TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE POPE AND THE KAISER.
MEE correspondence between the Pope and the Emperor of J.. Germany reminds UB somehow of a scene in the times of which Froissart is the painter,—the delivery and acceptance of the cartel, which, in its high and stately form, is still but the prelude to battle to the death. It is hardly possible for language to be more kingly than that alike of Pope and Emperor, unless indeed there be a faint, but designed slight in the entire omission of any form indicating that the Pope recognised in his correspondent any rank higher than that of King,—an omission the Emperor notes, but does not resent. It is quite probable that this is accidental, as the Pope was writing on Prussian affairs ; and for the rest, neither fails in any form of high and dignified courtesy. The Pope, trusting no doubt to information too private to be accurate, had evidently hoped that a personal appeal to the Emperor might bring out his personal dislike to the ecclesiastical laws—which certainly existed once—and so either induce him to abandon those laws, or release Prussian Catholics from their strong sense of personal loyalty to the head of the Hohenzollerns. If the King were against the laws, they are in the minds of Junkers but Parliamentary decrees. The Pope suggests to him that "as he does not approve of further extending those rigorous measures against the religion of Jesus Christ, whereby the latter is most injuriously affected "—a curious expression, implying an under-current of fear that the State may prove too strong for the priesthood—" will not his Majesty become convinced that these measures have no other effect than that of undermining his Majesty's own throne"? The mean- ing of that is clearly, that if the Emperor persists in persecuting "religion" he will lose the allegiance of his Catholic subjects, an indiscreet menace, to which the Emperor, with a haughty self-control, makes no semblance even of reply. He treats that as a mere insult, and is too highly placed in Europe for insult even to reach him. The Pope continues with an elevation of tone which, all invective being absent, has a certain grandeur. A poor Captain of the Guard, with- out much culture, Pio Nono writes easily from his assumed footing as King and something more :—" I speak with frank- ness, for my banner is truth ; I speak in order to fulfil one of my duties, which consists in telling the truth to all, even to those who are not Catholics, for every one who has been bap- tised belongs in some way or other—which to define more precisely would be here out of place—belongs, I say, to the Pope." 'Even you, 0 Emperor ! as a man baptised in the name of the Trinity, belong in some sense to me ; I, the Vice- gerent of Christ, am your superior too, with right to speak plainly, even if unpleasantly. This sentence will probably be denounced throughout Germany and England as a new pretension, but it is one of the very oldest in the Papal system, which, whether affirming personal infallibility or not, always asserted its claim to regard all legally baptised men as subject of right to the authority of Christ's Vice- gerent.
The reply of the Emperor is equally dignified, reticent, and determined. While the Pope can find no reason for these very hard measures, forgetting that while Bavarian soldiers were fighting France, Bavarian priests were denouncing the war, and forgetting also that the harshest measures followed the acceptance by all Bishops of the dogma which places the Pope in the region of faith and morals above municipal law, the Emperor ignores altogether the laws which strike at the very root of Roman Catholic discipline, and indeed of cer- tain practices held to be essential to salvation. He proudly asserts that in his States no law or measure can be passed without his assent ; denies that it is his mission to inquire why "the clergy and the Catholic faithful can be induced to assist actively the enemies of all law "—an allu- sion to the Catholic aid said to have been lent to the Socialists of Silesia—and promises "to maintain law and order in the States whose government has been given me by God," clearly, in the Emperor's view, a God of battles :—" I am in duty bound to do it as a Christian monarch, even when, to my sorrow, I have to fulfil this Royal duty against the servants of Church whjel uppose acknowledges no less than the Evangelical Church that the commandment of obedience to secular authority is an emanation of the revealed will of God.
