Reformers (1500s)


In the 1500s the prophecies of Savonarola and many others of divine punishment on the Church were fulfilled: the Church (and the Order of Preachers) lost one-third of Europe, England, Scandinavia, and came close to losing France and Poland, and Bohemia as well. At the same time the prophecies of renewal were also fulfilled by the Catholic Reformation of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the missions of the Church were extended to the vast New World.

In Germany Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar and doctor of theology, in 1517 brought to a head both the long festering resentment of the Germans against the political and worldly Renaissance Popes and the yearnings of German mysticism for an experiential, personal interpretation of the Gospel. Huldryck Zwingli in Switzerland and John Calvin in France formulated a more rationalistic and radical Reformed Church. Both Lutherans and Calvinists were influenced by the Humanism of the times to rest their interpretations of the Gospel on the biblical text independent of the living tradition of the Catholic Church which they regarded as hopelessly corrupt, while they also shared some of the apocalyptic anxieties we have seen in the previous century. Moreover, they pressed the emphasis on the preached Word, rather than on the sacraments, which we have seen was characteristic, in a more moderate form, of the mendicant friars. Thus, in some respects Protestantism took up certain themes dear to Dominicans but in a one-sided way. Was this one-sidedness in part the result of the fact that the Nominalism in which Luther was raised cut him off from the balanced views of Thomism, with whom it seems he had only a remote acquaintance?

On the other hand this tragic schism within the Christian fold at last forced the Catholic Church to complete its own reform which had begun much earlier with the inspiration of prophets like St. Catherine of Siena and Savonarola, and this reform gave it the energy to take one of its greatest expansions, the missions to the Americas and beyond.

The Catholic reform of the Church had become a concern of the papacy even before the Lutheran crisis. Leo X, who provoked this crisis by using indulgences as a means to building a new St. Peter's in Rome, had convened the reforming Council of the Lateran V in 1512 but failed to implement its decrees effectively. Throughout this century the Popes in their reforming efforts tended more and more to centralize church government in their own hands, including control over the religious orders. To promote reform or political interests the Popes and Cardinal Protectors regularly overrode the Dominican Constitutions and transferred elective Chapters to Rome under Vicars who were their candidates for Master of the Order. Vincent Bandelli, 1501, an observant of Lombardy was a brilliant and amiable Master, yet was rumored to be the model for Judas in the great Last Supper painted by Da Vinci in the convent where he was prior. Bandelli founded the observant Congregations of Ragusa in 1501 and of Ireland in 1505, but his general policy was to try to reform whole Provinces into which he incorporated the reluctant Observants, as when in 1505 the Province of Spain accepted reform he suppressed its Congregation. He did not suppress the Congregation of San Marco founded by Savonarola, but he discouraged the Prophet's cult and special customs. Yet he was blocked from reforming the royal convent of St. Maximin by its prior, Pierre Bonnetti, who had amassed the revenues of the offices of provincial, royal counselor, and superior of two Benedictine priories! Thus when in 1505 the Master reported on his visitations he had to lament, "On my way I found some consolations, but the reasons for sorrow and shame were greater." In 1506 he issued a new edition of the Constitutions and foiled Julius II's and Cardinal Protector Caraffa's efforts to set definite limits to the terms of superiors.

After Bandelli's death in Sicily in 1507, John Clerée, of the Congregation of Holland, a noted preacher, confessor to Louis XII, and reformer of the nuns and of St. Jacques in Paris, was elected by the King's favor (to Julius II's displeasure), but promptly died, some say by poison. Because the forced conversion of Jews in Spain had made their orthodoxy suspect, Clerée was the first Master to forbid their reception into the Order. His successor was the greatest Master of the century, Thomas de Vio, called "Cajetan the Brief" both in height and speech. His nose was large and aquiline, eyes squinting, intelligence incisive, will and temper powerful. A certain Duke on meeting him whispered to another Dominican, "Do you receive abortions into your Order!" At 26 the youngest Dominican, except Aquinas, to receive the doctorate, he taught at Padua and Pavia, and then became by Cardinal Caraffa's favor Procurator General and finally in 1508, against much opposition, Master of the Order. His first encyclical, only nine lines long, simply urged poverty and study.

Cajetan created the Province of Betica and divided the Congregation of Holland into the Gallican Congregation and the Province of Lower Germany. Unlike Bandelli, he did not insist on more rules, but on their prudent observance and he forbade for ten years, talk of visions and revelations by the San Marco Savonarolians. He opposed the schismatic Council of Pisa, called by the Emperor and King of France against Julius 11, while urging Julius to summon the reforming Lateran Council V in 1512, at which Cajetan stoutly defended papal authority against the concilarists and the mendicants against the bishops. He also revised the Constitutions and the liturgy, before being made cardinal in 1517. His major role in the Reformation crisis caused him to be ridden backward on an ass by a Lutheran mob through the streets of Rome in the siege of 1527. To his death in 1534 he continued to write innovative works.

Cajetan's Vicar, Garcias de Loaysa, a Spanish observant, frail in health, smooth of manner, was only forty when elected. His first encyclical enforced common life, forbade friars to keep money longer than 24 hours, and ordered priors to see all their friars ate as well as themselves. The elective Chapter approved the reform of the Scotch Province and an observant Congregation for Ireland. Loaysa visitated Naples, Sicily, and Spain where he became Charles V's confessor, angering those Dominicans who opposed Charles' succession and thought Loaysa a "climber" when in 1524 he resigned to become bishop, cardinal, and Grand Inquisitor, and a bitter opponent of Bartolomé de Las Casas in the Indies.

The famous theologian, Francisco Silvestri of Ferrara, an observant, was elected Master in 1525. He had been the director and biographer of Bl. Osanna D'Andreasi, and had written to defend the phenomena of stigmatization among Dominican mystics. The elective Chapter promoted studies and forbade exclaustrated friars (evidently then numerous) to wear the habit. In 1528 Silvester visitated North Italy and South France where he reformed the nuns, but on his way to Spain by boat, this over-weight theologian fell overboard, took cold, and died. The contemporary historian Sebastian Olmeda says that Paul Butigella promoted his own election to Master in 1530, although sick of the gout which a year later killed him. During his term in 1530 the Congregations of St. Mark and Tuscany were converted into the reformed Roman Province (most of the conventuals then became exclaustrated or secularized), the noted Congregation of Lombardy into the Province of the Two Lombardies' and those of Calabria and of Aragon into reformed provinces. Thus the only observant congregations left were the Gallican congregation and those of Naples, France, Ireland, and Poland. A single province, Holy Cross, centered in Santo Domingo, was created in the New World.

