Dominis, Marco Antonio de (DNB00)

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DOMINIS, MARCO ANTONIO de (1566–1624), divine, was born in 1566 in the island of Arbe, on the Dalmatian coast. He was educated, as he tells us, by the jesuits, and was at first a most ardent disciple of their system. But as he advanced in theology he began to have doubts, arising from the rigid way in which prohibited books were kept, even from priests and bishops. The fathers of the order were proud of his mathematical and physical attainments, and obtained for him the post of professor of mathematics at Padua, and of logic and rhetoric at Brescia. Upon his ordination De Dominis became a popular preacher. After a time he was promoted to the bishopric of Segni, in the state of Venice, much to the annoyance of the jesuits, who wished to keep him in their order. He records in his account of this part of his life his utter disgust at the character of the theology then prevailing, the ignorance of scripture, and the abuses which were rife among the clergy. Being advanced to the archbishopric of Spalatro, De Dominis was necessarily involved in the great quarrel between the republic of Venice and the see of Rome in the early part of the seventeenth century. There was thus much ill-will between him and the pope, and all the more because the pope had imposed on him a yearly pension of five hundred crowns, to be paid out of the revenues of the see of Spalatro to the Bishop of Segni. Angered at this, and (according to his own account) horrified at the abuses prevalent in the Romish church, the archbishop began to entertain the notion of quitting his position. He had at this time composed a part of his great work, ‘De Republicâ Ecclesiasticâ,’ which dealt severely with Rome, and he was anxious to get facilities for publishing it. At Venice the archbishop had the opportunity of taking counsel with the able Englishmen then resident there—Sir Henry Wotton [q. v.] and his chaplain, William Bedell [q. v.] He ascertained from them that he would be well received in England, and he determined to migrate thither. In the tract which he published to explain his conduct (Consilium Profectionis, London, 1616) he says: ‘This my departure, my exit or flight from Babylon—I desire to be clear of all suspicion of schism. I fly from errors and abuses; I fly that I may not be partaker of their sins, and their punishment. But I will never separate myself from the charity which I owe to the holy catholic church, and to all who are in communion with her.’ Before quitting Venice the archbishop had obtained, surreptitiously, a copy of the manuscript of Father Paul's ‘History of the Council of Trent,’ which he afterwards published in London without the author's permission. He repaired first of all to Chur in Switzerland, and then to Heidelberg. At this place he published the most violent of all his attacks upon Rome in a little book called ‘Scogli del Christiano naufragio,’ which was afterwards republished in England. He arrived in this country in 1616, and was very well received by James I, who handed him over to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Abbot) to be entertained at Lambeth until some provision could be made for him. Soon after his arrival in England De Dominis preached a sermon in Italian (afterwards printed) in which he inveighed with great violence against the abuses of the Roman church. Regarded as a convert to Anglicanism the king conferred upon him (May 1618) the deanery of Windsor and the mastership of the Savoy. He presented himself to the living of West Ilsley, Berkshire, having made a shift to read the articles in English (Goodman, Court of King James). The writers of that period (Fuller, Wilson, Hacket, Goodman, Crakanthorpe) are full of details as to the archbishop. He was corpulent, irascible, pretentious, and exceedingly avaricious. His principal employment in his preferment seems to have been to endeavour to find flaws in the leases, that the tenants might be again subjected to a fine. His whole life, indeed, seems to have been one of dishonesty. But that he was a very able and an extremely learned man there can be no question. In 1617 was published in London the first part of his great work ‘De Republicâ Ecclesiasticâ.’ The printing of the remainder was afterwards carried on at Frankfort. The whole work occupies three folio volumes. It contains an elaborate argument against the monarchy in the church claimed by Rome, and in favour of the rights of national churches. In 1619 De Dominis published Father Paul's famous ‘History of the Council of Trent.’ He is accused of having considerably altered the author's words, and he added side notes, which form the sharpest part of the statements against Rome, and prefixed a title not in the original. For these reasons Father Paul never altogether acknowledged the work. De Dominis lived in England in constant dread of the inquisition, and when the negotiations as to the Spanish marriage began, and Spaniards were in high favour, he was very uneasy. Just at this period also (1620) Paul V died, and was succeeded by Gregory XV, who was a relative and fellow-countryman of De Dominis. The archbishop was probably by this time tired of England, and found the climate unhealthy. He accordingly applied secretly to some of the ambassadors, requesting them to let it be known at Rome that if he were invited by the pope he would not object to return to the bosom of the church. Negotiations were commenced, carefully kept secret from King James, and a promise of pardon and a handsome salary was made to him if he would return and recant. He was warned again and again by his friends not to trust himself within reach of the inquisition, but he had confidence in his own dexterity. Having made up his mind to quit England, he at length wrote to King James (16 Jan. 1622) telling him of the invitation he had received from Pope Gregory, ‘who did seek nothing therein but God's glory, and to use my poor help to work the inward peace and tranquillity of your majesty's kingdom,’ and desiring leave to depart. The king was naturally very much angered that one who had professed such violent antagonism to Rome should thus without reason return thither. He sent the bishops of London and Durham and the dean of Winchester to question the archbishop and to find out his real views and intentions. De Dominis skilfully parried their inquiries, declaring still his regard for the church of England, but expressing his belief that both churches were right in fundamentals, and that there might be a union between them. He was treading very difficult ground, for if he now spoke against Rome there was manifest danger, and if he angered the English king there was the danger of the Star-chamber for the offence of having corresponded with the pope. When it was at length ascertained that he was resolutely bent to leave England, De Dominis was summoned before the ecclesiastical commissioners at Lambeth. And first having been made formally to acknowledge all that he had written against Rome, he was ordered to quit the country within twenty days. It was well known that he had been hoarding up a large sum of money, and the king had determined to seize upon this. But the crafty prelate had lodged his trunks with an ambassador who was just about to leave the kingdom, and they could not be touched. He himself went to Brussels, where he was to wait for the pope's formal permission to go to Rome. Soon afterwards his trunks, which were being conveyed away among the ambassador's goods, were actually seized at Gravesend. Upon this the archbishop wrote piteously to the king, and the trunks were restored to him. They contained 1,600l. or 1,700l., which he had scraped together in England (Goodman). While waiting at Brussels De Dominis wrote another very remarkable tract. It is called ‘Consilium Reditûs,’ and is a complete palinodia of his former tract, ‘Consilium Profectionis.’ He now declares that he had deliberately lied in every statement which he had made about Rome; that in the Roman church there was nothing but truth and excellence, whereas the Anglican (so called) church was a schismatical and degraded body. This tract afterwards gave occasion to the composition of one of the most powerful controversial treatises of English divinity, Crakanthorpe's ‘Defensio Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ.’ De Dominis, thinking that he had made ample amends to Rome by this unmeasured laudation and grovelling abuse of himself, went onwards to Rome. He was soon destined to find that Rome never forgives. He was quickly entrapped into defending some of the positions which he had taken up in his anti-Roman treatises, and thereupon was seized by the inquisition and put in close confinement. He was now fifty-eight and his health was shattered, and he soon succumbed (1624). In a curious tract giving an account of his treatment, he is said to have been allowed the last sacraments, but to have died impenitent. It is also said that among his papers was found an unorthodox treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity. After his death a conclave of cardinals sat to consider his case. He was judged to have been a heretic, and was handed over to the secular arm; whereupon his body and his books were publicly burned. Besides his theological and controversial works which have been mentioned, De Dominis wrote a treatise, ‘De Radiis Visûs et Lucis in Vitris Perspectivis et Iride’ (Venice, 1611). His intellectual and literary powers were very considerable. His Latin style is somewhat involved. As to his honesty, all his contemporaries, both Anglican and Roman, seem to be agreed that he had none. [Marcus Antonius de Dominis suæ Profectionis consilium exponit, London, 1616; Bishop Neile's M. Ant. de Dominis, archbishop of Spalatro: his Shiftings in Religion, London, 1624; M. Ant. de Dominis, archiep. Spalatensis, sui Reditûs ex Angliâ consilium exponit, Cologne, 1623; M. Ant. de Dominis, Proceedings at Rome against him after his death, Lond. 1624; Middleton's Game of Chesse, 1624, where De Dominis is ridiculed under the title of the Fat Bishop; Goodman's Court of King James I, ed. Brewer, 2 vols. Lond. 1839; Fuller's Church Hist. of Britain, Lond. 1655; Perry's Hist. of the Church of England, vol. i. Lond. 1863.]

G. G. P.