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§ 33. The Vatican Decrees, Continued. The Infallibility Decree.
II. The First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ (constitutio dogmatica prima de ecclesia Christi).
It was passed, with two dissenting votes, in the fourth public session, July 18, 1870. It treats, in four chapters—(1) on the institution of the Apostolic Primacy in the blessed Peter; (2) on the perpetuity of St. Peter's Primacy in the Roman Pontiff; (3) on the power and nature 151of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff; (4) on the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff.
The new features are contained in the last two chapters, which teach Papal
Absolutism and Papal Infallibility. The third chapter vindicates to
the Roman Pontiff a superiority of ordinary episcopal (not simply an
extraordinary primatial) power over all other Churches, and an immediate
jurisdiction, to which all Catholics, both pastors and people, are bound to
submit in matters not only of faith and morals, but even of discipline and
quoting, in a mutilated form, the definition of the
Council of Florence, whose genuineness is disputed (compare p. 97, note 1), the
third chapter goes on: 'Docemus et declaramus,
Ecclesiam Romanam, disponente Domino, super omnes alias ordinariæ potestatis obtinere
principatum, et hanc Romani Pontificis jurisdictionis potestatem, quæ vere
episcopalis est, immediatam esse, erga quam cujuscunque ritus et dignitatis
pastores atque fideles, tam seorsum singuli quam simul omnes, officio
hierarchicæ subordinationis veræque obedientiæ obstringuntur, non solum in
rebus, quæ ad fidem et mores, sed etiam in iis, quæ ad disciplinam et regimen
Ecclesiæ per totum orbem diffusæ pertinent; ita ut, custodita cum Romano
Pontifice tam communionis quam ejusdem fidei professionis unitate, Ecclesiæ
Christi sit unus grex sub uno summo pastore. Hæc est catholicæ veritatis
doctrina, a qua deviare salva fide atque salute nemo potest. . . . Si quis
itaque dixerit, Romanum Pontificem habere tantummodo officium inspectionis vel
directionis, non autem plenam et supremam potestatem jurisdictionis in universam
Ecclesiam, non solum in rebus, quæ ad fidem et mores, sed etiam in iis, quæ ad
disciplinam et regimem Ecclesiæ per totum orbem diffusæ pertinent; aut eum
habere tantum potiores partes, non vero totam plenitudinem hujus supremæ
potestatis; aut hanc ejus potestatem non esse ordinariam et immediatam sive in
omnes ac singulas ecclesias, sive in omnes et singulos pastores et fideles;
anathema sit.' He is,
therefore, the Bishop of Bishops,
over every single Bishop, and over all Bishops put together; he is in the
fullest sense the Vicar of Christ, and all Bishops are simply Vicars of the
Pope. The fourth chapter teaches and defines, as a divinely revealed dogma, that
the Roman Pontiff, when speaking from his chair (ex cathedra), i.e., in
his official capacity, to the Christian world on subjects relating to faith or
morals, is infallible, and that such definitions are irreformable (i.e., final
and irreversible) in and of themselves, and not in consequence of the consent of
the Church.300300 '
Itaque Nos traditioni a fidei
Christianæ exordio perceptæ fideliter inhœrendo, ad Dei Salvatoris nostri
gloriam, religionis Catholicæ exaltationem et Christianorum populorum salutem,
sacro approbante Concilia, docemus et divinitus revelatum dogma esse
declaramus: Romanum Pontificem, cum ex Cathedra loquitur, id
est, cum omnium Christianorum Pastoris et Doctoris munere fungens pro suprema sua Apostolica
auctoritate doctrinam de fide vel moribus ab universa Ecclesia tenendam definit, per assistentiam
divinam, ipsi in beato Petro promissam, ea infallibilitate pollere, qua divinus Redemptor
Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instructam esse voluit; ideoque
ejusmodi Romani Pontificis definitiones ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiæ,
'Si quis autem huic Nostræ definitioni contradicere, quod Deus avertat, præsumpserit; anathema sit.'
152To appreciate the value and bearing of this decree, we must give a brief history of it.
