Wednesday, 3 April 2013
None dare call him Antichrist...
"He was a ferocious fanatic, whose object was to destroy all the improvements of modern times, and force society back to the government, customs, and ideas of mediaeval days. In his insensate rage against progress he stopped vaccination; consequently, small-pox devastated the Roman provinces during his reign, along with many other curses which his brutal ignorance brought upon the inhabitants of those beautiful and fertile regions. He curtailed the old privileges of the municipalities, granted new privileges to the religious communities, and enlarged the power of the clergy to the extent that bishops and cardinals had the power of life and death in their hands. He set the Inquisition to work with new vigour; and though torture had been nominally abolished in 1815, new kinds of torment were invented, quite as effectual as the cord, the thumbscrew, and the rack of old times. He renewed the persecution of the Jews; drove them back into the Ghetto from whence they had begun to emerge, rebuilt its walls, and had them locked in at night; and issued an edict ordering all Israelites to sell their goods within a given time on pain of confiscation." G. S. Godkin, Life of Victor Emmanuel II, Macmillan (1880) pp. xiii–xiv.
I came across that wonderful quotation about pope Leo XII (1823-1829), who was undoubtedly one of the most arrogant and destructive men of the 19th century, when looking up the temporal power of the popes on Wikipedia. It is highly convenient that the temporal power was never dogmatized. I read somewhere once that the idea was put forward at the Council of Trent, but was rejected, and clearly Papal Infallibility had political rather than theological import, being no article of the Catholic faith hitherto. Clearly Pio Nono saw that his temporal authority over Rome and Lazio was slipping away, didn't like it, and thought: ''This cannot be borne! I am the Pope, the supreme vicegerent of God on earth, dispensing God's Grace as a commodity to all who kiss my toe'' and resolved, with sour grapes, to exalt himself spiritually in the Church to a new height. Remember Boniface VIII and the King of France? Popes tend to be at their most fanatical when politically they are at their weakest. I mean it would be very rich if the temporal power were made a dogma, akin to belief in the Blessed Trinity and the Hypostatic Union. But there we are, we have Papal Infallibility instead, the most blasphemous and ridiculous heresy ever to plague the poor Church of God.