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Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier


An interesting account of the furious political warfare waged between sections of Catholic Quebec, which culminated in the attainment of Sir Wilfrid Laurier to leadership of the Liberal party.


VI. LIBERALISM AND THE CHURCH and in Laval University, at Quebec,

another temper and other views of how In the first ten years of Wilfrid Laurier's the church's interest could best be served public career the outstanding issue prevailed; but the fighting, uncomprowhich he had to face was the hostility of mising, unrecking minority daily gained a vigorous and aggressive section of the ascendancy. Quebec clergy to the party of which he The activity of this school was the was one of the responsible leaders. It

intense because confederation has been seen that in the twenty years seemed to have left them a free field. before confederation the Rouge party In Quebec, as in the other provinces, and its journalistic spokesmen had, not there had been set up a provincial without reason, found themselves in the government to which were assigned edublack books of the clergy, and that with cation and the local matters in which much less reason Bishop Bourget and the church was chiefly concerned. No his abettors had waged war upon the longer was it necessary to run the gantlet young men grouped in l'Institut Cana- of a vigilant and biassed Clear Grit dien who had dared to maintain the group from Upper Canada when matliberty of inquiry and discussion. In ters ecclesiastical were brought before the dozen years that followed, the storm, the house. In Quebec the people were instead of abating, grew more violent. four fifths Catholic, and on this fact the The area of conflict widened, occupying Ultramontane wing based its hopes of the whole provincial stage, and the con- molding the province to its will. nection with the contemporaneous move- But more effective than any other facments in Europe became still

tor was the influence of the Old-World marked than in the union period.

conflict. The Canadian movement was One factor in the situation was that not merely parallel with the European, the aggressively Ultramontane wing of but in issues and inspiration, party the church in Quebec had grown more labels and party cries, it was directly and powerful. Mgr. Bourget and Mgr. La- closely shaped by it. flèche were now older and more firmly In Catholic Europe, and particularly established in their seats, with wills in France, a struggle had waged for cenwhich had become no less firm with years turies between opposing tendencies that of exercised authority. Around them, before 1789 were usually termed Galand particularly in Montreal, there lican and Ultramontane, and after 1789, gathered the men of what Mgr. Bourget liberal and Ultramontane, though the termed the "New School," journalists shades of opinion were too multiform like the editors of the “Nouveau Monde" and shifting for any single labels to and the "Franc Parleur," pamphleteers qualify them aright. The Gallican

. like Alphonse Villeneuve, and preachers sought to build up an independent nalike Abbé Pelletier and Father Braün, a tional church, demanding administrative newly come Jesuit. In the archbishop's authority for the king and doctrinal palace, in the Seminary of St. Sulpice, authority for church councils, as against

, 1 "Inopportune questions, such as the secularisation of the schools and the strict limitation of ecclesiastical rights of mainmort, had had the effect of alarming the clergy, who feared a coalition between a certain number of Catholics and the Protestants of Upper Canada, and of raising against the Liberals a tempest which left behind it bitter feelings that have required many years to efface." "Le Pays," 1871.


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the claims of the papacy. The Ultra- vicar of Christ rather than the civil serv.
montane, looking “beyond the moun- ants of a Bourbon king.
tains” to Rome, insisted that the one What was to be the attitude of the
holy Catholic Church must be ruled as a ancient power thus revived to the new
unity, that the pope as its head and power unloosed by the Revolution?
God's viceregent not only was supreme Could the church accept the principles
in spiritual affairs, but was entitled, be- of '89 and '93, inscribe “Liberty, Equal-
cause of the inherent superiority of ity, and Fraternity" on its banners, and
spiritual power over temporal, to con- make terms with liberalism and the
trol all temporal affairs--and they were states in which liberalism was in con-
not few-in which moral or spiritual trol? Continental liberalism, with its
issues could be said to be involved. emphasis on the individual, had assumed
The Gallican, on the whole, had the bet- a state founded on the free contract of
ter of the dispute until the French Rev- individual men, had asserted the right
olution seemed likely to end it by com- to freedom of thought, of speech, and of
pleting the destruction alike of national organization, and then had often incon-
church and papal power. The national sistently refused the church freedom to
churches, undermined by the nationalist act and organize as it willed. The
questioning of the age of Voltaire and church had held that political societies
weakened by the worldliness of the were not man-made, but ordained of
higher clergy, appeared destined to crum- Heaven, and that individual reason and
ble under the attacks of the revolution- individual claims must be subordinated
ary spirit, which accepted no institution to the authority in church and state
however ancient and no claim that could that God himself had set up.
not justify itself at the bar of reason. There were many ardent spirits in
The papacy, with its Italian possessions France -Lamennais, Lacordaire, and
invaded and seized and the popes them- Montalembert foremost among them-
selves exiled and prisoners, had fallen to who believed it would be possible to
its lowest ebb of power.

