The Temporal Power of the Supreme Pontiff

Chapter VIII

Now we come to examples. The first is from the Second Book of Chronicles, chapter 26, where we read that the King Ozias, when he usurped the office of Priests, was ejected from the Temple by the High Priest: and when he was stricken by God with leprosy he was also forced to depart from the city and renounce his kingdom in favor of his son. That he was deprived of his city and the administration of his kingdom, not by his choice but by the sentence of a Priest is clear; for we read (in Leviticus XIII): “Whoever,” declares the Law, “is disfigured by leprosy and separated by the decision of a priest must live alone outside the camp.” Since, therefore, this was the law in Israel, and at the same time we read in the Second Book of Chronicles, Chapter XXVI, that the king dwelt outside the city in an isolated house, while his son in the city judged the people of the land, we are compelled to say that he was exiled by the decision of the Priest and thereby deprived of his authority to rule. If, therefore, because of bodily leprosy, a priest, formerly, could judge a king and deprive him of a kingdom, why could a priest not do the same because of spiritual leprosy, that is, because of heresy which was prefigured by leprosy, as Augustine teaches (in quest. Evang. lib II, quest. 40), especially since Paul says in I Corinthians, X, that all things happened to the Jews by way of prefigurement.

A second example is found in the Second Book of Chronicles, where, when Athalia tyrranically took over the kingdom and fostered the cult of Baal, the High Priest Joiada called centurions and soldiers and ordered them to kill Athalia, which they did, and crowned Joas king in place of her: that, however, the High Priest did not persuade to but ordered the action is clear from the Fourth Book of Kings, chapter 11, “And the centurions (or captains) did everything that the Priest Jehoiada commanded them.” Likewise, from the language of the Second Book of Chronicles, XXIII: “Jehoiada the High Priest went out to the captains and chiefs of the army, and said to them: ‘Lead her (Athalia the Queen) beyond the precincts of the Temple and let her be killed outside by a sword.'” That the reason for the deposition and slaying of Athalia was not simply her tyrrany but also because she fostered the cult of Baal, is clear from those words which follow upon the description of her death: “And all the people went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed its altars and images, and they slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars.” (II Chronicles, 23: 17-18)

The third example is of Blessed Ambrose who, when he was Bishop of Mediolanensis (Milan), was therefore the Pastor and Spiritual Father of the Emperor Theodosius who ordinarily held court at Mediolanensis (Milan); he first excommunicated him because of the execution he had ordered to be done by his soldiers at Thessalonica; then he ordered that he pass a law that sentences issued for execution or the confiscation of goods, could not be ratified until thirty days after the sentences had been announced, in order, precisely, that, if anything had been rashly dictated by anger, it would be revoked within that number of days. Theodoretus writes this (lib. hist. V, chap. 17) but Ambrose could not have excommunicated Theodosius on account of the executions unless he had first known about and judged the case, even though it was criminal and pertained to public justice. He could not have known and judged a case of this kind unless he was a legitimate judge of Theodosius “in foro externo” (in a public tribunal) [as opposed to “in fore interno,” the strictly secret forum of Confession].

Moreover, to order the Emperor to institute a law of the state and to prescribe its form– does this not clearly show that a bishop can sometimes use temporal power even over those who themselves have received power over others? And if any bishop can do that, how much more cannot the Head Bishop?

A fourth example is found in the privilege of Gregory I, which he granted to the monastery of St. Medard, and is found at the end of his letter: “If any king, priest, judge or representative of secular personages should violate decrees of our issuance or any of our precepts, of whatever dignity or venerability he is, let him be deprived of his honor.”

A fifth example relates to Gregory the Second who forbade the Emperor, Leo the Image-maker, from receiving the payment of taxes from Italians and thus deprived him of part of his imperial power. The Centuries of Magdeburg, VIII, cap. 10, acknowledge this in the life of Gregory the Second but reprehend him and say that he was a traitor to his own father-land; but they adduce no writer who decries this deed of Gregory, while, on the contrary, we have many who have praised him as holy and justified, namely, Cedrenus, Zonara, in the life of Leo the Isaurian, and all other historians who have written about the events of these times.

A sixth example is of Zachary, who, when requested by leading Franks, deposed Childericus, and, in his place, ordered that Pipin, the father of Charles the Great, be made king. The cause for all this was that, because of the inactivity of Childericus, extreme disaster seemed to be imminent for both religion and the kingdom in Gaul, as is clear from Cedrenus in the life of Leo the Isaurian (Paulo Diacono, lib. VI, cap. 5, de gest. Longobard. et S. Bonafacio Episcopo Muguntino in epist. ad Zachar).

Heretics also acknowledge the fact and find it reprehensible, as the Centuries of Magdeburg, in VIII, cap. 10, where they say that the Pope had boldly exercised power that was quasi divine. But they could not find a critic among the ancient writers: we, however, have a great many who approve, namely, Ado, Sigebert, Rhegino in the Chronicles, but on this topic we have written much in Contra Calvinum, in lib. II, cap. 17.

