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Theo 273 Modern Church History Giacomo Martina SJ


A. Causes and Characteristics

1. Causes.
- The age of Absolutism is the point of arrival of a long process,
beginning with the Middle Ages, into which flowed various factors,
primarily the struggle initiated by the monarchy against the
nobility and the breakdown of medieval distinction between the
civil and religious authority.
a) France: the example par excellence of this process
- Since the 1300s, the French kings had tried with all their might
and used all kinds of means to dismantle the power of the
feudal nobility and to concentrate all power and authority in
their hands.
- Various factors would give the victory to the French monarchy
despite the strong and long resistance by the nobility:
(1) Strong personalities of the kings themselves and their
(2) The social fatigue that came in the wake of the politico-
religious wars of the 1500s,
(3) The interested support of the bourgeoisie, which looked on
the strengthening of the monarchical power and authority
as the guarantee of peace and security in their commercial
activity, and therefore as a bulwark against the arbitrary
will of the nobles and as a possible camp for the
investment of capital
b) Spain and England:
- Riches accumulated through their colonial investments and the
internal dissension among the members themselves of the
nobility ensured the triumph of the monarchy.
c) Germany:
- Only Germany would go the opposite direction. The princes
succeeded in breaking away form the imperial authority and in
transforming the ancient feudal territories into sovereign
- In summary: with the nobility neutralized and made impotent, the
monarchs were now able to concentrate in their hands all power
and authority in their own territories…

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2. Political Characteristics
- The King declared himself “absolved” (“absolutus”) from any and
every external authority.
 He no longer recognized imperial authority (“rex in suo regno est
 He also no longer admitted in some way the right of the pope to
sanction the legitimacy of his own authority within his own
- Internally, all power and authority are now concentrated in the
hands of the monarch.
 The tendency therefore was toward administrative uniformity.
 All political powers were now vested in the ruler, in an
exclusive, total, indivisible and irrevocable manner.
 Thus, the king was no longer subject to any law…
- E.g., Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoy in 1561, could say:
“As princes, we are absolved and freed from every law!”; or
Ludwig of Bavaria: “We are above the law…!”
 The fiscal system also came under the control of the sovereign
ruler, so that he could impose taxes on anyone or on any
institution without his or its consent…
 The sovereign could also arrest and imprison anyone, “car tel
est mon plaisir” (“because such is my pleasure”) through what
has been called the “Lettres de cachet.”
 The sovereign ruler could also intervene anywhere and in every
 For the first time really, what we see is now a standing army
under the control of the sovereign ruler, where before he had to
rely on the feudal lords to supply him with men and weapons.
Now, the army marched in common uniform and received their
sustenance from the royal coffers and become salaried…
 In summary: the kingdom was for all practical purposes now
considered the private property of the king, which he could then
pass as inheritance to whomever it pleased him to do so (in
practice, this would give rise to various conflicts of

3. Social and Juridical Characteristics

- Absolutism based itself on an inequality among the different social
classes or orders, i.e., on privileges granted to some and denied to
- A small group of the privileged coexisted with a great mass of
people deprived of privileges, an anonymous crowd that usually
lived in oppressive economic conditions, always constrained to give
way to the upper classes, and without the possibility of making its

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voice heard because they were deprived as well of political rights,

and were unable to correct this anomaly because they were
confirmed in their resignation by the mentality of the times and by
the religious doctrine taught them…
- This situation has been called “l’ancien régime…”
- The privileged class:
(a) “noblesse d’épée”: descendants of the ancient feudal nobility
(b) “noblesse de robe”: those who, by royal concession, receive
some title as reward and recognition for services rendered to the
- Privileges granted them by the king: social, juridical, and economic
(a) Social privileges
- Monopoly of certain offices, particularly in the army
- Exclusive colleges for their sons
- Distinction in dress, in the theatre and in church
- Participation in the royal feasts
- The right to have their heads covered before the king
 All of this however was part of a political strategy: drown
the nobility with every social privilege but deprive them of
every real political power and authority. For this reason,
the royal courts required the nobility to reside with the
king, not far from his court, to better control them: thus
the phenomenon of Versailles…
(b) Juridical privileges
- “Fede commesso”: the juridical institution of the “trust” –
the “trustor” has the right to leave his property after his
death to whomever he designates as his “trustee”; from this
would issue the juridical principle of the “primogeniture,”
i.e., the eldest son receives in inheritance all of the
 Thus what we have here is the diminution of the rights of
the other siblings…who however may be allowed to live in
the household of their eldest brother or in a house
assigned to them, with a stipend… Usually, other
siblings are shunted off to the Church where they
hopefully can become bishops or abbots or some such
ecclesiastical dignitary… Ignatius of Loyola for example
in his childhood had received the tonsure…
- Also, special courts were set up for the nobles; there were
also special punishments and penalties for their erring
(c) Economic privileges
- This usually took the form of exemption from taxes.

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4. Economic Characteristics
- The general principle: the absolutist state did not recognize, as we
do today, the autonomy of the economic sphere from the political.
In effect, it is the use of the economic sphere as an instrument of
the political that characterizes mercantilism, a form of capitalism
then in vogue at the time, which looks on the economic system as
primarily providing the means in order for the sovereign ruler to
advance an ambitious imperialist politics not concerned to secure
the common good.
- Mercantilism: it is the identification of public wealth with the
amount of liquid money in circulation, but retained in the state
treasury (colbertism and protectionism), the increase of industrial
output for purposes of export, the lowering of salaries and wages…
 This economic system was involved in a contradiction however:
there was an increase not only in public wealth, but also in
public debt.
 Those who suffered the most were the lower classes.
Ultimately, however, it was the bourgeoisie that chaffed under
this system, so much so that they became the prime movers
behind the French Revolution…
- Externally, the economic system was a kind of imperialism, i.e.,
premised on the need to control the world economy, i.e., of sources
of raw materials and markets for finished products.
 Foreign affairs therefore were conducted primarily in economic
terms, but in the service of the politics of the king…

5. Other Considerations
- We can identify two kinds of “absolutism”:
(a) There is “pure absolutism,” the best example of which was
Louis XIV, the “Sun King.” Dominant here would be the
patrimonial concept of the state, considered the property of
the king and directed according to his wishes.
(b) Then there is “enlightened despotism,” seen in the monarchs
of the 18th century (in Spain, we have the example of Carlos
III, under whose rule the Jesuits were ousted from all Spanish
dominions). The sovereign ruler denies every political liberty
to his subjects, but takes care of the common good.
- In the period of the “restoration” of the monarchy (l’ancien régime)
in the post-French Revolution period (19th century), the uniform
administrative reforms inherited from Napoleon were conserved,
but political liberties were denied there was only a limited return to
the regime of privileges (for the nobility?)…

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- Demographics: Europe was demographically stagnant in the

1500s and 1600s, but there was an increase in population in the
 Thus Rome experienced a fall in birth rates because of the high
number of celibates in its population, but in 1702 there was an
increase of the population by 1.64%.
 In the 1600s: Europe experienced a high infant mortality,
famine, plagues and pestilences, wars, and therefore low
population growth.
- Life expectancy: 30-40 years
 In Naples, due to the plague of 1656.1657, the city’s population
fell from 310,000 to 70,000…
 To 1600: Europe had a population of 90,000,000
 To 1700: population grew minimally to 115,000,000
 In the 18th century (1700s): the population jumped to around
- World population was estimated between 1500 and 1800 anywhere
from 400,000,000 to 800,000,000.
- Note that in progress was a growing urbanization of the
 Amsterdam: 1514 = 40,000  1685 = 185,000
 Rome: 1600 = 100,000  1700 = 150,000
 Berlin in the 1700s: from 50,000 to 170,000
 In the beginning of the 1700s, there were eight cities with a
population of more than 100,000: Rome, Madrid, Venice,
Milan, Lisbon, Vienna, Seville, Palermo…and two cities had a
population of more than 200,000: Paris and London…
- Note well the changing sense of distance.
 We may see this in the postal service then operative: the family
Tassi of Bergamo, Italy (Our modern day “taxi” is derived from
this Italian family name.), later Thurn und Taxis, obtained in
the 1500s the monopoly of the imperial Hapsburg mail:
- From Madrid to Rome: 24-26
- From Milan to Bruxelles: 5

B. A Society Officially Christian

1. Fundamental Principle
- Note well that the absolute state officially recognized itself as a
Christian state.
- A fundamental principle inspired Absolutism with regard to the
influence that religion could have in society: there must be a

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perfect parallelism between Church and State, between the

spiritual-religious-supernatural order and the political-civil-
temporal order.
- This is to be understood not in a separatist sense however (as in
our modern day understanding of the separation of Church and
State and therefore of their being parallel realities) but in a
collaborationist sense, with one influencing the other in some way
or other, for both were considered to have been derived from the
same principle and tended toward the same end: the good of the
human being.
- More concretely, between the political and ecclesiastical societies,
the specific differences that characterized the essence, end and
proper methods of one or the other were notably attenuated. Civil
society tended to assume certain sacred traits proper to religious
society, while the latter in its turn tended to adopt “the legal
means, more properly of the temporal regimentation than the
- This same tendency may be expressed in another form: all that
was prohibited or permitted in the religious order must also be
prohibited or permitted in the civil order, with some rare
exceptions. If this mentality is diametrically opposed to that of the
19th and 20th centuries, which wanted to completely separate the
spheres proper to the two societies, the temptation to project in
one of the two societies the methods proper to the other has not
totally disappeared, even if today the phenomenon has assumed a
one-way street: if civil society does not look anymore to the
religious society as its model, the Church tends however to
assimilate and make its own the methods typical of democratic
- Post-Tridentine ecclesiology has certainly been influenced greatly
by Robert Bellarmine, the great Jesuit Cardinal, most of all in its
great theological works but also, though in less measure, in its
catechisms. The Roman theologian, outstanding in his works on
controversial theology, in many parts of his Controversiae (in De
ecclesia militante, but also in his De Christo, etc.), detained himself
much on the nature of the Church, underlining the following
a) The visibility of the Church (against the Lutherans who in art. 7
of the Augsburg Confession called the Church “congregatio
b) Its hierarchical character (at its head: the pope, the Vicar of
Christ, from whom derived his (the pope’s) universal jurisdiction
over the Church, with the episcopate, which was instituted by
Christ himself…)

