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Dear visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.

Pope Clement XIV

Reigned 1769-1774

Click to enlarge

Clement XIV, POPE (LORENZO—Or GIOVANNI VINCENZO ANTONIO—GANGANELLI); b. at Sant’ Arcangelo, near Rimini, October 31, 1705; d. at Rome, September 22, 1774.—At the death of Clement XIII the Church was in dire distress. Gallicanism and Jansenism, Febronianism and Rationalism were up in rebellion against the authority of the Roman pontiff; the rulers of France, Spain, Naples, Portugal, Parma were on the side of the sectarians who flattered their dynastic prejudices and, at least in appearance, worked for the strengthening of the temporal power Francis and changed his baptismal name (Giovanni Vincenzo Antonio) for that of Lorenzo. His talents and his virtues had raised him to the dignity of definitor generalis of his order (1741); Benedict XIV made him Consultor of the Holy Office, and Clement XIII gave him the cardinal’s hat (1759), at the instance, it is said, of Father Ricci, the General of the Jesuits. During the conclave he endeavored to please both the Zelanti and the Court party without committing himself to either. At any rate he signed a paper which satisfied Solis. Cretineau-Joly, the historian of the Jesuits, gives its text; the future pope declared “that he recognized in the sovereign pontiff the right to extinguish, with good conscience, the Company of Jesus, provided he observed the canon law; and that it was desirable that the pope should do everything in his power to satisfy the wishes of the Crowns”. The original paper is, however, nowhere to be found, but its existence seems established by subsequent events, and also by the testimony of Bernis in letters to Choiseul (July 28, and November 20, 1769). Ganganelli had thus secured the votes of the Court cardinals; the Zelanti looked upon him as indifferent or even favorable to the Jesuits; d’Aubeterre had always been in his favor as being “a wise and moderate theologian”, and Choiseul had marked him as “very good” on the list of papabili. Bernis, anxious to have his share in the victory of the sovereigns, urged the election. On May 18, 1769, Ganganelli was elected by forty-six votes out of forty-seven, the forty-seventh being his own which he had given to Cardinal Rezzonico, a nephew of Clement XIII. He took the name of Clement XIV.

The new pope’s first Encyclical clearly defined his policy: to keep the peace with Catholic princes in order to secure their support in the war against irreligion. His predecessor had left him a legacy of broils with nearly every Catholic power in Europe. Clement hastened to settle as many as he could by concessions and conciliatory measures. Without revoking the constitution of Clement XIII against the young Duke of Parma’s inroads on the rights of the Church, he refrained from urging its execution, and graciously granted him a dispensation to marry his cousin, the Archduchess Amelia, daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria. The King of Spain, soothed by these concessions, withdrew the uncanonical edict which, a year before, he had issued as a counterblast to the pope’s proceedings against the infant Duke of Parma, the king’s nephew; he also reestablished the nuncio’s tribunal and condemned some writings against Rome. Portugal had been severed from Rome since 1760; Clement XIV began his attempt at reconciliation by elevating to the Sacred College Paulo de Carvalho, brother of the famous minister Pombal; active negotiations terminated in the revocation, by King Joseph I, of the ordinances of 1760, the origin and cause of the rupture between Portugal and the Holy See. A grievance common to Catholic princes was the yearly publication, on Holy Thursday, of the censures reserved to the pope; Clement abolished this custom in the first Lent of his pontificate. But there remained the ominous question of the Jesuits. The Bourbon princes, though thankful for smaller concessions, would not rest till they had obtained the great object of their machinations, the total suppression of the Society. Although persecuted in France, Spain, Sicily, and Portugal, the Jesuits had still many powerful protectors: the rulers, as well as the public conscience, protected them and their numerous establishments in the ecclesiastical electorates of Germany, in the Palatinate, Bavaria, Silesia, Poland, Switzerland, and the many countries subject to the scepter of Maria Theresa, not to mention the States of the Church and the foreign missions. The Bourbon princes were moved in their persecution by the spirit of the times, represented in Latin countries by French irreligious philosophism, by Jansenism, Gallicanism, and Erastianism; probably also by the natural desire to receive the papal sanction for their unjust proceedings against the order, for which they stood accused at the bar of the Catholic conscience. The victim of a man’s injustice often becomes the object of his hatred; thus only the conduct of Charles III, of Pombal, Tanucci, Aranda, Moniiio can be accounted for.

