« Prev Note B Next »


Doubts among the Roman Catholic Bishops, as to making the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin an Article of faith.

In giving more fully the answers of some of the Bishops, who demurred to, doubted about, or objected to, the definition of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin as an Article of faith, it is right to premise two points: 1. That no one of them objected to the definition, on the ground that he did not himself believe in it. All had been educated from infancy in that belief, as much as in the belief in the Holy Trinity or the Incarnation; they had been taught it in the seminaries; they held it undoubtingly. 2. All were ready to submit their own opinion as to the expediency of making it a matter of faith to the authority of the Pope, and to receive what he decreed as “de fide.” They are then opinions which have passed away, since the doubts or objections were ignored. Yet they have an historical interest, as showing how the subject was looked upon by some distinguished Bishops, how the influence of Roman decisions upon those who are not in their communion was felt by some; what principles were held by some as to the evidence required to establish an Article of faith, or what evidence was supposed to exist as to this, and, in part perhaps, what hopes may be entertained of meeting upon common principles.

France.—1. The late Archbishop of Paris, embodying the opinion of his predecessor. His full answer was written Aug. 25, 1849 (Pareri, &c., ii. 26-45), but withheld until Dec. 17, 1850 (Par. iii. 338). On July 26, 1850, he wrote, “I have consulted the gravest men, the most able theologians of my diocese. I have subsequently myself examined and weighed all things before God with the greatest care. From all this has resulted a work of which the conclusions are—

“1) In conformity with the principles of theology, the Immaculate Conception of the most holy Virgin is not a matter which can be defined as a truth of the Catholic faith, and, in no case, can be imposed as a belief obligatory under pain of eternal damnation.

“2) That any definition whatsoever, even if the Church or the Holy See believed that they could frame it, would not be opportune; for it would add nothing to the glory of the Immaculate Virgin, and it might be hurtful to the peace of the Church and the good of souls, especially in my diocese.”—Par. iii. 310,

11. His letter of Aug. 25, 1849, which was sent four months later than the above, ran— “It was my first care (your Holiness suggested afterwards to the Venerable Cardinal of Bourges) to

call into council the gravest men and most learned theologians of my diocese. They wrote a dissertation hereon, conspicuous for learning and wisdom, which I have judged right to transmit to you, most Blessed Father, at length. Afterwards, I weighed diligently the matter before God, and will humbly explain my opinion to the supreme judgment of the Vicar of Christ. The Encyclical letter of your Blessedness, most Holy Father, raised two questions, the first whereof must be solved by learning, the other by prudence:

“1st. As the theologians, my counsellors, observe, it must be inquired whether, according to the principles of sound theology, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin can be solved by a decree of the Church or of the Holy See, whereby the faithful should be bound to embrace this doctrine:

“2dly. Whether it is opportune to publish such a decree now.

“As to the dogmatic question, the authors of the Dissertation lay down, 1) that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception can be enacted by a decree of the Church or of the Holy See, so as to be declared certain, yet not so as to be accounted among articles of faith; 2) that the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin cannot, as they think, be placed among articles of faith or truths of the Catholic faith, by a decree of the Church or the Holy See.


“As to prudence, having weighed the advantages and disadvantages of a solemn decree, whereby all the faithful should be bound to embrace the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, they think such a promulgation altogether inopportune. And I myself, mo st Holy Father, as well as the theologians, my counsellors, think that from the promulgation of such a decree the most grave disadvantages, and perhaps great calamities, will arise to the Church. And I myself think with them, that it is not lawful, either for the Church or for the Holy See to count the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in any case among the articles of faith, or verities of the Catholic faith. Yea, most Holy Father, I go further than the said theologians, and doubt whether the Church or the Holy See can enact by a solemn decree, that this doctrine is certain and must be embraced by all under pain of eternal damnation. The Advisers think that their judgment can be easily demonstrated by those grounds which theologians are wont to employ to establish the doctrine as to the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin. For, as these say, setting aside the testimonies of the Holy Fathers, who flourished in the first ages of the Church, whose explanation lies under no slight difficulties, the truth of the Immaculate Conception is demonstrated by most grave theological reasons, which rest especially on the glorious privilege of the Divine maternity, and the constant practice of the Church for the last five centuries.

“I will presently, most Blessed Father, set forth several doubts as to the force of these reasons, which, moreover, are reducible to the single ground of convenience. But for the time, admitting the gravity of this argument, I would explain modestly, and not without some fear, the following doubts.”—[The original contains answers, enforcing these doubts. These I have omitted, when they seemed to be involved in the terms of the doubt itself, or were nearly identical in terms with it:—]

“Doubt 1. Can the Church make a definition as to a doctrine, which rests neither on Holy Scripture nor Tradition?

“D. 2. Can any thing else be inferred from the passages adduced from the Fathers of the earlier centuries, besides the sanctification of Mary from her mother’s womb? [He instanced such expressions as ‘Immaculate,’ ‘Most pure,’ ‘Free from stain of sin,’ which, he says, were used by S. Bernard, or S. Thomas Aquinas too, who denied the Immaculate Conception.]

“D. 3. Can the Church, when it exceeds the limits of her authority, declare any truth as certain, on the sole ground of intrinsic suitableness?

“D. 4. Is the Church bound by no limit of lawfulness in the exercise of her authority, so that she can make a definition in all possible cases, in all circumstances, at her own will?

“D. 5. Did the Church without evident necessity, ever define a question of doctrine as to which, here and now, no controversy is raised? Would not the practice of Councils and the Holy See be contradicted by so doing?

“D. 6. Are the wishes of the faithful a sufficient motive that the Church should, by a solemn decision, settle a question of doctrine in their sense? [‘One of the most learned Bishops of Belgium, who extremely desires the doctrinal decision, confessed to me, that this practice of the Church seemed to him of so much moment, that on this ground alone he somewhat hesitated.’]

“D. 7. Can the Church propose as obligatory an opinion as to doctrine, which is not necessarily connected with any revealed dogma?

“D. 8. Can the Church define, either as ‘de Fide,’ or as infallibly certain, a proposition which cannot be brought under theological conclusions? [He explains, ‘Among the truths which the Church teaches with infallible authority, the last place is held by those which are contained in theological conclusions, i. e., such as are deduced from a major proposition, not revealed, and a minor, revealed. Such conclusions then must be connected by some necessary and evident link with some verity of faith. But the Immaculate Conception is not so connected.’]

“D. 9. Can the Church define, as certainly to be believed, a truth which does not touch upon the economy of religion?

“D. 10. Can the Church propose, under pain of eternal damnation, a doctrine which is altogether indifferent, in respect of dogma or rule of life?

“D. 11. Was it not always the mind of the Council of Trent to maintain liberty of opinions which


do not injure dogma or morals?

“D. 12. As to the Immaculate Conception itself, did not the Holy Council of Trent and the Holy See decree that opinions were free, and so, in themselves, indifferent?

“D. 13. After the Church has declared, at least implicitly, that neither of these opinions affects dogma or rules of life, would it not, by defining that the one was necessarily to be believed and anathematizing the other, seem to confess that it had erred, in tolerating error in its bosom?

“D. 14. Would not a new decision presuppose fresh grounds? But whence have these arisen? [‘From the “pious wishes” of the faithful perchance?’]

“D. 15. Failing testimonies of Scripture or tradition, can a doctrinal decision rest on pious wishes of the faithful?

“D. 16. Failing texts of Scripture, or Apostolic tradition, what else will the testimonies of Bishops be, save a new weighing of theological grounds in favour of the Immaculate Conception?

“D. 17. Can a new judgment, as to the value of theological grounds, be prudently passed without a new controversy, which however has not been raised?

“D. 18. But why this new controversy, if the question has been solved by the Council of Trent and the Holy See?

“D. 19. After a decree, declaring that opinions as to the Immaculate Conception are free, who will dare to assert the contrary?

“D. 20. Can a more vivid sense of some reason of theological congruity, even if it affected the mind of all the Bishops of the Catholic world unanimously, be a sufficient ground for a doctrinal decision?

“D. 21. “What weight is there in the ground of congruity, whereon alone the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception rests?

“D. 22. Does not God destroy all those reasons of congruity by the mystery of the Incarnation?

“D. 23. Why, in such a mystery of the self-emptying of the Word, should there be any dispute as to the one or other degree of humility?

“D. 24. Might not perhaps the ground of congruence be brought forward more truly to prove that the Virgin Mary was sanctified in her mother’s womb?

“D. 25. If some Theologians hold that the dogma of the Divine Maternity is connected by a bond of mere congruence with the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, do not others contrariwise teach that it contradicts several revealed dogmas?

“D. 26. In matter of revealed religion, before the authority of the Church pronounces decisively, must it not first be examined, whether the difficulties both of sacred and profane knowledge can be solved? [Dismissing the difficulties of modern physiology, he asks,]

“D. 37. If, by a special grace, the fruit of human generation can be holy, immaculate, free from all fault, why was not Christ so born? [He says, ‘The learned Bishop whom I mentioned, when urged by this argument, did not hesitate to assert that the Fathers only hinted a certain necessity of propriety, when they speak of the Virginity of the Mother of God being necessary, and that in truth the Son of God might have taken flesh in the ordinary way of generation. I doubt not f hat that pious Bishop, on weighing the matter more maturely, would acknowledge that such a concession was altogether contrary to the doctrine of the Church. All testimonies of tradition, I deem, contradict it.’]

“D. 28. Would not Christ have been united with us by a closer bond of brotherhood, if born of man and woman, had this been possible, as is supposed in the opinion of the Immaculate Conception?

“D. 29. Is any special teaching for the forming of life derivable from that mystery, so that a definition could be judged, if not necessary, at least useful?

“D. 30. Do they not do wrong to the Blessed Virgin, who expect singular and illustrious graces from the decree as to the Immaculate Conception? [‘Such as, that there should hereafter be no foreign wars, no civil discord, the empire of error be destroyed; everywhere truth, peace, and charity.’ ‘When they exhibit to us the Blessed Virgin rejoicing in such honour, and therefore exulting, that we acknowledge her singular privilege, and, as a reward, taking care to pour most copious treasures of her gifts into the Church, do they not clothe the Queen of the heavenly Court with the failings of our infirmities? Do they not


represent her as a woman, desirous of vain glory, to whose feet each makes his way by flattery and blandishments? These things, if not vain phrenzies, are invented to the reproach of the Virgin.’]

“D. 31. Will not the doctrinal decision, contrary to the mind of the Church, diminish the cultus and glory of the Blessed Virgin?

“D. 32. The doctrinal decision will profit neither the faithful nor the Church, nor the glory of the holy Mother of God.

“D. 33. Will not the Dissenters mock the Church for such a solemn decision, and be repelled further from it?

“D. 34. Perils, which will arise thence, in respect to the unbelievers and politicians of this time.

“D. 35. Perils, which will arise thence in respect to some faithful, especially in the Diocese of Paris. [‘These, though they neglect the precepts of religion, yet profess to reverence its doctrines. Their faith, philosophic (so to speak) rather than Christian, will be too weak to bear such a trial. We fear, lest they should reject what they have hitherto venerated, or at least remove further from the Church. These perils are especially to be feared in the diocese’ of Paris. ‘There are to be found in Paris, more than anywhere else, men eminent for civil dignity, or science, or wealth, or authority, who by their example affect others, and whom we are constrained to count in this class. Moved thereby, my predecessor of glorious memory’ (the Archbishop who died as a martyr) ‘gave the same opinion as myself to the Holy See, asserting that the definition as to the Immaculate Conception would be rather a scandal than to edification among those of his Diocese.’]

“D. 36. Perils, which will arise as to some Catholic Theologians. [‘These will endure anxiously this new head of controversy, this new definition which can be confirmed by no tradition, nay, which, as many learned among them think, is at variance with the belief of former centuries of the Church. Which peril, if it be lighter on the part of those who listen tractably to the Church, will appear much graver, if we consider those who profess to reject the heretics who condemned in modern times, yet tread closely in their footsteps. Such perchance may be found among us.’]

“D. 37. Will not new heresies arise out of a doctrinal decision? [‘Probably “Anti-conceptionists” will arise, and some of them will not hesitate to assert that the assistance of the Holy Spirit was not promised to the Church, to settle at pleasure mere theoretical questions. What marvel, if among the adherents of the new dogma, some, of more rigid minds, resting on the grounds I have hinted at [Doubts 27, 28], should come to deny the Virginity of Mary, and the operation of the Holy Ghost in the Incarnation?’]

“D. 38. Will not the decision of the question turn to the ruin of a great number of souls without any compensation?

