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This webpage reproduces an article in
Hispanic American Historical Review
Vol. 9 No. 2 (May 1929), pp154‑175

The text is in the public domain.

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p154 The Papacy and Spanish-American Independence

[Paper read at the Hispanic American session of the meeting of the American Historical Association, 1928.]

The revolt and emancipation of Spanish America gave rise to problems both perplexing and embarrassing to the papacy in its relations with Spain and that country's seceding colonies. These problems were political and religious in nature, arising from the temporal and spiritual character of the papal office. The principal political question which confronted the Vaticanº was: Should the Holy See recognize the independence of the Spanish-American republics? The question belonging to the ecclesiastical category which was forced upon Rome by the revolution was: How long should the patronage of the Spanish king over the American church be observed, and, after its termination, what was to be the nature of control to be substituted in America for it? The answers given by the pope to the above questions and the manner in which they were received by Spain and the new republics constitute an interesting episode in the history of Spanish-American independence.

Since the question of patronage was inextricably connected with that of papal-Spanish-American relations, a brief examination of its origins and nature is necessary. The Catholic church in the Spanish colonies was impressed with a marked politico-religious character, singular in many respects in ecclesiastical history. It is difficult to conceive of a more absolute jurisdiction than that which the kings of Spain exercised in all the ecclesiastical affairs of the Indies. Not the Vatican but the council of the Indies was in control of the vast church organization in America. This control of the church by the crown and its representatives in America was p155called the real patronato de Indias and was regarded by the kings as their most precious regal attribute.1

Dating from early colonial times there were two schools of thought on the subject of the origins of the real patronato de Indias. One group, the "regalists," contended that the royal patronage of the Indies was laical in origin and therefore an inherent, integral part of temporal sovereignty. The second school, the "canonists" or "ultramontanists" argued that the patronage was originally not laical but spiritual, and was founded solely in the pontifical concessions of Alexander VI, Julius II, and their successors.2 In the controversy with the republics of Spanish America, the papacy, anxious to reassert its legitimate authority over the church in America, consistently espoused the ultramontane theory, that is, that the patronato de Indias was originally a concession, therefore not inherent in sovereignty, and consequently not inheritable by the republics. The latter quite as logically championed the regalistic theory for they sincerely believed that their independence could not be guaranteed if they were not in control of the church. Spain, finally, tenaciously clung to the royal patronage, threatening the pope with dire consequences if he dared to disregard it, because of the forlorn hope that the patronage would be the means of eventually bringing about the reëstablishment of Spanish political authority in America.

At an early date in the Revolution, the rebel governments recognized the importance of approaching Rome to secure papal confirmation of their exercise of the patronage, that is, national patronage, or patronato nacional. Legislation which established the Catholic church as the state church was generally accompanied or followed by provisions for the assumption of the old royal patronage by the new governments.3 p156Prior to 1820, the pope did not listen benevolently to the overseas separatists, for it was natural and necessary that he respect Spanish rights in America. While the Spanish king possessed the actual political dominion in America, the right and the exercise of the patronage was legitimately in vigor, and the Holy See could not in consequence appear except on the side of Madrid. Considering the fact that all the powers, not even excepting the United States, refrained from recognition, it would have been imprudent and faithless for the pope to violate legitimacy by ignoring the patronage. He therefore was very willing to listen to the request of the Spanish government that he issue a brief exhorting the obedience of the American subjects through the intercession of the colonial prelates. On January 30, 1816, Pius VII issued an encyclical to the archbishops and bishops of America, urging them to win over their flocks to obedience to the Spanish king.4

After 1820, however, the papacy was not so deaf to American entreaties, and papal support of Spanish policy was not unqualified. Between 1820 and 1822, Pope Pius VII recognized that the spiritual interests of America could not be hidden in the legitimist formula, and that ecclesiastical problems of America required tact and benevolence in their treatment. This change of attitude was due to two events: the achievement, or practical achievement, of Hispanic American independence, and the liberal Spanish revolt of 1820.

The capture of Lima by San Martín, Bolivia's victory at Carabobo, and the treaty of Cordova between Iturbide and O'Donoju, convinced the pope that the colonies were irrevocably p157lost to Spain, and that the exercise of the real patronato was impossible. Continued non-communication with Rome meant a paralizationº of the ecclesiastical organization in Spanish America. Unless he listened to American pleas, the pope was confronted with the very unpleasant prospect of a serious schism, or the breakup of the Catholic church in America, with resultant indifference and exposure to Methodists, Presbyterians, and even sun worshippers, as Cardinal Consalvéº told Leo XII.5 The Holy Father was faced by a dilemma. It was his duty to see that the faithful in America were provided with adequate spiritual leaders. Yet to provide them by means of Spanish presentation would be regarded as an insult in America, and the reverse, i.e., recognition of national patronage or even the ignoring of the royal patronage, would be regarded by Spain as political recognition of the new states and justification for a break.

