Papal State
History of Italy 1890-1914

Papacy, 1871-1890

Politically, the annexion of Rome marks the end of a long process of political decline of the Catholic Church and the Papacy; numerous monasteries had been dissolved, a vast amount of church property had been confiscated, temporal power, where it had been exercised by church officials, had been taken away (usurped, in the view of Pope Pius IX.). This pope, whose rule is among the longest in the history of the papacy, blamed Liberalism for the decline; the church applied their hostility toward liberalism to many inventions or developments regarded modern (see the Catholic Church and the Liberal State).
This hostility toward the liberal state applied more to Italy than to other countries. Pope Pius refused to accept the annexation of the Papal State by Italy, refused to accept the annual pension he was offered by the Law of Guarantees of 1871, and declared that Catholics were not to participate in Italian elections, for this would mean the recognition of the legitimacy of the unified Kingdom of Italy. For Italy, one of the consequences was that the Catholic (conservative) element was poorly represented, the liberals and radicals thus were in an advantageous position; the papal policy of non-cooperation thus backfired. In Belgium, by contrast, the Catholic church permitted the formation of a Catholic Party, which, in the second half of the country, played the dominant role in Belgian politics; this kingdom, like Italy, was a model liberal state.

While Catholicism had undergone a decline concerning her political power and economic wealth, the many changes since the dissolution of the Jesuit Order in 1773 had had positive consequences, too. The French Revolution had severely harmed the Gallican Church in France and Gallicanism elsewhere; the Concordat with the French Republic (1801) had restored papal authority over what was left of the Gallican church, and French priest Felicite de Lammenais fought Gallicanism, fully reintegrating the French Catholic community into the Catholic Church. Similarly, the position of Jansenism in the Netherlands had been undermined. The Catholic Church thus had been unified and the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) was the most frequented church council so far, even non-European countries being represented. The Catholic church in many countries being under political pressure (in Russian Poland exposed to a policy of Russification; in Germany under attack for being regarded illoyal to the state (Kulturkampf), in the Netherlands traditionally merely tolerated, in Ireland discriminated against, the church organizations of these countries looked to Rome for guidance and assistance. In addition, the advances of transportation and communication technologies facilitated a centralized administration of the church.

The termination of the Papal State - while the Italian government claimed that as a person, the pope remained a sovereign - caused a number of governments to revise their relations with the pope. The Netherlands withdrew her embassy; the German government tried to separate the German Catholic curch from Rome.
Pope Pius IX. died in 1878; he was succeeded by Leo XIII. (1878-1903, Vincenzo Gioacchino Count Pecci). In his encyclicals, he addressed numerous political topics - the dangers inherent in socialism (Quod Apostolici Muneris, 1878), the origin of civil authority (Diuturnum illud, 1881), freemasonry (Humanum genus, 1884), the duties of christian citizens (Sapientiae christianae). They show a slow modification of Pius IX. obstinate refusal to recognize the liberal state toward a participation without complete acceptance.
Even more than Pius IX., Leo XIII. addressed many issues, thus contributing to the transformation of a Catholic church to an organization which, much more efficient than before, offered their believers an orientation not only in spiritual, but also in socio-political matters.

Papal diplomacy aimed at reclaiming some of the status the Catholic Church had held before. The reestablishment of Catholicism as State Religion in Spain by the constitution of 1876 was regarded a success. In Belgium, the permission to open a Catholic University at Leuven (Louvain, already in 1834) broke the state monopoly on higher education; in 1889 a Catholic University was opened in Washington D.C., in 1889-1891 the International Catholic University at Fribourg (Switzerland). A few more Concordats were signed, with Austria (regarding Bosnia) in 1881, with Colombia in 1887.
Refusing to accept the principle of papal infallibility, as proclaimed by the First Vatican Council, the Old Catholics (Altkatholiken, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands) broke away from the Catholic church; they remain a splinter group. Among the more prominent Old Catholics was renowned church historian Döllinger.
In 1883 the Archive of the Vaticano was opened to the public.

Biography of Pius IX., from Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition
Article Concordat, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908 edition
Biography of Leo XIII., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Altkatholiken und ihre Geschichte (Old Catholics and their History), from Altkatholiken in Österreich (Austria's Old Catholics); in German; Article Old Catholics, from Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition
Biography of Felicite Robert de Lammenais, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Article Guarantees, Law of, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
DOCUMENTS Encyclicals of Leo XIII., from Vatican
REFERENCE Book Reviews : Papal State, from History Book Reviews

Franz Xaver Seppelt, Georg Schwaiger, Geschichte der Päpste (History of the Popes), München : Kösel 1964, 572 pp., in German [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 31st 2002, last revised on March 30th 2006

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