Pageant of the Popes, by John Farrow, , at sacred-texts.com
In 1600, the eighth year of his reign, Pope Clement (VII) proclaimed a grand Jubilee in Rome. Over three million pilgrims responded to the invitation and their devotion and presence was gladdening evidence of the success which was attending Catholic revival. Throughout all Europe the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Benedictines, the Dominicans, in fact all the Orders, old and new, were carrying the fight with example and zeal. "Thanks be to God," reported a nuncio from Vienna "the number of
[paragraph continues] Catholics is on the increase." The same could be said of other places which were strong-holds of Protestantism. Because of men who patently had but one purpose, the salvation of souls, who were afraid of nothing on earth, and who indeed were prepared to welcome martyrdom, great numbers of men and women were being regained to the ancient faith in Germany and the Netherlands. And from Switzerland a German doctor wrote to a friend: "Truly moving, and reminiscent of the most beautiful days of the past are the life and the works of the Capuchins, whom I have known in Switzerland and the Tyrol. They are poor and humble and filled with true charity. During their missions their confessionals are besieged, stolen property is given back, and conjugal peace restored." Saintly endeavours were not restricted to distant regions. In Rome the Pope listened respectfully to such men as the eminent Jesuit St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorians, while at the same time St. Francis of Sales was providing the world with an immortal example of episcopal perfection. In France the same pope exhorted the bishops to be true leaders of their flocks. "Do honor to your ministry," he instructed them, "help your country, drive away heresy, preach and convert those who have gone astray. God, and the authority of the king and the Pope, will be kind to you in this work."
An example of the persistence and patience which marked the diplomacy of the cautious Clement was provided in the lengthy developments attending the return of the Jesuits to France. That strange antipathy, that special mixture of repugnance and strenuous hostility, of suspicion and apprehension of the sinister, which the Jesuit name seems periodically and peculiarly to invoke in the minds of parliaments and princes and even prelates
had been responsible for the expulsion of the Order from France a few years earlier. "Slaves of Spain" Henry had called the followers of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his parliament had gone even further, terming them: "Corrupters of youth, disturbers of the peace, and enemies of King and State." Anxious though he had been for the lifting of the ban of excommunication Henry would not consent to the return of the Jesuits as being one of the conditions. A less sage negotiator might have halted in rash deadlock at such an attitude but the patient Pope resolved to wait and work and after five years of ceaseless effort his will triumphed. The Society of Jesus went back to France and the great change which had been wrought in the King's opinion is shown in his address to those of his subjects who remained more stubborn in their prejudices.
"How can you," he asked, "accuse of ambition men who renounce the honors and benefices which are offered to them, and who even vowed to God never to accept them, and who ask for nothing else on earth than to be allowed, without reward, to serve those who wish to avail themselves of their services? . . . The university is opposed to them, but only because they do better than others, which is shown by the crowds that attend their lectures. If men did not learn more and better from them than elsewhere, how is it that, because of their skill, your universities have nothing to show against them but empty benches and that in spite of your prohibitions, the students follow them everywhere, even beyond the frontiers of the kingdom? You complain that they attract to themselves all the clever children, and choose the best. For this reason I esteem them highly . . . Do we not ourselves choose the best soldiers to lead the battle . . . It must be admitted that their patience is great, and for my
part I admire them, because it is by patience and virtue that they obtain their ends. With regard to the authority of the Pope, their teaching is no different from that of other Catholics, and if you would put them on trial for that, you would have to do the same to the Catholic Church. I do not believe they withdrew the clergy from my authority, or teach regicide. Therefore leave me alone to deal with this Society."
The thirteen years that Clement held the papacy were remarkably fruitful. Nevertheless neither his piety nor his wisdom nor his caution prevented him from indulging in outrageous and flagrantly open nepotism. Fortunes were given and nephews and great-nephews received both secular and ecclesiastical office of the highest rank. It was thus thought that the family was firmly ensconced in a rich and permanent security; but less than fifty years after the death of Pope Clement an aged cardinal was asking, "Where today is the greatness of the Aldobrandini? Where are those fine nephews that I so often saw in the ante-cameras of the Pope? They are dead, as is Clement VIII and Cardinal Aldobrandini. The male line is quite extinct; how vain are the hopes of men, and how frail the happiness of this world."
