Martin of Dunin

Martin Of Dunin, a noted Polish Roman Catholic prelate, was born in the village of Wal, near Rawa, Prussian Poland, Nov. 11,1774. Until his twelfth year he was kept at the Jesuit school of Rawa; was then entered a student at the Gymnasium of Bromberg; but, having determined to devote his life to the Church and her cause, he was sent to Rome, and became a student in the Collegium Germanicum in 1793. Upon the completion of his studies, three years after, he was ordained subdeacon; later, by papal dispensation, successively deacon and priest, when he returned to his native country, which had in the meantime lost its independence, and fallen a prey to the Russians, Austrians, and Prussians. Martin himself was now a Prussian subject, but he took a position in the diocese of Cracowa, and was thus in the employ of that portion of the Roman Catholic Church of Poland under control of the Austrian government. In 1808 the archbishop of Gnesen, count Raczynski, called him to Gnesen, and conferred upon Martin first a canonicate in the metropolitan church, and shortly after made him auditor. Thereafter honors came fast and freely. in 1815 lie was made chancellor of the metropolitan chapter; in 1824 master of the Cathedral of Posen, and shortly after was entrusted by the Prussian government with the supervision of the Roman Catholic schools in the diocese. In 1829 he was promoted to the position of capitular vicar and general-administrator, and in 1831 was honored with the archiepiscopal chair of Gnesen and Posen. This position came to him in an hour when great discretion and strong nerve were required of Romish prelates on Prussian territory. The discontent of the Poles in 1830, and the rebellion in which it resulted, caused the government of Frederick William III to look with suspicion upon the priesthood of the papal Church. It was a notorious fact that the latter was leagued with the revolutionists. Poland had ever been a devoted daughter of Rome; Prussia decidedly Protestant, the most daring opponent of papal interests. Could it be expected that the Roman Catholics would hesitate to work for the restoration of Polish independence? Has not even in our day the Prussian government all it can do to control the priesthood in that section of her territory? See POSEN. To prevent the further spread of revolutionary tendencies among the priesthood, the Prussian government inaugurated a new policy, the execution of which resulted in a spirited contest between the representative of Rome, our Martin of Dunin, and the secular authority of the province of Posen. The difficulties commenced at the seat of the metropolitan. A school for the education of Romish priests was sustained at this place by the government. Hitherto the instructors had been chosen by the Church for whose service it was intended, but now the government insisted upon its right to choose the incumbents of the professorships. The archbishop protested, but the government proceeded without any regard to his opposition. Fresh fuel was added to the flame in 1837. By the bull Magnae nobis admirationis, issued by pope Benedict XIV (June 27, 1748), mixed marriages were made possible only by special dispensation from the pope, and, when permission was granted, the children of such unions were demanded for the Church of Rome. Poland had conceded this point to the Roman pontiff, but the Prussian government in 1837 declared that in its territory no such dispensation was needed, nor any understanding in regard to the religious education of any children from such a union. This action on the part of the government the archbishop held to be illegal, and he stoutly asserted his right to dissent from the decision of all secular authority. Had he rested here, and awaited the settlement of this difficulty between the pope of Rome and the king of Prussia, all would have been well. Martin, however, proceeded at once to inaugurate measures which clearly revealed him as a plotter against the government he had sworn to uphold. He secretly entered into communication with the clergy of his dioceses, and threatened with excommunication any and all priests who should obey the mandates of the government without his consent. Promptly the government, after hearing of this procedure, arrested the archbishop, and brought him to trial, and he was condemned to six months' confinement in a fortress, incapacitated for office, and burdened with the expense of his trial. Previous to his arrest the government had addressed the Roman Catholics of the province of Posen, and had assured them of the preservation of their rights and privileges as heretofore, but, notwithstanding all these precautions, the priesthood remained firmly bound to the interests of their religious shepherd, and no sooner had Martin of Dunin been condensed and imprisoned at the fortress of Colberg (Oct. 4, 1839), than the Romanists of the two archiepiscopal sees went into mourning. Fortunately this difficulty occurred near the closing days of the reign of Frederick William III. The wife (now queen widow) of Frederick William IV (who came to the throne in 1840), herself a Roman Catholic, was no doubt instrumental in securing an understanding between the archbishop and her royal spouse. Martin returned to Posen Aug. 5,1840, and died Dec. 26. 1842. See Pohl, Martin von Dunin (Marienburg, 1843, 8vo); Aschbach, Kirchen-Lexikon, s.v. SEE PRUSSIA. (J. H. W.)

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