Paul III, Pope
PAUL III, POPE
Pontificate: Oct. 13, 1534, to Nov.10, 1549; b. Alessandro Farnese, Canino, February 29, 1468. He was a member of the distinguished Farnese family whose lands around the Bolsena Lake made them a powerful force in Italian history from the twelfth century. Alessandro was educated at Rome under Pomponius Laetus and later in Florence in the Medici house, where he was friendly with Giovanni de' Medici (later Leo X). Farnese's rise to prominence in the Church proved swift. He was created a cardinal by Alexander VI in 1493, partially because of the Pope's association with his sister, Guilia. Contemporaries dubbed him "Cardinal Petticoat." In time he served under four other pontiffs, Julius II, Leo X, Adrian VI, and Clement VII, until he became dean of the Sacred College. Alessandro's career was marked by living habits that reflected his position as a Renaissance cleric. He fathered four bastards, Pierluigi, Paolo, Ranuccio, and Constanza. Of these Pierluigi became Duke of Parma, Piacenza, and Castro, married Girolama Orsini, and was murdered in 1547. Ranuccio died in 1509, and Constanza married Boso II of the house of Sforza. After his elevation he raised to the cardinalate two of his grandsons, Alessandro Farnese and Ascanio Sforza. His scandalous life, coupled with his nepotism, provoked many complaints from both Catholics and the newly formed Protestant groups. Alessandro was ordained in 1519 and from that time his moral life improved. However, he remained a son of the Renaissance, very much addicted to worldly pleasures. He loved the hunt and the brilliant pomp of ceremonies, and he was a devoted patron of the arts. He began the farnese palace; and he commissioned Michelangelo to construct St. Peter's Basilica and ordered him
to paint the Last Judgment and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Paul censured Michelangelo for the nudity of the figures in the painting, and for this the artist depicted the Pontiff among the damned with an ass's ear and a serpent round his body. Paul supported also the construction of the Sala Regia in the Vatican and the interior decoration of the papal apartment in Castel Sant' Angelo. For these commissions he was severely criticized because the tone of the frescoes and of other decorations was considered pagan in its genre. He selected Giulio Mazzoni to begin the Palazzo Spada. Paul III's tomb in St. Peter's, the work of Michelangelo's student, Giacomo della Porta, is considered one of the basilica's finest monuments.
Reform of the Church. Despite his preoccupation with the cultural trends of the Renaissance, Paul was able to lead the Church into an important period of reform. Modern historians have called him "the first reform pope," and the first Pope of the Counter-Reformation, and there is little doubt that he did create the atmosphere and the machinery that produced reform. At the time of his elevation, he was 67 and had twice before, in 1521 and 1523, almost been elected. Although the opposition of the Colonna and Medici families had previously prevented it, on October 13, 1534, he was unanimously
elected. This man of violent temper, intelligence, and skilled diplomacy directed his varied talents to the problem of reform.
The pontificate of Paul III proved stormy, but had its major accomplishments. In 1538 he placed England under the interdict and excommunicated henry viii. In that same year he was able to persuade Francis I of France and the Emperor Charles V of Germany to sign the Truce of Nice. He urged the Catholic princes of Germany to take up arms against the Lutheran schmal kaldic league, in addition to persuading the French King to adopt a policy of severity toward the Huguenots. In the midst of these upheavals he labored for reform and an ecumenical council.
In the early months of his reign he ordered the cardinals to adopt a more modest way of life. He recognized that unless the Roman clergy were first reformed he could accomplish nothing for the rest of Christendom. One of the distinctive features of Paul's program was the appointment to the Consistory of new cardinals who were committed to a program of ecclesiastical reform. Among these were John fisher; Reginald pole; Giovanni Pietro Carafa, cofounder of the Theatines and later paul iv; Marcello Cervini, who became marcellus ii; and such outstanding humanists as Girolamo Aleandro and the layman Gasparo contarini.
By the bull Sublimis Deus, Paul appointed a commission to examine the conditions of the Church and to suggest reform. Pole, Contarini, Carafa, and others composed the commission, and their report, published in January 1538, became the basis of much of the work of the Council of Trent. Paul also recognized the Society of Jesus in 1540 and the Ursulines in 1544, encouraged the Barnabites and Theatines, and suggested the foundation of the Somaschi. In 1542 a reformed Inquisition was created in Rome to fight "against all those who had departed from or who attacked the Catholic faith and to unmask such persons as were suspected of heresy." The Index followed, and in the next year enacted penalties for those who sold any condemned books. Paul made important strides toward reform, but his problems were compounded by difficulties in seeing his reforms carried out. Opposition came from the religious and, above all, from the secular rulers of the European world.
