Page images
[subsumed][graphic][subsumed][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Eraser's Magazine.


It is not our purpose to enter into an exposition of the facts which have contributed by a long course of action practically to modify the present constitution of the Court of Rome from what it was before the French Revolution, so as to substitute for bodies of more or less independent authority, capable of exercising a wholesome exchange of controlling influence on the State, the one allengrossing and all-centralizing figure of an autocratic Pope. We take the Court of Rome as we find it, without caring to show how it has grown into its present shape, and we are content to look at the features of the political group which has the Convention of September and the Encyclical of Christmas for a frame. In its political aspect the Court of Rome of the present season lies wholly compressed between these two great facts, that clasp it like a ring whose setting gives its character to the object enclosed. What

New Semes—Vol. II., No. 1.

ever lies without the pale of this circle ia matter of no immediate bearing, for either it has dropped away into the rapids of the past, or it is still lying in the cloudy horizon of a future that perplexes with enigmatic possibilities. But between these two capital facts, the Convention and* the Encyclical, that stand forward like flanking supporters, there is to be found concentrated for the moment all that survives of the figure and organization of the Court of Rome as a living and acting political body. If we can succeed in grasping the features of the group thus presented us, in rightly comprehending the force of the inward instincts that have resulted in the attitude which rneeU the eye, then we may reckon on being able to estimate the relative value of the elements which are circulating in the system, and from which, in critical moments, action must unavoidably derive its character.

We start from the premiss that tha Encyclical and Syllabus of the 8th December were essentially a move made by


Rome under the idea of thereby meeting the provocation offered in the Convention. In affirming this we advisedly reject the explanations freely circulated in Home, with the view of ascribing to the document an origin wholly foreign to the grave measure on the heels of which it followed so closely. The grounds on which we rest our incredulity as to the Talidity of these explanatory asservations will appear in the course of this paper. The reader will then make up his own mind as to their value. All we care to do here is clearly to define our starting point, in the belief that the Encyclical owes its publication entirely to the previous publication of the Convention between France and Italy for the evacuation of Rome by the French troops. Had that Convention not been concluded, we hold that no Encyclical of that precise •hape would have seen the light at that particular moment; consequently that it is the counter-move made to the great political measure aforesaid by the Court of Rome. But this Court of Rome that has thus spoken, what is itf How is it con•tituted? When we refer to it as a political entity, of whom is this composed 1 Who •re the individuals that make it up in the body; and when we talk of a proclamation by its organs, what are the elements that have found a mouthpiece'? In short, that Court of Rome, the sound of whose mysterious name rings so widely through the world, where does it actually dwell and live and work in the flesh and blood? If we turn for information towards the im

. aginary group we have conceived to be flanked by the Convention and the En

. cyclical, then what strikes the eye so sharply, as to make all else sink into the dimness of a mere back-ground, are the apparently interclasped figures of a Pope and a mighty Cardinal Secretary of State;

. the one beaming with the expanded ecstasy of mystic autocracy, and the other •hrewdly sparkling with the solid mas•iveness of real and absolute ascendancy, but the two linked together, it would ecem, in an indissoluble tie of mutual confidence and intimate concord of feelings. Distinct as this combination would look, closer approach will show that in great part it is .only the effect of deceptive foreshortening. On looking into the group we shall perceive that these two

personages—apparently so indissolubly knit together—are really at some distance asunder, and that between them there stand well forward figures which at first had been quite hidden from sight— figures that materially modify the aspect of the group, and detract considerably from the commanding importance which had seemed to belong to the conspicuous figure of the splendid Cardinal: These two men—Pius IX. and Cardinal Antonejli—whom the world looks upon as the twin divinities dividing in love the Roman Olympus, stand really to each other in relations that are close without being any longer truly cordial, and owe their continuance before the world in an attitude of unimpaired intimacy, to a singular combination of qualities in their respective characters—in the Pope to an indwelling weakness that has always made him unequal to the effort of openly breaking with an influence he has long undergone, although often chafed at— and in the cardinal to an imperturbable evenness of temper, which renders him happily indifferent to slights from his excitable sovereign that would have stung a more punctilious Secretary of State into angrily stripping himself of the baubles of high office.

