Lectures on Modern History/The Counter-Reformation
The Reformation was extended and established without arousing any strong reaction among Catholics, or inspiring them with a policy. Under the influence of secular interests, profane literature and art, it was a time of slackness in spiritual life. Religious men, like the Cardinals Egidius, Carvajal, and Campeggio, knew, and acknowledged, and deplored, as sincerely as Adrian VI., the growing defects of the ill-governed Church; and at each Conclave the whole of the Sacred College bound itself by capitulations under oath to put an effective check on the excesses of the court of Rome. But at the Lateran Council the same men who had imposed on Leo the obligation to revoke the indulgences suffered them to be renewed; and those who held the language of Erasmus were confronted by a resisting body of officials for whom reform was ruin. Rome flourished on money obtained from the nations in return for ecclesiastical treasures, for promotion and patronage, for indulgences and dispensations. With the loss of Germany the sources of revenue that remained became more necessary; and it was certain that they would be damaged by reform. Chieregato, the bishop who carried to the Diet of Nuremberg that message from Adrian VI. of which I spoke in the last lecture, related in his Memoirs that there was a disposition at one moment to take Luther very seriously, and to avert peril by making the changes he suggested, but that it was decided to repel the attack. There is no other authority for the story, and we only know of it through Father Paul, whom Macaulay admired as the best modern historian. There is a book attributed to Father Paul in which the use of poison is recommended to the Venetian government We cannot take our history out of Newgate, and until his authorship is disproved his solitary testimony is insufficient.
While Clement VII. lived, of whom Sadolet said that he did not renounce his good intention of reforming society, but only postponed it, the idealists who aspired after a regenerated Catholicism never found their opportunity. In 1534 he was succeeded by Paul III., Farnese, a stronger if not a better man, and the change was quickly felt. The new pontiff offered a red hat to Erasmus, to Reginald Pole, who was admired by the Italians, and was supposed to have a future before him in England, being sprung from a royal stock; to Sadolet and Cortese, and to Contarini, the finest character of them all. He appointed a Commission, chiefly consisting of these men, to advise as to things that wanted mending; and besides their report, he received from Contarini himself private communications on the same engrossing topic. In 1541 Paul sent Contarini as his Legate to Ratisbon, where he held the famous Peace Conference with Melanchthon. The reformers of the Renaissance seemed about to prevail, and to possess the ear of the Pontiff. Their common policy was reduction of prerogative, concession in discipline, conciliation in doctrine; and it involved the reversal of an established system. As they became powerful, and their purpose clear, another group detached itself from them, under the flag of No Surrender, and the division of opinion which had been already apparent between Cajetan and Miltitz, between the friends of Erasmus and Reuchlin, and their detractors, burst into open conflict. To men trained in the thought of the Middle Ages, with the clergy above the laity and the Pope above the king, the party that aimed at internal improvement by means the exact opposite of those which had preserved the Church in the past, were feckless enthusiasts. They reverted to the old tradition of indefeasible authority wielding irresistible force; and in the person of Caraffa, Bishop of Chieti, afterwards Archbishop of Naples, cardinal, and Pope, under the name of Paul IV., they now came to the front. It was reported from Ratisbon that the Catholic negotiation, with the Legate Contarini at their head, had accepted the Lutheran doctrine of justification. Pole wrote, in his enthusiasm, that it was a truth long suppressed by the Church, now at length brought to light by his friend. Another friend of Pole, Flaminio, helped to write a book in its defence, which appeared in 1542, and of which 60,000 copies were sold immediately — indicating a popularity which no work of Luther or Erasmus had ever attained. This was the famous volume on the Benefit of the Death of Christ, which was supposed to have perished, said Macaulay, as hopelessly as the Second Decade of Livy, until it was discovered in a Cambridge library, and republished in my recollection.
