Vol. 6, Chapter I (Cont’d) – The Pontificate of John XXII 1316-1334


Clement died April 20, 1314. The cardinals met at Carpentras and then at Lyons, and after an interregnum of twenty seven months elected John XXII., 1316-1334, to the papal throne. He was then seventy-two, and cardinal-bishop of Porto. Dante had written to the conclave begging that it elect an Italian pope, but the French influence was irresistible.

Said to be the son of a cobbler of Cahors, short of stature, with a squeaking voice, industrious and pedantic, John was, upon the whole, the most conspicuous figure among the popes of the fourteenth century, though not the most able or worthy one. He was a man of restless disposition, and kept the papal court in constant commotion. The Vatican Archives preserve 59 volumes of his bulls and other writings. He had been a tutor in the house of Anjou, and carried the preceptorial method into his papal utterances. It was his ambition to be a theologian as well as pope. He solemnly promised the Italian faction in the curia never to mount an ass except to start on the road to Rome. But he never left Avignon. His devotion to France was shown at the very beginning of his reign in the appointment of eight cardinals, of whom seven were Frenchmen.

The four notable features of John’s pontificate are his quarrel with the German emperor, Lewis the Bavarian, his condemnation of the rigid party of the Franciscans, his own doctrinal heresy, and his cupidity for gold.

The struggle with Lewis the Bavarian was a little afterplay compared with the imposing conflicts between the Hohenstaufen and the notable popes of preceding centuries. Europe looked on with slight interest at the long-protracted dispute, which was more adapted to show the petulance and weakness of both emperor and pope than to settle permanently any great principle. At Henry VII.’s death, 1313, five of the electors gave their votes for Lewis of the house of Wittelsbach, and two for Frederick of Hapsburg. Both appealed to the new pope, about to be elected. Frederick was crowned by the archbishop of Treves at Bonn, and Lewis by the archbishop of Mainz at Aachen. In 1317 John declared that the pope was the lawful vicar of the empire so long as the throne was vacant, and denied Lewis recognition as king of the Romans on the ground of his having neglected to submit his election to him.

The battle at Mühldorf, 1322, left Frederick a prisoner in his rival’s hands. This turn of affairs forced John to take more decisive action, and in 1323 was issued against Lewis the first of a wearisome and repetitious series of complaints and punishments from Avignon. The pope threatened him with the ban, claiming authority to approve or set aside an emperor’s election. A year later he excommunicated Lewis and all his supporters.

In answer to this first complaint of 1323, Lewis made a formal declaration at Nürnberg in the presence of a notary and other witnesses that he regarded the empire as independent of the pope, charged John with heresy, and appealed to a general council. The charge of heresy was based on the pope’s treatment of the Spiritual party among the Franciscans. Condemned by John, prominent Spirituals, Michael of Cesena, Ockam and Bonagratia, espoused Lewis’ cause, took refuge at his court, and defended him with their pens. The political conflict was thus complicated by a recondite ecclesiastical problem. In 1324 Lewis issued a second appeal, written in the chapel of the Teutonic Order in Sachsenhausen, which again renewed the demand for a general council and repeated the charge of heresy against the pope.

The next year, 1325, Lewis suffered a severe defeat from Leopold of Austria, who had entered into a compact to put Charles IV. of France on the German throne. He went so far as to express his readiness, in the compact of Ulm, 1326, to surrender the German crown to Frederick, provided he himself was confirmed in his right to Italy and the imperial dignity. At this juncture Leopold died.

By papal appointment Robert of Naples was vicar of Rome. But Lewis had no idea of surrendering his claims to Italy, and, now that he was once again free by Leopold’s death, he marched across the Alps and was crowned, January 1327, emperor in front of St. Peter’s. Sciarra Colonna, as the representative of the people, placed the crown on his head, and two bishops administered unction. Villani expresses indignation at an imperial coronation conducted without the pope’s consent as a thing unheard of. Lewis was the first mediaeval emperor crowned by the people. A formal trial was instituted, and “James of Cahors, who calls himself John XXII.” was denounced as anti-christ and deposed from the papal throne and his effigy carried through the streets and burnt. John of Corbara, belonging to the Spiritual wing of the Franciscans, was elected to the throne just declared vacant, and took the name of Nicolas V. He was the first anti-pope since the days of Barbarossa. Lewis himself placed the crown upon the pontiff’s head, and the bishop of Venice performed the ceremony of unction. Nicolas surrounded himself with a college of seven cardinals, and was accused of having forthwith renounced the principles of poverty and abstemiousness in dress and at the table which the day before he had advocated.

To these acts of violence John replied by pronouncing Lewis a heretic and appointing a crusade against him, with the promise of indulgence to all taking part in it. Fickle Rome soon grew weary of her lay-crowned emperor, who had been so unwise as to impose an extraordinary tribute of 10,000 florins each upon the people, the clergy, and the Jews of the city. He retired to the North, Nicolas following him with his retinue of cardinals. At Pisa, the emperor being present, the anti-pope excommunicated John and summoned a general council to Milan. John was again burnt in effigy, at the cathedral, and condemned to death for heresy. In 1330 Lewis withdrew from Italy altogether, while Nicolas, with a cord around his neck, submitted to John. He died in Avignon three years later. In 1334, John issued a bull which, according to Karl Müller, was the rudest act of violence done up to that time to the German emperor by a pope. This fulmination separated Italy from the crown and kingdom — imperium et regnum — of Germany and forbade their being reunited in one body. The reason given for this drastic measure was the territorial separation of the two provinces. Thus was accomplished by a distinct announcement what the diplomacy of Innocent III. was the first to make a part of the papal policy, and which figured so prominently in the struggle between Gregory IX. and Frederick II.

With his constituency completely lost in Italy, and with only an uncertain support in Germany, Lewis now made overtures for peace. But the pope was not ready for anything less than a full renunciation of the imperial power. John died 1334, but the struggle was continued through the pontificate of his successor, Benedict XII. Philip VI. of France set himself against Benedict’s measures for reconciliation with Lewis, and in 1337 the emperor made an alliance with England against France. Princes of Germany, making the rights of the empire their own, adopted the famous constitution of Rense, — a locality near Mainz, which was confirmed at the Diet of Frankfurt, 1338. It repudiated the pope’s extravagant temporal claims, and declared that the election of an emperor by the electors was final, and did not require papal approval. This was the first representative German assembly to assert the independence of the empire.

