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FRENCH INFLUENCE AT THE VATICAN.
SINCE the memorable quarrel of Philip le Bel with Boniface VIII, French influence has been felt more or less in the Vatican. Indirectly, all Europe has experienced good or evil from it. We propose in this article to review a certain series of facts, gathered from authentic sources, and illustrating the extent and nature of the interference of France in the affairs of the Papacy. The documents alluded to are some of them published for the first time, but the majority are taken from the Papal archives of the exLegations of Bologna, &c. A few years ago there appeared at Florence an official publication entitled, Il Governo Pontificio e lo stato Romano: Documenti preceduti da una Esposizione Storica, e raccolti, per Decreto delle Romagne, dal Cav. Achille Gennarelli, &c. This collection of records reveals the most intimate relations between the Vatican and France. For a full appreciation of the means that led to them we must look to the history of Pius VII. A great many facts respecting the dealings of this Pontiff with Napoleon I. came under the writer's notice at Rome, and possess especial interest at the present time.
The maxim of Marcellin, Roma dum erunt homines victuras, was never so much falsified as now, when she is seeking to fortify herself by a spiritual panoply against the assault of impatient liberalism on the one hand, and of a native population desperate under aggravated misrule on the other. Statesmen in and about the Vatican have long ago, as far back as the inception of the council, looked upon the situation in its more important aspects as hopeless. "A change," said Antonelli, "must bring improvement; for we have almost come to the dernier ressort." The sunken rock, so constantly menacing the Papacy, is Bankruptcy. The "four brigands," as the Romans style the brothers Antonelli, are the pecuniary vam
pires of the treasury. The public purse in their hand is "a bag with holes." Almost every resource has been exhausted to raise money, and the Council is the last and most desperate.
No one acquainted with history can doubt that, politically, the policy of Rome has since the death of Boniface VIII been suicidal. The Papal throne was filled by ambitious but inefficient men, who opposed themselves blindly to every sign of progress among the nations, entrusting themselves with excommunicating their enemies and making monks. Thus the crisis was superinduced that tore the greater half of Europe from Roman moorings. On the subsidence of the troubles produced by the Reformation, the Papacy ranked only among the feeblest powers. Henceforth all hope of domination over nations was chimerical. Thus the affairs of the Papacy since the Council of Trent are totally insignificant till the advent of Napoleon I. Following in well-worn paths, Rome, like a squirrel in its cage, went round with the revolution of years, but never advanced. Its chief care was to preserve the débris of immense revenues. With an administration totally ineffective, a police supine and indiscreet, a neglect of all sanitary and architectural improvements, the people of Rome became the most devout in religion, but the most dissolute in morals of every European nationality. The Reformation of the sixteenth century gradually produced the political revolutions of the eighteenth. And Rome was destined to feel the reflux of the mighty wave that swept away thrones and dynasties centuries old. Her spiritual prestige has failed. Men fear no longer to discuss her dogmas as they discuss any dogma of philosophy and science. She cries, "to doubt is to be damned;" but men doubt more and more.
The victorious armies of France, having subdued all Italy under the leadership of Bonaparte, wrung from Pius VI the Bull consenting to the conditions imposed by the conqueror.
This is the commencement of a new phase in Roman political history. The act of the Pope, probably the least honorable of his life, revealed a character ready at any time to sacrifice to circumstances far more than they demanded. Pusillanimity and maladresse are evident in his conduct to the French, whose views he sought henceforth to second. He baptizes the ensanguined banner of '89 with the benison of the Church. "Be good Christians," he says, " and you will be excellent republicans. The first Christians were animated with the spirit of democracy. The labors of Cato and the illustrious republicans of Rome met with Divine favor."
Nevertheless, the French were unpopular at Rome, and the people took violent means to testify their aversion. The French ambassador was insulted and his palace mobbed. And finally, feeling that despite flattering words the Pope was their secret enemy, the French entered Rome, overturned the chair of Peter, and arrested Pius VI. He died an exile and a prisoner at Valence, August, 1799.
