John Henry Newman.

The pope and the revolution : a sermon, preached in the Oratory Church, Birmingham, on Sunday, October 7, 1866 online

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2. So much for the object of our prayers;
secondly, as to the spirit in which we should pray.
As we ever say in prayer " Thy will be done," so
we must say now. We do not absolutely know
God's will in this matter ; we know indeed it is
His will that we should ask; we are not abso-
lutely sure that it is His will that He should
grant. The very fact of our praying shows that
we are uncertain about the event. We pray when
we are uncertain, not when we are certain. If we
were quite sure what God intended to do, whether
to continue the temporal power of the Pope or to
end it, we should not pray. It is quite true
indeed that the event may depend upon our prayer,
but by such prayer is meant perseverance in prayer
and union of prayers ; and we never can be cer-
tain that this condition of numbers and of fervour
has been sufficiently secured. We shall indeed
gain our prayer if we pray enough ; but, since it
is ever uncertain what is enough, it is ever uncer-
tain what will be the event. There are Eastern
superstitions, in which it is taught that, by means


of a certain number of religious acts, by sacrifices,
prayers, penances, a man of necessity extorts from
God what he wishes to gain, so that he may rise to
supernatural greatness even against the will of
God. Far be from us such blasphemous thoughts !
We pray to God, we address the Blessed Virgin
and the Holy Apostles and the other guardians of
Rome, to defend the Holy City ; but we know the
event lies absolutely in the hands of the Allwise,
whose ways are not as our ways, whose thoughts
are not as our thoughts, and, unless we had been
furnished with a special revelation on the matter, to
be simply confident or to predict would be pre-
sumption. Such is Christian prayer; it implies
hope and fear. We are not certain we shall gain
our petition, we are not certain we shall not gain
it. Were we certain that we should not, we should
give ourselves to resignation, not to prayer; were
we certain we should, we should employ ourselves,
not in prayer, but in praise and thanksgiving.
While we pray then in behalf of the Pope's tem-
poral power, we contemplate both sides of the
alternative, his retaining it, and his losing it ; and
we prepare ourselves both for thanksgiving and
resignation, as the event may be. I conclude by
considering each of these issues of his present

(1.) First, as to the event of his retaining his
temporal power. I think this side of the alter-
native (humanly speaking) to be highly probable.


I should be very mucli surprised if in the event he
did not keep it. I think the Romans will not be
able to do without him ; it is only a minority even
now which is against him; the majority of his
subjects are not wicked, so much as cowardly and
incapable. Even if they renounce him now for a
while, they will change their minds and wish for
him again. They will find out that he is their real
greatness. Their city is a place of ruins, except
so far as it is a place of holy shrines. It is the
tomb and charnel-house of pagan impiety, except
so far as it is sanctified and quickened by the
blood of martyrs and the relics of saints. To
inhabit it would be a penance, were it not for the
presence of religion. Babylon is gone, Memphis
is gone, Persepolis is gone ; Rome would go, if the
Pope went. Its very life is the light of the sanc-
tuary. It never could be a suitable capital of a
modern kingdom without a sweeping away of all
that makes it beautiful and venerable to the world
at large. And then, when its new rulers had made
of it a trim and brilliant city, they would find
themselves on an unhealthy soil and a defenceless
plain. But, in truth, the tradition of ages and
inveteracy of associations make such a vast change
in Rome impossible. All mankind are parties to
the inviolable union of the Pope and his city. His
autonomy is a first principle in European politics,
whether among Catholics or Protestants; and
where can it be secured so well as in that city,


which has so long been the seat of its exercise ?
Moreover, the desolateness of Rome is as befitting
to a kingdom which is not of this world as it is
incompatible with a creation of modern political
theories. It is the religious centre of millions all
over the earth, who care nothing for the Romans
who happen to live there, and much for the mar-
tyred Apostles who so long have lain buried
there; and its claim to have an integral place in
the very idea of Catholicity is recognized not
only by Catholics, but by the whole world.

It is cheering to begin our prayers with these
signs of God's providence in our favour. He ex-
pressly encourages us to pray, for before we have
begun our petition, He has begun to fulfil it. And
at the same time, by beginning the work of mercy
ivitlwut us, He seems to remind us of that usual
course of His providence, viz. that He means to
finish it with us. Let us fear to be the cause of a
triumph being lost to the Church, because we
would not pray for it.

(2.) And now, lastly, to take the other side of
the alternative. Let us suppose that the Pope
loses his temporal power, and returns to the con-
dition of St. Sylvester, St. Julius, St. Innocent,
and other great Popes of early times. Are we
therefore to suppose that he and the Church will
come to nought ? God forbid ! To say that the
Church can fail, or the See of St. Peter can fail, is
to deny the faithfulness of Almighty God to His


