History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume I Part 2
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A body of theologians of admitted eminence necessarily spoke with authority. In France the decisions of the Sorbonne were accepted as final upon almost all questions affecting the doctrine and practice of the Church. Abroad its opinions were esteemed of little less weight than the deliberate judgments of synods. Difficulties in church and state were referred to it for solution. In the age of the reformation the Sorbonne was invited to pronounce upon the truth or falsity of the propositions maintained by Martin Luther, and, a few years later, upon the validity of the grounds of the divorce sought by Henry the Eighth of England. But, unhappily, the reputation of the faculty was tarnished by scholastic bigotry. Slavish attachment to the past had destroyed freedom of thought. With a species of inconsistency not altogether without a parallel in history, the very body which had been active in the promotion of science during the Middle Ages assumed the posture of resistance the moment that the advocates of substantial reform urged the necessity of immediate action. Abuses which had provoked the indignation of Gerson, once Chancellor of the University of Paris, and employed the skilful pen of the bold Rector Nicholas de Clemangis, met with no word of condemnation from the new generation of theologians.
Such was the Sorbonne of the beginning of the sixteenth century, when intriguing doctors, such as Beda and Quercu, ruled in its deliberations.
An enemy of liberal studies as well as of the "new doctrines," the faculty of theology was as ready to attack Erasmus for his devotion to ancient literature, or Jacques Lefevre for establishing the existence of the "three Marys," as to denounce the Bishop of Meaux for favoring "Lutheran" preachers in his diocese. Against all innovators in church or state, the sentiments of the Sorbonne, which it took no pains to conceal, were that "their impious and shameless arrogance must be restrained by chains, by censures--nay, by fire and flame--rather than vanquished by argument!"
[Sidenote: Number of students.]
Meanwhile, in the external marks of prosperity the University of Paris was still in its prime at the period of which I speak. The colleges, clustered together in the southern quarter of the city--the present _Quartier Latin_--were so numerous and populous that this portion continued for many years after to be distinguished as _l'
Universite_. The number of students, it is true, had visibly diminished since one hundred years before. The crowd of youth in attendance was no longer so great as in 1409, when, according to a contemporary, the head of a scholastic procession to the Church of Saint Denis had already reached the sacred shrine before the rector had left the Church of the _Mathurins_ in the Rue Saint Jacques, a point full six miles distant. Yet the report of Giustiniano, in 1535, stated it as the current belief that the university still had twenty-five thousand students in attendance, although this seemed to be an exaggerated estimate. "For the most part," he added, "they are young, for everybody, however poor he may be, learns to read and write." Another ambassador, writing eleven years later, represents the students, now numbering sixteen or twenty thousand, as extremely poor. Their instructors, he tells us, received very modest salaries; yet, so great was the honor attaching to the post of teacher within the university walls, that the competition for professorial chairs was marvellously active.
The influence of the clergy fell little short of that of the university in moderating the arbitrary impulses of the monarch.
[Sidenote: The Gallican liberties.]
The Gallican Church had for many centuries been distinguished for a manly defence of its liberties against the encroachments of the Papal court. Tenacious of the maintenance of doctrinal unity with the See of Rome, the French prelates early met the growing assumption of the Popes with determined courage. At the suggestion of the clergy, and with their full concurrence, more than one French king adopted stringent regulations intended to protect the kingdom from becoming the prey of foreigners. Church and State were equally interested in the successful prosecution of a warfare carried on, so far as the French were concerned, in a strictly defensive manner. The Papal treasury, under guise of _annats_, laid claim to the entire income of the bishopric or other benefice for the first year after each new appointment. It seized upon the revenues of vacant ecclesiastical offices, which the king specially affected. Every bull or brief needed to secure induction into office--and the number of these articles was almost unlimited--was procured at a heavy expense. Further sums were exacted for pronouncing a dispensation in favor of those appointees whom youth or some other canonical impediment incapacitated for the acceptance and discharge of the requisite functions.
[Sidenote: Objects of the Gallican party.]
The main objects of both crown and clergy were, consequently, to secure the kingdom from the disastrous results of the interference of Italians in the domestic affairs of France; to preserve the treasure of the realm from exhaustion resulting from the levy of arbitrary imposts fixed by irresponsible aliens, and exacted through the terrors of ecclesiastical penalties; to prevent the right of election to lucrative livings from falling into the hands of those who would use the privilege only as a means of acquiring riches; and to rescue clergymen themselves from being hurried away for trial beyond the confines of their native land, and possibly from suffering hopeless confinement in Roman dungeons. In a word, it was the aim of the Gallican party to prove that "the government of the church is not a despotism."