Imperial and French Opposition. The problems that the Pope faced seemed insurmountable. What should be included on the agenda of an ecumenical council? Should the Protestants be invited and, if so, should they be allowed to participate in the debates and discussions? Where should a council be held? Would it be better to accomplish reform simply by papal edict rather than run the risk of a resurgent conciliarism? Despite these obstacles, Paul announced that a council would convene at Mantua in May 1537. Unfortunately, the refusals of the French King and the German Emperor to allow their clergy to attend forced the Pope to postpone it. A similar opposition prevented its convocation for May 1, 1538. Francis I was playing a double game: he assured his Lutheran friends of the Schmalkaldic League that all was well, while he sought to frustrate any papal reforms for fear they would impair his control over the French Church. Charles V, who was also king of Spain, was a champion of reform for Spain, but he was opposed to it in the Holy Roman Empire. He regarded Lutheranism as a purely German problem and sought to resolve the logical differences himself.
The Council of Trent. On November 19, 1544, the bull Laetare Jerusalem announced that a council would meet at Trent on March 15, 1545. After eight years of frustration, Cardinal del Monte was able to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Ghost in the cathedral of Trent with four cardinals, four archbishops, 21 bishops, five generals of orders, and 50 theologians and canonists present. Despite the success in convoking the Council, Paul faced serious obstacles. The Germans insisted upon disciplinary reforms first so as not to alienate the Lutherans. The French, aided by national antagonisms, were suspected of Calvinistic leanings. The Spanish, who adopted a haughty attitude, felt that they were the sole defenders of the faith. Nonetheless, Paul had selected his papal legates wisely. These were men committed to reform and they included Giovanni del Monte; Marcello Crescenzi; Ercole Gonzaga; Giovanni Morone; Marcello Cervini; the Jesuits Claude Le Jay, Diego Laynez, and Alfonso Salméron; the Augustinian, Girolamo Seripando; and others.
In these first years of Trent important matters were settled. These included the role of the Holy Scriptures as a rule of faith, justification, the Sacraments, and the doctrine of original sin. Disciplinary reform of the bishops was also adopted. However, in May 1547, a plague struck Trent; and although Paul transferred the Council to Bologna in February 1548, Charles V refused to permit the German and Spanish bishops to attend. Paul was forced to suspend the Council on September 17, 1549. He died November 10, at the age of 82.
The judgment of history has been favorable to Paul III. Despite a wayward life in his younger years, a tendency to support the Renaissance in an extravagant manner, and a weakness for his family, he remains best described as follows: "The supreme merit of Paul III is that he listened to this manifold voice, the voice of Christian conscience, and that he did its bidding according to his means."
Bibliography: b. sacchi et al., Historia … de vitis Pontificum romanorum … ad Paulum V (Cologne 1611). p. s. pallavicino, Istoria del concilio di Trento, 3 v. (Rome 1656–57). l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, (London–St. Louis 1938–61) v.11–12. p. accame, L'elezione del papa Paolo III (Finalborgo, Italy 1907). w. h. edwards, Paul III. oder die geistliche Gegenreformation (Leipzig 1933). w. friedensburg, Kaiser Karl V und Papst Paul III (Leipzig 1932). l. dorez, La Cour du Pape Paul III, 2 v. (Paris 1932). c. capasso, Paolo III, 1534–1549, 2 v. (Messina 1923–24); La politica di papa Paolo III e l'Italia (Camerino, Italy 1901). h. jedin, History of the Council of Trent, tr. e. graf,. p. janelle, The Catholic Reformation (Milwaukee 1949). h. daniel-rops, The Catholic Reformation, tr. j. warrington (History of the Church 5; New York 1963). l. marchal, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 12.1:9–20. r. bireley, The Refashioning of Catholicism: A Reassessment of the Counter-Reformation (Washington D.C. 1999). Epistolae ad Principes. Leo X–Pius IV (1513–1565) ed, l. nanni (Vatican City 1993). c. robertson, "Il Gran Cardinale." Alessandro Farnese, Parton of the Arts (New Haven 1993). p. prodi and w. reinhard, eds. Il concilo di Trento e il moderno (Bologna 1996). b. h. mcclung, Italian Cardinals, Reform and the Church as Property, 1492–1563 (Berkeley 1985).
[c. l. hohl, jr.]
"Paul III, Pope." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/paul-iii-pope
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