“The wishes of the faithful, that the pious opinion of the Immaculate Conception should be counted among dogmas of faith, or at least among truths defined as certain, are incessantly produced to us as a decisive ground. They who so boast, most Blessed Father, exceed the limits of truth. To us the faithful seem to have no wish as to this definition. They are contented to pour forth devout prayers to the Immaculate Virgin. If any pious souls, more inclined to that faith, have uttered such a wish, they are, beyond question, very few. But be they, in respect to the unbelieving, heretics, or indifferent, as one, I do not say, to a thousand, but to a hundred, the piety or faith of this faithful soul will profit nothing by that definition, if it turn to the destruction of those hundred unbelievers, heretics, indifferentists. Why, without reasonable or sufficient motive, without evident necessity, or any benefit, at the good pleasure alone of some pious faithful, should we imperil so many souls? I conclude—

“1. It is at least doubtful whether the Church can declare the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to be certain and obligatory. If its power is doubtful, it ought to be silent, since there is no necessity of speaking at this time. Your Holiness is not unaware, that many of the theologians who have written about the definability of this question, even such as have grave weight with the Holy See, went further than we; they do not say that the authority of the Church in defining such questions is doubtful, they deny it altogether. But we, most Blessed Father, believe the matter to be doubtful, and that in matters of doubt there ought to be no action. 2. Since the Immaculate Conception cannot be demonstrated to the unbelieving or to heretics, either by Holy Scripture or by tradition; since, moreover, both reason and


science raise difficulties, either in themselves insoluble or at least inextricable, against this opinion, if the Church were by a solemn decree to declare it obligatory, the Catholic controversy would in this point become weak and powerless. But thereby the authority of the Church becomes cheaper, the gravity of her decrees becomes questioned, and the truth of her doctrinal decisions is denied with increased temerity. Again then, most Blessed Father, moved by this most grave argument, we will say, the Church ought to abstain from any decree whereby the opinion as to the Immaculate Conception would become obligatory. 3. Although by such a decree the Church should neither weaken her own sacred and infallible authority, nor the deposit of revealed doctrines which have been already defined, in sight of the unbelieving and of heretics, she ought to abstain from passing it, on account of the inutility of the decree itself. For as we have tried to show, the decree in question would be useless, if not hurtful,—useless to the faithful, useless to the Church, useless in respect to the glory of the Blessed Virgin. This threefold inutility, even apart from the perils to souls, abundantly suffices to make the course, which some’ expect the Supreme Pontiff to attempt, to appear illegitimate.”— ii. 26.

  1. Louis, Archbishop of Rouen.—“I consider that this belief is not clearly contained in the deposit of the Holy Scriptures. I consider that tradition in this respect is wanting in precision and unanimity. Had the tradition been clear, could S. Anselm, S. Bonaventura, S. Bernard, S. Thomas, Bellarmine, and so many others, have been ignorant of it? I consider that the belief of the Immaculate Conception does not reach, in a way at all explicit or imposing, above the eleventh century; and that if new beliefs or devotions, favourable to piety and nowise contrary to order, may be wisely tolerated and even encouraged, it is still advisable to leave them as free beliefs and simple devotions. I consider that a dogmatic definition, under present circumstances, would be both superfluous and perilous. Superfluous, because no one now disputes the Blessed Virgin the privilege of her most pure Conception, and it is not the custom of the Church to erect into an article of faith what is disputed by no one. Perilous, because, considering the state of minds at this moment, it is to be feared that such a definition will only be a signal for the most lively discussions, the most wounding imputations. What, for instance, will the English Theologians, so well versed in the study of Ecclesiastical Antiquity, do or say, when they shall see the Holy See define, as a point of faith, a matter which so many ages have scarcely had a glimpse of (entrevue), which so many holy persons and great doctors have either denied or been ignorant of? Will they not think that the Church, at this day, holds cheap that principle of S. Vincent of Lerins, so certain and venerable, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus? And will not the Catholic doctrine itself suffer much, as a whole, if, as has been recently the case, certain imprudent champions of the most Holy Virgin, in order the better to support the privilege of her Immaculate Conception, maintain publicly, that many of our sacred doctrines do not rest on any more solid foundation, on any more certain tradition? Instead of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception being fortified, will not other much more important doctrines be shaken? And, most Holy Father, I fear much that in this case the wish to make good better will injure the good. I fear for the peace of the Church, which, on occasion of this new dogma, may witness destructive passions roused against her and within her own bosom. I fear for the honour of the Popes, who will be represented as having been, for 300 years, occupied in stifling free discussion on the subject; forbidding on the one side, under grave penalties, any sort of attack upon the privilege of the Immaculate Conception, and, on the other, favouring, by all possible means, the expansion of this pious belief. I fear even for yourself.—Will it not be said that Pius IX. exposed the bark of Peter to frightful tempests, for a matter in which the faith is not concerned, and which is incapable of any application to human conduct? On all these grounds, I opine that there is no room for erecting into a dogma of faith the pious belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin. Far from desiring such a decree, I should regard it as a dangerous thing, as a two-edged sword, capable of wounding the hand which should use it. I should rejoice certainly, in the interest of the mother of God, but I should be disquieted, in the interest of the Church and her glorious head; and I would not purchase so dear the consolations of piety.”—i. 357-9.
  2. The Bishop of Coutançes.—“Having been taught that pious opinion from boyhood, we, for ourselves and as the interpreters of the whole Clergy, all profess that Mary was conceived without stain. Yet we are persuaded, that there is no necessity or advantage in deciding or teaching, as an Article of faith,

that Mary was conceived without stain of original sin; nay, we all unanimously think it inopportune and full of peril. For whence should that necessity or advantage be derived? No question is raised about it; no adversary of the Immaculate Conception, not the very least, appears; Catechists teach it to boys, Divinity Professors to seminarists, Preachers of the Divine word to the faithful. Everywhere piously preached, it is everywhere piously received.

“Moreover, neither the Church nor the Holy See ever, as far as we know, erected any opinion piously believed into the dignity of a dogma, unless some controversy of greater moment were raised about it.

“We think then, positively, that there is absolutely no fitting occasion for it; but there appears to us grave peril, if the matter be touched in the very least.

“Every one knows with what efforts Rationalists and Protestants are assailing the bark of Peter, the authority of the Roman Pontiff, nay, the Church herself. Every one knows how many blasphemies the enemies of the Christian name pour out to weaken the Divine Monarchy. Every one knows with what calumnies those same inexorable enemies impugn daily the articles of faith.

“If what was hitherto a mere opinion is to-morrow, at the good pleasure of certain Bishops, to be believed de Fide, under pain of damnation; if, what the S. Council of Trent itself (as Pallavicini attests) would not decree, although then controverted and strongly impugned; if, what Pope Pius V., of holy memory, Gregory XV., and Alexander VII. declared to be, not a dogma, but a mere pious opinion, what might be contradicted without note of heresy, should be delivered as a doctrine by decree of the present supreme Pontiff, would not the aforesaid Rationalists and all uncatholics take occasion for assailing anew and more fiercely all our doctrines with their impious speeches? Nay, doubtless, a handle would be given them causelessly for so doing.

“But what is to be more feared, than to raise up these waves of passions and opinions, especially at this time, when the whole world is shaken with unwonted commotions, in which Peter (alas!) is ejected from his See, &c.? In these storms of tribulations, in this whirlpool of great crimes, in these perils and straits of all sorts, all faithful Christians turn their eyes to Mary, think of Mary, and call on her, piously and most inwardly believing that she was conceived without stain.

“Moved by these reasons of graver moment, we judge that a dogmatic decree as to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which could with the greatest difficulty be derived from Holy Scripture or tradition, should, at least for a time, be abstained from.”—i. 362, 363.

4. The Bishop of Evreux.—“In obedience to the commands of your Holiness, I have convened the most able Theologians of my diocese; I joined them to my Episcopal Council, and, after having interrogated and heard them, after having long studied and meditated in presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, after having humbly entreated the Holy Spirit to have pity upon rny misery and profound ignorance, this is my answer to the questions put by your Blessedness in your admirable letter.

“1. I do not think it well-timed to agitate at this moment the question of the Immaculate Conception; (1) because it is attacked by no Catholic, and has never been more generally admitted than in our century; (2) because many Protestants, reconciled by our most loved and holy Pope Pius IX. with the Papacy, are in the way to return, and that nothing would be more calculated to alienate them, than the obligation which would be laid upon them to cease to regard the belief in the Immaculate Conception as a matter of opinion.

“2. I do not believe that the passages of Holy Scripture are precise enough, nor the language of tradition explicit enough, or certain enough in all Centuries, that this opinion (certain as it seems to me) should be advanced to be a dogma of faith.

“The rules laid down by all Theologians seem to contradict this. “Our great strength, when we discuss with heretics, is this maxim of S. Vincent of Lerins,—Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus traditum est, &c. “On these grounds, which it would seem to me unsuitable and perfectly useless to develop to your Holiness, I would conjure you to abide by the examples of your Venerable Predecessors in the Apostolic


See, and to leave amid oppositions this holy opinion, which Bossuet called the most certain of truths.”—i. 100, 101.

5. The Bishop of Chartres.—“Never in my flock, and, I assert confidently, in all the Dioceses of France, did faithful Catholics burn with greater devotion and love towards Mary, never did they place fuller confidence in her; never in tribulations did they with more fervent impetus seek protection at her feet. Nothing can be added to the most lively significations of cultus towards Mary, which burst forth on all sides from the hearts of the faithful. It follows, that the pronouncing of this dogma ‘of faith’ will add nothing to this full, complete, and (so to speak) exuberant devotion. Nay, so far from kindling, it would burden, hinder, disturb it. For what confusion! what tumults! what protestations of rebellious men! The Jansenists and other Catholics of weak or less proved faith would cry out against the insertion of this dogma among articles of faith; they would rise up most boldly against it, try to draw Augustine, Bernard, Thomas, on their side; excite discord, assail with doubts and cavils the cultus of the Deipara which already includes the Immaculate Conception, and, so far from procuring any relaxation or comfort, would further accumulate the most vehement affliction of the Church.

“2. The Protestants, who incline to the Catholic faith, which the numerous conversions of very learned men, especially in England, attest most gloriously, would be deterred by the newness of this dogma from completing what they have begun. They would think, that all the articles of faith were declared in the Council of Trent, and that that most learned synod completed the Catholic doctrine. The impious Rationalists, Socialists, who are busy in entrapping the ignorance of the people by false interpretations of Evangelic doctrine, would try to accommodate this novelty to their ends, exclaiming that the Apostolic See, by sanctioning things hitherto unknown and unheard of, plainly favours their detestable comments. So then this plague, which no tears can expiate, would exult with fouler and more abominable licence.

“3. The faithful spontaneously, without constraint, without terror of Apostolic fulmination, believe, admire, venerate most profoundly the Immaculate Conception: devotion towards Mary seems thence the sweeter; for voluntariness is the condiment of love, the sweet aspiration of piety, the seal of filial affection, &c.

“To condense my meaning in few words, I declare it as represented with wonderful clearness and absolute precision in the following clause of the most learned Pétau: ‘To bring to a close the discussion of this question, I think that the most holy Virgin Mother of God was free, not only from all actual sin of her own, but from original also. But I am so far persuaded of this, that I would not have it counted of faith, nor would I believe that any one was to be condemned, or speak hardly of one who thinks otherwise; nor am I prepared to maintain it in any other way than that now prescribed by the Roman Pontiffs and the Council of Trent, i. e. by the Catholic Church’ (de Incarn. xiv. 2. 10). This tempered zeal circumstances seem to me especially to recommend, as also Apostolic moderation, and the very necessary counsel not to add sharpest strifes about matters of faith to horrible civil tumults. I think that nothing ought to be added to the causes of division and heat of mind, whose fury and rage is unexampled from the beginning of the world. For the glory of the Virgin and the good of the Church, what, as Pétau says, has been already decreed by supreme Pontiffs and the Council of Trent suffices. If, in a short time, as I most firmly believe, the most splendid benefits of the Virgin, who is terrible as an armed host, require other attestations of gratitude, your Holiness has other honours at hand to discharge this debt, and declare throughout the world your piety and grateful remembrance.”—i. 175, 176.

  1. The Bishop of Anneçy.—“We readily own to your Blessedness, that to us it would appear better, if a solemn sentence, whereby the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin should be proposed to be believed as an article of faith, and true dogma, should be abstained from. For, in our opinion, such a judgment could not easily escape the note of novelty, as being contrary to the practice of the Church, which has not been wont to define Christian truths, resting on Scripture or transmitted by tradition, as to be held as dogmas under pain of anathema, unless they were impugned by some.”—i. 445, 446.
  2. The Bishop of Meaux.—“We confess that we do not think that, in the circumstances of these times, it is opportune that a matter, about which Doctors and Theologians, most distinguished for piety and knowledge, have so long controverted among themselves, should be defined by a solemn judgment. We

confess too, that we fear lest the cultus of the most Holy Virgin, conceived without stain, should suffer detriment: and the piety which now of its own accord pays her distinguished honours should be chilled, when, by force of a dogmatic definition, they shall seem less voluntary. It is to be feared too, lest the authority of Mother Church should perchance be diminished by the clamours of the pseudo-reformed and unbelieving philosophers of these times, on all sides, that the faith is changed in the lapse of time, and that new doctrines are daily coined by the Church.”—ii. 363.

