Walter F Lonergan.

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^ In the later encyclical issued in January, 1907, Pope Pius the
Tenth, while answering his numerous and implacable enemies, is
strongly assertive of the " spiritual " rights of the Church of which
he is head. He declared that he had had no intention of
humbling the civil power, nor of opposing any form of govern-
ment, but of " safeguarding the intangible work of our Lord and
Master Jesus Christ."


la tradition." ^ It is the uncompromising attitude of
the Vatican that has impelled many French statesmen
to oppose the Pope and to act as if they wanted
to banish Catholicism from the country altogether.
There are other and deeper reasons also for the
hostility to Rome. Voltaire and the Encyclopsedists,
the diffusion of German philosophy in France,
the books of Haeckel, the free criticism of the
Bible, the lapsing or defections of priests and even
bishops, the scandals among the clergy — few indeed,
but very serious — all these causes have combined to
sap whatever faith was left among Frenchmen. Then
there was the other cause — the rigid morality insisted
upon by the Church. The French who are brought
up as Catholics are, as a writer once put it, pulled
up by the Church at every turn. Considering the
predominant part played by woman in France, it was
a wonder that the Church had any hold whatever on
Frenchmen. Many of them have revolted against
this " pulling up," which is practised by priests with
such success in Ireland, and even in England, where
the rule of the Church is rigorous. The French who
kicked against this rule have been glad to listen to
such maxims as " Do absolutely what you like ; there
is no God, no eternal punishment, nothing in the
sky." This was practically what M. Viviani, a
Minister in M. Clemenceau's Cabinet, declared in the
Chamber of Deputies in November, 1906, in those
sentences of "mixed metaphors" concerning which
the Poet Laureate wrote to the Times. This is what

^ It was Cardinal Meignan who was also said to have de-
scribed the Roman Curia as the " commissariat de police de
I'Eglise," but this has been denied.



M. Viviani said, and affickage, or posting all over

the country, was voted for the pronouncement, which

was based in all probability on M. Berthelot's

discourse or lecture delivered some years back, in

which he said : '* Le monde n'a plus de mystere,"

and on the dosfmatic utterances of the terrible

Thanatist of Jena, who professed to solve the riddle

of the universe, or rather to tell us that there was

no riddle, no enigma about the world at all. " La

troisieme Republique," said M. Viviani, "a appele

autour d'elle les enfants du paysan, les enfants des

ouvriers, et dans ces cerveaux obscurs, dans ces

consciences entenebrees, elle a verse peu a peu le

germe revolutionnaire de I'instruction, Cela n'a pas

suffi. Tous ensemble, par nos peres, par nous-memes,

nous nous sommes attache dans le passe a une ceuvre

d'anticlericalisme, a une oeuvre d'irreligion. Nous

avons arrache la conscience humaine a la croyance.

Lorsqu'un miserable fatigu6 du poids du jour, ployait

les genoux, nous I'avons releve, nous lui avons dit

que derriere les nuages il n'y avait rien que des

chimeres. Ensemble et dun geste magnifique nous

avons eteint dans le ciel des lumieres qu'on ne

rallumera pas." ^

^ Professor Huxley in one of his last review articles, con-
tributed to the Nineteenth Century in July, 1890, is nearly
but not quite so emphatic as M. Viviani. In a contribution
relative to '' Lux Mundi and Science," he refers to the Bampton
Lectures of 1859 and the new science of historical criticism,
and concludes, after much bantering about old beliefs : " There
really seems to be no reason why the next generation should
not listen to a Bampton lecture modelled upon that addressed to
the last, as : Time was — and that not very long ago — ^when all
the relations of biblical authors concerning the old world were
received with a ready belief ; and an unreasoning and uncritical


And M. Viviani, Labour Minister in the Clemenceau
Cabinet, who prides himself on having been one of
the extinguishers of the hght of Heaven, is not half so
blasphemous, from the Christian's point of view, as
M. Camille Pelletan. I have had a great respect for
years for Camille Pelletan as a writer and a debater.
He is undoubtedly the clever son of a clever father,
but he remains an obstinate priest-eater. He is one
of the real anti-clericals, one who has not been
brought up as a Catholic, and it was he who was at
the back of M. Combes during the expulsions of the
Orders, who, when he was Minister of Marine,
deprived the sailors of their chaplains, and who has
been finding that M. Clemenceau and M. Briand are
not vigorous enough in their action against the hated

