Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and eloquence by De La Mennais and his associates, after the French Revolution of July, 1830, in the brilliant columns of the Avenir.

We confess, in the outset, that any talk of an alliance of religion and therefore of the church with any thing outside of her, as necessary to her existence or her efficiency, scandalizes us not a little. The phrase itself offends us; for it is impossible to use it so that, to large numbers, at least, it shall not convey a false and mischievous meaning. We can readily believe, that, in Padre Ventura's mind, and in the minds of his Roman hearers and readers, it conveys, under existing circumstances, only a sense which is sound and worthy of all acceptation ; but in France, in England, and in this country, it inevitably bears a meaning which it seems to us no good Catholic can accept, as may easily be gathered from the misconstructions which have almost universally been put upon the conduct of the Holy Father in the salutary reforms which he has introduced into his more immediate temporal dominions. The church we have been accustomed to regard as sufficient for herself, and as under no necessity, for her own preservation or efficiency, to make common cause with any power outside of her. Whatever is good and worthy to be sought she includes in lierself ; and we cannot understand what there is outside of her with which she can form an alliance, without proving herself in some measure unfaithful to her celestial Sponse. Her energy, the only energy she needs, which comes from him who said, Ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, appears to us to be fully equal to her necessities, and therefore the infusion of popular energy contended for we cannot but regard as quite superfluous.

Moreover, we are at some loss to understand what is meant by forming an alliance between religion and liberty. To call for the forming of such an alliance seems to us to imply, what is not true, that religion has heretofore been divorced from liberty, and has remained alone, or formed an adulterous union with tyranny and oppression. An alliance presupposes, also, that the allies are separate and independent powers; but we are not aware of any such

power as liberty, separate from religion, and independent of it. Religion is the origin, ground, and condition of liberty. Where religion is, there is liberty; where religion is not, whatever of license there may be, there is not liberty, and cannot be. The two are in their nature inseparable, and indistinguishable even, save as the effect is distinguishable from the cause, the property from the essence, the stream from the fountain. "How, then, form an alliance between them, since they are already in their very nature so intimately united ? How form an alliance between the sun and its rays, or the rainbow and its tints ?

That there has been, and is, a party throughout most European nations clamoring for liberty as separated from relig, ion, we are not ignorant ; but they clamor for what has and can have no real existence, under that sacred name. That this party has made and still makes war on the church, that it has believed and still believes, or pretends to believe, that the church is the enemy of liberty, and that to become free it is necessary to overturn the altar as well as the throne, is lamentably true; but who that loves religion, and is imbued with the lessons of the Gospel, can advocate an alliance of the church with these, or pretend that to accept and support, not, indeed, their means, but the end they are really seeking, would be to accept and support the cause of liberty? That which the enemies of the church, the desecrators of all holy things, and the blasphemers of God clamor for, is not liberty, and can by no ecclesiastical alchemy be transmuted into liberty. There is with these not merely a mistake as to the means, agencies, or influences by which the end is to be gained, but a inistake as to the end itself. With what in them is religion to form an alliance? Or what energy have they from which she could profit?

Perhaps, however, we take the word liberty in too refined a sense, in a sense too metaphysical or too spiritual; perhaps Padre Ventura uses the word in a more outward sense, and means by it simply popular institutions. There is throughout the greater part of Europe a deep disaffection on the part of the people towards their civil rulers, a demand for change, and especially for the introduction and establishment of popular forms of government, as the only efficient means of protecting themselves against the oppressions of their governors, and of securing their social well-being. Does the eloquent and enthusiastic Theatine mean by the policy he contends for, that the church should refuse to sustain the actual governments in their measures of repression, often essential to their very existence, side with the populations, and encourage and direct the movements for the realization of the end they are seeking?

This, we own, has a specious appearance and a plausible

a

a

sound, but, republicans as we are, we are not prepared to accept it. We have here the same difficulty we began by suggesting, Where the end proposed is distinctly religions, and is sought from religious motives, the church may, undoubtedly, side with those who are seeking it, bless their efforts, and make common cause with them ; for their cause is hers, and she does but use them for the accoinplishment of her own purposes. But where the end is not itself distinctly religious, and is not referred to a distinctly religious end, -is not to secure the freedom and independence of the church, and to enable her to pursue freely, without let or hindrance, her divine mission of teaching, saving, succoring, and solacing mankind, but to procure a merely temporal or earthly good, -we see not how she can make common cause with those who are in pursuit of it, without implying that heaven makes a compact with earth. The church may, and assuredly does, promote men's earthly well-being, but never save as incidental to her promotion of their spiritual and eternal interests. The temporal follows the eternal, but does not precede it, and is not sought by it. " Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you,” is the principle on which the church proceeds, and the invariable law which she prescribes to her children. The heavenly is gained only by being the direct and sole object of pursuit; but the earthly only by not being so sought, and, indeed, only by not being songht at all. that will save his life shall lose it, and he that will lose his life for my sake shall find it." We know no exceptions to this rule.

