(Note: this continues the series of articles by Paul Likoudis which I am publishing each Thursday.)
The Wanderer at 140....
BORN FOR BATTLE: DER WANDERER
FOUGHT ANTI-VATICAN I PROPAGANDA
by Paul Likoudis
(Third in a series)
Informed contemporary Catholics are aware of how the press shaped popular perceptions of what the Church Fathers were doing at Vatican II, and how disinformation, misrepresentation and outright lies distorted the teachings of the Council, sidetracking millions of Catholics worldwide.
Less well appreciated is the conspiracy on the part of the press, aided by the governments of the major European powers, to disrupt and derail Vatican I by a barrage of anti-Church propaganda aimed at preventing popular acceptance of the doctrine of the papal infallibility which the anti-Catholic rulers of states rightly understood as an assertion of the Church’s independence from secular control.
In the run-up to the Council, during the Council and in the years after, Der Wanderer, observed Fr. John Kulas, OSB, in Der Wanderer of St. Paul: The First Decade, 1867-1877), played a very important role not only in the United States but also in Europe for its staunch defense of Vatican I, papal infallibility and the independence of the Holy See at a time when much of the Catholic press and most of the secular press was aggressively attacking Vatican I and papal infallibility.
To put this newspaper’s role into perspective, it is important to recall that “the press” – almost all the major European and newspapers and journals of the time – as documented in three books by Westminster’s Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, who played a major role at the Council, opposed the convening of the Council, bitterly assailed the Council’s definition on papal infallibility, and spread the most noxious lies and distortions about the Council and its participants.
In fact, the highly-coordinated criticism of the Council by the press – especially some of the official Catholic press in Germany which fomented the opposition – was much more malignant than the popular press’ coverage of Vatican II, which adopted a different, though more sophisticated, tactic to confuse Catholics.
In The True Story of the Vatican Council, (London: Burns & Oates, 1877), Manning wrote that the major concern of Pius, and many of his cardinals and bishops, notably Bishop Emmanuel von Ketteler of Mainz, was that the modern State was putting limits on the Church’s freedom and, in fact, it was being excluded from civil society. “Modern revolutionary Liberalism,” wrote Manning, “consists in the assertion of the supremacy of the State over the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church, over education, marriage, consecrated property, and the temporal power of the head of the Church. This Liberalism, again, results in the indifferentism which equalizes all religions and gives equal rights to truth and error.”
Among the reports submitted by the cardinals to the Holy Father, Manning revealed, several raised concerns about the “infiltration of rationalistic principles” into Catholic schools, inculcating opposition to the authority of the Church, the breakdown in seminary training for priests, and the widespread disregard of ecclesiastical laws by the laity.
From the Council of Constance (1414-1418) up to the mid-19th century, Manning wrote, one of the thorniest issues for the Holy See was the “constant meddling” in the Church’s affairs by secular powers, especially Catholic rulers, by interfering in the Church’s educational institutions by appointing and protecting “unsound teachers,” especially in canon law and theology courses.
As a consequence, Manning wrote, “the public laws even of the nations in which the people are Catholic are Catholic no longer. The unity of the nations in faith and worship, as the Apostles founded, seems now to be dissolved. The unity of the Church is more compact and solid than ever, but the Christendom of Christian kingdoms is of the past. We have entered into a third period. The Church began not with kings, but with the peoples of the world, and to the peoples of the world, it may be, the Church will once more return. The princes and governments and legislatures of the world were everywhere against it at the outset; they are so again. But the hostility of the 19th century is keener than the hostility of the first. Then the world never believed in Christianity; now it is falling from it....
“Pius IX saw in the Council of the Vatican the only adequate remedy for the world-wide evils of the 19th century.”
From March 1865 over the next several years, the Holy Father queried the world’s bishops on the subjects and schema of the Council, particularly on the matters of papal infallibility and the independence of the Holy See. Due to, at least, one prelate well-placed in the Vatican, the enemies of the Church in governments and the academy were kept well-informed of these secret deliberations, leading to political plots by the major European powers to prevent the gathering of bishops in December 1869 – at a time when Rome was occupied by anti-clerical Masonic revolutionaries.
