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in a letter to Augustus II., king of Poland and elector of Saxony, assures him that, as a recompense for his exertions in propagating the Catholic faith, he will not demand from him, nor his Catholic successors, the restitution of the confiscated estates of the church in Saxony ; 'nay more,' he says, “to appease the consciences of those who possess them, if, having abjured heresy, they determine to return to the Catholic faith, we shall make over to them for ever all the aforesaid property.' Clement XII. confirmed this brief, and added, as a gift, under similar conditions, the income which the actual possessors had, up to that time, derived from those estates. Benedict XIV., in a most elaborate bull, with reference to the property at Antibaris, which had been seized by the Turks, expounds this doctrine at great length; and although he concludes by refraining to give instructions to the Archbishop of Antibaris, till he has obtained further information, it is evident he adopts the principle we have mentioned, and is only doubtful whether the principle applies to the case of Antibaris. In the same spirit, Pius VII., approving of the concordat of 1801, assents to the past sales of the church property in France, for the sake of restoring tranquillity to that country, 'et ut, quod potissimum sit, felix Catholicæ religionis restitutio fiat.' From these instances, and we might easily cite many more, it is evident, that the see of Rome to this hour asserts this claim; and could not allow that the Protestant Church has any legal right to its property, except that, having enjoyed it one hundred years, it is possible, but not certain, that it might plead a sort of statute of limitations. Dr. Slevin, evidently agreeing with this doctrine, states, that he considers the original spoliation of his church as unjust-but that, by lapse of years, that, like other usurpations, has become sanctified by time.' The candid Doctor adds, he cannot fix the time when that transfer became lawful. We think we could, however, point out the moment when the resumption of the property in question would take place. The witnesses examined by this commission durst not, indeed, express certain feelings, or certain expectations, whether they entertained them or not. But when we read the pamphlets *
* In a letter from Dr. Doyle to Lord Farnham, under the signature of J. K. L., we find the following passages :— I think the church establishment (in Ireland) must fall sooner or later; clamour, bigotry, enthusiasm, and a spirit of selfishness, constitute its present chief support. If some such man as Burke would arise and free the nation from the reproach of the Irish temporal establishment, he would relieve religion from an encumbrance, and the land of the country from an intolerable pressure. The concession of the Catholic claims would hasten the desirable result. We in Ireland have been accustomed to view it from our infancy, and when men gaze for a considerable time at the most hideous monster, they can view it with diminished horror; but a man of reflection, living in Ireland, and coolly observing the workings of the church-esta
now almost daily published, and to one of them, by Dr. M'Hale, we shall presently call the attention of our readers ;) when we listen to the furious declamations of their leading demagogues, and when we perceive, even in their examinations before these commissioners, their reluctance to allow due rank to the Protestant prelates, whese titles they give to their own clergy, we are compelled to believe, that the Romanists of Ireland are but waiting for a favourable movement to realise an old and cherished design of overturning the Protestant establishment of that country.
It was readily avowed, that the pope and all his prelates still claim and possess the right of excommunication. Nor does the pope allow that Catholics only are liable to excommunication. For as Protestants are baptized they are Christians, and are, therefore, subject to the spiritual censures of the Catholic church, a power expressly claimed in the bull • Singulari Nobis,' issued 1749. They are, indeed, often included in those bulls which excommunicate whole classes at once, such as · Pastoralis Romani,' 1741, by which these censures are inflicted against all who assist infidels or heretics in carrying on war against Catholics; • Cæna Domini,' 1741, which was annually published at Rome till 1773, excommunicating all persons who directly or indirectly, tacitly or expressly, procured, passed, or enacted statutes, ordinances, or any other decrees, or who adopted them when passed, whereby ecclesiastical liberty is destroyed, injured, or infringed, or our rights, or those of any church, are in the slightest degree prejudiced,'* &c., &c. Dr. Slevin kindly assured the commissioners, he did not think it probable that the present pope would re-issue this last bull; but at the same time confessed, that, were His Holiness to publish it, he would not be exceeding his legitimate rights. In later times, Dr. Troy excommunicated the United Irishmen; and if this power had never been exercised for a less justifiable cause, the world would not have had much reason to complain of its existence. +
blishment, would seek for some likeness to it only among the priests of Juggernaut, who sacrifice the poor naked human victims to their impure and detestable idols. Such language needs no comment. It comes from the pen of a man, we beg to remark, whose evidence before the committees of the lords and commons was quoted as a proof of the conciliating spirit of the Catholic church. He was then on his guard, but his real feelings at length break out. In a somewhat similar spirit is a paragraph in an avowed organ of the Catholic Association—the Dublin Evening Post of October, 1827. In it we find these words: • Dr. Elrington, who, as our readers will observe, holds in partibus one of the dioceses under the charge of Dr. Doyle'—the Protestant bishop of Ferns being a bishop in partibus infidelium, and his diocese being under the charge of Dr. Doyle! Need we say more?
