HC Deb 26 April 1861 vol 162 cc1183-5

said, he wished to call the attention of the House and the Government to a statement which appeared in the Indépendance Belge of the 20th instant, and which appeared to be confirmed by a correspondent, in the same paper, of the 22nd, to the effect that in the event of the abdication, removal, or death of the present Pope, Cardinal Wiseman was during the interregnum to be appointed Pope to all intents and purposes under the title of Pius X. It was further stated that in this country he was to convene what was termed as œcumenical council to decide on the election of the successor of the present Pope. He should have thought little of this but that the correspondent of the Bel- gian paper stated that there had been a difference of opinion among the cardinals on this subject, that it was not Cardinal Antonelli who had carried out this decision, but Cardinal Alfieri, whose function it would under ordinary circumstances be to convene the electors of a future Pope in the event of the Papal chair being vacant; and that several of the cardinals were opposed to this undertaking, but the majority of them were in favour of it, and that thus for a time at all events Cardinal Wiseman was to be the successor of the Pope. Now, he (Mr. Newdegate) need hardly say that that could not be agreeable to this country, where they had Cardinal Wiseman already bearing titles and exercising powers contrary to our law, and to international law, hereafter exercising the full functions of the Papacy, pending the appointment of the successor to the Pope, no one knowing how long this interval, for it could scarcely be called an interregnum, would last, and with power to summon an œcumenical council. The Indépendance Belge of the date of the 20th April contained the following statement on the subject:— With reference to the affairs of Italy the following details respecting a project conceived at Rome are derived from so good a source that I have no hesitation in transmitting them to you, though I do not at 'the same time pretend to guarantee their authenticity. I am assured that the Holy Father has already, some months ago, made all the arrangements in the event of his death, in the event of his deposition, or even in the event of voluntary abdication. The case of his death is particularly provided for. By a decision approved of by twenty-one cardinals, Pius IX. is said to have nominated as his successor or his representative, until the regular election of a new Pope, chosen at Rome by all the cardinals met in conclave, Cardinal Wiseman, Primate of England. Cardinal Wiseman, whose position in the Church is considerable and exceptional, would thus become invested with all Papal powers, especially with that of summoning at London a great (ecumenical council. The difficulties of the situation lead one to suppose that if St. Peter's See should be vacant, there would probably be an interregnum of tolerable length before the regular election of a new Pope. It is during this interregnum that Cardinal Wiseman will administer the affairs of the Church under the name of Pius X. This arrangement is now no longer a mere project, it is a thing definitely settled; and it has already—such is the statement—been promulgated in the Church in order that no accident may endanger the Catholic hierarchy. The Pope, it is asserted, has frequently been tempted to abdicate in order to retire to a monastery; but this project is still vague, whilst the deed of the transmission of the Papal powers to the first Prelate of England has been actually signed. This arrangement of Pius IX. is of a character to create surprise for various reasons. That England should thus be chosen as the moral refuge of Catholicism—as the harbour into which St Peter's barque runs for safety amidst storms—is certainly quite unexpected. The House could not forget the measure passed last Session to prevent the necessity of the Roman Catholic subjects of Her Majesty being compelled to resort to the Courts of Rome in matters arising out of disputes relating to Roman Catholic trusts. Recollecting the feelings which arose in this country in 1851, when English law was set at defiance, and when the independence of this country was invaded by an usurping authority, he naturally looked with anxiety to the possibility of the recurrence of such aggression, under aggravated circumstances, especially when he remembered that the only premonition of the aggression consummated in 1851, reports current in 1850 of what was about to happen which afterwards turned out to be correct. The reports now prevalent also were characterized by much particularity, and he would quote the further statements of the Paris correspondent of the Indépendance Belge of the 22nd of April— One of my colleagues in the task of correspondence has already transmitted to you information respecting a decision of the Holy Father, approved of by twenty-one cardinals, which institutes Cardinal Wiseman, the Primate of England, as representative of the Papacy, in the event of the decease, the deposition, or the abdication, whether forced or voluntary, of the Sovereign Pontiff. The information which I have received completely harmonizes with that already given. It is now in my power to complete it by additional details. It is not Cardinal Antonelli, who, as might have been supposed, has undertaken the working out of this decision (to which the Church attaches the highest importance), but Cardinal Alfieri, camerlengo of the Church; and who, in the event of Pius IX.'s death, is to summon the conclave. The number of the cardinals adhering to the arrangement far exceeds the number of twenty-one, whilst those who still express some hesitation are not above five or six. The writer then went on to comment upon the opinions of the various cardinals, several of whom he named. He would also call the attention of the House to the fact that the Comte de Montalembert, in his work on the political future of England, boasted that acts were committed on the part of the Ultramontane power in England which would not have been attempted in Naples, even under the former regimé. He thought it right to call the attention of the noble Lord to these Reports, and to ask whether he could furnish the House with any information on the subject?