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

III. ECCLESIA IN PAPA, PAPA IN ECCLESIA

SINCE many of Augustinus Triumphus' views in the De potestate collegii are reproduced in the Summa, the reader of this latter work is sometimes confronted with two utterly contradictory conceptions of the relationship between the pope and the congregation fidelium. Could they be reconciled? The answer which Augustinus Triumphus returns to this question is important, not only because it exemplifies the way in which the great majority of hierocratic writers of the time came to terms with the problem, but also because it indicates a trend in later medieval political thought which was influential far beyond its relevance to the development of conciliar theory. The conflict between the papacy and the conciliar thinkers was fundamentally one between the defenders of the idea of sovereignty in the ruler and those who sited it in the community at large, and it was this issue which was eventually fought out in the fifteenth century. Nevertheless a concentration upon fifteenth- century concillarism tends to ignore a separate stream of conciliar thought which was developed towards the end of the thirteenth century and gained almost universal acceptance during the fourteenth century. This idea, which we may describe as a moderate conciliar solution, was simply the transference of the whole idea of limited rulership, elaborated and expounded by the followers of Aquinas as a matter of general principle, into the realms of concilar thought.

The basic contention of the Thomists was that since they were faced with one party which claimed that full authority was held by the pope, and another which claimed to see it in the congregatio fidelium, then the only reasonable explanation must be that both pope and Ecclesia possess a similar plenitude of power.1 The over-

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1
Compare Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, II. 11. lxxxviii. 12 ad 3, 'quia summus pontifex gerit plenarie vicem Christi in tota Ecclesia, ipse habet pleni-

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