CATHOLICISM A POLITICAL ORGANIZATION
Guizot, speaking of the Christian Church, says: “I say the Christian Church, and not Christianity, between which a broad distinction is to be made.” (Gen. Hist. Civilization, Lecture 11, p. 48.) The Catholic Church has little except the name of Christianity, while it is secretly a political organization to establish “the supremacy of the Pope over all persons and things,” which, according to Bellarmine’s view, “is the main substance of Christianity.”
If we have recourse to the lexicon to ascertain the signification of the term religion, we may arrive at a definite conclusion respecting its classical use: but if we are guided in our inquiry by the popular acceptation, we will discover that its definitions are as numerous as the inhabitants of the globe, and as various as their features. We have Natural religion, Pagan religion, Hindoo religion, Jewish religion, Christian religion, and Mahometan religion. Among Christian sects some believe religion to consist in individual feeling, some in baptism, some in reverence for the clergy, some in problematical creeds and dogmas, some in observances of church ordinations, some in rhapsodies, and some in a species of sentimentalism.
The Boston Pilot says: “There can be no religion without an Inquisition;” but Thomas Paine, with nobler philosophy, thinks “religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” The diversity and discordance which have arisen respecting the import of this term, originate from its compound nature adapting it to designate one idea, or a variety of ideas. But while we rarely encounter two persons exactly concurring in an opinion of what is religion, we find all readily admitting that it essentially consists in just principles and correct conduct. Principles are the fountains of thought and feeling; to be just, they must be formed in accordance with truth and reason. Conduct to be correct must be in harmony with the rights of others, and the principles and designs of the human organism. According to this definition, religion may exist with or without ceremonial observances. All forms are merely external appendages, unessential to the nature of religion, and as distinct from it as the casket is from the gem, or the body from the vital principle. If this definition should be construed into a definition of mere morality, it cannot invalidate any objection founded on it to Catholicism, as every such objection will then become demonstrative proof that the Catholic Church is not only destitute of religion, but even of morality.
The signification of a corporate organization is well understood, but how shall we ascertain its principles and designs? Not from the tenor of its professions; but from the nature of its constitution, the tendency of its measures, the sanctions which it has given, the recognitions which it has made in its official capacity; and above all, from the avowals it has uttered, under such a prosperous condition of affairs as made disguise unnecessary. In courting popular favor, an organization concocted to subvert the rights and interests of the people, would, from motives of policy, be prompted to conceal its nature and design; but when wealth and power had sufficiently fortified its security to enable it to scorn and defy public opinion, it would then as naturally unfold its latent principles, as a summer’s sun would hatch an innocently looking cluster of eggs into a nest of poisonous asps.
If among the members of an organization, which professes to be of an exclusively religious character, men should be found who are unquestionably religious or moral, this fact would no more prove it to be a religious or moral institution, than would the membership of the same persons to a railroad or municipal corporation prove such a corporation to be a religious and not a secular organization. But if at periods in its history, its most irreproachable and credible members should denounce it as a political power, and labor to transform it into a purely religious institution, and for such a “damnable heresy” were burnt alive, and their ashes thrown into a river to prevent the people from worshipping them, what would be the legitimate inference from such facts? Would it not be that it claimed to be a political organization? that it was high treason in its estimation to question its right to this character? and that to utter such a question in its domains was to provoke its heaviest penalty? Did not all these facts occur in Home respecting Arnold of Brecia? And in Catholic history have not similar facts, from his time down to the Reformation, been incarnadined in human blood too deeply for audacity to deny or time to obliterate?
But what is a religious organization?
If religion is moral goodness, a religious organization must be an embodiment of its principles, a practical exemplification of its maxims, and a scheme in measures and policy adapted to extend the observance of its obligations. Such an organization must be consistent with itself, and in harmony with the natural principles of man. In integrity it must be invulnerable; in adherence to right inflexible; in hostility to wrong, uncompromising. It must be the champion of the rights of human nature; the friend of freedom, equality and liberality; the enemy of bigotry, intolerance, and despotism. Its claims must be commended by truth; its measures sanctioned by reason and conscience; its triumphs won by argument and persuasion. Its hands must be unstained with blood. It must never perpetrate a fraud, nor descend to intrigue, nor dissemble, nor cherish malice, nor slander an opponent, nor traffic for self-aggrandizement, nor prostitute its principles to political objects, nor accommodate itself to the vices of any age or country. Amid general corruption it must always be pure, amid bigotry it must always be tolerant, amid oppression it must always advocate the cause of justice, and amid ignorance the cause of education.
Such are some of the essential characteristics of a religious or moral organization. Any departure from them in an institution, proves its secularism. No church in which they form not a distinguishing feature, has any claims to be a religious or moral corporation.
Now when we see an institution, professing to be of an exclusively religious character, organizing its departments upon a financial basis; enjoining on its members the vow of unconditional obedience, in order to subject them to its despotic domination; the vow of absolute poverty, in order to enable them more successfully to administer to the increase of its wealth; the vow of celibacy, in order to prevent them from having legitimate heirs, to divert the ecclesiastical possessions from the church; when we see it establishing schools to select and mould to its designs the most promising among youth, instituting universities to enrich itself by the sale of their honors, absolving sins for money, selling indulgences for the commission of premeditated crime, erecting missionary stations among Pagans for the purpose of traffic and emolument, manufacturing evidence, committing forgeries, and corrupting and interpolating the text of ancient authors, denouncing reason, crushing liberty, circumscribing knowledge, anathematizing those who disbelieve in its arbitrary dogmas, torturing those who question its supreme authority, burning those who oppose its pretensions; having a national cabinet, ministerial offices, accredited ambassadors, maintaining a standing army, a naval force, religious military orders to extend and enlarge its domains, carrying a national banner, wearing a political crown, declaring war, concluding national covenants, coining money, and exercising all the rights of an acknowledged independent monarchy, it is more than credulity can admit, to concede that such an organization is not a corrupt, cruel, despotic, and political institution. That such is the constitution of the Catholic Church is a fact, attested by the existing Papal Government, and by the spirit and acts of its past history; and that it is now what in the past it has been, is established by the unanimous testimony of its acknowledged expounders. Simplicity has been amused by modern Catholic apologists, who assert that the Papal monarch has resigned his former pretensions to universal temporal sovereignty, and that he now merley maintains his right to supreme spiritual authority. But this subterfuge can mislead only a superficial, ignorant mind. As spiritual sovereignty is absolute dominion over reason and conscience, it unavoidably involves temporal sovereignty; nay, temporal sovereignty of the most despotic and unlimited authority reason and conscience lay at the foundation of all political power; and if Catholicism is adapted to govern them, it transcends in despotism the most ingeniously contrived monarchy that tyranny has ever elaborated, or by which the faculties of man have ever been enthralled. Spain, Russia, or any other government is less tyrannical in its constitution than is the Catholic Church. He who would establish the contrary opinion, must first obliterate the Papal bulls, the decrees of the Councils, and the authorities of the Catholic Church; he must go to Rome and convert the present Pope and his college of Cardinals; nay, he must attend the coming Ecumenical Council and induce it to annul the canons of all the previous Councils, and to declare that all the preceding Popes were “damnable heretics,” and have them accordingly excommunicated. These preliminary steps must be taken before he can avoid absurdity or the imputation of wilful prevarication.