The natures of these two men are indeed strangely unlike for partners in so protracted an alliance. In fact this alliance rests now on the defects, not on the qualities of each. Since some time the union lasts only because both parties are wanting in certain senses—the Pope in that of moral courage to break to his face with a man, the spell of whose unruffled equanimity he has felt for years—the Cardinal in that of moral dignity to throw off the emoluments and emblems of high office after its substance has in great degree been taken from him. Once the case was otherwise, and originally the alliance, now kept up but by mutual inabilities^ was cemented by the attraction which the Cardinal's quality of imperturbable self-possession was calculated under certain circumstances to exercise on a mind so fluctuating and so liable to flighty transports as the Pope's". But the attraction thus exercised depended necessarily for.its hold on the continuation of those favorable circumstances which had caused it to be first felt These have, however, changed, and the consequence is that the attraction has also-lost much of its zest. The cause of the modification is to be found in this, that the natures of the two j men are not of commensurate range, and that there are sides in Pius IX.'s charac- j ter which, when elicited, fail utterly to' meet in Cardinal Antonelli's nature with an appropriate response. Those sides were in abeyance when Pius IX. was i drawn towards the Cardinal; but of late they have been developed by events, and I it is precisely as this has happened and j as they have not met with congeniality in Cardinal Antonelli, that the Pope has felt his original cordiality of feeling to- j wards him somewhat chilled. Pius IX. has a highly sensitive surface organiza- I tion, which is necessarily excitable and liable to hasty transport; while the essen-1 tially weak and womanish cast of his monkish nature is always prone to fits of mystic enthusiasm, and ^lways is disposed to look at things excitedly through the prism of a visionary and childish fancy which is for ever ready to take fire. But as these raptures—so quick to flare up—spring from a mere surface sensibility, they are as shallow in substance as they are passing in their manifestations. Pius IX will burst into vehement transports, and an hour after you will find him without a trace of having been affected. Convulsion with him does not give a really disturbing emotion, for his system at heart is lymphatic and all his impulsiveness is mere sheet-lightning of the surface. Hence the exhibitions of eccentric instability, especially in his talk, which! so often perplex those who have to do with Pius IX.; for where feelings have j no roots deeper than in the skin, they: are always liable to be made the momen- \ tary sport of a gusty imagination, itself at the mercy of chance blasts. The | groundwork, however, of the Pope's na-1 ture is monkish mysticism. Once it made him trustfully pursue a dream of Liberalism, the fantastic creation of his heated brain—now it makes him contemplate, through the distorting medium of ecstatic horror, the realities of life. But th'ere is no quality more foreign to Cardinal Antonelli's-nature than that of a mystic disposition. All that lies in the region of impalpability—all that partakes of a high-flown essence—ideas of super

