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Gregory of Valencia

Professor of the University of Ingolstadt, b. 1550 (1540, 1551?); d. 1603

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Gregory of Valencia, professor of the University of Ingolstadt, b. at Medina, Spain, March, 1550 (1540, 1551?); d. at Naples, April 25, 1603. The “Annales Ingolstadiensis Academise” formally announce in 1598: “During the current year the faculty of theology lost a celebrated man and a veteran teacher, Gregory of Valencia, who left Ingolstadt February 14; the General of the Society of Jesus had summoned him to Rome to take part in the discussions concerning grace which were to be held in presence of the pope. When Duke Maximilian heard of this he requested Gregory to travel to Italy by way of Munich, where he supplied him with horses, servants, and money for the journey, thus showing his high regard for the man who, during twenty-four years, had rendered such important services to the university, to Bavaria, and to the Catholic cause in general.” In its tribute to him the theological faculty has this statement: “Gregory of Valencia, S.J., a native of Medina, Spain, and doctor of theology, was sent by his superiors to Rome in 1598. He was a peer among the learned theologians of his time; Paris was eager to secure him as was also Stephen, King of Poland; he was an ornament to our university in which he spent twenty-four years; for sixteen years as professor of theology he gave general satisfaction and contributed to the progress of science. In the controversies of the day, he took a prominent part, combating error, and always with success, by means of his polemical writings. His work in four volumes, covering the whole field of scholastic theology, won him permanent renown. He taught theology at Rome for a number of years and held the position of prefect of studies in the Roman College until, broken in health through incessant work, he died at Naples, at the age of fifty-four years. Pope Clement VIII honored him with the significant title of Doctor doctorum.”

If this estimate of his age (54) be correct—and it coincides with the necrology of the Neapolitan province of the Society of Jesus—it would follow, since March is given as the month of his birth, that he was born in March, 1550. Southwell in his “Biblioth. scriptorum S. J.” says he was born in 1551, but he also states in two different places, “mortuus, anno aetatis 63” from which it would appear that Gregory was born in 1541. The date of his reception into the Society of Jesus, however, is known. In 1565 Gregory was at Salamanca studying philosophy and jurisprudence. Attracted by the preaching of Father Ramirez, S.J., he sought admission into the recently founded Society of Jesus, and entered the novitiate November 25 of the same year under the guidance of Father Balthasar Alvarez, one of the spiritual direct-ors of St. Teresa. After finishing his studies, but not yet ordained, he was called in 1571 by St. Francis Borgia, superior general of the order, to teach philosophy in Rome. There he was ordained a priest. In a short time his intellectual attainments and his ability as a teacher attracted such widespread attention that after the death of St. Francis Borgia and the election of his successor, Mercurian, the provincials of France and North Germany tried to secure Gregory for university work while the King of Poland desired his services for that country. He was ultimately affiliated with the German province and appointed by the provincial, Father Hoffaus, to the chair of theology at Dillingen, whence, two years later, he was transferred to a similar position at Ingolstadt. Here he remained seventeen years (1575-1592) teaching scholastic theology, during fifteen of which he was rector of studies.

This period was marked by intense religious ferment. Not only did the anti-Catholic movement started in that century continue, but the conflict among the various sectarian leaders, especially after Luther’s death, became sharper. Lectures on theology had to be adapted to the altered circumstances of the times both in defense of Catholic dogma and in refutation of numerous errors. That Gregory realized the need of this course is evident from the dissertations produced under his direction and the disputations that were held by candidates for the doctor’s degree at Ingolstadt. But what he chiefly aimed at was the positive construction of Catholic doctrine, as he shows in his commentary on the “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas which contains the substance of the lectures he delivered during many years. After resigning his professorship at Ingolstadt, he devoted most of his time (1592-97) to the revision and publication of these lectures. They appeared under the title “Commentariorum theologicorum tomi quatuor”; the first volume was published at Ingolstadt (1591); a second edition of this appeared in 1592, together with the second volume; the third was published in 1595, the fourth in 1597. After another revision by the author they were republished in 1603, and again in 1611 after the author’s death. Other editions appeared at Venice, 1600-08; Lyons, 1600-03-09-12. It was one of the first comprehensive theological works produced among the Jesuits. These editions brought out in such rapid succession attest the high rank occupied by this work in contemporaneous theological literature. Its distinctive features are clearness, comprehensiveness, and depth in the treatment both of speculative and moral subjects.

