Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fractured Leadership in the Amerian Church -1

Francis Haas, 1889-1953, Bishop of
Grand Rapids who championed the
rights of the working classes
You might remember from earlier postings (particularly March 5, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17 and April 5, and 10) that there was a strong division in the American hierarchy at the end of the nineteenth century between the “American” party and the ultramontanes or Europeanists.  The Americanist party, led by Gibbons, Ireland, and O’Connell (of the North American College and later Richmond) wanted Catholicism in the United States to adapt itself to American cultural patterns.   In fact, the Americanists thought that the American experience of democratic government, freedom of religion, and social equality had something to teach the old European hierarchical, monarchical, and religiously bigoted nations.  Rome was not so sure.  Well—that isn’t the whole story.  Leo XIII was of two minds as we shall see in a minute.  More to the point of this entry, the Americanists  in pushing their agenda of how great American institutions are, got behind the labor unions and were very outspoken in defending the rights of the working class (largely Catholic and immigrant) from the machinations of the industrialists (largely Protestant and blue-blood).  The Ultramontanes, on the other hand—led by Corrigan and McQuaid, took up the cause of Capital and championed the Social and Political Establishment.  They were more than surprised—they were left naked out on a limb—when Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum and clearly outlined Church treaching on the rights of labor.   Of course, Leo would later write Testem Benevolentiae which did not retract any of the social program he had laid out in Rerum Novarum but which did make it clear that American ideas of democracy and religious freedom where not to be exported to fan the ideological flames European liberals, especially the French. 
     Through the course of the twentieth century the American hierarchy has usually been of two minds regarding social matters.  Gibbons and Ireland found their heirs in such liberal prelates as John McNicholas, (1877-1950) Francis Haas (1889-1953), Edward Mooney (1882-1958), Bernard Shiel (1888-1969) and Richard Cushing (1895-1970) to name the more prominent.   There were also Monsignors John Ryan (1868-1945), George Higgins (1916-2002), and Geno Baroni (1930-1984).  Somewhat behind the scenes and usually not recognized for their support of liberal social reform, should be mentioned Cardinals George Mundelein (1872-1939),  Francis Spellman (1889-1967) and Patrick O’Boyle (1896-1987).  A key to this list is to not confuse social liberals for theological liberals.  Many of these prelates, and the last three in particular, were anything but theological radicals but they were very effective in championing social reform in their day.  O'Boyle merits special note for his desegrating the Washington DC Catholic Institutions when he became the City's second Archbishop in 1948. 
     Corrigan and his party found their heirs as well.  Cardinals Glennon of Saint Louis (1862-1948) and McIntyre of Los Angeles  (1886-1979) along with Archbishop Thomas Toolen (1886-1976) were notorious opponents of social change in general and racial integration in particular.  William O’Connell (1859-1944) and Denis Dougherty (1865-1951) were champions of the old East Coast Establishment that had no room for “ill-bred paddies” like themselves.   Ironically, you can even move Spellman from the social progressives (which he was in general) and lump him with Corrigan’s heirs when it came to how he treated Archdiocesan employees who went out on strike—not holding himself to the same standards to which he held others.   But don't we all do that.
     By and large by the mid-twentieth century the American episcopacy was liberal on labor, cautious on civil rights, and staunchly opposed to the first signs of the sexual-revolution that would strike in the late ‘60’s.  In this they reflected the values of their flock which were still for the most part from labor rather than management.  When the Civil Rights movement picked up steam in the ‘60’s the Catholic Church was slow to get behind it—embarrassingly slow.  When the picture of the Greek Orthodox Primate, the should-be-sainted Archbishop Iakovos, appeared walking alongside Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma in 1965 some Catholic bishops finally woke up and realized that we had better stand with the righteous on that issue or we would be left on the moral low road.  As the anti-Vietnam War movement then gathered speed Catholic participation was all the more difficult because most bishops were terrified of the wrath of Francis, Cardinal Spellman, who was not only Archbishop of New York, but Archbishop for the American Military as well and who was not without influence in Rome.  His death in December 1967 paved the way for stronger hierarchical leadership in the anti-war movement.   Catholics, at least led by the hierarchy, were late in coming to both these causes, but come they did eventually. 
     The sexual revolution provided the greatest challenge to the leadership of the Church and it merits multiple entries of its own.  For this entry let us simply say that the American Bishops have stood consistently with conservative social values, reflecting the universal magisterium of the Church.  The early battles were about birth control with the 1968 Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, but as the decades have passed the sexual revolution has become ever more complex  dealing with abortion, in-vitro fertilization, surrogate parenting, homosexual rights, transgender issues,  same-sex marriage, genetic engineering and dozens of wrinkles in each of these topics and more.  As if that was not complicated enough, the issue of Gender Roles is not confined to matters sexual but has raised serious issues both within the without the Church as the traditional roles assigned to women and to men are not so clearly delineated anymore. 
    Other challenges have risen as well with end-of-life issues involving nutrition and hydration protocols, brain-death, assisted suicide and a host of incredibly complex questions.    The growing international condemnation of the Death Penalty has demanded moral response from Church leadership—a response that is often muted, whispered, actually non-existent.  The excesses of American wars ranging from Vietnam down through our various covert and not-so-covert operations in Latin America and beyond to Iraq I and II, Afghanistan, and the war on terror have all cried for moral commentary.  Then there are environmental issues that have serious moral aspects and consequences.  I am sure that the bishops would love to return to the simple days of supporting the rights of labor but the moral complexity of our society requires serious study and clear teaching.  So where is it? and why is it so slow in coming?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Church Reform Today: The Political Ties of Bishops, 1

