Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Vatican Council

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From volume 15 of the work.

107617Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) — Vatican CouncilJoseph Maria Konrad Kirch

The Vatican Council, the twentieth and up to now [1912] the last ecumenical council, opened on 8 December, 1869, and adjourned on 20 October, 1870. It met three hundred years after the Council of Trent.


A. Previous to the Official Convocation

On 6 December, 1864, two days before the publication of the Syllabus, Pius IX announced, at a session of the Congregation of Rites, his intention to call a general council. He commissioned the cardinals residing at Rome to express in writing their views as to the opportuneness of the scheme, and also to name the subjects which, in their opinion, should be laid before the council for discussion. Of the twenty-one reports sent in, only one, that of Cardinal Pentini, expressed the opinion that there was no occasion for the holding of an ecumenical council. The others affirmed the relative necessity of such an assembly, although five did not consider the time suitable. Nearly all sent lists of questions that seemed to need conciliar discussion. Early in March, 1865, the pope appointed a commission of five cardinals to discuss preliminary questions in regard to the council. This was the important "Congregazione speziale direttrice per gli affari del futuro concilio generale", generally called the directing preparatory commission, or the central commission. Four more cardinals were added to the number of its members, and besides a secretary it was given eight consultors. It held numerous meetings in the interval between 9 March, 1865, and Dec., 1869. Its first motion was that bishops of various countries should also be called upon for suggestions as to matters for discussion, and on 27 March, 1865, the pope commanded thirty-six bishops of the Latin Rite designated by him to express their views under pledge of silence. Early in 1866 he also designated several bishops of the Oriental Rite under the same conditions. It was now necessary to form commissions for the more thorough discussion of the subjects to be debated at the council. Accordingly, theologians and canonists, belonging to the secular and regular clergy, were summoned to Rome from the various countries to co-operate in the work. As early as 1865 the nuncios were asked to suggest names of suitable people for these preliminary commissions. The war between Austria and Italy in 1866 and the withdrawal of the French troops from Rome on 11 Dec. of the same year caused an unwelcome interruption of the preparatory labours. They also made the original plan, which was to open the council on the eighteenth centenary festiva of the martyrdom of the two great Apostles, 29 June, 1867, impossible. However, the pope made use of the presence at Rome of nearly five hundred bishops, who had come to attend the centennial celebration, to make the first public announcement of the council at a consistory held on 26 June, 1867. The bishops expressed their agreement with joy in an address dated 1 July. After the return of the French army of protection on 30 Oct., 1867, the continuance of the preparations and the holding of the council itself seemed again possible. The preparatory commission now debated exhaustively the question who should be invited to attend the council. That the cardinals and diocesan bishops should be summoned was self-evident. It was also decided that the titular bishops had the right to be called, and that of the heads of the orders an invitation should be given to the abbots nullius, the abbots general of congregations formed from several monasteries, and lastly, to the generals of the religious orders. It was considered wiser, on account of the state of affairs at the time, not to send an actual invitation to Catholic princes, yet it was intended to grant admission to them or their representatives on demand. In this sense, therefore, the Bull of Convocation, "Æterni Patris", was promulgated, 29 June, 1868; it appointed 8 Dec., 1869, as the date for the opening of the council. The objects of the council were to be the correction of modern errors and a seasonable revision of the legislation of the Church. A special Brief, "Arcano divinæ providentiæ", of 8 Sept., 1868 invited non-Uniate Orientals to appear. A third Brief, "Jam vos omnes", of 13 Sept., 1868, notified Protestants also of the convoking of the council, and exhorted them to use the occasion to reflect on the return to the one household of faith.

B. Reception of the Promulgation

Although the Bull convoking the council was received with joy by the bulk of the Catholic masses, it aroused much discontent in many places, especially in Germany, France, and England. In these countries it was feared that the council would promulgate an exact determination of the primatial prerogatives of the papacy and the definition of papal infallibility. The dean of the theological faculty of Paris, Bishop Maret, wrote in opposition to these doctrines the work "Du concile générale et de la paix religieuse" (2 vols., Paris 1869). Bishop Dupanloup of Orléans published the work "Observations sur la controverse soulevée relativement à la définition de l infaillibilité au prochain concile" (Paris, Nov., 1869). Maret's work was answered by several French bishops and by Archbishop Manning. Archbishop Dechamps of Mechlin, Belgium, who had written a work in favour of the definition entitled "L infaillibilité et le concile générale" (Paris, 1869), became involved in a controversy with Dupanloup. In England a book entitled "The Condemnation of Pope Honorius" (London, 1868), written by the convert, Le Page Renouf, aroused animated discussions in newspapers and periodicals. Renouf's publication was refuted by Father Botalla, S.J., in "Honorius Reconsidered with Reference to Recent Apologies" (London, 1869). Letters from French correspondents in the first number for Feb., 1869, of the "Civiltà Cattolica", which stated that the majority of French Catholics desired the declaration of infallibility, added fresh fuel to the flames. In particular, it led to the appearance in the discussion of Ignaz Döllinger, provost of St. Cajetan and professor of church history at Munich. From now onwards Döllinger was the leading spirit of the movement in Germany hostile to the council. He disputed most passionately the Syllabus and the doctrine of papal infallibility in five anonymous articles that were published in March, 1869, in the "Allgemeine Zeitung" of Augsburg. A large number of Catholic scholars opposed him vigorously, especially after he published his articles in book form under the pseudonym of "Janus", "Der Papst und das Konzil" (Leipzig, 1869). Among these was Professor Joseph Hergenröther of Würzburg, who issued in reply "Anti-Janus" (Freiburg, 1870). Still the excitement over the matter grew in such measure that fourteen of the twenty-two German bishops who met at Fulda early in Sept., 1869, felt themselves constrained to call the attention of the Holy Father to it in a special address, stating that on account of the excitement the time was not opportune for defining papal infallibility. The papal notifications addressed to the schismatic Orientals and the Protestants did not produce the desired effect. The European Governments received from Prince Hohenlohe, president of the Bavarian ministry, a circular letter drawn up by Döllinger, designed to prejudice the different Courts against the coming council; but they decided to remain neutral for the time being. Russia alone forbade its Catholic bishops to attend the council.