The next conclave was divided into two parties and the rulers of Spain and France, employing all devices and resources in the cloistered struggle, awaited the outcome of the balloting with eagerness and anxiety. The French deemed it a victory when a kinsman of their Queen, the Cardinal Alessandra Ottaviona de Medici, was chosen; but the sweetness of the triumph turned abruptly to the uncertainties of suspense again when the new pontiff sickened and died after a reign of twenty-seven days. He was seventy-one years old and on his tomb was inscribed the name of Leo XI. The same parties which had struggled
to control the previous conclave now maneuvered again and finally compromised in the selection of the Cardinal Camillo Borghese who became Paul V. He was a Roman and the conduct of his reign could be anticipated from the name he chose; for like Paul IV he was a stern and haughty nepotist whose harsh pronouncements were seldom softened by mercy. He was but fifty-five years old and most of his career had been spent in the study and application of canon law. Thus, save in the matter of enriching his family, his policies and viewpoint were those of an academically correct lawyer rather than the adaptable ways of the professional diplomatist. Perhaps it was fortunate that such a man should now supervise the Curia for the decrees of the Council of Trent were still new and stern discipline was needed to make sure of unhindered observance and to keep clear the channels of interpretation.
The unyielding and uncompromising nature of the Pope brought him into conflict with the Venetians who for a century past had been a source of various troubles to the papacy. When insolence from that quarter was carried into his reign Paul V made little endeavour to parley but unhesitatingly put the Republic under interdict. The actual incident which brought the drastic sentence concerned the seizure and imprisonment of two Venetian ecclesiastics without attention to the existing law of clerical immunity. Great indignation was manifested in Venice at the papal action and the Doge, supported by local theologians, ordered the clergy to disregard the Interdict. His command was obeyed except by the Jesuits, the Theatines, and the Capuchins, all of whom were forced to vacate their pulpits and their properties in the city of canals. It then appeared as though the next stage of the conflict would, much to the delight of Protestant observers,
result in bloodshed. But as both armies prepared the French King intervened and by the efforts of his representative a species of reconciliation was effected although with little good will on either side.
In this reign began an incident which was to be magnified and distorted in the telling by anti-papal writers of later generations. Living then was the celebrated Galileo Galilei of Pisa who mingled his great talents in the realms of physics, astronomy, and philosophy. His firm belief in the heliocentric planetary theory which had first been formulated but not completely proved by the priest Copernicus led him into conflict with those of his colleagues who supported the Ptolemaic or geocentric system and as was the noisy habit of the day invective and insult were invoked to support argument. The noisy argument as to whether the sun revolved around the earth or vice versa was heard beyond the academies because both sides rashly invoked scriptural allusion to support their beliefs; and as the possession of high talent is usually escorted by the malice and envy of those less favored, it was only to be expected that complaints against the scientists unorthodoxy should reach the alert ears of the Inquisition. It was known that certain astronomers mixed their science with more mysterious practices and so the doctor was summoned to Rome where a court of theologians, ever super-sensitive in their fears that scientific innovations might be but subtle disguises for novelties in doctrine, pronounced the opinion, after consultation with men of science, that the Copernican theory was erroneous and contrary to scriptural teaching. Galileo, displaying a discretion rare in a man of genius, promised not to spread his beliefs any further and so was released. But as time passed the complacency of his erstwhile critics presented a temptation too great to resist and once again he was
called to Rome where he was tried, not for his theories, but for breaking his former promise. Considering that the shadow of heresy had rested on him the terms of his punishment were lenient and in all he only spent twenty-two days in the buildings of the Holy Office. Another pope now ruled and it was he, Urban VIII, who afterwards gave the distinguished scientist a pension while he lived and his blessing when he died. Charges have been made that this was a case where the Church clearly tried with all authority to obstruct the enlightenment of scientific progress. The facts are that while certain theologians did disagree with Galileo, the Pope, as the Voice of the Church, never pronounced against the views of the scientist nor was such opposition incorporated into the doctrinal belief of the Church. And as for the mistake of the ecclesiastics it should be remembered their attitude was fortified by established belief and the profound opinion of almost every contemporary scholar, Catholic or Protestant. "Even such a great man as Bacon," says Macaulay, "rejected with scorn the theory of Galileo."
