No. 542.
Mr. Cushing to Mr. Fish.

No. 520.]

Sir: I hasten to send to you a document of great importance in itself, which already produces much emotion and commotion, and which is calculated to have serious effects on the present fortunes of Spain.

[Page 1139]

It is a circular addressed to the bishops of Spain by the papal nuncio, in the name of the Pope, and of his mere authority, denouncing the clause of the proposed constitution in reference to religious toleration, and insisting not only on absolute religious unity in matters of faith, but also on the prohibition of any instruction, public or private, other than in conformity with the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.

Its premises purport to be the stipulations of the last Concordat between the Papal See and the Spanish government.

It is the more odious to the public sense in that it is an act of intromission in the domestic affairs of the country, unauthorized by the government, and such as would not have been endured by Charles III, or even Philip II.

It will complicate the relations of parties within the circle of the adherents of D. Alfonso, encourage the Carlists, animate the republicans, and add fuel to the smoldering discontent which already inflames the Spaniards.

* * * * * * *

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 520.—Translation.]

Circular of the Papal Nuncio at Madrid addressed to the Spanish bishops.

[From “El Pabellon National,” September 13, 1873.]

Most Illustrious Señor:

Sir: Having come to the cognizance of the Holy See, the project of constitution which is intended to he proposed to the Córtes, the 11th article of the same, relative to the tolerance of worship, could do no less than attract the attention of the Holy Father. In consequence, the most eminent Cardinal Secretary of State, in the name of the Holy See, has addressed to the Spanish government, through its ambassador in Rome, a reclamation, and has directed me at the same time to communicate its contents to you, which I do without delay.

The 2d and 3d paragraphs of the above-mentioned article 11, as you must know, are couched in the following terms:

“Nobody shall be molested in the Spanish territory for his religious opinions, nor for the exercise of his respective worship, saving the respect due to Christian morality.

“Nevertheless, no other public ceremonies or manifestations will be permitted, but those of the religion of the State.”

The substance and form of the paragraphs transcribed cannot but be a just cause of pre-occupation, and even of complaint on the part of the Holy See, whether they be considered with relation to the concordat of 1851, which possesses the force of law in the dominions of His Catholic Majesty, or whether there be taken into account the baleful consequence which the publication of this law would draw upon the Spanish nation, which from time immemorial has been in possession of the precious jewel of Catholic unity.

And, in effect, before all, it behooves us to take note, as a point not admitting of discussion, that neither to the government nor to the Córtes, nor to any other civil power of the kingdom, belongs the right to alter, change, or modify any of the articles of the Concordat without the necessary consent of the Holy See. This maxim of law should be strictly observed in every matter which is the object of a convention: with greater reason still it ought to be put in practice in treating of a fundamental point, such as is religion, the principal basis of every well-organized social fabric.

Nevertheless, the project of a new constitution expresses itself in such wise that there is at once apparont a very great difference between its provisions and the inscriptions of the first article of the Concordat.

The latter says:

“The Apostolic Roman Catholic religion, which, to the exclusion of all other worship whatever, continues to be the sole religion of the Spanish nation, shall be forever preserved in the dominions of His Catholic Majesty, with all the rights and prerogatives which it ought to enjoy, according to the law of God and the provisions of the sacred canons.”

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This article expressly declares and sanctions, as is obvious, the principle of religious unity. It recognizes that the sole and only Catholic religion is the religion of the State, and it excludes the profession of any other worship. The eleventh article of the new constitution, on the contrary, does not declare that the Catholic religion is the sole and only religion of the Spanish nation, much less does it express the exclusion of all other worship outside of the Catholic religion; but in prescribing in the second part that “nobody shall be molested in the Spanish territory for his religious opinion, nor for the exercise of his respective worship, saving the respect due to Christian morality,” it explicitly authorizes the exterior exercise of any catholic (sic) worship, thus guaranteeing the liberty of worship by means of religious toleration against the letter and the spirit of the above-cited article of Concordat.

It can never be maintained that in the first of the articles of this solemn compact a simple fact should have been merely expressed, or, rather, a wish for the preservation of Catholic unity in the Spanish dominions, instead of contracting a genuine obligation to maintain it perpetually, and not to allow in the future the existence of other worships.

The mere reading of the article cited shows clearly that even though it comprises two parts, one incidental and the other principal, both are bound together in such a way that they can neither be divided nor have substantially any other meaning than the following: that religion shall be forever preserved in Spain which is de facto the religion of the Spanish nation.