[Sidenote: Pragmatic Sanction of St. Louis.]
It is a somewhat anomalous circumstance that the first decided step in repressing the arrogant claims of the Papal See was taken by a monarch whose singular merits have been deemed worthy of canonization by the Roman Church. Louis the Ninth had witnessed with alarm the rapid strides of the Papacy toward universal dominion. His pride was offended by the pretension of the Pontiff to absolute superiority; his sovereign rights were assailed when taxes were levied in France at the pleasure of a foreign priest and prince. He foresaw that this abuse was likely to take deep root unless promptly met by a formal declaration placing the rights of the French monarch and nation in their true light. For this reason he issued in 1268 a solemn edict, which, as emanating from the unconstrained will of the king, took the name of the "_Pragmatic Sanction_ of Saint Louis."
The preamble of this famous ordinance, upon the authenticity of which doubts have been unnecessarily cast, declares the object of the king to be to secure the safety and tranquillity of the church of his realm, the advancement of divine worship, the salvation of the souls of Christ's faithful people, and the attainment of the favor and help of Almighty God. To his sole jurisdiction and protection had France ever been subject, and so did Louis desire it to remain. The provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction were directed chiefly to guarding the freedom of election and of collation to benefices, and to prohibiting the imposition of any form of taxes by the Pope upon ecclesiastical property in France, save by previous consent of the prince and clergy.
In this brief document had been laid the foundation of the liberties of the Gallican Church, not under the form of novel legislation, but of a summary of previous usage.
[Sidenote: Philip the Fair and Boniface.]
Political reasons, not long after the death of Louis, gave new vigor to the policy of opposition to which this king had pledged France. His grandson, the resolute Philip the Fair, found fresh incitement in the extravagant conduct of a contemporary Pope, Boniface the Eighth. The bold ideas advanced by Hildebrand in the eleventh, and carried into execution by Innocent the Third in the thirteenth century, were wrought into the very texture of the soul of Boniface, and could not be concealed, in spite of the altered condition of mediaeval society.
Intolerant, headstrong, and despotic, he undertook to exercise a theocratic rule, and commanded contending monarchs to lay down their arms, and submit their disputes to his arbitrament. To such a summons Philip was not inclined to submit. The crafty and unscrupulous prince, whose contempt for divine law was evidenced by his shameless practice of injustice, whose coffers were filled indifferently by the confiscation of the rich spoils of the commanderies of the Templars, and by recklessly debasing the national currency, did not hesitate to engage in a contest with the most presumptuous of Popes. He appealed to the States General, and all three orders indignantly repudiated the suggestion that their country had ever stood to the Papacy in the relation of a fief.
The disastrous example of the English John Lackland had found no imitator on the southern side of the channel. The Pope was declared a heretic. Emissaries of Louis seized him in his native city of Anagni, within the very bounds of the "Patrimony of St. Peter," and the rough usage to which he was then subjected hastened his death. His successors on the pontifical throne proved somewhat more tractable.
[Sidenote: The Popes at Avignon.]
During his short and unimportant pontificate, Benedict the Eleventh restored to the chapters of cathedrals the right of electing their own bishops. Upon his death, Philip secured the elevation to the pontifical dignity of an ecclesiastic wholly devoted to French interests, the facile Clement the Fifth, who, in return for the honor conferred upon him, removed the seat of the Papacy to Avignon. Here for the seventy years of the so-called "Babylonish Captivity," the Popes continued to reside, too completely subject to the influence of the French monarchs to dream of resuming their tone of defiance, but scarcely less exacting than before of homage from other rulers. In fact, the burden of the pecuniary exactions of the Popes rather grew than diminished with the change from Rome to Avignon, and with the institution of rival claimants to the tiara, each requiring an equal sum to support the pomp of his court, but recognized as legitimate by only a portion of Christendom.
The devices for drawing tribute from all quarters were multiplied to an almost insupportable extent. So effectual did they prove, that no pontiff, perhaps, ever left at his death a more enormous accumulation of treasure than one of the Popes of Avignon, John the Twenty-second. Much of this wealth was derived from the rich provinces of France.