C. Preparatory Details

In the meantime zealous work had been done at Rome in preparation for the council. Besides the general direction that it exercised, the preparatory commission had to draw up an exhaustive order of procedure for the debates of the council. Five special committees, each presided over by a cardinal and having together eighty-eight consultors, prepared the plan (schemata) to be laid before the council. These committees were appointed to consider respectively:

  • dogma;
  • church discipline;
  • orders;
  • Oriental Churches and missions;
  • ecclesiastico-political questions.

It may justly be doubted whether the preliminary preparations for any council had ever been made more thoroughly, or more clearly directed to the aim to be attained. As the day of its opening approached, the following drafts were ready for discussion:

  • three great dogmatic drafts, (a) on the Catholic doctrine in opposition to the errors which frequently spring from Rationalism, (b) on the Church of Christ and, (c) on Christian marriage;
  • twenty-eight drafts treating matters of church discipline. They had reference to bishops, episcopal sees, the different grades of the other clergy seminaries, the arrangement of philosophical and theological studies, sermons, the catechism, rituals, impediments to marriage, civil marriage, mixed marriages, improvement of Christian morals, feast days, fasts and abstinences, duelling, magnetism, spiritualism, secret societies, etc.;
  • eighteen drafts of decrees had reference to the religious orders;
  • two were on the Oriental Rites and missions; these subjects had also been considered in the other drafts of decrees.

In addition a large number of subjects for discussion had been sent by the bishops of various countries. Thus, for instance, the bishops of the church provinces of Quebec and Halifax demanded the lessening of the impediments to marriage, revision of the Breviary, and, above all, the reform and codification of the entire canon law. The petition of Archbishop Spalding of Baltimore treated, among other things, the relations between Church and State religious indifference, secret societies, and the infallibility of the pope. The definition of this last was demanded by various bishops. Others desired a revision of the index of forbidden books. No less than nine petitions bearing nearly two hundred signatures demanded the definition of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Over three hundred fathers of the council requested the elevation of St. Joseph as patron saint of the Universal Church.


A. Presiding Officers, Order of Procedure, Number of Members

On 2 Dec., 1869, the pope held a preliminary session in the Sistine Chapel, which was attended by about five hundred bishops. At this assembly the officials of the council were announced and the conciliar procedure was made known. The council received five presidents. The Chief presiding officer was to have been Cardinal Reisach, but as he died on 22 Dec., Cardinal Filippo de Angelis took his place, 3 Jan., 1870. The other presiding officers were Cardinals Antonio de Luca, Andrea Bizarri, Aloisio Bilio, and Annibale Capalti. Bishop Joseph Fessler of Sankt Pölten, Lower Austria, was secretary to the council, and Monsignor Luigi Jacobi under-secretary. The Constitution "Multiplices inter" announcing the conciliar procedure contained ten paragraphs. According to this the sessions of the council were to be of two kinds: private sessions for discussing the drafts and motions, under the presidency of a cardinal president, and public sessions, presided over by the pope himself for the promulgation of the decrees of the council. The first drafts of decrees debated were to be the dogmatic and disciplinary ones laid before the assembly by the pope. Proposals offered by members of the council were to be sent to a congregation of petitions; these petitions or postulates were to be examined by the committee and then recommended to the pope for admission or not. If the draft of a decree was found by the general congregation to need amendments, it was sent with the proposed amendments to the respective sub-committee or deputatio, either to the one for dogmas or for discipline, or religious orders, or for Oriental Rites. Each of these four sub-committees or deputations was to consist of twenty-four persons selected from the members of the council, and a cardinal president appointed by the pope. The deputation examined the proposed amendments, altered the draft as seemed best, and presented to the general congregation a printed report on its work that was to be orally explained by a member of the deputation. This procedure was to continue until the draft met with the approval of the majority.

The voting in the congregation was by placet, placet juxta modum (with the corresponding amendments), and non placet. Secrecy was to be observed in regard to the proceedings of the council. In the public sessions the voting could only be by placet or non placet. The Decrees promulgated by the pope were to bear the title, "Pius Episcopus, servus servorum Dei: sacro approbante Concilio ad perpetuam rei memoriam". The northern right transept of St. Peter's was arranged as the hall of sessions. Between 8 Dec., 1869, and 1 Sept., 1870, four public sessions and eighty-nine general congregations were held here. There were in the entire world approximately one thousand and fifty prelates entitled to take part in the council, and of these no less than seven hundred and seventy-four appeared during the course of the proceedings. In attendance at the first public session were 47 cardinals, 9 patriarchs, 7 primates, 117 archbishops, 479 bishops, 5 abbots nullius, 9 abbots general, and 25 generals of orders, making a total of 698. At the third public session votes were cast by 47 cardinals, 9 patriarchs, 8 primates, 107 archbishops, 456 bishops, 1 administrator Apostolic, 20 abbots, and 20 generals of orders, a total of 667. There was an attendance at the council from the United States of America of all of the 7 archbishops of that time, 37 of the 47 bishops, and in addition 2 vicars Apostolic. The oldest member of the council was Archbishop MacHale, of Tuam, Ireland; the youngest, Bishop (now Cardinal) Gibbons.