bring the church and liberalism to terms, Yet the tide speedily turned. The and to develop a Catholic liberalism nineteenth century witnessed no more which would meet the needs of the new remarkable development than the steady day. They besought the pope to place revival of the Roman Catholic Church himself at the head of a purified liberal and the still more rapid growth of the movement in Europe, and to base Ultramontane spirit within the church. Catholicism firmly once more on the will The people, when admitted to power, and the devotion of the multitudes. In proved to be much more religious than revolt against the policy which made the the skeptical aristocrats of the old church merely an instrument of state régime. In the softer lights of romanti- policy, they turned to Rome for freedom cism faiths revived that had wilted from royal shackles; urging freedom for under the harsh noonday glare of ration- themselves, they were prepared to extend alism. Kings and nobles and capital- it to others. Fighting Gallican kings ists, seeking to build up bulwarks against and ministers, they sought to be at once tumultuous change, turned to the most Ultramontane and liberal, Ultramontane ancient and unchanging seat of authority from religious conviction, and liberal in Europe. But the new religious zeal, from political expediency. “Men tremfor all the efforts of Bourbon and Haps- ble before liberalism," Lamennais had burg kings, could not be put back into declared; "make it Catholic, and society the old bottles of Gallicanism. The will be born again.” “There are two clergy in France had ceased to be a sep- liberalisms," he wrote in “L'Avenir" in arate estate of the realm; the episcopate 1830, “the old and the new: the old, heir had ceased to be made up of scions of to the doctrines of eighteenth-century ancient families, bound by training and philosophy, breathes only religious interritorial possessions to the political tolerance and oppression, but the new interests of their kingdom. All the men liberalism, which will time overcome of vitality in the reviving church pre- the old, is only concerned, as regards ferred to be the religious servants of the religion, with demanding the separation


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of Church and State, a separation which the worse, kingless as well as godless. is necessary for the liberty of the Liberty was not for all times and places, Church.” “Understand clearly, my for while truth must always be given Catholic brethren,” Lacordaire had liberty, the right to do wrong or think added, "if you wish liberty for your- wrong could not be claimed. In the selves, you must wish it for all men and famous encyclical "Mirari vos," Gregfor every land. If you demand it for ory XVI condemned the Catholic libyourselves alone, it will never be given eral policy, exhorted believers to adyou. Grant it where you are masters in here to the old truths as interpreted by order that it may be given you where you their old guides, and condemned in turn are slaves." And the Bishop of Orleans, “the absurd and erroneous maxim that Mgr. Dupanloup,

liberty of conscience had been equally

must be assured clear-cut: “These

and guaranteed to liberties, so dear to

all,” “that fatal those who accuse us

liberty, which one of not loving them,

cannot regard with we proclaim and we

sufficient horror, invoke for ourselves

the liberty of printas well as for others.

ing whatsoever is We accept, we in

desired," and the voke, the principles

dangerous moveand the liberties

ment for separation proclaimed in '89."

of church and state. Catholic liberal

Lamennais had apism fought in vain.

