The London Tablet, Dec. 5, 1874, answers this question as follows :
"We firmly believe that the deposing power actually exerted by more than one Roman Pontiff, and owing its efficacy to the spontaneous assent of the Christian conscience, is manifestly included among the gifts of Peter.
We believe it, among other reasons, because no power can be wanting to his supreme jurisdiction, of which the safety of the Christian commonwealth, committed to his oversight, may at any time require the exercise. He is God's vicegerent. The Church, which is God's kingdom on earth, was built by her divine Founder a upon this rock." The Almighty Architect might have chosen another foundation, but he chose this, and the gates of hell have not been able to subvert it. It is true that St. Peter never used the deposing power, but that was because Christendom had not yet begun to exist ; it is equally true that neither Pius IX nor any of his successors are ever likely to use it, but that is because Christendom has ceased to exist. There is a great host of Christians more than ever there were but there is no longer any Christendom. There is not in the whole world so much as a solitary state, unless it be one of the South American republics, which even professes to shape its policy by the law of God, much less by the counsels of his Vicar. They did so for many ages, to their own advantage, but they have ceased to do it. Only the Moslem now affects to do everything in the name of Allah. Governments are no longer Christian. Their very composition proves it. Even in the cabinet of one who is called, as if in derision, His Apostolic Majesty, there are two Jews. Every one knows how the rest are formed ; they might all write over their council doors, if they were candid enough, No truth here. For them, as Gibbon would say, all religions are equally true and equally false. Some princes encourage their own children to change their religion, in order to make a good marriage. Others, while professing to honor Peter, sit down to table with miscreants whom he has excommunicated. Christendom no longer exists. If it did, certain crowned malefactors, who make a treaty with Atheists and Freemasons, and persecute bishops, would probably find that, as St. Ambrose says, Peter is not dead. But if Christendom should ever be restored, which does not seem likely, we profess our unhesitating conviction that the deposing power of God's Vicar would revive with it.
When states were wholly Catholic, as they were for a good many centuries, when all men believed, with the saints and martyrs, that it was to the pope that the Almighty said, Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, when the supreme authority of the Holy See was at once the bulwark of thrones, and part of the public law of Europe when Caesar said to bishops, presided over by the papal legates, as Constantine, the master of the world, said to the Fathers at Nice, "Nos a vobis rede judicamur" nobody disputed that, as members of the Christian commonwealth, kings and princes were subject, by the law of God, to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. It was his office to restrain, by all the means which the decree of God and the faith of Christians gave him, any abuse of their power by which either the interests of religion or the just rights of Christian people were prejudiced. He was at once the guardian of the faith, and the only invincible enemy of tyrants. The most eminent non-Catholic writers have confessed that Christianity was preserved from what Guizot calls the tyranny of brute force mainly by that vigilant and fear less intervention of the Holy See, for which, as some of them sorrowfully admit, no substitute can now be found.
