網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

middle of the following age, the reception which the schismatical work of Febronius* on the hierarchy met with among a portion of the German clergy, showed how deeply it was infected by the spirit of the times. Twenty years afterwards the three electors of Cologne, Treves, and Mayence, held a council at the baths at Ems, where they framed decrees insulting to the dignity of the Holy See, and dangerous to the maintenance of Catholic unity. These schismatical decrees called down from the sovereign pontiff a severe censure; and how bitterly did these prelates atone for their culpable attempts, when seven years afterwards they beheld their territories profaned and desolated by a foreign enemy, their subjects defeated by or fraternizing with the invader, their palaces plundered, their churches desecrated, and themselves driven into exile!

The abolition of the order of the Jesuits had left an immense void in public education, in the sacred ministry, and in ecclesiastical literature; a void which in some places was but inadequately supplied by the secular and regular clergy; in others, filled up by the crafty adepts of Jansenism.

Shortly after the suppression of this order, Joseph II ascended the imperial throne. Urged on by the innovators, and giving way to his own rash, reckless spirit, he trampled underfoot the rights of episcopal authority, despoiled the Church of a considerable portion of its property, introduced the most arbitrary changes in its discipline and liturgy, abolished almost all the monasteries, opened the flood-gates of a Jansenistical and irreligious press, and all but broke communion with the holy see. He was cut off in his full career of wickedness, leaving Austria discontented, Hungary agitated to its centre, Flanders in open, general insurrection.

But a divine Nemesis was at hand to punish kings and nations for their transgressions, and by the infliction of long and direful calamities, to bring them back to a sense of their errors. The French revolutionists, after having raised up on the ruins of the altar, the throne, and all social order, a hideous, bloody, atheistical anarchy, rushed over their frontiers to ravage Europe with fire and sword, and their still more desolating principles. Like the armies of locusts described in holy writ, whatever spot their devasting hordes overrun, they there destroyed every green thing. Religion, government, science, civilization, are all trampled underfoot. Yet there is a circumstance often overlooked in the French revolution, that is well entitled to consideration. Like a destructive tempest, that while it levels the stateliest trees of the forest, often scatters on its wings the seeds of future vegetation, this awful revolution, in general so fatal to Catholicism at home and abroad, yet contributes in not a few countries towards its wider diffusion. In England, in Germany, in North America, the emigrant clergy of France, by their virtues, resignation, and zeal, dissipated many prejudices, reconciled many an erring spirit to the Church, and prepared the way for that noble religious regeneration, which is now passing under our eyes. In Germany the arms of Napoleon introduced the Catholic faith into cities and provinces, where for three centuries it had been utterly extirpated.

* The capital error of Febronius was to attribute to the pope a mere primacy of honour, without a supremacy of jurisdiction.

The trials and destinies of the German Church from the commencement of the French revolution, down to the memorable event of the 20th November 1837—the captivity of the archbishop of Cologne—have been portrayed with incomparable truth by the hand of a great master; and long as the passage may be, we trust that its bearing on the subject under consideration, will be a sufficient apology for its insertion here.

“In this state,” says the illustrious Görres in his Athanasius, “ did the revolution find the clergy of Europe in general, and that of Germany in particular. The Lord had permitted that the wild wind-storms should be unbound to winnow his barn, and scatter the chaff in all parts of the world. The second great spoliation, which occurred some centuries after that of which we have been speaking, was inflicted on the Church: but this would have been of little import, had the guardians and administrators of her treasures been found in the hour of trial with that bearing and resolution which were necessary for enabling them to resist with courage and firmness the violation of the better and nobler patrimony confided to their keeping. But the previous school, in which the clergy had been trained up, was not of a kind to form characters capable of meeting such extraordinary exigencies. Accordingly, that occurred which was inevitable : the wolf fell upon the flock, and took without resistance all he pleased : the shepherds dispersed and fled, part leaving all in the lurch, part joining with the assailant. Sauve qui peut' was the watch-word : but it must be understood that there were many honourable exceptions. These, however, as they met with no adequate support, could render no considerable service to their cause. The Church was thus not merely despoiled of her temporalities, but was fettered, mediatized, secularized, and incorporated with the abstract state as

6

one of her subordinate abstractions. It dragged on for years a sorrowful existence, protracted from day to day : the springs of living water which had once purled around it, crept sluggishly in their shallow beds, and seemed on the point of being utterly dried up : the vineyard, declared to be a state-domain, began to run wild, and sour grapes were growing on its twigs.

“ When the worst had gone by, and a species of restoration was about to be attempted, then, to speak after a human fashion, the state of the German Church was extremely disconsolate. That her ancient secular pomp and glory had gone from her, might, indeed, have been endured (for her kingdom is not in the midst of frivolity), provided only the ancient spirit had not deserted her. But her prospects were clouded and cheerless, because the light from above glimmered upon her through a greyish mistiness. Those on whose heads the fiery tongues of celestial gifts still shone were comparatively few; and it seemed as if the hour of evening approached, and night were again to return for a time. Meanwhile Providence was watching : the sacred fire still burned in a hidden spot : there were still found those who had guarded it with care, and several, and then others, came by degrees to enkindle their torches at its light. Many, however, who had grown up under the new order of things, conceived that this fire from above had, as was now proved, not substance enough permanently to maintain its efficacy, so they had recourse to science, that it might shine as a lamp to their paths. Science is good, but it must first be penetrated with that celestial fire, else it becomes an ignis fatuus that conducts into the wilderness. Into such a wilderness, in fact, many were led, whose Christianity waxed weak in proportion as this learning was imbibed. For Christianity has indeed a science, but is not science itself ; it is rather an art, -yea, the highest, purest, and noblest of all arts, which cannot be exercised without genius. But this genius is not bestowed on the intellectual merely—it is imparted to all, and therefore by no means denied to the wise ; yet it dwells by preference in the simple-minded, and gives them the power to leaven with their simple wisdom thousands who are unlearned. As the party we have described thought to render in the Church the higher wisdom superfluous by means of the earthly, so othersf took compassion on ecclesiastical discipline, and sought to substitute for its high asceticism the home-spun morality of the age, or in part the agency of the police force.

