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Gleanings From Various Countries Under Romish Rule

Gleanings From Various Countries Under Romish Rule


Spain in the last half of the seventeenth century was remote from her former headship in European politics. Disordered finances, impaired industries, and inferior military forces left her, both as respects confidence and actual ability, in the second rank of powers. At the beginning of the next century, the protracted war of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was a serious drain upon her resources, besides involving the loss of her European dependencies.

1 According to the treaty of Utrecht, in 1713 (supplemented by that of Radstadt in 1714), Naples, Sardinia, Milan, and the Spanish Netherlands were assigned to Austria, and Sicily was given to the Duke of Savoy. In 1720, Austria received Sicily in exchange for Sardinia. By the peace of Vienna, in 1738, Sicily came back, as a separate kingdom, to a Spanish line, or, rather, was secured to the Spanish prince, who, a few years before, had taken possession.

During the seventeenth century the auto de fé was much less of a factor in the religious edification of the Spanish people than it had been in the preceding century and a quarter. The maxims, however, which gave birth to this kind of spectacle, were in full force, and the spectacle itself was none too rare. The most celebrated instance occurred in 1680, when eighteen Jews and one Morisco were burned alive, and several score of Jews were sentenced to lesser punishments.


Though Philip V., the first of the Bourbon line in Spain, gave some tokens of disfavor toward the Inquisition, he conceded to it on the whole a pretty full scope, and the record indicates that its hand was not idle. According to Llorente, during the forty-six years of Philip V. (1700-1746), 782 autos were held in Spain, and 1,564 victims were burned alive. 1 Histoire de 1'Inquisition, iv. 31.


It comported with the tenacious hold of the mediæval régime on Spain that the sale of indulgences continued to flourish in that country. The Reformation, in fact, made scarcely a break in the practice. Before that crisis, the traffic, which primarily was designed to sustain the crusade against the infidel, had become a regular means of revenue to the State; and such it has been ever since. With but slight interruptions, the Popes, who were expected; to have a certain share in the proceeds, have granted a continuous series of licenses for the sale of indulgences to Spanish sinners. These, after 1571, were commonly bestowed for a term of six years. Pius IX. had the liberality to grant one for an interval of twelve years (1878-1890). The papal benefits, in formal deference to their original purpose, bore the name of Bulas de la Santa Cruzada. The indulgences of the Cruzada were of two kinds, one for the living and the other for the dead,- bula de vivos and bula de difuntos. "Of the former, the formula in use up to and including the grant of Gregory XIII., in 1574, conceded an indulgentia plenissima every time the bull was purchased. Subsequently the form was changed, and the purchaser of the bull was entitled twice to plenary remission of sin and punishment, once during life, and again on his death-bed, after confession and due contrition. Without the bull, the confessor could absolve from ordinary sins, but not from their punishment; with the bull, the absolution included the release of the soul from the pains of purgatory due as the punishment of sin, and in addition it absolved from the heinous offenses customarily reserved to the jurisdiction of the Pope, excepting heresy. ... The bula de difuntos enabled the purchaser to have inscribed in a blank left for the purpose the name of any deceased friend, whose soul forthwith was liberated from purgatory and ascended to eternal glory; and the preachers of the indulgence were instructed to impress upon the people the fact, that, as soon as the name was entered upon the bull, the soul of the departed was relieved from its sufferings, and soared to the enjoyment of God and of His everlasting glory." 1 H.C. Lea, Papers of the American Society of Church History, vol. i. The efficacy of this latter class of indulgences was regarded as in no wise dependent on the spiritual condition or religious acts of the purchaser. It was purely a money transaction, which was pledged to release a soul.

1 Sometimes, at least in the recent practice, a regard for the theological, as also for the financial side of the subject, has caused the suggestion to be insinuated, that it is well to take out repeated indulgences for the same soul, inasmuch as there may possibly have been some defect in the first, and, besides, something may depend on the Divine acceptance.


A large part of Italy remained during the seventeenth century under foreign dominion. Among the native rulers the Dukes of Savoy were perhaps the most enterprising and successful. Venice maintained a fair degree of prosperity, but during the greater part of the century had little connection with European affairs at large.


