History of the christian church



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Men of less originality and moral power could do no more than reaffirm the claims of these two master rulers and repeat their metaphors. Of these no one had more self-assurance than Gregory IX., who, at an age when most men are decrepit, bravely opposed to Frederick II,’s plans the fiction of the Donation of Constantine. Was not the Roman sceptre committed to the Apostolic see by the first Christian emperor, and did not the Apostolic see transfer the empire from the Greeks to the Germans, Charlemagne and Frederick himself being the successors of Arcadius, Valentinian, Theodosius, and the other Christian emperors of Rome. 1870 But Innocent IV., 1254, returned to the position assumed by Hildebrand, that the papacy does not depend upon Constantine for secular dominion, as Peter received it directly from God. 1871

When the struggle with the Hohenstaufen had been brought to a close, and peace established by the elevation of Rudolf of Hapsburg to the imperial throne, Gregory X. wrote to Rudolf: "If the sacred chair is vacant, the empire lacks the dispenser of salvation; if the throne is empty, the Church is defenceless before her persecutors. It is the duty of the Church’s ruler to maintain kings in their office, and of kings to protect the rights of the Church." This was a mild statement of the supremacy of the Apostolic see. It remained for Boniface VIII., in his famous bull, unam sanctam, 1302, to state exactly, though somewhat brusquely, what his predecessors from Hildebrand, and indeed from Nicolas I., had claimed—supreme right to both swords, the spiritual and the temporal, with the one ruling the souls of men and with the other their temporal concerns.

These claims were advocated in special treatises by Bernard and Thomas Aquinas, two of the foremost churchmen of all the Christian centuries. Bernard was the friend of popes and the ruling spirit of Europe during the pontificates of Innocent II. and Eugenius III. the mightiest moral force of his age. Thomas Aquinas wrote as a theologian and with him began the separate treatment of the papacy in systems of theology. In his Rule of Princes and against the Errors of the Greeks, Thomas unequivocally sets forth the supremacy of the Apostolic see over the State as well as in the universal Church. As for Bernard, both Ultramontane and Gallican claim his authority, but there are expressions in his work addressed to Eugenius III., De consideratione, which admit of no other fair interpretation than that the pope is supreme in both realms.

Bernard’s treatise, filling eighty compact columns in the edition of Migne, summons Eugenius, whom he addresses as his spiritual son, to reflect in four directions: upon himself, upon that which is beneath him, upon that which is around about him, and upon that which is above him. Such a voice of warning and admonition has seldom been heard by the occupant of a throne. The author was writing, probably, in the very last year of his life.

Meditating upon himself, it became the pope to remember that he was raised to his office not for the sake of ruling but of being a prophet, not to make show of power but to have care of the churches. The pope is greatest only as he shows himself to be a servant. As pontiff, he is heir of the Apostles, the prince of bishops. He is in the line of the primacy of Abel, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and Peter. To him belong the keys. Others are intrusted with single flocks, he is pastor of all the sheep and the pastor of pastors. Even bishops he may depose and exclude from the kingdom of heaven. And yet Eugenius is a man. Pope though he is, he is vile as the vilest ashes. Change of position effected no change of person. Even the king, David, became a fool.

The things beneath the pope are the Church and all men to whom the Gospel should be preached.

The things around about the pope are the cardinals and the entire papal household. Here, greed and ambition are to be rebuked, the noise of appealed judicial cases is to be hushed, worthy officials are to be chosen. The Romans are a bad set, flattering the pontiff for what they can make out of his administration. A man who strives after godliness they look upon as a hypocrite.

The faithful counsellor waxed eloquent in describing the ideal pope. He is one of the bishops, not their lord. He is the brother of all, loving God. He is set to be a pattern of righteousness, a defender of the truth, the advocate of the poor, the refuge of the oppressed. He is the priest of the Highest, the vicar of Christ, the anointed of the Lord, the God of Pharaoh; that is, he has authority over disobedient princes.

