THE COUNTER REFORMATION
In the sixteenth century the Roman church undertook to reform itself. This reform movement, extending into the following century, raised the moral and educational standards of the clergy; inspired the church with a renewed zeal and morale, which enabled it to win back areas endangered by Protestantism; and contributed significantly to producing the Catholic church as we know it today. The chief agencies in carrying out this work were the papacy, which was much different from the papacy of the Renaissance; a group of religious orders, some reformed and some new, most notably the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits; and the Council of Trent. The Inquisition and the Roman Index of Prohibited Books also had a part in the work.
The spirit of the Catholic Reformation was a spirit of zeal and ardor for the faith, a recognition of abuses in the church and a dedication to the work of reform, and an attitude of intolerance toward heresy. The forces in the church that desired conciliation with the Protestants and that might have been willing to make concessions to secure unity were defeated by those who set their faces against all compromise, rejected any thought of concession, suppressed heresy where they could, or simply shut it out. Actually, it would appear the split had become permanent before the Catholic Reformation reached its full activity. What the Catholic reformers did was simply to recognize the accomplished fact and by their intolerance and intransigence help to establish it as a fixture of Christian life. In an age of religious intolerance, no other outcome was likely. It can be said quite accurately that the intolerance of Catholics toward Protestants was equaled only by the intolerance of Protestants toward Catholics and surpassed only by the intolerance of the various Protestant groups toward one another.
The Catholic Reformation is also referred to frequently as the Counter Reformation. If it was truly a Counter Reformation, then it must have been called forth or at least greatly influenced by the Protestant Reformation. But it is also evident that there were widespread impulses for reform within the church before anyone had ever heard of Luther.
Many distinguished men saw the needs of the church and tried early to do something about them. Among these men were Gian Matteo Giberti and Gian Pietro Caraffa. About 1517 these men and others founded at Rome the Oratory of Divine Love to restore to its proper dignity the observance of Divine Service. This group was not a religious order, and its members took no vows. They worked in Rome until the sack of the city in 1527 forced them to leave.
One of the manifestations of the stirrings in the church was the foundation of new religious orders and the reform or refounding of older ones. The Camaldolese were reformed and brought back to a very ascetic way of life under the leadership of the famous Venetian family of the Giustiniani. In 1524 the Theatines were founded by Caraffa and Gaetano da Thiene. The members were priests, and their aim was the reform of the regular clergy. They were not allowed to beg, and only the rich and noble became members.
Another such order was that of the Clerics Regular of Saint Paul, known popularly as Barnabites, founded by Antony Zaccaria of Cremona with the aim of relieving the sufferings of the people and raising their moral standards. Still another was the Clerics Regular of Somascha, or the Somaschi, who devoted themselves to work in hospitals, orphanages, refuges for prostitutes, and so forth. One of the most famous of the orders associated with this movement is that known popularly as the Capuchins, which arose within and remained part of the Franciscan order. Founded by Matteo da Bascio they received their nickname from their distinctive hoods. The Capuchins met considerable resistance within the Franciscan order, but with the help of Cardinal Caraffa received papal recognition in 1528. Living severely ascetic lives, eating the simplest of foods and wearing the coarsest of garments, they went about doing great works of charity and striving by word and example to turn the thoughts of laymen to God.
Orders of women also were active in this movement. The most famous was that of the Ursulines, founded in 1535 at Brescia by St. Angela Merici, and approved by the pope in 1544. This order, devoting itself to the education of girls, had a great success in both the old world and the new.
The first pope of the Catholic Reformation was probably Paul III (1534-49). His pontificate witnessed the founding of the Jesuit order, the opening of the Council of Trent, and the refounding of the Roman Inquisition.
Paul recognized the need for reform. In 1536 he appointed a commission of nine cardinals to suggest means of reforming the church. This commission was composed of many of the distinguished men who had long been identified with the desire for reform: Contarini, Sadoleto, Giberti, Caraffa, and Pole. This body presented a report in 1537, which contained a detailed discussion of abuses at all levels of the church. It singled out the practice of pluralism and the lives of the clergy. Monasteries were criticized, as was religious instruction in the universities. The report censured bishops, cardinals, and even the pope. It was attacked by some on whom criticism fell and was suppressed.
The commission was originally established to help prepare for the meeting of a general council at Mantua in 1537. This meeting did not take place, and before a council finally did convene, there had been established perhaps the most significant agency of the Catholic reform, the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit order. The Jesuits were the creation of St. Ignatius Loyola, one of the most remarkable figures of his age. He was Spanish, the youngest of thirteen children of a poor family of the Basque nobility. The date of his birth is not certain, but 1491 is the accepted year. Like other young nobles, he was trained to be a soldier, and it was his gallantry and courage that helped to bring a turning point in his life. In 1521, when the French were fighting to regain Navarre from the Spanish, Loyola was the officer in charge of the defense of Pamplona. When the defenders found themselves far outnumbered and in a hopeless situation, they thought of surrender; but their young captain would not give in. He insisted on continuing the fight against hopeless odds, and as a result exposed himself to a cannon ball that smashed his right leg. When the French had taken the fortress, they treated Loyola honorably, attempted to have his leg set, and sent him home to the family castle of Loyola. Due to clumsy surgery, he found himself with one leg shorter than the other and his military career at an end. During his convalescence, he experienced his conversion. He had hoped to while away the time during his recovery by reading romances of chivalry, but the family library had none of these books. Instead he was forced to read religious literature, and Ignatius felt a new passion take possession of him: the desire to devote his life to the service of God. He carried his military and chivalrous ideals with him into his new career; henceforth, he would be a good soldier of Christ.
