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bishops, even Chrysostom complains about this time, and Jerome is frank in his condemnation of the covetousness of the Roman clergy. So great became the evil of an absorption of the revenue on the part of the clergy, who were exempt for ordinary taxation, and received large gifts and testamentary bequests from the laity, that the Emperor Valentinian, the strict friend of the orthodox party, was obliged to declare, by a rescript addressed to Damasus, that all such donations were forfeited to the public treasury.
In the reign of Gratian and Valentinian, an imperial rescript enjoins on the civil magistrates that they forward to Rome, for adjudication by the reigning Pontiff there, any contumacious bishop of the provinces who should resist the deposing power of his local superiors. The rescript is doubtful, from the Theodosian code, some sixty years afterwards, taking no notice of its existence; nevertheless, it is not in its own nature improbable. True or false, it aimed at sustaining the lofty claim to universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Popes.
The title of "Papa," or Pope, common enough in the east and in Egypt, became exclusively applied to the bishops of Rome somewhere in the fifth century. Innocent I. is dignified with it in the African Councils of Carthage and Milevis, A.D. 416.
To the bishops of Vienne, and Narbonne, in France, Pope Cœlestine, writes in 428, claiming an "appointment by God to watch over His whole Church "—and a 66 pastoral superintendence which knows no bounds."
Cœlestine, A.D. 420, displayed sufficient arrogance of language in dealing with Nestorius on the ground of his heretical opinions, requiring of him, within ten days of the receipt of the Pope's rescript, an assent to the Catholic doctrine respecting the person of Christ, on pain of excommunication if he refused. But Leo, 440, seems to have first laid definite hold of the idea of Petrine prerogative, based upon succession to Peter in the Episcopate of Rome: "In his chair dwelleth the everliving power, the superabounding authority. Let the brethren therefore acknowledge that he is the Primate of all bishops, and that Christ, who denieth his gifts to none, yet giveth unto none except through him." To Leo the Great belongs the distinction of enforcing his ecclesiastical decrees by the aid of the civil power, Valentinian III, at his instance, issuing a decree that "no bishop of any province.... do anything without the authority of the venerable the Pope of the eternal city; but, on the contrary, to them, and to all men, let whatever the authority of the Apostolic see hath ordained, or doth, or shall ordain, be law." By his more immediate predecessors, and by his own agency, Leo succeeded in transforming the See of St. Peter, which before existed as a symbol of Catholic communion into a visibly existing power. There could be no communion of saints according to the developed idea of the fifth century but in union with Rome, and in subjection to the Pontiffs. As the Emperor represented the whole state, so the Bishop of Rome represented the whole Church. By a general consent at that day, and with seemingly as good a title as that of the
Emperor to temporal dominion, the Pope stood out as the visible autocrat of the great invisible unity of the Church-catholic. For this position even Leo could adduce no canonical authority; it was simply claimed, acted upon, iterated and reiterated, till at length the notion took possession of men's minds, and they yielded a practical acquiescence in a demand which they found it no advantage to dispute. The Church had secured, moreover, from the civil ruler by this time, an ecclesiastical judicature, the right of asylum, that of intercession for offenders, exemption of the clergy from civil offices and taxation, and in their corporate character, the right of receiving testamentary devises and bequests. By these privileges of property and dignity the Church had arrived at such a pitch of influence and power, that it was able to maintain an independent existence in the face of the northern invaders of Italy when the Imperial power crumbled to decay. She had become, to so great an extent, a governing power, and a useful ally, that her possessions were respected, her claims allowed, and the very victors became her vassals. Goth and Ostrogoth ravaged the Western Empire, and defeated the temporal power marshalled against them in successive battle-fields-but alike bowed in veneration before the tiara of the Pope, and the only social virtue and potency of the times. The priest proved more powerful to resist it is the old story of Christianity over again-than mailed legionaries, and artillery of war.
Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit.
These words would describe the actual position of the Popedom down to the middle of the sixth century.
