GROWING OPPOSITION TO THE SOCINIANS PROMOTED BY THE JESUITS
WHILE THE SOCINIANS were steadily gaining in strength and influence as their churches settled down to their work, ominous factors were also slowly and steadily taking form in the background, of which they themselves seemed to be sublimely un conscious, but which were eventually to bring about the ruin of their church. Serenely relying on the protection promised them in the King’s coronation oath, they did not foresee that they were themselves on the way to be excluded from its provisions. Despite their undisguised pacifism, they had indeed enjoyed outward peace during the reign of King Stephen Batory. He had himself owed his election in no small measure to the efforts of his personal physician Biandrata, and kept at his court yet other ‘Arians.’ Even after his death the Socinians continued to prosper. Indeed in the period from 1580 to 1620, while Calvinism and Lutheranism were losing heavily, the Socinian churches enjoyed a marked development, and reached the apex of their strength.1 Sigismund III who came to the throne in reigned for forty-five years, was nephew of Sigismund Augustus, being son of his sister, the wife of John III. of Sweden. Jesuit fathers had brought him up strictly in the Catholic religion, and he was proud to be called the Jesuit King. ‘Taciturn, tenacious and tardy,’ he was much less interested in government than in religion and the arts; and he allowed his policy as King to be largely shaped by the Jesuits. His reign was there fore fateful for Protestantism in general, for he more and more refrained from appointing Protestants to senatorial offices, and many outrages against Protestants were allowed to go unpunished. Yet he did not persecute the ‘Arians’ as such, and they remained generally loyal to him, being content to live quietly aloof from public life. Indeed they were grateful to the government of a country that allowed them to live in peace at a time when their co-religionists in other lands were suffering the most severe punishments; and when Smalcius published an important work on the divinity of Christ,2 his patron Sieninski even ventured to dedicate it to the King, hoping thus to increase his favorable disposition toward them, by refuting the calumnious charge of blasphemy that their adversaries kept hurling at them.
Many of his subjects, however, grew discontented with Sigismund’s rule. Not a few of even the Catholics were incensed at his subservience to Jesuit influence, and willingly joined hands with the Dissidents, who were exasperated by his overlooking them in the distribution of offices, 3 and by the frequent and unpunished aggressions of mobs against the Protestants. Though the King in his coronation oath had solemnly sworn to maintain peace between all religious parties, he made little pretence to fulfill his promise, for his religious advisers insisted that the pacta conuenta had been illegal from the start, and encouraged him to disregard it. In fact, the Confederation4 had become well-nigh a dead letter for want of any provision for enforcing it. From about the end of the century, therefore, both the Protestants and the Catholics that sympathized with them occupied many Diets with persistent demands for the establishment of what was called a ‘confederation process,’ (proces confederacy), that is, a method of legal procedure in prosecuting violations of the Confederation. The King at his coronation had explicitly promised this, 5 but had made no attempt to keep his word. In 1606, therefore, an armed rebellion broke out, known from the name of its leader as the Zebrzydowski rebellion, which smoldered for a year or two, but for want of unity and competent leadership collapsed without having accomplished anything. In fact, when it had been put down, large numbers of Protestants gave up as fruitless the struggle for equal rights and legal protection in their religion, and returned to the Church of Rome. 6 The Socinians for the most part held aloof from the up rising, both because it was against their religious principles to resist the established civil power, and because they had little to hope for even if it proved successful; since the orthodox Protestants had long been more bitterly opposed to them than were even the Catholics.7 While the rebellion was brewing, there had indeed even been some hope that if it succeeded, the throne might fall to Demetrius, who seems to have had an understanding with Zebrzydowski, and who might thus unite Poland and Russia under one crown, as well as improve the fortunes of the Minor Church. 8
While the Socinians were thus vigorously growing in strength during the decade or two after the death of Socinus, with no serious interference from without, unrealized factors were gradually gathering force which were ere long to find expression in a rising tide of persecution. Apart from the political aspects to which reference has been made, the first and most effective of these factors was that of the public disputations and printed controversies between Socinians on the one hand and Catholics on the other. One of the earliest of these was at Smigiel in Great Poland, where there was a strong and aggressive Socinian congregation, whose first minister, Jan Krotowski, debated the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity with Canon Powodowski from the neighboring cathedral at Poznan, in the presence of a large company in the Smigiel church at the end of 1581. A decade later occurred a sequel to this debate, when Powodowski debated the same question with Ostorodt, then minister at Smigiel. 9 In the meantime Powodowski, whose polemic spirit was now fully aroused, made his heated attack on Czechowicz’s Rozmowy, which has been referred to above. 10
Protestants were now beginning to be apprehensive of a serious peril in the rapidly growing influence of the Jesuits in the kingdom. In the quarter-century since their arrival in Poland, they had for the most part devoted themselves to the work of their schools and colleges; but now their influence was becoming evident in other quarters. One of the first to realize what they were aiming at, and to see through their adroit methods, was the author of an anonymous pamphlet published in 1590.11 This publication was a heated attack on the Jesuits, in which every possible charge against them was brought forward, whether well or ill founded. For example: they had already stirred up much mischief in Germany, England and Scotland; they were secret emissaries of the King of Spain, plotting a conquest for him; they were at the bottom of the recurring riots at Kráków and Wilno; they were introducing an artificial system of education, and under the guise of exceptional learning and piety were trying to undermine the wholesome discipline and ancient customs of the country. The work aroused much hard feeling, and called forth several replies in defence; 12 but it exposed the Jesuits to public criticism, forced them out into the open, and led them to more aggressive measures in pursuing their main purpose, which was to undermine and destroy the Protestant movement in Poland. Thus this little work was almost immediately followed by a series of controversies that lasted for a quarter of a century, in which Jesuits took a leading part.
Preliminary skirmishes of Socinus with Jesuit theologians have already been spoken of. 13 Public debates on doctrinal questions now became more frequent. They were ostensibly designed if possible to bring about harmony and mutual understanding, but the immediate purpose was evidently apologetic or polemic. They were generally con ducted in strict academic form. The theses to be defended were previously submitted in print, and speakers, umpires and secretaries were appointed for each side. At first they were carried on with mutual courtesy and in good order, but as time went on and public feeling became inflamed, open disorders tended to break out, especially in such centres as Lublin, Kráków and Wilno. It is doubtful whether many converts were made on either side, but it is certain that enmities were often deepened as the hostility of the Catholic populace was kindled against those whom they were led to regard as desperately wicked heretics. Thus a foundation was laid for the persecutions that were later to become so wide-spread. The first of these disputations to attract wide attention at the time lasted for two days in January, 1592, at Lewartow (Lubartów), about twenty-five miles north of Lublin, where a flourishing ‘Arian’ school had been established, succeeding the earlier schools at Pinczow and Chmielnik. The disputants were a Jesuit, a Lutheran, a Calvinist, and an ‘Anabaptist.’ The Jesuit theses defended the deity of Christ against the ‘Arians,’ and transubstantiation against the orthodox Protestants. The debate, which attracted a great crowd of listeners, was conducted in the usual scholastic manner, with appeal to the authority of Scripture and the Fathers. The Jesuits maintained that the ‘Arians’ or ‘Anabaptists’ were in the same class with Jews, Tatars and Turks, a charge that was henceforth more and more frequently hurled at them. Both sides claimed the victory, and each published its own account of the debate. 14 The ‘Arians,’ dissatisfied with the conditions of this debate, returned to the contest in a further debate of the same theses at Lublin a few months later, with Statorius as their champion. 15
No previous controversies, however, were to be compared in intensity and effect with the protracted one waged from 1604 to 1617 between Skarga and his successors on the one side and Smalcius and Moskorzowski on the other. The Jesuit father Peter Skarga, 16 born of middleclass parents in 1536 near Warsaw, in the ultra-Catholic province of Masovia, was the most eloquent pulpit orator that Poland ever had, and has been hailed as the Polish Bossuet. Entering the Jesuit order he had his earlier career at Wilno in Lithuania, where he was notably successful in winning Protestants back to the Catholic faith, and directed the religious instruction of the three younger sons of the great Prince Radziwill, when they abjured the Protestant religion. Upon the accession of Sigismund III. Skarga was called to Kráków as court preacher, and for twenty-three years he was a powerful influence in public affairs. Passionately believing that the only true way to national prosperity was through faithfulness to the Catholic religion, he considered the Reformation a disaster to Poland and a crime against God, and the attempt of the Warsaw Confederation to give Protestantism legal recognition he regarded with indignation and horror. Though not approving the use of force or violent persecution against heretics, he insisted that they be excluded from public office, and that every effort be made by reason to bring them back as fatally misguided brethren.
Soon after the destruction of the Reformed and the ‘Arian’ places of worship at Kráków, and the burning of the Reformed church at Wilno, in 1591, when all Protestants were roused to a high pitch of excitement over unpunished excesses of the Catholics, Skarga published an anonymous Admonition to Protestants,17 calling on them not to feel too much aggrieved over troubles that they had brought upon themselves by their own oppression of Catholics, and their seizure and plundering of 2,000 Catholic churches. 18 A violent outburst of passions followed; while Skarga in several successive publications 19 energetically opposed all efforts of the Dissidents to secure from the Diet a legal enforcement of their rights as promised. All these writings, as well as Skarga’s famous sermons before the Diet, were full of intense intolerance against the religion of the Protestants as damnable heresy, and the Dissidents them selves as dangerous enemies of the State.
This polemic had been directed against Dissidents in general; but when Skarga a decade later felt impelled to return to the fray, he directed his attack not against the orthodox Dissidents, whose number had by now sensibly fallen off,20 but only against the ‘Arians,’ whose numbers, under the stimulus given at Ráków and the wise leadership of Socinus, had of late been increasing with alarming rapidity. This new controversy began in 1604 when Skarga, encouraged by the Bishop of Kráków, began a campaign against the Arians’ with two Trinity Sunday sermons in which he defended the orthodox doctrine at length on scriptural grounds. Smalcius, now minister at Ráków, hearing of this, preached a vigorous sermon in refutation. Skarga rejoined at the end of the year by publishing a notable work entitled The Shame of tile Arians21 in which he maintained that they are not Christians but Pagans; that they have no right to appeal to the Christian Scriptures; that they stand condemned by Christ, his Apostles, the Councils of the Fathers, the teachings of the Church, the martyrs, and the laws of all ages. Identifying them with the Arians of old, 22 he recites their history, and calls on them to repent; and citing in proof (pp. 69-73) a series of articles of faith that have been reported to him as being taught in the school at Ráków, he declared that they leave none of the foundations of Christianity standing.
Smalcius was quick to reply to Skarga in his usual hard-hitting fashion; but, not to mention several subordinate skirmishes on each side, the strongest antagonist on the ‘Arian’ side was Moskorzowski, a competent scholar and polished gentleman, with whom Skarga debated on a plane of mutual respect. He took up Skarga’s points in order, analyzed his arguments in logical form without heat or invective, ex posed his flaws in reasoning, and in a dedicatory preface to the King set forth the authentic Socinian faith in fourteen articles.23 There was rejoinder and counter-rejoinder, for the most part in fairly good spirit, with the effort on each side to convict the other of errors and flaws in reasoning, until the controversy ran to a whole dozen of works. Increasing emphasis was laid by the Catholics on the charge that the ‘Arians’ were not Christians, but came near to being Mohammedans, and that their views had long since been universally condemned as heretical.
The controversy proper ended with the death of Skarga in 1612; but the matter was still protracted for six years more between the Jesuit father Martin Smiglecki (Smiglecius) on the one side and Moskorzowski and Smalcius on the other. Smiglecki was a theologian of high repute, who had been Rector of three colleges, and had years before made a contribution to the controversy on the divinity of Christ between Socinus and Wujek. 24 He now took up the question again, addressing himself to the errors of the various ‘Arian’ writers hitherto, also introducing the subject of baptism. Both Smalcius and Moskorzowski were quick to reply, and the battle of the books continued until Smiglecki’s death in 1618. The scope and spirit of this controversy can best be gathered from the titles of the works comprised in it. 25 While this controversy was in progress, Smiglecki also stirred up another, as to the validity of the Protestant ministry, maintaining that Protestant ministers are not properly called or ordained, are not real priests, and hence have no valid authority to remit sins or administer the sacraments. Such a charge greatly provoked the Protestants, and was vigorously answered on the part of the ‘Arians’ by both Smalcius and Volkel; but both Smiglecius and Völkel died in 1618. 26 The outcome of these warm and long controversies was in the main this: that the convinced adherents of either side were more and more confirmed in their views; that those that were wavering were more likely now to make their choice, which would be much determined by the weight they allowed to tradition and old associations on the one hand, or to the letter of Scripture on the other; that between the two parties differences were sharpened and antagonisms deepened; and that thus the back ground was prepared for the religious persecutions that were soon to become increasingly common and severe.
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