ASSAULT BY THE PRESS
In The Vatican Council and Its Definitions, a 250-page pastoral letter Cardinal Manning addressed to his clergy in 1871, Manning detailed the machinations of the secular powers, especially through the press.
The major newspapers in England, France, Italy and Germany published numerous reports spreading the belief, he wrote, “that the Council would explain away the doctrines of Trent, or give them some new or laxer meaning, or throw open some questions supposed to be closed, or come to a compromise or transaction with other religious systems; or at least that it should accommodate the dogmatic stiffness of its traditions to modern thought and modern theology.....
“But the interest excited by its preliminary skirmishing external to the Council, was nothing compared to the exultation with which the anti-Catholic opinion and anti-Catholic press of Protestant countries, and the anti-Roman opinion and press of even Catholic countries, beheld, as they believed, the formation of an organized ‘international opposition’ of more than one hundred bishops within the Council itself. The day was come at last. What the world could not do against Rome from without, its own bishops would do from within.....
“A league of newspapers, fed from a common center, diffused hope and confidence in all countries, that the science and enlightenment of the minority would save the Catholic Church from the immoderate pretensions of Rome, and the superstitious ignorance of the universal episcopate. Day after day, the newspapers teemed with the achievements and the orations of the opposition.”
Manning’s depiction of the two sides anticipates that of the major reporters who covered Vatican II:
“[B]y a wonderful disposition of things, for the good, no doubt, of the human race, and, above all, the Church itself, the Council was divided....and by an even more beneficent and admirable provisions, it was so ordered that the theology, philosophy, science, culture, intellectual power, logical acumen, eloquence, candor, nobleness of mind, independence of spirit, courage, and elevation of character in the Council, were all to be found in the minority. The majority was naturally a Dead Sea of superstition, narrowness, shallowness, ignorance, prejudice; without theology, philosophy, science, or eloquence....bigoted, tyrannical, deaf to reason....”
THE CHURCH-STATE ISSUE
Behind the press’ party line, however, were collaborators in all the governments of the great European powers, Manning showed in The Vatican Decrees in Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance, a series of reports he wrote for a New York newspaper, and syndicated across the United States, later published by the Catholic Publication Society in New York in 1875.
Manning reproduced a letter written in April 1867, allegedly by Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Bavaria’s foreign minister and future president and chancellor of Germany to the heads of state and the leading diplomats in Europe, urging them to a concerted effort to prevent the declaration on infallibility. The likely author, or source for Hohenlohe’s information, Manning speculated, was a dissident bishop with high sources in the Vatican intent on causing a schism, which eventually formed as the Old Catholics.
“It is evident that this pretension,” wrote the prince, “elevated into a dogma, would go far beyond the purely spiritual sphere, and would become a question eminently political, as raising the power of the Sovereign Pontiff, even in temporal matters, over all the princes and peoples of Christendom. This doctrine, therefore, is of such a nature as to arouse the attention of all those governments who rule over Catholic subjects.....It cannot be denied that it is a matter of urgency for Governments to combine....against all decisions which the Council may promulgate without the concurrence of the representatives of the secular power in questions which are at the same time of a political and religious matter....”
THE WANDERER’S COVERAGE
A sample of Der Wanderer’s reports were translated from the German for this series of articles by Fr. John Kulas of St. John’s University, Collegeville, which is one of three repositories holding complete editions of The Wanderer; the other two are the Catholic Central Union in St. Louis and the Minnesota Historical Society.
In an editorial published May 15, 1869, “Vatican Council I and Declaration of Infallibility,” editor Theo Müllenmeister advised readers:
“The Wanderer will be the only newspaper this side of Chicago which will bring complete and timely reports from correspondents covering the great Council in Rome. To this end we have engaged the services of a high-ranking prelate in Rome [Archabbot Boniface Wimmer of St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania] to be a correspondent. His commentaries will interest each and everyone.”
