Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Outcome of the First Papal Legation: Becket's Suspension

The following is the best description

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.  J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 343–.

The Winding up of the Commission

In this unfavourable turn of affairs we have the last winding up of the Commission of 1166. Though a failure for the object for which it was intended, viz. a final decision of the dispute in Henry's favour, which under the auspices of the Cardinals was expected to take place, it produced the Suspension as a sort of side result; the latter in fact being only a carrying out formally, of what the Legates had already done informally and without authority; i. e. when they supported the last appeal of the Bishops ; and so suspended the Archbishop virtually, as he himself complained. The concession came in most opportunely for Henry ; for unable to bring the Pope over to his schemes, or settle the contest to his advantage under present circumstances, delay had been for some time his great object: and delay upon delay accordingly his party had contrived, by means of appeals, embassies, and commissions, as suited the occasion, till the mind of a less patient and resolute opponent than the Archbishop would have fairly given way. Whatever other advantages these several plans and negotiations of Henry might aim at, this was a result of them which told unquestionably in his favour, so far as it went. The final settlement of the question was delayed; and in the mean time persons and circumstances might change; the Archbishop might die, or a new Pope might succeed, with fewer scruples than his predecessor. And delay, while it was thus a gain to himself, was at the same time a plausible topic to press upon the Pope, who would be always inclined enough on his own account to put off final measures, in order to allow parties a chance of settling their own disputes, without forcing upon him the invidious office of deciding between them. At any rate it is evident from one of the letters which follow, that he had been induced to think that there were great advantages of some kind or other in waiting, and not suffering the contest to come to a crisis immediately. And therefore it became necessary for him to tie the hands of the Archbishop, who seemed likely, if left to himself, shortly to bring matters to this state, by laying the King and Realm under an Interdict. In addition to which consideration, it would appear from the Pope's letter given below, that he conceived something was owing from himself to Henry, for having disappointed him, in the way he had done, in the matter of the late Commission.

In giving way however so far, it was evident that the Pope was acting with reluctance, and that he would have preferred balancing his conduct more evenly. As it was, while favouring one side by a positive act, he tried to soften off the impression of it toward the other, by letters and promises. He wrote to the Bishops, admitting their appeal, but censuring them severely at the same time for their disobedience to their Metropolitan. And whereas in his letter to Henry he had fixed no definite time for the suspension to last, but left the Archbishop in this respect altogether at his opponent's disposal, in writing to the latter on the contrary he limits the period to the following Lent. This indeed was something more than a mere verbal consolation : and the difficulty is to understand how such a difference could have found its way into two official letters, written by the same hand, at the same time. The letter to Henry, however, as we have seen, was enjoined to be kept secret, and not to be made use of at all, unless some strong act of the Archbishop's made its publication necessary. Such were the modes of management which the Pope had recourse to in the present delicate state of affairs, to maintain a balance between the two sides, and escape the enmity of the King, without casting off the Archbishop.


MTB 395 (Volume VI p.377-80)
Pope Alexander to the King of England
[Telling him that he has suspended Becket]

Christian Lupus (1682). Epistolae et vita divi Thomae Cantuariensis. Pars Secunda Liber IV Epistola III: Henricus Friex. pp. 630–.

Patres ecclesiae anglicanae : Aldhelmus, Beda, Bonifacius, Arcuionus, Lanfrancus, Anselmus, Thomas Cantuariensis. Epistola CCCV: J.-H. Parker. 1845. pp. 128–. 

Thomas Sanctus Episcopus Canterburiensis Becket (1845). Epistolae(etc.). Parker. pp. 128–. 

Richard Hurrell Froude. Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2.. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 338–9 footnote.

CTB 166 Benevento, 19 May 1168
Pope Alexander to Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury

Thomas Becket (st., abp. of Canterbury.) (1845). Epistolæ sancti Thomæ Cantuariensis ... et aliorum, ed. ab I.A. Giles. Epistola CCXXII. pp. 24–.

