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Biography - Pope Paul IV - The Papal Library

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Paul IV1555-1559 Gian Pietro Carafa born 1476 The reform spirit continued to prevail after the sudden death of Marcellus II. The cardinals chose the seventy-nine year old reformer, Cardinal Carafa. The new pope had founded an order, the Theatines, who provided a recruiting ground for excellent bishops. He himself had been Archbishop of Naples and, since his elevation as cardinal by Paul III, the leading representative of the reforming spirit at Rome. He was a very different man from his predecessors. Rigidly orthodox, austere in life, he had a high view of the superiority of the clerical over the secular order. In particular his experience at Trent had convinced him - unjustly -; that the emperor, Charles V, really favored the Protestants in Germany. He was very authoritarian in manner and would brook no opposition. In spite of this he was still enough of a renaissance pope for one of his first acts to be to make his quite unsuitable nephew a cardinal. This young man had shown no sign of a clerical vocation until his uncle became pope. He immediately underwent a very dubious conversion and, having gained his cardinal's hat, soon became the pope's principal adviser in political matters. Pope Paul had no taste for politics and was ready to leave these affairs to his nephew so that he could devote himself to the reform of the Church. The result of this was that Paul found himself involved in a series of dangerous political intrigues. The unworthy Cardinal Carafa realized that his uncle could not live long and that he must make his fortune quickly. He accepted a pension from the French and worked on the pope's hatred of Charles V to persuade him to make an alliance with the French. In fact he committed the pope much more deeply than he allowed him to know. The Emperor Charles V, worn out with a lifetime of constant care, abdicated in 1555. His domains were split. His son, Philip, became king of Spain, and was soon embroiled with the French. The pope found himself at war with the Spanish. The war was disastrous and in August 1587 the Duke of Alba surrounded Rome at the head of a Spanish army. Cardinal Carafa made a volte-face and made a truce with the Spanish, who fortunately had no wish to quarrel with the pope. Paul now decided to devote himself exclusively to a root and branch reform of the Church. He was prepared to do what previous popes had in the last resort fought shy of: he was ready to purge episcopate and Curia of their venality. He was in particular determined to make no more cardinals for political reasons. The vast majority of his creations, and they were numerous, were unknown men appointed for their spiritual and religious qualifications. He put in hand a vast reform of the papal administration and set himself to stamp out the trafficking of the principal places in the Curia. He was patron of the Jesuits, though by imposing choir duties on them he seems to have misunderstood their distinct vocation. Perhaps the most striking illustration of the effect of the new broom in the Vatican is the fall of Cardinal Carafa. The pope's confidence in this wretch survived the debacle of his political plans. The cardinal lived a scandalous and luxurious life which was eventually revealed to the pope. Without hesitation the pope ruined him and condemned him in the most public fashion. Although Paul was at fault for making him cardinal in the first place - and had given other members of his family high office - his nepotism was a very different thing from that of the Borgia or Medici popes. Henceforth nepotism was found in papal affairs only in comparatively trivial offices. The pope's stern attitude towards his cardinals extended to some, Morone and Pole, who were, extremely unfairly, treated as heretics and even imprisoned. But at least this pontificate saw the beginnings of reform in Rome itself without which even the decrees of councils might remain dead letters. At the very end of his life he set out to end the scandal of non-resident bishops. He found, as was customary, flocks of bishops living in Rome on pretext of business. From 113 in 1556 he reduced their number to less than a dozen by 1559. He maintained his austere life and fasted regularly even in his last illness. He died on 18 August, 1559. *Disclaimer*—This biographical data is from The Popes edited by Eric John. Published by Hawthorn Books, Inc of New York. We have attempted to contact the publishing company which is apparently out of business. If there is a problem with using this material please contact the Project Manager

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