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Chapter 31

31 March 1829 ó 30 November 1830


Francesco Xaverio Castiglioni was born 20 November, 1761; like the preceding two "post-deadly wound" pontiffs, he was of noble birth. He was educated by the Jesuits and studied canon law in Bologna and Rome. In the latter university he co-authored a book on canon law with Professor Devoti. When the professor was appointed Bishop of Anagni, Castiglioni commenced his experience in clerical administration as the Bishopís vicar-general.

Later Castiglioni served in the same office under Bishop Severoli of Cingoli. These two men were later top candidates for election to the highest office of the church in 1823 but Severoli, the favorite of the cardinals, was vetoed by Austria; and Castiglioni, the candidate promoted by Austria, was rejected by the cardinals. Severoli never did grace the papal throne. His erstwhile vicar-general proved to be more fortunate.

Castiglioni was himself elevated to a bishopric, that of Montalto. But his refusal to swear allegiance to Napoleon led to his arrest in 1808 and imprisonment until 1814. Pius VII rewarded him, appointing him as Bishop of Cesena and named him a cardinal in 1816, promoting him to the See of Frascati. Popes appeared to possess no end of Bishoprics in Italy to distribute to their favorite sons.

Castiglioni well knew what it was to narrowly miss election as a pope and the scheming involved in defeat and victory alike. While the Roman Catholic church not infrequently presents a picture of the participants in Papal conclaves praying, seeking to discern Godís choice for this office, in fact in most conclaves the rules of politics, if such exist, appears a more appropriate description of the process. Not infrequently the two most preferred cardinals, and perhaps the most able, are so locked in battle that the supporters of both are quite intransigent, and while unable to achieve success for their preferred candidate, they are bent on preventing the other from receiving the mandatory two-thirds-plus-one votes. Thus a compromise emerges, one who is somewhat approved by the majority in both parties.

This situation was reported to have occurred in the 1978 conclave when the archbishops of Genoa and Milan were locked in such a contest for election. Locked they may have been but deadlocked they became. When this situation became evident, the body of cardinals moved to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland who had received only minor support in the early ballots.

Characteristically popes are elected by ballot with periods of discussion and bargaining between ballots which fail to provide the Roman Catholic Church with a Pope. It must not be overlooked that self-interest is not always forgotten by those who make the choice. They may not hold any realistic hope of election themselves, but there is little doubt that the maintenance of their posts or the hope of preferment to positions of influence beyond those already held frequently color the voting patterns. It should be remembered that unlike the papal office, positions in the Curia are not guaranteed for life. The new pope can promote or stifle ambition.

A further significant issue is the theological philosophy of the candidates. Some cardinals lean to liberal philosophies while others are reactionary. John Paul II certainly elevated many of the latter persuasion to the College of Cardinals.

There is also a long history of political involvement in the election of popes. Indeed, in the earlier years of elections politics was entrenched as the clergy and the people of Rome shouldered the responsibility to select the pope. It was inevitable in such a system that powerful nobles were able to control many elections, their own relatives and friends thus being elected.

This led, in 1059, to Pope Nicholas II decreeing that only cardinal-bishops should elect popes. There are only six cardinal-bishops, cardinals whose see is in the precincts of Rome. The great majority of cardinals are cardinal-priests, with fewer cardinals of the third tier being cardinal-deacons.

In 1179 Pope Alexander III, during the Third Lateran Council, extended the right of papal elector to all cardinals. While in theory Pope Nicholas II had annulled the right of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to confirm or veto papal appointments, the expansion of the electors to include cardinals from all parts of the Empire was used by the rulers of the European states to make their choice for the new pope emphatically known to the cardinals from their territory. Thus political influence remained, as in the 1823 conclave. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1963 edition, Vol. 6, p. 259 recorded, "It had of course long been the practice to instruct the cardinals of their nation to do their utmost to eliminate distasteful candidates; and they might even make public their desire to exclude certain candidates."

In the sixteenth century these potentates claimed the right to directly exclude candidates. The Austrian emperors exerted this claimed authority to the full as late as the election of 1903 when Austria vetoed Cardinal Rampollaís election and the conclave heeded the emperorís wishes and elected Cardinal Sarto, Pope Pius X. That same nation had attempted to influence all the six papal elections of the nineteenth century with the exception of the election of Pope Leo XIII in 1878. These historic facts should be fully weighed when assessing claims to papal infallibility.

While two secret ballots are held every day of a conclave until the requisite two-thirds plus one vote is obtained, this had not been the sole means of election. Although rarely used, popes have been elected by "inspiration." This form of election occurred when, on the first day of the conclave, the gathered cardinals unanimously proclaimed the election of the agreed pope. There have even been occasions when deadlocked conclaves have appointed three to seven of their number to serve as a form of nominating committee, nomination of which was final. But it is doubtful whether "inspiration" or "nominated compromise" will form a method of election in the modern era. However, in January, 2001, John Paul II decreed that if no one receives the two thirds plus one number of votes within thirteen days, election will be by simple majority. This alteration will markedly change the dynamics and tactics of the electors. Voters supporting a candidate who has obtained more than fifty per cent of the vote in an early ballot, but less than that now required, may stall the final decision until the thirteenth day and thus achieve their desire.

