The Papacy, the Corner-stone of Tyranny;
A Refutation of the Rev. J. Christie’s Lecture,
“The Papacy, The Counterpoise of Tyranny”
June 28, 1858 — Corn Exchange, Preston, England
[She began her lecture by stating that she fully agreed with the chairman in his sentiments of religious tolerance; she did not with to hurt the feelings of either Catholics or Protestants; she desired simply to state the truth about an oppressed people, who had been struggling fo r the last fifty years for civil, political, and religious liberty.]
About a year ago, in that place, the Reve. Mr. Christie delivered a lecture, in which he endeavoured to prove that the papacy was the counterpoise to tyranny, the fount of all good, the refuge for the oppressed,— in short, a sort of Eldorado of the human race. He has sought to persuade you that the disorder, the anarchy, the misery which sadden many countries of Europe are owing to the disobedience to the authority of the Pope. He affirsm that liberty, progress, and prosperity can perfectly co-exist with absolutism, and that slavery, reaction, and tyranny are quite compatible with democratic republics. And, in order to support his arguments, he points to Hungary governed by Kossuth, whom he vituperates and slanders, and to the Roman republic in 1849, whose rulers and people he accuses of every crime of which the human race might be though capable at the lowest ebb of degradation
Now if I, a year ago, had been asked to answer this lecture, I should have suggested that some gentleman of Preston should have called upon Mr. Christie to prove his assertions, because you must remember that there are certain assertions which cannot be disproved. When people tel you that orgies were held in certain places, without giving the dates or the names of the people who attended them, it is impossible for you to disprove the assertion that orgies were held.
In England we are accustomed to believe people innocent until they are proved guilty — and therefore I should have expected somebody to have risen up and said; “You have brought the gravest charges against two European nations who have been fighting, spilling their best blood, and dying for civil, religious, ad political liberty. Now those two nations, crushed by the brute force of the armies of Europe, are impotent to answer for themselves. It is not necessary for them to prove their innocence, but you must stand here and prove their guilt. You must give your charges, cite your witnesses, and tell us where these things are registered, before we can believe you; and if you do not do this, you stand before us a calumniator and a libeller.”
But a year has passed, and lies repeated sufficiently often become current as truths; and as it concerns me to address the English public on one of the most sacred causes — namely, the cause of the oppressed nationalities, I have undertaken to-night to refute Mr. Christie’s lecture, confining myself to the Italian question, as the limits of one lecture will not allow me to rebus the calumnies against Kossuth and the Hungarians. Mr. Christie allows that some Popes have been very bad men, but contends that the system of Papacy is good. Therefore, my lecture is divided into two parts. In the first, I must speak to you of the system of the Papacy, and, secondly, I must speak step by step, of the struggles of the Italian nation to throw off the Papal yoke. Now, I consider, and most Italians consider, that the temporal power of the Pope — and it is about the temporal power I particularly address you to-night — ad foreign rule are the two great obstacles that prevent Italy from being free, as England is free; and the one sole object of the Italians now is to possess one Italy free and independent — to possess a national religion, a national government, national army colleges and schools; in short, to possess all those liberties which you, as English people, are proud to possess. They have been struggling to throw off the Pope’s power and to drive out the foreigners.
[Addressing herself to the first part of the lecture, she proceeded to trace the history of the Papal power from the year 347 down to the present time. She observed that a series of eminent Popes occupied the Papal see for four consecutive centuries.]
Everywhere they interfered in favour of the weak. Little by little the morality of the Gospel took the place of brute force and the conquests of the sword. In the ninth century, however, the Papacy assumed a new phase; it now aspired to temporal rule, the Pope aiming to become king of kings. From this epoch up to the thirteenth century the Papacy still continued at the head of civilization, and with the exception of Italy the whole of Europe up to that period had reason to be grateful to the Papacy.
Ever since the ninth century the Popes had been the first and supreme cause of Italy’s calamities, because they ever prevented her from becoming a nation.
[The lecturer then proceeded to cite numerous historical facts to show that the Popes in Italy, and the presence of foreign soldiery, had been the means of preventing the Italians from achieving their independence. In the course of her historical sketch she stated that with Innocent the Third the Papacy completed its mission for the human race.]
Two alternatives were now open to it — either to give in its resignation or to become reactionary. The first course was one too little in accordance with human nature to be pursued, and so the Papacy bent all its energies to block up the path of progress in which the world was advancing.
