Dominican cardinal, philosopher, theologian, and exegete; b. 20 Feb., 1469 at Gaeta, Italy; d. 9 Aug., 1534 at Rome
Cajetan, TOMMASO DE VIO GAETANI (baptized GIACOMO), Dominican cardinal, philosopher, theologian, and exegete; b. February 20, 1469 at Gaeta, Italy; d. August 9, 1534 at Rome. He came of noble stock, and in early boyhood was devout and fond of study. Against the will of his parents he entered the Dominican Order before the age of sixteen. As a student at Naples, Bologna, and Padua he was the wonder of his fellow-students and preceptors. As bachelor of theology (March 19, 1492), and afterwards master of students, he began to attract attention by his lectures and writings. Promoted to the chair of metaphysics at the University of Padua, he made a close study of the prevailing Humanism and Philosophism. Besides engaging in controversy with the Scotist Trombetta, he took a stand against the Averroistic tendencies or teachings of such men as Vernias, Pompanazzi, and Niphus, directing against them his celebrated work, “De Ente et Essentia”, counted the most subtle and abstruse of his productions. At a general chapter of the order (Ferrara, 1494) Cajetan was selected to conduct the customary defense of theses in presence of the assembled dignitaries. He had to face Pico della Mirandola among others, and such was his success that the students bore him in triumph on their shoulders to receive the felicitations of the master general. He was immediately made master of sacred theology, and for several years expounded the “Summa” of St. Thomas, principally at Brescia and Pavia, to which latter chair he had been called by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. After two years he resigned and repaired to Milan, whence in 1500 Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa procured his transfer to Rome. In 1501 he was made procurator general of his order and appointed to the chairs of philosophy and exegesis at the Sapienza. On the death of the master general, John Cleree, in 1507, Cajetan was named vicar-general of the order, and the next year he was elected to the generalship. With foresight and ability, he devoted his energies to the promotion of religious discipline, emphasizing the study of sacred science as the chief means of attaining the end of the order. His encyclical letters and the acts of chapters promulgated during his term of office bear witness to his lofty ideals and to his unceasing efforts to realize them. He was wont to say that he could hardly excuse from grievous sin a brother Dominican who failed to devote at least four hours a day to study. “Let others rejoice in their prerogatives”, he once wrote, “but the work of our Order is at an end unless sacred doctrine be our commendation.” He was himself a model of diligence, and it was said of him that he could quote almost the entire “Summa” from memory. About the fourth year of his generalship Cajetan rendered important service to the Holy See by appearing before the Pseudo-Council of Pisa (1511), where he denounced the disobedience of the participating cardinals and bishops and overwhelmed them with his arguments. This was the occasion of his defense of the power and monarchical supremacy of the pope. It is chiefly to his endeavors that is ascribed the failure of this schismatical movement, abetted by Louis XII of France. He was one of the first to counsel Pope Julius II to convoke a real ecumenical council, i.e. the Fifth Lateran. In this council Cajetan was deputed by the principal religious orders to defend their common interests. Under the same pontiff he was instrumental in granting to Ferdinand of Spain the first Dominican missionaries who devoted, organized effort to the conversion of the natives of America. On July 1, 1517, Cajetan was created cardinal by Pope Leo X. He was also appointed Archbishop of Palermo, but opposition on the part of the Sicilian senate prevented his taking possession and he resigned February 8, 1518. On the demand of Charles V, however, he was later made Bishop of Gaeta, but this was after he had been sent in 1518 as Apostolic legate to Germany, bringing the insignia of the cardinalate to Albert of Brandenburg, and a sword blessed by the pope to Emperor Maximilian. On this occasion he was empowered to confer with the latter and with the King of Denmark on the terms of an alliance against the Turks. He also represented the pope at the Diet of Frankfort (1519), and took an active part in the election of Charles V (1519), thereby winning that emperor’s friendship and gratitude. While executing these missions, the more serious duty of meeting Luther, then started on his career of rebellion, was assigned to him. Cajetan’s theological learning and humane disposition seemed to fit him for the task of successfully treating with the proud and obstinate monk, and Protestants have admitted that in all his relations with the latter Cajetan exhibited a spirit of moderation, that did honor to his lofty character. But neither pleading, learning, nor conciliatory words availed to secure the desired submission. Luther parleyed and temporized as he had done with the Holy See itself, and finally showed the insincerity of his earlier protestations by spurning the pope and his representative alike. Some have blamed Cajetan for his failure to avert Luther’s defection, but others like Hefele and Hergenrother exonerate him. In 1523 he was sent by Adrian VI as legate to King Louis of Hungary to encourage the Christians in their resistance to the Turks. Recalled in the following year by Clement VII, he became one of the pope’s chief advisers. During the sack of Rome by the imperialist army (1527) Cajetan, like other principal persons, was seized, and obtained the release of himself and household only on payment of five thousand Roman crowns of gold, a sum which he had to borrow and which he later made up by the strictest economy in the affairs of his diocese. He was one of the nineteen cardinals who, in a solemn consistory held by Clement VII (March 23, 1534), pronounced definitively for the validity of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon. This was about the last public act of his life, for he died the same year and was buried, as he had requested, in an humble tomb in the vestibule of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It was the common opinion of his contemporaries that had he lived, he would have succeeded Clement VII on the papal throne. Much interest attaches to a portrait of Cajetan, the only one known, recently discovered by Pere Berthier, O.P. in a collection of notables of the Reformation, owned by Count Krasinski of Warsaw, Poland (see bibliography).
