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sons in the chair of St. Peter! “The influence,” says Milman, “exercised by this lady and her daughters over Pope Sergius proves, at least, the utter degradation of the Papal power in Rome.” Against John X. the same fearful charges are made. Gaining the see of Rome by the vices and influence of the mother, Theodora, he lost it, together with his life, by the no less flagrant vices and power of the daughter, Marozia ; and after two brief Popedoms, lasting together less than three years, John XI., said to be a son of this Marozia and Pope Sergius, was made successor of St. Peter. We read in the Acts of the Apostles, “ As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (xiii. 2). From such men, thus appointed to their holy office, we may look for holy, and, as inspired, infallible teaching. But can we associate the same truth and purity of teaching with a Pontificate gained as above described ? To connect infallibility with an office won by every means which the Gospel condemns, is a profanation. As to character, some of the Popes have been so vile that many of the criminals in Newgate would be respectable in comparison. Boniface VII. had twice been deposed from his priestly office for his profligate and scandalous life, yet he succeeded in gaining the Popedom ; dying, of gout, however, only fifteen days after his elevation. By an opposing faction his corpse was disinterred, tried before a council, stripped of the sacred vestments, and ignominiously thrown into the Tiber. Which was the infallible in this case, the Pope, or the council which condemned him? It was not a general council, however, and might, therefore, be liable to mistake. At least, some years afterwards, the innocence of the Pope was attested by a miracle. His body was found by fishermen, and carried for burial into the church of St. Peter. As the coffin passed, all the images in the church reverentially bowed their heads! Our next portrait is that of John XII. To the charge of this Pope a long and dark catalogue of crimes is laid. He was called a new Judas, an apostate, and even in those dark times was deposed for his vices in A.D. 963. The year following he regained his pontificate, and employed his power in mutilating his leading opponents in the most shocking and remorseless manner. Ilis sudden death, whilst pursuing his guilty pleasures, was attributed by the more religious to the righteous hand of God. His successor, John XIII., in conjunction with the emperor, was guilty of atrocities at which all Europe shuddered. Another is seen seating himself in the Papal chair after imprisoning the reigning Pope, whom he put to death by starvation or poison. Such, indeed, was the character of the Popes of that period, that all reverence for them in the minds of the people of Rome seemed to be destroyed.
Some of the acts of Hildebrand, Pope Gregory VII., who asserted for the Papacy its proudest claims to supremacy, have been already narrated ; but, as one of the loftiest exemplars of Papal infallibility, he is entitled to a place here. His historians charge this vicar of Christ, this representative of the Prince of Peace, with the guilt of fraternal hatreds, and of a civil war which, with all its attendant horrors, extended over seventeen years. In all this stormy time his voice was not heard attempting to allay the tempest, but his subtle policy protracted wilfully and knowingly, for his own ends, the doubtful conflict. In the portrait of Gregory there is no trace of that meekness or lowliness of heart which he should have learnt of the true Head of the Church. He was impatient of opposition, merciless to a foe within his power, wringing out, with a cruel persistency, the last words of submission where he felt his superiority. At one point of his troubled course he is renounced as Pope, and branded with the charges of licentiousness, bribery, disturbing the peace of the empire-being a defender of perjury and murder! His firmness in danger was something approaching the sublime; but the admiration it extorts is mingled with abhorrence of the assumptions of the man. When threatened with the overwhelming power of Henry, he speaks in contemptuous terms of the temporal power which previously he had strained every nerve to grasp. It is no longer admitted to be an ordinance of God. It has its origin, he declares, in human wickedness, in diabolical suggestion, in blind ambition, and intolerable presumption. Kingship is an audacious usurpation of the natural equality of man! Such are the doctrines which Papal infallibility holds as to the temporal power, when opposed to its interests, and rejecting its control-doctrines which Pius IX., and Archbishop Manning, and the Maynooth teachers hold as firmly as did Hildebrand himself.*
The Pope at length excommunicates the emperor; Henry replies by entering Rome in triumph, and driving the Pope as a prisoner to the Castle of St. Angelo. Suddenly a Norman army, including many Saracens, comes to his rescue. The Pope gives the Norman and Saracen his blessing, and then is witnessed a scene of almost unparalleled horror, the burning of houses, palaces, convents, churches; whilst murder, pillage, and worse misery still, were inflicted on all sides. Yet the Pope, who has anathemas still in store for Henry and the enemies of the Church, has not a word of remonstrance for the ferocious proceedings of his new allies. They were probably regarded as a meet chastisement of his rebellious subjects. And this is one of the “Divine persons !” He did, indeed, array himself as a second divinity. Against his decrees every insurrection of the human mind was treason ; every attempt to limit bis power, impiety. With transcendant energy he asserted the supremacy of the spiritual order; but for any features of the Divine image, we look to him in vain. Between the churchman and the Christian there was a gulf wide indeed.
