William S Barron & Frank J Coppa. New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2010. Editor: Robert L Fastiggi. Volume 1. Detroit: Gale, 2010.
In the early modern age, the Church faced the gravest crisis it had yet experienced in the West, the Protestant Reformation. After suffering the loss of a considerable part of Europe, Catholicism managed by self-reform to emerge strengthened and purified of many of the abuses that had in part caused and furthered Protestantism. The new energies were used in answering the missionary challenges posed by Africa, Asia, and the Americas, in consolidating the position of the Church in those parts of Europe that had remained within the old unity, in quelling grave theological quarrels within its own fold, and in maintaining the Church’s autonomy within absolutistic European states. Before the end of this period, the Church was faced with yet a new challenge, the rise of disbelief and secularism. The following survey will be divided into two periods: The first (1500-1648) will treat of the Protestant Reformation, the Counter Reformation, Catholicism within the various European nations, and the missionary expansion of the Church; the second period (1648-1789) will treat of the internal theological problems and Church-State quarrels, and the situation of the Church throughout the world at the end of the ancien régime.
The Church, 1500 To 1648
The end of the Thirty Years’ War does mark in many respects a turning point in the history of the Church, for by 1648 both the Reformation and the Counter Reformation ceased to win any large number of new adherents.
Eve of the Reformation
The general situation of the Church on the eve of the Reformation was one of seeming great prestige and power but of internal apathy and hollowness. The cry for reform in head and members had not been satisfactorily heeded. The papacy had suffered a grievous loss of prestige in the period at Avignon and in the Great Schism. By 1500 the popes seemed to be more Renaissance princelings than spiritual fathers of Christendom. While as rulers of an Italian state they were concerned with the independence and government of their territories, the temptation to use the papacy to advance their families was too often overwhelming. In Alexander VI (1462-1503), Julius II (1503-1513), and Leo X (1513-1521), the Church had successively at its head a man of immoral private life, a warrior, and a pleasure-seeker. The tone of the papal court may be judged by the attempt on the life of Leo X in 1517, in which some of his own cardinals were involved. The reputation of the Roman CURIA for rapaciousness at the expense of the Christian flock was of long standing. Absenteeism, pluralism, and lack of pastoral interest characterized the episcopacy in varying degrees; the same was true of other members of the upper clergy (e.g., the canons and the pastors of wealthy parishes). The lower clergy suffered above all from inadequate spiritual, intellectual, and moral formation, which often resulted in ignorance of even basic Christian doctrine and in the growth of concubinage. In the religious orders, despite the existence of some exemplary reformed cloisters, apathy and spiritual torpor appeared to be dominant. Although the devout Christian laity still followed their appointed leaders, the abuses and excessive privileges of the clergy were fostering an Anticlericalism, which, while not new, was growing. A desiccated theology remote from pastoral concerns, an externalism in sacramental practice, and a proliferation of devotional practices often peripheral to the central message of Christianity were parts of the spiritual malaise that gripped the Church. A spiritual hunger was felt—unconsciously by some, consciously by the more educated clerics and laymen—for the spiritual treasures of the Sacred Scriptures and for a theology and practice of the sacraments centered upon their nature as signs of faith and sources of grace for the Christian community. The Reformers seemed to many to provide the answer to their longing for a deeply thought and lived Christianity. But when the new formulations denied or excluded part of divinely entrusted teaching, the Church could only reject those theses of Protestantism that it felt were a narrowing down or impoverishment of the riches of the Christian message. If the Reformers rediscovered basic Christian principles hidden in what was without doubt a dry, decadent, and tired SCHOLASTICISM, their formulations of these were outside the central stream of Christian tradition and were linked with denials of other doctrines and practices that formed an inseparable part of the inheritance of both the Eastern and the Western Churches.
The Reformation took four main forms: Lutheranism, Calvinsim, Radicalism, and Anglicanism.
Lutheranism. The Lutheran Reformation, which spread from Saxony throughout much of Germany and into the Scandinavian and Baltic lands, was the result of an Augustinian monk’s struggle to find peace of soul for a conscience tortured by doubts about salvation. Martin Luther, in his reading of St. Paul, felt that he had discovered the absolutely central truth of Christianity, namely, that God forgives man his sins or justifies him by faith alone without any other activity on man’s part. In other words, only God is active in the process of salvation; man’s only reply, which has bearing upon his salvation, is his faith in his Redeemer, Jesus Christ. GOOD WORKS are the fruit of justification, but they are of no avail to salvation. The exclusiveness of this formulation, which had necessarily to rule out free will, forced the Church to reject it. While the Lutheran churches in varying degrees conserved more of ancient practices than the Calvinist and Radical, other denials also made the Lutheran answer impossible for the Church to accept. The hierarchical constitution of the Church was rejected. All Christians were to be considered priests without distinction. Scripture alone was to be the rule of faith without an authoritative interpreter. The sacraments were reduced to two, Baptism and the Eucharist, while both the sacrificial character of the Mass was denied and an already rejected theory of the Eucharistic presence was introduced, that of consubstantiation.