An ever-recurring and almost solitary grievance against the Society was that the Fathers disturbed the peace wherever they were firmly established. The accusation is not unfounded: the Jesuits did indeed disturb the peace of the enemies of the Church, for, in the words of d’Alembert to Frederick II, they were “the grenadiers of the pope’s guard”. Cardinal de Bernis, now French ambassador in Rome, was instructed by Choiseul to follow the lead of Spain in the renewed campaign against the Jesuits. On the 22nd of July, 1769, he presented to the pope a memorandum in the name of the three ministers of the Bourbon kings. “The three monarchs”, it ran, “still believe the destruction of the Jesuits to be useful and necessary; they have already made their request to Your Holiness, and they renew it this day. “Clement answered that “he had his conscience and honor to consult”; he asked for a delay. On September 30 he made some vague promises to Louis XV, who was less eager in the fray than Charles III. This latter, bent on the immediate suppression of the order, obtained from Clement XIV, under the strong pressure of Azpuru, the written promise “to submit to His Majesty a scheme for the absolute extinction of the Society” (November 30, 1769). To prove his sincerity the pope now commenced open hostilities against the Jesuits. He refused to see their general, Father Ricci, and gradually removed from his entourage their best friends; his only confidants were two friars of his own order, Buontempo and Francesco; no princes or cardinals surrounded his throne. The Roman people, dissatisfied with this state of things and reduced to starvation by maladministration, openly showed their discontent, but Clement, bound by his promises and caught in the meshes of Bourbon diplomacy, was unable to retrace his steps. The college and seminary of Frascati were taken from the Jesuits and handed over to the bishop of the town, the Cardinal of York. Their Lenten catechisms were prohibited for 1770. A congregation of cardinals hostile to the order visited the Roman College and had the Fathers expelled; the novitiate and the German College were also attacked. The German College won its cause, but the sentence was never executed. The novices and students were sent back to their families. A similar system of persecution was extended to Bologna, Ravenna, Ferrara, Modena, Maeerata. No-where did the Jesuits offer any resistance; they knew that their efforts were futile. Father Garnier wrote: “You ask me why the Jesuits offer no defense: they can do nothing here. All approaches, direct and indirect, are completely closed, walled up with double walls. Not the most insignificant memorandum can find its way in. There is no one who would undertake to hand it in” (19th January, 1773).

On July 4, 1772, appeared on the scene a new Spanish ambassador, Joseph Monino, Count of Florida Blanca. At once he made an onslaught on the perplexed pope. He openly threatened him with a schism in Spain and probably in the other Bourbon states, such as had existed in Portugal from 1760 to 1770. On the other hand, he promised the restitution of Avignon and Benevento, still held by France and Naples. Whilst Clement’s anger was roused by this latter simoniacal proposal, his good, but feeble, heart could not overcome the fear of a widespread schism. Monino had conquered. He now ransacked the archives of Rome and Spain to supply Clement with facts justifying the promised suppression. Monino must be held responsible for the matter of the Brief “Dominus ac Redemptor”, i.e. for its facts and provisions; the pope contributed little more to it than the form of his supreme authority. Meanwhile Clement continued to harass the Jesuits of his own do-minions, perhaps with a view to preparing the Catholic world for the Brief of suppression, or perhaps hoping by his severity to soothe the anger of Charles III and to stave off the abolition of the whole order. Until the end of 1772 he still found some support against the Bourbons in King Charles Emmanuel of Sardinia and in the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. But Charles Emmanuel died, and Maria Theresa, giving way to the importunate prayers of her son Joseph II and her daughter the Queen of Naples, ceased to plead for the maintenance of the Society. Thus left to himself, or rather to the will of Charles III and the wiles of Monino, Clement began, in November, 1772, the composition of the Brief of abolition, which took him seven months to finish. It was signed June 8, 1773; at the same time a congregation of cardinals was appointed to administer the property of the suppressed order. On July 21 the bells of the Gesu rang the opening of the annual novena preceding the feast of St. Ignatius; the pope, hearing them, remarked: “They are not ringing for the saints but for the dead”. The Brief of suppression, signed on June 8, bears the date July 21, 1773. It was made known at the Gesu to the general (Father Ricci) and his assistants on the evening of August 16; the following day they were taken first to the English College, then to Castel Sant’ Angelo, where their long trial was commenced. Ricci never saw the end of it. He died in prison, to his last moment protesting his innocence and that of his order. His companions were set free under Pius VI, their judges having found them “not guilty”.

