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Chapter 15 The Catholic
Church in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
FR. ROBERT J. FOX
world — in transition intellectually and culturally and therefore
spiritually — has been blessed in the nineteenth and the twentieth
centuries with very holy popes.
1. How did Pope
Pius VII and Napoleon get along together?
Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) was invited to come to Paris to crown
Napoleon emperor of France in 1804. While advised not to go, the pope
felt it could help the Church. The pope was well received as he
traveled through France. Napoleon, however, received him coolly, and
placed the crown on his own head after the pope had blessed it, after
taking the crown out of the pope's hands. During his entire stay in
France, Napoleon was discourteous to this chief Vicar of Christ on
Napoleon, during his entire reign, attempted to force
Pope Pius VII to obey his will. In 1809 Napoleon took possession of the
Papal States and the pope was brought to France as a prisoner. The pope
was kept from all communication from the outside world. He was not even
permitted his breviary for the official daily prayers of the Church.
Napoleon had ambitions to rule the world. In the spring
of 1805, Austria, Russia, and Sweden joined England against France. By
1808, Napoleon's Grand Army was the most powerful in Europe. It had
annihilated the armies of Austria, and Prussia, defeated the Russians,
and forced the Hapsburg Holy Roman emperor, Francis II, to give up his
title, held by the Hapsburg family since the fifteenth century.
Napoleon's armies, having imprisoned the pope, occupied Portugal and
brought all of Europe east of Spain under control.
Spain offered resistance but was weak. The city of
Zaragoza put up a heroic fight against the French, as its leader
dedicated his cause to the Mother of God in the chapel of the Pillar
Virgin. This one city, alone, weakened French troops and morale, even
though the Zaragozans finally lost the battle.
In 1808 the British landed in Portugal and, due to the
weakened conditions of the French, caused by the Spaniards, succeeded
in driving the French out of Portugal. Although the Spaniards had been
despised throughout Europe for being weak, yet, due to them, Napoleon's
power in Europe began to weaken. Still, Napoleon looked to Russia. His
troops marched toward Russia thinking they would have an easy victory.
On the snowy fields of Russia, Napoleon's immense army, estimated to be
as many as 1 million, was reduced to hardly 50,000 men. Without
success, Napoleon tried to build up his Grand Army again.
The Battle of Nations took place at Leipzig in October
1813. The armies of Austria, Russia, and Prussia defeated the French
troops, and on March 31, 1884, the Allies captured Paris. Napoleon was
sent into exile on the island of Elba.
Napoleon escaped from Elba and came back to France to
rally an army around him, as men forgot the defeats and remembered only
the glory. A gear battle was fought at Waterloo in Belgium and the
power of Napoleon was broken forever. He was taken prisoner and went to
the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died.
In 1814 Pope Pius VII returned to Rome.
2. Relate the Pope's return to
the Eternal City and the tradition of the confidence of Popes in Mary
as Help of Christians in the Church's battles with worldly powers.
The treaty of peace, signed at Vienna in 1815, ended
the War of Nations in Europe with Napoleon. The Papal States were given
back to the pope.
While God respects man's free will, however badly he
uses it, yet a close study of history reveals that Jesus Christ is Lord
and King, and God is ultimately the author of all history. We recall
how in 1571, a huge Turkish armada had set sail to capture the Eternal
City and that Pope St. Pius V called upon every Catholic to invoke the
aid of the Mother of God under her title Help of Christians. An
insignificant Christian fleet was victorious, saving Christendom on
that day of October 7, 1571, and the pope proclaimed a new feast in
honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, as he asked Catholics to
storm heaven unceasingly with rosaries.
In 1683 the Arabs tried again with an army of 200,000
Turks, facing an army of 30,000 Christians whom they besieged in
Vienna. Pope Innocent XI called upon Catholics to take the cause to our
Lady Help of Christians, reciting her rosary. The Battle of Vienna
began on the birthday of our Lady, September 8, and the Turkish army
was crushed by the small Christian fleet on the Feast of the Holy Name
of Mary. The Turkish fleet never again was a threat to Christendom.
Over a century later, in 1800, the French, under
Napoleon, succeeded in doing what the Turks had failed to accomplish.
Rome, the Eternal City, fell. Fifty venerated churches in Rome were
burned and Pope Pius VI was imprisoned in France, where he died (as
already noted). The pope died from ill treatment. The forces of atheism
seemed to be triumphant. It was thought, "God is dead...the Pope is
dead." When the new pope, Pius VII, was elected, anti-Catholic
newspapers said: "Not Pius VII but Pius the last!"
As noted, in 1809 Bonaparte again seized the Pope,
dragged him to a prison in France, and made most of Europe his
subjects. Faced with this, Pope Pius VII, according to tradition, made
a vow to our Lady. If she would restore freedom to the Church, he would
honor her with a new feast. The Pope succeeded in smuggling a message
to the world's bishops to ask Catholics to pray to Our Lady Help of
Christians for deliverance.
We have seen how Napoleon, at the head of an army of 1
million men, set out to conquer the world's largest country. By spring,
most of his men were dead and Napoleon was no longer emperor. On the
same day that Napoleon signed his abdication, Pope Pius VII, who had no
armies, made his triumphal reentry into the Eternal City, Rome. He had
spent five terrible years in prison. On that very day, May 24, 1814,
remaining true to his vow to God's Mother, the pope proclaimed the
Feast of Mary Help of Christians as his first official act.
3. Did the Church continue to
work to show men how to preserve true liberty?
