April 27, 2016
From 1768 until 1773 the great Catholic monarchs of Europe were goaded and seduced into making war against the Holy See to force Popes Clement XIII and Clement XIV to bend to their will in a solely Ecclesiastical matter: the suppression of the Society of Jesus. The children made war against their father, and the era of Christian civilization effectively ended. The age of Revolution was born with the Suppression of the Jesuits though it would not be manifest for a few years yet.
After the death of Clement XIV Cardinal Giovanni Angelico Braschi was elected pope on February 15, 1775 taking the name Pius VI. He was to endure through one of the greatest and most tumultuous papacies in the whole history of the Church, though this has sadly been almost entirely forgotten now in our amnesiac age. He was the first pope of the revolutionary era and felt its onslaught perhaps greater than any of his successors down to the present day. Pius VI began his reign dealing with rebellious kings and ended it almost a quarter of a century later a prisoner in the fortress of Valence, cast in irons and exiled from his kingdom by the revolutionary army that came out of France.
The age that created his sorrows was one riven with error. Voltaire’s philosophes had triumphed with the suppression of the Jesuits. Immoral and anti-Christian literature, penned by anonymous authors and printed in hidden presses, was inundating France and the whole of Europe weakening wills and softening minds. The Pope no longer had any effective means to combat these plagues. His right arm, the Jesuits, had been taken away; the Catholic kings no longer had any concern for his welfare; his own power and the prestige of his office had been fatally weakened by the war waged against him by the Catholic kings and the relentless satire and mocking of Voltaire and his so called ‘Philosophers.’
The first revolt struck in 1781. Joseph II of Austria was the son of Maria-Theresa and from the onset of his reign sought to demolish the Catholic Church in his country. This monarch had drunk fully from the toxic cauldron of the errors of his age. His mother had brought in two medical professors from Holland during the 1750s, a Girard van Swieten and Anton de Haen, who were both closet Jansenists and helped to organize Jansenist elements secretly at the court of Vienna. These elements helped slowly, little by little, to influence the young Joseph with a spirit of rebellion against Rome. In addition the man had been heavily influenced by the works of the Philosophers.
He began to shut monasteries and confiscate Church property to the point where Pius VI in early 1782 became the first pope in three centuries to leave Rome and journeyed to Austria to meet with the rebellious monarch. He stayed in Vienna a month and but was unable to change his course. After the visit the Austrian emperor, in a foreshadowing of later events, appointed a bishop on his own to the See of Saint Ambrose in Milan (then a part of Austria). He made known his plan for completing the work of Luther and separating the Church in Germany entirely from Rome but was dissuaded from this act before his death. This further and greater monarchical rebellion was noted well throughout the Church and the Catholic world.
This revolt in Austria dominated the Church’s attention during the 1780s and distracted her attention from the steadily worsening situation in France that was to culminate at the end of the decade in the events that gave form to the nightmare world that we have been living through ever since. The popes continually inveighed against the principles that became dominant in these years during the long series of disasters that would follow one after another between 1789 and 1945 when the catastrophe of the Second World War permanently shifted global power and influence away from these nations who had rejected the Gospel to other parts of the world. Even as late as 1937, in the days of Stalin and Hitler, Pope Pius XI would cry out in his encyclical Divini Redemptoris:
There would be today neither Socialism nor Communism if the rulers of the nations had not scorned the teachings and maternal warnings of the Church.
Next that we have examined the prelude in some depth it is time to take a closer look at what really happened in 1789 or at least as good a look as we can get from a distance of 227 years.
Please go to Confession and pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.