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

I. PAPA A NEMINE IUDICATUR

THE tacit deposition of Urban VI, on which the election of the Avignonese Clement VII set the seal in the late summer of 1378,1 not only plunged the ecclesiastical Organisation of the Christian Church into half a century of disruption and chaos, but also brought to a head the whole question of what was to be done with a pope who was manifestly unsuitable for the role of universal governor. It was a question which had been exercising the minds of the publicists for some eighty years before the Great Schism began, and one which no political theorist of the early fourteenth century could avoid asking himself.2 Moreover, once the problem had been posed, the ever-probing scholastic thinkers were constitutionally incapable of resting content until they had produced a vast and bewildering complex of 'solutions' which left the great writers of the conciliar epoch bedazzled not so much by the novelty of the situation as by the embarras des riches which a study of their predecessors' works revealed to them. Indeed the publicists themselves were in something of a similar position. As has been recently emphasised,3 the roots of the conciliar idea must be sought well back in the glosses of the twelfth-century Decretists, and the republication of their views in Guido de Baysio Rosarium of 1300 greatly assisted

____________________
1
The idea that a second election by the cardinals invalidated the first had been suggested by Hostiensis: B. Tierney, "A Conciliar Theory of the Thirteenth Century", Catholic Historical Review, xxxvi ( 1951), pp. 415-40. See also Francis Toti, Tractatus contra Bavarum, p. 81, 'Si autem nollet [papa] corrigi, sed pertinaciter defendere sententiam et erroneam, credo quod potest ab eis [scil. cardinalibus] iudicaliter deponi, vel directe contra ipsum sententiam proferendo, vel saltem indirecte alium eligendo, cum ipso iure incorrigibilis sit privatus'. On the part played by the cardinals in the outbreak of the Schism see W. Ullmann, The Origins of the Great Schism ( London, 1948).
2
E.g. Alexander de S. Elpidio, De ecclesiastica potestate, iii. 8, p. 38, 'Sed quid facit collegium vel universalis Ecclesia si papa sit ita malus quod sua mala conversatione et suis pravis operationibus videatur destruere et inficere Ecclesiam Dei?'
3
B. Tierney, The Foundations of the Conciliar Theory ( Cambridge, 1955).

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