In February 1522, he left the ancestral castle. He knew that he was to serve God, but the precise form of his service had not yet become clear to him, though he planned to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1523 he was able to make the journey. On his return to Spain, having concluded that he needed more education in order to fulfill his mission, he went to school. First he studied Latin grammar at Barcelona, undaunted by the fact that as a man in his thirties he was attending school with boys. After that he attended other Spanish universities. During these years, he attracted like-minded followers; they all preached and wore distinctive garb.
These activities caused Loyola to incur the suspicions of the Inquisition, which found him perfectly orthodox but imposed restrictions on his religious activities. These restrictions impelled him to leave Spain and to enroll in the University of Paris in 1528. Here he again had a brush with the Inquisition. His Spanish followers failed to join him in Paris, and he started over again to find fellow workers. The six men he gathered around him were to be the original members of the order he later founded, and their outstanding abilities testify to Ignatius's gift for choosing men. These six young men he was able to imbue with his own fervent desire of devotion and service to God. Before leaving Paris, Ignatius had received his baccalaureate and graduate degrees and had begun the study of theology.
From Paris the little group went to Italy, where Loyola finally decided to found a new religious order. By a bull of September 27, 1540, Paul officially established the Societas Jesu, the Society of Jesus or Company of Jesus, known popularly as the Jesuits. In 1541 Loyola, against his wishes, was elected first general of the order.
The bull establishing the order limited its membership to sixty, but in 1543 Paul III, by another bull, lifted this restriction. Henceforth, there were no limitations to the size of the membership except the very high requirements for admission and the rigorous training. Other privileges followed, which enabled the order to do its work more effectively. For example, the clergy were allowed to dress like ordinary secular priests. Paul III and most of his successors recognized the potential value of these men to the papacy, and found it advantageous to give them the type of organization needed for their greatest effectiveness.
The Constitutions of the order were drawn up and later revised by Loyola himself, and form an impressive monument to his genius for organization. They reflect the military training and outlook of their author primarily in the stress placed on obedience, the basic quality of a Jesuit. He must be completely at the disposal of his superiors, with no more will of his own than a stick that an old man holds; he must be like a corpse.
It was in accordance with the military spirit of the order that its head, the general, had very great power and the order was a highly centralized hierarchy. The general was to be chosen for life by the general congregation, and he was to be responsible only to the pope. The general congregation consisted of representatives from each of the provinces into which the order was divided. It was to meet only at the call of the general, except in the case of his death or his inability to conduct the business of his office.
There were various ranks among the members, the lowest being that of scholastic, or student. Those who finished their education became priests and were eligible for the higher ranks. One of these was that of spiritual coadjutor. This rank was the source of teachers in the order's schools, as well as preachers, confessors, and heads of institutions belonging to the order. They were numerically the largest group. However, the highest rank in the order was that of the "professed," or the "professed of the four vows." In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they took an additional vow of special obedience to the pope.
The original purpose of the Jesuits was to reach and convert the masses of people who had strayed from the church. Thus preaching was their fundamental task. The order was not founded originally as a means of carrying on the struggle with Protestants, though this later became one of its activities. The Jesuits also laid stress on the instruction of children in Christian doctrine. They urged more frequent confession and communion than had previously been customary, and in this they were highly successful. As a result, they made the priest, more than ever before, a soul-guide or director of conscience. The Jesuits became very famous as confessors and even performed this function for kings and princes.
The fame of the order, however, rests to a great extent on other activities that came to assume greater importance than the founder had originally assigned to them: teaching, fighting heresy, and converting the heathen. The Jesuits came to be far and away the most successful educators in the church, and perhaps in all Europe. The were interested primarily in higher education, and came to dominate many universities and seminaries.
The purpose of Jesuit education was the purpose of the order as a whole: to serve God through loyalty to the church. For this reason, the aim of the Jesuit schools was not that of the modern secular university, which is to extend the frontiers of human knowledge even at the cost of long-held preconceptions. The teachers were well prepared, the methods were up-to-date, and the training was excellent, but the curriculum and teaching methods were regulated with a view to creating devoted Catholics. Students had to study a prescribed set of courses, and teachers had to stick to the assigned textbooks and interpretations. Within these limitations, the Jesuits were superb educators.
They came to be perhaps the most effective agents in the combat with heresy. Loyola himself felt that the Reformation was the result of ignorance and corruption on the part of the Catholic clergy. He had no very detailed knowledge of the works of the reformers; he forbade his followers to read the writings of heretics, and followed this counsel himself. His own attitude toward heretics was without bitterness; he hoped rather that they might be won back by persuasion. This was the position adopted by his followers, who generally refused to enter the service of the Inquisition, although they tended to be in favor of depriving heretics of civil rights and of banishing them if they could not reconvert them.