Bernard distinctly grants the two swords to the pope, who himself draws the spiritual sword and by his wink commands the worldly sword to be unsheathed.2 It is true he lays stress upon Peter’s Apostolic simplicity and poverty. Peter wore no gems, was attended by no bodyguard, and sat on no white horse. In adopting such outward show "the popes had followed Constantine, not the Apostle." It is also true that Bernard follows his generation in making the pope the viceregent of God on earth. 1873

The views of Thomas Aquinas have already received notice (p. 673). His statements are so positive as to admit of no doubt as to their meaning. In the pope resides the plenitude of power. To the Roman Church obedience is due as to Christ.4 These are assertions made in his treatise against the errors of the Greeks written at a time when the second council of Lyons was impending and measures were being taken to heal the schism between the East and the West. The pope is both king and priest, and the temporal realm gets its authority from Peter and his successors. 1875 Thomas went further still. He declared for the infallibility of the pope. In confirmation of this view he quoted spurious writings of Cyril, but also genuine passages from the Fathers. 1876

The popular opinion current among priests and monks was no doubt accurately expressed by Caesar of Heisterbach at the beginning of the thirteenth century when he compared the Church to the firmament, the pope to the sun, the emperor to the moon, the bishops to the stars, the clergy to the day, and the laity to the night.

We stand amazed at the vastness of such claims, but there can be no doubt that they were sincerely believed by popes who asserted them and by theologians and people. The supremacy of the Roman pontiff in the Church and over the State was a fixed conviction. The passage, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s, quoted to-day for the separation of the two realms, was quoted then but with another interpretation. The Church was defined, as it had been defined by Augustine, as the university of believers by Hugo of St. Victor,7universitas fidelium, — or as the congregation of the faithful confessing Christ and the arsenal of the sacraments by Alanus de Insulis. 1878 But the idea of the individual liberty of the Christian and his immediate responsibility to Christ, as revealed through the New Testament, had no hold. As a temporary expedient, the fiction of papal sovereignty had some advantage in binding together the disturbed and warring parts of European society. The dread of the decisions of the supreme pontiff held wild and lawless temporal rulers in check. But the theory, as a principle of divine appointment and permanent application, is untenable and pernicious. The states of Europe have long since outgrown it and the Protestant communions of Christendom can never be expected to yield obedience to one who claims to be the vicar of Christ, however willing they may be to show respect to any Roman bishop who exhibits the spirit of Christ as they did to Leo XIII.


§ 124. The Pope and the Curia.
Literature: For the election of a pope.—The text of the laws of Nicolas II. and Gregory X. is given in Mirbt: Quellen, 57 sqq., 146, Friedberg’s ed. of Gratian, I. 78 sq.—W. C. Cartwright: The Papal Conclave, Edinb., 1868.—Zöpffel: D. Papstwahlen etc. vom 11–15. Jahrh., Götting., 1871.—T. A. Trollope: The Papal Conclaves as they were and as they are, Lond., 1876.—L. Lector: Le conclave, etc., Paris, 1894.—Hefele-Knöpfler, IV. 800–826; VI. 146 sqq.—Schwane: Dogmengesch., pp. 522–589.—Friedberg: Kirchenrecht, pp. 165 sqq.—Hergenröther, Kirchenrecht, pp. 267–302.—Artt. Papstwahl., in Herzog, XI. 213–217, by Hinschius and Wetzer-Welte, IX. 1442–1461.

For the financial policy of the curia.—B. P. Woker: D. kirchl. Finanzwesen d. Päpste, Nördl., 1878.—Fabre: Le libre censuum de l’église Romaine, Paris, 1892.—*M. Tangl: D. Taxenwesen der päpstl. Kanzlei vom 13. bis zur Mitte des 15. Jahrh., Innsbr., 1892.—*J. P. Kirsch: Die Finanzverwaltung des Kardinalkollegiums im XIII. und XIV. Jahrh., Munster, 1895.—*P. M. Baumgarten: Untersuchungen und Urkunden über die Camera Collegii Cardinalium, 1295–1437, Leip., 1898.—*A. Gottlob: D. päpstl. Kreuzzugssteuern des 13. Jahrh., Heiligens., 1892; *D. Servitientaxe im 13. Jahrh., Stuttg., 1903.—*O. Jensen: D. englische Peterspfennig, Heidelb., 1903.—Haller: Papsttum u. Kirchenreform, Berlin, 1903.—Hurter: Inn. III., IV. 161 sqq.—For add’l lit. bearing on the financial policy of the popes, especially in the 14th century, see Part II. of this vol. under John XXII.