At this period, the Popes of Rome were sustained in their struggle against Imperial authority and heretical depravity by the public opinion of the Western Churches, which naturally respected the only power that dared to cope with the Emperor and all his array. In the next century the Roman pontiffs had gained nearly all they wanted in tacit submission to their claims, as representatives of the Orthodox religion of the world-its arbiters and judges. None dared to resist except a single bishop here and there, or a recalcitrant Presbyter; and these were soon brought to order, or silenced, by means of weapons, even then well known to ecclesiastical authority. The compact existed, at least so far back as the time of Honorius and Coelestine, that the temporal and spiritual powers should back-up their independent action by the loan of each other's help. The Pope said :-"Smite me those heretics, and I will keep the provinces true to their allegiance;" a compact distinctly understood, and acted upon, although not at this early day couched in such plain terms. And if the centuries sixth, seventh, and eighth witnessed the opposition of the Byzantine Court to the claims of the Popedom, shown in the Henoticon struggle, the Pelagian Controversy, that of the Three Chapters, the Monothelite Controversy, the Quini-sext Council, and the struggle about images, the world saw the Empire daily growing weaker, and the prepollency of Rome more consolidated and manifest. In spirituals, Rome bore undisputed sway,
as every conflict with the Greek patriarchs demonstrated; and in temporals, the course of affairs and the force of acquisition were exalting the Popes to a position of independent sovereignty, wherein they could afford to regard the Prince of Constantinople as a co-occupant of the common throne rather than their liege lord and master.
The Patrimony of St. Peter was claimed as early as Gregory the Great, A.D. 600; the territory thus designated consisting of nearly all the Byzantine duchy of Rome. This estate, belonging to the Holy See, extended from near Naples, in the south, to Viterbo, in the north, besides many outlying farms and fiefs in all directions. In the wars between the Lombards of Italy and the Greek emperors, all that the Popes could shield, or claim, or extort from either party in the struggle became the inalienable property of the Church. The Lombards were favoured―favoured and feared, on the ground of their warlike character and conquests, of their actual power upon the spot, and their orthodox Christianity. But the Popes looked to some third party to rescue them from the double thraldom of allegiance to a heterodox and decaying empire, and of friendship with an invasive and dangerous ally. This they found in Pepin of France, whose usurpation they justified in order to secure his intervention in their favour, a procedure whose policy is undoubted, while its iniquity is transparent. Pepin was grateful, and ceded to the Pope in perpetuity the districts which his armies wrested from the Lombard king; the rights of the Byzantine sovereign over all this territory, and the allegiance to the Emperor being quietly obliterated from the minds of the Pontiffs, whose object was to gain in order to keep, not to recover with a view to restore. They had, in fact, transferred their allegiance to the usurping King of France, because, in the crisis of their fortunes, that monarch was able to protect them, and liberal to endow them. Pepin bestowed Ravenne, Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Cesena, Sinigaglia, Eso, Forlimpopoli, Forli, Eugubio, Montferrata, Comachio, Urbino, Narni, and other places, the lawful inheritance of the Greek sovereign, upon the Roman Pontiffs, which these latter had long coveted and intrigued to possess. This is called the donation of Pepin, and dates in A.D. 754. Shortly afterwards, the donation of Charlemagne, his son, doubled the pontifical territories, and added thereto a moral ascendancy of still greater value. Charlemagne gained nothing but a title-" King of Italy," for the then ruler of France made war for an idea; but all that he filched from the Lombards and the Porphyrogeniti, including the Quadrilateral, Venice, and Istria he made over to his Holiness, who pocketed the proceeds, and plumed his ecclesiastical ambition for a higher flight. No longer did the spiritual empire of the Church rest upon the shadowy foundation of the Petrine myth, but upon the solid basis of territorial power and princely grandeur. Every acre of the imperial domain in Italy, of which the Popes could rob their nominal sovereigns, they appropriated without scruple, under the shield of their powerful friend and bully, the King of the Franks; and the emperors retorted by assigning all the spiritual jurisdiction of the western patriarch over the eastern dioceses to their
own prelates and patriarchs. The retaliation practised by a grea sovereign upon a great subject proves that by this date the Popes had reached a dangerous equality of power with the Eastern emperor, and could afford to bandy practical jokes, in which it is no libel to say their Holinesses did not come off second best. The emperors gratified their spite, and displayed impotent malice; but the Popes clutched nearly all Italy with its civil authority and its large revenues in their retentive grasp. This brings us down to A.D. 800. All that follows is marked by equal ambition, larger cupidity, and more enormous crime; the infamy of fraud, the red hand of murder, evil without scruple, and incapacity for everything but wrong. The exceptions are too few in after-days to be of much account in history.
