Part II - Reform and Revolution
5 The Fall of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
As king and politician the Pope was weak. His power, so far as not spiritual, lay in the ability to concede or sell to kings rights over the Church in various countries, in appointments, money, tax, exemption, dispensations. These were very important. But they were being eroded by the system of Concordats and the pressure of Catholic sovereigns.
Peace after 1748 was a blessing. No hostile armies trampled the Papal States. The Catholic powers were near harmony. And their harmony was not in all respects a blessing for the Pope. France and Austria were natural rivals in Italy and remained so until the war of 1914. This helped Popes. A Pope could not long be bullied by France because Austria would protest nor by Austria because France would protest. But in Germany Prussia was rising. For the first time in the modern history of the Holy Roman Empire Austria feared for the leadership of Germany.
Thus the rise of Prussia affected Popes. The Austrians needed French and Spanish help against the threat of Prussia.
After 1750 Popes were confronted with a Bourbon alliance between France and Spain which Austria did not like too firmly to oppose. A Pope could no longer be sure of independence because governments disagreed. He might be faced with a united demand from all Catholic sovereigns.
Never in all the history of the papacy were the ambassadors from Madrid, Paris, Vienna, Naples, and Lisbon so mighty in Rome as during the half-century of peace after 1748. To the Pope they behaved with ceremonious decorum. His secretaries of state, favourites, friends, confidential advisers, chaplains, and cardinals they threatened and bullied where they could not bribe or persuade.
The ghost of Henry VIII walked abroad among the Catholic governments. Cardinals, who had long memories, kept reminding themselves what happened in England when a Pope too pertinaciously resisted a Catholic sovereign. Cordara, who knew much about the cardinals of those years, wrote this: 'By the example of Henry VIII advisers of Popes are nowadays wont to frighten them, so that however villainous a prince they refuse to resist with the courage that befits a priest.' 1
The Critics of the Jesuits
The Jesuits were the leading order at the Counter-Reformation and identified in the mind of Europe with its political and religious success. Protestants therefore regarded them as the most papalist and most unscrupulous of the Pope's followers. From the middle of the seventeenth century, during the time of the Thirty Years War, the word Jesuit was used to imply someone oversubtle or underhand.
A single document was very influential and was still being printed and used by propagandists during the eighteenth century (and into the middle of the nineteenth and after): the Monita Secreta. This was written in Cracow in 1614 by a Pole Jerome Zahorowski who had lately been expelled from the Society. This document purported to be the secret instructions on how to get money, how Jesuit houses could become rich without losing the repute for poverty, how to procure the friendship of rich widows, how to get the ear of Great Men, etc. The document was very crude ('Never settle in a town not wealthy', 'Princes have always desired a Jesuit confessor when they have been engaged in hateful practices that they might not hear of reproof') but coming just before the Thirty Years War it was serviceable in the passionate political strife over religion, and was undoubtedly couched in the Latin style and appearance of authentic Jesuit rules and constitutions. Leading historians rejected it as a forgery. But it was too useful to vanish: and this lasting utility, in a document which deserved to disappear overnight, is a sign how deep in the European consciousness was already the controversial reputation of the Jesuits. As late as 1760 a terrible satire circulated in Rome, The Wolves Unmasked (I lupi smascherati) which translated and 'refuted' the Monita Secreta and explained how its principles led to Jesuit plots to murder kings.
The Jesuits educated most of the Catholic upper and middle classes; were famous for training future priests; were much in demand as conductors of missions and of the Spiritual Exercises; were most commonly selected as confessors of kings. Protestants feared and loathed the order. Some Catholics began to dislike them almost as fervently.
As educators they controlled so many colleges that they found it hard to fill chairs with worthy professors, they maintained an excellent but old-fashioned classical syllabus, they refused to adapt to those who wanted science and history. They controlled the higher education of the Catholic world. And the leading minds were convinced that this Catholic education was falling backward behind Protestant. In 1746 the Bishop of Augsburg founded a new college with the special object of getting an up-to-date syllabus and taking the seminary out of Jesuit hands. 2 Still, an order which in 1750 had more than 22,500 members had a reputation which continued to attract.
The movement for their destruction was sudden. Probably it could not have happened if the ground were not prepared, first by Unigenitus and its aftermath, and then by the vast publicity attending the Pope's condemnation of the Chinese rites.
From early in the history of Latin American missions, the religious orders realized that the Indians could not be protected from settlers unless they were gathered into reservations. The most famous reservations were the Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay. Reservations, if remote enough, needed little protection at first from the encroachments of colonists. But early in the eighteenth century European settlers who wanted land began to meet old-established Indian protectorates and to resent their protectors. To the missionary guardians the oncoming settlers looked like pirates and bandits. To the settlers missionaries looked like archaic props of an obsolete world. A strong economic and physical force drove out a weak.
In the past European governments were sometimes powerful enough to lend law and military force to save the protectorates from destruction. As the settlers grew in number, they became impossible to control without an exertion beyond the wish or strength of home governments. No one could any longer protect the Indian protectorates. Being like little kingdoms with an autonomy under the sovereignty of the home government, and possessing frontiers which no man might cross without leave, they became eldorados of legend, distant countries where gold and silver might be had for the asking. Men said that the Jesuits were setting up a kingdom in Paraguay. Colonial administrators recommended that the ordinary government take over the government of the reductions in Paraguay.
Early in that century a French engineer and traveller, Frézier, published A Voyage to the South Sea; and to its editions was added an appendix, not by Frézier, called in the English translation of 1717 Some Account of the Settlement of the Jesuites in the Spanish Indies. From internal evidence this description was not first hand. But it described how the Jesuits ruled 300,000 families, that their land was 'the finest part of all that continent,' with temperate air and fertile soil and hard-working Indians, a country fruitful in timber and orchards and 'many simples of great use in pharmacy', producing 'the herb paraguay' used everywhere as tea and worth the best part of a million crowns a year, and above all with gold and silver mines in plenty; and how the rule of this paradise was communist and oppressive, each Indian bringing his produce to a common warehouse and being given his ration of food, each kept apart from any visitors even to being ordered indoors if a European visitor walked down the street. Such a traveller's tale was not unique. By the middle of the century many Portuguese and Spaniards believed that the Jesuit 'kingdoms' guarded wealth to which they had no right and maintained their power by an unjust and undesirable system of society. The Jesuits denied neither that the social system was unusual, nor that they preferred to keep out visitors. They vehemently denied that they produced more wealth than they needed to survive as communities. They were not believed. Their desire to protect the Indians by keeping away Europeans was interpreted as a wish to hide gold. The local bishops disapproved the reductions. For Jesuits were exempt from the visitation of a bishop, and thereby removed many Christians from normal church administration. Twice over they were a kingdom inside a kingdom—both in State and in Church.
In 1750 Spain and Portugal agreed a treaty for a better defined frontier in South America. Spain gave to Portugal the land where seven of the thirty reductions stood. The Indians must be moved to the further side of the River Uruguay, at a tiny compensation of 28,000 pesos. The hardships of such an emigration were not understood in Madrid, Lisbon, or Rome. Two Jesuit generals in succession, who had no notion of local circumstances, told their men to obey.
The missionaries voted by 68 to 2 that the emigration was impossible. In June 1752 the emigration began, and proved so full of suffering that the Indians refused to move. Spanish troops tried to make them, and the effort grew into a little war, in which the army occupied the reductions. Madrid and Lisbon both believed that the Jesuit heads of the reductions caused Indian resistance and bloodshed. A religious order was 'at war' with the Portuguese state and Portuguese commerce. Yet the government of Portugal found the same religious order powerful within its borders, as confessors to sovereign and royal family and nobility, and as controlling all higher education in the land. The little Indian war in Paraguay switched the fierce hostility of government against Jesuits within Portugal. It was a classic case, often seen in history (at its worst in Turkish massacres of Armenians) where a group within the state suffered criminal persecution because identified with an enemy outside the state. In such circumstances no one asks whether individual members of the society are guilty or innocent. It is enough that the individual belongs to the hated group.
The moment happened to coincide with another important point of Portuguese history: the effort to modernize an archaic state through a despotic prime minister.
Because of the sugar trade and the gold of Brazil, the crown had money, and freed itself from control by the representatives of the people in the Cortes. The power of cabinet ministers rose steadily. Like all modernizing ministers of the eighteenth century, they must demolish or weaken the two pillars of old society, the nobility and the Catholic Church.
King José I (1750-77) disliked work and entrusted the government to Carvalho, known to the world by his later (1770) title, the Marquis of Pombal. On 1 November 1755 central Lisbon was destroyed by two earthquake shocks within ten minutes and a tidal wave an hour later. Not without reason, Pombal gained the credit of coping with the national crisis, and henceforth as a saviour of his country exercised near-despotic authority. He used his powers to improve the Portuguese economy, develop the textile industry, regulate the trade in port wine, reform the universities and education, and foster art and architecture. Upon the nobility and the Church he trampled ruthlessly; torturing and executing several lords on unproven charges of conspiracy to assassinate the king.
In March 1758 for the first time the Portuguese envoy in Rome spoke to Pope Benedict XIV the radical threat against the Jesuits; 'Either rigorous reform or abolition'. Men—no longer Protestants but Catholics—said that Jesuits fermented revolution; engaged in illicit trade to build up wealth; pursued power with such ardour that soon their missionary kingdoms would be impregnable. In those last few months of his life Benedict's chief adviser in the matter was the Jesuit-hater Cardinal Passionei, who like the secretary of state Cardinal Archinto was afterwards sent a diamond ring for his services to the Portuguese government. Benedict XIV issued a brief appointing the Portuguese Cardinal Saldanha to reform the Portuguese Jesuits. 3 Saldanha was a creature of Pombal.
The Neapolitan minister Tanucci afterwards believed that dying Benedict XIV's brief was the ultimate cause of the calamity which fell on the Jesuits. It ordered Cardinal Saldanha to act with moderation, but to find out whether the Jesuits in South America, who were accused of trading illicitly to the disadvantage of a legal monopoly in commerce, disobeyed the canon laws against trade by priests, or whether they only sold their surplus produce like any monastery selling vegetables from its garden. The brief turned the eyes of Europe to Jesuit activity in the markets, to the size of their estates, their management, and their endowments. They were declared now to be under suspicion, not merely from an oppressive minister, but from the Pope. Suddenly the idea was in the air that the Pope might, and could, abolish Jesuits.
After an official enquiry Cardinal Saldanha issued an edict (printed before the enquiry) that the Jesuits were guilty of 'scandalous trading', contrary to canon law and the orders of the Pope. He confiscated the accounts, and banned commerce under penalty of excommunication. Pombal ordered the Cardinal of Lisbon to ban the Jesuits in his jurisdiction from preaching or hearing confessions, and the Cardinal signed the ban, weeping.
In February 1759 Pombal confiscated all Jesuit property in Portugal. That April he expelled them from Portugal or imprisoned them in various forts; on the charges that they started war in South America, were linked with the attempt to murder the king, and engaged in trade against their rule. At first he thought of sending them to the penal settlements in Angola. But on 24 October, without warning, a Ragusan captain landed 133 Jesuits from Portugal at Civita Vecchia in the Papal States. Hundreds more followed in various batches, including those from the Portuguese empire in India and Brazil. The numbers are inaccurate enough, but of the 1,698 Jesuits in the Portuguese branch of the Society, more than a thousand were deposited in the Papal States. The exempted were novices and those willing to abandon the Jesuits rather than face exile. Out of 453 Jesuits in Brazil and Paraguay 170 preferred to leave the Society rather than be sent to Europe. In China and other lands outside Portuguese government the members of the Portuguese division of the Society were untouched.
The expulsion destroyed many missions in Paraguay and Brazil. It also forced a reconstruction of higher education in Portugal, not before time. Pombal imprisoned 124 Jesuits in the fort at the mouth of the Tagus and left forty-five of them there, without a trial, for nineteen years. A famous Jesuit Gabriel Malagrida, once a missionary in Brazil and regarded by the common people as a saint, was condemned by the Inquisition, which Pombal used as a crown court of repression, and executed as a heretic on
12 January 1761. Against this holy eccentric the charges did not bear examination. 4
The judicial murder of Malagrida shows how far the Pope's writ still ran. He could not protect the Jesuits in Portugal because they were accused of crimes against the State and in Italy he had no way to disprove the charges. He could only ask for accusations which never came, demand that innocent members be not heaped together with guilty, and issue protests. But the Patriarch of Lisbon, and most of the Portuguese bishops, were submissive on Pombal's side and were seldom displeased to be rid of Jesuits. The Bishop of Bahia was removed because he protested too forcibly their innocence. The Pope was powerless to help.
But his law still ran. This was one reason why Pombal never brought the victims to trial. Canon law prevented State courts from trying clergymen, and canon law was accepted in Portugal. Pombal demanded from Rome that the old right enabling clerics guilty of high treason to be tried in a secular court (the so-called Court of Conscience) should be extended to the higher clergy and religious orders and made perpetual. Because Rome granted the exceptional case (2 August 1759) but refused the perpetual right, Pombal rejected the exceptional permission. Therefore he could not put the Jesuits on trial before a secular court but must either concoct charges of heresy before the Inquisition or keep them in prison without trial.
In 1760 Pombal expelled the nuncio and withdrew his ambassador from Rome.
The Pope had only the power of prestige. He could know that many common folk in Portugal disliked the tyranny over Jesuits in Portugal; could stir up a neighbouring power to intervene on behalf of the Catholic Church, and to that end invited King Charles III of Spain and King Louis XV of France and the King of Sardinia; but simultaneously must seek to avoid hard words lest they led towards schism, and the hurt of the Church in Portugal. The only power which could use force was Spain; the Spanish were not likely to support Jesuits; and the British government, over which the Pope had no influence, was resolute to keep Lisbon free from Madrid. The best if not the only hope was time. No government can for ever desire unpopularity with a large number of its subjects, prime ministers are not immortal, and most men like honours. The Pope distributed favours that some men liked, and for the sake of the welfare of the Catholic Church was cheerful about humiliating himself in bestowing honours. Some Portuguese were specially open to this pleasant bribery by titles. In those days they were apt to take excessive notice of show. In return Popes were willing. Early in the century (1716) the Archbishop of Lisbon became the patriarch, later the cassocks of his cathedral canons were scarlet, the patriarch used the papal tiara with crossed keys as his arms, the King of Portugal (1748) was granted the title of Most Faithful. Pombal's war with Rome stopped all these honours. The breach lasted ten years, while Pombal appointed what bishops he liked. As part of the peace made in 1769-70, the flow of titles began again; and again Rome was not too proud to accept humiliation for the sake of the Church in Portugal. One of the conditions of peace exacted that Pombal's brother Paul Carvalho be made a cardinal. Clement XIV cheerfully bestowed a title for the sake of the peace of the Church. But the Pope was partly saved from humiliation because Paul Carvalho died before news of the honour reached Lisbon.
The attack upon the Jesuits was not intended as an attack upon the papacy and the Church. Many Catholics who now wanted Jesuits changed or abolished had no wish for anything but the welfare of the Church. They might desire to see the power of Roman ecclesiastical administration diminished in their country. Frenchmen especially disliked the bull Unigenitus for seeming to identify Rome with a moral divinity suspect and associated with Jesuits. But since the Pope sent a brief to reform the Jesuits in Portugal, apparently hinting at their probable guilt in commercial speculation, and since the same Pope condemned the Jesuits for practices in China, Catholics were aware how members of the Curia disapproved or feared the attitudes or teaching which they attributed to the Society of Jesus. The assault upon the Jesuits was no more a necessary onslaught upon the Pope than Philip the Fair's destruction of the Templars four and a half centuries before.
The Jesuits were neither very centralized, nor very 'ultramontane'. Under pressure from French public opinion, the French Jesuits made a declaration (1757) that they taught the Gallican Articles of 1682, which raised General Councils above Popes. In those years attacking Jesuits was not at all the same as attacking Popes. Antagonists might even suppose themselves to be assailing religious not loyal to the Pope.
While Jesuits were under fire, all kinds of assailants joined. A Venetian accused their schools of being upper class. Priests who hated the emotionalism of parish missions related graphic stories of the superstitions and excesses fostered among their people by Jesuit preachers, told how a village near Vicenza expelled their missioner by threatening to shoot; or how a missioner at Murano in the lagoon of Venice made even the nuns laugh; or how missioners made money by selling crowns and statuettes and trinkets. 5
The Jesuit 'conspiracy' in Portugal, the trial of Malagrida, the expulsion of the Jesuits, were followed with fascination by the rest of Europe. The Portuguese government made sure that plenty of information was given. It undertook a campaign of pamphlets to justify its conduct. A Venetian publisher of 1760 counted more than seventy Italian books or pamphlets caused by the events in Portugal. In the history of Europe it was a new kind of event. Men eagerly bought books about Paraguay, or the attempted murder, or Pombal, or Jesuit trading. A flood of anti-Jesuit brochures poured through France and Italy. Joseph Baretti passed through Lisbon on his way from London to Italy, and told how 'the eyes of all Europe' looked towards Portugal. He wholly disbelieved Pombal's declarations, was contemptuous of the charge of attempt to murder the king, and could not understand what the Portuguese government gained. Nevertheless he thought Jesuits dangerous, not because they tried to kill kings, but because they were 'indefatigable accumulators of riches'. 6
In Roman cafés drinkers argued for and against Jesuits, for and against Portugal. Roman wine-merchants were said to tell stories of Jesuit speculations in the trade, the oil-sellers said to grumble that Jesuits dominated their commerce. 7
These Portuguese events came at a time when some Catholic governments were trying to break the Jesuit near-monopoly of higher education. In Turin and Vienna and Milan was already a campaign that Jesuit education fell behind the times, and that a new system of upper schools and colleges must be devised, that the Jesuit system was archaic and too narrowly classical. Certainly some of the Jesuit schools were hopelessly old-fashioned. 8 Cries that boys must be taught history, or natural sciences, or modern languages, were loud enough to give educated men in Naples, or Palermo, or Florence, or Munich, and certainly in Rome, the doubt that 'modern culture' and higher Catholic education were out of step, and that the cause was backward looking by those who conducted higher education; for in former days they had reformed an entire system of schools and colleges, with such triumph that they put the result into a glass case and refused to doubt its value for all time.
The whole affair of the Jesuits in public opinion touched upon attitudes, intangible and difficult to seize, towards the Counter-Reformation. The pastoral system of the Church owed a vast debt to the Counter-Reformation. Bishops and priests still struggled to bring into practice the ideals of the Counter-Reformation, St. Charles Borromeo was the model of a Catholic priest, the methods in mission and devotion, confessional or rosary, music or preaching, had been tested and found excellent. But a world into which Voltaire was born, and Madame de Pompadour reigned, and the eunuch Farinelli was political adviser to a King of Spain because he had so pure a singing voice, and the astronomy of Galileo was not only respectable but taught in leading seminaries for training priests, and devout priests like Mabillon and Muratori and Tillemont founded modern methods of historical study, and the heirs of Malebranche sought to adapt Cartesian philosophy to Catholic ends, and the Oratorian Richard Simon had begun the first Catholic studies in modern Biblical criticism, and Mozart began to write masses in an idiom far distant from the hallowed idiom of the past, a world of Catholic intelligence looked back upon the Counter-Reformation as a narrower world from which it grew and which was restrictive if it sought to keep thought within outmoded channels. The Counter-Reformation was in question. Still the key to the pastoral care of the Church, it appeared the enemy of modern education. Yet education was a part, possibly even the crux, of the pastoral care of the Church.
With the Counter-Reformation Jesuits were identified. Founded in the age of the Counter-Reformation, intended to be the instrument of its policies, large in historical accounts of its course, engaged with the wars of religion, the Society of Jesus was the symbol of the Counter-Reformation. Anyone who wanted the Church to grow out of the Counter-Reformation suspected Jesuits instinctively, and hardly noticed that Jesuits themselves had been helping the Church to grow out of the Counter-Reformation. They were not only too conservative in higher education. They were a flag, a legend.
According to an older conventional view of the Enlightenment, the destruction of the Jesuits was one of its noblest thrusts against obscurantism. History shows that this simple view will not stand. The Society, being in charge of the higher education of Catholic Europe, had minds open to new ideas. Some Jesuits were as obscurantist as anyone blindfold, others were pastors without interest in ideas, as it was said of the Jesuits of Aragon that they preferred doing to writing. But others looked forward, sought to extract what was best from new ideas, and were no minor part of Catholic Enlightenment; from ideas of toleration or penal reform to the latest developments in mathematics or the natural sciences.
The battle against the Jesuits was not quite a battle of moderns versus ancients, or light versus darkness. The cry for battle first came from Portugal, the least enlightened country in western Europe. Even in Italy the first and worst conflict came in a republic far from enlightened, Genoa. This was not quite accidental. Enlightenment was identified with toleration, and the expulsion of Jesuits was one of the most intolerant acts by Catholic states during the eighteenth century. Portugal, or Spain, or Naples did not blush at their laws against Jesuits because they were familiar with the notion that toleration is sin. The eighteenth century was uneasy with the problem. Its intellectual prophets found monks useless and wanted to stop men becoming monks. Compulsion was necessary, otherwise too many became monks and the State sank towards poverty. Though they preferred to educate men not to be monks, they found it needful to turn monks out of doors because they wanted their houses and their money. Yet simultaneously their intellectual prophets stood for toleration, and therefore for a man's right to be a monk if he chose.
The French Jesuits
Pascal's Provincial Letters and then Unigenitus made the Society more controversial in France than in any other state. Pope Benedict XIV in his brief of 1758 seemed to assent that they were at least suspect of dubious commercial practice. By coincidence France suddenly witnessed a case of commercial scandal.
Lavalette was a capable Jesuit who reorganized the Jesuit properties in Martinique and Dominica in the West Indies. He turned a miserable unprofitable group of lands into a profit making and prosperous estate; by borrowing money from Paris, buying more land, remitting the surplus produce to Europe, and running the estates efficiently. His reputation grew until he became (1754) head of all the Jesuits in the West Indies. In 1754-5 the French Government—seeing that same conflict between the colonists' trade and the religious order which the Portuguese saw in Paraguay—ordered Lavalette not to engage in trade. Lavalette continued to organize his commerce and to borrow more money. To repay the debt he sent two ships full of sugar and coffee to Bordeaux; but an English fleet, on the verge of war with France, seized the ships and their cargo. Further ships sailed for Holland, and thirteen more fell into English hands. In February 1756 the Paris agents, whom Lavalette employed, went bankrupt, and brought down Lavalette in their fall. He owed more than 3,000,000 livres. For a time he tried to save himself by local speculation in West Indian trade.
The French Jesuits debated whether they owed this money and resolved that whatever the legal liability they must pay. But Father Frey, the new Parisian superior, seeing how his French houses would be loaded with debt under an apparently limitless commitment, decided that the West Indian mission was alone responsible and refused to accept liability. The creditors sued the mission; and one firm, after failing in a demand, sued the French Jesuits corporately, to make them responsible. The court held for the creditor, and therefore every other creditor sued the Society. Since the judgement was doubtful law, (for the Jesuit general was not owner in law of property in all the separate houses or provinces), the Paris Jesuits appealed to the Paris Parlement, which (8 May 1761) upheld the lower court, declared the whole Society to be responsible and ordered the debts to be paid within a year. The disgraceful publicity continued when the four other French provinces of Jesuits appealed again to Parlement to exempt them from responsibility as the debts were caused only by the Paris province which controlled Martinique. As they now needed to find 4,500,000 to 5,000,000 livres, they faced corporate ruin. The 5,000,000 livres increased daily through interest charges.
The Paris Jesuits appealed to the Jesuit general in Rome, Ricci. It was a bad time. Ricci was then maintaining out of his funds more than 1,000 Jesuit refugees from Portugal. The only richly endowed provinces at the moment lay in southern Italy and Sicily. On 23 April 1762 the Paris Parlement solved Ricci's problem by sequestrating all Jesuit properties in France for the non-payment of the debt. A Jesuit visitation in Martinique held that Lavalette traded contrary to canon law and the rules of the Society, kept no proper accounts, squandered resources, neglected pastoral work for his commerce, used crooked agents, and caused the death of negro labourers by excessive punishment. He was sent home in disgrace, left the Society, and died in obscurity.
The Portuguese told the world that the Jesuits engaged in illegal commerce in Paraguay, and were secret in a conspiracy to assassinate their king. Rome suspected these charges to be fabricated. But now French Jesuits were proved to have engaged in financial jugglery of unprecendented scandal. Lavalette delivered the Society of Jesus into the hands of its vocal French enemies. King Louis XV would have liked to protest, Pope Clement XIII was stalwart that the many innocent must not be condemned with the few guilty, the French bishops unlike the Portuguese bishops testified in majority to the good which was done by the Jesuits. The new Paris Provincial, de la Croix, tried to lighten his burden by publicly rejecting the doctrine that tyrannicide was sometimes permissible and the doctrine that the Pope had any indirect authority in the government of a state. But the case of Lavalette made successful defence in France out of the question. Even the general Ricci told the French Jesuits that they had done more damage to the order than could be done by its worst enemies. 9
For a few months there was talk of drastic reform; by separating the French assistancy from the orders of the general in Rome, by insisting on the teaching of the Gallican articles by French Jesuits, and by removing their exemption from the control of bishops. The French Jesuits published a statement that their general could give no order contrary to the laws of the land, and that they would not use their privileges of exemption in cases where they clashed with the rights of bishops and other Church authorities. They accepted a demand that they should teach the Gallican articles. The general Ricci refused to approve this last declaration. The secretary of state Torrigiani told his nuncio in Paris (4 November 1761) that the Pope could only approve the Jesuits so long as they remained loyal to Rome. For the Jesuits these theoretical and constitutional questions were naturally far less important than their work—the right to keep their schools and colleges.
Ricci now accepted the possibility that the whole Order faced destruction. He wrote to Bernard Routh, an Irish Jesuit teaching at Poitiers, 'If the Society cannot be preserved without a crime on my part, it had better be destroyed. No one ought to commit even trivial sin in the effort to save it. I shall mourn at the ruin, and comfort myself that I am innocent.' But while he maintained an adamantine front to the French, he tried to excuse to the Pope the Jesuits who agreed to teach the Gallican articles in France. Uncompromisingly Ricci rejected constitutional change, like the independence of the French assistancy of the order. 'I will not govern any Order except the one I have inherited from St. Ignatius and his successors.' 10 He reported to Pope Clement XIII, and at this interview may have uttered the famous sentence of this controversy, 'Aut sint ut sunt aut non sint', 'either they must exist as they are or they must not exist.'
Whether or not Ricci spoke these words, they do not show, as they are sometimes understood, that the Pope yet imagined the possibility of a total abolition of the Society. The answer refused a French demand for change in constitution. Some French advisers thought that the refusal ensured the expulsion of Jesuits from France. In Rome they were aware that other countries would follow the French example in demanding Jesuit independence of Rome, and that the Order would break into national groups without coherence.
During the spring and summer of 1762 various French Parlements ordered the expulsion of Jesuits from France. Their schools were closed, houses occupied, novices sent home. They were allowed to remain in France if they left the Society, took an oath to be loyal to the king, opposed the morality associated with their name, and taught the Gallican articles; and if they so remained and were priests, they were to receive pensions from the confiscated estates. In some areas of Burgundy and south and south-west France local sympathies for Jesuits and their schools delayed until 1763 the execution of these decrees. In a few isolated places, like Besançon or Bar-le-Duc, with strong local support for their schools, they managed to hold out for another three years. Archbishop Beaumont of Paris issued a courageous defence of the Jesuits and was banished to La Trappe.
Pope Clement XIII could refuse concession to the French government. He had no means of protecting Jesuits in France, who in many areas were intensely unpopular. The question of a thunderous bull or brief was anxiously debated in Rome. On 9 June 1762 he addressed such a brief to the bishops in France, denouncing the attack on the Jesuits as persecution. The French refused to allow it to be published. On 3 September 1762 the Pope held a consistory of cardinals and delivered an allocution declaring null all the decrees of Parlements against the Jesuits. As Parlement might burn it if it were printed, he refrained from publishing. On 13 April 1763 he condemned a pastoral letter of Bishop Fitz-James of Soissons who taught that the Gallican articles were of faith. The language of this condemnation was strong. But the nuncio in Paris was carefully instructed not to condemn the Gallican articles, only to condemn the doctrine that they were part of the faith. The thunder sounded, but its explanation always sought not to embarrass to the point of rupture. In autumn 1764 Rome condemned similar doctrines published by the Bishops of Angers and Alais, but was careful not to publish the two briefs. The Pope sent Archbishop Beaumont of Paris a letter of sympathy in his exile and suspension.
Some 2,900 Jesuits now needed help, and as with the Portuguese Jesuits other states would not admit them as refugees. A few dozen crossed the border into the papal territory of Avignon. A few were found posts in the foreign missions, especially in China and Malabar. Ricci allowed many to continue for a time living privately as laymen in France. Benedictine or Carthusian or Sulpician houses received a number of priests, French bishops used several as curates in parishes whenever the taking of the oath to leave the Society was not enforced, the royal confessors were given fat pensions, and refugees were found in Switzerland, Belgium, some German states; fifteen were accepted in Poland; probably the largest number of refugees was given shelter within the Jesuit houses of Spain.
Clement XIII (Pope 1758-69)
Clement XIII Rezzonico was a Venetian nobleman aged sixty-five at election. He was educated by Jesuits and then the university of Padua. After a time in the Curia Clement XII made him cardinal and Benedict XIV consecrated him as Bishop of Padua where he succeeded in combining excellence as a bishop with popularity. Benedict XIV regarded him as the most godly bishop in all Italy, tireless in pastoral work, living in his palace as though it was a monk's cell, and giving away his income to the poor. 11 When he was Pope, the ambassadors did not think him intelligent, but respected his religious life. He was corpulent, hard-working, kind, and outgoing. He had much trust in human nature, and even appointed Casanova a knight of the Lateran and protonotary apostolic because he knew little about his character.
He also distrusted himself. He quickly made his pious nephew Carlo Rezzonico into a cardinal. Observers expected that Cardinal Rezzonico would become the effective head of business, like a cardinal-nephew of tradition. But the cardinal kept himself away from the administration.
The new Pope consciously used consistories of cardinals more than his predecessor. Nevertheless much business lay in the hands of one man; not for the first time, because in Benedict XIII's time it lay in the hands of Cardinal Coscia; but for the first time it lay in the hands of a secretary of state. The Pope appointed one of Benedict XIV's men, Cardinal Torrigiani. If the Pope was not always decisive, this mattered less because Torrigiani was resolute.
Torrigiani was much attached to, and determined to defend, the Jesuits.
The Spanish Jesuits
The campaign against the Society of Jesus was now formidable throughout Catholic Europe. They were expelled from Portugal, men believed, for conspiracy to murder a prince; from France, for embezzlement; their moral teaching was notorious, their conduct in China a scandal, their hidden wealth legendary. The Spanish government had reason to encourage these opinions. It had the same motive as the Portuguese for breaking Jesuit power in South America, and could see ample use for the endowments which would be freed by abolishing the Society. Portugal and France clamoured that Jesuits be abolished because only by abolition could their own measures be justified. A personal dislike entered the argument and gave the last necessary push towards total abolition. King Charles III of Spain disliked Jesuits and would hear not a word in their defence. He won from the historian Pastor 12 the title destroyer of the Jesuit Order.
Charles III (King of Spain 1759-88) had small ability and much diligence, was honest, just, and religious. Earlier as King of Naples he was popular, and had qualities which made for popularity in Spain.
In March 1766 the government attempted to make the kind of law which can only be enforced by dictators who first save their country. It banned within towns the wearing of Spanish capes and hats and ordered everyone to dress like the French, in wig and three-cornered hat. Such folly was only to be explained by a strong feeling in government that Spain was behind the times. The result was mass demonstration in the streets of Madrid, violence and the killing of demonstrators, the fall of the king's ministers, and a threat to the king. The petty tyranny over dress allowed general discontent over the price of food to be harnessed to a cause.
The government had no evidence that Jesuits sparked the riots and the theory is in the first degree implausible. But Jesuits were linked in the public mind, since their expulsion from Portugal, with conspiracy against kings. A month after the riots rumours spread. The minister Campomanes sent the commission of enquiry two reports, the first in June holding the clergy responsible, the second in September pointing directly to Jesuits. On 29 January 1767 the commission of enquiry decided that the Jesuits must be expelled from Spain and their property taken by the State. They usurped a kingdom in Paraguay, spread ideas of revolution in Spain from their pulpits, printed pamphlets on secret presses against government, and turned hat and cloak riots into religious war. No one could reform such a body because it was utterly depraved. All its members must be banished.
On 27 February 1767, after advice from his ministers, King Charles III accepted the proposal and decreed banishment of Jesuits and appropriation of Jesuit property—to be executed 'with the greatest humanity'. The decree was made effective on the first three days of April. It was sudden. Less than two months before the king gave licence to forty Jesuits to sail from Cadiz as missionaries to Paraguay and Chile. In July Jesuits calling at Montevideo were ordered back to Europe. Throughout the American colleges the fathers were arrested and expelled, usually without suffering, sometimes with intolerable affliction, especially for the aged of some remote institutes of education. In two mining towns in Mexico popular riots in their favour were suppressed with hangings and exile.
Spanish bishops and monks did not disapprove these measures, and some were warm in praise of government. The nuncio in Spain, Pallavicini, advised Pope Clement XIII not to protest. Someone spread a story that the Jesuits alleged Charles III to be no son of his predecessor but the bastard of adultery between the queen and Cardinal Alberoni. In Catholic Europe the Society of Jesus acquired all the qualities of a scapegoat. In the city of Rome those who wished to swim with the tide were already changing their confessors or excluding Jesuits from their salons. Jesuit guilt was so axiomatic that no one need ask for serious evidence or listen to a word of defence. In mid-April 1767 Pope Clement XIII sent the king a heart-rending appeal to his kindness and sense of justice. He believed that whatever frailties might attach to individual members of the Society, nothing in the rules or constitution made it other than pious, useful, and holy. Pastoral care in Spain will suffer, the missions will suffer worse. It was an imploring letter, not the letter of an old medieval thunderer.
Now the Pope, advised by the secretary of state and by the Jesuit general Ricci, took a decision with grievous consequences in human suffering, and perhaps gave the last nudge to the general destruction. The Pope told the king that he could not admit the expelled Jesuits to the Papal States.
Each Jesuit banished from Spain was given a pension from the endowments of the society. But the Pope was the prince of a modest state already trying to maintain Jesuit refugees from Portugal or France. He feared that if he accepted more Jesuits, he would be unable to support them and would encourage other states to unload their helpless Jesuits in the harbour of Civita Vecchia. Some cardinals were afraid of 20,000 refugees. These Spanish refugees were the responsibility of Spain. King Charles III ordered the captains of ships bearing Jesuits to make for Civita Vecchia and protest if they were refused leave to land their human cargo—so the whole world should see how the Pope refused to care for his own.
On 18 May the Jesuit-bearing ships, repelled from Civita Vecchia, sailed for Corsica by agreement between Spain and the Genoese government. But the commander in Bastia refused to let them land for he was fighting a war against rebels, he had not food for his men, he had no means of feeding or housing refugees. For a month the ships lay in harbour at Bastia while the argument raged. At last leave was given, but for five months many Jesuits lived on board for want of other rooms; and all were short of food, had no way to celebrate mass, had almost no books, and some lived in huts of mixed sexes. Some of them (wrongly) blamed the general Ricci for refusing to let them into the Papal States. Numbers had only one idea, to be exempted from their vows and return to Spain. The superior of the province of Andalusia gave everyone freedom to do as he thought best. The losses by flight were more than compensated by the dumping in Corsica of the Jesuits from the Spanish colonists (2,576 from Spain, 1,812 from the colonies).
In May 1768 Genoa ceded Corsica to France. The French still had to fight the Corsicans in civil war and began to land Jesuits on the mainland in the bay of Liguria. In September 1768 a starving and tattered band of 800 Jesuits made their way down from Liguria to the Papal States, exciting horror and sympathy among the population as they passed. The Spanish and French government started to subsidize this exodus, paying more if a man would leave the society, though the Spanish would allow none, not even ex-Jesuits, to re-enter Spain without special permission. At Rome the Curia co-operated by making it easy for them to leave the Society. Between one-tenth and one-fifth of Spanish Jesuits (according to the province) left the Society. The native-born South American members caused feeling by their desire to do everything possible to get back to South America. Out of a total of 4,388,719 Jesuits of the Spanish provinces left the Society then or within the next three years. 13 The sterner or more loyal majority regarded them as deserters. That so large a majority refused the blandishments of officials and the prospects of comfort has justly been seen as a sign of the spirit of the order.
Meanwhile Rome, without openly withdrawing its refusal to accept responsibility, organized relief. The Castilians and most Mexicans were cared for in communities at Bologna, the Aragonese and Peruvians at Ferrara, other different Spanish or American groups were collected in appointed parts of the Papal States. The Spanish government threatened to cancel all pensions unless the Jesuit general ceased to call these new homes by their Spanish or American names. The stories of hidden wealth were still widely believed, and houses empty of Jesuits were ransacked.
The Spanish ambassador in London (Prince Masserano) was made to enquire at the Bank of England in search of £16,000,000 in sterling said to be deposited there by Jesuits. The Portuguese ambassador in London, more gullible than his Spanish colleague, believed that the Jesuits were buying armaments in England and intended to hire mercenaries for war in Paraguay, and the report sufficiently disquieted the Spanish government to make them ask their ambassador in London to investigate. Lavalette, the former West Indian bankrupt, was alleged to be recruiting in Flanders to sail with an expedition to conquer Paraguay or Chile for England.
Jesuits in Naples
The Spanish dependencies in Italy followed the example of Spain. In Naples the minister Tanucci did what he could to encourage his old pupil the Spanish king and gladly executed the expulsion in Naples and Sicily. He followed the Spanish vestige of justice in providing pensions. His difficulty was, they could not be accused of anything. No assassination, nor riot, nor embezzlement, could be laid to their charge. Tanucci could only accuse them of 'blind obedience to their general', and then of vile moral teaching and their conspiracies in other states which proved them dangerous. The expulsion from Naples had to be postponed because Vesuvius erupted and the people might connect the two events. The decrees in Naples were of 31 October and 3 November 1767, executed 20 November (Sicily 29th). Of the 786 Sicilian Jesuits, only 352 went into exile, and in the next three years, seventy-two more left the Society.
The north-Italian anticlerical Carlantonio Pilati wrote a legend, The Kingdom of Cumba. In the fabled land of Cumba the Church was rich, devotions rare, monasteries always more powerful, practice of religion ever advancing. Meanwhile the population fell in numbers, weeds and brambles covered the fields, more and more ground lay untilled. Everyone who wanted work became a friar, or a student of literature, or picked up other people's leavings, or just begged. The lawcourts were corrupt, the schools taught the children subtle logic, unreal conceits, prejudice, and lies. So in time the monks became the government of the State. But the moment they got power they began to quarrel, friars versus Jesuits, every community was rent into furious parties, and said nasty things about each other which happened to be true. A young king with a wise minister (Pilati meant Ferdinand IV of Naples and Tanucci) tried to re-establish order—with the result that the clerics started conspiracy and murder. The king told how he found the treasury so empty, the kingdom in such turmoil, the State's power in such ruin, that he turned them all out into exile. 14
Portugal, France, Spain, Naples, Sicily—and because Spain and Portugal were the colonial powers, most of the missions in the Americas and the East—had expelled the Society of Jesus. These were all Catholic powers, none Protestant, and nearly all were ruled by Bourbons. These Bourbon states hoped that they made themselves stronger by destroying a semi-independent community in their territories, pleased their colonists, and benefited their budgets (not so abundantly as some of them hoped) by confiscating endowments.
To their internal and international policy it was now a practical necessity that Jesuits be abolished.
Everyone knew that Pope Clement XIII would never abolish. On 7 January 1765 he issued a tremendous bull, Apostolicum Pascendi, approving the Jesuits, declaring their vows pleasing to God and their society a nursery of saints. After January 1765 the powers must be patient for the Pope's death, make sure of a successor who disapproved of Jesuits (not a difficult task to find such among archbishops and cardinals), and then see their justice and their prudence vindicated when a Pope himself should destroy so fatal a body.
Clement XIII, or his uncompromising secretary of state Cardinal Torrigiani, gave them excuse to act by force.
Little Parma in north Italy; once part of the Papal states, then a separate dukedom of the Farnese family but under papal suzerainty; then, when the Farnese family died (1731), a disputed territory seized by the Spanish Bourbons and made a Bourbon state which rejected any Pope as overlord; only a little territory with the twin towns of Parma and Piacenza, a not important station in the structure of Bourbon power across Europe—little Parma became for a moment the centre of this Catholic argument over Church and State.
What was done to control the Church in Paris, or Madrid, or Lisbon, or Vienna, or Munich, or Naples, might be resented by Popes, and might be criticized. Popes sent notes of protest but bore the pain because they had small other resource, and ended by conceding most of what Catholic states wanted. But when Parma so behaved, it was unbearable. For Parma was tiny and weak; it was sacked and ruined by war early in the century; it had memories of the Counter-Reformation. Popes still claimed that it was part of papal territory; and because of its papal and Farnese history, its clergy and monks were numerous and powerful.
On 16 January 1768, as the climax of a series of measures to control the Church, the Duke of Parma issued an edict on the relations of Church and State. It banned all appeals by clergy to Rome unless by leave from the duke; forbade clergy from applying to Rome for pensions or offices; made it illegal to confer a benefice on anyone not a citizen of Parma, and every such appointment needed the duke's permission; and declared invalid all bulls and briefs from Rome or anywhere else unless they carried the duke's signature.
Pope Clement XIII replied swiftly. On 30 January 1768 he issued a brief known as the Monitorium, proclaiming the Duke of Parma's edict to be null; an edict full of outrage and calumny, full of wicked doctrine tending to divide the Church, with the aim of separating the faithful from their head, and with the result that it overthrows the authority of the Church, turns sacred order upside down, lessens the rights of the Holy See and puts them under lay control; and reduces to a state of slavery the Church of God which is free.
All the decrees listed are null, and all the officials responsible are excommunicated unless they withdraw.
Thus, for the first time in long years, a Pope claimed to quash a series of laws passed by the government of a state. He claimed this right partly because Parma was 'papal' — 'our duchy' —and partly because of the annual bull issued on Maundy Thursday, the bull In coena Domini which year by year excommunicated in general terms all who trespassed upon the rights of the Church.
The world was astounded. The friends of Jesuit refugees in north Italy blamed the Pope because his thunder would worsen their plight. Priests in north Italy thought it an act of blindness, the Cardinal-archbishops of Milan and Bologna criticized, the Parlement of Paris banned, the French minister Choiseul said 'The Pope is a fool and his secretary of state is an ass', 15 Tanucci in Naples was full of glee because of the consequences sure to follow and produced a plan to partition the Papal State among its Italian neighbours.
In April 1768 the ambassadors of the Bourbon powers at Rome demanded that the Monitorium of Parma be withdrawn. France occupied Avignon and the Venaissin, Naples occupied the papal enclaves of Benevento and Pontecorvo. They threatened more occupations to follow. Voltaire wrote a pamphlet to prove that the Pope ought not to rule a state.
Europe thought of Clement XIII as reviving an age which they imagined to have vanished, when Popes excommunicated kings and released subjects from their obedience. Frederick of Prussia expressed the feeling: 'The Grand Lama of the Vatican is like a tight-rope walker who has grown old and in the sickness of old age wants to repeat the triumphs of his youth, and so falls and breaks his neck'. 16
It was a turning-point.
The ancient claims to international power over the morality of the nations were symbolized in the tremendous and historic bull of general excommunications called In coena Domini because it was read each Maundy Thursday. The version revised in 1759 anathematized Hussites, Wycliffites, Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Huguenots, apostates, and 'all heretics'; all who appealed from Pope to general council, whether they were individuals or universities; pirates, corsairs, sea-robbers in the Mediterranean 'especially on the coast from Monte Argentaro to Terracina'; those who steal from wrecks; those who impose new taxes without leave of Rome; all who forge briefs; all who help Saracens or Turks or heretics with arms or metals or ropes or information; those who hinder the supply of food to the Roman Curia; those who attack pilgrims, or litigants coming to Rome; assailants of cardinals, legates, bishops; appellants from Rome to secular power; secular judges who haul ecclesiastical persons before their courts; those who publish or use decrees to limit the liberties of the Church; those who occupy any part of the Papal States, or usurp ecclesiastical property. The bull ordered that absolution from these censures be reserved to the Pope. It was to be put on placards at the Lateran and St. Peter's, and sent to all bishops, and read in their churches once a year or more often if needed.
Governments long disliked this bull and restricted its use. It was generally read in cathedrals at times when no one took the slightest notice. Venice made sure that it was read only in Latin at times when nobody would be present to hear. It remained a symbol; believed by many to be a piece of ritual from an old world; smiled at even by Pope Benedict XIV who once said, 'I like to leave the Vatican lightnings asleep'; and suddenly shocking when Pope Clement XIII appealed to it to justify the Monitorium against Parma.
Therefore the year 1768 was a turning-point. The rhadamanthine bull was read for the last time that Maundy Thursday, the final year of the life of Pope Clement XIII.
On 19 October 1768 Clement XIII refused the demand of the three Bourbon powers, Spain, France, Naples, that he withdraw the Monitorium of Parma.
They had a hold on the papacy. They took its historic land, could take more, would refuse to evacuate till they got what they wanted, uttered dire threats of schism and separation, were not without support from churchmen in their countries. To retain his hold, whether over his lands or over the Churches in the Bourbon countries, the Pope must concede. And since he must concede, there was one thing which they wanted even more than the withdrawal of the Monitorium or the silencing of the bull In coena Domini. They wanted the Jesuits destroyed, and knew that they were strong to insist.
'This', wrote Horace Walpole to Horace Mann in Florence, 'is a crisis for the Court of Rome from which it will be impossible to recover.' 17
Thus European politics and opinion forced Rome into the straits that it became its own interest to destroy the Jesuits. If the Pope persisted in maintaining the Society, he identified himself before European public opinion as one who encouraged low moral standards, tyrannicide, corrupt methods in foreign missions, obsolete habits in education, and unscrupulous efforts after ecclesiastical power. To support Jesuits was to identify with Jesuits. Early in the first half of the sixteenth century Rome came into crisis and schism because its moral standards failed to satisfy Catholic Europe. In the second half of the eighteenth century it fell into crisis and risked schism because it refused to condemn without trial what two-thirds of the Catholic leaders joined with all Protestants in condemning without trial. The secretary of state Torrigiani once talked of himself as a Jonah whom the Pope should jettison to lighten his ship. 18 Some cardinals in Rome now thought that wisdom demanded the throwing overboard, not merely of the secretary of state, but of the entire Society of Jesus which he defended.
In addition to reasons of public policy the Pope had on his hands some thousands of useless religious who could be made useful again if no longer members of the religious order, and a crowd of refugees who could be made comfortable. When the Jesuits were expelled from Naples, four out of eight cardinals present in the consistory argued for dissolution. This
Society had done good, could still do good. But now Catholic governments so hated it that its existence harmed the Church.
O blessed and triune God
Grant that for the peace of men
And for thy true glory
This Society of Jesus may die.
Pope Clement XIII took a contrary view. If, as was confessed, they did good, and were not allowed to do good in some countries, then they should do good in other countries. Tanucci, the Prime Minister of Naples, thought that it was waste of time dealing with so stupid a Pope and they must place their hopes in his successor.
The fact was, four Catholic governments had publicly committed themselves to the suppression of the Jesuits. They could not now afford to fail. If they failed, they raised doubt about the justice of what they had done, caused unsettlement among their people, lowered their own prestige throughout Europe, and gave the Pope the biggest boost to his authority since the Council of Trent. Every plan for modernizing their states by lessening Church immunities and endowments might be in jeopardy.
In January 1769 France and Spain and Naples formally applied to Pope Clement XIII that the Jesuits be suppressed. Clement, who was a dying man, was reported to Tanucci in Naples as saying that he would cut off his hands before he signed a brief of suppression. He died on 2 February 1769, the evening before a consistory of cardinals to debate an answer to the powers.