The interdict was hanging over the German assembly when Benedict died, 1342. The battle had gone against Lewis, and his supporters were well-nigh all gone from him. A submission even more humiliating than that of Henry IV. was the only thing left. He sought the favor of Clement VI., but in vain. In a bull of April 12, 1343, Clement enumerated the emperor’s many crimes, and anew ordered him to renounce the imperial dignity. Lewis wrote, yielding submission, but the authenticity of the document was questioned at Avignon, probably with the set purpose of increasing the emperor’s humiliation. Harder conditions were laid down. They were rejected by the diet at Frankfurt, 1344. But Germany was weary, and listened without revulsion to a final bull against Lewis, 1346, and a summons to the electors to proceed to a new election. The electors, John of Bohemia among them, chose Charles IV., John’s son. The Bohemian king was the blind warrior who met his death on the battlefield of Crécy the same year. Before his election, Charles had visited Avignon, and promised full submission to the pope’s demands. His continued complacency during his reign justified the pope’s choice. The struggle was ended with Lewis’ death a year later, 1347, while he was engaged near Munich in a bear-hunt. It was the last conflict of the empire and papacy along the old lines laid down by those ecclesiastical warriors, Hildebrand and Innocent III. and Gregory IX.

To return to John XXII., he became a prominent figure in the controversy within the Franciscan order over the tenure of property, a controversy which had been going on from the earliest period between the two parties, the Spirituals, or Observants, and the Conventuals. The last testament of St. Francis, pleading for the practice of absolute poverty, and suppressed in Bonaventura’s Life of the saint, 1263, was not fully recognized in the bull of Nicolas III., 1279, which granted the Franciscans the right to use property as tenants, while forbidding them to hold it in fee simple. With this decision the strict party, the Spirituals, were not satisfied, and the struggle went on. Coelestine V. attempted to bring peace by merging the Spiritual wing with the order of Hermits he had founded, but the measure was without success.

Under Boniface VIII. matters went hard with the Spirituals. This pope deposed the general, Raymond Gaufredi, putting in his place John of Murro, who belonged to the laxer wing. Peter John Olivi (d. 1298), whose writings were widely circulated, had declared himself in favor of Nicolas’ bull, with the interpretation that the use of property and goods was to be the “use of necessity,” — usus pauper, — as opposed to the more liberal use advocated by the Conventuals and called usus moderatus. Olivi’s personal fortunes were typical of the fortunes of the Spiritual branch. After his death, the attack made against his memory was, if possible, more determined, and culminated in the charges preferred at Vienne. Murro adopted violent measures, burning Olivi’s writings, and casting his sympathizers into prison. Other prominent Spirituals fled. Angelo Clareno found refuge for a time in Greece, returning to Rome, 1305, under the protection of the Colonna.

The case was formally taken up by Clement V., who called a commission to Avignon to devise measures to heal the division, and gave the Spirituals temporary relief from persecution. The proceedings were protracted till the meeting of the council in Vienne, when the Conventuals brought up the case in the form of an arraignment of Olivi, who had come to be regarded almost as a saint. Among the charges were that he pronounced the usus pauper to be of the essence of the Minorite rule, that Christ was still living at the time the lance was thrust into his side, and that the rational soul has not the form of a body. Olivi’s memory was defended by Ubertino da Casale, and the council passed no sentence upon his person.

In the bull Exivi de paradiso, issued 1813, and famous in the history of the Franciscan order, Clement seemed to take the side of the Spirituals. It forbade the order or any of its members to accept bequests, possess vineyards, sell products from their gardens, build fine churches, or go to law. It permitted only “the use of necessity,” usus arctus or pauper, and nothing beyond. The Minorites were to wear no shoes, ride only in cases of necessity, fast from Nov. 1 until Christmas, as well as every Friday, and possess a single mantle with a hood and one without a hood. Clement ordered the new general, Alexander of Alessandra, to turn over to Olivi’s followers the convents of Narbonne, Carcassonne and Béziers, but also ordered the Inquisition to punish the Spirituals who refused submission.

In spite of the papal decree, the controversy was still being carried on within the order with great heat, when John XXII. came to the throne. In the decretal Quorumdam exegit, and in the bull Sancta romana et universalis ecclesia, Dec. 30, 1317, John took a positive position against the Spirituals. A few weeks later, he condemned a formal list of their errors and abolished all the convents under Spiritual management. From this time on dates the application of the name Fraticelli to the Spirituals. They refused to submit, and took the position that even a pope had no right to modify the Rule of St. Francis. Michael of Cesena, the general of the order, defended them. Sixty-four of their number were summoned to Avignon. Twenty-five refused to yield, and passed into the hands of the Inquisition. Four were burnt as martyrs at Marseilles, May 7, 1318. Others fled to Sicily.

The chief interest of the controversy was now shifted to the strictly theological question whether Christ and his Apostles observed complete poverty. This dispute threatened to rend the wing of the Conventuals itself. Michael of Cesena, Ockam, and others, took the position that Christ and his Apostles not only held no property as individuals, but held none in common. John, opposing this view, gave as arguments the gifts of the Magi, that Christ possessed clothes and bought food, the purse of Judas, and Paul’s labor for a living. In the bull Cum inter nonnullos, 1323, and other bulls, John declared it heresy to hold that Christ and the Apostles held no possessions. Those who resisted this interpretation were pronounced, 1324, rebels and heretics. John went farther, and gave back to the order the right of possessing goods in fee simple, a right which Innocent IV. had denied, and he declared that in things which disappear in the using, such as eatables, no distinction can be made between their use and their possession. In 1326 John pronounced Olivi’s commentary on the Apocalypse heretical. The three Spiritual leaders, Cesena, Ockam, and Bonagratia were seized and held in prison until 1328, when they escaped and fled to Lewis the Bavarian at Pisa. It was at this time that Ockam was said to have used to the emperor the famous words, “Do thou defend me with the sword and I will defend thee with the pen” — tu me depfendes gladio, ego te defendam calamo. They were deposed from their offices and included in the ban fulminated against the anti-pope, Peter of Corbara. Later, Cesena submitted to the pope, as Ockam is also said to have done shortly before his death. Cesena died at Munich, 1342 He committed the seal of the order to Ockam. On his death-bed he is said to have cried out: “My God, what have I done? I have appealed against him who is the highest on the earth. But look, O Father, at the spirit of truth that is in me which has not erred through the lust of the flesh but from great zeal for the seraphic order and out of love for poverty.” Bonagratia also died in Munich.

