No. 543.
Mr. Cushing to Mr. Fish .

No. 529.]

Sir: The circular of the papal nuncio, transmitted with my No. 520, of the 14th instant, continues to be the dominant preoccupation of political circles here and of the government. I inclose translation of a short article of the Imparcial, which points to the policy of the United States in the matter of religious confessions as the only true and wise one, and contrasts it with the trouble which not only Catholic countries like Spain have in following a different course, but also Protestant countries like Prussia and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland. I infer from internal evidence that the article is by D. Juan Valera, one of the most eminent authors of the present day in Spain, and who is among the contributors to the Impartial.

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I have, &c.,

[Page 1142]
[Inclosure in No. 529.—Translation.

The only solution.

Although the conservative parties strenuously deny it with notable pertinacity there is not, nor can there be, outside of the democratic doctrine, a plausible solution for the greater part of the conflicts which in our times disturb the peace of nations or embarrass the action of governments.

What has occurred with respect to the circular of the nuncio is an additional proof of this truth, which we take pleasure in recording. In what concerns the relations between the church and the state, in the conflicts which arise between the temporal authority and the religious element, to go far away from the democratic doctrine, through the paths followed by ultramontanes and absolutists, is to go completely astray. Let us see, if this be doubted, where and how religious conflicts occur. Do they occur in the United States? No; because there the church is an association, constituted, it is true, for the realization of the highest of human aims, but, in fine, an association with which the administrations have no other relations than those which exist between them and any other association whatever, that of protecting its liberty, affirming its independence, and assuring its respect to the laws of the land. There the church is free mistress of her own destinies and apt to realize them as she may deem most opportune. There the state is sovereign, lives in the integrity and fullness of its rights, and the civil power cannot be confronted, as among us, through a false conception of the two powers, by a religious power as high as itself, as sovereign as itself, and between which two powers it is more than difficult, it is impossible, that daily differences shall not arise. Do conflicts occur in Germany? Yes; because the imperial government, which has had courage enough to fix the limits of the religious sphere of action in recent laws, lacks what is needful to enable it to forego intervention in the Catholic and Protestant churches, and so leave them to live free and independent without its tutelage, which is harmful to religious interests, without its tutelage, which is a cause of embarrassment and disturbance to the general peace. Do conflicts occur in Switzerland, in Italy, in Belgium, in Russia? If so, there is no room for assigning them to other causes. The state seeks to protect the church, and in exchange for this protection it injures the liberty of the church itself and the rights of all its citizens. Where shall we seek a more fecund source of conflicts? The ministry presided by General Jovellar, being hardly constituted, a grave, event demands its attention and distracts it from more patriotic and higher objects. The representative in Madrid of a foreign sovereign has just issued a circular to religious authorities who are exercising their mission in Spain, which is contrary to the policy of the government, and in the last paragraph of which there is contained an assertion which evidently favors the cause of an insurrection which has for some time existed in our country. This is the case, such as it presents itself, stripped of its religious relations and of its connections of a distinct character. What is to be done with the nuncio of the Pope? A democratic government would have done nothing more than give him his passports as the envoy, which he is, of a foreign sovereign, and bring before the ordinary tribunals the prelates who second his attitude, if, in seconding it, they infringe the laws. But the prerogatives of Rome exist, and the author of the act in question is the nuncio of the Pope. He represents a church protected by the state. What is to be done? We comprehend that the conflict is serious, but for us there is only one possible answer—to proceed now as energy commands, as the national decorum and the prestige of the government counsel, and’, by and by, when the Córtes open, to add to the constitution an article which shall make the recurrence of these conflicts impossible, by assuring alike the indisputable sovereignty of the state and the liberty of the church; that the church be set apart from the burning questions of policy, far from governments and parties, since its mission is not among them. This is the formula which most befits its interests. At the same time, against “those who, under the cloak of religion, endeavor to perturb communities and disturb the good order of nations, the civil powers would find in this formula a most useful weapon. Let us remember the words of Christ: “Render unto Cæsar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” For many centuries the priesthood has asked, and even taken, as though it were God’s, somewhat more than belonged to His priests. It is time now that Cæsar claimed his share.