But it is evident that the extreme penalty of deposition, the application of which is now transferred from the pope to the mob, could only be enforced in a state of society which has long since passed away, and is never likely to return. "The only remonstrants against the spiritual authority, even when its judgments were most formidable, were worthless princes, who wished to filch the revenues of episcopal sees, and a few depraved prelates, who wished to curry favor with such princes. The Church lived in those days, as Emerson observes with true American candor, by the love of the people? They knew who was their friend. His judgments had no terror for them. The modern jealousy of the Holy See, which has only transferred all spiritual authority, as Professor Merivale remarks, from the Church to the State, has been as fatal to liberty as to religion. The state most violently opposed to the Holy See at this day is Prussia, and the only representatives of liberty in Prussia are the Catholic bishops and clergy. Even German Protestants witness against the ruthless enslavement of mind and conscience in a country in which only two institutions now remain : the barrack and the goal. What Neander would have said of the present tyranny in Prussia, we may judge from his own words: "Beautiful" he exclaims, and worthy the frankness becoming a bishop, is the language of St. Hilary of Poitiers to Constantius. And what did the saint say to Caesar, who ruled after the fashion of Bismarck and his master? "Tyrannus non jam humanorum, sed divinorum es. Antichristum praevenis et arcanorum mysteria ejus operaris." That is, "the tyrant is no longer human but a Divine art. To precede Antichrist and the arcane secrets of his work." It was a strong thing to say to Caesar sitting in his purple robe. If St. Hilary lived in our day, he would soon be in a Prussian prison, with the learned Neander, if he ventured to applaud him, in the next cell. It was the popes, says Hurter, who saved Christianity from the tyranny of the temporal power, and from becoming a mere State function, like religion among the Pagans. It was well for Hurter that his lot was not cast in the age of Bismarck. Even Leibnitz would have been deemed a mortal enemy by the Prussian Constantius. It was the inventor of the integral calculus who actually proposed, though a Protestant, to establish in Rome a tribunal to decide controversies between sovereigns, and to make the pope its president, as he really did, in former ages, figure as judge between Christian princes. But ecclesiastics should, at the same time, resume their ancient authority, and an interdict or an excommunication should make kings and kingdoms tremble, as in the days of Nicholas I or Gregory VII. Leibnitz would evidently be out of place in contemporary Prussian society. They have no room there for such as he was, except in their prisons, and those cheerful abodes will soon be too full to hold any more. "If popes no longer depose bad princes by the authority of Peter, there are others who depose good ones without any authority at all. In order to depose them more effectually, they have taken to cutting off their heads. Cromwell and his fellows did it in England; Mirabeau and his friends in France. These energetic anti-popes did not object at all to deposition, provided it was inflicted by themselves. They object to it still less now; it has become a habit. Englishmen deposed James II, after murdering his father, and put a Dutchman in his place, In other lands they are always deposing somebody. The earth is strewn with deposed sovereigns. Sometimes they depose one another, in order to steal what does not belong to them. One of them has deposed the pope himself, at least for a time, and all the rest clap their hands. They do not see that by this last felony they have undermined every throne in Europe. Perhaps in a few years there will not be a king left to be deposed. Since the secular was substituted everywhere for the spiritual authority, kings have fared badly. The popes only rebuked them when they did evil; the mob is less discriminating. And the difference between the deposing power of the popes and that of the mob is this, that the first used it, like fathers, for the benefit of religion and society; the second, like wild beasts, for the destruction of both."
There is, therefore, among all true Catholics, but one unanimous voice as to the supreme authority of the head of the Roman Church, viz. : that Jesus, the Son of God and of man, gave to Peter and his successors that fullness of jurisdiction and power which will keep the Church in safety till he comes back in the day of judgment, and to deny that supreme authority is to be at sea, drifting about with the currents of opinion, and tossed on the troubled waves of Protestantism, Calvinism, Quakerism, Mormonism, Spiritualism, and all the other isms and sophisms.
Now, in order that the great power and authority bestowed upon St. Peter should be often present to our minds, that apostle is represented with keys in his hand. He holds two: one a symbol of his jurisdiction, and the other of his orders. One key is turned toward heaven, to show that St. Peter had the power of opening or closing it, the other is directed toward the earth, to show that he had full authority over the faithful, and the power of imposing laws upon them.
The pope, however, is not only the head of the Church, he is also a temporal prince. In the establishment of his Church, our divine Saviour did not consult the civil authorities ; neither Herod nor Pilate was asked for approval. If those rulers had not lived at all, they could not have been more completely ignored, so far as establishing the Church, preaching and teaching the doctrine of Christ, and performing all the offices of the Christian ministry, go. Caesar and his officers had no voice in this. They had authority in the kingdoms of the world, but none what ever in the kingdom of God. It was established, and to be spread and to last forever, whether they willed it or not. The apostles, especially the head of the apostles, and their successors, are to exercise their power in perfect freedom. They are freely to teach what is true, freely to condemn what is false, freely to denounce the crimes of men and of governments; freely to constitute the hierarchy in various countries, freely to let persons have recourse to them in their doubts, and freely to reply to them; freely to condemn those who refuse obedience to the Church ; freely to separate from the Church those who have separated themselves from her, by persisting in error or in disobedience ; freely to define religious and moral truths, that is, give laws binding on minds in believing, and on consciences in acting. The ruler of nations and the lord of many legions, though he had not been consulted at all in the establishment of the Church, was bound to hear her voice, like the humblest peasant, and submit his soul to her guidance, under pain of eternal banishment from the presence of God. He might pretend to command when it was his duty to obey, but the mistake was sure to be disastrous to himself, as indeed the final result proved.
