The Catholic faith usually holds that children should be raised by the parents. Even if a Pagan is raising his children to Paganism and thereby to damnation, no one is to interfere, that is as long as these children are themselves Pagans, and not Christians risking to be pushed to apostasy.
Now, the Catholic faith also states that a child may not be baptised against the will of his parents. An adult from age seven or from age 14/12 (I used to think from age 7, but perhaps I misread and it was 14/12) may indeed demand baptism without parental permission and validly receive it. But a small child cannot usually be baptised if both parents are against it.
There is one exception, namely danger to death. Danger of death makes for many exceptions in canon law. General absolutions are usually not valid, but a priest in a plane that was about to crash (I am not sure if this is known from black box or from survivors) grabbed the microphone, asked any and all Catholics aboard to do an act of contrition and then absolved them. I know this from a talk of Doctor Gregory Hesse (Theology and Canon Law). The danger of death is enough. A Catholic who survived after this, like if the plane managed a neat emergency landing and nobody was killed, walked out of the case absolved.
Now, the Levi-Mortaras had a Christian maid servant, and the boy was seriously ill, it is perhaps a condition which doctors could easily fix now, but back then at least it could be mortal. This was an emergency and the Christian maid servant did the correct thing, baptised the boy. He survived. Was the baptism valid despite the fact that parents had not at all either of them agreed to it? Well, if he was validly baptised while there was a danger of death, he remained so after the danger was gone.
This is ONE case in which Catholic faith says children may be taken away from parents, when these threaten the faith of their children. If both parents and children are baptised, but parents become Albigensians, a Catholic state has the right to take children away from Albigensian parents. And if parents are against a baptism which was nevertheless valid because there was a danger of death, then also a Catholic state has such a right.
Bologna back in 1858, Edgardo was six years old, was part of the Papal States. June 12th 1859, next year, Bologna was going to rebel against papacy and join Sardinia by voting for a transfer. But 1858, Bologna was a state where the Catholic faith ruled. Edgardo was taken away from his parents. These had been given the option of allowing him to be raised Christian and keeping him. They had refused. Edgardo was even after being taken away given many more opportunities of seeing them than children taken away by the Swedish state for much more trivial things than defending the faith are often given, like when Domenic Johansson has been isolated from his parents for about half of his life. He is 14 and his parents were not allowed to give him a birthday greeting.
Now, the Mortara family were certainly not celebrating birthdays, since observing Jews do not do that, but there were many occasions (probably not Jewish holidays) on which Edgardo could visit his parents.
When he was 19 years old, Rome fell. 1870 - 1851 = 19. The new masters of Rome were NOT faithful Catholics. One thing these anticlerical tyrants wanted to do was to reverse the Mortara affair. Here is what happened then:
§1664: The witness fled from the snares of the liberals.
The fatherly care of the Holy Father was particularly revealed on the occasion of the political events of 1870. After the Piedmont troops entered into Rome in those days of anarchy that preceded the forming of the new government, a mob that the police was unable to control turned toward Saint Peter in Chains to abduct me, after having already torn the neophyte Coen from the school of the Piarists. However, providentially, this did not take place. Pius IX, worried about my fate, asked several times if I had been taken out of Rome. When he was then informed of my escape, he said these exact words, "We thank the Lord that Mortara has escaped."
Pius IX's blessing accompanied me in everything. Most of all, it gave me the strength and the courage not to give in to the injunctions and threats of the liberal authorities, who wanted to force me, despite my religious vows, to return to my family, exposed to the danger of perjuring myself or even becoming an apostate. In fact, Mr. Berti, prefect of the police, came to Saint Peter in Chains, scolding me and asking me to satisfy the public, which was irritated by the "excesses of the theocratic power," by returning to my family. I observed that it wasn't the place for such satisfaction, since I had just given my father [who was at that time] in Rome all the proofs of most tender filial affection. "Be that as it may," responded the prefect, "for your own good and for that of your community, I command you to return to your family."
§1665: His Excellency Lamarmora received the witness in audience.
