Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Roots of Reform XXII: Otto I and Otto II --Father to Son

Christ blesses the Emperor
Otto II and his wife, the
Empress Theophanu in this 10th
century ivory panel. 
We mentioned yesterday that with the election of John XIII in 965, Otto I was able to bring some stability to the papacy.  However, at the pope’s death in 972 the internecine warfare broke out in an effort to control the papacy.  John had been a member of the powerful Crescenti family but unlike the others in that clan was willing to work with Otto.  The Crescenti and the other Roman families resented the imperial control of the papacy; they were used to controlling it.   This strife over the papacy between the Roman families and the Imperial court is the origins of the Guelph and Ghibelline strife that would trouble Italy throughout the Central and into the High Middle Ages, but at this time perhaps it is more accurate to speak of a Nationalist and an Imperial party.  When Otto I selected the deacon Benedict to succeed John XIII, he was installed as Benedict VI in January 973.  Otto died in May of that same year and the Crescenti lost no time in organizing a mob that overthrew Benedict and imprisoned him in the Castle San Angelo where he was strangled in August 974 to prevent his release and restoration by the Imperial Envoy, Sicco, sent by the new emperor, Otto II.  The papal murder was ordered by Crescentius I, the head of the Crescenti family and was possibly carried out by the deacon Franco Ferucci whom Crescentius and his party named to the papacy as Boniface VII.  Count Sicco intervened, however, and named the imperial candidate to the papacy as Benedict VII.  Boniface looted the Vatican treasury (which was not so much cash as the precious objects such as chalices, crosses, reliquaries, candelabra, and other cultic objects made of gold and silver and set with precious stones) and fled to Constantinople.  But don’t worry—he will be back and back more than once.
Otto had his hands full establishing his power in Germany and so he needed a powerful representative in Rome to protect his papal nominee from the Roman nobility and their thugs.  Benedict managed to hang on to the papacy for nine years and in that time he convoked several reform synods for the Diocese of Rome, in particular outlawing simony—the buying and selling of church positions—a common practice at the time. Part of his success in avoiding the sort of fate that met his predecessor was that he was a member of the family of the counts of Tusculum which provided some balance to the power of the Crescenti.  It was only in 981 that Otto was finally able to come to Rome himself.  Benedict died in July 983, Otto died five months later.  Upon Benedict’s death, Otto named his chancellor, Pietro Canepanova as Pope John XIV.  It was the chancellor’s death sentence as without the Emperor he had no protection from the anti-imperial party and their mobs.
Otto’s death left a political vacuum.  His heir was his three year old son, Otto III.  Otto II’s widow, the Greek Princess, Theophanu, was regent.  The child Emperor was kidnapped by a German Duke in the spring of 984 and the Empress-Regent was preoccupied in regaining custody of her son, leaving Rome open to more trouble.  The Romans resented the imperial nominee pope, John XIV, and anti-pope Boniface VII returned and imprisoned John in the Castle San Angelo where he was murdered.  He was succeeded by John XV, the son of a Roman priest named Leo.  (Clerical marriage was still the norm for the secular clergy.   The Crescenti were opposed to him, but the Empress Regent, Theophanu, resided in Rome during much of his reign and protected him.  John is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, so we will end this entry here and pick up with him in a day or two.     
Before we sign off, however, a final word about Boniface VII.  Having murdered Benedict VI and John XIV, he himself met a most unpleasant death.  He seized the papacy, annulled the papacies of his two predecessors Benedict VII and John XIV.  However, he himself died suddenly in 985, possibly murdered.  He was so hated that his corpse was seized and dragged naked through the streets of Rome and left abandoned at the foot of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.  Not a nice guy; not a nice end.
Today he is considered an anti-pope but for centuries he was recognized as legitimate and the next pope to take the name Boniface (a character of somewhat mixed moral fiber himself) took the name Boniface VIII.   
Note two things.  The first is the imperial power to name popes.  Political theory of the time saw the Emperor as the Vicar of Christ and as the earthly head of the Church.  The pope was its spiritual overlord, but subject in temporal affairs, including the temporal affairs of the Church, to the authority of the Emperor.  The Emperor was seen as having the responsibility for the integrity of the Church. 
The second thing to note is the chaotic way in which popes were elected—the roman nobility, the mobs, and the emperor all had some say.  The Emperor’s attempts to control the election of the popes was an attempt to bring some order out of the chaos and violence that too oftenmarked papal transitions.  One of the most important reforms would be the establishment of the system of election by the cardinal clergy of the diocese of Rome.  But that is still away off.    More on that in the future.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roots of the Reformation XXI: The Ottonian Reformation 2


Otto I with Knights and Nobles
Well, we have strayed a bit from our theme of Reformation and the “Ottonian” Reformation of the Emperors Otto I, II, and III in particular.  The power of Otto I’s daughter, the Abbess Matilida, led us into a digression on women and ecclesiastical authority and then we looked a bit at the issue of Same Sex Marriage due to the passage of a bill legitimating gay marriage in New York State.  So let’s return to the Emperor Otto I and his attempts to reform the Church.
Otto had to carve out the position of Holy Roman Emperor after the title had fallen into disuse in the late ninth and early tenth centuries, but as King of Germany he had great power north of the Alps.  He tried to clean up the papacy which was going through one of its most discreditable periods in history, if not the single most discreditable period, but he did not have great luck.  He had allied himself with the reprobate John XII with the Diploma Ottonium in which he agreed to serve as protector of the Church, but the last thing John—one of the most immoral of popes—wanted was the Emperor interfering in the Church and any curtailment of John’s own power.  When John turned against Otto and his authority, Otto deposed him and saw that Leo VIII was elected in his place.  Church historians today see such a deposition as “invalid,” but at the time it was seen as a legitimate prerogative of the Emperor and the election of Leo was seen as valid. The Romans never accepted Leo—they saw him as a creature of the Emperor and resented the “foreign” interference in the election of their bishop.  John fled to the mountains outside Rome where he gathered an army from among family, friends, and retainers.  Otto was no sooner on his way back to Germany when John’s army attacked Rome and caused Leo to flee.  Otto turned around determined to beat John once and for all, but God called John to judgment before Leo had his chance to do the same.  With John dead, the Roman’s chose Benedict V but Otto was determined for Leo and had Benedict deposed and Leo re-installed as Pope.  Modern Church historians recognize Leo as the legitimate pope from this time (965) on.  Poor Benedict had a somewhat remarkable decline from the papacy.  Leo personally ripped the palium (the sign of his office as pope) frm his shoulders and his papal staff (crozier) was snapped in two over his head and he was reduced to the rank of deacon and sent into exile in Hamburg, Germany—about as far from Rome as you can get.  When Leo died, John XIII became pope—a compromise candidate acceptable to both the Emperor and the Roman Populace, though the first choice of neither.  John and Otto had some success in reforming the Church though no significant reform in Rome itself where the vested political interests of the different Roman noble families would resist change.  John and Otto established a number of new Archbishoprics in Germany—pushing missionary efforts eastward towards what is today the Czech Republic and southern Poland and northward into the Baltic.  John also established several Latin Archbishoprics in southern Italy which still had ties to Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire and where Christianity tended to follow the Greek rather than Roman pattern.  John’s expanding of his authority into the southern reaches of Italy shifted that alliance so that when the break between Rome and Constantinople occurred in 1054, the southern parts of Italy and Sicily remained in the Roman orbit rather than moving with Orthodoxy. 
If Otto’s success in Church reform south of the Alps was not as prolific as he might have wished, he had far greater influence in Germany where his power was stronger.  He was very proactive in the selection of bishops and abbots, choosing men who would be loyal to him (and thus balancing the nobles who resented the diminution of their power) and who saw eye to eye with him on Church matters.  He was particularly successful in pushing missionary activity along the eastern borders of his realm which not only won souls to Christ but subjects to his crown.  Otto had his son Otto II crowned in 961 while he, Otto I, was still alive in order to guarantee the succession.  The nobles having the right to elect the German King, Otto needed to be alive to make sure the election came out the way he wanted.  Otto lived for twelve more years, father and son nominally reigning jointly but the father holding on to power to the very end.  He died in 973 and was buried in the cathedral of Magdeburg, one of the Archiepiscopal Sees he created.   