Paul V was Pope for sixteen years and when he died the conflict known as the Thirty Years War had commenced. Although it was supposedly a religious quarrel the Pope did his best to remain neutral for he realized that political differences were the real reasons: they were to extend the hostilities for three decades. A revolt in Bohemia started the campaign, which is divided by the historians into four periods, Palatine, Danish, Swedish, and French. The battles were many and so were the shifts of fortune and by the time conclusion had been reached Catholics had fought shoulder to shoulder with Protestants against similarly assorted opponents. Opposing national interests fed the fires of the conflict and in the last years the aim of France, under the leadership of Cardinal Richelieu,
Innocent X. Reigned 1644 to 1655.
Click to enlarge
Pope Innocent X
His corpse lay unattended three days. See pages 284-5.
was to overcome the Catholic House of Austria, and the Treaty which marked the cessation of the long hostilities was indeed a bitter and humiliating blow to the latter power.
Quickly chosen after the death of Paul was a clever canonist and diplomatist, the Cardinal Alessandro Ludovisi, Gregory XV. He was a silent and sickly man with the wan appearance of an ancient scholar whose health had been broken in over study; and he was able to support his new and great burdens only for two years, but short though the time was his accomplishments were many and permanent. New rules were made to govern the procedure of future conclaves, and the methods of choice were limited to three processes; that of scrutiny which is the employment of secret ballot and the method most commonly used; that of compromise, which delegates by general consent the elective power to a small committee of cardinals; and acclamation which is a contingency to provide for those rare occasions when by an unanimous agreement the hopes and approval of the Sacred College unite in the person of an unopposed candidate.
To meet the problems involved in the complex administration of the great missionary activities which were now in full and noble motion in the Americas and the Indies and Africa as well as the remote places of the Orient, the Congregation of the Propaganda was established. And new names were added to the calendar of Saints, including those of Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, Philip Neri and the mystic Teresa of Avila. The difficult business of guarding the Papal dignity through the vicissitudes and treacheries of the current war was accomplished with tact and dexterity. That combination of Princes who determined the Imperial succession numbered seven, and Gregory by his astute diplomacy increased the Catholic influence
so that five of the votes became pledged to Catholic policy. While friendship was maintained with Spain, the city of Paris was elevated from the status of an episcopal see to metropolitan dignity; and to gain further support from France, which was already protecting the missionaries in Turkish territory, an eloquent young prelate with powerful friends was sent the Red Hat. His name was Armand Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu.
Assisting the ailing pontiff in most of his enterprises was a nephew who had been elevated to the purple and the accession of the next Pope, Urban VIII, certainly brought no halt to what now seemed an established custom. On the contrary several relatives were made Eminences, others were given lucrative positions, and it has been estimated that during a pontificate which extended twenty-one years this Pope's family was enriched by one hundred and five million scudi. As the Cardinal Maffeo Barberini he had served the Church well, and particularly in his capacity as Nuncio to the French court he had won distinction, although from this association was formed a policy which brought him criticism and trouble. The delicate position which his predecessor had adroitly managed to keep during the ever changing fortunes of the Thirty Years War was abandoned by Urban VIII; and to the disgust and rage of the Catholic Princes he openly supported Richelieu who with his Protestant allies was determined to crush Catholic Austria. Manifestations of chagrin and bitterness only induced the Pope to open wide his treasury for the defence of Rome and elaborate fortifications were built and the ancient walls repaired. For the glory of his name and the vanity of his kin artisans and artists were also kept busy on such famous structures as the Barberini Palace and the villa of Castel Gandolfo which is the present summer residence of the Pope.
