It is not to the nineteenth General Council that, in this summary, we dare propose to link the history of the twentieth,
which followed it almost exactly three hundred years later. If we are to see the Vatican Council of 1869-70 in relation to
any great formative world movement, it is with the French Revolution that our business lies.
How the great crisis that opened in the year 1789 found the Catholic religion everywhere in chains, in the various European
states, its vitality low indeed after generations of captivity to the Catholic kings, is one of the commonplaces of history.
And the death of the aged Pius VI, in 1799, the actual prisoner of the French Republic, was hailed pretty generally by the
observant as the end of the spiritual empire he had ruled so long. But this funeral of Christianity, as Chesterton once wrote,
was interrupted by the least expected incident of all--the corpse came to life.
The world, as the Revolution and Napoleon left it, would indeed be a new world. But in the new world the Catholic Church,
and its popes, would be readily discernible. In that new world there would begin, on the very morrow of the settlement of
1814-15, a grim struggle between the dispossessed of 1789, now once more in the saddle, and those who had for a quarter of
a century kept them out. The struggle would be political, social, cultural; and religion would sensitively react to every
shift and turn of the contenders. One political feature, common to the new world everywhere, was the presence, now permanent,
of the new idea that "subjects" had a right to a say in the way they were governed--and over a great part of western Europe
the right was recognised. The "subjects" had votes, they were citizens; there were parliaments, elections, parties, public
controversies, a political press; and everywhere politicians, able and less able, endlessly planning, infinitely ambitious,
and passionately idealistic--the first, and romantic, generation to operate an organ of national life still with us, and as
important as ever, if long dulled and mechanical, for us, after the daily use of a century and a half.
At the time of the Vatican Council the men were still alive, and active, who in France and Belgium and Prussia and Austria
and Italy and Spain had seen this new thing come into existence, and in a hundred passionate fights had brought it through
its adolescence to a somewhat blase maturity. The pope's call in 1869 to the bishops of the world to meet in a General Council
interested all these men enormously, for no subject had more passionately possessed, and divided, the statesmen of the new
Europe in the first half century of its existence than the astonishing return to life of the Catholic Church: the real revival
of religious life, of practice and belief, to which no country in Europe was a stranger; and with this, the reappearance of
those age-old claims-that the religion of Christ is a thing sui iuris, independent of all earthly power, not to be controlled
by the state whether royal and absolutist or democratic and republican. Nowhere had the struggle in the post-Waterloo world
been tougher than where the political reorganisation (of one school or another) had clashed with this renascent Catholicism,
in Prussia, in France, in Italy, to say nothing of Latin America where the conflict seemed part of the national life.
We are in a better position to know what exactly happened at the council of 1869-70, and to understand why things then
happened in a particular way, than is the case for any of the General Councils that preceded it. It is an event that belongs
to the age in which we ourselves have grown up--ninety years old though the event be. For if it belongs to the age of parliamentary
democracy, it belongs also to the new age of speedy, safe, and reasonably cheap travelling: the bishops who made their way
to Trent made the journey with all the discomfort and hazards that were the lot of the bishops who attended Nicaea, twelve
hundred years before--and they travelled at about the same speed, fifty or sixty miles a day if they were lucky, and not too
old to stand such a strain. By 1869, however, the great revolutionary invention we call the railroad, barely forty years old,
had already linked all the principal cities and seaports of western Europe; and the Atlantic passage had shrunk to a matter
of days. And not only could bishops, and statesmen, diplomatists and revolutionaries, travel now at many times the speed of
their own fathers, but the news of their doings went even more swiftly. The electric telegraph, as it was called, had been
in operation for twenty years; and to spread the latest tidings (and the rumours) and the desired commentary on all this,
there was the highly organised business of the modern newspaper--the daily press.
Already the power of this over public opinion had been demonstrated when, for example, in 1855, the greatest of all the
journals of the day, The Times (of London) had, in the midst of a war, brought about a change of government by the stories
it published of tragic incompetence in the army medical services. And in this country, on the very eve of the council, the
extensive, detailed, daily reporting of the battles of the Civil War had revealed to the discerning that here was a new force
which rulers--and indeed the great men in all walks of life--must henceforth reckon with. Scarcely had the official announcement
been made that a General Council was to meet, than from every country a host of special correspondents descended on Rome--to
create, by their inevitably incomplete stories, an unexpected problem for the council's "publicity" chiefs, if this wholly
anachronistic term be allowed.
The reigning pope, Pius IX, had, for nearly twenty-five years, been a leading personage in the eyes of the newspapermen.
Whether admired or hated he had always been "news"; for in all that time he had never ceased to denounce the wrongs done the
Church by the revolution, or the Catholic state's habit of ruling as though there were no God. Like all his predecessors for
a thousand years, Pius IX was also a temporal prince, with a territory of some 18,000 square miles that, very strategically,
covered central Italy from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic. To the north of this important state, there were the provinces
of Lombardy and Venezia, annexed in 1815 to Austria, where, naturally, patriots never ceased in their schemes to drive out
the foreign ruler. To the south there was that comic- opera kingdom of Naples whose government had, to the best of its power,
deliberately restored in 1815 all the crazy incompetence of the years before 1789--and all the petty restrictions that brought
home to nineteenth-century man that, in the eyes of his rulers, he was a mere child. Here, too, for fifty years the national
life never ceased to heave with discontent. From both north and south defeated conspirators were forever crossing the borders
of the Papal State, in flight from their oppressors. And in the northern part of that state--with Bologna its chief city--the
papal rule was as well hated as that of the Hapsburgs at Milan, or of the Bourbons at Naples. For all the long reign of Pius
IX, Italy had continued to be the stage upon which the greatest opera of all time was played with all Europe for audience.
Little wonder, then, that the Vatican Council was "news" everywhere.
To the mind of the general reader, mention of the Vatican Council will usually recall two facts: that it was the occasion
of the definition of the doctrine popularly called Papal Infallibility, and that many of the bishops present were opposed
to the definition. The more erudite will add that their opposition was not to the doctrine itself, but to the policy of choosing
this present moment to proclaim it--the definition, they would say, was held not "opportune." These are, indeed, important
considerations for the historian of the council, but they are far from the full tale of what the council accomplished, and
still further from what the Pope had in mind when he called it; nor did the matter of Papal Infallibility figure in the original
programme. How this particular question came to take such a prominent place in the actual proceedings is a matter that is
bound up very closely with the history of the general Catholic revival in the years immediately preceding the council. As
the reader may have already discovered, a good part of the story of any council must necessarily be the story of what caused
it to be summoned, and of the forces that shaped the men who played the leading roles in it. How best to describe this, briefly,
in the case of the Vatican Council, is something of a problem. The leading critics of the "definition policy" were French,
German, and Hungarian--how much can here be told of the Catholic history of these countries in the twenty years between, let
us say, the great revolutionary year 1848 and the calling of the council?
We might begin with a truism: religious revivals are times of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is not a critical thing. This
particular Catholic revival was very consciously, in France, a militant reaction against the classical rationalism of the
eighteenth century, the deism, the naturalism, the atheism; and it found congenial allies among the new romantic writers--
Chateaubriand is one obvious example of this. Romantics also were the two writers who, for the generation after 1815, most
influenced the Catholic mind, Joseph de Maistre and de Lamennais. That mind, when it turned from the practice of religion
to its defence, was all too easily satisfied that with these magnificent rhetoricians the last word had been said. Seminaries
and schools of theology had been swept out of existence after 1789. Nor was the long break in the traditional scholastic formation
repaired by the time the council met. Almost the only thinkers now were the apologists--amateurs as always, whatever their
intentions; the victory over the old adversary seemed an easy business; and (what concerns us very closely) the Catholic was
regarded suspiciously who asked whether these literary superficialities could really suffice, or who shifted uneasily as he
heard these comforting extravagances that no official voice ever rebuked.