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c) The Church’s intimate relationship with Christ (“Ecclesia tota

est unum corpus, cuius caput est Christus,” “Christus, ut
influens in omnia membra, dicitur caput…”)
d) Its infallibility
 All these elements reveal a great anti-Protestant stress.
 Lost was the spiritual-mystical character of the Church.
 Bellarmine of course had a complex ecclesiology, not reducible
to an apologetic, juridical and sociological vision. It is however
true that he gave, beyond a definition of the Church which
brings to mind that of the catechism of Pius X (i.e., the three
essential elements of baptism, common faith, and subjection to
the legitimate pastors, especially the Pope), another definition:
the Church is a human community that is visible and palpable,
just as the Roman people, the Kingdom of France, and the
Republic of Venetians are visible and palpable (“coetus hominum
ita visibilis et palpabilis, ut est coetus populi romani, vel regnum
Galliae, aut respublica venetorum”).
 In effect therefore, Bellarmine defines the Church as one visible
society like any other, though of a higher order. This definition
is comprehensible in the historical context in which it was
made, that is, in the anti-Protestant polemic and the effort to
underline the visible and hierarchical nature of the Church. In
the preoccupation, expressed by the same Bellarmine in the
pages which immediately followed his definition, to complete
[this definition] by indicating her true riches, i.e., the interior
gift of the Holy Spirit, faith, hope, charity, etc. (“interna dona
Spiritus Sancti, fides, spes, charitas etc…”), he clarified that this
definition indicated the “minimum” which one may say of the
- Unfortunately, those lines had an import beyond the
intention of their author. The insistence on the visible and
social character of the Church constituted an opportune way
for responding, on the one hand, to Lutheran ecclesiology,
which was interior and radically spiritualist, and on the
other hand, to the tendencies of the Catholic and Protestant
jurisdictionalists, who negated the independence of the
Church from the State.
- Thus was it easy to pass from the “coetus visibilis et
palpabilis” to the concept of “societas perfecta”, which
unilaterally accentuated the institutional, exterior and
juridical aspect of the Church, admitted also by the
Catholics, but which finally ended with putting in the
shadows the more important elements, such as that of the
sacramental nature of the Church, that is, as sign and

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instrument of salvation, as the mystical body of Christ,

which recognized Christ as her true head and from whom
she draws that supernatural life which flows in her various
 It seems that the expression (“societas perfecta”) gained
currency in the second half of the 1700s through the
work of the school of Würzburg (northwestern Bavaria, to
the southwest of Frankfurt), but might have been
enunciated with clarity in the Synopsis juris ecclesiastici
publici et privati, which came out in Vienna in 1777:
“Societas igitur christiana divinae originis est. Est societas
perfecta, nexu animorum non interno solum, sed externo
etiam colligata, cum unionis, tum subiectionis nec non et
pacti sollemnis.” The Austrian canonist Franz
Reitenstrauch (†1785) probably must have influenced this
evolution. However the definition of Synopsis of 1777 put
in evidence the two aspects, internal and external, of the
Church; much later that which was remembered would
be the external and juridical aspect.
 The opposed line would reemerge here and there, in the
ancien régime as in Vatican I, where the idea of the
mystical body would flourish in theologians and writers
like Rosmini and Newman. But practically confirmed in
essentially all ways was the idea that the Church had all
the means to reach her goals, that she was independent
of the State, so that one ended with unconsciously
thinking that the Church was like a society that in many
aspects was very similar indeed to the State, i.e., that she
had analogous structures and therefore could use
analogous means, especially coercive ones.

2. Applications of the Fundamental Principle

- Let us now attempt to gather the principal applications of this
fundamental principle and this mentality. Here and there, in
providing examples, we shall bring forward facts and laws of the
first half of the 1800s; we shall avoid all kinds of anachronism
because we shall always be dealing here with the laws of the
restoration, still inspired by the same mentality as that of the
ancien régime...
- In summary, the characteristics of the Absolutist State are as

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a. It was founded on the theory of the divine right of kings.

- Under the influence of Protestantism, thus a certain
alienation from medieval political doctrines favorable to the
participation of the people in political life (thus Scotus,
Durandus, Egidio Romano, Giacomo da Viterbo…), various
authors like James I of England, William Barclay, Bodin, and
Bossuet surrounded the royal power with a sacred aura,
transferring to the civil sovereignty the religious consecration
and the most special prerogative of the supreme authority of
the Church
- Only the monarchy was considered the legitimate form of
government; the right of sovereigns was imprescriptible and
inalienable and superior to any utilitarian consideration
- The sovereign had his authority directly and immediately
from God, who did not, in order to manifest his will, deem it
necessary to use external secondary circumstances
 The Lord conferred authority on the sovereign with a
positive act analogous to that verified in the election of
the pope; it therefore possessed a transcendent
investiture which brought with it an intangible right and
which gave to the person of the sovereign a sacred
character: “Le roy … ne tient son scepter du Pape, ny de
l’Archeveque de Rheims, ny du people, ains de Dieu seul.”
 The king therefore is God’s lieutenant on earth, the living
image of God, seated on the throne of God
- The ceremony of royal consecration with the anointing and
the invocations recited over the king had this signification:
the sovereign acquired a character superior to that of the
human, and an ancient tradition attributed to him the power
to heal certain illnesses, above all scrofula (swelling of the
lymph nodes of the neck).
- Of his manner of acting, of his decisions, the sovereign
needed to give an account only to God; no earthly authority,
not even the pope, and a fortiori no parliament and no
assembly could intervene
 The king, in any case, could always have hidden “in his
royal breast” the ultimate motives of his decisions
 Unchained from the principle of any direct responsibility
toward his subjects, a noteworthy passage was made
toward a complete autonomy of the political authority
from every transcendent law
 To the subjects remained blind obedience; the Bishop of
Pistoia, Scipione de’ Ricci, admonished the people in a
pastoral instruction: “Only the sovereign, who has

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received from God the office of looking after the

conservation of the republic…can see the true needs of
the State… and to God alone does he need to give an
account of the execution, not to private citizens…

b. Political unity founded on religious unity

- Presupposed here was the destruction of religious unity that
characterized medieval Europe, which considered itself a
species of respublica christiana and its replacement, not least
due to the Protestant Reformation, became definitive with the
Peace of Augsburg (1555) and the Peace of Westphalia (1648)
- Religious unity would now be sought from within the borders of
the State; it was impossible then to consider that a given State
could be politically united but religiously divided: thus “un roi,
une loi, une foi”
- Thus even Saint Francis de Sales, with iron logic, could write to
the Duke of Savoy, begging him to expel the obstinate heretics
from his territory; those who did not want to enter into the
kingdom of God did not have the right to be part of the earthly
- The consequence: he who does not follow the dominant religion
loses not only his political rights (expressed for example in the
right to hold public office), but also his civil rights (liberty of
residence, of movement, of profession, of property…); this
principle was valid for both Catholics and Protestants, although
its application varied here and there
- Thus, in France from 1598 (the Edict of Nantes promulgated by
Henry IV) all the way to its abrogation through the decision of
Louis XIV (in 1685), in Poland, and in several German States,
non-Catholics enjoyed civil rights (with very particular privileges
granted by Henry IV to the French Calvinists, who almost
formed a State within the State)
- In Brandenburg, where the majority was Protestant, Catholics
were able to obtain some recognition.
- In England and in Ireland, Catholics remained, until 1793,
almost deprived of every political right and were strongly limited
in their civil rights; only from 1829 can one speak of equal
rights for Catholics in the two island-nations…

c. Catholicism, in the Catholic states, was declared the state religion

- There was official recognition of the Catholic faith as the only
true religion, and of the Church as a sovereign society in her
own sphere (though this latter would be restricted more and
more); official recognition and strict unity between the religious

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and the political would issue in the understanding that the

Catholic religion and its interests were tightly connected with
those of the State; recognized therefore was the ideal of the
unity between throne and altar.

d. It was the king’s strict obligation to defend and promote religion.

- Thus the sovereign sought to create and maintain the
structures that facilitated and rendered more easily the
observance of religious obligations of his subjects
- The sovereign defended religion, impeding heretical proselytism,
and prohibiting the diffusion of books contrary to religion (thus
in 1765, Ferdinando IV, King of Naples, prohibited the diffusion
of the Dictionnaire de philosophie, published in Lyons in 1764,
exemplar of the new spirit of the Enlightenment)
 The gravity of
punishment however for proselytism varied from state to
- Crimes against the established religion however were
considered crimes against the spiritual patrimony of the State,
and even as a species of lèse majesté, and not only against the
Lord whose honour the State was obliged to defend…

e. Civil laws were to be in harmony with canonical laws

- The State was not content to be inspired in her legislation by
Catholic doctrine but recognized as well the canon law of the
Church, and thus gave the support of the secular arm in order
to coactively impose its execution; indeed, usually, the State
made the canon law of the Church her own, promulgating a
civil law parallel and analogous to the ecclesiastical law
 Examples of this: the laws concerning marriage, e.g., laws
fixing the conditions of the marriage bond, stabilizing its
impediments, regulating the forms of its celebration,
juridically pronouncing on the validity of the matrimonial
bond and on the validity of the nuptials (or engagement); the
matrimonial regime remained the one fixed in the 24 th
Solemn Session of the Council of Trent, of November 1563,
with the decree Tametsi; the competence of the civil
authority was restricted to the civil effects (succession,
extension of the authority of parents, reciprocal obligations
of the spouses, patrimonial conventions, and other similar
- Through the years however, the State, with insistent and subtle
actions, and under the influence of the Enlightenment and of
Jurisdictionalism, would attempt, not without efficacy, to limit

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the rights of the Church and to extend her own competence in

the area of marriage
- Thus in France, Tuscany and Naples, the State refused to
recognize the legal effects of marriages “in conscience,” i.e.,
marriages celebrated in secret, with the dispensation of their
publication and with only the assistance of the parish priest
and some witnesses…
- Regarding religious vows were recognized by the State, so that
actions opposed to them were considered null and void by the
State (e.g., marriage of a religious); or, in some States, a
religious with solemn vows was considered “civilly dead,” so
that he became incapable of receiving any inheritance (due to
his vow of poverty); other laws looked to facilitating or, better,
imposing the ecclesiastical precepts, above all of the feasts,
abstinence and fasting; the non-observance of these was
punished; prohibited were the engaging in business and the
opening of shops, recreation in public during sacred functions;
those who did not demonstrate the proper religious decorum
and reverence in Church were to be punished…
- Significant in its evolution was the complex legislation regarding
the press…
 In the first phase: from the 1500s towards the 1600s, in
many though not in all countries, no other mechanism for
censorship existed than then ecclesiastical one, established
by Lateran V in 1515 for all books and other written works,
and on whatever argument (Trent would take this up again
with regard to the Sacred Books); the bishop exercised this
function of censorship, and then later the Inquisition would
break into the scene
 In a second phase, the State intervened in censorship, so
that the competence of the Church was restricted to religious
questions, variously determined, but in a way that always
excluded more and more juridical questions, i.e., those that
had anything to do with Church-State relations; in practice,
writers had to submit their work to two censorship boards,
but with the State functioning as an oversight body on the
magisterium itself; increasingly, Church writings, including
pastoral letters of bishops, were subjected to State review
and censorship: in 1776, the Hapsburg government of
Lombardy prohibited the reprinting of Bellarmine’s
catechism, and prohibited the circulation of copies printed
elsewhere from being diffused in the realm…

