Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII. St. Thomas and Dante stood so completely within the tradition of a single European society that they failed to realize how insecure the foundations of this tradition or how imminent were the changes that would destroy the system they took to be eternal.
Dante failed to see how hollow were the fourteenth-century empire’s pretensions to exert any real control over European politics and how completely the nascent differences of nationality divided the peoples that such an empire would have to rule. Both Dante and Thomas failed to appreciate the effect of legal studies in the thirteenth century, both in the civil and canon law, on the old vague comity which the Gelasian theory assumed between the two powers.
Aristotle here was a bad guide, and the growing legalism of political discussion influenced philosophers and theologians more slowly than men of affairs. The canon lawyers had already created a papacy theory, which changed the church’s right of spiritual discipline into a claim of legal supervision.
In the fourteenth century, this claim could hardly be met, as it was in the sixteenth, by a sweeping denial of canon law’s validity. What was first needed was a more precise analysis of the spiritual and secular authorities and especially a more exact delimitation of the spiritual if the papal jurisdiction was hedged within tolerable limits.
Finally, both men failed to appreciate at its full weight the dangerous secularism that might lurk in Aristotle’s Politics, especially in the theory that civil society is itself perfect and self-sufficing, not requiring sanctification by any supernatural agency. All these tendencies of disintegration made their appearances in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The process took place in three great waves, which form the subjects of this and the following two chapters. In the first, the controversy between the papacy and France’s kingdom in 1296-1303, the theory of papal imperialism, already well settled in the canon law, was brought to completion. Simultaneously, it was decisively defeated by the national cohesion of the French kingdom, and the opposition to it began to take definite form and direction, in hedging about the spiritual power and in laying claim to independence for the kingdoms as independent political societies. In the second, the controversy between John XXII and Lewis the Bavarian some twenty-five years later, the opposition to papal sovereignty crystallized.
William of Occam, speaking for the intransigent spiritual Franciscans, marshaled against it all the latent elements of opposition in the Christian tradition Itself, and Marsillo of Padua developed the self-sufficiency of the civil community into a form of virtual secularism and Erastianism. In the course of this controversy, the process of limiting and driving back the spiritual power to purely other-worldly functions was carried as far as it could go. At the same time, the church as an institution remained intact.
In the third controversy, this time in the church itself, the opposition to papal absolution took a new form no longer an issue between spiritual and secular authority; it became the first instance in which the subjects of an absolute sovereign tried to force on him, as a measure of reform, the limitations of constitutional and representative government. In the church, this effort by the conciliator party was, to be sure, a failure. Still, it developed the political theory’s main lines upon which similar controversies between secular rulers and their subjects would be waged.
In the controversy between Boniface VII! and Philip the Fair, the debate on both sides, for the papacy and the king, was conducted on a significantly higher level of precision regarding the issues than any part of the earlier controversy. All the old arguments, to be sure, reappeared and were canvassed afresh. The same passages of Scripture were re-analyzed; the same historical precedents were re-examined; the same landmarks, such as the Donation of Constantine and the empire’s translation, were reinterpreted. Superficially it might seem as if nothing were changed, but in reality, the political theory had turned over a new page. In the first place, the theory of papal imperialism reached a definite systematic conclusion. The argument for the pope’s sovereign power over all forms of secular authority was accurately stated.
The older Gelasian theory of the two powers was not expressly abandoned, but it was explained away or reinterpreted out of all semblance to its older meaning. Significantly, this systematic statement of a papal empire’s theory coincided with its disastrous failure as a practical policy. The effort of Boniface to revive policies successfully pursued by Innocent Ill a century earlier not only proved their impracticability but ended in the disgrace of the “Babylonish captivity,” which made the papacy for three-quarters of a century a tool of the French monarchy. This failure showed the appearance in European politics of a new force of national Sentiment, but it also had theoretical importance.
It produced the kingdom’s conception as a political power not dependent upon the tradition of the empire. Instead of two world-wide jurisdictions, the sacerdotium, and the imperium, the issue was between the inde, pendent king of France as one power and the papacy as another.
The controversy produced a large mass of controversial and occasional literature. Particularly in the works written in defense of Philip, this literature had a tone very different from that of the earlier controversy between the pope and the emperor. It would be misleading to say that the writers were less interested in theological arguments. Still, certainly, many of them have a more definitely secular interest: perhaps it would not be extreme to speak of a middle-class point of view in much of it.
Most of the king’s defenders were lawyers, men professionally trained and professionally employed in the royal courts or the royal council, prepared to bring the Roman law’s resources to the aid of the hereditary monarchy. It is natural that their writings speak with political realism and show concern for administration problems.
