Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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COUNCILS. These are assemblies of Catholic prelates, which decide questions of faith, or draw up rules concerning discipline. In modern times these meetings are made up of prelates only; but in early ages, and particularly at the council of Nice, priests and also deacons were admitted to seats, and took part in the deliberation of councils. This appears clearly from the passage in the Acts of the Apostles: Convenerunt apostoli et seniores ridere de verbo hoc. The Latin seniores and the Greek word Greek, mean priests.


—At Nice the priests and the deacons took their seats with the bishops; and Eusebius, in his life of Constantine, says that there were present at that council more than 250 bishops, and that a considerable number of priests, deacons, acolytes and others took part in the sessions, and signed their names to the decrees.


—It must not be supposed that these priests had only the right of assisting at the councils. It is certain that they spoke and subscribed to the acts. In the council of Aquilea, held in 381, St. Valerian of Aquilea held the first place, and St. Ambrose was the soul of the assembly. The latter asked the priest Attalus whether he had subscribed to the council of Nice. As Attalus gave no answer, because he favored Arianism, he was questioned again by Ambrose in these terms: Attalus, presbyter licet inter Arianos sit tumen habet auctoritatem loquendi, profiteatur utrum subscripserit tractatu concilii sub episcopu suo Agrippino an non? It is evident from these words that simple priests had the right to speak in councils and to sign their acts. We dwell on this to show that there was more liberty in the primitive than in the modern church.


—In reality, this latitude left to simple priests was altogether in accordance with the fraternal habits for which the primitive church was distinguished. The questioning of St. Ambrose reveals also the remarkable toleration of the first centuries, which permitted even the Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ, to take part in the debates of these assemblies, which undoubtedly had a character of grandeur and solemnity.


—According to St. Augustine, the keys were given to the whole church in the person of St. Peter, and consequently to the bishops and priests. From this the cardinal of Arles, Louis Aleman, infers that the priests form part of the council, though it is composed mainly of bishops. The celebrated Gerson, chancellor of the university of Paris, thinks that prelates of the second order, that is priests, should have the decisive voice in the council.


—The reality of this right of simple priests in the primitive church has been frequently contested. It has been said that signing the acts of a council alone is not proof of having been judge in a council, and that the priests represented the pope or bishops; but there is not a shadow of doubt in regard to this privilege of simple priests in the first ages of the church, for it was too much in the nature of things. It is true that the question is one merely of archeology; since for a long time past bishops alone form the councils.


—The origin of councils goes back to the time of Constantine. During the persecutions the prelates had not the possibility of instructing the people, and Constantine, in order to suppress the heresies which naturally sprang up, granted the bishops permission to come together.


—The most remarkable of those councils was undoubtedly that of Nice, where a second creed was drawn up, in imitation of the apostles'. National councils had been held before that of Nice, notably in Africa, in the time of St. Cyprien, that of Elvira, in the beginning of the fourth century, and that of Iconium, in 251. Cardinal Bellarmin founds the necessity of councils on these words of Jesus Christ, which, according to the council of Chalcedon, should be understood of these assemblies. "where there are two or three," etc., and upon the fact that the apostles did not wish to decide on the observance of ceremonies of the law without a council. He founds it also on the custom of the church which held councils to decide in doubtful cases.