[Sidenote: The Schism.]
Close upon the "Captivity" followed the "Schism," during which the generally acknowledged Popes, who had returned to Rome, were opposed by pretenders at Avignon and elsewhere. A double incentive was now given to the monarchs of Europe for setting bounds to the ambition of the Papacy.
For while the Popes, through the loss of a great part of their authority and prestige, had become less formidable antagonists, their financial extortions had waxed so intolerable as to suggest the strongest arguments appealing to the self-interest of kings. Hence the frequency with which the demand for "a reformation in the head and the members"
resounded from all parts of the Western Church. And hence, too, those memorable councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basle, which, coming in rapid succession at the commencement of the fifteenth century, bade fair to prove the forerunners of a radical reformation. It does not belong here to discuss the causes of their failure to answer this reasonable expectation. Yet with one of these assemblages is closely connected a very important incident in the history of the Gallican Church.
[Sidenote: The Council of Bourges.]
The Council of Basle had not yet concluded its protracted sessions when Charles the Seventh summoned the clergy of France to meet him in the city of Bourges. The times were troublous. The kingdom was rent with intestine division. A war was still raging, during the progress of which the victorious arms of the English had driven the king from his capital and deprived him of more than one-half of his dominions. The work of reinstating the royal authority, though well begun by the wonderful interposition of the Maid of Orleans, was as yet by no means complete.
Undaunted, however, by the unsettled aspect of his affairs, Charles--the "King of Bourges," as he was contemptuously styled by his opponents--made his appearance in the national council convened in his temporary capital. He was attended by the dauphin, the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, the Count of Maine, and many other noblemen, as well as by a goodly train of doctors of civil and canon law. Awaiting his arrival were five archbishops, twenty-five bishops, and a host of abbots and deputies of universities and chapters of cathedrals. In the presence of this august convocation, in which all that was most prominent in church and state was represented, Charles published, on the seventh of July, 1438, an ordinance which has become celebrated under the name of the "Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges"--by far the more important of the two documents of similar nature emanating from the French throne.
[Sidenote: The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.]
The Pragmatic Sanction, as it is often called by way of pre-eminence, is the magna charta of the liberties of the Gallican Church. Founded upon the results of the discussions of the Council of Basle, it probably embodies all the reformatory measures which the hierarchy of France was desirous of effecting or willing to accept. How far these were from administering the needed antidote to the poison which was at work and threatened to destroy all true religious life--if, indeed, that life was not already too near extinction--may readily be understood when it is discovered that, with the exception of a few paragraphs relating to ecclesiastical discipline and worship, the following comprise all the important provisions:
The Pragmatic Sanction establishes the obligation of the Pope to convene a general council of the church at least every ten years. The decisions of the Council of Basle are declared to be of perpetual force. Far from deriving its authority from the Holy See, the cumenical Council, it is affirmed, depends immediately upon Christ, and the Pope is no less bound than all other Christians to render due obedience to its decisions. The right of appeal from the Pope to the future council--a claim obnoxious in the last degree to the advocates of papal supremacy--is distinctly asserted. The Pope is declared incapable of appointing to any high ecclesiastical dignities, save in a few specified cases; in all others recourse is to be had to election. The pontiff's pretensions to confer minor benefices are equally rejected. No abuse is more sharply rebuked and forbidden than that of _expectatives_--a species of appointment in high favor with the papal chancery, whereby a successor to ecclesiastical dignities was nominated during the lifetime of the incumbent, and in view of his decease.
The Pragmatic Sanction restricts the troublesome and costly appeals to Rome to cases of great importance, when the parties in interest reside at a distance of more than four days' journey from that city. At the same time it prescribes that no one shall be vexed by such appeals after having enjoyed actual possession of his rank for three years. Going beyond the limits of the kingdom, it enters into the constitution of the "Sacred College," and fixes the number of the cardinals at twenty-four, while placing the minimum age of candidates for the hat at thirty years. The exaction of the _annats_ is stigmatized as simony. Priests living in concubinage are to be punished by the forfeiture of one-fourth of their annual stipend. Finally the principle is sanctioned that no interdict can be made to include in its operation the innocent with the guilty.
