The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: French Revolution Leads to Papal Wound

I. Constitutes Turning Point in Modern History

Having attained the peak of its power under Innocent III, the Papacy began gradually to decline. This decline was sharply accentuated by the Protestant Reformation, though the Papacy partially recovered itself in the Counter Reformation. But in the latter half of the eighteenth century deep hostility toward the Roman court developed on the part of numerous Catholic governments. There seemed to be no way of reconciliation. The sovereigns were making rapid progress toward “depriving the Roman See of all its secular prerogatives.” 1 Lord Chesterfield, in 1753, had sensed the beginning of a great revolution in France. 2 Even on the Iberian Peninsula, where Catholicism ruled supreme, movements were under way to shake off the yoke of its most energetic servants, the Jesuits. In Portugal they were implicated in the judicial investigations resulting from an attempt on the life of the king, and finally were driven out of the kingdom in 1759. Later they were expelled from France, Spain, and Naples. The pope himself abolished and annulled the Society of Jesus on July 21, 1773. 3 PFF2 731.1

Hostile elements gathered under the surface in France against the papal tyranny. A new danger menaced the city of the seven hills. Infidelity seemed bent on confederating together in an anti-Christian league to consume the Papacy. The new constitution of France, declaring the universal rights of man, soon swept away all special privileges enjoyed by the Catholic Church. In vain did the pope’s bull denounce it, and prohibit its acceptance by the clergy. The Jansenists watched with satisfaction as the Roman church received this blow, and the clergy that had so cruelly persecuted them were overthrown—some 40,000 priests who had refused the oath being expelled. PFF2 731.2

Pius VI tried futilely to arrest the progress of the reforming spirit and to stay the advancing tide of revolution. But his anathemas were unheeded. General war broke out that uprooted dynasties, and changed the face of Europe. France poured her legions into Belgium, Holland, the Rhenish provinces, and Austria. And in 1798 she made herself master of Italy-the deluge sweeping over the patrimony of Peter. This we shall note with some detail. PFF2 732.1

As the time of Justinian, in the sixth century, when the bishop of Rome achieved legally recognized headship of the churches, was a turning point between the ancient and medieval worlds, so the time of the eighteenth-century French Revolution, when the 1260 years of the papal era were closing, was similarly a turning point in the history of the modern world. It brought forth forces that made a permanent change in the thoughts and actions of mankind. 4 Iti was indeed the complementary epoch. The infidelic and atheistic became the initial key note of the time. 5 It was an era of daring unbelief, presumption, and defiance of God. It was the beginning of modern world wars, with peace gone from the world, seemingly forever. PFF2 732.2

More than that, it was also the beginning of modern missions, of Bible societies, of expansion of political, religious, and intellectual freedom, of liberty of speech and press, of popular education for the masses, of mighty religious revivals, of reformatory movements, of the development of rapid communication and transportation. Truly, it was a turning point in modern history. PFF2 732.3