But the Papal See has never resigned its preposterous claim to universal temporal sovereignty. The bulls and canons asserting this pretension have never been annulled. They still form the canon law of the Church. No official declaration has announced an abrogation of them. The Pope’s reiterated and blasphemous claim to infallibility precludes the possibility of such a sensible act. Infallibility is inconsistent with change of principle or error of conduct, and when the Church of Rome arrogates such a divine attribute, she avers that her past history indicates her present character and future intentions. In this opinion all her authorities concur. Bishop Kendrick says: “All doctrine of definitions already made by general Councils and former Pontiffs are marks which no man can remove.” (Primacy, p. 356). Brownson says: “What the Church has done, what she has expressly or tacitly approved in the past, is exactly what she will do, expressly or tacitly approve, in the future, if the same circumstances occur.” (Review, Jan. 1854). Again: “The Catholic dogma, in regard to every subject whatever, has always been the same from the beginning, remains always unchangeably the same, and will always continue in every part of the world immutable.” (Review, Jan., 1850). Again: “Catholicity, as long as it continues Catholicity, cannot be carried to excess. It will be all or nothing.” (Review, Jan., 1854). The editors of the Civilita Cattolica, the Pope’s organ at Rome, say: “From the darkness of the catacombs she (the Catholic Church) dictated laws to the subjects of Emperors, abrogating decrees, whether plebeian, senatorial or imperial, when in conflict with Catholic ordinances. To-day, as in all time, the Church commands the spiritual part of man; and, in ruling over the spirit, she rules the body, rules over riches, over science, over affections, over interests, over associations—rules, in fine, over monarchs and their ministers.” The Dublin Tablet, Feb. 24,1865, the accredited organ of Romanism in the British realm, says: “The Pope is at this moment interfering in Piedmont, defending one class of citizens against the government; and in the House of Representatives of the United States, a Christian, Mr. Chandler, in his speech, Jan., 1865), denies the right! Governments may and do prohibit good works, and the Pope interferes. They also commit evil, and the Pope interferes; and good Christians (Catholics) prefer the Pope’s authority to that of the State. The godless (non-Catholic ) colleges of Ireland, the troubles of Piedmont, all bear witness against the unchristian opinion.” The Paris Univers says: “A heretic examined and convicted by the Church, used to be delivered over to the secular authority to be punished with death. Nothing has appeared to us more necessary. More than 100,000 persons perished in consequence of the heresy of Wickliffe, and a still greater number for that of John Huss; and it would be impossible to count the bloodshed caused by Luther, and it is not yet over.” De Pratt, formerly an Abbe of the Pope, says: “The Pope is chief of 150,000,000 of followers. Catholicism cannot have less than 500,000 ministers. The Pope Commands more subjects than any sovereign—more than many sovereigns together. These have subjects only on their own territory, the Pope commands subjects on the territory of all sovereigns” (Flag of the Union.) But the testimony is voluminous, and I forbear further quotations on this point.
To understand, then, the past history of the Catholic Church, is of paramount importance to every freeman. What is it? It is the development of her nature. It is the unfolding of her treason to the world. It is uncovering the cruelty and despotism concealed under her religious profession. It is the revelation of her animosity to the rights of men, to the progress of society, and to the exercise of reason and conscience. It shows her to be a secret political organization, skilfully constructed for the acquisition of supreme political power, and hypocritically disguised under the semblance of religion. If in her infancy she did not always avow her ambitious designs, she always secretly cherished them; and, if in her adversity she has moderated her tone, she has not her natural thirst for secular power. As she grew in strength, she grew in arrogance and despotism; and when, by a system of artful intrigues and bold usurpations, she had created a colossal power that overawed the united monarchies of Christendom, she unsheathed the double sword, the symbol of ecclesiastical and political power, and asserted her right, as Vicar of Christ, to rule with or in preference to Princes, invaded the rights and liberties of independent nations, crowned and uncrowned monarchs, destroyed freedom everywhere, anathematized, shackled, tortured and burnt all who opposed her monarchical pretensions. Her triumphal processions have been the most magnificent when her hands were the bloodiest, and her Te Deum was chaunted with the most fervor when the smoke of her stakes ascended in the thickest volumes, and the gore shed by the double sword streamed in the broadest and deepest currents.
When Time, the avenger, hurled her from her despotic throne, she supplicated, because she could not command, and moderated her pretensions, because she dare not assert them. But if she presumes not now to tear the crown from the head of the mighty, who would annihilate her for her audacious attempt; if she does not now absolve subjects from allegiance to their governments, whose artillery, to avenge the insult would be marshalled against her; if she does not now attempt to burn at the stake those who reject her absurdities, and who would burn her for an attempt—the reason of the extraordinary change in her infallible holiness is palpable. It is not because she has discarded the doctrines consecrated by so many bulls, battles and treaties, but because she cannot carry them out without peril to her existence. But let Brownson, whom Pope Pius IX., in a letter dated April 29, 1854, blessed with an apostolic benediction for services rendered, solve this point. He says: “The Church, who possesses an admirable gift of discretion, has prudently judged that she would not declare all things explicitly from the beginning, but at a given time, and in suitable circumstances, would bring into light something which was hitherto in concealment, and covered with a certain obscurity.” (Review, January, 1854).
CHAPTER II. THE POLITICAL MACHINERY OF THE PAPAL POWER
That the Holy Catholic Church is artfully constituted to subjugate all secular and ecclesiastical power under its authority, and that its object is not to advance the interests of moral goodness, but to acquire temporal dominion, must be admitted by every one that fully comprehends the principles upon which its religious Orders are organized. These Orders were founded by Catholic saints and Bishops. They have been confirmed by Popes and Councils. And though they have been suppressed, on account of their corrupt tendency and political intrigues, in kingdom after kingdom, yet in pontifical bulls they have been defended as being the most useful and pious class of the Catholic community. They may therefore be regarded as having been authoratively acknowledged to be constituted in harmony with the principles and designs of the Catholic Church. In fact they form the body of its organization, as the Pope does its head, and the Councils do its members.
In investigating the intrinsic nature of these orders, we are naturally led back to that period of their history which allowed them an unembarrassed development. As they are sanctioned by a church which claims the attribute of infallibility, whatever changes the advance of civilization has effected in them, must be regarded as a mere prudent accommodation to existing circumstances, to be tolerated no longer than they are imperative. If in 1900 the Catholic Church gain the supremacy in the United States which she hopes to gain, she will restore the despotism and superstition which characterized her domination during the dark ages. Pope Gregory XVI. in his Encyclical Epistle of 1832, says: “Ever bearing in mind, the universal church suffers from every novelty, as well as the admonition of Pope St. Agatho, that from what has been regularly defined nothing can be taken away—no innovation introduced there, no addition made, but that it must be preserved untouched as to words and meaning.”
