6. The Encyclical of 1864

{262} THE subject of Conscience leads us to the Encyclical, which is one of the special objects of Mr. Gladstone's attack; and to do justice to it, I must, as in other sections, begin from an earlier date than 1864.

Modern Rome then is not the only place where the traditions of the old Empire, its principles, provisions, and practices, have been held in honour; they have been retained, they have been maintained in substance, as the basis of European civilization down to this day, and notably among ourselves. In the Anglican establishment the king took the place of the Pope; but the Pope's principles kept possession. When the Pope was ignored, the relations between Pope and king were ignored too, and therefore we had nothing to do any more with the old Imperial laws which shaped those relations; but the old idea of a Christian Polity was still in force. It was a first principle with England that there was one true religion, that it was inherited from an earlier time, that it came of direct Revelation, that it was to be supported to the disadvantage, to say the least, of other religions, of private judgment, of personal conscience. The Puritans held these principles as firmly as the school of Laud. As to the Scotch Presbyterians, {263} we read enough about them in the pages of Mr. Buckle. The Stuarts went, but still their principles suffered no dethronement: their action was restrained, but they were still in force, when this century opened.

It is curious to see how strikingly in this matter the proverb has been fulfilled, "Out of sight, out of mind." Men of the present generation, born in the new civilization, are shocked to witness in the abiding Papal system the words, ways, and works of their grandfathers. In my own lifetime has that old world been alive, and has gone its way. Who will say that the plea of conscience was as effectual, sixty years ago, as it is now in England, for the toleration of every sort of fancy religion? Had the Press always that wonderful elbow-room which it has now? Might public gatherings be held, and speeches made, and republicanism avowed in the time of the Regency, as is now possible? Were the thoroughfares open to monster processions at that date, and the squares and parks at the mercy of Sunday manifestations? Could savants in that day insinuate in scientific assemblies what their hearers mistook for atheism, and artisans practise it in the centres of political action? Could public prints day after day, or week after week, carry on a war against religion, natural and revealed, as now is the case? No; law or public opinion would not suffer it; we may be wiser or better now, but we were then in the wake of the Holy Roman Church, and had been so from the time of the Reformation. We were faithful to the tradition of fifteen hundred years. All this was called Toryism, and men gloried in the name; now it is called Popery and reviled. {264}

When I was young the State had a conscience, and the Chief Justice of the day pronounced, not as a point of obsolete law, but as an energetic, living truth, that Christianity was the law of the land. And by Christianity was meant pretty much what Bentham calls Church-of-Englandism, its cry being the dinner toast, "Church and king." Blackstone, though he wrote a hundred years ago, was held, I believe, as an authority on the state of the law in this matter, up to the beginning of this century. On the supremacy of Religion he writes as follows, that is, as I have abridged him for my purpose.

"The belief of a future state of rewards and punishments, &c., &c., ... these are the grand foundation of all judicial oaths. All moral evidence, all confidence in human veracity, must be weakened by irreligion, and overthrown by infidelity. Wherefore all affronts to Christianity, or endeavours to depreciate its efficacy, are highly deserving of human punishment. It was enacted by the statute of William III. that if any person educated in, and having made profession of, the Christian religion, shall by writing, printing, teaching, or advised speaking, deny the Christian religion to be true, or the Holy Scriptures to be of divine authority," or again in like manner, "if any person educated in the Christian religion shall by writing, &c., deny any one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity to be God, or maintain that there are more gods than one, he shall on the first offence be rendered incapable to hold any office or place of trust; and for the second, be rendered incapable of bringing any action, being guardian, executor, legatee, or purchaser of lands, {265} and shall suffer three years' imprisonment without bail. To give room, however, for repentance, if, within four months after the first conviction, the delinquent will in open court publicly renounce his error, he is discharged for that once from all disabilities."

Again: "those who absent themselves from the divine worship in the established Church, through total irreligion, and attend the service of no other persuasion, forfeit one shilling to the poor every Lord's day they so absent themselves, and £20 to the king, if they continue such a default for a month together. And if they keep any inmate, thus irreligiously disposed, in their houses, they forfeit £10 per month."

