Sunday, 27 February 2011

How the Pope became infallible - Part 2

We now pass on to accounts coming from a critical perspective.

4.  'Quirinus', Letters from Rome on the Council

All the Bishops from South and Central Italy who could be whipped up, or who had previously obtained leave of absence on account of illness or age, were peremptorily recalled for the Solemn Session of July 18.  Of the Cardinals, Hohenlohe was absent.  The rest appeared, including Antonelli, but only three, Patrizzi, Bonaparte and Pambianco, threw a certain spontaneity and energy of voice and manner into their Placet by standing up to deliver it.  Guidi was the one most observed; he sat there with an oppressed and abstracted air, and his scarcely audible Placet escaped with difficulty from his lips.  The two negative voters were Bishops Riccio of Cajazzo and Fitzgerald of Little Rock.  When the Monsignore who was repeating the names and votes had credited one of them with a Placet out of his own head, the Bishop shouted in a stentorian voice, "No; Non placet!".

As all the Bishops of the Opposition but two stayed away, and an abest was the answer to every name of the slightest note that was called, the Holy Ghost had no opportunity for working a miracle of conversion, and all went prosaically and smoothly as the wheels of a watch, without any sensation.  Each of the stipendiaries has discharged his obligation, and the Pope and Monsignori find that the Council has cost large sums, but think the money is well spent and will bring in abundant interest.  The most remarkable case of desertion was that of Bishop Landriot of Rheims.  Not one of the Bishops had been so open-mouthed, or had announced his fallibilist opinions with such copious flow of words to everybody he came across.  He now says, like Talleyrand, that he has only deserted before the rest.  Clerical Rome, so far as I can yet make out, is not in any very exalted state of enthusiasm; that is prevented by the political conjunctures, which give Antonelli and Berardi a good deal to think about....

During the voting and promulgation a storm burst over Rome, and made the Council Hall so dark that the Pope could not read the decree of his infallibility without having a candle brought.  It was read to an accompaniment of thunder and lightning.  Some of the Bishops said that heaven thereby signified its condemnation of Gallicanism, while others thought Pius was receiving a divine attestation, as the new Moses who proclaimed the Law of God, like the old one, amid thunder and lightning....  There were few but monks, nuns and Zouaves, during the session in the very empty-looking church.  When the Pope at last proclaimed himself the infallible and absolute ruler of all the baptized "with the approbation of the holy Council," some bravos shouted, several persons clapped, and the nuns cried in tones of tender rapture, "Papa mio!"  That was the only semblance of a demonstration. If any spark of enthusiasm really glimmered in the souls of the Romans, it was quenched by the downpour of rain....  All the most important members of the diplomatic bodies stayed away, in obedience to the instructions of their governments.  Neither the ambassadors of Austria, France, Prussia or Bavaria were present.  The Belgian and Dutch consuls and an agent of some South American Republic attended.


5.  Nielsen, The History of the Papacy in the XIXth Century

The public meeting on 18th July was, according to the testimony of all, characterized by “a majestic and earnest solemnity”, which made a great impression upon those who were present....  Only a small portion of the episcopate took part in the last vote.  Germany and Austria-Hungary were very thinly represented; the episcopate of France, England, Ireland, and the United States was divided, and even amongst the bishops of Northern Italy the opposition had adherents.  There was also division in the narrowest circle of the Vatican itself....  Not even all the Orientals could be compelled by the Propaganda to appear in the aula on 18th July.  There were then about 917 dioceses in the whole of Roman Catholic Christendom, but only 535 bishops were present at the decisive moment.  These did not in fact represent half of the Roman Catholic Church. Two hundred and thirty-four actual bishops were absent, and the Italian bishops, the cardinals, the officials of the Church, and the apostolic vicars made up about four-fifths of the majority.

The public session was opened as usual with a Mass, with the placing of the Holy Scriptures on the altar in the middle of the Council, and with the Veni Creator Spiritus.  When the hymn had been sung, the secretary of the Council delivered to Pius IX the text of the new dogmatic constitution Pastor Eternus [sic].  The Pope gave the document to Bishop Valenciani of Fabriano and Matelica, who then mounted the ambo and read the whole constitution, consisting of four chapters.  As soon as the reading was ended, Valenciani addressed the following question to the assembled fathers: “Reverend fathers, do you assent to the decrees and canons which are contained in this constitution?”  He then descended from the ambo, and the voting began by roll-call.  During the roll-call the storm broke out with violence to the joy of the ultramontane members, who in the thunder of heaven saw a divine confirmation of the condemnation of Gallicanism and Liberal Catholicism....

Five hundred and thirty-three of those present voted Placet, and only two, the Bishops Riccio of Cajazzo in Naples, and Fitzgerald of Littlerock in the United States, said Non placet.  The “scrutator” who collected the votes was so accustomed to everybody saying Placet, that he repeated Placet also on behalf of the Bishop of Cajazzo, but Riccio with a stentorian voice shouted out his Non placet over the assembly.  Evil tongues asserted, however, that this brand new bishop had only said Non placet in order to give a proof of the freedom of the Council, which Jesuitism might afterwards make use of.  Bishop Fitzgerald is said to have originally intended not to take part in the voting, but when it was pointed out to him that all the bishops present were to vote, he also said Non placet.  Mgr. Pie claims, however, to know that one of the two bishops who voted Non Placet submitted himself to the Pope on the evening of the same day, and confessed his faith in the decisions of the Council, and that the other did so the next morning....

After the voting was over, Pius IX rose to give the decisions of the Council the confirmation of his apostolic authority.  And then he delivered a speech, in which he expressed his hope that those who had voted against the constitution would come to a better understanding....

The interest in the important vote at Rome was not great.  Some houses from early morning, as was customary, were decorated with carpets hung out, but in the evening only the public buildings, the religious houses, and a very few private ones were illuminated.  Only the diplomatic representatives of Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Monaco, and a few South American States showed themselves in the hall; the great powers were conspicuous by their absence.  But the large space was filled with monks and nuns.  The monks clapped their hands and shouted Bravo at the Pope’s words; the nuns were touched and sighed: Papa mio.


6.  Bulgakov, The Vatican Dogma

When on July 13, 1870 the Vatican dogma was put to the vote, 88 members of the Council were against it (non placet) and 62 conditionally so (placet juxta modum); 84 out of the 88 and 41 out of the 62 were diocesan bishops representing such influential Catholic countries as Austria-Hungary, France and Ger­many.  When the dissenting bishops left the Council (of this more will be said later), 535 members remained for the final voting; 533 voted for the resolution and only two against.  By that time only 4 out of 24 German bishops were present, only 44 out of 86 French bishops, only 9 out of 60 from Austria-Hungary, 148 out of 264 from Italy and so on.  Among those who took part in the voting were 22 cardinals without dioceses, 3 Latin patriarchs in partibus, 4 abbots nullius dioceseos, 23 generals of Orders, 13 abbates generales, 88 episcopi in partibus infidelium, 30 of which had no diocese or flock whatever.  Such are the figures....

In spite of a number of protests and attempts at opposition on the part of the minority, the original pro­position, formulated even more strongly than before... was on July 12 put before the Council for deliberation.  On July 13, without any preliminary discussion (which was actually contrary to the Instructions) it was put to the vote at the general meeting.  After this, and also without any further discussion, it was submitted to the public assembly on July 18, accepted by the majority, with only two dis­senting votes, and immediately ratified by the pope....

But what had become of the opposing party?....  After voting against the resolution at the meeting of July 13, the opposition lost heart; it saw the necessity to preserve its unity, but was incapable of defending the common cause.  The dissenting members decided to leave the battlefield, with a parting gesture of respect for the pope.  On July 17, on the eve of the decisive voting; a declaration was sent to him by 56 diocesan bishops.... They reaffirmed their vote against the motion... but at the same time declared that they would not be present at the public meeting so as not to vote against the proposal in the presence of the Holy Father upon a matter which concerned him personally....

The signa­tories thus committed ecclesiastical suicide, and the Vatican dogma was adopted almost unanimously; only the two non placet testify that it was possible in spite of all to vote against the proposal at the last moment.

Contrary to the practice of former councils, the resolution was published by the autocratic decision of the pope in the form of a bull Pater aeternus [sic] on July 18, 1870, merely mentioning sancto approbante concilio.