  1. The Bishop of Carcassonne.—“In these most miserable and sorrowful times, very many, who have been baptized in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, desert this faith, or, retaining its elements, have entangled it with so many false doctrines, that their mind, ever struggling against the truth, is most ready for every sort of scandal. Wherefore we fear lest, things being so, a solemn dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary would give occasion to the ungodly and to heretics to sadden the Church by disputations, and to assail with contumelies and blasphemies the Mother of the Saviour, whom we venerate singularly with the inmost affections of the heart. Whence we think that there is ground to doubt, whether the promulgation of such a decree, which in other times would fill our heart with joy, would be opportune at present.”—iii. 333.
  2. The Bishop of Amiens.—“But although, by that definition, the most pious opinion as to the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God is set forth, as founded in the doctrine of the Universal Church, nor can it be called in question without condemnable temerity, or contradicted without note of error, there lack not among us such as think that, if that doctrine should be assimilated to an express article of faith, there would be ground to fear, lest controversies should arise in the schools as to the conditions required for an express article of faith. Thence, they say, perhaps would be scandal to the weak, discussions and strifes of words among the learned; and to the heretics and unbelieving occasion would be given of speaking things wrong and injurious to religion.”—i. 135.

10, 11. The Archbishop of Rheims and the Bishop of Soisson said the same, more concisely, but with the same leading words, as the wish of themselves, the Canons, Directors of Seminaries, Professors of Divinity, Parish Priests, and pious Laity.—i. 121, 122. iii. 290.

  1. The Bishop of Beauvais.—“In order to proceed with due prudence in a matter of such moment, we did not neglect to consult the Canons of our Church, and some presbyters conspicuous for piety and learning. Some of them (although all believe from the heart that Mary was free from original taint, yet having maturely weighed the question) had some doubts whether the testimonies of Holy Scripture and tradition were so clear and unshaken that it might be settled by a dogmatic decree. They thought also that perhaps it was not necessary, since the most pious opinion as to the Immaculate Conception is, at this time, not impugned, and is not connected with the defence of other dogma or rules of life; nay, that it was not opportune, since there was ground to fear that heretics and unbelievers would say, that tradition was corrupted by the Church, or that new dogmas gradually crept in or were invented at will, and that thus, on account of a new decree on controverted doctrine, the weak might be turned away from embracing the ancient faith. We should be glad that the words of the decree should be so softened, that they who do not assent to this privilege [of the Blessed Virgin] should remain free from the note of heresy, in that it should be declared that the Church does not err when it teaches, that the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, was wholly free from all taint of original fault. By a decree thus tempered, the end intended would be gained, the Catholic truth would be asserted, the piety of the faithful fostered, and heretics or unbelievers would have no place of crying out against the Church.”—i. 320, 321.
  2. The Bishop of Blois.—“In publishing such a definition, there is need of very great caution and indulgence for the salvation of many, since, in our times, the sense of Catholic truths is much diminished. Every one sees this, who considers things attentively and judges from experience, that there are men now, some indifferent to religion, others wholly intent on politics, many fevered with the licence of thinking what they will, and so that the truths of Christian faith and piety are obscured among the people; and, accordingly, that the dogmatic definition of our most pious opinion, whereas at first it would be entertained with joy and gratulation by the pious and learned, would be received by most other Catholics with a dull carelessness, not to say, worse. For perchance (and this is not improbable on account of the age, the

feverishness of men and the pride of the insolent) an opinion which seems to them new will cause hindrance or delay to some sinners in returning to the Father’s house. Nay, manifoldly as the pastors may instruct the people, it is to be feared that many pious faithful will, with difficulty or not at all, understand how the Church, after eighteen centuries, should now employ itself in proposing to all Christians, as an article of faith necessary to salvation, that which before it had left to the free and pious choice of each; especially since, in these our times, there is scarcely any one who disputes the truth of the Immaculate Conception, but every learned and religious Catholic accounts it a duty and merit to believe and profess it.”—i. 211, 212.

On the other hand, the Bishop of Blois set the need of consolation which the Church had from the Blessed Virgin, which rendered the definition timely; and so, in due regard to the charity needed by so many, weak and ignorant, blind and unbelieving, asked the Pope not to define it so directly and expressly, that they who should not believe it, should thereby be separated from the Church, and incur the note and penalty of heresy.

  1. The Archbishop of Bourges gave the opinion of ecclesiastics very distinguished for theological science, whom he had con suited, and who had given him their mature judgment. “It seems that, in these troubled and stormy times, the publication of this definition would perhaps give a handle to the enemies of God’s Holy Church to raise new calumnies, and vomit forth blasphemies, whence no light scandal might arise, especially to the unlearned and weak; they, too, who are frequently engaged in controversy with un-Catholics, fear lest the very greatest hindrance should thus be put to the return of heretics on the point of coming back to the bosom of Mother Church, since there is nothing which they more abhor, nothing which turns them more from the Catholic faith. Moreover, some, who piously believe and profess the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, think that this question, although clear, is not such that that well-known rule of Vincent of Lerins, ‘quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus traditum est, could be applied to it. Whence they think that, according to the ancient custom of the Church, it ought not to be defined. But I, most Holy Father, although I exceedingly desire whatever would be to the honour of the glorious Virgin, cannot but acknowledge, on the aforesaid grounds, that a definition thereon from the Apostolic See perhaps would be inopportune, and would not make for peace and unity, especially amid these present storms, fearing that greater evils would come from it than good.”—i. 497, 498.
  2. The Bishop of Versailles.—“Although I was myself among those who, out of a feeling of filial piety toward Mary, humbly prayed his Holiness, Gregory XVI. of glorious memory, to declare the Conception of Mary Immaculate by a solemn decree, I think it due to my conscience to set before your Holiness a thought of fear, perhaps exaggerated, which takes hold of me.
  3. “In the bosom of France there still live unbelieving children whom heresy keeps far from their home. In their deplorable blindness, they still reproach us with the worship we render to Mary. It is not without difficulty that we can bring them to believe about the Mother of God, what is already of faith. Shall we not find more obstacles to their return, when, to reconcile them to the Church, we shall have to require of them explicit faith in the Immaculate Conception? Perhaps, to anticipate this difficulty, there would be ground for not giving the character of a Catholic dogma to the truth of the Immaculate Conception, especially seeing that, even if the Immaculate Conception should not be a necessary object of faith, the glorious Virgin would not be less honoured by all the pious faithful under this title.”—ii. 101, 103.
  4. The Bishop of Angers.—“A doubt arises, first, because minds are at rest, as I said, not only in my Diocese, but in every part of France, yea, in the whole Catholic Church. Would it not be to be wished, that this peace and rest of souls should be maintained? “Would there not be peril of disturbing minds by passing a decree on that subject, the minds not of the pious, but of those, no few, who contradict the truth, and subject all things to the examination of reason? I confess that there is, as far as I know, no such peril for my diocese; but, in our times, there are many who love liberty, impatient of a yoke, who superextol reason and its discoveries. In France, there is great liberty, not to say great licence of thinking, writing, printing, which writers, and those of no mean sort, use and abuse, to bring all things, even religious and sacred, into mockery and contempt; and so they impel others and are impelled themselves to evil and blasphemy. In this condition, then, of things and minds, it is to be feared that a dogmatic decision may

perhaps cherish evil passions and open a door to dangerous discussions.

“A doubt arises, secondly, not now from the clamours of impious men, but from the novelty of the definition itself. For among those who are less audacious, among those too who seem fairly good, not a few may be found, who will wonder that this definition has been so long delayed, the thing being so evident and clear; and who will venture to say, although undeservedly, the new dogmas are fabricated and devised by the Church. Many things have indeed been defined, in the lapse of time, which before were not counted among articles of faith. They were often impugned, whence it became necessary in a manner to define them. Here the case is different. The fact of the Immaculate Conception is admitted, and securely believed, in the whole Catholic Church; nor does it appear, that piety toward the Blessed Virgin would be much increased by the supervention of such a decree.”—i. 257.

  1. Savoy. The Archbishop of Chambéry.—“The Clergy and people of this diocese burn with the most sincere devotion towards the Blessed Virgin; they profess her Immaculate Conception as a pious and most probable opinion, but not as a doctrine to be held of necessity and ‘de fide,’ i. e. in much the same way in which they profess the Assumption of the Virgin to heaven, and her preservation from all, even venial sin; and this, because the tradition of former ages of the Church does not seem clear enough to constitute an article of faith, and a true dogma to be believed by all under pain of mortal sin. It would seem then to us better to imitate the prudent line of the Council of Trent, by abstaining from any definition, as did that same Council (sess. 24, can. 7 and 8), by asserting, e. g. that the cultus which ‘the Catholic Church uses towards the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mother is pious and holy.’”—i. 411, 412.
  2. Switzerland. The Bishop of S. Gall.—“From all this, I and my Councillors are persuaded that the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom, with the Holy Father and Holy Church, we firmly believe to have been conceived without stain and exempt from original sin, cannot be increased by any dogmatic decision or definition that she was so conceived, and that such a dogmatic decision is for this time superfluous.

“But what, in our disturbed times, everywhere seduced by a false worldly light, seems to advise, not to enact, at present, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but rather to defer it to a new era, as is hoped, more friendly to the Catholic religion and obedient to the Vicar of Christ and Bishops of the Holy Church is as follows:—

“Such a superfluous dogmatic decree being delivered and published in Switzerland and Germany, infected by un-Catholics and innovators, various disputations would be caused, pamphlets full of hatred and calumnies would be published, the dogma would be impugned and wickedly deformed in public papers, which find entrance everywhere; and so the seduction of many would be to be feared, the obstinacy of un-Catholics would be strengthened, and they be turned further away from the truth. Public papers and pamphlets written against religion would be published in far greater numbers than those in defence of the Catholic faith.

“It does not seem advisable to bring forward a matter so delicate as that of the Conception, or any treatise about it, without necessity. The temptation to wicked and carnal authors, of casting forth foul things after the manner of the wretched Voltaire and his followers, would be too great.”—iii. 302, 303.

  1. Bavaria. The Archbishop of Munich.—“But whether, in the present circumstances of the Church, a definition is advisable or no, I scarce venture to decide, since it may be said, not without some appearance of truth, that such a definition will provoke fresh discussions in countries where Catholics live mixed with heretics.”—ii. 417.
  2. Archbishop of Bamberg.—“By far the greatest part of the Clergy is persuaded that this is not the time to decide what remained so long undecided, and which so many of your Predecessors, and those so great, and the fathers of the Tridentine Council itself, hesitated to decide. They think that such a decision will be of no benefit to the faithful people, in that it adheres to the pious opinion of “the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin spread far and wide; and to the body of the more erudite and learned in our Germany the matter does not seem so clear that (whatever the very learned and illustrious Tramontanes may say, who have very recently written in behalf of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin) they can think that this opinion, which has been hitherto cherished as pious, should be enrolled among

dogmas, about which no one may doubt. They think that account should be had of the state of the times, most troubled both as to the ecclesiastical and civil polity; that it does not belong to these times to revive inveterate disputes; that there is peril, lest new rents should take place in the Church; lastly, that it is no derogation from the cultus of the Blessed Virgin, if that should be left longer undecided, which has so long seemed matter of most difficult discussion. In this opinion of far the greatest part of my Clergy, which I have learned from the report of the Deans, the Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Bamberg joined unanimously, to which I cannot but unite myself. Be the dogmatic definition of this question left, most Holy Father, to other times. Be the decision of this matter reserved to a General Council to be celebrated hereafter. We have that sacred deposit of dogmas decided by the most holy fathers in General Councils, to defend which against the very frequent attacks of the heresies of this time, and to establish it in the minds of our faithful people, will suffice for our most arduous office.”—ii. 59.

21. Archbishop of Gorizia and Gradisca.—“The peasantry, and other of the lower orders of the Diocese committed to my care, worships [colit] most devotedly the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and frequents in great numbers the shrines in my diocese dedicated to her; but it does not desire that the pious belief of her Immaculate Conception should be turned into a Catholic dogma, an Article of faith; nor is the least wish for any such decision manifested among the people, as far as has become known to myself and other neighbouring Bishops. As for persons of the upper, and, as they are called, more cultivated classes, they do indeed still retain the devotion and cultus of the Virgin Mary, although not in that fervour and number observable in the peasantry and poorer artisans; but so far from desiring that the most pious opinion of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary should be raised to the rank of Catholic dogmas or articles of the Holy Faith, they (at least the larger part of the aforesaid classes) are of directly the opposite mind.

