The Holy See and Spanish America
The topic of the research project refers to the governance of the universal Church after the Council of Trent -concentrated in the Pontiff’s authority and directed by the Holy See- and the observance of canon law by local churches within the Catholic orb. The purpose is to analyze the relation and means of communication between the Holy See and the bishopric of Santiago de Chile during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the framework of the Spanish colonial domains, which currently are believed to be very limited.
After the celebration of the Council of Trent, in 1564 a dicastery of the Roman Curia was founded with the purpose of ensuring the proper fulfilling of the Tridentine normative throughout the universal Church: this was the “Congregation of the Council”. The Pope had delegated to this dicastery the authentic interpretation of the disciplinary decrees of the Council, being one of the mechanisms by which the Holy See meant to extend its supervision over all the local churches and apply the ecclesiastical governance model imposed by the ecumenical assembly. However, it is believed that this was not possible in the case of the churches that were located within the domains of the Spanish Crown. In fact, the historiography on this topic has established that the transferences, communications, and guidelines coming from Rome to the local churches of Spanish America were scarce, because of the implementation of the royal patronage system. The concession of a series of privileges by the Pope to the Spanish crown in the first period of settlement in the Americas resulted in the secular institutions and authorities being the ones to direct ecclesiastical matters in this territories, meaning a lack of communication with the Holy See.
Although the royal patronage restricted the guidelines coming from Rome to the local churches of Spanish America during the Tridentine era, this research questions the fact that the communications between both entities were absolutely hindered. In fact, the purpose of the project is to reevaluate this hypothesis and examine possible contacts between the diocese of Santiago and the Congregation of the Council during this period by means of petitions, doubts, and information exchanges from Chile to Rome or vice-versa. This revision will include the guidelines given by the diocesan synods during this period as well, comparing them to the ones coming from the provincial councils of Lima and studying how the Tridentine normative was adapted, transformed or translated into a completely different reality.