The curia is the designation given to the cardinals and minor officials of the papal household. Its importance increased greatly in this period through the centralization of authority in Rome. The pope was forced to employ an army of notaries, advocates, procurators, and other officials to share, with him the burdens of the vast amount of business brought to his attention.

In a restricted sense, the word "curia" is applied to the college of cardinals. This body came to sustain to the pope a relation similar to the relation sustained by the chapter to the bishop and a cabinet to a prince. At the oecumenical councils of Lyons, 1245 and 1274, its members were given precedence over all other ecclesiastical dignitaries.

The legislation fixing the mode of choosing the pope originated in this period with Nicolas II., speaking through the council of Rome 1059, and Gregory X., speaking through the second council of Lyons, 1274. From the ninth century, the emperor had claimed the right to confirm or veto papal elections, a right set aside under the influence of Gregory VII. The law of Nicolas, conforming to Gregory’s views, confined the right of election to the cardinals, and this became their primary function. It marks an important step in the complete independence of the papacy, though it was not strictly enforced till after its confirmation by Alexander III, at the Third Lateran, 1179. A majority of two-thirds of the cardinals was made necessary for an election. An important provision made papal elections conducted outside the city of Rome valid.

More precise regulations were shown to be necessary by the long pontifical vacancy of nearly three years following the death of Clement IV. (d. 1268). The law, as perfected under Gregory X., is, with slight modifications, still in force. It provides that, within ten days of a pope’s decease and in the same building where he expired, the cardinals shall assemble to choose a successor. The conclave, —from clavis, meaning key,—or room of meeting, has given its name to the assembly itself. During the progress of the vote, the assembled ecclesiastics are kept secluded from the outside world and receive food through a window. If after three days no conclusion has been reached, the fare is reduced to a single dish for supper and a single dish for dinner. Should eight days pass without a choice, the fare is reduced to bread and wine. The secular authorities are intrusted with the duty of guarding the conclave against interruption and violence.

The committees, or congregations, into which the cardinals are now grouped is of late origin. The oldest, the Holy Office or Congregation of the Inquisition, was established 1542. The red hat was conferred upon them, as a sign of their office, by Innocent IV., 1245; the purple mantle, two hundred years later, by Paul II., 1464. They wear a sapphire ring and by the enactment of Urban VIII., 1630, are addressed as "Eminence." In 1586 their number was limited by Sixtus V. to seventy. The exact membership within this limit is dependent upon the pleasure of the reigning pontiff. The largest number at any time was under Pius IV., 1559, when there were seventy-six. In the latter half of the thirteenth century the number often ran very low and at one time was reduced to seven. Since Urban VI., 1378–1382, none but a cardinal has been elevated to the papal dignity. The pope’s right to abdicate is based upon the precedents of Gregory VI., 1046, Coelestin V., 1294, and Gregory XII., 1415.

The pope’s coronation and enthronement were an occasion of increasing pomp and ostentation and were usually celebrated with a procession through the city from St. Peter’s to the Lateran in which the nobility and civil authorities as well as the pope and the higher and lower clergy took part. The tiara, or triple crown, seems not to have been used till the reign of Urban V., 1362–1372. This crown is regarded as symbolical of the pope’s rule over heaven, earth, and the lower world; or of his earthly power and his power to loose for time and eternity; or of Rome, the Western patriarchate and the whole earth.

To this period belongs the development of the system of papal legates which proved to be an important instrumentality in the extention of the pope’s jurisdiction. These officials are constantly met with from the pontificate of Gregory VII. Clement IV. likened them to the Roman proconsuls. They were appointed to represent the Apostolic see on special occasions, and took precedence of the bishops in the regions to which they were sent, presided at synods, and claimed for themselves the respect due to the pope himself.

Gregory VII., in commending a legate, quoted Luke 10:16, "whosoever heareth you, heareth me also." 1879 He was represented by Cardinal Hugo in Spain and by other legates in Sardinia, France, Denmark, Poland, and England. 1880 Hildebrand himself had represented the popes on special missions, and Adrian IV. won distinction by his successful administration of the legatine office in Northern Europe. Papal legates were present at the coronation of William the Conqueror, 1070.

Legates had the reputation of living like princes and depended for their support upon the countries to which they were despatched. Their encroachment upon the prerogatives of the episcopate and their demands for money called forth bitter complaint from one end of Europe to the other. Barbarossa wrote Adrian IV., refusing to receive the papal legates because they came to him as plunderers and not as priests. 1881 John of Salisbury and Matthew Paris joined St. Bernard in condemning their assumption and rapacity. Bernard succeeded in finding only two cases of incorruptible legates. One, Martin, who had been sent to Dacia, returned to Italy so poor that he could with difficulty get to Florence and would have had to foot it from there to Rome but for the loan of a horse. Bernard felt his description would be regarded as an idle tale, a legate coming back from the land of gold without gold and traversing the land of silver without possessing silver! The other case was the legate Gaufrid of Aquitaine who would not accept even fish and vegetables without paying for them so that no one might be able to say, "we have made Abraham rich," Gen. 14:23. 1882

Salimbene, the genial Franciscan chronicler, also gives us a dark picture of papal legates of Northern Italy, some of whom he had known personally. He gives the names of twelve, four of whom he specially accuses of unchastity, including Ugolino, afterwards Gregory IX., and mentioning some of their children by name. Two of them were hard drinkers. He makes the general charge that legates "rob the churches and carry off whatsoever they can."3

As the ultimate legal tribunal of Western Europe, the papal court assumed an importance never dreamed of before. Innumerable cases of appeal were brought before it. If the contestants had money or time, no dispute was too trivial to be contested at Rome. Appeals poured in from princes and kings, chapters and bishops, convents and abbots. Burchard of Ursperg says4that there was not a diocese or parish which did not have a case pending at Rome, and all parties who went had their hands full of gold and silver. There was a constant procession of litigants to the Eternal City, so that it once more became literally true that all roads led to Rome. The hours of daylight, as Bernard lamented, were not long enough for these disputes, and the hearings were continued into the night. 1885 Appeals were encouraged by the curia, who found in them an inexhaustible source of revenue. Bernard, writing to Eugenius, lamented the time the chief bishop of Christendom took from his proper duties, and consumed upon the hearing of common lawsuits and personal complaints. The halls of the papal palace rang with the laws of Justinian rather than the precepts of the Lord. Bernard himself recognized the right of appeal as an incontestable privilege, but would have limited it to the complaints of widows and the poor, and excluded disputes over property. 1886

The expression ad calendas Graecas became proverbial in Rome for delays of justice till one party or the other was dead or, worn out by waiting, gave what was demanded. The following example, given by Bernard, will indicate the extent to which the right of appeal was carried. A marriage ceremony in Paris was suddenly checked by a complainant appearing at the altar and making appeal to Rome against the marriage on the ground that the bride had been promised to him. The priest could not proceed, and bride and bridegroom had to live apart until the case was argued before the curia. So great did the curia’s power become that its decision was regarded as determining what was sound doctrine and what was heresy.7

In the thirteenth century, the papal exchequer gained an offensive notoriety through the exactions of the curia, but it was not till the fourteenth century, during the period of the Avignon exile, that they aroused a clamorous protest throughout Europe. The increased expenses of the papal household called for large sums, and had to be met. The supreme pontiff has a claim upon the entire communion over which he presides, and the churches recognized its justice. It was expressed by Pascal II. when he wrote to Anselm of Canterbury, 1101: "You know well our daily necessities and our want of means. The work of the Roman church inures to the benefit of all the churches, and every church which sends her gifts thereby recognizes not only that they are in debt to her but to the whole of Christendom as well."8 It was the scandalous abuse of this just claim that called forth bitter complaint.

As bearing on the papal revenues early in the thirteenth century, a ledger account of the income of Innocent III. has come down to us, prepared by his chamberlain, Cencius, afterwards made a cardinal. 1889Of the 633 bishoprics therein listed, 330 paid tribute of one kind or another to Rome. In addition to gifts of money, all sorts of articles are catalogued—vegetables, wine, grain, fish, wood, wax, linen, yokes of oxen, horses.—Convents, churches, and hospitals made contributions to the pope’s wants. The abbot of Reichenau, at his induction, sent two white horses, a breviary, and a book of the Gospels. A hospital in the see of Terouanne sent 100 herrings, St. Basil’s, in Rome, two loads of fish.

In the latter half of the thirteenth century, the administration of the papal finances was reduced to a system, and definite rules were adopted for the division of the revenues between the pope and the college of cardinals. We are restricted to a single tax list 1890for this period, while for the first half of the fourteenth century we have a number of detailed and highly interesting ledger accounts which give the exact prices levied for papal privileges of all sorts. There, we have fiscal contracts drawn up between prelates and papal officials and receipts such as would be expected in a careful banking system. These lists and other sources of information enable us to conclude what methods were practised from 1250–1300.

The sources from which the papal treasury drew its revenues were the annual tributes of feudal states, called census, payments made by prelates and other holders of church benefices called servitia, visitationes, and annates; and the occasional taxes levied upon the Church at large, or sections of it, for crusades and other special movements. To these usual sources of revenue are to be added assessments for all sorts of specific papal concessions and indulgences. 1891

The servitia,2 visitationes, and annates, originally freewill offerings of the clergy, had come by the end of the thirteenth century to be recognized as obligatory assessments. The annates were payments made by papal appointees of a portion of a year’s income of benefices which the pope reserved to himself the right of filling, such as prebends, canonries, and other livings. The portion was usually one-half. The visitationes were payments made by prelates; that is, archbishops, bishops, and abbots on their visits in Rome.3 These visits were made at fixed periods, the time being settled by law. The prelates, on taking their oath of office, obligated themselves to make them.

The servitia 1894were gifts of money paid by archbishops, bishops, and abbots at their confirmation in office. They constituted a large source of revenue. The amounts to be paid in each case were computed upon the basis of a year’s income. Once fixed they remained fixed and obligatory until new valuations were made. 1895 The levy was usually, though not uniformly, one-third of a year’s income. 1896 The exact origin of this form of tribute is not known, but it was recognized as custom, having the force of law before the reign of Nicolas III. (1277–1280), and probably as early as the middle of the thirteenth century. 1897 The tax was usually paid by the prelates on their visit in Rome, when the appointment was confirmed. Sometimes the obligation of payment was made through a commercial house. 1898

The census included the taxes paid by the State of the Church, the assessments paid by convents and churches under the special protection of the Apostolic see, the tributes of the vassal—states, Naples, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, and England, and the income of Peter’s Pence. The tribute of 1000 marks, promised by John for England and Ireland, was over and above the amounts due from Peter’s Pence. The tribute of Sicily in 1272, amounting to 8000 oz. of gold, was divided into two equal parts by Gregory X., one part going to the cardinals. In 1307, a demand was made upon Charles II. of Naples for back payments on this account amounting to the enormous sum of 93,340 oz. of gold. In 1350, the amount due was 88,852 oz.9

The custom of paying Peter’s Pence, or a stipulated amount for every household, was in vogue in England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Northern Germany, and Poland, but was never introduced into France though Gregory VII. attempted to collect it there but failed.0 Robert Guiscard, in 1059, pledged for Sicily twelve denarii for every yoke of oxen to be paid for all time. 1901 Far-off Greenland also added its contributions to this tax and it was paid under Olaf, bishop of Gardar, 1246. 1902

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