Sunday, May 29, 2022

Renaissance Popes XVI: Paulus IV

Birth Name: Gian Pietro Carafa

Lived: 1476-1559

Regnal Name: Paul IV, in honor of Pope Paul III, who had made him cardinal.

Regnal Life: 1555-1559

Gian Pietro Carafa was born in Capriglia Irpina in the Kingdom of Naples. He would eventually do diplomatic work for the Holy See under Leo X, At one point he was made papal nuncio to Spain and absolutely detested it, an experience that would color his entire career. In 1524, with the permission of Clement VII, he gave up all of his benefices and joined the Congregation of Clerks Regular, most commonly known as the Theatines. He was actually one of the founders, along with St. Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene (usually known as St. Cajetan), Paolo Consiglieri, and Bonifacio da Colle. While it was founded by St. Cajetan, Carafa was its first general superior. They were dedicated to the cross, and their mission was to encourage moral life among both priests and laity. They had restrictions on what property could be owned by members, which meant in practice that only the aristocracy could afford to join, so they only grew slowly, but they would eventually become quite important. Carafa was made cardinal in 1536 and was chosen by Paul III to be on his commission for reform. From then, on Cardinal Carafa would be a central pillar of the curial reform party, and it was he who seems to have convinced Paul III to expand the powers and function of the Roman Inquisition.

At the death of Marcellus II, the general feeling seems to have been that everyone could expect yet another long conclave. However, the French faction was at a weak point in comparison with the Imperial faction, so the primary decision would be with the swing voters, mostly Italian, who were in neither group. There was a strong inclination toward Cardinal Pole, but a number of things stood in the way of such a choice; the cardinals were reluctant to elect someone absent, and Pole was still in England, and there was a fair amount of opposition to his candidacy on the part of the Imperial faction. Cardinal Carafa in previous enclaves had consistently opposed Pole, whom he suspected of Protestant sympathies. The Spanish cardinals, in the Imperial faction, opposed Carafa, with whom they had had bad history, and very few of the cardinals liked him, but it was difficult to work around the fact that he was a very obvious candidate, and could certainly pull a fair number of votes as a major leader in church reform. Cardinal Puteo was the other major candidate, and could guarantee both some votes from the neutrals and strong support from the Imperials, but the French were strongly against him, and the Imperial faction alienated Cardinal Farnese, who was the major influence on the Italian vote. Thus the conclave elected Carafa, who became Paul IV.

The election of Paul IV would have extensive consequences for the course of church reform. From Leo X up to Paul IV, the popes had opposed Protestantism, but had taken reconciliation as the primary goal. Paul IV was not a reconciler, by temperament or wish. Thus with Paul we get the first actively anti-Protestant pope. Not only did Paul refuse to compromise with Protestants in any way, his opposition would be aggressive, and would spill over to his interaction with Catholics, because Paul's anti-Protestantism was such that he not only attacked Protestants, he tended to attack any Catholic who attempted to find common ground with them. In papal conclaves, including the one that eventually elected him, he had worked to block any candidates he thought were even soft on Protestantism, and becoming pope would not moderate his attitude.

He was a prickly character at the best of times. He contracted prejudices easily and held grudges more easily. (His prejudice against the Spanish was almost legendary, and from the beginning of his papacy he was scheming to eliminate Spanish from Italy.) He did not like to be disturbed in the morning, when he was praying and reading. He kept strict rules of fasting, and so did not often eat with others when he could avoid it. He hated being contradiction, and he became famous for his stubbornness, having the reputation of someone who, once he has decided something, becomes more and more obstinately resistant the more anyone begged him to do otherwise. Cardinal Morone at one point remarked to Cardinal Pole that he had such a high conception of the dignity of the pope that he took offences against his dignity as if they were insults against God. When dealing with others, he generally did not ask; he commanded, and it did not matter to him if you were a king or an emperor -- indeed, since one of his goals was to eliminate the dependency of the Church on the kings, this might make him more likely to give orders, as it certainly made him more likely to invest in princely magnificence. He had always been frank and abrupt, sometimes to the point of tactlessness, and the papacy simply aggravated the condition. He was notorious for his explosive temper. He seems to have feared nothing, which frightened everybody else. And he was a zealot for reform.