We believe that you have already heard that Henry, king of England, has sent his messengers to us. And of the hard and harsh things he sought from us through them, with threats if we did not give way to his will. We attempted to mitigate and temper his fury, but did not admit his petitions;

We have commanded you, brother, by letters apostolic, that you should not promulgate a sentence of interdict, excommunication, or suspension against him, the people, or the realm, unless you should receive other letters from us, in which, if the king refuses to grant you his grace, you would then have the power to exercise your office over him and his.

We were truly terrified that he might join in a kind of alliance with that tyrant, evil enemy of the Church, as he once did, or that he might withdraw his allegiance from the Church and us.

We desire to preserve your honour and liberty and the status and freedom of your church by all means possible, if he does not give effect (to the peace) as we hope and have proposed to him, but should remain obdurate until the start of next Lent, we restore your authority to you from that date, so that you may have the power to discharge the duties of your office over the people, the realm, and the king himself, freely, without the obstacle of an appeal, if after the mature and serious reflection of a priest, you judge that it is appropriate and advantageous to you and your church.

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2  J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 346–..

CTB 169 June 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–.

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. 348–.

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 171 after 2 July 1168
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Cardinal Manfred 

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839) Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 354–.

May the Lord comfort you in all your difficulties.

The king of England is bragging about my suspension at the crossroads across both kingdoms, loudly announcing this like a town crier,. He has made public the papal letter as proof of my deposition, to make me more hateful in the eyes of men. He exults in the term granted to him for my suspension, that it will last until he elects to accept me back into into his grace, which, if he ever does this, he will do this at the Greek kalends, that is to say never. Yet you advise me in the meantime to suffer in patience, as if it were a virtue.

We all give good counsel to the sick when we are well, but if you would do otherwise if you were here. You praise the sincerity, friendship, and diligence of the lord cardinals. I do not mistrust some of them, particularly concerning God's cause and His Church. May God reward those cardinals for the good they have done and the help they will give us exiles. However may He remind the others that though they may feel the same in the Lord, not to accept gifts and by doing so subvert justice, to the disgrace of the Apostolic See, and their own damnation, by deception and seeking profit. They say that they believe in my cause but are smiling on the other side of their faces. Everyone seems to sympathize, but no one brings any assistance;

You advise me to try to make peace with the tyrant by every possible means, but the Roman Church and certain of its cardinals, on whose advice he brags that he is acting, have closed off every path of peace for me. Just recently in fact, apparently extending a branch of peace in which he used the Count of Flanders to summon me to a second meeting, but just as he did this his own and his cardinals' messengers returned from the Pope and presented him with the letter of my suspension. This enabled him to reject peace for as long as he wishes, and, in the meantime, seems to give him the right to fleece God's Church, with the Pope's authority.

The church of Canterbury has almost been destroyed. I and my fellow exiles have been reduced and afflicted beyond measure, I fervently request you, together with your friends, to 
beg the Lord Pope to restore the primacy of the church of Canterbury to us, as a consolation for this our wretchedness.

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.

CTB 174 after 2 July 1168
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Hubald, Cardinal Bishop, and Hyacinth, Cardinal Deacon

Your kindness brings us real comfort, both with actions and deeds You have grieved for the change in our circumstances and the harm done to the Church. You have not lusted after the gold which has recently trapped some; how this shames the Apostolic See! For the English king now boasts that with this patronage he has defeated the Roman Church and is now having the Pope's letters publicly proclaimed throughout both kingdoms. Having now got what he wants he will ravage through God's church at his pleasure, without constraint, hoping, that either the Pope or I will die in the meantime. He longs for this to happen.

You counsel us to be patient; but we have been patient for four years now in great suffering, I cannot bear to see the Church being reduced to wretched slavery. I wish that the lord cardinals had compassion, all of whom preach patience, some out of a sense of virtue, others to hide their own faults. For the English king proclaims his own, and it is no secret that gold has been paid out and to whom. But his gifts come from our spoils, the spoils belonging to Christ himself. How then will Christ deal with such tyrants on the Day of Judgement, those who have despoiled Him?

