Finally, it is not uncommon to find among the prelates some soldiers of fortune, adventurers of the Church, who have been attracted from their native land by the ambition of ecclesiastical greatness. This corps of volunteers receives contingents from the whole Catholic world. These gentlemen furnish some strange examples to the Roman people; and I know more than one of them to whom mothers of families would on no account confide the education of their children. It has happened to me to have described in a novel a prelate who richly deserved a thrashing; the good folks of Rome have named to me three or four whom they fancied they recognized in the portrait. But it has never yet been known that any prelate, however vicious, has given utterance to liberal ideas. A single word from a Roman prelate’s lips in behalf of the nation would ruin him.
The Count de Rayneval has laboured hard to prove that prelates, who have not received the sacrament of Ordination, form part of the lay element. At this rate, a province should deem itself fortunate, and think it has escaped priestly government, if its prefect is simply tonsured. I cannot for the life of me see in what tonsured prelates are more laymen than they are priests. I admit that they neither follow the calling nor possess the virtues of the priesthood; but I maintain that they have the ideas, the interests, the passions of the ecclesiastical caste. They aim at the Cardinal’s hat, when their ambition does not soar to the tiara. Singular laymen, truly, and well fitted to inspire confidence in a lay people! ’Twere better they should become Cardinals; for then they would no longer have their fortunes to make, and they would not be called upon to signalize their zeal against the nation.
For that is, unhappily, the state at which things have arrived. This same ecclesiastical caste, so strongly united by the bonds of a learned hierarchy, reigns as over a conquered country. It regards the middle class,—in other words, the intelligent and laborious part of the nation,—as an irreconcilable foe. The prefects are ordered, not to govern the provinces, but to keep them in order. The police is kept, not to protect the citizens, but to watch them. The tribunals have other interests to defend than those of justice. The diplomatic body does not represent a country, but a coterie. The educating body has the mission not to teach, but to prevent the spread of instruction. The taxes are not a national assessment, but an official foray for the profit of certain ecclesiastics. Examine all the departments of the public administration: you will everywhere find the clerical element at war with the nation, and of course everywhere victorious.
In this state of things it is idle to say to the Pope, “Fill your principal offices with laymen.” You might as well say to Austria, “Place your fortresses under the guard of the Piedmontese.” The Roman administration is what it must be. It will remain what it is as long as there is a Pope on the throne.