word. "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock
will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it." To say that the Church
cannot live except in a particular way, is to make
it " subject to elements of the earth." The Church
is not the creature of times and places, of temporal
politics or popular caprice. Our Lord maintains
her by means of this world, but these means are
necessary to her only while He gives them ; when
He takes them away, they are no longer neces-
sary. He works by means, but He is not
bound to means. He has a thousand ways of
maintaining her ; He can support her life, not by
bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out
of His mouth. If He takes away one defence, He
will give another instead. We know nothing of
the future : our duty is to direct our course ac-
cording to our day; not to give up of our own
act the means which God has given us to main-
tain His Church withal, but not to lament over
their loss, when He has taken them away. Tem-
poral power has been the means of the Church's
independence for a very long period ; but, as her
Bishops have lost it a long while, and are not the
less Bishops still, so would it be as regards her
Head, if he also lost his. The Eternal God is her
refuge, and as He has delivered her out of so
many perils hitherto, so will He deliver her still.
The glorious chapters of her past history are but
anticipations of other glorious chapters still to


come. See how it lias been with her from the
very beginning down to this day. First, the
heathen populations persecuted her children for
three centuries, but she did not come to an end.
Then a flood of heresies was poured out upon her,
but still she did not come to an end. Then the
savage tribes of the North and East came down
upon her and overran her territory, but she did
not come to an end. Next, darkness of mind,
ignorance, torpor, stupidity, reckless corruption,
fell upon the holy place, still she did not come to
an end. Then the craft and violence of her own
strong and haughty children did their worst against
her, but still she did not come to an end. Then
came a time when the riches of the world flowed
in upon her, and the pride of life, and the refine-
ments and the luxuries of human reason ; and lulled
her rulers into an unfaithful security, till they
thought their high position in the world would
never be lost to them, and almost fancied that it
was good to enjoy themselves here below; but
still she did not come to an end. And then came
the so-called Reformation, and the rise of Protes-
tantism, and men said that the Church had dis-
appeared and they could not find her place. Yet,
now three centuries after that event, has, my Bre-
thren, the Holy Church come to an end ? has Pro-
testantism weakened her powers, terrible enemy
as it seemed to be when it arose ? has Protestant-
ism, that bitter energetic enemy of the Holy See,


harmed the Holy See? Why, there never has
been a time, since the first age of the Church,
when there has been such a succession of holy
Popes, as since the Reformation. Protestantism
has been a great infliction on such as have suc-
cumbed to it ; but it has even wrought benefits for
those whom it has failed to seduce. By the mercy
of God it has been turned into a spiritual gain to
the members of Holy Church.

Take again Italy, into which Protestantism has
not entered, and England, of which it has gained
possession : now I know well that, when Catho-
lics are good in Italy, they are very good ; I would
not deny that they attain there to a height and a
force of saintliness of which we seem to have no
specimens here. This, however, is the case of
souls, whom neither the presence nor the absence
of religious enemies would affect for the better or
the worse. Nor will I attempt the impossible
task of determining the amount of faith and obe-
dience among Catholics respectively in two coun-
tries so different from each other. But, looking at
Italian and English Catholics externally and in their
length and breadth, I may leave any Protestant to
decide, in which of the two there is at this moment
a more demonstrative faith, a more impressive re-
ligiousness, a more generous piety, a more steady
adherence to the cause of the Holy Father. The
English are multiplying religious buildings, de-
corating churches, endowing monasteries, educat-


ing, preaching, and converting, and carrying off in
the current of their enthusiasm numbers even of
those who are external to the Church ; the Italian
statesmen, on the contrary, in our Bishop's words,
"imprison and exile the bishops and clergy, leave the
flocks without shepherds, confiscate the Church's
revenues, suppress the monasteries and convents,
incorporate ecclesiastics and religious in the army,
plunder the churches and monastic libraries, and
expose Religion herself, stripped and bleeding in
every limb, the Catholic Religion in the person of
her ministers, her sacraments, her most devoted
members, to be objects of profane and blasphemous
ridicule." In so brave, intelligent, vigorous-
minded a race as the Italians, and in the 19th
century not the 16th, and in the absence of any
formal protest of classes or places, the act of the
rulers is the act of the people. At the end of
three centuries Protestant England contains more
Catholics who are loyal and energetic in word and
deed, than Catholic Italy. So harmless has been
the violence of the Reformation ; it professed to
eliminate from the Church doctrinal corruptions,
and it has failed both in what it has done and in
what it has not done ; it has bred infidels, to its
confusion ; and, to its dismay, it has succeeded in
purifying and strengthening Catholic commu-

It is with these thoughts then, my Brethren,
with these feelings of solemn expectation, of joyful


confidence, that we now come before our God, and
pray Him to have mercy on His chosen Servant,
His own Yicar, in this hour of trial. We come to
Him, like the prophet Daniel, in humiliation for
our own sins and the sins of our kings, our princes,
our fathers, and our people in all parts of the
Church; and therefore we say the Miserere and
the Litany of the Saints, as in a time of fast.
And we come before Him in the bright and glad
spirit of soldiers who know they are under the
leading of an Invincible King, and wait with beat-
ing hearts to see what He is about to do ; and
therefore it is that we adorn our sanctuary, bring-
ing out our hangings and multiplying our lights, as
on a day of festival. We know well we are on the
winning side, and that the prayers of the poor,
and the weak, and despised, can do more, when
offered in a true spirit, than all the wisdom and
all the resources of the world. This seventh of
October is the very anniversary of that day
on which the prayers of St. Pius, and the Holy
Rosary said by thousands of the faithful at his
bidding, broke for ever the domination of the
Turks in the great battle of Lepanto. God will
give us what we ask, or He will give us something
better. In this spirit let us proceed with the
holy rites which we have begun, in the presence
of innumerable witnesses, of God the Judge of all,
of Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, of
His Mother Mary our Immaculate Protectress, of


all the Angels of Holy Church, of all the blessed
Saints, of Apostles and Evangelists, Martyrs and
Confessors, holy preachers, holy recluses, holy
virgins, of holy innocents taken away before actual
sin, and of all other holy souls who have been
purified by suffering, and have already reached
their heavenly home.