Later in the fourteenth century the Regular Observance grew again to considerable proportions, and in the beginning of the fifteenth century its fame was revived by the flaming preachers Bernardino of Siena and John of Capistrano. The peace of the Franciscan order continued to be the concern of pope after pope until, in 1517, Leo X. terminated the struggle of three centuries by formally recognizing two distinct societies within the Franciscan body. The moderate wing was placed under the Master-General of the Conventual Minorite Brothers, and was confirmed in the right to hold property. The strict or Observant wing was placed under a Minister-General of the Whole Order of St. Francis. The latter takes precedence in processions and at other great functions, and holds his office for six years.

If the Spiritual Franciscans had been capable of taking secret delight in an adversary’s misfortunes, they would have had occasion for it in the widely spread charge that John was a heretic. At any rate, he came as near being a heretic as a pope can be. His heresy concerned the nature of the beatific vision after death. In a sermon on All Souls’, 1331, he announced that the blessed dead do not see God until the general resurrection. In at least two more sermons he repeated this utterance. John, who was much given to theologizing, Ockam declared to be wholly ignorant in theology. This Schoolman, Cesena, and others pronounced the view heretical. John imprisoned an English Dominican who preached against him, and so certain was he of his case that he sent the Franciscan general, Gerardus Odonis, to Paris to get the opinion of the university.

The King, Philip VI., took a warm interest in the subject, opposed the pope, and called a council of theologians at Vincennes to give its opinion. It decided that ever since the Lord descended into hades and released souls from that abode, the righteous have at death immediately entered upon the vision of the divine essence of the Trinity. Among the supporters of this decision was Nicolas of Lyra. When official announcement of the decision reached the pope, he summoned a council at Avignon and set before it passages from the Fathers for and against his view. They sat for five days, in December, 1333. John then made a public announcement, which was communicated to the king and queen of France, that he had not intended to say anything in conflict with the Fathers and the orthodox Church and, if he had done so, he retracted his utterances.

The question was authoritatively settled by Benedict XII. in the bull Benedictus deus, 1336, which declared that the blessed dead — saints, the Apostles, virgins, martyrs, confessors who need no purgatorial cleansing — are, after death and before the resurrection of their bodies at the general judgment, with Christ and the angels, and that they behold the divine essence with naked vision. Benedict declared that John died while he was preparing a decision.

The financial policy of John XXII. and his successors merits a chapter by itself. Here reference may be made to John’s private fortune. He has had the questionable fame of not only having amassed a larger sum than any of his predecessors, but of having died possessed of fabulous wealth. Gregorovius calls him the Midas of Avignon. According to Villani, he left behind him 18,000,000 gold florins and 7,000,000 florins’ worth of jewels and ornaments, in all 25,000,000 florins, or $60,000,000 of our present coinage. This chronicler concludes with the remark that the words were no longer remembered which the Good Man in the Gospels spake to his disciples, “Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” Recent investigations seem to cast suspicion upon this long-held view as an exaggeration. John’s hoard may have amounted to not more than 750,000 florins, or $2,000,000 of our money. If this be a safe estimate, it is still true that John was a shrewd financier and perhaps the richest man in Europe.

When John died he was ninety years old.


8. The Papal Office Assailed

To the pontificate of John XXII. belongs a second group of literary assailants of the papacy. Going beyond Dante and John of Paris, they attacked the pope’s spiritual functions. Their assaults were called forth by the conflict with Lewis the Bavarian and the controversy with the Franciscan Spirituals. Lewis’ court became a veritable nest of antipapal agitation and the headquarters of pamphleteering. Marsiglius of Padua was the cleverest and boldest of these writers, Ockam — a Schoolman rather than a practical thinker — the most copious. Michael of Cesena and Bonagratia also made contributions to this literature.

Ockam sets forth his views in two works, The Dialogue and the Eight Questions. The former is ponderous in thought and a monster in size. It is difficult, if at times possible, to detect the author’s views in the mass of cumbersome disputation. These views seem to be as follows: The papacy is not an institution which is essential to the being of the Church. Conditions arise to make it necessary to establish national churches. The pope is not infallible. Even a legitimate pope may hold to heresy. So it was with Peter, who was judaizing, and had to be rebuked by Paul, Liberius, who was an Arian, and Leo, who was arraigned for false doctrine by Hilary of Poictiers. Sylvester II. made a compact with the devil. One or the other, Nicolas III. or John XXII., was a heretic, for the one contradicted the other. A general council may err just as popes have erred. So did the second Council of Lyons and the Council of Vienne, which condemned the true Minorites. The pope may be pronounced a heretic by a council or, if a council fails in its duty, the cardinals may pronounce the decision. In case the cardinals fail, the right to do so belongs to the temporal prince. Christ did not commit the faith to the pope and the hierarchy, but to the Church, and somewhere within the Church the truth is always held and preserved. Temporal power did not originally belong to the pope. This is proved by Constantine’s donation, for what Constantine gave, he gave for the first time. Supreme power in temporal and spiritual things is not in a single hand. The emperor has full power by virtue of his election, and does not depend for it upon unction or coronation by the pope or any earthly confirmation of any kind.

More distinct and advanced were the utterances of Marsiglius of Padua. His writings abound in incisive thrusts against the prevailing ecclesiastical system, and lay down the principles of a new order. In the preparation of his chief work, the Defence of the Faith, — Defensor pacis, — he had the help of John of Jandun. Both writers were clerics, but neither of them monks. Born about 1270 in Padua, Marsiglius devoted himself to the study of medicine, and in 1312 was rector of the University of Paris. In 1325 or 1326 he betook himself to the court of Lewis the Bavarian. The reasons are left to surmisal. He acted as the emperor’s physician. In 1328 he accompanied the emperor to Rome, and showed full sympathy with the measures taken to establish the emperor’s authority. He joined in the ceremonies of the emperor’s coronation, the deposition of John XXII. and the elevation of the anti-pope, Peter of Corbara. The pope had already denounced Marsiglius and John of Jandun as “sons of perdition, the sons of Belial, those pestiferous individuals, beasts from the abyss,” and summoned the Romans to make them prisoners. Marsiglius was made vicar of Rome by the emperor, and remained true to the principles stated in his tract, even when the emperor became a suppliant to the Avignon court. Lewis even went so far as to express to John XXII. his readiness to withdraw his protection from Marsiglius and the leaders of the Spirituals. Later, when his position was more hopeful, he changed his attitude and gave them his protection at Munich. But again, in his letter submitting himself to Clement VI., 1343, the emperor denied holding the errors charged against Marsiglius and John, and declared his object in retaining them at his court had been to lead them back to the Church. The Paduan died before 1343.

