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Chapter XXXVIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9


Meeting of a General Council at the Vatican - 'The opinion of its inopportuneness very prevalent - Letter of Dr. Newman - Influence of the Jesuits - Dr. Cumming proposes to attend the Council - Subjects for Deliberation - Discussion of the Tenet of Papal Infallibility - " Janus " - Opening of the Council - Analysis of its Personnel - Introduction of the Schemata - Petition of the Majority in favour of the Definition - France and Austria remonstrate - Answer of Cardinal Antonelli - Counter-Petition - Discussion of the Constitution de Fide - Speech of Bishop Strossmayer - The Constitution is voted - Discussion on the Dogma of Infallibility - Terms of the Definition - It is adopted by a Majority - The Bishops of the Minority absent themselves from the Final Voting - Analysis of the Negative Votes - Political Importance of the Definition. - The Italian Government, after the Disasters of France, resolves upon the seizure of Rome - The King's Letter to the Pope - General Cadorna invades the Papal Territory - The Papal Troops Surrender after a short Resistance - Plebiscite on the Question of Annexation - Terms of Accommodation offered to the Holy See - The Pope refuses them. - Affairs of Spain - Don Enrique de Bourbon killed in a Duel - Election of the Duke of Aosta to the Spanish Throne - Assassination of General Prim.
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The earlier portion of the year, of which the later months ushered in so much bloodshed and such dire calamities, was rendered memorable by the sessions of the Vatican Council at Rome, the first General Council of the Latin Church which Europe had witnessed since the Council of Trent. To England, indeed, as a Protestant country, the proceedings of a purely Roman Catholic council could not be of immediate and vital interest. Yet, besides the necessity and duty of watching keenly transactions tending to affect the faith and conduct of a large portion of that Christendom to which England also belongs, the closeness of our connection with Ireland, whose people zealously participated in the preparatory movements, brought the subject home to us in various ways; the questions themselves which it was understood were likely to come before the Council were of a remarkable nature; and a well-founded apprehension existed that the settlement of these questions in a particular way was likely to have large and wide-spreading political results. It will not, therefore, be out of place in this History, while keeping clear of anything like theological discussion, to insert a brief notice of the Vatican Council, showing under what circumstances and with what intentions it was called together, and describing how, after great and weighty opposition, a dogma issued from its deliberations which has since acted like a firebrand cast into the society of all Roman Catholic countries.

The (according to the Roman computation) twenty- second General Council was convened, by the Bull AEterni Patris dated June 29th, 1868, to meet at the Vatican on the 8th December, 1869. The principal subjects for its deliberations were stated to be - the magisterium or supremacy of the Roman Pontiff, the relations between the State and the Church, and the deep-seated evils and corruptions of modern society, owing to the prevalence of revolutionary principles in religion, morals, and philosophy. Why the Council was summoned at this particular time, it was not easy to understand. Dissensions on questions of faith, threatening to terminate in schism, or which already had terminated in schism, appear to have been, in former ages of the Church, the invariable antecedents of the convocation of an (Ecumenical Council. Thus it was to settle disputes concerning the person of Christ which had long distracted the East that the bishops of the Christian world were drawn together to Nicaea; the heresy of Eutyches preceded the Council of Chalcedon; and Protestantism had already assumed a separate existence before the Council of Trent was summoned to deal with it. But in the present case there never had been a time in which greater unanimity in faith, or a more ardent spirit of loyal obedience to the Pope, had pervaded the Roman Catholic world. It has been, indeed, alleged that the rash speculations of some German professors at the universities of Munich and Vienna, the drift of which was to extend the authority of National Churches, and to set limits to the Papal sovereignty, supplied a natural occasion and a sufficient justification for the fuller and more exact definition of the Pontifical and Petrine privileges which the promoters of the Council desired to see recorded. Yet at the time little was heard of these speculations: they did not aim at popularity; they were not taken up as the watchwords of any important party in the Church. The non-necessity for, the inopportunity of, the Council - at any rate, with reference to questions of dogma - was an opinion strongly entertained by many earnest and able Rom