NOTE I., on p. 25.

St. Bernard is led to say this to the Pope in consequence of
the troubles created in Rome by Arnold of Brescia." Ab obitu
Cselestini hoc anno invalescere coepit istiusmodi rebellio Roma-
norum adversus Pontificem, eodemque haeresis dicta Politicorum,
sive Arnaldistarum. Ea erant tempora infelicissima, cum Ro-
mani ipsi, quorum fides in universo orbe jam a tempore Aposto-
lorum annunciata semper fuit, resilientes modo a Pontifice,
dominandi cupidiue, ex filiis Petri et discipulis Christi, fiunt
soboles et alumni pestilentissimi Arnaldi de Brixia. Verum,
cum tu Romanos audis, ne putes omnes eadem insania percitos,
nam complures ex nobilium Romanorum famiHis, iis relictis, pro
Pontifice rem agebant, &c." Baron. Annal. in ann. 1144. 4.

NOTE II., on p. 35.

The following Telegram in the Times of September 13, 1860,
containing Victor Emmanuel's formal justification of his in-
vasion and occupation of Umbria and the Marches in a time
of peace, is a document for after times :

Turin, Sept. 11, evening.

The King received to-day a deputation from the inhabitants
of Umbria and the Marches.

His Majesty granted the protection which the deputation
solicited, and orders have been given to the Sardinian troops to
enter those provinces by the following Proclamation :


" Soldiers ! You are about to enter the Marches and Umbria,
in order to establish civil order in the towns now desolated by
misrule, and to give to the people the liberty of expressing their
own wishes. You will not fight against the armies of any of
the Powers, but will free those unhappy Italian provinces from
the bands of foreign adventurers which infest them. You do
not go to revenge injuries done to me and Italy, but to prevent
the popular hatred from unloosing itself against the oppressors
of the country.

" By your example you will teach the people forgiveness of
offences, and Christian tolerance to the man who compared the
love of the Italian fatherland to Islamism.

" At peace with all the great Powers, and holding myself
aloof from any provocation, I intend to rid Central Italy of one
continual cause of trouble and discord. I intend to respect -the
seat of the Chief of the Church, to whom I am ever ready
to give, in accordance with the allied and friendly Powers, all
the guarantees of independence and security, which his mis-
guided advisers have in vain hoped to obtain for him from the
fanaticism of the wicked sect which conspires against my autho-
rity and against the liberties of the nation.

" Soldiers ! I am accused of ambition. Yes ; I have one am-
bition, and it is to re-establish the principles of moral order in
Italy, and to preserve Europe from the continual dangers of
revolution and war."

The next day the Times, in a leading article, thus commented
on the above :

" Victor Emmanuel has in Garibaldi a most formidable com-
petitor. . . .' [Piedmont] must therefore, at whatever cost or
risk, make herself once more mistress of the revolution. She
must lead, that she may not be forced to follow. She must
revolutionize the Papal States, in order that she may put
herself in a position to arrest a dangerous revolutionary move-
ment against Venetia. . . . These motives are amply sufficient
to account for the decisive movement of Victor Emmanuel.
He lives in revolutionary times, when self-preservation has
superseded all other considerations, and it would be childish to
apply to his situation the maxims of international law which are
applicable to periods of tranquillity.


" These being the motives which have impelled Piedmont to
draw the sword, we have next to see what are the grounds on
which she justifies the step. These grounds are two, the ex-
traordinary misrule and oppression of the Papal Government,
and the presence of large hands of foreign mercenaries, by which
the country is oppressed and terrorized. The object is said to
be to give the people an opportunity of expressing their own
wishes and the re-establishment of civil order. The king pro-
mises to respect the seat of the Chief of the Church, Rome, we
suppose, and its immediate environs ; but, while holding out
this assurance, the manifesto speaks of the Pope and his advisers
in terms of bitterness and acrimony unusual in the present age,
even in a declaration of war. He will teach the people forgive-
ness of offences, and Christian tolerance to the Pope and his
general. He denounces the misguided advisers of the Pontiff,
and the fanaticism of the wicked sect which conspires against
his authority and the liberties of the nation. This is harsh
language, and is not inconsistently seconded by the advance
into the States of the Church of an army of 50,000 men."

It was the old Fable of the Wolf and the Lamb.










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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe pope and the revolution : a sermon, preached in the Oratory Church, Birmingham, on Sunday, October 7, 1866 → online text (page 3 of 3)