THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
The Order was strong when it entered the sixteenth century. Inner reform had reaffirmed its contemplative religious life, laid the foundations for a new period of productive intellectual activity, and rejuvenated its ministry. It was not as strong as it had been in the thirteenth century; it was older, not fully reformed, and its provinces in Bohemia, Hungary, and the Near East were extremely weak. Yet it was well prepared to face the new century and the onslaughts of Protestantism. The second period of Dominican history, stretching from 1500 to 1790, was beginning. Except for modifications of detail caused by forces beyond the Order's control -- the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent, the trend toward absolute monarchy and nationalism, and many wars -- Dominican life and ministry continued much as it had from 1215 to 1500.
The masters general during these centuries were sincere, earnest men, most of them from the ranks of the Observants. Some of them were men of personal holiness. Italy and Italian Dominicans dominated the Order until the French Revolution. Statistics demonstrate this fact. Of the 41 masters who governed from 1401 to 1798, only 13 were non-Italians; of the 68 general chapters held between 1482 and 1777 only 14 took place outside Italy and 33 outside Rome, a dominance that was legalized when the Order legislated in 1518 that chapters would meet alternately in Italy and beyond the Alps, a law largely nullified by convening all but 11 of the 47 chapters from then until 1777 in Italy-24 of the 26 elective chapters were held in Rome, the other two in Bologna. From 1252, when John of Wildenshausen died, until 1891, when Andrew Früwirth was elected, Spanish, French, and Italian Dominicans shared the generalate. During these centuries only Anthony Monroy, a Mexican Creole, broke this monopoly in 1677. Since 1891, three Spaniards, two Frenchmen, an Austrian, a German, and an Irishman have been master general. Added to these is Vincent de Couesnongle, a Frenchman, elected in August, 1974.
Since 1500, two Dominican popes, Pius V (1566-72) and Benedict XIII (1724-30), 41 cardinals, and more than 1,000 archbishops have served the Church. The master general and master of the sacred palace ( a Dominican since the fifteenth century) functioned as ex o$icio consultors of the Holy Office ( organized in 1542 and now the Congregation of the Faith). Its commissary was always a member of the Order, as was the secretary of the Index ( abolished in 1917 ).
Government and Internal Life
Thirteen of the masters general of the century were Italians and all but three of the sixteen who held the office governed for short terms. After the five-year tenure of Vincent Bandelli (150106 ) and the two-month tenure of John Clerée ( from June until August, 1507), Thomas de Vio Cajetan gave the Order ten years of strong and effective leadership, from 1508 to 1518. None of the next eight masters ruled for more than six years. Then Vincent Giustiniani had twelve years, (1558-70), Seraphim Cavalli, seven (1571-78), Paul Constabile, three (1580-82 ), and Sixtus Fabri, five (1583-89 ) . Hippolite Beccaria closed the century. He held office for eleven years, from 1589 to 1600.
Despite the brevity of many of these terms, the masters moved continuously toward stronger and more personal rule, a trend that originated in the 1370's, when chapters stopped meeting annually. As the master's prestige grew, the functions of his curia kept pace, his assistants supplanting the general chapter as advisors.
The master's stronger position was balanced by more frequent interventions of the Holy See. The growing centralization within the Church that began with the Council of Trent and the establishment of new curial congregations, especially the Congregation for Consultations of Regulars in 1586, had a direct bearing on the Order. After the Congregation of Rites was established in 1588, and the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith in 1622, the liturgy and foreign missions of the Order were subject to their jurisdiction. The Council of Trent subjected the preaching and sacramental ministries of religious to the supervision of the bishop by requiring priests to apply for permission to exercise these functions within his diocese.
The papal summoning of elective general chapters to Rome, which had begun in 1474, now became the rule. Frequently, too, the popes appointed the vicars general who governed during a vacancy in the generalate, passing over the vicar provided by the Constitutions. Leo X allowed Cajetan to function as general for almost a year after he made him cardinal in 1517. Sixtus Fabri fell victim to centralization, when Sixtus V deposed him in 1589, partly because of the opposition of Cardinal Michael Bonelli, Dominican nephew of Pius V, and partly because he had imprudently endorsed Sr. Marie of the Annunciation, a fraudulent mystic of the monastery in Lisbon.
