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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excluded from having any thing to do in th^




Of the State of the Clergy in this Period,

N every period of this hiftory v/e find
the pretenfions and power of the clergy in general
to keep pace with thofe of the popes, and indeed
the principles of which they availed themfelves
were, in many refpeds, common to both, efpecial-
ly that of the fuperiority of things fpiritual to things
temporal, and confequently, as they faid, the fu-
periority ot power and jurifdi6lion in the former
with refpefl Vo that in the latter.

Several new maxims, with refpe6l to the power
of the clergy were introduced by Gratian's CoU
kBio?i of canons in this period, efpecially that, in
all cafes, they were exempted from the jurifdlftion
of laymen ; and it was fupported by the fpurious
decretals. On this maxim was founded the con-
du6t of Thomas Becket,

The clergy in this period even maintained that
temporal power originated from them. John of
Salifbury faid, " the prince receives the fword from
" the hands of the priefl, and is the minifter of the
priefthood, for the exercife of that part of his
power, which is unworthy of his own hands."
Heiace hje concluded that the prince is, with refpeft



to dignity, inferior to the prieft, and alfo that the
priefl can take from the prince the power that he
has given him. We fee in this, fays Fleury, the
progrefs which the new maxims of Gregory VII
had made after his death. Vol. 15. p. 62.

An argument ufed by Innocent III, inferior
to no pontifF in this period with refpeft to abihty,
is feruly curious. In a correfpondence with the
Greek emperor Alexis, and the patriarch of Con-
ftantinople, who maintained that the civil power
was above the fpiritual ; and who had urged that
the fword was given to the king to punifli evil
doers of all kinds, faid, " it was only given him
" with refpe6l to thofe who made ufeoffwords, as
*' the laity, but not thofe who did not make ufeof
*' fwords, as the clergy. The fpiritual power,"
he faid, " is as much fupcrior to the temporal, as
" the foul is fuperior to the body." He alfo al-
leged tvhat is faid in Jeremiah, / have Jet thee over
ihe nations, to pluck up and to plants &c. and that
God had placed two great lights in the heavens,
the fun to reprefent t|?e pontifical power, and the
moon the civil. It is almoft equally extraordina-
ry that fueh arguments as thefe fhould be advanced
by men of fenfe among the clergy, or make any im-
preffion on men of fpirit among the laity.

The right of the laity to have a voice in the
choice of their fpiritual guides was for many cen-

D 3 turies


times uncontefted-; but as, at length, the cardinak
ufurped the fole right of chufing the popes, the
canons of cathedral churches got the fole right of
chufing the bifhops. But thi^ was not efFedcd,
tho' it was attempted, in this period. For at a
council of Lateranin a, d. 1139, the canons were
forbidden to exclude other religious perfons from
the elediion of bifhops. It feems, therefore, that
they had endeavoured to exclude not only the lai-
ty, but even the clergy too.

As the clergy had aflfumed the right of judging
not only their own order, but in all cafes that bore
any relation to religion, as of marriage, Sec. fo they
claimed to judge in all cafes relating to the crufades,
which was a war of religion.

Several of the prerogatives of the popes were
fiffumed by the greater prelates of feveral Chriftian
countries. When Sanches II king of Spain made
an expedition in defence of Calatrava, John arch-
bifhop of Toledo publilhed an indulgence, and
pardon of all fins, to thofe who went ; which, fays
Flcury, is the firfl example of a plenary indulgence
being given by any befides the pope.

The excommunication of princes was not the
peculiar privilege of the popes. In the cafe of
Philip Auguflus it \^SiS performed by his own fub-
je6ls. Pcrfifling in his refufal to difmifs his wife
]iei trade he was excomm«inicattd at a council held



at Poitiers in a. d. hoo. This and the former
excommunications had fuch an effe€t, that when
he and the queen went to Sens, no church in the
place was opened to them. At length he was ab-
folved hy pope Pafcal. on condition that he would
renounce all criminal connexion with Bertrade ;
and at a council held at Paris in a. d. 1104 hje re-
ceived abfolution, walking into the affembij bare-
footed, and with every mark of humility he took
the oath required of him.

