Pope Gregory VII’s Ban on Lay Investiture in the Holy Roman Empire

Published: 2021-08-02 13:10:07
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Church and State DebateThe Investiture Controversy was one of the most significant conflicts between the State and Church (Rubin 67). The Controversy concerned the possibility to appoint bishops (The History Book 96). By the middle of the 11th century, it was customary for kings and emperors to select clerics. Such newly appointed bishops had to pay homage to the emperor, and in return, they were “invested” with a ring and pastoral staff (Rubin 67). There was a practice of clerics giving money for their investiture. This practice was called “simony” and was strictly disapproved by the Church (Rubin 67). Although Lay Investiture had been taking place for a very long time, the Pope found it a good idea to ban that practice because it undermined the power of the Church, leading to the Church leaders’ dependence on rulers.Emperor Henry IV was opposed to the ban vehemently because it would mean the loss of power as well as a considerable decrease in financial gains. The Pope’s ban became a struggle between the Church and the State because it presupposed a substantial change in the division of the power in the Empire. The long-lasting order would be altered, which could not but upset the government. Personally, I would support the Pope’s position on this matter. Traditional religious dogmas renounce such an issue as bribery. Since this negative practice was allowed under the Lay Investiture, the only plausible way of avoiding it was not letting emperors and kings appoint bishops. I do not agree with Henry IV because his methods of investiture, as well as the approaches of his predecessors, were not righteous.Pope Urban VIII and Unam SanctamAccording to this bull issued by Pope Boniface VIII, the Church had the ultimate authority (Tuchman n.p.). Unam Sanctum defined the higher power as something that only the Church could hold. The Pope wanted to govern the State, and the bull declared that it was “absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Halsall). The Pope chose his stance under the auspices that the spiritual power was stronger than anything, and since he, the Pope, was the embodiment of that power, everyone had to obey his will. The language used in Unam Sanctum was aimed to make the French “recognize” that the Pope was merely proclaiming the “traditional position” (Muldoon 70). However, the bull infuriated the King of France, Philip the Fair. The reason for such a reaction was that the Pope was trying to undermine the King’s authority and wanted to concentrate all the power in his own hands. Such a change was not considered as an acceptable option by the King.Philip the Fair received much support from different levels of population. In particular, French publicists approved the autonomy of the King against the Pope’s claims (Cassell 15). Moreover, even the clergymen did not want to accept the arguments expressed by Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctum. Such a state of affairs led to a number of acts directed against the Pope. Unam Sanctum was not accepted, and the Pope’s power was strictly limited. Personally, I agree with the King’s decision. Religion is indeed an inseparable part of the nation’s life, but it cannot replace the government. They should cooperate, but the State should have more power.

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