Papacy and Papal States

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PAPACY AND PAPAL STATES. "Pope" (from the Greek papas, Latin and Italian papa, 'father') was the title given clergy in the ancient church, which in the West eventually became the exclusive title of the bishop of Rome, who was considered the successor of St. Peter and increasingly accepted in the West as head of the whole church. At the beginning of the early modern period, the papacy had so restored its institutional authority due to the healing of the Great Western Schism (13781417) and its increasing victory over conciliarism that Alexander VI (reigned 14921503) could divide the non-Christian world and assign sovereignty over it to Spain and Portugal (1493), and Julius II (reigned 15031513) could be hailed "master of the game of the world." By the end of this period, however, the papacy had so sunk in prestige that on the death of Pius VI (reigned 17751799), a prisoner in Valence, France, the town prefect noted the demise of "Citizen Braschi, exercising the profession of Pontiff." But if the political influence of the papacy had waned, its authority over doctrinal issues was supreme among Catholics.


By gifts, purchases, and conquests, the popes became rulers over one of the oldest continuously functioning states of Europe, the Papal States, a territory that stretched from Rome and its environs northeastward to the Adriatic Sea. It was composed of six regions: Rome, the Campagna and Marittima, the Patrimony of St. Peter, Umbria, the Marches, and Romagna; it also included its vassal Ferrara in the Po Valley; two enclaves in the Neapolitan Campagna, Benevento and Pontecorvo; and territories in Provence, Comtat Venaissin and Avignon. Its economy was primarily agricultural (grains, olive oil, wine, and livestock) but also included the manufacture of woolen (Arpino) and silk (Bologna) textiles, ceramics (Ascoli), hemp products (Bologna), and paper (Fabriano), as well as the mining of salt (Cervia), sulfur (Montefeltro), iron (Narni), and alum (after its discovery at Tolfa in 1461). In the first-ever census of the Papal States, taken in 1656, the population was determined to be about 1.7 million. The most populous cities were Rome and Bologna; among those of middling rank were Orvieto, Spoleto, Perugia, Ancona, and Ravenna. The principal ports were Civitavecchia on the Tyrrhenian and Ancona, Rimini, and Pesaro on the Adriatic coast.

The public law of the Papal States was incorporated in the Egidian Constitutions (promulgated in 1357, in force until 1816), which governed the territories and regulated the local petty tyrants who were recognized as papal vicars. Many of these local rulers were eliminated in the fifteenth century. During the pontificate of Alexander VI, his son Cesare Borgia (1475 or 14761507) carved out for himself the duchy of Romagna by removing various local families from power. Julius II, who saw to the downfall of Cesare Borgia, brought many of these cities and territories under direct papal rule, allowing some families to return to power. In 1509 he forced Venice to return not only territories it had illegally occupied as Borgia's control weakened, but also Ravenna, which it had ruled since 1441. Julius also succeeded in driving the Bentivoglio family from power in Bologna (1506, 1512) and the Baglioni family from Perugia (1506). His successors allowed the Baglionis to return, until Paul III (reigned 15341549), in 1540 permanently excluded them and imposed direct papal governance. By conquest, Julius II took temporary control of Modena (15101511), which Leo X (reigned 15131521) purchased in 1514 but Clement VII (reigned 15231534) lost in 1527. Leo X conquered Parma and Piacenza in 1512, and Paul III invested his son Pier Luigi Farnese with both in 1545.

The elimination of local lordships in the Papal States, whether by escheat (failure of the ruler to produce a surviving legitimate male heir) or by the deposition of rebellious vassals and the conquest of their states, did not always result in direct papal rule. Some popes used the opportunity to install their relatives as the new lords. Pius V (reigned 15661572) in 1567 forbade this practice. As a result, the duchy of Ferrara came under direct papal rule with the death of Alfonso II d'Este in 1597, as did Urbino and Pesaro in 1624 with the renunciation of rule by Francesco Maria II della Rovere and his death in 1631. By the early seventeenth century, the process of centralizing power in the Papal States and ruling the major territories and cities directly through papal governors was almost complete. Minor feudal lordships continued, with popes purchasing them and conferring them on their relatives. Overseeing the governors and lords were the Consulta (a collective ministry of the interior headed by the secretary of state), the Buon Governo (which supervised local administrators), and the Economica (under the lifetime Camerlengo, who controlled budgets, agriculture, commerce, and public works). Scholars such as Jean Delumeau (1961) and Paolo Prodi (1968, 1982) see the popes as centralizing authority and providing a model of absolutist rule through their disregard of clerical immunity in the Papal States, while others such as Mario Caravale and Alberto Caracciolo (1978) and Hanns Gross (1990) note the persistence of local traditions, privileges, and administrative structures, with, for example, the oligarchic senate of Bologna enjoying effective autonomy.

