Page images
PDF
EPUB

saints actually did very odd things; and that many other things as strange have been falsely ascribed to them by the legend-writers.

Auth. Heaven be thanked that you have come to comprehend that everything done by a holy man is not therefore necessarily holy; but that on the contrary his holiness is to be measured by such of his actions as bore the marks of rational and evangelical notions. And now you will surely allow me to draw my pen against the fabrications, and against the extolling of absurdities, which we meet with in the legends.

(To be continued.)

OBSERVATIONS ON PRUSSIAN OFFICIAL PAPERS RESPECTING

THE CONDUCT OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF COLOGNE. The two Roman documents, given in the last number, exhibit the crooked policy pursued by the court of Rome. The object of the breve and the instruction evidently is, to appear to concede something, and yet in reality to gain an advantage. But they are more important still, in helping us to form an estimate of papal principles and practice in the nineteenth century. Romanists in this country continually accuse us of misrepresenting the tenets of their society, and especially the nature of papal dispensations. They solemnly deny that the pope has any authority to dispense with the laws of God, to permit any one to commit sin. In the documents now under consideration, he shews that the popular protestant opinion is no misconception, for here he first denounces a certain action as sinful, and then grants a faculty of dispensation, to allow men to commit it. Nothing can be stronger than the language in which Pius VIII. speaks of the sin of contracting a mixed marriage. He says

“ It is certain that catholic persons, whether male or female, who thus contract marriages with acatholics, and rashly expose themselves, or their future offspring, to the danger of perversion, not only violate the canonic sanctions, but also directly and grievously sin against natural and divine law."

And again, when a Roman-catholic woman wishes to marry a protestant, he says

“She is to be diligently instructed by the bishop, or parish priest, as to the ser. tence of the canons respecting such marriages, and seriously to be admonished of the grave wickedness of which she makes herself guilty before God, if she presume to violate them.”

And again, in the instruction“The catholic party sins most grievously, by contracting it contrary to the rules of the catholic religion."

And again, he says they contract it“ To the destruction of their souls."

What, then, would any rational man expect to be the answer of a Christian bishop, but, above all, of the supposed vicar of Christ, when asked to facilitate the commission of that which he pronounces

be a sin against canon, natural, and divine law

-a grave wickedness an act involving the soul's destruction of him that commits it? A mild but dignified refusal ; an explicit declaration, that even the successor of St. Peter cannot dispense with natural and divine law; a straightforward and conscientious explanation, addressed in all good faith to the pious King of Prussia, who, in recommending an application to the see of Rome, had himself manifested the sincerity of his intentions, and the tenderness of his respect for the consciences of his Roman-catholic subjects ? No such thing. He confesses that to grant the faculty of dispensation is to commit and encourage sin, He protests that he is most unwilling; that he is dragged and forced to it; but he does it notwithstanding. In the instruction to the four bishops, he fairly gives them the power of dispensing, if the Roman-catholic party remain obstinate, at the same time that, by a most unworthy and unchristian evasion, he endeavours, like one of old, to wash his hands of the guilt of consenting to what he has condemned as grievous sin.

“ But if any of the four often-mentioned bishops, moved by the gravity of the cause, should grant a dispensation from any of the aforesaid degrees (not, however, from any other degrees, nor from any other impediment) for the contracting of a mixed marriage, of this the supreme pontiff will never, by any act of his, approve. He will, however, tolerate it with a patient, though unwilling mind.”

What is it that Christ's vicar upon earth, and the successor of St. Peter, will tolerate with a patient though unwilling mind ? Nothing of consequence, only a grievous sin against canon, natural, and divine law; a venial indulgence, which will end in “the destruction of souls.” Pope Pius VIII. declares himself willing to tolerate sin, and to hear of the eternal ruin of some of his flock with a patient mind; and he gravely tells four bishops of the catholic church, that 5 this toleration will abundantly satisfy their consciences.” This toleration is nothing but a disgraceful quibble. Pius VIII. knew in his heart that toleration meant permission; and was not ignorant that he had it in his power, by a simple denial, to refuse any sanction to the transgression of the law of God. The question was proposed to him, whether a certain act was sinful. He answered, Yes, grievously sinful; awfully wicked. A second question was also added : Will you authorize us to give a dispensation for the commission of this grievous sin, this awful wickedness ? His holiness again said, Yes; I will give a faculty to four bishops to do so for five years.

