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Title: An Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church
Author: Lea, Henry Charles
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church" ***

                          Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
in hyphenation and accents remain but all other spelling and
punctuation remains unchanged.

Footnote 1219 is missing. The footnote from a different edition has
been included for information.

More doubtful typographical errors:

Page 341 They succeeded in making way with him. way changed to away.

Footnote 1620 reads L’Esaminatore, 15 Ott. 1867. This has been changed
to 15 Oct.

The footnotes are located at the end of the book.

Italics are represented thus _italic_.

                          SACERDOTAL CELIBACY

                                IN THE

                           CHRISTIAN CHURCH.


                           HISTORICAL SKETCH


                          SACERDOTAL CELIBACY

                                IN THE

                           CHRISTIAN CHURCH.


                             HENRY C. LEA.

                       SECOND EDITION, ENLARGED.

              Οὐ γαρ θεου ἐστι κινειν ἐπι τα παρα φυσιν.

                    ATHENAGORÆ _pro Christianis Legatio_.

                  New York 11 East Seventeenth Street
                    The Riverside Press, Cambridge

      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884, by
                             HENRY C. LEA,
   in the Office of the Librarian of Congress. All rights reserved.

                           DORNAN, PRINTER.


The following work was written several years since, simply as an
historical study, and with little expectation of its publication.
Recent movements in several portions of the great Christian Church seem
to indicate, however, that a record of ascetic celibacy, as developed
in the past, may not be without interest to those who are watching the
tendencies of the present.

So far as I am aware, no work of the kind exists in English literature,
and those which have appeared in the Continental languages are almost
exclusively of a controversial character. It has been my aim to avoid
polemics, and I have therefore sought merely to state facts as I have
found them, without regard to their bearing on either side of the
questions involved. As those questions have long been the subject
of ardent disputation, it has seemed proper to substantiate every
statement with a reference to its authority.

The scope of the work is designedly confined to the enforced celibacy
of the sacerdotal class. The vast history of monachism has therefore
only been touched upon incidentally when it served to throw light upon
the rise and progress of religious asceticism. The various celibate
communities which have arisen in this country, such as the Dunkers
and Shakers, are likewise excluded from the plan of the volume. These
limitations occasion me less regret since the appearance of M. de
Montalembert’s “Monks of the West” and Mr. W. Hepworth Dixon’s “New
America,” in which the student will probably find all that he may
require on these subjects.

Besides the controversial importance of the questions connected with
Christian asceticism, it has seemed to me that a brief history like
the present might perhaps possess interest for the general reader,
not only on account of the influence which ecclesiastical celibacy has
exerted, directly and indirectly, on the progress of civilization,
but also from the occasional glimpse into the interior life of past
ages afforded in reviewing the effect upon society of the policy of
the church as respects the relations of the sexes. The more ambitious
historian, in detailing the intrigues of the court and the vicissitudes
of the field, must of necessity neglect the minuter incidents which
illustrate the habits, the morals, and the modes of thought of bygone
generations. From such materials a monograph like this is constructed,
and it may not be unworthy the attention of those who deem that the
life of nations does not consist exclusively of political revolutions
and military achievements.


       *       *       *       *       *

In reprinting this work such changes have been made as further reading
and reflection have seemed to render advisable. The first two and the
last sections have been wholly rewritten, and numerous additions have
been made throughout the volume. To accommodate as far as possible the
considerable amount of matter thus introduced, I have omitted from the
footnotes all extracts which merely verified without illustrating the

 PHILADELPHIA, December, 1883.


  A. D.                                                             PAGE

           Influence of the church on modern civilization             17

           Effect of celibacy in moulding its destiny                 19


           Character of early Judaism                                 21

           Oriental and Hellenic influences                           23

           Growth of asceticism                                       25

           Pauline Christianity                                       26

           Admission that celibacy is of post-apostolic origin        28

                      II.—THE ANTE-NICENE CHURCH.

            Early ascetic tendencies                                  31

            Exaggerated in the heresies                               33

            Influence of Buddhism                                     34

            Objection to second marriages                             36

  c. 150    “Digami” rejected from the ministry                       37

            Application of the Levitical rule                         38

            Growth of asceticism—self-mutilation                      40

            Vows of virginity and their results                       41

  c. 280    Influence of Manichæism                                   43

            Condemnation of marriage                                  45

  305       First injunction of celibacy, by the Council of
                 Elvira                                               50

  314       Disregarded elsewhere                                     51

                      III.—THE COUNCIL OF NICÆA.

            Growing centralization of the church                      52

  325       The first general council                                 53

            It prohibits the residence of suspected women             53

            The story of Paphnutius                                   56

  325-350   Married priests not as yet interfered with                58


  348-400   Enforcement of voluntary vows                             59

            Prohibition of female ministry                            60

  362       Reaction—the Council of Gangra                            61

  384       Celibacy adopted by the Latin church                      64

  385       Decretal of Siricius                                      65

                   V.—ENFORCEMENT OF CELIBACY.

            Resistance to enforced asceticism                         67

  390       Jovinian                                                  69

  404       Vigilantius                                               70

  390-419   The church of Africa yields                               73

  401       Compromise of the Cis-Alpine church                       75

            Popular assistance in enforcing celibacy                  77

            Effect of enforced celibacy on clerical morals            78

            General demoralization of society                         81

                     VI.—THE EASTERN CHURCH.

            Divergence between the East and the West                  83

  381       Compulsory celibacy unknown in the East                   84

  400       Council of Constantinople—Antony of Ephesus—Synesius      85

  430       First enforcement of celibacy in Thessaly                 86

            Celibacy not obligatory                                   86

  528-548   Legislation of Justinian                                  86

  680       The Quinisext in Trullo—Discipline unchanged              88

  900       Final legislation of Leo the Philosopher                  90

            The Nestorians—clerical marriage permitted                91

            The Abyssinian church                                     92


            Buddhist model of monachism                               94

            Apostolic order of widows                                 96

            Devotees in the primitive church—no vows irrevocable      97

  250-285   Paul the Thebæan and St. Antony                           97

  350-400   Increase of monachism                                     98

            Early systems—vows not irrevocable                       101

            Greater strictness required of female devotees           103

  c. 400    Marriages of nuns still valid                            104

  450-458   Conflicting legislation                                  105

            Strictness of the Eastern church—Political necessity
              of controlling monachism                               106

  390-456   Monks confined to their convents                         108

  532-545   Justinian renders monastic vows irrevocable              108

            Disorders of Western monachism                           109

  528       St. Benedict of Nursia—vows not irrevocable
              under his rule                                         111

  590-604   Gregory I. enforces the inviolability of vows            113

            Continued irregularities of monachism                    115

                      VIII.—THE BARBARIANS.

            The Church and the Barbarians                            117

            The Merovingian bishops                                  118

            The Spanish Arians                                       120

  589-711   Neglect of discipline in Spain                           121

  557-580   State of discipline in Italy                             122

            Dilapidation of ecclesiastical property                  123

  590-604    Reforms of Gregory the Great                            123

                     IX.—THE CARLOVINGIANS.

            Demoralization of the VII. and VIII. centuries           126

            Reorganizing efforts of the Carlovingians                128

  742-755   Labors of St. Boniface                                   131

            Resistance of the married clergy                         132

  755       Pepin-le-Bref undertakes the reform                      134

            Sacerdotal celibacy reëstablished                        135

            Reforms of Charlemagne and Louis-le-Débonnaire—Their
              inefficiency                                           135

  840-912   Increasing demoralization under the later Carlovingians  139

  874       Legal procedures prescribed by Hincmar                   140

  893       Sacerdotal marriage resumed                              142

                         X.—THE TENTH CENTURY.

            Barbarism of the tenth century—Debasement of
              the papacy                                             144

            Tendency to hereditary benefices—Dilapidation of
              church property                                        145

  938       Leo VII. vainly prohibits sacerdotal marriage            148

  952       It is defended by St. Ulric of Augsburg                  153

  925-967   Unsuccessfully resisted by Ratherius of Verona
              and Atto of Vercelli                                   150

            Opposing influences among prelates                       152

            Relaxation of the canons                                 154

  942-1054  Three Archbishops of Rouen                               155

            Indifference of Silvester II.                            157

            Celibacy practically obsolete                            158

                          XI.—SAXON ENGLAND.

            Corruption of the ancient British church                 159

            Asceticism of the Irish and Scottish churches            160

  597       Celibacy introduced among the Saxons by St.
              Augustin                                               161

            Disorders in the Saxon nunneries                         163

  747, 787  Councils of Clovesho and Chelsea                         164

            Neglect of discipline in the ninth and tenth centuries   165

  964       St. Dunstan undertakes a reformation                     166

  964-974   Energy of Edgar the Pacific                              168

  975       Reaction after the death of Edgar                        170

  1006      Failure of Dunstan’s reforms                             171

  1009      Council of Enham—Sacerdotal polygamy                     172

  1032      Legislation of Cnut                                      173

            Sacerdotal marriage established                          175

                          XII.—PETER DAMIANI.

  1022      Council of Pavia—Efforts to restore discipline           178

  1031      Council of Bourges                                       179

            Clerical marriage and profligacy                         180

            Revival of asceticism—San Giovanni Gualberto             183

  1046       Henry III. undertakes the reformation of the
               church—Clement II.                                    184

             St. Peter Damiani                                       185

  1049       Leo IX.                                                 187

             Damiani’s Liber Gomorrhianus                            188

             Reformatory efforts of Leo—Councils of Rheims
               and Mainz                                             188

  1051-1053  Attempts to reform the Italian clergy                   189

             Failure of the Reformation                              190

  1058       The Papacy independent—Damiani and Hildebrand           192

  1059       Appeal to the laity for assistance                      194

  1059       Council of Melfi—Deposition of Bishop of Trani          197

  1060       Damiani endeavors to reform the prelates                198

             The persecuted clergy organize resistance               199

  1061       Schismatic election of Cadalus                          200

             He is supported by the married clergy                   201

  1063       Renewed efforts of Alexander II. and Damiani            202

             Their failure                                           204


             Milan the centre of Manichæism                          207

  1045       Election of an archbishop—four disappointed competitors 209

             Marriage universal among Milanese clergy                210

             Landolfo and Arialdo excite the people                  211

  1056       Popular tumults—Plunder of the clergy                   212

  1058       The Synod of Fontaneto defends the married
               priests                                               212

             A furious civil war results                             213

  1059       Damiani obtains the submission of the clergy            213

  1061       Milan embraces the party of Cadalus                     215

             Death of Landolfo—Erlembaldo takes his place            215

  1062       His success                                             216

  1066       Excommunication of Archbishop Guido—Martyrdom
               of Arialdo                                            216

  1067       Compromise and temporary truce                          217

  1069       Guido forced to resign—War between Gotefrido
               and Azzo for the succession                           218

  1075       Death of Erlembaldo—Tedaldo archbishop in spite
               of Gregory VII.                                       219

             Influence of celibacy on the struggle                   220

  1093-1095  Triumph of sacerdotalism                                221

             Similar trouble throughout Tuscany                      222


  1073       Election of Gregory VII.—His character                  223

             Necessity of celibacy to his scheme of theocratic
               supremacy                                             225

  1074       Synod of Rome—Repetition of previous canons             227

             Attempts to enforce them throughout Europe—Resistance
               of the clergy                                         228

             Three bishops—Otho of Constance—Altmann of
               Passau—Siegfrid of Mainz                              229

  1074       Gregory appeals to the laity                            232

             Resultant persecution of the clergy                     234

  1077       Violent resistance of the married clergy                236

             Political complications                                 237

  1085       Papalists and Imperialists both condemn sacerdotal
               marriage                                              239

                          XV.—CENTRAL EUROPE.

             Depression of the Catholic party—Sacerdotal marriage
               connived at                                           241

  1089       Urban II. renews the persecution                        242

  1094       Contumacy of the German priesthood                      243

  1105       Deposition of Henry IV.—Germany restored to
               Catholic unity                                        244

  1118-1175  Sacerdotal marriage nevertheless common                 245

  1092-1257  First introduction of celibacy in Hungary               248

  1197-1279  Introduction of celibacy in Poland                      251

  1213-1248  Disregard of the canons in Sweden                       252

  1117-1266  Their enforcement in Denmark                            253

  1219-1271  Their neglect in Friesland                              254


  1056-1064  Efforts to introduce sacerdotal celibacy                255

  1074-1078  Contumacy of the clergy                                 256

  1080       William the Conqueror intervenes—First allusion
               to licenses to sin                                    257

             Successful resistance of the Norman and Breton
               clergy                                                258

  1076-1094  Troubles in Flanders                                    259

             Confusion caused by the attempted reform                262

  1095       Council of Clermont—Its canons disregarded              263

             Condition of the monastic establishments                264

             Hereditary transmission of benefices                    265

             Miracles invoked in aid of the reform                   266

  1119       Calixtus II. commences a new reform                     267

             Resistance of the Norman priesthood                     268

             Abelard and Heloise—Standard of morals erected
               by the church                                         269

  1212       Continuance of clerical marriage                        270

                         XVII.—NORMAN ENGLAND.

  1066       Canons not enforced by William I.                       271

  1076       First effort made by the Council of Winchester          272

  1102       St. Anselm undertakes the reform—Council of
               London                                                273

             Resistance of the priests—Failure of the movement       275

  1104       Henry I. uses the reform as a financial expedient       276

  1108       He enforces outward obedience                           277

  1126       Stubborn contumacy of the priesthood                    279

  1129       Henry again speculates on clerical immorality           280

  1138-1171  Disorders of the English church                         281

             Consorts of priests no longer termed wives              283

  1208       King John discovers their financial value               283

             Venality of the ecclesiastical officials                284

             “Focariæ” still universal                               285

  1215       Indignation of the clergy at the reforms of Innocent
               III.                                                  286

  1237       Cardinal Otto and the Council of London                 288

             Popular poems concerning the reform                     289

  1250-1268  Gradual extinction of clerical marriage in England      290

             Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln                   292

             Fruitless legislation against concubinage               293

  12th-15th C.  Sacerdotal marriage in Wales                         293

                     XVIII.—IRELAND AND SCOTLAND.

             Degradation of the Irish church prior to the
               twelfth century                                       295

  1130-1149  Reforms of St. Malachi—Influence of Rome                296

             Monastic character of the reformed church               297

  1186-1320  Condition of the church in the English Pale             298

             Degeneration of the Scottish Culdees                    299

  1124-1153  David I. reforms the church and reestablishes
               celibacy                                              300

  1225-1268  Immorality of the Scottish clergy                       301


  11th Cent. Independent barbarism of the Spanish church—Marriage
               universal                                             302

  1068-1080  Encroachments of Rome—sacerdotal marriage condemned     303

  1101-1129  Reforms of Diego Gelmirez—Marriage not interfered
               with                                                  305

  1260       Legislation of Alfonso the Wise—Concubinage
               universal                                             308

  1323       Concubinage organized as a safeguard by the laity       310

             Corruption throughout the middle ages                   311

                       XX.—GENERAL LEGISLATION.

  1123       Marriage now first dissolved by Holy Orders             313

  1130       The innovation not as yet enforced                      314

  1139       Sacerdotal marriage formally declared void by the
               Second Council of Lateran                             315

  1148       Confirmed by the Council of Rheims—Denied by
               Gratian                                               316

  1150       The new doctrine receives no obedience                  318

  1158-1181  Alexander III. insists upon it                          319

             But excepts immoral ecclesiastics                       320

             Conflict of rules and exceptions                        322

  1206-1255  Case of Bossaert d’Avesnes                              323

             Alexander III. proposes to restore clerical marriage    325

  1187-1198  Efforts of the popes to enforce the canons              326

  1215       Fourth Council of Lateran—Triumph of Sacerdotalism      327


             Recognition of the obligation of celibacy               330

             Increase of immorality                                  331

  13th-15th C.  Fruitless attempts to restrain corruption            333

  1231       Recognition of children of ecclesiastics                335

  1225-1416  Efforts to restrict hereditary transmission             338

  1317       Recognition of concubinage                              339

             Successful resistance to reform                         340

  12th-15th C.  Morals of the papal court                            341

             Influence on society of sacerdotal celibacy             346

             Influence of monachism                                  357

                      XXII.—THE MILITARY ORDERS.

  1120       Knights of St. John vowed to celibacy                   362

  1128       Knights of the Temple vowed to celibacy                 362

  1175       Knights of St. James of the Sword allowed to
               marry                                                 363

  1441       Marriage permitted to the Order of Calatrava            364

  1496       And to the Orders of Avis and Jesus Christ              365

  1167       Order of St. Michael allowed to marry once              365

             Reforms attempted in the Order of St. John              366

             The Teutonic Knights                                    366

                         XXIII.—THE HERESIES.

             Asceticism of mediæval Manichæism                       367

             Difficulty of combating it                              369

  1146       Antisacerdotalism—The Petrobrusians and Henricians      370

  1148       Éon de l’Étoile                                         371

  c. 1160    The Waldenses                                           372

  1294       Antisacerdotalism of the Franciscans—The Fraticelli     375

  1341       John of Pirna                                           378

  1377       Wickliffe                                               378

  1394       The Lollards denounce clerical celibacy                 381

  1415-1438  The Hussites—They maintain ascetic celibacy             382

  1411-1414  Brethren of the Cross—Men of Intelligence               385

  1488-1498  Savonarola                                              386

                     XXIV.—THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.

             Demoralization of the sacerdotal body                   388

  1418       Futile efforts of the Council of Constance              390

  1422       Efforts of Martin V.                                    392

             Undiminished corruption and symptoms of revolt          393

  1435       The Council of Bâle attempts a reform                   395

             Impotence of the Basilian canons—Venality of
               the papal court                                       396

  1484-1500  Condition of the church in Italy, France, England,
               Spain, Germany, and Hungary                           398

  1496       Relaxation of monastic discipline                       402

  1476       John of Nicklaushausen                                  405

             Sacerdotal marriage advocated as a remedy               405

  1479       John of Oberwesel                                       407

  1485       Heresy of Jean Laillier                                 408


             Irreverential spirit of the sixteenth century           410

  1510       Complaints of the Germans against the church            411

             Immobility of the church                                412

             Popular movement—Luther and Erasmus                     413

  1518       Official opposition to the abuses of the church         416

  1517-1520  Luther neglects the question of celibacy—his
               gradual progress                                      417

  1521       First examples of sacerdotal marriage                   419

             Approved by Carlostadt—Disapproved by Luther            419

  1522       Zwingli demands sacerdotal marriage—Luther
               adopts it                                             421

  1524       Efforts of the church to repress the movement           423

             Popular approbation—Protection in high quarters         424

  1523-1524  Emancipation of nuns and monks                          425

  1525       Marriage of Luther                                      425

             Causes of popular acquiescence in the change            427

             Extreme immorality of the clergy                        427

             Admitted by the Catholics to justify heresy             430

  1522-1526  Erasmus advocates clerical marriage                     432

             Assistance from ambition of temporal princes            434

  1530       Efforts at reunion—Confession of Augsburg               435

             Failure of reconciliation—League of Schmalkalden        438

             The Anabaptists                                         438

  1532-1541  Partial toleration—Difficulties concerning the
               Abbey lands                                           439

  1548       The Interim—Sacerdotal marriage tolerated               441

  1552       The Reformation established by the Transaction
               of Passau                                             443

                      XXVI.—THE ANGLICAN CHURCH.

             Conservative tendencies of England                      444

  1500-1523  John Colet and Sir Thomas More                          445

  1524       Difficulties of the situation—Wolsey undertakes
               the destruction of monachism                          447

  1528       General suppression of the smaller houses               448

  1532       Henry VIII.’s quarrel with Rome                         449

  1535       General visitation of monasteries, and suppression
               of most of them                                       451

             Popular opinions—The Beggars’ Petition                  453

  1536       Popular discontent—The Pilgrimage of Grace              455

  1537-1546  Final suppression of the religious houses               456

             Fate of their inmates                                   460

  1535-1541  Irish monastic establishments destroyed                 461

             Henry still insists on celibacy                         461

             Efforts to procure its relaxation                       463

  1537       Uncertainty of the subject in the public mind           465

  1539       Henry’s firmness—Act of the Six Articles                466

             Persecution of the married clergy                       469

  1540       Modification of the Six Articles                        471

  1547       Accession of Edward VI.—Repeal of the Six
               Articles                                              472

  1548-1549  Full liberty of marriage accorded to the clergy         473

             Armed opposition of the people                          474

  1552       Adoption of the Forty-two Articles                      475

             Difficulty of removing popular convictions              476

  1553       Accession of Queen Mary—Legislation of Edward
               repealed                                              477

  1554       The married clergy separated and deprived               478

             Suffering of the clergy in consequence                  480

             England reconciled to Rome—Church lands not
               recalled                                              482

  1555       Cardinal Pole’s Legatine Constitutions                  483

  1557       More stringent legislation required—Revival of
               the old troubles                                      485

  1558       Accession of Queen Elizabeth                            486

  1559       Delay in authorizing marriage—Uncertainty of
               the married clergy                                    487

             Elizabeth yields, but imposes degrading restrictions
               on clerical marriage                                  488

  1563       The Thirty-nine Articles—Increased emphasis of
               permission to marry                                   490

             Elizabeth maintains her prejudices                      491

             Disrepute of sacerdotal marriage—Evil effects on
               the Anglican clergy                                   494


  1559-1640  The Huguenot Churches                                   498

             The Reformation in Scotland                             501

             Corruption of the Scottish church in the sixteenth
               century                                               501

  1542-1559  Efforts at internal reform—their fruitlessness          504

             Marriage assumed as a matter of course by the
               Protestants                                           506

             Temporal motives assisting the Reformation              507

             Poverty of the Scottish church establishment            508

             Influence of celibacy on the struggle                   509

  1560       No formal recognition of clerical marriage thought
               necessary                                             512

                     XXVIII.—THE COUNCIL OF TRENT.

  1524-1536  Efforts at internal reform                              514

             Universal demand for a general council—Convoked
               at Mantua in 1536                                     519

  1542-1547  Assembles at Trent—it labors to separate, not to
               reunite the churches                                  520

  1551-1552  Reassembles at Trent—is again broken up                 521

  1562       Again assembles for the last time                       522

  1536       Paul III. essays an internal reform without result      522

  1548       Charles V. tries to reform the German church            524

  1548-1551  Local reformatory synods—their failure                  525

  1560       Clerical marriage demanded as a last resort             529

             Clerical corruption urged as the reason                 530

  1563       The French court joins in the demand                    533

  1560       The question prejudged                                  533

  1563       The council makes celibacy a point of faith             536

             Attempts a reformation                                  538

  1563-1564  The German princes continue their efforts               539

             Essays of Cassander and Wicelius                        542

  1564       Maximilian II. renews the attempt                       543

             His requests peremptorily rejected                      544


             Reception of the Council of Trent except in
               France                                                546

  1566-1572  Pius V. endeavors to effect a reform                    547

  1568-1570  Labors of St. Charles Borromeo at Milan                 550

  1565-1597  Reforms vainly attempted by Italian councils            552

  1569-1668  Condition of the church in Central Europe               553

             Marriage still practised until 1628                     556

             Clerical immorality still a justification of heresy     556

  1560-1624  Condition of the church in France                       558

             The residence of women conceded                         561

             The church in the Spanish Colonies                      562

             Abuse of the confessional                               566

             Abuse of the power of absolution                        575

             Influence of the casuistic spirit                       578


             Sacerdotal marriage obsolete—Grandier, Du Pin,
               Bossuet                                               581

  1758-1800  The eighteenth century—Controversy reopened             582

  1783       Joseph II. proposes to permit sacerdotal marriage       583

  1760-1787  Clerical immorality undiminished                        585

  1789       The French Revolution                                   588

  1789-1790  Confiscation of church property—Suppression of
               monachism                                             589

  1791       Celibacy deprived of legal protection—Marriage
               of priests                                            590

  1793       Marriage becomes a test of good citizenship             592

             Persecution of the unmarried clergy                     592

             Resistance of the great body of the clergy              594

  1795-1797  Married clergy repudiated by their bishops              595

  1801       Celibacy restored by the Concordat                      595

  1801-1807  Clerical marriage continues—Napoleon decides
               against it                                            597

                      XXXI.—THE CHURCH OF TO-DAY.

  1815-1883  Vacillating policy in France as to clerical marriage    599

  1821-1866  Various movements in favor of clerical marriage         601

             Immobility of the church                                603

  1878       The Old Catholics adopt clerical marriage               604

             Civil marriage laws opposed by the church               605

             Celibacy not likely to be disturbed                     607

  1820-1867  Suppression of monastic orders                          608

             Vigor and improvement of modern monachism               611

             Its influence in the field of education                 616

  1880       Suppression of unauthorized orders in France            621

             Influence of celibacy on clerical morality              624

             Its influence on the social organization                638


             On Celibacy as a matter of faith under the Council
               of Trent                                              640


The Latin church is the great fact which dominates the history of
modern civilization. All other agencies which moulded the destinies
of mediæval Europe were comparatively isolated or sporadic in their
manifestations. Thus in one place we may trace the beneficent influence
of commerce at work, in another the turbulent energy of the rising
Third Estate; the mortal contests of the feudal powers with each other
and with progress are waged in detached and convulsive struggles;
chivalry casts only occasional and evanescent flashes of light amid the
darkness of military barbarism; literature seeks to gain support from
any power which will condescend to lend transitory aid to the plaything
of the moment. Nowhere do we see combined effort, nowhere can we detect
a pervading impulse, irrespective of locality or of circumstance, save
in the imposing machinery of the church establishment. This meets us
at every point, and in every age, and in every sphere of action. In
the dim solitude of the cloister, the monk is training the minds which
are to mould the destinies of the period, while his roof is the refuge
of the desolate and the home of the stranger. In the tribunal, the
priest is wrestling with the baron, and is extending his more humane
and equitable code over a jurisdiction subjected to the caprices
of feudal or customary law, as applied by a class of ignorant and
arbitrary tyrants. In the royal palace, the hand of the ecclesiastic,
visible or invisible, is guiding the helm of state, regulating the
policy of nations, and converting the brute force of chivalry into the
supple instrument of his will. In Central Europe, lordly prelates,
with the temporal power and possessions of the highest princes, joined
to the exclusive pretensions of the church, make war and peace, and
are sovereign in all but name, owing no allegiance save to Emperors
whom they elect and Popes whose cause they share. Far above all, the
successor of St. Peter from his pontifical throne claims the whole of
Europe as his empire, and dictates terms to kings who crouch under
his reproof, or are crushed in the vain effort of rebellion. At the
other extremity of society, the humble minister of the altar, with his
delegated power over heaven and hell, wields in cottage as in castle an
authority hardly less potent, and sways the minds of the faithful with
his right to implicit obedience. Even art offers a willing submission
to the universal mistress, and seeks the embodiment of its noblest
aspirations in the lofty poise of the cathedral spire, the rainbow
glories of the painted window, and the stately rhythm of the solemn

This vast fabric of ecclesiastical supremacy presents one of the most
curious problems which the world’s history affords. A wide and absolute
authority, deriving its force from moral power alone, marshalling no
legions of its own in battle array, but permeating everything with
its influence, walking unarmed through deadly strife, rising with
renewed strength from every prostration, triumphing alike over the
savage nature of the barbarian and the enervated apathy of the Roman
tributary, blending discordant races and jarring nations into one great
brotherhood of subjection—such was the Papal hierarchy, a marvel and a
mystery. Well is it personified in Gregory VII., a fugitive from Rome,
without a rood of ground to call him master, a rival Pope lording it
in the Vatican, a triumphant Emperor vowed to internecine strife, yet
issuing his commands as sternly and as proudly to prince and potentate
as though he were the unquestioned suzerain of Europe, and listened to
as humbly by three-fourths of Christendom. The man wasted away in the
struggle; his death was but the accident of time: the church lived on,
and marched to inevitable victory.

The investigations of the curious can hardly be deemed misapplied in
analyzing the elements of this impalpable but irresistible power, and
in examining the causes which have enabled it to preserve such unity
of action amid such diversity of environment, presenting everywhere
by turns a solid and united front to the opposing influences of
barbarism and civilization. In detaching one of these elements
from the group, and tracing out its successive vicissitudes, I may
therefore be pardoned for thinking the subject of sufficient interest
to warrant a minuteness of detail that would otherwise perhaps appear

The Janizaries of the Porte were Christian children, recruited by
the most degrading tribute which tyrannical ingenuity has invented.
Torn from their homes in infancy, every tie severed that bound them
to the world around them; the past a blank, the future dependent
solely upon the master above them; existence limited to the circle of
their comrades, among whom they could rise, but whom they could never
leave; such was the corps which bore down the bravest of the Christian
chivalry and carried the standard of the Prophet in triumph to the
walls of Vienna. Mastering at length their master, they wrung from
him the privilege of marriage; and the class in becoming hereditary,
with human hopes and fears disconnected with the one idea of their
service, no longer presented the same invincible phalanx, and at last
became terrible only to the effeminate denizens of the seraglio. The
example is instructive, and it affords grounds for the assumption
that the canon which bound all the active ministers of the church to
perpetual celibacy, and thus created an impassable barrier between them
and the outer world, was one of the efficient instruments in creating
and consolidating both the temporal and spiritual power of the Roman



The most striking contrast between the Mosaic Dispensation and the Law
of Christ is the materialism of the one, and the pure spiritualism
of the other. The Hebrew prophet threatens worldly punishments, and
promises fleshly rewards: the Son of Man teaches us to contemn the
treasures of this life, and directs all our fears and aspirations
towards eternity. The exaggeration of these teachings by the zeal of
fervent disciples led to the ascetic efforts to subjugate nature,
which present so curious a feature in religious history, and of which
those concerning the relations of the sexes form the subject of our

This special phase of asceticism was altogether foreign to the
traditions of Israel, averse as they were to all restrictions upon the
full physical development of man. Enjoying, apparently, no conception
of a future existence, the earlier Hebrews had no incentive to
sacrifice the pleasures of the world for those of a Heaven of which
they knew nothing; nor was the gross polytheism, which the monotheistic
prophets combated, of a nature to lead to ascetic practices. The
worship of Ashera—probably identical with the Babylonian Beltis
or Mylitta—undoubtedly consecrated the sacrifice of chastity as a
religious rite, and those who revered the goddess of fertility as one
of the supreme deities were not likely to impose any restrictions on
the exercise of her powers.[1] We see, indeed, in the story of Judah
and Tamar, and in the lamentation of the daughter of Jephthah, that
virginity was regarded almost as a disgrace, and that child-bearing
was considered the noblest function of woman; while the institution of
levirate marriage shows an importance attributed to descendants in the
male line as marked as among the Hindu Arya. The hereditary character
of the priesthood, moreover, both as vested in the original Levites,
and the later Tsadukim and Baithusin, indicates conclusively that even
among the orthodox no special sanctity attached to continence, and
that the temporary abstinence from women required of those who handled
the hallowed articles of the altar (_I. Samuel xxi. 4-5_) was simply a
distinction drawn between the sacerdotal class and the laity, for in
the elaborate instructions as to uncleanness, there is no allusion made
to sexual indulgence, though the priest who had partaken of wine was
forbidden to enter the Tabernacle, and defilement arising from contact
with the dead was a disability (_Levit. x., xxi., xxii._),[2] while
the highest blessing that could be promised as a reward for obedience
to God was that “there shall not be male or female barren among you”
(_Deut. vii. 14_). In fact, the only manifestation of asceticism as a
religious ordinance, prior to the Second Temple, is seen in the vow of
the Nazirites, which consisted merely in allowing the hair to remain
unshorn, in the abstinence from wine and in avoiding the pollution
arising from contact with the dead. Slender as were these restrictions,
the ordinary term of a Nazirate was only thirty days, though it might
be assumed for life, as in the cases of Samson and Samuel; and the vows
for long terms were deemed sufficiently pleasing to God to serve as
means of propitiation, as in the case of Hannah, who thus secured her
offspring Samuel, and in that of Helena, Queen of Adiabene, who vowed
a Nazirate of seven years if her son Izaces should return in safety
from a campaign.[3] The few references to the custom in Scripture,
however, show that it was little used, and that it exercised no visible
influence over social life during the earlier periods.

When the conquests of Cyrus released the Hebrews from captivity, the
close relations established with the Persians wrought no change in
this aspect of the Jewish faith. Mazdeism, in fact, was a religion
so wholesome and practical in its character that asceticism could
find little place among its prescribed observances, and the strict
maintenance of its priesthood in certain families who transmitted
their sacred lore from father to son, shows that no restrictions were
placed upon the ministers of Hormadz, or athravas,[4] though in the
later period of the Achæmenian empire, after the purity of ancient
Mazdeism had become corrupted, the priestesses of the Sun were required
to observe chastity, without necessarily being virgins.[5] With the
conquests of Alexander, however, Judaism was exposed to new influences,
and was brought into relation at once with Grecian thought and with
the subtle mysticism of India, with which intercourse became frequent
under the Greek empire. Beyond the Indus the Sankhya philosophy was
already venerable, which taught the nothingness of life, and that the
supreme good consisted in the absolute victory over all human wants
and desires.[6] Already Buddha had reduced this philosophy into a
system of religion, the professors of which were bound to chastity—a
rule impossible of observance by the world at large, but which became
obligatory upon its innumerable priests and monks, when it spread and
established itself as a church, thus furnishing the prototype which was
subsequently copied by Roman Christianity.[7] Already Brahmanism had
invented the classes of Vanaprasthas, Sannyasis, and others—ascetics
whose practices of self-mortification anticipated and excelled all
that is related of Christian Antonys and Simeons—although the ancestor
worship which required every man to provide descendants who should
keep alive the Sraddha in honor of the Pitris of his forefathers
postponed the entrance into the life of the anchorite until after he
should have fulfilled his parental duties:[8] and we know from the
references in the Greek writers to the Hindu gymnosophists how great
an impression these customs had made upon those to whom they were a
novelty.[9] Already the Yoga system had been framed, whereby absorption
into the Godhead was to be obtained by religious mendicancy, penances,
mortifications, and the severest severance of self from all external
surroundings.[10] All this had been founded on the primæval doctrine of
the Vedas with respect to the virtue of _Tapas_, or austere religious
abstraction, to which the most extravagant powers were attributed,
conferring upon its votaries the authority of gods.[11] With all the
absurdities of these beliefs and practices, they yet sprang from a
profound conviction of the superiority of the spiritual side of man’s
nature, and if their theory of the nothingness of mortal existence was
exaggerated, yet they tended to elevate the soul, at the expense, it
must be confessed, of a regard to the duties which man owes to society.

The influences arising from this system of religious philosophy, so
novel to the Semitic races, were tardy is making themselves felt upon
the Hebrews, but they became gradually apparent. The doctrine of a
future life with rewards and punishments, doubtless derived from
Chaldean and Mazdean sources during the Captivity and under the Persian
Empire, slowly made its way, and though opposed by the aristocratic
conservative party in power—the Tsadukim or Sadducees (descendants of
Zadoc, or just men)—it became one of the distinctive dogmas of the
Beth Sopherim or House of Scribes, composed of religious teachers,
trained in all the learning of the day, sprung from the people, and
eager to maintain their nationality against the temporizing policy of
their rulers.[12] At the breaking out of the Maccabean revolt against
Antiochus Epiphanes we find the nation divided into two factions, the
Sadducees, disposed rather to submit to the Hellenizing tyranny of
Antioch, and the Chassidim (the Assideans of the Authorized Version),
democratic reformers, ready for innovation and prepared to die in
defence of their faith. In the triumph of the Hasmonean revolution they
obtained control of the state, and in the development of the Oral Law
by the scribes, supplementing the Torah or Written Law, they engrafted
permanently their doctrines upon the ancestral belief. With the tenet
of spiritual immortality, there followed as a necessary consequence
the subordination of the present existence to life hereafter, which is
the direct incentive to asceticism. The religious exaltation of the
stormy period which intervened between the liberation from Antioch and
the subjugation to Rome afforded a favorable soil for the growth of
this tendency, and rendered the minds of the devout accessible to the
influences both of Eastern and of Western speculation. How powerful
eventually became the latter upon the Alexandrian Jews may be estimated
from the mysticism of Philo.

With their triumph over Antioch, the name of the Chassidim disappears
as that of an organized party, and in its place we find those of
two factions or sects—the Perushim (Pharisees) or Separatists, who
maintained an active warfare, temporal and theological, with the
Sadducees, and the Essenes, mystics, who bound themselves by vows,
generally including the Nazirate, and withdrew from active life for the
benefit of spiritual growth and meditation.

The Essenes cultivated the soil and sometimes even lived in cities, but
often dwelt as anchorites, using no artificial textures as clothing,
and no food save what was spontaneously produced. They mostly practised
daily ablutions and admitted neophytes to their society by the rite
of baptism after a novitiate of a year, followed by two years of
probation. Among those who did not live as hermits, property was held
in common, and marriage was abstained from, and it is to this latter
practice doubtless that reference was made by Christ in the text
“There be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom
of heaven’s sake.” The Essenes enjoyed high consideration among the
people; their teachings were listened to with respect, and they were
regarded as especially favored with the gifts of divination and
prophecy. There can be no doubt that John the Baptist was an Essene;
James of Jerusalem, brother of Jesus, was a Nazirite and probably an
Essene, and Christ himself may reasonably be regarded as trained in the
principles of the sect. His tendencies all lay in that direction, and
it is observable that while he is unsparing in his denunciations of
the Scribes, and Pharisees, and Sadducees, he never utters a word of
condemnation of the Essenes.[13]

It is thus easy to understand the refined spirituality of Christ’s
teachings, and the urgency with which he called the attention of man
from the gross temptations of earth to the higher things which should
fit him for the inheritance of eternal life. Yet his profound wisdom
led him to forbear from enjoining even the asceticism of the Essenes.
He allowed a moderate enjoyment of the gifts of the Creator; and when
he sternly rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for imposing, in their
development of the Oral Law, burdens upon men not easily to be borne
by the weakness of human nature, he was far indeed from seeking to
render obligatory, or even to recommend, practices which only the
fervor of fanaticism could render endurable. No teacher before him had
ventured to form so lofty a conception of the marriage-tie. It was
an institution of God himself whereby man and wife became one flesh.
“What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder;”
and though he refrained from condemning abstention from wedlock, he
regarded it as possible only to those whose exceptional exaltation of
temperament might enable them to overcome the instincts and passions of

When the broad proselyting views and untiring energy of Paul, the
apostle of the Gentiles, were brought to bear upon the little circle of
mourning disciples, it was inevitable that a rupture should take place.
No one in the slightest degree familiar with the spirit of Judaism
at that day can have difficulty in understanding how those who still
regarded themselves as Jews, who looked upon their martyr, not as the
Son of God, but, in the words of Peter, as “Jesus of Nazareth, a man
approved of God among you, by miracles and wonders and signs which
God did by him in the midst of you,” and who held, as is urged in the
Epistle of James, firmly to their Master’s injunction to preserve every
jot and tittle of the Law, should regard with growing distrust and
distaste the activity of the Pharisee Paul, who, like other Pharisees,
was ready to encompass land and sea to gain one proselyte, and, more
than this, was prepared to throw down the exclusive barriers of the
Law in order to invite all mankind to share in the glad tidings of
Salvation.[15] The division came in time, and as the Gentile church
spread and flourished, it stigmatized as heretics those who adhered
to the simple monotheistic reformed Judaism which Christ had taught.
These became known as the Ebionim, or Poor Men, Essenes, and others,
who followed Christ as a prophet inspired by God, who accepted all of
the apostles save Paul, whom they regarded as a transgressor of the
Law, holding their property in common, honoring virginity rather than
marriage, but uttering no precept upon the subject, and observing the
Written Law with rigid accuracy. They maintained a quiet existence for
four centuries, making no progress, but exciting no antagonism save on
the part of vituperative heresiologists, whose denunciations, however,
contain no rational grounds for regarding them otherwise than as the
successors of the original followers of Christ.[16]

Meanwhile, Pauline Christianity, launched on the tumultuous existence
of the Gentile world, had adapted itself to the passions and ambitions
of men, had availed itself both of their strength and of their
weakness, and had become a very different creed from that which had
been taught around the Sea of Galilee, and had seen its teacher
expiate on Calvary his revolt against the Oral Law. In its gradual
transformation through the ages, from Essenic and Ebionic simplicity
to the magnificent sacerdotalism of the Innocents and Gregories, it
has felt itself bound to find or make, in its earliest records, some
precedent for every innovation, and accordingly its ardent polemics
in modern times have endeavored to prove that the celibacy of its
ministers was, if not absolutely ordained, at least practised from the
earliest period. Much unnecessary logic and argument have been spent
upon this subject since the demand which arose for clerical marriage at
the Reformation forced the champions of the church to find scriptural
authority for the canon which enjoins celibacy. The fact is that prior
to the sixteenth century the fathers of the church had no scruple in
admitting that in primitive times the canon had no existence and the
custom was not observed. The reader may therefore well be spared a
disquisition upon a matter which may be held to be self-evident, and
be contented with a brief reference to some of the authorities of the
church who, prior to the Reformation, admitted that in primitive times
marriage was freely permitted to the ministers of Christ.