—Councils owe their origin to the necessity of preserving the faith one and intact, by inquiring what is the general sense of the church. Councils are general and particular. General, or œcumenical, councils were convoked in primitive times by temporal princes, the first, that of Nice, by Constantine; but since the division of empire into various nationalities, councils were convoked by the popes: and it is the opinion of Gratian, that as an incontestible principle, the pope alone has the right of calling general councils. papœ est generalia concilia congregare. Nevertheless, the second general council. the first of Constantinople, was convoked by Theodosius the Great. The third general council, the first of Ephesus, was called by Theodosius the Younger The fourth general council was called at Chalcedon, at the reiterated request of St. Leo, it is true, but by Marcian. Justinian summoned the fifth œcumenical council to assemble at Constantinople. The sixth general council, the third of Constantinople, was assembled by the emperor Constantine Pogonatus. The seventh general council, and second of Nice, was convoked by the empress Irene and Constantine her son. The eighth general council, the fourth of Constantinople, was convoked by Basil, the Macedonian. From this time the councils were convoked by the pope, for Christians, divided into several states, rendered political obedience to various princes. To which of these princes could the right of convoking councils belong? In this situation of affairs the councils were naturally called by the popes, but with the consent of the temporal princes, which had been expressly reserved, and who could grant or refuse to the bishops permission to assist at the councils. Up to the eighth council, the emperor alone had the right to assemble these great bodies, in which questions of faith and worship were settled.


—It was natural to lay down the principle that he who occupied the chair of St. Peter, from which sacerdotal unity sprang, should have the duty of assembling the universal church: but it is to be noted that Christian princes must give their consent to the calling of a general council by the pope; for the bishops are subjects of the temporal princes and can not leave their churches without his consent. General councils, therefore, can not be brought together canonically, and proceed legally, without the concurrence of Christian princes who represent the nations over which they rule, and of the spiritual power.


—Some authors go further, and think that Christian princes may of their own will convoke an œcumenical council, the primitive right of the emperor up to the eighth council being in no way destroyed, but in a state of abeyance. To this must be added the difficulty experienced by the bishops in satisfying the wishes of the prince in opposition to the will of the pope, and vice versa.


—There is a case in which some writers think that the cardinals can convoke a general council, that is, when it is a question of judging the pope himself. During the schism of Avignon, when the chair of St. Peter was occupied by two popes, Gregory XII. at Rome, and Benedict XIII. at Avignon, the cardinals assembled at Leghorn, and it was decided that they could hold a council. When differences arose between Julius II. and Louis XII., king of France, five cardinals assembled a council, in the year 1511, with the consent of the emperor Maximilian and king Louis XII.


—We have seen the right of calling a council recognized in the emperor, the pope, Christian princes, and even cardinals. Another authority, that of councils themselves, might cause the holding of a council. This was the case in the council of Basle, the decrees of which Charles VII. caused to be embodied in the pragmatic sanction.


—The convocation of œcumenical councils by princes, included, first of all, the bishop of Rome as such, and as chief of the church. No general council is legal if it have not the pope's consent, and if he be not invited to assist at it. In their edicts of convocation, the princes first notified the bishop of Rome, the bishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, Adrianople, Jerusalem, etc.


—In the case of an œcumenical council, it is necessary to invite to it all the bishops of Christendom. The pope address a solemn bull of invitation to the princes and metropolitans, fixing the time and place of the council. The princes are invited to assist at them, either in person or by their ambassadors. This bull enjoins on bishops to be present. The metropolitans, in turn, after having obtained the authorization of the prince, notify their suffragans, by circular letters, to attend the council.—Greek, to draw up articles of faith and enact canons, i.e., to settle questions of faith and discipline, is the task councils propose to themselves as their field of action. The church declares what is of faith and what is not, and it lays down the law in matters of mere discipline. Everything pertaining to discipline is laid down in the canon law.


—The presidency of general councils is very naturally accorded to the pope as bishop of the first see, the centre of Catholic unity, and the head of all the churches. In his absence, the legates of the pope take the presidency, which formerly belonged of right to the patriarchs. The rank of bishops at a council, and the order of subscribing their names to its acts, are determined by the date of their ordination.


—In the deliberations of councils the discussion of questions is fixed for certain stated times, and there are separate meetings for the proposing of questions and the pronouncing of decrees. This is done only after private meetings of the bishops have been held. The fathers of the council deliberate among themselves, at first quasi privately. Afterward a report of these latter proceedings is laid before a larger meeting, and bishops are called in who had not assisted at the quasi-private meeting. The question is now taken up anew and decided upon previous to bringing it before a public session of the council. Votes are taken by nations.