What then were the overwhelming and irresistible circumstances that compelled the sovereign pontiff to tolerate sin with a patient though unwilling mind ? Perhaps the prospect of immediate and cruel death-or a Bartholomew's night enacted on monks and cardinals by the infuriated Prussian soldiery—or the Romanists of Prussia chained to the stake by the ministers of a protestant inquisition. Or perhaps he was betrayed into a sudden and precipitate act by the wiliness of Prussian diplomacy. By no means. The Prussian government was employed in protecting the Roman catholics in the enjoyment of the privileges secured to them by the peace of Westphalia and the congress of Vienna, in endowing the Roman-catholic cathedral chapters, and building the Roman-catholic cathedral of Cologne, at an expense of hundreds of thousands of Prussian dollars. There was not much in all this to excite the alarms of the pontiff. Neither was there indecent hurry on the part of the Prussian minister. The negotiations at Rome commenced formally in May, 1828; the answer did not follow until March, 1830; so that the pope had nearly two years to make up his mind to a patient toleration of awful wickedness. What then was the reason for so extraordinary a resolution?“ For the prevention of greater scandals.” This sounds well. The scandals to be tolerated with a patient mind were bad enough—nothing less than “grievous sin against natural and divine law," and “ destruction of souls.” If scandals greater than these could be prevented, one might have a little patience with this extraordinary toleration. What are then those unheard of monstrosities? The pope himself answers :“ Lest any tumult should be excited, and greater evils should result to the catholic interest.” “ To avert greater injuries to the catholic interest." “ Lest any odium be excited against the catholic religion;" or, as Cardinal Albani, in his instruction to the four bishops, says, “ His holiness, prostrate at the foot of the cross, protests that he is moved, or more truly dragged, to the aforesaid tolerance for no other reason than this, lest more grave disadvantages should accrue to the catholic religion.” That is, in plain English, the external depression of the church, the diminution of papal influence, and the loss of kingly protection, are “greater scandals” than “ grievous sin against natural and divine lawand “ the destruction of souls."

These documents shew us, then, that the papal doctrine of the nineteenth century is, that the pope can dispense with the law of God, and that the means sanctify the end. For the good of the church it is lawful even to tolerate sin with a patient mind. So much for the pope; now let us see the conduct of the Archbishop of Cologne. The Prussian government was by no means satisfied with this answer of the pope. In reality, it left the matter of mixed marriages nearly in statuo quo, and there was a want of open, straightforward deal. ing, which naturally excited a fear of future mischief. Application was made to the pope to procure something more satisfactory, but in vain. The Prussian government determined therefore to transmit the breve and the instruction to the four bishops, and to inquire whether they would feel themselves at liberty to conform the practice in their dioceses respecting mixed marriages to that prevailing in other parts of the monarchy. For this purpose, the Count von Spiegel of Desenburg, the predecessor of the present archbishop in the see of Cologne, was summoned to confer with the government at Berlin. He expressed his opinion of the possibility of obeying the law of the land, inasmuch as the pope did not actually require a promise to educate the children in the Romish church, and this promise had constituted the main difficulty. On the 19th of June, 1834, a formal agreement was therefore entered into between the archbishop and the government as to the future mode of proceeding. agreement was adopted by the suffragan bishops. The public mind was quieted, and peace prevailed as long as Count von Spiegel lived. On his death, it was the honest wish of the Prussian government that a really devout and pious man should succeed to the archiepiscopal

see, and they therefore fixed their eyes on the coadjutor-bishop of Münster, a man whose reputation for piety stood high, though already known to official persons as rather self-willed and troublesome. For this reason the minister thought it necessary in the first place to ascertain distinctly his sentiments respecting mixed marriages, and therefore wrote to a dignitary of the Münster cathedral, a particular friend of the coadjutor-bishop, to ask him, “ Whether he, as future bishop of one of these dioceses, would not only not attack or overturn the agreement of the 19th of June, 1834, but on the contrary be ready and anxious to uphold and receive it agreeably to the spirit of conciliation which dictated it?"

To prevent all misunderstanding, the minister named the agreement, and added the day and the year in which it was entered into. The question was not verbal, but written, and to it the coadjutorbishop gave a written answer—" That he would beware of not upholding that agreement, which, in conformity with the breve of Pope Pius VIII., had been entered into, and come into execution in the four dioceses mentioned, and still more so of attacking or overturning it, if such a thing were possible, and that he would employ it in the spirit of charity and the love of peace."