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 Again, note the trajectory of this development: from

providing support to Church’s efforts to exercising control
over the Church herself…

f. Accepted was the use of the civil authority’s coercive powers by

ecclesiastical authority for its own proper ends
- Thus the death penalty carried out by the civil authority for the
ecclesiastical offense of heresy
- Primary receivers of this service of the State: inquisitors,
bishops, religious superiors
- The State in many concordats had explicitly accepted the
obligation of lending its assistance for the application and
enforcement of ecclesiastical procedures
- The religious-ideological basis of this practice: a tradition,
which rose in medieval times and which appeared in the canon
law of the epoch, which considered the bishop as pastor, which
duty now necessarily included the tutelage of the faith and of
morals; but how then to exercise this role with authority and its
own proper methods?
- The Council of Trent appealed to this medieval tradition when,
in the “decree of reformation” of the 13 th Solemn Session (1551),
it admonished the bishops to show themselves first of all
pastores, non percussores, but then it authorized them almost
immediately, and if necessary, to run to the juridical practice,
establishing precise norms for the processes to be taken in the
 Parish priests shared in this office of the bishop, and they
too could and should denounce public sinners to the
episcopal courts…; examples: Milano, Foligno, Mexico City
- Naturally this presupposed a corps of policemen, directly
dependent on the ecclesiastical authority and distinct from the
State apparatus, and also a prison house; thus the Inquisition,
religious houses for both men and women, and episcopal courts
had their own prison cells; this idea and practice of having
places of incarceration for wayward religious, in strident
contrast to the principle of free consecration of the self to the
Lord, persisted from the first centuries of Christianity to the
time of the Enlightenment; only with the new mentality created
by the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, among many
other negative aspects, would we encounter this positive effect:
a change in the constitutions and rules of the religious
institutes, inspired by other principles, particularly with the
abolition of prison cells in religious houses…

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g. In hospitals, medical assistance and spiritual care were tied to

each other, so that a doctor was required to call for a priest in
attending to a patient in danger of death. This ruling however
reached absurd proportions, as patients were threatened with the
refusal of medical assistance if they did not confess their sins to a

h. There was the Christian organization of work as in the universities

(which were “corporations,” i.e., “single bodies”) and
- Every worker, teacher, assistant or apprentice, in order to
exercise his profession, needed to become a member of a
corresponding corporation, or university, and to observe its
- These corporations, which excluded simple workers (probably
nonprofessionals) and salaried employees who were abandoned
to themselves, had a duplex finality: economic and religious…
 Economic end of
corporations: this proposed to eliminate competition, fixing
the rates and conditions of work, and to guarantee the
genuineness of the product, and to defend the rights and
privileges of members… Note that the corporations were
typical medieval creations, but with time, they had regressed
somewhat and had become a closed caste, eminently
preoccupied above all with the interests of their members; in
this manner it effectively blocked every novelty (given the
lack of any competition), and access to a profession was
precluded to those who did not belong to a family that for
generations had been involved in them. It was obvious that
these negative developments, well-noted by economic
researchers, would sound the death knell to the corporations
with the break out of the French Revolution.
 We should not
however forget the other end of the corporations: their
religious-cultural-charitable end: members of the
corporations were required to profess their Catholic faith
vigorously (thus, they mandated the practical exclusion of
non-Catholics, a practice that differed though from country
to country), and to participate in communitarian religious
celebrations (assistance at processions, funerals,
preaching…), in many cases, in their own churches, which
had conserved, after many centuries, their own names (e.g.,
San Giuseppe de’ Falegnami in Rome, etc.). Every

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corporation had its chaplain, who received a regular stipend,

and who watched over the moral conduct of the members.
- The religious character of the professions were
accentuated by the existence – at least in many cases – of
a confraternity distinct from the university/corporation
but parallel to it…
- The confraternity, in difference from the
university/corporation, even if in practice very much
related to it, had exclusive religious-moral ends or goals,
e.g., celebration of masses for its dead members, the
celebration of its patronal feast, assistance to ill
members, the enjoyment of religious privileges (e.g.,
indulgences, etc., particularly diffused in Rome)…
- The universities/corporations later on suppressed, the
confraternities would continue to exist, but in more straitened
circumstances and deprived of any authentic efficacy, until the
blows of secularization would condemn these same
confraternities either to non-existence or to change their ends…
- In any case, one must note here the great diversity of
confraternities, particularly those not tied to the corporations,
but which were dedicated to cultic ends (adoration of the
Blessed Sacrament), or to charitable ones (assistance extended
to those condemned to death, to prisoners, etc.), or to
catechetical instruction (confraternities of Christian doctrine)…
- Christian life in these centuries would not be recognizable and
understood without taking into account these confraternities,
their statutes and activity, their influence and even their

i. The Church had the monopoly of social work and education, and of
anything that had the character of the sacred or had some
connection with the sacred...
- The State had no interest, until the 1700s, in education, which
therefore remained in the hands of the religious of the various
orders (Jesuits, Scolopians, Barnabites, Brothers of the
Christian Schools, Benedictines, etc.)
- Jesuits were known for the education to which flocked the elite;
but schools for the other social classes were directed by the
Brothers of the Christian Schools (known in the Philippines as
the De la Salle Brothers)…
- Less developed but nonetheless present was education for
girls/women; for the daughters of the nobility or of the high
bourgeoisie, there were schools attached to the convents and,
later, in the 1700s, the conservatories which issued from the

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transformation of contemplative institutes; daughters of the

lower classes were practically abandoned, and only in the end of
the 1600s would arise some providential initiatives on their
behalf, like the pious teachers (the Venerini, the Filippini, from
the name of the foundress, and others), who opened various
schools in Rome and in Lazio, in numbers however which were
not equal to the need…
- Popular education was, on the whole, inexistent, for lack of
means and because of a deep insensibility to the problem, so
that the number of the illiterate must have superseded 90% of
the population; nevertheless, the little that was being done
during this period was being done by the Church…
- The academic university, from the 1200s to the time of
Napoleon (early 19th century) remained in essentially
ecclesiastical hands…
- An analogous development characterize the hospitals and
medical assistance in general, considered an emanation of
Christian charity and therefore managed substantially by the
hierarchy; not lacking however were conflicts between the
ordinary of the place and the local governments, usually
regarding control over the local hospital; the Council of Trent
would require bishops to visit hospitals and other pious places
and to watch over their management; these conflicts were also
political and economic in nature, but here the Church enjoyed
some measure of success over her secular antagonists…

j. The Church enjoyed immunity in various areas, i.e., exemption

from the common law, e.g., exemption from taxes, recognition of
the right of sanctuary, exemption from military service and from
the jurisdiction of ordinary civil courts of ecclesiastical persons,
(1) The royal immunities: ecclesiastical goods were exempted from
taxes; they were also considered inalienable, i.e., they could not
be sold or divided, because they were sources of financial
support for the various types of social work and assistance
engaged in by the Church…
- The complex of ecclesiastical goods that were immobile
(nonmovable assets such as land, houses, etc) was
designated with the name “manomorta” (with a term from
Germanic law, initially used to designate individuals
endowed with limited juridical rights, passing from there to
subsequently indicate the religious, insofar as they did not
possess rights, and then the religious corporations and the

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patrimony which constituted its base and finally every

landed property subtracted from free commerce)
- It came to pass however that not only the patrimony of the
churches and of the convents came to be considered
“ecclesiastical goods” but also the property of each and every
priest or deacon, even including those who had received only
the tonsure, indeed usually in order to gain the exemption
from taxes…
- In this manner, with that which was considered
“manomorta” ever increasing, the fiscal weight of taxes
ended with falling on an increasingly restricted number of
persons, so much so that these were usually humble
- Not missing were other inconveniences, first of all that of
subtracting from commerce and industry a fixed quantity of
the immobile patrimony of the country which, though
intended for the support of social work, was often not
rationally exploited to full use…
- Thus did the manomorta become a political and social
problem; the three most important concordats of the 1700s
(with Spain in 1737, with Sardegna in 1741, and with Napoli
in 1741) dealt long with this problem, attempting to salvage
the principle, but also to avoid its abuses, remaining firm on
the principle of exemption, but determining the quality and
quantity of the goods exempted; in this way were excluded
those who did not intend to receive the major orders…
(2) The local immunities: these may be reduced to the right of
asylum, particularly in churches and convents; this institution
appeared towards the end of the Roman empire and had a
useful social function in the obscure feudal age, saving
innocents from a blind violence, stopping the course of justice
until such time that the passions had been spent, so that the
truth could appear in its full light; this was also useful at a time
when State authority was lacking or absent, so that asylum
assured the safety of those accused until such time the State
could exercise its function of meting out justice…
- The problem with this arrangement however was that the
truly guilty could flee and avoid justice…
- The concordats once again would try to save the principle
while minimizing its abuse through determining with some
exactness the extension of the privilege, but then again this
was done through a kind of casuistry which would end up
devoid of any religious sense…

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(3) The personal immunities: besides the exemption from military

service, this comprised above all the exemption of ecclesiastics
from the jurisdiction of ordinary tribunals, and the right of
being tried by the ecclesiastical courts: thus do we have the
institution of the ecclesiastical forum…
- A special congregation, called “of ecclesiastical immunity,”
was instituted by Urban VIII in the beginning of the 1600s,
developing a preceding commission; this had the task of
deciding all controversies relative to the liberty and
independence of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and had its
maximum development parallel to that of jurisdictionalism,
toward the middle of the 1700s, only to fall into decadence in
the 1800s and to completely go out of existence sometime
between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the
- The existence of two diverse jurisdictions in the same
territory easily created problems because of the difficulty of
clearly determining the competence of the two forums, with
the added problem that there were no ecclesiastical courts in
certain areas; in any case, the State continued to look with
some disapproval on the ecclesiastical forum…
- Suffice to say at this point that the Holy See would continue
to press its own rights in this area, contributing therefore to
one of the most heated points of controversy between the
States and herself; the Holy See and the hierarchy would
substantially repeat the same mistakes of the popes of late
medieval times, who wanted at every cost to defend their
supremacy over all of Europe, instead of adapting
themselves to the new situation, i.e., at the birth and
development of the national States jealous of their own
sovereignty; what took place was a certain rigidification in
the Church’s defense of her privileges of the forum, of the
right of asylum, of the manomorta, largely outdated and now
- The point in all this was the inability of the Church’s hierarchy to
distinguish between the historical contingent forms of some of its
institutions, rights and privileges and the defense of the
independence of the mission of the Church…; however, it must
also be said that the new national states were bent on a
secularization of society and the instrumentalization of the Church
and her subordination to the civil power…
- The Church’s intransigence on this point, and the agenda of the
national states to subordinate the Church to their own designs,

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would result in the deepening of the gulf between Church and

