For a time it seemed as if at Trent, too, the opposing interests would have proved irreconcilable.
Continuing The Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation,
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Place: Trento, Italy
Little to the credit of the council’s capacity for taking pains, the authenticity of the Vulgate was proclaimed, a pious wish being added that it should be henceforth printed as correctly as possible. At first, Pope Paul III hesitated about giving his assent to these decrees, which had been passed before receiving his approval, and showed some anxiety to prevent a similar course being taken in the matter of discipline by publishing a regulatory bull on his own authority. But on being more fully advised by the legates of the nature of the situation, he consented to allow the debates to proceed, provided always that the decrees should be submitted to him before publication.
During the next months (April to June, 1546) the work of the council was accordingly vigorously continued in both its branches. In that of discipline, the episcopal and the monastic interests at once came into conflict on the subject of the license for preaching; and still more excitement was aroused by the question of episcopal residence, which brought into conflict the highest purposes of the episcopal office and the selfish profits of the Roman Curia. The discussions on preaching ended with a reasonable compromise, monks being henceforth prohibited from preaching without the bishop’s license in any churches but those of their own order. The question of residence was by the Pope’s wish adjourned.
Thus the council, now augmented by Swiss and many other bishops, while all the chief Catholic powers except Poland were represented by ambassadors, could venture to approach those questions of dogma which the Emperor would gladly have seen postponed, so long as he was still pausing on the brink of his conflict with the German Protestants. The Pope, on the contrary, while ostentatiously displaying on the frontier the auxiliary forces which he had promised to the Emperor, was eager to proclaim through the council as distinctly as possible the solid unity of the orthodox Church. The doctrine concerning original sin having been promulgated in the teeth of imperial opposition, the legates pressed for the issue of the decree concerning justification. In the midst of the debates the Smalkaldic War broke out (July, 1546).
For a time it seemed as if at Trent, too, the opposing interests would have proved irreconcilable. Pole, as the justification decree began to shape itself, had, “for reasons of health,” withdrawn to Padua; Madruccio and Del Monte exchanged personal insults; Pacheco accused the legates of gross chicanery, and they in their turn threatened a removal of the council to an Italian city, where, in accordance with what they knew to be the papal wish, the council might deliberate without being either overawed by the Emperor or menaced by his Protestant adversaries. Soon, however, the case was altered by the manifest collapse of the latter, notwithstanding their expectations of support from England, Denmark, and France, long before their final catastrophe in the battle of Muhlberg, April 24, 1547. The Emperor would not hear of the removal of the council to Lucca, Ferrara, or any other Italian town, and in consequence the plan of campaign at Trent was modified, in order at all events to make the breach with the Protestants impassable. The debates on justification were eagerly pushed on, and, after some further trials of finesse, the decree on the subject which anathematized the fundamental doctrines of the Lutheran Reformation was passed in the sixth session of the council, January 13, 1547.
On the other hand, the decree on residence was again postponed, and a very high tone was taken toward the prelates absent from the council — the Germans being, of course, those principally glanced at. In the next session (March 5th) decrees followed asserting the orthodox doctrine of the Church concerning the sacraments, and baptism and confirmation in particular, and with these was at last issued the decree concerning residence. It avoided pronouncing on the view which had been so ardently advocated by the Spanish bishops and argued by the pen of Archbishop Carranza, that the duty of residence was imposed by divine law, and it took care to safeguard the dispensing authority of the Roman see. Yet, though at times evaded or overridden, the prohibition of pluralism contained in this decree, together with certain other provisions for the bona-fide execution of bishops’ functions, has indisputably proved most advantageous to the vigor and vitality of the episcopacy of the Church of Rome.
Paul III’s attitude toward the Emperor had meanwhile grown more and more suspicious. Partly they had become antagonists on the great question of Church reorganization; partly the Emperor was becoming disposed to thwart the dynastic policy of the Farnese; partly, again, the Pope now thought himself able to fall back on the alliance of France. In January Paul III recalled the auxiliaries and stopped the subsidies which he had furnished to Charles V; and in March Henry II succeeded to the French throne, whose intrigues with the German Protestants, though leaving unaffected his fanatical rigor against his own heretics at home, seemed likely to break the current of imperial success. Thus at Trent the struggle against the Spanish bishops acquired an intense significance; and in the eighth session, March 11th, the legates at last made use of the power entrusted to them, it was said, eighteen months before, and carried, against the votes of Spain, the removal of the council to Bologna, on the plea of an outbreak of the plague at Trent. By the Emperor’s desire, the Spanish bishops, plague or no plague, remained in the city.
“The obstinate old man,” said Charles, “would end by ruining the Church;” and sanguine Protestants might dream of a renewal of the situation of 1526-1527. The progress of events widened the breach between the Emperor and the Pope.
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