Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Papal Supremacy

Papal supremacy, this was the first move in the direction of the theory that popes were universal monarchs who should govern the whole of Christendom; that popes should exercise supreme temporal and political authority; that all Christians high and low owed final obedience to the pope in all temporal and spiritual matters.

In a very real sense Becket was the victim of and martyr for the cause of the Doctrine of Papal Supremacy in England. This doctrine taught that the pope, as vicar of Christ on earth and pontifex maximus, had ultimate spiritual authority. Pope Gregory VII [Hildebrand] in the previous century to the Constitutions was determined to assert on behalf of the papacy and the church a complete supremacy over all secular powers, to be the absolute spiritual monarch over all of Western Christendom. He claimed to have supremacy over many secular rulers, including William the Conqueror. He claimed that not only did he have primacy over the church but also that he had a jurisdictional supremacy over emperors and kings in both a temporal and spiritual affairs. Many subsequent popes followed the Hildebrandine programme. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux even held the view that the Pope held a monarchical primacy over all secular rulers in Christendom.

Priests were a separate elite distinct from and quite above secular persons and superior to laity. The Roman church (its pope and cardinals) was to be master of all the churches, superior to a general council deriving its powers directly from God Himself.

Becket was a victim as Henry II, in common with all previous Norman kings of England, maintained a despotic power over all matters in his kingdom, quite independent from the church and pope. The Laws of England were inconsistent with the canon laws of the church. Becket  became a victim and martyr because he tried to defend the church's "liberty" in respect of papal supremacy.

The Humiliation of the Holy Roman Emperor at  Canossa, 1077
Also known as the Walk to Canossa
Walk to Canossa - Wikipedia

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, was forced in 1077 by Pope Gregory VII  to walk from Speyer [in Germany] to the fortress at Canossa in Emilia Romagna [Italy], a distance of around 750 kilometres. to obtain revocation of his excommunication. He was humiliated by being forced to wait barefoot for three days and nights outside the entrance gate to the castle, in a blizzard, before being admitted.

Extract from Canossa: A Revision by Karl F. Morrison

From the beginning of the controversy with Henry IV until his own death, Gregory maintained one major premise: that as Pope he was the leader of the faithful in active battle against the Devil. It is sometimes maintained that in Gregory's thought, the Church had acceded to the territorial and jurisdictional universality of the Roman Empire, and that as head of the Church, the Pope was in some sense the successor of the Augusti. But Gregory himself never claimed the territorial or jurisdictional universality associated with the Empire, nor did he ever describe himself as the heir of the Caesars. His greatest claims were based rather upon his belief in the moral hegemony of the Papacy over orthodox Christendom, and the earnest conviction that the successor of St. Peter must lead the forces of God against the enemies of God.

Arnulf of Lisieux
Opening Speech on the Sacerdotal Prerogative at the Council of Tours 1163

In this speech Arnulf contended on the urgent need to defend the Liberty of the Church [Libertas Ecclesiae] in order to restore the Church's unity, which the Holy Roman Emperor had recently forced into schism.
Thomas Greenwood (1865). Cathedra Petri: A political history of the great Latin Patriarchate. Arnulf of Lisieux on The Sacerdotal Prerogative: C. J. Stewart. pp. 126–.

"Unity and liberty" he said, "are essential attributes of the church, without which she is enslaved, and can have no existence at all: but she is eternal in her strength; though, therefore, the tyrant of this world (the Emperor [or indeed by implication anyone who interferes with the rights of the Church of Rome]) assail our temporalities or even our persons, he must decline and fall, neither can he detract an atom from her right to that which belongs to her; nay, rather she dealeth with him as an outcast, and consigneth him to outer darkness, and bindeth him down with the chain of the anathema, and loadeth him with the opprobrium of an eternal malediction; so that he who would enslave her endeth by enslaving himself, while she abideth in her irrefragable liberty and unity."