The Infallibility question was suspended over the Council from the very beginning as the question of questions, for good or for evil. The original plan of the Infallibilists, to decide it by acclamation, had to be abandoned in view of a formidable opposition, which was developed inside and outside of the Council. The majority of the Bishops circulated, early in January, a monster petition, signed by 410 names, in favor of Infallibility.301301 Friedberg, pp. 465–470. Comp. Frommann, p. 59 sq. The Italians and the Spaniards circulated similar petitions separately. Archbishop Spalding, of Baltimore, formerly an anti-Infallibilist, prepared an address offering some compromise to the effect that an appeal from the Pope to an œcumenical Council should be reproved.302302 Friedberg, pp. 470 sqq.; Frommann, pp. 61–63. But five counter-petitions, signed by very weighty names, in all 137, representing various degrees of opposition, but agreed as to the inopportunity of the definition, were sent in during the same month (Jan. 12 to 18) by German and Austrian, Hungarian, French, American, Oriental, and Italian Bishops.303303 Friedberg, pp. 472–478. The American petition against Infallibility was signed by Purcell, of Cincinnati; Kenrick, of St. Louis; McCloskey, of New York; Connolly, of Halifax; Bayley, of Newark (now Archbishop of Baltimore), and several others.
The Pope received none of these addresses, but referred them to the Deputation on Faith. While in this he showed his impartiality, he did not conceal, in a private way, his real opinion, and gave it the weight of his personal character and influence. 'Faith in his personal infallibility,' says a well-informed Catholic, 'and belief in a constant and special communication with the Holy Ghost, form the basis of the character of Pius IX.'304304 Ce qui se passe au Concile, p. 130. The writer adds that some of the predecessors of Pius have held his doctrines, but none has been so ardently convinced, none has professed them 'avec ce mysticisme enthousiaste, ce dédain pour les remontrances des savants et des sages, cette confiance impassible. Quel que soit le jugement de l’histoire, personne ne pourra nier que cette foi profonde ne lui ait créé dans le dix-neuvième siècle une personnalité d’une puissance et d’une majesté incomparables, dont l’éclat grandit encore un pontificat déjà si remarquable par une durée, des vertus et des malheurs vraiment exceptionnels.' Comp. the Discourses of Pius IX., in 2 vols., Rome, 1873, and the review of Gladstone in the Quarterly Review for Jan. 1875. In the Council itself, Archbishop Manning, the Anglican convert, was the most zealous, devout, and enthusiastic Infallibilist; he urged the definition as the surest means of gaining hesitating Anglo-Catholics and Ritualists longing for absolute authority; while his former teacher and friend, Dr. Pusey, feared that the new 153dogma would make the breach between Oxford and Rome wider than ever. Manning is 'more Catholic than Catholics' to the manor born, as the English settlers in Ireland were more Irish than Irishmen,305305 So Archbishop Kenrick, of St. Louis, characterized him in his Concio habenda at non habita. Quirinus (Appendix I. p. 832) quotes from a sermon of Manning, preached at Kensington, 1869, in the Pope's name, the following passage: 'I claim to be the Supreme Judge and director of the consciences of men—of the peasant that tills the field, and the prince that sits on the throne; of the household that lives in the shade of privacy, and the Legislature that makes laws for kingdoms. I am the sole last Supreme Judge of what is right and wrong.' and is altogether worthy to be the successor of Pius IX. in the chair of St. Peter. Both these eminent and remarkable persons show how a sincere faith in a dogma, which borders on blasphemy, may, by a strange delusion or hallucination, be combined with rare purity and amiability of character.
Besides the all-powerful aid of the Pope, whom no Bishop can disobey without fatal consequences, the Infallibilists had the great advantage of perfect unity of sentiment and aim; while the anti-Infallibilists were divided among themselves, many of them being simply inopportunists. They professed to agree with the majority in principle or practice, and to differ from them only on the subordinate question of definability and opportunity.306306 Only the address of the German Bishops took openly the ground that it would be difficult from internal reasons (viz., the contradiction of history and tradition) to proclaim Infallibility as a dogma of revelation. See Friedrich, Tagebuch, p. 126; and Frommann, Geschichte, p. 62. This qualified opposition had no weight whatever with the Pope, who was as fully convinced of the opportunity and necessity of the definition as he was of the dogma itself.307307 On being asked whether he considered the definition of the dogma opportune, Pius IX. resolutely answered, 'No! but necessary.' He complained of the opposing Bishops, that, living among Protestants, they were infected by their freedom of thought, and had lost the true traditional feeling. Hase, p. 180. And even the most advanced anti-Infallibilists, as Kenrick, Hefele, and Strossmayer, were too much hampered by Romish traditionalism to plant their foot firmly on the Scriptures, which after all must decide all questions of faith.
