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Diego Laynez

Several spellings of his names (James, Jacob; Laines, Laynez, Lainez) are in use and some of them can be found in other WorldHeritage articles

Diego Laynez, 2d Superior General of the Jesuits

Diego Laynez (or Laínez) (Spanish: Diego Laynez), born in 1512 (Almazán, Spain) and died the 19 January 1565 (Rome), was a Spanish Jesuit priest and theologian, and the 2nd Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

Diego Laynez was born in Almazán in Castile. Of Jewish ancestry, he was (probably) a fourth generation Catholic. He graduated from the University of Alcalá, and then continued his studies in Paris, where he came under the influence of Ignatius of Loyola. He was one of the seven men who,[1] with Loyola, formed the original group of Friends in the Lord, later Society of Jesus, taking, in the Montmartre church, the vows of personal poverty and chastity in the footsteps of Christ, and committing themselves to going to Jerusalem.

Because of unfavourable circumstances (no ship going to Holy Land) the pilgrimage to Jerusalem fell through, and Laynez with Loyola and the other Friends in the Lord (by then they were ten) offered their services to the Pope. After the Order had been definitely established (1540) Laynez, among other missions visited Germany. Laynez was a papal theologian during each of the three periods of the Council of Trent. At one point he was also professor of scholastic theology at La Sapienza.


  • Involvement with the Council of Trent 1
    • First Period 1.1
    • Second Period 1.2
    • Third Period 1.3
  • Writings 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Involvement with the Council of Trent

First Period

Pope Paul III sent Laynez to Trent as his theologian. Laynez arrived at the Council on May 18, 1546, five months after it opened, with Alfonso Salmeron. Before long, Laynez was recognized as exceptional – one of the first practical consequences was that he was allowed to preach in Trent when not on Council business, whereas the general rule forbade preaching by conciliar theologians. Another exception was the three-hour time limit accorded to Laynez in the council debates, while the standard allotment was an hour. Laynez’s famous speech on imputed and inherent justification (Seripando’s “double justice” theory) on October 26, 1546 was subsequently written out and incorporated into the Acta of the Council under the title Disputatio de justitia imputata. By the time Laynez spoke, 37 theologians had spoken on the issue, and 28 had rejected duplex justitia. In his three-hour-long speech, which was widely regarded as the most thorough on the topic, Laynez gave 12 reasons that the proposed “double justice” must be rejected by the Church, including its relatively recent origin and its implied denial of merit. His arguments were consistent with Council’s January 13, 1547 Decree on Justification, which taught in Chapter 16, “we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life.” Laynez did not participate directly in the several months of discussions between his speech and the issuing of the Decree because immediately after his speech on justification, Cardinal Del Monte assigned him – along with Salmeron – to prepare a list of Protestant errors regarding the sacraments, as well as a summary of the relevant Church documents and patristic writings on sacraments. The first part of this research was presented to the Council on January 17, 1547 by Cardinal Cervini under the headings of “sacraments in general,” “baptism” and “confirmation.” This research set the terms of debate, which was somewhat less contentious than that concerning justification. The seventh session of the Council promulgated its canons on sacraments in general, baptism and confirmation on March 3, 1547. Laynez moved with the Council to Bologna after the seventh session, where he continued his preparatory work on the sacraments of the Eucharist and penance. He grew frustrated with the slow pace of the work done in Bologna, and left in June 1547. He spent the time between the first and second period of the Council contributing to the reform of prostitutes, convents and dioceses, preaching in Florence, Venice and then in Sicily. From there, he accompanied John de Vaga’s fleet on a successful raid of Tripoli, which had been a base for Muslim pirates and was still in Africa on October 5, 1550 when he was called to Rome.

Second Period

By November 22, 1550, Laynez arrived in Rome to prepare for the second period of the Council of Trent, which eventually opened on May 1, 1551. He attended to a number of projects on his way from Rome to Trent, finally arriving on July 27, almost three months after the opening, but in plenty of time to contribute, on September 8, his arguments on the Eucharist leading up to the important 13th session, October 11, at which the Decree on the Sacrament of the Eucharist was promulgated. Immediately after his speech, he began the preliminary work for the Council’s consideration of penance and extreme unction, which he, with Salmeron, presented on October 20. Laynez often fell ill during this period, but after a period of convalescence he was able to speak on December 7 for three hours on the Mass as sacrifice. The Council was suspended for the second time in April 1552, and Laynez went to Bassano to recover his health and then to Padua. Before leaving Trent, however, he met with Melchior Cano, the influential Spanish Dominican, who was embarrassed by his countryman’s threadbare cassock and was suspicious of the new religious order. The meeting did not go at all well.

When Loyola died in 1556 Laynez acted as Vicar General of the Society. Because of an internal crisis and difficult relations with Pope Paul IV, the Society's General Congregation was delayed by two years. When it was finally convened and opened on July 2, 1558, Diego Laynez was elected at the first ballot and became the second Superior-General of the Society of Jesus.

Third Period

In 1560 Laynez, now the Jesuit General, was instrumental in arguing that the Council should continue to its close, against Pius IV subsequently ordered the Council to meet again in the carefully worded Ad ecclesiae regimen of November 29, 1560; the Council was eventually opened on January 18, 1562.

Upon Laynez’s arrival at Trent in August 1562, he defended the practice of distributing Communion under only one species. Among Laynez’s other speeches during the third period of the Council are (1) perhaps the most controversial speech of the entire Council, in which he argued that the power of the bishop was received through the mediation of the pope and not directly from God (October 20, 1562), and (2) a speech in which he committed a rare theological error – he doubted the ability of the Church to invalidate clandestine marriages (August 23, 1563), a position rejected by the 24th Session of the Council in Chapter 1 of its Decree on the Reformation of Marriage.

On the death of Pope Paul IV, many cardinals wished to elect Laynez pope, but he fled from them in order to avoid this fate.


  • LAYNEZ, Diego, Lainii Monumenta: Epistolae et Acta (8 vol.), IHSI, Madrid, 1912-17.
  • His Disputationes Tridentinae were published in 2 volumes in 1886.


  1. ^ Michael Servetus Research Website that includes graphical documents in the University of Paris of: Ignations of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Alfonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla, Peter Faber and Simao Rodrigues, as well as Michael de Villanueva ("Servetus")
  • MULLER H., Les Origines de la Compagnie de Jesus: Ignace et Lainez, 1898.
  • FICHTER, J.H., James Laynez, Jesuit, St Louis (USA), B.Herder and Co., 1946, 299pp.
  • SCADUTO, Mario, L'Epoca di G.Lainez (2 vol.), Roma, 1964 and 1974.
  • Maxcey, Carl, “Double Justice, Diego Laynez, and the Council of Trent,” Church History, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Sep., 1979), pp. 269–278
  • "James Lainez".  

External links

  • Lainez photo
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Ignatius of Loyola
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Succeeded by
Francis Borgia
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