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particular election ; viz. the legitimacy and reasonable limits of priestly interference in Irish politics. To this question we now proceed. We will consider in the first place, what light is thrown on it by the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church; and in the second place, how it is affected by acknowledged principles of the British Constitution. Or to express otherwise what is substantially the same distinction—we will consider on one hand how far the Catholic priest may legitimately interfere, as a Catholic priest; and on the other hand how far he may legitimately interfere, as a citizen of the British Empire. The chief part of our discussion will however be occupied, not with the latter, but with the former consideration. And as regards the political duty of Catholic priests, we commence with an introductory remark.
If we look back some fifteen or twenty years, we shall find it (in these islands at least) an admitted article of the liberal creed, that a "hard-and-fast line" can be drawn, between religion on one hand and politics on the other; that churches are exclusively concerned with the former, and states exclusively with the latter; and that this simple consideration solves the whole problem of civil tolerance. Even a section of Catholics were in some degree imbued with this strange idea, whether hidden under the formula of a “free church in a free state,” or in some other shape; though their more orthodox co-religionists loudly proclaimed, that it is opposed to the Church's clearest and most emphatic teaching. Now all this is so simply a thing of the past, that one has difficulty in persuading oneself that one so clearly remembers it to have been in vogue. In the recent German debates, some member of the Legislature declared that "a free church in a free state” is one of the shallowest political phrases ever invented. And certainly, in these islands, there is no Catholic writer to whom we could more satisfactorily refer, as at once contemptuously denouncing and triumphantly refuting this fundamental dogma of old-world liberalism, -than that liberal and bitterly anti-Catholic journal, the “Pall Mall Gazette.” Indeed those questions at the present day which most anxiously and persistently exercise the thought of politicians —those which bear most intimately on the whole future course of social events--are (to speak generally and on the whole) precisely those, which are most indissolubly bound up with religious doctrine: questions concerning education, or (still more widely) concerning the type of character most beneficial to society; questions concerning marriage and its kindred themes ; questions concerning the sacredness of property ; questions concerning the legitimate limits of government interference with personal
action and personal thought; questions concerning the obedience due to civil rulers.
Now on all these questions there is a large number of definite doctrines, which are undeniably proposed by the Church,* or at least follow necessarily and immediately from Catholic dogma; and which are therefore firmly held by ali loyal Catholics. It is of unspeakable moment to the highest interest of a nation, that these doctrines should be as influentially and widely held as possible; and the Church's priesthood is of course that particular order, to whose custody, to whose protecting and cherishing care, God has intrusted them. It is emphatically among the very highest and most indispensable duties of a Catholic priest, so to instruct and organize his flock, that these sacred doctrines may be the more heartily and intelligently embraced by Catholics, and the more effectively impressed by them on the world's acceptance and course of action. Or to express the same thing otherwise, --it will happen again and again in various parts of the world, that Catholic priests would be faithless to a most indispensable duty, if they did not constitute themselves centres of what may invidiously be called vigorous and sustained political action.
In Great Britain indeed Catholics are so politically weak, that this part of a priest's work is to some extent in abeyance : whereas in Ireland, for the opposite reason, if they did not diligently exercise it, they would be traitors to their God, their Faith, and their country. Take e. g. the vital question now so prominent in the mind of Catholics-denominational education. The whole future course of events depends, it is probable, for good or for evil, more on the practical reply which may be given
* The number is not so small of doctrines on these matters, which the Church actually imposes on all her children. We have contended however again and again, that the Church's mind may be abundantly evident to every sincere inquirer, in favour of many truths, which she has not thought fit to make actually obligatory on her children's assent; as was the case e.g. even with Papal infallibility, before the Vatican Council
. Father Newman lays down perspicuously a very broad principle. “In matters of conduct,” he says, “ of ritual, of discipline, of politics, of social life, in the ten thousand questions which the Church has not formally answered, even though she has intimated her judgment, there is a constant rising of the human mind against the authority of the Church and of superiors ; and that, in proportion as each individual is removed from perfection.” (“ Anglican Difficulties," p. 248.) According to F. Newman then, there are “ ten thousand questions” on which the Church has “intimated her judgment,” without imposing it; ecclesiastical "superiors” are rightly employed in pressing such judgment on the acceptance of the faithful ; and these in their turn do not hesitate to accept it, except in proportion as they are “ removed from” spiritual “ perfection.” A most pregnant sentence indeed !
to this question, than on all other practical issues put together. The Church teaches a very definite doctrine on the subject; and the Irish Episcopate has put forth in detail an authoritative exposition of that doctrine, in its bearing on the existing circumstances of their country. Excepting only then his direct labours for the sanctification and salvation of souls, the Irish priest has no more primary duty, than that of co-operating here with his bishops. It is his business to set clearly before his flock the vital importance of giving every Catholic youth an education, which shall be exclusively Catholic; to enforce on them the sacred duty of using their whole political power for the attainment of this end; to inspire them with horror at the very notion of allowing undue influence—such as that of their landlord-to interfere ever so slightly with this paramount obligation.
In fact we see nothing objectionable in principle—though it is difficult to imagine circumstances under which such a course would be ea pedient-if the supreme ecclesiastical authority solemnly pronounced ecclesiastical censures or penalties, on those recreant and disloyal Catholics, who should sacrifice to mere private ends the interests of their God, their Faith, and their country.
But on the other hand it is utterly intolerable, that individual priests on their own authority should attempt anything of this kind; and any bishop would fail signally of his duty, who, on hearing credibly of such an attempt, should not peremptorily put it down.
So much on denominational education; but the same remark applies to all those other questions, on which the Catholic Church has a definite doctrine. Suppose e.g. Ireland were threatened with a divorce bill, such as now afflicts England: a sacerdotal crusade would be of obligation, similar to that which now proceeds for denominational education. The Fenians again (to take quite a different instance) make it their fundamental principle, that peoples have an inalienable right of rising against their rulers, whenever they may choose to do so. This is directly contrary to the Church's teaching; and no priest, whose flock is in danger of imbibing such poison, would truly preach the Gospel, unless he denounced and exposed so antichristian an error.
Now undoubtedly this particular portion of a priest's professional duties—the portion which brings him across the field of politics — has special dangers of its own; and he may possibly make serious mistakes in his way of performing it. But then if this were accounted an excuse for neglecting the duty itself, all morality would be subverted. Moreover it so happens, that the Irish bishops have synodically laid down certain singularly well-balanced and complete rules on the subject, which were brought before Judge Keogh by the Bishop of Clonfert, and which will be found in the Evidence (pp. 575, 6). We cannot do better than here translate them.
But lest contentions, strifes, or other scandals should arise from the imprudence of any priest, we strictly forbid that any parish priest, or other priest, presume to declare any one by name as excommunicate, unless he have first obtained permission in writing from his bishop to make such declaration.
We forbid also that any priest, for any reason whatever, inveigh by name against any one from the altar, or publicly denounce any one.
We recall to the memory of all priests of this country the obligation, whereby they are bound, of explaining on feast days to the faithful people the mysteries of the Faith, the Sacraments, the commandments of God, and other things appertaining to religion. And since there is peril lest these be neglected if different [aliena) and profane matters be treated of in the churches, we strictly forbid that either amidst the solemnities of the Mass (which would plainly be unbecoming) or even in the church at all, things merely secular should be treated of,—such as political elections, or other matters of the same kind—which may easily promote dissensions between pastor and flock, and cause great excitement of spirit. Which command however is not so to be interpreted, as though priests were not to speak concerning the non-reception of bribes, the avoiding of perjury, the rights of the Church, charity and care towards the poor. But if any priest, secular or regular, treat on matters of the former kind,* or if (in contenipt of the Thurles Synod) any one be inveighed against by name in the churches, let such a priest be visited with the punishment of suspension, or some other, at the discretion of his Ordinary. We exhort moreover, that priests do not carry on contentions and strifes with each other on political matters at public meetings, and still less in the public journals ; lest sacerdotal dignity receive some detriment, lest charity be violated which is the Church's strength, and lest priests be mixed up with others in quarrels and contentions. But in enacting this, we consider nevertheless that the good of religion and the liberty of the Church require that, whenever there is question of electing guardians of the poor and members of Parliament,-from whose mode of action the faith and security of the Catholic poor and the Church's rights and liberty can suffer detriment-priests ought to be solicitous that these offices be conferred on worthy men, and on men not inimical to the Catholic religion. Nevertheless we consider that all such matters should be treated of outside the churches, without tumult, without violation of charity, with the due subjection of each priest to his own bishop (lest mutual dissensions should arise among the clergy), and with that moderation which entirely befits the clerical order : every one being permitted to think freely for himself on things doubtful.
* “Hujusmodi rebus.”—The construction here requires a little attention. The clause immediately preceding (which we have printed as a separate sentence) is treated as parenthetical, and this " hujusmodi” refers back to the earlier part of the sentence, in which the same word occurs.
These rules sufficiently set forth the course which a priest should pursue. It is an integral and indispensable part of his pastoral duty, that within his church itself he shall lay down e.g. the Church's doctrine on denominational education; that he shall enforce on his flock their obligation of labouring to carry that doctrine into practical effect, and of resisting whatever adverse worldly solicitations may be brought to bear on them. But when it comes to a practical application of these lessons,—his duty indeed is no less indispensable, but his church is no longer the proper scene for its performance. He should be “solicitous” e.g. that certain persons be elected members of Parliament, who will support denominational education, and otherwise defend the Church's rights. Moreover, in all probability he would fail grievously of his duty, if he did not actively canvass for such persons, and earnestly caution his people against those landlords (mentioning them by name) who are putting forth an undue and corrupt influence, against the Church and against the conscience of Catholics. But all this should be done "outside the churches; without tumult; without the violation of charity; and with that moderation which entirely befits the clerical order."
We have been speaking of what may be called “sacred ” questions; viz. those on which all good and loyal Catholics are necessarily of one mind. But there is another class to be carefully distinguished from these, and which may be called "purely political ” questions : such e.g. as home rule and tenant-right. In calling these "purely political,” we are as far as possible from meaning that they are not intimately bound up one way or other with the people's religious interests; we only mean, that the most devoted Catholics may widely differ from each other as to their true solution. The Bishop of Clonfert, for instance (p. 504, 5), bases his support of tenant-right, and of Captain Nolan in reference to tenant-right, exclusively on religious considerations.
Q. 17,276.... I think that [Captain Nolan] laid down in the Portacarron award an example of restitution, the only adequate reparation for capricious eviction. Capricious eviction, in my mind, for thirty years has been the gravest evil in Ireland; ... and I have considered for thirty years ... that agrarian crime and capricious eviction are synonymous terms, and that while the one is allowed to exist, it would be impossible for religion to resist the effects of the other.
Q. 17,277. As a minister of religion you thought that the great object would be to stem the tide of a capricious eviction, in order that no crime might be committed ? ... In order that it might not furnish an incentive the evicted to crime.
It was precisely then as "a minister of religion,” that the