The religious Orders consist of anchorites, monks, nuns and knights. The anchorites in general lived separately, but sometimes in communities. The nuns lived in perpetual solitude, as also did the monks, with the exception of such as devoted themselves to the administration of the public affairs of the church. The knights were soldiers of the cross, instituted to defend and propagate the Romish faith by the force of arms. The orders differed from one another chiefly in the style of their dress, in degrees of rigidness of discipline, and in the assumption of additional vows. They all assumed the vow of absolute poverty, of perpetual celibacy, and of unconditional obedience to the rules of their Order, and to the commands of their superior. Each member was subject to the absolute authority of his superior, who resided in the monastery; each superior to the absolute authority of his general, who resided at Rome, and each general to the absolute authority of the Pope, who was the head and the chief engineer of the whole machine. By means of this machinery the monarchical power of the Pope has been, and is still, although the machinery in some places is somewhat damaged, exerted in every kingdom, in every republic, in every city, and over every Catholic mind in Christendom.
When a novice assumed the monastic vows, he became the absolute property, or chattel, of the institution which he entered, as irreversibly as if he had signed, sealed, and delivered a deed conveying to it his soul and body. By this act of piety he yielded up his personal freedom, and became ironed with the shackles of an eternal slavery. A culprit might hope for liberty when his time would expire, but the recluse could only expect disenthralment by death. If disappointed in finding the holiness which he fancied to hallow the place, or if, relieved of the misanthropic gloom, the isolating superstition, or the delusive representations which had induced him to enter the monastic walls, he should escape, he was pursued, and if captured remanded back by the civil authorities to the cold solitude of his prison house. Not only have these cruel deeds been perpetrated in the dark ages, but in this age of civilization—not only in despotic Europe, but in free America. True, the civil authority in. Protestant countries has not interfered, but Catholic ingenuity has discovered means equally efficacious. How many escaped nuns have unaccountably disappeared from society? What infamous means have Catholic priests adopted to fill their nunneries? A young girl in Baltimore, who had just passed her sixteenth year, was carried to a nunnery, and although her mother and relatives invoked the interposition of the civil authorities, yet they were unable to reclaim her, because she had arrived at age. Who that has any conception of the numerous applications of distracted mothers at the police station-houses of some of our large cities, for their children, who have mysteriously disappeared; or that has read the account recently published in the New York papers, (of the recovery of the body of a young female who had been drowned, when in one day eight mothers called at the dead-house to see if the corpse was not that of a daughter whom each had missed), can avoid believing that if the nunneries were open to public inspection, some of these mysteries might be resolved?
After the ceremonies were concluded which sepulchred the novice forever in his monastic cloister, his thoughts, feelings, and desires were henceforth to be regulated, not by the operations of the brain, but by the rules of his Order. The most secret recesses of his mind were to be opened to the inspection of his confessor. For the intrusion of a natural thought he was liable to the infliction of the severest penalty; and the voice of the superior was the only reason, the only conscience, the only instinct he was at liberty to obey. Subjected to a systematic course of rigid discipline adapted to paralyze reason, suppress conscience and stifle instinct, he became a passionless, soulless, mechanical automaton, as well formed to bless, pray and preach, as to curse, forge and murder, and equally ready to do either at the mandate of his superior.
When the superstition of the masses, the ignorance of princes, the ambition of politicians, and the intrigues of the priesthood had favored or cultivated the growth of Catholicism until it was matured into a colossal monarchy, it was discovered that while its centre was in Rome, its branches extended to every section of Christendom. Its monasteries conveniently and strategetically located in different parts of the world, its confessors penetrating the secret designs and wishes of statesmen and princes, its spiritual advisers scrutinizing the conduct of opulent and distinguished personagas, its spies, under the license of Papal indulgences, professing all opinions, and entering all associations and societies, and its agents in constant communication with their superiors, their superiors with their generals, and their generals with the Pope, and all acting in concert in every part of Christendom toward the accomplishment of one grand design; the See of Rome became the receptacle of accurate accounts of the condition, events and characters of the various sections of the globe, and was capable of improving every occurrence to its best advantage, and of commanding in its support the power of every locality. As nothing was too great to transcend its aspirations, so nothing was too minute to escape its scrutiny. Monarchs, legislators, judges, jurists, statesmen, generals, bankers, merchants, actors, schools, colleges, men, women, children—all were objects which its spiritual machinery sought to control. Invisible, but omniscient, the Pope was seen nowhere, while his power was felt everywhere. He touched the secret springs of his machinery and the world was roused to arms or silenced to submission; kings were astounded with applauding subjects, or sat powerless on their thrones; armies rushed to battle or grounded their arms; statesmen were blasted, none could tell for what crime; miscreants were ennobled, none could tell for what virtue; men’s business or domestic affairs were disarranged, none could tell for what cause. So sudden, secret and terrible were the revolutions wrought in the fate of individuals and nations, that they seemed like the vengeful interposition of Providence, and the mystery which concealed the hidden cause led the ignorant and stupefied world to interpret them, under the instruction of a crafty priesthood, as the manifestations of divine wrath. When we calmly consider the disposition of the Catholic organization, it seems that all the inventions of ancient tyranny were condensed in it with improved malignancy. The ambition of Caesar, which hurried him on to the destruction of the liberties of his country, while he imagined the cold hand of his departed mother clasped his heart; the jealousy of Commodus, who never spared what he could suspect; the cruelty of Mithridates, who fed on poison to escape the secret revenge of his injured subjects; the inhumanity of Caligula, who wished the world had but one neck, that he might cut off its disobedient head at one blow, are, indeed, terrible examples of despotism, but they were limited to one nation, and left reason and conscience unshackled. But in the Papal organization we find a scrutiny which penetrated all secrets, a despotism that ironed reason and conscience, an ambition that grasped heaven and earth, a malignity that blasted for time and eternity—a policy in which all the elements of bigotry, terror, malice, duplicity and obduracy were incorporated in their most frightful proportion. Before this conception we might well shudder, for its irons are secretly manacling our own limbs. Its triumphs, written in the blood of the millions it has butchered, commemorated by the monuments of ecclesiastical rubbish which it has erected, seen in the gloom of superstition it has cast upon the world, utter a solemn admonition to the freemen of America. Think not that the present attainment in civilization is proof against this all-blasting tree, whose sap is poison and whose fruit is death. Think of Egyptian, Asiatic, Grecian civilization, and tremble lest their fate become your own. Let not confidence beget an apathy that may close the eye of vigilance, or enervate the powers of resistance. Listen to Pope Pius IX. when he declares that “the Catholic religion, with its rights, ought to be exclusively dominant, in such sort that every other worship shall be banished and interdicted.” Listen to Father Hecker, who says: “The Catholic Church now numbers one-third of the American population, and if its membership increase for the next thirty years, as it has for the thirty years past, in 1900 Rome will have a majority, and be bound to take the country and keep it.” Read the statistics and learn the fearful probability of the fulfillment of Hecker’s prophesy. Then dream no more that your liberties are safe.
POPES, THEIR PRETENSIONS, ELECTIONS, CHARACTER, AND ADMINISTRATIONS
That we may not commit the error of attributing to the holy mother absurdities which she repudiates, we will inquire what are her pretensions before arraigning her reason or justice in making them. An unequivocal answer to this inquiry may ba obtained from the import of her titles, from the bulls of her popes, from the canons of her councils, and from the assertions of her acknowledged authorities. Some of the pope’s accredited titles are the following: “The Father of all Fathers;” “The Chief High Priest and Prince of God;” “The Regent of the House of the Lord;” “The Oracle of Religion;” “Our Most Holy Lord God;” “Our Lord God the Pope;” “The Divine Majesty;” “The Victorious God and Man in the See of Rome;” “The Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;” “The Bearer of Eternal Life;” “The Most Holy Father;” “Priest of the World;” “God’s Vicar General on Earth;” “The Most High and Mighty God on Earth;” “More than God,” &c, &c.