—A delicate question now arises: should the decisions of councils be approved by the popes, in order to their validity? The approbation of the sovereign pontiff is doubtless of great weight; but should he refuse to subscribe to a council, or not accept the decision of the universal church, then the general council may exercise its authority against him as against the other members of the church. This was decided by the council of Constance and that of Basle.


—The supreme authority of general councils is exercised only in matters of faith, and not of discipline.


—Particular councils are of three kinds: national, provincial and diocesan.


—National councils are those which are convoked by the prince or the patriarch, or by the primate. In these are assembled the bishops of all the provinces of the country. The authority of the national councils is great, and approaches that of œcumenical assemblies. The wisdom of the Gallican church has caused Christians of other lands to show great respect for the national councils of France, which knew how to uphold and preserve the liberties of their church, always distinguished as it was by a spirit comparatively progressive and advanced.


—Provincial councils are those convoked by a metropolitan or archbishop, and in which the clergy of their provinces are assembled by these prelates. In these councils are discussed and decided questions of faith; and rules relating to discipline, the correction of abuses and the reformation of morals, are passed. Bishops are not permitted to hold a council without the consent of their archbishop. The bishops are obliged, under the most severe penalties, to be present at such councils to the end.


—Diocesan councils are called synods. They are held by all bishops, and are composed of abbots, priests, deacons and other clergy of the diocese. The sixteenth council of Toledo states that these assemblies are convoked that the bishop may inform his clergy and his flock of all that has taken place and been decided upon in the provincial council. the bishop who fails to do this is deprived of communion for two months. Although provincial councils are no longer in use, synods are still held. Prelates seek through them to reform or prevent abuses.


—The object of the first council held by the apostles, in the year 50, was the abrogation of the ceremonies of the Mosaic law. The decision of the council was sent to the church of Antioch by the apostles, the priests, and all the church of Jerusalem. It was couched in these words: "It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us not to impose on you other burdens except that you abstain from meats offered to idols, from strangled animals, from blood and from fornication." St. Peter presided at this assembly. The sacramental formula: it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, explains the character of the decision which followed; it was considered an oracle of the Holy Ghost.


—The council of Nice was resolved upon in 325, by Constantine, to destroy the heresy of Arius, a priest of the church of Alexandria, who attacked the divinity of Jesus Christ, and declared that the Son of God is not equal to his Father in a ll things. The œcumenical council refuted the innovations of Arius. It opposed to them the authority of the Holy Scriptures and declared that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, equal to his Father, his virtue, his image, ever subsisting in Him; in a word, true God. It expressed the indivisible unity of their nature by the word consubstantial. Then the council drew up the profession of faith known as the Nicene creed. All the bishops except the Arians subscribed to this creed, and pronounced anathema against Arius and his followers.


—The council of Constantinople, held in 381, had to combat the heresy of Macedonius, a semi-Arian, who had usurped the see of Constantinople, and attacked the divinity of the Holy Ghost. It reiterated the decrees of the council of Nice; and, in confirming the creed of that council, it added certain words to it to explain that which it already contained touching the incarnation of the Son of God and the divinity of the Holy Ghost.


—The schism of the Donatists, who refused to recognize Cecilian, bishop of Carthage, because illegally ordained, was terminated by the celebrated conference of Carthage, over which St. Augustine presided: it laid down as a principle the unity of the church, which was not to be departed from.


—The Englishman Pelagius, in 442, denied original sin, and the necessity of the Redeemer's grace. Two councils, held, the one at Carthage, the other at Mileve, defined that the sin of Adam had been transmitted to his descendants, and that without interior grace one can do no work conducive to salvation.