Basic to Loyola's work was his Spiritual Exercises. Taking the exercises was the first step that bound his earliest followers to him, and all members of the order have had to take them at regular intervals throughout their lives. Nonmembers and even laymen have been able to take them.
The importance and influence of this deceptively simple little book lies in the qualities that made Ignatius a great leader: absolute devotion to the church, a keen understanding of human nature, insistence on discipline, and common sense. The exercises are to be taken over a period of four weeks, not alone but under the supervision of an experienced guide. They consist of meditations, prayers, and contemplations on Hell and on the life of Jesus. Their effectiveness lies in the skill with which the various faculties are enlisted: the sense, the imagination, and the emotions. At the end of the exercises, the individual who took them was to be purified, devoted to Christ, and willing to give everything in service to the church.
The Jesuit missionaries to England were trained in the school at Douai founded by William Allen. The most successful missionary in Germany was a Dutchman, St. Peter Canisius (1521 97). For thirty years he worked in Germany as a professor at Ingolstadt and as Jesuit Provincial for Upper Germany. He founded many colleges and compiled a catechism that was widely used. He made many conversions and gave a great impetus to the work of winning back to the church parts of Germany that had been in danger of falling away. Through his work and that of others, Catholic princes were able to keep their people loyal to the faith. This was true, for example, in the Hapsburg lands and in Bavaria.
One of the most remarkable successes of the church in winning back lost or doubtful territory came in Poland, where the absence of a powerful central government had facilitated the spread of Protestant doctrines. The Convention of Warsaw passed by the Polish Diet in 1573 had recognized the different faiths and declared perpetual peace between them. The peasantry, however, who comprised the great mass of the Polish population, remained faithful to the Roman communion. Some of the bishops, especially Stanislaus Hosius, worked effectively to restore the traditional faith, and some of the kings were active to the same end. The Jesuits were the chief agents in this work, founding many schools in Poland; Canisius did remarkable work. Poland became and remained a stronghold of Catholicism in eastern Europe.
The restoration of the Catholic church in Hungary and Bohemia, in which the Jesuits played a large role, belongs properly to a later period than that covered by this book. It was thus largely through the efforts of the Society of Jesus, supported by rulers who had sometimes been their pupils, that a great deal of eastern Europe was won back to the Roman allegiance.
One of the most spectacular and controversial of all the Jesuit achievements was the work of converting the non-Christian peoples in the new worlds being opened by the explorers and merchants of Europe. The first and most famous of all the Jesuit missionaries was Francis Xavier (1506 52), one of the original members of the order, who was sent to the Far East at the request of King John III of Portugal. In 1542 he landed at Goa and began his work. Before his death ten years later, he traveled over sixty-two thousand miles. First he worked in India, where he was especially successful with the poorer classes but made little headway among the higher castes. From there he went farther east, working in the Malay Peninsula and in the Moluccas, or Spice Islands.
In 1549 he went to Japan, which was in a state of great disorder because of the weakness of the mikado, or emperor, dominated by the shogun. The great nobles were more or less independent, and armed conflict between them was constant. After many setbacks and great hardships, Xavier managed to make some conversions and to begin planting Christianity in Japan. But now his thoughts had moved on to China, and he was eager to go there and continue the work. He was on his way when he died in 1552, at the age of forty-six, without having received permission to enter the country.
His methods have sometimes been severely questioned. In the first place, he strove for mass conversions, on occasion baptizing hundreds of people at a time or giving the sacrament to whole villages. Some have estimated that he baptized altogether several hundred thousand persons, even a million. While these figures may be exaggerated, they convey an accurate impression. So many conversions in such a short time must surely have been superficial, according to his critics.
In order to get such results, he made a great effort to adapt his methods to the people with whom he was dealing. This was in accordance with Loyola's approach to potential followers, and it came to be typical of the Jesuit missionaries. However, it was also open to criticism on the grounds that it involved concessions to heathen practices that contradicted Christian teachings. In Japan, in order to win people over, Xavier abstained from meat, fish, and alcoholic drink just like the Buddhist priests.
He also saw the need of learning the language and understanding the customs of the people whom he was trying to convert and of adapting himself to their ways. In the short time he had, he was unable to do more than point the way, but others adopted these methods with astonishing results. Whenever he could, he established schools and appointed native-born priests.
One of the most remarkable of Xavier's successors was Matteo Ricci (1552 1610). In 1583, he entered China where he lived for the remaining twenty-seven years of his life. The obstacles in his way were formidable, to put it mildly. China had a civilization older than that of the Christian nations of Europe, with deeply rooted religious and philosophical ideas and ways of thought quite different from those of the West. The Chinese were fearful and suspicious of foreigners. The language was exceedingly difficult, and there were no westerners who knew it well enough to teach it to Ricci. It is a sign of his extraordinary talent and devotion that he was able to surmount all these difficulties to such a degree, in fact, that some of his writings in Chinese were accepted as classics of Chinese literature. He also helped in the process of making reliable knowledge of China available to the West; for example, he suspected correctly that China and Cathay were the same country.