When the divine Master had finished his work, and his Vicar reigned in his place, the independence of the spiritual power, in its own province, was, if possible, still more evident. We know what was the attitude of the apostles toward the State. In questions of the soul, they set it at naught. They taught loyalty to Caesar in all that religion does not condemn, as their successors do at this day, so that among Christians was found a host of martyrs, but not a single conspirator or assassin but when Caesar required disloyalty to God, the apostles and the Christians bade him defiance. They knew the penalty, and accepted it. It was perfectly understood that Caesar, like other beasts of prey, had claws and teeth, and could use them. He did use them with considerable effect. He had soldiers, lictors, prisons, axes, and scaffolds. But such engines, destructive as they were, could only hurt the flesh; and the apostles and Christians were told not to "fear them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul." They were warned that they would be " brought before governors," but that they were not even to take thought what they should say. The divine Master would teach them what to say.
The conditions of the combat between Christ and Caesar, between the spiritual and the secular power, will never cease. In order that the head of his Church might enjoy perfect freedom in the exercise of his power, under God's providence the pope became a temporal prince. He obtained his temporal power before Constantine abandoned Rome, and it was confirmed and completed by Charlemagne, more than a thousand years ago. God inspired Christian princes to attach a principality to the Holy See, called the Patrimony of St. Peter, the States of the Church: "It has been the will of God," says Pius IX, "that the princes of the earth, even those who are not in communion with the Church of Rome, should defend and maintain the temporal sovereignty of the Holy See, which has been, by a disposition of divine Providence, enjoyed for many centuries by the Roman Pontiffs. The possession of that temporal dominion enables the reigning pope to exercise his supreme apostolical authority in the government of the Universal Church with that liberty which is necessary to fulfill the duties of his apostolical office, and procure the salvation of -the flock of Christ." (Allocution, May 10th, 1850.) The pope, then, possesses his territory under a title higher and older than any government in the world.
Napoleon I sought to destroy this temporal power of the pope, but was forced at last to admit the necessity of papal independence: "The pope," he said, "is not at Paris; it is well: we reverence his authority precisely because he is not at Vienna nor at Madrid. At Vienna and at Madrid they feel the same with regard to Paris. It is, therefore, better that he should be neither with us nor with any of our rivals, but in Rome, his ancient seat, holding an equal balance between all sovereigns. This is the work of the centuries, and they have done well. The temporal power is the wisest and best institution that could be imagined in the government of souls." The temporal dominion of the pope being a moral necessity for the well-being of the Church, the Holy Father and the bishops have pronounced anathema against all those who impugn it. History, indeed, sometimes show! us the Supreme Pontiff under another aspect. There were times when his triple crown crumbled, when his sceptre shrunk to a hollow reed, when his throne became a shadow, and his home a dungeon. But God permitted this only to show us how inestimable is human virtue, when compared with human grandeur. Human grandeur may perish, but virtue is immortal. God permitted it, to prove to the scoffing infidel world that the simplicity of the patriarchs, the piety of the saints, the patience of the martyrs, have not as yet vanished from the earth. God permitted it, in fine, to show the rabid enemies of our holy faith that, though our common father were in chains, though his motives were calumniated, and though his kingly power were destroyed, yet the Church, the holy Catholic Church of Jesus Christ, is still able to guide and to support her children, and to confound, if she cannot reclaim, her enemies.