[paragraph continues] The Quirinal gardens were designed for his approval and so great and constant was the building activity that when lead was stripped from the roof of the Pantheon to provide material for new projects a typical Roman sarcasm was born. "What the barbarians spared, the Barberini have taken."
Infected by the same greedy ambitions which had already intoxicated his nephews the Pope sent his troops to occupy the Duchy of Castro, property of the Farnese family, but the unjust encroachment alarmed and angered the other great clans and principalities to such an extent that with their ready assistance the Farnese duke enlisted a capable band of experienced warriors, well equipped with the tools of war. The Papal States were invaded with cries of revenge and promises of destruction to the Barberini and a catastrophic campaign was only averted by the timely intervention of the French king, who forced the Pope to deliver the usurped domain back to its duke. Because, in Italy, his covetous conduct was frankly that of the head of an aggressively ambitious family rather than the example expected of the leader of Christendom, and because, across the Alps, his unwise and shifty abandonment of neutrality had dissipated the aloofness which should have earned him the respect of the nations, Urban VIII can be blamed for the fact that at the close of his considerable reign the attention shown a papal pronouncement was rapidly achieving the same small degree of importance as might be accorded the voice of a temporal sovereign whose territories and armies were neither large nor important. A decree of Urban thus received was his solemn condemnation of the book Augustinus written by Cornelius Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres, which purported to interpret the teachings of St. Augustine and which among opinions of Calvinistic tinge declared
the will of man was not free and that Christ had not died for all. The bishop died soon after the publication of his work but there rapidly, despite the Papal ban, sprang into existence the tenacious sect of Jansenism which was to bring much trouble during the coming century.
If the prestige which Urban had lost was to be regained in the next reign, it was necessary that his successor should be a man of energy and strong will, yet the sad truth is that these were the very characteristics missing in the nature of Innocent X. The cardinals had pondered weeks before agreeing on their pleasant-tempered and nobly born colleague, Giovanni Battista Pamfili, who as a prelate had lived correctly and officiated with discretion but who was now past his three score and ten and who was distinctly not one of those ancients whose vigor excites the wonder of lesser and younger men. In fact he was shamelessly content that his family should guide his will; and defeating a cardinal nephew for this privilege was his brother's widow Olimpia Maidalchini, an extraordinary and resolute woman well able to dominate the actions of a tired old man. Even in an age when nepotism was the accepted custom the arrogance of this presumptuous shrew excited scandal and dismay; for she ruled the papal household from the kitchens to the reception chambers and her anger was feared alike by cooks and cardinals. A bare and looted treasury had aroused the ire of this formidable character and steps were taken to make the Barberini disgorge their ill-gotten wealth. But the nephews of the previous Pope wisely fled to France where, with the hope of securing their favor at a future conclave, protection was given them and influence brought to bear so that they were able eventually, with fortunes unimpaired, to return to Italy.
The ornamentation of Rome was continued in this reign with generous patronage and was appreciated by the citizens; but a gauge of the dwindling papal prestige outside the Papal States is best illustrated by the hearty indifference which was accorded the Pope's objection to the Treaty of Westphalia. Historic rights and properties of the Church were arbitrarily given to Protestant rulers in this agreement between the nations and it was in vain that Innocent declared "all articles of the Treaty prejudicial to the Catholic religion, to divine worship, to the Apostolic See or to subordinate Churches . . . are to be null and void, invalid, iniquitous, rejected, without force or effect in law." The Treaty was supposed to mark the end of the Thirty Years War although in fact Spain and France continued hostilities for another decade; but Austria accepted humiliating terms and the actual break up of the so-called Empire was assured. Innocent X was eighty-two years old when he died and so wretched and confused was his household that his corpse lay unattended for three days. It had been thought that the Donna Olimpia, hitherto the governing spirit of the Lateran, would arrange the funeral but the remarkably practical dowager, well aware her time was over, did naught but announce that such action was impossible for "a poor widow."