Jean du Feynier was elected in 1532 after the Cardinal Protector had so often changed the Chapter's location that the delegates wandered all over Europe before their arduous journeys again ended in Rome. Feynier was an amiable French conventual from Berne, reputed to grant dispensations too gratefully for gifts. Yet, after he visitated Spain and Portugal, in France he was jailed not only as a friend of Emperor Charles V, but also for refusing to permit Francis I to impose the noble Jeanne D'Amboise on the unwilling nuns of Prouille as prioress. Feymer died shortly after his release in 1538. The Chapter of Lyons in 1536, if not stopped by the Pope, would have changed the constitutional alternation of chapters of provincials and elected delegates.

Although Feymer accomplished little as Master, this period saw great events. From Luther's protest in 1517 to 1538 the Preachers had led the opposition, but in 1538 the Society of Jesus was officially approved with no little help from the Dominican theologians consulted by the Pope as to the orthodoxy of this radically new form of religious life. Meanwhile, the second American province, St. James of Mexico was founded in 1532, then St. John the Baptist of Peru in 1539.

Augustinus Recuperati, elected in 1539, died the next year (St. Catherine de Ricci is said to have seen him in a vision in hell!). His attempt to reform the Province of Portugal by sending in Spanish observants was resisted, and his methods in reforming the convent of Genoa were rebuked by the Pope. He witnessed the ruin of the English Province, isolated by the tyranny of Henry VIII since 1523, when the King made John Hilsey and Richard Ingworth successively provincial and then bishops. Six out of 53 convents apostatized but most Dominican friars and nuns fled to their families or the continent and the Order ceased to exist in England.

Albert de Casaus of the Province of Betica, the Emperor's candidate, was elected in 1542 but soon wished to resign, and in 1544 died suddenly at Valladolid, again with rumors of poisoning. A student of Garcia Loyasa and the historian Sebastian Olmedo, Albert had a speech impediment and was an authoritarian but able administrator who wished to set a term for the Mastership and to alternate an Italian and a non-Italian in the office. In 1542 at the urging of the Dominican Cardinal of Toledo, Juan Alvarez, Paul III instituted the Congregation of the Holy Office, although the Spanish Inquisition remained under royal control.

Francis Romeo de Castiglione loved solitude, but was taken by Feynier as a companion on visitations. On one such visit he became a friend of St. Catherine de Ricci. Elected in 1546 he visitated France (against royal resistance) and Spain where he rebuked the observants for their excessive concern with externals rather than interior spirituality. The Chapter of 1551 in Salamanca restricted the Master of Theology degree to veteran teachers in one of the Order's 27 Old and New World universities. Romeo attended the end of the first period (1545-47) of the Council of Trent and much of the second (1551-52), which many Dominicans attended. By this time the order had lost to the Reformation the five provinces of Scandinavia, England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany, but gained five new ones in the Americas when it divided the Province of Peru to form that of the Indies (St.Vincent) and of New Grenada (St. Antoninus). After Trent ended, Romeo died in Rome of a stroke.

Between the second and third period of Trent, Stephen Usodimare was Master (1553-57). A Genoese of a Spanish family, an observant, he was the Pope's candidate. His health made visitations impossible, so he occupied himself with writing a work to protect the privileges of the Order from Trent's restrictions on exemption. He also founded a hospice for the many brethren who came to Rome. Made Cardinal in 1557, he died the same year.

Next came another Genoese, Vincent Giustiniam, of a noble, wealthy family which gave many notable members to the Order. A student and Vicar of Usodimare, without papal pressure he was elected in 1558. His first letter lamented the ruin of the Saxon, Hungarian, and Bohemian Provinces. Soon the three French provinces were added to the list. The elective Chapter ordered each province to have only one novitiate and its many strictures on private life show conventualism was not yet dead. The Chapters also fought Protestant trends within the Order. Giustiniani's attempt at direct control of St. Jacques to maintain reform was prevented by the King, but he managed to visitate Spain, Aragon, Portugal, and even Southern France torn by religious war.

A Dominican, St. Pius V, was elected pope in 1566 and was present at the 1569 Chapter. He was born of a poor family. As a Dominican he had held the offices of novice master, prior of several communities, and inquisitor, known for his personal efforts to save the accused, and as bishop and cardinal for his concern for the poor. As Pope he continued this care, enforced the decrees of Trent on bishops, assisted the Oratorians and the Jesuits, sought to rescue Mary Queen of Scots, by prayer gained the rescue of Christendom for the Turks at Lepanto in 1571, but took the fatal decision to excommunicate Elizabeth of England. For the Dominicans he forbade apartments in convents, gave precedence to the Preachers among the mendicants, and interpreted the exemption decrees of Trent to permit Dominicans to preach in their own churches without episcopal license. He also sponsored new editions of the Constitutions in 1566 and of the works of St. Thomas in 1570. In the same year, Pius after sending Giustiani as a diplomat to Spain, made him cardinal. His nephew Cardinal Michel Bonelli was so long a Protector of the Order that his "protection" finally became near control.

St. Pius V also presided at the election of Seraphin Cavalli in 1571. Born at Brescia, tall, very thin, ascetic, but gracious in manner, Cavalli was nicknamed "The Pious." In 1559 as a Commissar of the Holy Office he had almost been killed by a mob storming the Vatican on the death of Paul IV. He had accompanied Giustimani in Spain and at Trent. He visitated Tuscany and Lombardy with its 69 convents and 17 smaller houses and 34 monasteries of nuns. At Pisa he was said to have miraculously cured Sister Malaspina who had been paralyzed for five years. He visitated France then enjoying a short peace from religious wars, and punished his Vicar for appealing to the King to retain his office. Cavalli also dared Calvinist persecution to visit the Low Countries. On the way to Spain, near Lyons, he escaped pursuing Huguenots by prayers that brought an unexpected ferry boat. In 1577 he dealt with the case of a convent in Spain which had become a refuge of criminals, visitated Sicily, and converted the Congregation of Abruzzi to the reformed Province of St. Catherine. After visitating the Province of Betica, he died at Seville in 1578. Crowds fought for his relics as those of a saint.