—The semi-Pelagians, priests of Marseilles, admitted original sin, but said that man could merit this grace by a beginning of faith, by a first movement toward virtue, of which God is not the author. St. Augustine combated this doctrine, which he deemed erroneous; and the second council of Orange decided that, if any one claimed that either the increase or even the beginning of faith is not the effect of the gift of grace, but that this disposition is formed naturally in us, he contradicted the apostolic dogmas.


—The general council of Ephesus, held in 431, opposed the heresy of Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, who taught that there are two persons in Jesus Christ, and that the virgin Mary should not be called the mother of God, but the mother of Christ. It declared: "Let these impious errors be anathema! Anathema against whoever holds this doctrine, which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures and the tradition of the fathers!"


—Nestorius had divided the person of Christ; Eutychius confounded the natures of the person of Christ; and the councils of Chalcedon, assembled in 451, declared that we should confess one and the same Jesus Christ our Lord, true God and true man, perfect in both natures; consubstantial with the Father, according to his divinity, and with us according to his humanity.


—The œcumenical council held in 553, which was the second of Constantinople, condemned the three Nestorian works, the one of Theodoret, the other of Ibas, the third of Theodore.


—The sixth œcumenical council, the third of Constantinople, declared against the doctrine of the monothelites, who maintained that there is in Jesus Christ but one will and one operation, and defined that there are two wills and two natural operations, and forbade the teaching of the contrary.


—The seventh œcumenical council, the second of Nice, condemned the iconoclasts, or image breakers. It anathematized the innovators, and declared that honor and respect should be rendered sacred images, but not adoration, which belongs only to the divine nature.


—In 858 Photius had usurped the see of Constantinople. The eighth œcumenical council, the fourth of Constantinople, confirmed the decrees of popes Nicholas and Adrian, in favor of St. Ignatius and against Pho ius. It reseated Ignatius in his see, and recognized and proclaimed the primacy of the Roman church.


—In 1050 Berangarius, archdeacon of Augers, attacked the mystery of the Eucharist, and taught that the body and blood of Christ are not contained there in reality, but figuratively. The councils of Paris and Rome forced Berangarius to retract.


—Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, in 1053 renewed the division of Photius, and broke with the Roman church. He forbade communion with the pope, and commenced, so to speak, the schism which separated the church of the east from that of the west, a century later, when the Latins became odious to the Greeks by taking possession of the city and empire of Constantinople.


—The ninth œcumenical, the first Lateran, council (1123) was assembled to decide on questions of discipline. The seventeenth canon of this council raised a barrier against the ambition of the monks, who intermeddled in everything, and compromised the cause of religion.


—It was in the tenth œcumenical council, held at the Lateran in 1139, that Arnold of Brescia, a disciple of Abelard, was condemned: he declaimed against the pope, against the bishops, and attacked with ardor the regular clergy, who were, indeed, open to attack at that time.


—The eleventh general council, also a Lateran council (1179), had for its object the reformation of abuses introduced during the long schism which had just ended. The first of the 27 canons of this council regulated the election of the pope, who might be chosen by a two-thirds vote. It excommunicated the person who not having one-third of the votes should dare to take the title of pope.


—In the twelfth general council, held also at the Lateran, i.e., in Rome, at the Lateran palace, in 1215, the two principles of the Manicheans were condemned by its declaration that there is but one God, one universal church, outside of which no man is saved; that there is but one sacrifice, that of the mass, in which Jesus Christ is himself the priest and the victim. It was at this council that the same indulgences were granted to the crusaders fighting against the heretical Albigenses and Waldenses as to those going to the holy land.


—The thirteenth council took place at Lyons in 1245, where the pope proclaimed the emperor Frederic a heretic and sacrilegious, and refused the offers of this prince to fight the heretics, saying the emperor never kept his promises. A decree was issued to help the empire of Constantinople, and another for the crusade in the holy land.