B. From the Formal Opening to the Definition of the Constitution on the Catholic Faith in the Third Public Session

(1) The First Debates

After the formal opening of the council by the pope at the first public session on 8 Dec., 1869, the meetings of the general congregation began on 10 Dec. Their sessions were generally held between the hours of nine and one. The afternoons were reserved for the sessions of the deputations or sub-committees. First, the names of the members of the congregation of petitions were communicated; this was followed by the elections to the four deputations. The first matter brought up for debate was the dogmatic draft of Catholic doctrine against the manifold errors due to Rationalism, "De doctrina catholica contra multiplices errores ex rationalismo derivatos". The discussion of it was taken up on 28 Dec. in the fourth general congregation. After a debate lasting seven days, during which thirty-five members spoke, it was sent by the tenth general congregation held on 10 Jan., 1870, to the deputation on faith for revision. There had been held in the meantime on 6 Jan. the second public session. This had been previously determined upon, on 26 Oct., 1869, by the central commission for the making of the confession of faith by the members of the council. The subjects discussed from the tenth to the twenty-ninth meeting of the general congregation (on 22 Feb.) were the drafts of four disciplinary decrees, namely, on bishops, on vacant episcopal sees, on the morals of ecclesiastics, and on the smaller Catechism. Finally they were all sent for further revision to the deputation on discipline.

(2) The Parties

Such slow progress of the work had probably not been expected. The reason of the disagreeable delay was to be found in the question of infallibility, which had called forth much excitement even before the council. Directly after the opening of the session its influence was evident in the election of the deputations. It divided the fathers of the council into two, it might almost be said hostile camps; on all occasions the decisions and modes of action of each of these parties were determined by its attitude to this question. On account of the violent disputes which had been carried on everywhere for the past year over the question of papal infallibility the overwhelming majority considered the conciliar discussion and decision of the question to be imperatively necessary. On the other hand the minority, comprising about one-fifth of the total number, feared the worst from the definition, the apostasy of many wavering Catholics, an increased estrangement of those separated from the Church, and interference with the affairs of the Church by the Governments of the different countries. The minority, therefore, allowed itself to be guided by opportunist considerations. Only a few bishops appear to have had doubts as to the dogma itself. Both parties sought to gain the victory for their opinions. As however the minority was soon obliged to recognize its powerlessness, it endeavoured by protracting the discussions of the council at least to delay, or even to prevent, a decision as long as possible. Most of the German and Austro-Hungarian members of the council were against the definition, as well as nearly half of the American and about one-third of the French fathers. About 7 of the Italian bishops, 2 each of the English and Irish bishops, 3 bishops from British North America, and 1 Swiss bishop, Greith, belonged to the minority. While only a few Armenian bishops opposed the definition, most of the Chaldean and Greek Melchites sided with the minority. It had no opponents among the bishops from Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, and Central and South America. The most prominent members of the minority from the United States were Archbishops Kenrick of St. Louis and Purcell of Cincinnati, and Bishop Vérot of St. Augustine; these were joined by Archbishop Connolly of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Prominent members of the majority were Archbishop Spalding of Baltimore, Bishops Williams of Boston, Wood of Philadelphia, and Conroy of Albany.

Conspicuous members of the council from other countries were: France: among the minority, Archbishops Darboy of Paris, Ginoulhiac of Lyons, Bishops Dupanloup of Orléans, and David of Saint-Brieuc; among the majority, Archbishop Guibert of Tours, Bishops Pie of Poitiers, Freppel of Angers, Plantier of Nîmes, Raess of Strasburg. Germany: minority Bishops Hefele of Rottenburg, Ketteler of Mainz, Dinkel of Augsburg; majority, Bishops Martin of Paderborn, Senestréy of Ratisbon, Stahl of Würzburg. Austria Hungary: minority, Archbishops Cardinal Rauscher of Vienna, Cardinal Schwarzenberg of Prague, Haynald of Kalocsa, and Bishop Strossmayer of Diakovar; majority, Bishops Gasser of Brixen, Fessler of Sankt Pölten, Riccabona of Trent, Zwerger of Seckau. Italy: minority, Archbishop Nazari di Calabiana of Milan, Bishops Moreno of Ivrea, Losanna of Biella; majority, Valerga, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bishops Gastaldi of Saluzzo, Gandolfi of Loreto. England: minority, Bishop Clifford of Clifton; majority, Archbishop Manning of Westminster. Ireland: minority, Archbishop MacHale of Tuam; majority, Archbishops Cullen of Dublin and Leahy of Cashel. The East: minority, Jussef, Greek-Melchite Patriarch of Antioch; majority, Hassun, Patriarch of the Armenians. Switzerland: minority, Bishop Greith of St-Gall; majority, Bishop Mermillod of Geneva. Important champions of the definition from the countries which sent no members of the minority were Archbishop Dechamps of Mechlin, Belgium, and Bishop Payà y Rico of Cuenca, Spain.