The popes were elected, they were obliged to be merciful, and they lacked an effective police force and army; hence, they could never become strong despots. The attempt of Urban VIII (reigned 16231644) to confiscate the duchy of Castro because of the gambling debts of Odoardo I Farnese (16121646) led to a war (16411644) and ended in failure. The popes also lost territories; for example, Modena was lost to the d'Este family in 1527. This isolated the duchy of Parma and Piacenza from the rest of the Papal States, and papal suzerainty became so tenuous that the death of Antonio Farnese (16791731) did not result in direct papal rule due to escheat, but rather in the installation by the great powers of a Spanish Bourbon regime, since Antonio Farnese's sister Elisabetta (16921766) had married Philip V of Spain. French rulers displayed their displeasure toward various popes by repeatedly occupying Avignon and Comtat Venaissin (1664, 16881689, 17681773), which the French Republic permanently annexed in 1791.

The popes saw the Papal States primarily as a guarantor of their independence and as a source of revenue. Some popes tried to improve the economy of their territory, Sixtus V (reigned 15851590) by ending brigandage and encouraging wool and silk production, Innocent XII (reigned 16911700) by enlarging the harbors of Civitavecchia and Nettuno, Clement XII (reigned 17301740) by stimulating commerce and manufacturing. Efforts to drain the malarial Pontine Marshes (a 300-square-mile coastal plain southeast of Rome, stretching from Nettuno to Terracina), especially under Sixtus V and Pius VI, produced little result.


The attempts to challenge the papacy for leadership of the church through general councils ended with the Frenchand imperial-sponsored Council of Pisa-Milan-Asti-Lyon (15111512), which was defeated by the rival papal Fifth Lateran Council (15121517). The appeal of Martin Luther (14831546) for a "free general Christian council in German lands" was initially rebuffed by the popes. When Paul III finally convoked the Council of Trent (15451563), he made sure that his legate presidents controlled its procedures and agenda. While the council made no direct pronouncements on the relationship between a pope and a general council, its willingness to allow the pope to resolve difficulties in interpreting its decrees led to the establishment in 1564 of the powerful Congregation of the Council, whose ever-expanding rulings bolstered papal power, led people to look increasingly to the papacy for doctrinal and disciplinary decisions, and eliminated for three centuries the need to call another council. In 1568 Pius V revised the text of In Coena Domini to excommunicate anyone who appealed to a council against a pope. The mandatory annual public reading of this bull lasted until 1770.

Conciliarist ideas, however, survived, especially at the University of Paris, where they combined with assertions of the independence of the French church and king from papal authority, a position known as Gallicanism. Paul V condemned it in 1613 and had its chief proponent, Edmond Richer (15591631), removed as syndic of the theological faculty. The Assembly of the Clergy in 1682 adopted the Four Articles, declaring that the French king was independent of papal authority in civil matters, that a council was superior to a pope, that the ancient liberties of the French church were to be safeguarded, and that papal decisions were not irreformable unless confirmed by a council. Innocent XI (reigned 16761689) in 1682 and Alexander VIII (reigned 16891691) in 1690 condemned those who subscribed to these articles, but Innocent XII in 1693 temporarily ended the conflict by getting the bishops to retract their signatures, while accepting Louis XIV's nominations to bishoprics and his rights to the revenues of vacant sees, as well as his right to appoint clerics to dependent benefices in them. The articles themselves were left intact.

Views similar to Gallicanism were advanced by the auxiliary bishop of Trier, Johann Nikolaus von Hontheim (17011790), in his work De Statu Ecclesiae et Legitima Potestate Romani Pontificis (1763; Concerning the state of the church and the legitimate power of the Roman pontiff), written under the pseudonym Justinus Febronius. His views were condemned by Clement XIII (reigned 17581769) in 1764, but they were implemented in 1781 by Emperor Joseph II of Austria (ruled 17651790) and hence known as Josephinism; they were also adopted in 1786 by the Synod of Pistoia under Bishop Scipione de' Ricci (17411810) and supported by Joseph's brother and successor Leopold II (ruled 17901792). Eighty-five articles extracted from the synod's decrees, which supported the papally condemned Four Gallican Articles and Jansenist positions and also exempted bishops from papal authority, were rejected as erroneous, heretical, and schismatic by Pius VI in 1794.


The early modern period witnessed some remarkable changes in the college of cardinals, the group of prominent clerics who elected the pope and functioned as his official advisers and chief administrators. The concordats negotiated at Constance in 1418 and the decree of Basel in 1436 attempted to limit the number of cardinals to twenty-four, with no more than a third coming from any one nation, and required of them the minimum age of thirty and an advanced academic degree in Scripture or divine and human law, unless they were close relatives of a great prince. Popes, however, claimed that for the good of the church they needed to increase the number of cardinals. A large increase in the numbers occurred under Leo X in 1517, following a conspiracy on his life, when he promoted thirty-one cardinals at one time. Instead of using twice the number of Christ's apostles as the norm, Sixtus V in 1586 set the limit at seventy, the number of elders assisting Moses. Renaissance popes so advanced the Italianization of the college that only a third of its members were non-Italians, and these usually did not reside in Rome. While many cardinals were well-educated bureaucrats, others received the honor due to family or political connections, on the payment of large sums of money, and, in the case of princely pedigree, with little regard to the age requirement. Popes were also notorious for raising underage relatives to the cardinalate; for instance, Julius III (reigned 15501555) appointed as cardinals both his saintly twelve-year-old grandnephew Roberto de' Nobili (15411559) and his licentious seventeen-year-old adopted nephew Innocenzo del Monte (15321577). Innocent XII in 1692 issued a decree that a pope is allowed to appoint as a cardinal only one suitable relative, to whom could be given only a modest stipend. Pius VI, however, used his office to enrich his relatives.