State, between Church and modern world in general…

C. A Church Controlled by the State: Jurisdictionalism

1. From Support of the Church to Control of the Church

- Ironically, in the Absolutist State, the Church, considered a
parallel institution, would be subjected more and more to the
control of the state.
- The theory that attributes to the State ample prerogatives in
ecclesiastical matters is called “jurisdictionalism.”
- We see this development from the 1600s to the 1700s: beware of
the hand that feeds you… from the Church receiving help from the
rich, to the rich controlling the Church, from the Church receiving
assistance from the powerful, to the powerful controlling the
 Expressions of this development we find in the following works:
Pierre Pithou’s Les libertés de l’Eglise gallicane (1594), Edmond
Richer’s De ecclesiastica et politica potestate (1611), Pierre de
Marche’s De Concordia sacerdotii et imperii (1641, put on the
Index), in the Gallican Articles approved in 1682, in the
teachings of Bernard van Espen, professor at Louvain between
the 1600s and 1700s, the book of Johann Nikolaus von
Hontheim, also known as Justinus Febronius, De statu
Ecclesiae, and last but not least, Antonio Pereira’s Doctrina
veteris Ecclesiae de suprema etiam in clericos potestate (1766).
 Countries where jurisdictionalism became a dominant voice:
France, Austria (under Joseph II and his brother, Peter
Leopold), Tuscany (under Peter Leopold), Spain, Portugal and
several German states…
- For jurisdictionalism, the absolute State found it difficult to
tolerate the existence within its own territory of a society (read: the
Church and her organs) that presented itself as sovereign,
independent, with its own proper jurisdiction, not derived from the
civil authority…
- The sovereigns were pushed into this position by three factors:
a) The jealous tutelage of the power of the State, with its
propensity to extend its control over the life of its subjects,
including their consciences, suspicious of every other authority,
above all it this happens to be supranational, usually hostile to
Catholicism and desirous of setting up a national Church…
b) The preoccupation to resolve every economic problem at the
expense of ecclesiastical resources…and,

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c) The conviction of a true religious mission destined to eliminate

abuses unfortunately too real and against which bishops and
pontiffs opposed themselves in a rather weak manner…
 Note however that the princes and sovereigns found support in
their pretensions to hold power over the Church from many
quarters, including ecclesiastical ones; thus, Ludovico Muratori,
in his Della pubblica felicità, oggetto dei buoni principi (1749),
looked at State intervention as the only efficacious means for
religious renewal…
- In general: jurisdictionalism took care not to openly deny liberty to
the Church, but in fact it limited the Church’s voice to the
intimacy of the individual’s conscience, excluding as much as
possible that this should have an effect in the public arena even if
it had something to do with dogmatic/doctrinal issues, the cult,
and ecclesiastical discipline…
- The effect on the Church: paralysis in the public domain…
 An outstanding example: Kaunitz, minister of Joseph II of
Austria, in his letter to the Apostolic Nuncio, Giuseppe
Garampi, dated 12 December 1781…
 In answer to the complaints of Garampi regarding imperial
intervention in Church affairs, Kaunitz would reply: “The
abolition of abuses which do not touch the principles of the
faith or the intimacy of conscience and of the human soul
cannot depend solely on the Roman See, because she has no
authority at all in the State beyond these two camps (i.e.,
dogma/doctrine and conscience)…. The State has exclusive
competence with regard to the external discipline of the clergy
and of the religious orders… Therefore His Imperial Majesty, in
order to fulfil his high mission, is obliged to proceed as he has
done in the past that which has nothing to do with dogma and
the questions which have to do with the intimacy of
conscience… Under the sovereign jurisdiction falls everything
which in the Church does not derive from divine institution, but
which has been thought and willed by men and which owes its
existence only to the concession and approbation by the
sovereign power…”
 This means, in the concrete, that the State has rights to
regulate the administration of ecclesiastical goods, the
nomination of bishops and parish priests, the discipline of the
clergy and the laity, and even the celebration of public worship
 These rights of the State over the Church may be classified into
three groups.

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2. Three Sets of the Rights of the State vis-à-vis the Church

a. First group of rights, which deals, at least in theory, with the right
of the State to protect and defend the Church:
1) jus advocatitiae et protectionis: the State has the right to
guarantee the unity of the Church and the purity of the faith
against every attempt at apostasy, heresy and schism; the
sovereign therefore becomes custos et vindex canonum
2) jus reformandi: this gives to the prince or sovereign the right to
introduce reforms deemed necessary in order to eliminate
abuses in the Church and to render ecclesiastical organs more
efficacious; the only one who is to decide when these reforms
are opportune is of course the State, not the Church…

b. Second group of rights tended to defend the State from the

potential danger that the Church could become vis a vis the State
1) jus incipiendi or jus supremae inspectionis: a generic right to
examine and to observe the activities of the Church…
- Thus, the state had the power to limit the freedom of
relations between ecclesiastical elements and the Holy See,
to watch over councils and missions, to discipline the
institution of new ecclesiastical bodies, secular or religious,
to suppress bodies not retained necessary, to guard the
observance of religious vows, to look into the patrimonial
administration of the Church…
- An example: in absolute States, in order to enter a religious
order, male or female, it was necessary to send a request to
the corresponding civil authority (the prefect, or minister of
the cult, etc…),which, after having collected the necessary
information, could now give its nihil obstat…
2) jus nominandi: this attributes to the sovereign the nomination
of bishops, abbots, and other ecclesiastical functionaries…
- In substance, from 1516 (the concordat between Pope Leo X
and King Francis I, subsequently renewed with Napoleon in
1801) to1905 (i.e., the law of the separation of Church and
State in France), all French bishops were nominated by the
State, with the popes limited to giving canonical institution
to the pre-selected candidates…
- The same obtained in other European countries (Spain,
Portugal), except in Germany where, with the concordat of

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Vienna in 1448, the election of candidates to the episcopate

remained with the cathedral chapters…
3) jus exclusivae: the sovereign had the right to exclude from a
determinate ecclesiastical office somebody with whom he is not
- The most clamorous example of course had to do with the
election of the successor of St. Peter himself in the
conclaves; sovereigns exercised a kind of “veto” power over
papal candidates (although the veto could only be used once
in a given conclave); thus Spain for example exercised this
veto over various candidates in 1644, 1655, 1721, 1730,
1758, 1823, 1830, and 1903…
- Only on 20 January 1904, with the election of Pius X
(elected partly because the Austrians vetoed the candidacy of
Cardinal Rampolla), was this practice prohibited, under
penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, through the
apostolic constitution Commissum nobis; but the times and
the mentality of the age had changed, so that there were no
violent objections to this prohibition on the part of the
4) jus placeti or the exequatur: all ecclesiastical actions of the local
curias to the Roman curia are submitted to the civil nihil obstat,
in order that the State could be sure that there is nothing in
these actions that was against the authority of the State itself…
- This practice was obligatory, even for dogmatic definitions,
the Roman dispositions (including those relative to
matrimony), the jurisdiction for confessions, the invitation to
foreign preachers/speakers, the hours of ecclesiastical
functions, the concession of honors and distinctions, almost
for everything in fact (indeed, it is easier to list the
exemptions to this practice: wearing the biretta, saying
votive masses, eating meat during the prescribed days of fast
and abstinence…)
- The placet and exequatur for the most part remained the
preferred fundamental weapons of jurisdictionalism,
precisely because of their elastic character, extendable
according to the State’s pleasure…
- There was nothing much that the Church could do; suffering
the violence of these instruments and ceding to their
practice, she protested them if only to save the principle (of
the liberty of the Church…)
5) jus circa temporalia officia: this permits the State to confiscate
revenues of offices occupied by persons judged not worthy and

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up to par to their execution or, more usually, deemed not

faithful to the monarchy…
6) jus appelationis or, in French, appel comme d’abus: this offers
the possibility to a priest or a member of the faithful the
possibility of having recourse to the State against the decrees of
ecclesiastical authority…
- Examples: if a bishop fired a morally corrupt priest, or if a
parish priest denied absolution to a penitent, there was
always the possibility of recourse to the State in order to
have the decision revoked…; this principle was quite
frequently used by the State…
7) jus dominii eminentis: this right authorizes the State to impose
taxes on ecclesiastical goods and to administer them during the
absence of their tutelary…
8) jus patronatus: the right not only of the State but of a family for
example or an institution permitting it to name abbots or
rectors of the churches and of the religious houses subjected to
its patronage…

c. Third group: the commendam

The commendam: this is a juridical instrument, which rose in
the time of Charlemagne, for which the revenues of a church or a
monastery were conceded to an individual, ecclesiastic or lay, who
took the title of commendatory abbot, but who then left the direct
government of the abbacy or of the church to a representative, a
prior or some other office, leaving him an autonomy more or less
extensive according to the interests, zeal and occupations of the
commendatory abbot…
- The revenues were usually divided into three parts: one for the
commendatory abbot, another for the support of the prior and
the monks of the abbacy or the church, and the third part for
the economic support of the monastery or the church itself…
- Effects: the system often left the monasteries or churches, rich
in revenues though they may be, in misery, and the scarce
authority of the prior, which very often led to the spiritual
decadence of the abbacy or church community…
- The diffusion of the commendam was in large part connected to
the law of primogeniture, which gave in inheritance all
properties of a given family to the first-born male child, leaving
the system of the commendam for the support of the other
children, including illegitimate ones…
 Examples of commendatory abbots: Cardinal Mazzarino of
France had 12 commendams, a Protestant (!), Sully, had a
commendam to his name, and in 1642, the son of the Prince

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of Conti was named, at 13 years old, the commendatory

abbot of Cluny, which in the 10 th century was the center of
monastic reform, and finally the famous friend of Janssen,
Du Vergier de Hauranne, who is known to history as Saint-
Cyran, because he was in fact the commendatory abbot of
the abbacy of the same name…
- The commendam was in fact the most clamorous example of the
instrumentalization of religion for the sake of the dominant
social class…

- In summary: all of these examples of rights and practices served

the absolute State to consolidate its hold on the Church in its
territory, to the point where it even tried in some countries to limit
the power and authority of the Superiors General of the members
of their religious order in the territory of the absolute sovereign, by
means such as influencing their election or having vicars rule
autonomously their members in a particular country; the Society
of Jesus for example had, as Superiors General, from its beginning
to its suppression in 1773, out of a total of 18 Superiors General,
only 4 Spaniards (the first three Superiors General of the Society
were Spaniards: Ignatius, Laynez and Borja), 10 Italians, 2
Belgians, 1 German, 1 Bohemian…
- Strangely enough, it was the French Revolution that put an end to
jurisdictionalism, at least in part, and because of a psychological
reaction brought in its wake extreme excess in the opposite
direction, i.e., the absolute separation of Church and State; this in
fact would project new possibilities for theorizing the relationship
between Church and State…

3. Areas of State Control over the Church

a. Religious institutes
b. The choice of cardinals
c. Election of popes

D. Interior Life of the Church: Becoming Worldly

1. Two Opposed Interpretative Directions

- Accent here is on the internal life of the Church, her inner vitality,
her religious life…
- The religious life of the masses and of the elites have been
submitted to various studies in recent years, conducted with the
strictest scientific critical methods; sources have been the
following: diocesan synods, pastoral visits, relations ad limina,
parish registers, pastoral letters of bishops, catechisms, processes