Papal Supremacy is a Platonic idea. Plato teaches us that kings should become philosophers and philosophers become kings. His ideal city state, his Utopia, his Kallipolis, the ruler is a philosopher king, whose job is to rule with justice. So too is the Universal Catholic church. The City State is Rome, Civitas Dei, the City of God. Christendom's goal is to become a just Utopia with the Pope as the spiritual philosopher-king, second only to God.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Concepts of

Papal Plenitude of Power, Vicar of Christ, Gubernator of the Church

[St.] Bernard of Clairvaux was the most influential writer on papal authority in the twelfth century. He clearly express the view that the Church in Rome was supreme: The Church of Rome was the mother church of all the churches, and the head of Christendom and its faithful. That the Pope was Gubernator [steersman] of Church symbolised as a ship.

St. Bernard De Consideratione II.6.10 IV.3.6
Sancti Bernardi Opera III pp 418, 453

Saint Bernard (of Clairvaux); Gillian Rosemary Evans (1987). Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works. On Consideration: Paulist Press. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-0-8091-2917-1.

He told Pope Eugenius in his work "De consideratione" that the Roman Pontiff had 'no equal on eath': that he was defender of the faith; teacher of the nations; ordainer of the clergy; pastor of the people; moderator of the laws; dispenser of the canons; vicar of Christ.

"ubi non tam mellifluo, quam nervoso calamo, probat Romanum Pontificem parem non haber super terram."

Robert L. Benson. Viator. Periculosus Homo ... I.S. Robinson: University of California Press. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-0-520-03608-6.

Rosamond McKitterick (1995). The New Cambridge Medieval History: pts. 1-2. c. 1024-c. 1198. I.S. Robinson The Institutions of the Church: Cambridge University Press. pp. 368–. ISBN 978-0-521-41410-4.
David A. Carpenter (2003). The Struggle for Mastery: Britain, 1066-1284. Oxford University Press. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-19-522000-1.

Priests and bishops were, as Pope Gregory VII (1073—85) put it, to be 'pastors of souls'. For this to be achieved, certain abuses had to be eradicated. One was clerical marriage, which snared priests in the world and threatened to make their offices hereditary. Another was pluralism, the holding of more than one benefice, behind which there was often simony, the buying and selling of ecclesiastical office. If the church was to be rid of these abuses, a necessary condition was clear lines of authority. Bishops needed to be able to rule their dioceses and archbishops (metropolitans) their provinces. Above all, the ultimate authority of the pope in matters of doctrine, law and discipline needed to be recognized in theory and exercised in practice.

The pope was to become the ultimate authority in all matters concerning church doctrine, canon law, and ecclesiastical discipline. At about this time Canon Law was edited, compiled and summarised  into easily accessible volumes by Rufinus and Gratian. Canon Law itself was a summary of the pronouncements of popes, the church fathers, decrees made at ecclesiastical councils.

But it left the following questions open:

Did the king control the Church in his kingdom, or was it the Pope?
Who appoints bishops? Or even Popes?
Who controls the Church's lands and their revenue?
Do kings have the spiritual authority to do this?
And were those appointed by kings suitable persons to hold high office in the Church?

But the lands in England used by the Church were ultimately owned by the king. And the kings of England had always assumed that they had the right to nominate and invest bishops, and assign them to their regalia.


Zachary N. Brooke (1911). "Pope Gregory VII's Demand for Fealty from William the Conqueror". In R. L. Poole (Ed.). The English Historical Review. Vol  26 No. CII April 1911, Longman Group Limited. pp. 225–38.

Papal Authority and Bishop's Privilege

Papal supremacy - Wikipedia

Pope Gregory VII - Wikipedia

Gregorian Reform - Wikipedia

Chapter XIV Hildebrand pp. 264-
"The History Of Sacerdotal Celibacy In The Christian Church, Volume 1".  

Johann Karl Ludwig Gieseler (1836). Text-book of Ecclesiastical History. Carey, Lea, and Blanchard. pp. 156–.

Larry Siedentop (2014). Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Chapter 16 Natural Law and Natural Rights: Harvard University Press. pp. 208–. ISBN 978-0-674-41753-3.