In the mean time a literary war on Infallibility was carried on in the Catholic Church in Germany, France, and England, and added to the commotion in Rome. A large number of pamphlets, written or inspired by prominent members of the Council, appeared for and against Infallibility. Distinguished outsiders, as Döllinger, Gratry, Hyacinthe, Montalembert, and others, mixed in the fight, and strengthened 154the minority.308308 See the literature in the next section, and in Friedberg, pp. 33–44. Comp. Frommann, pp. 66 sqq. A confidential communication of the intellectual leader of the Anglo-Catholic secession revealed the remarkable fact that some of the most serious minds were at that time oscillating between infallibilism and skepticism, and praying to the spirits of the fathers to deliver the Church from 'the great calamity' of a new dogma.309309 Dr. John Henry Newman has, after long silence, retracted in 1875 his letter of 1870, which, though confidential, found its way into public 'by permission,' and has given in his adherence to the Vatican decrees, yet with minimizing qualifications, and in a tone of sadness and complaint against those ultra-zealous infallibilists who 'have stated truths in the most paradoxical forms and stretched principles till they were close upon snapping, and who at length, having done their best to set the house on fire, leave to others the task of putting out the flame.' (See his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, on occasion of Gladstone's Expostulation, Lond. 1875, p. 4.) Nevertheless that document deserves to be remembered for its psychological interest, and as a part of the inner history of the infallibility dogma a few months before its birth. 'Rome,' he wrote to Bishop Ullathorne, 'ought to be a name to lighten the heart at all times, and a Council's proper office is, when some great heresy or other evil impends, to inspire hope and confidence in the faithful; but now we have the greatest meeting which ever has been, and that at Rome, infusing into us by the accredited organs of Rome and of its partisans, such as the Civiltà (the Armonia), the Univers, and the Tablet, little else than fear and dismay. When we are all at rest, and have no doubts, and—at least practically, not to say doctrinally—hold the Holy Father to be infallible, suddenly there is thunder in the clearest sky, and we are told to prepare for something, we know not what, to try our faith, we know not how. No impending danger is to be averted, but a great difficulty is to be created. Is this the proper work for an œcumenical Council? As to myself personally, please God, I do not expect any trial at all; but I can not help suffering with the many souls who are suffering, and I look with anxiety at the prospect of having to defend decisions which may not be difficult to my own private judgment, but may be most difficult to maintain logically in the face of historical facts. What have we done to be treated as the faithful never were treated before? When has a definition de fide been a luxury of devotion, and not a stern, painful necessity? Why should an aggressive, insolent faction be allowed to "make the heart of the just sad, whom the Lord hath not made sorrowful?" Why can not we be let alone when we have pursued peace and thought no evil? I assure you, my lord, some of the truest minds are driven one way and another, and do not know where to rest their feet—one day determining "to give up all theology as a bad job," and recklessly to believe henceforth almost that the Pope is impeccable, at another tempted to "believe all the worst which a book like Janus says;" others doubting about "the capacity possessed by Bishops drawn from all corners of the earth to judge what is fitting for European society," and then, again, angry with the Holy See for listening to "the flattery of a clique of Jesuits, Redemptorists, and converts." Then, again, think of the store of Pontifical scandals in the history of eighteen centuries, which have partly been poured forth, and partly are still to come. What Murphy [a Protestant traveling preacher] inflicted upon us in one way, Mr.Veuillot is indirectly bringing on us in another. And then, again, the blight which is falling upon the multitude of Anglican Ritualists, etc., who themselves, perhaps—at least their leaders—may never become Catholics, but who are leavening the various English denominations and parties (far beyond their own range) with principles and sentiments tending towards their ultimate absorption into the Catholic Church. With these thoughts ever before me, I am continually asking myself whether I ought not to make my feelings public; but all I do is to pray those early doctors of the Church, whose intercession would decide the matter (Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Basil), to avert this great calamity. If it is God's will that the Pope's infallibility be defined, then is it God's will to throw back "the times and moments" of that triumph which he has destined for his kingdom, and I shall feel I have but to bow my head to his adorable, inscrutable Providence. You have not touched upon the subject yourself, but I think you will allow me to express to you feelings which, for the most part, I keep to myself. . . .' See an excellent German translation of this letter in Quirinus (p. 274, Germ. ed.) and in Friedberg (p. 131). The English translator of Quirinus has substituted the English original as given here from the Standard, April 7, 1870.