(3) Change of Procedure: the Hall of Assembly Reduced in Size

Various memorials were now sent the Holy Father petitioning for new rules of debate for the sake of a corresponding progress in the proceedings of the council. Consequently, the conciliar procedure was more exactly defined by the Decree "Apostolicis litteris", issued on 20 Feb., 1870. According to this Decree, any member of the council who wished to raise an objection to the draft under discussion was to send in his proposed amendments in writing, in order that they might be thoroughly considered by the respective deputation. In the general congregation the discussion of a draft as a whole was always to precede the discussion of the individual parts of the draft of a decree. The members of a deputation received the right to speak in explanation or correction when not on the list of speakers. Speakers who wandered from the subject were to be called back to it. If a subject had been sufficiently debated the president, on the motion of at least ten members of the council, could put the question whether the council desired to continue the discussion or not, and then close the debate at the wish of the majority. Although these rules made for an evident improvement, still the minority was not satisfied with them, especially in so far as they contemplated a possible shortening of the debates. They expressed their dissatisfaction in several petitions which, however, had no success. On the other hand, every effort was made to satisfy another complaint which had reference to the bad acoustics of the council hail. Between 22 Feb. and 18 March, that is between the twenty-ninth and thirtieth sessions of the general congregation, the council hall was reduced about one-third in size for the use of the general congregations, so that the fathers who were thus brought closer together could understand the speakers better. The hall was restored to its original size for each of the public sessions.

(4) Completion of the First Constitution

The interruption thus caused was used by the deputation on Faith to revise the draft of the Decree "De doctrina catholica" in accordance with the wishes of the general congregation. On 1 March, Bishop Martin of Paderborn laid before the deputation the first part of the revision, the work of Father Joseph Kleutgen, S.J. It consisted of an introduction and four chapters with the corresponding canons. After an exhaustive discussion in the deputation, it was ready to be distributed to the fathers of the council on 14 March as the actual "Constitutio de fide catholica". A report in writing was also added by the deputation. Archbishop Simor of Gran gave the oral report on 18 March in the thirtieth general congregation. The debate began on the same day, and was closed after seventeen sessions on 19 April, in the forty-sixth general congregation. Over three hundred proposed amendments were brought up and discussed. Although many objections were made by both sides, yet the new rules of procedure made possible a relatively smooth course to the debates. The only disturbing incident was the passionate speech of Bishop Strossmayer of Diakovár on 22 March in the thirty-first general congregation; it called forth a storm of indignation from the majority, which finally forced the speaker to leave the tribune. On 24 April, the first Constitution, "De fide catholica", was unanimously adopted in the third public session by the 667 fathers present, and was formally confirmed and promulgated by the pope.

C. The Question of Papal Infallibility

(1) Motions calling for and opposing Definition

The opponents of infallibility constantly assert that the pope convoked the council of the Vatican solely to have papal infallibility proclaimed. Everything else was merely an excuse and for the sake of appearances. This assertion contradicts the actual facts. Not a single one of the numerous drafts drawn up by the preparatory commission bore on papal infallibility. Only two of the twenty-one opinions sent in by the Roman cardinals mentioned it. It is true that a large number of the episcopal memorials recommended the definition, but these were not taken into consideration in the preparations for the council. It was not until the contest over papal infallibility outside of the council grew constantly more violent that various groups of members of the council began to urge conciliar discussion of the question of infallibility. The first motion for the definition was made on Christmas, 1869, by Archbishop Dechamps of Mechlin. He was supported by all the other Belgian bishops, who presented a formal opinion of the University of Louvain, which culminated in a petition for the definition. The actual petition for the definition was first circulated among the fathers of the council on New Year's Day, 1870. Several petitions from smaller groups also appeared, and the petitions soon received altogether five hundred signatures, although quite a number of the friends of the definition were not among the number of subscribers. Five opposing memorials circulated by the minority finally obtained 136 names. Upon this, early in Feb., the congregation for petitions unanimously, with exception of Cardinal Rauscher, requested the pope to consider the petition for definition. Pius IX was also in favour of the definition. Therefore on 6 March, the draft of the Decree on the Church of Christ, which had been distributed among the fathers on 21 Jan., was given a new twelfth chapter entitled "Romanum Pontificem in rebus fidei et morum definiendis errare non posse" (The Roman Pontiff cannot err in defining matters of faith and morals). With this the matter dropped again in the council.