At the beginning of the early modern period cardinals functioned as powerful, semiautonomous heads of bureaucracies and as protectors of the interests of various nations, religious orders, and factions. As the power of individual cardinals weakened with the increase in their numbers and the use of committees, the consistory, that is, the meeting of the college of cardinals to advise the pope on policy and appointments, eventually met only weekly, often to give perfunctory praise to decisions already made. Also diminishing the power of the cardinals was the rise of the offices of papal intimate secretary and cardinal-nephew. By the mid-seventeenth century the intimate secretary had become the pope's chief adviser and minister, was known as the secretary of state, and had eclipsed the cardinal-nephew. Paul III set the college on a new course by appointing many reform-minded cardinals and instituting special congregations of cardinals to deal with specific issues, such as the Roman Inquisition (1542) and the Council of Trent (1545). Pius IV (reigned 15591565) set up the powerful Congregation of the Council (1564), Pius V that of the Index of Forbidden Books (1571), and Gregory XIII (reigned 15721585) the Congregation for German Affairs (1572). In 1588 Sixtus V rationalized the whole system by setting up fifteen permanent congregations (six for secular affairs, the others for spiritual), each staffed by three to five cardinals who would serve fixed terms and be rotated through the various congregations. As a result of such measures, cardinals became docile bureaucrats and fulfilled ceremonial roles at court and in the papal chapel. Even their power to elect the pope was de facto, though not de jure, limited by the "veto" that could be exercised by an ambassador of a major Catholic power (the Holy Roman Empire, France, or Spain) who personally attended the conclave and could exclude a candidate on the grounds of his unacceptability to that particular nation.

If the cardinals lost power over the early modern period, they managed to maintain their wealth. The reform decrees of the Council of Trent, which forbade the holding of multiple sees and required residence in the one held, forced the cardinals to find alternative sources of revenue in commendatory monasteries (monasteries whose administration was entrusted"commended"to someone other than an elected abbot, who was then entitled to the revenues of an abbot) and pensions drawn on multiple benefices. Cardinals from aristocratic families continued to enjoy private sources of income. And all cardinals were entitled to a handsome share in papal revenues. With such wealth, the cardinals resident in Rome maintained lavish palaces with households that varied in size but averaged about 150 persons. Cardinals so successfully used their positions of wealth and influence to promote their own and their colleagues' family interests, advancing the clerical careers of relatives and negotiating favorable marriages for others, that by the second half of the sixteenth century the college had become one big extended family, with three-quarters of the cardinals related to each other by blood or marriage.


Early modern popes tried to assert their theoretical superiority to bishops while yielding to secular rulers greater influence in their selection. The papacy insisted on its prerogative to confirm the election of a bishop by the canons of a cathedral chapter or to make the appointment itself and to collect from the new bishop as a fee for this confirmation or direct appointment the first year's revenues from his diocese. The popes of this period frequently allied themselves with increasingly powerful local rulers in order to replace the traditional election of bishops by cathedral canons with the direct appointment by the pope of candidates nominated by the rulers. Such arrangements were incorporated into concordats. Bishops thus appointed tended to be very loyal to the rulers who nominated them, and the royal conscience determined in large measure the quality of the episcopate.

The Council of Trent raised the educational level of bishops by requiring of them advanced academic degrees in theology or law (1562), and it emphasized their pastoral responsibilities and hence the obligation of residency (1547, 1563). The national colleges the popes established in Rome (German, 1552; Greek, 1577; Hungarian, 1578, united with the German in 1580; English, 1578; Polish, 1583, 1600; Maronite and Armenian, 1584; Scots, 1600; Irish, 1628; and others) produced clergy who went on to become bishops in their native lands. To strengthen the ties between the pope and the bishops and to provide closer scrutiny of their ministry, Sixtus V in 1585 required all bishops to visit Rome every three to ten years, depending on the distances involved, and to submit regularly written reports on their dioceses. Gregory XIV (reigned 15901591) in 1591 ordered a stricter enforcement of the rules on episcopal qualifications and residency. Papal nuncios resident at courts kept watch over the local bishops and encouraged them to look to the pope as their protector and as head of the universal church. But local bishops could also protest papal intrusion into the affairs of their dioceses, as happened at the German archbishops' meeting at Ems in 1786.