One of the goals, indeed the chief goal, of the Gregorian Reform was to free the Church from political entanglement with the Empire.  The purpose was not create the two separate spheres, or I should say separated spheres, of Church and State which our American mythology values so highly because the Church, with its mission to proclaim the kingdom of God, cannot act as if the State—or any other institution—simply exists in a universe parallel to itself.  The Gospel demands that we take an appropriately critical, critical according to the norms of the Gospel, stance towards the world and all that is in it.  By critical I do not mean negative.  A negative critique of creation slides too easily towards Gnosticism.  By critical I mean that we as Church must critique the world as to where it does and where it doesn’t match up to the Gospel.  Note: we as Church.  It is not the role of the “Institution” alone to do this.  Indeed, the Institution, which is not the Church but only one aspect of Christ’s Church, itself must stand under the critique of the Gospel.  That itself is a lesson that most people in the Institution seem to have forgotten these days.   But to critique with integrity we must not only have stood under the judgment of the Gospel ourselves, we must not be indebted to the institutions we critique.  I am not sure that as the Catholic Church we are equipped to critique our society.  The sex abuse scandal has revealed the lack of gospel integrity in the Church, not because of the sinfulness of certain clergy or religious (though that does not help), but because we, both as Institution and as Community of the Faithful became complicit in the abuse by our failure to address the issue honestly and openly.  We will always have sinners in our midst.  There will be sexual predators of all varieties because human society, and we are a human society, will always have sexual predators.  We will have adulterers and fornicators of both gay and straight sorts. We will have drunks and druggies, thieves, embezzlers, abortionists, those who practice euthanasia, who bear false witness, who cheat their employees, who don’t give their employers an honest day’s work, and who pollute the air and water.  We will have people who take us to wars that cannot be justified, and those who sell bonds that are junk.  Sinners are what makes the world go ‘round and moreover Jesus died for them.  They belong in Church.  indeed, they—or rather we—are the Church.  Don’t get on your high horse about “those” or “that kind of people” or “them.”  We have met the sinner and he is us” to paraphrase Pogo.  That being said, however, it is not our task as Church to bless sin by tacit complicity in remaining silent.  Acknowledging our own sins and failings, individually and collectively, we need to be able to speak out about injustices in the world around us—from sexual abuse of minors to abortion to the death penalty to unjust wars, to human rights abuses, to whatever is wrong and unjust in the ways that we relate to one another whether individually or societally.  Because I sin, there are fundamental wrongs in the way I myself and an individual treat people around me.  I need to be reminded of that and challenged to take responsibility for that.  And there are fundamental wrongs in the way that I, not as an individual but as a member of our American society, treat people around me.  I—and other Americans—need to be reminded of that and take responsibility for that.  And there are fundamental wrongs in the way that I, not as an individual but as a member of the Church, treat people around me.  I—and others in the Church with me—need to be reminded of that and take responsibility for that. 
     One of the ways that I, as a member of American society, am guilty of fundamental wrongs in the way I relate to others around me is that I tolerate the murder of the unborn, hundreds of thousands of the unborn.  I don’t approve of it but I am as complicit in it as any bishop has been complicit in the sexual abuse of minors.  I know it goes on.  I confess it is wrong.  I lament it.  But I go about my day; I eat my meals; I go to work; I hang-out with my friends; and I sleep at night in spite of it.  “I wish we could do something about it.”      But that is only one of the sins I am complicit in as a member of our society.  I stood by while Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield led George Bush like a pig with a ring in his nose to war—and led us to war along with him—a war that cannot and never could be morally justified and a war that was energized by a knowing web of lies about WMDs.  And I see the coffins come home and the mothers and the wives and the children trying to make heroes of those who are in fact victims because these deaths must have some significance more than the loss of pawns on a chessboard to make the Vice President and his friends even richer than they are.  And I watched while hundreds of thousands of senior citizens were robbed of their retirements by the Savings and Loans Debacles.  And I have no idea how many people are put to death—legally but not morally—in Texas and Virginia and wherever else while I sit down to dinner, or have a drink on the patio, or sleep undisturbed at night.  And Latinos who just want a chance for them and their children to have a better life die in the desert night after night while I dream undisturbed.   And I know that racism didn’t die with Miss Hilly Holbrook when I hear Sunday Mass goers say “Well, he isn’t my president.” 
     There was a time when our bishops gave moral leadership.  There was a time when our bishops wrote a pastoral letter warning us about the fundamental moral evils beneath “Reaganomics”—you know that system that made some people rich before it made a lot of people poor when it imploded back in 2008.   There was a time when our bishops gave moral leadership and wrote a pastoral letter on War and Peace.  They didn’t make these letters up out of whole cloth.  They took the scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, papal pronouncements, the Documents of Vatican II—they mined the whole tradition to give leadership in our day and age.  But today?  Where are they today?

     “When a Baptist gets money, he becomes a Presbyterian,” a friend told me a few years back. “And when a Methodist wants to join the country club, he becomes an Episcopalian.  When a Catholic priest becomes a bishop, he becomes a Republican.”  One of the senior bishops in the United States, a man who has been a bishop since the “old days,” even before the Apostolic Delegation of Jean Jadot and his crop of liberal Vatican II bishops, told me “The problem with the bishops today is that they are the sons of doctors and lawyers and professionals.  They have no connection with the working class—they were raised to see the working class people as a threat—they come from ‘management’ families.”  Yes, I think that is part of the problem.  The bishops know only a segment of society, they have lost touch—as most white Americans—with their own roots.  But I think the problem is far more serious.     You have men as bishops who have lost their socio-political autonomy and who see the challenges facing society not from the perspective of a Gospel critique but from a political ideology.  More to come.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gregorian Reform: Pope Versus Emperor or why Gregory is so Great

