CHAPTER V.THE FATHER OF CHRISTENDOM. (1566-1570.)
On 17 January, 1566, Feast of St. Antony Abbot, and his sixty-second birthday, St. Pius was crowned in the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. His reign had opened in troublous times. Three distinct dangers menaced the Church: the appalling prospect of a Turkish invasion; 1 the rapid spread of the German and Swiss Protestant heresies, now rampant in England and militant in France; and the apathy of Catholics in presence of these perils, together with a certain opposition to the reforms so urgently needed from within.
But St. Pius was quite fearless. The reforms began from the very day of his coronation. Instead of the general scramble by the vast crowds in the Piazza for the large sums of money flung to them in small coins as a token of rejoicing, the new Pope ordered double the equivalent of the usual amount to be distributed privately amongst the very poor. It was the custom to set aside a thousand crowns for a great feast to the Cardinals and ambassadors, to celebrate a coronation. St. Pius ordered the thousand crowns to be distributed among the poorest convents in Rome. " I am not afraid that God will take me to task for not having given a banquet to Cardinals and ambassadors" he said, when some one ventured to remonstrate, " but I should certainly fear that He would be angry were I to neglect the poor ! " His alms to the needy and deserving amounted to 40,000 crowns; and this fact somewhat allayed public anxiety in Rome, where it was feared that a Pontiff of such stern and heroic virtue would be unduly severe. "We will try," said the Saint, when this was repeated to him, " so to rule that they shall mourn for Our death more than for Our accession."
The Pope's right-hand in all administrative work was his great-nephew, Michael Bonelli, also a Dominican, whom he raised to the purple under the title of Cardinal Alexandria In his horror of the prevalent practice of nepotism the Pope had refused at first to allow any of his relations to come to Rome, lest it should be said he had favoured them unduly. But he was induced to modify this resolution in the case of the learned and able young Dominican, who became to his uncle all that St. Charles Borromeo had been to Pius IV. The new Cardinal Alexandrin was forbidden to hold any benefice, and lived a life as simple and austere as that of his predecessor in the title.
At his accession St. Pius had, while redoubling his own devotions, begged prayers throughout Rome, particularly from all religious houses, and published a Jubilee.
Then he set himself to the task of reform at home —a task which it is only possible barely to outline.
He insisted first upon reform amongst the Cardinals. Many lived in the luxury of princes, thinking thereby to add to the dignity of the Apostolic See. The Saint exhorted them to moderation, to simplicity —even to holy poverty. " You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth!" he cried. " Enlighten the people by the purity of your lives, by the brilliance of your holiness! God does not ask from you merely ordinary virtue, but downright perfection!"
He exhorted to justice and holiness all grades of magistrates and rulers, and personally supervised their appointment. Numerous were the laws he made for the improvement of public morals—men and women of bad character, and Jewish usurers, being remorselessly banished—and for purity of life. Some of these laws, which sound curious to modern ears, were directed against innkeepers (who were forbidden to sell drink to their fellow-citizens at what were houses of entertainment only for travellers and strangers); against brigands, wreckers, and pirates. They were not, however, considered too severe in the sixteenth century. The measures taken against blasphemy in any form were particularly strong.
These laws, at once put into force, were eminently successful. In less than a year the aspect of affairs had changed. Even three months after the Saint's accession 2 a German nobleman writes of the edifying piety of the whole city of Rome during tent, and especially in Holy Week, when the churches could not contain the penitents, who slept on the bare ground and fasted rigorously. "As long as I live I shall witness, to the shame of Satan and all his ministers, that I saw in Rome at this time the most marvellous works of penitence and piety. ... But nothing can astonish me under such a Pope. His fasts, his humility, his innocence, his holiness, his zeal for the faith, shine so brilliantly that he seems a second St. Leo, or St. Gregory the Great. ... I do not hesitate to say that had Calvin himself been raised from the tomb on Easter Day, and seen the holy Pope . . . blessing his kneeling people ... in spite of himself he would have recognized and venerated the true representative of Jesus Christ!"
The Pope's measures for the reform of the Church were drastic. All bishops were bidden on pain of deprivation to return to their sees within one month; to live there, and to become true Fathers of their people. Seminaries were everywhere established, and at Fribourg a great college. The Decrees of the Council of Trent were to be rigorously observed by all grades of clergy. The most severe laws were passed against the detestable practice of simony. In France, great benefices and even bishoprics were actually held by women, who received all revenues, and paid an ecclesiastic to perform all necessary functions. 3 This terrible state of things was sternly swept away. Strict regulations were made for all religious houses; perpetual enclosure being enjoined upon all convents of nuns, " except in cases of fire, leprosy, or pestilence," according to the Decrees of the Council of Trent, confirmed by two Bulls of St. Pius in 1566. The recital of the Divine office was strictly enforced in every church (particularly in the 360 churches of Rome), and the strongest measures were taken against irreverence in church. Conversations of any kind, whispering, jokes and laughter were sternly prohibited, as offending Almighty God in the Blessed Sacrament, and most severely punished, in the first instance by a heavy fine; in the second, by prison or exile. Priests, sacristans and officials were charged to enforce this decree. The crowds of beggars which assembled within the churches were no longer allowed to pass beyond the porch, except to pray.
