The Church that Morphed … Another: I AM A Catholic Lesson This part assembled by Patrick Miron

 

The Church that Morphed

So what’s up with non-Catholics-lack of understanding?

Another: I AM A Catholic Lesson

This part assembled by Patrick Miron

 

BEGINNING OF PART 5

The Crusades

The authority of the papacy and the relative decline of the empire also became clear in the unforeseen emergence of the Crusades as a major preoccupation of Europe . The papacy had been stirred more than once by the disasters befalling Eastern Christians, such as their defeats by the Seljuq Turks at Manzikert (1071) and Antioch (1085) in Asia Minor , when the Byzantine emperor Alexius I appealed for help to Pope Urban II. Although this appeal may have been the decisive motive for the Crusade, there were obvious advantages in diverting the Normans of Sicily and other turbulent warriors from Europe to wage a sacred war elsewhere. Urban’s celebrated call to the Crusade at Clermont (France) in 1095 was unexpectedly effective, placing the pope at the head of a large army of volunteers. Even though the capture of Jerusalem (1099) and the establishment of a Latin kingdom in Palestine were balanced by disasters and quarrels, the papacy had gained greatly in prestige. Though Germany as a whole had remained aloof, a pope had for the first time stood out as the leader of a European endeavor. The Crusades, with their combination of idealism, ambition, heroism, cruelty, and folly are a medieval phenomenon and, as such, outside modern man’s experience. But they were part of the religious background for two centuries and added greatly to the anxieties, both spiritual and financial, of the papacy.

The church of the late Middle Ages

The Proto-Renaissance

The 12th century, or, more correctly, the century 1050-1150, has been called the first Renaissance. A more accurate title would be the adolescence of Europe , in which higher education, techniques of thought and speech, and a fresh attack upon the old problems of philosophy and theology appeared for the first time in postclassical Europe . All these activities were carried out by clerics and controlled by churchmen. The focus of educational activity was the cathedral school, and the new agent of instruction was the semiprofessional, unattached teacher, such as the French philosopher-theologians Berengarius, Roscelin, and Abelard, though monks such as Lanfranc, Anselm of Canterbury, and Hugh and Richard of the Monastery of St. Victor, Paris, still had a share.

Philosophy was revived through the development of logic and dialectic, which were applied to doctrines of the faith, either as formal exercises, Augustinian speculation, or critical reformulation. From 1100 onward theology, in the modern sense of the word (first used by Abelard), emerged. The teachings of Scripture and of the early Church Fathers on the various doctrines were consolidated and organized in works called Sentences. The first handbook of theology was composed by Abelard. Finally, Peter Lombard (bishop c. 1159) published his Four Books of Sentences, which summarized the Christian faith, using the sic-et-non(yes-and-no) dialectic popularized by Abelard and the canon lawyers, and he also pronounced on vexing questions. His classic manual may be said, in modern terms, to have created the syllabus of theological study for the age that followed. Together with the expansion of logic–brought about by the arrival (through Muslim sources) of what was called the new logic of Aristotle–and the emergence of the university, the Sentences ended the era of literary, humanistic, and monastic culture and opened that of the formal, impersonal, Scholastic age.

The papacy at its height: the 12th and 13th centuries

Gregory VII has often been portrayed as an innovator who lacked both authentic ancestors and true successors. It must be affirmed, nonetheless, that the later history of the papacy, modern as well as medieval, was shaped by what he and his followers did, while the continuing disabilities characteristic of the medieval papacy owed much to what they left undone. Thus, the assimilation of the biblical notion of church office as grounded in love for others to the political notions of office as grounded in power and law–a development in process since the 4th century and earlier–reached a point of no return with Gregory. He functioned within a unified Christian society in which “state” and “church” were no longer conceived as distinct societal entities and was thus impelled by its very dynamic to assert a claim to jurisdictional supremacy even over the Christian emperor. For the next two centuries papal history was characterized by a deepening involvement, direct and indirect, in matters political. As a result there were, under Alexander III (reigned 1159-81) and Innocent IV (reigned 1243-54), renewed clashes with the German emperors and, under Innocent III (reigned 1198-1216), extensive and damaging papal interference in German internal affairs. What alarmed these popes was the fear that imperial policy, by encroaching upon papal territorial independence, also threatened the autonomy of papal action. But with Innocent IV, at least, such a fear was matched by his wish to vindicate, even in temporal matters, the papal claim to supremacy.