The Brief “Dominus ac Redemptor” opens with the statement that it is the pope’s office to secure in the world the unity of mind in the bonds of peace. He must therefore be prepared, for the sake of charity, to uproot and destroy the things most dear to him, whatever pains and bitterness their loss may entail. Often the popes, his predecessors, have made use of their supreme authority for reforming, and even dissolving, religious orders which had become harmful and disturbed the peace of the nations rather than promoted it. Numerous examples are quoted, then the Brief continues: “Our predecessors, in virtue of the plenitude of power which is theirs as Vicars of Christ, have suppressed such orders without allowing them to state their claims or to refute the grave accusations brought against them, or to impugn the motives of the pope.” Clement has now to deal with a similar case, that of the Society of Jesus. Having enumerated the principal favors granted it by former popes, he remarks that “the very tenor and terms of the said Apostolic constitutions show that the Society from its earliest days bore the germs of dissensions and jealousies which tore its own members asunder, led them to rise against other religious orders, against the secular clergy and the universities, nay even against the sovereigns who had received them in their states”. Then follows a list of the quarrels in which the Jesuits had been engaged, from Sixtus V to Benedict XIV. Clement XIII had hoped to silence their enemies by renewing the approbation of their Institute, “but the Holy See derived no consolation, the Society no help, Christianity no advantage from the Apostolic letters of Clement XIII, of blessed memory, letters which were wrung from him rather than freely given”. At the end of this pope’s reign “the outcry and the complaints against the Society increasing day by day, the very princes whose piety and hereditary benevolence towards it are favorably known of all nations—our beloved Sons in Jesus Christ the Kings of France, Spain, Portugal, and the two Sicilies—were forced to expel from their kingdoms, states and provinces, all the religious of this Order, well knowing that this extreme measure was the only remedy to such great evils.” Now the complete abolition of the order is demanded by the same princes. After long and mature consideration the pope, “compelled by his office, which imposes on him the obligation to procure, maintain, and consolidate with all his power the peace and tranquility of the Christian people—persuaded, moreover, that the Society of Jesus is no longer able to produce the abundant fruit and the great good for which it was instituted—and considering that, as long as this order subsists, it is impossible for the Church to enjoy free and solid peace”, resolves to “suppress and abolish” the Society, “to annul and abrogate all and each of its offices, functions, and administrations”. The authority of the superiors was transferred to the bishops; minute provisions were made for the maintenance and the employment of the members of the order. The Brief concludes with a prohibition to suspend or impede its execution, to make it the occasion of insulting or attacking anyone, least of all the former Jesuits; finally it exhorts the faithful to live in peace with all men and to love one another.

The one and only motive for the suppression of the Society set forth in this Brief is to restore the peace of the Church by removing one of the contending parties from the battlefield. No blame is laid by the pope on the rules of the order, or the personal conduct of its members, or the orthodoxy of their teaching. Moreover, Father Sydney Smith, S.J. (in “The Month”, CII, 62, July, 1903), observes: “The fact remains that the condemnation is not pronounced in the straightforward language of direct statement, but is merely insinuated with the aid of dexterous phrasing”; and he contrasts this method of stating grounds for the suppression of the Society with the vigorous and direct language used by former popes in suppressing the Humiliati and other orders. If Clement XIV hoped to stop the storm of unbelief raging against the Bark of Peter by throwing its best oarsmen over-board, he was sorely mistaken. But it is unlikely that he entertained such a fallacy. He loved the Jesuits, who had been his first teachers, his trusty advisers, the best defenders of the Church over which he ruled. No personal animosity guided his action; the Jesuits themselves, in agreement with all serious historians, attribute their suppression to Clement’s weakness of character, unskilled diplomacy, and that kind of goodness of heart which is more bent on doing what is pleasing than what is right. He was not built to hold his head above the tempest; his hesitations and his struggles were of no avail against the enemies of the order, and his friends found no better excuse for him than that of St. Alphonsus: What could the poor pope do when all the Courts insisted on the suppression? The Jesuit Cordara expresses the same mind: “I think we should not condemn the pontiff who, after so many hesitations, has judged it his duty to suppress the Society of Jesus. I love my order as much as any man, yet, had I been in the pope’s place I should probably have acted as he did. The Cornpany, founded and maintained for the good of the Church, perished for the same good: it could not have ended more gloriously.”

