Sunday, 2 March 2014

Bribery and Corruption

Deuteronomium 16:18-19Biblia Sacra Vulgata

18 iudices et magistros constitues in omnibus portis tuis quas Dominus Deus tuus dederit tibi per singulas tribus tuas ut iudicent populum iusto iudicio19 nec in alteram partem declinent non accipies personam nec munera quia munera excaecant oculos sapientium et mutant verba iustorum

18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

This topic is also related to Simony
The story of Simon Magus: Acts 8:9-24

An interesting and in-depth study of the effects of monetary corruption is to be found in

John Thomas Noonan (January 1988). Bribes. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06154-5.

Noonan's work includes many incidents and moments where bribery and corruption may have been used during the Becket dispute.

1. John of Salisbury advised Becket that a  munuscula [a gratuity] might buy the benevolence of an important person in France, someone big, big enough "to do much in the Roman CHhurch".

[Language: Latin munus a gift, munera gifts - gifts sufficient to move the wheels of justice, after all money is often necessary as justice is not free.  munuscula [a small gift, a gratuity] a gift small enough to win benevolence, but not corrupt justice, not big enough to move the soul of the recipient. Other Latin words: dona  gifts, retributiones reciprocities.]

Bribery was used to huge effect by the mission to the court of Pope Adrian IV which had been sent by king Henry soon after his accession to throne. He was seeking papal consent to invade and take over Ireland.

Robert Brentano (1991). Rome Before Avignon: A Social History of Thirteenth-century Rome. University of California Press. pp. 88–9. ISBN 978-0-520-06952-7.
"The Rome where one lost money, and jewels and presents, was essentially curial Rome, the Rome of expensive lawsuits and disguised simony, but it was also by implication and extension the entire city."

An approved "bribe" might be described as fee for services rendered or an honoraria.

2. Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, in Multiplicem accused Becket of simony for purchasing the Chancellorship from Henry II.

W. FitzStephen (Materials iii. 18) : payment for the chancellorship is equivalent to simony because the office is a stage to ecclesiastical preferment [archbishop in Becket's case]

Et  difficile est, ut bono peragantur exitu, que malo sunt inchoata  principio.
And difficult it is to appreciate that any good may arise when it has begun in sin. 

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

James Craigie Robertson; Thomas Becket (st., abp. of Canterbury.) (1859). Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, a biography. pp. 27–.

E. Crosby (2013). The King’s Bishops: The Politics of Patronage in England and Normandy, 1066–1216. Palgrave Macmillan US. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-1-137-35212-5.

Further References

Nau Nihal Singh (1998). World of Bribery and Corruption: From Ancient Times to Modern Age. Mittal Publications. ISBN 978-81-7099-709-2.

James A. Brundage (2008). The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession: Canonists, Civilians, and Courts. compensation of advocates and legal advisers: University of Chicago Press. pp. 191–203. ISBN 978-0-226-07761-1.

Richard. H. Helmholz, "Money and Judges in the Law of the Medieval Church ," 8 University of Chicago Law School Roundtable 309 (2001).

Henry Mayr-Harting (2014). Religion, Politics and Society in Britain 1066-1272. On Archdeacons: Routledge. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-1-317-87662-5.

Royal Historical Society (2003). Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Volume 12: Sixth Series. Nicholas Vincent: Some Pardoners' Tales Earliest Englissh Indulgences: Cambridge University Press. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-0-521-81561-1.


There were many ways a person could rise in a career with the Church in England and make a good living from it. Following the Norman invasion and the century or so afterwards the Church greatly increased in its wealth in terms of both its money and land, and offered many oppotunities for the landless and dispossessed younger sons of the nobility. Others came from the rising middle class. Of course the richer baronies were the bishoprics, If you were a bishop you were a wealthy baron. English bishoprics were particularly lucrative, far more so than their equivalents in Italy.

In the monastic world in England there were many valuable positions [livings]: priorships and abbacies. Some of the latter were mitred, and in other words were the equivalent of bishops and were granted a barony by the king. But a cathedral had many more dignities to offer: deanships, precentorships, chancellorships, prebends and archdeaconeries, and of course all of these had a price and had to be bought, as did any other post in government or the Church at this time.

Others examples

Walter de Gray [later] paid £10,000 to the then papal curia in bribes to have his post as archbishop of York confirmed.

Flambard paid £1,000 for the bishopric of Durham.

"Free election" to these posts did not apply in reality. Simony was alive and well.
Money speaks loud and clear.

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