155After preliminary skirmishes, the formal discussion began in earnest in the 50th session of the General Congregation, May 13, 1870, and lasted to the 86th General Congregation, July 16. About eighty Latin speeches310310 According to Manning, but only 65 according to Friedberg, p. 47. were delivered in the general discussion on the schema de Romano Pontifice, nearly one half of them on the part of the opposition, which embraced less than one fifth of the Council. When the arguments and the patience of the assembly were pretty well exhausted, the President, at the petition of a hundred and fifty Bishops, closed the general discussion on the third day of June. About forty more Bishops, who had entered their names, were thus prevented from speaking; but one of them, Archbishop Kenrick, of St. Louis, published his strong argument against Infallibility in Naples.311311 Hence the title 'Concio habenda at non habita'—prepared for speaking, but not spoken. See the prefatory note, dated Rome, June 8, 1870. Then five special discussions commenced on the proemium and the four chapters. 'For the fifth or last discussion a hundred and twenty Bishops inscribed their names to speak; fifty of them were heard, until on both sides the burden became too heavy to bear; and, by mutual consent, a useless and endless discussion, from mere exhaustion, ceased.'312312 Manning, Petri Privil. III. pp. 31, 32. He gives this representation to vindicate the liberty of the Council; but the minority complained of an arbitrary close of the discussion. They held an indignation meeting in the residence of Cardinal Rauscher, and protested 'contra violationem nostri juris,' but without effect. See the protest, with eighty-one signatures, in Friedrich, Doc. II. p. 379; comp. Frommann, Geschichte, p. 174.
When the vote was taken on the whole four chapters of the Constitution of the Church, July 13, 1870, in the 85th secret session of the General Congregation (601 members being present), 451 voted Placet, 88 Non Placet, 62 Placet juxta modum, over 80 (perhaps 91), though present in Rome or in the neighborhood, abstained for various reasons from voting.313313 See the list in Friedberg, pp. 146–149; also in Friedrich, Docum. II. pp. 426 sqq.; and Quirinus, Letter LXVI. pp. 778 sqq. Quirinus errs in counting the 91 (according to others, 85 or only 70) absentees among the 601. There were in all from 680 to 692 members present in Rome at the time. See Fessler, p. 89 (who states the number of absentees to be 'over 80'), and Frommann, p. 201. The protest of the minority to the Pope, July 17, states the number of voters in the same way, except that 70, instead of 91 or 85, is given as the number of absentees: 'Notum est Sanctitati Vestræ, 88 Patres fuisse, qui, conscientia urgente et amore s. Ecclesiæ permoti, suffragium suum per verba non placet emiserunt; 62 alios, qui suffragati sunt per verba placet juxta modum, denique 70 circiter qui a congregatione abfuerunt atque a suffragio emittendo abstinuerunt. Hic accedunt et alii, qui, infirmitatibus aut gravioribus rationibus ducti, ad suas diœceses reversi sunt.' Among the negative votes were the Prelates most distinguished 156for learning and position, as Schwarzenberg, Cardinal Prince-Archbishop of Prague; Rauscher, Cardinal Prince-Archbishop of Vienna; Darboy, Archbishop of Paris; Matthieu, Cardinal-Archbishop of Besançon; Ginoulhiac, Archbishop of Lyons; Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans; Maret, Bishop of Sura (i. p.); Simor, Archbishop of Gran and Primate of Hungary; Haynald, Archbishop of Kalocsa; Förster, Prince-Bishop of Breslau; Scherr, Archbishop of Munich; Ketteler, Bishop of Mayence; Hefele, Bishop of Rottenburg; Strossmayer, Bishop of Bosnia and Sirmium; MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam; Connolly, Archbishop of Halifax; Kenrick, Archbishop of St. Louis.
