Friday, 22 February 2013

Church History (full-time) 9.1, Trent and Jesuits: Catholic expansion

The Council of Trent … formulated the main elements of the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 22 February 2013, 9 .a.m. to 12 noon:

This week:

9.1: Trent and Jesuits: Catholic expansion;

9.2: Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion

9.3: Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged


Two weeks ago [8 February 2013], we looked at the John Wycliffe and the Lollards, Jan Hus and the Hussites, and Erasmus and the dawning of Renaissance scholarship, and we asked whether they were forerunners of the 16th Reformations in Europe. We then looked at examples of the writings of three key Reformation figures – Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. And then we looked specifically at the unfolding of the Anglican Reformation in both England and Ireland.

The Counter-Reformation, also known as the Catholic Reformation, was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and ending at the close of the Thirty Years’ War (1648).

There are four major elements in the Counter-Reformation:

● Ecclesiastical or structural reconfiguration
● Religious orders
● Spiritual movements
● Political dimensions

The reforms included:

● the foundation of seminaries for training priests spiritually and theologically,
● the reform of the religious orders,
● the foundation of new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.

It also involved:

● political activities that included the Roman Inquisition.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563):

The Council of Trent is regarded by Roman Catholics as one of the most important Church councils. It met in Trento in northern Italy from 13 December 1545 to 4 December 1563, not in one continuous sitting but in 25 sessions for three periods over those 18 years. The Council was interrupted several times because of political and religious disagreements.

Popes of the Council of Trent … Paul II, Julius III and Pius IV

When Pope Paul II was pope, the Council met for the first eight sessions in Trent (1545-1547), and for the ninth, tenth and eleventh sessions in Bologna (1547).

Under Pope Julius III the Council met in Trent (1551-1552) for the 12th to the 16th sessions.

Under Pope Pius IV, the 17th to the 25th sessions met in Trent (1559-1563).

The Council issued condemnations of what it defined as Protestant heresies of the time of the Reformation and defined Church teachings in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Original Sin, Justification, Sacraments, the Eucharist and the veneration of saints. It issued numerous reform decrees. By specifying doctrine on salvation, the sacraments, and the canon of Scripture, the Council was answering criticism from the Reformers.

The Council entrusted the Pope with the implementation of its work. As a result, Pope Pius IV issued the Tridentine Creed (1565); and Pope Pius V issued the Roman Catechism (1566), a revised Roman Breviary (1568), and a revised Roman Missal (1570).

The Tridentine Mass became the standard liturgy for much of the Roman Catholic Church (Trent is known in Latin as Tridentum).

In 1592, Pope Clement VIII issued a revised edition of the Vulgate Bible.

The Council is often described as the climax of the Counter-Reformation movement. But we could see it too as a major reform council.

Of course, there were other Church councils before Trent. The Fifth Lateran Council came to a close on 16 March 1517, with a number of reform proposals in areas such as the selection of bishops, taxation, censorship and preaching. But it had not addressed the major problems that confronted the Church in Germany and other parts of Europe. And a few months later, on 31 October 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses in Wittenberg.

In 1520, Luther appealed to the German princes to attack the papal Church, if necessary with a council in Germany, open and free of the Papacy. In the previous century, Pope Pius II, in his bull Execrabilis (1460) and in his reply to the University of Cologne (1463), had unilaterally set aside the principle of the supremacy of general councils, which had been accepted at the Council of Constance 1414-1418.

Pope Leo X, in his bull Exsurge Domine (1520), condemned as heresy 52 sentences of Luther. In reply, Luther burned the document and appealed for a general council, and German opinion seemed to agree that a council was the best method to reconcile differences.

It took a generation for the council to materialise. It was delayed partly because of papal reluctance, given that one of the Lutheran demands was the exclusion of the papacy from the Council. But it was also delayed because of political rivalries between France and Germany and the Turkish threat in the Mediterranean.

Remember that while Clement VII was Pope (1523-1534), the troops of the Emperor Charles V sacked Rome in 1527, “raping, killing, burning, stealing, the like had not been seen since the Vandals.”

It is said Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were used for stabling horses. Charles V strongly favoured a council, but needed the support of King Francis I of France, who attacked him militarily. Francis I generally opposed a general council due to partial support of the Protestant cause in France.

