Clement XI, Pope
CLEMENT XI, POPE
Pontificate: Nov. 23, 1700, to March 19, 1721; b. Giovanni Francesco Albani, Urbino, Italy, July 23, 1649. Of a noble Umbrian family, he was educated at the Roman College, where he became expert in the classics and admitted into the famed Academy of Queen Christina of Sweden. The study of theology and law followed, and in 1677, at the age of 28, he became associated with the Papal Curia as governor of Rieti and, later, of the Sabine province and Orvieto. In 1687 he was appointed secretary of briefs, in 1690 created cardinal deacon, and ordained in September 1700. When more senior candidates in the conclave of 1700 proved unacceptable, Cardinal Albani, only 51 and highly regarded for his virtuous life and his experience in government, was elected pope after 46 days of deliberation.
European Diplomacy. It was his misfortune to reign while the prestige of the papacy was diminishing in the political life of Europe, and this explains many of the problems of the pontificate. The chief European powers were at war during much of his pontificate (War of the Spanish Succession, 1701–14). Neutrality proved difficult, since almost every decision Clement made in international affairs was challenged by one of the monarchs involved. Shortly after his election, he approved the selection of the French Philip of Anjou as king of Spain, but when the Austrians invaded the Papal States and threatened Rome in 1709, Clement was forced to favor the cause of the Austrian Hapsburg claimant to the Spanish throne. In the proceedings of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), not only was the pope ignored, but one of the papal dominions, Sicily, was transferred to Savoy. Similarly, the treaty opposed the pope by granting the title of king of Prussia to the elector of Brandenburg and by discounting the claims of the son of James II to the English throne. On the other hand, Clement was successful in a project that gave him great consolation—arousing Spain and Austria to take defensive measures against the Turks.
Church-State Relations. No less complicated were Clement's problems in Church-State relations, with Spain after Philip V was rejected and with France during the closing years of Louis XIV's rule and the Regency period. Some historians believe that the pope lacked vigor and decisiveness in handling the major problems that confronted him. He seems to have been timorous by nature; he loved peace and harmony, and hence was slow to press for immediate solutions. He was, however, realistic enough to appreciate the fact that the power of the papacy was waning, and therefore persuasion and negotiation were more necessary. Thus he wrestled for years with the Jansenist-Gallican party in France and showed extraordinary patience with the highly controversial archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Louis de noailles. In condemnation of jansenism he issued the bulls Vineam Domini (1705) and unigenitus (1713), the latter being a detailed study of the doctrine of the Jansenist Pasquier quesnel. Unigenitus proved to be a source of contention in France for the next 30 years, but eventually it was accepted as official policy in Church and State. Equally controversial was Clement's decision in the chinese rites controversy, when he curtailed the use of local Chinese customs in the Jesuit missions. The decision was reached after lengthy discussions in commissions and after long study by the pope himself. Furthermore, the implementation of the new policy by his representatives in China lacked discretion and was the cause of severe tensions in the missions, and the persecution of Chinese Christians.
The foreign missions were close to Clement's heart, a mark of his burning desire to further the Church's interests. He encouraged missionary work in northern Germany and in the Philippines, and he promoted new missionary colleges in Rome. His pastoral concern for the clergy and faithful was felt more directly in Rome and in the papal dominions. He encouraged bishops to reside in their sees and recommended to all the clergy the annual retreat, and in particular the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. His generosity to the poor was exemplary, and he provided broad support for the arts and scholarship. And with all his administrative duties, he remained a scholar, striving always to enlarge the collections of the Vatican Library and to preserve the cultural treasures of Rome. Clement composed the Breviary Office in honor of St. Joseph, and decreed the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM obligatory for Christiandom. His letters, briefs, and homilies were collected and published by his nephew, Cardinal Annibale albani (2 v. Rome 1729).
Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) v. 33. a. fliche and v. martin, eds., Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours (Paris 1935–) v. 19.1–2. l. nina, Le Finánze pontificie sotto Clemente XI (Milan 1928). a. aldobrandini, La guerra di successione di Spagna negli stati dell'Alta Italia dal 1702 al 1705 e la politica di Clemente XI dal carteggio di Mons (Rome 1931). a. cornaro, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 2:1227–28. c. johns, Rome in the Age of Clement XI (New York 1993). a. le roy, La France et Rome de 1700 à 1715 (Paris 1892).
[c. b. o'keefe]