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of beatification and canonization, statutes of confraternities,

collections of homilies and sermons, relations on popular missions,
processes of the Inquisition, state and ecclesiastical documents on
jurisdictional conflicts…
- The conclusions, at which scholars have arrived, after the analysis
of this vast material, may be classified according to two
interpretative schemes: the liberal-Marxist scheme and the
Catholic-inspired scheme…

a. The liberal-Marxist school

- Among the liberals: De Sanctis, Croce and Salvemini in Italy,
Guizot, Michelet and Taine in France, von Ranke in Germany,
Madariaga in Spain; and among the Marxists: Antonio Gramsci,
but also Einaudi, Rosa, De Martino and Ginzburg
- Italy was reduced by the counter-reformation culturally, morally
and religiously depressed and undeveloped; the country was
typically characterized by ignorance, hypocrisy and conformism,
a lack of energy, egoism, cynicism…
- On the popular level, we find a mixture of folklore, superstition,
rites of magic, residues of the old paganism that was never
extinguished; there was never really any substantial and
qualitative difference or a dialectical jump among religion,
superstition and magic; the clergy tended to leave the masses in
this inferiority so that they could dominate them more easily…
- In the words of Indro Montanelli, a contemporary Italian
journalist: “the triumphant Counter-Reformatioin had taken
away from the Italians the defense of the individual conscience
conscious of its own rights… And from this moment on that the
propensity for the servile jobs developed, in which the Italians
today still excel. They are the best waiters in the world, the
best majordomos, the best bellboys of hotels, the best shoe-
shiners, because they started being these things from then, four
centuries ago…”

b. The Catholic-inspired school: in general, the Counter-Reformation

was a battle only partly won, but this was the fault not so much of
the hierarchy but by the tenacious resistance of all the classes: the
nobility, the bourgeoisie, the people…
- There was a great tendency to see the Church as an institution
that was there to be exploited to one’s own advantage…
- Thus Gabriele De Rosa, in open polemic against Ginzburg, De
Martino and others, in his work Vescovi, popolo e magia nel Sud
and Chiesa e religiosità popolare nel Mezzogiorno, underlined
not only the pastoral efforts of the clergy to inculcate the true

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faith and to purify the cult from too many folkloristic elements,
but also above all the neat qualitative distinction between
folklore and magic on the one hand and religion on the other…
- This same discourse could be repeated with Delumeau for
France and with other authors for the other European countries
(Spain for example) and for Latin America…

2. A Summary Portrait of the Inner Life of the Church

a. Positive aspects
(1) The frequent and massive popular participation in the
sacraments not only in the 1600s but also in the 1700s;
according to Le Bras, in the beginning of the 18 th century,
almost all the faithful frequented the sacraments at least at
Easter; spiritual directors like St. François de Sales
recommended weekly communion, and not unheard of were
recommendations of daily communion
- In Italy, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament became
well-established everywhere, solemnly exposed in the church
for two consecutive days, and in many churches perpetual
adoration was practiced
- In many places, the months of May and October were
consecrated to Mary through devotional practices…
(2) Heroic sanctity was very much evident in the 1600s and 1700s
- Missionaries like Leonardo da Portomaurizio, Paolo della
Croce and Alfonso Maria Liguori; priests like the Roman
Giovanni Battista de Rossi, Gerardo Maiella, and Benedetto
Giuseppe Labra, Vincent de Paul and François de Sales, and
among the popes, Innocent XI…but also la Chantal, Madame
Acarie (1566-1618), Marie Guyart (also known as Marie de
l’Incarnation, 1599-1672), widowed in 1620, entered the
Ursulines, and left for Canada in 1639 where she lived an
intense mystical life, and de Berulle, Olier, and Eudes…
(3) New religious institutes arose in the 1600s
- The Scolopians, Lazarists, Trappists, Brothers of the
Christian Schools; in the 1700s, the Redemptorists and the
(4) The flowering of the culture of the Age of the Baroque
- In Spain alone
 In literature – Lopez de Vega, Calderon de la Barca,
Miguel Cervantes
 In architecture – Juan de Herrera (the architect of the
Escorial, Philip II’s monastery-palace)

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 In painting – the Spaniards El Greco, Velasquez, Murillo

and the Flemish Rubens, Van Dyck
- In France, the sacred oratorios of Bossuet, and the school of
spirituality associated with de Berulle
- Rome had her baroque artists Bernini, Boromini, and in
music, Palestrina…
(5) The wide diffusion of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, already
cultivated in the middle ages by various saints like Gertrude
and Bernard of Clairvaux
- The devotion received new impetus through the work of three
saints: Jean Eudes (+1680), Marguerite Marie Alacoque
(+1690) and Claude de la Colombière (+1682)
- The devotion to the Sacred Heart became an effective
counterweight to Jansenist rigorism
- St. Jean Eudes consecrated his congregation dedicated to
the formation of the clergy and to popular missions to the
Sacred Heart and laid the foundation of the devotion
- St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s stories of visions of the Sacred
Heart, which she had from 1673 to 1675 and approved by
her spiritual director, Claude de la Colombière, played a
major role in the diffusion of the devotion; Church officials
were initially doubtful, and only in 1765 was the devotion
officially approved, this time by Clement XIII…
- The devotion to the Sacred Heart could be understood in two
forms which clashed between themselves:
(a) One form was favorable to an emotive piety, which
touched the human being in his existential difficulties,
and to the frequent access to confession and communion,
but at the same time it was tied to absolutism, to the
status quo, against every attempt at renewal, in the
Church and in society, and radically hostile to every form
of the Enlightenment, even in its moderate tendencies
typical of the so-called “Catholic Enlightenment”
(b) The second form defended a more intellectual kind of
Christianity, almost rational, rigorist, contrary to the
frequent practice of the sacraments, which could
degenerate into a dangerous custom and into
conformism, looked with favor on efforts to renew the
Church and society…
- Only slowly was the devotion to the Sacred Heart able to free
itself from the legitimist, conservative, paternalistic,
nationalist and reactionary character, and therefore reveal
the great truths it contained and its real pastoral benefits a
century after…

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(6) The Church maintained its important role in daily life; habitual
routine continued to be broken by the great religious feasts;
aside from the extraordinary feasts, -- like the consecration of
churches and the canonization of saints, which sometimes
lasted for days on end – there were grand processions (on the
feast of Corpus Christi for example), sacred plays and
representations (like the Passion Play), etc…
- The problem perhaps was precisely the bloated calendar of
 In 1642, Pope Urban VIII started to reduce the feasts of
the Church with the bull Universae per orbem, but on the
whole there remained about 90 feasts, occupying three
months of the annual calendar;
 Mons. Borgia, Archbishop of Fermo, requested permission
from the Holy See to suppress 17 feasts and to allow
people to work after the obligatory festal mass was
- In big cities, listening to preached homilies, which
sometimes took more than an hour and a half, became a
solemn event, probably due to lack of any outside
entertainment as well;
 Among the great orators of the period in France were the
Jesuit Bourdaloue and Bossuet, this latter who knew how
to unite psychological analysis to the vigor of reason and
of consequences, to the ardor of disputes against the
heretics and the libertines, and to fantasy and sensibility;
 Also there were Massillon and Fénelon, much superior to
Bossuet in religious depth…
 One notes the following aspects:
- The secular clergy was less well-trained for preaching
than the religious clergy;
- In the 1500s, great effort was expended in clarifying
the fundamental truths to the faithful, directly or
indirectly confuting Luther and the other various
forms of Protestantism;
- In the 1600s, the taste for the solemn, pompous, the
theatrical predominated, while there was an insistence
on the severity of the Lord, the supreme judge,
underlining the negative aspect of Christianity more
than the positive;
- In the 1700s, the central problem became the defense
of the faith against the various currents of the
Enlightenment, and “the century of impiety” was
deplored, though there were attempts to analyze the

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causes of the phenomenon, even if in an apologetic

and superficial way…
- Popular missions had some success, preached by the Jesuits
from the very beginning, and by the Capuchins, Lazarists,
and, later, by the Passionists, Redemptorists, and other
religious institutes;
 In general, groups of priests, accompanied by some “lay
brother,” dedicated themselves to this work preferably in
the countryside, from September to April, when the
peasants were less assailed by daily work in their fields,
stopping in small centers, not far from the other villages,
from which people would walk for half an hour in order to
listen to the “missionary”;
 The local clergy did not always look kindly on these
popular missions, but the bishops were grateful for these
 The popular missionaries preached in the local language
or dialect, accepted the hard conditions of life in the rural
areas, and aimed to provide occasion for good confessions
to the people, who often enough did not have enough
trust and confidence in their own parish priests…
 These popular missions may be classified into three
(a) Penitential missions, practiced particularly by the
Jesuits, had a predilection for spectacle and the
spectacular, like processions and penitential
ceremonies, which culminated in flagellation in public
by the orator, who was then imitated by the people to
whom were distributed instruments of penitence,
including a dialogue between the missionary and an
authentic skull in his hand; through time the
spectacular gave way to moderation, and many
practices were declared “demonstrationes obsoletas et
ridiculas”; but one cannot deny the efficacy of sacred
representations in pastoral work…
(b) Catechetical missions, the method used by the
Lazarists, avoided theatricality and essentially
occupied itself with teaching the fundamentals of the
faith (for ignorance was rather high in the rural areas),
divided the people into age-groups (children, youth,
women, men) and preached to them the whole day,
interrogating the children on their catechism,
maintaining themselves sober but clear and brief…

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(c) Eclectic missions, a middle way, was employed by the

Franciscans and the Redemptorists, who cut back on
the theatricality of the Jesuits, prolonged the missions
to a month, and spent long hours in the confessional…
 The challenges they faced: a society less Christian than
was imagined, a great ignorance in matters of the faith,
the diffusion of certain inhuman customs (vendetta and
violence, homicides, theft of farm animals, blasphemy,
cohabitation more uxorio, abduction of the young,
including abortion and premarital sex…
- Intensive enough were efforts at catechesis, particularly in
France and Italy, so that one is permitted to talk of a
“Babylon of catechisms”; bishops, religious orders, writers
and theologians composed many catechisms, some of them
with hundreds of editions, and translated into various
languages; among the noted writers of catechisms: Canisius,
Bellarmine, Ripalda, Astete, and Casati…
- The lay, usually gathered into confraternities and Marian
congregations, exercised a true apostolate, though this was
limited to catechetical work and charitable works, such as
assistance to those condemned to death, to prisoners, to the
sick, to the redemption of prostitutes…
- In general, especially for less fortunate populations, the
bishop, the religious, and the parish priest constituted a
constant point of reference, a civil, social, psychological
 A civil refuge, because the Church personage could offer a
certain protection against the abuses of the local lords,
the frequent arbitrary exercise of their authority, the
excesses of usurers
 A social refuge, inasmuch as the Church usually
constituted the only concrete possibility for a certain
human promotion, offering a whole series of privileges or
at least a genuine respectability to those in one way or
another who could present themselves as related to the
clergy, sacristans for example (in southern Italy, they
were called “wild deacons”), and also related to the
hermits, priests, and religious
 Apsychological refuge, because the priest presented
himself as a mediator of salvation, of grace, but then also
he assumed the physiognomy of a guarantee against
dangers and anxieties caused by the occult forces in
which the people believed and therefore the priest
assumed the character of a protector; the use of