(2) The Agitation Outside the Council

The petitions concerning infallibility called forth once more outside the council a large number of pamphlets and innumerable articles in the daily papers and periodicals. About this time the French Oratorian Gratry and Archbishop Dechamps of Mechlin opposed each other in controversial pamphlets. A letter published by Count Montalembert on 27 Feb., 1870, in which he spoke of an idol which had been erected in the Vatican, attracted much attention. In England, Newman gave anxious expression of his fears as to the bad results of the declaration of infallibility in a letter written in March, 1870, to his bishop, Ullathorne of Birmingham. The most extreme opponent was Professor Döllinger of Bavaria. In his "Römische Briefe vom Konzil" , published in the "Allgemeine Zeitung" and issued in book form (Munich, 1870), under the pseudonym of "Quirinus", he used information sent him from Rome by his pupils, Johann Friedrich and Lord Acton. In these letters he did everything he could by distorting and casting doubts upon facts, by scorn and ridicule, to turn the public against the council. This was especially so in an article of 19 Jan., 1870, in which he attacked so severely the address on infallibility, which had just become known, that even Bishop Ketteler of Mainz, an old pupil of Döllinger's and a member of the minority, protested publicly against it. The Governments of the different countries also took measures on the subject of infallibility. As soon as the original draft of the decree "De ecclesia" with its canons was published in the "Allgemeine Zeitung", Count von Beust, Chancellor of Austria, sent a protest against it to Rome on 10 Feb., 1870, which said that the Austrian Government would forbid and punish the publication of all decrees that were contrary to the laws of the State. The French minister of foreign affairs, Daru, also sent a threatening memorandum on 20 Feb. He demanded the admission of an envoy to the council, and notified the other Governments of his steps in Rome. Austria, Bavaria, England, Spain and Portugal declared their agreement with the memorandum. The president of the Prussian ministry, Bismarck, would not change his attitude of reserve, notwithstanding the urgency of von Arnim, the ambassador at Rome. On 18 April, the leader of the agitation, Count Daru, retired from his post in the ministry. The president of the French ministry, Ollivier, assumed charge of foreign affairs; he was determined to leave the council free.

(3) The Debates in the Council

In the meantime the bishops of the minority in the council had constantly sought to block the matter, and especially to exert influence to this end on Cardinal Bilio, the president of the deputation on faith. If the members of the majority had not urged the fulfilment with the same perseverance, papal infallibility would never have reached debate. Finally, on 29 April, during the forty-seventh general congregation, the president interrupted the second debate on the smaller Catechism by the announcement that as soon as possible the fathers should receive for examination the draft of a Constitution, "De Romano Pontifice" which would contain the dogma of the primacy and of the infallibility of the pope. For this purpose the deputation on faith had altered the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the old draft of the Constitution "De ecclesia". On 9 May it was distributed among the fathers in printed form as the "Constitutio prima de ecclesia", consisting of 4 chapters and 3 canons. For a full month (13 May 13 June) the general debate over the draft as a whole was carried on in fourteen general congregations, and sixty-four, mostly very long, speeches were delivered. The following special debates over the separate chapters and canons lasted more than a month. Not less than a hundred speakers took part in the discussions, which were carried on from 6 June to 13 July, in 22 congregations. Most of the speeches were on the fourth chapter, which treated papal infallibility. The most prominent speakers of the minority were: French; Darboy, Ginoulhiac, Maret; German; Hefele, Ketteler, Dinkel; Austrian; Raucher, Schwarzenberg, Strossmayer; United States of America and Canada; Vérot and Connolly. Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis, who lost his opportunity to speak by the closing of the general debate, published in pamphlet form his "Concio in concilio habenda, at non habita". On the other hand the conciliar speech published under the name of Bishop Strossmayer is a forgery perpetrated by an apostate Augustinian monk from Mexico, José Agostino de Escudero, who was then in Italy (cf. Granderath- Kirch III, 189). The majority were chiefly represented by the French members of the council; Pie and Freppel; the Belgian member, Dechamps; the English member, Manning; the Irish, Cullen; the Italian members, Gastaldi and Valerga; the Spanish member, Paya y Rico; the Austrian, Gasser; the German members, Martin and Senestrey; the American member, Spalding. Several members of the minority as Kenrick, Bauseher, Hefele, Schwarzenberg, and Ketteler, discussed the question of infallibility in pamphlets that they individually issued, to which naturally the majority were not slow to reply. The most important of these answers was the "Animadversiones of the conciliar theologian, W. Wilmers, S.J., in which the writings of the last four of the antagonists just mentioned were, in succession, thoroughly confuted. Scarcely in any parliament have important matters ever been subjected to as much discussion as was the question of papal infallibility in the Vatican Council in the course of two months all the reasons pro and con had been again and again discussed, and only what had been already often said could now be repeated. Consequently in the eighty-second general congregation held on 4 July, most of those who still had the right to speak, not only of the majority, but also of the minority, renounced the privilege, and the cardinal president was able, amid general applause, to close the debates.

(4) Final Voting and Definition

The time of the eighty-third, eighty-fourth, and eighty-fifth general congregations was almost entirely occupied with the reports of the deputation on faith concerning the last two chapters. The report of Prince Bishop Gasser on the fourth chapter was a very notable one. In the eighty-fifth general congregation held on 13 July a general vote was taken on the entire draft. There were present 601 fathers. Of these 451 voted placet, 62 placet juxta modum (conditional affirmative), 88 non placet. Of the North American bishops only 7 voted non placet; these were Kenrick, Vérot, Domenec, Fitzgerald, MacQuaid, MacCloskey, and Mrac. Bishop Fitzgerald still voted non placet in the fourth public session, while on this occasion Bishop Domenec voted placet. The other five did not attend this session. In the eighty-sixth general congregation the fathers condemned, on the motion of the president, two anonymous pamphlets which calumniated the council in the coarsest manner. One, entitled "Ce qui se passe au Concile", culminated in the assertion that there was no freedom of discussion at the council. The other, "La dernière heure du Concile", repeated all the accusations that the enemies of the council had raised against it, and exhorted the bishops of the minority to stand firm and courageously vote non placet in the public session. On account of the war which threatened to break out between Germany and France, a number of fathers of both opinions had returned home. Shortly before the fourth public session a large number of the bishops of the minority left Rome with the permission of the directing officers of the council. They did not oppose the dogma of papal infallibility itself, but were against its definition as inopportune. On Monday, 18 July, 1870, one day before the outbreak of the Franco-German War, 435 fathers of the council assembled at St. Peter's under the presidency of Pope Pius IX. The last vote was now taken; 433 fathers voted placet, and only two, Bishop Aloisio Riccio of Cajazzo, Italy, and Bishop Edward Fitzgerald of Little Rock, Arkansas, voted non placet. During the proceedings a thunderstorm broke over the Vatican, and amid thunder and lightning the pope promulgated the new dogma, like a Moses promulgating the law on Mount Sinai.

