Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/240

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SACK OF ROME

The fortunes of the Papacy, the deeds and misdeeds of the men who occupied the Roman See during the time of the Renaissance, the German Religious Revolution and the Counter-Reform undertaken by the Catholic Church, bring to mind a saying by that great humanist, -^Eneas Silvio: 'The apostolic ship often founders but it never sinks; it is often shaken, but it is never broken up." On the other hand Saint Martin, a mystic, later on termed the Church the strength of the Papacy; and in this sentence he came far nearer the truth than he did in the antithetical statement that the Papacy is the weakness of the Church. For we must remember that the vigorous protests of the Church against weak and wicked Popes were normally also a silent apotheosis of the Papal Sec,

No one has ever questioned the significance of this institution for the Eternal City, but many have debated about its connection with the imperium Romanum of antiquity. On this subject opinions differ widely in all ages. Edmund Gibbon, looking back upon Gregory the Great, was of the opinion that Rome had always contained within itself the law that governs its life. Hippolyte Taine believed that the Papacy had retained too much of the spirit of the Roman Empire and of Latin culture. Nietzsche, on the other hand, reproached Christen- dom with having corrupted Rome; and Goethe, wandering over the Seven Hills, refused to judge the past in accordance with his own ideas and sought to understand the greatness which confronted his gaze. One thing is surely true: antique Rome lived on in Christian Rome, and this even in times oblivious of Christ has constituted the political backbone of religious life in Europe. This it certainly was until the Rome of the Renaissance placed God beneath the gods. It lost the inner world of the first and the seventh Gregorys and with that the right to exercise power for the sake of faith.

The triumph of humanism did not come about unexpectedly. Men recalled to mind the Greek influence on early Christian thinkers and teachers. Cassiadorc had abandoned politics for the study of the ancient writers, and on these the cultural life of the courts of Charlemagne and Otto was fed. Cicero, Ovid, Terence and Seneca

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