As was seen, king Philip IV of France was the first ruler to defy the pope without either being destroyed or even once humiliated. It shows, as was said, that the peoples of Europe and in particular the people of France were losing much of their dread for the pope’s thunderings. His spiritual weapons no longer availed. The people of France therefore dared to support their king in his warfare with the pope.
Nothing more is indicative of this change of attitude than the literary attacks upon the papacy at this time. The Holy Roman Empire was declared antiquated and the states of Europe was said to be sovereign within their own boundaries. The arguments for the independent and sovereign states were derived from reason, Aristotle and the Scriptures. Three propositions were advanced. 1) The monarchy is necessary. 2) The monarchy is the possession of the people. 3) God bestowed it directly upon the Romans, and it did not come through the mediation of the papacy. The argument runs as follows. An impartial arbiter is necessary to society and only a monarchy that is universal, and independent, and sovereign can be impartial. The blessings of such a monarchy are peace and liberty, God’s greatest gift to man. The noblest people are the Romans deserving of the right to rule. This right was given by Christ himself. By consenting to be born under Augustus and to suffer under Tiberius brought Himself under Roman jurisdiction. It was witnessed to by the church when Paul said to Festus, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged.” The two governing agents indispensable to society are the pope and the emperor. The supremacy in temporal affairs belongs exclusively to the emperor. His task is to give men guidance to life eternal in agreement with the truths of revelation. But the emperor should revere the pope with a reverence that a firstborn son pays to his father.
But the theory of the temporal power of the papacy also had its defenders. There was the tract of Aegidius Romanus, 1247-1316. It sets forth the following teachings. The pope judges all things and is judged by no man. To the pope belongs full power. This power is measureless, numberless and without weight. All Christians are subject to it. The pope is superior to all laws and infallible in matters of religion. Like the sea he fills all vessels, like the sun he sends his rays into all things. The priesthood was first in order of time, royalty second. Nimrod followed Abel and Noah. The militant church can have but one source of power, one supreme government, one head to whom belongs all power. This is the pope of Rome. God immediately appointed the priesthood and the papacy. Early kingdoms were either established by the priesthood or had their origin in usurpation, robbery, or other forms of violence. The state is the means through which the church works. As such it is necessary. The church may possess all worldly goods. Cities were given the Levites. The church controls all temporal goods. The pope rules all temporal affairs as the soul rules the body. The right to the possession of a single acre of ground is only by the permission of the church.
Another defender of the papacy was Henry of Cassaloci, who died in 1312. His tract begins with the words of, “All power is given to me,” that is to the pope. The emperor cannot function without papal consecration. Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” but what He meant is that the world refused to obey Him. Though Christ said, “render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” He was under no obligation to give tribute to the emperor; and this applies also to the children of the kingdom of God. They are free on the ground of . Henry attempted to found the theory of papal supremacy in temporal affairs on the Scriptures, the fathers, and reason. God at first ruled through Noah, the patriarchs, Melchizedec, and Moses. They were priests and kings at the same time. Moses punished Pharaoh. Both swords were carried by Christ. He drove out the money changers and wore the crown of thorns. He received power to judge the world. The same power was delegated to Peter and his successors. The state bears to the church the relation of the moon to the sun, and whatever power the emperor has is given him by the pope.
The writers who denied the pope’s right to temporal authority over the nation were mainly jurists. There is the tract known as the Twofold Prerogative. The tract distinguishes between two functions, the spiritual and the temporal. The pope has full power only in the spiritual realm. The spiritual and temporal functions are not united in the one person. This is evident from Christ’s refusal of the office of king and from the law of Moses forbidding the Levites to hold temporal possessions, worldly property. The civil power is independent of the spiritual. But both powers are of God. The same position is taken in another tract. Moses was a temporal ruler and Aaron was priest. Both had their own offices. The church is one in Christ. He established the two powers, spiritual and temporal. The pope’s weapons are the spiritual ones. Christ had no worldly jurisdiction and the pope should understand this. The popes place in the church is that of representative of the whole body of believers. He is not their lord. He is subject to the church, by whom he can be called to account. The emperor may depose the pope.
In these tracts the attack was only against the claims of the papacy to the temporal supremacy over the kings of the earth. His spiritual authority was not denied. The state is supreme in its sphere and likewise/ the church. Both receive their authority from God.
The transfer of the Papacy of Avignon. In 1305 Clement V was elected pope. This Clement was a Frenchman who never went to Rome. He chose Avignon, a city in France, as his residence. Here the popes remained for more than seventy years. The period is known as the Babylonian captivity of the papacy. It included seven popes, all Frenchmen. This absence from Rome did the papal system much harm. The papacy threatened to become a French institution. The morals of the papacy during its residence in Avignon became notorious throughout Europe. The household of the pope took on the appearance of a worldly court. It was torn by strife and dark schemes of all kinds. It was noted for its sensuality. Bribery and Simony were much practiced. It was crowded with money changers. Petrarch called it “the sink of every vice, the haunt of all iniquities, a third Babylon, the Babylon of the West, the fountain of all afflictions, the refuge of wrath, the school of errors, a temple of lies, the awful prison, hell on earth.”
During this period the condition in Rome was deplorable. Rome had been the queen of cities. It was visited by throngs of pilgrims. It was loved by all the church. Rome was now turned into a city of confusion. It was now the city of strife between leaders who strove with one another for the mastery in municipal affairs. No longer visited by pilgrims, it lost its source of income and became poor. Its population diminished. In 1300 it numbered less than 20,000. The city had no commerce at this time. The churches became roofless. Cattle ate grass at the altars of the Latern and St. Peter’s. There was a stoppage of all art.
Northern Italy was torn by anarchy. Bands of robbers crossed the country. The officials in the church had to buy their freedom from violence. It seemed as if Italy was turning into a desolate waste. And the city of Rome became a den of robbers unfit for human habitation.
As to Avignon, it lies 450 miles east of Paris. It was purchased by Clement V from Naples for 10,000 gold florins. It remained a papal city till the French revolution. The Italian bishops pressed Clement to return to Rome, but he refused. Living in Avignon, the pope was in the power of the king of France, Philip IV. Philip who imposed the terms on which Clement V received his crown. He had to undo all the Boniface had done in his warfare with Philip. The king also ordered the destruction of the Templar Order, and Clement, in obedience to Philip, ordered the persecution of these knights wherever they might be found. The charges preferred were heresy and worshipping idols and moral indecency. The members were accused of holding meetings with the devil, who appeared in a black cat. Many of the men admitted the accusation under extreme torture. The Templars nowhere had friends. All were opposed to them. In Paris many of them died under torture and hundreds perished in prisons. They were tried in most all the countries of Europe.