Monday, June 27, 2011

More on The Catholic Church and Same Sex Marriage

Cardinal Spellman presides at the Marriage of
Edward (Ted) Kennedy and Joan Bennett
November 29, 1958
In our last post we spoke of the issue of Gay Marriage because New York State, despite the protests of the State’s Catholic Conference and the Catholic Bishops in New York, passed the recognition of Same Sex Marriage into Law.  Governor Andrew Cuomo is not exactly the paragon of Catholic Laity for a number of reasons in his personal life; nevertheless there was pressure on him as a Catholic to veto the Bill.  He did not, of course—he was one of the strongest supporters of legitimizing Same Sex Marriage.  There are those in the Church who think that Catholics should oppose the recognition of Gay Marriage in civil law because such a “marriage” is not a marriage at all.  Perhaps what needs to be considered is the difference between the legal recognition of a marriage in the civil law and the theological recognition of Matrimony according to the norms of Christ and his Church.  This is not an artificial distinction in any sense.  Two people come to the parish office and wish to marry in the Church but not civilly.  There could be a sound reason for this.  Perhaps one or both parties are in the United States illegally and they do not want to draw attention to that fact by applying for a civil license.  Perhaps by entering into a legal marriage, one or both parties might lose certain pension or Social Security benefits which they need to survive.  There can be other reasons as well, but as long as no ecclesiastical impediment exists, a priest or deacon is free—in the eyes of the Church—to witness and bless their entering into the Sacrament of Matrimony.  Legally there is no marriage; in the eyes of God and the Church, there is.
Let us consider another situation.  A couple, one of both of whom are Catholics, marries in front of a Justice of the Peace or a Protestant minister.  Perhaps one or both have a previous marriage which is not annulled.  Perhaps they have been cohabiting and the priest has refused to marry them until they separate.  Perhaps the bride is pregnant and the priest has declined to marry them, unsure that the marriage is being entered into freely and with mature discernment.  Perhaps a non-Catholic partner has insisted in marrying in his or her Church.  Perhaps they simply wanted a “garden wedding” rather than the required Church service.  There are all sorts of reasons that people marry outside the Church.  The Catholic Church does not recognize that marriage as a sacramental bond but, at least in practice, it does recognize it as a reality in civil law. 
Divorce is a tricky issue.  Until the sixteenth century marriage and divorce were subject to religious authority, and only in a secondary sense to civil law.  In medieval Catholic Europe there was no such thing, strictly speaking, as divorce for the Christian majority. Traditional rabbinic law permitting divorce governed the Jewish minority.  While we say that there was no divorce for Christians, we must be careful how we nuance “divorce” for ecclesiastical annulments, especially those granted by the Holy See, often functioned as divorce in as that they permitted one spouse to leave another and remarry.  An example of this would be the dissolution of the Marriage of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  The marriage was “annulled” on a pretext of kinship—and all royal marriage had sufficient kinship to use this claim—but in fact the marriage simply had gone sour and each was anxious to marry someone else.  Louis married Constance of Castile; Eleanor Henry of Anjou who became Henry II of England.  Popes, or sometimes (as in the case of Eleanor and Louis) synods of bishops regularly dissolved marriages for causes real, alleged, or totally fictitious but always political.  Royalty was seldom denied their “annulments” and when we eventually look a the case of Henry VIII we will see that the only reason he didn’t get his annulment from Katherine of Aragon is that it interfered with Medici politics.  But that is a later story. 
Most common people in the Middle Ages did not bother with a religious wedding.  Peasants in particular simply came to some sort of agreement—financial and personal—and took up life together.  From the thirteenth century on more and more townspeople went through a church blessing because it was fashionable, a copying of a ritual more common among the “bluebloods.”  And when such marriages failed, the husband (and sometimes the wife) would just “take up” with a new partner without any formal to do.  It may surprise you to know that marriage in the presence of a priest was not required until the 1917 Code of Canon Law.   
With Luther and the other Reformers marriage did not make it into the category of a Sacrament and in fact came to be regarded primarily as a civil contract.  In Protestant societies this permitted marriage to slide from ecclesiastical jurisdiction to the authority of the Civil powers.  In seventeenth century England and its colonies, divorce became an established legal procedure.  It was not easy to obtain—adultery was the most common cause for it to be granted—but it was neither impossible nor uncommon.  It was simply an established legal reality in the American Colonies (and later States) and the Catholic Church never had to resist its legalization, except perhaps in Louisiana. That was not true everywhere.  In Catholic Italy, Divorce was prohibited by the Lateran Concordat of 1927 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See.  It was approved by a referendum in 1974 despite the opposition of the Catholic Church.   Ireland had a similar story.  At the insistence of the Irish hierarchy, the 1937 Constitution prohibited it; in 1995 a referendum overturned that Constitutional provision.  Malta—again against the opposition of the hierarchy (though not vast numbers of ordinary parish priests) just approved civil divorce in May of this year.  Today only the Vatican itself and the Philippines are Catholic countries that make no provision for civil divorce. My point here is that the Church has gradually lost control, even in Catholic Countries, of marriage.  Marriage is a civil relationship, defined and governed by civil law.  Matrimony is a distinct reality with theological meaning and defined by the very Tradition of the Church.  Once united, they are now distinct and subject to different authorities. 
It is strange that the Catholic Church does not object to marriages that are not matrimonial except in the circumstances of same-sex unions.  If two non-Catholics, one or both of whom have been previously married, wish to get married, the Catholic Church has no objection whatsoever even though, by Church teaching, that relationship is nothing more than an adulterous union. One or the other of such a couple be an employee of the Catholic Church there is no objection to paying spousal benefits even though the Catholic Church sees that relationship is inherently sinful.  In fact, there are many Catholics who are in invalid marriages and who work for the Catholic Church as secretaries, maintenance and facilities personnel, health professionals, business managers, program administrators, social workers, and countless other positions and the Church pays spousal benefits.  Let both partners be of the same sex, however, and it is a very different story.   No person who knows our Catholic Tradition will say that the Church is wrong not to recognize same-sex marriages from a religious perspective, but there is an inconsistency when the Church recognizes the civil legal character of “sinful” unions between a man and a woman but not the civil legal character of a union of two members of the same sex.   The Church has every right to define Matrimony as the union of one man and one woman; but marriage is a contract in Civil Law and Catholics, like everyone else,  can have their opinions and vote their prejudice—that is the prerogative of all citizens in a democracy—but civil marriage is determined by Civil Law and not religious doctrine.
What we probably need to do in this age where “Traditional Marriage”  is collapsing among Catholics at the same rate that it is collapsing among the general population, is to undertake a genuine “Defense of Marriage” not by excluding same-sex couples but by developing means to assist traditional Catholic families to grow more deeply in their commitment to God, to his Church, to one another, and to their children.  Let society deal with those whom it recognizes as married; let us as Catholics and Chrisitans try to minister more effectively to those members of our Church who need guidance and help in making their relationships true Sacraments, true outward signs of the Love of God for his people and the Love of Christ for his Church. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Same Sex Marriage: Did the Church Always Disapprove?