In the February 5, 1870 Wanderer, the paper’s new editor, Franz Fassbind wrote, under the heading “Papal Infallibility”: “A position paper which had already attracted signatures of more than 400 Council Fathers was presented to the assembled Council. It included a petition that infallibility be defined in the following form: [There followed here the Latin text and a German translation]
“To the Vatican Council:
“‘The undersigned Fathers of the holy Ecumenical Vatican Synod humbly and urgently insist that it be affirmed in clear and unambiguous language that the Bishop of Rome exercises the highest authority and thereby is protected from all error when in matters of faith and morals he determines and prescribes what is to be believed and accepted by all Christians or what is to be rejected and condemned.’
“The considerations guiding these conclusions take up six printed pages. The relevant resolutions of the provincial councils of Cologne, Baltimore, and Westminster are attached in the form of notes as well as the text of the allocution delivered in honor of the Holy Father by 500 Bishops on the occasion of the Centennial celebration of 1867.
“We can conclude from press reports from Rome (as is widely reported in the European daily press) that a counter memorandum circulating among the members of the Council had as yet received no signature.”
In the same issue, under the heading “Related Issues,” Fassbind wrote:
“As far as reporting on the Council goes, papers with an anti-Church bias are in a position to offer more interesting and even more scurrilous stories than Catholic journals. Consider the following:
“[Non-Catholic journals] report not only on the facts but also on what is going to happen. They know not only the facts but also know how to speculate about the most secret thoughts of individual bishops. Just seeing the demeanor of the bishops as they leave the council hall and applying other such indices allow them to describe the nature of the council debates. To this end they make things up to their heart’s content, submit very poetic pieces garnished with personal speculation, more or less graphic according to the greater or lesser talent of the author.
“At the present time it is especially the Commission which the Holy Father has chosen to be his advisory group in respect to questions which some bishops wish to present to the Council that has come in for criticism among some bishops. If it is true that some of the Council Fathers are dissatisfied with one or the other point of organization they would certainly feel free to express their feelings to the Holy Father in the liberty of the Gospel. Then their points of view would certainly be given a thorough hearing. But if one considers the size of the majority with which the members of the Commission were voted into office, there can be no doubt that the vast majority of the Council Fathers are satisfied with the composition of the body of advisors for the Pope. But it is also characteristic of our opponents to make a big deal about any difference of opinion they can discover among the bishops....”
One week later, for the February 12 issue, under the heading, “Catholics, Take Note!,” Fassbind wrote:
“The proposal to define papal authority as infallible has led to contentious debate between factions that are friendly to the Church as well those who are enemies of the Church. Obviously, it is of the highest importance to have a clear understanding of the issues involved. In its previous issue this newspaper printed the proposal as presented to the Council. In the current issue we are able to present to our readers the motivations underlying the proposal.…
“[T]he bishops too have chosen, as guardians and defenders of Catholic truth, to accept the task in these times of ascribing through synodal decrees and collegial statements the apostolic See’s highest teaching authority.
“However, the clearer Catholic truth is taught, the more vehement it has been attacked in recent times through broadsides and the daily press. The opponents of the Church are seeking to prejudice the Catholic people against sound teaching or even to intimidate the Vatican Council from proclaiming the truth…
“In the first instance, however, the Catholic people has the right to demand that the Vatican Council teach and declare precisely what is to be believed with respect to a matter of faith that is so important and one which has in recent times been so vehemently debated. This is to prevent people unversed in theology from falling prey to serious error….
“Should it happen that a few people fall away from the Church as a result of the definition of the true teaching by the Vatican Council, these will be people who have for a long time already suffered shipwreck of the faith and are just looking for a pretext to make the break public inasmuch as they have left no doubt as to their interior breach…[source Bishop Martin of Paderborn]
“Thus, there are three factions at the Council. Using political terms one could talk of the right (bishops from Spain, South America, Italy, and Belgium, etc), the center (most of the bishops from France and Germany, England, Ireland, Holland, Portugal, Austria, etc) and the left (a few bishops from Germany, France, and North America). One can assume with certainty that the views of the center will emerge victorious.”
