Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

p. 5.

these kingdoms? Would any ministry submit to bave the election of an Irish Catholic bishop on whose appointment the Crown had put no veto, annulled upon frivolous and unsupported charges ? And yet, if they recognised the Pope's power, by requiring permission to forbid the appointment of an objectionable individual to an Irish Catholic Diocese, how could they oppose it? While the people believe that all the validity of the episcopal functions is derived from the Pope's confirmation of the appointment, and we find in the Roman Pontiff's letter to the Grand Duke, that this point was not overlooked,) 'what

respect can be entertained by believers toward a man whom

all the good abhor, whom they hold in contempt, and of whom • they know, by means of certain and undoubted proofs, that • he does not possess our approbation? So far from the public • tranquillity finding any support in him, there is much more

reason to apprehend that the defending his cause may alienate, and even irritate the minds of the Catholics, and may consequently be attended with the interruption of peace and good order.'

We are not without home proofs of the domineering spirit of this Church, and of the lengths the people will go, when they are led to believe that the honour of their religion is concerned. In a pamphlet entitled " Popish Episcopal tyranny exposed," (London, 1817,) the conduct of the Popish Bishop of Killala, in Ireland, toward one of his priests, appears to have been governed by much the same spirit that was displayed by the Pope on the present transaction. Without entering into the merits of the case, considering it as only an ex parte statement, and allowing full weight to the charges which the complainant bas furnished against himself, by his style and maoner, there is the same determination to unite judge and party, in the person of the superior, and the same disregard of those ordinary maxims of justice, which forbid the punishment of any one, without specifying his crime and naming his accusers. The public prints last year detailed and we have reason to know, fairly detailed) two disgraceful outrages in Ireland, at the interment of individuals who had left the Church of Rome, and had died in communion with the Church of England. The Co. Carlow was the scene of the first, Limerick, of the last.

But we return to Wessenberg's case. The encroaching and domineering spirit of the Pope is further exhibited in his remarks upon a regulation introduced into the Diocese of Constance, which had in view the termination of many evils resulting from the established rules, by which the validity of promises of marriage was determined. To establish certain definite laws upon such a subject, was not only prudent, but necessary; and although Wessenberg denies that the ordinance alluded to, did, as was alleged, interfere with the decrees of the Council of Trent, inasmuch as these related to actual marriage, and that only to marriage contracts, the reply was, · The laws of the Church do • not prescribe those formalities for the validity of promises • of marriage, which your decree prescribes: it is therefore

clear that you have berein decided in an arbitrary manner, by imposing fetters which the Church has not imposed.' p. 48.

The Caria of Constance had declared that there would be no difficulty in permitting mixed marriages, but that the pasturs should use all diligence to insure the education of all the children in the Catholic faith ; if however this could not be done, they were to demand that sons should be educated in the religion of their father, and daughters in that of their mother. This declaration called forth the displeasure of the Pope, and in explanation Wessenberg urged that it merely furnished private instructions to the clergy, and had never been published. He adds :

* In all countries in which the Protestants enjoy the same political and civil rights with the Catholics, laws are in existence which demand the allowance of such marriages. With respect to the religion in which the children ought to be educated, this subject is regulated by political laws; and in most of the states it is fixed that the children should be educated in the religion of the father or the mother according to tbeir

The Episcopal decree binds the commissaries and the persons having the care of souls, to omit no means of instruction and eshortation, to ensure the education of all the children in the principles of the Catholic religion. But how could it have insisted on a strict and unconditional compliance with this, without endangering the peace of the church, and exposing it to a conflict with the civil authority, an evil for which there would be no remedy.” p. 33.

His excuse is, therefore, that he did all he could; for had he done more, he must have interfered with the existiog laws of the land. We may deem it valid, but our modern Achilles,

Impiger iracundus inexorabilis acer

Jura negat sibi nata, nihil non arroget, asks,

• How could you believe that you had exculpated yourself from the complaints exhibited against you, as to the decree respecting mixed marriages and the education of the children in the religion of their respective parents, according to their sex, while you for your only defence allege, that it was impossible to demand that the children should be educated in the Catholic religion, without danger of the peace of the Church being disturbed by the civil power. In the first place, you give no satisfactory answer with respect to the permission of such marriages, and can give none, as you have declared, that the Curia of Constance, in particular cases, will have no difficulty in permitting those marriages, whereby you assign to this curia a power which it does not

sex.

[ocr errors]

possess, to grant dispensations which do not belong to ordinaries, and which so nearly concern religion and the Church. In the second place, your Instruction with respeci to the education of children, is contrary to the doctrine and fundamental principles of the Church. Besides, if it be true, and it is certainly very true, that evil ought not to be done that good may come of it, how could you then authorise the entering into such marriages, with the condition, that the children be educated in the religions of their respective parents, in order to avoid endangering the peace of the Church?' pp. 48, 49.

Professor Dereser was appointed to fill a peculiar chair for the Scripture languages in the Lyceum at Lucerne.' He was much esteemed in Germany for his works on the Scriptures, and for the pains he had taken to explain the books of the New Testament to bis pupils, in a most profitable manner. A brief had been issued against him in 1790, accusing him of holding heretical opinions ; but the Archbishop of Cologne, to whom it was addressed, acquitted him fully of the cbarge at that time, and on a renewed investigation in 1813, by the Curia of Constance, on the occasion of his appointment at Lucerne, it was officially declared that he taught nothing against the Catholic doctrines of Christianity. Not only is the affirma. tion of these facts declared to furnish no exculpation of Wessenberg's conduct, in sanctioning the appointment of the Professor, but he is said to maintain, ' first, that the sentence of the Holy Father, in matters of doctrine, may be corrected by a mere bishop; a proposition which no Catholic, at all acquainted with the doctrines of bis religion, ever conceived he could affirm salva fide ; and secondly, that it does not belong to

the Roman Pontiff to decide in matters of doctrine, and conIsequently when he does so, he assumes a right which was not

conceded to him by Jesus Cbrist.' p. 17.

These multiplied quotations have been thought necessary, in order to exbibit in an authentic form, the leading features of this controversy. It discovers on the part of the Papal Court the highest contempt of justice, in first condemning an individual without a bearing, and then making that previous condemnation a ground for rejecting bis defence. Nor is any greater regard shewn to the rights of sovereign Princes, or the established privileges of ecclesiastical chapters : all must yield to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, who seems to bave forgotten that he lives in the nineteenth, and not in the ninth century.

The feelings and sentiments of Wessenberg will be best elucidated by his own words.

• I have particular duties toward the clergy and chapter of the diocese of Constance; I have similar duties towaru my territorial Sovereign ; and I have also duties toward Germany in general. They ought to be Vol. XI. N. S.

2 Q

[ocr errors]

the more inviolable with me, that they are in every respect in unison with my duties toward the Church and her head.' Note of Nov. 1817.

Again :

• Having now expressed my personal sentiments, which afford a proof of my strong desire to satisfy the Holy Father, I must of necessity stop at the line of my duty towards my Sovereign, the chapter and clergy of the diocese of Constance, and towards Germany in general, These duties must be fulfilled, as well as those toward the Holy Chair. Your Eminency will easily conceive, that this position presents me the most powerful motives for delaying no longer my return to Carlsruhe from whence / repaired hither, to discharge my duty to my Sovereign, by giving bim an account of the state of ihis business, as it now belongs to him to do what he may deem adviseable, in order to bring the affair to a conclusion, as I have not been so fortunate as to attain that object by my personal intervention.' Note, Dec. 16, 1817. pp. 56, and 60.