The cardinal protectors regularly intervened in the Order's affairs. Though Sixtus IV sharply defined their powers in 1473, the century saw them acting at times as master of the Order. Bonelli served more than once as vicar general and proposed a slate of nominees for master in 1580. The protectors presided at elections of the master, signed the acta of chapters, dictated the appointment of provincials and priors, and received appeals. These interventions disrupted and obscured orderly constitutional administration.
The lesson of centralization was learned by the men of the Order. Acting on a mandate of Pius V, the 1569 general chapter restricted the appointment of all superiors to an aristocracy of prominent friars in each province, a subversion of the law that did not endure. But the example was not lost.
The masters and chapters of this century faced the challenge posed by the rise of Protestantism and bore the burden of implementing the decrees of the Council of Trent concerning religious. After religious strife became less violent, the masters resumed their periodic visitations of the provinces. Seraphim Cavalli visited in Italy, France, Spain, and the Spanish Netherlands. Sixtus Fabri spent two years visiting in Portugal and Spain. The Order issued its first printed editions of the Constitutions in 1505 and 1507. Though the chapters thoroughly revised the Constitutions from 1515 to 1518, no new edition appeared until 1566. It incorporated changes made necessary by the decrees of Trent. A new feature, called the "minor text" is found in these editions. Under each heading of the Constitutions ( now called the "major text") were gathered the enactments of general chapters which pertained to it. After the 1566 edition, the chapters seldom made changes in the major text. The Order was now governing itself as much by ordinances as by Constitutions, parts of which were kept in the text even after they became obsolete.
The Order began the century with twenty-two provinces and closed it with thirty-five. Though it lost Scandinavia and Scotland to Protestants and Palestine to the Turks, it erected new provinces in Italy, France, Spain, the Ukraine, nine in the Spanish colonial empire, and incorporated the Unifying Friars as the province of Naxivan. It founded the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the Asiatic possessions of Portugal in 1551.
Aided by the masters general, three of whom came from the Congregation of Lombardy, the Observants gained control of the Order. In 1515 Cajetan turned the Congregation of Holland into a province. Fifteen years later Butigella transferred the name and rights of the province of Rome to the Congregation of Tuscany. Du Feynier, his successor, permitted the Congregation of Lombardy to take control of the provinces of St. Dominic and St. Peter Martyr, the new names for the former provinces of Lombardy. In 1559, the Congregation of France became the province of Occitania. The Spanish province had completed its reform during the fifteenth century.
The Spiritual Life, the Sisters, and the Third Order
To strengthen Dominican internal life the 1505 chapter prescribed an annual retreat, a daily period of mental prayer, and the common recitation of the Rosary. In 1551 the Order revised its liturgy, publishing a new missal and breviary and, in 1576, a martyrology. After the canonization of Hyacinth and Raymond of Penyafort, their feasts were added to the liturgical calendar. Five saints lived during the century: Pope Pius V ( d. 1572), John of Gorcum, martyred with eighteen non-Dominican companions in 1572, Catherine de Ricci (d. 1590), a member of the cloistered Third Order, Louis Bertrand ( d. 1581) , novice master and missionary, and Rose of Lima ( d. 1617 ), a tertiary and the first canonized native of the New World. Sanctity also flourished among other members of the Dominican laity, notably Bartholomew Bagnesi ( d. 1577 ) and Osanna of Cattaro ( d. 1565 ) who have been beatified. A child of Orthodox parents in Dalmatia, Osanna dedicated her life to prayer for the reunion of the Churches. In Spain, Louisa Borgia ( d. 1560 ) , sister of St. Francis Borgia, was called the "Saintly Duchess".
The century was noted for the propagation of the Rosary and its Confraternity. The friars of Holland, Italy, and Spain were especially prominent in preaching the devotion. In 1521 Albert Castellano published an excellent Rosary book, one of the many that facilitated recitation and meditation on the mysteries, which Picas V standardized in their present form. He entrusted exclusive control of the Confraternity to the Order. Thomas of Nieto actively preached the newly introduced Forty Hours Devotion. To promote respect and veneration of the Eucharist, Thomas of Stella founded the first Blessed Sacrament Confraternity at Santa Maria sopra Minerva in 1539. In Spain, Diego of Vitoria preached devotion to the Holy Name.