We have not considered it desirable or requisite in the course of this brief historical review, to specify the names and acts of all the Pontiffs who contributed to the grand result attained by this period. We have contented ourselves with the employment of general terms, along with a few particulars, directing attention to the persistent purpose of the Romish See for many centuries, kept constantly in view, and at last, to a great degree, attained. The aim of the Romish See had evidently been to drop into succession to all the Western Empire, when the Occidental Augustus laid down his sceptre, and failing that, to secure as large a portion of his temporal dominion as craft and lust of power could acquire. We have seen the most able men in the Church employ their great ability to reach this height of acquisition, and succeeding to a remarkable extent-Kings dowering the Church munificently with the fruit of their conquests, and the fealty of their homage.
One of the very worst features of the Papal history is the imposture whereby it seeks to make its usurpations appear legitimate, its roguish gains honest, its sheer and naked plunder the free gift of the plundered. The topic suggests itself just now, from the forgery of the Donation of Constantine, which was adduced to Charlemagne to quicken the zeal and enlarge the liberality of the Frankish Monarch. It was a base imposture, meant to serve the nonce of the greedy Pope, whom nothing would satisfy short of what the document professed to accord -"Supreme power over all the region of the West." This document was nothing more nor less than a shameless forgery, and in this partook too largely of the prevailing character of all the Church's testamentary literature. The topic is too fruitful to dismiss in a word. The literary policy of the Church of Rome is not more characterised by the suppressio veri of its expurgatory indexes, than by the assertio falsi of its forged documents. It has that mark of reprobation which peculiarly distinguishes the prophetic apostasy of perilous times-"Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having the conscience seared with a hot iron." 1 Tim. iv. 2.
Founded on injustice, the secular and developed Papacy was sustained by imposture. Great as the Popedom is in anathema, it is splendidly great and wicked in fabrication. Bequests, donations, benevolences, subsidies, oblations, testaments, registers, pandects, protocols, vouchers, chartularies, indentures, muniments, archives, attestations,
bulls, rescripts, decretals, documents of all kinds, parchments of all sizes, she can produce of any quality, to any amount, for any inquirer. Where less inventive geniuses fail, she is peculiarly successful. No want has she without a ready supply. Others may lack gold, or goods, or apt counsel; she abounds in ben trovati, lucky finds, in her hour of need, She has but to will, and wills abound; but to stamp with her foot, and hosts of the perjured present themselves to do her bidding. Her policy is well-contrived in its double aspect, for herself and the world. As possession is nine points of the law, she grabs with covetous hand all within her reach: this is self-regard. Her next step is to forge a title; and herein is her complaisance to the world. Diplomacy she understands to perfection-in the mission of the Nuncio and the manufacture of the credential. Rome has always driven a thriving trade in scrivening.
From the Codex Pseudepigraphus of the Gospels, which contains, indeed, documents of various ages, but some of early date, down through the Christian centuries, till the eve of the revival of letters, the whole course of Ecclesiastical literature has been one of unblushing forgery of diplomatic writings, many of them with a purely secular drift and aim.
We scarcely touch the threshold of Ecclesiastical history till we make acquaintance with these disreputable productions, and, once fairly within the doors, we witness little else. The claims of the Church of Rome are preposterous; and unscrupulous, indeed, the measures which she has employed to establish those claims.
The Epistles of Ignatius are three parts a falsification; probably the production of the third century, to justify, if so it might, the polity of the Church constitution in that day, and win the testimony of antiquity in favour of the exclusive authority of bishops against curious and contumacious Presbyters. Of a more directly Romish cast, probably, are the spurious works called the "Preaching of Peter," the Apocalypse of Peter," the "Itinerary of Peter," and the "Clementine, or Apostolical Constitutions." These and kindred works present St. Peter in a different light from that shed upon the often-erring but warm-hearted Apostle, by the inspired Evangelists, and seek to identify him with sentiments which the true Peter would have repudiated, and with the Ecclesiastical pretensions of a city-Rome-which, perhaps, he never saw. In the controversy of Stephen, and Victor, of Rome with Cyprian (and the Cyprianic documents are as doubtful as many besides), it looms up again and again above the surface of the correspondence that the Romish bishops built much on the circumstance of being in diocesan succession to St. Peter, regarded the Tu es Petrus as conveying exclusive authority to his successors, and the possession of his chair as the symbol of a Church unity, and governing power vested in themselves ipso facto, and by Divine right. Other churches and episcopates disputed these pretensions, which is at least satisfactory evidence that they were not established, although paraded, and their antagonism put the Romish See upon its mettle to enforce, by hook or by crook, its jurisdiction. It succeeded to a great extent-for what