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THE PERSECUTION OF THE MADIAI OF FLORENCE, 1851-1852.
We have before called the attention of our readers to this subject; and, since our last number, a Deputation has gone from England, to be met by other friends of the cause of Protestantism on the Continent, and thence to proceed to mediate with the Grand Duke of Tuscany on behalf of these afflicted servants of Christ. Lord Roden, Captain Trotter, the Earl of Cavan, and Sir Culling Eardley, were the four principal persons in the Deputation from England. The sentence was a severe one, as will be seen from what follows, and the Christian sympathy manifested by Protestants may do much good, and probably procure a mitigation of the sentence.
"During the last few years, a religious movement of a most interesting character has been going forward in various parts of Italy. This movement began in the diffusion of Scriptural truth in (he native language, at a period when the Word of God, as well as evangelical tracts, could be both printed and circulated without hindrance. In Tuscany and Piedmont especially, the work of evangelization has been in progress. To use the language of Signor de Sanctis (formerly a professor and inquisitor at Rome, now pastor of an evangelical church at Geneva), 'There are now Christians by hundreds, and there are small flocks, formed by the teaching only of the Word of God. These brethren turn toward the Vaudois Church, because they think it necessary to have an organized Church. The Vaudois brethren go there, and the result is that they are imprisoned, banished, chased from Tuscany. But the Church of Jesus Christ continues to flourish in the midst of persecution. The churches of Florence and Tuscany have furnished zealous confessors.' Among the 'zealous confessors' to whom reference is here made, the names of Francesco Madiai and Rosa his wife are worthy to be held in lasting remembrance by every lover of ' the truth as it is in Jesus.' These persons were arrested and put in prison in the month of August, 1851, on a charge of 'impiety,' as defined by the laws of Tuscany.
"After ten months' imprisonment, the trial of the Madiai in Florence commenced before the Corle Regia on the 4th of June, 1852. The answers of the Madiai to the questions addressed to them fully brought out the fact of their having forsaken the Romish Church. After the examination of witnesses, and the production and identification of the books found in the Madiais' house, and the summing up of the public prosecutor, the case closed on the third day. On the next day, the 8th of June, the president, Niccola Nervini, read the following sentence:—
'Having examined the decree of this Court of the 25th of November, 1851, and the act of accusation of 6th December of the same year, and having heard witnesses, the public prosecutor, the advocates for the defendants, and the defendants themselves, find, in point of fact, as the result of the public discussion :—
• That Francesco and Rosa Madiai, born and brought up in Catholicism, separated from it four or five years ago to embrace the religion called by them evangelical, or that of the pure Gospel. From that epoch, since, and more especially in the course of 1851, they lent their own house for meetings for worship and instruction in that faith; that these meetings, under the direction of a foreign teacher, were composed of more than thirty persons, mostly Tuscans, some Catholics, and some still affirming their Catholicism, and belonging to the class of artizans, to whom were given Bibles in Italian, prohibited by the Catholic Church, and other tracts on religious subjects (containing errors condemned by the Church), for the purpose of being distributed also after leaving the meeting among the adepts, divided into bodies of ten each, and forming a society which was called a brotherhood. That in these meetings, by explaining and commenting on the Holy Scriptures, and comparing them with the practices of the Catholic Church, they endeavoured to show that these were contrary to the Gospel. That, although that foreign teacher was expelled from Tuscany, and the thread of that anti-Catholic sect broken by the means of the police, and the visitors of the house of the Madiai were much diminished in numbers, still the meetings were held, and one on the evening of the 17th of August, 1851, in which the public force surprised three individuals, who, along with a girl of twelve years of age, whom the Madiai had received into their house for a short time, were occupied in the reading of the Bible translated by Diodati, having each a copy before them. That in the house of the said Madiai were lodged not only different copies of the said Bible, and others in English, and prayer-books for the use of the heterodox, but various works besides of the same kind, and several copies of the same work. That Francesco Madiai, profiting by the opportunity of giving lessons in French to a young man of sixteen, endeavoured, but without effect, to detach him from the Catholic faith, seeking to persuade him that it was false, and offering him a prohibited copy of the Bible in French and Italian. That with other persons, also, the said F. Madiai held discourse intended to insinuate the preference of the religion called evangelical to the Catholic, advising them not to listen to the priests, censuring the worship of the Blessed Virgin and of the saints as idolatry, and deriding particularly the pious custom of keeping a lighted candle before the image of the Virgin. That with two females, hired as domestic servants, and with a third, who lived with them about eight months, from December 1850, the Madiai openly