[Duffy, §4 Protest and Division]


 POPE PAUL III (Farnese)


THE choice of a new pope is often a signal of what has been disapproved of in the preceding regime, and the death of Clement VII might have been expected to produce another pope in the mould of Hadrian VI. The election of Alessandro Farnese as Pope Paul III (1534-49), however, seemed a determined gesture in the face of growing religious crisis towards the departed glories of Renaissance Rome. In some ways he was the obvious choice. At sixty-seven he was the oldest of the cardinals, and the most experienced. Enormously charming, he was also enormously intelligent, and Clement VII had repeatedly urged that he should be elected as his successor. Despite a long and highly effective career in papal diplomacy, he had managed to remain on friendly terms with both France and the empire, and neither Francis I nor Charles V objected to his election.

Yet there was plenty about him to worry earnest men. The first Roman nobleman to be elected pope since Martin V, he was emphatically a product of old corruption. His ecclesiastical career had got off to a flying start because his sister Giulia was Alexander VI’s last mistress — Farnese was known in sarcastic Roman circles as ‘Cardinal Petticoat’. To the end of his life he had Mass celebrated in his chapel annually for the repose of Alexander’s soul. As cardinal he himself kept a mistress, by whom he had four children, and on the Via Giulia he built himself one of the most magnificent palaces in Rome, a treasure-house of art and opulence.

His early months as pope set a pattern he was to maintain for the whole of his long reign. His first cardinals were his two teenage grandsons, and he established a succession of cardinal nephews in splendour at the Palazzo Farnese. Like Alexander VI, he carved chunks out  of the Papal States for his sons. After the tight-fisted regime of Clement VII, Rome erupted into firework displays, masked balls, risqué plays. He revived the Carnival in 1536, and it grew every year in extravagance, with elaborate floats laden with scenes from classical mythology, so massive they had to be drawn by teams of buffalo. The Pope delighted the people of Rome with lavish entertainments, bullfights and horse-races through the streets and piazzas. Deliciously shocked commentators noted that the Pope’s dinner-guests included women, that he entertained his sons and their wives at banquets in the Vatican, that he unblushingly chose the third anniversary of his coronation for the christening of one of his grandsons (though he discreetly absented himself from the ceremony). He was an ardent believer in astrology, timing consistories, audiences, even the issue of bulls, according to the most auspicious arrangements of the stars.

Paradoxically, it was this unlikely Pope who gave the internal reform of the Catholic Church the impetus and direction it had till now so patently lacked. For all his worldliness and charm, he had himself been touched by the forces of reform. He had taken the decrees of the Fifth Lateran Council seriously, implementing them in his diocese of Parma, working (through a deputy) for an improvement in clerical standards. In 1513 he had ended his liaison with his mistress, and, though many curial cardinals were content to remain in minor orders all their lives, in 1519 he took the highly unusual step of seeking ordination to the priesthood. From that point onwards, despite the magnificence and display, he was associated with the party of reform.

At his election, Paul III knew very little about the state of Germany (a fair indicator of the lack of seriousness with which it had been treated under his predecessor). One of his earliest actions was to summon the Papal Nuncio from Vienna to brief him on what needed to be done. As a result, he became convinced that the call for a council could no longer be ignored. Against strong opposition from the cardinals, who feared that Conciliar reform was all too likely to begin with them, Paul began to press both the Emperor and the King of France to help convene such a council. It was a fraught issue, however. The Lutherans would not attend a papal council meeting on Italian soil, or presided over by the Pope. The Emperor wanted the Council to tackle practical reform, leaving him to negotiate a doctrinal settlement with his rebellious Protestant subjects. The Pope wanted the Council to tackle both doctrine and practical reform, and insisted it must be under papal presidency. Charles desperately needed a council to heal the internal divisions of Germany, but France thought that these divisions kept Charles usefully busy, and unable to attack France, and was quite happy to see them continue. Proposal after proposal for a council was vetoed by one side or another, and it was not until December 1545 that the Pope succeeded in launching the Council at Trent, in the Italian Alps, acceptable to Germans because nominally in imperial territory.

In the meantime, Paul maintained the forward pace of reform by a series of remarkable promotions into the cardinalate. One of the first was the devout Venetian layman Gasparo Contarini, who had undergone a conversion experience very like Luther’s in 1510, and who had become the key figure in devout Humanist circles in Italy. His elevation was intended as a clear signal of seriousness about the reform question. Under Contarini’s guidance Paul drew to Rome a remarkable circle of reformers, all of whom he made cardinals. They included Reginald Pole, Henry VIII’s cousin: he was another devout Humanist who shared many of Luther’s convictions about the nature of salvation and the need for reform. Paul also promoted Bishop Gian Matteo Giberti, a curial administrator and Humanist scholar who had undergone a profound personal conversion after the Sack of Rome, and had become a model reforming Bishop ofVerona, and another Humanist, the former papal secretary Jacopo Sadoleto, Bishop of Carpentras. In contrast to these intellectuals was Giampietro Caraffa, a sixty-year-old Neapolitan nobleman who had been Archbishop of Brindisi and who had served as papal nuncio in England, Flanders and Spain. Summoned to Rome by Hadrian IV to help in reform, in 1525 he had renounced his various bishoprics, and had helped found the Theatines, an austere association of devout noblemen who embraced a life of poverty and apostolic service through the ordained priesthood.

This extraordinary ‘ministry of all the talents’ was shaped into a Reform Commission, to produce a report on the ills of the Church and to suggest remedies. Not a single member of the Curia was included. Its report, the Consilium de Emendenda Ecclesia, presented to the Pope in March 1537, was dynamite. In the bluntest of terms, it laid the blame for the ills of the Church, including the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation, squarely on the papacy, cardinals and hierarchy. It listed the evils of the Church, from papal sales of spiritual privileges, curial stockpiling of benefices, heretical or pagan teaching in universities, down to such matters as the ignorance of country curates or the poor spiritual direction in convents of women. It lamented the corruptions of the religious orders, recommended that all but the strictly observant religious orders should be abolished, and that novices in slack houses should be removed at once before they could be contaminated. This report was extremely unwelcome to the Curia, who did their best to block it. A copy was leaked to the press, however. In 1538 Luther published a German translation, with lip-smacking introduction and notes, and the resulting bad publicity meant that the report was shelved. The tide of reform, however, was too strong now to be turned back.

It was not a tide which flowed neatly in one direction. Contarini and Pole shared an understanding of reform which extended beyond the Church’s practices to her doctrines. On the question of ecclesiastical authority and the sacraments, they believed that Luther was deeply and sinfully wrong. On the fundamental question of the nature of ‘justification’, the salvation of the sinner by faith in Christ rather than by good works, however, they were certain he was right, and was recalling the Church to her ancient faith. As Cardinal Pole declared, ‘Heretics are not heretics in everything.’They therefore hoped and worked for reconciliation with the Lutherans. By contrast, Cardinal Caraffa believed absolutely in the urgent need for moral, institutional and spiritual reform in the Church, but rejected any approach to Luther’s teaching as rank heresy. Churchmen might sin, but the Church could not err, and the right way to deal with obstinate heretics was not to talk to them, but to hunt them down and eliminate them. He came increasingly to distrust Contarini and Pole and their circle as feeble conciliators or worse, men with their libraries full of heretical writings, a crypto-Protestant fifth column within the Church.

Paul III was temperamentally more in sympathy with the outlook of the ‘Spirituali’, as Contarini and his associates were known, but he supported both versions of reform. The collapse of negotiations between Contarini and representatives of the Protestant cause at Regensburg in 1541, however, gave Caraffa his head. The way of negotiation had failed, and Paul III asked Caraffa, ‘What remedy must be devised for this evil?’ Caraffa suggested the establishment of a Roman Inquisition, ‘to suppress and uproot error, permitting no trace to remain’. In July 1542 he was appointed one of six inquisitors general, with powers of arrest and scrutiny all over Europe, and a jurisdiction which overrode that of local bishops. Caraffa’s enthusiasm knew no bounds; he used his own resources to set up a headquarters and prison in Rome. In the same year Contarini died, deeply discouraged, and his type of conciliatory reform was further damaged when two of his protégés, the preachers Peter Martyr Vermigli and Bernardino Ochino, became panicky about the growth of repression, abandoned the Catholic Church, and fled to join Calvin in Geneva. Peter Martyr in due course would find his way to England and become Regius Professor of Theology at Oxford under Edward VI.

Paul III, however, knew that repression was not enough. He pressed on with reforms of the Curia and of the administrative and financial machinery of the papacy itself, abolishing most of the more scandalous sources of revenue, compensating by stepping up taxation in the Papal States: he is said to have trebled the tax revenue during his pontificate. He needed every penny, for he was helping subsidise Charles V’s wars against the German Protestant princes of the ‘Schmalkaldic League’. He was also pressing ahead with the reconstruction of Rome, to reflect both the spiritual and the temporal glory of the Church and papacy. Julius II had laid the foundation-stone of the new St Peter’s in 1506, but his death in 1513, and that of his architect Bramante in the following year, had left the project incomplete, and the greatest church in Christendom a building-site. It would remain so for more than a century, and though the work went forward under each succeeding pope, a series of chief architects (including Raphael) had deprived the scheme of the coherence and drive of Bramante’s original design.