—One of the most important of general councils was the second of Lyous, in 1274. Its principal object was the union of the Greek and Latin churches. There were present 500 bishops, 70 abbots, and about 1,000 other inferior prelates. The council was held in the metropolitan church of St. John; pope Gregory X. assisted at it in the position of honor. He was clothed in his pontifical robes, and assisted by several cardinals. The assembly was one of the most imposing, and the object it had in view ardently desired by all. Michael Paleologus, who had asked that the council might be assembled, did not fail to send his ambassadors, who were received with great pomp. After a solemn mass celebrated by the pope, the Latins and Greeks chanted the creed, and the great logothete, in the name of the Greeks, abjured the schism, accepted the profession of faith of the Roman church, and confessed the primacy of the holy see. The joy was great; the pope intoned the Te Deum. It was indeed a solemn moment of grand fraternity. It only lasted during the life of Michael: the schism re-commenced under his son.


—From 1311 to 1312 the general council of Vienne, in Dauphiny, was held. Pope Clement V. presided over it: its object was the extinction of the order of templars, and the restoration of discipline. The king of France, Philip the Fair, had this matter very much at heart, and he assisted at the council, accompanied by his brother, Charles of Valois, and his three sons. On the 22nd of March, the pope, in presence of many prelates and cardinals, abolished the order by a provisional decree, after long discussion, in which the right of defending themselves was claimed for the accused. April 3, of the same year, the pope, in the presence of Philip the Fair, his brother and his sons, announced the suppression of the order of templars, which had existed 184 years: their goods were given to the hospitalers of St. John of Jerusalem. It would be to betray historical truth not to state that Philip the Fair had in this more a political than a religious end in view. He wished to destroy a religious and military order, but one which was more military than religious, and whose power was increasing yearly; and he was not sorry, in the midst of great financial embarrassments, to be able to confiscate the property of the order.


—The council of Constance, held in 1414, was called to put an end to the schism of the west. Clement V., a French pope, had fixed his residence at Avignon, and his successors continued to remain there. But Gregory XI. consented to return to Rome, to the great joy of Italy. After his death, the people of Rome, fearing lest a foreigner should be elected pope, exercised a pressure on the conclave, saying that if a Roman were not elected they would make the cardinals' heads as red as their hats. A Roman was elected, pope Urban VI., whose harshness and inflexibility irritated the cardinals to such a degree that they left Rome, declaring their election null, for want of freedom, and chose a new pope under the name of Clement VII. Thence the schism. France recognized Clement. Union was restored by the decisions of the council of Constance, which elected Martin V., who was universally recognized. This same council condemned Wickliffe and John IIuss.


—Next comes the celebrated council of Basle, whose acts are now accepted by Catholics only up to its twenty-sixth session, because at that session the members began to deliberate on the deposition of pope Eugene, and declared him contumacious. They called on him to appear either in person or by proxy. Eugene, far from yielding obedience, issued a bull dissolving the council. The schism was complete. The council, on the one hand, and the pope, on the other, were at cross purposes, and entered on different ways.


—The council nominated a pope. It chose Amadeus, duke of Savoy, who had retired to Ripailles. Amadeus took the name of Felix V.; but his power as pope had been merely fictitious; and, Eugene being now dead, Nicholas V., who had been regularly elected, was recognized by the whole church, and Felix renounced the pontificate, an act which put an end to the schism.


—At the council of Florence, held in 1437, a last attempt was made to re-unite the Greek schismatics: it succeeded; but on their return to Constantinople, the Greek prelates were insulted and beaten by the people and clergy. The great movement of the sixteenth century, begun by Luther, Calvin and Zwinglius, Protestantism, called forth a general council to provide means for opposing the advance of the new belief. Charles V. and pope Paul III. being in accord, the bull of convocation was issued. After many debates, which delayed the opening of the assembly, the city of Trent was chosen as a point intermediate between Italy and Germany. The council was opened Dec. 13, 1545.


—In reading all the decrees passed by this council, one is astonished at the multitude of matters examined and treated by it, and the considerable number of solutions given to the various questions brought up in the 26 sessions of the council.


