Leonard Woolsey Bacon.

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of Christ, and the life of the world to come,* are said to be
openly denied. The fervid piety of such a man as
Hyacinthe, whose personal influence is supreme over the
framing of the churches of the Canton of Geneva, is a
sufficient guarantee of their ^soundness so long as he lives.
But a man does not live so long as an institution ; and
it is not to be denied that there is something in the form of
this reorganization of the Swiss Catholic churches, in their
relation to State patronage, their present emancipation

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from hierarchical oversight, their emphatic assertion of
parochial autonomy, which may justify grave doubts of
their future stability in the Christian faith. One finds
among them no recognition of that Puritan principle of
committing the control of the spiritualities of the church
to the brotherhood of spiritual men, as distinguished from
the merely nominal Christians, with which ecclesiastical
independency has always been associated, and which
is probably essential to its safe working. If the
reform shall fail, it will probably be in consequence
of the remitting of religious questions to the universal
suffrage of the nominally Catholic population. But
as to the seriousness of this peril, it is premature to
pronounce until the organization of the Swiss hierarchy is
completed by the consecration of its bishops, and the
complete framework of the reconstituted church is open
to view. 1

IV. One question remains, not inferior in practical
interest to the foregoing : To what extent can we compute
the future of Eoman Catholic institutions in the United
States, from the course which they have taken in
Switzerland ?

On many superficial points, as we have already hinted,
the historical analogy between the two countries is very
striking. The epoch (1815) at which a sudden accession
of Catholic population was acquired to the Protestant
republics of Berne and Geneva coincides with the

1. The perils here indicated were stated with great force by M. Ernest
Naville, the eminent writer and philosopher, in a memorial to the Government
of Geneva against the establishment of the Liberal Catholic Church by law.
I am under great obligation to M. Naville for the opportunity of reading his
argument in manuscript.

P.8.— The subsequent history has fully justified his worst misgivings.

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beginning of the Catholic migration to America. On both
aides of the water has been the same anti-popery
agitation, the same organization of Orange and Know-
Nothing lodges and of proselyting societies, the same
concessions and cajoleries of politicians toward u the
Catholic vote," the same boastful predictions on the part
of the Romish clergy of the speedy conquest of the
country to the obedience of the Pope. In Switzerland, in
the very height of these most sanguine hopes, the towering
structure that was in building by the Ultramontane
hierarchy has suddenly fallen, and on inspection we find
that it never had foundation nor strength of walls. Does
this justify us in prognosticating a like fate for plans and
hopes in the United States ?

M. Am6d£e Roget, in the capital historical pamphlet
which we have already quoted, and the title of which
stands at the beginning of this article, asserts, and goes
far toward proving, that the present result is the natural
and inevitable consequence, which might have been
predicted and was predicted, of exposing Catholic people
and institutions to the influence of light and liberty in a
free republic. Every facility was given to the priesthood
to train their flocks in the way in which they should go.
Religious schools, under the conduct of the secular priests,
and under the teaching brotherhoods and sisterhoods,
have been tolerated or sustained by the State ; demor-
alizing influences have been warded off from their sheep-
folds by treaty stipulations forbidding Protestant churches
in the Catholic towns; and yet out of their clerical
schools have graduated the civil leaders of the Catholic
Reform, and their Catholic communes give majorities
against their own clergymen !

