Pius VIII, Pope
PIUS VIII, POPE
Pontificate: March 31, 1829, to Nov. 30, 1830; b. Francesco Saverio Castiglioni, at Cingoli (Ancona), Italy, Nov. 20, 1761. Educated first at Osimo, then at Bologna and Rome, he was ordained in 1785. A specialist in Canon Law, he served as vicar-general at Anagni and Cingoli until he was appointed bishop of Montalto (1800). His refusal to take an oath of allegiance to napoleon i caused him to be imprisoned (1808). Pius VII, who held him in high esteem, made him a cardinal (1816), appointed him bishop of Frascati and summoned him to Rome as grand penitentiary (1821). In the conclave of 1823, which elected leo xii, he was a leading candidate. During the five-week conclave in 1829 the pious and learned Castiglioni was a favorite of the moderates and emerged as Pius VIII, despite health problems.
Poor health plagued him during his brief pontificate and hindered his officiating at liturgical functions, but it did not prevent him from pursuing a vigorous policy that avoided the conservatism of his predecessor. In his first encyclical, Traditi humilitati nostrae (May 24, 1829), Pius VIII announced his intention to put into effect his authority, to combat religious indifferentism, to maintain marriage laws, to promote Christian education, and to oppose secret societies. The brief Litteris altero (March 25, 1830) renewed earlier papal condemnations of Freemasonry. In his government of the states of the church, Pius VIII was milder than Leo XII had been and sought to improve conditions economically and socially. In his relations with Prussia, he was faced with the problem of mixed marriage. After acquiring the Rhineland and Westphalia in 1815, Prussia sought to enforce in these Catholic regions its own legislation concerning mixed marriages. To conciliate Prussia, Pius VIII's brief of March 25, 1830, allowed priests to assist passively at these ceremonies when they were not accompanied by the guarantees usually demanded by the Church. This did not satisfy Prussia and the conflict became more tense during the following pontificate (see cologne, mixed marriage dispute in).
France was disturbed at this time by hierarchical opposition to Hugues Félicité de lamennais, who at this stage of his career favored ultramontanism and attacked gallicanism. The pope did not give his approval to the program of Catholic liberalism advocated by Lamennais and his followers, but neither did he issue the condemnation sought by Archbishop De quelen of Paris and other legitimist French bishops.
When revolution erupted in Paris, July 1830, it soon became apparent that King Charles X lacked popular support. Because of the close union of throne and altar during the Restoration period (1815–30) the July Revolution assumed a decidedly anticlerical cast. When some legitimist bishops fled France, Pius VIII disapproved their conduct and refused them admission into the States of the Church. By September the pope expressed hopes that the July Monarchy under Louis Philippe would be firmly established and would maintain friendly relations with the Holy See. He called upon the French bishops and priests to rally to the support of the new regime and rejected the plan of Archbishop De Quelen to withhold the clergy's loyalty. Pius VIII insisted on applying the traditional title of Most Christian King to Louis Philippe, whose private life hardly warranted it. In this way the pope successfully detached the Church in France from any official tie with legitimism, insisted that this Church remain independent of any regime, and prepared it for the burst of spiritual activity that emerged during the next two decades.
Revolution in France was soon followed by revolution in the Netherlands, where a concordat between the Holy See and King William I had been signed in 1827. Pius VIII followed a conciliatory policy but William I had antagonized all segments in his southern provinces. Belgian Catholics united with Liberals in patriotic agitation and won independence for Belgium in 1830 after a successful revolt. Although Francesco Capaccini, the internuncio, and Cardinal Giuseppe albani, the papal secretary
of state, opposed the proceedings in Belgium, Pius VIII took no adverse action. However, he opposed liberal and national movements in Ireland and Poland.
In Latin America Pius VIII confronted problems caused by the movement toward independence from Spain.
The bishops of the U.S. held their first formal meeting, the First Provincial Council of baltimore (October 1829). After the decrees had been submitted to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, Pius VIII approved them granting the American bishops the faculties they had requested concerning baptisms.
Bibliography: r. belvederi, in I Papi nella storia, ed. p. paschini and v. monachino, 2 v. (Rome 1961) 2:898–903. e. e. y. hales, Revolution and Papacy, 1769–1846 (Garden City, N.Y. 1960). 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). h. haag, Les Origines du catholicisme libéral en Belgique, 1789–1839 (Louvain 1950). a. dansette, Religious History of Modern France, tr. j. dingle, 2 v. (New York 1961) v.1. j. schmidlin, Papstgeschichte der neuesten Zeit, 1800–1939 (Munich 1933–39) v.1. g. mollat, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 12:1683–86. p. de leturia, "Pio VIII y la independencia de Hispanoamérica," in Miscellanea historiae pontificiae 21 (1959) 387–400; repr. in Relaciones entre la Santa Sede e Hispanoamérica, 3 v. (Caracas 1959–60) v.2. o. fusi-peci. La vita del papa Pio VIII (Rome 1965). a. pennacchioni, ed. Il papa Pio VIII (Cengoli 1994). j. d. holmes, The Triumph of the Holy See (London 1978).
[t. f. casey/eds.]