Joseph Priestley.

A general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) online

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and fubmifTion, as he did that of his depofition,
which was fent to him fome time after ; profeffing
his readinefs to refign the pontificate, whenever
the council pleafed. He only begged that, in their
final fentence, they would refpeft his honour, his
perfon, and hiseflate. After this he was conduc-
ed to the fortrefs ot Gotleben, where John Hus was
at that time a prifoner ; and of all his domeftics on-
ly his cook was allowed to attend him. From this
place he was conducted to Heidelberg.

As Gregory expreffed his wiilingnefs to refign,
but not to acknowledge the council, as not having
been canonically convened, in the fourteenth fef-
fion it was called in his name, and the emperor
prefided, when his refignation was folemnly made
in his name by his friend Charles de Malatefla,
After this he was appointed to be the firft of the car-
dinals, and perpetual legate of the march ot Anco-
na, in which he continued till his death, two years



The condiift of Benedi£l furnifhes fuch an
example of obftinacy as hardly occurs in the hiflo-
ry of the human mind. Perfifting in his refufal
to acknovvledire the council, or renounce the pon^
tificate, he was declared to be a notorious fchifma-
tic, and all the faithful were required to withdrav>F
their obedience from him. Having, however,
fomerelpeft for his private charader, and wifliing
to clofe the fchifm in the bell and moft efFe£luai
manner, the emperor himfelf was appointed to
meet and confer with him at Perpignan, and there
he arrived the i8th of September a. d. 1415.
But BenediQ:, who had been there from the month
of June, had left the place, and refufed to return.
He fent, however, fome propofals, among which
was the calling of another council, in which, after
being acknowledged to be pope, he would depofe
himfelf, on condition that he fhould be continued
cardinal legate a latere, with full power, fpiritual
and temporal, in the whole extent of his obedience,
and that the new council fhould begin with can-
celling all that had been done againft him at Pi fa,
Thefe terms were deemed to be fo extravasant,
that there was no thought of acceding to them,
and even the kings who had hitheno continued in
his obedience, fhocked at his obftinacy, now aban-
doned him. On this he retired firft to Cullieure,
and thence to Panifcola, a llrong place near the



fea, an<i not far from Tortofa, deferted by all his
cardi-nals, except thofe of his own family. In this
feqiieliered place, at the age ofeii^hty. he fulmina-
ted his bulls againft the council of Conflance, and
the ki?>g of Arragon ; threatening him with taking
away th-e crown that he had given him ; and on
their proceeding farther againft him at the council,
he threatened that, if they gave him any more dif-
turbance, he would put the church into tuch a (late
as that It fhould never be able to recover itfelf,
Thefe and other inflances of his obftinacy, and his
breach of promife, in not refigning when his oppo-
nents did, were recited in the aft of his condemna-
tion. Notwithflanding this, on being fummoned
for the laft time, he treated the deputies with great
haughtinef?, and declared all the members of the
council heretics, favourers of fchifm, and fubjeft
to all the penalties to which fuch perfons were
fentenced. After due attention to all the requi-
fite forms, fentence of depofition was at length
pronounced againfl him in the thirty feventh feflion,
the 26th of July a. d. 1417, as a promoter of
fchifm, a heretic, &c.

Having now difpofed of all the three popes,
the cardinals, afxr many folemn preliminaries,
proceeded to a new eleftion, when they chofe O-
tho Colonna, of the antient family of Colonna,
a cardinal deacon, who took the name of Martin V.



The emperor then entered the conclave, and
kiffed his feet, and the ceremony of crowning him
immediately followed. *


* This council prefcribed a confeffion of faith for
future popes, and it may be feen in UEnfani's History
efthe cowicil, Vol 2. p. 125. In the early times it was
thecullom of bifhops, at leaft thofe of the greater fees,
to fend to their brother bifiiops a confeffion of their faith;
and thefe were various, according to the herefies that
prevailed at the time. But this cuftom had been dif-
contiriued from a. d. 1294, when it is faid that Boni-
face VIII gave one. The difcontinuance was probably
owing to the idea of the fuperiority of the popes to all
councils, the authority of which had always been re-
cognized in the confeffions. The fuperiority of coun-
cils to the pope was clearly afferted on this occafion. In
the feventh feffion it was decreed that *' every perfon
" of what dignity foever, even the papal, was obliged
*^ to obey the council in what refjoedls the faith, the ex-
" tindlion of fchifm, and the reformation of the church
*' in its head and its members ; and that v/hoever dif-
*' obeys it, tho' it Ihould be the pope, fliould be punifli-
" ed according to the la%v." VEnfanfs Constance^
Vol. 2. p, 227. The cuftom of crowning the pope can -
not be traced higher than the thirteenth century. The'
Teafons for the triple crown, which is firft mentioned
at the coronation of Benedia XII in the fourteenth
century, are \txy various. Eid. Vol. 2. p. 165.