His duties as professor, however, had not hindered him from publishing many polemical essays. These were directed principally against Jakob Heerbrand, who was a professor at Tubingen and a zealous adherent of Luther. The catalogue of the “Ingolstadter Annalen” (Mederer, II, 156) enumerates eight publications of this sort. Their principal purpose was to defend the veneration of the saints and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, e.g. “Apologeticus de Idololatria, adversus impium libellum Jacobi Herbrandi etc.” (Ingolstadt, 1579); an enlarged edition was published in 1580. In the same year he published “De sacrosancto Missae sacrificio contra impiam disputationem Tubingae nuper a Jac. Herbrando propositam etc.”, which was followed by the “Apologia de SS. Missae sacrificio” (Ingolstadt, 1581). Later he edited his polemical writings on the Blessed Sacrament, attacking the ubiquity theory of the Lutheran champion Jacob Schmidelin and the teachings of the Calvinists Crell and Sadeel (surnamed Chandieu) concerning the “figurative presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. Sommervogel (in the Bibliotheque de la Comp. de J.) enumerates forty polemical pamphlets written by Gregory, many of which, however, are only compilations of various theses which formed the basis of disputations for the doctorate. In 1591 he published at Lyons a collective volume of his controversial writings with a preface (dated September 4, 1590) saying that in response to the demand for his polemical writings he had collected, revised, added some later treatises, arranged the whole in a certain logical order, and put them at the disposal of his publisher at Lyons, that place being the most likely center for the purpose of distribution. After Gregory’s death, this volume was republished (Paris, 1610) with over one hundred additional pages (unnumbered) of indexes. It was entitled: “De rebus fidei hoc tempore controversis”. Its weightiest and most comprehensive treatise is, without doubt, the “Analysis Fidei Catholicae” which had been published first in 1585. This is a methodical demonstration that the true Christian faith is found solely in the Roman Church, and that union with the pope is the only guarantee of right belief. As a demonstratio catholica, it retains its value to the present day.

It is worthy of note that the last two volumes culminated in the proof of papal infallibility. In fact some of Gregory’s theses not only foreshadow but express wellnigh literally the dogmatic definition of the Vatican Council in 1870, e.g. “In the Roman Pontiff himself is vested the authority which the Church possesses to pass judgment in all controversies regarding matters of faith.—Whensoever the Roman pontiff makes use of his authority in defining matters of faith, all the faithful are bound by Divine precept to accept as doctrine of faith that which he so defines. And they must further believe that he is using this authority whensoever, either in his own right or in union with a council of bishops, he decides upon controverted matters of faith in such wise as to make the decision binding upon the whole Church. “Gregory also became a leading factor in other discussions, for instance, the theologico-economical questions of the so-called “five per cent contract” which caused considerable excitement at the time and led many consciences astray. Even then the modern capitalistic system was nascent, though economic conditions had not yet reached the stage where money to any amount could be profitably invested and interest rightfully demanded on loans simply as such. The Church remained firm in its stand against usury, and insisted that if interest were to be charged it should be put on some other basis than the mere fact of borrowing and lending. But as in passing upon the validity of different additional titles varying degrees of strictness were exercised, there resulted serious and even extreme differences in the direction of souls and in the practice of the confessional; the bishops themselves contradicted one another in their decrees on this subject; and meantime the five per cent contract became the general custom.

