1. Introductory Remarks

{179} THE main question which Mr. Gladstone has started I consider to be this:—Can Catholics be trustworthy subjects of the State? has not a foreign Power a hold over their consciences such, that it may at any time be used to the serious perplexity and injury of the civil government under which they live? Not that Mr. Gladstone confines himself to these questions, for he goes out of his way, I am sorry to say, to taunt us with our loss of mental and moral freedom, a vituperation which is not necessary for his purpose at all. He informs us too that we have "repudiated ancient history," and are rejecting modern "thought," and that our Church has been "refurbishing her rusty tools," and has been lately aggravating, and is likely still more to aggravate, our state of bondage. I think it unworthy of Mr. Gladstone's high character thus to have inveighed against us; what intellectual manliness is left to us according to him? yet his circle of acquaintance is too wide, and his knowledge of his countrymen on the other hand too accurate, for him not to know that he is bringing a great amount of odium and bad feeling upon excellent men, whose only offence is their religion. The more {180} intense is the prejudice with which we are regarded by whole classes of men, the less is there of generosity in his pouring upon us superfluous reproaches. The graver the charge which is the direct occasion of his writing against us, the more careful should he be not to prejudice judge and jury to our disadvantage. No rhetoric is needed in England against an unfortunate Catholic at any time; but so little is Mr. Gladstone conscious of his treatment of us, that in one place of his Pamphlet, strange as it may seem, he makes it his boast that he has been careful to "do nothing towards importing passion into what is matter of pure argument," pp. 15, 16. I venture to think he will one day be sorry for what he has said.

However, we must take things as we find them; and what I propose to do is this—to put aside, unless it comes directly in my way, his accusation against us of repudiating ancient history, rejecting modern thought, and renouncing our mental freedom, and to confine myself for the most part to what he principally insists upon, that Catholics, if they act consistently with their principles, cannot be loyal subjects;—I shall not, however, omit notice of his attack upon our moral uprightness.

The occasion and the grounds of Mr. Gladstone's impeachment of us, if I understand him, are as follows:—He was alarmed, as a statesman, ten years ago by the Pope's Encyclical of December 8, and by the Syllabus of Erroneous Propositions which, by the Pope's authority, accompanied its transmission to the bishops. Then came {181} the Definitions of the Vatican Council in 1870, upon the universal jurisdiction and doctrinal infallibility of the Pope. And lastly, as the event which turned alarm into indignation, and into the duty of public remonstrance, "the Roman Catholic Prelacy of Ireland thought fit to procure the rejection of" the Irish University Bill of February, 1873, "by the direct influence which they exercised over a certain number of Irish Members of Parliament," &c. p. 60. This step on the part of the bishops showed, if I understand him, the new and mischievous force which had been acquired at Rome by the late acts there, or at least left him at liberty, by causing his loss of power, to denounce it. "From that time forward the situation was changed," and an opening was made for a "broad political discussion" on the subject of the Catholic religion and its professors, and "a debt to the country had to be disposed of." That debt, if I am right, will be paid, if he can ascertain, on behalf of the country, that there is nothing in the Catholic Religion to hinder its professors from being as loyal as other subjects of the State, and that the See of Rome cannot interfere with their civil duties so as to give the civil power trouble or alarm. The main ground on which he relies for the necessity of some such inquiry is, first, the text of the authoritative documents of 1864 and 1870; next, and still more, the animus which they breathe, and the sustained aggressive spirit which they disclose; and thirdly, the daring deed of aggression in 1873, when the Pope, acting (as it is alleged) upon the Irish Members of Parliament, succeeded in ousting from their seats a ministry who, besides past benefits, were at that very {182} time doing for Irish Catholics, and therefore ousted for doing, a special service.