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One difference between the two situations lies in the
fact .that in Switzerland there has been legal and govern-
mental recognition of the church relations of the citizen,
so that one born a Catholic has been counted a Catholic
until by some formal act he has abandoned or transferred
his church-allegiance. As of old, Peter has been using
one of his u two swords " — the one he has borrowed of
the civil magistrate — a little more freely than is good for
him. This bulk of Catholic believers, thus given over to
the training of the clergy, and imputed to them in the
census returns, was extremely glorious to tell of, but
inconvenient to the last degree when it was allowed to
vote. Better have disowned it long before as "free-
thinking," or freemason, or u half-Catholic," than have
boasted of it for fifty years to be voted down by it on the
fifty-first ! One result of the absolute ignoring of religious
distinctions on the part of the United States Government,
so that one becoming indifferent or disaffected toward his
religious communion comes off from it without fuss or
violence, has doubtless been the loss to the Roman
Catholic Church in the United States of millions of souls
that were hers by birth or inheritance, but over whom her
pastors have mourned as given up to Protestantism or
some other form of perdition. But it has left under the
charge of the priesthood a picked and tried and still
formidably numerous company, who stay in their Church
for conviction's sake and conscience' sake, or for something
much like these, and in which the elements of disaffection
do not stay long enough to accumulate and become
dangerous. Even if there were ever opportunity for voting
in the Roman Catholic Church in America, there need
be little fear of an anti-clerical party in a community so

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composed. But, thanks to the generosity of the American
States, in granting to the Catholic bishops such an
absolute control over all church property as is unheard of
in all the lands of Catholic Christendom, the last suspicion
of peril from the action of a disaffected laity is completely
extinguished. Men are sure not to vote wrong if they are
not allowed to vote at all. In Switzerland, the voice of
the strong majority of the Catholic laity has prevailed
against the almost unanimous resolution of the hierarchy.
In America, to such a degree do the laws on the one hand r
and the absence of legislation on the other, favor the
practice of absolute personal government on the part of
the bishop, that the unanimous protest of all the priests
and all the people would have no more influence against
the decision of his lordship than the whistling of the wind.
He could lock the doors of his churches against clergy and
people alike, and turn to the stones of the street to raise
up children to Abraham. In Switzerland, as elsewhere
in Europe, the necessity of permission from the State,,
either for the installing or for the removal of pastor or
bishop, imposes something like a constitutional limitation
on the absolution of hierarchical government, making
possible a certain degree of liberty. In the United States,
the absolute influence of the bishop over every clerk and
layman in his diocese, is limited only by his own fear of
the bowstring which, being amovibilis ad nutum, he is
liable any moment to have sent to him from the Sublime
Porte of the Propaganda College. The narrowest
uniformity can be enforced through all ranks of the
Church. This is the explanation of the puzzling paradox
that in the freest and most enlightened country in the
world, the Catholic Church should be more Ultramontane

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than any where else in Christendom. It is because the
Italian Pontiff is absolutely free to enforce his policy in
America, by all spiritual penalties, and by pecuniary
sanctions up to the entire value of the church property,
and because all Catholics of liberal leanings, who might
otherwise be a leaven of liberalism in the lump, are
absolutely free to leave the Church if they do not like it,
and free to do nothing else under heaven. And the more
they leave it the more unanimously and intensely anti-
liberal becomes the residuum.

This continued wasting and dribbling at the safety-
valve saves much of the danger of a future revolution of
the Roman Church in America, or a splitting into two
sects. But it also prevents it from ever being any thing
more than a sect itself ; a sect formidable, no doubt, for
numbers, for organization, for the concentration of its
enormous real estate under the power of a single Italian
prelate, and for its curious and perilous facility of
coalition with all manner of Jacobinism and demagogy,
but still a sect; for it is sheer impossibility that an
institution which is not broad enough to contain two
parties should ever succeed in holding within its pale any
large fraction of a free people. From time to time, the
possessors of unlimited power will be tempted, despite
their habitual prudence, to make injudicious use of it, and
there will result defections, more or less numerous, of
laymen, or of priests. But the corporation will continue,
preserved by the peculiar structure of American laws
from any danger of subversion ; and although it may
fluctuate in numbers, its corporate wealth can not but go
on steadily and rapidly increasing.

