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CARDINALS, THEIR ORIGIN AND HISTORY.
This article is designed to be historical, and not controversial. At a time when so much was being said respecting the appointment of Cardinal Wiseman, we were prompted by curiosity to make some inquiries respecting the rise of cardinals, and the precise place which they occupy in the Church of Rome. In the Bible, not a shadow was to be seen, either of the name, or of the thing, which it signifies. Among the office-bearers appointed by Jesus Christ, we meet with apostles, and elders, and bishops, and deacons, and doctors, but no trace of a cardinal is to be found. Their origin must therefore be sought in another development of Christianity than that which took place under Jesus Christ and his apostles. Finding no mention of cardinals in the Word of God, we attentively considered the many able and eloquent speeches recently delivered against the papal aggression, but could only learn that a cardinal was an elector of the pope, and one of his privy counsellors, and that he wore, as the insignia of his office, red slippers and a red cap. How the cardinals came to be the sole electors of the popes, and why they wore red slippers instead of black ones, we were impatient to learn. It was also understood that the recently appointed official ought to be styled His Eminence, and it was natural to desire further information respecting the origin of a title so exalted. With these views, the pages of Cardinal Bellarmine were consulted, where only so much was ascertained as to stimulate curiosity to further inquiries. A little more was learned in that highly entertaining volume, “Polydori Virgilii Urbinatis, De Rerum Inventoribus," which contains an account of the origin of both pagan and popish rites, ceremonies, offices, festivals, and titles. The greatest amount of information, however, was found in a book entitled " Il Cardinalismo," or History of the Cardinals, an Italian work, which was translated into English in the latter half of the seventeenth century, and which is a volume distinguished by extensive and exact learning, and pervaded by a severe literary taste, and by a spirit of pure and elevated morality. These, together with a volume published by pontifical authority, and entitled "Rituum Ecclesiasticarum,” were the sources—and they are all popish — whence the facts contained in the following paper were drawn; and they are mentioned, not merely as vouchers for what is afterwards stated, but, also, that those who feel interested in such inquiries, and who are unacquainted with accessible books on the subject, may know where to apply for further information.
The name cardinal signifies chief or principal; and is derived from the Latin word CARDO, a hinge. Hence, by a pun upon the Latin root, one of the popes said they were cardinals, because they were cardines, the hinges of the church militant, upon whom its door was to be turned. Like many other things of great eminence, both in the physical and intellectual world, the origin of cardinals is involved in much obscurity. Once they did not exist in the church at all. Our readers must not, however, suppose that they sprang from nothing, and are an exception to the general rule, that every effect must have a cause. Polydore Virgil remarks, that as mediæval writers, who wished to flatter princes, traced their origin backward to Ulysses, or Achilles, or the pious Æneas, so when the cardinalate had reached the summit of its power and splendour, and was possessed of extensive patronage, those writers who wished to pay court to their eminences, exerted their ingenuity in showing that cardinals existed from the most remote antiquity, not only from the days of the apostles, but from the times of Samuel and the Hebrew republic. As an example of this, he refers to one author who thus proves the divine origin and great antiquity of cardinals. “Quod in 1 Regum lib., cap. 2, Pulcherrime scriptum est; domini enim sunt, CARDINES, terræ et posuit super eos orbem.” In our version the verse runs thus, “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them.” In the Latin version, the word corresponding to pillars is CARDINES, and, by help of the pun before referred to, the writer finds in this passage divine authority for the cardinalship. "The hinges of the
“ earth are the Lord's, and he turns the world upon them.” And these hinges must mean the cardinals; for, says he, “as a gate or door is governed by its hinges, so the Roman Church is governed by the counsel of the cardinals."
The best informed authors are of opinion, that the name cardinal was first conferred on places, and thence derived to persons. That word signifies chief, or principal, and those churches in Rome which were the most distinguished for their standing, for the number of the Gentiles which had been converted in them, or on other accounts, were called the cardinal churches, to distinguish them from other places less principal. “So that the title of cardinal was first given to places, that is, to the principal churches, but it was afterwards applied to the persons who governed them: at first they were called the Holy Cardinal Churches, but afterwards it became the Cardinals of the Holy Church.” (“Il Cardinalismo,” p. 68.) There are three orders of cardinalscardinal-bishops, cardinal-priests, and cardinal-deacons. These orders were thus originated. The presbyter who ruled over a cardinal-church, came, from the place, to be called a cardinal-priest. Rome being divided into a number of deaconries, the chief of which were called cardinal; and the deacons who resided in these were called cardinal-deacons. In like manner, there were certain episcopates which were called cardinal, and the persons filling these came in course of time to be called cardinal-bishops.
