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If the press could not be destroyed, it might possibly be controlled. This policy was adopted by the fifth Council of Lateran (A.D. 1515), which ordained that no books should be printed without being examined and approved by the master of the sacred palace at Rome, the inquisitor, or the bishop of the diocese in which the printer lived. Disobedience exposed the offender to excommunication. But this had no effect on Protestant presses. It was requisite that something should be done to prevent Roman Catholics from reading publications issued by their opponents, and this object could not be accomplished but by printing indexes or catalogues of such works. The most complete that had yet appeared was sent forth by Paul IV. in 1559. A decree accompanied it, to the following effect :—that if any one should dare to buy, sell, print, or cause to be bought, sold, or printed, any of the works therein mentioned-or should borrow, give, receive, or possess them, he should incur the awful penalty of excommunication. Then followed a list of sixty-one prohibited printers, whose presses were interdicted with equal severity.* Still the evil was not exterminated, and new works being published from time to time, no index could be long complete, but must require frequent revision and enlargement.
Several meetings were held before the fathers came to a decision. Although there was no division on the main question, they differed with regard to the means of effecting the object. Some thought that the late Pontiff's index was both faulty and defective, and that it needed a careful revisal. The Archbishop of Granada recommended that the work should be intrusted to the universities of Bologna, Paris, Salamanca, and Coimbra. Others advised to call in the assistance of those who had prepared Paul the Fourth's Index, and suggested that it would be unnecessary to read the works of acknowledged heretics, which might be forth with condemned; only books of doubtful tendency required examination. The general of the Eremites recommended a scrupulous care in distinguishing the good from the evil, since it would be discovered that many volumes containing here and there a hurtful sentence were otherwise well-adapted for instruction; a suitable expurgation would restore them to the public, fitted for use. In the issue, however, all acquiesced in the opinion of the Patriarch of Jerusalem,-namely, that the proposed measure, though difficult of execution, would be fraught with advantage to the church, and that the best plan would be to place the whole business in the hands of a committee, to be appointed by the legates.*
* Mendham's “ Literary Policy of the Church of Rome,” pp. 22—29.
The eighteenth session was held February 26. A papal brief was read, authorizing the council to prepare a catalogue of prohibited books : this expedient was adopted by Pius, lest it should be said that the council was superior to the Pope, which the proposed revision of Paul the Fourth's index would seem to imply. The decree adverted to the wide dissemination of pernicious,—that is, heretical books, and the importance of interfering to avert the dangers to which the souls of men were exposed thereby, and separate the tares from the wheat. Then, in a strain of affected tenderness and compassion, the dissidents from the Romish communion were invited to the council, and exhorted not to harden their hearts nor seek to please themselves, but to listen to the wholesome admonitions of the church, and turn at her reproof. A committee was subsequently appointed by the legates, to prepare the catalogue of prohibited books; the result of their labours will appear in the sequel.
At the request of the Emperor, the discussion of doctrinal points had been postponed, to give time for the arrival of the Protestants, whom he hoped to persuade to attend the council; that hope, however, proved fallacious, for the experience of past years afforded no encouragement to the friends of scriptural truth and religion, and warned them to place no reliance on any assembly controlled by the Pope. In compliance with the imperial wishes, the propriety of issuing a safe-conduct was discussed. Thomas Stella, a Dominican, objected to it altogether. The heretics, he said, were treacherous foxes and venomous vipers, and it would be a most dangerous indulgence to suffer them to come near the council. Some feared that so many would take advantage of the permission that the fathers would be overwhelmed by numbers, and, perhaps, exposed to violence. The Archbishop of Granada remarked, that while he acknowledged and lamented the deep depravity of the heretics, he trusted that they would come to the council as to a salutary laver, where the foxes would wash away their treachery, and the vipers their venom; he advised that the safe-conduct to be issued should be an exact copy of that granted to the Germans in the fifteenth session, with an additional clause, extending the privilege to other nations. His advice was followed: the safe-conduct was published March 8, and copies transmitted to the European sovereigns.* But the German Protestants had already decided the question, and promulgated their reasons for rejecting the council. €
* Pallav. I. xv. c. 19. Sarpi, l. vi. s. 5. + Pallav. I. xv. c. 21. Sarpi, 1. vi. s. 9. The committee consisted of the Patriarch of Venice, five archbishops, nine bishops, an abbot, and two generals of orders. The legates furnished them with licences to read prohibited books, having received power from the Pope for that purpose, with strict injunctions, however, to grant the licence to such persons only whose “ piety' and “ zeal for the Catholic church” pointed them out as fit to be trusted with so great a liberty ----Mendham's Memoirs of the Council of Trent, p. 185
The legates had resolved to take the whole question of reform into their own hands. The management of this business was confided to Seripand, who was assisted by a select committee of prelates, privately appointed by himself and his colleagues.