Saints Sergius and Bacchus, a seventh century icon
in which historian John Boswell interprets the placement
of Christ to be the pronubus (or best man) at a same
sex wedding. 
New York State has just joined the list of States approving same sex marriage.  Twenty years ago, I don’t think anyone saw this concern coming but now it is an issue which is not going to go away for the foreseeable future.  The Catholic Church has taken a strong stand against the legalization of Gay Marriage and it seems obvious that this is consistent with our tradition.  But, at least from a historical perspective, the issue may not be so simple. 
John Boswell, an exceptionally talented historian, wrote Same Sex Unions in Pre Modern Europe (Random House, 1994) arguing from his exhaustive research that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches blessed same sex unions from late antiquity until well into the early modern period.  His interest in this subject arose from a seventh century Icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.  Boswell interprets the icon as a marriage icon in which Christ is standing as the pronubus, the man who stands behind a marrying couple in the Orthodox ceremony holding the marriage crowns.  This is equivalent to the “best man” or “supporter” in our western marriage ceremonies.  It is a curious interpretation.
Boswell made his name as a historian with an earlier book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 1980) in which he investigated the long history of how homosexuality was viewed by the Christian Church from apostolic times through the Medieval period and how those views shaped social attitudes towards same-sex relationships. 
John Boswell was himself gay and Catholic—a convert to Catholicism who became a very devout practitioner of the faith.  He was a devout Catholic who attended mass daily and who did not rebel against the Church’s teachings on homosexuality but who did want the Church to reexamine and refine its teaching in the light of current knowledge.  He died of an AIDS related illness in 1994 at the age of 47.  As a historian he was an enfant terrible—while still in his thirties achieving an unparalleled reputation as a talented and meticulous scholar whose incredible ability with languages, ancient and modern, opened archival material beyond the reach of even most good historians.  A Harvard graduate, he chaired the history department and taught at Yale.  Revered and loved by his students and all who knew him he was a gentleman and a scholar.   What can one say about the quality of his work?
I had read Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality as a graduate student.  Boswell had not only taught my professor but directed her doctoral dissertation.  She was a great admirer of his—as indeed were most (if not all) of his students.  I probably should reread the book today.  Boswell was an incredible linguist.  I, for my part, cherish my Greek as a distant but useless memory; my Latin—on the other hand—is pretty good.  When it comes to other ancient languages—Syriac, Coptic, even Hebrew—well, truthfully, I have never studied them and will not be as pretentious as those who with some scrap or other of linguistic knowledge will presume to evaluate Boswell’s work.  For evaluating Boswell’s uses of sources, I can only use the Latin.  To be fair, indeed to be profoundly respectful, towards John Boswell, he always put the citation in the original language in the footnote with a translation for the student.  I did find that at times, even frequently, the Latin citations were well translated but any ambiguity was translated in favor of his thesis.  In other words, sometimes when I looked at the Latin text, I thought to myself: “yes, it could mean that; but it doesn’t have to.”    He didn’t fudge his Latin translations, but neither did he always warn the reader that the citation might not be as strong an endorsement of his thesis as he implied. If he did this with the Latin, I suspect he did it with other languages as well.  And as he did this frequently, I am not sure he always proved his point.  On the other hand, the University of Chicago Press does not print history books whose arguments are questionable; Harvard does not grant the doctorate to students whose language skills are faulty; and Yale does not hire shaky scholars.   Bottom line, I do not always agree with Boswell, but one has to take him seriously. 
As to his book,   Same Sex Unions in Early Modern Europe—if my Greek is but a distant memory, don’t expect me to be able to work with Old Church Slavonic.  I don’t have a clue about Slavonic, old or new.  And again—Syriac and the variety of near-Eastern languages—not a word do I know.  Some of the medieval French, English, or Italian I can handle.  And again, I find the Latin to be biased.  It has been several years since I last read Same Sex Unions, but I was not convinced.  On the other hand, one has to admit the possibilities—especially given the vast number of same sex alleged Marriage Rites that Boswell uncovered that there could be something here.
When Boswell published Same Sex Unions there was a flurry of reviews, pro and con, but they tended to be more polemic—pro or con gay marriage—than substantive reviews.  The problem is that there are few scholars with the linguistic abilities to evaluate Boswell’s interpretation of the vast array of documentary sources cited.   
Among other archives where John Boswell found his sources was the Vatican Archives and Library.  He had to obtain access to the material by deceit as Vatican officials knew his reputation as a “gay historian” and would not facilitate his use of documents that might establish the thesis that the Church had once blessed same-sex unions.  This is surprising as the Vatican Library and Archives are usually most helpful to scholars, even scholars who are known to be challenging Church teaching.  The Church, at least at the highest academic levels, does not fear dissent but normally seeks to engage it in scholarly conversation;  Boswell's thesis, however, apparently was too hot an issue to allow for conversation.   Boswell arranged with a Jesuit scholar who was working in the library at the same time that he, Boswell, would ask for the documents the Jesuit needed and the priest would ask for the documents regarding same-sex marriage rituals; they then would exchange materials and do their respective work.     
Boswell wrote a third book, The Kindness of Strangers: Child Abandonment in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance (University of Chicago, 1988).  This book is particularly interesting, not for its content (though it is interesting and well written) but as a contrast to his two books with Gay themes.  Here I found no ambiguity in his use of sources.  In that regard—his objectivity—it might be considered his best book. 
Well, since ambiguity might be considered the theme to today’s entry, and I seem to be rather ambiguous myself on how to interpret Boswell’s thesis that the Church has, in the past, not only approved but blessed Gay unions, what does all this say about the history of Same-Sex Marriage?  I have to say that I don’t consider the thesis proved, but the existence of scores of these rituals in both the Eastern and Western Churches in late antiquity up through the Renaissance, the similarity of these rituals to known heterosexual matrimonial rites, and the explicit mentioning of the partners “sleeping together” (to be taken in the literal and not the euphemistic sense) certainly does not close the door on the possibility that at various times and places in the past same-sex marriages were blessed with Church authority.  That does not mean, of course, that the Church should today—or even could in the future—do the same.  Doctrine develops—which means it changes—and we are not bound to the past but called to respond faithfully in the present.  There are  other things which the Church once approved—the death penalty for example—that it no longer condones and there are things it condones today that it once condemned (the loaning of money at interest).  Gay Marriage will be a political “hot potato” for some time to come but it is an understatement to say that it is unlikely that the Catholic Church might someday sanction it.  Nevertheless, at least from a historical perspective, the issue may not be as black and white as some might declare it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When women ruled the Churches 3

