The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages: The Papal Monarchy with Augustinus Triumphus and the Publicists

By Michael Wilks | Go to book overview

II. DIVIDE ET IMPERA

Two of the most common and confusing words in the medieval political vocabulary are 'temporal' and 'spiritual'. Although in general use, different writers give them very different implications, and their interpretation always depends upon the ideological standpoint of the user. To the hierocratic way of thinking the members of the Christian society can be divided into spiritual and temporal, ordained and unordained, in the same way that the community itself is believed to be an essentially spiritual society given a material existence on earth: 'tota multitudo et tota respublica vel spiritualis vel corporalis'.1 But the use of a working distinction between temporal and spiritual is in no way intended to detract from the unity of one body of believers. Temporal and spiritual power merely describes that jurisdiction usually granted by the pope to laymen and clerics respectively. It does not signify that there are two powers, but that there is a potestas duplex, one power having town aspects in the same manner that the unum corpus Ecclesiae has two sides. A passage from Alvarus Pelagius admirably illustrates this point:

cum dicitur potestas temporalis praeexistere in illo apud quem est spiritualis, non ita est intelligendum quasi per duas potestates diversas et distinctas habeat, sed quod per unam suam potestatem super spiritualia et temporalia potest. Nam inferiora sunt in superioribus unitive, et quod in inferioribus distinguitur, in superioribus unitur. Dicitur tamen in ipso esse duplex potestas. . . Sicuna potestas habentis potentiam spiritualem dicitur temporalis et spiritualis et distinguitur circa officia.2

Beyond the advantage of having a settled allocation of functions there is no reason why a layman, the holder of 'temporal' jurisdiction, should not exercise the 'spiritual' jurisdiction normally re

____________________
1
Augustinus Triumphus, Summa, vii. 4, p. 67
2
Alvarus Pelagius, De planctu Ecclesiae, ch. 56, p. 157; cf. ch. 44, p. 77, 'potestas mixta de spiritualibus et temporalibus'

-65-

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