Gregory XVI (Bartolommeo Alberto Capellari)
Gregory XVI (Bartolommeo Alberto Capellari), Pope, was born at Belluno, Sept. 18,1765. He became a Camaldolite Benedictine under the name of Mauro, and at twenty-five years was made professor of theology. In 1799 he published the Triumph of the Holy See and of the Church (Rome, 4to), a treatise vindicating the absolute power of the popes. In 1801 he became abbot of his monastery, and in 1803
general of his order. He was made cardinal and prefect of the propaganda in 1826. On the death of Leo XII he was elected pope, Feb. 2, 1831. His reign fell in a stormy time. Immediately after his accession revolts occurred in several of the papal provinces. Bologna took the lead; the commotion spread swiftly from Bologna throughout Romagna, and soon reached all parts of the pope's dominions except the metropolitan city. The intention of the insurgents was to put an end forever to the temporal sovereignty of the pope, and to unite the states of Italy. But the movement was not well contrived; it was simply a spontaneous burst of enthusiasm, excited by the French Revolution of 1830. Yet so utterly powerless and detested was the pontifical government, that, left to itself, it could not have survived the shock of even this unorganized insurrection. Austria poured troops into the disaffected provinces, and quickly silenced the tumult. It was evident, however, that agitations like these could only be prevented by timely concessions, and the powers of Europe united to recommend this course to the pope, in order that a "new aera" (as cardinal Bernetti, the papal secretary, said) might commence with the popedom of Gregory XVI. The new aera was slow in arriving. The papal government, as usual, forgot its promises as soon as the danger was past. Indignant remonstrances, and partial attempts at revolt, rapidly followed by confiscations, imprisonments, and exiles, rapidly led the way to a complete relapse into the old system of misgovernment and steady suppression of free thought. The Papal States were now the only part of civilized Europe in which municipal institutions were unknown, and where the laity were wholly excluded from the conduct of public affairs. For many years the people were busy in plotting revolutions, and the government in practicing espionage on the largest scale, suddenly searching suspected houses, punishing the suspected without trial, and every way embittering the spirit of hostility. Plans were formed by the exiled patriots to unite all Italy in a confederation for freedom, but these plans were discovered and destroyed by the Austrian police before they were ripe for execution. All Europe looked on with pity, but no state offered to interfere, lest commotions in Italy should lead to disturbances elsewhere. The banished Italians themselves, in a manifesto which they published in 1845, declared that the enormities of Gregory's government had risen to such a height "that each one of them more than sufficed to. give the right of loudly protesting against his breach: of faith, his trampling upon justice, his torturing human nature, and all the excesses of his tyranny." In, fact, the whole pontificate of Gregory was one long oppression of his subjects. At its termination there were between two and three thousand political prisoners in the papal dungeons!
Gregory was not less active in strengthening the power of Rome abroad than in crushing out liberty and happiness at home. He erected, in various countries, twenty-seven new bishoprics and thirty-two apostolic: vicariates. In 1836 he gave the College De Propaganda into the care of the Jesuits, and he trusted and favored that order in every way. He opposed the Bible Societies and the general diffusion of the Bible, uttering violent encyclicals on these points. A better feature was his opposition to the slave-trade and to slavery. He put down the Hermesians (q.v.) in Germany with the strong hand, and greatly enlarged the bulk of the Index Expurgatorius. The Jesuit missions were greatly fostered by Gregory, and societies to raise funds, such as the (Euvre de la Foi (Society for the Propagation of Faith) in France, grew rapidly in extent and productiveness. Romanism increased under his pontificate in every country in Europe, partly in consequence of a natural reaction against previous depression, but largely, also, through the energetic activity of the pope. He died of cancer, June 1, 1846. Gregory wrote several Encyclical Epistles, which are of value as showing the unchanged character of the papacy; among them are translated A Letter to the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland (Lond. 1836, p. 71, 8vo): — Encyclical to all Patriarchs, Primates, etc. (London, 1845, p. 40, 8vo). See Farini, Lo Stato Romano dell' anno 1815 (Turin,1841, 3 vols.); La Farina, Storia d'Italia; Revue des deux Mondes, June, 1847; Moroni, Dizion. di erudizione ecclesiast. vol. xxxii.