« Prev The Papal Supremacy in Church and State Next »

§ 123. The Papal Supremacy in Church and State.

Literature: See the chapp. on Gregory VII. and Innocent III., and the works there cited.—Bernard: de consideratione, Migne, 182. 727–808.—Th. Aquinas: de regimine principum, and contra errores Graecorum. The latter ed. by *F. H. Reusch, d. 1900: D. Fälschungen in d. Tractat. d. Th. v Aq. gegen die Griechen, Munich, 1889.—The writings of Gregory VII., Alexander III., Innocent III., Gregory IX., etc. Corpus juris canonum, Friedberg’s ed.—*Mirbt: Quellen des Papstthums. —C. Lux: Constitutionum Apostolicarum de generali beneficiorum reservatione, 1265–1378, ... collectio et interpr., Wratislav, 1904.—Maassen: Primat des Bischofs von Rom, Bonn, 1853.—Schulte: D. Macht des röm. Papstthums, Prag, 2d ed., 1871,—*Döllinger-Friedrich: D. Papstthum, Munich, 1892.—*F. X. Leitner: D. hl. Th. von Aquino ueber d. unfehlbare Lehramt d. Papstes, Franf., 1872. Leitner wrote in opposition to Döllinger, and his work is of much importance,—*Bryce: Holy Rom. Emp., VI-XI.—G. B. Adams: Civilizat. during the M. A. chap. X.—W. Barry: The Papal Monarchy, 590–1303, N. Y., 1902. —*J. Haller: Papsttum und Kirchenreform, Berlin, 1903.—*A. Hauck: D. Gedanke der päpstl. Weltherrschaft bis auf Bonifaz VIII., Leip., 1904.—Ranke: Weltgesch., vol. VI.—Harnack: Dogmengesch., II. 392–419. The manuals on Canon Law by Friedberg, Hinschius, Hergenröther.

The papal assumptions of Gregory VII. and Innocent III. have already been presented (pp. 27 sqq., 152 sqq.). A large part of the history of this period is occupied by popes in the effort to realize the papal theocracy, from the opening struggle of Gregory VII. with Henry IV. to the death of Conradin, the Hohenstaufen. Their most vigorous utterances, so far as they are known, were not to summon men and nations to acts of Christian charity, but to enforce the papal jurisdiction. It is not the purpose here to repeat what has already been said, but to set forth the institution of the papacy as a realized fact and the estimate put upon it by Schoolmen and by the popular judgment.

Among the forty-one popes who occupied the chair of St. Peter from Gregory VII. to Boniface VIII., some, as has become evident, were men of rare ability, and occupy a place of first prominence as rulers. There were no scandals in the papal household such as there had been during the preceding period. No emperors from the North were required to descend upon Rome and remove pontiffs incompetent by reason of youth or profligacy. On the other hand, Rome had no reputation as a centre either of piety or of letters. Convents became noted for religious warmth, and Bologna, Paris, and other localities acquired a fame for intellectual culture, but Rome’s reputation was based solely upon her authority as a seat of ecclesiastical prerogative.

The sin of the popes was hierarchical pride, and yet we cannot help but be attracted by those imposing figures whose ideals of universal dominion equalled in ambition the boldest projects of the greater Roman emperors, but differed widely from theirs in the moral element which entered into them.18531853    Ranke wrote, Weltgesch., VIII. 410, that at Rome the authorities put him on the Index because he did not regard the papacy as a divine institution. Nevertheless, he said, "I hold the papacy to be one of the mightiest of all institutions that have appeared in history, and one that is most worthy of inspiring us with wonder and admiration."

In this period the loftiest claims ever made for the papacy were realized in Western Europe. The pope was recognized as supreme in the Church over all bishops, and with some exceptions as the supreme ruler in temporal affairs. Protest there was against the application of both prerogatives, but the general sentiment of Europe supported the claims. To him belonged fulness of authority in both realms—plenitudo potestatis.

