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Trent and the clergy in late eighteenth-century Malta.

THE Consilium de emendanda Ecclesia, read to Paul III on March 9, 1537, identified the ordination of unsatisfactory priests as the primary cause of the ills of the Church. (2) The Council of Trent took up this suggestion almost thirty years later when it set a new model of the priesthood. (3) The priest trained in a seminary was to be a man apart, clearly detached from, as well as superior to, lay society. Such a task, the formation of "a newly self-conscious clerical caste in society," (4) which the Counter Reformation set for itself, is believed to have broken the mold of the medieval clergy. To quote Louis Perouas,
 Despite his several natural ties with the people the priest became
 more and more conscious of being different from them. This
 psychology nourished itself on the notion of the eminent dignity of
 the priesthood.... Leaving deliberately aside the laity's way of
 life, the parish clergy shut themselves up within the domain of the
 sacred. (5)

In his seminal book published in 1971, Jean Delumeau, who was highly praised by John Bossy, asserted that this vision of the Catholic Church was accomplished by the end of the seventeenth century. (6) While this claim has been generally accepted, Professor Po-Chia Hsia warns us, in an equally influential book, to remind ourselves that clerical discipline was imposed unevenly and with difficulty. (7) Professor Adriano Prosperi agrees with this thesis: to speak of an ignorant, unprepared, and immoral clergy who became exemplary almost overnight is unreal. (8) Did not the curate of Malgrate, a parish in sixteenth-century Milan, find it difficult "to realize what his function in a newly oiled hierarchical system was"? (9) Agostino Borromeo further explains that the decrees of Trent produced tangible results and promoted evident religious renewal, but the process was slow, laborious, and non-uniform. (10) Kathleen M. Comerford came to the same conclusion about Florence, Lucca, and Arezzo, where the bishops were unable to enforce the Tridentine mandates. (11) Speaking of the French clergy in the diocese of Nimes in the seventeenth century, Robert Sauzet claims that if, by that time, the intellectual and moral level of the clergy had been assuredly improved, it was rather uneven. (12) Similarly, Rona Johnston says for Lower Austria that the implementation of the reform decrees of the council of Trent was neither a speedy achievement nor a straightforward task. (13)

This piece supports the latter view that the Tridentine ideal was usually well beyond full-scale implementation in Malta. Four themes inform my analysis: attire, manual work, sexual irregularities, and violence. But the article especially analyzes the social and historical factors that account for the remarkably slow formation of a clerical elite in Malta. Their extremely slim prospects for advancement, their excessive number--with its concomitant dangers of lack of vocation and discipline--and their rudimentary education were some of the material and practical aspects of cultural life in Malta that retarded religious reform.

In 1574 Pope Gregory XIII sent Monsignor Pietro Dusina as apostolic delegate to Malta to see that the decrees of the council were being put into effect. (14) In 1582 he proposed to Grand Master Verdale the opening of a Jesuit college "for the reform of that city" (15) but which was also to serve as a seminary. Moreover, the development of pastoral visitations, synods, spiritual exercises, ecclesiastical conferences, retreats, and pastoral letters suggests that the Counter-Reformation Church in Malta was attempting to improve the cohesion and discipline of the diocesan corps and impose the marks of a profession on the clergy. (16)

Yet, with all this urgency, it will be argued that non-committed priests, whose duties did not include the care of souls, still remained involved in daily affairs, undistinguished from the rest of the people among whom they lived. If by professionalization of the clergy is meant "the formation of a compact, well-trained, socially distinctive and culturally cohesive body of 'pastoral workers,' endowed with a professional ethos and collaborating within an efficient hierarchy towards the creation of a new Catholic identity," (17) then Maltese priests were far from being so. The evidence is taken mainly from the diocesan tribunals, which offer rare windows into clerical behavior. Our prime source of the discussion is the episcopal court, but other evidence comes from the corte provicariale of Mdina as well as the tribunal of the Roman Inquisition. (18)


In public the clergy were to put on the cassock so that "by the propriety of their outward apparel they may show forth the inward uprightness of their morals." (19) A special clerical dress suggested superiority or at least difference in kind from laymen. This separateness of clergy from the rest of society was, of course, an ideal recommendation of the conciliar fathers, a counsel of perfection. The story is well known that when in 1623 Louis XIII met a priest in clerical garb and with short hair he mistook him for a monk of a new religious order. (20) This was the situation in France, but Trent's directives were only partially observed in Malta more than a century later. In 1783 Bishop Labini still felt the need to threaten with "suspension a divinis those members of the clergy who appeared in public without collar, shoes, and cassock." (21)

Generally, priests discarded the soutane when they undertook manual work. This is exemplified by a 1785 Cospicua case against Don Giuseppe Zammit, who built his own house. Witnesses testified that they saw him with his sleeves rolled up loading stones onto a cart and leveling the road with a hoe. (22) Most priests, though, were reported to the ecclesiastical court when, as one deponent put it, (23) they "disguised" themselves in peasant fashion. They wore a cap, a shirt, a waistcoat and trousers. They went barefoot or else wore peasant shoes (qorq). (24)

Most clergymen, in fact, were priests-cum-peasants. They purchased, (25) inherited, or rented (26) land to farm, but often these agricultural holdings formed part of their sacred patrimony or title. In other words, as in nineteenth-century Lecce (Italy), the bond between the clergy and the land was fundamental. (27) What type of activities did these "peasant-priests" pursue, and on what scale? Most practiced mixed fanning. Apart from arable land producing mainly cotton, wheat, and barley, they were also engaged in animal husbandry and owned cows, (28) sheep, horses, donkeys, and pigs. (29)

A few priests, like Don Arcangelo Cumbo of Tarxien, (30) managed their own economic affairs and farmed the land themselves. They prepared the ground for the cotton seed, mowed and threshed the grain, and helped with the tying of the sheaves. (31) They transported seaweed to their fields, perhaps like Don Giuseppe Frendo of Naxxar, on a female donkey. (32) This must have consumed a considerable part of their time and interfered so with their priestly ministry that in 1783 Don Salvatore Farrugia of Qrendi was reported to the bishop for not serving in church. (33) Often, therefore, priests employed castaldi. These stewards slept in their masters' own houses and did all the necessary agricultural work, "with all punctuality and attention as it needs an obedient, humble and diligent disciple." (34)

Priests could also employ day laborers to take the sheep to graze, pick cotton, look after the animals, take the fruit to market, plough the land, and glean the ears of corn. (35) In this way they became dependent on the ability of the workers to carry out their work. The same difficulty arose when priests leased out the land to one of their parishioners to farm it for them because these lessees could not always meet their commitment. (36) Similar problems were faced in 1759 by Don Michel'Angelo Ellul with the metayer Michel'Angelo Grech, who refused to share the produce with him. (37) Other priests sued their antagonists in court for trespassing or theft, or for having their fields damaged by their neighbors' hens. (38)

In return, clergy were prosecuted for planting trees too close to cotton fields, because the roots "sucked their humidity." (39) Prosecution for debt was more frequent than prosecution for planting practices. (40) In such instances priests had their animals or fields auctioned to pay their creditors. (41) Occasionally, the courts heard cases involving fraudulent sale of animals. By way of example, in 1770 Don Pietro was made to take back within two days the she-ass he had sold to Alessandro Zammit; it was lame, besides having other defects "in other parts of the body, as several witnesses testified." (42) Sometimes a picture of clergy doing business in a shrewd and resolute manner is exhibited. When he came to know that cotton was selling at 5 scudi a rotolo, Don Giuseppe Zerafa demanded 8 tari more from Giovanni Maria Galea and refused to honor the agreement they had made earlier. (43)

This striking series of examples of priests' involvement in agricultural interests suggests that, in economic and social terms, firm distinctions between clergy and laity were rarely drawn. Priests were firmly integrated into the cycles of the agrarian economy, which put them on a par with many parishioners, engaging in agriculture like several of them. Some of the rural clergy, that is, were very much part of the village community in that they were farmers. But this was not the only way in which priests were practically indistinguishable from the peasants farming the adjacent land. They were not dissimilar, for instance, when it came to seeking the sexual favors of women.