No doctor of the church did more than St. Jerome to impose the rule
of celibacy on its members, yet even he admits that at the beginning
there was no absolute injunction to that effect; and he endeavors to
apologize for the admission by arguing that infants must be nourished
with milk and not with solid food.[17] In the middle of the eleventh
century, during the controversy between Rome and Constantinople,
Rome had no scruple in admitting that the celebrated text of St.
Paul (_I. Cor. ix. 5_) meant that the apostles were married, though
subsequent commentators have exhausted so much ingenuity in explaining
it away.[18] A century later Gratian, the most learned canonist of
his time, in the “Decretum,” undertaken at the request of the papal
court, which has ever since maintained its position as the standard
of the canon law, felt no hesitation in admitting that, before the
adoption of the canon, marriage was everywhere undisturbed among
those in orders, as it continued to be in the Greek church.[19] The
reputation of St. Thomas Aquinas as a theologian was as unquestioned
as that of Gratian as a canonist, and the Angelic Doctor admitted as
freely as the canon lawyer that compulsory celibacy was an innovation
on the rules of the primitive church, which he endeavors to explain
by an argument contradictory to that of St. Jerome, for he says that
the greater sanctity of the earlier Christians rendered them superior
to the asceticism requisite to the purity of a degenerate age, even
as no modern warrior could emulate the exploit of Samson in throwing
himself amid a hostile army with no other weapon than a jaw-bone. He
even admits, what other authorities have denied, that Christ required
no separation between St. Peter and his wife.[20] There were in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries few more learned men than Giraldus
Cambrensis, whose orthodoxy was unquestioned, and who, as Archdeacon
of St. David’s, vigorously sought to enforce the rule of continence
upon his recalcitrant clergy. Yet in a strenuous exhortation to them to
mend the error of their ways in this respect, he admits that clerical
celibacy has no scriptural or apostolic warrant.[21] That this was
universally admitted at the time is manifested by Alfonso the Wise, of
Castile, about the middle of the thirteenth century, asserting the
fact in the most positive manner, while forbidding marriage to the
priests of his dominions, in the code known as Las Siete Partidas.[22]

Gerson, indeed, who, like most of the ecclesiastics of his time,
attributes to the Council of Nicæa the introduction of celibacy, seems
inclined to justify the change assumed to have been then made, by
alluding to the forged donation of Constantine. That the temporalities
of the church could only be entrusted to men cut off from family ties
was an axiom in his day, and though he does not himself draw the
conclusion, he clearly regarded the supposed accession to the landed
estates of the church as a satisfactory explanation of the prohibition
of marriage to its ministers in the fourth century.[23] Shortly
afterwards, Pius II., one of the most learned of the popes, had no
scruple in admitting that the primitive church was administered by a
married clergy.[24] Just before the Reformation, Geoffroi Boussard,
dean of the faculty of theology of Paris, published, in 1505, a
dissertation on priestly continence, in which he positively assumes,
as the basis of his argument, that the use of marriage was universally
permitted to those in holy orders, from the time of Christ to that of
Siricius and Innocent I.; and this may be assumed to be the opinion
of the University of Paris, for Boussard formally submitted his tract
to that body, and its approbation is to be found in the fact that he
was subsequently elevated to its chancellorship, and was sent as its
delegate to the Council of Pisa.[25]

Even after the Reformation, unexceptionable orthodox authority is
found to the same effect. In 1564, Pius IV. admitted it in an epistle
to the German princes, and explained it by the necessity of the
times.[26] Zaccaria, probably the most learned of Catholic polemics
on the subject, endeavors to reconcile his belief in the Apostolic
origin of clerical celibacy with the indubitable practice of the
primitive church, by suggesting that while the Apostles commanded the
observance of the rule by the clergy in general, yet in special cases
they discreetly dispensed with it to avoid greater scandals; and that
with the gradual increase of these dispensations the clergy came at
length to assume the indulgence as a matter of course without asking
for special licenses.[27] More logical is the argument brought forward
by a priest named Taillard, resisting in 1842 some efforts made to
introduce priestly marriage in Prussian Poland. He coolly reasons that
if celibacy was not enforced in the primitive church, it ought to have
been—“if the celibacy of the priesthood be not from the beginning of
Christianity, it ought to have been there, for, as our holy religion
comes from God, it should contain in itself all the means possible to
elevate the nations to the highest point of liberty and happiness.”[28]



Although no thought existed in the mind of Paul, and of his co-laborers
in founding the church of the Gentiles, of prohibiting to his disciples
the institution of marriage, there was a distinct flavor of asceticism
in some of his teachings, which might readily serve as a warrant to
those whose zeal was greater than their discretion, to mortify the
flesh in this as in other ways. The Apostle, while admitting that the
Lord had forbidden the separation of husband and wife, said of the
unmarried and widowers:

 “It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot
 contain let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.”

And though in one passage he seems to indicate a belief that woman
could only be saved by maternity from the punishment incurred by
the disobedience of Eve, in another he formally declares that “he
that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not
in marriage doeth better,” thus showing a marked preference for the
celibate state, in which the devout could give themselves up wholly to
the service of the Lord.[29]

The Apostle’s discussion of these subjects shows that already there
had commenced a strong ascetic movement, raising questions which he
found hard to answer, without on the one hand repressing the ardor of
serviceable disciples, and on the other, imposing burdens on neophytes
too grievous to be borne. He foresaw that the former would soon run
beyond the bounds of reason, and he condemned in advance the heresies
which should forbid marriage;[30] but that the tendency of the faithful
lay in that direction was inevitable. In those times, no one would
join the infant church who did not regard the things of earth as
vile in comparison with the priceless treasures of heaven, and the
more fervent the conviction, the more it was apt to find expression
in mortifying the flesh and purchasing salvation by the sacrifice of
passions and affections. Such especially would be the tendency of the
stronger natures which lead their fellows; and the admiration of the
multitude for their superior virtue and fortitude would soon invest
them with a reputation for holiness which would render them doubly

There was much, indeed, in the teaching of the church, and in its
relations with the Gentiles, to promote and strengthen this tendency.
The world into which Christianity was born was hopelessly corrupt.
Licentiousness, probably, has never been more defiant than amid
the splendors of the early Empire. The gossip of Suetonius and the
denunciations of Juvenal depict a society in which purity was scarce
understood, and in which unchastity was no sin and hardly even a
reproach. To reclaim such a population needed a new system of morality,
and it is observable that in the New Testament particular stress is
laid upon the avoidance of fornication, especially after the faith had
begun to spread beyond the boundaries of Judea. The early Christians
thus were a thoroughly puritan sect, teaching by example as well as by
precept, and their lives were a perpetual protest against the license
which reigned around them.[31] It therefore was natural that converts,
after their eyes were opened to the hideous nature of the prevailing
vices, should feel a tendency to plunge into the other extreme, and
should come to regard even the lawful indulgence of human instincts as
a weakness to be repressed. Civilization, indeed, owes too much to the
reform which Christianity rendered possible in the relations of the
sexes, for us to condemn too severely even the extravagances into which
it was sometimes betrayed.

That it was becoming not uncommon for Christians to follow a celibate
life is shown by various passages in the early fathers. St. Ignatius
alludes to abstinence from marriage in honor of God as a matter not
uncommon, but which was wholly voluntary and to be practised in
humility and secrecy, for the virtue of continence would be much more
than counterbalanced by the sin of pride.[32] The Apologists, Justin
Martyr about the year 150, Athenagoras about 180, and Minucius Felix
about 200, all refer to the chastity and sobriety which characterized
the sect, the celibacy practised by some members, and the single
marriage of others, of which the sole object was the securing of
offspring and not the gratification of the passions. Athenagoras,
indeed, condemns the exaggerations of asceticism in terms which show
that already they had made their appearance among the more ardent
disciples, but that they were strongly disapproved by the wiser portion
of the Church. Origen seems to regard celibacy as rather springing
from a desire to serve God without the interruptions arising from
the cares of marriage than from asceticism, and does not hesitate
to condemn those who abandoned their wives even from the highest
motives.[33] The impulse towards asceticism, however, was too strong
to be resisted. Zealots were not wanting who boldly declared that to
follow the precepts of the Creator was incompatible with salvation,
as though a beneficent God should create a species which could only
preserve its temporal existence by forfeiting its promised eternity.
Ambitious men were to be found who sought notoriety or power by the
reputation to be gained from self-denying austerities, which brought to
them followers and believers venerating them as prophets. Philosophers
were there, also, who, wearied with the endless speculations of
Pythagorean and Platonic mysticism, sought relief in the practical
morality of the Gospel, and perverted the simplicity of its teachings
by interweaving with it the subtle philosophy of the schools, producing
an apparent intoxication which plunged them either into the grossest
sensuality or the most rigorous asceticism. Such were Julian Cassianus,
Saturnilus, Marcion, the founder of the Marcionites, Tatianus, the
heresiarch of the Encratitians, and the unknown authors of a crowd of
sects which, under the names of Abstinentes, Apotactici, Excalceati,
etc., practised various forms of self-mortification, and denounced
marriage as a deadly sin.[34] Such, on the other hand, were Valentinus
and Prodicus who originated the mystic libertinism of the Gnostics;
Marcus, whose followers, the Marcosians, were accused of advocating
the most disgusting practices, Carpocrates who held that the soul was
obliged to have experience of all manner of evil before it could be
elevated to God; Basilides whose sectaries honored the passions as
emanating from the Creator, and taught that their impulses were to be
followed. Even the Ebionites did not escape the taint, if Epiphanius
is to be believed; and there was also a sect advocating promiscuous
intercourse, to whom the name of Nicolites was given in memory of the
story of Nicholas, the deacon of the primitive church, who offered
to his fellow-disciples the wife whom he was accused of loving with
too exclusive a devotion—a sect which merited the reproof of St.
John, and which has a special interest for us because in the eleventh
century all who opposed clerical celibacy were branded with its name,
thus affording to the sacerdotal party the inestimable advantage of
stigmatizing their antagonists with an opprobrious epithet of the most
damaging character, and of invoking the authority of the Apocalypse for
their destruction.[35]

The church was too pure to be led astray by the libertinism of the
latter class of heresiarchs. The time had not yet come for the former,
and men who, in the thirteenth century, might perhaps have founded
powerful orders, and have been reverenced by the Christian world as new
incarnations of Christ, were, through their anachronism, stigmatized
as heretics, and expelled from the communion of the faithful. Still,
their religious fervor and rigorous virtue had a gradually increasing
influence in stimulating the development of the ascetic principle,
if not in the acknowledged dogmas, at all events, in the practice
of the church, as may be seen when, towards the close of the second
century, Dionysius of Corinth finds himself obliged to reprove Pinytus,
Bishop of Gnosus, for endeavoring to render celibacy compulsory among
his flock, to the manifest danger of those whose virtue was less
austere.[36] In all this, unquestionably, the ascetic ideas of the
East had much to do, and these were chiefly represented by Buddhism,
which, since the reign of Asoka, in the third century B.C., had been
the dominant religion of India. A curious allusion in St. Jerome to
Buddha’s having been born of a virgin,[37] shows a familiarity with
details of Buddhist belief which presupposes a general knowledge of
that faith; and though the divinized Maya, wife of Suddhodana, is not
absolutely described as a virgin in eastern tradition, yet she and
her husband had taken a vow of continence before Buddha, from the
Tushita heaven, to fulfil his predestined salvation of mankind and
establishment of the kingdom of righteousness, had selected her as
the vehicle of his incarnation. Much in the legend of his birth, of
the miracles which attended it, of his encounter with the Tempter,
and other details of his life, is curiously suggestive of the source
whence sprang the corresponding legend of the life of Christ, more
particularly as related in the pseudo-gospels.[38] Not only this, but
many of the observances of Latin Christianity can scarce be explained
save by derivation from Buddhism, such as monasticism, the tonsure,
the use of rosaries, confession, penance, and absolution, the sign of
the cross, relic-worship, and miracles wrought by relics, the purchase
of salvation by gifts to the church, pilgrimages to sacred places,
etc. etc. Even the nimbus which in sacred art surrounds the head of
holy personages, is to be found in the sculptures of the Buddhist
Topes, and the Sangreal, or Holy Cup of the Last Supper, which was the
object of lifelong quest by the Christian knight, is but the Patra
or begging-dish of Buddha, which was the subject of many curious
legends.[39] It is no wonder that when the good Jesuit missionaries
of the sixteenth century found among the heathen of Asia so much of
what they were familiar with at home, they could not decide whether
it was the remains of a preëxisting Catholicism, or whether Satan, to
damn irrevocably the souls of men, had parodied and travestied the
sacred mysteries and ceremonies, and introduced them in those distant
regions.[40] We are therefore safe in ascribing to Buddhist beliefs
at least a portion of the influence which led the church into the
extravagances of asceticism.

The first official manifestation of this growing tendency, applied
to the relations of the sexes, is to be seen in the legislation with
regard to second marriages. In the passages alluded to above from
Athenagoras and Minucius Felix, the fact is referred to that second
marriages were already regarded as little better than adulterous, while
Justin Martyr denounces them as sinful, in spite of the permission so
freely granted by St. Paul for such unions.[41] Though this opinion
was branded by the church as heretical when it was elevated into an
article of belief by the Montanists and Cathari, or Puritans, and
though even the eminence and piety of Tertullian could not save him
from excommunication when he embraced the doctrine, yet the orthodox
came very near accepting it, for the Council of Neocæsarea, in 314,
forbade priests from honoring with their presence the festivities
customary on such occasions, as those who married a second time were
subject to penance, and that of Laodicea, in 352, deemed it a matter
of indulgence to admit to communion those who contracted such unions,
after they had redeemed their fault by fasting and prayer for a certain
time—a principle repeated by innumerable councils during the succeeding
centuries. So far did this prejudice extend that as late as 484 we
find the Pope, St. Gelasius, obliged to remind the faithful that such
marriages are not to be refused to laymen.[42] It is by no means
impossible that this opposition to repeated wedlock may have arisen, or
perhaps have been intensified, by a similar feeling which existed among
the Pagans, at least with regard to the second marriages of women.
Moreover, in Rome the Flamen Dialis was restricted to a single marriage
with a virgin, and such was the strictness with which this was observed
that as the assistance of the Flaminica, his wife, was necessary to
the performance of some religious rites, he was obliged to resign when
left a widower.[43]

Although the church forbore to prohibit absolutely the repetition
of matrimony among the laity, it yet, at an early though uncertain
period, imitated the rule enforced on the Flamen Dialis, and rendered
it obligatory on the priesthood, thus for the first time drawing a
distinct line of separation between the great body of the faithful and
those who officiated as ministers of Christ. It thus became firmly and
irrevocably established that no “digamus” or husband of a second wife
was admissible to holy orders. As early as the time of Tertullian we
find the rule formally expressed by him, and he even assures us that
the whole structure of the church was based upon the single marriages
of its ministers. Indeed, the holy rites came to be regarded as so
entirely incompatible with repetition of wedlock that the Council of
Elvira, in 305, while admitting that in cases of extreme necessity a
layman might administer baptism, is careful to specify that he must not
be a “digamus.”[44]

Yet this restriction on the priesthood was not easily enforced,
and already we begin to hear the complaints, which have followed
uninterruptedly for more than fifteen hundred years, of the evasion
or disregard of the regulations whereby the church has sought to
repress the irrepressible instincts of humanity. In the early part of
the third century Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus, in his enumeration
of the evil ways of Pope Calixtus, taxes the pontiff with admitting
to the priesthood men who had been married twice, and even thrice,
and with permitting priests to marry while in orders. Even the great
apostle of celibacy, St. Jerome, expresses surprise that Oceanus should
object to Carterius, a Spanish bishop, on the ground that he had had a
wife before baptism, and a second one after admission to the church.
The world, he adds, is full of such prelates, not only in the lower
orders but in the episcopate, the digamous members of which exceed in
number the three hundred prelates lately assembled at the Council of
Rimini. Yet this was the formal rule of the church as enunciated in
the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons—bodies of ecclesiastical law
not included, indeed, in the canon of Scripture, but yet so venerable
that their origin was already lost sight of, and they were everywhere
received as authoritative expositions of primitive discipline.[45]

The introduction of this entering-wedge is easily explicable. St.
Paul had specified the monogamic condition—“unius uxoris vir”—as a
prerequisite to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, and the
temper of the times was such as to lead irresistibly to this being
taken in its literal sense, rather than to adopt the more rational view
that it was intended to exclude those among the Gentiles who indulged
in the prevalent vice of concubinage, or who among the Jews had fallen
into the sin of polygamy—or those among either race who had taken
advantage, either before or after conversion, of the disgraceful laxity
prevalent with regard to divorces, for, as we learn from Origen, the
rule was by no means obeyed which forbade a divorced person to marry
during the lifetime of the other spouse.[46]

When once this principle was fairly established, and when at the same
time the efforts of the Montanists to render it binding on the whole
body of Christian believers had failed, a distinction was enforced
between the clergy and the laity, as regards the marriage-tie, which
gave to the former an affectation of sanctity, and which was readily
capable of indefinite expansion. It is therefore easy to comprehend
the revival, which shortly followed, of the old Levitical rule
requiring the priesthood to marry none but virgins—a rule which was
early adopted, though it took long to establish it in practice, for
as late as 414 we find Innocent I. complaining that men who had taken
widows to wife were even elevated to the episcopate, and Leo I. devoted
several of his epistles to its enforcement.[47] A corollary to this
speedily followed, which required a priest whose wife was guilty of
adultery to put her away, since further commerce with her rendered him
unfit for the functions of his office; and this again, as subsequent
authorities were careful to point out, afforded a powerful reason for
requiring absolute celibacy on the part of the clergy, for, in view of
the fragility of the sex, no man could feel assured that he was not
subject to this disability, nor could the faithful be certain that
his ministrations were not tainted with irregularity.[48] We thus
reach the state of ecclesiastical discipline at the close of the third
century, as authoritatively set forth in the Apostolical Constitutions
and Canons—bishops and priests allowed to retain the wives which they
may have had before ordination, but not to marry in orders; the lower
grades, deacons, subdeacons, etc., allowed to marry after entering
the church; but all were to be husbands of but one wife, who must be
neither a widow, a divorced woman, nor a concubine.[49]

Meanwhile, public opinion had moved faster than the canons. Ascetic
sects multiplied and increased, and the highest authorities in the
church could not always resist the contagion. A fresh incitement,
indeed, had been found in the neo-platonic philosophy which arose in
the beginning of the third century. Ammonius Saccas, its founder, was
a Christian, though not altogether orthodox, and his two most noted
disciples, Origen and Plotinus, fairly illustrate the influence which
his doctrines had upon both the Christian and the Pagan world. As to
the latter, neo-platonism borrowed from Christian and Indian as well
as Greek philosophy, evolving out of them all a system of elevated
mysticism in which the senses and the appetites were to be controlled
as severely almost as in the Sankhya and Buddhist schools. Commerce
between the sexes was denounced as a pollution degrading to the soul,
and the best offering which a worshipper could bring to the Deity
was a soul absolutely free from all trace of passion.[50] Although
neo-platonism engaged in a hopeless struggle to stay the advancing
tide of Christianity, and thus became its most active opponent, yet the
lofty asceticism which it inculcated could not be without influence
upon its antagonists, were it only through inflaming the emulation of
those who were already predisposed to regard the mortification of the
flesh as a means of raising the soul to communion with God.[51]

How these motives worked upon an ardent and uncompromising temperament
is seen in the self-sacrifice of Origen, showing how absorbing was
the struggle, and how intense was the conviction that nature must be
conquered at all hazards and by any practicable means, although he
himself afterwards condemned this practical rendering of the text
(_Matt. xix. 12_) on which it was founded. Origen was by no means the
first who had sought in this way to gain the kingdom of heaven, for
he alludes to it as a matter by no means unexampled, and before him
Justin Martyr had chronicled with approbation a similar case. In fact,
there is said to have been an obscene sect which under the name of
Valesians followed the practice and procured proselytes by inflicting
forcible mutilation upon all who were unhappy enough to fall into their
hands; and though their date and locality are unknown to those who
allude to them, it would be rash, in view of similar eccentricities
existing in more modern times, to pronounce them wholly apocryphal.
The repeated prohibitions of the practice, in the canons of the
succeeding century, show how difficult it was to eradicate the belief
that such self-immolation was an acceptable offering to a beneficent
Creator. Sextus Philosophus, an ascetic author of the third century,
whose writings long passed current under the name of Pope Sixtus II.,
did not hesitate openly to advocate it, and though his arguments were
regarded as heretical by the church, they were at least as logical as
the practical application given to the texts commonly cited in defence
of the prohibition of marriage.[52]

Not all, however, who sought the praise or the merits of austerity
were prepared to pay such a price for victory in the struggle with
themselves. Enthusiastic spirits, exalted with the prospect of earthly
peace and heavenly rewards promised to those who should preserve the
purity of virginity and live abstracted from the cares and pleasures
of family life, frequently took the vow of continence which had
already become customary. This vow as yet was purely voluntary. It
bound those who assumed it only during their own pleasure, nor were
they during its continuance, in any way segregated from the world. So
untrammelled, indeed, were their actions that Cyprian is forced to
rebuke the holy virgins for frequenting the public baths in which both
sexes indiscriminately exposed themselves, and he does not hesitate to
attribute to this cause much of the ruin and dishonor of its votaries
which afflicted the church.[53] Yet, this was by no means the severest
trial to which many of them subjected their constancy. Perhaps it was
to court spiritual martyrdom and to show to their admirers a virtue
robust enough to endure the most fiery trials, perhaps it was that they
found too late that they had overestimated their strength, and that
existence was a burden without the society of some beloved object—but,
whatever may have been the motive, it became a frequent custom to
associate themselves with congenial souls of the other sex, and form
Platonic unions in which they aspired to maintain the purity which they
had vowed to God. At the best, the sensible members of the church were
scandalized by these performances, which afforded so much scope for
the mockery of the heathen; but scandal frequently was justified, for
Nature often asserted her outraged rights to the shame and confusion
of the hapless votaries of an artificial and superhuman perfection.
Tertullian does not hesitate to assert that the desire of enjoying the
reputation of virginity led to much secret immorality, the effects of
which were concealed by resort to infanticide.[54] Cyprian chronicles,
not with surprise but sorrow, the numerous instances which he had known
of ruin resulting to those who had so fatally miscalculated their power
of resistance: with honest indignation he denounces the ecclesiastics
who abandoned themselves to practices which, if not absolutely
criminal, were brutally degrading: and with a degree of common-sense
hardly to be looked for in so warm an admirer of the perfection of
virginity, he advises that those whose weakness rendered doubtful the
strict observance of their vows should return to the world and satisfy
their longings in legitimate marriage.[55] The heresiarch Paul of
Samosata affords, perhaps, the most conspicuous example of the extent
to which these and similar practices were sometimes carried, and in
condemning him, the good fathers of the Council of Antioch lamented the
general prevalence of the evils thence arising.[56] Cyprian’s prudent
consideration for the weakness of human nature was as yet shared by the
ecclesiastical authorities. In the order of widows professed, which
was recognized by the early church, the Apostolic Constitutions enjoin
that none should be admitted below the age of sixty, in order to avoid
the danger of their infringing their vows by a second marriage, but the
writer is careful to add that such a marriage is not to be condemned
for itself, but only on account of the falsehood which it occasioned.
These widows and virgins were supported out of the tithes of the
church, and were, therefore, necessarily subjected to its control, so
that it is perfectly evident that there was nothing irrevocable in the
vows wherewith they were bound. The change is marked by the end of the
century, when widows who thus forsook their order were unrelentingly
and irrevocably condemned, deprived of communion, and expelled from
social intercourse.[57]

While the Christian world was thus agitated with the speculative
doctrines and practical observances of so many enthusiasts, heretical
and orthodox, who seemed to regard the relations between the sexes as
the crucial test and most trustworthy exponent of religious ardor, a
new dogma arose in the East and advanced with a rapidity which shows
how much progress the ascetic spirit had already made, and how ripe
were the unsettled minds of zealots to welcome whatever system of
belief promised to trample most ruthlessly upon nature, and to render
the path of salvation inaccessible to all save those capable of the
sternest self-mortification. Towards the end of the third century, the
Persian Manes made his advent in the Empire, proclaiming himself as
the Paraclete and as a new and higher Apostle. Though his career as
an envoy of Christ was stoutly resisted by the orthodox, and though,
after a chequered life, he was flayed alive, and his followers in
Persia were slaughtered by Varahran I.,[58] his western disciples were
more fortunate, and the hateful name of Manichæan acquired a sinister
notoriety which maintained its significance for a thousand years.
His system was a compound of several faiths, and though it failed in
its comprehensive design to bring all mankind together in one form
of belief, it yet had features which won for it the enthusiastic
adhesion of men of diverse races. The way was already prepared for its
reception among both Gentiles and Christians by the prevalence on the
one hand of the Mithraic worship, and on the other of Gnosticism. The
Dualistic theory was attractive to those who were disheartened in the
vain attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent
and all-merciful Creator; the Platonic identity of the soul with the
Godhead was a recommendation to the schoolmen; the Brahmanical and
Buddhist views as to abstinence from meat and marriage won adherents
among the remains of the ascetic sects, and were acceptable even to
those among the orthodox who were yielding to the increasing influence
of asceticism. The fierce temporal persecution of the still Pagan
emperors, and the unavailing anathemas of the church, as yet confined
to mere spiritual censures, seemed only to give fresh impetus to the
proselyting energy of the Elect, and to scatter the seed more widely
among the faithful. After this period we hear but little of the earlier
ascetic heresies; the system of Manes, as moulded by his followers,
was so much more complete, that it swallowed up its prototypes and
rivals, and concentrated upon itself the vindictiveness of a combined
church and state. So thorough was this identification that in 381 an
edict of Theodosius the Great directed against the Manichæans assumes
that the sects of Encratitæ, Apotactitæ, Hydroparastitæ, and Saccofori
were merely nominal disguises adopted to elude detection.[59]

That Manichæism, in fact, exercised a substantial influence over
orthodoxy is shown in other directions besides that of asceticism. It
can scarce be doubted that the expansion of the penitential remission
of sins into the system of purchasable indulgences received a powerful
impulsion from the precedent set by Manes; and the denunciations
of Ephraem Syrus form a fitting precursor to those of Luther. In
the same way the Eucharist was diverted from its original form of a
substantial meal—one of the means by which the charity of the church
was administered to the poor—into the symbolical wafer and wine
which assimilated it so closely to the Izeshne sacrifice, the most
frequent Mazdean rite, and one which, like the Mass, was customarily
performed for the benefit of departed souls.[60] Manes, in combining
Mazdeism with Christianity, had adopted the Eucharist in the Mazdean
form, and had confined the use of the cup to the priesthood; and this
lay communion in one element became so well recognized as a test of
Manichæism that Leo the Great ordered the excommunication of all who
received the sacrament after that fashion.[61] It may therefore be
remarked as a curious coincidence that when Manichæism was revived by
the Albigenses, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the church,
which until then had preserved its ancient custom, adopted the lay
communion in one element and adhered to it so rigidly that, as we
shall see hereafter, not even the dread of the Hussite schism nor the
earnest requests of those who remained faithful during the perils of
the Reformation, could induce it to grant the cup to the laity. Lay
communion in one element drew a line of distinction between the priest
and his flock which the former would not willingly abandon.

Although, in the region of asceticism, the church might not be willing
to adopt the Manichæan doctrine that man’s body is the work of the Evil
Principle, and that the Soul as partaking of the substance of God was
engaged in an eternal war with it, and should thus abuse and mortify
it[62], yet the general tendencies of the religious enthusiasm of the
time made the practical result common to all, and there can be no doubt
that the spreading belief in Manes exercised a powerful influence in
accelerating the progress of orthodox asceticism. The fact that as
yet the church was persecuted and had no power of imposing its yoke
on others bound it to the necessity of maintaining its character for
superior sanctity and virtue; and ardent believers could not afford to
let themselves be outdone by heretics in the austerities which were
popularly received as the conclusive evidence of religious sincerity.
We may therefore easily imagine a rivalry in asceticism which,
however unconscious, may yet have powerfully stimulated the stern and
unbending souls of such men as St. Antony, Malchus, and Hilarion, even
as Tertullian, after combating the errors of Montanus, adopted and
exaggerated his ascetic heresies. It would be easy to show from the
hagiologies how soon the church virtually assented to the Manichæan
notion that the body was to be mortified and macerated as the only
mode of triumphing in the perennial struggle with the evil principle,
but this would be foreign to our subject. It is sufficient for us here
to indicate how narrowly in process of time she escaped from adopting
practically, if not theoretically, the Manichæan condemnation of
marriage. This is clearly demonstrated by the writings of the orthodox
Fathers, who in their extravagant praise of virginity could not escape
from decrying wedlock. It was stigmatized as the means of transmitting
and perpetuating original sin, an act which necessarily entailed sin
on its participants, and one which at best could only look for mercy
and pardon and be allowed only on sufferance. It is therefore not
surprising if those who were not prepared to join in the progress of
asceticism should habitually stigmatize the mortifications of their
more enthusiastic brethren as Manichæism in spirit if not in name.
Jovinian, it would seem, did not neglect this ready means of attack;
nor was he alone, for Jerome complains that the worldly and dissolute
sheltered themselves behind the same excuse, and derided as Manichæans
all who were pallid and faint from maceration and fasting.[63] The
comparison, indeed, became a not untruthful one, when the Christian
and the heretic both adopted the plan of restricting their sacred
class from the pleasures of the world—when the Manichæan Elect, who
remained unmarried and fasted upon vegetable food, were equivalent
to the priesthood, while the Auditors, to whom a larger liberty was
allowed, represented the orthodox laity. It is by no means improbable
that the tenets of the Manichæans have been exaggerated by their
opponents in controversy, and that in process of time, when the church
became avowedly ascetic, there was practically little difference on
this point between Manichæism and Orthodoxy. St. Augustin, indeed,
represents the Manichæan Faustus as arguing that both in doctrine and
practice his sect only followed the example of the church. He ridicules
the idea that it could prohibit marriage, and asserts positively that
it only encouraged those who manifested a desire to persevere in
continence. If this is to be received as an authentic exposition of
Manichæan principles, it will be seen that the church was not long in
outstripping the heretics.[64]

In fact, even as early as the time of Cyprian, that saint, in allusion
to the parable of the sower, had rated the comparative merits of
martyrdom to virginity as one hundred to sixty; while, after martyrdom
had gone out of fashion, St. Patrick, in the fifth century, undertook
a more elaborate classification in which bishops and doctors of the
church, monks and virgins, were rated at one hundred, ecclesiastics in
general and widows professed at sixty, while the faithful laity stand
only at thirty.[65] It was therefore a heresy for Jovinian to claim
equal merit for maidens, wives, and widows; and though St. Jerome, in
controverting this, commenced by carefully denying any intentional
disrespect towards marriage, still his controversial ardor carried
him so far in that direction, that he aroused considerable feeling
among reasonable men and was obliged formally and repeatedly to excuse
himself. His contempt for marriage, indeed, was so extreme that in
spite of the recognized primacy of St. Peter, he considered that
apostle as decidedly inferior to St. John, because the one had a wife
and the other was a virgin—apparently not observing that, as he denied
the marriage of all the apostles save Peter, he was thus relegating the
head of the church to the last place among the holy twelve.[66] St.
Augustin recognized the difficulty of reconciling the current views of
his time with the necessities of humanity when he wrote a treatise for
the purpose of proving the difference between the good of marriage and
the evil of carnal desire, which, while it perpetuated the species,
likewise perpetuated original sin; and he gave a signal example of the
manner in which enthusiastic asceticism sought to improve upon the work
of the Creator when he uttered the pious wish that all mankind should
abstain from marriage, so that the human race might the sooner come to
an end.[67] St. Martin of Tours was somewhat less extravagant when he
was willing to admit that marriage was pardonable, while licentiousness
was punishable and virginity glorious; and he was far behind the
enthusiasts of his time, for, while he deplores the miserable folly of
those who consider marriage to be equal to virginity, he is likewise
obliged to reprove the error of those who were willing only to compare
it to lechery—the former belief being evidently much more erroneous
than the latter in the Saint’s estimation.[68] So a treatise on
chastity, which passes under the name of Sixtus III., barely admits
that married people can earn eternal life; and it apparently is only
the dread of being classed with Manichæans that leads the author to
shrink from the conclusions of his own reasoning, and to state that
he does not absolutely condemn wedlock or prohibit it to those who
cannot restrain their passions.[69] Not a little Manichæan in its
tendency is a declaration of Gregory the Great to Augustin the Apostle
of England that connubial pleasures cannot possibly be free from sin;
and quite as decided is another assertion of the same Pope that the
strictness of monastic life is the only possible mode of salvation
for the greater portion of mankind.[70] It was the natural practical
deduction from this which is drawn by the Penitential of Theodore,
when it commands those who contract a first marriage to abstain from
entering a church for thirty days, after which they are to perform
penance for forty more; while a digamus is subjected to penance for a
year, and a trigamus, or one oftener married, for seven years.[71] When
marriage was thus regarded as a sin, we can scarcely be surprised at
the practical Manichæism of Epiphanius who declares that the church is
based upon virginity as on its corner-stone.[72]

This ascetic development, however, was not destined to triumph
without occasional efforts at repression. At the close of the third
century, the highest authorities of the church still condemned the
ruthless asceticism, which was subsequently glorified as the loftiest
achievement of Christian virtue. Thus in the Apostolic Constitutions,
the influence of Manichæism and its kindred sects is as yet only
manifested by the opposition aroused to their doctrines; and the
necessity of that opposition is indicated by the careful and repeated
declaration of the purity and sanctity of the marriage-tie, both as
regards the priesthood and the laity. Not less instructive is the bare
toleration almost grudgingly extended to vows of celibacy, and the
cautious restriction which declares that such vows are not to be held
as justifying a disparagement of matrimony.[73] No stronger contrast
can be looked for than that produced by little more than a century
between the rational piety of these provisions and the extravagant
rhapsodies of Jerome, Augustin, and Martin. The calm good sense of
Lactantius also takes occasion to reprove the extravagance which
regarded all indulgence of the natural affections as a sin requiring
repentance and pardon. He assumes indeed that perpetual continence,
as being opposed to the law of nature, is not recommended, but only
permitted by the Creator, thus reversing the maxims of the zealots.[74]
Equally suggestive are the Apostolic Canons. The sixth of these
pronounces deposition on the bishop or priest who separates himself
from his wife under pretext of religion; while the fiftieth threatens
equally rigorous punishment on the clerk or layman who shall abstain
from marriage, from wine, or from meat, not for the purpose of devoting
himself to piety, but on account of holding them in abomination—such
belief being a slander on the goodness of God, and a calumny on the
perfection of His works.[75] Even a hundred years later there is still
an occasional protest to be heard, showing how the more moderate
section of the church still felt the danger to which she was exposed by
intemperate ascetic zeal, and how narrow was the path which she had to
trace between orthodoxy and heresy. The Fourth Council of Carthage, in
398, prescribing the examination to which all bishops-elect were to be
subjected, specifies for inquiry among other points of faith questions
as to whether the candidate disapproves of marriage, or condemns second
marriages, or prohibits the use of meat.[76] It shows how readily
Manichæism or Catharism might lurk in the asceticism of the most devout.

The tide, however, was fairly on the flood, and the resistance of
the more reasonable among ecclesiastics was unavailing. It is true,
that the influences which were now so powerful could evidently not
be applied to the whole body of believers, as they would only result
in gradual extinction or in lawless licentiousness; but as the
ecclesiastical body was perpetuated by a kind of spiritual generation,
it could, without hazarding a decrease of numbers, be subjected to
regulations which should render obligatory the asceticism which as
yet had been optional. The only wonder, in fact, is that this had
not been earlier attempted. Such a rule, by widening the distinction
between laymen and ecclesiastics, would be grateful to the growing
sacerdotalism which ere long was to take complete possession of the
church. Such a rule, moreover, was not only indicated by the examples
of Buddhism and Manichæism, but had abundant precedent among the Pagans
of the Empire. More than one passage in classical writers show that
abstinence from women was regarded as an essential prerequisite to
certain religious observances, and the existence of this feeling among
the primitive Christians, based upon the injunction of Ahimelech, is
indicated by St. Paul[77]—and this custom, as sacerdotalism developed,
and formalism rendered the life of the minister of the altar a
ceaseless round of daily service, would practically separate husband
and wife. Moreover, much of the Pagan worship subjected its officials
to general restrictions of greater or less severity. Diodorus Siculus
states that the Egyptian priests were permitted to have but one wife,
although unlimited polygamy was allowed to the people; while Chæremon
the Stoic, according to St. Jerome, and Plutarch indicate that they
were obliged to observe entire continence. The castration of the Galli,
the priests of Rhea at Hierapolis, though explained by the myth of
Attys, was evidently only a survival of the fierce asceticism which
counterbalanced the licentiousness of the older Phenician worship.
The rites of the Gaditanian Hercules were conducted by ministers
obliged to observe chastity, and the foot of woman was not permitted
to pollute the sacred precincts of the temple; while the priestesses
of Gea Eurysternus at Ægæ were required to preserve the strictest
celibacy.[78] The hierophants of Demeter in Athens, were obliged to
maintain unsullied continence. The priestesses of the Delphic Apollo,
the Achaian Hera, the Scythian Artemis, and the Thespian Heracles
were virgins. In Africa, those of Ceres were separated from their
husbands with a rigor of asceticism which forbade even a kiss to their
orphaned children; while in Rome the name of Vestal has passed into a
proverb, although it is true that while they were only six or seven in
number, the distinguished honors and privileges accorded to them were
insufficient to induce parents to devote them to the holy service, and
there was difficulty in keeping the ranks filled.[79]

The earliest recorded attempt by the church to imitate these
restrictions, was made in 305 by the Spanish council of Elvira, which
declared, in the most positive manner, that all concerned in the
ministry of the altar should maintain entire abstinence from their
wives under pain of forfeiting their positions. It further endeavored
to put an end to the scandals of the Agapetæ, or female companions
of the clergy, which the rigor of this canon was so well fitted to
increase, by decreeing that no ecclesiastic should permit any woman to
dwell with him, except a sister or a daughter, and even these only
when bound by a vow of virginity.[80] This was simply the legislation
of a local synod, and its canons were not entitled to respect or
obedience beyond the limits of the churches directly represented. Its
action may not improbably be attributed to the commanding influence
of one of its leading members, Osius, Bishop of Cordova, and that
action had no result in inducing the church at large to adopt the new
rule, for some ten years later were held the more important councils
of Ancyra and Neocæsarea, and the absence of any allusion to it in
their proceedings seems to fix for us the discipline of the period in
this respect, at least in the East. By the canons of Ancyra we learn
that marriage in orders was still permitted, as far as the diaconate,
provided the postulant at the time of ordination declared his desire to
enjoy the privilege and asserted his inability to remain single. This
is even less stringent than the rule quoted above from the Apostolic
Constitutions, and proves incontestably that there was no thought of
imposing any restriction upon the intercourse between the married
clergy and their wives. By the council of Neocæsarea it was provided
that a priest marrying in orders should be deposed, but a heavier
punishment was reserved for what was then, in reverse of the standard
of later times, regarded as the greater sin of licentiousness. That no
interference was intended by this with the relations existing between
those who had married in the lower grades and their wives, is shown by
another canon which deprives of his functions any priest who submitted
to the commission of adultery by his wife without separating from
her—being a practical extension of the Levitical rule, now by common
consent adopted as a portion of ecclesiastical discipline.[81] Yet,
even in the East, there was a growing tendency to more rigid asceticism
than this, for, about the same period, we find Eusebius stating that it
is becoming in those who are engaged in the ministry of God, to abstain
from their wives, though his argument in justification of this is
based upon the multiplicity of occupation, which in civilized society
rendered it desirable for those enlisted in the service of the church
to be relieved from family cares and anxieties.[82]



Thus far the church had grown and strengthened without any recognized
head or acknowledged legislative power. Each patriarch or metropolitan,
surrounded by his provincial synod, established regulations for his own
region, with no standard but the canon of Scripture, being responsible
only to the opinion of his compeers, who might refuse to receive
his clergy to communion. Under this democratic autonomy the church
had outlived persecution, had repudiated and cast out innumerable
successive heresies, and, thanks to external pressure, had managed to
preserve its unity. The time, however, had now come for a different
order of things. Constantine, following the dictates of his unerring
political sagacity, allied himself with the Christians and professed
conversion; and Christianity, powerful even when merely existing on
sufferance, became the religion of the state. As such, the maintenance
of its unity was a political necessity, to accomplish which required
some central power entitled to general respect and implicit obedience.
The subtle disputations concerning the fast-spreading Arian heresy
were not likely to be stilled by the mere _ipse dixit_ of any of
the Apostolic Sees, nor by the secular wisdom of crown lawyers and
philosophic courtiers. A legislative tribunal, which should be at
once a court of last appeal and a senate empowered to enact laws of
binding force, as the final decisions of the Church Universal, was
not an unpromising suggestion. Such an assemblage had hitherto been
impossible, for the distances to be traversed and the expenses of
the journey would have precluded an attendance sufficiently numerous
to earn the title of Œcumenic; but an imperial rescript which put
the governmental machinery of posts at the service of the prelates
could smooth all difficulties, and enable every diocese to send its
representative. In the year 325, therefore, the FIRST GENERAL COUNCIL
assembled at Nicæa. With the fruitlessness of its endeavors to
extinguish the Arian controversy we have nothing to do, but in its
legislative capacity its labors had an influence upon our subject
which merits a closer examination than would appear necessary from the
seemingly unimportant nature of the proceedings themselves.

With the full belief that the canons of a general council were the
direct operation of the Holy Ghost, they were of course entitled to
unquestioning reverence, and those of Nicæa have always been regarded
as of special and peculiar authority, cutting off all debate on any
question to which they might be applicable. The third of the series has
been the main reliance of sacerdotal controversialists, and has been
constantly appealed to as the unanswerable justification for enforcing
the rule of discipline which enjoined celibacy on all admitted to
holy orders. Its simple phraseology would hardly seem to warrant such
conclusion. “The Great Synod has strictly forbidden to bishop, priest,
and deacon, and to every ecclesiastic, to have a ‘subintroductam
mulierem,’ unless perhaps a mother, a sister, an aunt, or such person
only as may be above suspicion.”[83]

This is the only allusion to the subject in the Nicene canons. As it
does not include wives among those exempted from the prohibition of
residence, we can hardly be surprised that those who believe celibacy
to be of apostolic origin should assume that it was intended to
pronounce an absolute separation between husband and wife. As the
Council of Elvira, however, contains the only enunciation of such a
rule previous to that of Nicæa, and as those of Ancyra and Neocæsarea
and the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons, directly or indirectly,
allow the conjugal relations of ecclesiastics to remain undisturbed,
we are certainly justified in assuming the impossibility that an
innovation of so much importance would be introduced in the discipline
of the universal church without being specifically designated and
commanded in terms which would admit of no misunderstanding. That the
meaning of the canon is really and simply that alone which appears on
the surface—to put an end to the disorders and scandals arising from
the improper female companions of unmarried priests—is, moreover, I
think, susceptible of easy demonstration.