On the evening of the 13th of July the minority sent a deputation, consisting of Simor, Ginoulhiac, Scherr, Darboy, Ketteler, and Rivet, to the Pope. After waiting an hour, they were admitted at 9 o'clock in the evening. They asked simply for a withdrawal of the addition to the third chapter, which assigns to the Pope the exclusive possession of all ecclesiastical powers, and for the insertion, in the fourth chapter, of a clause limiting his infallibility to those decisions which he pronounces 'innixus testimonio ecclesiarum.' Pius returned the almost incredible answer: 'I shall do what I can, my dear sons, but I have not yet read the scheme; I do not know what it contains.'314314 He spoke in French: 'Te ferai mon possible, mes chers fils, mais je n’ai pas encore lu le schéma; je ne sais pas ce qu’il contient.' Quirinus, Letter LXIX. p. 800. He requested Darboy, the spokesman of the deputation, to hand him the petition in writing. Darboy promised to do so; and added, not without irony, that he would send with it the schema which the Deputation on Faith and the Legates had with such culpable levity omitted to lay before his Holiness, exposing him to the risk of proclaiming in a few days a decree he was ignorant of. Pius surprised the deputation by the astounding assurance that the whole Church had always taught the unconditional Infallibility of the Pope. Then Bishop Ketteler of Mayence implored the holy Father on his knees to make some concession 157for the peace and unity of the Church.315315 Quirinus, Letter LXIX. p. 801, gave, a few days afterwards, from direct information, the following fresh and graphic description of this interesting scene: 'Bishop Ketteler then came forward, flung himself on his knees before the Pope, and entreated for several minutes that the Father of the Catholic world would make some concession to restore peace and her lost unity to the Church and the Episcopate. It was a peculiar spectacle to witness these two men, of kindred and yet widely diverse nature, in such an attitude—the one prostrate on the ground before the other. Pius is "totus teres atque rotundus," firm and immovable, smooth and hard as marble, infinitely self-satisfied intellectually, mindless and ignorant; without any understanding of the mental conditions and needs of mankind, without any notion of the character of foreign nations, but as credulous as a nun, and, above all, penetrated through and through with reverence for his own person as the organ of the Holy Ghost, and therefore an absolutist from head to heel, and filled with the thought, "I, and none beside me." He knows and believes that the Holy Virgin, with whom he is on the most intimate terms, will indemnify him for the loss of land and subjects by means of the Infallibility doctrine, and the restoration of the Papal dominion over states and peoples as well as over churches. He also believes firmly in the miraculous emanations from the sepulchre of St. Peter. At the feet of this man the German Bishop flung himself, "ipso Papa papalior," a zealot for the ideal greatness and unapproachable dignity of the Papacy, and, at the same time, inspired by the aristocratic feeling of a Westphalian nobleman and the hierarchical self-consciousness of a Bishop and successor of the ancient chancellor of the empire, while yet he is surrounded by the intellectual atmosphere of Germany, and, with all his firmness of belief, is sickly with the pallor of thought, and inwardly struggling with the terrible misgiving that, after all, historical facts are right, and that the ship of the Curia, though for the moment it proudly rides the waves with its sails swelled by a favorable wind, will be wrecked on that rock at last.' This prostration of the proudest of the German prelates made some impression. Pius dismissed the deputation in a hopeful temper. But immediately afterwards Manning and Senestrey (Bishop of Regensburg) strengthened his faith, and frightened him by the warning that, if he made any concession, he would be disgraced in history as a second Honorius.
In the secret session on the 16th of July, on motion of some Spanish Bishops, an addition was inserted 'non autem ex consensu ecclesiæ, which makes the decree still more obnoxious.316316 Quirinus, p. 804: 'Thus the Infallibilist decree, as it is now to be received under anathema by the Catholic world, is an eminently Spanish production, as is fitting for a doctrine which was born and reared under the shadow of the Inquisition.' On the same day Cardinal Rauscher, in a private audience, made another attempt to induce the Pope to yield, but was told, 'It is too late.'