In 1580 Cardinal Bonelli pressured the electors to pass over Sixtus Fabri and take Paul Constabile from Ferrara, who because of dubious company as a young professor had been delated to the Inquisition, but who had himself become a zealous inquistor and finally Master of the Sacred Palace. He was an ascetic especially careful of chastity, who served the poor, longed for martyrdom, and proved a severe but just superior. He visitated Naples and Sicily and praised the Spanish and Portuguese friars for their missionary zeal but rebuked the French for its lack. At this time the Philippine Congregation was being formed. Constabile died in Bologna in 1582 with a reputation of sanctity.

The delegates of the next Chapter in 1583 were at last free to elect Sixtus Fabri, who as an assistant to Cavalli had visited many provinces, but was then Master of the Sacred Palace. Much concerned for studies, he issued a new Ratio Studiorum and ordered negligent teachers and students to be jailed. He also enforced Trent's decrees for cloistered nuns. The Uniate Friars of Armenia (founded in 1344) were at last made a Province and allowed to wear the Order's white scapular with their own violet habit and striped turban. To face the Order's greatly changed situation in the Church, Fabri called a most general Chapter in 1588, but it never met. St. Catherine de Ricci, whose stigmata he tested, prophetically warned him not to become involved in the case of another reputed Dominican stigmatic of Lisbon, Maria of the Visitation, but he did not heed. When Maria confessed she had faked her miracles to promote the liberation of Portugal from Spain, Sixtus V (at Bonelli's urging) deposed Fabri, who refused to resign. Exiled to Florence while the Pope lived, Fabri returned to Rome to die at Santa Sabina in 1594. Fabri's term, Mortier says, which saw the rise of the new Jesuit model of religious life, marks the end of the Mendicant Age in the Church.

Hippolytus M. Beccaria although frail in health proved a most energetic Master. Born at Mondovi in North Italy he taught philosophy at Bologna, then held a series of important offices before election in 1589 as Master at only 39. Yet to avoid the control of Cardinal Bonelli, he had to stay away from Rome until Bonelli's death in 1598. Tirelessly he visited Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, traveling painfully by carriage, often amidst religious wars. The Polish friars treated him so badly he absented himself from St. Hyacinth's canonization in 1594.

Beccaria celebrated four Chapters which with papal support strove to resist adaptation of Dominican observance to fit the Jesuit model. Clement VIII also forbade the friars to bankrupt themselves by gifts to protectors and other dignitaries to obtain favors. Yet Chapters began to call the Master "Most Reverend" and Beccaria himself proposed to imitate the Jesuits by replacing the election of superiors with appointment. Fortunately, Cardinal Protector Bernieri, himself a Dominican, vetoed this radical change in the Order's government. The Chapters divided the Mexican Province of St. Hippolytus de Guaxaca from that of St. James. At the siege of Paris by the Huguenot Henri III, the friars of St. Jacques took up arms to defend their city. The fanatic young Dominican Jacques Clement, fired by the preaching of Prior Bourgoing, assassinated Henri. In France the Order narrowly escaped suppression, yet the Chapter of 1592 called these patriots (but not Clement) "martyrs."

Significant for the future was the reform of the Midi. Giustiniani in 1569 had converted the Congregation of France into the Province of Occitania as an enclave within the Provinces of Toulouse and Provence, but it languished until Sebastian Michaelis became its second provincial in 1588. He first reformed Clermont-Herault, a great convent ruined like most of the province by the Huguenots, but failed with the royal convents of St. Maximin and St. Baume. In 1599, however, Michaelis, no longer Provincial, became Prior of Toulouse and there the reform took firm root.

Under Beccaria, in 1599 the great controversy on grace (de auxiliis) began with the Jesuits. Beccaria maintained that truth and not rivalry with the Society was the only issue. He died the next year at the Chapter of Naples.


The great theological battle of the century was over Luther's attempt to reform the Church by the principle of sold fides, sola gratia, sola Scriptura, or justification by faith based on the Bible only. Since Luther's first attack was provoked by the crass preaching of indulgences by a Dominican, John Tetzel (d. 1519), to raise money to build the new St. Peter's in Rome, it was fitting Dominicans should engage in the counterattack. Not only was Cajetan the pope's legate in dealing with Luther, but the first to censor his works was Leo X's theologian Sylvester Mazolinus de Prierio (Prierius, d. 1523), author of a much used confessor's manual, the "Silvestrina" (not to mention an inquisitor's manual on witchcraft) and a spiritual anthology, The Golden Rose. Naturally, this struggle was carried on mainly by German Dominicans, but others also vigorously participated.

Debate with the Protestants stimulated biblical study. While the French Dominican Spiritus Roterus (1564) opposed vernacular versions of the Bible, others such as Joannes Dietenberg (d. 1537) undertook translations into German (1524). The two outstanding Dominican biblical scholars were Santes Pagnino (d. 1541), a disciple of Savonarola, who produced a new translation of the whole Bible very faithful to the Hebrew (hence criticized by some as "too rabbinic" (Lyons, 1528)), a Hebrew dictionary and other Bible aids; and Sixtus of Siena (d. 1569), a baptized Jew who became a Franciscan. Convicted of heresy he was saved by a Dominican inquisitor, the future St. Pius V, and wrote the first great introduction to the Bible, his two-volume Bibliotheca sancta.

The Council of Trent insisted against Luther on Tradition as well as Scripture as source of the Word of God, and a Dominican scholar, Giacomo Nacchiante (Naclantus, d. 1569), a fellow student with Pius V, was censored for his speech at Trent exalting the Bible over Tradition. The balance was struck by a Spaniard, Melchior Cano (d. 1560) in his treatise, Theological Resources (De Locis Theologicis, Salamanca 1563), which initiated a new branch of theology -- positive theology or the study of sources. But at first, his confreres, still attached to the ahistorical approach of scholasticism, little appreciated its significance. While there was some attention to church history and patrology, most of the effort was devoted to the history of the Order.