Thus it is that, de facto, the Catholic religion is the only one of the said nation, to the exclusion of every other worship, and it is expressly announced as such in the incidental proposition of the article mentioned; therefore, when it was stipulated and , agreed in the principal proposition that the same religion should be forever preserved, there was equal understanding and convention respecting the mode of preserving it, with exclusion of every other worship; and in the same manner as this exclusion was in the mind of the high contracting parties, so likewise did it enter into the obligation reciprocally contracted and expressed in the article. Otherwise, the principal proposition thereof would not correspond with the incidental one, and the religion whose stable maintenance is formally stipulated in the principal propositions would not be the same one which is indicated in the incidental proposition, wherein it is determined and characterized as the only and exclusive religion of the Spanish nation.

Nay, more: the incidental portion of the article would be completely inutile, and would have no raison d’être, which is at variance with the nature of a solemn stipulation, with the most grave importance of the matter which is the object of the convention, and with the wisdom and prudence of the high contracting parties.

Consequently, if the exclusion of every other worship had not entered into the views and the obligations contracted by the high contracting parties, that portion of the article to which reference is made would have been omitted in like manner, as no similar clause is found in the concordats stipulated between the Holy See and other Catholic powers, which, by reason of the de-facto existence in their territory of liberty or tolerance of worship, were not able to stipulate or express the exclusion of every worship outside of the Catholic religion.

But it is not merely the first article of the Concordat which is impaired by the project of the new constitution.

The second article, which was stipulated as the derivation from and consequence, of the first, and which, therefore, renders clear and gives force to the meaning thereof, established and provided that education in the public or private schools, of whatever class, should in every respect conform with the doctrine of the Catholic religion; to which end it was likewise stipulated, that the bishops and other diocesan prelates, whose mission made it incumbent on them to watch over the purity of faith and customs, and over the religious education of youth, should encounter no impediment or obstacle of any kind in the exercise of this right and duty.

In the third article, besides positively securing to the prelates full liberty in the use of their faculties, and in the exercise of their pastoral functions, the Catholic Queen and her government promised to accord to them their powerful patronage and support, with all the efficacy and force of the secular arm, whenever they should have to oppose the malignity of such men as might attempt to pervert the minds and corrupt the customs of the faithful, or when they should have to impede the printing, introduction, and circulation of bad and noxious books.

Now, then, it being declared in the second paragraph of article 11 of the new constitution, that no one shall be molested in Spanish territory for his religious opinions and for the exercise of his worship, saving the respect due to Christian morality, it follows, as an unavoidable consequence, that even the teaching, as well public as private, of Catholic (sic) doctrines may be outside of the action of the law, and cannot be impeded or repressed either by the civil or the ecclesiastical power; or, what is the same, may remain implicitly authorized and positively admitted. This indubitably involves a manifest infraction of the second article of the Concordat, wherein, in the most positive words, it was solemnly agreed that public and private instruction in all [Page 1141] the schools, of whatever class and category, should he entirely in conformity with the doctrine of the Catholic religion. And even though, in virtue of the eleventh article of the new constitution, there he left outside of civil and ecclesiastical action only the , private teaching of Catholic (sic) doctrines, it is difficult to comprehend how there could take place or subsist in its full integrity and extent the free exercise of the reciprocal duties and rights formally guaranteed to the bishops in the second article, above cited, of the Concordat, of watching over the purity of faith and of customs, and concerning the religious education of youth. Neither is it comprehended how the bishops can, with good result, invoke and expect the support and the defense of the civil power against the occult machinations and dark designs of the persons interested in perverting the minds and corrupting the customs of the heedless, as well as against the clandestine press and the insidious introduction and circulation of bad and noxious books.

The foregoing considerations being set forth, it is easy to foresee the baleful consequences which may flow from the 11th article of the new constitution in case it be adopted by the Córtes, especially as it is sought to introduce an ominous principle in an eminently Catholic nation, which, at the same time that it spurns the liberty or tolerance of worship, begs with a choking voice (á voz en cuello) that there be re-established in Spain her traditional religious unity, incarnate, if it be allowable to speak thus, in her history, in her customs, and in her glories.

And let it not be forgotten that the course of the preceding governments in ignoring her religious unity was one of the causes of the civil war which still sustains itself in some provinces of the kingdom. Because of all this, and in view of the melancholy consequences which have crept in, the Holy See has deemed it a most stringent duty to propose to the consideration of the Spanish government these brief considerations urging it not to permit the introduction of the 11th article in the project in question, because otherwise it could compromise the so-much-desired harmony between the Holy See and the Spanish government.

All of which I have the honor to acquaint you with, in fulfillment of the orders of his eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State, in order that it may serve as a guide to you in appreciating the importance with which the Holy See regards so grave a matter.

I improve this occasion to reiterate to you the sentiments of my most distinguished consideration, with which I am, your most attached and faithful servant, who kisses your hand.

Archbishop of Chalcedony, Apostolic Nuncio.

To the Rev. Bishop of——.