Calvinism. The Calvinist Reformation, which spread from Switzerland to France, the Low Countries, and parts of Germany, England, and Scotland, derived from the Lutheran and a somewhat more radical type of reform that had been taking place in certain southern German and especially Swiss cities. In Switzerland the chief early leader of this radical reform was Zwingli in Zurich. John Calvin, a Frenchman, who became the reformer of Geneva, accepted the cardinal doctrines of Luther: justification by faith alone and the all-sufficiency of Sacred Scripture, but he presented them in a more highly organized and systematic form and shifted the emphasis from the forgiveness of the sinning creature to the transcendency of the forgiving God. Calvinism required a far more austere way of life and worship than Lutheranism. The rejections of traditional Catholic doctrine were the same as those of Luther, while the rejection of traditional Catholic practices were more radical than those of Luther, who was willing to retain those that did not violate the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In one doctrinal respect, the manner of the Eucharistic presence, Calvinism differed irreconcilably from Lutheranism. While Luther steadfastly maintained the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist through consubstantiation, Calvin admitted only a presence of Christ in the believing communicant.
The Radical Reformation. The Radical Reformation is a term used to designate various sectarian movements that arose after the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation. No single doctrine characterized the adherents of the many, sometimes tiny, groups who are called radical, but rather they manifest a tendency to go further than Lutheranism or Calvinism. The Low Countries, Germany, Bohemia, and Poland, were the main centers. Three subjects especially interested the radical: the Eucharistic presence, which some interpreted as purely symbolic (Sacramentarians); infant baptism, which some rejected (Anabaptists or Baptists); and the incarnation, which some denied (Socinians, Unitarians). These movements, always small, were mostly suppressed by both Catholics and Protestants, but some few of them survived the Reformation era or were later revived.
Anglicanism. The Anglican Reformation, confined to the British Isles, differs in many respects from the Continental Reformation. In England, it was the monarch and parliament who defined the shape and form of the new ecclesiastical structure. Under Henry VIII the English Church was separated from Rome, but Catholic practice and doctrine were retained almost without alteration. During the short reign of his son, Edward VI, liturgy and doctrine were, however, altered in a Protestant sense. Following the also brief reign of Mary Tudor, during which the ties with Rome were restored, the definitive establishment of a church comprising both Catholic and Protestant elements was accomplished by and under Elizabeth I. The uniqueness of Anglicanism lay in this attempt to synthesize Protestantism and much of the old Catholic tradition. Only the Anglican Church has, besides the confession of faith of the Thirty-Nine Articles, a liturgical book, the Book of Common Prayer, as the basis for its beliefs. The Prayer Book is essentially a combined breviary, missal, and ritual, retaining many Catholic practices but with Protestant elements, especially in connection with the Eucharist and the Eucharistic service. The Thirty-Nine Articles are an attempt to fuse Catholic and Protestant doctrines in formulations broad enough to be acceptable to both. The Eucharistic service of the Prayer Book eliminated reference to its sacrificial character. Those who wished a more profound Protestantization in the Calvinist sense eventually became known as puritans and managed briefly in the seventeenth century to gain political and ecclesiastical power. Those who wished to remain fully Catholic were reduced to a tiny persecuted minority compromised in their political allegiance by the futile attempt of PIUS V to depose Queen Elizabeth. By severing its link with Rome, the English Church broke communion with the Catholic Church.
Thus, despite the rich scriptural piety of the Lutherans and their warm devotion to their Savior, the profound awe before the transcendent God and the austere sobriety of life of the Calvinists, the traditionalism and sober piety of the Anglicans, and the commitment to a totally Christian life of some of the radical Protestants, the Church had necessarily to oppose Protestantism and to attempt to answer Protestant negations.
The Catholic Reaction
In the beginning the reply to Protestantism was a defensive reaction. Basic tenets of Lutheran doctrine were solemnly condemned by the papal bull Exsurge, Domine (1520). In the previous year the Universities of Cologne and Louvain had issued condemnations, as did the Sorbonne in 1521. In reply to the flood of Lutheran publications, scores of Catholic theologians entered the fray to publish refutations. The quality of these works was quite uneven. Luther and his followers had the advantage of promoting a new movement that promised a long-awaited reform. The Catholic theologians, none of whom had the theological and literary genius of Luther, seemed to be defending the status quo. Moreover, until the Council of Trent, there was, on certain points, some confusion as to what was the traditional Catholic position. Nevertheless a great deal of preparatory work, which was later to prove valuable at Trent, was done by these theologians, throughout Europe. In Germany there were such men as Johann Eck, one of Luther’s first and most passionate opponents; Johannes Cochlaeus, responsible for a Catholic view of Luther enduring for centuries; the erudite Johannes Fabri of Vienna; the humanistic catechist Frederich Nausea, and many others, especially among members of the religious orders. At Louvain, Luther, by his own admission, found his most powerful opponent in Jacobus Latomus. Elsewhere in Europe much was written against the new doctrines. In England, for example, ironically Henry VIII, as well as John Fisher and Thomas More, wrote against Luther. Out of hundreds only a few additional names can be mentioned, such as Alfonso de Castro (Spain), Josse Clichtove (France), and Ambrose Catharinus (Italy). If the work of these men, often quite unappreciated in its time, in defending Catholic doctrine was flawed by anything, it was that they were speaking as individuals without the authority of the entire Church. Only an ecumenical council would be heeded as speaking with the necessary authority, but such a council required convocation by the pope. For too long, the papacy hesitated to call a council mainly because it feared a resurgence of Conciliarism.
