The Temporal Power of the Supreme Pontiff

Chapter X

Objections remain to be solved. First Calvin objects (lib. IV Inst. cap. 11, 8, from that verse of Matthew XX, 25-26): “You know how those who exercise authority among the Gentiles lord it over them….It cannot be like that with you.” “This signifies,” says Calvin, “that the office of Pastor is not only distinct from the office of a Prince, but the two are things too greatly separate to be combined in one man.” And since Calvin recognizes that the example of Moses can be presented as an objection, he adds: “Now that Moses bore both at the same time, first, that was accomplished by an unusual miracle; then, too, it was temporary, until the situation could be better arranged. When, thereafter, a certain form is prescribed by God, the civil governance is left to him, the priesthood he is ordered to renounce in favor of his brother, and deservedly; for it is beyond nature for one man to be capable of both burderns.”

I reply in two ways: First, that the Lord is here [on the occasion of his remarks in Matthew XX, 25-26] only instituting Heads of the Church, and that these ought to supervise their subjects, not after the manner of Kings and Masters, but in the manner of Fathers and Pastors; from this, however, it does not follow that one and the same person cannot be both Bishop and Prince.

The example of Moses, which Calvin tries to evade, is altogether convincing. For what he says, that it was accomplished by a rare miracle is manifestly false, as the examples already given show: those of Melchisedeck, Heli, Judas Maccabeus, and others. That he also remarks that the performance lasted only until the time when Aaron was consecrated, Augustine shows to be false (q. 23 in Levit.) where he says that Moses and Aaron were both High Priests at the same time; and it was shown by the fact that Moses deposed Aaron as High Priest and consecrated in his place Eleasar, the son of Aaron, as is related in Numbers, XX. And if, after the ordination of Aaron, it was impossible to combine a princely and a priestly role in one person, how was it that Heli was both priest and prince for 40 years? How was it that the Macabees could be both for more than a hundred years?

I say secondly: the Lord, in the words quoted, does not prohibit the kind of domination that can be found in devout Kings and Princes, but only the kind that is characteristic of kings and princes who are ignorant of God, who often are more tyrants than kings: this is clear from a characteristic of the Greek words. For Matthew does not say: ‘kurieuousen auton,’ that is, that they ‘simply rule’, but, rather, “katakurieuousin,” that is, “they violently dominate.” As in I Peter, V, 3: “Be examples to the flock, not lording it over them,” where the Greek is “und hos katakurieuontes ton kleron.” And, in Josuah XV, 16, we read: “Caleb said, ‘I will give my daughter Achsah in marriage to the one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it,'” where in Greek it is “kai katakurieusei autes,” that is ‘and dominates it’ etc. But, on the other hand, we see that in 2 Peter, 2, and in the Epistle of Jude, we see heretics reprehended because they condemn their rulers (“kurioteta”).

Secondly, he presents in the same writing that passage of Luke XII, 14: “Friend, who has set me up as your judge or arbiter?” The Lord rejects the task of judging as incompatible with the duty of the Preacher and Minister of the Word; as, also, the Apostles, in Acts VI, 2: “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve table. But one who is Prince cannot reject such [temporal] tasks. (Sic Calvin)

With regard to the words of the Lord, the response can be made: that the Lord, so long as He lived in this world, undertook the office of Priest, not of a temporal Prince, and, by the words cited, warned simple Pontiffs not to be involved in outside affairs. But it can be better stated that, in both positions, Pontiffs and Princes are admonished lest they become so occupied with minute and unworthy tasks that they are forced to neglect greater duties. In this connection, Jethro, when he says Moses presiding and judging through the whole day (in Exodus XVIII) wisely advised him, not that he divest himself of the political role and keep only the ecclesiastical, but that he establish minor judges, who might satisfy the people in lesser matters and refer to him the more important matters, both political and ecclesiastical. Thus, also, Blessed Bernard, having cited the very same words of the Lord (lib. I de Consider.), exhorts the Pontiff to assign the judging of temporal matters to others, even though he knew that at that time he was also a temporal prince.

