The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

2I
THE STRUCTURE OF GOVERNMENT

i The Bishops

After I had been appointed bishop, I reflected that I was a bishop and! shepherd of souls, and that I was obliged . . . to show every diligence in visiting the sheep which had been committed to me, as Scripture disposes and commands. I therefore undertook to tour my bishopric and all its rural deaneries. I had the clergy of each deanery in order summoned for a set day and place, and the people warned to come then and there with children for confirmation, to hear the word of God and to confess. When the clergy and people had assembled, I myself frequently expounded the word of God to the clergy, and one of the Friars Preacher or Minor to the people. And four friars thereafter heard the confessions and imposed penances. Children were confirmed on the same day and subsequently, and all the time my clerks and I were engaged in inquisitions, corrections and reforms, as is required by the work of inquisition. On my first tour some people came to me and said in criticism of what I was doing, 'Sir, you are doing something new and unaccustomed'. I replied to them: 'Every new thing which establishes, forwards and perfects the new man is bound to corrupt and destroy the old. So blessed is the new, and altogether acceptable to Him who comes to renew the old man with his own newness'.

This manifesto for the pastoral revolution was presented in a memorandum to the pope and cardinals in 1250 by Bishop Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln.1 Its agents above all were bishops, friars, and scholars, and in Grosseteste the three groups came together, for he was an outstanding scholar and close associate of Franciscans and Dominicans. The question which faces us now is the character of the thirteenth-century episcopate and the extent to which it embodied the new style of pastoral ministry.

The method by which these men were appointed had by this time been regularized. As in so many areas Innocent III's pontificate was the crucial one, for he secured the recognition of freedom of election in Sicily, Germany, and England, the very areas where royal

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1
C&S, ii.264-5. For the full text see S. Gieben in Collectanea Franciscana 41 ( 1971), 340-93.

-527-

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