"Inopportunism," when it arrived, would be, in great part, a reaction against these extravagances. The prelates who were
inopportunists at Rome had long been fighting at home superficial untrained zealots, who not only attacked the anti-Christian
intellectuals of the nineteenth century with the weapons of the eighteenth, but attacked no less violently their fellow Catholics
who refused to follow where they led; and in the press they controlled they made no secret of their distrust of the very bishops.
The bitterness of the spirit that animated this faction-fighting in France, at the time of the Second Empire, is hard to exaggerate.
Here is one principal cause, it might be argued, of the least pleasing incidents of the great council of 1869-70.
In the country we today know as Germany, and in Austria, the reaction was spared some of the weaknesses of the romantic
literary apologetic. And the theological formation of the clergy--including the bishops--was here more solid. The divisions,
which appeared here too, were divisions rather between the various schools of theology, in the universities of Mainz, Tubingen,
and Munich, for example. But the German Catholics, from 1848 onward, began to organise nationally and in their annual congresses
to work out in open debate their attitude to all the questions of the day--very notably to its social problems. One feature
this revival had in common with that in France--a dislike and suspicion of the Roman Curia's known desire to centralise still
more the general administration of the Church. Particularly in the Austrian Empire was this feeling strong, where the bishops
still reigned over their sees very much as in feudal times, great lords who were, socially, quasi-omnipotent. But although
there was public discussion and controversy between the various groups, these German and Hungarian churches were spared--until
Dollinger emerged as the anti-Roman champion--the bitterness that aggravated the situation in France. Nowhere was there in
the German press such a scandal as the constant reviling of bishops as untrustworthy religious guides.
What Pope Pius IX had in mind in summoning the council is set forth in his bull convoking it (Aeterni Patris, June 29,
1868): to restate the faith in certain matters where it had been attacked or misunderstood; to review the whole matter of
clerical life and its needs; to provide new safeguards for Christian marriage and the Christian education of youth; and to
take up in this new age the ancient problems of the relations of Church and State and provide appropriate guidance, so as
to promote peace and prosperity in the national life everywhere. That the state, everywhere, is labouring under an infinity
of ills, the pope says, is known to all, and the Church is at the mercy of terrible storms. In fact, the malice of God's enemies
continually assails the Church's teaching, and the authority of the Holy See; it has robbed the church of vast properties,
brought about the dissolution of religious orders, exiled and imprisoned bishops, set up systems of education where the name
of God is never even mentioned, allowed the publication and sale of wicked books, and the organisation of societies whose
purpose is to spread these evils still further. This succinctly describes what, in the reign of Pope Pius IX, had taken place
at one time or another in France, and Spain, and in every country of Latin America, and in Italy too--even in what, until
1860, were the pope's own territories. It is the pope's bounden duty to take counsel about these matters in consultation with
the whole body of his brethren, the bishops of the Catholic Church. Whence this summons to the General Council, which will
meet at Rome in the Vatican Basilica (St. Peter's Church) on December 8, 1869.
In the twenty-three years he has reigned Pius IX, as he truthfully recalls, has never failed to protest each time the rights
of religion have been violated. And if a reader would see, formally set forth, the anti-Christian ideas whence these crimes
derived he has only to read the great series of the pope's encyclical letters and his public addresses; or he may find it
all succinctly stated in a kind of aide-memoire which Pius IX had sent to the bishops in 1864, the document known to history
as the Syllabus.
Pius IX had had the idea of a General Council in his mind for many years. He was from the beginning of his reign consciously
dedicated to the general restoration of Catholic life, and the coming council should do for the post-revolutionary world what
Trent had done for the sixteenth century. It was in 1864 that he laid the matter before the cardinals resident in Rome. The
majority favoured the idea (13-8) and a few months later the pope set up a commission to study ways and means. He also consulted
between thirty and forty diocesan bishops in various countries as to the questions the council should consider. Almost all
of these, too, favoured the project.
What all wanted from such a council was the formal condemnation of the various anti-Christian philosophies of the time,
and of the new rationalistic interpretations of Christianity and its sacred books. They asked for a restatement of the Catholic
faith, particularly about the kind of thing the Church of Christ is, and about the rights and prerogatives of the pope; only
ten, out of the fifty or so consulted, referred to the definition of infallibility. Another general demand was for the revision
of the Canon Law--a dense forest that had been growing unsystematically, and unpruned, for hundreds of years. They wanted
a reorganisation of clerical life and of the religious orders; the regulation of all the host of such new "inventions" as
missions, sodalities, "devotions"; and a single official catechism for the use of the whole Church. And they wanted, finally,
a statement about the relations of the Church to the new modern democratic state, something that would show that the Church
was not hostile to all but absolutist regimes.
A body of a hundred experts, theologians and canonists for the most part, was formed to prepare the first drafts of the
laws which the council would discuss; sixty of them were Italian "professionals," the rest called in from elsewhere. The industry
of this host of experts produced 51 drafts of decrees, 23 relating to Catholic belief and 28 to what may be briefly described
as reorganisation of Catholic life. All that the council brought to the stage of sanctioning, out of this vast mass, were
two definitions of belief: that called Dei Filius (a restatement of the fundamental truths of the Christian religion against
the new rationalism) and that called Pastor Aeternus (that the pope is supreme head of the whole Church of Christ and cannot
err when as shepherd and teacher of all Christians he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole
Church). The council, it will be seen, had indeed barely begun its work when, after seven months of laborious discussions,
political events brought it to a halt.
The preparations for the council were interrupted for a time by the political crisis of 1866-67, but on June 29 of this
last year the pope made the first public announcement that the council would be held. One of the men who did most to overcome
his hesitation was the bishop of Orleans, Felix Dupanloup. He was to be a leading figure in the next four years. The first
effect, in France and Germany, of the pope's announcement was to bring to a head all the agitation of the previous twenty
years. For the two years and more that elapsed before the council met, the controversy was, in both countries, continuous
and acrimonious. The leading prelates on both sides of the coming debate, "Is it opportune?", arrived at the council, then,
already well known to each other, and to the rest, as opponents through their remarkable pamphleteering activities; the French
bishop Dupanloup very notably, the Englishman Manning, and--the most competent of all these contestants, the most level-headed--the
Cardinal Archbishop of Mechlin, Victor Dechamps.
Something like a thousand personages had the right to take part in the council, once the pope decided that titular bishops
should be convoked as well as bishops actually ruling a territory. Of these thousand, some 75 per cent actually attended the
council, 744 of them, at one time or another, during the seven months it sat (December 8, 1869 July 18, 1870). Of these
744, 643 were bishops actually ruling a territory, and a bare 43 were bishops either retired from active work or consecrated
as auxiliaries to some diocesan bishop, or because their high position in the Curia Romana carried with it the episcopal dignity.
The balance of the 744 was made up of cardinals resident in Rome and the general superiors of the religious orders.
As many as 200, and even more, of these diocesan bishops were from Italy itself where, alone, the custom of the primitive
church had continued, that each city should have its bishop. Over 120 were English-speaking (from England 12, Ireland 19,
the United States 46). From France came 70, Germany and the Austrian Empire 58, Spain 36, Latin America 30. There were 50
bishops from the various churches of the Oriental rites, and 100 missionary bishops from Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
Exactly how many of these bishops took the view that it was not opportune to define the infallibility of the pope, it is
not easy to say. The highest number ever claimed for the inopportunists was 200. In the last of the meetings called General
Congregations (July 13, 1870) they mustered 88 votes, while another 76 stayed away rather than vote.
