TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE LATEST CHANGE IN ROME.
THE Papal question has taken a very singular and a very unexpected turn. It seems as if the one solution sup- posed to be beyond hope had become, by the exhaustion of
alternatives, the only probable one. The governing conclave in Rome, the half-dozen Cardinals, Jesuits, and household priests, who, with the Vicar of Christ himself, constitute the power which we describe as " the Papacy," who can, when in agreement, add a new dogma to Christianity, and when dis- united hold infallibility in commission, have at last begun to realize that they can look to no earthly aid. If help comes it must be from Heaven, and in Rome they look to Heaven as to a Court of Chancery, whose decrees are final, but from whom help comes, if at all, somewhat too tardily for human patience. With the fall of the Austrian Empire, which, whether ulti- mately preserved or not, fell for the priesthood at Sadowa, the temporal power at last has come fairly into the presence of its patient, indomitable, implacable foes, the population of
Rome. There is nothing between them now except the French Army ; and Napoleon, after a brief pause of hesi- tation, created, it would seem, by a reluctance to surrender any part of his hold on Italy, has, it is understood, decided that the army shall be withdrawn, that the Convention of September shall be rigidly carried out. No European power is in a position to succeed him, and no independent force capable of resisting the population, which in 1848 faced the Zouaves, has been or can be organized. Italians cannot be trusted, for soldiers of fortune there is no cash, and the " faithful of Christendom " who might be induced to take bills on Heaven instead of wages are turbulent, ill-disposed towards each other, and, however devoted to the abstract Church, very little inclined to reverence its concrete ministers. As it has been, is, and ever will be, the soldier of Rome, bending in reverential awe to receive the order from above, sneers at the Bishop who brings it him, and cuffs the priest who stands by to see it is not neglected. The Pope himself, by far the most convinced priest in his own dominion, utterly distrusts the "barbarian " aid a few of his household are so ready to promise, exaggerates a sound dislike of the colluvies gentium whom he must, if he decides to resist his destiny, call actively to his aid, and cannot bring himself to desire that Italians should not exterminate any number of foreign condottiere. It is questionable if the old man, who retains still some genuine sense of his spiritual character as Vicar of Christ, impossi- ble as that may seem to the Record, could order a massacre of his people, and nothing short of a mas- sacre, swift and comprehensive, would keep Rome quiet a week after the French have retired. The fanatics are wild with alarm at his " clemency," and the wildest schemes accordingly are discussed in Rome. A small, powerful, but not omnipotent faction there, at whose head stands the General of the Society of Jesus, the man of all others in Europe who best knows that sovereigns have ceased to believe, would still set the world on fire rather than surrender the temporal power, and their latest idea is to tempt Napoleon by reviving an ancient dignity to reassume the position of defender of the Church. They propose to make him, after a precedent now a thousand years old—but what is a thousand years to Rome $- Patrician, that is, secular ruler of the holy city. It is not a stupid proposal. To be acknowledged by the Universal Church as heir of Charlemagne, legal successor of Pepin le Bref, crowned representative of Catholic Christendom, would be inexpressibly pleasant to a Sovereign in the midst of whose realism a strange trace of dreaminess may always be discerned, who has betrayed over and over again a wish to succeed rather than supersede the Bourbon, who called his boy, like a Valois, Child of France, as the proudest title he could conceive, who to-morrow would make any concession should the Legitimists promise that on the death of the Comte de Chambord they would recognize in the Elect of the people the only legitimate successor of St. Louis. Napoleon would like to be Patrician of Rome, like to main- tain an army in the centre of Italy, like to see every priest in France an active and zealous ally of his family and regime. But he would not like—and this is the price he must pay for all these plealant things—to succeed the Austrian in Italy. He knows the Italians well, lived among them, fought for them, sympathizes on one point, the hatred of the Papacy, heartily with them, lies to this hour under sentence of death from their oldest secret society, and recognizes in his bones as well as his brain that Italian hate is an unappeasable power. If he plays the Austrian part the Italians will hold hini in regard as they held the Austrian, that is, for a hundred years„ or if need be for a thousand, twenty-five millions of men, among whom 'genius is as frequent as ability among other races, will fight, and plot, and sing against him and his dynasty. No favours will conciliate them, no leniency change their purpose, no severity weary out their indomitable patience- From father to son for ages they will hate the family which born of them has betrayed them, with a hate surpassing that of priests. Napoleon, even were he not moved by the sympathies of earlier life, would not face that white Italian wrath, and being as he is scarcely thinks seriously of facing it, and so the. Convention of September is to be carried out, and by January the people of Rome will be beyond the malice of the priests. The Pope must therefore fly, or come to a " reconciliation with Italy, and strange to say, reconciliation has become once. more the more probable alternative. Old men do not fly easily. Old Italians never quite