Thursday, 29 November 2012

Libertas Ecclesiae

Pope Gregory VII's concept of the Freedom of the Church [Libertas ecclesiae]

Papal Bull Document Title:Libertas Ecclesiae
Author: Pope Gregory VII
Date: 1079
Source: Ephraim Emerton, trans., The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII
(NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1932).
We hold it to be far nobler to fight for a long time for freedom of the Holy Church
than to sink into a miserable and devilish servitude. For the wretched fight as limbs of
the devil, and are crushed down into miserable slavery to him. The members of Christ,
on the other hand, fight to bring back those same wretches into Christian freedom.
Church Liberty was the central slogan of the reform of Pope Gregory VII, and a "key concept" of the Investiture Controversy. Liberty of the Church meant freedom of the Church from oppression by temporal authority and meant especially for Gregory VII:
  • that the Church was free from interference by lay people to elect [invest] their bishops;
  • that the whole Church was de facto and also where necessary under the direct leadership of the Pope;
  • and that the Pope in the whole Christendom ("christianitas") had the highest power.
If Becket fought for anything in particular, he fought for Libertas Ecclesiae --Freedom of the Church from state interference or intervention, church immunity from secular control and jurisdiction, emancipation of the Church from secular authority. John of Salisbury was also a champion for the Freedom of the Church.

Zachary N. Brooke. The English Church and the Papacy: From the Conquest to the Reign of John. Cambridge University Press.  p. 10. ISBN 978-0-521-36687-8.
Further what I suggested to be the meaning of ecclesia Anglicana as used by Becket. Becket insists that the liberty of the ecclesia Anglicana is at stake, and by liberty he makes it clear that he means freedom from royal control, and at the same time freedom to obey the pope, to be governed by papal authority as was the rest of the Church. He is evidently asserting the right of the Church in England to be treated in the same way that the Church is elsewhere.

Canonical authority for Libertas Ecclesiae
Luke 20:25 (King James Version (KJV)
And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.

In more practical terms the liberty of the church meant, that is included, liberty to proceed to give elections of bishops when their sees fell vacant, so as to put an end to the exploitation of the Church's wealth by the kings.


Encyclopaedia Britannica links

R. H. Helmholz (2010). The Spirit of Classical Canon Law. University of Georgia Press. pp. 61–. ISBN 978-0-8203-3463-9.

Philippe Buc (2015). Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 59–. ISBN 978-0-8122-4685-8.

Gerd TellenbachLibertas: Kirche und Weltordnung im Zeitalter des Investiturstreites. Stuttgart 1936

Klaus Schatz (1996). Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present. Liturgical Press. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-0-8146-5522-1.

Noel B. Reynolds; W. Cole Durham, Jr. (1 June 1996). Religious Liberty in Western Thought. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-0-8028-4853-6.

Oestereich, Thomas. "Pope St. Gregory VII." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 29 Nov. 2012 <>.

Bryan P. Stone (30 August 2012). A Reader in Ecclesiology. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-1-4094-2855-8.

Select historical documents of the Middle Ages (1903)
Translated and edited by Ernest F. Henderson

M Wejwoda - 2000 -
Auto-translated: Google Translate -

The Liberty of the Church and the Road to Runnymede: John of Salisbury and the Intellectual Foundations of the Magna Carta
Cary J. Nederman
PS: Political Science and Politics
Vol. 43, No. 3 (July 2010), pp. 456-461
Published by: American Political Science Association
Stable URL:

Johannes (Sarisberiensis) (26 October 1990). John of Salisbury: Policraticus. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-36701-1

A Companion to John of Salisbury. BRILL. 28 November 2014. pp. 87–. ISBN 978-90-04-28294-0.

J. C. Holt (28 May 2015). Magna Carta. Cambridge University Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-1-316-24110-3.

Natalie Fryde (2001). Why Magna Carta?: Angevin England Revisited. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 978-3-8258-5657-1.

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