Dominican nuns participated in the disasters and renewal of the Order. They suffered in Ireland, England, and Germany. Dartford in England and forty-three German monasteries fell before Protestantism. A great number of new foundations in Italy and Spain took their place. The nuns also entered the New World, establishing monasteries at Mexico City and Arequipa. As the century ended there were 206 monasteries, most of them in Italy, Spain, and Germany.
Studies and the Intellectual Mission
The Order continued to stress its intellectual ministry and dedication to learning. Writing his first encyclical as general in 1508, Cajetan called on the friars to confirm their belief in study and poverty. He spoke as a distinguished scholar, whose contribution to the Thomistic revival had begun in the 1490's. He wrote the best commentary on the Summa Theologiae. Francis Silvester, who followed him in the generalate in 1525, penned the classical commentary on the Summa Contra Gentiles. Francis of Vitoria, the initiator of the Thomistic revival in Spain, was at the height of his career and pursued it to 1546, establishing at Salamanca a distinguished line of Thomists -- Peter and Dominic de Soto, Melchior Cano, whose De Locis Theologicis elaborated a scientific theological methodology, and Dominic Banez, who contributed to the development of the theology of grace.
The theological authority of Thomas was further enhanced by the attention paid to his teaching at the Council of Trent, by Pius V's declaring him a Doctor of the Church in 1567, and the publication of the first complete printed edition of his works, the so-called Piana edition. From 1574 the Order required its theologians to take an oath to uphold his solid doctrine.
The Order's schools claimed the constant attention of the chapters. To the two graduate colleges for Thomistic studies in Luchente and Salamanca, founded late in the previous century, the Order added St. Gregory's in Valladolid in 1501, St. Thomas' in Seville in 1515, and St. Thomas' in Rome in 1577. This last is known today as the University of St. Thomas in Rome. A similar college was founded overseas in Santo Domingo in 1538. The traditional general houses of studies also continued. By 1551, their roster numbered twenty-seven, but those at Oxford and Cambridge and some in Germany had disappeared before advancing Protestantism. The one at Paris lost its pre-eminence as St. Stephen's in Salamanca rose to prominence under Vitoria.
Though the Order adapted its curriculum to the demands of the Renaissance and Protestantism slowly, Herman Rab, provincial of Saxony, pointed the way to change when he exhorted young friars to especially love "the science of Holy Writ." The provincial chapter of Saxony, a few years later, urged all its members to devote special attention to Scripture studies, so that they might effectively reply to Lutherans. Finally, in obedience to the decree of the Council of Trent, the Order introduced courses in biblical exegesis. The 1569 general chapter took a step backwards when it banned the works of Erasmus and similar writers and forbade friars to study Greek and Hebrew without permission. The 1585 chapter reversed this trend, ordering novices and newly professed religious to begin the study of languages before undertaking their formal academic training and to continue studying them for four years.
Except in Spain, Dominicans remained unalterable opponents of the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Late in the century a new controversy, known as De auxils, broke out regarding the relationship of grace and free will. Theologians of the Thomist and Molinist schools debated the question with much acrimony until Paul V imposed silence on both parties in 1607, but allowed each school to continue teaching its own opinion.
Besides theologians and philosophers, other eminent scholars graced the Order during the century, Santes Pagnini was an accomplished Hebraist in an age that boasted Erasmus and Reuchlin. His books, translation of the Bible, Hebrew dictionary and grammar, biblical handbooks and commentaries form a miniature library of Oriental research. After Thomas de Vio Cajetan returned from his encounter with Luther at Augsburg in 1518, he began his translation of the Bible and commentary and wrote at least two-score treatises expounding points of doctrine attacked by Protestants. The Bibliotheca Sacra of Sixtus of Siena was based on scientific principles and is regarded as the first modern biblical introduction.
Other fields of interest also claimed Dominican attention. Applying Thomistic principles to contemporary ethical and economic problems, Francis of Vitoria laid the foundations of international law. Especially he and Melchior Cano were sensitive to humanistic and linguistic values in their works. John Faber of Augsburg made an abortive attempt to found a school of literary studies among his German brethren. Matthew Bandello is an example of the poor influence humanistic interest could exert on churchmen. Regarded as the leading Italian novelist of his day, he has been called the "Dominican Boccaccio." Zenobio Acciaioli, prefect of the Vatican Library under Leo X, and John Cono, a collaborator with Erasmus, were philologists; Ignatius Dante a mathematician, cosmographer, and engineer; Leander Alberti, Sebastian Olmeda, and Seraphim Razzi historians. Even today the History and controversial works of Bartholomew de las Casas are important for the study of social justice and race relations; the books of Louis of Grenada, for spiritual theology.
