Tag Archives: Papal History

Mayer, “The Roman Inquisition”

The Roman InquisitionThis month University of Pennsylvania Press published The Roman Inquisition by Thomas F. Mayer (Augustana College). The publisher’s description follows.

 While the Spanish Inquisition has laid the greatest claim to both scholarly attention and the popular imagination, the Roman Inquisition, established in 1542 and a key instrument of papal authority, was more powerful, important, and long-lived. Founded by Paul III and originally aimed to eradicate Protestant heresy, it followed medieval antecedents but went beyond them by becoming a highly articulated centralized organ directly dependent on the pope. By the late sixteenth century the Roman Inquisition had developed its own distinctive procedures, legal process, and personnel, the congregation of cardinals and a professional staff. Its legal process grew out of the technique of inquisitio formulated by Innocent III in the early thirteenth century, it became the most precocious papal bureaucracy on the road to the first “absolutist” state.

 As Thomas F. Mayer demonstrates, the Inquisition underwent constant modification as it expanded. The new institution modeled its case management and other procedures on those of another medieval ancestor, the Roman supreme court, the Rota. With unparalleled attention to archival sources and detail, Mayer portrays a highly articulated corporate bureaucracy with the pope at its head. He profiles the Cardinal Inquisitors, including those who would play a major role in Galileo’s trials, and details their social and geographical origins, their education, economic status, earlier careers in the Church, and networks of patronage. At the point this study ends, circa 1640, Pope Urban VIII had made the Roman Inquisition his personal instrument and dominated it to a degree none of his predecessors had approached.

Jeffery J. Langan, “The French Revolution Confronts Pius VI”

Layout 1This February, St. Augustine Press will publish The French Revolution Confronts Pius VI translated by Jeffery J. Langan (Holy Cross College). The publisher’s description follows.

The writings of Pope Pius VI, head of the Catholic Church during the most destructive period of the French Revolution, were compiled in two volumes by M.N.S. Guillon and published in 1798 and 1800. But during the Revolution, the reign of Napoleon, and the various revolutionary movements of the 19th century, there were extraordinary efforts to destroy writings that critiqued the revolutionary ideology. Many books and treatises, if they survived the revolution or the sacking from Napoleon’s armies. To this day, no public copy of Guillon’s work exists in Paris.

Now, for the first time in English, these works comprising the letters, briefs, and other writings of Pius VI on the French Revolution are available. Volume I treats the first shock of the Revolution and the efforts of the Pope in 1790 and 1791 to oppose the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (which famous revolutionary and shrewd diplomat Talleyrand referred to as “the greatest fault of the National Assembly”). Volume II will be published later, and deals with the aftermath of the Civil Constitution through Pius’s death in exile). Editor and translator Jeffrey Langan presents the materials leading up to and directly connected with these decrees, in which the National Assembly attempted to set up a Catholic Church that would be completely submissive to the demands of the Assembly. Volume I also covers Pius’s efforts to deal with the immediate aftermath of the Constitution after the National Assembly implemented it, including his encyclical, Quod Aliquantum.

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Beam Reviews Fosi’s “Papal Justice”

This is an informative and very positive review by Sara Beam of Irene Fosi’s book, Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750, which we noted here some time ago.  A bit from the review:

Fosi focuses on the ways in which the Roman courts sought to extend papal control over its temporal territory, a region in central Italy bordered by the Kingdom of Naples in the south and reaching in the north just beyond the city of Bologna. The bulk of Fosi’s analysis focuses on the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a period of state centralization and religious orthodoxy. Courts at the heart of the papal enterprise, such as the governor’s tribunal and the Roman Inquisition, were key tools in the pope’s efforts to create a hegemonic state out of disparate regions with strong local traditions of governance. Like waves lapping on the shore, the efforts of the papal courts to undermine the traditional privileges of the nobility, to correct the religious doctrine of its subjects, and to bring the authority of local bishops under the control of Rome were gradual, uneven, and yet relentless. They were also often less than completely successful, and Fosi endeavors to tease apart the aims of the government from the reality of judicial practice. Grounding her analysis in decades of intensive work in the Roman criminal archives, she shows how the rules of justice functioned while at the same time, she remains attentive to the negotiations between different courts and the frequency with which legal disputes were settled outside of the court system. Justice, for Fosi, was a fundamental component of early modern state-building not because it was always rational and systematic, but rather because it was sufficiently flexible to adapt to local conditions and mediate between competing power-brokers.  

Duffy’s “Ten Popes Who Shook the World”

Historian Eamon Duffy (Cambridge) is justly famous for his magnificent book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, in which he detailed the situation of English Catholicism at the hands of the Tudor monarchy during the Protestant Reformation.

He will soon publish Ten Popes Who Shook the World (Yale UP 2011), which looks to be a wonderful treatment of several of the most important popes in history.  Unlike some other books about the papacy which have recently been published, this is sure to be a serious, though still readable, study.  I only wish that Duffy had included Pope Leo XIII.  As my old students in Catholic Social Thought and The Law will remember, Leo XIII was a deeply important and influential pope.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

The Bishops of Rome have been Christianity’s most powerful leaders for nearly two millennia, and their influence has extended far beyond the purely spiritual. The popes have played a central role in the history of Europe and the wider world, not only shouldering the spiritual burdens of their ancient office, but also in contending with – and sometimes precipitating – the cultural and political crises of their times. In an acclaimed series of BBC radio broadcasts Eamon Duffy explored the impact of ten popes he judged to be among ‘the most influential in history’. With this book, readers may now also enjoy Duffy’s portraits of ten exceptional men who shook the world.

The book begins with St Peter, the Rock upon whom the Catholic Church was built, and follows with Leo the Great (fifth century), Gregory the Great (sixth century), Gregory VII (eleventh century), Innocent III (thirteenth century), Paul III (sixteenth century), and Pius IX (nineteenth century). Among twentieth-century popes, Duffy examines the lives and contributions of Pius XII, who was elected on the eve of the Second World War, the kindly John XXIII, who captured the world’s imagination, and John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 450 years. Each of these ten extraordinary individuals, Duffy shows, shaped their own worlds, and in the process, helped to create ours.. Each of these ten, Duffy shows, was an extraordinary individual who helped shape the world we know today.

Fosi’s “Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750″

Readers interested in the late history of ecclesiastical law may want to check out Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750 (CUA Press 2011), by Irene Fosi (G. D’Annunzio, Chieti-Pescara) (translated by Thomas V. Cohen).  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

In early modern Europe, justice was always the key to public order and the state’s main pillar. The pope, though the head of the church, was also a prince like any other, but his justice, as machinery and moral model, displayed the double nature of his rule, targeting not only actions but also beliefs and consciences. Irene Fosi, the doyenne of scholars of papal justice, lays out the ambitious, complex, and sometimes baffled endeavors of the pope’s magistrates and through lively anecdotes gives the flavor of the encounter between the pope’s assorted magistrates, inquisitors, and others, and the men and women hauled before the law.

Originally published in Italian and widely acclaimed, Papal Justice has been translated into English by Thomas V. Cohen, professor of history at York University. With the English edition, this lively overview of the papal justice system reaches a transatlantic readership and makes available the fruit of Fosi’s decades-long research in unpublished archives in Rome and the Vatican.

The book examines the very motley shape of the pope’s territorial domain, the institutions found there, and the relationships between Rome and its outlying cities. Microhistories of how things worked form a clear picture of relations between the sovereign and his subjects.