The origin of these titles cannot be traced to any precise period. They were the offspring of time, rather than of authority, and were of gradual growth. In the days of the apostles, and for some ages thereafter, no such distinctions were known, as either cardinal-churches, or cardinal-office-bearers, of any description. While the church was in adversity; while she wept in widowhood beside the streams of the Pagan Babylon; while her services were interdicted and required to be performed in caves; while she was animated by the tempest-beaten hardihood of a faith that had been cradled in storms, and never known a lasting calm; while her members and rulers were all true to their eralted Head; while their hearts, purified by the furnace-fires of sanctified sorrow, like molten gold, flowed into one another in ardent charity, the affectionate appellation of brethren sufficed for all the followers of Jesus Christ. But after the church, by virtue of a much-enduring faith, bad triumphed over all the powers of the empire, and trodden under her feet that ancient system of idolatry, beneath whose shade Rome had grown
First Samuel in our Bible. The Popish Bibles have four books of Kinge
to greatness, and which was hallowed in the memories of her patriotic children by all the glorious recollections of renowned names, from the days of Romulus downwards; after the Pantheon had been emptied, and the names of Jupiter, and Mars, and Minerva, and the myriads of heathen gods and demi-gods had been eclipsed for evermore by the brightness of that one name, to which “every knee must bow;" after the stan dard of Christianity had been planted on the seven hills of Rome, and floated proudly over the palace of the Cæsars, the church was smitten with the curse of ambition, and with intense eagerness the contest for pre-eminence began. When the walls of Jericho fell down before the blast of the trumpets, blown by the priests, in the name of the Lord, a private individual took “ a wedge of gold and a Babylonish garment, and secreted them in his own tent,” and, by this forbidden act, brought wrath on Israel. But when the strongholds of paganism fell before the sweet sound of the silver trumpet of salvation, the wedge of gold and the Babylonian garment were taken by the rulers of the church, and enshrined within the inmost temple, beside the ark of the covenant. Whep the earthly house of that tabernacle in which paganism dwelt was dissolved, the disembodied spirit fled for sanctuary, and laid hold on the horns of the altar. There it was not only protected, but adopted, bap tized, consecrated, and set up anew for the worship of mankind. The first step towards this was the corruption of the clergy, by means of covetousness, pride, and vanity. When the church had risen to power, “the number of minsters began to increase, and out of these, in process of time, they chose the best and most learned for the senate and counsel of the church, and then the distinction of places began. They that had the greatest employments were called cardinals, and they who had the lesser, priests and deacons." ("Il Cardinalismo," 69.) Before this, priests and deacons had been promiscuously, and without any distinction, admitted into the ecclesiastical assemblies, but they were now excluded, and the government of the church lodged entirely in the hands of the superior clergy. Even after the title cardinal had been conceded to the occupants of the superior charges, the cardinalate was inferior to the episcopate. In those times the cardinalship was only a step towards a bishopric. As the office of a bishop was the higher of the two, so the privileges attached to it by the holy mother church were greater. It possessed a much more abundant degree of that infallibility which resides in all its plenitude and perfection in his holiness. For the conviction of a bishop, seventy-two witnesses were required; and, if there was one less than that number, the accusation was accounted void. Thus, while in the presence of no more than seventy-one persons, a bishop could commit no sin; whereas, if a cardinal committed a crime in the presence of forty persons, this number was accounted sufficient for his conviction, and no more than twenty-seven were required for the conviction of a poor deacon. (Il Cardinalismo.) In course of time, however, the case was reversed. The cardinalate was not an indigenous plant in the church, yet, being planted in a congenial soil, and, falling in with a long succession of congenial seasons, it grew, and became great, and overshadowed all the native trees, and it shot far aloft, until it equalled the highest cedars in the garden of God, and cardinals became the equals of kings and emperors. Then, to be a bishop, was only a step towards being a cardinal. So much, at one period, was the episcopate
considered inferior to a cardinalship, that a certain bishop of Naples, when he saw their eminences come forth in their Pontificialibus, having their mantles, and red caps on their heads, and the foot-clothes and trappings of their mules, also, of scarlet, the splendour of the sight so dazzled the poor prelate, that, says the author of "Il Cardinalismo," "he turned to me and told me, 'In Rome, it is better to be a cardinal's mule, than a prelate of the church.'”
