Rome has intensified her crusade to destroy the Williamite Protestant Revolution Settlement, which is the Constitution of the United Kingdom. A Bill, sponsored in Parliament, has succeeded in getting this matter onto the Parliamentary agenda during this session. The Queen, on a first since the Reformation, has had the Roman Catholic Cardinal of England to stay with her at Sandringham, and to preach at the Royal service in the Church of England yesterday, 13th January. We are delighted that Dr. Clive Gillis, the outstanding Protestant historian, is writing a series of articles on the historical background of this whole conspiracy to destroy our Protestant heritage. These, which are in the process of publication will be carried on the website, the first one commencing today. We will also keep our readers informed as to what is happening in Parliament as matters proceed. — Dr. Ian Paisley
The Pope of Charles I’s reign was Maffeo Barbarini, known as Urban VIII. His activities were so extensive that only detailed accounts of his life mention his intrigues in England.
Urban’s towering statue stands in St. Peters, Rome, to the right of the reliquary of Peter’s chair. However the scale of the building and the distance from which it must be viewed, makes it appear quite tiny and most visitors do not notice it.
Words would fail any Protestant writer trying to summarise the deeds of Urban’s reign. He made his brother and two nephews fabulously rich Cardinals, far beyond the wealth of today’s footballers and pop stars. He gave the rest of his family vast tracts of land, property and titles. We have already met nephew Scipione, the art thief, with his luxurious palace, Villa Borghese, filled with erotic art, some kept secretly for his private appreciation. Urban sacked the remains of classical Rome in his search for marble and lead. From this arose the saying, "What the Barbarians did not, the Barberini’s did". At the same time he employed an army of architects and artists to beautify the city, especially St. Peters – and not the least his own monument there.
Fear of Spain
Politically, Urban VIII is not highly rated. The temporal power of the papacy declined during his pontificate. He was obsessed with the idea that Spain might utilise her holdings in southern Italy to invade the Papal States. So he spent immense sums of money fortifying his territories to prevent the wealth of the Barberinis from being plundered by Spain. The same fear forced him into an alliance with France against the Spanish Habsburgs, to the neglect of Catholic middle Europe, Where the hypocritically opposed nepotism and simony. The Romans came to hate the Barberinis and they probably hastened Urban’s death.
Urban supported the Jesuits in their theological feud with the Jansenists, who taught free grace. At first he supported Galileo, writing a preface to one of Galileo’s works, but then he sided with the Jesuits and the Inquisition at the trial and imprisonment of Galileo.
The Jesuit saying, "Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man," is illuminating. Urban’s father died when he was only three years old and his mother insisted that he be educated by the Jesuits first in Florence and later in Rome at the Jesuit Collegio Romano. He was a Jesuit tool, but rather a stubborn one. Charles I’s alliance with France and his marriage to Henrietta Maria after rejecting the Spanish infanta, brought Urban and Charles together on the European stage.
The English problem
We have seen in previous articles how a deep rift arose in this century between the ordinary Roman Catholic Secular priests and the Jesuits. The Secular priests were keen to take an Oath of Allegiance to the king. They sought to have another bishop appointed following Bishop Smith’s ignominious departure, and to see a proper English Roman Catholic hierarchy set up again. The Jesuits on the other hand wanted to retain their independent missionary status, and to grow rich and powerful pursuing their own intrigues, whilst remaining fiercely loyal to the idea of an all powerful papcy.
It was against this background that Urban sent his secret agent Gregorio Panzani to London, arriving there on 15th December 1634. He was the first official papal agent to visit these shores since the Reformation. His memoirs are of great interest. The Italian manuscript was loudly declared to be a forgery, particularly by the Jesuits, and that despite several leaks of evidence to the contrary. They were finally purchased by the British Museum in 1854 and their authenticity established.
At first sight Urban’s choice of Panzani seems bizarre. Despite public eulogies extolling Panzani’s "experienced virtue", and "polite learning", make him "in all respects qualified for the business," he proved to be quite useless as a spy. He knew little French – needing lessons to address Henrietta and her court – and less English. Instead of simply gathering intelligence, he kept involving himself in unsuccessful intrigues not sanctioned by the Vatican. He was embarrassingly biased towards the Seculars and did not attempt to cloak his hostility to the Jesuits. This raised the hopes of the Seculars who do not seem to have realised that his sheer ineptitude rendered his efforts on their behalf counter productive. Panzani was vain and continually misjudged situations through his facile over optimism. He could not see that he was being manipulated by Charles and his Secretary of State Windebank. His successor dubbed him "pazzo" (Italian for ‘madman’).
Urban badly needed good intelligence ever since August 1633 when Henrietta had sent Sir Robert Douglas to lobby for a Cardinal’s hat for someone who might convert her husband – probably Laud. Moreover, a controversy had broken out in France similar to that in England between the Seculars on the one hand and the monks, and especially the Jesuits, on the other, and it seems Urban did not want it to spread further. So he sent Fr. Leander Jones, President of the English Benedictines, to England from the continent. This was done unofficially but with Laud’s approval. The Benedictine reported back that the Jesuits were the real culprits in England and he recommended that the Pope allow English Roman Catholics to take the Oath of Allegiance to the king. Fr. Jones died at this point, leading to the Panzani mission.