In 1533, he complicated matters further when he suggested a general council that included both Catholic and Protestant rulers of Europe who would devise a compromise between the two theological positions. This proposal was opposed by the Pope who feared it gave recognition to Protestants and elevate the secular Princes of Europe above the clergy on Church affairs.

Pope Paul III (1534-1549) realised that the Reformations had won over various princes, particularly in Germany, and realised the need to call a council. However, his first proposal was unanimously opposed by the cardinals.

Eventually, both the Emperor and Pope tried to convene a council. In 1537, Paul III issued a decree calling a general council in Mantua, beginning on 23 May 1537. Luther wrote the Smalcald Articles in preparation for the general council, defining where Lutherans could and could not compromise.

However, the council failed to meet when another war broke out between France and Charles V and when the French bishops did not turn up. Meanwhile, the German Protestants, who had just suffered a defeat at the hands of Charles V, also refused to attend.

In the autumn of 1537, the Pope moved the council to Vicenza, but the attendance there was poor too. On 21 May 1539, the Council was postponed indefinitely, and Pope Paul III then initiated several internal Church reforms.

Meanwhile, Charles V called a meeting with Protestants in Regensburg, the seat of the German Diet, but this failed to find accord between Catholics and Protestant because of different concepts of the Church and of justification.

When it eventually met, the Council of Trent opened on 13 December 1545, shortly before Luther’s death on 18 February 1546. The Pope moved the council to Bologna in March 1547 on the pretext of avoiding a plague, but eventually the council was prorogued indefinitely on 17 September 1549.

The Council reopened in Trent on 1 May 1551 when it was recalled by Pope Julius III (1550-1555), but it broke up with the sudden victory of Maurice, Elector of Saxony, over Charles V and his march into Tyrol on 28 April 1552.

There was no hope of reassembling the council while the very anti-Protestant Paul IV was Pope. The council was reconvened by Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) for the last time, meeting from 18 January 1562, and continuing until 4 December 1563. It closed with a series of acclamations of acceptance of the faith of the Council and its decrees, and of anathema for all heretics.

Three phases, three Irish bishops:

We can divide the history of the council into three distinct periods: 1545-1549, 1551-1552 and 1562-1563.

During the second period, the Protestants present asked for renewed discussion on points already defined and for bishops to be released from their oaths of allegiance to the Pope.

When the last period began, all hope of reconciliation with the Protestant Reformers had been lost and the Jesuits had become a dominant force in the Roman Catholic Church.

The number of attending members in the three periods varied considerably. The council was small to begin with, it increased toward the close, but it never achieved the numbers at the First Council of Nicaea (325, 318 present), nor Vatican I (1869-1870, 744 present).

Three Irish bishops were present at the Council of Trent:

● The Bishop of Achonry, Eugene (Owen) O’Hart, who returned to Ireland as the Church of Ireland Bishop of Achonry, but was still recognised as the Roman Catholic bishop. He was buried at Achonry Cathedral when he died in 1603 in the hundredth year of his age, and was succeeded by the notorious pluralist Miler Magrath.

● The Bishop of Raphoe, Daniel Magonigle, a native of Killybegs, Co Donegal, who was also recognised as the Church of Ireland bishop of the diocese from 1563 until he died in 1589.

● The Bishop of Ross, Thomas O’Herlihy, who died in 1579 – he too is recognised in the Church of Ireland succession lists.

The decrees were signed by 255 members, including four papal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, 25 archbishops, and 168 bishops, two-thirds of whom were Italians. The Italian and Spanish prelates were the vast majority in attendance and in contributions to the debates. When the most important decrees were passed, no more than 60 prelates were present.

The main object of the council was twofold, although there were other discussions: To condemn Protestant principles and to clarify the doctrines of the Catholic Church on all disputed points; and to effect a reformation in discipline or administration.

Charles V’s intention was for a general or truly ecumenical council, at which the Protestant reformers had a fair hearing. At the council’s second period (1551-1553), Protestant reformers were invited twice to be present and the council issued a letter of safe conduct to the 13th session, offering them the right of discussion, but denying them a vote.

Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Brenz and some other German Lutherans, started out on the journey to Trent in 1552. But the refusal to give the Protestant reformers a vote effectively put an end to their co-operation.