He was able to found communities of Christians in several Chinese cities including even the capital, Peking, where he spent the last decade of his life. Other Jesuits were sent to China, and by the time Ricci died a famous man in China with thousands of friends and acquaintances there were about twenty-five hundred Christians in the country.
In India a beginning had been made by Xavier. Before his coming, the Portuguese had tried to impose Christianity on the natives with no attempt to understand their customs and sensibilities. Christianity had come to be identified in the minds of the Indian population with foreign conquest. Xavier had tried to change all this, but it persisted even after his death.
The Jesuit Roberto de Nobili (1577 1656) observed and condemned this deplorable state of affairs. He was a Roman aristocrat, a grandnephew of Pope Julius III. Sent out to India in 1606, he followed the methods of Ricci, learning native languages, adopting native ways of life, and condoning the continuance of time-honored practices when he felt they were not irreconcilable with Christianity. Though there was some opposition within the church to his methods because of what appeared to be concessions to idolatry, he was able to gain the approval of Pope Gregory XV in 1623 and continue his work.
In the New World where the natives were often savages, the Jesuits faced a different situation. The Colonial powers Portugal, Spain, and later France had much more effective control in the New World than was possible in such states as China and Japan. It was also true that, whereas the Jesuits were pioneers of Christianity in the Far East, this was not the case in the Americas. Other priests had preceded them, primarily Franciscans and Dominicans. Christianity was imposed on the natives by force of arms, something which was impossible in Asia. In the eyes of the soldiers, sailors, and officials who dominated the colonies, the missionaries were sometimes regarded primarily as a means of keeping the natives orderly or even assisting in the spread of trade.
Before the Jesuits reached the New World, there may have been ten million Christians in Latin America. However, no real attempt had been made to adapt the church to the specific background and outlook of the people. Here as in Asia, only the Jesuits seemed able or willing to use such an approach. They used the methods of accommodation, which were so successful elsewhere: learning the native languages and becoming thoroughly acquainted with the local culture. Because of the primitive character of the tribes among whom they worked, they needed great courage and devotion. These qualities were heroically exemplified in many of them; they willingly faced the risks involved, and some laid down their lives for the cause.
The earliest Jesuit successes in the New World came in the Spanish possessions, since they did not at first receive adequate support in the Portuguese and French territories. The Spanish, who had been guilty of gross mistreatment of the natives, had changed their ways, partly under the influence of Las Casas, and adopted a policy of humane treatment and peaceful conversion. This policy included an effort to civilize the natives before attempting to convert them. Special districts were set up for them, from which outsiders were excluded, in order to protect their goods and their wives. These districts, called "reductions," were established at about the end of the century during the reign of Philip III in what are now Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Argentina. The Jesuits, under the Spanish crown, were responsible not only for religious instruction but also for government and for military and economic affairs.
The order achieved great successes in civilizing and Christianizing the Indians by using techniques similar to those employed in the East. They studied the native languages, observed the local customs, and carefully distinguished the different types of tribes with whom they had to deal. By adapting their methods to the character and needs of the people among whom they labored, they surpassed the achievements of the missionaries who had preceded them.
It was the fate of the order, partly no doubt because of its successes, to be a source of great controversy and to find bitter enemies within the church as well as outside. In any event, the Society of Jesus has left a permanent mark on the Roman church and thus on the modern world. As the chosen troops of the papacy, they were the spearhead in the fight against Protestantism. They gave the church a new morale and will to victory against the forces that threatened it. They played an important part in the proceedings of the great council that met at Trent in the middle years of the sixteenth century.
THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
The Council of Trent met over a period of eighteen years (1545-47, 1551-52, 1562-63). It met the challenge of the Protestant Reformation by clarifying doctrine and by instituting reforms that improved the quality of the clergy. It also helped the church to hold on to what it had retained, regain much of what it had been in danger of losing, and remain a powerful force in the life of Christendom. The council failed to reunite the church; reconciliation with the Protestants proved impossible. This is additional proof that abuses in the church may not be considered the major cause of the Protestant Reformation, because even after the abuses had been corrected, the split remained.
Before the council met, there were two parties within the Catholic church itself, with different views of the proper attitude to be taken toward Protestantism. One group, which drew much of its inspiration from Erasmus, may be called the liberals. These men, some of whom held high rank in the church, still hoped for eventual reconciliation. They were aware of the pressing need for reform, and they hoped for a thorough purification of the church as a way to bring back the heretics. Among these liberals, in Italy for instance, there was a good deal of interest in Protestant writings. The doctrine of justification by faith received serious attention. On the other side was the strict party led by Cardinal Gian Pietro Caraffa. This fiery Neapolitan was the leader of those who were completely opposed to any concessions to the heretics. He felt that the church should stand firmly on its traditional doctrines and suppress heresy by force. He was at the same time convinced of the need for reform, and just as uncompromising an opponent of the abuses in the church as he was of heresy. Thus the future of the church depended on the outcome of the struggle within its ranks as well as the external conflict.
