to Mr. Fish.
Berne, April 2, 1875. (Received April 22.)
Sir: I inclose herewith a French translation which I find in “Le Temps,” a Paris journal, of an encyclical letter addressed by the Pope, on the 23d ultimo, to the Catholics of Switzerland.
It characterizes the so-called Old Catholics as the “new heretics,” and warns the faithful, in the most earnest language, “to avoid their religious ceremonies, their teachings, their writings, and even contact with them.” The Old Catholic clergy are denounced as “apostates,” who are “to be held in horror, as strangers and thieves who come only to rob, to assassinate, and to ruin.”
As to the Swiss government, it is charged with having passed laws “contrary to the divine constitution and the authority of the church.” [Page 1285] A recent enactment of the Federal Assembly, on the subject of marriage, is especially reprobated as “opposed to the canonic prescriptions, and wholly annulling the ecclesiastic jurisdiction and authority and the bishops are in consequence urgently admonished to instruct their flocks in the Catholic doctrine touching Christian marriage, in order that they may conform to the canonic laws on that subject.
The marriage law thus referred to requires that all marriages in Switzerland shall be solemnized before a civil magistrate, and withdraws the keeping of the registers of marriages, births, and deaths from the clergy. It has not yet gone into effect, as the period within which, under the so-called referendum clause of the new constitution, a demand may be made for its submission to a vote of the people has not expired. There are many citizens who approve its general purposes, to wit, obligatory civil marriage, and the removal of certain impediments to marriage now existing by virtue of the cantonal laws, who are dissatisfied with some of its details. Consequently an organization has been formed, embracing many Protestants and liberals, with the purpose of securing signatures to a demand for its submission to the popular vote, with a view to its rejection. The encyclical letter comes very inopportunely for this movement. The public journals are already availing themselves of its publication to stimulate a feeling of jealousy against foreign interference with the domestic affairs of the country, and its immediate effect is likely to be the promotion of the union of nearly all, except the strictly Roman Catholic voters, in support of the measure so warmly assailed.
I am, &c.,
- St. Leo; letter to priest Martin.↩