D. The Council from the Fourth Public Session until the Prorogation

At the close of the eighty-fifth general congregation a "Monitum" was read which announced that the council would be continued without interruption after the fourth public session. Still, the members received a general permission to leave Rome for some months. They had only to notify the secretary in writing of their departure. By 11 Nov., St. Martin's day, all were to be back again. So many of the fathers made use of this permission that only a few more than 100 remained at Rome. Naturally these could not take up any new questions. Consequently the draft of the decree on vacant episcopal sees, which had been amended in the meantime by the deputation of discipline, was again brought forward, and debated in three further general congregations. The eighty- ninth, which was also to be the last, was held on 1 Sept. On 8 Sept. the Piedmontese troops entered the States of the Church at several points; on Tuesday, 20 Sept., a little before eight o clock in the morning,, the enemy entered Rome through the Porta Pia. The pope was a prisoner in the Vatican. He waited a month longer. He then issued on 20 Oct. the Bull, "Postquam Dei munere", which prorogued the council indefinitely. This day was the day after a Piedmontese decree had been issued organizing the Patrimony of Peter as a Roman province. A circular letter issued by the Italian minister, Visconti Venosta, on 22 Oct., to assure the council of the freedom of meeting, naturally met with no credence. A very remarkable letter was sent from London on the same day by Archbishop Spalding to Cardinal Barnabo, prefect of the Propaganda at Rome. In this letter he made the proposition, which met the approval of Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop Manning, and Archbishop Dechamps, to continue the council in the Belgian city of Mechlin, and gave ten reasons why this city seemed suitable for such sessions. Unfortunately the general condition of affairs was such that a continuation of the council even at the most suitable place could not be thought of.


After the council had made its decision everyone naturally looked with interest to those members of the minority who had maintained their opposition to the definition of infallibility up to the last moment. Would they recognize the decision of the council, or, as the enemies of the council desired would they persist in their opposition? As a matter of fact, not a single one of them was disloyal to his sacred duties. As long as the discussions lasted they expressed their views freely and without molestation, and sought to carry them into effect. After the decision, without exception, they came over to it, The two bishops who on 18 July had voted non placet advanced to the papal throne at the same session and acknowledged their acceptance of the truth thus defined. The Bishop of Little Rock said simply and with true greatness, "Holy Father, now I believe." It is not possible in this brief space to mention the accession of each member of the minority. As concerns the members from North America who are of special interest here, Bishop Vérot of St. Augustine gave his adhesion to the dogma while still at Rome in a letter addressed on 25 July to the secretary of the council. Bishop Mrac of Sault-Saint-Marie sent his declaration of adherence at the latest by Jan., 1872. A year later Bishop Domenec of Pittsburgh did the same. In 1875 Bishop MacQuaid of Rochester, if not earlier, announced his adherence to the dogma by its formal and public promulgation. When Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis returned to his diocese on 30 Dec., 1870, he made an address at the reception given him, in which he first gave the reasons that had decided his position at the council as long, as the question was open to discussion, and then closed with the declaration that, now the council had decided, he submitted unconditionally to its decree. He expressed himself similarly in a letter of 13 Jan., 1871, to the prefect of the Propaganda. When Lord Acton questioned the archbishop in regard to his submission, the latter replied by a long letter dated 29 March, 1871, which shows, it may be, a certain discontent, but which clearly confirmed his belief in the infallibility of the pope. In the same way the distinguished Frenchmen and Englishmen who, outside of the council, had expressed opinions antagonistic to the promulgation of infallibility, e.g. Gratry, Newman, Montalembert, and finally, as it appears, Acton, also submitted after the decision had been made. On the other hand, in Germany a number of Professor Döllinger's adherents apostatised from the Church and formed the sect of Old Catholics. Döllinger also apostatized, without, however, connecting himself with any other denomination. In Switzerland the opponents of the council united in a sect called Christian Catholics. Outside of these, however the Catholics of the entire world, both clergy and laity, accepted the decision of the council with great joy and readiness. After the close of the Franco-German War the German Government made the dogma of infallibility the excuse for what is called the Kulturkampf. Yet the bishops and priests were ready to bear loss of property, imprisonment, and exile rather than be disloyal to any part of their ecclesiastical duties. The Austrian Government took the opportunity offered by the definition to relieve itself from uncomfortable obligations, and declared that, as the other contracting party had changed, the Concordat with the Roman See was annulled. Excepting in a few Swiss cantons, the promulgation of the decision of the council did not encounter any actual difficulties elsewhere.