Here the Correspondence terminates, and the Grand Duke of Baden, in an official Memorial, of May, 1818, remarks upon the entire proceedings, concluding with these words :

· The Vicar general, Baron Von Wessenberg, could leave the defence of the rights of the State and the Church, to the Sovereigns and Bishops of Germany; and in the same manner he could answer the tacit recognition of his personal dignity, by a repeated expression of filial and fervent reverence. But the double demand of the Papal chair, that he should both resign the situation of Diocesan administrator, and at the same tiine publicly emit a declaration of repentance respecting his former conduct, and a promise to change it, was so essentially con. nected with the above-mentioned erroneous principles and pretensions of the Roman Curia, which have been uniformly opposed, that even the highest degree of self-denial, could not shake his firm and determined purpose of stopping at the extreme boundary line of duty and moral dig. nity.

If bis Royal Highness could before see no reason for withdrawing the Vicar general, Von Wessenberg, from his dignified and advantageous sphere of action, on account of a mere general accusation, the fact which was now incontestably proved, that he had not been guilty of personal crimes and errors, as people might have been led to suppose, But that from the very beginning the office was attacked in the person ; and that an attempt was only made to impeach the firm principles of the latter, in order to impose in form the system of the Roman Curia on the former, could only strengthen his Royal Highness in his former determinations to maintain and support in every possible way, the Vicar general, Baron Von Wessenberg, in the exercise of his important spiritual office, and to connect with this determination, the command, not to allow himself to be disturbed or restrained in the exercise of that office by any interference or indirect practices'; and in short by nothing that is not established beyond all doubt, by the clear laws and indisputed practice of the Church.'—Memorial, p. 29.'

The ‘Memorial is preceded by an Introduction written by the Attorney General of the King of Bavaria, which justly com

[ocr errors]

plains of the encroaching spirit of the Papal See, and asserts the necessity of setting bounds to it.

From the general complexion of these documents, some very sanguine expectations seem to be formed by the publisher, and no doubt, many of our readers may be inclined to concur with him; but, for our own part, we fear Wessenberg is not a Luther, nor the Grand Duke, a Frederick. Throughout the entire Correspondence, the Accused manifests a submission to the Pope, that is almost abject; and his readiness to recant every thing contrary to the doctrines of the Church, is explicitly avowed. The questions at issue almost all relate to discipline, and the few that

may be deemed doctrinal, are touched upon in a way that evinces an anxiety to avoid discussion. We look in vain for any manly appeals to the undoubted rights of sovereign princes, or for any references to the Scriptures, as the charter of salvation and the supreme judge of controversy, and we find no allusion to the fundamental error of Popery, salvation through human merit. These things, which we mention only to justify our opinion, not to blame Wessenberg, induce us to dissent from those who, in all these transactions, profess to see the germs of a new Reformation,

Germany is still the country most likely to be the cradle of a new Reformation, and to give birth to another revolt against the spiritual powers of Rome. Its inhabitants are an enlightened body, and the division of the country under many sovereigns, while it multiplies the chances of its obtaining regal protection, renders it difficult to unite all the powers of which it is composed, against a nascent reformation. All the doctrines mentioned by Luther, had previously been taught at different periods, in other parts of Europe, but without much effect. In England, Wickliffe had the people on bis side, as far as education enabled them to judge of the controversy ; but he had the Court, and of course the Clergy against him, and therefore he was destitute of that support, which might have given currency to his doctrine. Savonarola at Florence, bore the same testimony in favour of true Christianity, in opposition to the corruptions of Popery; but he fell a martyr to his zeal. Roscoe has given an unfavourable view of his character, and as he embraced the popular side in the political agitations of his day, the biographer of Lorenzo would induce us to consider him as a turbulent demagogue. Those who will refer to Dean Milner, and the authorities which he quotes, will be satisfied that he was both a reformer and a martyr. The Italians were not like the English in their knowledge of political liberty ; nor was that country, like Germany, united nominally under one head; so that neither princes por people were found to support his doctrines, and be fell like one of those of whom the world was not worthy."

« ZurückWeiter »