Lombard, Peter (c.1554–1625), professor at the university of Louvain, theologian, and catholic archbishop of Armagh, was born in Waterford, probably in 1554 (although in 1623 he estimated his own age to be about 65). He came from an important mercantile family, deeply interwoven into the civic life of the city. He was, for instance, related to all the eleven prominent Waterford recusants who were threatened by the state in 1606, and it seems possible that one of them, Nicholas Madden, may have been his half-brother. His aunt Anastasia was the mother of the famous Franciscan, Luke Wadding (qv); no details of Lombard's parents are known.
Lombard was educated at Peter White's famous school at Kilkenny, and in 1572 went to the university of Louvain, where he began to study philosophy at Le Faucon, one of its four great colleges. He completed this course in 1575 and was recognised as the outstanding student of that year in the university. In 1580 he was the only student whose bursary escaped cancellation by the president of the ‘Collège du Pape’ at Louvain, Michael Baius. Lombard proceeded to gain a doctorate in philosophy and theology, and as well as lecturing on theology he also taught on Aristotelian philosophy to great acclaim in the Pédagogie du Faucon. He acquired a prebendary in St Amatus's of Douai and another in the collegiate church of Siclin. In 1598 he was designated a canon and later provost of the cathedral church of Cambrai.
That same year he went to Rome as commissary of his university, which was under pressure both from the Society of Jesus and local bishops with regard to its educational monopoly and control of pastoral benefices. His presence in Rome was swiftly availed of by Hugh O'Neill (qv), who had already made good diplomatic use of a variety of clerics, such as Edmund MacGauran, Edmund MacDonnell, James O'Hely, and Mateo de Oviedo (qv). O'Neill appointed Lombard as his agent in Rome, to press urgently on Cardinal Jerome Mathei, the protector of Ireland, Cardinal Aldobrandini, the papal secretary of state, the duke of Sessa, the Spanish ambassador in Rome, and the pope, Clement VIII, that the purpose of the war then raging in Ireland was primarily religious. Lombard was instructed to obtain the excommunication of catholics who favoured Elizabeth against the confederates, an indulgence for the earl of Tyrone's own supporters and allies, a promise that O'Neill's voice should be listened to in the filling of all ecclesiastical appointments, and some measure of material aid. Later Lombard worked in tandem with Robert Persons, SJ, the rector of the English college in Rome, de Oviedo, and Sessa in supporting the candidature of the infanta Isabella to Elizabeth's thrones. These endeavours bore some measure of fruit in April 1600, when Clement granted a bull of indulgence to all who supported O'Neill's war, and conferred the title of captain-general of the catholic army in Ireland on the earl.
Arguably Lombard's most celebrated work, the manuscript ‘De Hibernia insula commentarius’, a rather poorly edited and revised version of which was subsequently published posthumously in Louvain (1632), grew directly out of this diplomatic activity on behalf of Hugh O'Neill. The ‘Commentarius’ offered a detailed description and analysis of the island of Ireland, ranging from geographical characteristics to civil and religious divisions. It also delved deep into Irish history, tracing the origins of the transfer of the lordship of Ireland to the kings of England and examining the persecutions of the catholic Irish since the reformation. In its closing sections the text took up the narrative of Hugh O'Neill's rebellion, vigorously defending his character from the charge of adultery, for instance, and arguing that even his traducers could not deny that a victory for Tyrone would bring great benefits to the catholic religion. What was to become a familiar argument in subsequent decades, namely that Ireland could act as the springboard for recatholicisation in England and northern Europe in general, was also given an early rehearsal. The ‘Commentarius’ thus represented the first foray by an Irish cleric into what was to become a heavily traversed field of catholic apologetics, and Lombard's writing served as a significant source for a variety of later writers.