In 1547 Paul appointed Michelangelo as chief architect for the new St Peter’s, and Michelangelo’s scheme was an inspired simplification and development of the original ‘Greek cross’ plan proposed by Bramante. It was to be surmounted by a stupendous dome, 370 feet high inside, one of the most daring and one of the most beautiful architectural structures ever raised. Michelangelo worked on St Peter’s for the rest of his life, refusing all fees since he considered it an offering to God and the Apostle. Seventy-two years old when he was appointed, he toiled on St Peter’s for seventeen years, but lived to see only the drum supporting the dome completed: the dome itself was not finished till 1590. Paul also commissioned him to create a splendid new civic centre on the Capitol, with the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius as its centrepiece, and persuaded him to complete his great Last Judgement for the Sistine Chapel. Alongside these papal ventures, other forces for change and renewal were making themselves felt in Rome. In the year of Paul’s election a young Florentine layman named Philip Neri came to Rome, where he began an unconventional ministry among the clerks and apprentices who crowded Rome’s inns and brothels, involving lay-preaching, individual spiritual direction, the traditional Roman pilgrimage to the seven basilicas and the catacombs, and the performance of sacred music. In the second half of the century popes and cardinals would compete to shower favours on Neri, who would be greeted as the ‘Apostle of Rome’. In 1540 there arrived a group of Spanish priests and laymen led by the ex-soldier Ignatius Loyola. Originally hoping to be missionaries to the Holy Land, they now placed themselves at the disposal of the Pope for missionary work wherever he chose to send them. In 1540 Paul issued a bull approving this ‘Society of Jesus’, and Ignatius became its first general. The Jesuits would become the single most important force within the Catholic Reformation, and one of the principal bulwarks of the papacy.

In December 1545 the long awaited Council met at Trent. It would continue, off and on, through the next five pontificates, and it had many limitations. There were only thirty-one bishops at its opening, and only one of them was German. Even at its largest it never had more than 270 bishops present, and there were never more than thirteen Germans involved. To Protestant eyes it seemed a charade, populated by stooges on the Pope’s payroll. Proceedings were carefully regulated by papal legates in constant contact with Rome, and even some of the bishops doubted the genuine freedom of discussion. If the Holy Spirit was present at all, it was said, he must come in the Pope’s postbag.

Yet from its opening in 1545 the Catholic Church went on the offensive against the dangers which threatened it. Its mere existence was a triumph of papal diplomacy, and so was the fact that, despite Charles V’s efforts to prevent it, the Council from the start dealt with both doctrine and practical reform. It began by clasping the nettle, tackling doctrines like justification by faith which lay at the heart of the Protestant revolt. In a sense Trent came a generation too late, a generation during which the split in the Church had widened and hardened.Yet the intervening years had helped clarify issues, and the Council’s teaching on the contested points — justification, the seven sacraments, transubstantiation, purgatory — was uncompromising, but clear and cogent. It was not merely negative, however, and it eliminated a lot of dubious late-medieval Catholic interpretation as well as Protestant teaching. The Council’s doctrinal statements gave the Catholic Reformation a clear, firm agenda to work to.

Out of Trent, too, came a whole raft of practical reforms. The Council adopted an entirely new system of training for clergy, in special colleges or ‘seminaries’ (the word means ‘seedbed’) designed to produce a better-educated, more moral and professionally conscious clergy. It made provision for more preaching and teaching, attacked abuses and superstition, insisted on more conscientious fulfilment of episcopal and priestly duties. The Church after Trent would be better organised, better staffed, more clerical, more vigilant, more repressive, altogether a more formidable institution. As its reforms took effect, the advance of Protestantism would be halted and then, slowly, reversed. None of this was instantaneous, and Paul III saw only its bare beginnings. But the process of reform was now unstoppable.

It survived the election of Giovanni del Monte as Julius III (1550-5), a man with all the worldliness of Paul but none of his greatness. Julius revolted everyone by his passion for onions, which he had delivered by the cartload. He outraged even the Romans by promoting his teenage monkey-keeper, Innocenzo, to the cardinalate, having first had him adopted by his brother. Innocenzo, who emphatically did not live up to his name, had been picked up by Julius in the street in Parma. The Pope visibly doted on him, and the charitably disposed told themselves the boy might after all be simply his bastard son. Julius reconvened the Council, but was incapable of leadership — one of the ambassadors at his court described him as a rabbit. Nevertheless, the transformation of Catholicism went on, for example in the founding of the Germanicum, a college staffed by Jesuits to train priests to recover Germany for the Catholic Church. Even under such a pope as Julius, the papacy had become the natural rallying point for the forces of Catholic recovery.

Reform was also to survive the election of the aged Cardinal Caraffa as Pope Paul IV (1555-9). Now seventy-nine, Caraffa had singlemindedly devoted his whole life to the reform of the Church. Yet he distrusted most of the other forces at work towards that reform.While Ignatius Loyola was still a theological student in Paris, Caraffa had denounced him as a heretic, and Ignatius ‘trembled in every bone’ when he heard of the Cardinal’s election. He was not the only one. Caraffa’s distrust of his former colleagues among the Spirituali had grown with the years to the point of obsession. At the previous Conclave, which had elected Julius III, Cardinal Pole had repeatedly come within a single vote of election. His chances had been dashed by Caraffa’s hints that Pole was really a Lutheran. Pole was not at the Conclave of 1555, for he had become archbishop of Canterbury and papal legate in England, where the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary had temporarily halted the Reformation. Caraffa undermined the Catholic restoration in England by withdrawing Pole’s legatine authority, and he summoned him back to Rome. Pole ignored this invitation, which was wise, since the Pope was rounding up the rest of the Spirituali, like the much revered Cardinal Morone, imprisoned on suspicion of heresy in 1557.

This terrifying old man set about implementing his version of reform, in an atmosphere of growing fear — it was said that sparks flew from his feet as he strode through the Vatican. He suspended the Council of Trent indefinitely, replacing it with a commission of cardinals, theologians and heads of religious orders, to steer practical reform — a measure reminiscent of the Roman synods of Gregory VII. The activities of the Inquisition were stepped up, and in 1557 he introduced the Roman Index of Prohibited Books. This was a ruthless document, banning anything that was not rigidly Catholic. All Erasmus’ writings were included. Since his grammatical textbooks for schools were a staple of Jesuit education, this measure caused uproar.

No one was safe from suspicion. The impeccably orthodox Cardinal Primate of Spain, Archbishop Caranza, who had helped mastermind Mary Tudor’s reimposition of Catholicism in England, was arrested by the Spanish Inquisition on suspicion of heresy. Paul had him brought to Rome and imprisoned. No issue was too piffling for the Pope’s attention. He even became agitated about the presence of married men in the Sistine choir, a contamination of the purity of the papal chapel. No group was exempt. The Jews of Rome were herded into ghettos, forced to sell their property to Christians, and made to wear yellow headgear; copies of the Talmud were searched out and burned. There was a campaign to imprison prostitutes, and beggars were expelled from Rome.

Paul detested all things Spanish, resenting Spanish control of his native Naples and distrusting Charles V’s religious policies. He never forgave Charles for the Sack of Rome, and he was convinced that the Emperor was not only a tyrant who treated all Italy as his own, but also a heretic and a schismatic who had systematically undermined papal authority. He was outraged by the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which brought peace to Germany by conceding large tracts of the empire to the Lutherans, wherever there was a Lutheran ruler — cuius regio, eius religio. To Caraffa, this was apostasy, and he plunged the papacy into a disastrous war with Spain. Europe watched in disbelief as the Pope made war on the country which was the chief prop of the Catholic Reformation.

He was encouraged in all this by his unscrupulous nephews, Carlo, whom he made cardinal, and Giovanni, whom he made duke of Paliano. It is the supreme irony of Paul’s papacy that he should have placed absolute trust in these nephews, both of whom abused his trust to line their pockets, a fact which everyone in Rome knew about except the Pope. When he finally grasped the true situation, in January 1559, it broke him. He stripped his nephews of all their offices and drove them from the city, but he never recovered his confidence or drive, and within a year he was dead.

Paul IV is a genuinely tragic figure, a man of unflinching courage and integrity, robbed of real greatness by a fatal narrowness of vision, and by his inability to apply to his own family the bleak and unwavering scrutiny he turned on everyone else. He was the most hated Pope of the century, and when he died no one mourned him. Joyful mobs rampaged through the streets of Rome, his statues were toppled and smashed, and the cells of the Inquisition broken open to release the prisoners.

The contrast between Paul III and Paul IV was more than the contrast between a bon viveur and a puritan. The two men embodied two different visions of reform. In Paul III reform was still recognisably part of the surge of positive energies which we call the Renaissance. It was pluralist, made up of many voices, it could accommodate the theological exploration of the Spirituali as well as the austere orthodoxies of Caraffa, and it harnessed daring religious experimentation, such as Loyola’s Jesuits and their new intensely personal spirituality. Under Paul IV reform took on a darker and more fearful character. Creativity was distrusted as dangerous innovation, theological energies were diverted into the suppression of error rather than the exploration of truth. Catholicism was identified with reaction.The contrast was of course not absolute: Paul III encouraged the use of force against heresy, and Paul IV valued the work of the new religious orders.Yet there is no mistaking the establishment in these two pontificates of a dialectic of reform — creativity versus conservation. For the rest of the Tridentine era, Catholic Reformation would move between those poles, and it would be the task of the popes to manage the resulting tensions.

Indeed, the popes themselves were part of the dialectic, for there was no such thing as a ‘typical’ Counter-Reformation pope. Despite the growing seriousness of Roman religion, the Renaissance tradition which runs from Nicholas V through Julius II to Paul III did not die out. Caraffa was succeeded by just such a figure, Giovanni Medici (no relative of the great Florentine family), who took the name Pius IV (1559-65). A Bolognese lawyer, he was the father of three illegitimate children, and his career as a papal servant had taken off when his brother married into Paul III’s family; as pope, he himself was a vigorous benefactor of his many relatives. These, as it happened, included a genius and a saint, his nephew Carlo Borromeo, who at the age of twenty-three became Pius’ right-hand man and a crucial figure in the promotion of the work of Trent. Pius was conventionally religious and an affable, cultivated and able administrator, but, unlike his devout young nephew, no zealot in anything. Unsurprisingly, he had been under a cloud during Caraffa’s papacy, and that fact stood him in good stead during the conclave that followed Paul IV’s death.

