While the papacy's rise to prominence had deep roots in the late Roman and early medieval church, it was nevertheless a radical change. But it was not greeted with unanimous enthusiasm. Criticism of the monarchical papacy included a barrage of satire. Already around the year 1100, the Tractatus Garsiae 'documented' the translation of the 'relics of Sts Silver and Gold' to the shrine of 'St Cupidity' in Rome. 'Those who have their relics', says one cardinal, 'are immediately justified; once earthly, they become heavenly; once impious, they are turned into innocents'.31 The theme of a corrupt and greedy curia was reprised by the Gospel of St Mark of Silver, in which a poor man
26 See, for example, Gregory VII, Das Register Gregors VII, ed. Erich Caspar, MGH, EPP, Epistolae Selectae, vol. 2, fasc. 1-2, 2.31.
27 S. Loewenfeld, ed., Epistolae pontificum romanorum ineditae (Leipzig: Verlag Veit and Co., 1885; repr., Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1959), 43. Some scholars have argued that Alexander's letter referred not to warriors, but to pilgrims. Against this, see Jean Flori, 'Réforme, reconquista, croisade: L'idée de reconquête dans la correspondance pontificale d'Alexandre II à Urbain II', Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 40 (1997), 320-1.
28 Innocent III, Regesta sive epistolae, PL 214, col. 265.
29 Innocent III, Regesta sive epistolae, PL 215, col. 701.
30 Geoffrey of Villehardouin, La conquête de Constantinople, ed. Edmond Faral, vol. 2 (Paris: Société d'Edition 'Les belles lettres', 1961), p. 24.
31 Rodney M. Thomson, ed., Tractatus Garsiae (Textus minores, 46; Leiden: Brill, 1973), p. 18.
appears before the gatekeepers of the pope, begging for mercy. The courtiers reply, 'To hell with you and your poverty! ... Amen, amen, I say to you. You will not enter into the joy of your Lord until you have given your last penny!'32 Verses like these played on the irony that a papal reform movement born of a desire to purge the church of the ill effects of wealth (one thinks of Peter Damian's associations of simony with excrement in the eleventh century) had itself grown into a voracious pecuniary beast. Nor was money itself the only target of such satire. Poets also attacked the abuses of papal justice that accompanied this flow of cash. As Walter of Chatillon (c. 1134-1200?) wrote, 'The court of the Romans is nothing but a market. There the laws of the senators are up for sale. In this consistory, if anyone would argue his case or that of another, let him first read this: unless he gives money, Rome will deny him everything; he who gives more money, argues his case better.'33
Humorous though such satires were, they reflected a serious concern that the papacy was abandoning its role of spiritual leadership in a pursuit of worldly power. This was the substance of the more sober lament delivered by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) in his De consideratione addressed to Pope Eugenius III. Bernard targeted especially the legalism of the curia, in which the 'laws of Justinian' replaced 'the Law of the Lord', crafty litigants subverted justice through iniquitous appeals, scandalous monasteries were arrogantly removed from the orderly supervision of their bishops, and the attention of the pope was distracted from the core mission of apostolic service.34 Directly inspired by Bernard, Innocent III attempted half a century later to return the papacy to its pastoral duty, echoing in his sermons the saint's admonition that 'a ministry has been imposed upon us rather than a dominion bestowed'.35
Innocent's effort led to the creation of the mendicant orders and the reconciliation of groups like the Humiliati and the Poor Catholics. Yet, plans to renew the priestly vocation of the papal office were only partially successful. Cathars and Waldensians continued to argue that the Roman Church was a Babylon whose faith was dead,36 pointing particularly to the
32 Text in B. Bischoff, ed., Carmina burana: Die Lieder der Benediktbeurer Handschrift (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, i979), ii8.
34 Bernard of Clairvaux, De consideratione, in Sancti Bernardi opera, ed. J. Leclercq and H. M. Rochais, vol. 3 (Rome: Editiones Cistercienses, i963), 399, 435 and 442.
35 Innocent said, 'Servum me fateor, et non dominum.. .et ideo ministerium mihi vindico, dominium non usurpo', PL 2i7, col. 655. Bernard wrote in De consideratione (p. 4i6), 'impositum senserimus ministerium, non dominium datum'.
36 Moneta of Cremona, Adversus Catharos et Valdenses, ed. T. A. Ricchinius (Rome: N. and M. Palearini, 1743; repr., Ridgewood, N. J.: Gregg, 1964), 389-408.
union of the papal office with earthly wealth and power at Sylvester I's supposed receipt of the Donation of Constantine (then, of course, believed to be authentic).37 In response, the mendicants, whose original mission was to preach, were transformed into the shock troops of the papal inquisition. First authorized by Gregory IX, the medieval inquisition was staffed heavily by the friars (a later pun on the Dominicans as 'domini canes' appropriated earlier imagery of the preacher as a 'dog' frenetically sniffing out the heterodox 'little foxes' wherever they may, or may not, be present). Especially active in France and Spain, the inquisitors were empowered by Innocent IV's 1252 bull 'Ad extirpanda' to use torture in carrying out their duties.
The intimate relationship between the friars and the papacy represented by the inquisition led to further criticism, indeed to the most serious challenge mounted to the doctrine of papal sovereignty from within the church before Marsilius of Padua. The setting was the university of Paris, where the Franciscans and Dominicans had risen quickly to prominence through the teaching of such masters as Alexander of Hales (Franciscan (d. 1245)) and Albert the Great (Dominican (ii93?-i28o)), not to mention their legendary intellectual progeny Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas. The friars were also highly successful at recruiting members from among the student body. The mendicant masters, however, refused to accept the guild authority of the university faculty, for which they incurred the animosity of the secular masters. This intramural dispute quickly encompassed broader issues, however. The fiery William of St Amour took up the cause not simply of the seculars, but also of the diocesan clergy (bishops and priests) to whose detriment the mendicants leveraged their Roman privileges in preaching and hearing confessions. The 'secular-mendicant conflict' principally revolved around the friars' teachings on apostolic poverty, but it also impinged on the question of the papal plenitudo potestatis. Against the claims by propagandists like Gerald of Abbeville and William of St Amour (c. 1200-72) who denied that the pope had the authority to encroach upon a bishop's inviolable jurisdiction within his diocese, Bonaventure and other champions of the mendicants stressed the pope's hierarchical power over the pastorate within the confines of divine and natural law.38
37 For example, Renerius, Summa, in Thesaurus novus anecdotorum, ed. E. Durand and U. Martène, vol. 5 (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1717, repr., Farnborough: Gregg International, 1969), col. 1775.
38 See especially M.-M. Dufeil, Guillaume de Saint-Amour et la polémique universitaire parisienne, 1250-1259 (Paris: Éditions A. et J. Picard, 1972).
Was this article helpful?