Further, he lays down that "reviling the ordinances of the Church is a crime of a much grosser nature than the other of non-conformity; since it carries with it the utmost indecency, arrogance, and ingratitude;—indecency, by setting up private judgment in opposition to public; arrogance, by treating with contempt and rudeness what has at least a better chance to be right than the singular notions of any particular man; and ingratitude, by denying that indulgence and liberty of conscience to the members of the national Church, which the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy."

Once more: "In order to secure the established Church against perils from non-conformists of all denominations, infidels, Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and sectaries, there are two bulwarks erected, called the Corporation and Test Acts; by the former, no person can be legally elected to any office relating to the Government of any city or corporation, unless, within a twelvemouth before, {266} he has received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the Church of England; … the other, called the Test Act, directs all officers, civil and military, to make the declaration against transubstantiation within six months after their admission, and also within the same time to receive the sacrament according to the usage of the Church of England." The same test being undergone by all persons who desired to be naturalized, the Jews also were excluded from the privileges of Protestant churchmen.

Laws, such as these, of course gave a tone to society, to all classes, high and low, and to the publications, periodical or other, which represented public opinion. Dr. Watson, who was the liberal prelate of his day, in his answer to Paine, calls him (unless my memory betrays me) "a child of the devil and an enemy of all righteousness." Cumberland, a man of the world, (here again I must trust to the memory of many past years) reproaches a Jewish writer with ingratitude for assailing, as he seems to have done, a tolerant religious establishment; and Gibbon, an unbeliever, feels himself at liberty, in his posthumous Autobiography, to look down on Priestly, whose "Socinian shield," he says, "has been repeatedly pierced by the mighty spear of Horsley, and whose trumpet of sedition may at length awake the magistrates of a free country."

Such was the position of free opinion and dissenting worship in England till quite a recent date, when one after another the various disabilities which I have been recounting, and many others besides, melted away, like snow at spring-tide; and we all wonder how they {267} could ever have been in force. The cause of this great revolution is obvious, and its effect inevitable. Though I profess to be an admirer of the principles now superseded in themselves, mixed up as they were with the imperfections and evils incident to everything human, nevertheless I say frankly I do not see how they could possibly be maintained in the ascendant. When the intellect is cultivated, it is as certain that it will develope into a thousand various shapes, as that infinite hues and tints and shades of colour will be reflected from the earth's surface, when the sunlight touches it; and in matters of religion the more, by reason of the extreme subtlety and abstruseness of the mental action by which they are determined. During the last seventy years, first one class of the community, then another, has awakened up to thought and opinion. Their multiform views on sacred subjects necessarily affected and found expression in the governing order. The State in past time had a conscience; George the Third had a conscience; but there were other men at the head of affairs besides him with consciences, and they spoke for others besides themselves, and what was to be done, if he could not work without them, and they could not work with him, as far as religious questions came up at the Council-board? This brought on a dead-lock in the time of his successor. The ministry of the day could not agree together in the policy or justice of keeping up the state of things which Blackstone describes. The State ought to have a conscience; but what if it happened to have half-a-dozen, or a score, or a hundred, in religious matters, each different from each? I think Mr. Gladstone has {268} brought out the difficulties of the situation himself in his Autobiography. No government could be formed, if religious unanimity was a sine qua non. What then was to be done? As a necessary consequence, the whole theory of Toryism, hitherto acted on, came to pieces and went the way of all flesh. This was in the nature of things. Not a hundred Popes could have hindered it, unless Providence interposed by an effusion of divine grace on the hearts of men, which would amount to a miracle, and perhaps would interfere with human responsibility. The Pope has denounced the sentiment that he ought to come to terms with "progress, liberalism, and the new civilization." I have no thought at all of disputing his words. I leave the great problem to the future. God will guide other Popes to act when Pius goes, as He has guided him. No one can dislike the democratic principle more than I do. No one mourns, for instance, more than I, over the state of Oxford, given up, alas! to "liberalism and progress," to the forfeiture of her great medieval motto, "Dominus illuminatio mea," and with a consequent call on her to go to Parliament or the Heralds' College for a new one; but what can we do? All I know is, that Toryism, that is, loyalty to persons, "springs immortal in the human breast"; that religion is a spiritual loyalty; and that Catholicity is the only divine form of religion. And thus, in centuries to come, there may be found out some way of uniting what is free in the new structure of society with what is authoritative in the old, without any base compromise with "Progress" and "Liberalism."

