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HAS THE PAPACY BEEN BENEFICIAL TO THE
AFFIRMATIVE ARTICLE.I. As this question has been set down by the conductors of the British Controversialist in the “History” section, it is quite apparent that they, in their wisdom, have decided that the argumentative contention should be carried on mainly, at all events, regarding the Papacy as a civil institution, rather than as a religious system. °It is not necessary, therefore, to be a Papist in belief, or a Romanist in creed, to take the affirmative of the controversy. So far from this, we are of opinion that a discussion of much more worth may be conducted by those who are adverse to the Papacy as a theological power, than by those who believe in its omnipo. tency as an earthly headship of the Church. The writer of this article is not at all favourable in his sentiments to tyranny of any kind-ecclesiastical or political,-- but he believes that he may justly affirm that “the Papacy has been beneficial to the world” as an historical fact, and as a reality in human experience.
In this point of view the question is of intense present interest, as well as of considerable importance as a mere topic in philosophical history. The political value of the Papacy as a temporal institution has become inwoven with all modern history, and has heen a matter of very serious concernment to Europe, at least, for the last three quarters of a century. In fact, since the French Revolution, if not before it, the power of the Popedom has been a Furopean question; and this has gathered intensity, especially since the French intervention in 1849. In truth, since the modern unsettlement of the political state of Rome, and the States of the Church as the fief of the father of the faithful Catholic Church under Napoleon I., there have been such constant uneasiness and turmoil in the papal states by insurrection, secession, and civil war, that it has more or less influenced the entire policy of the Governments of South-western Europe at least, and we opine that the French monarch, the King of Italy, the Austrian Emperor, the peninsular Sovereigns, the Prussian Prime Minister, and the
British Cabinet have found that the supremacy of the See of Rome is beset behind and before, on the right hand and on the left, by anxieties that, besides being a torment to the other sovereignties, it is itself
“With difficulty and with danger compassed round.” What can be done with the Papacy? is one of the entrancing political questions of our day. Many people imagine that that
topic is only shelved during the tenure of life and office by Pio Nono; while a few others think that the time of the prophecies has fully come, and that the Papacy must fall from its high estate, that the days of the millennial glory may manifest themselves, and Christ may reign instead of Antichrist. The least considerate of men can scarcely look upon the condition of Italy as satisfactory so long as the sighs for national unity, so strongly and thoroughly expressive of the heartfelt
grief of the Peninsula of the Boot, are heaved in vain, because Rome, the capital and mistress of the world, is the patrimonial heritage of the See of St. Peter, and Italy is motherlegs. Italians are ready to say,
“Men, this is the great year of resurrection !
All who are in their graves shall hear His voice,
Shout, countrymen! and wake the graves, shout ROME;"
These mere commonplaces on “the situation,” as it is now the cant, if not the slang, of the day to call any occurrence exciting special mark, will show the opportune character of the present debate. We shall endeavour to adhere to its discussion as an historical question, and shall attempt to view it altogether apart from the odium theologicum which usually accompanies the consideration of such topics in 80-called Protestant England. The better to do this we may define“ the Papacy" as it appears to us in an historical retrospect. The Papacy is not at all synonymous with the Church, not even of the Church visible and militant, not even of the Church Catholic. It is the Church existing in state, as a state with a Capital, and capital powers. Is is the Church in its sovereignty as a body corporate, exercising functions political as well as religious. It is that independent and constituted society standing among the masters and sovereigns of the world, with higher claims and rights than earthly dignities, and a mightier majesty than kings possessed, which though in the world was not of the world; and yet an institution which, without lineal successorship, maintained its corporate existence from the people. It is that centre of energy and system, discipline and influence, which, founded on religion, exerts through a sacerdotal caste, an incorporated priesthood, the power of a temporal sovereignty, as an agency for making more effective the spiritual supremacy which it claimed, and at which it aimed. or course, the Papacy is here used, like all abstract nouns, as an abbreviated expression for a multitude of separate thoughts gathered into a unity, and grouped into a whole; and it is difficult to get hold of so many of the central ideas as may be held to form the inner essence which supplied the persistency of vital effectiveness to it without a knowledge of the events involved in its appearance as a
historical product. If we accept of the bare idea of pontifical supremacy, and if we agglomerate to that all the means and agencies implied in the making of that sovereignty effective, and securing the safety, prosperity, and workableness of the government of the vicar of Christ, perhaps we would come nearest it. It is, in fact, a word which, like our own word parliament, is much more easily understood than defined,-analysis, in this as in so many other cases, destroying the life of that which it endeavours to dissect that it may understand.
The turning-point in human history is the advent of Christianity. Thereafter the civilization of the world became changed in its direction, and
“ Westward the course of empire took its way." Amid the contests of Greece and Rome the Church organized itself, fixed its chief dogmas, developed its main doctrines, and set up its new priesthood in the place
of the old pagan sacerdotalism, and took its place among powers and potentates. In the hour of the weakness of the Greek empire, and when the Goths and Lombards held Italy in their barbarous grasp, the Pope energetically maintained the dignity and importance of Rome, intimidated the barbarians, animated the Romans, and rivalled in some measure the Greek gway; thus acquiring a prestige which served as a great help to the attainment of temporal sovereignty. Gregory III. declared the independence of Rome, and Pepin and Charlemagne, Rome's Pontiff-rulers, received many augmentations of power and territory. Diplomacy, force, and cunning, swelled the might and the majesty of the Papal States, and the German empire formally acknowledged the exclusive authority of the Pope in a wide district of Italy, and asserted the right of his Holiness to undisputed allegiance.