The central administrative, judicial, favor-granting, and financial offices of the Catholic Church, under the supervision of the pope and the college of cardinals, was known in the Renaissance as the Roman Curia. Its departments, often headed by cardinals, employed hundreds of officials ranging from learned canonists to ignorant sealers of documents, men who composed documents, kept records, and collected fees. In the course of the Renaissance, the popes sought to increase their own income by multiplying the number of these offices and selling them for ever higher prices. Those who invested in these lifetime offices were entitled to an annual stipend (valued at 1012 percent of the cost of office) paid by the Camera Apostolica (the chief financial office of the Papal States), and the third who actually functioned in their offices were additionally recompensed by their colleges or departments for the services rendered. Some officials sought to extractextrarevenues from their office by engaging in questionable practices that earned the Curia much ill will.

The early modern popes inherited a bloated bureaucracy. In the quest for new revenues, Leo X so increased the number of venal offices that they doubled during his reign to over two thousand. The popes vigorously resisted any attempts by councils to reform the Curia, claiming that they would reform it themselves. Serious reform came gradually and slowly, given the entrenched interests and hostility of cardinals and curialists. Pressure by popes eliminated some of the venal offices, abusive dispensations, and other practices. But under Sixtus V, the sale of offices, even of major offices in the Camera (chamberlain, treasurer-general, auditor, etc.) became extensive, and the pope resold the offices when promoting their holders to the cardinalate. The value of the offices at the papal court at the end of his pontificate is estimated at four million scudi, with the obligation of paying out a half-million scudi every year in stipends to officeholders. By the early seventeenth century, the Curia, never radically reformed, had been reorganized and regularized, with most glaring abuses abolished.


Throughout much of the Renaissance, papal finances were difficult to manage. The popes levied no annual income tax on church members but instead depended on a patchwork of traditional sources of revenues. Among these were the fees charged for documents appointing or confirming officeholders, the principal fee being the annate or first year's revenue from that office. In 1521 these fees amounted to 13 percent of papal income. The Roman Curia produced almost half of the pope's income by the fees it charged to users of its various services. Fees paid for the composition of documents in the mid-sixteenth century accounted for one-third to one-half of the pope's disposable income. The sale of venal offices produced between 10 and 15 percent of papal revenues. The other major source of revenue was the Papal States. The pope's vassals, vicars, and subject communities paid annual tribute. Revenues also came from various taxes, monopolies, and the sale of shares in monti, or state bonds. In 1521 the Papal States produced about 37 percent of all papal revenues. It is estimated that between 1520 and 1605, when the inflation rate increased about 200 percent, the popes' income rose 255 percent, with temporal revenues rising by 397 percent and spiritual ones by 192 percent. The relative decline in spiritual income can be attributed in part to the loss of revenue from lands that became Protestant and to the elimination of abusive practices in the Curia. It is estimated that the Papal States accounted for 60 percent of papal fixed income under Sixtus IV (reigned 14711484) and 80 percent under Clement VIII (reigned 15921605).

Papal expenditures continued to rise during the early modern period. Almost a third of the annual budget went to paying annuities to holders of venal offices. Salaries paid to papal administrators in Rome and the Papal States accounted for another 20 percent. The cost of maintaining an army and building fortifications could consume upward of 60 percent of temporal revenues on occasion. The college of cardinals was entitled to half of the revenues derived from the Papal States. Maintaining papal ambassadors in fitting style at the courts of Christendom was also expensive. The papal court itself in Rome, with its numerous officials and the free meals it provided to them, its curialists, and others was a major annual expense. Popes spent significant sums on their relatives by way of gifts of money and lands, at times for dowries to contract aristocratic marriages. Huge drains on papal revenues were caused by warse.g., Venice (15091510), Urbino (15161517), the League of Cognac (15261527), Florence (1530), Spain (15561557), Castro (16411644)and by the subsidies popes paid in support of crusades against the Turks, Hussites, Lutherans, and Huguenots. Also costly were various building projects in Rome, such as the new St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican, Quirinal, and Lateran palaces, the Roman College with its satellite national residential colleges for students, and various churches around Rome. The Council of Trent required large papal subsidies. Papal funerals, conclaves, and coronation ceremonies were periodic expenses. The burden of debt continued to grow in the seventeenth century, from about 17 million scudi in 1621 to 50 million in 1676, when Innocent XI finally cut back drastically on expenditures. Eventually about 85 percent of papal income was devoted to servicing debt. The enormous treasure of 3 million golden scudi and 1.2 million silver scudi that Sixtus V was able to amass to cover such emergencies as famine and war cushioned the papacy for two centuries but had the adverse economic effect of restricting economic growth by the removal of so much money from circulation.


Early modern popes tried to maintain the claims of their medieval predecessors to rule not only over the spiritual realm, but also over the temporal order in certain circumstances. They claimed the right to approve the election of the Holy Roman emperor and to crown him personally. Leo X failed in his efforts to block the election of Charles V of Habsburg in 1519, and Clement VII crowned him in Bologna in 1530. No further emperors were crowned by popes, and Paul IV (reigned 15551559) seriously proposed deposing Charles V because of his formal toleration of Protestantism.