“Pius V., our reigning pope, is prince over all nations and kingdoms, and he has power to pluck up, scatter, plant, ruin and build.”—Canon of the Council of Trent.
“All mortals are judged by the pope, and the pope by nobody.”—Lateran Canon.
“It is necessary to salvation that all Christians be subject to the pope.”—Pope Boniface VIII
“Ireland, and all the isles on which Christ, the holy sun of righteousness hath shone, do belong to the patrimony of. St. Peter and the holy Catholic Church”—Bull of Pope Adrian.
“He (the pope) alone has the right to assume empire. All nations must kiss his feet. His name is the only one to be uttered in the churches. It is the only name in the world. He has the right to depose emperors. No council can call itself general without the consent of the pope. No chapter, no book can be reputed canonical without his authority. No one can invalidate his sentence; he can abrogate those of all others. He cannot be judged by any. All persons whatsoever are forbidden to condemn him who is called to the apostolic chair. The Church of Rome is never wrong, and will never fall into error. Every Roman pontiff when ordained becomes holy.”—Bull of Gregory VII.
“The pope is supreme over all the world, may impose taxes, and destroy crowns and castles for the preservation of Christianity.”—St. Thomas Aquinas.
“The supremacy of the pope over all persons and things is the main substance of Christianity.”—Bellarmine.
“The pope is crowned with a triple crown, and is constituted over his (God’s) hand to regulate concerning all inferiors; he opens heaven, sends the guilty to hell, confirms emperors, and orders the clerical orders.”—Antonius of Florence, Dist. 40, Si Papa.
“The pope is the only Vicar of God; his power is over all the world, Pagan as well as Christian, the only Vicar of God, who has supreme power and empire over all princes and kings of the earth.”—Blareus, De Rom,. Eccl., Art. 5, sec. 19.
“The pope has supreme power over kings and Christian princes; he may remove them from office, and in their place put others.”—Browns, De Rom. Pontiff, Cap. 46, p. 62.
“The pope is the Lord of the whole world. The pope has temporal power; his temporal power is most eminent. All other powers depend on the pope.”—Marcinus, Jure Princep. Pom., Lib. 2, cap. 1, 2.
“The pope is divine monarch, supreme emperor and king. Hence the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as King of heaven, of earth, and of hell. He is also above angels; so that if it were possible that angels could err from the faith, they could be judged and excommunicated by the pope.”—Feraris in Papa, Art. 11, No. 10.
“The vicar of God in the place of God, remits to man the debt of a plighted promise.”—Dens. 4, 134.
“The pope can do all things that he wishes to do, and is empowered by God to do all things that he himself can.”—Tiba.
“The pope can transubstantiate sin into duty, and duty into sin.”—Durand.
“The bishop of Rome cannot even sin without being praised.”—Moscovius.
“God’s tribunal and the pope’s tribunal are the same.”—Moscovius.
From the loftiness of these pretensions, we are involuntarily impelled to look to the holy fathers for corresponding principles, character and conduct. If they possess the moral attributes of the deity, they must possess also his physical attributes; and if they possess his physical attributes, they can much easier create some world out of nothing over which to domineer, than they can create a claim to all the crowns, riches, and territory of the earth, out of the patrimony of St. Peter, who was never worth a cent. If, indeed, the pope’s tribunal and God’s tribunal are the same; if he above all in heaven would be the proper judge, and anathematizer of angels, should any of them fall; if he can annul the obligation of any oath which man is under to his maker, then he must be the associate judge of God Almighty, equal to him in dignity, superior to him in jurisdiction, and supereminent to him in authority. If the pope can transubstantiate sin into duty and duty into sin, he can annihilate all distinction between right and wrong, and convert the worship of God into a sin, and the adoration of himself into a duty. But these extraordinary pretensions, if unsupported by irrefragable proofs of divine power and virtue; if the administrative abilities of the popes have not transcended those of infinite wisdom and goodness; and if their monarchy is not such a just embodiment of unquestionable and universally accepted principles as has produced and maintained among their subjects on earth a degree of peace, order, and concord superior to that which subsists among the angels in heaven, then are their pretensions not only presumptuous but ridiculous, not only arrogant but blasphemous; denying the existence of God by claiming equality with him, contemning his authority by usurping his prerogatives, and trampling under foot his name and character, by presuming to exercise a superior degree of executive and judicial authority.
In selecting a person among mortals capable of filling a throne so exalted above the thrones of earth and heaven, we perceive the great embarrassment under which those must have labored on whom the difficult task was devolved. They claim, however to have succeeded by the aid of divine inspiration, although it cannot be denied that the persons whom they have selected were in general the weakest and most corrupt men of their age.
In the course of time and experience it became the custom of the bishops, on the demise of a pope, to recommend to the suffrages of the college of cardinals a suitable person for his successor. As the populace claimed and enjoyed the prerogative of confirming or rejecting the choice of the bishops, and as nobles, from selfish and ambitious motives, often interfered in the proceedings, the papal elections were always scenes of excitement, and sometimes of disorder. The jealousy of emperors interfered in the matter, also, claiming the right to arbitrate between rival candidates, to interdict the consecration of any pope elect until the forms of his election should be inspected by their deputies, and approved by themselves, and to convene synods for the purpose of trying any of the holy fathers who should be charged with criminal conduct, and to punishing such of them as should be found guilty. But the despotism of the church, naturally increasing with her power, enabled her eventually to relieve herself of these unpleasant restrictions, to assert independence of the secular powers, and to maintain it by force of arms. This papal triumph removing the wholesome check which had hitherto restrained and softened the violence of episcopal ambition, left the claims of rival candidates for the vicarship of Christ to be disputed by the anathemas of the clergy and the frenzy of the mob. The knell of a pope’s death became the tocsin of war, and the election of his successor a bloody struggle for political interest. Rival aspirants appeared in the ecclesiastical arena; acrimonious contests ensued; adherents were bought; competitors insulted; votes extorted by threats; Rome polluted with blood; and the peace of Christendom endangered. To defeat a hostile or elect a friendly candidate, nobles and princes would appeal to the passions of the mob, and excite them to ungovernable fury. Emperors would interpose not only in the election, but in the administration of a pope. They often obliged the inspired college to select such a candidate as suited their interest; sometimes they prevented, and at other times anticipated its action. Through the influence and intrigues of two royal harlots, Theodora and Marozia, the chair of St. Peter was filled with their lovers. Pope John XII., when he was eighteen years old, and Pope Benedict IX., when he was twelve years, were, through the wealth and power of those prostitutes, elevated to the papal dignity. Pope John XII was deposed for ingratitude and treachery by the Emperor Otho I., who caused the inspired college to elect Leo VII., and placed him by military force on the apostolic throne. Pope John XIII. was elected by the inspired college at the command of Otho II., Pope Clement II. at the command of Henry III., and Pope Clement III. at the Command of Henry IV. Clement II. was elected to displace Benedict IX., Clement III. to displace Gregory VII., Boniface I. to displace Dioscorus, and Martin V. to displace John XXII., Gregory XII. and Benedict XII. three cotemporaneous holy fathers. The antagonistic al popes would mutually denounce each other as anti-popes, and tax their ingenuity to effect each other’s destruction. Benedict XII. disposed of his rival by violence; John XIV. incarcerated his in a dungeon, in which he starved to death.