"Fornication of ministers of the sacred altar" had been a focus of church reform since Gregory VII in the eleventh century. (44) The most cogent argument brought forward by the adherents of a celibate clergy was that it symbolized the unique and superior status of the consecrated person of a priest. By the sixteenth century, however, "clerical marriage" had become prevalent again, which impelled the Council of Trent to make a forceful drive against clerical incontinence. In its twenty-third session it decreed that those "called to have the Lord for their portion, ought by all means so to regulate their life and conduct that their actions may inspire reverence." How could the clergy correct the laity, the Fathers asked, "when they must answer silently to themselves that they have committed the same things that they censure?" (45)

Despite these admonitions, in the bishopric of Speyer more than half of the priests investigated in the 1580s lived with concubines. (46) In France, "the cures who had fathered children used their sons to serve mass ..., and taught them the rudiments of reading, writing and Latin, hoping to be able to hand over their benefice or vicariate in due course." (47) Malta also had its share of concubinary clergy. (48) In the immediate aftermath of the council, the apostolic delegate Monsignor Dusina identified the incumbent of St. Helen's (B'Kara), Don Giuseppe Bellia, who kept a concubine at his own parish and another at St. Lawrence's (Vittoriosa). (49)

By the eighteenth century, the effort to create a morally upright clergy had been under way for a long time, although with limited success. In 1703 Bishop Cocco Palmieri still found it necessary in one of his synod's decrees de vita et honestate to caution priests to eschew private meetings with members of the opposite sex and ordered the officials of the ecclesiastical court to take special pain to ferret out offenders. (50) Such moral deviants were "presented" to the bishop during visitations. Don Celestino Borg of St. Lawrence's, who in 1796 was confined in prison for his relations with Aloisia Grech, was a case in point. (51)

However, morality cases were overwhelmingly "office" cases initiated by the ecclesiastical judge. Generally, he was informed of suspicious behavior by court officials like the captain and the alarii or apparitors. (52) Such vigilance is glimpsed in a case in 1757. Rocco Falconi, the capitano of the episcopal court, reported on August 1:
 My Lords, it came to my notice that Don Valerio Borg of citta
 Burmola has been having scandalous relations with one Fortunata of
 the same city for many years, sleeping with her in his own house.
 Last Saturday, 30 July, toward seven in the evening I went to
 Burmola.... Having found the door of the priest's house open I went
 inside. He was shaving while Fortunata held up a candle in her hand
 to make light for him. I called as witnesses Giuseppe Fenech and
 the cleric in minor orders Giovanni Andrea Zahra, both of Burmula.
 Then I ordered the priest under pain of 50 onze to present himself
 before the Revd. capitular vicar in the bishop's palace at Valletta
 this morning. Therefore, in fulfillment of my duty, I inform you of
 this fact so that Your Lords take the necessary steps. (53)

People often engaged in ribald gossip about the sexual misdeeds of lecherous priests, but the number of clergy detected to the church courts for sexual crimes between 1750 and 1798 amounted to a mere handful, 25 in all (Table 1). (54) Some words of caution are needed here regarding these numbers before going on with our analysis. First, they refer only to actual physical sexuality and not to instances of sollecitazione ad turpia, or the tempting of penitents during confession for dishonest ends. (55) In the period 1743-1798 these amounted to thirty-two cases and were decided by the tribunal of the inquisition and not by the episcopal court (Table 2). (56) The man who best illustrates such a "bear who attacks travelers who have lost their way" is Don Baldassare Marchesan, the organist of the parish church of Senglea. This jovial, short, pale, curly-haired priest with an aquiline nose was held by most to be a flirt and in love with 35-year-old Elisabetta Durante. He told her during confession in 1755, "I have spent all this night with you ... I dreamed that you came to me and stayed on your knees by my bed. Then you went to sleep and then ..." (57)

Secondly, can we take these statistics to be representative, or do such figures underestimate the incidence of sinful priests, in which case our quantification becomes worthless? It has been argued for other countries, for instance Italy, Spain, and Catholic Germany, that parishioners connived at priests' immorality as long as this did not interfere with their priestly office. (58) This could not be said for Malta, where, as in late medieval Lincoln, (59) it seems that clerical sexuality did conflict with the parish's sexual norms and the faithful were greatly concerned with the lives of their ministers. This begs the remark that a new-style clergy eventually emerged not only on the initiative of the bishop but also of the people. Parishioners had a particularly strong interest in correcting priests' sexual immorality because a bad minister was a threat to the whole community. Concern for the safety of wives and daughters was only one cause of the hostility toward unchaste clergy. People were preoccupied with their priests' sexuality mainly because it was commonly believed that sacraments administered by a wicked minister were invalid. This belief was theologically unsound, but it was held by some of the clergy themselves. In 1672 Don Giuseppe Calleja, the parish clerk of Zabbar, was reported to the Holy Office for having allegedly told his congregation that they were not to hear the Mass of a priest in mortal sin, (60) Instead, Rosolea Mifsud was catechized by Inquisitor Gallarati Scotti in 1785 that sacraments conferred grace ex opere operato, irrespective of the qualities or the merits of the persons administering them. (61)

Thirdly, how reliable were these charges? Could not these indictments have been maliciously motivated, concocted by disgruntled parishioners in order to discredit a clergyman? These are pertinent questions because in nine cases the defendant was not even summoned while one case was dismissed because the charge could not be sustained. It concerned Don Andrea Camilleri tal vaiuu of Tarxien. In 1767 a widow brought suit against him for having fathered a child by her. But he succeeded in proving that she was a prostitute and that the child she bore on the feast of S. Andrea was a result of her commerce with one Antonio of casal Zebbug. Besides, the witnesses whom she produced were "vile and infamous." The charges against him, so he claimed, were brought deliberately in order to make him maintain her child, (62) That accusations of sexual impropriety should be treated with caution is also demonstrated by the case of Don Aloiso Camilleri of Naxxar. In 1793 his nephew accused him of entertaining a lewd woman in his house, but he had ulterior motives connected with an inheritance for wishing to discredit her: the priest's mother had left her a house for tending her during her illness for almost a year fight up to her death. (63)

Other charges, though, resulted in prosecutions, and in fifteen instances (60 percent) the accused were convicted. Such cases implied that the pitiless urge of carnal desire could not be contained within the pattern of lifelong clerical chastity. Continence must have been, as Christopher Black has said in a passage full of warmth and understanding, "an ideal that took ... little account of natural worldly instincts and temptations." (64) The case of Don Andrea Borg of Hasseiet from St. Helen's serves to illustrate this point. In 1789 he contemplated going to Turkey to apostatize to Islam and there "take as many wives as my strength allowed me." He did not execute his wish, however, or so he confided to Inquisitor Gallarati Scotti, only because he found no way of escaping from Malta, "despite all the attempts I made." (65) In further confirmation of this irresistible libidinous urge, Don Michele Micallef of the parish of the annunciation (Balzan) claimed in 1749 that the Church "allows its priests to give vent to their passions and know carnally a woman once a month." (66)

Immorality cases against priests handled by the ecclesiastical court were invariably restricted to what Thomas Aquinas refers to as "natural lust": adultery (six cases) and fornication (fourteen cases). Plausibly there were relatively few cases of the latter because sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman was considered a less serious crime than adultery. Illicit intercourse with a married woman is an act that hurts a third party; and besides the sexual crime involved, the offender commits the added injustice of taking over the rights of another man.

Included in Table 1 are two rape charges and one single case of a priest convicted of incest. It concerned Don Pantaleone Dalli from the parish of the assumption (Gudja). His brother, Giuseppe, had married one Mafia on October 6, 1793, (67) She gave birth to a child five months later on February 26, 1794, (68) but it started being rumored in the village that the priest was its father. Maria's husband protested that it was not his child, so he refused to be present at church at its christening and, on the excuse that his wife was unwell, gave the child to the foundlings' hospital. Don Pantaleone was incarcerated in the bishop's prisons at Vittoriosa, but after a month, on April 4, 1794, "I asked the prosecutor in so important a matter to conduct me to this tribunal to make the present spontaneous confirmation":
 I declare that I raped her (Maria) twice last May, that is, five
 months before marriage. It was the result of blind passion when as
 a neighbor she came almost daily to our house to help us with the
 chores. (69)

This example sheds light on the fact that servants engaged in domestic work or farm labor were especially easy prey for lascivious priests. Trent had prohibited "all clerics whatsoever to presume to keep concubines or other women concerning whom suspicion can be had in their house or elsewhere, or to presume to have any association with them." (70) The Maltese synod of 1703 further laid down that these women or perpetue (71)--to refer to them by the name of Don Abbondio's in Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed (72)--should be over fifty years of age and of good morals. Nor could priests employ them before having permission in writing by the bishop or the vicar general. (73)

All the same, women repeatedly charged priests with attempts on their virtue. (74) The fact that most of them were widows was itself a source of suspicion: they were subject to the control of neither father nor husband. Anna, of St. Bartholomew's, for instance, started frequenting Don Giovanni Bezzina as soon as her husband died in 1767. (75) Separated women were in like position. Liberata, from the parish of the assumption (Mqabba), was abandoned by her husband just a few days after marriage, "not having found her a virgin, as the common fame goes." She left her village and went to Valletta where in 1783 she moved in with Don Bartolomeo Zarb of Zebbug. Her mother was very happy that "the priest provides her with everything for the house." (76)

As this last example shows, underlying these cases was a great deal of human misery. Their poverty made these women especially vulnerable. Take the 1796 case of Maria from the village of Balzan. All the villagers knew that her mother constrained her to lend her sexual favors to Don Salvatore Sammut and threatened to beat her if she declined. (77) The priest, so the case implies, must have been maintaining the girl's family in return. Other instances indicate that a priest was bringing up his own offspring. Was this not the reason perhaps why Don Bernardo Ellul of Qrendi organized a wedding party for Grazia's son when the lad got married in 1778? (78) A case of 1765 from the town of Rabat in Gozo provides further proof. Grazia and her family lived in the same house with Don Nicola Zammit and when, on orders from the bishop, they were evicted, the priest bought another house for them behind the church of S. Francesco. However, a son of hers, Giuseppe, stayed with the priest, who paid for his schooling. Were the people to blame when their suspicions were aroused and called the boy the priest's bastard? (79)


Priests lived in close proximity with the laity because they still resided with their families in the areas where they had grown up. They were local figures since in Malta, unlike France, the clergy did not migrate to other parishes. (80) This familiarity meant that the people accepted the local priest without any difficulty. But it also meant that the priest could more readily have been caught up in local disputes, resentment and enmity sometimes boiling over into intense antagonism.