The Convoking of a Council. After the brief pontificate of the last non-Italian pope (before John Paul II), Adrian VI (1522-1523), one of the rare high prelates to admit the responsibility of the Church for the rupture of religious unity, Clement VII (1523-1534) ascended the papal throne. An indecisive pope, his fear of conciliarism, of the Emperor Charles V, and of a possible deposition because of his illegitimate birth caused him to refuse to summon the council that Christendom was clamoring for. His successor PAUL III (1534-1549), while guilty of lavish nepotism and not himself a reformer, nevertheless by his encouragement of reforms of the religious orders, by his nomination of reform-minded cardinals, and above all by successfully bringing the Council of Trent into being, effectively if belatedly placed the papacy behind the movement of Catholic reform.
It was not easy to convoke a council in a period of warfare between France and the Empire and of threatening war within the Empire itself. Attempts to convoke a council at Mantua and Vicenza failed. Moreover, in the 1540s the Emperor decided to attempt to seek his own religious agreement in Germany by means of theological conversations. These failed because the theological rift proved to be too deep. Moreover, political considerations were involved, and neither side seems really to have believed in the sincerity of the other. To Catholics, Protestants were obstinate, formal heretics and the despoilers of the goods of the Church; to Protestants, Catholics were the defenders of corrupt doctrine and of entrenched abuses and interests. The meager, unwilling, brief, and fruitless appearance of Protestants at Trent in 1552 manifested their view that the demands for a free council on German soil had not been met. By a “free” council the Protestants meant one free of papal control. This demand could not be granted. Trent, however, the city where most of the council was held, was in fact part of the Empire. While the popes never appeared personally at the council, they presided through legates over its sessions, during which, it should be noted, debate was free.
The Council of Trent. The Council of Trent met in three periods separated by suspensions under three different popes. The first period (1545-1548), under Paul III, produced the Catholic reply to the most profound doctrinal problem that the Reformers had raised, the manner of man’s justification, along with decrees on the canonical Scriptures, the vulgate, and original sin. It had been decided to treat reform and doctrine pari passu as a compromise to satisfy the curialist party, who wished to treat only of doctrine, and the imperialist party (that is, those bishops subject to the emperor, whether German, Spanish, or Italian), who wished to treat only of reform. The latter feared to further alienate the Protestants. If the reform decrees at times were timid, it should be remembered that the papacy felt that the reform of the Curia was its prerogative. Moreover, what seemed to be abuses to some were viewed as legitimate exceptions to law by others. After treating the sacraments in general, the council was transferred to Bologna by the legates in 1547, partly because of an outbreak of a contagious fever at Trent and partly because of the desire of the papacy to have the council more under its control. Some of the bishops protested and refused to follow. Though the council discussed future decrees on the sacraments at Bologna, no promulgations were made before it was suspended in 1549.
Julius III (1550-1555) reconvoked the Council of Trent for its second period (1551-1552), during which decrees on the sacraments were promulgated, including the Catholic doctrine on the manner of the Eucharistic presence. The outbreak of war in the Empire caused the suspension of the Council in 1552. After the three-week reign of Pope Marcellus II (1555), the fiery, reform-minded Paul IV (1555-1559) succeeded to the papal throne. Wanting in moderation, jealous of papal power, and too ready to brand innocent men as heretics, he refused to summon the council back into session. After his brief reign, a pope favorable to reform through the council, Pius IV (1559-1564), was elected. Pius IV brought the last period of the council (1562-1563) to a successful conclusion and confirmed its decrees. Through his able legate, Giovanni Morone, the council surmounted its final and most dangerous crisis, which had been brought about by the tensions between the curialist and imperialist parties, to whom were added also in this last session the French. Doctrinally, the most important decisions of these sessions concerned the sacrificial character of the Mass. From the standpoint of discipline the greatest achievement was the creation of a system of schools (seminaries) for the moral, intellectual, and spiritual formation of diocesan priests.
The Council of Trent furnished in the doctrinal order a much needed clarification of the divine economy of salvation in its decrees on original sin, justification, the sacraments, and the Mass. A positive body of doctrine was thus created that would not only answer Protestant denials but also set the tone for Catholic theology, spirituality, and even culture for the succeeding centuries. If certain lines were drawn concerning Catholic belief, nevertheless the possibility of future discussions of doctrine even on the above-mentioned topics was not ruled out. The failure of the council to mention any of the Protestant Reformers by name has been taken to indicate that it did not wish to rule out the possibility of future conversations. The disciplinary reforms were somewhat disjointed in form and incomplete, but still a model of the ideal pastor, both bishop and priest, was provided, which would be imitated gradually but with increasing effectiveness. The institution of seminaries was of the highest importance in the achievement of this end.
