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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Despite the provisions of the papal brief of 1537


Reforms in the Americas and their results.]

It remains to deal with the relations of the crown and the church, to which the next chapter is devoted, and to allude to the important reforms in the Americas. Much that was beneficial to the colonies at the time was achieved, and much else which in fact helped them to be the better prepared in the approaching combat with the mother country. In the main, however, the policies of subjection and of the development of the revenues in the supposed interests of Spain were followed, with the result that resentments were kept alive and ultimate disaster invited.



[Sidenote: Pronounced zeal of the Bourbons in subjecting the church.]

[Sidenote: The elements in controversy.]

If the kings of the House of Austria had displayed zeal in diminishing the range of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the Bourbon monarchs, with their accentuated ideal of absolutism, were even more insistent in that respect. The kings were assisted by elements to which they themselves were otherwise hostile, such as the Jansenists[63] and the encyclopedists, whose partisans furnished arguments for the royal authority, because they opposed the rule of the church. Nevertheless, the monarchical

ideal of the kings was sufficient to induce them to attack the church, except as concerned the purely spiritual interests of the Catholic religion, and the absolute patronage which the kings enjoyed in the Americas became the model of what they wished to establish in Spain. There were two principal angles to the problem, that of overcoming the intervention of the popes in the affairs of the Spanish church, and that of lessening the power and the privileges of the Spanish clergy. As for the intervention of the popes, they exercised the right of appointment to Spanish benefices which became vacant in any of the so-called eight "apostolic months," and also to those vacated in the four "ordinary months" (March, June, September, and December) if the death of the holder occurred at Rome; considerable sums of money were also collected for papal dispensations to marry, papal pardons, and other papal acts of an irregularly recurring character, although government officials charged that a large part of these moneys remained in the hands of Spanish and Italian intermediaries without reaching the coffers of the pope; the tribunal of the nunciature, despite the provisions of the papal brief of 1537, had come to be composed of foreign priests, and besides exercising its judicial functions independently of the royal courts administered the rents of vacant benefices (_vacantes_), which gave rise to accusations of abuses in the management of the funds; the tribunal of the _Cruzada_, for the collection of the tax of that name, was still in papal hands, although the income had frequently in the past been granted to the kings of Spain; and finally, there existed the old question of the _pase regio_, about the necessity for royal consent prior to the publication of papal bulls and briefs, or in fact even for the delivery of pontifical letters. As concerned the relations with the local clergy, the kings were preoccupied with such matters as the great numbers of churchmen (especially the regular clergy), the immunities they enjoyed, the immensity of their landed estates held in mortmain, the extent of the right of asylum in ecclesiastical edifices, and the power of the Inquisition and, far more, that of the Jesuits.

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