The pontiff is firm, immovable as a rock. No threats can awe, no promise can tempt, no sufferings can appall him. With exile, the dungeon, and death before his eyes, he dashes away the proffered cup, in which the pearl of his liberty is to be dissolved : "Non possumus" is his bold and noble language. "We can die, but we cannot give up the rights of the Church. The Catholic world cannot, and will not, submit and agree to the sacrilegious occupation of the Papal States by any government. The voices of more than two hundred millions of Catholics will ring from every land under the sun, demanding perfect liberty of action for their common spiritual father, and the undisturbed possession of the Patrimony of St. Peter. The spirit of opposition to the temporal power of the pope is but the spirit of modern Paganism, which aims at the destruction of civil government, the rights of justice, the law of God and of man. All justice-loving men admit this. The opposers of the temporal power start from the pagan principle of separation of the temporal from the spiritual; they are either bigots, or infidels, or vain and frothy theorizers, or corrupt politicians of the Masonic sect, or restless demagogues ; and if they be Christians, their faith sits as lightly on their conscience as a feather on the back of a whirlwind: they are all pervaded by the pestilential spirit of modern Paganism. When a government becomes indifferent in religious matters, wishes to assume supreme control over the asylums of suffering humanity, secularizes churches and schools, caring only for the mere literary or arithmetical education of its subjects; when it makes laws infringing on the rights of conscience or property; when it interferes with the sacraments and the rites of the Church, then it is pagan in spirit. It endeavors to prevent men from attaining the end of creation; it ceases to be a free government, or to fulfill the end for which all governments were instituted. Every temporal ruler who denies the pope's rights to his temporal power, will soon find his own abolished.*
* When the pope is elected according to established regulations, and if he consents to his election, he becomes at once invested with authority over the Universal Church, though he be neither a bishop nor a priest, nor deacon, nor subdeacon, but a mere cleric. He is capable of performing every act belonging to papal jurisdiction; he can, for instance, grant indulgences, pass censures, grant dispensations, appoint canons, institute bishops, create cardinals. But the peculiar power of the priesthood and the episcopacy, such as forgiving sins, administering the sacraments of confirmation and of holy orders, he cannot exercise until he has first been consecrated. From what has been said, it follows that the Papacy, the Sovereign Pontificate, is a dignity, not of orders, but of jurisdiction. If the pope be a bishop at the time of his election, he receives no other consecration. Being clothed with the episcopal character, he is on an equality with the other bishops; but as pope, and vested with the dignity and authority of head of the Church, he is superior to all the pastors of the Church. If, at the time of his election, the pope is not in holy orders, he can receive them all on the same day. The privilege of consecrating a pope who is no bishop at the time of his election, belongs to the Bishop of Ostia. When the pope is elected he changes his name, because he is the successor of St. Peter, whose name was changed by Jesus Christ. The pope can be taken from any rank of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In the early ages of the Church, subdeacons were but seldom raised to the dignity of the Papacy ; but deacons were often elected. Priests were seldom chosen to fill that high office, and the appointment of bishops to it was of very rare occurrence. The first pope raised from the episcopal office to the papal throne was Formosa, Bishop of Oporto, who was elected in 891. The discipline of the Church, in this respect, has undergone a great change; for, from about the end of the thirteenth century, it was the ordinary practice to select the pope from among the bishops, and from 1592 to 1775 we find but three popes elected who were no bishops at the time of their election. In our times, Clement XIV, Pius V, and Gregory XVI, were tho only persons who were simple priests at the time of their elevation to the Papacy. The pope is elected by the cardinals. For many centuries the pope was elected by the Roman clergy, and the faithful took a very active part in the election; but, for many years past, the election has been confined to the cardinals, who are the princes and senators of the Church, and are vested with a dignity inferior only to that of the pope.