Popes did excommunicate kings and encouraged neighboring rulers to conquer their territories. Paul III excommunicated Henry VIII of England by a bull dated 1535 and promulgated in 1538, while Pius V excommunicated Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I, in 1570. Sixtus V in 1585 and Gregory XIV in 1591 both excommunicated the apostate Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV, ruled 15891610), lest this Huguenot become king of France. Paul V's (reigned 16051621) insistence on preserving clerical immunity and the church's right to acquire property and build churches led to his imposing an interdict on Venice in 1606, but in the compromise negotiated by France in 1607 the pope had to back down from his principles.

Urban VIII's support of France and, implicitly, of its ally Sweden, which helped prevent a Habsburg victory in the Thirty Years' War (16181648); his cynical criticism of Emperor Ferdinand II (ruled 16191637) for making the unavoidable Peace of Prague (1635); and Innocent X's (reigned 16441655) denunciation in 1650 of Emperor Ferdinand III (ruled 16371657) for agreeing to the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) weakened the legal and moral authority of the papacy. So politically powerless had the papacy become that when Innocent XI excommunicated Louis XIV and his ministers in 1688 for their support of the Gallican Articles, he did so secretly, and Innocent XII reconciled with the king in 1693 by granting him many concessions. Fear of alienating the Spanish prevented the papacy from having diplomatic relations with Portugal under the Braganza king John IV (ruled 16401656), thus leaving vacant many dioceses there. Clement XI's (reigned 17001721) flip-flops between 1700 and 1709 in supporting rival claimants to the Spanish throne alienated both the Bourbons and Habsburgs and led the great powers to ignore papal wishes. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Catholic rulers increasingly and deliberately exercised their vetoes to prevent the election of strong personalities to the papal office, so as to dominate the popes more easily. The concordats they negotiated with popes gave them ever greater control over church offices and revenues in their realms.

So weak had the papacy become that it was eventually forced by Catholic rulers to suppress the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), a religious order dedicated to service to the popes. Hostility toward the Jesuits had mounted due to jealousy over their influence in high circles, their stranglehold on Latin education in some countries, their anti-Jansenist stance, their involvement in commercial ventures to support their missions, conflicts with other religious orders, especially in the mission fields, and rumors of great wealth and resistance to the directives of popes and kings. Anticlerical Enlightenment figures who saw them as opponents of their ideas were especially keen on destroying them. Sebastião José de Carvalho e Mello (16991782), Marquês de Pombal, prime minister (17561777) of King Joseph I of Portugal, succeeded in expelling the Jesuits from Portuguese lands in 1759 by accusing them of stirring up revolt among the natives of Paraguay and of involvement in an assassination attempt on the king. Louis XV expelled them from France in 1764. Clement XIII's (reigned 17581769) protest against these actions did not stop Charles III from expelling them from Spanish lands in 1767. Innocent XIII (reigned 17211724) tried to placate these Catholic rulers by forbidding the Jesuits to admit new novices for three years. But Charles III's threat to abolish all religious orders and break off diplomatic relations if the Jesuits were not suppressed throughout the church led Clement XIV (reigned 17691774) to issue on 21 July 1773 Dominus ac Redemptor, a draft of which bull was written by the Spanish embassy in Rome. In Orthodox Russia, where the document was not promulgated, the Jesuits survived with the secret approval of Clement's successor Pius VI.


Early modern popes continued to exercise their traditional role, codified in canon law, as the ultimate arbiters of orthodoxy, issuing rulings on their own authority or with the backing of the council, after an examination by a theological commission. In such a way, Leo X issued at the Fifth Lateran Council bulls approving as not usurious the fees charged by public credit organizations (montes pietatis) for monetary loans (1515) and condemning the teachings that denied the human soul's multiplicity and immortality, the unicity of truth, and the creation of the world (1513). In 1520 Leo X condemned the teachings of two Germans; forty-one propositions extracted from the writings of Martin Luther (14831546) were deemed heretical, scandalous, and offensive to pious ears (15 June 1520), while eight days later the Augenspiegel (1511; Eye mirror) of Johannes Reuchlin (14551522) was declared offensive and scandalous and improperly favorable to Jews.

Because of the prohibitions in canon law against disputing with heretics, popes (except for Adrian VI [reigned 15221523]) were initially hesitant to support Catholic controversialist writers. But beginning under Sixtus V major responses to Protestant teaching were published with papal backing by Robert Bellarmine (15421621) and Cesare Baronio (15381607). The two most famous cases toward the end of the Renaissance involving doctrinal questions were the condemnation (8 February 1600) of Giordano Bruno (15481600) for his pantheistic and hermetical ideas and the rejections (1616, 1633) of the Copernican cosmology of Galileo Galilei (15641642). The dispute between Jesuit and Dominican theologians over the teachings of Luis de Molina (15351600), which focused on whether grace was efficacious itself or due to divine foreknowledge, was declared not ripe for resolution in 1607 by Paul V. The book Augustinus, written by the bishop of Ypres, Cornelius Otto Jansen (15851638), and published posthumously in 1640, was examined by a papal commission responding to the formal request of eighty-five French bishops, and the five propositions associated with the book's teaching that espoused extreme positions on grace and free will were condemned in 1653 by Innocent Xin Cum Occasione.