But to return:—I have noticed the great revolution in {269} the state of the Law which has taken place since 1828 for this reason:—to suggest that Englishmen, who within fifty years kept up the Pope's system, are not exactly the parties to throw stones at the Pope for keeping it up still.

But I go further:—in fact the Pope has not said on this subject of conscience (for that is the main subject in question) what Mr. Gladstone makes him say. On this point I desiderate that fairness in his Pamphlet which we have a right to expect from him; and in truth his unfairness is wonderful. He says, pp. 15, 16, that the Holy See has "condemned " the maintainers of "the Liberty of the Press, of conscience, and of worship." Again, that the "Pontiff has condemned free speech, free writing, a free press, toleration of non-conformity, liberty of conscience," p. 42. Now, is not this accusation of a very wholesale character? Who would not understand it to mean that the Pope had pronounced a universal anathema against all these liberties in toto, and that English law, on the contrary, allowed those liberties in toto, which the Pope had condemned? But the Pope has done no such thing. The real question is, in what respect, in what measure, has he spoken against liberty: the grant of liberty admits of degrees. Blackstone is careful to show how much more liberty the law allowed to the subject in his day, how much less severe it was in its safeguards against abuse, than it had used to be; but he never pretends that it is conceivable that liberty should have no boundary at all. The very idea of political society is based upon the principle that each {270} member of it gives up a portion of his natural liberty for advantages which are greater than that liberty; and the question is, whether the Pope, in any act of his which touches us Catholics, in any ecclesiastical or theological statement of his, has propounded any principle, doctrine, or view, which is not carried out in fact at this time in British courts of law, and would not be conceded by Blackstone. I repeat, the very notion of human society is a relinquishment, to a certain point, of the liberty of its members individually, for the sake of a common security. Would it be fair on that account to say that the British Constitution condemns all liberty of conscience in word and in deed?

We Catholics, on our part, are denied liberty of our religion by English law in various ways, but we do not complain, because a limit must be put to even innocent liberties, and we acquiesce in it for the social compensations which we gain on the whole. Our school boys cannot play cricket on Sunday, not even in country places, for fear of being taken before a magistrate and fined. In Scotland we cannot play music on Sundays. Here we cannot sound a bell for church. I have had before now a lawyer's authority for saying that a religious procession is illegal even within our own premises. Till the last year or two we could not call our Bishops by the titles which our Religion gave them. A mandate from the Home Secretary obliged us to put off our cassocks when we went out of doors. We are forced to pay rates for the establishment of secular schools which we cannot use, and then we have to find means over again for building schools of our own. Why is not all this as much {271} an outrage on our conscience as the prohibition upon Protestants at Rome, Naples, and Malaga, before the late political changes—(not, to hold their services in a private house, or in the ambassador's, or outside the walls),—but to flaunt them in public and thereby to irritate the natives? Mr. Gladstone seems to think it is monstrous for the Holy See to sanction such a prohibition. If so, may we not call upon him to gain for us in Birmingham "the free exercise of our religion," in making a circuit of the streets in our vestments, and chanting the "Pange Lingua," and the protection of the police against the mob which would be sure to gather round us—particularly since we are English born, whereas the Protestants at Malaga or Naples were foreigners [Note 1]. But we have the good sense neither to feel such disabilities a hardship, nor to protest against them as a grievance.

But now for the present state of English Law:—I say seriously Mr. Gladstone's accusation of us avails quite as much against Blackstone's four volumes, against laws in general, against the social contract, as against the Pope. What the Pope has said, I will show presently: first let us see what the statute book has to tell us about the present state of English liberty of speech, of the press, and of worship.

First, as to public speaking and meetings:—do we allow of seditious language, or of insult to the sovereign, or his representatives? Blackstone says, that a misprision is committed against him by speaking or writing against {272} him, cursing or wishing him ill, giving out scandalous stories concerning him, or doing anything that may tend to lessen him in the esteem of his subjects, may weaken his government, or may raise jealousies between him and his people. Also he says, that "threatening and reproachful words to any judge sitting in the Courts" involve "a high misprision, and have been punished with large fines, imprisonment, and corporal punishment." And we may recollect quite lately the judges of the Queen's Bench prohibited public meetings and speeches which had for their object the issue of a case then proceeding in Court.