In comparison with the large scope of the preparations for the council, and with the great amount of material laid before it for discussion in the numerous drafts and proposals, the immediate result of its labours must be called small. But the council was only in its beginnings when the outbreak of war brought it to a sudden close. It is also true as is known, that reasons within the council prevented a larger result from its sessions. Thus it was that in the end only two not very large Constitutions could be promulgated. If, however, the contents of these two constitutions be examined their great importance is unmistakable. The contents meet in a striking manner the needs of the times.

A. The dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith defends the fundamental principles of Christianity against the errors of modern Rationalism, Materialism, and atheism. In the first chapter it maintains the doctrine of the existence of a personal God, Who of His own free volition for the revelation of His perfection, has created all things out of nothing, Who foresees all things, even the future free actions of reasonable creatures, and Who through His Providence leads all things to the intended end. The second chapter treats the natural and supernatural knowledge of God. It then declares that God, the beginning and end of all things can also be known with certainty by the natural light of reason. It then treats the actuality and necessity of a supernatural revelation, of the two sources of Revelation, Scripture and tradition, of the inspiration and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The third chapter treats the supernatural virtue of faith, its reasonableness supernaturalness, and necessity, the possibility and actuality of miracles as a confirmation of Divine Revelation; and lastly, the founding of the Catholic Church by Jesus Christ as the Guardian and Herald of revealed truth. The fourth chapter contains the doctrine, especially important to-day, on the connection between faith and reason. The mysteries of faith cannot, indeed, be fully grasped by natural reason, but revealed truth can never contradict the positive results of the investigation of reason. Contrariwise, however, every assertion is false that contradicts the truth of enlightened faith. Faith and true learning are not in hostile opposition; they rather support each other in many ways. Yet faith is not the same as a philosophical system of teaching that has been worked out and then turned over to the human mind to be further developed, but it has been entrusted as a Divine deposit to the Church for protection and infallible interpretation. When, therefore, the Church explains the meaning of a dogma this interpretation is to be maintained in all future time, and it can never be deviated from under pretence of a more profound investigation. At the close of the Constitution the opposing heresies are rejected in eighteen canons.

B. The other dogmatic Constitution is of equal, if not greater, importance; it is the first on the Church of Christ, or, as it is also called in reference to its contents, on the Pope of Rome. "The introduction to the Constitution says that the primacy of the Roman pontiff, on which the unity, strength, and stability of the entire Church rests, has always been, and is especially now, the object of violent attacks by the enemies of the Church. Therefore the doctrine of its origin, constant permanence, and nature must be clearly set forth and established, above all on account of the opposing errors. Thus the first chapter treats of the establishment of the Apostolic primacy in the popes of Rome. Each chapter closes with a canon against the opposing dogmatic opinion. The most important matter of the Constitution is the last two chapters. In the third chapter the meaning and nature of the primacy are set forth in clear words. The primacy of the Pope of Rome is no mere precedence of honour. On the contrary, the pope possesses the primacy of regularly constituted power over all other Churches, and the true, direct, episcopal power of jurisdiction, in respect to which the clergy and faithful of every rite and rank are bound to true obedience. The immediate power of jurisdiction of the individual bishops in their dioceses, therefore, is not impaired by the primacy, but only strengthened and defended. By virtue of his primacy the pope has the right to have direct and free relations with the clergy and laity of the entire Church. No one is permitted to interfere with this intercourse. It is false and to be rejected to say that the decrees issued by the pope for the guidance of the Church are not valid unless confirmed by the placet of the secular power. The pope is also the supreme judge of all the faithful, to whose decision all matters under examination by the Church can be appealed. On the other hand, no further appeal, not even to an ecumenical council, can be made from the supreme decision of the pope. Consequently the canon appended to the third chapter says: "When, therefore, anyone says that the Pope of Rome has only the office of supervision or of guidance, and not the complete and highest power of jurisdiction over the entire Church, not merely in matters of faith and morals, but also in matters which concern the discipline and administration of the Church throughout the entire world, or that the pope has only the chief share, but not the entire fullness of this highest power, or that this his power is not actual and immediate either over all and individual Churches, or over all and individual clergy and faithful, let him be anathema."

The fourth chapter, lastly, contains the definition of papal infallibility. First, all the corresponding decrees of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, 680 (Sixth Ecumenical), of the Second Council of Lyons, 1274 (Fourteenth Ecumenical) and of the Council of Florence, 1439 (Seventeenth Ecumenical), are repeated and confirmed. It is pointed out, further, that at all times the popes, in the consciousness of their infallibility in matters of faith for the preservation of the purity of the Apostolic tradition, have acted as the court of last instance and have been called upon as such. Then follows the important tenet that the successors of St. Peter have been promised the Holy Ghost, not for the promulgation of new doctrines, but only for the preservation and interpretation of the Revelation delivered by the Apostles. The Constitution closes with the following words: "Faithfully adhering, therefore, to the tradition inherited from the beginning of the Christian Faith, we, with the approbation of the sacred council, for the glory of God our Saviour, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and the salvation of Christian peoples, teach and define, as a Divinely revealed dogma, that the Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when he, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, decides that a doctrine concerning faith or morals is to be held by the entire Church, he possesses, in consequence of the Divine aid promised him in St. Peter, that infallibility with which the Divine Saviour wished to have His Church furnished for the definition of doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not in consequence of the Church's consent, irreformable."

