only a year ago, brought out a translation of the Psalter in Italian, with a very learned commentary, and in December, 1883, the important work which appears at the head of our present article. The Royal Vatican' may be regarded as representing the matured opinions of one who, for the best part of a century, has been both an actor and a spectator in the great drama of Italian Church history, as a distinguished and popular preacher, especially at the Church of the Gesù in Rome; as a member of the most powerful and versatile of religious orders; as a contributor to the celebrated Ultramontane journal, the 'Civiltà Cattolica;' and as the author of a Commentary on the New Testament, in three large volumes, and of other valuable works.

Padre Curci has now been for some time out of favour with the Vatican. His work entitled 'Il Moderno Dissidio tra la Chiesa e lo Stato, considerato per occasione di un fatto personale,' published in the December of 1877, and expressing his views on the temporal power, procured his expulsion from the Society of Jesus. His 'La nuova Italia ed i vecchi zelanti' came out in 1881, and is said to have moved the Pope to tears in reading some of its pages. It was, however, condemned by the Holy Office; and, in spite of the author's submission, was doubtless in no small degree the cause of the cold reception which his work on the Psalms afterwards met with. A copy of Curci's New Testament was sent to every bishop in Italy; few deigned even to acknowledge it, and fewer still to express any appreciation of it.

In the Appendix to the present work, its writer says:

'I doubt if in all Catholic Christendom, even among the lowest of the clergy, there be a priest condemned to canonical penalties more arbitrarily and less legally than myself. For seven years I have been interdicted à divinis, never having been told my fault or been able to learn how long my punishment was to last, or when I might have a chance given me to set myself right. I celebrate mass, as I have had the Holy Father's permission since 1878, to do thus in private. As to ministering the divine Word, it will be seen elsewhere how I fared.'

This refers to a narrative, given in the Introduction, p. xiv, and which we regret that lack of space forbids us to quote, concerning the difficulties which were thrown in the way of his giving a series of conferences on religious subjects at Rome in 1883. The same sternness was displayed in regard to the hearing of confessions, which the Padre tells us has been strictly forbidden him, even in the case of those who would otherwise die without the sacrament.

Yet that there are traces of uneasiness in the minds of those

in whose name these stringent measures are taken, is evident from such incidents as the following, which we slightly abridge :

'When I was at Rome in 1882, bringing out my edition of the Psalms, I was honoured with the visit of an old acquaintance, one of the chief lay-officials of the Pontifical Court, who expressed much personal regard as felt for me by the Holy See, and professed great. regret at my poverty, though I assured him that I was glad sometimes to celebrate unpaid masses, as it seemed more conducive to devotion. A few days later he paid me another visit, renewing his assurances of the Pope's good will towards me, and left a 500 lire note on my desk, saying it was the alms for 200 masses. Guessing whom it came from. I begged to know if I might send my thanks to the Holy Father. My kind friend murmured something in alarm, and indistinctly, and, seeing that he did not wish to compromise the giver, I thanked the bringer of the gift, and relieved him as quickly as I could from embarassment, exclaiming in my own mind the while, "Good heavens! is this what the autonomy of the Pope has come to that he cannot send a small dole to a priest without compromising