Now it was these men, Pole, Contarini, and their friends Cortese and Sadolet, who dominated in the Sacred College, occupied high places, and helped to govern the policy of Rome. There were nests of Lutherans at Modena, Naples, and elsewhere; but nobody in those days knew the force of multitudes; a few cardinals caused greater alarm than all the readers of the Benefizio, and it soon appeared that the general of the Capuchins, the Bishop of Capo d'Istria, the Bishop of Modena and Nuncio in Germany, inclined the same way as the suspected cardinals. The most eminent men of the Italian clergy were steering for Wittenberg, and taking Rome with them. An uncle of the Duke of Alva, the cardinal of Sant Iago, thereupon suggested to Caraffa that the best way to save the Church was to introduce the Spanish Inquisition; and he was seconded by another Spaniard, a Basque of great note in history, of whom there will be more to tell. Caraffa, who had been Nuncio in Spain, took up the idea, urged it upon the Pope, and succeeded. What he obtained was nothing new; it belonged to the thirteenth century, and it had been the result of two forces, powerful at the time, the Crusades and the belief in witchcraft.
When the first warlike pilgrims started for Palestine at the end of the eleventh century, it occurred to some of them that without toiling so far they could find enemies of Christ, as bad as the Saracens, close at hand. So they fell upon the Jews in the north of France, along the Rhine and the Danube, and murdered them as they passed. This was done at a moment of religious fervour. And when it became known, in the same region, that there were heretics, the same cause produced the same effects, and the clergy were not always able to save them from the wrath of the populace. The many sects known by the name of Albigenses were Gnostics; but they were better known as Manichees, for the Roman law was severe on Manichees, who were dualists, and by a dualist they meant a worshipper of the devil. Sorcery had not become epidemic and sectarian, but it was suspected occasionally in the twelfth century. We know at the present day to what horrible and loathsome rites Madame de Montespan submitted for the sake of love and hatred. That was done in the most refined and enlightened court in Europe, in the best days of the French intellect, in the home of Bossuet and Racine. It is not difficult to imagine what was believed and what was attempted in ignorant and criminal classes five centuries earlier. Now a witch was, by the hypothesis, a worshipper of the devil, and the dualists fell under the same suspicion of propitiation by sin. It was impossible to exterminate them too quickly, or to devise torments worse than they deserved.
That was the situation towards the middle of the twelfth century. There was a practice which the clergy desired to restrain, and which they attempted to organise. We see by their writings that they believed in many horrible imputations. As time went on, it appeared that much of this was fable. But it also became known that it was not all fabulous, and that the Albigensian creed culminated in what was known as the Endura, which was in reality suicide. It was the object of the Inquisition that such people should not indeed be spared, but should not perish without a trial and without opportunity of resipiscence, so that they might save their souls if not their lives. Its founders could claim to act from motives both of mercy and of justice against members of a Satanic association. And it was not against error or nonconformity simply, but against criminal error erected into a system, that the Inquisitors forged their terrific armoury. In the latter half of the fifteenth century their work was done and their occupation gone. The dread tribunal lapsed into obscurity. Therefore, when the Spaniards demanded to have it for the coercion of the Jews, they asked for what was dormant, but not abolished. It was a revival rather than a creation. And it was for a specifically Spanish purpose. At Rome there were no Moors, and they did not oppress the Jews. Even those who, having passed for Christians, went back to their own faith, were permitted to do so by Clement VII. Against such backsliding the Council of Toledo, under the Gothic kings, had decreed the severest penalties, anticipating Ferdinand and Isabella, or rather Torquemada and Ximenes, by eight hundred years. Founded on the ancient lines, the Spanish Inquisition was modified in the interest of the Crown, and became an important attribute of absolutism.
When the Holy Office for the universal Church was set up in Rome in 1542, it was in many respects distinct both from the first medieval type and from the later Spanish type. In the Middle Ages the headquarters were in the south of France, and the legislation was carried out by Councils at Toulouse, Narbonne, and Béziers. The Popes controlled them through their legates, and issued their own orders to the Dominicans. But it was not one of the institutions of the Court of Rome, and did not always act in harmony with it. It now became part of the Roman machinery and an element of centralisation. A supreme body of cardinals governed it with the Pope at their head. The medieval theory was that the Church condemned, and the State executed, priests having nothing to do with punishment, and requesting that it might not be excessive. This distinction fell away, and the clergy had to conquer their horror of bloodshed. The delinquent was tried by the Pope as ruler of the Church, and burnt by the Pope as ruler of the State. Consequently, this is the genuine and official Inquisition, not that of the Middle Ages, which was only partly in the hands of Rome; not that of Spain, which was founded but not governed by Rome, and for the developments of which the Papacy is not directly responsible.