From this spirit have proceeded on one hand the scandals of the anti-celibacy party, and on the other, the harlotries of those political churchmen with the civil power, in order to bestow on the Church the blessings of

Görres alludes more particularly to the Hermesian party. | Görres alludes to the anti-celibacy party in Baden, Wurtemburg, and Silesia, of whom more hereafter.

their police discipline, and other measures of coercion. Amid the intellectual dissolution which the first-named error occasioned, and the moral dissolution which the other necessarily produced, a socalled juste milieu party was formed in the clergy-a party which was neither the juste milieu, nor the true and happy medium. The most moderate, inoffensive, legally honest folks of this order belong to it ; all such persons as detest evil in its excess, shun extremes, value peace and tranquillity above all things, and seeking everywhere a middle point, suffer themselves to be guided by circumstances, while, being neither hot nor cold, they confine themselves to the immediate circle of their functions. Those who with ancient gravity, like the archbishop of Cologne, hold really the happy medium, appear to this lukewarm faction, as well as to those between whom they oscillate, either as exaggerated idealists who, soaring always in the clouds, uselessly strive to realize the impracticable, or as wilful, obstinate men, with whom no accommodation is possible, and against whom all the hateful passions may be let loose. The conduct of the present chapter of Cologne, so different from that which, in Archbishop Gebhard's time,* saved the archiepiscopal see, as well as the behaviour of a portion of the Rhenish clergy towards the man who alone has redeemed the honour of the priesthood, and perhaps averted from its head the drawn sword of the judge, afford irrefragable evidence of the truth of this picture.”—viii. 118-21.

I. The great event of the 28th November 1837 has duced throughout all Germany a strong religious reaction; but nowhere, as we may suppose, is that reaction more evident than in the diocese in which that event occurred. Of the improvement of religious feeling in the arch-diocese of Cologne, as well as in the suffragan one of Treves, we ourselves can speak from personal experience, and the testimony of enlightened observers. This improvement is evidenced by the more frequent attendance of the laity of all classes at mass and at sermons on week-days, as well as sundays and holidays,-by the increase in the number of those frequenting the sacraments of confession and communion,-by the new fervour with which processions and other public exercises of devotion are followed,-finally, by the numbers who have recently enrolled themselves in religious confraternities. Misfortune has served to knit closer the bonds of union among the clergy. Deprived of their venerable prelate, the archbishop of Cologne, they have felt the necessity of a more

pro

*

Archbishop Gebhard, at the end of the 18th century, became a Protestant, married Agnes of Mansfeld, and after exciting great troubles in the electorate, was deposed.

cordial cooperation. The majority of ecclesiastics in the dioceses of Cologne and Treves are sound in doctrine, and humbly devoted to the decisions of the Holy See. Even the Hermesians, who in these districts are numerous and active, and in that of Cologne were supported by the GrandVicar, M. Hüsgen, and several members of the chapter, agree with their orthodox brethren in condemning and discountenancing the unconditional solemnization of mixed marriages. Some members of this party have openly recanted their errors, and submitted to the judgment of the Church; others are evincing a more conciliatory disposition. Among the laity, it is acknowledged even by Protestant journals, that those members of the Church, formerly lukewarm, are now become zealous and fervent: and that even professed infidels, whose attention has been awakened by recent events to the consideration of religious matters, have been converted to the Catholic faith.

The peasantry, in particular, throughout Rhenish Prussia, and indeed in most parts of Catholic Germany, have preserved in all their morning freshness the vivacity of ancient faith, and the tenderness of early piety.* Nothing is more pleasing than to see, during the octaves of particular feasts, the rural processions of neighbouring villages, headed by their respective pastors, bearing emblematic banners, and singing in devout chorus their simple hymns, enter a town to perform their devotions in the church of the saint commemorated. Nothing more touching than at “twilight's hour,” to hear the choral harmony of prayer, as groups of peasants with rosary in hand, slowly move homewards reciting the Paternoster and Ave-Maria: or, in the noon-tide heat, to see in some cool shady recess by the road-side, the countryman laying down his burden, like the cares of life, before the image of the Madonna and infant Saviour, kneel, and with outstretched armst pour forth his soul in earnest prayer !

Westphalia is generally esteemed the most uncorrupted province in Germany. The physical and moral aspect of this country, --its fertility in every species of grain,-its ex

In this point consists the great moral superiority of Catholic Germany over France.

† Dr. Rock, in his learned and interesting work, the “ Hierurgia,” has noticed the fact, that the peasants of southern Germany have preserved the custom of extending their arms in prayer, which, as is proved by the paintings in the

oman catacombs, was observed by the primitive Christia The same custom prevails among the peasantry of western Germany.

« 上一頁繼續 »