Horace Walpole wrote from England to his friend in Florence asking when the cardinals would elect 'the last Pope'. 19
Clement XIV Ganganelli (Pope 1769-1774)
Chapter 4 showed how the powers were determined that the new Pope of 1769 should be an opponent of the Jesuits and how they sought at the Conclave to secure a promise that the Jesuits would be destroyed. The Franciscan Cardinal Ganganelli was known as a critic, though not a prominent opponent, of the Jesuits, and as one who disapproved Clement XIII's Monitorium to Parma. Efforts to elicit a guarantee failed, but sufficient conversations were reported, and after a Conclave, tedious and tense, of just over three months, Ganganelli was elected (19 May 1769).
He had been an able student, and was learned. That Clement XIII made him cardinal proved that in 1759 he was not noted for hostility to Jesuits. His earlier document against the legends of ritual murder by Jews proves him to have been a man of character. He was likable, talkative, and unpretentious as befitted a friar, and enjoyed humour and practical jokes. He remained for hours at his desk but he found it difficult to be responsible for even minor decisions, and was confronted with one of the most agonizing decisions which ever faced a Pope. He liked to be liked, shrank from displeasing, and therefore suffered temptation to say pleasant things to both sides and to procrastinate lest decision be unpleasant. He more easily worked through private friends than through official channels. His private secretary the Franciscan Bontempi was more powerful than the secretary of state. The cardinals were neglected and some accused him of trampling on the constitution. Clement XIV took small notice of the outward trappings of convention. He played billiards and bowls, snared birds, and offended by riding out in lay dress.
His private conversation to the Portuguese ambassador was at once sufficient (November 1769) to restore relations between Rome and Portugal. Two months later Clement XIV made Pombal's brother Carvalho into a cardinal. Carvalho had been prominent in the trial and condemnation of the Jesuit Malagrida. The policy of concession began. But Carvalho died before the honour reached Lisbon. Another of Pombal's men, the Archbishop of Evora, was made a cardinal.
In his first Holy Week 1770, the Pope caused the Maundy Thursday bull In coena Domini, of general excommunications, not to be read. This was half to withdraw Clement XIII's excommunication of the government in Parma. Each year afterwards he ordered that the tremendous bull be not read; until in his last year (1774) he ordered that it should never henceforth be read.
Two months after the election, the French ambassador Cardinal de Bernis presented on behalf of the three Bourbon powers a renewed petition for the suppression of the Jesuits. The Pope said that he regarded the memoir as premature and a sign that he was not trusted.
A Pope who thought it in the interest of the Church to suppress the Jesuits—whether he took the strenuous view that the Society was bad for the Church or the weaker view that the reputation of the Society was bad for the Church, —was confronted with no small difficulty. He must do it against the wish of a majority of the cardinals and the Curia. He must be seen to act aright. He must not provoke a coup in the Papal States. He must not destroy the numerous colleges of Catholic education, and the less numerous missions, which Jesuits still controlled. Above all he must not find that other Catholic powers who had not expelled Jesuits were resolute to maintain them in disobedience to the Pope. Of these Catholic powers—Austria, Bavaria, Poland, Venice, Sardinia/Piedmont—far the most weighty was the Austrian government. The Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna was probably the single person in Europe who might be able to save the Society of Jesus.
Clement XIV was sure that he must destroy the Jesuits. The nearer he approached the decision, the more melancholy his mood, the more anxious his misgivings, the more grievous his insomnia. The Bourbon ambassadors argued that quick decision cut short trouble, and postponement allowed opposition to organize. The Pope believed that only time and delay could reconcile minds to so sweeping a destruction. Whether or not the Pope was timid and fanciful, he was afraid of Jesuits and their power. Three years after he became Pope the Jesuits existed still.
So late as January 1772 the English agent fancied that after all the Pope meant to save the Jesuits, and his subtle tactics could save them yet. 'The cunning Frate near us will in all appearances at last gain his point, and save his janizaries.' 20
Little by little he withdrew their privileges. He instituted a visitation to the Roman college, as though its teaching were suspect, ejected the Jesuits from its chairs, and closed its hostel for young noblemen which they directed. He refused to lend them a customary escort of Swiss guards for a Corpus Christi procession. He encouraged the process for making a saint out of Palafox, Mexican bishop of the seventeenth century who was a famous critic of Jesuits. He took away from them the Irish college in Rome. He forbade refugee Jesuits in the Papal States to be used as preachers, confessors, or catechists. When the Jesuit general Ricci sought an audience, the Pope refused him entry. When the Pope went out driving and saw Jesuits kneeling to revere as he passed, he turned away his face and would not give a blessing.
At last he even cancelled the pensions which his predecessor paid to the destitute refugee Jesuits from Portugal. Some friends of the Jesuits believed that this Franciscan played a deep and calculated game. On the one hand he postponed the decision from month to month, on the other he fobbed off Spanish pressure by showing his public dislike of Jesuits. They wondered whether his real intention was the saving of the order. What impressed them was the refusal to make the stroke of the pen which not merely destroyed Jesuits but simultaneously recovered Avignon and Benevento.
One intimate of the Pope told a reliable witness that the Pope hoped indeed to save the order, and that the only way was delay until political circumstances changed. Cordara compared Clement XIV to Pilate, who scourged Christ in the hope of saving him from the mob. Others took a different view. They thought that Clement believed in the necessity to lower Jesuit prestige in Rome and in other parts of the Catholic Church where it was still high. By acts of disfavour or rebuke or neglect he would lead the Romans to think the Spanish right.
At this crisis in their fortunes, the Jesuits were fortunate in their general. Ricci (1703-75) was a Florentine who early entered the Society and became novice-master and later professor at the Roman college. He was a gentle and affectionate man, much loved by his pupils, whose confessions he heard and meditations he directed. One of his pupils said that he was a director of souls without an equal. At the 1755 election of a new Jesuit general the Roman province sent him as one of their delegates, and so he became known to leaders of the other provinces. The new general Centurione made him general secretary of the Society, a post which he accepted with repugnance, pleading that he lived among books and knew nothing of administration.
Centurione died after only two years in office, and in spring 1758 the Roman province again sent Ricci as a delegate to elect the new general. The delegates went to the meeting expecting to elect the assistant of the German province but were disturbed to see how ill he looked. So they turned to the Greek Father Timone, vicar-general, that is the general's deputy who summoned the meeting and was already sixty-seven. But that day at dinner they heard read in the refectory the passage of Rinaldi's Annals where the cardinals felt it wrong to elect Cardinal Bessarion as Pope because he was a Greek. They took this as a warning. Various names were then put forward, including Ricci's. When the first ballot was counted, several were surprised to find Ricci's name with most votes, because he was the candidate with no experience whatever of government. This circumstance drew others to his side, and at the second ballot he was elected by 63 votes out of 87, and so became general, the most famous of all Jesuit generals after the founder St. Ignatius Loyola.
Upon the wisdom of this election Jesuits afterwards differed. Ricci was quiet, simple, sincere, peaceable, straightforward, as far as possible from double-dealing; with a temperament wishing rather for retirement than action; reserved, and occasionally timid-seeming.
Cordara, who observed the destruction of the Society with more intelligence and inside knowledge than any other Jesuit, thought that at this terrible crisis in its fortunes, the Society needed a man of action and force, who knew the world, and understood how to influence courts and kings. For Cordara, Ricci was too passive, too soft-mouthed, too resigned in the face of calamity. He loved the man, but he said: 'I grieved that over this innocent head should blow such storms, and felt that he could easily be knocked over by the hurricane'.
Many other Jesuits afterwards thought the opposite. Even at the time of election some said, 'The only way to meet a storm is to run before the wind.' Whatever the general did or did not, could make no difference. The circumstances of the Catholic world and of the Church drove the Society irresistibly to its death. Therefore the best kind of general was a man in all respects opposite to the demon-portrait of the Jesuit in legend. The Jesuits were notorious for understanding the world too well. Their new general had not a remote idea what was meant by intrigue. History or fable recounted how subtly Jesuits schemed and burrowed. No one could imagine Ricci scheming, nor even being subtle. He said his prayers, and let things happen which must happen. If the Society had to die, it would not die because its last general was guilty of the faults for which the world wished it to die.
Seeing his inexperience they gave him Father Timone as an assessor for the Italian province. Father Timone had the two qualities which Ricci lacked, for he had confidence in himself and experience of government. Cordara thought that this was not good for the Society. To have too diffident a general, with too confident a chief assistant, was in Cordara's judgement a recipe for ruin. So, wrote Cordara, 'even the life of our family—God's secret providence guiding—looked towards the destruction of the Order.' 21
In March 1772 the Spanish replaced their ambassador in Rome. They sent José Moñino, afterwards to be celebrated in the history of Spain as the Count of Floridablanca. Moñino was chosen to force the Pope to delay no longer. He had a reputation for toughness. The Pope saw this powerful incomer as little as possible, pleading skin disease, the need for Turkish baths, his delicate health. But the noose tightened. The Pope for secrecy's sake only used Bontempi as intermediary for Spanish negotiations.
On 23 August 1772 Clement XIV received Moñino and suggested a sensible plan. The Society of Jesus should admit no further novices. Its existing members should be forbidden to preach or hear confessions. The general's supreme power should be so divided among the provincial superiors, that the Order became a confederation of national religious societies. This plan for slow death had the merit of avoiding the drama of sudden destruction, and of maintaining the work in education and missions in states where they were allowed to continue. It had the demerit that the Bourbon governments were too committed to total and instant destruction. 'Toothache', Moñino told the Pope, 'can only be cured by extraction.' A fortnight later (6 September 1772) the Pope accepted the necessity to see a draft brief of suppression. Moñino was using a mixture of threats and gold to frighten or cajole the Pope's advisers, or cardinals who might waver. By this double method he won the Pope's close friend and confessor, the Franciscan Father Bontempi, to the cause. In mid-December Clement XIV asked an anti-Jesuit prelate in Rome, Zelada, to work with Moñino on drafting a bull. (Bull is right. The original draft was a bull; converted later, intentionally to the form of a brief.) By the end of 1772 they agreed a draft. On 11 February 1773 the Pope sent the draft for comment to King Charles III of Spain. Charles III sent a letter to the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna.
Maria Theresa, a pious Catholic with some pro-Jesuit and some anti-Jesuit advisers, replied (4 April 1773) that she had always thought well of the Jesuits who did good in Austria. But if the Pope thought that Catholic unity depended on the suppression of the Order, she would not oppose his decision. She reserved the rights of her government to deal with Jesuit property if the Order were suppressed.
Austria's refusal to resist a bull (if the Pope so decided) removed the last political obstacle which faced the Pope and the Spanish. Five new cardinals, among them Zelada, the drafter of the brief, were made in March and April 1773 to strengthen the anti-Jesuits in the college. In Bologna the Pope encouraged Archbishop Malvezzi to a local suppression, using force where necessary to dissolve the community. Early in June Clement at last signed the brief of suppression. It was dated 21 July 1773.
The brief instantly became one of the most celebrated of all papal decrees, as Dominus ac Redemptor. It was not published till 16 August, so that copies might have time to reach Versailles, Lisbon, Madrid, and Vienna. A cardinal's commission was almost simultaneously created to supervise the suppression of the Jesuits. Its president was Marefoschi, the fiercest anti-Jesuit among the cardinals. The new cardinal Zelada, drafter of the brief, was a member. The commission remained in very close touch with the Spanish embassy, which saw its confidential papers.
The Jesuit constitution included a special vow of obedience to the Pope. Though their habit of mind nevertheless included freedom to obey God rather than the Pope if they believed the Pope ill informed or badly advised, as with the Chinese missions, to resist a bull of suppression was unthinkable. Till beyond the eleventh hour the general Ricci could not believe that the Pope would commit a judicial act without an enquiry, or destroy so much higher Catholic education and so many missions, because four governments threatened.
Dominus ac Redemptor began by stating that the vocation of the Church is to bring peace to mankind, and that if something, even dear to the Pope, hurts peace it must be sacrificed. It declared the precedents by which Popes abolished religious orders. Then followed a history which represented the Society as causing envy and division since its foundation. It can no longer be useful, the peace of the Church cannot be restored so long as it exists—and 'after mature and informed consideration, and in the fulness of power which we have received from the Apostle, we dissolve, suppress, extinguish and abolish the said Society.'
Novices were to be sent away. Members who had professed simple vows must choose another vocation within a year. Members who had professed solemn vows must either join another order or become a parish priest under a bishop. They were ordered out of their houses, unless this was impossible, when they might stay as secular priests until the house was needed for other charitable purposes.
Through an excited Europe ran the news that Pope Clement XIV abolished the Jesuits. No Pope made so instant and so favourable an impact upon general opinion. The only parallels in the centuries since the Reformation came when Pope Pius IX stepped forward on the side of liberal Italy in 1846 and when Pope John XXIII announced the plan for aggiornamento, reconciliation with the twentieth century. It seemed as though Popes put aside their old weapons, anathemas and excommunications and inflexibilities, and sought peace with the world, throwing away claims to order men about, and seeking the influence of a pastor instead of the power of a king. Protestants said that if the sixteenth century had seen Popes like this, the Catholic Church would never have divided. In north Italy a poet praised him in panegyrical language, making the name of Ganganelli a synonym for virtue and declaring him one of the heroes of the centuries. 22 In England the antipapal ex-Catholic historian Edward Gibbon, who came to Rome and heard the barefoot friars sing vespers under Clement XIII Rezzonico, wrote in his Memoirs in praise of Ganganelli. Years afterwards William Ewart Gladstone more than once listed as models of Catholic faith at its best the three names: Pascal, Bossuet, and Ganganelli. The Marquis Caraccioli edited four volumes of Interesting Letters as written by Clement XIV, in which the author appeared as a wise and liberal mind and a simple unpretentious friar. These letters were rapidly produced in French and English and aroused an interest which went still wider when Voltaire denounced them as forgeries; and many historians, at least in part, have agreed with Voltaire. Archbishops sang Te Deum in cathedrals. Men talked of the miracles which he wrought, or suggested that he be canonized as a saint, or predicted that history would know him as Clement the Great. Europe warmed to this friendly, kindly Pope who threw away armour and came forward with appeals to peace and charity. In April 1774 French troops evacuated Avignon and restored the papal bearings.
In their private correspondence between the capitals, diplomats wrote more cynically. They observed the glum manner of most of the cardinals in Rome. Not all the common people of Rome were fond of the Pope. Rome said that the Jesuits were the price paid for Avignon and Benevento. Common people of Rome were heard to use against the Pope the proverb, 'Good ends do not justify bad means.' Cordara thought that Pope was more unlucky than wicked, that he might have been a good Pope if he had lived in a different time, and though it was wrong—'who will say that anyone else could have acted differently?' 23
Though the ex-Jesuit general Ricci preserved a silence of dignity, and though some ex-Jesuits preached sermons on the rightness of the Pope's act if he found it expedient, some of Ricci's men were outspoken against the Pope. Nuns with the gift of prophecy predicted the restoration of the Order or the imminent death of the Pope. 24
Ricci held a document from Pope Clement XIII empowering him to alienate precious possessions. Ricci himself made no use of the faculty. But a few less scrupulous ex-Jesuits tried to sell off goods from their houses before they were confiscated, or wrote anonymous pamphlets. These acts brought accusations of disloyalty or theft against the order and therefore against its general. A detective searched through mounds of ordure at the German college in the quest for a suspect brochure. Father Stefanucci, who was growing a little senile, talked too freely of the nuns? prophecies. Ricci was accused of stealing money and precious articles by passing them away into a bank. At first the charge mentioned 50 millions. On 23 September 1774 Ricci was imprisoned in Coscia's old room at the Castel Sant? Angelo, with his five assistants and seven other ex-Jesuits. They were treated severely, at first with no fires in winter, and were thought to need sixty German mercenaries as guards. Nothing showed so dramatically the fear of a pro-Jesuit coup in Rome.
Ricci denied either that they possessed wealth of the sort mentioned, or that he or anyone else with his knowledge sought to abstract any part. Nothing against him was proved; but he died in Castel Sant? Angelo two years later, victim of suspicion and the Spanish government. Pius VI negotiated for his release, under promises, to his birthplace Florence, and the Spanish ambassador reluctantly agreed. But while the Habsburg governments of Tuscany and Vienna were being asked for their approval, Ricci died. Despite the Spaniards, Pius VI ordered that though the funeral must be at the church of St. John of the Florentines, he be quietly buried, as he desired, at the Gesù.
A Jesuit preached Ricci's memorial sermon in the church at Breslau which Jesuits continued for a time to control. This powerful and moving utterance was widely circulated:
Is it expedient that our Company perish for the public good? Let it perish—but why invent crimes to justify its perishing? If Ignatius formed his company to be a rampart against the destructive errors of Luther and Calvin, why would not Ricci sacrifice himself and his men to pacify the troubles of Christendom?
Rise from the darkness of your tomb, Clement, and see the work of your hands. The Lord put you to a rough test when he set you up as the new Abraham, and ordered you to sacrifice an innocent and cherished body. The whole world knows how you felt the greatness of the sacrifice, it saw your tears, it saw your hand raised, Isaac waiting for the angel . . . but this time the knife came down, the victim fell to the foot of the altar of God who knows how to turn, when he pleases, stones into the children of Abraham.
Some Jesuit drafted a pamphlet to doubt whether even a Pope could condemn a lot of people without trial. Is a Pope to be obeyed if he orders injustice? 25 This was not the mind of the Society. They were led by Ricci to kiss the rod.
A Jesuit Father Scarponio started to write a history of the suppression and to print. He reached the French suppression and was forbidden to continue, and what was already printed was made to vanish. Father Scarponio tried to write a life of Ricci. In the royal library at Brussels lies the fragment which he wrote, with a note at the end: 'not continued by its author, who was persecuted by the Curia.' 26
Cordara wrote in manuscript a brilliant history of the suppression in the form of autobiography. He started writing a year after the brief of suppression, and finished in March 1779. Then he decided that to print was premature, and died with a deliberate resolution not to make it public. For more than a century the precious manuscript was kept from the historians.
In a few countries where Jesuits were much valued came tiny popular demonstrations. In the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, Poland, the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), little signs of such feeling were evident, like a sudden access of crowds to a Jesuit church. But where strong feeling existed governments were wise and quietly continued the Jesuits as ex-Jesuits with the same duties, and thereby avoided either offending their people's piety or ruining their colleges of higher education.
This continuity of work between Jesuits and ex-Jesuits was common, far commoner than was later described by historians who saw the hurt suffered by missions, schools, or loss of property. In Spain and Portugal especially, and also though less evidently in France, the suppression was damaging to many institutes of higher education; and a calamity to the missions in those many countries where Spain and Portugal were still the colonial powers. But these hurts came from acts of governments, not from the Pope's abolition. Elsewhere Jesuits frequently continued to do the same work as before, though now ex-Jesuits and subject to the authority of the bishop.
In the most favourable circumstances they continued to live in the same buildings and in community. This happened in the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, in England and Scotland and the missions of the English colonies in North America. The difficulty which they faced was the end of power to recruit, and therefore the need to fill vacancies, after death or retirement, with secular priests who had no Jesuit training and might not share Jesuit ideals.
In nearly as favourable circumstances they continued in community, and did the same work, but must sacrifice their buildings. The brief of suppression intended buildings and endowments to be used by bishops for charitable purposes after pensions were paid to ex-Jesuits in need. But in German lands governments insisted on allocating the Jesuit endowments to state purposes; so that the Jesuit house in Vienna became the War Office, and the houses in Prague and Antwerp became barracks. The Bollandists, famous group of Jesuits engaged on publishing the lives of the Saints, had to move house twice, ending in the ex-Jesuit house in Brussels, until swept away by French revolutionary armies. In this way the old work in school and parish continued, though under voluntary rules, and more insecure because more liable to interference by bishop or government. In rare cases special disabilities were imposed. Because Jesuit morality was suspect, ex-Jesuits in Austria were banned from professorships of theology or ethics or philosophy—but not from other professorships, and an ex-Jesuit was still tutor to the sons of the heir to the throne (his name was Hohenwart, an ex-Jesuit who ended his life as Archbishop of Vienna).
A less favourable state existed where an unfriendly government refused to allow ex-Jesuits to live in communities, but allowed them with due submission to teach or be parish priests. This was sometimes associated with the suspicion that they concealed treasure. Bavaria and the Elector of Mainz treated their Jesuits in this way, which could be harsh to elderly celibates thus ejected from home. An occasional ex-Jesuit house suffered damage from treasure-seekers hoping to find bags of gold concealed in the walls. The government of the Austrian Netherlands was still harder, and came near to following French precedent, for it refused most Jesuits leave to work in colleges or as parish priests.
Poland, where Jesuits were popular, might have been expected to follow the friendliest pattern of government; and 270 ex-Jesuits continued in schools or colleges, and others in parishes. But Poland was in a state of civil war, and had just suffered its first partition. In the anarchic conditions the houses and property of a suppressed religious order were tempting morsels, whether to robbers or to corrupt commissioners sent by government. Ex-Jesuits with pensions could not always receive their money and were destitute. The good Polish system of education was hurt because the end of the chief teaching order happened by accident to coincide with political upheaval.
Libraries were dissipated, old books sold off as junk, some important medical manuscripts disappeared, pictures of Italian of Flemish masters passed to numerous museums like the Vatican museum or the imperial gallery in Vienna. In Rome branches of the Franciscan order took over the churches, Capuchins came to the Gesù; Dominicans became professors at the German college which did not flourish because fewer candidates came from Germany. Many ex-Jesuits continued as schoolmasters both in Rome and other towns of the Papal States. In the Papal States the endowments could not yet serve other purposes, for they were saddled not only
with the pensions of Roman ex-Jesuits but with the support of Portuguese and other refugee ex-Jesuits in Italy.Goethe came over the Alps in 1786 and stopped at Trent. He stood in the ex-Jesuit church contemplating the architecture. An old impoverished priest muttered: 'Well, they have expelled the Jesuits but they ought at least to have paid them what the church cost them to build.' A few moments later Goethe heard him still talking to himself. 'The Emperor didn't do it. The Pope did it.' He did not know that Goethe was there, and turned towards the street, and said 'First the Spaniards, then we, then the French. The blood of Abel cries out against his brother Cain.' He went down the steps of the church, still muttering continuously. Goethe inferred that he was an old man whom the Jesuits supported, who went mad after 'the tremendous fall' of that order, and 'now comes every day to look in this empty shell for its former inhabitants, pray for them a little, and curse their enemies.' 27 No incident so brings home the personal agonies of the dissolution as the accidental meeting of Goethe in the church at Trent.Not everyone instantly familiarized themselves with what happened. In some places in southern Italy the Jesuits had provided the best accommodation for travellers. Five years after the suppression travellers might be advised to go there for their beds; and when they arrived found no beds, but an empty house full of dirt and cobwebs. 28 Nothing could replace the Jesuit missions in the Americas and the Far East, within the Spanish or Portuguese empires. Franciscans did what they could in the Americas, Carmelites in parts of southern India, bishops made what arrangements were practicable. But nothing could stop the lovely churches of remote Paraguay falling into romantic ruins.Some examples: 1. Missions
India: There were 220 Jesuits at dissolution. A few held on in south India. At Pondicherry they only changed their name but could not recruit.
Canada: They continued work under different names, sometimes as pastors of parishes, but could not recruit. In all French missions there were 152 fathers at the dissolution. They continued and died out gradually.
East African coast: Of seven Jesuits, all were removed.
Peru university: Jesuit professors were replaced by Franciscans.
Philippines: Father Garcia was expelled with 147 other Jesuits on 1 August 1768.
Delayed by storm, and encouraged by popular demonstrations as they crossed Mexico, Father Garcia's group arrived at Cadiz two years later and were sent on to Spezia in north Italy, where they disembarked for Bologna. In smaller groups as secular priests they made their homes in several smaller towns of the northern Papal States, always diminishing as men left or died or found other work. When the brief of suppression was published, Father Garcia was imprisoned and then expelled from Bologna. Two years later he is found at Ferrara. Twenty years later he lived among the Oratorians at Sinigaglia. By revolution in Italy he was drawn back to his native Spain where he became a preacher at his birthplace until banished again. In 1801 he went to Rome and heard that a 'Jesuit' college was opening in Naples, applied to join and was accepted. But Rome preferred him to go back to Sinigaglia to join other ex-Jesuits from the Philippines. 29
2. Protestant countries (except Prussia) Holland: The thirty-two priests in twenty-one parishes signed a submission and continued as secular priests. Britain (except Ireland): The 285 Jesuits (140 in Britain, the remainder in the colonies) continued as secular priests, but a number were French, who returned to France. Switzerland: They continued as secular priests.
3. Catholic countries Bavaria: Jesuits might teach or be parish priests but unlike ex-Jesuits of Austria or Switzerland might not live in community. Mainz: They were ejected from their houses and at first were not allowed to exercise their priesthood. But slowly many were absorbed into teaching or curacies. Rome: The chief substitutes for the Jesuits were as follows: Gesù, the Capuchins; S. Ignazio, Franciscan minorities; St. Peter's (office of penitentiary), the Franciscan Conventuals. Works of art were sent to the Vatican museum, but some to cardinals like Corsini or Zelada. In elementary schools many ex-Jesuits were employed as schoolmasters. The German college was transferred to the Dominicans. The Roman college was closed in 1772, then opened as a new university in November 1773, with some ex-Jesuits on the teaching staff.
If a scholar was good enough he easily found employment. Matteo Canonici was a Jesuit expelled from Parma. He was forced to leave behind his collection and a fine library. He moved to Bologna and started to collect again, until six years later he lost all a second time when the Society was suppressed. Now he moved to Venice and restarted, and here built a famous collection for the use of scholars. 'I could have sold my library in London', he wrote (1804), 'for a vast sum of money but I keep it for the Jesuits for whom I designed the collection.' 30 In 1798 he moved back to Parma to direct the public library.
The world had the illusion that Jesuits were all very conservative and therefore expected ex-Jesuits to be obscurantist. It was surprised. These had been the educators of Europe and their young men had ideas. Frequently they are to be found in the intellectual argument of that age, sometimes on its radical left. Freed from the closed communities, and from their vows of obedience by a Pope, they began to follow the argument wheresoever it led, and found that it led them far. In Ferrara several ex-Jesuits belonged to the group which advocated radical reforms in Church and State. One ex-Jesuit of Florence, who decided to stay in Florence after the suppression, and was the biographer of Galileo, was so free in mind that less than twenty years later he was one of the most famous assailants of papal absolutism in all Italy. 31
Thirteen years after the destruction of the Jesuits Mrs Piozzi came from London to visit Rome. She found that Italian public opinion still thought it good that the Jesuits were gone; 'whilst all men must see that the work of education goes on worse in other hands.' 32 The monks who took over, she thought, had less knowledge of the world, and therefore were worse educators, than their vanished predecessors. She failed to realize how many ex-Jesuits vanished only in name.
Still, the vacuum in education was hard to fill. Other religious orders expanded to meet the need. In Benevento the Jesuits were turned out of their magnificent college five years before the dissolution, and left the buildings to be a barracks for the occupying troops from Naples. In 1774 when the troops went reluctantly, the college became a school. But since the Jesuits were no more, no one could run the school, until the canons persuaded the archbishop to invite the Redemptorists to occupy the old Jesuit house—an extension of their work, for early Redemptorists disliked houses in towns, knowing their vocation to peasant villages. A Neapolitan report (1777) advised the suppression of Redemptorists on the ground that they were crypto-Jesuits. 33
At least ten Jesuit houses in Italy were taken over by bishops at last able to house their seminaries adequately.
The Jesuit property at Tivoli passed at a nominal price to the nephew of Pope Pius VI, Duke Braschi-Onesti, who founded upon it the fortune which enabled him to build the Palazzo Braschi (now the Museo di Roma) with the grandest staircase in all Rome.
The royal library at Palermo was founded in the Jesuit college and inherited its books.
The Jesuit college at Catania became a technical institute for training (e.g.) watchmakers.
Sicily decided to divide Jesuit lands among the peasants. The upper and middle classes got a goodly proportion, but after difficulty Tanucci succeeded in saving the property from crude sack, and holding something like half, at least temporarily, for peasant proprietors. 34
We may tabulate the development of the eighteenth-century papacy.
Clement XI ruled, and with integrity, in later years helped by nephews.
Under Benedict XIII a corrupt favourite ruled.
Under Clement XII an upright cardinal-nephew ruled.
Benedict XIV ruled himself, with sobriety and common sense, but using a fairly upright secretary of state.
Clement XIII was ruled by an upright secretary of state.
Clement XIV was ruled by the Spanish ambassador.
This too crude formulation shows what really happened:
(1) the final decline of the office of cardinal-nephew;
(2) the rise of the secretary of state;
(3) the increasing power of Catholic governments over the Pope—and therefore over the churches in their respective lands.
Dominus ac Redemptor was extorted from Clement XIV by the Spaniards using the aid of Naples and the French. The force was a threat to close monasteries, abolish nuncios, strip Rome of its jurisdiction, and invade the States of the Church. The promises to encourage were the security of other religious orders, the reopening of the nunciatures, and the restoration of occupied territory. The brief carried with it gross injustice to a small number of individuals and unhappiness, bearable but still very melancholy, to a much larger number of men whose way of life was destroyed. It stated no approval of what kings did to Jesuits, but seemed to stamp high approval by the Church upon the injustices wrought by the Kings of Portugal, Spain, and Naples. It said no word about the legends of the Jesuits, but could not help confirming Protestants in their opinions about the intrinsic wickedness of the Order. It put the seal on vast damage done to missions overseas and to schools and colleges.
But most of the damage to missions and schools was done before the brief, and in schools was rather less extensive than at first sight appeared. Meanwhile the brief saved Pope and Church from afflictions. It was also the most popular bull or brief ever to come out from a Pope.
The Spanish ambassador in Rome sent Pope Pius VI a memorandum (31 May 1775) to discourage him from any attempt to help ex-Jesuits especially by releasing the few prisoners from gaol. His argument compared the state of the Church at Clement XIV's death (1774) with the state of the Church at Clement XIII's death (1769). Before Clement XIV was elected, Portugal and its overseas empire was almost in schism, Spain had expelled the nuncio and was minded to abolish papal authority, France occupied Avignon and the Venaissin and encouraged Gallican doctrines among the clergy, Naples occupied Benevento and Pontecorvo and was about to occupy more, in Vienna, Milan, Mainz, Trier, Parma, Tuscany, Venice, Genoa, and Lucca antipapal laws were being passed or prepared. And now—'the storms have ceased, the cloud dispersed.' Not to see the good done by Clement XIV, 'a man must be blind.' 35
In a view longer than any contemporary could take, the argument could be extended. The stranglehold on Catholic education needed breaking if the Church was to educate for the nineteenth century. While Jesuit schools and colleges were better or much better than the restaffing which now must be fixed desperately, Catholic education was sure to profit in the long run from a more varied type of school and a less conservative standard of curriculum. To start afresh in the missions was disastrous. To start afresh in education was painful and lowering but may have been necessary to a longer advance.
Spain, and Naples, and Portugal, too slowly moved into modernity. If they failed to compel the Pope to abolish Jesuits, after public rampage and international excitement, they raised the Pope's prestige at the very moment when the programme of modernization insisted that he be less powerful in their states. The destruction of the Jesuits was seen as a step on the road towards a better constitution in Catholic states.
Nevertheless he who reads the details of the treatment of Ricci in his cell at the Castel Sant? Angelo, the maltreatment of an innocent, holy, and prayerful general, keeps being reminded of the saying then current in the streets of Rome, 'Good ends do not justify bad means.'
Forced or unforced, the brief was the most tremendous use of power in the Church ever achieved by a Pope. To abolish the strongest of religious orders without an enquiry, and with no reason alleged, was a unique act of international supremacy. It could not have been done if St. Ignatius Loyola had not made obedience the supreme virtue of a religious life.
When men asked the unanswerable question, which Pope contributed most to the suppression of the Jesuits, they did not always give the praise or blame to Clement XIV. Observers like Cordara held that Clement XIV could do no other. Observers like Tanucci fancied that the predecessor Clement XIII made it inevitable when, as one born out of time, he so loftily defended the rights of the Roman see in other states. At least one cardinal thought that dying Benedict XIV was guilty by approving the request for Portuguese enquiry and therefore giving the world the impression that the cooked-up Portuguese charges might well be true. And finally, he who reads Jansenist pamphleteering in France during the middle years of the eighteenth century, and sees the fanatical orchestration of abuse against Jesuits, can only explain its bitterness by the war over the bull Unigenitus, and suspects that if any single Pope made the destruction possible it was Clement XI as author of that bull.
The English agent Horace Mann held a still cruder explanation, which two centuries later Stalin would also hold. 'The Pope', he wrote shortly after he heard of the brief Dominus ac Redemptor 'had no fleet to support his Jesuits.' 36
Clement XIV had a biographer Caraccioli who represented him as a liberal and a Jansenist. This biography sold widely in Europe and caused the supreme posthumous reputation among Protestants that this was the best of all Popes. He seemed to stand for the due rights of states, for modernity, for quiet and unostentatious pastoral care, for justice to the Jews. Men said that if he had been Pope in the time of Henry VIII England would still be a Catholic country. They said that his pontificate proved how the Counter-Reformation was at an end. Stories circulated of his holiness, even his miracles.
But his acts were too weak to make him the saint of Catholic reformers. He gave those who knew him the impression of a man driven by events and tormented in mind. The Pope who saved the papacy from worse fates was a man neither of stature nor of wide education. To face the world he had little more training than experience in a friary and as an officer of the Inquisition. But he steadily or unsteadily pursued conciliation, and were it not for the criminal injustice to Ricci, and the trust in the bribable Friar Bontempi, his reputation would be as high among some Catholics as it is among Protestants.
Between Rome and Milan two Verri brothers debated in letters the importance of that reign. They were not quite sure. The policy was wise, disputes faded, the peace of the Church reappeared. Pietro in Milan believed that by suppressing the Jesuits the Pope had grievously wounded the authority of the Curia. 'Pay off the praetorian guards and the janissaries—dangerous troops for a despot but the bravest—and the Curia has lost its trustworthy garrisons abroad. Bishops will get back power, sovereigns will help. . . . The suppression of the Bellarmine-athletes tends to change the way the Church is governed.' Alessandro in Rome saw Avignon again the Pope's, Benevento restored, the threat of an occupation of Rome disappeared, and that it was right to sing a heartfelt Te Deum for what this Pope achieved. But when Clement XIV died, Alessandro summed him up as morose, solitary, impenetrable, sick in heart, mourned by no one for all the skill and prudence with which he directed policy. 37
The Attempt to Survive
Frederick the Great was a man of the Enlightenment, a Protestant of the left wing. By his annexation of Silesia and western Poland, strongly Protestant Prussia acquired a numerous Catholic people, whose education hung largely upon Jesuit colleges. Though no friend to Jesuits he was determined that his Catholic subjects should not suffer by their dissolution.
He at once ordered that the brief of suppression be not published in any of his Catholic lands. He told the suppressed Jesuits that he intended to prevent them being suppressed.
The Silesian Jesuits were at first inclined to accept the king's protection against the Pope. Father Reinach, King Frederick's friend among the Jesuits, told him that the Pope was not infallible. They had no official knowledge that they were suppressed, though anyone could buy the brief in the shops or read it in the newspapers. For a time they could argue that to continue need not offend their special vow of obedience to the Pope because this Pope acted under duress, the brief was not his real opinion, he might allow an exception in Prussia at request of their king, and even if he refused his successor might reverse the brief. Upon these axioms they continued to accept novices—four during 1774—and to write to ex-Jesuits in other non-Catholic lands, including England, inviting them to link with the Prussian Society. They even talked of electing a new general to succeed Ricci. A few of them were outspoken about Pope Clement XIV—one talked of the Ganganelli raving, at Neisse a Jesuit father made the boys play in the theatre a drama of the destruction of the Jesuits by the Pope and their rescue by the king, where parts of the text were so offensive to the Pope that a few of the audience walked out. 38
The optimism was short-lived. The bishop regarded them as rebels against the Pope and started to appoint other confessors to nunneries and to refuse to ordain their young men. Laymen drifted away from their churches and pulpits and confessionals. On 8 December the Jesuits at Glogau normally heard some hundreds of confessions, in December 1773 they heard about twenty. Nuns began to doubt the validity of their absolutions. Members of other orders started refusing invitations to attend their ceremonies. The people were more papist than the religious order dedicated to Popes.
At the vacancy in the see of Rome in 1774 Frederick ordered his Roman envoy Ciofani (a man of too small a stature to compete with Cardinal de Bernis and the other Bourbon ambassadors) to tell the new Pope that the work of the Society of Jesus was essential to Prussia. He did not mind whether they were called Jesuits or wore the clothes of Jesuits but they must be allowed to do what Jesuits did. Ciofani formally asked the new Pope Pius VI Braschi whether he would not change the name of the Jesuits and let them get on with their good work.
Pius VI was elected Pope because he was willing to make it sufficiently plain that he would not try to resurrect what his predecessor killed. The Prussian request embarrassed him in his relations with the Bourbon governments. Rome could hardly be seen to allow Jesuits in one country while pretending that they were not Jesuits.
In August 1775 the Pope told Ciofani that he accepted the validity of the king's arguments but could not go back on what was decided. He had hoped to be able to use clemency to the suffering individuals of the Society (he was then trying to free Ricci from Castel Sant? Angelo despite ranting Spanish resistance), but in vain. He could not allow the Jesuits to be a community, even in the Papal States. But 'the respect which I have for Berlin', Ciofani reported the Pope to say, 'makes me refrain from condemning the Silesian Jesuits as irregular, and the king is too intelligent not to find some way of achieving his just ends'. 39
This private conversation was soon known, and caused friction between the new Pope and the Spanish government.
By the end of 1775 Pope and king reached agreement. The ex-Jesuits might remain in control of their schools and colleges, but must leave their dress and abandon their name. Thus the Prussian resistance only postponed for two and a quarter years a state of affairs which Austrian and some other Catholic lands reached immediately after suppression; with the important difference that the Silesians could train, if not novices, at least their future schoolmasters.
Some ex-Jesuits at first were sad; deserted by Pope, bishop, people, and now their king. Into the college diary at Glatz the superior entered at 21 February 1776 this lamentation: 'This is the worst of all days. On this day the last little lights of our holy father Ignatius were put out, and an order canonized by Popes and then oppressed with a heap of calumnies by the Pope who died lately, is vilely deflowered. What our king could do against the suppression, he did.'
But there was no further resistance. Frederick II met his old friend Father Reinach and saw the new dress of the secular priest, and said 'That's a more becoming costume than the old habit.' 40
The Prussian government took control of the finances. It reformed the Jesuit curriculum, introduced history, and demanded a university degree before ordination. Thus though the ex-Jesuits came under bishops in pastoral matters they came under the government in education, except in theology and religious education. They were called by the title Priests of the Royal Schools Institute. They enjoyed revenues from the old Jesuit estates, and had the power, not yet held by any other group of ex-Jesuits outside Russia, of training new members.
Odd survivals remained, probably not slips of the pen. So late as 1784 the head of the college at Emmerich near the Dutch border signed himself Wilhelmus Classen S.J. 41
Catherine the Great of Russia had a mind of the Enlightenment and was no natural friend of Jesuits. But by the first partition of Poland Russia got many Catholic subjects and good Jesuit schools. And policy entered. In the eyes of the Russian government their protection of Jesuits helped to make new Polish subjects loyal.
The brief of suppression was never published in Russia. Government prevented it being known. The Jesuits knew privately but were not bound to obey till they knew officially. Individual Jesuits were uneasy in conscience and asked to become secular priests. In White Russia and eastern Poland most Jesuits continued undisturbed.
The head of the Jesuit college at Polotsk, Czerniewicz, asked the nuncio Garampi in Warsaw what he was to do if the Russian empress ordered him to continue as a Jesuit and the Pope ordered him not to continue as a Jesuit. The nuncio thought silence the best answer. Though personally he disliked the suppression, he loyally carried out the order of Rome. But he gave those orders a lax interpretation, for one of his orders said that the schools should continue, and the Russian government said, no Jesuits no schools. He advised the Jesuits to intend to be ex-Jesuits as soon as they could, and to dress more like secular priests. But even he suspected the Jesuits of wanting the Russian government to insist on Jesuits, and advised an archbishop to keep a spy in one of the Jesuit colleges.
On 15 October 1775 Czerniewicz appealed to the new Pope Pius VI. He wrote that as the brief of suppression had not been made official in Russia, many of the Jesuits continued their rules, dress, and name. Would the Pope show that he did not disapprove? Though now they had no novices, might they be allowed to enrol ex-Jesuits from other countries?
Cardinal Rezzonico presented the petition to Pius VI who received it kindly but could say nothing. The Russian Jesuits observed gratefully that he did not condemn. Czerniewicz acted like a general of the Society, requiring obedience on the same terms, though his authority as provincial now rested, not upon Rome or his non-existent order, but in theory upon what he could extract from his reluctant bishop and in practice upon the Russian government.
In January 1777 a Cologne newspaper published a genuine letter from the Russian governor of White Russia to Czerniewicz planning to secure Rome's leave for a Jesuit novitiate in Russia. Troubled Rome gave the Bishop of Mohilev full powers over all the regular clergy in his diocese. The bishop (1779) sanctioned Jesuit novices, saying not quite truly that, out of respect for the empress, Pope Clement XIV had not applied the brief of suppression to Russia and that Pius VI had refused to condemn the continued existence of the rule, dress, and name.
The Jesuits were again in being; only in White Russia; to the anger of Bourbon governments and the public embarrassment, though not the private regret, of Pope Pius VI.
Cardinal Pallavicini condemned the action of the bishop as scandalous. Rome made it public that these were ex-Jesuits and not Jesuits in Russia—'A habit does not make a monk—still less a Jesuit.' But behind the scenes a different voice could be heard. The Pope (August 1780) told the French ambassador Cardinal de Bernis that he regretted how the Empress Catherine was the only ruler with common sense enough to see what advantage she gained from the refugees.
In October 1782 the Jesuits of White Russia met at Polotsk and elected Czerniewicz as vicar-general. Under fierce pressure the Pope sent a private brief to the kings of France and Spain declaring that everything that had happened in Prussia or Russia since the suppression was null and void. But almost simultaneously the Pope gave an audience (3 March 1783) to the Coadjutor-Bishop of Mohilev Benislawski, and heard that the vicar-general was elected by command of the empress. Then the Pope said, 'I don't disapprove' (Je n'en disconviens pas'). 42 Nine days later the Pope gave him another audience and turned the negative into a positive—'I approve', said three times.
Fifteen months later Bishop Benislawski (July 1785) made to the Jesuits a formal affidavit of this verbal approval. Cardinal Pallavicini instructed the nuncio in Poland to contradict any such claim. The story ran through the European courts that the Pope sanctioned the existence of the Jesuits in Russia. Rome strenuously denied the alleged sanction. The more scrupulous consciences among the White Russian Jesuits were calmed. They were assured, and were now convinced, that the Pope refused to condemn them and if only he were a free agent would approve publicly. Ex-Jesuits from outside Russia, especially Germans, applied to join the little congregation. The vicar-general was happy to admit them in theory but with only 100,000 Latin Catholics in the area could not use many.
The conduct of Rome towards the Jesuits or ex-Jesuits in Russia proves the political nature of the abolition of Jesuits. The order must be abolished because in Spain, Portugal, France, Naples, and Parma it was a burden too heavy for the Church to carry. But in Russia the attempt to destroy it might ruin Catholicism. Therefore Rome must publicly disapprove what was done, but refuse to utter the direct condemnation which would affront the Empress Catherine, and simultaneously allow private encouragement for the sake of pastoral concern.
A curious sign of the international difficulty appeared in Parma. There lived ex-Jesuits, with pensions paid out of ex-Jesuit endowments, qualified to teach but not used in teaching. The schools of Parma had not enough teachers. The State could find the teachers which it needed, at little cost, by re-employing the ex-Jesuits. The plan was formed. It failed, because Spanish memories were painful and Parma lay under Spanish influence. In 1793 the Duke of Parma asked for the loan of Jesuits from Russia, and a few ex-Jesuits of Parma were granted membership of the Jesuit congregation in White Russia.
Pius VI could not approve, but would not disapprove.
Some ex-Jesuits were absorbed into other orders. They joined the Society of Jesus because they felt a monastic vocation, and when the Society ceased to exist they followed their vocation elsewhere. New orders came into being to meet their needs—the Society of the Heart of Jesus (1794) founded in the Austrian Netherlands, the Society of the Faith of Jesus founded (1798) near Spoleto—all the founding members wore the Jesuit dress—and soon united with the society of the Heart of Jesus. Some members wanted to join the Jesuits of Russia, others refused, until the group split.
The next Pope, Pius VII, elected in 1800, was not committed like his predecessor to not altering the brief of suppression. Nor did he depend upon the Spanish government. Indeed, revolution in France caused him to look with ever more interest at the power of the Russian government. Asked by the new Tsar Paul I for an approval of the Russian Jesuits, Pius VII freely gave it (7 March 1801) by the brief Catholicae fidei.
The White Russian Fathers had been accused of disobedience and schism, of being rebels pretending to be monks. After twenty-two years they were justified. They were not ex-Jesuits as the world said, but Jesuits, authentic. It was the first step in cancelling Clement XIV's brief of suppression.
Even into the era of revolution the old stories were still curiously important to the argument. Men like the King of Spain blamed Jesuit political theories for the coming of revolution. Others blamed the destruction of the Jesuits for a weakening of Catholic regimes which led to revolution.
The true argument was less prominent. A teaching order had done a necessary work. It might have done it less well than formerly, it had not met all the wants of the age. But still the work was necessary. For extraneous reasons, connected with the conflicts between colonists and missionaries, this order had to be destroyed. But no adequate provision was made for the work which it did. The need continued to exist, men continued to be available. Gradually it became a prediction that a papacy, forced by politics to destroy the instrument, would think to recreate it once the politics changed.
6 The Catholic Reformers
The motives which led men to want change were as various as possible.
At his simplest the reformer was the old medieval preacher who saw how people who came to church still murdered or fornicated, and wanted the Church to preach better, or discipline more rigorously, so as to raise the moral standards of Christian men. This kind of new Savonarola welcomed warm devotions and new cults and revivalist missions which stirred the hearts of the common people. If he were more sophisticated, he turned his attention to the training of pastors, so that more instructed or more devoted priests might help their congregations to righteousness—this was the reforming drive typical of the Counter-Reformation. If he were eminent and won high office, he found himself perplexed amid the legal niceties of State law and Church law and tried to amend the constitution—inevitably by seeking the aid of the State. For the glaring necessity was to take old endowments which did no good and convert them to parishes or causes which needed money; and such fiddling of rights of property or sacredness of trusts could not happen without the aid of lay ministers willing to risk hostility from vested interests—in short, using State power to trample upon ancient rights. If he were a lay politician, he was frustrated by this need every day; and how far he was prepared to go depended on his prudence or rashness, his ability to persuade lords or bishops, and the readiness of his sovereign to give up a quiet life and face trouble.
Into these traditions of the Counter-Reformation, and cutting across their assumptions, came a new kind of Catholic reformer. He may loosely be defined as one who turned against the excesses (as he saw them) of the Counter-Reformation. Though he stood by the inheritance of the Counter-Reformation, in wanting dedicated priests, celibacy of the clergy, the enforcement of the canons of the Council of Trent, he criticized some features of the Catholic tradition which the Counter-Reformation fostered. Get the people into church and all will be well?—but still they murder and fornicate, we should repel from church when we must. Make excuse for the sins of a suffering people, be gentle when you hear their confessions?—on the contrary, they may need severity, even to a refusal of the absolution which they ask until they show signs of doing better. Stir consciences in church with emotion and revivalist mission and new cults to which they are drawn?—it risks superstition by excess, credulity towards images or pictures or relics or sacred springs. Ordain more priests because priesthood is a higher life for everyone who is called?—but the need of the Catholic Church is part of the call, excess of clergymen lowers the repute of ministry, we want good priests instead of many priests. Let the warmth of a people's devotion flower in procession, pictorial dramas of redemption, dedication to new and powerful saints, more holy-days, a social existence dominated by the feasts and customs of the Church?—but men must earn their bread, the Church wants happiness in this life as it safeguards happiness in the life to come, and it must beware of charities which deter men from working, or so many holy-days that hands too often are idle. These new Reformers wanted to go a small part of the way which Protestants travelled before them—though they would not have listened to the voice if a Protestant spoke.