pealed to Rome, The liberals of the

and Rome had straiter sect would

spoken. Catholic not make peace,

liberalism had recontinuing to attack

ceived its first dethe doctrines of the

fect. church and too

For the time the suspicious of its

rebuke brought Bishop Laflèche of Trois-Rivières. 1818-98 power to grant it the

peace and seeming unrestricted liberty

unity. The passing of teaching and organization that was of the Falloux law of 1850, giving the demanded. Liberal or constitutional Catholic Church in France freedom of politicians, particularly in central Europe, teaching and a wide share in the control insisted that the church had no rights of primary schools, marked the effectivesave what the state conferred, and that ness of a united Catholic party. But the the religious affairs of a nation should be old divergences soon reappeared, if on a regulated by the minister of worship, as different plane. The Gallican tradition foreign affairs by the foreign secretary. was dead; national churches with royal Skeptical wits pictured Lamennais as defenders of the faith were no more. "putting the red cap on the cross,” "lead- What was to take the vacant place? ing '93 to its Easter communion," or On the one side men like Lacordaire, "taking Babeuf into the service of the Montalembert,-Lamennais had long prophet Ezekiel.” Nor was Rome more since drifted wholly away from the ready to accept a compromise. Liberal- church,—and Abbé Dupanloup urged in ism had too much to say about the rights politics full and frank acceptance of of man and too little about duty to God; democracy, and in religion the same it erred in endeavoring to found society liberty to other faiths they demanded upon the shifting sands of individual for their own. On the other, Mgr. compact instead of upon the rock of divine Parisis and Mgr. Pie, and especially ordinance applied and interpreted by the Louis Veuillot, a flaming, fighting, unchurch and its earthly head; liberalism compromising journalist, upheld auwas only Gallicanism transformed for thority, insisted that liberty was good only where the true believers were in a blow by pointing out that it had not minority, and urged unquestioning rec- been signed by the pope, and that the ognition of the pope's supreme doctrinal various propositions were subject to authority. Each hoped for recognition comment. Montalembert insisted that from Rome, but as the controversy the interpretations given to the Syllabus waged throughout the fifties and sixties, by the chief organ of Ultramontanism, it became clear which way Rome would the “Civilta Catholica,” published by lean. Pope Pius IX had been hailed as the Jesuits at Rome, were as unauthora liberal when he succeeded Gregory ized as they were monstrous, "outraging XVI in 1846, but after he himself had reason, justice, and honor." But the experienced the fury of the Revolution sweeping triumph of the Ultramontane of 1848 and been driven from Rome tendency in the proclamation of papal until restored by French troops, his infallibility at the Vatican Council made sympathies became steadily more con- it impossible for the most sanguine servative, until in the Syllabus of 1864 Catholic liberal to deny defeat. and the Vatican Council of 1870 Catholic After long preparation there assemliberalism received its second crushing bled in Rome in 1869 a great ecumenical defeat.


council, comprising over seven hundred The Syllabus was a list of “the prin- bishops and prelates representing virtucipal errors of our time,” issued by Pius ally every country in the world. Many IX in 1864. The eighty condemned matters were debated, but the vital and propositions included the errors of na- testing issue of papal infallibility overturalism and rationalism, of socialism, shadowed all others. It was soon apparcommunism, and secret societies, errors ent that those who supported the dogma regarding morality and marriage, the greatly outnumbered, though it was relations of church and state, the tem- denied that they outweighed, those who poral power of the pope, and the claims opposed it or believed its proclamation of modern liberalism. Chief interest inopportune.

inopportune. In Italy, Spain, France, was attached to the listing as dangerous and the English-speaking countries alike errors of such propositions as “that the a majority supported the doctrine; only Church has no right to employ force,” among the German-Austrian prelates "that in case of conflict between the two was a majority opposed. From Decempowers the civil authority must prevail,” ber to July negotiation and debate "that the Church should be separated waged ceaselessly. The most active of from the State and the State from the the supporters were Archbishop ManChurch,” “that the abrogation of the ning of Westminster, Bishop Senestréz of temporal sovereignty of the Holy See Regensburg, Archbishop Dechamps of would advance the liberty and prosper- Mechlin, Bishop Martin of Paderbom, ity of the Church," "that in the present and Bishop Spalding of Baltimore; the day it is no longer expedient that the most active opponents within the council Catholic religion should be considered were Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans, as the sole state religion, to the exclusion Cardinal Mathieu of Besançon, Archof all other creeds,” “that it has been bishop Darboy of Paris, Cardinal wisely provided by law in certain Catho- Schwartzenberg of Prague, Archbishop lic countries that strangers who come to Scherr of Munich, Cardinal Rauscher of reside there may enjoy the public exercise Vienna, Bishop Ketteler of Mainz, Bishop of their own religion,” and “that the Hefele of Rottenburg, Dr. Kenrick of Roman Pontiff can and should reconcile St. Louis, and Bishop Connolly of Halihimself and come to terms with progress, fax, while outside the council Döllinger liberalism and modern civilization.” in Munich and Newman and Acton