Corruption in the administration of the Church was one of the many causes of the Reformation. The council abolished some of the most notorious abuses and introduced or recommended disciplinary reforms affecting the sale of indulgences, the morals of convents, the education of the clergy, the non-residence of bishops, bishops having plurality of benefices, censures and duelling.

Although there were some statements on the authority of the Scriptures and justification by faith, no concessions were made to Protestantism. Instead, the council agreed that the Church is the ultimate interpreter of Scripture, and the Bible and Church Tradition (not mere customs but the ancient tradition that made up part of the faith) were equally authoritative.

The relationship between faith and works in salvation was defined in response to Luther’s understanding of “justification by faith alone.”

Other Catholic practices that were criticised by the reformers, such as indulgences, pilgrimages, the veneration of saints and relics, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary were strongly reaffirmed, though abuses of them, such as the sale of indulgences, were forbidden. Decrees concerning sacred music and religious art, though inexplicit, were later built on by theologians and writers to condemn many types of Renaissance and medieval styles and iconographies, with a strong impact on the development of these art forms.

The doctrinal decisions of the council are divided into decrees (decreta), which contain the positive statement of the conciliar dogmas, and into short canons (canones), which condemn the dissenting Protestant views with the concluding anathema sit (“let him be anathema”).

Canons and decrees:

The doctrinal acts of the Council of Trent include:

● The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was affirmed (third session).
● A decree was passed confirming that the Deuterocanonical books were on a par with the other canonical books, against Luther’s placement of these books in the Apocrypha of his edition (fourth session).
● That decree also co-ordinated church tradition with the Scriptures as a rule of faith.
● The Vulgate translation was affirmed as authoritative for the text of Scripture.
● Justification was declared to be offered upon the basis of human co-operation with divine grace as opposed to the concept of passive reception of grace (sixth session).
● Understanding the idea of “faith alone” doctrine to be one of simple human confidence in divine mercy, the Council rejected the “vain confidence” of Protestants, stating that no one can know who has received the grace of God.
● The Council affirmed that the grace of God can be forfeited through mortal sin.
● The seven sacraments were reaffirmed.
● The Eucharist pronounced to be a true propitiatory sacrifice as well as a sacrament, in which the bread and wine were consecrated as the body and blood of Christ (13th and 22nd sessions).
● The term transubstantiation was used by the Council, but the specific Aristotelian explanation given in Scholasticism was not cited as dogmatic. Instead, the decree states that Christ is “really, truly, substantially present” in the consecrated elements of bread and wine.
● The sacrifice of the Mass was to be offered for dead and living alike and in giving to the apostles the command “do this in remembrance of me,” Christ conferred upon them a sacerdotal power.
● The practice of withholding the cup from the laity was confirmed (21st session) as one the Church Fathers had commanded for good and sufficient reasons; yet in certain cases the Pope was made the supreme arbiter as to whether the rule should be strictly maintained.
● Ordination was defined to imprint an indelible character on the soul (23rd session). The priesthood of the New Testament takes the place of the Levitical priesthood. The consent of the people is not necessary for the performance of its functions.
● In the decrees on marriage (24th session), the excellence of the celibate state was reaffirmed, concubinage condemned and the validity of marriage made dependent upon the wedding taking place before a priest and two witnesses, although the lack of a requirement for parental consent ended a debate that had proceeded from the 12th century.
● In the case of a divorce, the right of the innocent party to marry again was denied so long as the other party was alive, even if the other party had committed adultery.
● The doctrines of purgatory, the invocation of saints and the veneration of relics were reaffirmed, as was also the efficacy of indulgences as dispensed by the Church according to the power given to it, but with some cautionary recommendations, and a ban on the sale of indulgences (25th and last session).

Short and rather inexplicit passages concerning religious images, were to have great impact on the development of Christian art. Much more than the Second Council of Nicaea (787), the Council fathers of Trent stressed the pedagogical purpose of Christian images.

At the 18th session (1562), the council appointed a commission to prepare a list of forbidden books, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, but it later left the matter to the Pope.

The preparation of a catechism and the revision of the Breviary and the Missal were also left to the pope. The catechism embodied the council’s far-reaching results, including reforms and definitions of the sacraments, the Scriptures, church dogma, and the duties of the clergy.

