The Investiture Controversy

The most important medieval example of the separation of the powers of church and state is the eleventh-century Investiture Controversy, sometimes called the Lay Investiture Controversy. "Investiture" is the ritual of appointing church officials. The term is derived from the Latin investire, "to clothe," because the bishop was invested with the mitre, "ceremonial headdress," and the crozier, "pastoral staff," as symbols of his episcopacy. The German king and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (1050-1108 c.e.) and Pope Gregory VII (c. 1020-1085 c.e.) disagreed over who would invest, or ceremonially appoint, bishops. At stake were the proceeds from the bishoprics. If the king appointed the bishops then he controlled the lands of the bishopric and could even claim the proceeds from those lands in the event of a vacant bishopric. The church wanted to ensure that the papacy had control of the lands of the bishopric and the proceeds from the land even when the bishopric was vacant. The church also wanted to curb simony (the purchase of ecclesiastical offices), something that lay investiture encouraged.

Gregory maintained that papal power was received from God directly and that no one but the pope had the authority to appoint churchmen. In 1075 c.e., he asserted in an edict (Dictatus Papae) that only the pope could appoint or depose bishops. He forbade investiture by laymen. But from the early medieval period, it had been the king's right to invest churchmen with their office. Henry's reaction (1075 c.e.), therefore, was to depose Gregory. Gregory immediately (1076 c.e.) responded in kind and excommunicated Henry. For complex political reasons, Henry backed down. In his famous "Walk to Canossa," Henry received absolution after a public penance: he walked barefoot in snow wearing only a hairshirt.

The controversy over lay investiture continued for over fifty years and resulted in a diminution of imperial power in favor of papal authority. This medieval controversy changed the equilibrium that the secular and ecclesiastical powers had established by relying upon the same justification the western bishops had used against Constantius II, when he insisted that they accept an Arian Christology—the separation of church and state— with the same outcome.

0 0

Post a comment