—It was in a congregation of the fifth session that Luther's doctrines of free will, predestination, the merits of good works, etc., were examined. In the sixth session, Jan. 13, 1547, two decrees were published, the first on justification. It comprises 16 chapters and 33 canons against the heretics. The second, upon the reformation, contains five chapters on the subject of the residence of bishops in their dioceses. The bishops were too wordly, too forgetful of their flocks. It was necessary to subject them to severer discipline.


—In this celebrated assembly, among other questions treated was that of the canonicity of the Holy Scriptures; and it was unanimously agreed that all the books of the Old and New Testament should be recognized as canonical. The subject of tradition was also treated, that is to say, those doctrines of Jesus Christ and the apostles which are not contained in the Scriptures, but which have been transmitted orally, and which are found in the works of the fathers and other ecclesiastical monuments. The following are the terms of that important decree: "Considering that the truths of faith and the rules of morality are contained in the written books and in the traditions which, received from the mouth of Christ by the apostles, or given to the same apostles by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, have come down to us as from hand to hand, the holy council, following the example of the orthodox fathers, receives all the books, as well of the Old as the New Testament, and also the traditions which touch either faith as issuing from the mouth of Jesus Christ or dictated by the Holy Spirit, and preserved by a continued succession; it embraces them with the same respect and piety; and, in order that no man may doubt which are the sacred books received by the council, the following catalogue of them has been inserted in this decree." Here follows a list of all the canonical books as they are printed in the Vulgate. It pronounces "anathema on all who refuse to receive as sacred and canonical all these books with all their parts, and on those who despise tradition." The council, moreover, laid down the doctrine of the church on original sin, on the justification of the sinner through the sacraments, on the sacrifice of the mass, on penance, on confession, on satisfaction, on the sacrament of extreme unction, on indulgences, on devotion to saints, etc. It was closed in 1563. The pope confirmed the decisions of the council by a bull of Jan. 6, 1564. It was received by all Catholic nations.


—Men had come, by degrees, to believe that the council of Trent would continue to be the last of œcumenical councils. J. de Maistre even permitted himself to say, "the more the world becomes enlightened the less will the idea of calling a council occur." Yet, July 3, 1868, Pius IX convoked an œcumenical council, to meet Dec. 8, 1869, in the basilica of the Vatican, just 306 years after the council of Trent.


—Following the idea of the court of Rome, an idea suggested, it is said, by the Jesuits, it became more and more urgent to find an heroic remedy for the errors of our time, to checkmate "the progress of liberalism, of modern civilization," and all those new liberties which are incompatible with the perfect maintenance of the privileges and the monopoly of the pontifical sovereignty.


—The means proposed to raise the prestige of the papacy was to identify the pontifical authority with that of the church itself, the decisions of whose councils are, in the eyes of Roman Catholics, clothed with a character of absolute infallibility. Thenceforth it would suffice for the pope to speak ex cathedra, that is to say, in his quality of pastor and teacher of all Christians, to make it impossible that he should err. This infallibility of the pope was nevertheless energetically rejected and combated by eminent prelates, such as bishop Maret, in his book Da Concile et de la Paix religieuse, and by bishop Dupanloup, who did not hesitate to declare that, if the doctrines of ultramontanism, advocated by M. Veuillot, in the Univers, should carry the day, "the church will be put under the ban of civilized nations"*67 But the abbé Solesmes and the archbishop of Westminster undertook to refute these opponents of infallibility.


—Some thought that the weakening of papal authority was caused by the tendencies of Catholics in different countries to constitute themselves into so many distinct national churches, as the Gallican church in France had done. Nevertheless, this latter has continued attached to the Roman church, while professing the most complete political independence of it.


—In England this same tendency, called by the papacy the spirit of pride and revolt against God, produced the Anglican church, which by a more radical rupture has ceased to call itself Roman while preserving the name "Catholic," meaning simply that it forms part of the universal Christian church.


