(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it fell to their knees and assented, and during the course of the next few months the assent of all those who had withdrawn before the final vote was taken, was received at Rome.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.
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.
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)