De Heilige Stoel en de zaak Laurent-Brasseur (1856).

Rome And The Laurent-Brasseur-Controversy: In the middle of the 19th century, the State-university of Ghent, in Belgium, had on his staff teachers showing strong rationalistic tendencies, especially professor Brasseur and professor H. Laurent. The catholic hierarchy looked on them with much displeasure and in December 1855 a violent incident flared up. It was said that Brasseur, whilst teaching natural law, had openly criticited the church. The ultramontanists claimed that the teaching at a state university had to conform with catholic ideas and wanted Brasseur disciplined. The "unionist" (actually catholic) De Decker cabinet (1855-57) took never- theless the view that a certain amount of freedom was to be left to the university teachers, but sorely pressed by the ultramontanist, it turned for help to the Pope, hoping to find him more openminded than the Belgian ultra-catholics. Actually, the opposite appeared to be the case. In September 1856, the bishops of Ghent and Bruges published a harsh proclamation, attacking the university of Ghent. Beforehand, they had managed through the intercession of the Jesuits, to make sure of the support-of Rome. Their proclamation included a strong condemnation of the cabinet. Of course the result was a flare up of the political fight. More specifically, it gave the impression that catholic opinion was strongly divided between ultramontanist and liberal-catholics. The cabinet did believe that Rome was on its side. The Belgian representative in Rome felt that a deep uneasiness existed at the Vatican about that pastoral letter, and wrongly deduced that the mandate was a cause of displeasure with the Curia. Actually Rome, whilst agreeing with the point of view of the bishops as it stood, felt uneasy about the political implications of the matter concerning relations with the Belgian State. This had an unforeseen result : Rome refrained from publishing a condamnation of the rationalist teaching at the Belgian universities. The bishop of Ghent (the most outspoken of the two) incurred the displeasure of the pope, but this did not stop Rome from encouraging the ultramontanistic faction of the Belgian catholics, thus widening the split between the two wings of catholic opinion and making inevitable the fall of the De Decker cabinet.