—In recent years certain writers, doubtless with the best of intentions, but apparently answering to one of the most cherished thoughts of the Roman church, have sought to impel the Latin races to form themselves into a vast and powerful political unit, but this attempt was too much in conflict with modern ideas to succeed.


—Other efforts of the Roman court, directed solely against Gallicanism, had more effect; but Gallicanism had a successor under the name of "liberal Catholicism."


—M. de Montalembert, one of the most illustrious among the representatives of this party, defined his programme clearly in his discourses of Aug. 20 and 21, 1863, at the Catholic congress of Malines. Defending civil liberty and freedom of conscience, except in the papal states, taking up the famous motto of count Cavour, "A free church in a free state," he made no other concession to the papacy than to condemn in Rome this separation of the temporal and spiritual power which he recommended in the case of other countries. But the Roman court was in no way pleased with him for such a want of consistency. The encyclical of Pius IX. appeared the following year as a refutation of the ideas of M. de Montalembert. We there read that there are not wanting men to favor this erroneous opinion, than which none could exist more fatal to the church and the salvation of souls, and which his predecessor of happy memory, Gregory XVI., termed a delirium, that is, "that liberty of conscience and worship is a right belonging to each man which should be proclaimed and assured in every well-constituted state."


—This encyclical was followed by a syllabus (See SYLLABUS), in which a résumé was made of all the principal errors of modern times. The eighth and last article of the syllabus forbids even the belief that the Roman pontiff can and should come to terms and effect a reconciliation with modern progress, liberalism and civilization. But this opposition to the independence of civil authority and modern liberalism, so definitely declared by the pope, could have its bearing made real and emphatically significant only by a dogmatic declaration of his infallibility.


—Now, Pius IX. did not wait for this declaration, to proclaim a new dogma, in the proclamation of which he relied, it is true, on a consultation had by letter with the principal bishops, a certain number of whom he caused to meet at Rome. The decree of the immaculate conception, issued in this way, Dec. 8, 1854, declares it to be a dogma of faith that "the blessed virgin Mary was in the first instant of her conception, by the special grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of mankind, preserved and exempted from all stain of original sin."


—This dogma raised a discussion which does not come within our limits to analyze.


—The opponents of infallibility concentrated their arguments principally on the anathema launched by the œcumenical council of Constantinople in 680, which, by declaring pope Honorius a heretic, had shown in practice the superiority of the authority of a council over the authority of a pope. Abbé Gratry demonstrated, on this occasion, that the condemnation of Honorius, accused of monothelism, was reproduced in all Roman breviaries to the end of the sixteenth century, and further more he quoted the text as found in a breviary of 1620.


—The purely theological arguments of some of these opponents made a special point of showing that the celebrated words of Christ to Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," far from serving as a foundation for the papacy, were the negation of it, for they were spoken only in reference to the faith of Peter in the divinity of Jesus. Consequently, the foundation of the church is this acknowledgment of the divinity of Jesus, and in no way the person of Peter, whom he calls "Satan" a few verses further on; still less could it be the person of each one of his successors.


—But other and more moderate adversaries, following the example of abbé Guettée, in his pamphlet La Papauté moderne (published in Paris in 1861), were content to bring out the opinion of pope Gregory the Great, who, while recognizing in the papacy a primacy of honor, still refused it universal and absolute authority, that is to say, "a real and veritable jurisdiction."


—The Vatican council did not forget to combat these last two opinions, nor its canons to anathematize them.


—The events which marked the preparation for the Vatican council were first an invitation to all the bishops of the oriental rite, and then to all Protestants or "non-Catholics."


—The Greek patriarch answered, that, to come to an understanding, it would be necessary to go back to the time when the two churches, that of the east and that of the west, formed but one; that consequently it was necessary to abolish all changes made either by adding to or taking from the Christianity of that remote period. Such an answer was equivalent to a refusal.