At the precise moment when the loss of the Spanish colonies appeared to be a certainty and Rome altered its attitude accordingly, the liberal constitutional government of Spain, which had been set up as a result of the revolt of 1820, proceeded to antagonize the pope and impel him along the new road. The anti-clerical measures of the Madrid government, which capitulated in the expulsion of the nuncio from Madrid in January, 1823, filled the pope with apprehension for the church not only in Spain, but also in America. He began to ask himself why he should now lend his moral support to a government, which, if its authority were reëstablished in America, would cause irreparable damage to the church in the new world. In fine, the unsympathetic attitude of the liberals toward the ancient privileges of the church in Spain, made the pope lukewarm in his championship of the old ecclesiastical rights of the Spanish government in America.

The Spanish cortes, anti-clerical and liberal though it may have been, was essentially nationalistic and therefore it was p158just as determined as the preceding government not to recognize Spanish-American independence. On February 22, 1822, the Spanish ministry issued a circular to the European governments supplicating them not to put obstacles in the way of the reëstablishment of Spanish rights in America "which had never been renounced." The pope, when given the circular, was asked to promise in writing not to recognize American independence before Spain. Pius VII refused to comply with the request and declared his adherence to a principle of neutrality.6 Such a declaration was indeed a departure from the old policy, for, as we have seen, the pope was willing to issue an encyclical in 1816 urging the American clergy to support the Spanish cause.

The period 1820‑1823 was the psychological time for the rebel governments to approach Rome and present their cases. During those years, Puis VII was in a receptive mood and, undoubtedly, if the Spanish Americans had been fully aware of their opportunity and had hastened to take advantage of it they would have been able to secure real concessions from the pope. Unfortunately, the American governments were slow in acting, or, if earlier action was taken the ecclesiastical business was entrusted to political agents who neglected or totally ignored their spiritual instructions. When eventually special ecclesiastical missions with definite instructions were sent to Rome, absolutism had been reëstablished in Spain and a favorable opportunity was lost.

As early as 1819, Simón Bolívar considered seriously the problem of negotiating an agreement with Rome which would give to Colombia the right of patronage as exercised by the Spanish kings in the colonies. Due to his influence, the congress of Angostura (1819) decided to entrust to a political mission ordered to England, the additional duty of securing from Pius VII the preconization of bishops for vacant sees. Fernando Peñalver and José Vergara were entrusted with p159the politico-religious mission. Their instructions, issued by the congress on July 7, 1819, ordered them to open negotiations with the pope "as head of the Catholic church and not as the temporal lord of the Legations". They were to tell the Holy Father that the people of New Granada and Venezuela were loyal Catholics who refused to believe that the oppressive and tyrannical Spanish government was being supported against them by the successor of St. Peter. Finally, they were to propose the negotiation of a concordat.7

Peñalver and Vergara arrived in London on September 20, 1819. The refusal of Castlereagh to meet them meant failure as far as the political objective of the mission was concerned. Peñalver determined to return to Venezuela to report on the situation, but before embarking he and Vergara disposed of their ecclesiastical business by forwarding (March 27, 1820), through the nuncio at Paris, a memorial to the pope.8

Francisco Antonio Zea was the next agent sent to Europe by Bolívar (June, 1820). It was unfortunate that Zea did not take advantage of the favorable situation, as a result of the liberal revolt of 1820, to go to Rome and negotiate directly with the pope. But he was principally concerned with the larger question of independence and had no time to devote to the religious problems entrusted to him.9 Finally, on April 8, 1822, Zea addressed to the pope through the nuncio at Paris a note demanding immediate recognition of the Colombian government. The note was couched in such intemperate and tactless language that the Journal des Débats (April 18) in commenting on it said, "Mr. Zea, brilliant botanist, is still somewhat a novice at diplomacy". The nuncio upon the p160advice of the representatives of the holy allies in Paris returned the note to Zea with the explanation that he had no authority to send it to Rome.10

When Santander was installed in Bogotá as vice-president of Great Colombia, he determined to make use of powers granted him by the congress of Cúcuta to enter into negotiations with the papacy. He began by avoiding the errors of prior missions like those of Peñalver, Vergara, and Zea, of entrusting the agent with mixed political and ecclesiastical business. José Echeverría, at that time in Spain, was appointed minister plenipotentiary to Rome (July 12, 1822). He was instructed to work for the recognition of Colombian independence and the recognition of national patronage. The mission was not carried out, for in September, 1822, Echeverría died in Dieppe while preparing to go to Rome.11 Agustín Gutiérrez Moreno, then in Chile, was appointed by General Santander to succeed Echeverría, but he was unable to accept and so Dr. Ignacio Sánchez de Tejada, then living in London, was appointed, in June, 1823, as Colombian minister to the Holy See.12 Before Tejada could reach his post, important events in Madrid and Rome had taken place with a consequent alteration of papal policy. The psychological moment for a rapprochement between Rome and America had passed. Before entering upon a discussion of Tejada's mission, it is necessary to transfer our attention to the establishment of a temporary modus vivendi between the Vatican and the Chilean republic.

