Saturday, 12 April 2014

Becket Correspondence relating to the First Papal Legation - 1168

More abridgements

CTB 162 Benevento, 30 January 1168
Pope Alexander to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

We counsel you not to allow your spirit to weaken in the midst of the present misfortunes, but to strengthen it by steadfastness. 'Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice,' but where you know that the justice and liberty of the Church has been undone, you may not work to restore peace with the English king in any way which would lead to the abasement of ecclesiastical honour. You should strive by every means to recover his grace, and to humble yourself before him, saving the honour of your office and the Church's liberty; nor should you fear him, nor require greater securities from him than necessary. We believe, he will not harm you in any way, nor allow anyone else to do so from the moment he makes peace with you.

CTB 164 March-May 1168
A Friend [John of Salisbury?] to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

To accompany one's friend into exile in body as well as spirit is noble. Many who stayed at home were exiled in spirit. But we have never heard of any who suffered exile in body only, having left their mind and heart behind at home. How much more commendable is your true friend the bishop of Worcester, following the path into exile with you, neither did he look back to his see nor break under the threats of the king. He alone was found ready to put his prelate above comforts and riches.

His loyalty is more helpful for you if you arrange for him to be a firm support in a more significant place, where he may mention you at an appropriate time. For that reason it seems more advisable to me that you should allow your friend to return to home when the prince summons him, and there better to serve your needs. To be sure there he would be of some use to you, whilst here he cannot help you in the same way.

CTB 170 after 2 July 1168
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Pope Alexander

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.  J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 346–.
I have been made a figure of shame by the letters in which you have suspended me [CTB 166]. The Church is now exposed to the will of evil men. The king, the Church's persecutor made a promise before his magnates and the count of Flanders of the hope of peace between us , but since his envoys have returned he has closed off every path of reconciliation open to us, based on your authority.

There can be no doubt that John of Oxford deceived you, and the English church will suffer the consequences of this for the whole of our age. The abbot of St Augustine's [Clarembald] , once a runaway monk deservedly excommunicated and who now destroys the church over which he presides, he and the king's other envoys have now deceived your holiness even further and far more deplorably. The king desires nothing more than your death or mine, hoping that one or other will occur if he delays.

But you have instructed us to have patience in the meanwhile. Can you not see just how prejudicial this meanwhile is to the Church? Meanwhile he rages with unabated fury against the whole Church. Meanwhile the Church's persecutors enjoy a freedom equal to their desire. This suspension of me was executed without precedent, and without desert. It will encourage kings, both now and in the future to overthrow churches, to condemn the innocent, and to denounce the Roman Church as an enemy.

They have now got a copy of your dispensation in their hands. Without doubt it will be used as a precedent by him and his successors, unless you prevent this. It will turned into a royal privilege, to the extent that it will not be lawful to proclaim a sentence of excommunication or interdict against the king, the people of the realm, or his land, for any sin whatsoever, without the authority of the Apostolic See. Wickedness will surely grow stronger over time, Pontiffs will not be able to find anyone in the whole kingdom who will dare to oppose the king. This is what brought about our exile.

More, I hear rumours from some of our brethren, that the right of visitations from England [to yourself], allowed in the times of your predecessors, is being taken away. Let the condemned customs be read again, in which he claims rights against those of the Church, and which are the cause of our exile. You will plainly see how he silences those wanting to appeal to you, before even we made our own appeal; see how he prohibits ecclesiastical persons from crossing the sea without sworn warranties; how he snuffs out the rights of electors; and how he draws all judgements, both ecclesiastical and temporal, into his own courts: how he has repressed all ecclesiastical liberty by those customs. How can anyone obtain justice against him by right of appeal to the Apostolic See?

Bishop of Exeter suffers still because his predecessor made such an appeal concerning the church of Bosham. And the bishop of Salisbury, whom the king now pretends to favour because of his crime of disobedience [to us], has lost the castle of Devizes and many other of his church's possessions, because he dared to approach the king to force him to restore these which he was bound by oath to, confirmed by letters from your predecessors, Anastasius IV and Adrian IV. I could list many more examples where he has taken away the property of individual churches in his kingdom, and how liberty has been taken away from all, so that not even the hope of freedom is left to anyone. A whole day would not be long enough to enumerate these.

Let the document which has been condemned by God be read out, The king's supporters think that the document was drawn up out of hatred for me. But in fact he sought the Church's liberty as if it were his hereditary right from the very start of his reign.