Paul's reforms began with those that Marcellus had not had the time to carry out. He reappointed the cardinals that Marcellus had appointed to a commission on reform. On July 17, 1555 he published an encyclical, Cum nimis absurdum, that carried out another reform planned by Marcellus, but on a scale that Marcellus had never remotely suggested. Marcellus had proposed, for reasons that are unclear, to require Jews in Rome to wear a distinguishing mark -- a yellow hat; Paul imposed this requirement, and imposed extensive restrictions on Jewish buying and selling, and created the notorious Jewish ghetto in Rome, banishing all the Jews in Rome to it. We are very far from the days of Alexander VI, when the relations between the pope and the Jews of Rome were so friendly that the pope's enemies accused him of literally being a secret Jew. This reform gives us a good example of the typical characteristics of Paul's approach to reformation. The bare distinguishing of Jew and Christian was not a plausible end of church reform; but to what significant end could it possibly be a means? It was not a reasonable means of evangelism; it could do nothing to improve morals in the priesthood and the religious orders; it would not encourage peace among Christian nations; it would not address the Ottoman Empire in the east; it would not reconcile the Protestants or undo the schisms that were crackling through Europe; it would not increase the independence of the Holy See. I suspect -- and I can only suspect -- that Marcellus had had the idea that there was some kind of Marrano problem fomenting heresy, but even if we set aside the fact that the number of Marranos who had immigrated to Rome could not have been large, it would simply seem to be bad priorities, because there is no possible problem the Jews could have been causing that would even approach being on the scale of the problems with Protestants, or indeed, most of the problems faced by the Holy See. It may have been just virtue-signaling, as a very visible thing one could do to show seriousness. But Paul took up this dubious reform as if it were a major matter, and to a degree that would have been immoderate even if it had been a reasonable reform in the first place. This characterizes Paul's entire papal tenure. He was zealous for reform, yes, but his ideas of things to do for reform seem to have been patchwork, sometimes with only the vaguest relation to any actual reforming, and yet they were pursued as if they were not means but fundamental ends. The Jewish community pooled its resources and offered Paul a very large amount of money if he would withdraw the bull, but naturally Paul refused, and probably was offended by the suggestion that he could be bought.

Unsurprisingly, Carafa also further extended the scope and powers of the Roman Inquisition, even giving it powers to handle nonreligious matters. Relatively small infractions, like failing to fast on a fast day, were, in typical Pauline fashion, now attached to severe penalties. Inevitably, the result of this was that the Roman Inquisition was so overloaded with cases that it could not handle them all properly. He also established the first Index of Forbidden Books, which restricted access to and publication of the works of something like 550 authors. It was not a popular move in Europe generally, and much less so in Renaissance Italy; Michele Cardinal Ghisleri, the head of the Roman Inquisition, who largely went along with what Paul asked, wrote a letter of protest over the lack of moderation in the list, arguing that many of the works on the list, like those of Ariosto, were absurd choices for such an register. Paul also made the laws of Rome against public immorality much more strict and made hunting and dancing illegal in the region around the city.