In Chile, as in other parts of Spanish America, the episcopacy was thoroughly disorganized because of the revolution. The dictator, Bernardo O'Higgins, decided, with the advice of the presbyter, José Ignacio Cienfuegos, a liberal creole ecclesiastic and ardent supporter of independence, to send an official p161delegation to Rome to request necessary measures for the reform of the religious situation. Cienfuegos himself was appointed chief of the mission.13 His instructions, drawn up by O'Higgins, were partly as follows:

Declare our filial and religious obedience to the Holy See, protesting our faith, belief, union and communion with the head of the church. Request of him an apostolic nuncio who may be either a citizen of this country or any other whom his holiness may wish to appoint; petition a declaration conceding to the Chilean nation the patronage granted the kings of Spain by Julius II; ask of him that, at least in the interim, he send to Chile auxiliary bishops to take the places of the proprietary bishops.14

Cienfuegos sailed from Valparaiso on January 25, 1822, and arrived in Genoa on June 19, 1822. He immediately wrote to the cardinal secretary announcing that the Chilean government had sent him to swear obedience to the pope and to report to him on the spiritual necessities of his people. When the Spanish chargé Aparici asked that Cienfuegos be not allowed to enter Rome, Cardinal Consalvi replied (July 6, 1822):

Having been informed that the archdeacon Cienfuegos came to Rome to explain to the pope the spiritual necessities of his people, the Holy Father believed that as common father of the faithful he could not refuse to listen to whatever news they brought from America touching on the state of religion, although without entering into any political relations that could offend the rights of the legitimate sovereign.15

On August 6, Cienfuegos had an audience, in Latin, with the pope. After he described the necessities of the Chilean church, he suggested, as a temporary remedy, that an apostolic vicar be sent to Chile. The proposal was both sound and practical. To send to Chile a nuncio with diplomatic character would be premature and would connote political recognition. p162But a vicar or apostolic delegate without diplomatic character could not arouse Spanish protests. Furthermore, the suggestion of a Chilean delegate that the pope send to Chile bishops in partibus to bridge the emergency was a sensible proposal, for the Spanish government could not protest the confirmation of titular bishops for America since they had never been subject to the royal patronage. Thus the objection to the naming of proprietary bishops would be avoided, and the spiritual necessities of America would be served without precipitating a break with Spain. The question of appointing an apostolic vicar, as suggested by Cienfuegos, was submitted to a congregation of six cardinals. The pope in the meantime approached Madrid with a proposal that, if the Spanish government would permit the naming of proprietary bishops in America, the Holy See would bind itself not to recognize Spanish-American independence for at least thirty years. The Spanish government would not listen to the proposal. After lengthy discussion in the congregation, the proposal of Cienfuegos was approved, and John Muzi was appointed vicar apostolic to Chile. Later Muzi's jurisdiction was enlarged to include all of America. He was empowered to consecrate in America titular bishops, and to repair as soon as possible the evils caused by the struggle of investiture. He was advised to be cautious in the exercise of his powers and to abstain from the use of his authority in any colony where Spanish authority existed, or where there was a probability of its being reëstablished.16

As was to be expected, Spain protested the pope's appointment of a vicar apostolic. Pius VII justified his decision by declaring that his action was made necessary because of his pastoral obligations, and that it was merely a provisional action which would not disparage in any way Spain's rights.17

p163 The apostolic vicar, Muzi, accompanied by his secretary, José Sallusti, and the canon, Conti Mastai, the later Pius IX, sailed from Genoa on October 4, 1823.18 The papal legate was given an enthusiastic reception by the populace of Buenos Aires, and General San Martín visited him twice to welcome him. The authorities, however, were very reserved in presenting themselves, and they even prohibited Muzi from exercising his ministry. The newspapers adopted an antagonistic attitude toward the vicar and accused him of being the envoy of the holy alliance. Furthermore, his sale of vast quantities of bulls and relics which he had brought over with him was criticised as being mercenary.19 Using the pretext that the presence of Muzi threatened a revolt, Rivadavia ordered him to leave the country immediately. Thus ended in rancor and disappointment the attempt to bring Argentina back into the fold.20

The apostolic vicar arrived in Santiago de Chile in March, 1824. He was received with enthusiasm by the populace, and with pomp and veneration as the nuncio of the pope by the government of General Ramón Freire.21 To Director Freire was delivered by Muzi a letter addressed to him by Leo XII. This letter was significant as being the first one written by the pope to a political chieftain in America.22