Was I archbishop when his father prohibited the envoys of the pope Eugenius from entering his land? Was I archbishop when cardinal deacon Gregory, foreseeing his tyranny, persuaded pope Eugenius to permit King Stephen's son Eustace to be crowned, You can read about these events in the letters from the man who is now archbishop of York, about what he secured at that time, the man who now persecutes the Church along with the king, and who is trying to extinguish my name and the Church's liberty.

Was I archbishop when the king, because of his outrage at Exeter's appeal, transferred the church at Bosham to the bishop of Lisieux,?

What progress did the bishop of Chichester make against the abbot of Battle; his case was supported by papal privileges. Referring to these in court he declared the abbot excommunicate. He was immediately forced by the king to communicate with the abbot openly in court and receive him with a kiss of peace, even though the abbot had not been absolved. For it so pleased the king and his court, who dared to contradict him in nothing, that this was done. All this, holy father, happened in the time of your predecessor.

Let those who say that these evils happened because of hatred for me name one person in his realm who during his reign obtained justice by the authority of the Apostolic See. They would not be able to name even one example, though many who were put at risk during his rule out of hatred of Rome's name could be listed.

Why was Abbot Achard, bishop-elect of Seez, not allowed to be consecrated, even after pope Adrian had confirmed his election? Why then did the king later allow him to be made bishop of Avranches? Clearly no election was allowed to take precedence over his will. Similarly, Froger was not elected but intruded into the church of Seez, and I was still not yet archbishop.

I have no doubt that the dispute between the king and myself concerning the liberties of the Church would have been extinguished had he not found patrons in the Papal Curia. May God judge them. I would not need the patronage of any of them had I been willing to acquiesce to the king's will, and leave the Church unprotected.

Indeed, I could have lived the life of luxury in the riches and delights of the realm, feared, courted, and honoured by all, and I could have provided for my people in the wealth and glory of the world at will. But the Lord called me to rule his Church, an unworthy and most wretched sinner. Even though I was flourishing in the world above many of my fellow-citizens, led and helped by his grace I now choose to be humbled in God's house and to finish with life in exile, outlawry, and extreme wretchedness rather than to cause damage to ecclesiastical liberty and put the traditions of men, especially evil ones, before the law of God.

I am certain that my days are short; and if I do not tell the wicked man about his iniquity, his blood will be required at my hand by Him to whom I must render account for my sins, without the support of the patronage of men. There gold and silver will profit no one. Soon we shall stand judgement before Christ, in fear of whom judgement I beg you to show justice to his Church and to me in respect of those who seek to take my soul away

I am so worn down and afflicted that, because I live on the charity of the most Christian king of France, I may not be able to send messengers to you in the future as I do not have the means to support them. May it please your majesty, therefore, to end the wretchedness of the church of Canterbury by threatening that unless the king of England takes heed of your warnings, and restores peace and the seizures of property, and the Church's liberty to us, you will grant us the power to exercise our office against him and his land, and that you desire the sentence that we shall impose by God's will be inviolably observed by all of the bishops.

CTB 173 after 2 July 1168
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Bernard, Cardinal Bishop of Porto

We have received from another quarter, the letter which the king of England is having publicly read out at the crossroads and in the meeting places of both kingdoms, to our injury and the shame of the Apostolic See. God must judge between me and the king, and those whose patronage he has used which now allows him to rage with impunity in God's Church, uncontradicted by anyone. If it is God's will that we should die in exile for the liberty of the Church, may that sacrifice smell sweetly, for we have decided to die rather than squander the Church's liberty for any kind of worldly price. Far be it from us to sell to an impious king the heritage of our fathers, which sacred scripture teaches is the law of God.

We beg you to ask the Lord Pope to relax the suspension which he has imposed on us, or to set a term for it, and write open letters to the French king and the churches of France, declaring that unless the English king restores his peace, our sequestered properties, and the Church's liberty to us in accordance with his advice and warning, he is forthwith consenting us to exercise the power of our office against him and his land, and is declaring that whatever sentence we impose on those who do ill to the Church and us, is valid, and ordering it to be inviolably observed by all the bishops of his land, until they are forced to make reparation.

Moreover, we ask you to seek to obtain full restoration of the primacy of the church of Canterbury as a consolation in its sufferings, and that the archbishop and church of York is commanded to render obedience to us as their primate.  When we receive the confirmation of the primacy through you, it will be to your honour and glory.

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