Yes. In the first part of the nineteenth century the
Church worked hard to defend her rights against the new governments in
Europe. The Church is a true friend of democracy because she has always
preached that before God there is neither bond men nor free, rich nor
poor. God respects all persons, and we cannot love God unless we love
our neighbors as ourselves. We cannot recognize God as Father if we do
not recognize one another as brothers.
Still, in the minds of people, the Church had become
closely associated with kings of the past. Therefore many looked upon
the Church as the enemy of liberty. Many preached a "separation of
Church and state," but meant that the state should be supreme over the
Church. These men, called Liberalists, were suspicious of the Church,
which was international, and held that man is a law unto himself and
there is no divine authority.
When Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) became the Vicar of
Christ in 1831, he worked hard to educate men on the true position of
the Church. He opposed rebellion as a means of settling political
questions. He encouraged the world to bring to the attention of the
world the true Catholic position on social questions.
4. How did the Church revive in
Some Catholic laymen came to the support of the Church,
to defend her against the government. One of these was a brilliant
newspaperman, who though he made some mistakes, was humble and
corrected his position when they were pointed out by the Pope. He then
became a Dominican priest — Père Lacordaire, who became a great
preacher. All Paris longed to crowd the great Cathedral of Notre Dame
to listen to his sermons.
There was also Frederick Ozanam. Formerly interested in
law, and besieged with doubts, he came, when only 20 years of age, with
seven other young men to found the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Interested in Catholic education, he worked to develop Catholic
teachers so that children and youth would not lose the faith.
5. Tell about the Catholic
revival in German.
The Romantic movement in literature, which turned to
the study of the history of Germany during the Middle Ages, helped the
Catholic cause in Germany, it was learned how the Church had helped the
lives of people during the ages of faith.
There were also men like Clement Hofbauer, who became
the great Apostle of Vienna; he died in 1820 and was canonized in 1909
by Pope Pius X. The government gave the Church much trouble regarding
mixed marriages, until Joseph von Görres, a professor in the
University of Munich, wrote a book called Athanasius. It
became a best seller and the government was obliged to give victory to
the Church. A prominent lawyer, Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, read the
book and gave up his office to study for the priesthood. Eventually he
became the bishop of Mainz and a great preacher and defender of the
Church in Germany.
6. How were Catholics in
Ireland given freedom?
A law that was passed in 1801 united Ireland closely to
England and made it possible for the Irish people to be in Parliament,
but not if they remained sincere Catholics. Members of Parliament had
to take an oath which denied the doctrine on the Eucharist, viz.,
transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Lord's Body and Blood at
the Consecration of the Mass — as well as the sacrifice of the Mass
itself and the intercessory prayers of the saints.
Daniel O'Connell was the outstanding leader for the
cause of Catholic emancipation. The French Revolution had closed the
college at Douai, where Daniel was a student, and as a result he made a
vow to become a champion for law and order. In 1827 O'Connell was
elected a member of Parliament for Country Clare, after had had been
active in an organization called the Catholic Association, which
esixted to win equal rights for Catholics in Ireland and England. The
British government knew that the popular O'Connell would not take the
oath against his faith, and they feared a rebellion among Catholics
would break out in the two countries.
The king signed the Act of Catholic Emancipation on
April 13, 1829, which permitted Catholics to sit in Parliament without
taking the oath that was contrary to Catholic faith. O'Connell became
one of the most popular orators of his time, entering the House of
Commons in 1830. He fought for freedom for Ireland until his death.
7. Relate the Catholic Revival
Since the Protestant Revolt, the freedom of Catholics
in England had been restricted. The Act of Catholic Emancipation
permitted Catholics in England to worship publicly. In 1835 Fr. Gentili
(from Italy), a member of the Fathers of the Institute of Charity,
arrived in England. This group introduced the Forty Hours' Devotion to
Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, devotions to God's Mother
through the month of May, and other Catholic devotions once popular
among Catholics in England. Passionists and Redemptorists came from
Ireland, France and Belgium. The 1846 Irish famine brought many Irish
Catholics to England. Non-Catholics were edified at their piety.
Interest in the Catholic faith began to develop in England, which had
been forced out of the Church under Henry VIII.
The Church of England (Anglicanism) had been losing its
hold on the people. Converts began to come into the Catholic Church
from the Church of England. Dr. Wiseman, president of the English
College at Rome, and who later became Cardinal Wiseman, preached in
London and won many converts. Cardinal Henry Edward Manning was a
convert in England. As archbishop of Westminster, he wrote the book The
Eternal Priesthood, still considered a classic.
The Oxford Movement (1833-1845) represented growing
interest in the Catholic Church in the Protestant University of Oxford.
The most famous convert in the Oxford Movement was John Henry Newman,
who had been considered the most famous preacher among the Protestants
in England. He entered the Catholic Church in 1845, then studied for
the priesthood in Rome, and returned to England to establish the
English Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. In 1879 Pope
Leo XIII made this world-famous convert a cardinal of the Church. The
writings of John Henry Cardinal Newman are considered some of the best
explanations of the Catholic faith, and most valuable in anwering
problems and questions of faith in the latter part of this twentieth
8. What happened during the
early nineteenth century that greatly changed the manner of people's
The Industrial Revolution caused people to leave the
farms and villages and to move near the factories in the big cities.
This brought many changes in family life, as its members were not so
closely united, no longer living and working together on farms. Members
of all ages went off to the factories to work, and even children worked
long hours away from home.
The Industrial Revolution began around 1769, when James
Watt (in England) invented the steam engine. This aided rapid
transportation, and large quantities of factory-made goods became
available. While this had benefits, it also created social problems:
individual, hand-made items became less important while men became
almost parts of machines, working in drab factories for long hours.
