« PreviousContinue »
among the papers of Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia, in the life of that prelate by De Potter, i. p. 236–256. This account is full, minute, and circumstantial : it describes every symptom, every change, the whole medical history of the case—the hour (here we request our readers to fix their attention, for reasons which will hereafter appear) at which the dying pontiff partook of the Holy Sacrament, and that at which he received extreme unction—(the persons who officiated at this ceremony were well known; at least there was nothing strange or unusual, and the Pope was faithfully waited upon by his usual attendants and friends). The post-mortem examination is afterwards given with the utmost precision. In short, as far as internal evidence goes, we know nothing which can appear more trustworthy than this document-a document likely to be forwarded to the court of Madrid by the ambassador, and that ambassador in a position to command the most accurate information.
Our own disposition is towards severe mistrust in all such crimes as the poisoning of great people. We decline, therefore, to express any positive opinion on this historical problem. It is clear that Cardinal Bernis, who had carefully collected all the circumstances connected with the last illness of the Pope (a document unfortunately lost), believed in the poison. The physicians,' he says, 'who assisted at the opening of the body, express themselves with prudence—the surgeons with less caution. According to Cardinal Bernis, the successor of Clement, Pius VI., led him to believe that he was well informed as to the death of his predecessor, and was anxious to avoid the same fate. Bernis adhered to his opinion to the last ; so asserts M. St. Priest; the authority adduced by M. Crétineau Joly for his change of opinion seems to us utterly worthless. M. St. Priest expresses his own strong conviction of the poisoning, attested, as he says, “ by the Pope's successor himself, in a grave conversation with a prince of the Church.
M. Crétineau Joly, of course, treats the story of the poison with contempt; one of his arguments appears to us singularly unfortunate. It is, in plain English, that the Jesuits could not
have poisoned Clement XIV. after his accession, because they did not before. Then it would have been to their advantage: now it was too late, and of no use. It is a strange defence of the Order, that they would not perpetrate an unprofitable crime. But is not revenge a motive as strong as hatred, even with fanatics ? Moreover, till the actual publication of the brief, the Jesuits might and did entertain hopes of averting their doom, through the fears or irresolution of the Pope. On the other hand, we cannot think the prophecies of the speedy death of the Pope, which were industriously disseminated among the people, by any means of the weight which is usually ascribed to them, as against the Jesuits. A peasant girl of Valentano, named Bernardina Renzi, who signified by certain mysterious letters, P.S.S.V., Presto Sarà Sede Vacante, was visited, it is said, by many Jesuits, and even by Ricci, the General of the Order-of which latter fact we should have great doubts. But, granting that all these prophecies were actively propagated, encouraged, suggested by the Jesuits, it would only follow that they were pleasing and acceptable to their ears; they might have vague hopes of frightening Clement to death; at all events, to all who believed that they were of divine revelation, it showed that God was for the Jesuits and against the Pope. But if they or any party of fanatics among them, entertained the design of making away with the Pope, it was not very consistent with Jesuit wisdom to give this public warning to the Pope and his friends-to commit themselves by frauds which would rather counteract than further their purpose. Crime of this kind is secret and noiseless; it does not sound a note of preparation; the utmost that can be said is, that these prophecies may have worked on the morbid and excited brain of some of the more fanatical, and prompted a crime thus, as it might seem to them, predestined by heaven.
M. Crétineau Joly dwells on the disdain with which Frederick II. treated the story of the poisoning. We are not aware that his Prussian majesty possessed any peculiar means for ascertaining the truth, except from the Jesuits whom he had taken under
his especial patronage, thinking that he could employ them for his own purposes. The judgement of many Protestant writers, somewhat ostentatiously adduced, may prove their liberality; but the authority of each must depend on the information at his command. The report of the physicians would be conclusive if we knew more about their character and bias; and if Bernis had not asserted that the surgeons held a different language. On the physiology of the case we profess our ignorance-how far there are slow poisons which, imbibed into the constitution, do their work by degrees and during a long period of time. There is certainly no necessity for the dæmon ex machina, the Jesuit with his cup of chocolate,4 to account for the death of Clement, if it be true (and there is no improbability in the case) that he was of a bad constitution, aggravated by improper diet and self-treatment, and by those worst of maladies in certain diseases of the body, incessant mental agitation, daily dread of death, and horrors which, darkening into superstition, clouded for a time his reason. What we know of the state of the body after death might perhaps be ascribed to a natural death under such circumstances, as well as to poison.