In Germany, Italy, and Spain these reformers were known loosely as Jansenists.
South-west of Paris, beyond Versailles in rolling wooded country, is a hollow by a farm where the traveller may still see the church, now a museum, and the graveyard which is all that is left of Port-Royal of the Fields, for the cloister buildings were demolished by government in 1711-13. The visitor may sit upon a wall in the sun and meditate upon a sad age of French history, how good men and good women, following ideals in quietness, were trapped in a world of ecclesiastical strife and international politics which they hardly understood, and helped willy nilly to break the unity of France.
The Jansenists were a French movement, and Port-Royal was their symbol. They were inseparable from the history of France. But over the Alps the name Jansenist became a symbol for a movement of a rather different kind: a group of men, or series of groups, who set out to reform the Catholic Church. The link between these Italian groups and the quiet little field in the woods beyond Versailles is not haphazard. But it was vaguer. Some of the Italians read French books, meditations on Scripture, moral divinity. But they were not in any sense direct disciples of Cornelius Jansen. They cared nothing about predestination, pondered little on grace and justification, had hardly any desire to make communion rarer lest the sacrament lose by familiarity. At times Italians used the word Jansenist almost as the English at first used the word Methodist, to mean anyone alleged to be unduly strict in his mode of life. A bishop who advocated stiff old rules of fasting, now in charitable disuse, was called by critics a Jansenist. Benedict XIV, before he became Pope, once said that Jansenism in Italy was only a ghost invented by Jesuits. Cardinal Bona defined Jansenists as 'Catholics who do not like Jesuits'. The Augustinian general Vasquez who was violent in his enmity to Jesuits, told his provincials not to be afraid if their critics called them Jansenist—'the name's as empty as a ghost.' A still more extreme Italian made this definition: 'Jansenism was and is nothing else but a Jesuit conspiracy to murder their enemies.' 1
Though these critics were not Jansenists in a narrow sense, they were encouraged, first, by the Pope's condemnation of Jansenism, and later (even more) by his destruction of the Jesuits. In 1713, by the bull Unigenitus, Pope Clement XI condemned the Jansenists of France and their doctrines of grace. This condemnation was cast into such embracing language that it was accused of condemning St. Augustine if not St. Paul. The bull Unigenitus therefore weakened the authority of the Pope. Men who cared about Christian doctrine of grace doubted the Pope's wisdom and then sat more loosely to the Pope's authority. Even in Sicily appeared traces of this weakening, which observers ascribed to the consequences of Unigenitus. In Tuscany and the north, intellectually so near to France, the signs are everywhere among the little groups of thinking clergy.
Though too wide and varied a movement to make the name Jansenist (in the French sense) quite fitting, many of them looked to France as home of the leaders in Catholic reform. So far as they printed or imported foreign books they were usually the works of French Jansenists (that is, proper Jansenists)—especially Quesnel's meditations on the New Testament, a lovely piece of quiet verse-by-verse interpretation and moral reflexion. Though they were not Jansenists in the French sense, many of them looked upon France as the home of true divinity. Canon Simioli was head of the seminary at Naples. On 13 August 1769 he wrote that in his seminary prayer took a large place, and also the reading of good books, Quesnel's Pious Thoughts in an Italian translation, Baillet's Lives of the Saints, Bossuet's catechism—and then, he wrote, 'I envy you, Auxerre and Paris and all France, because you have so much light, and books full of light are printed every day. . . . I have all the works of Colbert and know them by heart.' 2 Colbert of Montpellier, great-nephew of the statesman, was a leading and uncompromising Jansenist bishop. French books all, in that seminary at Naples—France the home of the spirit, the source of understanding of Scripture, the way to purer theology.
The Jansenists of Italy were almost unanimous in wanting to lessen the power of the Pope. At first sight this was not an obvious wish, for Popes were educated and in art and civilization Rome was the first or second city of Europe. For the eighteen years while Benedict XIV was Pope, moderate 'Jansenists' could almost claim the Pope as their own. But the predicament thus far resembled that of the age of the Reformation: few reforms were possible without interfering with legal rights. Only the sovereign, be he Emperor or king or city council, could change the law, and every change in church law required the assent of Rome. Therefore every reformer wanted to diminish the number of cases where the assent of Rome was necessary; or, if we put it as the other side saw it, to increase the power of the State, and of the bishops, in the Church.
They rejected the charge that they were touched by Protestant ideas. They believed themselves true and loyal Catholics. They were usually learned in the fathers, often wanted a liturgy which the people could follow, thought the arrangement of parish priests and mass-priests ill adapted, liked to restore a relation between mass and receiving the holy communion at other times than at Easter, wanted sermons to be more integrated into the liturgy, suspected new or newly developed cults like the cult of the Sacred Heart, liked to make monks or at least monasteries fewer to get quality of monks rather than quantity, and thought of diverting more endowments away from cult or masses into pastoral care.
Germany still looked to France as the source of light and culture. Though the Germans adopted Jansenist authors late, and were not much influenced until after the middle of the century, the influence was powerful when it came. Its sources were various. Sometimes it came with immigrants. In Vienna the centre of the Jansenist group, which began to guide the Church policy of the Empire, was a physician from the Netherlands, Gerard van Swieten; one of his colleagues was an Italian who studied the historian Muratori; in Trier and the Rhineland Jansenist ideals passed directly from France or Belgium; the leaders at Würzburg and Salzburg learnt their Jansenist inclination while they studied at Rome. German Jansenists or Jansenizers were mostly in universities, or in the big well-endowed monasteries with excellent libraries and a tradition of learning. More markedly even than in Italy, it was a movement of intellectuals. It had no popular base.
Near the strands of Jansenist thinking, sometimes quite distinct, sometimes interwoven with them, were new advances in knowledge, above all in history. The intervention of printing, the creation of modern libraries, the development of palaeography, the comparative criticism of old manuscripts each in their turn raised a new step upon which the science of history climbed. In the study of early Christian texts Protestants had usually led the way. They were freer, and more willing to jettison texts as spurious even if the texts were hallowed. But by 1700 Catholic scholars dominated the study of Christian history. They had most of the best manuscripts in their libraries. They collected groups of monks who had the sympathy for Catholic origins which Protestants lacked and therefore showed loving care over detail and the sensitive understanding which compassion brings. The Benedictine congregation of St. Maur in France gathered round Mabillon a team of experts who changed Europe's ideas about the early Middle Ages.
Few of these monks were Jansenists in the technical sense. But they were highly educated scholars, scorned narrowness, and so resented the bull Unigenitus that the controversy which ensued made them disliked by authority and almost ended their academic usefulness. Mabillon always talked of the Jansenist leaders with respect.
Directly associated with the heirs of Port-Royal was Tillemont, a charming and humble French priest who collected the recently discovered knowledge of Christian origins into a marvellous new synthesis which quickly replaced, everywhere outside rigidly traditional schools of history, the Annals of Cardinal Caesar Baronius, that definitive history written to synthesize and expound what the Counter-Reformation understood of early Christian Europe. Tillemont was very Catholic, very devout. But he was not embattled like Baronius, the atmosphere is gentler, this author (the reader feels) wants only truth and does not equate finding truth with demolishing Protestant versions of what happened. Mabillon and Tillemont were living witnesses that in history, as in other spheres, the Catholic Church grew away from the postures which it was forced to strike in the Counter-Reformation.
Educated Catholic Italy stood in the forefront of European historical studies. Italian scholars laid the foundations on which the historical revival of the nineteenth century afterwards built. The instincts of the historian saw the religion of the people with discomfort. The painting of the holy Virgin by St. Luke was beloved by the people, but these new historians wondered whether St. Luke could be the painter. The people found virtus in the relics of holy men, but the historical attitude to famous relics became as sceptical as the cynicism of Erasmus in the beginning of the Reformation. Historical minds no longer passed without discomfort over legends which they must read in the breviary.
Muratori was ordained priest in 1695, worked for five years at the Ambrosian library in Milan, and in 1700 at the age of twenty-eight became the duke's librarian at Modena, where he remained till his death fifty years later. From 1723 a series of twenty-five volumes collected the texts of Italian history, many till then unprinted. From 1738 to 1743 he published at Milan Antiquitates italicae medii aevi; in the third volume (out of six) he printed for the first time that primitive list of New Testament books soon called the Muratorian canon, and so made his name immortal. From 1744 he published twelve volumes of annals of Italian history to his own day. Long before he died he had a European fame. The first biography appeared nine years before his death.
Though one of the rare few who marked an epoch in the history of historical writing, Muratori found time to write other books. He was a polymath, who wrote about economics and politics. The first historical work he ever published was a propaganda pamphlet about his duke's right to the territory of Comacchio which the Pope (justly) claimed. These political writings were important to his future, because they won the confidence of the Emperor and therefore the Emperor's money to pay for his printing of historical sources, and imperial protection against his critics.
In those days when learned congresses could not exist and periodicals were rare, Muratori undertook a correspondence with the librarians, archivists, and scholars of Europe. His collection of letters still numbers more than 6,000. The archives of history lay largely uncatalogued, and everyone who wanted to see them was suspected of trespass among the secrets of state. He first gained access to closed Italian archives because King George I of England wrote letters on his behalf to the Italian princes. A circle of royal patrons received his dedications and encouraged the sales of his books.
Since he published something on almost every subject under discussion, his life at Modena was more retired than uncontroversial. His views on saints and the cult of St. Mary led to an uncomfortable interview with a Polish traveller who called to tell him that he had lost his once high reputation in Poland and that his book ought to be burnt publicly. The Emperor's agents intervened to shield him from an alleged plan by the Roman censors to prohibit his books on the antiquities of the Este house in Modena. The protection of Vienna was important. The Austrians could not afford to allow censure on a writer whose historical enquiries indicated the Emperor's claim to the Comacchio district of northern Italy.
This was no Jansenist. He accepted the bull Unigenitus, and his ideas of reform had not the radicalism found among Jansenists. Yet many reformers learnt from his attitude. Muratori was the finest type of Catholic reformer in the eighteenth century; where the critical intelligence assailed popular superstition at the same time as a pastoral heart longed for the well-being of a people's religion.
About his soul his extensive correspondence is reticent. He was self-controlled, morally scrupulous, and never likely to become effusive. He was brought up by a devout parish priest whom he revered and in whose praise he later wrote a memoir. The priestly ideal was that of the Counter-Reformation, his model for the clergy was still St. Charles Borromeo. He practised and preached a daily meditation and an annual retreat, the Passion was the staple of his religious reflection.
In 1711-13 he passed through a religious crisis. We cannot quite tell why. It was the time of the Comacchio struggle, where he found himself on the side against Rome, and this might have had something to do with the crisis. Since 1713 was the year of Unigenitus this also has been put forward to explain what happened, though the only evidence is Muratori's very marked silence on the subject.
He met the Jesuit missioner Paolo Segneri the younger, who was sent to conduct missions in Modena and the surrounding country. At the feet of Segneri he underwent some sort of conversion, and then took the work of Segneri's assistant on further missions near by. He found himself, so to speak, on the wrong side. His intelligent and learned friends distrusted the tumults of missions and mocked Segneri. Muratori the intellectual found himself upon the side of simple faith and conversion. The impression never faded. He later wrote Segneri's life.
As a direct result of these religious experiences he decided that his soul needed parish work. He accepted the incumbency of the church of Pomposa (1716), where he dedicated himself to the pastoral care of his people and to spiritual exercises for the neighbouring clergy. For nearly three years his history came to a standstill. He spent a lot of money on the church, began a choir school, looked after the nuns, and created a new lending bank (Mons Pietatis) for the poor.
For reasons of health he resigned the parish in 1733 and continued to live in the vicarage with his successor who was also his nephew and biographer. But he was active in the parish only two or three years. Then history reclaimed his time.
This union of scholarly reputation with pastoral experience and religious affection made his reforming book, when it appeared, of rare weight.
From the fifteenth century some universities demanded the 'blood-vow' on taking office; that is, a candidate swore to defend with his blood the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the Jesuits won control of higher education they adopted the blood-vow, which in 1649 became obligatory in Austrian universities. Muratori published under the pseudonym Lamindus Pritanius a religious tract, On the Moderation of Minds in Matters of Religion, in which he reproved the blood-vow. The tract started a series of pamphlets for and against, among which Muratori wrote a second essay, On Avoiding Superstition which directly assailed the blood-vow, and then a third series of letters to defend the second. Even in the year before Muratori's death a student at the university of Innsbruck, on the occasion of his taking the blood-vow, spoke fiercely against Muratori.
Life is too high a good to set it at risk without necessity. If the Church had defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, it might be another matter. But it is not defined. No one can be right to talk of risking life for the sake of an opinion. This was Muratori's argument. He hardly talked of the unreality of the business, so characteristic of fanaticism, when men swore to stake life for a matter where life could never be in danger.
The coming of scholarly Pope Benedict XIV to the papacy (1740) helped Muratori. He knew Benedict earlier as Cardinal Lambertini at Ancona and Bologna, and wrote to a friend of his happiness that God had given a Pope who would encourage scholarship. 3 They corresponded over the dedication of a book, the reform of the breviary, the history of Italy.
When therefore in the evening of his long life Muratori published a powerful essay about religion, he was no obscure librarian at Modena: the most famous historian in Europe; a writer whose work was already used as textbooks in Austrian universities; protégé of an Emperor and adviser of a Pope; notorious in Poland, and among the leaders of popular cults, but otherwise respected universally.
He attacked false miracles, had little poetry in him and small desire to allow beauty in legend, was against the story of St. Veronica wiping the sweat from the suffering Christ, disbelieved the holy house at Loreto and the stigmata of St. Francis and the fables of the Spanish about St. James, thought Cardinal Baronius partisan in his Annals, and was specially hostile to claims by prophetic women to private revelations.
His book On a Well-ordered Devotion was published in Italian at Venice under the old pseudonym Lamindo Pritanio. 4 This became the classical statement of Catholic reforming ideals in the eighteenth century. Not everyone was able to take all. The English translator omitted several important chapters and altered the numbering so that no reader can see how much was dropped.
Most writers who tell fanatics not to be fanatical sound arid by reaction. Muratori's book was shot through with affection of the soul. Simple men, he saw, treated the worship of God as though it meant reverence before a statue of Christ or before the Host in the eucharist, and allowed it to make small difference to what they did. The heart of Muratori's essay is the inwardness of true devotion; the offering of the self as moral being; the danger of substituting external acts and yet the necessity of external acts, and their rightness when they focus the aspiration of the soul; deep reverence in receiving the holy communion, or meditating upon the life of Christ. It was as though he tried to bring the common man, who lived upon the circumference of faith, to its centre. In parts the essay reads more like a book of prayer than a tract of controversy. But it contains tough language. The desire to make Christian devotion ethical led him suddenly to reprove the 'madness and blindness' of Protestants who say that 'faith alone' can save. Nor was it the book of a theologian. 'Theologians write big works on virtue. They ask questions which are interesting but useless. All theology, whether for learned men or illiterates, comes down to one thing: doing what pleases God.'
Most of the book attacked no one. But in its course Muratori came, by way of a climax, to an assault upon the abuses of his time: in the inability of congregations to follow the mass (two chapters contained an Italian translation of the mass with commentary for the uninstructed); in shocking misbehaviour sometimes seen in church; in the follies and exaggerations of preachers; and above all in the cult of saints by excess of saints' days to prevent the people working, by reading of ridiculous and incredible legends of miracle, by attributing to the power of saints or relics what could only come from God, by devotion to the statue or picture instead of the person portrayed by the statue or picture. This was the part of the book which roused Cardinal Quirini to complain to Rome, and made English and Spanish translators bowdlerize their editions.
This book of devotion which was also a critical book became a symbol of the Catholic reforming ideals of the later eighteenth century; obedient to the Pope, not at all Protestant in spirit, reverent towards the Blessed Virgin and the saints, but fierce against ways of worship and superstitions common among the people. Cardinal Migazzi of Vienna gave it to the Emperor's daughter. Grand Duke Leopold had it printed at his own cost to give to all his clergy. 5
In the year after Muratori published his book On a Well-ordered Devotion, his friendship with Pope Benedict XIV was put to the test. The Spanish published in 1747 a new edition of their Index of prohibited books, and included 'an Index of Jansenist books' on which appeared some not at all Jansenist publications, and even famous Jansenists were misspelt. The general of the Augustinians was shocked to see upon this illiterate list the history of the Pelagian controversy by the much respected Cardinal Henry Noris. He complained to Pope Benedict XIV, who protested (31 July 1748) to the grand inquisitor. He said that good books should not be banned because they contained errors. 'How much is there in Muratori's work which is censurable! I have myself found many things in my own reading, and many of his opponents and accusers have lodged charges against him. We have not banned his works and will not, because a ban would do much more harm than good.'
The Pope rashly gave a copy of this letter to the Augustinian general, who published it in breach of privacy. Thus the rebuke, though intended to be private, became known to Muratori. On 16 September 1748 Muratori wrote to Pope Benedict XIV that he had been condemned without anyone knowing why, and begged to know what was censurable so that he could recant and find grace. Benedict XIV (25 September 1748) replied that the Augustinian general published a private letter, and had been banned from the palace. Cardinal Quirini got hold of the letter; and as one who resented Muratori's views on saints' days must have been tempted to use the Pope's words, but refrained in honour. Benedict XIV told Cardinal Quirini that he had done well, for his criticism had nothing to do with the argument over saints' days, but concerned his language about the temporal power of the Popes.
The book On a Well-ordered Devotion continued to alarm men who valued the cult of St. Mary and the saints as Catholic, and suspected Muratori of lukewarm devotion. A preacher in Naples attacked the book in sermons, the censor of the Sicilian inquisition Father Plazza published a book of 800 pages to defend the saints, the supreme controversialist of the day Father Zaccaria demanded that the book be taken out of reach of the laity. Cardinal Quirini engaged in a battle of pamphlets against the doctrine that the number of saints' days had increased and ought to be diminished, until Pope Benedict XIV ordered silence on the question. Because of Plazza's book, the Holy Office of the Inquisition formally examined the book. Its verdict was satisfactory; the book deserves no censure—or, if any, the lightest possible. Muratori attacks abuses of popular religion which the Church has never defended.
Father Plazza numbered Muratori among 'Jansenists'. Muratori was not inclined towards the French Jansenists. But his spirit fitted that mood which Italians of his day called Jansenist. Less moderate men who came after him learnt from his attitudes as well as from his history.
As early as 1742 the feeling between historians and conservatives who loved legends of the prayer-books was strong enough to persuade Pope Benedict XIV to promote an enquiry and attempt a reform of the breviary. The numerous papers which he collected still lie among his 'consistorial bulls' (the name is improper) in the Vatican archives, but produced no result. Reformers were few, conservatives many. The reform of the breviary was postponed.
Muratori's local influence was small. His diocesan synod (1739) made him an examiner, but its decrees show no trace of his spirit. An official in Rome even suggested (1744) that he be the new Bishop of Modena but the plan was not sensible. His music school and his spiritual exercises for clergy soon failed. As his successor in the library the duke nominated his enemy Zaccaria. Twenty-four years after his death Pomposa was united to a neighbouring parish, and even his bones were translated. In Poland, and Mainz, and Sicily, men regarded his name as offensive. In a pulpit at Naples Father Pepe hailed his death as the saving of the Church.
But the books survived. Henceforth no one could be a historian without using Muratori. And his treatise On a Well-Ordered Devotion, received translation after translation, Latin, German, French, Spanish, Hungarian, Czech, English. Between 1760 and 1795 it had eighteen German editions. It stood for a truly Catholic sense of religious reformation. Make our Lord the centre of faith, not the Blessed Virgin or the saints. Help common people away from superstitions or credulities which corrupt their devotions. Turn the eucharist and the communion into the heart of worship instead of an extra. Enable the people to understand what they do when they worship at mass. And all this should be done in faithfulness to the highest ideals of St. Charles Borromeo and the Council of Trent.
For the first time the new and profound Catholic learning of the early Enlightenment applied itself directly to the religion of the common people.
Many Catholic reformers of the later eighteenth century learnt from Muratori. The Austrian bishops were among the chief. But in works of reformation no one easily retains the spirit of moderation. Something about Muratori was too gentle, too Tridentine, too quiet, too restrained for his successors. However they drew from his source, they preferred the Jansenist model of reform; still religious, but louder, more radical, less respectful of the past, and unlike Muratori in that their books were worded so that no Pope could protect or approve. Before he was dead thirty years, the bitter journal of French Jansenists expressed wonder that anyone should bother to translate into French On a Well-Ordered Devotion when France possessed many better books for the purpose. 6
Among the north-Italian towns Brescia was the city where the influential group of Italian Jansenists was formed. The most learned cardinal of the century, Quirini, was Bishop of Brescia and, though himself hardly an innovator, gathered about him enquiring minds. The professor of philosophy at the Brescia seminary, Pietro Tamburini, became the leader of Italian Jansenists. Unlike Muratori he was a true Jansenist; professed himself a disciple of Jansen; started his public career by writing books about the doctrine of the grace of God. He was no moderate, but a radical who enjoyed controversy.
The next Bishop of Brescia (1772) made Tamburini leave Brescia cathedral. When he and his colleague Giuseppe Zola were expelled, Brescia went into mourning, and for a week clergy and monks met daily at his house to show support. 7 Cardinal Marefoschi, who was famous for leading the campaign in Rome to destroy the Jesuits, found him a post at the Irish College in Rome. He remained in Rome for six years and made many friends. But as his radicalism made him ever more suspect, he accepted a professorship at the university of Pavia, then under Austrian rule.
At Pavia he began to publish a series of radical writings; on the duty as well as the right of Christian people to read the Bible in translation; on the right to disregard the Index of prohibited books; on the need to return to the fathers of the primitive Church and to test the present Church by their teaching; on the divine right of bishops, who owe the Pope as primate a canonical obedience not an absolute obedience; on the liability of Popes to err, and the lawfulness of appeals to General Councils; on the proper place of laity in the Church, and the need to remember that all authority is not concentrated in clergy; on the corrupt nature of indulgences; on Jansenism as only the development of St. Augustine's teaching; on the Inquisition as contrary to the spirit of primitive Christianity; on the error of the opinion that truth should be maintained by physical force unless (as with atheism) the social order is put at risk.
So far as Italy had a head of a Jansenist party who was truly a Jansenist, it was Pietro Tamburini at Pavia. His followers were not numerous, very few were laymen, and fewer still were famous. But among them were two bishops who became notorious far beyond the Italian peninsula: Ricci of Pistoia and Serrao of Potenza.
Pavia where Tamburini taught was in Lombardy, and Lombardy was part of the Austrian domain, and therefore Pavia university had freedoms denied to bishops further south. Moreover it was a university of international fame, whereas the two 'Jansenist' bishops presided over unimportant little sees and no numerous clergy. Tamburini was a thinker, widely read, whereas neither of the bishops was more than an earnest practical unsubtle pastor. Yet only when the two bishops attempted to embody these ideas in their dioceses did Italian Jansenism assume its European authority.
Giannone The university of Naples flourished. Its faculty of law contained professors who knew the French legal and ecclesiastical theorists of Louis XIV's reign, and took ideas which are loosely termed Gallican, in contending for the sovereign's power in religion and the limits of Rome's legal power. In 1713 the passionate battle over Clement XI's bull Unigenitus stirred up universal interest in the limits of Roman power, especially in countries where some issue between Church and State was acrimonious—and no Catholic country then existed in which no issue was acrimonious. The current battle in southern Italy concerned the Bishop of Lecce in Apulia and his tithes. We have already (p. 208) met that Bishop of Lecce placarding an interdict in his diocese.
In Naples was a young lawyer who had lately graduated from the law faculty and came from a family of Apulia: Pietro Giannone (1676-1748). He had been reading French Gallican theorists. He was briefed by the inhabitants of Lecce who protested against the efforts of the Bishop of Lecce to tithe all their olive trees. His thesis (1715) was a plea For the owners of olive trees in the fief of St. Peter in Lama against Mgr the Bishop of Lecce, lord of the fief, about the demand for tithes on the olive trees. Such a plea could not interest the public. But it caught the attention of the lawyers by method, and outspokenness. Giannone went to history. Leaning on Gallican historians, he traced tithe from the Old Testament to the present and used this historical evidence to prove that it was a mere State tax and that no basis existed in the law of God. The statement had touches of anticlerical passion. This was a young man from the south battling for the welfare of smallholding peasants like those whom he knew at home. Late in life the prisoner Giannone looked back upon his career and saw how the tithes on the Lecce olive trees helped to form his mind.
Thirty years before an Anglican clergyman, Gilbert Burnet, visited Naples and printed an account of his journey. Burnet's description of Naples was lively. And as he was a good Protestant the liveliest passages touched the contrast between poor people and rich monasteries, declared that the Jesuits were masters of half of Apulia, that the Church controlled the trade in olives and tin, that this ecclesiastical wealth caused the miseries of southern Italy, and that Naples was 'suffocated' by convents loaded with privileges. This attack by a foreigner was resented by Neapolitans. But upon Giannone and his intellectual peers it left a scar. Caricature though it might be, it was too near a truth which Giannone hated.
In 1723 he dedicated to Charles VI The Civil History of the Kingdom of Naples. As history it had many defects. As political programme it was one of the most influential books of the century. From the Gallican theorists—whole pages came out of the Gallican Dupin—and from the Belgian canonist Van Espen, he learnt to trace the present practices of the Church to their origins in primitive times and to make that contrast which in the Reformation was so familiar to Protestants. From Dupin and Van Espen he likewise acquired something of the new attitude of Catholic but anti-Roman writers—confidence of being in the right, outspokenness, sense of moral right against obsolete law.
The chaotic history of southern Italy he explained by a single clue: bad Church gaining power, good State limiting that power. He contrasted primitive monks with the monks of his day and 'we shall not be able to see without astonishment how all their orders have with time been able to multiply in our kingdom, and found numerous and proud monasteries erected on the ruins of the citizens whose property they now possess, even to most of the kingdom.' Privileges of the clergy, temporal power, rights of exemption were late and conceded by kings and can be abolished by kings. Informed persons, wrote Giannone, say that the Church possesses four-fifths of the property of the kingdom, including nearly half the land. Soon they will get all, and be able to buy the whole city of Naples and within a century will be masters of the kingdom. Compared with the successors of the Enlightenment half a century later, Giannone was crude. Uninterested in economics, or agriculture, or administration, he was more an assailant of the Church than a reformer of Church or State.
As soon as the book appeared, the preacher at the Jesuit church denounced the author and was banned for causing a disturbance. The Archbishop of Naples ensured its fame by excommunicating the author. The power of excommunication was shown when Giannone could no longer walk safely in the streets. Urchins shouted popular ditties under his windows, people called him 'devil' as he passed, two lawyers were assaulted because one was thought to be Giannone. 8 Moderate potentates who might have protected him were repelled by the tone of the book. He retreated to the Emperor at Vienna and was given a pension but no employment.
In Vienna he used the leisure to educate himself in the philosophy of the European Enlightenment. He passed into a wider culture, led not by Germans and Austrians but by Frenchmen or Italians, with a freer access to libraries. He discovered the long tradition of antipapal thought in the political theory of the Holy Roman Empire, found the books of famous Protestants like Grotius, Thomas Browne, and later Hobbes, became interested in English deists and in Spinoza. He grew out of the brash young rebel from Naples into a European frame of mind.
But in 1734 politics tumbled about his head. The Spanish reconquered southern Italy, he was hardly acceptable in Vienna. He moved to Venice, where he felt at home, but was soon in trouble with the Inquisition and fled across north Italy, to Modena (where Muratori met him and afterwards needed for his own reputation to deny that they met) then to Milan, where he was ordered to get out within two days, and finally to Geneva whither Protestant friends beckoned with promises of support and a secure home.
The Genevan leaders would have liked a convert. Such a change would not only have destroyed Giannone's influence among Catholic states but would have denied a vague but genuine Catholic feeling within his heart. To make his communion at Easter he crossed the border into Savoy and was tricked into arrest. The last twelve years of his life he spent a prisoner in Savoyard castles, usually treated well, sometimes handled roughly. He wrote an autobiography and several important books to explain his philosophy of the State. On 24 March 1738, weakened by imprisonment and influenced by a Catholic priest whose arguments he could despise but whose holiness he must respect, he signed in Turin prison a recantation.
All over Catholic Europe, in the minds of politicians and intelligent critics, Giannone scattered the idea that the rights of the Church, which they found hampering to government and prosperity, were not of divine right, were not even necessary to the good of the Catholic Church, but were conceded by governments and might freely be abrogated by governments. More than 2,000 pages in folio were soon translated into French, German, and English. The later politicians of Naples said that Giannone made Naples into a new kingdom.
Giannone's fate, though the most tragic, was not untypical of the lot suffered by extreme Italian theorists on Church and State. Despite increasing freedom to publish, especially in Venice, several leading Italian advocates of the power of the State in religion found themselves in exile at Potsdam, or England, or over the border into the Grisons and Switzerland. Italian governments might like these ideas but could not afford to risk trouble caused by too outspoken statements of the programme. Pablo de Olavide in Spain was arrested by the Inquisition (14 November 1776) and vanished for years, at a time when his royal master befriended several of the ideas which he propagated. Governments legislated, and then jettisoned a scapegoat when new laws disturbed their people.
The Enlightenment is commonly understood as an anti-Catholic movement. The word was regarded as synonymous with Voltaire, or satirical assaults upon tradition. But it was new learning, and as such affected Catholic colleges, professors, and bishops. It used to be thought that Catholicism was always an enemy of Enlightenment. The progress of history has shown the strength of a Catholic Enlightenment.
Its adherents were usually against Jesuits. They disliked Jesuit monopoly of higher education, and the old-fashioned curriculum of the colleges.
They wanted to be free to use Protestant books of scholarship if they were the best books available. They had interest in the improvements of education in the schools and in rational devotion like the removal of superstitions or legendary readings from the books of prayer. Above all they had a sense of history. Their adherents wished to use the new knowledge and perspective given by historians like Muratori or Mabillon, to introduce history as a course into the colleges, even to found chairs of Church history. They had a continuing interest in French and Italian Jansenists.
The Enlightenment was a European movement more than Catholic, reaching its climax in the third and fourth quarters of the eighteenth century. It deeply affected Catholicism; partly because 'enlightened' Protestants grew even more, if that were possible, anti-Catholic; or grew anti-Catholic on different grounds; not because the Church of Rome had wrong dogmas but because it had dogmas; not because it clung to dubious traditions but because it was obscurantist; not because monks had no warrant in the Bible but because they were contrary to the instincts of man; not because celibate priests were unscriptural but because they were unnatural. Catholic minds were affected. Fortified by the Pope's destruction of the Jesuits and then by the suppressions of numerous monasteries in France and Austria, Catholics also began to doubt monks. They looked for the happiness of man in this world as well as the next. They were practical men, often, who wanted better farming and prosperous industry; who believed that good ideas would have better chance with less censorship; they retained their prayers and their holy orders, but felt at liberty to be fierce against Popes or Curia or bishops.
During this last quarter of the eighteenth century all German universities and colleges revised their syllabuses and teaching methods. This was forced by the suppression of the Jesuits. The revision was always marked by the spirit of Catholic Enlightenment. Usually they needed to use young men for the task; in the colleges of the Rhineland the new professors were often men in their twenties or early thirties. Since they were consciously amending the tradition which existed, and had no other tradition on which to draw, some of them began for the first time to look with attention at the methods and structure of Protestant universities. During this age several Catholic teachers liked their students to pass a time at the university of Göttingen. We find a Benedictine student being sent with a travel-grant from his prince-bishop all the way to Königsberg to meet and talk with the philosopher Immanuel Kant. 9
Johann Chrysostomus Nikolaus von Hontheim, a youth of good family from Trier (1701-90), travelled in Italy, lived several years at Rome, and rose through a professorship of Roman law at the university of Trier, and then the headship of the seminary, to become (1748) the Suffragan Bishop of Trier. Two years later he published a valuable work in three volumes, the history of the city and see of Trier, with numerous charters and documents hitherto unpublished, and with learned annotations.
In 1763 a pseudonymous book appeared at Frankfurt under the name Justinus Febronius Jurisconsultus, and with a false printer's mark. Hontheim had a niece Justine, who became a nun and took the name Febronia. The book was entitled De statu ecclesiae, On the state of the Church and the lawful power of the Pope, written to reunite Christians who differ in religion.
The first words of the book were deceptive and yet contained the seed of troubled recantation: 'Joined to the see of Peter as the centre of Catholic unity, from which no one may be separated; moved with profound respect for the Holy See . . . full of sincere veneration for him whom God has placed in the apostolic see, and to whom I pay due reference and submission as the successor of St. Peter . . . '
He wanted the return of Protestants to the fold. Armies failed to convert. Controversialists failed to convert more than a handful. Let us try moderation. Protestants will not come while the claims of Rome are high. History shows that these high claims were not primitive but arose from forged decretals of the 'eighth' (actually ninth) century known as pseudo-Isidore. Therefore, he appealed to Pope Clement XIII. Abandon this claim to excess of power; moderate modern pretensions; return to that primacy among bishops which was the primacy among early Christians; trust not the Curia, whose interest is to magnify papal claims. The Church was never founded to be an absolute monarchy. That the Pope is infallible is no article of faith. General Councils are the ultimate government of the Catholic Church and should meet more frequently. That the Pope has his see at Rome is not of divine right, but is the ordering of St. Peter and could be changed by the Church. We have to recover freedom in the constitution of the Catholic Church. The Curia must be watched; national councils must be summoned; princes must act to reform, though with the advice of bishops; excommunications need not be feared, and national Churches or princes may rightly resist power when it is exercised without warrant.
Febronius had a desire to make Germany a better state, in creating the chance of union between Catholics and Protestants, by reviving the idea of a national Church which could help to unify the land. But Febronius moved outward from the State into a wider programme, for which his basis in canon law was too narrow: the Catholic reform of all the Catholic Church.
That a book of such well-known views west of the Rhine caused a European storm is at first sight matter for surprise. But for a moment this author looked almost like a new Luther; here was the first German Catholic who attacked papal power because he wanted to place the Pope in a better Christian constitution and to make it easier for Protestants to reunite with the Church. He claimed to derive his critique from his faithfulness to Catholicism and to the Pope. He was also the first German bishop to use the new and wider knowledge of history and canon law, acquired in the age of Muratori, to judge the existing constitution of the Church.
But the European perturbation was chiefly due to the circumstance that the author was soon suspected of being Hontheim. Protestants throughout Europe rejoiced to find a Catholic bishop saying so much that they said themselves, and simultaneously rejected his plea that they would find it thereby easier to become Catholics. They were amazed and pleased to find a Roman bishop beginning his book with a dedication to Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico, and ending with an explanation how best to resist the Pope if he excommunicated.
On 27 February 1764 Febronius was placed upon the Index of prohibited books. Hontheim continued to expand the work in a series of appendices and supplements, until the single volume turned into five. It was translated into French, German, Spanish, Portuguese. The Index continued to list the editions. Several German bishops condemned the book. In Austria it became almost a textbook of political theory. Three times examined by an Austrian committee, it was three times acquitted of error. Spain and Portugal made it a handbook of Church law. Challenged by the nuncio with the authorship, Hontheim denied. He continued to deny authorship; a lie defensible only on the plea that the book was almost entirely a compilation out of Gallican writers and French Church historians and a book of his friend the Trier professor of canon law George Neller. But the plump little man was not of the stuff of martyrs. He was easily worried and embarrassed, had little of the serene well-being usually found among the higher clergy of the German Church, and cared much for the piety of the Catholic Church and the 'true' place of the Pope. Even to high old age he climbed more than a hundred steps, morning and evening, to say the office in the chapel where he was dean, and on his last bed edified the minister by his holy preparation for death.
The nuncio steadily pursued a work of detection, and at last tracked the canon who helped with the printing at Frankfurt, persuaded him to unwitting indiscretion, and so saw papers which proved Hontheim's authorship.
Famous Catholic divines of Europe tried their hand at confuting: among them Alfonso Liguori, Zaccaria. Not all the replies helped their authors. Zaccaria who succeeded Muratori as librarian to the Duke of Modena, was banished from Modena for publishing (1767) Antifebronius and found his book prohibited in Austria. Pope Clement XIII, in letters to the German bishops, was sure that Hontheim was entirely mistaken in his belief that the lowering of the power of the Pope would correspondingly increase the power of bishops. Even the Archbishop of Trier condemned the book. But his secretary wondered whether the numerous condemnations by German bishops did anything but advertise the book, and doubted whether its contents were worthy of such sustained attention.
From time to time other German Catholics begged Rome to do no more. Hontheim himself believed that he owed the success of his book to over-reaction by the Roman Curia. Professor Isenbiehl of Mainz, lecturing on the Old Testament, told his students that the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 'a virgin shall conceive' was not right and the text could not refer to the gospel birth. He was removed from his chair. He wrote a book (1777) to defend his opinion and was put first into the bishop's prison and then into a monastery. Pius VI condemned the book, Isenbiehl cheerfully submitted.
Hontheim had not agreed with Isenbiehl's thesis, but could not see what was wrong with maintaining the opinion. This lost him the confidence of his Elector of Trier, who was disturbed by Isenbiehl. The quarrel between the elector and his suffragan turned towards Febronius. For the sake of the peace of the Church the Elector pressed his suffragan to withdraw Febronius. Hontheim submitted but shrank from the publicity of the act. The elector insisted on public recantation. Hontheim drafted a recantation which Rome amended, and Hontheim made no trouble about accepting all but one of the emendations. He confessed that the Bishop of Rome was by God's appointment successor of St. Peter, and not merely by decision of the Church; and that the decisions of General Councils need the Pope's confirmation. On 1 November 1778 he signed the approved draft of the recantation.
Pope Pius VI caused it to be read in open consistory of cardinals, most solemn and most public because it was read after the mass on Christmas day.
Rumour spread that this was all forced and insincere. On 2 April 1780 Hontheim publicly declared that his recantation was wholly voluntary. But moved by the discontent of his friends he published a Commentary on the Recantation of Febronius, dedicated to Pope Pius VI. It satisfied no one, for beneath tortured language it seemed to withdraw little. 'I have recanted like Fénelon to avoid quarrelling and unpleasantness. But my recantation hurts neither the world nor the Christian religion, and will never profit the Curia of Rome. The world has read, examined, accepted my book. My recantation will move intelligent men as little as the various refutations by monks or papal flatterers.' 10
The old argument, once so hotly fought at the time of the great schism in the papacy, but since the Reformation almost confined to France and Belgium and Venice, about the place of the Pope in the constitution of the Catholic Church, was started again by Febronius. What he began continued as a key issue within German Catholicism until the first Vatican Council of 1870, which tried to kill the debate, and thought that it succeeded, but was later proved wrong.
In the age of Febronius the word ultramontane first gained its modern meaning of a person dedicated to the universal power of the Pope. Except in France it only meant 'over the Alps', in 1756 Winckelmann in Rome wrote of 'us Ultramontanes' when he only meant 'us Germans'. Febronius himself used it in Latin in a chapter-heading (i.10) in its modern sense; but his German translator turned it into 'over the Alps'. During the sixties its meaning became secure. In 1768 a French minister, writing of Clement XIII's Parma Monitorium which was at the centre of the fight over the Jesuits, called it 'the old excesses of ultramontane pretentions'. 11 A new word had been added to the vocabulary.
The Emperor Joseph II
The Holy Roman Empire was name and prestige and ritual, Diet could no longer decide, supreme court could hardly act. But something about its name, and ritual, and history, still spoke of the place of the Emperor within the Catholic Church. He was anointed of God and historic protector of the world-wide Church.
The Habsburg rulers in Vienna owed their real power to hereditary estates. But the defence of Vienna against the Turks, and the thrusting back of Ottoman power, raised their European power and made them seem specially Catholic, like crusaders who fought for the sake not only of Austria but of Christendom. Inheriting both the tradition reaching to Charlemagne and the reputation of crusade, the rulers in Vienna felt themselves to have more of a place, or duty, or vocation, in protecting and reforming the Catholic Church. All modern Catholic rulers wanted to restrict the independence of the Church. The Habsburgs came to the task with a special sense of mission; that is, they married a 'secular' desire to help their state by making bishops or monks less powerful, to a 'religious' desire to reform the Church by freeing it from past incubus. Therefore the Austrian endeavour at Church reform, however parallel to what went on in France or Piedmont or Spain or Portugal or Bavaria, had a unique feeling. It was the most successful of Catholic reforms during the eighteenth century.
In history it has a special place, for it marked the end of an era. In Reformation and Counter-Reformation princes reformed the Church because without them no reform was possible. In the nineteenth century, with the coming of popular governments, Churches had to reform themselves since no government could do the work for their sake. The Austrian reform of the later eighteenth century, and its ensuing heritage in Bavaria, were the end of the old world. They were the last occasions (except for revolutionary France) when Catholic governments reformed the Catholic Church without asking leave of the hierarchy.
Two political needs drove the oligarchs.
One was to strengthen the State, merely to keep pace with the times and survive. This meant, to weaken the legal weight of the Church in the State. Hence a few politicians had only this interest. They were hostile to the Church, had small interest in Catholic reform, were disciples of Voltaire in wishing to smash the power of the Church. Something like this habit of mind is discernible in the Austrian chancellor, Prince Kaunitz, or the Spanish minister Campomanes. These were not Catholic reformers but nominal Catholics who wanted efficient government and disliked the Church.
This first attitude was less common than the other. Catholicism must be helped by better Catholic government. The interest of the Church, as well as the interest of the State, will be helped if the State exercises its historic mission to cleanse the Church from the corruptions of the centuries. The chief motive of strengthening the Catholic State is to help the people to be more truly Catholic not less; that is, by closing useless or immoral monasteries, ensuring that priests and bishops are well qualified, removing the stumbling-blocks of sanctuary and exemption, destroying the scandals given by superstitious cults among country folk, and pressing for better education both of the clergy and of their people. None of this could be done without the State taking more power and therefore forcing true Catholic reformers to be allies of anti-Catholic reformers.
This discomfort caused a sense of disquiet within the breasts of individuals; not least among them, the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (who reigned 1740-80).
She was devout, conservative, prayerful, frequent at daily services, regular in confession and communion. She could not bear the idea of toleration. Probably by accident and not intention she acquired a Jansenist physician and a Jansenist confessor.
Decisions by three Popes made Austrian lords look critically at Popes.
In the War of the Spanish Succession (1702 onwards) Clement XI backed the Bourbon and French claims to Spain and was in league with enemies of Austria.
Then, when the direct male Habsburg line died out, and Austrian succession to the Holy Roman Empire was disputed, Pope Benedict XIV recognized (1742) the unanimously elected but doubtful Wittelsbach claimant Charles VII while Maria Theresa struggled for her rights.
Finally, Ferdinand of Parma, excommunicated so tremendously by Pope Clement XIII on 30 January 1768 (see p. 365), was Maria Theresa's future son-in-law.
This treble failure of Rome to support Habsburgs made the very pious royal line feel no undue affection for Popes.
Austria ruled that part of the Netherlands which is now Belgium, by neighbourhood to France and links of language open to French ideas, especially Jansenist; by neighbourhood to Protestant Holland and links of language open to reforming Catholic ideas, especially Jansenist—the Austrian Netherlands became a gateway through which Jansenism entered the Austrian Empire. The symbol of this influence was Gerard van Swieten (1700-72), a Dutch physician and devout Catholic, affected early in life by Jansenist ideals. Called in desperation to the labour of the wife of the governor of the Austrian Netherlands, he failed to save her life. But the manner of this endeavour won respect, and in the next year 1745 the office of personal physician in Vienna to the dead woman's sister, who was the Empress Maria Theresa. She treated him as part of her family, and started to ask his advice on other matters besides health. She began by consulting him about the schooling of her children, got his aid with the medical faculty in the university of Vienna, and ended by allowing this doctor of medicine to help improve the faculty of theology and advise her on reforms in the Catholic Church. A Jansenist physician from Holland began to guide the judgement of a prayerful Catholic sovereign.
Van Swieten discovered a south-Tyrolese lawyer, Karl Anton Martini, to develop the faculty of law in the university; professor of law from 1754 and soon entrusted with the schooling of Maria Theresa's children. Martini's Jansenism was Italian; more moderate and less embattled than was natural to Van Swieten who had known the mighty struggles in the Netherlands over the bull Unigenitus. Martini came from the world of Muratori and other scholarly critics found in cities of Italy from Palermo to Venice. Under Maria Theresa's pious government, the Austrians refused to resist the suppression of the Jesuits. She instituted a commission to supervise the administration of Church property, limited the access of papal bulls, effectively ended sanctuary, made the clergy liable to tax, diminished the number of saints' days, banned all penalties (other than purely spiritual) ordered by Church authorities without State agreement, compelled clergy to announce government edicts from their pulpits, took over the supreme administration of universities and schools, limited the further growth of monasteries, abolished monastic prisons, ordered that no one should take a monastic vow before the age of twenty-four, renewed the laws of mortmain, limited the size of dowry which novices might bring. Under Van Swieten the censorship (1764) allowed Febronius. His recantation was suppressed. Bishops used the book. Meanwhile she organized missions to convert the Protestants in Carinthia and Upper Austria, and the unconvertible were forced to move to the remote but historic Protestant area of Siebenbürgen in Transylvania. In some mountainous parts the orders of government were quietly neglected. But her chancellor Kaunitz used Lombardy as the laboratory for all this legislation about the Church; because Lombardy stood immediately under government, whereas elsewhere survivals of the old Austrian federal system remained. The foundations of what history came to know as Josephism were laid as early as 1768 in Milan. And because this Austrian territory was Italian, and lay next to the Papal States, it caused more agony in Rome than anything that happened over the Alps until Maria Theresa was succeeded (1780) by her son Joseph II. Though godson of Pope Benedict XIV, Joseph II could not quite share his mother's traditional piety. The ten years (1780-90) while he was Emperor witnessed a flood of legislation about the Church. To contemporaries the endeavour looked extraordinary. Pamphlets appeared with lurid titles: The Reformation in Germany at the end of the Eighteenth Century, or, The Emperor Joseph and Luther. This latter ended with the words 'This is what the blessed Luther achieved, and it was left for Emperor Joseph to complete what Luther started.' 12 So far as the endeavour was vain, it failed because he was unpersuasive, and an old man in a hurry. But most of it was not vain. It changed the course of Austrian history.
The Austrian Church still had a medieval structure; monasteries reaching back to ad 1000 dominating the social life of mountain valleys in Styria and Carinthia; a parish system out of date if churches should stand where people live; clergy under no bishop because their bishop sat outside Austria, in Salzburg or Passau.
Therefore an obvious need was a system of dioceses and parishes. Decrees of 1782-3 made this possible. The canons of Linz and St. Polten still wear a pectoral cross with Joseph's initials on the back, to remind them when they were founded. New dioceses appeared, Passau and Salzburg were excluded, 255 new pastorates in Lower Austria, in Upper Austria 121, in Styria 180, in Carinthia eighty-three. 13 New parishes were ordered to have a school, and so make a national grid of elementary education. Children were compelled to attend school. New parish priests were endowed with sufficient stipends. Government managed this reconstruction by a Church Affairs Commission.
Without asking leave from the Church the Austrian state created the parish system which in essence lasted until now. A high-handed Emperor made possible the parochial advance of the Church during the nineteenth century. It was sensible, and met no resistance. More than one generation of Austrian clergy blessed the name of Joseph.
This plan of refounding and re-endowment needed a lot of money. This money could be found in only one place, monasteries and nunneries. Maria Theresa's men had already raised the possibility of closing monasteries for good ends; and by abolishing Jesuits and releasing their property Pope Clement XIV, however unwittingly, did everything he could to encourage the scheme. We have seen (p. 250) already, how Joseph took many monastic lands to his central fund for Church reform.