So, finally, the Apostles omitted the care of serving tables, in order that they might also preside over the temporal affairs of that entire Church. Whence, in Galatians II, Peter, James, and John, concerned about their brethren who were in Jerusalem, ask Paul and Barnabas to collect some alms and to send it to Jerusalem. They, indeed, did that and delivered the money they collected, not to the deacons who presided over meals, but to the elders, as is recorded in Acts XI.

Calvin objects thirdly (ibid., 11) to the words of Blessed Bernard (lib. II de Consider.): “Dominion is forbidden to the Apostles: therefore, you dare to usurp for yourself either the role of one dominating the Apostolate or the role of the Apostolate dominated. The apostolate is of such a kind that if dominance is forbidden, so also is ministry.” [Trans. note: The translation of this quote from St. Bernard is only a best guess; his Latin is “elliptical”!]

I reply: Bernard is speaking of the Pontiff in his capacity as Pontiff of the universal Church, and in accordance with what he has by the institution of Christ: for, a little before this, he had said: [Trans. note: Again this is just a best guess!] “So be it, that, for whatever possible reason you make the claim, but not by Apostolic right, nor did he give to you what he did not have, or could do.” Therefore, Bernard wants that the Pope, as Pastor of the sheep, should not dominate them but feed them: and, nevertheless, as a political prince he has dominance over the same sheep in their status as citizens of a principality; so the Pontiff can, for the same reason, have dominion over the same persons if he is their political Prince.

Fourthly, he presents as an objection (ibid. 14) the words of Blessed Gregory, who (lib. IV, epist. 44) pronounces an anathema on a Bishop who orders that a title be posted on any field, in the manner of a notice of taxation.

I reply; there is nothing to be marvelled at, that Gregory did not want the Bishops nor even those in charge of the Church’s patrimony, to make use of a fiscal practice in recovering fields for the Church; for the Church did not yet have a political principality, but possessed temporal goods in the same way that private citizens possess them. Therefore, it was equitable if the fields which the Church thought belonged to it but had perhaps been occupied by others, it now sought to recover by a legitimate judgment, not however, to regain them by fiscal means or by its own authority.

Others present as an objection the statement in II Timothy, 2, 4: “No one fighting for God becomes entangled in the affairs of civilian life,” which words are said to a Bishop. But a Prince cannot help becoming entangled in secular affairs.

I reply: a political regime is not referred to here by the phrase, “the affairs of civilian life,” but rather concern with making a living and, therefore, business transactions, merchandizing, and the like. For, the Greek is, “tou Biou pragmateiais,” i.e., “in life-transactions” or “in making a living.” In which citation, moreover, it should also be noted that the word , “God”, is not found in the Greek version nor in any of the Latin codices, but more generally, “oudeis strateuomenos empleketai tou Biou pragmateiais”. And the meaning is, “I have said that you should labor as a good soldier of Christ.” Moreover, a good soldier is not solicitous about a livelihood or the care of his body, but eats and drinks when he can and however he can, he sleeps on the ground and is clothed more with armament than with clothes. Therefore, the Apostle is here not forbidding a political regime but rather too much concern about bodily life: and, as Chrysostom properly advises, these are spoken by Paul to a Bishop as well as to other men: for all, even the laity, even kings, ought to be soldiers of Christ.

Sixthly, he [Calvin] presents, by way of objection, the words of Nicholas the First (epist. ad Michael.) where he says there were before the time of Christ men who were, at the same time, both Kings and High Priests; but Christ, true King and High Priest, separated the two offices: “When we arrived at the truth, an Emperor no longer grasped for himself the rights of a Pontiff, nor did the Pontiff usurp the imperial title etc..”

I reply: Nicholas did not wish to deny that any temporal dominion was appropriate to a Pontiff, because he was, at the same time, Pontiff and the political head of Rome and of Ravenna, and of other cities which his predecessors had received from Emperors: but he only wanted to say that it is not suitable for the same one to be Pontiff of the whole world and the Emperor of the whole world; not that this is repugnant to the Gospel, and not that it could not happen, but because Christ wanted, for the sake of preserving humility, that the Pontiff should need the Emperor for defense of temporal arrangements, and, at the same time, that the Emperor should need the guidance of the Pontiff in spiritual matters.