The valid objection of the Jansenists that these propositions, as worded in the papal condemnation, were not to be found in Augustinus was rejected in 1665 by Alexander VII, who required all clergy to subscribe to a document denouncing these propositions. Similar papal condemnations followed in 1690, 1696, 1705, and 1708, culminating in the bull Unigenitus Dei Filius of Clement XI in 1713, which denounced as Jansenist errors 101 propositions extracted from the works of Pasquier Quesnel (16341719). In 1718 the pope censured the French bishops who had appealed to a general council against his bull. Unigenitus Dei Filius was confirmed by Innocent XIII in 1721, by Benedict XIII (reigned 17241730) in 1725, and by Benedict XIV (reigned 17401758) in 1756.

The Jesuit moral teaching known as Probabilism, which allowed one to adopt an ethical course of action supported by solidly probable arguments, also became the target of papal condemnations. Propositions considered too lax were censured by Alexander VII (reigned 16551657) in 16651666, by Innocent XI in 1679, and by Alexander VIII in 1690. A form of spirituality known as Quietism, based on the teachings of the celebrated spiritual director Miguel de Molinos (c. 16401697), who advised many prelates and nuns in Rome on how to achieve perpetual union with God through the annihilation of the will and avoidance of externals, and similar teachings by archbishop François de Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon (16511715) became the targets of papal censures from 1687 to 1699. Because of its secrecy, religious indifferentism, natural religion, and alleged threat to public order, Clement XII in 1738 and Benedict XIV in 1751 condemned Freemasonry. Writings of certain Enlightenment figures were placed on the papal Index of Forbidden Books, for example, Esprit des lois (1748; The spirit of the laws) by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et Montesquieu in 1752; De l'esprit (1758; On the spirit) by Claude-Adrien Helvétius in 1759; and Émile (1762) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1763.

Early modern popes established procedures and institutions to deal with heresy. Inspired by the successes of the Spanish Inquisition, founded in 1478, Cardinal Giampietro Carafa (the future Paul IV) successfully urged Paul III to institute in 1542 the Roman Inquisition, to suppress Protestant ideas in Italy and elsewhere. Also known as the Holy Office, it soon became one of the most important papal bureaucracies. Pius IV in 1564 issued the so-called Tridentine Index of Prohibited Books, the first papal index with continuing authority. In 1571 Pius V established the Congregation of the Index, composed of six cardinals, to oversee the censorship of books. Crucial to the definition of Catholic orthodoxy was the work of the Council of Trent. Pius IV had the Council's central teachings incorporated into the Tridentine Profession of Faith (1564), which he required all bishops, religious superiors, and professors to subscribe to personally with an oath.

By their establishment of the Roman Inquisition and the Congregations of the Council and Index, early modern popes asserted in a striking way their authority to decide and enforce doctrinal orthodoxy. People looked increasingly to Rome for the resolution of doctrinal disputes. Supported by theological treatises and by popular devotion to the papacy, which was promoted by Jesuit sodalities, a belief in papal infallibility steadily grew despite disagreements over how it should be formulated.


The early modern papacy often assumed a significant role in the defense of Christendom from Islamic threats. The papacy often encouraged this effort by providing financial subsidies and sending its own troops, sailors, and ships to join in the expeditions. The efforts of Leo X to organize a united crusade against the Turks failed due to the rivalry between the Habsburg and Valois dynasties, which would hinder all serious coordinated efforts for the next forty years. The Holy League (the papacy, Spain, and Venice), which Pius V negotiated, scored a temporary naval victory at Lepanto (7 October 1571), but Cyprus fell permanently to the Turks in 1571. In the seventeenth century, popes continued to support efforts to defend Christendom, supplying ships and money for the failed attempt to save Crete in 16681669, helping to forge the military alliance of Catholic powers that scored a victory over the Turks at the Dniester in 1673, rescued Vienna in 1683, freed Hungary in 1686, and recovered Belgrade in 1688, and providing papal assistance to Venice in the 1690s and in 1714, which failed, however, to prevent Venice from losing all its possessions in the Peloponnese.