Though much of the drama of papal history in this period focused upon these conflicts, the impact that the thoroughgoing politicization of church office had upon the nature and structure of ecclesiastical government and the pope’s place in it was of more enduring significance. Here again Gregory’s pontificate was something of a watershed. Any lingering belief that the pope’s primacy might be regarded primarily as one of honor was now dispelled, and any hesitation about implementing the jurisdictional primacy that had supplanted it now disappeared. The need for papal leadership was so widely accepted that throughout much of the 12th and 13th centuries the demand for it came from the local churches themselves. The outcome was an acceleration in the process that had led, by the late 13th century, to a papal exercise of judicial authority going far beyond the mere acceptance of appeals from lower courts; to an arrogation of the wide-ranging legislative powers manifest in the Decretals of Gregory IX (1234), the first officially promulgated collection of papal laws; and to the system of “papal provisions” (direct papal intervention in the disposal of benefices) that was finally to be completed by Benedict XII in 1335.

Papal leadership in the church was eventually replaced by papal monarchy over the church. Positively, this transformation was evident in the reforming legislation of the fourth Lateran Council (1215). The negative aspect was to become increasingly obvious as the 13th century wore on. It was no accident that what turned out to be the permanent schism between the Latin and Greek churches occurred at a time when Leo IX had embarked upon a more active exercise of the papal primacy. The more his successors succeeded in establishing the fullness of their jurisdictional power (plenitudo potestatis) within the Latin Church, the less chance there was of healing the schism. Nor did papal sponsorship of the Crusades, however great the prestige it had brought to Urban II at the time of the First Crusade, ultimately redound to the benefit of the religious life of the church.

Least justified of all was the administrative centralization attendant upon the exercise of the plenitudo potestatis when it was finally measured against the price that had to be paid–notably the corruption spawned by the stringent financial measures (e.g., sale of indulgences, benefices, etc.) needed to support the growing army of clerical bureaucrats at Rome. And on this point one of the things left undone by the Gregorian reformers proved to be crucial. Their failure to uproot the notion of the “proprietary church” explains both the willingness of later canonists to classify the laws governing the disposition of ecclesiastical benefices under the heading not of public but of private law (law pertaining to the protection of proprietary right) and also the tendency of medieval persons in general to regard ecclesiastical office less as a focus of duty than as a source of income or an object of proprietary right. When the 13th-century popes found that direct papal taxation did not yield funds sufficient to support their bureaucrats, they adopted the practice of “providing” them to benefices all over Europe , for the law itself encouraged them to think of such benefices as sources of much needed revenue. Thus arose the characteristic abuses of pluralism (holding more than one benefice) and non -residence against which church reformers from the mid-13th century on railed in vain and the blame for which they were soon to lay at the door of a papacy that had finally come to be regarded as an obstacle rather than a spur to reform.

The age of faith

Below the level of the papacy, however, a spiritual revival had taken place. The 12th century, perhaps more than any other, was an age of faith in the sense that all men, good or bad, pious or worldly, were fundamentally believers, and religious causes and interests (crusades, monastic foundations, building churches, and assisting education and charities) made up much of the life of the literate and administrative classes. Lay religion was, as never before or since, permeated with monastic ideals. Prodigious numbers of the populace became monks, knights (members of military-religious orders), laborers (lay brothers), and lay people who followed monastic rules, and the favorite lay devotions were short versions of monastic offices. Almost every church–whether cathedral, monastic, parochial, or private–was built or rebuilt between 1050 and 1200. Almost all baronial families founded a monastery, and townspeople not only paid for their cathedrals but often supplied materials and labor.

The pontificate of Innocent III saw the appearance of a totally new form of religious life, that of the penniless or mendicant friar. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226), a personality of magnetic originality who believed that he was called by Christ to preach poverty, had no thought of founding an order; but his message and his genius exactly suited his age, and the vast concourse of his followers gradually changed from a homeless, penniless band of preachers and missionaries in Italy into an international body governed by a single general and devoted to the service of the papacy. Dominic of Spain (c. 1170-1221), on the other hand, with a vocation to preach doctrine to heretics and with followers keeping a canonical rule, changed his existing institute into one of friars. Gradually the two groups became similar: international, articulated groups of men bound to an order but not to a community. They took the customary monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience but dropped the vow of stabilitas (stability) in favor of mobility, and they were governed by elected superiors under a supreme chapter and general. Unpredictably, first the Dominicans and then the Franciscans entered and soon dominated the theological schools of Paris and Oxford . Two similar bodies joined them, the Carmelites and Austin Friars, and for almost a century the friars were the theologians, the preachers, and the confessors of the Christian people.