In an article written for the Matin in December,
1906, M. Pelletan is not only jocosely blasphemous,
but he shows, with M. Viviani, how the Republic is
hostile to the Catholics. He heads his contribution
" La Revoke de I'Eglise," and says : " Je n'etonnerai
pas mes lecteurs, en disant que je n'ai jamais eu une
foi bien vive dans la Providence. Mais j'avoue que
ma vieille incredulity est depuis quelque temps fort
ebranlee ; tant il semble Evident qu'elle a suscitee
Pie X. dans I'interet de la grande oeuvre de laicisation
que nous avions a accomplir. Timides et irresolus,

faith accepted with equal satisfaction the narrative of the
Captivity and the doings of Moses at the Court of Pharaoh, the
account of the apostohc meeting in the Epistle to the Galatians,
and of the fabrication of Eve. All that has been changed. . . .
The mythology which embarrassed earnest Christians has vanished
as an evil mist, the lifting of which has only more fully revealed
the lineaments of infallible Truth."


nous aurions trois fols manqu6 a notre mission, si
le ciel n'avait veille sur nous, sous la forme de son
representant authentique sur la terre. Ses voies
[those of Providence] sont impenetrates. Remercions-
le de ses bienfaits. Quand les republicains sont
arrives au pouvoir, il y a plus de vingt ans, leur
premier devoir aurait ete de d^chirer le pacte
criminel conclu au lendemain de la Revolution [the
Concordat] entre un Cesarisme corse et la theocratie
romaine. Et pourtant les republicains n'osaient pas.
II pr^tendait que la separation irriterait, souleverait
la masse du pays. Les elections dernieres ont montre
combien ce pretexte etait absurde. Combien de
temps ces craintes ridicules nous auraient elles
paralyses si la Providence n'avait pas mis la tiare sur
la tete du Cardinal Sarto ? Nul ne peut savoir. Mais
Pie X. parait ; ses pretentions rendent le Concordat
impracticable. Graces lui en soient rendus. Et si
vraiment le ciel nous I'a envoy^, graces en soient
rendus au ciel ! " So M. Camille Pelletan rambles on,
and after some more gibes at Providence, at the
Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation and at the
Pope, he says that much more must be done, and that
is to abolish all the advantages and all the privileges
hitherto showered on the Church. Rebels must not
be fed, housed, and paid by the State.

M. Clemenceau and M. Briand have also been
accused by Catholics of having in former speeches
shown hostility to the Church, but they have denied
the statements attributed to them. Any one, how-
ever, who knows anything about these two politicians
can testify that they have both, notably M. Clemen-
ceau, uttered and written many gibes and jeers, not


only against the Church of Rome, but against old
beliefs clung to by Protestants. They and other men
of the " Bloc " resemble Favon, the dictator of Geneva,
of whom it is written : " Tout homme professant une
croyance religieuse ^tait aisement pour lui un sombre
momier [mummer] si Protestant, un d^vot stupide si
Catholique." And the persons who continued to teach
and to preach religion for money Favon regarded as
sceptical Pharisees " pontificating " and " mumming "
for regular salaries. That there were no good men
in the Churches — that they were all hypocrites — was
his belief.

Now, the Guardian of December 12, 1906, com-
menting on the conflict between Rome and Paris,
says : " We have very little respect for most of the
motives which underlay the Separation Law, or for
the state of mind of some of the members of the
French Government, as M. Viviani, for instance.
Such persons are the enemies, not of Rome, but of
reliorion. But we do understand the weariness of
France with the constant meddling of the Vatican in
her domestic affairs." Just so. The Vatican is the
great enemy of many English Churchmen and laymen,
as well as of French Republicans, and any stick is
good for it. The cry everywhere is, " Down with
Rome ! " On reaching England after years of absence
I find nothing changed in the attitude of many
Protestants and Nonconformists towards this terrible
Rome. In France I had seen the anti-Romans pass
from words to acts. I saw Catholics, after abuse had
been showered on them for years by the Lanterne
and other newspapers, struck, stabbed, and hustled by
police. I saw their priests and nuns hunted from


their homes, and hissed in the streets by the vilest
scum of humanity.