The Modern Abbey and Abbey Church
at Bingen in the Rhineland
We have seen that at times—and by historical standards fairly recent times—women have exercised considerable authority in the Catholic Church.  We looked initially at the abbey of Quedlinburg and then at Saints Bridget of Kildare and Hilda of Whitby.  In our last blog we had a detailed example of the ceremony of obeisance given by the clergy in the prelacy of Conversano to the Abbess who was their prelate nullius.   We can return to the Abbey of Quedlinburg and a bull issued by Innocent III.  (We will be looking at Innocent, who reigned from 1198 until 1216, in our series of Reformations.  Innocent was responsible for what is probably the second most successful internal reform of the Church, second only to Trent.) This is what Pope Innocent wrote in a Bull concerning the Abbess of Quedlinburg:
Our daughter beloved in the Lord, the Abbess of Bubrigen [Friedberg says in a footnote that this should be read as Quedlinburg in the diocese of Halberstadt] has set forth the following in a petition sent to us: Sometimes when she suspends her canonesses and the clerics who are subject to her jurisdiction [clericos suae iurisdictioni subiectes], because of disobedience and other lapses, from their office and benefice, they do not observe a suspension of this sort because they are strongly convinced that she cannot excommunicate; hence, their excesses remain uncorrected. So that the said canonesses and clerics show obedience and respect to the above named abbess and obey her good admonitions, we consign therefore to your discrimination to what extent you — according to previous admonition — wish to inflict on them ecclesiastical censure under exclusion of appeal.  
The Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas
in Burgos, Spain--the seat of a very important
abbess in medieval Castile
Quedlinburg had been founded by the Abbess Matilda, the widow of King Henry the Fowler and mother of the Emperor Otto.  Otto, you may remember from an earlier blog, placed his daughter Matilda as its second abbess.  He richly endowed the Abbey with lands and properties and exempted it from all external jurisdiction, including exemption from the Bishop of Halberstadt who was the local ordinary. This is not the only Abbey with such exemption.  About thirty years before Pope Innocent wrote to the
Abbess of Quedlinburg, Adrian IV had issued the following Bull to the Abbess and nuns of Herford in Germany:
We forbid that in the said monastery any bishop outside the Roman pontiff exercise jurisdiction, and indeed in the sense that he never — unless he will be so invited by the abbess — may presume to celebrate solemn Masses there. 
While these prelatial abbeys were most common in the Holy Roman Empire, they were by no means limited there.  The most important of these Abbeys where the Abbess exercised ordinary jurisdiction not only over the nuns but over the surrounding area with its churches, clergy, and faithful was the Royal Abbey of Las Hueglas in Spain, a Cistercian foundation.  The Abbess was declared to be , a "noble lady, the superior, prelate, and lawful administratrix in spirituals and temporals of the said royal abbey, and of all the contents, churches, and hermitages of its filiation, of the villages and places under its jurisdiction, seigniory, and vassalage, in virtue of Bulls and Apostolical concessions, with plenary jurisdiction, privative, quasi-episopal, nullius diacesis."
According to the original Catholic Encyclopedia: By the favor of the king, she was, moreover, invested with almost royal prerogatives, and exercised an unlimited secular authority over more than fifty villages. Like the Lord Bishops, she held her own courts, in civil and criminal cases, granted letters dismissorial for ordination, and issued licenses authorizing priests, within the limits of her abbatial jurisdiction, to hear confessions, to preach, and to engage in the cure of souls. She was privileged also to confirm Abbesses, to impose censures, and to convoke synods.  Basil Pennington once told me that these prerogatives, or at least the canonical ones, were still in place at the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  I don’t consider Pennington to have been a reliable source of information as he tended to go on the principle of “don’t let the truth spoil a good story,” but I can’t say that he wasn’t right on this.  
Perhaps the most significant Abbess of the Middle Ages was the famous Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).  Though not officially canonized, she is regarded as a saint by the Catholic Church.  She is an immensely popular figure in certain circles today and she certainly was an accomplished woman—a musician, scientist, physician, poet, philosopher, theologian and who knows what else— she was actually authorized to preach by Pope Eugene III at the recommendation of his mentor, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (who, in turn, was no fan of women nor advocate of their cause).  I have no idea of what prompted Bernard’s recommendation but here we have papal authorization for a woman to preach, a license that would be rather difficult to obtain today.  Why aren’t women authorized to preach today?  I know nuns (and laywomen as well) who are far better preachers than many priests and deacons (and even some bishops.)  Perhaps I just answered my own question.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When Women Ruled the Churches 2