Now, it would be preposterous and officious in me to put myself forward as champion for the Venerable Prelacy of Ireland, or to take upon myself the part of advocate and representative of the Holy See. "Non tali auxilio;" in neither character could I come forward without great presumption; not the least for this reason, because I cannot know the exact points which are really the gist of the affront, which Mr. Gladstone conceives he has sustained, whether from the one quarter or from the other; yet in a question so nearly interesting myself as that February bill, which he brought into the House, in great sincerity and kindness, for the benefit of the Catholic University in Ireland, I may be allowed to say thus much—that I, who now have no official relation to the Irish Bishops, and am not in any sense in the counsels of Rome, felt at once, when I first saw the outline of that bill, the greatest astonishment on reading one of its provisions, and a dread which painfully affected me, lest Mr. Gladstone perhaps was acting on an understanding with the Catholic Prelacy. I did not see how in honour they could accept it. It was possible, did the question come over again, to decide in favour of the Queen's Colleges, and to leave the project of a Catholic University alone. The Holy See might so have decided in 1847. But at or about that date, three rescripts had come from Rome in favour of a distinctively Catholic Institution; a National Council had decided in its favour; large offers of the Government had been rejected; great commotions had been caused in the political world; munificent contributions {183} had been made;—all on the sole principle that Catholic teaching was to be upheld in the country inviolate. If, then, for the sake of a money grant, or other secular advantage, this ground of principle was deserted, and Catholic youths after all were allowed to attend the lectures of men of no religion, or of the Protestant, the contest of thirty years would have been stultified, and the Pope and the Bishops would seem to have been playing a game, while putting forward the plea of conscience and religious duty. I hoped that the clause in the Bill, which gave me such uneasiness, could have been omitted from it; but, anyhow, it was an extreme relief to me when the papers announced that the Bishops had expressed their formal dissatisfaction with it.

They determined to decline a gift laden with such a condition, and who can blame them for so doing? who can be surprised that they should now do what they did in 1847? what new move in politics was it, if they so determined? what was there in it of a factious character? Is the Catholic Irish interest the only one which is not to be represented in the House of Commons? Why is not that interest as much a matter of right as any other? I fear to expose my own ignorance of Parliamentary rules and proceedings, but I had supposed that the railway interest, and what is called the publican interest, were very powerful there: in Scotland, too, I believe, a government has a formidable party to deal with; and, to revert to Ireland, there are the Home-rulers, who have objects in view quite distinct from, or contrary to, those of the Catholic hierarchy. As to the Pope, looking at the surface of things, there is nothing to suggest that he {184} interfered, there was no necessity of interference, on so plain a point; and, when an act can be sufficiently accounted for without introducing an hypothetical cause, it is bad logic to introduce it. Speaking according to my lights, I altogether disbelieve the interposition of Rome in the matter. In the proceedings which they adopted, the Bishops were only using civil rights, common to all, which others also used and in their own way. Why might it not be their duty to promote the interests of their religion by means of their political opportunities? Is there no Exeter Hall interest? I thought it was a received theory of our Reformed Constitution that Members of Parliament were representatives, and in some sort delegates of their constituents, and that the strength of each interest was shown, and the course of the nation determined, by the divisions in the House of Commons. I recollect the Times intimating its regret, after one general election, that there was no English Catholic in the new House, on the ground that every class and party should be represented there. Surely the Catholic religion has not a small party in Ireland; why then should it not have a corresponding number of exponents and defenders at Westminster? So clear does this seem to me, that I think there must be some defect in my knowledge of facts to explain Mr. Gladstone's surprise and displeasure at the conduct of the Irish Prelacy in 1873; yet I suspect none; and, if there be none, then his unreasonableness in this instance of Ireland makes it not unlikely that he is unreasonable also in his judgment of the Encyclical, Syllabus, and Vatican Decrees. {185}

