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of Dover, and the barons having no army sufficient to oppose him, he every where laid their towns and villages waste, and before the end of this year had a fair prospect of reducing them to his obedience by force.
Meanwhile the court of Rome had an affair of the greatest importance on their hands; and this was to give the finishing stroke to that ecclesiastic monarchy which they had been raising by degrees. Pope Innocent had been extremely fortunate in the steps which he had made, and had carried the grandeur of that court to such a height, that one may be allowed to say, the glories of the papacy did never shine so bright as under the pontificate of that prelate. And as he judged truly of the present state of the papacy, so he hastened to put the last hand to it, by triumphing at once over the whole Christian church, which he and his predecessors had despoiled and broken by degrees. In order hereto he called a council, known by the name of the fourth Lateran Council, which met this year (1215), and was held in Rome in November under pope Innocent. Concerting measures for carrying on the war in Palestine, and the reformation of the church, were the pretended reasons for calling this assembly together. But when pope Innocent in his sermon at the opening of the council thought fit to speak out, he tells them, that if occasion was, “ he was ready to die for the ecclesiastic liberty," and (according to his mysterious and allegorical way of speaking) that “though to live was Christ and to die was gain, yet it was his desire to continue in the flesh, till the work should be consummated which was begun a.” And if perfecting the ecclesiastic monarchy was not this work, and the true secret which lay at the bottom of this council, one who considers the history, the canons, and the methods of proceeding therein, will find it very difficult to be of another opinion.
For if we take the whole together, this council is one of the most surprising scenes that the world ever produced; and whatever was designed by it, this assembly has drawn the ecclesiastic monarchy in its brightest glory and lustre, and gives us such a view of the power and grandeur of the papacy as is no where else to be found: and which I am more concerned to consider, it gives so much light to the affairs of the English church, that one cannot forbear to observe the occasion, the conduct, and the issue of this council. Besides the general uneasiness which the Holy War occasioned,
M. Par. ann. 1215. col. 131.
there was scarce a nation in Europe that had not about this time some particular embroil. That of England is too well known to need repeating : France was engaged in a war with Flanders and the emperor Otho; Spain torn to pieces by the Moors and Saracens; the parties of Otho and Frederic divided and embroiled the empire ; and the late violent revolution in the eastern empire had occasioned such convulsions therein, as were never cured till the empire itself became a prey to the Turks. Such was the state of Europe when the council, which met this year, was summoned in the year 1213; and if a change was made before the council met, or the present state of Europe was any ways different from what it was two years since, the change was rather for the worse, and the affairs thereof still more embroiled. And as if these had not been calamities sufficient, the court of Rome was every where employing their arts and authority to raise men and money, for the succour of the east, as was pretended.
Whilst Europe then was in this posture, pope Innocent summoned a general council by his own authority: for which end he sent his monitions to the eastern and western emperors, to the kings of England, France, Spain, Arragon, Hungary, and Sicily, to oblige them to send ambassadors to that assembly. The like summons was sent to the four eastern patriarchs, as well as to the metropolitans of the western churches: and the conduct of this council was answerable to the majesty with which it was convened.
That prelate thus assumed to himself this great branch of the imperial and royal authority, by which all general and national councils had been called for above a thousand years after Christ; and instead of receiving a summons from the emperor, as all his predecessors had done to the eight first general councils, he sent his monitions to all Christian princes.-And it could not be expected, that he should use their clergy better than he had used their masters; and indeed the style, and canons, and form of passing them, plainly show, that he esteemed the bishops and clergy who came to this council, no otherwise than as his subjects and his council, and not as the representatives of the Christian church ; whereas the learned writer of the history of the councils has well observed, that in all the ancient councils the method was first to consider and debate, and then each bishop having written his suffrage with his own handa, the matter under consideration was determined by the majority of voices, and the decree ran in the name of the council. And this, as that author saith, was a
• Richer. Hist. Concil. lib. i.
method well suited to that aristocracy which Christ had established in His church, and the method which has been continued in such assemblies, from the first council of the apostles till the time of Gregory the seventh a.
But as that learned writer has abundantly proved that the court of Rome broke down the primitive constitution of the Christian church, and set up an ecclesiastic monarchy instead of that form which Christ had erected, and by which the apostles and first ages of the church had ever acted; so he makes it appear, that the proceedings of this council were answerable to the change which the ambition and artifices of the court of Rome had introduced. “For (saith he) pope Innocent neither suffered the bishops to debate, or to give their votes, or the decrees to run in the name, or to pass by the authority, of the council; but he by his own creatures first prepared the decrees, and then published them, not as the acts of the council, but by his own proper authority b.” And a late learned and excellent writer of the same communion follows him in that opinion, and saith, “ It is certain, that the aforesaid canons were not made by the council, but by pope Innocent the third, who presented them to the council ready drawn up, and ordered them to be read; and that the prelates did not enter into debate upon them.” And indeed the aforesaid learned writer of the history of the councils has truly observed, that this was the case of all the papal councils from the pontificate of Gregory the seventh : they were so far from being free, that they were entirely governed by the particular interests of the court of Rome, and the canons thereof delivered as the edicts of an absolute monarch d.
