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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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ment, they would have achieved for ever the pre-
dominancy of the church over the state. They put
forward claims, and their adherents enounced opi-
nions and principles, which threatened kingdoms and
states both with internal convulsions and with the
loss of independence.

It was principally the Jesuits who entered the
lists as the proclaimers and the champions of these

They laid claim, first, to an absolute supremacy
of the church over the state.

The agitation of this question was in some sort
inevitable in England, where the queen had been
declared head of the church. That principle was
met by the heads of the catholic opposition with
the most violent pretensions on the other side.
William Allen declares it to be not only the right,
but the duty of a nation, especially when backed
by the command of the pope, to refuse allegiance
to a prince who has apostatized from the cathohc


church*. Parsons holds, that it is the fundamental
condition of all authorityin atemporalprince, that he
should foster and defend the Roman catholic faith;
that he is bound to do this by his baptismal vow
and by his coronation oath ; it would therefore be
bhndness to regard him as capable of reigning if he
did not fulfil this condition ; his subjects were, on
the contrary, bound in such a case to expel himf .
These opinions are perfectly natural and consistent
in writers who place the main purpose and duty of
life in the exercise of religion ; they believe the
Roman catholic to be the only true religion, and
they conclude that there can be no lawful authority
which is opposed to that religion ; thus they make
the existence of a government, and the obedience
which it receives, dependent on the application of
its power to the advancement of the interests of the

* In the letter. Ad persecutores Anglos pro Christianis respon-
sio, 1582, I notice the following passage : — " Si reges Deo et
Dei populo fidem datam fregerint, vicissim populo non solum per-
mittitur, sed etiam ab co requiritur, ut, jubente Christi vicario,
supremo nimirura populorum omnium pastore, ipse quoque fidem
datam tali principi non servet."

t AndrefE Philopatri (Personi) ad Elizabethaj reginse edictum
responsio. No. 162 : " Non tantum licet, sed summa etiam juris
divini necessitate ac prsecepto, imo conscientite vinculo arctissimo
et extremo animarum suarum periculo ac discrimine Christianis
omnibus hoc ipsum incumbit, siprrestare rem possunt." No. 160 :

" Incumbit vero turn maxime cum res jam ab ecclesia ac

supremo ejus moderatore, pontifice nimirum Romano, judicata
est : ad ilium enim ex officio pertinet religionis ac divini cultus
incolumitati prospicere ct leprosos a mundis ne inficiantur se-


This however was the general drift of the doc-
trines now rising into popularity. That which was
asserted in England in the heat of the struggle,
was repeated by Bellarmine in the solitude of his
study, in elaborate works, in a connected, well-di-
gested system. He laid it down as a fundamental
maxim, that the pope was placed immediately by
God over the whole church as its guardian and
chief*. Hence the fulness of spiritual power be-
longs to him ; hence he is endowed with infallibi-
lity ; he judges all, and may be judged by none ;
and hence a great share of temporal authority ac-
crues to him. Bellarmine does not go so far as to
ascribe to the pope a temporal power derived di-
rectly from divine rightf ; although Sixtus V. che-
rished this opinion, and was consequently dis-
pleased that it was abandoned ; but so much the
more unhesitatingly did Bellarmine attribute to him
an indirect right. He compares the temporal
power with the body, the spiritual with the soul,
of man ; he ascribes to the church the same do-
minion over the state which the soul exercises over
the body. The spiritual power had, he affirms, the
right and the duty to impose a curb on the tempo-

^ Bellarminus de conciliorum autoritate, c. 1 7 : " Summus jion-
tlfex simpliciter et absolute est supra ecclesiam universarn et su-
pra concilium generale, ita ut nullum in terris supra se judicium

t Bellarminus de Romano pontlfice, v. vi. : " Asserimus ponti-
ficem ut pontificem, etsi non habeat ullam meram temporalem
potestatem, tarnen habere in ordine ad bonum spirituale sum-
mam potestatem disponendi de temporalibus rebus omnium


ral, whenever that hecame injurious to the interests
of rehgion. It cannot he affirmed that the pope is
entitled to a regular influence over the legislation
of the state * ; but if a law Avere necessary to the
salvation of souls and the sovereign hesitated to
enact it ; or if a law were injurious to the salvation
of souls and the sovereign was obstinately deter-
mined to maintain it, the pope is certainly justi-
fied in ordaining the one and in abolishing the
other. This principle was sufficient to carry him a
great way. Does not the safety of the soul pre-
scribe even death to the body when necessary ? As
a general rule, the pope could certainly not de-
throne a prince ; but should it become necessary to
the salvation of souls, he possessed the right of
changing a government, or of transferring it from
one ruler to another f. These assertions led, by
a very easy application, to the principle, that the
kingly power also rested on divine right. If not,
what was its origin ? what the sanction inherent
in it?

