Pistoia, Synod of

views updated


From Sept. 18 to Sept. 28, 1786, Pistoia was the site of a diocesan synod that had extraordinary significance in the history of jansenism. The Jansenist movement, which began at Louvain, followed a geographical trajectory that after port-royal proceeded into Utrecht (see utrecht, schism of) and ended in Pistoia. The synod met in the church of the seminary and of the ecclesiastical academy, a church dedicated to Saint Leopold in honor of the Grand Duke Peter Leopold. The synod was held under the presidency of Scipione de' ricci, Bishop of Pistoia-Prato, and the vice presidency of the grand ducal legate, Giuseppe Paribeni, with Pietro Tamburini, professor at the theological faculty of Pavia and theologian of Italian Jansenism, as promotor of the faith. Tamburini was assisted by Vincenzo Palmieri and other Jansenists and Jansenizing groups in Pistoia.

Preparation . The synod, convoked by a pastoral letter from Ricci (July 31, 1786), was preceded by a series of consultations with the Jansenists of Paris and leading spirits of the schismatic church of Utrecht and by publications and innovations condensed in the "57 Points" of ecclesiastical reform sent with the letter to all the pastors of the Pistoian diocese. The points were concerned with the renewal and updating or studies; the revision of the catechism and liturgical texts, including those of the Breviary, the Mass, and other sacred ceremonies; the economic reorganization of the clergy and a more just distribution of Church goods; and the purification of private and public piety of a devotionalism considered superstitious and contrary to the spirit and practice of the primitive Church. The points, showing a combative attitude toward the Roman Curia and the so-called papal monarchy, were accompanied by a list of books intended for distribution. Recurring among the authors' names were Saint-Cyran (duvergier), P. quesnel, and Z. van espen, while the titles of many other Jansenistic and Gallican works, together with others of an orthodox nature, were included.

Acts of the Synod. The synod held seven sessions and ten congregations, of which three were extraordinary and seven ordinary. Compelled by the at times violent insistence of the bishop, about 250 priests attended the synod: from the Diocese of Pistoia, ex officio, the parish priests, the parish chaplains, and the canons (called "fathers of the council") along with secular and regular priests who were expressly invited (called "co-priests"). The development was rapid, even though the discussions dealt with almost the whole body of doctrine. From a neighboring residence Grand Duke Leopold himself kept watch, remaining aloof from "the Romish meddlers" and day by day receiving the result of each meeting "with complete satisfaction," not, however, failing to intervene with secret letters to the recalcitrant. To obtain votes, violence and favors were resorted to. Amid the fear and the violence and unaware of the subtleties, equivocations,

and ambiguities of wording, the pastors signed the synodic minutes, but their endorsement was only apparently unanimous, as became clear from their subsequent repudiations and retractions. The acts, published in their entirety in various languages, aroused the enthusiasm of not only the Italian Jansenists, but also and especially of foreign Jansenists. In a Latin codex of the Vatican Library one can read: "a printer from Leghorn had earmarked 18,000 copies to be sent to Spain and France," and from Spain, Cardinal F. de Lorenzana and the nuncio made known that they could no longer prevent the reprinting of the acts in the Spanish language without a previous formal condemnation. Attending the synod were French, Austrian, German, Dutch, and Polish clerics and laymen. The bishops of the schismatic church of Utrecht, the archbishop of Salzburg (H. Colloredo), and French clerics such as Bellegarde, Maultrot, and Cleçment, by letters and the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques, the Gazette universelle, the Gazette d'Europe, and the Gazette française, among the periodicals, extolled what in Tuscany was commonly referred to as the "Pistoian comedy."

Subsequent Events and Condemnation. As a sequel to the synod, as had been foreseen, there had to be a national council "at Florence to put an end to all the gossip the Roman court and its adherents would be able to start and the dealings they could attempt." The bishops, however, thwarted the project in the assembly held during April of 1787, in the Pitti Palace, in a hall called Novissimi. Fourteen bishops and three archbishops were present. In it arose a popular and ecclesiastical counter reform that had its epilogue in the bull Auctorem fidei, issued by Pius VI on Aug. 28, 1794.

The synod had affirmed, although in a form more prudent, the theories of C. O. jansen, A. arnauld, Quesnel, and Febronius (hontheim), taking up again propositions that had already been condemned in the bulls unigenitus and In coena Domini, the four articles of the Gallican clergy of 1682, the 43 presented by the Faculty of Louvain to Innocent XI in 1677, and the 16 presented by Cardinal L. Noailles to Benedict XIII in 1724, as Ricci himself was to confirm in a defensive letter sent to the Holy See and attested to in his Memorie (2:193).

In the bull Auctorem fidei, which was drawn up by Cardinal H. Gerdil, seven of the 85 propositions taken from the synodic constitution (set forth under 14 titles according to the diverse subject matter) were condemned as heretical, and the others were proscribed under different censures, often according to the multiple meanings in which they could be presented (false, rash, scandalous, near-heresy, etc.). Also censured was the praise accorded the Gallican Articles in the decree on faith; the judgment pronounced against them by Innocent XI and Alexander VIII was renewed. The book of the acts of the synod was anathematized by name since it was not possible to single out each and every error (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer, 26002700).