Muzi's mission to Chile resulted in disastrous failure when the vicar ran afoul of the patronato nacional. The papal representative resolutely refused to accept the government's nominees for ecclesiastical positions. For this conflict Cienfuegos was partly responsible since he, when the mission had been approved by Pius VII, wrote O'Higgins telling him that the p164Chilean government had been conceded the right of presentation to benefices and the administration of the tithes, and that the vicar was to consecrate those persons nominated for vacant episcopacies by the government. All this practically amounted, he said, to a recognition of Chilean independence.23 This was untrue and was flatly contradicted by the new cardinal secretary, Della Somaglia. Cienfuegos, therefore, led the Chilean government to believe that the right of national patronage had been confirmed. Muzi, on the other hand, could not acknowledge the right of the Chilean government to make ecclesiastical appointments. The difficulty of his position was increased because in Chile, as in Buenos Aires, he was regarded as being an agent of the holy alliance. Muzi, recognizing the impossibility of conciliating the irreconcilable, asked for his passports.24

The vicar sailed from Valparaiso for Montevideo via Cape Horn, on October 30, 1824. At Montevideo he published an apostolic letter in which he defended his actions.25 He sailed from Montevideo for Europe, on December 4, 1824, and arrived in Rome on June 18, 1825. The fundamental cause of the failure of the mission was the misunderstanding for which Cienfuegos was responsible, and the lack of confidence on the part of the Chileans in the Vatican because of its acts in support of conservative and royalist tendencies. The intervention of the Holy Father, far from being beneficial in the dioceses of La Plata and Chile, left a very bad impression and an antagonistic attitude toward the papacy. On the other hand, the mission of Muzi was significant because it was the beginning p165of a modus vivendi with the American governments. In spite of Spanish protests, a kind of relationship was established between Rome and America. Later events proved this to be the logical stepping stone to recognition.

In 1824, the history of papal-American relations assumed a different character.26 The change was due principally to the restoration of Ferdinand VII to his absolute authority, yet contributing factors were: the accession of a new pope (Leo XII), the appearance of Mexico as a prominent supplicant at the Vatican, and the presence in Rome of the first great American diplomat, Ignacio de Tejada of Colombia.

Ferdinand VII, having been restored to the full enjoyment of his absolute power, thanks to the holy allies, and France in particular, was anxious to be restored to his power in America as well. His one remaining hope in America was the clergy which had been one of the main supports of the royal cause. Ambassador Vargas, who had been restored to the Roman embassy, was ordered to solicit Leo XII to issue an encyclical to the prelates of America, exhorting them to p166preach obedience to the legitimate authority of the Spanish king. A subtle argument used by Vargas to influence Cardinal Somaglia was somewhat as follows: the Americans were opposed to the establishment of legitimate government; this could be equally applied to apostolic authority. The only way to keep them in the Roman faith was to oblige their submission to the legitimate political authority. Otherwise, the result would be serious schism, or, at least, indifference on the subject of religion.27 On September 24, 1824, the pope issued his celebrated encyclical to the archbishops and bishops of America, asking them to support the cause of

our very dear son Ferdinand, Catholic king of Spain, whose sublime and solid virtues cause him to place before the splendor of his greatness the luster of religion and the happiness of his subjects.28

The publication of this document created a sensation throughout the length and breadth of America.29 The suspicion that Leo XII was in league with the holy allies was now confirmed. A certain result produced by the encyclical was that of confirming the Americans in their determination to protect their independence. In view of the fact that it was recognized by all, save Ferdinand VII, that the colonies were irrevocably lost, the action of the pope in issuing the encyclical is unintelligible.30 But whatever the reason for its issuance, the publication of the encyclical certainly did not facilitate the establishment p167of a working agreement between Rome and America. The evident subservience of the Roman pontiff to the king of Spain gave encouragement to the group in Spanish America that was aiming at the establishment of national churches.

Within a year, however, the attitude of the pope changed, he being resolved to receive American agents charged with negotiating on ecclesiastical subjects. He, of course, was not ready yet to negotiate on political subjects. The person chiefly responsible for the alteration of papal policy was Ignacio de Tejada, the Colombian representative at Rome. Tejada stands out among the several American agents who were sent to Rome, as the most capable and the most successful. Undoubtedly, the prestige of Great Colombia, the best organized government in South America, with the great liberator at its head, tended to lend considerable support to Tejada. Nevertheless, his ability, discretion, energy, patience, and perseverance were qualities which contributed in even greater measure to the success of his long mission in Rome.31