We wonder, when the cardinals sit in conclave in the Sistine Chapel, whether they take time to consider more than the artistic qualities of Michelangelo Buonarrotiís masterpiece, "The Last Judgment"? While not in any way minimizing the artistic genius displayed in that massive work of art which Michelangelo commenced in 1534 in his sixtieth year, in respect of the Biblical description of the Last Judgment, it was, by comparison, little more than a cartoon. He depicted Christ as a semi-clad muscular he-man presiding with the redeemed on one side of a river and the damned in torment on the other side. In view of the times in which he lived, it was not surprising that he chose to portray Martin Luther, who was yet living when he commenced the painting, on the side of the damned. Luther died five years after the painting was completed in 1541. But it is possible that Luther, in accord with Roman Catholic theology, was added to the painting after his demise, since Michelangelo outlived him by eighteen years.

One individual whom he most certainly made a later addition to that work of art, was a prominent contemporary cardinal. Incredibly Michel-angelo placed this unfortunate man with the damned, where he may still be seen. This was an act of spite since the cardinal, who supervised his artistic works in the Chapel, withheld Michelangeloís payment for his efforts, not on the ground that the painting was a pitiful parody of the Last Judgment, but because too many of the figures in the painting displayed nudity and thus desecrated the Chapel.

The cardinal, humiliated by the glee of many Romans over this insult, pled with Pope Julius III to force Michelangelo to erase his visage from the work of art. Unfortunately Julius had no liking for this cardinal, who had been appointed by an earlier pope, and was not of a mind to assist him in his request.

It may have been because, as Joseph Brusher asserts, Julius III was "more fond of ease and jollification than suited either his state or the times" that he excused his failure to comply with the request of the cardinal, pointing out, no doubt tongue in cheek, that although his word had power in heaven, he had no control over hell. Thus the cardinal was, in Michelangeloís view, destined for hell while still alive. This could well have been the case with Martin Luther also.

As the cardinals in the conclave peer at Michelangeloís masterpiece, we would question how many of those princes of the Roman Catholic Church are reminded of the genuine last judgment of God, and whether they contemplate tható

The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6)

If angels face such a judgment could not cardinals? Could not they, if unfaithful, see their future prophesied in that lone cardinal in Michel-angeloís artistic representation? We wonder if these prelates ever spend a moment in reflection remembering Christís pronouncement,

that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36)

As the Bishop of Frascati, Castiglioni was one of the six cardinal-bishops, prior to his election. The politics of the conclave saw that the cardinal favored of both Austria and France at last was elected.

While Pius VIII pursued a slightly more enlightened policy in the Papal States, nevertheless this characteristic did not extend to other policies. His condemnation of the Protestant Bible Societies, condemnations made by both Pius VII and Leo XII, revealed a consistent policy antagonistic to the spread of the Word of God. Indeed in his twenty-month-rule Pius issued only one papal encyclical, Traditi humilitati nostrae, in which he protested that the Bible Societies sponsored by Protestants were contributing to the breakdown of religious, social and political order. Here he demonstrated shortsightedness on the one hand and clear vision on the other.

It was true that the spread of the Word of God was the death knell to the religious, social and political milieu in Roman Catholic nations. This the pope clearly perceived. But his vision was clouded in that he failed to recognize that these changes in convictions and social conduct were to the great advancement of the societies involved.

Pius VIII insisted that Roman Catholics must not marry outside the faith unless the non-Roman Catholic spouse solemnly vowed to have all offspring educated in the Roman Catholic educational system. This brought friction with Lutheran Prussia which, in 1815, had overrun the predominantly Roman Catholic territories of Rhineland and Westphalia. Prussian law decreed that children must be educated in the faith of the father. From the Roman Catholic viewpoint Piusí demand was correct; but it ignored the intellectual enlightenment and social progress Protestantism had brought in its train. Even of far greater importance were the spiritual blessings which followed. To deny these benefits to children of mixed marriages was detrimental to all Europe and overseas countries where its influence held sway.

The initial advantages which the nations of Latin America estimated came from Leo XIIís wresting control of ecclesiastical appointments from Spain, led during Pius VIIIís reign to the introduction of reactionary church governance. It increased Papal influence in the Western Hemisphere, a region of the world which would, 150 years later, prove to be a great benefit in lifting the Vatican to the worldwide power it enjoys in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a position long foretold in Scripture. The progress may have proven gallingly slow from the viewpoint of Rome, but Rome ever has been patient in pursuing her course in fulfillment of her goals. Shrewdly she chooses her time and wisely makes significant moves when the circumstances beckon.

The end of the third decade of the nineteenth century was far from optimal for a rapid advance in Papal influence, but each positive step was eagerly taken and every opportunity seized.


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