He in turn was succeeded by Michele Ghislieri, Pius V (1566-72), a former shepherd who had entered the Dominican order and had served as grand inquisitor under Paul IV. Pius V was an austere saint who wore the coarse clothing of a friar under his papal robes and who lived mainly on vegetable broth and shellfish. Though he had briefly fallen foul of Paul IV for excessive leniency as inquisitor general, he revered Paul’s memory and had to be dissuaded (by Carlo Borromeo) from calling himself Paul V. He revived many of his policies, including Caraffa’s savage use of the Inquisition, his harsh treatment of the Jews, and his suspicion of Spanish religious policy. He also believed as fully as Gregory VII or Boniface VIII in the supreme authority of the papacy over secular rulers, and he excommunicated and deposed Elizabeth I of England, a measure which offended Catholic as well as Protestant rulers, and which achieved nothing except the stepping up of government persecution of the Catholics in England. Roman theologians themselves became increasingly cautious about this aspect of papal claims. In 1590, the Jesuit Robert Bellarmine would encounter papal wrath for arguing that the Pope had only an ‘indirect’ authority over secular rulers.

On Pius V’s death the cardinals once again elected another man of the world, Gregory XIII (1572-85), a former law professor with a bastard son, whom he proceeded to make governor of the Castel Sant’ Angelo. And Gregory in turn was succeeded by Felice Peretti, Sixtus V (1585-90), perhaps the most formidable of all the Counter-Reformation popes. Sixtus, like his patron and model Pius V, was a peasant’s son and a friar — in his case a Franciscan — who lived in the Vatican as if still in his cell. He loathed his predecessor, Gregory, whom he considered worldly and extravagant, and as pope he frequently disparaged his memory in public.

Sixtus seemed to many to combine the most daunting characteristics of Julius II and Paul IV. Violent-tempered, autocratic and ruthless, he ruled the Papal States with a rod of iron, introducing draconian legislation to deal with street violence in the city and brigandage in the surrounding countryside. It was said that there were more criminals’ heads displayed on spikes along the Ponte Sant’ Angelo in the first year of Sixtus’ reign than there were melons for sale in the markets of Rome. He was equally fierce in his religious policies, encouraging the forces of Catholicism in France, Poland and Savoy to throw the weight of their armies behind the campaign against the Reformation, and offering to help finance the Spanish Armada against England. He instituted a moral purge in Rome, executing religious who broke their vows of chastity, and he attempted to impose the death penalty for adultery (a measure which, not very surprisingly, proved unenforceable). He systematically reduced the power of the cardinals, and emphasised papal supremacy by requiring every new bishop, archbishop and patriarch throughout the Church to come to Rome before taking up their appointment, and thereafter to make regular ad limina visits to Rome, to report on the state of their diocese to the Pope.

In all this Sixtus V most resembles ‘austere’ popes like Paul IV and Pius V..Yet he also set about reconstructing the city of Rome on a scale which rivalled the most extravagant of his predecessors. Of all the popes of the century, he came nearest to fulfilling the programme of Nicholas V, to make the external face of Rome mirror the spiritual greatness of the papacy. It was Sixtus who completed the dome on St Peter, a symbol of the overarching authority which he struggled to impose on the Church. The ancient pilgrimage to the seven great basilicas of Rome had been revived by Philip Neri, and had contributed to a renewed sense of Rome as a holy city. Sixtus built on this revived piety by reinstituting the ancient ‘stational liturgy’, in which the Pope during Lent solemnly processed to celebrate the liturgy in a different titular church each day. He constructed a series of great new roads to improve access to the basilicas and to link the city in a star-shaped plan focused on Santa Maria Maggiore, where he constructed a great funeral chapel for himself and Pius V. He deliberately reclaimed Rome’s pagan imperial past for the papacy, moving the great obelisk which had originally been in the Circus of Nero into the centre of the Piazza in front of St Peter’s (it took 800 men, forty horses and forty winches to do the job), and crowning the other obelisks and columns of Rome with Christian symbols. And, despite all this expenditure, he left behind him in the Castel Sant’ Angelo a treasure of 5,000,000 ducats, which he bound his successors to leave untouched except for the defence of the Papal States. By the end of the century the population of Rome had risen to 100,000, which might leap by 500,000 in a JubileeYear.Thirty new streets had been constructed, hundreds of fountains and ornamental gardens fed by the three restored aqueducts had sprung up (most famously Sixtus’ own magnificent ‘Aqua Felice’) and Rome had become the leading city of Europe, and the artistic capital of the world.

Whatever the temperamental contrasts between the popes, the drive to concentrate authority and initiative in the hands of the papacy was a feature of the whole Counter-Reformation period. In many ways this was a surprising outcome. On many issues, the papacy seemed still to many an obstacle in the way of reform, rather than the best agent of reform. The final sessions of the Council of Trent in 1562-3 were stormy because many bishops, led by the Spaniards, wanted strong decrees on the ‘divine right’ of bishops. These were to emphasise that bishops derived their authority and their obligations direct from God, not merely by delegation from the Pope, as the Jesuit theologians at the Council argued. Therefore popes could not give bishops dispensations to live away from their bishoprics (for example in Rome, as cardinals in the Curia). Skilful diplomacy by the papal legates chairing the Council avoided a showdown on this issue, but the Pope had become extremely alarmed at the hostility of many bishops to papal claims, and even set a watch on the legates, in case they wavered. Many bishops were also uneasy about leaving the implementation of the reforms to the Pope, and called for the establishment of some permanent Conciliar body which would see that the Council’s wishes were carried out. Once again, the Jesuits at the Council argued in favour of leaving implementation to the Pope, including the reform of the Curia — but in private they considered that the Pope should be threatened with deposition by the Catholic powers if he failed to deliver.

Nevertheless, it was the papacy which in fact inherited the task of reform. When the Council of Trent finally ended in 1563 many of its reforms were incomplete, and all needed implementation. It was left to Pius IV and especially Pius V to confirm the decrees of the Council, to publish the revised Index of Prohibited Books (1564), to revise and reform the missal (1570), the breviary (1568) and other service books, to produce a catechism (1566) which would interpret the Council’s work to the parish clergy, and to promote the foundation and proper staffing of seminaries.

The enhanced role of the papacy was in part the result of the collapse or abdication of other traditional agents of religious reform. Since large parts of Europe had become Protestant, the old reliance on Catholic rulers to care for (and to some extent finance) the work of the Church could no longer be taken for granted. It fell to the popes to organise and promote the missionary drive to recover the lost populations of Europe. Rome became, what it had never before been, the working headquarters of the most vital movements for reform and renewal in the Church. Papal seminaries like the Germanicum poured out new‑style priests to reconvert Europe. Gregory XIII was particularly active here, establishing the Gregorian University (1572), transforming the English pilgrim hospice into a seminary (1579) which sent a stream of missionaries — and martyrs — to Elizabethan England, and establishing Greek, Maronite, Armenian and Hungarian colleges. The clergy produced by these colleges became fundamental to the recovery of Catholicism in Europe and beyond, and wherever they went they carried with them a renewed sense of Romanitas, and loyalty to the Pope.

Most of these establishments were staffed by Jesuits, and new religious orders and congregations, like the Jesuits or the Oratorians, added to the prestige and centrality of the papacy by the simple fact that their headquarters were established in Rome, under the eye of the popes. In the later sixteenth century Rome became a beacon for a renewed Catholicism, a status symbolised in the rebuilding of its churches and streets, crammed with lavish imagery expressing the new dynamic spirit of orthodoxy, loyalty, activity for God. The Jesuit headquarters church, the Gesù, or the Oratorian Chiesa Nuova, still capture the exhilaration and upbeat confidence of this time, and the sense that the city of the popes was once again Roma Sancta, Holy Rome. In 1575 a Jubilee Year was declared, and tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe flooded into Rome to gaze on the renewed city and to imbibe the spirit of the new Catholicism.

Reform of the Curia was a high priority at Trent, as it had been since the outset of the Conciliar movement. In the late sixteenth century it was also a papal priority, as the popes systematically sought to reduce the cardinalate to powerlessness and docility. The mere increase in numbers of cardinals, and the promotion of poor men among them, went some way to achieving this, as did the routine appointment of a cardinal nephew as private secretary to the Pope. But the decisive move was made by Sixtus V in 1588, when he established the number of cardinals at a maximum of seventy, and divided them into fifteen separate congregations, six with responsibilities for the secular administration of the Papal States, the other nine to deal with various aspects of the papacy’s spiritual concerns — the Inquisition, the Index, the implementation of Trent, the regulation of bishops, matters of ritual and cult, and so on. This delegation to separate congregations was a tidying up and extension of existing arrangements. In itself it made for greater efficiency, but it also marginalised the Consistorv, by taking most of its business away from it. It was plain that the cardinals now functioned as the Pope’s agents and servants, and the Pope related to the cardinals in small groups on specific issues, rather than to the concerted might of the College as a body.

Everywhere, pressure was needed to ensure that the reforms were implemented; and that pressure had to come from the popes. To push the secular princes into co-operation, Gregory XIII developed the use of diplomatic agents, the nuncios, as the principal instrument of papal policy in every Catholic state. These papal representatives, usually given the dignity of a titular archbishopric, worked to secure practical reforms, to stir Catholic rulers to fight Protestantism, to establish seminaries, and to urge local hierarchies on to vigorous action. The post of papal legate, once the chief instrument of the reform papacy outside Italy, now [p.176] became an honorific one bestowed on local grandees: the nuncios became the Pope’s hands, eyes and ears all over Europe.