The debate over Luther's central doctrine of justification came to a climax at the Council of Trent in which many Dominicans were participants -- in all 18 bishops and 27 theologians. Important figures at the first session were the Master of the Order, Francisco Romeo, Bishop Ambrosius Catharinus (d. 1553, an independent-minded Dominican, defender of the Immaculate Conception and other non-Thomistic positions), Bartolomé Spina (d. 1546, who considered Catherinus a heretic and fought Cajetan's views on immortality), and Domingo de Soto (d. 1560). Prominent at the second session were Bartolomé Carranza, Archbishop of Toledo (d. 1576, whose famous Catechism led him to be imprisoned for many years by the Inquisition) and the theologian Melchior Cano (one of Carranza's chief accusers) and foe of the Anabaptists Ambrose Storch (Pelargus, 1557). At the third session were Master Giustiniani with his socius, Cavalli, the reformer Bartholomew of the Martyrs, Bishop of Braga (1582), Antonio Havet, Bishop of Namur, the inquisitor Camillo Campeggi, the Salamanca professor Joannes Gall, and others. At the completion of the Council the famous Catechism of Trent for preachers (1566) was chiefly the work of the Dominican bishops, Leonardo de Marino of Lanciano, Muzio Calim of Zara, Egidio Foscarim of Modena, and the Portuguese theologian Francisco Fureiro.

But Trent did not finish the debates over justification and grace within the Catholic camp, especially over the interpretation of the views of St. Augustine which had so much influenced both Luther and Calvin. At the University of Louvain Michael Baius (d. 1589) proposed his own interpretation of Augustine on grace which resulted in a papal condemnation. In defense of this condemnation the rising Society of Jesus proposed new views, and a Spanish Jesuit, Prudencio de Montemayor, in 1581 provoked strong criticism from a student of Melchior Cano at Salamanca, Domingo Báñez (d. 1604). The Harmony of Free Will, Grace, and Predestination (Concordia) of another Jesuit, Luis de Molina (d. 1600) drew further attacks from Báñez in 1588. The debate then broke out at the University of Valladolid between Antonio de Padilla, S.J., and Diego Nuno, O.P., and was taken up at Salamanca, Saragossa, Cordova, etc. After Pope Clement VIII had queried the opinions of the universities he handed the matter to a commission of cardinals which after two examinations was unfavorable to Molina's work. In 1598 Clement asked the Dominican and Jesuit generals to attempt a reconciliation and then, this failing, entrusted it to a special Congregation which met for 68 sessions from 1602 to 1605, with Clement often present. After his death it continued under Leo XI, then Paul V, until Paul finally suspended it and ordered that neither party should call the other heretical. The chief Dominican presenters were Diego Alvarez (d. 1635) and Tomas de Lemos (d. 1629) and for the Jesuits, Gregory of Valencia and three others.

These controversies at least served to discredit the Nominalism which had long dominated the universities and which had in part given rise to the justification problem and stimulated what is called the "Second" or "Baroque Scholasticism" with a renewal of the high medieval systems of Augustinianism, Thomism, and Scotism in the universities, while Humanism reached it apogee in the rest of the culture. Among Dominicans the revival of Thomism begun by Capreolus in the previous period was taken up vigorously and with more originality by Cajetan, no longer so much in opposition to Nominalism as to Scotism. Cajetan's most famous works were his commentary on Aquinas' Summa Theologiae which the editors of the critical edition chose to include as the best of all such commentaries, concise, subtle, and witty, two special philosophical treatises, On Being and Essence and On the Analogy of Names, and the widely used Summary for Confessors. He wrote many short works on current topics, especially on papal authority, on usury and other moral questions, and extensive commentaries on the Bible, those on the New Testament from the Greek with considerable critical sense. Some experts detect certain influences in his works from the radical Averroists of his times against whom he fought, especially as regards his hesitations over Aquinas' proofs for the natural incorruptibility of the human soul, a point on which he was attacked especially by Bartolomé de Spina.

Cajetan when Master of the Order insisted on strict application to study and the Chapters from 1551 stressed that all teaching of philosophy and theology in Dominican schools must be strictly Thomistic. In 1567 Plus V declared Thomas a Doctor of the Church and insisted that Dominican professors teach philosophy several years before teaching theology. At this time Dominican students, after four years of humanities before or during the novitiate, then studied logic for two years, natural philosophy and metaphysics for three, and theology (with parallel courses in dogmatics and moral) for four. They first read the introduction to logic of Peter of Spain (Pope John XXI) and then the text of the major treatises of Aristotle with their commentaries by St. Thomas, and then the Summa Theologiae, article by article, according to the interpretation of Capreolus and Cajetan. This insured a strongly philosophical, Aristotelian understanding of Aquinas' theology often missing today. Teaching was by lecture with the student copying the lecture verbatim in his notebook on penalty of sitting on the floor of the lecture hall if he grew inattentive.

Paris was still by reputation the center of learning, but by the middle of the century the Spanish universities in this the Golden Age of the Spanish Empire were the real center. No Dominican could now be made a Master of Theology without having taught at least four years in one of the approved universities. Those of Spain were Salamanca, Valladolid, Segovia, Seville, Toledo, Alcalá (Complutum), and Valencia, but in its New World Empire were soon founded or partly staffed by Dominicans: Santo Domingo (1551), Lima (1551), Mexico City (1553), Bogotá (1580), Guatemala (1589), Mexico (1589), Cuzco (1598).

The leader of this revival was Francisco de Vitoria (c. 14831546), whose parents were of the royal court of Castille. He studied in Burgos, entered the Order there when he was only 15, and was soon sent to Paris, which at that time was the center of a rich variety of intellectual trends, to study at St. Jacques under Jean de Feymer, later Master of the Order, and Peter Crockaert of Brussels (d. 1514, who had studied under the Scotch John Mayor d. 1550, nominalist and teacher of John Knox and himself an anti-papist), author of notable commentaries on the logic of Peter of Spain and Aristotle, on Aristotle's Physics and De Anima and on the Summa Theologiae II-II. Vitoria then taught philosophy and theology there from 1516 and edited the great moral work of St. Antoninus, the sermons of Pedro de Cordoba, and a dictionary of morals. He received his doctorate in 1522 and was sent to teach at the Collegio de San Gregorio in Valladolid and in 1526 to the "morning chair" at Salamanca. Salamanca was becoming the greatest university of Spain, but its students were turbulent, given to great banquets for graduation and demanding classes in the vernacular, and a professor had to earn his authority. Vitoria proved a great teacher, clear, incisive, and elegant in his mastery of classical Latin, praised by his university colleague, the great humanist Nicholas Clenardo. Evading academic regulations, he taught not from the Sentences but from the Summa in a style which did not belabor the obvious but took up the interesting and previously undiscussed points. For twenty years, except for some brief interruptions because of health, he was the leader and reformer of the university and made it the greatest one in Europe.