So thorough a vindication of the rights of the Gallican Church had never before been undertaken. The axe was laid at the root of formidable abuses; freedom of election was restored; the kingdom was relieved of a crushing burden of tribute; foreigners were precluded from interfering with the systematic administration of the laws. The clergy, both regular and secular, received the greatest benefits, for, while they could no longer be plundered of so large a part of their incomes, their persons were protected from arbitrary arrest and hopeless exile beyond the Alps.
The council had not adjourned when the tidings of the transactions at Bourges reached the city of Basle. The members were overjoyed, and testified their approval in a grateful letter to the Archbishop of Lyons. But their exultation was more than equalled by the disgust of Pope Eugenius the Third. Indeed, the pontificates of this pope and his immediate successors were filled with fruitless attempts to effect the repeal of the Pragmatic Sanction. A threat was made to place France under an interdict; but this was of no avail, being answered by the counter-threat of the king's representative, who proposed to make a practical application of the instrument, by appealing from his Holiness to a future general council. So the Pope, having a vivid recollection of the perils attending a contest with the French crown, wisely avoided the hazardous venture.
[Sidenote: Louis XI. consents to its abrogation.]
In Louis the Eleventh the papal court seemed to have found a more promising prince to deal with. Animated by hatred of his father, and disposed to oppose whatever had met his father's approval, Louis had, while yet dauphin, given the Pope's agents flattering assurances of his good intentions. On ascending the throne, he permitted his father's memory to be treated with disrespect, by suffering a nuncio to pronounce absolution over the corpse for the heinous sin of originating the Pragmatic Sanction. Later, on receiving the assurance of the Pope's support for the house of Anjou in Naples, he consented to repeal the hateful ordinance. A royal declaration for this purpose was published in 1461, contrary to the advice of the king's council. It met with universal reprobation. The Parliament of Toulouse would register the document only with an accompanying note stating that this had been done "by the most express command of the king." The Parliament of Paris absolutely declined to admit it in its records, and sent a deputation to Louis to set forth the pernicious results that were to be expected from the overthrow of his father's wise regulations. The University made bold to appeal to a general council of the Church.
[Sidenote: But subsequently re-enacts it.]
Meanwhile it happened that Louis made the unwelcome discovery that his Italian friends had deceived him, and that the prospect was very remote of obtaining the advantages by which he had been allured. It was not very difficult, therefore, to persuade him to renounce his project. Not content with this, three years after his formal revocation of the entire Pragmatic Sanction, he even re-enacted some of the clauses of the document respecting "expectatives" and "provisions."
[Sidenote: Parliament protests against the repeal.]
But a few years later, in 1467, Louis again conceived it to be for his interest to abrogate the Pragmatic Sanction. At the suggestion of Cardinal Balue, the recent enactment against "expectatives" was repealed. The Parliament of Paris, however, refused to record the letters patent. Among other powerful arguments adduced was the fact that a recent investigation had proved that, in the three years of the pontificate of Pius the Second during which the Pragmatic Sanction had been virtually set aside (1461-1464), Rome drew from the kingdom not less than 240,000 crowns in payment of bulls for archbishoprics, bishoprics, and abbeys falling vacant within this term; 100,000 for priories and deaneries; and the enormous sum of 2,500,000 crowns for "expectatives" and "dispensations." This startling financial exhibit was accompanied by statements of the indirect injury received by the community from the great number of candidates thrown on the tender mercies of relations and friends, whom they thus beggared while awaiting a long deferred preferment. Even when successful, "they received only lead for gold." Frequently, when they were about to clutch the coveted prize, a rival stepped in armed with documents annulling those previously given. Cases had, indeed, been known in which ten or twelve contestants presented themselves, all basing their claims upon the pontifical warrant.
[Sidenote: Fall of Cardinal Balue.]
Cardinal Balue was not slow in finding means to remove from office the intrepid _Procureur-general_, who had been prominent in urging parliament to resist the measure of repeal. But Saint-Romain's bold stand had confirmed both parliament and university, and neither body would acquiesce in the papal demands. Louis, however, was reconciled to a second abandonment of the scheme by the opportune discovery of the cardinal's treachery. The unhappy prelate met with deserved retribution, for his purple did not save him from enduring his own favorite mode of punishment, and being shut up in a great iron cage. The new Perillus was thus enabled--to the intense satisfaction of many whom he had wronged--to test in his own person the merits of a contrivance which he was reputed himself to have invented.
