The war of the Catholic kings against the Holy See and the election of Clement XIV

February 3, 2016                                                                                                                                       The Feast of Saint Blaise

This episode of the war of the Catholic kings against the Holy See was entirely new to me.  I had never heard of it before and I found it shocking and sad.  What were these monarchs thinking?  I had always thought that it had been the revolutionary governments of 1789 and after that destroyed the influence of the Catholic Church in Europe, but I was wrong.  These monarchs were the ones who did it.  These kings tried to force Clement XIII to publicly accept the infant duke of Parma’s restrictions on the liberties of the Church in the form of excessive taxation.  They were the ones who wanted to subject the Church to servitude to the state.  It is true that they were inspired by unfaithful ministers, many of whom were agents of the conspiracy, but it was they themselves who fell for the ruse when they still had the power to beat it back.  These monarchs who should have been protecting the Church and the Holy See instead attacked it.  They conspired to attack the Holy Father and aimed to subject the Successor of Saint Peter to their own wills.  And they paid for it with their thrones.  Their sons would not be kings, not in the manner of their fathers, or at least not for long.  And the formerly Catholic world has been ruled by the revolution ever since.

There are some amazing tools available today via the internet.  Despite the ravages of the conspiracy and its revolutions over the past quarter millennium in Europe it is still possible here and there to find first hand accounts of things that happened during the 18th century.  I looked through the website and discovered a fascinating article published in London in Lloyd’s Evening Post on Wednesday May 11, 1768. It is the extract from a ‘Letter from Rome’ that describes Pope Clement XIII’s encounter with the Spanish ambassador, a Mr. Azpuru, on the previous April 16 when the latter placed the demand of the three Bourbon Courts that required the submission of the Successor of Saint Peter to the will of the young duke of Parma.  It goes like this:

” In the audience which M. Azpurn, Minister from the King of Spain, had last Wednesday,
he strongly insisted on the revocation
of the Brief lately issued against the Duke of
Parma; but the Pope would not permit him
to finish what he had to say on the subject;
his Holiness taking him up very short, telling
him, ” That he was determined not to betray
his conscience, in retracing a sage and prudent
measure, which he could not have any
longer delayed without violating the Canons
and Ecclesiastical Rites, as well as the Pastoral’
Duty, with which he was invested; that he
was ready to suffer courageously all kinds of
hostilities, rather than desist from his lawful
authority ; and that he hoped God would defend                                                               this cause as his own.” On saying these
words, the Pontiff turned his eyes towards,
and kept them for some time fixed on, a Crucifix
which was in the  hall; and the Minister
took that opportunity to lay on his Holiness’s
table some Memorials, which he prayed him,
on taking leave, to read at his leisure.”
Letters from Paris mention, that insurrections
have lately happened there, occasioned
by the Pope’s Edict respecting Parma,

The writer of this letter, whoever he was, likely had no idea what was coming upon the world.  Maybe he didn’t even live to see it.  But Clement XIII knew; he knew something at least.  The way he kept his eyes on that crucifix tells us all we need to know.  Now on to the election of his successor.

The election of Clement XIV

Not surprisingly after the shameful and oppressive attitude they displayed towards Clement XIII the courts of Spain, France, and Naples went full force with bribes, threats, and intimidation to influence the conclave that was to elect his successor.

De Ravignan cites numerous reports and letters that indicate that it was the court of Spain that was the most enthusiastic in this regard.  Firstly it is important to understand that in the days of the Catholic monarchies there were Cardinals who could, to a certain extent, be more or less relied upon to do the will of their secular sovereign in the conclaves.  They were called ‘crown Cardinals.’  The Spanish court wished to make use of some of these Cardinals, a Cardinal Orsini of Naples in particular, to make a demand both publicly and to require privately that the next pope submit the Church in Parma to the duke of Parma’s edict and to agree to the complete and total suppression of the Society of Jesus within a year.  The Spanish crown declared its flexibility on the issue of the Duke of Parma and left its implementation in the hands of its ambassador, but the issue of the Jesuits was non negotiable.

To their credit the so called crown Cardinals refused to do this, declaring it to be a dangerous and illegitimate move.  This was much to the consternation of the Spanish government who resorted, through the French ambassador in Rome the Marquis d’Aubeterre, to not so subtle threats of violence if the conclave did not bend to their will.  In the end a surprise candidate (which is usually the case in papal conclaves) ended up being elected on May 19, 1769: a Franciscan Giovanni Vicenzo Antonio Ganganelli who took the name Clement XIV in memory of his predecessor who had elevated him to the cardinalate.

Rumors swirled in later years that the Cardinals loyal to the Bourbon courts extracted some sort of promise or oath from Cardinal Ganganelli prior to his election that he would comply with their demands and suppress the Society of Jesus.  Though he would suppress the order four years later no firm proof has ever emerged that he gave such an oath in return for being named pope.  In any case the pontificate of Clement XIV had begun.  It would last little more than five years but the results of the total extinction of the Jesuits, an extinction that would endure for four tumultuous decades, that occurred during his reign can still be felt in our own day.

Go to Confession and please pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.



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