A despatch recently discovered proves that at this period the Cardinals secretly recognized the royal rights of the House of Bourbon. The Conclave assembled at Venice, and thence issued the usual announcement to the kings of Europe of their intention to elect a Pope. Louis XVIII thus replied:
the Church in France, and, it is now well known, nominated Cardinal Chiaramonti as the man with whom he preferred to deal. By a unanimous vote, this prelate was elected March 14, 1800. He embarked for Rome the sixth of the following June, hoping to recover something of the dethroned power of the Papacy. The character of the new Pontiff was mild and conciliating, but the policy of his council frequently opposed his personal predilections, and frequently prompted resolutions that were harmful to himself, to religion, and to Rome.
His first act was the reëstablishment of the Society of Jesus-it is now evident, from recently discovered papers, from no liking of the Order. In France, where they had intrigued the most, their abolition was thus decreed: "The Order is inadmissible by its nature in any state, as contrary to natural rights, aiming at the destruction of every kind of authority temporal and spiritual, and tending to introduce into the state, under the specious disguise of a religious institution, . . . a corps politique, whose essence consists in a ceaseless activity to accomplish their plans by any sort of means, direct or indirect, public or secret."
This Order, whose reat power lies in fostering the latent passions of unrestrained human nature, attempts now, as then, to invade society, and subjugate opposition by the most formidable of weapons, missions and schools. Despite their complete abolition in France, what is the actual state of affairs? In every town of note in France there is a Jesuit, engaged as a secular priest or private tutor. When the time comes that it may be done with safety, they will spring up like the tares of the field. Nor are they careful to disguise the fact. Père Ravignan, a popular Paris preacher, is a Jesuit, and they are tolerated by the ultramontane party everywhere. Conceive a Jesuit, if you can. The authority of his chief, the General at the Jesu, is boundless. He must be obeyed in all and everywhere. To quote the Constitutions of Ignatius Loyola, he is "a stick in the hand of him who carries it, a corpse in
capable of resistance." He must rcnounce his own senses and reasoning powers, and believe that he who commands is always right, obeying without reasoning or hesitation. It is the totality of authority. "Je vois Jésus-Christ lui-même dans mon supérieur," says Ravignan. The entire possessions of the Order, its administration, its direction, are all centred in the General. Upon his will depends the destiny of each member, the existence and condition of his person, his actions and goods, his conscience, his doctrines and teachings, and his manner of thinking on all points. Thus the spirit of the chief animates the body and all its members. He is therefore more potent than a king at the head of armies. His militia, immense in numbers and perfect in discipline, is spread everywhere; a militia composed of slaves to their chief, and of tyrants and spies to their equals and subordinates. In uniting itself to the Jesuits, the court of Rome has obtained auxiliaries whose secret power is enormous; whose force and devotion and perseverance overcome almost every obstacle, and who are bound by no tie civil or political.
They were reëstablished by two Briefs, bearing date March 7, 1801, and June 30, 1804. The almost inevitable result of their presence is the production of bigotry and ultramontanism. Since they have crept into France, these two principles have flourished; and the Romish sect in England and America exhibits the same peculiarity from the
The Concordat of 1801 now claims attention. To understand its importance, we require to glance at the political and religious situation in France. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, decreed in 1790 by the Assembly, had been denounced by the Pope as contrary to the canonical rights of the Holy See. He forbade the clergy to submit to it, under pain of excommunication. A certain number, however, did take the required oath, but the majority refused. The first were known by the name of constitutionnels and assermentés. These alone continued the free exercise of
their functions. The remainder either emigrated or were massacred.