On May 31, 1557, Paul IV had Giovanni Cardinal Morone arrested on suspicion of heresy. Morone was a very popular cardinal, a major supporter of the Jesuits, and, despite being in some ways an old-style Renaissance cardinal, an active reformer. Cardinal Morone was tried by the Roman Inquisition; it's clear from context that Paul also wanted to try Cardinal Pole, but Pole was still in England. He had to defend himself from the charge of reading and circulating forbidden books (he noted that as a papal nuncio he was sometimes required to read them in order to assess other books, and that the examples of circulating were prior to the more recent restrictions), holding the Lutheran doctrine of justification (he noted that his attempts to find an acceptable compromise with Lutheranism were long in the past and that he accepted the Tridentine decree), his association with Cardinal Pole (a good Catholic, Morone insisted), his generosity to Lutherans (good policy at the time, he insisted), refusing to venerate icons (he noted that this was outright false). He also noted that most of the events for which he was criticized were over ten years old, and, indeed, search of all of his papers and books turned up nothing objectionable. But Morone stayed in prison and, given the pope's vehemence on the matter, very few outside the Society of Jesus were brave enough to defend him. Paul brought before the cardinals the draft of a bull that would strip any cardinal who was brought before Inquisition proceedings of all passive and active rights of the cardinalate, including the right to vote in conclave. The cardinals naturally pointed out the obvious problems with this: anyone can be accused of anything by anyone, and it made no sense to exclude cardinals who had not actually been convicted. Whatever Paul might have thought of this, he had no good immediate response to it, so redrafted it to say that if anyone had lapsed from the faith at any time, their election was invalid; the cardinals were willing to accept this, but Paul issued a decree on his own authority under which anyone accused of heresy could not become pope. It was clear that he was afraid that Morone would be the next pope. Paul then offered Morone pardon if he would confess. Morone of course insisted that he was innocent, so his trial started up again. And so it went until Paul IV died.

One of the curious things about Paul is his nepotism. One might have thought his rigidity would exclude it, but in fact it worked the other way. As Cardinal Carafa, he had tangled with most of the cardinals, he suspected a significant number of them of being crypto-Protestants, and he was well aware that many of them had only very reluctantly voted for him. He didn't trust them. So he had almost immediately (only two weeks after he became pope) made his nephew, Carlo Carafa, cardinal. Carlo Carafa was a mercenary soldier who in 1545 had been banished from Naples for the crimes of murder and banditry. He was later accused of other murder attempts and of massacring a group of wounded Spanish soldiers in a hospital. As cardinal-nephew he was effectively given full authority over the States of the Church, which he ruled with greed, violence, and aggression. He also had a widespread reputation for homosexuality that seems to go beyond the usual Renaissance mudslinging. Paul, of course, generally refused to listen to criticisms, but eventually could not ignore the evidence himself. In 1559, he removed Carlo, in typical Paul IV fashion criticizing his other cardinals for not doing more to bring the problems to his attention. He replaced him with his nineteen-year-old grand-nephew, Alfonso Carafa, whom he had made a cardinal in 1557. Another nephew, Giovanni Carafa, was made Captain General of the Church, and was removed from the position at the same time as Carlo. One thing that is particularly remarkable about the incident is that he actually publicly apologized for having appointed them to positions of power; something in what he learned about their activities must have really shaken him.

Given Paul's desire to remove Spanish influence from Italy, his general prejudice against the Spanish, and having his hotheaded nephews as advisers, it is perhaps inevitable that he got into war with Spain. When Paul came to the papal throne, the Last Italian War, an immensely expensive war between France and the Holy Roman Empire, had been going on, and would last until 1559. In 1556, the French signed a temporary truce with the Spanish, and Paul became very angry at this, egged on by Carlo. He went on to try to persuade the French to join the Papal States in invading Spanish-controlled Naples.  Philip II of Spain got wind of this, and naturally responded with a preemptive invasion of the Papal States. The French sent help, but it was defeated. The papal army was simply not robust enough to take on the 12000 men sent by Philip under the Duke of Alba, and so, as the Spanish approached Rome, Paul, out of fear of a second Sack of Rome, hastily made a peace in which the Spanish would withdraw and the Papal States would declare neutrality. All in all, the Spanish were remarkably sporting about it, they could have demanded much more, and they gave the pope the most generous possible treaty (so generous that Emperor Charles criticized it for conceding too much). Paul had accomplished nothing, but he had lucked out from the fact that the Spanish were willing to bill him so little for his warmongering. Ironically, one of the reasons for this seems to have been Cardinal Morone, who provided suggestions to the Spanish ambassador as to how to navigate Paul's touchy irascibility.