Not all reform in the Church, however, was due to Trent. A movement of self-reform reaching back into the Middle Ages had been growing steadily even before the Reformation and without reference to it. It was especially concentrated in Spain and Italy. In Spain its early leaders were the Archbishop of Granada, Fernando de Talavera y Mendoza (1428-1507), and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Ximénez De Cisneros (1436-1517). In Italy, before and independently of the Reformation, groups of priests interested in self-reform and more zealous pastoral care had been arising here and there. Of this type was the Roman confraternity, the Oratory of Divine Love, which was founded some years before the outbreak of the Reformation and which became a seed-bed of future Catholic reformers. Some of these groups developed into new societies of clerics regular, such as the Theatines (1524), founded by St. Cajetan of Tiene and others, including the future Paul IV; the Barnabites, founded by St. Antonio Maria Zaccaria (1530); and finally the Somascan Fathers, founded by St. Jerome EMILIANI (1540). The important educational order of nuns, the URSULINES, was founded by St. Angela MERICI and approved by Paul III (1544). There were also a number of reforming bishops in Italy, of whom the most outstanding was Gian Matteo Giberti of Verona (1495-1543). The number of reforming bishops grew after Trent.
The Jesuits. While the Jesuits are often identified with the Counter Reformation, that is, the militant Catholicism of the post-Tridentine Church, their roots are fully in the earlier Catholic movement of self-reform. In fact, the spirituality and structure of the society were developed in complete independence of the struggle against Protestantism. Beginning as a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land gathered around Ignatius Of Loyola as their leader, the first Jesuits had put themselves at the disposition of the pope. After the pilgrimage had proved impossible and they had come into contact with the new clerics regular in northern Italy, a religious society called the Company of Jesus was developed by Ignatius and approved by Paul III in 1540. The originality of the new group did not consist only in its distinctive ignatian spirituality, with its emphasis on a considered commitment to Christ, or in the mobility of the society, with its revolutionary dispensation from Divine Office in choir. It was both the paramilitary character with which its soldier-founder endowed the society and, above all, the very close link between the order and the papacy that were new. The Jesuits were to be the spiritual soldiers of the papacy, tied by bonds of unquestioning obedience to the pope. Since the members were bound to observe poverty and not to seek ecclesiastical preferment, the papacy had at its disposal an increasingly vast international body of selfless supporters. When they defended the papacy they could not be accused of furthering their own personal interests—an accusation that had been raised, not always unjustly, against the curialists and others. Thus, in an age when the papacy was both denied and discredited, the Jesuits were an example of unselfish devotion to the primacy of Peter.
While the Jesuits, whose growth was extraordinary, began as part of the movement of Catholic internal reform, and while their widespread missionary activities were of great importance, they came soon to be associated with the Counter Reformation. In Germany St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597), through his diplomatic activity, his example and preaching, his catechisms, and above all through the foundation of colleges, aided immeasurably the revival of Catholicism there. In the face of the widespread decay of the universities, which until the second half of the seventeenth century did not flourish in Catholic countries as they had in medieval times (except briefly in Spain), the Jesuit school system was of great importance in maintaining to some degree the prestige of Catholic intellectual activity. But while the Jesuit colleges developed an estimable form of Christian humanism, though not without borrowing something from the similar tendencies of renaissance humanism and Melanchthon, their openness to new subjects of study was timid. The higher education given by the Jesuits was exclusively for those entering the priesthood. The Catholic universities, perhaps recoiling from the fact that the Reformation had been in some measure the creation of academicians, remained closed to subjects of secular interests and either died of atrophy or became ultimately the secular universities of the modern world. Within this period then, until the advent of the teaching brothers, a high quality of teaching was not to be found in the universities but rather in the colleges of the Jesuits, in the houses of study of religious orders, and especially in the seminaries in France, which were highly successful in elevating the standards of the clergy.
Reforms in Religious Orders. In addition to completely new religious orders, the Catholic reform brought about a number of revivals in the older orders, which occasionally led to the foundation of new branches of congregations. A strict new congregation of the Camaldolese Benedictines was founded by Paolo Giustiani (1476-1528). The generals of the Augustinians, Giles of Viterbo and especially Girolamo Seripando, were both reformers of their order. The Franciscans, the target of much pre-Reformation and Reformation satire, were hampered in their attempts to reform by fears of yet another split in the order, which was already divided into two branches—the Conventuals and the Observants. In a fresh attempt to return to the spirit of St. Francis, a third branch, the Capuchins, came into existence and thrived, despite the handicaps of a founder, Matteo da Bascio (c. 1495-1552), who left his new foundation, and of a fourth vicar-general, Bernadino Ochino (1497-1564), who became a Protestant. The Capuchins were officially separated from the Conventuals in 1619. Under the aegis of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) a new reformed branch of the CARMELITES, the Discalced, was formed both for women and for men. Gradually reforms were brought about in the other orders.