Besides the rivalship which infuriated opposing candidates, and the intermeddling of princes in their elections in order to secure a pliant instrument for their political designs, the inspired college itself was often rent into revengeful and irreconcilable factions. So violent sometimes were these conflicts, that the college became divided into two parties, each of which proceeded to separate churches, and electing its favorite, presented him to the people as having been chosen by divine inspiration. Two antagonistical popes thus being elected in accordance with papal usages, divine inspiration, and canonical law, it became difficult, without the aid of another inspired college, to determine which of the two popes was the genuine holy father. Sometimes this question was decided by priority in the moment of an election; sometimes popular sanction or imperial preference resolved the difficulty; and at other times different sections of Christendom arriving at opposite conclusions, supported different popes. At one period two popes divided the patrimony of St. Peter, the one reigning over one portion of it, and the other over another; and at another time three popes asserted jurisdiction over it. These rival holy fathers would incessantly encounter one another with bulls, anathemas, and swords; and invoking foreign arms in their support would distract, not only Rome, but all Europe, with their irreconcilable controversies.
In order to abate the calamity of the papal elections, Pope Alexander III., chosen in 1179, abolished the mode of electing a pope in which the clergy and people participated, and invested the sole right in the college of cardinals. This expedient prevented the frequency of double elections, and their tumultuous and bloody schisms. But still the disorderly elements which shook the church could not be entirely eradicated without the abolishment of the papal throne. The passions and private interests of the members of the sacred college; their wish to secure the honors and emoluments of an independent reign; their insidious machinations to become popes themselves; often deprived the church, under the new electoral method, of the benefits of a holy father. An interregnum of months, sometimes of years, would ensue between the death of a pope and the election of his successor, while disgraceful negotiations were always visible. Pope Clement IV. promised the crown of both of the Sicilies to Charles of Anjou, on condition that he would use his influence with the inspired college in favor of his election to the papal throne; and Pope Boniface VIII., after expending large sums of money on an election, excommunicated the obstinate cardinals who had refused to vote for him.
The ambition and corruption of the cardinals having kept the papal throne vacant for three years previous to the election of Gregory X., he issued a bull in 1265, requiring the members of the college to assemble in Rome nine days after the demise of a pope, and after taking an oath to abjure all previous understanding, to retire with a single attendant into a common apartment, and to remain there until they should be able to agree on a choice. If within three days the influence of the Holy Ghost should not be sufficiently powerful to enable them to arrive at a canonical agreement, the luxury of their repast was to be abridged to a single dish at dinner and supper; and if within eight days these privations should still be insufficient to quicken the divine influence on the grossness of human nature, the cardinals were then condemned to subsist on a small allowance of bread, water and wine. The stimulus of this regimen has seldom failed to produce a speedy and harmonious agreement.
But the corruption of the Holy See was the growth of ages, and had carefully been systematized by the hand of experienced craft. It could not therefore be entirely eradicated by any modification in the papal electoral forms; although improvements might be introduced, making them the occasion of less scandal. The fact that an attendant on a cardinal during the session of an electoral college is worth an independent fortune, is significant of the corrupt machinations by which the holy fathers continue still to be elected. The bull of Pope Gregory X. has, indeed, prevented the former frequency of schisms, but it was insufficient to prevent one of seventy years’ duration, which occurred on the death of Pope Benedict XI, in 1348. The inspired college having assembled in accordance with the requirements of the canon, sworn to abjure all previous understanding, became, nevertheless, divided on the question whether a Frenchman or an Italian should be elected as the vicar of Christ. Two-thirds of the cardinals were in favor of a Frenchman, but a mob of thirty thousand Romans preferred an Italian. “Death or an Italian Pope,” shouted an infuriated crowd, as it gathered around the Vatican, and made preparations for burning any of the inspired college who should vote for a French candidate; while the cathedral bells, in harmony with the discordant clamor of the mob, pealed forth an ominous warning. Under the terror of these intimidations, the inspired college submitted to the wishes of the mob; and electing Urban VI., an Italian, and presenting him to the populace declared, according to usage, that they had been inspired to choose him through the influence of the Holy Ghost. The disappointed cardinals disguised their mortification under the warmest congratulations to the newly elected pope, but gratified their secret malice by entering into clandestine negotiation with Philip IV., King of France, and stipulating with him to accommodate his interest by electing a pope in the place of Urban, who should conform to his wishes in all things. After having by flattery, and professions of friendship and allegiance, sufficiently deceived the vicar of Christ, they retired to Fundi, and, excommunicating him, elected Pope Clement in his place. The papal monarchy hence became divided into two antagonistical bodies, the one having its capitol at Rome, the other at Avignon in France.
The aspirants to the dignity of the vicarship of Christ endeavored, in general, to obtain its holy honors by the employment of artifice and intrigue. They were ready to flatter any power, assume any semblance, agree to any terms, and profess any sentiment that promised to favor their design. At the council of Constance, Pope Martin V. advocated the most liberal ecclesiastical reforms, but recanted his heresy as soon as he obtained the triple crown. Pope Alexander VI. was elected by bribing Cardinals Cibo, Spozza and Rearis. Pope Alexander VII., while a cardinal, assumed the semblance of great humility and sanctity, but no sooner had he become a successor of St. Peter, than he threw off the cumbrous mask by which he gained the honor, and openly began a course of dissipation and luxurious indulgence. Sixtus VI. played a deep and crafty game to win the papal crown. In order to deceive the cardinals he assumed the appearance of an infirm old man, deaf, blind, and scarcely able to hobble on a crutch; and who desired nothing but obscurity, devotion and repose. By the agency of the confessional he correctly informed himself of the wishes of princes and the secret designs of cardinals. Under a mask of profound dissimulation he gained the confidence of kings and nobles, and evaded the scrutiny of cardinals. Having transformed himself into the semblance of such a convenient tool as the members of the college desired to place on the apostolic throne, they chose him unanimously; but repented of it unanimously immediately afterwards. No sooner had the electoral formalities been con-concluded than, in the presence of the cardinals, he raised himself from his former stooping position, contemptuously threw away his crutch, and with a bounding and vigorous step displayed to the horror consternation of the sacred college that it had chosen for a holy father, not a pliant simpleton, but a man of authority, determination, and sagacity. Pope Celestine was elected solely on account of his ignorance and mental imbecility. For twenty-seven months the disputes of the cardinals had kept the papal throne without an incumbent. To conciliate their differences they finally agreed to elect Celestine, who was celebrated for his intellectual deficiency and profound ignorance of the world. When this holy father entered Apulea after his consecration, he symbolically rode upon an ass. But his incapability of transacting the ordinary business the Holy See, obliged the sacred college to reassemble, and endeavor by the aid of the Holy Ghost to select a more suitable vicar of Christ. It succeeded in electing Boniface VIII., who possessed more business capacity, but less moral integrity; and who, standing in mortal dread of his simple and unaspiring predecessor, and fearing the instability of the apostolic throne while he was at large, pusillanimously imprisoned him for life.