The chief cause of the ascendency of the cardinals, was the union of the temporal with the spiritual monarchy, in the person of the supreme Pontiff." Pepin, and Charles the Great, his son, having bestowed several secular principalities upon the pope, so many important affairs were daily occurring, that the settlement of them could not be delayed till the next meeting of bishops, and it was therefore found necessary somewhat to alter the previous model of the church. The author to whom we have frequently referred, illustrates this fact by means of an image so fine that it proves him to have been a man of true genius, and which, as well as many other parts of his work, in despite of the awkwardness of the translation, is tinged with a certain soft and sorrowful tenderness, which proclaims the heart of its author, though he was an Italian, to have been ill at ease in the Church of Rome.“ The church in its minority,” says he," was like the Galley of Salamin, that, by the appointment of the Athenians, was never to sail but upon some religious desigu, it being sufficient now and then, upon occasion, to call their councils, to negotiate and regulate the most important affairs of Christendom, but
, after the acquisition of so many states and seignories, they were forced upon new ways for the conservation of their temporals. For this reason, it was judged necessary to establish a council, or senate, that should be always near his holiness, and that it should be composed of cardinalpriests, and deacons, and rectors of the principal parishes of Rome, as those that were more capable to consult and determine in matters of the greatest importance, both in spirituals and temporals, which succeeded, without much difficulty, the ministers of Rome (to prevent any resentment in the bishops that the administration of the affairs of the church was taken out of their hands) endeavouring to persuade them, that what was done was for the benefit of Christendom, that it was unfit the bishops should leave their charges with so much inconvenience to the people, and come so often to Rome to treat of affairs that more properly belonged to those who had no cures to distract them; and thus were the poor bishops constrained to truckle to the cardinals, and become inferior, that had been superior so long."
At first, the cardinals were chosen only from among the priests and deacons who ministered in Rome, and this practice continued about an age and a half, when the bishops, perceiving the great injury done thein, succeeded in bringing it about that the cardinals should be chosen out of the whole bishops of Italy, all foreigners being excluded from that privilege. Afterwards, it was agreed that they might be chosen out of all the provinces of Europe and Asia, without exception of any, it being but reasonable, as St Bernard says, " that those who judge the whole world, should be chosen out of all parts thereof."
According to Cardinal Bellarmine, the offices of a cardinal are three. "The first is common with other deacons, priests, and bishops: for all ghe cardinals have either the offices of a bishop, of a priest, or of a dea.
con. A second office is, the right of electing the supreme pontiff. Lastly, to assist his holiness, and help bim by their prayers and their counsels in administering the affairs of the universal church.” The same writer thus defines the relative authorities of bishops and cardinals. “A bishop, if we consider the potestas ordinis, is superior to a cardinal-presbyter or a cardinal-deacon, inasmuch as a bishop ordains presbyters, and confirms the baptised, which a cardinal, priest, or deacon, cannot do. On which account, also, the sovereign pontiff calls himself a bishop, and not a cardinal, and he styles all the bishops venerable brethren, while he calls the cardinals beloved sons, as he does the rest of the laity. For the same reason, if we shall consider jurisdiction over his own church, that is, of a bishop over his diocese, and a cardinal over his title, or deaconry, a bishop is greater than a cardinal-presbyter or deacon: for ordinarily the diocese of a bishop is greater than the place from which a cardinal has his title; and, besides, a bishop within his own diocese has the most ample jurisdiction, peculiar to himself, as ordinary pastor, of making laws, of dispensing with them, of punishing, of granting indulgences; but a cardinalpresbyter or deacon, in the place from which he has his title being as a parish priest, subject to the bishop, can do nothing, unless in so far as the bishop shall permit. But if we consider the matter in reference to the government of the universal church, a cardinal-presbyter or deacon is superior to a bishop who is not a cardinal; for those who are simply bishops are never admitted to a share in the government of the universal church, unless, which happens most rarely, they are called to a general council. But cardinals almost daily are present with the pope, nor does he enter upon any affair of importance without their counsel. And hence it arises that bishops may be judged, may be created, may be deposed, by the cardinals as the coadjutors of the supreme pontiff
, while, on the other hand, these things cannot be done by bishops to cardinals, and thus, absolutely considered, a cardinal takes the precedence of a bishop who is not a cardinal."* Thus Bellarmine, in a roundabout manner, arrives at that supremacy of his own order, which the author of the “ History of Cardinals,” with more honest plainness, thus enunciates : “All the cardinals, both bishops, priests, and deacons, have the pre-eminence over all bishops, archbishops, primates, and patriarchs, who are all obliged to acknowledge them for their supreme judges, as assistants to the
pope, as the supreme council of the church, and principal citizens in the Christian commonwealth, as parts and members of the pontifical body, as organs of their power, as lieutenants to God's vicegerent, and coadjutors in a monarchy that is both spiritual and temporal.”
The cardinals alone fill all the chief places in the secular government of Rome. Out of the general college of cardinals, there are several congregations formed, which, for that reason, are called the congregations of cardinals. These are fifteen in number; namely, that of the holy office, of the bishops and regulars, of the council, of the immunities of the church, of the state, de propaganda fide, of rights, of water, of streets, of the index, of consultation for the government of the church, of good government, and of easing of grievances, of the mint, of examination of such as are designed to be bishops, and of the affairs of the consistory.
* De Clericis in Bellarınine's works, tome ii. p. 110-Ill.