The pontificate of Paul IV (Gian Pietro Caraffa, May, 1555-August, 1559) forms one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of the Counter-reformation.
Continuing The Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation,
our selection by Adolphus W. Ward. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in The Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation.
Place: Trento, Italy
After Muhlberg Charles V seemed irresistible, and, as he would hear of no solution but a return of the council to Trent, there seemed no choice between submission and defiance. Gradually, however, it became clear that he had no wish again to drive things to extremes, and least of all to provoke anything of the nature of a schism. Moreover, France, where the Guises were now in the ascendant, was becoming more hostile to him; and the murder of the Pope’s son at Piacenza, followed by the occupation of that city by Spanish troops, September, 1547, nearly brought about the conclusion of a Franco-Italian league against Charles. But though French bishops arrived at Bologna, their attitude there was by no means acceptable to the Pope, and Henry II had no real intention of making war upon the Emperor. Thus the latter thought himself able to take into his own hands the settlement of the religious difficulty.
In the midst of further disappointments and of fresh designs, the immediate purposes of which are not altogether clear, Pope Paul III died, November 15, 1549. That the most generous of the aspirations which had under his reign first found full opportunity for asserting themselves had survived his maneuvering, was shown by the favorable reception, both outside and inside the conclave, of the proposal that Reginald Pole should be his successor. But Pole refused to be elected by the impulsive method of adoration, and in the end the Farnese[*] interest, supported by the French, prevailed, and Cardinal del Monte was chosen.
[*] The Farnese were an illustrious Italian family. Alessandro Farnese was Pope Paul III.
The papal government of Julius III (1550 to 1555) showed hardly more of temperate wisdom than had marked his conduct of the presidency at Trent; but he had the courage at the very outset to decide upon the safest course. After a few conditions, most of them quite in the spirit of the imperial policy, had been proposed and accepted, the bull summoning the council to Trent for the following spring was issued without further ado (November).
Yet even before the council actually reopened, i.e., May 1, 1551, it had become evident that the papal view of its purposes remained as widely divergent from the Imperial as in the days of Paul III. The nomination of Cardinal Crescentio, a Roman by birth, as president of the council, with two Italian prelates, Pighino of Siponto and Lippomano of Verona, by his side, was in itself ominous; and the German Protestants, upon whom the Emperor pressed safe-conducts at Augsburg (1551), perceived the papal intention of treating the council as a mere continuation of that which had previously sat at Trent. Still, several of them, as well as the Catholic electors, finally promised to attend. On the other hand, Henry II of France prohibited the appearance of a single French prelate, and began to talk of a Gallican council. Thus the brief series of sessions held at Trent from May, 1551, to April, 1552, proved in the main, though not altogether, barren of results. Unless the assembled fathers were prepared to reconsider the decrees already passed, and to force the assent of the Pope to a religious policy of quite unprecedented breadth, another deadlock was at hand; and already, in the early months of 1552, the council, this time with the manifest connivance of Rome, began to thin. When, in April, Maurice of Saxony, now the ally of France, approached the southern frontier of the Empire, the Pope, whose own French war had taken a disastrous turn, had reason enough for shunning further cooperation with the Emperor. The council dwindled apace in spite of the efforts of Charles V, who had never ceased to believe in his schemes. Finally, however, he could not prevent the remnants of the council from passing a decree suspending its sessions for two years, which was opposed by not more than a dozen loyal Spanish votes, April 28, 1552.
Charles V’s resignation of his thrones (1554-1556) resulted, though far from being so intended, in a confession of his failure. While it was in progress, Julius III died (March 23, 1555), leaving behind him scant evidence to support the rumor of his having indulged, at all events in the last period of his reign, in ideas of church reformation. But the choice of his successor, Marcellus II (April-May, 1555), shows that these ideas were not yet extinct in the sacred college, notwithstanding the simultaneous creation by Julius III of fourteen cardinals; for Cervino had always been reckoned a member, though a moderate one, of the reforming party. Far greater, however, was the significance attaching to the election of the Pope who speedily took the place of Marcellus.
The pontificate of Paul IV (Gian Pietro Caraffa, May, 1555-August, 1559) forms one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of the Counter-reformation, which in him seemed under both its aspects to have secured the mastery of the Church. God’s will alone, he was convinced, had placed him where he stood; for he was unconscious of having achieved anything through the favor of man. He was now seventy-nine years of age, but he had never been more eager to devote himself to his chosen purpose — the establishment in the eyes of all peoples of a pure and spiritually active church, free from all impediments of corruptions and abuses, and purged of all poison of heresy and schism.
Fully aware — though he had belonged to it himself — of the virtual failure of Paul III’s commission of reform, Paul IV, in his first bull, solemnly promised an effectual reform of the Church and the Roman Curia, and lost no time in instituting a congregation for the purpose. The commission, which consisted of three divisions, each of them composed jointly of cardinals, bishops, and doctors, wisely addressed itself in the first instance to the question of ecclesiastical appointments. The new Pope likewise issued orders for the specific reform of monastic establishments, and his energy seemed to stand in striking contrast with the hesitations and delays of the recently suspended council.
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