« PreviousContinue »
guarantee for the independence of the clergy on the State. “So long,' writes Möhler, as it flourished in the Church, it was a living protest against the Church permitting itself to be lost in the State, even for this reason, because celibacy will for ever hold fast the opposition between Church and State, and for ever prevent the merging of the former in the latter; it will prevent the secularization of the Church, and uninterruptedly frustrate the mistaken attempts formerly begun by some particular Church rulers to subject the State to the Church.' Möhler is too much of a German to be a Hildebrandine, like some of our modern English writers. But we have an importunate and troublesome propensity to inquire the distinct and practical meaning of terms, even though they pass current among writers of the highest authority. The independence of the Church' has a lofty and commanding sound; it appeals to generous and disinterested emotions; it seems to be a calm and dignified assertion that God is to be obeyed rather than man—that religious are to be predominant over temporal motives, eternity over time. Erastianism again is a word of sinister and ill-sounding import; it must contain some dire, latent heresy. But what does it mean? What sense does it now bear to Statesmen or to Churchmen who are most conscientiously determined to carry right principles into firm and consistent action? In plain truth, all our theories of the relation of Church and State, of the Unity of the Church-whether with excellent Dr. Arnold in some unexplained and inexplicable manner we make the State the Church-or, like other highminded and high-toned writers, we keep them as distinct and antagonist powers—utterly break down when we attempt to apply them to the existing order of things. Let the framers of ecclesiastical Utopias dream over whatever unreal Past or impossible Future it pleases imagination to patronize; but this state of things, we presume to say, arises necessarily out of the constitution and progressive development of man, and therefore out of God's appointment. If it has its evils, in God's name let us labour to remedy or to allay those evils in the best
practicable manner. But it has likewise its inestimable blessings, for which in God's name let us show our gratitude.
What is meant by the independence of the Church upon the State? We apprehend that there is now no country, or hardly any country in Europe, where the clergy even of the Roman Catholic Church, however in theory some may profess their admiration for what they hold up as the sublime doctrines of Bellarmine and Mariana, would pretend to be a separate, selfruled caste, superior to all the obligations, and free from all the restraints of citizens. For all offences against the laws they are amenable to the civil tribunals; they hold, where they still hold landed estates or property, on the common legal tenure of the country; they are liable to public burthens ; they owe allegiance to the sovereign; and are bound by all the enactments of constitutional authority. This common allegiance they owe in return for the common protection of the law. So far, then, no independence belongs to the clergy beyond any other members of the same community.
The independence of the Church, then, is the right of propagating and maintaining Christian truth, whether by direct teaching or by its peculiar rites and ceremonies. This is indeed to a certain extent a right, and more than a right—a solemn duty-in every one whom God has gifted with powers for such a work ;—but it is a right peculiarly vested in the clergy, who have solemnly dedicated themselves to, and are recognized as exercising, in a peculiar manner, this great public function. This independence is grounded on the great law of Christian liberty, which is superior in its claims on the conscience to all other law—the law by which all are bound to obey God rather than man. On the other hand, there is and must be an abstract omnipotence in the laws of the land—a supremacy, according to the constitution of each state, vested in a monarch, a senate, or in a popular assembly; and extreme state-necessity may justify the suspension of this as of all other inalienable rights. But that state-necessity must be clear, urgent, irresistible; the civil polity must be in actual, in imminent danger. Where Church and State from separate become antagonist powers, there is something wrong or unnatural, something out of the usual course—on one side or the other usurpation or injustice. When a man's civil and religious duties are brought into collision, either the State is unnecessarily interfering with Christian liberty, or the Church has advanced some pretensions beyond her proper province.
This state of things at once appears in the early history of Christianity. The abstract supremacy of the law the Romans ---those idolaters of law-had vested by the change of their constitution in the emperor. In him, however tyrannical he might be, was the full, unlimited sovereignty over all mankind. This sovereignty was first put forth against the Christians, afterwards in their behalf, or in behalf of one class of Christians against another. The emperor now of his sole will forbade men to be Christians; now commanded them to be Christians; this year to be Arians, next year to be Trinitarians. If there had been an absolute state-necessity,—if either Christians or Heathens, Arians or Trinitarians, had been undoubtedly and irreclaimably enemies of public order and peace—if, as they were at first wrongfully accused, they had infringed the first principles of social morality, had been cannibals, and from their religion itself devoted to horrible crimes—then the justice of their persecution would have been unimpeachable : but as there was nothing in either religion, either in Christianity before the days of Constantine, or in heathenism after the days of Theodosius, to prevent men from being good subjects and orderly citizens, all interference was unjustifiable tyrannytyranny which they were bound to oppose, at least by passive resistance.