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sacramentals and other sacred objects bordered on the

superstitious, so that synods constantly had to call for a
purification of such attitudes and practices…

b. Negative aspects
- Society was divided more or less clearly into two social classes:
 First, a small group of the privileged, in whom a noteworthy
economic well-being was usually accompanied by a widespread
immorality and by an always stronger skepticism; and
 Second, the great mass of the poor who found life difficult in
their chronic misery…
- The Church however presented an image that mirrored the social
class of the privileged; it was a rich Church; it is difficult to
compute exactly this ecclesiastical wealth in the 1600s and 1700s;
but one must not forget the heavy weight the Church carried in
fulfilling certain social goals (hospitals, orphanages, schools, the
poor, even the maintenance of roads and public works…)
- The fact remains however that various categories of ecclesiastical
goods enjoyed a conspicuous patrimony (though here one must
note the relative poverty of the lower clergy);
 Thus Gregory XIII was not content with the Vatican but had
another papal palace constructed (the Quirinale, now the
official residence of the President of Italy);
 The etiquette of the papal court and the ceremonials in St.
Peter’s were inspired by the luxury of other courts;
 Cardinals enjoyed rich pensions of various grades, of multi-
benefices and many commendams;
 Charles Borromeo, before his conversion, had 150 persons in
his entourage (while Robert Bellarmine, after a severe
examination of conscience, retained that he could not reduce
his familiars below 30 persons);
 Episcopal courts followed the example of the Vatican and of the
local nobility;
 To become a priest was to assure one’s self a secure position
not only in the Church but also in society;
 Only a few ecclesiastics, authentic saints, nurtured a genuine
love for poverty and raised their voice against material abuses;
 Also diffused was a certain spirit of triumphalism, which
considered worldly success as a sign of what it means to belong
to the true Church…
- In reaction to all this, we can delineate three lines of opposition:
(1) Theologians and ascetical writers continued to sing the praises
of the poor, closer to the Lord and more tranquil…; Bellarmine,
more severe than many, considered alms as a necessary

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restitution of goods subtracted from the avarice of the rich for

the needy masses…
(2) Others would draw up plans of social reform, in two directions:
(a) Through a more or less ample State intervention, expressed
in various ways (census of the poor, their employment in
various works, support for the sick and the invalid, the
arrest of incorrigibles, expulsion of migrants, prohibition of
mendicancy, the setting up of hospices for the compulsory
reclusion of the poor)
(b) Others opposed compulsory reclusion or residence, but
insisted on well-prepared rehabilitation centers to which all
the needy should have free access…
- On the practical plane however, in various countries (the
Netherlands, England, France and Rome, other parts of
Italy), these plans failed due to various factors (the ever
growing number of the poor, resistance on their part,
insufficient number of edifices, etc…
(3) In the 1700s, there was a change in mentality: the poor ceased
being the “blessed of God”; rather, poverty became something
accepted as necessary, not eliminable…; in 1798, the essay of
Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was published (An Essay
on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future
Improvement of Society, London, 1798) , contrary to every social
reform in favor of the poor, so that the only efficacious solution
was thought to be the delay of marriage and in the abstention
from sexual relations…
- Other negative aspects reveal several significant limits of religious
society in this period:
 The excessive number of ecclesiastics (religious and secular
priests, monks and nuns, those in the service of the cult such
as the sacristans or “wild deacons”)…
- In the 1700s, there was 1 priest per 40/50 inhabitants
- In the 1800s, 1 priest per 200/250 inhabitants
- In the 1900s, 1 priest per 1000 inhabitants (with the
exception of Latin America, where there was 1 priest per
10,000/30,000 inhabitants)
- In Italy, as a whole: the religious in the middle of the 1700s,
including lay brothers, exceeded 300,000 in a population of
circa 17,000,000…
- This plethora of ecclesiastical persons constituted a veritable
and serious social problem: how to economically provide for
people who were not really productive in an economic sense
(i.e., who did not really contribute to the economic
sustenance and growth of the country…)

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 Also, the formation of future priests left much to be desired; the

Tridentine decree on the setting up of seminaries was late in
execution (in central Italy, only in the middle of the 1600s); in
France, 1789, 32 dioceses still did not have their own
 In the high clergy, composed almost exclusively by the nobility,
to whom in fact episcopal seats were reserved, strong
personalities that had emerged from the Tridentine period had
become rare, bishops like Borromeo, Paleotti, Giberti; there was
a marked decline in the ecclesial spirit…
 Paradoxically, to the great number of clergy there corresponded
a numerical deficiency of priests involved in the direct pastoral
care of souls, priests already overburdened with work;
- If we prescind from the parish priests, only a minimal part of
the clergy gave themselves, both on a stable and part-time
basis, to the exercise of directly sacerdotal ministry among
the faithful;
- The major part of the clergy, which had taken the way of the
priesthood for purely personal interest, through inertia or
sloth, contented itself with celebrating mass in order to enjoy
the stipends attached to the intention, and then passed the
rest of the day loafing about, while others cultivated the
patronage of the nobility, so that it was not unusual to see
two priests classified as priests for masses and priests for
 Note must also be taken of the social practice of forced entrance
into the monastery, applied particularly to women…
 Note also the progressive decadence in lay Christian life,
particularly in the area of marriage; primary examples may be
drawn from the royal and noble strata of society (among the
royals: France - Louis XIV, Louis XV, Spain - Felipe III…)
- In the 1700s, quite common was the practice of the “cavalier
servente,” the lover of a woman whose husband was
constrained to support in the same household in order not to
be disqualified in the opinion of “good society” as jealous and
intolerant (!)…
- The ruling classes were therefore far from being truly and
profoundly Christian, with a mentality characterized by the
loss or attenuation of an authentic moral sensibility, the
giving in to the prejudices of the times, the spirit of “caste,”
not only in the Latin countries but in the German and Slavic
as well, the depreciation of the poor, the conscious
instrumentalization of religion (united to a formal
correctness and external observation of social norms)…

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- Usually confirmed in this mentality by the moralists of the

time, they became one reason for the rise of Jansenism and
its rigorist backlash…
- Another negative aspect of the post-Tridentine Church in this
period was her excessive trust in her own authority, which
appeared not only in her external relations but also in her internal
life, a trust that was characterized by a theoretical and practical
intolerance of any hint of challenge to her own authority…
 The Church was prone to questioning the good faith of non-
Catholics a priori,
- So that even a St. Francis Xavier, in recounting the story of a
Buddhist sailor who drowned while being in transport to
Japan, could comment that all the prayers said on his behalf
were useless because he was damned from all eternity, or
- St. Jeanne Françoise Frémyot de Chantal, still a child, could
refuse a gift offered to her by a Calvinist, throwing it into the
flames and exclaiming: “Thus are burned those who refuse
to believe in Christ” (this episode, even if perhaps invented,
nevertheless possess an ontological and historical truth in as
much as it reveals the mentality of the one who told the
story and inserted it into the Breviary in the middle of the
1700s, praising the reasoning of the child as “superior to her
 This same mentality (which we see in Xavier and de Chantal)
inspired and pervaded the formula of the oath of loyalty to the
Pope that the individual bishops had to pronounce during their
consecration, considering all heretics and schismatics and
rebels as all in bad faith;
 There was also the diffidence and suspicion in which members
of the oriental rites were considered, so that Latin-rite Catholics
considered even those united to the Roman Catholic Church as
second class Christians, to the point where attempts were made
to Latinize these Churches (e.g., the Thomas Christians of India
were subjected to attempts at Latinization in the Synod of
Diamper, near Cochin, in the year 1599)…
 Another indication of this mentality: the suspicion cast on
mystical works, like those of St. Teresa de Avila, denounced to
the Inquisition in 1590-91, the writings of Juan de Avila, like
Audi filia, put on the Index of Prohibited Books, or of Luis de
León, an Augustinian professor at Salamanca, imprisoned from
1752 to 1756 and then rehabilitated, and even of the
Archbishop of Toledo, Bartolomé Carranza, put in jail in Spain
and then in Rome from 1559 to 1576…

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 And of course, the most clamorous example of them all: the

Galileo Galilei case, which saw a hard and bitter struggle
between the defenders of the traditional and conservative
religious conception of the universe and the promoters of a new
vision, which had nothing contrary to the ancient faith, but
seemed then to demolish its foundations
- For centuries, the classic understanding was the Ptolemaic
geocentric conception of the universe, which considered the
earth as standing firm with the sun and the other planets
moving around it, a conception which seemed to be in
harmony with various passages in Sacred Scriptures…
- Initially there was the Polish canon, Copernicus, who
presented an alternative system in his De revolutionibus
orbium (1543), a system that was heliocentric, though in the
manner of a hypothesis that made it possible to explain the
phenomena rather than as an adequate and unique and
objective explanation of reality; this book was criticized not
only by Catholics but also by Protestants…
- Galileo, with his telescopic discoveries of the satellites of
Jupiter, the rotation of Venus around the Sun, and Solar
spots, the first of which were announced in his book
Sidereus Nuncius (1610; see Appendix III below), gave a new
wounding blow to the Ptolemaic system, even if neither then
nor later was he able to give incontrovertible objective and
solid proof to demonstrate the absolute validity of the
Copernican system…
- The traditionalists thought they could explain the
phenomena by another way (i.e., by appeal for example to
the Danish Tycho Brahe’s model, which saved appearances
but not did not really explain the reality through an ever
complex system of planets moving for example around the
Sun but all of this moving around the earth at the center,
still immobile)…
- The discussion however shifted ground from astronomy to
Scripture and its interpretation; were Scriptural passages to
be interpreted literally, or did they not intend to give any
scientific explanation, and therefore simple expressed, in
popular language, the external appearances?
 Augustine in his De Genesi ad litteram took this latter
route, but his exegesis had been forgotten and in this
period the exegetes, with the exception of the Spaniard
Diego de Zuñiga, defended the literal interpretation of
these passages;

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- A Florentine Dominican attacked Galileo in a sermon in the

Advent of 1614;
- Galileo responded, in a letter written to the Grand Duchess
Christine of Lorraine, mother of the Grand Duke, Cosimo II,
where he quoted Augustine’s chapter xix of his De Genesi ad
litteram, concluding that “the intention of the Holy Spirit is
to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go”;
- But this act by which a lay person entered into theological
matters was what did Galileo in, even if what he said was in
fact true…
- The case was brought before the Holy Office, which
concluded on 24 February 1616, under Paul V, with the
(1) “That the Sun is in the center of the world and immobile
of local motion, is an absurd and false in proposition in
philosophy and formally heretical, because it is expressly
contrary to Sacred Scripture”
(2) “That the earth is not at the center of the world and is not
immobile, but according to itself moves in a daily motion,
is as well an absurd and false proposition in philosophy
and, considered theologically, is at least erroneous in
- On 26 February 1616, Cardinal Bellarmine, communicated
the decision to Galileo and advised him to adhere to it; this
remained the status quo for quite a long time…
- In 1632, Galileo published his work Dialogues of the Two
Chief Systems of the World (see Appendix III below), in which
he put in confrontation the two systems (geo- and
heliocentric), putting them in the mouth of two interlocutors,
an intelligent and cultured gentleman, defender of the
Copernican thesis, and a simpleton, upholder of the
traditional thesis…
- The recently elected Pope, Urban VIII, approved the
institution of a new process, and Galileo, returning to Rome,
was constrained on 22 June 1633 to abjure the Copernican
system, i.e., to declare that “with a sincere heart and a
genuine faith, I abjure, curse and detest the said errors and
heresies (…) and I vow that, in the future, I will never hold
such things which would occasion similar suspicion
 Galileo was at the same time condemned to imprisonment
through the intervention of the Holy Office, a sentence
commuted to relegation to house arrest in his villa of
Arcetri above Firenze;