Early modern popes tried by various means either to bring heretics back to the church or to eradicate them. Leo X sent Cardinal Tamas Bakócz (14421521) on an unsuccessful peace mission to the Hussites in 1513. On urgings from Rome, Waldensian communities were forcibly eradicated from Calabria, gradually eliminated in Apulia, and ordered expelled from France and Savoy. The papacy tried to negotiate a reconciliation with Protestants by indicating a willingness to make various concessions in the area of church discipline and property, and it also participated through its representatives in the colloquies held between Catholic and Protestant theologians at Worms in 1540, Regensburg in 1541, and Poissy in 1561, which failed to resolve major differences. Paul III sent money and troops to aid Emperor Charles V against the Lutherans, while Pius IV and subsequent popes provided financial subsidies to the French kings and the Catholic League in its armed struggle with the Huguenots. During the Thirty Years' War (16181648), Paul V and Gregory XV (reigned 16211623) provided over two million florins to the Catholic League led by the Habsburg and Wittelsbach rulers, but Urban VIII secretly backed the French, who were allied with the Protestants, and withheld subsidies to the Catholics until it was too late, thus preventing a Catholic victory. Louis XIV's revocation in 1685 of the Edict of Nantes, which had granted toleration to the Huguenots in France, was approved by Innocent XI, who, however, disapproved of the subsequent persecutions.

The popes also tried by means of diplomacy and missionary activities to win back to the church lands that had gone Protestant. Gregory XIII entered into detailed but unsuccessful negotiations to reconcile with Sweden. Clement VIII accepted the reconversion to Catholicism of Henry IV of France and absolved him of ecclesiastical censures (1595). The popes also entertained the hope of reconciliation with the Stuart monarchs of England but failed to give support to the Catholic James II (ruled 16851688), whose imprudent policies Innocent XI opposed. To train missionaries to work in German, English, and Scandinavian Protestant lands the popes established seminaries.

The popes also concerned themselves with restoring church unity with Eastern Christians. Through the work of the Franciscans, the Maronites of Lebanon made a formal obedience to Leo X at the Fifth Lateran Council (1516); by the efforts of the Dominicans the elected patriarch of the Assyrian Chaldean church, Yuhannan Sulaka (d. 1555), submitted in person to Julius III, who confirmed him as patriarch Simon VIII on 20 February 1553. Clement VIII supported the work of the Jesuits to bring the Syro-Malabar Christians of India into union with Rome but did not confirm the latinizing decrees of the Synod of Diamper (1599), and Benedict XIV in 1744 prohibited certain customs contained in the Malabar rite. Eighty years of papal backing for the Jesuit mission to the Orthodox Ethiopian church ended in failure in 1632 due to over-latinization.

Gregory XIII warmly received the emissaries sent in 1581 by Ivan IV (the Terrible), grand duke of Muscovy (ruled 15331584), who asked the pope to mediate a peace with Catholic Poland-Lithuania and suggested his own openness to a church union. Once the papal nuncio Antonio Possevino (15341611) had negotiated a truce in 1582, he discovered that the tsar did not want union with Rome. Fearful of Muscovite domination, the Byzantine rite bishops of Poland-Lithuania requested union with Rome, which Clement VIII granted on 23 December 1595. The Greek Orthodox Rusyns in eastern Slovakia joined Rome at the synod of Uzhorod (1646), those in Transcarpathia (Ukraine) at Mukachevo in 1664, and those in Romania in 1713; together they constituted the Ruthenian Catholic church, given separate status in 1771. The papacy in the 1630s backed Cyril II Contares (d. 1640) in his opposition to the attempt of Cyril Lucaris (15721638) to introduce Calvinist doctrine into the Greek Orthodox Church. Through the efforts of Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, a Melkite patriarchate in union with Rome was established in Syria under the leadership of archbishop Euthymius of Sidon and Tyre (16831723) with the conversion of patriarch Athanasius IV in 1724. The Armenian communities in Poland-Lithuania and Walachia joined Rome in 1635, while some in the Near East were accepted into union with the Catholic Church by Benedict XIV in 1742, who appointed Abraham Ardzivian (16791749) as their patriarch. The conversion of prominent Orthodox prelates led to the establishment of the Coptic Catholic Church in 1741 and the Syrian Catholic Church in 1782.


The early modern popes were also concerned with the spread of the Catholic faith into non-Christian lands. Their chief allies in this task were the Iberian rulers, whose state-sponsored voyages of exploration opened up new lands for evangelization, and the religious orders whose members served as missionaries. By a series of bulls the popes conferred patronage rights and evangelization responsibilities. To aid the friar missionaries in the work of evangelizing America, Adrian VI in 1522 by the bull Omnimoda granted them many of the faculties of bishops. The Third Provincial Council of Mexico in 1585 adopted the decrees of Trent, curtailing these privileges, and Sixtus V in 1589 formally confirmed its decrees, subjecting the religious in these territories to episcopal control in their pastoral work.

The popes intervened on a number of other issues. Paul III by his brief Pastorale Officium (1537) condemned the enslavement of natives, a prohibition repeated in 1639 by Urban VIII. In his bull Sublimis Deus (1537), Paul III taught that the natives were fully human with rights of their own and could become full Christians. His bull Altitudo Divini Consilii (1537) required the traditional rites in administering baptism to converts and assured the converts the right to receive the Eucharistboth implicit criticisms of Franciscan practices. Leo X in his brief Exponi nobis (1518) urged that natives be trained and ordained as clergy. While the Portuguese followed Leo's ruling, the Spanish adopted a contrary policy, which the popes had difficulty trying to modify. French missionaries opened seminaries in Asia. The first Chinese bishop was the Dominican Lo Wen-tsao (also known as Luo Wenzao and Gregorio López; 16171691), who began ordaining native priests in 1688.