The term “subintroducta mulier”—γυνη συνεισακτος—is almost invariably
used in an unfavorable sense, and is equivalent to the “fœmina
extranea,” and nearly to the “focaria” and “concubina” of later times,
as well as to the “agapeta” and “dilecta” of earlier date. We have
already seen how Cyprian, seventy-five years before, denounced the
agapetæ who even then were so common, and whose companionship proved
so disastrous to all parties, but the custom continued, and its evil
consequences became more and more openly and shamelessly displayed. In
314 the council of Ancyra denounced it in terms implying its public
recognition.[84] At the close of the same century, Jerome still finds
in it ample material for his fiery indignation; and his denunciations
manifest that it was still a corroding cancer in the purity of the
church, prevailing to an extent that rendered its suppression a matter
of the utmost importance.[85] The testimony of Epiphanius is almost
equally strong, and shows that it was a source of general popular
reproach.[86] Such a reform was therefore well worthy the attention of
the Nicene fathers, and that this was the special object of the canon
is indicated by Jerome himself, who appeals to it as the authority
under which an ecclesiastic refusing to separate himself from his
agapeta could be punished; it was to be read to the offender, and if he
neglected obedience to its commands, he was to be anathematized.[87]

That it had no bearing upon the wives of priests can moreover be proved
by several reasons. The restriction on matrimony has never at any time
extended below the subdiaconate, the inferior grades of the secular
clergy having always been free to live with their wives, even in the
periods of the most rigid asceticism. The canon, however, makes no
distinction. Its commands are applicable “alicui omnino qui in clero
est.” To suppose, therefore, that it was intended to include wives
in its restriction is to prove too much—the _reductio ad absurdum_
is complete.[88] Equally convincing is the fact that when, towards
the close of the century, the rule of celibacy and separation was
introduced, and Siricius and Innocent I. ransacked the Gospels for
texts of more than doubtful application with which to support the
innovation, they made no reference whatever to the Nicene canon.[89]
Had it been understood at that period as bearing on the subject, it
would have been all-sufficient in itself. The reverence felt for the
Council of Nicæa was too great, and the absolute obedience claimed
for its commands was too willingly rendered, for such an omission to
be possible. That Siricius and Innocent should not have adduced it
is therefore proof incontrovertible that it was as yet construed as
directed solely against the improper companions of the clergy. If
further evidence to the same effect be required, it may be found in
a law of Honorius, promulgated in 420, in which, while forbidding
the clergy to keep “mulieres extraneæ” under the name of “sorores,”
and permitting only mothers, daughters, and sisters, he adds that
the desire for chastity does not prohibit the residence of wives
whose merits have assisted in rendering their husbands worthy of the
priesthood.[90] The object of the law is evidently to give practical
force and effect to the Nicene canon, and the imperial power under
Honorius had sunk to too low an ebb for us to imagine the possibility
of his venturing to tamper with and overrule the decrees of the most
venerable council.[91] Even in the sixth century the Nicene canon was
not yet considered to have the meaning subsequently attributed to
it, for otherwise there would have been no necessity of inserting a
provision prohibiting the marriage of priests in the account forged at
that time of a Roman council said to have been held by Silvester I.[92]

If the proof thus adduced be as convincing as it appears to me, the
story of Paphnutius is not so important as to deserve the amount of
controversy that has been expended upon it, and a brief reference
is all that seems necessary. Socrates and Sozomen relate that while
the canons of the council were under consideration, some of the
fathers desired to introduce one interdicting all intercourse between
those in orders and their wives. Whereupon Paphnutius, an Egyptian
bishop, protested against the heavy burden to be thus imposed upon
the clergy, quoting the well-known declaration of St. Paul to the
Hebrews respecting the purity of the marriage-bed. The influence
of St. Paphnutius was great, for he was a confessor of peculiar
sanctity; the loss of his right eye bore testimony to the severity of
the persecutions which he had endured, and his immaculate chastity,
preserved from boyhood in a monastery, rendered his motives and his
impartiality on the subject unimpeachable. The bishops, who had been
on the point of accepting the proposed canon, were convinced, and the
project was abandoned.[93]

If this account be true, it of course follows that the third canon has
no bearing on the wives of ecclesiastics, and that the enforcement
of celibacy dates from a later period than that of the council.
Accordingly, when the Nicene canon was found necessary to give
authority to the rule, it became requisite to discredit the story
of Paphnutius. The first attempt to do this, which has come under
my observation, occurred during the fierce contentions aroused by
the efforts of Gregory VII. to restore the almost forgotten law of
celibacy. Bernald of Constance has left a record of a discussion held
by him in 1076 with Alboin, a zealous defender of sacerdotal marriage,
in which the authenticity of the story is hotly contested.[94]
Bernald’s logic may be condensed into the declaration that he
considered it much more credible that Sozomen was in error than that so
holy a man as St. Paphnutius could have been guilty of such blasphemy.
No reason whatever was vouchsafed when Gregory VII. caused the story
to be condemned in the Synod of Rome of 1079.[95] In spite of this,
Pius IV., in 1564, admitted its authenticity in his epistle to the
German princes who had requested of him the concession of sacerdotal
marriage.[96] Later writers, from Bellarmine down, have, however,
entered into elaborate arguments to prove its impossibility. They rest
their case principally on the assertion of the existence of celibacy
as a rule anterior to the council, and on its enforcement afterwards;
on the fact that Socrates and Sozomen flourished a little more than a
century after the council, and that they are therefore untrustworthy;
and that the name of St. Paphnutius does not appear in the acts of the
council. To the first of these objections the preceding pages afford,
I think, a sufficient answer; to the second it can only be replied
that we must be content with the best testimony attainable, and that
there is none better than that of the two historians, whose general
truthfulness and candor are acknowledged;[97] and to the third it may
be remarked that of the 318 bishops present, but 222 affixed their
signatures to the acts, while Rufinus and Theodoret both expressly
assert that Paphnutius was present.[98] That the statement was not
discredited until controversialists found it desirable to do so, is
shown by its retention in the full account of the proceedings of the
council by Gelasius of Cyzicus, in the fifth century, and also by
its repetition in the “Historia Tripartita,” a condensation of the
narratives of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, compiled in the sixth
century by Cassiodorus, whose irreproachable orthodoxy would hardly
have permitted him to give it currency if it had then been considered
as blasphemous as the writers of the eleventh century would have us
believe. In fact, the learned and orthodox Christian Wolff, in his
great work on the Councils, rejects as trifling the assertion that the
story of Paphnutius is fictitious. His theory of the whole matter is
that the western church endeavored to subject the eastern to its views
on the celibacy required of the priesthood; that the effort failed, in
consequence of the opposition of Paphnutius, and that the canon adopted
had reference merely to the scandals of the Agapetæ.[99]

Various indications have been collected by controversialists to show
that for some time after the council of Nicæa no interference was
attempted with married priests. Of these, one or two will suffice.

St. Athanasius, whose orthodoxy it would not be prudent for any one to
question, and whose appearance during his diaconate at the council of
Nicæa first attracted general attention to his commanding abilities,
has left us convincing testimony as to the perfect freedom allowed
during his time to all classes of ecclesiastics. An Egyptian monk
named Dracontius had been elected to an episcopate, and hesitated to
accept the dignity lest its duties should prove incompatible with
the fulfilment of his vows. To remove these scruples, Athanasius
addressed him an epistle containing various arguments, among which
was the declaration that in his new sphere of action he would find
no difficulty in carrying out whatever rules he might prescribe
for himself. “Many bishops,” said the Saint, “have not contracted
matrimony, while on the other hand, monks have become fathers. Again,
we see bishops who have children, and monks who take no thought of
having posterity.”[100] The tenor of the whole passage is such as to
show that no laws had yet been enacted to control individual action
in such matters, and while rigid asceticism was largely practised, it
was to be admired as the result of private conviction, and not as mere
enforced submission to an established rule.

Testimony equally unequivocal is afforded by the case of St. Gregory
Theologos, Bishop of Nazianzum. He relates that his father, who was
likewise a St. Gregory Bishop of Nazianzum, was converted about the
period of the Nicene council, and was shortly afterwards admitted
to the priesthood and created bishop. His mother, St. Nonna, prayed
earnestly for male issue, saw her future son St. Gregory in a prophetic
vision, and devoted him, before his birth, to the service of God.
That this occurred after his father’s admission to orders is shown by
the address which he represents the latter as making to him, “I have
passed more years in offering the sacrifice than measure your whole
life,”[101] while the birth of a younger son, Cæsarius, shows that
conjugal relations continued undisturbed. St. Gregory evidently felt
that neither shame nor irregularity attached to his birth during the
sacred ministry of his father.



Thus far the progress of asceticism had been the result of moral
influence alone. Those who saw in the various forms of abstinence and
mortification the only path to salvation, and those who may have felt
that worldly advantages of power or reputation would compensate them
for the self-inflicted restrictions which they underwent, already
formed a numerous body in the church, but as yet had not acquired the
numerical ascendency requisite to enable them to impose upon their
brethren the rules which they had adopted for their own guidance. The
period was one of transition, and for sixty years after the council of
Nicæa there was doubtless a struggle for supremacy not perhaps the less
severe because at this late date we can but dimly trace its outlines
amid the records of the fierce Arian controversy which constitutes the
ecclesiastical history of the time, and which absorbed the attention of
writers almost to the exclusion of everything else.

The first triumph of the ascetic party was in establishing recognized
restrictions on those who had voluntarily assumed vows of celibacy.
With them, at least, the case was clear. Aspiring to no rank in the
church, they simply dedicated themselves to God, and pledged themselves
to lives of abstinence. Their backsliding caused scandal to the church,
which, if it were held responsible in the eyes of men for their
conduct, must necessarily assume the power to control their mode of
life, while the fact of simply holding them to the performance of vows
solemnly undertaken could not reasonably be regarded as an arbitrary
stretch of authority. These voluntary vows, which speedily led to the
establishment of the vast fabric of monachism will form the subject of
a subsequent section, and need not be further alluded to here.

Another move in the direction of asceticism was the prohibition by the
Council of Laodicea in 352 of women serving as priests or presiding
over the churches.[102] Although in later Judaism the Temple service
was confined to men, the examples of Deborah and Huldah show that in
earlier times women were considered as capable of inspiration and were
sometimes revered as prophets; the Gentiles, among whom the infant
churches were founded, had priestesses almost everywhere actively
employed in the duties of worship and sacrifice; and it would have been
strange if women, to whom the propagation of the Gospel was so greatly
owing, had not been sometimes admitted to the function of conducting
the simple services of the primitive church. We learn from St. Paul
that Phœbe was a deacon (διάκονος) of the church at Cenchrea,[103]
and the canon of Laodicea shows that until the middle of the fourth
century they still occasionally occupied recognized positions in the
active ministry of the church. They could not have been numerous, or
the references to them in the history of the period would have been
more frequent, and the enforcement of their disability for divine
service would have required constant repetition in the canons of the
general and local synods; but unquestionably the growth of Mariolatry
and the adoration of female saints would have sufficed to prevent
the inconsistency of regarding women as absolutely unfitted for any
function in public worship, had it not been for the rising influence of
asceticism, which demanded the separation of the sexes, and insisted
upon an artificial purity in all concerned in the ministry of the
altar. Even as late as the tenth century, so good a celibatarian as
Atto of Vercelli was perfectly willing to assert that in the early
church, when the laborers were few, women were admitted to share in the
ceremonies of divine worship.[104]

Still, as yet, the secular clergy were at liberty to follow the
dictates of their own consciences, and if an attempt was made to erect
the necessity of ascetic abstinence into an article of either faith
or discipline, the church was prompt to stamp it with the seal of
unequivocal reprobation. Eustathius, Bishop of Sebastia, in Cappadocia,
himself the son of the Bishop of Cappadocian Cæsarea, Eulalius,
carried his zeal for purity to so great an excess that his exaggerated
notions of the inferiority of the married state trenched closely upon
Manichæism, although his heretical rejection of canonical fasting
showed that on other points he was bitterly opposed to the tenets of
that obnoxious sect. His horror of matrimony went so far as to lead
him to the dogma that married people were incapable of salvation; he
forbade the offering of prayer in houses occupied by them; and he
declared that the blessings and sacraments of priests living with their
wives were to be rejected, and their persons treated with contempt.[105]

There were not wanting those to whom even these extreme opinions were
acceptable, and Eustathius speedily accumulated around him a host
of devotees whose proselyting zeal threatened a stubborn heresy.
The excesses attributed to their inability to endure the practical
operation of their leader’s doctrines may be true, or may be merely
the accusations which are customarily disseminated when it becomes
necessary to invest schismatics with odium. Be this as it may, the
orthodox clergy felt the importance of promptly repressing opinions
which, although at variance with the creed of the church, were yet
dangerously akin to the extreme views of those who were regarded as
pre-eminently holy. Eulalius, the father of the heresiarch, himself
presided at a local synod held at Cæsarea, and condemned his son.
This did not suffice to repress the heresy, and about the year 362 a
provincial council was assembled at Gangra, where fifteen bishops,
among whom was Eulalius, pronounced their verdict on Eustathius and
his misguided followers, and drew up a series of canons defining the
orthodox belief on the questions involved. That they were received by
the church as authoritative is evident from their being included in
the collections of Dionysius and Isidor. These canons anathematize
all who refuse the sacraments of a married priest, and who hold that
he cannot officiate on account of his marriage; also those who,
priding themselves on their professed virginity, arrogantly despise
their married brethren, and who hold that the duties of wedlock are
incompatible with salvation.[106] The whole affords a singularly
distinct record of the doctrines accepted at this period, showing
that there was no authority admitted for imposing restrictions of any
kind on the married clergy. It probably was an effort on the part of
the conservatives of the church to restrain their more progressive
brethren, and they no doubt gladly availed themselves of the wild
theories of Eustathius to stigmatize the extravagances which were daily
becoming more influential. At the same time, they were careful to
shield themselves behind a qualified concession to the ascetic spirit
of the period, for in an epilogue they apologetically declare their
humble admiration of virginity, and their belief that pious continence
is most acceptable to God.[107]

       *       *       *       *       *

In little more than twenty years after this emphatic denunciation of
all interference with married priests, we find the first absolute
command addressed to the higher orders of the clergy to preserve
inviolate celibacy. So abrupt a contrast provokes an inquiry into its
possible causes, as no records have reached us exhibiting any special
reasons for the change.

While the admirers of ascetic virginity became louder and more
enthusiastic in their praises of that blessed condition, it is fair
to presume that they were daily more sensible of a lower standard of
morality in the ministers of the altar, and that their susceptibilities
were more deeply shocked by the introduction and growth of abuses.
While the church was kept purified by the fires of persecution, it
offered few attractions for the worldly and ambitious. Its ministry was
too dangerous to be sought except by the pure and zealous Christian,
and there was little danger that pastors would err except from
over-tenderness of conscience or unthinking ardor. When, however,
its temporal position was incalculably improved by its domination
throughout the empire, it became the avenue through which ambition
might attain its ends, while its wealth held out prospects of idle
self-indulgence to the slothful and the sensual. A new class of
men, dangerous alike from their talents or their vices, would thus
naturally find their way into the fold, and corruption, masked under
the semblance of austerest virtue, or displayed with careless cynicism,
would not be long in penetrating into the Holy of Holies. Immorality
must have been flagrant when, in 370, the temporal power felt the
necessity of interfering by a law of the Emperor Valentinian which
denounced severe punishment on ecclesiastics who visited the houses
of widows and virgins.[108] When an increasing laxity of morals thus
threatened to overcome the purity of the church, it is not surprising
that the advocates of asceticism should have triumphed over the more
moderate and conservative party, and that they should improve their
victory by seeking a remedy for existing evils in such laws as should
render the strictest continence imperative on all who entered into holy
orders. They might reasonably argue that if nothing else were gained,
the change would at least render the life of the priest less attractive
to the vicious and the sensual, and that the rigid enforcement of the
new rules would elevate the character of the church by preventing such
wolves from seeking a place among the sheep. If by such legislation
they only added fresh fuel to the flame; if they heightened immorality
by hypocrisy and drove into vagabond licentiousness those who would
perhaps have been content with lawful marriage, they only committed an
error which has ever been too common with earnest men of one idea to
warrant special surprise.

Another object may not improbably have entered into the motives of
those who introduced the rule. The church was daily receiving vast
accessions of property from the pious zeal of its wealthy members, the
death-bed repentance of despairing sinners, and the munificence of
emperors and prefects, while the effort to procure the inalienability
of its possessions dates from an early period.[109] Its acquisitions,
both real and personal, were of course exposed to much greater
risk of dilapidation when the ecclesiastics in charge of its widely
scattered riches had families for whose provision a natural parental
anxiety might be expected to override the sense of duty in discharging
the trust confided to them. The simplest mode of averting the danger
might therefore seem to be to relieve the churchman of the cares of
paternity, and, by cutting asunder all the ties of family and kindred,
to bind him completely and forever to the church and to that alone.
This motive, as we shall see, was openly acknowledged as a powerful
one, in later times, and it no doubt served as an argument of weight in
the minds of those who urged and secured the adoption of the canon.

It appears to me not unreasonable to suppose that all these various
motives lent additional force to the zeal for the purity of the
church, and to the undoubting belief in the necessity of perpetual
celibacy, which impelled the popes, about the year 385, to issue the
first definite command imposing it as an absolute rule of discipline
on the ministers of the altar. The question evidently was one which
largely occupied the minds of men, and the conclusion was reached
progressively. A Roman synod, to which the date of 384 is assigned,
answered a series of interrogatories propounded by the bishops of Gaul,
among which was one relating to the chastity of the priesthood. To this
the response was rather argumentatory and advisory in its character
than imperative; the continence of the higher grades of ecclesiastics
was insisted on, but no definite punishment was ordered for its
violation[110]—and no maxim in legislation is better understood than
that a law without a penalty expressed is practically a dead letter.
Allusion was made to previous efforts to enforce the observance in
various churches; surprise was expressed that light should be sought
for on such a question—for the Gallic prelates had evidently been in
doubt respecting it—and numerous reasons were alleged in a manner to
show that the subject was as yet open to argument, and could not be
assumed as proved or be decided by authority alone. These reasons may
be briefly summed up as consisting of references to the well-known
texts referred to in a previous section, together with a vague
assertion of the opinion of the Fathers to the same effect. Allusion
was made to the inconsistency of exhortations to virginity proceeding
from those who themselves were involved in family cares and duties, a
reasonable view when we consider how much of ecclesiastical machinery
by this time turned on monachism; and the necessity was urged of
bishops, priests, and deacons preserving the purity requisite to fit
them for the daily sacrifice of the altar and the ministration of
the sacraments. This latter point was based upon the assumption of a
similar abstinence being imposed by the old law on the Levites during
their term of service in the Temple, and the example of the pagan
priesthood was indignantly adduced to shame those who could entertain a
sacrilegious doubt upon a matter so self-evident.[111] The conclusion
arrived at was definite, but, as I have already remarked, no means were
suggested or commanded for its enforcement.

Not many months later Pope Damasus died, but the cause was safe in the
hands of his successor. Scarcely had Siricius ascended the pontifical
throne, when, in 385, he addressed an epistle to Himerius, Archbishop
of Tarragona, expressing his grief and indignation that the Spanish
clergy should pay so little regard to the sanctity of their calling
as to maintain relations with their wives. It is evident from the
tenor of the decretal that Himerius had been unable to enforce the new
discipline, and had appealed to Rome for assistance in breaking down
the stubborn resistance which he had encountered, for allusion is made
to some of the refractory who had justified themselves by the freedom
of marriage allowed to the Levites under the old law, while others had
expressed their regret and had declared their sin to be the result of
ignorance. Siricius adopted a much firmer tone than his predecessor.
He indulged in less elaboration of argument; a few texts, more or less
apposite; an expression of wonder that the rule should be called in
question; a distinct assertion of its application to the three grades
of bishops, priests, and deacons; a sentence of expulsion on all who
dared to offer resistance, and a promise of pardon for those who had
offended through ignorance, allowing them to retain their positions
as long as they observed complete separation from their wives, though
even then they were pronounced incapable of all promotion—such was the
first definitive canon, prescribing and enforcing sacerdotal celibacy,
exhibited by the records of the church.[112]

The confident manner in which the law is thus laid down as
incontrovertible and absolute might almost make us doubt whether
it were not older than the preceding pages have shown it to be, if
Siricius had not confessed the weakness of the cause by adopting a
very different tone within a year. In 386 he addressed the church
of Africa, sending it certain canons adopted by a Roman synod. Of
these the first eight relate to observances about which there was
at that time no question, and they are expressed in the curtest and
most decisive phraseology. The ninth canon is conceived in a spirit
totally different. It persuades, exhorts, and entreats that the three
orders shall preserve their purity; it argues as to the propriety
and necessity of the matter, which it supports by various texts,
but it does not assume that the observance thus enjoined is even a
custom, much less a law, of the church; it urges that the scandal of
marriage be removed from the clergy, but it threatens no penalty for
refusal.[113] Siricius was too imperious and too earnest in all that
he undertook for us to imagine that he would have adopted pleading and
entreaty if he had felt that he possessed the right to command; nor
would he have condescended to beg for the removal of an opprobrium if
he were speaking with all the authority of unquestioned tradition to
enforce a canon which had become an unalterable part of ecclesiastical

It is observable that in these decretals no authority is quoted later
than the Apostolic texts, which, as we have seen, have but little
bearing on the subject. No canons of councils, no epistles of earlier
popes, no injunctions of the Fathers are brought forward to strengthen
the position assumed, whence the presumption is irresistible that none
such existed, and we may rest satisfied that no evidence has been lost
that would prove the pre-existence of the rule.



Celibacy was but one of the many shapes in which the rapidly
progressing sacerdotalism of Rome was overlaying religion with a
multitude of formal observances. That which in earlier times had been
the spontaneous expression of fervid zeal, or the joyful self-sacrifice
of ardent asceticism, was thus changed into a law, bearing upon all
alike, and taking no count of the individual idiosyncrasies which might
render the burden too heavy for the shoulders of the less fiery though
not less conscientious Christian. That it should meet with resistance
was to be expected when we consider that the local independence of
primitive times had not as yet been crushed under the rapidly growing
preponderance of the Roman see. In fact energetic protests were not
wanting, as well as the more perplexing stubbornness of passive

St. Ambrose admits that although the necessity of celibacy was
generally acknowledged, still, in many of the remoter districts, there
were to be found those who neglected it, and who justified themselves
by ancient custom, relying on precautions to purify themselves for
their sacred ministry.[114] In this he gives countenance to the
tradition of the Leonistæ, simple Christians whose refusal to adapt
themselves to the sacerdotalism, which was daily becoming more rigorous
and indispensable, caused their expulsion from Rome, and who, taking
refuge in the recesses of the Cottian Alps, endeavored to preserve the
unadulterated faith of earlier times in the seclusion and privation of

All who revolted against the increasing oppression of the hierarchy
were not, however, content to bury themselves in solitude and silence,
and heresiarchs sprang up who waged a bold but unequal contest.
Bonosus, Jovinian, and Vigilantius are the names which have reached
us as the most conspicuous leaders in the unsuccessful attempt to
turn back the advancing spirit of the age, and of these Jovinian is
the foremost figure. Bonosus, who was Bishop of Sardica, acquired a
peculiarly sinister notoriety, for, in his opposition to the ascetic
spirit, he adopted a heresy of Tertullian and Photinus, and assailed
one of the chief arguments of the admirers of celibacy by denying
the perpetual virginity of the Virgin; whence his followers acquired
the euphonious title of Bonosiacs.[115] For this he was denounced by
Pope Siricius with all the vehemence which doctrines so sacrilegious
were calculated to excite,[116] and his followers were duly condemned
by the Council of Capua in 389, while the tireless pen of St. Jerome
was called into requisition to refute errors so unpardonable.[117]
Notwithstanding this they continued to flourish, for an epistle of
Innocent I. to Lawrence, Bishop of Segna, proves that the error was
openly taught on the eastern shores of the Adriatic in the early
part of the fifth century;[118] in 443 the Council of Arles shows
their existence in France by promising reconciliation to those who
should manifest proper repentance, and that of Orleans as late as 538
still contains an allusion to them.[119] The belief even extended to
Arabia, where a sect professing it is stigmatized by Epiphanius as
Antidicomarianitarians, whose conversion that worthy bishop endeavored
to secure by a long epistle, in which his labored explanations of the
stubborn text of Matthew are hardly more convincing than his hearty
objurgations of the blasphemous dogma, or his illustrative comparison
of the Virgin to a lioness bearing but one whelp.[120]

       *       *       *       *       *

While Jovinian shared in this particular the error of Bonosus and
Helvidius, he did not attach undue importance to it. More practically
inclined, his heresy consisted principally in denying the efficacy
of celibacy, and this he maintained in Rome itself, with more zeal
than discretion. Siricius caused his condemnation and that of his
associates in a synod held about the year 390,[121] and succeeded in
driving him to Milan, where he had many proselytes. There was no peace
for him there. A synod held under the auspices of St. Ambrose bears
testimony to the wickedness of his doctrines and to the popular clamor
raised against him, and the wanderer again set forth on his weary
pilgrimage.[122] Deprived of refuge in the cities, he disseminated
his tenets throughout the country, where ardent followers, in spite
of contumely and persecution, gathered around him and conducted their
worship in the fields and hamlets. The laws promulgated about this
time against heresy were severe and searching, and bore directly upon
all who deviated from the orthodox formulas of the Catholic church,
yet Jovinian braved them all. The outraged church called upon its
most unscrupulous polemic, St. Jerome, who indulged in the customary
abuse which represented the schismatics as indulging in the grossest
promiscuous licentiousness and Jovinian as teaching them that all
things were permitted to those baptized in Christ, in contradiction to
St. Augustin who admits the sobriety and virtue of Jovinian, in spite
of his denying the efficacy of celibacy.[123] All this was insufficient
to put down the stubborn schismatics, who maintained their faith until
the church, wearied out with their obstinacy and unable to convert
or to silence them, appealed to the secular power for more efficient
assistance. Perhaps Jovinian’s long career of successful resistance
may have emboldened him; perhaps his sect was growing numerous enough
to promise protection; at all events, despite the imperial rescripts
which shielded with peculiar care the Apostolic city from the presence
of heretics, Jovinian in 412 openly held assemblages of his followers
in Rome, to the scandal of the faithful, and made at least sufficient
impression to lead a number of professed virgins to abandon their
vows and marry.[124] The complaints of the orthodox were heard by the
miserable shadow who then occupied the throne of Augustus, and Honorius
applied himself to the task of persecution with relentless zeal.
Jovinian was scourged with a leaded thong and exiled to the rock of
Boa, on the coast of Dalmatia, while his followers were hunted down,
deported, and scattered among the savage islands of the Adriatic.[125]

       *       *       *       *       *

Nor was this the only struggle. A wild shepherd lad named Vigilantius,
born among the Pyrenean valleys, was fortunate enough to be the slave
of St. Sulpicius Severus, whose wealth, culture, talents, and piety
rendered him prominent throughout Southern Gaul. The earnest character
of the slave attracted the attention of the master; education developed
his powers; he was manumitted, and the people of his native Calagurris
choose him for their priest. Sent by Sulpicius as bearer of letters
to his friends St. Paulinus at Nola, and St. Jerome in his Bethlehem
retreat, Vigilantius had the opportunity of comparing the simple
Christianity of his native mountains with the splendid pageantry of
Rome, the elegant retirement of Nola, and the heated controversialism
which agitated the asceticism of Bethlehem. Notwithstanding the
cordiality of their first acquaintance, his residence with Jerome was
short. Both were too earnestly dogmatic in their natures for harmony
to exist between the primitive Cantabrian shepherd and the fierce
apostle of Buddhist and Mazdean Christianity, who devoted his life
to reconciling the doctrines of the Latin church with the practices
of Manichæism. Brief friendship ended in a quarrel, and Vigilantius
extended his experiences by a survey of Egypt, where the vast hordes of
Nitrian anchorites were involved in civil strife over the question of
Origenism. Returning through Italy, he tarried in Milan and among the
Alps, where he found the solution of his doubts and the realization of
his ideas in the teaching of Jovinian. He had left Gaul a disciple; he
returned to it a missionary, prepared to do battle with sacerdotalism
in all its forms. Not only did he deny the necessity of celibacy, but
he pronounced it to be the fertile source of impurity, and in his
zeal for reform he swept away fasting and maceration, he ridiculed
the adoration of relics, and pronounced the miracles wrought at their
altars to be the work of demons; he objected to the candles and incense
around the shrines, to prayers for the dead, and to the oblations of
the faithful.[126]

No doubt the decretals of Siricius had rendered compulsory the
celibacy of the priesthood throughout Gaul and Spain. The machinery
of the hierarchy may readily have stifled open opposition, however
frequent may have been the secret infractions of the rule. This may
perhaps have contributed to the success of Vigilantius. Even his
former master, St. Sulpicius Severus, and St. Exuperius, Bishop of
Toulouse, were inclined to favor his reforms. That they spread with
dangerous rapidity throughout Gaul from south to north is shown by
the fact that in 404 Victricius, Bishop of Rouen, and in 405 St.
Exuperius of Toulouse applied to Innocent I. for advice as to the
manner in which they should deal with the new heresy. It also counted
numerous adherents throughout Spain, among whom even some bishops were
enumerated. The alarm was promptly sounded, and the enginery of the
church was brought to bear upon the hardy heretic. The vast reputation
and authority of Jerome lent force to the coarse invective with which
he endeavored to overwhelm his whilom acquaintance, and though the
nickname of Dormitantius which he bestowed on Vigilantius was a sarcasm
neither very severe nor very refined, the disgusting exaggeration of
his adversary’s tenets in which he as usual indulged had doubtless
its destined effect.[127] Pope Innocent was not backward in asserting
the authority of Rome and the inviolable nature of the canon. In his
epistle to Victricius, he repeated the decretal of Siricius, but in a
somewhat more positive form;[128] while in the following year (405)
he confirmed the vacillating faith of Exuperius by declaring that any
violation of the strictest celibacy on the part of priest or deacon
subjects the offender to the deprivation of his position.[129] As in
the previous effort of Siricius, however, ignorance is admitted as an
excuse, entitling him who can plead it to retain his grade without hope
of preferment—and the test of this ignorance is held to be the canon of
385. This latter point is noteworthy, for it is a tacit confession of
the novelty of the rule, although Innocent labored at great length to
prove both its antiquity and necessity from the well-known texts of St.
Paul and the Levitical observances. Yet no intermediate authority was
quoted, and punishment was only to be inflicted on those who could be
proved to have seen the decretal of Siricius.

The further career of Vigilantius and his sectaries is lost in the
darkness and confusion attendant upon the ravages of the Alans and
Vandals who overran Gaul during the following year. We only know that
Sulpicius and Exuperius, frightened by the violence of Jerome and the
authority of Innocent, abandoned their protégé, and we can presume
that, during the period of wild disorder which followed the irruption
of the Barbarians, what little protection Rome could afford was too
consoling to the afflicted churches for them to risk its withdrawal
by resisting on any point the daily increasing pretensions of the
Apostolic See to absolute command.[130]

The victory was won, for with the death of Vigilantius and Jovinian
ended the last organized and acknowledged attempt to stay the progress
of celibacy in the Latin church, until centuries later, when the
regulation was already too ancient and too well supported by tradition
and precedent to be successfully called in question.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Africa we find no trace of open resistance to the introduction
of the rule, though time was evidently required to procure its
enforcement. We have seen that Siricius, in 386, addressed an appeal
to the African bishops. To this they responded by holding a council
in which they agreed “conscriptione quadam” that chastity should
be preserved by the three higher orders. This apparently was not
conclusive, for in 390 another council was held in which Aurelius,
Bishop of Carthage, again introduced the subject. He recapitulated
their recent action, urged that the teaching of the Apostles and
ancient usage required the observance of the rule, and obtained the
assent of his brother prelates to the separation from their wives of
those who were concerned in administering the sacraments.[131] The
form of these proceedings shows that it was an innovation, requiring
deliberation and the assent of the ecclesiastics present, not a simple
affirmation of a traditional and unalterable point of discipline, and,
moreover, no penalty is mentioned for disobedience. Little respect,
probably, was paid to the new rule. The third and fourth councils of
Carthage, held in 397 and 398, passed numerous canons relating to
discipline, prescribing minutely the qualifications and duties of the
clergy, and of the votaries of the monastic profession. The absence
from among these canons of any allusion to enforced celibacy would
therefore appear to prove that it was still left to the conscience
of the individual. If this be so, the triumph of the sacerdotal party
was not long delayed, as might be expected from the rising influence
and authority of St. Augustin, whose early Manichæism led him, after
his conversion, to be one of the most enthusiastic admirers and
promoters of austere asceticism. We may not unreasonably assume that
it was through his prompting that his friend St. Aurelius, at the
fifth council of Carthage in 401, proposed a canon, which was adopted,
ordering the separation of the married clergy of the higher grades from
their wives, under pain of deprivation of office.[132] As before, the
form of the canon shows it to be an innovation.

That the rule was positively adopted and frequently submitted to is
shown by St. Augustin, who, in his treatise against second marriages,
states that, in arguing with those desirous of entering upon those
unhallowed unions, he was accustomed to strengthen his logic by citing
the continence of the clergy, who, however unwillingly they had in
most cases been forced to undertake the burden, still, by the aid of
God, were enabled to endure it to the end.[133] Yet it is evident
that its enforcement was attended with many difficulties and much
opposition, for, twenty years later, at another council of Carthage,
we find Faustinus, the Papal Legate, proposing that the three higher
orders shall be separated from their wives, to which the fathers of the
council somewhat evasively replied that those who were concerned in
the ministry of the altar should be chaste in all things. No attempt,
however, was apparently made to strengthen the resolution by affixing a
penalty for its infringement. It was a simple declaration of opinion,
and nothing more.[134]

Symptoms of similar difficulty in the rigid enforcement of the canon
are observable elsewhere. The proceedings of the first council of
Toledo, held in the year 400, shows not only that it was a recent
innovation which continued to be disregarded, but that it had given
rise to a crowd of novel questions which required imperatively to be
settled, as to the status of the several grades of clerks who were
guilty of various forms of disobedience[135]—the prototype and examplar
of innumerable similar attempts at legislation which continued for more
than a thousand years to occupy a good part of the attention of almost
every council and synod. The prelates of Cis-Alpine Gaul, assembled
in the council of Turin in 401, could only be brought to pronounce
incapable of promotion those who contravened the injunction which
separated them from their wives.[136] The practical working of this was
to permit those to retain their wives who were satisfied with the grade
to which they had attained. Thus the priest, who saw little prospect
of elevation to the episcopate, might readily console himself with the
society of his wife, while the powerful influence of the wives would
be brought to bear against the promptings of ambition on the part of
their husbands. The punishment thus was heaviest on the lower grades
and lightest on the higher clergy, whose position should have rendered
the sin more heinous—in fact, the bishop, to whom further promotion was
impossible, escaped entirely from the penalty.

Even as late as 441 the first council of Orange shows how utterly the
rule had been neglected by ordering that for the future no married man
should be ordained deacon without making promise of separation from
his wife, for contravention of which he was to suffer degradation;
while those who had previously been admitted to orders were only
subjected to the canon of the council of Turin, incurring merely loss
of promotion.[137] This evidently indicates that the regulation was
a novelty, for it admits the injustice of subjecting to the rigor
of the canon those who had taken orders without being aware of the
obligations incurred; and it is a fair conclusion to suppose that this
was a compromise by which the existing clergy gave their assent to the
rule for the benefit of their successors, provided that they themselves
escaped its full severity. In fact, it seemed to be impossible to
make the church of Gaul accept the rule of discipline. About 459, we
find Leo I., in answer to some interrogatories of Rusticus, Bishop
of Narbonne, laboriously explaining that deacons and subdeacons, as
well as bishops and priests, must treat their wives as sisters.[138]
Rusticus had evidently asked the question, and Leo expresses no
surprise at his ignorance.

The Irish Church, founded about the middle of the fifth century,
although it was to a great extent based on monachism, apparently did
not at first order the separation of the sexes. A century later an
effort seems to have been made in this direction; but the canons of a
synod held in the early part of the eighth century show that priests at
that time were not prevented from having wives.[139]

Even where the authority of the decretals of Siricius and Innocent was
received with respectful silence, it was not always easy to enforce
their provisions. An epistle of Innocent to the bishops of Calabria
shows that, within territory depending strictly upon Rome itself, a
passive resistance was maintained, requiring constant supervision and
interference to render the rule imperative. Some priests, whose growing
families rendered their disregard of discipline as unquestionable as it
was defiant, remained unpunished. Either the bishops refused to execute
the laws, or their sympathies were known to be with the offenders, for
the pious layman whose sensibilities were wounded by the scandal felt
himself obliged to appeal to the Pope. Innocent accordingly ordered the
accused to be tried and to be expelled, while he expressed no little
surprise at the negligence of the prelates who were so remiss.[140] It
is more difficult to understand the edict of 420, issued by Honorius,
to which allusion has already been made (p. 55). This law expressly
declares that the desire for purity does not require the separation of
wives whose marriage took place before the ordination of their husbands.

These disconnected attempts at resistance were unsuccessful.
Sacerdotalism triumphed, and the rule which forbade marriage to those
in orders, and separated husband and wife, when the former was promoted
to the ministry of the altar, became irrevocably incorporated in the
canon law. Throughout the struggle the Papacy had a most efficient ally
in the people. The holiness and the necessity of absolute purity was
so favorite a theme with the leading minds of the church, and formed
so prominent a portion of their daily homilies and exhortations, that
the popular mind could not but be deeply impressed with its importance,
and therefore naturally exacted of the pastor the sacrifice which
cost so little to the flock. An instance or two occurring about this
period will show how vigilant was the watch kept upon the virtue of
ecclesiastics, and how summary was the process by which indignation
was visited upon even the most exalted, when suspected of a lapse from
the rigid virtue required of them. Thirty years after the ordination
of St. Brice, who succeeded St. Martin in the diocese of Tours, rumor
credited him with the paternity of a child unseasonably born of a nun.
In their wrath the citizens by common consent determined to stone him.
The saint calmly ordered the infant, then in its thirtieth day, to be
brought to him, and adjured it in the name of Christ to declare if
it were his, to which the little one firmly replied “Thou art not my
father!” The people, attributing the miracle to magic, persisted in
their resolution, when St. Brice wrapped a quantity of burning coals
in his robe, and pressing the mass to his bosom carried it to the tomb
of St. Martin, where he deposited his burden, and displayed his robe
uninjured. Even this was insufficient to satisfy the outraged feelings
of the populace, and St. Brice deemed himself fortunate in making his
escape uninjured, when a successor was elected to the bishopric.[141]
Somewhat similar was the case of St. Simplicius, Bishop of Autun.
Even as a layman, his holy zeal had led him to treat as a sister his
beautiful wife, who was inspired with equal piety. On his elevation
to the episcopate, still confident of their mutual self-control,
she refused to be separated from him. The people, scandalized at
the impropriety, and entertaining a settled incredulity as to the
superhuman virtue requisite to such restraint, mobbed the bishop’s
dwelling, and expressed their sentiments in a manner more energetic
than respectful. The saintly virgin called for a portable furnace full
of fire, emptied its contents into her robe, and held it uninjured
for an hour, when she transferred the ordeal to her husband, saying
that the trial was as nothing to the flames through which they had
already passed unscathed. The result with him was the same, and the
people retired, ashamed of their unworthy suspicions.[142] Gregory of
Tours, who relates these legends, was sufficiently near in point of
time for them to have an historical value, even when divested of their
miraculous ornaments. They bring before us the popular tendencies and
modes of thought, and show us how powerful an instrument the passions
of the people became, when skilfully aroused and directed by those in

       *       *       *       *       *

The Western church was thus at length irrevocably committed to the
strict maintenance of ecclesiastical celibacy, and the labors of the
three great Latin Fathers, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustin, were crowned
with success. It is perhaps worth while to cast a glance at such
evidences as remain to us of the state of morals about this period
and during the fifth century, and to judge whether the new rule of
discipline had resulted in purifying the church of the corruptions
which had so excited the indignation of the anchorite of Bethlehem,
and had nerved him in his fierce contests with those who opposed the
enforced asceticism of the ministers of Christ.

How the morals of the church fared during the struggle is well
exhibited in the writings of St. Jerome himself, as quoted above,
describing the unlawful unions of the agapetæ with ecclesiastics
and the horrors induced by the desire to escape the consequences of
incautious frailty. Conclusions not less convincing may be drawn from
his assertion that holy orders were sometimes assumed on account of the
superior opportunities which clericature gave of improper intercourse
with women;[143] and from his description of the ecclesiastics, who
passed their lives in female companionship, surrounded by young female
slaves, and leading an existence which differed from matrimony only in
the absence of the marriage ceremony.[144]

But a short time after the recognition of the rule appeared the law of
Honorius, promulgated in 420, to which reference has already been made.
It is possible that the permission of residence there granted to the
wives of priests may have been intended to act as a partial cure to
evils caused by the enforcement of celibacy; and this is rendered the
more probable, since other portions of the edict show that intercourse
with improper females had increased to such a degree that the censures
of the church could no longer restrain it, and that an appeal to
secular interference was necessary, by which such practices should be
made a crime to be punished by the civil tribunals.[145] That even this
failed lamentably in purifying the church may be gathered from the
proceedings of the provincial councils of the period.

Thus, in 453, the council of Anjou repeats the prohibition of improper
female intimacy, giving as a reason the ruin constantly wrought by it.
For those who thereafter persisted in their guilt, however, the only
penalty threatened was incapacity for promotion on the part of the
lower grades, and suspension of functions for the higher[146]—whence
we may conclude that practically an option was afforded to those
who preferred sin to ambition. The second council of Arles, in 443,
likewise gives an insight into the subterfuges adopted to evade the
rule and to escape detection.[147] About this period a newly-appointed
bishop, Talasius of Angers, applied to Lupus of Troyes and Euphronius
of Autun for advice concerning various knotty points, among which were
the rules respecting the celibacy of the different grades. In their
reply the prelates advised their brother that it would be well if
the increase of priests’ families could be prevented, but that such
a consummation was almost impossible if married men were admitted to
orders, and that if he wanted to escape ceaseless wrangling and the
scandal of seeing children born to his priests, he had better ordain
those only who were single.[148] The subject was one of endless effort.
In fact, of the numerous councils whose canons have reached us, held in
Gaul and Spain during the centuries which intervened until the invasion
of the Saracens and the decrepitude of the Merovingian dynasty caused
their discontinuance, there is scarcely one which did not feel the
necessity of legislating on this delicate matter. It would be tedious
and unprofitable to detail specifically the innumerable exhortations,
threats, and ingenious devices resorted to in the desperate hope of
enforcing obedience to the rules and of purifying the morals of the
clergy. Suffice it to say that the constantly varying punishments
enacted, the minute supervision ordered over every action of the
priesthood, the constant attendance of witnesses whose inseparable
companionship should testify to the virtue of each ecclesiastic, and
the perpetual iteration of the rule in every conceivable shape, prove
at once the hopelessness of the attempt, and the incurable nature of
the disorders of which the church was at once the cause and the victim.
In short, this perpetual legislation frequently betrays the fact that
it was not only practically impossible to maintain separation between
the clergy and their wives, but that at times marriage was not uncommon
even within the prohibited orders.[149]

Perhaps this may not move our surprise when we glance at the condition
of morality existing throughout the Empire in the second quarter of
the fifth century, as sketched by a zealous churchman of the period.
Salvianus, Bishop of Marseilles, was a native of Trèves. Three times he
witnessed the sack of that unfortunate city by the successive barbarian
hordes which swept over Western Europe, and he lifts up his voice,
like Jeremiah, to bewail the sins of his people, and the unutterable
misfortunes which were the punishment but not the cure of those
sins. Nothing can be conceived more utterly licentious and depraved
than the whole framework of society as described by him, with such
details as preclude us from believing that holy indignation or pious
sensibility led him to exaggerate the outlines or to darken the shades
of the picture. The criminal and frivolous pleasures of a decrepit
civilization left no thought for the absorbing duties of the day or the
fearful trials of the morrow. Unbridled lust and unblushing indecency
admitted no sanctity in the marriage-tie. The rich and powerful
established harems, in the recesses of which their wives lingered,
forgotten, neglected, and despised. The banquet, the theatre, and the
circus exhausted what little strength and energy were left by domestic
excesses. The poor aped the vices of the rich, and hideous depravity
reigned supreme and invited the vengeance of Heaven. Such rare souls
as could remain pure amid the prevailing contamination would naturally
take refuge in the contrast of severe asceticism, and resolutely seek
absolute seclusion from a world whose every touch was pollution. The
secular clergy, however, drawn from the ranks of a society so utterly
corrupt, and enjoying the wealth and station which rendered their
position an object for the ambition of the worldly, could not avoid
sharing to a great extent the guilt of their flocks, whose sins were
more easily imitated than eradicated. Nor does Salvianus confine his
denunciations to Gaul and Spain. Africa and Italy are represented as
even worse, the prevalence of unnatural crimes lending a deeper disgust
to the rivalry in iniquity. Rome was the sewer of the nations, the
centre of abomination of the world, where vice openly assumed its most
repulsive form, and wickedness reigned unchecked and supreme.

It is true that the descriptions of Salvianus are intended to include
the whole body of the people, and that his special references to the
church are but few. Those occasional references, however, are not of a
nature to exempt it from sharing in the full force of his indignation.
When he pronounces the Africans to be utterly licentious, he excepts
those who have been regenerated in religion—but these he declares to
be so few in number that it is difficult to believe them Africans.
What hope, he asks, can there be for the people when even in the church
itself the most diligent search can scarce discover one chaste amid so
many thousands: and when imperial Carthage was tottering to its fall
under the assaults of the besieging Vandals, he describes its clergy
as wantoning in the circus and the theatre—those without falling under
the sword of the barbarian, those within abandoning themselves to
sensuality.[150] This, be it remembered, is that African church which
had just been so carefully nurtured in the purest asceticism for thirty
years, under the unremitting care of Augustin, who died while his
episcopal city of Hippo was encircled with the leaguer of the Vandals.

