Conflict Declared between Venice and the Pope

Pietro Sarpi, known as Brother Paolo
Pietro Sarpi, known as Brother Paolo
In August and in October 1605 two ecclesiastics were arrested and imprisoned by order of Council of Ten in Venice.

These two men were not priests; they were only possessors of ecclesiastical benefits and were guilty of common laws offences: contempt and acts of violence for one, dissolute life and attempted murder for the other one.

This arrest is considered as illegal by the Pope.

Paul V demands their release to let them be judged before an ecclesiastical court.

No State magistrate has the right to judge them! He also demands the abolition of the laws concerning the ecclesiastical property.

Venice' answer is without any ambiguity:
« The Venetians were born free and are not required to account to anybody other than God, He is the only one higher than the Doge about temporal matters! »

The Venice' answer is perfectly in accordance with the traditional policy of the separation of powers. In Venice, the religious have no political power and can be judged by a civil court if they infringe the laws of the Republic.

They are judged by an ecclesiastical court only for religious cases.

Venice does not respect the Canonic law According to Paul V

In December 1605, Paul V informs the Venetians that these laws are invalid because they are not in accordance with the canonic law and he demands their immediate abolition.

The Venetian, very worried by the death agony of the Doge Grimani and the election of his successor, are not in a hurry to discuss these questions with the Nuncio sent by the Pope.

January 10th, 1606 Election of Leonardo Donà

The new Doge is a “Young” among the most uncompromising, who had already confronted the Cardinal Borghese when he was ambassador from Venice in Rome.

Paolo Sarpi, specialist of Canonic law is immediately named consultant “in Jure” for the defense of Venice, with a 280-ducat annual salary.

The election of the doge Leonardo Donà and the nomination of Brother Paolo constituted a firm and provocative answer in Paul V's eyes.

History of the Concil of Trent by Sarpi
History of the Concil of Trent by Sarpi

Paul V's ultimatum

The Venetians leaders will be excommunicated and religious will not be able to say mass any more nor give Sacraments on all territory, if the two Ecclesiastics are not returned to him and if the above mentioned laws are not repealed in 24 days!

Contrary to his expectations, Venice will not give in to his threats which had caused the compliance of Genoa, Ferrara and Lucca.

Profoundly religious, but knowing his duty, Leonardo Donà and the Senate forbid purely and simply the publication of the Papal Proscription.

Thus, the religious life continued during the official dispute of the sentence by a very tight legal argumentation carried out by Brother Sarpi.

The “war of the writings” which defied the papal authority on the intellectual and religious ground interested all of Europe and was made public by the press.

Brother Paolo Sarpi, Defender Of Venice Against The Vatican

The “war of writings” led to the publication of both sides of the arguments in which theologians from the Universities of Padua take part on the Venetian side, and from Bologna on the Roman side.

Rome refers to the dominance of the spiritual power of divine origin on temporal, giving absolute power to the Pope to revoke a Prince and to demand the obedience of all, what makes this quarrel illicit!

Venice argues for the separation of powers, each being considered to be sovereign only in the domain which concerns himself.

The spiritual power entrusted to the Apostles and to their successors, while the temporal power belongs to the Princes, to which even the Ecclesiastics owe obedience as subjects.

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