... If it is God's will that the Pope's infallibility is defined, then is it God's will to throw back ' the times and the moments ' of that triumph which He has destined for His kingdom, and I shall feel I have but to bow my head to His adorable, inscrutable Providence." Many were of opinion that the Society of Jesus, the members of which were numerous at Rome, were supposed to have great influence over the Pope, and were certainly very active in paving the way for the Council, saw in the extension and more precise definition of the Papal prerogatives, which the adoption of the dogma of infallibility would involve, an opportunity for strengthening that system of centralised and unquestioned power which they have done so much to establish in the Roman Church. The dogma, it was said, is intended to make the Pope the ruler of the world: but the Jesuits rule the Pope; therefore the master-influence for the future, in that large section of mankind which is included in the Latin Church, will be wielded by the Jesuits. Nor was this opinion as to the preponderating share assigned to the order in the arrangements for the Council confined to Protestants. Soon after the commencement of the sessions, Bishop Strossmayer, a Croatian prelate, denounced the Jesuits before the assembled fathers as manipulating and directing the business of the Council in a manner liable to be disastrous to the interests of the Church.

Soon after the publication of the Bull convening the Council a Papal brief appeared, addressed to all Protestants and non-Roman Catholics, informing them that a General Council was about to be held, entreating them not to rest contented with a position in which they could not be sure of their salvation, and urging them to réconciliation and submission. Dr. Cumming, of the Scotch Church, London, understood this appeal as tantamount to an invitation to the Council, and manifested an intention of attending at the Council at the time appointed,! and taking part in the discussion. The Pope, however, writing to Archbishop Manning, desired that "Dr. Cumming, of Scotland," should be informed that no opinions and practices which had been condemned by any previous Council could be again brought under discussion, and that the object of reminding Protestants of the Council was to induce them to reflect upon the instability of their religious position. In order that confusion might not characterise the proceedings of so numerous an assembly, composed of men of every nation, a large proportion of whom had never set eyes upon each other before, six commissions were appointed by the Pope, with orders to prepare and rough-hew the materials for deliberation in council on the several topics of - Religious Dogma, Ecclesiastical Politics, Church Discipline, Monastic Orders, the East, and Rites and Ceremonies.

In Roman Catholic countries it was believed that the object for which the Council was convened was to declare the infallibility of the Pope; and for months before the Council opened great agitation prevailed. In France, Bishop Maret and Pčre Gratry, the Oratorian, published pamphlets impugning, not the opportuneness only, but the truth, of the doctrine in question. In Germany, the celebrated Dr. Döllinger contributed to the Allgevieine Zeitung a short but weighty essay, "Against the Infallibility of the Pope." But of all writings of this class none attracted so much attention as an able work named " The Pope and the Council," and appearing under the pseudonym of "Janus." The object of the writer was to establish by reference to history the untenable nature of the claims now made on behalf of the Roman Pontiffs. The Governments of the Roman Catholic Powers became uneasy, and sought information from Cardinal Antonelli as to the probable course that the deliberations would take; some of them also spoke of asserting a claim to send ambassadors to the Council, as in former times, for the protection of lay interests. But Cardinal Antonelli replied in smooth and conciliatory terms; he would not admit that the definition of the dogma of infallibility was probable; and with regard to the non-admission into the Council of ambassadors from Roman Catholic Powers, he justified it by the changed circumstances of modern times.

The Council assembled for the first time on the appointed day, the 8th December, 1869. Out of 1,044 bishops, mitred abbots, or generals of orders, who were qualified to sit in the Council, 767 actually attended. The bishops of Poland alone, among European countries, were absent, having been forbidden to attend by the arbitrary mandate of the Czar. England and Scotland were represented by twelve or thirteen bishops, the most prominent of whom were Archbishop Manning and Dr. Ullathorne. Ireland sent twenty-three representatives, including Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop MacHale, and the learned and enlightened Bishop of Kerry, Dr. Moriarty. The French bishops were about eighty in number; those of North Germany only fourteen. The total number of bishops from all European countries - except Italy - amounted to 265. The Italian bishops, together with the hundred and nineteen bishops whose sees were in partibus infidelium, formed a total of 276. The missionary bishops - congregating to Rome from all parts of the known world, the expenses of their journey and residence in Rome being borne by the Papal treasury - formed nearly three hundred. It was objected that the representative character of the Council was impaired by the inequality of the relations existing between the bishops and the faithful who composed their flocks. The North German bishops, it was said, were only as one to 810,000 lay Catholics in North Germany; while the bishops from the Pontifical state numbered one for every 12,000 of the laity. Again, it was urged that, whereas in the primitive times one of the most distinctive characteristics of a bishop sitting in a council was that he bore testimony concerning the faith of his flock, this could not be the case with the numerous bishops in partibus now assembled at the Vatican, whose few and ignorant converts, for the most part just reclaimed from barbarism, had no traditional Christianity to put in plea. To all such objections it was replied, on the other side, that a bishop sat in council in virtue of his consecration only, and that the doctrine of equal numerical representation had never been received in the Church.