* We do not quote those bulls as being actually enforced at present, but as showing the tone of the Catholic religion, and the power claimed by the popes.
+ The conduct of the Catholic parish-priests during the last general election in Ireland is the best possible commentary on these claims. Though they are not, in fact,
In defence of such measures they argue, that these spiritual censures are merely in support of the civil law, and that it being very difficult to draw the line where temporal authority begins and spiritual ceases, it is unjust to charge the consequences on the church. This may be true to a certain extent, and we might allow some weight to the excuse, did we perceive that these bulls of excommunication were issued at the request of the civil power ; but, on the contrary, we remark, that most of them are directed against temporal princes, and that many, such as `Cæna Domini, have been warmly, seldom indeed successfully, resisted by the laity. We must, then, consider the issuing of excommunications by the pope and his prelates as a direct assumption of temporal power, and regard the reason assigned merely as a proof that they still continue to pursue that system of evasive reply and Jesuitical defence by which, in all preceding times, they endeavoured to conceal their encroachments and protect their assumed privileges.
We have reserved to the last the question regarding oaths and vows, and the dispensing power of the pope. For if such a privilege were claimed and exercised by the one party, believed and acquiesced in by the other, all bonds of public or private society would be burst asunder, and even life itself would cease to be protected. We were not surprised then to find that the witnesses, in general, at first declared they felt themselves, in every case, bound by their oath; but, upon further examination, there appeared no slight degree of casuistry behind. In all Protestant countries the sanctity of an oath is most expressly inculcated, and the strongest reluctance is shown to admit as valid any excuse for the violation of it. Such certainly ought to be the conduct pursued in the education of youth. Such is not the course adopted at Maynooth: for there they exercise their whole ingenuity in discovering causes which may authorize the violation of an oath. They reckon seven causæ excusantes,' and five' causa tollentes,' each, with true scholastic precision, divided into several heads, and the whole summed up with an assurance that such ought to be the belief of every true Catholic. Some of these twelve reasons are sufficiently obvious, such as impossibility, illegality, and the remission of the promise by the person to whom it was made and whom it was to benefit. But, among other causes, we find it asserted, that it is lawful to break an oath, if, by not fulfilling it, you think you shall be able to do greater good than by keeping it; or if the person swearing limits his obligation
entitled to pronounce excommunication of their own authority, the lower freeholders believed they were, and therefore took part with them against their landlords, or else submitted to the refusal of the sacraments, and, if tradesmen, in many cases, suffered total ruin by the loss of their Catholic customers
(vel etiam tacita et subintellecta,-is not this mental reservation ?) or if, being previously bound to a superior, such as a superior of regulars, and, à fortiori, the pope, he (the superior) should object to the oath ; or, if the person to whom either the individual who has taken the oath, or the matter concerning which the oath is taken, is subject, (persona jurans vel materia juramenti,) should think fit to make void the obligation-etiam sine causa. We cannot but consider the latitude, we may say the encouragement, thus given to violate oaths as sufficiently hazardous even to persons of mature years and intellect: what are we to think of it in the case of college-striplings, the children of Irish peasants? In every doubtful case, the clergy are to be referred to as sole arbiters. It is true that they attempt to explain many of those excuses by referring them to cases of religion, such as vows; but, intermingled as temporal and spiritual matters are by Catholics, this defence is by no means sufficient to remove all the difficulties with which they have surrounded themselves. For instance, if any regular, such as a Jesuit, be examined on oath, and questions are put to him, the correct answers to which might be prejudicial to his order, it is not clear whether he might not feel himself obliged by the command of his superior to deny the truth. It is certain, that if the matter concern the community in a religious point of view, the superior may make void any oath the monk
may have taken. And even with regard to the oath taken by the Roman Catholic prelates, Dr. Slevin desired time to consider before. he would pronounce whether, if a bishop became acquainted with the secret of his sovereign, which might affect the power of the pope, he was not bound forthwith to disclose it, however apparently at variance with his oath of temporal allegiance. Nor must we omit to mention that though equivocationes strictè dicte' are prohibited, not the slightest blame is attached to "equivocationes latè dictæ. The one may be more criminal than the other; but we are at a loss to imagine, how either can be reckoned harmless.