Originally the business of the Inquisitor was to exterminate. The Albigenses delighted in death, and they were disappointed when it was put off. But now it was directed against opinions not very clearly understood or firmly held, that often resembled a reformed Catholicism more than Protestantism. The number of victims was smaller. At Venice, where the Holy Office had a branch, there were 1562 trials in the sixteenth century, 1469 in the seventeenth, 541 in the eighteenth. But executions were frequent only in Rome. There, in many recorded cases, the victim was strangled before burning. It is doubtful whether death by fire was adopted as the most cruel; for boiling had been tried at Utrecht, and the sight was so awful that the bishop who was present stopped the proceedings. Roman experts regard it as a distinctive mark of the new tribunal that it allowed culprits who could not be caught and punished in the proper way, to be killed without ceremony by anybody who met them. This practice was not unprecedented, but it had fallen into disuse with the rest during the profane Renaissance, and its revival was a portentous event, for it prompted the frequent murders and massacres which stain the story of the Counter-Reformation with crimes committed for the love of God. The laws have not been repealed, but the system continued in its force for no more than a century; and before the death of Urban VIII. the fires of Rome were quenched. At that time persecution unto death was not extinct in England; the last instance in France was in 1762, and in Spain still later. The immediate objects were obtained in the first thirty years. The Reformation in Italy had by that time come to an end, and the Popes had been supplied with an instrument that enabled them to control the Council of Trent. Its action did not extend to other countries.
Next to the Inquisition, the second of the several measures by which central organs were created for the Counter-Reformation is the establishment of new orders. The old ones were manifestly ineffective. The Augustinians produced Luther. The Dominicans had done still worse, for they produced the adversaries of Luther. The learning of the Benedictines was useless for the purpose of the day, and they were not organised for combat. A rich and varied growth of new religious orders was the consequence. The first were the Theatines, then the Capuchins, who were remodelled Franciscans, adapted to the need of the time; then the Barnabites, the Oratorians, and others. Caraffa was the most influential of the Theatines, though not their founder; and he gave them their name, for he was Bishop of Chieti, in Latin Theate. He did more for another institution than for his own, for it was he who brought forward the extraordinary man in whom the spirit of the Catholic reaction is incorporated. At Venice he found a group of young men, most of them Spaniards, all of them seekers after perfection, united otherwise in a somewhat vague design of visiting the Holy Land. Their leader, Ignatius Loyola, at that time an enthusiast, later on a calculator and organiser of the first class, was the same man who helped to transplant to Rome the Inquisition of his own country. As they waited in vain for a passage, Caraffa advised them that their true destination was Rome, where they would be more useful with Protestants than with the heathen; and thus, by his intervention, the Society was founded which eclipsed his own.
Here at last the Catholics acquired a leader who was a man of original genius, and who grasped the whole, or nearly the whole, situation. The Papacy had let things go to ruin; he undertook to save the Church through the Papacy. The ship, tossed in a hurricane, could only be rescued by absolute obedience to the word of command. He called his order the Company of Jesus, making it the perpetual militia of the Holy See for the restoration of authority; and he governed it not only with military discipline, but with a system of supervision and counter-checks which are his chief discovery. The worst crime of the Jesuits, says Helvetius, was the excellence of their government. Nothing had done more to aid the Reformation than the decline and insufficiency of the secular clergy. By raising up a body of virtuous, educated, and active priests, the Jesuits met that argument. The theological difference remained, and they dealt with it through the best controversialists. And when their polemics failed, they strove, as pamphleteers, and as the confessors of the great, to resist the Protestants with the arm of the flesh. For the multitudes that had never heard the Catholic case stated, they trained the most eloquent school of modern preachers. For security in the coming generation, they established successful colleges, chiefly for the study of good silver Latin, and they frequented the towns more than the country, and the rich more than the poor. Thus, while they pursued their original purpose as missionaries to the heathen, almost civilising South America, and almost converting China, they kept their forces gathered for the repulse of Protestantism. They so identified their order and the Church itself with the struggle for existence in Europe, that they were full of the same spirit long after the Counter-Reformation was spent and the permanent line of frontier laid down in the Thirty Years' War, and were busy with the same policy down to the Revocation and the suppression of Port Royal in France, and longer still in Poland.
St. Ignatius directed his disciples according to the maxim that more prudence and less piety is better than more piety and less prudence. His main desire was that they should always act together, presenting a united front, without a rift or a variation. He suppressed independence of mind, discouraged original thinking and unrestrained research, recommended commonly accepted opinions, and required all to hold without question the theology of St. Thomas. The training he imposed made ordinary men very much alike. And this is the mistake we have to guard against in considering the Jesuits. The intended unity never was enforced when the order became numerous and was joined by many able men. There arose so great a wealth of talent that it was followed by variety in ideas among them, such as the founder never contemplated. Their general, Aquaviva, forbade every opinion that contradicts St. Thomas. There could be no question whether it was true or false, and no other test of truth than conformity with his teaching. Yet Molina taught, in regard to grace, a doctrine very different from Thomism, and was followed by the bulk of his order. They were expected to think well of their rule and their rulers; but the most perspicacious exposure of what he called the infirmities of the company was composed by Mariana. Jesuits were by profession advocates of submission to authority; but the Jesuit Sarasa preceded Butler in proclaiming the infallibility of conscience. No other Society was so remarkable for internal discipline; but there were glaring exceptions. Caussin, confessor to Lewis XIII., opposed the policy of his superiors, and was dismissed by them. And when the general required works on theology to be revised at Rome, before publication, he was told that Father Gretser of Ingolstadt would never consent. They were all absorbed in the conflict with the Protestants; but when the idea of reunion arose, late in the seventeenth century, there were Jesuits, such as Masenius, one of those who anticipated Paradise Lost, who wrote in favour of it.
As trials for witchcraft were promoted by Rome, the Jesuits, especially Del Rio, defended them. But it was another Jesuit, Spee, who broke the back of the custom, though he had to publish his book anonymously and in a Protestant town. They were, of necessity, friends of persecution, though one of them, Faure, said that he knew of 6000 heretics put to death, and doubted if one of them had renounced his belief. Belief in system, and in an accepted system, was an essential laid down in their constitutions. But it was Father Petavius who first described the evolution of dogma, and cast every system into the melting-pot of History. Under the name of probabilism, the majority adopted a theory of morals that made salvation easy, partly as confessors of the great, that they might retain their penitents; partly as subject to superiors, that they might not scruple to obey in dubious cases; and partly as defenders of the irrevocable past, that they might be lenient judges. Nevertheless, the opposition was never silenced, and one general of the order wrote against its most conspicuous and characteristic doctrine.
The order was, from the first, ultramontane, in the old meaning of the term. But its members in France consented to sign their names to Galilean propositions as the custom of the country, not as truth. They were ultramontanes in the other sense of the word, as conservatives, advocates of authority and submission, opponents of insubordination and resistance. Accordingly, they became the habitual confessors of absolute monarchs, in Austria, and in France under the Bourbons, and were intimately associated with the great conservative forces of society. At the same time they were required to be disciples of St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Thomas had a very large element of political liberalism. He believed in the Higher Law, in conditional allegiance, in the illegitimacy of all governments that do not act in the interest of the commonwealth. This was convenient doctrine in the endeavour to repress the forces of Protestantism, and for a time the Jesuits were revolutionists. The ideas of 1688, of 1776, of 1789 prevail among them from the wars of religion to about 1620. In some of the medieval writers revolution included tyrannicide. It began to be taught in the twelfth century, and became popular in the sixteenth. The Jesuits adopted the doctrine at one time, and in such numbers that one of them, Keller, in 1611, says he knows hardly three who were opposed to it. A hundred years later this was deplored as a melancholy deviation by D'Avrigny and other fathers of the Society.