No hasty conference was the next conclave and particularly grave were the responsibilities confronting that assemblage. It was the middle of the seventeenth century, the end of that period which historians have allotted to the Reformation, and all Europe was writhing in a disunity and exhaustion from which France had emerged, thanks to the genius of Richelieu, holding the balance of power. France had remained a Catholic nation but it was the plan of the great Cardinal, followed by his successor,
[paragraph continues] Mazarin, to bring all things ecclesiastical under the absolute control of the State, and to pay what in effect would be but lip service to the Pope. Catholic revival in France had been earnest and successful and as proof there were at this very time living and spreading their good works such men as the saintly Vincent de Paul and the famous theologian and historian Bossuet; but many a good churchman, sincere in intention but intoxicated by patriotism, had diverted his allegiance and given his support to the proposed alliance of Church and State which was to be known as Gallicanism. Across the English Channel Puritan passions were in full fury, King Charles had lost his head, altars had been overturned throughout the country and Catholic blood was shed freely. But these outrages seemed almost inconsequent when compared to the crowded massacres which were the awful work of Cromwell's men in Ireland. Protestant princes held sway in Holland and the north countries but the story of Hungary, because of the efforts of one of her own sons, the Archbishop Pazman, was a triumph of the counter-reformation.
The people of Spain had held their faith too but her prelates and her sovereign were uneasy and fearful that the papacy would become a permanent instrument of French policy; and the King, Philip IV, who had not resigned himself to the painful lessons of the Thirty Years War, still cherished hopes that once again Spain would become the foremost nation of Europe. A like mirage dazzled the minds of the Turks and at Constantinople modern implements of battle were made ready, ancient scimitars sharpened, and a fleet of fast feluccas outfitted in preparation for the wild joys of a Holy War. In that minaretted city where the great church of the Christians had become the premier mosque of the Moslems, the
[paragraph continues] Patriarch of the Eastern Church still dwelt under the sufferance and capricious protection of the Caliphs, clinging to an ill heeded authority, contemptuously spurning the advances of Protestant theologians but always, true to the ancient and miserable tradition, stubbornly refusing union with Rome. The Russias were rumbling with the approach of a new era and there was a chance that the Church might gain opportunities, hitherto denied, to propagate throughout the wider regions. The popes had long tried to draw the Muscovite Christians into the fold but the Orthodox metropolitans with a persistence, equal in duration and tenacity, had consistently met such advances with spirited opposition. Pope Gregory XIII had earned the esteem and had received the envoys of Ivan the Terrible with the result that the Jesuits had been allowed to cross the long boundaries and they were now achieving success among the people, but they were also incurring the wrath and hatred of the native clergy. Formidable this hatred proved to be, for the time of Peter the Great was approaching and after many vicissitudes the followers of Ignatius were, at the beginning of the next century, to receive the order of expulsion.
For three months after the death of Innocent X the cardinals deliberated and argued and at one time decided that the good and well qualified Cardinal Sacchetti should be their choice. But the ring of the Fishermen was denied him because the representative of the Spanish King presented the solemn objection of Spain. Thus was exercised the "Right of Exclusion," in virtue of which the head of a nation claimed to veto the election of a candidate on the grounds that such an elevation would be incompatible with the interests of his country. This privilege is now explicitly rejected by the Church but up until recently it was claimed at various times by the Governments of
[paragraph continues] France, Austria, Spain and Germany. After the Spanish objection to Cardinal Sacchetti had been recognized the votes were cast again and this time the majority went to Fabio Chigi, a cardinal who had spoken for the Church at the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Westphalia and who had consequently incurred the dislike of the French. This antipathy was now manifested when that nation objected to the possibility of his being Pope. Sacchetti was the candidate preferred in Paris but as a hopeless deadlock seemed likely the worthy prelate magnanimously persuaded the French to withdraw their opposition to the other candidate. Chigi was then proclaimed pontiff and the Borgia reputation did not prevent him from taking the name of Alexander VII.