The organisation of the papacy was thus coming to resemble the organisation of the strong national monarchies which dominated Europe. In an age of absolutism, the Pope was one absolutist ruler among others.As a consequence, he found himself often in conflict even with devout Catholic princes. In some cases, this was a matter of the jealous national defence of the ‘liberties’ of the local church. The French crown had got control of an almost separatist church in France by the Concordat of 1516. It resisted any moves on the part of the popes or the wider Church, however laudable in themselves, which might erode that control. France was by no means alone in this. It absolutely refused to accept the disciplinary decrees of Trent, Spain accepted them only after much delay, and then only with a restrictive clause ‘saving the royal power’.

Resistance by the secular ruler might touch any number of ‘spiritual’ issues, large and small. In 1568 Pope Pius V prohibited bullfights as sinful, and ruled that no one killed in a bullfight might receive Christian burial. The Spanish crown refused to allow the decree to be promulgated in its territories, and found theologians to prove the Pope was wrong. The appointment of reform-minded clergy might be hindered, as in Spanish-ruled Sicily, by the crown’s traditional monopoly on clerical appointments.

Such frictions arose in direct proportion to the zeal of the popes. The Counter-Reformation papacy saw itself as called to unite all Catholic princes in an effort to reform the Church internally, and to suppress the enemies of the Church, be they Turks or Protestants. The undoubted papal triumph in the latter of these endeavours was the Christian League between Spain and Venice which in October 1571 defeated the Turkish [p.177] fleet in the Gulf of Corinth, at Lepanto. Clement VIII in the 1590s raised and paid for an army of 11,000 soldiers to help break the Turkish hold on Hungary, and PaulV and Gregory XV between them would pour more than 2,000,000 florins in subsidies to the Catholic armies in the opening years of the Thirty Years War (1618-48).

No pope, however, could now hope to act as arbiter over the fate of nations in the way that Innocent III had done, though the universal prestige of the papacy might still have an impact on the international scene. Popes or their nuncios might play a key role in negotiating peace between warring princes — as the future Gregory XV did between Spain and Savoy in 1616. The popes, however, were not content with such walk-on parts in the history of Europe. They believed that the princes should pursue Catholic policies in all things, and believed that the papacy was the divinely chosen instrument for shaping such policies.

Catholic princes rarely saw things so simply. The Habsburg emperors in the second half of the sixteenth century presided over a complex and ramshackle empire in which Catholics coexisted with every conceivable variety of Protestant, from high Calvinist to Unitarian. The popes thought that for the Emperor to tolerate religious error was to abdicate his imperial responsibilities as protector of the Church. They urged drastic measures to produce conformity, demanded that earlier concessions made to Protestant sensibilities, like marriage of the clergy or communion from the chalice, should now be withdrawn. The emperors, receptive enough to the idea of a strong state with only a single religion, knew that as things stood it was an unattainable ideal, and dreaded the rebellion such measures would provoke. They saw to it that their Church was staffed by men who shared their realism, and who could stonewall Roman centralism. Between 1553 and 1600, no Hungarian bishop set foot in Rome, and neither the Inquisition nor the Index was sanctioned in imperial lands.

Elsewhere in Europe, the popes pursued a similar aggressive policy towards heresy. Successive popes poured money into supporting the Catholic side in the French Wars of Religion, and worked to prevent the accession of the Huguenot (French Protestant) King Henri of Navarre as Henri IV of France. In 1572, after the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France, during which between 5,000 and 10,000 Protestants had been butchered, Gregory XIII ordered the celebration of a solemn ‘Te Deum’ of thanksgiving. Such policies threw the popes into alliance with extremist forces like the Catholic League in France, which in turn was being bankrolled by Spain. It was difficult in such circumstances for the popes to preserve the neutrality among Catholic princes looked for in the Father of all the Faithful. Under the saintly but realist Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) better counsels prevailed, and the papacy came to terms with Henri IV, accepted (though after long hesitation) [p.178] the toleration granted to Protestants by the Edict of Nantes, and thereby freed itself, for the time being at least, from its unhealthy dependence on Spain.

The frictions between the papacy and the Catholic powers were symbolised and rubbed to rawness each year by the annual proclamation of the bull In Coena Domini, which was essentially a solemn list of condemnations for crimes against the Church. In 1568 Pope Pius V expanded this bull with clauses listing the usurpations of secular authorities against the rights of the Church and the clergy The new clauses excommunicated anyone who appealed to a general council against the Pope, any ruler who banished a cardinal, bishop, nuncio or legate, and any secular court or individual which instituted criminal proceedings against clerics. Spain and Austria both forbade the promulgation of this bull, the Viceroy in Naples confiscated and destroyed all copies, and Venice, which had recently expelled a cardinal, refused to allow it to be published on Venetian soil.

And it was in Venice that the conflict of the papacy with the Catholic states received its most spectacular expression. The Republic of Venice was an Italian Catholic state which fiercely guarded its practical independence of the papacy. It existed to trade: it had Protestant mercantile communities within its territory, it needed to maintain good relations with the Turks. Fierce Counter-Reformation papal policies, calling for Crusade against the Turks and persecution of Protestants, could not be adopted as Venetian policy. Venice was devout and orthodox, but it policed its own orthodoxy. Inquisitors functioned in Venetian territory (Sixtus V had been inquisitor for Venice under Paul IV), heretics were harassed, books were burned. But the inquisitors sat alongside secular officials appointed by the Signoria (governing council), and they did not have a free hand.

Moreover,Venice was a republic and (in this respect like Rome) elected its own rulers. Venetians disliked the monarchic character of the Counter-Reformation papacy, and they rejected the Pope’s claim [p.179] to be able to unseat rulers. The Republic considered all its citizens to be subject to its authority, whether they be clergy or laity, and reserved the right to tax the Church. In 1605 the election of Camillo Borghese as Pope PaulV (1605-21) precipitated a showdown. Paul had an exalted understanding of the secular authority of the popes: in 1606 he would canonise Gregory VII. Venice had recently passed laws forbidding the foundation of new churches or the leaving of legacies to the clergy. It was also proposing to put two priests on trial. For these blatant breaches of In Coena Domini Paul solemnly excommunicated the whole Signoria in April 1606, and placed the city ofVenice under interdict, so that no sacraments could be celebrated there, no Masses said, no babies baptised, no corpse given Christian burial.

The Interdict was a bad mistake. Catholic opinion everywhere thought it a disproportionate reaction to the provocation, rulers everywhere were alarmed at this direct confrontation with a sovereign state. Worse, it simply did not work. Paul had been convinced that the deprivation of the sacraments would create a groundswell of opinion in Venice which would force the Signoria to come to terms. Instead, anti-papal feeling flared in the city, a damaging propaganda war was launched in which papal claims were put under the microscope, and the authorities remained defiant.The clergy were given an ultimatum.They must ignore the Interdict — and the Pope’s authority — and go on providing sacraments and services, or they must leave Venice for ever. The Jesuits agonised, then left: it was to be fifty years before they were allowed back on to Venetian territory. Venice portrayed the Pope’s action as an assault on the freedoms of every state, and the Pope began to fear that Venice might throw in its lot with the Protestants. In 1607 he was obliged to lift the Interdict, without having exacted any real concessions from the Republic. The ultimate papal weapon, excommunication and interdict, had been tried with maximum publicity, and found ineffective.

The Venetian Interdict revealed the hollowness of papal claims to universal jurisdiction in early modern Europe. The changing role of the popes in the history of missions in the sixteenth century, by contrast, demonstrates better than almost any other issue the enormously enhanced prestige of the papacy. The sixteenth century was a period of quite unparalleled European expansion, to both east and west. To begin with, however, this did not strike the popes as a matter of direct concern to them. In a series of bulls between 1456 and 1514 successive popes granted the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies the task of converting the peoples encountered in the course of exploration. In 1493 Pope Alexander VI had divided the world into two regions, east and west of the Cape Verde Islands, the Spaniards to rule in the west, the Portuguese in the east. The power over the personnel and revenues of the Church thus granted to the two Iberian crowns was among their most treasured prerogatives, and the Spanish crown in particular took seriously the missionary obligations which [p.180] accompanied it. In the course of the first half of the century new hierarchies were planted in Mexico, Peru and central America, a constellation of new churches. It seemed that God had called a new world into existence to compensate for the souls being lost by the Church to Protestantism in Germany and elsewhere.

As the sixteenth century progressed, missions multiplied, and the papacy became more central to them. The popes of the first half of the century never initiated missionary enterprises, though their sanction was essential for their success. Only popes could establish new hierarchies, and only popes could adjudicate the theological conundrums thrown up by mission, such as whether or not pagan peoples might be enslaved by their Christian conquerors or (later) whether Chinese Christians might be allowed to continue to venerate their ancestors and to practise other traditional customs which looked as if they might imply pagan beliefs. The Jesuit order had been founded to promote mission, and its fourth vow of unquestioning obedience to the Pope was explicitly framed in terms of readiness for mission wherever the Pope might send them. The spectacular (and well-publicised) missionary successes of Francis Xavier and his Jesuit successors in the Far East contributed to a mounting sense of the unfolding of the Gospel through the whole world, for which the papacy provided the obvious and indeed the only focus.