It was mostly in England and America that the
inventions that spurred the Industrial Revolution occurred. Inventions
like the spinning jenny, steamboat, railroad engine, electric motors
and generators, telegraph, reaper — all had a profound effect on the
lives of people. "Capitalism" developed, by which a few with money
could control the work and lives of many. Unequal distribution of
wealth and property became more and more evident.
The theory of "laissez-faire" (leave alone) developed,
which caused governments not to interfere in the management of
capitalists. This led to many abuses: long working hours for children
and teenagers, poor pay, inadequate working conditions, etc. Something
began to be done about the abuses with the Factory Act, passed in
England in 1833, which forbade the hiring of children under 9 years of
age. Those from 9 to 13 could work no more than 48 hours a week, while
teenagers could not work more than 69 hours a week.
In Ireland, the people suffered terribly as their grain
was shipped to England under a landlord system, with the English
government doing nothing to relieve the extreme hardship of the people
whose stable crop, the potato, had repeatedly rotted in the fields.
9. What other developments
began during the nineteenth century?
The spirit of laissez-faire capitalism led to much
dissatisfaction among working people. They had little money to live on;
wealth fell into the hands of a few rich capitalists; "liberal" ideas
were espoused with little respect for authority. All this laid the
groundwork for an economic theory of socialism which would have the
government take over factories and businesses. Utopian ideals developed
whereby life on this earth would be glorious if all men owned
everything in common and no one had property of his own. Socialists set
up communal farms, but most of them soon failed.
Later, socialists proposed that force be used to effect
the goals of the peaceful communes. This was the beginning of
communism, which we shall learn more about in a later chapter.
10. What was the Communist
The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848 by Karl
Marx and Friedrich Engels, containing some of the most dangerous
doctrines to freedom and belief in God in the history of the world. It
played into the minds and hearts of working people who were
dissatisfied with abuses of the day. It stated: "The history of human
societies up to the present time has been the history of the class
struggle." It urged class struggle, and the overthrown of all in power
by force. Religion is the "opium of the people," used by the powerful
to keep others weak and ignorant. All law and religion would be done
away with in the forceful overthrow by the "proletariat" (workers).
The false doctrines that had developed from the spirit
of the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and revolutionary Liberalism,
rejecting all authority and faith, and giving birth to the French
Revolution, were to be born again in atheistic communism, with its
bible the Communist Manifesto.
The Manifesto concludes: "The communists openly
proclaim that the only way they can achieve their aims is by the
violent destruction of the old order of society. The ruling classes may
well tremble at the thought of a communist revolution! The proletarians
have nothing to lose in the struggle apart from their chains. They have
a whole new world to conquer. Workers of the world unite!"
11. What other abuse developed
during the nineteenth century?
Imperialism. This involved European nations' getting
economic and political control over non-Western nations. Such nations
as Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy spread their spirit of
imperialism, with Liberal ideas, to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Instead of spreading Christianity, the spirit of nationalism fostered
the desire for cheap raw materials.
12. Which saint flowered in
France in the nineteenth century and is still considered the greatest
St. ThérPse of Lisieux, also called the Little
Flower, developed a spiritual, childlike form of spirituality, and her
autobiography, which she wrote "under obedience," has offered
inspiration to millions the world over, until and including the present
day. Shw was born January 2, 1873, at Alencon in France and entered the
Carmelite Order of nuns when very young. She made a special trip to
Rome with her saintly father, Louis Martin, and sought special
permission from Pope Leo XIII to enter Carmel at the age of 15,
although her superiors wanted her to wait until she was 21.
She was miraculously cured, according to accounts of
her life, through the intercession of our Lady. As a Carmelite nun, the
Little Flower practiced great penance and mortification. She had a keen
interest in the spirituality and work of priests and the missions.
Allowed to enter Carmel at 15, she died only nine years
later, of tuberculosis. Her "little way" of spiritual childhood,
described in her autobiography, is still a best international seller.
She died September 30, 1897, promising to shower roses upon the earth.
ThérPse of the Child Jesus was canonized in 1925
and has been declared patron of the foreign missions.2
13. Who was a great
priest-saint in France in the nineteenth century?
St. John Vianney, the universal patron of parish priests, was born in
Dardilly in 1786. During the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution,
priests were forbidden to practice their priesthood. To observe Sunday
services was against the law and all religious feast days had been
abolished. John Vianney's earliest recollection of participation in the
sacrifice of the Mass consisted of his family and neighbors' gathering
in secret in a barn outside the village for this holiest of mysteries.
After the revolution, Napoleon permitted greater
religious freedom and the Mass could be offered publicly. The father of
the future patron of parish priests Matthew Vianney, was a farmer and
taught young John to love our Lord in the Sacrament of the Tabernacle.
It was Matthew's practice, while on his way to his farm labors, to stop
for a visit at the parish church to pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ in
the Blessed Sacrament.
Young John Vianney became a teacher to his fellow youth
when still very young. His great devotion to our Lady prompted him to
place a statue of God's Mother in a hollow in the trunk of a tree, as
he and his sister watched over the grazing cows and sheep. There they
held religious services, praying the rosary and singing hymns. This
attracted neighboring children, some of whom knew nothing about their
Catholic faith after years of persecution. The future priest instructed
them about God and his Blessed Mother. He built an altar, and the
children conducted religious processions through the fields.
