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Friday, 3 April 2015

Dear Prime Minister .........

Dear Prime Minister,

Whilst your public relations adviser has been doing a very efficient job, and I concede that you have a certain political charisma noticeably absent from other Party leaders, I regret that I will not be voting for your party in the forthcoming elections, for the following reasons:-

1. You introduced and supported the ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ Bill, in spite of having no mandate for it, and in spite of massive opposition from ‘ground-root’ Party supporters and others of all parties and creeds, whose opinions were dismissed and even ridiculed. The political manoeuvrings included deliberately ignoring 600,000 on-line signatures objecting to this legislation, with your arrogant and high handed attitude more reminiscent of a dictator than an elected member of Parliament.

2. Your promise that the Bill would not close the door to freedom of expression, has already been shown to be at best dubious, and at worst worthless. The right of conscience, previously an integral part of English law, has been virtually abolished. Professionals and others working in the fields of education, law, medicine, social and public services, and indeed all walks of life, now find that their jobs are under threat should they dare to express views opposed to the new legislation.

3. Under your leadership we now have a government apparently intent on destroying our Faith schools. Your Education Minister, Nicky Morgan, appears clearly opposed to all faith schools, and is using the so-called ‘British values’ clause, introduced by you without proper debate and consideration, to ensure that ‘Ofsted’ crush the Faith schools.
The most recent example of this unjust and enforced bureaucracy, is the closure of Durham Free School.

4.Your support for three-parent IVF genetic engineering, shared by some scientists and commercial interests, but not sought by the general public, and in fact openly opposed by many professionals working in the field, is misguided, as this will certainly involve unproven scientific experimentation, with a high cost in embryonic human life.

 5. Your government’s support for inappropriate sex-education in schools starting with primary-age school children, based on written material provided by such organisations as Brook – one of the largest international suppliers of contraceptives and provider of abortion facilities, and the Higgins Trust – a powerful political arm of the homosexual lobby, both organisations with their own vested interests, neither of which has the mandate or moral authority to indoctrinate our children on these matters.

6. Your government gives hundreds of millions of pounds to so-called ‘overseas aid’, but what actually is that aid and to whom does it go? Of course we should help those in need, refugees from natural disasters and warfare, but your ‘overseas aid’ encompasses other highly questionable causes, such as the Planned Parenthood organisation, a huge worldwide commercial organisation dealing almost exclusively in the distribution of contraceptives and the provision of abortion facilities to third-world countries, many of whom do not want it. We are talking of more than £403 million to this organisation, over the past few years,  an organisation of which  Margaret Sanger – an influential eugenicist of the 1930’s and 40’s, was one of its founder members. Of this huge amount, the sum of £360 million was guaranteed by you personally at the G8 meeting in London in 2010. What right has the government to dispose of taxpayers money in this unacceptable and arbitary way? I object strongly to my money being given to this profit-making organisation who use it for purposes I abhor.You are always preaching ‘transparency’ in government, but where is it in relation to your ‘overseas aid’ programme?

7. I always remember a 'throw-away' remark,  made I think, by the Chancellor, George Osborne, a year or two ago, after agreeing some sort of large loan to a country in trouble, to the effect that we (the public) must not worry about the loan, as ultimately we would benefit from it.. I cannot remember the specifics of the case, but I was left with the immediate thought, rightly or wrongly, that what we were really only interested in is what we could get out of it. I suppose this can be said of politics generally, but for some reason it left a particularly nasty taste in my mouth at the time.

8.  I am becoming increasingly irritated by your  promises for the future, without any details to back up such promises. This started with your promise of a referendum to decide our future in or out of the European Common Market, but no specific details yet released. You have promised  more houses to be built, more money in our pockets, more commercial incentives, better and more efficient NHS, more controlled immigration, etc. etc. I know that promises are made by all politicians, but you are the Prime Minister and we need to trust you. Unfortunately after the 'Same-Sex Marriage' debacle, I find this difficult.

 9. On the positive side, I thank you for your personal opposition to ‘assisted suicide’ and ‘euthanasia’.

10. Also on the positive side, I think it fair to congratulate you and your government on the good things accomplished, with particular mention to your achievements and courage in tackling the controversial and difficult question of welfare benefits, with due credit  to your minister Mr Duncan Smith and his team. The economy and employment figures seem to have held up, for which your government must also be given credit, although how long this will last and how much this is due to world events outside your control, remains to be seen.

11. On a rather different note, but one which I consider an important government responsibility in today's violent and unpredictable world, your failure to maintain the strength and effectiveness of our Armed Forces and Police to acceptable standards. This has been a worsening problem for many years, and other governments must share the blame, but it seems that this situation has deteriorated during your premiership.

12. You probably won’t remember this, but in the weeks preceding the discussion of the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Bill in Parliament, I wrote to you begging you not to support this Bill. In my letter I clearly stated that in the event of the Bill receiving your support, whilst you held any position of importance in the Party, I would never vote for the Conservatives again.  I informed you that my late father had been a Conservative supporter and local Councillor, serving as Mayor for two terms in his local Borough,  and that he would be ‘turning in his grave’ if he could see this ‘Same-sex Marriage’ legislation.

12. Regrettably but perhaps not surprisingly, you appeared to ignore my letter, as I received no reply or acknowledgement.

To conclude, I do not believe that the other major parties offer any real viable political alternatives, although certain fringe parties just might be worth considering. It is a great pity that you were the driving force behind  the ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ legislation, which factor is totally responsible for alienating me from your Party. My vote is but one vote, but I wonder how many others share my views. No doubt election-day will provide the answer.

Yours faithfully,
Brian Crowe.