It became increasingly clear, too, that the patronage exercised by Spain and Portugal over the missions might hinder as well as assist the spread of the Gospel, limiting the freedom of action of missionaries as much as royal authority limited the freedom of national churches in Europe. From the time of Pius V there were growing papal efforts to bring missionary activity under papal control. Pius established two congregations of cardinals to co-ordinate missionary activity both to Protestant Europe and to the pagan East and West. In the second half of the century Rome became the natural point of reference for all such ventures, for only the papacy had the universal concern and single point of vantage denied to the monarchies, however conscientious. Gregory XIII’s seminary provision for missionaries to Germany, England and eastern Europe, mostly staffed by the Jesuits, were another stage in this development. It culminated under Gregory XV in 1622 with the establishment of a special Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, fifteen strong instead of the more usual half-dozen, to oversee all aspects of mission, from Protestant England to China and Japan. Propaganda Fide, as the Congregation was known in Latin, under its energetic secretary Francis Ingoli, rapidly found itself backing native Indian and Chinese clergy against Portuguese racism, attacking royal delay in appointing bishops for mission territories and supplying the lack by appointing ‘vicars apostolic’, missionary priests in episcopal orders, directly responsible to the Pope. In its first twenty-five years Propaganda founded forty-six new missions. By 1627 it had its own multi-racial seminary, the Urbanum, and its own printing-press at Rome, fit symbols of the proactive and universalist papacy which had brought it into being.

The increased authority of the Counter-Reformation papacy triggered a corresponding surge of Protestant hostility. For many of the reformers, the popes were not merely the leaders of a corrupt Church, but the willing instruments of Satan himself. A revived interest in the prophecies of the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation led to the identification of the Pope as Antichrist, and of the Catholic Church as the ‘Synagogue of Satan’, which was to murder the saints and witnesses of Christ, and to make war against the true Church in the last days.

These fears were focused in 1582, when the vigorous reforming Pope Gregory XIII revised the existing hopelessly inaccurate ‘Julian’ Calendar, omitting ten days from October 1582 to correct the errors which had crept in over the centuries, and introducing a new method of calculating the Leap Years to prevent new inaccuracies arising. Gregory’s reform was long overdue: the need for a reform had been discussed for centuries, and it was a huge improvement on the existing calendar. It was widely welcomed by astronomers and scientists, including the Protestants Johann Kepler and Tycho Brahe. The Gregorian Calendar, however, caused widespread anger and fear among Protestants, many of whom saw it as a device of Antichrist to subject the world to the devil. Gregory’s coat of arms included a dragon, and this was seized on by opponents of the calendar reform as an omen. The Pope, [p.181] it was claimed, was trying to confuse calculations of the imminent end of the world, so that Christians would be caught unprepared. The changes were an interference with the divine arrangement of the universe, and they would plunge Europe into a bloodbath. With the ‘mind of a serpent and the cunning of a wolf’, Gregory was attempting to smuggle idolatrous observances into the world under the pretext of more efficient calculation. The University of Tübingen decreed that anyone who accepted the new Calendar was reconciling themselves to Antichrist. It was outlawed in Denmark, Holland, and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, and in many German Protestant states the civil authorities prevented the Catholic clergy from using it. The Emperor Rudolf II was able to secure its acceptance more widely in the empire only by omitting any reference to the Pope, and imposing the new calculations as an imperial secular decree. England, where anti-papal feeling was particularly strong, did not accept the new calendar till 1752, and Sweden not until 1753. The Pope had become the bogey-man of Protestant Europe.




[Duffy, §4 Protest and Division]

Louis XIV of France (the Sun King)

ON 8 November 1620, an international Catholic army routed the forces of the Protestant Elector Palatine, Frederick of Bohemia, on a hillock just west of the city of Prague. The Battle of the White Mountain, the first major Catholic victory of the Thirty Years War, had some of the trappings of the Crusade, and the password chosen for the day was ‘Sancta Maria’. The battle marked the beginning of the end for the Protestant cause in central Europe, and represented a triumph of the confessional politics which the papacy had been advocating since the opening of the Council of Trent. Massive papal subsidies had helped equip the Emperor Ferdinand II’s troops and those of the German Catholic League. Ferdinand himself was a representative of a new kind of Catholic prince, educated and guided by the Jesuits, determined to end the uneasy coexistence with Protestantism which had characterised imperial politics in the later sixteenth century, and to impose Catholicism everywhere. To celebrate the rout of Protestantism, the Lutheran church of the Holy Trinity in Prague was confiscated and rededicated to Our Lady of Victories, and the Emperor deposited there in thanksgiving a wax image of the child Jesus. Under the title the ‘Infant of Prague’, it was endlessly reproduced, and is still venerated all over the world as one of the most popular of all Catholic devotional images. In Rome a new church dedicated to St Paul was rededicated to Our Lady of Victories. Bernini would later place there his extraordinary image of St Teresa in Ecstasy.

Pope Paul V suffered a stroke during the thanksgiving celebrations for the victory in Rome, but his successor, Gregory XV (1621-3), bent all his efforts to maximising the advantage to the Church.Vatican subsidies continued to pour into the war-coffers of the Emperor and the League, and the Pope succeeded in ensuring that the devoutly Catholic Maximilian of Bavaria replaced the Protestant son-in-law ofJames I of England, Frederick, as elector palatine. In gratitude, Maximilian presented the fabulous library of Heidelberg, one of the most sumptuous pieces of war-loot ever, to the Vatican. On every front, the papal Counter-Reformation seemed triumphant, and the canonisation in Rome in March 1622 of the four great saints of the Counter-Reformation — the Carmelite mystic and monastic foundress Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola, Philip Neri and Francis Xavier — set the seal on that triumph.

Within a generation, however, much of this had turned to ashes. The Thirty-Years War did indeed roll back the cause of the Reformation in central and eastern Europe. It ended in 1648, however, not with the hoped-for confessional triumph for Catholicism and the papacy, but with the institutionalising of Protestantism as a permanent presence within the empire. The fact is that none of the great powers of seventeenth-century Europe was prepared to tailor its foreign policy to purely confessional considerations. For France the Thirty Years War was as much about the containment of Habsburg domination in Europe as it was about religion. France therefore financed the armies of the main Protestant champion, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and ignored papal calls to turn the war into a Crusade. The Pope might be revered as the figurehead of a renewed Catholicism, but his political interference was disregarded. Cardinal Richelieu summed the matter up when he declared that ‘we must kiss his feet, and bind his hands’. The peace settlement which ended the war in 1648 had somehow to reconcile the interests of over 190 secular princes and rulers, many of them Protestant. There was therefore no chance of a simple ‘Catholic’ outcome to the war, and the terms of the Peace of Westphalia deliberately flew in the face of the repeated protests of the Papal Nuncio. The solemn bull issued by the Pope of the day, Innocent X (1644-55), in which he purported to ‘condemn, reprove, quash, and annul’ the treaty, was simply ignored.



[Duffy, §4 Protest and Division]
The Galileo Affair

 POPE URBAN VIII (Barberini)

GALILEO and the Inquisition_

THESE apparent contradictions in the position of the papacy — triumphant leader of militant Catholicism, and marginalised outsider in the Realpolitik of seventeenth-century Europe — are brought into sharp focus in the long and momentous pontificate of Urban VIII (1623-44). Maffeo Barberini was the product of a wealthy Florentine mercantile family, educated by the Jesuits, who had a successful career as a papal diplomat behind him. He had been nuncio in France, and was devoted to all things French. He was also devoted to the arts, on a scale and with a lavishness which rivalled any of the Renaissance popes. His early Roman career was spent in the midst of Sixtus V’s ambitious replanning of the city. Under Paul V, the austere functionalism of much sixteenth-century papal art gave way to a love of surface, movement and colour. The young Cardinal Barberini watched while Pope Paul and his tasteless but fabulously wealthy nephew Cardinal Scipione Borghese poured money into palaces, churches, fountains and picture galleries. The completed façade of St Peter’s was decorated with an immense and vulgar inscription which seemed to claim the church for PaulV rather than for the Apostle Peter.The papacy was set on a course of ostentatious display which Urban VIII would carry to new heights. Himself a gifted Latin poet, he patronised writers, musicians, painters and sculptors, above all the young Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Bernini, the greatest sculptor of his age, was to create the unforgettable image of Baroque Rome, and of the seventeenth-century papacy. The fundamental commission here was the immense baldacchino Urban ordered to be placed over the high altar in St Peter’s, which was begun in 1624, and which cost a tenth of the annual income of the Papal States. Modelled on the barley-sugar columns traditionally associated with the Constantinian shrine of Peter, the baldechino was a complete artistic success, instantly dominating and focusing the building on the tomb of the saint and the papal altar above it.Yet it was also a gross example of papal self-aggrandisement. The Barberini bees, monstrously enlarged, crawl up the columns, and the raw material for the commission was collected by stripping bronze girders from great classical buildings like the Pantheon, thereby provoking the observation that ‘The Barberini have done what the barbarians never managed.’

That mixture of spiritual symbolism and vulgar ambition was characteristic of the entire pontificate. Urban’s reign saw an immense flowering of Christian energy and a new phase of the Counter-Reformation, with the work of great pastoral reformers like the Frenchman Vincent de Paul. Urban himself took an eager interest in Christian missions, and founded the Collegium Urbanum to train clergy for the work of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.Yet at the heart of the regime was a coarse secularism which inexorably eroded the spiritual prestige of the Baroque papacy. It was manifest in the autocratic absolutism of the Pope himself, who consulted no one and exercised the papal office as though he were an oriental khan. ‘The only use of cardinals these days’, wrote the Venetian [p.184] Ambassador, ‘is to act as a grandiose crown for the Pope.’

It was even more evident in the gross nepotism of the Pope, the endless promotion and enrichment of his family. There was nothing new about this, of course, but even by the standards of the period Urban carried nepotism to new heights. His favouritism to his family cost the papacy 105,000,000 scudi, and in old age would torment Urban with well justified fears that he had squandered the patrimony of the Church. His nephews drew him into a disastrous war at the end of his pontificate with their hated rival Odoardo Farnese, who held the papal fief of Castro. This cynical war, undertaken to grab Farnese’s possessions on a flimsy pretext, ultimately drew Venice, Tuscany and Modena into an anti-papal league, left the Papal States devastated, the papal coffers empty, and the ambition of Urban to assert an unchallenged secular power in Italy in shreds.

