Clement VIII, Pope

views updated


Pontificate: Jan. 30, 1592, to March 5, 1605; b. Ippolito Aldobrandini, Fano, Italy, Feb. 24, 1536. Of an old and distinguished Florentine family, the fourth son of Silvestro aldobrandini and Lisa Deti, Ippolito studied law at Padua, Perugia, and Bologna, where he received the doctorate. Under Pius V, a family benefactor, he became consistorial advocate in 1568, and auditor of the Rota in 1570. Rapidly promoted under Sixtus V, he became datary, only becoming a priest in 1581. In December 1585 he was made cardinal priest of the titular church of St. Pancratius. He was consecrated as a bishop only after his election as pope. In January 1586 he became grand penitentiary. His public prominence was furthered when, as legate extraordinary, he successfully mediated the dispute over the Polish throne to the satisfaction of both King Sigismund III and Emperor Rudolf II. During three conclaves, from 1590 to 1591, he received support, but he was elected in 1592 when the influence of Philip II in papal elections had begun to wane.

A lifetime friend of St. Philip neri, Clement was known for his high moral integrity and devout character, as well as for industry and attention to detail. As pope he was an example of kindliness and charity in his frequent visits to Roman churches and his care for the poor, sick, and imprisoned; in his legislation he aimed at improving conditions within the papal territories. With piety and pastoral zeal he worked tirelessly for the improvement of the Church, and its spiritual growth, striving for the removal of abuses and scandals.

Of primary importance was Clement's enlightened policy regarding the Church in France. He reversed the former pro-Spanish policy of the papacy in the Wars of Religion by absolving henry iv and recognizing him as legitimate king in France. This reconciliation was followed by papal toleration of the Edict of nantes (1598) and the implementation of the Tridentine decrees that brought about the rejuvenation of the French Church. Henry's support in 1597 allowed Clement to claim successfully, against the opposition of Spain and the Empire, that the Duchy of Ferrara had devolved to papal jurisdiction after the death of Duke Alphonso II without legitimate heir. The incorporation of Ferrara into the Papal State bolstered its economic and fiscal position. Moreover, Clement was able to bring about peace between France and Spain in 1598 and also between France and Savoy.

Clement also attempted to improve the situation of the English Catholics. While dealing with the archpriest controversy and internal disputes within the English mission, he supported and strengthened the English colleges on the Continent and established the Scottish college in Rome. His hopes for reconciliation with the English court proved futile. Although James VI of Scotland had seemed amenable to a settlement with the papacy, after his succession to the English throne was secured, James proved recalcitrant.

Considered one of the last Counter-Reformation popes, Clement assisted the work of St. francis de sales in Geneva and furthered Catholic reform in Poland and Germany. He received the reunion of the metropolitan of Kiev and a number of Ruthenian bishops in 1595 following the Union of brest. Clement failed in his efforts to inaugurate an effective league of Christian princes against the Ottoman Turks, but he furthered the foreign missions by establishing central commissions whose work anticipated that of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

In a series of decrees he promoted the reform of religious houses and the fidelity of bishops and clergy to the dictates of Trent. He ordered a new and corrected edition of the Vulgate, and also new editions of the Pontifical (1596), the Ceremonial (1600), the Breviary (1602), and the Missal (1604). He raised to the cardinalate Cesare Baronius, Robert Bellarmine, Francesco Tarugi, Francisco de Toledo, Silvio Antoniano, and his two nephews Cinzio and Pietro Aldobrandini. His excellent choice of advisers more than compensated for his occasional lack of decisiveness. In 1600 he proclaimed a Jubilee Year.

During Clement's reign a serious theological controversy arose over Luis de molina's theory of the efficacy of divine grace. Confronted by a heated dispute between the Jesuits and the Dominicans, Clement established a commission to investigate the problem, the famous congregatio de auxiliis. While Clement personally presided at the debates before the commission, he refrained from pronouncement, and the matter was settled only after his death.

His remains rest in the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore under a monument erected by the Borghese family.

Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, (LondonSt. Louis 193861) v.23 and 34. Bullarium Romanum (Magnum), ed. h. mainardi and c. cocquelines, 18 folio v. (Rome 173362) v.911. r. mols, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillat et al. (Paris 1912) 12:124997. j. de la serviÈre, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 3.1:7686. a. f. artaud de montor, The Lives and Times of the Popes, ed. and tr. c. artaud de montor, 10 v. (New York 191011) 5:221260. g. labrot, Image de Rome. Une Arme pur la Contre-Reforme, 15341677 (Seyssel 1987). j. freiberg, The Lateran in 1600. Christian Concord in Counter-Reformation Rome (Cambridge 1995). w. v. hudson, "Religion and Society in Early Modern ItalyOld Questions, New Insights" American Historical Review (June 1996) vol. 101,n.3, 783804. g. lutz ed., Das Papsttum die Christenheit und die Staaten Europas 15921605 (Tubingen 1994). m. c. abromson, Painting in Rome during the Papacy of Clement VIII (New York 1981).

[j. c. willke]