Padroado-Propaganda Schism

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The Padroado-Propaganda Schism was an ecclesiastical conflict that pitted Catholics against each other, sometimes leading to physical violence, insults and mutual excommunications, but most usually subsisting in a long, sullen mutual co-existence in hostility.

The Padroado originated when the Portuguese kings took the initiative to explore the coasts of Africa. They pushed to the east, seeking to find new areas for trade and to win new converts to the Catholic faith. Moved by their zeal, successive Popes granted wide-ranging favors and authorities to the kings, who claimed they were given irrevocable powers to establish and patronize churches and bishoprics in lands opened to Portuguese trade in South Asia.

The Padroado or Padroado Real has its foundation in Canon Law, which recognized the right of laymen to establish and patronize churches and missions, as a means to supplement the efforts of the Papacy, the Church and the religious orders. Such laypersons were recognized as Patrons and possessed certain rights and privileges over the churches and missions they established, financed and patronized.

As the Portuguese power waned during the 17th and 18th centuries, in the face of the Dutch Wars against Spain and Portugal, followed by the growth of the English Empire, the popes found that large tracts of land and Christian peoples were alienated from bishops and priests working under authority of the Portuguese King-Patron of the Missions. Seeking to provide for them and their spiritual needs, they set up the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, also known as Propaganda Fide, or Propaganda in short. Propaganda ordained priests and consecrated bishops for these lands, and sent them to administer the sacraments and exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction. However, the King-Patrons resented the Propaganda clerics as intrusions and considered them incapable of validly conferring the sacraments.

The Patron-Kings contended that Popes had irrevocably bestowed upon them the authority of being Royal Patrons over the churches and ecclesiastical communities they established. The question was never resolved. Popes who pushed Propaganda clerics into these territories suggested by their actions that they never had irrevocably bestowed any such authority and patronal power on the kings of Portugal.

As a result, the Christians of these lands became split into two camps - those upholding the authority and right of the King-Patron and his Catholic clerics, who acknowledged the Pope in Rome indirectly as the final authority, and those who submitted to the authority of the bishops and priests sent by the Propaganda under the direct orders and authority of the Pope.

To sustain themselves in areas colonized by the British, Propaganda clerics turned increasingly pro-British. They adopted the officials of Great Britain, whom they had to work with regularly in the communities they served, as their protectors and patrons.

The situation was complicated when Portugal rebelled and seceded from Spain under the Bragancas. They had been supported in this action by the Protestant British. Opponents considered the Bragancas to be increasingly influenced by Protestant, anticlerical and Enlightenment ideas. There was an open schism and break between the brothers Peter and Michael for the kingship of Portugal, which drove them into civil war. Peter, supported by British arms and military officers, defeated the Ultramontanist Catholic King Michael, who went into exile. King Peter took office in 18xx.