Balanced View. It would be unjust, however, and ungenerous not to point out in the synodic reformist theme certain positive values, especially in regard to its pastoral and liturgical aspects. The letters of Bishop Ricci to the clergy and to the people, his personal letters, and the Memorie written toward the end of his life, admit of a calmer judgment than that which the historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries accorded them. It is true that there was a resentful anticurialism, heir to the spirit of P. sarpi and of savonarola; there was also a never-lulled anti-Molinism that turned the desire to purify the Church toward heterodox expressions formulated by the Jansenists and the Gallicans of the 17th and 18th centuries, and determined sympathies or antipathies in the various religious and theological schools. On the other hand, there is a correspondence and affinity between points discussed or decreed at Vatican Council II and some of the innovations attempted or desired by the Synod of Pistoia. Specifically, the synod gave great importance to the press, to the means of social communication. Ricci took an interest in the development of an enlightened culture. He saw to the translation of famous works. He founded reviews and other periodicals; he even had at his disposal various publishing houses. He reformed the program of studies in seminaries. There was a keen sense of the validity of the episcopal character (even if Ricci had the fault of episcopalism) united to a profound love of parish and parish priests (which, unfortunately, turned into parochialism). There was a constant attention to the theology of the faith drawn from the sources of the Bible and of tradition, for Ricci did make available the theological sources: biblical and patristic collections. There was an active concern to give new, expressive, and up-to-date form to the traditional catechesis. Versions of the catechisms that he patronized and diffused were numerous.

Finally, there were several positive elements of a liturgical nature. Here was revealed a certain appreciation of Protestant sensitiveness, at least in the theological conclusions. The Italian 18th century was stirred by a singular rebirth of liturgical studies, as seen in the works of Cardinal G. Bona and Cardinal P. Lambertini (later Benedict XIV). Even the historian Lodovico Muratori published, not without difficulties from the Holy Office, an excellent book, Della regolata devozione dei cristiani (1743). The polemical atmosphere of Jansenism brought about, however, an irritated and irritating psychological climate in which the essential values were confused with secondary elements, with the result that revisions and emendations were made of the Breviary, of the Missal, and the like that, instead of reforming, ended by deforming them. The history of the famous controversy on liturgical Communion, or infra missam, had as protagonists G. Nannaroni, a Dominican, and C. Traversari, a Servite; their conclusions, although attenuated, can be found in the acts of the synod and prove how correct insights and affirmations, in dispute and through dispute, become serious deviations from the authentic teaching of the Church.

But the Riccian experiment, intended to popularize the Latin language and make the people active participants in the celebration of the liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist, is not without significance. Perusing Ricci's circular letters, homilies, decrees, and books today [among them Brevi preghiere ad uso delle parrocchie, con l'ordinario della messa ed altre divote orazioni (Prato 1784); La maniera di pregare e di assistere allas. messa secondo l'intenzione delta Chiesa (Pistoia 1785); Della pronunzia del canone della messa (Florence 1787)], together with a series of little works regarding the order of ceremonies and sacred rites, the translations of the liturgical texts, and an accurate historical and theological revision of the traditional exercises of Christian piety "in which he avoided superstitious Pharisaism, and a licentious Sadduceism," one is enabled to understand some of the synodic reforms, despite their illegitimacy and intemperance.

The acts and decrees of the Synod of Pistoia, purified of episcopalist mania, all schismatic and misdirected zeal, and the passions of a reformist anticurialism, give some evidence of an ordered and legitimate progress of the reality of Christian piety and an improvement, not a rupture, in a tradition of the faith that continues to be ever-present and contemporary.

See Also: baius and baianism; gallicanism

Bibliography: Atti e decreti del concilio diocesano di Pistola del anno 1786, ed. p. stella (Florence 1986). j. carreyre, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 12.2:211699. a. bolton, Church Reform in the 18th Century: The Synod of Pistoia 1786 (The Hague 1969). a. gerhards, "Von der Synode in Pistoia zum 2ten Vatikanischen Konzil: zur Morphologie der Liturgiereform in 20ten Jahrhundert," Liturgisches Jahrbuch 36 (1986), 2845. a. c. jemolo, Il giansenismo in Italia prima delta rivoluzione (Bari 1928). c. lamioni, ed., Il sinodo di Pistoia del 1786 (Rome 1991). b. matteucci, Scipione de' Ricci: Saggio storico-teologico sul giansenismo italiano (Brescia 1941), bibliography 228330. m. rosa, Giuridizionalismo e riforma religiosa nella politica ecclesiastica leopoldina. Rassegna storica toscana, XI (1965). m. rosa, ed., Cattolicesimo e lumi nel settecento italiana (Rome 1981). r. tanzni, Historia dell'assemblea degli arcivescovi e vescovi della Toscana tenuta in Firenze nel 1797 (Florence 1788). a. zobi, Storia civile della Toscana dal 1717 al 1848, 5 v. (Florence 185052).

[b. matteuci/

j. m. gres-gayer]