But whatever was the case of other councils, it is so evident that this was the case of the aforesaid council under pope Innocent, that if there had been no other proof, the turn and the style, and the spirit that every where appear in the canons thereof, are enough to lead one to the method and form in which they were conceived and published. For whereas the constant style of the ancient councils was, “decernimus et synodi autoritate roboramus e,” we decree and confirm by the authority of the synod; Gregory the seventh, who projected the change in the government of the church, first began, and pope Innocent followed him in this & Richer. Hist. Concil. lib. i.
769. b Ejusd. p. 766.
Ejusd. p. 769.
form, “nos sacro approbante concilio decernimus," we decree with the approbation of the synod. But very often the canons run in his own name, and ascribe the decreeing power to himself, without mentioning the authority of the council : and in that decree, by which he charged the whole clergy with the payment of a twentieth part of their yearly revenues for the space of three years, towards defraying the charges of the war in Palestine, he pretends no further than that it was with the approbation of the council a. In short, some things are ascribed to the advice, and others to the persuasions, of the council , whilst the haughty monarch arrogates the decreeing power to himself.
As he thus treated this assembly, and under the cover thereof imposed his own maxims on the world, the persons of the clergy and religious were, if it was possible, used worse than their authority. For having under the colour of this council drawn them to Rome, he put his own price upon them, and before he would suffer them to depart, he made them take up money from the merchants of Rome, whom he had appointed to furnish them to supply his wants. Among the rest, William abbot of St. Alban's had an hundred marks extorted from him 4, and the new archbishop of York was charged with ten thousand marks ; and if we have not the particular charges on the other prelates, our historian is positive that by this method pope Innocent raised infinite sums of money e ; or, to speak more properly, by a treachery and violence beyond all example, he robbed those whom he had first deceived into the snare under the pretence of religion. This horrible practice will, it may be, give us the best account of that mighty zeal with which this assembly was convened, and such numbers drawn together at a time when all Christendom was in a ferment, and the presence of the clergy and religious so necessary at home. But if this circumstance, and the interest the court of Rome served by it, be not enough to set the reason of this assembly in a true light, it will be in vain to look to the canons themselves, or to the controversies or heresies of the age for our guide.
But whatever occasioned the convening of this council, one who observes the air of majesty and authority which every where appears, in the monitions sent by pope Innocent to the emperors and other Christian princes of Europe, and to the bishops as well of the eastern as the western churches; with what assurance that prelate, without the consent of the princes and states of Europe, forbade the raising of money for the time to come on the estates of the clergy and religious by the secular power, without the consent of the bishops of Rome, whilst at the same time he laid an imposition of a twentieth part on the whole estate of the church ; how magisterially he commanded every city to send or to pay a number of men for the Holy War, and declared it the right of the papacy to give away the dominions of princes; with what assurance that prelate put the doctrine of deposing princes upon the world, under the pretended authority of an assembly, wherein the ambassadors of most of the princes of Europe were present; how arbitrarily he extorted vast sums of money from the clergy and religious who met in this council; and, which is more still, how tamely they suffered their persons to be ill-treated, and their authority abused, to serve all the purposes of the ambitious court which convened them; has a view and an example of such blindness and infatuation on the one side, and of such ambition and exorbitant power on the other, as the world could have no idea of before the reign of pope Innocent.
• Concil. tom. xi. par. i. col. 228.
The archbishop of Canterbury was at Rome whilst this council was held there, and if he did not make his peace with pope Innocent, yet it seems very probable, he obtained the recalling of his suspension, partly by giving security to abide by the judgment of that court, and partly by the same methods by which that court served their ends on the rest of the assembly. But the barons of England fell irrevocably under his displeasure, and were in this council excommunicated by pope Innocent with all their adherents and abettors, and with all that should attempt to seize or invade the kingdom of England : and the reason that prelate gives, is, “because (as he speaks) the illustrious king of England had taken upon him the cross, and was the vassal of the Roman church a.”
Having thus long insisted on the transactions of this council, partly to show the reader what the court of Rome meant by the ecclesiastic liberty; and partly to show to what a height they had by this time carried their usurpation, by offering to his view the triumphs of that court over the Christian and secular authority in this great assembly, which is said to consist of four hundred and twelve bishops ; and partly to enable the reader, by this view of the papacy, to conceive how it came to pass, that the weight of • Concil. tom. xi. par. i. p. 237. ed. Lab.