At Paris Vitoria had been sympathetic to the humanistic reform of the Church being proposed by Erasmus of Rotterdam, but now with his brother Pedro he joined (although with notable moderation and objectivity) in the efforts of the Inquisition to check its influence in Spain. He preferred the reforming ideas of Ignatius Loyola who (still under suspicion for his innovations) visited at Vitoria's residence, San Esteban, under the protection of its noted prior, Juan Hurtado de Mendoza. Vitoria composed a Commentary on the Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 1-140 and numerous notes on his other lectures, notably on the sacraments are extant, but his greatest work is the series of Relectiones ("Repetitions" or summary of lectures which professors were required to prepare for the students on the completion of a course, and which amount to concise treatises on certain key topics).

Four of these treatises deal with the relations of church and state and of the pope and councils, in which Vitoria took the then radical view that the Pope's sovereignty over temporal rulers is only indirect, and that the Pope must, except for grave reasons follow conciliar decisions. Because of this Sixtus V almost placed them (and Bellarmine's works) on the Index. Two others concern the great question of just war and of the rights of the Native Americans, which made San Esteban a center for pro-Indian theologians and missionaries and gave Vitoria the title "Father of International Law." The others are chiefly on moral and sacramental questions, including notable treatments of the right of life, marriage in reference to Henry VIII's divorce, and usury.

Vitoria and Domingo Soto had many brilliant students. Soto (d. 1560), who taught at Salamanca from 1532, effectively opposed Nominalism, which had been introduced there to compete with the university of Alcalá. In 1545 Charles V sent him as imperial theologian to the Council of Trent, for which he wrote the important On nature and grace, and in 1547 called him to Germany as his confessor. In 1550 he returned to Salamanca, was elected prior, and taught until 1556. He wrote numerous philosophical and theological works, of which his On Right and Law is especially notable. Among his Dominican students were Melchior Cano, already mentioned, whose work in positive theology was further pursued by Seraphinus Razzi (d. c. 1613) and Paul Grysaldus, (d. 1609); Martin Ledesma (d. 1594) who with Cano helped establish the important theological center of Coimbra in Portugal; Pedro de Soto (no relative of Domingo) who under Mary Tudor taught at Oxford; Bartolomé Carranza; Vincente Valverde, first Bishop of Cuzco, and Jerónimo Loaysa, first Archbishop of Lima, and less directly Bartolomé de las Casas. But his influence reached far beyond his Dominican brethren. Another influential Spaniard was Diego de Deza (d. 1523), inquisitor and Archbishop of Toledo who supported the cause of Columbus.

Outside Spain many other important Thomists taught in universities, such as Isidore de Isolano (d. 1522) who wrote on missiology, but innovatively on Josephology; Francesco Silvestri of Ferrara (d. 1525) who wrote the classical commentary on the Summa Contra Gentiles; and Chrysostom Javellus (d. 1538), author of an important manual on philosophy but a dissenter on the Thomistic theory of predestination. Dominicans (except Catherinus and some of the Spaniards) continued to argue against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, notably Cajetan and the German Wigandus Wirt (1519) who provoked a considerable controversy from which he was forced to retreat. Others such as Bartolomé Spina, Vincent Colzaldo (d. 1532), and Antonio Marrapha (d. 1550), wrote against Pomponazzi and Cajetan on the question of the immortality of the soul. Spina also opposed Cajetan's original views on original sin, baptism, necessity of confession, power of the Pope, marriage, etc.

The Protestant attack on the Sacrament of Penance and its renewal by the Council of Trent stimulated activity in moral theology. Along with more fundamental works like those of Vitoria, there was a flood of manuals and books of "cases of conscience" for confessors, such as those of Cajetan and Silvester Prierio already mentioned.

We should not forget two remarkable apostates from the Order. The first is Martin Bucer (Butzer, d. 1551) an Alsatian of a poor family who joined the Order to get an education, was influenced first by Erasmus then by Luther, left the Order in 1521 and married. He lived first at Strasbourg, then in England, where he considerably influenced the Book of Common Prayer. He is noted for his ecumenical efforts to reconcile the Lutheran and Reformed churches. The other apostate is Giordano Bruno (d. 1600), a Neapolitan, influenced by the notion of the "Ancient Theology" which many Renaissance Humanists believed underlay all religions and who developed a pantheistic philosophy. He wandered through all Europe seeking to make his living by teaching an "art of memory" which would communicate this philosophy. He was finally lured, by someone to whom he had tried to sell this art, back into Italy where he was denounced to the Inquisition. When he would not consent to return to the Order, he was turned over to secular authorities who burned him at the stake as a stubborn heretic.

The fate of these two men makes clear that in this century underneath the prevailing Thomism there must also have been currents of other traditions of thought which have as yet been little researched by historians of the Order. Because of its great success in resolving many of the problems of the century in an orthodox manner at the Council of Trent, Thomism was now being adopted by other religious Orders, notably by some Augustinians and Carmelites and as the basis of education for the members of the new Society of Jesus.


The forms of Dominican prayer did not change greatly in this century, since St. Pius V in 1570 required uniformity throughout the Roman Rite, according to the revision of the Council of Trent, in order to suppress changes made under Protestant influences, but explicitly excepted uses then more than 200 years old. While the Franciscans chose to accept the uniform Tridentine rite, the Dominicans with the Carthusians, Carmelites and others chose to retain their traditional usages. Yet in 1553 certain minor changes were introduced and Master Becaria's assistant Paul Castrucci edited the Missal in 1600 with new rubrics. Some of these changes influenced by the humanist style of Latin and baroque ceremony were unfortunate. The Chapters made several attempts to accommodate the new emphasis on formal meditation and finally in 1574 decreed that the friars should stay in choir in common prayer for a quarter of an hour after compline.