Dominican missions reached their greatest development in modern times. Even before the end of the Middle Ages, Portuguese Dominicans rounded the Cape of Good Hope with navigators, founding missions in Africa, Goa ( their headquarters), Ceylon, Siam, and Malacca. Their missions suffered from the British conquest of India but continued to flourish until the early nineteenth century. Gasper of the Holy Cross entered China in 1559.
In Spain, Archbishop Diego de Deza sponsored Christopher Columbus at the Spanish Court, who declared in 1544 that the Spanish sovereigns owed the Indies to de Deza. The first Dominican missionaries reached the West Indies in 1510 and founded the first American province in 1530. St. Louis Bertrand labored as a missionary in New Grenada from 1562 to 1569, enjoying the gift of tongues and miracles. Dominicans arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1586. From there they gained China in 1590.
The mission provinces boosted their membership by drawing friars from the Old World and by enlisting colonials born of European parents. Sharing the prejudices of their day, they failed to recruit Indians and people of mixed blood. The province of St. James in Mexico, which numbered 210 friars and 40 houses in 1555, illustrates the rapid growth of the American missions.
In the West Indies, Anthony Nlontesinos and Bernardino Minaya became the first defenders of the Indians. They were soon overshadowed by Bartholomew de las Casas, who carried the Indian cause to the Spanish Court. Though a classic source for the Spanish Colonial Period, his Historia de las Indias is marred by polemical bias in favor of the Indians. The Relecciones de Indis of Francis of Vitoria is a more scholarly treatment of the same problems. The Dominican, Jerome de Loaysa, first bishop of Lima, founded the University of Lima in 1551 and a hospital for the Indians. Dominic of St. Thomas compiled the first grammar for Quechua, the native Peruvian language.
The Dominicans and Protestantism
Protestantism swept like a tornado over the Order, damaging flourishing provinces, disrupting religious life, drying up vocations, and stripping away three provinces, forty-three monasteries, and many members. It washed over twelve provinces. Nine of them struggled back to their feet with great difficulty. Germany was making a good recovery in 1618 when it was again beaten down by the destruction of the Thirty Years War. Hungary, already weakened by the Turks, and Bohemia, gravely damaged by the Hussites, were so badly hurt by Protestantism that they needed several centuries to regain strength. Persecution hammered at Ireland until the nineteenth century. England became strong again only in the twentieth. The Saxon province was so seriously mauled that it was reduced to seven priories. It went out of existence when these were united to the German province in 1608. Scandinavia and Scotland disappeared by mid-century.
With the weakening of the non-Latin provinces, the tone of the Order altered. The Italian, French, and Spanish friars now dominated the Order. The moderating influence of other peoples was lost until the twentieth century.
German Dominicans were the first to take the field against Luther. John Tetzel, who had triggered the explosion when he preached indulgences, his Saxon brethren, the Master of the Sacred Palace, and Cajetan wrote the first literary rebuttals. In 1525 Clement VII urged the electors assembled in chapter to choose a new master general, to put aside all personal motives and ambition and elect "a man pre-eminent in doctrine," one who could guide the Order to the fulfillment of its customary mission "during times brimming over with danger and anxiety." He could not have been disappointed in the choice, Francis Sylvester, the Thomistic commentator. The general and provincial chapters repeatedly warned friars against preaching and teaching old
or new errors, urged them to proclaim true doctrine, exhorted provincials to concentrate learned, zealous men in priories near Protestant areas, and to counsel the master general how Dominicans could best work for the conversion of their people. They were to specify men who were able to preach, teach, and debate with non-Catholics.
The legislators in 1523, 1525, and 1530 invoked the memory of the Order's great men who had studied, prayed, and rooted out harmful doctrines, and had been ready to resist unto blood, running joyfully toward death. Such talk was not idle. The words of encouragement chapters sent from time to time to embattled provinces were matched by lists of nuns and friars who had died for the faith. The 1580 chapter listed martyrs in Germany, Holland, and France.