The war of Castro was not the only political catastrophe of Urban’s pontificate, for his Francophile sympathies led to a steady alienation between the papacy and the Habsburgs in Spain and the empire. Urban understood the need for the Pope to preserve neutrality between Catholic nations, and genuinely struggled to do so. He was convinced, however, that Habsburg dominance in Italy was a greater danger to the papacy than any threat from France, and this assumption, coupled with his natural sympathy for France, consistently skewed his polity. When the Gonzaga line in the duchy of Mantua failed in 1624, therefore, Urban backed the French candidate for the succession. Since Mantua ran alongside the Spanish duchy of Milan, that decision permanently coloured Spain’s attitude towards him.

The same pro-French sympathies coloured Urban’s involvement in the ThirtyYears War. Here again his intentions were basically good, for he wanted to settle the rivalry between Richelieu’s France and Spain and the Habsburg empire, in the interests of a concerted front against Protestantism. It was a hopeless task. France worked to inflame the Pope’s fears of Spanish ambition in Italy, and Spain took a high moral line on Urban’s failure to condemn Richelieu’s alliance with Protestant Sweden — as Philip IV wrote to the Pope in 1635, ‘I trust that ... your Holiness will deal with the King of France, who has allied himself with the Protestants, as the duty of a Pope demands.’11 The failure of the Pope to achieve peace between the Catholic parties to the Thirty Years War was an eloquent — and for the papacy an ominous — indicator of the increasingly marginal place of religious considerations in determining the politics of Europe.

The Gaileo Affair

    The Galileo Affair


THE rigidities of Urban’s pontificate revealed themselves in other ways, above all in the Galileo affair. By the early 1630s Galileo was the most celebrated scientist in Italy. The Pope himself had written a Latin ode celebrating Galileo’s discovery of sun-spots. The pioneers of early modern astronomy had met with papal encouragement. Nicholas Copernicus’ epoch-making treatise outlining the revolutionary heliocentric hypothesis (that the earth and other planets revolved round the sun, not the sun round the earth) was dedicated to Paul III, and the Counter-Reformation popes had encouraged astronomy, Gregory XIII being credited with establishing the Vatican Observatory.

Galileo The Moon
Siderius Nuntius
Stars in Orion
Siderius Nuntius

THE heliocentric theory was in [p.185] apparent contradiction of the biblical account of creation, but it created no difficulties until 1616, when Galileo’s own attempts to promote Copernicus’ ideas triggered a belated condemnation of Copernicus. Despite this, Cardinal Barberini managed to prevent the inclusion of Galileo’s name in the general condemnation of the Copernican system and its supporters. Galileo’s own theories were freely discussed in Roman circles, and his attack on Aristotelian physics was tacitly approved. He was able to teach that the earth circled the sun under the thin pretext that he offered this as a way of making calculations, and not as a fact. Galileo was elaborately deferential to Church tradition, and careful to insist that he was an honest experimenter, who intended no invasion of the territory of the philosophers or theologians.

In 1632, however, he published a set of dialogues which clearly defended Copernicanism as true, and which made it clear that he thought his discoveries did indeed have theological implications. He was denounced to the Inquisition. The position was not helped by the fact that Galileo put in the mouth of a foolish character in the dialogues an argument which the Pope had once publicly defended. When it emerged that Galileo had been specifically warned by the Inquisition not to teach the heliocentric theory, the Pope’s attitude to his erstwhile friend and client changed. Urban was an authoritarian. Error and conceit he could forgive: deliberate defiance of ecclesiastical authority was another matter. Galileo, he declared,

has dared to meddle with matters beyond his competence ... it is an injury to religion as grievous as ever there was and of a perverseness as bad as could be encountered.

Galileo was forced to abjure the Copernican system, condemned to perpetual imprisonment (commuted in view of his age and eminence to house arrest) and forbidden to publish or teach. The contrast between the earlier toleration and indeed lionising of Galileo and the injustice of his condemnation was an eloquent sign of the rigidity of Baroque Catholicism. Underneath the extravagant architecture and showy surfaces was a deep uncertainty, which was resolved by the peremptory exercise of authority.




For the rest of the century the style established by Urban VIII determined the external face of the papacy. His successors Innocent X (1644-55) and AlexanderVII (1655-67) continued Urban’s patronage of Bernini, which bore fruit in a series of astonishing projections of the Baroque papacy’s self-image — the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona, [p.186] the tombs of Urban and Alexander VII in St Peter’s, and perhaps above all the great curved colonnade in the Piazza outside St Peter’s, and the stupendous and theatrical shrine of the Chair of St Peter in the apse of the basilica itself. It is an unintended irony that this latter extravagant exaltation of papal power should have been built round a chair believed to be that of St Peter, but which was almost certainly the throne of the Frankish Emperor Charles the Bald.

Bernini’s glorification of the Chair of Peter was hollow in more ways than one, for the principal legacy of Urban VIII was debt. He himself had inherited a debt of between 16,000,000 and 18,000,000 scudi, and within twelve years had added another 12,000,000 scudi to it. A huge proportion of papal income went into servicing this growing mass of debt. By 1635 the pope had only 600,000 scudi per annum available for current expenditure, and by 1640, when the debt had spiralled to 35,000,000, this had shrunk to 300,000. Eighty-five per cent of papal income was being swallowed up by interest repayments.

The political helplessness of the papacy became clearer with every pontificate, and particularly so in the relations of the popes with France. Urban’s elderly and mistrustful successor Innocent X was as hostile to France as Urban had been favourable. France’s gain, Innocent considered, was inevitably the Roman Church’s loss — ‘only on Spain could the Holy See rely with safety’. Cardinal Mazarin, chief minister of France, seriously considered refusing to recognise Innocent’s election (he had sent a veto which arrived too late) and French hostility persisted into the pontificate of Innocent’s successor Alexander VII. The papacy’s international role as peacemaker between Catholic nations suffered as a result, for the French would not permit papal mediation at the Peace of the Pyrenees between Spain and France in 1659. French pressure on the papacy was relentless. In 1664 Louis XIV invaded the papal territory of Avignon and forced the Pope into a humiliating treaty at Pisa. It had long been accepted that a pope must defer to the Catholic monarchs by appointing cardinals to represent their interests in the Curia. In 1675 the French tried to force the Pope to nominate a number of French cardinals.When the Pope, for diplomatic reasons, delayed, the French Ambassador in Rome, Cardinal d’Estrées, badgered the aged and frail Clement X, pushing him back into his chair when Clement tried to end the audience. Louis XIV put steady pressure on the papacy by extending the exercise of the régale, royal control over episcopal appointments in France, and over the revenues of vacant bishoprics and benefices. Inexorably the church in France, as in other parts of the Catholic world, was becoming a department of state.

The subordination of the papacy to the Catholic princes was not confined within national boundaries. It reached out into the College of Cardinals, and into the very process of papal election. In 1605 Henri IV of France was said to have spent 300,000 scudi on securing the election of a Medici Pope (Leo XI), favourable to France. If so, it was money badly spent, since the Pope survived only three weeks. In the course of the seventeenth century the Emperor and the kings of France and Spain established their title to a jus exclusive, a right of veto on any candidate for the papacy whom they disliked, and by the end of the [p.188] century it had become routine for the ambassadors of the great powers to attend the Conclave to make their wishes known. Political considerations began to dominate the election of the Pope, and the required two-thirds majority became harder and harder to achieve. In 1669 during a conclave which dragged on for four months the French Ambassador vetoed Cardinal d’Elce, and the Spanish Ambassador blocked the election of Cardinal Broncaccio.

These political facts of life were accepted by many as part of the natural order of things, but at every conclave there was a strong party of zelanti who deplored all political interference. They were rarely able to secure their first choice for pope, but they were often decisive in preventing mere political appointments. Their interventions were admirable in principle, but not always happy in their outcome. The zelanti were responsible for the election of the pious and dedicated Pope Clement XI in 1700. A splendid administrator and a likeable man, he turned out to lack judgement and plunged the papacy into conflict with Spain, and with the church of France. His decision to outlaw the so-called Chinese Rites, by which Chinese missionaries had accommodated Christian practice to Chinese culture, effectively destroyed Christianity in China.

Pope Innocent XI (1676-89) tried to halt the slide in the prestige of the papacy. Benedetto Odescalchi was by any standards a very great pope. An experienced papal administrator, who had cut his teeth in Urban VIII’s service, he became an exemplary and effective bishop of Novara in 1650, noted for his efforts to raise educational standards among clergy and laity, and for his lavish generosity to the poor. Ill-health led to his retirement into curial work in Rome, and he accepted election to the papacy with extreme reluctance, and only after forcing the cardinals to agree to a fourteen-point reform programme for the Church. His practical skills and personal integrity were soon demonstrated. As pope he inherited a debt of 50,000,000 scudi. By drastically reducing papal expenditure, abolishing useless honorary posts and introducing a raft of economy measures, he balanced his books and began to build up a financial reserve. He threw himself into promoting missionary activity all over the world, helped unite the King of Poland and the Emperor in a league against Turkish invasion of eastern Europe, and prevented influential Catholic rulers, including the Emperor, from marrying Protestants.Yet he strongly disapproved of religious persecution, condemned Louis XIV’s treatment of the Huguenots, and tried to talk James II out of his aggressively Catholic policies in England.

