Ems, Congress of
EMS, CONGRESS OF
The meeting of the representatives of the three prince-electors of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier, and the prince archbishop of Salzburg at Bad Ems (July 25 to Aug. 25, 1786). Its purpose was to establish a common policy for the German metropolitans against the alleged restrictions of their jurisdiction by the Roman Curia through the accreditation of papal nuncios to various German principalities.
Background. This anti-Roman attitude of the archbishops was as much the result of the enlightened ideas of febronianism and gallicanism as of the lust for power of the metropolitans that was supported by Emperor joseph ii. The immediate occasion for this congress was the erection of a papal nunciature in Munich at the request of the Bavarian Prince-Elector Karl The odor (Feb. 17, 1785). Its purpose was to limit the jurisdiction of foreign bishops in Bavaria, after the Roman Curia had declined to erect new bishoprics in Bavarian territory. Thereupon the three prince-electors, as well as the archbishop of Salzburg and other bishops, sent a written protest to the pope and to Karl Theodor. The latter, however, assured the churchmen that this new nunciature did not change anything in German Canon Law and, like pius vi, he rejected the protest as devoid of application. Then the archbishop of Mainz, Friedrich Karl Joseph von erthal, sent a written complaint to the emperor, requesting him as protector of the German Church to protest to Rome against the sending of a nuncio to Munich. The ruler replied that he recognized the nuncios in Munich and in Cologne only as diplomatic representatives of their secular sovereign, not as the bearers of any ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and he invited the prince-elector of Mainz to let him know his own and his suffragans' objections against the Roman Curia. Encouraged by this answer from the emperor, the German archbishops refused to accept the credentials of the papal nuncios in Cologne and Munich, prohibited any appeal to their tribunals, and declared their jurisdiction in the Reich as ended. When the new nuncios began to exercise their rights anyway, the metropolitans tried to counter this move of the pope by assembling at Ems under the leadership of Erthal.
The Punctation of Ems. The 23 articles of the Ems agreement (Aug. 25, 1786), signed by all delegates, proposed to limit the pope to those rights he had held prior to the time of the False Decretals. Its main resolutions were as follows: The plenary powers of the nuncios in matters of dispensation, inquisitorial proceedings, and acceptance of appeals should in the future pass to the bishops. The episcopal oath prescribed by Gregory IX (1227–41) was declared incompatible with the duties of an imperial prince. Appeals to Rome were to be abolished. Exemptions of religious orders were to be revoked, and their connection with Rome severed. Roman decrees were to require the episcopal placet. Roman benefices and Roman legal procedure were to be reformed in favor of the national bishops. Finally, the Vienna concordat agreed to in 1448 by the Holy See and Frederick III would have to be abrogated and replaced by the decrees of the Council of Basel (1431–49) and the Agreement of Aschaffenburg (1447). Early in September of 1786 the articles of the Ems draft agreement were sent to Joseph II, who approved them but suggested a consultation between the metropolitans and their suffragan bishops. (see false decretals.)
Opposition to the decrees. Meanwhile, however, a strong party fought the Ems resolutions through fear that a great increase in power of the metropolitans might even cause a schism. The opposition of the bishops was strengthened by the uncompromising attitude of the prince-elector of Bavaria, who in a Promemoria directed to the Imperial Diet defended the nuncios and energetically opposed the usurpation of the archbishops. When other secular princes approved this standpoint, there appeared early in 1790 the Pii Papae VI responsio super nuntiaturis apostolicis (1789), which refuted the complaints against the papal nunciatures, reprimanded in a paternal way the revolt of the archbishops, and refused to accede to their request for a papal legate to the Imperial Diet, saying that negotiations about this matter were outside the competence of such an envoy. Impressed by this papal declaration, Abp. Clement Wenceslaus of Trier withdrew from the agreement within a month. The metropolitans of Cologne and Salzburg gave up their attempts at ecclesiastical innovations in the wake of the French Revolution. Thus, there remained only the initiator of the congress, Prince-Elector von Erthal of Mainz, who did not want to bow down. But he could not realize his subversive ecclesiastical plans. The victorious French revolutionary armies invaded Germany, annexed a large part of his domains to the French Republic, and drove him and the two other Rhenish metropolitans from their capitals. The Punctation of Ems thus became meaningless.
Bibliography: h. schotte, "Zur Geschichte des Emser Kongresses," Historisches Jahrbuch der Görres-Gesellschaft 35 (1914) 319–348. g. j. jansen, Kurfürst-Erzbischof Max Franz von Köln und die episkopalistischen Bestrebungen seiner Zeit (Bonn 1933). e. wolf, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 2:462–463. l. just, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957-65) 3:856–57.