It was, however, a century marked both by many apostasies and by great holiness of many of the priests and cooperator brothers. Most remarkable were the women. Thus there were a number of women who followed the model of St. Catherine of Siena as Tertiaries, gifted as prophetesses, marked with the sacred stigmata and inspired by Savonarola's ideas of reform such as Bl. Stephana de Quinzanis (d. 1530); Bl. Lucia of Narni (d. 1544) who became the object of a struggle between the rival towns of Narni and Viterbo who wanted her to reside with each; Bl. Catherine of Racconigi (d. 1547) and Dominica of Paradiso (d. 1553).

The most notable of all was Catherine de Ricci, born in 1522 of an ancient noble family of Florence, and named Sandrina. Her mother died when she was four and she was raised by a stepmother and educated at the Benedictine monastery at Monticelli where two of her aunts were nuns. Still a child, she acquired a deep devotion to the crucifix, which set the pattern of her whole life. At nine she insisted on leaving the monastery because she was so shocked by a quarrel between the nuns over a pious book. In the summer of 1533 she met two Dominican nuns who were begging at her father's villa of San Vincenzo at Prato where her uncle Fra Timoteo, was confessor. At 13 against her father's wishes she joined their community of 130. As a novice she began to experience ecstasies as she kept vigil before the crucifix, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. She was professed in 1536, but the nuns agreed only because of Fra Timoteo and the Provincial who was a brother of Catherine's stepmother. Her health soon failed and she was subjected to gallstones, asthma, dropsy, and high fevers, and was bedridden for two years as incurable, until she was miraculously healed on the 22nd vigil of Savonarola's martyrdom in whose honor her father and the community had made vows. Timoteo was frightened by these events, and the provincial Francesco Romeo, the Master of the Order, Albert de Casaus and Cardinal Roberto Ducci on order of Paul III examined her and she was re-examined by every new prior at San Domenico every two years. She was still being accused to the Inquisition at her death.

In 1552, at thirty, she was elected prioress and had to deal with the many problems of the monastery, which was poverty-stricken and lacking a proper church. She held the office for seven terms interspersed by terms as sub-prioress. In her second term 1556-8 she began correspondence with the Grand Ducal family of Florence, the Della Rovere family of Urbino, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, St. Philip Neri, Alessandra Luzzago, and the reformed monasteries of San Giorgio and San Domenico in Lucca. In 1554 as a result of earnest prayer by herself and the community to be relieved of the pressures of constant visits by the public, her stigmata healed. She left over 1,000 letters in which her good sense and deep and balanced spirituality are clearly evident. In spite of the poverty of her convent she fed over 300 of the poor each day, sometimes miraculously multiplying bread, and was especially concerned to provide poor girls with dowries for marriage. At first she was guided in her visions chiefly by St. Thomas Aquinas. She died in 1590 and was canonized by Benedict xlv in 1746. Her letters give us a better idea of her spirituality than do the early biographies which over-emphasize the miraculous.

Two spiritual writers of this time are especially notable: Luis of Granada (d. 1588, certainly one of the chief of all Dominican authors on spirituality) and Bartholomew of the Martyrs (d. 1590). Born of a poor family, Luis entered the Order and with Melchior Cano and Bartolomé Carranza studied under Diego de Astudillo, a student of Vitoria. He intended to be a missionary but was sent to Cordova to reform a house which became under his direction a center of Dominican life. Here he met the famous Juan de Avila who had introduced the northern mystical tradition flowing from Eckhart into Spain. Luis was then prior at Badajoz and, at the invitation of the newly founded Jesuits, was called to Coimbra in Portugal where he was elected provincial and declined the archbishopric of Braga in favor of Bartholomew of the Martyrs. He attempted to save Carranza from the Inquisition but failed. After his provincialate he gave himself to writing and preaching and became famous as a spiritual director. His last years were saddened by the political troubles over Portugese independence of Spain and especially by the affair of Sister Maria of the Visitation, whom he had sponsored and who, as we have already seen, turned out to be a clever fraud.

Luis' spiritual works fill many volumes, but the most famous is the Guide for Sinners, a complete treatise on the Christian life for lay people. At this time there was in Spain a great controversy over mysticism. Melchior Cano, among others, feared this movement because it seemed to minimize the necessity of good works, the sacraments, and meditation in favor of inner "experience" and thus to be inclined toward Protestant individualism. Luis defended the higher forms of prayer as open even to the laity and sought to meet Cano's objections by a well-balanced view of Christian life. Cano himself wrote notable spiritual works expressing his own point of view.

Bartholomew of the Martyrs, a Portuguese and tutor to royalty, as Archbishop of Braga, played an important role at Trent and in his own church proved a model of a reforming bishop. His ideals and experience are embodied in his Goal for Pastors in which, using the writings of the Fathers of the Church, he lays out the role of bishops and pastors, and in his Catechism for the laity.


The preaching style of this period continued and developed the florid oratorical manner which had been fostered in the previous century by Humanism. Simple instruction or tight theological argumentation were often replaced by a baroque theatricality and "amplification" of standard topics. Moreover, the religious divisions and theological controversies of the time were reflected in a highly polemical approach of exaggerated denunciation and even caricature of the opponent. Yet this also had the advantage of getting away from the excessive scholastic dryness, allegorization of Scripture, and lack of sensitivity to literary taste. The best preaching of the time is polished in language and addressed to the heart as well as the head. The concern of the Order for good preaching is reflected in the General Chapters which in 1518 required examinations for preachers, and from 1513 on, the Order began to accept the care of parishes in the Low countries and Saxony which meant a new field for regular preaching.

During this century preaching was especially aimed at three kinds of audiences: the instruction of the people in the fundamentals of Catholic faith and life as necessary to the Catholic Reformation and in opposition to Protestant deviations, the exhortation of the powerful in state and Church as to their obligations to the common good and the Faith, and the missionary evangelization of the New World. Every Province produced preachers who left behind collections of their sermons, a rich field for research.