So far on these abstract principles of independence; and, undoubtedly, where this collision between the sovereignty of the State, and the proper liberty of conscience, or the liberty to the clergy of exercising its high functions, was inseparable from the order of things or even likely to be frequent-an unmarried clergy, being freed from social ties, might have greater courage to resist, and to resist to the death, this intolerable state-despotism. But, for the same reason, if more hardy asserters of the independence of the Church, they would be more dangerous enemies to the proper supremacy of the State. If the tender charities of life would weaken the heart of the Christian, so their absence would harden and make more inflexible that of the ambitious and usurping churchman." Möhler, with his usual sagacity, has endeavoured to anticipate this, and adduced as examples of the independence of a celibate clergy, even in front of ecclesiastical usurpation, the friar Minorites, and the asserters of the liberties of the Gallican Church against the exorbitant pretensions of the Papacy. The fact of such resistence is true: but what follows ? That these pretensions were so at war with the common sense and reason of mankind, that they provoked rebellion even among the subjects of the Papacy; they were resisted by some of the clergy who lived under the general law of celibacy; but celibacy had no connection whatever with their resistance. The married Protestant clergy of France might be strengthened in their Protestantism by their attachment to their wives and families; but neither did the democratical opposition of that branch of the Franciscans, nor the aristocratic opposition of the higher French clergy, rise out of, nor was it strengthened or supported by, their celibacy: in the former it was much more connected with their vows and habits of poverty; in the latter with their adulatory exaltation of the French Crown. It is singular enough, that while Möhler is holding up this independence of the older Dupin, and Bossuet, and Fleury, as a noble testimony to the effects of celibacy, the celibate clergy of France, with Cardinal Bonald at their head, are condemning most solemnly the work of M. Dupin, a layman, who asserts the Gallican liberties.
5 Furono biasimati li Legati d'haver lasciato disputar questo articolo, come pericoloso: essendo cosa chiara che coll'introduzione del matrimonio de' Preti, si farebbe che tutti voltassero l'affetto et amor loro alle mogli, a figli, e per consequenza alla casa, ed alla patria ; onde cessarebbe la dependenza stretta che l'ordine clericale ha con la Sede Apostolica, e tanto sarebbe conceder il matrimonio a Preti, quanto distrugger la Hierarchia Ecclesiastica, e ridur il Pontifice chè non fosse più che Vescovo di Roma.-Fra Paolo, Stor, del Con. di Trento, lib. vii.
But how far is this natural and unalienable independence of the Church limited or compromised by its becoming an Established Church, recognized by the Constitution, directly endowed or paid by the State as the Church of France, or holding property under the protection of the common laws, and having the guarantee of law for whatever gifts or bequests it may receive from the piety of its disciples ? It is the plain duty of every Christian to provide, in his proportion, for public worship, and the maintenance of the necessary ministers of religion. But in whatever form, and to whatsoever amount, this provision may be-if it is taken, as it were, from the precarious safeguard of the individual conscience—if the payment ceases to be voluntary—if it be secured by statute as a legal claim, or as a corporate inheritance, assessed and levied by legal authority-it cannot at once be under and above law. How far then has the State, if the religion of the Church be that of the whole people, or even of a dominant majority, a right to interfere; either as the general guardian of property
—which is to a certain extent the creation of the State, and which it must not permit to be diverted from its legitimate purposes; or as itself constituting the Church (minus the clergy), and eo nomine bound to maintain this property in perpetuity for its sacred uses ? When the Church thought itself strong enough to maintain Church property by Church censures alone—when the danger lay in the treachery of their own body, who might be tempted to sacrifice the interests of the Church to the interests of their family—then there certainly was a strong argument for the celibacy of the clergy.
. We find that we have now a new champion of the divine right of tithes. The tenth part of every man's fixed income has been by God's ordinance devoted to Him ever since the creation ; Christian kings gave it from the revenues of all their lands, and such was regularly paid so long as income was derived from the produce of the land alone. Merchants and manufacturers, however, never paid it out of their revenue; they always cheated God, and do so to this day,'--Mr. Henry Drummond's Letter to Sir R. Inglis.