The Emperor ordered student-grants for ordinands in training and against his better judgement allowed a low standard of examination. Too few men came forward. He decreed (1783) that henceforth all clergy should be trained in 'general seminaries'; that is, six larger colleges to replace the smaller diocesan seminaries. These colleges were at Prague, Vienna, Pest, Freiburg im Breisgau, Louvain, and Pavia, with dependent colleges. At first sight this was sensible. Some diocesan seminaries were miserable institutions, bigger colleges would have more money and better professors, and their curriculum was easier to oversee and modernize. The course was fixed at six years, which shortage of priests soon reduced to five; succeeded by a time of testing in a clergy-house under the bishop. Discipline was strict, vacations brief, food austere, physical exercise compulsory. Abbot Rautenstrauch's syllabus included Jansenist authors like Pascal, schoolmen were hardly read, ordinands studied the Bible and the fathers of the early Church, and learnt Greek and Hebrew. The young men must also study natural science, agriculture and how to teach. In the refectory they were to read political, learned and religious journals. They were to be taught the differences between the confessions, and to keep the peace with other denominations.
Some Jansenist professors taught in these seminaries. In Louvain, at least one doubted the necessity for celibacy of the priests, denied that canon law had any force as law without confirmation by the State, and taught that the infallibility of the Pope is an opinion held by few.
The time-table became a burden.
Lectures were often given in the vernacular—German in Vienna, Hungarian in Pest. These general seminaries gave lively encouragement to the languages of the peoples under Austrian rule.
The general seminaries failed to survive Joseph II. They were too radically out of touch with the tradition of seminaries since the Council of Trent. The diocesan seminary might be wretched but it brought the student into touch with the bishop, and bishops were not willing to support general seminaries. And it happened that the students of the general seminary at Louvain sparked off the revolution which finally severed Belgium from Austrian rule.
The Emperor's commission on Church affairs was fussy about detail. It undertook to order lesser matters of parish life, like the number of masses, their length, music, litanies, furniture. The Emperor's idea to rid the realm of superstition was executed in a series of decrees vexatious to the people: no processions unless approved by authority, no pilgrimages likewise, no clothes on statues of Mary, no lights on graves, fewer relics, sacks instead of coffins (this was particularly offensive to the people and had to be rescinded), relics not to be kissed, holy pictures not to be touched, rosaries not to be used, no talk on religion in beerhouses, no kneeling in the streets when the Host passed (but hats to be doffed), no fees for baptisms, marriages, or funerals. His commission tried to reduce the number of side-altars and votive tablets. Nothing made the Emperor more unpopular than these measures, which in no way lessened 'superstition.' The people specially hated the stripping of garments from statues of Our Lady, and the removal of hallowed pictures. When the Madonna at Maria Dorn was about to lose her clothes, the congregation armed and made a garrison. When Joseph II died, these vexatious regulations were tactfully 'postponed'.
Brotherhoods (642 in Austria, 121 in Vienna) were abolished (1783). Their revenues went part to poor relief and part to elementary schools. In name they were amalgamated into a single general brotherhood for charity. This was the same as abolition. A brotherhood was nothing if it was not local, particular, based upon a visible group and a special need, conducted by laymen who knew each other.
Pope Pius VI in Vienna
From the first moment of the reign the Emperor's policy made the Curia anxious. The conflict of jurisdiction which moved the Pope was the determination to extend the government's nomination of bishops to the Italian province of Lombardy. But when this was succeeded by the plan to dissolve so many monasteries, Rome was faced with high-handedness not unfamiliar among Bourbon governments but new in the special protector of the Catholic Church. To the Curia with its long memory the Emperor revived the ancient battle between papacy and Holy Roman Emperor.
As early as 1781 Pius VI alarmed the emperor, astonished the world, and vexed some cardinals who thought him naive, by proposing to visit Vienna. He was the first Pope to go out of Italy for three centuries. No Pope had visited Germany since 1415, the year of the Council of Constance.
On 22 March 1782 Joseph met the Pope at Neunkirchen outside Vienna, and together they drove into the city amid packed streets.
The Pope stayed at the Hofburg in Vienna for a month. It was a time of liturgies, visiting sepulchres, private discussions, and greeting the people. The visit showed how the realm of popular reverence and the realm of power were divided. In the streets, wherever he went, whenever he appeared, he met crowds and demonstrations of reverence, he was forced to come out again and again upon the balcony at the Hofburg. These plaudits were enough to make the Emperor and his advisers nervous of the consequences if the Pope excommunicated the Emperor. But in the reality of the argument, as they met to talk of Unigenitus, or marriage dispensations, or general seminaries, or censorship, or monasteries, the Emperor was courteously unyielding and had no need to yield. Privately he thought much of the talk 'nonsense about theology' which he did not understand.
On 22 April 1782 the Pope left for Munich. Joseph was very pleased to see him go, and so be relieved of the crowds besieging the palace, bringing scapularies and rosaries to be blessed.
At Munich the Pope stayed with the Elector of Bavaria for five days, visited Augsburg where Protestants joined with Catholics in respect, crossed the Brenner pass, and spent Whitsuntide in Venice, and sang Te Deum in St. Peter's, Rome, after an absence of nearly four months. The only practical success of the journey was a lifting of the more rigid Austrian ban against the discussion of the bull Unigenitus. But it had an intangible success, in persuading the Pope that the Emperor, however mistaken, was a good Catholic trying to do his best.
Leopold of Tuscany
In Italy rulers of Naples and Parma and Piedmont and Tuscany followed the Austrian example, and thereby helped the scattered groups of Italian Jansenists to propagate their ideas of Catholic reform.
In Tuscany the two movements coincided, with a force which shocked or astonished Europe. Leopold was another son of Maria Theresa, and became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1765. He was regular in church-going, read his Bible and the Imitation of Christ daily, was educated and instructed, a follower of the Enlightenment, tolerant but not lukewarm, disliking Jesuits and determined to keep priests out of prying where they had no business. Not a theologian, untroubled about doctrine, he supposed clergy to be more use to their people if they knew a little medicine and law and beekeeping than if they knew only Latin and divinity. He recommended his daughter to allow no irreligious talk in her presence, and no theological argument, 'which is not at all suitable for the understanding of women'. 14
As soon as he arrived in Tuscany he looked for educated and reforming clergy to promote. A series of bold appointments to sees and cathedrals and chairs gave him allies for a programme of reform. Three archbishops and fifteen bishoprics for about a million people were enough to ensure regular vacancies. But Tuscany was already full of Catholic reformers. During the four decades 1741-81 the Archbishop of Florence was the aristocrat Francesco Incontri, a steady supporter of Catholic reform during the middle years of the century, gentle and mild, protecting Jesuits even while he disapproved their order. To a Tuscan bishop, Ginori of Fiesole, Muratori dedicated the last edition during his lifetime of the book On a Well-Ordered Devotion.
Leopold disliked holy beggars. The queue of suppliants at the gate of a bishop's palace, or on the steps outside the west door of a church, was a sign to all the Enlightenment that poor laws needed reform. Since friars begged bread or money for bread, Leopold tried to persuade donors to give their alms to parishes instead of begging brothers, and found that charity refused to conform. He wanted to clear the land of hermits. They were not numerous and lived silent in their cells. The police found 107 in all Tuscany. Government (1776) expelled into the Papal States hermits who were not citizens of Tuscany, forced native Tuscans into employment, and put under supervision ex-hermits too old to work.
Reformers of the Catholic Enlightenment were not liberals in thinking. Nor was the act a politic of prudence. Tuscans were no different from other Italians, they liked simple brothers and solitaries and wished to give them alms. The simultaneous ban on burials inside churches, and removal of graves outside the walls of towns, was equally disturbing to clergy and to peasants. In both cases men lost the grace which came from touching a holy man or holy place or holy object.
Scipione de' Ricci
Leopold found his ecclesiastical guide and agent in the vicar-general of the archdiocese of Florence, Scipione de' Ricci.
Ricci was born in 1741 the son of a Florentine senator. In his youth he was a member of the 'Jansenist' group in Rome which had its centre in Monsignor Bottari at the Vatican library. He was a relative of Ricci the general of the Jesuits. Though against Jesuits he could hardly forgive the Popes for their treatment of Ricci in Castel Sant' Angelo. He was at once Orthodox and reforming, strong against abuses and superstitions, caring for the pastoral work of the churches, a man of courage and energy yet without finesse.
Leopold found in him the perfect instrument for his policy. The partnership, which lasted more than ten years, was not one-sided. Leopold read much in ecclesiastical literature and had information, but lacked confidence in handling Church politics. Ricci was not merely confident but over-confident. Leopold got the advice and action which he wanted. They shared an outlook in religion and liked each other. Leopold could not quickly discern how clumsy Ricci might be, how little he understood what was possible in politics. This rising adviser was soon abused by his enemies as 'the Pope of Tuscany'.
On 24 June 1780, at the duke's nomination, Ricci was consecrated in Rome as Bishop of (the united sees) of Pistoia and Prato. The see had been occupied by reforming bishops for nearly fifty years, and his immediate predecessor was Jansenist enough to be an eager reader of books from Port-Royal.
In the following year died the Archbishop of Florence. By chance Leopold met Antonio Martini, the scholar who translated the Bible into Italian and was ecclesiastical adviser to the King of Sardinia. Leopold felt the impress of this personality and on impulse offered him the archbishopric. This appointment caused jubilation among reformers. Martini was known as a defender of State rights, an advocate of a moderate 'Jansenizing' divinity, and an enemy of the Jesuits.
The alliance between Peter Leopold, a prince who took as his model the behaviour of his brother Joseph II in Vienna, and Ricci a prelate who took as his model the ideals of the French Jansenists, begot the most fascinating and coherent reform movement of the Catholic eighteenth century.
What was done in Tuscany and Pistoia was a pattern of what the reforming movement wanted. Ricci was a convinced Jansenist, in no vague sense, he was a disciple of the French Jansenists and in close touch by letter with contemporary leaders of their party. For the first time the movement found a prince who sufficiently shared its aspirations and was prepared to back Jansenist reform by choice of men, by public encouragement, and by legislation.
The centre of religious life must be the parish and its liturgy. This meant, first, getting rid of religious orders or at least of the rivalry of their churches with parish churches; secondly getting rid of all the little private chapels, shrines, oratories, which drew men and women away from their parish churches on Sundays and feast days—in these two ways the parish church would have no competing places of worship for anyone to attend on a Sunday.
Every parish should be made a reasonable size and with a proper number of priests to the parishioners; so that the scandal of far too many priests in one place and far too few priests in another was cured. This meant redrawing parish boundaries everywhere, reducing greatly the crowded little parishes inherited in old cities from the Middle Ages, and creating new parishes in the country; secondly, limiting the excessive number of ordinations, especially of priests with no real pastoral work ahead of them, and of clergy in minor orders who were in no sense pastoral but received such orders only so that the choir or the acolytes in church should seem to be 'clerics'; thirdly, to get closer control over appointment to parishes, partly by amending laws about the rights of patronage and partly by abolishing surviving rights by certain congregations to elect their pastors. Inside the parish church the service must be made congregational. And here doctrine entered. The liturgy was not an act done by priest for the people, it was 'a common act of priest and people'. 15 Therefore all the liturgy, even the prayer of consecration which was said secretly, should be said in a loud voice, and the congregation was to be encouraged to share. The reformers asked themselves whether logic must not demand liturgy in the vernacular instead of Latin, and plainly believed that in principle this would be right; but knew that in practice neither their people nor the Church at large would tolerate such radical departure from hallowed tradition. Nevertheless the people should be helped to understand by being provided with vernacular translations and by readings of the gospel in the vernacular after the Latin reading. In this was nothing specially Jansenist. Muratori asked no less. Inside the parish church the congregational nature of worship was destroyed by two features; many little private masses competed for worshippers with the main parish mass; and mass was separated from communion, partly because the people came to mass every Sunday but received communion only once a year, and partly because communion was not given to the people at its proper place within the rite but from the reserved sacrament after the end of the rite.
The reformers failed to say so very loud, but the ending of separate masses must have the consequence of ending fees for masses and altering the many trusts whereby people bequeathed money that private masses might be said for their souls. They were clear that they wished to be rid of private masses and especially of fees for masses; for they found people commonly believing that they need only pay money to a priest to gain benefit (not necessarily spiritual benefit) from the ensuing mass. They recognized that this goal of abolishing fees could not be immediate because they must make other provision to pay the clergy; and this other money could only happen from any or all of the following sources, (1) the hoped-for fewer clergy and therefore more money to go round, (2) monasteries or nunneries which would be suppressed like Jesuits or the Inquisition, (3) endowments from parish brotherhoods. But all these three sources of money they thought to be desirable on other grounds.
Brotherhoods intruded into the tidiness of a pastoral system where each church was ruled by a parish priest and his curates. Some of the money would be needed for the State to make better provision for the poor, but another part might help the clergy and destroy fees for masses.
Inside the parish church the services must be made simpler; that is, the people should find their focus in the worship of the altar more than the sacred picture or venerated statue. Therefore pictures or statues which promoted superstition should be removed; statues which were clothed for special reverence should lose their clothes; legends of obvious untruth should be removed from the readings or the pictures; cults which promoted unhistorical beliefs should be pruned; tables of indulgences should be removed from the doors of churches; and music should be kept from invading the solemn moments of the liturgy and likewise should be pruned.
All this attack on 'superstition' could touch the tenderest nerves of a people's devotion. It became the chief reason for the downfall of the reformers.
Instead of superstition and untrue legends of the saints the people should be taught to read and understand their Bibles.
The parish clergy, thus given new and higher status in relation to canons, monks, or brotherhoods, needed to be not only better paid but better educated. This was not an insoluble problem because Tuscany was a state in which several seminaries flourished; and the reasonable condition of Tuscan training may have helped to make support for the reformers. Leopold and Ricci both wanted a higher college above the seminary, called the Ecclesiastical Academy, to which seminarists might proceed for a type of university work; and both wanted no man to be ordained unless he first proceeded through a seminary. Meanwhile the parish clergy already in office should be given better books. Both the duke and Ricci looked to Italian translations of French Jansenist books—especially Quesnel's Moral Reflexions on the New Testament. These choices of Jansenist books, and provision of Italian translations, and giving of them free to the clergy, were in theory excellent; Quesnel's book was pious and useful. But it happened to be the book which gave rise to the bull Unigenitus in 1713 and was therefore one of the most controversial books of the century. To recommend it to the clergy, and to give it free to incumbents, must look like disrespect, if not insult, to the see of Rome. This was the third rock, after the attack upon superstition and the enmity to monastic orders, upon which the reformers' ship was wrecked.
Part of the work was done by order of the State: the making of new parish boundaries in Pistoia (1783) where three colleges of clergy were suppressed and the parishes reduced to ten beside the cathedral; endowments from guilds and brotherhoods were taken to form a central fund called the ecclesiastical patrimony for the needs of the Church and relief of the poor, leaving in each parish one brotherhood to accompany the blessed sacrament in procession, bury the dead, visit the sick and prisoners, distribute alms, and perform such other charitable duties as should be requested (1783, in Pistoia and Prato, 1784 in all Tuscany).
Leopold and Ricci realized that they could not get what they wanted only by State acts. Government could alter endowments, make the clergy liable to secular courts, restrict ordinations. But if the order of service in parish churches was to be changed, they needed the help of bishops and clergy. They observed much difference in the speed or lack of speed with which bishops and dioceses responded to pressure from Florence. In Pistoia and Prato the ideal went ahead with élan and acceptability. In Chiusi and Colle the bishops moved nearly as fast. In Fiesole nothing happened that they wanted. Various dioceses moved at different rates or were not seen to move or were suspected of moving backwards.
Therefore they needed to place a plan of reform before the clergy, gathered in their diocesan conferences, which bishops should be driven to summon (for we saw how reluctant everyone became to summon a diocesan synod, how rare their appearance, pp. 198 ff); the clergy should debate the plans, their views should be reported to Florence, and then the duke should summon a national synod which should decree reforming resolutions for all Tuscany.
Such was the plan. It started promisingly and ended in total failure.
The Diocesan Synod of Pistoia
By a circular of 2 August 1785 Duke Leopold required all bishops to hold a diocesan synod. Six months later (26 January 1786) he presented the agenda to be discussed at these synods. This agenda was known as the Fifty-Seven Points. When Parisian Jansenists read these Fifty-Seven Points they compared Duke Peter Leopold to the great Christian monarchs of history, Charlemagne, Theodosius the Great, Stephen of Hungary, Alfred the Great.
The Fifty-Seven Points, though an agenda for debate by synods, was drafted in such a way as to lead synods towards certain conclusions. They were asked to consider how to purge the breviary of false legends; how to encourage the reading of the Bible; to examine whether it would be useful to have the liturgy in the vernacular instead of Latin; whether popular elections to parishes should be stopped; whether useless oaths should be abolished; how the bishop's authority was to recover its proper rights from the interference of the Roman Curia, especially in the giving of dispensations; how to get the teaching of St. Augustine on grace into seminaries and universities and monasteries; how to cure the excess of ordinands and their low quality; whether an annual retreat should be made compulsory for the clergy; how to get drapings off statues; whether all monks and nuns should be under the bishop; how feasts should be diminished in number; and how it is right to read certain books, like Muratori's Of a Well-Ordered Devotion, Quesnel's Moral Reflexions on the New Testament, and the Moral Theology by the leading Italian Jansenist Pietro Tamburini of Pavia.
The tone of these Fifty-Seven Points, however pleasing to Jansenists in Paris, began to alarm the Tuscan bishops. It sounded more radical than most of them wanted or thought prudent and possible.
Bishop Ricci, who probably drafted or helped to draft the Fifty-Seven Points, summoned his synod to meet at Pistoia in September 1786, the first diocesan synod in that diocese for sixty-five years. He invited Pietro Tamburini from Pavia to be the theological guide or promoter of the synod.
This most famous of all diocesan synods opened at the church of St. Leopold in Pistoia on 18 September 1786; 246 clergy attended. It maintained the usual forms of a diocesan synod. Ricci sat in cope and mitre at the west end under the organ pipes, in front of him a table, and in front of the table a lectern with an open Bible; to his right, high in the wall, was the pulpit whence the decrees and propositions were read. To each side were as usual the disciplined ranks of clergy by seniority, in cassock and surplice and biretta; at a table in the central aisle sat Professor Tamburini, on each side of him two secretaries.
Some of the resolutions were like those of the many diocesan synods with which we are familiar; the behaviour or dress of the clergy, the ideals of pastoral life, the agenda of clerical conferences, the certificates of midwives, the keeping of registers, the age of confirmation, the securing of reverence in services, the closing of shops in times of service. All this was normality.
But the tone of the minutes of the synod shouts the difference from the routine of Italian diocesan synods. This was due not only to the radical tone of the resolutions, but even more to the attitudes of the participants.
First, Bishop Ricci really believed in consultation. Afterwards, when men could not understand how nearly 240 clergy could vote for such resolutions, they spread tales that the clergy were tyrannized by the bishop, the canard was even told that he locked up anyone likely to oppose, and so was able to keep opponents down to tiny numbers between four and eight, several of them members of religious orders.
Other bishops summoned clergy to hear their decrees. Ricci started by telling the clergy: 'It is you as well as I who rule in the Church and must share in the reform. . . . I have no desire to dominate, nor to make you swear blindly to the decrees of the bishop. . . . The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not a despotism or a monarchy.' 16 So far from the majority of the clergy doing just what the bishop wanted, or being overawed by the national prestige of Professor Tamburini, there is evidence that they went further than either Ricci or Tamburini thought prudent. Certain resolutions appeared in a more provocative form than Ricci and Tamburini wanted. 17 Both Ricci and Tamburini were radicals, Tamburini probably more radical than Ricci, and certainly based on far firmer radical principles. Ricci was like a fatherly but limited archdeacon, Tamburini owned one of the most thoughtful minds in all Italy, but both men had more knowledge of the world and of what was possible than the most radical among their men.
Not all the clergy, but a majority of the clergy were prepared to back Ricci because the diocese had already fifty years of bishops friendly to Jansenizing reform. They plainly felt him to be a good and even holy father in God, partly because he really wished to consult, partly because they believed in his policy, partly because he had done much already to raise their stipends and elevate the pastoral ministry against its rivals, and partly because he so evidently possessed the backing of his sovereign. They had a sensation of enthusiasm, as though they were on the verge of a great act not only for the diocese of Pistoia but for the Church at large. They had the sensation that they could lead the Church to be free of childish superstitions, to be rid of the formalities of casuistry in confession, and to bring back the use of the Scripture. They voted by enormous majorities for what the managers proposed.The world afterwards mocked the folly of a handful of clergy in an unimportant diocese believing themselves capable of starting a reform of the Catholic Church.The third reason for the difference between the Pistoia minutes and the minutes of other synods lay in the drafter. They were so ably written, with a sense of theological perspective, at times too difficult for some of the clergy, but usually with clarity and at times with a potent fascination, that they were plainly drafted by Tamburini. Indeed there is evidence that Tamburini arrived in Pistoia from Pavia with drafts already in his pocket. 18 The meeting began by accepting the Council of Trent, professing the creed of Pope Pius IV, praising St. Charles Borromeo, and adhering to the centre of unity in Rome. This was not a revolutionary start. The synod had no intention of being Protestant.Its resolutions may be divided thus: (1) Against modern errors
(a) Against the abuse of indulgences, on which the synod more or less agreed with Luther.
(b) Against the adoration of the humanity of Jesus, that meant against the cult of the Sacred Heart. The Synod declared that the cult of the Blessed Virgin should be in accord with the mind of the Church. (c) Against the practice of parish missions, 'the irregular apparatus of these new practices called Exercises or Missions', such sudden excitements 'seldom or never produce real conversion'. Behind this dislike of the mission was the ordinary distrust of the parish pastor, who represented normality, for the incoming religious who represented abnormality. But in the mind of Tamburini and the more instructed can be discerned a still deeper motive. The formality of absolution, easily bestowed in confession with a bare collect as a penance, was a symbol of the attitude that men's hearts could be changed overnight as it were by miracle; and the quest for sudden conversion in mission they held to be based upon a mistaken view of the nature of sanctification and the steady or unsteady growth of the soul. The Synod thought of quick absolution for the gravest offences as 'the most fertile cause of evil in the Church'; and in this view it was characteristically Jansenist after the French pattern. (d) Against the stations of the cross; not as condemning stations, but popular belief that to perform a fixed number of stations brought special blessing. (e) Against statues in which the people place a special or superstitious faith. The Synod suggested that Biblical scenes painted on the walls would be more helpful to true religion. (f) Against oaths. The Synod asked government to abolish oaths in law courts and elsewhere and substitute affirmations. But this was what government had suggested to the synod in one of its Fifty-Seven Points. (g) Against any legal obligation to be contracted by engagements to marry, for the synod saw how the Italian customs of the engagement promoted a sleeping together before marriage. (h) Against the wide extension of the prohibited decrees of affinity for marriage. In mountain villages everyone was related to everyone else, and the present restrictions led either to fornication or to an endemic quest for dispensations.
(2) Aim to make worship more congregational
(a) The priest to say mass audibly.
(b) The congregation to be encouraged to share. The Synod held the suggestion made in the Fifty-Seven Points, that mass might be in Italian, not to be right at the present time, but they asked that the people be given translations of the liturgy. (c) Each church to have only one altar.
(d) No flowers nor relics to be placed on the altar. Authentic relics may be placed underneath the altar. (e) The people to be exhorted to receive communion whenever they go to mass, and priests to give them communion at the proper place in the mass and not afterwards. (f) Everyone who can read to be encouraged to read the Bible. It is not necessary for salvation but only those who are incapable can be excused. (g) To understand the Bible, the people to be encouraged to read Italian translations of certain French books, including Quesnel's Moral Reflexions on the New Testament. (h) Fees for masses to be abolished as soon as they can be.
(i) Feasts to be diminished in number.
(j) A new and reformed breviary to be planned with the legends deleted and more Biblical readings.
(3) Reform of monks and nuns (a) All monasteries and nunneries to be under the bishop. Exemption to end.
(b) No monastic chapels to be open on Sundays or feast days.
(c) All religious orders to be united into one order, based upon the Benedictine Rule and guided by the practice of Port-Royal. (d) No city to have more than one monastery, preferably situated outside the walls for the sake of quiet. (e) The old division between choir monks and lay brothers to end.
(f) Only one or two monks to be ordained, enough to serve the chapel.
(g) Permanent vows for men to be abolished. Monks to vow for one year at a time, nuns not allowed to take permanent vows before the age of forty or forty-five. (h) Nunneries perhaps are best located within the city.
All these last provisions about monks and nuns meant revolution and not reform. It is curious now to see the mixture of plans which never had a chance, like the union of all monastic orders, with plans which for decades looked revolutionary but which during the 1960s and 1970s became normal in the pastoral ideals of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Constitution of the Church
Infallibility rests only with the whole body of the Catholic Church and therefore its mouthpiece is the General Council and not the Pope. The Synod accepted the four Gallican articles of 1682 and even incorporated them verbatim into its resolutions.
The meeting at Pistoia ended with a sense of solemnity, Ricci at one point in tears. He at once announced that he would govern the diocese in accordance with their resolutions, and appointed a bishop's council of eight priests to meet each month. A fortnight later he sent out to his clergy free copies of that 'golden book' Quesnel's Moral Reflexions. But when he asked the duke's leave to publish the decrees of the Synod, he was told that this should be delayed until after the forthcoming national council. That winter of 1786-7 many (but not all) of his parish clergy started altering and simplifying their services after the mind of the Synod. Tamburini returned to Pavia with a ducal honorarium, but was robbed of most of the money when he stopped at an inn in Mantua.
Meanwhile rumour was busy. The little handful of opponents in the synod started to talk, protest, write. Pamphlets began to fly, with smell of heresy. The charge that Ricci was a heretic mounted, until simple people in the diocese heard the ill rumour and began to wonder and suspect. In that atmosphere Leopold's dearest plan for a national synod looked doubtful. The Pistoia synod asked the duke to summon the national synod, but privately even Ricci was not yet sure that it was wise. Leopold hesitated sufficiently to invite all the bishops of Tuscany to a preliminary consultation at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, 23 April to 3 June 1787.
The meeting of bishops at Florence agreed several things that the duke and Ricci wanted. It asked that the national synod be summoned. It agreed to the reform of oaths, that they needed a new breviary, that oratories should be shut or in total dependence on the parish, and that sermons in monasteries should be held behind closed doors. But whenever any very controversial point came under discussion, the bishops were not agreed and therefore agreed to leave it to the discretion of each bishop acting in his own diocese, which was not at all what Leopold wanted in his quest for uniformity of reform throughout the land. And whenever one particular subject appeared on the agenda, all the Tuscan bishops but three or four shrank back—the place of Rome in the Church. They refused to claim that the bishops ought to have the rights of dispensation hitherto reserved for Rome; or that a bishop's oath to Rome be abolished; or that Quesnel's book, which Rome condemned, should be prescribed reading. They wished to make no demands disrespectful to the Holy See.
But, as the bishops debated in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, there happened a calamity which changed the entire prospect. This was the riot in Prato (20-1 May) over the Madonna's girdle. This riot shocked the duke, the bishops, and Ricci. It frightened a lot of would-be reformers.
Ricci's crusade against superstition began to find its reward.
The Riot at Prato
A fourteenth-century Dominican Andrea Franchi lay within a tomb at the old Dominican church of Pistoia, and was venerated by the people as a saint. Restoring and replanning the church, Ricci wanted wide space and moved the tomb to the church of St. Leopold, saying that nothing authentic was known about Franchi and that the body was not certainly Franchi's body. When a dilapidated but revered picture of the Virgin at Chianti was whitewashed in course of a restoration, and a new picture was placed on the high altar, a parish priest led a demonstration of his people to the former place of the old picture, disregarding the new. When the bishop issued revised prayer-books or litanies for the edification of his people, torn copies of the new books were thrown ostentatiously and repeatedly into the town gutters. The climax of this conflict came in May 1787 when the rumour ran through the town of Prato that the bishop intended to demolish the altar sacred to the girdle of the Virgin. In the evening a crowd assembled with sticks and hatchets, climbed the tower, rang the bells for several hours, tore out of the choir the bishop's throne and coat of arms and burnt them in the market square, illuminated the church all night to exhibit the girdle for veneration, sacked the bishop's palace, fetched parish priests from their beds, carried statues from a store to the cathedral, invaded the seminary, and threatened the professors with death. The tale spread, and in the morning the peasants of the countryside poured into the town to make the round of the churches. Order was not restored until troops arrived to barricade the streets, close the shops and bars, and make numerous arrests. 19
Ricci offered to resign his see, and had his resignation refused. But every bishop was now aware of the force in the religious conservatism of the people. Even Duke Leopold, for all his abuse of bishops and his continued backing of Ricci, silently changed direction, seeing that the waters were deeper than he expected.
He continued his policy but by decree. He could not have a national synod. The bishops, to whom he was extremely rude at the end of their meeting in the Palazzo Pitti, were useless. He went ahead by ducal power. He allowed the decrees of Pistoia to be published (2 October 1788); asked Ricci to send him a plan for national reform which he could apply to all Tuscany; abolished the Roman Nuncio in Florence (20 September 1788); ordered (2 October 1788) that no Tuscan monastery should have a foreign superior, that monks could appeal to the civil courts against their superiors, and that any Tuscan who entered a monastery abroad thereby lost his civic rights as a Tuscan.
But he never found it convenient to act on Ricci's national plan for reform and put it quietly in the archives. In 1789 Belgium rose against his brother the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, with the religious policy of Joseph as one among the motives of revolt. In 1790 Joseph II died, and Leopold succeeded to his throne in Vienna and left Tuscany. Riots broke out again, in Leghorn and Pistoia. Leopold advised his successor that Ricci was a liability, and that his resignation should be accepted with the provision of a good pension.
After his resignation, Ricci retired to Florence and a quiet life, and later wrote his memoirs. Those memoirs are the chief document for the prosecution. If they give a just picture of their author, he was a small-minded man, full of resentments, with the illusion that a diocesan synod could reform the Catholic Church. Those modes of reform headed directly towards schism in the church of Tuscany, and towards the shaking of the duke's throne. Ricci was no passionate moral reformer. Though at one point of his later unpopularity he fancied himself a new Savonarola, no one could have been less like that sternest of preachers. Ricci was no confessor with a willingness for martyrdom. But from the influence of Port-Royal or of Pietro Tamburini he saw change needed in the Catholic Church of his day and found a prince willing to order the Church about, and had the courage and unwisdom to make the attempt.
Two members of the same Florentine family stood at opposite poles of Italian Catholicism in the later eighteenth century. Ricci the Jesuit general stood for the supreme act of self-negation even before an unjust Pope. Ricci the bishop stood for reform of the Church by State power without asking leave of the Pope. But the fate of the second Ricci was made possible, personally and publicly, by the fate of the first Ricci. The destruction of the Jesuits, by encouraging every Catholic government in Europe to go further in dealing with religious orders and reallotting Church revenues, helped to make possible what happened in Tuscany.
In no state of Europe before the Revolution, whether the state was Catholic or Protestant, were members of a religious minority treated as equal in rights with members of a dominant majority. The only place where this happened was Transylvania, for the four confessions Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Unitarian, because these denominations won privileges under Turkish rule and Turks could not or would not distinguish between Christianities.
The question at first was whether a minority might settle or remain though under legal disadvantages; as the Jews were secure in many cities of Europe and yet were not regarded as citizens. Germany was familiar with the elaborate mosaic in which Protestant communities lived side by side with Catholic communities. They hardly mixed, but whichever was dominant in the area was forced by imperial law to tolerate. In areas like the Palatinate a mixed population had rights to share the same church for services at different times.
When Louis XIV expelled the French Protestants in 1685, the world was still such that intelligent observers thought the expulsion to be useful in promoting public order. This expulsion was larger, and probably more disastrous for the country, than any expulsion in the eighteenth century. It had no backing from Pope Innocent XI, who disapproved its methods while he celebrated a Te Deum.
Piedmont was forced to do with the Waldensians of the Alpine valleys (1694) what France did to the Huguenots. But the Waldensians were willing to fight, and easily won international backing, and little Piedmont had to rescind the expulsions.
Prince-bishop Firmian of Salzburg ordered the worst expulsion of the eighteenth century. The Protestants of the mountains felt themselves threatened and in some valleys began to baptize or marry or bury in the open, which in strict imperial law was illegal, and to arm. Firmian decided that they menaced his state, borrowed soldiers from the Emperor, and (31 October 1731) ordered the expulsion of all Protestants, 20,000 to 30,000 souls. The scandal was international. Most of the refugees emigrated to Prussia, some helped to people Pennsylvania. 20
In Spain, Portugal, and Italy outside Piedmont almost no dissenters lived.
Travellers and tourists were more common, and their habits bothered a few Italian bishops. Venice needed German merchants, its university of Padua had German students whom it failed always to treat with equity. Leghorn had a chapel for German and Protestant merchants. International trade and travel confronted Italy with the need to allow Protestant visitors a chapel, and why not Protestant residents?
Instructed Italians had also a sensation that northern countries advanced into prosperity and that part of the secret of advance lay in accepting diversity in the State. Intelligent Italians saw that censorship hampered the spread of ideas and wanted to liberalize, though not usually to abolish, censorship. If they demanded liberty for Voltaire and the French Encyclopedia, they would not be intolerant of Protestant divines; and one of the wishes of Catholic reformers was freedom to use Protestant books if they were good and useful books.
Prussian conquest of Catholic Silesia, and extension of Prussian power in the Catholic Rhineland, and the partitions of Catholic Poland between Prussia and Russia and Austria, gave new force to Catholic ideas of toleration. Behaviour like that of Bishop Firmian of Salzburg might not benefit Catholicism for it justified Prussian maltreatment of Silesians, Rhinelanders, or Poles, and English maltreatment of Irish. In theory they could claim toleration for Catholics who lived under Protestants or Russian Orthodox or Turks, and still deny liberty of worship to anyone who dissented from Catholicism in a Catholic state. Stiff minds continued to propound this theory into the nineteenth century. But whatever the theory, in practice the attitude was possible only to persons who knew little about Protestants or about Catholics in non-Catholic states. Catholic statesmen saw that to demand toleration in Prussia or England was to concede toleration in Austria or Bavaria.
All forms of repression threw up cases of injustice. Some French priests were pleased with the missionary results of the dragonnades, where soldiers worked with missionaries to convert Huguenots. Other French priests lamented the hollow and unedifying nature of what happened in these 'conversions'. The Catholic Church was familiar with, and accepted, the custom that every adult Catholic must receive holy communion at Easter. Few men minded a measure of compulsion applied to Catholics. When the same compulsion was applied to nominal Catholics whom everyone knew to be secret Protestants, a sense of sacrilege and repulsion touched minds. Whether or not the attack on the Camisards of south-east France was such a case of injustice, the Calas case (1762) in south-west France became a scandal throughout Europe because Voltaire paraded the injustice of a local community. Slowly throughout the century the man under penalty not for antisocial behaviour but for his conscience began to win more and more sympathy; or (as it would be better described) more and more people began to refuse to identify conscientious religious dissent by otherwise good men as antisocial behaviour of such gravity as to warrant repression.
The arguments for intolerance were strong. The public presence of men of other faiths weakens faith and the practice of the community, which is the bond of society. It slowly leads to indifference, which all Christians agree to be an evil. In villages and small towns it causes social scandal and division, disturbs souls, and can lead to disorder if not to riot.
The Empress Maria Theresa wrote letters to her son Joseph II (1775-7). He argued that men must have liberty to believe and could only be enlightened by the Spirit of God, and were merely troubled by human laws on creeds. His mother became anxious about the state of his soul. Toleration is carelessness about truth and will end by destroying religion. Joseph (20 July 1777) wrote her a remarkable letter: 21
The sole cause of our disagreement is the definition of the word toleration. May God preserve me from thinking that it does not matter whether our citizens remain Catholic or change to be Protestant. . . . I would give all that I possess if thereby all the Protestants of your states became Catholics! By the word toleration, I mean that I, in all temporal matters, would employ anyone without taking notice of his religion, would allow him to own property and follow a profession, and be a full citizen, so long as he was suitable and could help the State and its economy.
The Emperor Joseph II's patent of toleration (1781) was the weightiest single act of relief.
When Joseph succeeded to sole power, an edict of toleration was forced upon his government by the unrest of the Protestant peasants of Bohemia and Moravia, and the failure of traditional use of force. The freedom of worship so granted was only to Lutherans, Calvinists, and Eastern Orthodox, not to deists or unbelievers, and only permitted the exercise of private worship; no bells, no public porch on the street, no spire nor tower. Non-Catholics must continue to pay usual fees to the Catholic priest for baptism, marriage or burial. But among so many Catholic peoples, the edict of toleration was the best of the Emperor's efforts to harry his state into the modern world. The censorship, still banning books against religion (no German translation of Voltaire but allowing the French original) was centralized in Vienna and made far more liberal, so that Protestant books began to circulate freely. No one (of the permitted faiths) lost civil rights by reason of his faith. Catholic bishops found it not easy to administer. Clergy needed now to abstain from controversial preaching lest their people be excited to harm a minority, and uncontroversial preaching is duller. Priests were used to confiscating erroneous books from their flocks, or compelling unwilling families to bring a non-Catholic corpse for burial, and had to be discouraged. Police must protect Protestant services from interruption. Special delicacy was needed about the interment of Protestant bodies in Catholic churchyards. The Emperor was unwise enough to order that no Catholic might become a Protestant until he had engaged in Catholic religious exercises for six weeks. The philosophy of these exercises rested on the axiom that a Catholic would be likely to become Protestant only because of bad education or corrupt information. During the six weeks no Protestant pastor or schoolmaster might have access to the would-be convert, who could not attend non-Catholic worship.
A visitor to some parts of Transylvania will find that many older Eastern Orthodox churches go back to the reign of Joseph II, and were the consequence of his policy of toleration.
An edict of January 1782 gave toleration to Jews in Lower Austria. The edict of toleration with its supplementary decrees was not generous. They could not own land, were limited in numbers, could not have public synagogues in Vienna, and could not open shops outside the Jewish 'quarter'. They must still pay a special tax. For all business transactions they must use the language of the country and not their own language. They must take German names. Nevertheless they must send their children to school, could build their own schools, engage in crafts, commerce, banking and industry, and need wear no special dress. They could go to universities. They could even have Christian servants, and appear in the streets on Sundays, and wear a sword.
Similar edicts followed for the other parts of the Empire. Galicia, where Jews were numerous, received its edict almost at the end of the reign, an edict without limit on numbers.
All Jews were made liable for service in the army, being allowed a variant form of the oath of loyalty. Pious Jews could not accept this compulsion. A conscripted Jew must eat food in barracks and march on the sabbath. The Jews hated and feared military service. The mountains of Galicia were full of young men who hid. By flight from recruiting officers, emigration, turmoil and protests, the Jews persuaded Joseph's successor (1792) to allow a heavy payment in return for exemption. 22
The reaction after the death of Joseph II withdrew a little of the toleration. But the edict was another landmark in the history of Europe.
Pope and Catholic Emperor went opposite ways; the Pope to keep Christians pure and therefore raise the walls which hid the Jews, the Emperor to make Christendom more just and therefore knock down the higher walls and let the Jews be seen. Priests do not invariably possess a more enlightened conscience than their sovereigns. The layman had a lowlier motive beside justice, namely, money for his State. The Pope sought to benefit the souls of Christians, the Emperor sought to benefit their bodies. Still, Joseph II cared not only about 'assimilation', or racial harmony in his state, but also for justice; and, if it be allowed that Pius VI also cared about justice, the Emperor cannot be denied a more sensitive understanding of the needs of justice in contemporary society.
The Austrian patent was a model for the French Act of Toleration, 1787. It had wide influence in Catholic Germany. To make ideas of tolerance consistent was exceedingly hard for the new mentality of that age. From safety on the Swiss border the Italian radical Carlantonio Pilati (Di una riforma, 1768) issued passionate appeals to Italians to tolerate different religions, and assailed the Inquisition for driving all the best minds out of Italy; but in the same breath demanded that government put spies among monks to find excuses for closing monasteries, and abolish friars gradually but totally by forbidding novices. Those who revered Clement XIV Ganganelli as the greatest because most liberal of Popes found it hard not to praise him for intolerance towards the Jesuits.
When Joseph II issued his patent of toleration, the Austrian-ruled land of Breisgau in south-west Germany went into uproar, said that their people were all Catholics except for one hairdresser, and begged to be excluded from the edict. 23 In Belgium violent protests weakened the Austrian regime.
Politically the Catholic Church must surrender the sword. No other course was open. But like the claim of the Jews the Catholic claim to truth was absolute. In religion, as distinct from politics, few enough people believed in toleration which they identified with contempt for truth and therefore with sin. Popes and clergy tolerated because they were forced by the needs of the hour to tolerate, not because they believed in toleration as virtue. Revolution, singing a hymn to absolute equality before the law, came upon them while they still regarded the frame of society as too brittle unless its citizens, or nearly all its citizens, or at least its full citizens, professed a common religion.
The Attack Upon Celibacy
Catholic attack upon the celibacy of the priest had not been heard since the earlier days of the Reformation.
The origins of the onslaught were French, in Voltaire and Diderot and the Encyclopedia article on celibacy. It started in earnest when a French priest, Pierre Desforges, published (1758) The Advantages of Marriage, a confused and repetitive book, but containing in its two volumes a mass of historical ammunition for an attack upon celibacy. At first it had little European importance; but in the year 1768, at the time when Italy moved against Pope Clement XIII for the Monitorium of Parma, Desforges' book was given an Italian translation, published at Florence. The question became urgent for a practical reason. Thousands of Jesuits were thrown out of their houses. If a monk was ejected from his monastery through no fault of his own, and told to go and make his living in the world as schoolmaster or librarian, was he to be held for ever bound to the unmarried life for a vow which he took, perhaps, in his late teens? The argument, once the staple of controversy between Catholics and Protestants, started to be an argument between Catholics.
Pope Clement XIV charged the famous controversialist of the day, the Jesuit and then ex-Jesuit Zaccaria, once Muratori's successor as librarian at Modena, to defend celibacy. Zaccaria produced a fat work with the characteristic title A Polemical History of Holy Celibacy (Italian 1774, German translation 1781). He gave as his reasons for writing the need to reply to anonymous Italian pamphlets and an Italian translation of Desforges. Zaccaria's book was learned and able and retained for a hundred years the repute of being the best defence of the celibacy of the priesthood. He admitted that one apostle at least had a wife but there was no evidence that they lived together with wives after they became apostles and the evidence is to the contrary since they left everything to become disciples. No one who reads the New Testament can deny that the unmarried state is higher in the sense that the single person can more easily consecrate himself to God and give his undivided time to his people. The Catholic people is deeply attached to single priests. And if men say that no one should be compelled to adhere to a vow of which they could not foresee the consequences, nobody compels people to take holy orders; or, if families sometimes compel, that is not the Church's fault.
Zaccaria, strong maintainer of the Pope's prerogative, admitted that the Pope could abrogate the law in theory, because it is an apostolic order and the Pope has power equal to the apostles. But if he did, he would put the steadfastness of past popes in doubt, lower the glory of those who suffered for their chastity, hurt the spiritual work of the clergy. No sufficient reason can be seen for so vast and dangerous a change in the discipline of the Church.
Zaccaria was a splitter of hairs and forced bits of the history to dance to his fingers as he pulled them hither and thither. But it was a masterly defence. Every Catholic who wanted now to argue for a married priesthood had to face this collection of embattled information.
With the coming of Joseph II Austria started to fill with rumour that the Emperor would abolish the law of celibacy. The reason was obvious, for he forced men and women out of monasteries and nunneries and were they to be held to the single life? These rumours unleashed a wave of pamphleteering on both sides.
The arguments of the Austrian assailants of celibacy were these: It is not in Scripture. It was not a continuous practice in the Catholic Church. Even if Christ treated the unmarried state as higher, that does not mean that it is right to insist on it for everyone. Experience shows that marriage brings into many men a more balanced attitude to life. Enough immorality exists among the clergy to make the law of celibacy doubtful because it is so often and so inevitably broken. The sexual drive is irresistible and excommunications and anathemas are powerless against its force. The law brings danger to the man dedicated to the single life in his youth; danger to the man who must sit in the confessional; danger to the man who cannot do without a housekeeper; danger, not to his morals but to his person, by the shrivelling of affections and the separation from normal life among the laity. If the Church can do something so extraordinary as to abolish Jesuits, it would be no more extraordinary to abolish the celibacy of priests.
In all this argument Lorenz Hübner, priest and journalist at Salzburg, took a prominent part. But all south Germany and Austria threw up pamphleteers of the same type; among them Benedikt Werkmeister, then novice-master at the Benedictine abbey at Neresheim.
You say [wrote Werkmeister] that no one is forced to take orders. But prebends beckon! A love of souls beckons! Does the Church want only frigid men or evil livers? Does not the best of men, if driven by his work to live among women and children, have an innocent wish to take his woman to his heart and kiss her, though he never thought about it when he was ordained and promised the opposite? I believe that other things being equal it is the man who is the natural father who will make the best spiritual father. . . . I say to you without circumlocution, a sentence as clear as any proposition in Euclid, give them their wives today instead of tomorrow! Give them wives, so that they can do honourably what they now do with scandal! If seventeen or eighteen general councils and a hundred local councils met and cried one thing, Holy Celibacy, it would be no use. They cry against nature. If all the stars in the sky joined in that chorus, it would still be no use. . . . 24
By the end of the reign of Joseph II ominous revolutionary voices began to be heard. One Josephist suggested that since sacramental marriage was impossible for priests, they should be permitted unsacramental marriage. A vehemently antipapal ex-Jesuit of Vienna raised the moral question of the confessional, what is to be said to a priest who confesses that he is secretly married: is he to put away his wife? and reached the startling new conclusion that he was not, that the marriage was valid in the eyes of God and he should be encouraged to remain a secretly married man in the hope that one day authority would recognize his marriage as lawful. 25
In Josephist Austria of the 1780s a few such secret marriages of priests appear to have been celebrated.
The argument caused anxiety at Rome. A fragment of a speech by Cardinal Pallavicini, secretary of state to Pius VI, has survived, 'If priests can marry, the papal hierarchy falls, the Pope loses respect and supremacy, married clergy will be tied by their wives and children and be dependent on the State . . . ' 26
The Reform of the Liturgy
When German hymns became popular, the question of mass in language understood by the people began to be discussed. Latin was the only international language, and a wish to turn the service into German or Italian met the obstacle that Germans and Italians were divided by different dialects. The movement for a vernacular liturgy became urgent in south Germany, for Latin was a language more 'natural' to Italians or Spaniards than to Germans. To persuade, would-be reformers needed still to argue that German was 'now' a refined language, capable of bearing the prayers of a people.
Conservatives had the argument of hallowed association. Ordinary people preferred not to understand the words of the most sacred portions of the mass, thinking that they were being turned into Lutherans if they heard German prayers, and there is evidence that when they heard one of the rare German liturgies they understood as little of the German as the Latin and were more ashamed because now they were supposed to understand. The advocates of change argued that no curtain should fall between priest and people; that the vernacular was the custom of the primitive Church; and that to understand a service is to avoid the danger among peasants of a superstitious use of formulas as incantations.
Educated men grew more articulate and critical in their attitudes to what went on in church on Sunday. Formerly they accepted what the Church decided, or hoped to do little more than guide or regulate an excess of popular fervour. In Spain and Portugal and Southern Italy, even in most of France and Austria, the attitude of uncomplaining or happy acceptance remained dominant.