Reforming Popes. The papacy of the period immediately after Trent produced three strong figures, Pius V, Gregory XIII, and Sixtus V, who all aided in accelerating the rate of the centralization of Church government. This trend was not new, but it received additional force from the critical situation in which the Church found itself. Pius V (1566-1572), the first saintly pope of the modern era, reformed the college of cardinals, the Curia, and the religious orders, and was also the first pope belonging completely to the age of the Counter Reformation. Such anachronistic gestures as the attempted deposition of Elizabeth I of England, however, were ultimately harmful. The milder Gregory XIII (1572-1585) furthered the Jesuits, the missions, education (especially priestly), and both the Catholic internal reform and the Counter Reformation. To him the Gregorian calendar is due, and also an increase in the number of permanent papal diplomatic missions. The most important reorganization of the Curia, however, took place under Sixtus V (1585-1590). In 1588 the cardinals were organized into fifteen congregations, some concerned with the government of the papal states, others with the government of the entire Church. The Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition (renamed Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1965), which had originated in 1542 under Paul III as a commission of cardinals, achieved its final form at this time. New regulations for the ad limina visits and reports of bishops, another step in the increasing centralization of the Church, were issued in this pontificate. Sixtus also effected a number of reforms in the papal states and may be called the father of Rome as a baroque city.
The lesser figures who occupied the papal throne until the middle of the seventeenth century were characterized by their interest in the beautification of Rome and in the government of the papal states. Nepotism on the part of the popes themselves was not absent, nor were curial abuses. The longer reigns were those of Clement VIII (1592-1605), Paul V (1605-1621), Urban VIII (1623-1644), and Innocent X (1644-1655). Just as the last major papal attempt to declare a monarch deposed had been unsuccessfully made under Pius V, so also under Paul V a last and equally ineffective attempt was made to place an entire state, Venice, under interdict. Further grave Church-State conflicts were soon to come, but even before them the political weakness of the papacy became more evident. Thus, Innocent X’s protest against the religious provisions of the Peace of Westphalia went unheard.
Outside the papal states in this period, the rest of Italy was also generally in political and economic decline, with part of the country under Spanish rule (Naples, Sicily, Milan, and Sardinia). Ecclesiastically, however, the decrees of Trent were accepted in the various states, and reforms were carried out both within the religious orders and by reforming bishops. One of the most striking of these last was Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), the reformer of the See of Milan. A nephew of Pius IV, he was one of the rare examples of a happy outcome of nepotism.
The Wars of Religion
If Italy remained in relative peace during the last half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries, much of the rest of Europe was involved in the wars often called (somewhat incorrectly) the Wars of Religion, including those in France, the revolt of the Spanish Netherlands, and the Thirty Years’ War.
France. In France the wars of religion (1562-1598) were really a series of eight small wars divided by truces and periods of peace. The principal and original cause was the struggle for and against Calvinism, but such motives as the dynastic question, the struggle between feudal conceptions of the monarchy and an absolutist, centralizing view, and foreign intervention come to play important roles also. With the acceptance of Catholicism by Henry IV, the issuance of the Edict of Nantes specifying the conditions for the coexistence in France of Protestant communities and Catholicism, and the peace with Spain (Vervins 1598), order was reestablished in France. The effect of the wars, however, was to put off the necessary internal Catholic reform. While the French government refused to accept officially the decrees of Trent, the doctrinal decrees were accepted by all without question. Despite the high degree of control over the Church that the Concordat of 1516 gave the French monarchy, many reforms were effected, especially through the influence of such saintly men as Francis De Sales (1567-1622), Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), Charles de Condren (1588-1641), Jean Jacques Olier (1608-1657), John Eudes (1601-1680), and Vincent De Paul (1581-1660). All of these fostered the moral, spiritual, and intellectual training of priests, especially through the new system of seminaries.
Revolt of the Spanish Netherlands. The revolt of the Spanish Netherlands is sometimes classed as a religious war between the Dutch, who were principally Calvinists, and Catholic Spain. The desire of the Dutch, however, to shake off the political and economic domination of a foreign power was equally important. In Spain itself the excessive control of the Church by the state in a period when the monarchy was entering a time of continual degeneration could scarcely encourage the religious revival that had begun with Ximenes. Spanish missionary activity, on the other hand, continued to flourish.
The Thirty Years’ War. The third great religious war, the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), was fought principally on the territory of the Empire. While religious causes, especially the law that forbade the secularizing of ecclesiastical property, were not absent, political causes were or became the major factors. At the end of the war Catholic France was fighting with Lutheran Sweden against the Catholic Emperor. The Peace of Westphalia, so unsatisfactory to the papacy, marked the end of the Counter Reformation considered as an attempt to regain territories lost to Protestantism. It also marked the end of any large shifts of allegiance from one religious body to the other. When, somewhat later, the Electors of Saxony wished to be elected also kings of Poland, they became Catholic, but their Saxon subjects remained Lutheran, and their Polish subjects remained Catholic.