The publication of the Syllabus gave in England took the same stand. Opporise to the most violent controversy; it sition was vain; on the eighteenth of was lauded by Ultramontanes, and July, with many of the minority abstainreceived by Continental liberals as a ing, the formula was adopted by 533 to declaration of war; Napoleon III forbade 2, and the decree solemnly promulgated its publication in France. The Catho- by Pius IX. Hereafter it was unqueslic liberal group endeavored to avert the tione] Catholic doctrine “that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, movement, and were encouraged by its that is to say, when, in virtue of his success to assert a wider influence in supreme apostolical authority, and in state affairs and to take a stronger line the exercise of his office as pastor and against their more moderate brethren instructor of all Christians, he pro- within the church itself. nounces any doctrine to ng faith or A remarkable episode, making dramorality to be binding on the whole matically clear the closer bonds that now Church, is, by reason of the divine assist- united Quebec and Rome, was the ance promised to him in the person of organization in 1867 and the two years St. Peter, endowed with that infallibility following of companies of Papal Zouaves which, according to the will of the Re- for the defense of the pope's temporal deemer, is vouchsafed to the Church realms. So strong was the conviction when she desires to fix a doctrine of that the whole future of religion and the faith or morality; and that consequently church was imperiled, that hundreds of all such decisions of the Roman Pontiff young crusaders, fêted and garlanded by are per se immutable and independent of sympathetic friends and blessed by the subsequent assent of the Church." Bishop Bourget in a glowing pastoral,

Ultramontanism had triumphed-tri- crossed the seas from this land that had umphed so completely that leaders of seemed to know little and care less for the church thereafter denied that it was Old-World quarrels, prepared to fight merely one current of action and opin- side by side with Papal Guards against ion, and insisted that it was synonymous the forces that were striving to make with any permissible interpretation of Italy a single nation, with Rome as its Roman Catholicism itself. Yet if ac- center and crown. cepted within the church, the tendencies The new spirit was manifested in of which the proclamation of papal many onslaughts against the men of infallibility was the crowning achieve- moderate views. The Seminary of St. ment were not accepted by European Sulpice in Montreal and Laval Universtatesmen. Austria annulled the Con- sity in Quebec, with the archbishop as cordat, Prussia launched out upon its its patron, were vigorously attacked in Kulturkampf, and in France the war the sixties and seventies. Mgr. Bourget between clerical and anti-clerical parties was Bishop of Montreal but the semigrew ever more bitter until it led, many nary, as seigneur in receipt of rents and years later, to the disestablishment of lods et ventes, and as curé, in receipt of the church and the expulsion of the tithes, secured the chief revenues accrureligious orders. The day after the ing within the diocese. The main issue decree was issued war broke out between at stake was the right of the bishop to France and Prussia, Napoleon withdrew subdivide the old single parish of Monthe troops which had garrisoned the treal, hitherto in charge of the seminary; Papal States, and the temporal power of a subsidiary question was as to whether the pope collapsed in the very year that he could establish the new parishes withhis spiritual authority reached tran- out the consent of the majority of the scendent heights.

parishioners concerned, and the formal In Canada, as elsewhere, the church approval of the state. Sir George Carauthorities were divided in opinion as to tier and “La Minerva” stoutly chamthe doctrinal soundness or the practical pioned the seminary; in “Le Nouveau expediency of the Syllabus and the defi- Monde,” established in 1864 under his nition of papal infallibility. In Quebec direct control, Mgr. Bourget found Archbishop Baillargeon circulated among vigorous newspaper support. Of the his clergy the famous letter in which many writings in the wordy war, doubtBishop Dupanloup, on the eve of depart- less the most extraordinary was the ing for the council, had vigorously and "Comédie Infernale" of Alphonse Villeminutely called in question both the neuve, in which the seminary, “the last soundness and opportuneness of the refuge of Gallicanism and Catholic doctrine. But the men of the newer Liberalism,” was portrayed as receiving school, led by Bishop Bourget, gave the approbation of Lucifer, Beelzebub, hearty support to the Ultramontane and other demons assembled in council,

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