He was fifty-six years old and was a grandnephew of Paul V. He had been an important legate and in an age which produced such illustrious names in the realms of science and scholarship as Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, Napier, Leibnitz, Isaac Newton, Bellarmine and many others of like genius and learning he was reckoned to be a scholar of repute. Much could be and much was expected of him but he proved to be an indifferent administrator. Indolence was his weakness and many hours were spent each day enjoying the warmth of the sun, coining epigrams and quoting Latin verse amidst the pleasant chatter of friends who were of similar taste. When this languorous routine palled there were long vacations in the country where life was even less irksome. The burdens of Government and even important decisions involving policy were left to the wisdom of either the Secretariate of State or the Congregations; and in a sense this was but a reflection of a change in government that was then taking place in every land. Monarchs, formerly so absolute in their authority, were yielding ground to the growing and
accumulated power of the higher aristocracy and as the great families of the Papal States, their ranks augmented from time to time by the kin of reigning popes, were as alert and as effective as their noble equals elsewhere in claiming and occupying offices of the State, many important positions in the Congregations were now held by bearers of familiar names. Alexander VII was pope twelve years and most of the time he was on bad terms with France. There were numerous disagreements which finally resulted in the troops of the young King Louis XIV occupying Avignon. The circumstance which brought this belligerent action had begun in a dark corner of a Roman street when a drunken servant of the French Embassy received a fatal thrust from the sword of an equally drunken soldier of the Papal Guards. For this crime the minister of the foremost nation of Europe demanded reparations, including a long and full apology from the Pope.
The lackadaisical Alexander had allowed many of his most vexatious cares to fall upon the shoulders of the papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Giulio Rospigliosi, and it was this distinguished and hard-working prelate who became his successor as Clement IX. It was a popular choice and there was rejoicing among good men for though the new pope was famous for his sweet temper and devotion to high ideals he was also an administrator whose experience would not allow him to be the easy dupe of villains. The enthusiasm of his admirers was never betrayed; and if his rule, parental rather than regal, was renowned for kindness it was never despised for weakness. In Rome Clement IX was accessible to all and twice a week he could be found in St. Peter's with attendants dismissed, assuming the duties of a humble confessor. No nephews came to wear the purple or fatten
their purses and when buildings were erected the new walls, in defiance of the established custom, remained bare of his name or heraldry. Taxes were reduced, the evils of the grain monopolies abolished, and so earnest were his charities that the citizens cheered at the mention of his name. Nor did his popularity cease at the walls of Rome. Across the boundaries of nations it flourished and over the thresholds of courts. Though his policies with the powers were conciliatory they were also characterized by the firmness of will and unswerving adherence to principles of a true priest. Trouble with the Jansenist movement was averted in his reign because of his gentle and understanding treatment of those who were so inclined, and when Spain and France decided to end hostilities the same peace-loving mind was credited with having played a considerable part in the preliminary negotiations. It was his wish that these powerful nations should form an alliance that would awe and prevent Turkish aggression but before his plans could be realized the audacious Mohammedans landed at Crete and conquered Candia. The calamitous news was a bitter blow to the anxious and fatigued pontiff and when informed he was felled by a shock and grief from which he never fully recovered. Soon the pontificate of but two years and a few months was at an end and there were tears and gloom.
The Sacred College, assembling with haste but already subjected to the heavy intrigues of France and Spain, met with confusion and dismay in a conclave that was long and miserable. The weeks dragged by and the fifth month was almost concluded before the honor was given to the Cardinal Emilio Altieri who fervently wished to assume the name of his friend and predecessor and so became Pope Clement X. That he had held the esteem of Clement IX was sufficient endorsement of his character; but he
was eighty years old and his election cannot be regarded as being other than a device of compromise on the part of the cardinals. It was an escape from deadlock and the opposing parties of the conclave each thought to increase their strength during a pontificate that could not be long, although in fact their venerable choice lived for six more years. He brought no great change to the policies of Clement IX but neither did he bring the vigor of the inspired leadership of that good man. Most of the papal authority was put into the hands of a young adopted nephew, the Cardinal Paoluzzi-Altieri who tried, but in vain, to create a league of the Christian nations which for all time would end the Turkish threat. Savage battles were already being fought by the Hungarians under the command of gallant John Sobieski; but it was the French strategy, always inimical to Austria, to keep trouble on the eastern borders of that country so instead of opposing the Turks the envoys of the most Christian King actually made pact with Mohammed IV.