The place of meeting was the north transept of St. Peter's, which had been partitioned off from the body of the church, and converted into a magnificent hall of audience. But the acoustics of the place were unsatisfactory; what mortal voice but must be lost in the aerial spaces which intervened between the benches and that soaring and majestic vault? A huge curtain hung from wall to wall remedied, though not entirely, this defect.

For the regulation of the order of business the Bull Multiplices inter was prepared, and communicated to the Council at the commencement of its proceedings. It was said that under this bull the liberty of the Council was abridged to an extent never known in former councils. It lodged in the hands of the Pope the nomination of the presidents of all congregations and commissions, and enjoined that any proposition which a bishop desired to bring before the Council should first be laid before a special commission, which should decide on its admissibility and report accordingly to the Pope, without whose permission in the last resort it could not be brought forward. It need hardly be said that Latin was prescribed as the only language to be used in the public deliberations.

The first public session (December 8th, 1869) was devoted to the formalities of opening. The proceedings of the Council being suddenly suspended in October, there were but four public sessions altogether. The second was held on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, 1870; when, no decree being at that time ready for discussion, every bishop attending the Council, with the Pope at their head, made the formal profession of his faith by publicly declaring his adhesion to the creed of Pope Pius IV., in which were summed up the principal dogmatic definitions and decrees of the Council of Trent. In the course of January several Schemata, or rough drafts of decrees, were introduced into the Council, and referred to the several examining commissions. The first was the Schema De Fide; it was headed, in its original form, by a preamble containing language of a very disparaging nature respecting Protestantism, to the influence of which it ascribed those baneful errors - Rationalism, Pantheism, Atheism, Socialism, &c., which it proceeded to condemn and anathematise. The second Schema related to Church discipline, and was brought in on the 14th January; it dealt chiefly with the duties of bishops; The third Schema, De Ecclesia, on the Church and the Papal primacy, was brought in on the 21st January; it originally contained three chapters, but a fourth was added under the circumstances presently to be related.

The repugnance to the doctrine of Papal infallibility - or, at any rate, to the opportuneness of its definition at the present juncture - had been now so loudly expressed by a number of bishops (chiefly French and German, but with a sprinkling of English and Americans) that the majority in the Council began to fear that the advisers of the Pope would recommend the postponement of the subject to a future occasion. Wherefore a petition, or postulatum, was prepared, soon after the session of the 6th January, praying the Pope that the doctrine of the infallibility of the Chair of Peter might be defined; this was signed by five hundred bishops. The Governments of France and Austria, alarmed at this intelligence, thought that the time was come for exercising a pressure in a contrary direction on the Papal Court. Count Daru, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, instructed the Marquis de Banneville, the French Ambassador at Rome, to inform Cardinal Antonelli of the desire of the French Cabinet to be informed beforehand of all proceedings of a political nature which were taken by the Council, and of the decidedly adverse opinion of the said Cabinet against any definition of Papal infallibility. The Austrian Minister held similar language. Cardinal Antonelli replied to Count Daru in a long despatch written in March, when the prospect of the adoption of the dogma was increasingly favourable, denying that the Concordat existing between France and Rome gave the French Government any right to demand the special information required, and claiming it as the privilege and the duty of the Council to proceed to the doctrinal definition deprecated by the French Cabinet, which lie hoped would be greeted by the faithful everywhere as "the rainbow of peace and the dawn of a brighter future." It has been stated that the French Government replied to this letter from Cardinal Antonelli, stating that, as he determined to pursue a course which could only end in its ruin, France would for the future abstain from interference; but that on the day of the declaration of Papal infallibility the Concordat would cease to be valid, the State would separate itself from the Church, and the French troops would be withdrawn from the Papal territory. It is certain that the resolution to withdraw the French; troops, which was officially communicated by the Marquis de Banneville to the Holy See on the 27th July, was arrived at before France had sustained any military reverses, and may therefore have been prompted, or at least accelerated, by the proclamation of the dogma; but it does not appear that the menace of treating the Concordat as invalid was ever acted upon in the smallest degree; it seems probable, therefore, that the terms of the despatch were not in reality quite so stringent.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXVIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9

St. Peters and the Vatican
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Cardinal Antonelli
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Departure of the Papal Zouaves
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