The Society of Jesus is the second in the enumeration of the forces that produced and directed the great historic movement that we call the Counter-Reformation. The third is the Council of Trent. The idea arose very early that the only way to find a remedy for those things of which Protestants complained was to hold a general Council, and it was very earnestly desired by the Emperor. Fifteenth-century divines believed that all things would go well if Councils were constantly held. But the Popes were against it from the first, and at last the Protestants also. It was to be an assembly from which they were excluded, and their interests were to be debated and decided by men whose function it now avowedly was to take their lives. The Duke of Würtemberg marvelled at the unhindered presence of Cardinal Farnese in Germany, as a man of blood. The original purpose, therefore, was lost beforehand. The Council did not tend to reconcile, but to confirm, separation. It met in 1545, and ended in 1563, having been interrupted by two long intervals. Questions of doctrine were considered at the beginning, questions of reform chiefly at the end. Pole, who was one of the presiding legates, proposed that they should open the proceedings with a full confession of failings and of repentance on the part of Rome. Then the others would follow. The policy of his colleagues, on the contrary, was to postpone all inquiry into internal defects, and to repel the Protestant aggression. Therefore, the doctrines at issue were defined. Many things were settled which had remained open, and no attempt was made to meet the Protestant demand. Pole, who had hailed the compromise of Ratisbon, spoke with the grace and moderation that were in his character. At the next Conclave he was so near obtaining a majority of votes that the cardinals bowed to him as they passed before his place, and Pole, ignorant of the force at work against him, put on paper what he meant to say by way of thanks. But Caraffa reminded them that he had spoken as a Lutheran during the Council, and he replied that he had put the argument for the sake of discussion only, that Protestants might not say that they had been condemned undefended. The feud continued, and when Pole was legate in England, Caraffa, who was then Pope, recalled him in disgrace, appointing Peto as his successor; and he sent his friend. Cardinal Morone, to the prison of the Inquisition. The effect of these rigours was that Pole, whose friends in Italy were men afterwards burnt by the Holy Office, sent poor people to the flames at Canterbury when he knew that the reign of Mary was nearing its end; and Morone, the colleague of Contarini at Ratisbon, and an admirer of the "Benefizio," having been rescued from prison by the mob, who tore it down at the death of Caraffa, wound up the Council, obedient to orders from Rome, under his successor.
A more persuasive means of expressing opposition was money. When a divine appeared at Trent, the legates, or Visconti, the agent of the Cardinal nephew, decided whether he was to receive payment for his prospective services. Even the Cardinal of Lorraine, the head of the Gallican party, and one of the first men in Europe, gave way for a considerable sum. Father Paul, in a very famous work, describes the Council as a scene of intrigue in which the good intentions of virtuous prelates were thwarted by the artifices of Rome. If the bulk of virtuous prelates resembled Pole and Lorraine, we cannot say much for the strength of their good intentions. Some remedies were, however, applied, and the state of the clergy was improved. On the whole, the reforms were regarded by the government as a disappointing result of so much promise and so much effort.