In September, 1566, appeared the Catechism of the Council of Trent, drawn up under the Pontiffs direction. 4 The new edition of the Breviary, 5 revised by him, was published 9 July, 1568, and the revised missal two years later. Church music received much attention, the old Gregorian plain-chant being restored in its splendid simplicity. Few Catholics are perhaps aware how nearly music was forbidden altogether as an accessory of worship. To Palestrina, the great composer, belongs the honour of preserving it to the Church. Pius IV, in 1565, had held a commission on Church music, then become almost operatic in its extravagantly secular character. Palestrina was bidden to compose three Masses, in order that the Commission might see if it was possible to combine beautiful music with real devotion. On the manuscript of one of these,—the " Mass of Pope Marcellus II"—can be seen, written in a trembling hand, the touching words : " Help me, O God! " 6 So exquisite was this Mass that Pius IV, on hearing it, cried with emotion : " This must be the New Song which John the Apostle heard in the Celestial City!" St. Pius V appointed Palestrina master of the Papal chapel and choir.
Such is the briefest sketch of the great reforms wrought by St. Pius in the Church, and for the moral welfare of his people. A necessarily brief survey must also be taken of his world-wide political energies, though in order fully to appreciate these it would be necessary carefully to study the eighty volumes of the Pope's correspondence, preserved in the Vatican! His outlook and his dominion embraced the world, which was leavened by his holy influence. 7
The weak and vacillating emperor Maximilian II, hard pressed by the Lutherans at the Council of Augsburg, had almost decided to grant all their demands. Cardinal Commendone, an experienced diplomatist, was straightaway dispatched to point out the grave danger of yielding to political necessity those truths which in his heart the Emperor held sacred. He was bidden to exact profession of Catholic faith from all prelates of his empire, and to enjoin upon all the strict observance of the Tridentine Decrees. But Maximilian could not make up his mind to offend the powerful Lutheran party, already in possession of many sees. He admitted to the Legate that the Pope was right, but that he dared not refuse " liberty of conscience "to all! That night appeared to him a vision of St Pius, with a fiery sword in his hand, which so terrified the time-serving Emperor that he at once promised obedience! His brother Ferdinand was also moved by a brief of St. Pius to abandon a certain disloyal course of political action.
But it was not only on Germany that the Saint's eyes were turned. Sigismund, King of Poland, who had repudiated his Queen, Catherine, actually applied for a divorce. St. Pius told him plainly that he had been inspired by heretics, and by the memory of Henry VIII. As he well knew, the sacrament of matrimony was indissoluble. The death of Queen Catherine alone prevented Sigismund from seeking a reconciliation with her. But heresy was rife in Poland, and it seemed at one time as if the King would countenance the persecution of Catholics. Again the Holy Father intervened, and his stern reproof saved the unhappy country. By his decrees countless abuses were reformed there. It was through his influence alone that the Grand Duke of Moscow was dissuaded from invading Poland, and brought to consider instead the advisability of joining the League against the Turks! Nor did his dauntless courage fail to gain him the respect—even the affection—of the princes he reprimanded.
Spain, under Philip II, was then at the zenith of her glory. Under her flag in the Old World and the New, the Catholic faith was zealously guarded, and Franciscans and Dominicans, followed later by the Society of Jesus, preached and baptized among many heathen nations. St. Pius sought to redouble the zeal of those missionaries already in the field, as well as to increase their numbers; and many and wise were the regulations he laid down for the native converts. He warned Philip, then in the Netherlands, of the threatened rising of the Moors in Spain (1567-68)—a warning at first almost disregarded, but which, when repeated, woke Philip at last to the terrible danger. He prohibited bull-fights—the national pastime—most strictly; and forbade Christian burial to any who should be killed while taking part in them. He reformed many ecclesiastical abuses of old standing. It was through the Holy Father's advice that Philip II undertook in the Netherlands that campaign against the heretics for which he, and the Duke of Alva, his commander-in-chief, have been branded by Protestants (who know nothing of the appalling outrages and rebellious attitude of their co-religionists) as monsters of cruelty. St. Pius supplied the King with money for this war, and with French and Italian troops. He legislated wisely against Mohammedans and Jews in Spain.
It was the condition of France , however, under Catherine de Medici, which caused St. Pius the gravest anxiety. "The eldest daughter of the Church " was indeed in sore straits. The Queen-regent, whose conduct is so much the more inexcusable than Elizabeth's, in that she professed herself a Catholic, had for many years been intriguing with the rapidly increasing Huguenot party, in spite of its avowedly anarchist and anti-Catholic tenets; in spite of countless outrages committed upon the Blessed Sacrament, and all holy things, of the murder of priests, of the destruction of churches and relics. Catherine " tolerated " the Huguenots, but this did not save France from continual war and rebellion stirred up by these heretics.