One of the tasks of preachers in this time was to encourage the growth of lay confraternities centered on special devotions. For example, Diego de Vitoria did so for devotion to the Holy Name in Spain, and this spread to the missions in America and even to China. Thomas Stella in 1539 started a Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament at the Minerva in Rome with solemn processions to take viaticum to the dying in order to offset the Protestant attacks on the Mass. The Rosary Confraternities remained very active and the second part of the Hail Mary (found as early as a manuscript of Savonarola and approved in the Catechism of the Council of Trent) was added officially in the Roman Breviary in 1568. Only about 1600 did the rosary take its exact present form of 15 mysteries, and its fame increased by the attribution of the victory of Lepanto in 1571 to its recitation. Attempts to ascribe its origin to the founders of the other Orders (Francis, Ignatius, etc.) and competing forms were suppressed by papal decrees and the exclusive control of the Rosary Confraternities was given to the Dominicans. The rosary became a frequent theme of Dominican preaching and some friars devoted themselves to it almost exclusively.

The Renaissance use of the fine arts as a form of preaching, which we have seen at San Marco, continued there and elsewhere. The most notable artist was the cooperator brother Fra Bartolomeo de la Porta (d. 1517) at San Marco. He was one of the originators of the High Renaissance style, as Fra Angelico had been of that of the Early Renaissance. Bartolomeo had been an artist before he entered the Order and a co-worker with Albertinelli. Raphael learned from him and he was an acquaintance of Michelangelo and many others of the great masters. His work is marked by Savonarolian influence and uses idealized, noble forms and warm, simple coloring. A companion at San Marco was the less gifted Fra Paulino whose work is similar but less powerful. Also in Florence was the Dominican nun Plautilla Nelli (d. 1587), recorded among the neglected number of excellent women painters.

Except for a few, not very notable poets, it is not easy to mention Dominican litterateurs, but one must remember Matteo Bandelli (d. 1555, brother of Vincent Bandelli, Master of the Order), Bishop of Agen in France, where he went to live

to escape the troubles in Italy. He was acquainted with many of the literary people of his day and is known for his 214 short and not very edifying tales or Novelle which were translated into English and used by Elizabethan playwriters, including Shakespeare, as in Romeo and Juliet.

The greatest preacher of this time, Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474-1566), who was also the greatest of the Dominican missionaries to the New World, preached through written propaganda and gad-fly persusaion like the Hebrew prophets. His grandparents were all baptized Christians, but his paternal grandparents were of the Jewish converso Peñalosa family of Seville. Bartolomé studied at the cathedral school under the patronage of his uncle, Francisco de Peñalosa, a royal official, and then enlisted in 1497 in the militia to put down a Morisco rebellion in Grenada. When he returned to Seville, he studied Latin, probably in preparation for ordination to the priesthood.

At 19 Bartolomé saw Columbus return from his first voyage (for which Bartolomé's uncle, Pedro Peñalosa, had helped recruit) with seven Indians and samples of a strange new substance we call rubber. Bartolomé's father was a merchant whose poverty inclired him to take risks and with three of his brothers he decided to sail with Columbus on the second voyage. They returned with a little Indian boy whom Pedro gave to Bartolomé who made him his friend until Queen Isabella ordered the slaves returned to America. Pedro then took his son (who by this time was a cleric but not yet a priest) back with him to Hispanola (Haiti) in the expedition of the new governor of the island, Ovando (1499), to act as a catechist to the Indians from 1502-6. He witnessed the massacre of a tribe of Indians at Higuey when the gold mines were opened there. In 1507 Bartolomé went to Rome (where he was dismayed by the pre-Reformation situation), probably on business connected with the division of dioceses and was ordained there or a little later on his return to the island, where Diego, son of Columbus, was now governor. Diego gave the new priest an estate on the island, and Las Casas for a while as an encomandero with Indian slaves farmed and mined gold, while carrying on his catechetical ministry to the Indians. He now celebrated his solemn First Mass in La Vega, the first such event it seems in the New World. He also met Pedro de Córdoba, the saintly Dominican missionary. The first 15 Dominican missionaries to America had been sent by Cajetan in 1507, but only four arrived in 1509: Pedro de Córdoba (d. 1530), Antonio de Montesino (d. 1530), Bernardo de Santo Domingo and a cooperator brother. Montesino, profoundly shocked by the condition of the Indians whom he met, began in 1511 to preach publicly that the colonists who enslaved and mistreated them were in mortal sin and should be refused absolution and communion. In 1512 some 40 more friars arrived and Pedro de Córdoba founded a convent in Santo Domingo.

In 1513-14 Las Casas went to Cuba to act as a peacemaker with the Indians there, only to witness another massacre. Here he acquired some new properties on Arimao near Xagua and engaged in profitable farming and stock raising, but also helped rescue some shipwrecked Spaniards. Busy with these matters he seems to have done little teaching of the Indians. He had heard the reports of Montesino's famous sermons in Santo Domingo but was indignant when the next year a Dominican confessor refused him absolution as a slave-holder, and during the next three years stoutly resisted the arguments of other Dominicans. Only at Pentecost of 1514 was he moved to public conversion by reading in Sirach 34 that:

Like the man who slays a son in his father's presence is he who offers sacrifice from the possessions of the poor.

After his conversion Las Casas went to Spain to plead for the Indians, studied law at Madrid and Valladolid, and finally got permission to return to America in 1517 with a plan of reform. This, however, was frustrated by the colonists. He quickly embarked again for Spain, narrowly escaping the orders to have him sent back in chains as Columbus had been. Las Casas took refuge with the Dominicans in Salamanca to continue his law studies, while awaiting the arrival of Charles V in 1518. Las Casas, this time with the support of Flemish Franciscans, persuaded Charles V, who was half Flemish, to approve a plan to experiment with peasant rather than soldier colonists. Las Casas made careful plans and obtained Dominican help in locating the colony in their missionary territory of Cumana, Venezuela (1520-21), but nobles and a treacherous aide made it hard for him to get recruits and these quickly took up the slave trade and provoked an Indian revolt in which a number of friars and officials were massacred.

Utterly crushed, Las Casas returned to Santo Domingo, convinced that his efforts had been vitiated by his compromises with the slavers and persuaded by Domingo de Betanzos, the Dominican superior, he abandoned all his wealth and entered the Order at Santo Domingo in 1522 to look to his own soul, and made his novitate and profession by 1524.