evinced their intention to persuade them to abjure Catholicism, and embrace the religion of the pure Gospel (puro evangelo), holding with them conversations and readings tending to discredit the Catholic clergy, and on the doctrine taught by them; particularly on purgatory, denying its existence; on the holy sacrifice of the mass, calling it the invention of the priests, and impugning the real presence in the consecrated host; on intercession through the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, calling it impossible and dishonourable to God ; on the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, disowning it; on the observance of festivals other than the Sabbath: on the mortification which consists in abstaining from some kinds of food, calling it a device of sinful men; on the communion and sacramental confession, asserting that the first was illunderstood and observed, because there was no transmutation of the bread and wine, and because the cup should not be denied to the laity, and blaming the second as being made to men and not to God. That on one of these females, who was of riper years, and who sustained the discussion on these subjects, their efforts had no effect. That on the other, younger, more needy, and somewhat weak (quasi idiota), enticed by pecuniary presents, and by continual instructions, accompanied by the loan of books fitted for their purpose, they produced the effect of grave doubts respecting her faith. That on the third female, who was little more than twenty years of age, and unfurnished with religious instruction, they produced the effect of her abandoning her own religion and adopting that of her employers. This latter person the Madiai took the trouble to teach to read, and thus rendered her capable of understanding the books which they supplied, namely, the Bible by Diodati, and another, entitled, * The Book of Common Prayer,' printed in London, in 1848, by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, in which were found recorded the same maxims and doctrines condemned by the Catholic Church, doctrines which expressly assert that the existence of purgatory, and the worship of images, are foolish inventions*; that in the sacrament of the eucharist there is no real transubstantiation,-(- and similar notorious heretical pravity indicated above. That the said girl confessed to the reading of the Bible, which was done in common and commented on in the manner above mentioned, abandoned the practice of Catholic worship, got rid, in obedience to the injunction of the Madiai, of the dress, and of the garlands which she wore; participated twice in the communion at their house, in commemoration of the last supper; and would not have recovered from her error if she had not returned for a few days to her father's house, and brought with her an Italian Bible, which was the means of discovering her deviation. That the Madiai, maintaining that no sectarian meetings were held in their house, acknowledge that there is a meeting of a few friends to observe the practices of the religion which they have newly embraced, and granting the apostacy of the girl in their service, maintain that it was of her own accord, and not owing to their insinuations. That, notwithstanding this, neither their affirmations, nor the witnesses produced at the public hearing, have succeeded in overthrowing the facts brought against them in the accusation. That Francesco Madiai has suffered in prison, while the process was depending, from the 26th of August, 1851, and Rosa Madiai from the 27th of August, 1851.
"'The Court declares proved the impiety committed by Francesco and Rosa Madiai, by means of proselytism to the said evangelical confession or pure gospel, to the injury and dishonour of the Catholic religion established in the Grand Duchy at the time, and in the manner and circumstances above mentioned. And whereas the crime of impiety in the way of proselytism is manifestly contemplated in the last part of Art. 60 of the law of Nov. 30, 1786; 1, 4, 9, 14, of the decree of March 4, 1849; confirmed by the other of May 5, following; and 34, 35, police regulation of Oct. 22, 1849; and Art. 51 of the regulations of Nov. 22, 1849; and 55 of the said law of Nov. 1786, condemns Francesco and Rosa Madai to punishment, the
* See Article XXIL + See Article XXVUJL
Jirstto confinement for Fifty-six Months In The House Of Forced Labours (the hulks of Volterra). The second to the Ergastola (the house of correction) for Forty-five Months, to be counted from the 26th and 27th of November, 1851, and condemns them in costs, which amount to 200 livres, and when their term of imprisonment has expired, subjects them besides to the vigilance of the police for three years!
"The Madiai listened with the greatest calmness, and were carried back to the prison, where they had been separately confined for the preceding ten months." 4
An appeal was made against this sentence, but in vain.
The result was intimated to Francesco Madiai, who calmly prepared for his journey to Volterra, where he was to be put in irons in the Casa di Forza. Rosa Madiai had all along been in delicate health; and it was feared that if the appeal failed, fatal effects might ensue; but strength was given her for the day of trial. On the morning of the 11th of August, 1852, this faithful witness for her Lord was removed from the Bargello at Florence, and sent, under the custody of a turnkey and the police, to the Ergastola at Lucca, where, in solitary confinement and at hard labour, she is doomed to undergo the sentence passed upon her. It is not improbable that both she and her husband may die under the hardships and cruelty to which they are exposed.