On the 17th of July fifty-six Bishops sent a written protest to the Pope, declaring that nothing had occurred to change their conviction as expressed in their negative vote; on the contrary, they were confirmed in it; yet filial piety and reverence for the holy Father would not permit them to vote Non Placet, openly and in his face, in a matter which so intimately concerned his person, and that therefore they had 158resolved to return forthwith to their flocks, which had already too long been deprived of their presence, and were now filled with apprehensions of war. Schwarzenberg, Matthieu, Simor, and Darboy head the list of signers.317317 See the protest in Friedberg, p. 622. Comp. Frommann, p. 207. On the evening of the same day not only the fifty-six signers, but sixty additional members of the opposition departed from Rome, promising to each other to make their future conduct dependent on mutual understanding.
This was the turning-point: the opposition broke down by its own act of cowardice. They ought to have stood like men on the post of duty, and repeated their negative vote according to their honest convictions. They could thus have prevented the passage of this momentous decree, or at all events shorn it of its œcumenical weight, and kept it open for future revision and possible reversal. But they left Rome at the very moment when their presence was most needed, and threw an easy victory into the lap of the majority.
When, therefore, the fourth public session was held, on the memorable 18th of July (Monday), there were but 535 Fathers present, and of these all voted Placet, with the exception of two, viz., Bishop Riccio, of Cajazzo, in Sicily, and Bishop Fitzgerald, of Little Rock, Arkansas, who had the courage to vote Non Placet, but immediately, before the close of the session, submitted to the voice of the Council. In this way a moral unanimity was secured as great as in the first Council of Nicæa, where likewise two refused to subscribe the Nicene Creed, 'What a wise direction of Providence,' exclaimed the Civiltà cattolica, '535 yeas against 2 nays. Only two nays, therefore almost total unanimity; and yet two nays, therefore full liberty of the Council. How vain are all attacks against the œcumenical character of this most beautiful of all Councils!'
After the vote the Pope confirmed the decrees and canons on the Constitution of the Church of Christ, and added from his own inspiration the assurance that the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff did not suppress but aid, not destroy but build up, and formed the best protection of the rights and interests of the Episcopate.318318 ' Summa ista Romani Pontificis auctoritas, Venerabiles Fratres, non opprimit sed adjuvat, non destruit sed ædificat, et sæpissime confirmat in dignitate, unit in charitate, et Fratrum, scilicet Episcoporum, jura firmat atque tuetur. Ideoque illi, qui nunc judicant in commotione, sciant, non esse in commotione Dominum. Meminerint, quod paucis abhinc annis, oppositam tenentes sententiam, abundaverunt in sensu Nostro, et in sensu majoris partis hujus amplissimi Consessus, sed tunc judicaverunt in spiritu auræ lenis. Numquid in eodem judicio judicando duæ oppositæ possunt existere conscientiæ? Absît. Illuminet ergo Deus sensus et corda; et quoniam Ipse facit mirabilia magna solus, illuminet sensus et corda, ut omnes accedere possint ad sinum Patris, Christi Jesu in terris indigni Vicarii, qui eos amat, eos diligit, et exoptat unum esse cum illis; et ita simul in vinculo charitatis conjuncti prœliare possimus prœlia Domini, ut non solum non irrideant nos inimici nostri, sed timeant potius, et aliquando arma malitiæ cedant in conspectu veritatis, sicque omnes cum D. Augustino dicere valeant: "Tu vocasti me in admirabile lumen tuum, et ecce video."'