The police followed my every step, and every night they placed guards near the convent to prevent an escape. In order to protect myself from these vexations, I was counseled to visit His Excellency General Lamarmora, then lieutenant to King Victor Emmanuel in Rome. I requested the audience, which was immediately granted. His Excellency received me in the most polite terms. After I explained the case to him, he said to me, "But then, what do they want from you?"
"The police," I responded, "want to force me to return to my family."
"But how old are you?" he asked me.
"Then you are free," he said. "Do what you want."
"But Excellency, I am threatened with reprisals."
"In that case, come to me and I will protect you."
Despite this and even though Cardinal Antonelli had said that he didn't think it necessary, my superiors foresaw complications and decided to send me abroad. Concerning Cardinal Antonelli, I note that when my mother came to him shortly after my separation from the family, he said to her to console her, "Madam, they have taken the child away from you; try to get him back."
§1666: Concerning the flight of the witness.
On October 22, 1870, at 10 p.m., accompanied by another religious -- and both of us in civilian garb -- I passed through the garden of the parish, and in order to avoid the surveillance of the guards, I went toward the central station, where my mentor told me he had seen my father. Deeply moved, I prayed in my heart to God that he would spare me this encounter, and my prayer was heard. Without incident, I took the train to Falconara-Bologna.
It is quoted from his own witness, after the death of Pope Pius IX. Edgardo's part of the DEPOSITION FOR THE BEATIFICATION OF POPE PIUS IX is in the §§1652-1695, all of which is available on this page:
on Our Lady's Resistance
I do not think that the action of Papal States can in any way compare to the statenapping of children and teens, like in Sweden and certain States of US. I am not sure any one other than Edgardo was taken away from his parents in Papal States during their rule by Pope Pius IX.
Now, I do condemn the statenappings of the modern states, and I do not think I am inconsistent in doing so. Why? Because:
- lacking a "normal" school environment;
- lacking such a thing which will make a "normal" school environment endurable, whether it be vaccination so you don't get sick among all the children or adolescents where one is usually contaminous, or TV and electricity at home so you do not get bullied by comrades who think you are odd if you haven't;
- having one or both parents go without a job;
- seeing your father drink or your mother take drugs (if that is the case with anyone, never was with me)
- or even having an odd sectarian religion, even if it is a heresy which kills your soul (unless the taking away brings you to Catholics) in a State which anyway tolerates so many heresies for the sake of peace, which is usually the case nowadays, and which is a goal the Church does usually respect;
all these things are not comparable to loosing your faith because your parents have none when you and the State have the Catholic faith.
But there is one other point than not condemning the Papal States. It is that I do very much condemn the heavyhanded interference of the Risorgimento police, which was illegal even according to Italian law. These policement broke their own laws in order to humiliate the Church and they didn't succeed.
Here is where there might be a parallel to myself. I converted in my heart and privately expressed intentions when I was sixteen. I left the Swedish Church and was received in the Roman Catholic Church when I was 20, in 1988, a few months before the socalled excolmmunication of Archbishop Lefèbvre. I do not at age 47 like being harrassed by people who seem to think there was some kind of illness involved in my conversion or who hope that deconverting me would be kind of a cure. I don't know what kind of illness that might be, since I don't count the "anti-sect" expert of France, Serge Blisko, as very understanding of either medicine or theology. But some people seem, unofficially, to have taken that kind of attitude, and I have a few times tried to make a complaint about minor crimes committed against me, which might be connected, and police refused to take the complaint, as if they thought the minor crimes were necessary for some kind of therapeutic goal, which they have no right to consider and which makes them criminal if they consider it so, but this means, the policemen of the Risorgimento in 1870 who took an uncomfortable custody of Edgardo Levi-Mortara for a few days or a week or two, have their counterparts right now. I resent that.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Bibl. Arche Guédon
St Nom de la Bienheureuse
* Festum sanctissimi Nominis beatae Mariae, quod Innocentius Undecimus, Pontifex Maximus, ob insignem victoriam de Turcis, ipsius Virginis praesidio, Vindobonae in Austria reportatam, celebrari jussit.