Little heed was given to any word of the Pope in France for Gallicanism was on the increase in the kingdom of Louis XIV. Revenues of vacant bishoprics were arbitrarily claimed in the royal name and under the seal of the same authority elevations were, without reference to Rome, made to the episcopacy. But if little respect was shown by France to Clement X, the Czar Alexis of Russia, a bitter enemy of the Turks, despatched an embassy to Rome. His envoy bore the name of Menzies and was the son of a Catholic Scotsman who had fled from Cromwell's soldiers; but unfortunately he was a poor diplomat and making no effort to disguise his dislike of Rome and the Romans he accomplished little save to draw upon himself an enormous unpopularity.
Death came to Clement in his eighty-sixth year and
there was determined resistance on the part of those cardinals who were under French influence to prevent the election of the Cardinal Benedetto Odescalchi. Opposition from the same quarter had denied him the honors six years earlier but this time his supporters were stronger and more than ever convinced he should reign. Their persistence succeeded and at the end of two months their unassuming but capable candidate was hailed as Pope Innocent XI. The hostile presumptions of Louis XIV were met without fear or weakness by the new pontiff and he remained unintimidated when the monarch commanded the French clergy to meet in a formal assemblage for the purpose of defining the rights of the Church in France. Most of these churchmen had the Erastian bias of their king and the shadow of schism loomed terribly near when their deliberation resulted in the Four Gallican Articles which declared that Kings and princes in temporal things were not to be subjected to ecclesiastical power, the decrees of the Council of Constance were to be upheld, the use of papal power was to be moderated by the Canons, and the decision of the Pope could not be final without the consent of the Church.
The response of Innocent to the violation of his authority was a swift condemnation of the assemblage and its declarations, and this measure was followed by an announcement that henceforth canonical investiture would be denied ecclesiastics possessed of such views. Thirty-six French bishoprics thus became vacant and although royal nominees were able to usurp revenues of certain sees they remained devoid of spiritual jurisdiction and were denied by the Curia. The rage of Louis mounted and in retaliation there was further trespass by his troops at Avignon. Rome showed no fear and the quarrel took an even more violent course when the French envoy refused to surrender certain
diplomatic privileges, involving extra-territoriality, which had been withdrawn by the papal government because of abuse. Louis sent soldiers to bolster the ambassadorial attitude and when his haughty representative was excommunicated the nuncio in France was arrested. Relations between this Pope and King were never to be happy, yet the grievous altercation brought no aid to Protestantism in France: in fact the continued harsh treatment given to the Huguenots awakened the compassion of the pontiff to such a degree that he appealed on their behalf to James II of England, hoping that words of the English king would have weight with his brother monarch and thus lessen their miserable lot. "As the French government became severer towards the Protestants," one writer recorded, "so the Pope became milder, while remaining immovable, however, on matters of faith." His strict and unbending orthodoxy on the subject of dogmatic interpretation brought his displeasure upon that flexible school of theology known as Casuistry, a science which supposedly was enjoying favor amongst those French Jesuits who were fighting the dour and severe teachings of the Jansenists. The Casuist sought to explain moral principle through practical example and as it was a method which could easily lead to error and misunderstanding the stern Pope condemned a series of propositions which had been taken from the writings of moral theologians considered to be possessed of too lax leanings. This action against their enemies naturally pleased the Jansenists and their dangerous applause drew a suspicion of Jansenism upon the reputation of Innocent XI which was to linger long after his death.
But certainly nobody could deny that his was a model reign. He lived simply and humbly and though he reduced taxes a sizable balance grew in the papal treasury.
