Short Catechism of Church History - J. Oechtering

The Nineteenth Century

186. Q. What great task awaited the action of the Church at the beginning of this century?

R. The great task of reorganizing Church affairs in those countries where the destructive teachings of the eighteenth century and the ravages of the revolution had spread.

187. Q. In what respects had the Church suffered most?

R. 1) Communications between Rome and the bishops of the different countries had been either severed or hampered by unjust laws.

2) Episcopal sees had been abolished or kept vacant by the government.

3) Religious orders had been suppressed and their property confiscated.

4) The losses in property and funds, which the Church suffered through the so-called secularization, were enormous and left her almost destitute.

The value of secularized ecclesiastical property in Germany alone amounted in the year 1803 to about 300 million dollars. The poor religious, driven from their sacred homes, were left a prey to poverty and starvation. Chalices, reliquaries, sacred vessels and even the silver clasps of missals were taken and carried to the mint. In France the Church was even more despoiled. In Austria 700 and in Spain 900 convents were confiscated. What had been left by the followers of Protestantship the 16th century, was now taken by the followers of Voltaire, Rousseau and Freemasonry.

188. Q. Name the Popes who engaged in the work of restoration?

R. Popes Pius VII., Leo XII., Gregory XVI., and Pius IX., who concluded concordats or agreements with the different governments, whereby the relations between Church and State were peaceably settled. (Compare list of the popes of the 19th century.)

While the Church always conscientiously observed the rules of these concordats, different states, such as France, Spain, Portugal, and others, violated them whenever it was to their advantage.

189. Q. What Pope had the longest and most eventful pontificate in this century?

R. Pope Pius IX., who ruled in the see of St. Peter for thirty-two years.

1) In his encyclicas and in the famous Syllabus he exposed and condemned the false doctrines of Gallicanism and Liberalism

The Syllabus is a list of propositions, condemned in papal encyclicas (i.e.  letters to the bishops). For instance, under No. 48 the pope condemns the proposition, that Catholics may approve, for their own children, of a school education from which religious instruction is debarred.

2) In the year 1854 he solemnly declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

3) In the year 1869 he convened the great Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, in which the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope in solemn decisions on matters of faith and morals was declared.

In the year 1858 the BlessedVirgin appeared at Lourdes and declared: "I am the Immaculate Conception." Numerous miracles followed, and thus the dogma, promulgated by the Pope, received the seal of Heaven, preparing the world for the other dogma, that such solemn decisions of the Pope are infallible.

190. Q. What illustrious Pope succeeded Pius IX.?

R. Pope Leo XIII. succeeded Pope Pius IX. on the 10th of February, 1878, and governed the Church with wisdom, meekness, and energy.

Pope Pius X. succeeded Pope Leo XIII. August 4th, 1903, called the Pope of the Blessed Sacrament.

The long pontificate of Leo XIII. has been a continual message of peace and reconciliation to a restless world. In his profound encyclicals he instructed the faithful with apostolic wisdom on the grave questions which distract our age. He announced the great jubilee at the beginning of the loth century and sent out from the chair of St. Peter a solemn appeal to the nations to return to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

When Pius X. ascended the throne of St. Peter, he chose for his motto: "Restore all things in Christ." He is called the Pope of the BI. Sacrament, because he urgently insists on frequent, even daily communion and on the admission of little children to first Holy Communion, after they have attained the age of reason and have been duly instructed and prepared.

191. Q. How did Divine Providence aid these efforts of the Pontiffs for the Church?

R. Divine Providence raised up in all countries large numbers of great and holy men and women, who labored with wonderous success in the interest of religious liberty and piety, Christian science and education, charity and social progress.

Montalembert, Lacordaire, Ozanam, and others in France; Overberg, Witmann, Goerres, Mallinkrodt, Ketteler, Windthorst, and others in Germany; Daniel O'Connell, Father Matthew, Archbishop McHale, and others in Ireland; Cardinals Wiseman, Newman, Manning, and others in England; Donoso-Cortes, Balmes, and others in Spain; Sterks, De Ram, Dechamps, and others in Belgium; Lachat, Greith, Mermillod, and others in Switzerland; and in the United States, Bishops Cheverus, Carroll, Neuman, England, Hughes, Spalding, and others, and laymen like Orestes Brownson, the First Sister of Charity, Mrs. Seton, and others.

The spirit, animating these noble Catholics, is beautifully expressed in the words, with which Mallinkrodt closed his famous speech in defense of the Church before the German diet: "Through the cross to the light;" or in Montalembert's address before the French parliament: "We are the successors of the martyrs and tremble not before the successors of Julian, the apostate; we are the sons of the crusaders and will not budge before the sons of Voltaire;" or in Daniel O'Connell's dying wish: "My heart to Rome, my body Ireland, my soul to God."

192. Q. What about the religious orders in this century?

R. The Society of Jesus was solemnly reestablished by Pope Pius VII. (1814), and soon grew to large dimensions. The old religious orders, which had been despoiled and persecuted toward the end of the last and the beginning of this century, arose with new vigor and since then have greatly increased in numbers and influence. A very large number of new religious orders and congregations, working mainly in the cause of Christian education and charity, have sprung up and spread over the old and new world.

Among the new religious orders in our own country we note the congregation (for men) of the Holy Cross with its university of Notre Dame, of the Precious Blood, and of the Holy Ghost, the Brothers of Mary, of St. Francis Xavier, and of the Sacred Heart.