“The fratres minores of S. Francis, called Observants in the Convent of Castagnavira, are most devoted to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and have an office of their own of the Immaculate Conception, but they have never manifested the least wish that the most pious belief of the Immaculate Conception should be changed into an article of faith, nay, rather, though most observant of the discipline of their rule, they fear the effect of such a decision in regard to the heterodox and to lukewarm Catholics, the number of whom is at this time immense.

“I must say the same of the secular Clergy, which, with few exceptions, is pious and studious of sacerdotal discipline. [Then follows, ‘If the present state—full of peril,’ given above, pp. 177, 178.] “For in past years there were heard, and still are heard, the assertion of Protestants and indifferent Catholics, ‘that Rome puts an unbearable yoke on the faithful, by coining new dogmas, and forming articles of faith from the rhetorical expressions of one or two fathers, and enjoining that that should be held with firm faith as a dogma, which a few centuries, nay, a few decennia before, might be questioned, and the assertors of the contrary whereof Roman Pontiffs had forbidden to condemn.’ What then would happen, if the most pious faith (yea, ‘the pious opinion,’ as it still stands in Catechisms) of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, should be declared as a dogma of sacred faith? Will it be an increase of faith? Will it be a happier condition of the Catholic Church? Is a restoration of affairs at Rome to be hoped therefrom? I, as far as it is given me by God to see, fear exceedingly the contrary. It is a matter, I must repeat, full of peril. When some years ago, under Gregory XVI., the same question was proposed to the Bishops, there came to me letters of Catholic Bishops from countries very remote from this, the writers whereof exclaimed in amazement, ‘Does Rome mean to form new articles of faith?” Should we have a more beneficial result now? I doubt most exceedingly.” [Then follows, ‘Under these circumstances—the Son of God.’ Above, p. 178.] He sums up, “This is what, after instituting a mature examination in the .sight of God in this most grave matter, I thought I ought to explain to your Holiness, and I do explain it with all befitting submission of mind and reverence,” &c.—i. 178, 179.

22. The Archbishop of Salsburg.—“This pious faith being now nowhere controverted, nay, every one being free, undisturbed by any, to indulge this cultus in his own way, all gladly acquiesce in the most wise constitution of the Council of Trent published thereon, so that I do not know that any one wishes for a new decree of the Apostolic See. Moreover, history attests, that the Church then chiefly intervened by a


peremptory decision, when the wrongful zeal of men attempted either to question, or to corrupt by sinister interpretation the faith given by God, neither of which is done (it is known) in the present case. Added to this, the opinion is fixed in the minds of very many, that there exists not such authority of Apostolic tradition, that the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin can be established by a decree divinely certain. Wherefore I think that it is much to be feared, that, whereas formerly most grave and lasting controversies were lulled by Apostolic decrees, issued on matters of faith, the declaration of the Holy See would this time rather furnish fresh matter for doubts and discords about that question which are now quite hushed or unknown, and the enemies of the Church, ever ready to censure, would take occasion thence of impiously calumniating her, as though she delivered new dogmas without the suffrage of Divine tradition. Being then commanded by your Holiness to exp lain candidly my mind in this matter, considering the adjuncts of the times, I cannot bring myself to think that the counsel to declare that pious belief as a Catholic dogma is opportune, or that it will really advance that cultus. In that ferment of minds which now prevails, very inimical to religion and piety, I fear that such a public and solemn declaration is a matter full of peril, such as the other many and great difficulties with which the Church now struggles, seem to dissuade from voluntarily provoking.”—i. 326, 327.

23. The Bishop of Trieste.—“The people of the united Diocese of Trieste and Capo d’Istria are animated with such devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that any doubt which might be newly raised as to this doctrine would excite the greatest disturbance of mind, and give useless, nay, very perilous occasion to theological questions among the laity themselves. For this cause I omitted express mention of the wish that it should at last be decided by a solemn judgment that the Blessed Virgin was conceived without original taint, in order to maintain the laudable and firm opinion of the faithful people herein; and also I did not venture to express openly the consideration of the topic, to guard against discussions among some of the clergy themselves, who keep silence as to the opposite opinion, not out of any conviction of their own, but rather out of obedience.

“For myself, I own plainly, that it is extremely to be desired that the intention of the most Holy Council of Trent (Sess. v.), according to which the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary was not comprised in the decree as to original sin, should be explained more clearly, and the Catholic doctrine of her Immaculate Conception should be defined in unambiguous terms; yet, having weighed the aforesaid considerations, I should wish to follow the counsel of many brethren (‘confratrum,’ other Bishops), who in the present circumstances and at this time hold that it is better that any direct definition should be deferred, and wish only for a tacit definition, decreeing the sanctity of the ecclesiastical rite now used in the cultus of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin.” —i. 435, 436.

24, 25. Moravia. The Archbishop of Olmütz, and the Bishop of Brünn.—“Nevertheless, the most humbly subscribed cannot adopt the opinion that now at present this pious assertion should be placed by a Pontifical decree among dogmas of faith. The gravest reason, whereby, after mature deliberation and fervid imploring of light from above, they feel themselves moved so to judge, is taken from the most difficult circumstances of the countries over whose Churches they are set. A most cunning heresy spreads with impunity in these parts, which has been wont most greedily to seize every handle for criminating the Catholic Church. Among divers protests, whereby it attempts to entice the faithful to its side, is this also, that they blatter (certainly, without any solid foundation), that the Catholic Church forms new dogmas at will. But if, by a solemn judgment of the Holy Apostolic See, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin should be defined at this time as a dogmatic doctrine of the Catholic Church, doubtless that most false incrimination would shake many, less firm in the Catholic faith, with great peril of souls. This peril ought the more to be considered, because hitherto, through an erroneous statement of the subject, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been considered by many faithful of the Catholic Church as only a pious opinion; accordingly, it could not be without disturbance of minds, that what (although persuaded of its truth, and not doubting) they seemed until now only to opine, they should be obliged to revere as a Catholic dogma.

“Our counsel, therefore, tends to this, that, until circumstances be changed, things should remain as they are. The faithful do not doubt the Immaculate Conception to the Virgin Deipara; the cultus of that


mystery increases daily; souls then are not imperilled on the head of truth’s not being acknowledged; but contrariwise no slight perils are avoided, which come reasonably to be feared from the dogmatic pronouncement of the truth by the Apostolic See.

“This state of things was the ground why the most humbly subscribed hesitated to execute the exhortation of your Holiness, prudently accounting that the appointment of public prayers in their dioceses for the obtaining of light from above for counsel to be taken in this matter, could not be without detriment to religion and the Holy Apostolic See.”—iii. 232, 283.

25. b) The four Bishops of Bohemia.—They thank the Pope, for “the most precious letter, wherein in sweetest words the feelings of our mind towards the most Blessed Virgin are expressed; “and they state that they had assiduously endeavoured to promote among the people “the Catholic cultus of her.”

“Full of the same faith as your Holiness, that the most Blessed Virgin was conceived without any stain of original fault? we gave public testimony of this faith in the prayer addressed to the Predecessor of your Holiness, of most pious memory, Gregory XVI., that we might be allowed publicly to enunciate and add the word Immaculate in the Preface and Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“So then, unanimous and joyous, we report to your Holiness that this faith, that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without stain of original fault, is held both by the clergy and the faithful people as a doctrine of our Holy Church from most ancient tradition.

“Nevertheless, since the question is, that this faith be decreed by the solemn judgment of the Apostolic See, we, following the most venerable example of your Holiness, thought that we ought to consult some persons proved by piety and theological discipline. Having heard their judgment, and weighed it maturely in the Lord, we thought that we ought to signify to your Holiness that this faith, as we have set forth, is vivid, and is taught of old in our Christian people and clergy, but that because in these last times there has been no controversy about this belief, and no heretical doctrines, opposed to it, seem to urge such a decision; the modern adjuncts of time, place, and men do not recommend that this most ancient belief should be decreed as a doctrine by the solemn judgment of our holy Roman Catholic Church. For the multitude of unbelievers, heretics, and adversaries of our holy Church in our neighbourhood, and living among the faithful in our regions, would abuse such a decision most foully to their own perverse ends by their diabolic calumnies; so that we have good grounds to fear, lest many of the weak, the number whereof hath very greatly increased through the machinations of false prophets, be seduced, and make shipwreck of their faith, and, with their faith, of their everlasting salvation.

“This our judgment, besought from the Lord with assiduous prayers, which we signify to your Holiness,” &c.—ii. 403.

26. Archbishop of Breslau, to the Apostolic Nuncio at Vienna.— “According to the opinion of the most zealous and enlightened Catholics such a disturbance would infallibly arise, if the dogmatic decree [on the Immaculate Conception] should be passed by the Holy See. The Protestant writers contending, pro aris et focis, would seize it as a welcome prey, to deafen anew their poor people by their cries against the papacy and the manufacture of dogmas discovered after eighteen centuries; unbelievers would join in chorus with the pietists, and would discharge fresh floods of sarcasms and blasphemies against this holy mystery; the literary Jewish youth would especially excel therein. So much for those without. Within, the secular war in the schools of theology, appeased with so much difficulty, would be kindled anew; that very delicate point of the infallibility of the Pope would give it an accession of combustible matter; the opposition of a part of the clergy imbued with Neologism, in the Rhine provinces, in Baden, and in Bohemia, would also find food therein; and as the result, instead of edification and a new spring of piety and devotion in the Catholic people, there would be nothing but troubles, divisions, scandals, disturbances without and within,—things a thousand times more dangerous now than they were in past centuries.

“I have re-read before I decided on writing this letter to you, my Lord, the chapters of Pallavicini (Hist, of the Council of Trent), and of Pétau (Theol. Dogm. T. vi. L. xiv. c. 2) on this subject; and this study has encouraged me to do so. History proves that hitherto the Holy See has only given dogmatic decrees to appease polemic and scandalous strifes, or to repress dangerous errors. In the present case neither of these grounds is apparent; the ground for acting would be a pure motive of piety, of devotion,—a motive very


beautiful, very precious in the eyes of God and of every faithful soul,—a motive, which for certain countries and certain people might also be founded on the fruits to be looked for, but which for our country (as I have had the honour to explain to you, my Lord) is counterbalanced by greater considerations, which discover the greatest dangers to the Church in the pronouncing of such a decree. I have allayed my Episcopal conscience, my Lord, in communicating to you my thoughts and apprehensions in this matter. I have spoken to you as the organ of the sovereign Pontiff. I repeat once more, that, in what I have just set forth, I find myself of one mind with all the most zealous and enlightened Catholics in our country. Make what use of this letter you please. ‘Dixi et salvavi animam meam.’”—ii. 466, 477.

  1. The Bishop of Warmia.—“The Clergy of this diocese entertain a singular devotion to the most glorious Virgin; but as to her conception, many (and among them the Chapter of Warmia) have given their judgment, that in these turbulent times, ill-disposed as to ecclesiastical as well as civil matters, for the guarding against heresies and avoidance of schisms, it is not expedient to decree any thing new in this matter by Apostolic authority, but that it is more suitable, that this faith should, until a more fitting time, be left under the terms which the holy Tridentine Synod laid down (Sess. v.), on original sin. Yet after deducting these, there is still a great number of those who have openly professed the Immaculate Conception, with the most ardent desire that this faith should be decreed and confirmed by Apostolic authority.” “Among the people of the diocese of Warmia, which is, with inmost devotion, addicted to the worship of the most Holy Virgin,—the faith of the Immaculate Conception obtains universally, although there are those, who, being less instructed in the faith, under the term ‘Immaculate Conception,’ apprehend and believe not the origin of the Virgin herself, but the Conception of God-Man in the Virgin’s womb, by the operation of the Holy Ghost. The faith in the Immaculate Conception is cherished and fed among the people of Warmia by the diligence of the parish priests, especially in sermons; and, as I am persuaded, none of the clergy, although he hold an opposite opinion, would venture to teach or say any thing to injure the pious faith in the Immaculate Conception among the people, or whereby that faith might be imperilled or made matter of doubt. But there are some among the people of Warmia, who fear lest, if anything new be decreed by Apostolic authority about the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the uninstructed people, who cannot distinguish between dogma and that which is only to be piously believed, may bring into some peril the faith as to the Immaculate Conception too, which now exists universally.”
  2. The Bishop of Munster.—“As to the longing that this opinion should now be defined by the Apostolic See as a doctrine of the Catholic Church, no wishes of this sort have reached me hitherto, except of some men whose opinion was especially sought. Nay, there are not wanting those who think that a dogmatic decision will not be without peril for these times and for Germany. Nor would I deny that, according to the character of the times, and in the provinces of our German fatherland, in which so many adherents of un-Catholic dogmas lire mostly mixed with Catholics, controversies might arise on occasion of this definition, injurious to Catholicism, and perilous to those Catholics who are less deeply acquainted with Catholic doctrine, and so are more easily moved by the objections of unbelievers and heretics.”—vii. pp. cxxxviii., ix.
  3. The Bishop of Paderborn.—“But even though I am persuaded that the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception rests on a firm foundation of truth, yet about the other question, whether this our time is opportune and fitted for the emanation of the aforesaid dogmatic declaration, I can scarce remove all doubt. At least, considering the circumstances of my diocese, which is manifoldly extended amid regions altogether Protestant, and weighing especially the character of this restless time, very much inclined to dissensions and disputations, religious as well as political, it is to be feared that the adversaries of the Church would from that dogmatic definition get a handle for disputations and revilings against our holy religion; and lest to such of the faithful as are inadequately instructed in Divine things, or who cleave but lukewarmly to the Holy Mother Church, scandals should arise thence and perils of discord and alienation from the orthodox faith. When I weigh these things, and at the same time revolve that the greater part of the faithful people are already heartily devoted to the pious opinion of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and so, that there is no urgent necessity for the dogmatic declaration of the same; after having long and much weighed in my mind the bearings of this most grave matter, it seems

to me most expedient, to the benefit of the Church, and to the praise of our most loving Mother Mary, if that dogmatic definition should be ‘ not abandoned altogether,’ but deferred for a time, until more quiet and peaceful times be restored to our Germany, and until the Church shall enjoy a firmer and consolidated fruition of the liberties granted to her in these last times by kings and princes.

