Paul IV, Pope

views updated


Pontificate: May 23, 1555, to Aug. 18, 1559; b. Gian Pietro Carafa, Sant'Angelo a Scala (Avellino), Italy, June 28, 1476. His family were of the counts of Maddaloni, a branch of the noble carafa (Caraffa) family of Naples. Much of his education he obtained at Rome in the household of his uncle, the brilliant Cardinal Oliviero Carafa. The exceptional quality of this instruction is apparent from the fact that Erasmus corresponded with him as a young man, praising his knowledge of the three academic languages and once inviting his assistance in translating into Latin the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Cardinal Jacopo sadoleto, the famed humanist, knew him as a fellow student in Cardinal Carafa's home and bears witness to his sanctity and learning. During this formative period he served blamelessly in the corrupt court of Alexander VI as a cameriere pontificio.

The Theatines. As bishop, Carafa gave an edifying example for those times by living and working zealously in his Diocese of Chiete in Abruzzi (c. 150613). To this activity he added valuable experience abroad as a papal envoy and observer. He was in England as legate of Leo X to Henry VIII for collecting Peter's Pence (151314); then he visited Flanders (151517) and Spain (151720). In 1524 Clement VII allowed him to resign his bishopric so that he and Gaetano da Thiene of Vicenza could fulfill their desire of founding a congregation of clerks regular dedicated to restoring the apostolic way of life. From Carafa's former Diocese of Chiete (Lat., Teate ) they acquired the nickname of "Teatini." In 1527 the sack of Rome by the imperial forces put an end to the first Roman house of the theatines. Fleeing to Venice, they established another house, where Carafa remained until Paul III called him to Rome to make him a cardinal, December 22, 1536. In his 19 years as cardinal he was consistently anti-Spanish and anti-imperial. He aligned himself with the reform group in the Curia. In 1550 Julius III named him one of the six inquisitors of the Holy Office.

Reform Pope. At the death of Marcellus II (1555), Cardinal Alessandro Farnese turned all his influence in favor of Carafa, then dean of the Sacred College, and soon obtained the necessary votes for the 79-year-old Neapolitan. Carafa chose the name Paul out of respect for his earlier Farnese benefactor, Paul III.

Elected as a reformer, he lost some of his initial momentum and prestige by declaring an ill-considered war against the Spaniards, then in possession of a large part of Italy. He was in no sense a Julius II, however much he desired to drive the foreigner from the sacred soil. Moreover, to entrust the conduct of the war to his intriguing, self-aggrandizing nephew Carlo was an irremediable error. The Carafa family was defeated by the Duke of Alva, who was viceroy of Naples; the war ended with the generous peace of Cave, Sept.12, 1557. After 1557 the aged Pope devoted himself entirely to the reform of the Church. Opposing conciliar methods, he did not resume the Council of Trent. Instead, he relied on the establishment of a commission to which he named good and learned cardinals, chiefly men whom he had elevated. He fought an uncompromising war against simony and eventually struck a decisive blow at nepotism by exiling his own nephews. He also insisted that bishops reside in their sees and not spend their time in Rome and elsewhere, and ordered the arrest of vagrant monks in Rome.

Unpopular Reign. His zeal for the Inquisition was common knowledge and the terror it provoked earned him great unpopularity. Even during his war with Spain he attended its sessions. The number and types of cases exceeded by far those of his predecessors. Virtuous men, such as Cardinal Giovanni morone, were called before it on frivolous charges. Moreover, a new and more rigorous Index Librorum Prohibitorum was enacted and enforced. He forced the Jews to wear a distinctive badge and in 1555 established the ghetto in Rome.

Despite his vigilance against heresy, Protestantism made bold advances throughout northern Europe, often abetted by political considerations. Furthermore, Paul's policies toward the great powers of Europe were usually shortsighted and often arbitrary and not adapted to the political realities of the sixteenth century.

When the Pope died, the Romans rioted, tore down his statues and opened the prisons of the Inquisition, displaying their relief that his severe, unpopular rule was over. Although the positive side of his reign was long obscured by the memory of the excesses of the Inquisition, it was an era of important reforms as well.

A good likeness of the Pontiff, almost the only one extant, is the statue on his tomb, which Pius V had built in 1566 in the Carafa chapel of S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. Although idealized, it seems to have caught the spirit of the elderly, stern, fiery, and erratic Neapolitan aristocrat.

Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, (LondonSt. Louis 193861) 14:56424; 15:381429. g. m. monti, Ricerche su papa Paolo IV Carafa (Benevento 1925); Studi sulla riforma cattolica (Trani, Italy 1941). p. paschini, S. Gaetano Thiene, Gian Pietro Carafa e le origini dei chierici regolari teatini (Rome 1926). g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 8:200202. c. v. donata, Paolo IV e il Processo Carafa (Milan 1993). t. torriani, Una tragedia nel cinquecento. Paolo IV e i suoi Nepoti (Rome 1951). m. firpo, Inquisizione romana e Controriforma (Milan 1992). Epistolae ad Principles. Leo XPius IV (15131565) ed. l. nanni (Vatican City 1993). e. g. gleason, "Who was the First Counter-Reformation Pope?" The Catholic Historical Review 81 (April 1995) 173184. a. aubert, Paolo IV Carafa nel giudizio della eta Contrariforma. (Città di Castello 1990).

[h. h. davis]