תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

His secretary, cardinal Paulucci, would have been chosen to succeed him, if the intrigues of the Austrian faction had not baffled the views of the Italian members of the conclave, whose advantage in point of number yielded to imperial tyranny. After a vacancy of seven weeks, the pontifical chair was filled with Michael Angelo Conti, son of the duke of Poli, who assumed the designation of Innocent XIII. Being in a weak state of health at the time of his election, he did not long preside over the church, his government not being extended by Providence to the end even of the third

year. It was one of the first cares of this pontiff to accommodate the dispute respecting the investiture of the kingdom of Naples. The emperor and the king of Spain had in vain solicited that favor from the late pope: but it was now granted to the former prince, on the acknowlegement of tributary subjection to the holy see. Another object of Innocent's attention was the maintenance of the papal claim to the sovereignty of Parma and Placentia ; but he did not, in that respect, succeed to his wish. In the mean time he exercised his authority at Rome with mildness, and sometimes with that severity which appeared to be necessary. To other parts of Christendom he also extended his care and vigilance : and Spain, in particular, felt his corrective hand. Observing with serious concern, and indeed with strong disgust, the dissolute manners both of the clergy and laity in that country, he issued an admonitory and threatening edict for the repression of irregular, disorderly, and vicious practices. He had no doubt of the religious zeal and decorous behaviour of his catholic majesty m, but lamented, on this occasion, the insufficient influence even of royal example n.

Amidst the cares of spiritual and temporal government, Innocent found his health seriously declining.

m Philip V.

n Guarnacci, Vit. Pontif. tom. ii. p. 384, 385. VOL. VI.

P

Hydropic symptoms alarmed him; and other disorders conspired to put an end to his life, in the spring of the year 1724, at the age of 68. Few pontiffs were ever more popular among their temporal subjects than Innocent XIII, whose death, therefore, was sincerely lamented. His successor was cardinal Vincent Orsini (eldest son of the duke of Gravina), who, having an early sense of piety, had rejected the offer of a splendid marriage, renounced a rich inheritance in favor of a younger brother, and entered into the clerical order, in which he distinguished himself by his indefatigable zeal as a preacher, by his rigid attention to all points of duty, and his scrupulous avoidance of every species of luxury and excess.

The beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XIII. for so the new pope was styled—was marked by an edict against luxury and fantastic extravagancé in dress; and, that he might not seem to attend inore to minutiæ than to objects of importance, he took every opportunity of recommending á strict regard to moral and social duties, and a steady practice of Christian virtues. His exhortations and injunctions had some effect : but, when one head of the hydra of vice was stricken off, another instantly grew in its place. If the wishes of Benedict, however, were not answered, he consoled himself by reflecting that he had done his duty. That consciousness will always impart pleasure to a pious mind. It will soothe the Christian moralíst amidst the evils of life, and at the approach of death.

It was in the first year of his government that the affair of Thorn occurred, which, while it contributed to the supposed advantage of the catholic church by injuring the protestant interest in Poland, wounded the feelings of the pontiff, who lamented and reprobated the cruelty that attended the tri. :umph of the Romanists on that occasion. Some Lutherans neglecting or refusing to kneel at a procession of the host, a student of the Jesuits' college reproached and even struck them, and some other

zealots of that seminary afterwards insulted the peaceful inhabitants. The aggressor being appréhended and confined, his comrades demanded and obtained his release : but they were not suffered to rescue another who had been seised by the cityguard. Enraged at this disappointment, they committed various outrages; and, in retaliation, the college was attacked and plundered by the populace. The president of the city, on pretence of his connivance at this tumult on the part of the people, was decapitated by order of a Polish tribunal: nine other citizens were subjected to the same fate; and the privileges of the Lutheran inhabitants were arbitrarily annulled. This barbarity disgusted those catholics who had any sense of humanity, and excited the indignation of every protestant community. The Jesuits, however, had the effrontery to maintain, that they had only inflicted due chastisement on their insolent adversaries, who had entered into a nefarious conspiracy against their catholic fellow-citizens; and the king of Poland boasted, in the same spirit of bigotry, that he had vindicated, by the punishment of profane heretics, the honor and dignity of true religion. That prince seemed to think that he had sufficiently blended mercy with justice, by sparing the lives of the vice-president and some other citizens who had been condemned. The Jesuits had, at this time, too great an influencé át the court of Warsaw; and they rarely exerted that influence in the cause of justice or of humanity.