Hauke Brunkhorst (2014). Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions: Evolutionary Perspectives. Chapter 3: Legal Revolutions: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 83–. ISBN 978-1-4411-0249-2. 

Christopher Robert Cheney (1956). From Becket to Langton: English Church Government, 1170-1213. Manchester University Press. pp. 42–

Jean Edme A. Gosselin (1853). The power of the pope during the Middle ages;  Volume I

Gosselin (1853). The power of the Pope during the Middle Ages, Volume 2. J. Murphy

Oestereich, T. (1909). Pope St. Gregory VII. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Hildebradine Essays. CUP Archive. pp. 5–.

Chapter VIII: The Hierarchical Doctrine of the State

James Pounder Whitney (1910). Pope Gregory VII and the Hildebrandine Ideal.

The Gentleman's Magazine. Critique of Robertson's and Morris' Lives of Becket: F. Jefferies. 1860. pp. 34–.

Samuel E. Thorne (1 July 1984). Essays in English Legal History. Continuum. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-8264-4305-2.

Z. N. Brooke January 1928 II. The effect of Becket's murder on Papal Authority in England

The Effect of Becket's Murder on Papal Authority in England
Z. N. Brooke
The Cambridge Historical Journal Vol. 2, No. 3 (1928), pp. 213-228
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL:

H. E. J. Cowdrey (20 August 1998). Pope Gregory VII, 1073-1085. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-158459-6
Amazon Link

The Hierarchical Principle, Papal Supremacy and the Constitutions of Clarendon
Philip Schaff. History of the Christian Church. Volume 3. Library of Alexandria. pp. 5703–. ISBN 978-1-4655-2873-5.

Christopher Robert Cheney (1956). From Becket to Langton: English Church Government, 1170-1213. Manchester University Press. pp. 1–.

Jean Edme Auguste Gosselin (1853). The power of the Pope during the Middle Ages. Volume 1. J. Murphy.
Jean Edme Auguste Gosselin (1853). The power of the pope during the middle ages. Volume 2. J. Murphy.

Canossa: A Revision
Karl F. Morrison
Traditio , Vol. 18, (1962) , pp. 121-148

Oswald Joseph Reichel (1870). The See of Rome in the Middle Ages. The Struggle for Jurisdiction in England: Longmans, Green. pp. 367–.

Papal Exactions In Britain Consequent On Papal Dominion
E.C Harrington

Church and State in Christian History
David Knowles
Journal of Contemporary History
Vol. 2, No. 4, Church and Politics (Oct., 1967), pp. 3-15
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.

Helmut K. Anheier; Stefan Toepler ( 2009). International Encyclopedia of Civil Society. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 345–. ISBN 978-0-387-93996-4.

Ius Condendi Canones

Gratian expressly says that the Pope had ius condendi canone, the right to declare the Canons of Church Law, the Canon Lawgiver, the right to modify Canon Laws as he sees fit.


Decretum Gratiani: Secunda Pars, Causa 25, quaestio 1, c 16
C. XVI. Contra statuta agit sanctorum Patrum qui non ea seruat intacta.
Habet enim ius condendi canones, utpote que caput et cardo est omnium ecclesiarum, a cuius regula dissentire nemini licet.

Mary Stroll (1997). The Medieval Abbey of Farfa: Target of Papal and Imperial Ambitions. BRILL. pp. 58–. ISBN 90-04-10704-5.

Vol. 20 (1964), pp. 179-317

Stable URL:

Dictatus Papae Clause VII -

That for him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.

The Gregorian Ideal and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Hayden V. White
Journal of the History of Ideas
Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1960), pp. 321-348
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
DOI: 10.2307/2708141
Stable URL:

Aspects of  Mediaeval Thought on Church and State
Gerhart B. Ladner
The Review of Politics
Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1947), pp. 403-422
Published by: Cambridge University Press for the University of  Notre Dame du lac on behalf of Review of Politics
Stable URL:

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