A seventh example is provided by Leo the Third, who transferred the imperial rule from the Greeks to the Germans because the Greeks could bring no help to the struggling Western Church. From which it developed that, although the imperial dignity, considered absolutely, is not from the Pontiff but from God, by means of the law of nations, as we have shown above from Gelasius, Nicholas, and Innocent the Third, nevertheless, the Emperors who date from the time of Charles the Great, owe their imperial rule to the Pontiff.

The fact that this power is now among the Germans is due to the Pontiff: and although it would not be absolutely necessary that the Pope confirm the Emperor, nor that the Emperor make an oath of fidelity to the Pontiff, nevertheless, from the time of the transfer of the Imperial Rule to the Germans, both are requirements, as is clear from Innocent the Third (cap. Venerabilem, extra de elect.) and from the unique Clementine declaration “de jurejurando,” nor is this unjustly required. For he who could transfer the imperial rule to the Germans for the sake of the welfare of the Church, could also establish certain conditions, for the same reason, lest, namely, it should happen that a heretic or schismatic be installed.

The adversaries make a double reply to this example: for some deny that it was rightly done, that the Pontiff transfer the Imperial Rule from the Greeks to the Germans, and among these are the Magdeburgs who say (Cent. VIII, cap. 10, col. 751): “This transfer is a principal one of the miracles of Antichrist.” Also Theodore Bibliander (tabula 10 suae Chronol.) says that Leo the Third, by a usurped authority, transferred the Imperium from the Greeks to the Romans. Others, however, that it was done by right but that the author of the transfer was not the Pontiff but the Roman people. Thus, Marsilius of Padua, as Pighius relates (lib. V Hierarch. Eccles., cap. 14).

To these first I reply: That this transfer was rightly and legitimately made is manifestly clear. First, by the agreement of the entire Christian world; for all Christians held Charlemagne and his successors as true Emperors; nor was there, at any time, any Christian king who wished to take precedence over the Emperor, even though some of them preceded him in power and in the age of their kingdom. The Lutherans are the first who, as they had despoiled the people of their Faith and religion, now struggle to bring down the Emperor from his throne. Secondly, (we argue) from the happy results of this transfer: in order that God might show that the transfer was rightly made, He adorned Charles with many victories and made his kingdom most flourishing and most beneficial to the Church. Thirdly, from the acknowledgement of the Greek Emperors, who more than once confessed that the Roman Pontiff could rightly do what he did. For, in the first place, when the Empress Irene heard that Charles had been called Emperor by the Pope, she not only did not decry it but even wished to marry Charles and would have done so, except that some untrustworthy eunuchs blocked it, as Zonares and Cedrenus write in the life of the same Irene.

Then, after the death of Irene, the Emperor Nicephorus, who succeeded her, sent Legates to Charles as the Emperor, as Ado writes in the Chronicles of the year 803, and, a little later, after the death of Nicephorus, Michael who succeeded him likewise sent Delegates to Charles, who openly saluted him as Emperor: as Ado writes in the Chronicles of the year 810. Not only the Greeks but also the Persians sent Legates and gifts to the recently created Emperor Charles: as Rhegino (lib. II) and Otto Frisingensis (lib. V cap. 31) and again (as Blondus writes, lib. V Decadis 2. and Platina, in the life of Alexander III) Emperor Emmanuel of the Greeks, when he heard that the Pontiff Alexander the Third had been reduced to extreme straits by the Emperor Frederick, offered to the same Pontiff help and a massive amount of money if he wished to return the Empire of the West to the Emperors of Constantinople: but the Pontiff replied that he did not want to reunite what his predecessors had, designedly and for the best of reasons, divided. Where, it should be noted that Emmanuel did not want anything else from the Pontiff than the title of Emperor: for he knew that possession itself could not be given by the Pontiff but had to be acquired by arms; he would not have wished to buy a mere title at so great a price if he had believed it to be empty and even false and illegitimate.

It is easy to reply to others who say that the author of the transfer was not the Pontiff but the People of Rome; for, in the first place, the Roman people hardly ever had the power of creating an Emperor; rather, the ancient Emperors, either by hereditary right held the imperium, like Octavius, Tiberius, Caius, or were created by the army, as were created Claudius, Vespasian, and others. And that the ordinary custom was that the Emperor was created by the army, Blessed Jerome testifies in a letter “ad Evagr.” Whence derives the canon “Legimus, dist. 93.” At the time of Charlemagne, there was no Roman army that could have made him Emperor; for there were in Italy only armies of the Greeks and the Lombards, and all of them were hostile to Charles; nor by hereditary title did Charles have the Imperium, as is clear.

Therefore, if the people of Rome had any authority in choosing an Emperor, they had certainly lost it when the seat of the Empire was transferred to Constantinople: for, subsequently, for about 500 years, that is, from Constantine the Great right up to Charlemagne, the Senate and People of Rome did nothing to create Emperors.

