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Saturday, November 22, 2014


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The Papacy In History And Prophecy



Charlemagne died in 814 and after a few years his empire was broken up by warring factions. Although his immediate successors maintained to some extent the same supremacy in the affairs of the Church, the popes improved every opportunity afforded by the disorders of the times to make themselves more independent. In 833 pope Gregory IV boldly attempted to interpose between Louis the Pious and his rebellious sons stating that the crowns of kings are subject to the arbitration of bishops. Louis II in writing to the Greek Emperor Basil, went so far as to say: "By the laying on of hands and by the consecration of the supreme pontiff are we brought to this eminence."

In the early 800's another forgery appeared called the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals which boldly cited decrees, purporting to eminate from the Roman bishop of 384 and from his predecessors back to Clement (second in the so called succession from Peter himself ). Although the forgeries were clumsy and abounded with anachronisms, the spurious character of the documents escaped detection in the uncritical age. They said that the priesthood was declared to be inviolable and freed from secular control and that the validity and effect of the official acts and words of the clergy were regarded as in nowise dependent upon their personal character.

After the deposition of Charles the Fat in 887 the power of the Italian nobles gradually increased until they became independent. A wild conflict of Italian parties ensued in which the papacy was involved, but there was no definite outcome.

For many years the popes were the lovers or the sons and grandsons of three licentious and ambitious Roman women. John XII one of the vilest of all these pontiffs called Otho I, king of Germany in 960 to protect him against Berengar prince of Italy. He soon after conspired to drive out the Germans but Otho, in swift revenge, deposed John on the charges of murder, blasphemy and gross sensuality. It was at this stage 962, that the Holy Roman Empire was formed in which the emperor had to be elected by the German people and could not legally assume the title of Emperor till he had received the crown from the pope. By the first statement the election of the Emperor by the secular power made him lord over the pope, who had no power to withhold the crown and title from the emperor anyway. The emperor also had to legally consecrate the pope.

In 1003 a boy of 12, precocious in crime, ascended the papal throne as Benedict IX. In a few years his pleasures


were interrupted by the pretensions of a rival and wearied of his office he sold it to John Gratian, who took the name of Gregory VI. Benedict repented of his bargain but at this junction king Henry III arrived and deposed the three rival pontiffs. The bishops of Rome humiliatingly confessed that Rome had no-one worthy or capable of filling the office and conceded that the emperor should elect his own pope. This victory to the Emperor didn't last long.

By the decree of a Roman synod in 1059 (after Henry III's death) the election of Popes was placed in the hands of a College of Cardinals, but a great revolution was in the making which had been formulated by the famous Hildebrand, the power behind the popes of that era.

The power of Christianity was at this time crippled by the superstition and ignorance of the age. The common people saw religion as the adoring of images, gathering relics, hearing and telling legends of miracles, and in going on pilgrimages. The number of the saints rapidly multiplied whilst the clergy became licentious and even stupid. It was the age to which a forceful pope arrived on the scene.

In 1073 Hildebrand ascended the papal throne as Gregory VII. In the affairs of the Church he claimed absolute power and there was a mixture of craft, of hardness and of pride in his temper and actions. The papal anathema as wielded by him proved a terrible weapon of injustice and oppression.

The emperor at the time was Henry IV who through a very bad education was arbitrary and dissolute. It was his practise, like his father before him, to invest bishops to their new offices, but Hildebrand decided to resist this and in 1075 issued a decree condemning laymen to invest ecclesiastics. The decree had no immediate effect so at the end of the year Gregory sent a letter threatening excommunication. Henry replied to "Hildebrand, no longer pope but a false monk" denying the right of the papacy to judge the king, asserting that Gregory had corruptly obtained the pontificate and closing with the words "Let another ascend, the chair of St. Peter who will not cloak violence with religion ... Get down! Get down!" Gregory had no sooner received this than he excommunicated Henry and without authority sentenced him to the loss of the Kingdoms of Germany and Italy. In his circular letters Gregory continually asserted that "bishops are superior to kings and made to judge them."

Fortunately for the pope, Henry's rebellious subjects were Gregory's most effective allies and Henry, finding


himself surrounded crossed the Alps in the severe winter of 1077 and was forced to wait 3 days in the snow before Gregory allowed him to enter the castle and kiss his feet. On the fourth day he obtained an audience and though the lordly Gregory was pleased to absolve him from the excommunication he straightly charged him not to resume his royal rank.