But in parts of Germany and Switzerland Catholics lived near or among Protestants. And in that age Protestants experienced a wave of criticism of what they did in church on Sunday, new awareness, discussion of the purpose of worship and its forms, intelligent analysis of liturgy. Is the language of prayers drafted for God's sake or to make effect upon the minds or souls of those who pray? Prayer said aloud must intend to affect the congregation—at least to lead them in reverence, perhaps to persuade them into moral attitudes. This debate appeared among priests in Catholic Germany. Though touched by Protestant argument, it would have arisen without the Protestants; for it had the same cause, the developing education of middle-class laymen, a widening gulf between literate and illiterate, larger towns with the first signs that in towns men need to be attracted into church on Sundays. A south-German priest looked across at his Protestant neighbours and envied their power to make what he understood to be such striking improvement in ways of worship. 27
For a time Catholic pastors felt free to experiment. Pope Clement XIV Ganganelli seemed to call all the Church to pull itself up to date, and to cast off or amend whatever inheritance from past ages hurt the present work or worship of Christian people. And scholars, chiefly French, published the folio series of ancient liturgies which changed the study of the history of Christian worship, and showed how old forms of prayer were modified to the need of new generations.
Those who were bold to print that they wanted change, were only a handful: a court-chaplain, a vicar-general, a Bavarian pastor; but even an occasional congregation with its pastor changed habits. The prince-bishops of Germany were not all of a mind to discourage such experiments. These ideas were found in places as far apart as Vienna, Constance, Stuttgart, Munich, Mainz. And many Roman Catholic chapels in England held the service of benediction in the English language without asking leave of anyone.
The innovators saw that ways of worship cannot be changed speedily. Old forms are hallowed, and may not be destroyed but must be purified, adapted, made intelligible. They inherited a series of prayers which had little structure, and observed an attitude which expected mechanical repetition of those prayers. To put soul into dead rites and meaningless ceremonies was their aim. They wanted order, clarity of structure, services dedicated to a single theme. They wanted to explain worship, so that ordinary men and women understood what they did. The danger lay in turning liturgy from the vessel of a sacrificial heart into moral exhortation.
Songs in German, prayers in Latin—this was not the chief reason why a few reformers wanted mass in German. All the arguments for simplicity and understanding and moral instruction pointed to mass in the language of the common people. This plan had the special barrier that the battle between Reformation and Counter-Reformation linked German prayers with Protestant ideals. Thinking men who cast off such prejudice still preferred Latin words, hallowed by long usage, to new flat prosaic-sounding German. They felt it to strip liturgy of its grandeur with its mystery. One of the noblest of Catholic reformers, Johann Michael Sailer, believed that language mattered little because aspirations of the heart were always too deep to be expressed in language. 'God', it was said humorously, 'understands Latin quite as well as he understands German.' 28 Others thought that to translate the mass into German risked that destruction of worship which turned its direction away from God and towards man.
Those who wanted a German mass offered arguments. Already laymen followed mass in private German translation. A congregation should be a union of priest and people. If words are to have heart they must be understood. They kept quoting the text of 1 Corinthians 14: 19: 'in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.' Occasionally they used the argument that thus they might recover non-Catholics. Given liturgy in their language, Protestants would at last understand the mass.
The first mass in the German language was written in 1786 by the Benedictine Benedikt Maria Werkmeister for the Catholic chapel at the palace in Stuttgart. The prayer of consecration remained in Latin. Werkmeister intended this liturgy for a private chapel to be the model which other Catholic states of Germany should copy.
A number of those who wanted mass in German were content with priestly services in Latin, for priests (usually) knew Latin. But others wanted priests to say their office less mechanically and believed that the use of German would help. Most nunneries contained simple or near-illiterate nuns, certainly nuns whose Latin grammar could not pass examination. Chaplains to such nunneries desired offices which a less instructed community might use intelligently. A breviary was needed, for the use of clergy and devout laity, in the German language.
The type of concursus examination shows the subtly different colouring of ideas in this unsettled age. Here are examination questions in the spirit of Benedikt Werkmeister in south-west Germany in the years 1808-9: 29
Is the primacy of the Pope a divine law or a human creation?
Does the practice of the early Church encourage the use of prayer in the language of the people?
Does the gospel favour vows?
What are the abuses connected at the present time with brotherhoods?
A Protestant labourer arrives in a Catholic village, sickens, and dies. What is the duty of the priest (a) while he is ill, and (b) after his death?
A woman says she is possessed by a demon. What is the priest to do?
This last question could have been asked by the Italian trainers of confessors. But the other questions could not have been asked, quite in that form, in the Church of the old world. They have too evidently begun to expect a certain kind of answer, or are designed to make the candidate think critically.
The diocese of Augsburg asked the discalced Carmelite Johann Anton Dereser, professor of oriental languages at Bonn university, to give them a vernacular breviary. Dereser wrote it for clergy and nuns 'and any good Christians'. The Elector of Cologne approved it; the Suffragan Bishop of Augsburg also, though with many emendations by Johann Michael Sailer without author's leave; the Prince-bishop of Würzburg, Erthal, used it himself and recommended it to his chapter, the Vicar-general of Constance, Wessenberg, encouraged its use in his diocese. The Archbishop of Trier, Clement Wenceslaus moved against it and its favourers. But it had a sixth edition 1809-10, an eighth and last 1819-21.
The German breviary omitted much that was traditional, in the way of hymns, responsories, antiphons. Instead of ordering all the psalter to be said within a week, Dereser chose eighty psalms and wrote 'We have chosen only those which are specially edifying to the Christian'—a witness to the spirit of the Enlightenment. The historical psalms were regarded as useless, the war-songs and songs of revenge were eliminated, for this was not an age of allegory. Dereser chose the psalms of trust, praise, penitence, and suffering.
The readings dropped lessons from the Old Testament and the Fathers and drew all from the New Testament. The prayers tended to prosiness. 'Give us our daily bread' became 'Give us our daily bread and the satisfaction of our essential needs.'
For all its defects, Dereser tried to make a breviary based upon Scripture and understood by the people. The devotion and taste of reforming Catholicism in that age, from Cologne to Vienna, regarded it as an excellent work of reformed prayer. But only for a time. All these pastoral efforts were overtaken too soon by the collapse of the old political world and the ensuing reaction.
By the time that revolution came, the Catholic reformers had achieved (1) a strong state-guided movement, mainly in Habsburg or other allied and neighbouring territories Bavaria, Lombardy, Tuscany, Belgium, but also in Spain, Naples, France, Portugal, and the Italian states, to limit monks, restrict the power of Rome, control brotherhoods, improve the training of clergy, diminish popular superstition, foster parish life and make worship a little more congregational; (2) among a more extreme group, a movement for vernacular liturgy, more ethical hymnody, and a few bold or shocking voices calling for the celibacy of the priest to be made optional.This movement was intelligent, not non-Catholic, repudiating the charge that it was Protestant; and in certain areas of Europe it had a profound if long unseen effect upon the pastoral development of the nineteenth century. Its weakness was the absence of the people's assent. It depended largely on small groups of professors and abbés who used oligarchs in government with power to compel a people to do what they had no wish to do. And they were approaching very near to a time when the oligarchs were swept off the face of Europe.Thus the eighteenth century witnessed five different types of reforming movement within Catholicism which were never separate:
(1) The direct ideal of the Counter-Reformation still active in parish life, in parts of Italy and Spain only now becoming dominant and successful in parish life, and which threw up a traditional and yet subtly new kind of leader, like Alfonso Liguori or Leonard of Port-Maurice.
(2) Jansenist, or at least 'Jansenist' reform, a truly religious reform, wanting more of the Bible and better education and less dubious casuistry and good history and far better parochial life; of which the climax and downfall was Ricci's synod of Pistoia.
(3) Reform as seen by the men of the Enlightenment, who were often half-Jansenist, but whose first interest was the practical reform of law, penal codes, economic conditions, and across whose path lay old privileges of the Church, like the right of sanctuary or exemptions from secular courts or from tax, and the too extensive properties of the Church not all of which were used to the advantage of the people; and who especially wanted a national system of elementary education under State control.
(4) Reform conducted by the eighteenth-century State in its own interest, to centralize authority and create an effective government, and which must therefore diminish the powers of the Pope or the exemptions of the clergy; and which in France and Germany latched on to the old Gallican and episcopalian tradition as in Febronius.
(5) 'Reform' advocated by once-Catholic but now anti-Catholic propagandists, like Carlantonio Pilati on the borders of north Italy or Gaetano Filangieri in Naples, almost always associated with a touch of freemasonry and often wanting to abolish monks, have married clergy, destroy the Papal States, and move towards a more universal religion which one day would harmonize with a reformed Protestantism; and therefore, unlike the other four modes of reform, which together made the strongest Catholic forces of the century, a plan for reform which had no serious influence on the stream of events as Europe was borne along towards revolution.
Revolution in France
The French constitutional reformers of 1789 had no intention of assailing the Church. As late as June 1793, in the midst of the terror, government still paid the clergy in office, that is such clergy as accepted its policy and laws, and that same month the feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated with public processions at which passers-by knelt in the streets.
Yet the overthrow of the Church in the French Revolution was one of the momentous events of modern history. Its land and buildings were taken by the State, constitution knocked about, monasteries made illegal, many priests expelled, no small number guillotined. The astonishing fate which befell the rich, powerful, and prosperous Church of Louis XIV had consequences which still work within Christendom. France contained more Catholics than any other state. It housed the headquarters of historic religious orders, Cluny, Cîteaux, Premontré, the Grande Chartreuse, La Trappe. Its theologians and Church historians were respected throughout Europe and America.
In the quest for a new French constitution many clergy voted for the abolition of feudal privileges and of tithes. Nearly bankrupt France could hardly save itself without taking the lands of the Church. To the proposal that the State should take the endowments, pay the clergy, maintain church buildings, and use the remainder for the good of the nation, many clergy were reluctant to consent. That they should become employees or stipendiaries of the State denied axioms, centuries old, about the constitution of the Church and the freedom of its officers. The Assembly carried the law of nationalization (2 November 1789) because it feared bankruptcy. It inserted one undertaking to pay parish priests a minimum wage (1,200 livres) substantially higher than many then received, and another undertaking to administer the relief of the poor.
This act was not anti-Christian. It was like the act of the kingdom of Naples, six years before, which took with the Pope's leave church endowments of southern Italy in face of a people's desperate plight after the earthquake.
The sale of lands started next month and continued over ten years and saved the treasury of France. Middle-class and prosperous peasants profited, poorer peasants lost because they were deprived of common rights. Some good Catholics hesitated or refused to take part in these auctions. Lands given to God were in their eyes inalienable, men who acquired them for secular use would not be blest. But others, even pious, cheerfully bid at auction and got property, and when they were later told that they committed sacrilege or blasphemy began to resent the clergy if not the Church.
To take endowments was to ruin monasteries. As radical power grew in the Assembly, opinion was widespread that monks' vows were deplorable because they limited freedom. An act (13 February 1790) banned vows and abolished all orders which had solemn vows and neither taught in school nor cared for the sick. If a religious came out to ordinary life he or she received a pension. Those who wished to stay could be grouped in surviving houses. Most nuns wanted to stay, many monks left. The continuance was temporary. The remaining houses and orders were abolished in August 1792.
Final breach between Church and Revolution came over the civil constitution of the clergy (12 July 1790). At this time most of the leaders of the French state were more Gallican than anti-Christian. The State elevated parish cures as the sole form of church life, and abolished chapters and colleges. It reduced the bishoprics from 135 to eighty-five, and aligned their dioceses with civil boundaries. Every town parish was to contain some 6,000 people, therefore many parishes vanished. The electoral body of the department chose the bishop, the electoral body of the district chose its priest. Stipends were fixed, rules of residence strict, no bishop might ask the Pope to confirm his election. Bishops must work as chairmen of a council of priests from the diocese.
This was Josephist work in a new form. State power was needed to reform the Church, reform meant promoting parish churches, abolishing useless monks and sinecure canonries, and enforcing residence and good conduct. Kings used to nominate bishops, their successors the people should choose. That meant a bishop was to be elected by the electoral assembly of that department. The feudal lord used to nominate the parish priest, his successor the people should now choose. That meant, the curé was chosen by the electoral assembly of the district. The reformers said that they changed no doctrine. 'We only alter geography.'
Thirty bishops out of thirty-five in the National Assembly protested against the plan to reform the Church without asking the Church. But the bishops who had not already fled abroad were divided on the constitution. Some thought the plan bad, others thought that indeed it would help to reform the Church.
King Louis XVI asked the French ambassador in Rome, Cardinal de Bernis, to get the agreement of Pope Pius VI.
To agree was impossible. Agreement was an invitation to other states to seize Church property and abolish monks. Agreement would expose the Pope to onslaught from all the other Catholic powers. It would provoke schism in France, make the plight of King Louis more agonizing, and cause torment of soul to some good parish priests. It would provoke the French occupation of Avignon, where the inhabitants asked to be annexed. Pius VI therefore referred the question to a commission of cardinals, which examined the matter without haste. Historians have blamed the resulting silence of eight months. The Pope had no other sensible course.
Meanwhile events in France moved. Sees must be filled, livings fell vacant. With ever-stiffening rigidity the National Assembly insisted that the choices be made according to the civil constitution of the clergy, and when it met resistance decreed (November—December 1790) an oath whereby any holder of a Church office must swear allegiance to the State and accept the civil constitution. So the Assembly plunged France into schism between oath-takers and oath-refusers, 'refractory priests'. The law of history that persecution always divides a Church was thus fulfilled.
To almost universal surprise more than half the clergy refused the oath; far more than half in the north and the west and Alsace, far less in Paris and the south-east. Who should order the ringing of the church bells, celebrate at the altar, minister at death? Funerals caused a few grievous little riots; the installation of new constitutional instead of ejected refractory caused wild tumult in a few churches, once even to hiding in the tabernacle above the altar a cat which leapt out when the new curate opened the door; crowds of women and children kept crowing like cocks (because of St. Peter's denial) at a new constitutional incumbent, or threw stones at the windows of his vicarage, or dug up his garden, or left ordure on his door-step. Many parishioners, however, could not understand the quarrel. They wanted a curate to baptize, teach, minister communion, hear confessions, and bury the dead; and did not mind whether he swore or refused to swear.
On 24 February 1791, in one of his last acts as a bishop, Talleyrand consecrated two new bishops for the Constitutional Church, and in the next two months Gobel of Paris consecrated more. This forced the Pope out of silence.
On 10 March 1791 Pius VI condemned the civil constitution of the clergy; on 13 April 1791 he declared these new consecrations sacrilegious, and threatened all swearing priests with suspension.
That summer of 1791 many priests recanted the oath which they had taken. Talleyrand pleaded in the Assembly for toleration of refractory priests as part of general toleration, and won the day. But the Assembly could not control the provinces. Refractories were identified with counter-revolution. Local mobs or patriotic leaders interrupted their services or closed halls which they rented.
Schism in France was caused by the rigidity characteristic of a revolutionary government. But it touched questions of high importance for the Church. If the Pope had certain rights in a national Church, and the State was needed to reform the Church, what were the respective rights of Pope or State to interfere in that Church?
In the new legislative Assembly of 1 October 1791 the driving leaders were the Girondins, petit-bourgeois young men, deist, anticlerical or anti-Christian, identifying Churches with oppression and counter-revolution and superstition. In April 1792 France declared war on Austria, which claimed to stand for Christianity and justice. Pope Pius VI made the crass error of sending as envoy to the Austrian Emperor the Abbé Maury, an emigrant priest famous for opposition as a member of the Assembly. The Pope thereby announced that the Church was the political ally of powers warring against France. Every priest in France was now suspect as a traitor. The last monasteries were closed, clerical dress was banned. A fortnight after the king was deposed, all refractory priests were ordered out of the country (26 August 1792). A few days after the order of deportation 223 priests, including an archbishop and two bishops, were murdered in the September massacres at the Paris prisons. In all some 30,000 clergy fled abroad. On 23 April 1793 the Convention ordered the immediate deportation to Guiana of any priest who had not taken the oath, and the immediate execution of any deported priest found again on French territory.
So far as the refractory Church of France existed, it went underground. Many constitutionals continued to serve their parishes. But their consciences faced ever new obstacles, the need to approve legal divorce, the demand that priests should marry, and many of them were loyal to the king and disliked the republic. Between summer 1793 and summer 1794 the constitutionals also were driven underground. A wave of de-Christianization rolled across the land. Most churches were closed, some looted, a few pulled down. The feasts of the Church were replaced by feasts of humanity. The calendar was changed to be rid of Sundays. Of the eighty-five constitutional bishops, twenty-three abandoned their religion and nine of them married. And yet Henri Grégoire, constitutional Bishop of Loir-et-Cher, sat on the benches of the Assembly defending Christian liberty with courage.
The Revolution soon needed to deprive its enemies, Prussia, Britain, Austria, of the advantage in propaganda that they championed religion against atheism; and sane government saw that the people of France wanted churches and the country could never be loyal till churches were conceded. The government of the Directory remained ruthlessly anti-clerical. But by autumn 1794 the worst of the anti-Christian Terror, like the worst of the political Terror, of which indeed it was part, was over. Both Catholic sides, refractory and constitutional, began to publish a periodical. The royalist coup d'état which failed in autumn 1797 made the Directory so revive the persecuting laws of the Terror that the plight of priests in many areas was still grievous. But the oppression was not so murderous as that of 1793-4, when Prussian troops besieged Verdun and France felt desperate with a Catholic fifth column within the borders.
Revolution in Italy
A historian of France gave an enchanting portrait of what it felt like in a cathedral city, when Barchester was overrun by revolutionaries. 1 He told us what happened to the monks and nuns, and how the canons of the cathedral took their different ways, and which clergymen were murdered and which curates fled into the bush and joined the resistance. Part of the fascination of this portrait was composed of light and shade; of the contrast between the comfortable mellow world of a stable country town, dominated physically and socially by cathedral and close, and the sudden terror of months when every churchman might be suspect of disloyalty or treachery to a regime fighting for its existence and contemptuous of human life.
In Italy the contrasts were not so extreme. By the time the Revolution reached Lombardy and the northern plains, it put aside the worst excesses of terror and tyranny which marred its struggles in Paris. Relations between Paris and Rome were bad, could hardly have been worse. The French revolutionary government annexed Avignon, for many centuries the possession, and once the home, of the Popes. A French envoy in the streets of Rome, Hugou de Bassville, was so beaten by an angry crowd that he died (13 January 1793). French shops in Rome were destroyed, a French hospital invaded. The treatment of French Catholics by revolutionaries could not make the Curia friendly to the French Revolution. But mercifully for Italy and the Pope, the revolutionary government was too busy in Paris and in Brittany and on the Rhine to spare thought or troops for papal iniquity and left Italy almost untouched till 1796. By 1796 the Directory governed France, and the French left behind the time when the guillotine was too busy.
The records of the little town of Imola, in the north near Bologna, show how the inhabitants first learnt that the French were coming. 2 On 9 March 1796 they observed a column of troops in strange uniform marching from the south. When the soldiers entered the town, the people were excited to discover that these were British troops. They believed that for several centuries they had not seen British soldiers in their country. They also observed with astonishment that, unlike other columns passing through, they paid for everything that they took from the shops. This was how the citizens of Imola first discovered that General Bonaparte was crossing the Alps to expel the Austrians from Italy.
The battle was fought at Lodi on 10 May 1796, and six days later Bonaparte entered Milan in triumph. A detachment pushed south-east into the Papal States, occupying Bologna, where soldiers lit their pipes from candles on the altar, and then Ferrara and Imola. Austrian Milan and papal Bologna each welcomed the French with jubilee as deliverers. In February 1797 the Austrian fortress of Mantua fell and the Austrians were almost out of Italy.
French power shattered the authority of the existing Italian governments. The people of Modena moved first. They rose in revolt, drove out the duke, proclaimed a republic (4 October 1796). Bologna threw out the remains of the papal government, and created a Parliament which met in the church of St. Petronio, to the singing of Veni Creator. In December the new group of 'republics', including Milan, was encouraged by Bonaparte, and decided to unite in a 'Cispadane republic', which hoped that it would become the nucleus of an Italian republic, with a quiver as its symbol.
Bonaparte was still under thirty years old, a Corsican and therefore with Italian attitudes which were not typical of the French. He believed that to be strong in Italy he must befriend religion. He found himself commanding an army with a province at his feet and a weak government in Paris at his back. He was endowed with the talents not only of a commander but of a ruler. He at once became a proconsul in all but name, arranging the politics of Italy. He needed friendly governments in the Italian states if his troops were to be secure. Because his orders, and his wishes, made him pay and feed his troops from Italy and send Italian loot to Paris, French rule must be hated by the people. But he sincerely believed in his mission as bringer of liberty to Italy, liberty from feudal rulers and oppressive hierarchs, ordering his soldiers that they were to 'humble these arrogant kings.' 3 'People of Italy, the French army comes to break your chains; the French people is the friend of all peoples; come before us with confidence; property, religion, customs will be respected . . . '
This union between cynical plundering and real idealism had a double effect. Old-fashioned churchmen disbelieved every word that came from this foreign oppressor. They found liberty to be a word for robbery, equality an introduction of street anarchy.
In the baptismal register of St. Cassian at Imola is a manuscript note. It reads thus: 4 28 July 1798. By order of the Cisalpine Commissioners, who have created in Milan a republic alleged to be democratic, they have moved the Poor Clares of St. Stephen to the Capuchin nunnery, and the Augustinian nuns called the Madeleines to the Dominican nunnery. They have suppressed St. Charles, and all the brotherhoods, abolished bequests, imprisoned eleven of the cathedral canons in the castle. So democracy, that Liberty and Equality of the Republicans and the French, robbed our Italy.
Nevertheless, Italian states also had revolutionaries. Under a French regime they came out into the open, published what they wanted, demonstrated in the streets, paid off old scores. Lombards saw no reason why they should not exchange Austrian rulers for French rulers till they saw that the French took hostages and robbed. Some academics liked the new freedom from censorship. General Bonaparte wrote from Milan to the eminent astronomer Oriani a letter which breathes the sense of enlightened learning breaking in upon the darkness of priestcraft—
All men of genius, everyone distinguished in the republic of letters, is French, whatever his nationality. Men of learning in Milan have not enjoyed proper respect. They hid themselves in their laboratory and thought themselves lucky if kings and priests let them alone. All is changed today. Thought in Italy is free. Inquisition, intolerance, despots, are vanished. I invite scholars to meet and make proposals, what must be done to give science and the arts a new flowering. 5
Bonaparte knew enough of the power of the clergy in Italy to want them on his side. When he found priests leading peasant bands to attack his soldiers, like the parish priest of a village by Lodi, he had them shot without compunction. When Pavia revolted in a people's storm, and he heard that priests and monks, 'dagger and crucifix in hand' incited the 'rebels', the forced the Archbishop of Milan to go into Pavia with a demand for surrender, and when this proved vain allowed his men to sack the town, shot all the municipal government, and sent 200 hostages to France. 'I don't doubt that this will teach a lesson to the people of Italy.' In the country round Tortona he ordered the destruction of all the church bells which summoned the peasants to arms, organized a man-hunt for a Franciscan who led a peasant band in the hills of Garfagnana north of Lucca, destroyed the house of the Duke of Modena's confessor because he was believed to have incited the Garfagnana rebels, and ordered on the rubble a pyramid inscribed 'Punishment of a raving priest who abused his ministry and preached revolt and murder.' 6
Continually conscious that his small forces could not long hold a country unless its inhabitants accepted the government, and seeing everywhere what he called the power of 'fanaticism' in stirring peasants to resist, he set out on the unpromising attempt to persuade Catholic Italy that the French invaders stood at their side.
This became more important when the French army occupied the Legations, for their rulers were cardinals, but many of their people disliked the rule of cardinals. A party in Bologna resented recent interference of Rome with local rights, and welcomed the idea that the former Legation should now be a republic under French protection. Bonaparte imprisoned the cardinal-legates of Bologna and Ferrara, but hardly needed to change the rest of the administration. He reported to his government in Paris that even in the Romagna 'Fanatical preachers preach rebellion. A few days ago they organized what they called “The Catholic Army of the Pope”, and established their headquarters at Lugo in the Legation of Ferrara.' The reason for this mad tumult was the arrival of news that the new commissioners, who were Ferrarese, intended to remove the statue of St. Hilary, protector of the town. Church bells rang the tocsin, a procession carried St. Hilary to the Carmelite monastery, a band of men forced the citadel to get rifles, they put back the Pope's arms and sent a messenger to ask the Pope's blessing. So Lugo, like Pavia, paid the penalty in a sack and the killing of several hundred peasants.
I hear [wrote Bonaparte to the senate of Bologna] that ex-Jesuits, priests, and religious, disturb public order. Let them know that while the French Republic protects religion and its ministers, it is inexorable against those who forget their station and interfere in public affairs. Warn superiors of monasteries that, the first complaint I hear against a monk, I shall hold the whole monastery responsible, expel the monks and give their property to the poor. 7
This claim to protect religion did not resemble what his nominal masters still did in France, but was from the first a necessary part of his effort to persuade Italians of French goodwill. After holding hostage Cardinal Mattei, the Pope's legate in Ferrara, Bonaparte sent him back to his diocese with praise of his character, a warning that 'every priest who mixes in politics does not deserve the respect due to his character', and a promise of protection for religion and its ministers. He admired what he heard of Cardinal Mattei, but still found his existence disturbing. 'At Ferrara a cardinal-prince with an income of 150,000 livres gives it all to the poor and is always in church. I have sent him to Rome on a pretext of negotiation, but really to be rid of his embarrassing presence.' 8
Protection of religion was a doctrine which issued in kind words. 'It is my ambition', he told the French agent in Rome, 'to be the saviour and not the destroyer of the Holy See.' 9 He liked what he saw of the bishops, and told recalcitrant clergy to behave like their superiors. General Rusca was told not only to shoot peasant leaders in Garfagnana but to summon magistrates and superiors of monasteries and parish priests and tell them this:
As long as ministers of religion hold true principles—men like Cardinal Mattei, and the Archbishop of Bologna, and the Bishop of Modena, and the Bishop of Pavia, men who in wisdom and pure life recall the primitive Church—I will respect them, their property and their customs, as they contribute to public order and the common weal; but if their holy ministry is turned by men of ill-will into an instrument of discord and civil war, I will have no regard for them, will destroy their convents, and will personally punish the curates of villages that behave badly. . . .
He did whatever he could to stop looters or rabble from hurting churches or priests. If French officers visited Rome they were ordered to be moral in their behaviour. 'My special care', he asked Cardinal Mattei to tell the Pope, 'will be to prevent anyone altering the religion of our fathers'. When he invaded the Papal States at the beginning of February 1797 he forced a passage across the river against a crowd of peasant troops encouraged by preachers, crucifix in hand, and was sorry that the laws of war prevented him sacking Faenza 'for the crimes of a few priests'; but instead of plundering the town he summoned all the monks and clergy in Faenza and made them a speech: 'I reminded them of the principles of the Gospel . . . They appeared to me to have good principles.'
This desire to conciliate Church leaders became a habit. When Joubert invaded the Tyrol, he was given an illuminating order: 'Cajole the priests. Try to get support from among monks—though you must carefully distinguish the theologians and other learned men among them.' 10
This Corsican had touching faith in the power of priests to keep order. When there was trouble in the mountains above Mantua, he ordered the Bishop of Vicenza to send missionaries to preach quiet and obedience under pain of hell-fire, and remembered to make careful provision for their travelling expenses.
He was no theorist. But soon he was aware how the ideals of the French Revolution, in liberty, equality, fraternity, might be presented as ideals of the Christian Church. He told the Bishop of Como that equality was the morality of the gospel. A letter of propaganda to the Archbishop of Genoa had the same message, when the army had a mountain revolt near Genoa on its hands, and Bonaparte received the Archbishop's pastoral letter of 5 September 1797.
I thought I was listening to one of the Twelve. . . . How respectable is religion when it has ministers like you! True apostle of the gospel. . . . When the Church has a head like you, why has it such miserable subalterns? . . . The priest preaches revolt, murder, blood. . . . He has sold the poor like Judas Iscariot. . . . The political code of the gospel is the sovereignty of the people, liberty. . . . Prelates like Fénelon, or the Archbishop of Milan, or the Archbishop of Ravenna, make religion beloved because they practise what they preach. 11
This doctrine, that equality is the moral code of the gospel, commanded a measure of success. The ideal of democracy was so new, or shocking, to all traditional minds of the ancien régime that scrupulous consciences easily felt strain about their loyalty to a popular government, especially when the ideal of democracy came marching under the tricolour of foreign plunderers. Yet Genoese clergy were among the first to gather round the tree of liberty. Many Italian clergy were cheerful in accepting republican principles. Bishops held the Church to be uncommitted to any political order, and went on with their work in co-operation with a new government. Many preachers in the north told their people how equality and fraternity were true principles of Christianity. A few priests went further and baptized republican ideals with a religious fervour. Monks now freed from their vows and happy for good reasons to regain their freedom, some better educated clergy, joined the republican ranks and occasionally, even at this date, were known as 'Catholic democrats'. Jansenist reformers who had not been able to persuade the ancien régime to their way of church reform, looked for a new opportunity in a people's revolution. The most important of these radical Jansenists was the priest Eustachio Degola in Genoa, a friend of Scipione de' Ricci and a brilliant journalist. A few priests said already that democracy is a better Christian constitution than monarchy because it demands and furthers the brotherhood of man.
Some bishops were not so much republican as opportunist. Bishop Gazzola of Cervia flattered General Bonaparte odiously in his pastoral letter—'the unconquerable hero who wants to respect the altar, give freedom to Catholic worship, and maintain our holy religion', and identified the liberty of the republic with the liberty of the children of God, and told his flock that 'God calls you to love democracy.' Bishop Belloni of Carpi said: 'May this republic be blessed a thousandfold, to which we owe such noble doctrine, such gentle law, such justice!' The uncompromising Cardinal Mattei of Ferrara, as he witnessed these utterances which he despised, is known to have prayed this hardly Christian prayer—'Please God, get rid of these bishops who have betrayed their consciences out of fear or sycophancy.'
Cardinal Chiaramonti was Bishop of Imola, on the great Roman road from Ancona to Bologna. His sermon at Christmas 1797 is said by historians to have been sensational in its effect. The only witness who recorded, entered a very short statement in his journal: '25 December, cold day, light fall of snow. The cardinal came to chapel for mass. He preached a long sermon'. 12 So the sermon was not sensational in delivery, but became sensational when the French printed it and circulated it all over north Italy at the expense of government.
In that sermon, preached no doubt with agents in the congregation, the cardinal recalled that government is ordained of God and Christians owe obedience. Does this apply only to some forms of government, as Bossuet declared monarchy to be the government which God orders? 'Our democracy', said the Cardinal, 'is not in the least in opposition to the precepts of the gospel. On the contrary, it demands the virtue which may only be won through Christ . . . The goodness of man, found in its fulness only by the teaching of the gospel, is the immovable foundation of our democracy.' Christian virtue makes men good democrats. Christianity teaches justice, which includes equality before the law. Equality is not an idea of philosophers but of Christ when he told men to sacrifice themselves for their neighbours. 'Bring me a man who burns with love for God, and he will find the doctrine of equality before God in his heart.' Before the end the cardinal quoted even Jean-Jacques Rousseau as an authority; and finally, 'Do not believe that the Catholic religion is against democracy.' Obedience to this government will become a new source of merit.
General Bonaparte, though on hearsay evidence, is said to have remarked, 'The Citizen-Cardinal of Imola preaches like a Jacobin.'
The Church was not against liberty. Its principles fostered liberty. It was not against democracy, as some argued, because it was not tied to any political order; or it was in favour of democracy, as others (though fewer) argued, because it was in favour of liberty which democracy bestowed. These ideas were at first attractive to many. Their magnetism diminished as men saw how French-inspired democracy worked.
General Bonaparte sold French ideals to Italy while he looted Italy for the benefit of France. Tax levies, confiscations, sequestrations, pictures, sculptures, statues, jewels; and since the Church was the wealthiest corporation in Italy, to loot Italy was to rob the Church. This might mean only a more extended suppression of monastic houses, with which Italy was already familiar; cutting down of monastic woods, expulsion of foreign monks, closure of 'useless' houses. It might also mean the seizure of valuables, from jewelry which decked venerated statues to silver patens or chalices in parish use—and then forcing churches or monasteries to deliver what they concealed.
Of these acts of loot, the most shocking in Italian opinion was the seizure of the treasure at the shrine of Loreto near Ancona. The holy House, believed to be the home of Nazareth flown to Loreto by angels, and with a great three-aisled church of the fifteenth century, was one of the most frequented shrines of pilgrimage in the Catholic world. We have seen Benedict Joseph Labre lying there in meditation, before the altar in the little house, and the little crowned wooden statue of the holy Virgin, hardly more than a metre in height, with a sceptre and a crowned Child, and a picture of the Crucified said to be painted by St. Luke.
The offerings of pilgrims through centuries made a treasure. This treasure failed to please all pilgrims. St. Francis de Sales, coming to say his prayers at the shrine on his way from Rome to Savoy (1599), could not resist the thought that it would be best if part at least of the treasure were sold to enable good to be done—partly because St. Mary would like her gifts to be used to help humanity, and partly (he thought) because so rich a store could one day provoke the greed of a powerful raider. Popes tried to make it less helpless. Their military architects surrounded it with walls and bastions.
Pope Pius VI saw that the French were coming, and acted. He put the treasure on carts, and had it carried over rough roads to Terracina south of Rome, with the idea (if necessary) of sending it onward to Sicily. When General Bonaparte arrived at Loreto, he found only one-seventh of the store remaining. He reported the capture in a laconic postscript to his government (10 February 1797): 'We are masters of our Lady of Loreto.' He took what treasure remained, and the corn. Five days later he wrote: 'I am also sending you the Madonna, with all the relics. The chest will be addressed directly to you, for you to use as you think fit. The Madonna is made of wood.' The government in Paris was puzzled how to use a wooden statue of the Madonna. For a time it lay in store. Then the minister of the interior sent it to the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, with a covering letter asking them to place it 'among the bizarre monuments of superstition and so help to complete the history of religious impostures.' The department of medals at the great library acknowledged the receipt of 'this celebrated monument of ignorance and most absurd superstition'. 13
Disciples of Ricci, Jansenist reformers, might distrust the cult of relics and want reform of shrines; educated priests who learnt history might distrust unhistorical cults; but common people were offended. Such acts confirmed the worst rumours that crossed the mountains from Paris.
Another reason why Bonaparte found it hard to marry the Catholic Church to democracy lay in the need to found Italian democracies. So long as the French army ruled directly, he could fulfil his promise to protect churches except so far as he needed money. But for security, as well as for his sense of mission, he needed to create satellite republics. One by one, French satellite republics sprang into life all over Italy, fostered secretly or openly by French commanders, but spontaneous in local enthusiasm; first the Legations in a Cispadane republic, then the Legations with Lombardy in a Cisalpine republic (1797), then a Ligurian republic for Genoa (1797), a Roman republic for the Papal States without the legations (1798), a Helvetic republic for Switzerland (1798), and finally a Parthenopean republic for the kingdom of Naples (1799) (without Sicily, which was defended against French influence by Nelson and the British fleet). Bonaparte needed these republics. But he could not allow them to be so free as he wished. The Cispadane republic was founded in autumn 1796 with his blessing. But when in April 1797 it held elections, he disliked what he saw.
I've just received news of the Cispadane republic. The choice of representatives has been very bad. The priests have influenced all the elections. Cardinals and bishops hurried from Rome to guide the people in how to vote. . . . The Cispadane republic, like Lombardy, needs a provisional government for three or four years while an effort is made to lessen the influence of priests; otherwise, you will have done nothing by giving them their liberty. 14
Part of the motive for uniting Lombardy with the Cispadane republic into the larger Cisalpine republic was the supposition that so the influence of priests would more easily be controlled. Still, when the new government was inaugurated on 9 July 1797 they had a solemn mass before 30,000 spectators and a blessing of the green, white, and red flag which here appeared almost for the first time and is still the flag of Italy. The French could not set up free republics. They must choose members of a government who believed in French ideals.
Italians who sympathized with the French conqueror were not uncommon, but often were more extreme in their opinions about Church and State, or even about God, than their creator wished. In this way several of the satellite republics became more revolutionary about Church affairs than Bonaparte liked. Many of them were Jacobins who saw churches, monasteries, Popes, cardinals, bishops as the enemy, and therefore converted churchmen into enemies. In the first hectic days of revolutionary Milan the statue of St. Ambrose was thrown down and dragged through the streets, some of the churches were turned into Jacobin clubs, violent anticlerical literature poured from the press, men talked loudly of turning the still-unfinished cathedral into public offices. La Scala theatre nervously put on a scandalous ballet of the Pope; in which Pope Pius VI appeared on the stage about to go to war with the French, but when he hears of the fall of Padua flings off his triple crown and dances comically on the stage in a cap of liberty; bringing the house down by his admiration for his own legs, for the Pope's personal vanity was enshrined in the gossip of Italy. This scene was played to tumultuous applause.
The release of such anticlerical passion did as much as the laws of the new satellite republics or the looting of the French conquerors to alienate the conservative part of Catholic Italy from the ideals of the Revolution.
One change was almost too sudden: freedom for anti-Catholic writers to publish what they liked. Jacobin pamphleteers declared that men ought to feel horror at the Pope's name because the Pope was part of past tyrannies; or that all religious processions should be prohibited because they partake of the nature of political demonstrations; or that legacies or gifts to churches should be banned by law; or that schools or colleges which teach a particular Christian doctrine should be closed; or that marriage should be invariably a civil contract; or that every republic must rigorously forbid celibacy of the clergy; or even that all clergy should be abolished. Pamphleteers of Jacobin Italy were often wild and therefore possessed small influence. But that they could publish at all was new and shocking to many of the Italian people. 15
The most 'Catholic' of the new republican constitutions was that of the Ligurian republic in Genoa (2 December 1797). But the 'separation' between Church and State in the Cisalpine republic became the norm. Civil marriage was made compulsory but proved hard to enforce. The worst frictions came over oaths of loyalty, popular elections of clergy, and the banning of processions.
The republican government in Milan wanted declarations of loyalty to the constitution and knew that announcements from parish pulpits would do more among the people than their own propaganda. They therefore pressed, even ordered, the two citizen-cardinals, Mattei of Ferrara and Chiaramonti of Imola, to follow the example of the Bishop of Pavia and declare for the republic. Cardinal Mattei consulted Rome and got the answer he wanted, that he might do no such thing. Other prelates evaded the issue by agreeing to do what government wanted and then making their pronouncements in cloudy language which was too vague to be effective.
More awkward for the clergy, as time passed, were the rules demanding popular election of parish priests, for the elections, though held in church, were to be organized by town councils, and presided over by an official of the town council. The choice was to be approved by the minister of the interior in Milan. The candidate needed certificates from the chief of police and the town council. The bishop was allowed the power of conferring or withholding a certificate of suitability, but government tried to reduce this right to formality, and refused to accept that it contained a right of veto. Bishops attempted with hardly a protest to work the system. They were eager that parishes should not fall vacant. When a parish fell vacant bishops avoided popular election by appointing curates-in-charge. The government partly closed this loop hole by ordering that the minister of police should nominate curates-in-charge. But some bishops at least preferred the police-chiefs' curates to the risks of parish election at a time when politics were inflamed.
By a mixture of diplomacy and fabian delay, bishops succeeded in reducing popular elections to rare events.
On 8 May 1798 the Cisalpine republic, desperate for money, nationalized all the property of the Church and ordered the dissolution of monasteries. It exempted parish endowments from confiscation and provided pensions for religious of suppressed houses and for canons of suppressed colleges or chapters. Hence all the collegiate foundations and chapters now lost their funds, and the bishops lost their mensa. The state 'provisionally compensated' the bishops with 10,000 Milanese pounds. But when the Cardinal of Imola travelled to Venice for the new Conclave, he had to borrow his fare to pay the gondolier on the Grand Canal. 16
By none of these acts were the people much disturbed. Their services in churches continued in much the same way.
But the government ordered that its officers should not take part in religious services in uniform or as representatives of government. It banned public processions. That seemed a necessary part of equality, but came from a foolish logic. Processions were part, not only of Italian religion, but of Italian way of life. The banning of the procession of the Madonna at Imola in April 1798 had the same effect upon the people as Ricci's banning of reverence to an image because it was superstitious. A crowd invaded the cathedral, seized the statue, carried it out, were joined by clergy, a procession was improvised, the bishop followed the statue in a carriage. Government gave way, and allowed the military to take part in processions for the sake of public order and provided they were kept to the immediate neighbourhood of the Church. Then the Directory in Milan forbade public funerals. The order arrived at Imola just when they were burying a child—and no order whatever could stop Italians paying tribute to a child and giving comfort to the bereaved.
In Imola cathedral the canons appeared wearing violet copes, their ceremonial garb. Their chapter was suppressed by law, but nothing stopped them saying their offices in the cathedral, and they continued services with scrupulous regularity. 17 They used to appear in cottas. Now they added coloured copes. These vestments were nationalized as part of cathedral property. They made the mistake of appealing from the local republicans to the French general occupying Bologna, who agreed that they might keep the vestments. The republicans were offended, and arrested the canons. Three did anything the republicans wanted and were regarded by the others as traitors. The other eleven spent sixty-two days in the fortress, and were then put on trial, and were acquitted partly because the French general agreed and partly because no law stopped them wearing vestments. The canons returned to their cathedral triumphant, and resumed their services, having gloriously vindicated their freedom to wear copes. But out of prudence they henceforth stored away the copes in the vestry and wore cottas.
From the mature and conservative canons of a cathedral chapter was a far cry to the hotheads of the seminary. Ideals of revolution gained them more easily. At Milan the young men planted a tree of liberty in the seminary quadrangle. They planted with the approval of their dean, who used the occasion to bless the tree and make a patriotic and religious speech.
But no group of young men could be unanimous. All over northern Italy seminaries divided over the rightness of the oath. At Imola the quarrels in the seminary got into the newspapers. Professors who refused to swear were ejected. In their place appeared radical professors—the Conventual Franciscan Alberghetti as professor of philosophy. He happened also to be tribune of the Jacobin club. His behaviour mingled sacred with secular. At the seminary he appeared as a Franciscan, and taught philosophy with sobriety. At the Jacobin club he appeared sometimes in his habit, but sometimes in a white shirt with a red and black silk damask scarf. At meetings of the town council he wore a blue suit with white shirt and black cravat. An officer of the civil guard noted that his speeches in the Jacobin club were the best of sermons. When a friend rebuked him for appearing like a layman, he said, 'I wear these clothes when I go to the theatre.' At his convent he said mass very early every morning—that the convent was open is odd; perhaps it owed him protection. He was afterwards accused of having sung opprobrious or republican hymns under the windows of the bishop's palace. Charged later with spending nights with patriots instead of his conventuals, he gave an answer the more crushing because it surprises—'There were no patriots in Imola, how could I spend the night with them?'
Whether or not Father Alberghetti sang opprobrious hymns under the windows of the bishop's palace, the bishop saved him from being shot when Austrian soldiers at last marched into Imola.
The Roman Republic and the Pope
In this way Bonaparte's plan to reconcile the Catholic Church with democracy was made null, for the time, because Italian democrats acted more sternly against the Church than Bonaparte himself thought wise. The breach became impossible to heal when the Pope himself was caught up in the tumults over the making of a republic in Rome. By occupying the Legations and starting a Cispadane republic, Bonaparte occupied papal territory. He was under orders to punish the murder of Bassville in Rome four years before, and perhaps to end the papacy for all time, so that Pius VI should be the last Pope. The Austrian threat to his army in the north made him stop his advancing army at Tolentino, where he extorted a treaty from the defenceless Pope. Bonaparte preferred a treaty because he needed money and could extract more money from a Pope afraid than a Pope overthrown.
Under the Treaty of Tolentino (19 February 1797) Pope Pius VI agreed—the agreement became very important in later argument—to renounce his claims to Avignon, Bologna, and the Legations, to pay 30 million in livres tournois de France (partly in jewelry), to give the French republic 100 precious works of art to be selected by French commissioners, to close his ports to warships fighting against France, to send an envoy to Paris to disavow the murder of Bassville and compensate his family and to free all political prisoners. On his side Bonaparte agreed only to evacuate papal territory (except Avignon and the Legations)—while keeping a garrison at Ancona until the end of the war—and to do no harm to the Catholic religion in the Legations.
No previous Pope had been forced to such concessions. Cardinal Mattei reported to Pius VI, 'Rome is saved, and religion also.' Bonaparte reported to his government, evidently forestalling criticism that he allowed the Pope to escape destruction, 'The old machine will fall to bits of itself.' He meant that the Papal State, deprived of its only prosperous province in the Legations, must fall.
Some Romans felt as the most offensive act in the treaty the loss of ancient heirlooms—'these doctrinaire cannibals running around, catalogues at the ready, in museums and galleries and libraries'. 18
The treaty did not satisfy Bonaparte's demands. He sent his brother Joseph to be French ambassador in Rome, and several letters after him to say that he must threaten the Pope.
On 28 December 1797 there was a fracas in Rome between a little crowd of republican revolutionaries and papal troops. A bullet killed the young French general Duphot, who was staying as guest of Joseph Bonaparte. The next day Joseph Bonaparte fled to Florence. The accidental death brought decision. Bonaparte ordered (11 January) General Berthier, in command of the north-Italian army, to march on Rome.
On 16 January 1798 news reached Rome that the French army was on the march. Naturally the first fear was for the sack of the city. Three cardinals fled to Naples (Albani, York, Busca). Pope Pius VI ordered relics to be carried round the city solemnly and displayed for veneration in various churches. They were followed by prayerful crowds, and accompanied by the bells of the churches.
On 10 February 1798 the French entered Rome and occupied Castel Sant' Angelo. They took over various convents, Aracoeli, Gesù, Trinità dei Monti, and others to lodge their battalions (the monks or nuns had to find lodging in near-by convents), but announced that they were going to preserve the Church and give liberty to Rome. The troops behaved with discipline. An artillery officer who behaved irreverently in St. Peter's was punished. Once they knew that the army would not sack the city, the Romans did not mind. They looked on, not with hostility but with indifferent curiosity. No one tried to stir them to 'incidents' against the occupying force, except in one sermon by a Capuchin preacher whom the French denounced but could not find.
The little band of Roman republicans took their chance. General Berthier had a secret instruction to make a republic without letting it appear that the French made the republic. On 15 February 1798, five days after the French arrived, republican leaders held a meeting in the pasture which we know as the Roman Forum, climbed the Capitol, celebrated a political ritual round the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, erected a tree of liberty, and banners: 'Religion and Liberty', 'Sovereignty of the People', 'Liberty and Equality', 'Equality and the Rule of Law'. A clergy-man kissed the trunk of the tree of liberty, Duke Braschi the Pope's nephew laid a garland at its feet, someone handed out tricolours. The People were solemnly proclaimed Sovereign of Rome. On the document there signed, in the presence of a crowd, large indeed but without the knowledge of most of Rome, was founded the legal basis of the Roman republic. The meeting sent a deputation to General Berthier, asking for his protection. He came to the Capitol, and declared to the crowd, in the name of France, that he recognized the provisional government as the government of all the Papal States, and would secure its independence. To the Directory he sent a message: 'Rome is free.'
It was not so free that he could allow the new government to pass laws or edicts without his leave; nor so free that he could risk the ex-ruler of Rome being left in peace and honour. To Berthier's regret and embarrassment, Pope Pius VI refused advice to flee from Rome. Berthier saw that this new republican government, without roots in popular support or feeling, and with no command over anyone's affection, would be impossible if the Pope remained. To drive the Pope from Rome by force was a policy of danger in the realm of international propaganda. Berthier toyed for a moment with the idea of so maltreating the Pope that he would decide to leave. He dismissed the papal bodyguard and the Swiss, and put French sentries to stop the Pope leaving his three private rooms and to stop anyone coming to see him without a French permit. But Berthier soon saw that he must expel the Pope from Rome.
Without waiting for the new republican government, he issued important edicts modernizing old laws. A decree abolished all rights of sanctuary in churches, and the special extra-territorial privileges of ambassadors (privileges which Popes had long disliked). The French tore down, as relics of barbarism, the old scaffolds which still stood in the forum and in three squares as a warning to criminals.