'A few days before leaving Rome I had to pay a visit to one of the most illustrious among the cardinals. The first thing he asked me was if it was true that I had gone to Florence to get a book printed, and what was the subject? I replied generally that it was true, and I hoped it would be useful to the Church. He began by warning me to be on the watch against illusions; and though I assured him I had done my best, he enforced his argument by saying that the devil is able very often to thrust his tail into our plans. This was more than I could stand, and 1 exclaimed, without giving him time to interrupt me, "Senta, Eminenza,-if instead of a poor priest, I found myself, for my services to the Church, in this splendid apartment, seated at a handsome table, or driving about the town in a noble carriage, being thoroughly well pleased both with myself and the Church in whose service I flattered myself I was thus living, I might indeed be afraid of illusions! But to live as I now do, in the service of the same Church, ejected at seventy-five years of age from a sacred society, and covered with ignominv, while home and the world which I renounced from a boy, and which my religious duty forbids me to re-enter as an old man, are alike cut off from me; with no sure subsistence but 33 soldi a day (about Is. 3d.) from the Demanio as a 'suppressed' religieux, and the uncertain alms of the mass; with the prospect of ending my days in an asylum for paupers or in a hospital; and meanwhile to remain as cheerful as Easter (una pasqua,) since I would not change my condition for all the red berettas in the world,-Oh, believe me, Eminenza, Jesus Christ counts for something here; the devil must be a fool indeed if he tries to allure followers by such means!" The Eminentissimo listened with his mouth open. But as he said all he had said before over again,

apparently he had not taken in many of my remarks. I fancy he is still praying that I may be delivered from my illusions; and I shall be most thankful if, through his intercession, I am allowed to escape sharing any of his.'

But it is time to proceed from this brief account of the author to say somewhat of the book.

As will have been seen, it is, especially in the latter portion, far more personal in its character than Rosmini's work. While going over a good deal of the same ground, it makes us feel that the author has advanced further than his predecessor. The evils of which it complains are in many respects the same. Both writers mourn over the worldliness of the higher, and the ignorance of the lower clergy; the substitution of feeble little tracts and catechetical handbooks (the 'Summa Theologiæ' of Aquinas seems almost the only accessible work of reference of a higher order) for the rich stores of early theologians; the wretched education offered by the clerical seminaries; the isolation of priest from people, caused in part by the use of a dead language in the services of the Church. But while Rosmini carefully avoids any attack on the temporal power, Curci is outspoken in his denunciations of it. Rosmini disapproves of the national' spirit. Curci applauds it. Both writers agree in their high estimate of the character of Gregory VII.; but Curci nevertheless has the courage to speak of the celibacy of the clergy (which that pontiff did so much to promote), not, indeed, as an evil in itself, but as incidentally and not infrequently a source of evil. Rosmini inveighs against State interference in the appointment of bishops; Curci gives us the painful experience of recent years, when Italian bishops and clergy alike are at the mercy of the Vatican; and he also draws a picture of the mischief done by modern miracles, the adoration of the Sacred Heart, and the development of what may be called the sensational side of contemporary Romanism. But we will let him speak for himself on some of these topics. After alluding to the Liberal ideas of 1830, he goes on to say:

[ocr errors]

'But the Royal Vatican, which saw in the triumph of those ideas the ruin of all its temporal interests, rejected support from this quarter, nay, even cursed it, attacking it with one of those shameful, obstinate, and pitiless persecutions, of which it alone possesses the secret; and Catholic Liberal became a term of reproach. When the Coryphæus of so-called Catholic journals durst give a profane and scandalous name * to Pere Ravignan, that pure and holy

'Suppôt de Satan.'

[ocr errors]

soul (how I loved and venerated his presence !), who had hardly ever meddled with politics, what could others expect? Yet among these may be named (to mention some of them), in France, Dupanloup, Montalembert, Lacordaire, Du Falloux, Lenormant; among us of the clergy, Antonio Rosmini, Gioachino Ventura, Carlo Vercelone, Guglielmo Audisio; and of the laity, Silvio Pellico, Alessandro Manzoni, Carlo Troya, Cesare Balbo, Massimo d'Azeglio, Tullio Dandolo, Gino Caponi, Federico Sclopis, and others of that noble band of sincere Catholics and distinguishd Italians, of which, I fear, two representatives barely exist to-day, in our most fertile modern historian in the world, and our most polished one in the cloister. . . . I can still hear ringing in my ears. though nearly seven lustres have since expired, the words in which that great writer and speaker, but greater Christian, Charles Montalembert, bewailed in my hearing, not his ruined popularity, but all that the Church had thus lost, and the ruin of souls which would supervene, and which has continued to a far greater extent than he foresaw.'

