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Saturday, November 22, 2014


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The Papacy In History And Prophecy



After Boniface's death, the papacy itself was brought under French power and after the short rule of Benedict XI, the French king secured a pope, Clement V favorable to his own interests. In 1306 he moved to Avignon in France and exempted Philip from the Bull, "Unam Sanctum". This move began the fall of the papacy.

In 1316 after Clement's death, a fierce struggle between French and Italian cardinals began which resulted in the election of pope John XXII, who in 1322 excommunicated Louis of France for exercising the powers of emperor without papal sanction and summoned the German princes to depose him. Unfortunately these anathemas were disregarded and John's troubles began. John also experienced successful attacks by scholars on papal authority which further undermined his prerogatives.

In Clement VI's rule Europe groaned under the extortions and avarice of papal taxes and began to criticize the Avignon popes who were characterized by boundless wealth and immorality. England likewise resisted in the 1350's. The 1380's witnessed the great schism in which both Avignon and Rome claimed a pope having the full scope of pontifical authority, jurisdiction and taxation. This spectacle of rival popes - Clement VII resting in inglorious ease at Avignon and Urban VI heading a partisan warfare in Italy - each imprecating curses on the other, stirred up a man called Wycliffe who declared the papal office as poisonous to the church.

The only workable solution which could be found was the introduction of a General Council of Cardinals in 1409 who were given the authority by the temporal princes to elect a pope. In 1417 the Council deposed the rival popes and elected Martin V who immediately began to sanction the abuses of past popes and asserted papal supremacy in the terms of his predecessors. Bringing a new prosperity back to Rome he undertook to restore its last prestige but was denounced by John Huss who appealed to the Bible as alone authoritative.

On the death of Martin V the Council. reassembled and began to reform the church. It considered itself superior to the pope it had elected and in succeeding ages the struggle between Council and pope took place. Finally the French monarch took the opportunity with this dispute and subjected the papacy to his rule. The pope however continued to attempt to organize disputes between Germany and France.


It was during this political intrigue of the 1500's that the Renaissance and Reformation burst out upon the scene. In 1517 John Tetzel., a hawker of indulgences, appeared in Wittenburg selling indulgences to pay for the building of St. Peters in Rome. To persuade the people to buy his spiritual wares, he told them, according to Luther, that as soon as their money clinked into the bottom of the chest the souls of their deceased friends forthwith went up to heaven. Enraged Luther posted on the door of the Church of All Saints in Wittenburg, his 95 theses proving indulgences unscriptural.

Controversy flared up which caused Luther to regard the papal ruler as a hateful usurpation. His teachings were directed to the common people who despised the immorality and brutal life of the clergy and soon the whole of Germany was on the eve of a revolutionary movement. The ignorance of Scripture, so skillfully placed over the people by the popes, was being dispelled with the translation of the Bible in the common vernacular and soon the people read the Bible for themselves.

In the succeeding centuries the reformation movement gathered momentum and soon the papacy lost followers in Switzerland, Scandinavia, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, England and Scotland.