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 The Dialogues was put on the Index, there to accompany

Copernicus’s own work De revolutionibus orbium, put on
the Index from 1616…
- Galileo, blind since 1637, died in Arcetri in 1642;
 Only in 1741, some 50 years after the discovery of the law
of gravity by Newton, which eliminated every doubt
regarding the Copernican system, was permission given
for the publication of the works of Galileo, including the
 Only in 1757 were all the works upholding the
heliocentric view of the universe removed from the Index;
 Only in 1820, after long discussions among the different
organs of the Roman curia, was it allowed for a work of
Galileo that was clearly Copernican to be published in
- The judgment of 1633 was therefore annulled, but more
implicitly than explicitly; an official rehabilitation in solemn
documents, aside from some clear affirmations in discourses
of John Paul II, has never taken place…
 Perhaps the most significant of all the ecclesiastical mentality of
the times was the pastoral practice commonly applied, which
mandated the strict and rigid surveillance by the parish priests
of weekly mass and the observance of the Easter precepts…
- At Easter, the faithful had to give to the parish priest, while
receiving communion, the card distributed during Lent; a
careful examination of these permitted him to individuate
those who failed to do their Lenten duties, who were then
denounced publicly and, in cases of continued non-
compliance, were submitted to the judgment of the bishop,
who could inflict on them spiritual and material penalties,
prohibition of spousal engagement, marriage, or acting as
godparents; in extreme cases, the interdict might even be
applied, or even excommunication and imprisonment…
- Only with the French Revolution did the hierarchy slowly
begin to take note of the need for new pastoral practices and
methods, founded on the formation of consciences more
than on moral and material coercion; attempts to go back to
the old practices, identified with the ancien régime, would
give rise to resentment of the clergy on the part of the
ordinary faithful…
- Another negative aspect of the religiosity that characterized the
post-Tridentine Church was a devotionistic piety that served as a
substitute for real and serious conversion;

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 Devotionism becomes negative when piety carries with it the

absence of any biblical and liturgical basis, and when such an
absence is deemed unproblematic…
 An ingredient of this accent on devotionistic practices was in
fact the prohibition of popular access to the Bible, or at least a
diffidence shown towards its being made available to people, the
grave effect of which was felt more not by the common masses,
but by the educated classes…
 It is perhaps more important to underline the fact that this
devotionistic piety hardly made a dent on the common moral life
of the people;
- Concubinage, residual magical practices, and other
superstitions continued to abound;
- Indeed, there was a veritable obsession with and anxiety over
the devil and the satanic, so much so that individuals could
find themselves accused of having contracted pacts with the
- We can only point to the extraordinary circumstances
surrounding the case of the Ursuline convent of Loudun in
northwest France, between Tours and Poitiers, in which the
mother superior, Jeanne des Anges, accused the parish
priest of the place, Grandier, of having entered into a pact
with the devil, to the great damage of the community which
now believed itself invaded by the devil…
- In any case, it would be enough to peruse the acts of several
synods in order to gather – through the condemnation of many
pseudo-religious deviations, and the insistence on the more
authentic and profound aspects of religion – the attempts at the
purification of the faith employed by the hierarchy, not as
efficacious as desired because of the resistance to changing the
socio-economic structures connected with the political, cultural,
environmental factors, to which enchainment these efforts were
subjected by jurisdictionalism…

3. In conclusion, one may follow two lines of evaluation:

a. Following Le Bras: the society of the 1600s and 1700s was not
really Christian, so that the “dechristianization” experienced in the
1800s was nothing but the manifestation of a situation already
pre-existing in the preceding centuries, but in a hidden manner
under official structures;
- This judgment is valid not only for France but also for Italy and
other European countries;
- Without negating the existence of a substantial and genuine
faith, nevertheless, we cannot forget the strong conformism of

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the ancien régime, united to a good dose of skepticism and of

b. Nevertheless, one can make a more positive evaluation of the 17 th
and 18th centuries through the following fundamental
- Beyond all reservations expressed then and now (following Le
Bras), one must admit that in these centuries the people of the
ancien régime in the majority had strongly imprinted the
fundamental truths of Catholicism and accepted them without
- There was here a sincere faith, at least in substance;
- This faith was expressed in the forms proper to the level of
culture of the various social classes:
 Thus we pass from the great ascetical and mystical works of
the French, Spanish, German, and Italian cultural elites, to
the rugged and primitive expressions of underdeveloped
regions, prevalently agricultural-pastoral;
 This was not about magic truly and properly, nor of an
“alternative culture” to that of Catholic doctrine, nor of
“diverse levels of the sacred” (Ginzburg), but of “diverse levels
of perception of the sacred, of the different capacity of
gathering the essence of the sacred, of a consciousness more
or less illumined to discover the spirituality of God as it was
then possible in those depressed socio-cultural conditions in
which the faith was living;
- Finally, this faith, as in other times in history, scarcely made an
impact in practical life, and was connected with strong moral
abuses, but the sense of sin was nonetheless not suffocated;
- Furthermore, the tempest at the end of the 1700s in the
conditions outlined above did have positive consequences,
purifying the Church, and enabling her to discern the good from
the bad…

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Appendix I:

Extracts from Bossuet's Work on Kingship

Bossuet, Politique tiree des propres paroles de l' Ecriture sainte
in J.H. Robinson, Readings in European History 2 vols. (Boston: Ginn,
1906), 2:1273-277.
Scanned by Brian Cheek, Hanover College. November 12, 1995.

We have already seen that all power is of God. The ruler, adds St. Paul, "is
the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be
afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a
revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Rulers then act as the
ministers of God and as his lieutenants on earth. it is through them that
God exercises his empire. Think ye "to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in
the hand of the sons of David"? Consequently, as we have seen, the royal
throne is not the throne of a man, but the throne of God himself. The Lord
"hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the
Lord over Israel." And again, "Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord."

Moreover, that no one may assume that the Israelites were peculiar in
having kings over them who were established by God, note what is said in
Ecclesiasticus: "God has given to every people its ruler, and Israel is
manifestly reserved to him." He therefore governs all peoples and gives them
their kings, although he governed Israel in a more intimate and obvious

It appears from all this that the person of the king is sacred, and that to
attack him in any way is sacrilege. God has the kings anointed by his
prophets with the holy unction in like manner as he has bishops and altars
anointed. But even without the external application in thus being anointed,
they are by their very office the representatives of the divine majesty
deputed by Providence for the execution of his purposes. Accordingly God
calls Cyrus his anointed. "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him." Kings
should be guarded as holy things, and whosoever neglects to protect them is
worthy of death . . .

There is something religious in the respect accorded to a prince. The service

of God and the respect for kings are bound together. St. Peter unites these
two duties when he says, "Fear God. Honour the king." . . .

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But kings, although their power comes from on high, as has been said,
should not regard themselves as masters of that power to use it at their
pleasure; . . . they must employ it with fear and self-restraint, as a thing
coming from God and of which God will demand an account. "Hear, 0 kings,
and take heed, understand, judges of the earth, lend your ears, ye who hold
the peoples under your sway, and delight to see the multitude that
surround you. It is God who gives you the power. Your strength comes from
the Most High, who will question your works and penetrate the depths of
your thoughts, for, being ministers of his kingdom, ye have not given
righteous judgments nor have ye walked according to his will. He will
straightway appear to you in a terrible manner, for to those who command
is the heaviest punishment reserved. The humble and the weak shall receive
mercy, but the mighty shall be mightily tormented. For God fears not the
power of any one, because he made both great and small and he has care
for both." . . .

Kings should tremble then as they use the power God has granted them;
and let them think how horrible is the sacrilege if they use for evil a power
that comes from God. We behold kings seated upon the throne of the Lord,
bearing in their hand the sword which God himself has given them. What
profanation, what arrogance, for the unjust king to sit on God's throne to
render decrees contrary to his laws and to use the sword which God has put
in his hand for deeds of violence and to slay his children! . .

The royal power is absolute. With the aim of making this truth hateful and
insufferable, many writers have tried to confound absolute government with
arbitrary government. But no two things could be more unlike, as we shall
show when we come to speak of justice.
The prince need render account of his acts to no one. "I counsel thee to keep
the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not
hasty to go out of his sight: stand not on an evil thing for he doeth
whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the word of a king is, there is power: and
who may say unto him, What doest thou? Whoso keepeth the
commandment shall feel no evil thing." Without this absolute authority the
king could neither do good nor repress evil. It is necessary that his power be
such that no one can hope to escape him, and, finally, the only protection of
individuals against the public authority should be their innocence. This
conforms with the teaching of St. Paul: "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the
power? Do that which is good."

I do not call majesty that pomp which surrounds kings or that exterior
magnificence which dazzles the vulgar. That is but the reflection of majesty
and not majesty itself. Majesty is the image of the grandeur of God in the

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God is infinite, God is all. The prince, as prince, is not regarded as a private
person: he is a public personage, all the state is in him; the will of all the
people is included in his. As all perfection and all strength are united in
God, so all the power of individuals is united in the person of the prince.
What grandeur that a single man should embody so much!

The power of God makes itself felt in a moment from one extremity of the
earth to another. Royal power works at the same time throughout all the
realm. It holds all the realm in position, as God holds the earth. Should God
withdraw his hand, the earth would fall to pieces; should the king's
authority cease in the realm, all would be in confusion.

Look at the prince in his cabinet. Thence go out the orders which cause the
magistrates and the captains, the citizens and the soldiers, the provinces
and the armies on land and on sea, to work in concert. He is the image of
God, who, seated on his throne high in the heavens, makes all nature
move . . . .

Finally, let us put together the things so great and so august which we have
said about royal authority. Behold an immense people united in a single
person; behold this holy power, paternal and absolute; behold the secret
cause which governs the whole body of the state, contained in a single head:
you see the image of God in the king, and you have the idea of royal
majesty. God is holiness itself, goodness itself, and power itself. In these
things lies the majesty of God. In the image of these things lies the majesty
of the prince.

So great is this majesty that it cannot reside in the prince as in its source; it
is borrowed from God, who gives it to him for the good of the people, for
whom it is good to be checked by a superior force. Something of divinity
itself is attached to princes and inspires fear in the people. The king should
not forget this. "I have said," - it is God who speaks, - "I have said, Ye are
gods; and all of you are children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men,
and fall like one of the princes." "I have said, Ye are gods"; that is to say, you
have in your authority, and you bear on your forehead, a divine imprint.
"You are the children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall
like one of the princes." "I have said, Ye are gods"; that is to say, you have in
your authority, and you bear on your forehead, a divine imprint. "You are
the children of the Most High"; it is he who has established your power for
the good of mankind. But, O gods of flesh and blood, gods of clay and dust,
"ye shall die like men, and fall like princes." Grandeur separates men for a
little time, but a common fall makes them all equal at the end.