The relations of government to trade, to the coinage, to secular education, to judicial procedure, and to colonies, all come in for consideration. The educated and professionally trained layman has definitely made its appearance a new type in European intellectual life. No political literature produced earlier in the Middle Ages had been equally critical or equally free from authority shackles.
This quality, which was typical of much of the writing on the controversy’s royalist side, will here be indicated by a single example. For this purpose, the interesting figure of Pierre Dubois may be chosen. If he was not precisely a political theorist, he was at least one of the greatest medieval pamphleteers. A lawyer by profession, he wrote overtly to offer a plan for renewing the crusades, though it is hard to belie that he took this part of his projects very seriously.
He planned that France should step into the international position assigned by medieval thought to the empire and be left vacant by its weakness. Substantially the proposal was a European alliance for abolishing war, with France at its head and having a representative council and a standing court to adjudicate disputes between the allied powers.
To this end, he desired a drastic reform of the church, including the abolition of clerical celibacy, the transference of ecclesiastical jurisdiction to the king’s courts, and the surrender of the papal territory in return for an annual pension. Dubois also suggested the complete reorganizing and, to a large extent the secularizing, of education, with provision for the instruction of women, and with the inclusion in the curriculum of Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and modern languages; law, medicine, and the sciences; as well as philosophy and theology.
There could be no better sign of the place the universities had assumed in the intellectual life of Europe. Finally, he sketched a thoroughgoing plan for the Internal reform of France, including a reorganization of my, an improvement of the courts to make the administration of justice speedier, cheaper, and more equal, standardizing the coinage, and the fostering of trade. The plan was grandiose and as a whole utopian, but parts of it had already been discussed, and where Dubois was at home, as in his proposal to reform the judiciary, it was far from doctrinaire.
The Relative Position of the Two Parties:-
The nature of the issue between Philip and Boniface had much to do with developing the theories advanced on either side. The most important questions arose from Philip’s efforts to raise money by imposing taxes on the French clergy, an attempt met by the Bull Clerici’s laicos in 1296. Boniface declared such taxation to be illegal and forbade the clergy to pay without papal permission.
From this position, he was forced to recede a few years later because he discovered, to his surprise, that even the French clergy would stand with the French king on a question which, in modern terminology, would be called national.
So far as practical politics is concerned, the quarrel was notable because of the failure of the traditional tactics on which papal power in the past had rested: it proved impossible for Boniface to coerce the king by inciting factional disturbances among the feudal nobility. Obviously, a new force of political cohesion was at work.
On the other hand, the ecclesiastical property’s taxation was a matter of life and death for the monarchy. If Boniface had made good what seemed to be the literal meaning of Clerici’s laicos, no monarchy in Europe could have existed except on the pope’s sufferance. Even feudal monarchy could not have survived if all the land held by churchmen had been exempt from feudal rents.
Moreover, the king would have been prevented from pursuing the only policies by which feudal kings could become strong, drawing business into the royal courts and placing administration in the hands of officers dependent upon themselves. Philip’s reign’s outstanding success was the organization of the great French law-court, the Parliament of Paris.
The fact that the issue concerned the rights of ecclesiastical property obliged the pope’s defenders to take a much more advanced position relative to the papal powers than had been the case Previously. The investiture struggle really had involved the independence of the church in spiritual matters. Still, it could hardly Le held that this independence made it necessary that churchmen’s property should be free from all civic obligations.
The question inevitably arose whether the papal claim on behalf of the property was not contrary to the profession of clerical poverty that Christianity had always made. The issue made it practically necessary to draw a more exact line between spirituals and temporal. This involved a more searching inquiry into the nature of both powers.
As such, the property was certainly to be counted among temporal, though it was impracticable for the church to do its work without property in some form. If this implied that the spiritual power extended to everything that might be a means to spiritual ends, then the church must be the court of last resort, even in temporal.
On the other hand, if spirituals were limited to functions for which no material means were required, then there could be a tiny point in describing the spiritual as a power, whatever dignity or worth might be abstractly imputed to it. There were, therefore, two directions in which theory could go.
The papal theory was forced logically toward the claim of the ultimate power of supervision and direction. The church and its courts, without superseding secular government, became the powers of last resort in any issue that it was worthwhile to dispute. The royalist theory was forced to hedge in and limit the spiritual power as much as possible, restricting it to conscience questions and making it dependent on the secular arm for coercive power.