In addition to these twelve causes, and these permitted equivocations, there is yet another power still more efficacious—the power of dispensation possessed by the pope. • Existit in ecclesia potestas dispensandi * in votis et juramentis,' is a proposition broadly laid down in one of the class-books at Maynooth, without any qualification, unless we consider as such a detached paragraph occurring twenty pages before, which admits the common good to be a reason for not dispensing with an oath ; but even to this
Some divines imagine that 'potestas dispensandi' merely means the power of explaining away the meaving of a vow or oath. Others hold it to be actual dispensation; the result is precisely the same : the latter doctrine is that taught at Maynooth. VOL. XXXVII. NO, LXXIV. 21
exception, four counter-exceptions are made. The doctrine, however, as stated by Dr. M'Hale, is, that the pope has the decided power of dispensing ; first, for the honour of God; secondly, for the utility of the church ; thirdly, for the common good of the state ; and fourthly, for the common good of society,—under which four heads it seems to us that every possible case may come. And, whenever any doubt may occur, especially should it relate to religion, the pope is to be the sole judge; but he is to use his judgment for edification only. No general council imposes any limit whatever on this right of dispensation; and the reason assigned by Dr. M‘Hale for this most extraordinary latitude given, is, that the bishops, in council assembled, thought it unwise to be troubled with unnecessary suppositions, as they knew that the lines of duty were too well defined for the pope to overstep them. As, however, popes have availed themselves of this dispensing power even to the extent of absolving subjects from their allegiance, and as no council has thought it necessary or wise to blame such exercise of the pontifical prerogative, we doubt whether any council has considered the stretch of power as unwarrantable, and whether later popes have had any but prudential reasons for abstaining from the like. We feel ourselves justified, then, in believing, that however this right may now be explained and modified by schoolmen and divines, and however difficult it might now be to enforce obedience to it, the power in its fullest extent has existed-has never been abandoned, and the claim may, we do not say will, be revived. Nor should we forget that, as general councils are all supposed to be inspired, so that no solemn decision of theirs can be contrary to Scripture, if any particular doctrine be propounded, every Catholic must admit that promulgation as conclusive evidence that the doctrine exists in Scripture. The total omission, then, of any restriction on this overwhelming power is, we think, quite decisive proof that, by the theory of the Romish church, the exercise of it is considered in perfect accordance with the word of God. We are not singular in coming to this conclusion; for several of the witnesses declared that they, in common with others, assented to the doctrine we have laid down, and many cases have occurred in which a similar impression has been conveyed. We remember one instance in particular: whilst at Rome, a few years ago, we were informed by an Abbé of high character, that he had been applied to by a Frenchman, of birth and family, then in the imperial service, and who has since been prefect of a department, (we omit the names, as the parties, with both of whom we are well acquainted, are still living) to obtain for him, from the pope, in the first place, a dispensation from his oath of allegiance to the emperor, and in