Now these European populations seeking popular forms of government are not seeking these as a religious end, nor, indeed, for a religious end; but solely with a view to their own social or temporal well-being. They have not in view the interests of religion ; they are not disposed to struggle for the freedom and independence of the church, or to remove a single obstacle in the way of her fulfilling in them, or for them, her divine mission; they have in view only their own earthly interests. These they may,--in so far as they violate no law of God, omit no moral or religious duty,– no doubt, lawfully seek; but the church cannot, while they seek then only in reference to an earthly end, make common cause with them, without an abandonment of her own principle of action, and in some measure compromising her divine mission. Moreover, it is not a sound view to identify

" He

even civil liberty with popular forms of government. Freedom is possible under any and every form of government; and so is tyranny. Republics can tyrannize and oppress as well as monarchies, and we see among ourselves, that, under the most democratic institutions on earth, three millions of the population out of twenty can be held in abjeet slavery. Wherever the government is wisely and justly administered, whatever its form, there is civil freedom, and wherever it is not so administered, there is not civil freedom; and the chances of a wise and just administration are not in proportion to the more or less popular form of the government, but to the more or less influence which religion has over the nation. Wherever the church is free, and is able to exert her legitimate influence, the government will be as wisely administered as with human frailty can be expected; but where she is not free, or where her influence is not exerted, there is and can be no guaranty of such administration, whatever the contrivances of statesraen, or in whose hands soever may be placed the reins of government.

As long as the European populations place their temporal well-being before their spiritual and eternal, not even the church can emancipate them, and secure them the blessings of civil liberty. Political changes will prove unavailing, and the evil which is now concentrated in the court would only be diffused through the mass, and for one tyrant give a hundred. No siding with the people, no consecration of their banner and blessing of their cause, will deliver them from oppression, unless they in themselves seek liberty, not for an earthly, but for a heavenly end,-unless they place the church first in their affections and obedience, and seek freedom for her sake, instead of their own.

Undoubtedly, if the church were to proclaim common cause with the movement for popular institutions, the great body of those who are seeking them would applaud her, and rally under her banner, because they could rally under hers without deserting their own. She and they would certainly come together; not by their going to her, but by her coming to them. They would, no doubt, hail her as a welcome ally, and drink many a toast to her health, so long as she claimed to be only an ally; but the moment she should seek to restrain their lawlessness, to compel them to observe discipline, or claim the right to command their forces, they would raise the cry, À bas l Église, vive la République ! and she would find herself under the disadvantage of seeming to them

a

to oppose the very cause she had sanctified and the very banhier she had blessed. The alliance would secure her an infusion of popular energy, while she obeyed the popular passion, and exerted herself only to carry out the popular will; but no longer. For a moment, she would seem to be strengthened by the alliance; but having by it made a concession to the people, and told them that they were justifiable in their cause, she would in reality only be weakened by it.

But it is said, the populations have become hostile to the church in consequence of their belief that she is unfriendly to civil liberty, and unless she espouses the cause they have so much at heart, they will neither submit nor listen to her. There may be some truth in this, but we cannot accept the conclusion, that therefore she must disabuse them by espousing that cause. An astute politician in old pagan times might have reasoned with equal justice.-The bulk of the pagan people believe the church is opposed to what they hold to be religion, and will not submit or listen to her teaching; it is necessary, therefore, that she disabuse them by offering incense to the idols. No matter whether the idol be Jupiter, Venus, or civil liberty, an alliance with its worship is alike. inadmissible. It is not for those without to propose conditions to the church, nor is it for her to make concessions to them. She proposes the conditions ; if we abuse our freewill and reject them, and destroy our own souls, the responsibility rests on us, not on her.

It is, undoubtedly, desirable to disabuse the populations of their error; but it cannot be done in the way proposed. The church cannot, in order to disabuse them, consent to take the law from them. The policy recommended would procure, not their submission to her, but hers to them. They who submit to the church for the sake of any temporal good do not submit to her at all, nor do they become in reality any more or better Catholics than they were before. The European populations, to a considerable extent, no doubt, place the melioration of society and the establishment of political liberty before every other object. But this is a grave error on their part,-an error to be corrected, not sanctioned. For the church to make common cause with them were only to confirm them in it. Nay, this very error is one of the chief obstacles to the realization of the social improvement and civil liberty they demand. Their eagerness overleaps itself, and fails of its aim. The church can do nothing for them, save in proportion as she is able to

« AnteriorContinuar »