Pope Paul IV (1555-59)
Who was Pope Paul IV?
Pope Paul IV was born near Benevento, 28 June, 1476; elected 23 May, 1555; died 18 Aug., 1559. The Caraffa were one of the most illustrious of the noble families of Naples, and had given distinguished scions to Church and State. The name of Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa recurs frequently in the history of the papacy during the days of the Renaissance.
One of the great cardinal's merits was that of superintending the training of his young relative, Giovanni Pietro, whom he introduced to the papal Court in 1494, and in whose favour he resigned the See of Chieti (in Latin, Theate), from which word he was thenceforward known as Theatinus. Leo X sent him on an embassy to England and retained him for some years as nuncio in Spain.
His residence in Spain served to accentuate that detestation of Spanish rule in his native land which characterized his public policy during his pontificate. From early childhood he led a blameless life; and that longing for asceticism which had prompted him to seek admission into the Dominican and the Camaldolese Orders asserted itself in 1524 when he persuaded Clement VII, though with difficulty, to accept the resignation of his benefices and permit him to enter the congregation of clerics regular founded by St. Cajetan, but popularly named "Theatines", after Caraffa, their first general.
The young congregation suffered more than its share during the sack of Rome in 1527, and its few members retired to Venice. But the sharp intellect of Paul III had perceived the importance of the institute in his projected reform of the clergy, and he summoned the Theatines back to Rome. Caraffa was placed by the pontiff on the committee named to outline the project of reform of the papal Court; and on 22 Dec., 1536 he was created cardinal with the title of San Pancrazio. Later he was made Archbishop of Naples; but, owing to the emperor's distrust and fear of him, it was only with difficulty he could maintain his episcopal rights. Although Caraffa was highly educated and surpassed most of his contemporaries in the knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, still he remained throughout medieval in life and thought. His favourite author was St. Thomas Aquinas.
The few opuscula which he found time to write were Scholastic in character. For the party of Pole, Contarini, and Morone he had the most heartfelt detestation; and his elevation boded them no happiness. Caraffa was the head and front of every effort made by Paul III in the interest of reform. He reorganized the Inquisition in Italy on papal lines and for a generation was the terror of misbelievers. How so austere a person could be chosen pope was a mystery to everyone, especially to himself. "I have never conferred a favour on a human being", he said. It is most likely that the octogenarian would have refused the dignity, were it not that the emperor's agent, Cardinal Mendoza, had pronounced decidedly that Charles would not permit Caraffa to be pope.
This was to challenge every principle for which the aged cardinal had stood during his long career. He was elected in spite of the emperor, and for four years held aloft the banner of the independence of Italy. Historians seem to be unjust towards Paul IV. That unbending Italian patriot, born whilst Italy was "a lyre with four strings", Naples, Rome, Florence, and Venice, was certainly justified in using the prestige of the papacy to preserve some relics of liberty for his native country. The Austrian and Spanish Habsburgers treated Paul IV with studied contempt, and thus forced him to enter an alliance with France. Neither in the matter of the succession to the empire nor in the conclusion of the religious peace were the interests of the Holy See consulted in the slightest degree.
Paul IV elevated to the cardinalate his nephew Carlo Caraffa, a man utterly unworthy and without any ecclesiastical training, and enriched other relatives with benefices and estates taken from those who favoured the Spaniards. At the end of the unfortunate war with Philip II the aged pope lost faith in his nephews and banished them from the Court. Still more disastrous were his relations with England, which had been reconciled to Rome by Mary, and Cardinal Pole. Paul IV refused to sanction Pole's settlement in regard to the confiscated goods of the Church, and demanded restitution.
Pole himself was relieved by the pontiff of his legatine office and ordered to come to Rome to stand before the Inquisition. Upon the death of Mary and Pole, he rejected Elizabeth's claim to the crown, on the ground that she was of illegitimate birth. His activity was more fruitful in the spiritual concerns of the Church. He could boast that no day passed without seeing a new decree of reform. He made the Inquisition a powerful engine of government, and was no respector of persons. The great Cardinal Morone was brought before the tribunal on suspicion of heresy and committed to prison. Paul established the hierarchy in the Netherlands and in the Orient.
The pontificate of Paul IV was a great disappointment. He who at the beginning was honoured by a public statue, lived to see it thrown down and mutilated by the hostile populace. He was buried in St. Peter's 19 Aug., 1559, and was later transferred to S. Maria sopra Minerva.
- Catholic Encyclopedia