclaimed. A suggestion that the Bishops should be associated with the Pope in the proclamation, was not taken up. According to an article in the ‘Dictionnaire Encyclopedique de la Theologie Catholique’ (1871 edition), it was officially stated that, “if the sovereign Pontiff alone pronounced the definition, to which all the faithful spontaneously adhered, his ruling would furnish a practical demonstration of the sovereign authority of the Church in the matter of doctrine, and of the infallibility with which Jesus Christ has invested His vicar on earth”. Thus the dogma was pronounced upon the sole authority of the Pope, after he had fully consulted both the theologians and the episcopate.
A precedent of the greatest importance was thus set, which had its influence upon the form in which the dogma of Papal Infallibility came later to be defined in 1870.
Similarly nearly 100 years later, in 1950, when Pope Pius XII came to define the analogous dogma of the ‘Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven’, he followed a method of enquiry, and of consultation with the episcopate, which clearly derived from that employed by Pio Nono in 1854.

On 12 April 1850, Pio Nono rode in state back through the Lateran Gate of Rome, from which he had made his escape in disguise, some 18 months previously. French troops provided his escort, and the Roman crowd was dense and enthusiastic. The Pope, a more cautious and wiser man than previously, would continue reforming the political, juridical, and administrative institutions of his state, but he would not make the same mistakes as before.  In the political sphere, Cardinal Antonelli, as Secretary of State,  exerted great influence but always acted in conformity with the Pope’s wishes.  One of the things the Pope had learnt about himself, was that he was a poor politician, and  it made sense for him to have an efficient servant who would take responsibility, under himself, for the multifarious diplomatic business involved in matters affecting both the Universal Church, and  the  Italian Principality.  The Cardinal, a Neapolitan of peasant origin, in minor orders but never admitted to the priesthood, was street-wise, very capable, courageous, but above all obedient and totally loyal to the Pope.  The limit to which  Pio Nono would go in the matter of constitutional innovation was outlined in his Motu Proprio of September 1849. No mention was made of restoring the Constitution of March 1848, a factor conveniently overlooked by enemies of the Pope who subsequently accused him of reneging on his  promises - promises which had never been made in the first place!
With the return of the Pope, a Council of State was set up. In the same year (1850), the elective provincial and municipal councils reappeared, as did the ‘Consulta’ at Rome, half elected by the provincial councils and half appointed by the Pope. A policy of laicisation was adopted so that by 1856, only 289 ecclesiastics as against 6836 laymen were employed in the administration, with the Heads of  main departments of State often laymen.  The Secretary of State had, by long tradition, to be a cardinal, and he might be, as Antonelli was, in minor orders only.

     Count Camillo Benso Cavour -  by Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891)

During the 1850s, Cavour, the aggressively anti-Catholic Piedmontese Prime Minister, sought to increase secular power in Piedmont, at the expense of the Church. This involved the enforced  closure of all contemplative monastic and conventual establishments, only allowing those to remain that were judged to be actively working for the benefit of society, such as nursing or teaching Orders.  Cavour had long-term political aspirations, which included Piedmontese control of the Papal State and ultimate control of the whole Italian peninsular. It was an audacious conception, guessed at by few even within Piedmont. His first step was his notorious participation in the Crimean War, as the ally of France and England, in the hope of gaining their favours. The King, it has to be said, appeared supportive of the war. Cavour was negotiating this in January 1855, while the Law of the Convents was still being debated in Turin, and even at this early date he was plotting the dismemberment of the Papal State. 

The onslaught upon the Religious Orders in Piedmont, culminating in the ‘Law of the Convents’ at Turin in 1855, confirmed the Pope in the conviction that the whole ‘Risorgimento’ movement was essentially anti-Catholic. The Moderates as well as the Mazzinians, seemed hostile to the Church, with subsequent developments increasing  the Pope’s hostility  and  prompting him to formulate the ‘Syllabus of Errors’ (1864), which effectively reiterated  his earlier public denunciations of Piedmontese persecution.

                                                                Map of Italy 1850-1858

During the 1850s the enemies of the Church constantly sought excuses to invade the Papal States, their agenda being to destroy the Temporal power of the Church and to open the door to the creation of  an Italian Republic.  Thus it was that Cavour lost no opportunity to publicly criticise the Pope and the Roman government . Yet in 1856 a  report on the Papal State was produced by Raynerval, the French ambassador in Rome, in which he stressed  the progress that had been made with the laicisation of the Roman administration.
He ridicules the notion that the Roman government was a bad government: -
          “its weaknesses and imperfections are of the same kind as are met with in all governments.... the pontifical government is a government composed of Romans, acting after the Roman fashion ….. there is, in truth, misery here as elsewhere, but it is infinitely less heavy than in less favoured climates. Mere necessities are obtained cheaply. Private charity is largely exercised. Establishments of public charity are numerous and effective ….. Important ameliorations have been introduced into the administration of hospitals and prisons. Some of these prisons should be visited, that the visitor may admire – the term is not too strong – the persevering charity of the Holy Father.”

After pointing to practical achievements – the expansion of trade, the construction of railways, the building of houses; and demonstrating that the average Roman pays less than half what the average Frenchman pays in taxation, he concludes that “the pontifical administration bears the marks of wisdom, reason, and progress”.
Needless to say, this is not what Napoleon or Cavour wanted to hear, and Raynerval paid the price for his courage and honesty, being removed to St Petersburg the following year.

                  Vittoria Emmanuel II, King of Piedmont Sardinia.

Pio Nono had a surprising  affection for the young Victor Emmanuel, King of Piedmont, almost certainly due to the loyalty and support he received from his mother Queen Maria Teresa, and his wife Queen Marie Adelaide, both of whom corresponded regularly with the Pope, and both  desperate  to see amicable relations re-established between Turin and Rome.  As relations in Turin between Church and State deteriorated, the Pope always sought to excuse the king, suggesting that he was badly advised by his anti-Catholic ministers.  The king, in a letter to the Pope, admitted that he was in perpetual fear of being forced to abdicate should he fail to support  constitutional change, even  though personally against such change, and he wielded  little power in such matters.  Pio Nono was under no illusions as to where the power lay, and throughout his pontificate, in spite of  continual and increasingly aggressive behaviour from Piedmont,  his personal relationship with Victor Emmanuel was one of genuine compassion and spiritual concern.
(to be continued)
Ack. “Pio Nono” by E.E.Y.Hales, published by Eyre & Spottiswood, London 1954.