Francesco Lorenzo Brancati di Lauria
Cardinal, Minor Conventual, and theologian (1612-1693)
Brancati di Lauria, FRANCESCO LORENZO, Cardinal, Minor Conventual, and theologian, b. at Lauria in the then Kingdom of Naples, April 10, 1612; d. in Rome, November 30, 1693. Stricken at the age of seventeen with a dangerous illness, he made a vow that in the event of his recovery he would enter the order of Minor Conventuals. In July, 1630, he received the religious habit at Lecce in Apulia, and shortly after the completion of his novitiate was called to Rome. He subsequently visited several of the most noted convents of his order in Italy, in which he taught philosophy and theology with marked success. In 1647, he was again recalled to Rome and was shortly afterwards made guardian of the convent attached to the Conventual Church of the Twelve Apostles, where the minister general of the order resides. In 1653, he was appointed to the chair of dogmatic theology in the Roman University, and was later made Consultor of the Congregation of the Holy Office by Alexander VII who used to call him “The right arm of the Apostolic See“. He was made chief librarian of the Vatican library by Clement X, and in recognition of his devoted services to the Church was raised to the cardinalatial dignity by Innocent XI in 1681. As cardinal he was actively connected with at least ten of the Roman Congregations. Brancati would in all probability have succeeded Innocent XI in the chair of St. Peter, had not the Spanish Government used its right of veto. As it was he received fifteen votes, the successful candidate being Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni who took the name of Alexander VIII. Brancati was a man of vast learning, singular piety, and unbounded liberality towards the poor. During the twelve years he was cardinal, he continued to keep faithfully to the observance of his obligations as a religious, remaining with his brethren in the Convent of the Twelve Apostles, the church of which he caused to be completed and adorned. He prepared himself for death in a most edifying manner, and had his tomb constructed with the inscription over it: “Ossa Fratris Laurentii Brancati de Lauria”. He died in the eighty-first year of his age.
Brancati is the author of several important works on theology and asceticism. Perhaps the most noted of these is the commentary on the third and fourth books of the “Sentences” of Duns Scotus which appeared at Rome in eight folio volumes between the years 1653 and 1682. In this work he treats exhaustively wellnigh all the subjects that pertain to special dogmatic theology. In his “Opuscula tria de Deo”, published at Rome in 1687, and at Rouen in 1705, he defends the gratuitousness of predestination which he endeavors to show was taught by St. Augustine, though reliable authorities are not agreed as to whether St. Augustine was explicit on this point. Brancati’s “Epitome Canonum”, which went through two editions at Rome, four at Venice, and two at Cologne, contains a complete list of all the canons to be found in the general and provincial councils, in the Decretals of Gratian and of Gregory IX, and in the encyclical letters and constitutions of the Roman Pontiffs up to the time of Alexander VII. Among his ascetical works may be mentioned the “Opuscula octo de oratione Christiana”, published at Rome in 1685, a work in which the author exhibits his profound knowledge of the spiritual life of which he became a master more perhaps by his own holy living than by the abstract study of asceticism. The life of Brancati, written in Italian by Gabriele Baba, was published in Rome in 1699.