Henry IV, Holy Roman
Emperor from 1056-1106
We looked at the imposition of celibacy and the elimination of simony as two of the tree main issues of the Gregorian Reformation; the third issue is called the Investiture Conflict.  Bishops and Abbots of major monasteries were not only religious officials; they were important political officers in the Empire, in France, in England and other Christian states.  As a result, the Emperor or the various kings had a grave concern in who might be bishop or abbot in the various jurisdictions.  In England the bishops and great abbots were ex officio part of the King’s Great Council. (This is before the evolution of Parliament where the bishops and major abbots would sit with the peers.) In the Empire some bishops had a vote in the election of the German King (who in fact was the Emperor).  In all nations, the bishops and abbots controlled vast amounts of lands that belonged to the Church and most had feudal duty to their respective sovereigns to produce knights and soldiers to assist the king in time of war.  Moreover, most sovereigns relied on the leading churchmen to fill key government posts—or rather, named key advisors to lucrative Church positions in order to provide them with income rather than pay them from the often strained royal purse.  And many sovereigns placed junior members of their families, or members of the families of political allies into Church positions to provide these often unemployable folk with a job.  This does not make for good Church administration.  Of course bishops and abbots were technically “elected” by their respective chapters, but an Emperor or King would make some generous gifts of lands and or royal privileges to secure the necessary votes for their candidates to win the prelacy in question.       Once the papacy had freed itself from Imperial control by structuring the papal election to be the sole prerogative of the Cardinal Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of Rome, the popes were anxious to wrest control of the bishoprics from the secular princes.  They knew this would be a long and arduous task  but they also understood the power of symbols and rituals to shape the way people perceive reality.  Gregory VII (pope from 1073-1085) issued a canon (a church law) in 1075 prohibiting secular princes from investing bishops and abbots with the insignia of their office. (Gregory VII is one of the two popes referred to as "Gregory the Great"--the other being Gregory I.)   Up to this time the custom had crept in that the sovereign, Emperor or King as the case may be, gave the new prelate his ring, his miter, and his pastoral staff.  It was a clear sign to all present—prelate, clergy, and people—that the bishop or abbot held his authority from the Sovereign.  By taking away this privilege, the pope was making it clear to all that the Church was independent of the political power.  We Americans do not understand symbols and vastly underrate the power they have on the human consciousness and so it all seems to us like a tempest in a teapot.   Of course, burn a flag and suddenly we get the idea. It is just a piece of cloth, after all, isn’t it?  No.   But to the Emperor, Henry IV, Gregory’s depriving him of the right to bestow the signs of office on prelates was a very clear challenge to his imperial authority.  In fact, Henry was anxious to reassert imperial power not only over the bishops, but over the papacy.  He was not pleased that this system of Cardinals electing the pope had deprived him of the power his father, Henry III, had when he appointed Clement II, Damasus II, and Leo IX (see blog entry for August 13th).  Henry decided it was time for a showdown in the OK Corral, or in this case, the Forum Romanum.  Henry convoked a synod at Worms which declared Gregory deposed as pope.  To be fair to Henry, as stormy relations had developed over the Emperor’s declared rights to invest bishops (and in fact to name them to their sees) Gregory had threatened to declare the Emperor not only excommunicated but as an excommunicate deposed from Imperial office.  Now we come to the nub of the problem, it was not over investing bishops—that was just the neuralgic point—it was who was in chief in Christendom—pope or emperor.  Neither one was about to back down.  Well, unfortunately for Henry (and ultimately for Gregory, but for the good luck of the Church), the Emperor had to back down.  Henry was young (25) and inexperienced and he had some very rebellious nobles in Germany.  When they rose in revolt Henry realized he couldn’t fight his nobles at home and the pope abroad—and as the nobles were the most pressing threat, he had to make peace with the pope.  So off he went to Italy where he stood barefoot and in a hair-shirt for three days in the courtyard of the Countess Matilda’s castle at Canossa.   Matilda was an immensely power woman, Countess of Tuscany but with lands that bordered France and Germany as well.  She was (at this point) trusted by both Gregory and Henry—though her greater loyalty lay with Gregory as Henry would find out.  Gregory had sought refuge with her at her castle when he heard that Henry was coming down into Italy.  Gregory at first had not realized that Henry was coming as a penitent.  This was not a wrong judgment because Henry was, in fact, anything but penitent.   In the end, Gregory absolved Henry but alas, Henry was not sincere in his penitence.  As soon as he got back to Germany and whipped his nobles into shape and got his empire under control, he came back to Italy with an army and headed right to Rome.  Well, not right to Rome.  First he went after Matilda of Tuscany for her support of Gregory.  He managed to seize much of Tuscany and declare her deposed, but he never managed to defeat her and she and his allies would fight him, finally defeating him at Canossa in 1090.  But that takes us too far from our main story.  Henry arrived in Rome and declared Gregory deposed and arranged for the election of Clement III (whom history regards as an anti-pope).  Gregory ended up fleeing for his life and Robert Guiscard, the Norman conqueror of Naples took him in for refuge.  Gregory died at Salerno in 1085.  This was the beginning of a war relationship that would continue for just under two centuries between the papacy and the Salian and Hohenstaufen Emperors until the tragic death of Conradin in 1268. The Conradin story has always broken my heart.  You're going to have to look it up for yourself as it is not pertinent to our saga, but I would recommend Geoffrey Barraclough's version in The Origins of Modern Germany.
     Gregory lost the battle but the Church won the war.  Emperors still continued to meddle in the election of bishops and abbots, as did the other European sovereigns,  but the power of the Emperor over the Church was effectively broken—not shattered, but broken.  Winning the independence of the Church from the Empire was probably the most successful aspect of the Gregorian Reform—certainly more successful than imposing celibacy or eliminating the buying and selling of Church offices.  Perhaps in our next few postings we can look at some of the current issues of Church and politics and see what might need some reform today.     