It is a singular fact that while distant potentates trembled at the thunders of the Vatican, the subjects of Rome scoffed with impunity at its insolent pretensions. The tyranny and corruption of the holy fathers have frequently been met with contempt and insurrection by the populace. The cardinals have at times been stripped, beaten, and trodden under foot. The priests have been caught by mobs, which, after digging out their eyes, and crowning their heads with ludicrous mitres, have sent them as admonitions to the pope. The sacred processions, headed by the holy fathers, have been saluted with showers of stones. The vicegerents of God, while on the apostolic throne, have been seized by the throat, rudely buffeted, torn from their chair and incarcerated in dungeons. Laudislaus, King of Naples, whom the pope had entitled “General of the Church” in consideration of services rendered, thrice afterwards entered Rome as a master, profaned the churches, violated the virgins, plundered the citizens, and worshipped at the shrine of St. Peter. The holy fathers, assailed by subjects at home and princes abroad, were constantly fleeing from the insecure patrimony of St. Peter to find refuge in France, Anangni, Perugia, Viterbo, or some other locality. Sometimes they retaliated the insults of their Catholic subjects, and levied armies to chastise them; and, on one occasion they had, in a friendly conference, eleven deputies of the people murdered in cold blood, and their bodies cast into the streets.
When the Holy See was transplanted from Rome to Avignon, the vices, corruption, and tumults which were characteristic were transplanted along with it. The same popular insubordination and papal insecurity prevailed; the people were seditious and the popes insulted. A Catholic freebooter at the head of his band, once entered Avignon, plundered the people and churches, compelled the pope and cardinals to ransom themselves by the payment of an enormous sum of gold, and to absolve him and his fellow robbers from the guilt of the transaction, and from all their crime.
Notwithstanding the ostentatious sanctity and gorgeous show with which the church invests her external form, her throne has never been occupied by a distinguised paragon of virtue; nor has it, notwithstanding her liberal indulgence to moral turpitude, often been graced by those whom she dared to canonize for the purity of their conduct. High principled and lofty minded men have scorned to aspire to her dignities; and had they not, they still could not have stooped to the dishonorable means by which they are to be obtained. With pretensions demoralizing her officials by destroying their sense of moral accountability, fostering their vanity, pride and superciliousness, and dissolving all restraints on the instigations of malice, revenge, cupidity, licentiousness, duplicity and tyranny, it would be absurdity to expect to find in their character any exalted degree of moral excellence. Look at those whom the inspired college has chosen vicegerent of God. Where we might expect to see the Solons, Cimons, and Catos of the age, we always see despotism, generally duplicity, and often profligacy and cruelty. Look at Pope Gregory, the Great. Was he not an aspiring and unscrupulous despot? While pretending to wish to be unknown, did he not employ every device to become the most notorious man of his age. To pave his way to the pontifical throne, he devoted his patrimony to the use of convents, and immured himself in them. By seeming to resist, he secured his election; and by addressing an artful remonstrance against its confirmation to the emperor, he removed every obstacle in the way of his consecration. To disguise more deeply his ambition, he solicited a merchant, whom he knew could not accommodate him, to convey him secretly from Rome; and, finally, overacted his part by secreting himself in a wilderness, and building a fire that his retreat might be discovered. His financial skill was unquestioned. He induced Recared, King of Spain, to exchange a great amount of gold and a valuable collection of jewels for a few hairs of St. John the Baptist, a piece of the true cross, a key which, it was alleged, contained some grains of a chain with which St. Peter had been shackled while in a dungeon. He also sanctified the most atrocious assassination that was, perhaps, ever perpetrated. The Roman legions having become demoralized, the Emperor Maurice attempted to reduce them to order by the enforcement of rigorous military discipline. This effort produced a general dissatisfaction among the troops, which culminated in the election of Phocus, an obscure soldier, in the place of Maurice. The emperor, desirous of restoring tranquility to the nation, magnanimously abdicated the purple. Never having heard of the name of Phocus before, he inquired of his general who he was. “Alas,” replied he, “a great coward, and I fear will be a murderer.” This prophecy was soon fulfilled. Phocus sent to the private dwelling of Maurice assassins, who, before the eyes of their father coldly butchered his five sons, and then consummated the horrible tragedy with the murder of the emperor himself. After this barbarous act had been perpetrated, Pope Gregory, although he owed his elevation to the indulgence of Maurice, complimented Phocus on his good fortune, and rejoiced that his piety and benignity had raised him to the imperial throne.
From this model pope let us turn to Pope John XII., elected in 956. In ambition unprincipled, in cruelty inexorable, in dissoluteness cold and calculating; the annals of history scarcely furnish an equal compound of moral deformity. Elevated to the papal throne through the influence of a prostitute, he made the principles of his patroness the maxims of his conduct. He was a drunkard, a profligate, a blasphemer, and a murderer. He passed his time in hunting and gambling. He swore by the Pagan Gods and Goddesses. He lived in public adultery with Roman matrons. He converted the papal palace into a brothel, and made it a school for education in the arts of prostitution. His rapes of widows, wives, and virgins were so frequent, that female pilgrims were deterred from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, for fear of being violated by the holy father while kneeling at his shrine, to invoke his aid in the practice of chastity and piety.
Now advert to Gregory VII., elected in 1075, and see what baseness, trickery, avarice, and insolence have been consecrated as holy in the character of a vicar of Christ. Protected from reproach by his claim to infallibility, he presumed to outrage the sense of common decency by living with the Countess Matilda under suspicious circumstances; and conceiting that he was endowed with supreme power over all kings and governments, and that if they resist his authority he must punish them, he undertook to dethrone Henry IV., Emperor of Germany and Italy, because that prince had exercised the right of investiture contrary to the interdiction of the papal bulls. For this insolent proceed-ure the emperor determined to depose him, and drive him from Rome. Penetrating the emperor’s design, he attempted to defeat it by buying the adherence of the Italian populace; but this movement was effectually counterpoised by the emperor’s purchasing the support of the Italian nobility. He also convened a council at by which Gregory was deposed; and another at Brisen at which Clement III. was elected. To place Clement in possession of the papal dignity, Henry formed a coalition with the Emperor Alexius: to defeat this project Gregory formed an alliance with Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia. The arms of Robert were victorious, and Gregory was delivered from his perilous situation. But victory sometimes is as disastrous as defeat. The formidable allies of the holy father, which success had introduced into the city of Rome, comprehended a numerous band of Saracens who hated the Christian name and capital, although they had for money and the license of war been induced to take up arms in defence of the sacerdotal monarch. A furious sedition happening to arise in the city among the inhabitants, the Saracens eagerly availed themselves of the occasion to gratify their hatred of Rome and of Christianity. They commenced murdering the citizens, plundering dwellings, profaning churches, and firing buildings; nor was their revenge satiated until they had, not only depopulated the city, but reduced the greater portion of it to ashes. This catastrophe completed the disgrace of Gregory. Finding himself universally detested as its author, he had to flee for safety to Salerno, leaving Henry to consummate, without opposition, his design of placing Clement III. upon the apostolic throne.