On March 12, 1870, under the heading “German Bishops in Rome,” The Wanderer reported:
“Through a variety of communications in earlier issues of this newspaper the reader will have noticed that the position of the German bishops with respect to the resolution of certain central questions at the Council has been interpreted as a public expression of party affiliation in the press. The published declaration of war a few weeks ago by Canon Döllinger in Munich against papal infallibility was the start and it was asserted in more than one newspaper that the majority of German Bishops in Rome agreed with Döllinger. Among them was said to be Bishop von Ketteler of Mainz. This situation induced this prelate to make a public declaration that, given the circumstances, has extreme significance. For that reason we feel obliged to bring this to the attention of our readers. We print the declaration in full….
“[The signed document was dated 8 February 1870. In it Bishop Ketteler distanced himself from Döllinger’s current stand on the question of papal infallibility even as he expressed his admiration for the theological training he had received from Döllinger. Döllinger sometimes wrote under the penname ‘Janus’ and was against a declaration of papal infallibility, although he claimed his views were ‘essentially’ the same as that of the bishops.] Ketteler: ‘But I have nothing more to do with the Döllinger whom the enemies of the Church and the Holy See crown with honors.’
The Wanderer also published a declaration from the Archbishop of Cologne (dated 9 February) warning against non-factual and intemperate reporting in the secular press.
The April 30, 1870 Wanderer reported, under the heading, “Latest from Rome”:
“Telegraph reports indicate that the 3rd public session of the Council took place on April 24, 1870. It was an imposing event… The four chapters of the schema on faith were read and were approved unanimously. Then the Holy Father promulgated the decrees from his throne…. The Council fathers now turned their attention to the decree on papal infallibility....
The May 7 1870 Wanderer reported, under the heading, “Dashed Hopes”:
“The Council Fathers in Rome are subjected to intense scrutiny by the agents of European states, the gray eminences of the daily press, and especially those men who look forward to the overthrow of all order. No legislative body has ever been the object of such scrutiny. …
“The utterances of individual Council Fathers are turned into evidence of factional controversy. If the well of news seems to be drying up, a ready pen invents an audience with the Pope and attributes to the Holy Father statements which he never made, never even thought of. …
“These journalists intend to paint a picture of a Church torn apart by factions and thereby, as far as it depends on them, to give it the coup de grace. …These expectations were quickly deflated. ..
“A fruit of the freedom [of debate] is seen in the result of the vote. If some prelates had previously held differing views the final vote on the entire text showed that every doubt was removed, and when the Vicar of Christ solemnly promulgated the decree on faith the Catholic Church appeared again in the triumph of unity and indivisibility of doctrine. That is the great significance of the [unanimous decision in favor of the] decision.
The May 14, 1870 Wanderer took note of the disinformation circulating wildly in the European and American press under the heading, “Another Protest”:
“....The New York Herald reports that 21 American Bishops led by three Archbishops have lodged a protest with the Pope against papal infallibility. [There was no proof.]
“The Wisconsin Banner launches an investigation into the positions taken by American bishops and reproaches those whose names are not included in the list of names in this protest.…When the author speaks about the ‘Order of Executioners’ (Dominicans) to which the Archbishop of San Francisco is said to belong he merely convicts himself of charges similar to those made above. No further rebuttal is necessary...”
On June 11, 1870, The Wanderer published its own, unofficial, translation of the Decree on Papal Infallibility, “for which the whole Christian world has been waiting with bated breath,” and editorialized under the heading, “A Significant Pronouncement.”
In its issue of August 13, 1870, Der Wanderer published the full text of the Council’s Second Constitution, Aeternus Pastor, and on August 20, the Pope’s allocution of the day, in which Pius IX said:
“The Supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, venerable Brothers, does not oppose, but supports; it does not destroy, rather it builds up and strengthens others in their grace; it unites in love and strengthens the bishops in their rights… Since it is only God who can do great wonders may He illuminate minds and hearts so that all may abide in the bosom of the Father…”
And that’s the message The Wanderer has been broadcasting for 140 years.