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BELGIUM


396


BELGIUM


no lack of courage and devotion among the com- batants, and some among them afforded admirable examples of heroism. However, they were poorly armed, had inefficient commanders, and were totally lacking in discipline and military organization; they Avere deprived of the support of the nobility and of the middle class, who remained absolutely inactive, and they were abandoned even by the Austrian Gov- ernment which had every reason to stir up a Belgian insurrection. Consequently tliey could offer no serious resistance to the French troops. They fell back e\ery time they met the enemy in open field; those who did not die in battle were later shot.

After this rising had been quelled, the persecution of the clergy was resumed; 7,500 priests were illegally condemned to be deported. The great majority es- caped, only fom- or five hundred being arrested. Of this number, the oldest and those who were ill were detained in Belgium and in France; about three hundred were sent to Rochefort with (Suiana as their ultimate destination, and, in the interval, were held at the He de R^ and the He d'Ol^ron where they had much to undergo from ill treatment. It was the darkest hour during the French domination, and was terminated by the coup d'iiat of IS Brumaire, 1799. The new Government did not persecute on principle, but onl}- in so far as it was believed necessary to en- force the revolutionary laws, to maintain the interests of the party in power. A solution of difficulties was supposed to have been discovered when the clergy were required to take merely an oath of "fidelity to the Republic as resting on the sovereignty of the people. The Belgian bishops who were refugees in England condemned this oath because the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people seemed to them hereti- cal. They also refused to sanction the promise of fidelity to the Constitution of the seventh year, which the tlovernment exacted of the clergy before per- mitting them to exercise the duties of their ministry, because the Constitution rested on false bases and contained articles deserving of condemnation. The leader of this opposition was a priest named Corneille Stevens (1747-1S2S), who, appointed administrator of the Diocese of Namur (1799) by Cardinal Frank- enberg, Archbishop of Mechlin, forbade the clergj' to promise fidelity to the Constitution, and who, in a series of pamphlets appearing under the pseudonjan of Lemaigre, continued to advocate resistance. Fi- nally, the Concordat of 1.5 August, ISOl, brought, if not final peace, at least a truce. At the pope's re- quest , the four Belgian bishops who had sur\'ived the persecutions tendered their resignations and of the nine episcopal sees into which Belgium had been di- vided since 1559. five only were retained: Mechlin Tournai, Ghent, Namur, and Liege. The bishoprics of Antwerp, Bruges, Ypres. and Ruremonde were sup- pressed. This organization of ISOl is still effective with this difference, however, that the See of Bruges was re-established in 1S3-4, and that of Ruremonde in 1840.

Great was the rejoicing in the Belgian provinces when, on Pentecost day, 1802 (6 June), Catholic wor- sliip was solemnly re-established throughout the coun- trj'. For some years, the name of Bonaparte, the First Consul, was most popular, and it even seemed as if the "new Cjtus", by the great boon which he had granted Belgium, had gained the support of the Belgians for a foreign government. The bishops appointed by Napoleon fostered in the people sentiments of personal devotion to him. and to such an extent that to-day they cannot be acquitted of the charge of exceeding all bounds in their adula- tion and servility. There were, it is true, protests against the new regime. The "non-communicants", as they were styled, refused to recognize the Con- cordat, contending that it had been forced upon the pope, and they formed a schismatical group, termed


the "little church" (!a petite iglise), which, though continually falling off in numbers, has preserved its existence, until very recent times. The members have often been erroneously designated as Steven- ists. Stevens did not oppose the Concordat. The champion of a rigorous and uncompromising ortho- doxy, he recognized the authoritj' of the bishops of the Concordat, but mercilessly condemned their cringing attitude towards the civil authorities, against whose religious policy he never ceased protesting. From the recesses of his retreat he sent forth bro- chures, training his guns upon "Saint Napoleon", whose feast day had been fixed by the Government as the 15th of August. He also attacked bitterly the imperial catechism of 1806 already adopted by the greater part of the French clcrgj-, which contained a special chapter upon the duties of the faithful toward the emperor. This uninterrupted propaganda struck a responsive chord in the national consciousness and was doubtless responsible for the courage displayed by the Belgian episcopacy in refusing to accept the imperial catechism, which was adopted only in the Diocese of Mechlin. Stevens was perhaps the most unbending adversary Napoleon ever encountered, and their contest was extremely interesting. Although the emperor offered thirty thousand francs to anyone who would deliver Father Stevens into his hands, the priest was never seized; nor was he silenced as long as the Empire lasted. When Napoleon fell (1814) he came out of his retreat, entered the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Namur, and submitted all his WTitings to the judgment of the Holy See, which, however, never pronounced upon them.

The Belgian bishops were wearied with the exac- tions of the Government, which went so far as to re- quire e\ery year special pastoral letters impressing upon the people their military duty on the occasion of each call for conscripts, and they, as well as the body of the people, had already lost confidence in Napoleon, when, in 1809. he made the tremendous mistake of suppressing the temporal power of the pope and of annexing the States of the Church to the Em- pire. From that day, he was regarded by the Bel- gians as a persecutor. Count de M^rode-Westerloo, a Belgian, and Prince Corsini. an Italian, alone dared to express publicly in the Senate their disapproval of this usurpation, and thus prevented it from receiving a unanimous ratification. The more anti-religious the policy of the emperor, the more energetic became the resistance of the Belgians, and the more spirited the conduct of their bishops, who discarded the lan- guage of the courtier for that of the pastor. While the Bishops of Mechlin and Liege, recently appointed by the emperor, denounced their o^ti clergj% at Ghent, Tournai, and Namur, Bishops de Broglie, Hirn, and Pisani de la Gaude, respectively gave examples of noble firmness. Named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Bishop de Broglie declined on the plea of being unable in conscience to take the oath to main- tain the territorial integrity of the Empire which thenceforth would comprise the States of the Church. "Your conscience is a fool", said the Emperor, turn- ing his back. At the famous council of 1811, con- voked by Napoleon without the authorization of the imprisoned pope, the attitude of de Broglie and of Hirn was no less courageous; they, together with the Bishop of Troyes, succeeded in inducing the coun- cil to defeat the imperial decree limiting the pope's right of institution. The verj' next day, the council was dissolved by imperial command, and the tliree bishops were arrested and tlirown into prison, not to be released until they had been forced to tender their resignations. Their successors appointed by Napoleon were not recognized in their respective dio- ceses, in which the clergy and the faithful were a unit in their resistance. More and more incensed, the em- peror fell to striking blindly; numbers of priests were