Then, again, as to the Press, there are two modes of bridling it, one before the printed matter is published, the other after. The former is the method of censorship, the latter that of the law of libel. Each is a restriction on the liberty of the Press. We prefer the latter. I never heard it said that the law of libel was of a mild character; and I never heard that the Pope, in any Brief or Rescript, had insisted on a censorship.

Lastly, liberty of worship: as to the English restriction of it, we have had a notable example of it in the last session of Parliament, and we shall have still more edifying illustrations of it in the next, though certainly not from Mr. Gladstone. The ritualistic party, in the free exercise of their rights, under the shelter of the Anglican rubrics, of certain of the Anglican offices, of the teaching of their great divines, and of their conscientious interpretation of the Thirty-nine Articles have, at their own expense, built churches for worship after their own way; and, on the other hand, {273} Parliament and the newspapers are attempting to put them down, not so much because they are acting against the tradition and the law of the Establishment, but because of the national dislike and dread of the principles and doctrines which their worship embodies.

When Mr. Gladstone has a right to say broadly, by reason of these restrictions, that British law and the British people condemn the maintainers of liberty of conscience, of the press, and of worship, in toto, then may he say so of the Encyclical, on account of those words which to him have so frightful a meaning.

But now let us see, on the other hand, what the proposition really is, the condemnation of which leads him to say, that the Pope has unrestrictedly "condemned those who maintain the liberty of the Press, the liberty of conscience and of worship, and the liberty of speech," p. 16,—has "condemned free speech, free writing, and a free press," p.42. The condemned proposition speaks as follows:—

"Liberty of conscience and worship, is the inherent right of all men. 2. It ought to be proclaimed in every rightly constituted society. 3. It is a right to all sorts of liberty (omnimodam libertatem) such, that it ought not to be restrained by any authority, ecclesiastical or civil, as far as public speaking, printing, or any other public manifestation of opinions is concerned."

Now, is there any government on earth that could stand the strain of such a doctrine as this? It starts by taking for granted that there are certain Rights of man; Mr. Gladstone so considers, I believe; but other deep thinkers of the day are quite of another opinion; {274} however, if the doctrine of the proposition is true, then the right of conscience, of which it speaks, being inherent in man, is of universal force—that is, all over the world—also, says the proposition, it is a right which must be recognised by all rightly constituted governments. Lastly, what is the right of conscience thus inherent in our nature, thus necessary for all states? The proposition tells us. It is the liberty of every one to give public utterance, in every possible shape, by every possible channel, without any let or hindrance from God or man, to all his notions whatsoever [Note 2].

Which of the two in this matter is peremptory and sweeping in his utterance, the author of this thesis himself, or the Pope who has condemned what the other has uttered? Which of the two is it who would force upon the world a universal? All that the Pope has done is to deny a universal, and what a universal! a universal liberty to all men to say out whatever doctrines they may hold by preaching, or by the press, uncurbed by church or civil power. Does not this bear out what I said in the foregoing section of the sense in which Pope Gregory denied a "liberty of conscience"? It is a liberty of self-will. What if a man's conscience embraces the duty of regicide? or infanticide? or free love? You may say that in England the good sense of the nation would stifle and extinguish such atrocities. True, but the proposition says that it is the very right of every one, by nature, in {275} every well constituted society. If so, why have we gagged the Press in Ireland on the ground of its being seditious? Why is not India brought within the British constitution? It seems a light epithet for the Pope to use, when he calls such a doctrine of conscience deliramentum: of all conceivable absurdities it is the wildest and most stupid. Has Mr. Gladstone really no better complaint to make against the Pope's condemnations than this?

Perhaps he will say, Why should the Pope take the trouble to condemn what is so wild [Note 3]? But he does: and to say that he condemns something which he does not condemn, and then to inveigh against him on the ground of that something else, is neither just nor logical.

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Notes

1. "Hominibus illuc immigrantibus." These words Mr. Gladstone omits; also he translates "publicum" "free," pp. 17, 18, as if worship could not be free without being public.
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2. "Jus civibus inesse ad omnimodam libertatem, null‚ vel ecclesiastic‚ vel civili auctoritate coarctandam, quo suos conceptus quoscunque sive voce, sive typis, sive ali‚ ratione, palam publiceque manifestare ac declarare valeant."
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3. This question is directly answered, in the Postscript on this Section, infr. pp. 362-364.
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