The personal fortunes of Marsiglius are of small historical concern compared with his book, which he dedicated to the emperor. The volume, which was written in two months, was as audacious as any of the earlier writings of Luther. For originality and boldness of statement the Middle Ages has nothing superior to offer. To it may be compared in modern times Janus’ attack on the doctrine of papal infallibility at the time of the Vatican Council. Its Scriptural radicalism was in itself a literary sensation.

In condemning the work, John XXII., 1327, pronounced as contrary “to apostolic truth and all law” its statements that Christ paid the stater to the Roman government as a matter of obligation, that Christ did not appoint a vicar, that an emperor has the right to depose a pope, and that the orders of the hierarchy are not of primitive origin. Marsiglius had not spared epithets in dealing with John, whom he called “the great dragon, the old serpent.” Clement VI. found no less than 240 heretical clauses in the book, and declared that he had never read a worse heretic than Marsiglius. The papal condemnations were reproduced by the University of Paris, which singled out for reprobation the statements that Peter is not the head of the Church, that the pope may be deposed, and that he has no right to inflict punishments without the emperor’s consent.

The Defensor pacis was a manifesto against the spiritual as well as the temporal assumptions of the papacy and against the whole hierarchical organization of the Church. Its title is shrewdly chosen in view of the strifes between cities and states going on at the time the book was written, and due, as it claimed, to papal ambition and interference. The peace of the Christian world would never be established so long as the pope’s false claims were accepted. The main positions are the following: — 

The state, which was developed out of the family, exists that men may live well and peaceably. The people themselves are the source of authority, and confer the right to exercise it upon the ruler whom they select. The functions of the priesthood are spiritual and educational. Clerics are called upon to teach and to warn. In all matters of civil misdemeanor they are responsible to the civil officer as other men are. They should follow their Master by self-denial. As St. Bernard said, the pope needs no wealth or outward display to be a true successor of Peter.

The function of binding and loosing is a declarative, not a judicial, function. To God alone belongs the power to forgive sins and to punish. No bishop or priest has a right to excommunicate or interdict individual freedom without the consent of the people or its representative, the civil legislator. The power to inflict punishments inheres in the congregation “of the faithful” — fidelium. Christ said, “if thy brother offend against thee, tell it to the Church.” He did not say, tell it to the priest. Heresy may be detected as heresy by the priest, but punishment for heresy belongs to the civil official and is determined upon the basis of the injury likely to be done by the offence to society. According to the teaching of the Scriptures, no one can be compelled by temporal punishment and death to observe the precepts of the divine law.

General councils are the supreme representatives of the Christian body, but even councils may err. In them laymen should sit as well as clerics. Councils alone have the right to canonize saints.

As for the pope, he is the head of the Church, not by divine appointment, but only as he is recognized by the state. The claim he makes to fulness of power, plenitudo potestatis, contradicts the true nature of the Church. To Peter was committed no greater authority than was committed to the other Apostles. Peter can be called the Prince of the Apostles only on the ground that he was older than the rest or more steadfast than they. He was the bishop of Antioch, not the founder of the Roman bishopric. Nor is his presence in Rome susceptible of proof. The pre-eminence of the bishop of Rome depends upon the location of his see at the capital of the empire. As for sacerdotal power, the pope has no more of it than any other cleric, as Peter had no more of it than the other Apostles.

The grades of the hierarchy are of human origin. Bishops and priests were originally equal. Bishops derive their authority immediately from Christ.

False is the pope’s claim to jurisdiction over princes and nations, a claim which was the fruitful source of national strifes and wars, especially in Italy. If necessary, the emperor may depose a pope. This is proved by the judgment passed by Pilate upon Christ. The state may, for proper reasons, limit the number of clerics. The validity of Constantine’s donation Marsiglius rejected, as Dante and John of Paris had done before, but he did not surmise that the Isidorean decretals were an unblushing forgery, a discovery left for Laurentius Valla to make a hundred years later.

As for the Scriptures, Marsiglius declares them to be the ultimate source of authority. They do not derive that authority from the Church. The Church gets its authority from them. In cases of disputed interpretation, it is for a general council to settle what the true meaning of Scripture is. Obedience to papal decretals is not a condition of salvation. If that were so, how is it that Clement V. could make the bull Unam sanctam inoperative for France and its king? Did not that bull declare that submission to the pope is for every creature a condition of salvation! Can a pope set aside a condition of salvation? The case of Liberius proves that popes may be heretics. As for the qualifications of bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs, not one in ten of them is a doctor of theology. Many of the lower clergy are not even acquainted with grammar. Cardinals and popes are chosen not from the ranks of theologians, but lawyers, causidici. Youngsters are made cardinals who love pleasure and are ignorant in studies.

Marsiglius quotes repeatedly such passages as “My kingdom is not of this world,” Joh_18:36, and “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s,” Mat_22:21. These passages and others, such as Joh_6:15, Joh_19:11, Luk_12:14, Mat_17:27, Rom_13:1-14, he opposes to texts which were falsely interpreted to the advantage of the hierarchy, such as Mat_16:19, Luk_22:38, Joh_21:15-17.

If we overlook his doctrine of the supremacy of the state over the Church, the Paduan’s views correspond closely with those held in Protestant Christendom to-day. Christ, he said, excluded his Apostles, disciples, and bishops or presbyters from all earthly dominion, both by his example and his words. The abiding principles of the Defensor are the final authority of the Scriptures, the parity of the priesthood and its obligation to civil law, the human origin of the papacy, the exclusively spiritual nature of priestly functions, and the body of Christian people in the state or Church as the ultimate source of authority on earth.