Actress Peggy Wood as the Abbess in
The Sound of Music
We have looked at several powerful women who had great (and positive) influence in the Church, indeed who parlayed their role as abbesses to playe direct roles in Church administration.  Matilda of Quedlinburg convoked reforming synods as did Hilda of Whitby.  Brigid of Kildare actually exercised jurisdiction over a diocese and, through her royal connections, was the most influential leader of the Irish Church in the sixth century and became not only one of the three great “patron saints” of Ireland but did so precisely because she, like Patrick and Colombanus—the other two—actually shaped the character and temperament of Irish Christianity.
How did these women—and others like them—achieve this power?  We need to understand the role of women in Germanic culture as opposed to the role of women in Mediterranean culture.  Now, first of all, when I say “Germanic” let me be more specific.  I do not mean among the peoples who comprise modern day Germany but rather all the tribes from Northern Europe who occupied what is today Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and the non-Slavic lands north of the Alps.  Much of what we say about them can also be said of the Scandinavian tribes and the Celtic peoples of Ireland and Britain.  In these societies there was a fundamental equality in and before the law between men and women.  Women had rights of inheritance, property, and often even say in political assemblies.  It was not unknown for women to exercise kingship.  In 61 AD The Celtic queen,  Boudica, stormed and burned the Roman colony where London stands today.  Caesar, in the Gallic wars, tells us how surprised he was at female military and political leadership.  This is because in the Mediterranean world women were subordinate to men. They never would have led an army or commanded men!  Women had no legal personage.  They could not sue in court nor could they be sued.  They lived under the “mundiburd”—the legal protection—of a male.  A woman was under the authority of her father until he took her hand in placed it in the hand of her husband and with that gesture, the authority over her passed from father to husband.  In her widowhood, she lived under the authority of her son (and usually the thumb of her daughter-in-law). 
A Real Abbess, The Right Reverend Dame Benedicta
von Spiegel, Lady Abbess of Saint Walburga in Eichstatt
until her death in 1950. Note the crozier, pectoral cross,
and pontifical gloves as signs of her rank. 
Monastic life freed women from this subordination.  When women fled to the desert to live as hermits or in colonies of nuns they escaped male authority.  Nuns were women monks.  We lose the awareness of this in modern English where we have two words—“monk” and “nun” for men and women monastics respectively.  In Syriac, Greek, Latin, and even the modern romance languages such as Italian this is not so.  It is the same word with only a gender-specific suffix to let us know if the monastic is a male or female.  A female monastic community in the ancient world might often inter-related with a male monastic community.  The women monks might offer to weave clothe for the monks in return for some of the harder physical labor—construction projects perhaps—that they did not feel they had the strength to do.  (You might be surprised, however, at some of the projects these “delicate ladies” did undertake.)    And the nuns depended on monks for chaplaincies, though even there many of the duties we associate with a chaplain—the various blessings and rites and even the hearing of confessions—were performed by the abbess.  (The linking of “confession” and sacramental absolution, as well as the requirement for the Sacrament of Penance was not defined until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.  Before that time, in monastic communities confession was linked more to the spiritual direction the abbot (not always a priest until the eleventh or twelfth centuries) or abbess.)  Sometimes, in fact in the early and central Middle Ages (the fifth through the eleventh centuries), and sometimes even later, the chaplains attached to monasteries of nuns were actually monks or canons who belonged not to an abbey of men but to the nuns’ abbey and owed their obedience to the abbess. 
An Abbess, by the way, is an interesting person legally.  While in the desert communities of ancient Egypt and Syria monks were governed by an abba (a “father”or a “Dad”—remember that Jesus tells us to call God “Abba”), and nuns by an ama (a “mom”), the practice soon dropped the feminine idea of an ama and feminized the word for “Dad.”  An abbess is a female abbot.  She is a women who is doing the work of a man.  She is a woman who has the authority of a man.   The Abbot is the pater familias of his monastic community.  The Abbess is also the pater familias, the “father” of her monastic community.  She is not a “mother superior;” she is a female “father superior.”  This is a hard concept for us to understand, but do you know that Queen Elizabeth of England is legally a man?  Elizabeth Windsor, the lady who drives a Land Rover and breeds racing horses is a woman, but Elizabeth II, the person who wears a crown and opens parliament stands before the law as a man.  In fact in the Middle Ages a queen regnant (a woman who heads a nation as different from a queen consort—a woman married to the king) most often referred to herself as “Rex” (king) rather than “Regina” (queen).  In the same way an abbess is legally a man, or at least was so regarded in the Middle Ages.  (And again, the key word is “legally” which differentiates between the person in private life and the person in their public office.) 
When one combines this monastic autonomy with the Germanic legal codes recognizing women as equal to men in law, then any problem with women exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction vanishes.   If an abbot can be an Abbot Nullius—an abbot who governs a diocese—then so can an abbess.  One such Abbacy Nullius headed by a woman was Las Hueglas in Spain which I understand lasted at least until the middle of the last century.  Another was the Abbacy of Conversano in Italy.  This lasted until suppressed by Napoleon in 1806.  Here is a description of the ceremonial of obeisance by the clergy to a newly enthroned Abbess.  
A power of jurisdiction almost equal to that of the Abbess of Las Huelgas was at one time exercised by the Cistercian Abbess of Conversano in Italy. Among the many privileges enjoyed by this Abbess may be specially mentioned, that of appointing her own vicar-general through whom she governed her abbatial territory; that of selecting and approving confessors for the laity; and that of authorizing clerics to have the cure of souls in the churches under her jurisdiction. Every newly appointed Abbess of Conversano was likewise entitled to receive the public "homage" of her clergy,--the ceremony of which was sufficiently elaborate. On the appointed day, the clergy, in a body repaired to the abbey; at the great gate of her monastery, the Abbess, with mitre and crosier, sat enthroned under a canopy, and as each member of the clergy passed before her, he made his obeisance, and kissed her hand. 
We will look more at these medieval abbesses in future entries.  But in the meantime remember there is historically no problem having a woman at the head of your diocese.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When Women Ruled the Churches