The learned are divided in their opinions in reference to the origin of cardinals, and the derivation of the name cardinal, Some think that cardinal comes from the word cardo, cardinalis, a hinge on which a gate or a door turns; because the cardinals are the hinges or pivots on which the government of the Church rolls. According to Baronius, Bellarmin, and other liturgical writers, the officiating priests of the parishes and churches of Rome were the first cardinals; and they were so called because, when they accompanied the pope to the altar, they stood ad cornua, that is, at the corners or angles of it. Besides the churches served by priests, there were a great many hospitals, the administration of which was intrusted to deacons. These deacons also attended the pope whenever he officiated, and, with the priests of the parishes, stood at the corners of the altar; hence, the distinction between the cardinal priests and the cardinal deacons. The titular bishops of the sees in the vicinity of Rome, called suburbicarian bishops, attended the pope on all solemn ceremonies, and took up their positions, like the priests and deacons of whom we have just spoken, at the corners of the altar, and hence the origin of cardinal archbishops. The latter, in virtue of their episcopal consecration, have always taken precedence over the cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. The dignity of cardinal, in the sense in which that word is now understood, is the highest in the Church, next to that of the pope. The cardinals are the princes and senators of the Church, the councillors of the pope, his coadjutors and vicars in the functions of the Sovereign Pontificate. They form the consistory, or the council of the pope, who selects them from all nations, to aid him in the government of the Church.By a Bull of Sixtus V, published in 1586, the number of cardinals was fixed at seventy. They are divided into three orders, namely: six cardinal bishops, fifty cardinal priests, and fourteen cardinal deacons.
As the Papacy is of divine right, so also is the Episcopacy of divine right. Christ willed that there should be bishops to assist the pope in the government of the Church. For this reason St. Paul says, "The Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops to rule the Church of God." The word "bishop" means overseer, inspector, or superintendent. The choice of a bishop has to be made, or at least to be confirmed, by the pope; from him each bishop holds his jurisdiction over the territory assigned to him by the pope. Episcopal jurisdiction has been instituted by Christ in such a manner that each bishop should receive his jurisdiction from the pope, who makes the bishops sharers in the power of the keys which Christ gave to Peter alone, and, in his person, to his successors : "The Lord," says Tertullian, "has given the keys to St. Peter, and, through him, to the Church." St. Gregory of Nyssa says the same, in other words : "Through Peter, Christ has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the bishops." As Peter and his successors alone have received the keys of the kingdom of God, they alone can communicate the use of them to the rest of the pastors. From Peter and his successors the bishops hold the jurisdiction which they exercise in their dioceses it is by him that they hold, in their dioceses, the place of Christ, as priests, as pontiffs, as doctors, as legislators, as judges, as heads and pastors of the faithful under their jurisdiction, and are, as St. Paul says, ambassadors for Jesus Christ, God's coadjutors, who exhort the faithful by their mouth; for all this is what constitutes jurisdiction. This doctrine has been solemnly declared by Pius IX, in his Encyclical Letter of Nov. 9th, 1840, addressed to the archbishops and bishops of the Catholic Church : "Come with an open heart," he says, "and with full confidence, to the See of the blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, the centre of Catholic unity, and the summit of the episcopacy, whence the episcopacy itself derives its origin and its authority.
Episcopal consecration, however, is not necessary for the exercise of episcopal jurisdiction ; all that is necessary is, that the election of a bishop should be confirmed by the pope. This confirmation of the pope gives to the bishop-elect canonical institution, and confers on him jurisdiction over all the faithful of the territory which has been assigned to him. This jurisdiction, received from the pope, may also be taken away by the pope. Bishops, however, cannot be deprived of the power which is essentially connected with orders and the episcopal character, because that power is received immediately from God. Should, therefore, a bishop become a heretic, he still retains his episcopal character, in virtue of which he validly, though unlawfully, confers confirmation, holy orders, and offers the holy sacrifice of the Mass. All bishops are on an equality as to their episcopal character, but the jurisdiction of some, of patriarchs, metropolitans, and archbishops, is more extended than that of others. This privilege of greater power is conferred by the pope alone, as he may think fit to grant to this or that bishop a greater or less share of the supreme authority which he holds over all the churches.