The mighty mind of Hildebrand had seized upon the prime power by which men could be governed; he had clarified, to his own view, the purposes to which his predecessors bad aspired-to unite the entire community of the faithful into one banded brotherhood, moved by the same spirit, stirred by the same ambition, and acting from the same motive. He had gathered together the scattered threads of the policy of former Popes, and he had planned out the wondrous scheme which their fitful efforts had only foreshadowed ; and he left this great idea of a spiritual government to be worked out by his successors. In this, as we have just stated, they were pretty successful, and had acquired acknowledged sovereign rights among certain states in Rome, together with certain privileges and immunities in many other countries. I grant that there were many tyrannies perpetrated by several holders of the Popedom, but these by no means convince us that the Papacy was not beneficial. Indeed, we think that, great and terrible as the tyrannies of the Popes were, the atrocities of the secolar sovereignties would have been far worse had that not been there with a might above monarchs to restrain from evil and to constrain to good. During many centuries
it stood before the people as their protector, and among sovereigns as their master ; as, so long as it did so the king knew well where an avenger of blood was to be found by people if he wronged them, and the people knew at what throne they might place their petition for redress of grievances. As a sort of sovereign arbiter between sovereigns, nobles, hosts, and peoples, the Papacy exercised a most beneficial influence in human affairs; while, by its furnishing so many trained statesmen to the nations, it provided a vast boon for the common people. The hold it had, too, upon the several statesmen, as being bound in supreme fealty to it, however much they were enticed to serve their temporal masters, had a good effect in causing a sort of international civility which gradually grew into international law. The great benefit which theorists now dream of about an international commission for the abolition of war, and the supreme decision of all questions of right between nation and nation, was the function in which the Papacy most thoroughly exerted itself for the benefit of the world.
The moral grandeur of the Papacy as a sacerdotal power, the intellectual greatness of the Papacy as a college of training for statesmen, the temporal might of the Papacy as having devoted subjects in all lands and in all ranks, who were ready to give allegiance to it in the last resort in any matter of dispute, the religious supremacy of the Papacy as holding the keys--the terrible triple keys were also very marked. Then the theory of its foundation as the kingdom of God in the earth-as the very vicegerent of Jesus Christ, and the lieutenant of the eternal King, had a great effect, not only among kings and people, but also over the administrators of the concerns of the Holy See itself; for, however insincere men's pretensions are, they are always bound by these very pretensionsto some extent, at least,—to conform in some measure to their apparent scope. So that even those of our opponents who may feel inclined to stigmatise the Papacy as an organized hypocrisy, will gain little in argument from that course unless they can prove that the bypocrisy itself did not operate as a restraint. None of the accusations of heinous sins preferrable against Sixtus VI., Alexander VI., Julius II., Leo X., &c., can be urged in this relation against the beneficiality of the Papacy, because the objector will require to sbow cause why, if these great crimes were really chargeable on the Papacy, as exceptionably wicked as compared with all other sovereignties, they were neither followed by revolt nor arraignment; will have to prove their exceptional guilt; and will require to bring home to the Papacy the perpetration of these crimes for its own specific ends, and not for the mere personal ends of the administrators. I do not myself see how the negative side of this controversy can be maintained without an almost blasphemous imputation against the God of providence for suffering a sovereignty not beneficial to the world to exist under the name and form of Christ's church for centuries. But to bring the matter more closely into controversial possibility, I venture to affirm the beneficiality of the Papacy as an
historic institution upon the following grounds, which those who list may attempt to gainsay :
1. The existence of the Papacy has been beneficial to the world because it proves the might of moral agency and the power of thought. From the lowliest ranks of men, from a despised race, from a reputed malefactor, Christianity arose and spread. And from the traitor
apostle as well as himself, a convict according to the laws of Rome, the Roman pontiff claimed his power, authority, influence, and position. It is beneficial that such a lesson should be stamped into history of the might of ideas over the most powerful forms of government, and against apparently the most stable states;
that there should be shown in a most palpable and undeniable manner the fact that the despised Nazarenes, whose Master was overmastered by Rome, had now overmastered Rome, and that, too, by sheer might of thought and the strength of altered convictions. The mere existence of this protest regarding the powerlessness of mere might as against a soul-felt truth, and of the superior power of an inward conviction to all outward forces, ought to be a great lesson for humanity, that in the controversy between force and truth the former must fail, the latter must conquer.
2. The principle on which the Papacy was founded has been beneficial to the world. That principle is faith-faith in common facts, doctrines, and results. It is a good thing to know the power of faith. All the foregoing sovereignties in the world were sovereignties of force; the Papacy was a sovereignty of faith. The succession to the monarchy of that sublime, extensive, and active dominion whose chief city was watered by the "yellow Tiber” was not that of hereditary descent, nor of bequeathment from legatee to legatee, nor of natural claims, nor of force; it was the sovereignty of the choice of the faithful. Common as might possessing right is in the world, can we deny that it was of great practical benefit in the world that it should be seen that there were ties which
bound man to man much more strongly and effectively than the mere slavish power of fear or the mere utilitarianism of statecraft? To show that faith is might, and that it possesses and exercises an influence and effect greater than bulwarks and battle-fields, thrones and swords, is surely a great benefit; and that the Papacy has shown the might of this principle cannot, we presume, be truthfully 3. The form of government adopted by the Papacy was beneficial to the world. This form of government was administrative. It was not the mere expression of the wish or will of the sovereign ; it was the decision of a select court of trustworthy advisers, possessed of a certain representative character and of a distinct responsibility, as being in some measure elected as well as selected. The Papacy was, in truth, a great democratic body on which an aristocracy had been grafted. The lowest peasant could enter the Church, and conld rise to the tiara by the exercise of the faculties with which he was endowed. But before he could do so he required