159The days of the two most important public sessions of the Vatican Council, namely the first and the last, were the darkest and stormiest which Rome saw from Dec. 8, 1869, to the 18th of July, 1870. The Episcopal votes and the Papal proclamation of the new dogma were accompanied by flashes of lightning and claps of thunder from the skies, and so great was the darkness which spread over the Church of St. Peter, that the Pope could not read the decree of his own Infallibility without the artificial light of a candle.319319 Quirinus, Letter LXIX. p. 809. A Protestant eye-witness, Prof. Ripley, thus described the scene in a letter from Rome, published in the New York Tribune (of which he is one of the editors) for Aug. 11, 1870: 'Rome, July 19.—Before leaving Rome I send you a report of the last scene of that absurd comedy called the Œcumenical Vatican Council. . . . It is at least a remarkable coincidence that the opening and closing sessions of the Council were inaugurated with fearful storms, and that the vigil of the promulgation of the dogma was celebrated with thunder and lightning throughout the whole of the night. On the 8th of last December I was nearly drowned by the floods of rain, which came down in buckets; yesterday morning I went down in rain, and under a frowning sky which menaced terrible storms later in the day. . . . Kyrie eleison we heard as soon as the mass was said, and the whole multitude joined in singing the plaintive measure of the Litany of the Saints, and then with equal fervor was sung Veni Creator, which was followed by the voice of a secretary reading in a high key the dogma. At its conclusion the names of the Fathers were called over, and Placet after Placet succeeded ad nauseam. But what a storm burst over the church at this moment! The lightning flashed and the thunder pealed as we have not heard it this season before. Every Placet seemed to be announced by a flash and terminated by a clap of thunder. Through the cupolas the lightning entered, licking, as it were, the very columns of the Baldachino over the tomb of St. Peter, and lighting up large spaces on the pavement. Sure, God was there—but whether approving or disproving what was going on, no mortal man can say. Enough that it was a remarkable coincidence, and so it struck the minds of all who were present. And thus the roll was called for one hour and a half, with this solemn accompaniment, and then the result of the voting was taken to the Pope. The moment had arrived when he was to declare himself invested with the attributes of God—nay, a God upon earth. Looking from a distance into the hall, which was obscured by the tempest, nothing was visible but the golden mitre of the Pope, and so thick was the darkness that a servitor was compelled to bring a lighted candle and hold it by his side to enable him to read the formula by which he deified himself. And then—what is that indescribable noise? Is it the raging of the storm above?—the pattering of hail-stones? It approaches nearer, and for a minute I most seriously say that I could not understand what that swelling sound was until I saw a cloud of white handkerchiefs waving in the air. The Fathers had begun with clapping—they were the fuglemen to the crowd who took up the notes and signs of rejoicing until the church of God was converted into a theatre for the exhibition of human passions. "Viva Pio Nono!" "Viva il Papa Infallibile!" "Viva il trionfo dei Cattolici!" were shouted by this priestly assembly; and again another round they had; and yet another was attempted as soon as the Te Deum had been sung and the benediction had been given.' This voice of nature was variously interpreted, 160either as a condemnation of Gallicanism and liberal Catholicism, or as a divine attestation of the dogma like that which accompanied the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai, or as an evil omen of impending calamities to the Papacy.
And behold, the day after the proclamation of the dogma, Napoleon III., the political ally and supporter of Pius IX., unchained the furies of war, which in a few weeks swept away the Empire of France and the temporal throne of the infallible Pope. His own subjects forsook him, and almost unanimously voted for a new sovereign, whom he had excommunicated as the worst enemy of the Church. A German Empire arose from victorious battle-fields, and Protestantism sprung to the political and military leadership of Europe. About half a dozen Protestant Churches have since been organized in Rome, where none was tolerated before, except outside of the walls or in the house of some foreign embassador; a branch of the Bible Society was established, which the Pope in his Syllabus denounces as a pest; and a public debate was held in which even the presence of Peter at Rome was called in question. History records no more striking example of swift retribution of criminal ambition. Once before the Papacy was shaken to its base at the very moment when it felt itself most secure: Leo X. had hardly concluded the fifth and last Lateran Council in March, 1517, with a celebration of victory, when an humble monk in the North of Europe sounded the key-note of the great Reformation.