Tejada arrived in Rome in September, 1824, and took up his residence in an obscure pension near the Plaza del Popolo.º Notwithstanding the protests of Vargas, who was supported by the Austrian ambassador, Tejadaº was received privately by the cardinal secretary of state, Della Somaglia. His mission he declared was not political, but merely spiritual. He only came to describe to the pope the state of the church in Colombia, where, after fourteen years of non-communication with the papacy, all but two of the episcopal sees were vacant. These two bishops, he said, had to administer to three million people scattered over a country as large as France and Spain combined. He also described the menace of Protestantism in Colombia. The English, Dutch, Swiss, and other Protestants were coming to America in great numbers, and the Bible Society of England was scattering its doctrines and missions p168with profusion. He concluded by expressing the confidence of the people of Colombia that their petitions would be speedily granted since they only asked for a satisfactory settlement of matters in the purely spiritual order.32 Cardinal Somaglia listened attentively but would not commit himself beyond promising that the matter would be studied. It was the pope's desire, he said, that Tejada retire to Bologna to avoid the opposition of the Spanish ambassador. Tejada acceded, saying that he was still hopeful for the success of his mission. Vargas, however, was dissatisfied with Tejada's residence in Bologna, and as a result of his continued protestations, the American agent was ordered, in November, 1824, to leave the papal states. He then took up his residence in Florence. The expulsion of its minister was regarded by Colombia as an affront, and Tejada was ordered to abandon his mission if the papacy did not raise the ban against him. The agent, however, understood that success depended on patience, and so was content to bide his time. His patience was rewarded for within a year he was allowed to take up his residence in Civita Vecchia, and in the following year, 1826, he was invited to return to Rome as "Diputado para los negocios eclesiasticos de Colombia en Roma".33

The new policy to receive American representatives as ecclesiastical delegates was adopted as the immediate reaction to the news that Mexico was sending to Rome a notable mission headed by the presbyter, Francisco Pablo Vázquez. He arrived in England on July 25, 1825.34 News that Mexico was sending a mission to Rome interested Leo XII greatly for the state of the church in Mexico, particularly since he feared Protestant propaganda from the United States, troubled him. He was therefore inclined to admit Vázquez to Rome and grant him an audience. The Spanish ambassador, however, presented p169the usual protests. The pope then sought the good offices of France to aid him in breaking down the opposition of Ferdinand VII. The French government accepted, seeing in this an opportunity to play the rôle of protector of the Catholic church in Spanish America, which could be used to counteract the commercial influence of England over the new nations.35 Consequently, under the presidency of Damás, the papal nuncio, the ambassadors of Russia and Austria, and the minister of Prussia met in Paris, on October 7, 1825. The conference advised the pope to receive the Mexican envoys only as delegates in purely spiritual matters. They agreed to invite their representatives at Madrid to persuade Ferdinand VII to their point of view. But when approached the Spanish sovereign refused positively to heed the advice of the holy allies. In commenting on Spanish intransigence, the papal nuncio at Madrid wrote:

The obstacles put in the way of ecclesiastical authority in America should be enough to drive out of those lands all principles of canonical jurisprudence, and to introduce in Spain a species of Anglican supremacy.36

Notwithstanding the objections of Spain, Leo XII was not to be deterred. Tejada and Vázquez were both invited to come to Rome, but only as ecclesiastical agents. The Colombian representative consented. Vázquez, unfortunately, since the sine qua non of his instructions was that he be received as a diplomatic envoy, had to refuse.

Leo XII did not stop with receiving ecclesiastical agents from the Spanish-American republics. He decided to disregard the ancient right of royal patronage, and provide for the spiritual necessities in America in spite of the conflict which would be provoked by the act. Therefore, in the celebrated consistory of May 21, 1827, he preconized candidates presented by the government of Colombia as proprietary bishops p170for six vacant seats in Colombia.37 This act deprived real patronato of that which constituted its chief value, i.e., the privilege of royal presentation. The assurance of the nuncio in Madrid that the bulls of confirmation sent to the Colombian bishops did not contain any expression which could be construed by the government of Colombia as granting it the right of presentation did not satisfy Ferdinand. Nor was he moved by a personal letter written to him on July 4, 1827, by Leo XII, which carried assurances that the pope did not intend to depart from his policy to refuse political recognition to the new states in America.38

The next move of Leo XII was to send a new nuncio to Madrid to seek an understanding with Ferdinand. The king ordered the nuncio stopped at Irún and refused to allow him to enter Spain. The breach between Rome and Madrid was soon healed when Ferdinand's anger cooled and he wrote the pope a conciliatory letter. His conduct, he said, was dictated by necessity and not by choice. But since he was anxious to give proof of his affection for the Holy Father, he was sending an ambassador to Rome to settle the difficulty.39 Don Pedro Gómez Labrador was appointed ambassador to Rome on this difficult mission. Labrador, mentally and temperamentally very much like Vargas, entered into his negotiations with the Holy See by demanding in a high-handed manner that the pope publish in the newspapers a notice to the effect

that in the nomination of bishops, he did not act on the proposal of any rebel chief.