 P.S.  I have inadvertently failed to mention the evil of legalised abortion, which your government has done nothing to combat over the past five years. The deliberate killing of the unborn child  is a grave offence against God and  mankind. Any political party or politician  who is prepared to fight for the repeal of this legislation, will have my vote.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

In support of our priests, our families, and our Church


 In support of our priests, our families, and our Church

You may have seen the recent letter from more than 450 priests in support of the Church’s teaching on marriage.

We would like to invite you to sign the letter below, to be sent to the press in support of them, and to encourage others to sign it.

To sign, please leave your name and your diocese in the comments box below, or if you prefer email them to one of the coordinators shown below, or to me at ''

Mark Lambert ( or Andrew Plasom-Scott (

The Letter:

Dear Sir,
We, the undersigned, wish to endorse and support the letter signed by over 450 priests in the recent edition of the Catholic Herald,
As laity, we all know from our own family experiences, or those of our friends and neighbours, the harrowing trauma of divorce and separation, and we sympathise with all those in such situations.
It is precisely for that reason that we believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the Gospels, with clarity and charity in a world that struggles to understand it.
For the sake of those in irregular unions, for the sake of those abandoned and living in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and above all for the sake of the next generation, it is essential that the Church continues to make it quite clear that sacramental marriage is indissoluble until death.
We pray, and expect, that our hierarchy will represent us, and the Church’s unwavering teaching, at the Synod this autumn.
Yours faithfully,

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Radical Islamists and History of the Crusades

 Taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders 1099 - Emile Signol 1847

The following relevant, informative, and interesting post is reproduced from the blog-site 'Archdiocese of Washington' (16th February); with kind permission of the author Msgr Charles Pope.


Considering the Crusades in the Context of the Current Conflict with Radical Islamists

Recent and persistent attacks by radical Muslims, especially the most recent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians, have many asking what can or should be done to end such atrocities. Military actions by numerous countries, including our own, are already underway. Most feel quite justified in these actions and many are calling for more concerted efforts to eliminate ISIS and related zealots who seem to know no pity, no reason, and no limits. I do not write here to opine on the need for or limits on military action. I only point to the “just war” teaching of the Church as a guide for such actions. Obviously, there is a clear and present threat that needs to be repulsed, even with force.
But perhaps, too, given our present experiences, we should not be so quick to condemn the similar outrage and calls for action that came from Christians of the Middle Ages, who also suffered widespread atrocities. The Crusades were a reaction to something very awful and threatening, something that needed to be forcefully repulsed. Many if not most of the great saints from that period called for Crusades, preaching them and supporting them. This includes the likes of St. Bernard, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Francis of Assisi.
Seldom are historical events identical to present realities. But our current experiences give us a small taste of what Christians, from the 8th century through the Middle Ages, experienced. Their response need not be seen as sinless or wholly proper. Armed conflict seldom ends without atrocities, a good reason to set it as the very last recourse. Most popular presentations of the Crusades are arguably more influenced by anti-Catholic bigotry than historical fact.
With all this in mind, I’d like to look at the Crusades using excerpts from an article by Paul Crawford, published a few years back at First Principles, entitled, Four Myths About the Crusades. In the excerpts that follow, his text is in bold, black italics, while my comments are in plain red text. The full text of his excellent, though lengthy article can be read by clicking the link above.
For a longer treatment of this subject, please see Steve Weidenkopf’s book  The Glory of the Crusades, recently published at Catholic Answers.
For now, let’s examine Crawford’s article and detail four myths of the Crusades:

Myth #1: The crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians on the Muslim world.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and even a cursory chronological review makes that clear. In a.d. 632, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, France, Italy, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were all Christian territories. Inside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, which was still fully functional in the eastern Mediterranean, orthodox Christianity was the official, and overwhelmingly majority, religion. Outside those boundaries were other large Christian communities—not necessarily orthodox and Catholic, but still Christian. Most of the Christian population of Persia, for example, was Nestorian. Certainly there were many Christian communities in Arabia.
By a.d. 732, a century later, Christians had lost Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor, and southern France. Italy and her associated islands were under threat, and the islands would come under Muslim rule in the next century. The Christian communities of Arabia were entirely destroyed in or shortly after 633, when Jews and Christians alike were expelled from the peninsula. Those in Persia were under severe pressure. Two-thirds of the formerly Roman Christian world was now ruled by Muslims.
What had happened? … The answer is the rise of Islam. Every one of the listed regions was taken, within the space of a hundred years, from Christian control by violence, in the course of military campaigns deliberately designed to expand Muslim territory. … Nor did this conclude Islam’s program of conquest. … Charlemagne blocked the Muslim advance in far western Europe in about a.d. 800, but Islamic forces simply shifted their focus … toward Italy and the French coast, attacking the Italian mainland by 837. A confused struggle for control of southern and central Italy continued for the rest of the ninth century and into the tenth. … [A]ttacks on the deep inland were launched. Desperate to protect victimized Christians, popes became involved in the tenth and early eleventh centuries in directing the defense of the territory around them. … The Byzantines took a long time to gain the strength to fight back. By the mid-ninth century, they mounted a counterattack. … Sharp Muslim counterattacks followed …
In 1009, a mentally deranged Muslim ruler destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and mounted major persecutions of Christians and Jews. … Pilgrimages became increasingly difficult and dangerous, and western pilgrims began banding together and carrying weapons to protect themselves as they tried to make their way to Christianity’s holiest sites in Palestine.
Desperate, the Byzantines sent appeals for help westward, directing these appeals primarily at the person they saw as the chief western authority: the pope, who, as we have seen, had already been directing Christian resistance to Muslim attacks. … finally, in 1095, Pope Urban II realized Pope Gregory VII’s desire, in what turned into the First Crusade.
Far from being unprovoked, then, the crusades actually represent the first great western Christian counterattack against Muslim attacks which had taken place continually from the inception of Islam until the eleventh century, and which continued on thereafter, mostly unabated. Three of Christianity’s five primary episcopal sees (Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria) had been captured in the seventh century; both of the others (Rome and Constantinople) had been attacked in the centuries before the crusades. The latter would be captured in 1453, leaving only one of the five (Rome) in Christian hands by 1500. Rome was again threatened in the sixteenth century. This is not the absence of provocation; rather, it is a deadly and persistent threat, and one which had to be answered by forceful defense if Christendom were to survive.
It is difficult to underestimate the losses suffered by the Church in the waves of Muslim conquest. All of North Africa, once teeming with Christians, was conquered. There were once 500 bishops in North Africa. Today, the Christian Church there exists only in ruins buried beneath the sand and with titular but non-residential bishops. All of Asia Minor, so lovingly evangelized by St. Paul, was lost. Much of Southern Europe was almost lost as well. It is hard to imagine any alternative to decisive military action in order to turn back waves of Muslim attack and conquest.

