Monday, June 06, 2022

Renaissance Popes XVII: Pius IV

 Birth Name: Giovanni Angelo Medici

Lived: 1499-1565

Regnal Name: Pius IV

Regnal Life: 1559-1565

Giovanni Angelo Medici was born on Easter Sunday, 1499, in Milan to a rather poor but respectable family. Despite the name, they were not Medici in the sense that we normally mean by 'Medici' in the context of the Renaissance. While the Medici of Milan tended to assume that they were related to the Medici of Florence and so used a similar coat of arms, there is no actual evidence of this. Thus, for instance, Giovanni's oldest brother, Gian Giacomo Medici, who became a famous condottiere, was known by the nickname Il Medeghino, the Little Medici, to distinguish him from the more famous Medici. Giovanni himself was a bright young man and went on to study law at the University of Bologna. He entered the Roman Curia in the papacy of Paul III, who entrusted him with ever-increasing responsibilities in the Papal States and made him a cardinal in 1549. As a cardinal, he got considerable experience on diplomatic missions. All of this practical background would come in handy in his papal career, because he inherited a papacy in considerable disarray but also saw the conclusion of the Council of Trent and thus become the first pope to start figuring out the best ways to implement the conciliar reforms.

Paul IV died on August 18, 1559.  Rome had burst into riot as soon as it became clear that he was dying, due to the harshness of his reforms; soldiers had to be brought in and for a while Rome was effectively under something like martial law. The cardinals in the conclave had immediately to decide what to do about Cardinal Morone, who was still in prison. Since, despite having been there for years, he hadn't ever been convicted of anything and, for that matter, hadn't even been formally charged with anything specific, they let him out of prison to participate in the conclave.

The fundamental problem faced by the 1559 conclave was that there were too many possible candidates. Each of the three major factions, the French, the Spanish, and the Italian, had several possible candidates, and had difficulty making up their minds about which ones they wanted to put forward. The Spanish also ended up complicating the situation by trying to get one of their early favorites, Cardinal Carpi, elected by acclamation before all of the French cardinals had arrived. They fell short of the votes required, and their attempt made the French even less likely to compromise with them. In all future voting, there would be the recurring problem of the vote being split so many ways that no candidate could reach the threshold for becoming pope. Then the secular princes kept interfering; the French and the Empire were in constant contact with their factions and also kept messing with the vote by trying to make deals with members of the Italian faction. As vote after vote after vote was hung, all the factions started proposing compromise candidates, but the same problem arose: no compromise candidate could get enough votes, given all the competing compromise candidates. As months dragged by, the conclave began to experience attrition as one cardinal died and several others became sick in ways that prevented their participation. This almost broke the deadlock on its own; the French were hardest hit by illness, so the Spanish just narrowly missed making Cardinal Pacheco pope in early December. Even this, however, was not enough. As Christmas drew near, the cardinals began to think that they were handling the matter in the wrong way. The leaders of the factions met to try to come up with one name that they could at least all tolerate. One of the names that came up was Cardinal Medici, and he was elected on Christmas Day, taking the name Pius IV, and crowned on Epiphany. 

Pius, despite his age, was a very energetic man, which is fortunate, because an energetic man was necessary. He had to begin immediately repairing diplomatic relations with the major powers, which had deteriorated in Paul's reign. There was a very long list of things that needed to be done with regard to reform. Pius set up a commission of cardinals for reform of morals in the clergy. He opened an inquiry into the situation of Cardinal Morone, which formally concluded that the entire process had been based on inadequate evidence and had been improperly conducted. He stripped the Roman Inquisition of all the additional kinds of cases that Paul had piled on it, which had gravely overloaded it, and restored it to its proper bounds. Nonetheless, in dealing with Paul's immoderate and sometimes disastrous reforms, Pius always preferred, if he could, to maintain a more restricted version of Paul's reforms than to undo them entirely. For instance, he kept Paul's Index, which had been greeted with derision and shock throughout the Church, but reworked it on much more limited principles, taking into account many of the criticisms. In another instance, Pius had the problem of what to do with all the vagrant monks that Paul had arrested for living outside their monasteries. There were literally hundreds, and Paul's attempt to apply a strict enforcement was clearly unworkable. Many monks were in situations where it was not practicable for them to go immediately back into their monasteries, and there were too many to keep jailed. Even monks who were willing to comply were often not able to do so under Paul's very strict interpretation, and they had nowhere to go if anything prevented an immediate return to the monastery, because Paul had made it illegal for anyone to provide shelter to them. Pius, quickly assessing the situation, settled on the solution that was likely the best one: he gave a blanket amnesty for all past irregularities and set up a process for case-by-case assessment of unusual situations. 