* Bellarminus de Romano pontifice, v. vi. : " Quantum ad per-
sonas, non potest papa ut papa ordinarie temporales principes de-
ponere, etiam justa de causa, eo modo quo deponit episcopos, id
est tanquam Ordinarius judex : tarnen jootest mutare regna et uni
auferre atque alteri conferre tanquam summus princeps spiritualis,
si id necessarium sit ad animarum," etc. etc.

f These doctrines are in fact only fresli combinations of the
principles laid down in the 13th century. Thomas Aquinas had
already drawn the comparison which here plays so important a
part : " Potestas secularis subditur spirituali sicut corpus anima?."
Bellarmine, in the " Tractatus de potestate summi pontificis in
rebus temporalibus adversus G. Barclajum," enumerates more
than seventy writers of different countries, by whom the authority
of the pope is regarded in the same light as by himself.


The Jesuits had no hesitation in deriving the so-
vereign power from the people. They incorporated
their theory of the sovereignty of the people and of
the omnipotence of the pope into one system. This,
more or less openly expressed, lay at the founda-
tion of the opinions of Allen and Parsons. Bel-
larmine first endeavoured to establish it on a firm
and thoroughly worked-out basis. He maintains
that God had conferred supreme temporal power on
no individual in particular, and consequently had
conferred it on the many ; — that this power therefore
resided in the people, who might commit it either to
one or to several ; that they retained an indefeasible
right to alter the forms of government, to resume the
sovereignty, and to transfer it into new hands. It
must not be supposed that these views were peculiar
^tohim; this is the prevailing doctrine of the Jesuit
schools of that time. In a manual for confessors,
which circulated through the whole catholic world
and w^as revised by the "Magister sacri Palatii," the
temporal sovereign is treated not only as subject to
the pope, in so far as the safety of souls required*;
but it is roundly asserted that a king may be de-
throned on account of tyranny or neglect of his
duties, and another chosen in his place by the ma-
jority of the nation f. Franciscus Suarez, professor

* Aphorismi confessariorum ex doctorum sententiis collecti,
autore Emanuele Sa, nuper accurate expurgati a rev'"" P. M.
sacri palatii, ed. Antv., p. 480. The author however adds, as if
he had said too little, " Quidam tamen juris periti putarunt sum-
mum pontificem suprema civili potestate poliere."

t tbid. p. 508 (ed. Colon., p. 313), " Ilex potest per rempub-
licam privari ob tyrannidem et si non faciat officium suum, et cum


Primarius of theology at Coimbra, in his defence
of the catholic church against the anghcan, gives
a most elaborate exposition and confirmation of
Bellarmine's doctrine*. But the writer who de-
velopes the idea of the sovereignty of the people
with the greatest complacency and emphasis is Ma-
riana. He suggests all the questions which can arise
out of this idea, and decides them without hesita-
tion in favour of the people, and to the prejudice of
the kingly authority. He does not question that a
king may be dethroned, nay put to death, if his life
is injurious to religion. He pronounces an eulo-
gium, full of pathetical declamation, on Jacques
Clement, who first took counsel of divines, and then
went forth and assassinated his kingf. He has at
least the merit of being perfectly consistent ; nor
can it be doubted that these doctrines inflamed the
fanaticism of the assassin.

For in no country were they promulgated with
such furious violence as in France. It is impossible
to find anything more anti-royahst than the dia-
tribes which Jean Boucher thundered from the
pulpit. It is in the Estates that he places the

est allqua causa justa, et eligi potest alius a majore parte populi :
quidam tarnen solum tyrannidem causam putant."

