Gregory XVI, Pope
GREGORY XVI, POPE
Pontificate: Feb. 2, 1831, to June 1, 1846; b. Bartolomeo Alberto (Mauro) Cappellari, at Belluno (in Venetia), Italy, Sept. 18, 1765.
Prepapal Career. He was the son of Giovanni Cappellari, a lawyer, and Giulia (Cesa-Pagani) Cappellari, both of noble birth. In 1783 he joined the monastic order of camaldolese and entered the monastery of San Michele di Murano near Venice, taking Mauro as his religious name. After ordination (1787), he became in 1790 professor of science and philosophy. Sent to Rome in 1795 to assist the order's procurator general, he was chosen abbot of the monastery of San Gregorio on the Caelian Hill in 1805. In 1807 he became procurator-general of the Camaldolese. His opposition to the French during the Napoleonic occupation led to his expulsion from the Eternal City (1807). He went then to his monastery in Murano and later dwelt in Padua. In 1814 he returned to Rome, remaining there the rest of his life. In addition to his duties as abbot and as professor of theology, he served as consultor to the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, the Holy Office, and other Roman congregations, and as examiner of prospective bishops. Leo XII named him apostolic visitor to four local universities.
Cappellari became vicar-general of the Camaldolese in 1823. After declining the sees of Zante and Tivoli, he was proclaimed a cardinal (March 13, 1826). He acted as consultor to the Congregation for the propagation of the faith from 1821 and as prefect from 1826 until his election as pope (Feb. 2, 1831). Between this last date and his enthronement (February 6) he received episcopal consecration.
Previous to 1831 Cappellari was noted for his interest in theology and in the missions. As a theologian he revived the teachings of Augustine and Aquinas in Catholic institutions. In 1799 he published Il Trionfo della Santa Sede e della Chiesa contro gli assalti dei novatori combattuti e respinti colle stese loro armi (The Triumph of the Holy See against the Assaults of the Innovators).
At the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs Cappellari sought to establish contact with the new political order created by the french revolution. At Propaganda he strove to promote the interests of the Church in the diverse, far-flung countries under the jurisdiction of this congregation, which then had under its charge the Church in Great Britain, Ireland, the Low Countries, Prussia, Scandinavian lands, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the entire Western Hemisphere.
Profiting by the religious liberty recently inscribed in the Fundamental Law of the Netherlands, he collaborated efficaciously in the conclusion of a concordat with this government (1827). In 1829 he regulated the manner of making episcopal nominations in Ireland. He helped draft the brief of Pius VIII (March 25, 1830) to the German bishops concerning the growing dispute over mixed marriages in Prussia.
These activities revealed Cappellari's apostolic realism. He displayed the same qualities in his dealings with mission territories, where he created numerous vicariates apostolic. In every way open to him he facilitated the administration of the Sacraments, especially Baptism. His decree (July 2, 1827) distinguishing between the religious and purely civil significance of certain rites permitted Catholics in Siam to participate in them by classifying them as merely civil.
The conclave in 1831 remained in session nearly 50 days before selecting Cardinal Cappellari as pope. Two groups among the cardinals, the conservative zelanti and the more liberal politicanti, opposed one another differing in their appreciation of the relevance to the papacy of the politicoreligious consequences of the French Revolution and the intellectual unrest caused by the enlightenment. Cappellari, who was regarded in the 1829 conclave as papabile, received 33 of the 41 votes and the support of Metternich. Only after receiving an order from his confessor and fellow Camaldolese, Cardinal Zurla, did he accept the papal dignity.
Papal Doctrinal Pronouncements. By temperament he was cold, but his relations with rosmini-serbati prove his capacity for friendship. All during his pontificate, however, he retained his austere monastic mode of life. "I am always a monk," he declared. At the time he ascended the papal throne, faith was menaced by rationalism and indifferentism, and traditional civil authority by liberalism. Gregory XVI attacked their underlying principles. In his solution of the practical problems stemming from these trends he sought accommodations.
One of his dominant views was clearly inscribed in Il trionfo…. Although written in a heavy style, repletewith digressions, it was reprinted several times in Italian between 1831 and 1846, and appeared in a German translation (1833, 1838). The book was directed against the partisans of jansenism and those who upheld the power of the state to control religious matters. It repudiated the liberties that these protagonists claimed for the state in opposition to the rights of the Holy See, because Christ established the Church as a monarchy. Although the author insisted that this ecclesiastical monarchy enjoyed full liberty to exercise its power, he did not envision it as a despotism but neither did he regard it as an aristocracy or as a democracy. The pope is unable to alter this form of government, continued the argument, because the Church's constitution is divine in origin and, therefore, unchangeable, unlike civil governments, which are subject to essential modifications.