With regard to the issue of Protestantism, Paul accomplished remarkably little. He could not stop the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which gave Protestant princes in the Empire the right to be Lutheran. The situation in England was deteriorating gravely, but he did nothing at all to shore up Cardinal Pole. With the accession of Elizabeth I, diplomatic relations were broken off completely, although in fairness Paul for once seems to have at least tried moderation, refusing to condemn Elizabeth before he had actual evidence of her opposition to the Church.

Nonetheless, Paul's reformation activity was not wholly without good result. Naturally, he gave the Theatines a considerable amount of support, and he did the same with a number of similar groups, like the Barnabites. (Others did not do so well, however. It is said that when St. Ignatius of Loyola heard that Carafa had become pope, his heart sank, and indeed, relations between the Society of Jesus and Paul were occasionally rocky. As Cardinal Carafa, he had always disliked the Jesuit approach to things; he had argued with Ignatius before, and, as he often did, had developed a deep prejudice against him. The Jesuits, however, made an effort to work with him, even if he didn't do much to be easy to work with. After Ignatius's death, with his typical tactlessness Paul would criticize him to Jesuits for being excessively controlling, and the Jesuits spent the last year or two of his papacy worried that he would strip the Society of its distinctive constitution, and he almost certainly did intend to do it at some point.) He was vehemently against simony, and enforced the laws against it vigorously, and in this, at least, used the Roman Inquisition very successfully. He pushed through reforms to require bishops to be resident in their sees. He also worked extensively on reform of the monasteries, although he mixed in with reasonable reforms more typically Pauline solutions like mass arrests of vagrant monks. He was one of the popes to recognize that it was not enough simply to implement reforms; they had to be reviewed for success, as well, and he created a commission to this end. Likewise, he recognized that while practicality pressured reform to be patchwork, there needed to be something to unify the whole, and so spent the last part of his papal administration working on a general reform bull.

His health declined toward the end of his reign, and in 1559, a combination of fasting and summer heat broke it entirely. On August 18, he died, still working on a whole pile of reforms. Before he had even died, the Romans, who hated him and his severity, broke into a large-scale riot. They put the yellow hat he had imposed on the Jews on his statue, then decapitated it and threw it into the river. They broke into the jails and freed the prisoners. They broke into the offices of the Inquisition, murdered an inquisitor, and then set the building on fire,  and were only barely talked out of doing the same to the nearby church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Wherever the Carafa family arms could be found on buildings or monuments, they were torn down. So great was the rioting that when Carlo Carafa came into Rome to bury his uncle, they did the funeral in secret so that it would not be disrupted.

If we were going to determine who the worst pope of the entire Renaissance was, my vote would be solidly for the infinitely self-righteous Paul IV. The man was a mass of bigotries, prejudices, and grudges. He could never distinguish means and ends properly. His sense of priorities was completely corrupted, treating minor matters on the same level as major ones. He certainly did a great deal for reforming activities, most of which were disasters, and he actively stood in the way of many genuine reforms by his intransigence. If any kind of reform deviated from his idea of reform, he attacked it. If any Catholic tried to find a peaceful solution to the Protestant schism, he attacked them. If anyone protested his severity, he insisted that lack of severity was the reason for the problems of the Church. His treatment of Cardinal Morone and Cardinal Pole, both men greatly his superior in character, goes beyond just zeal and borders on unreasoning hatred, and during his administration entirely innocent Catholics found themselves hauled before a Roman Inquisition. Almost nothing he ever did was moderate or properly reasoned, and so almost every reform he did, even if it had a seed of a good idea in it, was spoiled from the beginning. He did terrible things, and justified it to himself as being part of church reform. Paul IV was a disaster. Four solid years of disaster. I think he can be credited with essentially breaking the Renaissance approach to reform in ways from which it would never recover. 

Fortunately, a new kind of reform had already been building, and Paul's successor would be man who, though far from perfect, was far more generous-minded and reasonable, and would do a great deal to smooth the transition from the Renaissance reformation movement to the reformation movement we usually call the Counter-Reformation.