Ruins of Whitby Abbey
Yesterday I mentioned Matilda, the Abbess of Quedlinburg, and the immense ecclesiastical power she wielded.  It was not unusual in the Middle Ages for women to exercise such authority even though they were technically not in Holy Orders.  In the future, and perhaps in the near future, I do want to look at the issue of women’s ordination from a historical perspective.  It is not as black and white as some would have you believe—either as to the point that the Church has never had women priests and bishops, or the position that some have taken that in the early centuries the Church did in fact ordain women as priests and bishops.  But we will save that conversation for a series of entries of its own.  Let me for now just bring up the story of Saint Bridget of Kildare as her situation is pertinent to today’s topic of jurisdiction.  There is an ancient tradition that when Saint Mel was bestowing the canonical blessing upon Bridget as Abbess, he actually (but mistakenly) ordained her a bishop.  The rites of episcopal ordination and abbatial blessing are very similar.  Of course the key word here is mistakenly.  What is significant for us today is not whether or not she was a bishop, but what her powers as an abbess actually were.
The Irish Church before the twelfth century was very different than the other Churches of Christendom.  Irish society was very different.  It was clan based.  There were no cities or towns.  The various “kingdoms” of Ireland were ruled by clan chieftains or petty kings who were more or less subject (the Irish have never been good on authority) to the four regional kings of Ulster, Connaught, Munster, and Leinster who, in turn, owed allegiance to the High King.  The religious authority in each region was exercised not by a bishop, but by the abbot of the clan monastery—the monastery to which the monks of that clan belonged.  The Abbot was not necessarily a priest; sometimes the king himself was the abbot, or the abbot was also king.  Several of the monks would be priests and one would be a bishop but he had no authority (that being exercised by the abbot) and his role was to perform the various ministries reserved to bishops, notably ordination.  In the case of Bridget of Kildare, she was the abbot of her clan monastery and exercised the jurisdiction over her clan which was centered in Osraige (Ossory) which includes much of modern County Kilkenny and parts of  County Laois.  Bridget’s power, probably due to her family connections, was immense and her influence even more widespread.   Though she lacked ordination (despite the legend about Saint Mel there is no evidence that the mistaken ceremonial was taken to actually confer the episcopacy and its ministries upon her) she was the most important prelate in Ireland.
A similar Abbess of influence was Hilda of Whitby.  Converted in her youth along with the rest of the court of her uncle, King Edwin of Northumbria, Hilda was consecrated as a nun by Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne.   Aidan named her abbess of Hartelpoole and she then went on in 657 to establish a new monastery at Whitby.  B0th monasteries followed the Celtic monastic pattern of double communities of monks and nuns who lived in separate enclosures but worshipped together in a common church.  Hilda’s authority as abbess extended over the monks as well as the nuns.  In 664 Hilda hosted a synod at her abbey in which the English Church agreed to give up many of its Celtic traditions and conform to Roman practices, healing the division between the older English Church in the North of England and the newer Roman-planted Catholic Church spreading out of Canterbury.  This will be an interesting topic to return to when we talk about the Ecclesia Anglicana and non-Roman Catholicism and the question: Was there an Anglican Church  before England was ever Catholic?  Did King Henry VIII start a new Church or did he revive the ancient Church of England?  Sister never knew just how complicated the history of the Church is and Father was sworn to secrecy.  Fun, fun, fun.  But for today just note that women were not always without power in the Church. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roots of the Reformation XXI: Leave it to the ladies: An Abbess' progress

Quedlinburg Abbey
Well, let’s go  back to the Emperor Otto and his determination to reform the Church.  In the first place Otto, like Charlemagne before him, needed the Church if he was going to bring unity to his vastly diverse empire.   It would be religion that could provide a common basis for all the different races and tribes, languages, legal codes, and traditions that comprised the empire he was trying to forge out of his vast holdings.  Otto also needed the Church—or to be specific—the bishops and abbots to be a counterweight to the power of the nobility and attain a true political supremacy and not just the imperial title.  Even so, supremacy did not come easily and Otto had to put down several rebellions by various dukes who were used to independence from any outside authority. 
Otto’s first brush with the papacy was when John XII, a particularly unworthy pope, appealed to Otto for help against Berengar II who was occupying the Papal States.  (Check entries for June 6th, and June 18th for more details on John and his alleged crimes ranging from incest to the invoking of demons.)  Otto defeated Berengar and Pope John crowned Otto as emperor.  Together they issued the Diploma Ottonianum—an agreement by which Otto pledged himself to defend the Church.  John was treacherous, however, and not wishing Otto to have control of Italy any more than Berengar, John tried to build an anti-Imperial alliance with the Magyars and the Emperor of Constantinople.  The Emperor returned to Rome and convoked a synod that deposed John and elected Leo VIII. Today the Catholic Church says that this deposing a pope by a synod and at the insistence of the Emperor was invalid and Leo was (initially) an anti-pope, but in that time and for centuries afterwards this was recognized as a legitimate act.  The Emperor claimed—and was accorded—this right to “make and break” popes as part of his oversight of the Church.  The story doesn’t end there, by the way, but we need not go further for our purposes other than to say that Leo may not have been as evil as John XII, but he was no worthy successor of Peter either.  It would be a while before the Emperors were able to get men of good moral character on the papal throne.
That doesn’t mean that Otto wasn’t sincere about Church reform, but the greatest efforts of reform during his reign were actually accomplished by his daughter, Matilda, the Abbess of Quedlinburg.  Quedlinburg was an abbey of canonesses.  A canoness is a woman religious much like a nun (or even, one might say, a type of nun) whose chief purpose is to serve the church to which her community of canonesses is attached by providing for the daily round of liturgical offices.  Just as canons are (usually) religious (in this case, men) whose chief work is to sing the offices in their abbey church, so too canonesses are obliged to sing the liturgical hours for the edification of the faithful.  They differ from monks and monastic nuns who, while the sing the daily offices, have their chief work in lectio divina (contemplation of the Word of God) and manual labor (ora et labora).  That distinction is a bit simplistic but perhaps in a future entry we can explore canons and canonesses more deeply.  I am using an awful lot of parentheses today, bear with me. 
Anyway Quedlinburg was a somewhat exceptional abbey.  It had been established by Otto’s mother who, in her widowhood, served as its first Abbess.  Otto appointed his daughter Matilda as its second Abbess when she was just eleven years old.  When Otto went to Italy to sort out various problems with the papacy, he left his daughter the Abbess Matilda, as regent in Germany.  She subsequently served as regent for her brother, Otto II, when he was occupied in Italy with various issues regarding the papacy.   While still in her teens, she convoked a reforming synod of the German prelates.  She was determined to end many of the abuses that were plaguing the Church at the time—especially the domination of important abbeys and dioceses by the various nobles who interfered with the election of bishops and abbots to put family members or clients in those positions.  This was ironic, of course, as Matilda herself had been appointed Abbess by her father, the Emperor. 
The Abbess of Quedlinburg, like the abbesses of many other imperial abbeys, was exempted from the authority of the local bishop and, indeed, had a virtual diocese of her own having jurisdiction of the many churches that belonged to the Abbey.  It was not unusual in the Middle Ages for abbeys, both of men and women, to be Abbeys Nullius—that is an abbey where the Abbot or Abbess held “ordinary” jurisdiction, i.e. the administrative (though not necessarily the sacramental) jurisdiction of a bishop.  Such Abbots and Abbesses had their own canonical tribunals, appointed pastors, gave letters dimmisorial  permitting ordinations, gave dispensations, granted faculties to the clergy and the various other jurisdictional responsibilities of bishops.  Today Roman authorities claim that one has to be in Holy Orders to exercise jurisdiction in the Church, but history testifies that this was not always the case.  In 1540 the Abbess and canonesses of Quedlinburg embraced the doctrines of the Reformation, becoming Protestant, but they continued leading their lives of prayer and education until suppressed by Napoleon (along with Catholic abbeys) in 1802.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