This observation leads to the fourth topic of our analysis since violence further lessened the distance between priest and people. It was the most notorious aspect of a secularized priestly way of life, or as one French author put it, "un style de vie communement vulgaire." (81) The evidence from the ecclesiastical court is astounding and, as Jean-Francois Soulet has observed for the central Pyrenees (82) and H. Roure for the southeast of France in the seventeenth century, (83) it provided the most serious indictment of the quality of the Maltese clergy in the late eighteenth century. The situation should not be compared, though, to that in southern Italy where, according to Bishop Zuccari, in 1771 several priests guilty of homicide took refuge in the mountains. (84) Even so, for the years 1750 through 1798, the laity brought 119 suits in the ecclesiastical court for such incidents (Table 3).

A striking feature of these denunciations is the paucity of verbal assaults. Only 25 instances, or 20.8 percent of the total, are recorded and, besides, if suits were abusive and insulting, they were not all strictly defamatory. A case from Floriana provides illustration of this point. In October 1780, toward two in the afternoon, Clara the wife of Filippo Xerri was watching Don Giusto Mangani quarrelling with two porters near her house. Suddenly he started beating his buttocks with his hands while telling Clam, "Come and kiss my ..." (85)

As is evident from this case, most of the deprecations were uttered in passion or anger without any real intention of harming a person's repute. Thus, in another case of 1790, Don Giuseppe Tonna of Rabat (Gozo) shouted abuse at Grazia from his balcony across the open street after she returned a perforated kettle he had lent her. (86) Other slanders, though, did not concern trivial exchanges of words (87) but were designed to hurt. In 1777, two priests from Gudja threatened Giuseppe Hellul with exile from Malta or else to "bring my days to an end beneath the earth." (88) And Don Lazzaro Azzopardi of St. Catherine's (Zejtun) assaulted Rosa Aquilina where it hurt most, her reputation. In an attempt to frustrate her betrothal to his nephew, he boasted that he had laid her himself. "Do you want to marry that whore and fill our house with dung? You thief!" he fulminated against him in 1779. (89)

Regrettably, there is no sequel to this latter incident, but often these bouts of defamation, or what Peter Burke calls "the ritualized sequence of words and gestures," (90) were only the prelude to fighting. A typical case was that of Don Francesco Scerri of Rabat. When in 1777 he fell out with Lorenzo Bugeja, he first called him a cuckold and a thief and then attacked him "like a tiger." (91) In other words, abusive language and violent behavior were intimately related. Shouting and threats were generally accompanied by punches, but an instrument could also be used, like a whip, a hammer, a hoe and, rarely, a knife. (92)

Turning now to the context in which these squabbles occurred, which were the circumstances that made priests forget their priestly calling and made them no different from the people? Fortunately, there is enough material for a close study. It could be a frivolous matter over precedence. Claiming that his confraternity of the Holy Sacrament was the oldest in the village, Don Alberto Abela of Zejtun in 1755 did not let the confratelli of the Holy Rosary stay on the highest step of the presbytery. He pushed one of them to the ground and smashed to pieces the candle that another brother held in his hand. (93) One more incident worth citing because of its detail concerned Alberto Cassar, who was attacked for having in 1755 pelted a priest's dog with a stone:
 Last Saturday toward four in the afternoon while I was passing in
 front of the shop of Lorenzo Rapa at the village of Caccia an angry
 dog came out of the shop. It tried to bite me but I threw a stone
 at it and hit it in the leg. There at once appeared Don Agostino
 Buhagiar, who started hitting me on my neck. And he would have
 beaten me more if Giuseppe Mizzi had not interceded. (94)

Unlike the case in England, (95) instances of drunkenness that led to physical assault were particularly rare among the Maltese clergy. One such unusual case concerned Don Giuseppe Grima of St. Lawrence's. In 1776 he punched one Michele so soundly on the face and chest that he forced him to escape into his neighbor's field and hide under a tree of prickly pears. (96)

Apart from such examples, as has been observed above, these priestscum-peasants were generally embroiled in disputes with people over matters related to agriculture. One such incident resulted in homicide. On Saturday, July 27, 1765, Martino Vassallo, a 17-year-old lad, together with other workers, was on his way from Zabbar to his native village of Siggiewi. At tal Handach he climbed over a wall to pick two figs from the field of Don Lorenzo Pace tal furnara (the baker's son). The priest pelted him with a stone and hit him in the belly. The boy fell to the ground so that he had to be helped to reach home by his fellow workers. The next day, Sunday, he felt so ill that his father took him to the hospital, where he died on Tuesday at 10 p.m. The priest was arrested but the victim's father forgave him. (97)

Was this the usual way people responded to clerical violence? The best way to answer this query is to analyze the number of suits brought by clergy against the laity. In the period 1750-1798 these amounted to 91, but only seven of them ended in conviction (see Table 4). The rest of the suits may have been settled outside the court while in other cases it was impossible to establish the exact facts owing to conflicting evidence. These cases require some clarification. According to the canon Si quis suadente of 1139, a sentence of excommunication could be passed on any who laid violent hands on the clergy. (98) This penalty, unlike the case in seventeenth-century England, (99) should have terrified the people because it was commonly believed that neither the parish priest nor the bishop, the pope, God, or the Holy Trinity could absolve it. (100) Even if this was a wrong theological tenet, excommunication did mean exclusion from the Church and the solace of the sacraments. Besides these spiritual effects, excommunication also involved social exclusion or Ostracism, segregation from the faithful in Christ. (101) According to one author, this was "symbolic of the fact that the Church was supposed to be coterminous with the whole of society." (102) The "cursed" one was to be avoided by the rest of the Christian community until he had purged himself. He could not be greeted in the street, and all normal conversation with him was forbidden because whoever came into contact with him was touched by his pollution.

In a society in which the community was needed for sustenance, social ostracism might result in starvation. A case that came before the ecclesiastical court reflects the significance of this. On Sunday, July 31, 1768, toward five in the evening, Vincenszo Corso, a 22-year-old boatman of Burmula, was transporting some bathers to Rinella bay. As he was in his boat, smoking the pipe, the cleric Giuseppe Attard called him a cuckold and a thief. On land they came to blows and Vincenzo threatened to pluck out his adversary's eye if he did not substantiate his charges. Vincenzo was arrested on August 11 and on the 30th he was excommunicated. But, "being a poor man who had to work daily to earn his living," he asked to be absolved and integrated within the Church. (103)

How effective were these "horrible censures which, like a sharp sword, separate a Catholic from the body of the Christian republic"? (104) Did they serve, as they did in More's Utopia, as a deterrent for people not to lay violent hands on a man "dedicated and consecrated to God as a holy offering"? (105) Could a priest avert an assault on his person by an appeal to his priesthood and fall back on his position as the anointed man of God? Attitudes toward priestly violence are perhaps best summed up in a 1790 case. Giovanni Battista Diacono was an inmate at Saura hospital. When Don Michele Felici assaulted him he refrained from retaliating, even though he kept a stick beside his bed, "being so much afraid of excommunication." (106)

Other individuals were less cautious and "don't esteem your collar." (107) Such an attitude is glimpsed in a 1755 case when a Zabbar man, Andrea ta sula, told his clerical antagonist not to delude himself "that the tonsure enables you to devour the people." (108) In another case, Giuseppe Attard, a coachman, warned Don Pietro Borg in 1752 not to raise his hands because he would raise his as well. (109) Taking such evidence into account, it seems likely that not much shame or disgrace seems to have been attached to handling priests roughly. In other words, not all Maltese resembled the Gozitan carpenter who, on hitting Don Antonio Teuma in 1783 with a piece of wood, asked for pardon, knelt down, and kissed the priest's feet. (110)

What matters here is that in such encounters priests were lucky if they escaped simply with having their hat taken violently off their head. (111) In 1788 Grazia Gatt of Ghaxaq spat in Don Michele Vella's face for allegedly stealing one of her hens. (112) Other priests had their fingers bitten or their faces scratched "as Your Excellencies can well see." (113) Antonio Borg of Zurrieq pointed a gun at Don Giovanni Mifsud's chest, telling him in 1753, "I'll disembowel you like a pig." (114) In one exceptional case, Don Bernardo Busuttil was murdered in November 1794 as he was on his way from Zebbug to Xaghra (Gozo). His corpse was found after eight days, on December 2, in a valley close to Hayn Emhellel. Suspicion fell on Tomaso ta cannabusa whom the priest had cited for 14 tari, but the document contains no further information. (115)


Having explained that priests in Malta were slow to professionalize along lines set forth at Trent, it now remains to analyze the social and historical factors that account for this remarkably slow formation of a clerical elite. In other words, why were priests in Malta not so distinct from the people?