Myth #2: Western Christians went on crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims in order to get rich.

Again, not true. Few crusaders had sufficient cash both to pay their obligations at home and to support themselves decently on a crusade. From the very beginning, financial considerations played a major role in crusade planning. The early crusaders sold off so many of their possessions to finance their expeditions that they caused widespread inflation. Although later crusaders took this into account and began saving money long before they set out, the expense was still nearly prohibitive.
One of the chief reasons for the foundering of the Fourth Crusade, and its diversion to Constantinople, was the fact that it ran out of money before it had gotten properly started, and was so indebted to the Venetians that it found itself unable to keep control of its own destiny. Louis IX’s Seventh Crusade in the mid-thirteenth century cost more than six times the annual revenue of the crown.
The popes resorted to ever more desperate ploys to raise money to finance crusades, from instituting the first income tax in the early thirteenth century to making a series of adjustments in the way that indulgences were handled that eventually led to the abuses condemned by Martin Luther.
In short: very few people became rich by crusading, and their numbers were dwarfed by those who were bankrupted. Most medieval people were quite well aware of this, and did not consider crusading a way to improve their financial situations.
Crawford states elsewhere that plunder was often allowed or overlooked when Christian armies conquered, in order that some bills could be paid. Sadly, plunder was commonly permitted in ancient times, but it was not unique to Christians. Here again, we may wish that Christian sentiments would have meant no plunder at all, but war is seldom orderly, and the motives of every individual solider cannot be perfectly controlled.
The bottom line remains that conducting a crusade was a lousy way to get rich or to raise any money at all.

Myth #3: Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda; rather, they had ulterior, materialistic motives.

This has been a very popular argument, at least from Voltaire on. It seems credible and even compelling to modern people, steeped as they are in materialist worldviews. And certainly there were cynics and hypocrites in the Middle Ages—medieval people were just as human as we are, and subject to the same failings.
However, like the first two myths, this statement is generally untrue, and demonstrably so. For one thing, the casualty rates on the crusades were usually very high, and many if not most crusaders left expecting not to return. At least one military historian has estimated the casualty rate for the First Crusade at an appalling 75 percent, for example.
But this assertion is also revealed to be false when we consider the way in which the crusades were preached. Crusaders were not drafted. Participation was voluntary, and participants had to be persuaded to go. The primary means of persuasion was the crusade sermon. Crusade sermons were replete with warnings that crusading brought deprivation, suffering, and often death … would disrupt their lives, possibly impoverish and even kill or maim them, and inconvenience their families.
So why did the preaching work? It worked because crusading was appealing precisely because it was a known and significant hardship, and because undertaking a crusade with the right motives was understood as an acceptable penance for sin … valuable for one’s soul. The willing acceptance of difficulty and suffering was viewed as a useful way to purify one’s soul.
Related to the concept of penance is the concept of crusading as an act of selfless love, of “laying down one’s life for one’s friends.”
As difficult as it may be for modern people to believe, the evidence strongly suggests that most crusaders were motivated by a desire to please God, expiate their sins, and put their lives at the service of their “neighbors,” understood in the Christian sense.
Yes, such concepts ARE difficult for modern Westerners to believe. Since we are so secular and cynical, the thought of spiritual motives strikes us as implausible. But a great Cartesian divide, with its materialist reductionism, separates the Modern West from the Middle Ages and Christian antiquity.  Those were days when life in this world was brutal and short. Life here was “a valley of tears” to be endured as a time of purification preparing us to meet God. Spiritual principles held much more sway than they do today.

Myth #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.

Muslims had been attacking Christians for more than 450 years before Pope Urban declared the First Crusade. They needed no incentive to continue doing so. But there is a more complicated answer here, as well.
The first Muslim crusade history did not [even] appear until 1899. By that time, the Muslim world was rediscovering the crusades—but it was rediscovering them with a twist learned from Westerners. In the modern period, there were two main European schools of thought about the crusades. One school, epitomized by people like Voltaire, Gibbon, and Sir Walter Scott, and in the twentieth century Sir Steven Runciman, saw the crusaders as crude, greedy, aggressive barbarians who attacked civilized, peace-loving Muslims to improve their own lot. The other school, more romantic, saw the crusades as a glorious episode in a long-standing struggle in which Christian chivalry had driven back Muslim hordes.
So it was not the crusades that taught Islam to attack and hate Christians. … Rather, it was the West which taught Islam to hate the crusades.
Yes, this is the strange, self-loathing tendency of the dying West to supply our detractors and would-be destroyers with ample reason to detest us.
I am interested in your thoughts. I don’t think it is necessary to defend the Church’s and the Christian West’s series of Crusades vehemently. There are many regrettable things that accompany any war. But fair is fair; there is more to the picture than many, with anti-Church agendas of their own, wish to admit.
And to those secularists and atheists who love to point out “how many have died as a result of religious wars and violence,” I say, “Recall how many died in the 20th century for secular ideological reasons.” English historian Paul Johnson, in his book Modern Times, places the number at 100 million.
Does this excuse even one person dying as the result of religious war? No. But violence, war, conquest,  and territorial disputes are human problems not necessarily or only religious ones. Our current sufferings at the hands of radical Muslims show the problem with simply doing nothing. Life is complex; not all decisions are perfect or precisely carried out. Lord, help us, and by miracle convert our enemies.