“This my sentence, whereto all the members of the Chapter of this Cathedral Church and other learned and good priests agree, I, explaining to your Holiness with the greatest devotion and all fitting confidence, leave the whole matter to your prudence and wisdom; and whatever you, under the inspiration of God, shall think it conducive to His honour to determine or define thereon, that I will, with readiest heart and due submission, receive as the utterance of God, will ratify and profess by word and deed throughout the diocese intrusted to my pastoral care.”— iii. 181.

  1. The Bishop of Trèves.—”I confess that, for some little time, I, with some other Ecclesiastics, hesitated whether, having regard to un-Catholics, with whom, in most dioceses in Germany, we live intermixed, an opportune time has arrived for such a solemn declaration, in that I fear therefrom new cavils and incriminations against holy Mother Church, and against the holy Apostolic See.
  2. “But, having weighed the matter more maturely, I have laid aside all doubt, and firmly trust in the Lord, that the Conception of the Immaculate Virgin, defined as a doctrine of the Catholic Church, will contribute most exceedingly to confound the adversaries of the faith, inasmuch as it is she who alone slew all heresies in the whole world.”—vii. p. clvii.
  3. The Bishop of Hildesheim.—“1. In celebrating this [feast of the Immaculate Conception] the most Blessed Virgin is considered by the people all beautiful and without stain, so that they could not think that it would come into controversy; hence they do not desire any decision.

“2. There is scarce any hope that the devotion of the people should be increased by such decision; rather, it is to be feared lest they should marvel at such a decree in a matter certain to them, and lest the younger should by its publication be incited ‘ad cogitationes minus puras.’ But as to the rest, who are alien from the Catholic Church, there is danger lest it should be made a handle of assailing the cultus of the Blessed Virgin with new calumnies.

“Wherefore the greater part thought that a dogmatic decree was neither necessary, at least in these regions, nor desirable.

“As to the Clergy, their opinions differed. The greater part professes the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin; others consider it only a ‘pious opinion,’ supporting themselves by the decree of the Council of Trent. (Sess. v., of Original Sin.)

“For myself, I profess that the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin seems to me inseparable from the dignity of the Mother of God, and, on the ground of the consent of the Church at this time, certain. But whether or no its dogmatic definition is desirable, at least for our regions, and is for the good of the Church and the greater honour of the Blessed Virgin, this, for the reasons set forth above by the Clergy, and which are not to be altogether thought lightly of, I would not dare to affirm.”—iii. 346.

32. Bishop of Fulda.—“Yet neither among the Clergy are there wanting men, who, distinguished for knowledge, full of piety towards Mother Church, have indeed the same faith as others as to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and who, should any thing be enacted by the Apostolic See thereon would embrace it most humbly; yet do not advise or wish that it should be done in our turbulent times, wherein impiety rages with such impunity, and neither Church nor State enjoy peace. They regard the greater part of the faithful people, who, even without any declaration of the Church that the most Blessed Virgin enjoys this prerogative, venerate the undefiled Mother: they regard the tepid, living chiefly in cities with un-Catholics, who, not being stable in faith, nor well grounded in charity towards the most pious Virgin, if a controversy should perchance arise between them and the adversaries of the Catholic faith, may easily be worsted: they regard the countless host of enemies, to whom, as they fear, an opportune occasion and handle would be given by the doctrine decided by the judgment of the Apostolic See, of calumniating the spouse of our Lord, the Catholic Church, and of inveighing most bitterly against the undefiled Virgin, especially since, at this time, all things are disturbed in Germany, all are confused, and that ancient serpent aims at the heel more vehemently than ever. Although I do not deny that these anxieties


are not to be held cheap or despised, and would not conceal them from your Holiness, yet, after having poured forth copious prayers to God the Father of Light, I cannot subscribe to their opinion, which, approaching the throne of your Holiness, I candidly confess. For the greater the number of adversaries, the more insolently they persecute the Lord Christ in His Church, the mo re the secular arm is shortened, the more impotent have become the kings who protect her, the more ought the Church, who has to contend with the powers of darkness, to pray for her aid and help, who bruised the serpent’s head, to extol with praises and venerate with prayers her, who, praying her Son, alone slew all heresies in the whole world.”—

ii. 439.

33. J. A. Paredis, Apostolic Administrator of Limburg.—Alleged against the decision: “1. The question was too much agitated formerly without any fruit to souls. 2. Both sides have been defended by persons above all exception, nay, saints. 3. Those who denied or opposed it were as devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and venerated her as much as those who defended it. 4. The question is at this time extinct altogether, at least in this country. 5. The faithful are either ignorant of, or misunderstand the question.

“But on the other side, 1. According to the mind of the most Holy Lord, the mind of all Bishops, &c., in this matter has been sought. 2. The faithful were instructed of this, and exhorted to pour out prayer to this end. 3. The question then has in some measure revived, and if a definition do not follow, its issue is unknown. 4. For the affirmative, there are motives founded on theological reason, and on practice pretty general at this day; therefore on this side I think the contrary, and judge that a dogmatic definition may be published.

“Meanwhile, our most Holy Lord, Pope Pius IX., will judge in his prudence and infallibility, and his judgment is ours.”—iii. 308.

  1. b) The Bishop of Spire.—Himself desired its promulgation as an article of faith, but added, “The matter being of so great moment I cannot but observe, that there are some theologians and ecclesiastics who do not at all think that a doctrine hitherto left to the disputations of the schools should be defined by an immutable sentence, whereby free judgment on the matter should be cut off. and pertinacious spirits might be harassed and irritated.”— ii. 442.
  2. Engelbert, Card. Archbishop of Malines.—“I thought, however, that I ought to add, that in these regions (and especially in the neighbouring kingdoms of France and Holland) there are ecclesiastics, conspicuous for piety, knowledge, and prudence, who, although they acknowledge that great advantage would arise from an Apostolic decree, whereby it should be enacted, that all must believe of Divine faith, that the most Blessed Virgin was preserved from original stain, since thereby larger honour would accrue to the most Holy Deipara, and the faithful would conceive yet greater reverence towards her, and would be kindled more and more to worship her, fear lest very great inconveniences should arise from it. They fear especially lest heretics and unbelievers, who, in journals and other writings dispersed everywhere do not cease to attack the faith, should derive thence fresh ground for calumniating the Catholic Church, as though it were devising new doctrines, and paying undue cultus to the most Holy Mother of God. Whence also it might follow that many, who now seem ready to embrace the faith, might start back from their purpose. If, then, having heard the report of the most eminent Divines) Doctors, Cardinals, and other distinguished men, to whom the examination of that most grave matter has been committed, your Holiness should judge that the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God is to be defined as a Catholic dogma, perhaps it will be better to explain the Divine tradition clearly and luminously in the Apostolic decree, that it may be plain that nothing new is enacted, but that the ancient faith of the Church is alone declared and confirmed. For thus it may be hoped that the month of the malicious may be stopped, or at least the defenders of the faith may more readily refute their calumnies.

“Then, seeing that in these times those who have care of souls are compelled in moral matters to interpret the laws favorably [to men’s wishes], and to use great indulgence, because the faith of many is langxrid and charity is cold, those same men doubt whether it is expedient at this day to bring in a new obligation in a matter of doctrine, as to which not only there is no controversy, but it is extended more and more with a marvellous consent of all Catholics. For they fear lest perchance in countries in which there are theologians, who groundlessly deny the infallibility of the Roman See in defining dogmas of faith, some


may arise even out of the Clergy themselves, who, out of the itch of writing which there prevails, may with rash boldness openly impugn the Apostolic decree, and so raise public scandal. These doubts and these fears I report, most Blessed Father, simply that your Holiness may clearly know the state of things, and provide by a fitting remedy for any inconveniences, if it should seem that any are to be apprehended.”—pp. 447, 448.

  1. Italy. The Bishop of Adria.—“I know that the gates of hell cannot prevail against this rock founded by Christ; yet we must beware lest we give occasion to our enemies, that it should be assailed with new wars, which will, I am horribly afraid, be the case, if the Church after so many centuries exhibit to the faithful to be believed a new mystery, of which we find no testimony in the Scriptures or holy fathers, if we except many allegories spoken of the Eternal Wisdom.
  2. “But what if very many faithful, who, while the world rages, persevere still in the faith? I fear lest they too suffer scandal, rather than be built up. For faith in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mother is so deeply settled in their minds, that they do not allow themselves even to doubt its truth. Where is room for suspicion? The Bishops continually discourse thereon in their homilies, the Parish Priests in their catechizings, Preachers in their sermons. What, when they know by the new decree of this holy See, that that was for so many ages uncertain which they held for certain, and which was everywhere announced as so certain? ‘If we were deceived in this,’ they will say, ‘perhaps we are mistaken and deceived about other mysteries of faith too,’’ or perhaps they will allow themselves to doubt of the truth of the same.”—i. 317.
  3. The Bishop of Mondavi.—“But whether the arguments, which they who at this day uphold this pious opinion, derived whether from Scripture or tradition and the almost universal zeal of the Church of the present time, suffice to prove that it ought to be transferred to a dogma of faith, if they be compared with what the fathers of the Councils of Florence, Lateran, and Trent, have uttered on this subject, and very chief theologians have discussed, I should fear to affirm. Nor, now that prayers have been poured out to God through the whole diocese, is it given to me to dare to do so. And I own that I am withheld by the same doubt, when I consider the fitting season of the aforesaid definition which, since it is not of necessity to salvation, it seems to some may with greater advantage be put off to happier times of the Church. None of these difficulties, however, would perhaps arise, if it were only defined that the Church rightly promotes the cultus of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, yet so that the contrary opinion cannot be ever accounted heretical.”—iii. 144.
  4. The Cardinal Bishop of Viterbo and Toscanella.—“Two classes of the faithful are to be distinguished, the learned and unlearned. The unlearned, speaking of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, suppose and believe de fide that it was most exempt from all stain, and therefore do not think it a matter liable to be disputed, and so neither to be defined by the Apostolic See; wherefore, from ignorance, they neither have, nor can have any wish about it. The learned have not all the same mind or wish. Although all now hold most firmly that the most Blessed Virgin was conceived without any stain whatever, they are not unanimous that it is necessary or convenient to define it by a dogmatic judgment of the Holy See. Some wish such decision; others think it ought not to be proceeded to, especially considering the circumstances of the times.
  5. “For myself, I own ingenuously, that on the one side, from my observance and devotion to the most Holy Virgin, I wish that your Holiness should number the mystery of the Immaculate Conception too among the articles of faith; yet, on the other, weighing the reasons adduced by many most grave theologians, and especially by the most Eminent Cardinal Gotti, in his discourse on this controversy, exhibited to Clement XII., and recently published at Home, I feel myself vehemently urged to judge that, in the present state of things, and especially in the coldness and infirmity of faith and religion at this day, it is more useful not to proceed further in so weighty a matter.”—iii. 33, 34.
  6. The Archbishop of Urbino.—“As to the necessity of publishing any definition, I do not think that there is any. For the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin has no such close connexion with the other articles of faith (at least as far as I know), that, if this privilege were denied, it’would follow that any of those articles should be impugned. But this being removed, I see not from what other head this

real necessity should be extracted.