One reason that must be dismissed outright was their poverty. In order to be ordained they had to have proof of sufficient economic support, which was a guarantee that they would not become a burden on the Church. (116) This ordination title or patrimony stood at 45 scudi a year until 1777, when it was nearly doubled to 80 scudi. (117) In fact, priests' salaries compared well with those of other professions. In 1754, Giovanni Bazilio Zammit, a "doctor of the poor" at Senglea, had a salary of 50 scudi a year; (118) a master builder in 1772 earned half that sum, 25 scudi. (119) Moreover, priests augmented their salary by their daily Mass stipends (messe manuali) and by sharing the common revenues of the parish church. Above all, they were the sons of well-to-do families. If in France, as Joseph Bergin has demonstrated, a large proportion of them were drawn from the bourgeoisie, (120) in Malta, as in southern Italy, (121) they belonged to families of property holders, with a primary involvement in agriculture. (122) Don Giuseppe Giovanni Dimech of Burmola, for example, was the son of a grocer, but his father possessed several houses and fields and had some 6,000 scudi invested in sea exchanges (pret a la grosse aventure). (123) As Luise Schorn-Schutte claims for Germany, (124) the entrance to clerical office was open for the sons of prosperous families but barred to the great majority of poor independent ones. Timothy Tackett has put it more succinctly: "The long-held myth that the Old-Regime clergy arose from the midst of the common people has now been largely exploded." (125) This is also confirmed for Naples (126) but contrasts with what Mario Rosa has said for Italy in general, and Thomas Deutscher for Novara and Silvia Mostaccio for Saluzzo in particular. (127)

In Malta one does come across isolated instances of priests who, like Don Arcangelo Saliba of St. Catherine's (Zurrieq), wore the cassock on their bare flesh and cleaned themselves of lice. But such extremely rare examples refer not to destitute priests but to those members of the clergy who lived on their own with no one to look after them. After all, witnesses testified that Don Arcangelo had "enough means with which to live decently" and behaved that way only because he was mentally unbalanced. (128) If, then, Don Antonio Galea, who left some 150,000 scudi when he died in 1762, must have been an exception, (129) it is fair to say that priests led a fairly decent life and did not live on meager incomes. They must have possessed effective financial independence and cannot be regarded as an impoverished clerical proletariat.

If poverty was not at stake in determining the profile of the priests studied in this article, the extremely slim prospects for advancement were a major reason why priests appeared like other villagers. This is a seminal consideration because it illustrates that in ancien regime Catholic Europe priests did not simply administer to their sacred ministry. (130) The clerical market was extremely limited, and those priests who were able to secure a beneficed post were only a tiny minority. (131) The rest did not possess a career pattern and simply recited the Mass and read the breviary. In a way, ignoring the pastoral care of the population was in consonance with Catholicism, which stresses the sacrificial function of the priest in offering the Mass. (132) But did not these priests resemble, as has been well remarked, barristers who never practiced and teachers who never taught? (133)

This plethora of clergy without care of souls went against the decrees of the Council of Trent, which stipulated that in a parish there should only be "as many priests as are necessary to administer the sacraments and carry on divine worship." (134) It also created grave problems for the church authorities. (135) Blocked in their ecclesiastical career, some of these "marginal" priests, as Angelo Turchini calls them, (136) served as churchwardens (procuratori), sacristans, (137) puntatori, (138) and church organists, or else gave music lessons (139) and ran their own "schools." (140) In Gozo in 1770, Don Francesco Sapiano was the commune's school teacher for 28 scudi a year. (141) As we have already observed, though, not all priests exercised their activities in a manner consonant with their priestly character. A few were lawyers or, like Don Giuseppe Micallef of citta Pinto, medical doctors. (142) Others, like Don Giovanni Balzan, who in 1744 appointed the Frenchman Giacchino Pignateau as his trade representative at Tripoli, were involved in commerce. (143) In a letter to his superiors at Rome, dated 14 December 1738, Inquisitor Carlo Francesco Durini denounced the shamelessness of those priests in Malta "who are seen all day amongst merchants in the public square transacting business." (144)

The great number of clergy, who in 1782 made up 1.3 percent of the population, (145) was another plausible reason why ecclesiastical officials in the late eighteenth century were still having difficulty inculcating the new values enshrined in the sixteenth-century decrees on the priesthood. St. Philip's, for instance, with a population of about 4,000, boasted 54 priests, while that same year the tiny parish of the assumption (Attard), with some 808 inhabitants, was served by seventeen priests, or a priest for every 48 persons. These numbers, which tally with those in other Catholic countries like Italy, (146) amply justify the clericalization of the Maltese islands. (147) Simply put, priests riding and walking about were familiar figures.

This easy access to the ranks of the clergy meant that there were more than enough clergymen to attend to the normal liturgical services, even if sometimes not enough to say the abnormally large number of death Masses. (148) Parishes teemed with clergy; yet this exorbitantly high level of recruitment had its disadvantages. First, there can be little doubt that some priests lacked a vocation. They could have joined the ranks of the Church perhaps forced by their families (149) for the legal and fiscal exemptions that they enjoyed. (150) Did not The Catechism of the Council of Trent warn that "some there are who embrace this state to secure the necessaries of life ... attracted to the priesthood by ambition and love of honors"? (151) Secondly, it was practically impossible to keep this multitude in check. Trent had strengthened the power of the parish priests, but their assistant clergy, natives of the community, spited these "foreigners" like the rest of the parishioners. (152) One such instance occurred at Cospicua in 1746. Although Don Francesco Crispo ordered his priests--"as rector of my church and also on the authority of the bishop, my master"--to take part in the viatico procession, Don Felice Demarco defied him and preferred to say Mass instead. (153)

How did this insubordination originate? In its twenty-third session, the Council of Trent had enacted a series of laws in default of which it was impossible for young men to be ordained. (154) In a highly informative essay, Angelo Turrini classifies these rules as "internal" and "external." The first regarded the person of the candidate, his vita et mores, his birth, his physique, his level of instruction. The second group had nothing to do with his personal qualities but with such conditions as the sacred patrimony. (155) Candidates, therefore, exercised their office only after reaching the expected level, and those of them with moral and intellectual qualities below standard were excluded. At Naples, for instance, Bishop Innico Caracciolo (1667-1685) proceeded with so much vigor that he halved the number of candidates for the tonsure. (156)

How does this theme appear in eighteenth-century Malta? Until the end of the seventeenth century, priests were educated at the Jesuit College or the studium generale of the Dominicans. (157) The seminary was set up only in 1703. (158) Bishops, therefore, started participating more extensively in establishing the clerical and spiritual contents of what was taught. But what kind of supervision was imposed on those young men aspiring to be ordained? In other words, did ordination follow automatically at the end of a spiritual itinerary? Unfortunately, present research has only dimly enlightened this point. Hence, there is no reference that the seminarians returned home in the evenings or that they resided in the seminary for only a semester before their ordination. (159) Nor do we have any proof that, as was the case in eighteenth-century Lombardy, the seminary served just as a boarding school (convitto), the teaching being delivered outside in colleges run by the religious orders. (160) What we can say with certainty is that to be able to finance itself (161) the seminary in Malta as elsewhere (162) provided a general education for other young men who did not intend to become priests. (163) On August 14, 1769, in fact, Inquisitor Mancinforte reported to the cardinal secretary of state that the capitular vicar had closed the seminary for lack of funds. (164) But did not these fee-paying students generally outnumber the seminarians? (165) In such cases could not the presence of such youths make discipline difficult to keep, besides weakening a devout atmosphere? (166) However that may be, on April 25, 1744, Inquisitor Paolo Passionei informed the Sacra Congregazione del Sant'Ufficio that "grave and intolerable disorders presently prevail in this seminary." (167) In 1764 it was the turn of Inquisitor Angelo Maria Durini to report to Rome that the procuratore of the seminary, Don Girolamo Rizzardopoli, had been dismissed for publicly defaming and threatening the rector. (168)

