Thursday, October 11, 2007

The New York Times On the Papacy and Cardinal Mieczyslaw Ledochowski

Excerpt from

“Should Old Pope Leo Die: the political tendencies of his successor. The Cardinal who would probably win the prize – his Polish supporter – affairs in France and Germany – Spurgeon’s return – Lord Lorne’s appointment"

January 23, 1892

The Papacy since 1870 has been in a position where practically everything turns upon the personality of the Pontiff and his choice of advisers. There can be no more mediocre Popes under whose nominal guidance matters can go on in commonplace routine. Every successor of Peter now must make a big mark in the history of the Church for good or bad. If he is not very strong, he will be found lamentably weak. There is no longer any middle course.

Leo has been one of the strong kind. His fourteen years of reign have been devoted to building a new sort of Papacy beside rather than upon the ruins of the old structure. Considering the great difficulties and obstacles in the way of his task, proceeding even more from within than without, the result is exceptionally successful. Perhaps the outcome of his labors is best described by saying that he has shown those who thought the Papacy need no longer be taken into account in the world’s affairs because Rome has been wrestled from it that they were profoundly mistaken. The Vatican to-day wields far greater influence in Europe than it has done before since the French Revolution.

But it is a peculiarly personal influence. The next Pope will inherit only the opportunities of securing it for himself, and failing to improve these will be vastly easier than success.

It seems to be taken for granted that Cardinal Raphael Monaco la Valetta [b. February 23, 1827- d. July 14, 1896] will secure the succession. He is the doyen of the Sacred College and Secretary of the Inquisition- an amiable, unambitious priest of sixty-five, who has the very slenderest notions of or interest in the general European situation. He is extremely simple in his tastes, is not in the least stirred by all the great outside social and political problems with which Leo has striven to grapple as a sacerdotal Tory. By temperament he always belonged to the conservative wing of the college. He will assume the tiara, if elected, as its representative and opposed to the small liberal group headed by Cardinal Parocchi. If he stood by himself there would be no risk in predicting that this would be a reign under which the Papacy would lose more prestige than Leo gained for it.

It is very well understood, however, that Monaco is entirely under the control of Ledochowski, that proud, imperious, and able Pole who made Bismarck such worlds of trouble in the old Kulterkampf day and who has been able to impose his will very often upon even the present Pope. This powerful man was in a German prison when Pius IX created him a Cardinal in 1875. Next year he was released and banished, and he has since lived in Rome, devoting his great wealth and talents to building up a militant Ultramontagne party about him. His wrath at the treatment he received at the hands of Bismarck has colored all his political views. He has hated both Germany and Italy and has looked unceasingly forward to the time when French bayonets should restore the temporal power of the Vatican in the old Roman States.

If we assume that this spirited and resolute prelate will shortly be ruling the Church through its nominal head, it becomes a most anxious question how he will accept the existing political conditions of Europe which have so radically changed since 1875. The new rulers of the Germans have been at pains to show their desire to abolish the last traces of the Kulterkampf. When the pending Prussian Education bill is passed, the German Catholics will be actually stronger than they were before the May laws. During the last half year these dispatches have frequently reflected the new interest which William and his immediate entourage are displaying in the Polish question. Of course a good deal of this has arisen naturally from the contemplation of the necessity of sooner or later fighting Russia: but even more it represents the effort to allure Ledochowski into friendship with Germany by an appeal to his national sentiment. How far this has succeeded will be, as has been said, a most anxious question.

In any event under this new regime there would be an abrupt cessation of pastorals on Socialistic and labor problems and of poems about St. Thomas Aquinas. We should instead see the Vatican boldly embark upon the troubled waters of European diplomacy, seeking alliances and taking desperate risks upon the fortune in the next war.

A prophetic understatement.

Wlodimir (Vladimir) Ledochowski According to Tupper Saussy

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