On 20 February 1798 Pope Pius VI was ordered into a carriage, and sent off to house-arrest in the Augustinian convent at Siena. At towns on the way crowds, both devout and curious, turned out to see him pass. In Rome no one lodged a protest. Not a voice was raised to suggest that people loved Pius VI in his role as a political sovereign. He disappeared as easily as any constitutional monarch turned by force off his throne.
The cardinals and the monsignori were contemptuous of this 'rabble' which the French set up as a puppet government. They saw how little the common people respected its oratory. They resented that the non-Christian funeral of General Duphot should be celebrated in St. Peter's Square with guns and drums and trumpets and patriotic crowns and speeches about ancient virtues. On 25 February 1798 the slums of the city, the Trastevere, rose against the French in that revolt known as the Roman Vespers. The cause was the news that part of the French army of occupation was in mutiny at the Pantheon against the new commander Masséna, who had taken over from Berthier, and had an ill reputation with the army. It was a revolt of half-drunken men from the Sunday wine-shops, with resentments against ill behaviour of French soldiers in the streets, toasts of 'death to the republicans' in the bars, and with an anti-semitic slant, for the French gave Jews equal rights and abolished the ghetto. It was one of those spontaneous upsurges of popular passion without political leadership and with no aim. The crowd carried at their head a crucifix and a statue of Our Lady. They killed any French they met, threw some into the Tiber, slaughtered Jews whom they met and anyone identifiable as a republican or a 'patriot'. The French battalions had only to move to end the pointless uprising. By the evening it was all over, except at Castel Gandolfo and in the Alban hills, where the news sparked off killing of French and their Italian officials. When a troop advanced under General Murat, the main party took refuge in the Pope's palace at Castel Gandolfo. Murat battered down the gates with cannon, and to a man the defenders were slaughtered. For days afterwards groups of men were shot publicly at various squares in Rome, beginning with twenty-two in the Piazza del Popolo.
None of the shot men were middle-class leaders. The cardinals in the Vatican thought it a terrible mistake. It seemed to show them how the common people had no use for the occupying power and its puppet regime.
But they underestimated the republican government. The ideals which the French Revolution made powerful in Europe were powerful among the Italian middle class. The Papal State was ramshackle. A ramshackle state is pleasant for those not poor to live in, but inspires no ideals. The French held up ideals before men's eyes. To have equality before the law; to end the privileges which, in their ecclesiastical guise, were still dregs of feudalism; to take power at last to administer the finances with a plan for the good of the people; to break down the barriers put round the ghetto at night, and other disgraces of an ancient society—these could not but command the assent and elicit the hopes of intelligent and educated Romans who put their faith in French promises of true liberty. Words like justice, freedom, even democracy, had power. The antics of the orators on the Capitol, with their rhetoric about Brutus or Rienzi, were unimportant compared with this feeling among cultured and sensible men. A minority of the educated clergy—no doubt a handful, but several of high intelligence and integrity—supported the republic. Some of them merely climbed upon a bandwagon, saw a chance of money or career or self-advertisement. But others sincerely believed that the ideals of the republic were also the ideals of a Christian man in the modern world. From the pulpit of San Lorenzo in Lucina friars preached sermons that this new order was not contrary 'to our Roman Catholic religion, or to the discipleship of the gospel, or the doctrines of the Catholic Church'. The government took the trouble to print the sermons and distribute copies round the city.
Naturally the Jews supported the republic.
Rome Without the Pope
The old government of Rome consisted of the Pope, but of more than the Pope. The college of cardinals was not a Pope but it often acted in the Pope's absence, and occasionally in his presence. The republic was quickly aware that its security demanded the exile of cardinals as well as Pope. Several more cardinals disappeared without being pushed. But still thirteen cardinals stayed in Rome. At dawn on 8 March six of them were arrested and imprisoned in the ex-convent of the Convertites on the Corso; where they were followed by numerous monsignori and lesser officials of the Vatican civil service, especially the former governors of provinces in the Papal State. Two other cardinals were left because mortally ill; three others were expelled from the city. Two, Cardinal Antici and Cardinal Altieri, saved themselves from arrest by resigning their place as cardinals. On 7 March Antici sent a letter to the Pope, and simultaneously sent copies to the French ambassador and the republican consuls. This act shocked not only the Pope. In his prison at the Convertite house Cardinal Doria said 'We are the apostles and that one is Judas.' 19 Cardinal Altieri followed the example a few days later. But he was old and ill, and not blamed for cowardice and treachery like Antici. A French officer tried to persuade Cardinal Antonelli to do the same. Antonelli simply said that a soldier did not run away from his post on the day of the battle. One cardinal, Vincenti di Rieti, bought his way out of prison by paying a ransom, and was exiled from the Roman state. On 11 March the prisoners were transferred by night to the Dominican house at Civita Vecchia. Twelve days later the Directory in Paris ordered the release of all, with exile from the Roman state.
Not only had the Pope been driven from Rome, but his Curia; the entire administration not only of the Papal States but of the Catholic Church throughout the world. Two bishops in partibus were left in Rome, with delegated powers to do whatever could be done; one for the Church at large, one for the city and diocese of Rome. The secretary of the Congregation of the Council continued for a time to give rulings as though the Congregation still functioned.
The Roman republic, as in the days of medieval tribunes of the people, revived historic memories of that ancient republic which conquered the Mediterranean world. It had consuls and a senate, tribunes and aediles. Orators talked of their descent from Camillus or Scipio or Brutus.
The plight of the Roman republic, as a government, could not have been more hopeless. They inherited the empty exchequer of Pope Pius VI. Their city was no longer the goal of pilgrims or of tourists who would spend, Peter's Pence ceased to flow across the frontiers. To kidnap the Pope was to dry up the main source of Roman revenue. They must raise money from their subjects, maintain several thousand French soldiers at their cost, and give enough loot to allow the French commissioners to satisfy Paris. The task was impossible. The chief resource was wealth tax, sale of valuable objects, and confiscation of property. Unscrupulous modes of taxation had to be worked by rogues, who channelled part of the proceeds into their pockets. The paper scudo became worthless in a few weeks. The French compelled them to substitute the assignat, which followed the example of the scudo. This was not the fault of the republic, but of its guardians the French and of the papal bankruptcy which they inherited.
The republican government of Rome did nothing to make itself popular by changing place-names. Piazza di Spagna became 'The Piazza of Liberty', Piazza Venezia became 'The Piazza of Equality', Castel Sant' Angelo later became 'The Castle of Genius.' The statue of St. Michael above its keep was painted tricolour. Everyone was ordered to use the new French calendar which most Romans did not understand. The recorder of ceremonies at St. Peter's kept the old dates but added the new in brackets. Bishop Ranuzzi of Ancona, at the request of the civil authority, exhorted all the priests of his diocese to use the new dates, on private letters as well as public, and to explain to the people how the new civil calendar did not touch the ecclesiastical year. It was safer to head letters with the correct mottoes. Letters went out from the Vatican headed LIBERTY-EQUALITY, or LIBERTY-RELIGION-EQUALITY. The government removed the papal arms from all buildings. It abolished all titles of dignity and ordered everyone to be nothing but citizen; so that the members of the chapter of St. Peter's started to call themselves 'Citizen Canon', and 'Citizen Dean'.
All this irritated, but trivially. What destroyed the credit of the republic—apart from its total dependence upon occupying guns—was the inflation.
Foremost among capital goods easiest to plunder, whether by French or by republicans, were churches and monasteries with their precious furniture and works of art. Government in Paris and government in Rome were both committed to destroying or diminishing Christianity. Though the Roman republicans protected schools, hospitals, orphanages (even though religious), they began from May 1798 to move more oppressively against the Church. They banned monastic vows (10-11 May); expelled foreign clergy (14 May); suppressed twenty feasts (24 May) and abolished the legal obligation to be present at mass. A rumour spread through the city that they planned to murder every priest below the age of sixty. A Polish battalion in the occupying force gave offence by evident piety, and broke into the locked Polish church to force a mass to be said, crying 'Long live the Pope!' and (as the official complaint stated) 'other similar words, seditious in the new-born state of the Roman republic'. A law of 28 June 1798 ordered no bishop's mensa to be larger than 2,500 scudi, and in the country 2,000 scudi, surpluses to become State property but they should supplement mensas in poor dioceses. A weightier law of the same day abolished brotherhoods throughout the republic, and allotted their revenues to existing hospitals or charities for the poor. As the government had no time to make new offices of distribution, the poor lost where they expected to gain.
Brotherhoods were the core of popular religious life, of insurance, pension, devotion, and local loyalty. To diminish bishops' pay meant nothing to common people. To destroy brotherhoods was to invite resistance.
The French were not backward in pillaging goods in kind which might help to maintain the banks—for example on 4 June 1798 at 9 p.m. they removed four wagon-loads of silver from St. Peter's and a group of clergy had to appeal (successfully) for a small number of objects to enable them to celebrate the liturgy.
Of all the outward acts, removal of chalices from churches was that most offensive to the common people. They had seen it before, for special needs; but not on the scale now practised. The statue and the picture might still be holy. And if ruthless appropriation refused to spare, the people felt the crime to be more like murder than theft. Normally therefore the commissioners tried (at first) to avoid taking objects of special veneration. But at Orvieto a little riot had to be suppressed when the Virgin's silver crown was taken. Anything valuable went; censers, reliquaries, lamps, silver ornaments on statues, candlesticks and candelabra, 650 lb. of silver was removed from the Chiesa Nuova. The commissioners left what in their opinion sufficed for the maintenance of services. When the silver was collected, it was the turn of church bells—even the great bell on the Capitol which for 200 years tolled the death of Popes.
The government appointed a Commission on the Church. They placed at its head della Valle, an ex-priest whom the Inquisition formerly imprisoned for two years on account of radical ideas about the Church. On 13 April 1798 della Valle ordered the Vatican to fill no parishes in Rome because this right belonged to the civil power. He evidently sought the chance to reform or 'democratize' the Church from without. Criticized for the letter, he replied that the primitive Christian Church elected its ministers. He was forced to withdraw. The government was too sensible for so direct a clash.
Nevertheless, they sought to weaken the hold of religion in the hearts of the common people. They held ritualistic meetings of patriots, splendid military spectacles on days and at times when men and women were used to go to church; suppressed the chairs of theology at the two universities; banned processions in the street; and forbade the distribution of tickets to the faithful for their Easter communions. The clergy began to notice, not only the occasional acts of sacrilege which in the circumstances were to be expected, but a decline in the number of communicants. On 10 May 1798 a decree ordered every monastery or convent to refuse novices and any novices already accepted must leave within ten days. In June a law ordered religious houses to provide pensions for any monks or nuns who wished to leave (200 piastres if over forty years, 300 if over fifty years), pensions for nuns calculated according to the value of their dowry, 50 per cent for those under forty, 60 per cent if under sixty, 100 per cent if over sixty. As monasteries and convents were closed daily, and those that remained could scarcely buy enough food, religious were under strong temptation to accept these terms, and were freely granted lay status by a monsignor in the Curia, di Pietro, who had no precise power but was looked to in the imprisonment or exile of Pope and cardinals. The number of monks and nuns who took advantage of the arrangement was especially high outside Rome.
Among dissolved monasteries the most famous was Trinità dei Monti.
In July the government closed the College of Propaganda, in September the Roman Seminary. In January and February 1799 decrees ordered that no one but 'citizen-bishops' or parochial clergy might preach.
On 7 February 1799 the republic 'taking into consideration the prodigious number of clergy and the heavy burden on the exchequer' closely restricted ordinations to the priesthood. It also gave municipalities power to exclude, on political grounds, a candidate presented by a bishop. Municipalities were ordered to report regularly on the conduct of bishops and clergy.
The curious state of affairs was evident when in May 1799 the republican police chief summoned all the parish clergy of Rome to a meeting, and asked their help in pacifying the people on the continual want of enough to eat; and a week or two later the French General Garnier made them an appeal to the same end.
On 27 June 1799 government banned the wearing by secular clergy of ecclesiastical habits in the streets. Four days later a codicil exempted funerals and the passage of the viaticum to the sick.
The liturgies of Rome, bereft of Pope and cardinals, continued though with maimed solemnity. On 2 June 1798 Monsignor Passari held ordination at the Lateran; five days afterwards they celebrated Corpus Christi with a numerous procession banned from St. Peter's Square and perforce circumambulating inside the basilica; a fortnight later reverent crowds escorted the presumed bodies of St. Bartholomew the apostle and St. Paulinus of Nola from the church of St. Bartholomew which government had secularized (whether to make a barracks, or a theatre, or a warehouse, was undecided) to the church of Aracoeli on Capitol hill; while a canon took reverent care that a miraculous fresco of the Virgin in St. Bartholomew's should be protected from its new environment. A little congregation at a weekday service in St. Peter's was curiously watched but not disturbed by republicans dressed in tight flesh-coloured blouses.
The question which troubled consciences most was that of the oath. Article 267 of the constitution of the Roman republic compelled every official to take an oath 'to hate monarchy, and anarchy, and to be faithful to the Republic and the Constitution'. For several months no one enforced this rigidly. But as the fate of the republic worsened, and its defenders grew ferocious, consciences were troubled. None of the oath was difficult except the fatal clause to hate monarchy. For the Pope was also a monarch in exile, and good Catholics found it impossible to hate his kingship. A long argument developed between the few Catholics who had no use for the temporal power of popes and were willing to take the oath, and the many Catholics to whom the oath was repugnant. On behalf of the easier course casuists argued that the oath only demanded an 'external assent' on behalf of good order in the present republic, and not an interior assent to hate monarchy at all times and in all places, and that inside himself a man might love kings and still swear.
The argument was so tense that the Church leaders in Rome decided to smuggle out a ruling from the Pope, now in house arrest at Florence after earth tremors in Siena. Pius VI asked advice of theologians among his suite; and in September 1798 said that to take the oath was 'absolutely illegal'. It was perfectly legal to take an oath not to conspire to re-establish monarchy or to overthrow the republic, and to declare one's attachment to the republic, 'in whatever was not contrary to the Catholic faith'.
The professors of the university of the Sapienza, and of the ex-Jesuit Roman College (nearly all of them), were those who made least difficulty about taking the oath. When the Pope declared their conduct scandalous, they retracted the oath.
The number of bishops and priests who swore the oath in Italy was not so high in proportion as in France, but they were not under such heavy or dangerous pressure. And the proportion who swore was not a handful. In the diocese of Brescia 484 priests were suspended when the Austrians recovered the land; 20 and since the days of Cardinal Quirini and Tamburini Brescia was a place where Jansenists were strong. When the Austrians reoccupied Piedmont, 448 clergymen were penalized as Jacobins, which was only 3 per cent or nearly of the clergy, but to be a Jacobin was in the eyes of the reaction worse than swearing an oath.
The 'reaction' of 1799 took astonishing forms, in a series of peasant wars. Under French occupation peasant bands descended from the Apennine and murdered straggling French soldiers or Italian Jacobins. Often these bands believed themselves to defend Catholic faith against infidels. When the French troops were expelled, tottering satellite republican governments lay at the mercy of peasant armies. These pitchfork armies were savage. Wounded French soldiers from Egypt, mostly blind, were driven by storm on to the coast of Italy and instead of rescue met massacre from the inhabitants.
In several parts of Europe little peasants' wars flared; the Vendée in western France (from 1793) the most famous and one of the bloodiest, but also in Belgium, over most parts of Italy, later in Spain and the Alps. These were wars of brutality, snipers behind hedges or walls, swift retreat to mountain or maquis, murder of stragglers, pitchforks and guns taken from the enemy except where (as in Belgium and southern Italy) British or Russian ships supplied weapons; and on the other side burning of villages, taking of hostages, no quarter given, driving off sheep and horses and cattle, polluting churches, taking of corn or wine without payment, regular troops controlling towns and main roads, peasant armies making the countryside unsafe. Many priests stood against the peasants, being against violence and guerilla murder. But all over Europe peasants pushed curates into command. The archpriest of Cottanello near Rieti became one of the terrifying guerrilla leaders of north central Italy, and used both the text of Psalm 144: 'Blessed is the Lord who teacheth my hands war and my fingers to fight', and the words of the Lord: 'Let him that hath not, sell his coat and buy a sword'; at one moment strong enough to threaten the overthrow of the State, at another fleeing in disguise to the Abruzzi mountains. French commanders did all they could to enlist bishops and priests to their aid, persuading them to preach the Christian virtues of peace and obedience.
In north Italy several guerrilla bands operated under the Catholic flag. A peasant leader named Branda formed a group which he called The Christian Army, and had two Capuchin friars as his aides-de-camp, and a bodyguard of priests armed with pitchforks, mattocks, pistols, and a crucifix. He went round pillaging the houses of rich Jacobins, and locked sixty-nine republican priests in the dungeons under terrible conditions. His monks said that he saw visions and was God's emissary, but the Austrians suppressed him and his band.
The provinces of the former Papal State were troubled even while the Roman republic was still in power. French soldiers were less obvious, Jacobins fewer and so more prudent, liturgies and churches less disturbed. Towns and villages continued to celebrate their local feasts with all their customs and pomp. Terracina was astonished to see all its canons arrested in choir and copes at worship on Easter Day. The people of Alatri ran to resist when commissioners tried to take the statue of their patron St. Sixtus and were pacified when told that they could instead give its value in money. At Orvieto a truculent Roman Jacobin was seen or believed to behave irreverently to relics, was savaged by the crowd, and murdered in the piazza. In Umbria at Città di Castello a little French garrison was massacred and bloodily avenged. Prefects in the country round Terracina, afraid of violence, required curates to speak of obedience to law from their pulpits; and some of those curates led their flocks into the fight, crucifix in hand. The Terracina men took a cross from their Passionist monastery, called it their 'tree of liberty', and fought under its banner. They had always been near subsistence and in the social troubles of that age were starving. Religion was no unmixed motive. But they waylaid French stragglers or Jacobin sympathizers. At Alatri they embroidered our Lady of Victory upon their flags. A priest in Alatri (July 1798) issued a call to holy war—'My fellow-citizens, if you do not assemble with all possible force to maintain the Catholic faith, we are lost. Remember that in past ages God gave victory to men who fought for their religion. . . .
Fear nothing. As warriors of true faith, God will reward you, whether in this world or the next . . . ' 21
At dawn on 6 May 1799 columns of peasants climbed up the streets of Arezzo to the cathedral. In the square before the town hall the French commander was reviewing Italian troops. The peasants mocked the soldiers. Then through the surging crowd came a cart drawn by a pair of high-spirited horses, driven by an aged coachman. At the side of the coachman was an old peasant woman waving the imperial eagle of the Austrian Empire. The guards at the town hall could hardly believe what they saw. The old woman threatened them with gestures, they stayed silent. The cart moved on, creating turmoil among the people. The coachman and the old woman clambered out and vanished. Suddenly rumour spread through the town that it was the holy Virgin, come in disguise, with San Donato as her coachman. The bells of the cathedral tower started to ring the tocsin; and from the vineyards and hills and forests peasants poured into the town, destroyed the tree of liberty and erected a cross, and threw out the French garrison. This little revolution was no accident. An unknown mind planned cart, Austrian flag, tocsin, and rumour. Bishop Albergotti of Arezzo was famous for his devotion to the Madonna, had written four volumes in her praise and a fifth on her sorrows. Arezzo was her country.
The bands of Arezzo marched upon Florence, the armed men each wearing the badge of the Madonna hung on his tunic or in the cockade of his hat. When they seized Florence they found supporters of the French, among whom they numbered Bishop Scipione de' Ricci, once of Pistoia, living in retirement. Jansenizers were suspected of being likely to sympathize with the enemy. The Arezzo bands threw Ricci into prison.
When the Roman republic raised armies it was careful to attach a chaplain to each battalion. Clergymen need not be unfrocked to be ardent republicans. A Capuchin, fanatical in his Jacobin opinion, led a force of 350 Roman 'legionaries' against the port of Civita Vecchia when it revolted against the republic; another Capuchin commanded the guerrillas in the mountains of Fasta to overthrow the republic. Republican commanders disguised couriers as higher clergy in the hope that they would more easily carry dispatches through the countryside. The little town of Acquaviva near Tronto held out six weeks against the rebels, partly because it was guided by a republican priest and poet within the valley whom the people saw as their apostle. The Bishop of Perugia told his clergy and people (December 1798) that true peace could only be found by faith in God and obedience to the government in power. At Viterbo in the same month, when a crowd was hammering with axes at a house where republicans sought refuge, the ancient Cardinal-Bishop Muzio came out upon his balcony and brought the mob to its knees and so to sense, tranquillity, and escape from French revenge. 22 Cardinal Zurlo of Naples blessed all the republicans of the Neapolitan territory, and denounced his fellow-Cardinal Ruffo for leading a crusade against the Parthenopean republic, and said that the new government was in no way an enemy of Christ's gospel or the Catholic faith.
Cardinal Ruffo took refuge with the king at Palermo, and volunteered to lead a crusade. The satellite Parthenopean republic was proclaimed at Naples on 23 January 1799. Two days later the king made Ruffo his vicar-general on the Italian mainland. Though no one gave him money or weapons, he landed (7 February 1799) at the tip of Calabria with only eight companions, and a banner with the royal arms on one side and a cross upon the other, inscribed 'In hoc signo vinces.' 23 Within a month he commanded a crusading force of 17,000—bandits, ecclesiastics, mercenaries, looters, devotees, and assassins, but mostly peasants. It was called the Christian Army of the Holy Faith, and by its enemies the Sanfedisti, men of the Holy Faith army.
Cardinal Ruffo was the last prince of the Church to be excellently fitted as a leader of guerrillas. He understood men, camped with them, ate their food, shared their danger, demanded elementary discipline in so disordered a body, but could not prevent murder and massacre, so that holy war in southern Italy became as bloody as any medieval crusade, not least because the retreating French and republicans killed any of Ruffo's supporters as criminal rebels. By the end of April the cardinal had subdued all Calabria and most of Puglia, in June he besieged Naples from the land while Nelson and the British fleet attacked from the sea, and the Parthenopean republic collapsed amid terrible murders on 19 June 1799.
Among the calamities of this war was the death of the Jansenist leader in southern Italy. Giovanni Andrea Serrao was Bishop of Potenza in Calabria from 1782. As he was a friend of Ricci, it took more than a year and several threats from Naples before Pope Pius VI accepted the nomination. He found a cathedral in disrepair, a seminary closed for the last eleven years. He raised the money for a rebuilding of the cathedral, reopened the seminary, of which the products were suspect for their ideas of liberty. He was as strong a reformer as Ricci, and with many of the same ideas. He held a diocesan synod which is unknown because the acts were afterwards destroyed by government; but evidently its conclusions resembled those of Ricci's Synod of Pistoia. He may have been more radical than Ricci, for he wanted clergy to be allowed to marry. Under the Parthenopean republic he led his people solemnly into the cathedral and urged them to obey the new government; and at the end of his address the people cried 'Long live the French government. Long live liberty!' and rushed out into the piazza to plant a tree of liberty. Bishop Serrao then accepted the office of civil commissioner of Potenza. When Ruffo's bands drew near to Potenza, many peasants and some priests regarded Bishop Serrao as 'the enemy of the Pope, the king, and God'. Warned to escape, he said that he trusted his fellow-citizens. When the professors and students at the seminary wanted to make a bodyguard, he forbade them to arm. Very early on 24 February 1799 soldiers of the Potenza guard smashed the tree of liberty, and raided the bishop's palace. They came upon Serrao still in bed, and killed him with two shots of a pistol. Bleeding to death, he uttered the words 'Long live the faith of Jesus Christ! Long live the Republic!' The guards broke into the seminary next door, and murdered the rector as his students fled. After sacking palace and seminary they cut off the heads of bishop and rector and carried them in triumph round the city on pikes.
In Salerno counter-revolutionaries found old and infirm Archbishop Sambiase of Conza who came into the town to consult doctors. They seized him among other suspects as a hostage, and put him on board their prison, which was an English ship lying in the bay. As French troops approached the royalist leader decided to shoot his hostages. In the mass shooting the archbishop fell without being hit, and the gunmen had no time to check that all were dead. The French had him escorted to his house, where he died a few days later. 24
By no means all the martyrs were on the side of the Holy Faith army. One priest, a Dominican Father Tedeschi, witnessed the atrocities against the bodies and then the corpses of Jacobins, and appeared exalted at the bishop's palace at Castellaneta near Taranto to urge the bishop to follow the good example, and with him composed a list of intended victims. After killings on St. Mark's day, he preached in the piazza a 'holy hate' every evening for three months until the crowd stopped listening; but the source which relates these proceedings is no impartial witness. Father
Tedeschi later in life was elected Archbishop of Brindisi; where he was loved by some, but loathed by men with long memories. 25
These guerrilla wars of peasants often had religion as their flag. How far they really fought for their Church, or for their local church, or for a sacred object within their church, is now impossible to determine. As in the 'wars of religion' during the age of the Reformation, the defence of a way of worship was one, and seldom the most important, motive for taking up arms. They would never take their weapons because French or republicans closed a neighbouring monastery, or abolished a college of canons, or impoverished their bishop. They were more disturbed at destruction of their brotherhood, much more disturbed if a popular feast were silenced, or a miracle-working picture removed. If young men were conscripted, it was always a cause of flight to the mountains; and once in the mountains they wanted to fight for ideals, however misty, and with the knowledge of virtus in holy men might try to make a respected friar into their commander that so their campaign would be blest.
Peasant War in Belgium 1798-9
The French conquered and then misgoverned Belgium. Food, justice, local patriotism, desire for traditional liberties, provided enough reasons for secret movements of resistance, easily supplied with weapons from Germany or Holland or the British fleet. The leaders were aristocrats, army officers, a canon of Louvain, an abbot of Gembloux.
House by house, government closed monasteries and removed endowments. But till September 1797 the normal worship of churches continued, troubled only by the question whether the priest could make the required declaration of submission to law.
The republican reaction in Paris of September 1797 opened a more persecuting era in Belgium as in France. The law of 5 September authorized the deporting of priests who endangered public order, and imposed on every priest an oath to hate monarchy and anarchy and be faithful to the republic and the constitution. If a priest took the oath, he was despised and perhaps rabbled by his people. If he refused the oath, he saw his church shut, services banned, people deprived of sacraments, and perhaps ended in prison or exile.
To help the clergy, various civil authorities said that the oath had only a negative meaning to do nothing to overthrow the French government. On 19 September 1797 Cardinal Franckenberg, who had been forced into a quiet retirement at Malines, was required to take the oath and refused. He said he could not vow hate against any man, nor against an institution so long established by God. He willingly submitted to the laws of the republic. This refusal by the cardinal had vast influence over the Belgian clergy.
In October 1797 began deportation of priests for refusing the oath. Cardinal Franckenberg was put into the common prison at Brussels and then across the Prussian frontier. The dean of Tongres, the rector of Louvain university and others were seized so that they could be sent to the penal settlement in Guiana.
Several vicars-general declared the oath lawful in their dioceses. In a few areas, especially towards Germany, a majority of priests took the oath. By November 1797 the churches of Belgium, like the churches in France, were divided in schism. Non-jurors taught that jurors were excommunicate, their lay followers (as in France) assaulted or smeared priests who swore. Before 1801 seventy priests in the diocese of Malines, eleven in the diocese of Bruges, retracted their oaths. Government aided the non-jurors by maltreating some of the jurors. Engaged in closing churches, it soon showed that to take the oath was no guarantee of inviolability for a priest's flock or sacraments. Laws of September 1797 banned all exterior signs that a building was a church or that someone outside a church was a clergyman or monk or nun. In October government banned the ringing of bells. In November a draconian decree ordered that every priest who changed his address without notifying the civil authority was to be treated as an émigré, that is, liable to execution without trial if found on Belgian territory. On 25 November 1797 the Directory suppressed the remaining religious orders, that is, those engaged in teaching or nursing. Pious frauds kept the hospitals going in several towns because nuns dressed in lay clothes and went on with their work.
In parishes where priests were deported, the faithful often met for service, to have prayers and sing hymns—these services without sacrament were known as 'white masses'. Usually a cleric in minor orders sang the service, sometimes a layman. These practices led to the closure of the church, with seals on its doors. This could not always be achieved except by force. At Anvers on 27 September 1797 French agents were trying to stop citizens clearing 'nationalised' properties from a side-aisle of the cathedral so that the government could not take them as loot. A working man hit their leader on the head with a hammer and wounded him mortally. Although 1,500 people knew the killer no one would give evidence to the French.
Congregations continued to meet, in churchyards, streets, fields, sometimes with sentries posted to give warning of soldiers coming. When the sentries failed, the encounter led to blows or shots. Countrymen felt the silence and removal of church bells. Many church bells were removed and hidden so that the French could not take them for a foundry. The game of hide-and-seek for bells was called the Klöppel-Krieg. Another source of blows was the procession. Government abolished processions and pilgrimages, people continued to process and to visit sanctuaries. One exhausted commissioner begged his superiors to destroy the church, nothing else could stop the people going.
Some commissions behaved with tact, some without. On Christmas Day 1797 in the midst of Brussels a priest, who had taken the oath, said mass at St. Mary of the Succour for a crowd so immense that it could not get into church but packed the near-by streets. A commissioner chose this moment to bring workmen and remove the monogram of St. Mary from the façade of the church.
Few people minded the closure of monasteries. As in France the imposition of the oath divided clergy and therefore parishes. Schism created the ground for political resistance. Between September 1797 and the outbreak of a peasant war in October 1798, a violent incident occurred on average more than once a week, over closing of churches (especially on Christmas Day), processions, pilgrimages, demolition of country shrines or wayside chapels, attempts to stop feasts or dances on Sundays. But, as in the Vendée, Belgian peasants rose when (September 1798) they were conscripted for military service. In the last two weeks of October 1798 civil war broke out all over Belgium.
When the resistance mastered a town they threw down the tree of liberty, destroyed conscription lists at the municipality, reopened the church if it was closed, sounded the tocsin on the church bells (if they still hung), brought back the priest if he was in hiding, and sang the Te Deum and a mass. The French garrisons easily held, and court-martials exacted ugly revenge. Peasant forces besieged Louvain and threatened Brussels, but despite the parsimonious aid of English sea-captains, had no chance of victory at last. French soldiers poured into Belgium, and this peasant war unleashed the worst oppression of that age.
Because government in Paris treated Belgium as a part of France, and saw priests as heads of resistance and responsible for wayside murder, the suppression of the Belgian Catholics was the most complete in Europe since the wars of religion in the sixteenth century, only paralleled during that age in parts of contemporary France. Monasteries were shut, partly sold, partly demolished. Two cathedrals and many parish churches were shut and then sold or demolished. No external sign of Christian worship was permitted, no bells could be rung, doors must not be open, no public symbols nor distinctive costume; a majority of priests still in the country had refused the oath and were therefore liable to grave penalty if caught. The curé of St. Nicholas in Brussels lived in his own parish through the troubles of 1798-9 but was a connoisseur of hiding and, according to the parish registers, changed clothes up to four times a day. The curé of Sichem entered in his register this proud claim: 'In spite of the terror I baptized all the children between 1797 and 1802'. 27
About 9,400 people were given orders of deportation. Only 865 priests suffered—thirty-five to Guiana, 774 in various camps or prisons of France or Belgium, especially the islands of Ré and Oléron by La Rochelle, about forty including Cardinal Franckenberg, who continued to ordain priests for Belgium from his refuge at Emmerich, were put across the Rhine. Others went underground disguised as foresters or farm labourers or factory workers, and were not betrayed. Cayenne received only a few because an English warship rescued (10 August 1798) a load of prisoners at sea and the Directory ceased to attempt the crossing of the Atlantic. It was as well, for more than half the total number of priests (French and Belgian) deported to Guiana, perished there or at sea, and of the Belgians thirty out of thirty-five.
Inside churches were tokens of sackings, statues with heads off, broken furniture, gaps where furniture should be. In the nave of Anvers cathedral (1799) debris of altars and statues and paving and bones from desecrated graves cluttered the floor in piles several feet high. Though designated for demolition it was saved by the Anvers prefect. When churches were put up for auction their congregations sought to buy, and usually succeeded.
They tried to do the same for works of art. In several towns the authorities made arrangements with the congregations before treasures came to auction so that they would be preserved. But then they could not for the time be used in worship, and were kept either in a home or in a locked church. One curé buried a beautiful grille in his garden; famous relics like the holy Blood of Bruges were cherished in private houses. Where the furnishings reached auction they went very cheap. The altar in Anvers cathedral, famous for its carved woodwork, went for only 8 francs, a 1501 pulpit for 30 francs. At Louvain the municipal authorities, hearing that the people meant to buy back six 'miraculous' statues from St. Peter's church, secretly carted them away during the night and spread the story that they were stolen by the parishioners.
Some of the empty churches were handed over to the theophilanthropists, the cult designed by some of the Directors in Paris to replace Catholicism as a liturgy for public ceremony; with a vague deism and offerings of flowers and a strongly Christian moral code. They had temples in exchurches at Liège, Tongres, Brussels, Malines. The cult had no popular appeal; where it worked it was hardly more than a small Jacobin club, and such of the people as knew about it regarded it as play-acting.
Belgian Catholics later looked back upon these days with the same memory of inspiration as English Catholics looked back upon the hidden priests of the reign of Elizabeth I. They were days which identified Catholicism with national freedom, and so made possible the contribution of Belgians during the nineteenth century to the idea of a Liberal Catholicism.
Peasant War in Switzerland
The Helvetic republic (1798), one of the latest of the French satellite republics, was created after a little war against the forest cantons.
The regime demanded an oath of loyalty to the new constitution. Most Swiss took the oath with sullen reluctance but without riot. In various villages disturbances occurred, in Appenzell and Schwyz riot and threat of war, in Nidwalden actual war. In Schwyz parish priests and Capuchins told the people that the oath could be taken with a clear conscience and did not hurt religion; but the people did not believe them and began to arm and riot, until persuaded to refrain under threat of French invasion. In Nidwalden on the south side of Lake Lucerne passionate preachers called the people to arms. The bishop's commissioner at Lucerne vainly proclaimed the oath lawful as an act civil and not religious. But the men of Nidwalden were roused, and would allow no-one to defend a taking of the oath. An attempt by an official to arrest three priests demanded by the republic as leaders of resistance led to a little war. On 29 August 1798 the men of Nidwalden agreed to resist, swore to defend the Catholic faith and their old freedoms, and picked a general. A Capuchin preacher Paul Styger so roused them that they expected miracles to their aid, and they had reason to hope for help from other cantons and from Austria. Women armed to fight at the side of the men, wharves and jetties were made useless for landing, the 'army' consisted of 2,000 ill-armed men with eight cannon. General Schauenburg came with more than 12,000 men, accompanied by looting bands. The French suffered unexpectedly big losses in several attempts to land, and this news not only heartened Nidwalden but stirred neighbouring districts to arm. Two hundred and twelve Schwyzers broke through to join them, thirty marksmen came over the mountains from Uri. If the French had not smashed the rebellion on 9 September all the mountain country would have risen. The conquerors, who lost many more men than they expected, murdered and robbed as they came. The resistance of the men of Nidwalden was the most heroic and useless fight by Catholic peasants in all Europe, a stalwart defence aided only by the difficulty of the country and local knowledge of the mountains against overwhelming odds and armaments. When the mayor of Stans tried with a white flag to surrender the town, the French officer with whom he parleyed was shot down from the Swiss side, the French shot the mayor and took revenge in the town, not only with the usual rapes and grisly cruelties, but shooting the priest at the altar and massacring his crowded congregation of old men, women and children. Nidwalden lost one in every twenty-two of its population, many houses, a church, and eight chapels. General Schauenburg, once he got his troops in hand, did all he could to bring the people home and see that they had food. On 7 October the wretched survivors of Nidwalden took the oath.
The Revolution did to the Roman Catholic Church what the Reformation failed to do. It appeared to have destroyed its structure if not its being. The most numerous of former Catholic states was officially anti-Catholic, its parish life miserable, its priests rent in bitterness. In Italy and Switzerland and Belgium and the old Catholic Rhineland French military power transformed the country religiously as well as politically. The central government of the Church was dispersed and did not direct, so that bishops and priests of necessity decided as they thought best. Nuncios still wrote each other letters as though they had a policy, but these were words not realities, and they did not know how to pay their expenses. Poland was divided between three powers, two of whom were enemies of the Pope. Only in Austria and Bavaria, Spain and Portugal the old Josephist world of Catholic reform continued, hampered all the time by the sense of crisis and need for State money which European anarchy brought even to neutral states. Protestant historians of that moment were almost persuaded that the Roman Catholic Church had reached its end; or at least, if that were impossible among the peoples, that no Pope could ever again have the power of his predecessors, and perhaps that there would never again be a Pope.
The Directory which sanctioned the kidnapping of Pope Pius VI called him 'the last Pope'. On 29 August 1799 Pius VI died in helpless and hapless exile at Valence. At that moment many believed that they watched the crumbling of a historic Christian institution.
Personally, Pius VI was the least satisfactory Pope of the eighteenth century. He had vanity and worldliness mingled with weakness. He displayed very ordinary virtues, and could not be compared with the powerful character of Clement XI, the old-fashioned sanctity of Benedict XIII, the earthy good sense of Benedict XIV, the sweet nature and anxious courage of Clement XIII. His office was respected more than his person. But he was kidnapped and died in exile. In ancient Christianity everything was forgiven to a man who died a martyr. For the first time in many centuries this aura began to surround not so much Pius VI as the office which he occupied.
By an extraordinary overturning of the accepted order of ideas the Pope, who was and knew himself to be one of the pillars of the ancien régime, and who was identified by Jacobins with despotism, now began to represent the idea of justice against foreign invaders and military tyrannies pretending to bring liberty. A simplified view of what was happening began already to make the Catholic mentality of the nineteenth century.
The Conclave of Venice
Since 1797 Venice was part of Austria. Several cardinals fled there for Austrian protection against the French.
The oldest cardinal, Albani, had been made responsible by Pius VI for summoning the Conclave. Albani asked protection of the Austrian, Emperor Francis II, who made available the monastery on the island of San Giorgio and agreed to pay expenses. The Conclave opened on 1 December 1799. Only forty-six cardinals existed. Thirty-five (thirty Italians) took part.
The old division at Conclaves between imperial and French cardinals appeared in a new form. As they met under Austrian protection, some wanted to please Vienna; and in pleasing Vienna they were able to argue devotion, tradition, the maintenance of Catholic inheritance from the past. The ancien régime stood for Catholic power over the consciences of men, and therefore for the moral good of mankind. French Revolution stood for atheism and cults of reason and tyranny against churches. Let us make a new Pope from a cardinal who is famous for resisting the republic, perhaps Cardinal Mattei of Ferrara.
The other side, suspect to the conservatives as politicians, thought it disastrous to select a Pope because he rejected the French Revolution. Hence came deadlock for three months, while every argument of prudence demanded speedy election. At last, almost in despair, they gave the two-thirds majority to Cardinal Chiaramonti, the Bishop of Imola, though at the age of fifty-eight he was thought dangerously young, and some could not forgive the Christmas sermon of 1797 in which he baptized democracy. He took the name of Pius VII in honour of Pius VI. The Austrians disliked the outcome, refused to let him be crowned in St. Mark's at Venice, and said that they would pay not a penny to the cost of the coronation. The new Pope must be crowned in the monastic chapel on the island of San Giorgio. By refusing St. Mark's for the coronation, the Austrians registered the nadir of papal power. The French envoy to Naples, who later was the first French official to be received by the new Pope, was not warm in praise. 'The new Pope', he wrote to Paris, is all that 'is mediocre.' He wrote to Talleyrand that Pius was 'a simple, good and very peaceable man, without a mind, with a touching appearance, but without the least presence; preserving the air of the convent amid the grandeur.' 28
The new Pope chose as his secretary of state a man who was to be one of the creators of the papacy in the nineteenth century. Ercole Consalvi was secretary at the Conclave of Venice and won Chiaramonti's trust by his management. He had an enormous power of work, needing only four hours of sleep. With a Pope inclined to hesitancy, and a master of diplomacy as secretary of state, the institution was not likely to meet the troubled times with too flinty a face. Both men were conservatives but not blind conservatives; that is, they had small desire to go back to everything that existed before the Revolution, and wanted to use the chance of change to amend while they restored the essence of the old. They had at first almost no machinery and very little power, a Curia to reassemble, a bankrupt Papal State, and a revolutionary general in Italy. They began to issue bulls, but the bulls expressed more hope than real change; as when a motu proprio of 1802 'reformed' agriculture by calling it the first and greatest of human arts but made small practical difference to how men farmed or sold their corn.
By the battle of Marengo (14 June 1800) Bonaparte threw the Austrians again out of north Italy. For a moment it looked as though the Catholic Church in Italy would revert to the conditions of 1798 or worse.
But this was a different Bonaparte, no longer the servant of a Directory but nearing mastery of France. He saw that the chief hold of the Austrians over the loyalty of Italians was the claim to defend the Church against irreligious France. He decided to remove this source of disaffection. He summoned the priests of Milan to a meeting and made them a speech which, if reported correctly, was extraordinary in the mouth of a revolutionary general:
I am sure that the Roman Catholic religion is the only religion that can make a stable community happy, and establish the foundations of good government. I undertake to defend it always, with whatever means I have. I look upon you all as dear friends. If anyone abuses this religion, which I profess as you do, I will treat him as an enemy of the State and public order and punish him severely, if necessary with death. I intend that the Roman Catholic religion shall be practised publicly and in its fullness. . . .
Modern philosophers tried to persuade France that Catholicism is the implacable enemy of democracy and republican government, and hence the cruel persecution which the French republic directed against religion and its ministers. . . . I also am a philosopher, and know that in society as it is no man can be virtuous or just if he knows not whence he came or where he will go. Reason alone fastens us to earth; without religion we walk always in the dark; the Catholic religion is the only one to give man unfailing light on his origin and his latter end. No society without morality, no morality without religion; therefore only religion can give lasting foundations to a state. A society without religion is like a ship without a compass. . . . France has had her eyes opened through suffering, and has seen the Catholic religion to be the single anchor amid storm. . . . 29
Whether he said all these words is uncertain. They appeared in a pamphlet at Genoa, the version was accused of being interpolated, French police looked for a forger. But the speech suited an important bit of Napoleon's mind, and his political objective of that moment. He never denied what he was reported to have said. On 18 June 1800 he appeared at a Te Deum in Milan cathedral, was ceremoniously received by priests at the portals (for the archbishop had fled 30 ) and escorted to a stall in choir on a dais formerly laid out for conquerors and kings. Though shocked by the dilapidated state of the cathedral, still unfinished after centuries, he was proud that the rite was magnificent and the music composed by 'the best musicians in Italy'. This 'respect for the altar', he reported, would impress Italians. One of them said 'If you behave like this, we are all republicans, and ready to defend the cause of a people whose morals, language and customs are most like to ours.'
The Milanese have never forgotten that it was none of their more native sovereigns or archbishops who finished Milan cathedral after so many centuries of effort, but Napoleon.
He was a Corsican easy among peasants. His father was a disciple of Voltaire and had a touch of contempt for popular religion. But Napoleon rebelled against father's opinions, and for all his 'absence' of religious feeling was never in doubt about the power of religious experience and rites over the minds of ordinary people. His mother had faith, and he always thought of himself as her child, especially because he admired her courage and practical nature. At school he studied Rousseau, and later came to respect Robespierre with his doctrine of the supreme being and hostility to orthodox Christianity. He felt himself above the little differences of sect or even faith. When he was afraid that his better treatment of the Pope would make men suspect him of Catholicism, he wrote 'People may call me a papist if they like. I am nothing. I was a Mussulman in Egypt, I will be a Catholic here, for the welfare of my people. I do not believe in any religion, but when it comes to speaking of God' and he pointed at the sky, 'who made all that?' 31 He was not a man who by nature felt mystery in the universe, and after he rose to power was too arrogant to capture humility of mind. One of his courtiers, Madame de Rémusat, said that he paid too much attention to this world to have time to spare for the next. 32 Nowhere does he give any sense of profundity. When he seemed to be the child of a Corsican mother, or in his old age on St. Helena reminisced about the necessity for religion, he sounded at times as though he had a naturally religious soul. When he was in power he was a child of the Enlightenment and the Revolution, hard in the doctrine that religion is useful to government and necessary to the State because it brings public and private morality; but always thinking and feeling upon the surface.
He had a sense of his own destiny which at moments was akin to a religious doctrine of vocation. But this feeling seldom afflicted when he was triumphant, his success was his own, the vocation became fate when it was failure for which he could not be responsible.
He once said that he could not have achieved what he achieved had he been a religious man, and here the self-perception was both right and rare. 'I am not a man like other men', he said. 'The laws of morality and decorum could not be intended to apply to me.' 33 In the last exile on St. Helena he loved to have the Bible read aloud, sometimes the campaigns of kings and judges in the Old Testament, but often St. Paul. Occasionally in anti-religious mood, as in his dying years of misery, his mind swayed from notion to notion, he decided that Islam was better than Christianity, or that Christ never existed, and would profess astonishment that his old foe Pope Pius VII really believed. He disliked the papacy, and hierarchies, and to that extent thought Protestants to have virtue, and wondered whether he would not have done better to make France Protestant.
But this was not his usual nor his real opinion. European by instinct and Italian by descent, he was a natural rebel against Catholicism but no natural Protestant. And his memories of peasant religion in his childhood prevented him wanting a cooler or more austere religion. He once said that he preferred the Church of Rome to the Church of England because in the Roman Church the people do not understand the prayers, and prayer is a place where clarity is not wisdom. 34 One of his courtiers remembered that when he was Emperor and heard the news of some great danger or deliverance, he often made the sign of the cross involuntarily. 35 He said that he did not like to die without a confessor, and men who tried to make him argue about religion he might ward off with the declaration that in these matters he believed whatever his parish priests believed.
This profession of lack of interest bore small relation to reality. His discussions of religion were marred by superficiality not by boredom. The cast of mind and the nature of military education prevented the argument being satisfactory, not inattention or belief that the subject was trivial. When Napoleon fell from power and Louis XVIII at last reached his capital and kingdom, the new king was surprised to discover that Napoleon's library contained so large a section on theology, and doubtless more astonished to be informed that these books were the Emperor's favourite reading. Talleyrand told this to an Englishman, who thereupon asked whether Talleyrand thought that Napoleon was a believer. 'I am inclined to think that he was a believer,' said Talleyrand. 'But he had a taste for this sort of subject.' 36 Even though Talleyrand was an ex-bishop of the Catholic Church his standards of what constituted a believer were lower than those of other men. Still, so far as Napoleon possessed religion, it lay nearer to his heart than to his head. He once said that Christianity could not have lasted through the centuries without the crucifixion and the crown of thorns, and the utterance fits the memory of a child among Corsican peasants.
The French Concordat
To negotiate with a French revolutionary leader, even when he offered to restore Catholicism, was not easy for Pope Pius VII. The Pope's most ardent supporters were French royalists who must be (and were) shocked at such conversations. Bishops who refused the Revolution and were ejected from their sees were regarded as confessors of the faith, so that a Pope who was readier than they to compromise looked like a betrayer of martyrs.
The talks lasted from November 1800 until July, partly in Paris and partly in Rome, Bonaparte accusing the hesitations of Rome as dilatory, and threatening that if he did not get his way he would set up a national Gallican Church without Rome and send a French army to occupy the Papal States.
Despite the threats and even an ultimatum, the Cardinals' Congregation refused to surrender unconditionally to the terms which Napoleon wanted, but sent Cardinal Consalvi to Paris with powers to conclude. When Consalvi appeared before a Napoleon girt by ceremonial on 22 June 1800, he was told to sign within five days or a national religion would be established. Those who disliked these proceedings saw Consalvi's journey as the humbling of the papacy. Until the last minute Napoleon used a mixture of menace with courtesy, now confessing his attachment to the Catholic faith and now commending the model of King Henry VIII. After threats, and a situation described by Consalvi as 'terrible' 37, the Concordat was at last signed about midnight on 15 July 1801.
