Page images
PDF
EPUB

was most unsparing and irresistible. Still, though the conspiracy has been obliged to pause and to yield a great part of the vantage ground then gained, it has, all through the nineteenth century, been skilfully reorganizing its forces, reoccupying every available foothold of power and influence, until, exactly a hundred years after its first mighty triumphs, it proclaims itself ready to complete the work interrupted or suspended under the Directory and the Consulate.

A careful survey and analysis of the gigantic struggle which then took place, from 1789 to 1801-1802, will enable us now, as the conspirators return to the fray more powerful, more confident, and more merciless, to weigh the chances of success on either side, and to forecast the result.

As the year 1789 dawned upon the world, France, though fallen from the military supremacy which she had held in the reign of Louis XIV., was still in undisputed possession of that moral supremacy which gave her the first rank among the nations of Christendom. The peoples who had driven her fleets off the seas, and beaten her armies on the battle-field, were the first to yield to her intellectual superiority, to acknowledge the sway of her literature, her arts, and her manners. Before another decade had passed away all Europe would have to tremble before the victorious French legions.

The Popes, who had been the bestowers of all imperial and kingly titles in the Christian society which arose on the ruins of the Roman Empire, had also given to the sovereigns and peoples of Christendom the honorific titles merited by their achievements and glorious services to religion. The sovereigns of Great Britain still cling, with a not very commendable pride, to the title of “ Defender of the Faith," bestowed by Leo. X. on the eighth Henry in acknowledgment of the latter's vindication of Catholic truth against Luther.

The Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary still claims the title of " Apostolic Majesty," bestowed by the Pope on St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary, the apostle and parent of his people. From the same authority, the fountain of all true honor and nobility, came to the kings of Spain the envied title of " Most Catholic"; to those of Portugal the title of " Most Faithful"; and to the Kings of France that of " Most Christian." This supreme distinction was extended to their entire realm, which the successors of St. Peter loved to call “the Most Christian Kingdom";

and France herself from olden times was fondly designated as “the Oldest Daughter of the Church."

By a singular coincidence, the same volume of the Pontifical Acts of Leo XIII. which contains the magnificent encyclical on

Freemasonry also gives us the authentic text of another encyclical (Nobilissima Gallorum gens), addressed to the archbishops and bishops of France. The former encyclical describes the antiChristian conspiracy which was directed in the last century toward the overthrow and utter destruction of the Church in France; the latter aims to encourage, sustain and direct the faithful hierarchy, priests and people, of "the Most Christian Kingdom" in their present gigantic struggle with the triumphant Masonic conspirators.

Weisshaupt and Voltaire chose the Most Christian Kingdom, while it was under the corrupting and degrading sway of Louis XV., as the field on which they could most successfully conspire to ruin the Church, to discredit and destroy the Catholic religion, and with it Christianity itself.

Certain it is that now, as we write, there is no longer a “Most Christian King” in the political order to represent the “Oldest Daughter of the Church"; and that the men who now govern France are anything and everything but jealous of claiming for themselves and the nation the once proud and glorious title of “Most Christian."

The overwhelming majority in both houses of the French Legislature are daily becoming more noisy and more pressing in their demand for repealing the Concordat of 1801-1802, and thus undoing what the first Bonaparte had done to restore the Church overthrown by the French Revolution. The Masonic lodges, represented by this parliamentary majority, are loud in declaring, through the all-powerful daily and periodical press which they own, that this repealing of the Concordat will clear away the ground for the anti-Christian social edifice which they contemplate erecting in the ancient kingdom of Saint Louis.

Nothing but the most preternatural forbearance on the part of Leo XIII., of his official representatives in Paris, and of the French archbishops and bishops themselves, could have staved off, from month to month and year to year, the final and inevitable rupture between the French Government and the Vatican.

There is no use in endeavoring to demonstrate to men who are either irrevocably pledged to a certain course, or forcibly urged forward by the mighty Masonic power behind them, that it would be a most sound and salutary policy to keep up friendly relations with the Holy See, the great moral and conservative force of the civilized world. It would require superhuman wisdom and superhuman eloquence to make men wilfully blind to open their eyes to the folly, the madness, of weakening the national unity by paralyzing or destroying the mightiest of all vital forces-religious conviction and sentiment-at a time when the nation is isolated, doomed and perishing

Such are some of the perils of the actual condition of things in France, among a people whose national character in their glorious Christian days, and whose achievements in the past, both in peace and in war, must win the admiration and sympathy of mankind.

Leo XIII. never uses words in vain. France, and even the infidel and Voltairian press of France, read with a thrill of pride the praise so justly bestowed by the Pontiff on the Frenchmen who had raised the name of their country to such a height of fame. “ The most noble French nation," he says, “by their many illustrious achievements in peace and war, acquired in the eyes of the Catholic Church the singular glory of meritorious deeds for which she preserves an undying gratitude, and the glory of which can never wane. By the Christian training and institutions, to which, under the leadership of Clovis, she was initiated at an early period, she did indeed well deserve, as a testimony and reward of her faith and piety, the name of the Oldest Daughter of the Church.' From that distant period .. your forefathers seem to have been the helpers of Divine Providence itself in accomplishing mighty and salutary results; but in an especial manner has their courage gloriously shone in maintaining the Catholic name, in spreading among barbarous peoples the Christian faith, in freeing and protecting the holy places of Palestine, so as to justify the truth of the popular saying, 'Gesta Dei per Francos,—the exploits of God through the Franks.'

