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Pope Adrian VI

Adrian VI. (Adrian Dedel, not Boyens, probably not Rodenburgh, 1459-1523), pope from 1522 to 1523, was born at Utrecht in March 1459, and studied under the Brethren of the Common Life either at Zwolle or Deventer.

At Louvain he pursued philosophy, theology and canon law, becoming a doctor of theology (1491), dean of St Peter's and vice-chancellor of the university.

In 1507 he was appointed tutor to the seven-year-old Charles V. He was sent to Spain in 1515 on a very important diplomatic errand; Charles secured his succession to the see of Tortosa, and on the 14th of November 1516 commissioned him inquisitor-general of Aragon.

During the minority of Charles, Adrian was associated with Cardinal Jimenes in governing Spain. After the death of the latter, Adrian was appointed, on the 14th of March 1518, general of the reunited inquisitions of Castile and Aragon, in which capacity he acted till his departure from Tarragona for Rome on the 4th of August 1522: he was, however, too weak and confiding to cope with abuses which Jimenes had been able in some degree to check.

When Charles left for the Netherlands in 1520 he made Adrian regent of Spain: as such he had to cope with a very serious revolt. In 1517 Pope Leo X had created him cardinal priest SS. Ioannis et Pauli.

On the 9th of January 1522 he was almost unanimously elected pope. Crowned in St Peter's on the 31st of August at the age of sixty-three, he entered upon the lonely path of the reformer. His programme was to attack notorious abuses one by one; but in his attempt to improve the system of granting indulgences he was hampered by his cardinals; and reducing the number of matrimonial dispensations was impossible, for the income had been farmed out for years in advance by Leo X.

The Italians saw in him a pedantic foreign professor, blind to the beauty of classical antiquity, penuriously docking the stipends of great artists. As a peacemaker among Christian princes, whom he hoped to unite in a protective war against the Turk, he was a failure: in August 1523 he was forced openly to ally himself with the Empire, England, Venice, etc., against France; meanwhile in 1522 the sultan Suleiman I had conquered Rhodes.

In dealing with the early stages of the Protestant revolt in Germany Adrian did not fully recognize the gravity of the situation. At the diet which opened in December 1522 at Nuremberg he was represented by Chieregati, whose instructions contain the frank admission that the whole disorder of the church had perchance proceeded from the Curia itself, and that there the reform should begin. However, the former professor and inquisitor-general was stoutly opposed to doctrinal changes, and demanded that Luther be punished for heresy.

The statement in one of his works that the pope could err in matters of faith (haeresim per suam determinationem aut Decretalem assurondo) has attracted attention. Catholics claim that it was just a private opinion, not an ex cathedra pronouncement, therefore it doesn't conflict with the dogma of papal infallibility, while others claim that the concept of "ex cathedra" was only invented in the 19th century. On the 14th of September 1523 he died, after a pontificate too short to be effective.

Adrian VI was the last non-Italian pope until Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978.

Most of Adrian VI's official papers disappeared soon after his death. He published Quaestiones in quartum sententiarum praesertim circa sacramenta (Paris, 1512, 1516, 1518, 1537; Rome, 1522), and Quaestiones quodlibeticae XII. (1st ed., Louvain, 1515).

initial text from 1911 encyclopedia

Preceded by:
Pope Leo X
List of popesSucceeded by:
Pope Clement VII