Many of the priests in Prussia, subject to Your Holiness, disown, to my regret, the Christian doctrine in this respect, and place my Government under the necessity—supported by the great majority of my loyal Catholic and Evangelical sub- jects—of extorting obedience to the law by worldly means." And then calmly turning on the Pope, who had asked him to. adopt the needful means to protect the faithful, he "will- ingly entertains the hope that his Holiness will use his, authority to induce the Priests to put an end to an agitation? with which the religion of Jesus Christ, "as I attest to your Holiness before God, has nothing to do." That sentence, of course, depends upon what is the religion of Jesus Christ ; and the Emperor, always true to the Hohenzollern tradition, leaves his correspondent in no doubt about his own view :— I belong to you in some sense'? In what sense, then ? "There is one more expression in the letter of Your Holi- ness which I cannot pass over without contradiction, although it is not based upon erroneous reports, but upon the. belief of Your Holiness,—namely, the expression that every one who has received baptism belongs to the Pope. The Evangelical creed, which, as must be known to Your Holi- ness, I, like my ancestors and the majority, of my subjects, profess, does not permit us to accept in our relations with God any other Mediator than our Lord Jesus Christ."
All this was known before, but there is something stately,. something dramatic, something which, as it were, belongs to. history, in the way in which the two great Powers—one purely spiritual, though tainted with a desire for secular dominion,. the other purely temporal, yet supported by a loyalty which is. spiritual—step forward to announce formally the war long waged so informally between them, and their resolution to. march on to the bitter end. There is an open though courte- ous avowal of hostility, of a radical difference in their idea of their claims to rule men, which carries us back to the days of the Hohenstauffen, and re-suggests the letters, far less stately, but far more deadly, in which Henry VIIL declare& that he was King in England, and he would have done. with delay. We should say, on the whole, despite the dignified attitude of both, that the Pope's was the more beseeching, and the Emperor's the more confident, because he claims the support alike of Catholic and Evangelical, a. support of which he was yet to make trial. We shout& say it also because, while the Pope writes on August 7,. and has never published his letter, and the Emperor replies on September 3, nearly a month afterwards, it is since the latter's reply that the proceedings have been taken against the Archbishop of Posen, and because the corre- spondence has been given to the world only on October 14, the day on which Dr. Koett, the Bishop of Fulda, died, a fact instantly made known to Berlin by tele- graph. It may be that it is round that Episcopal throne the battle will be fought, and the two great parties test their strength. It is nearly impossible to believe the Emperor will go so far as absolutely to appoint a Catholic bishop of his own prerogative, but if he sincerely believes in his own case, and sincerely trusts that Catholics will support him, Fulda offers' many temptations. It is a very little diocese, with only 14,000. inhabitants, but occupied almost exclusively by Catholics, and. the test could not be safer or more perfect. Fourteen thousand people pannot rise in open insurrection, nor cam there be any talk of mixed population. Then Fulda was the- seat of a Prince-Bishop, and the tradition of the Prince-- Bishoprics is one of immemorial discontent so deep and fierce, that it has been held by Catholic writers to account for the early successes of the French Revolutionary Army. And finally,. Fulda was from 1815 to 1866 part of Hesse, the State in which of all States of Germany the worship of goodness has' superseded all forms of dogmatic Christianity. Whether that tone of mind extends at all to the Catholics of Fulda we have no means of knowing, but it may well be a place where the Emperor might desire to try once for all whether the. Catholics of Germany are Erastians, or whether he is. fighting a people as well as a priesthood. That is the point to be ascertained. In Posen, where the Poles, though outnumbered by the Germans, identify religion and _ nationality, there exists no doubt whatever ; but Fulda is German if any place in Europe is German, the people are unharassed by religious conflict, and both the reigning House and its advisers evidently believe that in such places Catholicism is, among the laity, merely an inherited creed. The Bishops are a mere group, the priesthood a mere class, and both must rely on the " religious " or "Catholic" feeling of the people. If that does not exist, if the people will accept either Dr. Reinkens or a priest selected by the King as a Bishop, with power to ordain priests whose ministrations are accepted as valid, the struggle is over, and Germany outside Poland is a Protestant country, an Empire filled with men who 'believe that the State is above all things, all manner of Churches included, The Struggle comes to that in reality, and that is the forni Which bOth POpe and Emperor know that it must 'asstinie. That the Empire will win in that dramatic style We cannOf belle;ie; there being absolutely no evi- dense On -that side, the Catholics having as yet uttered nothing beyoiid protesti ; but that the Empire may so try to win,'is at' least quite Ossible.