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HE veil which has hitherto hung over the preparations and intention of the great General Council is already lifted.
The Civiltà Cattolica of 6th February published the following remarkable article, in the form of a communication from France:-"The liberal Catholics are afraid the Council may proclaim the doctrines of the Syllabus and the Infallibility of the Pope, but they do not give up the hope that it may modify or interpret certain statements of the Syllabus in a sense favourable to their own ideas, and that the question of Infallibility will either not be mooted or not decided. The true Catholics, who are the great majority of the faithful, entertain opposite hopes. They wish the Council to promulgate the doctrines of the Syllabus. In any case, the Council could put out in a positive form, and with the requisite developments, the negative statements of the Syllabus, and thereby quite set aside the misappre
hensions which exist about some of them. Catholics will accept with delight the proclamation of the Pope's dogmatic infallibility. Every one knows that he himself is not disposed to take the initiative in a matter so directly concerning himself; but it is hoped that his infallibility will be defined unanimously, by acclamation, by the mouth of the assembled Fathers, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Finally, many Catholics wish the Council to crown the many honours the Church has bestowed on the all-blessed Virgin by promulgating her glorious assumption into heaven as a dogma." It is said before, that "Catholics believe the Council will be of short duration, like the Council of Chalcedon (ie., that it will only last three weeks). It is believed that the Bishops will be so united on the main points, that the minority, however willing, will not be able to make any prolonged opposition."
In a later issue of the Civiltà similar wishes are put into the mouth of the Belgian Catholics, "who are not only devoted body and soul to the interests of the Church and the Holy See, but submit without hesitation to all doctrinal decisions of the Holy See." They hope, among other things, that the Council will once for all put an end to the division among Catholics, by striking a de
cisive blow at the spirit and doctrines of Liberalism, and that the doctrine of the Pope's infallibility and supremacy over a General Council will be defined. The Belgian correspondent is no less emphatic in repudiating the tolerably opposite desires of the so-called liberal Catholics. These, who number many of the younger clergy among their ranks, and who have not completely submitted to the teaching of the Encyclical and Syllabus, maintain that political questions do not belong to the Popes, and some of them have violently distorted the Encyclical and Syllabus in their own sense.1 Their blindness, to say nothing worse, is so great, that they either expect opposite decisions to these, or an interpretation in their own sense.
We shall not be wrong in taking these correspondents' articles of the Civiltà, which are, perhaps, to be followed by others from other parts of the Catholic world, as something more than feelers merely to ascertain whether things are ripe for the dogmatic surprises already prepared. No! these zealots are not accustomed to pay the very slightest regard to the mental disposition of their age. In these communications
1 [This seems to refer to the Pastoral of the Bishop of Orleans, Dupanloup.-TR.]
about the wishes and hopes of Catholics, which take the innocent form of petitions to the Holy See, we have significant hints of what the Council is expected to do; significant hints, first to the Bishops to acquaint themselves with their duty, and abstain from useless opposition; and next, to the rest of the Catholic world to prepare itself for the approaching "announcements of the Holy Ghost."
The Civiltà, written by Roman Jesuits, and commended some years ago in a Papal Brief as the purest journalistic organ of true Church doctrine, may be regarded as in some sense the Moniteur of the Court of Rome. It is not too much to say that in all important questions its thoughts are identical with those of the chief head, and of many other "heads," in Rome. Its lofty tone and arrogant handling of all opponents correspond to this official character. Its articles often read like Papal Bulls spun out. One could not therefore desire a more trustworthy authority as to the aims of Rome in convoking this Council.
Nor are other instructive signs wanting besides the statements of the Civiltà. The Jesuits have been active for some time past in founding confraternities which bind themselves to hold and propagate Papal
Infallibility as an article of faith. For the same object the institution of Provincial Synods has been revived during the last ten years, under stringent and repeated exhortations from Rome. And it may be seen from the published acts of those held both in and out of Germany, that the question of Papal Infallibility and of the theses of the Syllabus has been laid before them. The Jesuit Schneemann reports that the Provincial Synods of Cologne, Colocsa, Utrecht, and those held in North America, have accepted Papal Infallibility.1 He observes that "these Synodal affirmations of Papal Infallibility, revised at Rome, are important as showing that, though as yet no formal article of faith, it is in the eyes of Rome, and of the Bishops, an indubitable truth. For Provincial Synods are strictly forbidden to decide controverted points of belief." We may safely assume, on such good authority, that these decisions were not waited for at Rome, but were sent from Rome to the Provincial Synods for approval. The answers could have been known beforehand in the present state of things in the Church; they will be produced in the Council as proofs of the belief of the majority of Catholic Bishops, and to give the ap
1 Literarischer Handweiser, 1867, pp. 439 seq.