We hope this may not be the case. Already the kind mediation of Christian friends has effected much in procuring a mitigation of some of the severities attendant upon the rigid execution of the sentence; and the impression is strong on the minds of many, that, through the intervention now going on, the sentence may be repealed, or the time or nature of the punishment lessened; and some are not without hope that permission may be given those now imprisoned to leave the country, and take up their residence in some Protestant State.*
THE "TIMES" NEWSPAPER ON "CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION." —ROMANISTS NOT TO BE CONCILIATED BY CONCESSIONS.
The political concessions which have, from time to time, been unwisely made by Protestants, to the ambition and encroachment of Rome, have been productive of no good whatever. Yielded as they were under the influence of fear and dread of civil war, they have only served to encourage Romanists in assuming a menacing position in our country, and paved the way for insult and aggression.
Those persons who advocated the mistaken policy of concession in the hope of conciliating Romanists, now see their error, and many of them have had the candour to admit it. They unhesitatingly affirm, that if the time were to come over again, they would adopt a very
» The heading of this Article forms the title of a very interesting Tract just issued by the Religious Tract Society.
VOL. XIV. A A
different course.* Among those who have acted thus generously may be ranked the editor of The Times newspaper. Passages might be selected from this leviathan journal which show that the relief extended to the subjects of the Pope in this couutry-|- has entirely disappointed the expectations of the editor, and led him to use the following emphatic language:—" We have learnt what concession did in the case of Emancipation; its fruits, indeed, are before us at this very moment. We have found what firmness effected in one or two cases since, and these results are very preferable to the former. The new confederates will not obtain that ' »eligious equality' which consists in endowing a sect sworn to extirpate all others with the substantial means of promoting its ends.J They will not be released from those ' spiritual prohibitions' which the Imperial Parliament has thought it necessary to enact. They will not be permitted to acquire any further political power or to exert injuriously what they possess already. On these points the British nation is steadily resolved, and it possesses the means of enforcing its resolution. Dr. M'Hale and his fellow-conspirators are trifling with a power which can any day reduce them to nothing. At this very moment, we believe a numerical majority of the population would be prepared to undo the work of 1829,§ and to encounter, without apprehension, the alternatives of which the Government of that day was dismayed. || It requires all the argument, and
* . . . "A terrible suspicion will creep in, that if we were to live the last thirty years oyer again, we might be tempted to take a very different view of all questions affecting the status of the Roman Catholic Church in these realms."— The Times, 7th August, 1851.
f "The Times" speaks of Romanists in this country as " the spiritual subjects of the Pope." As no man can serve two masters, so no man can owe two allegiances.
% "By the terms of their creed, the triumph of their faith is synonymous with the universal suppression of all other forms of belief."—The Times, 7th August, 1851.
§ "In point of fact, it may be doubted, to this day, whether the majority of the people were ever really favourable to Catholic Emancipation; so that Ministers, with all the pledges of their previous life against them, amid the reproaches of their former friends, and the sarcasms of their new allies, were proposing to carry on almost unpopular measures under what appeared the intimidation of Irish terrorism."—rAe Times, 16th September, 1852.
. . . "For the last iive-and-twenty years, Irishmen have been habituated to productive agitation,* and to the attainment of their ends by the threat of making themselves ungovernable if they were refused. The time for their work is past. Englishmen have acquired two pieces of knowledge; first, that these menaces mean nothing at all; and, next, that the concessions they provoke are unscrupulously abused. "We granted Emancipation for fear of civil war, and in deference to the maxims of theoretical wisdom—[for wisdom read_/b%.] We now know that'civil war' means a row in a cabbage-garden, and that the conclusions of liberal theories are convicted by the wilfulness of Emancipated Papists. Nothing has followed from Eoman Catholic Emancipation which its advocates predicted, except the satisfaction pro duced by acting rightly, (?) while everything that Lord Winchelsea prophesied has been more than confirmed—we are forced to confess it—by the madness of the liberated crew."—The Times, 9th October, 1852.
|| It was much to the discredit of the Grovemment of that day to be dismayed, and to be deterred from performing its duty, through fear of a civil war. When
* It is owing to the folly, infatuation, and pusillanimity of our leading statesmen, that Romish agitation in Ireland has been such a productive trade. *