After this Henry rebelled a second time and causing Gregory to flee established his own pope, Clement III in Rome. Gregory soon after died but was followed by scarcely inferior leaders, Urban II and Pashcal II who strenuously persevered in the great contest for Ecclesiastical Independence.

Henry's son, Henry V likewise refused to part with the right of investiture and after much contention a Concordat was drawn up between Henry and the pope in 1122 at Worms. A compromise was attained on the question of investitures and neither side gained any real ground. The time that the papal claims advanced after Gregory's era was in the rule of pope Innocent III (1198 - 1216) whose mind was filled with the most exalted ideas of papal prerogatives. In 1202 he decreed that the Holy See had supreme authority in Canon and Civil law and in 1204 ruled that the judicial competence of the pope is correct in all matters where sins are committed and since all political deeds involve some moral aspect, the pope could intervene in most political affairs. His most impressive statement however was in 1198. "As the sun and moon. are placed in the firmament the greater as the light of the day and lesser of the night; thus are there two powers in the church; the pontifical, which as having the charge of sould [sun] is the greater and the royal which is the less, and to which the bodies of man only are intrusted." Intoxicated with these ideas which he succeeded in establishing, he deemed no quarrels of princes beyond the sphere of his jurisdiction. His letters were full of unprovoked rudeness and his temper was full of menace whilst he caused a number of civil wars, which rent Europe in two. He claimed the right to confirm the election of the emperors, and in a decretal epistle, declares the pope's authority to examine confirm., anoint crown and consecrate the emperor elect, provided he shall be worthy, and if not reject him and fill the vacancy with his choice. One powerful weapon which Innocent found useful was the army of licentious oafs who in search of pardons banded themselves into "crusaders" and at the pope's behest attacked "unholy" cities and heretics like the Albigenses. The major crusade was led by Simon de Montfort who attacked the Albigenses with inhuman cruelty. It was Innocent who began the dreadful Inquisition which became one of the most terrible engines of intolerance and tyranny ever imagined.


"The noonday of Papal dominion" says Hallam "extends from the pontificate of Innocent III, inclusively to that of Boniface VIII or in other words through the thirteenth century. Rome inspired during this age all the terror of her ancient name. She was once more the mistress of the world and kings were her vassals." In 1250 the papal armies of Innocent IV defeated the armies of the Emperor Frederick II and caused his death. Two other succeeding emperors met with the same fate and in 1273 Rudolph of Hapsburg was chosen emperor. The Papacy's victory was complete for Rudolph relinquished all the imperial claims over those territories in Central and Northern Italy which the popes declared to be subject to the Roman See and pledged not to disturb the papal vassal in Sicily. This successfully reduced the dominions of the Holy Roman Empire down to the area of Germany and fatally wounded the temporal authority of the emperor.

A few years later however the kings of the West began to resist the threats of the Roman Pontiff, whilst a partisan spirit ruled amongst the cardinals. Prior to this (1268-1271) the papal chair was vacant for nearly three years.

Boniface VIII (1294-1303) in accordance with his strong views once more made Rome the headquarters of the Papacy. In 1298 he cruhed the opposition in Italy by levelling a city Palestina to the ground and butchering those who dared say that his election had been unlawful. The year 1300 saw Boniface promising generous indulgences to all who should visit the Vatican Churches during the year for so many days. Pilgrims flocked to Rome and 30,000 are reckoned to have entered and left daily giving huge offerings as they came.

Boniface continually quarreled with England and France issuing and withdrawing hosts of bulls as it suited him. In 1302 the King of Flanders defeated the King of France in a severe battle and Boniface taking advantage of France's humiliation before Europe issued the most famous of his bulls, "Unam Sanctum" which asserted that the submission of every human creature to Rome was a condition of salvation. The clergy were consequently summoned to Rome and placed an interdict on this rebellious and weakened King of France. Philip the king was not as defeated as imagined neither was he sufficiently weakened to accept Boniface's terms and accused Boniface of heresy, simony and ecclesiastical tyranny. After being nearly taken prisoner by Philip's emissaries Boniface died at the age of 86. Later in the century his career was concisely described in the epigram, "He entered like a fox, reigned like a lion, and died like a dog."