Vol. IV. D d


Unwilling to leave any remains of the fchifm,
even after this, another deputation was fent to Be-
nedift ; but tho' he had only two cardinals ad-
hering to him, he replied, that they might depend
upon him for pacifying the troubles of the church,
and that he was willing to confer with Martin on
the fubjeQ;, This being conlidered as an cvalion,
the cardinal ambaffador publifhed a bull of excom-
munication againffi him, and his two cardinals.
He continued, however, tt) aQ; as pope as long as
he lived, tho' confined to his caftle of Panifcola.
But he was again fupported by Alphonfo k^g of
Arragon, becaufe Martin refufed to give him the
invefliture of the kingdom of Naples. Benedift
died in a. d. 1424 at the age of ninety ; but be-
fore his death he made the two cardinals who ad-
hered to him take an oath, that they would chufe
another pope in his place. Accordingly, they
chofe Gilles Mugnow, a cannon of Barcelona,
who, at the requihtion of Alphonfo. accepted of
the nomination^ and took the name of Clement
VIII. He even made a creation of cardinals.
But Alphonfo making his peace with Martin,
this Clement abdicated the papacy in a. d. 1429;
Two of the cardinals, however, being determined
to continue the fchifm, they firfl; chofe Francis
Rouera, a doQ;or of the canon law, and he refign-
ing in the rtquifite forms, they agreed in the



choice of Martin ; and thus the fchifm properly-
ended, after having continued fifty-one years.

Before this, John XXIII, after being kept irl
prifon four years, was releafed at the interceflion
of the people of Florence, when he came to the
neighbourhood of Parma, where he had many
friends, who ftrongly folicited him to refume the
pontifical funftions. But inftead ot this, he went
of his own accord, and made his fubmifTion to
Martin, imploring his compaflion, and in fuch a
manner as drew tears from all who were prefent at
the fcene. The pope received him with much af-
fection, made him a cardinal, and dean of the
facred college, and in all public ceremonies placed
him in an elevated chair, next to himfelf. But he
did not furvive this more than fix months, dying
the 22d of Decembe;r a. d. 1418. His particular
friend Cofmo de Medici, the wealthieft man of
his time, without excepting even fovereign prmces,
honoured him with a magnificent funeral, and
erefted a fuperb monument for him in the church
of St. John at Rome.




Of the State of the Clergy in this Period,


H E flate of the clergy was nearly the
fame in this period as in the preceding; tho' the
laity in general being now better informed, their
diforders did not efcape animadverfion. But the
maxims on which the exorbitant power of the cler-
gy, and all the abufes complained of, were fo gene-
rally received, that a reformation was almoft im-
poffible. In point of argument the clergy had
generally the advantage. We find the fuUeft re-
prefentation of the ftate of the clergy at the gene-
ral council held by Urban V at Vienne in a. n.
1311. The principal fource of the abufes arofe
from the power which the popes affumed of dif-
pofing of church livings in all parts of the world,
■which they almoft always did for money, generally
to ftrangers, who never refided, often to perlons
exceedingly profligate, and very ignorant. Their
power to do this was not queftioned, only the
abufe of it was complained of; and when it was
refifted, it was in an arbitrary manner, without fo-
lid reafon. And what the popes did in the greater
fees, the f'upcrior clergy did in the fmaller bene-
fices, which were at their difpofal ; and it could


Sec.V. the christian church. 421

not be expeQed that they fliould difpofe of any-
thing hut in the manner on which they had ac-
quired it.

Alphonfo VII king of Caftile applying to pope.
John XXII, in a. d. 1330, for a contribution
from the clergy, in his wars with the Moors, faid
that formerly the clergy, from their zeal, ferved in
the fe wars J or maintained troops; but that now
livings tvere given to ftrangers, who were only con-
cerned to raife from them all the money they
could. Ke therefore reqaefted that they mighfe
be given to native Spaniards. But he did not
queftion the pope's right to give them to whom he
plea fed.

