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John de Lugo

Spanish Jesuit and Cardinal, b. at Madrid in November, 1583, d. at Rome, August 29, 1660

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Lugo, JOHN DE, Spanish Jesuit and Cardinal, one of the most eminent theologians of modern times, b. at Madrid in November, 1583, though he used to call himself “Hispalensis”, because his family seat was at Seville; d. at Rome, August 29, 1660. Both his father, John de Lugo, and his mother, Teresa de Quiroga, whose family name he bore for a time, as was the custom for the second son, were of noble birth. Such was de Lugo’s intellectual precocity that at the age of three years he could read printed or written books; at ten, he received the tonsure; at fourteen, he defended a public thesis in logic, and about the same time was appointed by Philip II to an ecclesiastical benefice which he retained till his solemn profession in 1618. Like his elder brother Francis, he was sent by his father to the University of Salamanca to study law; but Francis having entered the Society of Jesus where he became a distinguished theologian, John soon desired to imitate him and, having vainly asked his father’s permission, in two letters, he entered without it in 1603. After completing his studies, he was appointed professor of philosophy at Medina del Campo, in 1611, and later of theology at Valladolid, where he taught for five years. His fame as a professor of theology attracted the attention of the General of the Jesuits, Mutius Vitelleschi, and de Lugo was summoned to Rome, where he arrived early in June, 1621.

The teaching of de Lugo at Rome was brilliant; his lectures even before being printed were spread by copyists in other countries. When the General of the Society ordered him to print his works, he obeyed and without help had the material for the first three volumes prepared within five years (1633, 1636, 1638). When the fourth volume, “De justitia et jure”, was about to be published, his superiors thought it proper that he should dedicate it to Urban VIII; de Lugo had to present it himself to the pope, who was so much surprised and delighted by the theologian’s learning and judgment that he frequently consulted him, and in 1643, created him a cardinal. This put an end to de Lugo’s teaching; but several of his works were published after 1643. As cardinal he took part in the Congregations of the Holy Office, of the Council, etc. and often had occasion to place his learning at the service of the Church. He died aged seventy-seven, being assisted by Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini, one of his most devoted disciples, also a Jesuit. According to his wish, he was buried near the tomb of St. Ignatius that “his heart might rest where his treasure was”, as is said in his epitaph. De Lugo was a man not only of great learning, but also of great virtue; obedience alone induced him to publish his works and he always retained the simplicity and humility which had led him to refuse, but for the pope’s order, the cardinalitial dignity; the fine carriage sent by Cardinal Barberini to bring him as a cardinal to the pope’s palace, he called his hearse. His generosity to the poor was very great, and although his income was small, he daily distributed among them bread, money, and even remedies, such as quinquina, then newly discovered, which the people at Rome used for a time to call Lugo’s powder.

The works of John de Lugo, some of which have never been printed, cover nearly the whole field of moral and dogmatic theology. The first volume “De Incarnatione Domini” (Lyons, 1633), of which the short preface is well worth reading to get an idea of de Lugo’s method, came out in 1633. It was followed by: “De sacramentis in genere; “”De Venerabili Eucharistiae Sacramento et de sacrosancto Missae Sacrificio” (Lyons, 1636); “De Virtute et Sacramento paenitentie, de Suffragiis et Indulgentiis” (Lyons, 1638); and “De justitia et jure” (Lyons, 1642), the work on which de Lugo’s fame especially rests. In the composition of this important treatise, he was greatly aided by his knowledge of law acquired in his younger days at Salamanca, and it was this work which he dedicated and presented to the pope in person and which may be said to have gained for him a cardinal’s hat. De Lugo wrote two other works: “De virtute fidei divinae” (Lyons, 1646), and “Responsorum moralium libri sex” (Lyons, 1651), published by his former pupil and friend, Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini. In these six books de Lugo gives, after thorough discussion, the solution of many difficult cases in moral theology; this work has a very high value both from a theoretical and a practical standpoint, as in the main it consists of questions proposed to him for solution during long years. The seventh volume, “De Dee, de Angelis, de Actibus humanis et de Gratia” (Cologne, 1716), was published over fifty years after the author’s death; the idea, as we find it expressed on the title page, was to complete his printed course of lectures. Other works on theology and especially on philosophy: “De Anima”, “Philosophia”, “Logica”, “De Trinitate”, “De Visione Dei”, etc. are still preserved in manuscripts in the libraries of Madrid, Salamanca, Karlsruhe, Mechlin, etc.

Among the unprinted works, the analysis of Arnauld‘s book “De frequenti Communione” and the “Memorie del conclave d’Innocenzo X: Riposta al discorso. the le corone hanno jus d’eschiudere li cardinali del Pontificato” may be of special interest; they are the only controversial works of de Lugo. What he intended in his writings was not to give a long treatise, exhaustive from every point of view; he wished only “to open up a small river, to the ocean”, without repeating what others had said before him and without giving a series of opinions of previous writers or furnishing authors and quotations in number; he aimed at adding what he had found from his own reflexion and deep meditation on each subject. Other important features of his theological conceptions are the union he always maintains between moral and dogmatic theology, the latter being the support of the former, and the same treatment being applied to both, discussing thoroughly the principle on which the main points of the doctrine rest. From this point of view the last lines of his preface “De justitia et lure”, are instructive.

All his writings, whether on dogmatic or moral theology, exhibit two main qualities: a penetrating critical mind, sometimes indulging a little too much in subtilities, and a sound judgment. He may be ranked among the best representatives of the theological revival of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The small river he wished to open up, is indeed one of the most important which empties its waters into the ocean of theology, so that in many dogmatic or moral questions, the opinion of de Lugo is of preponderating value. In several problems he formed a system of his own, as for instance about faith, the Eucharist, the hypostatic union, etc., and owing to the thorough discussion of the question at issue, his opinion is always to be taken into account. In moral theology he put an end, as Ballerini remarks, to several disputed points. St. Alphonsus de Liguori does not hesitate to rank him immediately after St. Thomas Aquinas, “post S. Thomam facile princeps”, and Benedict XIV calls him “a light of the Church“. Two complete editions of Lugo’s works were published at Venice in 1718 and 1751, each edition containing seven volumes. Another edition (Paris, 1768) was never completed. The last edition is that of Fournials (Paris, 1868-69), in seven volumes, to which an eighth volume with the “Responsa moralia” and the “Indices” was added in 1891.


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