In England there were only words against Rome.
The Catholics assembled at Brighton in September,
1906, and denounced the proceedings of the French
Government. Afterwards there is a meeting of sound
Protestants who have an ex-priest of Rome amongst
them. This gentleman does not say much against
Rome itself, but he has a bone to pick or an axe to
grind with Archbishop Bourne. He is followed, how-
ever, by a councillor who talks of the time coming
when the " harlot from the seven hills should be struck
from her bloodstained throne." ^ Then the secretary
of the meeting referred to the monastic refugees from
France as " undesirable aliens." And the liberal-
minded and accommodating Mayor of Brighton was
fustigated fiercely for having lent the Dome to the
sons of the harlot.

And I read, when still in Paris, Mr. Massingham*s
letter to the Daily News in which he spoke of the
" crowning folly of Ultramontanism which threatens
every State with disruption, and in France at least, it,
or the least prudent of its disciples, has for half a
century nursed or actively promoted civil rebellion.'*
And Mr. Robert Dell, the most extraordinary of
English or Irish Catholics, wrote in the Morning
Leader in September, 1906 "of the complete religious
liberty offered by the Republic to French Catholics,"
which the Pope forbids them to accept. And I also
find an Bdinb2i7^gk reviewer in October, 1904, quoting
an " acute observer " who, early in the present
Pontificate, said : " Who would have thought that
^ See Sussex Daily News^ October 2, 1906.


we should so soon have had occasion to regret
Leo. the Thirteenth ? "

The reviewer then tries to show how Royalists
who were Catholics conspired against the Republic,
and says that "nine-tenths of what passes as anti-
clericalism is hatred, not of religion, but of the
interference of a mischievous and meddlesome
priesthood in public and private life." Thus the
war against the priests and the Vatican goes on in
words in one place and in action in another. I cannot
pretend to judge between the contending parties, but
my experience in France showed me that the repre-
sentatives of the Vatican never did more there than
to assert their traditional prerogatives in spiritual
matters. I What Royalist and Imperialist Catholics
do in France is another thing. It has not even
been clearly, definitely established that Pere Dulac
or any of the French Jesuits pulled strings in the
Dreyfus case. Catholics of the Royalist party have,
of course, been vigorously opposed to the Republic.
Their writers have been outspoken and acrimonious.
M. Maurice Talmeyr, for instance, only to quote
one, declared at the outset of the Church war that

^ And even M. Combes, in his contribution to the New Free
Press, in January, 1907, admitted that the present Pope was
not acting through obstinacy or worldly motives in his opposi-
tion to the French Government, but through consciousness
of the duties of his office, and in order to defend the funda-
mental doctrine of the Church. The admission of M. Combes
was of course qualified by his expression of doubt as to the
intelligence of the Pope. M. Combes is ex officio bound to
believe that people acting mainly through religious motives
are either lacking in intelligence, or slaves of sentiment and


the Republicans, Michelet at their head, falsified
everything ; that, contrary to their showing, peasants
were not so badly situated under the ancien regime.
M. Talmeyr concluded : " La R6publique a vecu, et
vit encore de mensonge. Elle a litterament mysti-
fi6 des generations, elle a eu des imposteurs de
genie, des bonnimenteurs [patterers] e'blouissants, et
son veritable pere n'a meme et6 ni Voltaire, ni
Diderot, ni Rousseau, mais bien plutot Cagliostro.
Elle mourra peut-etre un jour, de la simple verity."
These are the words of an uncompromising Monar-
chist Catholic, but there are Catholic Republicans
who, while attached to their favourite form of govern-
ment, condemn the blind hostility to Rome as well as
the Royalists. One of these writers very ably tried to
show in the Nationalist Eclair in September, 1906,
that the statement that the Pope was a provocateur
was an arrant falsehood. The destruction of Catholi-
cism, he urged, was what the Freemasons holding
power wanted, and nothing short of that. They were
trying to bring it about by the progressive " ablation "
of the fibrous network knitting France and Rome.
They could not revive Gallicanism, which is dead and
buried, so they tried to provoke the Pope in order to
damage him in the eyes of French Catholics and of
the world. The Pope was not the elected agent
of the Triplice, for he was a Venetian, and against
Austria. The writer then recalls the pettifogging
proceedings of M. Combes over the nomination of
bishops, the visit of M. Loubet to the Quirinal, the
Vatican being overlooked, the quarrels about the cases
of the Bishops of Laval and Dijon, the secret docu-
ment received by M. Jaures from Monaco, and other


