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CHAPTER VI.

REFORM OF ECCLESIASTICAL ABUSES (FOR DEMANDING WHICH

SAVONAROLA WAS PUT TO DEATH), PRAYED FOR BY ST. BERNARD IN THE TWELFTH CENTURY; AND DECLARED TO BE INDISPENSABLY REQUIRED, FORTY YEARS AFTER SAVONAROLA'S DEATH, BY A CONGREGATION OF CARDINALS APPOINTED BY THE POPE TO REPORT ON THE ABUSES THEN EXISTING IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH.

Aggiungasi a questo, la scorretta vita dell' uno e dell'altro clero, infe. zione giunta sino agli stessi Pastori, ed anche a' primi della chiesa di Dio, e disavventura, che non si puo nascondere, ne' abbastanza deplorare per gli scandali infiniti, che ne derivarono.”—MURATORI, Annal. A.D. MD. conclus.

The reform of ecclesiastical abuses was prayed for by St. Bernard, upwards of three centuries and a half before Savonarola preached against the scandals and disorders of the Church, and the simony, mammon-worship, and worldliness of spirit that prevailed in it.

The same scandals and disorders were denounced by a congregation of cardinals, specially appointed by Pope Paul the Third to report on them, forty years after the friar of Ferrara had been put to death for bewailing their existence, and proclaiming from the pulpit woe to the church, the priesthood, and the people, if the spirit of religion were not speedily renovated.

The very rare and remarkable report above referred to, printed at Cologne, in small 4to. in 1538, consisting of thirteen pages of matter in the Latin tongue, is entitled “ Concilium delectorum, Cardinalium et aliorum Prelatorum, de emenda Ecclesiæ S. D. N. D. Paulo ipso juvente, conscriptum et exhibitum, anno 1538."

It purports to be a representation of the abuses in matters of religion which required reform, the result of an inquiry instituted by Pope Paul the Third. It bears the signatures of Gaspar Card. Contarenus, Johannis Petrus Card. Theatinus, Jacobus Card. Sadeletus Reginaldus Card. Anglicus,* Freder. Archiepis Salernitanus, Hier. Arch. Brundusinus, J. Matthæus, Epis. Veronensis, Gregor. Abbas S. Georgii Venet., Frater Thomas Mag. Sac. Palatii.t

Their report, or representation, treats of the various abuses requiring reformation, and the remedies proposed for them, which are specified in twenty-eight articles, preceded by a preamble of three pages. Sarpi gives the names of the subscribers in full.

The deplorable state of religion previously to the Council of Trent, is set forth more clearly in this representation of abuses of the time, and the disorders which had been introduced, not only into religious houses, but into the Court of Rome, than in any

other document illustrative of the condition of the Church at that period. The substance of the several articles of this report is given in the following pages. The origin of the Report is described, but the matter of it is not given, in a work valuable for much of its historical data concerning the Council of Trent, though a very disingenuous production, written by an enemy of his religion, in the habit of a monk:—The History of the Council of Trent, by the Friar Paoli Sarpi. The following are his words :-“ To give an effectual contradiction of those rumours, (of the Pope's disinclination to call a council for the purpose of reform), and to remove the evil opinion formed of his intentions, the Pope Paul the Third resolved to begin the reform with himself, and with the cardinals and his court. For this object he chose four cardinals, and five other prelates (whom he so much esteemed that he made cardinals of four of them); and commanded them to make a collection of the abuses which ought to be reformed, and to indicate the remedies which ought to be applied. In obedience to his commands, they made a written

* Cardinal Pole. + Hist. du Concile de Trente, liv. i. p. 78. * Ibid.

report, setting forth that all abuses were occasioned by the too great facility with which the Popes lent their cars to flattery, and departed from the laws and commandments which Jesus Christ had given, to draw no profits from spiritual functions. After which, coming to detail, they set down twenty-seven abuses (Query, twenty-eight ?) in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, and in the particular government of Rome.”

It is to be observed, that this dishonest writer, in stating that the report of the cardinals and prelates attributed all the abuses to the faults of the Popes, falsified the terms of the document he referred to.

Its authors certainly reprehended the Court of Rome with a high hand, but they did not attribute all the evils which had fallen on the Church to the acts or conduct of the Pontiffs. They attributed the chiefest of those evils to the dignitaries of the Church who composed the Court of Rome, and to the crime of simony with which they especially charged them. “ Ex hoc fonte, Sancti Pater, tanquam ex equo Trojano irrupere in ecclesiam Dei tot abusus et tam gravissimi morbi,” &c.

Sarpi falsified history, in treating of the Pope's commission given to the Cardinals to draw up this representation, as a measure dictated solely by a desire of saving appearances, and of silencing the enemies of his holiness. Sarpi must have well known that the commission in question was given by Pope Paul, with a bona fide desire for reform.

I doubt if, in ecclesiastical annals, any instance of a similar kind is to be met with, of a number of the chief dignitaries of a church, engaged in a business of this kind, examining the evils that had fallen on religion, without regard to the worldly interests of their order; tracing those evils to the fountain head, and fearlessly and frankly, when reprehension was due, rcprehending the highest authority of the Church, even that under which they acted ; laying bare the most grievous faults of their own body, and lastly lifting the veil from every irregularity and disorder in life, or discipline in the subordinate ministers of that religion, whose fame was evidently dearer to them than any earthly consideration.

The following is in substance the representation made to Paul the Third of the abuses requiring the most prompt reform.

“ Art. 1.-The first abuse is the otal want of care and circumspection ‘in the ordination of ecclesiastics, and especially of presbyters,' persons being every where ordained, disqualified by their condition, age, and education. Hence arose innumerable scandals, contempt of ecclesiastics, not only diminished veneration for divine worship, but even almost the extinction of it.

“ Art. 2.–The collation to ecclesiastical benefices, and in particular curacies, but above all, the nomination to bishoprics, constituted another grievous abuse, from which it arose that benefices had been conferred on persons not even of the flock of Christ, nor of the church.

“ Art. 3.—The custom of entailing pensions on benefices in favour of those who collated to them, an abuse which would cease to be so if 'the Pontiff, who was the universal dispenser of all the goods of the Church, burdened benefices with reservations of their enrolments, only for pious and charitable uses; but other entails interfered with the decent maintenance of pastors.'

“ Art. 4.—The abuse of exchanging benefices by simoniacal compacts, in which lucre was the only object of the parties to them.

“Art. 5.—The abuse of bequeathing benefices, of renouncing bishoprics and benefices, in consideration of a reservation to some of their revenues.

“ Art. 6.-The infraction of the ancient law of Clement, that the sons of presbyters shall not possess the benefices of their fathers. The custom of converting spiritual things to private uses having occasioned scandals ; and no cause had more contributed to the enmity to the clergy, from which so many seditions had arisen, and others were arising.

“ Art. 7.—The abuse of disposing of benefices before the deaths of the incumbents.

“ Art. 8.—The evil of uniting two or more benefices, and what is worse, bishoprics :

-Non tantum duobus, sed pluribus, et quod rejus est, in episcopatibus.'

“ Art. 9.-An abuse in the Church, of great moment, is the custom of conferring on Cardinals, not only one but many bishoprics; anul chiefly so, because the office of Cardinal, and the office of prelate, are incompatible.'

“ Art. 10.—The abuse which first, and before all others, should be corrected, is that of the non-residence of the prelates and beneficed clergy in their sees and parishes.

“ Art. 11.—The non-residence of the Cardinals at the court of Rome was also an evil that needed to be removed.

“ Art. 12.—It was a great abuse, and by no means to be tole rated, that the universal Christian world should be scandalised by the impediments which bishops, in the government of their flocks, put in the way of punishing and correcting criminals. For in the first place, by many modes, evil doers escaped, and especially clergy, from the jurisdiction of their ordinaries. Then, if they be not exempt from it, they fly immediately to confession, or by means of corruption, they obtain impunity... These abuses, most holy father, we conjure you, by the blood of Christ, who redeemed his Church, and washed it with the same blood, these abuses which have perturbed Christianity, let them be taken away.

“ Art. 13.-Another abuse to be corrected is in the religious orders, many of which have become so defiled, that their example has become a scandal to the laity and noxious to the latter. We think all conventual orders should be abolished (conventualis ordines abolendos esse putamus omnes), not, however, to inflict injury on any, but to prohibit the reception of any novices. (Non tamen ut alicui fiat injuria sed prohibendo ne novos possint admitteri.) So that without injury (to the existing orders) they shall be suppressed, and good religious may be substituted for them. Now we think it would be best, if all youths who are not professed, should be sent away from their monasteries.

“ Art. 14.—The abuse of the indiscriminate liberty given to friars to exercise the functions of preachers and confessors, without episcopal examination of their fitness for such offices, and sanction for the performance of their duties.

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