Ack. Msgr Charles Pope -'Archdiocese of Washington' blog-site.  (with thanks)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Pio Nono - final years; the way of the Cross.


 (continued from previous post)

The dogma of Papal infallibility was promulgated by Pope Pius IX  on 18 July 1870, during the 1st Vatican Council.  It is interesting to note that as soon as the Pope had finished speaking, the two Bishops who had voted against it fell to their knees and assented, and during the course of the next few months the assent of all those who had withdrawn before the final vote was taken, was received at Rome.

On 19 July 1870 Napoleon declared war on Prussia, the start of the Franco- Prussia war, and out of necessity the French garrison was recalled from Rome.  After one or two minor successes, the French army was heavily defeated at Sedan on 2 September, after which Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy, sent an envoy to Rome to make arrangements with the Pope for his forces to occupy the Patrimony, allegedly to preserve public order. The Pope had 13,000 troops, including the Zouaves, at his disposal, and as the Florentine government had detained Mazzini at Gaeta, and Garibaldi on Caprera, and Rome was in no imminent danger, he dismissed the envoy assuring him that no army would enter Rome. The Empress Eugene, now Regent in Paris, sent the French cruiser ‘Oreneque’ to Civita-Vecchio, to evacuate the Pope to France should he so wish.

                          "Facade San Giovanni in Laterano" by Jastrow   (Wikimedia Commons)

   On 19 September the Pope made his last journey through the city of Rome when he visited St John Lateran, from whence twenty-two years previously he had made his escape by night, in disguise. Now in full view of his army drawn up in front of the Lateran, he left his carriage and supported by a companion, made his way slowly to the top of the ‘Scala Santa’, where he prayed and blessed the troops. As he returned, the crowds, aware of the presence of the ‘Oreneque’, begged him not to leave Rome. In the event he had decided to stay in the Vatican, asserting that he would only leave if he was forcibly dragged out.
     Early the next day the enemy commenced bombardment of the city gates, and the Pope summoned foreign ambassadors to the Vatican to voice an official protest. The Pope had given instructions that there should only be a token resistance, enough to show that he was yielding to force, after which the white flag of surrender should be displayed.   The bombardment worsened and to leave no room for doubt, the Pope had the white flag hoisted upon the cupola of St Peter’s.  General Cadorna commanding the attacking forces, had strict instructions to appear as the champion of law and order, and he expected resistance from the resident community, however  there was none. An armistice was concluded that very afternoon, with troops finally occupying the whole of the city, with only the Vatican, St John Lateran, and Castel Gandolfo remaining in Papal hands.
    The occupation raised strong protest from the Catholic world, but little political or government action. Nevertheless the international outcry did have the effect of impressing on Victor Emmanuel’s government the need to treat the Pope with particular respect; but there was no question of any expedition to restore the Patrimony to him, let alone the whole State. Officially the Pope refused to consider a settlement until that which had been taken from him had been restored, thus pursuing the same line adopted at the loss of the Romagna. A plebiscite held on October 2 resulted in 133,681 votes for annexation to the kingdom, with 1,507 against; but there was clear evidence of threats, intimidation, and other illegalities, resulting in a rigged vote, which the Pope refused to accept, instead promptly withdrawing into the Vatican as a voluntary prisoner, in protest against the occupation.

               Victor Emmanuel II - King of Italy

In Florence meanwhile, the government worked out settlement terms, and in November 1870 produced the Law of Guarantees. This was not a treaty, for the Pope refused to be party to any such agreement, but was parliamentary law.  It invested the Pope with the full attributes of a sovereign, with his person declared sacred and inviolable, immune from arrest and protected by the treason laws in the same way as the King. His diplomatic relations with other governments were to be protected, and he was allowed to retain his personal guard. He had his own postal and telegraph services, with exclusive use, but not the ownership, of the Vatican, Lateran, and Castel Gandolfo. In compensation for the loss of his territories he was to receive annual compensation of 3,225,000 lire.
     As regards the Church, the principle adopted was based on the Cavourian separation of Church and State. The State abandoned claim to nominate Bishops, and the civil courts were no longer to entertain any religious cases. Certain powers of the State on religious matters were abolished, except in the important matter of allocation of benefices to the clergy.
    The Pope refused to accept money from the Government, money which he considered to have been unlawfully taken from him in the first place. The Law of Guarantees embodied the principles contained in Cavour’s earlier proposals, which at one time the Pope had been willing to consider. What had prevented agreement was primarily the violent anti-clerical behaviour of Cavour’s government at the time, which the Pope considered totally inconsistent with any sincere attempt to reach an understanding with the Church. This was still the situation and the Pope did not trust the Italian government, in spite of the fact that there were moderate leaders in power and many good Catholics supported the principle of a unified Italy. These men considered that the Church should abandon its boycott of the State, urging the need for Catholics to enter Parliament to offset the dangerous anti-clerical plans of the left; views which the Pope did not share.
        In January 1871, William 1 King of Prussia, was proclaimed Emperor of a Germany, now consisting of twenty-five States. The previous and last Chancellor of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Protestant Bismarck, became the first Chancellor of this new Empire, and immediately instigated a campaign against the Church in Germany, known as the ‘Kulturkampt’, introducing  increased State controls  and  anti-Catholic laws.  In December 1871 the ‘Pulpit’ law was introduced aimed at punishing preachers if they criticised the government. In March 1872 a law was adopted whereby State officials replaced priests and pastors as inspectors of primary schools, and from June onwards all Religious Orders were banned from teaching in public schools.  In July, the Jesuits and other congregations e.g.Redemptorists,  were banished from the country.
 Otto Von Bismarck (1873)