Lombard's elevation to the archiepiscopal see of Armagh and the primacy of all Ireland, to which he was provided on 9 July 1601 (NS), was certainly in large part a gesture of favour from the pope to Hugh O'Neill. The see offered little revenues but Lombard was allowed to retain his benefices in Cambrai until the following year, when he resigned them in return for an annual pension of 400 ducats. Subsequently the archbishop appears to have compounded this pension for a lump sum of 5,000 scudi. In 1606 he was recorded as a member of the household of Pope Paul V, with a daily allowance of bread and wine. By that stage he had already begun to emerge as one of the most important theological advisers in Rome. From 1602 to 1607 he was a critical actor in the Grace controversy which had erupted between Dominican and Jesuit theologians, acting as the president of the private sessions of the Congregation de Auxiliis; he also became theological consultor to the Holy Office. In the Congregation de Auxiliis Lombard identified against the Jesuit line, whose most famous protagonist was Luis de Molina, and was in favour of a papal definition to end the controversy, although he was opposed to an explicit condemnation of particular works, or of individuals, unless they should subsequently prove recalcitrant. In 1606 he headed a committee of the Congregation charged with preparing the papal bull on this subject. Lombard's own draft of a bull was subsequently revised before presentation to the pope, and the archbishop refused to sign the new version. Faced with conflicting advice, Paul V opted against any definitive decision and disbanded the congregation.
In 1608 Lombard helped to receive his former patron Hugh O'Neill in Rome and the two shared a palace in the city for a period. Nevertheless, Lombard's Irish politics increasingly came into conflict with the earl of Tyrone's interests and objectives. The accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England had the long-term effect of convincing Lombard that the interests of catholicism would be best served by a policy of conciliation rather than subversion and invasion. In the prefatory letter to a 1604 text, Episcopion Doron, Lombard congratulated James on his three crowns and on having made peace with Spain. He then presented arguments for the king's conversion to catholicism and for lifting the burden of persecution from the shoulders of his catholic subjects. James's subsequent behaviour made it clear that, despite his maternal inheritance, he would be no easy addition to the catholic fold. Nonetheless, Lombard continued to explore policies of conciliation. In 1609 his former secretary, David Rothe (qv), arrived in Ireland as the archbishop's vice-primate and as protonotary apostolic. The manner in which Rothe proved able to function evidently helped convince Lombard of the possibilities of further reorganisation of the Irish church. In 1612 he addressed a memorial to the pope, asking for the appointment of Irish bishops who would be able to reside and administer within the island. At the same time he urged that O'Neill be given no influence on episcopal appointments, making the somewhat improbable claim that the extension of the Ulster plantation had been provoked by the earl's success in having Florence Conry (qv) elevated to the metropolitan see of Tuam and, with more plausibility, lamenting the political repercussions of the translation of Eugene (MacMahon) Matthews (qv) to the archbishopric of Dublin. Lombard's policy of appointing bishops who would not be perceived as politically subversive by the state ultimately achieved a good deal of success. The filling of the sees of Ossory, Limerick, Emly, Meath, Cork and Cloyne, and Ferns, together with the archiepiscopal see of Dublin, between 1618 and 1624 was certainly in line with the plan outlined by the archbishop in 1612. Moreover, acting on delegated authority from Lombard and in line with his superior's organisational objectives in Ireland, Rothe convened two provincial synods in Armagh, in 1614 and again four years later.
Lombard himself, however, remained persona non grata with the king, who referred to him publicly in 1614 as the author of doctrines that underpinned catholic disloyalty. Despite his refusal to disavow completely the deposing power of the pope, the archbishop of Armagh nonetheless counted among the more conciliatory theological voices that considered the position of catholicism within James's dominions. He was given the opportunity to explore this issue in detail when asked to prepare a submission on twelve test questions proposed to catholic prisoners at Wisbech castle. Lombard completed his response around 1616. In this work, often referred to as ‘Ad quaestiones XII’, he expressed no difficulty in accepting James as a legitimate, although not as a Christian, king; and the practical conclusions of the archbishop's theology, worked out in over a thousand pages of manuscript, was that in practice James was safe from the threat of deposition and that catholic individuals were not called on to offer any active resistance to his rule.
Lombard's position in ‘Ad quaestiones XII’ was consistent with the line he took the following year when he submitted a memorandum on the proposed Spanish marriage of the prince of Wales. Lombard saw this as a major opportunity to ease the burden on the Stuarts’ catholic subjects, and his advice favoured the match, concentrating on the nature of the concessions to be demanded as a condition of dispensation. Ultimately the line that Lombard advocated was largely followed in the dispensations granted by Gregory XV for the Spanish match and by Urban VIII for the marriage of Charles Stuart and Princess Henrietta Maria, although how much this owed to the archbishop's advocacy is uncertain.
Lombard's preoccupation with theological issues of central importance to Irish catholics during these years may have impeded his ability to discharge his functions when the Holy Office requested a statement concerning the Copernican system from its theological consultors. Lombard was the president of the eleven who returned a swift judgement in favour of geocentrism. The contrast between Lombard's exhaustive theological exegesis of the Wisbech questions and the speed of this judgement probably accurately reflects the amount of time and interest that the archbishop invested in the separate problems.
In 1621 Lombard again played a pivotal theological role when he was appointed president of the commission that investigated whether the Jesuit Roberto de Nobili was justified in adopting Brahmin customs and insignia in order to promote conversion in Madura. Lombard's detailed thirty-page analysis formed the basis of Gregory XV's 1623 bull in favour of de Nobili, a landmark judgement in the early modern catholic church.
In theological terms, Lombard can therefore justifiably be considered one of the most influential Irish persons of any era. His impact on what was to be a centrally important episode of the Irish counter-reformation, the episcopal reorganisation of the Irish church, was also very considerable. Lombard's perceived bias towards the promotion of Old English clerics within the Irish catholic church, however, increasingly provoked opposition from a variety of sources. The exiled branches of the O'Neill and O'Donnell families came to realise that Lombard was attempting to strangle any residual influence they might have on ecclesiastical appointments and complained bitterly about him to Rome, seeking in particular that Florence Conry's opinion be canvassed with regard to the situation in Ulster and Connacht. The most effective argument against Lombard's policy was its pastoral ineffectiveness in Gaelic areas of the country. It is probable that the foundation of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in 1622 helped to diminish Lombard's influence in Rome. In 1625 three Gaelic bishops were provided to sees in Ulster and Connacht. While it is evident that Lombard favoured at least one of these, John O'Cullenan, these appointments did mark a shift away from the archbishop's conscious emphasis on stocking the Irish church with moderate, loyalist Old English bishops. Nothing demonstrated this shift more than the choice of Lombard's immediate successors. The archbishop himself favoured his long-time associate, David Rothe, who became bishop of Ossory in 1618. Some years before his death, Lombard requested that Rothe be appointed as his coadjutor with right of succession in Armagh, but this request was rejected. Instead, as primate of all Ireland Lombard was followed in swift succession by Aodh Mac Cathmhaoil (qv) and Hugh O'Reilly (qv), both of whom were promoted in the teeth of arguments against their nomination, which essentially replicated Lombard's own reasoning of 1612.
Towards the end of his life, Lombard contemplated returning to Ireland, from which he had been absent for about fifty years. In 1620 he offered to take on the responsibility of nuncio or apostolic visitor to the island. Significantly he does not seem to have planned to reside in his own see, or even in the metropolitan province of Armagh, but instead petitioned to be given the administration of his own native diocese of Waterford and Lismore. In 1622 he renewed his application to leave Rome. He was now in debt but evidently believed that he would be able to gather the revenues to repay his creditors in Ireland and merely requested a sum of 174 scudi for the journey. The mood in Rome following the creation of Propaganda Fide strongly favoured the residence of bishops in their sees in partibus infidelium and Lombard was granted £50 for the journey. Late in 1623, however, he fell sick and retired to Palombara. He never recovered his health but wasted away and finally died 5 September 1625. He was buried in the parochial church of Palombara.