Innocent’s efforts to unite Catholic nations against the danger from the Turks in eastern Europe brought him into conflict with Louis XIV, for France welcomed Turkish pressure on the empire. While drawing back from actual alliance with the Turkish regime of the Grand Porte, Louis would not join the Pope’s ‘Holy League’. Innocent had other reasons for distrusting Louis. The Pope was determined to accept no further invasion of the Church’s rights by secular rulers. In 1678 he called on Louis to abandon further extension of the ‘régale.The King, declared the Pope, served the Catholic faith well by fighting heresy in his realms. Let him beware of angering God by undermining the Church. He hinted that Louis might die without heirs if he persisted (Louis was in fact pre-deceased by his son and grandson), and declared himself ready to endure persecution to defend the Church’s rights.

Louis was unused to this sort of resistance, and a confrontation developed, in which Innocent’s stand was presented as a breach of the rights of the Gallican church. Anti-papal feeling mounted in France, and in 1682 Louis mobilised the French Assembly of the Clergy against the Pope.The Assembly passed Four Articles which paid lip-service to papal primacy, while denying the Pope’s temporal authority and the irreformability of his decrees even touching matters of faith, and making the Pope subordinate to a general council. Unsurprisingly, Innocent condemned these articles, and refused to ratify the appointment of any bishops for France till the matter was resolved. By the beginning of 1685, thirty-five French bishoprics were vacant. Relations steadily deteriorated, with Louis appealing to a general council against the Pope, and the Pope closing down the French quarter in Rome and refusing to receive a French ambassador. At the end of his pontificate Innocent was at loggerheads with Louis, and a schism between France and the papacy seemed inevitable. It would take the efforts of another two popes to heal the breach between Paris and Rome. [p.189]

Gallicanism was not the only French challenge to papal authority in the seventeenth century. In the 1640s theological controversy erupted within the French church over the teaching of the posthumously published treatise Augustinus by a former bishop of Ypres, Cornelius Jansen. Jansen’s immense and unreadable Latin treatise was in fact a manifesto for a party of devout Catholics alienated by the worldliness of much Counter-Reformation religion. They believed that too much insistence on human freedom in salvation had eclipsed the New Testament’s teaching about grace.While rejecting Protestantism and placing great emphasis on the sacraments and the hierarchical Church, they also stressed the doctrine of predestination, taught that the grace of God was irresistible, and that therefore all who are damned are lost because God withholds his grace from them. By and large, they took a gloomy view of the average man or woman’s chances of salvation. They shared the papacy’s disgust at the opportunism of contemporary politics, and Jansen was also the author of Mars Gallicus, an attack on Richelieu’s cynically opportunistic foreign policy.

Jansenism was therefore a hold-all term which included many of the most serious elements of French and Dutch Counter-Reformation Catholicism. On such matters as the need for a Catholic political alliance against Protestantism, Jansenists were ardent supporters of the papacy. They detested the Jesuits, however, whom they saw as the chief culprits in the spread of lax moral and sacramental teaching (they disapproved of too easy access to communion for ‘worldly’ lay people, and thought the Jesuits curried favour with rich patrons by granting cheap grace). Urban VIII had condemned Jansen’s teaching, but the Jansenist debate really took hold under Innocent X. In 1653, responding to a formal request from eighty-five of the bishops of France, he condemned Five Propositions summarising Jansen’s teaching in the bull Cum Occasione.

No one in France contested a solemn papal condemnation of doctrine. The Jansenist party, however, attempted to get round the bull by accepting that the Five Propositions were indeed heretical, while maintaining that the Pope was mistaken in thinking that they were to be found in Jansen’s book. This distinction between ‘right’ and ‘fact’ was banned by Pope Alexander VII (1655-67), after which the Jansenists tried further evasive action by maintaining a right to ‘respectful silence’ in the face of papal condemnation.The papacy was now embroiled in a damaging debate about the nature of its own doctrinal authority, which would rumble on to the eve of the French Revolution. It was all the more damaging because the Jansenist party included some of the most serious and edifying clergy in France, and much of their practical teaching and devotional style could be traced back to the practice of Counter-Reformation models like Carlo Borromeo. Louis XIV set about suppressing Jansenism, because it damaged the unity of his realm. Papal condemnation of Jansenism was therefore seen by many Jansenist clergy as part of an unholy conspiracy between Pope and King against the Gospel. The only two bishops who protested on behalf of the church of France against Louis XIV’s extension of the régale in the 1670s were Jansenists, one of whom, Nicholas Pavillon of Alet, had some claim to be the most outstanding French Bishop of the century. Many of those who sincerely accepted the Pope’s teaching authority were alienated by the condemnation of men and women so patently dedicated to serious religion. The debate threatened the Pope’s credibility as the guardian and leader of the Counter-Reformation.

The Jansenist quarrel came to a disastrous climax in 1713, when Clement XI (1700-21) issued the bull Unigenitus, condemning 101 propositions taken from the best-selling devotional treatise by the Jansenist Pasquier Quesnel, Moral Reflections on the Gospels. The publication of Unigenitus plunged the church of France into crisis. Fifteen bishops, led by Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop of Paris, appealed against the bull, and of the 112 bishops who ultimately accepted it, many were reluctant, and published it with explanatory letters of their own — implying that episcopal approval and explanation was necessary before a papal bull carried authority in France. The Regency government of France, anxious to put an end to religious controversy, threw its weight behind the bull, but opposition persisted. In 1717 twenty bishops asked the Regent to appeal to the Pope for an explanation of the bull, and in the following year four bishops appealed against it to a general council. They were joined by twenty others and by 3,000 clergy, and there was widespread support for the [p.190] Appellant cause among the lawyer class who staffed the regional Parlements. Slowly the dissidents were brought under control, but the last Appellant bishop did not die until 1754, and in the meantime the controversy had seriously damaged the papacy’s authority in France. In Holland, the controversy led to the consecration of a schismatic Jansenist bishop and the creation of a breakaway Jansenist church.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the papacy had travelled far along the downward curve which would place it at the mercy of the great powers of Europe. Clement XI was the last Pope before the French Revolution to play a major role in European politics as a prince in his own right, and that role was an unqualified calamity for the papacy. Clement threw his weight behind the French candidate for the vacant throne of Spain in 1700. His intention was good. He thought Louis XIV was the most effective champion of the Catholic cause in Europe, and he knew that the Spaniards had a bad record in respecting papal territory in Italy. He judged it preferable to have a Frenchman in control of the Spanish territory of Naples, Milan and the coast of Tuscany. The result was an Austrian Habsburg invasion of Italy, a massive defeat of the papal armies in 1708, and a humiliating and damaging surrender to Austria in 1709 which led to Bourbon controlled Spain going into schism for six years.

Unworldliness, however, was no better protection for the papacy. The saintly Dominican Benedict XIII (1724-30) had resigned a dukedom to become a friar. He was elected pope in the stalemated Conclave of 1724 because everybody knew he was unworldly, and would preserve neutrality between France, Spain and the Austrian Habsburgs. He was unworldly, and he did try to be neutral. But he also refused to behave like a pope, instead behaving like a simple parish priest, living in a whitewashed room, visiting hospitals, hearing confessions and teaching children their catechism. Meanwhile, he put all the affairs of the papacy into the hands of his secretary, Niccolô Coscia. Coscia was totally corrupt, and surrounded himself with a disreputable parcel of cronies and profiteers. The administration of the Papal States became a public scandal. Nepotism had been formally abolished by Pope Clement XI, but now the Church had all the evils of nepotism without the nephew.

In 1728 Benedict provided more evidence that unworldliness can be a bad thing in a pope. He commanded the compulsory celebration of the Feast of St Gregory VII, formerly [p.191] a local Italian observance, by the universal Church. The breviary lesson prescribed for the Feast was tactless in the extreme, and praised Gregory’s courage in excommunicating and deposing the Henry IV.The states of Europe set up a howl of anger.Venice protested to the Pope, Sicily (and Protestant Holland) forbade the celebration of the Feast at all, Belgium banned the offending lesson, the Parisian police prevented the breviary containing the service being printed.The ancient claim of the Pope to temporal power was no longer acceptable in 1728.

The eighteenth-century popes, therefore, found their room for manoeuvre more and more restricted, as the monarchs of Europe increasingly flexed their muscles and sought to bring the structures of the Church under state control. To secure as much liberty as possible for the Church, the popes adopted the expedient of making treaties or concordats which defined the Church’s rights and role. But to define is also to confine, and successive rulers of France, Spain, Portugal and the empire whittled away at the terms of these concordats, and at the Church’s freedoms and rights.The most genial, able and attractive practitioner of eighteenth-century papal statecraft was Prospero Lambertini, elected Benedict XIV (1740-58) after a blocked conclave of six months. A gifted theologian and lawyer, who wrote what remains the standard work on canonisation, Benedict was a supreme papal exponent of common-sense realism. Every inch an eighteenth-century man, Benedict strolled around Rome chatting to visitors, approachable, friendly, efficient, fond of slang. His long pontificate was filled with activity, all designed to streamline and modernise the traditional work of the papacy. He promoted seminary education and a whole range of practical Church reforms, protected the Italian religious reformer Ludovico Muratori against condemnation by the Spanish Inquisition, and the Jesuit editors of the Acta Sanctorum, whose rigorous historical investigation of the legends of the saints was causing offence to reactionary critics who thought them irreverent. He supported and encouraged Oriental-Rite Catholics of the Middle East who were being pressured to adopt Latin customs, raised papal revenues by improving agricultural methods in the Papal States, and won the affection of his subjects by reducing taxation. He was unflappable, amused. Stopped in the street one day by a fanatical visionary friar who told him that Antichrist had recently been born, Benedict asked interestedly, ‘What age is he?’ On being told that Antichrist was now three years old, the Pope smiled, sighed with relief and said, ‘Then I will leave the problem to my successor to deal with.12