Besides, if Trent decreed that each diocese must have such institutions, future clergy were not compelled to attend them, and young men could still proceed to the priesthood much as before. (169) Several clerks, in fact, never attended the seminary and made their apprenticeship at the local church where they served as altar boys. They were ordained after receiving a rudimentary clerical education at a "private school" in their own village conducted by a local priest. (170) The point I want to make is that in this way they still lived in the village environment, in the area in which they had grown up. This phenomenon of chierici casalinghi (domestic clerics) was not confined to Malta. For instance, from 1635 to 1675, about 59 percent of the priests ordained in Fiesole (Italy) spent no time at all in the seminary. They were "for the most part locals who remained local." (171)

According to Trent, ordinands were to be examined by the bishop assisted by "priests and other prudent men skilled in the divine law and experienced in the laws of the Church." But in actual fact many queries present themselves. What form did the examination take? How rigorous was it? Which qualities were regarded as essential in candidates? Was it simply the fight canonical age, a legitimate birth and the possession of a patrimony to ensure physical maintenance that examiners insisted on? Was the examination perfunctory? Were ordinations easily obtained with few questions asked? Unfortunately, we are unable to answer these questions because in Malta, unlike the case in Ely, (172) documentation on this point is nonexistent.


My concerns in this exercise in micro-history were twofold. First, I tried to identify those priests who did not administer the cure of souls and did not live up to their priestly ministry. They differed very little from their neighbors and, like priests in southern Italy, led at best semi-secular lives. (173) These homegrown clerics were involved in agricultural pursuits and had enough spare time to go hunting and fishing. (174) They went about perhaps with a wig on (175) and a kerchief around their necks. (176) They frequented "low" company in taverns and wine shops (177) to socialize and play such card games as the reversino. (178) They sought sexual relations with women, even seducing them during confession. They carried weapons and were violent, quarrelsome, aggressive, and blasphemous. (179) They held carnival balls at nighttime in their houses (180) and attended wedding receptions, where they could have danced a minuet and contradanza with the bride. (181) Their nicknames are a further proof that they were not much different from the people among whom they lived. If a nickname is a sign of endearment, it also signifies that the priest was not a man to be feared and respected. (182) My second and more important aim was to explore the social and historical factors that made it permissible for priests not to be much different from the people. This situation can be attributed less to economic factors than to limited career opportunities, the great number of clergy, and uneven education and institutional controls.

(1) I am grateful to Professor Christopher Black for reading and commenting on this article.

(2) J. Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras, "Riforma del Clero, Riforma della Chiesa," in Per il Cinquecento Religioso Italiano. Clero, Cultura, Societh, ed. Maurizio Sangalli (Rome: Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 2003), 233.

(3) Angelo Turchini, "La nascita del sacerdozio come professione," in Disciplina dell'anima, disciplina del corpo e disciplina della societa tra medioevo ed eta moderna, eds. Paolo Prodi and Carla Penuti (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1994), 228.

(4) N. S. Davidson, The Counter-Reformation (Oxford: Blackwell's, 1987), 34.

(5) Louis Perouas, Le Diocese de la Rochelle de 1648 a 1724. Sociologie et Pastorale (Paris: SEVPEN, 1964), 452.

(6) Jean Delumeau (with an introduction by John Bossy), Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire: A New Hew of the Counter-Reformation (London: Bums and Oates, 1977), esp. 179-189.

(7) R. Po-Chia Hsia, The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540-1770 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 120-121. For this delayed reform see also Martin D. W. Jones, The Counter Reformation: Religion and Society in Earl), Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 96-98.

(8) Adriano Prosperi, "Educare gli Educatori: Il Prete come Professione Intellettuale nell'Italia Tridentina," in Problemes d'Histoire de l'Education, Actes des seminaires organisres par l'Ecole francaise de Rome e l'Universita di Roma--La Sapienza (janvier-mai 1985) (Rome 1988), 125.

(9) Wietse De Boer, "II Curato di Malgrate, oil Problema della Cultura del Clero nel Milano della Controriforma," Studia Borromaica 12 (1998): 148. This is a revised version of the article in English in The Power of lmagery." Essays on Rome, Italy and Imagination, ed. P. Van Kessel (Rome: Apeiron, 1992), 188-200, 310-316.

(10) Agostino Borromeo, "I Viscovi Italiani e l'Applicazione del Concilio di Trento," in I Tempi del Concilio. Religione, cultura e societa nell'Europa Tridentina, ed. Cesare Mozzarelli and Danilo Zardin (Rome: Bulzoni, 1997), 76.

(11) Kathleen M. Comerford, "'The Care of Souls is a very Grave Burden for [the Pastor]': Professionalization of Clergy in Early Modern Florence, Lucca, and Arezzo," in The Formation of Clerical and Confessional Identities in Early Modern Europe, eds. Wim Janse and Barbara Pitkin (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 348.

(12) Robert Sauzet, Contre-Reforme et Reforme Catholique en Bas-Languedoe. Le Diocese de Nimes au XVIIe Siecle (Paris: Sorbonne, 1979), 428.

(13) Rona Johnston, "The Implementation of Tridentine Reform: The Passau Official and the Parish Clergy in Lower Austria, 1563-1637," in The Reformation of the Parishes: The Ministry and the Reformation in Town and Country, ed. Andrew Pettegree (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1993), 216.

(14) The literature on these visitors is vast: Gabriele de Rosa, "Il Francescano Cornelio Musso dal Concilio di Trento alia Diocesi di Bitonto," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia, 39:1 (1985): 55-91; Paolo Preto, "II Vescovo Gerolamo Vielmi e gli Inizi della Riforma Tridentina a Padova," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia, Anno XX, no. 1 (1966): 18-33; Pietro Caiazza, "Stato del Clero nella Diocesi di Sarno durante la Visita Pastorale del Vescovo Paolo Fusco (1581)," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia, Anno 33:1 (1979): 80-94; Ludovico Von Pastor, Storia dei Papi. Pio V (1566-72), viii (Rome: 1924), 132; Angelo Turchini, Clero e Fedeli a Rimini in Eta Post-Tridentina (Rome: Herder, 1978), 13; Angelo Paredi, "San Carlo e gli Studi del Clero," La Seuola Cattolica, Anno 33:1 (1979): 80-94.

(15) David F. Allen, "Anti-Jesuit Rioting by Knights of St. John during the Malta Carnival of 1639," Archivum Historicum Societatis lesu 65 (1996): 12-18.

(16) Anthony Joseph Borg, The Reform of the Council of Trent in Malta and Gozo (Malta: 1975).

(17) Wietse de Boer, "Professionalization and Clerical Identity: Notes on the Early Modern Catholic Priest," in The Formation of Clerical and Confessional Identities, 372.

(18) For a description of these archival deposits, see Frans Ciappara, The Roman Inquisition in Enlightened Malta (Malta: PIN, 2000), 1-13.

(19) Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, ed. H. J. Schroeder (Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books, 1978), 110, 168. For Malta, see Synodus Dioecesana ab Illustrissimo et Reverendissimo Domino Fratre Davide Cocco Palmerio Episcopo Melitensi (Malta: 1842), 103.

(20) Jeanne Ferte, La Vie Religieuse dans les Campagnes Parisiennes 1622-1695 (Paris: Vrin, 1962), 177-178.

(21) Archiepiscopal Archives Malta (hereafter AAM), Cappillani (Qrendi), unnumbered.

(22) Curia Episcopalis Melitensis (hereafter CEM), Acta Originalia (hereafter AO) 698, ft. lr-2v.

(23) CEM, AO 689, f. 182r.

(24) CEM, AO 696, f. 114v.

(25) On 3 September 1734 Don Giovanni Battista Barbara from Qrendi bought a piece of land for the huge sum of 700 scudi--Notarial Archives, Valletta (hereafter NAV), Notary Tommaso Magri 7/924, ft. 4r-5r.

(26) AAM, Dicta 25, no. 3. AAM, Dicta 27, no. 32. CEM, AO 705, f. 13r.

(27) Bruno Pellegrino, Terra e Clero nel Mezzogiorno. Il reclutamento sacerdotale a Lecce dalla Restaurazione all'Unita (Leece: Milella, 1976), 101-116.

(28) Archives of the Inquisition, Malta (hereafter AIM), Atti Civili (hereafter AC) 535, ft. 149r-223 v.

