Leo XII, Pope
LEO XII, POPE
Pontificate: Sept. 28, 1823, to Feb. 10, 1829; b. Annibale Della Genga at Castello della Genga, near Spoleto, Italy, Aug. 22, 1760.
Prepapal Career. After early studies in Osimo, he attended in Rome the Collegio Piceno and the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici. Soon after ordination (1783) he was made a secret chamberlain to Pius VI. Della Genga was named a canon of St. Peter's Basilica in 1792, and in 1793 titular archbishop of Tyre and nuncio to Lucerne, Switzerland. From there he went to cologne as nuncio (1794–1805), during a period made tense by the imperial ambitions of napoleon i. Pius VII named Della Genga his representative to the Diet of Ratisbon for negotiations with Prussia (1805). Archbishop Della Genga was in retirement from papal diplomatic service at the abbey in Monticelli (1808–14) while Pius VII was held prisoner by Napoleon. For a brief period in 1814 be acted as nuncio to Paris. His tardiness in traveling to France and his inability to prevent the formal transfer of Avignon to France led to his dismissal at the instigation of Cardinal consalvi, papal secretary of state. In 1816 Della Genga was made a cardinal and bishop of Sinigaglia, a diocese he resigned in 1818. In 1820 he became vicargeneral of Rome.
The conclave, which met for 26 days after the death of Pius VII, and which saw Austria veto Cardinal Severoli, gave the ailing Della Genga 34 votes and prevailed upon the unwilling candidate to accept the election. The shadow of the conclave hung over his pontificate, for he had been chosen by the conservatives (zelanti ), who were hostile to Consalvi's policy of political and doctrinal moderation and reformism.
Pontificate. Revising Pius VII's policies, Leo sought to reassert authority in the Papal State. His first encyclical, Ubi primum (May 3, 1824), voiced his determination to raise the clergy's intellectual, moral, and disciplinary standards and to oppose all dangerous teachings. He replaced Consalvi with the more conservative Cardinal della somaglia as secretary of state. The Pope's main purpose in this shift was to reverse the recent changes in the administration of the states of the church and to restore them to the control of the clergy and nobles. An edict in 1826 confined the Jews in Rome to the ghetto and deprived them of their property. As a result, many Jews left Rome and the Papal States, with resulting economic harm. Secret societies, which promoted revolution in the Papal States, provoked press censorship. In 1825 Leo XII condemned indifferentism. That same year he promulgated Quo graviora mala against Freemasonry and the carbonari. Capital punishment, which was employed in Ravenna, served only to inflame the revolutionaries in the Legations. Leo XII's efforts to reverse the mounting budgetary deficits in his domain proved unsuccessful. The return
to practices abandoned during the French occupation proved distasteful to the populace of the Papal States and intensified their desire for greater self-determination and lay administration.
Education was regulated by the bull Quod divina sapientia (1824), which created some uncertainty about Leo XII's attitude concerning the relation between science and religion. The Pope also restored the Gregorian University to the Jesuits.
Across the Atlantic, James whitfield was appointed to succeed Ambrose Marechal as archbishop of Baltimore (1828). The Pope also named an administrator in Philadelphia in 1826 to aid Bp. Henry conwell, who had yielded to demands that the laity name their own pastors (see trusteeism). Two vicariates apostolic were formed in 1825, one for Mississippi and the other for Alabama and Florida. Louisiana was divided into the Dioceses of New Orleans and Saint Louis in 1826.
Leo XII was more conciliatory in dealing with the European powers than with his own subjects. He ardently desired to strengthen alliances with sovereigns; yet he did not hesitate to send a critical letter to Louis XVIII complaining against the restoration governments and their dealing with enemies of the Church. He was sympathetic with Hugues Félicité de lamennais and the protest of ultramontanism against the prevailing gallicanism. While rejoicing at the restoration in spain, he resisted the royal demand that he recognized its right of patronato real over the newly independent lands of Latin America. The netherlands were tense because of Protestant and Catholic frictions, which had been aggravated by Belgian independence movement leaders; yet Leo XII concluded a concordat with King William I (1827). During this pontificate Catholic emancipation came close to achievement in Great Britain and Ireland; the emancipation act was passed April 13, 1829.
Leo XII tried to suppress the growing forces of liberalism and sympathized with monarchs who were seeking to restore the conditions of the ancien régime.
Bibliography: j. schmidlin, Papstgeschichte der neuesten Zeit, 1800–1939 (Munich 1933–39) v.1. j. leflon, La Crise révolutionnaire, 1789–1846 (a. fliche and v. martin, eds., Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours 20 [Paris 1949]). e. e. y. hales, Revolution and Papacy, 1769–1846 (Garden City, N. Y. 1960). p. paschini and v. monachino, eds., I. Papi nella Storia, 2 v. (Rome 1961) 2:887–898, p. de leturia, Relaciones entre la Santa Sede e Hespanoamérica, 3 v. (Rome 1959) v.2, 3. r. colapietra, La formazione diplomatica di Leone XII (Rome 1966). r. colapietra, La chiesa tra Lamennais e Mettenich Il Pontificato di Leone XII (Brescia 1963). j.d. holmes, The Triumph of the Holy See (London 1978). m. caravale and a. caracciolo, Lo stato pontificio da Martino V a Pio IX (Turin 1978).
[t. f. casey]