No. 10.
Mr. Orth to Mr. Fish.

No. 109.]

Sir: In my No. 93, of date January 21, 1876, I advised you of the passage in the upper house of the Reichsrath, with slight amendment, (the same having previously passed the lower house,) of the bill regulating and restraining religious institutions.

These amendments received the subsequent approval of the lower house, and the bill is now, and ever since its passage by both houses has been, in the hands of the ministry awaiting their recommendation for approval by His Majesty the Emperor.

As stated in my No. 93, this measure, during its pendency in the upper house, encountered the united opposition of the spiritual peers, who doubtless represented not only their views but also that of the body of the ultramontane clergy, who oppose, step by step, every innovation upon or change of their established notions or customs.

Pending this bill a most vigorous protest against it has been issued, signed by Cardinal Schwarzenberg and thirty-one archbishops and bishops and ecclesiastics. Presuming that the views thus expressed would be of interest to you in connection with this reformatory movement, I herewith send a copy of the original protest, as published in the New Free Press, with translation thereof.

The final action has not yet been taken by the ministry, but it is understood that a majority favor the measure and that the bill as it passed the Reichsrath will receive imperial approval.

I have, &c.,


Declaration of the Austrian archbishops and bishops relative to the draft of the law affecting monastic society as debated in the Reichsrath.

Already, in the year 1874, the Austrian archbishops and bishops assembled in Vienna found themselves placed in the sad necessity of bringing complaint against a proposition [Page 13] of the government relating to the legal relations of the monastic societies that the intended law openly, and in a special manner, carried upon its front the mark of distrust, of arbitrariness, and of severity. In accord with the judgment of the Sacred Chair, which rightly recognized the destructive and hostile character of the law, they have proved in its several enactments how greatly thereby the rights of the church, the freedom of Catholic conscience, and the security of an honestly-obtained property are imperiled.

After the governmental draft of law was not put aside, as was to have been hoped, but, on the contrary, was submitted to discussion in both bodies of the representation of the empire, and hereby received many disadvantageous alterations, being rendered even more severe than before, the undersigned deem themselves called upon by their high ecclesiastical position again to oppose the present draft of law as well as the unjustifiable attacks which hereby have been raised against the orders of the Catholic Church generally, and against the monasteries in Austria especially, and to defend these ecclesiastical institutions against the suspicions contained also in the projected law.

* * * * * * *

The undersigned bishops therefore entertain the assured hope that a law so composed under such ruinous operation will not be passed. Should they, however, find themselves disappointed in this confident expectation, so must they from a sense of duty protest against a law which is intended to do harm to an instruction in accordance with that of Jesus Christ and a form of Christian life approved by the Church and tending to the salvation of souls, a law which equally violates the equality and personal freedom of the citizen, the dignity of religion, the honor of the Catholic Church, and the members of religious orders. And especially must they protest against the insinuation that the Catholic Church could ever institute or approve a religious order whose vocation and operation would deserve those distrustful, suspicious measures which are expressed in the present draft of law.