The more humane and benevolent pontiff consoled himself, amidst these sanguinary deeds, by a bloodless triumph of that religion which he superintended. We allude to the Jubilee of the year 1725, which he opened with great solemnity, and which gladdened the faithful with the confident hopes of a plenary remission of their sins. He afterwards held a provincial council in the Lateran church, chiefly for à reform of the conduct of the clergy; and the assembly voted for an enforcement of some decrees

that had been enacted by the council of Trent, but which had fallen into disuse. On another occasion, he rose above the bigotry of his predecessors, by expressing a wish for the diffusion of scriptural knowlege; and, with that view, he permitted the people in general to peruse the sacred volume, and encouraged the multiplication of copies in the modern languages. This permission displeased the rigid catholics ; but it was approved by a majority of the members of that church. Benedict, about the same time, testified his devotion to the Muses, by publicly decorating Perfetti, a Tuscan poet, with a crown of laurel.

A grand scheme of religious comprehension was formed by this respectable ruler of the church. It was of no less magnitude than the union of the four communities that divided Christendom. He proposed, that four councils should be holden at different places at the same time, each consisting of a certain number of representatives of the Romish, Greek, Lutheran, and Calvinist churches, with a president of one or other church in each assembly; that the mass should be so altered as not to be repugnant to the feelings of the three last denominations of Christians; that unpleasing or obnoxious doctrines should be mutually softened, and various concessions reciprocally made. A scheme of this kind can only be expected to be successful, when the greater part of the professors of each religion have relinquished all remains of cool animosity, overweening conceit, and contemptuous illiberality, and when they have learned to distinguish properly between essential objects and immaterial points, Such a state of mind has never yet been observed to influence the members of different sects, assembled for deliberation and discussion ; and we may easily conclude, that, if the four councils had met, and the result of their separate meetings had been submitted to the consideration of a general assembly, the desired union would not have taken place. The

scheme, indeed, was not prosecuted by the pontiff who entertained it; and the churches in question are still divided.

However disposed was his holiness to remain upon amicable terms with the catholic princes, he could not easily avoid all occasions of dispute. A contest had long subsisted with the court of Turin, upon three grounds,—the right of patronage, the extent of jurisdiction, and the sovereignty of different towns. The king of Sardinia asserted his pretensions with a high tone; and the prudence of Benedict suggested the propriety of compliance, not indeed in every particular, but in most of the litigated points. An allowance of the general right of royal presentation to bishoprics and other preferments, a considerable diminution of the papal fees, and a precise settlement of jurisdiction, allayed the displeasure of Victor Amadeus; and an agreement was signed in the year 1727. An accommodation was not so easily adjusted with the king of Portugal, who, not being gratified with regard to the appointment of a priest whom he recommended as a candidate for the dignity of cardinal, recalled his ambassador from Rome, ordered the papal nuncio to quit his realm, and permitted the patriarch of Lisbon to grant dispensations, and decide those points and causes which had usually been subject to the pope's determination. Benedict left the settlement of this dispute to his successor : but he found an opportu nity of effecting an accommodation with the emperor, on the subject of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and discipline in the Neapolitan realm; a reconciliation which he purchased by relinquishing some of the rights of the holy see o.

In the devotional and ritual concerns of the church, this pontiff approved the office of Gregory VII. and ordered it to be read and observed in every church

• Guarnacci, Vit. Pontif, tom. ii. p. 417–22.-Historia de Portugal, tom. iii.

« הקודםהמשך »