During the last decades of the sixteenth century, confusion in matters of conscience was widespread, especially in Bavaria. Duke William of Bavaria, who was personally in favor of strictly enforcing the law, called on the University of Ingolstadt for a ruling, and eventually besought the Holy See to settle the question. In both the decisions Gregory played a conspicuous part. He sought to have the practice of taking interest declared lawful on the basis of the so-called contractus trinus and of a rental-purchase agreement which either party was free to terminate. (The latter arrangement had been devised and quite generally resorted to during the Middle Ages as a method of lending money without contravening the laws in regard to interest. It grew out of the earlier practice whereby the creditor acquired both possession and use of the property which secured the loan. By a later modification, the borrower retained possession and use, but ceded to the lender a real right in the property. Finally, the system here referred to was introduced, the creditor was entitled to an income from the property which, however, still belonged to the borrower; the lender purchased the rental. Originally such agreements were binding in perpetuity; but in course of time they were so framed that the par-ties might withdraw under mutually accepted conditions.) He argued that contracts surrounded by such provisions were not contrary to natural law and were therefore permissible in all cases where no positive law forbade them. He also advocated these views as collaborator in the opinion which a theological commission, by order of Gregory XIII, elaborated in 1581. It was in connection with this matter that Gregory’s superiors sent him to Rome, where his personal acquaintance with conditions in Germany would enable him to state all the more accurately the question at issue and its significance. On other matters of importance also he was consulted by the Duke of Bavaria and by his own superiors in the society. In the witchcraft question Gregory unfortunately did not have the grasp of the situation subsequently shown by Friedrich von Spee of the same society. Sorcery he thought was a frequently occurring fact; hence in the opinion which he expressed in 1590, he aimed, not to set aside the juridical procedure then in vogue, but simply to temper the undue severity of its application. Still it was unjust to reproach him for the statement (Commentarii, div. III, col. 2008, sqq.), that where the guilt (of sorcery) is legally established the judge must inflict penalty even though he were personally convinced of the nullity of the charge.

In this matter Gregory only followed the then prevalent teaching taken from St. Thomas Aquinas, viz. that a judge’s personality and private knowledge should not be allowed to affect his official decisions; in the special case of witchcraft Gregory could not consistently make an exception. This opinion indeed is controverted; it seems to grate on natural feeling; but this apparent harshness vanishes when we further consider what is laid down by the adherents of this view, especially Gregory, in their treatment of the more general question, namely that a judge is under grave obligation to make all possible use of his private knowledge towards securing the acquittal of the accused person, and if needs be to refer the case to a higher court or to endorse and support a well-grounded plea for clemency. That Gregory meant this principle to apply in the case of condemnation for sorcery is quite obvious; moreover, in the very passage for which he is criticized (III, 2009), he refers to an earlier part of his work (III, 1380) in which he discusses the duties of a judge. In 1592 Gregory resigned as professor at Ingolstadt to devote himself more fully to the editing of his “Commentarii theologici”. In 1598 he was sent to Rome to teach scholastic theology. A more important work, however, awaited him there; the vindication of the Society‘s teaching on grace. A book by Molina (d. 1600) entitled “De Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis etc.”, had created a stir. On many points in which it set forth essentially the Society‘s doctrine regarding grace, it was suspected of heresy and was formally denounced by the Dominicans. Pope Clement VIII ordered both par-ties to debate the matter publicly before him and the College of Cardinals. Acquaviva, the General of the Jesuits, selected Gregory as champion of the Molinistic doctrine.

At the first public disputation, March 20, 1602, Gregory had to prove that Molina had not deviated from St. Augustine’s teaching by any undue extension of man’s freedom. He maintained his position so ably against the objections of Father Didacus Alvarez, O.P., that friend and opponent alike awarded him the palm. Then the method of debate was changed. Isolated statements taken from Molina’s book had to be compared with similar passages all through the works of St. Augustine. It turned out to be a laborious and seemingly endless undertaking. The second debate was not held until July 8. Tomas de Lemos was selected to represent the Dominicans in this and in most of the subsequent debates (July 9, July 22, etc.). The ninth occurred September 30 Gregory’s bodily strength, already reduced by illness and mental strain, gave way at the close of this debate, although the pope, contrary to custom, had permitted him to remain seated during his discourses. He was sent to Naples in the hope that his health would be restored and the debates were discontinued for a month and a half, the pope having expressed the wish that Gregory would be able to continue the defense. Only when this seemed hopeless were the public discussions resumed. Pedro Arrubal was then selected to take Valencia‘s place. The assertion that Gregory had tampered with certain texts of St. Augustine and had fainted when the pope charged him with it, is as mythical as the rumor that the Jesuits poisoned Clement VIII for fear lest he should pronounce their doctrine heretical.


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