But we have not done with the deathbed of Pope Ganganelli. We have alluded to the beautiful incident related by Cardinal Bernis, that, just before his dissolution, his full faculties returned, and that his dying words, like those of his Master's first martyr, of his Master himself, were of forgiveness to his enemies. With this prayer we should have left the Pope in
4 M. Crétineau Joly has great respect for the traditions of the higher, the priestly circles at Rome: the popular traditions are the other way. When the present Pope visited one of the Jesuit establishments, the mob cried out, "Take care of the chocolate.'
5 It is right to state that, in a voluminous Dictionary of Ecclesiastical History, by Gaetano Moroni (a work the publication of which was commenced under the auspices of the late Pope, Gregory XVI.), among other arguments to discredit the poisoning, it is alleged that a celebrated Florentine surgeon, Nannoni, being in Rome, was consulted by the Pope. Nannoni told him that his malady was 'un' affezione scorbutica universale, troppo avanzata nel sangue;' that proper care and diet might alleviate but could not cure, the disorder.- Art. Clement XIV.
The Spanish document is here more brief: 'In mezzo agli atti di contrizione e pietà veramente esemplare rese l'anima al suo Creatore, verso l'ora 13,' &c.-P. 246,
humble hope to the mercies of Him to whom all judgement is committed by the Father.
But this is not enough: a Pope, even though guilty of suppressing the Jesuits, must have a secure and certain absolution. In the extract which we are about to make we assure our readers that we invite their attention to no scrap from a monkish chronicle of the Middle Ages, no fragment of hagiography disinterred from any of the Greek menologies, or from the Golden Legend, but a grave statement offered to us in the nineteenth century as an historical fact, and guaranteed by a solemn decision of the Papal See:
In his last moments his understanding was fully restored. The Cardinal Malvezzi, the evil angel of the pontiff, was attending him at the hour of death. God did not permit the successor of the Apostles to expire unreconciled with Heaven. To snatch away the soul of the Pope from hell, which, according to his own words, had become his dwelling, and in order that the grave might not close without hope on him who ceased not to repeat, ‘O Dio! sono dannato,' a miracle was necessary -a miracle was wrought. Saint Alphonso de Liguori was then Bishop of Santa Agata dei Goti, in the kingdom of Naples. Providence, which was jealous rather for the honour of the supreme pontificate than for the salvation of a Christian compromised by a great fault, designated Alphonso de Liguori as his intermediator between Heaven and Ganganelli. In the process for the canonization of that saint we read in what manner the prodigy was accomplished :— The venerable servant of God, living at Arienzo, a small town in his diocese (it was on September 21, 1774), had a kind of fainting fit. Seated on his couch, he remained two days in a sweet and profound sleep. One of his attendants wished to wake him. His vicar-general, Don John Nicholas de Rubino, ordered them to let him rest, but not to lose sight of him. When he at length awoke, he immediately rung his bell, and his servants bastened towards him. Seeing them much astonished, “What is this?" he said ; " what is the matter ?” “What is the matter !” they replied ; “why, for two days you have neither spoken nor eaten, nor given any sign of life.” “You indeed,” said the servant of God, “ thought that I was asleep; but it was no such thing : you do not know that I have been away to minister to the Pope, who is now dead !" Before long, information arrived that Clement XIV. had died at thirteen o'clock (between eight and nine in the morning)—that is to say, at the precise moment when the servant of God rang his bell.'
Such is the statement which Rome, 80 dificult in the affair of miracles,
and which does not avouch them till after mature examination, has guaranteed in the Acts of Canonization of Alphonso di Liguori. Rome has discussed; Rome has pronounced : this bilocation—[this being in two places at the same time]-is an historic fact!!'-P. 375.
And M. Crétineau Joly is not content to leave this story in privileged obscurity in the acts of canonization. Verily, we comprehend at length the solicitude of the Cardinals, the tears of the General of the Jesuits, the desire of the Pope for the suppression of M. Crétineau Joly's book.
?• Informatio, animadversiones et responsio super virtutibus V. S. D. Alphonsi Mariæ di Ligorio' (Rome, 1806). These acts we have not seen. We take them as quoted by our author. In Morone's Dictionary we read that Bishop Liguori was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839; but he died in 1786, and the taking of evidence about his claims had, of course, been begun early—and the decision on the various miracles recorded from time to time by the proper authorities, according to the rules which our readers may consult in the first three volumes of the Opera Omnia' of Pope Benedict XIV., edition the 14th—for no less than three of those folios are occupied with his grand treatise, De Bcatificatione Servorum Dei et Canonizatione Beatorum.