The Council instituted the index of prohibited books, which is the fourth article in the machinery of resistance. At first, the new power of the press was treated with large indulgence. This was changed by the Reformation, and far more by the organised reaction against it. Books were suppressed by the State, by the clergy, and by the universities. In 1531 the Bishop of London prohibited thirty books at St. Paul's Cross, as well as all other suspect works existing, and to be hereafter written. Vienna, Paris, Venice, followed the example. In 1551, certain books enumerated by the university of Louvain were forbidden by Charles V. under pain of death. A German divine warned the Pope that if the fathers of Trent were allowed to read Lutheran books they would become Lutherans themselves, and such writings were accordingly forbidden even to cardinals and archbishops. The idea of drawing up a comprehensive list of all that no man should read commended itself to the zeal of Caraffa, having been suggested to him by Della Casa, who had published such a list at Venice. He issued the first Roman index, which, under his successor, who was not his friend, was denounced at the Council of Trent as a bad piece of work, and became so rare that I have never seen a copy. It was proposed that a revised edition should be prepared, and in spite of protests from those who had assisted the late Pontiff, and of the Spaniards, who saw the province of their Inquisition invaded, the thing was done, and what was called the Tridentine Index appeared at Rome in 1564. It alludes only in one place to the work which it superseded. A congregation was appointed to examine new publications, to issue decrees against them as required, and to make out catalogues from time to time of works so condemned. Besides this, censures were also pronounced by the Pope himself, the Inquisition, the Master of the Sacred Palace, and the Secretary of the Index, separately. In this way an attempt was made to control what people read, committing to oblivion the works of Protestant scholars, and of such men as Machiavelli, and correcting offensive texts, especially historians. Several such corrected editions were published at the time, and many things were reprinted with large omissions. But no Index Expurgatorius, no notification of what called for modification, was ever published by Rome, officially; and when we use the term, we are thinking of Spain, where it grew into a custom. The best way to suppress a book is to burn it, and there were, accordingly, frequent bonfires of peccant literature. One man, Konias, is said to have thus destroyed 60,000 books, principally Bohemian. Freedom of speech and sincerity of history were abolished for many years.
In connection with this repressive policy, and as its counterpart, a scheme ripened to place Rome, with its libraries, its archives, its incomparable opportunities of gathering contributory aid from every quarter of the Church, at the head of ecclesiastical literature. The Calendar was reformed. The text of the Canon Law was corrected. The Latin Vulgate was revised by Pope Sixtus himself, and every further attempt to improve it was energetically put down. Collections of councils and editions of Fathers were projected, and Baronius, of the Oratory, began the greatest history of the Church ever written, and carried it down to the eleventh folio volume.
In this manner the foundations were laid of that later scholarship, that matured and completed Renaissance, by which the Catholics recovered much of the intellectual influence that had passed to other hands, and learning assisted policy in undoing the work of the reformers.
The natural and inevitable centre of the movement which is known as the Catholic Reformation, but which, for reasons already indicated, is better called the Counter-Reformation, was Rome. It was an enterprise requiring consistency in the objects aimed at, variety in the means, combination with the Powers and avoidance of rivalry, an authority superior to national obstacles and political limitations. At first the initiative did not reside with the Papacy. Farnese, in whose pontificate the transition occurred from the religion of Erasmus to the religion of Loyola, allowed men to act for him whose spirit differed from his own. He long put off the Portuguese demand for a tribunal like the Inquisition of Castile, on the ground that it was a mere scheme of spoliation. With the elevation of Cervini in 1555, reforming or Tridentine Catholicism ascended the papal throne; but he died before his virtues or his talents could avail. Caraffa himself followed. He let the Council drop, saying that no such thing was needed, if governments did their duty. By his lack of control, he pushed things to a breach with the moderate party at home, and with the Habsburgs abroad, and the Roman people threw his statue into the Tiber, in their rejoicings when he died, and released seventy prisoners that he kept in the Inquisition. His nephews, who compromised him and had incurred disgrace in his lifetime, were put to death by his successor. They were the last papal nephews of the old type, angling for principalities and using the Papacy for their own ends. Pius IV., when he closed the Council, strove to do its work by reforms at home. Three modern saints dominated in his time, and effected a conspicuous change in the aspect of Rome. His nephew was Charles Borromeo. St. Philip Neri was the best-known and the best-loved figure in the streets of the city, and Alexandrino governed the Inquisition as an almost independent power. He succeeded, as Pius V., and then the Counter-Reformation was master. Pius was the most austere, the most ardent, the most vehement of men. He incited France to civil war, applauded the methods of Alva, deposed Elizabeth, and by incessant executions strove to maintain public decency and orthodox religion. Protestantism disappeared from Italy in his day, as it had already done in Spain. The Counter-Reformation touched high-water mark with the massacre of St. Bartholomew, a few months after his death.
