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Art. V.- Report of the Trial and Preliminary Proceedings in the case of the Queen on the Prosecution of G. Achilli v. Dr. Neu
With an Introduction, containing Comments on the Law and on the course of the Trial; also with the Pleadings and Affidavits; and copious Notes, particularly on the Constitution and Practice of the Court of Inquisition. By W. F. FINLASON, Esq., of the Middle Temple, Barrister at Law, Author of Leading Cases in Pleading,' • Charitable Trusts,' &c. Third Edition. Dolman. 1852.
WHATEVER may be the defects in regard to knowledge, ability, or discretion-whatever the obliquities in theology, or errors in taste, for which this review may be answerable, there is one merit to which it may lay an indisputable claim, in common, we hope, with the other religious reviews of the country, viz. that it may safely lie upon the drawing-room tables of respectable families. Nor, it is needless to say, do we undervalue this measure of success, which is creditable as far as it goes, though it would be a false and uncalled-for humility to say that we do not aim at somethiug higher. An ordinary reader, however, whose eye casually rested on the title of the publication prefixed to this article, would certainly deserve some excuse, if he came for the moment to an opposite opinion. A review that undertakes a comment on the Achilli trial would seem at first sight to have adopted a certain indifference to the merit of respectability, and in the pursuit of a theological name, to have flung aside its social, as if that were a thing too homely and mediocre to care about. Who can touch pitch and not be defiled? Who can make observations on the Achilli trial which may be fit for the ears of respectable men and women ? Such will probably be the idea of many of our readers, on this article first catching their attention. For the sake of such apprehensions, therefore, we hasten to announce that this review does not undervalue and despise the praise of being a respectable one, and that we do not intend to offend the most delicate and refined ear. The inference which we shall draw from this trial will not depend on any of the details of that elaborate interior which divines of the sister Church have so industriously thrown open to the public; it will only require the large anıl general facts of the case for its support. We shall commence, then, with asking-and we do it with
some degree of amazement - What could have possessed those divines, that they should have been so zealous and so anxious to make this disclosure, to throw open to the eyes of a Protestant public these most shocking and disgraceful scenes, carried on within the bosom of their own Church? Certainly, if from the individual Achilli proceeds the great danger of the Roman Church; if he personally is the formidable foe, the one agent whose plots are to be undermined, and whose power is to be overthrown, they may be said to have gained a triumph; for they have undoubtedly suppressed Achilli. But the formidable foe of the Roman Church is not the individual Achilli, but the Protestant world, and how as between them and the latter party does the case issue? Without professing any particular sympathy with the proceedings of the Protestant public in the matter of Achilli, we cannot in common candour deny that they have a good defence to make. The news is brought to them one day of the conversion of a distinguished Roman Catholic divine to Protestantism. As they never heard his name before, they cannot be supposed to know anything about his private life and character. All they know is, that he has held places of honour and responsibility in his own communion. Is it not natural that such a convert should be welcomed, and made much of ?--that, according to the fashion of the day, he should be encouraged to appear on platforms, write pamphlets, and exhibit his testimony in every possible shape? Who can find fault with a religious party for hailing an accession from the ranks of the foe, and making every use of him? But in a little while charges are brought against the moral character of the new ally, and he is alleged to have lived a profligate life. What course does the party that has welcomed him then take? They compel him to meet these charges in a court of law, and on his failing to refute the evidence for his guilt, they give up all connexion with him, in spite of the shield which judge and jury have thrown over him. The Protestant party then might certainly have shown more caution and dignity, and abstained from parading a new convert before time and further acquaintance had proved him ; but no moral offence is attributable to it. On the other hand, the Roman Church has to account for her treatment of, and conduct to, this man, while he was living this immoral life, and while she knew what his character was. She has to account not only for indulgence to, but for the positive promotion to dignities and important spiritual cures, of a known and proved profligate. She has to account for gross laxity of discipline, and indifference to plain moral considerations. As between Achilli and the Church of Rome, then, the issue of this trial is favourable enough to the latter party; but as between .
the Church of Rome and the Protestant public, that issue has been anything but favourable to her. It may be said that the discovery that a convert to Protestantism is an immoral man is itself a point gained, and justifies the taunt,- See what sort of stuff your converts are made of.' But the other side may say that an individual instance does not prove much, and that all parties are liable to the reproach of unworthy members, If immoral men have become converts to Protestantism, immoral men have also become converts to Rome. The accession of an immoral convert is indeed an unpleasant fact to the party he has joined. But what is the scandal of such a fact-one which burdens the party affected by it with no real responsibility whatever, (for who could have prevented it ?)--compared with that of a definite course of proceeding pursued by a body, which could have acted otherwise, and is therefore strictly responsible for such conduct;--with the scandal of gross laxity, the deliberate patronage and promotion of a known immoral man, the appointment to a succession of spiritual cures of the most tender and trying kind, of a priest against whom their own spiritual courts, secret though they were, had but just proved and recorded abominable offences. What is there in the indiscretion of prematurely parading a new and unknown convert, compared with the moral guilt of this connivance at, this encouragement of vice? We have for our own part no concern with Achilli one way or another. He did not join the Church of England, But that candour, to which even such opponents in theology as Lord Shaftesbury and Sir Cullen Eardly have a right at our hands, obliges us to state clearly the impression which this case has left upon us.