The Concordat confessed the Roman Catholic religion to be (not the religion of the State as the Pope wanted but) the religion of the majority of French citizens. In return the Pope confessed the benefits flowing to the Church from the acts of the first consul in restoring the Church and adhering to the Catholic faith. The Catholic religion was free and public, in accordance with police rules for the maintenance of order; government and Pope agreed on new boundaries of dioceses: the Pope may require existing bishops to resign their sees; within three months the first consul will nominate the new bishops and archbishops, to be consecrated according to the old forms; the new bishops and the lower clergy to swear oaths of allegiance to the State; in all churches the prayer for the government will be used; the bishops appoint the pastors who need to be confirmed by government; the alienated ex-Church property will be left to its present owners; government assures the clergy of a suitable stipend; if a successor of the first consul is not Catholic, the system of appointment of bishops and clergy is to be made anew.
The Concordat was not at all what Rome liked. Rome was accustomed to State appointments of clergy, but not to governments paying stipends to clergy as though they were civil servants. It had to accept the removal from office of bishops who for years suffered in its cause—some royalists and stout Catholics never forgave the Pope or Cardinal Consalvi for accepting this sacrifice. It had to recognize that 'stolen property' was irrecoverable (it insisted on saying that it would not trouble the new possessors and refused to declare the alienation valid in law).
In return it gained a revival of Catholic worship in France. It won also a recognition of extraordinary import—the Pope, without courts or trials or process of law and by mere decree, deposed old bishops and approved new. Never in all the history of France had a Gallican Church recognized such power in a Pope. Neither the Pope nor Consalvi wished or intended this consequence. Consalvi called it 'the massacre of a hundred bishops'. 38 One of his intelligent colleagues in Rome saw instantly what a knock Bonaparte gave to old Gallican ideas. A Pope was forced by a half-Catholic French government, for its social and political purposes, to act in the Catholic Church like a despot.
What both sides intended, and partly achieved, was nothing less than reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Revolution. The Revolution killed priests, polluted churches, kidnapped the Pope, occupied the Pope's territories. Many clergy in France identified themselves with the cause of the Bourbon king and of the ancien régime and implacable resistance to revolution. After the earlier nineties the two Popes had been careful not to identify Catholicism with the German or Austrian armies which tried and failed to overthrow the Revolution. Pius VII was elected Pope, partly because as bishop he felt able to work with the Revolution.
But no Pope could baptize the Revolution unconditionally. Those tense negotiations show what his advisers believed impossible to accept.
The two sides negotiated about different things. The Pope was a religious man ignorant of politics. Bonaparte was an able politician for whom religion was an instrument of policy. The one could not get Catholic restoration without the complaisance of a revolutionary general, the other could not reunite France except by using a Pope whom he despised.
Bonaparte was determined that the State should control the Church, and that all religions in the State should be equal. As he would never abandon these two foundations, the papal negotiators had to find formulas which would save whatever could be saved and concede the rest under tolerable phrases. They swallowed one bitter medicine with wisdom. They made no mention of the political safeguarding of the Papal States. The question of those ancient lands of the Pope, Avignon and the Venaissin, which the French Revolution occupied, was not raised—the papacy had entered a new world, for no Pope of the eighteenth century could have negotiated with a French government without mentioning Avignon. Yet even this was less important than the silence on the Legations. These northern territories of the Papal States were necessary to its existence as a state, for they contained the only prosperous or semi-industrial cities outside Rome. By the treaty of Tolentino in 1797 Pope Pius VI could not but yield their sovereignty. Yet the new Pope's secretary of state, arguing with the government which at that moment controlled the future of the Legations, refused to mention them in the argument. They kept their discussion to the religious interests of France and avoided the political power of the Pope—even though the political power of the Pope might indirectly affect the religious interests of the Pope. It is another sign that the papacy was moving out of an old world towards a new.
A gap was appearing between the religious or international role of the Pope as head of a Church and the political role of the Pope as an Italian sovereign. Protestants and others had long complained that the two roles were incompatible. The silence of Cardinal Consalvi in Paris was the first confession by the new papacy that religion and politics were sometimes incompatible and religion was the first duty. For the first time 'the temporal power' became a conscious difficulty within the papacy. The Curia remained conscious of the difficulty for a century and a quarter.
When Consalvi reached Rome, some cardinals hated the article which subjected the freedom of worship to 'police regulations for the maintenance of order' (no. 1) and the article (no. 13) that conceded Church property as irrecoverable. Consalvi at first feared that the agreement might not be ratified. A consistory of cardinals carried the two clauses only by bare majority. In Rome the Concordat was not celebrated until September 1801, in Paris not until Easter day 1802.
The Paris ratification included the 'police regulations' accepted unconditionally in clause 1 of the Concordat. These 'police regulations', known as the Organic articles, restored the control of the Church by the State on which Bonaparte insisted and which his negotiators were not able to write into the Concordat. They restored the placet, the right of government to prevent the publication of all bulls or briefs coming from Rome; banned nuncios or other representatives of Rome from exercising authority in the Church of France; made an appeal to the Council of the State the last resort in a legal conflict within the Church (appel comme d'abus); prevented bishops from establishing seminaries or chapters without the leave of government; required teachers at the seminaries to sign the Gallican articles of 1682, which made General Councils the masters of Popes; ordered a single liturgy and catechism for all France; banned feast days not on Sundays. Never had 'police regulations' extended so far. In one or two clauses they contradicted the letter of the Concordat, in more clauses they contradicted its spirit. But they hardly went much further than the habits of Louis XIV when he governed the Gallican Church. The Pope protested against the Organic Articles but made no effort to go back on the Concordat.
The gains for Catholicism in France could already be seen to be enormous. Pius VII continued to do what Bonaparte wanted. In January 1803, at Bonaparte's request, he made the four archbishops of Paris, Lyons, Tours, and Rouen into cardinals, Lyons being Bonaparte's uncle Fesch.
The constitutional bishops did not easily submit to the agreement, the anti-constitutional bishops still less easily. For a few months Rome had the danger that all its sacrifices had not settled the schism in Catholic France. In the end only two (anti-constitutional) bishops refused to submit and founded a sect of Catholics who could not accept the Concordat. Their people came to be called 'the little Church' and lasted into the twentieth century. In Flanders a bishopless group of constitutionals remained separate.
The Italian Concordat
Bonaparte was determined to make no second mistake about maltreating the religion of the Italian people. He summoned to Lyons (December 1801) a 'Consulta' of the revived Cisalpine republic. This Consulta had as leader Count Melzi, a half-Spanish Voltairian of integrity and moderation who disliked Jacobins and democrats.
Negotiations about an Italian Concordat took most of 1802 and three-quarters of 1803 because of anticlerical laws already in force, and were not ended without another ultimatum.
The Italian Concordat declared the Roman Catholic religion to be the religion of the State. Government's right to choose bishops was extended throughout, that is, the Pope lost his right to choose bishops in the Legations and Venezia. The Pope would institute these bishops canonically. Bishops and clergy must take an oath of allegiance to government but retained freedom to communicate with Rome. Bishops might ordain as many priests as were necessary for the religious needs of their people, direct seminaries, choose the beneficed clergy unless benefices had lay patrons. All sees were to be endowed. All clergy (unlike those in France) were exempt from service as soldiers. Charities hitherto administered by clergy came under mixed committees. Owners of nationalized property were 'not to be troubled', that is, persons who bought monastic or Church property were (not recognized to have a right, which no Pope could allow, but) henceforth secure in their possessions.
The Italian Concordat was much more favourable to the Church than was the French. It gave endowments for cathedrals and seminaries, and allowed the return of Church property not yet allotted to other possessors. It also allowed the clergy to retain jurisdiction in marriage.
But as in France the government in Milan supplemented the Concordat by regulations; announced by Melzi in a speech of 24 January 1804. These regulations reintroduced the old controls of Joseph II and more, on placet, appel comme d'abus, the introduction of a cabinet minister for religious affairs (this was specially odious to the Pope), assent of government required before anyone could become a monk, no monasteries or convents except those which educated or nursed.
Since Pope Pius VII regarded these Italian articles as contradicting clauses of the Concordat which he had signed, he felt himself free not fully to observe the treaty. He kept the agreement that present owners of former Church property should not be disturbed in possession; but he said that they could rightly keep them only if they received absolution from the Pope and gave alms as their confessor might direct. Thus he maintained the position, the ground belonged to the Catholic Church, he recognized its new owners as occupying on behalf of the Church.
These disagreements meant that the Italian Concordat was not fully applied to northern Italy until a decree of Napoleon (22 May 1805); by which time the Italian republic had been renamed the kingdom of Italy.
The Italian Concordat, which applied only across north Italy from Novara to Venice and Ferrara, baptized the new harmony between Pope and Revolution. Though in Germany his world tumbled, and though Italian Catholic foundations still shook, a reluctant Pope accepted agreement; and thus pious consciences could henceforth accept the Revolution, the Revolution could respect Catholic consciences as loyal. Only in the Legations trouble continued, from priests who would not allow that they were no longer subjects of the Papal States.
The Coronation of Napoleon
In May 1804 the French senate declared Bonaparte to be hereditary Emperor of the French as Napoleon I. But for several months already the Pope privately thought of Napoleon as Emperor. As early as January 1803 he addressed a letter to Napoleon's wife Josephine de Beauharnais, asking her to influence her husband towards the Catholic faith, and giving her the title of Empress. On 2 August 1804 Pius VII congratulated Napoleon on his election.
Napoleon united occasional or inarticulate religiosity with a sense of history. He looked back at Charlemagne, and imagined himself recreating a holy empire under French sovereignty. Common sense told him that victorious generals do not become hereditary rulers unless their new place is somehow consecrated. He needed crowning. The Pope should do for him what a Pope once did for Charlemagne. From Paris Cardinal Caprara besought the Pope to come to Paris for the purpose, and portrayed the advantage to a Pope so necessary to crown a new Emperor, and simultaneously reported Napoleon's threats if he refused. In Rome Napoleon's uncle Cardinal Fesch, new French ambassador in Rome, worked to the same end. Among diplomats Pius VII was already gaining the nickname of imperial chaplain.
From the first moment Cardinal Consalvi saw that the Pope could not refuse. He made as much out of the negotiations as he could, and cast in the way as many difficulties as he dared; partly to make the Austrian and other Catholic kings less discontented, and partly to get as many concessions as possible for the Church.
Not all his cardinals were enthusiasts. At a consistory five cardinals opposed the plan because the 'election' as Emperor was illegal and coronation would sanctify laws against the Catholic Church. Fifteen cardinals wanted to make conditions before the Pope went to Paris. Pius VII agreed to go, provided he were invited, provided that the Emperor would talk over reform, observe the rites of the Church, and not receive French bishops who held out against the Concordat.
The Church must gain from acceptance. The Church must lose from refusal. Cardinal Consalvi saw it clearly and convinced the Pope. The bestowing of titles in return for more freedom for national churches had always been a useful and not even cynical instrument of public policy.
But to crown a revolutionary Emperor, whose conquests might be transitory, whose status might prove illegitimate, and whose morals were sullied (on 21 March 1804 the Duc d'Enghien was executed, and many regarded the execution as murder) was never a happy undertaking. To all northern Europe from London to Moscow the Pope agreed to crown a tyrant only because he had power.
The Pope crossed Italy and France, greeted as he passed by reverent and sometimes kneeling crowds. On 2 December 1804 he presided at the rites in the cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris. Napoleon promised to protect the Churches. The Pope anointed Emperor and Empress, and blessed sword and orb and sceptre. In the old rite he should have put the crown on the Emperor's head, but by mutual consent beforehand, Napoleon took the crown from the altar and crowned himself and his wife while the Pope blessed them both and prayed; and then cannon and cheering, banquets and illuminations, receptions and formalities. The Pope remained in Paris for four months. Napoleon gave him a tiara loaded with jewelry but few legal concessions for the church; a promise to restore the church of St. Genevieve which the Revolution turned into the Pantheon, stricter rules against work on Sunday, endowment for the Lateran Palace and the Irish college and the Sisters of Charity. The Pope wanted indissoluble marriage, Napoleon insisted on divorce. The Pope wanted Catholicism to be the religion of the State and Napoleon knew the political unwisdom of the demand. Cardinal Antonelli and some other cardinals had the illusion that the Pope rendered so vast a service to the Emperor that he was able to make extraordinary claims on the French government.
High legitimists in Europe regarded the coronation as a shameful act, a degradation of the Papacy. Even Cardinal Consalvi, writing his memoirs only eight years later, wrote 'I will not mention the Pope's humiliations while he stayed so miserably in Paris. My memory and pen refuse to put down such stories.' 39
That Napoleon's predecessors the Directory should have asked the Pope for anything was unthinkable. That the Pope should be needed to sanction this transfer of revolutionary power was an astounding recognition of his utility as a symbol of conscience and duty, because he represented the Catholic ideal which still, in spite of all that had happened, was the faith of most of the French people; and from the viewpoint of French power in Italy, to have the Italian sovereign blessed with such éclat by the chief and historic Italian political power showed that the heir of the Revolution needed the Pope like any Spanish Bourbon or Austrian Habsburg of the ancien régime.
Hesitantly the Pope asked for his lost provinces: Legations, Avignon, Venaissin. Napoleon sent a courteous reply but did not specify. He suggested that the Pope might care again to take up residence at Avignon or in Paris; and Pius VII said that if he were held in France he would resign his office and become again the 'miserable monk Chiaramonti'.
In Rome men rumoured that he would not be allowed to return. He left Paris on 4 April 1805, crossed France and Italy through respectful and curious crowds, at Florence received the humiliating submission of the Jansenist Scipione de' Ricci, ex-Bishop of Pistoia, and on 14 May 1805 entered Rome. At a consistory he recounted to the cardinals 'all the good' that came from his journey. The Pope gained substantial advantages in endowment and atmosphere for the Churches of France and Italy, and averted unknown but not small damage to those Churches, at the cost of appearing before other rulers of the world as a chaplain willing to bless a despot. But before the Catholic common people his prestige rose higher.
Twelve days after he entered Rome, Cardinal Caprara (26 May 1805) crowned Napoleon in Milan; or rather, Napoleon put the iron crown on his own head with the supposedly historic words, 'God has given it to me, woe to him who dares deny!' 40
The End of the Holy Roman Empire
For a thousand years the idea of the holy empire stood for the yearnings of peoples for Christian peace and order in Europe. The rise of national states restricted its image until, before the end of the Middle Ages, it was confessed to be, what in reality it was, the Empire of the German nation. But only the head of Germany carried the title of Emperor. Since Charles V in the sixteenth century no German Emperor was crowned by the Pope. But despite the Reformation and a Germany divided into Catholic and Protestant, the German Emperor retained a special relationships with the Pope, a special task of protecting the Catholic faith in German lands. For centuries the title was hereditary in the ruler of Austria. But still each Emperor must be duly elected by the electors.
Three of the electors were archbishops —Mainz, Trier, Cologne— each ruling not only a large diocese but a state within the empire. From the end of the Thirty Years War the Empire was sometimes despised by men like Voltaire, on the ground that it was but a pale shadowy ritual surviving from a once great past. Some modern histories of the Empire finished with the coming of the Reformation, as though afterwards nothing was worth writing. But although the Emperor could do little, and what he did he could do more because of his private Austrian base than because he possessed imperial power; although the Diet gave up attempts to legislate effectively; although the supreme imperial court (Reichskammergericht) stopped working because decisions became too difficult to make or if made impossible to enforce—the Empire retained sufficient prestige as an instrument of legal right to preserve in existence many little states which were helpless militarily. Pre-eminent among these states were the ecclesiastical principalities; not only the three great electorates of the Rhineland, but bishoprics, abbeys, collegiate churches throughout Germany. Bishops and abbots were an important part of the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, less by their pastoral acts than by their 'sovereign' status within the Empire. Smaller Protestant states were not eager to overthrow these Catholic bishoprics or abbeys. To important but lesser states like Hanover, the overthrow of prince-bishoprics would mean the overthrow of an imperial constitution which also protected lesser states like Hanover.
Before France had its revolution, the constitution creaked with internal tension.
The Peace of Westphalia (1648) after the Thirty Years War tried to create equality between Catholic and Protestant and so end the age when men went to war over religion. As the treaty worked, the Catholic powers remained just in the majority—and slowly increased their weight within the constitution. This began to be in glaring contrast with the religious views of the German people, a majority of whom were Protestants.
The symbol of the tension between real Protestant power and constitutional Catholic power was Prussia. Throughout the eighteenth century, though unsteadily, Prussia rose until by the end it became a rival to Austria for the leadership of Germany. For the first time since the Reformation a single German Protestant state was mighty enough to stand, even if necessary without allies, against the great Catholic power in Germany. Not only were the majority of Germans Protestant. The structure of power between the states of the Holy Roman Empire was altered through the rise of Prussia. Yet the constitution of the Empire maintained the constitutional supremacy of the Catholic party.
The Catholic Church in the Empire, looking mellow and rich and permanent, was weakening. It was tied to a system of government which many Germans, not only Protestant Germans, began to regard as archaic and out of keeping with modern needs.
The treaty of Westphalia, which guaranteed German peace, stood in absurd contrast with the ideals of the Counter-Reformation. The see of Osnabrück had a Catholic bishop and a Protestant bishop alternately—nothing could be more incongruous, nothing more wicked in the eyes of the strict, nothing more reasonable in the endeavour to maintain religious equality within the Empire.
To live under a bishop's crook, so the proverb ran, was pleasant. The taxes were usually lower, discipline laxer, music and art encouraged. They were not very 'reformed' seen from the high viewpoint. Their cathedral cities resembled Barchester more than Calvin's Geneva. They had the quiet hierarchy and the ordered maturity of an old feudal world. But this feudal world was a large part of the difficulty. The states of Germany began to learn how to weaken or destroy the feudal customs which hampered their freedom to act.
In a state where the bishop was sovereign, his ruling work must take precedence of his pastoral work because men must eat before they pray. This made no problem during the Middle Ages and Counter-Reformation because prayer and prosperity were believed not to be different things; because in origin the bishop was but the local agent of a Holy Roman Empire; and because a feudal government made the sovereign only one of the various groups of the state and conceived his work as protection but hardly as economic guidance. The coming of modernity into the German states turned bishops from old feudal suzerains into real sovereigns. New theories of the State, practised in Prussia, expected State interference for the prosperity of the people. And the ideas of Enlightenment weakened the expectation that good harvests were connected with the moral place of a people before its Maker. The prince-bishops became a survival. Hardly any reason was left why the bishop should also be a prince; except the very important reason that this was the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, and no one knew what might happen to Germany if that constitution were destroyed.
'Secularization' meant the taking of the land of a clergyman —bishop or abbot or collegiate church— absorbing it into the state of a secular prince within the empire, and leaving the bishop only his religious functions to administer not a state but a diocese. Protestant states made themselves into strong states by this method during the Reformation. That mode of gaining power was stopped by the Thirty Years war and the treaty of Westphalia.
The rise of Prussia renewed the idea of secularization. Whenever Protestants were powerful in Germany, someone would think about getting rid of another prince-bishop. But the first idea of secularization in its new and ominous form was put forward within a Catholic state.
Like any Protestant state, a Catholic state could not modernize without absorbing prince-bishoprics. It needed to open its roads, get rid of enclaves belonging to other states, win wider powers for civil service and for police. Across the lands of the Catholic states lay prince-bishoprics and independent abbeys, athwart every endeavour to create effective administration, more athwart than in any Protestant state, which absorbed most of its prince-bishoprics during the Reformation. The Catholic state of the later eighteenth century had a more crying need to eat bishops than any Protestant, for the obvious reason that Protestants ate their bishops 250 years before.
Bavaria had once been the leader of Counter-Reformation in Germany. In this way the Duke of Bavaria eventually achieved an oversight of the churches not unlike that which Lutheran princes achieved in their lands. In 1742-3 it was proposed that Bavaria be made a monarchy and that simultaneously six prince-bishoprics should be secularized and incorporated in its land—two of them the historic sees of Salzburg and Augsburg. The project fell but left behind anxiety among bishops. Henceforth some such plan was from time to time discussed as part of a solution to the constitutional difficulties of the Holy Roman Empire. The most interesting part of the subsequent controversy between bishops and the Bavarian government was the refusal by Rome to support the bishops. Rome preferred a pious Bavarian ruler, using a papal nuncio, to maintaining the old rights of aristocratic bishops.
These German prince-bishops therefore, though the constitutional mainstay of the Catholic religion in Germany, were natural rivals of the Pope and enemies of his claim to interfere in their dioceses. When revolution came they had at first no strong defender in the surviving international authority of the see of Rome. Pacca, the papal nuncio in Cologne who fought his archbishop over dispensing rights and the validity of marriages celebrated without papal leave, said cheerfully, 'Now is the axe laid to the root of the German Church.' 41 Pacca had no desire to overthrow Catholicism in Germany, he strenously endeavoured to maintain it in all its fullness. But the fight between bishops and nuncios showed how the old German constitution disagreed not only with modern Catholic states within the Empire but with the ideals of Rome for German Catholicism.
The French Revolution destroyed all this, not so much because it was revolutionary as because its people's armies made the Rhineland defenceless by Germans. By 1797 the revolutionary government occupied all Germany up to the river Rhine and revived talk about 'the natural frontiers of France'. Of the three archbishop-electors, the city of Cologne and most of its principality with its elector's palace at Bonn lay on the left bank of the river, the city of Trier and almost all its principality, with its elector's palace at Koblenz, and a lesser part of the principality of Mainz including the see-city but not most of the diocese. On the left bank the Prince-bishop of Liège had twenty-six towns. The sees of Worms, Speyer, and Strassburg all lay upon that bank. The free imperial abbey of Prüm, and other little monastic principalities, stood under French government. A patriotic procession at Bonn ceremoniously hewed to pieces the doors of the ghetto, till then closed nightly. At first Germans believed that this was a brief occupation by foreign hooligans. They were soon disillusioned and must come to terms.
French armies forcibly secularized most of the territories of the weightiest prince-bishoprics of the Empire. A goddess of Reason paraded in Bonn.
Two motives led German governments to carry further the demolition of ecclesiastical states. They felt under siege. Hard pressed by the French they sought power more urgently, new subjects and new territories. From 1795 onwards Prussian statesmen kept wondering how to get more power by grasping more bishoprics. From a short time afterwards intelligent politicians of lesser states saw that probably they could not stop the plan. On 22 April 1798 Hanover asked Saxony to join them in protesting against a plan to secularize bishoprics, and received the reply, 'We cannot prevent it if the bigger states agree.' 42 Terrible negotiations with the French at Rastadt during 1798 forced them to see that they must concede to survive. They must hand over part of the Holy Roman Empire to save the rest.
The French argument proposed to compensate German princes for losing land by giving them the land of other prince-bishoprics on the right bank of the Rhine. This principle was accepted by both sides at the Peace of Lunéville (1801).
Some had the idea of moving the electors to new sees and so saving the Catholic constitution of the Empire. Perhaps the Archbishop of Cologne, who was also Bishop of Münster; might move to Münster; Trier, whose archbishop was also Bishop of Augsburg, might move his see city and his electoral rank to Augsburg; Mainz, which had much land on the right bank, might move a few miles eastwards to Aschaffenburg. These desperate plans to save the empire had no chance because the Empire was already breaking. It was an atmosphere of sauve qui peut. Prussia and Austria began in 1801 to occupy parts of bishoprics without waiting for anyone's leave. Even the new Pope Pius VII cheerfully accepted the French annexations by sanctioning new sees on the left bank. At the Diet of Regensburng which accepted the Peace of Lunéville (7 March 1801) the Elector of Cologne said how grievous it was to be separated from such loyal subjects but when they considered the welfare of the Empire and its people they must agree. The Bishop of Speyer said the bishops of the left bank were sacrificing their all for the Empire and ought to be compensated or the Catholic religion would suffer hurt.
The arrangement was left to an 'imperial committee' (Reichsdeputation). Prussia insisted that no bishop sit on this committee. 'It would be illogical to have the spiritual estates agreeing to their own dissolution.' 43
A Prussian force moved into Hildesheim and Münster. At this news an Austrian force moved into Salzburg, Passau and the independent abbey of Berchtesgaden. Everything was still unsettled, with consequent danger of fighting until 25 February 1803 when the Reich committee passed the necessary resolution (Reichsdeputationshauptschluss). Hardly anyone protested—the Emperor only protested that the Grand Duke of Tuscany was inadequately compensated.
The constitution of the Holy Roman Empire was broken. The German monasteries lost their place in the imperial system. 'Compensation' fell before 'appropriation'. The ancient Church of the German nation vanished in its outward forms. This disappearance was the condition under which developed a new German Catholicism of the nineteenth century.
The prince-bishops disappeared not because they were corrupt. When fate struck them, their lands were prosperous, their government acceptable, their characters honourable. They disappeared because they outlived their day. A Germany constituted like the Holy Roman Empire was too ramshackle, or too gentlemanly, or too divided, to stand up to revolutionary France. Against Napoleon Germany needed Prussian and Austrian power.
In February 1803, when all was settled, a brief from Rome arrived in Vienna, threatening with excommunication Catholics who took part in secularization. The Emperor Francis was indignant. 'It would have been better', he said, 'if the Curia made efforts for the freedom of Catholic worship and tried to get the lands into the hand of Catholic princes than to groan about the loss of temporal power and property. It is very sad, but the Catholic clergy have only come into the conditions under which they work in every other country of Europe.' On 27 April 1803 he ratified the act. 'All is lost,' was the comment in the Roman Curia. 'The looters are Catholics as well as Protestants.' 44
The bishoprics fell without resistance. A Bavarian regiment from Munich held a parade with trumpets and drums in the near-by see-city of Freising, removed the bishop's arms from the city hall, and held solemn Te Deum in the parish church. The Prince-bishop of Augsburg, humiliated as were few others by the conditions under which he lost his principality, went on living in his palace with court ceremonial. In Eichstätt, the Bavarian commissioner who came to rob the bishop of his principality, reported that the bishop behaved 'like a father handing over the inheritance to a son'. 45 The prince-bishop was anxious that the new authority should honour his commitments to charitable institutions. The citizens saw the bishop's arms taken down but hardly minded for they were relieved not to be put under Protestant Prussia. Formal protests were made by bishops, abbots, and Rome. But the ecclesiastical states were defenceless, and the people did not care. After a few years no one wanted to go back to the old system. When Napoleon fell the Congress of Vienna hardly considered the restoration of the German prince-bishoprics. For political reasons it restored only one prince-bishopric of the ancient Holy Roman Empire—the Papal States in central and northern Italy, an act which left one of the most unstable areas in an otherwise successful peace treaty. But even before the peace treaty, the bishoprics faded into the historic past of vanished Germany.
To general experience that common people did not mind, came important exceptions: Catholics now under Protestant rule; Catholics lately under ecclesiastical rule and now under Catholic but Josephist rule; and a Rhineland under French conquest.
At the Peace of Augsburg (1555) and the Peace of Westphalia (1648) Germany solved its religious problem by putting Catholics and Protestants into different states. This solution was not fully maintained throughout the eighteenth century. Prussia under Frederick the Great occupied Catholic Silesia and proved that a Protestant government could tolerate Catholic subjects. War put Catholic rulers into a Protestant Palatinate and careful legal arrangements enabled the two faiths to live in peace. But Germany had never before tried the mixture of denominations which now it must attempt to make harmonious. Vast numbers of Catholics, formerly the subjects of prince-bishops, passed under the rule of Protestant sovereigns. They were nervous. Though the prince-bishopric of Paderborn was worse governed than any other state of Germany, its inhabitants resented the coming of Prussian bureaucrats. Münster in Westphalia was sullen at Prussian occupation, peasants in the Suabian hills felt it wrong when they found themselves under a Protestant King of Württemberg.
Germany had to try toleration on a scale never before practised. The states issued edicts of toleration. Protestant princes did all they could to reconcile their new Catholic subjects. In many ways Catholic churchmen did better in the Protestant states than in a Josephist state like Bavaria because the Protestant sovereign felt the need of doing more to retain their loyalty.
These edicts of toleration helped Catholics, especially in Prussia. They somewhat displeased Rome; for though Catholics now had the right of building churches in Protestant areas, Protestants had the right to build churches in solidly Catholic areas. 'Toleration', or rather the mixture of population which forced it, could only mean a deepening of antipathy and gulf between Catholic and Protestant. It meant a return to public argument, to controversial sermons, to fight for public opinion. Nor was toleration the same as equality. Prussia, however fair in law to its Catholics, treated them as second-class citizens throughout the nineteenth century.
The old world refused to disappear overnight. Benedict Werner, the last abbot of Weltenberg, argued strenuously against the lifting of the ban on Protestant immigrants into Bavaria—'We need their example as little as their doctrine.' 'What difficulties are entangled with the education of their children . . . ' 46
Catholic peasants under Catholic Josephist rulers suffered more, and here came the only physical clashes to arise out of the fall of prince-bishoprics. Protestant rulers did not care if Catholic peasants were superstitious, they assumed that credulity and magic were natural to Catholics.
Strong reforming Catholics were determined to resist the evil and found among the peasants in their new lands the same cults connected with pilgrimage, statues, pictures, or relics which they were already trying vainly to eradicate in their own lands. Therefore peasants, lately ruled quietly by honourable and friendly if Barset-like bishops, found themselves deprived of monasteries, losing sacred pictures, stopped from beloved pilgrimage. Bavaria under the minister Montgelas was offensively bureaucratic and mean-minded in dealing with the credulity of countrymen. At a Munich gate pilgrims rioted and fought the police when they returned to the city after a pilgrimage to the monastery at Andechs, which authority had banned. The most shocking thing, not only to peasants, were orders to open venerated graves to remove relics.
Such evidence as exists points rather to an increase of superstitious cults during those years. 47 Perhaps this was a social phenomenon like the rapid rise in illegitimate births during the same years, due to the unsettled conditions in an age of war and perhaps in a certain mental disorientation at a time when monasteries were dissolved and peasants changed landlords. But peasant social and economic life hardly altered. The possessors gained from the sales of monastic lands, not the peasants.
On the left bank of the Rhine the old Rhenish churches followed the fortunes of the French church. We know what happened to the monasteries and nunneries in Cologne. Two of the houses became government offices, at least fourteen became factories or warehouses, two were turned into barracks. Four churches were demolished. Because many churches stood empty it was easy for parishes to acquire more convenient or splendid buildings for worship. The bishop (under French rule at Aachen) reformed the entire parish structure into new parishes, using seven old parish churches, six old collegiate churches, and five chapels of suppressed monasteries. The people were not allowed to go on pilgrimage (pilgrimages began again in a small way in 1811), preachers were stopped from holding missions ('local clergy are good enough, we don't need outside preachers'), 48 no outward sign of worship might appear on the streets. The French Concordat permitted four feast-days, but many workers in Cologne continued to keep the old feasts. The money from the twenty-three suppressed brotherhoods was used for church fabrics. The people did not seem to mind the law of civil marriage, church marriage lost little in importance.
All this changed the atmosphere of the city. Formerly it was known as holy Cologne, its soil hallowed by the relics of the three wise men, a city filled with churches and monasteries and brotherhoods, its streets familiar with processions and pilgrimages. Its atmosphere almost disappeared. The French forced the city to take a long step on the road towards a town of modern industry.
The worst damage fell upon culture. The prince-bishops maintained a lot of little courts; with choir, musicians, librarians, painters, architects. The repairers of baroque and rococo churches lost employment. The monastery of Niederaltaich in Bavaria employed 200 people before its suppression, some of whom at least would need to move house if they were to find employment. 49 The monastery of Aldersbach in Bavaria employed a man to repair the walls, glazier, secretary, smith, cobbler, valet, weaver, hat-maker, laundress, ironer, two bakers, miller, a huntsman, fisherman, bird-trapper, two cooks and two head-gardeners, brewer, cooper and assistants at the brewery, male-nurse, bath attendant, servant to guests, shepherd, herdsman, swineherd, poultryman, potter, porter, tailor, butcher, waterman, carter, ostler, greengrocer; many of whom certainly had families, and except for the farm-workers were now unemployed.
Secularization left one prince-bishop—Dalberg, formerly Bishop of Constance and then Archbishop of Mainz and a friend of Napoleon. The Emperor must still be crowned, therefore a German primate must exist to crown. Since the German Diet met at Regensburg, Dalberg was moved from Mainz to Regensburg and became the Primate of all Germany, with a territory of his own round Regensburg and Aschaffenburg.
The Holy Roman Empire had no future. It now consisted of certain outside states with German provinces (Austria, England, Denmark, Sweden), more interested in national welfare than in Germany; of former German powers now swollen with bishoprics or abbeys and therefore able to pursue an independent policy apart from the empire (Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg); and small states which still needed, but in new circumstances could not get, imperial protection. During the last 150 years the Holy Roman Empire had as its chief raison d'être the balancing between divided religions and therefore maintaining German peace. Secularization overthrew the balance, and with it the reason for empire to exist.
On 10 August 1804 the fall of the Empire was marked when the Emperor formally declared the imperial title now to be hereditary in Austria. The reason for this unconstitutional and unilateral step lay in reaction to Napoleon. Hitherto Europe knew only one Emperor of the West, the Holy Roman Emperor, in theory the protecting sword of Christendom and after the Reformation the protecting sword of Catholicism. But on 18 May 1804 Bonaparte was solemnly declared Emperor of the French. A historic word emperor was devalued to mean king of an important nation. Hence the Holy Roman Emperor made himself Emperor in Austria. The Austrians argued that the election was now ritual act and no one lost if the title were declared hereditary. But it marked the withdrawal of Austria from German responsibility into the Austrian lands.
In 1806 Dalberg saw one way of saving the Holy Roman Empire—by offering the crown to Napoleon. This desperate remedy he pursued by desperate means.
Napoleon hesitated over the idea for a month or two. Then he decided against, and compelled the German states to form the Confederation of the Rhine. The Holy Roman Empire existed no more. Dalberg, last holder, (31 July 1806) resigned the office of Arch-chancellor of the Empire. By an ultimatum Napoleon forced the Austrian Emperor to resign, before 10 August, the imperial title of the Holy Roman Empire.
On 6 August 1806, from the balcony of the church of the Nine Choirs of Angels in Vienna, the imperial herald made amid fanfares the last proclamation of a Holy Roman Emperor—that Francis II, by God's grace elected Roman Emperor gave notice to his people that he had decided to lay down his imperial crown and declare the end of the Holy Roman Empire. It was the end of centuries of Christian history.
Perhaps the end of so historic a state, wrapt with the ideas of Europe and Christendom, was less important than the secularizations which made it inevitable. Perhaps its death stripped Germany of illusions and forced Germans to live in the real world. These names and titles, however historic, have intangible consequences in men's minds which no historian can define. Like the papacy, the Holy Roman Empire was a form of continuity between modern Europe and the ancient Roman Empire out of which it grew. Some mysterious weakening of the Roman tradition happened at the revolution, for all Napoleon's reading of Plutarch and talk of himself as the new Charlemagne. Europe's notion of a league of nations rested hitherto upon a Catholic sovereign, the reason for whose existence was the protection of Christendom. If it succeeded in constructing any new form of league of nations, that source of international authority would not be so integrated to the ideals of Christendom. And what happened was a new stage in the old confrontation between Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Always hitherto the supreme ruler of Germany had been a Catholic. Within a few decades of secularization he was to be a Protestant.
The Monasteries in Württemberg
The secularization of monasteries is best illustrated from the hitherto Protestant state of Württemberg.
The new powers took possession with solemnity, a parade of troops, a ceremony at the city hall, with speeches about the new head of state, and a Te Deum in the cathedral or abbey. If it was a monastery, a commissioner appeared, summoned the community, read them his patent, released officials from their old oath of allegiance, took an inventory of furniture that nothing be alienated, (at some houses took away the furniture, at others only the silver and valuables), told the monks what was decided about their future, and (if the house was to be dissolved at once) explained the provision of pensions.
Unwanted valuables were sold at auction. Protestant churches needed more chalices and bought silver, sometimes a crucifix. No one wanted vestments, which fetched such low prices at dealers in old clothes and embroidery, that two decades later the department of antiquities tried to repurchase what they could find in the stores. Pictures went to State museums and gave excellence to the Stuttgart collection. Several monasteries had libraries of rare quality, which now made the foundation of the scholarly state libraries in Stuttgart.
The size of house made a difference.
A tiny house was easier than a big flourishing community. At Ellwangen the commissioners found four old ex-Jesuits still living in the former Jesuit house, and turned them out to make a barracks. The Carmelite house at Heilbronn had three priests and only two others. But the Benedictines of Zwiefalten had forty-three priests and eight lay brothers, the Cistercians at Schönthal thirty-five priests and two lay brothers. In these larger houses the expense of pensions and the finding of employment made difficulty for government, which failed to fulfil the Reich agreement on minimum pensions and worked eagerly, not to say avariciously, to reduce pensioners by pressing them into new work. From 1803 curates found it harder to be appointed to parishes because the posts were filled with ex-monks.
The suppressed dean of Ellwangen later became Bishop of Augsburg, several of his men became canons of Augsburg, government erected at Ellwangen (1812) a seminary and a Catholic university with five chairs of divinity. Five years later the Catholic theological faculty moved to Tübingen where it is to this day. When the elector visited Ellwangen in July 1803 the clergy gave him an ovation.
Nuns could seldom find suitable work and their communities were on average larger. They were usually allowed to continue in their nunnery. Government set up a Church committee to oversee these proceedings. Its leader from 1807 was Benedikt Werkmeister the ex-Benedictine. Werkmeister represented a radical type of Catholic reformer in the Enlightenment: keep out interference from Rome, reduce superstition among peasants, limit pilgrimages and saints' days and relics, achieve a high or at least less low level of education among priests, and where possible turn the liturgy from Latin into German.
These ideals were not disliked by some of the ex-monks, and nuns made little fuss when told to say their office in German. But the convents were now ageing groups of women without novices, naturally conservative, and obedient to, but irritated by, orders to innovate in their chapel. The ex-Capuchin friars of Ellwangen helped in pastoral work and sermons and hearing confessions, and were loved by the people, and suspect to Werkmeister as promoters of superstition. But their little Capuchin community, swollen for a time by refugees from other Capuchin houses, was allowed to last till 1829.
Occasionally the sources show personal tragedy. The flourishing Benedictine house at Zwiefalten had numerous priests, a group of students in higher education, and a high school. Abbot Gregory was given a fat pension and free apartments in a castle. But he was deeply hurt, and could not quite believe in the end of his abbey. In his castle he was lonely and got leave for another monk to share his life. He lived simply and used his pension to support other ex-monks or the poor. The thirteen years of retirement before death came were sad. Of his monks, ten became parish priests, others became chaplains to nunneries, others schoolmasters. The abbey church was closed till 1812, when it was reopened as the parish church for Zwiefalten. Its huge and famous organ, of which the biggest pipe was 32 feet high, was taken for the royal church in Stuttgart. In the end the monastery buildings were used as a lunatic asylum.
Nuns stayed together longer. Usually they were allowed part of their convent buildings, the less valuable furniture, a vegetable garden, some cows for milk and butter, and one of the ex-monks as a confessor. At Heiligkreuzthal they were allowed to keep two horses and 'the yellow cart'. Any nun who wished could go, but few nuns left their communities. Enclosure vanished, families could freely visit, they often accepted German liturgies. Their trials were various but not unendurable. Some were impoverished on inadequate pensions. If abbess or prioress or confessor died, the choice of a new one in an ageing society gave cause for much anxiety. Worst was the lowering of morale because they could not receive novices, and as they became a group of old ladies watching each other grow ill or senile.
At Rottenmünster (Cistercian) the last survivor was not forced out of the convent till 1850, when the convent garden became for a time the place of execution of condemned criminals. At Heiligkreuzthal (Cistercian) the four survivors, always more uncomfortable, asked in 1843 to abandon their common life. The Franciscan nuns of Margrethausen were more quickly dissolved, for after only a few years they felt the house full of noise, men wandered round inside as they liked, the nuns' sense of unity and discipline vanished, they could not bear their parish priest and so (1811) asked to leave, and at once put off their habits.
By contrast the Franciscan nuns of St. Ludwig kept themselves happy by starting a school, where they taught the girls knitting and drawing and needlework. The last survivor died in 1860 at the age of ninety-five.
Where government commandeered buildings and offered to move the survivors to another convent, the nuns sometimes preferred to remain in their village and move into lodgings and lay clothes in small groups. A community of nuns at Gmünd maintained their common existence in lodgings.
Where popular affection fastened upon a holy object—the body of a saint in a convent tomb, the wonder-working picture of St. Mary at Rottweil—these were treated reverently and moved to a neighbouring parish church. The famous picture of the Virgin in the Capuchin lady chapel at Mergentheim stood above the high altar and is venerated there to this day; though the monastery was soon empty. But at the Benedictine house of Weingarten a precious reliquary of the holy Blood vanished quietly during the dissolution.
In one place dissolution caused riot and death. When the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order secularized his estates in the Reformation to found Prussia, the headquarters of the Teutonic Order moved to Mergentheim in south-west Germany. Here lived a president and his cabinet and an excess of officials administering the still numerous estates of the order. Many of these lands lay on the left bank of the Rhine and were therefore lost to the French. In the course of war part was allotted (1805) to Austria and the rest (1809) to Württemberg. The people began to resist the new conscription by violence. When a preacher prayed for the King of Württemberg, he was shouted down and none of the sermon could be heard. Officers of the Teutonic Order stopped the worst excesses, but Mergentheim endured a sack and some executions.
Men would not fight because they were changed from the rule of a bishop or abbot to the rule of a king. They resigned themselves to higher taxation, or the loss of some privileged trading. If they fought at all they fought because an ecclesiastical ruler did not conscript and the French taught kings how to conscript. 50
But Protestant sovereigns were kinder than Catholics. They acquired, sometimes for the first time, a state mixed in religion, and must be seen to behave justly to their non-Protestant subjects. They had good political reasons for fair dealing. Catholic sovereigns could behave more high-handedly to Catholics because no one could suspect them of acting thus by reason of their heresy. Bavaria occupied the bishopric of Freising and the bishop died within a year. Bavaria kept the see vacant for eighteen years. The fall of these great German prince-bishoprics had a special aspect which was not ecclesiastical. It was part of the downfall of aristocrats all over Europe.
The people of the ex-bishopric suffered a little. A capital became a provincial town. They lost their little court, the attractions of a court, the ceremonial occasions, the distinguished visitors; they lost employment for the same reason, and the number in need of poor relief rose. But from another point of view Freising had no special claim but history to its endowments, and these were better used if spread more thinly across Bavaria. And Catholic rulers had precedent. Austria and Bavaria already had Josephist machinery at work. Accustomed to dissolving monasteries, they need create small new management to do what they must.
Napoleon and Italy
Napoleon was called King of Italy. But Italy extended only so far south as Ancona, where the Pope (just) ruled his territories, and beyond the Pope King Ferdinand the Bourbon ruled in Naples and Sicily. But the King of Italy saw himself as King of Italy, and regarded Pope and King of Naples as his vassals. A medallion was issued with the Latin inscription, Napoleon rex totius Italiae.
The argument between real power and legal power in Italy ended the precarious harmony between Pope and Emperor.
The behaviour of the Italian government in north Italy, and the way it carried out or failed to carry out the terms of the Concordat, was the first source of strife. Then Napoleon asked the Pope to declare null the marriage of his brother Jerome to an American Protestant, but the Pope found no ground of nullity and stuck to his opinion (Napoleon, not Jerome, was against the marriage, which had a child born in London). Jerome's marriage was then annulled by a Paris court.
Then the Pope allowed Rome to be a refuge for the left-wing Lucien Bonaparte who fled from his brother. The hunt for four men wearing tricolour scarves who murdered two sellers of cucumbers on the Piazza Navona in Rome led to a war of words and notes between the French ambassador Cardinal Fesch and the secretary of state Cardinal Consalvi until Consalvi could hardly be stopped from resigning.
But the worst friction was the European war. Napoleon thought the Papal States to be part of the French empire, the Pope thought that the Pope was neutral. Napoleon needed to control the ports of Europe. The battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805) laid Europe at the feet of Napoleon.
To the existence of the Papacy as an institution neutrality between warring Catholic powers had not always been necessary. High medieval Popes organized campaigns against Emperors, armies of Renaissance Popes weighed in the balance of power as the French struggled for Italy, in the early eighteenth century Pope Clement XI had an army fighting the Austrians at Ferrara, in the winter of 1796-7 a papal army vainly fought Bonaparte. But this possibility of military action became remote because useless in the new structure of power, more remote because it conflicted with high priestly ideals of the Counter-Reformation. As Europe became a battlefield between mighty forces the Pope could not take sides.
Austria and France were both full of Catholics. Even if Austria were right in claiming that the French were aggressors, the Pope could only hurt Catholics in France by being seen to side with the Austrians. To be neutral in a conflict between Catholic powers became necessary to sane policy in Rome. For this very reason Cardinal Chiaramonti was elected Pope in 1800 so that he might not look like a Pope in the pocket of the Austrians.
This necessity of neutrality applied more widely than in conflict between Catholic powers. France was (mostly) Catholic, England was Protestant and Russia schismatic. Temporary advantage might come to the papacy as a worldly institution by backing a Catholic Emperor against non-Catholic enemies.
But the Emperor of the French was not Catholic enough for this purpose. Even if he were, no Pope in all history could want one power to dictate to Europe. He needed the English though they were heretics and the Russians though they were schismatics. And the Counter-Reformation raised priestly ideals which applied also to Popes; and then the free critical air of the age of Enlightenment doubted whether Popes might morally be soldiers. Too many people in the world, too many priests in the Catholic Church, too many cardinals in Rome, were repelled by the idea of martial stirs issuing from the lips of the vicar of the Prince of Peace.
The option of calling for a crusade almost ceased to be open to Popes.
Pope Pius VII (21 March 1806) told Napoleon that to exclude Russians and Englishmen from the Papal States made him a belligerent, contradicted his mission of peace, destroyed his links with Catholics of every country, and could not be reconciled with his independence as Pope:
Your Majesty is immensely great, but you are elected, crowned, recognized as Emperor of the French and not as Emperor of Rome. No Emperor of Rome exists. No Emperor of Rome can exist without destroying the absolute power of the Pope in Rome. There is only one Emperor of the Romans; but this title all Europe including your Majesty recognize as belonging to the Emperor of Germany . . . and this is only a title of honour and does not lessen the real and apparent independence of the Holy See.
Despite these courageous words the British ambassador must leave Rome; through the city spread rumours that soon the Pope would be forced to Avignon and the Papal State would become French; Consalvi was driven to resign from being secretary of state; the Pope talked of retiring to a monastery to die, or to the catacombs. He at last (1807) allowed his ports to be closed against English ships, there was talk of turning the Emperor of the French into 'the Emperor of the West' with a coronation in Rome, and many of the Curia welcomed the idea as a way of getting better terms for the Church. French demands went on mounting, that the Pope should adhere to the military alliance against England, and allow Gallican liberties to the French Church, and abolish monks in Italy, and extend the Italian Concordat to Venice, and make far more French cardinals, and agree a Concordat for Germany, and renounce his ancient claims to Naples. 51 Pope Pius VII only reserved his rights on two matters, on going to war at the side of Napoleon, and on making cardinals. He agreed to all else, yielding with misery.
The numerous and extraordinary concessions failed to prevent the French army occupying most of the Papal States in November 1807. The Pope reached sticking point. On 9 January 1808 the French foreign minister Champagny sent an ultimatum; unless the Pope accepts the military alliance against England, and makes a third of the cardinals French, and recognizes Joseph Bonaparte as King of Naples, the Emperor will abolish the Papal States. The Pope (28 January 1808) refused either to join the alliance or to make so many French cardinals. General Miollis occupied Rome five days later (2 February).