The procedure--devised for the council by the Curia--was simple enough. A draft of the proposed definition of belief,
or of the reform (in the case of ecclesiastical discipline), was sent to each of the bishops, and a day fixed for the opening
of the discussion. These discussion-sessions were officially styled General Congregations. Bishops who wished to speak at
them sent in their names beforehand to the presidents of the council, five cardinals appointed by the pope. There was no time
limit fixed for their speeches. When the discussion petered out, any changes they wished to see made in the draft were studied
by one of the four committees of the bishops, elected by the general body for this purpose. Of these four committees (for
matters of the Faith, for disciplinary questions, Religious Orders, the churches of the Eastern Rites) the only one which
actually played any great part in the council was the first named. These committees, which had power to call in the experts
who had prepared the draft, made a technical report on the amendments to the council and prepared the amended draft. This,
together with the amendments and the report on them, were circulated to the bishops in advance of the final discussion at
which a vote was taken. When the council had passed the definition, a day was appointed for what was called a Public Session
of the council. Here it was the pope who presided. The draft as the bishops had finally adopted it was read, and each bishop,
rising in his place, gave his vote, saying placet or non placet. Then the pope read the formula of definition, to which all
the bishops said "Amen." The only time the pope appeared at the council was at these Public Sessions, of which there were
four in all: December 8, 1869, the formal opening of the council; January 6, 1870, when the bishops one by one made their
formal public profession of faith; April 24, for the definition of the decree against rationalism; and July 18, for the definition
of the papal primacy and the infallibility. Of General Congregations, amendments and speeches there was, as will be seen,
almost no end.
The first business of the bishops after the opening solemnities was to elect the four revising committees mentioned (they
were officially known as deputations) . There was a fifth committee, named by the pope, whose business it was to decide whether
new matter proposed by a particular bishop or a group--subjects additional, that is to say, to what the drafts prepared by
the theologians contained--should come before the council. This fifth committee was known as the deputation Pro Postulatis
(For Requests), and it was a great series of petitions by bishops to this deputation that brought the infallibility question
before the council. It has often been said that too little initiative was left to the bishops in 1869-70, but there was sufficient
for them to make the council what had never been intended originally, viz., the council of the Infallibility of the Pope.
To the great annoyance of many of the bishops, these preliminary elections took up the best part of a month. It was only
on December 28 that the council really got to work, when the debates opened on the draft of the statement of Catholic belief
which ultimately emerged as the Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Filius. Each bishop had had three weeks to study his copy of this
draft. The general feeling was that the theologians had made a bad job of it. It was, the bishops thought, "too long and elaborate,
too abstract and obscure, and it did not meet the needs of the time." The bishops spoke their minds about this very bluntly,
the Archbishop of Vienna leading, in the first speech the council heard. There was nothing to be done with the draft, said
Archbishop Connolly, of Halifax, but "to bury it with honour." For six days--four hours a day--the bishops, thirty- five of
them in all, had their say and on January 10, "mangled and pulled to pieces ... bleeding in every limb," the unfortunate
draft was sent back to the deputation For the Faith to be redesigned.
The deputation, despite the objections of the Jesuit theologian Franzelin who was principally responsible for the draft,
decided it must be drastically remodelled. It gave the task to one of its own members, Conrad Martin, bishop of Paderborn,
a very distinguished theologian and a man with an organising mind. With the help of another Jesuit, the great Kleutgen, and
a Frenchman Charles Gay, he accomplished the task in something like seven weeks. The deputation then spent eight sessions
debating the text, amending it in various ways, chiefly in matters of language, and on March 14 sent it to the bishops.
The general debate opened four days later. It did not end until April 19-- seventeen General Congregations, in which 107
bishops made speeches, many proposing still further amendments, 281 in all. On April 12 a "trial voting" on the text as
a whole showed 510 pro, and none contra; but another 85 voted pro with reservations, i.e., these bishops still had 148 amendments
to urge. These they had to put in writing, with their reasons. The deputation took a week to consider them, recommended the
adoption of two (to which the bishops unanimously agreed) and reported the rest as merely stylistic or as reopening points
already discussed. On April 24, Low Sunday, at the third Public Session, the final voting took place, the pope presiding,
and the 667 present unanimously approved.
The ten pages of text of this constitution are so closely knit as to defy summary. To give the reader a general idea of
the subject matter it seems better to print the canons attached--these are statements condemning, point by point, all Catholics
who say otherwise than the council, about the doctrines it has just defined. In place of the conventional formula, "If anyone
says," or "If anyone denies," it makes easier reading to write "It is an error to say," or "It is an error to deny," and this
has been changed accordingly. Given the importance of the matter, and the occasion, the word "error" is, of course, charged
with the maximum of seriousness, and each canon ends with a malediction on the offender. There are eighteen canons in all.
The grouping and the headings follow those of the constitution, and are the work of the council.
I. GOD THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS
It is an error to deny that there is one true God, Creator and Lord of all things
visible and invisible.
It is an error to say that nothing exists that is not matter; or that the substance and essence of God is one and the same
with the substance and essence of all things; or that finite things, both corporal and spiritual, have emanated from the divine
substance; or that the divine essence, by the manifestation and evolution of itself, becomes all things; or that, lastly,
God is universal or indefinite being, which by determining itself constitutes the universe of things, distinct according to
genera, species, and individuals.
It is an error to deny that the world and all things contained in it, both spiritual and material, have been, in their
whole substance, produced by God out of nothing; or to say that God created, not by His will free from all necessity, but
by a necessity like to that by which He loves Himself.
It is an error to deny that the world was made for the glory of God.
It is an error to say that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human
reason through created things; or to say that it is not possible that man can be taught by divine revelation, nor suitable,
about God and the worship to be paid to Him.
It is an error to say that man cannot be raised by divine power to a knowledge and perfection higher than the natural,
but that he can, and ought, by a continuous progress, to arrive at length, of himself, at the possession of all that is true
It is an error to deny that the books of Holy Scripture, entire, with all their parts, as the holy Council of Trent has
listed them, are sacred and canonical; or that they were inspired by God.
It is an error to say that the human reason is so independent that faith cannot be enjoined it by God; or that divine faith
is indistinguishable from the natural knowledge of God and of moral truths, and that, therefore, it is not a requisite of
divine faith that the truth revealed is believed on account of the authority of God who is revealing it.
It is an error to say that divine revelation cannot be made credible by outward signs, and that men therefore must be moved
to faith solely by the internal experience of each, or by a private inspiration.
It is an error to say that miracles are not possible and that, therefore, all accounts concerning them, even those contained
in Holy Scripture, are to be dismissed as fables or myths.
It is an error to say that miracles can never be known with certainty, or that the divine origin of the Christian religion
cannot be truly proved by miracles.
It is an error to say that the assent of Christian faith is not a free act, but is produced inevitably by the arguments
of human reason; or to say that the grace of God is only needed for living faith, the faith which works by charity.
It is an error to say that the condition of the believers is on a par with the condition of those who have not yet attained
to the one only true faith, so that Catholics can have a just cause for doubting, with suspended assent, the faith which they
have already received under the magisterium of the Church, until they shall have obtained a scientific demonstration of the
credibility and truth of the faith.
IV. FAITH AND REASON
It is an error to say that in divine revelation there are no mysteries, truly and properly so called, but that all the
doctrines of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles, by properly cultivated reason.
It is an error to say that human sciences are to be so freely treated, that their assertions, even if opposed to revealed
doctrine, may be held as true, and cannot be condemned by the Church.
It is an error to say that it is possible that sometimes, according to the progress of science, a sense is to be given
to dogmas propounded by the Church different from that which the Church has understood and understands.
The story of this first definition has been told at disproportionate length in order to show how the Vatican Council actually
functioned, as well as how thoroughly the bishops did their work. Nor had they been idle while the deputation De Fide was
busy remodelling the draft of Dei Filius at their behest. Only four days after they had sent back that draft, the bishops
received the first drafts of the proposed reforms in ecclesiastical discipline, January 14. These were to occupy them for
the next six weeks, and to provoke criticisms still more outspoken, and some of the best constructive speaking the council
The subject matter of these two first drafts was bishops, synods, and vicars-general; also the vacancies in episcopal sees.