One more point of difference between the United

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States and Switzerland, which has favored the development
of the Catholic Reformation in the latter country, is
worth mentioning for the salutary and Christian lesson
which it conveys. Despite the violence of some anti-
popery zealots, and the social exclusiveness encouraged
by the Ultramontane priests, there have subsisted between
the citizens of the two communions relations, on the
wholej of personal and social good-fellowship. Not but
that there has been some natural disposition on the part
of the old citizens to look down on the palpably inferior
intelligence, culture, and prosperity of the new — and some
sense of injury on the part of the latter toward the
former ; but that, on the whole, the differences of religious
belief have been forgotten in the mutual relations of
citizen and neighbor. Doubtless, this is easier between
people of like lineage and antecedents than between alien
races. But in the United States, the causes which once
enforced a wide social separation between the Catholic
Irish and the Protestant American dwindle in the second
generation, and vanish in the third. It is not only a sin,
it is a woful folly, if the effect is suffered to outlive the
causes. For that free, kindly, equal intermingling with
Protestants, in school, % in business, in politics, in society,
and especially in acts of charity, which it is the effort of
Ultramontane policy to prevent, is the most potent of all
influences to produce, we need not say proselytes, but
liberal Catholics ; and liberal Catholic, according to the
definitions of the Vatican, is equivalent, for all practical
ends, to no Catholic at all. Certainly, for all the purposes
of good citizenship in the republic, it is much more than
equivalent to illiberal Protestant.

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Sunday, April 26, 1874.
Saignelegier, in the Bernese Jura,

Your u own correspondent" has spent a strange Sunday
in search of the truth touching the so-called Catholic
Eeformation in Switzerland. The way of reaching this
secluded corner of the earth is to go to Neuch&tel, and
from that charming, quaint old town — the New Castle of
which is thirteen centuries old, and shows the mark of
each of them, down to the superb restorations of the
present — and to take the new switch-back railroad,
unknown to tourists, which zig-zags up the flank of the

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Jura. The fair lake spreads out beneath you as you rise ;
the apparently high mountains on the other side shrink
and dwindle, and the really high ones go towering higher
and higher, till all the eastern and southern horizon is
walled around with snowy peaks, and the remotest
perspective is closed at last by the white pyramid of
Mont Blanc. You go tunneling through many dismal cliffs
of " Jurassic limestone," and come out presently at
Chaux-de-Fonds, most prosaic and unpicturesque of
factory-villages, where every third house is a watch-
factory, or if not, then a factory of watchmakers' tools,
and where, my dear sir, your Geneva watch was probably
made before being sent down to Geneva to be marked with
the name of an eminent firm. Here you reach the limit
of railroading (the sphere of the guide-books had been
passed before), and have recourse to the historic and
obsolescent diligence. It is over-full already, but for a
consideration the conducteur will vacate his lofty seat and
admit you to be adsessor to the postilion. That man has
not truly traveled who has not sometime made acquaint-
ance with the postilion — with his glazed hat, his red
jacket, his crttel whip and its tremendous snapper, with
his hi-hi ! his hia ! his allez-boage ! and (in extreme
emergencies) his hxmche ! I regret to add, also, his sacr-r-e,
and his gr-r-and nom de dieu ! We pass thrifty, neat;
new-looking villages, with well-kept churches and school-
houses — they are in the Protestant canton of Keuchatel.
We come to slovenly farms and Irish-looking hamlets ; it
is a sign that we have passed the boundary and are in the
Catholic part of the canton of Berne. It is an open
question still whether Protestantism makes people rich,
or whether it is the deceitfulness of riches that makes a

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people Protestant ; but all the statisticians of Europe are
agreed that in the present state of society the Catholic
style of godliness is no longer profitable to all things,
having completely yielded to Protestantism the promise
of the life that now is, leaving that of the life to come still
in dispute.