 Pope Pius IX publicly denounced these anti-Catholic laws, encouraging the Catholic hierarchy and faithful, to resist. In reprisal, the German government  introduced the ‘May Laws’ of 1873, which subjected not merely the ordinary schools in Germany, but also seminaries, to strict State supervision. Candidates for the priesthood had to be approved by the State, they had to study for three years at University, and they could not be appointed to parishes without the approval of the state-appointed President of the province. In February 1875 the Pope issued an encyclical declaring the laws null and void, to the fury of Bismarck who accused the Italian government of granting too much freedom under the Law of Guarantees, under whose protection the encyclical had been issued, and tried to persuade Minghetti, the Italian Prime Minister, to amend  it to the prejudice of the Pope. Minghetti refused, insisting that the Italian government knew best how to deal with the papal question, and that Catholic opinion in Italy would never tolerate interference.  He had the support of the pro-papal government in France, which together with support from the Vatican itself, and  international opinion, sufficed to induce Bismarck to ease, at least temporarily, the political  pressures on the German Church.
          The ‘Catholic Centre Party’, led by Reichstag politician Ludwig Windthorst,  opposed Bismarck, his ministers, and his laws, and inspired and encouraged the Catholic Press and in turn the Catholic faithful, to develop and defend Catholic interests, to the extent that  the number of Catholic newspapers published during the ‘Kulturkampt’ doubled.

Ludwig Windthorst 1889 - 'Catholic Centre Party' leader                         
 In Switzerland the Church was also under attack, with the ‘Old Catholic’ Church supported by Dollinger and his followers, who denied ‘papal infallibility’, enjoying considerable favour. In 1873 Geneva adopted a law ‘re-organising the Catholic Church’, and aimed at replacing the Catholic Church with a ‘National Catholic Church’, with priests from the ‘Old Catholic’ Church replacing those priests faithful to their Bishops and the Church. Many Bishops were sent into exile, and the faithful who refused to accept the priests foisted on them by the State, organised and maintained a hidden religious life which lasted for many years. The Canton of Geneva expelled the
Christian Brothers and  prohibited the Sisters of Charity from teaching, and forbade the Bishop of Geneva  to exercise his episcopal duties. The Pope issued a condemnatory encyclical, and the Swiss government promptly severed diplomatic relations with Rome, and approved a new federal constitution prohibiting the creation of new bishoprics and founding of convents, making civil marriage obligatory, and abolishing ecclesiastical jurisdiction, with the Jesuits and similar religious orders banned. In 1875 the Pope issued a further encyclical condemning these steps, and encouraging the bishops to use every means at their disposal to unite the faithful in the practice of their faith.The anti-Catholic ethos of the Swiss State was to continue for decades, with relations between Switzerland and the Holy See not resumed until 1920.
    Even in Austria, which had signed a favourable concordat with Rome in 1855, the Church experienced increasing hostility. Austria was overwhelmingly Catholic, and the Emperor was not aiming for a separation of Church and State, however he and his government wanted greater control over the Austrian Church, which since the vote on infallibility and the submission to Rome of many previously anti-infallibility Bishops, had led to government fears of the Church becoming a vassal of
Rome. In 1873, the universities, all of which had been founded by the Church, were placed under State control, and bishops were excluded from any role in their administration. The following year a series of restrictive ‘religious laws’ were presented to the Austrian Parliament, aimed at still greater State control over the Church. In 1874, while these proposals were under consideration, the Pope wrote a personal letter to Emperor Franz Josef, urging him not to open the way for a disastrous future for the Church and for his people, on the same day publishing an encyclical defending the existing Concordat and encouraging the Episcopate to do everything possible to defend the Church’s liberty. The result was that the Austrian Bishops succeeded in getting certain measures of the draft laws withdrawn, and  in early 1876, when a law was ‘voted-in’ concerning ‘the suppression of convents’, the Emperor refused to sign it, possibly recalling the Pope’s warning on God’s judgement of Catholic
governments who persecute the Church; also his fear of excommunication.

       Emperor Franz Joseph 1 (1870)

One of the final achievements of this pontificate was the re-establishment of the Episcopal hierarchy in Scotland, which at that time was regarded as Mission territory, with three vicars-apostolic in charge of some 250 priests and 380,000 Catholics. A request to Rome by Scottish priests and faithful in the 1860s for the appointment of new Bishops, had been unsuccessful, however when a delegation of Scottish clergy went to Rome in 1877, and renewed their petition, the Pope agreed.
On January 12, 1878, a decree from Rome re-established the two ancient archdioceses of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the four dioceses of Aberdeen, Dunkeld, Galloway, and Argyll. Pope Pius IX died the following month and it was his successor Pope Leo XIII who in a Bull of 1878, announced the news and appointed the new Bishops.
     During his final years the Pope suffered from increasing ill-health, in particular a tumour on his leg, initially resorting to the use of a stick, then crutches, and finally a wheelchair. In 1875 he made a will requesting that he be buried in the Basilica of ‘St Lawrence outside the Walls’, a shrine dear to him. He became ill with serious bronchial catarrh in November 1877, which confined him to his sick-bed. On 9th January, 1878 the Pope received news that Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy, was
dying. He immediately arranged for his personal confessor to visit him, and although he was twice refused entry by the King’s entourage, permission was granted to the Court Chaplain, enabling the King to receive absolution and Communion before he died.
    On 2 February, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, the Pope delivered his last public allocution. The day was the 75th anniversary of his First Holy Communion, and at the Pope’s request all the parishes of Rome organised First Communion Masses, whilst in the Vatican the Pope received a group of First Communicants. On 7 February, the Pope received the Last Rites, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in all the churches of Rome, and the bells summoned the faithful to prayer; late that afternoon Pope Pius IX died. His body lay in State for three days in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St Peter’s, after which he was buried in the crypt of St Peters, pending completion of his final resting place in the Basilica of ‘St Lawrence outside the Walls’.
   Funeral of Pope Pius IX -  February 1878