History: An Evolving Past


President-elect Obama and Family distribute
Thanksgiving food baskets at Saint Columbanus,
Chicago, November 2008 

I am in Chicago for some meetings and, at the invitation of a friend, attended mass at Saint Columbanus Church on the South Side.  Saint Columbanus was built just over a century ago to serve the needs of the an up-and-coming Irish-American middle class that were building large and gracious brick homes in the newly developing Park Manor section of the “City of Big Shoulders.”  Today, Saint Columbanus is a almost entirely African-American parish.  The Archdiocese of Chicago has invested heavily in renovating the facilities so that Church and School can continue to serve the community.  The magnificent neo-Gothic church, a church of Cathedral design and proportions, today hosts not the soberly silent Latin masses of a century ago with devout immigrant women fingering their rosaries but vibrant African-American style liturgies where Catholics whose forbearers were here long before the Irish sway and clap to Gospel tunes.  I suspect the old Irish of a century ago would look with disapproving astonishment on today’s liturgies, but the changed circumstances reflect the changed demographics of American Catholicism. 
Andrei Rublev's ion The Trinity
I sit here typing today’s entry in the kitchen of a rectory where a friend of mine is pastor.  A group of seminarians have stopped in on their way to a meeting—two Vietnamese, a Mexican, an Irish-American, an African-American, and a Pole.  The associate pastor in this parish is Lithuanian and there is a priest resident here—a hospital chaplain—who is from India. The priest saying the eleven o’clock mass as I write this is Filipino.  We are in a very different Church than the one I grew up in half a century ago.  One of the seminarians is reading aloud an article in the Archdiocesan newspaper about the Cardinal and the “Rite of Calling” for Lay Ecclesial Ministers.  What is a “Lay Ecclesial Minister.”  We didn’t have those growing up.  A Filipino lady stormed into the kitchen about a half hour ago.  For the feast, Trinity Sunday, the pastor had put a large copy of Andrei Rublev’s icon, The Trinity, in the sanctuary with candles and flowers.   “Why do they have wings?” she demanded and then “And they all look like each other!”   When informed that the icon comes out of the Orthodox tradition, the woman said she would call the Archdiocese in the morning about “that heretical picture.”  Well, it is true, “in the day” we never had icons.  But you know, things change.  My Irish grandmother thought that Pius XII had fallen into heresy when he reduced the communion fast to three hours.  She had suspect a weakness in the faith when water was permitted but was absolutely convinced of it when she could eat breakfast at eight and receive communion at noon. 
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) wrote: To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.”  Now here is a man ahead of his time.  Fidelity requires change.  As the world changes we ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, must change if we are to keep our eyes and our heart fixed on Christ.  We cannot help but that the ground beneath our feet is changing and just as we must shift our position as the seasons pass from one to another if we are to keep our eye on the sun, so too as the world changes, we must continually shift to keep the focus on Christ. 
The ground is shifting.  The Catholic Church in our country is no longer a mostly-white Church.  Spanish and Vietnamese are the first language for a significant percentage of our Catholic populace.  There are considerable numbers of Creole, Portuguese, Korean, Tagalog, Igbo, Malayalam, French, Mandarin, and Cantonese speakers.  Catholics coming from Kenya, India, Cuba, Brazil, Nigeria, Palestine, and China, and bringing with them traditions from their native countries just as the Irish, Italians and Germans did a century ago. History is not about the past—history is an uninterrupted story, a continuous unfolding of the past into the future, the Eternal Grace of a God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.          

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Roots of the Reformation XX: The Ottonian Reformation I