Saignel^gier (you will find the name only in the very
largest gazetteers) is one of the Irishest of these villages.
I had selected it at my first objective point for two
reasons: first, it is reputed to be one of the most
turbulent and intractable of all the parishes under the
new regime ; and secondly, I had been much attracted by
what I heard of the new cur6. He was mentioned in the
newspapers as from Alabama, in America, and had given
proof that he had not studied in vain the principles of
liberty in that favored region, by announcing in the news-
papers that if the police could not protect him from insult
and attack he should take the matter into his own hands ;
and further, that if he caught any more of the Ultra-
montanes roulant round his premises at untimely hours of
the night, he should shoot them on sight, not in his
capacity as a minister of the gospel, but in his capacity as
an American citizen. You can easily believe that upon
minds accustomed only to the effete civilizations of the old
world this energetic proceeding must have made a lively

In consequence either of this demonstration or of some-
thing else, the village was quiet enough when I arrived
on Saturday afternoon. I strolled about the treeless
streets, though the bare churchyard, into the empty
church. The vestibule was paved with monuments of
village worthies, and the crosses and banners for funeral

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processions stood along the aisle. On either side of the
chancel, enthroned conspicuously upon an altar, was a
handsome glass show-case, containing an elaborately
dressed recumbent skeleton. Spangles, gold-lace and
beads covered the waist and skirts, the bony feet were
cased in embroidered slippers, and the hands in silk gloves,
outside of which cheap rings hung loose about the fingers*
Each of them held a pasteboard palm branch, and by the
side of each lay a wooden sword. One was labeled
St. Yenvustw martyr •, and the other St. Faustina, martyr r
and they ought to be genuine, for it cost this poor little
village, I am told, about 15,000 francs to get them from

My American brother serves two or three contiguous
parishes, and after an early low mass in the church (at
which he told me there would be nobody present) he had
to leave for high mass and sermon at the next village.
When I left my inn, at 872 a.m., I found a crowd dressed
in black preparing for an important funeral. But their
old priest having been expelled from the country, and the
new cur6 being held in horror, they were to bury their
dead with a u civil interment," without religious rites.
Parties of villagers in their Sunday array were straggling
along the pleasant road that leads towards the French
frontier. It was not easy to pity them their forced
exchange of the village church, with its dismal pictures
and grizzly old skeletons, for the bright April woods,
lighted up with all manner of blossoming trees, and
carpeted with tender grass sprinkled with cowslips,,
daisies and primroses, and fragrant with the incense of
violets. And when I reached the rendezvous, where
perhaps a hundred of the village folk were assembled,

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with their brass band, waiting for the prayers to begin
which they were not permitted to have in the village,
I thought I had never seen a more cheerful, not to say
jolly, company of martyrs. So far as concerns the appear-
ance of happy resignation, there was not one of them but
deserved to have his skeleton done up in spangles and
gilt paper and set up in the church alongside of
Sts. Venustus and Faustina.

I could not stay to witness the worship. In fact,
I lingered quite too long observing the people and the
magnificent view that opened suddenly from the brow of
of the precipice where they were gathered. We looked
down a sheer cliff of a thousand feet and saw the little
river Doubs — a ribbon of bright water — and on its
further bank the little French village and church of
Groumois, where mass was to be said by some of the exiled
Swiss priests for the benefit of such of their late flock as
might come to them. I made all haste down the steep
foot-path and reached the church in the midst of the mass.
It was said by a handsome young priest, the u revoked "
vicar of Saignel6gier, and the singing was by a choir of
young children that had come from Les Pommerats,
another Swiss village, to make their, first communion.
When mass was ended, their "revoked" pastor, an infirm
old man of seventy, climbed slowlj r up into the high
pulpit on the side-wall of the church to preach the sermon.
He stood for a moment wiping his spectacles, and you
would not have supposed, looking into his dull, blank
face, that he was about to burst forth with a torrent of
thoughtful and impassioned eloquence — and in point of
fact he was .not going to do anything of the kind. He took
for his theme the vanity of life and the importance of