On the 18th Brumaire, Napoleon was placed at the head of the Republic, and at once commenced measures to heal existing religious dissensions. M. Portalis, in the Corps Législatif, demonstrated the general necessity of religion, and that the majority of Frenchmen adhered to the Catholic phase of it. The Popes were harmless, and the monks abolished, reasoned the orator, and the clergy to be established would be "intéressés à défendre nos maximes comme leur propre liberté." The provisions of the Concordat assured to the Romish Church in France full and free exercise of worship and teaching, and revoking all nominations to Sees, declared that the nomination should rest in the First Consul, with canonical institution by the Pope. The clergy were to take oath of fidelity to the state, and to reveal all plots contrary to its welfare. The Pope engaged not to molest the temporalities of the bishops, and by this act, illegally, and contrary to their protest, deprived thirty bishops of their Sees. The Gallican Church became a mere creature of the state, and the Pope and Napoleon might well say, "With my prefects, my gensdarmes, and my priests, I can do whatever I choose."
The Organic Articles which followed the Concordat defined the rights and privileges of the Gallican Church, and became the sole code having legal authority. They did not please the Pope, and in a secret Consistory held May 24, 1802, he remarked that "the joy which he felt at the happy restoration of religion in France was not exempt from disquietude." His complaints to Napoleon were answered by the memorable declaration that the sovereigns of France regarded themselves as évêques du dehors, and as such reserved the right of regulating the discipline of the Church. Soon afterwards, the First Consul assumed the imperial crown, and offered his alliance to the Pontiff. These offers were appreciated by him, for probably he hoped to gain the restitution of the legations torn from the Roman authority by the treaty
of Solentino. Consequently, on the second of November, 1804, Pius VII left Rome for Paris. The coronation itself was a mere theatrical exhibition, possessing no real element of grandeur, because all was hollow and untrue. The conduct of the Pope in the affair was severely censured by the ultramontanes, especially as nothing came by it. Pius VII left Paris with flattering promises and gifts, but nothing more.
It is fairly questionable whether Napoleon cared any thing for priests. He regarded them as a necessary constituent of society. In this light he was ever ready to bestow upon them as much good as might be safely given. But always the first idea was personal advantage: "l'état, c'est moi." The clergy were made to feel that their safety and well-being was united to that of the Empire. But it is not a little that will content Rome; and her discontent caused the formation of a party that singularly enough had for its head in France the Cardinal Fesch. The Emperor, much annoyed, actually contemplated a complete separation of Church and State, and, in imitation of Peter the Great, to declare himself head of the Gallican Church. At this juncture Rome united with England, Austria, and Naples, which terminated in the victorious field of Austerlitz, and the dethronement of Ferdinand of Bourbon. Rome was filled with Neapolitan refugees, and the Austrian Ambassador, with the gold and secret diplomaoy of England, encouraged her to countenance and abet all sorts of intrigues against France. As a decisive method of cutting the Gordian knot, Napoleon forwarded to the Vatican his ultimatum of January 9, 1808. Five days were allowed the Pope for deliberation upon eight very disagreeable propositions:
1st. The establishment of a Patriarch in France; 2d. The adoption of the Code Napoléon; 3d. Liberty of worship for all; 4th. The reform of the Italian Episcopate; 5th. The abolition of Pontifical Bulls for Italy; 6th. The total abolition of the religious orders; 7th. The abolition of clerical celibacy; 8th.
The anointing of Joseph Bonaparte as King of the two Sicilies.
The ultimatum was rejected February 29, 1808; and a short time afterwards six thousand Frenchmen, commanded by General Miollis, entered Rome. A hollow peace was nevertheless observed, but it was destined to be broken by a very trifling incident. Cardinal Pacca was commanded to write the following letter to the French commandant, which we give in the original:
"Sa sainteté, ayant appris que le Général Miollis a invité à diner tous les individus du Sacré-College, a ordonné a son prosecretaire d'état de signifier à votre Excellence, qu'elle aime à croire que, vu les tribulations où se trouve Sa Sainteté, aucun des cardinaux n'acceptera une telle invitation."