Ferdinand Brunetiere.



affairs which are all attributed by the Papal apologist
to the masonic elaborators of the plan leading up
to the Separation Law. He concludes : " Mais la
mauvaise foi est lame de la politique ma9onnique.
Comme dans I'affaire des nominations episcopales,
comma dans celle du voyage a Rome, on cherche a
cr^er la legende du Pape provocateur. Les
Catholiques ne le permettront pas, c'est entendu ; mais
les honnetes gens et les bons fran9ais, tous ceux qui
aiment la verity, ne se laisseront pas d'avantage

If it be quite true that the upper classes in France
and many of the higher clergy have always been in
favour of a monarchical restoration, there were on the
other hand numerous French priests and laymen who
rallied to the Republic even before Leo the Thirteenth
enjoined them to do so. That Pope wanted to keep
in with France, in spite of the enormous difficulties
placed in his way by hostile Ministries. He believed
with M. Brunetiere that France meant Catholicism all
the world over, so he did his best to bring about
the ralliement, and to reconcile the different Catholic
parties to the Republic. Pius the Tenth is denounced
as no statesman, forsooth, because he has not seen
this. But what, it may be asked, did his statesmanlike
predecessor get for his pains ? Absolutely nothing.
He did not — he was not able to — stop the oncoming
storm. It is possible that he might have done so had
some of the founders of the Third Republic, such as
Gambetta, been alive.

It was Gambetta who, in those letters ^ to the lady

^ These letters were published in the Revue de Paris, in
December, 1906.


whom he so admired, although she was by no means a
great beauty, Madame L^oni L^on, letters which are
no doubt genuine, wrote of the possibility of a mariage
du raison between the French Government and Rome
on the accession of "cet d^gant et raffing Cardinal

But Gambetta's successors, M. Combes, M.
Clemenceau, and the rest, have no desire for such
a union. They have carried out their programme to
the end, far distancing the acts of Jules Ferry in

In Ferry's time, it will be remembered, the war
against Rome began, but it was only waged languidly
afterwards, and Jesuits and others who were expelled
returned. Ferry began by secularising schools. The
name of God was not to be mentioned in educational
establishments, and crucifixes and religious pictures
were removed from such places. It was also decreed
that crucifixes were to be removed from the Courts of
Justice, but Bonnat's great picture of Christ on the
Cross remained in the Paris Hall of Assize. Divorce,
against which Rome has always set its face, was made
legal, as well as burial with civil rites. Crosses were
taken off the gates of cemeteries, military observance
of Sunday was done away with, and chaplains were
no longer to be paid in Government establishments.
Some years after, the cry of " Knapsacks for the
priests," or les curds sac au dos, was heard, and
the Government no longer exempted ecclesiastical
students from army service. Then the Catholics
received another buffet when the Pantheon, which
had been a church, was secularised for the interment
of Victor Hugo. Some years subsequently, the Arch-


bishop of Aix, Mgr. Gonthe-Soulard, was prosecuted
in Paris for having protested against a circular issued
by M. Fallieres, then Minister of PubHc Worship, and
deemed vexatious by the prelate. The Government,
furthermore, insisted, according to the Catholic con-
tention, on undue interference between the clergy
and the churchwardens. Under the pacific regime of
M. Meline the Catholics obtained a respite, and all
went well until the Dreyfus agitation, supposed to be
fomented by the Catholics in the army who were
imbued with the Jesuitical spirit. M. Waldeck-
Rousseau's Association Law was sprung now, and
carried into energetic effect by his successor, M.
Combes, who during his tenure also buffeted the
Catholics by unveiling a statue to Ernest Renan in
that writer's native place in Brittany.

And it was also M. Combes who no doubt inspired
the discourteous action of M. Loubet in overlooking
the Pope when he went to Rome. It was no wonder
that a French prelate said about this time that what
pained him most in the religious crisis was to see how
little Catholics counted. They were reviled, insulted,
and robbed in France, but nobody seemed to mind.

