The Intervention of Mgr. Dupanloup (Part III)
Granted, you again reply; but surely you cannot deny that the Encyclical condemns liberty of conscience and freedom of worship? Here, again, pray explain yourself; for in France, and throughout the world, there are strange ways of understanding these points.
Must it be repeated for the hundredth time? What the Church and the Pope condemn is religious indifference, or indifference in matters of religion. An absurdity, the more absurd because it is impious, which now-a-days is repeated on all sides, in every key, viz: that religion, God, the soul, truth, virtue, the gospel, or the Koran, Buddha, or Jesus Christ, truth and falsehood, good and evil, are all the same; and to justify such aberrations, men have gone so far as to assert that it is man who makes the truth which he believes, and the sanctity of that which he adores.
But to repel this insensate and culpable indifferentism, and the license which consequently flows from it – is this to refuse tolerance to persons, and civil liberty in worship? This never was admitted, and all the theologians declare the contrary.
Never have the Popes condemned those governments who considered it their duty to inscribe this tolerance, this liberty upon the constitutions, according to the necessity of the times. What do I say? The Pope practices it himself at Rome. “Error is the evil, and not the law, which, with a good intention, tolerates error.” This is what I have read in a book lately printed at Rome, under the eyes of the Index, and it is what Pius IX deigned to say to me during the last winter. “The Jews and Protestants,” he said, “are free and quiet with us. The Jews have their synagogue in the Ghetto, and the Protestants in their temple at ‘Porto del Popolo,’ the gate of the people.”
But all of this is traditional with the Popes. Did not Pius VII receive in person the oath of Napoleon on the day of his coronation, and did not this oath contain an engagement to respect, and cause to be respected by others, the freedom of worship? What passed at that time is memorable, and well calculated to enlighten men of sincerity on this head.
The form of the oath at first troubled the virtuous Pontiff. Did it not imply indifferentism, and the negation of the authority of the Church, and the imprescriptible rights of truth? The Pope justly desired to know. Cardinal Gonsalvi requested explanations. Cardinal Fesch replied that the words implied none of the evil principles which the Pope apprehended, but merely a civil tolerance, and a guarantee to individuals. Pius VII declared himself satisfied; Napoleon pronounced the oath before the Pope, and was solemnly crowned. So true it is, that to condemn indifference in matters of religion, is not to condemn the political liberty of worship, and to condemn doctrines is not to brand persons…freedom of worship allowed to dissenters does not imply adhesion to the tolerated forms, nor contradict the Christian dogma, repeat, when the occasion demands it, the celebrated words of Fenelon, addressed to James II: “Grant legal tolerance, not by approving all as indifferent, but by suffering with patience all that God permits, while endeavoring to lead men to the truth by mild persuasion.”
But does this mean that we would impose our faith on you by violence, and compel you to believe? Not the least in the world.
In the first place, I reply that it is impossible. Can force persuade man? Can it make them wish for what they do not want?
“No,” said Fenelon. “No human power can force the impenetrable intrenchments of the freedom of the heart.” (Discourse at the consecration of the Elector of Cologne.)
Such was not the doctrine of our masters in Christianity; of those who had the undying glory of having founded and propagated the faith in the world.
Mohametanism established itself by the sword; Christianity was founded by the power of the Word…
“It is not,” said St. Athanasius, “with the sword, nor by the aid of soldiers and arms, that the truth is preached, but by persuasion and counsel. The characteristic of religion is not to constrain, but to persuade.” (S. Ath. Ad solitaries; Non enim gladiis aut telis, non militum manu veritas predicator, sed suasione et conaillo, religionis proprium est non cogere, sed persuadere.)