As both bifhopricks and tntonattcries had often
"been given to laymen, of which we have iecn ma-
ny inftances in preceding periods, fo many of them
became poffefTed of the right of tythes. Thefe were
•called lay hiipropriations, and of courfe very oflFen-
iive to the clergy. At a council of Lateran in a.
D. 1139, which was attended by more than a thoa-
fand bilhops, laymen were forbidden to poffcfs
tythes, and ordered to reflore fliem to the church,
if they would not rifque the crime of facrilege, and
the peril of eternal damnation. At another coun-
cil of Lateran in a. i>. 1 179, all laymen were for-
bidden to transfer to oth«i- laymen the tythes of
which they Ihould be pofTeffed. But on this ic
-was afterwards judged, fays Fleury, that tythes
poffefTed by laymen before {his council were held

D 4 T^S


TI e c>eigy in this period by no means thought
or a£led alike on the fubjeft of inveftitures, fome
of them pleading the right of the princes from
whom they received their preferments, and others
contending for the privileges of their order in op-
pofition to them. Of this fpirit we have feveral
remarkable in (lances.

Odio being invcftcd with the bifhoprick of
Bamberg by Henry IV in a. d. 1103 refigned,
and was reinvefted by the pope, which gave him
great pleafare, as but few of the bifliops in Ger-
many at that time conformed to the papal decrees
on the fubjed. Eadmer biiliop of St. Andrews in
A. D. 1120 was not required to receive invefliturc
by king Alexander's delivering to him the crofs,
but only the ring, and the crofs he took from the
altar, to denote his receiving it from God. Ac-
cordingly, when he refigned his preferment, he
gave the ring to the king, but put the crofs on the

The greater part of the hiflory of Anfelm falls
within the preceding period. He retained his
firmnefs to the laft. refufing on his return to Eng-
land in A. D. 1100, in the reign of Henry^ to re-
ceive the inveRiture of the arcltbifhoprick of Can-
terbury from him. Ecing at Lyons he wrote to
the king to infoim him that he could not render
him homage for his bifhoprick, or communicate



with any of thofe to whom he had given invefli-
turc. On this the king feized his revenues, and
told him that he fliould not return unlefs he would
allow him his antient privileges ; and having levied
a tax on the priefts, on the pretence of executino-
the decrees of a council held at London, obli<nnc»-
them to continence, he wrote to him a letter of
remonftrance on the fubjeO:, in which he faid *' it
" was a thing unheard of that a prince fhould exe-
" cute the laws of the church agaiHllt eccleliaftics
*' by temporal punifhments. It is the province of
*« the bifhops to punilli their crimes." At length,
by the advice of the pope, fome conceffions were
made on both fides, and Anfelm was allowed to
feturn, and end his days in his own country.

In this period we fiift read of feveral abufes,
which in later times were the fubjeft of great com-
plaint with refpefl to the clergy. It was not till
this time that we find any mention made of merit -
nary priejis, or priefts not properly belonging to
any particular church, doing the duty ol it for
hire. This praftice was forbidden at a council
held at Rheims, when each church was required
to have its proper priefts, who could not be dif-
placed but by the canonical judgment of the bifhop,
or the archdeacon. This abufe arofefrom bilhops
ordaining priefts without any particular title, which
the bifliops were often induced to do for money,

D 5 Ihe


the peiTon receiving holy orders acquiring thereby
valuable privileges, efpecially an exemption from
being tried in the civil courts. But at a council
of Lateran in a. d; 1179 it was ordered that every
.|)ifhop who ordained any perfon without a title
Ihould give him a fufficjent fubfillence till he was
provided with a living, unlefs he could fublift with-
out it from his own eftate.

In A. D. 1159 we find the firfl example of
|)apal difpenfations for nonrefidence and plurahtics
i*>f beneSces, and of recommendations or mandates,
to engage the ordinary to promife benefices before
they were vacant. Hugh de Champfleuri, chan-
cellor of the king of France, having taken much
pains to promote a reconcijiation between that king
and the king of England, the pope expreffed great
latisfaQ;ion in his conduft; and as he was a canon
both of Paris and Orleans, the pope defired both
•the chapters to preferve his revenues wherever he
fhould be. He alTo defired the bifhop ot Paris to
give him the firft dignity that Ihould be vacant in
his diocefe ; and he defired the candns of that
church to give him the firft dignity at their difpofal,
and the firft houfe in their cloifters that fliould be
vacant. He alfo confirmed to him the poffeffion
of the archdeacony of Airas, given him by biftiop
Godfrey; and becaufe the bifhop had made him
fwear when he gave him this, tlmt he would refigi;