—As regards Protestants, the pope did not invite them to take part in the deliberations of the council, as the Arians had taken part in the council of Nice, and John Huss in the council of Constance; but he did invite them, on the occasion of the council, to return to the bosom of the Roman church, and submit to the holy see.


—The great innovation in the Vatican council was the absence of the seats which in the council of Trent were reserved for princes and ambassadors. The governments of the different states raised no protest against this; and it suffices to read the debates in the French corps législatif, in the session of July 9 and 10, 1868, as well as the dispatch of March 19, 1870, from cardinal Antonelli to Mgr. Chigi, in answer to that of count Daru, French minister of foreign affairs, to see, that, such was the feeling of France and in all the other states, that it would have been disagreeable to them to assist, in the person of their ambassadors, at the condemnation of the fundamental principles of the public law of modern times.


—The council held only four "sessions." The total number of fathers called to seats was 1,044; of these a great number were bishops in partibus. The session of Dec. 8 was devoted to the opening of the council, that of Jan. 8 to placing the profession of faith of the fathers in the hand of the sovereign pontiff. The session of April 24, on the Catholic faith, decreed a number of canons, among which are the two following: "If any one says that human sciences ought to be treated with such freedom that their assertions may be held as true even when contrary to revealed doctrine, or that the church may not proscribe them, let him be anathema." "If any one says it may happen, that, by reason of the progress of science, a sense may be attributed to the dogmas proposed by the church other than that in which the church has understood them and does understand them, let him be anathema."


—The number of fathers engaged in this session of April 24, was 667.


—The fourth and last session, that of July 18, was the most important: 535 fathers took part in it, and put forth the "first dogmatic constitution of the church of Jesus Christ." It concludes thus: "We teach and define, sacro approbante conciiio, the following to be a dogma divinely revealed, to wit. That the Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is to say, when fulfilling the duties of pastor and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, and declares that a doctrine of faith or morals should be believed by the universal church, he enjoys, through the divine assistance which has been promised in the person of the blessed Peter, the plenitude of that infallibility which the divine. Redeemer wished his church to possess in the defining of faith and morals, and consequently that such definitions of the Roman pontiff are irreformable in themselves, and not in virtue of the church's consent. Should any one, which God forbid, have the temerity to contradict our definition, let him be anathema."


—It would appear from the testimony of professor Friederich, in his letter to the archbishop of Munich, that the original text presented to and discussed by the fathers, July 18, said simply, that the definitions of the Roman pontiff are irreformable in themselves, and the words "and not in virtue of the church's consent" were not added till later.


—The interpolation of the above words was not the only thing which raised the accusation against it, that the Vatican council was not free, and consequently not inspired by the Holy Ghost. It is quite sufficient to read the apostolic letters of Pius IX. for the direction of the labors of the council, to see that it must have lacked freedom, because subjected to too many rules. Work on each question was done in advance, then submitted to vote. In spite of the energetic opposition of certain eminent bishops, such as the bishops Dupanloup, Maret, Strossmayer, cardinal Schwartzenberg, cardinal Guidi, etc., who took in hand the cause against infallibility, the majority, composed especially of bishops in partibus, bore down the minority by rude and violent interruptions in order to strangle discussion and vote in haste.


—Pius IX. announced the close of this fourth session by declaring that, "the decrees and canons contained in the constitution just read have received the adhesion of all the fathers except two." As a matter of fact, the greater part of the opposition was absent, or abstained from voting. Oct. 20, 1870, Pius IX. declared by apostolic letters, that "the sacrilegious invasion of this august city, our see, and of the remainder of the provinces of our temporal domain," had taken away the liberty necessary to the fathers, and that therefore he suspended the council of the Vatican "till a more opportune and convenient time, which will be determined by the apostolic see."


Notes for this chapter

The German bishops and many Austrian bishops shared the views of the bishop of Orleans.

Footnotes for COUPS D'ÉTAT

End of Notes

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