Nor were these disorders attributable to the irruption of the
Barbarians, for Salvianus sorrowfully contrasts their purity of morals
with the reckless dissoluteness of the Romans. The respect for female
virtue, inherent in the Teutonic tribes, has no warmer admirer than he,
and he recounts with wonder how the temptations of luxury and vice,
spread before them in the wealthy cities which they sacked, excited
only their disgust, and how, so far from yielding to the allurements
that surrounded them, they sternly set to work to reform the depravity
of their new subjects, and enacted laws to repress at least the open
manifestations which shocked their untutored virtue.

When corruption so ineradicable pervaded every class, we can scarce
wonder that in the story of the trial of Sixtus III., in 440, for the
seduction of a nun, when his accusers were unable to substantiate the
charge, he is said to have addressed the synod assembled in judgment
by repeating to them the story of the woman taken in adultery, and
the decision of Christ. Whether it were intended to be regarded as a
confession, or as a sarcasm on the prelates around him, whom he thus
challenged to cast the first stone, the tale whether true or false is
symptomatic of the time.[151]

As regards the East, if the accusations brought against Ibas,
Metropolitan of Edessa, at the Synod of Berytus in 448,[152] are
worthy of credit, the Oriental church was not behind the West in the
effrontery of sin.



During the period which we have been considering, there had gradually
arisen a divergence between the Christians of the East and of the
West. The Arianism of Constantius opposed to the orthodoxy of Constans
lent increased development to the separation which the division of the
Empire had commenced. The rapid growth of the New Rome founded on the
shores of the Bosporus gave to the East a political metropolis which
rendered it independent of the power of Rome, and the patriarchate
there erected absorbed to itself the supremacy of the old Apostolic
Sees, which had previously divided the ecclesiastical strength of the
East. In the West, the Bishop of Rome was unquestionably the highest
dignitary, and when the separation relieved him of the rivalry of
prelates equal in rank, he was enabled to acquire an authority over
the churches of the Occident undreamed of in previous ages. As yet,
however, there was little pretension of extending that power over
the East, and though the ceaseless quarrels which raged in Antioch,
Constantinople, and Alexandria enabled him frequently to intervene
as arbiter, still he had not yet assumed the tone of a judge without
appeal or of an autocratic lawgiver.

Though five hundred years were still to pass before the Greek schism
formally separated Constantinople from the communion of Rome, yet
already, by the close of the fourth century, the characteristics which
ultimately led to that schism were beginning to develop themselves with
some distinctness. The sacerdotal spirit of the West showed itself
in the formalism which loaded religion with rules of observance and
discipline enforced with Roman severity. The inquiring and metaphysical
tendencies of the East discovered unnumbered doubtful points of
belief, which were argued with exhaustive subtlety and supported by
relentless persecution. However important it might be for any polemic
to obtain for his favorite dogma the assent of the Roman bishop,
whose decisions on such points thus constantly acquired increased
authority, yet when the Pope undertook to issue laws and promulgate
rules of discipline, whatever force they had was restricted to the
limits of the Latin tongue. Accordingly, we find that the decretals
of Siricius and Innocent I. produced no effect throughout the East.
Asceticism continued to flourish there as in its birthplace, but it was
voluntary, and there is no trace of any official attempt to render it
universally imperative. The canon of Nicæa of course was law, and the
purity of the church required its strict observance, to avoid scandals
and immorality;[153] but beyond this and the ancient rules excluding
digami and prohibiting marriage in orders no general laws were insisted
on, and each province or patriarchate was allowed to govern itself in
this respect. How little the Eastern prelates thought of introducing
compulsory celibacy is shown by the fact that at the second general
council, held at Constantinople in 381, only four or five years before
the decretals of Siricius, there is no trace of any legislation on
the subject; and this acquires increased significance when we observe
that although this council has always been reckoned Œcumenic, and has
enjoyed full authority throughout the church universal, yet out of
one hundred and fifty bishops who signed the acts, but one—a Spanish
prelate—was from the West.

This avoidance of action was not merely an omission of surplusage.
Had the disposition existed to erect the custom of celibacy into a
law, there was ample cause for legislation on the subject. Epiphanius,
who died in the year 403 at a very advanced age, probably compiled
his “Panarium” not long after this period; he belonged to the extreme
school of ascetics, and lost no opportunity of asserting the most rigid
rule with regard to virginity and continence, which he considered to
be the base and corner-stone of the church. While assuming celibacy
to be the rule for all concerned in the functions of the priesthood,
he admits that in many places it was not observed, on account of the
degradation of morals or of the impossibility of obtaining enough
ministers irreprehensible in character to satisfy the needs of the

That Epiphanius endeavored to erect into a universal canon rules only
adopted in certain churches is rendered probable by an allusion of St.
Jerome, who, in his controversy with Vigilantius, urged in support
of celibacy the custom of the churches of the East (or Antioch), of
Alexandria, and of Rome.[155] He thus omits the great exarchates of
Ephesus, Pontus, and Thrace, as not lending strength to his argument.
Of these the first is perhaps explicable by the latitudinarianism
of its metropolitan, Anthony, Bishop of Ephesus. At the council of
Constantinople, held in 400, this prelate was accused of many crimes,
among which were simony, the conversion to the use of his family of
ecclesiastical property and even of the sacred vessels, and further,
that after having vowed separation from his wife, he had had children
by her.[156] Even Egypt, the nursery of monachism, affords a somewhat
suspicious example in the person of Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais. This
philosophic disciple of Hypatia, when pressed to accept the bishopric,
declined it on various grounds, among which was his unwillingness
to be separated from his wife, or to live with her secretly like an
adulterer, the separation being particularly objectionable to him, as
interfering with his desire for numerous offspring.[157] Synesius,
however, was apparently able to reconcile the incompatibilities, for
after accepting the episcopal office, we find, when the Libyans invaded
the Pentapolis and he stood boldly forth to protect his flock, that two
days before an expected encounter, he confided to his brother’s care
his children, to whom he asked the transfer of that tender fraternal
affection which he himself had always enjoyed.[158]

It is easy to imagine what efforts were doubtless made to extend the
rule and to render it as imperative throughout the East as it was
becoming in the West, when we read the extravagant laudations of
virginity uttered about this time by St. John Chrysostom, who lent
the sanction of his great name and authority to the assertion that
it is as superior to marriage as heaven is to earth, or as angels
are to men.[159] Strenuous as these efforts may have been, however,
they have left no permanent record, and their effect was short-lived.
Within thirty years of the time when Jerome quoted the example of
the eastern churches as an argument against Vigilantius, Socrates
chronicles as a novelty the introduction into Thessalia of compulsory
separation between married priests and their wives, which he says was
commanded by Heliodorus, Bishop of Trica, apparently to compensate for
the amatory character of the “Æthiopica,” written in his youth. The
same rule, Socrates informs us, was observed in Greece, Macedonia,
and Thessalonica, but throughout the rest of the East he asserts that
such separation was purely voluntary, and even that many bishops had
no scruple in maintaining ordinary intercourse with their wives[160]—a
statement easy to be believed in view of the complaints of St. Isidor
of Pelusium, about the same time, that the rules of the church
enjoining chastity received little respect among the priesthood.[161]

The influence of Jerome, Chrysostom, and other eminent churchmen, the
example of the West, and the efforts of the Origenians in favor of
philosophic asceticism, doubtless had a powerful effect during the
first years of the fifth century in extending the custom, but they
failed in the endeavor to render it universal and obligatory, and the
testimony of Socrates shows how soon even those provinces which adopted
it in Jerome’s time returned to the previous practice of leaving the
matter to the election of the individual. The East thus preserved the
traditions of earlier times, as recorded in the Apostolic Constitutions
and Canons, prohibiting marriage in orders and the ordination of
digami, but imposing no compulsory separation on those who had been
married previous to ordination.

Even these rules required to be occasionally enunciated in order to
maintain their observance. In 530 a constitution of Justinian calls
attention to the regulation prohibiting the marriage of deacons and
subdeacons, and in view of the little respect paid to it, the Emperor
proceeds to declare the children of such unions spurious (not even
nothi or naturales) and incompetent to inherit anything; the wife is
likewise incapacitated from inheritance, and the whole estate of the
father is escheated to the church—the severity of which may perhaps
be a fair measure of the extent of the evil which it was intended
to repress.[162] Five years later Justinian recurs to the subject,
and lays down the received regulations in all their details. Any
one who keeps a concubine, or who has married a divorced woman or a
second wife, is to be held ineligible to the diaconate or priesthood.
Any member of those orders or of the subdiaconate who takes a wife
or a concubine, whether publicly or secretly, is thereupon to be
degraded and to lose all clerical privileges; and though the strongest
preference is expressed for those who though married preserve
strict continence, the very phrase employed indicates that this was
altogether a matter of choice, and that previous conjugal relations
were not subject to any legislative interference.[163] These same
regulations were repeated some ten years later in a law, promulgated
about 545,[164] which was preserved throughout the whole period of
Greek jurisprudence, being inserted by Leo the Philosopher in his
Basilica,[165] quoted by Photius in the Nomocanon, and referred to as
still in force by Balsamon in the thirteenth century.[166] At the same
time Justinian tacitly admits the failure of previous efforts when he
adds a provision by which an unmarried postulant for the diaconate is
obliged to pledge himself not to marry, and any bishop permitting such
marriage is threatened with degradation.[167]

Bishops, however, were subjected to the full severity of the Latin
discipline. As early as 528, Justinian ordered that no one should be
eligible to the episcopate who was burdened with either children or
grandchildren, giving as a reason the engrossing duties of the office,
which required that the whole mind and soul should be devoted to them,
and still more significantly hinting the indecency of converting to the
use of the prelate’s family the wealth bestowed by the faithful on the
church for pious uses and for charity.[168] It is probable that this
was not strictly observed, for in 535, when repeating the injunction,
and adding a restriction on conjugal intercourse, he intimates that no
inquiry shall be made into infractions previously occurring, but that
it shall be rigidly enforced for the future.[169] The decision was
final as regards the absence of a wife, for it was again alluded to in
548, and that law is carried through the Nomocanon and Basilica.[170]
The absence of children as a prerequisite to the episcopate, however,
was not insisted upon so pertinaciously, for Leo the Philosopher,
after the compilation of the Basilica, issued a constitution allowing
the ordination of bishops who had legitimate offspring, arguing that
brothers and other relatives were equally prone to withdraw them from
the duties of their position.[171]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not worth while to enter into the interminable controversy
respecting the council held at Constantinople in 680, the canons of
which were promulgated in 692, and which is known to polemics as the
_Quinisext in Trullo_. The Greeks maintain that it was Œcumenic,
and its legislation binding upon Christendom; the Latins, that it
was provincial and schismatic; but whether Pope Agatho acceded to
its canons or not; whether a century later Adrian I. admitted them,
or whether their authentication by the second council of Nicæa gave
them authority over the whole church or not, are questions of little
practical importance for our purpose, for they never were really
incorporated into the law of the West, and they are only to be regarded
as forming a portion of the received ecclesiastical jurisprudence of
the East. In one sense, however, their bearing upon the Latin church
is interesting, for, in spite of them, Rome maintained communion with
Constantinople for more than a century and a half, and the schism which
then took place arose from altogether different causes. In the West,
therefore, celibacy was only a point of discipline, of no doctrinal
importance, and not a matter of heresy, as we shall see it afterwards
become under the stimulus afforded by Protestant controversy.

The canons of the Quinisext are very full upon all the questions
relating to celibacy, and show that great relaxation had occurred in
enforcing the regulations embodied in the laws of Justinian. Digami
must have become numerous in the church, for the prohibition of their
ordination is renewed, and all who had not released themselves from
such forbidden unions by June 15th of the preceding year are condemned
to suffer deposition. So marriage in orders had evidently become
frequent, for all guilty of it are enjoined to leave their wives, when,
after a short suspension, they are to be restored to their position,
though ineligible to promotion.[172] A much severer punishment is,
however, provided for those who should subsequently be guilty of the
same indiscretion, for all such infractions of the rule are visited
with absolute deposition[173]—thus proving that it had fallen into
desuetude, since those who sinned after its restoration were regarded
as much more culpable than those who had merely transgressed an
obsolete law. Even bishops had neglected the restrictions imposed upon
them by Justinian, for the council refers to prelates in Africa, Libya,
and elsewhere, who lived openly with their wives; and although this is
prohibited for the future under penalty of deposition, and although all
wives of those promoted to the episcopate are directed to be placed
in nunneries at a distance from their husbands, yet the remarkable
admission is made that this is done for the sake of the people, who
regarded such things as a scandal, and not for the purpose of changing
that which had been ordained by the Apostles.[174]

With regard to the future discipline of the great body of the clergy,
the council, after significantly acknowledging that the Roman church
required a promise of abstinence from married candidates for the
diaconate and priesthood, proceeds to state that it desires to adhere
to the Apostolic canon by keeping inviolate the conjugal relations of
those in holy orders, and by permitting them to associate with their
wives, only stipulating for continence during the time devoted to the
ministry of the sacraments. To put an end to all opposition to this
privilege, deposition is threatened against those who shall presume
to interfere between the clergy and their wives, and likewise against
all who, under pretence of religion, shall put their wives away. At
the same time, in order to promote the extension of the church, in the
foreign provinces, this latter penalty is remitted, as a concession to
the prejudices of the “Barbarians.”[175] How thoroughly in some regions
sacerdotal marriage had come to be the rule we learn from a reference
to Armenia, where the Levitical custom of the Hebrews was imitated, in
the creation of a sacerdotal caste, transmitted from father to son, and
confined to the priestly houses. This limitation is condemned by the
council, which orders that all who are worthy of ordination shall be
regarded as eligible.[176]

The Eastern church thus formally and in the most solemn manner recorded
its separate and independent discipline on this point, and refused to
be bound by the sacerdotalism of Rome. It thus maintained the customs
transmitted from the early period, when asceticism had commenced to
show itself, but it shrank from carrying out the principles involved
to their ultimate result, as was sternly attempted by the inexorable
logic of Rome. The system thus laid down was permanent, for throughout
the East the Quinisext was received unquestioningly as a general
council, and its decrees were authoritative and unalterable. It is
true that in the confusion of the two following centuries a laxity
of practice gradually crept in, by which those who desired to marry
were admitted to holy orders while single, and were granted two years
after ordination during which they were at liberty to take wives, but
this was acknowledged to be an abuse, and about the year 900 it was
formally prohibited by a constitution of Leo the Philosopher.[177]
Thus restored, the Greek church has preserved its early traditions
unaltered to the present day. Marriage in orders is not permitted, nor
are digami admissible, but the lower grades of the clergy are free
to marry, nor are they separated from their wives when promoted to
the sacred functions of the diaconate or priesthood. The bishops are
selected from the regular clergy or monks, and, being bound by the vow
of chastity, are of course unmarried and unable to marry. Thus the
legislation of Justinian is practically transmitted to the nineteenth
century. Even this restriction on the freedom of marriage renders it
difficult to preserve the purity of the priesthood, and the Greek
church, like the Latin, is forced occasionally to renew the Nicene
prohibition against the residence of suspected women.[178]

The strongly marked hereditary tendency, which is so distinguishing a
characteristic of mediæval European institutions has led, in Russia at
least, since the time of Peter the Great, to the customary transmission
of the priesthood, and even of individual churches, from father to
son, thus creating a sacerdotal caste. To such an extent has this
been carried that marriage is obligatory on the parish priest, and
custom requires that the wife shall be the daughter of a priest. Some
of the results of this are to be seen in a law of 1867, forbidding
for the future the aspirant to a cure from marrying the daughter of
his predecessor or undertaking to support the family of the late
incumbent as a condition precedent to obtaining the preferment. It
shows how entirely the duties of the clergy had been lost in the sense
of property and hereditary right attaching to benefices, leading
inevitably to the neglect or perfunctory performance of ecclesiastical
duties.[179] We shall see hereafter how narrowly the Latin church
escaped a similar transformation, and how prolonged was the struggle to
avoid it.

       *       *       *       *       *

One branch of the Eastern church, however, relaxed the rules of
the Quinisext. In 431, Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was
excommunicated for his heretical subtleties as to the nature of
the Godhead in Christ. Driven out from the Empire by the orthodox
authorities, his followers spread throughout Mesopotamia and Persia,
where, by the end of the century, their efforts had gradually converted
nearly the whole population. About the year 480, Barsuma, metropolitan
of Nisibi, added to his Nestorian heresy the guilt of marrying a nun,
when to justify himself he assembled a synod in which the privilege of
marriage was granted not only to priests, but even to monks. In 485,
Babueus, Patriarch of Seleucia, held a council which excommunicated
Barsuma and condemned his licentious doctrines; but, about ten years
later, a subsequent patriarch, Babeus, in the council of Seleucia,
obtained the enactment of canons conferring the privilege of marriage
on all ranks of the clergy, from monk to patriarch. Some forty years
later a debate recorded between the Patriarch Mar Aba and King Chosroes
shows that repeated marriages were common among all orders, but Mar
Aba subsequently issued a canon depriving patriarchs and bishops of
the right, and subjecting them to the rules of the Latin and Greek

The career of the Nestorians shows that matrimony is not incompatible
with mission-work, for they were the most successful missionaries
on record. They penetrated throughout India, Tartary, and China. In
the latter empire they lasted until the thirteenth century; while in
India they not improbably exercised an influence in modifying the
doctrines of ancient Brahmanism,[181] and the Portuguese discoverers in
the fifteenth century found them flourishing in Malabar. So numerous
were they that during the existence of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem
they are described, in conjunction with the monophysite sect of the
Jacobines, as exceeding in numbers the inhabitants of the rest of

       *       *       *       *       *

Another segment of the Eastern church may properly receive attention
here. The Abyssinians and Coptic Christians of Egypt can scarcely
in truth be considered a part of the Greek church, as they are
monophysite in belief, and have in many particulars adopted Jewish
customs, such as circumcision, &c. Their observances as regards
marriage, however, tally closely with the canons of the Quinisext,
except that bishops are permitted to retain their wives. In the
sixteenth century, Bishop Zaga Zabo, who was sent as envoy to Portugal
by David, King of Abyssinia, left behind him a confession of faith
for the edification of the curious. In this document he describes
the discipline of his church as strict in forbidding the clericature
to illegitimates; marriage is not dissolved by ordination, but
second marriage, or marriage in orders, is prohibited, except under
dispensation from the Patriarch, a favor occasionally granted to
magnates for public reasons. Without such dispensation, the offender
is expelled from the priesthood, while a bishop or other ecclesiastic
convicted of having an illegitimate child is forthwith deprived of all
his benefices and possessions. Monasteries, moreover, were numerous and
monachal chastity was strictly enforced.[183] These rules, I presume,
are still in force. A recent traveller in those regions states that “if
a priest be married previous to his ordination, he is allowed to remain
so; but no one can marry after having entered the priesthood”—while a
mass of superstitious and ascetic observances has overlaid religion,
until little trace is left of original Christianity.[184]



The Monastic Orders occupy too prominent a place in ecclesiastical
history, and were too powerful an instrument both for good and evil,
to be passed over without some cursory allusion, although the secular
clergy is more particularly the subject of the present sketch, and the
rise and progress of monachism is a topic too extensive in its details
to be thoroughly considered in the space which can be allotted to it.

In this, as in some other forms of asceticism, we must look to Buddhism
for the model on which the Church fashioned her institutions. Ages
before the time of Sakyamuni, the life of the anchorite had become a
favorite mode of securing the _moksha_, or supreme good of absorption
in Brahma. Buddhism, in throwing open the way of salvation to all
mankind, popularized this, and thus multiplied enormously the crowd
of mendicants, who lived upon the charity of the faithful and who
abandoned all the cares and duties of life in the hope of advancing
a step in the scale of being and of ultimately obtaining the highest
bliss of admission to Nirvana. In the hopeless confusion of Hindu
chronology, it is impossible to define dates with exactness, but we
know that at a very early period these Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, or
mendicants of either sex, were organized in monasteries (Viharas or
Sangharamas) erected by the piety of the faithful, and were subjected
to definite rules, prominent among which were those of poverty and
chastity, which subsequently became the foundation of all the Western
orders. Probably the oldest existing scripture of Buddhism is the
Pratimoksha, or collection of rules for observance by the bhikshus,
which tradition, not without probability, ascribes to Sakyamuni
himself. In this, infraction of chastity falls under the first of the
four Parajika rules; it is classed, with murder, among the most serious
offences entailing excommunication and expulsion without forgiveness.
The solicitation of a woman comes within the scope of the thirteen
Sanghadisesa rules, entailing penance and probation, after which
the offender may be absolved by an assembly of not less than twenty
bhikshus. Other punishments are allotted for every suspicious act, and
the utmost care is shown in the regulations laid down for the minutest
details of social intercourse between the sexes.[185]

Under these rules, Buddhist monachism developed to an extent which
more than rivals that of its Western derivative. The remains of the
magnificent Viharas still to be seen in India testify at once to the
enormous multitudes which found shelter in them and to the munificent
piety of the monarchs and wealthy men who, as in Europe, sought to
purchase the favor of Heaven by founding and enlarging these retreats
for the devotee. In China, Buddhism was not introduced until the first
century A. D., and yet, by the middle of the seventh century, in
spite of repeated and severe persecutions, the number of monasteries
already amounted to 3716, while two hundred years later the persecuting
Emperor Wu-Tsung ordered the destruction of no less than 4600; and
at the present day it is estimated that there are 80,000 Buddhist
monks in the environs of Pekin alone. When, in the seventh century,
Hiouen-Thsang visited India, he describes the Sangharama of Nalanda
as containing ten thousand monks and novices; and the later pilgrim,
Fah-Hian, found fifty or sixty thousand in the island of Ceylon. In the
fourteenth century, the city of Ilchi, in Chinese Tartary, possessed
fourteen monasteries, averaging three thousand devotees in each; while
in Tibet, at the present time, there are in the vicinity of Lhassa
twelve great monasteries, containing a population of 18,500 lamas. In
Ladak, the proportion of lamas to the laity is as one to thirteen; in
Spiti, one to seven; and in Burmah, one to thirty.[186] Great as were
the proportions to which European monachism grew, it never attained
dimensions such as these.

It was some time, however, before the intercourse between East and West
led to the introduction of anchoritic and monastic customs. The first
rudimentary development of a tendency in such direction is to be found
in the vows, which, as stated in a previous section, had already, at an
early period in the history of the church, become common among female
devotees. In fact an order of widows, employed in charitable works and
supported from the offerings of the faithful, was apparently one of
the primitive institutions of the Apostles. To prevent any conflict
between the claims of the world and of the church, St. Paul directs
that they shall be childless and not less than sixty years of age, so
that on the one hand there might be no neglect of the first duty which
he recognized as owing to the family, nor, on the other hand, that the
devotee should be tempted by the flesh to quit the service which she
had undertaken.[187]

This admirable plan may be considered the germ of the countless
associations by which the church has in all ages earned the gratitude
of mankind by giving to Christianity its truest practical exposition.
It combined a refuge for the desolate with a most efficient
organization for spreading the faith and administering charity; and
there was no thought of marring its utility by rendering it simply
an instrument for exaggerating and propagating asceticism. St. Paul,
indeed, expressly commands the younger ones to marry and bring up
children;[188] and he could little have anticipated the time when this
order of widows, so venerable in its origin and labors, would, by
the caprice of ascetic progress, come to be regarded as degraded in
comparison with the virgin spouses of Christ, who selfishly endeavored
to purchase their own salvation by shunning all the duties imposed
on them by the Creator.[189] Nor could he have imagined that, after
eighteen centuries, enthusiastic theologians would seriously argue that
Christ and his Apostles had founded regular religious orders, bound by
the three customary vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.[190]

In the early church, as has been already shown, all vows of continence
and dedication to the service of God were a matter of simple volition,
not only as to their inception, but also as to their duration. The male
or female devotee was at liberty to return to the world and to marry
at any time;[191] although during the purer periods of persecution,
such conduct was doubtless visited with disapprobation and was attended
with loss of reputation. As, moreover, there was no actual segregation
from the world and no sundering of family ties, there was no necessity
for special rules of discipline. When, under the Decian persecution,
Paul the Thebæan, and shortly afterwards St. Antony, retired to the
desert in order to satisfy a craving for ascetic mortification which
could only be satiated by solitude, and thus unconsciously founded the
vast society of Egyptian cenobites, they gave rise to what at length
became a new necessity.[192] The associations which gradually formed
themselves required some government, and the institution of monachism
became too important a portion of the church, both in numbers and
influence, to remain long without rules of discipline to regulate
its piety and to direct its powers. As yet, however, a portion of
the church, adhering to ancient tradition, looked reprovingly on
these exaggerated pietistic vagaries. Lactantius, for instance, in a
passage written subsequent to the conversion of Constantine, earnestly
denounces the life of a hermit as that of a beast rather than of a man,
and urges that the bonds of human society ought not to be broken, since
man cannot exist without his fellows.[193]

It was in vain to attempt to stem the tide which had now fairly set in,
nor is it difficult to understand the impulsion which drove so many
to abandon the world. No small portion of pastoral duty consisted in
exhortations to virginity, the praises of which were reiterated with
ever increasing vehemence, and the rewards of which, in this world
and the next, were magnified with constantly augmenting promises.
Indeed, a perusal of the writings of that age seems to render it
difficult to conceive how any truly devout soul could remain involved
in worldly duties and pleasures, when the abandonment of all the ties
and responsibilities imposed on man by Providence was represented as
rendering the path to heaven so much shorter and more certain, and when
every pulpit resounded with perpetual amplifications of the one theme.
Equally efficacious with the timid and slothful was the prospect of
a quiet retreat from the confusion and strife which the accelerating
decline of the empire rendered every day wilder and more hopeless;
while the crushing burdens of the state drove many, in spite of all
the efforts of the civil power, to seek their escape in the exemptions
accorded to those connected with the church. When to these classes
are added the penitents—prototypes of St. Mary of Egypt, who retired
to the desert as the only refuge from her profligate life, and for
seventeen years waged an endless struggle with the burning passions
which she could control but could not conquer—it is not difficult to
estimate how vast were the multitudes unconsciously engaged in laying
the foundations of that monastic structure which was eventually to
overshadow all Christendom.[194] Indeed, even the church itself at
times became alarmed at the increasing tendency, as when the council
of Saragossa, in 381, found it necessary to denounce the practice of
ecclesiastics abandoning their functions and embracing the monastic
life, which it assumes was done from unworthy motives.[195]

Soon after his conversion, Constantine had encouraged the prevailing
tendency by not only repealing the disabilities imposed by the old
Roman law on those who remained unmarried, but by extending the power
of making wills to minors who professed the intention of celibacy.[196]
His piety and that of subsequent emperors speedily attributed to all
connected with the church certain exemptions from the intolerable
municipal burdens which were eating out the heart of the empire.
An enormous premium was thus offered to swell the ecclesiastical
ranks, while, as the number of the officiating clergy was necessarily
limited, the influx would naturally flow into the mass of monks and
nuns on whose increase there was no restriction, and whose condition
was open to all, with but slender examination into the fitness of the
applicant.[197] The rapidly increasing wealth of the church, and the
large sums devoted to the maintenance of all orders of the clergy,
offered additional temptations to those who might regard the life of
the ascetic as the means of securing an assured existence of idleness,
free from all care of the morrow. If, therefore, during a period when
ridicule and persecution were the portion of those who vowed perpetual
continence, it had been found impossible to avoid the most deplorable
scandals,[198] it can readily be conceived that allurements such as
these would crowd the monastic profession with proselytes of a most
questionable character, drawn from a society so frightfully dissolute
as that of the fourth century. The fierce declamations of St. Jerome
afford a terrible picture of the disorders prevalent among those
vowed to celibacy, and of the hideous crimes resorted to in order
to conceal or remove the consequences of guilt, showing that the
asceticism enforced by Siricius had not wrought any improvement.[199]
The necessity of subjecting those bound by vows to established rules
must therefore have soon become generally recognized; and although
as we have already seen, they were free at any time to abandon the
profession which they had assumed, still, while they remained as
members, the welfare of the church would render all right-minded men
eager to hail any attempt to establish rules of wholesome discipline.
The first authoritative attempt to check disorders of the kind is to be
found in the first council of Carthage, which in 348 insisted that all
who, shunning marriage, elected the better lot of chastity, should live
separate and solitary, and that none should have access to them under
penalty of excommunication; and in 381 the Council of Saragossa sought
to remedy the evil at its root by forbidding virgins to take the veil
unless they could furnish proof that they were at least forty years of

Although the church, in becoming an affair of state, had to a great
extent sacrificed its independence, still it enjoyed the countervailing
advantage of being able to call upon the temporal power for assistance
when its own authority was defied, nor was it long in requiring this
aid in the enforcement of its regulations. Accordingly, in 364, we find
a law of Jovian forbidding, under pain of actual or civil death, any
attempt to marry a sacred virgin,[201] the extreme severity of which
is the best indication of the condition of morals that could justify
a resort to penalties so exaggerated. How great was the necessity for
reform, and how little was actually accomplished by these attempts,
may be estimated from an effort of the Council of Valence, in 374,
to prevent those who married from being pardoned after too short a
penance,[202] and from the description which ten years later Pope
Siricius gives of the unbridled and shameless license indulged in by
both sexes in violation of their monastic vows.[203]

       *       *       *       *       *

Certain definite rules for the governance of these constantly
increasing crowds of all stations, conditions, and characters, who were
obviously so ill-fitted for the obligations which they had assumed,
became of course necessary, but it was long before they assumed an
irrevocable and binding force. The treatise which is known as the
rule of St. Oriesis is only a long and somewhat mystic exhortation to
asceticism. That which St. Pachomius is said to have received from an
angel is manifestly posterior to the date of that saint, and probably
belongs to the commencement of the fifth century. Minute as are its
instructions, and rigid as are its injunctions respecting every action
of the cenobite, yet it fully displays the voluntary nature of the
profession and the lightness of the bonds which tied the monk to his
order. A stranger applying for admission to a monastery was exposed
only to a probation of a few days, to test his sincerity and to prove
that he was not a slave; no vows were imposed, only his simple promise
to obey the rules being required. If he grew tired of ascetic life,
he departed, but he could not be again taken back without penitence
and the consent of the archimandrite.[204] Even female travellers
applying for hospitality were not refused admittance, and an inclosure
was set apart for them, where they were entertained with special honor
and attention; a place was likewise provided for them in which to be
present at vespers.[205]

A similar system of discipline is manifested in the detailed statement
of the regulations of the Egyptian monasteries left us by John
Cassianus, Abbot of St. Victor of Marseilles, who died in 448. No vows
or religious ceremonies were required of the postulant for admission.
He was proved by ten days’ waiting at the gate, and a year’s probation
inside, yet the slender tie between him and the community is shown by
the preservation of his worldly garments, to be returned to him in
case of his expulsion for disobedience or discontent, and also by the
refusal to receive from him the gift of his private fortune—although no
one within the sacred walls was permitted to call the simplest article
his own—lest he should leave the convent and then claim to revoke his
donation, as not unfrequently happened in institutions which neglected
this salutary rule.[206] So, in a series of directions for cenobitic
life, appended to a curious Arabic version of the Nicene canons, the
punishment provided for persistent disobedience and turbulence is
expulsion of the offender from the monastery.[207]

As a temporary refuge from the trials of life, where the soul could
be strengthened by seclusion, meditation, peaceful labor, and rigid
discipline, thousands must have found the institution of Monachism most
beneficial who had not resolution enough to give themselves up to a
life of ascetic devotion and privation. These facilities for entrance
and departure, however, only rendered more probable the admission of
the turbulent and the worldly; and the want of stringent and effective
regulations must have rendered itself every day more apparent, as the
holy multitudes waxed larger and more difficult to manage, and as the
empire became covered with wandering monks, described by St. Augustin
as beggars, swindlers, and peddlers of false relics, who resorted to
the most shameless mendacity to procure the means of sustaining their
idle and vagabond life.[208]

It was this, no doubt, which led to the adoption and enforcement of the
third of the monastic vows—that of obedience—as being the only mode by
which during the period when residence was voluntary, the crowds of
devotees could be kept in a condition of subjection. To what a length
this was carried, and how completely the system of religious asceticism
succeeded in its object of destroying all human feeling, is well
exemplified by the shining example of the holy Mucius, who presented
himself for admission in a monastery, accompanied by his child, a boy
eight years of age. His persistent humility gained for him a relaxation
of the rules, and father and son were admitted together. To test
his worthiness, however, they were separated, and all intercourse
forbidden. His patience encouraged a further trial. The helpless child
was neglected and abused systematically, but all the perverse ingenuity
which rendered him a mass of filth and visited him with perpetual
chastisement failed to excite a sign of interest in the father. Finally
the abbot feigned to lose all patience with the little sufferer’s
moans, and ordered Mucius to cast him in the river. The obedient monk
carried him to the bank and threw him in with such promptitude that the
admiring spectators were barely able to rescue him. All that is wanting
to complete the hideous picture is the declaration of the abbot that
in Mucius the sacrifice of Abraham was completed.[209] This epitomizes
the whole system—the transfer to man of the obedience due to God—and
shows how little, by this time, was left of the hopeful reliance on a
beneficent God which distinguished the primitive church, and which led
Athenagoras, in the second century, to argue from the premises “God
certainly impels no one to those things which are unnatural.”

The weaker sex, whether from the greater value attached to the purity
of woman or from her presumed frailty, as well as from some difference
in the nature of the engagement entered into, was the first to become
the subject of distinct legislation, and the frequency of the efforts
required shows the difficulty of enforcing the rule of celibacy and
chastity. Allusion has already been made to a law of Jovian which, as
early as 364, denounced the attempt to marry a nun as a capital crime.
Subsequent canons of the church show that this was wholly ineffectual.
The council of Valence, in 374, endeavored to check such marriages.
The synod of Rome, in 384, alludes with horror to these unions,
which it stigmatizes as adultery, and drawing a distinction between
virgins professed and those who had taken the veil, it prescribes an
indefinite penance before they can be received back into the church,
but at the same time it does not venture to order their separation
from their husbands.[210] A year later, the bolder Siricius commands
both monks and nuns guilty of unchastity to be imprisoned, but he
makes no allusion to marriage.[211] Notwithstanding the fervor of St.
Augustin’s admiration for virginity and the earnestness with which he
waged war in favor of celibacy, he pronounces that the marriage of nuns
is binding, ridicules those who consider it as invalid, and deprecates
the evil results of separating man and wife under such circumstances,
but yet his asceticism, satisfied with this concession to common sense,
pronounces such unions to be worse than adulterous.[212] From this it
is evident that these infractions of discipline were far from uncommon,
and that the stricter churchmen already treated such marriages as null
and void, which resulted in the husbands considering themselves at
liberty to marry again. Such view of monastic vows was not sustained
by the authorities of the church, for about the same period Innocent
I., like St. Augustin, while condemning such marriages as worse than
adulterous, admitted their validity by refusing communion to the
offenders until one of the partners in guilt should be dead; and,
like the synod of 384, he considered the transgression as somewhat
less culpable in the professed virgin than in her who had consummated
her marriage with Christ by absolutely taking the veil.[213] It was
probably this assumed marriage with Christ—a theory which St. Cyprian
shows to be as old as the third century, and which is very strongly
stated by Innocent—which rendered the church so much more sensitive
as to the frailty of the female devotees than to that of the men. As
yet, however, the stability of such marriages was generally accepted
throughout the church, for, a few years before the epistle of Innocent
we find it enunciated by the first council of Toledo, which decided
that the nun who married was not admissible to penitence during the
life of her husband, unless she separated herself from him.[214]

It is evident from all this that an effort had been made to have
such marriages condemned as invalid, and that it had failed. We see,
however, that the lines had gradually been drawn more tightly around
the monastic order, that the vows could no longer be shaken off with
ease, and that there was a growing tendency to render the monastic
character ineffaceable when once assumed. Towards the middle of the
fifth century, however, a reaction took place, possibly because the
extreme views may have been found impracticable. Thus Leo I. treats
recalcitrant cenobites with singular tenderness. He declares that monks
cannot without sin abandon their profession, and therefore that he who
returns to the world and marries must redeem himself by penitence, for
however honorable be the marriage-tie and the active duties of life,
still it is a transgression to desert the better path. So professed
virgins, who throw off the habit and marry, violate their duty, and
those who in addition to this have been regularly consecrated commit a
great crime—and yet no further punishment is indicated for them;[215]
and the little respect still paid to the indelible character claimed
for monachism is shown by the manner in which the civil power was ready
to interfere for the purpose of putting an end to some of the many
abuses arising from monastic institutions. In 458 Majorian promulgated
a law in which he inveighs with natural indignation against the parents
who, to get rid of their offspring, compel their unhappy daughters to
enter convents at a tender age, and he orders that, until the ardor of
the passions shall be tempered by advancing years, no vows shall be
administered. The minimum age for taking the veil is fixed at forty
years and stringent measures are provided for insuring its observance.
If infringed by order of the parents, or by an orphan girl of her
own free will, one-third of all the possessions of the offender is
confiscated to the state, and the ecclesiastics officiating at the
ceremony are visited with the heavy punishment of proscription. A woman
forced into a nunnery, if her parents die before she reaches the age
of forty, is declared to be free to leave it and to marry, nor can she
be disinherited thereafter.[216] Fruitless as this well-intentioned
effort proved, it is highly suggestive as to the wrongs which were
perpetrated under the name of religion, the stern efforts felt to be
requisite for their prevention, and the power exercised to annul the

       *       *       *       *       *

In the East, the tendency was to give a more rigid and unalterable
character to the vows, nor is it difficult to understand the cause.
Both church and state began to feel the necessity of reducing to
subjection under some competent authority the vast hordes of idle and
ignorant men who had embraced monastic life. In the West, monachism
was as yet in its infancy, and was to be stimulated rather than to be
dreaded, but it was far otherwise in the East, where the influence
of the ascetic ideas of India was much more direct and immediate.
The examples of Antony and Pachomius had brought them innumerable
followers. The solitudes of the deserts had become peopled with vast
communities, and as the contagion spread, monasteries arose everywhere
and were rapidly filled and enlarged.[217] The blindly bigoted and the
turbulently ambitious found a place among those whose only aim was
retirement and peace; while the authority wielded by the superior of
each establishment, through the blind obedience claimed under monastic
vows, gave him a degree of power which rendered him not only important
but dangerous. The monks thus became in time a body of no little weight
which it behooved the church to thoroughly control, as it might become
efficient for good or evil. By encouraging and directing it, she
gained an instrument of incalculable force, morally and physically, to
consolidate her authority and extend her influence. How that influence
was used, and how the monks became at times a terror even to the state
is written broadly on the history of the age. Even early in the fifth
century the hordes of savage Nitrian cenobites were the janizaries of
the fiery Cyril, with which he lorded it over the city of Alexandria,
and almost openly bade defiance to the imperial authority. The tumult
in which Orestes nearly lost his life, the banishment of the Jews, and
the shocking catastrophe of Hypatia show how dangerous an element to
society they were even then, when under the guidance of an able and
unscrupulous leader.[218] So the prominent part taken by the monks
in the deplorable Nestorian and Eutychian controversies, the example
of the Abbot Barsumas at the Robber Synod in Ephesus, the exploits
of Theodosius of Jerusalem and Peter of Antioch, who drove out their
bishops and usurped the episcopal chairs, the career of Eutyches
himself, the bloodthirsty rabble of monks who controlled the synod
of Ephesus and endeavored to overawe that of Chalcedon, and, in the
succeeding century, the insurrections against the Emperor Anastasius
which were largely attributed to their efforts—all these were warnings
not lightly to be neglected. The monks, in fact, were fast becoming
not only disagreeable but even dangerous to the civil power; their
organization and obedience to their leaders gave them strength to
seriously threaten the influence even of the hierarchy, and the effort
to keep them strictly under subjection and within their convent walls
became necessary to the peace of both church and state.

At the council of Chalcedon, in 451, the hierarchy had their revenge
for the insults which they had suffered two years before in the Robber
Synod. A large portion of the monks, infected with Eutychianism, came
into direct antagonism with the bishops, whom they defied. With the aid
of the civil power, the bishops triumphed, and endeavored to put an end
for the future to monastic insubordination, by placing the monasteries
under the direct control and supervision of the secular prelates. A
series of canons was adopted which declared that monks and nuns were
not at liberty to marry; but while excommunication was the punishment
provided for the offence, power was given to the bishops to extend
mercy to the offenders. At the suggestion of the Emperor Marcian,
the council deplored the turbulence of the monks who, leaving their
monasteries, stirred up confusion everywhere, and it commanded them to
devote themselves solely to prayer and fasting in the spot which they
had chosen as a retreat from the world. It forbade them to abandon
the holy life to which they had devoted themselves, and pronounced
the dread sentence of the anathema on the renegades who refused to
return and undergo due penance. No monastery was to be founded without
the license of the bishop of the locality, and he alone could give
permission to a monk to leave it for any purpose.[219]

This legislation was well adapted to the end in view, but the evil was
too deep-seated and too powerful to be thus easily eradicated. Finding
the church unable to enforce a remedy, the civil power was compelled to
intervene. As early as 390 Theodosius the Great had ordered the monks
to confine themselves strictly to deserts and solitudes.[220] Two years
later he repealed this law and allowed them to enter the cities.[221]
This laxity was abused, and in 466 the Emperors Leo and Anthemius
issued an edict forbidding for the future all monks to go beyond the
walls of their monasteries on any pretext, except the apocrisarii, or
legal officers, on legitimate business alone, and these were strictly
enjoined not to engage in religious disputes, not to stir up the
people, and not to preside over assemblages of any nature.[222]

History shows us how little obedience this also received, nor is it
probable that much more attention was paid to the imperial rescript
when, in 532, Justinian confirmed the legislation of his predecessors,
and added provisions forbidding those who had once taken the vows
from returning to the world under penalty of being handed over to the
_curia_ of their municipality, with confiscation of their property,
and personal punishment if penniless.[223] Had the effort then been
successful, he would not have been under the necessity of renewing it
in 535 by a law making over to the monastery, by way of satisfaction
to God, the property of any monk presuming to abandon a life of
religion and returning to the cares of the world.[224] The prevalent
laxity of manners is further shown by another provision according to
which the monk who received orders was not allowed to marry, even
if he entered grades in which marriage was permitted to the secular
clergy, the penalty for taking a wife or a concubine being degradation
and dismissal, with incapacity for serving the state.[225] Ten years
later, further legislation was found necessary, and at length the final
expedient was hit upon, by which the apostate monk was handed over
to the bishop to be placed in a monastery, from which if he escaped
again he was delivered to the secular tribunal as incorrigible.[226]
The trouble was apparently incurable. Three hundred and fifty years
later, Leo the Philosopher deplores it, and orders all recalcitrant
monks to be returned to their convents as often as they may escape. As
for the morals of monastic life, it may be sufficient to refer to the
regulation of St. Theodore Studita, in the ninth century, prohibiting
the entrance of even female animals.[227]

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus gradually the irrevocable nature of monastic vows became
established in the East, more from reasons of state than from
ecclesiastical considerations. In the West, matters were longer
in reaching a settlement, and the causes operating were somewhat
different. Monachism there had not become a terror to the civil power,
and its management was left to the church; yet, if its influence was
insufficient to excite tumults and seditions, it was none the less
disorganized, and its disorders were a disgrace to those on whom rested
the responsibility.