Marsiglius has been called by Catholic historians the forerunner of Luther and Calvin. He has also been called by one of them the “exciting genius of modern revolution.” Both of these statements are not without truth. His programme was not a scheme of reform. It was a proclamation of complete change such as the sixteenth century witnessed. A note in a Turin manuscript represents Gerson as saying that the book is wonderfully well grounded and that the author was most expert in Aristotle and also in theology, and went to the roots of things.

The tractarian of Padua and Thomas Aquinas were only 50 years apart. But the difference between the searching epigrams of the one and the slow, orderly argument of the other is as wide as the East is from the West, the directness of modern thought from the cumbersome method of mediaeval scholasticism. It never occurred to Thomas Aquinas to think out beyond the narrow enclosure of Scripture interpretation built up by other Schoolmen and mediaeval popes. He buttressed up the regime he found realized before him. He used the old misinterpretations of Scripture and produced no new idea on government. Marsiglius, independent of the despotism of ecclesiastical dogma, went back to the free and elastic principles of the Apostolic Church government. He broke the moulds in which the ecclesiastical thinking of centuries had been cast, and departed from Augustine in claiming for heretics a rational and humane treatment. The time may yet come when the Italian people will follow him as the herald of a still better order than that which they have, and set aside the sacerdotal theory of the Christian ministry as an invention of man.

Germany furnished a strong advocate of the independent rights of the emperor, in Lupold of Bebenburg, who died in 1363. He remained dean of Würzburg until he was made bishop of Bamberg in 1353. But he did not attack the spiritual jurisdiction of the Apostolic See. Lupold’s chief work was The Rights of the Kingdom and Empire — de juribus regni et imperii, — written after the declarations of Rense. It has been called the oldest attempt at a theory of the rights of the German state. Lupold appeals to the events of history.

In defining the rights of the empire, this author asserts that an election is consummated by the majority of the electors and that the emperor does not stand in need of confirmation by the pope. He holds his authority independently from God. Charlemagne exercised imperial functions before he was anointed and crowned by Leo. The oath the emperor takes to the pope is not the oath of fealty such as a vassal renders, but a promise to protect him and the Church. The pope has no authority to depose the emperor. His only prerogative is to announce that he is worthy of deposition. The right to depose belongs to the electors. As for Constantine’s donation, it is plain Constantine did not confer the rule of the West upon the bishop of Rome, for Constantine divided both the West and the East among his sons. Later, Theodosius and other emperors exercised dominion in Rome. The notice of Constantine’s alleged gift to Sylvester has come through the records of Sylvester and has the appearance of being apocryphal.

The papal assailants did not have the field all to themselves. The papacy also had vigorous literary champions. Chief among them were Augustinus Triumphus and Alvarus Pelagius. The first dedicated his leading work to John XXII., and the second wrote at the pope’s command. The modern reader will find in these tracts the crassest exposition of the extreme claims of the papacy, satisfying to the most enthusiastic ultramontane, but calling for apology from sober Catholic historians.

Triumphus, an Italian, born in Ancona, 1243, made archbishop of Nazareth and died at Naples, 1328, was a zealous advocate of Boniface VIII. His leading treatise, The Power of the Church, — Summa de potestate ecclesiastica, — vindicates John XXII. for his decision on the question of evangelical poverty and for his opposition to the emperor’s dominion in Italy. The pope has unrestricted power on the earth. It is so vast that even he himself cannot know fully what he is able to do. His judgment is the judgment of God. Their tribunals are one. His power of granting indulgences is so great that, if he so wished, he could empty purgatory of its denizens provided that conditions were complied with.

In spiritual matters he may err, because he remains a man, and when he holds to heresy, he ceases to be pope. Council cannot depose him nor any other human tribunal, for the pope is above all and can be judged by none. But, being a heretic, he ceases, ipso facto, to be pope, and the condition then is as it would be after one pope is dead and his successor not yet elected.

The pope himself may choose an emperor, if he so please, and may withdraw the right of election from the electors or depose them from office. As vicar of God, he is above all kings and princes.

The Spanish Franciscan, Alvarus Pelagius, was not always as extravagant as his Augustinian contemporary. He was professor of law at Perugia. He fled from Rome at the approach of Lewis the Bavarian, 1328, was then appointed papal penitentiary at Avignon, and later bishop of the Portuguese diocese of Silves. His Lament over the Church, — de planctu ecclesiae, — while exalting the pope to the skies, bewails the low spiritual estate into which the clergy and the Church had fallen. Christendom, he argues, which is but one kingdom, can have but one head, the pope. Whoever does not accept him as the head does not accept Christ. And whosoever, with pure and believing eye, sees the pope, sees Christ himself. Without communion with the pope there is no salvation. He wields both swords as Christ did, and in him the passage of Jer_1:10 is fulfilled, “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Unbelievers, also, Alvarus asserts to be legally under the pope’s jurisdiction, though they may not be so in fact, and the pope may proceed against them as God did against the Sodomites. Idolaters, Jews, and Saracens are alike amenable to the pope’s authority and subject to his punishments. He rules, orders, disposes and judges all things as he pleases. His will is highest wisdom, and what he pleases to do has the force of law. Wherever the supreme pontiff is, there is the Roman Church, and he cannot be compelled to remain in Rome. He is the source of all law and may decide what is the right. To doubt this means exclusion from life eternal.

As the vicar of Christ, the pope is supreme over the state. He confers the sword which the prince wields. As the body is subject to the soul, so princes are subject to the pope. Constantine’s donation made the pope, in fact, monarch over the Occident. He transferred the empire to Charlemagne in trust. The emperor’s oath is an oath of fealty and homage.

The views of Augustinus Triumphus and Alvarus followed the papal assertion and practice of centuries, and the assent or argument of the Schoolmen. Marsiglius had the sanction of Scripture rationally interpreted, and his views were confirmed by the experiences of history. After the lapse of nearly 500 years, opinion in Christendom remains divided, and the most extravagant language of Triumphus and Alvarus is applauded, and Marsiglius, the exponent of modern liberty and of the historical sense of Scripture, continues to be treated as a heretic.


9. The Financial Policy of the Avignon Popes

The most notable feature of the Avignon period of the papacy, next to its subserviency to France, was the development of the papal financial system and the unscrupulous traffic which it plied in spiritual benefits and ecclesiastical offices. The theory was put into practice that every spiritual favor has its price in money. It was John XXII.’s achievement to reduce the taxation of Christendom to a finely organized system.