Does that mean that the Church, to whom everything is now denied, has not like every society, her rights of defense, her canonical discipline, and her correctional authority? That the Church ought to be, here below, as if she had only angels to deal with? That the Church ought to remain absolutely without strength to defend herself and her children against the attacks of impiety? Would this declare that the spiritual authority should not have the rights even of paternal authority, of which she has the duties, and that she ought to leave the minds and hearts, the faith and morals, of her children to be corrupted with impunity? That she ought not to possess that which the most humble father of a family undoubtedly claims – the right, the duty, and the means to protect the objects of his affection against the enemies of the family and each other, and to prevent them from committing folly, or being misled, or ruining themselves?
Would this same Catholic tradition teach, that if, in the course of ages there had been, or that there are yet, certain regions of the world where the law of the Church has become the civil law, in consequence of the unity of faith, and the agreement of the will among the citizens, where the State has constituted the Bishop protector of the holy canons – does it say that there the Church and the State have acted without right? For this is the meaning of the 77th proposition…
Has not this been the state, for ages, of the great countries of Europe, who have had their days of glory, which we are not sure of equaling? Are the fruits of division so delicious? And is not unity of religion, in a country, a blessing which we may use all legitimate means to preserve?
The social state, where the religious law had penetrated the civil law, was long the normal and general state of Europe; and it still subsists, in a certain degree, in the greatest and freest countries of the world.
But circumstances having changed, and the public law also, do we learn from this that Catholics would fail in their duty to God and the Church by accepting sincerely, and in all simplicity of thought, the constitution of their country, and the civil freedom of worship which it authorizes? Or, if we speak of liberty, when we are weak, is it only to refuse it to others when we shall be strong?
Of all the accusations usually directed against us, this has always appeared to me, I confess, the most insupportable, because it attacks our good faith and our honor…Were we a hundred times the strongest, we should be faithful to our word; we would always maintain our oaths. Besides the engagements which are made, even the possession suffices to make liberty of worship respected.
The principle that “possession suffices” is also important to help us understand the 78th proposition of the Syllabus. Cardinal Newman states that “the men who were forbidden the public exercise of their religion were foreigners, who had no right to be in a country not their own at all, and might fairly have conditions imposed upon them during their stay there…” Furthermore, Cardinal Newman indicates that the context of the Papal Allocution applied to the situation in New Granada. (Cf. Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 1875)
The intervention of Mgr. Dupanloup sheds an important light on Quanta Cura and the Syllabus. In recent times we have numerous examples of those who attempt to “spin” Papal acts in ways that align with or support their own particular ideology. The Papal acts of Pope Pius IX were not immune to similar distortions. In addition to those hundreds of Bishops (including Pope Pius IX himself), we can all be grateful to Mgr. Dupanloup for his courage to set the record straight by tackling the many distortions head on. He has accomplished this by outlining some basic rules for the interpretation of Papal acts. Additionally, he has provided us with an important conceptual framework in the thesis-hypothesis distinction. Finally, he has elucidated the true sense of freedom of worship as it exists in various contexts.
1 I am referring to the traditional Catholic understanding of freedom of conscience that is correlative to duties of conscience. "Conscience has rights because it has duties..." (Cf. Cardinal Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 1875)
2 Taparelli appears to have expressed a similar view as noted by Dr. Rao: “What happens if a society suffers an obvious, severe division of opinion regarding religious truth, as in any modern pluralist society? Every Catholic in such circumstances, the Civiltà argued, should strive to re-Catholicize the society in question with the greatest possible vigor. Nevertheless, the Catholic living under these conditions of disunity could demand from the State only those restrictions on error that were commonly accepted by everyone as being rational and natural.” Dr. Rao also makes the following comment relative to the position taken by Taparelli: “Even if a society had made great advances towards re-Catholicization, the Civiltà urged moderation in re-establishing the fullness of Church-State connections. This can be seen in its comments on concordat negotiations with Tuscany in 1851, after the disturbances of 1848. Ideal concordats put into operation in troubled circumstances could, instead of working effectively, endanger the entire concept of authority." (Cf. Rao, Op. cit.)