Cardinal Turriani was dispatched as Nuncio to the French Court, and through him the Pope's fiery representations took effect. The heretic counsellors—among them Cardinal Chatillon, Bishop of Beauvais—were banished, and the decrees of the Council of Trent published. Avignon, the ancient city of the Popes, was safeguarded from an irruption of heresy.
Catherine lost little time in representing to the Pope (whom she thanked warmly for his timely assistance!) that the royal treasury was empty, informing him at the same time of her earnest desire to see the Huguenot heresy extirpated in France. St. Pius, though not deceived by these representations, nor believing, as Catherine asserted, that she only tolerated heretics because she-had no money to take up arms against them, came generously to the rescue. He sent 150,000 crowns, and 6000 soldiers, and finding this insufficient, requested Philip II and the Italian Princes to come to the aid of France. A tax was imposed on the clergy, and an several rich monasteries, and with the voluntary offering of 100,000 crowns from his people, called "the subsidy of charity," sufficient funds were raised for a campaign. In order to avoid pillage and rapine, the worst horrors of warfare, the Holy Father insisted upon his soldiers being well-fed, and regularly paid. At Jarnac (12 March, 1569) a great victory was gained over the rebel troops by the Duke of Anjou. St. Pius caused a solemn Te Deum of thanksgiving to be sung in St. Peter's, and earnestly begged the Duke to follow up his advantage, which he did at Mont-contour (3 Sept., 1569), when, chiefly through the valour of the pontifical troops, the Huguenots sustained a crushing defeat. The heretics themselves declared that when the Pope's standard was unfurled they saw the heavens full of soldiers in shining armour, each brandishing a drawn sword,— a sight which greatly discomfited them. 7
The growth of the Portuguese dominions in the East was followed attentively by the Pope, who, on the representation of his friend, St. Francis Borgia, General of the Society, consecrated three Jesuit bishops for Goa, and further India. Nor did he forget the needs of China and Japan, in the former of which countries the glorious Church founded by " Christ's wandering Friars " 8 in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had been drowned in a sea of blood. His fatherly care was felt in all parts of the world. He did not forget Italy. The terrible struggle between Corsica and Genoa was ended by his diplomacy; Naples and Sicily were pacified; heresy was firmly stamped out in Lombardy, particularly in Milan, where St. Charles Borromeo was only saved by a miracle from the bullet of an assassin, while praying in his private chapel, 26 October, 1569. St. Pius, deeply shocked, abolished (7 February, 1571) the shamefully relaxed Order of Humiliati, of which the would-be murderer was a member. The whole tragic story belongs rather to the life of St. Charles than to that of St Pius, but it is well to mention it here.
One single instance may be given of the Saint's manner of showing gratitude to his friends. Cosmo de Medici, Duke of Tuscany—the very prince who had once called him " the Cardinal of God," had been eminently loyal and devoted to the Holy See since his accession, particularly in regard to his generous assistance in the war with the Huguenots. St. Pius invited him to Rome during the Lent of 1570 received him as an honoured guest; and during Solemn High Mass in St. Peter's on Mid-Lent Sunday, crowned him with his own hands as Grand Duke of Tuscany. To the Austrian ambassador, who ventured to remonstrate—for Cosmo was not a vassal of the Pope—the Saint replied that the Church alone conferred on Christian princes their dignities and titles; and sent Cardinal Commendone to explain to the Emperor, from historical precedents, that he was within his prerogative in so acting. Criticism, in the face of such energy and sincerity, was gradually silenced.
But it is not even by events like these that the name of St. Pius will be ever honoured. Catholics may forget his great reforms, his missionary zeal, his war against the Huguenots, but they cannot forget the Excommunication of Elizabeth, and the Battle of Lepanto.
1 In 1565 nothing but the glorious defence of the Rock of Malta by the heroic Knights of St. John had prevented Soliman the Magnificent from ravaging the South of Europe. He greatly desired an alliance with the Lutheran heretics; Martin Luther, he said, was an instrument raised up by God to fight against the Catholic Church from within !
2 9 April, 1566. See De Failoux, "Hist, de St. Pie V," p. 127.
3 The sister-in-law of the Due de Montpensier actually held the bishopric of Glandeves-sur-Var, and two abbeys in Brittany and Normandy! (Joyau, "Vie," etc., p. 109).
4 St. Pius had it translated into French, Italian, German, and Polish.
5 By a special decree, those Orders which could show a rite of their own in existence for 200 years, approved by the Apostolic See, were permitted to retain it. Thus, Benedictines, Carthusians, Cistercians, Carmelites, and Dominicans kept their ancient office; and, the Cathedral Chapter of Milan retained the Ambrosian Rite; Toledo the Mozarabic; the French Churches their own uses, etc.
5 "Deus, in adjutorium meum intende,'
6 See " Dublin Review," Oct., 1866 (St. Pius V).
7 "The glory of the victory of Montcontour," writes his earliest biographer, " belongs undoubtedly to the Pope." The same might with equal truth be said of Jarnac.
8 A society of Dominican and Franciscan missionaries established by Innocent IV, and named, gloriously : "Societas Fratrum Peregrinantium propter Christum Pekin and Sultanieh each had an archbishop with seven suffragans.