friend or an ally; the treasury was exhausted; the barons of the Patrimony were rebellious; and Ferdinand of Naples openly talked of entering Rome, lance in rest, to teach the Pope to do justice. The Church had conquered heresy, it had overcome schism, there was no question of faith to distract men’s minds, yet this was the antagonistic position which the Head of Christendom had forced upon the nations whose allegiance it claimed.
During the half-century preceding the Reformation there was constant shifting of scene; enemies were converted into allies and allies into enemies, but the spirit of the papacy remained the same, and, whatever might be the political combination of the moment, the Christian nations at large regarded it as a possible enemy, whose friendship was not to be trusted, for it was always fighting for its own hand—or rather, as the increasing nepotism of successive pontiffs ruled its policy, for the aggrandisement of worthless scions of the papal stock, such as Girolamo Riario or Franceschetto Cibò or Cesare Borgia. Julius II, it is true, was less addicted to nepotism, and made and broke treaties and waged war for the enlargement of the papal territories, producing on the awakening intelligence of Europe the impression which Erasmus condenses in such a way as to show how threatening was the spirit evoked by the secularisation of the Holy See. In the Encomium Moriae, written in 1510, he describes the spiritual and material weapons employed by the Popes, against those who, at the instigation of the devil, seek to nibble at the Patrimony of St Peter, fighting not only with bulls of excommunication but with fire and sword, to the shedding of much Christian blood, and believing themselves to be defending the Church against her enemies,—as if she could have any worse enemies than impious pontiffs. Leo X followed with a pale imitation of the policy of Alexander VI, his object being the advancement of the Medici family and the preservation of the papal dominions in the fierce strife between France and Spain. To him the papacy was a personal possession out of which the possessor was expected to make the most, religion being an entirely subordinate affair. His conception of his duties is condensed in the burst of exultation attributed to him on his election,—Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us!
Under the circumstances the Holy See could inspire neither respect nor confidence. Universal distrust was the rule between the States, and the papacy was merely a State whose pretensions to care for the general welfare of Christendom were recognised as diplomatic hypocrisy. When, in 1462, Pius II took the desperate step of resolving to lead in person the proposed crusade, he explained that this was the only way to convince Europe of his sincerity. When he levied a tithe, he said, for the war with the infidel, appeal was made to a future Council; when he issued indulgences he was accused of greed; whatever was done was attributed to the desire to raise money, and no one trusted the papal word; like