This answer was satisfactory. The pious king of Prussia could never suspect a Christian bishop of deceit or wilful falsehood. He therefore commanded a notification to be made to the chapter of Cologne that the government would have no objection to the election of the coadjutor-bishop of Münster to the archiepiscopal see; and he was accordingly unanimously elected. But scarcely had he been enthroned before loud complaints of his violent conduct were received from all sides. Parties who wished to enter into mixed marriages were summarily dismissed. Roman-catholic women married to protestants were not permitted to be churched. Certain priests, known as zealots, assumed a new and haughty tone. In order to know the real sentiments of the archbishop, the supreme president of the Rhine provinces requested his grace to issue instructions respecting mixed marriages to the provost of the collegiate church of Aix-la-Chapelle, which he did. His letter contains nothing particularly important for this sketch, except the admission—" That the agreement of 1834 was entered into in conformity with, and for the facilitating, the execution of the papal breve.” The minister looked upon it as an intimation that the archbishop would conscientiously obey the instruction. The complaints, however, continued. Remonstrances, conferences, and all sorts of negotiations followed, until the archbishop at last let out his real opinion, and formally declared—“ That he looked upon the permission in the instruction to celebrate the marriage, without a previous promise of the catholic education of the children, as manifestly contradicting the breve: that he had therefore instructed the pastors in such cases to refuse the celebration of the marriage until such promise had been given”--that is, he publicly and formally broke the solemn promise which he had given, and which was the express condition of his exaltation to the archiepiscopal see. He promised to uphold the agreement entered into by his predecessor. He did not uphold it. He promised never to attack or overturn it, even if such a thing were possible. He attacked and overturned it, as soon as he could, and commanded every priest in his diocese to do so too. And what is the apology of a Roman-catholic archbishop for doing the very contrary of that which he had promised to do. First, that when he made the promise to uphold the agreement he had never seen it. Secondly, that he only promised to uphold an agreement in conformity with the papal breve, but the agreement in question is not in conformity with it, therefore he is not bound to keep his promise. To which the Prussian government quietly replies, This may all be true; but then, if you cannot keep your promise, neither can you honestly keep your archbishopric, which you got on condition of keeping that promise. It may not have been your intention to deceive the government, but you have deceived it, through a rash and precipitate promise to maintain and uphold an agreement which you say that you never saw. If you wish to make the only compensation in your power, and at the same time clear yourself

from the appearance of evil, resign the office of which, through a mistake, you have wrongfully got possession. No honest man could long hesitate as to the course to be pursued. It was not the course, however, selected by the archbishop. He neither fulfilled his written engagement, nor resigned the office which that written engagement had procured for him. His whole conduct in this matter is as extraordinary as his professed ignorance. He was coadjutor to the bishop of Münster, who signed the agreement, and made it the rule of his conduct in his diocese; and this bishop was, besides, his own brother, and yet he knew nothing of it. Neither his own high office in the diocese, nor his fraternal intimacy with a brother, enabled him to understand the nature of the question proposed to him. He says, he could not ask his brother to let him have a sight of the document in question, for the Prussian minister had signified that the question was put confidentially; but why then did he not ask the minister himself to send him a copy before he made his promise? Why did he not say, I have never seen the document, and therefore as a conscientious man cannot bind myself to maintain and uphold what I have no knowledge of? There was no such hurry; the minister would have waited a post-day or two. Very strange that a Christian man should feel no scruples of conscience about promising to do he knows not what; and then should feel himself bound to break the promise. What an extreme simplicity of character! What an ignorance of the ways of the world! No doubt his conduct was very different from that of the most worldly men influenced by any sense of what the world calls honour. He was simple enough to promise without knowing or asking what he promised, but he was wise enough to put in a saving clause, which would enable him to break it, if the performance of the promise should prove disagreeable or inconvenient. He himself says, in his letter to the minister, “I therefore declared, and that advisedly, employing this very expression, that I would abide by the agreement made in conformity with the papal breve.” It seems, then, that this was a deliberate act--no oversight, no sudden surprise, but a well-weighed purpose, with an advised choice of the most suitable

« PreviousContinue »