human influences, notions of desperate heroism and self-immolation—iii short, all that can please the kindled imagination of a mystic is without attraction for a mind so steadily shrewd and alive to the value of positive possession as the Cardinal's. Cardinal Antonelli is ambitious, but particularly of the emoluments and the rank of greatness. He entered the Church to rise, and that object, pursued with indefatigable assiduity, he has accomplished. He is certainly resolved not to allow any offence against punctilio to sting him into resigning his hold on the especial prize he has clutched. A character of this stamp is not troubled with inward enthusiasm. All its native impulses and instincts are towards material intei ests. Nor are the talents of the Cardinal of an elevated order. Nature has indeed gifted him with a strong dose of shrewdness; but instead of being a vigorous shrewdness, it is merely astute and foxlike. Intuition he may be said to have none; but he has a remarkable power of self-command and unruffled evenness of bearing. He seems never put out; and his pleasant affability has been a powerful assistant to him in captivating the Pope, whose vanity resents any one presuming to talk to him in a tone of authority. This native charni of cheerfulness and urbanity is the quality to which the Cardinal owes his most real triumphs, for his statesmanship amounts practically to next to nothing. He has never shown any initiative or conception except for such small devices as a merely cunning mind may be fertile in. When he can strike out one of these tricks he is visibly delighted with his genius; but the genuine bent of his ministry has been to sit still and do nothing beyond enjoy the pleasures of the hour under the protection of foreign bayonets—tiding calmly along the stream of Time without making any provisions for the future. To bring into spontaneous union two men so different in their inward natures as Pius IX. and Cardinal Antonelli, required exceptional circumstances. These were presented by the events of 1849 and the violent revulsion which then was wrought in the Pope's temper. Suddenly Pius IX. felt dismayed at his own work; and, smiting his breast, seated himself on a stool of penance like a frightened schoolboy, who cries to uifdo what he did, and implores to kiss those to whom he was naughty. At tbat moment the figure of Cardinal Antonelli was a source of comfort to him. With that impulsive feeling which is natural to Pins IX., he was instinctively drawn in the season of recantation towards that Cardinal who had calmly stood close to him during exciting times, and who never had himself exhibited that enthusiasm which the Pope now deplored as a crime. We can understand how, under the circumstances, a mystic mind could apply i to this particular Cardinal the affection which, under an impulse to expiate er- \ Tots, it then embraced for absolute reaction. For Cardinal Antonelli appeared at that moment before the Pope's eye i as the consistent representative of those principles which now had been found true; and he appeared so, thanks to the rh.-inji of his respectful manners, without | his wounding the Pope's susceptibility. I The art of the Cardinal has been great indeed in dealing successfully with the humors and weaknesses of the Pope's uncertain character. Therefore, as the lepresentntive of reaction was it that the Cardinal captivated the Pope's affections; and so long as a craving for mere reaction contributed the sum of all that was desired, Cardinal Antonelli continued to retain unimpaired ascendancy. That period lasted from 1850 to 1859. During those nine precious years of protected; restriction, the Pontificial Government did nothing whatever for its recovery— the Cardinal, with arms akimbo, marked j his absolute administration by good-hu- , mored rejections of every suggestion for Reform, and the spell-bound Pius IX. hugged the heaven-sent minister to his breast, and contented the prickings of his mystic longings by indulging in the innocent labor of decreeing the dogma of Immaculate Conception. But with the year 1859 there began a new epoch, marked by events directly calculated to influence the mystic fibres in the Pope's nature. As he saw himself the victim of spoliation—as he beheld great powers leagued together for the practical destruction of institutions which, in his mind, were identified with the existence of the Church and religion, it is intelligible how the Pope's excitable mind should have

become affected with visionary ideas. The belief in the indestructibility of St. Peter's bark—in the extension of a divine protection which would manifest itself by miraculous intervention, lay too near at hand in the order of Romish thought not to present itself widely at that moment. For the Pope, views of this nature had an irresistible attraction, and he lent a ready ear to the assurances of enthusiasts who dwelt on the certain confusion that must overtake his enemies if only he would give the signal for a crusade. Such suggestions fell dead against the sober shrewdness of Cardinal Antouelli. Not that the Cardinal exhibited any statesmanlike instincts, except that he has always been sufficiently astute to retain a common-sense indisposition to trust in the advent of miraculous aid for the defeat of palpable forces, and to be anything but zealous in the advocacy of active measures that rely on no better material resources than high-flown enthusiasm. But it was precisely in such excited counsels that Pius IX. felt disposed to take pleasure; and he listened with delight to the sympathetic effusion of zealots whose rapturous assurances contrasted with the Cardinal's tepid temperature of mind and merely temporizing inclinations.

