« PreviousContinue »
its power in managing the administration of a sảcristy as well as in checking the authority of bishops, and in measuring the action of their clergy. He was weary of the regulations which had for centuries preserved harmony between the Church and State in the empire over which he held dominion. “Possessed with the mania of innovation, and conceiving that every obstacle must yield to his imperial authority, he formed the most visionary schemes, and pursued them with a pertinacity bordering upon madness. His experiments extended to everything; to the law, to the army, to the Church, and the constitutions of the provincial states. He consulted neither the opinions nor the feelings of his subjects. Institutions the most ancient, and most sacred, confirmed by treaties and charters, were swept away; every remaining vestige of the liberty of former times was abolished ; and decrees on all kinds of subjects, sometimes indeed salutary, sometimes absurd and impious, were issued in rapid succession. Irritated by the opposition of the clergy, he conceived, in 1785, the idea of separating his dominions from the communion of the Church of Rome. It was the Chevalier Azara, the Spanish minister at the Papal Court, who convinced him that his subjects were not yet ripe for such a
He therefore reverted to his plans of reform, and continued to encroach on the spiritual authority of the bishops. It was in vain that the prelates of Austria, of Hungary, of Bohemia, of Germany, of the Netherlands, protested against them. The remonstrances were treated with contempt; the disobedience of some was punished with fines, of others with exile. Many lost, with part of their dioceses, the greater portion of their incomes; and all were stripped of the situations which they held in the provincial states. At length, the effect of his innovations, civil and religious, recoiled upon himself. Austria was in a ferment: Hungary was on the point of insurrection : the Netherlands had revolted and established their independence, when his death opportunely saved the monarchy. Whilst Joseph was acting in this manner, his brother Leopold was Grand Duke of Tuscany. Guided, perhaps driven by the Emperor, he pursued a similar course, and was aided by the counsels of Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia. The same edicts were published by the Tuscan government, and equal opposition was made by the Tuscan bishops."-(Lingard.)
Emperors more ambitious than Joseph and Leopold had occupied the throne of the Cæsars, and some of them had been passive whilst the peaceful sway of the Church was invaded; but none of them had adopted the dangerous and fatal course of usurping her place, and of directing the consciences of their subjects. The Josephine and Leopoldine laws were guided by a wish to extend the dominion of the Crown by encroachments upon the immunities of the Church, and by endeavours to alter the discipline, which, in former times, had been considered sacred. At the Congress of Ems, and in the Synod of Pistoia, attempts were made to secure the concurrence of the pastors of the Church in these disastrous innovations; and writers of the Febronian school were ready to justify them by a pretended reference to primitive discipline. The enactments of the rulers were too faithfully carried out by the numerous employés, who felt that it was for their own interest to develop the principles embodied in them, and to render the administration of the laws themselves cumbersome and complicated.
Against a system thus framed and thus administered it was difficult to struggle. In vain had the venerable Pius VI. merited the name assigned to him in the fanciful prophecy, which has given titles to successive popes, by travelling, a true peregrinus apostolicus, to Vienna, where Joseph idly strove to conceal the settled purpose of his mind under acts of courtesy to his illustrious guest. In vain had other pontiffs sought to break the web of that everspreading legislation ; and in vain had the bishops of Austria and Lombardy represented_the afflictions of_their churches to their sovereigns. The successor of Theodosius would not listen to the prayer of the successor of St. Ambrose; and bishops, whose sees had been founded by St. Stephen, wasted their time in appeals to the kings of Hungary. Even the French revolution, which swept away the old form of government, left unalloyed the craft and worldly cunning of the Josephine legislation ; and some of the worst features of the republican laws of France against the Church were borrowed from it.
A hasty review of the provisions of the new Concordat will convince any impartial reader that the evils must have been real and deep-rooted against which they are directed. So far from thinking that the Holy See has entrenched upon the rights of the Crown, he will be surprised at the usurpation of the spiritual rights and of the sacred authority of the Church which this treaty is intended to correct. Leaving, therefore, to the eminent Prelate, who has commenced the defence of the Concordat, the fulfilment of the duty which he has undertaken, and which he is so fully qualified to perform, we beg to confine ourselves to an account of its provisions, with a few brief notes, by which our readers may be enabled to understand their object, and the magnitude of the wrong of which the Austrian legislation has so long been the instrument.
“ I. The Catholic, Roman Apostolic Religion shall ever be maintained in all its integrity in the Empire of Austria, and in all its dependencies, with all those rights and prerogatives which, by the ordinance of God and the disposition of the Canons it ought to enjoy.”
It was only reasonable to suppose, as a basis of the Concordat, the provision, that the Catholic Church should be protected in the Austrian dominions, with the prerogatives and rights which are derived from the laws of God and from the Canons. A similar provision, as Mr. Bowyer has remarked, in his able replies to Dr. Cumming, is contained in the first article of Magna Charta.