To curse or to bless is one of the highest of the Papal functions,
* When Cardinal Wiseman returned from Rome, one of his first acts was to remove from the canon of the mass the prayer for the Queen, and to cause all the missals of his diocese to be changed, in order that the obnoxious passage might be exp
The reason he assigned for this proceeding was the impropriety of having the name of an heretical prince mixed up with that of the Pope in the mass, Tbe Catholic Vindicator, quoted by Dr. Wylie, says, “ Rather than that our loyalty to the holy apostolic see should be in the least degree tarnished, let ten thousand kings and queens (and Queen Victoria included) perish (as such), i.e., let them be deposed from their thrones, and become mere individuals. The Tablet, the organ of the more respectable Catholics, speaking of the “ Ecclesiastical Titles Bill," said that the command of the Pope was the law of God, whilst the Act of Parliament was no la but a lie, and that the Parliamentary lie will be spit upon and trampled the
under foot-rigorously disobeyed.”- Wylie's " Rome and Civil Liberty."
and one in the exercise of which the Popes seem to have had a special delight. It is the assertion of a Divine prerogative, but the motives which have guided its exercise have often been as far from Divine as possible. We have an illustration of this in Pope Paschal II. A son of the emperor raised the standard of revolt against his father, and at once, as Henry was under the ban of excommunication, the Pope ascribes this dissension between father and son to the inspiration of God, sends his apostolic blessing to a son who showed himself a monster of hypocrisy and perfidy, and gave him absolution for his rebellion against a most affectionate father-an absolution in the final judgment of Christ. Thus a peace which the emperor had proclaimed, and which was felt as an unwonted blessing, was broken, and Germany plunged afresh into a furious civil war. But what of that? It was enough for the Pope that this son, though a rebel against his father, had pledged himself to be faithful to the Church. The blessing he sent, however, proved to be of little avail, and Paschal was compelled by the emperor to sign a most solemn treaty by which the clergy would have been stripped of their temporal powers, and limited to the exercise of their spiritual functions. He soon found, however, though the Church held him to be omnipotent and infallible to advance her authority, his infallibility was lost when he made any concession. He was taunted with his weakness, and at length, under the violent reproaches of his clergy and cardinals, he deliberately violated his sacred oaths, and broke the treaty into which he had entered. Thus Darius was to be a god while it suited his courtiers, but when he who was to answer all prayers himself became a petitioner for Daniel's deliverance, he found himself cruelly denied, and utterly helpless. Poor infallibility!
About A.D. 1410, there were three Popes at once. This was too plentiful a supply of infallibility, even for the Papists themselves, for Baronius, a distinguished Romish ecclesiastical writer, says of these rival Popes, “Let us see what remedy they first had recourse to, in order that they might extinguish this three-headed beast who had issued from the gates of hell. A remedy was devised precisely similar to that which the poets feign in destroying the fabulous Cerberusviz., filling the jaws with a pitchy mouthful, by giving them something to eat, so that they should altogether leave off barking," This picture, dark as it is, was sketched not by Luther, but by a cardinal, who was himself (1605) near being elected as Pope.
Let it not be supposed, however, that the quality of the Popes was being at length improved. In the fifteenth century (1471–1484), Sixtus IV. is seen unscrupulously using his spiritual influence for the advancement of his worldly interests, dishonouring the Popedom by dark intrigues, and staining it with the blood of assassination. By falsehood, violence, and murder, he defeated his enemies ; but whatever he gained by these means, “there can be no doubt that his spiritual authority and character lost infinitely more. There was even an attempt made to assemble a council against him." *
Still darker, if possible, is the character of one who, not long after him, became the vicar of Christ, Alexander VI. The attainment of
the Papacy in advancing years seemed to impart to him new life. His reigning motives were the love of pleasure and of power. His great aim, on securing the chair of St. Peter, was to advance the wealth and dignity of his sons ; for, notwithstanding the doctrine of clerical celibacy, nothing was more common than for the Popes of that period to be fathers without being husbands, an example which, set by the infallible head of the Church, would, doubtless, exert its corrupting influence through all ranks of the inferior clergy, and lower the tone of morals throughout society. One of these sons of Alexander VI. was Cæsar Borgia, of whom Ranke says, “Even depravity may have its perfection. The kindred of the Popes have often distinguished themselves in the career of evil, but none attained the eminence of Cæsar Borgia. He may be called a virtuoso in crime.” He caused his own brother, because he stood in his way to power, to be murdered and thrown into the Tiber ; caused his brotherin-law to be strangled in his own house ; and slew his father's favourite friend, while the unhappy man clung to his patron for protection and was wrapped in the Pontifical mantle. The blood of the favourite flowed over the face of the Pope. Rome trembled at his name. “Every night were the corpses of murdered men found in the streets, yet none dared move; for who but might fear that his own turn might be next? Those whom violence could not reach were taken off by poison.” The historian adds that there was but one place on earth where such deeds were possible that, namely, where unlimited temporal power was united to the highest spiritual authority, where the laws, civil and ecclesiastical, were held in one and the same hand, as the Pope claims still to hold them and does hold them to the extent of his power. Such was the monster whom the Pope owned as a son, patronised and promoted. That the Pope was a little better than his son is evident from the manner of his own death. He purposed to destroy one of the richest cardinals by poison. The cardinal, however, becoming aware of his intention, by entreaties, gifts, and promises, won over the Pope's chief cook. The confection, prepared for the cardinal, was set before the Pontiff himself, and Alexander expired from the effects of the poison he intended for another. People were heard associating the name of the Pope and Antichrist together, as well they might. The “infallible," the “ Divine man ”was declared, even at that time, to be labouring for the interest of Satan, rather than that of the kingdom of God.