“Whether this definition should be held to be opportune, I confess that I still doubt. I have again and again weighed the ending of all contentions, the dissipating of doubt, maintenance of truth, greater-glory of God, prais e of the Virgin, hope most sweet of new benefits to the good of the Church militant, and other grounds, which seem to support such opportuneness, and I have always owned them to be most excellent. But the peril of perdition which may come to some from the definition, makes me doubt, now as ever, whether it is opportune. For although, as seems to me, it is now sounder to hold the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, and less sound to doubt it, and altogether folly openly to deny it, yet since, in these most unhappy times, the number of those is very great, who do not hesitate to question, or altogether to impugn, all the dogmas of the Church, yea, and the existence of God too, with the ruin of many, there seems to be a probable peril that they will the more easily impugn this doctrine too; and that thence will follow the perdition of those, who, lightly esteeming the definition of the Church, seduced by perverse discourses, will either not embrace the pious opinion, or, having embraced, will desert it, or at least be unable to lay aside their doubts. Nor does it seem difficult for the malice of the ungodly to pervert in this the understandings of the simple, since we see it done in more evident truths; and since the example of those, who, in past time, though distinguished for learning and holiness, are thought to have denied this privilege, may be very moving; and because, apart from the authority of the Church, the theological grounds do not seem to be so consequent, as to leave no room for the possibility of the contrary, nor so transparent, that at the first glance this truth should be clear to any one. Since, then, there seems to be this evident, or at least probable peril of perdition, which would be imminent to some, though perhaps few, even of those who are now counted among such as have been gained to Christ, I should not fully believe it opportune to add dogmatic certainty to this truth.

“I say this, most Holy Father, with inmost grief of heart; but the necessity of charity seems to require it of me to consult alike for the salvation of the wise and the unwise; and the example of the Apostolic See itself moves me thereto, which hitherto seemed to have ‘been made weak to the weak, that it may gain the weak ,’ wishing that those who hold the contrary shoukVneither Bin, nor be heretics.”

The Archbishop of Urbino appended to this response a letter to the same effect, which he had written Nov. 10, 1847, to the Bishop of Fano, who had urged him to ask for the decree. He used there the same topics, and quoted the maxim of Sixtus III., that treating of dogmas, “nihil addi convenit vetustati.”—

iii. 43 —45.

  1. The Bishop of Ancona and Umana.—“Having asked aid of God, I venture to opine that it is best to adopt that mode of defining, which should be free from all asperity, viz. by deciding directly that the Church is not deceived as to the truth of the object proposed by this cultus, whereby the immunity of the Blessed Virgin from all stain in the first moment of her Conception is celebrated; and that the Church does not err, when, according to the pious true opinion to be held by all, she proposes that the immunity of the Holy Mother of God from all fault in the first instant of her Conception should be celebrated.
  2. “But since the sanction of this opinion necessarily involves the disapproval and proscription of the contrary, which no few eminent and learned man held determinedly, men of eminent deserts towards the Christian religion, some account ought, it seems, to be had of them, that the words of the decree should be softened, and no note be branded on the advocates of the contrary opinion; and that it should be so concluded, that the authors of the opposite opinion should be said to have expressed the contrary out of love of truth; and the more, because they were destitute of those supports which came in afterwards, and which, burning as they were with piety to Mary, would have inclined them to the opinion which now prevails.”— ii. 153.
  3. The Bishop of Cervia.—“If I turn to weigh what is the rigorous imp ort of a solemn, and that a direct declaration of any dogma, as de fide, no slight difficulties float as clouds over my mind, and I do not in any way ascertain which opinion I ought to prefer. That saying of Vincent of Lerins must move me, received as a rule by all theologians, and constantly observed, whenever it was the question of distinguishing or defining dogmas of faith, what was always, everywhere, by all, received as a dogma of faith, and has been believed till now. Every Catholic dogma, being a fact manifest to us by Divine

revelation, can neither be known nor proved, save by the work of God, written or handed down; and, since God could, either expressly or implicitly, by Scripture or tradition, reveal a truth unattainable by human intellect or reason, the Church never proposes any truth as a dogma to be received and believed by all, under pain of anathema or heresy, unless it be contained explicitly, or at least implicitly, in the Word of God, written or handed down. But some theologians contend, that this could scarcely be affirmed as to the proposed truth. For, had it been expressly or implicitly revealed in Scripture or tradition, how should older Fathers, and Doctors, Theologians, and the whole order of Dominicans, and the whole school of the Thomists, not only be ignorant of it, but venture, with all their might and vehement abundance of argument [assail it], the Supreme Pontiffs conniving, or at least not condemning as heretics those who for many ages opposed with their whole strength the Conception,’immaculate at the first instant’? On what ground was that most wise, and, above all the Œcumenical Councils held in the Church, most learned Council of Trent, unwilling to define this truth expressly but left it ‘in its own possession’ and statu quo, yet with that prudence and precision of words, that a grave and reverent weight should be added to establish and strengthen so pious and Catholic a truth, yet not to advance it to the sublimity of a dogma by a judgment and unalterable decree? There was a deep silence as to this truth in the first centuries; in subsequent centuries it was controverted, which would not have been, if in any of the above ways the Church had owned it as either expressly or implicitly revealed. Else we should fall into the heresy of Lutherans and un-Catholics, who, no less absurdly than impiously, tattle that the Church was obscured after the Apostolic times, the light of faith being almost extinguished, and that true dogmas were involved in the darkness of ignorance, &c.

“It must be confessed that all dogmas were not always believed in the Church with a solemn and open faith, which now, errors having been defeated, we profess with a noble and universal belief. Yet scarce did error dare to raise its venomous head, but the Church too did not keep silence: it took arms, and gained an entire triumph over the rash attempt.

“The question, which now occupies minds, does not relate to the truth of the Immaculate Conception, as is clear. For it is so supported by most solid arguments, and engraven on the minds of all, that the opposite opinion is rejected by the faithful as a manifest error. This truth, so sweet, so sublime, and to be cherished, remains unconquered, and now very near to faith; yet so, that the doubt is not lost out of sight or mind, ‘whether it be dogmatically definable de fide, as mysteries, which are proposed to all by the Church, to be believed by an act of faith under pain of heresy.’ For although all dogma is truth, yet not conversely is all truth dogma. God willed not to reveal to us all truths, as of the end of the world and the time of His Second Advent, and many others, which John confesses to be unwritten, and so many, that if they had been written, they would fill the world. Many of the most profound Theologians of the first rank, whom P. Perrone mentions, have impugned its definability, chiefly on the ground that it cannot be plainly extracted either from Scripture or tradition as de fide. The Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, cannot deceive the faithful in teaching; but it does not frame new and impervious dogmas, but either explains or proposes to be believed what occur, as expressly or implicitly revealed. But all do not agree as to this express or implicit revelation: the divine revelation then remains as yet doubtful, or at least inevident, and consequently the foundation necessary for directly promulging a dogmatic definition fails altogether.”—ii. 217—219.

41. The Archbishop of Otranto.—“As to my own opinion, I should think (‘I speak as one unwise’) that such a declaration is not at all necessary, both because there are not, as in past ages, any disagreements among Catholics as to this privilege of the Blessed Virgin, no enemy, no controversy in the schools; and they who once supported the opposite opinion, panegyrize this privilege in the preaching of the Word of God; and all Churches, during Mass, gladly praise God for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as also because the chief end of any decree or dogmatic declaration is already obtained, such a cultus throughout the world as should seem to need no new accession of piety. Yet I am constrained to confess that the grounds, whereon this privilege of the Blessed Virgin rests, are of such weight, that they ought to induce any Catholic to believe it de fide. In my opinion then there are all the grounds of probability to induce me to assert that this privilege of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin


Mary may be declared a dogma of faith.

“Yet I should think that, if the Church should judge that it should come to this declaration, out of many forms which she has at times used in defining a dogma of faith, it would be most prudent to use that, whereby the dogma of the privilege should be defined indirectly as the subject-matter, but directly the infallibility of the Church which teaches it, which formula the Tridentine Fathers at times used, Sess. xxiv.

c. 7. ‘If any say that the Church errs when it teaches,’” &c.—ii. 365, 366.

42. The Archbishop of Perugia.—“I should think that, before any definition is published, some account should be had of that difficulty which the adversaries cease not to proclaim loudly, that not without wrong would so many most wise men, who, either with the assent or at least the permission of the Church, adopted with impunity the opposite opinion, be proscribed at one blow, and punished with the note of heresy, and so (unless your Blessedness should think of any other mode of satisfying as far as possible this specious difficulty), the words of the decree should be so tempered for the former Theologians, that all, even the slightest, occasion of new complaints should be removed.”— ii. 290.

Three weeks afterwards he united with the Archbishop of Spoleto, two other Archbishops and fifteen Bishops, in earnestly imploring the issue of the decree, on account of “the increased devotion to the Blessed Virgin which it would occasion, and the help and defence which she, so honoured and invoked under this title, would give to the whole Christian people and the Holy Roman Church.” He did not, however, withdraw the above wish.—ii. 379—81.

  1. b) The Bishop of Santorino.—“Although most devoted to the Immaculate Conception of the most Holy Mother, they [his Chapter and Clergy] did not deem it suitable, in these calamitous times of general confusion, to decide the question of the Conception. The speaker, moreover, who stood forward in the name of the rest, said that he thought it more advisable that the question of the Immaculate Conception should continue undecided, because the devotion of the people was deeply rooted; and that to bring it to a decision and make it an article of faith would perhaps be an obstacle in the case of attempting union with the Greek schismatics, it not being possible to prove it by clear arguments from Scripture and the Fathers, but merely by the argument of congruity. Thus far this Canon. Had he, however, said that in the case of the Protestants it would have given rise to new disputes, all very good; but as for the Greeks, I do not see either that union with them is a likely thing to happen immediately, or that they have any rights: and, besides, the Greeks believe in and celebrate the festival of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin by S. Anne, which is what the Catholics also say and believe.” He himself held, as decisive, the texts “full of grace,” “the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee,” “she shall bruise thy head; “nondum erant abyssi, et ego jam concepta eram “(Prov. viii.), “Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,” and this, “ab initio creaturæ.”—i. 201.
  2. The Bishop of Majorca.—“To these most pious wishes, longings, feelings, the Bishop of Majorca (to express at length his own mind), knowing well how much (in things which in any way appertain to faith) that criterion is to be accounted of, which is not unfitly called an instinct of piety, infused into the hearts of the faithful by inspiration of God, viz., the unanimous feeling of Pastors and faithful, or of the whole Catholic Church, especially when Holy Scripture and the holy Fathers, the chief witnesses of tradition, are either altogether silent, or speak somewhat obscurely, or do not so agree together in attesting it, that their opinion can be certainly known, nor can any certainty be arrived at, through their aid, what was handed down from the beginning of the Catholic Church.

“No testimony is, in truth, found in Scripture which any so clear tradition has explained, as to be equal to the passing of a dogmatic judgment and to be a stable foundation thereof, although in some one, perhaps, the meaning may perhaps lie hid, as the germ in the seed. Some Fathers seem to oppose the ‘pious opinion,’ especially S. Bernard and the Angelic Doctor, whose words S. Antoninus, Abp. of Florence, asserted to be twisted by the defenders of the Immaculate Conception against their intention; others, as S. Bonaventura, seem at one time to support the one opinion, at onother the opposite. But it is marvellous and worthy of consideration, that the sayings of the Holy Fathers, whereby the Immaculate Conception is impugned, at least in appearance, are found to have been for the most part written or spoken, when, as Doctors and Theologians, they were discussing the doctrine of faith by the light of the Divine word, written or handed down; contrariwise, what has been wont to be adduced in behalf of the singular privilege of the


Virgin, whether in plain or equivalent terms, is taken almost entirely from sermons, prayers, hymns, and praises, when they expressed the affection of the heart towards the most benignant Mother rather than the judgment of the mind, the feelings of piety rather than the opinion of the understanding. Nay, the words of certain Fathers, which seem self-contradictory, may perhaps be reconciled in this way? that some attest the obscurity of Scripture and tradition in their eyes, some explain their inmost feelings, which led the Fathers and orthodox writers from the very birth of the Church to extol the integrity of the Virgin Mother from all spot with so many distinguished and elegant praises, yet so as sometimes to enunciate explicitly the mystery of the Conception. For the vehicles of tradition cannot be said to be clear, viz., sayings of Fathers, practice of the Church, sacred liturgies, and consent or persuasion of the faithful as to so excellent a privilege, since those most clear-sighted Bernard and Aquinas, Orators of the Blessed Virgin, did not see it. There lurked in the heart, and sometimes there burst forth in flames, as it were, that divine ardour and inmost feeling whereby the whole Church was borne to extol and celebrate the dignity and excellence of the Mother of God, than which no greater can be conceived under God. The opinion as to the Immaculate Conception had its germ, was cherished, grew, through the implanted warmth of piety, seizing step by step on the sacred rites of outward worship, the universities, and the minds of the faithful. Yet not so rapidly did it pervade the minds of the learned, who, in scholastic method, especially under the guidance of Aquinas and the Master of the Sentences, evolved the testimonies of the Bible and the ancient Fathers as to original sin (among whom are Card. Caietan, Melchior Cano, and other most excellent Theologians), until silence being imposed by the supreme Pontiffs on the opposite party, and the Feast of the Conception being sanctioned, there now remains no country, city, college, or community which does not, from the inmost heart, venerate that mystery. Although then, perhaps, some are not wanting, who, sincerely using the cultus of the Immaculate Conception in heart and external practice in order to obey the Pontifical decrees, yet in their inner judgment of the mind do not assent to it as a dogma of revelation (of which number were the most illustrious P. de Herrera and Master Vincent Ferré, whose MS. elucubrations are certainly extant at Salamanca, perhaps elsewhere); yet at present there is doubtless a common feeling of the faithful, a consent of the living instruction of Pastors with their wishes; there is in the Church a wondrous conspiracy of minds who profess the privilege of Mary, to which our safest criterion of the mystery which lurked obscurely under the veil of Scripture and the folds of primitive tradition, it pleased the Holy Spirit to reserve a clearer revelation in process of time.