The cardinal secretary finally gave in and inserted a short notice to this effect in the papers. But when Labrador tried next to prevent the pope from receiving agents from America, he was met with refusal. Also, when the ambassador proposed that the pope should observe previous presentation by the Spanish king

p171 since His Catholic Majesty had not renounced the prerogatives of sovereignty as founder of the Church in the rebellious colonies,

Cardinal Somaglia countered with the statement that

the privileges conceded by the Holy See to the Catholic Sovereigns cease to have value when they would be injurious to the Church.40

In the midst of the negotiations, the pope announced that he planned at the next consistory, to be held in September, 1828, to preconize more bishops for America. To avoid a new conflict with Spain he proposed to name only titular bishops, "concerning whose nomination the patronal monarch has confessed he has no rights", he said. Still Labrador protested, and then Leo XII, with great emotion exclaimed that he would give his blood for taking, but that he could never give him his sought.41 The September consistory had to be postponed, but on December 22, 1828, the pope preconized several apostolic vicars with episcopal character.

Leo XII died on March 31, 1829, and he was succeeded in the Vatican by Pius VIII. The new pope was firm in his refusal to recognize national patronage. The sincere efforts of Pius VIII to harmonize his policy with that of the Spanish king were met with the usual rebuff. The pope, therefore, in spite of his natural reserve, had to yield to the pressure of facts. The impending ruin of the church in America, and the demoralization of the clergy, for now there was scarcely a bishop in all America, compelled the pope to consider measures to remedy the evils. Therefore, in spite of his favorable attitude toward Spain, he notified the Spanish ambassador of his intention to consecrate bishops for America at the Christmas consistory (1830). Labrador was thoroughly discouraged and wrote his government that in his judgment it was useless to object further.42

p172 It was about this time (1830) that the Mexican envoy, Francisco Vázquez, finally entered Rome. Because of the pope's refusal to treat him as the diplomatic representative of an independent nation, Vázquez was detained for three years in Brussels, Paris, and London. In the summer of 1830, accompanied by a numerous retinue, Vázquez went to Rome to present a virtual ultimatum to the pope. He was instructed by his government to negotiate a concordat in which the "conditio sine qua non" was the nomination of proprietary bishops. Vázquez presented a list of persons whom the Mexican government wished to have confirmed in the vacant sees. The name of Vázquez was included in the list.43 When the cardinal secretary attempted to induce Vázquez to accept as a temporary measure the naming of titular bishops, Vázquez flatly refused to negotiate saying that he was bound by a limited and express mandate. In the lively discussion which ensued, the Mexican was bold enough to insinuate that the pope's freedom of action was limited because of Spanish opposition. This the cardinal denied, and declared that to name proprietary bishops in the midst of so much disturbance in America would be a dangerous policy. The lack of stability in America was the reason for the pope's refusal to recognize independence.44

Death saved Pius VIII from the radical action of confirming proprietary bishops for America. Gregory XVI, who was elected to the see of Peter on February 2, 1831, was the pope who first recognized the independence of the Spanish-American republics. When Gregory became pope, the atmosphere in the Vatican was charged with a bitter resentment p173for the Spanish king because of his intransigence. Since the restoration of Spanish power in America was now an absolute impossibility, the high ecclesiastics advised the pope to restore normal ecclesiastical relations with America. Gregory heeded the advice and lost no time in adopting a definite policy. The new course was stated in the bull "Sollicitudo Ecclesiarum" (August, 1831), which referred particularly to the Portuguese situation,45 but which could be extended to Spanish America. In this bull, the pope declared his intention to exercise freely his rights and his spiritual functions. If he treated ecclesiastical affairs with temporal governments, it was not to be regarded as recognition, but only recognition of the fact of existence of the said government for the carrying on of ecclesiastical affairs. Finally, he declared his intention to establish relations with de facto governments when they gave indication of stability.46 When the Spanish ambassador enquired if, as one would deduce from the bull, the pope intended to recognize the Spanish-American republics, he was put off with the reply:

Almost none of the new states can present circumstances similar to those of Portugal. Thus the Spanish ambassador could imply that the moment could not be so imminent when the Holy See would recognize any of them.47

Notwithstanding this explanation, it was well understood that papal recognition of America was now only a question of opportunity.

Beginning with the consistory of 1831, Gregory XVI proceeded boldly to preconize proprietary bishops for America. p174In Mexico, seven sees were filled. Francisco Vázquez was consecrated by the pope bishop of Puebla, and he in turn consecrated the other Mexican bishops.48 In 1832, titular bishops for vacant sees in Argentina and Chile were appointed by the pope. It was not until the next year, 1833, that Tejada, now the agent for only New Granada, since the dissolution of Great Colombia, secured the preconization of bishops for Antioquía, Santa Marta, and Popayán, and for an archbishop for Bogotá.49 In one of these cases did the pope formally recognize the right of presentation in the American governments, although he was often willing to accept names suggested to him. The procedure can only be regarded as a temporary expedient, for it is noteworthy that to the present day the papacy has never recognized patronage as being an inherent right in sovereignty.