If in one sense it is a relief to turn from this revolting portrait to that of Leo X., it is not because we shall find in him any nearer approach to infallibility. He has been correctly called an elegant Pagan. He had a refined intellectual taste, was gratified by the discovery of ancient classical works, and a munificent patron of the literary men of his own time. He delighted in music, painting, and sculpture, and his galleries were filled with the finest works of art. In disposition, too, he was both gentle and generous. But with all these splendid and attractive qualities, to religious sentiment Leo was an utter stranger. What an incongruity !--the supreme head of the Church, a complete stranger to that Divine grace of which the Church was declared to be the sole depository! Yet this is admitted by this Pope's most admiring historians. But the evil was not merely
negative. He was lavish in expenditure upon favourites, festivities, amusements of all kinds, throwing daily a purse of gold to the people to keep up the licentious exhibitions of the Vatican. The style of living of which he set the example, was an elegant voluptuousness, the embodiment of the sentiment, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” The prevailing philosophy was in harmony with the life : it was openly materialistic. Erasmus declares himself astonished at the blasphemies that met his ears. Attempts were made to prove to him that there was no difference between the souls of men and of brutes. It had become fashionable in the Papal Court itself to attack Christianity. To pass for a gentleman, it was absolutely necessary to hold some erroneous or heretical opinion on the doctrines of the Church. Young courtiers of the Pope maintained that the orthodox faith was merely the result of the crafty inventions of some saints; and whilst the priests performed the sacrifice of the mass, they often uttered blasphemous expressions in denial of its reality. Machiavelli, a profound genius, although not of the happiest celebrity, who was living at Florence when Luther passed through it on his way to Rome, said, “ The strongest symptom of the approaching ruin of Christianity is, that the nearer you come to the capitol of Christendom, the less you find of the Christian spirit. The scandalous examples and crimes of the Court of Rome are the cause why Italy has lost every principle of piety and all religious sentiment. We Italians," he continues, “are chiefly indebted to the Church and the priests for having become a set of profane scoundrels.” Luther, who visited Rome a devout Papist, was scandalized and horrified by what he saw. It was an abyss, he said, from whence all sins proceeded. It had become an ordinary saying that if there was a hell, Rome was built upon it. What a comment on the influence of its infallible ruler, his Holiness the Pope ! *
Leo's profuse expenditure rendered necessary extraordinary means of obtaining money. Hence, at length, he had recourse to a general sale of indulgences. Tetzel's impudent voice was heard in Germany, urging on the scandalous traffic. Luther's indignation was kindled. The celebrated theses soon appeared on the door of the church at Wittenberg, and thus the great and ever-memorable struggle commenced, which resulted, under God, in the Protestant Reformation.
But what of the living Pope, Pius IX.? As we have seen, he lays claim to infallibility, a claim on which his actual history is a strange comment. In his younger days he gained a high character for benevolence. That he is a man of kindly native disposition there is no reason to doubt. As a cardinal, and in the first days of his Popedom, he became popular for his liberal policy; but this policy was soon reversed, as it was found inconsistent with the preservation of his temporal power. The revolution attempted by his subjects
* Dr. Newman, however, one of the most distinguished perverts to Popery from the Church of England, undertakes to show, in his “Lectures on Anglicanism," that the deep demoralization of Popish countries is a sort of indirect result of the superior light, faith, and spirituality of the Romish Church. " With a kind of desperate audacity," says Mr. Kingsley, “ Dr. Newman digs forth such scandals as notes of the Catholic Church." He cannot deny the shame, but, by a subtle casuistry, comes at length to glory in it !