The rise of heresy

Before the middle of the 12th century heresy on a large scale was unknown in the West. The early dissenters were often radical reformers such as the Italian canon Arnold of Brescia (d. 1155), an outspoken critic of clerical wealth and corruption. Then there appeared in northern Italy and southern France the sect, Eastern and Manichaean in origin, later known as the Cathari (the “pure,” from the ascetic lives of their leaders). This sect had an organization and liturgical life that imitated Christianity; but it overtly denied many key doctrines, such as the incarnation of Christ, and was dualistic in that it regarded matter and the human body as evil and the spirit as good. Its emphasis on poverty and its genuine solidarity of mutual assistance appealed to many by contrast with the luxury and wealth of the Catholic hierarchy. A little later another type of dissent appeared with the Waldenses (founded by a French reformer named Valdes) of the Rhône Valley and Piedmont . These groups, basically and professedly orthodox, together with the reform-minded Humiliati of Lombardy ( Italy ), practiced poverty, Scripture reading, and preaching. The Cathari were proscribed as heretics by the papacy and were attacked by a crusade and later by the Inquisition, and they gradually disappeared. The Humiliati remained orthodox as a quasi-religious order. The Waldenses, largely through mismanagement by the bishops, drifted away from the church and remained throughout the Middle Ages and after a non-Catholic body. These heretical movements, together with numerous legal disputes between monks and bishops, and bishops and metropolitans (ecclesiastical provincial leaders), imparted a sense of decline and peril to the last decades of the 12th century, which were notably barren of saints and great men. The church was too rich and too set in its hierarchical ways to meet the demands of larger populations and economic stresses, especially in urban conditions. Reformers demanded a spirit of poverty and a fresh wind of spirituality.

The golden age of Scholasticism

The 13th century was an age of fresh endeavor and splendid maturity in the realms of thought, theology, and art. Philosophy, hitherto almost exclusively devoted to logic and dialectic, had stagnated in the later 12th century. It was revived by the gradual arrival from Spain and Sicily of translations of the whole corpus of Aristotle’s writings, often accompanied by Arabic and Jewish commentaries and treatises. Aristotle, especially in his Metaphysics and Ethics, opened the whole field of philosophy to the schools. After a short period of hesitation his works were used by theologians, at first eclectically and then systematically. The great German philosopher and theologian Albert of Cologne (known as Albertus Magnus) and his more famous pupil Thomas Aquinas rethought the system of Aristotle in Christian idiom, pouring into it a fair dose of Neoplatonism from St. Augustine . Aquinas, in some 25 years of work, set theology firmly on a philosophical foundation. The Italian theologian Bonaventure (1217-74), in an even shorter career, renewed the traditional approach of Augustine and the Victorine monks regarding theology as the guide of the soul to the vision of God. At the same time masters in the arts school of Paris used Aristotelian thought to present a naturalistic system that clashed with orthodox teaching. The condemnations that ensued in 1272 and 1277, coinciding with the deaths of Bonaventure and Aquinas (1274), included some Thomist theses. This apparent victory of conservatism ended the long era in which Greek thought was regarded as right reason and foreshadowed the age of individual systems and the divorce of philosophy from theology.

Ecclesiastical life in the 13th century

The coming of the friars and the legislation of the fourth Lateran Council in Rome (1215)–including requirements of annual confession and communion and a reduction in number of the impediments to marriage–saved the lower classes for the church and silenced many of the critics of the establishment. Well-trained and extremely mobile, the friars were able to reach and hold regions and peoples that the static monks and clergy had failed to move. The 13th century in Europe as a whole was a time of pastoral endeavor in which bishops and university-trained clergy perfected the diocesan and parish organization and reformed many abuses. It was an age of active and spiritual bishops, many of them masters in theology and themselves friars. There also were controversies. The early friars served and were welcomed by the bishops and parish clergy, but clashes soon occurred; the papacy gave the friars exemptions and privileges so wide that the basic rights of the secular clergy were threatened. An academic war of pamphlets led to an attack on the vocation and work of the friars. A compromise was finally arranged by Boniface VIII (reigned 1294-1303) that was just and workable; under a revised form it lasted for two centuries. The bishop could refuse friars entry into his diocese, but once they had been admitted, the friars were free from his control.