Benedict was universally admired by Protestants as well as Catholics, and Voltaire dedicated one of his works to him. His own religious beliefs were conservative however, his piety sincere. He wanted an efficient, modern, active Catholicism, and thought that the Council of Trent had provided the blueprint for just that. Though he protected reform-minded historians and theologians and believed in the value of scholarship and science, he also drew up new rules for the Index of Prohibited Books. This was a revealing gesture, for Benedict, who thought the old Index trigger-happy and absurdly narrow, maintained the principle of censorship, but softened its impact by limiting the freedom of the Congregation of the Index to ban books without the Pope’s express agreement. Above everything else a realist, he did what could be done to preserve as much of the Tridentine vision as was practicable in the age of absolute monarchies. He was the first Pope to make systematic use of the encyclical letter as a favoured form for teaching. Characteristically, recalling that it was the duty of the successor of Peter to ‘feed [Christ’s] lambs, feed [Christ’s] sheep’, he devoted his first Encyclical, Ubi Primum, to setting out the duties of bishops.13

Benedict avoided direct confrontation with secular rulers, but went to enormous diplomatic lengths to avoid surrendering even the temporal claims of the papacy. Where realism demanded the acceptance of uncomfortable reality, however, he did not flinch. He negotiated new concordats with Sardinia, Naples, Spain and Austria, making enormous concessions to the powers in the interests of practical working conditions for the Church. The Concordat with Spain in 1753, for example, conceded the right of presentation to 12,000 benefices in Spain to the Spanish crown, leaving the Pope with precisely fifty-two. There was a mass exodus from Rome of hopeful Spanish seekers for preferment. Up to 4,000 Spaniards were said to have left the city, causing a crisis for innkeepers and caterers, but providing [p.192] an eloquent testimony of the massive transfer of patronage which had taken place.

The Concordat provoked an outcry from the Curia, who had mostly been kept in the dark while it was negotiated, and many felt that the Pope had betrayed the Church. Benedict was unmoved. He had secured 1,300,000 scudi in compensation for the transfer of rights, and was certain that, had he refused the Concordat, the Spanish crown would have taken matters into its own hands and gone ahead anyway, without any compensation to the Holy See. The same realism was in evidence over the Jubilee Indulgence which marked his accession in 1740. Benedict was an enthusiast for this Jubilee, personally overseeing the practical arrangements for pilgrims, and ensuring the provision of preachers and confessors to maximise the pastoral opportunities offered by the influx of pilgrims.

He was particularly anxious to have the Jubilee Bull proclaimed in France, because he hoped that the loyalty to Rome involved in the observances would constitute some sort of sign that the French church was still in communion with the Holy See. But he was concerned about whether or not the bull should specifically exclude Jansenist Appellants from its benefits. To do so would be to invite renewed resistance and controversy, and would probably lead to refusal to admit the bull by the Parlements. To remain silent would be seized on by the Jansenists as evidence that Benedict XIV did not approve of the bull Unigenitus. In the event he left the bull vague, but mentioned the exclusion of the Appellants in a covering letter to Louis XV. Even so the bull was not admitted, and in a second bull of 1744 he omitted any reference to the matter. His enthusiasm for the accession Jubilee and especially for the more solemn Holy Year of 1750 in itself demonstrates the fundamental continuity of his ‘modern’-style papacy with what had gone before. For all his impeccable Enlightenment credentials Benedict was an enthusiast for ‘old time religion’, and he promoted and personally attended the revivalist preaching of the Franciscan Leonard of Port Maurice, who conducted spectacular open-air services in the Colosseum and the Roman squares throughout the 1750 Jubilee.

[p.193] Benedict XIV did everything which high intelligence, boundless tact, bubbling geniality and civilised efficiency could do to hold back the rising tide of secular power. But everywhere secular rulers had set their hearts on controlling the Church. Tact, intelligence and geniality were not enough in the shark-pool of eighteenth-century power politics. Everywhere Catholic monarchs sponsored theologies which minimised papal authority, and which expounded the rights of national churches and the power of princes over those churches. Gallicanism had bred a host of these theologies, and Germany had produced its own version known as Febronianism, which exalted the power of the bishops (and therefore the King who appointed them) over against the Pope.

In 1768 the Duke of the tiny state of Parma, once part of papal territory and now a Bourbon fief, issued an edict forbidding appeals to Rome except by the Duke’s permission, and banned all papal bulls or other documents which had not been countersigned by the Duke. To the pious but unworldly Pope Clement XIII (1758-69) this was an act of schism, subjecting the liberty of the Church to the tyranny of the prince. He declared the decree null and void, and justified his action by appealing to the bull In Coena Domini, with its anathemas against all who invaded the rights of the Church. The princes of Europe were outraged. Here was a priest presuming to annul the law of a prince. Portugal declared it treason to print, sell, distribute or make a judicial reference to In Coena Domini, and Naples, Parma, Monaco, Genoa,Venice and Austria followed suit. The Parlement of Paris banned the publication of the papal condemnation, the ambassadors of the Bourbon powers demanded its withdrawal. France occupied Avignon, Naples occupied Benevento and planned to divide the Papal States up among its Italian neighbours.Voltaire wrote a pamphlet arguing that the Pope should not rule a state at all.

But the humiliating reality of papal weakness was fully revealed in 1773, when Pope Clement XIV (1769-1774) caved in to pressure from the rulers of Spain, Portugal, France and Austria, and dissolved the Jesuit order. The Jesuits had long been the particular target of ‘liberal’ hatred in Enlightenment Europe, symbols of churchy obscurantism and clerical presumption.They had been the favourite butt ofJansenist pamphleteers, and Pascal’s Provincial Letters pilloried them as self-seeking, half-pagan hypocrites. The real reasons for their unpopularity are complex, and the Society’s sometimes obscure and suspect financial dealings had something to do with it. But they were also hated because they represented the strength and independence of the Church, and because their defence of the rights of ‘native’ peoples in South America had proved a thorn in the flesh of the great colonial powers. This powerful international organisation, like the Church itself, hindered the consolidation of the absolute rule of the monarch within his own domains. The Jesuits were the great bulwark of the Counter-Reformation papacy, their fourth vow of unquestioning obedience to the Pope a symbol of the centrality of the papacy in the renewal of the Counter-Reformation Church.

Everyone saw the dissolution coming. Already in the pontificate of Clement XIII hostile governments had acted to ban the Society in their own territories. The Portuguese Prime Minister, the Marquis de Pombal, confiscated the Society’s assets in Portugal and its colonies, and deported all the Jesuits to the Papal States. France followed suit in 1764, Spain, Naples and Sicily in 1767. Clement XIII held out against this mounting pressure, and issued a bull in support of the Society in 1765, but he died suddenly in February 1769, and the ensuing Conclave was dominated by the question of the dissolution of the Society. The Austrian Emperor Joseph II visited the Conclave and pretended to be neutral, but made no secret of his contempt for the ‘Blacks’, as the Jesuits were called.

It became clear that the powers would veto any cardinal who was a friend of the Society. A promise by any cardinal that if elected he would dissolve the Society, however, would constitute simony, the purchase of the papacy. The Franciscan Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli, who emerged as Clement XIV (1769-74), gave no such promise, but let it be known that he thought the dissolution possible, and even a good idea. He was duly elected, and the destruction of the Society, therefore, was only a matter of time. Pope Clement delayed the evil hour as much as he could, by launching a series of placatory gestures towards the Catholic powers. These, however, only served to make it clear that he would dance whenever [p.194] ever they pulled his string. The brother of the ferociously anti-clerical Prime Minister of Portugal, Pombal, was made a cardinal. In 1770 Clement dropped the annual reading of the bull In Coena Doniini, and had it struck from the Roman liturgy. Though in theory still in force, it was never read again. Alongside all this, he made feeble attempts to mitigate the attack on the Jesuits, perhaps hoping that a simple ban on further recruitment might hold off further demands.

The monarchies, however, had scented blood, and would be content with nothing less. Clement at length surrendered, and the Society was formally abolished in 1773. In the interests of high politics, Father Ricci, the Jesuit General, a blameless and holy man who urged the Jesuits to accept the Pope’s decision, was imprisoned in the Castel Sant’ Angelo, where he spent the remaining years of his life. The Pope gave no explanation of his action, but indeed none was needed. The destruction of the order by the papacy it existed to serve was the clearest demonstration imaginable of the powerlessness of the Pope in the new world order. It was also the result of a lack of moral fibre in the occupant of the Chair of Peter, the unworthy successor of Gregory VII and Innocent III, even of Innocent XI. It was the papacy’s most shameful hour.



1 L. Pastor, History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, London 1912—, vol. 2, p. 30.

2 C. B. Coleman (ed.), The Treatise of Lorenzo Nina on the Donation of Constantine, New Haven 1922, p. 179

3 Pastor, Popes, vol. 2, p. 166.

4 Ibid., pp. 125-37.

5 A. Grafton (ed.), Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture, New Haven and London 1993, p. xiii.

6 L. C. Gabel (ed.), Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope, London 1960, p. 81.

7 J. C. Olin (ed.), The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola, Westminster, Maryland 1969, p. 9; Pastor, Popes, vol. 6, p. 17

8 J. A. Froud, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London 1895, p. 158.

9 Ibid., p. 165.

10 P. Partner, Renaissance Rome, 1500-1559:A Portrait of a Society, Berkeley 1976, p. 158.

11 Pastor, Popes, vol. 28, p. 348.

12 M. Walsh, An Illustrated History of the Popes, London 1980, p. 181.

13 Sanctissimi Domini Nostri Benedicti Papae XIV Bullarium,Tomus Primus,Venice 1777, pp. 4-7.



This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 2002....x....   “”.