“We want your soldiers, and not your advice, seeing that we are infallible. If you were to show any symptom of doubting that infallibility, and if you attempted to force anything upon us, even our preservation, we would fold our wings around our countenances, we would raise the palms of martyrdom, and we should become an object of compassion to all the Catholics in the universe. You know we have in your country forty thousand men who are at liberty to say everything, and whom you pay with your own money to plead our cause. They shall preach to your subjects, that you are tyrannizing over the Holy Father, and we shall set your country in a blaze without appearing to touch it.”
Necessity of the temporal power.
“For the Pontificate there is no independence but sovereignty itself. Here is an interest of the highest order, which ought to silence the particular interests of nations, even as in a State the public interest silences individual interests.”
These are not my words, but the words of M. Thiers: they occur in his report to the Legislative Assembly, in October 1849. I have no doubt this Father of the temporal Church expressed the wishes of one hundred and thirty-nine millions of Catholics. It was all Catholicity which said to 3,124,668 Italians, by the lips of the honourable reporter:
“Devote yourselves as one man. Our chief can only be venerable, August, and independent, so long as he reigns despotically over you. If, in an evil hour, he were to cease wearing a crown of gold; if you were to contest his right to make and break laws; if you were to give up the wholesome practice of laying at his feet that money which he disburses for our edification and our glory, all the sovereigns of the universe would look upon him as an inferior. Silence, then, the noisy chattering of your individual interests.”
I flatter myself that I am as fervent a Catholic as M. Thiers himself; and were I bold enough to seek to refute him, I should do it in the name of our common faith.
I grant you—this would be the tenor of my argument—that the Pope ought to be independent. But could he not be so at a somewhat less cost? Is it absolutely necessary that 3,124,668 men should sacrifice their liberty, their security, and all that is most precious to them, in order to secure the independence which makes us so happy and so proud? The Apostles were certainly independent at a cheaper rate, for they did nobody harm. The most independent of men is he who has nothing to lose. He pursues his own path, without troubling himself about powers and principalities, for the simple reason that the conqueror most bent on acquisition can take nothing from him.
The greatest conquests of Catholicism were made at a time when the Pope was not a ruler. Since he has become a king, you may measure the territory won from the Church by inches.