Pius VII was in a state of religious exaltation. He told the French that he regarded himself as a prisoner and refused to leave the Quirinal. He ceased to care for the political or diplomatic interests of the Church, compared Napoleon to the Roman persecutor Diocletian and expected schism. In the streets of Rome an alleged saying of the Pope was passed: 'My predecessor lived like a lion when in prosperity but died like a lamb. I have lived like a lamb, but know how to defend myself and die like a lion.' 52
The French drove most of the cardinals out of Rome, including three pro-secretaries of state in succession, enlisted the Swiss guards into the French army, and disarmed the sentries at the Quirinal. Cardinal Pacca, the third of the pro-secretaries, was being ordered out of Rome when the Pope arrived almost beside himself, told him to disobey, and drew him aside into his private apartments, where the pair kept themselves like close prisoners.
They thought of escape. Two British warships in succession lay off Ostia in case the Pope should wish to flee, and one secret messenger was caught by the French and shot.
The Pope ordered bishops and clergy not to obey, the French expelled or imprisoned or fined clergy who disobeyed. The French determined to celebrate the carnival, the Pope declared a carnival inappropriate to sad times, and the crowds failed to appear on the streets.
The fight of wills could have only one end. On 17 May 1809 Napoleon annexed the Papal State to the French empire, offered the Pope an increase of income, and declared Rome an 'imperial free city'. On 10 June the papal flag ceased to fly on Castel Sant' Angelo and the tricolour flew in its place. Napoleon wrote to Murat in Naples, 'If the Pope preaches rebellion, against the spirit of the gospel, arrest him.'
Cardinal Pacca went to the Pope and asked him whether he would publish the bull of excommunication drafted some time before by two cardinals. Pius VII hesitated and then agreed. The bull Quam memorandam imposed the greater excommunication on all who took part in the occupation of the Papal States. It mentioned no name but included all 'however high in rank'. Without mentioning Napoleon's name, it compared him to King Ahab taking Naboth's vineyard. It was nailed in broad daylight to the door of St. Peter's, Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Lateran, but was quickly torn down and had small consequence even in Rome.
Early in the morning of 6 July the French burst into the Quirinal palace and disarmed the Swiss, who had orders not to resist. Baron Radet asked whether he would abdicate his monarchy of the Papal States. The Pope said gently that he could not. Radet pressed him until he stood up with dignity and said 'I cannot, must not, will not. I promised God to hold the States of the Church. I will never break my oath. I would rather die. I would rather give the last drop of my blood.' Radet said that he must put him under arrest. Pius VII asked whether this was the return for all the services he had rendered to the Emperor and to France. Radet allowed half an hour to pack. He suffered no one but Cardinal Pacca as companion. A closed carriage took them both unobserved to the Piazza del Popolo where post-horses were harnessed for the Florence road.
Some informed neutrals thought that the French had no alternative. Napoleon was surprised at the arrest, had not intended his vague general order to be so interpreted, but did not blame his officers. Their decision made his Italian work easier, apparently.
By Florence, Pisa, Genoa, Alessandria, Turin, and over the Mont-Cenis to Grenoble the Pope went at last to Valence. There the people and incoming pilgrims illuminated the streets and hung garlands and sang hymns in front of his lodging. On 17 August 1808 he reached Savona exhausted. He remained there three years under house arrest.
He lived in the bishop's palace, and the Emperor ordered comfort. Napoleon offered a large annual income to maintain him in splendour but he would not accept. He refused to go out, or accept invitations from French officers, or hear public mass. But he accepted gifts of food from the countryside and money from friends, and managed to get out at least some letters.
The French thus kidnapped two Popes in succession. It looked as though history was repeated. But the fate of Pius VII had different consequences. Pius VI was eighty years old when mishandled, already a half-broken man, had not been a good Pope, and ruled an institution not respected among European cabinets, the last episode of the eighteenth-century papacy. Pius VII was sixty-six when he was taken and had yet much life. Though not a clever man, nor a subtle politician, he was a quiet man of prayer, more of the stuff of martyrs. It had been said that Napoleon could probably have broken high Popes of the Middle Ages, a Gregory VII or a Boniface VIII. Pius VII was too humble or too unpretentious a character to make a thunderous duel of sovereign authorities in which he must fall. And during the previous decade Napoleon, for his own purposes, raised the prestige of the office. Imperial power in France rested first upon the magic of a great military commander but second upon the gratitude of the French people for a saviour from anarchy, a revolutionary ruler who yet reconciled himself with their Catholic tradition. Catholicism was more important, both to the French and to the enemies of the French, than in the days when Pope Pius VI was prisoner. From his palace-prison, Pius VII exercised an invisible influence which Pius VI never possessed. This was not chiefly due to the differences in the two characters. The environment of European opinion had changed. Napoleon held a captive a little more dangerous than the captive seized by the Directory, and more dangerous by reason of Napoleon's own acts.
The Pope of 1870 was to be much more powerful, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, than the Pope of 1770. The powers of 1770 could force a Pope to destroy the Jesuits. By 1870 no conceivable combination of powers could drive the Pope to such an act.
This change in the papacy as an institution had many causes. But what Napoleon did had weight. Though just pious enough and crudely historical enough to respect the place of Catholicism in society and therefore the papacy, he half-despised the Pope as chaplain and tool in his political machinery. For private policy he raised the Pope so that men saw how Popes were still needed to make Emperors, and then turned the same Pope into a confessor who survived the mirage of martyrdom.
At Savona the Pope lived simply and quietly, praying, reading, taking incessant pinches of snuff, doing his own washing and mending. A British frigate cruised nearby with the hopeless idea of rescuing the Pope by a sudden landing.
Imperial Rome and Its Te Deums (1809-14)
In Rome the French government expelled the cardinals, confiscated the archives, took away the fisherman's ring, abolished the Inquisition again and sold its furniture, closed many of the monasteries, drove out the large minority of clergy who refused an oath of loyalty to the Emperor (fifteen bishops and 900 priests swore, nine bishops and 500 priests refused, so that a majority was not persuaded of the sacredness of the temporal power). Most of the non-swearing priests were shipped to camps in Corsica or sent to fortresses in north Italy. French law was introduced, Jews were given equal rights, toleration was proclaimed, catacombs and Roman forum were excavated, gardens laid out on the Pincio, streets given better lights, dogs muzzled, nights safer, sanctuaries abolished, dilapidations of St. Peter's repaired. The people of Rome hardly noticed these signs of good government in their dislike of foreign conquerors, distrust of a currency out of control, and above all loathing of conscription for their sons. Te Deum in a cathedral was the sign of political acceptance. Every regime which conquered a city wanted this solemn thanksgiving sung for its victory. Every new ruler found priests willing to lead praises and bless the change of government. Some clergymen had principles, or a habit, of blessing whatever government had real power, and were willing to sing successive Te Deums, sometimes within two or three years, for regimes who were enemies and at war. Choirs held themselves employed by anyone who paid, and sang praises for (say) the King of Naples one year, a republic next year, the King of Naples the year after, and French conquerors five years later.
Below the surface of easy political change were found torments of conscience.
The Te Deums in St. Peter's at Rome show how the political command, 'Celebrate!' caused agony of mind.
As Rome was part of the French empire it must celebrate the imperial feasts. 15 August was Napoleon's birthday, and he invented a dubious saint Napoleon for his 'name-day'. The day both of his coronation and of the battle of Austerlitz was 2 December. The feast of 15 August 1809, the first after the removal of the Pope, became a trial of strength. Only one church in all Rome sang Te Deum that day, the French church of St. Louis, and even there troops had to fetch and force choir and organist.
Then government imposed the oath of allegiance. That many clergy refused to swear pleased financiers who could thus reduce the number of parishes. Clergy that remained were more complaisant. After several heads were arrested their leader became the timid Monsignor Atanasio who did whatever the French wanted. Still, government wished no trouble. For two years (1809, 1810) St. Peter's stayed shut on the two feast-days.
Napoleon now thought of himself as the new Charlemagne and Rome as the second city of a revived European empire. His son by Marie Louise of Austria should be entitled King of Rome. Paris was not satisfied with Roman silence. For the mother's pregnancy, for the birth of the child, for his baptism, praises were ordered in Roman churches, that is, with 15 August and 2 December, five Te Deums required in a single year (1811). Napoleon himself, when he heard that Marie Louise attended a Te Deum, told her that she did well but that these things should not be too frequent, they are imposing only if they are rare. 53 This doctrine did not correspond to matters as they looked when seen by clergymen in Rome.
The chapters of St. Peter's, the Lateran, and Santa Maria Maggiore refused to sing. Police interviewed choirmen together and separately. Out of seventy-four choirmen at St. Peter's only fourteen would sing. Saying that the Pope was his king, the master of the music Zingarelli resigned, and was followed by one of the castrati. Choirmaster and castrato went to prison. Though the choir was very short of voices the baptismal feast of June was celebrated with a magnificent Te Deum in presence of the French general and his staff. Zingarelli was sent as prisoner to Paris where he fared very comfortably because Napoleon loved his music.
On 15 August 1812, another Te Deum, still with a small choir and empty nave. On 2 December 1812, not knowing that the Grand Army was retreating from Moscow, they had another Te Deum, with people filling a quarter of the nave, though in the provinces five canons and fifteen priests were sent to prison for their refusal. As the empire weakened Te Deums multiplied. At the news of every victory Monsignor Atanasio attended to sing praises (30 May 1813, 13 June 1813); on 28 February 1813 he was fetched from his sick bed to sing in St. Peter's the Te Deum for the new 'Concordat of Fontainebleau' between Pope and Emperor. Pasquino put up on his statue the text
Te Deum Laudamus
We have no hope in Bonaparte
And no faith in him.
On 2 December 1813, Te Deum in St. Peter's, nave empty, Murat's troops from Naples lay about the city, one of the Emperor's favourite marshals was guilty of treason, and his army refused this feast day to enter St. Peter's to sing Te Deum.
When Pius VII re-entered Rome, the harmonies of the choir at St. Peter's were not easily retuned, between choirmen who suffered and choirmen who stayed comfortable. Four choirmen were ejected. The Pope told the rest to live in peace. 54
Zingarelli never came back to his place in Rome. He had found in Naples a place, or rather two places, which suited.
Italian Churches in the Age of Napoleon
Every town, every village had experience that was unique. The records of routine, visitations, synods, reports to Rome, are less frequent, partly because they demanded time and money and local order, partly because communications with Rome were interrupted or infrequent. Where records exist they show a church administration amazingly unperturbed by its apocalyptic surroundings. Bishops used old questionnaires laid out in the old way, priests filled in forms in the old way, parishioners praised or complained in the old way. While outside was turmoil, the documents of church administration hardly recognize that anything has happened or is happening. They breathe the unchanging air of a society independent of kings who rise and fall.
In 1804, safely back under Austrian rule, the new Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Flangini, whose reputation at Rome was middling, wrote a pastoral letter to his diocese on the day of his consecration. He said that a frightful calamity had devastated the country of Venezia; that some of the worst citizens seized the government and trampled on every law of God and man, and flooded the city with books cram-full of blasphemy and error; that every fool and gossip laid down the law on religion and philosophy and politics, and miserably misled the people by holding out a vain dream of happiness, called by the triumphant names of liberty and equality. Now things were better; but he thought that the consequence remained in licence and depravity, the more dangerous because it worked underground. He urged his clergy to the main duty of putting to rights the ideas of the people on 'true equality', 'true liberty' and not setting God's things under man's judgement, and on the need to obey the laws of the universal Church, and on the difference between the true wisdom of the gospel and that charlatanry which impious books boast of as the child of a false philosophy. He summoned monks to write books against modern error and to regard the education of the young as a high vocation; reminding them how early monasteries preserved culture during the age of barbarian invasions.
The new patriarch, it is clear, was shocked by what he expected to find. But when he started his visitation, the findings hardly differed much from the experience of his predecessors, a largely devout people among a band of (in majority) honest hard-working priests.
The first big change was economic. The cost of living in Venice doubled in the five years after 1796, the income of clergy stayed the same, the income of parishioners could give hardly more in nominal terms and much less in real terms. Priests, parishes, parishioners were all poorer. An unbeneficed priest was said to earn less than a porter or a gondolier. The patriarch noticed the effects in a variety of ways: the devices or tricks which some priests used to earn a living, the small number of cases where a priest or sacristan 'borrowed' or misappropriated articles belonging to his church, masses where devotion was disturbed by the intrusive rattle of collecting bags, and the confessor who paid excess of attention to the richer members of the flock.
The second big change was psychological. The Church had a sensation that it passed through crucifixion. A priest Father Piva wrote for Venezia a little history of the times, using the language in which the gospels describe the Passion; of parish priests forced into the Piazza of San Marco to help erect a tree of liberty; of a forced oath to preach the precious fruit of freedom; of nine priests imprisoned on San Giorgio charged with seducing their parishioners by teaching this liberty to be a dream and this equality a joke; of high new taxes, and confiscation of chalices; of divided monasteries; of peasant parishes in clamorous revolt against a Jacobin pastor.
The visitation did not record priests who left; Father Valeriani who married and became a professor of mathematics; or Father Zalivani who took his parishioners to do homage to the Jacobin government and later found himself in trouble with the Austrians as 'a dangerous revolutionary'; Father Collalto, once a professor at the university of Padua, then a colleague in the Jacobin government, deported when the Austrians took the city. The famous preacher Father Zanutti who was accused of being an aristocrat, said that he had always been a Jacobin, and used his pulpit to preach hot for democracy; and by the time of the visitation repented of this weakness; and when death came and his funeral sermon must be preached, the orator made no mention of this flirting with democracy. The visitation records the presence of several priests known to be unwavering enemies of the republican regime, including a future Patriarch of Venice; and of the Corsican father Carega who claimed to be a relative of Bonaparte, and who was expelled by Austrian police for saying in his sacristy that all governments are the same, they spend money on soldiers and pay nothing to poor priests.
What the visitation mainly records of the troubles is the loss of objects: buildings damaged by 'the French invasion', libraries scattered in the effort to stop confiscation, two oratories sacked in the Palazzo Foscarini and still unusable six years later, stealing or levy of chalices, vestments, furniture; schools or brotherhoods which lost money.
Laymen still gave money to make sure that special sermons would be preached; or organized the repair of a church, more costly now; or raised fees to secure a specially early celebration of mass; or paid an annual stipend to a doctor or a surgeon so that he could give medical service free to the poor. The visitation shows no sign of the historic controversies. A parish priest was accused of instituting a sisterhood of the Sacred Heart; but he was accused not because his accusers were Jansenist reformers but because he was alleged to have organized it for his profit. The last patriarch had ordered a Jansenizing textbook of doctrine for use in training clergy and the book was still in use. The numbers of clergy were still large, still almost double the number which in the age of the Counter-Reformation served the same size of city. 55
Sometimes they had bishops, sometimes not. Vicenza had a good old bishop till he died in 1810. It got its next bishop more than five years later. The see of Venice was vacant 1804-7, 1808-16. From 1811 to 1814 it had a patriarch nominated by Napoleon but he hardly came near the diocese. The changes were made by the secular power with which bishops agreed reluctantly or willingly or temporizingly.
As north Italy became stable under French indirect rule, Church affairs came into reasonable order. Brotherhoods were suppressed, monasteries and nunneries abolished, collegiate churches turned into normal parish churches where they were not destroyed altogether; but provided that the clergy kept away from politics or were in favour of Napoleon's politics, the pastoral system of bishop (or very often his deputy in a vacancy) and priest and parish prospered again modestly. They suffered from lack of money, whether to repair churches, fill canonries, conduct seminaries. Ordinations were very few, most seminaries closed. Some parishes were united and the redundant churches closed; so that in Venice Father Guglielmo Wambel went round collecting bodies of saints and manuscripts from suppressed monasteries or redundant churches, and made such a sanctuary for them at St. Thomas's church that the next bishop gave him the title, Restorer of holy relics. 56
The Italian kingdom under the French was bound by the Concordat to exempt ordinands from conscription. Many seminaries were closed because they lost their buildings or staff could not be found. But conscription had an interesting effect upon the future of seminaries. For all the efforts of Popes and bishops, many ordinands were till then ordained without first attending a seminary. Under conscription the only sure way to prove exempt status was to attend a seminary. It became easier for bishops to force men to attend one of these colleges. At a time when ordinations fell, the number of ordinands in surviving seminaries rose. St. Cyprian, the official seminary for the diocese of Venice, then sited on the island of Murano, had forty-one members in 1812-13, which was more numerous than at any time for more than a century. 57
The Napoleonic regimes were able mostly to disregard Rome. But they were troubled because they could not easily fill sees, for which Rome's assent was constitutionally necessary; and therefore many dioceses lay vacant for years at a stretch, and ran under a vicar-capitular elected by the chapter if the chapter still functioned. Consequently work limped which only a bishop could propel. Far fewer children were confirmed because far fewer confirmations were held. The worst side of this was the decline of general oversight which bishops could give, rebuke or encouragement, alms to help the needy, study for the newly ordained, efforts to restart or continue the seminary, moral preparation for confessors. In many dioceses the meetings to discuss moral cases vanished or were maintained with the scantiest attendance; partly because they depended on pressure from the bishop; and partly because, in an age of vacant canonries and ill-endowed chapters and dispersed libraries and hard-pressed students, bishops or their deputies found it difficult to find candidates able to fill satisfactorily the two academic canonries of theology and moral divinity on which the further education of clergy in service had leaned so heavily. On bishops also hung the rational working of the concursus. The filling of vacant parishes grew less systematic except where the State took a hand; but then the State was not slow to take a hand.
Subsequent enquiry in time of peace proved that though the concursus continued to be held where possible, it could hardly be relied on to tell the truth. In certain vacant dioceses no one bothered to keep a list of clergy or confessors, no one knew who had the right to hear confessions. Against delinquent clergy the process of enquiry became disorderly. The examination of ordinands was conducted by individual priests who did not like to fail candidates; and if a congregation laid information against its future priest, no one took any notice. A vicar-capitular, coming to inspect the diocesan siminary in the diocese of Bojano in Molise (south Italy) found persons who were already ordained deacon but knew no Latin grammar. When he withdrew their letters of recommendation they burst into tears and said that they had paid large sums of money to be ordained. 58
Because priests were less supervised, the mass-priest did more as he thought fit. He needed more freedom because endowments for masses lost value, until he could no longer live on the small but steady revenue. Since the number of priests diminished, despite the addition of many ex-monks as assistant curates, the old burden of endowed masses would have become impossible if the terms of all charities were carried out to the letter. Less observed by superiors who would see that a charity was fulfilled, priests did more what they liked, amalgamating, omitting, even drawing the pay of the charity without doing any of its work. This freedom, however temporary, made a permanent difference to the nature of the obligation to endowed masses and so affected the axioms of priestly life.
The kingdom of Naples made a special and interesting case. The French took over the kingdom early in 1806, driving out the Bourbons to Sicily; and Napoleon proclaimed his brother Joseph king and afterwards when Joseph was needed to become Napoleonic King of Spain, made his marshal and brother-in-law Joachim Murat king (1808). Joseph Bonaparte was always a moderate, more moderate than his imperial brother preferred, and in his policy towards his state and its Church moved with a measure of deliberation, even in so universal a policy as the dissolution of the monasteries. His successor King Joachim Napoleon, as he liked to call himself, treated the Church of south Italy more highhandedly, but with the intention of doing it good despite its own wishes.
As the sees were empty, the ministry of ecclesiastical affairs in Naples bullied chapters with fair ease. If canons were obstinate and elected an unacceptable prelate, the ministry found reason to overrule the election as invalid; and if canons were still obstinate, it organized the installation of its own man with full ceremonial and military honours.
King Murat's government intervened ruthlessly. He wanted more restructuring of the Church than anyone in north Italy thought possible or prudent. He united parishes, instituted civil registers of birth and death, used parish priests to organize the conscription, make propaganda against illiteracy and even conduct boys and girls to school, augmented mensas and restored some cathedral property and tried to reopen seminaries.
The breach with Rome meant that new bishops could not be got. Bishops died, their neighbours did not wish to extend their already extended cares, all the bench of bishops grew older, the conditions of revolution made it no easier to reside in remote country, the discipline of the clergy grew more relaxed. Out of the 131 sees in the kingdom of Naples seventy-three were vacant by 1811, and nearly 100 by 1815. Of the bishops still in office, thirteen were over the age of seventy-five, fourteen were openly against the Napoleonic government, vicar-generals appointed as substitutes were despised by clergy and people. Of the twenty-four sees in Calabria in 1812, only nine had bishops; but of these nine, three were absent in Naples without leave, one in Naples with leave, one was not wanted in the diocese because he was a supporter of the Bourbons, one was exiled in Sicily as a supporter of the Bourbons; that left three bishops active for the twenty-four dioceses, and the most active of the three was the Bishop of Nicotera who was aged sixty-nine.
The Bishop of Marsico Nuovo was invited by government to do his duty and reside in his see. He replied:
I have no beds, no linen, no furniture. I have been robbed of everything. Last August the brigands sacked every room in the bishop's palace and burnt it, and then my cathedral and my seminary. There is nothing but a heap of ash. I don't deny that the king has allotted me as a home the suppressed monastery of the Conventual Franciscans; but the building is in ruin, and needs expensive repairs. It has no door, nor windows, and if something is not done soon it will collapse. How can I live there without first repairing? And how can I repair when I cannot pay for my daily bread? At Naples I live free, in my brother's house. In addition, Calabria is troubled. The city of Marsico Nuovo lies among mountains the most unsettled and dangerous of the region. If the brigands burnt cathedral seminary and palace while I was away, what would they do to me if they found me there or met me on the road?
In his letter he did not mention that less than four years before the neighbouring Greek bishop had his throat cut. 59
If the bishop of a remote country see in south Italy was away in exile, or the see vacant, and the palace empty, and if the local colonel did not quarter his troops in its rooms, the people, or thieves, quietly stripped the house of its contents. We know more than one case where the new bishop after the Restoration came to his diocese to find not a stick of furniture in the bishop's palace. And indispensable documents, like the title-deeds to land or property from which income fed the bishop's mensa, were thrown away or burnt. This kind of loss happened elsewhere than in bishop's palaces, in vicarages, canonries, even diocesan registries.
The worst church problems of south Italy were the confiscations of the luoghi pii laicali, the funds which provided for the expense of buildings and worship. These funds were now administered as secular charity. But part of this transfer also meant the laicizing of charity, that is, the centre of public benevolence now lay more in the town hall than in the church.
The men were conscripted. This gave the parish churches a different feel from the days when powerful brotherhoods dominated aspects of pastoral life. Congregations were more female.
Feudalism was abolished and therefore the bishop's old rights vanished. Tithes, though still in part legal, became impossible to collect because tenants refused to pay and no one wished to prosecute them in the courts.
But below the level of vacant sees, the parish system often continued in reasonably good shape. The State ordered reforms which were obvious but which the ancien régime could not carry through because it lacked so high a hand.
For many centuries the cathedral of Venice was the church at the eastern tip of the island, San Pietro in Castello. This was absurd, for San Marco was far the most important church in the city of Venice; but San Marco was only the chapel of the now extinct doge. Napoleon's viceroy in north Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais, simply issued an order (1807) moving the cathedral from San Pietro to San Marco; thus bringing San Marco into the diocese and merging the canons of two chapters. The act was politics; it seemed to say, doges have vanished, never to return. In the vacancy of the see the vicar-capitular was ordered to take instant possession. Rome was not asked.
For several years scrupulous clergymen felt unease at this transfer. But if what the State did was sensible, it lasted even if it was the act of revolution.
An old canon or proverb said, 'Sede vacante nihil innovetur', 'While there is no bishop nothing is to be changed.' In all institutions this rule is broken regularly; the Church was no exception.
The State found a diocese of Torcello in the lagoon near Venice with the loveliest of cathedrals but only eleven parishes and thirty churches and most of the clergy living in Venice. It 'persuaded' the chapter of Torcello to hand the diocese to be administered by the Patriarch of Venice. It had far less respect for historic anomalies. It found a diocese of Caorle, with only three parishes, 1,200 people all poor, and a bishop who lived at Venice and only came into his diocese for feasts. The State made things rational by translating the bishop to the see of Chioggia and leaving the see of Caorle vacant, never again to be filled.
The State reduced the excessive numbers of city parishes. The seventy-nine parishes of Venice, for a population of 130,000, were reduced in two stages to thirty parishes, with useless churches declared redundant and then sold or demolished, and other churches made subsidiary churches in a larger parish. Such changes were forced by the abolition of monasteries, for great monastic churches which people loved could not simply be closed but must be converted into parish churches. Some thought this a monstrous devastation, others thought it wise and necessary, and evidently the second opinion was better founded, for many changes survived.
Concerned for the church buildings, a dilapidation caused as much by revolution as by the ancien régime, the State in north Italy took an older institution from Austrian Lombardy and extended its use: the fabbricieri, officers of the fabric, a committee of two or three who resembled English churchwardens, and administered the funds to maintain buildings and furnish worship. In certain provinces a clergyman might be one of these officers, elsewhere they were laymen. They also survived the revolution.
The fabbricieri grew in power and so to be new rivals of the priest. They argued with priests over the right use of money, the choice of sacristan, the cost of furnishing or candles. In one parish where they had unusual authority because the priest was paralysed they quietly chose his successor when he died without asking anyone's leave and saw the appointment cancelled. They were the counter to the clericalizing process which was an indirect and unexpected consequence of the revolution, concealed for the moment by the new access of State power in religion and by the constant interferences of governments in revolutionary states.
The revolution abolished most brotherhoods which were independent corporations of laymen, and so excluded members of the congregation from responsibility. It abolished feudalism, and most of the rights of patronage which feudal lords possessed, and thereby excluded the upper classes from their ancient pressure upon the clergy. In the diocese it continued the process by which the State gained ever more control over the choice of bishops.
The State was taking over slowly the welfare work of the Church, charity, hospitals, education, money-lending at low interest. This process still had a very long way to go. Meanwhile it was leaving the priest to be master inside the church.
In the same way, though the concursus was more corrupt, the State filled parishes responsibly. The right of patronage that belonged to former monasteries passed into its hands. It exercised a veto on the choice of parish priests. It had a political attitude, for it wanted reliable men; but also wanted respected men.
If the officers of the State had been Jacobins of the type of Marat or Robespierre this could not have worked. They were not. The leading advisers of the crown in the church affairs of Lombardy and the Legations were not anti-Christian nor anticlerical sansculottes but Italian reformers of the Jansenist tradition, trained in a world of Josephist reform. Giovanni
Bovara started his career in canon law at the university of Pavia and a colleague of professor Tamburini. Under the Empress Maria Theresa he was a member of the giunta economale in Milan, the governing committee which reformed Austrian Lombardy, and there held the special responsibility for Church affairs. When Bonaparte created the Italian republic Bovara became the minister of cults and ruled the issue of edicts on Church matters. When Napoleon became King of Italy Bovara filled the same office. Next to him stood Modesto Farina, another canonist from Pavia whose career was much the same, adviser to the Austrians in Italy, then an official of the north-Italian kingdom, finally Bishop of Padua. These were both reformers of the Josephist tradition in their pastoral outlook and their belief in the chance afforded by State control.
The Revolution looked like a clean break with the past. But when the dust subsided, the policy towards the Churches was found to be no break but a continuation of the Josephist and partly the Jansenist ideas of reform, though more extreme because the military State had more power to change what it liked, and because the tumults of the immediate past left an anarchy which needed tidying.
Devotions continued among the people as though Europe experienced neither Enlightenment nor revolutionary war.
In 1801-2 an ex-Jesuit from Bergamo, Luigi Mozzi, led a series of popular missions in the diocese of Treviso. Through the parishes he spread devotion to the stations of the cross, which till then had not reached that region. He was famous for hostility to 'Jansenists' and for devotion to St. Mary. Nearly every parish of that land adopted the stations with solemnity once a month, and an occasional parish reported that its use was 'almost incessant'. 60
To the rule that brotherhoods were suppressed, an exception was allowed: the Santissimo, the brotherhood of eucharistic devotion. Members attended mass in their insignia at least once a year, often once a month. The brotherhood remained numerous, sometimes 300 or 400 members, though in other parishes even this collapsed and vanished. But it lost its endowments, which were often large, and henceforth existed on modest subscriptions from members. No longer a powerful corporation of laymen out of control of the parish priest, it was turned into a parish organization which helped the parish priest. Its members still chose the objects to which they gave the money which they collected at mass. But they must meet with a policeman present, and not after dark.
On 31 August 1807 the minister for ecclesiastical affairs for the kingdom of Italy wrote to the viceroy a letter which showed his opinion that the Church would not lose by the measure: 'Abolished and forbidden are the brotherhoods and undisciplined lay societies which under the name of religion introduce frivolity, bigotry and faction. The only brotherhood permitted is that of the Most Holy Sacrament, one in each parish, dependent on the parish priest.' 61
Priests grew older, and fewer. Often no bishop existed to see after their plight or discipline. Ancient clergymen struggled on in work which they could no longer encompass. Men talked of pensions, or homes for the infirm or the aged. This talk hardly achieved anything.
But in one area apart from jubilation of canons, the Church now grew accustomed to a system of pensions and therefore the possibility of retirement: the ex-monks. An ex-monk drew a pension from the endowments of his former monastery. These pensions were normally mean, that is, they were hardly enough to maintain life. And if the ex-monk took work as curate or schoolmaster, governments were apt to stop his pension on the ground that now he needed no pension. But sometimes an ex-monk kept his pension through a long life of subsequent service to churches or to education; and then he had the chance to retire when he felt infirm because he still had his once-monastic income. 62 Because Father Bonaventura was forced to stop being a Franciscan at the age of twenty-eight he could retire from his parish at the age of sixty-two.
In south Italy King Murat planned a system of pensions. But part of the plan was pay of the clergy by the State, as in France, and in Naples it never worked.
The parish of St. Mary Elizabeth on the Venice Lido was special and sad. The assistant curate Father Pappafava came in 1762 and was made parish priest nine years later and stayed for more than thirty years. The inhabitants were 150, plus for ten months of the year eighty vine-dressers from Friuli. The bishop of 1781 was content with what he saw. By 1805, after turmoil in Venice, everything was dreary, the priest was aged sixty-nine and partly paralysed but had no assistant, catechism suffered, parents took children to the tavern instead of Sunday school. He got a little help for the sick and dying, and priests from Venice for festivals. Sermons were preached only in Lent. He had no mass for the people 'because my situation is most miserable; but I pray for them all'. Only two or three failed to make their Easter duties, but the people, he thought, were addicted to the bottle and to swearing. 'I recommend that something be done for the bad condition of this parish, and for my infirmity and lack of help.' Two Armenian priests used to come to help. They came no longer, for he had nothing to give by way of alms.
The visitor of 1805 hardly satisfied the poor old man. He ordered that several ornaments in church be better maintained, and the books properly kept; told the parishioners to respond to their priests' faithfulness and come on Sundays; praised him because under such conditions of health and solitude he kept on ministering the sacraments and because despite the people's unfaithfulness he went on trying to get children and adults to catechism, and told him that he must preach regularly and celebrate a people's mass on Sundays. But the visitor did not, because he could not, get him a pension to retire, or a regular curate. 63
Most ex-monks found employment as assistant priests, schoolmasters, librarians. Many nuns though far fewer became women helpers in parishes, some still keeping their nun's rule so far as that was possible for a parish worker. But the care of nuns who were too old, or sick, or unfit for the world was a concern for all the Napoleonic states. If they were members of nursing orders or teaching orders they had little difficulty, but continued their old work in a new guise. But where they were members of contemplative orders and felt no vocation to be deaconesses, and could not find a fellow ex-nun to live in a tiny community in the old and godly way, their lot was as dreary as that of any middle-aged woman thrown out of a home with nowhere to go. Therefore governments allowed ex-nunneries to collect ex-nuns who wished to continue a common life.
Here is an example from southern Italy, not tragic but still sad. The town of Campagna had three nunneries, each with nine or ten members; two houses Benedictine, one Franciscan. King Murat's government (November 1810) ordered all nunneries with under twelve nuns to close. Therefore one house of the three was allotted to all nuns who wished to remain. Because the squire's family had an interest in the Franciscans, that house was chosen to survive. Therefore several Benedictine nuns had to live away from their accustomed place, deprived of their own endowments, with dowries lost, forced to share much diminished Franciscan endowments mostly not paid by default of debtors, and urged to keep a strange rule which they neither liked nor understood. The result was misery. 'It was an error', wrote the bishop later 'to unite in a single nunnery nuns of such widely different rules.' 64
Napoleon and Spain
French conquest came late to Spain. Spanish troubles did not start in earnest until 1808. After a vain war against the Revolution, the Spanish King Charles IV and his favourite Godoy pursued a policy of subservience to the French. Napoleon had a satellite state without the need to compel. But management by intrigues at court was no substitute for government at a European crisis. The battle of Trafalgar (1805) destroyed the Spanish fleet with the French, and as the reputation of government fell, it became unreliable to Napoleon. A riot at Aranjuez (March 1808), famous because the mob failed to find Godoy hidden under a carpet, overthrew the king in favour of his son Ferdinand VII. Napoleon already had armies in Spain directed at Portugal, took power, and moved his brother Joseph from Naples to be the new French King of Spain.
Wherever Napoleon created satellite states, he confronted Catholics with a double crisis of conscience, touching both patriotism and religion. This crisis afflicted Spaniards with worse anguish than any other of the subject peoples of Europe. The revolutionary persecution of the Church in France had permanent effects in French life and politics and in the European history of Catholicism. The Spanish war of independence against the French touched the people's soul as transformingly. An over-ambitious French general sowed the seeds of terrible division and suffering in Spain. French officers kept private soldiers under strict discipline. The passions roused by an occupying army were not at first due to brigand acts except in rare cases. Such atrocities could not but occur, and as guerrilla warfare grew savage, became by malign nemesis more common. A Franciscan in Castile discovered how his father was shot after refusing to take the oath to King Joseph, took to the hills and became one of the cruellest of guerrilla leaders. A French column passing through the village of Villoviado in the province of Burgos, could not find mules and forced the inhabitants to carry baggage to Lerma. They seized the parish priest, Father Merino, and loaded on him their band, big drum, bugle, cymbals. The priest took to the hills, first as a lone sniper, soon as a guerrilla leader who made all the roads round Burgos unsafe for French detachments and killed prisoners if the French killed rebels.
For this rising against the French was the first rising of a whole people. In the Vendée and Belgium and Calabria and the Abruzzi and the forest cantons of Switzerland peasants rose against the conqueror in social war. But in Spain came a sanfedist war with a new passion. The Spanish were the first to identify social war with patriotic war, the resentment of a conquered nation. The French were not only the oppressors who made their army live off the country, they were overthrowers of shrines and monasteries, assailants of Catholic faith. Napoleon ordered the dissolution of all but a third of the monasteries in 1808, in the following year King Joseph dissolved all monasteries and nunneries, for he needed the money for his new but bankrupt kingdom. Because parish priests or friars were leaders of the common people they were often found at the head of the resistance. Because resistance was most easily roused when the invader demolished a shrine or pillaged a church, the clergy sometimes accepted the lead of a local revolt, sometimes preached or orated so as to rouse rebellion. Centuries before, Spanish unity was forged in crusade against Moslem rulers. That epoch of crusading identified Spanish nationality with Catholicism as nowhere else in Europe, not even in Ireland or Poland.
'The real power in Spain', said the Duke of Wellington, 'is the clergy. They kept the people right against the French.' 65
In Italy Sanfedist peasants were apt to bless their own arms by turning a friar or priest or (in the most famous case) a cardinal into the commander. In Spain bishops were prominent. Bishop Delgado of Badajoz became for a time president of the supreme junta in Estremadura, one of the numerous local governments which sprang up to resist the invader. That junta ordered all clergy in arms to wear a red cross in cloth on the left side of their tunic. In the Badajoz country bands of guerrillas carried the banners of a crusade. Bishop Martínez Jiménez of Astorga was out on visitation when the invaders came but returned hastily to his see and was made head of the junta for armament and defence until his diocese was overrun; later he suffered deportation from the French. Bishop Menéndez of Santander collected a miserably armed band of 700 men and was made regent of Cantabria but was defeated and fled to England and Portugal. The junta of Asturias made a canon of Oviedo cathedral its minister of justice. Despite many examples to the contrary, feeling hesitated over clergy bearing arms in battle. Many priests therefore helped with the manufacture of arms and ammunition. The cleverest spy behind the French lines besieging Cadiz was a priest.
By cast of mind, Napoleon underestimated the task of conquering Spain, partly because he despised Spanish and Portuguese Catholicism though he knew little about either. 'Believe me', he said to a Spanish canon who was tutor to the deposed King Ferdinand, 'countries where monks are many are easy to conquer.' 66
Napoleon called the Spanish rising 'an insurrection of monks'. Churchmen were not so frequently leaders of provincial juntas as these examples might suggest. But the connection between popular war and clerical leadership was sufficiently plain to make atrocities against clergy more common. Warring against a brave guerrilla leader in the pinewoods of the Albarracín mountains. A French officer sacked and destroyed the sanctuary and hospice of Our Lady of Tremedal. Several other magnets of pilgrimage went up in flames amid savage fighting among the hills, even the shrine of Our Lady of Vega, patroness of Salamanca. A guerrilla band took refuge in the Benedictine monastery of Valvanera where was an ancient statue of the Virgin, believed to have come down from heaven and discovered in the hollow of an oak tree, at the foot of which sprang henceforth a stream of healing water, a shrine which was centre for the harvest of Rioja wine in all that region, with a feast where the first-fruits of the grapes were offered before the statue. The punitive force burnt all that shrine and monastery.
The aged Bishop of Coria, who was in his eighties and ill, rose from his bed of sickness, offered his services to the junta of Badajoz, and issued two pastoral letters which rang with Spanish patriotism, urging the young to take up arms and obey their chiefs. A French band from Ciudad Rodrigo surprised him in his refuge at Hoyos, dragged him out of bed, and murdered him with a couple of bullets. He was the only bishop so to suffer. 67
Bishop Texeiro of Pamplona was a Benedictine of simple life with a narrow background and a career of active unpretentious and generous care for his parishes and clergy. In February 1808 the French army walked into Pamplona. He behaved with perfect courtesy to officers and men. Summoned to Bayonne he refused to go but sent a representative. Required to exhort all his people to obey King Joseph Bonaparte of Spain and expound the new king's virtues, he declined. The governments in Madrid and Navarre tried to insist. He said that he sent out no unnecessary pastoral letters. The diocese was heavily burdened with forced levies on churches and parishes, and by the continual passage of troops. When he retired a few miles from Pamplona, the French turned his palace into a hospital. He went still further away, and could no longer supervise his troubled parishes. They took all his tithes and left him destitute. He kept protesting, said to collectors of money that he had nothing left, expostulated against the decree allowing monks and friars to leave their monasteries, and against the abolition of the Inquisition, and against the use of Church money for secular ends. Invited by the governor to sing Te Deum for victories over the rebels he refused to go. The general ordered him to come to Madrid with representatives of chapters and monasteries and swear allegiance. He said that chapters and monks were not his affair, and that he was too old and ill. Warned that this was dangerous he fled, 'so as not to prostitute himself', he said, 'by obeying the orders of the most abominable of tyrants'. He left faculties for deputies to act in his place, and took refuge with the Bishop of Lerida. When the Spanish troops retreated, both bishops fled, eventually to Majorca. 68
As in Italy, pastoral authority fell into confusion. Bishops vanished or died and could not be replaced. By 1813 a majority of Spanish dioceses had no bishop. The rule that in a bishop's absence the chapter should act became very important. King Joseph tried to put six bishops into sees, three of which were vacant because he expelled the occupants, but clergy and people were hardly willing to accept King Joseph's bishops as real.
Only a majority of the bishops were in exile because the French could not tolerate their resistance. One was in exile because he was a friend of the French and the Spanish resistance could not tolerate him, and others went into exile because they could not bear the politics of the Spanish government of the resistance.
A satellite state, as we have seen it in Italy or Switzerland, attempted to win the affections of its people by good government, by holding up ideals of liberty and equality, by sweeping away the petty tyrannies of the ancien régime with its archaic structure, by demolishing feudalism and the exemptions of clergy and the excess of Church wealth, by introducing an efficient system of courts of justice, and a code of law which would be enforced. The new King Joseph of Spain tried to govern humanely when in Naples and now tried to govern humanely in Spain. The ancien régime was not so popular with intelligent men that these ideals could fail to command widespread assent and bring leading members of the conquered peoples, like Melzi in north Italy, to collaborate with the French as the way to better government and a more just society. Such men had the first motive of collaborators, that the conqueror's force was overwhelming and resistance could lead to untold suffering. At the time the Spanish resistance called them simply by the name traitors. History gave them the name afrancesados, the Frenchified; and the name is justified because some of them were men of high intelligence and patriotism who believed that a
Frenchified Spain, in the reigning circumstances of power, was a better and happier Spain than any other which they could imagine.
The afrancesados remained a small but not contemptible minority. A few of them were worthless, for example the Benedictine of Asturias who told the French where guerrillas hid dumps of treasure and asked for a canonry as reward, or the priest of Palencia who said that he was tired of being a priest and asked the French to make him a police officer. 'I would like to shed my clerical garb if this were possible. I would prefer anything to the choir and the breviaries.' Monks who mistook their vocation were not displeased when the French abolished monks. But other afrancesados had higher and sometimes patriotic reasons for taking the French side. Even intelligent opponents of the French were occasionally sorry to see them in retreat. A canon of Zamora told a passing Frenchman that though he suffered from the occupation he was sorry that they were going. 'A restoration awaits us and I fear it.'
The most interesting of the afrancesado clergy was Juan Antonio Llorente (1756-1823). A canon of Calahorra, the French Revolution found him Secretary General of the Inquisition in Madrid, as a result of which the reforming grand inquisitor gave him important materials for a history of the Inquisition. In the events of 1808 he accepted King Joseph Bonaparte and entered Madrid in his train. As one of the few Spanish churchmen to be serviceable, he was now heaped with honours and responsible work, especially the dissolution of the monasteries and the administration of confiscated goods, as well as the custody of the archives of the Inquisition. He used the time to gather materials for his history. Naturally he must retreat with the French and spent ten years in exile until the Spanish government gave him a reprieve. In 1817-18 he published at Paris in four volumes his Critical History of the Spanish Inquisition, which scandalized many Spaniards and finally gave the Spanish Inquisition the blasted reputation which it kept. The History was instantly put upon the Index of prohibited books. The account was not impartial history. But it was the only account hitherto by anyone who had access to authentic documents and therefore held the field as indispensable. In the perspective of Church history, and the reputation of Spanish Catholicism for bigotry and fanaticism, Llorente's book was the most weighty single outcome of the little afrancesado movement among Churchmen.
The Cortes at Cadiz
Meanwhile the gulf between the Spanish guerrillas and their own supreme government began to widen into a chasm in Spanish opinion over Church as well as State.
The various juntas in the provinces accepted, though with difficulty, a supreme Junta for all Spain, and then a parliamentary assembly, called by the revived name of Cortes, at Cadiz. King Ferdinand for whom they fought was a prisoner in France. In Cadiz gathered some of the best men in Spain.
Spanish guerrillas in the mountains fought for king and Church, usually without knowing anything about the king. The members of the Cortes knew a lot. A majority of them saw the chance to reform the ancien régime. This desire for a constitutional monarchy, and for liberal legislation, was hopelessly out of touch with the mood prevailing among the fighting bands of the mountains. But it became very important in the future history of Spain.
At first they governed only the city of Cadiz where they met. They were encouraged to legislate because they ruled so tiny a kingdom that their laws could be effective. They had two political pressures pushing them towards liberal acts. The French, who occupied most of Spain, claimed that they brought justice, equality, liberty. The Cadiz government could not be seen to be more oppressive. Spaniards also must stand for justice and equality. Moreover their only ally was the British government, upon whom they depended for food and arms. The British had no desire to be seen to prop up either tyranny or revolution and used their influence to support those in the Cortes who wanted moderate liberal laws. But many members of the Cortes, clerical or lay, did not need these pressures of French or British to act liberally. They were themselves resolute to use the chance of reform.
They had one driving motive for not acting too conservatively towards the Catholic Church. King Joseph Bonaparte could not survive as government without taking the wealth of the Church. The Cadiz Cortes was far poorer. Without Church money it could not carry on war.
The Cortes at Cadiz was as determined as Joseph Bonaparte that Catholicism was the religion of Spain and that any Spanish government must undertake to uphold that faith. But the Cortes declared national sovereignty to reside in the representative assembly instead of the king; sanctioned freedom of the press while reserving religious publications to the censorship of the Church; agreed the Constitution of 1812, which became a model for some advanced liberal parties of the nineteenth century; clashed finally with the Church, or at least with most of the bishops and much public opinion, by abolishing the Inquisition; abolished the Voto de Santiago, a general tax which supported the archbishop, chapter and hospital of the old goal of European pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostella; and restricted the number of damaged or destroyed monasteries which could be re-established. It banned houses of fewer than twelve members, allowed only one community of an order in any town, and forbade new foundations or novices until a future settlement. 69 The liberal majority of the Cadiz Cortes was thus in line with the Catholic reforming movement of the eighteenth century which was still assailed as 'Jansenist'.
Of these decrees the abolition of the Inquisition was the most unpopular in the Spanish Church. The Bishop of Santander, that former commander now in refuge in the north-west, threatened to excommunicate anyone who read the decree. Even the chapter of Cadiz refused to read the decree and four of its members were expelled the city. The Archbishop of Santiago disappeared from his see to avoid obeying the Cortes. The Spanish Inquisition, which after Llorente was to stink in European memory, was a symbol to devout Spaniards of the purity of their Catholicism, a protection against French ideas that led to revolution and the killing or ousting of kings. Even that Irish Protestant the Duke of Wellington, commanding the British army in Spain, doubted the wisdom of destroying the Inquisition. 70
The Cortes of Cadiz was not in the least an irreligious body, though afterwards it was accused of irreligion. It heard mass daily, had several clergymen among its principal speakers and drafters, was determined to have Catholicism as the only religion of Spain, identified its faith with its patriotic duty, and upon the façade of its new meeting-hall erected the three statues of Religion, Fatherland, and Liberty.
Chief among the prelates who took part in the Cortes and accepted the liberal constitution was the Archbishop of Toledo. He was the son of that Cardinal of Bourbon who was made cardinal as a boy and the administrator of both the sees of Toledo and Seville. Despite his father's marriage, which the court disapproved, he rose rapidly, especially because his elder sister married the prime minister and favourite Godoy. Though not quite so young in his preferments he followed his father's career, becoming in 1799-1800, at the age of twenty-two and twenty-three, administrator of the sees of Seville and Toledo and a cardinal. A quiet and affable man, he at first exchanged friendly letters with King Joseph Bonaparte; but as war came, he threw in his lot with the Spanish rebels, supported them with munificent sums of money, and was made president of the Council of the Regency. During the Cortes he took a moderate and conciliatory place between the parties, forcing the papal nuncio Gravina into exile, approving the liberal constitution, and being content, during the imprisonment of the Pope, to act on his own authority in dispensing. When King Ferdinand came into his own Cardinal Bourbon resigned the see of Seville and found himself confined at Toledo. He was one of the last appearances of the old Spanish grandee world, instinctively liberal, not specially devoted to the Pope, liking the State to be strong in the Church, and not disturbing his course of action by religious zeal.
But the Cortes was not representative of real Spain. Wellington once compared its acts to an artist painting a picture, who worked away at his art without any need to conform to the real world. The more land was freed from the French, the more conservative the complexion of the Cortes. The armies of the mountains cared nothing about constitutions or liberty of the press. They fought for the banners of Church and king, for an unknown exiled Ferdinand, for their shrines and fields. As the conservative forces grew in strength, the liberals at Cadiz became wilder and more grasping of their fading power. They felt the force of the bishops and clergy against them, and in this vanishing phase took those measures which gave them later repute as anticlerical. But their existence and activity were made possible by the king's exile. They could not survive more than a few weeks when on 22 March 1814 Ferdinand crossed the Pyrenees frontier and was again the lawful King of Spain.
Circumstances identified the peasant reaction, visible all across Europe against the French, with the return of a Bourbon monarch who was not in the least sacred but acquired a halo of sanctity as focus and symbol of all for which Spaniards fought and suffered. In Spain at least, Catholicism must enter the nineteenth century identified with the political right, and in an extreme form.
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