Even at the age of 7 or 8, John Vianney felt a call to
the priesthood. The revolution had disturbed education generally and
the seminaries in particular, and so, with much difficulty, John
Vianney (with the help of a good pastor) was ordained. The young priest
was sent to Ars, the most undesirable parish in the diocese. The people
of Ars had been without a priest for some time, had little instruction,
and most did not practice their faith. The villagers were used to much
drinking and carousing.
Arriving at Ars in 1821, John Vianney (the Curé
d' Ars) began to preach simple sermons on the basics of the Catholic
faith, going directly to the people and inviting and exhorting them to
practice their faith.
At first the people did not receive the new priest well
and he was an object of ridicule. This Curé d' Ars persevered
and finally converted the entire village. He practiced great
mortification and lived in extreme poverty. He inflicted penances upon
his body in reparation and for the conversion of sinners. His devotion
to the Mother of God intensified with the years, and eventually his
parish was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of God's Mother. The
name of every man, woman, and child of Ars was inscribed on a wooden
heart that hung from the neck of the Virgin Mother statue.
God gave great gifts to St. John Vianney, including the
ability to "read souls." People began to come to this priest for
confession from all over the world. The average day saw him in the
confessional for at least 12 and sometimes 16 hours. He also gathered
orphan children and formed a home and school for them.
For thirty-eight years this priest labored at Ars,
getting little sleep and eating little food. His great sanctity became
known the world over in his own lifetime. He died on August 4, 1859,
and was canonized by Pope Pius XI on Pentecost Sunday, 1925.3
14. Did the nineteenth century
produce any great saint concerned with the catholic education and
formation of youth?
Yes. St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians, is
the patron of Catholic youth, especially boys. John Bosco was born
August 15, 1815. When he was 9 years old, his biography relates, God
revealed to him how to win boys away from sin and to virtue. It was to
be done not by force, but by showing them the evil of sin and the
beauty of religious virtue. The Blessed Mother also revealed (the story
of his life continues) that she would help him. His mother understood
the message as an indication her son would become a priest.
He was ordained in 1841, and his desire to help poor
boys grew even stronger. He wanted to build a large school where boys
could learn all kinds of trades to get ready for life. His brother
priests shook their heads at his supposed madness.
Turin, Italy, was the place where Fr. John Bosco, began
his great work, but with much difficulty. Turin was a manufacturing
city, and many people suffered from poverty and unemployment. Many poor
boys roamed the streets. Fr. John Bosco gathered hundreds of them
This young priest was hated for his work, and some even
attempted to take his life. However, the boys loved their priest and he
developed them into strong Catholic men. As other priests saw the
success of his work, they joined him, and he developed a religious
society under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, which is therefore
know as the Salesians.
Fr. John Bosco had great devotion to Our Lady Help of
Christians and built a magnificent church to her honor, laying the
cornerstone in 1865. Pope Pius IX helped him, and that magnificent
church can be visited to the present day.
This nineteenth-century saint had the greatest loyalty
to the pope. On his deathbed he reaffirmed this loyalty, calling upon
his followers to be ever "ready to accept the decisions of the Pope,
not only in matters of Faith and discipline, but even in those things
about which we have a right to disagree." He added: "May they follow
the point of view of the Pope, even though he has expressed it only
The Salesians schools of trade spread to every part of
the world and their priests do all kinds of pastoral work. Fr. John
Bosco died January 31, 1888, and was canonized on Easter Sunday, 1934.4
15. Did God manifest his
concern for mankind in any special, supernatural way in the nineteenth
God sent his Blessed Mother to Lourdes, France, in
1858, where she appeared to a young girl by the name of Bernadette
Soubirous (according to accounts which have survived Church
investigations). The Lady at first did not give her name, but later, on
March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, said: "I am the Immaculate
Conception." This astounded priests and theologians, for the girl did
not understand what the beautiful Lady meant. Four years earlier, on
December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX had solemnly defined it as a dogma of
Catholic faith: our Blessed Lady was preserved free from original sin
from the moment of her conception. The doctrine that Mary was always
free from all sin is called the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The Lady asked Bernadette to come to the grotto every
day for fifteen days. This is interpreted as in honor of the fifteen
mysteries of the rosary. The Lady, on one of her visits, had Bernadette
scratch the ground, from which water immediately began to gush forth.
It was soon discovered that miracles began to happen when people drank
the water and washed themselves with it. Some were cured of every kind
of ailment. The Church finally judged that the Mother of God was truly
appearing to this young girl.
Bernadette became a nun in 1866. For thirteen years she
led a life of bodily suffering as our Lady said that she would be
happy, not in this world, but in the next. Pope Pius XI canonized
Bernadette on December 8, 1933.5
Lourdes is known internationally and people come by the
millions each year to Lourdes, France, to venerate the Mother of God
and to pray as they adore their eucharistic Savior. Scientists are
baffled by miraculous cures that have taken place at Lourdes.
16. What pope had a long reign
in the nineteenth century?
Pope Pius IX became pope in 1846 and ruled the Church
until 1878, which was the longest reign of any pope since the first
pope, St. Peter. He was only 54 years of age when, as Cardinal
Masta-Ferretti, he was elected and crowned. This pope believed in
giving the common people more liberty, and so he immediately placed
laymen in all the important positions of the Papal States, so that the
government would be more democratic. Henceforth, a parliament would
conduct the affairs of Rome.
There were eight separate governments on the Italian
peninsula at this time and a desire was developing for all of Italy to
be united. Two Italian provinces, Lombardy and Venice, were under the
control of Austria. Tuscany, Parma, and Modena were ruled by members of
the Austrian royal family. In the south, a king ruled Naples and
Sicily, who was not accepted by the people because he was supported by
the Austrian army.
Despite many controversial positions among Italians,
most agreed that disunity was unbearable and so everywhere there was a
movement for unity. Some wanted the king of Sardinia to become the
ruler of all Italy.
In 1848 a revolution erupted in the Papal States, led
by Mazini, who desired to set up a republic in Rome. The pope's prime
minister was murdered and the pope was enclosed in the Quirinal Palace.
The Spanish ambassador helped the pope to flee to Gaeta in the kingdom
of Naples. In Rome, the churches were plundered, priests were killed,
and there was a declaration that henceforth the treasures of the Church
would belong to the people. On Easter Sunday, Mass was celebrated in
St. Peter's Basilica by a disloyal priest, and Mazini placed himself on
the pope's throne.
When Pope Pius IX begged for help from Catholic powers
in Europe, the Austrians and the French came to his aid, and Mazini and
his followers fled to England. When the pope returned to Rome, Austria
protected the territory of the pope outside the city and the French
protected the pope within the city.
17. How did the Papal States
end under Pope Pius IX?
Secret societies in Italy and France plotted the
overthrow of the Papal States. The king of Sardinia, through an
alliance with France, forced the Austrian to withdraw from Northern
Italy. Napoleon III was at war with Germany in 1870 and was compelled
to recall his troops from Rome.
Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia assumed the title King of
Italy and the general of his army, Guiseppe Garibaldi, laid siege to
Rome on September 20, 1870. Pope Pius IX surrendered the city rather
than have bloodshed. This ended the pope's governing of the Papal
All that the pope was able to keep was St. Peter's
Basilica and Vatican Palace. Pope Pius IX would not accept these
conditions, and until he died he remained, in protest, a voluntary
prisoner in the Vatican.
A treaty of peace was not signed between the Italian
government and Pope Pius XI until 1929.
18. With the temporal power of
the pope crushed, how did his spiritual influence rise?
The pope was by no means occupied only with temporal
problems concerning the Papal States. It was Pope Pius IX who, at the
urging of bishops and laity the world over, defined the dogma of the
Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854. In the Marian Era he ushered
in, the important role of God's Mother in the life of the Church would
become even more evidence during the next hundred years. Catholic
devotion to Mary would be greatly increased.6
It was Pope Pius IX who in 1864 issued the Syllabus, a
list of errors which consisted of eighty condemned propositions and was
published with his encyclical Quanta Cura. "Liberalists" were
leading the world astray and confusing many Catholics' understanding of
the true faith by presenting false teachings. The pope wanted Catholics
to know clearly the difference between true faith and errors.7
In 1869 the bishops of the world assembled in the
Basilica of St. Peter's and the Vatican Council, which the pope had
long planned, began. There were 698 bishops from around the world.
Their first task was to define the Church's teaching on God and divine
revelation. In an "Age of Enlightenment," it was shown that there is no
contradiction between reason and revelation. True faith and right
reason harmonize, for all truth comes from God.
It was Vatican Council I which in 1870 defined the
dogma of the infallibility of the pope. The Catholic Church cannot err
in matters of faith or morals when it speaks through the pope
when he defines a dogma for the entire Catholic world. This position of
the Catholic Church, which was always part of Catholic faith since the
days of St. Peter and the first apostles, was now clearly spelled out
in defined dogma. The pope is indeed the rock upon which Jesus built
his Church and promised that the gates of hell would never prevail
against it (Mt 16:16-19).
Vatican Council, even as it defined the spiritual
authority of the Pope for the teaching Church (magisterium), was
besieged by temporal powers, for at that very time Italian armies were
marching on the gates of Rome. The council was interrupted and was not
officially closed until the beginning of Vatican Council II in 1962.
While the temporal power of the pope was crushed in the
takeover of the Papal States, his spiritual power and authority as
supreme teacher of faith in the universal Church was more recognized
and respected than ever before.
19. Did the Catholic Church
expand on any newly settled continent in the nineteenth century?
Yes, on the island continent southeast of Asia,
Australia. The first Catholics in the country were Irishmen under penal
sentence (1795-1804). The first public Mass was offered May 15, 1803.
Official organization of the Church dates from 1820, and only in March
1976 did Pope Paul VI sign a decree removing the continent from the
Vatican body in charge of missions.
Today, of Australia's approximately 13 million people,
about 3½ million are Catholic, or about 25 percent. (Catholics
were among those who rushed to the gold mines after gold was discovered
in various parts of Australia, and many remained in the country.)
The Catholic population later increased through
immigration. The continent has a large Italian area and many other
ethnic groups have Catholics among them. Mary Help of Christians is the
patroness of Australia. As in other lands where Catholics explored and
missionaries evangelized, Mary has had a major role. There is a St.
Mary's Cathedral in Perth and also in Armidale, New South Wales. The
church at Ipswich was named St. Mary's. The name of the church at
Camberwell is Our Lady of Victories.
This vast continent is as large as the continental
United States and is the only continent occupied by one nation. It is
the last one developed by Europeans. As for native peoples, Australia
claims the Aborigines as comparative newcomers. A nomadic people, they
migrated from Southeast Asia.
Australia is one of the oldest land masses in the
world. Asians called it the Unknown Land long before any white man
sighted it. It was explored by the Portuguese, Spanish, and the Dutch,
who named it New Holland.
Greeks knew of this land mass during the second century
A.D. when the mathematician Ptolemy drew a map of the known world at
that time, he sketched in the known coasts of Asia, showed the Indian
Ocean as an enormous lake, and placed a huge, unknown land north of it,
called Terra Incognita (Unknown Land). Many did not believe
in its existence.
