THE following editorial from a leading Roman Catholic paper of Boston, presents that paper’s view of certain events connected with Vatican politics in the East, that will interest our readers:—
A New Advocate of Papal Independence
The splendid presentation of the politico-religious situation in Italy made last spring by Arthur Warren in the Boston Herald, quoted everywhere in America as it was, has done much for the cause of papal independence in showing to non-Catholic Americans the reasonableness of the pope’s claim and the impossibility of a “United Italy” while that claim remains unsettled.
The course of events in Europe within the past few months, however, brings the papal question still further to the front, and foreshadows Russia as likely to force the hand of Italy to relax its grasp on the territory of the church.
“An American Traveller,” writing from Milan to the New York Sun, brings the papal question and Russia’s powerful interest in it up to date.
It is not easy to exaggerate the significance of the formal accrediting of an envoy to the holy see by the late czar, a few months before his death; and the extraordinary mission of Prince Lobanoff, charged by the new czar, Nicholas II., to present an autographic letter, notifying his accession to the throne, to the pope at the Vatican.
They are, in effect, the recognition of the pope’s claims by the strongest power in Europe.
The czar has recently bestowed especial honors on Archbishop Kozloffski, the Metropolitan of the Catholics of the Latin Rite in Russia; and is, in general, softening the situation for the heretofore oppressed Catholics in his vast dominion.
Moreover, his attitude is strongly influencing France in a similar policy towards the pope.
Russia has practically broken up the Triple Alliance. There is nothing to hinder her from carrying out her determination to hold the balance of power in the Mediterranean, by getting her great war-fleet into it, through the Bosphorus and the Cardanelles. England and Germany together cannot back Italy against united Russia and France; so that, when it pleases these latter powers to ask for papal independence as the price of their good-will, Italy must needs grant it for her own safety.
Why the Czar of Russia, the official head of a schismatic church, whose very existence is a protest against the pope’s spiritual sovereignty, should concern himself to recognize or to restore the pope’s dominion as a temporal ruler, is a problem especially difficult to the non-Catholic American mind.
But Mr. Warren, who, in the article above alluded to, foreshadowed the restoration of papal independence through the action of the great European powers, thus suggests an explanation:—
“The religious power of the church has not waned in the ages. It has changed in some respects, but it has not decreased. The church has been in the past, and it is to-day, strong, because it is elastic…. It adapts itself to the spirit of each succeeding age, and to the spirit of each country in which it finds a home. It has at its head to-day a man who is equally great as a priest and as a statesman, a man of liberal ideas, whose one aim is to use the power which is vested in him for the good of humanity. However one may differ with his theology, one must concede the greatness of his mind, his nature and his purpose.
“Leo XIII. is a master of men…. He is, after all, the most important personage on earth; he wields an influence wider than that of any emperor, or president, or parliament, and his word is capable of exerting a greater influence than the word of any other human being.”
The relations now begun between Russia and Rome, and daily growing more close and cordial, cannot fail to hasten the reunion of the “Orthodox” Russian Church, and the schismatical churches of the East with Rome; and who can over-estimate the effect of this reunion on the whole question of the reunion of Christendom?—The Pilot, Feb. 2.
We understand from this that “the reunion of Christendom” is to follow “papal independence,” and papal independence is to be secured by political wire-pulling. Therefore the “reunion of Christendom” is to be accomplished through the agency of politics. This kind of “union of Christendom” is the only kind of which the papacy has any knowledge, and political methods are its chief methods. But the Roman Catholic Church has no “corner” on this method of advancing the kingdom of Christ in the earth. Popular Protestantism is fast adopting it. Ministerial delegations, or “Christian lobbyists,” now hover about Congress and State legislatures, to urge religious measures with a view to hastening the dawn of the millennium; and the president of the largest organization of women professing the Protestant Christian religion, in her annual address in 1887, declared that “the kingdom of Christ must enter the realm of law through the gateway of politics.”