It should be noted that the Brief was not promulgated in the form customary for papal Constitutions intended as laws of the Church. It was not a Bull, but a Brief, i.e. a decree of less binding force and easier of revocation; it was not affixed to the gates of St. Peter’s or in the Campo di Fiore; it was not even communicated in legal form to the Jesuits in Rome; the general and his assistants alone received the notification of their suppression. In France it was not published, the Gallican Church, and especially Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, resolutely opposing it as being the pope’s personal deed, not supported by the whole Church and therefore not binding on the Church of France. The King of Spain thought the Brief too lenient, for it condemned neither the doctrine, nor the morals, nor the discipline of his victims. The Court of Naples forbade its publication under pain of death. Maria Theresa allowed her son Joseph II to seize the property of the Jesuits (some $10,000,000) and then, “reserving her rights”, acquiesced in the suppression “for the peace of the Church“. Poland resisted a while; the Swiss cantons of Lucerne, Fribourg, and Solothurn never allowed the Fathers to give up their colleges. Two non-Catholic sovereigns, Frederick of Prussia and Catherine of Russia, took the Jesuits under their protection. Whatever may have been their motives, whether it was to spite the pope and the Bourbon Courts or to please their Catholic subjects and preserve for them the services of the best educators, their intervention kept the order alive until its complete restoration in 1804. Frederick per-severed in his opposition only for a few years; in 1780 the Brief was promulgated in his dominions. The Jesuits retained possession of all their colleges and of the University of Breslau until 1806 and 1811, but they ranked as secular priests and admitted no more novices. But Catherine II resisted to the end. By her order the bishops of White Russia ignored the Brief of suppression and commanded the Jesuits to continue to live in communities and to go on with their usual work. Clement XIV seems to have approved of their conduct. The empress, in order to set at rest the scruples of the Fathers, engaged in several negotiations with the pope and had her will. In France, too, the persecuted Jesuits were not altogether without friends. Madame Louise de France, daughter of Louis XV, who had entered the Carmelite Order and was, with her sisters, the leader of a band of pious women at the court of her royal father, had worked out a scheme for reestablishing the Jesuits in six provinces under the authority of the bishops. Bernis, however, defeated their good intentions. He obtained from the pope a new Brief, addressed to himself and requesting him to see that the French bishops conformed, each in his diocese, to the Brief “Dominus ac Redemptor”.

After the death of Clement XIV it was rumored that he had retracted the Brief of abolition by a letter of June 29, 1774. That letter, it was said, had been entrusted to his confessor to be given to the next pope. It was published for the first time in 1789, at Zurich, in P. Ph. Wolf’s “Allgemeine Geschichte der Jesuiten”. Although Pius VI never protested against this statement, the authenticity of the document in question is not sufficiently established (De la Serviere).

The first and almost the only advantage the pope reaped from his policy of concessions was the restoration to the Holy See of Avignon and Benevento. These provinces had been seized by the Kings of France and Naples when Clement XIII had excommunicated their kinsman the young Duke of Parma (1768). The restitution, following so closely on the suppression of the Jesuits, seemed the price paid for it, although, to save appearances, the duke inter-ceded with the two kings in favor of the pope, and Clement, in the consistory of January 17, 1774, took occasion from it to load the Bourbon princes with praises they little deserved. The hostile and schismatical maneuvers against the Church continued unabated in many Catholic countries. In France a royal commission for the reformation of the religious orders had been at work for several years, notwithstanding the energetic protests of Clement XIII; without the pope’s consent it had abolished in 1770 the congregations of Grandmont and of the exempt Benedictines; it had threatened the Premonstratensians, the Trinitarians, and the Minims with the same fate. The pope protested, through his nuncio in Paris, against such abuses of the secular power, but in vain. The Celestines and the Camaldolese were secularized that same year, 1770. The only concessions Louis XV deigned to make was to submit to Clement the general edict for the reformation of the French religious before its publication. This was in 1773. The pope succeeded in obtaining its modification in several points.

In 1768 Genoa had ceded the Island of Corsica to France. At once a conflict arose as to the introduction of “Gallican usages”. The pope sent a visitor Apostolic to the island and had the gratification of preventing the adoption of usages in opposition to the Roman practice. Louis XV, however, revenged himself by absolutely refusing to acknowledge the pope’s suzerainty over Corsica. Louis XV died in 1774, and one is rather surprised at the eulogy which Clement XIV pronounced in a consistory on “the king’s deep love for the Church, and his admirable zeal for the defense of the Catholic religion”. He also hoped that the penitent death of the prince had secured his salvation. It may be surmised that he was prompted by a desire to please the king’s youngest daughter, Madame Louise de France, Prioress of the Carmelites of Saint-Denis, for whom he had always shown a great affection, attested by numerous favors granted to herself and to her convent.