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eternity, and for half an hour droned and dawdled a
stream of commonplaces broken only .by occasional pauses
in the attempt to remember his piece. But when he had
finished, to his own evident relief, the old man fumbled
awhile in the pocket of his cassock for a bit of note-
paper on which were written a few words of warning to
his late flock, now left without a shepherd, to beware of
the perils of schism and irreligion. And in the attempt to
read this, the tears gathered on his wrinkled cheeks, his
voice "faltered and failed, and he tottered down the pulpit
stairs weeping aloud. I forgave him for his dull sermon.
The crowd in the church dispersed in all directions, and
the mountain paths leading towards various neighboring
Swiss villages were enlivened with groups of wayfarers.
I joined myself to a group of peasant children. They
belonged in a village eight miles from Groumois, and two
little boys who were among the new communicants had
walked thither and back four times that week to attend
the catechism by way of preparation. u Wasn't it rather
hard ?" they asked ; u and to think that they should have
sent off their good pastors and sent this canaille in the
place of them ! But the boys had harried the intrus, the
apostat, well at Saignel6gier, hadn't they ? And do you
know that they have arrested one of the revoked cur6s,
who had come back to his parish to minister to the sick,
and have got him in prison? " I did not know it at the
time, but have learned of it since through the papers. He
was searched by the gens d'armes, and the only sign of
sedition about him was that he had got his snuff-box full
of consecrated wafers. Considering what the consecrated
wafer is defined by the Roman Church to be, it does seem

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like horribly bad taste to pack a dozen of them into a
snuff-box !

I passed the evening at the u presbyt&re " or parsonage
with my Alabama brother and an elderly Italian priest
just installed in the next parish. Our talk was naturally
of the state and prospects of the u Liberal Catholic "
Church in Switzerland. It was idle to disguise that in this
parish it had a bad lookout. In the other parishes which
he served the new cur6 had friends and adherents. In one
he had seventeen catechumens. But there, where he lived,
he was almost isolated from intercourse. The insult and
assault which he had met with at first had ceased. The
old clergy, having used their influence to provoke breaches
of the peace, had been ordered away. The right of
meeting for separate worship, which was distinctly
guaranteed to the Ultramontanes by the new law, had
been suppressed as a measure of police, when it was
found that the congregations attacked and annoyed those
who frequented the parish church. Order was completely
restored by the temporary billeting of troops on the town*
Everything is quiet now, and it needs only patience and
pluck to bring about a good result.

So seemed to think my Alabama brother. And I have
no doubt that if patience and pluck are the virtues
needed, he is just the man for the place. His preparation
for the work is singular and providential. Having been
once a Jesuit, he is now a presbyter of the Protestant
Episcopal Church in regular standing, but saying Latin
masses ad interim in a Catholic parish. I mention this to
the honor of the Episcopal Church, which is sometimes
accused of an exclusive policy toward other denomi-

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To sum up my own first impressions from a single day's
observations in the Catholic Jura, the allegation of danger
to the public peace, by the Bernese Government, as a
reason for banishing nearly one hundred parish priests,
and afterwards interdicting their adherents from meeting
for worship, seems to me either a shameful confession of
weakness or a dishonest pretext for persecution ; and the
attempt to set up a new church without members promises
no better result than to awaken and intensify a fanatical
devotion to the proscribed church. The whole affair looks,
at first sight, like own cousin to the legal establishment
and propagation of Protestantism in Ireland, and likely to
reach the same illustrious success.

But since I began this letter I have seen this matter in
some other aspects, which I will report in my next.


Geneva, May 5, 1874.

I came away from Saignel6gier by the diligence on
Monday noon, with very unfavorable impressions of the
" Old Catholic " movement as carried on by order of
legislature. But that evening I arrived at Del6mont, a
notable little city which is just shedding its cincture of
walls, and getting ready for the railroad that is expected
there in the course of a twelve-month. The conspicuous
building of Del6mont is a huge quadrangular palace, once
the summer residence of the mighty prince-bishops of

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Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconChurch papers: sundry essays in subjects relating to the church and ... → online text (page 16 of 26)