The Popes, so far as territorial possessions are concerned, attained the summit of their fortunes. At the middle of the century the States of the Church had reached their widest limits. This local importance, however, was far more than offset by loss in the larger sphere of influence and prerogative. Convenience, indeed, occasionally led a prominent sovereign to defer to the judgment of the Pope; but in many instances his pleasure was openly discarded, and in the greatest questions of European politics no respect was paid to his opinions.


One important episode, which occurred at Rome in the latter half of the century, has already been given, in the account of the trial and condemnation of Molinos. Another event which excited considerable interest was the advent of Christina, the talented but eccentric daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, who abdicated the throne of Sweden in 1654 to embrace the Roman Catholic religion. This romantic freak was followed by a residence at Rome, for the most of the time, till her death in 1689. Alexander VII. considered it a special distinction of his pontificate that he was permitted to welcome so illustrious a convert. The gain, however, was rather equivocal. Christina did not conform to the traditional model of saintship. While in theory she accepted the Pope as the Vicegerent of Christ, her practical deference was not extreme, and her temper was far from that of the meek penitent. To Gilbert Burnet, who paid her a visit, "she said it was certain the Church was governed by the immediate care and providence of God; for none of the four Popes that she had known, since she came to Rome, had common sense. She added, they were the first and the last of men." 1 Burnet's Own Time, book iv.


At the peace of Westphalia, Ferdinand III. held the imperial dignity. His death was followed by the long reign of Leopold I. (1657 -1705). This monarch had the honor to check the Turks on the East, and Louis XIV. on the West. From the former he obtained a great stretch of territory at the peace of Carlovitz, in 1698; against the latter he was one of the most earnest of the allies, whose combined efforts limited his acquisitions in the direction of the Netherlands and Germany, and caused that the accession of a Bourbon to the Spanish throne should not aggrandize France beyond measure. As respects the internal management of his domains, the record is not specially honorable. To the Hungarians his rule seemed a heavy yoke. Civilly and ecclesiastically they had cause for dissatisfaction. A large portion of the people were Protestants. By the peace of Linz, in 1645, they were guaranteed full religious liberty. The law still remained, but its execution corresponded to the intolerant counsels of the Jesuits. Near the middle of Leopold's reign the warped administration of law was aggravated into a violent persecution. A pretext for severity was found in a rebellion, though the uprising was quite as much national as religious in its motive. After this storm there was a measure of indulgence. It continued to be, however, only a mutilated tolerance which was enjoyed by the Protestants in Hungary. In Transylvania also, while their condition was more favorable, they were subject to not a little molestation. 1 History of the Protestant Church in Hungary, translated by J. Craig.


In Poland evangelical Protestants were secured by law in the enjoyment of their faith. But, as in Hungary, the tenor of the administration was by no means conformable to the law. This was especially true after the Swedish invasion, near the middle of the seventeenth century, had served to kindle fresh animosity. By the action of the Diet in 1669, the legal toleration was restricted, the abjuration of the Romish religion being made punishable with death or banishment. In the early part of the next century some other adverse clauses were put into the statute-book, and in 1724 a disturbance provoked by the misconduct of Jesuit students at Thorn was avenged by a group of judicial murders. 2 Krasinski, Reformation in Poland.


Toward the Socinians intolerance took the sterner form of a sweeping proscription. In the early part of the seventeenth century, they had a considerable following in the higher classes. Their school at Rakow became a flourishing seat of learning, and was patronized by Trinitarian Protestants, and even by Roman Catholics, as well as by those professing Unitarian beliefs. But a party whose tenets were so generally obnoxious held the right of existence by a very insecure tenure. In 1638, their school at Rakow was abolished, and twenty years later it was decreed that all Socinians, who should not embrace the Romish faith before a given date, should be banished from the country. For a large proportion of the exiles a refuge was found in Transylvania, Hungary, and Holland.


The interference of Louis XIV., and the accession of a Roman Catholic line, in the last part of the seventeenth century, subjected the Protestant people of the Palatinate to an odious and unfair propagandism in the interests of Romanism. At the same time, a more severe ordeal came upon the evangelical inhabitants in the archbishopric of Salzburg. Some were banished in 1684, but the crowning act of persecution took place in 1731 and 1732, when between twenty and thirty thousand, amounting to one tenth of the whole population, were ejected. Prussia profited by this, as by other instances of intolerance, and received into her territory the greater part of the refugees. Some found their way to Georgia, and built there the town of Ebenezer.

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