* R. P. Franc. Suarez Granatensis, etc., defensio fidei catho-
licse et apostolicse adversus Anglicanaj sectfe errores, lib. iii., de
summl pontificis supra temporales reges excellentia et potestate.
It is easy to see that Bellarmine's doctrine of the right of the
people to revoke powers which had been abused, had excited the
strongest opposition.

f Mariana de rege et regis institutione. " Jac. Clemens,

cognito a theologis, quos erat sciscitatus, tyrannum jure interim!
posse — cseso rege ingens sibi nomen fecit."


public might and majesty, the power to bind and
to loose, the indefeasible sovereignty, the supreme
jurisdiction over sceptre and realm ; for in them is
the source of all power : the prince is raised from
the mass of the people, not of necessity and com-
pulsion, but of free choice. Boucher takes the
same view of the connexion of the state with the
church as Bellarmine, and repeats his illustration
of the connexion between body and soul. There is
only one limitation, he says, to the free choice of
the people ; there is only one thing forbidden — •
viz. to place on the throne an heretical monarch ;
that would be to draw down upon themselves the
curse of God*.

Strange union of spiritual pretensions and de-
mocratic ideas ; of absolute freedom and complete
subjection ; — self-contradictory and anti-national ;
yet such was the doctrine which bound all minds
as with a mysterious spell !

Hitherto the Sorbonne had always stood forth as
the champion of the royal and national privileges,

* Jean Boucher, Sermons, Paris, 1594, in several jiassages.
In p. 1.94 he says, *' L'eglise seigneurie les royaumes et estats de
la Chretiente, non pour y usurper puissance directe comme sur
son propre temporel, mais bien indirectement pour empescher
que rien ne se passe au temporel qui soit au prejudice du royaume
de Jesus Christ, comme par cydevant il a ete declare par la si-
militude de la puissance de I'esprit sur le corps." Further on,
" La difference du prestre et du roi nous eclaircit cette matiere,
le prestre estant de Dieu seul, ce qui ne se pent dire du roi. Car
si tons les rois etoienl morts, les peuples s'en pourruient bien
faire d'autres : mais s'il n'y avoit plus aucun prestre, il faudroit
que Jesus Christ vint en personne pour en faire de nouveaux."
p. 162.



against the ultra-montane and sacerdotal assump-
tions. But when, after the assassination of the
Guises, these doctrines were preached from every
pulpit ; when men cried aloud in the streets and
represented by symbols in processions, that king
Henry III. had lost his right to the crown, " the
good citizens and inhabitants of the city," as they
called themselves, " in the scruples of their con-
sciences," addressed themselves to the theological
faculty of the university of Paris, in order to ob-
tain a safe decision as to the legality of resistance
to their sovereign lord. Hereupon the Sorbonne
met on the 7th of January, 1589. " After," says
their decision, " having heard the mature and free
counsels of all the magistri ; after many and va-
rious arguments, for the most part literally drawn
from the Holy Scriptures, the canon law, and the
papal ordinances, the dean of the faculty decided
without a dissentient voice ; — first, that the people
of this kingdom are absolved from the oath of alle-
giance and fidelity which they took to king Henry:
further, that this people without scruple of con-
science may assemble, arm, and collect money for
the support of the Roman catholic apostolical reli-
gion against the execrable proceedings of the said
king*." Seventy members of the faculty were
present ; the younger of them carried through this
resolution with the fiercest enthusiasmf .

* Responsum facultatis theologicse Parisiensis, printed in the
Additions an Journal de Henry III., vol. i. p. 317.

t Thuanus, lib. 94, p, 258, gives the number of those present
at sixty only, and will not allow their unanimity, although the


The universal assent which these theories re-
ceived, arose no doubt mainly from their being at
this moment the real expression of the fact — of the
historical phenomenon. For, in the French trou-
bles, popular and priestly resistance had advanced
from their respective sides to form an alliance; the
citizens of Paris were encouraged and held firm in
their revolt against their lawful sovereign by a le-
gate of the pope. Bellarmine himself was for a time
in the retinue of the legate. The doctrines which he
developed in his learned solitude, which he pro-
mulgated with so much consistency and with so
much success, were expressed in the event of
which he was at once the witness and, in part, the