“The aim of all this, most Blessed Father, is, that while the Bishop of Majorca, giving his judgment, so subscribes to the truth of the Immaculate Conception, that else the Holy Spirit would seem to him to have deserted the Catholic Church, he at the same time estimates the difficulties which might arise out of the dogmatic definition, on account of the number and authority of distinguished Doctors who dissent, of the odium cast on the opposite opinion; and lastly (unless it seem otherwise to the prudence of the Supreme Pastor, led by the hand, as it were, by the Holy Spirit), the Bishop does not, on reflection, see any reason why that most safe way, trodden by the Council of Trent and your Predecessors, should be deserted, who thought good not to decide or define any thing dogmatically which had not been decided before, although Bishops, Congregations of religious, flourishing Universities, most powerful Kings and Princes who had deserved well of the Church, urged it. Of a truth, the cultus of this great mystery has so prevailed throughout the whole world, that it could hardly be carried further by a dogmatic definition, as other mysteries also of the Nativity and Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which have most solid foundation in ancient tradition, are celebrated throughout the world, without the faithful anywhere being anxious about their dogmatic definition, not from any carelessness about sacred things, but being content with the reverence which they entertain and manifest towards the Divine Mother.

“But, most Blessed Father, your Holiness, placed in the highest watch-tower of the Church, and approaching nearer to the light from above, by the office of the Apostolate and singular piety towards the Mother of God, will, by the Divine inspiration, understand and certainly know in what way the opinion of the Immaculate Conception ought to be confirmed, or more or less directly defined by a solemn judgment, which judgment of your Holiness, whatsoever it may be,” &c.—ii. 157—160.

44. The Bishop of Lugo.—“But as our humble opinion also is asked, not only upon the ground of


the doctrine, but also on the convenience and utility of the authoritative declaration of it, perhaps our agreement in this particular may not be so general or comprehensive. In Spain already no Academical Degrees are received in the Schools, nor is any Collation to Prebends or Ecclesiastical Benefices allowed, whether the Benefice be with or without cure of souls .... without the previous requirement of an oath expressly made, to defend the mystery of the Immaculate Conception.....I do not therefore understand,— and some of our first-rate Theologians are of the same judgment with me,—that there is any necessity or expediency in now proceeding to the declaration, which certain persons, carried along by their tender devotion towards the most Holy Virgin, are soliciting from your Holiness: for there would be no augmentation made by this means to the devotion and unbounded confidence in the protection of the Queen of Angels; on the contrary, it would in some measure go to impair that confidence by depriving the pious opinion of its voluntary character, adopted, without being made a dogma of faith; in that it holds it as a duty to our Lady to attribute to her the gift of original purity: for we thus understand the honour, rather than that she was set free from the guilt of the children of Adam after having contracted it. Notwithstanding, it is possible that in this opinion we may deceive ourselves, as we should deceive ourselves if we believed it was a greater honour to Jesus Christ and His holy Mother to descend only from holy women, and not to reckon in this genealogy Tha-mar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, the four specially marked with dishonourable stains among the people of Judah. Wherein is seen how different the judgment of men is wont to be from the judgment of God, which we can only know by the revelation made of it in Holy Scripture and constant tradition of the old Fathers, as the Universal Church has understood and understands them.

“My opinion therefore is, most Holy Father, keeping in view these reasons which I have slightly intimated, that there is no express mention in Holy Scripture, nor in consistent Tradition, of the exclusion of the most Holy Virgin from the general mass of mankind which sinned in Adam; and that it is not expedient, even supposing that I deceive myself in the opinion which I have formed, to declare as a point of doctrine that which is only a pious persuasion. Nevertheless, if your Holiness should judge and define otherwise, I, for my part, as a faithful and obedient son of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, will submit my heart and mind to the decisions of its supreme Chief. Yet I venture to entreat your Holiness, that, supposing you decide the pious persuasion to be a point of Faith, you will condescend to adopt such modification of it as you may judge to be most suitable, that the great defender of the Church, S. Thomas Aquinas, may continue to hold the distinguished and honourable place which the Church itself on very solemn occasions has granted him.”— ii. 98.

  1. The Bishop of Zamora.—“But as regards the mode of defining, your excellent prudence and wisdom will judge what is most right, and the same as to formulas of words; and this only he [the Bishop] suppliantly desires, that no note be branded upon the supporters of the opposite judgment, who nourished before and after the aforesaid Council of Trent.”—i. 415.
  2. The Bishop of Iaca.—“I cannot dissemble, that the Church has not been wont to publish her dogmatic decisions, except when compelled by a sort of necessity, especially the impugning of heretics, and that in our days they wage no special war against the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, which perhaps would burst out anew if a definition were asked for. But I am fully persuaded that no account is to be had of heretics in this matter, since their learned and instructed teachers have passed over in great measure into rationalism, and have sunk in the deep, despising these and all other controversies of this sort. The same judgment is not to be passed as to Catholics, who, if in any numbers they impugned the Immaculate Conception, might cause some trouble. But since those who, in our time, do not acquiesce in ‘ the pious opinion,’ seem to be few, I trust that they will not (out of a sort of reverence to the Doctors who hitherto thought otherwise) resist the votes of the Church everywhere, when weighed and solemnly pronounced by your Holiness.....

“I have explained my own opinion as to this most grave controversy. But I think it not unadvisable to inform your Holiness that there are, in the very celebrated University of Salamanca, where I long taught Greek, some Doctors of Divinity, of no low rank, who, so far from holding that the Word of God written or handed down favours the pious opinion, contend determinedly that it is contrary thereto; and who hold


most firmly that the definition ought to be abstained from altogether, as not at all necessary, they say, to the life of the Church, and as likely, perhaps, to occasion division and tumult. I had lately a great discussion hereon, by letter, with my master, F. P. Sanchez, a Doctor in Theology of Salamanca, of the Dominicans, whom I thought that I ought to consult, as being eminent in all sorts of learning, extremely well versed in Theology, and thoroughly acquainted with the whole history and turns of this question. Moreover he took with him two MSS. in folio from the library of the Convent of S. Stephen in Salamanca (when, the tempest raging, all the Spanish families of religious were expelled from their convents): the one, a copy of which is said to be in the Vatican, elaborated by M. Herrera, the most wise moderator of the first class of Theology at Salamanca, afterwards a Bishop; the other, elaborated by M. Ferré580 with unwearied toil, to prove the assertion of Maracci to be false, who affirms that both Greek and Latin Fathers are on the side of the pious opinion. He weighs them all one by one, cites editions, chapters, pages, and at last concludes that that saying of S. Antoninus of the defenders of the Immaculate Conception is most true, ‘that they twist the sayings of the ancients against the intention of the speakers.’ I own that I have not read these MSS., which, it is said, ought to be highly accounted of, nor can I give any judgment of my own about them; but I have no doubt that that saying of my master is most true, that there is nothing missing in them, which can avail to throw great light on all this question, nothing which has not been examined and weighed; so that they should be waited for, as master-works, treating the controversy thoroughly and most copiously, and as magazines, from which the adversaries may draw their arguments, both to impugn the Immaculate Conception and to throw discredit on the object of the definition. I wish then, most Blessed Father, that these two MSS. should be examined by the Theological body, with the aid of your Holiness, before any thing be decreed on this most grave question, lest we should incur that censure, ‘Whoso decrees any thing, one side unheard, though he decree what is just, is himself not just.’” i. 480.

46. b) The Bishop of Santander.—“I say, ‘if it be ripe for a definition,’ because there are some here, who, although they shrink from imagining that Mary was conceived in original sin, yet think that her immunity from this stain was not revealed by God through Scripture or the tradition of the Church, but was left only to the piety and reverence of the faithful. For since there are many truths, which are not certainly to be revealed to men, except in their heavenly home, such as are, perhaps, those which maintain that S. John Baptist was ever free from any even light fault of speech, and S. Joseph, the spouse of the most pure Virgin, from any stain concerning chastity; these think that of the number of these truths is this also, which maintains the immunity of the most Blessed Mother of God from original guilt. For sought out, say those who thus think, and too far-fetched are those arguments, whereby some celebrated writers contend that they demonstrate that this pious opinion is proximately definable. Too twisted are the interpretations whereby they endeavour to draw over to their side others, who are even openly opposed to it; so that one may now, too, say of them, what S. Antoninus said formerly of their leaders (Summ. part. v. lib. 8, c. 2), ‘They twist their sayings (those of ancient and modern doctors) against the intention of the speakers.’ And they say that they have found a notable instance of such forced interpretation in a celebrated dissertation on this subject, published a few years ago by a most eminent man. For in it (at least as it was published in Spanish in 1847) Melchior Cano is counted among writers who supported the pious opinion, whereas neither did he utter the words adduced in confirmation thereof in his own person, but in the person of those who impugn the authority of the Holy Fathers; nor do those words signify other than that the opinion of the immunity of the most Holy Virgin from original sin is pious and praiseworthy, which any one who estimates things fairly would in such questions, not defined by the Church, doubt not readily to confess of the opinion adverse to his own.

580 Narvaez (1. c. p. 56) mentions another learned Spanish writer on the same side: “A Dominican father, Vincentius de Bandelis of New Castille, who, as that most wise Pontiff, Lord Benedict XIV., says (de festo

V. M., c. xv., de festo Conceptionis, n. 8), maintained the opinion contrary to the Immaculate Conception, printed and published a treatise on the subject, whose title is, ‘On the singular purity and prerogative of the Conception of our Saviour Jesus Christ, on the authorities of 260 most illustrious Doctors.’”


“So these think, more freely perchance than is meet.”—i. 424, 425.

  1. The Bishop of Chiapo in Mexico.—“Omitting what all know, that the adapted or allegorical meaning, unless inspired writers themselves have in other places so employed it, does not yield any firm argument in Theological matters, I wish to use the words of a Theologian of the first rank, and one of the chief maintainers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, F. F. Suarez, who says when writing thereon, ‘You must not ask for any clear passage from Scripture, where this should be asserted, for it would be rash to require this, when other privileges of the Virgin, which the Church holds for certain, do not require such testimony of Scripture. And in respect to tradition, he says, that ‘it is worthy of consideration that the ancient Fathers have said little of this privilege of the Virgin,’ having said before, as to the sanctification of the Blessed Virgin in the womb, ‘This truth is not expressly defined, nor handed down as of faith.’ And S. Thomas, who had read the writings of the Fathers better, perhaps, than any, did not find it, I say not ‘handed down as of faith,’ but not in any way; else, doubtless, he would never have maintained the contrary. I am aware how many have strained with all their might to detach this most eminent Saint therefrom; but in vain, as I think; since in so many places of his works, especially the Summa, in which, last of all and expressly, he treated this question, he taught it most openly, on account of the reverence due to the general sayings of Holy Scripture, and because there was as yet no leaning of the Church towards the pious opinion. Pétau again, another of the more eminent Theologians, and most versed in the Fathers, although he contended for the Immaculate Conception of the most Holy Virgin, did not find it clearly handed down to them. If then, as is evident, the truth of the Immaculate Conception is not found so expressed in the Holy Scriptures that it can be proposed to the people as a dogma of faith; if it is not clear in the writings of the holy Fathers that it was ‘always, everywhere, and by all’ handed down, and much more handed down as of faith, since neither was her sanctification in the womb (which was easier), as Suarez asserts, so handed down; since I have no qualifications which enable me to decide better than S. Thomas or at least Pétau, what is contained in tradition thereon; since neither did the Fathers, who remained at Basle, and who left nothing untried to settle this matter, define it in this sense; and since those words, whereby the most Blessed Virgin is called ‘Immaculate,’ may be understood, like those in 2 Pet. iii. 12, ‘Wherefore, most dearly beloved, considering these things, be diligent, that ye may be found of Him immaculate in peace,’ not without great grief of heart, most Blessed Father, I dare not give a suffrage for the declaration of the aforesaid truth as a dogma of faith. Let, then, that most firm truth abide among all, yet with that certainty, wherewith the Assumption of the most Blessed Virgin into heaven, with body and soul at once, is believed, although it is not held as a dogma of faith. I have been not a little delayed, because a ‘religious’ man, who had done good service in literature with others whom I called that I might have the more light, only on the 16th of April last, showed me a work of some magnitude, elaborated with great care, and chiefly derived from the seraphic treasure-house, without examining which, from the desire I had of embracing a different opinion, I did not think it at all reasonable to deliver my judgment.
  2. “Although this has not happened [that his opinion had been changed], and what I have said notwithstanding, if the Immaculate Conception of the most Holy Virgin be defined by your Holiness, or by any successor of yours, should I not myself be departed, I will receive it with the greatest exultation, and with my whole heart, and will defend it with all my power.”—T. ix., App. i. 19, 20.
  3. Vicar Apostolic of Mysore.—“Although we are all by nature children of wrath, even although all perished in the first Adam, yet it is not repugnant either to my faith or reason to admit a marvellous and free exception as to the most Blessed Virgin in fact; nay, it seems to me in the highest degree congruous, that there should have been such an exception; whence I believe, by a faith of nature (‘naturaliter credo’), that God gave such a privilege with many other gifts of His free mercy to the Blessed Virgin Mary. But because neither Holy Scripture nor ancient tradition prove sufficiently clearly that such exemption from the stain of original sin was granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cannot, believe it with a Divine faith. On the other side, considering that the Word of God had no repugnance to many other indignities in the life of His ancestors according to the flesh, both men and women, by parity of reason, it might have been absolutely, that He should have taken a Mother who had the stain of a fault strictly not her own, at least in the original moment [of her being]; whence my opinion, therefore, stands only in the natural sense of fittingness

towards my Redeemer, and in the pious desire of glory and veneration towards His most beloved Mother.

“Fearing, lest Protestants and philosophers, objecting that such a decision, as de fide, is contrary to the Catholic axiom, ‘quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus,’ and muttering that the Roman Church imposes mere opinions under pain of damnation, should also refuse most certain dogmas; and, moreover, not clearly seeing that the confidence of Christians as to the most pure Mary, or their fervour in the cultus of Mary, the refuge of sinners, can be increased by such a decision; especially being unwilling at this time to impose, as de fide, and under pain of damnation, an opinion which was free for eighteen centuries, and which, although thoroughly examined by many most pious and most learned Pontiffs, has yet always been undecided, with the most profound submission to the future judgment of your Holiness, I can in no way desire such a definition, and am compelled by my conscience so to confess.”—iii. 353.

49. The Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatoor.—“Although, I repeat, I have no doubt as to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, I cannot but fear that from the definition of that doctrine as an article of faith some evils would arise to the Church; I cannot but fear that such a definition (saving the reverence due to the many and most pious theologians who urge it) bears on its front a certain appearance of novelty, and diminishes the force and majesty of tradition, the firmness whereof will hereafter be more and more to be desired.

“Doubtless, if the Holy See shall declare the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary an article of revealed faith, it will thereby define that the tradition was always such (for I think that this revelation will never be rested on Scripture alone, which seems to me yet more perilous). This will suffice for one who is firm and constant in the faith. But as to those weaker in the faith, whose weakness will always be to be indulged, the grounds of this tradition, resting on which the Church delivers the definition, are to be weighed. No easy task. Notwithstanding the pious attempts and industry of more recent theologians, must we not confess that their demonstrations, though rigorous, are not mostly easy to the conception of the faithful? But ifc seems to me of great moment that tradition, on other grounds most precious (which will be an anchor of safety in the storms whereby Mother Church will still be tossed), should be found clear and conspicuous to the minds of all.

“Perhaps, most Blessed Father, I fear where no fear is. But I own I fear the thick falsehood, which seems about to involve the human mind more and more. Aided thereby, the prince of darkness will seduce many, unless we reverence tradition most scrupulously. Let others boast the vain science of this world, and assert that the world clay by day makes progress. I grieve to see mankind casting itself headlong into an inevitable gulf of darkness. The portentous abuses of printing, the venom of journals, which creeps even into uncivilized nations, corrupt the minds, and turn them from the right path: licence in writing, printing, and circulating everywhere all sorts of books, good or bad, on any subject, with an unworthy mixture of sacred with profane, maintaining error with a bold iron forehead; and under the appearance of sound philosophy or theology propagating false doctrine, enveloped in artfully contrived subtleties, so that the most wise laws of the Church hereon cannot be effectually maintained even in empires wholly Catholic; these things, with many other causes, seem likely to bring so great a disturbance on the intellect of men, that hereafter, more perhaps than before, Catholics, mistrusting reasoning, but cleaving to the documents of sacred tradition, will be compelled to acknowledge that only with the certainty of faith, ‘which has been believed, everywhere, always, and by all.’

“To return; notwithstanding the pious industry of more recent theologians, and their diligence in scrutinizing the works of the Fathers, and adducing every thing which, directly or indirectly, evidently or inferentially, supports our opinion, it remains difficult to prove, in my opinion, that the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was believed always, and especially that it was believed everywhere. But will not minds, weak in the faith, be by that difficulty put in danger of doubting not only the articles defined, but moreover tradition itself, which was the shrine of this revelation? But hence what perils are not to be feared for weak faith, to whose infirmity it is our office to be indulgent?

“So then, most Blessed Father, I should prefer that the truth of the Immaculate Conception of Mary should remain among truths which are generally admitted to be ‘ piously believed.’“— iii. 354, 355.

50. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.—“It must be confessed, that there are some


among us (I believe, very few), who are otherwise minded, and who think that it has not been revealed with sufficient clearness, that the Holy Virgin Mary had no ground to cry out like the other daughters of Adam, In sin did my mother conceive me.—[S. Bernard, Ep. 174, n. 8.] Although they most readily acknowledge that, through the foreseen merits of her future most Holy Son, He who is mighty freed her immediately from original fault, and made her full of richest graces. Now as to that, on which your Holiness vouchsafed chiefly to inquire, whether or no it seems expedient for the advance of the glory of God, that the Holy See should declare by a dogmatical decision, that it is to be believed de fide, that the most Holy Virgin never, even in the first instant of her Conception, bore the very slightest spot of sin, herein too the opinions are different. For the greater part of the priests of this diocese think that the time is come, when the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Holy Ever-Virgin Mary is known to be so universal, that it may and ought to be promulgated as an article of faith. But no contemptible part of grave, pious, and learned priests and laymen think otherwise; and although they believe undoubtingly, that the Mother of the most Holy Saviour was always free from all spot of original sin, they do not at all think it expedient, that such a doctrine, however true, should be proposed to the faithful, to be believed as of Divine faith; and that chiefly for these reasons: 1. A dogmatic decision of this matter, on which there is no dissension, would seem to them contrary to the practice of the Church, since hitherto such decisions have only been promulged at such time as heretics dared to assail sound doctrine; and they are not aware of any ground sufficiently grave for departing, in the present case, from the ancient custom, and incurring the note of novelty. 2. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary is believed peacefully almost everywhere, and is assailed publicly by no one; and they think it much safer for the peace of religion ‘quieta non movere,’ than under no pressure of necessity, to agitate the question as to a new article of faith in the present state of minds, when men, even Catholics, both in foreign parts and in Italy itself, are, alas! too much inclined to examine, without due reverence, the limits of Ecclesiastical power. 3. They would hardly dare to hope that the devotion towards the most Blessed Virgin, which already everywhere is lively in the hearts of the faithful, could be much increased by the solemn decision that she was always Immaculate, since, on the one side, the Church, which is already extensively attacked, would be exposed to new assaults by embittered and ever-vigilant enemies, who would doubtless seize occasion thence of chattering, ‘Lo! the Church of the Catholics has devised a new Article of faith after ages, which, as is evident, was not believed everywhere, nor always, nor by all. What new light then dawns now upon that Church, which was denied to its Council of Trent?’ Such fallacies the well-instructed Catholic will easily dissipate; but they think that it is to be feared that the minds of the simple may be disturbed thereby, and their faith also perchance shaken. 4. Lastly, they fear, lest many Protestants who, as they hope, are now verging towards the Catholic Church, seeking a refuge there from their ever-varying errors, may be driven further from us on account of this new Article of faith, recently, as they will perhaps think, devised. These are some of the reasons which move those whose minds I have explained, to desire vehemently, unless the Holy Lord shall think differently, that nothing further should be done therein at present.

“Among those who thus think are the Jesuit fathers at Dublin, almost all the Professors of our national College at Maynooth, and many others, both priests and laymen, conspicuous for zeal for religion. And knowing their most pious feelings towards the Blessed Mother of God, and their desire that she should be honoured and worshipped everywhere with most ardent devotion, I cannot hold their opinion cheap; and therefore do not venture to advise that a dogmatic decision should go forth from the Holy See, declaring that it is to be believed, de fide, ‘that the most Holy Virgin Mary was conceived without stain of original sin,’ however certain it be that that doctrine is true.”—ii. 142—144.

He subsequently joined the other Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops in praying the Pope to define it.—iii. 376—378.

The Archbishop of Tarragona left the question of expediency to the judgment of the Pope (ii. 126). The Bishop of Oviedo said, “Perhaps the fulness of time has come to declare this article” (ii. 229). The Archbishop of Braga desired it, “if there was no reason to fear for other realms, as in this most religious nation nothing is to feared” (i. 126). The Bishop of Lamego evidently leant to think it inopportune: “Whether in the actual state of things the passing of such a decision is more opportune than it was in the


time of some supreme Pontiffs of venerable memory, and of the most learned fathers of the Council of Trent, I dare not give an opinion” (iii. 73).

So, I think, did the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon: “Whether for this longed-for definition a more opportune time has now come; and those things are no longer to be feared, which were a hindrance to the Tridentine fathers, and the supreme Pontiffs; whether the present state of many nations, most turbulent and most hostile to all authority, and the impious and most insidious efforts of Protestants and of all enemies of the Catholic Church, who do not cease to censure as new dogmas what are defined in the Catholic Church, and who endeavour with their whole might to impugn the infallibility of that Church, the existence of Divine tradition, and the authority of the Apostolic See, ought to cause some delay to that longed-for and implored decree;—this, I think, to be left to thy most wise and prudent judgment.”—iii. 56, 57.

Narvaez (p. 48), counting the Bishops in Communion with Rome at 748, and those who answered the Encyclical at 576, leaves 172 who did not answer, of whom, allowing for vacancies, letters not reaching, &c., many like the Austrian Bishops, must have been silent, because they did not wish to express their dissent.

Narvaez gives, in strange contrast with 1864, this statement as to Cardinal Bona: “Alexander VII., when asked by the ambassador of Philip IV. of Spain to decide the Conception of the Blessed Virgin to be a dogma of faith, asked the wise and pious Cardinal Bona, whether he could decide the question by himself? The Cardinal answered, that ‘neither the Holy See, nor the Church herself, can form new articles of faith; that it can only declare what God has revealed to His Church, after having examined the matter according to the rules of the traditions transmitted by the Apostles.’ The Pontiff replied, ‘Can I decide what is to be believed on this matter under inspiration of the Holy Ghost?’ Cardinal Bona said, ‘Most Holy Father, if any thing should be revealed to you by God, this will profit yourself alone; but it will not be lawful for you, nor can you bind the faithful to adhere to your decision, as neither can you bind me.’”—pp. 91, 92.

One of the earliest fruits of the decision fell upon Spain, where the last sacraments were refused to “Father Mr. Pascual who, until A.D. 1865, was the oracle of Salamanca, and was held by learned men a fountain of religious wisdom, gushing forth on all sides,” because, “when interrogated by certain Bishops, he wrote that the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin never could come to be an article of faith, and never acknowledged the dogma, after the Lord Pope Pius IX. pronounced it a dogma of faith, and did not recant.” And yet “inconsistently,” Narvaez says,” the divine office was said for his soul.”—p. 54.

« Prev Note B Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection