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Giovanni Morone

Cardinal, Bishop of Modena, b. at Milan Jan. 25, 1509; d. at Rome, Dec. 1, 1580

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Morone, GIOVANNI, Cardinal, Bishop of Modena, b. at Milan January 25, 1509; d. at Rome, December 1, 1580. He belonged to a distinguished Milanese family, raised to the nobility in the twelfth century. His father held the dignity of chancellor of Milan, and it was probably to bind the father to his interest that Clement VII in 1529 named his son Giovanni, then only twenty years of age, to the See of Modena. By this appointment great offense was given to Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, who on the pretext that the See of Modena had previously been promised to himself, invoked the aid of Duke Alfonso of Ferrara and took forcible possession of the see, appropriating all its revenues. The dispute was not settled until 1532, when Morone at last bought off the opposition of d’Este by agreeing to pay him an annual pension of 400 ducats. Even as early as 1529, the young bishop-elect, whose talents had already attracted attention at the University of Padua, was chosen by Clement VII for a diplomatic mission to France. Under Paul III Morone’s gifts as a negotiator placed him at once in the very front rank of ecclesiastical politicians. He was sent as papal envoy to Duke Sforza of Milan in 1535, and in the following year accepted, not altogether without reluctance, the important mission of nuncio at the court of Ferdinand, King of the Romans. His instructions were to press on the affair of the council in Hungary and Bohemia. He was to obtain from Ferdinand a safe conduct for those who intended to take part in it, and to insist upon Mantua or some other Italian city as the place of meeting.

With the exception of an interval from September, 1538 to July, 1539, and another in 1541, Morone remained at his post in Germany for nearly six years, and he was present at the diets of Hagenau in 1540 and Ratisbon in 1541, while at the important meeting of Spiers in 1542 he appeared as the pope’s special representative, and played a leading part, though even his great tact and resolution were able to do little in the complicated tangle of German religious affairs. During these early years in Germany, and indeed throughout his life, Morone remained a conspicuous member of a little group of moderate and intellectual men who saw that in the deadly struggle with Lutheranism, the faults were not all on one side. When Cardinal Sadoleto in 1537 for addressing a courteously worded appeal to Melanchthon was denounced by many of his own side as little better than a traitor and a heretic, Morone wrote the cardinal a letter of sympathy. “There are in these parts”, he said, “many reputed defenders of the Catholic faith who think that our religion consists in nothing but hatred of the Lutherans…. and they are so wedded to this point of view that, without ever looking into the matter itself, they take in bad part not only all negotiations with the Lutherans, but every single word spoken about them which is not abusive”. Morone further advises Sadoleto to treat his critics with silent contempt, and states his own conviction that to show charity to heretics was a better way than to overwhelm them with abusive language, adding: “if only this course had been adopted from the first, there would probably be less difficulty than there is in bringing about the union of the Church” (see the letter in “Archiv f. Reformationsgeschichte”, 1904, I, 80-81).

On May 22, 1542, Paul III published his Bull, which had been drafted by Sadoleto, summoning the council to meet at Trent, on November 1, of the same year. On June 2, Morone was created a cardinal, and on October 16, he and Cardinals Parisio and Pole were named legates to preside over the assembly as the pope’s representatives. But this first attempt to launch the long-desired council was a failure. Morone went to Trent and waited until the handful of representatives, who never met in public session, gradually dispersed, the council being formally prorogued July 6, 1543. Before the assembly was again convened Morone was named legate (practically papal governor) at Bologna, and he had nothing to do with the sessions of the council which took place at Trent between December, 1545 and June, 1546, though after the council had been ostensibly transferred to Bologna, he was named by Julius III as one of the commissioners to arrange for its return to Trent. In 1555 he was sent to the Diet of Augsburg, but the death of Julius necessitated his recall and under the Pontificate of Paul IV Morone, who owing to his wide and liberal views had the misfortune to awaken the pope’s suspicions when the latter presided over the Roman Inquisition, was arrested by the pontiff’s order, confined in the Castle of Saint Angelo (May 31, 1557), and made the object of a formal prosecution for heresy, in which his views on justification, the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics and other matters were incriminated and submitted to rigid inquiry.

The cardinal strenuously repudiated these charges, but he was kept in confinement until the death of Paul IV. In 1560 his successor Pius IV authorized a revision of the process against Morone, and as a result the imprisonment of the cardinal and the whole procedure against him were declared to be entirely without justification; the judgment also recorded in the most formal terms that not the least suspicion rested upon his orthodoxy. A few years later when the cardinal legates Gonzaga and Seripandi died at Trent, Morone and Cardinal Navagero were appointed to succeed them, and the former eventually presided over the concluding sessions of the council with conspicuous tact and dignity. He was also placed upon the commission appointed to see that the conciliar decrees were duly carried into execution. Under the succeeding pontiffs his credit was in no way impaired. He was sent on a mission to Genoa in 1575, and in 1576 was appointed to attend the Diet of Ratisbon as papal legate. As Cardinal Protector of England, Morone in 1578-1579 had much to do with the administration of the English College (see Catholic Record Society, “Miscellanea”, II, London, 1906); and when he died he had been for some time Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. Few ecclesiastics in that century were so successful in retaining the esteem of men of all parties and all creeds as this large minded and eminently able and honest churchman. His reports as nuncio, recently published of late years in the German series of “Nuntiaturberichten”, throw a flood of light upon the religious conditions of the empire, and it is interesting to note that the “Claudius internuntius” whose letters were so often turned to good account by Raynaldi proves to be no other than Morone himself (see Ehses in “Romische Quartalschrift”, 1903). It may be mentioned in conclusion that Morone had much to do with the founding of the important Collegium Germanicum in Rome, a work in which he was closely associated with St. Ignatius Loyola.


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