As it was adjourning, the Council asked the Pope to ratify all its decrees and definitions. On 26 January 1564, Pope Pius IV issued the papal bull, Benedictus Deus. This imposes strict obedience upon all Catholics and forbids, under pain of excommunication, all unauthorised interpretation, reserving this to the Pope alone.

The Jesuits

The Jesuit Saints ... one of the Evie Hone windows in the Prayer Room in the Jesuit Centre for Spirituality, Manresa, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

New religious orders were a fundamental part of the Counter Reformation or Catholic Reformation. Orders such as the Capuchins, Ursulines, Discalced Carmelites and especially the Jesuits set examples of Catholic renewal.

The Capuchins, an offshoot of the Franciscans, were notable for their preaching and for their care for the poor and the sick, and they grew rapidly. The Ursulines focused on the special task of educating girls. The Jesuits, though, were the most effective of the new Catholic orders.

The Society of Jesus or Jesuits, who played a key role in the Counter-Reformation, were founded by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in 1534 with six other young men, including Saint Francis Xavier, who professed vows of poverty, chastity, and later obedience, including a special vow of obedience to the Pope.

The term “Jesuit,” like the names “Methodist” and “Quaker” was first used as a term of reproach and was never used by Ignatius, although members and friends of the Society in time appropriated the name in its positive meaning. The Jesuits were an important force in the Counter-Reformation and in the Catholic missions, in part because their relatively loose structure allowed them to be flexible to meet the needs of the Church as they arose and changed.

Ignatius’s plan for the society’s organisation was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. The opening lines of the founding document declared the Society of Jesus was founded to “strive especially for the propagation and defence of the faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”

The founders met on 15 August 1534 in Montmartre, then on the edges of Paris, in a crypt beneath the church of Saint Denis, now Saint Pierre de Montmartre. In 1537, they travelled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III commended them and permitted them to be ordained priests.

The Society of Jesus was subsequently founded in 1540, and the first Jesuits were ordained in Venice by the Bishop of Arbe. Initially, they devoted themselves to preaching and charitable work in Italy at the height of Charles V’s wars in Italy.

Ignatius was their first superior-general, and he sent Jesuits as missionaries throughout Europe to set up schools, colleges, and seminaries.

Those first Jesuits concentrated on a few key activities:

● they founded schools throughout Europe, with Jesuit teachers rigorously trained in both classical studies and theology.
● they sent out missionaries across the world to peoples who had not yet heard the Gospel, founding missions in places as far afield as modern-day Paraguay, Japan, Ontario, and Ethiopia.

The Jesuit Constitutions, written by Ignatius and adopted in 1554, created a tightly centralised organisation and stressed total abnegation and obedience to the Pope and their religious superiors.

As part of their service to the Church, the Jesuits encouraged people to continue their obedience to Scripture as interpreted by Catholic doctrine. Ignatius wrote: “I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it.”

Yet Ignatius and the early Jesuits recognised that the Church was in need of reform. Some of their greatest struggles were against corruption, venality and spiritual lassitude within the Church. Ignatius’s insistence on a high level of academic preparation for ministry, for instance, was a deliberate response to the relatively poor education of many of the clergy at the time. The Jesuit vow against “ambitioning prelacies” was a deliberate effort to prevent greed for money or power invading Jesuit circles.

Despite all this, Ignatius and his successors often tangled with the Pope and the Roman Curia.

Saint Ignatius and the Jesuits who followed him believed that the reform of the Church had to begin with the conversion of an individual’s heart. One of the main tools the Jesuits used to bring about this conversion has been the Ignatian retreat or Spiritual Exercises, which many of us heard about during our Ash Wednesday retreat in Manresa last week.

The Jesuit contributions to the late Renaissance were significant in their roles both as a missionary order and as the first religious order to operate colleges and universities as a principal and distinct ministry. By the time Ignatius died in 1556, the Jesuits were already running 74 colleges on three continents. A precursor to liberal education, the Jesuit plan of studies incorporated the Classical teachings of Renaissance humanism into the Scholastic structure of Catholic thought.

In addition to teaching faith, the Ratio Studiorum emphasised the study of Latin, Greek, classical literature, poetry, and philosophy as well as non-European languages, sciences and the arts. Jesuit schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric, and became important centres for the training of lawyers and public officials.

The Jesuit schools played an important Counter-Reformation role in winning back to Rome a number of European countries that had for a time been predominantly Protestant, including Poland and Lithuania.

Spiritual Reformers:

Spiritual reformers … Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, Philip Neri and John of the Cross

As a sign of their combined impact on the Catholic Reformation, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Philip Neri (1515-1595) and Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) were canonised on the same day, 12 March 1622. In many ways, this illustrates how the Catholic Reformation was not only a political and Church policy oriented movement, for it included major figures who added to the spirituality of the Roman Catholic Church, including Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales and Philip Neri.

Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) were Spanish Carmelite mystics and reformers of the Carmelite Order whose ministry focused on interior conversion to Christ, the deepening of prayer and commitment to God’s will.

Saint Teresa was given the task of developing and writing about the way to perfection in her love and unity with Christ. Her publications, especially her autobiography The Life of Teresa of Jesus is a classic of theology and spirituality.

Saint John of the Cross has been called the greatest of all mystical theologians. He served as both a confessor and a spiritual director within the cloistered communities that he and Saint Teresa of Ávila helped to establish, but he also helped build a number of those convents and monasteries.

The spirituality of Saint Philip Neri, who lived in Rome at the same time as Ignatius, was practically oriented too, but totally opposite to the Jesuit approach. He said: “If I have a real problem, I contemplate what Ignatius would do ... and then I do the exact opposite.”

Although Philip Neri refrained from becoming involved in political matters, he broke this rule in 1593 when he persuaded Pope Clement VIII to withdraw the excommunication and anathema imposed on King Henry IV of France, and his refusal to receive the French ambassador, even though the king had formally renounced his past Calvinism.

Philip Neri saw that the pope’s attitude was more than likely to drive Henry IV back to Calvinism, and probably to rekindle the civil war in France. Philip Neri bravely directed Baronius, then the pope’s confessor, to refuse him absolution, and to resign his office of confessor, unless he would withdraw the anathema.

Clement VIII yielded at once, although the College of Cardinals had unanimously supported his policy. Henry only learned the facts several years later.

So we cannot say that the Catholic Reformation was one coherent and cohesive movement. But we can say that it changed the face of European Christianity, so that the Roman Catholic Church is not simply a continuity of the Western Latin pre-Reformation Church, but another Reformation expression of the Church, alongside Anglicans, Lutherans and Calvinists.


9.2: Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion

Appendix 1: The Tridentine Creed

I, N, with a firm faith believe and profess each and everything which is contained in the Creed which the Holy Roman Church maketh use of. To wit:

I believe in one God, The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary: and was made man. He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried. And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, and who spoke through the prophets. And one holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

I also admit the Holy Scripture according to that sense which our holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, to whom it belongeth to judge of the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures. Neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

I also profess that there are truly and properly Seven Sacraments of the New Law, instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, and necessary for the salvation of mankind, though not all for every one; to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony; and that they confer grace; and that of these, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders cannot be reiterated without sacrilege.

I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of the aforesaid sacraments.

I embrace and receive all and every one of the things which have been defined and declared in the holy Council of Trent concerning original sin and justification.

I profess, likewise, that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly, really, and substantially, the Body and Blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there is made a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood, which conversion the Catholic Church calls Transubstantiation. I also confess that under either kind alone Christ is received whole and entire, and a true sacrament.

I constantly hold that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful. Likewise, that the saints, reigning together with Christ, are to be honoured and invoked, and that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to be venerated.

I most firmly assert that the images of Christ, of the Mother of God, ever virgin, and also of other Saints, ought to be had and retained, and that due honour and veneration is to be given them.

I also affirm that the power of indulgences was left by Christ in the Church, and that the use of them is most wholesome to Christian people.

I acknowledge the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church as the mother and mistress of all churches; and I promise true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.

I likewise undoubtedly receive and profess all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred Canons, and general Councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent, and by the ecumenical Council of the Vatican, particularly concerning the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching. I condemn, reject, and anathematize all things contrary thereto, and all heresies which the Church hath condemned, rejected, and anathematized.

This true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved, which I now freely profess and to which I truly adhere, inviolate and with firm constancy until the last breath of life, I do so profess and swear to maintain with the help of God. And I shall strive, as far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and professed by all those over whom I have charge. I N. do so pledge, promise, and swear, so help me God and these Holy Gospels.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 22 February 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.

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