The Latin church was not by any means insensible to this disgrace, nor
did it underrate the importance of rendering the vows indissoluble,
of binding its servants absolutely and forever to its service, and of
maintaining its character and influence by endeavoring to enforce a
discipline that should insure purity. During the period sketched above,
and for the two following centuries, there is scarcely a council which
did not enact canons showing at once the persistent effort to produce
these results and the almost insurmountable difficulty of accomplishing
them. It would lead us too far to enter upon the minutiæ of these
perpetually reiterated exhortations and threats, or of the various
expedients which were successively tried. Suffice it to say that the
end in view was never lost sight of, while the perseverance of the
wrongdoer seems to have rivalled that of the disciplinarian. The anvil
bade fair to wear out the hammer, while the confusion and lawlessness
of those dismal ages gave constantly increasing facilities to those
who desired to escape from the strictness of the ascetic life to which
they had devoted themselves. Thus arose a crowd of vagabond monks,
_gyrovagi_, _acephali_, _circilliones_, _sarabaitæ_, who, without
acknowledging obedience to any superior, or having any definite place
of abode, wandered over the face of the country, claiming the respect
and immunities due to a sacred calling, for the purpose of indulging in
an idle and dissolute life—vagrants of the worst description, according
to the unanimous testimony of the ecclesiastical authorities of the

Thus, up to the middle of the fifth century, no regular system of
discipline had been introduced in the monastic establishments of
the Latin church. About that period Cassianus, the first abbot of
St. Victor of Marseilles, wrote out, for the benefit of the ruder
monasticism of the West, the details of discipline in which he had
perfected himself among the renowned communities of the East. He
deplores the absence of any fixed rule in the Latin convents, where
every abbot governed on the plan which suited his fancy; where more
difficulty was found in preserving order among two or three monks
than the Abbot of Tabenna in the Thebaïd experienced with the flock
of five thousand committed to his single charge; and where each
individual retained his own private hoards, which were carefully locked
up and sealed to keep them from the unscrupulous covetousness of his
brethren.[229] How little all these efforts accomplished is clearly
manifested when, in 494, we find Gelasius I. lamenting the incestuous
marriages which were not uncommon among the virgins dedicated to God,
and venturing only to denounce excommunication on the offenders, unless
they should avert it by undergoing public penance. As for widows
who married after professing chastity, he could indicate no earthly
chastisement, but only held out to them the prospect of eternal reward
or punishment, and left it for them to decide whether they would seek
or abandon the better part.[230] Still, the irrevocable nature of the
vow of celibacy was so little understood or respected that in 502
Cæsarius, who had just been translated from the abbacy of a monastery
to the bishopric of Arles, wrote to Pope Symmachus asking him to issue
a precept forbidding marriage to nuns, to which the pontiff promptly

A new apostle was clearly needed to aid the organizing spirit of Rome
in her efforts to regulate the increasing number of devotees, who
threatened to become the worst scandal of the church, and who could
be rendered so efficient an instrument for its aggrandizement. He was
found in the person of St. Benedict of Nursia, who, about the year 494,
at the early age of sixteen, tore himself from the pleasures of the
world, and buried his youth in the solitudes of the Latian Apennines.
A nature that could wrench itself away from the allurements of a
splendid career dawning amid the blandishments of Rome was not likely
to shrink from the austerities which awe and attract the credulous and
the devout. Tempted by the Evil Spirit in the guise of a beautiful
maiden, and finding his resolution on the point of yielding, with a
supreme effort Benedict cast off his simple garment and threw himself
into a thicket of brambles and nettles, through which he rolled until
his naked body was lacerated from head to foot. The experiment, though
rude, was eminently successful; the flesh was effectually conquered,
and Benedict was never again tormented by rebellious desires.[232]
A light so shining was not created for obscurity. Zealous disciples
assembled around him, attracted from distant regions by his sanctity,
and after various vicissitudes he founded the monastery of Monte
Casino, on which for a thousand years were lavished all that veneration
and munificence could accumulate to render illustrious the birthplace
and capital of the great Benedictine Order.

The rule promulgated by Benedict, which virtually became the
established law of Latin Monachism, shows the more practical character
of the western mind. Though pervaded by the austerest asceticism, yet
labor, charity, and good works occupy a much more prominent place in
its injunctions than in the system of the East. Salvation was not
to be sought simply by abstinence and mortification, and the innate
selfishness of the monastic principle was relaxed in favor of a broader
and more human view of the duties of man to his Creator and to his
fellows. This gave to the institution a firmer hold on the affections
of mankind and a more enduring vitality, which preserved its fortunes
through the centuries, in spite of innumerable aberrations and
frightful abuses.

Still there were as yet no irrevocable vows of poverty, chastity, and
obedience exacted of the novice. After a year of probation he promised,
before God and the Saints, to keep the Rule under pain of damnation,
and he was then admitted with imposing religious ceremonies. His
worldly garments were, however, preserved, to be returned to him in
case of expulsion, to which he was liable if incorrigibly disobedient.
If he left the monastery, or if he was ejected, he could return twice,
but after the third admission, if he again abandoned the order, he was
no longer eligible.[233] Voluntary submission was thus the corner-stone
of discipline, and there was nothing indelible in the engagement which
bound the monk to his brethren.

Contemporary with St. Benedict was St. Cæsarius of Arles, whose Rule
has been transmitted to us by his nephew, St. Tetradius. It is very
short, but is more rigid than that of Benedict, inasmuch as it requires
from the applicant the condition of remaining for life in the convent,
nor will it permit his assumption of the habit until he shall have
executed a deed bestowing all his property either on his relatives or
on the establishment of his choice, thus insuring the rule of poverty,
and depriving him of all inducement to retire.[234]

The Rule of St. Benedict, however, overcame all rivalry, and was at
length universally adopted; Charlemagne, indeed, inquired in 811
whether there could be any monks except those who professed obedience
to it.[235] Under it were founded the innumerable monasteries which
sprang up in every part of Europe, and were everywhere the pioneers
of civilization; which exercised a more potent influence in extending
Christianity over the Heathen than all other agencies combined; which
carried the useful arts into barbarous regions, and preserved to modern
times whatever of classic culture has remained to us. If they were
equally efficient in extending the authority of the Roman curia, and in
breaking down the independence of local and national churches, it is
not to be rashly assumed that even that result was a misfortune, when
the anarchical tendencies of the Middle Ages were to be neutralized
principally by the humanizing force of religion, and consolidation
was requisite to carry the church through the wilderness. Until the
thirteenth century the Benedictines were practically without rivals,
and their numbers and holiness may be estimated by the fact that in the
fifteenth century one of their historians computed that the order had
furnished fifty-five thousand five hundred and five blessed members to
the calendar of saints.[236]

Yet it could not but be a scandal to all devout minds that a man who
had once devoted himself to religious observances should return to the
world. Not only did it tend to break down the important distinction
now rapidly developing itself between the clergy and the laity, but
the possibility of such escape interfered with the control of the
church over those who formed so large a class of its members, and
diminished their utility in aiding the progress of its aggrandizement.
We cannot be surprised, therefore, that within half a century after
the death of St. Benedict, among the reforms energetically inaugurated
by St. Gregory the Great, in the first year of his pontificate, was
that of commanding the forcible return of all who abandoned their
profession—the terms of the decretal showing that no concealment had
been thought necessary by the renegades in leading a secular life
and in publicly marrying.[237] Equally determined were his efforts
to reform the abuses which had so relaxed the discipline of some
monasteries that women were allowed perfect freedom of access, and the
monks contracted such intimacy with them that they openly acted as
godfathers to their children;[238] and when, in 601, he learned that
the monks of St. Vitus, on Mount Etna, considered themselves at liberty
to marry, apparently without leaving their convent, he checked the
abuse by the most prompt and decided commands to the ecclesiastical
authorities of Sicily.[239]

By the efforts of Gregory the monk was thus, in theory at least,
separated irrevocably from the world, and committed to an existence
which depended solely upon the church. Cut off from family and friends,
the door closed behind him forever, and his only aspirations, beyond
his own personal wants and hopes, could but be for his abbey, his
order, or the church, with which he was thus indissolubly connected.
There was one exception, however, to this general rule. No married man
was allowed to become a monk unless his wife assented, and likewise
became a nun. The marriage-tie was too sacred to be broken, unless both
parties agreed simultaneously to embrace the better life. Thus, on the
complaint of a wife, Gregory orders her husband to be forcibly removed
from the monastery which he had entered and to be restored to her.
We shall see hereafter how entirely the church in time outgrew these
scruples, and how insignificant the sacrament of marriage became in
comparison with that of ordination or the vow of religion.[240]

The theory of perpetual segregation from the world was thus
established, and it accomplished at last the objects for which it
was designed, but it was too much in opposition to the invincible
tendencies of human nature to be universally enforced without a
struggle which lasted for nearly a thousand years. To follow out
in detail the vicissitudes of this struggle would require too much
space. Its nature will be indicated by occasional references in the
following pages, and meanwhile it will be sufficient to observe how
little was accomplished even in his own age by the energy and authority
of Gregory. It was only a few years after his death that the council
of Paris, in 615, proves to us that residence in monasteries was not
considered necessary for women who took the vows, and that the civil
power had to be invoked to prevent their marriage.[241] Indeed, it
was not uncommon for men to turn their houses, nominally at least,
into convents, living there surrounded with their wives and families,
and deriving no little worldly profit from the assumption of superior
piety, to the scandal of the truly religious.[242] St. Isidor of
Seville, about the same period, copies the words of St. Augustin
in describing the wandering monastic impostors who lived upon the
credulous charity of the faithful;[243] and he also enlarges upon the
disgraceful license of the _acephali_, or clerks bound by no rule,
whose vagabond life and countless numbers were an infamy to the western
kingdoms which they infested.[244] The quotation of this passage by
Louis-le-Débonnaire, in his attempt to reform the church, shows that
these degraded vagrants continued to flourish unchecked in the ninth
century;[245] and, indeed, Smaragdus, in his Commentary on the Rule
of St. Benedict, assures us that the evil had rather increased than

       *       *       *       *       *

Monachism was but one application of the doctrine of justification
by works, which, by the enthusiasm and superstition of ages, was
gradually built into a vast system of sacerdotalism. Through it were
eventually opened to the mediæval church sources of illimitable power
and wealth by means of the complicated machinery of purgatory, masses
for the dead, penances, indulgences, &c., under the sole control of
the central head, to which were committed the power of the keys and
the dispensation of the exhaustless treasure of salvation bestowed on
the church by the Redeemer and perpetually increased by the merits of
the saints. To discuss these collateral themes, however, would carry
us too far from our subject, and I must dismiss them with the remark
that at the period now under consideration there could have been no
anticipation of these ulterior advantages to be gained by assuming to
regulate the mode in which individual piety might seek to propitiate
an offended God. Sufficient motives for the assumption existed in the
evils and aspirations of the moment without anticipating others which
only received their fullest development under the skilful logic of the



While the Latin church had thus been engaged in its hopeless combat
with the incurable vices of a worn-out civilization, it had found
itself confronted by a new and essentially different task. The
Barbarians who wrenched province after province from the feeble grasp
of the Cæsars had to be conquered, or religion and culture would be
involved in the wreck which blotted out the political system of the
Empire. The destinies of the future hung trembling in the balance,
and it might not be an uninteresting speculation to consider what
had been the present condition of the world if Western Europe had
shared the fate of the East, and had fallen under the domination of
a race bigoted in its own belief and incapable of learning from its
subjects. Fortunately for mankind, the invaders of the West were not
semi-civilized and self-satisfied; their belief was not a burning
zeal for a faith sufficiently elevated to meet many of the wants of
the soul; they were simple barbarians, who, while they might despise
the cowardly voluptuaries on whom they trampled, could not fail to
recognize the superiority of a civilization awful even in its ruins.
Fortunately, too, the Latin church was a more compact and independently
organized body than its Eastern rival, inspired by a warmer faith and a
more resolute ambition. It faced the difficulties of its new position
with consummate tact and tireless energy; and whether its adversaries
were Pagans like the Franks, or Arians like the Goths and Burgundians,
by alternate pious zeal and artful energy it triumphed where success
seemed hopeless, and where bare toleration would have appeared a
sufficient victory.

While the celibacy, which bound every ecclesiastic to the church and
dissevered all other ties, may doubtless be credited with a leading
share in this result, it introduced new elements of disorder where
enough existed before. The chaste purity of the Barbarians at their
advent aroused the wondering admiration of Salvianus, as that of
their fathers four centuries earlier had won the severe encomium of
Tacitus;[247] but the virtue which sufficed for the simplicity of the
German forests was not long proof against the allurements accumulated
by the cynicism of Roman luxury. At first the wild converts, content
with the battle-axe and javelin, might leave the holy functions of
religion to their new subjects, their strength scarcely feeling the
restraint of a faith which to them was little more than an idle
ceremony; but as they gradually settled down in their conquests, and
recognized that the high places of the church conferred riches, honor,
and power, they coveted the prizes which were too valuable to be
monopolized by an inferior race. Gradually the hierarchy thus became
filled with a class of warrior bishops, who, however efficient in
maintaining and extending ecclesiastical prerogatives, were not likely
to shed lustre on their order by the rigidity of their virtue, or to
remove, by a strict enforcement of discipline, the scandals inseparable
from endless civil commotions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reference has been made above (p. 80), to the perpetual iteration
of the canon of celibacy, and of the ingenious devices to prevent
its violation, by the numerous councils held during this period,
showing at once the disorders which prevailed among the clergy and the
fruitlessness of the effort to repress them. The history of the time is
full of examples illustrating the various phases of this struggle.

The episcopal chair, which at an earlier period had been filled by the
votes of the people, and which subsequently came under the control
of the Papacy, was at this time a gift in the hands of the untamed
Merovingians, who carelessly bestowed it on him who could most lavishly
fill the royal coffers, or who had earned it by courtly subservience
or warlike prowess. The supple Roman or the turbulent Frank, who
perchance could not recite a line of the Mass, thus leaped at once from
the laity through all the grades;[248] and as he was most probably
married, there can be no room for surprise if the rule of continence,
thus suddenly assumed from the most worldly motives, should often prove
unendurable. Even in the early days of the Frankish conquest we see a
cultured noble, like Genebaldus, married to the niece of St. Remy, when
placed in the see of Laon ostensibly putting his wife away and visiting
her only under pretext of religious instruction, until the successive
births of a son and a daughter—whom he named Latro and Vulpecula in
token of his sin—and we may not unreasonably doubt the chronicler’s
veracity when he informs us that the remorse of Genebaldus led him
to submit to seven years’ imprisonment as an expiatory penance.[249]
Equally instructive is the story of Felix of Nantes, whose wife,
banished from his bed on his elevation to the episcopate, rebelled
against the separation, and, finding him obdurate to her allurements,
was filled with jealousy, believing that only another attachment could
account for his coldness. Hoping to detect and expose his infidelity,
she stole into the chamber where he was sleeping and saw on his breast
a lamb, shining with heavenly light, indicative of the peaceful repose
which had replaced all earthly passions in his heart.[250] A virtue
which was regarded as worthy of so miraculous a manifestation must
have been rare indeed among the illiterate and untutored nominees of
a licentious court, and that it was so in fact is indicated by the
frequent injunctions of the councils that bishops must regard their
wives as sisters; while a canon promulgated by the council of Macon,
in 581, ordering that no woman should enter the chamber of a bishop
without two priests, or at least two deacons, in her company, shows how
little hesitation there was in publishing to the world the suspicions
that were generally entertained.[251] How the rule was sometimes obeyed
by the wild prelates of the age, while trampling upon other equally
well-known canons, is exemplified by the story of Macliaus of Britanny.
Chanao, Count of Britanny, had made way with three of his brothers; the
fourth, Macliaus, after an unsuccessful conspiracy, sought safety in
flight, entered the church, and was created Bishop of Vannes. On the
death of Chanao, he promptly seized the vacant throne, left the church,
threw off his episcopal robes, and took back to himself the wife whom
he had quitted on obtaining the see of Vannes—for all of which he was
duly excommunicated by his brother prelates.[252]

When such was the condition of morals and discipline in the high places
of the church, it is not to be wondered at if the second council of
Tours, in 567, could declare that the people suspect, not indeed all,
but many of the arch-priests, vicars, deacons, and subdeacons, of
maintaining improper relations with their wives, and should command
that no one in orders should visit his own house except in company
with a subordinate clerk, without whom, moreover, he was never to
sleep; the clerk refusing the performance of the duty to be whipped,
and the priest neglecting the precaution to be deprived of communion
for thirty days. Any one in orders found with his wife was to be
excommunicated for a year, deposed, and relegated among the laity;
while the arch-priest who neglected the enforcement of these rules was
to be imprisoned on bread and water for a month. An equally suggestive
illustration of the condition of society is afforded by another
canon, directed against the frequent marriages of nuns, who excused
themselves on the ground that they had taken the veil to avoid the
risk of forcible abduction. Allusion is made to the laws of Childebert
and Clotair, maintained in vigor by Charibert, punishing such attempts
severely, and girls who anticipate them are directed to seek temporary
asylum in the church until their kindred can protect them under the
royal authority, or find husbands for them.[253]

       *       *       *       *       *

Morals were even worse among the Arian Wisigoths of Spain than among
the orthodox believers of France. It is true that priestly marriage
formed no part of the Arian doctrines, but as the heresy originated
prior to the council of Nicæa, and professed no obedience to that or
any other council or decretal, its practice in this respect was left
to such influence as individual asceticism might exercise. Having no
acknowledged head to promulgate general canons or to insist upon their
observance, no rule of the kind, even if theoretically admitted, could
be effectually enforced. How little, indeed, the rule was obeyed is
shown by the proceedings of the third council of Toledo, held in
589 to confirm the reunion of the Spanish kingdom with the orthodox
church. It complains that even the converted bishops, priests, and
deacons are found to be publicly living with their wives, which it
forbids for the future under threat of degrading all recalcitrants to
the rank of lector.[254] The conversion of the kingdom to Catholicism
did not improve matters. The clergy continued not only to associate
with their wives, but also to marry openly, for the secular power was
soon afterwards forced to interfere, and King Recared I. issued a law
directing that any priest, deacon, or subdeacon connecting himself with
a woman by marriage or otherwise, should be separated from his guilty
consort by either the bishop or judge, and be punished according to
the canons of the church, while the unfortunate woman was subjected
to a hundred lashes and denied all access to her husband. To insure
the enforcement of the edict, the heavy mulct of two pounds of gold
was levied on any bishop neglecting his duty in the premises.[255]
Recared also interposed to put a stop to the frequent marriages of
nuns, whose separation from their husbands and condign punishment
were decreed, with the enormous fine of five pounds of gold exacted
of the careless ecclesiastic who might neglect to carry the law into
effect—a fair measure of the difficulties experienced in enforcing the
rule of celibacy.[256] This legislation had little effect, for a half
century later the eighth council of Toledo, in 653, shows us that all
ranks of the clergy, from bishops to subdeacons, had still no scruple
in publicly maintaining relations with wives and concubines;[257]
and, despite these well-meant efforts, clerical morals went from bad
to worse until the licentious reign of King Witiza broke down all
the accustomed barriers. According to the monkish chroniclers, that
reckless prince issued, in 706, a law authorizing not only polygamy
but unlimited concubinage to both laity and clergy; a privilege of
which it is not unreasonable, from what we have seen, to suppose that
they largely availed themselves.[258] There seems to be no record of
any remonstrance on the part of the Gothic prelates, and when, three
years later, Pope Constantine took cognizance of the innovation, and
threatened Witiza with dethronement if he should not abrogate his
iniquitous legislation, the monarch retorted with a promise to repeat
the exploits of his predecessor Alaric, in sacking and plundering the
Apostolic city. It is a little singular, however, that one of the
first acts of the usurper, Don Roderic, in 711, was the repeal of this
obnoxious law.[259] If he had any intentions of undertaking the reform
of his subjects’ morals, however, his adventure with Count Julian’s
daughter and the Saracenic invasion caused its indefinite postponement.

       *       *       *       *       *

Italy was almost equally far removed from the ideal purity of Jerome
and Augustin. In the early part of the sixth century was fabricated
an account of a supposititious council, said to have been held in
Rome by Silvester I., and the neglect of celibacy is evident when it
was felt to be necessary to insert in this forgery a canon forbidding
marriage to priests, under penalty of deprivation of functions for ten
years.[260] Even in this it is observable that there was no thought of
annulling the marriage, as subsequently became established in orthodox
doctrines. Nothing can be more suggestive of the demoralization of
the Italian church than the permission granted about the year 580 by
Pelagius II. for the elevation to the diaconate of a clerk at Florence,
who while a widower had had children by a concubine. What renders the
circumstance peculiarly significant is the fact that the Pope pleads
the degeneracy of the age as his apology for this laxity.[261]

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was the condition of the Christian world when Gregory the
Great, in 590, ascended the pontifical throne. He was too devout a
churchman and too sagacious a statesman not to appreciate thoroughly
the importance of the canon in all its various aspects—not only as
necessary to ecclesiastical purity according to the ideas of the
age, but also as a prime element in the influence of the church over
the minds of the people, as well as an essential aid in extending
ecclesiastical power, and in retaining undiminished the enormous
possessions acquired by the church through the munificence of the
pious. The prevailing laxity, indeed, was already threatening
serious dilapidation of the ecclesiastical estates and foundations.
How clearly this was understood is shown by Pelagius I. in 557, when
he refused for a year to permit the consecration of a bishop elected
by the Syracusans. On their persisting in their choice he wrote to
the Patrician Cethegus, giving as the reason for his opposition the
prelate’s wife and children, by whom, if they survive, the substance of
the church is wont to be jeopardized;[262] and his consent was finally
given only on the condition that the bishop elect should provide
competent security against any conversion of the estate of the diocese
for the benefit of his family, a detailed statement of the property
being made out in advance to guard against attempted infractions of
the agreement. That this was not a merely local abuse is evident
from a law of the Wisigoths, which provides that on the accession of
any bishop, priest, or deacon, an accurate inventory of all church
possessions under his control shall be made by five freemen, and that
after his death an inquest shall be held for the purpose of making good
any deficiencies out of the estate of the decedent, and forcing the
restoration of anything that might have been alienated.[263]

There evidently was ample motive for a thorough reformation, and
Gregory accordingly addressed himself energetically to the work of
enforcing the canons. In his decretals there are numerous references
to the subject, showing that he lost no opportunity of reviving the
neglected rules of discipline regarding the ordination of digami,[264]
the residence of women, and abstinence from all intercourse with
the sex.[265] In his zeal he even went so far as to decree that any
one guilty of even a single lapse from virtue should be forever
debarred from the ministry of the altar[266]—a law nullified by its
own severity, which rendered its observance impossible. In 587, his
predecessor Pelagius had ordered that in Sicily the Roman rule should
be followed of separating subdeacons from their wives, but it appeared
cruel to Gregory that this should be enforced on those who had no
warning of such rigor when accepting the subdiaconate, and one of the
earliest acts of his pontificate was to allow them to resume relations
with their wives; but he ordered that they should abstain from all
service of the altar, and that in future no one should be admitted to
that grade who would not formally take a vow of continence.[267] There
is not much trace in contemporary history of any improvement resulting
from these efforts, and towards the very close of his pontificate,
in 602, we find him entreating Queen Brunhilda to exercise her power
in restraining the still unbridled license of the Frankish clergy—a
task which he assures her is essential if she desires to transmit
her possessions in peace to her posterity.[268] He also endeavored
to reform the perennial abuse of the residence of women, a reform
which the church has been vainly attempting ever since the canon of
Nicæa.[269] That Gregory’s zeal, however, exercised some influence is
manifested by the fact that tradition in the Middle Ages occasionally
associated his name with the introduction of celibacy in the church.
The impression which he produced is shown by the wild legend which
relates that, soon after issuing and strictly enforcing a decretal on
the subject, he happened to have his fishponds drawn off, when the
heads of no less than six thousand infants were found in them—the
offspring of ecclesiastics, destroyed to avoid detection—which filled
him with so much horror that he abandoned the vain attempt.[270] Yet in
Italy the residence of wives was still permitted to those in orders,
under the restriction that they should be treated as sisters;[271]
and Gregory relates as worthy of all imitation the case of a holy
priest of Nursia who, following the example of the saints in depriving
himself of even lawful indulgences, had persistently relegated his
wife to a distance. When at length he lay on his death-bed, to all
appearance inanimate, the wife came to bid him a last farewell, and
placed a mirror to his lips, to see whether life was yet extinct. Her
kindly ministrations roused the dominant asceticism in his expiring
soul, and he gathered strength enough to exclaim, “Woman, depart!
Take away the straw, for there is yet fire here”—which supreme effort
of self-immolation procured him on the instant a beatific vision of
St. Peter and St. Paul, during which he lapsed ecstatically into

In considering so thoroughly artificial a system of morality, it is
perhaps scarcely worth while to inquire into the value of a virtue
which could only be preserved by shunning temptation with so scrupulous
a care.



Even the energy and authority of Gregory the Great were powerless to
restore order in the chaos of an utterly demoralized society. In Spain,
the languishing empire of the Wisigoths was fast sinking under the
imbecility which invited the easy conquest of the Saracens. In France,
Brunhilda and Fredegonda were inflaming the fierce contentions which
eventually destroyed the Merovingian dynasty, and which abandoned the
kingdom at once to the vices of civilization and the savage atrocities
of barbarism.[273] In Italy, the Lombards, more detested than any of
their predecessors, by their ceaseless ravages made the Ostrogothic
rule regretted, and gleaned with their swords such scanty remnants of
plunder as had escaped the hordes which had successively swept from the
gloomy forests of the North across the rich valleys and fertile plains
of the mistress of the world. Anarchy and confusion everywhere scarce
offered a field for the exercise of the humbler virtues, nor could the
church expect to escape the corruption which infected every class from
which she could draw her recruits. Still, amid the crowd of turbulent
and worldly ecclesiastics, whose only aim was the gratification of the
senses or the success of criminal ambition, some holy men were to be
found who sought the mountain and forest as a refuge from the ceaseless
and all-pervading disorder around them. St. Gall and St. Columba,
Willibrod and Boniface, were types of these. Devoted to the severest
asceticism, burying themselves in the wilderness and subsisting on such
simple fare as the labor of their hands could wring from a savage land,
the selfishness of the anchorite did not extinguish in them the larger
aims of the Christian, and by their civilizing labors among the heathen
they proved themselves worthy disciples of the Apostles.

Thicker grew the darkness as Tarik drove the Gothic fugitives before
him on the plains of Xeres, and as the house of Pepin d’Heristel
gradually supplanted the long-haired descendants of Clovis. The
Austrasian Mayors of the Palace had scanty reverence for mitre and
crozier, and it is a proof how little hold the clergy had earned upon
the respect and affection of the people, when the usurpers in that long
revolution did not find it necessary to conciliate their support. In
fact, the policy of those shrewd and able men was rather to oppress
the church and to parcel out its wealth and dignities among their
warriors, who made no pretence of piety nor deigned to undertake the
mockery of religious duties. Rome could interpose no resistance to
these abuses, for, involved alternately in strife with the Lombards and
the Iconoclastic Emperors, the Popes implored the aid of the oppressor
himself, and were in no position to protest against the aggressions
which he might commit at home.

In Italy, the condition of discipline may be inferred from the fact
that, in 721, Gregory II. considered it necessary to call a synod for
the special purpose of condemning incestuous unions and the marriages
of nuns, which he declared were openly practised,[274] and the canons
then promulgated received so little attention that they had to be
repeated by another synod in 732.[275] In fact, the vow of chastity was
frequently taken by widows that they might escape a second marriage
and thus be able to live in shameless license without being subject
to the watchful control of a husband, and an edict of Arechis Duke of
Beneventum about the year 774 orders that all such godless women shall
be seized and shut up in convents.[276] That the secular clergy should
consider ordination no bar to matrimony need therefore excite little
surprise. There is extant a charter of Talesperianus, Bishop of Lucca,
in 725, by which he confirms a little monastery and hospital to Romuald
the priest and his wife—“presbiteria sua.” The document recites that
this couple had come on a pilgrimage from beyond the Po; that they had
settled in the lands of the Convent of St. Peter and St. Martin in the
diocese of Lucca, where they had bought land and built the institution
which the good bishop thus confirms to them with certain privileges.
He evidently felt that there was nothing irregular in their maintaining
the connection, and he lays upon them no conditions of separation.[277]

In France, it may be readily believed that discipline was even more
neglected. For eighty years scarce a council was held; no attempts were
made to renew or enforce the rules of discipline, and the observances
of religion were at length well-nigh forgotten. In 726, Boniface even
felt scruples as to associating in ordinary intercourse with men so
licentious and depraved as the Frankish bishops and priests, and he
applied to Gregory II. for the solution of his doubts. Gregory, in
reply, ordered him to employ argument in endeavoring to convince
them of their errors, and by no means to withdraw himself from their
society,[278] a politic toleration of vice contrasting strangely with
his fierce defiance of the iconoclastic heresy of Leo the Isaurian,
when he risked the papacy itself in his eagerness to preserve his
beloved images.

When, however, the new dynasty began to assume a permanent position,
it sought to strengthen itself by the influence of the church. Like
the modern Charlemagne, it saw in a restoration of religion a means
of assuring its stability by linking its fortunes with those of the
hierarchy. A radical in opposition becomes of necessity a conservative
in power; and the arts which had served to supplant the hereditary
occupants of the throne were no longer advisable after success had
indicated a new line of policy. As Clovis embraced Christianity in
order to consolidate his conquests into an empire, so Carloman and
Pepin-le-Bref sought the sanction of religion to consecrate their power
to their descendants, and the Carlovingian system thenceforth became
that of law and order, organizing a firm and settled government out of
the anarchical chaos of social elements.

It was the pious Carloman who first saw clearly how necessary was
the aid of the church in any attempt to introduce civilization and
subordination among his turbulent subjects. Immediately on his
accession, he called upon St. Boniface to assist him in the work, and
the Apostle of Germany undertook the arduous task. How arduous it
was may be conceived from his description of the utterly demoralized
condition of the clergy, when he appealed to Pope Zachary for advice
and authority to assist in eradicating the frightful promiscuous
licentiousness which was displayed with careless cynicism throughout
all grades of the ecclesiastical body.[279] The details are too
disgusting for translation, but the statement can readily be believed
when we see what manner of men filled the controlling positions in the

Charles Martel had driven out St. Rigobert, Archbishop of Rheims,
and had bestowed that primatial see on one of his warriors named
Milo, who soon succeeded in likewise obtaining possession of the
equally important archiepiscopate of Trèves.[280] Milo was himself
an indication of the prevailing laxity of discipline, for he was
the son of Basinus his predecessor in the see of Trèves.[281] He is
described as being a clerk in tonsure, but in every other respect an
irreligious laic, yet Boniface, with all the aid of his royal patrons,
was unable to oust him from his inappropriate dignities, and in 752,
ten years after the commencement of his reforms, we find Pope Zachary,
in response to an appeal for advice, counselling him to leave Milo and
other similar wolves in sheep’s clothing to the divine vengeance.[282]
Boniface, apparently, found it requisite to follow this advice and the
divine vengeance did not come until Milo had enjoyed his incongruous
dignities for forty years, when at length he was removed by an
appropriate death, received from a wild boar in hunting.[283] He was
only a type of many others who openly defied all attempts to remove
them. One, who is described as “pugnator et fornicator,” gave up, it
is true, the spiritualities of his see, but held to the temporalities
with a gripe that nothing could loosen; another utterly disregarded
the excommunications launched at his head, and Zachary and Boniface
at last were fain to abandon him to his evil courses.[284] Somewhat
more success, indeed, he had with Gervilius, son and successor to
Geroldus, Bishop of Mainz. The latter, accompanying Carloman in an
expedition against the Saxons, was killed in battle. Bishop Gervilius,
in another foray, recognized his father’s slayer, invited him to a
friendly interview, and treacherously stabbed him, exclaiming, in the
rude poetry of the chronicler, “Accipe jam ferrum quo patrem vindico
carum.” This act of filial piety was not looked upon as unclerical,
until Boniface took it up; Gervilius was finally forced to abandon the
see of Mainz, and it was given to Boniface himself.[285] When such were
the prelates, it is not to be supposed that rules of abstinence and
asceticism received much attention from their subordinates. Boniface
admits, in an epistle to King Ecgberht, that, in consequence of the
universal licentiousness, he was compelled to restore the guilty
to their functions after penitence, as the canonical punishment of
dismissal would leave none to perform the sacred offices.[286] What
the church, however, could not prevent on earth, it at least had the
satisfaction of seeing punished in the future life. It was principally
for the support given to Milo of Rheims among his many other similar
misdeeds, that Charles Martel was condemned to eternal torture, which
was, as a wholesome example, made manifest to the most incredulous. St.
Eucherius, in a vision, saw him plunged into the depths of hell, and on
consulting St. Boniface and Fulrad Abbot of St. Denis, it was resolved
to open Charles’s tomb. The only tenant of the sepulchre was found to
be a serpent, and the walls were blackened as though by fire, thus
proving the truth of the revelation, and holding out an awful warning
to future wrongdoers.[287]

How much of the license complained of was indiscriminate concubinage,
and how much was merely intercourse with legitimate wives, we have no
means of ascertaining. The latter Boniface succeeded in suppressing,
for the church could control her sacraments.[288] The former was beyond
his power.

Armed with full authority from Pope Zachary, Carloman and Boniface
commenced the labor of reducing to order this chaos of passion and
license. Under their auspices a synod was held, April 23, 742, in
which all unchaste priests and deacons were declared incapable of
holding benefices, were degraded and forced to do penance. Bishops were
required to have a witness to testify to the purity of their lives and
doctrines, before they could perform their episcopal functions. For
all future lapses from virtue, priests were to be severely whipped and
imprisoned for two years on bread and water, with prolongation of the
punishment at the discretion of their bishops. Other ecclesiastics,
monks, and nuns were to be whipped thrice and similarly imprisoned
for one year, besides the stigma of having the head shaved. All
monasteries, moreover, were to adopt and follow rigidly the rule of St.

The stringency of these measures shows not only the extent of the
evil requiring such means of cure, but the fixed determination of
the authorities to effect their purpose. The clergy, however, did
not submit without resistance. It is probable that they stirred up
the people, and that signs of general disapprobation were manifested
at a rigor so extreme in punishing faults which for more than two
generations had passed wholly unnoticed, for during the same year
Zachary addressed an epistle to the Franks with the object of enlisting
them in the cause. The ill-success of their arms against the Pagans
he attributes to the vices of their clergy, and he promises them
that if they show themselves obedient to Boniface, and if they can
enjoy the prayers of pure and holy priests, they shall in future have
an easy triumph over their heathen foes.[290] Yet many adulterous
priests and bishops, noted for the infamy of their lives, pretended
that they had received from Rome itself dispensations to continue in
their ministry—an allegation which Zachary of course repelled with

Carloman, however, pursued his self-imposed task without flinching. On
March 1st, 743, he held another synod at Leptines, where the clergy
promised to observe the ancient canons, and to restore the discipline
of the church. The statutes enacted the previous year were again
declared to be in full vigor for future offences, while for previous
ones penitence and degradation were once more decreed.[292]

These regulations affected only Austrasia, the German portion of the
Frankish empire, ruled by Carloman. His brother, Pepin-le-Bref, who
governed Neustria, or France, was less pious, and had not apparently
as yet recognized the policy of reforming out of their possessions
the warrior vassals whom his father had gratified with ecclesiastical
benefices. At length, however, he was induced to lend his aid, and in
744 he assembled a synod at Soissons for the purpose. So completely
had the discipline of the church been neglected and forgotten, that
Pepin was obliged to appeal to Pope Zachary for an authoritative
declaration as to the grades in which marriage was prohibited.[293]
Yet his measures were but lukewarm, for he contented himself with
simply forbidding unchastity in priests, the marriage of nuns, and the
residence of stranger women with clerks, no special punishment being
threatened, beyond a general allusion to existing laws.[294]

Thus assailed by both the supreme ecclesiastical and temporal
authorities, the clergy still were stubborn. Some defended themselves
as being legitimately entitled to have a concubine—or rather, we may
presume, a wife. Among these we find a certain Bishop Clement described
as a pestilent heresiarch, with followers who maintained that his
two children, born during his prelacy, did not unfit him for his
episcopal functions; and a synod held in Rome, October 31st, 745, was
required for his condemnation, the local authorities apparently proving
powerless. Even this was not sufficient, for in January, 747, we find
Zachary directing Boniface to bring him before a local council, and if
he still proved contumacious, to refer the matter again to Rome.[295]
Others, again, unwilling to forego their secular mode of existence, or
to abandon the livelihood afforded by the church, were numerous and
hardy enough to ask Pepin and Carloman to set apart for them churches
and monasteries in which they could live as they were accustomed to
do. So nearly did they succeed in this attempt, that Boniface found it
necessary to appeal to Zachary to prevent so flagrant an infraction of
the canons, and Zachary wrote to the princes with instructions as to
the mode of answering the petition.[296] Others, still more audacious,
assailed Boniface in every way, endeavored to weary him out, and
even, rightly regarding him as the cause of their persecution and
tribulations, made attempts upon his life.[297]

That he should have escaped, indeed, is surprising, when the character
of the age is considered, and the nature of the evils inflicted on
those who must have regarded the reform as a wanton outrage on their
rights. As late as 748, Boniface describes the false bishops and
priests, sacrilegious and wandering hypocrites and adulterers, as much
more numerous than those who as yet had been forced to compliance with
the rules. Driven from the churches, but supported by the sympathizing
people, they performed their ministry among the fields and in the
cabins of the peasants, who concealed them from the ecclesiastical
authorities.[298] This is not a description of mere sensual worldlings,
and it is probable that by this time persecution had ranged the
evil-disposed on the winning side. Those who thus exercised their
ministry in secret and in wretchedness, retaining the veneration of
the people, were therefore men who believed themselves honorably and
legitimately married, and who were incapable of sacrificing wife and
children for worldly advantage or in blind obedience to a rule which to
them was novel, unnatural, and indefensible.

Boniface escaped from the vengeful efforts of those who suffered from
his zeal, to fall, in 755, under the sword of the equally ungrateful
Frisians. It is probable that up to the time of his death he was
occupied with the reformation of the clergy in conjunction with his
missionary labors, for in 752 we find him still engaged in the hopeless
endeavor to eject the unclerical prelates, who even yet held over from
the iron age of Charles Martel. His disappearance from the scene,
however, made but little change in the movement which had owed so much
to his zeal.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 747 Carloman’s pious aspirations had led him from a throne to
a cloister, and the monastery of Monte Casino welcomed its most
illustrious inmate. Pepin received the whole vast kingdom, and
his ambitious designs drew him daily closer to the church, the
importance of whose support he commenced to appreciate. His policy,
in consolidating the power of his house and in founding a new
dynasty, led him necessarily to reorganize the anarchical elements
of society. As an acknowledged monarch, a regularly constituted
hierarchy and recognized subordination to the laws, both civil and
ecclesiastical, were requisite to the success of his government and to
the establishment of his race. Accordingly, we find him carrying out
systematically the work commenced by Carloman and Boniface, to which at
first his support had been rather negative than positive.

Six weeks after the martyrdom of Boniface, Pepin held a synod in his
royal palace of Verneuil, in which this tendency is very apparent. Full
power was given to the bishops in their respective dioceses to enforce
the canons of the church on the clergy, the monks, and the laity. The
monasteries were especially intrusted to the episcopal care, and means
were provided for reducing the refractory to submission. The rule of
Benedict was proclaimed as in force in all conventual establishments,
and cloistered residence was strictly enjoined. All ecclesiastics
were ordered to pay implicit obedience to their bishops, and this was
secured by the power of excommunication, which was no longer, as in
earlier ages, the simple suspension from religious privileges, but was
a ban which deprived the offender of all association with his fellows,
and exposed him, if contumacious, to exile by the secular power. By
the appointment of metropolitans, a tribunal of higher resort was
instituted, while two synods to be held each year gave the opportunity
both of legislation and of final judgment. Submission to their
decisions was insured by threatening stripes to all who should appeal
from them to the royal court.[299]

Such are the main features, as far as they relate to our subject, of
this Capitulary, which so strikingly reveals the organizing system of
the Carlovingian polity. Carried out by the rare intelligence and vigor
of Charlemagne, it gave a precocious development of civilization to
Europe, transitory because in advance of the age, and because it was
based on the intellectual force of the ruler, and not on the virtue and
cultivation of a people as yet too barbarous to appreciate it.

The organization of the church, moreover, received at the same time
an efficient impulse by the institution of the order of canons,
founded virtually in 762, the year in which St. Chrodegang, Bishop
of Metz, promulgated the Rule for their government. This Rule of
course entirely forbids all intercourse with women, and endeavors to
suppress it by punishing transgressors with stripes, incarceration,
and deposition.[300] The lofty rank of St. Chrodegang, who was a cousin
of Pepin-le-Bref, and the eminent piety which merited canonization,
gave him wide influence which doubtless assisted in extending the new
institution, but it also had recommendations of its own which were
sufficient to insure its success. By converting the cathedral clergy
into monks, bound by implicit obedience towards their superiors, it
brought no little increase of power to the bishops, and enabled them to
exert new authority and influence. It is no wonder therefore that the
Order spread rapidly and was adopted in most of the dioceses.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a century we hear nothing more of sacerdotal marriage—and yet it
may be doubted whether clerical morality had really been improved
by the well-meant reforms of Boniface. These were followed up by
Charlemagne with all his resistless energy, and the importance which
he attached to the subject is shown by an epistle of Adrian I. denying
certain assertions made to the Frankish sovereign, inculpating the
purity of the Roman clergy. Adrian, in defending his flock, assumes
that the object of the slanders can only have been to produce a quarrel
between himself and Charlemagne, who must evidently have made strong
representations on the subject to the Pontiff.[301] Under such pressure
perhaps there was something less of shameless licentiousness; the
episcopal chairs were no longer defiled by the cynical lubricity of
unworthy prelates; but in the mass of the clergy the passions, deprived
of all legitimate gratification, could not be restrained in a race so
little accustomed to self-control, and unchastity remained a corroding
ulcer which Charlemagne and Louis-le-Débonnaire vainly endeavored
to eradicate. The former, indeed, we find asking in 811 whether the
only difference between clerk and layman is that the former does not
bear arms and is not publicly married;[302] while Ghaerbald, Bishop
of Liége, a few years before had ordered that all priests maintaining
intercourse with their wives should be deprived of their benefices and
be subjected to penitence until death.[303]

It would be an unprofitable task to recapitulate the constantly
repeated legislation prohibiting the residence of women with the
clergy and repressing the disorders and irregularities of the monastic
establishments. It would be but a reiteration of the story already
related in previous centuries, and its only importance would be in
showing by the frequency of the edicts how utterly ineffectual they
were. When Louis-le-Débonnaire, in 826, decreed[304] that the seduction
of a nun was to be punished by the death of both the partners in guilt;
that the property of both was to be confiscated to the church, and that
the count in whose district the crime occurred, if he neglected its
prosecution, was to be degraded, deprived of his office, undergo public
penance, and pay his full wer-gild to the fisc, the frightful severity
of the enactment is the measure of the impossibility of effecting its
purpose, and of the inefficiency of the reformation which had been
so elaborately prepared and so energetically promulgated by Louis in

But perhaps the most convincing evidence of the debased morality of the
clergy, and of the low standard which even the most zealous prelates
were forced to adopt, is to be found in a curious fabrication by the
authors of the False Decretals. The collection of decretals which they
put forth in the names of the early popes embodied their conception
of a perfect church establishment, as adapted to the necessities and
aspirations of the ninth century. While straining every point to
throw off all subjection to the temporal power, and to obtain for the
hierarchy full and absolute control over all ecclesiastical matters and
persons, they seem to have felt it necessary to relax in an important
point the rigor of the canons respecting sacerdotal purity. Gregory the
Great had proclaimed in the clearest and most definite manner the rule
that a single lapse from virtue condemned the sinner to irrevocable
degradation, and rendered him forever unfit for the ministry of the
altar.[306] Yet “Isidor Mercator” added to a genuine epistle of Gregory
a long passage elaborately arguing the necessity of forgiveness for
those who expiate by repentance the sin of impurity, “of which, among
many, so few are guiltless.”[307] The direct testimony is notable, but
not less so is the indirect evidence of the prevalent laxity which
could induce such a bid for popularity on the part of high churchmen
like those concerned in the Isidorian forgeries.