get rid of the feeling that. after all God made Italy and man the rest of the world, that an excommunicated Italian is, when all is said, something nobler, something nearer Heaven, than a barbarian, however faithful or however enlightened, and the ruling Churchmen, many chiefs of the Society of Jesus included, are Italians. The establishments cannot fly if the Pope does, and the business of the Roman world, the vast mass of correspondence which over- whelms the interpreter of Christianity, the living oracle, the supreme Bishop, the ultimate Sovereign of all Orders, the reversionary freeholder of all Church property, requires vast establishments. If they are transferred to Malta secular power will be gone, and why not abandon it in Rome—in Rome, where all associations will aggrandize the Pope, where he will still remain in the centre of a network which covers. the world, where, above all, he will still be visibly to mankind the Roman Pontiff, heir of the tradition of three thousand, years All roads lead to Rome, but one to Malta, and that one is under the dominion of heretical powers, of people who think that it is possible for the Seal of the Fisherman to have, like all other gems, angles of cleavage. The Pope, though faith- ful to the tradition of his Church, which has never forgotten its claim to be universal, which would make a negro a Cardinal if that would bind negroes into its organization, which amid its fearful failures has never failed to declare that before the Chair of Peter, as before the Throne of the Almighty, kings and slaves are equal, which in the supreme hour of feudalism. raised a serf to the sovereignty of mankind, and has never yet de- graded itself by electing a scion of the Royal caste to its highest office, is still at heart an Italian, cannot keep down an emotion of pitying affection for the representative family of Italy, the House of Savoy, turns white with rage when told that he ought to pray for an Austrian victory over Italian troops. " Venetia belongs to them," snapped the Pope to a dignitary who was condemning the Italians, and it took heavy arguments to convince his auditor that His Holiness had not said "Venetia belongs to us," and so shown that at heart he deems the Austrian a robber. He stands on Zophim to curse, and did he obey his instincts would bless as conclusively as Balsam. If there is to be a compromise with this world, why not with its favoured race ? if there is to be a Patrician, why not Victor Emanuel ? if there must be a power in Rome co-ordinate with the Papacy, why not one with which the Papacy can on some earthly questions sympathize? It is not pleasant to live with reprobates, but if one must live with them, a reprobate brother may be, must be, more tolerable than a reprobate acquaintance. It is something to know that in earning hell, if one must earn hell, one helps one's own family. A recon- ciliation with Italy would secure all that a strict affiance with France could secure—security, and ease, and spiritual freedom, nay, perhaps more than all. The greatest mistake we Protestants make is to imagine that because Cardinals are anachronisms they are therefore absolutely insincere, that be- cause they would call in Voltairians or devils rather than sur- render power, therefore they like Voltairians, or are careless whether their supporters are Voltairians or not. They care very much in their own way, and, apart altogether from blood, the Pope and his Italian intimates would rather live among the Italians, who, when sceptical, are easy, tranquil secularists, utterly careless of all creeds, and when faithful are earnest 1J1tramontanes, than among men who, when sceptical, earnestly hate priests, and when faithful say gravely one must risk hell to make the State supreme. Montalembert as Minister of the Interior would hang a priest as readily as a layman, think himself utterly base for not hanging him if he deserved hang- ing. With Frenchmen the Pope could only make an agree-
insult, with Italians he can come to an understanding, and he sways towards Italy with a force which frightens the Ultra- montanes.
If he yields, and convinces or coerces his entourage, there is no immediate difficulty in the way. Ultimate difficulties *here are in plenty, but they are not greater than those which -would accompany him in exile. State and reverence, per- sonal immunities and annual revenues he may have in almost any measure, may be Sovereign within the Vatican and St. Peter's, may even retain some legal rights over his immense staff. Italy will concede almost anything for full possession of Rome, may even consent to waive for some years the claim of the Sovereign to reside in his capital. We question if even the Patriciat would be rejected, though it involves difficulties as to the authority of Parliament, for once the new system has hardened itself, the white robe oan easily be transmuted into one of ermine, the staff into a sceptre. Italy will accept anything which makes Rome once more Italian, the Romans anything which relieves them of priestly rule, gives them liberty once more to speak and write and act without the permission of some man in a cowl. Foreign powers, with the exception of Austria, are little in- terested, for they have their concordats, and Austria cannot intervene ; foreign Catholics will only perceive the change in the renewed activity of the Holy See and greater care in pro- motions ; and the Protestant world will look on, half indif- ferent, half cordial, glad that the secular influences surround- ing the Papacy will for the future be liberal, indifferent to the danger that the Papacy, relieved of its alliance with Icings, may ally itself with the masses who have yet to rise. There are depths of obstinacy in the Roman Court no Pro- testant can fathom, but to all appearance the current of events and of opinions tends towards a free Pope in Rome.