This fundamental thesis of Il trionfo was not, strictly speaking, a doctrine of church and state; it concerned, rather, the Church's internal life. From this thesis the author concluded that the Church is independent of the civil power and, secondly, that the pope enjoys infallibility when he speaks as head of the Church, but does not when he speaks merely as a theologian.
"Mirari vos." Some of the essential ideas of Il trionfo appeared in Mirari vos (Aug. 15, 1832). Two sets of circumstances moved the pope to publish this famous encyclical, forerunner of the syllabus of errors (1864). The first was the increasing influence of Hugues Félicité de lamennais, the champion of Catholic liberalism. The other was the political situation in italy, particularly in the states of the church. Added to this was the continual conservative pressure on the Holy See applied by Metternich.
In his eagerness to effect a religious renovation, Lamennais sought first a reorganization of theological studies. In this program he had the support of Leo XII until 1826. After this date, Lamennais, in his opposition to gallicanism and to the ancien régime type of government restored in France after the fall of Napoleon I, came to demand liberty for the Church and, consequently, complete separation, at least temporarily, between Church and State. Undoubtedly Lamennais intended to enfranchise the Church from servitude to the civil power. At the same time, his passionate polemics, especially in his journal L'Avenir, defended theses that would lead to political democracy, if not to revolution. Around him Lamennais gathered montalembert, lacordaire, gerbet, de coux, and other talented disciples who promoted Catholic liberalism. Outside of France the influence of Lamennais penetrated Belgium, the Rhineland, Italy, Poland, and Ireland. In philosophy Lamennais taught traditionalism. This combination of philosophical and political concepts in the writings of the French publicist manifested a naturalism that was perhaps unconscious but undoubtedly displeasing to some upholders of ultramontanism and to many conservatives.
Gregory XVI became increasingly alarmed by the program of Lamennais because of the serious political unrest current in Italy, especially in his own temporal domain, where revolution broke out in 1831. Demands for civil and national emancipation kept increasing throughout the peninsula. The situation in Italy was a factor that necessarily weighed heavily on the pope's mind as he composed the encyclical.
Mirari vos affirmed rigorously the supernatural character of the Church's constitution and the primacy of its teaching power. But the encyclical, at least insofar as it concerned Italy, confused the Church's divine constitution with the clericalized monarchical institutions of the States of the Church. Gregory XVI seemed to hold that, by reason of the divine origin of papal authority, his own political authority in the Papal States was immutable. Therein could be discerned the roman question, badly posed.
In Mirari vos the pope dealt with principles and abstractions, addressing himself to the entire Catholic world. Before his mind were those countries where the union of throne and altar promoted the Church's supernatural goals and also mission territories in which the union of Church and State could produce great temporal and spiritual advantages. For these reasons the encyclical disapproved separation of the two powers, castigated all revolutionary movements, and demanded support of monarchical regimes. By assuming these positions and by refusing to admit any change in the Church's government, the pope made a frontal attack on modern liberties while resisting political liberalism. He reproved these liberties insofar as they manifested an individualistic and subjective desire for human liberty and affirmed certain rights as belonging to men without taking into account God or the Church. Mirari vos contained also a confrontation between the rights demanded by the Church in virtue of its constitution and modern liberties that might conflict in various ways with the Church's rights.
Gregory XVI held that modern liberties were at once the expression and the origin of an indifferentism that admitted as simultaneously true doctrines of the most diverse, even contradictory, kinds. Repeatedly during his pontificate he denounced this intellectual attitude, as in the encyclical Inter praecipuas machinationes (May 8,1844). Moreover, the pope detected in modern liberties the origin of a type of ecclesiastical liberalism that developed in Belgium (1830), Hungary (1841), and Switzerland (1846). In these countries liberalism based itself on natural rights or on rights of citizens, but its effect was to oppose a group of the clergy to the divinely established hierarchy. To him this was an extension of Gallicanism utilized to profit the lower clergy. This tendency received a more explicit papal reproval in the encyclical Quo graviora (Oct. 4, 1833).
Rationalism. Naturalism was manifested in rationalism as much as in political liberalism. Rationalism sought to reach satisfactory solutions in matters of faith by applying human reason alone, while stripping faith of its rational tional or its supernatural character. This happened in traditionalism as propounded by Lamenhais, in fideism ontologism, and perhaps in the writings of Louis sa Bautain. hermesianism, as proposed by Georg hermes and his disciples, also manifested rationalistic tendencies. Gregory XVI revealed his opposition to these ideologies in the encyclicals Singulari nos (June 25, 1834) and Dum acerbissimas (Dec. 26, 1835).