The quarter of a century from 1564 to the death of Sixtus V. in 1590 is the active period of the movement. It begins when the Council, having determined doctrine, dispersed; and it declines when, by the death of Mary Stuart and the flight of the Armada, the Protestant succession was secured in England and Scotland, and the churches acquired their permanent limit.
It may be doubted whether Italian Protestants ever gave promise of vitality. The leaders who escaped were men of original and eccentric thought, who did not combine well with others; and it was they who established the Socinian church in Poland, in defiance of both Lutheran and Calvinist. The Italian movement was crushed by violence. The scene of the authentic Counter-Reformation was central Europe, and especially those countries which were the scene of the Reformation itself, Germany and Austria. There the tide, which with little interruption had flowed for fifty years, was effectually turned back, and regions which were Protestant became Catholic again. There too the means employed were not those prevailing under the crown of Spain. They were weapons supplied and suggested by the Peace of Religion, harmoniously forged by the Lutherans themselves at the Diet of 1555. There was to be no mutual persecution, taking persecution to imply the penalty of death, and a persecutor to mean homicide, in the sense to which Europe was accustomed. No subject, on either side, could be deprived of life or property, could be tortured or imprisoned, or even banished, if there were numbers, for that would be ruinous to the State. Governments were forced to oppress him wisely, depriving him of Church and school, of preacher and schoolmaster; and by those nameless arts with which the rich used to coerce the poor in the good old days, and which, under the name of influence, were not considered altogether infamous by Englishmen in the last generation. When the people had been deprived of their pastors, the children were sent to Catholic schools. Fervent preachers came among them, Jesuits, or it might be Capuchins, widely different in morality, earnestness, education, and eloquence from the parish clergy, whose deficiencies gave such succour to Luther. Most of those who, having no turn for controversy, had been repelled by scandals were easily reconciled. Others, who were conscious of disagreement with the theology of the last thousand years, and were uninfluenced by the secondary and auxiliary motives, had now to face disputants of a more serious type than the adversaries of Luther, and to face them unsupported by experts of their own. Where there had been indifference, ignorance, disorder, in the easy-going days of the Renaissance, there was now the closest concentration of efforts, strict discipline and regularity of life, a better though narrower education, and the most strenuous and effective oratory. Therefore it was by honest conviction as well as by calculated but not illegal coercion that the Reformation was driven back, and Protestants who had been almost the nation became no more than a bare majority. The original spring ran dry, and the expansive force had departed from Lutheranism.
In Austria conditions were of another kind. The country was largely Protestant, and the Emperor, Maximilian II., was not only a friend to toleration, but to Lutheran ideas. Under his auspices a conciliatory, neutral, and unconventional Catholicism came into existence, accepting the doctrinal compromise which had been tendered more than once, discouraging pilgrimages, relics, indulgences, celibacy, and much that had been the occasion of scoffing, an approach to Erasmus, if not to Luther. The outward sign was the restoration of the cup. When his restraining hand was removed, the process of reaction which had done well on the Rhine was extended to the Danube and the Illyrian Alps, with like success. And it was the steady pursuit of this policy in Austria that provoked the Thirty Years' War. In Poland, too, where toleration had been conceded in the avowed expectation that the sects would devour each other, it was exchanged for acts like those I have described. The result of the struggle was that the boundary receded, that a time came of recovery for the Catholics and of decline for the Lutherans in central Europe, and that the distribution has remained practically unchanged. The only example of a country becoming Protestant since then occurred when the principles of the Counter-Reformation, applied by Alva, drove the Netherlands into revolt, and changed the Reformation into revolution. The great and rapid victories of the sixteenth century were gained over the unreformed and disorganised Catholicism of the Renaissance, not over the Church which had been renovated at Trent. Rome, with a contested authority and a contracted sphere, developed greater energy, resource, and power than when it exercised undivided sway over Christendom in the West. The recovery was accomplished by violence, and was due to the advent of men who did not shrink from blood in place of the gracious idealists for whom Luther and Calvin were too strong.