In the French controversy, the two contestants’ tactical positions were reversed: the ecclesiastical and not the secular power was on the defensive. Thus, it was not only the king’s authority that was on trial but equally the papal power itself. The extent of the pope’s power in the church, the possibility of supporting a charge of heresy against him, his control of the ecclesiastical property, his authority in doctrinal questions-in short, the whole question of church government and of the pope’s part in it-were subjected to searching criticism.
The opening up of this question: was of the greatest importance in the progress of the discussion. During the century that followed, the subjection of the papacy to France’s influence and the scandal of the Great Schism, which was a direct consequence, made the question of government in the church the most interesting and important subject of political debate in Europe.
Not only was the nature of spiritual authority analyzed, but in the long run, the opposition to the papacy as the supreme power of the church was developed and spread broadcast, with consequences that were made fully apparent in the Protestant Reformation. Moreover, absolute as against representative power in the church had important oblique influences when the same issue came to be discussed in states.
The number of books which appeared on either side was large barely to mention them would be unprofitable and to describe them all would be Impossible; the best plan seems to be to state, in general, the positions were taken by the papalists on the one side and by the defenders of the secular power on the other, emphasizing in each case the newer factors which were appearing in the argument.
To give a clearer idea of how the case was presented, it will be well to choose a representative writer from each side for fuller treatment. For this purpose, the papal side’s choice is obvious: the book on the Power of the Church by Egidius Colonna (Giles of Rome) was probably the strongest statement of papal imperialism produced at any time.
On the side of the king, the book which probably, in the long run, carried the greatest weight was that of the Dominican John of Paris. In this chapter, then, the papal power theory will first be described and especially the case as presented by Egidius; and second, the theory of the anticapitalists with a more extended account of the argument by John of Paris.
The Papal Claims:-
The position which Boniface attempted to make good against the Kingdom of France and the policy which he undertook to follow were derivative from the course previously taken by the great popes of the thirteenth century, especially Innocent It] and Innocent IV, and from the theory of the papal power already developed by the canoeists, of whom Innocent IV himself was not the least. The difference between this theory and that held by Gregory VII lay not so much in a claim to greater power. Perhaps it would have been difficult to formulate a more august conception of the papal office than that held by Gregory.
The difference is essentially legal; it consists in greater precision in the conception of the pope’s authority, resulting from a thorough exploration of the relations between the pope and his subordinates in the church and between the spiritual and temporal powers. Broadly speaking, the difference is between a general but somewhat vague Claim to spiritual superiority with a right of moral discipline and a systematic theory of jurisdictional rights and powers.
Thomas’s writings show that the importance of this advance was largely unperceived by students of political philosophy in the thirteenth century. The controversy of Boniface with France shows that lawyers and publicists very Accurately perceived it at the end of the century. The revival of legal studies, both in Roman and ecclesiastical law, renewed the elements of legalism, which had always been an important part of the Roman heritage, and confirmed it as a permanent part of political thought.
The formidable list of powers which the canon lawyers had come to claim, aid which greater popes like Innocent HI had exercised, did not overtly carry with it a rejection of the ancient distinction between the two powers or even the denial that the two were distinct in purpose and their exercise.
However, they clearly implied that the supposed independence and separation of sacerdotal and emporium was in the process of being explained away. It was this process of explaining away that reached its culmination in the controversy with France. In respect to imperial elections, Innocent II had claimed in his famous Bull Venerabilem (1202) the right to pass upon the elected candidate’s fitness and review disputed or irregular elections.
In his dealings with other rulers, he had sought to establish papal jurisdiction in special questions or over special classes of persons. Thus he had claimed the power to confirm and adjudicate treaties and agreements between rulers on the theory that the church has special jurisdiction over oaths; in effect, this amounted to a general guardianship over war and peace and the right to oblige contesting parties to submit to arbitration.
He had also claimed a special guardianship over widows and minors and special powers to suppress heresy, including the right to confiscate heretics’ property, exclude them from office, and discipline rulers who failed to enforce the church’s authority in such matters. He had also sought to set up a general right of supervision over the administration of justice, including the privilege of taking cases into his own courts where the secular courts had permitted a miscarriage of justice. Obviously, in such cases, the pope himself, or the ecclesiastical courts, must necessarily have the last word in deciding where jurisdiction lay.
Doubtless, Innocent intended that the secular authorities should retain their powers and should continue to function in the great majority of cases; he did not assert that his power superseded that of temporal rulers or even that they derived their power from him. But he conceived the papacy as having a general power of review which could be extended at the need to practically any sort of question, the ecclesiastical authority itself being the judge of the need.
The essence of the theory was that it claimed for the papacy a unique power, both in the church itself and in the church’s relations to secular powers, superior and different in kind from that exercised by any other authority. The pope had plenitude potestatis, ar expression hard to render except with the word sovereignty. This theory was started with great precision by Innocent IV.
He took the papal power quite out of the categories of feudal dependence by asserting that the right to Intervene or to supersede a negligent king was in no way dependent upon the king’s a vassal of the pope; it depended solely on the pope’s plenitude potestatis, which he has because he is the vicar of Christ. Such a power is a peculiar consequence of the Christian dispensation:
Jesus Christ himself made Peter and Peter’s successors his vicars when he gave them the keys of the heavenly kingdom and said, Feed my sheep. Though there are many offices and governments in the world, there can always be an appeal to the pope when necessary, whether the need arises from the law, because the judge is uncertain what decision he ought legally to give, or from fact, because there is no higher judge, or because inferior judges cannot execute their judgments, or are not willing to do justice as they ought.
This unique power possessed by the pope alone is, therefore, in a special sense, a divine right; it confers a peculiar superiority, a power of revision and supervision over all the other forms of authority, whether ecclesiastical or secular. In this sense, all power, both temporal and spiritual, resides in the church and is vested in the pope. In substance, the theory amounts to a claim of universal sovereignty, making the pope the head of the entire legal system, not indeed as a universal executive but as a court of final authority and as the fountain-head of legal power.
In the controversy with France, the papal writers had behind them the actual exercise of power by Innocent II! and the theory of papal power formulated by Innocent IV and other canoeists. The papal position was stated by Boniface himself %n the bull Unam sanctam in 1302, which took the most advanced ground on papal imperialism that was ever written into an official document. The bull asserted two main principles essential to the papal position: first, the pope is supreme in the Church and subjection to him is a doctrine necessary to salvation, and second, both swords belong to the church.
The distinction of function between them is still admitted; the temporal sword is not to be actually used by the clergy, but it is to be used by kings at the Command and priests’ permission. For the spiritual power is the higher, and it is a general law of nature that requires the lower to the higher. Hence earthly authority is set up and judged by spiritual, while spiritual authority is judged only by Cod.
The church’s authority flows from the fact that the pope is the successor of Peter and the vicar of Christ. The bull was little more than a sweeping statement in general terms of what had been asserted in detail by Innocent IV.
As was said above, the most thorough-going presentation of papal imperialism’s argument was contained in the De ecclesiastica potestate, which was written about the year 1302 by Egidius Colonna. The book claimed to present the papal case not as a legal argument but from the point of view of a philosophy uniting the newer Aristotelian-ism with the older Augustinian tradition, which made the state, under a Christian dispensation, necessarily Christian.
Indeed, Egidius showed in his earlier work what Professor Carlyle calls a curious and somewhat laughable contempt for the lawyers, which makes only the more striking the dependence of his theory upon the legalism that had become an essential part of the papal position. The book is decidedly repetitious and somewhat lacking informal organization, but its principles are clear.
The case is presented in three main divisions: the general argument for papal sovereignty, plenitude potestatis; the deductions from this principle relative to property and government; and answers to objections, especially those based on the secretarial of the popes themselves.
The similarity between the argument in the first part and the bull Unam sanctam is very close, extending even to forms of expression; since the book was probably written first, the intimacy between Boniface and its author must have been considerable.
The spiritual power vested in the pope, Egidius argues, is unique and supreme. This authority is inherent in the office and is therefore not dependent upon the personal qualities of the man who holds it. Spiritual authority has the power to set up temporal authority and judge it. All the older arguments, such as the Donation of Constantine, the translation of the empire, and the Scriptural texts and historical precedents, reappear in Egidius. Still, they do not form the kernel of his argument.
This depends on the intrinsic superiority of the spiritual and the argument that the higher everywhere governs and controls the lower by a law of nature. For order in nature depends upon such subordinating, and it cannot be supposed that there is less order in a Christian society than in nature generally.
As in the universe itself corporeal substance is ruled by spiritual-for the heavens themselves, which are the highest among corporeal beings and have control over all bodies, are ruled by spiritual substances as moving intelligence-so among Christians all temporal lords and all earthly power ought to be governed and ruled by spiritual and ecclesiastical authority, and especially by the pope, who holds the summit and the highest rank among spiritual powers and in the church.
The argument as Egidius develops it appears to be a conflation of St. Augustine with the Aristotelian doctrine of form and matter.
The second part of the treatise, in which the author applied his philosophy specifically to the questions in hand, sets forth his essential conclusions. The argument turns upon the conception of dominion, which includes the ownership and use of property and political authority. Now dominion is a means, and the authority of Aristotle is quoted to prove that the value and legitimacy of a means depend upon the end it serves.
The ownership of goods and the possession of political power are only good when they serve human ends, and the man ends are, in their highest form, spiritual ends. Unless a man subordinates his power and property to spiritual ends, such things are not goods for him, for they lead not to salvation but the damnation of his soul. But the church is the sole avenue of salvation, and from this, it follows that all dominion requires the sanctification of the church to be just and lawful.
It is an error to suppose that the inheritance of dominion is justified by carnal generation only; it is justified far more by the spiritual regeneration which comes through the church. There is no lawful ownership or use of the property and no lawful exercise of civil authority unless he has it subject to God, and he cannot be subject to God unless he is subject to the church.
It follows therefore that you ought to admit that you have your inheritance, and all your property, and all your possessions, rather from the Church and through the Church and because you are as on of the Church, than from your father after the flesh and through him and because you are his son.
Baptism and penitence for sin can alone make a man worthy of possessing goods and power, and an infidel can have no just claim to either, for his possession is mere usurpation. Excommunication annuls law, contracts, property rights, and marriage, in short, the whole legal machinery on which society depends. Despite Aristotelian terminology, the conclusion was a tremendous generalization from Augustine’s argument that a just state must necessarily be Christian. In its application, it was much less enlightened than Thomas’s opinion that infidelity is no bar for political power exercise.
In fact, Egidius’s use of Aristotelian-ism was superficial, a mere argument in the prevailing academic mode, with no such appreciation of secular government’s moral claims as Thomas showed. In substance, his book harked back to the theocratic tradition, which antedated both the revival of legal studies and the rediscovery of Aristotle.
The remainder of Egidius’s book was mainly devoted to explaining the intrinsic opposition between his own theory of universal papal sovereignty and the many admissions, in the secretarial and elsewhere, regarding the independence of the two powers.
He protests that he does not mean to deny that they are distinct or that, in general, they should be kept so in their exercise. The temporal power rights are not taken away but confirmed, for the church has no desire that the powers should be confounded. It does not supersede the temporal power but intervenes only for adequate cause and to preserve spiritual values.
But his protestations are less impressive-t# the enormous list of special cases in which he justifies capital intervention. The spiritual authority can intervene in any case where temporal goods or power are used to involve mortal sin. As Egidius remarks a little naively, this power is so broad and ample that it includes all temporal! Cases whatsoever.
Moreover, the church has a special! The jurisdiction in maintaining peace between rulers and securing treaties’ observance can intervene where rulers show negligence or where the civil law is ambiguous or insufficient. The whole list purports to enumerate special powers rather than powers to be ordinarily exercised. Still, clearly, the pope is competent to take jurisdiction in any case at his own discretion. He indeed ought not to act arbitrarily; he ought not to be without a bridle, but he must be trusted to bridle himself with the law.
Egidius concluded his book with a few chapters in which he tried to explain a little more definitely what is meant by the plenitude potestatis attributed to the pope. This sovereignty he defines as independent or self-motivating power; an agent has it when he can do without a cooperating cause anything that he can dc with one.
Egidius, in fact, knows only two such powers, God and the pope. The supremacy of the pope in spiritual matters is absolute under God. Substantially he is the church, in the sense that he can neither be removed nor held responsible and has ultimate authority over ecclesiastical law and the rest of the hierarchy. Thus Egidius asserts that he has full power to create bishops and could do so without any of the customary forms of election, though he is under obligation to retain the forms of law.
The argument, it will be observed, is substantially similar to that used in the sixteenth century to support monarchy by divine right, the divine right of a king is a replica, mutatis mutandis, of the divine right of the pope, But Egidius regards plenitudo potestatis as a property peculiar to papal authority.
When he wrote, the argument could not have been applied to a secular ruler who was in no sense the successor of St. Peter. But where the purpose was to defend the independence of kings from clerical interference, always an important part of the royalist argument, the secular power’s claim had to advance parallel to that for the pope. As John Neville Figgis held, the divine right of kings was an anomalous but intelligible use of theology to detach secular institutions from theology. But it was also an instrument ready to the hand of royalists when the political controversy was between kings and their subjects.
Roman Law and Royal Power:-
In the system advanced by Egidius, papal imperialism has reached its fullest form. The word imperialism may be used advisedly, for though the theory still depended upon the church’s claim to the power of spiritual discipline, its developed form also depended upon the emperor’s position in Roman law.
There was truth in Hobbes’s malicious description of the papacy as the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. As the sole principle upon which dominion can lawfully rest, Papa’s sovereignty has become the arbiter of private and public rights everywhere.
The Gelasian theory of the two independent powers has become merely a tradition to which conventional respect must be given but effectively means little or nothing. Assuming that spiritual authority was to be clothed in legal powers, no other conclusion could follow from the development of the forces Gregory VII had set in motion. The alternative was to deny that a spiritual force needs, or can have, a legal structure.
The spiritual must be restricted so far as possible to the duty of moral and religious instruction. The result in the end that civil government on its side becomes a secular institution purely. The beginnings of this process can also be traced to the French controversy at the fourteenth century’s opening.
With its conception of legal authority centralized in the emperor, Roman law was no less important for the argument on behalf of the king of France than for that on behalf of the pope. In the thirteenth century, there appeared the conception, wholly novel so far as the earlier medieval tradition is concerned, that law is dependent upon the prince’s enactment. This was almost certainly due to the study of Roman law.
Of course, the theory of the lawyers was that of the Digest: the emperor’s will has the force of law, though he derives this power from the act of the people which invests him with it. In the thirteenth century, there was a difference of opinion among lawyers on the question of whether this act had wholly divested the people of the power to make law, some holding that it had and others that a residual authority remained with the Roman people.
In any event, however, the conception had gained a footing among certain jurists. That law requires enactment and expresses the will of a chief magistrate, which imported a new element into a situation where the law had been regarded as a people’s custom. It also brought a distinction between governments in which law comes from the people and those in which it comes from a king, roughly the distinction between constitutional and absolute governments.
However, the power which Roman law imputed to the emperor was an anachronism so far as the empire of the thirteenth century was concerned, and the letter of the law had no application to kings and other actually independent powers. A long process of interpretation was required to detach the law from its literal reference to the emperor so that any ruler who was de facto independent could figure as a prince within the law’s meaning.
This step was essential in forming the conception of both independent political power, invested with the imperial attribute of sovereignty, and power mainly secular and legal in its nature. The latter idea’s formation required much time, and its completion belonged to the history rather of modern than of medieval states. Still, the controversy between the French king and the pope at the beginning of the fourteenth century had a critical part in Settling the national sovereignty of the French monarchy. Even the French clergy stood by the king in asserting France’s independence both from the papacy and the empire.
The legal formula which emerged about the middle of the fourteenth century was that the king has the same power in his kingdom that the emperor has in the empire. Rex in Regno suo est imperator regni sui. Philip required his sons to take an oath that they would never acknowledge a superior under God.
If the royalist literature is taken as a whole, legal studies’ influence upon the argument is obvious. Distinctions that had been vague are by way of being given greater precision. This is true particularly of the fundamental distinction between spirituals and temporal, which the lawyers attacked as essentially a problem of defining two jurisdictions’ limits. Certain classes of cases are allocated to the ecclesiastical courts; others belong whole to the secular courts, while there are still others in which both jurisdictions have an interest.
The clarifying of this legal question also tended to clarify the distinction between legal questions, in which the coercive power of the king could be invoked, and moral questions, which belong to the teaching of the church. On the whole, on the side of the royalist lawyers, the tendency was to define the spiritual authority as ethical or religious instruction and hence to divest it of coercive force, except as this was applied from the side of the secular power.
In other words, the tendency is in a direction that culminated a generation later in Marsilio’s conclusion that spiritual authority is merely the right to teach. This more limited conception of spiritual authority had an important application to the claims of papal absolutism within the church because all priests, or at least all bishops, could properly be regarded as equal in respect to the performance of purely spiritual duties and the power of the hierarchy could therefore be conceived as merely a convenient administrative arrangement.
The importance of property in the controversy tended to a similar result. From the point of view of the church’s spiritual duties, the control of the property was only a means. As the distinction between spirituals and temporal was sharpened, it was natural that the control of the property as such, even though it were devoted to ecclesiastical purposes, should fall within the king’s province. At the same time, this property analysis tended to clarify the distinction between a public right to control or tax property and a private right of ownership.
John of Paris:-
Of the many works written in defense of the king, probably none was more characteristic or historically more important than the De potestate regia et papal (1302-3) of John of Paris. The book is the more significant because its author was a Dominican, but he was also a Frenchman. John hardly undertook to present a systematic political philosophy; his book is more notable for its details than for its general structure. Though couched in general terms, it was written definitely with the events of the preceding half dozen years in mind.
Simultaneously, the Aristotelian-ism, which he shared with St. Thomas, was an important factor in determining his point of view and set him off quite clearly from the mock Aristotelian-ism of Egidius. For one thing, John felt no need, as a lawyer would do, to attach special preeminence to the empire. He argues in his opening chapters that the church requires universality but that political authority does not.
Civil society arises by an instinct, and men are diverse in their inclinations and interests. The natural political division is the province or kingdom. There is no need that these should be subordinated to a single head; indeed, he sometimes attributes a somewhat shadowy universal to the emperor! Authority, but he Is perfectly definite in asserting the independence of France.
The self-sufficing community he adopts from Aristotle is for him the kingdom, and he sees no difficulty in admitting as many such autonomous units as there actually are. In the second place, and perhaps most important, John’s Aristotelianism enables him to refute the view of Egidius that secular power requires the sanctification of the church to be legitimate. Secular power is older in time than true priesthood and not derivative from it.
Moreover, it is false to regard secular power as corporeal only in its nature. As St. Thomas had done, he adopts from Aristotle the view that civil government is necessary for itself to a good life and is therefore justified by its ethical benefits even apart from its sanction by Christianity.
Hence it is a misuse of the Aristotelian rule that the higher controls, the lower to argue that the spiritual in all respects is higher than the temporal. He does not, of course, regard this as denying the greater intrinsic worth of spiritual authority. But he uses the naturalness of secular government to support the traditional defense of the independence of temporal.
John wrote as he states in his preface, especially to solve the problem of ecclesiastical property and to mark out a middle course between two opposed errors. He says those who assert that the clergy should have no property at all, and he calls these Waldensians. Some argue that priests’ spiritual power gives them indirect control of overall property and all secular power.
The latter error he identifies with Herod, who thought that the kingdom of Christ was of this world. Still, his argument is obviously aimed at the extreme partisans of papal imperialism like Egidius. John’s book was written against the second error. His middle position consists of arguing that it is lawful for the clergy to have a property to do their spiritual work but that the legal control of property vests in the secular authority.
It is totally false to argue that, because the property is needed for spiritual purposes, spiritual authority extends to indirect control over the property. With this general position, John unites several interesting and important supplementary points. He denies that the ownership of ecclesiastical property vests in the pope; it belongs to no individual but the community as a corporate body. The pope’s control of it is that of an executive (dispensator).
The pope can be held responsible for misuse of the church’s property. Second, she clarifies the case of secular rulers between ownership, which in the case of laymen vests in individuals, and the political or public regulation of the property’s uses that the ruler has as the head of civil society. The king is to respect the rights of private property, regulating it only as public need directs.
In the same spirit of clarifying issues, John deals with the distinction of spirituals and temporal. The argument still depends, as did the earlier defense of the empire against Gregory, upon the two authorities’ separateness, each derived directly from God. But John covers the whole argument systematically. He distinguishes forty-two reasons which have been assigned for the subordination of secular to spiritual authority and refutes them one by one.
What is more important, he analyzes the spiritual authority inherent in priests and inquires what control, if any, this implies over temporal goods and secular power. The consecration and administration of the sacraments and the right to preach and teach he finds to be purely spiritual, requiring no material means.
The clerical right of judging and correcting evil-doers is the main source of confusion. Here, he finds that the spiritual authority extends only to ex-communication, which has intrinsically no material consequences. Coercion belongs to the secular arm. Excommunication, as applied, for instance, to a heretical ruler, may lead his people to refuse obedience, but this is incidental and implies no right in the spiritual power to coerce rulers.
John points out that a protest by secular authorities against abuse in the church may have similar incidental effects in bringing a pope to terms. In law, a pope’s right to depose a king is no greater than that of a king to depose a pope. Both can protest, and the protest may have weight; both may: lawfully be deposed, but only by the properly constituted authority that elects them.
The remaining two powers implied by the spiritual authority-that of regulating the clergy and owning the property required for spiritual uses-imply no power over the secular authority. Coming from a churchman, this precise analysis and, in effect, limitation of the church’s spiritual authority is very striking.
John’s general argument on the relation between the two powers is supplemented by his treatment of the relation between the pope and the king of France. This part of his case was largely historical, and because it turned upon the Donation of Constantine, it also involved the relation of France to the empire. His purpose was to show no ground for holding the king of France subject to the pope, whatever the relations between the papacy and the empire. The conclusion is somewhat complicated because he seemingly set himself to pulverize the Donation. He first shows, on historical ground, that it was in any case, applies only to certain parts of Italy.
He then attacked its legal validity because the emperor could not lawfully have alienated part of the empire. He argued that, even if these points were waived, it could not have applied to France because the Franks had never been subject to the empire. And finally, even if they had been, they might well have gained their independence by prescription. There could hardly be a greater contrast than between John’s treatment of the empire and Dante’s fanciful idealization.
He says that it was always filled with disorder and corruption; it had usurped its power from earlier peoples; why, then, should not later peoples make good a claim to independence against it? For Frenchmen, at least the empire had ceased to possess a mythical charm.
The concluding chapters of John’s book deal with the powers of the pope from another angle. By implication, what he does, though not in set terms, is to deny the papal claim to a unique type of authority, a plenitude potestatis, in the church completely. The pope’s primacy was treated as mainly a matter of administrative organization since, in spiritual authority, all bishops are equal. To be sure, the papal office is unique and is from God, but the choice of an incumbent requires human cooperation.
This formed the weakest point in Egidius’s argument, for seemingly in the interval when a papal election was taking place, the papal power must reside somewhere, and there seemed no good reason why, if a pope could be invested with it, he might not also be divested of it by some legal process. John argues accordingly that a pope may resign and also may be deposed for incorrigible misconduct.
Following the line already marked out by his ecclesiastical property treatment, he regards the spiritual authority as residing in the church itself as a corporation. He has no doubt whatever that a General Council can depose a pope, and he states it as his own opinion that the College of Cardinals can lawfully do it. He conceives the College as standing in the same relation to the pope as the estates’ feudal parliaments to the king.
Certainly it would be the best government for the church it, under one pope, representatives were chosen by and from each province, so that in the government of the church all should have their share.
Accordingly, he justifies resistance to the pope on the same general principles that many medieval writers used to justify resistance to a king. No legal process will indeed run against the pope, but if he causes rebellion and cannot be persuaded to stop,
I think that in this case the church ought to be moved to act against the pope; the prince may repel the violence of the papal sword with his own sword, within measure, and in so doing he would not be acting against the pope but against his enemy and the enemy of society.
These passages show how repugnant, even to churchmen, the claim of papal sovereignty was. They point very clearly to the effort, abortive to be sure, which the Great Schism produced to constitutionalize the church’s government on the lines of a medieval system of representation.
John has little to say, except incidentally, about the organization of the secular state. In general, he envisages government under the form of the medieval constitutional monarchy. Thus: he denies that the pope deposed the Merovingians and put Pippin in their place; the barons’ election chose pippin. In all temporal matters, it is the barons who check or discipline the king. Here again, John brings Aristotle to his aid by identifying constitutional monarchy with the polity, which is a mixture of democracy and aristocracy: It was, of course, the fact that medieval constitutionalism was taking form everywhere when John wrote.
The first meeting of the States-General was held in France in 1302. Similar representative bodies composed of the estates of the realm had been held in the course of the thirteenth century in England, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Therefore, the political views represented by John were characteristic of his age, much more characteristic than the tendency toward absolutism represented by Egidius or some of the civilians.
Without presenting a systematic political theory, John of Paris’s work was highly significant both for its own time and for the future. A Frenchman and a cleric, he made a strong case on both historical and legal grounds for the French monarchy’s independence. He drew a clear distinction between property ownership, whether by the church or by lay individuals, and the political control of it by the king or this church’s ministration by the pope.
He restated the argument for the independence of spiritual and secular authority, supplementing it with a penetrating analysis of spiritual power’s nature and purposes. Overall, this analysis leans toward the view that spiritual authority is not properly a legal power at all. It either does not require coercion or if it does, this must be sought from the side of the secular arm. The moral and religious character of the spiritual is strongly stressed.
Substantially, his argument is a protest against the invasion of religion by law and against investing the pope with a sovereign power modeled on the emperor’s legal position. And finally, he suggests, as against the pope’s absolutism, the advisability of tempering monarchy with representation. In every case, these arguments had an important part in the political discussion of the future; compared with the argument of Egidius, John’s position is a striking example of the secularizing and rationalizing influence that Aristotle had already exerted, even within the limits of thought undoubtedly orthodox.
The controversy between Boniface and Philip was of great importance in the development of political theory. It produced a clear, cut claim to unique, sovereign power, vested in the pope and exercised directly in the church and indirectly as between the pope and secular rulers. It defended this claim upon the principle of divine right. This claim’s appearance, a theological offshoot of legalism, was the signal for a concerted attack upon it. Even in the French controversy, this attack began to develop on two main lines.
The objection was made to papal sovereignty on the presumption that it was a case of clerical pretension, peculiar to ecclesiastical power, and hence to be met by hedging it into a proper moral and religious exercise. On the other hand, the objection was made to sovereign power as such, on the ground that it was intrinsically tyrannous wherever it existed and needed to be tempered and limited by representation and consent.
The first of these two objections, that of hedging in the spiritual power and setting it apart from secular powers, was carried forward by William of Occam and reached almost logical completeness in Marsilio of Padua. The case for representation as an intrinsic part of all good government was first elaborately stated in the conciliar theory of church government.