The papal documents did not mention explicitly which doctrines were held by the different authors. Pope Gregory condemned the fundamental errors inherent in these ideologies, even if not explicitly stated.
Relations with States. In his relations with various governments, Gregory XVI was aided by two conservative secretaries of state, Tommaso bernetti and Luigi lambruschini. The papal policy was one of firm opposition to secularizing tendencies of civil authorities, yet it did make some concessions to them that were noticeable in the concordats concluded during these years. State encroachments on the Church were of diverse kinds and occurred as frequently in Protestant countries as in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Latin America, and other Catholic lands. caesaropapism in Protestant countries acted on the maxim, cujus regio, eius religio. Naturalistic liberalism in Catholic nations undoubtedly contributed to laicism, but modern, constitutional liberties, supported by Catholic liberals, assured advantages to the Church at the same time. In the United States and Canada, Protestant influence was largely responsible for the adoption of religious freedom.
Gregory XVI strove everywhere to obtain all possible guarantees to permit the Holy See to control episcopal nominations. Continually he insisted on the Holy See's right to appoint bishops. In practice, however, he did not abolish local customs at variance with this ideal. Thus he chose Irish bishops from ternas submitted by local clergies. In France, Spain, Portugal, and Austria nominations continued to be made by the government; in the U.S., bishops were selected from lists drawn up by the resident bishops.
Papal States and Italy. In the States of the Church the papal policy was guided by the desire to maintain papal control and to segregate the area from the influences of political liberalism. To curb insurrections the pope was willing to summon help from Austria but tried to avoid antagonizing France, England, and other European powers. He was eager also to retain clerical control of government administration while introducing a limited amount of administrative innovation. In return for Austrian military support the pope agreed to receive the Memorandum (May 22, 1831) submitted by England, France, Prussia, and Russia demanding changes in the legations, in Rome, and throughout the provinces of the Papal States. The Memorandum further required greater lay participation in administrative and in communal and provincial councils. Gregory XVI did not implement all the contents of the Memorandum, but he did introduce some of the administrative, financial, and judicial reforms that were demanded. Only to a limited extent were breaches made in the traditional clerical monopoly of governmental posts. The most important improvements were in the economic field and concerned insurance, banking, chambers of commerce, and taxation.
These changes did not satisfy the hopes of the supporters of the risorgimento throughout Italy. Divided as it was between the aims of the neo-guelfism advanced by gioberti and Capponi, and the republican aims of Mazzini and Young Italy, the peninsula remained in the preparatory stage of liberal and political emancipation and unification. Gregory XVI opposed this trend, but his police methods could not reverse it. When he died, the States of the Church were close to the revolution that drove pius ix into exile in 1848. The heavy encumbrance of public debt in 1846 and the worsening financial situation served to increase discontent.
Iberian Peninsula. Portugal was the scene of a conflict between the rival claims to the throne made by Don Pedro and Don Miguel (1827–33). Gregory XVI came to an agreement with the latter to ensure the nomination of worthy bishops. By 1833, however, Don Pedro prevailed. Don Miguel fled the country and came to Rome, where the pope received him with great honor for his loyalty to the Church. Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Portugal were severed in 1833. Despite this, the pope gave his approval to the government's episcopal nominations. When an appeasement was gained (1840), the pope dispatched to Lisbon one of the best papal diplomats, Francesco capaccini, who succeeded in reopening the nunciature (1844).
In Spain dispute broke out between Don Carlos and Maria Cristina after the death of Ferdinand VII (1833). Gregory XVI recalled the nuncio from Madrid (July 31, 1835) and protested (Feb. 1, 1836) against the violations of the Church's liberty and the seizures of ecclesiastical properties. He remained firm in his opposition when Espartero, who came to power in 1840, proceeded along the course of laicism. Not until 1845 were negotiations opened for a concordat, which was concluded only in the following pontificate.
France. France presented a different situation. In Spain and Portugal difficulties arose because the heads of state, inspired by naturalistic liberalism, were intent on monopolizing to themselves the rights of the Church.