Catholicism in the British Isles
In the British Isles the dwindling persecuted Catholic minority suffered not only because they refused to accept Anglicanism but also because they were accused of political disloyalty. Their lot was aggravated by the fact that England’s chief foreign enemy was Catholic Spain. After the death of Elizabeth, under Mary Stuart’s son James I (1603-1625), who had been raised a Protestant, the situation of Catholics did not improve, but their treatment under Charles I (1625-1649) was slightly milder. The Civil War, however, brought in the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, a much more determined opponent of Catholicism than the Tudor or Stuart monarchs. Catholics in Scotland, which was united to England in personal union from 1603, fared no better, but a small number survived as in England. In Ireland, completely under English rule from 1602, despite persecution under extremely severe penal laws, and apart from the plantations, almost the entire population remained faithful to Catholicism.
Catholicism in Eastern Europe
In Eastern Europe the Catholic reform was introduced gradually. The religious situation of Poland mirrored the confused political order, but under the aegis of Cardinal Stanislas Hosius (1504-1579) and the Jesuits, a strong Catholic revival took place toward the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century. An important reunion of Eastern Christians, the Ruthenians, was effected by the Union of Brest (1595-1596) and also by the Union of Užhorod (1646). In Hungary the Catholic reform and Counter Reformation were fostered especially by Cardinal Peter Pázmány (1570-1637).
The enthusiastic missionary activity of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was paralleled only by the preaching of the gospel in the first centuries. The impetus to this revived activity came from the explorations and discoveries that had begun in the fifteenth century. Of the newly discovered lands, or the hitherto scarcely known lands, including North and South America, the East and Far East, only Africa remained largely untouched by the missionaries, whose activities Rome began to coordinate (from 1622) under the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. An essential difference between the evangelization of the Western and the Eastern worlds was the fact that in North and South America, the missionaries, mostly members of the new and old religious orders, accompanied Spanish and Portuguese conquerors and colonists, whereas in the East the missionaries, also chiefly from the religious orders, sought to evangelize old established civilizations. This occasioned two quite different methods. In the New World, the old existing civilizations were destroyed, and in most of South and Central America an Iberian cultural and ecclesiastical order was established. Thus the first see, Santo Domingo, was established in 1511, and by 1582 there were fifteen more. The missionaries fought with varying degrees of success to prevent the exploitation of the natives by their own countrymen. In Paraguay, the Jesuits organized model communities (reductions) of native Christians. Eventually governmental opposition and an excessive paternalism caused these experiments to fail. The greatest single weakness of the Spanish and Portuguese missionary effort in Central and South America was the failure to foresee the need for a native clergy. Consequently, in the eighteenth century there was a dearth of clergy and a decline of missionary zeal, although evangelization did not cease completely (e.g., California).
In the East and the Far East, the missionaries faced different problems. There, after the early heroic exploits of St. Francis Xavier in India, China, and Japan, a number of missionaries, especially Matteo RICCI, J. Adam Schall Von Bell, and Roberto de Nobili, began to propose the adaptation of Christianity to certain of the cultural and intellectual features of the centuries-old civilizations of China and India. Other missionaries violently opposed such accommodations, and the problem was referred to Rome. For nearly a century it was debated until the last disapproval of adaptation was given by Rome in 1742. Interorder rivalries and national interests had envenomed the quarrels. Along with the already-noted decline of missionary fervor in the eighteenth century, the outcome of the rites controversy marked the virtual end of missionary activity in the East until the nineteenth century. The Philippines, a Spanish possession, however, presented an exception. The attempt to Christianize Japan had failed even before the rites controversy. There violent persecutions (1614-1646) almost completely destroyed the missionaries’ efforts, although small secret groups of Christians (Old Christians) continued on without priests. A final and lamentable result of the rites controversy was that it, along with the other grave theological dissensions, helped to discredit Christianity among the intellectual classes during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries.
The European Church, 1648-1789
The history of the Church in the century and a half before the French Revolution is dominated by a series of dissensions on doctrinal matters within the Church, above all the quarrels over Jansenism, Quietism, and Febronianism, and of distensions between the papacy and the Catholic states, principally over Gallicanism, Josephinism, and the suppression of the Jesuits. These quarrels contributed to the profoundly weakened state and seeming apathy of the Church at the end of the ancien régime, with whose fate its own seemed inexorably bound. It was not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the Church recovered its vigor both in thought and action.
Theology and Theological Quarrels
The trends and schools of theology from the sixteenth century on become exceedingly diverse. Whereas the medieval theologians had in the main been universal theologians, treating in their works of the whole of theology, later theologians became specialists in such recognized branches of theology as dogmatic or speculative, moral, ascetic, or positive. Although the traditional purely speculative method still was carried on by schoolmen such as Báñez, John of St. Thomas, and Suárez, their efforts represented the work of theologians living to some degree in the past. The important new dimension in theology was the historical or positive theology, which derived from the methods of the humanists, such as Erasmus. While an effort was made to integrate positive and speculative theology (e.g., Melchior Cano), theology became quite fragmentized, and no theologian of the status of the great patristic and medieval theologians emerged to produce a new synthesis. The interest in historical theology had results important for the growth of the historical sciences both ecclesiastical and secular. In this regard, the work of the Bollandists in hagiography and of the Benedictines of the Congregation of St. Maur are especially notable. In biblical criticism, however, the work of Richard Simon, who was well ahead of his time, was condemned. Similarly, the condemnation of Galileo Galilei implied a conflict between Christianity and science and had unfortunate consequences. The quarrel with Protestantism often brought forth only a defensive and negative theology; worse yet, internal theological quarrels exhausted the energies of the best theologians. These same quarrels were in no little part also responsible for the growth of disbelief and indifference to religion, which, in turn, presented new problems to the Church.