“And on this account it came to pass that (your ancestors) by devoting themselves in a spirit of faith to the interests of Catholicity, have become in a manner intimately associated with the glories of the Church, and have founded very many institutions, public and private, in which are displayed the powerful influence of religion, of charity, and of greatness of soul.”l

It was, therefore, a masterly stroke of the Satanic policy of the eighteenth-century conspirators to destroy the Church in such a nation; to blot out Christian faith from the lives of the people; to turn the chivalric and heroic genius which had spread, protected and represented the Christian name all over the globe into the genius of Antichristian propagandism.

But how did the conspirators go about their work?

Here lies the chief interest for the serious-minded Christian or student of history. The facts themselves, as they are rapidly and tragically evolved from month to month, from year to year, bring with them such examples of sublime heroism, in men and women

[blocks in formation]

of all classes, as have never been surpassed in any age or in any country.

If among the 60,000 members of the French clergy at the beginning of 1789 there were found a small, a very small minority of worldly, ambitious, weak, or unworthy men, the fidelity, the purity, the devotion, the invincible constancy of the remaining host of Christian priests offer a spectacle never beheld on the same scale of grandeur.

The priesthood and people of Ireland can alone furnish a parallel to the trials to which the French Catholics were subjected during the twelve years which followed 1788. In France they were indeed twelve years which tested to the utr

st the supernatural virtues of the persecuted millions. In Ireland the persecution raged for centuries. All the powers of Hell seemed let loose on the then living generation of Frenchmen. In Ireland generation after generation passed unshrinking through the fiery furnace. Nor are the present sufferings of the majority of Irishmen without their deep cause in the anti-Catholic passions inherited from an unhallowed and oppressive ascendancy.

Since 1878 the Church of France has again fallen sub hostili dominatione. As we write these lines the measures taken against her hierarchy, and the open persecution authorized or tolerated against her clergy, secular and regular, as well as against her religious congregations of men and women, are only the shadows -shadows dark and portentous-of mighty events near at hand.

Strange to say, the first step of the Antichristian conspirators of 1788-89 was to impose on the Catholics of France an ecclesiastical establishment that resembled in more than one feature the Protestant Establishment sought to be forced on the acceptance of Irish Catholics by Henry VIII., Edward and Elizabeth.

What is known in history as the Civil Constitution of the French Church was a part and parcel of the new political Constitution forced on Louis XVI. in 1789. In the Constituent Assembly, which framed that instrument, both the higher and lower clergy were represented. But these representatives were both insufficient in numbers and without any express or adequate powers from those who sent them; to make or sanction the mighty changes in Church and State brought about by the revolutionary majority.

Moreover, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was simply devised to create a schismatic church, wholly dependent on the State, bound hand and foot to the civil authority, destined to exist, to act, to live and move, and exercise its functions, without deriving its jurisdiction from the Vicar of Christ, or being in any wise subordinated to the centre of Catholic unity and government.

It is a fundamental doctrine of the Catholic faith that the

[ocr errors]

Church, wheresoever she exists, constiti tes a society perfect in itself, with its own divinely given power to legislate, teach, administer the sacraments, to direct and govern all its members in whatever pertains to their spiritual welfare and eternal salvation.

In the national church of France, as conceived by the Constituent Assembly, as it came, modeled, moulded, trammeled, and fitted for action, from the brain and hand of its creators, there was nothing but a State machine, adapted for the performance of State functions. Its ministers were only public functionaries, made by the State, liable at will to be unmade by it, working for it alone, salaried by it like any other of its officers, receiving from it the breath of life, and looking to no other authority or power beyond the State for its raison d'être.

This Civil Constitution left, therefore, to the enslaved Church of France no shadow of that divine independence and inalienable freedom which the Church of Christ holds by her institution from her Divine Founder.

The first step taken toward destroying this independence was the confiscation of all church property. The needs of the public treasury were put forth as a pretext for this. But the Jansenists, Protestants, Voltairians, and Jacobins, who formed the dominant faction in the Assembly, wished to take away from the Clergy all their property, because they considered property to be, in every well ordered and stable community, the basis of independence and social freedom.

Not only was ecclesiastical property of every kind taken gradually away from its owners, but the State at length claimed the sacred vessels on the altar and the vestments used in the sanctuary

Thus despoiled and enslaved, the French clergy would, its enemies thought, accept whatever functions or conditions the State chose to impose on them.

The Revolutionist majority in the Assembly fancied, it may be, that such of their clerical colleagues as the Bishop of Autun, Talleyrand, or the Jansenist Abbé Grégoire, could be taken as samples of priestly virtue and constancy. Such men only represented the small worldly-minded minority among the glorious priesthood of France. They were the dross among the mass of pure gold which, cast into the fierce flames of the revolutionary furnace, came out thrice chastened and most worthy of the divine acceptance.

We have before us, as we write these lines, the text of the Civil Constitution sought to be forced on the French Clergy as the everlasting code of their degradation and servitude.

By a stroke of the legislative pen all the ancient sees of France

« PreviousContinue »