The Pope and the Church. – favorite illustration used by Innocent III. to support the claim of supremacy in the Church was drawn from the relation the head sustains to the body. As the head contains the plenitude of the forces of the body, and has dominion over it, so Peter’s successor, as the head of the Church, possesses the fulness of her prerogatives and the right of rule over her. The pope calls others to share in the care of the Church, but in such a way that there is no loss of authority to the head.18541854    See Innocent’s letter in Decr. Greg., III. 8, 5, Friedberg’s ed., II. 489., he can depose and appoint bishops as he wills. The principle that the Apostolic see is subject to no human jurisdiction, stated by Gelasius, 493, was accepted by Bernard, though Bernard protested against the pope’s making his arbitrary will the law of the Church.18551855    Sedes apost. a nemine judicatur. For Bernard, see Ep., 213; de consid., III. 418561856    See Gee and Hardy, Doc. of Engl. Ch. Hist., p. 53.

The Fourth Lateran formally pronounced the Roman Church the mother and teacher of all believers, and declared its bishop to be above the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria in rank and authority. Leo IX., d. 1054, asserted this pretension against Caerularius, the patriarch of Constantinople.18571857    See Schwane, p. 531.knowledging the "full primacy" of the Roman pontiff and his right to rule over the universal Church.

This theory of papal absolutism found full theological and canonical recognition from Thomas Aquinas and Gratian. Gratian declared that to disobey the pope is to disobey God.18581858    Causa, XXV. I, 11, Friedberg’s ed., I. 1009. Anathema apud deum, qui censuram Rom. pontificum violat.st the Church militant have one ruler, the pope. To the pope is committed the plenitude of power and the prelacy over the whole Church. To him belongs the right of determining what are matters of faith.18591859    Christi vicarius in totam eccles. univ. praelationem obtinet ... Pontificem pertinet quae fidei sunt determinare. C. errores Graec., II. 32, 36. Also Th. Aq., Summa, II. 2, q. I. 10.

Bonaventura took the same ground. The pope is supreme in all matters pertaining to the Church. He is the source of authority in all that belongs to prelatic administration, yea his authority extends from the highest to the humblest member of the Church.18601860    Brevil., VI. 12, Peltier’s ed., VII. 327. Christi vicarius fons, origo, et regula omnium principatuum eccles., etc.e Apostolic see, but, in the end, they yielded to its claim of supreme jurisdiction. So it was with Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln. He declared, "I know and know full well, that our lord, the pope, has authority to freely act concerning all ecclesiastical benefices."18611861    Ep., 49. See Luard’s ed., p. x.

Clement IV. was simply expressing the general opinion of Latin Christendom, when he claimed for the Roman pontiff the "full right to dispose of all churches, ecclesiastical dignities, positions, and benefices."18621862    Ad quem plenaria de omnibus totius orbis beneficiis eccles. pertinet, etc. Lib. Sext., Friedberg, II. 102.

Theoretically it is a disputed point whether an oecumenical council or the pope was regarded as supreme. But, in fact, popes controlled the legislation of the general Councils in this period as though they were supreme, and they fixed the legislation of the Church, as was the case with Gregory IX. The relative authority of pope and council did not become an urgent question till the thirteenth century.

The pope also claimed the right to levy taxes at will on all portions of the Church. This claim, definitely made by the popes of the second half of the thirteenth century, led to the scandalous abuses of the fourteenth century which shocked the moral sense of Christendom and finally called forth the Reformatory Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel.

Beginning with Innocent III., it became the fixed custom for the pope to speak of himself as the vicar of Christ and the vicar of God. He was henceforth exclusively addressed as "holiness" or "most holy"—sanctitas or sanctissimus.18631863    So Thomas Aquinas in his c. errores Graec. Bernard, Epp., 187. 341, 356, 396, etc.

The Pope and the Individual. – For Cyprian’s motto, "there is no salvation outside of the Church," was substituted, there is no salvation outside of the Roman Church. It was distinctly stated that all who refuse subjection to the pope are heretics.18641864    The Dictatus papae of Deusdedit. Mirbt, p. 113. the pope’s authority to loose and bind no human being is exempted. Nothing is exempted from his jurisdiction.18651865    Deus nullum excepit, nihil ab ejus potestate subtraxit. Reg., IV. 2.

