« AnteriorContinuar »
Leo had in no respect belied the reputation which raised him to the throne : as a reformer, as a disciplinarian, as the champion of ecclesiastical supremacy he had been uncompromising. But the result was blank disappointment. The Sacred College had discovered that a despotic Pope was as little to their taste as a too powerful minister. As a ruler he had governed without success, as a reformer he had toiled in vain ; he had lived unbeloved, and he died unlamented. His hostility to Austria had been so marked, that for a considerable portion of his reign no ambassador from that court had resided at Rome. But the cabinet whose domineering spirit was then the object of jealousy was now regarded with hope and confidence as the bulwark of social order. Cardinal Albani, the representative of Austria, was believed to be absolute master of the conclave of 1829. But whether his influence would have extended to the elevation of one who was wholly unacceptable to the Sacred College cannot be known. Cardinal Castiglioni- was of spotless character, and was generally designated by the wishes of the assembly, and if he had any secret enemies their opposition was stifled by the reflection that his health was irretrievably broken and his days were numbered.
On the 23rd of February the Cardinals assembled for the election of the future Head of the Church. It was not till the 3rd of March that Cardinal Albani joined his colleagues, and the conclave was thought to be unusually short when it terminated before the close of the month. How under the circumstances it was protracted so long is the wonder of the uninitiated. But perhaps greater haste would have looked like precipitation, and would have shocked the prejudices and the vanity of many who wished at all events to be treated as if they had pretensions to the vacant throné. On the morning of the 30th, which it was generally felt would be the decisive day, Cardinal Vidoni, whose portly figure and sonorous voice may be still remembered by many English travellers—the wit, the bon vivant of the Sacred College---stopped as he left his cell to attend the scrutiny in the chapel, and eyed with compassion the Guardia Nobile on duty at the door. The officers of this corps are so far interested in the election that he whose good fortune it is to wait on the future pope obtains promotion and a donative. The cardinal, who was under no illusion as to his own claims, and probably thought with honest Sancho that if it rained tiaras from heaven none would fit his massive head-exclaimed in a tone of comic pity, • Povero sventurato, io ti compatisco!' ('Luckless youth, I pity thee !). The cardinal's prognostic was verified : in the course of a few hours the window was broken through, and Albani as senior
deacon proclaimed Pius VIII., not to the usual crowd, but to vacant space. A sudden and violent thunderstorm had dispersed the most intrepid and curious of the inquirers after news. The style adopted by the new Pope doubtless indicated his feelings of gratitude towards his early patron; but it was also dictated by circumstances which hardly left him the liberty of choice. Pius VII., who highly esteemed him and looked to him with hope as his successor, used jokingly to refer matters of future consideration to 'your holiness Pius VIII.;' and Leo had excused his preference of a title to which other associations were attached with a graceful compliment to Cardinal Castiglioni, for whom he said the title of Pius VIII. ought to be reserved. On this occasion Cardinal Wiseman observes: "To say the truth, one does not see why, if a Jewish high priest had the gift of prophecy for his year of office, one of a much higher order and dignity should not occasionally be allowed to possess it.' It is too common in the present day for Christians of all denominations to suppose that if they do not see why' any fanciful hypothesis of their own should be false, they are justified in assuming it to be true, and in tacking it on as 'a rider' to their creed. But without pausing to discuss the relative importance of the place appointed by God to the Jewish high priest in the old dispensation, and that assumed by the Pope for himself in the new, we beg to suggest to our English ultramontanists that it is too late to invent fresh papal pretensions in the present day, and that if it had been advantageous to the Holy See to assert the power of vaticination, the claim would have been made at least a thousand years ago.
Francesco Saverio Castiglioni was born in the year 1761 at Cingoli near Ancona, of an honourable and ancient family. In his person he was tall and thin, his features were strongly marked, and might have been pronounced handsome, but for a cast in the eye which gave them a harsh and sinister expression. He was distinguished early in life by his application to the study of canon law.
He was a pupil of Devoti, then one of its most eminent professors, and assisted largely, it is said, in the compilation of his great work on that subject. He was named to the see of Montalto by Pius VII. in the year 1800, and was constantly consulted by him in all ecclesiastical matters of difficulty. To the Bishop of Montalto was referred the examination of the documents relating to the marriage of Jerome Buonaparte, then under age, with Miss Paterson, an American Protestant--an union which the First Consul vehemently desired to annul, and the absolute invalidity of which he asserted with a confidence and impetuosity well calculated to take the dependent Pope by storm. It is to the honour of Pius and his adviser that in
disregard secution. * Vie de Pie VIII., p. 26.
disregard of political interests and of orthodox prejudices, they supported the cause of the defenceless bride. The Romish Church to her credit, though she abhors,' as we shall see presently more at length, all marriages with persons of a heterodox creed, does not sanction licentiousness by annulling marriages contracted in good faith, on the plea of difference of religious creed. It is also said that the Bishop of Montalto warmly opposed the Pope's journey to Paris to crown the new Charlemagne, the favourite measure of Consalvi, by which he hoped to save the sacerdotal tiara in the wreck of the temporal crowns of Europe, but which of all the acts of his life does least credit to his sagacity, He thought to ride on the crest of the ascending wave, and did not see that the bark of St. Peter was too heavy and cumbrous for the part assigned her by her pilot. It is creditable to the great minister that the irritation which the disappointment of his long-cherished scheme occasioned him did not affect his friendship for his faithful and more clear-sighted counsellor. Monsignor Castiglioni received a cardinal's hat in 1816; he was successively translated to Cesena and to Frascati, and ultimately was appointed Grand Penitentiary.
