An English response to the Battle of Mentana 1867

I find the tone in both of these quite extraordinary, but then at the time of the first article, the Church had been a temporal power for almost 1500 years.

The Roman Question.

” The King is not saved by much valour: and the giant will not be saved in the multitude of his power. Vain is the horse for safety?? : but in the abundance of his might he shall not be saved. Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on them that fear him; and on them who hope in his mercy. Psalm xxxii.”

Will you reproach us that, writing from Rome, and in these days, we note the song of the shepherd King? They were not clad in coats of mail, no pennon dangled on their lance, but those youths with the down of manhood hardly on their face wore as true crusaders as ever died in Palestine. They were as modest and as resolute as ever was David when Saul said to him, “Thou art not able to withstand this Philistine nor to fight against him, for thou art but a boy; but he is a warrior from his youth.” And who has wept the death of one of the Zouaves? A tear no doubt has stood in the brother’s eye: the sister and the mother will say he is gone before ; but those tears are the incense of love and not the pining of regret, If the coat of Nelson is preserved at Greenwich,and lights burn at the tomb of Wellington, will you blame us that we hold that plain grey uniform in honour; and if we do not place it in glass cases, that we reverence the names of those who wore it, and hold up our hands at the altar of Christ gladly on their behalf?

Will you tell us that his Church militant upon earth has no country and is a mere myth ? Here at least in Rome you cannot, for we kneel by the sepulchres of his prophets, and the voice of St. Paul answers, ” All who will live piously in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution: but evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, erring and driving into error.”

Here you cannot, for the Church had no sooner celebrated the chains of St. Peter than she says Mass in honour of the martyrs of the Maccabees. They were Jews; but they were true to their God. Shall the Church, which has not forgotten them, forget to celebrate her champions now? St. Gregory, of Nanzianzum, says well, ” Though among many they are not held in honour that they did not undertake that contest after Christ, yet are they worthy to be honoured by all, because they showed themselves strong and constant for their country’s laws and institutions.”

To what else have the Romans now been true, and for what else defended their city?  ” And Judas and his brethren saw that evils were multiplied, and that the armies approached to their borders, and they knew the orders the king had given to destroy the people and utterly abolish them ; and they said every man to his neighbour. Let us raise up the low condition of our people, and let us fight for our people and our sanctuary.”   And now the Romans have done it, and you cannot deny that they had a right to do it.

But will you say that the Catholics of every nation who fought by their side were needy adventurers who had no right to be there ?  Yes, they were adventurers; adventurers in the fields of honour and of duty ; adventurers for religion on the walls of the chosen city. For Rome is the city of all Catholics ; there they have a right to their Father’s blessing, and how much more if they died defending him to his prayer for their souls. For these are no common rights, but immeasurably greater than the rights of nations ; and yet it was not until the law of nations was cast to the winds that Catholic Rome vindicated her honour in the courage of her sons.

But still will you say that the French had no right to come? Every man has a right to resist injustice; and it is only a question of prudence if he does not. Were the Catholics of the world to’ wait till Piedmont had done in Rome what. she has done in all her usurpations : stripped the altars, emptied the convents, melted the sacred vessels, cast venerable men into prison, driven out religious women to starve ? The ideas of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth have not yet reduced Romans to that. Why were Frenchmen to wait? You can give no reason except your own wish. And France was more bound to interfere, because by a mistaken policy she had let the mischief loose upon Italy, because no faith had been kept with her, and her honour was at stake. We say nothing of her traditions and her Catholic name.

God knows how much France has suffered. He knows how her faith will be revived. Do we not grieve, then ? Not for the dead, but for the living. They are at peace, and the torment of malice can reach them no more. But Europe is not at peace; and how can it be,? You will say that it is the princes who are to defend the Church if they think it worth defending. But the princes have not defended the Church, and the Church has a right to defend herself. Do you think that be-cause the Catholics of Europe are disunited, because they are peaceable, and weak to resist aggression, that you can ride over them as you please ? They have hearts and hands and swords. In your insane bigotry and injustice will you seek by diplomatic intrigue to do what by the sword you dare not do ? And if you think you could persuade men to please you by making the Sovereign Pontiff a puppet, will you not see on a larger scale what we have just seen on a smaller one ?

You will; for the Pontiff has rights which you do not understand, but which the Church throughout the world understands and cherishes. And if obedience is impaired it still exists, and the Catholic people will hear their pastor again if you compel him to say as he has said now, “Venerable brethren, by this race of abandoned men we are surrounded on every side.” For nothing that you can do will ever destroy the temporal power of the Church ; no art or menaces induce the Pope to remain in Rome in the condition to which you seek to reduce him. If, then, you are not prepared for war, it is your part first to set the example of peace. For it is your continual hounding on of the dogs of Piedmont which has brought about the present crisis. And if you think it pleasant to fiddle while Rome is burning, we do not; and Europe will not submit to your dictation. Lead civilised lives yourselves before you undertake to reform your neighbours.

And if you do not believe in the providence of God, which has given the Church a civil principality, remember that even in this world He seldom suffers flagrant violations of public right to go unpunished. Here in Rome, freed at least for the time from your machinations, we will pray for the conversion of your country, and that the Almighty will cease to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him.

AN ENGLISH PRIEST,

Rome, Octave of All Saints. [ which would have been the 9th November 1867]

The above text was found on p.7, 23rd November 1867 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

 

And then 100 years later in The Tablet, almost as strong a view

Papal Guards

The year 1967 is not quite so rich in.centenaries as 1966 was, but it has one outstanding one. It is the centenary of the last victory of the Church in arms, in the series which began with the Milvian Bridge, includes Lepanto and Vienna, and had added to, it in 1867 the victory over the Garibaldian invaders of papal Rome at Mentana. The thirty thousand Garibaldians who marched on Rome in three great bands in 1867, faced only by the twelve thousand defenders of the papacy, must have imagined that Rome was well within their grasp. If they suffered a check from the Catholic Zouaves at San Francesco in their opening moves, their overwhelming force brought them eventually to the bridges over the Teverone, a bare three miles from Rome, ten thousand strong against General Kanzler’s papal army of three thousand. This, though it included some of the Pope’s own Romans, counted as its best elements young men, and old men, drawn from every province in Christendom. Collingridge, the heroic young Londoner, and Peter Yong, the virile young Dutchman, who fell together at Monte Libretti; Bach the Bavarian, a leader of Ney’s quality: these were typical of those Catholic volunteers ” prepared, like Jacob, to wrestle with the angel “ in a far more literal sense than most of us. Alas that the final battle was not ornamented by the kilts of the regiment of Glasgow Highlanders that Scotland contributed to the cause! But these, as unpaid as the other volunteers, had less financial capital to keep their unit in being, and disappeared in the ranks of the papal forces, to live on soup and macaroni, deprived of the garb of Old Gaul.

The sudden appearance of Napoleon III’s French-men in support of the “papalisti” ended the Garibaldian hopes, as admirers of Lothair will remember, the new French breechloader ” doing marvels “ and causing that strange cessation in the battle remembered by one volunteer on the papal side. Then the Garibaldians surrendered or fled, and Julian Watts-Russell, little more than a boy, fell in the moment of victory, among his fellows of the papal Zouaves. The House of Savoy, which had eaten up Italy ” like an artichoke,” had to wait three years before Rome, the last leaf, was swallowed, apart from that undigestible morsel of the Vatican; and where is that ancient house today?

The above text was found on p.11, 7th January 1967 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

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