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Gregorian Reform--Mixed Successes

A Medieval Bishop sits enthroned
holding his crozier or episcopal staff
There were three main projects to the Gregorian Reform: the imposition of celibacy, the elimination of simony, and breaking the imperial or royal authority over bishops.  This final point is referred to as “The Investiture Controversy” and we discussed it briefly in our last posting with the example of William of Saint-Calais, Bishop of Durham, in the reign of William Rufus of England.  We will look at the Investiture issue more in this posting.  But before we do, let’s review the first to goals.
      The Gregorian Reform managed to impose clerical celibacy as the universal law for the Western Church. That is to say, by the end of the eleventh century it was known and accepted as law that clergy above and including the Order of Subdeacon in the Western Church were to be celibate.  Accepted does not mean, however, that the law was enforced, much less complied with.  As mentioned in some earlier posts (July 20, 21, 23, 24, 27, August 9), clerical marriage—of a sort of common-law variety—remained somewhat the norm until the reforms of the Council of Trent.  We often refer to the practice of the clergy having a less than formal (that is to say church-blessed) union as “clerical concubinage” but it should be considered more as common law marriage as the relationships tended to be permanent, exclusive (faithful), fecund (child-bearing), and if not public nor were they secret.   It is only after the sixteenth century that celibacy, though not necessarily chastity, became the practice as well as the law.
      Simony, the purchasing and selling of Church offices, did not have a better fate.  One does not come across it as much after the Gregorian Reform, at least by that name, but in fact it persisted under various guises and indeed still persists in the Church today under the camouflage of well accepted practices.  We will see that in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance huge amounts of money as well as promises of lucrative positions were shelled out to the Cardinal-Electors by papal wanna-bes every time there was a conclave.  When we look at the situation at the time of the Protestant Reformations we will examine the issue of “annates”—the practice of giving the Holy See the first year’s income from one’s new position in return for papal confirmation of the election or appointment.  Can you imagine giving to the Holy See the entire income of the Diocese of Winchester in England for, let us say, 1532?  Or the Archdiocese of Cologne?  One can see why so many supported the breaks with Rome just to keep that  money local.   Today too—and many Catholics are surprised (and even shocked) that it is customary for a newly elevated prelate ranging from Cardinals down through Monsignors in developed societies such as our own to give the Holy See (I refrain from saying “The Pope”) a handsome gift in acknowledgement for their appointment.  Such honorariums can range anywhere from a million dollars for a more important appointment to perhaps ten or fifteen thousand for the monsignoral purple belly-band.  In the case of Cardinals or bishops, these gratuities are usually offered by their dioceses to thank the Holy See for providing new leadership and, to be fair, the gifts offered newly named monsignors by their friends help defray the offering the new domestic prelate or chaplain to His Holiness or whatever makes to our friends across the seas.  Moreover the gifts and fees accruing to a major prelate (not a monsignor) make their gifts to the Holy See affordable.  For example, when a bishop visits a parish for confirmation or comes to a religious community to perform an ordination—priestly or diaconal—the normal gratuity would be between five hundred and a thousand dollars.  Even a casual visit to the parish merits an “Irish hand-shake.” One East Coast Archbishop, when complimented on some expensive cufflinks  that matched his arch-episcopal ring (all three holding a Roman coin from the time of Jesus—also the time of Herod the Great), said “Oh, when you’re an archbishop you don’t pay for these things.”    No, I guess you don’t.  And so it is indeed right and just that the Holy See should be thanked for facilitating a step up into a more gracious life-style.     As Thernadier was inclined to sing in Les Miserables: “But nothing gets you nothing Everything has got a little price!”  It can be argued that this provides necessary income for the Holy See which always has a terrible time balancing its budget—an even tougher time than the United States Government, though more successful than the Feds in the end.  I buy that.  The problem isn’t the financial transaction; the problem is the lack of transparency.  But Catholic Church finances are notoriously non-transparent, excepting for some religious orders of women who are way ahead of the pack in knowing what the Church needs today for genuine Reformation. 
     Well—on to the Investiture Conflict.  You know, I don’t think we have time for that today after all.  Let me set it up and we will continue it in the next posting.   The problem is that, as I described yesterday, the custom had arisen of the Emperor, or a King, or even a major nobleman “investing” bishops and abbots in their respective empires, kingdoms, or duchies with the insignia of office.  This implied that the prelate received his jurisdiction and authority not from God (or from God’s Church) but from the secular lord.  Indeed, the problem was even more serious.  In fact it was usually the Emperor, King, or major noble who instructed the cathedral chapter (or in the case of abbots, the monastic chapter) for whom to vote in the election.  Church offices were in the gift of the political authority and this threatened the independence of the Church.  It also, and this was even more to the point, threatened the loyalty of the bishop or abbot to the Holy See should a dispute arise between the secular power and the Church, as it indeed often did.  Thus Gregory VII—who is my second favorite pope in history—undertook to break this practice of imperial/royal investiture and so he took on the Emperor, Henry IV.  But that is for our next posting.        

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Investiture Controversy and William of Saint-Calais