However, the Bishops, I believe, not only opposed Mr. Gladstone's bill, but, instead of it, they asked for some money grant towards the expenses of their University. If so, their obvious argument was this—that Catholics formed the great majority of the population of Ireland, and it was not fair that the Protestant minority should have all that was bestowed in endowment or otherwise upon education. To this the reply, I suppose, would be, that it was not Protestantism, but liberal education that had the money, and that, if the Bishops chose to give up their own principles and act as Liberals, they might have the benefit of it too. I am not concerned here with these arguments, but I wish to notice the position which the Bishops would occupy in urging such a request:—I must not say that they were Irishmen first and Catholics afterwards, but I do say that in such a demand they spoke not simply as Catholic Bishops, but as the Bishops of a Catholic nation. They did not speak from any promptings of the Encyclical, Syllabus, or Vatican Decrees. They claimed as Irishmen a share in the endowments of the country; and has not Ireland surely a right to speak in such a matter, and might not her Bishops fairly represent her? It seems to me a great mistake to think that everything that is done by the Irish Bishops and clergy is done on an ecclesiastical motive; why not on a national? but if so, such acts have nothing to do with Rome. I know well what simple firm faith the great body of the Irish people have, and how they put the Catholic Religion before anything else in the world. It is their comfort, their joy, their treasure, their boast, their compensation for a hundred {186} worldly disadvantages; but who can deny that in politics their conduct at times—nay, more than at times—has had a flavour rather of their nation than of their Church? Only in the last general election this was said, when they were so earnest for Home Rule. Why, then, must Mr. Gladstone come down upon the Catholic Religion, because the Irish love dearly the Green Island, and its interests? Ireland is not the only country in which politics, or patriotism, or party, has been so closely associated with religion in the nation or a class, that it is difficult to say which of the various motive principles was uppermost. "The Puritan," says Macaulay, "prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker, but he set his foot on the neck of his king:" I am not accusing such a man of hypocrisy on account of this; having great wrongs, as he considered, both in religious and temporal matters, and the authors of these distinct wrongs being the same persons, he did not nicely discriminate between the acts which he did as a patriot and the acts which he did as a Puritan. And so as regards Irishmen, they do not, cannot, distinguish between their love of Ireland and their love of religion; their patriotism is religious, and their religion is strongly tinctured with patriotism; and it is hard to recognize the abstract and Ideal Ultramontane, pure and simple, in the concrete exhibition of him in flesh and blood as found in the polling-booth or in his chapel. I do not see how the Pope can be made answerable for him in any of his political acts during the last fifty years.

This leads me to a subject, of which Mr. Gladstone makes a good deal in his pamphlet. I will say of a {187} great man, whom he quotes, and for whose memory I have a great respect, I mean Bishop Doyle, that there was just a little tinge of patriotism in the way in which, on one occasion, he speaks of the Pope. I dare say any of us would have done the same, in the heat of a great struggle for national liberty, for he said nothing but what was true and honest; I only mean that the energetic language which he used was not exactly such as would have suited the atmosphere of Rome. He says to Lord Liverpool, "We are taunted with the proceedings of Popes. What, my Lord, have we Catholics to do with the proceedings of Popes, or why should we be made accountable for them?" p. 27. Now, with some proceedings of Popes, we Catholics have very much to do indeed; but, if the context of his words is consulted, I make no doubt it would be found that he was referring to certain proceedings of certain Popes, when he said that Catholics had no part of their responsibility. Assuredly there are certain acts of Popes in which no one would like to have part. Then, again, his words require some pious interpretation when he says that "the allegiance due to the king and the allegiance due to the Pope, are as distinct and as divided in their nature as any two things can possibly be," p. 30. Yes, in their nature, in the abstract, but not in the particular case; for a heathen State might bid me throw incense upon the altar of Jupiter, and the Pope would bid me not to do so. I venture to make the same remark on the Address of the Irish Bishops to their clergy and laity in 1826, quoted at p. 31, and on the Declaration of the Vicars Apostolic in England, ibid. {188}

But I must not be supposed for an instant to mean, in what I have said, that the venerable men, to whom I have referred, were aware of any ambiguity either in such statements as the above, or in others which were denials of the Pope's infallibility. Indeed, one of them at an earlier date, 1793, Dr. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin, had introduced into one of his Pastorals the subject which Mr. Gladstone considers they so summarily disposed of. The Archbishop says, "Many Catholics contend that the Pope, when teaching the universal Church, as their supreme visible head and pastor, as successor to St. Peter, and heir to the promises of special assistance made to him by Jesus Christ, is infallible; and that his decrees and decisions in that capacity are to be respected as rules of faith, when they are dogmatical or confined to doctrinal points of faith and morals. Others deny this, and require the expressed or tacit acquiescence of the Church, assembled or dispersed, to stamp infallibility on his dogmatical decrees. Until the Church shall decide upon this question of the Schools, either opinion may be adopted by individual Catholics, without any breach of Catholic communion or peace. The Catholics of Ireland have lately declared, that it is not an article of the Catholic faith; nor are they thereby required to believe or profess that the Pope is infallible, without adopting or abjuring either of the recited opinions which are open to discussion, while the Church continues silent about them." The Archbishop thus addressed his flock, at the time when he was informing them that the Pope had altered the oath which was taken by the Catholic Bishops. {189}

As to the language of the Bishops in 1826, we must recollect that at that time the clergy, both of Ireland and England, were educated in Gallican opinions. They took those opinions for granted, and they thought, if they went so far as to ask themselves the question, that the definition of Papal Infallibility was simply impossible. Even among those at the Vatican Council, who themselves personally believed in it, I believe there were Bishops who, until the actual definition had been passed, thought that such a definition could not be made. Perhaps they would argue that, though the historical evidence was sufficient for their own personal conviction, it was not sufficiently clear of difficulties to be made the ground of a Catholic dogma. Much more would this be the feeling of the Bishops in 1826. "How," they would ask, "can it ever come to pass that a majority of our order should find it their duty to relinquish their prime prerogative, and to make the Church take the shape of a pure monarchy?" They would think its definition as much out of the question, as the prospect that, in twenty-five years after their time, there would be a hierarchy of thirteen Bishops in England, with a cardinal for Archbishop.

But, all this while, such modes of thinking were foreign altogether to the minds of the entourage of the Holy See. Mr. Gladstone himself says, and the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel must have known it as well as he, "The Popes have kept up, with comparatively little intermission, for well-nigh a thousand years, their claim to dogmatic infallibility," p. 28. Then, if the Pope's claim to infallibility was so patent a fact, {190} could they ever suppose that he could be brought to admit that it was hopeless to turn that claim into a dogma? In truth, Wellington and Peel were very little interested in that question; as was said in a Petition or Declaration, signed among others by Dr. Troy, it was "immaterial in a political light;" but, even if they thought it material, or if there were other questions they wanted to ask, why go to Bishop Doyle? If they wanted to obtain some real information about the probabilities of the future, why did they not go to headquarters? Why did they potter about the halls of Universities in this matter of Papal exorbitances, or rely upon the pamphlets or examinations of Bishops whom they never asked for their credentials? Why not go at once to Rome?

The reason is plain: it was a most notable instance, with a grave consequence, of what is a fixed tradition with us the English people, and a great embarrassment to every administration in its dealings with Catholics. I recollect, years ago, Dr. Griffiths, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, giving me an account of an interview he had with the late Lord Derby, then I suppose Colonial Secretary. I understood him to say that Lord Derby was in perplexity at the time, on some West India matter, in which Catholics were concerned, because he could not find their responsible representative. He wanted Dr. Griffiths to undertake the office, and expressed something of disappointment when the Bishop felt obliged to decline it. A chronic malady has from time to time its paroxysms, and the history on which I am now engaged is a serious instance of it. I think {191} it is impossible that the British government could have entered into formal negotiations with the Pope, without its transpiring in the course of them, and its becoming perfectly clear, that Rome could never be a party to such a pledge as England wanted, and that no pledge from Catholics was of any value to which Rome was not a party.

