Friday, November 5, 2010

Increasing Papal Power and Its Opponents

In 607 AD, Boniface III became the pope. He died that same year. He made several significant contributions to the Roman church during his brief time. He forbid any popes from discussing their successors and he decreed that discussion of the next pope could not start until three days after the burial of the previous. But his most significant contribution was because of his relationship with emperor Phocas, he was able to have the emperor decree that the Roman see was the head of the entire church. This power grew over the next 100 years. Pepin and Pope Zacharias worked together in order to give the pope headship over all bishops.

The power of the Roman see continued to strengthen, and according to Calvin this was "partly due to the bishops' ignorance, partly to their sloth." Calvin states that this decay continued until the time of Bernard of Clairvaux who lived in the 12th century. He preached that the church was pastures of devils rather than sheep, full of ambitious men. "Few pay attention to the mouth of the lawgiver; all, to his hands. And not without reason! For those hands do all the pope's business." Bernard goes on to declare that the pope does evil things to prove that he has power, not righteousness.

Calvin begins looking at the more recent popes to his own era and how corrupted they have generally become. They claim for themselves that they are the universal bishop of the whole world, the supreme head of the church. Calvin writes, "But the pontiffs themselves, when they speak of their authority, with great arrogance declare that the power to command is in their hands while with others rests the necessity to obey; that all their pronouncements are to be so received as if confirmed by Peter's divine voice; that provincial synods, because they do not have the pope present, have no force; that they themselves have power to ordain clergy for any church whatsoever; and to summon to their see those ordained elsewhere." The arrogance of the popes is demonstrated in two quotes that Calvin used from Gratian. He wrote, "God willed that other men's bases be settled by men, but he has without question reserved the boshop of this see to his own judgment." Gratian also wrote, "The subjects' deeds are judged by us but ours by God alone."

Apparently, multiple popes used forged documents from previous bishops to support their claims of the power of the office of pope. Gratian manufactured documents which he attributed to Athanasius, but he was not the only one. There was such corruption in the church and these popes were desperately trying anything to extend and keep their power. Calvin writes, "But it was fitting that these Antichrists be carried to the point of madness and blindness, so that to all persons of sound mind who will only open their eyes the wickedness of these men should be obvious." He sites more examples from Gregory IX and more. Calvin notes the proposterous claims by the Roman church, "that the pope cannot err; that the pope is above councils; that the pope is the universal bishop of all churches and the supreme head of the church on earth."

Gregory and Cyprian both condemned statement which the later popes claimed. Cyprian wrote, "None of us says he is the bishop of bishops, or by tyrannical terror compels his colleagues to obey him." Also, "Let none be called the prince of priests or the first bishop." Gregory wrote, "Peter was the chief member in the body: John, Andrew, and James were heads of particular groups of people. Yet all members of the church are under one Head." The Head of the church is Christ alone.

Calvin states, "For it (the Roman church) is a hundred times more corrupt than it was in the times of Gregory and Bernard, though even then it greatly displeased those holy men." Gregory often spoke out about the Roman see in his day. Thinking it could not get much worse, he wrote about the troubles of the Roman church, "I have come into the depths of the sea." Calvin wonders if the administration at the time of Gregory was a "sea," then what was it like during Calvin's own day.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.23-4.7.30


  1. you know so many historical events, I use your blog as a source for self-development!

  2. Well, I can agree in something with the previous reader. I guess, that those writing could be used in terms of spiritual development.

  3. This is the most amazing post I have ever read. It contains a lot of necessary and essential elements that were pointed out by the author.

  4. I am categorically against the limitless power and I think that there must be levers of influence on any authority.

  5. Thanks for publishing this article! It's considered to be educational and cognitive!

  6. The pope monitors the purity of dogma in matters of faith and morality. This rejects pseudo-studies, leads the spread of faith. This is the basis of his power.


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