Norman Portal of Durham Cathedral
This entrance may well date back to
the time of the episcopacy of William
of Saint-Calais
William of Saint-Calais was a monk of LeMans whom William the Conqueror named as Bishop of Durham in 1080.  Durham was a particularly important See—its position as the northernmost Diocese (and major city) in England rendered it key in the defense of the realm against the Scots.  In the eleventh and twelfth centuries—and indeed  into the fourteenth century—border skirmishes between the Scots and the English were common.  Durham’s position was so crucial that its bishop was not only a Lord Spiritual of the English Kingdom but a Count Palatine and as such is rather unique among the hierarchy having civil as well as ecclesiastical jurisdiction.  Indeed, the bishops of Durham, while technically counts, were “prince-bishops” in as that their "county palatine" was a principality, that is a semi-autonomous region governed by the Bishop/Count Palatine with vice-regal powers.  That is to say that as Count Palatine, the  Bishop exercised  his governmental power as the direct representative of the King.  While the crown had over the centuries endowed most dioceses with substantial lands to support a bishop, the cathedral, and other institutions, Durham was also invested with extensive lands to permit the Bishop/Count to defend the county and exercise the king’s governance and justice there.  In addition to revenue producing lands, the Bishop also held  several castles for the defense of the frontier with the Scots. 
     William of Saint-Calais served William the Conqueror well  but when he died he deserted the new King, William II, also known as William Rufus.  William Rufus was neither the man nor the king his father was.  When William the Conqueror died, he left his primary domain—the Duchy of Normandy—to his older son, Robert Curthose, and his (what he perceived to be) less important domain—England—to his second son, William.  Many of the nobles rose in rebellion against William Rufus in an effort to put Robert Curthose—the more talented son—on the throne of England as well as Normandy.  While Bishop William of Saint-Calais did not join in the rebellion, he supported it and did not come to the aid of William Rufus with troops as was his duty as a vassal to the king.  It was not a wise move.  William Rufus put down the rebellion, retained his throne, and brought the rebels—including the Bishop—to trial.  And here is where the story becomes interesting to us as we look at the issues of the Gregorian Reform. 
     The Bishop argued that he could not be tried in a secular court because he was a Bishop and thus could only be tried in an ecclesiastical court.  The King insisted that he was not being tried as a bishop, but as a vassal who had failed to perform his sworn duty of supplying aid and assistance to his liege lord, the King, in time of war.  The legal knot is that William was not only a bishop who was a vassal but was a vassal and held land and castles from the king precisely because he was a bishop.  In this particular case, even the Church (in the person of Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury) did not seek to protect William.  It was clear to them that he had failed, not as bishop but as vassal, but it highlights the complex relationship in which not only William but most bishops found themselves.  Their temporalities—the lands that supported them in their work and ministry (and comfortable, or more-than-comfortable, lifestyle) came from the King or Nobleman or Emperor in whose realm their diocese stood.  They were thus dependent on the civil ruler for their sustenance while they did God’s work. 
     It was customary for the king (or Emperor, or even a major nobleman) to invest his vassals when they received their fiefs.  In case of a secular noble this was not a problem.  It worked like this.  The Earl of Wessex died.  His heir came to the king, knelt before the king and placing his hands in the king’s hands, pledged to be a faithful vassal to his liege, the king.  The king then invested him with the earldom—the various signs and robes of authority.  The problem was with a bishop becoming a vassal.  The Archbishop of Bamberg dies.  The newly elected (by the Cathedral Chapter—the clergy attached to the Cathedral) Archbishop (and usually elected at the nomination of the Emperor) comes and kneels before the Emperor, pledging to serve him as vassal.    The Emperor then invests him with his symbols of office—in this case, ring, miter, crozier—and seats him in the Archbishop’s chair.  Hmmm.  It looks like the bishop is receiving his spiritual authority from the Emperor.  The Emperor—who understood himself to be the Vicar of Christ—didn’t have a problem with this.  But the pope did.  This leads to what we call the Investiture Controversy and it was the main issue of the Gregorian Reformation.    

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Reform of Papal Elections, Part 2

