Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Influence of the Jesuits on the Curriculum of the Diocesan Seminary of Fiesole, 1636-1646

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Influence of the Jesuits on the Curriculum of the Diocesan Seminary of Fiesole, 1636-1646

Article excerpt

KATHLEEN M. COMERFORD*

Both Protestant and Catholic Reformers considered educational changes to be integral for ensuring the effectiveness and continuation of the Reformations. In particular, religious leaders recognized that the clergy's education must be improved; for Catholics, this would mean training both regular and secular priests. To address the issues important to Catholic Reformation education fully, therefore, historians must pay attention to all clerics. However, many have assumed that there was a clear distinction between the education provided for potential priests by religious orders and that of diocesan seminaries. Based on the understanding that the latter institutions were created by order of the Council of Trent for the purpose of training the secular clergy, many historians of education and of religious orders have argued that the Tridentine diocesan seminaries were run only by the diocese and only for the diocese, without assistance or interference from religious orders, for example, the Society of Jesus. This argument is supported by, for example, the early Jesuit prohibitions against involvement in diocesan education, Carlo Borromeo's expulsion of the Society from his seminaries, and the move by General Aquaviva to withdraw the Society's support from seminaries.1 However, a study of both primary and secondary materials reveals that such a dichotomy between "Tridentine diocesan seminaries" and "seminaries of religious orders" is too fine a distinction to make. Diocesan seminaries were not exclusively diocesan. In many places in Italy, there was some connection, whether direct or indirect, to religious orders: perhaps in a limited way, for example, hiring Dominicans to teach cases of conscience; or perhaps in a very broad sense, for example, an eventual takeover by the Society of Jesus. As a test case, the diocesan seminary of Fiesole, founded in 1636/7, will be studied here.

In 1563, the creation of seminaries in each diocese was legislated at Session 23, Chapter XVIII (de Ref.) of the Council of Trent ("Directions for establishing seminaries for clerics . . ). The boys admitted to diocesan seminaries were to study "grammar, singing, ecclesiastical computation. . Sacred Scripture, ecclesiastical books, the homilies of the saints, the manner of administering the sacraments, . . . and the rites and ceremonies. The local clergy, including the bishops, should be the instructors, or should choose "competent substitutes."2 These directives were to be enforced by the bishop, and the seminaries were subject to his frequent visitation.3 The Council of Trent thus defined the function of seminaries in a specifically educational way, with an emphasis on disciplinary measures and the pastoral duty of the priests to be trained; in other words, the educational "program" was meant to be explicitly tied to the cura animarum but not necessarily "theological" in the academic sense.

Modern historians have modified the Tridentine definition somewhat, emphasizing the training of clerics for the exercise of their ecclesiastical duties, but also focusing on moral and practical (including disciplinary) training.4 Some highlight the distinction between seminaries and previously existing educational establishments, both the mendicant collegi and the universities.5 Pietro Tocchini and Pietro Lazzarini noted that a student in the diocese of Lucca saw a clear distinction between Tridentine seminaries and precursors such as the Collegio Capranica or contemporary institutions such as Jesuit colleges: the novelty of the former was "the diocesan character of these [Tridentine] colleges and the obligation of a communal life for the clergy with their superiors to whom their cultural and spiritual formation is tied."6 Antonio Rimoldi emphasized the "total and exclusive dependence" of diocesan seminaries on the local bishops.' Recently, John O'Malley defined the "Tridentine diocesan seminary" as "a free-standing and programmatically integral institution reserved exclusively for the future diocesan clergy under the direct jurisdiction of the local bishop. …

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