After almost twelve years quiet as novice, student, and prior of the isolated convent at Puerto de Plata, he was again stirred into protest when he saw Bahamian Indians dying on the beach. In response to his letters to Spain, a Reform Commission in 1530 obtained a law banning all Indian slavery. His sermons and confessional advice led his superiors to recall him to Santo Domingo and forbid him to preach for two years, while he collected material for his great History of the Indies. It was in this early period that Las Casas for a time argued for the importation of Black slaves from Africa in preference to enslaving the Indians, because he supposed they had been enslaved in a just war and were physically better able to survive in the mines. Later he came to greatly regret this mistake and to see that the oppression of the Indians and the Blacks was identical. Meanwhile in Spain some friar at court preached on the "sins of the Indians" and the friends of the encomenderos were able to get the anti-slavery repealed, against a campaign by both Franciscan and Dominican missionaries to retain it. Bartolomé then got permission to visit for a month the guerrilla camp of Chief Enriquillo (a Christian) who was gathering Indians and Blacks for a revolt. Las Casas succeeded in preventing this revolt, thus demonstrating that peaceful negotiation with the Indians was practical, and he wrote his first great treatise, The Only Way to Bring All Peoples to the True Faith, that is, not by force but by preaching and good example, and sent it to Court. This success induced his Dominican superiors at last to permit him to be a missionary on the mainland.

In 1534 as superior of a band of four Dominicans he left to accompany the new Dominican Bishop of Peru to his See. Problems in the journey forced them to stop in Nicaragua; where they attempted to apply their peaceful missionary methods but were brutally expelled by the soldier colonists. Las Casas then went to Mexico City, and was appointed vicar for Guatemala by the provincial of the new Mexican province. In Mexico the first Viceroy was establishing better order, and the Ecclesiastical Conference of 1536 in Mexico City, after hearing Las Casas' eloquent pleas and with the support of the pro-Indian Bishop Zumarraga, adopted three resolutions: (1) No conquest or conversion by force; (2) Enslavers should be punished by the Church; (3) No adult baptisms without instruction. On this last point, the Franciscans, who had promoted mass baptisms, appealed to the Pope, and Bernadino Minaya, O.P., was sent with letters and treatises by Las Casas to Paul III, who then set up a commission headed by Cardinal Contarini, which in 1537 issued in Paul's name the encyclical Sublimis Deus, based on Las Casas' Only Way, decreeing automatic excommunication of enslavers, and providing rules for the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of feasts in the missions.

In Guatemala Las Casas had managed peacefully to penetrate the so-called "Land of War," had baptized a chief and was making progress, when he was again called to Mexico City for a provincial chapter, which sent him once more to Spain to recruit missionaries. At Oaxaca he wrote his Abuses and Reforms. His second great opportunity came when Charles V as Emperor again came to reorganize his Spanish kingdom, and in response to letters from Las Casas asked his superiors to retain him in Spain to be present at a Great Convocation for the Reform of the Indies at which Las Casas delivered his sensational Account of the Holocaust of the Indies, his Sixteen Remedies for the Pestilences Destroying the Indies and his Twenty Denunciations of the Encomienda, which charged many officials with corruption or intrigue. The Emperor was moved to enact "The New Laws of 1542" for gradual removal of the encomendero system. Las Casas' enemies therefore, to get him away from court, urged Charles to make him a bishop.

Thus in 1545 Las Casas came to Mexico for the third time as bishop of Chiapas, no longer restricted by religious obedience, but his poor diocese was almost ungovernable because of the intrigues of the colonists against him. Summoned to the Convocation of Bishops in Mexico City, he learned that the Emperor, who was in financial straits, had been bribed by the Peruvian colonists to revoke some of the laws protecting the Indians. But Las Casas did not hesitate to argue that the Viceroy and the Mexican High Court had incurred excommunication by cutting off the hand of an accused priest, and forced them to ask for forgiveness. He also forced the assembled bishops to agree with his stand on the Indians. He then left a Vicar General in Chiapas with secret rules for handling the absolution of violators of Indian rights, wrote Ecclesiastical Exemption: A Warning, threatening Prince Philip, then Regent for Spain, and left America for the last time. Back in Spain he refuted charges of treason and got the Revocation revoked and the Laws of the Indies strengthened, after successfully debating for five days the philosopher Sepulveda who had tried to prove that the Indians were naturally slaves. He then resigned his diocese, after emancipating all the slaves within its territory.

Las Casas was now the "General Representative of All the Indians" at the Spanish court. He resided at the Dominican college in Valladolid, where the court usually sat, and every day presented to it petitions and reports from the New World. When the Peruvian colonists sent eight million gold ducats for permission to buy their Indians in perpetuity, Las Casas wrote his Dominican brother Carranza to intervene with King Philip, then in England. He wrote The Treasures of Peru to show that Indians could buy their own freedom, but the last Inca died (perhaps murdered) before this solution could be put into effect. Las Casas himself died at 82 in 1566, while a friend was reading to him his last petition for a great convocation to free the Indies. This Junta Magna was held two years after his death with some effect. As priest, friar, bishop, retired writer, statesman at court under three popes and four kings, Las Casas had fought ceaselessly for fifty years for the human rights of the Indians and all human beings, and had crossed the Atlantic at least 10 times. The recognition of his prophetic sanctity by canonization has been held up by Spanish distrust of a man whose writings were misused by Protestants to discredit Spain by the "Black Legend." Only recently have they begun to see that he is one of the greatest glories of Spain and a tribute to the nobility of true Hispanidad, and the Master of the Order has begun the formal process which it is hoped will lead to his canonization. He is already recognized throughout the Third World as a patron saint of true liberation.

Las Casas' story is central to the history of the Dominican missions in the New World, but it is by no means the whole of it. There is no room here for an account of the missions throughout Latin America, in the Philippines, and in Japan, China and India. Nor should it be forgotten that the Dominicans continued their efforts to preach in the Balkans, Russia, and the Near East as far as Persia and to the Jews of Europe especially in Rome where Pius V founded a convent for Jewish Christian women. As we look back on these world-wide missionary efforts we are amazed by the immense sacrifices, frequently to lonely deaths, made by these men against much opposition by colonials and indifference and violence by natives. Sometimes these efforts were very imaginative and open to the good qualities of the pagans, but often limited by European prejudices which prevented the Spanish and Portuguese from accepting those of other races into the Order, a prejudice rooted in part in the history of Spain and its struggle to find national unity in the face of Moorish and Jewish minorities. Yet this missionary expansion of which Las Casas is only a shining example is the glory of this century.