From the conduct of this crafty and talented sacerdotal despot, let us turn a glance at pope Innocent II., elected in 1130. The elevation of this Pope was the tocsin of a war which, during his administration, kept Rome and Italy in a state of violent convulsion. The sacred college not being able canonically to concur in his election, became divided into two obstinate factions, each of which elected a vicegerent of God; the one being Pope Innocent II., and the other Pope Anaclitus. Two implacable despots being thus authorized to claim the papal throne, a furious holy war was inevitable. Anaclitus having the heavier artillery drove Innocent from Rome; but France and Germany espousing the cause of the fugitive, enabled him to secure a sufficient army to effect his return. He was, nevertheless, obliged to limit his papal jurisdiction to one portion of the city; his antagonist being too strongly entrenched in the other to be dislodged. But even from this limited domain he was again driven by the arms of his formidable rival, and again reinstated by the forces of the temporal power. The two holy fathers continued to hate, persecute and anathematize each other, until death settled the sanguinary controversy by the removal of Anaclitus. Relieved of the terrors of a powerful adversary, Innocent II. convoked the Lateran Council, in which one thousand bishops condemned the soul of Anaclitus, and excommunicated Rogers of Sicily for having supported the schismatic. On account of this papal insolence, Robert declared war against Pope Innocent; and taking him prisoner, obliged him to absolve him from the sentence of the excommunication, and to invest him with the papal provinces of Apulia, Capua, and Calibria.
Let us now direct a moment’s attention to Pope Innocent III, elected in 1198, who, when receiving the triple crown exclaimed: “The church has given me a crown as a symbol of temporalities she has conferred on me a mitre in token of spiritual power;—a mitre for the priesthood; a crown for the kingdom; making me the vicar of him who bears on his garments and thighs, ‘The King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.'” Inflated with this popular conceit he imagined that he was supreme prince over all nations and kingdoms, and that he had a divine light to pluck up, destroy, scatter, ruin, plant and build whenever a notion happened to inspire his presumptuous brain. He arbitrarily obliged the prefect of Rome to swear allegiance to him, demanded royal homage of Marguard of Romagna, and upon the refusal of that prince to compromise his sov-reignty by submitting to such unwarrantable dictations, deprived him of the duchy of Mark Ancona. With a despotic hand he wrung Spoleto from Duke Conrad. He excommunicated Philip of France for having repudiated his wife, and obliged him to sue for mercy at his feet. He deposed King John, of England, for refusing to confirm the election of a bishop; instigated France to declare war against him, obliged him to resign his kingdom to the See of Rome, to pay large sums of money for absolution, and to hold his throne as a papal fief. He exercised an oppressive despotism over the temporal provinces of Christendom, established inqisisitorial tribunals, suspended religious worship by interdicts, and urged the cruel persecution of the Albigenses.
When his military forces were ready for combat, he is said to have exclaimed: “Sword, sword, whet thyself for vengeance.”
Turn from this ornament of the papal throne, and consider the character and administration of Pope Boniface VIII., elected in 1295. Pliable and revengeful, presumptuous and ambitious, he sought to make tools of princes, and slaves of subjects. On his way to the Lateran palace, after his election, the King of Hungary and the King of Sicily, in token of their inferior rank, held the bridle of his horse; and with crowns on their heads waited on him at table as menials. He boldly excommunicated Philip IV., of France, but cowardly sought to escape the penalty by taking refuge in the fortress of Anangni. While luxuriating in this sumptuous retreat, in fancied security, William of Nosgeret surrounded the palace with three hundred horse, and a scuffle ensued in which the vicegerent of God was rudely seized by the throat, severely kicked and cuffed, and cast into prison. A mob, however, soon released him from confinement. In view of his flagitious and undeniable acts of duplicity, simony, usurpation and profligacy, King Philip had resolved to summon a council at Lyons for the purpose of deposing him; but the chastisement of incarceration which he had undergone so mortified his pride, that within three days after his liberation he died in a paroxysm of rage and fury.
Look at the character of Pope Alexander III., elected in 1159, who, demoralized and misled by papal pretensions, distracted all Europe, and kept the Holy See in a state of perpetual insurrection. Under the protection of Frederic I. the anti-popes Victor III., Pascal III., and Calaxtus III., successively arose against him; repeatedly driving him from Rome; sometimes to France; sometimes to Anangni; and sometimes to Venice. But fortune eventually favoring him, he wreaked the heaviest vengeance on the heads of his antagonists. He obliged Frederic to kiss his feet, and to hold the stirrup of his horse. He laid Scotland under an interdict.
He restored the thrones of England and Germany on conditions that augmented his power. And in the exercise of his apostolic authority gave the world calamitous proof that ecclesiastical supremacy is incompatible with the peace of the world.
Regard for an instant the character of Pope Alexander VI., elected in 1523, who perfected in his papal character the dissipation which had disgraced his youth. His policy, both domestic and foreign, was base, treacherous and execrable. He undertook to seize on the Italian provinces by the most cruel and dishonorable methods. He attempted to extort money from the different sections of Christendom by fraud and force. He seduced his own daughter; and gave notorious evidence of the profligacy of his life by five illegitimate children. He conspired with his son, Cardinal Caesar Borgia, to poison four cardinals, but the conspirators drinking the poison themselves, became the victims of their own treachery.
Look at Pope Julius II., elected in 1505, and mark his savage, ferocious, and warlike character. Ambitious of military renown, he commanded his army in person, and without regard to the rights of nations or individuals gratified his lust of power and dominion. In the prosecution of the interests of the Holy See, he excommunicated the Duke of Ferrara, gave Navara to Spain, besieged Muandolo, colleagued against the republic of Venice, and made war upon Louis XII., King of France.
Behold Clement V., elected in 1305, and mark the gross simony, nepotism, and arrogance which disgraced his administration. Hear him excommunicating Henry VII. of Germany, and his allies, for his refusing to mediate between him and Robert; and hear him pronouncing a curse on the Venitians for their refusing to submit to his dictation; declaring them infamous, confiscating their gold and war vessels, abolishing their governmental offices, and absolving the subjects from obedience to the laws.
Turn to John XXII., elected in 1410, and see if any vice, public or private, debarred a candidate from the papal throne. In his youth a pirate, the sanctity of his pontifical character neither restrained nor concealed the precocious viciousness which he had manifested. Although he may have amused himself with the popish conceit that a holy father cannot sin without being praised, yet the Council of Constance, on the testimony of thirty-seven good Catholic witnesses, found seventy indictments against him, and degraded him from the papal dignity. Among the crimes for which he was deposed were simony, murder, rape, sodomy, and illicit intercourse with his brother s wife, and with three hundred nuns. This holy father died in jail.