the chancellorfhip, the pope ordered the reflitiitior!,
and abfolved him from his oath. This Hu^h was
made bifhop ot SoifTons in a. d. 1159, and ftill
continued chancellor of France. Pluralities, how-
ever, becoming very frequent, they were forbid-
derj at the council of Lateran in a. d. 11719. At
that time feveral perfons Iiad no lefs thafi iix livings,
befides feveral cures ; fo that they could not re fide,
while many others of the clergy were deftitute of a
fubliflence. At the fame council it was forbidden
to promife any benefice before it became vacant,
Vv'^iiiie fo many of the clergy lived in indolence
and luxury, it was found to be impoflible to en-
force the laws of celibacy and contenance. In all
Normandy the priefls were publicly married,
fwearing in the prefence of the relations of the wo-
men they married, that they would never leave
them. They alfo bequeathed their churches to
their fons, as by hereditary right, and often gave
them in portions to their daughters. Bernard,
and fome other monks, preaching againft thefe
pra£lices in this country, were in danger of their
lives. The church of Armagh in Ireland before
the year a. d. 1133 had gone in fuccefTion, and
been confined to one family, fame of whom had
b?en laymen, and married. Eight of them had
been of this defcription, tho' they were not illi-
terate. At a council held in London in a. d.



J 107, Anfelm, with the pope's con Pent, allowed
ihe advancing to holy orders the children oi priefls,
on account of the great number of fuch perfons in
that country. He was aifo allowed to grant other
difpenfations, which the barbarifm of ^he country
was thought to require.

There are many inflanccs in this period, tho*
not fo many as in the preceding, of open violence
committed both by the clergy and upon them. In
A. D. 1112 Gandri bifiiop of Laon made himfelf
odious by infligating his brother to murder Gerard
of Creci, one of the chief lords of the city, as he
was at prayers in the church, which was a great
aggravation of the crime. The chief eaufe of the
bifliop's hatred of him was his having fworn to the
commune of that city after he had abolifhed it.
Thefe communes were focietics of burghers, who
purchafcd privileges of their lords, whether laity
or clergy, and often to their prejudice. On this
they refufed to pay the antient claims, and thus
became odious to the clergy- This commune of
Laon is the Gift that is mentioned in hiftory. In
England they were ca!]ed corporations, and were
the germs of liberty in that country. This bifhop
Gaudri ivas afterwards murdered by the burgeiTes,
for having given the king a futn of money to pre-
vent his confirming their privileges, and then tax-
ing them to the amount of what they had offered



the king for confirming them. The archbilhop of
Mayence was murdered by his own clergy in a. d.


Some of the clergy ftill continued to appear in
arms. The bifhop of Beauvais being taken pri-
foner in the war with Richard king ot England in
A. D. 1197, the pope interceded in his favour, the'
he blamed him for wearing armour. In anfwer
the king fent the pope the fuit of armour in which
the bifhop had been taken, and afked whether that
was his brother's coat, or not.

The greateft a6l of violence on the clergy that

we meet with in this period was on the return of the

prelates from a council at Pifa in a. d. 1134.

While they were in the territory of Tufcany, they,

were attacked, and much abufed, by a company

ofbandiLti. They confifled of archbifliops, bi-

fbops, archdeacons, abbots, and monks ; and yet

they were plundered, fome taken, and confined in

the neighbouring callles. The archbifhop of*

Rheims, after being infulled and wounded, with-»

out any refpedl to his age or dignity, w^s put in

prifon ; the bifhop of Peregeux was treated in the^

fame manner : the archbifhops of Burges and Sens,

after having lofl: all they had about them, arrived

with great difficulty at Pontremoli, and there were^

feized a fecond time, together with the archbifhop

of Einbrun. The bifliop of Troves was wounded




with'a lance which threw him from his horfe, and
the city of Pontremoli was full of prifoners.

In the Eaft, as well as in Europe, it had been
the cuftom to plunder the epifcopal houfes during
a vacancy of the fees. By a conftitution of the em-
peror John Comnenus, governors of provinces were
forbidden to do this in the ftrongeft terms ; and yet
we find that Manuel Comnenus had occafion to
to renew this prohibition.

