Biography - Pope Clement XII - The Papal Library

Clement XII1730-1740 Lorenzo Corsini born 1652 We are now to examine the reign of Clement XII, an illustrious countryman of the noble family of Medici. Clement XII (Lorenzo Corsini), of a most illustrious family of Tuscany, was born at Florence, April 7, 1652. His father was Bartolomeo Corsini, Marquis of Casigliano; his mother, Isabella Strozzi, sister of the Duke of Bagnuolo. The Corsini family originated at Florence. It descended from Corsino, whose son was lord of Castelluccio and Poggibonsi, about 1150. Thomas, Philip, John, Peter, Gerard, rose to the dignity of gonfaloniers, supreme magistrates the republic. Thomas was also ambassador to Sienna, Bologna, Milan, and Rome, as well as to the Emperor Wenceslas and the King of Hungary. Philip, his son, was employed in the same embassies and repeatedly sent to France. Peter Corsini, Bishop of Florence, and subsequently cardinal, had been accredited by Urban V as legate to the Emperor Charles IV, from whom he obtained, in 1371, the title Prince of the Holy Empire, in consideration of his services in restoring peace. Among other glories of the family is that of having given to earth and to heaven Saint Andrew Corsini, a Carmelite, who died in 1374 and was canonized in 1629 by Urban VI. Neri Corsini, who succeeded his brother Andrew in the see of Fiesole, also by his virtues obtained the title of Blessed. Bartolomeo Corsini, Marquis of Casigliano in Umbria, of Lajatico and Orciatico, and of other places which formerly belonged to the family of the Marquis Malaspina, was son of Philip Corsini and Lucretia Rinuccini, and consequently great-nephew of Clement XI. He became great equerry to the Grand Duke of Tuscany and King of Naples; viceroy of Sicily in 1737; prince assistant to the throne; Duke of Saint Columba in 1738, and grandee of Spain in 1739. Lorenzo made his first studies in the Roman College, where he was placed at the age of fifteen. He was the fourth pupil of that college who became pontiff. Having received the doctor's cap at Pisa, he went to Rome to complete his studies under the direction of his uncle, Cardinal Neri Corsini. Being recalled by his father, he made a brief stay at Florence. At the age of thirty-three years he returned to Rome, where he abandoned his rights of primogeniture and embraced the ecclesiastical profession. Under Innocent XI, Lorenzo entered the prelacy and commenced forming a library. In 1691 he was made Bishop of Nicomedia, and was then named for the nunciature at Vienna, to which residence, however, he did not proceed. On the 17th of May, 1706, he was created cardinal, but, as he filled the post of treasurer-general, he could only hold the title of pro-treasurer. After the Mass of the Holy Ghost, on the 5th of March, 1730, twenty-six cardinals who were in Rome entered into conclave. On the day of the election the number of cardinals present had increased to fifty-three. During five months the sacred electors discussed the merits of their colleagues Ruffo, Imperiali, Zondadari, Banchieri, Davia, and Corradini; each of whom seemed to be on the point of obtaining the chair of Saint Peter. Cardinal Imperiali, who on one day needed only one vote to become pontiff (a cardinal cannot vote for himself), was excluded by Cardinal Bentivoglio, in the name of the King of Spain. Cardinal Ruffo was then supported with much firmness, but the votes were less favorable when it became known that he was a friend of Cardinal Coscia, the late minister of Benedict XIII. Cardinal Davia, on the 10th of June, obtained twenty-nine votes, but thirty-six were needed to make two thirds of the fifty-four cardinals then present. On the 16th of June Cardinal Corradini had thirty votes; then Cardinal Bentivoglio. who had expended his exclusion and could not pronounce another, declared that if Corradini were elected the Spanish cardinals and he, Bentivoglio, would instantly leave Rome. A pamphlet appeared upon that subject, under the title of Bellum Corradinum, assailing that cardinal. Moreover, Cardinal Cienfuegos had the emperor's orders to exclude Cardinal Corradini. The question was how to vanquish the repugnance of the imperialists, who for a long time were opposed to the partisans of Corsini; but at length he elected by fifty-two cardinals, on the 12th of July, 1730. was then seventy-eight years old. He chose the name of Clement XII, in memory of Clement XI, his benefactor, who had given him the purple. Having been crowned on the 16th of July, he took possession of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran on the 19th of November. The ministers of Benedict XIII had excited the the Romans. Cardinal Coscia, who had abused the power which he held under that pope, had taken shelter at Cisterna, with the Prince of Caserta. The Sacred College sent His Eminence a safe-conduct to enable him to attend the conclave. Scarcely was Clement XII elected when Coscia was deprived of all right of choosing or being chosen in the congregations. Some other members of the court of Benedict were also called to account for their frauds upon the kindliness of Benedict-that pontiff whose excessive good nature was only too well known and too much practised upon. For this trial the pope named a congregation of six cardinals, and gave to it the most ample powers to proceed against the actors in the offence against the most delicate and the most revered of laws. Coscia received an order not to leave the pontifical territory, and he was at the same time notified that he was not to exercise in any manner the archiepiscopal ministry in his diocese of Benevento. Coscia having refused to renounce that authority, his trial proceeded before the congregation Nonnullis. The government at the same time deemed it necessary to order the arrest of Monsignor Coscia, Bishop of Targa, brother of