The POPE Encyclopedia

by Matthew Bunson

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The custom that flourished, especially during the  sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, by which a pope would name as his
chief minister  and  most  important  advisor  a  nephew  or
similar  relative  who  was elevated to the rank of cardinal
and thereafter oversaw many of the most  vital  elements  of
papal  administration.  The practice was not invented in the
sixteenth century,  as  papal  nepotism  had  long  been  an
established part of the pontifical court.
Pope  Adrian  IV  (1154-1159), for example, named his nephew
Boso (Breakspear) to the cardinalate and put him  in  charge
of  Castel  Sant'Angelo.  Throughout the Middle Ages, it was
common for a pope from one of the leading noble families  to
promote  the  interests  of  his  house,  but nepotism began
reaching absurd heights toward  the  end  of  the  fifteenth
century  with  the  accession of Alfonso de Borja y Borja as
Callistus III (1455-1458). He made two nephews cardinals and
worked  to  assist other family members with such vigor that
at his death,  the  Aragonese  who  had  profited  from  his
generosity  were  driven  from  Rome.  One  nephew,  Rodrigo
Borgia, became Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503).  He  made  his
son  Cesare  Borgia  a  cardinal and surrendered to him vast
powers over papal policy.
The cardinal nephew in later years developed out of the need
for the pope, usually old at the time of his election, to be
assisted in the demands of office  by  a  younger  and  more
energetic  assistant.  Given  the  climate  of intrigue that
often  pervaded  Roman  society  in  the  period,  the  pope
regularly  turned  to a promising young nephew, as relatives
were slightly more reliable than scheming prelates who might
be anxious to replace the reigning pontiff.
Among  the  most  notable  cardinal nephews were: Alessandro
Cervini, to Paul III, (1534-1549); Carlo Carafa, to Paul  IV
(1555-1559);  St.  Charles Borromeo, to Pius IV (1559-1565);
Scipione Borghese (adopted) to Paul V (1605-1621);  Ludovico
Ludovisi,  to  Gregory  XV  (1621-1623);  and the nephews of
Urban VIII (1623-1644).
While the cardinals were often immature and at  times  quite
incompetent,  they  also  had a common fondness for amassing
wealth  and  patronizing  artists  and   architects.   Thus,
Scipione  Borghese helped discover the genius of Bernini and
built the immense and grandiose Villa Borghese near Rome.
The most remarkable of the cardinal nephews was St.  Charles
Borromeo  (1538-1584), one of the foremost saints of the age
and a brilliant reformer of  the  Church.  The  reforms,  in
fact,  that  were  wrought by the popes during the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries gradually  took  hold,  especially
after the pernicious corruption of the Barberini under Urban
VIII. Innocent  X  (1644-  1655),  while  dominated  by  his
sister-in-law  Donna Olimpia Maidalchini, retused to appoint
her son as secretary  of  state,  naming  instead  Cardinals
Panciroli  and,  in  1651, Fabio Chigi (the future Alexander
Innocent XI (1676-1689) was determined to curb all nepotism,
agreeing to accept election as pope only after the cardinals
gave their support to his plan for reform, including  a  ban
on  nepotism. This unfortunately did not stop Alexander VIII
(1691-1700) from appointing  one  grandnephew,  the  twenty-
year-old  Pietro,  his  cardinal nephew, and placing another
nephew, Giambattista, to the post  of  secretary  of  state.
Innocent  XIII  (1721-1724) named a brother, Bernard, to the
cardinalate, but the fears expressed at the time that a  new
wave   of  nepotism  had  struck  were  soon  alleviated  by
Innocent's  refusal  to  give  him  any  meaningful   power,
faithfully  adhering  to  Innocent  XI's  ban. Benedict XIII
(1724-1730) did not rely upon a cardinal nephew, but  rather
left  the reins of power largely in the hands of his corrupt
minister Niccolo Cardinal Coscia. His sway was only ended at
the  death  of  the  pope.  From  this  time, the papacy was
largely free of the custom of the cardinal nephew, the popes
relying  upon  able  secretaries  of  state who demonstrated
ability and personal  virtue  and  were  generally  free  of
ruthless ambition, avarice, and corruption.

(sebelum, sesudah)

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ISBN 0-517-88256-6

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