Evidence, also, is not wanting, that the denial of the appropriate and
healthful human affections led to the results which might be expected
of fearful and unnatural crimes. That the inmates of monasteries,
debarred from female society, occasionally abandoned themselves to the
worst excesses, or, breaking through all restraint, indulged in less
reprehensible but more open scandals, is proclaimed by Charlemagne, who
threatened to vindicate the outrage upon religion with the severest
punishment.[308] Nor were the female convents more successfully
regulated, for the council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 836, states that
in many places they were rather brothels than houses of God; and it
shows how close a supervision over the spouses of Christ was thought
requisite when it proceeds to direct that nunneries shall be so built
as to have no dark corners in which scandals may be perpetrated out of
view.[309] The effect of these efforts may be estimated from a remark
in a collection of laws which bears the name of Erchenbald, Chancellor
of Charlemagne, but which is rather attributable to the close of the
ninth century, that the licentiousness of nuns commonly resulted in
a worse crime—infanticide;[310] and, as this is extracted textually
from an epistle of St. Boniface to Ethelbald, King of Mercia,[311]
it is presumable that the evil became notorious simultaneously with
the reform under the early Carlovingians, and continued unabated
throughout their dynasty. One device to subjugate nature, adopted in
the monasteries, was to let blood at stated intervals, in the hope
of reducing the system and thus mitigating the effects of prolonged
continence—a device prohibited by Louis-le-Débonnaire, but long
subsequently maintained as part of monastic discipline.[312] As regards
the secular clergy, even darker horrors are asserted by Theodulf,
Bishop of Orleans, and other prelates, who forbade to their clergy the
residence of mother, aunt, and sister, in consequence of the crimes so
frequently perpetrated with them at the instigation of the devil;[313]
and the truth of this hideous fact is unfortunately confirmed by the
declarations of councils held at various periods.[314]

If, under the external polish of Carlovingian civilization, such utter
demoralization existed, while the laws were enforced by the stern
vigor of Charlemagne, or the sensitive piety of Louis-le-Débonnaire,
it is easy to understand what was the condition of society when the
sons of the latter involved the whole empire in a ceaseless tumult of
civil war. Not only was the watchful care of the first two emperors
withdrawn, but the state was turned against itself, and rapine and
desolation became almost universal. The royal power was parcelled out,
by the rising feudal system, among a crowd of nobles whose energies
were solely directed to consolidating their position, and was chiefly
employed, as far as it affected the church, in granting abbeys and
other ecclesiastical dignities to worthless laymen, whose support
could only be secured by bribes which the royal fisc could no longer
supply. Pagan Danes and infidel Saracens were ravaging the fairest
provinces of the empire, and their blows fell with peculiar weight on
the representatives of a hated religion. For seventy years previous
to the treaty of Clair-sur-Epte no mass resounded in the walls of the
cathedral church of Coutances, so fierce and unremitting had been the
incursions of the Northmen. It is therefore no wonder that, as early
as 845, the bishops assembled at the council of Vernon confess that
their ecclesiastical authority is no longer sufficient to prevent the
marriage of monks and nuns and to suppress the crowds who escaped from
their convents and wandered over the country in licentiousness and
vagabondage. To restrain these disorders they are obliged to invoke
the royal power to cast into prison these reprobates and force them to
undergo canonical penance.[315]

During this period of anarchy and lawlessness, the church was
skilfully emancipating itself from subjection to the temporal power,
and was laying the foundation of that supremacy which was eventually
to dominate Christendom. While its aspirations and ambitions were
thus worldly, and its ranks were recruited from a generation trained
under such influences, it is easy to believe that the disorders which
Charlemagne himself could not repress, grew more and more flagrant.
Even the greatly augmented power of the papacy added to the increasing
license, although Nicholas I. in 861 had ordered the deposition and
degradation of all priests convicted of immorality,[316] for the
appellate jurisdiction claimed by Rome gave practical immunity to
those against whom the enforcement of the canons was attempted. About
the year 876, Charles-le-Chauve, in a spirited argument against the
pretensions of the popes, calls attention specially to the exemption
thus afforded to unchaste priests, who, after due conviction by their
bishops, obtained letters from Rome overruling the judgments; the
distance and dangers of the journey precluding the local authorities
from supporting their verdicts by sending commissioners and witnesses
to carry on a second trial beyond the Alps.[317]

This shows that the effort to enforce purity was not as yet
abandoned, however slender may have been the success in eradicating
an evil so general and so deeply rooted. The nominal punishment for
unchastity—loss of benefice and deposition—was severe enough to induce
the guilty to hide their excesses with care, when they chanced to have
a bishop who was zealous in the performance of his duties. Efforts at
concealment, moreover, were favored by the forms of judicial procedure,
which were such as to throw every difficulty in the way of procuring
a conviction, and to afford, in most cases, practical immunity for
sin, unless committed in the most open and shameless manner. Hincmar,
Archbishop of Rheims, the leading ecclesiastic of his day, whose
reputation for learning and piety would have rendered him one of
the lights of the church, had not his consistent opposition to the
innovations of the papacy caused his sanctity to be questioned in Rome,
has left us elaborate directions as to the forms of prosecution in such
matters. Notwithstanding his earnest exhortations and arguments in
favor of the most ascetic purity, he discourages investigation by means
of neighbors and parishioners, or irreverent inquiries on the subject.
Only such testimony was admissible as the laws allowed, and the laws
were very strict as to the position and character of witnesses. In
addition to the accusers themselves, seven witnesses were necessary.
Of these, one was required to substantiate the oaths of the rest by
undergoing the ordeal, thus exposing himself and all his fellows to
the heavy penalties visited on perjury, upon the chance of the red-hot
iron or cold-water trial, administered, perhaps, by those interested
in shielding the guilty. If, as we can readily believe was generally
the case, these formidable difficulties could not be overcome, and the
necessary number of witnesses were not ready to sacrifice themselves,
then the accused could purge himself of the sins imputed to him by
his own oath, supported by one, three, or six compurgators of his
own order; and Hincmar himself bears testimony to the associations
which were formed among the clergy to swear each other through all
troubles.[318] Even simpler, indeed, was the process prescribed not
long before by Pope Nicholas I., who ordered that when legal evidence
was not procurable, the accused priest could clear himself on his own
unsupported oath.[319]

Under these regulations, Hincmar orders an annual investigation to be
made throughout his province, but the results would appear to have been
as unsatisfactory as might have been expected. In 874, at the Synod of
Rheims, he complains that his orders have been neglected and despised,
and he warns his clergy that proof of actual criminality will not be
required, but that undue familiarity with women, if persisted in, will
be sufficient for condemnation when properly proved.[320]

In the presence of facilities for escape such as were afforded by the
practice of ecclesiastical law as constructed by the decretalists,
and as expounded by Hincmar himself, the threats in which he indulged
could carry but little terror. We need not wonder, therefore, if we
meet with but slender indications of priestly marriage during all this
disorder, for there was evidently little danger of punishment for
the unchaste priest who exercised ordinary discretion in his amours,
while the penalties impending over those who should openly brave the
canonical rules were heavy, and could hardly be avoided by any one who
should dare to unite himself publicly to a woman in marriage. Every
consideration of worldly prudence and passion therefore induced the
priest to pursue a course of illicit licentiousness—and yet, as the
century wore on, traces of entire neglect or utter contempt of the
canons began to manifest themselves. How little the rule really was
respected by the ecclesiastical authorities, when anything was to be
gained by its suppression, is shown in the decision made by Nicholas
I., the highest of high churchmen, when encouraging the Bulgarians to
abandon the Greek church, although the separation between Rome and
Constantinople was not, as yet, formal and complete. To their inquiry
whether married priests should be ejected, he replied that though such
ministers were objectionable, yet the mercy of God was to be imitated,
who causes his sun to shine on good and evil alike, and as Christ did
not dismiss Judas, so they were not to be dismissed. Besides, laymen
were not to judge priests for any crime, nor to make any investigation
into their lives, such inquiries being reserved for bishops.[321] As
no bishops had yet been appointed by Rome, the answer was a skilfully
tacit permission of priestly marriage, while avoiding an open avowal.

It need awaken no surprise if those who united recklessness and power
should openly trample on the canons thus feebly supported. A somewhat
prominent personage of the period was Hubert, brother of Teutberga,
Queen of Lotharingia, and his turbulent conduct was a favorite theme
for animadversion by the quiet monastic chroniclers. That he was an
abbot is perhaps no proof of his clerical profession, but when we find
his wife and children alluded to as a proof of his abandoned character,
it shows that he was bound by vows or ordained within the prohibited
grades, and that he publicly violated the rules and defied their

The earliest absolute evidence that has reached us, however, of
marriage committed by a member of the great body of the plebeian
clergy, subsequent to the reforms of Boniface, occurs about the year
893. Angelric priest of Vasnau appealed to the synod of Chalons,
stating that he had been publicly joined in wedlock to a woman named
Grimma. Such an attempt by a priest, the consent of the woman and
her relatives, and the performance of the ceremony by another priest
all show the prevailing laxity and ignorance, yet still there were
found some faithful and pious souls to object to the transaction, and
Angelric was not allowed to enjoy undisturbed the fruits of his sin.
Yet even the synod was perplexed, and unable to decide what ought to be
done. It therefore only temporarily suspended Angelric from communion,
while Mancio, his bishop, applied for advice to Foulques of Rheims,
metropolitan of the province, and the ignorance and good faith of all
parties are manifested by the fact that Angelric himself was sent to
Foulques as the bearer of the letter of inquiry.[323]

With the ninth century the power, the cultivation, and the civilization
of the Carlovingians may be considered virtually to disappear, though
for nearly a hundred years longer a spectral crown encircled the brows
of the ill-starred descendants of Pepin. Centralization, rendered
impossible in temporal affairs by feudalism, was transferred to the
church, which, thenceforth, more than ever independent of secular
control, became wholly responsible for its own shortcomings; and the
records of the period make only too plainly manifest how utterly the
power, so strenuously contended for, failed to overcome the ignorance
and the barbarism of the age.



The tenth century, well characterized by Cave as the “Sæculum
Obscurum,” is perhaps the most repulsive in Christian annals. The last
vestiges of Roman culture have disappeared, while the dawn of modern
civilization is as yet far off. Society, in a state of transition, is
painfully and vainly seeking some form of security and stability. The
marauding wars of petty neighboring chiefs become the normal condition,
only interrupted when two or three unite to carry destruction to
some more powerful rival. Though the settlement of Normandy relieved
Continental Europe to a great extent from the terror of the Dane, yet
the still more dreaded Hun took his place and ravaged the nations from
the Danube to the Atlantic, while England bore the undivided fury of
the Vikings, and the Saracen left little to glean upon the shores of
the Mediterranean.

When brutal ignorance and savage ferocity were the distinguishing
characteristics of the age, the church could scarce expect to escape
from the general debasement. It is rather a matter of grateful surprise
that religion itself was not overwhelmed in the general chaos which
engulfed almost all previously existing institutions. When the crown
of St. Peter became the sport of barbarous nobles, or of a still more
barbarous populace, we may grieve, but we cannot affect astonishment at
the unconcealed dissoluteness of Sergius III., whose bastard, twenty
years later, was placed in the pontifical chair by the influence
of that embodiment of all possible vices, his mother Marozia.[324]
The last extreme of depravity would seem attained by John XII., but
as his deposition in 963 by Otho the Great loosened the tongues of
his accusers, it is possible that he was no worse than some of his
predecessors. No extreme of wickedness was beyond his capacity; the
sacred palace of the Lateran was turned into a brothel; incest gave
a flavor to crime when simple profligacy palled upon his exhausted
senses, and the honest citizens of Rome complained that the female
pilgrims who formerly crowded the holy fanes were deterred from coming
through fear of his promiscuous and unbridled lust.[325]

With such corruption at the head of the church, it is lamentably
ludicrous to see the popes inculcating lessons of purity, and urging
the maintenance of canons which they set the example of disregarding
so utterly. The clergy were now beginning to arrogate to themselves
the privilege of matrimony; and marriage, so powerful a corrective of
indiscriminate vice, was regarded with peculiar detestation by the
ecclesiastical authorities, and awoke a far more energetic opposition
than the more dangerous and corrupting forms of illicit indulgence. The
pastor who intrigued in secret with his penitents and parishioners was
scattering the seeds of death in place of the bread of life, and was
abusing his holy trust to destroy the souls confided to his charge,
but this worked no damage to the temporal interests of the church at
large. The priest who, in honest ignorance of the canons, took to
himself a wife, and endeavored faithfully to perform the duties of his
humble sphere, could scarcely avoid seeking the comfort and worldly
welfare of his offspring, and this exposed the common property of all
to dilapidation and embezzlement. Disinterested virtue perhaps would
not be long in making a selection between the comparative evils, but
disinterested virtue was not a distinguishing characteristic of the age.

Yet a motive of even greater importance than this rendered matrimony
more objectionable than concubinage or licentiousness. By the
overruling tendency of the age, all possessions previously held by
laymen on precarious tenure were rapidly becoming hereditary. As the
royal power slipped from hands unable to retain it, offices, dignities,
and lands became the property of the holders, and were transmitted from
father to son. Had marriage been openly permitted to ecclesiastics,
their functions and benefices would undoubtedly have followed the
example. An hereditary caste would have been established, who would
have held their churches and lands of right; independent of the central
authority, all unity would have been destroyed, and the collective
power of the church would have disappeared. Having nothing to gain from
obedience, submission to control would have become the exception, and,
laymen in all but name, the ecclesiastics would have had no incentive
to perform their functions, except what little influence, under such
circumstances, might have been retained over the people by maintaining
the sacred character thus rendered a mockery.

In an age when everything was unsettled, yet with tendencies so
strongly marked, it thus became a matter of vital importance to the
church to prevent anything like hereditary occupation of benefices
or private appropriation of property, and against these abuses its
strongest efforts were directed. The struggle lasted for centuries, and
it is indeed most fortunate for our civilization that sacerdotalism
triumphed, even at the expense of what at the moment may appear of
greater importance. I cannot here pause to trace the progress of
the contest in its long and various vicissitudes. It will be found
constantly reappearing in the course of the following pages, and for
the present it will suffice to group together a few evidences to show
how rapidly the hereditary tendency developed itself in the period
under consideration.

The narrowness of the escape from ecclesiastical feudalization is
well illustrated by an incident at the council of Tours, in 925,
where two priests, _father and son_, Ranald and Raymond, appeared as
complainants, claiming certain tithes detained from them by another
priest. They gained the suit, and the tithes were confirmed to them and
their successors forever.[326] Even more suggestive is the complaint,
some thirty years later, of Ratherius, Bishop of Verona, who objects
strenuously to the ordination of the children sprung from these
illegal marriages, as each successive father made his son a priest,
thus perpetuating the scandal indefinitely throughout the church;
and as he sorrowfully admits that his clergy could not be restrained
from marriage, he begs them at least to bring their children up as
laymen.[327] This, however, by his own showing, would not remove the
material evil, for in another treatise he states that his priests and
deacons divided the church property between them, that they might have
lands and vineyards wherewith to provide marriage portions for their
sons and daughters.[328] This system of appropriation also forms the
subject of lamentation for Atto, Bishop of Vercelli, whose clergy
insisted on publicly keeping concubines—as he stigmatizes those who
evidently were wives—to whom they left by will everything that they
could gather from the possessions of the church, from the alms of
the pious, or from any other source, to the ruin of ecclesiastical
property and to the deprivation of the poor.[329] How well founded were
these complaints is evident from a document of the eleventh century
concerning the churches of St. Stephen and St. Donatus in Aretino.
The priests in charge appropriated to themselves all the possessions
of the churches, including the revenues of the altars, the oblations,
and the confessional. These they portioned out among each other and
handed down from father to son as regularly as any other property,
selling and exchanging their shares as the interest of the moment might
suggest, and the successive transmission of each fragment of property
is detailed with all the precision of a brief of title. The natural
result was that for generations the religious services of Aretino were
utterly disregarded. Sometimes the priestly owners would hire some one
to ring the bells, light the candles, and minister to the altar, but
in the multitude of ownerships the stipends were irregularly paid,
and the officiator refused continually to serve, candles were not
furnished, bell-ropes were not renewed, and even the leathers which
attached the clappers to the bells were neglected. The church of St.
Stephen was the cathedral of Aretino, yet the bishops were powerless
to correct these abuses. The marriages of their priests they do not
seem to have even attempted to repress, and were quite satisfied if
they could occasionally get a portion of the revenues devoted to the
offices of religion.[330] The same condition of affairs existed among
the Anglo-Saxons. “It is all the worse when they have it all, for they
do not dispose of it as they ought, but decorate their wives with what
they should the altars, and turn everything to their own worldly pomp
... Let those who before this had the evil custom of decorating their
women as they should the altars, refrain from this evil custom, and
decorate their churches, as they best can; then would they command for
themselves both divine counsel and worldly worship. A priest’s wife is
nothing but a snare of the devil, and he who is ensnared thereby on to
his end, he will be seized fast by the devil.”[331]

It will be observed that, as the century advanced, sacerdotal marriage
became more and more common. Indeed, in 966, Ratherius not only
intimates that his clergy all were married, but declares that if the
canon prohibiting repeated marriages were put in force, only boys would
be left in the church, while even they would be ejected under the rule
which rendered ineligible the offspring of illicit unions;[332] and,
in spite of his earnest asceticism, he only ventures to prohibit his
clergy from conjugal intercourse during the periods likewise forbidden
to laymen, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, etc.[333] It was not that
the ancient canons were forgotten,[334] nor that strenuous efforts were
not made to enforce them, but that the temper of the times created
a spirit of personal independence so complete that the power of the
ecclesiastical authorities seemed utterly inadequate to control the
growing license. About the year 938, Gerard, Archbishop of Lorsch
and Papal Legate for Southern Germany, laid before Leo VII. a series
of questions relating to various points in which the ancient canons
were set at naught throughout the region under his supervision. Leo
answered by a decretal addressed to all the princes and potentates
of Europe, in which he laments over Gerard’s statement of the public
marriages of priests, and replies to his inquiry as to the capacity of
their children for ecclesiastical promotion. The first he pronounces
forbidden by the canons, and those guilty of it he orders to be
deprived of their benefices. As for the offspring of such marriages,
however, he says that they are not involved in the sins of their

The unusual liberality of this latter declaration, however, was not
a precedent. The church always endeavored to prevent the ordination
of the children of ecclesiastics, and Leo, in permitting it, was only
yielding to a pressure which he could not withstand. It was a most
dangerous concession, for it led directly to the establishment of the
hereditary principle. An effort was soon after made, by an appeal to
the temporal power, to recover the ground lost, and about the year 940
Otho the Great was induced to issue an edict prohibiting the sons of
deacons, priests, and bishops from occupying the positions of notary,
judge, or count[336]—the bare necessity of which shows how numerous and
powerful the class had already become.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although, as early as 925, the council of Spalatro seemed to find
nothing to condemn in a single marriage, but threatened excommunication
against those who so far forgot themselves as to contract a
second,[337] and though by the middle of the century the practice had
become generally established, yet some rigid prelates continued to
keep alive the memory of the ancient canons by fruitless protests and
ineffectual efforts at reform. In 948, the synod of Engelheim, under
the presidency of Marino, Bishop of Ostia and Papal Vicar, condemned
such marriages as incestuous and unlawful.[338] In 952, at the council
of Augsburg, the assembled German and Italian prelates made a further
and more desperate effort. Deposition was pronounced against the
subdeacon, deacon, priest, or bishop who should take to himself a
wife; separation of those already married was ordered, and even the
lower grades of the clergy, who had not previously been subjected to
any such rule, were commanded to observe the strictest continence. An
attempt was also made to prevent concubinage by visiting suspected
women with stripes and shaving; but there evidently was some difficulty
anticipated in enforcing this, for the royal power is invoked to
prevent secular interference with the sentence.[339]

This stringent legislation of course proved utterly nugatory, but,
futile as it was, it yet awakened considerable opposition. St. Ulric,
in whose episcopal town of Augsburg the council was held, addressed
a long epistle to the Pope, remonstrating against his efforts to
enforce the rule of celibacy, and arguing the question, temperately
but forcibly, on the grounds both of scriptural authority and of
expediency. He pointed out how much more obnoxious to Divine wrath
were the promiscuous and nameless crimes indulged in by those who
were foremost in advocating the reform, than the chaste and single
marriages of the clergy; and the violent distortion of the sacred
texts, by those who sought authority to justify the canon, he not
unhappily characterized as straining the breast of Scripture until it
yielded blood in place of milk.[340]

Despite the inefficiency of these attempts, the clergy were not always
allowed to enjoy their unlawful domestic ties in peace, and, where
the votaries of asceticism were bold and determined, the contest was
sometimes severe. The nature of the struggle is well illustrated by the
troubles which arose between Ratherius of Verona and the ecclesiastics
of his diocese. In April, 967, John XIII. held a council at Ravenna
which commanded those who were in holy orders to give up at once
either their wives or their ministry, and Otho the Great was induced
to issue a precept confirming this peremptory decree. Ratherius had
long been vainly wishing for some authority on the subject more potent
than the ancient and now obsolete canons, and on his return from
Ravenna he summoned a synod for the purpose of promulgating the new
regulations. His clergy got wind of his intention; very few of them
obeyed the summons, and most of those who came boldly declared that
they would neither be separated from their wives nor abandon their
functions; in fact, they did not scruple to maintain that marriage was
not only permissible, but even necessary to protect the church from
the most hideous vices. The utmost concession he could obtain, indeed,
came from a few who endeavored to excuse themselves on the ground of
poverty, which did not enable them to live without the assistance of
their wives, and who professed to be willing to separate from them if
they could be assured of a regular stipend.[341] Ratherius had passed
through too many vicissitudes in his long and agitated career to shrink
from the collision, now that he was backed by both the papal and
imperial authority. He promptly threw the recalcitrant pastors into
prison, declaring that they should lie there until they paid a heavy
fine for the benefit of the cathedral of the Virgin, and he further
commanded the presence of those who had failed to appear. The clergy
of the diocese, finding that the resistance of inertia was unavailing,
took more decided steps, and appealed for protection to the temporal
power, in the person of Nanno, Count of Verona. He promptly espoused
their cause, and his _missus_ Gilbert forbade their obedience to the
summons of their bishop for a year. Ratherius remonstrated vehemently
against the assumption of Nanno that the priests were his vassals,
subject to his jurisdiction, and entitled to protection, and he lost
no time in invoking the power of Otho, in a letter to Ambrose, the
Imperial Chancellor.[342] The clergy were too powerful; the imperial
court decided against the bishop, and before the end of the year
Ratherius was forced to retire from the unequal contest and to take
refuge in the peaceful abbey of Lobbes, whence he had been withdrawn a
quarter of a century before to fill the see of Verona. Three times had
he thus been driven from that city, and an intermediate episcopate of
Liége, with which one of his periods of exile was gratified, had been
terminated in the same abrupt manner by the unruly clergy, unable to
endure the severity of his virtue.[343] How great was the revolution,
to the unavailing repression of which he sacrificed his life, is shown
by his declaration, two years before, that ecclesiastics differed from
laymen only in shaving and the tonsure, in some slight fashioning of
their garments, and in the careless performance of the church ritual.
The progress of sacerdotal marriage during the preceding quarter of a
century is shown by a similar comparison drawn by Ratherius some thirty
years before, in which matrimony is included among the few points of
difference, along with and the tonsure.[344]

That the Veronese clergy were not alone in obtaining from the secular
potentates protection against these efforts on the part of reforming
bishops, is evident from the lamentations of Atto of Vercelli. That
estimable prelate deplores the blindness of those who, when paternally
warned to mend their evil ways, refuse submission, and seek protection
from the nobles. If we may believe him, however, they gained but little
by this course, for their criminal lives placed them at the mercy of
the secular officials, whose threats to seize their wives and children
could only be averted by continual presents. Thus they not only
plundered the property of their churches, but forfeited the respect and
esteem of their flocks; all reverence for them was thereby destroyed,
and, living in perpetual dread of the punishment due to their excesses,
in place of commanding obedience, they were exposed to constant
oppression and petty tyranny.[345]

       *       *       *       *       *

When prelates so sincere and so earnest as Ratherius and Atto were
able to accomplish so little, it is easy to understand what must have
been the condition of the dioceses intrusted to the great mass of
bishops, who were rather feudal nobles than Christian prelates. St.
Wolfgang of Ratisbon might issue thousands of exhortations to his
clergy, inculcating chastity as the one indispensable virtue, and
might laboriously reform his monasteries in which monks and nuns led
a life almost openly secular;[346] but he was well-nigh powerless for
good compared with the potentiality of evil conveyed by the example of
such a bishop as Segenfrid of Le Mans, who, during an episcopate which
lasted for thirty-three years, took to himself a wife named Hildeberga,
and who stripped the church for the benefit of his son Alberic, the
sole survivor of a numerous progeny by her whom he caused to be
reverenced as his _Episcopissa_;[347] or of Archembald, Archbishop
of Sens, who, taking a fancy to the Abbey of St. Peter, drove out the
monks and established a harem of concubines in the refectory, and
installed his hounds and hawks in the cloister.[348] Guarino of Modena
might hope to stem the tide of license by refusing preferment to all
who would not agree to hold their benefices on a sort of feudal tenure
of chastity;[349] but he had much less influence on his age than such a
man as Alberic of Marsico, whose story is related as a warning by Peter
Damiani. He was married (for, in the language of Damiani, “obscæna
meretricula” may safely be translated a wife), and had a son to whom
he transferred his bishopric, as though it had been an hereditary
fief. Growing tired of private life, however, he aspired to the abbacy
of Monte Casino. That humble foundation of St. Benedict had become a
formidable military power, of which its neighbors the Capuans stood in
constant dread. Alberic leagued with them, and a plot was laid by which
the reigning abbot’s eyes were to be plucked out and Alberic placed in
possession, for which service he agreed to pay a heavy sum, one-half
in advance, and the rest when the abbot’s eyes should be delivered to
him. The deed was accomplished, but while the envoys were bearing to
Alberic the bloody tokens of success, they were met by tidings of his
death, and on comparing notes they found that he had expired at the
very moment of the perpetration of the atrocious crime.[350]

So St. Abbo of Fleury might exhaust his eloquence in inculcating the
beauty and holiness of immaculate purity, and might pile authority
on authority to demonstrate the punishments which, in this world and
the next, attended on those who disobeyed the rule;[351] yet when he
endeavored, in the monastery of La Réole, a dependency on his own great
abbey of Fleury, to put his precepts into practice, the recalcitrant
monks flew to arms and murdered him in the most brutal manner, not
even sparing the faithful Adalard, who was reverently supporting the
head of his beloved and dying master.[352] Damiani might well exclaim,
when bewailing the unfortunate fate of abbots, on whom was thrown the
responsibility of the morals of their communities—

    Phinees si imitatur,
    Fugit vel expellitur;
    Si Eli, tunc irridetur
    Atque parvipenditur;
    Odiosus est, si fervens,
    Et vilis, si tepidus.[353]

How little disposed were the ecclesiastical authorities in general to
sustain the efforts of puritans like St. Abbo was clearly shown in the
council of St. Denis, convened in 995 for the purpose of restoring the
neglected discipline of the church, when, passing over the object of
its assembling, the reverend fathers devoted their whole attention to
the more practically interesting question of tithes.[354]

All prelates, however, were not either feudal chiefs or ascetic
puritans. Some, who were pious and virtuous, had so far become infected
with the prevailing laxity that they regarded the stricter canons
as obsolete, and offered no opposition to the domestic aspirations
of their clergy. Thus Constantine, Abbot of the great house of St.
Symphorian of Metz, in his life of Adalbero II., who was Bishop
of Metz from 984 to 1005, actually praises him for his liberality
in not refusing ordination to the sons of priests, and attributes
discreditable motives to those bishops who insisted on the observance
of the canons prohibiting all such promotions.[355] As Constantine
was a monk and a disciple of Adalbero, the tone which he adopts
that the higher prelates and the regular clergy were beginning to
recognize sacerdotal marriage as a necessity of the age. This view is
strengthened by the fact that no effort to reform an abuse so universal
was made at the great synod of Dortmund, held in 1005 for the special
purpose of restoring the discipline of the church.[356]

How completely, indeed, marriage came to be regarded as a matter of
course is manifest when, in 1019, an assembly of German bishops, with
the Emperor St. Henry at their head, gravely deliberated over the
knotty question whether, when a noble permitted his serf to enter into
holy orders, and the serf, presuming upon his new-born dignities and
the wealth of his benefices, married a free woman and endeavored to
withhold his children from the servitude which he still owed to his
master, such infraction of his master’s rights could be permitted out
of respect to his sacerdotal character. Long and vehement was the
argument among the learned prelates, until finally St. Henry decided
the point authoritatively by pronouncing in favor of the servitude of
the children.[357]

But perhaps the most instructive illustration of the character and
temper of the age may be found in the three prelates who for more than
a century filled the rich and powerful archiepiscopal see of Rouen.
Hugh, whose episcopate lasted from 942 to 989, was nominated at a
period when William Longsword, Duke of Normandy, was contemplating
retirement from the world to shroud his almost regal dignity under the
cowl of the monk, yet what little is known of his archbishop is that,
though he was a monk in habit, he was an habitual violator of the laws
of God[358]—in short, we may presume, a man well suited to the wild
half-pagan times which witnessed the assassination of Duke William
and the minority of Richard the Fearless. On his death, in 989, Duke
Richard, whose piety was incontestably proved by the liberality of his
monastic foundations and by his zeal for the purity of his monkish
protégés,[359] filled the vacant see with his son Robert, who held the
position until 1037. Robert was publicly and openly married, and by
his wife Herleva he had three sons, Richard, Rodolf, and William, to
whom he distributed his vast possessions. Ordericus, the conscientious
cenobite of the twelfth century, looks, in truth, somewhat askance
at this disregard of the rules accepted in his own time,[360] yet
no blame seems to have attached to Robert in the estimation of his
contemporaries. The family chronicler characterizes him as “Robert bons
clers, honestes hom,” and assures us that he was highly esteemed as a
wise and learned prelate

    Li secunz fu genz e aperz
    Et si fu apelez Roberz.
    Clerc en firent, mult aprist bien,
    Si fi sage sor tote rien;
    De Roem out l’arcevesquié
    Honoré fu mult e preisié.[361]

His successor, Mauger, son of Duke Richard II., and archbishop from
1037 to 1054, was worthy of his predecessors. Abandoned to worldly and
carnal pleasures, his _legitimate_ son Michael was a distinguished
knight, and half a century later stood high in the favor of Henry I. of
England, in whose court he was personally known to the historian.[362]
The times were changing, however, and Mauger felt the full effects of
reformatory zeal, for he was deposed in 1054; the see was bestowed on
St. Maurilio, a Norman, who as abbot of Santa Maria in Florence had
been driven out and nearly poisoned to death by his monks on account
of the severity of his rule, and the Norman clergy, as we shall see
hereafter, experienced their share of suffering in the mutation of

       *       *       *       *       *

Notwithstanding this all-pervading laxity, the canons of the church
remained unaltered, and their full force was theoretically admitted.
Hopeless efforts, moreover, were occasionally made to re-establish
them, as in the council of Anse in 990, which reminded the clergy that
intercourse with wives after ordination was punishable with forfeiture
of benefice and deprivation of priestly functions;[363] and in that
of Poitiers about the year 1000, which prohibited concubines under
pain of degradation.[364] In a similar spirit, a Penitential of the
period recapitulates the severe punishments of a former age, involving
degradation and fearfully long terms of penance.[365] All this,
however, was practically a dead letter. The person who best represents
the active intelligence of the age was Gerbert of Aurillac, the most
enlightened man of his time, who, after occupying the archiepiscopal
seats of Rheims and Ravenna, finally became pope under the name of
Silvester II. The lightness with which he treats the subject of
celibacy is therefore fairly a measure of the views entertained by the
ruling spirits of the church, beyond the narrow bounds of cloistered
asceticism. Gerbert, describing in a sermon the requisites of the
episcopal and sacerdotal offices, barely refers to the “unius uxoris
vir,” which he seems to regard in an allegorical rather than in a
literal sense; he scarcely alludes to chastity, while he dilates with
much energy on simony, which he truly characterizes as the almost
universal vice of his contemporaries.[366] So when, in 997, he convened
the council of Ravenna to regulate the discipline of his church,
he paid no attention whatever to incontinence, while strenuously
endeavoring to root out simony.[367] At an earlier period, while Abbot
of Bobbio, in an epistle to his patron, the Emperor Otho II., refuting
various calumnies of his enemies, he alludes to a report of his having
a wife and children in terms which show how little importance he
attached to the accusation.[368]

Such, at the opening of the eleventh century, was the condition of
the church as regards ascetic celibacy. Though the ancient canons
were still theoretically in force, they were practically obsolete
everywhere. Legitimate marriage or promiscuous profligacy was almost
universal, in some places unconcealed, in others covered with a thin
veil of hypocrisy, according as the temper of the ruling prelate might
be indulgent or severe. So far, therefore, Latin Christianity had
gained but little in its struggle of six centuries with human nature.
Whether the next eight hundred years will show a more favorable result
remains for us to develop.

Before proceeding, however, to discuss the events of the succeeding
century, it will be well to cast a rapid glance at a portion of
Christendom, the isolation of which has thus far precluded it from
receiving attention.



Whatever of virtue or purity may have distinguished the church of
Britain under Roman domination was speedily extinguished in the
confusion of the Saxon occupation. Gildas, who flourished in the
first half of the sixth century, describes the clergy of his time as
utterly corrupt.[369] He apparently would have been satisfied if the
bishops had followed the Apostolic precept and contented themselves
with being husbands of one wife; and he complains that instead of
bringing up their children in chastity, the latter were corrupted by
the evil example of their parents.[370] Under Saxon rule, Christianity
was probably well-nigh trampled out, except in the remoter mountain
districts, to be subsequently restored in its sacerdotal form under the
direct auspices of Rome.

Meanwhile, the British Isles were the theatre of another and
independent religious movement. While the Saxons were subverting
Christianity in Britain, St. Patrick was successfully engaged in laying
the foundations of the Irish church.[371] We have seen (p. 76) that
celibacy was not one of the rules enforced in the infant Irish church;
but this was of comparatively little moment, for that church was almost
exclusively monastic in its character, and preserved the strictest
views as to the observance of the vows by those who had once taken
them.[372] That the principles thus established were long preserved
is evident from a curious collection of Hibernian canons, made in the
eighth century, of which selections have been published by d’Achery
and Martène. Some of these are credited by the compilers to Gildas,
and thus show the discipline of the early British as well as of the
Irish church.[373] Their tendency is towards the purest asceticism.
A penance of forty days was even enjoined on the ecclesiastic who,
without thought of evil, indulged in the pleasure of converse with a
woman.[374] So in Ireland, a council held in 672 decrees that a priest
guilty of unchastity, although removable according to the strict
rule of discipline, may be allowed, if truly contrite, to retain his
position on undergoing ten years of penitence[375]—an alternative, one
might think, rather of severity than of mercy. One canon attributed
to Gildas shows that in the British monastic system unchastity
was considered the most heinous of offences, and also that it was
sufficiently common;[376] while another alludes to the same vice among
prelates as justifying immediate excommunication.[377]

The missionary career by which the Irish church repaid the debt
that it owed to Christianity is well known, and the form of faith
which it spread was almost exclusively monastic. Luanus, one of the
monks of Benchor, is said to have founded no less than a hundred
monasteries;[378] and when Columba established the Christian religion
in Scotland, he carried with him this tendency to asceticism and
inculcated it among his Pictish neophytes. His Rule enjoins the most
absolute purity of mind as well as body;[379] and that his teachings
were long obeyed is evident when we find that, a hundred and fifty
years later, his disciples are praised for the chastity and zeal of
their self-denying lives by the Venerable Bede, who was fully alive
to the importance of the rule, and who would have wasted no such
admiration on them had they lived in open disregard of it.[380] Equally
convincing is the fact that Scotland and the Islands were claimed to
be under the supremacy of the see of York, and that during the long
controversy requisite to break down their schismatic notions respecting
the date of Easter and the shape of the tonsure, not a word was said
that can lead to the supposition that they held any unorthodox views on
the far more important subject of sacerdotal purity.[381]

       *       *       *       *       *

When, a hundred and fifty years after the Anglo-Saxon invasion, Gregory
the Great undertook the conversion of the islanders, the missionaries
whom he despatched under Augustin of course carried with them the views
and ideas which then held undisputed sway in Rome. Apparently, however,
asceticism found little favor at first with the new converts, rendering
it difficult for Augustin to obtain sufficient co-laborers among his
disciples, for he applied to Gregory to learn whether he might allow
those who could not restrain their passions to marry and yet remain
in the ministry. To this Gregory replied evasively, stating, what
Augustin already knew, that the lower grades might marry, but making
no reference whatever to the higher orders.[382] He apparently did not
wish to assume the responsibility of relaxing the rule, while willing
perhaps to connive at its suspension in order to encourage the infant
Anglican church. If so, the indulgence was but temporary.

The attempt has been made to prove that marriage was permitted in the
early Saxon church, and support for this supposition has been sought
from a clause in the Dooms of King Ina, of which the date is about the
year 700, fixing the wer-gild of the son of a bishop. But the rubric
of the law shows that it refers rather to a godson;[383] and even if
it were not so, we have already seen how often in France, at the same
period, the episcopal office was bestowed on eminent or influential
laymen, who were obliged on its acceptance to part with their wives.
The Magdeburg Centuriators, indeed, describe a council held in London
in 712 or 714, by which image-worship was introduced and separation
between priests and their wives was decreed,[384] but there is no
authority cited, nor is such an assembly elsewhere alluded to, even
Cave pronouncing it evidently supposititious.[385]

These speculations are manifestly groundless. The celebrated
Theodore, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 668 to 690, in his
_Liber Pœnitentialis_, forbids the marriage of the clergy under pain
of deposition, and all intercourse with such wives was punished
by lifelong penance as laymen; not only were digami ineligible to
ordination, but also even those who had kept concubines; and the zeal
for purity is carried so far that even baptism performed by priests
guilty of fornication was pronounced invalid and had to be repeated—an
expression of reprobation which it would be hard to parallel elsewhere
in the history of the church.[386] When such were the views of the
primate, and such were the laws which he prescribed, we cannot
imagine that under his vigorous rule these canons were permitted
to be inoperative in a church sufficiently enlightened to produce
the learning and piety of men like Bede and St. Aldhelm; where the
admiration of virginity was as great as that which finds utterance in
the writings of these fathers,[387] and the principles of asceticism
were so influential as to lead a powerful monarch like Ina to retire
with his queen, Ethelberga, from the throne which he had gloriously
filled, to the holy restrictions of a monastic life.

Ecgberht, who was Archbishop of York from 732 to 766, is almost equally
decisive in his condemnation of priestly irregularities, though he
returned to the received doctrine of the church that baptism could
not be repeated.[388] It is also probable that even the Britons, who
derived their Christianity from the older and purer sources of the
primitive church, preserved the rule with equal reverence. At the
request of a national council, St. Aldhelm addressed an epistle to
the Welsh king, Geruntius, to induce him to reform his church so as
to bring it within the pale of Catholic unity. To accomplish this, he
argues at length upon the points of difference, discussing the various
errors of faith and discipline, such as the shape of the tonsure,
the date of Easter, &c., but he is silent with regard to marriage or
concubinage.[389] Had the Welsh church been schismatic in this respect,
so ardent a celibatarian as Aldhelm would certainly not have omitted
all reference to a subject of so much interest to him. The inference is
therefore justifiable that no difference of this nature existed.

We may fairly conclude that the discipline of the church in these
matters was reasonably well maintained by the Saxon clergy, with the
exception of the monasteries, the morals of which institutions appear
to have been deplorably and incurably loose. About the middle of the
seventh century John IV. reproves the laxity of the Saxon monasticism
under which the holy virgins did not hesitate to marry.[390] In 734 we
find Bede, in an epistle to Ecgberht of York, advising him to create
suffragan bishoprics and to endow them from the monastic foundations,
of which there were a countless number totally neglectful of all
monastic discipline, whose reformation could apparently be accomplished
in no other way.[391] St. Boniface, whose zeal on the subject has
already been sufficiently made manifest, about the year 746 paused
in his reformation of the French priesthood to urge upon Cuthbert,
Archbishop of Canterbury, the necessity of repressing the vices of
the Saxon ecclesiastics. He dwells at considerable length upon their
various crimes and misdemeanors—drunkenness, unclerical garments,
neglect of their sacred functions, &c.—but he does not accuse them
of unchastity, which he could not well have avoided doing had there
been colorable grounds for such a charge. In fact, the only allusion
connected with the question in his epistle is a request that some
restrictions should be laid upon the permissions granted to women and
nuns for pilgrimage to Rome, on account of the attendant dangers to
their virtue; in illustration of which he states the lamentable fact
that scarcely a city in Lombardy, France, or the Rhinelands but had
Saxon courtesans derived from this source, to the shame and scandal of
the whole church.[392]

Pope Zachary seconded these representations, and in 747 Cuthbert,
yielding to the impulsion, held the celebrated council of Clovesho,
which adopted thirty canons on discipline, to remedy the disorders
enumerated by Boniface. Among these, the only ones directed against
unchastity relate solely to the nunneries, which were represented as
being in a condition of gross immorality.[393] The council does not
spare the vices of the secular clergy, and its silence with respect to
their purity fairly permits the inference that there was not much to
correct with regard to it, for had licentiousness been so prevalent
that Cuthbert had feared to denounce it, or had sacerdotal marriage
been passed over as lawful, the zeal of St. Boniface would have led to
an explosion, and Zachary would not have sanctioned the proceedings by
his approval.