The whole land seemed bleak when a Dutch explorer
touched at northern Queensland in 1606. The land was considered not fit
for colonizing. Botanists, however, showed interest, and in 1770
Captain James Cook anchored at Botany Bay, which was named for its
botanical treasures. He returned eighteen years later and claimed
Australia for Great Britain.
Another botanist, Sir John Banks, got the idea that
Australia should be an island prison for the British Empire. This was
accepted and convicts were sent to Australia. The prisoners were used
to open the continent for colonization. On January 18, 1788, the first
British fleet, with 1,030 passengers and crew, arrived at Botany Bay
with 736 convicts and 200 women.
In 1818 Fr. John Joseph Therry saw a wagonload of
convicts rumble through the streets of Cork. Twenty or thirty prisoners
in irons were on their way to the docks, bound for Botany Bay and that
faraway prison land 7,000 miles from home. The young priest, on the
spur of the moment, ran into a nearby bookshop, bought a bundle of
prayer books, and threw them into the cart, vowing to follow his
countrymen to the ends of the earth to save their souls. That handful
of books and Fr. Therry, who was the secretary to Bishop Murphy of
Cork, represented early seeds of Catholicism in Australia.
Fr. Therry went to Australia at his own expense and
worked among the convicts and their families for fifty years. He built
the beautiful Cathedral of St. Mary's in Sydney and is considered
Australia's most famous prisoner priest and the forerunner to its
Catholic social movement.
Other priests followed Fr. Therry, some becoming
bishops and archbishops. The first cardinal from Australia was Fr.
Patrick Francis Moran. Archbishop D. Mannix, who had been president of
Maynooth University in Ireland, felt called to Australia, and there, as
archbishop of Melbourne, he brought intellectual life to the Church on
the continent. Bishop Ulllathorne battled for prison and social reform
Australia's Church heroine was Caroline Chisholm, who
spent her life protecting and rehabilitating women who needed care. She
fought for the rights of the children of convicts and paid for the
education of many of them, and her piety and religious sense inspired
Australia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
came far in its development from a penal colony. Devout Catholics of
Australia claim our Lady had much to do with it. The convicts, who
brought their rosaries with them, said them privately and publicly in
community. They also had medals, pictures, and prayer cards of the
heavenly Mother, who consoled them in their sorrows.
The Catholic children of the convicts grew and
prospered in the large continent. They built churches and schools,
naming many of them after Mary, the Mother of God and our Savior, Jesus
Christ. Immigrants added to their number.
20. Summarize the reign of Pope
Leo XIII (1878-1903).
Cathedral Pecci was an old man when he was elected and crowned Pope Leo
XIII. People thought his reign would be short. Yet for twenty-five
years he ruled the Church with great wisdom and is labeled by
historians as among the greatest popes of its 2,000-year history.
Leo XIII was a pope of great intellect and
spirituality. He was a great statesman, as evidenced by his settling of
Church problems in Germany. The respect of nations for the Church grew
tremendously under Pope Leo XIII, and even non-Catholic kings and
emperors visited him.
This pope was chosen by God to guide the Church through
a period of difficult changes in the world, as the style of people's
lives was changed more and more by mechanical inventions, the
development of factories, and growing problems for family life and the
workingman. The common people suffered greatly under abuses and working
conditions in the business of manufacturing. Socialists wanted
governments to take over industry so that profits would not go to
To help answer the world's questions developed by the
problems of industry, Pope Leo wrote the encyclical Rerum novarum (On
the Condition of Labor). This caused the study of social problems in
the light of Christian principles to be taken seriously on all sides,
and Pope Leo became known as a friend of the workingman. He spelled out
the position of the state in relation to individual citizens. Writing
encyclicals on social questions, he explained workers' rights and
duties. He reminded employers of their obligations to the laws of
Pope Leo XIII encouraged the study of the philosophy and
theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. He encouraged devotion to the Sacred
Heart of Jesus and to the rosary. He urged parents to dedicate their
families to the Holy Family.
Pope Leo XIII developed great Church interest in the
missions. He defended the rights of the natives of colonies that were
taken over by European nations.8
21. Summarize the reign of Pope
St. Pius X.
Cardinal Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto ascended the papal throne in 1903 as
Pope Pius X. his principal aim was "to restore all things in Christ, in
order that Christ may be all and in all." He sought to teach and defend
Christian truth and law. This pope continued the spirit of the Marian
Age by issuing a commemorative encyclical to celebrate the fiftieth
anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate
Pius X is called the Pope of the Catechism and the Pope
of the Holy Eucharist. It was this pope who called for the religious
education of youth under the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Later
canonized by the Church, he called all the laity to Catholic Action,
whereby ordinary baptized and confirmed Catholics would share in the
work of the hierarchy by working for the conversion of souls in Christ.
The work of the Church was to be a total work of all its members and
not just the hierarchy, priests, and religious.
It was Pope Pius X who on December 20, 1905,
recommended the frequent reception of Communion. In another decree
(Quam singulari), of August 8, 1910, he called for the early reception
of the sacrament of penance and Communion by children. Children from
the age of reason (about 7) should be permitted to receive these
Following the lead of Pope Leo XIII in promoting the
study of Scholastic philosophy, Pope St. Pius X also promoted it. St.
Pius X also had to deal with heretical tendencies, as did Pius IX. On
September 7, 1907, Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical Pascendi gregis,
condemned the false teachings known as Modernism which he called a
"synthesis of all heresies." This movement had begun at the time of the
Protestant Revolt and developed to a point at the beginning of the
twentieth century that it was an aggression against true religion.