[She next alluded to the establishment of the Inquisition, and the persecution of the reformers. Referring to the establishment of the Jesuits she said that] was an army disciplined on the basis of blind conscience. On this double abolition of human reason and human conscience the Papacy had been re-constructed, and its history during the last six centuries was the abolition of religious sentiment, of thought, and of liberty; that was the negation of life itself.
Mr. Christie asserted that the Papacy was the counterpoise to tyranny, which signified that the Papacy was the champion of liberty. If the Pope was the counterpoise to tyranny it must follow that liberty reigned in his dominions as an example and logical precedent. But where was the liberty the inhabitants of the Papal States enjoyed?
The religious liberty was under the safeguard of the Inquisition at Rome; political liberty was under the safeguard of Swiss, French, and Austrian soldiers civil liberty was under the safeguard of the gendarmes of Signor Nardoni, a galley slave, into whose flesh was seared the brand of the malefactor, to-day the counsellor of Pius IX, and the very soul of his government.
It would be well if Mr. Christie would go and live in the state of the Pope. There let him ask the sbirri, who may enter his house to chain and drag him to the prisons of Paliano, to produce the order of the tribunal that authorized his arrest; it would be well if he refused to pay the taxes because they had not been voted by the house of parliament: it would be well if he would attempt to publish a paper of a pamphlet calling to account a legate or a Monseigneur for stealing the public funds, and [she felt persuaded that] the rev. Gentleman would soon make very wry faces at the peculiar taste of liberty under the Pope, and would return to tell us that the Papacy was quite another thing than the counterpoise to tyranny. —
[The lecturer then quoted several extracts from the writing of the Popes of the 19th century, to show that they were foes of liberty, and that the Papacy was the ally of despotism. Addressing herself more particularly to the reign of the present Pontiff, and the events of 1848-9, she stated that her assertions were chiefly based on the dispatches of the English ambassadors and consuls, to the English government, and the writings of one Italian author, Luigi Farini, a good Catholic, a staunch constitutionalist, and a bitter hater of the republicans, who would therefore not be suspected of partiality towards the patriots of Italy.]
When Pius IX. ascended the throne anarchy and crime seemed to have reached their climax in the Papal States. Disgust and distrust were engendered in the minds of the people; and as it was in Rome so it was in Lombardy, Piedmont, and Naples — the despots were every where combating the spirit of freedom. Mr. Christie told them that the Pope had done all that his subjects demanded of him, until they asked him to make war with Austria, and he then refused.
That was not the truth, or rather Mr. Christie had left out a very large part of the truth.
Pius IX. blessed his army, he blessed the volunteers; they went up to the national war wearing the medals of the Pope upon their breasts. But in April he suddenly discovered that the Austrians were his children as well as the Italians, and he published an encyclical letter forbidding the war, and from that time his popularity declined.
Replying to the charge which Mr. Christie had reproduced against the republicans — the assassination of Count Rossi — she went on to show that the republicans had no cause to compass his death. The authors of the crime had never yet been discovered. Rossi was stabbed as he was coming from the court I the staircase leading to the hall of the council. Mr. Christie informed them that “a miscreant, who had before been instructed on three corpses how to insure a fatal blow, stabbed him, and with the holy names of Jesus and Mary on his lips he fell.”
Mr. Christie was better informed, it seemed, than the public in general as to the authors of this crime; nay more, he detailed the previous preparations for its perpetration. Far be it from [her] to dispute such knowledge with the rev. gentleman; but if his statements were true she left it for them to judge from what sources he could have got his information.
The fact of his being in possession of the secret proved that that secret did not belong to the republicans, as it was highly improbable that they would have chosen Mr. Christie for their confidant.
[She then quoted from M. F. Lesseps, the French envoy extraordinary at Rome, to prove that the Roman republicans were not responsible for Rossi’s death, and went on to refer to the troubles of 1848, to the flight of the Pope, and to the establishment of the provisional government, which lasted for two months.]
At the end of that period, the provisional government appealed to the male adult inhabitants of the States to elect a constituent assembly. Thus appealed to, the Romans elected 150 members; and the assembly met for the first time on the 6th of February, 1849. At one a.m. on the 9th of February, after an unbroken sitting of fifteen hours, the abolition of the temporal power of the Papacy was decreed; and that portion of Italy hitherto known by the name of the States of the Church was created a free and independent Republic.
At this sitting 144 members were present; the article abolishing the temporal power of the Papacy was passed by 139 against 5; that constituting the republic was carried by 133 against 11. These two acts thus embodied the desires and expressed the will of Central, Italy…
Source: The Preston Chronicle and Lancashire Advertiser, July 3, 1858, p. 6.