A medieval manuscript from Krakow shows
a pope surrounded by members of his court, or
in Latin, his Curia
In our last posting we looked at the evolution of the papal election process from the second century up through the tenth.  Rome, like other local Churches, elected their bishops—the clergy (priests and deacons) voting, first presenting the candidate to the faithful for their approval and then presenting the bishop-elect to the surrounding bishops for consecration.  Those neighboring bishops could refuse consecration to the bishop-elect if they had serious question about his orthodoxy, his morals, or other suitability issues.  As we have seen in a number of postings, the system ceased working well in Rome by the ninth century when the “faithful” turned into mobs controlled by Rome’s leading families who were vying to place their candidates on the papal throne in order to control the wealth and the power of the Church for their own family benefit.  This led to a succession of notably bad Roman bishops in the ninth and tenth centuries.  There were exceptions—Nicholas I (858-867), Adrian III (884-885), Theodore II (897), John IX (898-900) and Benedict IV (900-903), but by and large this was a time of tremendous scandals in the papacy.  (check out entries for January 15th, June 5th, 6th, 9th, August 5th among others) with stories of papal adultery, gay popes, murders to become pope, conspiracies and even the exhumation and  posthumous trial of a dead pope.   The Ottonian Emperors cleaned it up, but only by usurping the traditional privilege of papal election and appointing their candidates.  At first this was done with the façade of election, but then—as we saw in the reign of Henry III—it became mere appointment (see entry of August 13th).  Imperial appointment actually gave the Church a number of excellent popes but it also created a dangerous precedent.  In the first place it clearly subordinated the Church to the political power.  Had this not been corrected the Catholic Church would have found itself in the same position that first the Greek Church and then the Russian Church found itself in with regard to the Byzantine Emperors and Russian Tsars respectively.  The popes would have ended up meaning no more than mere chaplains to the Emperors and the Emperors would have been the heads of the Church.  Indeed, as we shall see in a future post, Henry VIII would make the claim that since “the Crown of England is and ought by right to be a Crown Imperial” that he, the wearer of that crown, was by right head of the Church in his “imperial” realm.  But that is for later.  No sooner had the Emperors cleaned up the papacy than that very reformed papacy knew it had to break the imperial power over the Church.  That would lead to the investiture conflict, but before we go there let’s stay focused to the matter of papal elections.  Nicholas II in the papal bull, In Nomine Domini, moved to establish a definite protocol of election.  In the first place the Emperor was given no right of nomination.  The process began with the Cardinal Bishops as Nicholas empowered the seven Cardinal Bishops to select a candidate to be presented to the Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Deacons for their “election.”  This candidate would then be presented to the Roman people for their acclamation.  Only then did the Emperor have voice, having a right of confirmation; but the process was so structured that power remained with the Cardinals and their choice; there was no practical way for the Emperor to overturn the fait accompli.  By the end of the eleventh century, the separate roles of the Cardinal Bishops on the one hand and the Cardinal Deacons and Priests on the other melded so that all Cardinals participated equally in the election.  This was almost inevitable given the relatively small size of the Sacred College—rarely as many as thirty and often only a dozen or so. Remember too that at this stage of history, the Cardinal Bishops, Priests, and Deacons were all actual bishops, pastors and deacons of the Diocese of Rome who (normally) lived there and were key in administering the local Church.  They were not the international assortment they are now. 
     The Emperors were not happy with losing their right of nomination and, in fact, it was only in 1122 at the Council of Worms that they conceded the loss of that right.  As late as 1903 in the election that produced Pope Saint Pius X the Emperor (by then of Austria—the Holy Roman Empire having been terminated in 1806 when Francis I of Austria abdicated the throne of the Holy Roman Empire (where he had been Francis II) following defeat by Napoleon and loss of territories to France) Franz-Josef vetoed the impending election of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla.  Pius abolished the imperial right of veto as one of the first acts of his pontificate.  We will look more at this problem of Imperial interference in papal elections in our next posting.  For now, let’s go back to the election process.
     The right of the Roman people to “acclaim” the election persisted well into the Middle Ages but it gradually ceased to have any determinative role in determining the legitimacy of the papal selection.  The fact that in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries any number of papal elections were held outside Rome whether at Perugia, Viterbo, Naples, or Avignon and that automatically excluded the Roman crowd from participation.   Nevertheless, remember that when the papacy returned to Rome after the Avignon “Babylonian Captivity” in 1378 it was still deemed necessary to present a candidate acceptable to the Roman Populace.  By a century later that would no longer be any concern and the Roman populace was openly hostile to various popes in the sixteenth century. 
     The custom of the conclave began in the thirteenth century when, on occasion, prolonged meetings of the Cardinals failed to produce a candidate due to internal divisions among the electors.  Sometimes the papal office was left empty for over a year!  Upon the death of Innocent III in 1216 the city of Perugia—where the election was being held—blockaded the cardinals into the bishop’s palace until they came up with a pope.  After the death of Celestine IV in 1241, civil officials in Rome did the same to the cardinal electors when after 19 months they had not made a choice.  Clement IV died in 1268 and two years and ten months passed before the Cardinals came up with a pope.  The citizens of Viterbo not only barricaded the cardinals inside but first tore the roof from the building and then permitted only bread and water to be passed to the electors within.  The pope elected at that conclave, Gregory X, established the norm that the Cardinals would be secluded under relatively austere conditions until an election was forthcoming.  It didn’t always work but that is for future postings. 
    The key point we want to observe is that the Church broke the imperial hold on the selection of popes.  This was an important step in freeing the papacy from political power.  At times, it would find itself again beneath the thumb of some emperor or king but for the most part, the pope has played at least as an equal to the political forces in the world around him.  the next task would be to free the bishops from imperial and royal control.     

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Reform of Papal Elections--part I