Cajetan has been described as small in bodily stature but gigantic in intellect. In all his varied and laborious offices he never omitted his daily study and writing, nor failed in the practices of the religious life. He faced the trying issues of his times calmly and fearlessly, and endeavored by learning, tact, and charity to pacify hostile minds, to lead back the erring, to stem the tide of heresy, and to prevent schism. His written solutions of living moral problems cover a wide field. His circumstances and position often required him to take part in polemical discussions, yet he is said never to have given personal offense in his writings. His style, purely scientific and unrhetorical, is the more noteworthy for having attained its directness and simplicity in the golden age of Humanism. More than any other philosopher and theologian of his epoch, he ministered to actual intellectual needs of the Church. With penetration and sagacity he ranged beyond the confines of contemporary thought, and in his tentative solutions of grave problems, still open and unsettled, displayed judgment and frankness. It is not strange that he developed tendencies which surprised the more conservative, and essayed opinions which in some instances were, and have remained, unusual and occasionally erroneous. He found numerous critics, even in his own order, who were as censorious of him as his friends were zealous in upholding his merits. Among his opponents, the learned Dominican Bartholomew Spina (d. 1542) was conspicuous. His persistent antagonism began, strangely enough, after he had written a laudatory preface to Cajetan’s commentary on the “Secunda Secundae” (second section of the second part of the “Summa”) of St. Thomas, whose publication he supervised for the author in 1517. The next year, in his refutation of Pompanazzi, Spina appears to have considered Cajetan as falling partly within the scope of his strictures because of certain alleged concessions to the prevalent Averroistic rationalism in a commentary on the “De Anima” of Aristotle. Cajetan held that Averroes had correctly exhibited the Stagirite as a believer in monopsychism, or the doctrine of the unity of one intellectual soul for humanity and the mortality of individual souls. Whilst working for, and concurring in the council’s condemnation of this doctrine in 1513, Cajetan had not favored the requirement that in their public lectures professors of philosophy should bring up no teachings in conflict with Christian faith without refuting them; this, he contended, was the proper office of theologians. Elsewhere Cajetan had also intimated that reason left to itself could not adequately and conclusively demonstrate the soul’s immortality. From these beginnings, Spina, who during his later years was Master of the Sacred Palace, relentlessly pursued Cajetan living and dead. On these slender grounds some writers, including Renan (Averroes et l’Averroisme, Paris, 1867, 351) and Botta (Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, tr. Morris, New York, 1903, II, Appendix II), have misrepresented Cajetan as “boldly asserting the eternity of the universe and the destruction of personality at death”, and have classed him with the very men against whom he wrote, as an initiator of a new period in the development of anti-Scholastic philosophy.
