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Saturday, November 22, 2014


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The Papacy In History And Prophecy




In France, after the death of King Henry IV, the Huguenots were frequently the subject of Catholic persecu-


tion organized and implemented by the famous Cardinal Richelieu. By him they were, as a distinct political organization, effectively suppressed. After Richelieu's death his successors stepped up their organized purges and in 1679 an extensive system of proselytizing was organized. Harsh punishment was threatened to every Roman Catholic who should go over to the Protestant Church, whilst Huguenots were by degrees excluded from all offices and dignities. At length the atrocious scheme of the dragonnade, or the billeting of soldiers in Huguenot families, was resorted until in 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked by the King at the instigation of the Church. Thousands fled and hundreds were massacred.

The next century signalized the breaking away from the traditions of the past in every department of thought and inquiry. Although wholesome progress was made in many fields, it was not tempered by religious aspirations and resulted in a bias towards skepticism and unbelief. Men were tired with the warfare of creeds which had chilled the spirit of piety. The conflicts of the eighteenth century were dynastic and not religious struggles, caused mainly by the ambition of Kings rather than prelates.

An event highly important in itself and at the same time well adapted to illustrate the character of the age, was the downfall of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. In the 1700's they comprised approximately 20,000 members who were busily at work in all parts of the world. They owned huge amounts of property and held the education of youth in their grasp. Some of their doctrines, such as "moral probableism" and some of their actions, became obnoxious to the people of Europe. More than one pontiff in the latter part of the 17th century had interposed to condemn the unethical precepts the Jesuits taught.

The Jesuits at the outset were obedient to the pope and devoted to building up his authority, but this changed and soon they began to put their order first. The first serious collision between the Jesuits and the Church arose over the conduct of the Jesuit missionaries. They taught that converts could retain their heathen practices and still become Christians. This provoked hostility from the pope himself. Repeated edicts of the Roman See were stubbornly disregarded and resisted by the Jesuits of the East until finally in 1741 they gave way.

What brought to pass their downfall was their active interference in political affairs and the way in which they engaged in trade and commercial speculations. Their missionary stations were in reality factions and the centers of commercial speculations. In 1759 they were expelled from


Portugal, 1767 expelled from France and in 1773 abolished by the Pope.

In Europe as well, reforms, looking to the independence of states and the reduction of foreign ecclesiastical influence, were vigorously undertaken. In 1780 Joseph II, Emperor of Austria issued edicts of toleration. Protestantism was protected, the Church was now to be governed by the sovereign and the jurisdiction of the pope was reduced to the narrowest limits. No titles could be conferred nor could any papal decree be published without the emperor's consent. Joseph even ordered a few well established bulls to be torn out of the ritual book. Unfortunately Joseph's successors gradually restored the former religious status in the Austrian dominions.

The example of Joseph II however was contagious and various plans of reform in different countries took place, the greatest of which was the French Revolution in which the king nobles and clergy were expelled. The Church in France held an immense amount of land, controlled a multitude of peasants and reaped a vast income from tithes and taxes. Prelates lived at a distance from their dioceses and expended their revenues in indolence and luxurious pleasures. The common priests; who managed education, were as a rule ignorant, and the other ecclesiastics were full of infidelity.

In 1789 the States-General was called to investigate the impoverishment of the public treasury and the Church, with its immense wealth, could not fail to be an immediate object of attention. Church property was consequently confiscated and ecclesiastics were to receive a salary from the State. This was followed by the abolition of cloisters and all nuns and monks were released from their vows. To these measures the pope was naturally hostile and the requirement that the clergy should swear allegiance to the new constitution and not himself, brought on a collision. The pope, in 1791, issued a bull which banned all priests who took the vow, but this went unheeded by the government. On 21.9.1792 the National Convention proclaimed France, a republic and in 1793 condemned Louis XVI to death. The emigration of the nobles and priests and the aggressive measures of foreign powers hostile to the Revolution, infused a fanatical violence amongst the revolutionaries and after much bloodshed the Catholic religion was formerly abolished as being hostile to the republic.

In 1791 the National Assembly annexed the papal districts of Avignon and Venaissin and Pope Pius VI protested. He then, as in former days, united with the allied sovereigns who opposed France and began to agitate. He did not


foresee the rise of Napoleon however, who in 1797 invaded Italy and took command of the pope. The French then sacked Rome. In the same year though a French general lost his life and therefore Napoleon returned and took Pius captive. Despite this seeming opposition to Catholicism Napoleon concluded a concordat with Pius VII in 1801, in which the Catholic religion was declared to be the majority of the French people but was strictly under the control of the French Government. Next year saw the laws of the government which modelled the Church along the lines of reform instituted by Joseph II in Austria and despite the pope's opposition, he came to Paris in 1804 to crown Napoleon.

When however several years after (1808) the emperor went so far as to demand the creation of a Patriarch of France to be appointed by himself, and to require the pope to join in with him against England, Pius refused. As a penalty his states were annexed to the French Empire the next year. A papal bull of excommunication against all unrighteous assailants of the Holy See was issued, and Napoleon was privately informed afterwards that he was included amongst them. The pope was consequently carried as a prisoner first to Savona and then to France. Under these trying circumstances Pius VII maintained his position with firmness but was at length induced to make large concessions. Unfortunately for France the conflict between the two ended with the fall of Napoleon and the triumph of the allies in 1814. But in whatever part of Europe the influence of Napoleon had been felt the civil authority was made supreme, the authority of the papacy was curtailed and made subject to the rulers of the State, and institutions, like monastic establishments were swept away. The mediaeval was transformed into the modern state.



The fall of Napoleon restored Pius VII to Rome and enabled him to resume the exercise of his pontifical authority. Russia, Prussia and Austria formed Holy Alliance by which they agreed to stamp out popular insurrections and rule with absolute sway. The pope supported this and restored the Inquisition and the Index whilst at the same time reviving the Jesuit order in 1814. In Spain and France the bishops again rose in ascendancy and stirred the Catholics to rise against the Protestants. This they did in 1815 slaying hundreds of them until the government interfered. Pius was succeeded in 1823 by a papal absolutist, Leo XII. His adherents proclaimed the pope supreme over secular rulers, the Jesuits were favoured and exalted whilst the papal kingdom was miserably governed.


France broke into revolution again in 1830 and the leader Louis Philippe put an end to the domination of the clerical party and deprived the Jesuits of their new found power. In 1831 the doctrine of freedom of worship, liberty of conscience and liberty of the press came from Paris but was solidly opposed by pope Gregory XVI.

Gregory died in 1846 and this gave rise to liberal pope, Pius IX who much against the desires of the European monarchs supported the liberal inclinations of the fomenting tide, of revolutionary thinking. As temporal power of the papal states of Italy he began encouraging popular government but when he refused to give his blessing to an army of liberals who intended driving the Austrians out in 1848, his popularity vanished. The liberals began then to demand more concessions and then after riots occurred Pius fled in Nov. 1848. Mazzini and Garibaldi took power and formed a revolutionary government.

Louis Napoleon of France however alarmed at this restored the Pope under French protection. He, did not find it easy however for he underestimated the tenacity of Garibaldi. In 1849 Rome was opened to the French. The pope by this time had learnt not to support liberalism and on his restoration tended back to an authoritarian direction. The continual upheavals and revolutions which took place all over Europe in 1848 convinced him of the danger of liberalism.

Pius IX after a turbulent beginning now began to sail in calmer waters during the 1850's but this was just a lull before, the storm.



After the collapse of the revolutions of 1848-49 the eyes of Italy looked for help which would be able to rid the peninsula of French and Austrians alike. In Piedmont there was one prince who maintained a constitution - Victor Emmanuel II and he had an army as well. In this small independent state the Church had no control of education, courts, sanctuary rights, feast days and the press. The Pope was alarmed at this and saw that if Italy became united that papal states would be totally abolished.

In July 1858 Emperor Napoleon III and Cavour (Emmanuel's premier) held a secret interview to liquidate the papal states and in 1858 they drove the Austrians out of northern Italy. Seeing his protectors gone the pope set about raising a task-force of international volunteers to reinforce his small professional army in defence of the papacy.


A recruiting campaign was launched in Ireland (until stopped by Britain) in Belgium, in France (until Napoleon stopped it) in Austria, in Poland, in Spain and in Portugal. When they arrived they were trained in the old coach houses and cellars of the Vatican.

In 1860 Garibaldi arrived with his "Thousand" in Sicily and began his lightning advance through the island on to Naples. At the same time Victor Emmanuel's troops moved south and attached a few more papal states to their dominion. The papal armies were disastrously defeated and the papal power became reduced to a narrow strip of land along the western coast of Italy. Garibaldi, however was defeated in the south but the pope still recognised that the survival of Rome depended on the goodwill of the French Government which alone was strong enough to prevent Emmanuel's army occupying the city.

Under the delicately balanced politics of the later half of the 1860's Pius IX invited 800 ecclesiastics from all over the world to form the Vatican Council to reassert the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church in an age of disbelief and scepticism. The main task of the Council however defined the nature of the Church, her authority and her relations with the state. It was in the year 1870 that the Council ruled (after 300 walked out) that the pope is infallible only when speaking "ex cathedra" i.e. when occupying the papal chair and speaking to the whole Church.

The final crisis in the liquidation of the papal states came just after the Council had concluded. In July 1870 Napoleon declared war on Prussia and consequently the French army left Rome but Napoleon's empire came to end in September of the same year. This was the opportunity Emmanuel had been waiting for and sent an envoy to the Pope stating that he proposed to take over Rome "to maintain order" but the pope rejected the ultimatum, and awaited the outcome. Victor Emmanuel and his Peidmontese army moved in overthrew the resisting army and officially proclaimed Rome the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy.

Pius IX was then stripped of his temporal power and allowed to use the Vatican while still retaining his own personal guard. The prestige of the pope within the Church may have been very high after 1870; but outside the Church and especially in the chancelleries of the great states it was desperately low and the governments felt free as never before to attack both the Church and her head in every possible way.