Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution: The Canonistic Work of Anselm of Lucca

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution: The Canonistic Work of Anselm of Lucca

Article excerpt

Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution: The Canonistic Work of Anselm of Lucca. By Kathleen G. Gushing. [Oxford Historical Monographs.] (New York: Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press. 1998. Pp. xii, 246. $69.00.)

Law was an important tool for the people who strove to reform the Church in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The need for law made this a period when many reform-minded churchmen worked on discovering, collecting, and interpreting law, leading eventually to the creation of law schools and a new legal system, the ius commune. One such man was Anselm, bishop of Lucca, who in the 1080's compiled an influential collection of canon law as well as a pro-papal polemical treatise. His collection is often described as a typical reform collection, "strictly Gregorian" in orientation. Without challenging this standard characterization, Kathleen Gushing explores Anselm's project in greater depth than has been done previously. Unfortunately, much of the book is hard to read, even for the specialist.

The core of this book is chapters 3 and 4, where Gushing analyzes Anselm's ecclesiology and his doctrine of coercion. In Anselm's vision of the ideal church, the primacy of the Roman see was unquestioned and even brought with it a papal obligation to defend the Church and correct errors, in other words an obligation to reform. When the pope encountered violent opposition, the Church had the right to resort to coercion, and when the normal secular defender of the Church, the emperor, was the enemy (as was the case when Anselm wrote in the 1080's), the Church could exercise the right of coercion directly. In much of this, the doctrines in Anselm's collection are similar to the ideas of Pope Gregory VII, and Gushing finds further similarities when studying Gregory's dictatus page. …

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