In theology Cajetan is justly ranked as one of the foremost defenders and exponents of the Thomistic school His commentaries on the “Summa Theologica”, the first in that extensive field, begun in 1507 and finished 1522, are his greatest work and were speedily recognized as a classic in Scholastic literature. The work is primarily a defense of St. Thomas against the attacks of Scotus. In the third part it reviews the aberrations of the Reformers, especially Luther. The important relation between Cajetan and the Angelic Doctor was emphasized by Leo XIII, when by his Pontifical Letters of October 15, 1879, he ordered the former’s commentaries and those of Ferrariensis to be incorporated with the text of the “Summa” in the official Leonine edition of the complete works of St. Thomas, the first volume of which appeared at Rome in 1882. This edition has restored a number of passages which St. Pius V desired to have expunged from the texts, the publication of which he ordered in 1570. The suppressed parts, now for the most part inoffensive, were largely in the nature of personal views and had no direct bearing on Thomistic doctrine as a system. In his exegetical work, begun in 1523 and continued to the time of his death, Cajetan sought to counteract the Biblical extravagances of the Humanists and to defeat the Lutheran movement, on the Found from which it had chosen to reject the authority of the Church and of tradition. Chiefly with rabbinical assistance, it is said, being himself unversed in Hebrew, and with the aid of current Greek versions he prepared a literal translation of the Bible, including the Old Testament as far as the end of the third chapter of Isaias, and all the New Testament except the Apocalypse, which on account of its difficulties he was unwilling to undertake. It was his object, he declared in a dedicatory letter to Clement VII published in his edition of the Gospels, to ascertain the true literal sense of the Scriptures, and he did not hesitate to adopt new renderings, provided they did not conflict with the Sacred Word and with the teachings of the Church. This position, much criticized in his time, is now quite in line with the common method of Catholic exegetics. Though closely following St. Jerome on the authenticity of the Biblical texts and utilizing the New Testament version and notes of Erasmus, with whom he was on friendly terms, he produced a work whose importance was not overlooked, but whose freedom and wide departure from the Fathers and the theological schools created distrust and alarm. In his critical interpretation, for instance, he ventured an allegorical explanation of the first chapters of Genesis, and he seemed more than three centuries in advance of his day in questioning the authenticity of the last chapter of St. Mark, the authorship of several epistles, viz., Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, Jude, the genuineness of the passage of the three witnesses (I John, v, 7), etc. In this field also he was bitterly assailed, especially by Ambrose Catharinus, an extraordinary but erratic genius, who had abandoned the law to enter the Dominican Order, and had become a bishop. Cajetan’s accompanying theological observations, however, are important, and many scholars have profitably studied them in conjunction with his commentaries on the “Summa”.
It has been significantly said of Cajetan that his positive teaching was regarded as a guide for others and his silence as an implicit censure. His rectitude, candor, and moderation were praised even by his enemies. Always obedient, and submitting his works to ecclesiastical authority, he presented a striking contrast to the leaders of heresy and revolt, whom he strove to save from their folly. To Clement VII he was the “lamp of the Church“, and everywhere in his career, as the theological light of Italy, he was heard with respect and pleasure by cardinals, universities, the clergy, nobility, and people. The works of Cajetan aggregate about 115 titles. The commentaries on the several parts of the “Summa” exist in many editions. Of complete editions, sometimes including the text of the “Summa” and sometimes without it, the following are noteworthy: 10 vols. fol., Lyons, 1540; edition of Pius V in complete works of St. Thomas, Rome, 1570; 7 vols. 8vo, with commentaries of Javelli and Capponi, Venice, 1596; 10 vols. fol., Rome, 1773; Leonine edition of St. Thomas (Summa) Rome, 1888. Other works of Cajetan are: (I) “Opuscula omnia tribus tomis distincta” (fol., Lyons, 1558; Venice, 1588; Antwerp, 1612), a collection of fifty-nine treatises; (2) “Commentaria super tractatum de ente et essentia Thomae de Aquino; super libros posteriorum Aristotelis et praedicamenta”, etc. (fol., Venice, 1506); (3) “In praedicabilia Porphyrii, pra dicamenta et libros posteriorum analyticorum Aristotelis castigatissima commentaria” (8vo, Venice, 1587, 1599); (4) “Super libros Aristotelis de Anima”, etc. (Rome, 1512; Venice, 1514; Paris, 1539); (5) “Summula de peccatis” (Rome, 1525, and in many other corrected and augmented editions); (6) “Jentacula N.T., expositio literalis sexaginta quatuor notabilium sententiarum Novi Test.”, etc. (Rome, 1525); (7) “In quinque libros Mosis juxta sensum lit. commentarii” (Rome, 1531, fol.; Paris, 1539); (8) “In libros Jehosuw, Judicum, Ruth, Regum, Paralipomenon, Hezrae, Nechemiae et Esther” (Rome, 1533;Paris, 1546); (9) “In librum Job” (Rome, 1535); (10) “In psalmos” (Venice, 1530; Paris, 1532); (11) “In parabolas Salomonis, in Ecclesiasten, in Esaim tria priora capita” (Rome, 1542; Lyons, 1545; Paris, 1587); (12) “In Evangelia Matt., Marci, Lucas, Joannis” (Venice, 1530); (13) “In Acta Apostolorum” [Venice, 1530; Paris (with Gospels), 1536]; (14) “In Epistolas Pauli” (Paris, 1532); (15) “Opera omnia quotquot in sacrae Scriptures expositionem reperiuntur, cur’ atque industri’ insignis collegii S.Thomae Complutensis, O.P.” (5 vols. fol., Lyons, 1639).
JOHN R. VOLZ