The same argument is applicable to the council of Chelsea, held in 787
by the legates of Adrian I., under the presidency of Gregory, Bishop
of Ostia. The vices and shortcomings of the Anglican church were there
sharply reproved, but no allusion was made to any unchastity prevailing
among the priesthood, with the exception, as before, of nuns, on whom
we may infer that previous reformatory efforts had been wasted;[394]
and in an epistle from Alcuin to Ethelred King of Northumbria near
the close of the century there is the same reference to nuns, without
special condemnation of the other classes of the clergy.[395] That
this reticence did not arise from any license granted for marriage is
conclusively shown by the interpolation of the word _laicus_ in the
text I. Cor. VII. 2, which is quoted among the canons adopted.[396] To
the same effect are the canons of the council of Chelsea, in 816, in
which the only allusion to such matters is a provision to prevent the
election of unfit persons to abbacies, and to punish monks and nuns who
secularize themselves.[397]

On the other hand, it is true that about this time St. Swithun, after
obtaining orders, was openly married; but his biographer states that he
had a special dispensation from Leo III., and that he consented to it
because, on the death of his parents, he was the sole representative
of his family.[398] As Swithun was tutor to Ethelwulf, son of King
Ecgberht, the papal condescension is by no means impossible.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was the condition of the Anglo-Saxon church at this period. During
the century which follows, the materials for tracing the vicissitudes
of the question before us are of the scantiest description. The
occasional councils which were held have left but meagre records of
their deliberations, with few or no references to the subject of
celibacy. It is probable, however, that a rapid deterioration in the
strictness of discipline occurred, for even the power of the great
Bretwalda Ecgberht was unequal to the task of repressing effectually
the first invasions of the Northmen, and under his feebler successors
they grew more and more destructive, until they culminated in the
anarchy which gave occasion to the romantic adventures of Alfred.

It is to this period of darkness that we must attribute the
introduction of sacerdotal marriage, which became so firmly
established and was finally so much a matter of course that it
attracted no special attention, until the efforts made for its
abrogation late in the succeeding century. When Alfred undertook to
restore order in his recovered kingdom, the body of the laws which
he compiled contains no allusion to celibacy, except as regards the
chastity of nuns. The same may be said of the constitutions of Odo,
Archbishop of Canterbury, to which the date of 943 is attributed,
although they contain instructions as to the conduct of bishops,
priests, and clerks[399]—whence we may infer that the marriage even
of consecrated virgins was not uncommon, and that it was the only
infraction of the rule which aroused the opposition of the hierarchy.
Simple immorality called forth an occasional enactment, as in the laws
of Edward and Guthrun about the year 906, and in those of Edmund I.
in 944,[400] yet even to this but little attention seems to have been
attracted, until St. Dunstan undertook a reformation which was sorely

St. Dunstan himself, although regularly bred to the church, with the
most brilliant prospects both from his distinguished abilities and his
powerful kindred, betrothed himself in marriage after receiving the
lower orders. His uncle, St. Elphege, Bishop of Winchester—apparently
a churchman of the stricter school—vehemently opposed the union, but
Dunstan was immovable in his determination. Elphege, finding his
worldly wisdom set at nought, appealed to the assistance of heaven. His
prayer was answered, and Dunstan was attacked with a mysterious and
loathsome malady, under which his iron resolution gave way. He sought
Elphege, took the monastic vow (the only inseparable bar to matrimony),
and was ordained a priest.[401] This stern experience might have taught
him charity for the weakness of natures less unbending than his own,
but his temperament was not one to pause half-way. If, too, religious
conviction urged him to the task of restoring the forgotten discipline
of the church, worldly ambition might reasonably claim its share in
his motives. He could not but feel that his authority would be vastly
enhanced by rendering the great ecclesiastical body dependent entirely
upon him as the representative of Rome, and by sundering the ties which
divided the allegiance due wholly to the church.

The opportunity to effect a reformation presented itself when the young
king, Edgar the Pacific, in 963 violated all the dictates of honor
and religion in his adventure with the nun at Wilton. Her resistance
attested her innocence, and the birth of a daughter did not prevent
her subsequent canonization as St. Wilfreda; but Edgar’s crime and
remorse were only the more heightened. When the terror-stricken king
sought pardon and absolution, Dunstan was prepared with his conditions.
Seven years of penitence, during which he was to abstain from wearing
the crown, was the personal infliction imposed on him, but the most
important portion of the sentence was that by which the vices of the
king were to be redeemed by the enforced virtues of his subjects. He
promised the founding of monasteries and the reformation of the clergy;
and his implicit obedience to the demands of his ghostly judge is
shown, perhaps, less in the fact that his coronation did not take place
until 973, than in the active measures immediately set on foot with
respect to the morals of the ecclesiastics.[402]

That their morals, indeed, needed reformation is the unanimous
testimony of all the chroniclers of the period. Among all the
monasteries of England, formerly so noted for their zeal and
prosperity, only those of Glastonbury and Abingdon were inhabited by
monks.[403] The rest had fallen into ruin, or were occupied by the
secular clergy, with their wives, or worse, and were notorious as
places of the most scandalous dissipation and disorder.[404] So low
was the standard of morality that priests even scrupled not to put
away the wives of whom they grew tired, and to form new connections,
of open and public adultery;[405] and so common had this become that
a code of ecclesiastical law, probably drawn up about this time,
reproves this systematic bigamy, and appears to tacitly authorize
marriage as legitimate and honorable.[406] One author declares that
none but paupers could be found willing to bind themselves by monastic
vows;[407] and another asserts, with every show of reason, that the
clergy were not only not superior to the laity in any respect, but were
even far worse in the scandals of their daily life.[408]

When King Edgar made his peace with the church by consenting to the
vicarious penitence of the priesthood, three rigid and austere monks
were the ardent ministers of the royal determination. Of St. Dunstan,
the primate of England, I have already spoken. St. Ethelwold, his
pupil, Abbot of Abingdon, was elevated to the see of Winchester, and
commenced the movement by expelling the occupants of the monastery
there. A few who consented to take monastic vows were allowed to
remain, and the remainder were replaced by monks; but even St.
Ethelwold’s rigor had to bend to the depravity of the age, and he
was forced to relax the rigidity of discipline in non-essentials in
order to obtain recruits of a better class.[409] The difficulties
he encountered are indicated by the legend which relates that he
was poisoned in his wine and carried from table to his couch in
excruciating torment, where he lay hopeless till, reproaching himself
with want of faith, he repeated the text—“Et si mortiferum quid
biberint, non eis nocebitur,” and was cured on the instant.[410] That
his canons were quite capable of such an attempt may be assumed from
the description given of them in the bull procured by Dunstan from
John XIII., authorizing their ejection by the king. The pope does
not hesitate to stigmatize them as vessels of the devil, hateful to
all good Christians on account of their inveterate and ineradicable

The third member of the reforming triumvirate was St. Oswald, Bishop
of Worcester, who undertook a similar transformation of the clergy
occupying the monastery of St. Mary in his cathedral city. Many
promises they made to conform to his wishes, and many times they
eluded the performance, till, losing patience with the prolonged
procrastination, he one day entered the chapel with a quantity of
monkish habits as they were vigorously chanting “Servite Domino in
timore,” when he made practical application of the text by forcing
them to put on the garments and take the vows on the spot, under the
alternative of instant expulsion.[412]

These proceedings met the unqualified approbation of Edgar, who in
964, by his “Charter of Oswalde’s Law,” confirmed the ejection of the
recusants who refused to part with their wives, and transferred all
their rights and possessions to the newcomers. In the same document he
boasted that he had instituted forty-seven abbeys of monks and nuns,
and that he hoped to increase the number to fifty.[413] The same year
a similar summary process was carried out in the convents of Chertsey
and Winchester;[414] and in 966 Edgar was able to boast of the numerous
religious houses throughout England which he had purified by replacing
lascivious clerks with pious monks.[415]

These efforts, however, tended only to restore the monastic foundations
to their original position, and left the secular clergy untouched,
except in so far as a few of them were deprived of the comfortable
quarters which they had usurped in the abbeys. This immunity it was no
part of Dunstan’s plan to permit, and accordingly Edgar issued a series
of laws restoring the obsolete ecclesiastical discipline throughout
his kingdom. By this code a lapse from virtue on the part of a priest
or monk was visited with the same penalty as homicide, with a fast of
ten years; for a deacon the period of penitence was seven years; for
the lower grades, six years. The monk, priest, or deacon who maintained
relations with his wife was subjected to the same punishment; but there
is no mention of degradation or deprivation of benefice.[416]

The struggle was long, and at one time the three reformers seem to have
grown wearied with the stubborn resistance which they met, while the
zeal of King Edgar grew more fiery as, with the true spirit of the
huntsman, he followed up the prey, his ardor increasing as the chase
grew more difficult. In 969 he eloquently addressed Dunstan, Ethelwold,
and Oswald, blaming their lukewarmness in the good cause, and promising
them every support and assistance in removing this opprobrium from
the church.[417] Stimulated by these reproaches, Dunstan summoned a
council which adopted a canon depriving unchaste priests of their
benefices.[418] Still the conflict continued, and a charter dated in
974, the last year of Edgar’s reign, shows that he persevered to the
end with unabated zeal.[419]

       *       *       *       *       *

The contumacious clerks may have been silenced; they were not subdued,
and they but waited their opportunity. It came in 975, with the early
death of Edgar and with the dissensions caused by his widow, Elfritha,
who endeavored to deprive of the succession his eldest son, the
youthful Edward, fruit of a former marriage. During the confusion,
the ejected priests banded together and bribed Elfhere, the powerful
Ealdorman of Mercia, together with some other magnates, to espouse
their cause. In many abbeys the regulars were expelled and the priests
with their wives were reinstated. In East Anglia, however, the nobles
took sides with the monks, and, rising in arms, valiantly defended
the monasteries. At length, on the accession of Edward, a council
was assembled to make final disposition of the question. The married
priests were present, and promised amendment; their noble protectors
pleaded earnestly for them; the boy-king was moved, and was about to
pronounce in their favor, when a miracle preserved the purity of the
church. The council was sitting in the refectory of the monastery of
Hyde, the headquarters of the ascetic party; Edward and Dunstan were
enthroned separately from the rest, with their backs to a wall on
which, between them, hung a small crucifix. At the critical moment,
just as the king was yielding, the crucifix spoke, in a low tone
inaudible to all save Edward and the primate, “Let not this thing be
done”—the mandate was imperative, and the married clergy lost their

Still the stubborn priests and their patrons held out, and another
miracle was necessary—this time a more impressive one. A second council
was called to discuss the matter, and was held at Calne in 978. During
the heat of the argument the floor gave way, carrying with it the
whole assembly, except St. Dunstan, who remained triumphantly and
miraculously perched upon a joist, while his adversaries lay groaning
below, in every variety of mutilation.[421] His triumph, however, was
but short. The same year the pious child Edward perished through the
intrigues of Elfritha, whose son, Ethelred the Unready, succeeded to
the throne. The mixed political and religious character of these events
is shown by the canonization of Edward, who, though yet a child, was
regarded as a martyr by the ascetics, whose cause he had espoused.

As Elfritha had evidently sought the alliance of the secular clergy to
strengthen her party, her success proved disastrous to the cause of
reform. The respite of peace, too, which had blessed the island during
the vigorous reigns of Athelstan the Magnificent and Edgar the Pacific,
gave place to the ravages invited by the feeble and vacillating policy
of Ethelred the Unready; the incursions of the pagan Danes became
more and more frequent and terrible; and what little respect had been
inculcated for the strictness of discipline was speedily forgotten in
the anarchy which ensued.

The efforts of the reformers appear to have extended even to the
British churches of Wales, which had followed Saxon example in
abandoning celibacy. The Brut y Tywysogion relates that about the year
861 the priests were forbidden to marry without dispensation from the
pope; but they did not submit, and the disturbances thus provoked
rendered necessary the abandonment of the effort, so that sacerdotal
marriage continued unchecked.[422] We shall see hereafter that in the
Principality the custom remained in full vigor until the thirteenth
century was well advanced.

How thoroughly the work of Dunstan and Edgar was undone in England
is sufficiently indicated by the efforts made not long after, with
the consent of Ethelred, to introduce some feeble restraints upon
the prevailing immorality. About the year 1006 we find the chief
monastery of England, Christ Church at Canterbury, in full possession
of the secular clergy, whose irregularities were so flagrant that
even Ethelred was forced to expel them, and to fill their places with
monks.[423] What was the condition of discipline among the secular
priests may be guessed from the reformatory efforts of St. Ælfric, who
was Archbishop of Canterbury from 995 to 1006. In his series of canons
the first eight are devoted to inculcating the necessity of continence;
after quoting the Nicene canon, he feels it to be so much at variance
with the habits and customs of the age, that he actually deprecates the
surprise of his clergy at hearing a rule so novel and so oppugnant to
the received practice, “as though there was no danger in priests living
as married men;” he anticipates the arguments which they will bring
against him, and refutes them with more gravity than success.[424]
There is also extant, under the name of St. Ælfric, a pastoral epistle,
which is regarded as supposititious by some critics; but its passages
on this subject are too similar in spirit to the canons of Ælfric
to be reasonably rejected. They show how hopeless was the effort to
maintain the purity desired by the ecclesiastical authorities, and
that entreaties and exhortations were uttered merely from a sense of
duty, and with hardly an expectation of commanding attention. “This,
to you, priests, will seem grievous, because ye have your misdeeds in
custom, so that it seems to yourselves that ye have no sin in so living
in female intercourse as laymen; and say that Peter the Apostle had a
wife and children.... Beloved, we cannot now forcibly compel you to
chastity, but we admonish you, nevertheless, that ye observe chastity,
so as Christ’s ministers ought, in good reputation, to the pleasure of

That these well-meant homilies effected little in reforming the hearts
of so obdurate a generation becomes manifest by the proceedings of
the council of Enham, held by King Ethelred in 1009. The priests are
there entreated, by the obedience which they owe to God, to observe
the chastity which they know to be due. Yet so great was the laxity
prevailing that some are stated to have two or more wives, and many to
be in the habit of changing their spouses at pleasure, in violation of
all Christian law. The council was apparently, however, powerless to
repress these scandals by an adequate punishment, and contented itself
with promising to those who lived chastely the privileges and legal
status of nobles, while the vicious were vaguely threatened with the
loss of the grace of God and man.[426]

The injunctions of the council as regards the regular clergy, though
not particularly specific in their nature, show that even the monks
had not responded to the benefits conferred upon them by Edgar the
Pacific, nor fulfilled the expectations of the pious Dunstan. An
expression employed, indeed, leads the learned Spelman to suggest that
there possibly were two orders of monks, the one married and the other
unmarried; but this is probably without foundation.[427]

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was the condition of the church when the increasing assaults of
the Northman finally culminated in overthrowing the house of Cerdic,
and placing the hated Dane upon the throne of England. Cnut’s long and
prosperous reign, and his earnest veneration for the church, as shown
by his pilgrimage to Rome, may perhaps have succeeded in removing some
of the grosser immoralities of the clergy, but that marriage was still
openly and unrestrainedly practised by those in orders is evident. The
ecclesiastical laws of Cnut exhort priests to chastity in precisely the
same words, and with the same promises as the canons of the council of
Enham, but do not allude to the habit of keeping a plurality of wives;
while, in the same chapter, a warning to the whole people against
unlawful concubinage would seem to indicate that clergy and laity were
bound by rules identical in strictness.[428]

That the rule of celibacy was recognized as only binding on the
regulars, or monks, and that the secular priesthood were at full
liberty to marry is evident from the system of purgation enjoined
on them by the same code. The priest who was also a monk (sacerdos
regulariter vivens—sacerd þe regollice libbe), could clear himself from
an accusation in a simple suit by merely saying mass, and taking the
communion, while the secular priest (plebeius sacerdos—mæssepreorst
þe regol-lif næbbe) is only equal to the deacon-monk (diaconus
regularis—diacon þe regollice libbe), requiring two of his peers as
compurgators.[429] The significance of the distinction thus drawn is
rendered clear by the version of the passage in a curious Latin text of
the code published by Kolderup-Rosenvinge. The chapter is divided into
two, the first one with the rubric “De Sacerdotibus,” and commencing
“Si contigerit presbyterum regulariter et caste viventem,” &c., while
the second is headed “De vulgare sacerdote _non casto_,” the meaning
of which is defined in the expression “Si vulgaris presbyter qui non
regulariter vivit.”[430] It is thus evident that purity was expected
from those only who had entered into the obligations of monastic life,
and also that the reforms of Dunstan had caused the ministers of the
altar to be frequently selected from among the monks.

To this period are also, in all probability, to be attributed
the “Institutes of Polity, civil and ecclesiastical,” to which
reference has been made in the preceding section as blaming priests
for decorating their wives with the ornaments belonging to their
churches. Unable to denounce efficient penalties for the prevention
of such evil practices, the author is obliged to content himself with
invoking future punishment from heaven, in vague and meaningless
threats—“A priest’s wife is nothing but a snare of the devil, and he
who is ensnared thereby on to his end, he will be seized fast by the

From all this it is evident that the memory of the ancient canons
was not forgotten, and that their observance was still urged by some
ardent churchmen, but that the customs of the period had rendered them
virtually obsolete, and that no sufficient means existed of enforcing
obedience. If open scandals and shameless bigamy and concubinage could
be restrained, the ecclesiastical authorities were evidently content.
Celibacy could not be enjoined as a law, but was rendered attractive
by surrounding it with privileges and immunities denied to him who
yielded to the temptations of the flesh, and who thus in some degree
assimilated his sacred character to that of the laity.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Saxon church thus was practically regardless of the rule of
celibacy when Edward the Confessor ascended the throne. The ascetic
piety of that prince and his Norman education alike led him to abhor
the sensual indulgences in which he found his subjects plunged, and
he attached himself almost exclusively to the horde of Norman monks
who flocked to his court from across the Channel. Their influence
was all-powerful, and though reasons of the highest state necessity
forced him to ally himself in marriage with Edith, daughter of the
puissant Duke Godwin, whom Edward hated with all the energy of his
feeble nature, it was not difficult for his artful ghostly counsellors
to persuade him that a vow of virginity, taken and kept amid the
seductions of a throne, would insure his glory in this world and his
salvation in the next. A minstrel historian describes at length the
engagement of perpetual chastity entered into between Edward and Edith
at their marriage, and though he mentions the popular derision to
which this exposed the royal monk at the hands of a gross and brutal
generation, he is firmly persuaded that the crown of martyrdom was
worthily won and worn—

    Par veinere charnel desir,
    Bein deit estre clamez martir.
    Ne sai cunter en nul estoire
    Rei ki feist si grant victoire,
    Sa char, diable e mund venqui,
    Ki sont troi fort enimi.[432]

How little the royal pair expected this example to be followed and
how relaxed were all the rules of monastic discipline is shown by an
anecdote of the period. The austere Gervinus, Abbot of St. Riquier in
Ponthieu was always welcomed by them when he visited England, and on
one occasion Queen Edith offered to kiss him. The Abbot’s rigidity
overcame his courtliness and he refused the royal salutation, to the
great indignation of the Queen, who ordered certain gifts which she
had set apart for him to be withdrawn. Edward, however, approved of
the action of the monk, and after Edith had been made to understand
his motives she not only joined in applauding him but demanded that a
similar rule should be made imperative on all the monks of England.[433]

It cannot be doubted that Edward made efforts to effect a reform among
his sensual and self-indulgent subjects, but his want of success is
developed in the description of the Saxon clergy at the time of the
Conquest. The Norman chroniclers speak of them as abandoned to sloth,
ignorance, and the lusts of the flesh; even monastic institutions were
matters rather of tradition than of actual existence, and the monks
themselves were hardly distinguishable by their mode of life from the
laity.[434] There doubtless may be some contemptuous exaggeration in
this, and yet one author of the period, who is wholly Saxon in his
feelings, does not hesitate to attribute the ruin of the Saxon monarchy
and the devastation of the kingdom to the just wrath of God, provoked
by the vices of the clergy.[435]

       *       *       *       *       *

The rule of the Normans removed England from her isolation. Brought
into the commonwealth of Christendom and under the active supremacy
of the Holy See, her history henceforth becomes more closely
connected with the general ecclesiastical movement which received its
irresistible impulsion about this period. That movement it is now our
business to examine.



In a previous section I have shown the laxity prevailing throughout
Continental Europe at the commencement of the eleventh century. It
is not to be supposed, however, that even where this was tacitly
permitted, it was openly and unreservedly authorized. The perversity
of a sinful generation might render impossible the enforcement of
the ancient canons; they might even be forgotten by the worldly and
unthinking; but they were still the law of the church, and their
authority was still admitted by some ardent devotees who longed to
restore the purity of earlier ages. Burckhardt, who was Bishop of Worms
from the year 1000 to 1025, in his voluminous collection of canons,
gives a fair selection from the councils and decretals prohibiting all
female intercourse to the clergy.[436] Benedict VIII. and the Emperor
St. Henry II.—whose admiration of virginity was evinced by the personal
sacrifice to which reference has just been made—in 1022 endeavored in
the most solemn manner to reform the universal laxity. At the synod of
Pavia a series of canons was adopted pronouncing sentence of deposition
upon all priests, deacons, and subdeacons having wives or concubines,
and upon all bishops keeping women near them, while special stress
was laid upon the continued servitude of the children of all such
ecclesiastics as were serfs of the church.[437] These canons, signed
by the pope and attendant bishops, were laid before the emperor, who
indorsed them with his sanction, declared them to be municipal as
well as ecclesiastical law, promised that their observance should
be enforced by the civil magistrates, and thanked Benedict and his
prelates for their vigilance in seeking a remedy for the incontinence
of the clergy, the evils whereof swept like a storm over the face of

In France, the long reign of Robert the Pious seems to have been marked
with almost entire indifference to the subject, but the accession of
his son Henry I. was attended with a strenuous effort to effect a
reform. The council of Bourges, held in November, 1031, but four months
after the death of Robert, may perhaps have been assembled at the
request of the dying monarch, desirous of redeeming his own sins with
the vicarious penance of his subjects. It addressed itself vigorously
to eradicating the evil by a comprehensive series of measures,
admirably adapted to the end in view. Priests, deacons, and subdeacons
were forbidden to have wives or concubines, and all such consorts
were ordered to be dismissed at once and forever. Those who refused
obedience were to be degraded to the rank of lectors or chanters, and
in future no ecclesiastic was to be permitted to take either wife or
concubine. A vow of chastity was commanded as a necessary prerequisite
to assuming the subdiaconate, and no bishop was to ordain a candidate
without exacting from him a promise to take neither wife nor concubine.
Children of the clergy in orders, born during the ministry of their
parents, were pronounced incapable of entering the church, in
justification of which was cited the provision of the municipal law
which incapacitated illegitimates from receiving inheritance or bearing
witness in court; but those who were born after their fathers had been
reduced to the condition of laymen were not to be considered as the
children of ecclesiastics.[439]

Nothing could be more reasonable than all this, considered from the
high-church stand-point, and nothing better adapted to effect the
object in view. All that was wanting was the enforcement of the
legislation—and laws, when opposed to the spirit of the age, are not
apt to be enforced. How much was really gained by the united efforts
of the pope, the emperor, and the Gallican hierarchy can readily be
gathered from a few out of innumerable incidents afforded by the
history of the period.

The able and energetic, though unscrupulous, Benedict VIII. was no
more, and the great House of Tusculum, which ruled the Eternal City,
had filled the chair of St. Peter with a worthless scion of their
stock, as though to declare their contempt for the lofty pretensions
of the Apostolic Episcopate. A fit descendant of the infamous Marozia
and Alberic, Benedict IX., a child of ten years old at the time of his
elevation in 1032, grew up in unrestrained license, and shocked even
the dull sensibilities of a gross and barbarous age by the scandals of
his daily life.[440] The popular appreciation of his character is shown
by the legend of his appearing after death to a holy man, in the figure
of a bear, with the ears and tail of an ass, and declaring that, as he
had lived in bestiality, so he was destined to wear the form of a beast
and to suffer fiery torments until the Day of Judgment, after which he
was to be plunged, body and soul, into the fathomless pit of hell.[441]
When the Vicegerent of God, the head of the Christian church, was
thus utterly depraved, the prospect of reforming the corruption of
the clergy was not promising, and the good work was not likely to be
prosecuted with vigor.

Nor were the members of the hierarchy unworthy of their superior. We
hear of Rainbaldo, Bishop of Fiesole, who, not contented with numerous
concubines, had publicly married a wife, and whose children were
established as a wide-spread and powerful family—and, what is perhaps
more remarkable, this dissolute prelate was gifted with the power of
working miracles.[442] The bishops, indeed, at this period, were still
rather warrior nobles than Christian ministers. Bisantio, the good
Bishop of Bari, is praised quite as much for his terrible prowess in
battle as for his pious benevolence and munificence; and on his death,
in 1035, his flock chose a military official as his successor.[443]

Descending in the scale, we may instance the priest Marino, who, though
he lived openly with his wife, was a noted miracle-worker. Among
quaint wonders wrought by him it is recorded that water rendered holy
by his blessing, when sprinkled over the cornfields, had the power of
driving away all caterpillars and other noxious insects. His child,
Eleuchadio, was a most venerable man, who subsequently, as abbot of the
monastery of the Virgin at Fiano, won the esteem and respect of even
the stern Damiani himself.[444] In fact, the pious Desiderius, Abbot
of Monte Casino, better known as pope under the name of Victor III.,
declares that throughout Italy, under the pontificate of Benedict, all
orders, from bishops down, without shame or concealment, were publicly
married and lived with their wives as laymen, leaving their children
fully provided for in their wills; and what rendered the disgrace more
poignant was the fact that the scandal was greatest in Rome itself,
whence the light of religion and discipline had formerly illuminated
the Christian world.[445] Another contemporary writer asserts that this
laxity prevailed throughout the whole of Latin Christendom, sacerdotal
marriage being everywhere so common that it was no longer punished as
unlawful, and scarcely even reprehended.[446]

In becoming thus universal and tacitly permitted it was not
incompatible with the most fervent piety; and though it may be
an evidence of hierarchical disorganization, it can no longer be
considered as indicating of itself a lowered standard of morals in the
ministers of the church. This is forcibly illustrated in the case of
St. Procopius, selected by Duke Ulric of Bohemia as the first abbot
of the monastery of Zagow. He was regularly bred to the church under
the care of Bishop Quirillus, and was noted for the rectitude of his
deportment in the priesthood; yet we learn that he was married during
this period, when we are told that, on being disgusted with the hollow
vanities of the world, he abandoned wife and friends for the solitude
of a hermit’s cave. Here an accidental meeting with Duke Ulric, while
hunting, led to the foundation of Zagow and to the installation of
Procopius as its head.[447]

Silently the church seemed to acquiesce in the violation of her canons,
until, at length, she appeared content if her ministers would satisfy
themselves with reputable marriage and avoid the grosser scandals. When
Ulric, Abbot of Tegernsee, about 1041, deplored the evil influence of
a priest who had two wives living, he seems to have felt that lawful
marriage might be tolerated, but that polygamy was of evil example in
a Christian pastor.[448] So when Albert the Magnificent, Archbishop of
Hamburg, was accustomed to exhort his clergy to continence and to shun
the pestiferous society of women, his worldly wisdom prompted him to
add that, if they were unequal to the effort, they should at least keep
unsullied the bonds of marriage and should live “si non caste, tamen

If irregularities such as these existed, they are not justly imputable
to the church itself. It can scarcely be a matter of wonder if the
clergy, in assimilating themselves to the laity as regards the
liberty of wedlock, should also have adopted the license which in
that lawless age rendered the marriage-tie a slender protection for
the weakness of woman. Though it was indissoluble according to the
teachings of religion, yet the church, which at that time was the
only protector of the feeble against the strong, had not acquired the
commanding authority which subsequently enabled it to enforce its
decrees everywhere and on all occasions. If, under a vigorous pope, the
sentence of excommunication had been able to frighten a superstitious
monarch like Robert the Pious, yet the pontiffs of the House of
Tusculum were not men to trouble themselves, or to be successful had
they made the attempt, to rectify the wrongs perpetrated in every
obscure baronial castle or petty hamlet in Europe. The isolation and
independence of the feudal system made every freeman, so to speak, the
arbiter of his own actions. The wife whose charms ceased to gratify
the senses of her husband, or whose temper threatened to disturb his
equanimity, stood little chance of retaining her position, if an
opportunity offered of replacing her to advantage, unless she was
fortunate in having kindred able to resent the wrong which the church
and the law were powerless to prevent or to punish.[450] If, then, the
clergy occasionally indulged in similar practices, the evil is not
attributable to the license of marriage which they had usurped. That
license had, at all events, borne some fruits of good, for, during
its existence, we hear somewhat less of the system of concubinage so
prevalent before and after this period, and there is no authentic
indication of the nameless horrors so suggestively intimated by the
restrictions on the residence of relatives enjoined in the frequent
canons promulgated at the close of the ninth century.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not to be supposed, however, that the race of ascetics was
extinct. Amid the license which prevailed in every class, there were
still some men who, disgusted with the turbulent and dissolute world,
despairing of salvation among the temptations and trials of active life
or the sloth and luxury of the monastic establishments, sought the path
to heaven in solitude and maceration. Such men could not but look with
detestation on the worldly priests who divided their thoughts between
their sacred calling and the cares of an increasing household, and who
profaned the unutterable mysteries of the altar with hearts and hands
not kept pure from the lusts of the flesh.

Prominent among these holy anchorites was S. Giovanni Gualberto, who
fled from the snares of the world to the forests of Camaldoli, where
his austerities, his holiness, and his miracles soon attracted crowds
of disciples, who formed a numerous community of humble imitators
of his virtues. Restoring in its strictness the neglected Rule of
Benedict, his example and his teaching wrought conviction, and the
order of monks which he founded and carried with him to the peaceful
shades of Vallombrosa became renowned for its sanctity and purity. Thus
withdrawn by the will of heaven from the selfish egotism of a hermit’s
existence, he labored earnestly to reform the laxity of priestly
life in general, and his success was most encouraging. Moved by his
admonitions, self-indulgent clerks abandoned wives and mistresses,
devoted themselves to the performance of their sacred functions,
or sought in monastic seclusion to make atonement for their past

Though it may well be supposed that Gualberto was not unassisted
in his efforts, yet all such individual exertions, dependent upon
persuasion alone, could be but limited in their influence and temporary
in their results. Reform, to be universal and permanent, required to
be authoritative in its character and to proceed from above downward.
The papacy itself must cease to be a scandal to Christendom, and must
be prepared to wield the awful force of its authority, seconded by
the moral weight of its example, before disorders so firmly rooted
could be attacked with any hope of success. In 1044, Benedict IX. was
driven out of Rome by a faction of rebels or patriots, who elected
Silvester III. as pontiff in his place. A sudden revolution sent
Silvester into exile, and brought Benedict back, who, to complete the
confusion, sold the papal dignity to a new aspirant, known as Gregory
VI. The transaction was not one which could decently be recognized by
the church, and Benedict was held incapable of thus transferring the
allegiance of Christendom or of depriving himself of his position.
There were thus three popes, whose conflicting claims to reverence
threw all Europe into the doubt and danger of schism, nor could the
knotty question be solved by the power of distracted Italy. A more
potent judge was required, and the decision was referred, as a matter
of course, to the sagacious and energetic Emperor, Henry the Black,
whose success in repressing the turbulence of the empire, and whose
sincere reverence for the church gave reasonable promise of a happy
solution of the tangled problem.[452] His proceeding was summary. The
three competitors were unceremoniously dismissed, and Henry filled the
vacancy thus created by the appointment of Suidger, Bishop of Bamberg,
who assumed the name of Clement II.

Henry III. was moved by a profound conviction that a thorough and
searching reform was vitally necessary to the church. The conscientious
severity of his character led him to have little toleration for the
abuses and disorders which were everywhere so painfully apparent. How
far his views were in advance of those generally entertained, even by
ecclesiastical dignitaries, was clearly manifested as early as 1042,
when Gebhardt, Bishop of Ratisbon, urged the claims of his favorite
arch-priest Cuno for the vacant see of Eichstedt. Henry refused on
the ground that Cuno was the son of a priest, and therefore by the
established canons ineligible to the position. The reason, though
unanswerable, was so novel that Gebhardt refused to accept it as the
true one, and Henry, to pacify him, promised to nominate any other one
of the Ratisbon clergy whom Gebhardt might select. The choice fell upon
a young and unknown man, also named Gebhardt, whose abilities, brought
into notice thus accidentally, rendered him afterwards more conspicuous
as Pope Victor II.[453]

Henry did not neglect the opportunity now afforded him of carrying
into effect his reformatory views, and in his selection of a pontiff
he was apparently influenced by the conviction that the Italian clergy
were too hopelessly corrupt for him to expect from them assistance
in his plans. Clement exchanged with him promises of mutual support
in the arduous undertaking. We have nothing to do with the most
crying evil; the one first vigorously attacked, and the one which
was productive of the greatest real detriment to the church—simony.
That was everywhere open and avowed. From the blessing of the priest
to the nomination for a primacy, every ecclesiastical act was the
subject of bargain and sale, reduced in many places to a regular scale
of prices.[454] To remove this scandal, Clement set vigorously to
work, and soon found an united opposition which promised little for
the success of the undertaking. He was doubtless sincere, but he was
clearly alone in his struggle with the fierce Italian prelates, who
were resolved not to abandon the emoluments and indulgences to which
they had grown accustomed, and the result of his efforts did not fulfil
the expectations of the more sanguine aspirants for the purification
of the church. Even his patron the emperor appears to have doubted
his earnestness in the cause, for we find Henry not only addressing
him a letter urging him to fresh exertion, but intrusting it to Peter
Damiani, with a command to present it in person, and to use all his
powers of exhortation to stimulate the flagging zeal of the pope.
Damiani refused to leave his hermitage even at the imperial mandate,
but he enclosed the missive in one of his own, deploring the unhealed
wounds of the church, recapitulating the shortcomings of Clement, and
goading him to fresh efforts, in a style which savored little of the
reverence due to the Vicegerent of God.[455] The pontifical crown was
evidently not a wreath of roses. Clement sank under its weight, and
died October 9th, 1047, in less than ten months after he had accepted
the perilous dignity.

       *       *       *       *       *

St. Peter Damiani, who thus introduces himself to our notice, was one
of the remarkable men of the epoch. Born about the year 988 at Ravenna,
of a noble but decayed family, and the last of a numerous progeny,
he owed his life to a woman of the very class to the extirpation of
which he devoted all the energies of his prime. His mother, worn out in
the struggle with poverty, regarded his birth with aversion, refused
to suckle the infant saint, and neglected him until his forlorn and
emaciated condition awoke the compassion of a female retainer, the
wife of a priest, who remonstrated with the unfeeling parent until
she succeeded in arousing the sense of duty and restored to existence
the little sufferer, who was destined to bring unnumbered woes to all
who were of her condition.[456] His early years are said to have been
passed as a swineherd, till the opportunity for instruction offered
itself, which he eagerly embraced. Retiring at length from the world,
he joined the disciples of St. Romuald, who practised the strictest
monastic life, either as monks or hermits, at Avellana, near Agubio.
Immuring himself there in the desert, his austerities soon gained for
him the reputation of preëminent sanctity, and led to his election
as prior of the brotherhood. Gifted by nature with an intellect of
unusual strength, informed with all the learning of the day, his stern
asceticism, his dauntless spirit, and the uncompromising force of his
zeal brought him into notice and marked him as a fitting instrument in
the cause of reform. Occasionally, at the call of his superiors, he
left his beloved retreat to do battle with the hosts of evil, returning
with renewed zest to the charms of solitude, until, in 1057, Stephen
IX. forced him to accept the cardinalate and bishopric of Ostia—the
highest dignity in the Roman court. The duties of his episcopate,
however, conflicted with his monastic fervor, and after a few years he
rendered up the pastoral ring and staff and again returned to Avellana,
where he died in 1072, full of years and honors. His position and
authority can best be estimated from the terms employed by Alexander
II., who, when sending him on an important mission to France, described
him as next in influence to himself in the Roman church, and the chief
support of the Holy See.[457]

With a nature ardent and combative, worked up to the highest pitch of
ascetic intolerance by the introspective musings of his cell, it may
readily be conceived that the corruptions of the church filled him
with warm indignation and fierce desire to restore it to its pristine
purity. To this holy cause he devoted the last half of his life, and
was always ready, with tongue and pen, at the sacrifice of his dearly
prized solitude, to further the great movement on which he felt that
the future of Christianity depended. The brief hopes excited by the
promises of Clement and Henry were speedily quenched by the untimely
death of the German pontiff, and the most sanguine might well despair
at seeing the odious Benedict IX. reinstated as pope. But the emperor
was in earnest, and listened willingly to the cry of those who besought
him not to leave his good work unfinished. Nine brief months saw
Benedict again a wanderer, and another German prelate installed in his
place. Poppo of Brixen, however, enjoyed his new dignity, as Damasus
II., but twenty-one days, when he fell a martyr to the cause, perishing
miserably, either through the insalubrious heats of a Roman summer,
or the hidden vindictiveness of Italian party rage. It required some
courage to accept the honorable but fatal post, and six months elapsed
ere a worthy candidate could be found. Henry’s choice this time fell
upon Bruno of Toul, a prelate to whom admiring biographers ascribe
every virtue and every qualification. As Leo IX. he ascended the
pontifical throne in February, 1049, and he soon gave ample evidence
of the sincerity with which he intended to carry out the views of the
puritans whom he represented.

It was significant that he took with him to Rome the monk Hildebrand,
lately released from the service of his master Gregory VI., who had
died in his German exile, restored by a miracle at his death to the
honors of which he had been adjudged unworthy while living.[458] Still
more significant was the fact that Leo entered Rome, not as pope, but
as a barefooted pilgrim, and that he required the empty formality of
an election within the city, as though the nomination of the emperor
had given him no claim to his high office. Whether this was the result
of a voice from heaven, as related by the papal historians,[459] or
whether it was done at the suggestion of the high-churchman Hildebrand,
it showed that the new pontiff magnified his office, and felt that the
line of distinction between the clerk and the layman was to be sharply
drawn and vigorously defended.

Damiani lost no time in stimulating the stranger to the duties
expected of him by the party of reform. From the retreat of Avellana
he addressed to Leo an essay, which is the saddest of all the sad
monuments bequeathed to us by that age of desolation. With cynical
boldness he develops the frightful excesses epidemically prevalent
among the cloistered crowds of men, attributable to the unnatural
restraints imposed upon the passions of those unfitted by nature
or by training to control themselves; and his laborious efforts to
demonstrate the propriety of punishing the guilty by degradation show
how hideous was the laxity of morals which was disposed to regard
such crimes with indulgence.[460] Like the nameless horrors of the
Penitentials, it is the most convincing commentary on the system which
sought to enforce an impossible exaltation of purity on the ministers
of a religion whose outward formalism had absorbed its internal

Leo IX. was not long in manifesting his intentions, and his first point
of attack was chosen with some skill, the ecclesiastical rank of the
victim and his want of power rendering him at once a striking example
and an easy sacrifice. Dabralis, Archbishop of Salona (or Spalatro) in
Dalmatia, was married and lived openly with his wife. Leo sent a legate
to investigate and punish. Called before a synod, Dabralis could not or
deigned not to deny his guilt, but boldly justified it, as the woman
was his lawful wife, and he instanced the customs of the Greek church
in his defence. This only aggravated his guilt, and he was promptly
degraded forever.[462]

Leaving, for a time, the Italian church for subsequent efforts at
reformation, Leo undertook a progress throughout Northern Europe, for
the purpose of restoring the neglected discipline of those regions.
Before the year of his installation had expired, in November, 1049,
we find him presiding with the emperor at a council in Mainz, where
the simony and marriage of the clergy were condemned under severe
penalties.[463] That the influence thus brought to bear had some
effect, at least in externals, is shown by the courtly Albert of
Hamburg, who, on returning from the council to his see, revived a
forgotten regulation of his predecessors, by virtue of which the women
of ecclesiastics were ordered to live outside of the towns, in order
to avoid public scandal.[464] A few weeks before, in France, Leo had
presided over a national council at Rheims, where his vigorous action
against simony caused numerous vacancies in the hierarchy. The records
and canons of this council contain no allusions to the subject of
marriage or concubinage, but it is altogether improbable that they
escaped attention, for they were indulged in without concealment by all
classes of ecclesiastics, and some subsequent writers assert that they
were rigorously prohibited by the council, but that the injunctions
promulgated were unavailing.[465]

Returning to the South, the Easter of 1051 beheld a council assembled
at Rome for the purpose of restoring discipline. Apparently, the
Italian prelates were disposed to exercise considerable caution in
furthering the wishes of their chief, for they abstained from visiting
their indignation on the guilty priests, and directed their penalties
against the unfortunate females. In the city itself these were declared
to be enslaved, and were bestowed on the cathedral church of the
Lateran, while all bishops throughout Christendom were desired to apply
the rule to their own dioceses, and to seize the offending women for
the benefit of their churches.[466] The atrocity of this legislation
against the wives of priests is all the more noteworthy when contrasted
with the tenderness shown to worse crimes committed by men whose high
position only rendered their guilt the more heinous. At this council,
Gregory, Bishop of Vercelli, was convicted of what, by the rules of the
church, was considered as incest—an amour with a widow betrothed to
his uncle. For this aggravated offence he was merely excommunicated,
and when, soon after, he presented himself in Rome, he was restored to
communion on his simple promise to perform adequate penance.[467]

The reformatory zeal of Leo and of the monastic followers of Damiani
was thus evidently not seconded by the Italian church. A still more
striking proof of this was afforded by the attempt to hold a council
at Mantua early in 1053. The prelates who dreaded the result conspired
to break it up. A riot was provoked between their retainers and the
papal domestics; the latter, taken unawares and speedily overpowered,
fled to the council-chamber for safety, and Leo, rushing to the door
to protect them, was in imminent danger from the arrows and stones
which hurtled thickly around him.[468] The reckless plot succeeded, and
the council dispersed in undignified haste. Whether Leo was disgusted
with his want of success and convinced of the impracticability of the
undertaking, or whether his attention was thenceforth absorbed by his
unlucky military operations against the rapidly augmenting Norman power
in Southern Italy, it is not easy now to ascertain: suffice it to say
that no further indications remain of any endeavor to carry out the
reforms so eagerly commenced in the first ardor of his pontificate.
The consistent Damiani opposed the warlike aspirations of the pontiff,
but Leo persisted in leading his armies himself. A lost battle threw
Leo into the power of the hated Normans, when, after nine months, he
returned to Rome to die, in April, 1054, and to be reverenced as a
saint after death by those who had withstood him during life in every
possible manner.[469]

It is not easy to repress a smile on seeing Leo, who had been so
utterly unable to enforce the canons of the Latin church at home,
seriously undertaking to procure their adoption in Constantinople.
From his prison, in January, 1054, he sent Cardinal Humbert of Silva
Candida on a mission to convert the Greek church. There is extant a
controversy between the legate and Nicetas Pectoratus, a learned Greek
abbot, on the various points in dispute. I cannot profess to decide
which of the antagonists had the advantage on the recondite questions
of the use of unleavened bread, the Sabbath fasts, the calculation
of Easter, &c., but the contrast between the urbanity of the Greek
and the coarse vituperation of the Latin is strikingly suggestive as
a tacit confession of defeat on the part of the latter. In view of
the frightful immorality of the Italian clergy, there is something
peculiarly ludicrous in the mingled anger, contempt, and abhorrence
with which Humbert alludes to the marriage of the Greek clergy, which,
as he declares, renders their church the synagogue of Satan and the
brothel of Balaam and Jezebel, with other equally courteous and
convincing arguments. Humbert attributes priestly marriage altogether
to the heresy of the Nicolites, and lays down the law on the subject
as inexorably as though it were at the time observed in his own

After an interval of about a year, the line of German pontiffs was
continued in the person of Gebhardt, Bishop of Eichstedt (Victor II.),
whose appointment by the emperor was owing in no small degree to the
influence of Hildebrand—an influence which was daily making itself more
felt. Installed in the pontifical seat by Godfrey, Duke of Tuscany,
his efforts to continue the reformation commenced by his predecessors
aroused a stubborn resistance. There may be no foundation for the
legend of his being saved by a miracle from a sacramental cup poisoned
by a vengeful subdeacon, nor for the rumors that his early death was
hastened by the recalcitrant clergy who sought to escape the severity
of his discipline. There is some probability in the stories, however,
for, during his short pontificate, interrupted by a lengthened stay in
Germany and the perpetual vicissitudes of the Neapolitan troubles, he
yet found time to hold a synod at Florence, where he degraded numerous
prelates for simony and licentiousness; but, whether true or false, the
existence of the reports attests at once the sincerity of his zeal and
the difficulties of the task.[471]

His death in July, 1057, was followed after but a few days’ interval
by the election of Frederic, Duke of Lorraine—the empire having passed
in 1056 from the able hands of Henry III. to the feeble regency of his
empress, Agnes, as guardian of the unfortunate infant Henry IV.—thus
releasing the Roman clergy from the degrading dictation of a Teutonic
potentate. That Frederic should have abandoned the temptations and
ambitions of his lofty station to embrace the austerities of monastic
life in the abbey of Monte Casino, is a sufficient voucher that he
would not draw back from the work thus far hopelessly undertaken by his
predecessors. Notwithstanding the severity of the canons promulgated
during the previous decade, and the incessant attempts to enforce
them, Rome was still full of married priests, and the battle had to be
recommenced, as though nothing had yet been done. Immediately on his
installation, as Stephen IX., he addressed himself unshrinkingly to the
task. For four months, during the most unhealthy season, he remained
in Rome, calling synod after synod, and laboring with both clergy and
people to put an end to such unholy unions,[472] and he summarily
expelled from the church all who had been guilty of incontinence since
the prohibitions issued in the time of Leo.[473] One case is related
of a contumacious priest whose sudden death gave him the opportunity
of striking terror into the hearts of the reckless, for the mutilated
funeral rites which deprived the hardened sinner of the consolation of
a Christian burial it was hoped would prove an effectual warning to
his fellows.[474] Feeling the necessity of support in these thankless
labors, he forced Damiani to leave the retirement of the cloistered
shades of Avellana, and to bear, as Bishop of Ostia, his share of the
burden in the contest which he had done so much to provoke—but it was
all in vain.

