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It is but a brief retrospect that we have made, but it is probably enough to show how greatly the existence of the Temporal Power has affected the course of European history. It would be a matter for rejoicing if the September Celebrations did nothing but commemorate an event of historical interest. Such, however, is far from being the case. The Temporal Power has indeed gone, but the Roman question continues with us still. position of the Italian Government in Rome resembles that of a legatee of an estate to the ownership of which some onerous conditions are attached ; it is rather like an hereditas damnosa, as the old Latin lawyers would have called it. The claims of the Papacy to the restoration of its Temporalities are a cause of grave embarrassment and give rise to a question which cries loudly for solution. For the Papacy, though it can wonderfully adapt itself to the various and changing needs of men, never abates one jot or tittle of its claims. It is a sacred maxim handed down from age to age by the successors of St. Peter, that whatever spiritual or temporal powers have once been placed within their hands shall be kept intact and unimpaired. They do not admit defeat; what they do not possess de facto, they at least possess de jure; if they have lost the substance they retain the shadow; and if their earthly kingdom has been filched, that loss, they say, will only be continued for a season, until that brighter day returns when all shall be restored. The Holy Catholic Church, it is said, can afford to stand and wait; an all-seeing Providence will give her the victory at last. the belief of all true Catholics it is as certain that she will eventually triumph as that the sun will rise again. Meanwhile, though she never hastes she never rests, and she presses on her claims with a persistency a persistency
which, if often silent, never flags. They are pushed unceasingly from hour to hour, from day to day, from year to year, and if the outside world can forget them or deride them, the government of King Humbert never can. It has to face an unsleeping foe whom no good-will can ever conciliate or appease, whose claims are incapable of compromise. Both demand as of right to rule in the City of the Cæsars, and the victory of one side means the inevitable and enduring humiliation of the other. So is waged the bloodless but unequal war; yet though the occupation of the Quirinal is securely based on force, the Vatican has weapons in her arsenal of a less material kind with which she is well able to harass and annoy.
Of these the most effective is the influence she exerts over Catholic voters, and the way in which that influence is used. The position assumed by the Vatican in relation to the Italian State in effect is simply this,that the State is a usurper with which the Church can have no dealing, and which it is so far as possible her duty to ignore. From this standpoint as a premise it is argued that no good Italian Catholic should take any part or lot in the government or administration of the State in which he lives. Pius the Ninth put the doctrine into definite form and shape when he issued the decree Nè Eletti Nè Elettori; or, in other words, that no Italian Catholic should be a candidate himself or ever record his vote at an election. This is, at all events, the theory, but the practice has in fact been something very different. Papal decrees are not meant to be too rigorously applied, and here at least not a little latitude has been tacitly allowed. The history of this particular decree and of its elastic adaptation to the changing necessities of the hour is of some
interest in itself, and also for the curious light it throws on the working of the political machine at the Vatican.
So long as Pius the Ninth occupied the chair, it was generally held that the decree was one of those to which the maxim non expedit applied; that it was not intended to be an absolute prohibition, but only a direction of what was thought to be expedient, which every one according to his conscience was free to obey or disregard. But after the election of Leo the Thirteenth a new and more rigorous interpretation was applied. That department at the Vatican which is known as the Sacra Penitenzieria, with the Pope's assent, declared the meaning to be this, that no Catholic should take part in an election, unless the Pontiff in his absolute discretion should otherwise resolve. Even so the decree was very variously regarded. The clergy, no doubt, and the thorough-going Ultramontanes (Cattolici interi) rigorously obeyed; but the laity in many cases voted, it being held to be a very venial sin where there was a chance of defeating a Radical, a Jew, or a freemason. In practice each man voted according to the dictates of his conscience, so that the Catholic vote was a varying quantity whose actual influence on the results it was impossible to measure. This unsatisfactory state of things continued to the present year, when it was thought that the Vatican might probably be induced to recede somewhat from its rigorous position, and to give its sanction to a freer participation in the elections than had previously been the case. It was known that a general election, and one too perhaps of more importance than any since the foundation of the kingdom, was at hand, and that the possible results were such as the Vatican could not regard with indifference. It would be a contest