The new Pope was inured to intellectual labour, his habits were methodical and industrious, and his temper was said to be unambitious. He had numerous relations, but was determined to confirm the precedent of self-denial already established, In the early part of the conclave which had elected Leo XII., the leaders had nearly agreed among themselves to elevate Cardinal di Gregorio, but his known attachment to his brother and nephews induced them to revoke their determination. Pius VIII. would not betray the confidence reposed in him; he would even outdo the example of his predecessor, who had not scrupled to secure to his relations such advantages as he thought might be permitted without incurring the charge of nepotism. He wrote an affecting letter of farewell to his family, in which he deplored the heavy burden imposed on him, requested their prayers, deprecated the display on their parts of pride or pretension of any kind, and conjured them to remain at their posts,
Cardinal Albani, when he came forward in his place to perform the ‘first adoration' which precedes even the announcement of the election to the public, was immediately declared Secretary of State ; but whether his nomination was the spontaneous result of the Pope's judgment or gratitude, or merely the fulfilment of a previous compact, must be left to guess.
The Cardinal Giuseppe Albani was nephew to the Cardinal Giovanni Francesco, Pius VI.'s minister at the time of the French invasion, and so long the object of French vengeance and persecution. He was the head of his princely house, and together with his uncle's estates and rifled museums, inherited his claims, his resentments, and his principles. He was opposed to French interests, and would sometimes, M. Artaud tells us, clamour for the restitution of his property in a way which the French embassy thought highly indiscreet. On one occasion, when the corps diplomatique' were collected in the ante-room of the Emperor of Austria, at the Quirinal Palace, during his visit to Rome in the year 1819, Cardinal Albani, in the hearing of the whole company, attacked M. Artaud, then Secretary of the French Embassy, and demanded the restitution of his property from the legitimate government, unless they meant to stand sponsors for the acts of the imperial spoiler, and to constitute themselves the receivers of stolen goods. What avails it to tell me,' continued
• the cardinal, as I have often been told before, that my statues are inventoried, my pictures are numbered, my books are catalogued ?'' At this critical moment the embarrassed secretary looked for aid to his principal in vain. The Ambassador, M. de Blacas, thought fit to be absorbed in fixed attention on the door of the Imperial cabinet, which was momentarily expected to open for his admission. Just then M. de Gennotte, the Secretary of the Austrian Embassy, a man whose portentous obesity gave an air of grotesqueness and caricature to all his movements, came slowly forwards in the direction of the disputants. Dropping his head and fixing his eye with an air of deep abstraction, as if utterly unconscious of their presence, he gently pushed the cardinal on one side and the secretary on the other, and thus, to the infinite surprise and amusement of the whole party, stopped the discussion * by interposing the barrier of his unwieldy person. Whether his interference were designed or accidental it was impossible to guess from his manner, but nothing could be more opportune. The cardinal's attack was too earnest to pass for a joke his plea too true to be gainsaid. Evasions in the presence of so many unfriendly witnesses were very embarrassing, and the plain truth, which was that the restored sovereign dared not incur the unpopularity of restitution, could not be told. The cardinal was Austrian by judgment, by inclination, and alliance, for he was related to the imperial family through the house of Modena. Though well stricken in years (he was born in 1750, and consequently had reached his 80th year), he had preserved all the
energy and vivacity of youth, and if scandal did not belie him, some of its habits. If he had little learning he had strong natural talents, much experience of the world, ready wit, unusual powers of con
versation, and that perfect tact which familiarity with various classes of society alone can give. His family connections and his wealth gave him an ascendency which his talents alone might have failed to procure for him, and a substantive independence which few cardinal secretaries could boast. He was not in priest's orders, and was not held by public opinion to that rigid decorum which it now exacts from those who have undertaken the administration of things spiritual. He was a cardinal of the old school, a layman who had put on the livery of the church to secure the dignities and emoluments of her service. He was an aristocrat in his habits and in his sentiments, and somewhat (it is said) of a latitudinarian in practice and discourse. He could not have procured his own election, but he could create a Pope. Had he been a few years younger he would in spite of his defects have been the best minister of state the Pope could appoint. He had no fortune to make, no enemies to depress, no supporters to reward. In the latter respect he resembled his master. The Pope was singularly fortunate in being free from those clouds of hangers on who usually gather round their patron on his elevation, intercept the
rays of favour, and close the avenues of access to his person.
A sovereign whose brief reign has barely allowed him time to manifest his good intentions and raise his people's hopes, but none to betray his weakness and excite their disappointment, is apt to obtain too large a share of the historian's praise. But at least Pius VIII. is entitled to the credit of a good beginning. If he made no professions in favour of reform, he did his best to prevent the recurrence of abuses. He let the law take its course; the Uditor Santissimo, by whose agency causes are evoked from the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals to be submitted to the arbitrary decision of the Pope, had in his days a sinecure: no instance of partiality or jobbing can be urged against him; and had his reign been prolonged, it is possible he might have corrected many of the worst abuses of the administration by suffering them to fall into desuetude.
In matters of a purely ecclesiastical nature he yielded to none of the Zelanti themselves in the zeal and energy with which he fought the battles of Rome. The encyclical letter which it is usual for the Pope to address to the Church on his accession contains a violent denunciation of the Bible Society and all other associations for propagating the Gospel; and in the many ecclesiastical discussions which were crowded into his short reign it is difficult to detect the character for moderation which was supposed to have retarded his advancement. In fact, between the most arrogant and the most moderate of Popes it is but Vol. 105.—No. 209.