 Some three years later, on 13 July, 1881, during the hours of darkness to avoid possible public disorder, his body was moved from St Peter’s to his final resting place, with more than 100,000 faithful lining the route. Even so the funeral cortege was attacked by violent anti-Catholic mobs, and attempts were made to throw the coffin into the River Tiber. Fortunately the cortege safely reached its destination, where Pope Pius IX was finally laid to rest.
It is an impossible task to do justice to the papacy of Pope Pius IX, the second longest papacy ever (after St Peter) during a time of radical social, economic, political, and religious change. I have tried in this series of posts, to consider the main events of his pontificate in the circumstances of his time, and have managed to only scratch the surface. I think it appropriate to end with two quotes from the excellent biography ‘Pio Nono’, by E.E.Y.Hales:-

 “Macauley, in his essay on Ranke’s ‘History of the Popes’ designated the Enlightenment and the Revolution as the fourth and most dangerous onslaught launched, in all its long history, upon the Catholic Church. It was Pio Nono’s fate, after travelling with sympathy in his earlier years, more than half-way to meet the Revolution, to be compelled, though not naturally a fighter, to turn and withstand its pretensions. It was his glory that “he confronted the tempest without flinching, and was faithful to the end.” He died a hero to his followers; to the world, apparently a failure. Few thoughtful men, in 1900, thought he had been right. It was necessary to find excuses for the Syllabus
– better, even, to forget it. But we, today, who have met the children and the grand-children of European Liberalism and the Revolution, who have seen Mazzini turn into Mussolini, Herder into Hitler, and the idealistic early socialists into intransigent communists, are able from a new vantage ground to consider once more whether Pio Nono, or the optimistic believers in an infallible progress, like his cultured friend Pasolini, will have, in the eyes of eternity, the better of the argument.”
“It is not as a petty Italian prince that Pio Nono will stand to be judged by history. He will have to be considered in his role as the most important opponent of the extravagant claims, political and ideological, of the nineteenth century progressives, as the most obstinate and influential of those who denied the infallibility of progress, the moral authority of majorities, and the omnipotence of the State. By refusing, in the name of eternal truths, to accept the passionate enthusiasms of the men of
Progress, he earned for the Papacy much hatred in his own day. But he restored to it an authority within the Church and an influence without, such as it had not enjoyed since the time of the Council of Trent."

Pope Pius IX - Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti,  (13 May 1792  - 7 February 1878)
Ordained priest 1819
Appointed Canon of Santa Maria in Via Lata 1825
Archbishop of Spoleto 1827
Archbishop of Imola 1832
Cardinal Priest of Imola 1840
Pope from 6 June 1846 until his death in the Vatican 1878
Defined the dogma of the 'Immaculate Conception' 1854
Published the 'Syllabus of Errors' 1864
Convened First Vatican Council 1869
Defined dogma of 'Papal Infallibility' 1870
Beatified on 3 September 2000 by Pope St John Paul 1


   'Immaculate Conception' by Murillo

'History has a habit of repeating itself....'  

"Then there arose and spread, exceedingly widely throughout the world, that doctrine of rationalism, or naturalism, which opposes itself in every way to the Christian religion as a supernatural institution, and works with the utmost zeal in order that, after Christ, our sole Lord and Saviour, has been excluded from the minds of men, and from the life and moral acts of nations, the reign of what they call pure reason or nature may be established. And after forsaking and rejecting the Christian religion, and denying the true God and His Christ, the minds of many have sunk into the abyss of Pantheism, Materialism, and Atheism, until, denying rational nature itself, and every sound rule of right, they labour to destroy the deepest foundations of human society."    

From Introduction to 'Dei Filius', Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith -1st Vatican Council 1869/70.

Ack:'Pio Nono' by E.E.Y.Hales (Eyre & Spottiswood)
'Blessed Pius IX' by Roberto de Mattei (Gracewing)
 'Pope Pius IX- The man and the Myth' by Yves Chiron (Angelus Press)                

Monday, 29 December 2014

Pope Pius IX - 1st Vatican Council 1869/70 - 'Dei Filius' and 'Pastor Aeternus' (Papal Infallibility)

Apologies for the delay in preparing this post, my reasons (excuses) being the complexity of the subject (to me, at least initially) combined with Christmas commitments. As regards the former, I can honestly say that I have learnt a lot when preparing this post - but it has taken me awhile, and as regards the latter, best wishes for a happy and blessed New Year.

                     Christ handing the keys to St Peter - (Perugino 1492)

 (continued from previous post)
 Over many years Pope Pius IX had been considering convoking a Council, and finally in  March 1865 a commission of  Cardinals was set up to examine the feasibility of  such a step.  All agreed in principle  and proposed that an Extraordinary Congregation be formulated, with bishops from different countries consulted as to what questions of doctrine and discipline should be dealt with. A letter was sent to thirty-six European bishops, and  in September 1866, based on their replies five preparatory commissions were set up, dealing with ‘Doctrine’,  ‘the Missions and the Oriental Church’,  ‘Ecclesiastical discipline’,  ‘Religious’, and  ‘Politico/ Ecclesial relationships’. Each Commission was composed of  consultors,  comprising Professors or Rectors of seminaries, University Professors, and members of Religious Congregations.   