Sisters of the Sacred Heart, of the Holy Cross, of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Benedict, St. Joseph, St. Agnes, of the Presentation, Notre Dame, Mercy, Charity, Precious Blood, Loretto, Holy Family, the Handmaids of Christ, Oblates, Little Sisters of the Poor, and many others.

193. Q. How does the Church prosper in the different parts of the world?

R. 1) In the United States of North America the growth of the Church has been surprising. The first pioneers of the Cross were Sulpitian, Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit Missionaries who labored along the St. Lawrence and the northern lakes, in New Mexico and California.

The later English colonies, established on the Atlantic coast, were Protestant and forbade Catholic worship by law. Lord Baltimore with 300 Catholic immigrants from England and two Jesuit fathers founded a colony called Maryland, as an asylum for the persecuted Catholics of England. This was the first American colony which gave "full toleration in religious matters" to all. After the war of independence religious liberty was granted by the constitution. In 1789 there was but one bishop, John Carroll of Baltimore, and 30,000 Catholics, and at the end of this century there are ten million Catholics, one cardinal, fourteen archbishops, and seventy-three bishops. Three great national councils have been held in Baltimore, and churches, schools, and convents cover the land.

Canada, which in the year 1817 had but one bishop, has at present seven archbishops and twenty-four bishops, and 2,300,000 Catholics.

2) In Australia, the English government forbade Catholic worship with great intolerance up to the year 1820; since then Catholic priests have been admitted and there are now about a million Catholics in a total population of four millions.

3) In Asia, Catholic missions are expanding continually, in spite of repeated bloody persecutions.

4) In Africa, new missionary fields have been opened by explorers, and are now being evangelized by numerous zealous priests.

5) In Europe, the Church is making great progress, especially in those countries that were formerly exclusively Protestant, such as England, Scotland, Holland. Denmark, and Scandinavia.

194. Q. Has the Church passed through persecutions in this century also?

R. Yes; she has passed through many and violent persecutions:

1) In 1870, the Italian government seized by force the Papal States, and made the Holy Father virtually a prisoner in the Vatican.

2) In Germany, a violent persecution broke out in 1873 (May laws), but the Catholics, faithful to their bishops and priests, bore it with patient fortitude and by united political efforts forced the government to desist.

3) Russia, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and spine of the South American republics, also had periods of persecution.

195. Q. How did these persecutions affect the Catholic people?

R. These persecutions have increased the faith and energy of the Catholic people, who everywhere defend fearlessly the rights of the Church. Piety and religious vocations are on the increase; charitable and educational institutions multiply; sacred and secular science are eagerly cultivated; bishops, priests, and people are united in loyal submission to the Holy See.

196. Q. What has been the numeric development of the Church from the day of Pentecost to the present time?

R. On the day of Pentecost, when the twelve Apostles went forth from the Coenaculum to preach the Gospel, the Church numbered but a few hundred members within the walls of Jerusalem: To-day, after a lapse of 1800 years, she has expanded and is still expanding in ever-widening circles over the whole earth, and counts three-hundred millions of children among all races, nations, and tribes of the world.

Thus the prophetic parable of our Lord, in which He compares His Church to a grain of mustard-seed, is being daily fulfilled.

197. Q. What dangers threaten Christendom at the present time?

R. 1) The spirit of infidelity, which is fostered by godless education, a licentious press, and secret societies.

2) The spirit of anarchy, which threatens authority, law, and order.

3) The spirit of liberalism, which pretends to reconcile Catholic truth with the false doctrines of modern thought.

4) The spirit of socialism and communism, which attempts to destroy the family and the rights of property.

5) The dangerous and widespread error, that man may save his soul through the natural virtues (for instance temperance, honesty, brotherly love, patriotism, humaneness and a certain outward respect for God and religion), needing neither actual nor sanctifying grace, nor supernatural faith, hope and charity. (See Pelagianism Ch. III.)

198. Q. What alone can save the world from such dangers?

R. The return of men to the teachings and graces which Jesus Christ entrusted to His Church. This alone can save the world from the grave dangers which threaten the very existence of human society.

199. Q. What is the future of the Church at the end of the 19th century?

R. The future of the Church will be like the past.

She will pass on through time, blessing the world with God's truth and grace.

She will suffer persecution for justice's sake, like Him who founded her.

She can never perish, because she is the work of God, and the Holy Ghost dwells in her till the end of time.

In short, she will be the Church militant on earth, and, finally, the Church triumphant forever in heaven.

NOTE.—Eighteen hundred years have passed since Christ built His Church upon the rock of St. Peter. The persecutions of hostile state power, the slanders of lying heresy, the sneering of infidel philosophers, the treason of some of her own children, have combined against her from century to century, but she stands forever in serene majesty on the rock where her Divine Master has placed her, while the angry waves of human passions and hell's undying hatred beat against it. She blesses the world, prays for her enemies, and guides her children to Heaven. She fears not, for she is ever conscious of the Divine promise: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it."

May we always love her, the benign mother of our souls, and cling to her with unshaken faith, whatever storms the dark powers of hell and the pride of the world may raise against her, and in her afflictions show her even greater love, as Mary and the chosen friends showed to Our Lord under the cross. Let us remember the beautiful words in which the English poet Dryden has described her:

"A milk-white hind, immortal and unchanged,

Fed on the lawns and in the forest ranged;

Without unspotted, innocent within,

She feared no danger for she knew no sin.

Yet oft was she pursued . . . was often forced to fly

And doomed to death, but fated not to die."