The foundation of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (1622) indicated greater papal involvement in the missions. It tried to break the stranglehold of Portuguese and Spanish patronage over the missions by opening new mission fields, establishing many more dioceses and apostolic vicariates, bringing their bishops into closer contact with Rome, and creating native clergy. Questions of missionary methodology were brought to it for resolution. By a series of rulings from 1615 to 1742, the popes approved the use of the vernacular in the liturgy in China and tolerated (as a private civil ceremony) but then condemned (as a pagan religious cult) the veneration of ancestors prescribed by Confucianism. The approach of Roberto de' Nobili (15771656) in his work among the Hindu Brahmins was approved by Gregory XV in 1623. In 1627 Urban VIII founded the Collegio Urbano in Rome to train missionaries, and popes supported the seminary of the Société des Missions Étrangères (Society of Foreign Missions) founded in Paris in 1663.


While most early modern popes were trained in canon law or theology and only a few in classical letters (among them Leo X, Paul IV, Urban VIII, and Alexander VII), they recognized the advantages of employing humanists as apostolic secretaries and curial officials and encouraged writers and artists to use their skills in the service of religion. Leo X had as his private secretaries the famous humanists Jacopo Sadoleto (14771547) and Pietro Bembo (14701547), and he praised Desiderius Erasmus (1466?1536) for his scholarly editions of scriptural and patristic texts. Humanist influence is evident in the more Ciceronic prose and clear script used in the chancery and in the classicizing, epideictic style of oratory in the papal chapel. Popes patronized both traditional scholastic theology and the new humanistic theology that borrowed Neoplatonic concepts, analyzed apostolic and patristic texts, and used Christian antiquity as a model for critiquing the current church. Popes generally supported the informal academies and literary circles of Rome, while churchmen and nobles acted as their patrons.

The popes founded new institutions of learning and supported existing ones. They were generous to the Vatican Library. Between 1587 and 1589 Sixtus V commissioned the architect Domenico Fontana to construct its present elegant quarters. Gregory XV added to it in 1623 the Palatine Library of the University of Heidelberg donated by Maximilian of Bavaria; Alexander VII added in 1657 the library of the dukes of Urbino; Alexander VIII purchased in 1690 the Reginensis library of Christina Vasa (16261689), a convert to Catholicism and former queen of Sweden (ruled 16321654) who retired to and died in Rome, and his own family's (the Ottoboni) library was added in 1748; and Clement XI added a rich collection of Oriental volumes. Paul V collected the archival material from the library and housed it separately as the Vatican Secret Archives.

Of the already existing universities in the Papal States (Rome, Bologna, Perugia, and Ferrara; Macerata was added in 1540), the university in Rome (known as the Sapienza since the time of Paul III) received special papal support. Leo X established new professorships, regulations, and a Greek college. Alexander VII finished building the university's quarters at Sant'Ivo and provided it with a library and a botanical garden on the Gianicolo Hill. The Jesuit Collegio Romano was founded in 1551; courses there in philosophy and theology were inaugurated in 1553. While some churchmen established private seminaries in Rome, Pius IV in 1565 founded the Roman Seminary, whose students attended lectures at the Collegio Romano, for which Gregory XIII provided new quarters and endowments in 1572.

With the help of scholars, popes carried out a number of projects. They issued the Roman Catechism (1566) and corrected editions of the Breviary (1568, 1602, 1631; in 1741 Benedict XIV set up a commission to reform it again), the Missal (1570, 1604), the code of canon law (1582), the calendar (1582), the Roman Martyrology (1584), the Vulgate Bible (1590, 1592), the Pontificale (1596), and the Rituale Romanum (1614); they also set new rules governing canonizations (1625, 17341738). The Vatican Press was founded by Sixtus V in 1587, and a second press known as Polyglot, which had numerous oriental fonts, was established around 1627 by Urban VIII to assist the work of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

The popes of the ancien régime and the Enlightenment took various stances toward contemporary culture. While they embraced many aspects of Renaissance culture, they resisted the Enlightenment when it became separated from and critical of established religion. They were unable to harness the new forces that ultimately led to the French Revolution and its attempt to replace the church with a civil deistic religion. But the papacy survived and eventually adjusted to new circumstances, as it has throughout history.

See also Benedict XIV (pope) ; Gallicanism ; Holy Leagues ; Inquisition, Roman ; Jansenism ; Jesuits ; Josephinism ; Julius II (pope) ; Leo X (pope) ; Libraries ; Missions and Missionaries ; Paul III (pope) ; Paul V (pope) ; Pius IV (pope) ; Pius V (pope) ; Religious Orders ; Sixtus V (pope) ; Trent, Council of ; Urban VIII (pope) .


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Nelson H. Minnich

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