                                                            Pope St Sylvester 1 (314-335)
On 29 June 1868 the Pope published the Bull ‘Aeterni Patris’, which convoked the opening of the Council for December 8, 1869, and explained that the purpose of the Council was to ‘offer a remedy to the ills of the present century in the Church and in Society. The Council was therefore to examine with the greatest care and determination what must be done in such calamitous times for the greater glory of God, for the integrity of the Faith, for the splendour of the Catholic religion, for the eternal salvation of men, for the discipline and solid instruction of the regular and secular clergy, for the observation of ecclesiastical laws, for the reform of customs, for the Christian education of youth, and for general peace and universal concord.’

No mention was made of the question of papal infallibility, however in Feb 1869 the ‘Civilta Cattolica’ published an article  suggesting that the Council might solemnly ratify the doctrine enunciated in the Syllabus, and might succeed ‘by acclamation’ in approving a definition of Papal infallibility.  This provoked an outcry from more ‘liberal’ circles, particularly certain French Bishops and German religious. In England these views were shared and spread by the influential  Lord Acton who moved to Rome prior to the Council, in order to lend his support and presence to the anti-infallibility faction.

                                                         Pope St Anastasius 1 (399-401)
The preparations for the Council were thorough and well organised. The General Assembly of the Fathers was divided into five congregations each under the chairmanship of a Cardinal appointed by the Pope. The five deputations prepared drafts of the main points to be discussed, which were then presented to the Pope prior to discussion in the general assembly. When approved and after any amendments during debate, it was brought to the public session, and only then, after a new vote by the Council Fathers, would it be promulgated by the Pope.
On 8 September, 1869 the Pope solemnly opened the 20th Ecumenical Council  in St Peter’s, quoting Our Lord's words, "‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.’"  "And what are these words? ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’".

The Council held four public sessions, the first on December 8 1869, on the opening of the Council; the second on 6 January, 1870, devoted to the profession of faith prescribed by Pope Pius IV which the Fathers made at the feet of the Pope; the third on 24 April, in which the dogmatic constitution ‘Dei Filius’ was promulgated; and the fourth on 18 July, in which Papal Infallibility was defined, with the dogmatic ‘Pastor Aeternus’ .

                                                       Pope St Leo the Great (440-461)

The dogmatic constitution ‘Dei Filius’ is described as ‘a dense and luminous exposition of the Catholic doctrines on God, Revelation, and on Faith’. This is an important document and it would be wrong to ignore it, but it is difficult to quote from it without limiting the meaning and sense of the whole; and it would be easy to create misunderstanding. It is too long to incorporate in full in this post, so I have just included the introduction, and created a link for those wishing to read the whole constitution. (which is both very clear and readable, and is extraordinarily relevant to the 21st century world)

First Vatican Council
1869 to 1870 A.D. under Pope Blessed Pius IX

Pius, Bishop, Servant Of The Servants Of God, With The Approval
Of The Sacred Council, For Perpetual Remembrance

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, and Redeemer of Mankind, before returning to his heavenly Father, promised that He would be with the Church Militant on earth all days, even to the consummation of the world. Therefore, He has never ceased to be present with His beloved Spouse, to assist her when teaching, to bless her when at work, and to aid her when in danger. And this His salutary providence, which has been constantly displayed by other innumerable benefits, has been most manifestly proved by the abundant good results which Christendom has derived from Ecumenical Councils, and particularly from that of Trent, although it was held during evil times

                                               Pope St Gregory the Great (590-604) 
 For, as a consequence, the sacred doctrines of the faith have been defined more closely, and set forth more fully, errors have been condemned and restrained, ecclesiastical discipline has been restored and more firmly secured, the love of learning and of piety has been promoted among the clergy, colleges have been established to educate youth for the sacred warfare, and the morals of the Christian world have been renewed by the more accurate training of the faithful, and by the more frequent use of the sacraments. Moreover, there has resulted a closer communion of the members with the visible head, an increase of vigour in the whole mystical body of Christ, the multiplication of religious congregations and of other institutions of Christian piety, and such ardour in extending the kingdom of Christ throughout the world, as constantly endures, even to the sacrifice of life itself.

                                                               Pope St Pius V (1566-1572)

 But while we recall with due thankfulness these and other signal benefits which the Divine mercy has bestowed on the Church, especially by the last Ecumenical Council, we cannot restrain our bitter sorrow for the grave evils, which are principally due to the fact that the authority of that sacred Synod has been contemned [i.e. scorned], or its wise decrees neglected, by many.

No one is ignorant that the heresies proscribed by the Fathers of Trent, by which the divine Magisterium of the Church was rejected, and all matters regarding religion were surrendered to the judgment of each individual, gradually became dissolved into many sects, which disagreed and contended with one another, until at length not a few lost all faith in Christ. Even the Holy Scriptures, which had previously been declared the sole source and judge of Christian doctrine, began to be held no longer as Divine, but to be ranked among the fictions of mythology.

Then there arose and spread, exceedingly widely throughout the world, that doctrine of rationalism, or naturalism, which opposes itself in every way to the Christian religion as a supernatural institution, and works with the utmost zeal in order that, after Christ, our sole Lord and Saviour, has been excluded from the minds of men, and from the life and moral acts of nations, the reign of what they call pure reason or nature may be established. And after forsaking and rejecting the Christian religion, and denying the true God and His Christ, the minds of many have sunk into the abyss of Pantheism, Materialism, and Atheism, until, denying rational nature itself, and every sound rule of right, they labour to destroy the deepest foundations of human society.     
(Editor's note - very relevant to our world today - 140 years on!)