At page 155 there is a tribute to the memory of Savonarola, and the bold phrase is used, that the Vatican, in deeming it can send to hell whom it pleases, is guilty of a foolish blasphemy; una stolta bestemmia.

In Chapter VI., the author speaks of the blunders (sbagli) of the Vatican; first in matters of fact, thinking Italy much more ready to follow its lead than it really was, as was seen in the Episcopal declaration in favour of the temporal power; in the command enforcing 'Political Abstentions'; the promulgation of the Syllabus, &c.; and secondly in matters of right.

'The Vatican' (he says) 'having made a god of the Pope (I do not say explicitly, though even this blasphemy has been used and enforced by it), but a superhuman man (un uomo trasumanato) infallible and impeccable in all that has to do with Church government and the like, goes on to this day, keeping up and superposing on this prerogative, wherever any one will receive it, a neverfailing expectation of temporal power. This expectation is of no benefit to the Church except as a right which any one may, if he choose, consider as still existing, but which, however, far from being serviceable to the Church, causes great disturbances within her. God grant it may not create many more! But if this anticipation does no good to the Church, it does very much for the Vatican, for though the title "King" is no longer used by the Pope, or, if we please to say so, is suspended, the very expectation we speak of has kept alive the epithet of "royal" as applied to the Vatican, and thence a fountain of lucrative gain is opened for itself and its dependents.'

He then goes on to show how the very claims to divinity and perfection thus put forward by the Papacy are destructive of Faith, and illustrates his view very ably by an allusion to

[ocr errors]

Renan's attacks on Holy Scripture, which, if it were always perfectly intelligible and free from difficulties, would exercise our faith less than it does now. 'Quod videt quis, quid credit?' Miracles are a sign, not to believers but to the unbelieving, and those persons who in our own day are always hunting after new miracles (such as that of Lourdes, which is obviously in his mind, though he does not name it), are showing more zeal than knowledge. For his own part, if he knew that to-morrow there would be a miracle in the Piazza della Signoria, he would go off in the direction of the Cascine.

Another topic on which he dwells, though he says it is a very delicate subject, is the nepotism of the Popes, which is the exact antipodes of the doctrine of primitive Christianity, one being 'to renounce everything you have,' and the other 'to acquire everything you do not already possess ;' and he speaks of it as an indirect consequence of clerical celibacy.

'In 1852 there lived in Rome a prelate, one of the most eminent of the Curia, a man of letters whom some of the elder among us may still remember, who said to me more than once, half-pathetically, half-complacently, that he had not less than eighty-three nephews on his shoulders! and just think what an outlay this implies! But the Curia was equal to anything. So many high and wealthy posts, elsewhere mentioned, which are to be had at the Vatican, so many still more numerous, if less important, with the arbitrary accumulation of them on one head, which so often takes place, show that these interested computations will not be disappointed. Certainly, cæteris paribus, there is a far better chance there than in secular careers, which offer obscure mediocrity or something less.'

On p. 249 he speaks of the distinction, which recent changes have done much to promote, between the higher and the lower clergy. This is a point which Rosmini also notices.

The recent Law of Guarantees provided comfortably, if not handsomely, for bishops and other dignitaries; and many of the incumbents had benefices under lay-patronage, which the law could not touch :

[ocr errors]

'But, he continues, by the side of this, which, excepting the lastnamed class, may be called the "higher clergy," there is another well denominated "lower," very numerous, especially in the southern provinces, of priests ordained no one knows why or wherefore, only fit to say mass, incapable of undertaking any serious study, of which the seminary professors could not give them any notion, let alone any love, since they did not possess it themselves. These, before the confiscation, used to get a few morsels from the ecclesiastical patrimony-crumbs from the master's table-but now they are abso

« VorigeDoorgaan »