Should the council pursue a goal of uniting with protestants or seeking a coherent body of doctrines and practices?
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
The first deliberations of the reassembled council were barren. The question which really came home to the fathers of the Church assembled at Trent presented itself again when the sacrament of orders had in due course to be debated. The imperial and French ambassadors still cooperated as actively as ever, and the episcopal party, the Spanish prelates in particular, entered upon the struggle with a full sense of its critical importance. If the right divine of episcopacy could be declared, with it would be established the divine obligation of residence. Pius IV accordingly showed considerable shrewdness in instructing the legates at once to formulate a decree on residence, which, while leaving the question of divine obligation open, imposed penalties on nonresidence — except for lawful reasons — sufficient to meet practical requirements. But though such a decree was passed by the council, the debates on the origin of the episcopal office, which involved nothing less than the origin and nature of the papal supremacy, continued (November); and the critical nature of the discussion was the more apparent when in the midst of it there at last arrived nearly a score of French bishops, headed by the Cardinal of Lorraine. Hitherto France had been represented at the council by spokesmen of the French court and of the Parliament of Paris; now the foremost among the prelates of the monarchy, whose abilities, however, unfortunately fell far short of his pretensions, announced in full conciliar assembly the demands of his branch of the Church. The recent January edict proved the strength of the Huguenots in France; and though the Cardinal’s first speech at Trent breathed nothing but condemnation of these heretics, it suited him to pose as the advocate of as extensive a series of reforms as had yet been urged upon the council.
Further additions were made in the “libel,” which was shortly afterward (January, 1563) presented by the French ambassador, and perfect harmony existed between the French and the imperial policy at the council. What decision, then, was to be expected on the crucial question as to the relations between papal and episcopal authority? How could a recognition of the Pope’s claim to be regarded as “rector universalis ecclesiae be expected from such a union of the ultramontane forces? The current was not likely to be stopped by the papal court, which about this time Pius IV announced on his own account at Rome; it seemed on the point of rising higher than ever when (February, 1563) the Cardinal of Lorraine and some other prelates waited upon the Emperor at Innsbruck. In truth, however, a turning-point in the history of the council was close at hand. The Cardinal of Lorraine had left Trent for Innsbruck with threats of a Gallican synod on his lips. Ferdinand I had arrived there very wroth with the council, and had received the Bishop of Zante (Commendone), whom the legates sent to deprecate his vexation, with marked coolness. The remedies proposed to the Emperor by the Cardinal were drastic enough; the council was to be swamped by French, German, and Spanish bishops, and the Emperor, by repairing to Trent in person, was to awe the assembly into discussing the desired reforms, whether with or without the approval of the legates. But Ferdinand I, by nature moderate in action, and taught by the example of his brother, Charles V, the danger of violent courses, preferred to resort to a series of direct and by no means tame appeals to the Pope. The latter, indisposed as he was to support a fresh proposition for the removal of the council to some German town, urged by France, but resisted by Spain, which at the same time persistently opposed the concession of the cup demanded by both France and the Emperor, saw his opportunity for taking his adversaries singly. The deaths about this time (March, 1563) of the presiding legate, Cardinal Gonzaga, and of his colleague Cardinal Seripando, both of whom had occasionally shown themselves inclined to yield to the reforming party, were likewise in his favor. Their places were filled by Cardinals Morone, formerly a prisoner indicted by the Inquisition, now an eager champion of papal claims, and Navagero, a Venetian by birth, but not in his political sentiments. Morone, though he had left Rome almost despairing of any favorable issue of the council, at once began to negotiate with the Emperor through the Jesuit Canisius. The leverage employed may, in addition to the distrust between Ferdinand and his Spanish nephew, and the ancient jealousy between Austria and France, have included some reference to the heterodox opinions and the consequently doubtful prospects of the Emperor’s eldest son, Maximilian.
In a word, the papal government about this time formed and carried out a definite plan for inducing the Emperor to abandon his conciliar policy. The consideration offered for his assenting to a speedy termination of the council was the promise that, so soon as that event should have taken place, the desired concession of the cup should be made to his subjects. Ferdinand I, without becoming a thoroughgoing partisan of the papal policy, accepted the bargain as seemingly the shortest road to the end which, for the sake of the peace of the empire, he had at heart. Thus, notwithstanding the continued opposition of the French bishops, the decrees concerning the episcopate began to shape themselves more easily, and the Pope of his own accord submitted to the council certain canons of a stringent kind reforming in a similar way the discipline of the cardinalate (June). And when, in the course of a violent quarrel about precedence between the kings of France and Spain, the latter, enraged at his demands not being enforced by the Pope, had threatened, by insisting on the admission of Protestants to the council, indefinitely to prolong it, the Emperor intervened against the proposal. But the conflict between the papal and the episcopal authority seemed still incapable of solution, and, though Lainez audaciously demanded the reference of all questions of reform to the sole decision of the Pope, and denounced the opposition of the French bishops as proceeding from members of a schismatic church, this opposition steadily continued in conjunction with that of the Spaniards, and still found a leader in the Cardinal of Lorraine.
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