The papal court had a proper claim for financial support on all parts of the Latin Church, for it ministered to all. This just claim gave way to a practice which made it seem as if Christendom existed to sustain the papal establishment in a state of luxury and ease. Avignon took on the aspect of an exchange whose chief business was getting money, a vast bureau where privileges, labelled as of heavenly efficacy, were sold for gold. Its machinery for collecting moneys was more extensive and intricate than the machinery of any secular court of the age. To contemporaries, commercial transactions at the central seat of Christendom seemed much more at home than services of religious devotion.

The mind of John XXII. ran naturally to the counting-house and ledger system. He came from Cahors, the town noted for its brokers and bankers. Under his favor the seeds of commercialism in the dispensation of papal appointments sown in preceding centuries grew to ripe fruitage. Simony was an old sin. Gregory VII. fought against it. John legalized its practice.

Freewill offerings and Peter’s pence had been made to popes from of old. States, held as fiefs of the papal chair, had paid fixed tribute. For the expenses of the crusades, Innocent III. had inaugurated the system of taxing the entire Church. The receipts from this source developed the love of money at the papal court and showed its power, and, no matter how abstemious a pope might be in his own habits, greed grew like a weed in his ecclesiastical household. St. Bernard, d. 1153, complained bitterly of the cupidity of the Romans, who made every possible monetary gain out of the spiritual favors of which the Vatican was the dispenser. By indulgence, this appetite became more and more exacting, and under John and his successors the exploitation of Christendom was reduced by the curia to a fine art.

The theory of ecclesiastical appointments, held in the Avignon period, was that, by reason of the fulness of power which resides in the Apostolic See, the pope may dispense all the dignities and benefices of the Christian world. The pope is absolute in his own house, that is, the Church.

This principle had received its full statement from Clement IV., 1265. Clement’s bull declared that the supreme pontiff is superior to any customs which were in vogue of filling Church offices and conflicted with his prerogative. In particular he made it a law that all offices, dignities, and benefices were subject to papal appointment which became vacant apud sedem apostolicam or in curia, that is, while the holders were visiting the papal court. This law was modified by Gregory X. at the Council of Lyons, 1274, in such a way as to restore the right of election, provided the pope failed to make an appointment within a month. Boniface VIII., 1295, again extended the enactment by putting in the pope’s hands all livings whose occupants died within two days’ journey of the curia, wherever it might at the time be. Innocent IV. was the first pope to exercise the right of reservation or collation on a large scale. In 1248, out of 20 places in the cathedral of Constance, 17 were occupied by papal appointees, and there were 14 “expectants” under appointment in advance of the deaths of the occupants. In 1255, Alexander IV. limited the number of such expectants to 4 for each church. In 1265, Clement IV forbade all elections in England in the usual way until his commands were complied with, and reserved them to himself. The same pontiff, on the pretext of disturbances going on in Sicily, made a general reservation of all appointments in the realm, otherwise subject to episcopal or capitular choice. Urban IV. withdrew the right of election from the Ghibelline cities of Lombardy; Martin IV. and Honorius IV. applied the same rule to the cathedral appointments of Sicily and Aragon; Honorius IV. monopolized all the appointments of the Latin Church in the East; and Boniface VIII., in view of Philip IV.’s resistance, reserved to himself the appointments to all “cathedral and regular churches” in France. Of 16 French sees which became vacant, 1295-1301, only one was filled in the usual way by election.

With the haughty assumption of Clement IV.’s bull and the practice of later popes, papal writers fell in. Augustinus Triumphus, writing in 1324, asserted that the pope is above all canon law and has the right to dispose of all ecclesiastical places. The papal system of appointments included provisions, expectances, and reservations.

In setting aside the vested rights of chapters and other electors, the pope often joined hands with kings and princes. In the Avignon period a regular election by a chapter was the exception. The Chronicles of England and France teem with usurped cases of papal appointment. In 1322 the pope reserved to himself all the appointments in episcopal, cathedral, and abbey churches, and of all priors in the sees of Aquileja, Ravenna, Milan, Genoa, and Pisa. In 1329 he made such reservation for the German dioceses of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and in 1339 for Cologne. There was no living in Latin Christendom which was safe from the pope’s hands. There were not places enough to satisfy all the favorites of the papal household and the applicants pressed upon the pope’s attention by kings and princes. The spiritual and administrative qualities of the appointees were not too closely scrutinized. Frenchmen were appointed to sees in England, Germany, Denmark, and other countries, who were utterly unfamiliar with the languages of those countries. Marsiglius complains of these “monstrosities “and, among other unfit appointments, mentions the French bishops of Winchester and Lund, neither of whom knew English or Danish. The archbishop of Lund, after plundering his diocese, returned to Southern France.

To the supreme right of appointment was added the supreme right to tax the clergy and all ecclesiastical property. The supreme right to exercise authority over kings, the supreme right to set aside canonical rules, the supreme right to make appointments in the Church, the supreme right to tax Church property, these were, in their order, the rights asserted by the popes of the Middle Ages. The scandal growing out of this unlimited right of taxation called forth the most vigorous complaints from clergy and laity, and was in large part the cause which led to the summoning of the three great Reformatory councils of the fifteenth century.

Popes had acted upon this theory of jurisdiction over the property of the Church long before John XXII. They levied taxes for crusades in the Orient, or to free Italy from rebels for the papal state. They gave their sanction to princes and kings to levy taxes upon the Church for secular purposes, especially for wars. In the bull Clericis laicos, Boniface did not mean to call in question the propriety of the Church’s contributing to the necessities of the state. What he demanded was that he himself should be recognized as arbiter in such matters, and it was this demand which gave offence to the French king and to France itself. The question was much discussed whether the pope may commit simony. Thomas Aquinas gave an affirmative answer. Alvarus Pelagius thought differently, and declared that the pope is exempt from the laws and canons which treat of simony. Augustinus Triumphus took the same ground. The pope is not bound by laws. He is above laws. Simony is not possible to him.