In France, where Church-State relations were regulated by the concordat of 1801, the government recognized the Church's rights, which were to some extent institutionalized. This situation led to a revival of Gallicanism among the bishops and in the government. Gregory XVI was eager to gain assurance that bishops be nominated from other than political considerations. Thanks to the efforts of the internuncio, Antonio Garibaldi (1797–1853), he was on the whole successful. The Holy See sought also to still the opposition to exempt religious orders manifested by the government and by Abp. quelen of Paris and other members of the hierarchy. The pope had been largely instrumental in restoring to France the Dominicans, Benedictines, and Jesuits, but he submitted to governmental pressure and, with apostolic aims in view, permitted the expulsion (1845) of the Jesuits, although they had been in charge of most Catholic schools for young men. The struggle against Gallicanism and the departure of the Jesuits alerted the former disciples of Lamennais. Bishop Parisis and other bishops, together with the Catholic liberal political forces under Montalembert, sought to obtain in the national legislature religious freedom, especially for Catholic schools. Gregory XVI, fearing lest the Catholics demand unlimited freedom of education, did not support them effectively. Soon after the pope's death there was enacted the Falloux Law, whose educational provisions were very favorable to Catholics.
Switzerland and Germany. When Switzerland enacted the Articles of Baden (Jan. 21, 1834), which practically eliminated papal authority over Swiss Catholics, Gregory XVI condemned the law. The papal brief Commissum divinitus (May 19, 1835) reiterated the theses on the Church's independence propounded in Il Trionfo.
Prussia was the object of considerable concern to Gregory XVI because of the legislation concerning mixed marriages enacted by this Protestant government, which had recently acquired the Catholic Rhineland and Westphalia. Since 1803 Prussia had insisted that children born of mixed marriages must follow the religion of the father. In his briefs of March 27, 1832, and Sept. 12, 1834, Gregory XVI recalled the statements on this matter by Pius VIII, in the drafting of which he had collaborated while prefect of Propaganda. The quarrel was embittered by King Frederick III's protection of the followers of Hermes. When Abp. droste zu vischering of Cologne was arrested, the pope protested firmly in his consistorial allocution (Dec. 12, 1837). When Frederick William IV succeeded to the Prussian throne, the pope's eagerness for peace induced him to consent to the archbishop's retirement from the see of Cologne. By his previous resistance, however, and perhaps also by his later conciliatory attitude, Gregory XVI contributed to the gaining of spiritual independence by the Rhineland Catholics (see cologne, mixed marriage dispute in).
Russia and Poland. The Church suffered severely in Russian territories during this pontificate. Emperor nicholas i was responsible for persecuting the Ukrainian Catholics in an attempt to unite them with the Russian Orthodox Church. He was ruthless also toward Latin Catholics. The pope's efforts to stem the Czar's intolerant absolutism met with some success. He complained vigorously to Nicholas I. When the Czar visited Rome (1845), the pope met him, reproached him to his face, and recalled the duties of conscience that the imperial power itself imposed on him. Negotiations, begun at this time, resulted in the signing of a concordat between the Holy See and Russia in 1847.
Discontent in Poland led to insurrection (1830–31) against Russia. Gregory XVI responded with the encyclical Cum primum (June 9, 1832), addressed to the Polish bishops and containing a condemnation of revolutionary movements. The pope took this attitude toward the suffering Polish Catholics mainly because he rejected solutions to problems by recourse to violence. He noted also the duty of subjects to obey legitimate authority, but he did not regard political regimes as immutable. Thus his bull Sollicitudo ecclesiarum (Aug. 5, 1831) recognized the de facto government of Don Miguel in Portugal. His outlook was similar in 1832 toward the king of Belgium. In countries with a liberal constitution the pope distinguished between abstract principles and concrete realities. In this respect his reaction to the liberal Belgian constitution of 1831 was very significant. He did not condemn the modus vivendi arranged between Belgian liberals and Catholics that prepared the way for the famous distinction between the thesis and the hypothesis.
Ireland. Soon after Ireland gained emancipation for Catholics in 1829, Daniel o'connell began another peaceful agitation to repeal the legislative union with Great Britain. The repeal movement won active support from the Catholic priests and from members of the hierarchy, notably Abp. John machale of tuam. The British government, which did not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, was able to bring pressure on the Vatican to condemn the movement and enlisted the support of Metternich to plead its case. Rome refused to issue a public condemnation of the involvement of the clergy in the movement. After considerable urging Cardinal Filippo Fransoni, prefect of Propaganda, wrote a private admonitory letter (Oct. 15, 1844) to Abp. William Crolly of Armagh urging him to counsel the Irish clergy to avoid political and secular concerns.
Missions. The revival of the missions in the 19th century dates from the pontificate of Gregory XVI, who ranks as the greatest missionary pope of his century. During the 18th century, missionary activity plunged into a precipitous decline that could not be reversed in the early decades of the following century. Gregory XVI utilized the more favorable situation to rebuild the missions and to enlarge their sadly depleted personnel. In reorganizing the missions he brought them directly under papal control, where they have remained ever since. This put an end to the enormous power formerly exercised over the Church in mission territories by Spain and Portugal in virtue of their patronato real and padroado privileges. Gregory XVI also worked out sound guiding principles and methods for missionaries. He was active in urging religious orders and congregations to staff the missions and chose the territories each one was to evangelize. The rapid expansion of the missions during these years is indicated by the fact that Gregory XVI created more than 70 dioceses and vicariates apostolic and named 195 missionary bishops. The apostolic letter In supremo (Dec. 3,1839) condemned slavery and the slave trade and forbade all Catholics to propound views contrary to this. The instruction of Propaganda promoting an indigenous clergy and hierarchy in mission lands received the pope's approval (Nov. 12, 1845). To assure financial support for the missions, which no longer could depend on Catholic governments for their material needs, Gregory XVI afforded papal protection to the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Pontifical Association of the Holy Childhood, founded in 1843.
India. Indicative of Gregory XVI's firmness and originality in dealing with the missions was his handling of the difficulties that arose in India. When Portugal proved unequal to its obligations as protector of the missions, the pope created a number of vicariates apostolic subject directly to Propaganda rather than to the padroado. This move provoked lively Portuguese resentment, particularly after the issuance of the papal brief Multa praeclare (April 24, 1838), which suppressed four padroado dioceses, confided their territories to the newly created vicariates, and limited the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of goa to Portuguese areas. So resentful was the archbishop of Goa that he began what is sometimes called the "schism" of Goa.
Western Hemisphere. Latin America, where independence movements were freeing one colony after another from Spanish and Portuguese control, greatly preoccupied Gregory XVI. Illustrative of his policy was the apostolic constitution Sollicitudo ecclesiarum (Aug. 5, 1831), which asserted that political vicissitudes must not prevent the Holy See from ministering to the spiritual needs of countries with newly established regimes. While prefect of Propaganda, Gregory XVI had become involved in this problem. Refusing to bow to Spanish demands, he determined in 1826 to establish residential bishops in Latin America. In 1829 he did so in Mexico. At his first consistory (Feb. 28, 1831) he named six residential bishops and soon after (July 2, 1832) raised to this status the vicars apostolic appointed by his predecessors in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, and elsewhere. In this way he demonstrated his determination to establish the hierarchy in these countries. Despite Spanish opposition he favored the national emancipation of the Latin American republics.
North America was the object of special papal solicitude. Although Propaganda retained jurisdiction over this region, it did not enforce it in the same manner as in strictly mission territories. Gregory XVI took into account the political stability of Canada and the United States, their vast extent, and the variety of apostolic needs because of the great influx of immigrants from many European countries. He created four Canadian dioceses between 1834 and 1843 and reorganized the see of Quebec in 1844. In the U.S. he erected ten dioceses and reorganized that of Baltimore (1834). It was perhaps in the U.S. that Gregory XVI manifested to best advantage his sense of adaptation and his religious and political realism, and thereby attained substantial success. In his conversation with Czar Nicholas I (1845) the pope referred to the U.S. thus: "In this country Catholics are perfectly free to exercise their religion and they are not the less observant of civil laws and constitutions."
Other Activities. Gregory XVI displayed interest in scholarship and the arts by encouraging and helping Angelo mai, Giuseppe mezzofanti, Gaetano moroni, and others. Besides assisting artists such as Johann Overbeck and Bertel Thorvaldsen, the pope opened the Museum of Egyptian and Etruscan Antiquities in the Vatican and furthered the reconstruction of the Roman basilica of St. Paul.
Conclusion. In his opposition to naturalistic liberalism, Gregory XVI did not disassociate it sufficiently from political liberalism. This neglect placed him in the position of trying to block a development that was inevitable. Nonetheless he was impelled by a certain apostolic realism that allowed him to open the way to the future. Even in the political order he prepared for the distinction between the thesis and the hypothesis. He enlarged mission activity and advocated native clergies and hierarchies. His untiring defense of the rights of the Holy See in episcopal nominations promoted the Church's independence in liberal states. His pontificate saw Catholicism solidly established in the Americas. Another service of Gregory XVI was the upholding of the unalterable supremacy of the supernatural. His 15 years on the papal throne marked a milestone in the remarkable 19th-century progress in the effective exercise of the authority of the papacy throughout the world.
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