Jansenism. The gravest of these quarrels centered around the Augustinian doctrine of nature and grace and its practical applications. A theologian of Louvain, Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638), and a French ecclesiastic, Jean Duvergier De Hauranne (1581-1643), dreamed of a revival of patristic theology and practice beginning with the doctrine of grace. For them scholasticism and the humanistic theology of some Jesuit theologians were abhorrent, and Calvin had, in their view, grasped Augustine’s teaching even if he expressed himself badly. Thus, Jansenism was in a sense a crypto-Calvinism. The Jansenists, however, never wished to leave the Church, but rather hoped to have their doctrine accepted by the Church or at least tolerated by it. This explains, in part, the persistence of Jansenism even into the nineteenth century. Jansen produced his great theoretical work of doctrine in the Augustinus (1640), published two years after his death.
Meanwhile, Duvergier de Hauranne, now abbot of Saint-Cyran, had spread enthusiasm for their views in France, especially into the large Arnauld family, many of whom were or became religious and whose activities were centered around the Cistercian convents of Port-Royal-des-Champs near Paris and Port-Royal in Paris. Schools established by the Jansenists (petites écoles) fostered Jansenist doctrine, as well as new methods of pedagogy. Jansenism was almost immediately condemned by Rome, but the Jansenists, led by Antoine Arnauld (1612-1694), refused to accept the condemnation as valid for what Jansen had actually taught and for what they actually held. An endless quarrel ensued about the right of the Church to judge and condemn error in a concrete case. The Jansenists admitted only a de iure right and denied that the condemned doctrine was de facto in Jansen’s writings. A new leader, Pasquier Quesnel (1634-1719), emerged toward the end of the seventeenth century. Repeated condemnations and harassments failed to drive Jansenism from the French Church, where it continued clandestinely until the nineteenth century. French Jansenism had always been more interested in the moral rigorism that seemed to follow from Jansen’s thought rather than his doctrinal elaboration, and toward the end of its history Jansenism was more a symbol of protest against ecclesiastical and political authority than a theological doctrine. A still-existing schismatic church was founded as the result of the Jansenist quarrel at Utrecht in 1723.
Quietism. The quarrel over Quietism was smaller and less grave than the Jansenist quarrel. The father of Quietism was a Spaniard resident in Italy, Miguel de MOLINOS (1628-1717), although his thought was not entirely original. Molinos’s Spiritual Guide (1675), translated into five languages, proposed a doctrine of total passivity in the face of divine action in the soul. Molinos was condemned and imprisoned, but similar ideas on the spiritual life were put forth by an unstable French woman, Mme. J.M. Guyon. It was Fénelon (later archbishop of Cambrai), however, who, having become Mme. Guyon’s confessor, became the chief spokesman for Quietism in France. The touchstone of Quietism was the belief that the soul might reach such a state of pure love that not only would it be indifferent to its own perfections and the practices of virtue, but it might even cease to will its own salvation. This doctrine of the exclusive action of God on the soul has affinities with Luther’s teaching, but Luther never drew the Quietist conclusions. Fénelon’s doctrine, attacked by Bossuet, was condemned by Rome in 1699. Although Fénelon submitted, he denied that he had preached the condemned teaching. Unlike Jansenism, Quietism died out immediately and completely. Both Jansenism and Quietism, however, indirectly encouraged the growth of disbelief by the public spectacles that had been made of doctrinal differences within the Church. As a result, even within the Church a certain mistrust of mystical tendencies became evident.
Febronianism. The dissatisfaction of some German ecclesiastics with papal centralization manifested itself in several ways in the eighteenth century. The most important of these was the work of an auxiliary bishop of Trier, Johann Nikolaus von Hontheim (1701-1790). His work, published beginning in 1763 under the pseudonym of Febronius and often called simply the Febronius, foresaw a revival of conciliarism in an extreme form in which the papacy would be stripped of the powers that Hontheim claimed it had usurped. The Febronius was soon translated from Latin into other languages and achieved considerable popularity. It was condemned, and Hontheim retracted, but in a quite ambiguous manner. The work gave expression to the desire on the part of certain churchmen to be free from papal and curial control. In this it was not far removed from Gallicanism, which was, however, a political attempt to be free of these same controls.
This period witnessed a number of disagreements between the papacy and various Catholic states.