Moreover, all authors who write on this matter, like Zonaras and Cedrinus, on the life of Irene, Paul the Deacon (lib. XXIII. rer. Rom.), Ado (in Chron. anni 800), Albertus Krantzius (in Metropoli, lib. I. cap. 14), Otho Frisingensis (lib. V cap. 31), Marianus Scotus, Hermanus Contractus, Lambertus, Sigibertus, Rhegino, Palmerius, Blondus, and all other chronologists and historians affirm that Leo the Third transferred the Empire from the Greeks to the Franks or the Germans. Innocent the Third teaches the same (cap. Venerabilem, de elect.): “Right and power of this kind came to those from the Apostolic See which transferred the Roman Empire from the Greeks to the Germans, in the person of Charlemagne.” And, in the same place, he adds that the German Princes openly recognized it. Charlemagne himself recognized, in a not obscure way, the same thing, when a will written by him, by which he left his sons as heirs of the Empire, he sent to Pope Leo, that he might confirm it by his signature, as Ado records (in Chron. anni 804). Finally, the same is manifest from the Confession of Emmanuel, the Greek Emperor, as was noted above.

An eigth example is of Gregory V, who issued a sanction concerning the election of an Emperor by seven German princes, which is observed up to this day. That this is so, besides Blondus (Decade 2. lib. III), Nauclerus (generat. 34.) Platina (in the life of Gregory V), and many other historians, the Centuries of Magdeburg also (X. cap. 10, col. 546) assert in these words: “Gregory, to adorn his fatherland with a certain outstanding dignity, sanctioned that the right would be in the possession of only Germans of choosing a King who, after receiving the crown from the Roman Pontiff would be called Emperor and Augustus. And Electors have been established: the Archbishops of Cologne, Trier, and Moguntinus, the ‘Comes’ (‘Associate’?) of the Rhine Palatinate, the Duke of Saxony, the March of Brandenburg, and the King of Bohemia.” Whether, however, he did it by right, they do not find. But if they want it to be done by right, they are forced to confess that the Pontiff is superior to the Emperor and all rulers, as is manifest: if, indeed, they should like to say that it was not legitimately but tyrranically done, they would injure their patrons and protectors, namely, the Duke of Saxony, the Palatine Comes (Associate), and the Marchio of Brandenburg. For what do they have that is more prized than the right to elect. But they do not have this legitimately if the one who gave it to them could not give it: that the Pontiff, however, gave it is beyond question.

It should be noted here, however, the Onuphrius (in lib. de Comit. Imperat.) has, contrary to the common historical opinion, written that the confirmation of the election of the Emperor was granted not by Gregory the Fifth but by Gregory the Tenth; which, even if it does not detract from the point we are making, I nevertheless think is not true. For Innocent the Third, who held the See seventy years before Gregory the Tenth, (in illo cap. Venerabilem, de elect.) indicates that, long before, the right of choosing an Emperor was granted to certain Princes of Germany: and Henry of Ostia who also flourished long before the time of Gregory the Tenth (in Comm. hujus cap.) says that Innocent speaks of seven Electors, and Pelagius Alvarus, who lived a little after the times of Gregory the Tenth, to such an extent that whatever Gregory the Tenth did became part of his memory; nevertheless, (lib. 1. art 41. de planctu Ecclesiae [“the Lament of the Church]) states that the election of the Emperor, which is now in use, was instituted by Gregory the Fifth, and he there enumerates the seven Electors which we have named above.

A ninth example is of Gregory the Seventh, who deposed the Emperor Henry the Fourth and ordered that another be chosen, as also the Magdeburgians confess (Cent. XI. cap. 10. in vita Gregorii VII) that this was rightly done, and with the approval and applause of all men, as we have shown above in the book, where we exhonorated the Pontiffs from certain calumnies of the Heretics.

A tenth example is of Innocent the Third who likewise deposed Otto the Fourth, as is clear from Blondus (Decade 2. lib. VI).

An eleventh example is of Innocent the Fourth who, at the General Council of Lyons, with the universal consent of the Fathers, deposed Frederick the Second and then left the imperial throne empty for 28 years, as Matthew Palmerius (in Chron.) noted. Still extant is the entire sentence pronounced against Frederick (cap. ad Apostolicae, de sent. et re judic. in 6). The same Innocent the Fourth gave a certain coadjutor to the King of Portugal, who might administer the kingdom, whenever, because of the neglect of the King, both the state and religion suffered harm. This is recorded (cap. Grandi, de suppl. neglig. Prelat, in 6).

A twelfth example is of Clement the Sixth who deposed the Emperor Louis the Fourth who had been excommunicated by John the Twenty Second and Benedict the Twelfth. For the history of this, see Pighius (lib. V. hierarch. Eccles. cap. 14 et 15, in Robertum Arboricensem, tom. 2, theorem 7. de utroque gladio).

The arguments of adversaries have been partly solved in II. lib. de Pontifice and partly they cannot be solved from their statements. See John of Turrecremata (lib. II. Sum. cap. ult. et penult.) and Albert Pighius, lib. V. cap. 15), who solve some trivial and easy arguments.