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§ 64. The Interference of Otho the Great.


Comp., besides the works quoted in § 63, Floss: Die Papstwahl unter den Ottonen. Freiburg, 1858, and Köpke and Dummler: Otto der Grosse. Leipzig, 1876.


From this state of infamy the papacy was rescued for a brief time by the interference of Otho I., justly called the Great (936973). He had subdued the Danes, the Slavonians, and the Hungarians, converted the barbarians on the frontier, established order and restored the Carolingian empire. He was called by the pope himself and several Italian princes for protection against the oppression of king Berengar II. (or the Younger, who was crowned in 950, and died in exile, 966). He crossed the Alps, and was anointed Roman emperor by John XII. in 962. He promised to return to the holy see all the lost territories granted by Pepin and Charlemagne, and received in turn from the pope and the Romans the oath of allegiance on the sepulchre of St. Peter.

Hereafter the imperial crown of Rome was always held by the German nation, but the legal assumption of the titles of Emperor and Augustus depended on the act of coronation by the pope.

After the departure of Otho the perfidious pope, unwilling to obey a superior master, rebelled and entered into conspiracy with his enemies. The emperor returned to Rome, convened a Synod of Italian and German bishops, which indignantly deposed John XII. in his absence, on the ground of most notorious crimes, yet without a regular trial (963).281281    A full account of this Synod see in Liutprand, De rebus gestis Ottonis, and in Baronius, Annal. ad ann 963. Comp. also Greenwood, Bk VIII. ch. 12, Gfrörer, vol. III., p. iii., 1249 sqq., Giesebrecht, I. 465 and 828, and Hefele, IV. 612 sqq. Gfrörer, without defending John XII., charges Otho with having first violated the engagement (p. 1253). The pope was three times summoned before the Synod, but the answer came from Tivoli that he had gone hunting. Baronius, Floss, and Hefele regard this synod as uncanonical.

The emperor and the Synod elected a respectable layman, the chief secretary of the Roman see, in his place. He was hurriedly promoted through the orders of reader, subdeacon, deacon, priest and bishop, and consecrated as Leo VIII., but not recognized by the strictly hierarchical party, because he surrendered the freedom of the papacy to the empire. The Romans swore that they would never elect a pope again without the emperor’s consent. Leo confirmed this in a formal document.282282    Baronius, ad ann. 964, pronounced the document spurious, chiefly because it is very inconvenient to his ultramontane doctrine. It is printed in Mon. Germ. iv.2 (Leges, II. 167), and in a more extensive form from a MS. at Treves in Leonis VIII. privilegium de investituris, by H. J. Floss, Freib., 1858. This publication has changed the state of the controversy in favor of a genuine element in the document. See the discussion in Hefele, IV. 622 sqq.

The anti-imperial party readmitted John XII., who took cruel revenge of his enemies, but was suddenly struck down in his sins by a violent death. Then they elected an anti-pope, Benedict V., but he himself begged pardon for his usurpation when the emperor reappeared, was divested of the papal robes, degraded to the order of deacon, and banished to Germany. Leo VIII. died in April, 965, after a short pontificate of sixteen months.

The bishop of Narni was unanimously elected his successor as John XIII. (965–972) by the Roman clergy and people, after first consulting the will of the emperor. He crowned Otho II. emperor of the Romans (973–983). He was expelled by the Romans, but reinstated by Otho, who punished the rebellious city with terrible severity.

Thus the papacy was morally saved, but at the expense of its independence or rather it had exchanged its domestic bondage for a foreign bondage. Otho restored to it its former dominions which it had lost during the Italian disturbances, but he regarded the pope and the Romans as his subjects, who owed him the same temporal allegiance as the Germans and Lombards.

It would have been far better for Germany and Italy if they had never meddled with each other. The Italians, especially the Romans, feared the German army, but hated the Germans as Northern semi-barbarians, and shook off their yoke as soon as they had a chance.283283    This antipathy found its last expression and termination in the expulsion of the Austrians from Lombardy and Venice, and the formation of a united kingdom of Italy. The Germans suspected the Italians for dishonesty and trickery, were always in danger of fever and poison, and lost armies and millions of treasure without any return of profit or even military glory.284284    Ditmar of Merseburg, the historian of Henry II., expresses the sentiment of that time when he says (Chron. IV. 22): “Neither the climate nor the people suit our countrymen. Both in Rome and Lombardy treason is always at work. Strangers who visit Italy expect no hospitality: everything they require must be instantly paid for; and even then they must submit to be over-reached and cheated, and not unfrequently to be poisoned after all.” The two nations were always jealous of each other, and have only recently become friends, on the basis of mutual independence and non-interference.


Protest Against Papal Corruption.


The shocking immoralities of the popes called forth strong protests, though they did not shake the faith in the institution itself. A Gallican Synod deposed archbishop Arnulf of Rheims as a traitor to king Hugo Capet, without waiting for an answer from the pope, and without caring for the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals (991). The leading spirit of the Synod, Arnulf, bishop of Orleans, made the following bold declaration against the prostitution of the papal office: “Looking at the actual state of the papacy, what do we behold? John [XII.] called Octavian, wallowing in the sty of filthy concupiscence, conspiring against the sovereign whom he had himself recently crowned; then Leo [VIII.] the neophyte, chased from the city by this Octavian; and that monster himself, after the commission of many murders and cruelties, dying by the hand of an assassin. Next we see the deacon Benedict, though freely elected by the Romans, carried away captive into the wilds of Germany by the new Caesar [Otho I.] and his pope Leo. Then a second Caesar [Otho II.], greater in arts and arms than the first [?], succeeds; and in his absence Boniface, a very monster of iniquity, reeking with the blood of his predecessor, mounts the throne of Peter. True, he is expelled and condemned; but only to return again, and redden his hands with the blood of the holy bishop John [XIV.]. Are there, indeed, any bold enough to maintain that the priests of the Lord over all the world are to take their law from monsters of guilt like these-men branded with ignominy, illiterate men, and ignorant alike of things human and divine? If, holy fathers, we be bound to weigh in the balance the lives, the morals, and the attainments of the meanest candidate for the sacerdotal office, how much more ought we to look to the fitness of him who aspires to be the lord and master of all priests! Yet how would it fare with us, if it should happen that the man the most deficient in all these virtues, one so abject as not to be worthy of the lowest place among the priesthood, should be chosen to fill the highest place of all? What would you say of such a one, when you behold him sitting upon the throne glittering in purple and gold? Must he not be the ’Antichrist, sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself as God?’ Verily such a one lacketh both wisdom and charity; he standeth in the temple as an image, as an idol, from which as from dead marble you would seek counsel.285285    “Quid hunc, rev. Patres, in sublimi solio residentem veste purpurea et aurea radiantem, quid hunc, inqam, esse censetis? Nimirum si caritate destituitur, solaque inflatur et extollitur, Antichristus est, in templo Dei sedens, et se ostendens tamquam sit D Eus. Si autem nec caritate fundatur, nec scientia erigitur, in templo Dei tamquam statua, tanquam idolum est, a quo responsa petere, marmora consulere est.

“But the Church of God is not subject to a wicked pope; nor even absolutely, and on all occasions, to a good one. Let us rather in our difficulties resort to our brethren of Belgium and Germany than to that city, where all things are venal, where judgment and justice are bartered for gold. Let us imitate the great church of Africa, which, in reply to the pretensions of the Roman pontiff, deemed it inconceivable that the Lord should have invested any one person with his own plenary prerogative of judicature, and yet have denied it to the great congregations of his priests assembled in council in different parts of the world. If it be true, as we are informed by, common report, that there is in Rome scarcely a man acquainted with letters,—without which, as it is written, one may scarcely be a doorkeeper in the house of God,—with what face may he who hath himself learnt nothing set himself up for a teacher of others? In the simple priest ignorance is bad enough; but in the high priest of Rome,—in him to whom it is given to pass in review the faith, the lives, the morals, the discipline, of the whole body of the priesthood, yea, of the universal church, ignorance is in nowise to be tolerated .... Why should he not be subject in judgment to those who, though lowest in place, are his superiors in virtue and in wisdom? Yea, not even he, the prince of the apostles, declined the rebuke of Paul, though his inferior in place, and, saith the great pope Gregory [I.], ’if a bishop be in fault, I know not any one such who is not subject to the holy see; but if faultless, let every one understand that he is the equal of the Roman pontiff himself, and as well qualified as he to give judgment in any matter.’ ”286286    The acts of this Synod were first published in the Magdeburg Centuries, then by Mansi, Conc. XIX. 107, and Pertz, Mon. V. 658. Baronius pronounced them spurious, and interspersed them with indignant notes; but Mansi (p. 107) says: ”Censent vulgo omnes, Gerbertum reipsa et sincere recitasse acta concilii vere habiti.” See Gieseler, Greenwood (Book VIII. ch. 6), and Hefele (IV. 637 sqq.). Hefele pronounces the speech schismatical.

The secretary of this council and the probable framer of this remarkable speech was Gerbert, who became archbishop of Rheims, afterwards of Ravenna, and at last pope under the name of Sylvester II. But pope John XV. (or his master Crescentius) declared the proceedings of this council null and void, and interdicted Gerbert. His successor, Gregory V., threatened the kingdom of France with a general interdict unless Arnulf was restored. Gerbert, forsaken by king Robert I., who needed the favor of the pope, was glad to escape from his uncomfortable seat and to accept an invitation of Otho III. to become his teacher (995). Arnulf was reinstated in Rheims.



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