5 FEBRUARY 1870, Page 13



Rome, January 29, 1870. UNLESS I misread the signs abroad greatly, this last week has been one of superior importance for the Council. I think the clouds are lifting themselves over much which has been hitherto shrouded in mystery, and we see with definiteness things that heretofore have been subject for guess. Also there have been some stirring incidents—at least according to the ways of the Council— and I think one now can speak about prospects and parties with some degree of confidence.

To begin with what is stirring, I must mention the startling speech delivered last Monday by the Croat Bishop Strossmayer. This prelate has acquired a position which is very remarkable. The Bishop of an outlandish see, a prelate one may say previously unknown beyond the stage of local interests, he has by his talents, his power of speech, and, above all, the splendid vigour of his broad intellect, won for himself an influence not secondary to that of the Bishop of Orleans, and which has quite secured for him ascendancy over the prelates of the German tongue. His success is the most striking phenomenon of the Council as yet ; and another instance of how in great historical conjunctures the man for the needs of the moment is found where least expected. Cer- tain it is that Bishop Strossmayer has become a central figure in the present assembly, and that he has contrived to establish a character for himself which inspires uneasy feelings in adversaries that have to attack a man so well equipped at all points and so resolute in his spirit. In marked contrast with the independence of mind evinced by the determined Croat, is a painful but eminently significant incident that has befallen another outlandish father, the Chaldee Patriarch. He spoke in the same debate, and echoed pretty much the sentiments uttered by Strosamayer against the levelling system brought to bear from Rome on the local auto- nomies of ancient Churches. Such a demonstration from an Eastern dignitary of this standing was particularly distasteful, for it is part of the programme to get these privileges done away with, so as to put the Eastern Churches absolutely under the Propaganda. It was therefore resolved at once to come down fiercely on the poor Chaldee, who appears to be an old and feeble man, lie was summoned into the Pope's presence. On entering the closet he found himself alone with the Pope and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, an Italian priest. The Pope proceeded immediately to rebuke the

trembling Chaldee in violent terms, and finally extorted from him, almost by physical force, a renunciation in writing of the peculiar privileges and freedoms appertaining to his Church. I shall not be surprised if you shake your head at the authenticity of such a story, with the notion prevalent of Pius the Ninth's good-natured character. There is, however, no doubt on the subject, for the facts are in the possession of the Patriarch's colleagues, who feel that their own rights have been violated in the outrage perpe- trated. I am not able to say what resolution has been come to in regard to this infraction of episcopal privileges, but I know that the matter is at this moment under active consideration with those who are prelates of leading influence, and that it looks as if the irritation entertained at the proceeding must lead to a scene of a novel kind in an early sitting.

The practical importance of such an occurrence is increased by coincidences. It is plain that things in the Council are rapidly being brought to an angry crisis, and the temper of parties is at present in that inflammable condition when every stray incident is liable to be laid hold of as fuel. I informed you that the Tufalli- bilist Address had been presented. In making this statement I fell into an error shared by Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops. It is now admitted that the statement of its presentation was a trap laid for making the Opposition close their counter Addresses and send them in. Complete success attended the measure, for these have gone in, and it is only since the sudden appearance of forms of compromise circulating with much mystery, that it has come to the knowledge of the Opposition Bishops how they have been taken in. It is altogether a very enigmatic point what is the origin of these proposed compromises that are being put about. If I am to believe many persons who should deserve credit, they ought to be the sincere expression of a desire to come to an unanimous understanding, from a conviction now acquired that the original views entertained in favour of an absolute pro- clamation of Infallibility cannot be carried otherwise than against an opposition involving serious disunion in the Church. This language is to my mind to be taken with reservation. I have no doubt that the situation of parties in the Council has disagreeably affected the minds of many ardent Infallibilists. I am convinced that if the temper now shown by a body of Bishops sufficiently numerous to prove formidable should defy the blandishments of cajolery and invidious artifices, then we shall see this Council got rid of by some adjournment or prorogation. But I am not yet able to accept the sanguine anticipations of those who assume that already the hope of carrying their ends has fled from these stern and impassive men, who have been hitherto so thoroughly inflexible in their aims and in their projects. To my mind the bitter fight is not yet past its bitter end, and when I consider what a tremendous collapse of influence is involved in the practical abandonment, however silently and under whatever arrangements, of those views, so prominently broached and defiantly proclaimed, I cannot think that so grim a fanaticism as is ingrained in the protagonists of Infallibility is prepared already to beat a genuine retreat. On the other hand, I am quite ready to admit that it is now become clear to minds once blind to it, that it is not easy to storm the Church with this pet dogma, and that in order to conquer, it is advisable to have recourse to more artful tactics. I see the trace of such tactics in various directions, the most notable being the mission to Paris of the Archbishop of Algiers, and the sudden dissemination in Rome of these professed formulas for a qualified declaration. These latter are put forth with the view of playing upon the weaker brethren in the Opposition ranks, the men who are believed to have no indisposition to the dogma, but to be opposed only on grounds of opportuneness. It is hoped that the recent publication of the Pere Gratry and others who distinctly controvert the dogma on its intrinsic merit, and quite dis- card the grounds of mere expediency on which the Bishop of Orleans professed to take his stand, will produce some difference amongst the Opposition Prelates, and it is against this point, as the one where the solidity of the coalition is likeliest to give way, that the Infallibilists are directing their operations. It has not been in my power to learn that success has sttended them. According to the best information I can get access to, there are no signs of defection. The Bishop of Mayence, who signed the Opposition Address, indeed, distinctly affirms that he does not deny infallibility per se, but this is nothing new. He has held this language all along, and it was a matter of some surprise that he ever signed. With this exception, I have not heard of any one likely to abandon the Opposition at a pinch ; but, on the contrary, I know of more than one bishop who now distinctly declares against the dogma, when originally he went only the length of committing himself against the opportuneness. In the extraordinary obscurity that surrounds everything connected with the operations of the 'Council, and the personal experience I have just had of the facility with which one can be led into error even in regard to a fact apparently so easy of ascertainment as the presentation of the great Infallibilist Address, I feel how incumbent it is not to speak confidently of matters necessarily problematical by their nature. I will not, therefore, say that there is a formed intention of taking this or that move; I do hear serious people express a belief that the original idea of proclaiming infallibility has been dropped, and that a compromise is being sincerely sought. I also hear that in presence of such an opposition as exists, and so .free a spirit of criticism as has been shown, the intention has been abandoned of bringing forward certain propositions already prepared, particularly those treating of the attributes of Papal authority ; and that an early pretext will be sought for getting rid of so inconvenient a Council. On the other hand, I am considerably perplexed to believe that such intentions of retrogression have been actually adopted, when I see the Pope himself browbeating a Patriarch, when I hear the inflexible language that falls from one who is the foremost champion of infallibility, and when I perceive that, at the very moment of supposed conciliation, articles are deliberately brought forward which, according to trustworthy report, embody in the most objectionable forms everything that is most offensive and extreme in the history of Pontifical presumption.