But no; they persisted in an enterprise which was hopeless in its first principle, for they thought to break the indissoluble tie which bound together the head and the members,—and doubtless Rome felt the insult, though she might think it prudent not to notice it. France was not the keystone of the ecumenical power, though her Church was so great and so famous; nor could the hierarchy of Ireland, in spite of its fidelity to the Catholic faith, give any pledge of the future to the statesmen who required one; there was but one See, whose word was worth anything in the matter, "that church" (to use the language of the earliest of our Doctors) "to which the faithful all round about are bound to have recourse." Yet for three hundred years it has been the official rule with England to ignore the existence of the Pope, and to deal with Catholics in England, not as his children, but as sectaries of the Roman Catholic persuasion. Napoleon said to his envoy, "Treat with the Pope as if he was master of 100,000 men." So clearly did he, from mere worldly sagacity, comprehend the Pope's place in the then state of European affairs, as to say that, "if the Pope had not existed, it would have been well to have created him for that occasion, as the Roman consuls created a dictator in difficult {192} circumstances." (Alison's Hist. ch. 35.) But we, in the instance of the greatest, the oldest power in Europe, a church whose grandeur in past history demanded, one would think, some reverence in our treatment of her, the mother of English Christianity, who, whether her subsequent conduct had always been motherly or not, had been a true friend to us in the beginning of our history; her we have not only renounced, but, to use a familiar word, we have absolutely cut. Time has gone on and we have no relentings; today, as little as yesterday, do we understand that pride was not made for man, nor the cuddling of resentments for a great people. I am entering into no theological question: I am speaking all along of mere decent secular intercourse between England and Rome. A hundred grievances would have been set right on their first uprising, had there been a frank diplomatic understanding between two great powers; but, on the contrary, even within the last few weeks, the present Ministry has destroyed any hope of a better state of things by withdrawing from the Vatican the makeshift channel of intercourse which had of late years been permitted there.

The world of politics has its laws; and such abnormal courses as England has pursued have their Nemesis. An event has taken place which, alas, already makes itself felt in issues, unfortunate for English Catholics certainly, but also, as I think, for our country. A great Council has been called; and as England has for so long a time ignored Rome, Rome, I suppose, it must be said, has in turn ignored England. I do not mean of set purpose ignored, but as the natural consequence of our act, {193} Bishops brought from the corners of the earth, in 1870, what could they know of English blue books and Parliamentary debates in the years 1826 and 1829? It was an extraordinary gathering, and its possibility, its purpose, and its issue, were alike marvellous, as depending on a coincidence of strange conditions, which, as might be said beforehand, never could take place. Such was the long reign of the Pope, in itself a marvel, as being the sole exception to a recognized ecclesiastical tradition. Only a Pontiff so unfortunate, so revered, so largely loved, so popular even with Protestants, with such a prestige of long sovereignty, with such claims on the Bishops around him, both of age and of paternal gracious acts, only such a man could have harmonized and guided to the conclusion which he pointed out, an assembly so variously composed. And, considering the state of theological opinion seventy years before, not less marvellous was the concurrence of all but a few out of so many hundred Bishops in the theological judgment, so long desired at Rome; the protest made by some eighty or ninety, at the termination of the Council, against the proceedings of the vast majority lying, not against the truth of the doctrine then defined, but against the fact of its definition. Nor less to be noted is the neglect of the Catholic powers to send representatives to the Council, who might have laid before the Fathers its political bearings. For myself, I did not call it inopportune, for times and seasons are known to God alone, and persecution may be as opportune, though not so pleasant as peace; nor, in accepting as a dogma what I had ever held as a truth, could I be {194} doing violence to any theological view or conclusion of my own; nor has the acceptance of it any logical or practical effect whatever, as I consider, in weakening my allegiance to Queen Victoria; but there are few Catholics, I think, who will not deeply regret, though no one be in fault, that the English and Irish Prelacies of 1826 did not foresee the possibility of the Synodal determinations of 1870, nor can we wonder that Statesmen should feel themselves aggrieved that stipulations, which they considered necessary for Catholic emancipation, should have been, as they may think, rudely cast to the winds.

And now I must pass from the mere accidents of the controversy to its essential points, and I cannot treat them to the satisfaction of Mr. Gladstone, unless I go back a great way, and be allowed to speak of the ancient Catholic Church.

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