The demand for a general council had been voiced early in the course of the Protestant Revolt. Luther had called for one even before his excommunication, and the Protestants had long been repeating this plea. There were others, however, who were decidedly less enthusiastic about the idea. The popes and the members of their entourage in the Curia were inclined to be suspicious of the very idea of a general council, remembering the conciliar movement of the previous century, which had challenged papal supremacy in the church in the name of the representative principle. The prospects of a sweeping reform did not attract those persons who profited by abuses, and this included the highest-ranking men in the hierarchy. Clement VII, pope during the crucial years 1523 34 when the Reformation was spreading and taking root, was particularly opposed to the calling of a council.
There were numerous political factors that could not be left out: the desirability of a general council and the attitudes of King Francis I of France and Emperor Charles V. Charles's position was determined by his relationship to the German Lutherans and to France. At times the emperor strongly advocated a council; at other times he was opposed to it. Francis feared that a council might threaten the privileges of the Gallican church, which he so largely controlled, and that it would favor the interests of his old enemy Charles. The fact that the popes were regularly involved in diplomatic alliances with one of the combatants against the other was another stumbling block to the convocation of a council that would be truly ecumenical. Thus a condition of peace, or at least truce, between Francis and Charles was regarded as necessary before a council could be called. It was also necessary that pressure for reform in the church should become overwhelming and that it should become clear to all that no other remedy but a general council would do the job; in other words, self-reform by the Curia was not to be expected. The Sack of Rome of 1527 helped to stimulate discussion of reform and of a general council; the great catastrophe was widely blamed on church corruption, many seeing in it the signs of a divine judgment. Nothing came of all this during the pontificate of Clement VII. His successor, however, came to the papal throne already pledged to the calling of a council, and has the great merit of having actually gotten it started.
Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who became pope in 1534, took the name Paul III. Although he had publicly advocated a council, it is not clear just how much he favored the idea; it was reported that he actually opposed it. He was, however, under great pressure from the emperor to call a council, and in 1536 he yielded by convoking the meeting at Mantua in May 1537. However, the meeting did not begin until 1545 at Trent after numerous postponements and changes of place. From the start, the divisions of opinion that had long been evident in the church were manifest in the council. The question of procedure was vital. The emperor, still hoping for reconciliation in Germany between the faiths, favored discussion of reform first, hoping this would help bring back the Protestants. He also favored, at least in Germany, concessions to their views, such as communion "in both kinds" and the marriage of priests. Charles probably completely failed to understand the basis of the Reformation; even if he had had his way completely, it would not have ended the schism. The party of Cardinal Caraffa saw things quite differently. While recognizing the need for reform, it had no inclination to make any doctrinal concessions.
The position of the pope was favored by the proximity of Trent to Italy, which made possible a numerical majority of Italians who backed his position. The Spanish representatives, on the other hand, upheld the views of their king, the emperor Charles. They believed in the conciliar theory and hoped to have reform placed first on the agenda. These Spanish prelates were hostile to the curia, and the mutual antagonism of the Spanish and Italians hampered the work of the council. On the question of doctrinal formulation, however, the Spanish and Italian factions saw eye to eye in opposing any concessions.
The order of discussion represented another compromise; it was decided that reform and doctrine should be discussed concurrently. On matters of reform the disagreements were not great, but doctrinal issues often brought great debates. It was a fact of momentous importance that, on all these matters, it was invariably the strict party that won out. Thus there were no concessions made to Protestant doctrines, with the result that the split became more hopeless than ever. The emperor was angered by the intransigence of the council and refused to accept its decrees.
In the meetings of 1545 47, important doctrinal decrees were passed. The Latin Vulgate was accepted as the official text of the Bible, a decision that did not please some Catholic scholars who were aware of the inadequacies of the Vulgate and would have preferred a text more abreast of recent scholarship. All the books of the Vulgate were declared canonical. This meant that the Roman church accepted certain books of the Old Testament which for the Protestants were apocryphal, because they were not available in Hebrew versions. The Protestant doctrine that the Bible is the sole rule of faith was countered by the decision of Trent that accepted the tradition of the church as coordinate in authority with the Scriptures as a source of divine revelation. It was also affirmed that the Catholic church alone had the right to expound the Bible officially. The decree on justification asserted the necessity for both faith and good works in the process of salvation. The Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, the bondage of the will, man's utter depravity and helplessness, and the doctrine of predestination were rejected. On March 3, 1547, the council issued a decree on the sacraments, all seven of which were declared to be true sacraments instituted by Christ.
In 1551 the council reassembled at Trent, summoned by Pope Julius III (1550 55). Decrees were passed on three of the sacraments: The Eucharist, penance, and extreme unction. The Eucharist was declared to be the most excellent sacrament. Though some members favored granting the cup to the laity, it was officially declared that the entire sacrament is present in the bread. The decree also carried a reaffirmation of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The treatment of penance and extreme unction also reaffirmed the traditional positions.
At the insistence of the emperor, who had still not completely abandoned hope for solving the German problem by reconciliation, a delegation of Protestants appeared at the council in January 1552. They were no more eager to attend than the Fathers were to receive them. The subsequent discussions with the Protestants had no other effect than to make more clear than ever the hopelessness of the split.