Twelve articles were presented to the fathers for discussion, but they were received with little satisfaction. The bishops had thought to explore the length and breadth of papal abuses, but they now saw that a very slight and insufficient reform was intended, and could not refrain from expressing their discontent. In fact, the conduct of the legates began to be viewed with jealous distrust ; persevering opposition to their measures was not obscurely threatened ; they beheld the gathering storm with apprehension and dismay.
Of the twelve articles, the first and the last were the most important; that relating to ecclesiastical residence, this to the abuse of indulgences. When the debates commenced, the Patriarch of Jerusalem observed, that the question of residence had been discussed before, and that two remedies had been proposed for the evil which was so generally complained of,viz., the infliction of heavy penalties on non-residents, and the
* Pallav. I. xvi. c. 1.
Sarpi, ut sup. s. 10.
Le Plat, v. pp. 48–76.
removal of impediments to residence. With regard to the first, the council had already done all that was necessary, and had made good progress in the second: nothing now remained but to perfect the measures that were then begun. But the Archbishop of Granada was of a different opinion. He reminded the fathers that another and more effectual remedy had been proposed at the former meetings of the council-the declaration of the divine right of residence; that it had been discussed at great length, and would have been decided but for the unfortunate interruption of their proceedings. He regarded this as the only true and lasting cure for the disease, and strongly urged its adoption.
A violent and protracted contest followed. The question thus mooted became the rallying point of the opposing parties. On the affirmative side were the Spanish bishops, some few Italians, and all who sincerely wished for reform. On the negative appeared the larger portion of the prelates of Italy, and the hired creatures of the Pope, supported by the influence of the legates. Eleven congregations were held previous to any attempt at decision, during which time the council exhibited scenes of the most disgraceful tumult; and the sober dignity of theological debate was exchanged for the noise of passion and the fury of contentious zeal. When order was sufficiently restored, the votes were collected. The numbers were,- for the declaration of the divine right, sixty-six; against it, thirty-three; besides thirty-eight who gave their suffrages on the negative side, with this qualifying clause, —" unless the Pope be first consulted.”* Thus stated, the numbers appear to be almost equally balanced; but a large majority would have declared themselves on the affirmative side could they have ascertained that the Pope would consent. Their opponents were chiefly Italians. Of this circumstance his holiness was fully aware, and he could not but perceive that the spirit of reform was extensively diffused among the bishops. An opinion pretty generally prevailed, that the alarming growth of Protestantism could only be checked by an effectual restoration of ecclesiastical discipline, and that the former enact
* These debates are related at length by the historians of the council, but would be uninteresting to modern readers.
ments of the council were trivial, inadequate, and fruitless.
The prelates openly avowed their intentions: they said, that nothing effective could be accomplished till the court of Rome itself was reformed; and they even purposed to make the attempt, taking as the basis of their measures the memorable “advice” given by the committee of cardinals to Paul III.
The legates dispatched a trusty messenger to Rome, who took with him a scheme of reformation, comprised in ninetyfive particulars, and containing the substance of the bishops' demands. In the letters which he brought back with him, the Pope warmly expressed his indignation at the conduct of the opposition bishops, * admonished the legates to suffer nothing to be done that would be detrimental to his prerogatives or imply his inferiority to the council, and directed them to suppress the question of residence, if possible, or at any rate to defer the final decision to an indefinite period. To neutralize the expected opposition of the French bishops, who were supposed to be extremely zealous for reform, all the prelates then at Rome were collected and sent to Trent, the poor being bribed by pensions, and the rich by promises. Visconti, Bishop of Vintimilli, was commissioned at the same time as nuncio extraordinary, and dispatched to the council, in order to watch the proceedings of the legates and the conduct of the bishops, and forward accurate reports of everything that transpired ; in a word, to perform the office of a vigilant and active spy.t
At the nineteenth session, held May 14th, nothing had been done, as the French ambassadors were shortly expected, and had written to the legates to request the postponement of any decree till their arrival. They reached Trent a few days after. M. de Lanssac, who had recently been at Rome as ambassador extraordinary to the Pope; Arnold du Ferrier, president of the parliament of Paris; and Guy Faur de Pibrac, chief justice of Toulouse, were the chosen representatives of Charles IX. on this important occasion. They were tried men, of commanding talents, and a bold, free spirit, who were accustomed to cringe to none, nor would ever hesitate to declare their senti
• Le Plat, v. p. 165.