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O kings, exercise your power then boldly, for it is divine and salutary for
human kind, but exercise it with humility. You are endowed with it from
without. At bottom it leaves you feeble, it leaves you mortal, it leaves you
sinners, and charges you before God with a very heavy account.

Appendix II:

Modern History Sourcebook:

Jean Domat (1625-1696):

On Social Order and Absolute Monarchy

Jean Domat (1625-1696) was a renowned French jurist in the reign of

Louis XIV, the king who perfected the practice of royal absolutism.
Domat made it his life’s task to explain the theory behind this
absolutism by setting French law and social structure into the wider
context of the law of nature and the law of God. Louis XIV regarded
Domat’s work so highly that he assigned him a pension, and in effect
the royal government sponsored his publications. Public Law, the
treatise that dealt most directly with the origin of social order and
government, and with the rights and duties of kings, appeared in 1697,
the year after Domat’s death.

There is no one who is not convinced of the importance of good order in the
state and who does not sincerely wish to see that state well ordered in
which he has to live. For everyone understands, and feels in himself by
experience and by reason, that this order concerns and touches him in a
number of ways....

Everyone knows that human society forms a body of which each person is a
member; and this truth, which Scripture teaches us and which the light of
reason makes plain, is the foundation of all the duties that relate to the
conduct of each person toward others and toward the body as a whole. For
these sorts of duties are nothing else but the functions appropriate to the
place each person holds according to his rank in society.

It is in this principle that we must seek the origin of the rules that
determine the duties, both of those who govern and of those who are subject
to government. For it is through the place God has assigned each person in
the body of society, that He, by calling him to it, prescribes all his functions
and duties. And just as He commands everyone to obey faithfully the
precepts of His law that make up the duties of all people in general, so He

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prescribes for each one in particular the duties proper to his condition and
status, according to his rank in the body of which he is a member. This
includes the functions and duties of each member with respect to other
individuals and with respect to the body as a whole.

[Necessity and the Origin of Government]

Because all men are equal by nature, that is to say, by their basic
humanity, nature does not make anyone subject to others.... But within this
natural equality, people are differentiated by factors that make their status
unequal, and forge between them relationships and dependencies that
determine the various duties of each toward the others, and make
government necessary....

The first distinction that subjects people to others is the one created by
birth between parents and children. And this distinction leads to a first kind
of government in families, where children owe obedience to their parents,
who head the family.

The second distinction among persons arises from the diversity of

employments required by society, and which unite them all into a body of
which each is a member. For just as God has made each person depend on
the help of others for various needs, He has differentiated their status and
their employments for the sake of all these needs, assigning to people the
place in which they should function. And it is through these interdependent
employments and conditions that the ties binding human society are
formed, as well as the ties among its individual members. This also makes it
necessary to have a head to unite and rule the body of the society created
by these various employments, and to maintain the order of the
relationships that give the public the benefit of the different functions
corresponding to each person’s station in life.

It is a further consequence of these principles that, since all people do not

do their duty and some, on the contrary, commit injustices, for the sake of
keeping order in society, injustices and all enterprises against this order
must be repressed: which was possible only through authority given to
some over others, and which made government necessary.

This necessity of government over people equal by their nature,

distinguished from each other only by the differences that God established
among them according to their stations and professions, makes it clear that
government arises from His will; and because only He is the natural

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sovereign of men, it is from Him that all those who govern derive their power
and all their authority, and it is God Himself Whom they represent in their

[The Duties of the Governed]

Since government is necessary for the public good, and God Himself has
established it, it is consequently also necessary for those who are subject to
government, to be submissive and obedient. For otherwise they would resist
God Himself, and government, which should be the bond of peace and unity
that brings about the public good, would become an occasion for divisions
and disturbances that would cause its downfall.

The first duty of obedience to government is the duty to obey those who hold
the first place in it, monarchs or others who are the heads of the body that
makes up society, and to obey them as the limbs of the human body obey
the head to which they are united.

This obedience to him who governs should be considered as obedience to

the power of God Himself, Who has instituted [the prince] as His

Obedience to government includes the duties of keeping the laws, not

undertaking anything contrary to them, performing what is ordered,
abstaining from what is forbidden, shouldering public burdens, whether
offices or taxes; and in general everyone is obliged not only not to
contravene public order in any way, but to contribute to it [positively)
according to his circumstances.

Since this obedience is necessary to maintain the order and peace that
should unite the head and members composing the body of the state, it
constitutes a universal duty for all subjects in all cases to obey the orders of
the prince, without taking the liberty of passing judgment on the orders
they should obey. For otherwise, the right to inquire what is just or not
would make everyone a master, and this liberty would encourage seditions.
Thus each individual owes obedience to the laws themselves and [even] to
unjust orders, provided he can obey and follow them without injustice on
his own part. And the only exception that can qualify this obedience is
limited to cases in which one could not obey without disobeying the divine

[The Power, Rights, and Duties of Sovereigns]

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The sovereign power of government should be proportionate to its mandate,

and in the station he occupies in the body of human society that makes up
the state, he who is the head should hold the place of God. For since God is
the only natural sovereign of men, their judge, their lawgiver, their king, no
man can have lawful authority over others unless he holds it from the hand
of God.... The power of sovereigns being thus derived from the authority of
God, it acts as the arm and force of the justice that should be the soul of
government; and that justice alone has the natural claim to rule the minds
and hearts of men, for it is over these two faculties of men that justice
should reign.

According to these principles, which are the natural foundations of the

authority of those who govern, their power must have two essential
attributes: one, to make that justice rule from which their power is entirely
derived, and the other, to be as absolute as the rule of that justice itself,
which is to say, the rule of God Himself Who is justice and Who wishes to
reign through [princes] as He wishes them to reign through Him. For this
reason Scripture gives the name of gods to those to whom God has
entrusted the right of judging, which is the first and most essential of all the
functions of government....

Since the power of princes thus comes to them from God, and since He gives
it to them only as an instrument of His providence and His rule over the
states whose government He delegates to them, it is clear that they should
use this power in accordance with the aims that divine providence and rule
have established for them; and that the material and visible manifestations
of their authority should reflect the operation of the will of God.... [The will
of God] Whose rule they ought to make visible through their power, should
be the governing principle for the way they use that power, since their power
is the instrument [of the divine will] and is entrusted to them only for that

This, without a doubt, is the foundation and first principle of all the duties
of sovereigns, namely to let God Himself rule; that is, to govern according to
His will which is nothing other than justice. Thus it is the rule of justice
which should be the glory [of the rule] of princes.

Among the rights of the sovereign, the first is the right to administer justice,
the foundation of public order, whether he exercises it himself as occasions
arise or whether he lets it be exercised by others whom he delegates for the

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This same right to enforce the laws, and to maintain order in general by the
administration of justice and the deployment of sovereign power, gives the
prince the right to use his authority to enforce the laws of the Church,
whose protector, conservator, and defender [sic] he should be; so that by the
aid of his authority, religion rules all his subjects....

Among the rights that the laws give the sovereign should be included [the
right] to display all the signs of grandeur and majesty necessary to make
manifest the authority and dignity of such wide-ranging and lofty power,
and to impress veneration for it upon the minds of all subjects. For
although they should see in it the power of God Who has established it and
should revere it apart from any visible signs of grandeur, nevertheless since
God accompanies His own power with visible splendor on earth and in the
heavens as in a throne and a palace...

He permits that the power He shares with sovereigns be proportionately

enhanced by them in ways suitable for arousing respect in the people. This
can only be done by the splendor that radiates from the magnificence of
their palaces and the other visible signs of grandeur that surround them,
and whose use He Himself has given to the princes who have ruled
according to His spirit.

The first and most essential of all the duties of those whom God raises to
sovereign government is to acknowledge this truth: that it is from God that
they hold all their power [sic], that it is His place they take, that it is through
Him they should reign, and that it is to Him they should look for the
knowledge and wisdom needed to master the art of governing. And it is
these truths they should make the principle of all their conduct and the
foundation of all their duties.

The first result of these principles is that sovereigns should know what God
requires of them in their station and how they should use the power He has
given them. And it is from Him they should learn it, by reading His law,
whose study He has explicitly prescribed for them, including what they
should know in order to govern well.

These general obligations ... encompass all the specific duties of those who
hold sovereign power. For [these obligations] cover everything that concerns

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the administration of justice, the general policing of the state, public order,
the repose of subjects, peace of mind in families, vigilance over everything
that can contribute to the common good, the choice of able ministers who
love justice and truth [sic], the appointment of good men to the dignities and
offices that the sovereign himself needs to fill with persons known to him,
the observance of regulations for filling other offices with people not subject
to his personal choice, discretion in the use of severity or mercy in those
cases where the rigor of justice may be tempered, a wise distribution of
benefices, rewards, exemptions, privileges, and other favors; good
administration of the public finances, prudence in conducting relations with
foreign states, and lastly everything that can make government pleasing to
good people, terrible to the wicked, and worthy in all respects of the divine
mandate to govern men, and of the use of a power which, coming only from
God, shares in His own Authority.

We may add as a last duty of the sovereign, which follows from the first and
includes all the others, that although his power seems to place him above
the law, no one having the right to call him to account, nevertheless he
should observe the laws as they may apply to him. And he is obliged to do
this not only in order to set a good example to his subjects and make them
love their duty, but because his sovereign power does not exempt him from
his own duty, and his station requires him to prefer the general good of the
state to his personal interests, and it is a glory for him to look upon the
general good as his own.

Jean Domat: Le droit public, suite des lois civiles dans leur ordre naturel, vol.
3, Oeuvres complètes, nouvelle édition revue corrigée, ed. Joseph Remy
(Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1829), pp. 1-2, 15-2 1, 26-27, 35, 39, 40, 44-45.
Translated by Ruth Kleinman in Core Four Sourcebook

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The

Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for
introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is

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of the Sourcebook.

Appendix III:



Qualitative observations of the
Sidereus nuncius stars, moon, Venus, moons of
Telescopic Jupiter, and the 'handles' on
[Sidereal observations. Saturn were polemical
Messenger] ammunition for
Lettere sulle Demonstration of solar
observations and
macchie solari 'imperfections', axial rotation,
1613 mathematical
[Letters on sun and contiguous nature of
analysis of
spots] sunspots.
Lettera a Madama
Science and Attempt to separate scientific
religion; concerns from theological
1615 [Letters to the
philosophy of dogma; the strengths and
Grand Duchess
science. limits of scientific inquiry.
Philosophy of Polemic on the nature of
science; wide scientific investigation,
Il saggiatore [The discussion of particularly astronomical
Assayer] troublesome phenomena, based on
physical observation & descriptive
phenomena. mathematics.
Brilliant literary polemic
Dialogo [Dialogue Cosmology in the against Aristotelians in favor of
on the Two Chief broadest sense; Copernicus and the physics of
Systems of the Copernicanism; a moving earth: inertia,
World] kinematics. relativity, and conservation of

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Terrestrial Mathematical (kinematic)

kinematics; demonstration and
[Discourse on the
1638 theory of matter, systematization of the science
Two New
strength of of motion and a discussion of
materials. the strength of materials.

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