Another circumstance connected with this is, that
tlie Spaniards approved these doctrines ; that so
jealous a monarch as Philip II. tolerated them. The
Spanish monarchy rested indeed on a combination
of spiritual attributes. In numerous passages of
Lope di Vega we see that it was so understood by
the nation ; that they loved in their sovereign the
rehgious Majesty and wished to see it represented in
his person. But besides this, the king was impli-
cated in the schemes and efforts of the catholic
restoration, not only with the priests, but even with
the revolted people. The citizens of Paris reposed
far greater confidence in him than in the French
princes, the chiefs of the league. A new ally

document mentioned expressly says, " audita omnium et singu-
lorum magistrorum, qui ad septuaginta convenerant, deliberatione
, , , , conclusum est nemine refragrante,"



now appeared on his side in the doctrines of the
Jesuits. It was impossible not to perceive that he
might have something to fear from them; but this
was more than counterbalanced by the effect they
had in giving to his policy a justification based both
on law and on rehgion ; of great advantage, even to
his weight and dignity in Spain, and of still greater
as opening the way directly to his foreign enter-
prises. The king was more intent on this imme-
diate utility than on the general purport and ten-
dency of the Jesuit doctrines*.

And is not this commonly the case with regard
to political doctrines ? Are they to be considered
as the results, or as the causes of facts ? Are they
valued more for their own sakes, or for the sake of
the personal advantages which men promise them-
selves from their dissemination ?

Be this as it may, their force remains the same.
Whilst the Jesuit doctrines expressed the efforts of
the reviving and reforming papacy (or rather of that
general current of opinions and affairs in the midst
of which the papacy was placed) , they imparted to

* Pedro Ribadeneira repeated it, it is true, under a moderated
form, but still he did repeat it, in his book against Machiavelli,
which was already completed in 1595, and presented to the
prince of Spain. " Tratado de la religion y virtudes que deve
tener el ])rincipe Christiano para governar y conservar sus esta-
dos, contra lo que Nicolo Machiavello y los politicos d'este ti-
empo ensefian." Anveres, 1597. Princes, he thinks, are servants
of the church, hut not her rulers ; armed to chastise heretics, the
enemies of and rebels to the church, but not to impose laws upon
her or to declare the will of God. He adheres to the comparison
of the body and the soul. The kingdom of the earth, as St.
Gregory says, should be subservient to the kingdom of heaven.


it new strength, by giving it a systematic foun-
dation in the spirit of the prevalent theological
opinions ; they fostered a disposition of mind, on
the general diffusion of which victory depended.


Never however has either a political power, or a
political doctrine, succeeded in acquiring absolute
and sole dominion over Europe.

Nor is it possible to imagine one which, when
compared with the ideal, and with the loftiest con-
ceptions of which man is capable, does not appear
inevitably fatal to largeness and impartiality of
mind .

In all times has opposition arisen to opinions
v;hich strove for exclusive domination ; an opposi-
tion springing out of the fathomless depths of the
feelings and interests of the mass, and evolving
new powers and new energies.

We have remarked that no kind of power ever
rises into importance which does not repose on the
basis of ideas ; we may now add that in ideas it
finds its limits. The struggles of opinion which
generate great political acts and events, also find
their accomplishment in the regions of conviction
and of thought.

Thus national independence, which is the proper
expression of the temporal element of society, now
rose in powerful opposition to the idea of a sacer-


dotal religion, supreme and predominant over all
temporal powers.

The Germanic institution of royalty, extended
over the Romance nations and deeply rooted among
them, has never been overthrown or shaken, either
by the pretensions of priests or by the fiction of the
sovereignty of the people ; — a fiction which has in
every case eventually proved itself untenable.

The strange alliance into which these principles
had entered at the time we are contemplating, was
opposed by the doctrine of the divine right of kings.
It was next attacked by the protestants, (who appear
to have vacillated,) with all the zeal and vigour of
an enemy who sees his antagonist playing a despe-
rate game, and entering on courses that must lead
to destruction.