(29) AIM, AC 529, f. 233r.

(30) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 92.

(31) CEM, AO 696, ff. 114v, 116v.

(32) CEM, AO 691, ff. 298r-309v.

(33) AAM, Cappellani (Qrendi), unnumbered.

(34) AIM, AC 495, f. 144r.

(35) AAM, Dicta 24, no. 59. CEM, AO 690, f. 180r. CEM, AO 706, f. 16tr. AIM, AC 530, f. 250r. AIM, AC 524, ff. 186r-189v.

(36) NAV, Not. Tommaso Magri, 9/924, f. 76r-v, 8 April 1739. AIM, AC 503, ff. 38r-77v.

(37) AIM, AC 516 (i), ff. 202r-v. For this type of land tenure in Malta, see Howard Bowen-Jones, John C. Dewdney, and W. B. Fisher, Malta: Background for Development (Durham, U.K.: Department of Geography in the University of Durham, 1962), 305.

(38) AAM, Dicta 27, no. 51. AAM, Dicta 25, no. 65. AAM, Dicta 27, no. 41.

(39) CEM, AO 652, ff. 31r-38v. See also CEM, AO 665, ff. 250r-252v.

(40) (cotton seed)--CEM, AO 370, f. 152r; (fodder)--CEM, AO 371, ff. 36r-61v; (rent of a field)-CEM, AO 372, ft. 124r-143v.

(41) CEM, AO 369, ff. 53r-56v. CEM, AO 365, ff. 275r-305v.

(42) CEM, AO 680, ff. 232r-264v.

(43) CEM, AO 374, ff. 275r-78v.

(44) H. E. J. Cowdrey, Pope Gregory VII, 1073-1085 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 550-553; Michael Frassetto, ed., Medieval Purity and Piety: Essays on Medieval Clerical Celibacy and Religious Reform (New York: Garland, 1998). For Gregory's letter to Bishop Otto of Constance (December 1074), referring to the "chastity of the clergy," see Ephraim Emerton, ed., The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII." Selected Letters from the Registrum (New York: Octagon, 1966), 52. See also N. J. G. Pounds, A History of the English Parish." The Culture of Religion from Augustine to Victoria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 158-159.

(45) Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 173.

(46) Marc Forster, The Counter-Reformation in the Villages: Religion and Reform in the Bishopric of Speyer, 1560-1720 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992), 23.

(47) Delumeau Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire 156.

(48) Godfrey Wettinger, "Concubinage among the Clergy," Journal of the Faculty of Arts 6:4 (1977): 165-188.

(49) National Library Malta (hereafter NLM), Library (hereafter Libr.) 643, p. 42. Joseph Cassar-Pullicino, "Malta in 1575: Social Aspects of an Apostolic Visit," Melita Historica 2:1 (1956): 35.

(50) Synodus Dioecesana, 104.

(51) AAM, Informationes 5, no. 59. AAM, Informationes 6, no. 102.

(52) For the use of the power of privy search, see Frans Ciappara, "Perceptions of Marriage in Late-Eighteenth-Century Malta," Continuity and Change 16:3 (December 2001): 392.

(53) AAM, Dicta 25, no. 84.

(54) This paucity of cases is also the conclusion of Peter Marshall for sixteenth-century England. See his The Catholic Priesthood and the English Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon, 2002), 144-150.

(55) For a full treatment of the subject, see Stephen Haliczer, Sexuality in the Confessional: A Sacrament Profaned (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). See also Christopher F. Black, Church, Religion, and Society in Early Modern Italy (Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 107-111. For confession in the Counter Reformation, see Wietse de Boer, La Conquista dell'Anima. Fede, Disciplina e Ordine Pubblico nella Milano della Controriforma (Turin: Einaudi, 2004), and W. David Myers, "Poor, Sinning Folk": Confession and Conscience in Counter-Reformation Germany (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996).

(56) Frans Ciappara, Society and the Inquisition in Early Modern Malta (PEG: Malta, 2001), 151.

(57) AIM, Proceedings (hereafter Proc.) 128A, ff. 105r-32v.

(58) Gaetano Greco, "Fra disciplina e sacerdozio: il clero secolare nella societa italiana," in Clero e Societa nell'Eta Moderna, ed. Mario Rosa (Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1992), 57; Allyson M. Poska, Regulating the People: The Catholic Reformation in Seventeenth-Century Spain (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 43-44; Forster, The Counter-Reformation in the Villages, 22-32.

(59) Margaret Bowker, The Secular Clergy in the Diocese of Lincoln 1495-1529 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 115-116.

(60) AIM, Proc. 77A, f. 45r.

(61) AIM, Proc. 134A, ff. 85r-v.

(62) CEM, AO 677, If. 216-226v.

(63) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 108.

(64) Christopher F. Black, Early Modern Italy: A Social History (London: Routledge, 2001), 174.

(65) AIM, Proc. 134B, ff. 704r-709v.

(66) AIM, Proc. 122A, ff. 199r-202v.

(67) parish Archives (hereafter PA) (Gudja), Liber Matrimoniorum iv, p. 94.

(68) PA (Gudja). Liber Baptizatorum iv, p. 17.

(69) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 65.

(70) Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 247.

(71) Oscar Di Simplicio, "Le Perpetue (Stato Senese, 1600-1800)," Quaderni Storici no. 68, Anno XXIII (1988), 381-412.

(72) This is how Manzoni refers to her: "a faithful and devoted servant, who could obey orders and give them as the occasion required, put up for some time with her master's whims and complaints, and make him put up with hers for some time too": Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed, trans. A. Colquhoun (London: Everyman's, 1962), 13.

(73) Synodus Dioecesana, 104.

(74) For the cases of Don Nicola Zammit of S. Leonardo, Gozo (1773), and Don Giovanni of citta Pinto (1791), who were rumored to be living dissolutely with their maids, see CEM, AO 683, ff. 192r- 197v and AAM, Informationes 6, no. 51.

(75) CEM, AO 692, f. 37r.

(76) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 90.

(77) AAM, Informationes 5, no. 63.

(78) CEM, AO 690, ff. 178r-183v.

(79) CEM, AO 673, ft. 372r-407v.

(80) Joseph Bergin, "Between Estate and Profession: The Catholic Parish Clergy of Early Modern Western Europe," in Social Orders and Social Classes in Europe since 1500: Studies in Social Stratification, ed. M. L. Bush (London: Longman, 1992), 73.

(81) Perouas, Le Diocese de la Rochelle, 201.

(82) Jean-Francois Soulet, Traditions et Reformes Religieuses dans les Pyrenees Centrales au XVIIe Siecle (Pau: Marrimpouey Jeune, 1974), 192-194.

(83) The bishop of Pamiers, Henri de Sponde, who died in 1645, called the canons of his cathedral "the twelve leopards": quoted in H. Route, "Le Clerge du Sud-Est de la France au XVIIe Siecle: Ses Deficiences et Leurs Causes," Revue d'Histoire de l'Eglise de France xxxvii, no. 130 (1951) : 179.

(84) Gabriele De Rosa, Vescovi, popolo e magia nel Sud. Ricercke di storia socio-religiosa dal XVII al XIX secolo (Naples: Guida, 1971), 143.

(85) CEM, AO 693, ff. 163r-166v.

(86) CEM, AO 703, ff. 68r-v.

(87) Such as "thieves," "prostitutes," "rogues," "knaves," "worthless," "villains," a "pig," "the devil's soul," and "a filthy face."

(88) AAM, Dicta 27, no. 16.

(89) CEM, AO 692, f. 3v. For another case see CEM, AO 697, f. 149r.

(90) Peter Burke, The Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 11.

(91) AAM, Dicta 29A, no. 67.

(92) CEM, AO 703, ff. 235r-v. AAM, Dicta 26, no. 76. AAM, Dicta 24, no. 5. AAM, Dicta 30A, no. 8. Other instruments were the handle (marlogg) of a mattock (AAM, Dicta 24, no. 46); a key (AAM, Dicta 28, no. 10); a piece of wood, stanga (AAM, Dicta 26, no. 4); sword (CEM, AO 691, ff. 299r-306v.); stone (AAM, Dicta 26, nos. 11, 26.); and a mule's bridle (AAM, Dicta 25, no. 89).

(93) AAM, Dicta 25, no. 7.

(94) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 22.

(95) Donald A. Spaeth, The Church in an Age of Danger: Parsons and Parishioners, 1660-1740 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 122-132. M. F. Snape, The Church of England in Industrialising Society: The Lancashire Parish of Whalley in the 18th Century (Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell, 2003), 178-180, 185.

(96) AAM, Dicta 26, no. 110. Don Salvatore Said of Nadur was the other priest indicted for his drunken and violent behavior. In 1791 he came to blows with Don Vincenzo Camilleri. He grabbed him by the throat, tore his shirt, and hit him with a stone: AAM, Dicta 28, no. 11.

(97) PA (Siggiewi), Libr. Mort. IV (1760-1800), f. 44v. CEM, AO 673, ff. 22r-39v. The other incident of homicide occurred on 11 October 1781, when Don Filippo Borg and Filippo Haxach, both from the parish of St. George's, quarreled over a wall dividing their fields. The priest hit his antagonist with a piece of wood and left him dead: PA (Qormi), Liber Defunctorum B, p. 13. CEM, AO 694, ft. 71r-190v. See also AAM, Corrispondenza (hereafter Corr.) xx, f. 306r. AAM, Corr. xxi, If. 12-v.

(98) Elisabeth Vodola, Excommunication in the Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).

(99) Ronald A. Marchant, The Church Under the Law: Justice, Administration and Discipline in the Diocese of York, 1560-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 228.

(100) Don Giuseppe Grech of Tarxien told this wrong theological proposition to his congregation in 1788, for which he was reported to Inquisitor Gallarati Scotti: AIM, Proc. 135B, f. 707r.

(101) AAM, Dicta 30A, no. 66.

(102) Martin Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 340-363.

(103) CEM, AO 678, ft. 138r-v.

(104) AAM, Dicta 30A, no. 13.

(105) Thomas More, Utopia (London: David Campbell Publishers, 1992), 127.

(106) CEM, AO 703, f. 229r.

(107) AAM, Dicta 26, no. 5.

(108) AAM, Dicta 25, no. 20.

(109) AAM, Dicta 24, no. 48.

(110) AAM, Dicta 28, no. 3.

(111) AAM, Dicta 26, no. 33.

(112) AAM, Dicta 28A, no. 6.

(113) AAM, Dicta 27, nos. 9, 20, 53.

(114) AAM, Dicta 25, no. 33.

(115) AAM, Dicta 28, no. 22. PA (Zebbug), Liber Mortuorum i, 2 Dec. 1794.

(116) Frans Ciappara, "The Financial Condition of Parish Priests in Late Eighteenth-Century Malta," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 53:1 (January 2002): 95-96.

(117) NLM, Archives 273, f. 161r.

(118) NLM, Archives 189, f. 185v.

(119) AIM, Registrum Actomm Civilium (hereafter RAC) C5 (1772), f. 232r.

(120) Bergin, "Between Estate and Profession," 76-77.

(121) Rosa Martucci, "De vita et honestate clericorum: La formazione del clero meridionale tra Sei e Settecento," Arehivio Storico Italiano 144 (1986): 429-430.

(122) Ciappara, "The Financial Condition of Parish Priests," 102.

(123) AAM, Patrimonio Sacro 55, no. 24. For this type of investment, consult Carmel Vassallo, Corsairing to Commerce." Maltese Merchants in XVIII Century Spain (Malta: Malta University Publishers, 1997), 70-71.

(124) Luise Schom-Schutte, "Priest, Preacher, Pastor: Research on Clerical Office in Early Modern Europe," Central European History 33:1 (2000): 9.

(125) Timothy Tackett, "The Social History of the Diocesan Clergy in Eighteenth-Century France," in Church, State, and Society under the Bourbon Kings of France, ed. Richard M. Golden (Lawrence, Kan.: Coronado, 1982), 337-338.

(126) Giacomo Garzya, "Recrutamento e mobilita sociale del clero secolare napnletann frail 1650 e il 1675," in Giuseppe Galasso and Carla Russo, eds., Per la Storia Sociale e Religiosa del Mezzogiorno d'Italia, vol. 1 (Naples: 1980), 290.

(127) Mario Rosa, "The Italian Churches," in Church and Society in Catholic Europe of the Eighteenth Century, eds. William J. Callahan and David Higgs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 66-76; Thomas Deutscher, "The Growth of the Secular Clergy and the Development of Educational Institutions in the Diocese of Novara (1563-1772)," Journal o[

Ecclesiastical History 40:3 (July 1989): 386-389; Silvia Mostaceio, "L'Oratoriano Giovenale Ancina Vescovo di Saluzzo e la Riforma del Clero," in Per il Cinqueeento Religioso Italiano, 258.

(128) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 99.

(129) NLM, Libr. 13, p. 748.

(130) For England at an earlier period see Bowker, The Secular Clergy in the Diocese of Lincoln, 72-63; Michael L. Zell, "The Personnel of the Clergy in Kent in the Reformation Period," The English Historical Review 89 (1974): 524-525.

(131) On his point, Bergin, "Between Estate and Profession," 74-82.

(132) Claudio Donati, "La Chiesa di Roma tra antico regime e riforme settecentesche (1675-1760)," in Storia d'Italia Annali 9, La Chiesa e il potere politico dal Medioevo all'eta contemporanea, eds. Giorgio Chittolini and Giovanni Miccoli (Turin: Einaudi, 1986), 766.

(133) Rosemary O'Day, The English Clergy: The Emergence and Consolidation of a Profession, 1558-1642 (Leicester, U.K.: Leicester University Press, 1979), 67.

(134) Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 173.

(135) Robert Bireley, The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700: A Reassessment of the Counter Reformation (London: Macmillan, 1999), 143.

(136) Turchini, "La nascita del sacerdozio come professione," 247.

(137) The duties of these priests included preparing the missal, vestments, and vessels for Mass as well as distributing communion after Mass.

(138) They registered, for instance, the number of Masses each priest said and his attendance at funerals, to be later remunerated.

(139) AAM, Dicta 27, no. 6.

(140) Vincent Borg, "Developments in Education outside the Jesuit Collegium Melitense," Melita Historica 6:3 (1974): 215-254. For these preti-maestri at Siena and Venice see Maurizio Sangalli, "Maestri, preti-maestri e scuole a Siena e a Venezia nel secondo Cinquecento," in Per il Cinquecento Religioso Italiano, 373-403.

(141) National Archives, Gozo, vol. 16, Registrum Negotiorum Universitatis, 11 December 1770.

(142) AAM, Informationes 5, no. 50.

(143) NAV, Notary Pietro Paolo Magri, 2/922, ff. 78r-v, 20 May 1744.

(144) AIM, Corr. 95, ft. 72v-73r, Inquisitor Durini to cardinal inquisitors, 14 December 1738. See also AAM, Corr. xxii, f. 132r.

(145) Ciappara, "The Financial Condition of Parish Priests," 95.

(146) Greco, "Fra disciplina e sacerdozio: il clero secolare nella societa italiana," 74-86. For southern Italy see Martucci, "De vita et honestate clericorum," 423-467.

(147) For this term, see Raffaele Colapietra, "La 'Clericalizzazzione' della Societa Molisana tra Cinque e Seicento: II Caso della Diocesi di Boiano," in II Concilio di Trento nella vita spirituale e culturale del Mezzogiorno tra XVI e XVII secolo, eds. Gabriele De Rosa e Antonio Cestaro (Potenza: Edizioni Osanna Venosa, 1988), 259-306.

(148) Frans Ciappara, "Una Messa in Perpetuum: Perpetual Mass Bequests in Traditional Malta, 1750-1797," The Catholic Historical Review 91:2 (2005): 297.

(149) The aforementioned Don Andrea Borg had received holy orders only because he was threatened by his mother: AAM, Corr. xxi, f. 262Cr, AAM, Corr. xxii, ff. 137r-142v. For the case of Fra Carmine Azzopardi, a Carmelite friar, and the capuchin Fra Romualdo, see AIM, RAC, C5 (1772-1775), ff. 31r-35v and AAM, Rubrica 8 (1750-1769), no. 1.

(150) On this point see Cecilia Nubola, Conoscere per governare. La diocesi di Trento nella visita pastorale di Ludocvico Madruzzo, 1579-1581 (Bologna: I1 Mulino, 1993), ch. 7, and Garzya, "Reclutamente e Mobilita Sociale," 241-306.

(151) John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan, trans, and eds., Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests' (Rockford, I11.: Tan Books, 1982), 318.

(152) Frans Ciappara, "Parish Priest and Community in 18th-Century Malta: Patterns of Conflict," Journal of Early Modern History 9:3-4 (2005): 329-347.

(153) AAM, Dicta 23, no. 54.

(154) Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 167-169.

(155) Turchini, "La nascita del sacerdozio come professione," 228.

(156) Xenio Toscani, "Il reclutamento del clero (secoli XVI-XIX)," in La Chiesa e il potere politico, ed. G. Ghittolini and G. Miccoli, 575-586. L. Osbat, "Innico Caracciolo," in Dizionario Bibliografio degli Italiani (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1976), 399-401.

(157) Pio Pecchiai, "I1 Collegio dei Gesuiti in Malta," Archivio Storico di Malta, Anno IX (1938), 129-202, 272-325. A. P. Vella, "The University of S. Mafia Portus Salutis," Journal of the Faculty of Arts 2:2 (1962): 164-180.

(158) For the setting up of the seminary in Malta, see Vincent Borg, "First Efforts To Build A Seminary In Malta," Seminarium Melitense no. 5 (1950), 28-26, and V. Borg, The Seminary of Malta and the Ecclesiastical Benefices of the Maltese Islands (Malta: 1965).

(159) Mario Rosa, Religione e societa nel Mezzogiorno tra Cinque e Seicento (Bail: La Terza, 1976), 296; Kathleen M. Comerford, "Chierici e Seminari nei Primi Decenni del Periodo Post-Tridentino," in Per il Cinquecento Religioso Italiano, 368.

(160) E. Brambilla, "Societa ecclesiastica e societa civile: aspetti della formazione del clero dal Cinquecento alia Restaurazione," Societa e Storia, no. 12 (1981): 304.

(161) CEM, Miscellanea 175, p. 521.

(162) Xenio Toscani, "Seminari e Collegi nello Stato di Milano fra Cinque e Seicento," in Per il Cinquecento Religioso Italiano, 316, 331. Consult also Domeenico Roccioli, "Il Cardinal Vicario e il Clero di Roma nella Seconda Meta del Cinquecento," in ibid., 250, and Brambilla, "Societa ecclesiastica e societa civile," 330-334, 338-339, 346-347.

(163) AAM, Status Animarum 24A (Notabile/Rabat, 1781), no. 115, ft. 6v-7r.

(164) Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Segreteria di Stato (Malta) 167.

(165) In 1783 the ratio stood at 23:16; in 1785, 32:21; in 1787, 34:23; in 1789, 34:23; in 1791, 32:27; and in 1793, 23:20. Francis Bonnici, For Service Alone: The Institution of the Seminary of Malta and its Development as Recorded in the Pastoral Visits of the Maltese Diocese, 1703-2003 (Malta: The Archbishop's Seminary, 2003), 105.

(166) O. Chadwick, "The Seminary," in Studies in Church History 12, The Ministry: Clerical and Lay, eds. W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood (Oxford: Blackwell's, 1989), 8.

(167) AIM, Corr. 95, ff. 164v-165r.

(168) For the lamentable description of the Maltese diocese, see AIM, Corr. 100, ft. 273r-75r.

(169) A point made by David Gentilcore in From Bishop to Witch: The System of the Sacred in Early Modern Terra d'Otranto (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1992), 47. See also Owen Chadwick, The Popes and the European Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), 112-121.

(170) AAM, RS 8, f. 194v. AAM, Dicta 25, no. 11. For these village schools, see the seminal article by Borg, "Developments in Education outside the Jesuit Collegium Melitense," 215-254.

(171) Kathleen M. Comerford, "Clerical Education, Catechesis, and Catholic Confessionalism: Teaching Religion in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," in Early Modern Catholicism: Essays in Honour of John W. O'Malley, eds. Kathleen M. Comerford and Hilmar M. Pabel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 252. Consult also Paola Vismara, "II 'Buon Prete' hell'italia del Sei-Settecento. Bilanci Prospettive," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia 60:1 (2006), 56.

(172) O'Day, The English Clergy, 49-65.

(173) Michael P. Carroll, Madonnas that Maim." Popular Catholicism in Italy since the Fifteenth Century (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 103-104.

(174) AAM, Dicta 25, no. 49. AAM, Dicta 26, no. 104. For priests as hunters see also AAM, Informationes 6, no. 19 and AAM, Supplicationes 19, no. 48.

(175) AAM, RS 11, ff. 13r-v. Wigs, though, could be worn for medical reasons as a protection from colds, catarrh, bronchitis, and even toothache.

(176) AAM, Dicta 24, no. 75.

(177) AAM, Informationes 6, nos. 18, 20.

(178) AAM, Dicta 28A, no. 21. CEM, AO 706, f. 155r

(179) AAM, Dicta 28A, no. 22

(180) CEM, AO 705, ff. 13r-18v.

(181) AAM, Informationes 6, no. 75.

(182) For example ta' mustaccia (mustache), AAM, Dicta 25, no. 49.

Frans Ciappara is senior lecturer in history at the University of Malta.
Table 1. Sexual charges against priests before the Ecclesiastical
Court, 1750-1798

Reference Adultery Fornication Incest

AAM, Dicta 24 1 2 --
AAM, Dicta 25 -- l --
AAM, Dicta 26 1 2 --
AAM, Dicta 27 1 -- --
AAM, Dicta 28 -- 1 --
AAM, Dicta 28A -- 2 --
AAM, Informs 5,
 nos. 53, 69 -- 2 --
AAM, Informs 6,
 nos. 65, 102 -- 1 1
CEM, AO 677, 689,
 690, 691, 692,
 702, 705 3 3 --
Total 6 14 1

Reference Rape Harassment Convicted

AAM, Dicta 24 1 -- 3
AAM, Dicta 25 -- -- 1
AAM, Dicta 26 -- 2
AAM, Dicta 27 -- 1 1
AAM, Dicta 28 -- -- --
AAM, Dicta 28A -- l 1
AAM, Informs 5,
 nos. 53, 69 -- -- 2
AAM, Informs 6,
 nos. 65, 102 -- -- 2
CEM, AO 677, 689,
 690, 691, 692,
 702, 705 1 -- 3
Total 2 2 15

Reference summoned Released Total

AAM, Dicta 24 1 -- 4
AAM, Dicta 25 -- -- 1
AAM, Dicta 26 1 -- 3
AAM, Dicta 27 I -- 2
AAM, Dicta 28 1 -- 1
AAM, Dicta 28A 2 -- 3
AAM, Informs 5,
 nos. 53, 69 -- -- 2
AAM, Informs 6,
 nos. 65, 102 -- -- 2
CEM, AO 677, 689,
 690, 691, 692,
 702, 705 3 1 7
Total 9 1 25

Table 2. Confessors accused of
solicitation, 1743-1798

Secular priests 12
Augustinians 5
Dominicans 5
Capuchins 4
Minims 3
Discalced Carmelites 2
Conventual Chaplains 1
Total 32

SOURCE: Frans Ciappara, Society and the Lnquisition, 151.

Table 3. Violence by the clergy, 1750--1798

 Physical Verbal
 assaults on assaults on

Reference males females males females

AAM, Dicta 24 8 1 -- --
AAM, Dicta 25 13 2 3 1
AAM, Dicta 26 10 2 2 1
AAM, Dicta 27 6 3 2 --
AAM, Dicta 28 3 1 -- --
AAM, Dicta 28A 2 -- -- 2
AAM, Dicta 29A -- -- 1 --
AAM, Dicta 30A 2 1 1 --
AAM, Inform. 6 4 -- --
CEM, AO 673, 21 9 6 6
 676-77, 683,
 687, 689-94,
 698, 701-04, 706
Total 69 19 15 10

 Others Total
AAM, Dicta 24
AAM, Dicta 25 -- 9
AAM, Dicta 26 l (a) 20
AAM, Dicta 27 3 (b) 18
AAM, Dicta 28 -- 11
AAM, Dicta 28A 1 (c) 5
AAM, Dicta 29A -- 4
AAM, Dicta 30A -- l
AAM, Inform. 6 -- 4
CEM, AO 673, -- 4
 676-77, 683, 1 (d) 43
 687, 689-94,
 698, 701-04, 706
 6 119

(a) placing horns on the roof of one's house

(b) shooting at a dog and at pigeons, attempt
to poison parish priest

(c) spoiling door with excrement

(d) shooting at pigeons

Table 4. Violence against the Clergy, 1750-1798

 Physical Verbal
 Assaults by Assaults by
Reference males females males females

AAM, Dicta 24 6 -- 1 --
AAM, Dicta 25 9 -- 1 1
AAM, Dicta 26 7 -- 2 1
AAM, Dicta 27 8 -- 3 --
AAM, Dicta 28 5 -- 1 1
AAM, Dicta 28A 2 -- -- --
AAM, Dicta 30A 1 1 1 --
AAM, Informs. 6 1 -- --
CEM, AO 672-73, 13 1 2 1
 676-77, 679,
 683, 689-90, 692,
 697-98, 701
Total 52 2 11 4

Reference robbed Total

AAM, Dicta 24 7 14
AAM, Dicta 25 5 16
AAM, Dicta 26 6 16
AAM, Dicta 27 1 12
AAM, Dicta 28 1 8
AAM, Dicta 28A -- 2
AAM, Dicta 30A -- 4
AAM, Informs. 6 -- 1
CEM, AO 672-73, 2 19
 676-77, 679,
 683, 689-90, 692,
 697-98, 701
Total 22 91
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