It is from this time that two currents of influence have begun to run in rivalry to each other in the Vatican: the one moderating and essentially temporizing, whose representative is Cardinal Antonelli; and the other headlong and selfconfident, represented by a cosmopolite combination of fanatics, among whom the most prominent, although not always the most influential figure, is Monsignore Merode. It is this fact which led to the creation of Larnoriciere's army, and to all the rash acts which have marked the Pope's policy—acts which Cardinal Antonelli disapproved, but gave his countenance to because he is not in the mood to resign his office. There have been moments when the ascendency of the adverse party was attended with circumstances which must have been so wounding to the Cardinal, that his voluntary retention of office proves an absolute determination never to give his enemies the pleasure of seeing him divest himself spontaneously of the post he holds. On the other hand, the Pope, although he had repeatedly slighted his minister, can evidently not bring himself to dismiss him, partly from a want of resolution to go through the final act, and partly from an impression that he has, after all, no one more capable than the Cardinal to j transact diplomatic business. Thus a carious and anomalous state of things has sprung up, attended by a running contest between a hot-headed party, which, though not allowed to stand publicly forward in the first row of installed rank, hqlds in its hand, to a large degree, actual power, and a minister clothed in all the semblance of absolute grandeur, but who perpetually consents to sanction and defend what in his heart he does not approve.

It may be said of this party that it has succeeded in usurping the very positive, although not easily-defined, position of influence, which formerly used to be assumed by the Pope's nephews. That nepotism of the flesh, which was once such an essential feature of the Roman Court, has now made room for the nepotism of a faction which is conspicuously represented by the Papal household. That body is composed of individuals from all nations. Every Roman Catholic community may be considered, as far as tongue goes, to have contributed its share to the Catholic character of the Supreme Pontiff's Court. As regards, however, any capacity for properly reflecting 'a knowledge of their respective countries, feelings, and tempers, this look of Catholic composition in the Pope's household is a sham. The individuals who figure there are without exception men of narrow mind—types of contracted fanaticism, who are incapable of serving as the medium for a ray of wholesome light. Nor must they be rated as more than mere puppets. The quality (if this term can be applied to so poor a matter) which forms the all-in-all of their intellectual nature is an impervious coating of bigotry. The action of such men on the Pope has been disastrous; for his own morbid predispositions could not foil to become dangerously stimulated by exclusive contact with their inflammatory breathings. If left to their own genius, their fanaticism would have been, indeed, comparatively harmless, from the general dullness of

their minds. Monsignore Merode alone of these domestic prelates could lay claim to some powers of invention and practical enterprise. Neither Monsignore Talbot, nor Monsignore Hohenlohe, nor Monsignore Pacca, have ever been credited with the guilt of originating any portion of that furious policy which they have always been unanimous in approving. These men have -simply been used as channels for instilling into the Pope, in virtue of the advantages they have from their position as his daily associates, views and passions which other minds have'been converting into a system. That system rests on the principle of uncompromising hostility to all modern civilization, to every idea popularly identified with progress, with civil liberty, with the advance of science and thought. According to this system, all that modern society prizes is of devilish origin; and it is the duty of Christ's Vicar on earth to wage a war of extermination against it. These extreme views proceed from a highflown conception of the universal prerogatives of the Church; and among prelates they have found their particular champions in bishops and cardinals of Germany and France. It is especially on the non- Italian side of the Alps that these exaggerated ideas have been most unreservedly broached; and in the Sacred College it is the two German cardinals, Keisach and Rauscher, who are considered to be their keenest advocates. Thus there has come to be formed a school of cosmopolite composition, consisting of divines and prelates of various nations, represented in Rome by members in various ranks of the hierarchy, but which, as distinguished by the numerical preponderance of non-Italian elements among its memberhood, has acquired, in addition to its other marks of distinction, a certain political and national color which imparts to its actions a character of special significance. For on the one hand there are in Rome these excited Catho.ics of foreign origin, meu who are bent on an immediate crusade, and on the other hand there is the bulk of the Italian and especially Roman prelates, who have small liking for desperate moves, and think that under present circumstances to gain time, and particularly ly to abstain from envenoming matters, ought to be the policy for the Holy See

« PreviousContinue »