The Empire of Otto I
included modern Germany, Switzerland,
the Netherlands, Belgiumjparts of Austria,
France, and Italy as far south as Naples 
Well, I ended up taking a bit of a vacation from the blog—which I shouldn’t do as every time I skip just two days, the readership starts falling and it takes me a week to rebuild it.  So sorry folks for the interruption.  I do have a life—and even a day job—and this blog takes a considerable amount of time.  But I do enjoy it and what is more it is worth it if it encourages people to think, not a about the past, but about our Catholic Church today and some of the issues confronting it.
We had been talking about the problem of Reform of the Church—and who can reform it when the need for reform begins right at the top.  This has happened in the past with corrupt popes and papal administrations that forgot the gospel and became over invested in their own ambition for power, wealth, and pomp.  We saw how in his day Charlemagne had stepped in and set things right with Leo III (blog entry June 4, 2011).  Well after Leo things only got worse—and we saw what happened with Marozia, Theodora and the pornacracy (entries June 9, June 6, and January 15).   You may remember the Cadaver synod (entry, January 24, 2011).  These are all great stories.  Amazingly, as corrupt as the Borgias were—and as Showtime showed them, they were pretty corrupt—the tenth century papacies were even more wicked.  Who would set the Church back in order?
Charlemagne’s empire with its Renaissance and Reformation did not last.  The Emperor was succeeded by his son, Louis, who in turn was succeeded by his son Lothair.  But Lothair’s claims of Imperial supremacy were disputed by his half-brothers Louis the German and Charles the Bald  The two brothers were too strong for Lothair and after much warfare among the three, Lothair was left with the imperial title but with much of the realm taken by his brothers. Lothair himself, when dying, left the imperial title to his son Louis, but divided his remaining lands among Louis and his two brothers—Lothair II and Charles of Provence.  This was not an easy time for Europe—the Magyars were sweeping in from the east, the Vikings were ravaging the Atlantic and channel coasts and the Saracens were ravaging the Italian possessions of the Empire. There was a need for strong leadership to meet the challenges and there were plenty of strong leaders—but they kept fighting one another rather than the external enemies.   On his deathbed, Louis named his cousin Carloman, the son of his uncle Louis the German, to succeed him, but his other uncle, Charles the Bald—in connivance with Pope John VIII—seized the throne.  John, by the way, is a curious personage himself and was quite effeminate.  Patrick Madrid, an amateur historian (and the operative word here is amateur), suggests his effeminacy may have given rise to the Pope Joan legends.  That is a very complex topic and we will have fun someday soon looking at those stories.  However “light in his buskins” he may have been, John was a good pope; indeed a great pope.  Of course the competition at the time was not much.  John had a problem and that was the Saracen (Muslim) pirates who were raiding papal Italy and so the pope turned to the Carolingians for help just as Leo III had turned to Charlemagne and Pope Zachary had turned to Pepin in their respective political woes in the previous century.  They let him down—they were too divided among themselves for any sort of effective response—and, in the end, the popes had to pay tribute to the Saracens.
Speaking of the Carolingians,  Charles the Bald was succeeded in the Imperial title by his nephew, Charles the Fat.   Meanwhile in each of these successions various grandchildren and great grandchildren of Charlemagne kept dividing lands and squabbling with one another, each trying to expand his own power.  Most were not interested in the imperial title because it had become nothing more than that—a title.  Power was local and the central administration of Charlemagne had completely broken down.  In fact, with the death of Berengar of Friuli in 924 the throne and title themselves were empty and remained so for thirty-eight years.  All this at a time when Europe needed strong leadership—and when the Church needed a protector not only against Vikings and Saracens, but against some of the most unworthy men every to sit on the throne of Peter.   This was a time when popes obtained their office by cash, by murder and by adultery.  
In 962 the great-great-great-great-grandson of Charlemagne, through a predominately feminine line, took the throne and revived the empire.   His name was Otto.  He had become King of East Francia in 936, that part of Charlemagne’s empire that went to Louis the German and is what we call today Germany (West Francia, or West Frankreich being France, also known at this period as Neustria).  Otto arranged for his coronation at Charlemagne’s capital of Aachen and in Charlemagne’s cathedral where Charlemagne’s bones lie.  Now, just in case you’re missing this—he is trying from the beginning to establish a claim to Charlemagne’s title and realm. His intention is to refound Charlemagne’s “Roman Empire.”
In the early 960’s, the papal possessions in Italy—the Papal States—were overrun and conquered by Berengar II, the grandson of Berengar of Friuli who had been the last emperor, dying in 924.  Berengar II was a thug.  The Pope—John XII—was worse.  Nevertheless, when John asked the help of Otto in regaining his temporal possessions, Otto came down into Italy, defeated Berengar, restored the Pope to power.  The Pope, for his part, then crowned Otto as Emperor, restoring the lapsed imperium.  Pope and Emperor then established the Diploma Ottonianum, a treaty in which Otto and his successors would “protect” the papacy. 
This brings us back to the thorny issue of papal versus imperial power.  Charlemagne saw himself having supreme authority over the Church in the model that the Byzantine Emperors had exercised from the time of Justinian, and in fact from Constantine’s control over the Church.  Certainly Constantine met nothing but gratitude from Popes Miltiades and Sylvester.   Justinian, for his part, kept papal authority dependent on the Imperial exarch in Italy.  This was and would be a problem for Eastern (later specifically Orthodox) Christianity where the Emperors—first the Greek Emperor at Constantinople and later the Russian Emperors at Moscow and Saint Petersburg—firmly kept the Church under the imperial thumb and the Church thanked them for that.  So deeply ingrained was the Caesropapism in Orthodoxy that centuries later, even under the worst years of Communist oppression and persecution, the Russian Church was totally compliant with the Soviet government.  But, to be fair, that was its strategy for survival and in so far as it was a survival strategy, it worked. 
The Western Emperors saw their authority in the same way and for several centuries most popes agreed.  We saw (see blog entry of May 12, 2011) that Charlemagne altered the Creed of Nicea and, in direct contradiction to Leo III, insisted that this revised Creed be used in the liturgy)   In 824, Louis the Pious, his son and co-emperor, Lothair, and Pope Eugene II promulgated the Constitutio Romana, a protocol by which the Popes recognized, among other things, that the authority of the Emperor was supreme.  The Popes, for their part, were in a bind.  They needed the military protection from a series of foes—Lombards, Magyars, Saracens, and a host of Italian warrior-counts—to protect Rome and the papal territories.  Secondly they, like everyone else in Europe, were used to thinking of the Emperor as being supreme, indeed as being the Vicar of Christ which was a title the emperors (not the popes) had appropriated to themselves.  Finally, the popes had very little real power.  Bishops were elected locally, admittedly often under some royal or noble pressure.  Local Bishops, not popes, made decisions regarding liturgy and cult as well as Church discipline.  Papal authority was exercised more by encouragement and exhortation than by decree.  There was not much point into getting into “turf warfare” with the Emperor.  That would change, but for the time being, the popes were willing to let the issue slide.  And it was just as well—the Church needed the emperors to clean up a papacy that had become hopelessly corrupt.  I did a blog entry on what historians call The Pornacracy (cf. January 15 2011) which means the Rule (of the Church) by whores and refers to a period.  While you’re looking at that check out the January 24 2011 entry which is about the Cadaver Synod.  This might give you a picture of just how mad things were in the Church in the tenth century.     I think tomorrow we will talk about John XII—the pope who asks Otto for help.  It will show you why we need some outside authority to clean up the mess in Rome.  Just remember the old Italian axiom—il pesce puzza dalla testa—the fish rots from the head: it was coined about the papacy.