What is given above is essentially the contents of the two Constitutions of the Vatican Council. Their import may be briefly expressed thus: in opposition to the Rationalism and Free-thinking of the present day the first Constitution gives authoritative and clear expression of the fundamental principles of natural and supernatural understanding of right and true faith, their possibility, necessity, their sources, and of their relations to each other. Thus it offers to all of honest intention a guide and a firm foothold, both in solving the great question of life and in all the investigations of learning. The second Constitution settles finally a question which had kept the minds of men disturbed from the time of the Great Schism, and the Council of Constance, and more especially from the appearance of the four Gallican articles of 1682, the question of the relation between the pope and the Church. According to the dogmatic decision of the Vatican Council, the papacy founded by Christ is the crown and centre of the entire constitution of the Catholic Church. The papacy includes in itself the entire fullness of the power of administration and teaching bestowed by Christ upon His Church. Thus ecclesiastical particularism and the theory of national Churches are forever overthrown. On the other hand, it is extravagant and unjust to say that by the definition of the primacy of jurisdiction and of the infallibility of the pope the ecumenical councils have lost their essential importance. The ecumenical councils have never been absolutely necessary. Even before the Vatican Council their decrees obtained general currency only through the approval of the pope. The increasing difficulty of their convocation as time went on is shown by the interval of three hundred years between the nineteenth and twentieth ecumenical councils. The definitions of the last council have, therefore, brought about the alleviation that was desirable and the necessary legal certainty. Apart from this, however, the hierarchy united with the pope in a general council is, now as formerly, the most complete representation of the Catholic Church.

Lastly, as regards the drafts and proposition which were left unsettled by the Vatican Council, a number of these were revived and brought to completion by Pius IX and his two successors. To mention a few: Pius IX made St. Joseph the patron saint of the Universal Church on 8 Dec., 1870, the same year as the council. Moral and religious problems, which it was intended to lay before the council for discussion, are treated in the encyclicals of Leo XIII on the origin of the civil power (1881), on freemasonry (1884), on human freedom (1888), on Christian marriage (1880), etc. Leo XIII also issued in 1900 new regulations regarding the index of forbidden books. From the beginning of his administration Pius X seems to have had in view in his legislative labours the completion of the great tasks left by the Vatican Council. The most striking proofs of this are: the reform of the Italian diocesan seminaries, the regulation of the philosophical and theological studies of candidates for the priesthood, the introduction of one catechism for the Roman church province, the laws concerning the form of ritual for betrothal and marriage, the revision of the prayers of the Breviary, and, above all, the codification of the whole of modern canon law.

(1) Archives of the Vatican Council: All official papers relating to the preparations for the Vatican Council, its proceedings, and the acceptance of its decrees, have been preserved in the Vatican Palace, in two rooms which were set apart for them. The speeches made at the general congregations exist in shorthand notes and handwriting; in addition, Pius IX also arranged to have them printed, The first four folio volumes were issued by the Vatican Press in 1875-8, the fifth and final volume appeared in 1884. About a dozen copies of each volume are in the archives.

(2) Collections of Official Documents: CECCONI, Storia del Concilio ecumenico Vaticano scritta sui documenti originali. Antecedenti, I (Rome, 1873), II, in III pts. (Rome, 1879); FRIEDRICH, Documenta ad illustrandum Concilium Vaticanum (II pts., Nördlingen, i871). FRIEDBERG, Sammlung der Aktenstücke zum ersten vatikanischen Konzil mit einem Grundriss der Geschichte desselben (Tübingen, 1872); MARTIN, Omnium Concilii Vaticani quae ad doctrinam et disciplinam pertinent documentorum collectio (Paderborn, 1873); the most complete collection is Acta et decreta sacrosancti oecumenici Concilii Vaticani, ed. SCHNEEMAN AND GRANDERATH (Freiburg, 1892); this collection is in the Collectio Lacensis vol VII. The decrees of the eouncii have often been published as at Rome by the Propaganda, at Freiburg. and Ratisbon.

(3) Historical Accounts: (a) Catholic: by the secretary of the council, FESSLER, Das vatikanische Concilium, dessen äusere Bedeutung und innere Verlauf (Vienna, 1871); MANNING, The True Story of the Vatican Council (London, 1877); OLLIVIER. L'église et l'état au concile du Vatican (2 vols., Paris, 1879); GRANDERATH AND KIRCH, Geschichte des vatikanischen Konzils von seiner ersten Ankündigung bis zu seiner Vertagung, nach den authentischen Dokumenten (3 vols., Freiburg, 1903 and 1906); FROND, Actes et histoire du concile oecuménique de Rome (8 vols., Paris, 1869), numerous illustrations; GRANDERATH in WETZER AND WELTE, Kirchenlexikon, s. v. Vatican. Concil. (b) Non-Catholic: FRIEDRICH, Tagebuch während des vatikanischen Konzils geführt (2nd ed., Nördlingen, 1873); IDEM, Geschichte des vatikanischen Konzils (3 vols., Bonn, 1877 87); MOZLEY, Letters from Rome on the Occasion of the Ecumenical Council 1869-1870 (2 vols., London, 1891); MIRBT in Realencyklopädie für protest. Theol., s. v. Vatican. Concil. In addition, consult the biographies of the most distinguished members of the council. The most important works and pamphlets that appeared during the council are mentioned in the course of the article.

(4) Explanations of the Decrees of the Council: GRANDERATH, Constitutiones dogmaticoe s. oecumen. Concilii Vaticani, explicat (Freiburg. 1892); VACANT, Etudes théologiques sur les constitutions du concile du Vatican (2 vols., Paris, 1895).