Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Two Swords


Quotes from
A history of mediæval political theory in the West, R. W. Carlyle and A. J. Carlyle
(1903, Blackwood, Edinburgh and London)
Volume 4, Chapter IV, pp. 40-
The Relative Dignity of the Temporal and Spiritual Powers


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Enough has been said to make it elear that, while probably every one in the tenth and eleventh centuries would have recognised certain general principles as determining the relative position of the two great authorities, the actual demarcation of the exact sphere of each authority was some- what uncertain and fluctuating. The secular authority had its ecclesiastical responsibilities, and the ecclesiastical its political, while in the direction and control of many ecclesi- astical matters the Christian people, the laity, had an un- determined but real place.



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We can find phrases which assert very emphatically the superior dignity of the Spiritual as compared with the Temporal power.
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[in the tenth century] Ratherius of Verona, in his writings we find the confident expression of his conviction of the superiority of his office [as Bishop of Verona] and position to that of the king.
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in a treatise ascribed to Pope Silvester II. (Gerbert), he urges bishops to remember that no dignity can be compared with theirs, that the crowns of kings are in comparison with the mitres of bishops as lead compared to gold, and that kings and princes bow their necks to the priest and reverence his decrees.
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when attending the court of the Emperor Henry III., he asked that he should be provided with a seat, for it was not seemly that one who had been anointed with the holy chrism should not receive due respect. The Emperor said that he also had received his authority with the anointing of the holy oil, but Wazo replied that this unction which he had received was very different from that of the priest, and greatly inferior, for it was the sign of the power of death, while that of the priest was the sign of the power of life.
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When, however, we have recognised how emphatic, even in those times, was the claim that the Spiritual power was superior in dignity to the Temporal, we must be careful to observe that this did not at all mean that the ecclesiastical person was not subject to the secular in secular matters. The greater clergy, that is the bishops and abbots of the greater monasteries, were by the end of the tenth century, in almost all cases, the vassals of the emperor or king, or of some great lord, and as such they owed them loyalty and were subject, with respect to their feudal tenure, to the jurisdiction of the feudal courts.
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In his letter [Peter Damian] to the people of Faenza he com- mends their determination not to proceed to the election of their bishop till the King (Henry III.) should arrive. While warning the secular princes against the error of thinking that they have arbitrary rights of appointment, he seems clearly to recognise their rights. Even with respect to appointments to the Papal See, he seems clearly to interpret the decree of Pope Nicholas II. as implying that the election was not to be reckoned as complete until it had been submitted to the royal authority. And in his references to Henry III. he recog- nises, as we have seen, in the most unqualified terms the service which he had rendered to the Church in purging it from simony, and compares him to King Josiah, who, when he had found the Book of the Law, overthrew the altars and the abominable idols and superstitions of former kings, and says that it was because he refused to follow the corrupt example of his predecessors that, by the divine dispensation, it had come about that the Roman Church was now ordered accord- ing to his will, and that no one should be elected to the Roman See without his authority.
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If, however, from such passages as these we may justly infer that Peter Damian admitted the propriety of the in- tervention of the Temporal power in ecclesiastical affairs, we can also find in his writings phrases which express a very high sense of the superiority of the Spiritual power over the Temporal. In one place he describes the Pope as the King of Kings and Prince of Emperors, who excels all men in honour and dignity.
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He speaks of Christ as having committed to St Peter " beato vitte seternse clavigero, terreni simul et Coelestis imperii iura " ; and, in another place, as having committed to St Peter the laws of heaven and earth.
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Peter Damian speaks of the close union which ought to exist between the royal and the priestly power, for each has need of the other. The priesthood is protected by the kingdom, and the kingdom by the sanctity of the priestly office. The king is girded with the sword to resist the enemies of the Church, while the priest gives himself to prayer that he may propitiate God to the king and people.
Temporal and Spiritual powers is practically based upon what we have called the Gelasian tradition — that is, the conception set out in the fifth century by Pope Gelasius I., of the autonomy of each of the great powers within its own sphere.



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the function of the priest is to abound
in compassion, and to cherish the children with motherly
love ; the function of the judge is to punish the wicked, to
deliver the innocent from their hands






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The tribunal of the judge is clearly differ- ent from the seat of the priest. The judge bears the sword that he may punish those who live unrighteously; the priest is content with the staff of innocence that he may maintain a quiet and peaceable discipline.

The two swords
and he describes the felicity of that condition of things when the sword of the kingdom is joined to the sword of the priest, when the sword of the priest tempers that of the king, and the sword of the king sharpens that of the priest ; for these are the two swords spoken of at the time of the Lord's Passion. Then, indeed, will the Kingdom and the priesthood be set forward and honoured, when they are joined in this happy union.
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The two swords are both from God: both represent the divine authority, and they ought to be in the closest alliance with each other;
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Peter Damian talks of them as quite distinct and independent, and that he in no way suggests that conception, which appeared later, that both swords belonged to the Spiritual power.


Further Reference

J. H. Burns (17 October 1991). The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought C.350-c.1450. Cambridge University Press. pp. 319–. ISBN 978-0-521-42388-5.

Lacey Baldwin Smith (1999). Fools, Martyrs, Traitors: The Story of Martyrdom in the Western World. Northwestern University Press. pp. 117–. ISBN 978-0-8101-1724-2.

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