Santa Maria in Cosmedin, one of
the seven ancient diaconal Churches
that served as a food distribution
station for Rome's poor in the ealry
and central Middle Ages
Let’s take a look at papal elections as the eleventh century reforms in this procedure are essential to the Gregorian Reform.  You may recall from a wide number of previous entries that one of the chief problems facing the Church in the ninth and tenth centuries was the unstable manner the Romans had of selecting a bishop for themselves.  The process had degenerated into mob violence with the various factions of the Roman mob controlled by any one of several Roman families, most notably the Theophylact clan who were Dukes of Spoleto and Counts of Tusculum and the Crescentii—an ancient Roman family.  For the most part it didn’t matter which family won out in the struggle—the papacy and the Church suffered either way.  The great Roman families all wanted control of the papacy in order to control the vast wealth that had come to the Roman Church and the political power—since the Pope was (usually) not only the spiritual leader of the Roman Diocese but the temporal ruler of much of central Italy. 
     Ever since the earliest days of the Church, not only at Rome but throughout Christendom, bishops were elected by the clergy and faithful of their diocese and then confirmed by the bishops of the surrounding Churches who gathered to consecrate the new bishop through the laying-on-of-hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit.  As the centuries went on this process often degenerated into mob activity.  One of the most famous examples was the election of a bishop in Milan in 374 when competing factions—one Arian, the other orthodox, were fighting in the streets and the civil magistrate sent to put down the disturbance, a catechumen named Ambrose, ended up being chosen despite the fact that not only was he not a priest but he was not even yet baptized.  It was, of course, a great choice—Saint Ambrose is one of the great bishops of the Church.  Most of the time, and especially in Rome, the outcome was not so fortunate.  Part of this was that the electoral process was out of control.  The clergy numbered in the hundreds and the faithful of the Roman Church was nothing more than a mob. Changes had to be made.
    By the early Middle Ages, the seventh or eighth centuries, in Rome the election devolved on the priests in charge of the principle churches of the city as well as the seven deacons attached to the papal household, and the deacons who headed up the seven diaconal churches.  These diaconal churches were not parish churches, or even primarily worship sites; they were  centers where relief was given to the poor—like Catholic Charities centers today.  One of their most important functions was distribution of grain to the poor—grain from the vast papal estates in Sicily and southern Italy was brought to Rome for poor-relief.  In addition to the principle priests and deacons—there were many more priests and deacons in the city other than these ones who had greater responsibility—the bishops of Rome’s seven suburbican (adjoining) sees formed part of the electoral process.  It fell to them to ordain the new pope if he were not a priest and to consecrate him a bishop if and when he was.  It was very rare in the early Middle Ages for the new pope to be a bishop as there were canons which forbad a bishop to move from one diocese to another—even to Rome and the papacy.  A bishop was considered “married” to the Church of which he was bishop and being consecrated a bishop was a life-long commitment.  This helped avoid some of the ambitious ladder-climbing that too often mars the hierarchy today.  Sometimes, but in those early years, not often, this canon was overlooked.  Election of the Roman bishop by the city’s principal priests, deacons, and the suburbican bishops was not sufficient however.  Before the candidate could be consecrated and enthroned, he had to be presented to the faithful for their acclamation.  This is where the mob violence often came in.   
There had been an attempt in the fifth century to replace the popular election process by having a pope appoint his successor.  Anastasius II who reigned from 496-498 prohibited this practice and insisted that the pope, like other bishops, had to be elected by the clergy and people.  In the seventh an d eighth centuries The Emperors at Constantinople claimed the right to confirm the papal election but this practice fell into disuse after Zachary I in 741.  Emperors also claimed the right to depose popes and while a number were forced to resign,  by the end of the eighth century the actual power of the Byzantine Emperors to enforce their decrees in central or Northern Italy was nil.  (Southern Italy was a different story and remained under Greek control into the tenth century.)  As the Constantinople emperors lost control of Italy and Rome, it created a power vacuum that the Roman mobs filled.  We saw what happened at the end of the ninth and into the early tenth centuries when the papacy went through what was probably its absolute low-point with the “pornacracy” of the Theophylact family controlling the papacy through the machinations of the mother-daughter team of papal mistresses, mothers, grandmothers of Theodora and Marozia. 
     Stephen III was the pope (768-772) who first used the term “cardinal” to describe the priests and deacons who appointment to the principal churches gave them voice in selecting the new pope.  It came from the Latin, cardo, for hinge or pivot—the idea being that the priests of the principal churches and the deacons in charge of the seven diaconal charity stations were the operational pieces of the administrative machinery of the Roman Church that held it together. From the fifth century onwards, Rome had seen a surplus of churches being built as monastic foundations were made inside the city, as prominent citizens decided to build family churches for their special events—especially for burial, and as various civic organizations built churches in which their members could gather for prayers.  Wealthy individuals whose petitions had been answered through the invocation of a particular martyr or saint often built a church as a thank-offering to their heavenly patron.  In the same way, the number of clergy was growing fast as the elaborate papal ceremonial developed and as these various new churches needed clergy to carry on the services.  Many of these clergy came to Rome from all over Europe and had no history with the Roman Church.  Morevover, it became impractical to allow a clergy numbering in the hundreds, between priests and deacons, to have a voice in selecting the papal candidate to present to the faithful for acclamation.   (The lesser clergy—subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, etc. never had a voice in the selection process.)  Thus by designating certain churches, the older and more important, as cardinal churches and their clergy as cardinal priests or cardinal deacons to whom the right of nomination was reserved a more manageable system was devised.  But it would still be almost three centuries before the right was exclusively theirs.  It still resided with the Roman faithful—or as we have seen, the Roman mob—to accept the candidate offered.   Further changes were still needed if Rome was to have decent popes. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The East-West Schism: 1054 and All That

His Ecumenical Holiness,
Bartholomew I, 270th  
successor of Saint Andrew
the Apostle

Sorry about the recent hiatus—we have had issues with our wireless internet connections over the last few days, but now it’s time to refocus and to return to the subject of the Gregorian Reform.  But before we focus on the Reform itself, let’s take a brief detour here and talk about the East-West Schism since it was at this time that the papal legate Humbert of Silva Candida excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Caerularius and the Patriarch—always a gentleman—returned the compliment.   You may remember from our last posting (August 13th)  on the Gregorian Reform, the one on German Reform popes, that Leo IX had sent Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida to Constantinople on a mission that went bad and ended up with the Cardinal (in the pope’s name) and the Patriarch excommunicating each other. 
     Tensions between the Sees of Rome and Constantinople had often been tense.  Contrary to Catholic Mythology, the Patriarch of Constantinople—like the other Apostolic Patriarchs of Jerusalem. Antioch, and Alexandria—had never been “under” the pope or his authority.  As successor to various apostles, they were “brothers” among whom the Patriarch of the West, the Bishop of Rome, stood out as first among equals.  The Council in Trullo (692), a Council which the Eastern Churches recognize as Ecumenical but the Western Church does not (since no delegates from the West were there) determined the precedence to be Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  The First Council of Constantinople (381), which both the Churches of the East and the West recognize as Ecumenical, had already determined that the Bishop of Rome held precedence over the Bishop of Constantinople.  This was not a matter of jurisdiction, however, but only of honor.  Each Patriarch was supreme authority in his own jurisdiction; indeed each bishop was supreme in his own diocese.  A patriarch could settle disputes among the bishops in his patriarchate.  Each patriarch in his own jurisdiction also was the court of appeal should the clergy have a canonical or doctrinal grievance against their bishop, but the universal Church had a very collaborative structure rather than the hierarchical structure that was to emerge in the Middle Ages.  From the time of the Apostles until the Emperor Justinian (d. 565) the universal Church was a communion of local churches;  by the sixth century, it had become a communion of the five patriarchates which in turn were communions of the local churches that comprised them.  Universal Jurisdiction of the papacy would only be claimed towards the end of the first millennium and even then it did not approach the authority claimed by the popes since the fifteenth century collapse of conciliarism—which is a future topic. 
     That is not to say that everything in the church was all buddy-buddy among bishops, metropolitans, and patriarchs—to the contrary. Male animals in nature do not share territory; likewise in the Church there have been squabbles of jurisdiction ever since the beginning.  As Constantinople, the capital of the surviving Roman Empire, grew in importance and Rome, abandoned by its Emperor and bereft of its Empire, declined in its significance, the bishops of Constantinople pushed more and more to be recognized as the first bishop of Christendom.  The bishops of Constantinople were (allegedly) the descendents of Andrew and Andrew was, after all, Peter’s older brother—and the “first-called.”  (Saint Andrew is venerated to this day in the Churches form the Byzantine Tradition as “The First-Called.).  Rome, on the other hand, was jealous of its ancient prerogatives and suspicious of Constantinople’s designs.  The political situation made matters even more tense.  Increasingly after the seventh century, the Emperors in Constantinople were unable to defend Rome from the Lombards and other Germanic tribes as well as from the Saracen pirates who dominated the Mediterranean.  As a result, the popes looked more and more to the Merovingian and Pippinid (Carolingian) Kings of the Franks for protection.  When Charlemagne assumed the title “Emperor” in 800 AD, the Emperor—the “real” Emperor in Constantinople—was furious that this illiterate animal-skin wearing baboon in the West would assume equality with his perfumed and silk-clad dandy self in Constantinople.  Mirroring the political tension between the emperors, mistrust and antagonism grew between the Church in the East (Constantinople) and the Church in the West (Rome).   
      Now, over the centuries there had been  a number of popes who had been chosen from the East.  In antiquity there had been Anacletus, the second successor to Peter, Telesphorus (+137), Hyginus (+140), Sixtus II (+258)  Zosimus (+418)  among others.  Even as the tension between East and West mounted, Greek and Syrian popes were common—among them (there were more) were Boniface III (+607)  Theodore I (+642) Agatho (+681) Sergius I (+687) Constantine (+715)  Zachary (+752) Stephen III (+772).  The Greek and Syrian popes brought much to the Western Church—the “Kyrie” of the Mass being one contribution.  Nevertheless the tension began to build. 
    858 the Emperor Michael III of Constantinople deposed the Patriarch Ignatius for political reasons and replaced him with a theologian, a layman, Photios.  Under normal circumstances Photios would have made an excellent patriarch—he was both holy and scholarly.   Ignatius had dared to excommunicate the Emperor’s uncle for having an affair with his widowed daughter-in-law.  Pope Nicholas I, as senior patriarch, felt he had a responsibility to speak up for the deposed Ignatius whose rights had been violated.  He did not claim universal jurisdiction but rather acted as the senior patriarch protecting one of the four junior patriarchs. Nicholas excommunicated Photios and the Emperor.  This created a schism between the Eastern and Western Churches.  When Ignatius died, Photios was elected in his own right to succede him and the schism was healed.   But it left a bad mark.  Ironically, according to some historians, Photius’ son succeeded to the papal throne as Theodore II. 
     There were other points of tension that persisted even after the schism had been healed.  The Western Church unilaterally altered the Creed of the Council of Nicea, declaring that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as the Father.  The addition to the creed “and the Son” is known by its Latin phraseology: filioque.  As the western Church began to impose celibacy on the clergy, the Eastern Church maintained a married parish clergy.  The Western Church began using unleavened bread for the Eucharist as Christ had used unleavened bread at the Last Supper; the Eastern Churches kept to the apostolic custom of using leavened bread.  When the Greek Church banned the use of icons—images of Christ, Mary, and the Saints in 730, Pope Gregory III convoked a synod that defended the use of Icons.  This caused many Greek Christians to flee to Rome to maintain their practice of using icons in personal prayer as well as corporate worship.  The second Council of Nicea in 787 affirmed the use of icons, but  the East and West remained suspicious of each other’s doctrinal position

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More About the Upcoming New Translation of Mass--Sacred and Secular

Cardinal Wuerl celebrates Mass with the noble
simplicity that facilitates prayer on the part of
priest and people, 
  We have already looked somewhat at this issue of the new translation of the Roman Rite of the Mass that Catholics will begin using this November.  I think one of the things that concerns me most about the proposed new translation is that the desire is for a more “sacred” language appropriate to the Liturgy.  As I said in  yesterday’s entry, I am all for good use of language in the Liturgy.  I like a somewhat formal tone to such events, not because they are “sacred” but simply because public discourse merits public language, i.e. the English (or whatever the vernacular language may be) that is common to us all regardless of region, ethnic/racial background, socio-economic class, or educational level.  I remember studying public speaking years ago—more years than I like to think about—while I was at university. (I actually have a teaching-minor in public speaking; I took it seriously.)  Our professors always held up “six-o’clock news English” as the standard.  By and large, I think that is the appropriate linguistic tone to strike whether it is a city council meeting, a Memorial Day wreath-laying, a High School honors assembly,  a College valedictory address,  or Church.  As for ‘sacred” language (as opposed to secular) I am not so sure.  It seems to me that our belief in the Incarnation sees that the “secular” is shot through with the sacred.  As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote: “earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.  Or Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;  
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
     Frankly, this talk of sacred vs. secular language frightens me because beneath it I see the ancient heresy that tells us the lie that between God and this fragile world there is an immense gap which no one can cross while I believe and our faith proclaims that God has broken into human time and place and in Jesus Christ is gathering this mortal creation back into his Divine Self.  I am by no means in favor of a Lèse majesté towards God.  I think that worship, in word and action, should have a dignity, a noble simplicity.  But it also must be real and reflect the real us, or it is not prayer.  A sacred/secular dichotomy or a body/soul dichotomy potentially undermines the essential doctrine of Christianity:  that the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father—consubstantial (to use the newly rediscovered word) with the Father in his Divine Nature—has pitched his tent among us (to use the phrase Saint John uses in his prologue; the habitavit in nobis [“and dwelt among us”] was Saint Jerome’s “dynamic equivalency” translation) among us making this “secular world” sacred by his Incarnation.  But then, over the years, I have noticed that Monophysitism is the operative faith of most Catholic Christians.    Just read the annual Christmas letter of almost any bishop to get a good glimpse of unorthodoxy.  Given the principle of lex orandi; lex credendi this new translation is only going to reinforce that.