In fome refpefts it was better for the world that
the charafters both of the popes and of the cler-
gy in general were not more refpedable than they
were in this ignorant and fuperflitious age ; for
then their authority would have been unbounded.
This appeared by the condu6l of Hugh bifhop of
Lincoln in the time of Henry II of England. He
was a man univerfally reverenced for his integrity
and fanftity ; aind having behaved with uncom-
mon fortitude and freedom in reproving thi* high
ipirited prince, after he had been threatened by
him, he turned to his courtiers, and faid, " If all
" bifhops were fuch men as this, kings and lords
/' would have no power over them."

In this period, in which the power and influ-
ence of the clergy were at their heighth, fomething
was done which tended to check their exorbitant
wealth by which their power was iupported. For,
with this view the emperor Frederick made a law



to prevent the transfering of fiefs without the con«
ffcnt of the fuperior lords in whofe names they
were held; fo that the giving of eftates to tl»&
church did not depend on the fole will of the pof-
feffor, of whom an unfair advantage was often, no
doubt, taken in his dying moments. Msjheim,

Vol. 2. p. 395.

It was in the 12th century ih^tfub deacons wera
confidered as a facred order in the church. Before
this the three fuperior orders were deemed to be
bilhops, priefts and deacons. But the Romiili;
church now began to ufe a different language, and
to fay they were priefts, deacons, and fubdeacons.
From this asra fubdeacons were not allowed to re-
turn to fecular life, any more than the clergy of:
the other orders. Bingham, Vol. 1, p. xo,8.


Tht Hijlory of Thomas. Bccket, ArchhiJIiop of



N order to Ihew in a" clearer light the;
Ipirit of the high clergy in this period, in which it
was at its greateft height, I fhall give an outline
©f the hiftory of Thomas B^ecket, a man of great



ability and fplrit, who had thoroughly imbibed the
new maxims of Gregory VII, and a6led upon
them, I am inclined, to think confcientioufly ; tho'
pride, and other improper difpohtions of mind,
have more influence on men's condudl than they
are themfelves aware of, as it might be in this

Becket was in thehightH degree of favour with
Henry II, and his chancellor; when, having
been archdeacon of Canterbury, he was perfuaded
by the king himfelt to accept of the arch-bifhopric,
in A. D. 1162; and prefently after, as if he was
become quite another man, he laid afide the man-
ners of a courtier, and alTumed thofe of the moll
rigid ecclefiaftic, even wearing coarfe hair cloth
next his flcin, when he had a drefs fuiting his high
flation over it. Contrary to the kings expeftation
and wiflies, herehgoed the feals of his civil office,
and devoted himfelf wholy to the duties of his cle-
rical capacity, which not having been confidered as
incompatible with the other, difpleafed ^he kiag.
But their firft open diflFerence was occafioned by
the arch-bifliop's ordering fome clergymen con-
viaed of crimes to be puniflied without delivering
them up to the fecular power.

After this the king, having aflembled the bi-
fhops of his kingdom at London in a. d. 1163,
afked them whether they would conform to the



antient cuftom of the realm. They replied, that
they wou\d.faving their order. The king not lik-
ing this anlwer, required them to make the promife
without rcllriftion. The bifhop oi Chichefter re-
plied that he would, and with good faith. But
the archbifhop, and the reft, faid that, when they
fxvore fealty to him, they only promifed to prefeiVc
his lite, limbs, and temporal dignity, faving
their order, and they would abide by that form.
Provoked at this, the king left them abruptly, and
the day after he took horn the archbifhop all the
places and fiefs which he had held as chancellor.

Many of the bifhops, however, were afterwards
prevailed upon to accede to the king's propofal,
and even the archbifhop himfelf went to him,
when he was at Oxford, and promifed to change
the form which had given him fo much offence.
But the king, requiring a more public fatisfadion,
called an affembly in a. d. 1164 at Clarendon,
and then, tho' not till much urged by the oih^t
bifhops, and others who wiflled the peace of the
kingdom, he did promife to conform to all the
antient cuftoms without exception. On this fome
of the lords being appointed to reduce thefe cuftoms
to writing, the archbifhop defired fome time to
confider them. The next day the writing was
completed, and the aiticles amounted to fixteen.
Having taken fome time to confider them, and tore-
Vol. IV. E fled


fle6l: upon the fubjeS. the archbifhop repented of
having complied fo far as he had done; and to pu-
nifh himfelf. he refrained from all fervice at the al-
tar, and to make his fentiments more public, he
fent to the pope, who was then at Sens in France,
to obtain ablolution. Accordingly thepope fent
his ablolution, commanding him to refume his func-
tions, and do his duty with courage, as a good

This conduft of the archbifhop, which amount-
ed to an open declaration of war againft the king
provoked him in the higheft degree ; and to flietr
his refentment, he did him every ill oflBce in his
power. The archbifhop then endeavoured to go
privately out of the kingdom to the pope, but was
prevented by contrary winds. This attempt beings
a violation of an ellablifhed cuftom, offended the
king flill more; fo that the archbifhop, dreading
his refentment, feemed delirous of obliging him by
fending to the pope to obtain his leave to conform
to the culloms. This, however, the pope refufed
to do. He, moreover, wrote to the king, to per-
fuade him to abandon culloms which were contra-
ry to the liberties of the church, out of regard to
the judgments of God, who had often punilhed
kings for infringing on the privileges of the priefl».
hood. Notwithftanding this, the king perfilled in
having the clergy when accufed of theft, and othej:


sec.v. the christian church. &r

offences of a civil nature, tried by the fecular judg-
es, while the archbifhop conftantly remonllrated
againft it ; maintaining that every offence of a cler-
gyman ought to be judged in the ecclefiaftical
courts, tho' in this cafe all they had to fear was
depofition ; and then, not being liable to be tried
for the fame offence in any other court, they efcap-
cd without any proper punifhment.

In Oflober a. d. 1164, the king called z^
council at Northampton, which was attended hy
all the lords and prelates of the kingdom, whea
the archbifliop, for not appearing in peifon to a
former citation, was condemned to have bis goods
confifcated. On being informed of this fentence,
he faid, it had never been heard of before that an
archbifhop of Canterbury had been judged in the
court of the king of England on any account what-
ever, fince he was the fpiritual father of the king,
and of all the kingdom^ The king then demand-
ing of him an account of the revenues of feveral
bifhopricks and abbeys of which he had the difpo-
fal when he was chancellor, lie defired to take the
advice of his friends, and they were of different
opinions: The lords fpiritual and temporal being
required to give their judgment, the bifhops deli-
berated by themfelves ; and in order to free them-
ielves from all blamfr, agreed to cite the archbifhop
before the pope, as guilty of perjury for refufmg to

E 2 obey


obey the king, after he had taken an oath to do it;
thinking by this means to procure his depofition.
But the temporal lords pafled fentence upon him,
both as a perjured perfon, and a traitor. When
this fentence was announced to him, he faid after
giving an account of the manner of his exaltation
to the fee of Canterbury, " as much as the foul is
*' of more value than the body, fo much ought you
*' to obey God and me rather than an earthly king.
" Neither the law nor reafon permits children to
" judge their father. I therefore decline your jurif-
*' didlion, to be judged by God alone, by the mi-
** niftery of the pope, to whom I oppeal." How-
ever, dieading the king's violence, he withdrew pri-
vately into France, landing at Bulloigne the 8th of
November, a. d. 1164.

In the mean time, a deputation of bifhops and
nobles was fent by the king to the pope ; but he,
having been prepoffeffed in favour of the prelate,
faid he could give no opinion in his abfence, and
the deputies, not chufing to wait for him, returned,
after which the pope refcinded the fentence pafled
againfl him at Northampton.

Becket was well received by the king of France,
who was not forry to have that opportunity of
mortifying the king of England, tho' they ought to
have made a common caufe, in oppofmg the in-
croachments of the clergy ; and being condufted



in the mod refpeftful manner by the kings officers,
he waited upon the pope. In his prefence he
made a formal confeffion of his fault, in comply-
ing fo far as he had done with the kmg's requifiti-
ons, and receiving the archbiihoprick at his hands,
^Having again obtained abfolulion, he, in the like
formal manner, refigned his church into the hands
of the pope, who leftored him to his dignity, and
committed him to the care of the abbot of Pon-
tigni, which was of the order of Ciilercians, pro-
mifing that he would never defert him.

Henry, provoked at this reception of the arch-
bifhop by the king of France, confifcated all his
goods, and even banilhed all his relations and
friends. And fhewing moreover, a difpolition to
treat with the antipope, and the emperor, Alexan-
der began to be alarmed, and defired the bifhops of
London and Hereford to apply to the king, in or-
der to accommodate matters. In return, they ad-
vifed the pope to atl with moderation, left he
flioald lofe the obedience of England, and involve
them in much trouble; and in this he feemed to
acquiefce. But being arrived at Rome in a. d.
1165, and having but little dread of the antipope,

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