There were also many Dominican men and women who left the Order and the Church. Best known is Martin Bucer, one of the leading Reformers in Germany and England. Following his example most of the friars at Strassburg had married by 1526.
Dominican preachers, theologians, and writers turned with a will to the proclamation of the word of God and its defense. Tacchi Venturi, the Jesuit historian, states that "Dominicans ran well ahead of other Catholic defenders in point of time, numbers, and excellence of doctrine." Studying the Dominican counterattack on Lutheranism, Nicholas Paulus concluded that "no other religious Order produced so many outstanding literary champions as the Order of St. Dominic." In Italy, fourteen of sixty-four literary opponents of Protestantism were Dominicans. Melchior of Misciska, an outstanding preacher, is credited with the return of 22,000 Polish Protestants to the Church. We need not detail the work of the Order's papal nuncios in Germany, of inquisitors in France and Italy, or of Spanish friars who helped to rehabilitate other provinces.
In reviewing the Dominican reaction to Protestantism, we might well reflect on the dictum of a church historian that polemic between Catholics and Protestants has been largely ineffective. For three centuries each side lobbed its shells-books, treatises, and rebuttals-at the other. They seldom reached their mark, but each camp was extremely pleased with itself. Only today have the two armies put aside their weapons and begun to talk. The entry of Dominicans into ecumenical dialogue accords perfectly with the Order's mission to proclaim the word of God throughout the world.
Dominicans helped the Church in the sixteenth century, by entering the hierarchy, serving as legates and inquisitors, and attending general councils. At the Fifth Lateran Council, Cajetan defended both the primacy of the pope and the rights and privileges of mendicant Orders.
The Order made a major contribution to the Council of Trent, the assembly that restated Catholic doctrine, gave direction and impetus to Chriraian life and reformed the Church. Two hundred Dominicans contributed as archbishops and bishops, deputies of bishops, theologians, or, as the three Portuguese friars, delegates of their king. Great Dominican names took part in the deliberations of the Council's three periods: Dominic de Soto, Bartholomew Carranza, Ambrose Politus Cathrinus, Melchior Cano, Peter de Soto, Ambrose Pelargus, Peter of Bertano, bishop of Fano, Bartholomew of the Martyrs, archbishop of Braga, and Masters General Francis Romeo and Vincent Giustiniani. Thomas Aquinas was there in spirit. Preaching to the fathers in 1563 John Gallo claimed that "no council has been celebrated without this holy doctor" since the Council of Lyons. "Consider your own assembly . . . consulted most frequently in the most learned congregation of fathers, this doctor expresses his opinion. By common consent you referred any ambiguity or controversy that arose to him as to the touchstone." Yet the Council endorsed no theologian or school. It consulted a multitude of authorities and heard the views of every theological school. Perhaps the place of Thomas at the Council was best stated by Louis von Pastor, the historian of the popes, who wrote, "The Church recognized her own doctrines in those of the great schoolman."
The age-old distrust of the exemption and privileges of the mendicant Orders came to a head at the Council. Had not able defenders spoken in their behalf, the bishops would have reduced
the Orders to dependence on themselves. Instead, the assembly adapted the mendicants to the new age, modified their exemption and privileges, brought their preaching and sacramental ministries under episcopal supervision and provided wise laws for the discipline and life of the Orders. Once again, an important arm of the Church was not weakened but strengthened.
That the work of the Council did not remain a dead letter was due to Pius IV and especially to Pius V. His well-worn copy of the decrees illustrates how faithfully he applied them during his six-year pontificate. In the diocese of Braga, Archbishop Bartholomew of the Martyrs exemplified the ideal bishop envisioned by the Council. Charles Borromeo patterned himself on the saintly Archbishop. Dominicans served on the post-conciliar commissions that prepared the Catechism. of the Council of Trent, the Index of Forbidden, Books, and the renewal of the liturgy. Pius V published the revised missal and breviary that unified the Roman Rite.
Dominicans also served the Church by helping founders of new Orders: Anthony Maria Zaccaria of the Barnabites, Jerome Niani of the Somaschi, Philip Neri of the Oratorians, and Ignatius Loyola of the Society of Jesus during his retirement at Manresa. Teresa of Avila of the Discalced Carmelites received encouragement from several Dominican confessors and advisors.
INDEX -- NEXT