At the council above mentioned, it was faid
that the fource of the evils complained of was the
little care that v/as taken with refpeft to ordina-
tions. A great number of unworthy perfons were
admitted to facred orders ; fo that in many places
the clergy were lefs refpetted than the Jews. Ma-
ny clergymen of bad morals went to Rome, and ob-
tained livings with cure of fouls, in places where
their irregularities were not known, which put it
out of the power of well difpofed bilhops to reward
merit in their diocefes. Mention was made of one
cathedral church, in which there were thirty pre-
bends; but tho' the bifhop had governfed the church
twenty years, in which there had been more than

D d 3 thirty-


thirty, five vacancies, he had not had the difpofal of
more than two of them ; and there were perfons
then waiting who had expe6lations in that church,
or the promife of the benefices, when they Ihould
be vax:ant.

Another great abufe then complained of was
the pluraHty of Hvings. The fame perfon, it was
faid, and often an incapable perfon, was poffeffed
of four or five churches, fometimes of twelve,
which would have been fufficient for the main-
tenance of fifty or fixty men of letters ; and fome-
times livings were given to children. The confe-
quence of this improper difpofal of church livings
was faid to be the indecences of their drefs, the ex-
travagance of their tables, and a negleft and con-
tempt of the fervice of the chuisch.

Few of the clergy, it was faid, were well in-
formed with refpeft to the articles of faith or the
cure of fouls, which expofed them to the contempt
of infidels, in their conferences with them, arifing
from the negleft of the fcriptures, and theology,
and their applying to the fubtleties of logic.

Much complaint was at the fame time made of
the jurifdi£lionof the clergy, which was faid to be
committed to ignorant and contemptible perfons ;
and many were excommunicated for frivolous
caufes ; fo that there were often in one parifh three
or four hundred perfons in a Hate of excommuni-

Sec.V. the christian church, 423

ication, in one cafe not lefs than feven hundred -
whence, they faid, came a contempt of church
cenfures, and difcourfes injurious to the church
and its minifters.

No reformation of abufes having been made in the
council of Conftance from which fo much had been
expeded, in a. d. 1329 the barons of France making
many complaints againft the clergy, and the clergy
againft them ; the king fummoned them to appear be-
fore him, when both were heard. But the clergy pre-
vioufly declared that what they fhould fay would
only be for the fake of informing the king's con-
fcience, as they did net fubmit to his authority,
and maintained the fuperiority of the eccleliaftical
*o the temporal powerSo

Among other complaints, the barons faid, that
4he clergy, in order to extend their jurifdiftion,
gave the tonfure to a great number of perfons,
children urder age, or of fervile condition, or ille-
gitimate^ to perfons who were married, and fome
that were illiterate, who applied to them for fear of
being imprifoned, or puniflied for their crimes.
In reply, the clergy faid, the more perfons were
confecrated to God, the better he wc^uld be
ferved ; that they would guard againft the abufes
^hey mentioned, but that the lords themfelves were
often very importunate with them to make the ve-

D d 4 ry


Ty ordinations they complained of. Fkiiry, Vol. i^.
p. 429.

The barons faid that, if a man were taken in
a6lual theft, and faid that he was a clergyman,
they did not allov/ the things he had taken to be
given to the owner, but took them to themfelves.
This, the clergy admitted.

The barons faid that, when a perfon was ex-
communicated the clergy exafled of him an arbi-
trary fiae, and that many perfons were unable to
pay it. The clergy replied, that they never ex-
communicated but for mortal fin, which ought to
be animadverted upon by corporal or pecuniary
punifliment, that in fome cafes the fine was fixed,
but in others arbitrary.

The barons faid that the officials took polTeffion
of the goods of thofe who died without wills, and
diflributed them as they pleafed ; that they alfo
took upon themfelves the execution of wills, and
had officers for that fole purpofe. The clergy re-
plied, that, according to the canons and the laws of
France, every prelate is, in his diocefe, the legal
executor of wills, and that the reft followed of


After thus hearing of both fides, the king pro-
mifed that it the clergy would corre6t the abufes
complained of, he would not meddle with their
riglus J fo that neither the council of Vienne, nor



t-his appeal to the king produced any material al-
teration with refpeft to abufes.

In A. D. 1351 great complaints were made in
England of the gentlenefs with which the clergy
who were prifoners were treated by them ; fo that-
their prifons were places of pleafure to them, and
they often went out worfe than they were when
they went in. A law was, therefore, made, that
their pi ifoners lliould be rellri6led to a moderate
^iet, fo that their confinement fliould be a real

On the occafion of a meeting of the princes
and clergy of Germany, to confider of the demand
of pope Innocent VI in a. d. 1359, of a levy
upon the clergy of that country, the emperor faid
to one of them, " My lord bilhop, whence comes
" it that the pope demands of the clergy fo much
*' money, and never thinks of reforming them.
" You fee how they live; what is their pride,
" avarice, and luxury."

In many cafes the popes themfelves were fen-
fible of the abufes in the flate of clergy, and on
particular occafions a check was put to them. So
many were the evils arifing from giving churches
in cominendam, that Clement V revoked all that
he had granted ; and yet from that time, Fleury
fays, they were more frequent than ever. " Wc
^< fee clearly," faid this pope, " that the care of

P d 5 «' churches


" churches and monafteries given in commendam
'' is negle£led, their goods and rights diffipated,
" and thofe who depend upon them greatly in-
" jured, to the great prejudice of both their tem-
*= porals and fpirituals ; fothat what was pretend-
*' ed to be advantageous^ proves to be hurtful to
*' tl>em. It is to be feared," he added, " that great
'' evils may arife from it to the church of Rome
" itfelf."

Innocent VI, on his acceflion to the pontifi-
cate in A. D. 1353, ordered that all the prelates
who were then at his court fhould refide on their
livings. He alfo revoked all commendams, and
grants of a fimilar nature, " Since experience/' he
faid, " has fhewn, that on account of them the di-
*• vine fervice and the care of fouls is diminifhed,
*' hofpitality ill obferved, the buildings are fallen
" into ruin, and the rights of churches both fpi-
" ritual and temporal are loft." Fkury, Vol. 20.
p. 29.

Urban V publifhed a bull againft pluralities,
*' having learned," he fays, «' with grief, that fomc
** ecclefiaftics, fecular and regular, held many
*' livings in number exceffively odious, the caufe
*' of great murmurings among the people, who
" wanted paftors." A fimilar order was given for
Eni^land, where the abufe was probably greater
thi»n in France.



No perfon ever made a more liberal ufe of great
wealth than William of Wikeham, bifhop of Win-
chefter, in the reign of Edward III. But it will
be feen in his Life written by hijhop Lowth, p. 2 2. &c.
that belides his many civil offices and his bifhop-
rick, he had in the church more than twenty other

On a vacancy in the church of Sens in a. d,
IQ09, king Philip, wilhing to place in it the bi-
fhop of Cambray, requefted it of the pope ; who
replied that tho* thofe referves difpleafed him he
^ttould oblige the king. Afterwards, as Fleury
lays, thefe referves were the fubjed of great com-
plaint, as they hindered canonical eleftions. The
council of Conftance decreed that the tranflation of
bifhops fhould not be admitted, except for import-
ant reafons, to be decided by a council ot cardinals.
At this council much pains were taken by the
emperor to procure a decree for the reformation of
the church in its head and its members, before they
proceeded to the eleftion of a pope ; but the car-
dinals and clergy oppofed him with fo much ob-
ftinacy and addre fs, that he was obliged to give
way. They promifed that the new pope fhould
immediately proceed on (he bulinefs of reforma-
tion, and before they left Conflance ; but after-
wards they refufed to Ilan^ to this ; faying that a
pope mull not be bound. They decreed, however,




that another general council fhould be held five
years after, another feven years alter that, and for
the future one every ten years ; and that the pope
might fhorten thefe tenns, but not enlarge them.

In this period, as in the preceding, we fee on
feveral occafions a great contempt of the clergy
and of their cenfures. At a council held at Co-
iogn in A. D. 1309, twenty-nine articles werepub-
lifhed, more proper, fays Fleury, to difcover the
abufes which then prevailed than to remedy them ;
and nothing was employed but thofe cenfures
which had been long defpifed. Vol. 19* p. 160.
We fee in them the eagernefs of the clergy to
make the moft of their privileges, and to enlarge
their acquifitions. At this tune the hatred and
contempt of the clergy was fo great, that they were
often both imprifoned. and put to death, and fome-
time others of the clergy would join in thefe vio-
lences againll their brethren.

At a council held at Avignon in a. d. 1326
an account v/as given of fome perfons in a ftate of
excommunication, having an idea that the priefts
who excommunicated them were adulterers, ex-
communicating them, lighting candles, burning
ftraw, &c. The council expreffed its abhorrence
of this infolence ; but, as bebre, they provided no
remedy behdcs fuch cenfures as had been defpif-
ed. At the fame time much complaint was made



of the hatred which the laify entertained for the
cler<Ty. It appears by a letler of Benedi6l XII
to the kings ot France and England in a. d. 3337,
that there was at that time an almoft general rifing
of the laity againft the clergy. Sometimes the
clergy, in order to enforce their cenfures, had
Hones thrown againft the houfes of thofe whom
they had excommunicated, and procured biers to
be carried before them, as if they had been dead,
when their cenfures were defpifed ; but this was
forbidden by the council of Avignon in a. d. 1337.
It was, no doubt, found that thefe things only
made their cenfures ftili more defoifed.


OJ tilt military Orders in this Period.


NE of the moft remarkable circum-
ftances in this period of our hiftory is the extinft-
ion of the order of Knights Templars ; and it feems
difficult, if not impoffible, to iiiveftigate the real
caufes of it. It is true that before the year a. d.
1300 they were fallen into difrepute, on account
of their diffoiuie lives ; fince to drink like a Tem^
flar was become proverbial. But ia this rcfpeflit



is probable they were not worfe than other orders
of men equally wealthy. In luxury the fu-
perior clergy were, no doubt, on a par with them ;
but for fome caufe or other, and fome think it was
nothing but the wealth they were pofTefled of, they
were become obnoxious to Philip king of France,
who was evidently bent on their deftru6lion.
However the fafts that came before the public were
as follows.

A Templar and another perfon being confined
for their crimes, in a caRle in the diocefe of Thou-
loufe, made confeffion to one another ; when the
Templar confefled crimes of fuch a nature, that
his companion thought proper to inform the king
of them ; and the king foon laid the cafe before
pope Clement V, who was then in France ; and
l^t a conference held at Poitiers in May a. d. 1307,
the bufinefs was particularly confidered. What
paffed at this conference does not appear, except
that the king brought heavy charges againft the
Templars ; and the confequeuce of it was that, on
the 13th of Oftober, all who were of the order in
all France were arretted, and among them the
grandmafter John de Mola, who was then at Paris.

Some of them, being examined, confefled that,
when they entered the order they had been obliged
to deny Chrifl;, and fpit upon a ciucifix ; and
moreover that they worfhipped the image of a head


SecVL the christian church. 431

that had a long beard. What is moft extraordi^
nary is, that the grandmafter himfelf at this time
eonfeffed the denying of Chrift. One hundred
and forty were examined at Paris, and moft of
them made the fame confeffion ; and befides thefe
impieties, they acknowledged many fhocking im-
purities. Similar examinations were taken in other
parts of France. That the pope did not readily
enter into the king's meafures is very evident, tho'
at length he was induced to concur in them, and
moreover wrote to the king of Naples, diredting
him to arreft all the Templars in his kingdom ia
one day.

The year following the king held a parliament
at Tours, where all who were prefent, having
beard theronfeflions, judged the Templars worthy
of death. Some of thofe who were arrefted, not
having been able to go fo far as Poitiers, vv^ere
examined by three cardinals appointed by the
pope. Five of thefe were perfons of particular
confideration, viz. the grandmafter of the Temple,
the commander of Cyprus, the vifitor of France,
and the two commanders of Aquitain and Nor-
mandy. Thefe all confefled their denial of Chriftj
or having promifed that they would do fo.

After this a council was fummoned to meet at
Vienne in a. d. 1311 ; and in the mean time or-
ders were given for the examination of the Tem-


plars in all parts of Europe ; and inquifitors werfe
appointed to affiil a* the examinations. In Au-
guft A. D. 1309 eight commiffaries appointed by
the pope meeting at Paris, and" all that could
be collefted of the order in France appearing be-
fore them, John de Mola, a relation of the grand-
mafter, declared that he had been of the order ten
years, but that he had neither known, nor heard^
any ill of it. The grandmafler himfelf being then
again examined, and reminded of his former con-
felTion, he expreffed great aftonifhment; and faid
that, if he had been at full liberty, he would not
have made it, and profeffed his belief of the Ca-
tholic faith. In defence of his order, he faid, no
churches were better ferved than theirs, no order

Online LibraryJoseph PriestleyA general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) → online text (page 24 of 30)