Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview
was asked what the Roman Catholic clergy would do if the pope intermeddled with their religion, replied frankly, "The consequence would be, that we should oppose him by every means in our power, even by the exercise of our spiritual authority."In the absence of explicit assurances to this effect, we should appear to be led, nay, driven, by just reasoning upon that documentary evidence, to the conclusions: --
1. That the Pope, authorized by his Council, claims for himself the domain (a) of faith, (b) of morals, (c) of all that concerns the government and discipline of the Church.
2. That he in like manner claims the power of determining the limits of those domains.
3. That he does not sever them, by any acknowledged or intelligible line, from the domains of civil duty and allegiance.
4. That he therefore claims, and claims from the month of July, 1870, onwards with plenary authority, from every convert and member of his Church, that he shall "place his loyalty and civil duty at the mercy of another:" that other being himself.

* * *

What then is to be our course of policy hereafter? First let me say that, as regards the great Imperial settlement, achieved by slow degrees, which has admitted men of all creeds subsisting among us to Parliament, that I conceive to be so determined beyond all doubt or question, as to have become one of the deep foundation-stones of the existing Constitution. . . . I shall be guided hereafter, as heretofore, by the rule of maintaining equal civil rights irrespectively of religious differences; and shall resist all attempts to exclude the members of the Roman Church from the benefit of that rule. . . . Not only because the time has not yet come when we can assume the consequences of the revolutionary measures of 1870 to have been thoroughly weighed and digested by all capable men in the Roman Communion. Not only because so great a numerical proportion are . . . necessarily incapable of mastering, and forming their personal judgment upon, the case. Quite irrespectively even of these considerations, I hold that our onward even course should not be changed by follies, the consequences of which, if the worst come to the worst, this country will have alike the power and . . . the will to control. The State will, I trust, be ever careful to leave the domain of religious conscience free, and yet to keep it to its own domain; and to allow neither private caprice nor, above all, foreign arrogance to dictate to it in the discharge of its proper office. . . .

Source: W. E. Gladstone, The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance ( London, 1874), pp. 11-13, 14-15, 19-21, 29.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

P. Magnus, Gladstone, A Biography ( London, 1954).

H. C. G. Matthew, Gladstone 1809-1874 ( Oxford, 1986).

-180-

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