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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

170 members of the secular clergy


[Sidenote:

Reduction of the number of persons in religious service.]

The statesmen and economists of the Bourbon era gave considerable attention to the problems arising from the great numbers of the clergy, taking steps to prevent an increase in the membership of religious orders and to bring about a reduction in the list of benefices and chaplaincies. The reign of Charles III was especially notable in this regard, and much was achieved. Still, though there were more churchmen and religious institutions in the Hapsburg period at a time when the population was not so great, there were 2067 convents for men and 1122 for women in 1787, with 61,998 who had taken vows and 71,070 others who had not (though living at the convents), besides 70,170 members of the secular clergy. Thus there were over 200,000 persons in religious service in a total population of about 10,400,000, or one for every fifty-two persons.[64] By 1797 the numbers had been materially lessened. At that time there were 93,397 men and women connected with the institutions of the regular clergy, in 2051 convents for men and 1075 for women, and 58,833 priests. In 1808 there were eight archbishoprics and fifty-two bishoprics in Spain, sustaining 648 dignitaries, 1768 canons, 216 prebends, and 200 half prebends.

[Sidenote: Attempts at internal reform of the church.]

The question of the numbers of the clergy was closely related

to the never-ending problem of reform in the internal life of the church. While matters were not so bad as they had been in earlier times, and while Spanish churchmen compared very favorably with those of some other countries,--for example, those of France,--the necessity for correction was nevertheless clear. Despite the fact that the church furnished many of the most distinguished names of the era in intellectual attainments, the mass of the lower clergy was decidedly uncultivated. There was a marked relaxation in discipline. Many churchmen absented themselves from their livings to become hangers-on at court,[65] with the result that the kings seven times in less than fifty years expelled all priests from Madrid whose parishes were not in that city. It was also deemed necessary to pass laws forbidding clergymen to wear lay dress, for it was claimed that they used it as a disguise, enabling them the more easily to indulge in immoral practices. Many clergymen were punished for improper solicitations in the confessional. Steps toward reform were taken by the popes in 1723, 1737, and 1753,--the two latter times in connection with the concordats of those years. The measures of the pope provided rules for the instruction and discipline of the clergy and sought to diminish the numbers of clergymen and of benefices and chaplaincies.

[Sidenote: Diminution in the rigor of religious persecutions.]

Outwardly there was little difference between this period and the one before it in the persecution of heresy and the effort to attain religious unity. Both of these ideals continued to be proclaimed in the laws, and the Inquisition made its accusations and condemnations and published its indices of prohibited books as formerly, but in fact a great change had come over the spirit in which the laws were interpreted. Such a rigorous policy to stamp out heresy as that employed by Philip II in the Low Countries was no longer thinkable, and while the Hapsburg kings had based their international policy on the re-establishment of Catholic unity, cost what it might, the Bourbons completely abandoned that idea. The treaties of Westphalia in 1648 seemed to have settled the question of religious warfare, with an acknowledgment of the right of Protestant nations to exist apart from the Catholic Church. Henceforth, wars were to be for various objects, mainly political and economic in the eighteenth century, but not for religion.


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