The resumption of war in 1552 between Charles and the French caused the suspension of the council, which did not meet again for ten years. Its last sessions (1562 63) were marked by bitter conflict between the Italian members, who represented the pope, and the Spanish, who were anti-curial and wanted to reduce papal power. Tension was so great that for a period of ten months starting in September 1562 no business could be carried on. There were riots in the streets and actual bloodshed. Pope Pius IV, however, was able to bring the council to a successful conclusion in December 1563. At its last session it voted to submit its decrees to the pope, an act which recognized his victory and his supremacy in the church. He confirmed all the conciliar decrees and established a congregation of cardinals to see that they were carried out. Thus the conciliar movement of the sixteenth century, like that of the fifteenth, marks a victory for the papacy within the church and another important step in the construction of papal absolutism.
In spite of conflict and diplomatic problems, the sessions of 1562 63 were fruitful. As the sessions began, no reform decrees of real importance had yet been passed; there was resistance at Rome to reforms that would cause a decline in papal revenues. Before the end of the council, however, reform decrees of great importance were issued. After so many fruitless attempts at reform, now at last, when the Christian world had been rent asunder, a really thoroughgoing reformation in the church was instituted. Special attention was given to the bishops; the decrees of the council insisted on the duty of bishops to reside in their dioceses. They must never be absent for more than three months, and not at all during Advent and Lent. Pluralism was forbidden. Bishops were required to preach every Sunday and holy day, and to visit every church within their diocese at least once a year. Each bishop was to exercise careful supervision over his clergy, ordaining only worthy priests and severely disciplining those guilty of misconduct.
Priests also were held to the obligation of residence and were required to preach. To improve the level of priestly education, the council proposed the establishment of a theological seminary in every diocese. Priests were to exercise care for their flocks, explaining the Bible, the sacraments, and the liturgy.
Regulations were also drawn up for the religious orders, dealing with the age of admission and the conditions under which novices could be admitted, the election of superiors, and similar matters. To end the abuse of the granting of abbeys in commendam as favors to laymen and other unworthy persons, it was provided that abbeys could be granted only to members of religious orders. The enforcement of the rules relating to the orders was entrusted to the bishops.
The reception of the decrees of the council by the Catholic states of Europe varied greatly. In the Italian states, Portugal, Poland, and Savoy, the decrees were soon adopted, and Emperor Maximilian II adopted them in Germany in 1566. Philip II of Spain adopted them "without prejudice to the rights of the Crown." The French never officially accepted them, but in practice France was willing to abide by the doctrinal decrees, though she never recognized those concerning discipline.
Thus the decrees were not adopted universally, enthusiastically, or unanimously. Even where they were accepted, old abuses were not immediately wiped out. Reforming bishops often faced immense difficulties in carrying out the decrees of the council. Resistance to reform might come from the local clergy, who had vested interests in perpetuating abuses, and even from the papacy, whose interference might hinder reform rather than further it. Nevertheless, the work of the council eventually succeeded in infusing a new spirit in the church, which strengthened it immensely and made it capable of defense and even further conquest.
To the popes also fell a larger share of the responsibility for furthering the work of the council. A pope in the mold of Paul IV (who indeed had been impressed by him and given him advancement) was Pius V (1566 72). He was a man of blameless life, who brought his asceticism to the papacy, living in a monastic cell and sometimes going barefoot through the streets of Rome, visiting the churches like a pilgrim. Needless to say, luxury, pomp, and laxity of behavior among the cardinals and other prelates in Rome came to an end.
Pius V lost no time in carrying out the disciplinary decrees of the Council of Trent as far as he could, particularly in Rome. Cardinals, bishops, and priests were recalled to their duties, and the reorganization of the Curia was undertaken in an effort to stamp out such abuses as simony and nepotism. The streets of Rome were cleared of prostitutes. The pope saw to the publication of the Roman Missal and Catechism ordered by the council. He also published a Roman Breviary, as well as the Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, whom he made a Doctor of the Church in 1567. He ordered the universities to teach Thomism exclusively.
Pius was also active in admonishing secular rulers to combat heresy and to promote the cause of reform. By threatening the emperor Maximilian II with excommunication, he checked concessions to Protestants in Germany. When the Catholic queen of Sweden took communion "in both kinds," she was excommunicated. Elizabeth I of England, as has been seen, was excommunicated in 1570. In Italy, the activity of the Inquisition was intensified by this pope. He sent troops to France to fight the Huguenots. He was largely instrumental in raising the forces that won the battle of Lepanto in 1571 against the Turks, a glorious but not very fruitful victory. Pius V, one of the outstanding popes of the Catholic Reformation, helped to give it those qualities of unbending rigidity and zeal for reform that we have already noted. He has since been canonized.
The popes who followed Pius V, though they did not equal him in moral stature, continued the work of reform and reorganization, carrying out the decrees of the council and strengthening the church. Gregory XIII (1572 85) is associated with the calendar reform, which was brought about under his supervision. Under the Julian calendar, which had prevailed since the days of Julius Caesar, there had grown up a discrepancy between the calendar year and the solar year. This discrepancy was now rectified, partly by dropping ten days from the year 1582, when the new calendar went into effect. Thus October 4, 1582, was followed by October 15. Protestant countries like England followed suit only in the eighteenth century, and Russian in the twentieth. Gregory greatly favored the work of the Jesuits, helping their German College of Rome to become a training school for missionaries to Germany. He also favored the Jesuits' Roman College, making it into the Gregorian University and bringing in eminent teachers. He insisted on residence for bishops and even deprived some of the cardinals of offices whose duties they were not carrying out.