Troubles of the church c. 1300

The last quarter of the 13th century was a time of growing bitterness and harshness. The golden age of Scholastic theology had come to an abrupt end. The troubles of the Franciscans–divided into those who stood for the absolute poverty prescribed by the rule and testament of Francis (the Spirituals) and those who accepted papal relaxation and exemptions (the Conventuals)–were a running sore for 60 years, vexing the papacy and infecting the whole church. The Inquisition (the ecclesiastical tribunal instituted in 1229 to deal with heretics) and the papal court incurred odium for their inhumane and inequitable treatment of those suspected of heresy.

{Definition of odium

  1. 1: the state or fact of being subjected to hatred and contempt as a result of a despicable act or blameworthy circumstance
  2. 2: hatred and condemnation accompanied by loathing or contempt :  detestation
  3. 3: disrepute or infamy attached to something}

Another instance of hardening sentiment is seen in the treatment of the Jews. Between 800 and 1200 the Jewish population had increased significantly in Lombardy , Provence , and the towns of the river valleys of the Rhône, the Rhine , and the Danube . They entered England only after the Norman Conquest (1066.) Apart from heretics such as the Cathari they were the only “foreign body” in Western Christendom and as such attracted the special notice of the ignorant and brutal. There were shocking massacres of Jews when the Crusades were preached, especially in the Rhineland , and after various instances of panic on the part of Christians, Jews were accused of sacrilege and child murder. These, however, were all mob movements, resisted by kings and bishops. Later the Jews suffered from suspicions that were aroused by the Cathari. The fourth Lateran Council gave the Jews a distinguishing badge and forbade their employment by governments. This established once and for all the ghetto system in large towns but did not at first impair Jewish prosperity. Later on the growing class of Christian merchants became jealous and hostile, and in 1290 and 1306 the Jews were expelled from England and France . This swelled their numbers in Germany, thenceforward called “the classic land of Jewish martyrdom.” Groups remained in Italy , and the Roman colony was never disturbed. In Spain toleration gave way to widespread persecution and conversion under duress, which left a heritage of sorrow for the future.

The “Babylonian Captivity”

In 1303, despite its resounding claims and its complex governmental machinery, the prestige of the papacy had fallen so low that it was possible for mercenaries in French pay and under French leadership to harass and humiliate the pope with impunity; Boniface VIII, at Anagni was arrested in his own family (Caetani) palace. The aftermath of this “outrage of Anagni” was the “Babylonian Captivity”–the desertion of Rome by the popes and their long residence (1309-77) at Avignon , Fr.–so called after the 70 years of Jewish exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC.

The disputes of the Franciscans, which had crystallized finally upon the teaching of the Spiritual Franciscans that their absolute poverty was that of Christ, were harshly settled (1322) by the irascible octogenarian John XXII (reigned 1316-34). A group of Franciscans, however, led by Michael of Cesena, general of the order, and William of Ockham, became bitter and formidable critics of the papacy. With them for a time was the Italian political philosopher Marsilius of Padua, a Parismaster who, in his Defensor pacis (1324), outlined a secular state in which the church was a government department, the papacy and episcopate human institutions, and the spiritual sanctions of religion relegated to a position of honorable nonentity. Between them, Ockham and Marsilius used almost all the arguments that have ever been devised against the papacy. Condemned more than once, Marsilius had little immediate effect or influence, but during the Great Schism of the papacy (1378-1417) and later, in the 16th century, he and Ockham had their turn.

With the papacy “in captivity” and Nominalism capturing the universities, Europe and the church entered upon an epoch of disasters, of which the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (began 1337) and the Black Death (1348-49) were the most clearly seen by contemporaries. For all this, Christian life in the first half of the 14th century changed little. Many of the largest parish churches of Europe date from this time, as do many popular devotions, prayers, hymns, and carols; also, many hospitals and almshouses were founded. Though the relations between the friars and the secular clergy had been canonically settled, friction continued. The friars came under wider criticism for worldliness and immorality, but they remained popular. Though heresy and anti -sacerdotal (anticlerical) sentiment became almost endemic in the cities of Belgium and the Netherlands , the 14th century produced some of the greatest mystical writers of the church’s history: Johann Tauler and Jan van Ruysbroeck in the north, Catherine of Siena in Italy , and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing and Walter Hilton in England .

END OF PART 5

Blogged 03/28/2019

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working4christtwo

I am an Informed and fully practicing Roman Catholic

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