Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Armsbearing and the Clergy in the History and Canon Law of Western Christianity

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Armsbearing and the Clergy in the History and Canon Law of Western Christianity

Article excerpt

Armsbearing and the Clergy in the History and Canon Law of Western Christianity. By Lawrence G. Duggan (Rochester, New York: Boydell Press, 2013, Pp. xiv, 264, $ 99.00, cloth.)

In Armsbearing and the Clergy, canon law historian Lawrence Duggan seeks to show that Western Christian canon law (particularly in the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches) did not categorically prohibit the bearing of arms from the Middle Ages onward. This thesis is provocative because it is contrary to the claim (often made by historians of canon law) that armsbearing was always prohibited for Christian clergy. In terms of defining the subject, Duggan seeks to discuss every conceivable form of armsbearing. Therefore, by armsbearing Duggan not only means the practice of taking up weapons to fight in an actual war, but also using weapons for hunting, self-defense (particularly during travel), and for ceremonial purposes.

In the early Church, there were many people who advocated pacifism. At minimum, membership in the Roman army was considered wrong since it involved the worship of the Roman gods. Nevertheless, after the conversion of Constantine and the establishment of various Barbarian kingdoms in the early Middle Ages, attitudes changed. Duggan sees Christian attitudes as changing during the later Carolingian period when the nascent Holy Roman Empire was threatened by a number of non-Christian invaders (Muslims, Vikings, Magyars, etc.). As a result, armsbearing became sanctified in that it was seen as a positive means of defending Christendom against non-Christians. This attitude toward armsbearing was further cemented by the First Crusade, where knights were given the opportunity to do a form of penance through engaging in warfare. Nevertheless, during the early Middle Ages the clergy were still seen as individuals called to a higher standard of morality. …

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