the cardinal, and several cardinals and other Beneventians who had offended under the former reign. Cardinal Coscia was condemned to restore to the treasury the sum of two hundred thousand crowns, which he had improperly received in contempt of the Gregorian and Innocentian laws—De Datis and De Acceptis. He solicited from Clement the favor of not being confined in the Castle of Sant' Angelo, which the pontiff generously granted. Cardinal Coscia then begged Cardinal Cienfuegos, minister of the emperor, to give him a passport, and he fled from Rome to Naples, disguised successively as an ecclesiastic, a monk, and a layman. An interdict was the punishment of his disobedience, and all his personal property was sold for the benefit of that apostolic chamber which he had so much plundered. The pope having subsequently threatened Coscia with excommunication and deprivation of the purple, should he not at once return to Rome, he came back in 1732, and was then confined in the monastery of Saint Praxedes. Lotteries originated at Genoa, and made their way to many other countries. Innocent XIII had permitted them in the Ecclesiastical States; but Benedict XIII, by his constitution of the 12th of August, 1727, had strictly forbidden them. Clement XII, considering the great amount of money that left Rome for Genoa, allowed the establishment of a lottery, in spite of the dissenting representations of the cardinals; and, in fact, very considerable returns of money accrued. The Papal States drew a considerable revenue from a tax equally objectionable and contrary to sound rules. Meantime the Corsicans revolted against the government of the republic of Genoa. In order to maintain themselves in their new situation, they sent to Rome, as their agent Paul Orticoni, to invite the pope to take the government the island. Notwithstanding the titles which so completely justify the offer made by the Corsicans to Pope Clement XII, that pontiff, instead of accepting, thought it more fitting to present himself as a mediator between the disputants. He sent a brief to the Archbishop of Genoa, Nicholas Franchi, whom he directed to communicate the desire of His Holiness to the senate; but the senators repulsed the proposal. The pontiff, who assuredly merited a better reception, manifested his grief. On the 15th of July, 1731, De Vintimille, Archbishop of Paris, after informing Rome of what had taken place under his own eyes, published a pastoral on a miracle attributed to the intercession of Deacon Paris. Francis de Paris, deacon of the diocese of Paris, who died on the 1st of May, 1727, had always lived in obscurity, and even, as it was said, in the austerities of penance. He was buried in the little cemetery of the parish of Saint Medard, where, by degrees, his tomb became the meeting-place of a credulous crowd. The attraction of novelty and the success of interested views drew to that cemetery a multitude who, from those motives, were led to believe, upon the slightest possible evidence, whatever was told to them. One of the first of the alleged miracles was wrought, it is said, on a girl named Lefranc. If we believe the published account, nothing could exceed the frightful state to which he was reduced. Great oppression, a general swelling, spiting of blood, raging fever, total prostration, loss of sleep and of sight, all this disappeared instantly at the tomb of Deacon Paris. Certificates of one hundred and twenty witnesses attested the fact. Who would not deem so well attested a miracle beyond dispute? Yet truth soon dawned. he Archbishop of Paris ordered an official investigation. Forty witnesses were examined, among whom were the mother, brother, and sister of Anne Lefranc, and the surgeons who had attended her. Her disease was not beyond remedy. In fact, the Lefranc family disavowed the miracle and contradicted the alleged facts. The fraud being discovered at Paris, the Jansenists of Holland endeavored to create a sensation in their favor by some very striking event; and a girl of Amsterdam was cured by kissing the rochet of Barchman, Archbishop of Utrecht, who drew up an official act of this wonder wrought by his intercession. Finally the Archbishop of Paris published a wise and prudent criticism, followed by a formal ordinance, which first annihilated the prodigies which had been maintained by many rectors; then passed to some other pretended miracles, whose falsehood he demonstrated; denounced the ignomininous pretences of the convulsionists; and ended by declaring the statements destitute of proof and unworthy of belief, and by forbidding the publication of those and other miracles attributed to Deacon Paris. Unfortunately, two bishops, De Colbert and De Caylus,, partook of those errors. Their writings, condemned at Rome and suppressed by the king's council, were refuted by some of their colleagues. In 1734 it was made known to Rome that thirty missionaries had been expelled from China. The new emperor withheld from the Catholic religion the protection accorded by his father, the late emperor. Priests had been arrested in various provinces and sent to Canton for not being provided with the imperial patent. They were continually threatened with expulsion from China itself, but the pruder measures taken by the Jesuits at Peking for some time prevented that extreme measure. On the 18th of August the missionaries were ordered to leave Canton and retire to Macao, their protests and entreaties being alike disregarded. They were embarked on the 20th of August on board small craft. One of them died on the passage. Fifty Christians, who had followed the missionaries to Macao, were seized on their arrival by the mandarins, loaded with chains, taken back to Canton, where twelve of them were condemned to be bastinadoed and the rest imprisoned. The

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