I could never fathom the motives underlying the
unexampled animosity of M. Emile Combes towards
the Church which educated him and nearly reckoned
him among its ministers. I have seen many priests
and ecclesiastical students who broke away from the
Church of Rome, but I have never found them to
be unrelenting enemies of their old creed. I can
only vaguely surmise that M. Combes, when a
budding ecclesiastic, must have had a grievance against
a superior, or superiors. Luther, as we all know, had


a grievance against an opposition monk, of whom he
said: "God willing, I will beat a hole in his drum." He
also had a grievance against Cardinal Cajetan, who
tried to lecture him back to obedience. M. Combes
may have had some similar reasons for trying to
beat a hole in the Papal drum, and he has certainly
taken a diabolical revenge on his former co-
religionists. Homais himself, the fearful apothecary
in Flaubert's " Madame Bovary," could not have
waged such a war against true believers had he
been invested with supreme authority over gen-
darmes, policemen, and troops of the line. One
must also vaguely suppose that M. Combes wanted
to show his party how zealous in their cause and
how energetic he could be. M. Loubet, who
induced him to leave his cheres etudes for active
politics and a seat in the Cabinet, must have some-
times regretted having recourse to the "■ petit pere."

The Associations Law, first applied in 1901, was
directed against " non- authorised " Orders which had
not received State sanction. These were declared
to be illegal, but the Comte de Mun and his co-
religionists maintained the contrary. The non-
authorised religious societies were then allowed three
months wherein to apply for authorisation. The
applications were to be accompanied by statements
as regards property possessed, rules, and lists of
members. Some of the Orders, such as the Sulpi-
cians and the Vincentians or Lazarists, complied
with the regulations, but the Jesuits, the Franciscans,
the Oblates, the Assumptionists and several other
communities mistrusted the Government and broke
up or went to England, the United States, Italy,


Spain, Belgium, and Holland. Their houses and
property left behind were promptly seized by the
Government. M. Waldeck- Rousseau, who had framed
the Associations Law, now retired, and was followed
by M. Combes, who applied the law with so much
vigour, that M. Waldeck- Rousseau, as I have shown
in a previous chapter, expostulated with the new
Cabinet shortly before his death. M. Combes began
by refusing any authorisation even to those who
had applied for it, and expulsions were effected all
over France. Friends of the Government, and who
also pretended to be friends of the Catholics, tried
to make the latter believe at this time that the Combes
Cabinet was doing a good thing in expelling the
Orders. There were even Catholics who held that
the expulsions would benefit the secular clergy, who
had long suffered from the competition and the
domination of the Orders, the members whereof are
usually effective and ornamental preachers, more or
less brilliant scholars, and great favourites with the
families of the aristocracy and of the opulent
bourgeoisie. What has happened since the expulsions
shows that the secular clergy and the Catholic
religion itself have little to expect from the men who
hold the power in France.^ It is no wonder there-

^ The situation was best summed up by the resignation of
M. SolHers, juge <X instruction at Tarascon in the South for
thirty-four years. He resigned his office in December, 1906.
M. SolHers wrote to the Minister of Justice stating as follows :
" Having tried and convicted thieves and vagabonds for thirty-
six years, I cannot now convict the most honest and upright
men in the country." Other French judges, magistrates, lawyers,
police officials, and military men had not the same scruples in
carrying out laws which were unnecessary.


fore that the Guardian should express " little respect
for the motives which underlay the Separation Law.''
We have now to see how the French Catholics
and their clergy will extricate themselves from the
serious complications brought about, some say, by
Pope Pius the Tenth, Cardinal Merry del Val, and
Jesuit advisers, and others by the determined hostility
of the French political men, such as M. Clemenceau,
M. Briand, M. Camille Pelletan, M. Ranc, and M.
Combes, only to mention the leaders among those
who seem bent upon the destruction of the Catholic
and all other forms of Christianity in France.
According to the old saying, "it is not safe to
prophesy," but judging from the objurgations of
the most advanced anti-clericals, such as M. Camille
Pelletan, it is certain that it will need a very strong
statesman to carry on war a outrance with the Vatican.
Bismarck was worsted by the German Catholics,
and if the Catholics of France, strongly backed by
Rome, as they are bound to be, only imitate Dr.
Windhorst and his party, even M. Clemenceau may
have eventually to go to Canossa, a place which must
inevitably be mentioned in connection with conflicts
such as that now proceeding in France.

Apart from the Canossa side of the question, there
is that of the possible revanche of French Catholics
who have seen their religion reviled and persecuted
ever since the foundation of the Third Republic.
French anti-clericals may find that by coercion and
harassing, if the word " persecution " be deemed too
strong, they will cause the worms to turn. The more
they try to annoy and to worry them, the more

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Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 19 of 25)