It might be imagined that Gregory XVI would not recognize the political independence of the Spanish-American republics without first arriving at a settlement regarding the patronage. He, however, prudently made the act of recognition a political one only, leaving for later study and solution, the problem of national patronage. He realized that, if recognition waited upon a settlement of the religious issue, recognition would never come. The death of Ferdinand VII in 1833 facilitated papal recognition of American independence. Out of consideration for Ferdinand himself, who chose to regard recognition as a very personal affront, the pope had refrained from political action. With that obstacle now removed, and the Spanish government distraught by civil strife, the opportune moment had arrived for decisive action. On November 26, 1835, Gregory XVI formally recognized the independence of the republic of New Granada. On December p17514, 1835, Ignacio Tejada's long years of patient, tactful diplomacy were rewarded when he was received in papal audience as the chargé of the republic of New Granada.50 When the pope manifested a desire to send a nuncio to New Granada, Tejada was instructed to oppose this because the pope wanted the republic to bear the expenses, and because it was feared that the pope's representative would exercise an ultramontane influence which would be injurious to a nascent and weak state. Tejada, however, was not able to stop the pope, for on May 18, 1836, Mon. Baluffi, was named internuncio extraordinary to New Granada. He was the first nuncio accredited to a Spanish-American republic.51

The recognition of New Granada marked the end of the American problem as far as political recognition and Spanish opposition were concerned. Thereafter, the pope's dealings with Spanish America were direct and unhampered by considerations for Spanish susceptibilities. When Rome became satisfied as to the political stability of the new governments set up in America, and as to their friendliness toward the principle of papal supremacy, recognition was bestowed. The problem of the patronage, however, remained to complicate and strain papal-American relations for many years to come.

J. Lloyd Mecham.

University of Michigan.


The Author's Notes:

1 See J. Lloyd Mecham, "The Origins of Real Patronato de Indias", in The Catholic Historical Review, VIII.205‑228 (July, 1928).

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2 Ibid., pp206‑208.

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3 For example, the first constitution of Venezuela (1811) declared that the conduct of relations with the Holy See belonged to the government, and direct communication between the American episcopacy and the holy pontiff was illegal. In New Granada, authority was granted by the federal act of 1811 to negotiate with the pope for the continuance of the patronage. In La Plata, provision for the establishment of state control of the patronage was contained in the Estatuto of 1813, in a resolution of the congress of Tucuman in 1817, in the Regolamento Provisorio of 1817, and in the constitution of 1819.

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4 For a copy of the encyclical in the original Latin, see P. Pedro Leturia, La acción diplomática de Bolívar ante Pío VII, 1820‑1823 (Madrid, 1925), Appendix No. 1, pp281‑282.

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5 Artaud de Montor, Histoire du Pape Léon XII (Paris, 1843), I.166.

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6 Leturia, op. cit., pp185‑187.

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7 Carlos A. Villanueva, La Santa Alianza (Paris, n.d.), p202; Leturia, op. cit., pp91‑92. On January 3, 1820, the congress passed a provisional law which provided that until a concordat could be arranged, the vice-president should approve those nominated for the lower ecclesiastical offices.

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8 Lucas Ayarragaray, La Iglesia en América y la Dominación Española (Buenos Aires, 1920), pp209‑210.

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9 Pedro A. Zubieta, Apuntaciones sobre las primeras Misiones Diplomáticas de Colombia (Bogotá, 1924), pp273‑335.

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10 Leturia, op. cit., pp104‑106.

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11 Zubieta, op. cit., p575; José Gil Fortoul, Historia Constitucionalº de Venezuela (Berlin, 1907), I.381.

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12 Zubieta, op. cit., p576.

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13 Luis Galdames, Estudio de la Historia de Chile (Santiago, 1911), p309.

Thayer's Note: I've been unable to find the Spanish edition of 1911 online; but a reprint of the English translation (1941) of the 6th edition of the book is online: the brief passage about Cienfuegos's appointment is on pp219‑220.

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14 Faustino J. Legón, Doctrina y Ejercicio del Patronato Nacional (Buenos Aires, 1920), p492. Luis Barros Borgoño, La Misión del Vicario Apostólico don Juan Muzi (Santiago, 1883), pp313‑321.

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15 Leturia, op. cit., pp188‑189.

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16 José Sallusti, Historia de las Misiones Apostólicas de Monseñor Juan Muzi en el Estado de Chile (Santiago, 1906), pp7‑8; Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp235‑236.

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17 Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp223, 225.

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18 Sallusti, op. cit., p229. For an account of the rôle played by the later Pius IX in the mission, see J. G. Shea, The Life of Pope Pius IX (New York, 1877), pp32‑40.

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19 One critic reported that the vicar had "tons" of relics.

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20 Legón, op. cit., p490; Sallusti, op. cit., pp227‑228.

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21 While Cienfuegos was in Rome, O'Higgins was ousted from power by the pseudo-liberal, General Freire.

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22 Sallusti, op. cit., p237.

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23 Leturia, op. cit., p205.

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24 Sallusti, op. cit., p146.