In estimating the necessities of the papal court, which justified the imposition of customs, the Avignon popes were no longer their own masters. They were the creatures of the camera and the hungry horde of officials and sycophants whose clamor filled the papal offices day and night. These retainers were not satisfied with bread. Every superior office in Christendom had its value in terms of gold and silver. When it was filled by papal appointment, a befitting fee was the proper recognition. If a favor was granted to a prince in the appointment of a favorite, the papal court was pretty sure to seize some new privilege as a compensation for itself. Precedent was easily made a permanent rule. Where the pope once invaded the rights of a chapter, he did not relinquish his hold, and an admission fee once fixed was not renounced. We may not be surprised at the rapacity which was developed at the papal court. That was to be expected. It grew out of the false papal theory and the abiding qualities of human nature.

The details governing the administration of the papal finances John set forth in two bulls of 1316 and 1331. His scheme fixed the financial policy of the papacy and sacred college. The sources from which the papacy drew its revenues in the fourteenth century were: (1) freewill offerings, so called, given for ecclesiastical appointments and other papal favors, called visitations, annates, servitia; and (2) tributes from feudal states such as Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and England, and the revenues from the papal state in Italy. The moneys so received were apportioned between four parties, the pope, the college of cardinals, and their two households. Under John XXlI. the freewill offerings, so called, came to be regarded as obligatory fees. Every papal gift had its compensation. There was a list of prices, and it remained in force till changed on the basis of new estimates of the incomes of benefices. To answer objections, John XXII., in his bull of 1331, insisted that the prices set upon such favors were not a charge for the grace imparted, but a charge for the labor required for writing the pertinent documents. But the declaration did not remove the ill odor of the practice. The taxes levied were out of all proportion to the actual cost of the written documents, and the privileges were not to be had without money.

These payments were regularly recorded in registers or ledgers kept by the papal secretaries of the camera. The details of the papal exchequer, extant in the Archives of the Vatican, have only recently been subjected to careful investigation through the liberal policy of Leo XIII., and have made possible a new chapter in works setting forth the history of the Church in this fourteenth century.

These studies confirm the impression left by the chroniclers and tract-writers of the fourteenth century. The money dealings of the papal court were on a vast scale, and the transactions were according to strict rules of merchandise. Avignon was a great money centre. Spiritual privileges were vouched for by carefully worded and signed contracts and receipts. The papal commercial agents went to all parts of Europe.

Archbishop, bishop, and abbot paid for the letters confirming their titles to their dignities. The appointees to lower clerical offices did the same. There were fees for all sorts of concessions, dispensations and indulgences, granted to layman and to priest. The priest born out of wedlock, the priest seeking to be absent from his living, the priest about to be ordained before the canonical age, all had to have a dispensation, and these cost money. The larger revenues went directly into the papal treasury and the treasury of the camera. The smaller fees went to notaries, doorkeepers, to individual cardinals, and other officials. These intermediaries stood in a long line with palms upturned. To use a modern term, it was an intricate system of graft. The beneficiaries were almost endless. The large body of lower officials are usually designated in the ledgers by the general term “familiars” of the pope or camera. The notaries, or copyists, received stipulated sums for every document they transcribed and service they performed. However exorbitant the demands might seem, the petitioners were harried by delays and other petty annoyances till in sheer weariness they yielded.

The taxes levied upon the higher clergy were usually paid at Avignon by the parties in person. For the collection of the annates from the lower clergy and of tithes and other general taxes, collectors and subcollectors were appointed. We find these officials in different parts of Europe. They had their fixed salaries, and sent periodical reckonings to the central bureau at Avignon. The transmission of the moneys they collected was often a dangerous business. Not infrequently the carriers were robbed on their way, and the system came into vogue of employing merchant and banking houses to do this business, especially Italian firms, which had representatives in Northern and Central Europe. The ledgers show a great diversity in the names and value of the coins. And it was a nice process to estimate the values of these moneys in the terms of the more generally accepted standards.

The offerings made by prelates at their visits to the papal see, called visitationes, were divided equally between the papal treasury and the cardinals. From the lists, it appears that the archbishops of York paid every three years”300 marks sterling, or 1200 gold florins.” Every two years the archbishops of Canterbury paid”300 marks sterling, or 1500 gold florins;” the archbishop of Tours paid 400 pounds Tournois; of Rheims, 500 pounds, Tournois; of Rouen, 1000 pounds Tournois. The archbishop of Armagh, at his visitation in 1301, paid 60 silver marks, or 250 gold florins. In 1350 the camera claimed from Armagh back payments for fifty years. Presumably no bishop of that Irish diocese had made a visit in that interval. Whether the claim was honored or not, is not known.

The servitia communia, or payments made by archbishops, bishops, and abbots on their confirmation to office, were also listed, according to a fixed scale. The voluntary idea had completely disappeared before a fixed assessment. Such a dignitary was called an electus until he had paid off the tax. In certain cases the tax was remitted on account of the poverty of the ecclesiastic, and in the ledgers the entry was made, “not taxed on account of poverty,” non taxata propter paupertatem. The amount of this tax seems to have varied, and was sometimes one-third of the income and sometimes a larger portion. In the fourteenth century the following sees paid servitia as follows: Mainz, 5,000 gold florins; Treves, 7,000; Cologne, 10,000; Narbonne, 10,000. On the basis of a new valuation, Martin V. in 1420 raised the taxation of the sees of Mainz and Treves to 10,000 florins each, or $25,000 of our money, so that they corresponded to the assessment made from of old upon Cologne. When an incumbent died without having met the full tax, his successor made up the deficit in addition to paying the assessment for his own confirmation.

The following cases will give some idea of the annoyances to which bishops and abbots were put who travelled to Avignon to secure letters of papal confirmation to their offices. In 1334, the abbot-elect of St. Augustine, Canterbury, had to wait in Avignon from April 22 to Aug. 9 to get his confirmation, and it cost him 148 pounds sterling. John IV., abbot-elect of St. Albans, in 1302 went for consecration to Rome, accompanied by four monks. He arrived May 6, presented his case to Boniface VIII. in person at Anagni, May 9, and did not get back to London till Aug. 1, being all the while engaged in the process of getting his papers properly prepared and certified to. The expense of getting his case through was 2,585 marks, or 10,340 gold florins; or $25,000 of our money. The ways in which this large sum was distributed are not a matter of conjecture. The exact itemized statement is extant: 2,258 marks, or 9,032 florins, went to “the Lord pope and the cardinals.” Of this sum 5,000 florins, or 1,250 marks, are entered as a payment for the visitatio, and the remainder in payment of the servitium to the cardinals. The remaining 327 marks, or 1,308 florins, were consumed in registration and notarial fees and gifts to cardinals. To Cardinal Francis of St. Maria in Cosmedin, a nephew of Boniface, a gift was made costing more than 10 marks, or 40 florins.