The Pope and the State. – England, Poland, Norway, and Sweden, Portugal, Aragon, Naples, Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily, not to speak of portions of Central Italy, were in this period, for a longer or shorter time, fiefs of the Apostolic see. In 1299, the same claim was made over Scotland. The nations from Edessa to Scotland and from Castile to Riga were reminded that Rome was the throbbing centre of divinely bequeathed authority. The islands of the West were its to bestow. To Peter was given, so Innocent wrote, not only the universal Church, but the whole earth that he might rule it.18661866    Petro non solum universam eccles. sed totum reliquit seculum gubernandum. Ep. I. 401, Mirbt, p. 130. a time when the pope recognized the superior authority of the emperor, as did Gregory the Great in 593.18671867    Hauck, p. 1.18681868    Mirbt, Quellen, pp. 99 sq.r conception took its place, the subordination of all civil authority under the pope. To depose princes, to absolve subjects from allegiance, to actively foment rebellion as against Frederick II., to divert lands as in Southern France, to give away crowns, to extort by threat of the severest ecclesiastical penalties the payment of tribute, to punish religious dissenters with perpetual imprisonment or turn them over to the secular authorities, knowing death would be the punishment, to send and consecrate crusading armies, and to invade the realm of the civil court, usurp its authority, and annul a nation’s code, as in the case of Magna Charta,—these were the high prerogatives actually exercised by the papacy. The decision rendered on the field of Roncaglia by the jurists of Bologna, asserting the independent rights of the empire, was only an episode, and popes snapped their fingers at the academic impertinence. Now and then the wearers of the tiara were defeated, but they never ceased to insist upon the divine claims of their office. In vain did emperors, like Frederick II., appeal to the Scriptures as giving no countenance to the principle that popes have the right to punish kings and deprive them of their kingdoms.

The declarations of the popes were clear and positive. The figures employed by Gregory VII., comparing the two realms to gold and lead, sun and moon, soul and body, Innocent elaborated and pressed. Gregory asserted that it rested upon him to give account for all the kingdoms of God.18691869    Reg., I. 63, Migne, 148. 569. been committed universal dominion—regimen universale.18701870    Reg., II. 51.

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.18711871    Bréholles, IV. 914-923.18721872    See Döllinger, Papstthum, pp. 67, 404. Leo X,’s bull against Luther reaffirmed this fiction of the transfer of the empire from the Greeks to the Germans by the pope. See copy of the bull in this Hist., VI. 233.

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.18731873    De consid., IV. 3, Migne, 82, 776. Uterque Ecclesiae et spiritualis gladius et materialis; sed is quidem pro Ecclesia, ille vero et ab Ecclesia exserendus: ille sacerdotis, is militis manu, sed sane ad nutum sacerdotis, et jussum imperatoris.n 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.18741874    Bishop Reinkens, of the old Catholic Church, in his annotated translation of Bernard’s treatise, de consideratione, argues for the other view namely, that Bernard does not present the theory of the "Caesar-pope." He also argues, pp. vi sq., that Bernard regarded the bishops as receiving their authority not from the pope but directly from God. His edition was issued at the time of the Vatican council of 1870 and as a protest against the dogma of papal infallibility. The position taken above is the position of most writers, both Protestant and Catholic.

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.18751875    Rom. ecclesiae obediendum est tanquam domino J. Christo. Reusch’s ed., p. 9. 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.18761876    Rom. episcopus dici potest rex et sacerdos .... Sicut corpus per animam habet virtutem et operationem ita et temporalis jurisdictio principum per spiritualem Petri et successorum eius. De regim., II. 10.18771877    See Werner, D. hl. Thomas, I. 760 sqq., 794 sqq.; and especially Reusch and Leitner.

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,18781878    De sacr., II. 1, 2, Migne, 176. 141, etc.18791879    Migne, 210. 613. 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.

« Prev The Papal Supremacy in Church and State Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |