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UST as the gradual quiescence of Latin Christendom, after
the upheaving of its surface under the stress of the Vatican Council and of the Old Catholic revolt, seems to amply justify the prescience of those most experienced Curialists who declared all along that the Infallibility Dogma, once voted by a majority, however obtained and of whatsoever dimensions, would be received with submission where it was not welcomed with joy, a voice of warning comes to us from the victorious side, and, what lends it a sadder interest, from the grave.
It has been the weak point of that section to which I once took the liberty of giving the name of the Roman Disobedience, that it consists of two classes of persons, whom it is always in the power of the dominant majority to brand as “ bad Catholics”namely, such as, like Professor Friedrich, the Abbé Michaud, Canon Mouls, and Father Hyacinthe, have broken definitely with the Roman See, and have taken up a ground of opposition even to the Tridentine standpoint; or else those who, like Bishops Dupanloup and Ketteler, have themselves brought doubt on the sincerity of their present attitude by the rapidity of their conversion after the Curialist victory of July 18, 1870. The former class are entirely out of court now in attempting to argue with those who accept the new dogma, since they are charged with material and formal heresy; the latter, when they venture any criticism on the wildest freaks of modern religiosity, are apt to
render themselves suspected of ulterior motives, and of the deadly sin of in-papisme, as the Bishop of Orleans found the other day, when he essayed a remonstrance against unaccredited prophecies and omens which happened to be in favour with M. Veuillot and his school.
Practically, therefore, any warning which either of these sections of Liberal Catholics may utter as to the inevitable working out of principles to their logical results falls on deaf ears, except amongst audiences whose convictions already go further in the same direction, or which, being outside the pale, are restricted to the attitude of mere criticism.
But, as I have said, a voice from the camp of victory, echoing almost the words of Pyrrhus after the battle of Asculum, las lately made itself audible, and the ideas it suggests or unfolds are too important to be passed over without comment. A writer who veils his identity under the pen-name of Pomponio Leto (a jurist and antiquary of the Renaissance, who was persecuted by Paul II., but was tutor of Paul III., and friend of Sixtus IV. and Innocent VIII.) prepared a work which has been issued in an English version, under the title of “Eight Months at Rome during the Vatican Council.” It is matter of notoriety that he was in truth Cardinal Nobili-Vitelleschi, Bishop of Osima, raised to the Archbishopric of Seleucia and to the purple after the Vatican Council by Pius IX., and who died six weeks after his elevation, leaving behind him materials wrought into the work which his brother, the Marchese Nobili-Vitelleschi, has the credit of making public.* He voted in the majority, for reasons that probably satisfied himself, but with something less than hearty approval of the measure. Yet as he gave a placet, and not a juxta modum suffrage at the final session, it is not practicable for Ultramontanes to rank him amongst the “bad Catholics,” especially as he was singled out shortly afterwards for exceptional honour by the Supreme Pontiff.
What will strike attentive readers first, and perhaps chiefly, is the minute and precise confirmation which his narrative lends to the “Letters of Quirinus" and to the “ Tagebuch ” of Professor Friedrich. He writes from a different point of view, and had clearly access to private sources of information which were sealed to members of the Opposition; but in all particulars which go to prove the care that was taken to bind the Council hand and foot, the obstacles put in the way of the minority, the bribery and terrorism which were freely exercised, and the incessant and undignified interference of the Pope himself to coerce the Fathers,
* It should be said that some cleverly worded disclaimers on the part of the Cardinals brothers have been published in England. But they studiously avoid explicit donial either of his substantial authorship of the volume, or of their own share in its production, confining themselves to negativing unimportant side-issues.
he establishes indisputably the essential veracity of the Opposition writers. It is needless to offer detailed proof of this coincidence, but necessary to mention the fact, because the truth of “Quirinus" was very vehemently assailed by the whole Ultramontane press, and not less in England than in Germany. We may take that objection as quashed henceforth, and restrict the present inquiry to the new facts or noteworthy opinions which we owe to Cardinal Vitelleschi's narrative.
The real value and importance of his work, as it seems to me, is its confutation of that opinion expressed, rather as a hope than a belief, by the Minimizing school, that the Vatican decrees, after all, are no more than the final recognition of what potentially existed long before, and that their conciliar promulgation will make no great practical difference to anybody. This is in a large measure the gist of Dr. Newman's Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, as well as of various other apologies which have been hazarded. But this impression is by no means confined to those who are naturally reluctant to face the true position. I have seen a thoughtful and temperate article in a moderate Anglican journal, which maintained that whatever troubles and heartburnings may come to the intellectual few by reason of the new problems which try their faith, yet the great mass of pious, childlike, uninstructed folk, who are in every modern country the real strength of the Roman Catholic Church, must needs be entirely unaffected by the dogma, or if affected at all, only by the increased sense of absolute stability which they may gain, a view which Mr. Gladstone seems to recognize as true. I have never been able myself, as a thinker, to look at the situation in this light, because my faith in the inexorable logic with which principles will work themselves out sooner or later is fixed; but I have been content to abstain from open contradiction of a theory sufficiently plausible to justify its supporters. However, finding that Cardinal Vitelleschi's opinions on the matter are as closely allied to my own as the fundamental differences between our antecedents and circumstances permit, I the more gladly bring some of his more salient observations to bear on the discussion.
The first noteworthy thing is the firm grasp he seems to have had of the key to the whole situation, almost the last notion that one would have expected to arise in the mind of an Italian prelate, namely, to what a very large extent the vast organization and wide diffusion of Latin Christianity is deceptive, as conveying an idea of Catholicity not borne out by closer investigation. Now, as it was precisely this idea which the Vatican Council was intended to convey, and did in fact convey to many of its critics, Cardinal Vitelleschi’s common-sense deductions are very striking. He points out that the Bishop of Chicago does not represent a Catholic Chicago, nor the Patriarch of Babylon a Catholic Babylon; that the American prelates represent a mere fraction of their dioceses, and that even in nominally Catholic countries, such as France, the Bishops are not able to feel themselves the pastors of the whole or the greater part of their flocks, or indeed of a Catholic society or majority at all. There may be exceptions, doubtfully, in Spain and Italy, Ireland and Poland, and certain parts of Germany, but broadly speaking, the Catholicism which sent its delegates to the Council is largely a paper one, and not a vital, energizing fact. What is more, the actual condition of things does not denote mere tardiness of missionary success, such as faces Christians in China or Hindostan, but positive retrogression and loss, first by the Reformation, and next by the Revolution. It is all very well to point to eight hundred or a thousand Catholic dioceses, but the East has been alienated for a thousand years, and the greater part of the West, inclusive of America and Australia, for three hundred. Yet further, the results of former Councils have not been encouraging as providing a remedy for this condition of things. The early Ecumenical Councils did indeed do their work effectually, because they dealt with questions of theology alone, and did in truth embody the convictions of the Catholic majority in their decrees; but where the conflict was against great national interests or tendencies, as at Florence and Trent, the Councils proved inadequate to the magnitude of the occasion.
Thus, the great issue which really lay before the Vatican Synod, the choice it had in its power to make, was between the policy of comprehension and that of exclusion; between the effort to embrace the greater portion of mankind within the Church, or to drive many of those now within it into revolution; whether, in short, the Catholic nations of Europe are or are not to have a real religion, not a mere nominal and outward form, but a genuine belief which shall be held in common, shall be manifest in their actions, and be in harmony with their institutions.
These words appear to have been written, from the structure of the work, which is seemingly a recast diary of jottings, at the very outset of the Council; and it is enough to say that the view they embody was never so much as glanced at for a moment by the majority, and therefore, owing to the machinery employed, could not be set forth by any action of the minority. But they do in fact put the real question at stake very truly; and if it had not been for the hope that some attempt at solving it would have been made by the Council, there would have been little of that stir and interest which the news of its convocation aroused throughout Christendom.
It was thought by not a few that the very abstention of the Latin Church from holding a Council since that of Trent had been aissoived-a longer interval by far than had ever elapsed beforedenoted that the new assembly would prove a step in the direction of liberal reforms, as appealing to the collective Episcopate instead of gathering up all the threads of power into a single hand. But the event proved that only that half of the work of Trent which consisted in transforming the Papacy from a constitutional into an absolute monarchy was to be continued and completed, while the nobler and more useful work of pruning abuses, which that Synod, after all deductions, did largely accomplish, was adjourned indefinitely, if indeed not made henceforward impossible for any representative Church assembly even to ventilate. The next point the Cardinal makes is to express his belief in the entire insincerity of the invitations issued to non-Roman Communions, with a view of giving a specious character of oecumenicity to the summons, because these invitations were worded in such terms as to involve submission beforehand to the Holy See on the part of all who might accept them, and accordingly the refusals were unanimous. Nevertheless, I have known Anglican Ultramontanes declare that English Churchmen have no right whatever to express disapproval of anything which was voted in the Vatican Council, because the Anglican Bishops were invited to attend, and if they chose to absent themselves and to let questions in which they were interested go by default, instead of being present to speak up in defence of their own views, they had no more right to object afterwards than the Opposition here in England would have to disobey an Act of Parliament once duly passed, which they had suffered to reach its final stage without any resistance during its progress. This little matter of the invitations belongs to a whole class of ingenious contrivances for keeping up the theory of cecumenical supremacy, one of the very cleverest of which, cleverer even than the creation of a quasi-Oriental Church to simulate the real East, is the bestowal of the title of Patriarch on the Archbishops of Venice, Lisbon, and Goa, who have no precedence over other Archbishops, so as to convey the idea that the Pope is exalted as high above Patriarchs as over any other members of the Episcopal order, and has a right to deal with Constantinople or Alexandria as he may with Lisbon. The statement of “ Quirinus” that three hundred of the Bishops were the guests of the Pope, and thus placed under a very strong pressure not to go against his wishes, is fully confirmed, and the expense computed at 2,500 lire daily (£100); but a new fact is revealed, that even as a pecuniary speculation this outlay was highly remunerative, as some devotees had devised a plan, shortly before the Council assembled, for collecting funds in aid of its expenses at a special mass in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of the Pope's own first mass, by which