Another abbot-elect of St. Albans, Richard II., went to Avignon in 1326 accompanied by six monks, and was well satisfied to get away with the payment of 3,600 gold florins. He was surprised that the tax was so reasonable. Abbot William of the diocese of Autun, Oct. 22, 1316, obligated himself to pay John XXII., as confirmation tax, 1,500 gold florins, and to John’s officials 170 more.

The fees paid to the lower officials, called servitia minuta, were classified under five heads, four of them going to the officials, familiares of the pontiff, and one to the officials of the cardinals. The exact amounts received on account of servitia or confirmation fees by the pope and the college of cardinals, probably will never be known. From the lists that have been examined, the cardinals between 1316-1323 received from this source 234,047 gold florins, or about 39,000 florins a year. As the yield from this tax was usually, though not always, divided in equal shares between the pope and the cardinals, the full sum realized from this source was double this amount.

The annates, so far as they were the tax levied by the pope upon appointments made by himself to lower clerical offices and livings, went entirely into the papal treasury, and seem to have been uniformly one-half of the first year’s income. They were designated as livings “becoming vacant in curia,” which was another way of saying, places which had been reserved by the pope. The popes from time to time extended this tax through the use of the right of reservation to all livings becoming vacant in a given district during a certain period. In addition to the annate tax, the papal treasury also drew an income during the period of their vacancy from the livings reserved for papal appointment and during the period when an incumbent held the living without canonical right. These were called the “intermediate fruits” — medii fructus.

Special indulgences were an uncertain but no less important source of revenue. The prices were graded according to the ability of the parties to pay and the supposed inherent value of the papal concession. Queen Johanna of Sicily paid 500 grossi Tournois, or about $150, for the privilege of taking the oath to the archbishop of Naples, who acted as the pope’s representative. The bull readmitting to the sacraments of the Church Margaret of Maultasch and her husband, Lewis of Brandenburg, the son of Lewis the Bavarian, cost the princess 2000 grossi Tournois. The king of Cyprus was poor, and secured for his subjects indulgence to trade with the Egyptians for the modest sum of 100 pounds Tournois, but had to pay 50 pounds additional for a ship sent with cargo to Egypt. There was a graduated scale for papal letters giving persons liberty to choose their confessor without regard to the parish priests.

To these sources of income were added the taxes for the relief of the Holy Land — pro subsidio terrae sanctae. The Council of Vienne ordered a tenth for six years for this purpose. John XXII., 1333, repeated the substance of Clement’s bull. The expense of clearing Italy of hostile elements and reclaiming papal territory as a preliminary to the pope’s return to Rome was also made the pretext for levying special taxes. For this object Innocent VI. levied a three-years’ tax of a tenth upon the Church in Germany, and in 1366 Urban V. levied another tenth upon all the churches of Christendom.

It would be a mistake to suppose that the Church always responded to these appeals, or that the collectors had easy work in making collections. The complaints, which we found so numerous in England in the thirteenth century, we meet with everywhere during the fourteenth century. The resistance was determined, and the taxes were often left unpaid for years or not paid at all.

The revenues derived from feudal states and princes, called census, were divided equally between the cardinals and the pope’s private treasury. Gregory X., in 1272, was the first to make such a division of the tribute from Sicily, which amounted to 8000 ounces of gold, or about $90,000. In the pontificate of John XXII. there is frequent mention of the amounts contributed by Sicily and their equal partition. The sums varied from year to year, and in 1304 it was 3000 ounces of gold. The tribute of Sardinia and Corsica was fixed in 1297 at the annual sum of 2000 marks, and was divided between the two treasuries. The papal state and Ferrara yielded uncertain sums, and the tribute of 1000 marks, pledged by John of England, was paid irregularly, and finally abrogated altogether. Peter’s pence, which belongs in this category, was an irregular source of papal income.

The yearly income of the papal treasury under Clement V. and John XXII. has been estimated at from 200,000 to 250,000 gold florins. In 1353 it is known to have been at least 260,000 florins, or more than $600,000 of our money

These sources of income were not always sufficient for the expenses of the papal household, and in cases had to be anticipated by loans. The popes borrowed from cardinals, from princes, and from bankers. Urban V. got a loan from his cardinals of 30,000 gold florins. Gregory XI. got loans of 30,000 florins from the king of Navarre, and 60,000 from the duke of Anjou. The duke seems to have been a ready lender, and on another occasion loaned Gregory 40,000 florins. It was a common thing for bishops and abbots to make loans to enable them to pay the expense of their confirmation. The abbot of St. Albans, in 1290, was assessed 1300 pounds for his servitium, and borrowed 500 of it. The habit grew until the time of the Reformation, when the sums borrowed, as in the case of Albrecht, archbishop of Mainz, were enormous.

The transactions of the Avignon chancellory called forth loud complaints, even from contemporary apologists for the papacy. Alvarus Pelagius, in his Lament over the Church, wrote: “No poor man can approach the pope. He will call and no one will answer, because he has no money in his purse to pay. Scarcely is a single petition heeded by the pope until it has passed through the hands of middlemen, a corrupt set, bought with bribes, and the officials conspire together to extort more than the rule calls for.” In another place he said that whenever he entered into the papal chambers he always found the tables full of gold, and clerics counting and weighing florins. Of the Spanish bishops he said that there was scarcely one in a hundred who did not receive money for ordinations and the gift of benefices. Matters grew no better, but rather worse as the fourteenth century advanced. Dietrich of Nieheim, speaking of Boniface IX., said that “the pope was an insatiable gulf, and that as for avarice there was no one to compare with him.” To effect a cure of the disease, which was a scandal to Christendom, the popes would have been obliged to cut off the great army of officials who surrounded them. But this vast organized body was stronger than the Roman pontiff. The fundamental theory of the rights of the papal office was at fault. The councils made attempts to introduce reforms, but in vain. Help came at last and from an unexpected quarter, when Luther and the other leaders openly revolted against the mediaeval theory of the papacy and of the Church.