The first speaker was the Cardinal Archbishop of Prague, who complained that the reforms should have begun with the Roman
Curia which, it was common knowledge, many bishops thought should be reorganised. A French cardinal and the primate of
Hungary supported this. The great speech was that of the Archbishop of Paris who took the opportunity to criticise
the whole scheme of procedure drawn up for the council. Why was not a complete agenda sent to the bishops of what it was proposed
to enact, not in the form of rhetorical exercises, but set out with businesslike brevity? The drafts now before the bishops
were filled with trivialities, fit only for professional canonists to discuss. The council's business was with more fundamental
things. Those who had drafted these schemata were utterly out of touch with realities. Melchers, of Cologne, complained of
the tendency to overcentralisation, and bishops being given faculties, not for life, but for five years only at a time. In
something of the same spirit one of the Orientals--the patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans--also spoke, begging that the
Easterns should not be subject to a regime suitable only for the West, and that the composition of a code of law for the East
be left to the eastern bishops. This was a protest against changes recently made by the Congregation of Propaganda. And the
patriarch spoke of the oath he had sworn at his consecration to preserve and transmit intact the privileges of his see. Ketteler,
of Mainz, spoke in this debate and also Dupanloup, at whose appearance hundreds of bishops left their seats and crowded round
the pulpit, anxious not to lose a word, Manning (his chief adversary) in the first ranks of them.
Other bishops raised the question of changes in the Breviary, the official prayer book for clergy and religious. Finally
there appeared a fourth draft which renewed all the liveliness of the discussion at a moment when, after "five weeks of interminable
oratory," the mass of the bishops were beginning to tire. The subject of this was the Catechism, a proposal to have a
single catechism--Bellarmine's--for the whole Church. In the six meetings when this was debated, forty-one bishops spoke.
The Germans especially were hostile. It was impossible to put anything in the place of the catechism of Canisius, used all
over Germany since the time of its author. And a Hungarian archbishop, Haynald, spoke of the right of every bishop to settle
the question for his own diocese. "If a catechism is dictated to us, our sermons will next be dictated," he boldly said.
To the end, this opposition to surrendering the work of Canisius was maintained, reinforced by objections to the proposed
new catechism being drawn up by Roman theologians and imposed without a vote of the council. Whence, in the "trial voting"
(May 4), while there were 491 votes pro, another hundred bishops voted either contra, or pro with a reservation. But none
of these four disciplinary drafts, discussed, amended and then discussed anew, ever became law. The infallibility question
had now been placed before the bishops, and for the rest of the council this absorbed all their time.
Before entering on the exciting events of the next nine weeks, something needs to be said about the "Minority" bishops.
Not altogether accurately they are often spoken of much as we speak of the opposition in a modern democratic parliament. This
image was continually in Butler's mind as he described the proceedings of 1869-70, and we sometimes find Ullathorne, also,
thinking of the council in terms of the English House of Commons. The Minority, made up of bishops from many countries,
was never of course anything like the closely organised, disciplined political parties of the democratic state. In the first
place, no one of these bishops was in any way bound to another, or subject to any discipline beyond his own sense of what
was right, as was true of all the seven hundred or more bishops who attended. For as a bishop, each bishop in the Church is
equal to any other bishop. The only superior any diocesan bishop has is the pope.
Again, the bishops who opposed the definition were not all moved by the same kind of reasons. Bishops from Great Britain
and from the United States, for example, argued that the definition would not be understood by the vast Protestant population
amidst which the Church was painfully making its way; it would create yet another stumbling block in the way of the Protestant
attracted towards the Church and still influenced by the mental habits of his upbringing. In France the difficulty alleged
had to do with Catholics. So loudly and so generally had the party that favoured infallibility cried out their extravagant,
untheological, untrained ideas of the nature of the pope's prerogative, that--so the Minority feared--it was just not possible
that, for generations, the true meaning of the definition would be understood. The definition, for years and years to come,
would be read in the light of the prevailing popular Catholic misconceptions--such misconceptions, all of recent growth,
as that infallibility was tantamount to a divine inspiration, that the pope had but to express a wish or the hint of a wish
and it was the Catholic's bounden duty to think as he thought, to act as the pope would (presumably) want the Catholic to
act, in every walk of life. If the rationalists rejoiced, as the greater part of the Catholic press poured out this flood
of affectionate adulation--protestations of loyalty to the pope seen as besieged for twenty years by all the powers of hell--rejoiced
at the chance it offered to proclaim that the Catholic thought his pope a God on earth, who shall be surprised? No matter
in what terms the definition be couched, said an English bishop, William Clifford, it will be said that we have made the pope
a despot. Another aberration of leading Catholic publicists-- clerical no less than lay--disturbed many of the bishops:
namely, the idea that the council would be wasting its time examining and debating the pros and cons of the infallibility.
Did the Holy Ghost need time to think? they said explicitly. The doctrine should be defined by acclamation. There was something
lacking in the faith of bishops who wanted the question studied and discussed.
This last extraordinary idea had been given the greatest possible prestige when, just ten months before the council met,
a Roman review, the Civilta Cattolica, popularly identified with what was current thought in the highest circles, stated in
an article headed "Correspondence from France" (February 1, 1869), that the bulk of the Catholics of France were hoping that
"a unanimous outburst of the Holy Spirit would define [the pope's infallibility] by acclamation by the mouth of the Fathers
[i.e., the bishops attending the council]." This, to men already alarmed by what lesser lights had been allowed to publish
unreproved, sounded like the beginning of official encouragement for this dangerous nonsense.
In German-speaking countries there had been nothing like these excesses. Here the reluctance of the bishops was bound up
partly with the idea that the doctrine, although true, was not "definable." It was also thought that the definition would
make for papal interference with the freedom of theological teaching, along the lines of Rome's recent reproof of the congress
of Catholic savants at Munich. And there was a kind of fear that the new prestige which would come to the papacy from
the definition would inevitably strengthen its hand in the unmistakable move towards a closer Roman control of the general
life of the Church. Also there were, in Germany, a very small number of really great scholars who definitely held that the
pope was not infallible, and who grew more and more antipapal with each year that passed. Of all parts of the Church, it was
Germany that was distinguished by an ecclesiastical scholarship equal to the best scholarship of the day. The article in the
Civilta Cattolica provoked from Dollinger (or gave him the excuse to write) the famous letters of Janus, "the gravest
and severest attack ... on the policy of Rome for a thousand years," said Ullathorne. Immediately Germany was all ablaze.
A Catholic gathering at Coblenz asked their bishop, in effect, for reassurance that no new spiritual despotism was in preparation.
The Catholics of Berlin followed suit, and fourteen German bishops sent a joint, private letter to the pope saying that, in
view of the rising excitement in Germany, they thought any definition of infallibility would be inopportune.
The Minority bishops felt, often enough, that to the bishops of lands like Italy and Spain their anxieties were simply
not intelligible, for these were "men who had never come into conflict with the unbelieving mind, or into contact with the
intellectual mind of the time." "When I read the school of theology in which they were trained," said this Irish bishop,
"I am not surprised that they treat every doubter as a heretic."
A last word, before we return to the council's proceedings--the bishops debated amid a storm of excitement that held all
western Europe. The chief forces in the public life of Europe were hostile, not merely to the idea of infallibility, in so
far as they understood this, but to the whole vast effort of Pius IX to rebuild the Church around a stronger central headquarters.
More than one government was "willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike." Tentative gestures were in fact made by Austria
and Bavaria and France. In London even, Gladstone brought the question before his cabinet. And some of these governments were
encouraged, nay urged, so to act, by Catholic subjects so hostile to the prospective definition that they would gladly have
seen it prevented by governmental threats to the pope. So Dollinger worked at Munich, and Acton upon London, and one or two
of the French bishops at Paris.
These manoeuvres, known in great part at the time--for Rome, inevitably, was the great whispering gallery of Europe in
the winter of 1869-70-- reflected unfavourably, in the eyes of many Catholics, upon the whole company of the Minority bishops,
and most unfairly. When Wilfrid Ward, forty years after the council, came to write his great life of Newman, he felt it still
necessary to spend time explaining that, until the council had defined the doctrine, it was not a defined doctrine, and that
a Minority sympathiser was not, ipso facto, a less good Catholic than a man of the Majority. And twenty years later still,
Abbot Cuthbert Butler considered it not time wasted to deal at length with the same point. So long lasting, both these writers
felt, were the effects of the slanderous campaign waged against their Minority opponents by those extremists whom Ullathorne,
at the time, made no difficulty of calling plainly, "fanatics." "I think myself," he wrote, "that the opposition is in
the order of Providence, both to ensure searching investigation, and a proper balance of expression in the decrees."