In the early ages of the Church, the title patriarch (sovereign father, chief father) was given to the titular bishops of the sees of the most important cities, such as Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Antioch. The Patriarch of Rome has always been considered the universal patriarch. The bishops presiding over the capital cities of the empire were called metropolitans, but, in later times, archbishops, that is, chief bishops. The patriarchal churches were established by the Holy See, wherein the power rests of extending or limiting the jurisdiction of any bishop ; for, "everything," says St. Leo, "which Christ has given to the other bishops, has been given through St. Peter."
Besides the pope and the bishops, there are other legitimate pastors, called parish priests, who are subject to their respective bishops ; for, as the bishop possesses the plenitude of the priesthood, he enjoys by divine right, that is, by Christ's institution, a superiority not only of precedence and of honor, but even of authority, over all his priests, who, without his good-will and pleasure, can do nothing in regard to ecclesiastical matters. He is the pastor of his whole diocese. He can, therefore, give to this or that priest jurisdiction more or less extended. For good reasons he can also restrict the jurisdiction which he had given, and even withdraw it altogether.
In the early ages of Christianity, there was but one Church in each city or town, in which the faithful assembled under the presidency of the bishop. But when, in the course of time, the number of Christians had considerably increased, and bishops were unable to attend to the spiritual wants of their flock, dioceses were divided into parishes, that is, a union of many families, who assemble in a particular church, called parochial church, to assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and the other duties of religion. Each parochial church is attended by a priest called the parish priest, whose duty it is to instruct the people in the way of salvation, and administer to them the sacraments of baptism, holy Eucharist, Penance, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction. From a custom long established, the parish priest can dispense his parishioners in matters of fasting and abstinence, and in the observation of Sundays and holydays. Parish priests are often assisted in their labor by other priests, called vicars or coadjutors. Every parish, then, has three immediate pastors : the pope, the bishop, and the parish priest. All the particular churches in the world profess their union with the Church of Rome. She is the mistress of all others : "To be united with the See of Rome," says St. Cyprian, "is to be united with the Catholic Church, for the Church of Rome is the principal Church ; the Bishop of Rome, the chief bishop ; the episcopal throne of this Church is the throne of Peter, the source and centre of ecclesiastical unity, and therefore all bishops of the world must, either directly or indirectly, be in communication with Rome, in order that, by thus communicating with her, the union of all may be preserved." And St. Irenseus, who lived in the first century, declares that, instead of scrutinizing the doctrine delivered by Christ and his apostles, "and searching tradition, it is enough to inquire what is the teaching of the Church of
Rome: "For it is necessary," says he, "that the whole Church, that is, the faithful of the whole world, should be in communion with this Church, on account of its more powerful authority ; in which communion the faithful of the whole world have preserved the tradition that was delivered by the apostles. When, therefore, you know the faith of this Church, you have also learned the faith of the others." (Contr. Haeret. iii, 3, n. 2.)
"Whoever," says St. Jerome, "is not in communion with the Church of Rome, is outside the Church." (Adv. Jovian., lib. i, n. 26.)
The One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, then, unites all the distinguishing marks of her divine institution and mission. Nowhere do these distinctive marks of the Church of Christ appear with more lustre than in those holy assemblies, called General Councils. The Church's unity appears most strikingly in the union of all the members to the same supreme head who convoked the council presides over it, confirms and Executes its decrees. The sanctity of the Church is clearly seen in her condemnation of errors, and extirpation of abuses. The catholicity of the Church is seen in the convocation of the pastors of the whole Christian world ; and the apostolicity of the Church is manifest in the assembly of all the bishops, the successors of the apostles, who are convoked, heard, and called to judge in matters of faith and morals, to regulate discipline, to acknowledge the authority of tradition, to confirm the doctrine of the apostles, and, after their return to their respective dioceses, to communicate to their diocesans "what hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them" at which the hearts of all the faithful in the world are filled with consolation and joy, and deep gratitude toward Jesus Christ, who continues to speak to them through blessed Peter and the other apostles, in their lawful successors, the bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.
To be continued . . . . . . .