Immediately certain cardinals, natives of Naples and subjects of the King of Italy, were ordered to quit Rome, the Pontifical troops were united to the French army, receiving a new cockade, and the rupture was completed by the promulgation of an excommunication against the Emperor, March 27, 1808. The priests in the annexed provinces were forbidden by the Pope to make oath of allegiance to the new government, or to sing Te Deum for victories, or make prayers for the army. In retaliation the Secretary of State was ordered to quit Rome in two days, and on the 17th of May, 1809, the states of the Church were annexed to the kingdom of Italy. As of old, the Pope had recourse to the mightiest weapon in his spiritual armory, an Anathema. It fell powerless for two months afterwards; the aged Pontiff was with scant ceremony hurried into his carriage, and conveyed a prisoner to France. Misfortune is to some characters a boon. The life of the Pontiff as a captive is by far the most brilliant portion of his reign.
The result of the captivity was a new Concordat of 1813, which was broken almost as soon as made. On the 22d of January of the following year the Pope was restored to liberty, and offered a portion of his estates. But it was then too late to dictate, and the offer was
refused. A few days later the fall of Napoleon restored to Pius VII the appanage of Peter.
Circumstances had considerably changed in France before a new Concordat was broached. The restoration of 1814, in breaking the sword that had governed France, almost annihilated her military prestige. To ideas of force, preponderance, and perhaps of universal monarchy succeeded those of moderation, of justice, and internal prosperity. A peaceful sceptre had replaced the truncheon of the military chief. Necessarily, religious ideas revived under the new order of things. And the old Concordat being declared null, a new one was contemplated. It was signed June 11, 1817. By this new document all preceding concordats were revoked. The Sees abolished by the Bull of November 29, 1802, were restored, and the State engaged to subsidize the whole, as well as seminaries and curés.
The immediate result was general discontent. It would be easy to show from statements of prelates, that the practical working of the Concordat has been the total subjugation of the clergy to the bishops, and of the bishops to the Pope. Cardinal Bonnechose said in the senate, "each of us has an army at command, and it marches." From the time of the restoration to the revolution of 1848, the interposition of France in the affairs of Rome is not conspicuous. When, however, the Romans declared a republic, and Pius IX, in the habit of a menial, ignominiously fled from Rome, the French once more interposed. It is well known by the initiated that secret promises of assistance had been given by. the republican party in France to the republican party at Rome. But Louis Napoleon, in restoring the rule of the Bonapartes, knew that the Pope might become a useful ally. So this man, whose first act of importance was to appear in arms a rebel against the Papal government, as a ruler turned the arms of France against the victorious republic. When, after three days of heroic fighting, traces of which are still VOL. VI.-31
seen in the ruined Villa Pamfilia and the church of San Pancrazio, General Oudinot entered Rome, the people cried, Liberty forever! Down with the Pope-King!" General Bartolucci, commandant of the Roman cavalry, refused overtures of conciliation, and chose with all the other leaders voluntary exile. The first act of the French General was to publish an order of the day abolishing the National Guard, and to reestablish it on its ancient principles. The first act was to please the Pope; the second secured to the people a material guarantee of their liberties. The second article was never executed; and thus, breaking its own plighted word, the Vatican made France a particeps criminis. The manifesto of General Oudinot was followed by the letter of Louis Napoleon to Edgar Ney, protesting that France could only be the minister of civilized and rational government. Apparently, he had perceived that there was no hope that Pius IX would keep the pledges of reform made at the beginning of his reign. The President's despatch produced the following note from the Roman Court:
"MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AND REVEREND SIR: A letter which assumes to be written by the President of the French Republic to Lieutenant-Colonel Ney in Rome has given increased audacity to the band of libertines, the sworn enemies of the Pontifical government; and rumors are everywhere spread about that it is intended to impose burdensome conditions on the Holy See. anarchical party, in consequence of these expectations, displays an insulting attitude, as it believes and hopes to recover itself from the discomfiture it has un
dergone. But this letter HAS NOT ANY OFFICIAL CHARACTER, being merely the product of a private correspondence. I will add, also, that even by the French authorities in Rome it is viewed with displeasure. The Holy Father is seriously occupying himself about giving to his subjects such reforms as he believes useful to their true and solid
good; nor has any power imposed laws upon him in reference to this, he aiming to attain so important an end without betraying the duties of his own conscience.