[paragraph continues] Thus he was able to send financial assistance to the Austrians and Poles who were still carrying on their bitter struggle against the hordes of the Crescent. He sought to impose his own decorous way of life upon the Romans, the citizens were deprived of their gambling dens, and their wives were forbidden to wear immodest clothing. Like many of his predecessors he deplored usury and comprehensive legislation was made in an effort to control and limit the disastrous practice. Wisdom and moderation characterized his relationship with England and it was without his support and against his counsel that the Catholic King James II employed the violent and imprudent measures which cost him his throne and so dealt a crushing blow to Catholic hopes in that kingdom.
The difference between Innocent XI and Louis XIV always remained unbridged and when the former died the royal representatives once again labored strenuously to secure the election of a candidate who would be more sympathetic to their sovereign. They were not entirely successful but neither were their intrigues a complete failure. After a struggle of two months the opposing factions within the conclave agreed to a compromise in the person of the eighty-year-old Pietro Ottoboni who was a Venetian. He took the name of Alexander VIII. He had had wide administrative experience but he was now an old man and with indulgence and relief he allowed his aristocratic but greedy family to participate in many of his decisions. He only reigned sixteen months and no great changes were made in the broader policies which he had inherited except for the establishment of a more amicable relationship with France. Louis reciprocated the good will and as a grand gesture removed his troops from Avignon; but further steps toward a complete reconciliation were halted by the sudden although not unexpected death of
[paragraph continues] Alexander. The rivalries of national intrigues kept the cardinals imprisoned for five months before they could tell the world that there was a pope again. The Archbishop of Naples, the Cardinal Antonio Pignatelli del Rastrello, was proclaimed Pope Innocent XII and quickly illustrated the high standard of his reign by providing a permanent and heavy check to nepotism in the form of the Bull Romanum decet Pontificem. With canonical authority carefully exercised the decree left scant opportunity for abuses on the part of future papal kinsmen. A pope, if the circumstances so demanded, might raise one relation to the Sacred College but no more than one, and similar limitations regulated the appointment of other offices, ecclesiastical or civil or military, which were under papal patronage. Adherence to the enactment by the cardinals, as well as future popes, was assured by the institution of an obligatory declaration under oath. "If the head of the Church," declared Innocent XII, "has poor relations, let him give them the same charity as he gives other needy people."
The conciliatory mood which Louis XIV had shown towards the previous pontiff did not lessen with the new reign. Perhaps the increasing strength and unity of the anti-French nations, Austria, Spain, Sweden and later England and Holland, made him more appreciative of papal friendship; but whatever the cause his former extravagant claims were gradually abandoned and in time the Declaration of the Four Articles was supplanted by a more reasonable edict which without any radical departure from canon law redefined the rights of the ecclesiastical and temporal powers in France. The enemies of Louis regarded these happenings with suspicion and alarm and soon the current holder of the Imperial title, Leopold I, was making angry accusation against the pope. As a
pretext for quarrel his ambassador in Rome claimed those diplomatic privileges of immunity and asylum which had been denied the French envoy during the reign of Innocent XI. The Pope rejected the claims, the quarrel grew, and when Charles I of Spain looked for an heir the papal advice was that his territories should be pledged to a French prince, Philip of Anjou. The decision brought glory and power to the House of Bourbon but it also brought the cruel War of the Spanish Succession and before Philip could enjoy his throne the martial genius of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, had inflicted defeat after defeat upon the French armies during the campaigns of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet. But these battles were fought after the time of Innocent XII and his last days were bright with the hopes that the approaching century would be an era of peace. There was a lull in the European struggles, the Crescent seemed subdued, and with dreams based upon such fragile foundation the Holy Year of the Jubilee of the year 1700 was celebrated with happiness and success. Great crowds of pilgrims pressed forward to receive the tremulous blessing of a worthy old man who was awaiting his end without fear or regret, content that he had done his best in all things. He had ruled with justice and wisdom and charity and when he died the memory of this popewhom the poet Browning was to salute as being "simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute"was honored even by those who had incurred his censure.