A concordat subsequently agreed upon by Louis and the Pope fared no better than the previous compacts. Parliament and university were resolute, and the king, having no further advantage to gain by keeping his word, was as careless in its fulfilment as was his wont. The Pragmatic Sanction was still observed as the law of the land. The highest civil courts, ignoring the alleged repeal, conformed their decisions to its letter and spirit, while the theologians of the Sorbonne taught it as the foundation of the ecclesiastical constitution of France. Yet, public confidence in its validity having been shaken, it was desirable to set all doubts at rest by a formal re-enactment. This was proposed by the Dean of St. Martin of Tours, in the States General held during the minority of Charles the Eighth; but, notwithstanding the well-known opinion of all the orders, this reign passed without the adoption of any decided action.
[Sidenote: Action of Louis XII.]
[Sidenote: His motto.]
It was reserved for Louis the Twelfth to take the desired step. In 1499 he published the Pragmatic Sanction anew, and ordered the exclusion from office of all that had obtained benefices from Rome. In vain did the Pope rave. In vain did he summon all upholders of the ordinance to appear before the Fifth Lateran Council. The sturdy prince--the "Father of his people"--who had chosen for his motto the device, "_Perdam Babylonis nomen_," made little account of the menaces of Julius the Second, whom death overtook, it is said, while about to fulminate a bull transferring the title of "Very Christian King" from Louis the Twelfth of France to Henry the Eighth of England.
[Sidenote: Concordat of Leo X. and Francis I.]
Thirsting for military distinction, Francis the First had no sooner obtained the throne than he entered upon the career of arms in northern Italy, and the signal victory of Marignano, won less than ten months after his accession (September 13, 1515), closed his first campaign.
This success was productive of more lasting results than merely the temporary possession of the Milanese. It led to a reconciliation with the Pope, and to a stately interview in the city of Bologna. All that was magnificent and captivating to the senses had been studied to dazzle the eyes of a young and imaginative prince; for Leo the Tenth, patron of the arts and of artists, was an adept in scenic effects. Certainly never did pomp and ceremony more easily effect the object for which they were employed. The interview of Bologna paved the way for a concordat, in which the rights of the Gallican Church were sacrificed, and the spoils divided between king and pontiff. Three cardinals took part in the elaboration of the details of the instrument--two on the pontifical, the third on the royal side. The last was the notorious Cardinal Duprat, elevated by Francis to the office of chancellor--a minister of religion who was soon to introduce venality into every department of government.
The source of the concordat determined tolerably well its character.
Appreciating the strength of the opposition its pretensions had always encountered in France, the papal court had resolved to renounce a portion of its claims in favor of the king, in order to retain the rest more securely. Under the pretext that the right of election vested in the chapters had been abused, partly by the choice of illiterate and improper men, partly through the practice of simony, the selection of archbishops and bishops was taken from them and confided to the king. He was empowered to choose a doctor or licentiate of theology or law, not less than twenty-seven years of age, within six months after the see became vacant. The name of the candidate was to be submitted to the Pope for approval, and, if this first nomination was rejected, a second was to be made by the king. Similar regulations were made respecting abbeys and monastic institutions in general, a few exceptions being allowed in favor of those patrons and bodies to whom special privileges had been accorded. The issue of "expectatives" was prohibited; but, as no mention was made of the "annats," it followed, of course, that this rich source of gain to the papal treasury was to lie open, in spite of the provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction to the contrary.
Such were some of the leading features of the concordat between Leo the Tenth and Francis the First--a document introducing changes so violent as to amount almost to a complete revolution in the ecclesiastical constitution of the land.
[Sidenote: Dissatisfaction of the French.]
After receiving the unqualified approval of the Lateran Council, in a session at which few prelates were present from outside of Italy, the concordat, engrossed on white damask, and accompanied by a revocation of the Pragmatic Sanction on cloth of gold, was forwarded to Francis, who had now returned to his kingdom. The latter, not ignorant of the discontent already engendered by the mere rumor of the transaction, first submitted the concordat alone to a mixed assembly composed of prelates and canons, of presidents and counsellors of parliament, doctors of the university, and other prominent personages. But the king's caution failed of accomplishing what had been intended. The general dissatisfaction found expression in the speech of Cardinal Boissy, demanding that the clergy be consulted by itself on a matter so vitally affecting its interests, and suggesting the necessity of a national council for that purpose. Francis angrily retorted that the clergy _must obey_, or he would send its bishops to Rome to discuss with the Pope.
History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume I Part 2
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