Look at Julius III., elected in 1550, whose unnatural licentiousness transcending all bounds of decency, sought its gratification with boys, men, and even cardinals. Hear Sixtus V., in the college of cardinals, pronouncing a eulogy on the assassinators of Henry III. King of France, and comparing them with Judith and Eleazer. Hear Alexander I., as he placed his foot on Frederic, King of Denmark, exclaim: “Thus shalt thou tread upon the lion and the adder.” Hear Pius V., as he excommunicated Queen Elizabeth, exclaim: “I have this day set thee over the nations, over the kingdoms, to root out, to pull down, to destroy, to build up and to throw down.” Witness Pope Leo III. abruptly crowning Charlemagne, and to the astonishment of the world investing him with all the titles, honors, and regal ornaments of the Cæsars. Witness Gregory IV. fomenting discord between Charlemagne and his sons, then between the sons themselves, then tampering with the officers of the imperial army, then absolving them from their oath of allegiance, then uttering to Louis I., son and successor of Charlemagne, that arrogant assertion: “Know my chair is above the emperor’s throne;” and ultimately see the design of these atrocious acts, in the claim of the subsequent popes to the dominion of the Cæsars, by virtue of the donation of Charlemagne.
Look at the two hundred and ninety-seven popes that have filled the papal chair: Twenty-four of them were anti-popes; twenty-six were deposed; nineteen were compelled to abandon Rome; twenty-eight were kept on their throne only by foreign intervention; fifty-four were obliged to rule over foreign parts; sixty-four died by violence; eighteen were poisoned; one was shut up in a cage; one was strangled; one smothered; one died by having nails driven in his temples; one by a noose around his neck; and only one hundred and fifty-three out of the whole number have proved themselves at all worthy. Read the papal annals; hear the frequent and atrocious anathemas of the popes; mark the vices that have continued century after century to disgrace the administrations of the holy fathers, and say if profane history affords a catalogue of monarchs so black with crime, so unprincipled in ambition, so remorseless in revenge. Their pretensions were made not from conscious right, but to justify intended usurpations. They claimed to be endowed with power to do whatever God himself could do, in order to forge a plea for governing the world as despots. They claimed the prerogative of absolving subjects from their oaths of allegiance, that they might rule kings with absolute authority. They claimed that they could not sin without being praised, that they might commit any crime without being censured. They claimed the ability of transubstantiating sin into duty, and duty into sin, that they might justify themselves in adopting any means to obtain an end. They claimed all the authority and holiness of heaven, that they might be worshipped and feared as Gods. But while they had the audacity to prefer these claims, it is not a supposable case that the dullest of them was such a stupendous fool as to believe in the validity of his own pretensions. With a triple crown on their heads, with the keys of heaven and hell in their hands, with an assertion on their lips that they are the king of kings, and the proprietors of all the thrones, domains, revenues, gold and gems of the earth, they seriously pretend that they are the successors of St. Peter, an humble fisherman, who like his master, had not where to lay his head, and whose patrimony, which they claim to inherit, must have consisted at most of but an empty purse, a staff, a suit of unfashionable garments, and, perhaps, some old fishing nets. And while they have been elected by emperors, by mobs, by arms and clubs, by bribery, and by every species of corruption, they affirm that they have been chosen by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
The papal monarchy was neither designed nor calculated to foster the growth of either truth, reason or virtue. The policy and measures which it adopted were never intended to correct vice, but to make it administer to the importance of its power, and the wealth of its coffers. Its design has always been to reign supreme; and in conformity with a policy dictated by this design, it has destroyed every virtue that obtruded an obstacle to the accomplishment of its purposes, and protected every vice that appeared to favor their success.
Such being the principles of the papal government, it could not be hoped that the holy fathers would be the friends of truth and reform. In fact they must have been conscious that a rigid system of reform would have swept them from their thrones, and doomed many of them to confinement in the dungeons of a penitentiary. Accordingly we see that while temporal princes, some clergymen, and numerous laymen loudly demanded reform in the head and body of the church, the popes strenuously opposed the project as a dangerous innovation. When summons had been issued by temporal princes for the assembling of councils for purposes of reformation, the pontiffs frequently forbid obedience to them. When circumstances have obliged popes to issue orders for the convocation of such assemblages, they have rendered them nugatory by neglecting to fix the time and place to their meeting. When compelled to be more definite in their conduct and language, they have endeavored, by changing the time and place for holding a proposed council, to defeat the object which they were obliged to sanction. When their cautious vacillations have been summarily arrested, and all the obstacles they had obtruded removed, and a council for reform had been assembled, they endeavored by base and corrupt means to control its action, and defeat its usefulness. When in defiance of papal remonstrances, threats and intrigues, reformatory decrees have been passed by councils, the popes have-, nevertheless, attempted to nullify them by evasion, trickery or neglect.
Pope Gregory declared that a council could be useful only under a Catholic prince. Pius II. forbid an appeal to a council. Julius II. interdicted the assembling of one after it had been summoned. When the united voice of princes and subjects compelled Pius VII. to call a council, he nullified his own summons by neglecting to fit the time for its meeting. When a critical state of public affairs had led Pope Paul to imagine that he could shape the proceedings of an inspired council according to his private interest, he convoked the Council of Trent; but finding his intrigues inadequate to his ambition, he induced his legates to exhaust its time in frivolous ceremonies and useless excursions. When the Council of Pisa obliged Alexander VII. to pledge his word to prosecute certain specified reforms, he adopted no measure in compliance with his word. When the Council of Basle enacted decrees of reform, the artifice of Pope Eugenius rendered them of no avail. When the Council of Constance, after deposing three rival popes, elected Martin V. in consideration of the zeal with which he had advocated church reform, it was soon apparent that his zeal for reform was his ambition to be elevated to the papal throne, and that it all had expired as soon as his election was secure. Pope Pius denounced the reforms which Joseph II., of Austria, proposed to introduce into his kingdom, and adopted every expedient to counteract them: When the tyranny and profligacy of the monastic orders had awakened the indignation of all Christendom, the vicar of Christ, by means of bulls, anathemas and intrigues, defended them with ferocious zeal. When the Jesuists were banished from England for treasonable machinations, from Italy for profligacy, from Portugal for attempts at assassination, and from the other parts of Europe for execrable conduct, the popes not only defended, but recommended them as the most pious and useful members of the church. When the papal throne was restored by England, a heretic, and Russia, a schismatic, in conjunction with the Catholic powers, after it had been abolished by France, the pope, in defiance of the wishes and resolutions of his liberators, and in violation of the obligations of honor and gratitude, restored the barbarous inquisition, the obnoxious order of the Jesuists, and the superstitious practices of the dark ages.
The holy mother, indeed, has given birth to little besides monstrosities. The features and principles of her offspring cast a dark suspicion on her chastity. They usually wear the lineament, if not the cloven foot of the arch-fiend. Ambition, duplicity, treachery, viciousness, and immorality are deeply featured in their countenances, and some of them seem to be an incarnation of every crime that could entitle a human being to be considered as the offspring and heir of hell. If there were some honorable exceptions, they were like stars on a stormy night, obscured by the heavy mist through which they shone. Some popes, it is true, have been great governors; men of great foresight and enterprise; men who, looking beyond their age, have prepared measures that have successfully met future exegencies; but their sagacity has been quickened by ambition and avarice; and their great talents have been wasted on duplicity and intrigue. The less exceptionable of them have acknowledged and deplored the corruption of the Holy See; but they seem to think it is incurable, for their hopes of the future are always darkened by the recollection of the past. Hence we hear Nicholas V., as he bestowed an office on the worthy, say: “Take this, you will not always have a Nicholas to bestow a gift on the ground of merit.”
SOURCE: MONKS, POPES, AND THEIR POLITICAL INTRIGUES-By John Alberger- Baltimore 1871