Modernism, whose dangers still threaten the Church and
which surfaced again after Vatican Council II (1962-1965), teaches that
the Christ of history and the Christ of faith are different. Jesus
Christ, it says, did not personally found the Church or sacraments; it
claims these were "historical" developments. Advocates of Modernism
seek freedom from religious authority and freedom of conscience,
independent of the teaching authority (magisterium) of the Church.
Modernism assumes that everything "modern" is more perfect than what
had been taught and believed before it. It denies dogma, the power of
the sacraments, and the authority of sacred scripture.
Pope Pius X (1903-1914) in September 1910 published the
Oath against Modernism and required that all priests take the oath.
This same pope drew up a new collection of Church law,
the Code of Canon Law, and extended interest in scriptural studies,
establishing the Biblical Institute.
The outbreak of World War I is believed to have
hastened his death, for he died August 20, 1914. He was canonized May
The next pope, Benedict XV (1914-1922), wrote twelve
encyclicals, dedicating three of them to the cause of peace. He avoided
taking sides in the war and was therefore suspected by both sides. This
pope was able to have the "Roman Question" negotiated when he arranged
a meeting of Benito Mussolini and the papal secretary of state, and
this marked the first step to the final settlement of 1929. In spite of
suspicions, this pope did more than all other agencies to break down
the barriers of hate separating the nations.
22. Summarize the reign of Pope
Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922,
with the aim of establishing the reign and peace of Christ in society.
He canonized the Jesuit Martyrs of North America. He instituted the
Feast of Christ the King in 1925 to emphasize that Christ is King of
Nations as well as King of Individuals and Families.
Although the World War I peace had been declared,
hatred and distrust among nations still reigned. The map of Europe had
been changed. A revolution in Russia had destroyed the empire of the
czars and this prepared the way for the coming of communism. Relations
of the Church with Mussolini's government in Italy deteriorated after
1931, when the freedom and activities of the Church were curbed.
Relations also deteriorated with Germany from 1933 on, which resulted
in the condemnation of the Nazis in the encyclical Mit Brenneder Sorge
(March 1937). This pope was powerless to prevent the civil war which
erupted in Spain in July 1936. There was persecution and repression of
the Church by the Calles regime in Mexico and, of course, persecution
of the Church in Russia. Priests and bishops in Mexico, under Communist
influence, were put to death or put in prison. In 1926 there were only
4,000 priests to serve 15 million Catholics. In 1935 only 300 priests
could function in all of Mexico.
Pope Pius XI settled the Roman Question, after two and
one-half years of negotiations with the Italian government. The Lateran
Agreement of 1929 gave the "state" of Vatican City independent status
and considered Catholicism the official religion of italy, giving the
Church pastoral and educational freedom. The state recognized Catholic
The state of Vatican City became the world's smallest
sovereign state, with less than 109 acres within the city of Rome. The
pope would henceforth be considered the ruler of this independent
territory, belonging to no foreign nation.
Summarize the reign of Pope
Eugenio Maria Giovanni Pacelli was elected to the papacy March 2, 1939,
and took the name of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958). He canonized the first
United States citizen-saint, Francis Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini) in
Before World War II started, Pope Pius XII attempted
(without success) to get the contending nations to settle their
differences without war. These nations included Germany, Poland,
France, and Italy. He spoke out against the horrors of war and offered
his services to mediate the widening conflict. He organized relief work
for the victims of World War II. He obtained "open" status for the city
of Rome during the war. After World War II he endorsed the principle
and goal of the United Nations.
Pope Pius XII has often been called the Pope of Peace,
and also the Pope of Fatima (where God's Mother appeared, appealing for
peace, as Our Lady of Peace). Pius XII was an effective opponent of
communism. In 1949, he decreed the penalty of excommunication for all
Catholics who held formal and willing allegiance to the Communist Party
and its policies.
The interest of Pope Pius XII in Fatima and his great
Marian devotion are seen in a review of some of his activities. On
October 31, 1942, Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate
Heart of Mary. On May 4, 1944, he instituted the Feast of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary, the occasion being the twenty-fifth
anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. On May 13, 1946, he crowned the
image of Fatima through a papal legate and declared our Lady "Queen of
the World." One month later, on June 13, 1946, he issued an encyclical
explicitly referring to the message of Fatima.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined as dogma of faith the
Assumption, which states that the Mother of Jesus Christ was taken into
heaven bodily by the power of God. This doctrine had always been
believed by the Church, and celebrated as a feast for over 1,500 years,
but now it was formally defined. On October 13, 1951, the pope closed
the Holy Year for all the world at Fatima, thus demonstrating Fatima's
On July 7, 1952, Pope Pius XII consecrated the Russian
people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and on October 11, 1954m in his
encyclical To the Queen of the World, Pius referred to her
miraculous image at Fatima. He declared 1954 a Marian Year. On November
12, 1954, he elevated the church in Cova Da Iria, where our Lady
appeared near Fatima, Portugal, to the status of a basilica. On October
13, 1956, through a papal legate, Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of
the Sacred College, Pope Pius XII blessed and dedicated the
International Center of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, which is
located behind the basilica and is dedicated to furthering the heavenly
message of our Lady.
Pius XII prepared the way for the spiritual renewal
introduced by his successor, John XXIII. It was Pius XII who wrote the
magnificent encyclical On the Divine Liturgy and The Mystical Body
of Christ. He instituted the feasts of Mary as Queen and of St.
