Spanish Dominican and theologian; b. Tarancón (Cuenca), Jan. 6, 1509; d. Toledo, Sept. 30, 1560. His De
locis theologicis entitles him to be regarded as the founder of modern fundamental theology. After entering the dominicans in 1523, he studied from 1527 to 1531 under Francisco de vitoria at salamanca. Cano always remained grateful to his old master, who inspired him to attempt a new, methodical treatment of theology based on the sources and expressed in literary language.
In 1533 his brilliant but stormy career began with his appointment as a lecturer in philosophy at the Dominican College of St. Gregory in Valladolid. There too he obtained the second chair in theology in 1536, having for his senior colleague Bartolomé de carranza. From this period dates the rivalry between these two utterly incompatible characters, which ended only with Cano's death. His outstanding ability won for him the principal professorship of theology at the University of alcalÁ in 1542 and the succession to De Vitoria at Salamanca in 1546. Two of his courses from this period (1546–52), the Relectio de sacramentis in genere and the Relectio de paenitentia, were printed in 1550. His reputation as a theologian was enhanced during his attendance (1551–52) at the Council of trent as theologian of the Emperor charles v. He was rewarded with the bishopric of the Canary Islands, but he did not take up residence and resigned the see in 1554. He then became involved in the religious politics of the Spanish court, and his impetuous disposition gained him many enemies. As the theological adviser of philip ii in his dispute with Pope paul iv, he fell into deep disfavor at Rome. Further causes of contention were his implacable hostility to the newly founded Society of Jesus and his campaign against the immunities and privileges of powerful cathedral chapters. Although twice (1557, 1559) elected provincial of the Castile Dominicans, he was denied confirmation in office by Rome until 1560, after the death of Paul IV. The leader of the opposition against him among the Spanish Dominicans was his old rival Carranza, since 1557 archbishop of Toledo. Less brilliant as a theologian and more tolerant of new currents in spirituality, Carranza differed also from Cano in his esteem for the jesuits and papal theologians. Carranza's Commentarios sobre el Catecismo Cristiano (Antwerp 1588) brought him into conflict with the inquisition, and Cano was charged to examine the book. He produced two long lists of censured propositions. His attitude in this unhappy affair is still a matter of controversy.
Cano's epoch-making and influential treatise on theological method, the De locis theologicis, was first printed posthumously in 1563. Book 1 is introductory; bks. 2 to 11 deal with the authority of the ten loci, or sources of theology: Scripture, oral tradition, the Catholic Church, the councils, the Roman Church, Fathers, theologians, natural reason, philosophers, and human history. Book 12 treats of the use of the loci in scholastic disputation; bks. 13 and 14 were planned to discuss their use in the exposition of Scripture and in controversy with adversaries of the Catholic faith; these, however, were never written. The work is a skillful application to theology of the methodological principles expounded by Rodolphus Agricola in his De inventione dialectica (Cologne 1548).
Bibliography: The De locis theologicis has had about 30 editions, most recently in j. p. migne, Theologiae cursus completus, 28v. (Paris 1837–66) 1:58–716; since the Cologne edition of 1605 the two Relectiones have been included. f. a. caballero, Melchior Cano, v.2. of his Conquenses ilustres, 4 v. (Madrid 1868–75). j. quÉtif and j. Échard, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum (Paris 1719–23) 2.1:176–178. p. mandonnet, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 2.2:1537–1540. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Tables générales 513–514. a. lang, Die Loci Theologici des Melchior Cano und die Methode des dogmatischen Beweises (Munich 1925); Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, new eds. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 2:918. e. marcotte, La Nature de la théologie d'après M. Cano (Ottawa 1949). a. duval, Catholicisme 2:465–467.