“ II. As the Roman Pontiff has by Divine right the primacy of honour and jurisdiction throughout the whole Church, the mutual communication between the Bishops, the Clergy, the people and the Holy See, in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, shall be subject to no necessity of obtaining the placetum regium, but shall be completely free."
The right, bestowed by our divine Lord upon St. Peter and his successors, is here described almost in the words of the Council of Florence; " Definimus Romano pontifici in B. Petro pascendi, regendi et gubernandi universalem Ecclesiam a Domino nostro Jesu Christo plenam potestatem traditam esse.' For its fair and full exercise, communication between the Pope and all his children is surely necessary; and it is humiliating to think that the freedom, which is essential to it, and the effect of the decrees of the Holy See should have been restrained by the laws which required the placet.
* By the placet," says Dr. Lingard, “is understood a custom prevailing in many states, according to which papal bulls and briefs are subjected to the inspection of the civil
power before they are permitted to be carried into execution. From the word by which the assent of the sovereign is signified, it is called the placet, pareatis, or exequatur. The placet was introduced in the middle ages, and in our own legislation was represented by the statutes of provisors and premunire. Whilst Catholics have always and with reason objected to it, various questions have been raised amongst those who are favourable to it, as to the extent to which the inspection may be carried. In the seventeenth century an attempt was made by the supreme Council of Brabant to resist the bull of Urban VIII., condemning the heresy of Jansenius, on the ground that the placet had not been attached to it. This was the first instance of an attempt to subject doctrinal decisions to its operation. Similar efforts were made by the Crown in France in the course of that and the following century; in Spain in 1761, and by Joseph II. in 1781. But the clergy everywhere resisted them, and even Joseph found it necessary, in 1782, to modify his decree by declaring, that "it must be evident that doctrinal bulls were made subject to the royal inspection only inasmuch as might be necessary to ascertain that they were merely doctrinal, and did not contain any incompetent article.”-Lingard, p. 475.
Although in France a different notion prevailed, it is asserted that, in general, grants which had no external influence and which interested only the consciences of individuals, were never interfered with. But, when a brief or rescript contained a provision on beneficiary or litigated matters, the Josephine laws claimed authority to inspect and pass them; and, in the extension of those laws to other states, finance ininisters soon discovered that fees might be demanded from the parties, and might form an important source of revenue. Thus the placet was maintained by the wish of sovereigns to uphold an assumed right; was stretched by the ingenuity of officials; and was eagerly supported by the avarice of the royal exchequer.
The evils of the system upon which the placet was defended cannot be sufficiently deplored. In some kingdoms the opposition of the state to the ecclesiastics named to vacant benefices by the Holy See, lessened the number of learned ecclesiastics, and filled their places with ignorant men. Without denying the Popes' right to appoint their subjects to benefices in their states, or to determine points of canon law arising out of the existence of such benefices,
VOL. XXXIX-No. LXXVIII.
sovereigns introduced the anomaly of committing to lay and incompetent examiners the consideration of the document conveying the papal concession or judgment, and of allowing them to stay nominations and impede the course of justice, not only to the detriment of suitors, but to the injury of the flock over which those suitors were to preside.
We have had, within the last three years, an instance of an archbishop kept from his Cathedral and See by the annoying checks of the system upon wbich the Placet is based. To such lengths has this prerogative been extended, that we have known delay in foreign states in the publication of the bulls of canonization of the Five Saints decreed by Gregory XVI. in 1839; and petitions for new festivals have been met by doubts of the necessity of the Placet. In the regulations of the Gallican Church appended to the Concordat between Pius VII. and Buonaparte, may be read these astounding propositions: “ The decrees of foreign synods, or even of general councils, shall not be published in France before the government shall have examined their form, their conformity to the laws, rights, and privileges of the French republic; no bull, rescript &c., nor other missive from the Court of Rome, even though it should relate to individuals only, shall be received, published, printed, or otherwise put in force, without the authority of government: no council or diocesan synod, no deliberative assembly, shall be held without the express sanction of government." (Concordat, p. 5, Dublin, 1802).
The Emperor of Austria has wisely abandoned claims so dangerous to justice and to religion, and so hostile to the divine authority of the Holy See.
“III. Archbishops and Bishops, and all Ordinaries shall have free communication with the clergy and the inhabitants of their diocese, and freely perform their pastoral duties. They will also be free to issue instructions and ordinances on clerical matters."
“IV. They will also be at liberty to do everything belonging to the government of their Sees, which is in accordance with the canons and present discipline of the Church, as approved by the Holy See.” Even in protestant kingdoms it would scarcely have been deemed necessary to stipulate for freedom to exercise the episcopal authority and to conduct the administration of dioceses according to the discipline of the Church; and yet, so complete was the thraldom established by the