Joseph the Worker, as well as presented the Church's teachings on
devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The first half of the twentieth century, with two world
wars, offers a sad spectacle of humanity's suffering as the consequence
of sin. What is especially sad is the force of destruction that
occasioned the ending of the war, the dropping of atomic bombs. On
August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan,
killing more than 100,000 people. A few days later, on August 9, the
"most Catholic" city in Japan, Nagasaki, met the same horrible result.
Theologians still discuss the morality of using such destructive
A review of the nineteenth century indicates that the
Catholic Church is able to endure every human problem, but in no way
does this lighten the burden of the cross, first laid upon the physical
Christ 1,900 years ago. The Mystical Body of Christ, which is the
Church, lives in the modern world, and just as Christ was mocked, spat
upon, and finally crucified — but rose from the dead — the true Church
of Jesus Christ would always be treated in the same manner.
The world — in transition intellectually and culturally
and therefore spiritually — has been blessed in the nineteenth and the
twentieth centuries with very holy popes.
We have seen how a pope had to deal with the aftermath
of the French Revolution. We have seen indications that, while often it
seems the Church is fighting the forces of evil without special
spiritual intervention, God is nevertheless the author of salvation
history and, though working invisibly, makes his presence and his power
almost visible at times. We have seen God introduce his Blessed Mother,
the Mother of the Church, more directly into the currents of history —
something to be continued into the twentieth century.
We have seen the devotion of popes to Mary Help of
Christians, and how this devotion to God's Mother blossomed in the life
of St. John Bosco. We have seen how Our Lady of Lourdes intervenes in
the very country that gave birth to the French Revolution, and there,
to the present day, continues to baffle modern science with miracles.
In a future chapter we shall see how Our Lady of Fatima, in Portugal,
will warn the world, flirting with communism, that it is inviting the
annihilation of nations.
During the nineteenth century the evils of communism
were born, even if conceived years earlier. We shall see that the
twentieth century will witness communism's growth, destroying religious
freedom and overtaking one nation after another as materialism and
atheism reign in the hearts of more and more men and women.
Questions for Discussion
- Summarize Napoleon's reaction to the Church.
- What significance do you see, in the light of faith,
to the final outcome of Napoleon's efforts and the return of the pope
- What was the unfortunate disadvantage in the
Church's having gained the image of being closely associated with the
state and various governments?
- Was the Church, in fact, on the side of personal
freedom for individuals?
- Who helped the Church revive in France?
- Summarize the struggle for the freedom of Catholics
- What great convert came to the Catholic Church in the
Oxford Movement? Explain the Oxford Movement.
- What happened in the early nineteenth century that
changed society greatly? Explain how it did this.
- What document was published in 1848 which sowed ideas
which still threaten the world? What concepts does that document
- What abuse spread in the nineteenth century and
involved European countries' seeking control over other nations?
- Summarize the life of the great priest of France, who
lived in the nineteenth century and is now venerated as the patron of
all parish priests.
- Summarize the life of St. John Bosco.
- What significance does Lourdes have for the modern
- What were the chief events in the history of the
Church under Pope Pius IX?
- Did the prestige of the Church and its influence
suffer greatly with the end of the Papal States? Explain.
- Which pope ascended the papacy as an old man but
continued to rule the Church with great effectiveness for the next
twenty-five years? What areas of Church life did he especially affect
with great success?
- Summarize the life of the Little Flower.
- What new continent was settled in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries? How did Catholic settlements start and for what
devotion were Catholics in that vast continent noted?
- What were the outstanding features of the reign of
Pope St. Pius X?
- What was the "Roman Question" and how was it settled?
- Explain the meaning of Modernism as condemned by
Pope St. Pius X. <
- What pope reigned during World War I? Why were both
sides suspicious of this pope? What did this pope issue to break down
suspicions and barriers of hatred?
- What happened to the Church in Mexico during the
early part of the twentieth century?
- Summarize the reign of Pope Pius XII, who was
elected in 1939.
- What devotion to the Mother of God particularly
attracted Pope Pius XII? Explain some of his major actions in this
- The "life" of John Henry Cardinal Newman (as well as
St. Philip Neri) can be found in Saints & Heroes Speak (OSV Press),
by the author of this Church history.
- A detailed life of St. Therese will be found in
Saints & Heroes Speak (OSV Press), by the author of this book.
- The life of St. John Vianney (the Cure of Ars) is
found in more detail in the book Saints & Heroes Speak (OSV Press)
by the author of this catechism.
- The life os St. John Bosco may be found in greater
detail in Saints & Heroes Speak (OSV Press).
- A detailed life of St. Bernadette is to be found in
Saints & Heroes Speak (OSV Press).
- For more information on the Marian Era, see The
Marian Catechism (OSV Press) by the author of this catechism of Church
- The Syllabus of Pius IX was followed by the Syllabus
of St. Pius X in 1907, again condemning errors of Modernism.
- See Addendum for more detailed summary of Pontificate
of Pope Leo XIII.
Fox, Rev. Robert J. "The Catholic Church in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries." A Catechism of Church History:
2,000 Years of Faith and Tradition (Park Press Quality
Printing, Jubilee 2000 Edition),
Reprinted by permission of the publisher and by the
author, Fr. Robert J. Fox.
Father Robert J. Fox is the director of the Fatima
Family Apostolate and editor of the Immaculate Heart
Messenger. Before founding his own Apostolate and editing his own
magazine Father Robert J. Fox for many years was a columnist with
leading Catholic magazines, newspapers, and journals in the United
States. In addition to being a retiired pastor from the Diocess of
South Dakota and now lives in Hanceville, Alabama and offers daily Mass
at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady's of Angels
Monastery home Mother Angelica and the Poor Clare Nuns.