What did the Bishops of the minority do? They all submitted, even those who had been most vigorous in opposing, not only the opportunity of the definition, but the dogma itself. Some hesitated long, but yielded at last to the heavy pressure. Cardinal Rauscher, of Vienna, published the decree already in August, and afterwards withdrew his powerful 'Observations on the Infallibility of the Church' from the market; regarding this as an act of glorious self-denial for the welfare of the Church. Cardinal Schwarzenberg, of Prague, waited with the publication till Jan. 11, 1871, and shifted the responsibility upon his 161theological advisers. Bishop Hefele, of Rottenburg, who has forgotten more about the history of Councils than the infallible Pope ever knew, after delaying till April 10, 1871, submitted, not because he had changed his conviction, but, as he says, because 'the peace and unity of the Church is so great a good that great and heavy personal sacrifices may be made for it;' i.e., truth must be sacrificed to peace. Bishop Maret, who wrote two learned volumes against Papal Infallibility and in defense of Gallicanism, declared in his retractation that he 'wholly rejects every thing in his work which is opposed to the dogma of the Council,' and 'withdraws it from sale.' Archbishop Kenrick yielded, but has not refuted his Concio habenda at non habita, which remains an irrefragable argument against the new dogma. Even Strossmayer, the boldest of the bold in the minority, lost his courage, and keeps his peace. Darboy died a martyr in the revolt of the communists of Paris, in April, 1871. In a conversation with Dr. Michaud, Vicar of St. Madeleine, who since seceded from Rome, he counseled external and official submission, with a mental reservation, and in the hope of better times. His successor, Msgr. Guibert, published the decrees a year later (April, 1872), without asking the permission of the head of the French Republic. Of those opponents who, though not members of the Council, carried as great weight as any Prelate, Montalembert died during the Council; Newman kept silence; Père Gratry, who had declared and proved that the question of Honorius 'is totally gangrened by fraud,' wrote from his death-bed at Montreux, in Switzerland (Feb. 1872), to the new Archbishop of Paris, that he submitted to the Vatican Council, and effaced 'every thing to the contrary he may have written.'320320 See details on the reception and publication of the Vatican decrees in Friedberg, pp. 53 sqq., 775 sqq.; Frommann, pp. 215–230; on Gratry, the Annales de Philosophie Chrétienne, Sept. 1871, p. 236.
It is said that the adhesion of the minority Bishops was extorted by the threat of the Pope not to renew their 'quinquennial faculties' (facultates quinquennales), that is, the Papal licenses renewed every five years, permitting them to exercise extraordinary episcopal functions which ordinarily belong to the Pope, as the power of absolving from heresy, schism, apostasy, secret crime (except murder), from vows, duties of fasting, the power of permitting the reading of prohibited 162books (for the purpose of refutation), marrying within prohibited degrees, etc.321321 See the article Facultäten, in Wetzer und Welte's Kirchenlexikon oder Encyklop. der katholischen Theologie, Vol. III. pp. 879 sqq.
But, aside from this pressure, the following considerations sufficiently explain the fact of submission.
1. Many of the dissenting Bishops were professedly anti-Infallibilists, not from principle, but only from subordinate considerations of expediency, because they apprehended that the definition would provoke the hostility of secular governments, and inflict great injury on Catholic interests, especially in Protestant countries. Events have since proved that their apprehension was well founded.
2. All Roman Bishops are under an oath of allegiance to the Pope, which binds them 'to preserve, defend, increase, and advance the rights, honors, privileges, and authority of the holy Roman Church, of our lord the Pope, and his successors.'
3. The minority Bishops defended Episcopal infallibility against Papal infallibility. They claimed for themselves what they denied to the Pope. Admitting the infallibility of an œcumenical Council, and forfeiting by their voluntary absence on the day of voting the right of their protest, they must either on their own theory accept the decision of the Council, or give up their theory, cease to be Roman Catholics, and run the risk of a new schism.
At the same time this submission is an instructive lesson of the fearful spiritual despotism of the Papacy, which overrules the stubborn facts of history and the sacred claims of individual conscience. For the facts so clearly and forcibly brought out before and during the Council by such men as Kenrick, Hefele, Rauscher, Maret, Schwarzenberg, and Dupanloup, have not changed, and can never be undone. On the one hand we find the results of a life-long, conscientious, and thorough study of the most learned divines of the Roman Church, on the other ignorance, prejudice, perversion, and defiance of Scripture and tradition; on the one hand we have history shaping theology, on the other theology ignoring or changing history; on the one hand the just exercise of reason, on the other blind submission, which destroys reason and conscience. But truth must and will prevail at last.
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