We naturally ask then, with some surprise, what could have induced the divines of the Roman Church to press forward this disclosure so zealously as they have? One would suppose, from the tone which they have adopted, that they had shown us some marvellously bright and perfect system in operation. But the minds of controversialists generally, and especially theological ones, are-happily for their own inward comfort and selfcomplacency, though not, perhaps, to their credit or real influence as arguers--so constructed that they only see that side of a matter which is favourable to them, and forget the other. The Romanist divines have been so absorbed in the halloo and pursuit of an antagonist, that they have forgotten their own defences; so occupied in exposing another that they have not seen that they were exposing themselves at the same time, disclosing the corruptions and weaknesses of their own system. Had they realized this we cannot but think that their tone would have been a more modified one. And we will apply this remark
especially to the piece of rhetoric which was the immediate cause of this trial. That the inner tone of-we grieve to be obliged to call it-fierce exultation which pervades Dr. Newman's address to Achilli applied to that person individually, we should be the last to believe, because we could not believe this without thinking worse of Dr. Newman than of Achilli himself; for no one can exult over a fallen brother without himself in the very act falling lower. The exultation which marks the passage was not over Achilli, but over the Protestant public by whom Achilli had been brought forward and paraded. Had Dr. Newman, however, reflected how much more his own Church had had to do with Achilli than the Protestant public had; how much more she was implicated in a guilt which her own connivance had fostered, he would, we venture to think, have subdued that triumph.
The impression which a first view leaves upon the mind, as regards the bearings of this case on the Roman Church, is not weakened, but confirmed, when we come to a nore accurate inspection. And we will premise with saying, that, whatever statements we put forward in this article respecting Achilli, we do not put forward as our own, but simply as the statements, true or false, of the Roman Catholic party.
The year 1826 finds Achilli a Dominican monk, an ordained priest, and professor of philosophy at the Seminary or College of Viterbo, a city in the Papal States, about forty miles from Rome. As yet no charges have been brought against him, but he bears the reputation of an able and eloquent young divine, a rising ecclesiastic. But gradually the cloud gathers : in the course of five or six years charges begin to spread against him; the Rev. Joseph Giotti testifying that he had by that time acquired a bad reputation. In the year 1833 proceedings were instituted against him in the Bishop's Court at Viterbo for two different offences, the miserable details of one of which were given in the recent trial before the Queen's Bench. A third was shortly added. The Court sentenced him to 'a deprivation of his faculties :' but the sentence was not very efficient. He left Viterbo, and went to Rome; at which place, to use Sir A. Cockburn's words,'having strong friends,' he was able to defeat justice, and 'the affair was hushed up.'
But the suppression of justice is a small part of that line of proceeding for which the Church of Rome stands responsible in this matter. It might have been expected indeed that the authorities would have been content to have stopped here: it was a sufficiently bold indulgence to such definite and gross crimes. But they proceeded further, and immediately conferred upon him a most important and responsible office, that
of Prefect of Studies and Head Professor of the College of Minerva at Rome, a magnificent ecclesiastical seminary. He was, moreover, as if the authorities considered that a notorious criminal was specially suited to the task of reforming and correcting the faults of others, and was likely to be a patron of that sound discipline which he had so much deserved, and so little experienced, -appointed to accompany the Provincial of the Dominican Order in the Roman States on a Visitation tour, as his adviser and amicus curie. The writer of an article in the Dublin Review of June, 1850, does indeed try to ward off from the Roman Church the disgrace of this appointment, by showing that it was not that kind of appointment which Achilli had described it to be. But he fails in his effort. Achilli may have exaggerated his office, and have been guilty of a misstatement in describing himself as on this occasion Visitor' of the Dominicans. But the fact is clear that he went on a Visitation tour, and was a companion of the Provincial and Visitor throughout it, and apparently an official and confidential one.
But honours descend thick upon Achilli. A higher and more spiritual office than that even of a professor of an ecclesiastical seminary, or a visitor of an ecclesiastical order, awaits him. The task of the Lent preacher is an especially apostolic one, requiring all the zeal and fervour of an exalted piety. He has to come into the most intimate con with the heart, and stir up from the lowest depths the religious affections and convictions of a Christian congregation. He has to awaken the dull and lethargic, to soften the obdurate, to calm and soothe the sensitive and timorous soul. The most awful and the most tender labours are entrusted to him; and he is the shepherd of the spiritual flock at the most trying and solemn season of the Church's year. Even the most lax authorities might have been expected to pause, before they conferred such an office on a man fresh from a trial in an ecclesiastical court, at which the worst offences had been proved against him. But the Roman authorities are bold. At the commencement of 1835, hardly more than a year after the proof of his guilt had been recorded, he received from the Cardinal Archbishop of Capua an invitation to preach the Lent sermons, in the Cathedral, and in the Col. legiate Church of S. Maria di Capua, of that city.—The invitation he accepts, receiving together with it a natural appendage to such an office, the authority to hear confessions. Proceeding from Capua to Naples, a new post awaits his acceptance in the latter city. He is appointed Prior of the Convent of S. Peter Martyr. These appointments bring him into the most intimate and delicate connexion with both sexes; they give him, to quote the article just alluded to, access to establishments of female