between the friends of law and order and a motley group of revolutionary forces; and it was obvious to all men that if the Catholics came in numbers to the polls, those forces would in a great measure be stemmed. The clergy and the Catholics were perfectly aware that if the party of disorder gained the day, both they and the State would be involved in common ruin, and that it was to their interest, and to a large extent within their power, to return to Parliament a majority pledged to the maintenance of authority and to orderly progression. In particular some of the bishops of Lombardy and Romagna did not conceal their fears of the dangers which might follow a general abstention of Catholics from the polls, and they begged the Pope to reconsider the position. Not for many a year had so fair a chance occurred for the clerical and civil powers to work together for the common good. It seemed as though a brighter day was at last about to dawn, and that a golden bridge might be erected by which the Vatican could have secured a dignified retreat. There was a general belief that before the elections took place the prohibition to vote would be removed; and it was even said that an article on the subject, written by the order of the Pope, would shortly appear in the CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA, a journal of the most rigorous Ultramontane type. To the amazement of every one, when all hopes were raised to a pitch of expectation, the Pope despatched a letter to Cardinal Parocchi declaring his absolute prohibition of any Catholics taking part in the elections. It was an act as unprecedented as surprising. Cardinal Parocchi was Vicar-General of the diocese of Rome, but his jurisdiction did not extend beyond its limits. There seemed no good reason why the Pope should have departed from the usual practice of making known
his wishes to his flock through the medium of the bishops, and his novel procedure gave rise to not a little comment. For the prohibitory order several reasons were ascribed. Some said that Cardinal Rampolla had urged the Pope to write the letter because the Italian Government would not, or could not, promise to keep order on the 20th of September. Others gave a reason of a less commonplace kind; indeed, if it was the right one, it was not a little strange. It was said that the Pope discharged his thunderbolt on account of the imprudences of a certain high personage of the Curia; no less a person indeed than Cardinal Hohenlohe, a brother of the present German Chancellor, and who seems to be a man of spirit and independent character. At a banquet given at Rome in honour of the Italian Foreign Minister the Cardinal had proposed the health of the President of the Council. It was no doubt for a member of the Curia an unusual thing to do, and it is said to have roused the displeasure of the Pope. But he was not a man to be easily put down; and shortly after he allowed his house to be used by the son of a Minister of State for the purpose of holding a meeting of electors. It seems hardly credible, but it is certainly alleged that from these trifling incidents important consequences followed; that, in fact, the French Government affected to believe that the Cardinal, as the brother of the Imperial Chancellor, was acting in the interests of the Triple Alliance. His conduct, it was argued, showed that he was anxious for the Pope to remove the prohibition, because the the Catholic voters would give their support to Signor Crispi, who, as all the world knows, is deeply pledged to to the Alliance. The French Government thereupon brought its influence to bear, and yielding to it, it is said,
the Pope resolved to enforce the prohibition.
By this sudden change of front Leo the Thirteenth has impaired his own dignity and the interests of his Church. If the version we have given be the true one, as is probable enough, it is obvious that the government of the Vatican must be in the feeblest hands. It is preposterous that a most momentous decision of high policy should be reversed because a Cardinal toasts one Minister, and lends his house for political purposes to the son of another. It is true that no very serious consequences have followed, and as a matter of fact the Catholics must have voted in greater numbers than they ever did before. Though the electoral lists had been revised, and many names had been struck off, the percentage of voters has actually increased. In the face of facts of this kind it is idle to attempt to enforce the prohibition. In municipal and communal elections Catholics have the fullest liberty to come forward as candidates and to vote; by what sophistries of argument it can be held right for them to do so, while it is wrong for them to take part in a parliamentary election, we are utterly at a loss to understand.
Surely it is time that this unreasoning vindictiveness towards the Italian State should be abandoned, and that the Vatican should recognise that the Temporal Power has become absolutely out of harmony with the spirit of the age. Just as, Galileo's recantation notwithstanding, the world moves round and carries with it all who are upon it, so, though the Pope may angrily protest, the stream of time runs on, and as it runs men's needs and habits change. As change. As things are, the Papal policy is one which all reasonable people must deplore. It is a display of officious impotence and narrow bigotry. It recalls Sir James Stephen's
description of the effect produced on him by listening to the sermons of Frederick Denison Maurice; it was, he said, like watching the struggles of a drowning creed. That the Papacy should so act as to produce an impression such as this, is the more to be regretted, because in purely spiritual matters it was probably never stronger than it is to-day. Let us hope that the events of this month will suggest a wiser policy to the Vatican. If not, it is possible that the Government of King Humbert may determine to put this vexed question to rest once and for all. As it is, that Government has to submit to an imperium in imperio, and to see many good citizens withdrawn from the service of the State. The extent of the injury in
flicted it is impossible to determine, but it must be very great; the task of governing Italy, not too easy as it is, must be increased a thousandfold. Whether the system of compulsory voting, like that in Belgium, or some stronger measure be adopted, we have no means of knowing; but this we do know, that many of the best minds in Italy are of opinion that the present relations to the Vatican should no longer be permitted to subsist. Let us hope that in that quarter wiser counsels will prevail, and that Cavour's ideal of a Free Church in a Free State may be completely realised at last. If the September Celebrations help towards this end, they will not have been held in vain.