This was very far from the view taken by the quasi-official "Tablet", of London, and its special weekly supplement, "The
Vatican", the writers of which laid about them unsparingly, all too little concerned with the origin of the stories they published
or the theological accuracy of their criticisms. The American Bishop of Rochester, McQuaid, writing of the like extravagances
of the "Freeman's Journal", of New York, could say, "He draws all his facts or supposed facts from the London "Tablet" and
"Vatican". Many of these facts amuse us at the power of invention, if not of malice, they display."
It must not, however, be thought that these ultras were the only ones to write rashly. Moriarty wrote to Newman: "On the
other hand, if the Pope's cause has been damaged by the intemperate advocacy of the Civilta, Univers [Paris], and Tablet [London],
we have been damaged also by some of the pamphlets on our side.... They furnish our adversaries with arguments for the necessity
of an immediate definition." Also, it needs to be pointed out that, too often, Minority bishops wrote as though the views
of the extremists were shared by the Majority of the council.
What the council's problem really was is put very simply by Ullathorne: "... at a distance nothing could seem easier to
a theologian than to word it [i.e., the statement defining the pope's infallibility]; but with the rapidly accumulating knowledge
that spring up in the conflict of minds and the very varied local bearings of the question with respect to different regions,
the same theologian, were he here, would find his cleverness considerably tamed."
As to the doctrine itself--that the pope is divinely preserved from error when he makes a declaration, addressed to the
whole Church, as to what is the belief of the Church--no less authoritative a theologian than Canon Aubert can speak of it
as "in the background for centuries" at the time when Pius IX began his reign. What the position was a century earlier,
no less an authority than the then reigning pope can inform us, Benedict XIV, who is rightly considered as one of the glories
of Catholic theological scholarship. Writing on July 13, 1748, to the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, he says that the doctrine
is held by the whole Church with the exception of France. And as to the France of those days, a Benedictine writing in
1724 of the French attachment to the view that "infallibility in dogmatic judgments has been given only to the body of
the bishops," gives the warning that at least one half of the bishops, university dignitaries, and clergy of France of
all ranks held the doctrine of papal infallibility. By the time the Vatican Council was summoned, it seems safe to say that
quasi the whole body of the French bishops accepted the doctrine, and their people with them. The so-called Gallican theology
on the matter--as in the phrase just quoted--had by now all but withered away.
It was in the second month of the council, January 1870, that the "infallibilist" bishops began to move, various groups
sending in petitions to the pope that the question be added to the agenda. In all, nearly five hundred bishops signed one
or another of these petitions. There were five petitions in the contrary sense, signed by 136 more. The pope sent the petitions
to the deputation For Requests, and after some debate the deputation, by a vote of 25 to 1, advised the pope on February 9
to add a statement about the infallibility to the draft On the Church already given out to the bishops on January 21.
On March 1 Pius IX accepted their advice, and five days later the new addition was in the hands of the bishops. It was not
a satisfactory text at all. Drawn up months before the council met, in case some such draft would be needed, it was inevitably
not suited, from its extreme tone and indefinite terminology, to the hour in which it now appeared. And almost simultaneously
rumours began to spread among the bishops that the extremists were working for a decision "by acclamation," and without any
debate. Four bishops, thereupon, sent in a protest to the presidents, saying that if this were to be allowed they would
immediately leave the council "and make public the reason of our departure." To whom the presidents replied that the "acclamation"
scheme none but madmen (insensati) would even think of, while the text now sent out was but a draft for the bishops to shape
as they chose. But it is a fact that some of the madmen had actually sent in petitions to this effect.
There was, it may be imagined, less and less of "the coolness of the unconcerned spectator" among the Minority bishops
at this unhappy coincidence, and from this moment many of them hardened considerably. They also began to organise in earnest--a
few of them outside the council as well as within.
The leaders of the extreme right, heartened by their success in bringing the great question before the council, now made
a second move. They asked that the question be taken out of its proper place in the draft--according to which it would scarcely
be discussed for another twelve months and more- -and laid before the council immediately, i.e., as soon as the constitution
Dei Filius (at present in the hands of the revisers) had been dealt with finally. Some two hundred bishops signed the petition
prepared to this effect. But there were many counter-petitions, and not from the Minority only. There were "infallibilist"
bishops who thought that common prudence forbade such an appearance of forcing the pace, and others who were shocked at the
patent violation of the logical order of the important draft On the Church. Among the Italians who protested was the cardinal
who was to be the next pope, Leo XIII. Another to object was the greatest of all the French champions of the definition policy,
Louis Edouard Pie, bishop of Poitiers. The five cardinal presidents also objected to this change.
But the small inner group who were the heart of the extreme party--led by Manning and the bishop of Regensburg (Senestrey)--did
not give up. They took their petition to the very presence of the pope (April 19) and, mistakenly, thought they had won him
over. But the opposition of so many of the officials was impressive, and it was not until April 29 that Pius IX consented.
A greatly amended text was prepared, the draft of a separate, short Dogmatic Constitution that would deal only with the pope's
primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church and with the prerogative of infallibility. This new text suffered from none
of the blemishes of the old. There was much greater care in the terms used, the drafting of what was proposed to be defined
was more precise--ruling out, inevitably, the chances that extremists would be able easily to claim it as sanctioning their
own loose statements. Let one example illustrate this, where the words in italics show the changes now introduced. The pope
is declared to be infallible when he declares to the Church: 'Whatever in matters of faith and morals is by the whole Church
to be held "as part of the faith (tamquam de fide)" or rejected as "contrary to the faith (tamquam fidei contrarium)".'
The Minority--seventy-one of them--sent in a petition against this plan to discuss a doctrine about papal prerogatives
before determining the doctrine about the Church generally. But the next day, May 9, the new text was delivered to the bishops,
and on May 13 the great debate began--the debate in which the greatest speeches of the council were made.
The debate was in three "acts," so to speak: (I) the discussion of the draft as a whole, May 13-June 3, 15 meetings of
four hours each in these three weeks, with 65 speakers in all, 39 pro and 26 of the Minority; (II) the detailed discussion
of the text dealing with the primacy of the pope, June 6-13, 5 meetings, 32 speakers; (III) the detailed discussion of the
text of the infallibility proposal, June 15-July 4, 11 meetings, 57 speakers, 35 pro, 22 of the Minority. The bishops were
fortified for the work before them by a folio of 104 pages that contained the amendments proposed by various of them to the
original draft of the primacy section of the Constitution, and a second folio of 242 pages with the like amendments to the
section on the infallibility. With the amendments were printed the comments of the theological experts.
The proceedings began with a masterly recommendation of the text as amended, delivered by Pie, bishop of Poitiers, on behalf
of the deputation On the Faith. Very speedily the debate developed into a battle over the previous question, Was it opportune
to define the prerogative of infallibility? Feeling ran high from the outset, and after ten days of it the bishop of Nancy,
Foulon, could write, in a private letter, "Some speakers give one the impression they speak with their fists clenched, or
with their finger on the trigger of a revolver."
It would be unprofitable as well as tedious to name the sixty-five speakers, and quite impossible to give anything like
a resume of their arguments. Not all were masters of the art of oratory, nor all gifted with original ideas. With the
bores, as the days went by, the bishops began to grow impatient; and the presidents with the irrelevancies. Of the great speakers,
Cardinal Cullen of Dublin, Manning of Westminster, and Dechamps of Mechlin, seem to have most impressed the bishops, among
the "infallibilist" orators; and Hefele from the ranks of the Minority, made "probably the most impressive adverse speech."
But the great historian, who cited Chalcedon[!] in proof[!] that the pope was never held to be infallible, found himself corrected
in detail by the next speaker, the Archbishop of Saragossa. And Manning's extraordinary slip--that the infallibility was already
an article of the Catholic faith--was immediately picked up by the learned bishop of Galway, McEvilly. A third Irishman
to distinguish himself was the Archbishop of Cashel, Leahy, Newman's erstwhile colleague in the Catholic University, while
Clifford, of Clifton in England, roused strong grunts of disapproval by his blunt description of the likely effect of the
definition on the non-Catholic world. One American bishop also drew blood when, pleading against the definition, he spoke
of the battles of the churches placed among aggressively hostile and prejudiced Protestants, and the present good hope of
making converts, which the definition, he feared, would destroy. In another forty years, said this bishop of Pittsburgh, there
will be more Catholics in North America than in Italy, "and they will be not mere nominal, but real practicing Catholics."
For this he was called to order, and bidden speak more carefully about the faithful of Italy. With Verot, the French bishop
of Savannah, it was his sense of humour that got out of control. He alternately annoyed and amused his audience, and was told,
"If you have nothing more to say except jokes, there is no use your occupying the pulpit any longer"; at which, "Many Fathers:
Such human incidents must, however, have been something of a relief as, with the rapid onset of the torrid Roman summer,
these hundreds of elderly and aged men endured day after day speeches that rarely did more than repeat the centuries-old arguments,
or correct the ancient errors still repeated. "Many bishops are getting leave to go home, unable to stand the heat, or pressed
by affairs," Ullathorne wrote on May 17. Others, in the end, took advantage of a new regulation and, to the number of 150,
besought the cardinal-presidents to use their powers and bring the debate to an end. There were still another forty bishops
who had put down their names as intending to speak, besides the sixty-five who had spoken, when on June 3 the presidents put
it to the council whether they wished to hear any more, and by a huge majority the council voted that it had had enough, and
the presidents formally ended this preliminary discussion. "These words were received with general applause," says the official
record, "but there were not wanting those who showed their displeasure...." And the Minority sent in a formal protest, signed
by eighty prelates, among them three cardinals.
Act II of the debate was the detailed consideration of a proposed definition on the subject of the Papal Primacy over the
whole Church of Christ, i.e., that the pope is, by divine arrangement, the supreme ruler of the Church, with full authority
over every part of it. This doctrine, no less vital than that about the prerogative called infallibility, had never entered
into the controversies which in recent years had occupied the energies of so many Catholics; and while, as the debates in
the council had revealed, there were actually some bishops, Hefele for one, who doubted that the pope was infallible, not
a single bishop questioned the doctrine of the primacy, whether in principle or in its practical implications. There was here
no question of the Minority, any more than there had been a Minority movement re the definition Dei Filius. And with good
reason--the primacy had been defined doctrine for over four hundred years, ever since the General Council of Florence, 1439-49;
and it had been the general belief of the Church and the constantly asserted teaching in act of the popes, as far back as
The discussion, in the next five General Congregations, turned on the words now to be used to express the matter defined;
and the critics of the draft were moved by the fear that the phrases used might lend themselves to misconstruction. They also
regarded it as a serious blemish that this section on the pope's over-all authority had not a word to say about the complementary
Catholic belief that the diocesan bishop's authority is also divine in its origin, that the bishop is not a mere vicar or
delegate of the pope. Some of the 140 bishops who had sent in reasoned amendments to the deputation On the Faith also feared,
it must be said, that this seemingly one-sided statement was part and parcel of the Curia's desire to develop still further
the administrative centralisation of the universal church. A much more likely cause of their fears, it would seem, was
the suddenness of the resolve to change the order of the topics, and the consequent proposal of this question outside its
natural setting in the general order of the theology regarding the Church. The council had been in session now for six months,
and no member of the Curia could have had any doubt as to what the bishops would do with drafts that did not please them.
The most important speech made in these five congregations of June 6-13 was perhaps that of Cardinal Rauscher, who improved
the text of the definition by introducing phrases already used by Innocent III in the General Council of 1215. Cardinal Dechamps,
injudiciously, surely, and uncharacteristically, proposed a censure, in the very decree, of a new work by a bishop present
at the council, Maret, dean of the faculty of Theology at the Sorbonne, the leading theologian of the Minority on the infallibility
question. This move fell flat, before the silence of the startled bishops, and the hostility of the presidents. The bishop
of Nice also attracted the personal attention of these officers by explicitly denying that the pope's power in sees other
than Rome was "episcopal, ordinary or immediate." The spokesman of the presidents interrupted to say this doctrine was inadmissible.
A Hungarian archbishop, Louis Haynald, also proposed that these same words be left out--seemingly as not a suitable description
of the supreme authority. The Melchite Patriarch of Antioch pleaded that, in order not to create new obstacles to the reconciliation
of the Orthodox Churches, the decree of Florence should be repeated but nothing more, with no new anathemas, and that something
should be added explicitly safeguarding the rights of the patriarchates.
The last--thirty-third--speaker was the newly consecrated bishop of Angers, Freppel, fresh from his chair of Theology at
the Sorbonne, and about to begin his great career in the hierarchy of France. He did the debate the service of showing that
there could be no clearer term to safeguard the rights of the bishops than these traditional words, "ordinary," which goes
back to the Council of 1215, and "immediate," which has the authority of St. Thomas behind it; terms with a history, then,
in the technical commentaries of six hundred years. He derided, in a learned way, "the fantastic despotism or absolutism,
that we have been hearing about." Absolutism was the classic law of the ancient Roman Empire, yes. "But who has ever said
that the Roman Pontiff may govern the Church according to his own sweet will, by arbitrary power, by fancy--that is, without
the laws and the canons? ... Is power arbitrary because it is supreme? ... Let us make an end of this confusion of ideas."
So the debate ended, in its own time, and to the bishops of the deputation On the Faith the seventy-two amendments
proposed went for consideration. They reported to the council on July 5-- the report being made by the bishop in whose
diocese the future St. Pius X was a newly appointed parish priest. The deputation proposed to reject all but four of the amendments,
and the bishops, sometimes by unanimous vote, and always by huge majorities, supported their judgment.
Meanwhile, July 4, in the debate on the infallibility--i.e., on the proposed text--the fifty-seventh speaker had just come
down from the pulpit, and the other sixty-three who had proposed to speak had, to the general relief, nobly foregone their
rights to immortal fame in Mansi.
Act III--the debate on the text of the infallibility decree--is what most people have in mind when they speak of the Vatican
Council. It began on June 15 and occupied eleven meetings of the council, 120 of whose members proposed themselves as speakers.
Actually no more than 57 were heard, and as, by the time the debate began, all the generalities of the subject had been exhausted,
the bishops were treated to a vast deal of rambling exhortation and its repetition. The presidents, in this last section of
the council, were daily calling speakers back to the matter in hand, the suitability of the proposed text. But nonetheless
the text was thoroughly discussed, and it was amended out of recognition.
The general sense of the directing mind of the council was to produce a text of the strictest theological accuracy, that
no particular party would be able to cite as a warranty for the condemnation of other parties, the subject of the definition
being, as Cardinal Dechamps had already said, not the controversial ideas of the moment but the traditional belief of the
Church, the belief set out by such classic teachers as Bellarmine and St. Thomas. A powerful influence in all this was the
Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Guidi, a Dominican who spoke on June 18. He proposed to make the title of the decree more
exact--not to use in such a document the loose phrase "the pope's infallibility," which might be taken to mean a permanent
quality in the pope. The divine assistance which preserves the pope as universal teacher from error is a transient divine
act, he pointed out, making the pope's act infallible but not his person. It is the definition that is infallible and not
the person. Therefore, let the title be "The infallibility of the pope's dogmatic pronouncements." To those more at home with
pulpit oratory than such cool theological analysis, this was far from pleasing, and the cardinal was violently interrupted.
Despite this opposition--and the resentment of Pius IX, that a cardinal from the Papal State should have opposed him--the
title of the decree was changed in Guidi's sense, and so voted, and so promulgated, by the pope.
There were two other remarkable speeches, each time from a member of the deputation De Fide that was responsible for proposing
the definition, each speaker desiring to amend it still more seriously. The first of these was Cullen of Dublin, who proposed
an entirely new form of words for the definition itself. It is the form as it actually stands. The other speaker was a
German, Martin, bishop of Paderborn, who proposed that the whole section on infallibility (and not merely the definition itself)
be rewritten, and a long historical passage be written into it to make clearer still what the definition did not do, e.g.,
confer new powers on the pope, extend papal power in a way never before heard of, do away with the traditional safeguards.
By this first week of July the heat was such that the official records speak of it. The practical men on both sides began
to meet behind the scenes--Manning and Haynald are especially named--and a joint effort was made to induce the remaining sixty-three
speakers to desist. It was successful, and on July 4, after the speech of the bishop of Oran, the presidents announced that
as no one else wanted to speak, the debate was closed--this, says the record, "amid general shouts of joy, and applause."
Before the deputation De Fide, however, there still remained many laborious hours, studying the ninety-six amendments proposed
by the speakers, and another forty-eight sent in in writing. With the aid of their theologians they had sorted it out, and
were ready with their recommendations to the council, by July 11. They then proposed, following Guidi, to change the title
and, following Martin, to put in the historical section. They accepted the new--Cullen--wording of the definition, and so
were able to refuse the hundred proposed amendments of the old formula. The explanation and justification of all this was
left to the bishop of Brixen, Vincent Gasser, "the most prominent theologian in the council," to whose great speech Butler
gives a whole chapter of his book. The council, without more ado, voted as the deputation proposed.
The way was now open for the "trial voting" on this second Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor Aeternus, the classic definition
of the papal primacy and the infallibility of the popes' ex cathedra pronouncements. This took place on July 13. The votes
were: Pro--451, Contra--88, Pro with some reservations--62. There were another 76 bishops who, though still in Rome, did not
attend and vote.
Those who voted pro, but with a reservation (placet iuxta modum), had to send in a note of the reservation, i.e., the change
they wished to see made. The schedule of these, prepared now for the use of the council, ran to as many as 160 items, 200
alterations in all. By no means all of these were from the Minority. The changes made in the text of the proposed constitution
had greatly displeased some of "the extreme papal school" among the bishops, and they called for the suppression of the
new historical passage, and asked that the infallibility be explicitly declared to extend beyond the field of faith and morals.
The deputation recommended that all but two of these suggested changes be rejected. The two were, first, the suppression of
two quotations, from St. Augustine and St. Irenaeus which were not really relevant to the matter they were introduced to support,
and secondly, a clause to make clear that the infallibility of ex cathedra pronouncements did not depend on the assent of
the Church to them. These decisions of the deputation On the Faith the whole body of bishops accepted, in the eighty-sixth
General Congregation, July 16. The solemn Public Session of voting and definition was announced for Monday, July 18.
Meanwhile, what of the 88, who on July 13 had voted non placet? For them this had been a week of anxiety and distress.
They made every effort to secure modifications that would save them from the need to vote non placet at the coming solemn
session. On July 15 they sent a deputation to the pope. Ketteler, it is said, fell on his knees and with tears besought the
pope to make himself the changes which the council had rejected, chiefly the addition of a phrase explicitly mentioning the
role of the bishops and the Church in the "evolution" of an infallible pronouncement. So little, it may now seem, ninety years
after the event, separated the Minority, at the crucial hour, from their brethren--the question which is the better form of
words. On the day after their audience some of the Minority were surely among the 552 bishops who took part in the last
General Congregation. Then, on the very eve of the definitive voting, they met to decide finally on their action. They were
by no means unanimously resolved. Haynald won them over to his idea of solemnly closing their long campaign of protest by
a public vote contra. And then came Dupanloup, very late, and, told of the decision, he reopened the discussion, and carried
the day, reversing the Haynald plan. The bishops should keep away from the morrow's event. "We could not vote placet," he
urged, "for nobody would believe us. We could not vote non placet, for the sake of the Catholic world, which would not understand
us, and which might be scandalised." By 36 votes to 28 the bishops accepted this idea, and in a letter to the pope they explained
their action. "Filial piety and respect," they say, "do not allow us, in a cause so closely affecting Your Holiness, to say
non placet openly, face to face with our Father." Fifty-five signed, and eight others wrote individually to the pope.
The great day came in with heavy showers of rain. It has often been described how the long hour and a half of the voting--each
of the 535 bishops present, vested in cope and mitre, called on by name, rising and pronouncing his vote--took place to the
accompaniment of a wonderful July thunderstorm. "Nothing approaching to the solemn splendour of that storm could have been
prepared," wrote the correspondent of The Times, the Rev. Thomas Mozley, Newman's brother-in-law and erstwhile pupil. At the
close, it was so dark in the basilica that lights were needed for the pope to read the authoritative phrases, "We define and
confirm by our apostolic authority, the sacred council approving," the Dogmatic Constitution as it has been read. And
then, from their places among the bishops, two figures made their way to the foot of the papal throne, the two bishops who
had voted non placet. "Holy Father, now I believe," each of them said. One was the bishop of Cajazzo in southern Italy, the
other Edward Fitzgerald, Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Meanwhile, the fortnight between the close of the debate and the promulgation of the constitution Pastor Aeternus had seen,
in the world outside the council, the swift emerging of a first-class international crisis. When Dupanloup and Darboy met
Melchers and Ketteler in that last conference, the evening before the final session, their two countries were already on the
verge of war. Two days later the fateful Franco-German war had begun. Napoleon III must now perforce recall his troops that
were the pope's protection against United Italy. On August 4 they began to embark. From the Italians came a request that the
pope would bless the now inevitable invasion, and surrender Rome like a good Catholic and a good Italian. On September 
the invasion began, and on September 20 Rome capitulated to the army of Cadoma--something like three weeks after a revolution
in Paris had overthrown the empire of Napoleon III. In all these weeks of crisis the work of the General Congregations had
continued, the 120 bishops who had not availed themselves of the "vacation" granted by the pope toiling steadily through August
at the unfinished project on ecclesiastical discipline. But just a month to the day after the Italian capture of Rome Pius
IX suspended the council, indefinitely. It has never been reassembled since.
The Minority bishops, once returned to their flocks, published their belief and acceptance of the decree against which
they had voted--some half dozen of them after severe interior struggles. The Holy See bore no ill will for their opposition.
Of the Austro-Hungarians, Simor, Haynald and von Furstenberg were made cardinals within the next few years; and had their
respective governments not hindered it, Leo XIII, it is said, would have given the hat to Dupanloup and to Strossmayer.
It had ever been a very general consideration with the Minority prelates that a definition of infallibility would be followed
by schisms and individual defections everywhere. An American bishop may be quoted as an example: "... The damage to the Church
will be immense. In some countries there will be large schisms, and great losses to the Church in all countries except Italy,
Spain, and Ireland and among our poor people at home." But none of these fears were realised. Only in Germany and Switzerland
did a group of clergy--professors of Theology and Canon Law in various state universities--win over a number of Catholics
who organised themselves as the Old Catholic Church. Since no bishop patronised the little movement the chiefs were driven,
for ordinations and the rite of episcopal consecration, to the schismatic Jansenist bishop of Utrecht. And although various
governments gave the movement recognition it languished from its birth. Nowhere in the Church, from the beginning of the Catholic
revival, had the renewed activity of the papacy been anything but welcome to the generality of Catholics. Their whole-hearted
acceptance of the decrees of 1870 was natural, inevitable. It was an acceptance that was in the nature of things, and that
meant no more change than that they now believed explicitly what, like their fathers for centuries, they always implicitly
had taken for granted.
1. John Mastai-Ferretti, born May 13, 1792, elected pope June 16, 1846.
2. The leading events of which were the withdrawal from Rome of the French
troops that protected the city from attack by the new Italian state, and
the Seven Weeks War between Prussia and Austria.