His successor, a Franciscan who took the name Sixtus V (1585 90), is one of the most vigorous popes of the Catholic Reformation; but stern and bellicose in the line of Paul IV and Pius V. His methods were drastic and harsh and not always effective. He succeeded in putting down the disturbances of the nobles, whose unruly behavior had long been a curse of the Papal States, and restoring order in the Campagna. Adultery, prostitution, theft, and even small moral faults were prosecuted so vigorously that objections were heard in Rome and the pope was bitterly attacked in lampoons.
Sixtus was, however, a great administrator. Under him, the dome of St. Peters, designed by Michelangelo, was finally completed. Because of his efforts, a new edition of the Vulgate based on the Septuagint was brought out. The work was completed hastily and required corrections under the next pope, but with these changes it became the basis for all subsequent editions.
His greatest accomplishment lay in the reorganization of papal administration. In 1586 he fixed the number of cardinals at seventy. In 1588 he revised the entire structure of the Curia by establishing the system of permanent congregations, each one charged with a branch of the work of the church. The idea was not wholly new, but Sixtus developed and systematized it and made it the basis of the entire mechanism of the church. Among these bodies were the Congregation of the Holy Office or Inquisition; the Congregation of the Council, charged with carrying out the decrees of Trent; and the Congregation of the Index, which was to supervise the list of prohibited books.
By the start of the seventeenth century, the Catholic Reformation was reaching its full development. The papacy, in the hands of able and determined men, was in full charge of the movement; the church, with its moral authority and spiritual prestige restored, proved to have weathered the crises of the Renaissance and Reformation. The seventeenth century was to witness further triumphs, and the future was to show that the chief problems the church would face would not come from Protestantism, but from the forces that have so largely characterized the modern world: religious indifference and skepticism, science, the growth of materialism, and the pursuit by men of ends that were primarily secular and material.
THE ROMAN INQUISITION
The Catholic Reformation aimed not only at spreading the faith through reform of the church and through preaching and teaching; in another of its aspects, it also sought to suppress heresy. The chief institution directed to this purpose was the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition. It was not altogether new; in the Middle Ages, there had been papal and episcopal inquisitions established for the task of searching out heretics and bringing them to trial. By the fifteenth century, however, the activity of these bodies had lessened. In Italy, the power of the papal Inquisition had declined, together with its organization. In 1478, however, Ferdinand and Isabella had revived the Inquisition in the Spanish kingdoms, and it operated very effectively. Cardinal Caraffa (later Paul IV), who had observed it in operation, was impressed by it and wanted a papal Inquisition of the same sort a permanent, centralized tribunal with universal jurisdiction and power over all persons, even the most highly placed, who might be suspected of heresy.
It was Caraffa who was chiefly instrumental in persuading Paul III in 1542 to reestablish the Roman Inquisition. It had six Inquisitors-General, with great powers. They were independent of the bishops in their jurisdiction, could degrade priests from their offices, could exercise censure, call in the aid of the secular arm, and delegate powers. While they could punish, only the pope could pardon. Caraffa himself was president of the tribunal, a fact that prevented any serious deviation into leniency. The Dominicans, long associated with the suppression of heresy, were put in charge of the courts of the Inquisition.
As a matter of fact, however, although the records of the Holy Office have never been made available, it appears to have proceeded with more restraint than might be inferred. Torture seems to have been used rarely, special consideration was given to the sick, and the judges were merciful. Caraffa was inflexible, however, in his insistence that no mercy be shown to the great. This is clear from the four rules of procedure that he established: 1) punish on suspicion; 2) have no regard for the great; 3) punish most severely those who take shelter behind the powerful; 4) show no mildness, least of all toward Calvinists.
At first the establishment of the Inquisition in the Italian cities was slower than Caraffa had hoped. The Italians did not show any natural disposition toward the burning of heretics, and some of the cities resisted the foundation of the new tribunal. When Caraffa became Pope Paul IV in 1555, he had his opportunity to give the Inquisition the scope and effectiveness that he desired. Even as pope, his interest in the work of the Holy Office was enormous. It was said by the Venetian ambassador at Rome that nothing on earth could prevent him from attending its meetings. Michele Ghislieri (later Pius V), a man after the pope's own heart, was put at the head of it, and Paul greatly increased its authority and powers. He was able to make it effective in the Italian cities that had harbored unorthodox views, especially Venice.
The states of Europe were asked to facilitate the work of the Inquisition. In France, the request was denied. In Spain, however, the activities of the Inquisition, long vigorous, were stimulated even further. Persecution reached a new peak; even St. Teresa came under suspicion, and the archbishop of Toledo was arrested. When Paul IV, long an enemy of the Hapsburgs, finally made peace with Philip II, the result was to strengthen the Spanish domination in Milan and Naples and, in turn, to provide the Inquisition with Spanish support and enable it to oppose the resistance of the Italian states. Thus the increasing Spanish domination helped in the repression of heresy and free thought in Italy.