We write these words not as Christ's exiles, nor that we have determined to die before we are defeated in His cause, but because we need to be supported by you and your friend's advice. He who handed over the suspension of our power into the will of the English king, namely until we return to his grace, has closed off every avenue of peace to us.

The king had invited us, through the count of Flanders, to a meeting with him, but he has done this arrogantly, in words defiling both God and man equally insulting the Romans more than the rest. Please therefore, would you whom God has appointed to protect the church of Canterbury obtain from the Lord Pope, either by yourself  or with the other friends of God, that he either relaxes this suspension or sets a term to it, sending details of this to the French king.

CTB 177 July-August 1168
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Master Lombard

MTB p. 397 Volume VI
Lupus Liber IV Ep.28
Bouquet (1814). Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France. Epistola CXLI Thomae ad magistrum Lombardum.
Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1845). Opera. Epistola CLXXV: Ad Magistrum Lombardum: Parker. pp. 360–.

We are sending to you these letters by bearer who is a poor clerk, a servant of God in a house of nuns in England. Let him disclose to you carefully  by word of mouth all his miseries and misfortunes. Please bring these to the ear of the Pope, placing them on an equal footing to our own and the church of Canterbury's misfortunes. You well know how the King of England has despoiled us of ours and Canterbury's goods and possessions, and how he has attempted to destroy us utterly.  In addition, he is destroying all the forests, and confounding the villages, and alienating all the possessions of the church of Canterbury.  Now he exacting from our see and from all vacant churches a wide-ranging general tax, which he has ordered to be imposed on all the churches in his kingdom, from the largest down to the very  smallest, this to augment our disgrace. Even though the bishops intervened, he then allowed them, and the abbots, and minor clergy to collect the tax by themselves,church by church individually, so that after it was done, they could transfer the monies thus raised to the king and his ministers.

More, and to our further shame, the letter of our suspension from the Pope has greatly pleased the king. Undeserved by us, he has caused it publicly and specially  to be read out across the whole of his kingdom, in all of the churches, again from the smallest to the very largest. These are the facts: please carefully inform the Pope and our friends about these.  And allow justice and the love of God  to promote our cause.

CTB 178  July 1168
Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury to Pope Alexander
[Lupus 54, MTB 407]
Thomas Becket  (1845). Epistolæ sancti Thomæ Cantuariensis ... et aliorum, ed. ab I.A. Giles. Epistola XI. pp. 32–.
Remittimus sanctitati

Richard Hurrell Froude (1839). Remains of the Late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude: v. 2. J. G. & F. Rivington. pp. 358–.

To his dearest father and lord, Alexander, by God's grace supreme pontiff, from Thomas, humble minister of the church of Canterbury, unhappy exile, more wretched than usual, health and due obedience in all things, even when they are unfavourable.

The bearer of this message will accurately summarise for your holiness the wretchedness of his condition and affairs, how he and his brothers have been dealt with in England as a consequence of your holiness's letters. His whole order will be utterly undone unless divine mercy is brought swiftly to bear by your hand. Their unjust persecution is especially worthy to be heard. Would that my lord consider more deeply  the hopeless turmoil that has been brought down upon the English Church and upon every rank and order in the kingdom, brought on by that sad and unprecedented indulgence, which our king boasts he has extorted, and secured by the intervention of his friends at the Curia. Would that the latter were true friends of God and the Church and he not its persecutor. Would that they sought God's grace rather than the favour of princes.

Would that my lord consider more deeply what a confusion the English Church has just fallen into, as a result of that deplorable indulgence which was only granted on the persistence of our king, and  secured through the intervention of some of his friends at the Curia. Even though your order could easily be recalled by you, it nevertheless remains as a precedent. Even if he could not benefit from it now it nevertheless will remain with him and his successors the source from which these privileges flowed,  which, if ever the opportunity came, he or his successors would dare to claim them for themselves for ever.

May God bring greater consolation to Roman Church, the Church in England, and us and our unfortunate companions. A crime is never wiped out in time, and evil is never removed through inattention, but these can serve to become examples which remain in place to be used as instruments of wickedness. May your holiness live and thrive, and may he swiftly, if it please him, deign to relieve our misfortune.

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