3. Aubert, R. Le Pontificat de Pie IX (vol. 21 of F. and M., Histoire de
l'Eglise), 1952, 324.
4. David Moriarty, bishop of Kerry, to Newman, Feb. 3, 1870, quoted Butler,
Vatican Council (1930), II, 29.
5. Its actual author was Carl Joseph Hefele, the historian of the councils.
whom the pope had early called in as an advisor. He became bishop of
Rothenburg in time to take part in the council, and on the issue of
infallibility was a leading force in opposition. He was, apparently, one of
the very few bishops who had not already accepted the doctrine.
6. Fifteen folio columns as printed in Mansi, vol. so, 59-74.
7. So Butler, I, 198.
8. Cardinal Rauscher (1797-1875), archbishop since 1853, once the tutor of
the emperor Franz Joseph, austere, a first-rate mind, and a prodigy of
learning. Said to be worth all his colleagues put together, Rauscher was
the Catholic restoration in Austria.
9. The words (Butler, I, 198) are from William Bernard Ullathorne, O.S.B.,
bishop of Birmingham (1850-88) whose letters and diaries are a leading
source of Butler's work. According to Butler, the fate of the schema was a
great surprise to the Roman authorities. "It was not anticipated that the
bishops were going to take things so seriously." Ibid.
10. Later a bishop, and noted for his spiritual writings.
11. Butler's term, I, 281.
12. The text of this "Constitution" is printed (with an English
translation) in Butler, II, 247-75. Denzinger, nos. 1781-1820, prints the
13. The translation is that of Manning's Pastoral Letter (1870) printed in
Butler, II, 269-75.
14. Frederick Schwarzenberg (1809-85), archbishop since 185o.
15. Mathieu, Archbishop of Besancon.
16. Simor, created cardinal in 1873 by Pius IX.
17. Georges Darboy (1813-71).
18. Aubert, 334.
19. Butler, I, 229.
20. The council had now been in session 22 weeks. It had only another nine
weeks to run; though, of course, none of its members, nor the pope, knew
21. It is also interesting that this shrewd level-headed man, "the only man
who kept his head in the Second Spring" thought that the most effective
speakers at the council (whatever their views) were those who came from the
democratic countries, bishops familiar with the way men go to work with
their fellows in representative assemblies.
22. "... Hungary, Germany, half of France, England [with two or three
exceptions], all North America." Moriarty's estimate to Newman, Feb. 3,
1870, Butler, II, 29.
23. Newman recalled the disastrous years that followed Chalcedon.
24. Speech in the council, May 25, 1870. Butler, II, 49.
25. Butler, II, 109.
26. September, 1863. Dollinger presided. The letter of Pius IX, Tuas
Libenter, is dated Dec. 21,
1863. The text (Latin) is in Denzinger, nos. 1679-84.
27. The Pope and the Council, by Janus.
28. Butler, I, 111
29. Moriarty to Newman, Feb. 3, 1870, Butler, II, 29.
30. May 19, 1870; Butler, II, 64.
31. April 25, 1870. Letters of Bishop McQuaid from the Vatican Council, ed.
Henry J. Browne, in Catholic Historical Review, Jan. l956, p. 425.
32. May 14, 1870, Butler, II, 62.
33. Cf. Aubert, 353.
34. May 19, 1870, Butler, II, 64.
35. "... Obscurcie depuis des siecles," p. 294, by which (I take it) is
meant that it was not in the forefront of people's minds. It had its place
in the textbooks of Theology, set out in the Euclidean terseness of the
genre, with the classic texts quoted in support as for centuries already.
36. Quoted Billuart, Cursus Theologiae (Paris edition, 1878) V, 176.
37. Abbot Matthieu Petit-Didier, O.S.B., Traite de'lnfaillibilite du Pape,
quoted Butler, I, 34.
38. This phrase is quoted by Butler, I, 30, from a standard manual of
Catholic doctrine which ran to seven editions between 1768 and 1792. Its
author was a Benedictine of St. Maur, Jamin. The most important statement
of this view is that contained in article 4 of the Declaration of the
Clergy of France about Ecclesiastical Authority, made in their General
Assembly, March 19, 1682. It runs as follows: "Also, in questions of belief
the principal role is that of the pope, whose decrees are binding on all
sees, but his judgments are not irreformable unless [to them] there is
added the general agreement of the Church"; Mirbt, no. 535, prints the full
text of the Declaration. In 1690 Pope Alexander VIII reproved this
Declaration stating that oaths sworn to accept and observe it were null and
void (Denzinger, 322-26). All those who signed it retracted their
signatures in 1693, at the demand of Innocent XII, with an explicit,
personal acknowledgement that the Assembly had no power to decide such
questions. And Louis XIV revoked the edict which made the teaching of the
Four Articles obligatory. See Pastor, Lives of the Popes, vol. 32, pp. 595-
603. But the doctrines implied were never condemned as heretical. These
Gallican theories had their effective origin in the troubled times of the
so-called Schism of the West (1378-1417), when theologians and canonists,
driven desperate by the long crisis, were willing to consider any theory
that would give the Church a means of ridding itself of the contending
popes. The classic work on this subject is V. Martin, Les Origines du
39. The deputation included several Minority leaders. The solitary voter
was the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Rauscher.
40. The four were the archbishops of Cincinnati (Purcell) and St. Louis
(Kenrick), the bishops of Little Rock (Fitzgerald) and Kerry (Moriarty);
Butler. II, 33.
41. Aubert, 351.
42. Butler, II, 43-55, mentions, with an occasional comment, 46 of the 65.
Of these 46, 7 are French; the Austrian Empire, Ireland, and the U.S.A.
each produced 5; Italy and Spain 4 each; Germany 3, England 2, with one
from each of the following: Canada, Chili, Belgium, Holland, and
Switzerland. Of the 8 from Germany-Austria all are of the Minority, as are
6 of the 13 from English-speaking countries. Two prelates of Eastern Rites
also spoke, the Armenian patriarch pro, and the Melchite Patriarch of
Antioch with the Minority.
43. Butler, II, 47.
44. A one-time professional from Maynooth.
45. "The Archbishop of Cashel threw Cardinal Cullen into the shade."
McQuaid, May 24, 1870, Letters, etc., p. 432.
46. This bishop, Michael Domenec, was a Spaniard by birth. The quotation is
Butler, II, 54.
47. Ibid., 53.
48. Mathieu, Archbishop of Besanson, the leader of the French Minority
group; Rauscher and Schwarzenburg.
49. See above p. 282.
50. Aubert, 352.
51. Butler, 11, 78-85 for details of the debate.
52. On July 3 an attempt was made to invoke the closure procedure. The
presidents ignored it.
53. Zinelli, bishop of Treviso.
54. Pius IX, now in his 79th year, was of the temperament that is always
liable to be swept away by emotional storms, cf. Aubert, 227: "l'homme
essentiellement emotif," and also, "n'ecoutant comme toujours, que sa
premiere impression," 208. He sent for the cardinal and, it is said,
replied to the explanation that Guidi had been explaining how the bishops
were witnesses to the tradition of faith, "I am tradition." The authority
quoted by Butler, 11, 98 is Dupanloup's private diary. For other sources
cf. Aubert's account, 353-54.
55. Cardinal Cullen seems to have been, rather, the spokesman of a group in
the De Fide deputation, the most prominent of whom was the president of
that body, the gifted Cardinal Bilio.
56. Butler, II, 134.
57. Butler's words, II, 153.
58. Butler, II, 157.
59. The full text of the letter is in Butler, II, 158-59.
60. The text of this, known as Pastor Aeternus, is printed (with an English
translation) in Butler, 11, 276-95.
61. One of the youngest bishops in the council, born 1833 at Limerick in
Ireland, consecrated May 26, 1867.
62. McQuaid to Rev. James M. Earley, [May] 1870, in Letters, etc., p. 430.