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25 The minister of Chile to London, Mariano Egaña, told the Mexican agent, Vázquez, that the treatment of Muzi by Chile was a national disgrace. The actions of the vicar, said Egaña, had been correct and disinterested, and his intentions the most honorable; he did not in the least fail to perform his duty. If he refused to consecrate two men proposed to him by the government he had excellent reasons for refusal (Antonio de la Peña y Reyes, Leon XII y los Paises Hispano-Americanos, México, 1924, p67).

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26 An excellent summary of the Hispanic-American policy of Pius VII is to be found in the advice given by Cardinal Consalvi to Leo XII on the occasion of that pontiff's accession to the papal throne: "What position ought we to take towards the Catholics in South America? Last year I treated the Spanish Cortes with forbearance with a view to obtaining, in case they should remain in power for a lengthy period, the right of appointing bishops to the vacant sees in distant lands. The legitimate Spanish monarch has no authority over these provinces, each of which is like a kingdom. I have allowed Spain more than fifteen years in which to work for the establishment of its sovereignty, but whether it is due to ingratitude or to infirmity, Spain has used our silence as a weapon against the rebels. If Spain had granted us permission to appoint bishops in Colombia, Mexico, and wherever we demanded it, we would have granted the legitimate monarchy a respite of thirty years in which to get firmly into the saddle; but the time might easily come when Spain, without having regained its power, would say to us: 'I must resign my sovereignty, save your dogmas as well as you can'. It would then be too late for Rome. If we had waited so long, our apostolic vicar might have found the country filled with Methodists, Presbyterians, and new Sun-worshippers. I have therefore maintained friendly relations between Rome and those who so violently, and with such a well-founded hope of success have refused obedience to the Juntas and to Ferdinand VII." (Arnaud de Montor, op. cit., I.166 f).

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27 Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp234‑235.

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28 Peña y Ryes, op. cit., p. iii.

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29 "The encyclical, since it praised the virtues (?) of Ferdinand VII, and advocated a return to the colonial system (i.e., slavery), alienated many loyal Catholics in America" (V. Riva Palacios, ed., México á través de los siglos, México, 1889, IV.139).

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30 Indeed, because of the very absurdity of the action, the encyclical has been declared by some to be apocryphal. They point to the singular circumstances under which it first appeared, i.e., in the Gaceta de Madrid, and then six months after the date of its purported signature by the pope. Yet the cardinal secretary when accused did not deny the authenticity of the encyclical. See Ayarragaray (op. cit., pp184‑188, 199‑203, for evidence of its authenticity). Also, see Peña y Reyes, op. cit., p49.

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31 Ayarragaray, op. cit., p227; the Mexican agent, Vázquez, wrote of Tejada, "Those who know him assure me that he is a man of talents, but a little eccentric" (Peña y Reyes, op. cit., p68).

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32 Zubieta, op. cit., p576.

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33 Villanueva, op. cit., pp202‑203, 206; Fortoul, op. cit., p381.

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34 Lorenzo de Zavala, Ensayo Histórico de las Revoluciones de México (México, 1845), II.175; México á través de los siglos, IV.150‑151.

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35 Villanueva, op. cit., p204.

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36 Zubieta, op. cit., p526.

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37 Zavala, op. cit., I.292; Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp259‑260.

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38 Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp262‑264, 266‑268.

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39 Ibid., pp269‑271.

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40 Ibid., pp278‑281, 283.

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41 Legón, op. cit., p492.

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42 Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp288‑290; Zubieta, op. cit., p588.

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43 Zavala, op. cit., II.173.

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44 Ayarragaray, op. cit., pp294‑295. The account of Vázquez's mission, as given by Zavala (op. cit., II.172‑173) is entirely at variance with the above. According to Zavala, Vázquez consented to go to Rome as a simple ecclesiastic. Then, without mentioning the Mexican government, he requested that the pope motu proprio (that is, without consideration of national rights) appoint bishops for America. The action of Vázquez, says Zavala, was an insult to the Mexican nation.

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45 Dom Miguel, son of João VI and brother of Pedro I of Brazil, after the death of his father and during the minority of his niece, Maria da Gloria, was regent. Supported by absolutists he tried to retain the throne for himself. A struggle ensued in which both factions tried to secure from the pope the provision of bishops for vacant sees. Finally, Gregory XVI decided to preconize the candidates presented by Don Miguel. To explain his policy he issued the bull.

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46 Fredrik Nielsen, The History of the Papacy in the XIXth Century (London, 1906), II.64.

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47 Ch. Sylvain, Grégoire XVI et son Pontificat (Paris, 1889), p117.

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48 More Mexican sees were filled in 1834 and in 1836. By 1838, only Mexico and Oaxaca were without prelates owing to their voluntary absence. It was not until 1840 that the archiepiscopal see of Mexico was filled. México á través de los siglos, IV.284, 454.

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49 Zubieta, op. cit., pp595‑596.

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50 Ibid., p597.

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51 Ibid., p598.


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