Unhappily, it has yet further come to pass that, while this impiety prevailed on every side, many even of the children of the Catholic Church have strayed from the path of true piety, and by the gradual diminution of the truths they held, the Catholic understanding became weakened in them. For, led away by various and strange doctrines, utterly confusing nature and grace, human science and Divine faith, they are found to deprave the true sense of the doctrines which our Holy Mother Church holds and teaches, and to endanger the integrity and the soundness of the faith.

                                                             Pope St Pius X (1903-1914)
 Considering these things, how can the Church fail to be deeply stirred? For, even as God wills all men to be saved, and to arrive at the knowledge of the truth; even as Christ came to save what had perished, and to gather together the children of God who had been dispersed, so the Church, constituted by God the Mother and Teacher of nations, knows its own office to be a debtor to all, and is ever ready and watchful to raise the fallen, to support those who are falling, to embrace those who return, to confirm the good and to carry them on to better things. Hence, it can never forbear from witnessing to and proclaiming the truth of God, which heals all things, knowing the words addressed to it: "My Spirit that is in you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, henceforth and forever" (Isaiah 59:21).

We, therefore, following the footsteps of our predecessors, have never ceased, as becomes our supreme Apostolic office, from teaching and defending Catholic truth, and condemning doctrines of error. And now, with the Bishops of the whole world assembled round us, and judging with us, congregated by our authority, and in the Holy Spirit, in this Ecumenical Council, we, supported by the Word of God written and handed down as we received it from the Catholic Church, preserved with sacredness and set forth according to truth, -- have determined to profess and declare the salutary teaching of Christ from this Chair of Peter, and in sight of all, proscribing and condemning, by the power given to us of God, all errors contrary thereto.

(Continuation of  Dei  Filius)


                                                      Pope St John XXIII (1958-1963)

The Council work continued with consideration of many other proposals,  however, the major question among the Council Fathers was that of papal infallibility. The powerful anti-infallibility faction, led by the German priest and theologian Dollinger, included several prominent and influential French bishops, and others, whilst the pro-infallibility faction led by the English prelate (later Cardinal) Manning, had the support of several  European  Bishops, and most of the eminent theologians of the day. Some years previously Fr. Manning and Mgr Senestyrey had both taken a vow to do everything in their power to promote the definition of Papal infallibility.  

The progress in the Council was slow, and at one stage it appeared as though the debate on papal infallibility would be put on hold, with a delay of at least several months. This possibility spelt real danger for the pro-infallibility cause, and it required an extra-ordinary request to the Pope, backed by a petition signed by 150 signatories, for this to be given immediate priority, with the debate on the draft finally opening on 13 May 1870. After many weeks of  acrimonious discussion, with agreement often seeming impossible, on 18 July during a solemn, public session in the presence of a vast multitude in the Basilica, the Council Fathers cast their definitive votes, and the final text of the apostolic constitution Pastor Aeternus was approved by 535 votes to 2, with 55 absentees.
Immediately after the vote Pope Pius IX promulgated solemnly, as an article of faith, the apostolic constitution 'Pastor Aeternus'  the purpose of which was to  present ‘the doctrine which is to be believed by all the faithful according to the ancient tradition of the universal Church, concerning the institution, the perpetuity, and the nature of the Holy, Apostolic Primate, in which there is contained the force and solidity of the whole Church; and to condemn and proscribe the contrary errors which are so damaging the Lord’s flock.’


                                                    Pope St.John Paul II (1978-2005)

As with 'Dei Filius', I include below the introduction for 'Pastor Aeternus' together with a link for those wishing to read the whole constitution.


Published In The Fourth Session
Of The Holy Ecumenical Council
Of The

Pius Bishop, Servant Of The Servants Of God,
With The Approval Of The Sacred Council,
For An Everlasting Remembrance.

'The Eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls, in order to continue for all time the life-giving work of His redemption, determined to build up the Holy Church, in which, as the House of the living God, all who believe might be united in the bond of one faith and one charity. Therefore, before he entered into His glory, He prayed to the Father, not for the Apostles only, but for those also who through their preaching should come to believe in Him, that all might be one, even as He the Son and the Father are one. (John 17:21). Then He sent the Apostles, whom He had chosen for Himself from the world, just as he Himself had been sent by the Father. So did He will that there should ever be pastors and teachers in His Church to the end of the world.

And, so that the Episcopate also might be one and undivided, and so that, by means of a closely united priesthood, the multitude of the faithful might be kept secure in the oneness of faith and communion, He set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles. And He fixed in him the abiding principle of this two-fold unity with its visible foundation, by the strength of which the eternal Temple would be built up, and the Church, in the firmness of that faith, would rise up, bringing her sublimity to Heaven. [6]

And since the gates of Hell, with greater hatred each day, are rising up on every side, to overthrow, if it were possible, the Church and Her divinely-established foundation, We, for the preservation, safe-keeping, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the Sacred Council, judge it to be necessary to propose, for the belief and acceptance of all the faithful, in accordance with the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, the doctrine of the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the sacred Apostolic Primacy, by which the strength and solidity of the entire Church is established, and at the same time to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors, which are so harmful to the flock of Christ.'

[6] From Sermon 4, chapter 2, of St. Leo the Great, A.D. 440, vol. 1, p. 17 of edition of Ballerini,
Venice, 1753 ...

(continuation of Pastor Aeternus)

                                                            Coat of Arms of the Holy See

Of the fifty-one draft decrees to be considered by the Council, only two had been defined. However the proclamation of  infallibility was to be the final act,  for the next day, the 19 July, Prussia declared war on France, setting in motion a series of events culminating in the occupation of Rome on 20 September.  On the 20 October, the Council was suspended.

Ack. Blessed Pius IX by Roberto de Mattei (Gracewing)
        Pope Pius IX -the Man and the Myth by Yves Chiron               (Angelus Press)

(Papacy of Pope Pius IX to be concluded in the next post)