“Some Affairs of the Order” at the Court
For a reason not entirely clear, Rossi interrupted his visitation of the Castilian province to return to Madrid, where we find him on March 17, 1567. In a letter to Borromeo of the twenty-second, he simply states that he had come to treat some affairs of the Order. He had audiences with King Philip, Queen Isabelle, Prince Charles, Fray Bernard de Fresnada, and other notables at the court.
It may be that the situation in Andalusia brought Rossi to the court. The peace he hoped he had established in Andalusia proved illusory; the Nieto party had not waited for him to cross the Portuguese border to counterattack. The ousted group claimed that the chapter had not been free, accused the prior general of venality, and called for a visitation by the king. Focus of the trouble was Utrera, where John de Mora was prior, and Christopher de Vargas, another Nieto partisan, was sub-prior. Balthasar did not bother to perform the penance imposed on him, sat at the prior’s table as though he still had precedence, and left the convent at will. At Castro del Rio, Caspar Nieto formented opposition to the prior general and his visitation. The provincial, John de la Quadra, presented Rossi with a formal complaint against Mora and other rebellious subjects. The prior general, on March 21, “in our hospice in Madrid,” cited Caspar Nieto and Mora, “the stronger ones in controversy,” to appear before him at Avila by mid-April.
Shortly afterwards, on April 5, Rossi got rid of Melchior Nieto, changing his sentence to the triremes to expulsion from the Order with the obligation of entering another. Melchior subsequently became a Third Order Franciscan.
The whole while that Rossi was at court, Philip II, serenely indifferent to the Carmelite apostolic visitator and reformer, was pursuing his own plans for the reform of the religious orders in Spain, Carmelites among them. He had finally found a sympathetic, if not wholly pliant collaborator in the Dominican pope, St. Pius V, who on December 2, 1566, issued the Maxime cuperemus, entrusting the reform of religious orders to the bishops. These, with the aid of an observant provincial and religious, were to reduce all conventuals to observance. On December 12, followed Cum gravissimis de causis, applying the same measures to nuns. Next, Philip turned his attention to the reform of orders that had no observance, among which he classed the Carmelites. On March 17, 1567 – the very time Rossi
was at the court – Requeséns wrote to the king that things looked good for the royal plan. As a matter of fact, on April 16, appeared the brief, Superibus mensibus, instructing the bishops personally or through delegates to reform the Carmelites, Trinitarians, and Mercedarians. For this work, they were to avail themselves of the assistance of two observant Dominicans.
The king’s action set aside religious exemption and the decree of the Council of Trent, entrusting reform to religious superiors. The Carmelite general chapter of 1564 had laid claim to the title of observant and had denounced conventuality. It was in the interest of observance that the prior general by apostolic delegation and with the leave of the king was visiting the Spanish Carmelite houses. Mercifully, Superioribus mensibus still lay in the womb of the future during Rossi’s visit to Madrid.
Later, he was to blame the Andalusian insurgents for bringing the visitation of the bishops on the Order, but this arrangement was only part of Philip’s large design. The Carmelites’ clamor against the Italian visitator may only have helped convince the king, if that were necessary, of the correctness of his course of action.