Thursday, February 16, 2012

Uncovenanted Mercies Of God

Superior General Franz Xavier Wernz, S.

THE journalists of Europe have been busily occupied for the last week in exaggerating an event which but for preoccupations and prejudices would be regarded as an ordinary one. The Jesuits have had to elect a new General, and because they have elected Father Franz Xavier Wernz, a German canonist of repute, all manner of far-reaching deductions have been drawn. The German Emperor has, it is alleged, been using his influence in the election in the hope of enlisting the weight of the Roman Catholic Church on the side of his standing controversy with France. The Jesuits, it is asserted, have elected a German because he will be sure to punish France for dissolving the Concordat with the Pope; and the ambition of Berlin is to be gratified all through the world, and especially in German Austria and Spanish America, by the steady aid of the Church. Surely all this is a little absurd, and betrays something of prejudice as well as something of unreasoning fear. 
The Jesuits have a certain influence within the Roman Church, which is used in what Protestants must consider an unwise way; and being the ablest as well as the most cultivated of the priesthood, they have considerable weight with important individuals, especially with Roman Catholic Sovereigns, who have often reason to be anxious about their souls, and with the eminent politicians who direct their action. 
For the rest, the sort of quasi-supernatural power attributed to the Order by their enemies is merely a superstition fed by dislike of the peculiar rules which are supposed to govern their conduct. They are assumed, on the strength of some books of casuistry, to be utterly unscrupulous, and therefore to be immensely powerful, as if unscrupulous corporations did not constantly baffle their own objects by the hatred they are certain to inspire. A man who is always lying is always being detected, and always in the end destroys his own influence; and why should a corporation of whom the same thing is alleged escape the same result? An unscrupulousness at least equal to that of the Jesuits has not made the Russian bureaucracy strong; has rather fastened on them the suspicion and hatred at once of the intellectuals and the people. The Jesuits, again, are said to be dangerous because they implicitly obey the orders of their chief,—a theory which implies that despotism is the most effective method of government, and agents who are drilled into automata the most competent of administrators. 
Why should a Jesuit General be incapable of blundering any more than a Czar or an Emperor of China? Even if the aspersions are well founded—which may be doubted, for most of the Jesuit Fathers are gentlemen, and the obligations of caste restrain men almost as strongly as religious opinion—the success attributed to their machinations is for the most part a dreamy assumption. 
What have the Jesuits accomplished in pursuit of their alleged object of making the Roman Catholic Church supreme throughout the world? They helped when they were first organised to reform that Church, which had been sinking, through misgovernment at Eomo and overmuch luxury elsewhere, into a sort of paganism; but since that period they have accomplished politically exceedingly little. Providence has certainly not favoured them. 
The sovereignty of the world has passed into other than Roman Catholic hands. The great States which have gradually grown to power are either Protestant, like Germany, Britain, and the American Union, or schismatic, like Russia, or, like France, so nearly agnostic that their usual Governments are regarded by pious Roman Catholics as deadly and dangerous foes. 
Outside a limited area in Europe, and a congeries of very feeble, though very extensive, States in Spanish America, the world has escaped the direction of the Roman Catholic priesthood; and, though the Jesuits have remarkable skill in educating youth, they do not breed the men of genius who might reconsolidate the Empire of the Church. As to any special relation between the German Court and the Order of Jesus, we simply disbelieve it. They cannot even wish that the house of Hohenzollern should be dominant in the world. That house is Protestant, and will always remain so. Its ideal of governing is absolute control in ecclesiastical as well as civil affairs, and its people, even when they are Roman Catholic, have none of the Latin feeling that the one road to heaven is submissiveness to the Church. The Deputies of the German Centre seek, sometimes even angrily, freedom for their Church, from a mixture of conviction and pride and thirst for their social liberty, precisely the motives which in the British Parliament move English Nonconformists. No one asserts that the Jesuits are hypocrites, or that they are looking forward to any end except the dominance of Roman Catholicism; and how is that to follow the overthrow of France by a Protestant Power, or the immense aggrandisement of that Power which would attend the absorption of the Roman Catholic provinces of Austria, or the acquisition of new and rich provinces on the American Continent? Tet all these objects are alleged to be among those which the new Jesuit General is actively to promote. As for Great Britain, the Jesuits regard her as the Vatican regards her,—as the one Great Power which, having broken loose from the true faith, still leaves to that faith an unwatched liberty which is refused by every other schismatic State. Even in India, where the Government is absolute, the Vatican is often protected against the self-asserting independence of the Patriarchs of Goa. Wherefore, then, all this terror of the Jesuit body, which numbers only about sixteen thousand devotees, and the keen interest in the nationality of its new General, who must regard himself as above all the petty divisions of race and forms of government? That the Roman Catholic States should be keenly interested is natural enough, for the function of the Jesuits in such States is to watch the Episcopate, to bring the Bishops to heel in the interests of the Monarch enthroned at the Vatican, and to repress all those tendencies which might in the end make of the Roman priesthood an independent body. The statesmen grow angry at what they think an unmanageable obstinacy, the Bishops grow irritated at what they deem unwarrantable interference, and the Liberal presbyters within the Church complain that they are placed in most galling and most unwise, or, as they usually describe them, "mediaeval," fetters. Who make the force of the intransigeants in the Curia itself except the Jesuits?
Nevertheless, the Jesuits hold to their policy, and, it cannot be denied, restrain the clerics of their own Communion from thinking and acting in a way which might in the end rend the Universal Church into a series of national Churches, any one of which might become schismatic, as the Churches which spoke Greek, and most of the Teutonic Churches, did. That, and not any belief in their half-supernatural cunning, is the root of the hatred which, when Roman Catholic dignitaries are confidential, is so often expressed in Roman Catholic countries towards the Order of Jesus. 
They hold, indeed, a position closely resembling that of the followers of our own High Church, who will never allow the Bishops to forget that among their functions is to protect unity, to respect symbolism, and to repress the instinctive tendency of Englishmen towards what is sometimes, not perhaps judiciously, called "atomism." The clergy are to be a corporation, to form an entity, and not to be a collection of presbyters, each thinking for himself and expressing the ideas which seem to him true. In electing a German General as their head the Jesuits may have chosen the wisest man among them; but they have spread a new race suspicion among the Latin peoples, who after all are, and wilr probably remain, the only peoples who heartily believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true exponent of Christianity, and that outside her Communion man has only to trust, and will err in trusting, to the uncovenanted mercies of God.
Link (here) to The Spectator published on September 15th in 1906 
Blogger Note: The writer is of "High Church" Anglican mindset

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