The protestants maintained that God alone set
princes and rulers over the race of men ; that he
had reserved to himself the power to exalt or to
abase, to divide and to mete out. It is true, they
said, he no longer descended from heaven to show
by outward signs those to whom dominion should
belong; but, by his eternal providence, laws and
an established order of things had been introduced
in every kingdom, according to which a ruler
was appointed. If a king, in virtue of these laws
and institutions, came to power, that fact was equi-
valent to a declaration by the voice of God that he
should be king. God had indeed of old pointed
out to his people the persons of Moses, the judges,
and the first kings ; but after an established order
was once introduced, the others who succeeded to


the throne were not less God's anointed than their

From these principles the protestants proceeded
to urge the necessity of submissioji, even to unjust
and culpable princes. Besides, they argued, no
man was perfect ; and if the law was not treated as
inviolable, people would avail themselves of the
slightest failings as a pretext for getting rid of a
king. Even heresy did not generally absolve sub-
jects from their allegiance. A son ought not indeed
to obey a godless father in things contrary to God's
commandments, but in all other things he remained
bound to pay him reverence and submission.

It would have been a matter of no little moment,
if only the protestants had developed and main-
tained these opinions ; but it was far more import-
ant that a part of the French catholics likewise
adopted them, or rather, that their own sponta-
neous convictions coincided with them.

In defiance of the pope's excommunication, a
considerable body of good catholics remained faith-
ful to Henry III., and afterwards transferred their
allegiance to Henry IV. The Jesuit doctrines did
not succeed with the party in question ; nor were
they wanting in arguments by which to defend their
position, without involving any apostacy from Ca-

This party next endeavoured to define the author-

* " Explicatio controversiarurn quae a nonnullis moventur ex
Henrici Borbonii regis in regnum Francise constitutione, .... opus
.... a Tossano Bercheto Lingonensi e Gallico in Latinum sermo-
nem conversum." Sedani, 1590. Cap. 2.


ity of the clergy,' and their relation to the temporal
power, from an opposite point of view to that of
the Jesuits. They came to the conviction that the
spiritual kingdom was not of this world, and that the
power of the clergy regarded spiritual things alone.
Excommunication, from its very nature, could touch
only the participation in ecclesiastical privileges,
and had no power to abstract anything from the
enjoyment of secular rights. But a king of France
could not even be excluded from the communion
of the church, since this was a privilege indefeasibly
attached to the banner of the lilies ; how much
less was it then permitted to deprive him of his
inheritance ! And where was it distinctly WTitten
that men might rebel against their king, and resort
to force against him ? They urged that God had
set him over them, as was indicated by the words
used in his title, ' by the grace of God ' ; and that the
only case in which a subject could refuse him obe-
dience was, if he required anything contrary to
God's commandments*.

From these divine laws they then deduced that
they were not only permitted, but bound to ac-
knowledge a Protestant king. Such as God ap-
points a king, must his subjects accept him ; obe-
dience to him is a commandment of God, nor could
there possibly exist a ground for depriving a king
of his rightsf. They exen maintained that their

* In this I follow the extracts from an anonyraous writing
Avhich api^earcd at Paris in the year 158S in Cayet, Collection
universelle des Memoires, torn. 56, p. 44.

t Etienne Pasquier, Recberches de France, 341, 344.


view of the case was the most favourable to the
cathoUc interest ; that Henry IV. was judicious,
gracious, and upright, and that nothing but good
was to be anticipated from him ; that if they en-
deavoured to shake off his authority, petty rulers
would spring up on every side, and that it was pre-
cisely this universal division which would throw the
power into the hands of the protestant party*.

In this way an opposition to those ambitious pro-
jects of the papacy which had been generated by
the catholic restoration, arose within the pale of
Catholicism itself ; and it was from the very first
doubtful whether Rome would be able to extinguish
it.^ Not only were the principles of this party,
although less elaborately developed, yet more firmly
based on the convictions of the European world
than those of the orthodox party, but the position
they had taken up was perfectly just and irreproach-
able ; the circumstance, however, most jDropitious
to them was, the alliance which subsisted between
the papal doctrines and the Spanish power.

The monarchy of Philip II. seemed every day to
become more dangerous to the liberties of the
world ; throughout Europe it awakened that jea-
lous hate arising less from committed acts of vio-
lence and oppression, than from the fear of them,
and from the danger which seemed to impend over
freedom ; — a hate which takes unconscious posses-

Online LibraryLeopold von RankeThe ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 39)