August 9, 2016 The Memorial of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (née Edith Stein)
Now on to the greatest unremembered story of the last 500 years. What the revolutionary government that had taken over France tried to do to Rome and to the Pope and their miraculous restoration has been almost completely wiped from the memory of the West and from Catholics in particular. Using Jacques Crétineau-Joly’s 1859 work L’Église Romaine en face de la Révolution and whatever other more contemporary sources I can find we will tell that story.
Already before they had murdered the French king the revolutionary government of France was at work trying to unseat Pope Pius VI, first from his political and ultimately from his spiritual throne. Think of what you are about to read as a foreshadowing of all the havoc that the Comintern and the Communist Party wreaked on the world following its formation a few decades later and especially after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 since the same group or groups working in the shadows have been fueling all of this.
Crétineau-Joly reports that on the 13th of January, 1793 the first attempt was made to foment insurrection in Rome. Two French citizens, Flotte and Bassville, secretaries to the French legation in the Kingdom of Naples, tried to provoke the people of Rome to an uprising against the Pope. The crowd they had gathered however turned on them and Bassville fell mortally wounded and repenting he confessed the whole hairbrained plot before he expired. The time was not right yet.
The chaos of the French Convention had subsided and something called the Directory took over the French government. This was a chaotic oligarchy who could rightly be called the world’s first atheistic government as they made it a priority to enforce that calendar we discussed a few posts ago in order to rid the world of Sunday. A then little known officer named Napoleon Bonaparte was chosen to command the armies that were to invade Italy in 1796. The ultimate target of this invasion was to be the Holy See. The Pope was going to be dethroned and the Bride of Christ was to wither headless on the vine, or so they thought.
Bonaparte’s forces were victorious time and again and he neared Rome and was even at its gates. The Directory back in Paris was egging him on demanding in public that Pius VI retract all of the Bulls he had written against the French Civil Constitution of the Clergy. This was amusing and hypocritical since the French government had long ago imposed unbelief as the religion of France and had done away with any institutional church in France, constitutional or otherwise. But it served a PR purpose as we might say today.
Bonaparte on the other hand for whatever reason had no interest in sacking Rome or deposing the Pope. It would be hard to call the French general an ardent Catholic but he did not possess anything like the implacable hatred for the Church that the conspirators back in Paris had. He signed a treaty with the Holy See, the treaty of Tolentino, that impoverished the Papal States but left the Holy Father free to do as he wished within the city.
The Directory was outraged, but what could they do? He was their most successful general just having come off a series of smashing victories so they could not just cut off his head and be done with him. So instead they promoted him and sent him off to invade Egypt while they waited for an opportunity to resume the war against the Holy Father.
Crétineau-Joly reports that all through 1797 the French republican commissaires were whipping up the army in Italy to an anti-religious frenzy to fan the flames of their desire to despoil Rome. Note again the similarity between the French word commissaire and the later Soviet term commissar and note the similarity of their functions. It is not an accident that these things keep reappearing.
French republican agents were all over Rome scrawling graffiti and singing songs. The bloody anthem the Carmagnole from 1793 in Paris was sung in the streets of the center of what had been Christendom. Crétineau-Joly gives us this interesting tidbit of some of the grafitti in Italian here:
Non abbiamo patienza, We will not be patient
Non vogliamo piu eminenza, We don’t want any more eminences
Non vogliamo Santita, We don’t want Holiness
Ma egualianza e liberia But equality and liberty
There they are again: equality and liberty but NO FRATERNITY! This is important and you will, God willing, see why in a later post. This theme has been echoed for 250 long years: We don’t want (H)oliness, we just want what we want even if it will destroy us. Or as the late Jim Morrison, God rest his soul, would sing in 1968:
We want the world and we want it now!
Words have a history, they don’t just come out of thin air. The Directory was laying the groundwork and waiting for a pretext. And that pretext would come.
Please go to Confession and pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.