During Clement XIV’s pontificate the chief rulers in German lands were Maria Theresa, of Austria, and Frederick the Great, of Prussia. Frederick, by preserving the Jesuits in his dominions, rendered the Church a good, though perhaps unintended, service. He also authorized the erection of a Catholic church in Berlin; the pope sent a generous contribution and ordered collections for the same purpose to be made in Belgium, the Rhineland, and Austria. Maria Theresa lived up to the title of Regina Apostolica bestowed on her by Clement XIII. But the doctrines of Febronius were prevalent at her court, and more than once she came into conflict with the pope. She refused to suppress a new edition of Febronius, as Clement XIV requested; she lent a willing ear to the “Grievances of the German nation”, a scheme of reforms in the Church making it more dependent on the princes than on the pope; she legislated for the religious orders of her dominions without consulting Rome. She maintained her edict on the religious against all the pope’s remonstrances, but withdrew her protection from the authors of the “Grievances”, the Electors of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier. She also obtained from Clement (in 1770) the institution of a Ruthenian bishop for the Ruthenian Catholics of Hungary. In other parts of Germany the pope had to face similar difficulties. The number and wealth of the religious houses, in some instances their uselessness, and occasionally their disorders, tempted the princes to lay violent and rapacious hands on them. Numerous houses were to be suppressed in Bavaria for the endowment of the new University of Ebersberg, in the Palatinate the reception of new religious was to be stopped; Clement opposed both measures with success. Westphalia is indebted to him for the University of Munster, erected May 27, 1773.

In Spain Clement approved the Order of the Knights of the Immaculate Conception, instituted by Charles III. The king also desired him to define the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but France blocked the way. Portugal, whilst it made a certain outward show of goodwill towards Rome, continued to interfere in ecclesiastical affairs and to impose on colleges and seminaries an education more in accord with French philosophism than with the spirit of the Church. At Naples the minister Tanucci hindered the recruitment of religious orders; episcopal acts required the royal placet; the anti-religious press enjoyed high protection. Poland and Russia were another source of deep grief for Clement XIV. Whilst, politically, Poland was preparing its own ruin, the Piarists openly taught the worst philosophism in their schools and refused to have their houses visited by the papal nuncio at Warsaw. King Stanislaus planned the extinction of the religious orders and favored the Freemasons. The pope was powerless; the few concessions he obtained from Catherine II for the Catholics of her new province were set at naught by that headstrong woman as soon as it suited her politics. Of her own authority she created for the annexed Catholic Ruthenians a new diocese (Mohileff) administered by a bishop (Siestrencewiez) of schismatic temper. Clement XIV had the satisfaction of seeing his nuncio, Caprara, favorably received at the Court of England, and of initiating measures for the emancipation of English Catholics. This turn in the relations between Rome and England was due to the granting of royal honors to the king’s brother when he visited Rome in 1772; the same honors being refused to the Pretender. In the East, the Nestorian Patriarch, Mar Simeon, and six of his suffragans, were reunited to Rome. In Rome the pope found little favor with either the Roman patriciate or the Sacred College; none of the many measures he took for the betterment of his people could atone, in their eyes, for his subserviency to the Bourbon Courts and for the suppression of the Jesuits. The last months of his life were embittered by the consciousness of his failures; at times he seemed crushed under the weight of sorrow. On the 10th of September, 1774, he took to his bed, received Extreme Unction on the 21st, and died piously on the 22nd of the same month. Many witnesses in the process of canonization of St. Alphonsus of Liguori attested that the saint had been miraculously present at the deathbed of Clement XIV to console and fortify him in his last hour. The doctors, who opened the dead body in presence of many spectators, ascribed death to scorbutic and hcemorrhoidal dispositions of long standing, aggravated by excessive labor and by the habit of provoking artificial perspiration even during the greatest heat. Notwithstanding the doctors’ certificate, the “Spanish party” and historical romancers attributed death to poison administered by the Jesuits. The mortal remains of

Clement XIV rest in the church of the Twelve Apostles.


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