Even after the death of Paul IV in 1559, the repression of heresy in Italy continued. The French duchess of Ferrara, Rene, daughter of Louis XII, was forced by the Inquisition to leave Ferrara, where she had long been hospitable to advanced opinions in religion. In 1562, in Calabria, two thousand Waldensian heretics were massacred. With the coming of the implacable Ghislieri to the papal throne as Pius V in 1566, the Inquisition he had headed became particularly active. Burnings became common in Rome, and cardinals and ambassadors were compelled to attend. Throughout Italy the same policy of repression was carried out.
Another means of suppressing heretical doctrines was found in the Roman Index of Prohibited Books, a list of works considered dangerous to the faith, which Catholics were, therefore, forbidden to read. Even before this list was officially drawn up, there had been cases of censorship of the reading matter of the faithful, particularly since the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. Popes, councils, and secular rulers both Catholic and Protestant all engaged in censorship. In 1501 Pope Alexander VI made archbishops official censors for their provinces. Paul III also undertook to prevent the dissemination of pernicious books, and imposed severe punishments on those who sold them.
The Roman Inquisition was active in censoring books, and Cardinal Caraffa, after becoming Pope Paul IV, published the Roman Index of Prohibited Books in 1559 and established a special congregation to look after censorship. Three classes of authors and books were placed on the Index: 1) authors who had erred ex professo. All their works were forbidden, even those that contained nothing against the faith; 2) authors of whom only some works were condemned. In this category was placed the 1537 report of Paul III's reform commission, of which the present pope had been a member; 3) books with some harmful doctrines, mostly by anonymous heretics. In this third group were also books that lacked the name of the author, or the date and place of publication, or had been printed without ecclesiastical permission. All translations of the New Testament in the vernacular were forbidden, and sixty-one printers were named, all of whose works were prohibited. Erasmus was placed in the first category, and all of his writings were condemned.
Paul's successor, Pius IV, revised the Index and relaxed the harshness that had appeared excessive to some Catholics. For example, the blanket condemnation of Erasmus was lifted, and only some of his works were prohibited. The Council of Trent, which had shown an interest in censorship since its earliest sessions, drew up its own list of forbidden books. This list, the Tridentine Index, was published in 1564. Erasmus was put in the second class. On the other hand, a wide variety of books was now condemned, including not only heretical ones but also obscene books books on witchcraft, and so forth. Pius V appointed a Congregation of the Index, to keep the Index up to date and to publish revised editions periodically.
More than repression was needed to revitalize the church, however; and there was a genuine revival of Catholic piety led by a number of men and women of outstanding devotion and sanctity. Charles Borromeo, after the death of his uncle Pope Pius IV, returned to Milan where he was archbishop. Pius IV had made him cardinal and papal secretary of state. He was in Milan from 1565 until his death in 1584 carrying out the Tridentine reforms and raising the standards of the clergy. The administration of the province was reformed to bring about closer supervision of the priests. Seminaries were founded. Provincial councils were regularly held. Discipline was restored both among secular priests and in the religious orders. He gave his property to the poor, and founded schools and hospitals for their benefit. During time of plague he visited the sick and brought them the consolations of the church.
In Spain, two outstanding saints of the period were Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. St. Teresa, a member of Spanish nobility, had become a Carmelite as a young girl. The Carmelite order, which attracted women from highly placed families, was living under a somewhat relaxed rule, and its members were on the whole rather worldly. Teresa, after undergoing severe religious crises and unusual mystical experiences, felt led in 1562 to found in Avila a convent that should return to the original strict rule of the order. In addition to being a devout mystic, she proved to have great practical talent as an organizer and enormous energy, which enabled her to found numerous other reformed convents of her order.
St. John of the Cross, a member of the male branch of the Carmelites was an ascetic who also longed for a return to strict obedience to the primitive rules of the order. He collaborated with Teresa by bringing the Carmelite reform to men, as she was doing for women. Like her, he was a mystic. Both of them met with opposition, and John was subjected to suffering and indignity. Eventually, after they had both died, the reformed Carmelites received permanent recognition from the popes. The influence of their reform spread far and wide and persists today among the members of their order.
A contemporary of these saints, who worked in Rome, was St. Philip Neri (1515 95). He too was a mystic, a man noted for his humor and his informal approach, who worked in the streets of Rome, preaching even when he was still a layman to all sorts of people, and attempting to bring about a moral regeneration. He eventually did become a priest. He is most famous for the order he founded, known as the Oratory (to be distinguished from the Oratory of Divine Love). It was different from other orders in the church because it combined priests and laymen in a very loose organization with a very simple rule. Its chief bond, according to the founder, was love and affection. It accomplished much and was widely imitated.
Thus throughout Catholic Europe, inspired by such leaders as these, there was a renewal and revival of Christian feeling. In France, such individuals as St. Francis de Sales (1567 1622) did great work. The seventeenth century was to see a continuation of the Catholic reform. To what extent was this revival a result of the Protestant Reformation? It is impossible to determine. But it may be said that the conflicts and crises of Christendom in the sixteenth century were not in vain. There was a revival of faith in Europe. The churches were to find that their mutual antagonisms were perhaps less dangerous to their well-being than forces outside them altogether. More subtle enemies lay in wait, and to this day have not been successfully met.