Gallicanism. The term Gallicanism is used to cover a number of theories of ecclesiatical government, all generally in various degrees hostile to or suspicious of Rome. All of these were present in France in the seventeenth century—from the purely ecclesiastical theories of authority vested in all the faithful or the clergy as a whole or the entire episcopate to political Gallicanism. The latter doctrine in its extreme form made the monarch in effect head of the Church in his country. In France it was the attempt by Louis XIV to extend his powers over the Church, which led in the 1680s almost to schism. Louis, since about 1670, had been attempting to increase his already extensive regalian rights, both temporal and spiritual. Meeting some opposition, he inspired the calling of an extraordinary meeting of the general assembly of the clergy. While Bossuet’s opening address on the unity of the Church was credited with avoiding a break with Rome, it was he who drew up the summary of Gallican doctrine called the Four Articles of 1682. Royal edict forced the acceptance of these on the French Church. For about fifteen years the papacy refused to institute Louis’s appointments to the French dioceses until a large number became vacant. Finally, concessions were made on both sides, but the monarchy gave up the prescribed acceptance of the Gallican Articles. Gallicanism, while partially defeated, did not, however, die out. The state church of the Revolution was the last attempt in France to give it concrete form.
Josephinism. Not unlike the policies of Louis XIV were those of the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II (1765-1790) in his Austrian domains. Even his pious mother, Maria Theresa, had, in fact, involved herself in strictly ecclesiastical matters. Moreover, due reforms were not effected by the ecclesiastical authorities themselves. In a certain sense, however, Joseph went further than Louis by attempting to make the Church a department of the state and above all by interfering in what were beyond question strictly ecclesiastical affairs, such as the curricula of seminaries, and even the liturgy. His attitude toward the Church was more than a little influenced by the enlightenment and enlightened despotism. An attempt by Pius VI in 1782 by a personal visit to Vienna to change the Emperor’s views did not succeed. Joseph’s brother Leopold, his successor briefly as emperor, attempted similar reforms in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The Jansenist Bishop S. RICCI of Pistoia and Prato aided him, and a synod at Pistoia in 1786 drew up a list of reforms partly Jansenist, partly enlightened. The other Tuscan bishops refused, however, to follow Ricci.
While the failure to effect reforms was in part responsible for the lethargic situation of the Church in the Catholic countries in the eighteenth century, the method of reform proposed by the enlightened despots would have disastrously compromised the independence of the Church. The Constitutional Church of the French Revolution disintegrated when power was assumed by nonbelievers.
Suppression of the Jesuits. The most unhappy Church-State quarrel of the eighteenth century was the suppression of the Jesuits. Opposition to the Jesuits had arisen from many quarters—from the Jansenists, the Gallicans, and the thinkers and rulers of the Enlightenment. The Jesuits were accused, in most cases unjustly, of having acquired excessive power and wealth. They were, moreover, the religious society with the greatest loyalty to the papacy. They were suppressed by Portugal in 1759, France in 1764, and Spain in 1767, but the Catholic powers were not content until they obtained a complete suppression from Rome. This they succeeded in getting from Clement XIV in 1773. Only in Russia did the society survive until its restoration in 1814.
The Papacy, 1648-1789
The political prestige of the papacy continued to decline in the period from 1648 to 1789. No longer were the popes arbiters in international disputes. Generally, in fact, they were excluded from the major international conferences. They failed also to supply the necessary leadership or to effect reforms in their own states. In the religious domain, on the other hand, they successfully resisted Jansenism and Quietism and restrained Gallicanism and Febronianism. In dealing with the enlightened despots and their followers, especially in the matter of the Jesuits, however, they failed. The most notable papal figures during this period were Innocent XI (1676-1689), Benedict XIV (1740-1758), and Pius VI (1775-1799), who died a prisoner of the French.
Catholicism in Non-Catholic Lands
Generally speaking, the position of Catholics in Protestant lands improved somewhat during the eighteenth century. This was in part due to the Enlightenment with its ideal of tolerance. In the United Provinces, the existence of Catholics was tolerable although complicated by the Jansenist Church of Utrecht. In Scandinavia there were scarcely any Catholics except for a few, mostly foreigners, in Sweden. In Great Britain there was gradual progress toward greater toleration, but Catholics remained very few in number and still were not emancipated. Ireland also was beginning to progress toward emancipation (Relief Bill of 1778).
The Church Under the Old Regime
A brief survey of the situation of the Church in France on the eve of the Revolution offers a view of the virtues and failings of the Church in the Catholic lands. The struggle between Church and state had sunk from the level of the monarchy to quarrels between the Jansenist lawyers of the Parlements and the Church. The episcopacy, while not composed of unworthy men, was often nonresident and almost entirely drawn from the nobility. Most of the bishops were to leave France en masse when the Revolution threatened. The lower clergy, well-educated and often devoted, nevertheless resented their inability to rise in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The monasteries had vast possessions but had experienced a sharp drop in vocations, and some were almost empty. The abuses of commendation had continued. Among the laity, the educated classes were imbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment, and some had ceased to believe; the working classes, mostly still agrarian, remained for the most part attached to Catholicism.