Urban was also aware of the blossoming of Puritanism in England, and that some Anglicans, sickening of Calvinism, were growing sympathetic to Laud and yearning for lost practices, and even feeling and affinity with the Seculars. In the same way, many of the Seculars were wearying of their separation from their Laudian Anglican brethren and longing for reunion with them.
But in Urban’s eyes, union between Rome and Canterbury – a real possibility at that point – would inevitably weaken the papacy and end in a sell-out to the Protestants. Of course, every Jesuit within earshot would do his utmost to reinforce this view.
So was the choice of the hopeless Panzani a papal misjudgement, or did Urban deliberately use him as a cloak for his real purpose? A reasonable interpretation of events would be that Urban realised that under Charles and Laud a restored Roman hierarchy would quickly be swallowed up by the Church of England. He therefore sent the incompetent Panzani to champion the Secular’s cause and allowed the Jesuits to take the blame for the failure of the scheme for the restoration of the hierarchy, knowing that the Jesuit’s shoulders were quite broad enough to bear it.
Panzani’s memoirs, fascinating as they are, probably do not reveal Urban’s real strategy. The key facts in the present writer’s opinion are as follows. Firstly there was Urban’s Jesuit background. Then there was Urban’s vanity. Pastor, the distinguished historian of the popes, wrote that Urban’s "government had become absolute… none among the Cardinals dared to resist… If ever a pope was jealous of his authority it was this present pope". Thirdly, Rome’s imprimatur rests on the statement that, "Cardinal Ottavio Bandini… a firm friend to the idea of bishops for England… had fought strenuously in the conclave of 1623 against the forces that ultimately elected Maffeo Barberini… as Urban VIII… on the other hand the champion of Smith’s adversaries [especially the Jesuits], Cardinal Giangarzia Millini, was under Urban VIII restored to favor". Inquisitor Millini was still smarting from the fact that Urban’s predecessor, Gregory XV, had appointed the Bishops of Chalcedon [i.e. England] which he had opposed.
Put the other way, the Cardinal who wanted England to have a bishop, had opposed the election of Urban to the papacy, whilst the friend of the Jesuits and opponent of English bishops had been honoured by Urban. The latter’s counsels seem to have prevailed.
The root of this opposition to an English bishop and hierarchy was Rome’s arrogant attitude to English Roman Catholics taking the oath of allegiance to Charles, however much it was diluted. When James I first suggested an Oath, a Benedictine, Thomas Preston by name, writing under the alias Roger Widdringron, had supported the idea of the oath. The Inquisition promptly placed his writing on the Index of Prohibited Books. The words of bitter censure, cursing and prohibition lie before me as I write.
39 Articles given an RC sense
Later, Franciscan Christopher Davenport, known as Francis St Clare, published a work Deus Natura Gratia with an appendix expounding the 39 Articles giving them a Roman Catholic sense that would make them acceptable to Romanists. This "pleased the King" and could have been most useful to Laud in a unified Church. But it too was promptly met with severe censure from Rome – to the point where Panzani made an ass of himself by wrongly assuming that the Inquisition had placed it on the Index.
When Jesuit Fr Leeds, writing under the name of Courtney, produced a book against the Oath, the peeved Charles I imprisoned him. Indeed Secretary Windebank tried to rouse Millini to get the Inquisition to take action against this book too, but in vain. A letter from Urban’s cousin, Cardinal Francisco Barberini, (who reached that exalted position within three days of Maffeo’s gaining the papal chair) put the position to Panzani in no uncertain terms: "for should we pretend to draw up forms of oaths, the English would pretend to be judges of them whereas it is our business to act as judges where faith is attacked or endangered". Quite simply Papal infallibility, Urban and the Barbarini dynasty, would be outraged. And no, the Cardinal would not lobby the Inquisition to ban Courtney’s book, even to assist beleaguered Panzani in his task. The Cardinal told Panzani firmly that, "To condemn Courtney was to appear too openly against the authority of the see of Rome".
Hopes for Charles Conversion
Further proof of Urban’s position lies buried in an insignificant footnote in Pastor’s forty 600 page volumes: "That Urban VIII himself hoped for the conversion of the English King is confirmed be the Venetian ambassador Angelo Correr September 18 1636". When Panzani was recalled and the subtler Fr George Con put in his place, it was not to sound out Charles about Bishops. Urban personally sent Henrietta Maria, who now had enormous influence with the King, a crucifix which she immediately put on. This could not fail to impress the ever-increasing number of aristocrats who were her converts, for she was now at the height of her powers. Urban also saw to it that Con "plied the King with gifts of works of art". When the end was looming for Charles I, he urgently needed to raise an army. The papal coffers were at his disposal, upon one condition. "Urban VIII demanded that Charles should first embrace the Catholic faith." Urban’s ultimatum was ruthless. Unless Charles became a Catholic Prince and restored England to Rome, he would have to face his fate alone.
Our next article on the Squirearchy, will take us out of the claustrophobia of the Court in London, DV, to discover how Romanism was organised and managed to survive the civil war and how Rome sought to keep control of the scattered largely rural company of ordinary Roman Catholic people in the period 1631-1685.