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The Confederate Lawyer
August 13, 2009

Three Heroic Popes — Part II
by Charles G. Mills


Pius IX

Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878)

GLEN COVE, NY — Like Popes Pius VI and VII (see AUG. 12 column), Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti faced anti-Catholic revolutionaries. His enemies were Italian rather than French, but their ideals and their hatred of the Church and the old social order were the same as those faced by these two Popes. The Catholic Church bestowed the title “Blessed” on him in 2000 in recognition of his holy life and a miracle attributed to his prayers.

He was elected Pope in 1846 and perceived as a liberal reformer. Initially, he did make some reforms, but he quickly realized that liberals and revolutionaries were untrustworthy. A revolutionary uprising in Rome in 1849 resulted in a brief Republic and sacrileges in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

By 1860, the more radical forces and the anti-Catholic liberals had made common cause behind a newly created Kingdom of Italy. In that year, this anti-Catholic Kingdom initiated a war against the Pope and seized two large regions from him.

The year 1871 was one of dire events for the Church. In Paris, the Communards seized power and murdered their archbishop. The new German Reich took the first tentative steps toward the Kulturkampf, which would ripen into a full blown anti-Catholic persecution that drove much of the German clergy into exile. The Kingdom of Italy seized Rome.

The Blessed Pius IX excommunicated the government and king of the Kingdom of Italy. He lived the last seven years of his life as a prisoner in the Vatican, unable to leave without fearing for his life. When he died in 1873, Italian revolutionaries unsuccessfully attempted to ambush his funeral procession and throw his body in the Tiber.

His vast legacy includes the condemnation of Modernism (a heresy that would allow Christianity to be changed to fit the fashions of the time), the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception, and the convocation of the First Vatican Council. The Council defined, among other things, the unchangeable nature of dogma and the infallibility of solemn dogmatic definitions by the Pope; the Holy Ghost preserves the Pope and the bishops from certain forms of error. Vatican I also proclaimed that once a council of the bishops of the Church provides a solemn formulation of one of the doctrines of Christianity, the meaning cannot be changed by reason of the progress of knowledge.

In the process of conferring the title of “Blessed” on Pius IX in 2000, it was discovered that his body was incorrupt. Certain holy people sometimes escape the normal process of decomposition of their bodies, even for centuries, and there is no scientific explanation for this.

Pius IX was always a favorite of American southerners, particularly for his kindness to President Jefferson Davis during his captivity and mistreatment by the North. Pio Nono Avenue in Macon, Georgia, is named after him.

The world was a far worse place in 1878 than it was in 1779. During this period, Pius VI, Pius VII, and Pius IX heroically opposed the evil changes of the time. Each was confronted by an overwhelming and unjust military force, but each used his spiritual powers boldly to counter the aggressors.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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