There were other ways in which Pius had to clean up the mess in which Paul's administration had left things. He had to figure out what to do with all of the rioters who had been arrested for rioting as Paul died; in May 1560, he declared a blanket amnesty for them as well, which was very popular. And he opened an investigation into the Carafa family; evidence of along series of crimes, including murder, was uncovered. They were put on trial; Alfonso Carafa was pardoned because of his youth, but the other two were (despite some cardinals advocating clemency) executed -- Carlo Carafa was strangled and Giovanni Carafa was beheaded. The cardinals were not happy at the execution of a fellow cardinal, and Pius took considerable criticism over it, but the pope justified himself on the ground that not only were the crimes involved quite serious, it was absolutely essential not to set a precedent of cardinal-nephews being able to get away with anything. Another major confidant of Pope Paul, Scipione Cardinal Rebiba, was arrested on the accusation of having repeatedly been negligent in his duties; he was eventually set free on the request of almost the whole College of Cardinals.

Pius also restored an aspect of the Renaissance reforms that Paul had largely left in ruins, namely, the books-and-buildings-and-music approach to evangelism. This seems to have been important to him -- Ludwig von Pastor suggests that it was because he wanted to prove himself a true Medici. Pius actively supported Palestrina and the polyphonic style. He supported the Accademia Vaticana that was organized by Carlo Borromeo, expanded the Vatican Library, gave patronage to scholarship of all kinds. He poured money into architecture and art, supporting Vasari and Michelangelo and others, particular with projects that also had practical use, like fortifications or city improvements. Michelangelo particularly benefited; Paul had stripped him of his pensions, but Pius restored them and actively continued to support Michelangelo until the aging artist's death. None of this was easy -- papal revenue was not what it had been (and a large portion of it went in any case to paying off debts contracted by Paul), and some of Paul's reforms had tightened it further by reducing possible sources of revenue -- and there were plenty of artists who still complained about the slim pickings. All in all, however, much was accomplished, and Pius managed to leave the papal finances in a much better state than he had received it, although he did so by raising taxes (which made him unpopular throughout the States of the Church) and selling offices.

Pius had a very large family, and continued the practice of distributing honors among them. However, the practice was ameliorated by the sheer numbers -- he had so many family members, that he had to be quite selective and limited about what he handed. There was very little danger of most of them exercising an outsized influence. The two exceptions, who were especially favored by Pius, were well chosen, because they were both talented men: his nephews from the Borromeo family. Carlo Borromeo, whom he made cardinal and Apostolic Protonotary, was especially competent. He was also quite a decent man, but in 1562, the other Borromeo nephew, Federigo, died suddenly, and Carlo was devastated by the loss. It led to him changing his life; he received holy orders in 1563 and began living much more strictly and ascetically -- indeed, enough that Pope Pius was concerned that he was being excessive. However, all of these things would contribute to St. Carlo Borromeo becoming one of the primary architects of the new, post-Renaissance reforms.

The question of the reform council, which was one of Pius's fundamental resolutions, was tangled. Many people wanted the Council of Trent continued; others thought that, as it had been so long delayed, it would make more sense to open a new council. The French wanted the decrees so far passed to be recognized and formally implemented; the Empire and the Protestants wanted everything so far to be scrapped and everything to begin again. Of course, there was the perpetual problem that France and the Empire could be guaranteed not to agree on the time and place. The French were also causing trouble; they had in the past repeatedly threatened to convoke their own national council, and now they were already making plans to do it. Pius, once informed of this, realized that there would be no end of trouble if the Gallican bishops succeeded, and resolved to make the general council happen no matter what, in order to forestall a Gallican council. Finally, after endless negotiation, Pius published a bull of convocation on November 29, 1560. The council was to take place at Trent, but, despite the fact that he clearly considered it a continuation, he deliberately avoided taking an explicit position of whether it was formally a continuation or a new council. Pius attempted to get everyone on board over it, but most of the Catholics were mostly vague in their commitments and all of the Protestant cities in the Empire refused to accept it. It was not clear whether the council would actually get off the ground again.

Pius, however, immediately began turning to the question of organizing it. He had some difficulty in getting a papal legate, particularly since he wanted several to represent a wide variety of the Church; he offered the position to Cardinal Morone, but Morone declined. Cardinal Gonzaga tried to decline as well, but the pope was able to convince him, and soon the legates were chosen: Gonzaga, Puteo, Seripando, Hosius, Simonetta. Gonzaga was primarily a diplomat, Simonetta and Puteo were canon lawyers, and Hosius and Seripando were theologians; Hosius had a reputation as a conservative and strict reformer, Seripando as more liberal and willing to compromise.

The third phase of the Council of Trent opened on January 18, 1562, and, despite the fact that there had been every reason to expect that it would be poorly attended, over a hundred bishops were already in Trent when it opened. There was a crisis almost immediately. The Spanish wanted it formally declared a continuation; the legates were under instructions to avoid doing this. Finally, the Spanish were willing to back down, once the legates made clear that they would avoid any indication that it was not a continuation, and that it if it were feasible there would be an official declaration of continuation in a later session. The reason the continuation-or-not was such an important one was that the decrees of the prior phases were in an ambiguous territory as to how authoritative they were, because while often implemented, the popes had not yet formally recognized them as decrees of a general council, for the simple reason that the council business had not yet finished; if, however, the newly convoked council was a continuation of the prior council, the prior decrees would be given the same formal stamp as the new decrees when the council officially closed.

Pius's plan was to tie up all the loose ends with a few doctrinal decrees, but he ran into the problem that the Christian princes (and therefore their representative bishops) wanted practical reforms. One point of reform was particularly thorny, namely, the question of how best to proceed with the requirement that each bishop reside in his diocese; the bishops were heavily divided on the basis for such a requirement, and therefore could not come to an agreement about how it should be handled. What is more, a significant number of bishops were inclined to refuse to consider any other reforms or doctrinal matters before the residence reforms had been completed, which threatened to bring the council to a complete standstill. Extensive negotiations were required to get the easier decree on communion handled first. This ended up being wise, because the decrees on holy orders and residence took several months of argument, and the council was nearly suspended in the process when disease killed Gonzaga, Seripando, and others. Pius, however, came to believe it would be a severe mistake to suspend the council rather than carry it through to completion, and so he replaced Gonzaga and Seripando with Morone and Navagero. Both were major Church diplomats, and Morone had been working with Borromeo to help organize the council from the pope's end, so he was second only to Borromeo in understanding the pope's intentions. Choosing Morone was a stroke of brilliance; due to his prior career, he had an excellent relationship with the Emperor Ferdinand, and he was able to convince the Empire, whose support up to this point had been lukewarm and suspicious, to back the pope somewhat more fully, despite the slow progress and the Emperor's belief that the pope was meddling too much in it. Morone was also able slowly to navigate the assembled bishops through the questions of holy orders and residence, carefully setting aside any issue (like papal supremacy) on which the bishops could not come to a definite agreed formulation; this he did under instructions from Pius, who held that it was generally better to have no decree at all than a half-decree that caused only confusion. 

As the council slowly began to pick up pace, Pius was able, through his legates, to insist that the council must also consider reform of the Christian princes and the laity. Unsurprisingly, the Catholic powers protested this vehemently. But it was a crucial issue. Since the Council of Constance, the Christian powers had actively meddled with reform, and they had done so for a very clear reason: revenue. The princes had been so insistent on reform the whole time, in fact, because they saw it as a way to redirect revenue that was going to the Church to their own coffers. Now, to be sure, they also had genuine concerns elsewhere. But when you look at the corruptions and problems faced by the Renaissance Church, it is remarkable how many of them were due in great measure, and sometimes wholly, to the meddling of the princes. The Christian princes had been obsessed with ecclesial reform through the entire Renaissance; but they never meant reform of themselves. Because of the opposition, the reform of princes that was proposed by the legates was eventually very mild, but even that was not acceptable to the Emperor and to the French king. The French went so far as to declare that the council had not authority to reform the state. Nonetheless the bishops were broadly in support of it. Nobody knew better than they how hampered they had often been due to civil interference. So Pius did some horse-trading; Ferdinand's son Maximilian had been elected King of the Romans, and Pius offered to recognize the election if Ferdinand would back down enough to let the council finish its work. The council produced doctrinal and reform decrees on matrimony, and then another decree on matters relating to ecclesiastical governance, including mild and restricted versions of the proposed limitations on civil interference. While there were a few people who wished to prolong the council, pointing to the many things that had still not been discussed, there was a general feeling that the end was in sight. And it was; the council had one more session hurriedly and briefly dealing with miscellaneous subjects in both doctrine and reform, and closed. Many things were left on the table, either only partially dealt with or not dealt with at all. But the Council of Trent, in all three phases, was confirmed, and this is a reasonable place to mark the end of the Renaissance period of the Church and the beginning of its Tridentine period, although the transition from one period to another is always a bit blurred and fuzzy.

Both the variety of reforms and the fact that many reforms were only partly done meant that Pius IV and his immediate successors would have an immense importance in implementing it. Many of the things that are associated with the Tridentine or Counter-Reformation period of the Church were not directly due to Trent, but were really the particular ways in which the popes, and bishops like Borromeo under whom the see of Milan became the widely copied standard model of a Catholic diocese for the next several hundred years, decided to implement the rather flexible reform decrees.  But this is as it should be; the problem the Renaissance reform councils had always had was that events moved much too swiftly for them to micromanage. By establishing a more flexible framework and allowing the popes and bishops to fill in the details to meet the challenges they found in implementation, Trent succeeded as a reform council in a way that none of the others had. In many ways, Constance and Basel had been outright failures, with Constance's primary achievement (the solution to the Western Schism) really being due to the pope rather than anything it had done. As the Council of Florence, the Council of Basel had been turned by Eugene IV into a successful union council, but as a reform council in itself, Basel was a complete disaster and created another schism. The Fifth Council of Lateran was more successful, but it was an anemic success because it could not provide anything that was adequate to the swiftly changing landscape of its time. Only the Council of Trent, which during its entire duration had seemed likely to fail, succeeded. It did not succeed at everything, because it could not cover everything. But it laid down principles and guidelines that could be effectively used in a wide variety of situations and (a not unimportant point) often working out how to pay for and organize the implementation, and for the next several generations 'church reform' no longer meant what it had through most of the Renaissance but instead meant 'implementing the council'. The popes filled in the details -- summarizing council doctrine in the Tridentine Creed (which Pius did shortly after the end of the council), reforming the Index, creating the catechism, regularizing the missal and the breviary, establishing regular seminaries on Tridentine principles. 

Despite his apparently inexhaustible energy, Pius IV was getting on in years, and suffered occasional health problems. He was particularly susceptible to attacks of gout, which came with increasing frequency, and in early December of 1565 was sick more often than not. He died December 9. He had been very much a Renaissance pope in many ways, but he oversaw the transition to something new, laying the foundations on which his successor, St. Pius V, and his nephew, St. Charles Borromeo, would stabilize the new approach to reform. Pius V would very much not be a Renaissance pope but a Tridentine one; and he was in many ways what Paul IV hoped to be but failed to be, severe and not temperamentally inclined to moderation in reform, and some of what he did would have to be moderated by his successor, Gregory XIII. But the tenure of Pius IV had established something very important, which was that moderate reforms often worked better than stringent ones, and for the next several generations even severe popes like Pius V would at least make an effort to incorporate leniency and balance into their implementations.