In little more than half a year Stephen found refuge from strife and
turmoil in the tomb. The election of his successor, Gerard, Bishop of
Florence, was the formal proclamation that the church was no longer
subjected to the control of the secular authority. January 18th, 1058,
saw the power of the emperor defied, and the gauntlet thrown for the
quarrel which for three centuries was to plunge Central and Southern
Europe in turmoil and bloodshed. Henry III. had labored conscientiously
to rescue the papacy from the disgrace into which it had fallen. By
removing it from the petty sphere of the counts of Tusculum and the
barons of the Campagna, and by providing for it a series of highminded
and energetic pontiffs, he had restored its forfeited position, and
indeed had conferred upon it an amount of influence which it had never
before possessed. His thorough disinterestedness and his labors for its
improvement had disarmed all resistance to the exercise of his power,
but when that power passed into the hands of an infant but five years
old, it was natural that the church should seek to emancipate itself
from subjection; and if almost the first use made of its new-found
prerogatives was to crush the hand that had enabled it to obtain them,
we must not tax with ingratitude those who were undoubtedly penetrated
with the conviction that they were only vindicating the imprescriptible
rights of the church, and that to them was confided the future of
religion and civilization.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the revolution which thus may date its successful commencement
at this period the two foremost figures are Damiani and Hildebrand.
Damiani the monk, with no further object than the abolition of simony
and the enforcement of the austerities which he deemed indispensable to
the salvation of the individual and to the purity of the church, looked
not beyond the narrow circle of his daily life, and sought merely
to level mankind by the measure of his own stature. Hildebrand, the
far-seeing statesman, could make use of Damiani and his tribe, perhaps
equally fervent in his belief that the asceticism of his fellow laborer
was an acceptable offering to God, but yet with ulterior views of
transcendently greater importance. In his grand scheme of a theocratic
empire, it became an absolute prerequisite that the church should hold
undivided sway over its members; that no human affection should render
their allegiance doubtful, but that their every thought and action
should be devoted to the common aggrandizement; that they should be
separated from the people by an impassable barrier, and should wield
an influence which could only be obtained by those who were recognized
as superior to the weaknesses of common humanity; that the immense
landed possessions of the church should remain untouched and constantly
increasing as the common property of all, and not be subjected to
the incessant dilapidations inseparable from uxorious or paternal
affections at a time when the restraints of law and of public opinion
could not be brought to bear with effect. In short, if the church was
to assume and maintain the position to which it was entitled by the
traditions of the canon law and of the False Decretals, it must be a
compact and mutually supporting body, earning by its self-inflicted
austerities the reverence to which it laid claim, and not be diverted
from its splendid goal by worldly allurements or carnal indulgences
and preoccupations. Such was the vision to the realization of which
Hildebrand devoted his commanding talents and matchless force of will.
The temporal success was at length all that he could have anticipated.
If the spiritual results were craft, subtlety, arrogance, cruelty, and
sensuality, hidden or cynical, it merely proves that his confidence
in the strength of human nature to endure the intoxicating effects of
irresponsible power was misplaced. Meanwhile he labored with Damiani
at the preliminary measures of his enterprise, and together they bent
their energies to procure the enforcement of the neglected rules of

The new pope, Nicholas II. by name, entered unreservedly into their
views. Apparently taught by experience the fruitlessness of additional
legislation when the existing canons were amply sufficient, but
their execution impossible through the negligence or collusion of
the ecclesiastical authorities, he assembled, in 1059, a council of
a hundred and thirteen bishops, in which he adopted the novel and
hazardous expedient of appealing to the laity, and of rendering them
at once the judges and executioners of their pastors. A canon was
promulgated forbidding all Christians to be present at the mass of
any priest known to keep a concubine or female in his house.[475]
This probably remained, like its predecessors, a dead letter for the
present, but we shall see what confusion it excited when it was revived
and put effectually in force by Gregory VII. some fifteen years later.
Meanwhile I may observe that it trenched very nearly on the Donatist
heresy that the sacrament was polluted in polluted hands, and it
required the most careful word-splitting to prevent the faithful from
drawing a conclusion so natural.[476]

In addition to this, the council ordered, under pain of
excommunication, that no priest who openly took a concubine (or
rather a wife), or who did not forthwith separate himself from such
a connection already existing, should dare to perform any sacred
function, or enjoy any portion of ecclesiastical revenue.[477]
Hildebrand, who was all-powerful at the papal court—his enemies accused
him of keeping Nicholas like an ass in the stable, feeding him to do
his work—has the credit of procuring this legislation.[478] Nicholas,
whether acting under the impulsion of Hildebrand and Damiani, or from
his own convictions, followed up the reform with vigor. During the same
year he visited Southern Italy, and by his decided proceedings at the
council of Melfi endeavored to put an end to the sacerdotal marriages
which were openly practised everywhere throughout that region, and the
Bishop of Trani was deposed as an example and warning to others.[479]
Damiani was also intrusted with a mission to Milan for the same
purpose, of which more anon.

Nor did Nicholas confine his efforts to Italy. His legates in other
countries endeavored to enforce the canons, and apparently had little
difficulty in obtaining the adoption of stringent regulations—the more
easily acceded to that they were utterly disregarded. Thus his legate
Stephen, early in 1060, held councils at Vienne and Tours, where the
prohibitions of the synod of Rome were agreed to, and those who did not
at once abandon either their women or their benefices were declared to
be degraded forever, without hope of restitution.[480]

In practice, however, all these measures of reform were scarcely felt
except by the lower grades of the ecclesiastical body. The prelates,
whose lives were equally flagitious, and far more damaging to the
reputation and purity of the church, were enabled virtually to escape.
The storm passed beneath them, and with few exceptions persecuted only
those who were powerless to oppose anything but passive resistance.
The uncompromising zeal of Damiani was not likely to let a temporizing
lenity so misplaced and so fatal to the success of the cause remain
unrebuked; and he calls to it the attention of Nicholas, stigmatizing
the toleration of episcopal sins as an absurdity no longer to be
endured.[481] The occasion of this exhortation was a commission
intrusted by the pope to Damiani, to hold a friendly conference with
the prelates, and to induce them to reform their evil ways without
forcing the authorities to the scandal of public proceedings. The fear
of such results and the fiery eloquence of Damiani were alike unheeded.
The bishops confessed themselves unequal to the task of preserving
their chastity, and indifferent to the remote contingency of punishment
which had so often been ineffectually threatened that its capacity for
exciting apprehension had become exhausted. With all the coarseness of
monastic asceticism, Damiani describes the extent of the evil, and its
public and unblushing exhibition; the families which grew and increased
around the prelates, the relationships which were ostentatiously
acknowledged, and the scandals perpetrated in the church of God. In the
boldest strain he then incites the pope to action, blames his misplaced
clemency, and urges the degradation of all offenders, irrespective of
rank, pointing out the impossibility of reforming the priesthood if
the bishops are allowed full and undisturbed license.[482]

This shows that even if the machinery of ecclesiastical authority was
at work to correct the errors of the plebeian clergy, it was only
local and sporadic in its efforts. In some favored dioceses, perhaps,
blessed with a puritan bishop, the decrees of the innumerable councils
may have been put in force, but in the great body of the church the
evil remained unaltered. During this very year, 1060, Nicholas again
found it necessary to promulgate a decretal ordering priests to quit
their wives or resign their position, and this in terms which prove how
utterly futile had been all previous fulminations. He also manifested
some consideration for temporal necessities by allowing the discarded
wives to live with their husbands under proper supervision.[483]

How complete was the disregard of these commands is well illustrated
by an epistle which about this time Damiani addressed to the chaplains
of Godfrey the Bearded, Duke of Tuscany. From this we learn that
these prominent ecclesiastics openly defended sacerdotal marriage,
pronounced it canonical, and were ready to sustain their position in
controversy.[484] As Duke Godfrey, with the pious Beatrice his wife,
was the leading potentate in Italy, and as his territories were in
close proximity to Rome itself, it is evident that the reform so
laboriously prosecuted for the previous ten or fifteen years had thus
far accomplished little.

       *       *       *       *       *

Parties were now beginning to define themselves. The reformers,
irritated by their want of success, were for more stringent measures,
and when the canonical punishments of degradation and excommunication
were derided and defied, they were ready, as we shall see hereafter
at Milan, to have recourse to the secular arm, and to invoke the aid
of sword and lance. The clergy, finding that passive resistance did
not wear out the zeal of their persecutors, that the storm promised to
be endless, and warned by the fate of the Milanese, were prepared to
adopt an aggressive policy, and to seek their safety in revolutionizing
the central authority. Perhaps the bishops, whose silence had been
secured by the toleration so distasteful to Damiani, began to feel the
pressure which he was bringing to bear upon them, and to look forward
with apprehension to the unknown evils of the future. If so, they
were ready to make common cause with their flocks, and throw into the
scale the immense influence due to their sacred character and temporal
power. Thus only the occasion was wanting for an open rupture, and that
occasion was furnished by the death of Nicholas in July, 1061.

       *       *       *       *       *

The factions of the day had alienated a powerful portion of the Roman
barons from the papal party as represented by Hildebrand. They at
once united with the Lombard clergy in addressing a deputation to the
young Henry IV., who was still under the tutelage of his mother Agnes,
offering him a golden crown and the title of Patrician. The empire was
not indisposed to vindicate its old prerogatives, recently annulled by
the initial act of Nicholas limiting the right of papal election to the
Roman clergy. The overtures were therefore welcomed, and while Anselmo,
Bishop of Lucca, was chosen in Rome, October 1st, 1061, assuming the
name of Alexander II., on the 28th of the same month a rival election
took place in Germany, by which Cadalus, Bishop of Parma, was invested
with the perilous dignity of Antipope, and divided the allegiance
of Christendom under the title of Honorius II. At least two Italian
bishops lent their suffrages to these proceedings—those of Vercelli
and Piacenza—as representatives of the Lombard interest; and, if the
testimony of Damiani is to be believed, they were men whose dissolute
lives fitly represented the license which the reformers asserted to be
the principal object of the schismatics.[485]

The married or concubinary clergy were now no longer merely isolated
criminals, to be punished more or less severely for infractions
of discipline. They were a united body, who boldly proclaimed the
correctness of their course, and defended themselves by argument as
well as by political intrigues and military operations. They thus
became offenders of a far deeper dye, for the principles of the church
led irrevocably to the conclusion, paradoxical as it may seem, that
he who was guilty of immorality, knowing it to be wrong, was far
less criminal than he who married, believing it to be right.[486]
What before had been a transgression, to be redeemed by penance and
repentance, became heresy—an awful word in those fierce times. The
odious name of Nicolites was speedily fastened on the schismatics,
and the Apocalyptic denunciations of St. John were universally held
applicable to them. According to Damiani, they supported Cadalus in
the expectation that his success would lead to a modification in the
discipline of the church, by which the license to marry would be
accorded to all ecclesiastics.[487]

That support was efficient, and it was shortly needed. A revolution
suddenly occurred in the politics of Germany. Some dissatisfied nobles
and prelates conspired to obtain power by overthrowing the regency of
the dowager Empress Agnes. A stroke of daring treachery put them in
possession of the person of the boy-king, and the arch-conspirator
Hanno of Cologne earned his canonization by reversing at once the
policy of the previous administration. In a solemn council held
at Osber in 1062, the pretensions of Cadalus were repudiated, and
Alexander II. was recognized as pope. Still Cadalus did not despair,
but with the aid of the Lombard clergy he raised forces and marched on
Rome, relying on his adherents within the walls. They admitted him into
the Leonine city, where he threw himself into the impregnable castle
of San Angelo. Immediately besieged by the Romans, he resolutely held
out for two years, in spite of incredible privations, but at length
he sought safety in flight with but a single follower. Meanwhile his
party, as a political body, had become broken up, and though Henry,
Archbishop of Ravenna, still adhered to him, he was powerless to
maintain his claims. Finally, in 1067, Alexander held a council
at Mantua, cleared his election of imputed irregularity, and was
universally recognized.

During this period, the “Nicolitan” clergy by no means abandoned their
tenets. In 1063, as soon as he could feel reasonably assured of his
eventual success, Alexander assembled more than a hundred bishops in
council at Rome, where he emphatically repeated the canon promulgated
in 1059 by Nicholas II., which was not only a proclamation of his
fidelity to the cause of reform, but an admission that the legislation
of his predecessor had thus far proved fruitless. Damiani, also,
labored unceasingly with argument and exhortation, but the vehemence
of his declamation only shows how widely extended and how powerful the
heresy still was. We shall see hereafter that on a mission to Milan,
to reduce the married clergy to obedience, he barely escaped with his
life; and on another to Lodi, with the same object, the schismatics,
after exhausting argument, in support of priestly marriage, threatened
him with arms in their hands, and again his saintly dignity came near
being enhanced by the honors of martyrdom.[488] Even the restriction
upon second marriages was occasionally lost sight of, and such most
irregular unions were celebrated with all the ceremony and rejoicings
that were customary among laymen in their public nuptials.[489] Yet,
notwithstanding the pious fervor which habitually stigmatized the wives
as harlots and the husbands as unbridled adulterers, Damiani himself
allows us to see that the marriage relation was preserved with thorough
fidelity on the part of the women, and was compatible with learning,
decency, and strict attention to religious duty by the men. Urging the
wives to quit their husbands, he finds it necessary to combat their
scruples at breaking what was to them a solemn engagement, fortified
with all legal provisions and religious rites, but which he pronounces
a frivolous and meaningless ceremony.[490] So, in deploring the
habitual practice of marriage among the Piedmontese clergy, he regards
it as the only blot upon men who otherwise appeared to him as a chorus
of angels, and as shining lights in the church.[491]

Such considerations as these, however, had no influence in diminishing
Damiani’s zeal. To Cunibert, Bishop of Turin, whose spiritual flock he
thus so much admired, he addressed, about 1065, an epistle reproaching
him with his criminal laxity in permitting such transgressions in his
diocese, and urging him strenuously to undertake the reform which was
so necessary to the purity of the church.[492] Cunibert apparently
did not respond to the exhortation, for Damiani proceeded to appeal
to the temporal sovereign of Savoy and Piedmont, Adelaide, widow of
Humbert-aux-Blanches-Mains, who was then regent. In an elaborate
epistle he urges her to attack the wives, while her bishops shall
coerce the husbands; but if the latter neglect that duty, he invites
her to interpose with the secular power, and thus avert from her house
and her country the Divine wrath which must else overtake them.[493]
That so strict a churchman as Damiani should not only tolerate but
advise the exercise of temporal authority over ecclesiastics, and this,
too, in a matter purely ecclesiastical, shows how completely the one
idea had become dominant in his mind, since he was willing to sacrifice
to it the privileges and immunities for which the church had been
struggling, by fair means and foul, for six centuries. It would appear,
moreover, that this was not the first time that potentates had been
allowed, or had assumed, to exercise power in the matter, for Damiani
cautions the Countess Adelaide not to follow the example of some
evil-minded magnates and make the pretence of reformation an excuse for
spoiling the church.[494]

The zeal of the indefatigable Damiani continued to be as unconquerable
as the stubbornness of his adversaries, and some two years later we
find him again at work. The date of 1067 is generally attributed to a
letter which he addressed to Peter, Cardinal Archpriest of the Lateran,
stimulating him to renewed exertions in extirpating this foul disgrace
to the church, and arguing at great length in reply to the reasons and
excuses with which the clerical Benedicks continued to defend their
vile heresy.[495]

In all this controversy, it is instructive to observe how Damiani
shows himself to be the pure model of monkish asceticism, untainted
with any practical wisdom and unwarped by any earthly considerations.
When Hildebrand struggled for sacerdotal celibacy, the shrewdness of
the serpent guided the innocence of the dove, and he fought for what
he knew would prove a weapon of tremendous power in securing for the
church the theocracy which was his pure ideal of human institutions.
Not a thought of the worldly advantages consequent upon the reform
appears to have crossed the mind of Damiani. To him it was simply a
matter of conscience that the ministers of Christ should be adorned
with the austere purity through which alone lay the path to salvation.
Accordingly the arguments which he employs in his endless disputations
carefully avoid the practical reasons which were the principal motive
for enforcing celibacy. His main reliance is on the assumption that, as
Christ was born of a virgin, so he should be served and the Eucharist
be handled only by virgins; and his subsidiary logic consists of
mystical interpretations of passages in the Jewish history of the Old
Testament. Phineas, of course, affords a favorite and oft-repeated
argument and illustration. Allusions to Ahimelech can also be
understood, but the reasoning based upon the tower of Sichem, the linen
girdle of Jeremiah, and the catastrophe of Cain and Abel is convincing
only as to the unworldliness of the recluse of Avellana.

Notwithstanding all his learning and eloquence, the authority of
his name, the lustre of his example, and the tireless efforts of
his fiery energy, the cause to which he had devoted himself did not
advance. The later years of Alexander’s pontificate afford unmistakable
indications that the puritan party were becoming discouraged; that
they were disposed to abate some of their demands, and were ready to
make concessions to the refractory spirit which refused obedience
in both principle and practice. Thus, in 1068, a decretal addressed
to the authorities of Dalmatia merely threatens suspension until
satisfaction is made by those who marry in orders or who refuse to
abandon their wives.[496] A somewhat different position was taken
with the Venetians. An epistle to the Patriarch of Grado orders the
deprivation of those who live in open and undisguised concubinage,
but significantly confines its penalties to notorious infractions
of the rule, and leaves to God the investigation of such as may be
prudently concealed.[497] This manifests a willingness to temporize
with offenders whose respect for papal authority would induce them to
abstain from defiant disobedience—a pusillanimous tempting of hypocrisy
to which the bolder Hildebrand could never have given his consent. A
principle of great importance, moreover, was abandoned when, in 1070,
Alexander assented to the consecration of the bishop-elect of Le Mans,
who was the son of a priest;[498] and when he stated that this was not
a precedent for the future, but merely a concession to the evil of the
times, his laxity was the more impressive, since he thus admitted his
violation of the canons. He subsequently even enlarged this special
permission into a general rule, with merely the saving clause that the
proposed incumbent should be more worthy than his competitors.[499]
Alexander, moreover, maintained in force the ancient rule that no
married man could assume monastic vows unless his wife gave her free
consent, and entered a convent at the same time.[500] We shall see
that in little more than half a century the progress of sacerdotalism
rendered the sacrament of marriage powerless in comparison with the
vows of religion.

Alexander clearly had not in him the stuff of which persecutors and
reformers are made, as, indeed, his merciful liberality in extending
over the Jews throughout Europe the protection of the Holy See
would sufficiently demonstrate. At length he, too, was released from
earthly cares, and on the day after his decease, on April 22, 1073,
his place was filled by the man who of all others was the most perfect
impersonation of the aggressive churchmanship of the age.

Before proceeding, however, to sketch the stormy pontificate of
Hildebrand in its relation to our subject, I must pause to relate the
episode of the Milanese clergy. The struggle in that city to enforce
the ascetic principles of the reformers gives so perfect an inside view
of the reformation itself, and its various stages have been handed down
to us with so much minuteness by contemporary writers, that it deserves
to be treated by itself as a disconnected whole.



In the primitive ages of the church, Milan was at the head of the
Northern Vicariate of Italy, as Rome was of the Southern. When the
preponderance of the latter city became established, the glory of
St. Ambrose shed a lustre over his capital which the true Milanese
fondly regarded as rivalling that of St. Peter and the superiority of
Rome was grudgingly admitted. In the eleventh century, Milan is found
occupying the chief place among the Lombard cities, virtually governed
by its archbishop, whose temporal as well as spiritual power rendered
his position one of great influence and importance. Yet even at that
early period, the republican spirit was already developed, and the city
was divided into factions, as the nobles and citizens struggled for
alternate supremacy.

Milan was moreover the headquarters of the hidden Manichæism which,
after surviving centuries of persecution in the East, was now secretly
invading Europe through Bulgaria, and had already attracted the
vigilant attention of the church in localities widely separated. Its
earliest open manifestation was in Toulouse, in 1018; at Orleans, in
1023, King Robert the Pious caused numerous sectaries to expiate their
heresy at the stake, where their unshrinking zeal excited general
wonder. At Cambrai and Liége similar measures of repression became
necessary in 1025; the Emperor Henry III. endeavored at Goslar, in
1052, to put an end to them with the gallows; and traces of them are
to be found at Agen about the year 1100; at Soissons in 1114; at
Toulouse in 1118; at Cologne in 1146; at Périgord in 1147; in England
in 1166, until we can trace their connection with the Albigenses, whose
misfortunes fill so black a page in the history of the thirteenth
century. Calling themselves Cathari, and stigmatized by true believers
under various opprobrious names, of which the commonest was Paterins,
their doctrines were those of the ancient Manichæans, their most
characteristic tenets being belief in the dualistic principle, and the
abhorrence of animal food and of marriage.[501] The prevalence of these
dogmas among the Milanese populace furnishes a probable explanation of
much that took place during the contest between Rome and the married

       *       *       *       *       *

Eriberto di Arzago, who filled the archiepiscopal chair of Milan from
1019 to 1045, was one of the most powerful princes of Italy, and
though unsuccessful in the revolt which he organized in 1034 against
the Emperor Conrad the Salic, his influence was scarcely diminished
after his return from the expulsion which punished his rebellion.[502]
At the time of his death, Milan was passing through one of its
accustomed civil dissensions. The Motta, or body of burgesses, had
quarrelled with the nobles and archbishop, and, under the leadership
of an apostate noble named Lanzo, had expelled them from the city—an
ejection which was followed by an unsuccessful siege of three years.
At length, in 1044, Lanzo obtained promise of armed assistance from
Henry III., which reduced the nobles to subjection, and they returned
in peace. Eriberto died the following year, and the election of his
successor caused great excitement. Erlembaldo, the popular chief
(dominus populi), called the citizens together to nominate candidates,
and induced them to select four. One of these was Landolfo Cotta, a
notary of the sacred palace, who was brother to Erlembaldo; another
was Anselmo di Badagio, Cardinal of the Milanese church, subsequently
Bishop of Lucca, and finally, as we have seen, pope, under the name of
Alexander II.; the third was Arialdo, of the family of the capitanei
of Carinate; and the fourth was Otho, another Milanese cardinal. These
four were sent to the Emperor, for him to make his selection; but the
faction of the nobles despatched a rival in the person of Guido di
Valate, who already held the appointment of secretary from the emperor,
and who had recommended himself by zealous services, which now claimed
their reward. Henry gave the coveted dignity to Guido, to the great
surprise and indignation of the popular nominees. Their expostulations
were unavailing, and both parties returned—Guido to assume an office
harassed by the opposition of the people on whom he had been forced,
and the disappointed candidates to brood over the wrongs which had
deprived them of the splendid prize.[503] We shall see how thoroughly
three of those candidates avenged themselves.

It is observable from this transaction that Milan was completely
independent of Rome. The sovereignty of the distant emperor, absorbed
in the dissensions of Germany, could press but lightly on the powerful
and turbulent city. Rome was not even thought of in creating the
archbishop, whose spiritual and temporal power were granted by the
imperial investiture. But when, soon after, the German popes had
rescued the papacy from the contempt into which it had fallen, its
domination over Milan became a necessary step in its progress to
universal supremacy, and lent additional vigor to the desires of the
reformers to restore the forgotten discipline of the church in a city
so influential.

Marriage, at this time, was a universal privilege of the Milanese
clergy. If we may believe the testimony of one who was almost a
contemporary, the candidate for holy orders was strictly examined
as to his learning and morals. These being satisfactory, he was, if
unmarried, asked if he had strength to remain so, and if he replied in
the negative, he could forthwith betroth himself and marry with the
ordinary legal and religious ceremonies. Second marriages were not
allowed, and the Levitical law as to the virginity of the bride was
strictly observed. Those who remained single were objects of suspicion,
while those who performed their sacred functions duly, and brought up
their families in the fear of God, were respected and obeyed by their
flocks as pastors should be, and were eligible to the episcopate.
Concubinage was regarded as a heinous offence, and those guilty of it
were debarred from all promotion[504]—in this reversing the estimate
placed upon the respective infractions of discipline by the Roman

       *       *       *       *       *

The see of Lucca consoled Anselmo di Badagio for the failure of his
aspirations towards the archiepiscopate, and the other disappointed
candidates for a while cherished their mortification in silence.
Landolfo and Arialdo were inclined to asceticism, and a visit which
Anselmo paid to Milan stimulated them to undertake a reform which
could not but prove a source of endless trouble to their successful
competitor Guido. Leaders of the people, and masters of the art of
inflaming popular passion, they caused assemblies to be held in which
they inveighed in the strongest terms against the irregularities of the
clergy, whose sacraments they stigmatized as the foulest corruption,
whose churches they denounced as dens of prostitution, and whose
property they assumed to be legitimate prey for the spoiler. Guido in
vain endeavored to repress the agitation thus produced, argued in favor
of the married clergy, and was sustained by the party of the nobles.
In a city like Milan, it was not difficult to excite a tumult. Besides
the influence of the perennial factions, ever eager to tear each
other’s throats, the populace were ready to yield to the eloquence of
the bold reformers. The Manichæan heresy had taken deep root among the
masses, who, afraid to declare their damnable doctrines openly, were
rejoiced in any way to undermine the authority of the priesthood, and
whose views were in accordance with those now broached on the subject
of marriage.[505] While these motives would urge forward the serious
portion of the citizens, the unthinking rabble would naturally be
prompt to embrace any cause which promised a prospect of disturbance
and plunder. Party lines were quickly drawn, and if the reformers were
able to revive a forgotten scandal by stigmatizing their opponents as
Nicolites, the party of the clergy and the nobles had their revenge.
The meetings of Landolfo and Arialdo were held in a spot called
Pataria, whence they soon became known as Paterins—a term which
for centuries continued to be of fearful import, as synonymous with

Matters could not long remain in this condition. During an altercation
in the church of San Celso, a hot-headed priest assaulted Arialdo,
whom Landolfo extricated from the crowd at considerable personal risk.
Thereupon the reformers called the people together in the theatre;
inflammatory addresses speedily wrought up the popular passions to
ungovernable fury; the priests were turned out of the churches,
their houses sacked, their persons maltreated, and they were finally
obliged to purchase a suspension of oppression by subscribing a paper
binding themselves to chastity. The nobles, far from being able to
protect the clergy, finding themselves also in danger, sought safety
in flight; while the rabble, having exhausted the support derivable
from intramural plunder, spread over the country and repeated in the
villages the devastations of priestly property which they had committed
in Milan.[507]

The suffering clergy applied for relief to the bishops of the province,
and finding none, at length appealed to Rome itself. Stephen IX.,
who then filled the papal chair, authorized the archbishop to hold a
synod for the purpose of restoring peace. It met, in the early part
of 1058, at Fontaneto, near Novara. The prelates were unanimous in
sustaining their clergy, and the reformers Landolfo and Arialdo were
excommunicated without a dissentient voice. They disregarded the
interdict, however, redoubled their efforts with the people, whom they
bound by a solemn oath to adhere to the sacred cause, and even forced
the priests to join in the compact. Arialdo then proceeded to Rome,
where he developed in full the objects of the movement, and pointed
out that it would not only result in restoring purity and discipline,
but might also be used to break down the dangerous independence of
the Ambrosian church and reduce it to the subjection which it owed
and refused to the Apostolic see. The arguments were convincing, the
excommunication was removed, and Arialdo returned to his work with zeal
more fiery than ever.[508]

Meanwhile the nobles had taken heart and offered armed resistance to
the Patarian faction, resulting in incessant fights and increasing
bloodshed. Nicholas II., who by this time had succeeded Stephen IX.,
sent Hildebrand and Anselmo di Badagio on a mission to Milan, with
instructions to allay the passions which led to such deplorable
results, and, while endeavoring to uphold the rules of discipline,
to pacify if possible the people, and to arrange such a basis of
reconciliation as might restore peace to the distracted church.
The milder Anselmo might perhaps have succeeded in this errand of
charity, but the unbending Hildebrand was not likely to listen to
aught but unconditional subjection to the canons and to Rome. The
quarrel therefore waxed fiercer and deadlier; the turmoil became
more inextricable as daily combats embittered both parties, and
the missionaries departed, leaving Guido with scarcely a shadow of
authority over his rebellious city, and the seeds of discord more
widely scattered and more deeply planted than ever.[509]

Again, in 1059, a papal legation was sent with full authority to force
the recalcitrant clergy to submission. Anselmo again returned to his
native city, accompanied this time by Peter Damiani. Their presence
and their pretensions caused a fearful tumult, in which Damiani and
Landolfo were in deadly peril.[510] An assembly was at length held,
where the legates asserted the papal preëminence by taking the place of
honor, to the general indignation of the Milanese, who did not relish
the degradation of their archbishop before the representatives of a
foreign prelate. The question in debate hinged upon the authority of
Rome, which was stoutly denied by the Lombards.[511] Peter, in a long
oration, showed that Rome had christianized the rest of Western Europe,
and that St. Ambrose himself had invoked the papal power as superior to
his own. The pride of the Ambrosian church gave way, and the supremacy
of St. Peter was finally acknowledged. This granted, the rest followed
as a matter of course, and the heretical errors of simony and marriage
had to be abandoned. Peter thought himself merciful in his triumph;
where all alike were guilty, punishment for the past became impossible,
and he restricted himself to provisions for the future. The archbishop
and his clergy signed a paper expressing their contrition in the most
humiliating terms, and binding themselves and their successors, under
penalty of eternal damnation, to render simony thereafter unknown.
As regards the Nicolitan heresy, a significant caution was observed,
for its extirpation was only promised in as far as it should be found
possible;[512] and when Arnolfo, the nephew of Guido, swore for
his uncle that in future monks should be the only persons ordained
without a preliminary oath that no money had been paid or received,
it is observable that the maintenance of chastity was discreetly
passed over. Then the archbishop and his clergy swore, in the hands
of Damiani at the altar, their faithful observance of the pledge to
destroy the simoniacal and Nicolitan heresies, under penalties the
most tremendous; and Guido prostrating himself on the ground, humbly
deplored his negligence in the past, imposed on himself a penitence of
a hundred years (redeemable at a certain sum per annum), and vowed a
pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella to atone for his sin. Not content
with this, Damiani mounted the pulpit and made both priests and people
take an oath to extirpate both heresies; and the clergy, before being
reconciled to the church and restored to the positions which they had
forfeited by their contumacy, were forced individually under oath to
anathematize all heresies, and especially those of simony and marriage.
A penance was imposed on every one involved in simony—no allusion being
made to those who were married; some, who were manifestly unfit for
their sacred duties, were suspended, and the legates returned, after
triumphantly accomplishing the objects of their mission.[513]

If Damiani fancied that argumentative subtlety and paper promises,
even though solemnly given in the name of God and all his saints,
were to settle a question involving the fiercest passions of men,
the cloistered saint knew little of human nature. The pride of the
Milanese was deeply wounded by a subjection to Rome, unknown for many
generations, and ill endured by men who gloried in the ancient dignity
of the Ambrosian church. When, therefore, in 1061, their townsman,
Anselmo di Badagio, was elevated from the episcopate of Lucca to that
of the Holy See, Milan, in common with the rest of Lombardy, eagerly
embraced the cause of the anti-pope Cadalus. One of Anselmo’s earliest
acts as pope was to address a letter to the Milanese, affectionately
exhorting them to amendment, and expressing a hope that his pontificate
was to witness the extinction of the heresies which had distracted
and degraded the church.[514] He could scarcely have entertained
the confidence which he expressed, for though Landolfo and Arialdo
endeavored, with unabated zeal, to enforce the canons, the Nicolitan
faction, regardless of the pledges given to Damiani, maintained the
contest with equal stubbornness. Landolfo, on a mission to Rome, was
attacked at Piacenza, wounded, and forced to return. Soon after this he
was prostrated by a pulmonary affection, lost his voice, and died after
a lingering illness of two years.[515] The Paterins, thus deprived of
their leader, found another in the person of his brother, Erlembaldo,
just then returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Gifted with
every knightly accomplishment, valiant in war, sagacious in council, of
a commanding presence, and endowed with eloquence to sway the passions
of the multitude, he was the impersonation of a popular leader;
while, in the cause to which he was now called, his deep religious
convictions lent an attraction which was heightened by an unpardonable
personal wrong—for, early in life, he had been betrothed to a young
girl, who fell under the seductive wiles of an unprincipled priest.
Yet Erlembaldo did not embark in civil strife without a hesitation
which reflects honor on his character. He refused, at first, but was
persuaded to seek counsel of the pope. Arialdo accompanied him to Rome,
and urged Alexander to adopt him as military leader in the war against
sacerdotal marriage. Alexander, too, shrank from the responsibility of
authorizing war in such a cause, but Arialdo sought the assistance of
Hildebrand, and the scruples of the pope were removed by the prospect
of asserting the authority of Rome. When Erlembaldo heard the commands
of the Vicegerent of God, and received a sacred banner to be borne
through the expected battles, he could no longer doubt as to his duty.
He accepted the mission, and to it he devoted his life.[516]

Returning to Milan with this sanction, the zeal and military experience
of Erlembaldo soon made themselves felt. He enrolled secretly all the
young men whom persuasion, threats, or promises could induce to follow
his standard, and thus supported by an organized body, he endeavored to
enforce the decretals inhibiting simony and marriage. All recalcitrant
priests presuming to officiate were torn from the altars. The riots,
which seem to have ceased for a time, became, with varying fortune,
more numerous and alarming than ever, and the persecution of the clergy
was greatly intensified. Guido, at length, after vainly endeavoring to
uphold and protect the sacerdotal body, was driven from the city, and
the popular reformers seemed at last to have carried their point, after
a civil war which had now lasted, with short intervals, for nearly ten

As though to confirm the victory, Arialdo, in 1066, at a council held
in Rome, procured the excommunication of his archbishop, Guido, with
which he returned triumphantly to Milan. Some popular revolution among
the factions, however, had brought Guido back to the city, where he
maintained a precarious position. Disregarding the excommunication, he
resolved to officiate in the solemn services of Pentecost (June 4th,
1066), and, braving all opposition, he appeared at the altar. Excited
to fury at this unexpected contumacy, the popular party, led on by
Erlembaldo and Arialdo, attacked him in the church; his followers
rallied in his defence, but, after a stubborn fight, were forced to
leave him in the hands of his enemies, by whom he was beaten nearly
to death. Shocked by this outrage, many of the citizens abandoned
the party of the reformers, and the nobles, taking advantage of the
revulsion of feeling, again had the ascendency. Arialdo was obliged to
fly for his life, and endeavored to conceal himself, travelling only by
night. The avengers were close upon his track, however; he was betrayed
by a priest, and the satellites of Guido carried him to an island in
Lago Maggiore, where (June 27th, 1066) they put him to death, with all
the refinement of cruelty. A series of miracles prevented the attempted
concealment of the martyred corpse, and ten months later Erlembaldo
recovered it, fresh and untouched by corruption. Carried to Milan, it
was interred with stately pomp in the monastery of San Celso, where the
miracles wrought at his tomb proclaimed the sanctity of him who had
died for the faith, and ere long his canonization formally enrolled St.
Arialdo among the saints of Heaven.[518]

Erlembaldo for a while remained quiet, but in secret he reconstructed
his party, and, undaunted by the fate of his associate, he suddenly
renewed the civil strife. Successful at first, he forced the clergy
to bind themselves by fresh oaths, and expelled Guido again from the
city; but the clerical party recovered its strength, and the war
was carried on with varying fortune, until, in 1067, Alexander II.
despatched another legation with orders to harmonize, if possible,
the endless strife. Cardinals Mainardo and Minuto appear to have been
sincerely desirous of reconciling the angry factions. They proclaimed
an amnesty and promulgated a constitution which protected the clergy
from abuse and persecution, and though they decreed suspension for
married and concubinary priests, they required that none should be
punished on suspicion, and laid down such regulations for trial as
gave great prospect of immunity.[519] There must have been pressing
necessity for some such regulations, if we may believe the assertion
of Landolfo that when Erlembaldo found his funds running low he
appointed thirty judges to examine all ecclesiastics in holy orders.
Those who could not procure twelve conjurators to swear with them on
the Gospels as to their immaculate purity since ordination, had all
their property confiscated. At the same time the rabble used to prowl
around at night and throw female ornaments and articles of apparel into
priests’ houses; then, breaking open the doors, they would proclaim the
criminality of the inmates, and plunder everything that they could lay
their hands on.[520]

Moderate men of both parties, wearied with the unceasing strife,
eagerly hailed the accommodation proposed by the papal legates,
and rejoiced at the prospect of peace. Erlembaldo, however, was
dissatisfied, and, visiting Rome, soon aroused a fresh cause of
quarrel. At the suggestion of Hildebrand he started the portentous
question of investitures, and on his return he endeavored to force
both clergy and laity to take an oath that in future their archbishops
should apply to the pope, and not to the emperor, for confirmation—thus
securing a chief devoted to the cause of reform. Guido sought to
anticipate this movement, and, in 1069, old and wearied with the
unending contention, he resigned his archbishopric to the subdeacon
Gotefrido, who had long been his principal adviser. The latter procured
his confirmation from Henry IV., but the Milanese, defrauded of
their electoral privileges, refused to acknowledge him. Erlembaldo
was not slow to take advantage of the popular feeling; a tumult was
readily excited, and Gotefrido was glad to escape at night from the
rebellious city. Guido added fresh confusion by asserting that he had
been deceived by Gotefrido, and by endeavoring to resume his see. To
this end he made a treaty with Erlembaldo, but that crafty chieftain,
obtaining possession of his person, imprisoned him in the monastery of
San Celso, and then proceeded to besiege Gotefrido in Castiglione. The
new archbishop defended himself bravely, until, in 1071, Erlembaldo was
forced to abandon the enterprise.[521]

Meanwhile another aspirant, Azzo, installed by Erlembaldo, fared no
better than his rivals. The people, unbidden guests, rushed in to his
inaugural banquet, unearthed him in the corner where he had hidden
himself, dragged him by the heels into the street, and, placing
him in a pulpit, forced him to swear that he would make no further
pretensions to the see; while the papal legate, who had presided over
the solemnities, was glad to escape with his life. Azzo, however, was
recognized by Rome; he was released from the obligation of his oath,
and money was furnished to enable him to maintain his quarrel. On the
other hand, Henry IV. sent assistance to Gotefrido, which enabled him
to carry on the campaign with some vigor; but he was unable to obtain a
foothold in Milan. Azzo fled to Rome, and the city remained without an
archbishop and under an interdict launched in 1074 by Hildebrand, who,
in April, 1073, had succeeded to Alexander II.[522]

The Milanese were disposed to disregard the interdict, while
Erlembaldo, who now held undisputed command of the city—and, indeed,
of almost all Lombardy—used every effort to enforce respect for it.
At length, at Easter, 1075, he resolutely prevented the solemnization
of the sacred rites, and cast out the holy chrism which the priests
had persisted in preparing. This roused the populace to resistance;
both parties flew to arms, and, at the very commencement of the fray,
Erlembaldo fell mortally wounded under the shade of the papal banner,
which was still the emblem of his cause, and in virtue of which he was
canonized as a saintly martyr to the faith. The Milanese, sinking all
past animosities, united in promptly sending an embassy to Henry IV. to
congratulate him on the death of the common enemy, and to request the
appointment of another archbishop. To this he responded by nominating
Tedaldo, who was duly consecrated, notwithstanding the pretensions of
his competitors, Gotefrido and Azzo. Tedaldo was the leader of the
disaffected bishops who, at the synod of Pavia, in 1076, excommunicated
Pope Gregory himself; and though, after the interview at Canosa, in
1077, the Lombards, disgusted with Henry’s voluntary humiliation before
that papal power which they had learned to despise, abandoned the
imperialists for a time, yet Tedaldo kept his seat until his death in
1085, notwithstanding the repeated excommunications launched against
him by Gregory.[523]

       *       *       *       *       *

In the later years of this long and bloody controversy, it is evident
that the political element greatly complicated the religious ground
of quarrel—that pope and emperor without made use of burgher and
noble within, and the latter took sides, as respects simony and
sacerdotal marriage, to further the ends of individual ambition. Still,
the disputed points of discipline were the ostensible causes of the
struggle, whatever might be the private aims of civic factions, or of
imperial and papal rivals; and these points gave a keener purpose to
the strife, and furnished an inexhaustible supply of recruits to each
contending faction. Thus, about the year 1070, a conference took place
at Milan between priests deputed by both sides, in which the question
of marriage was argued as earnestly as though it were the source of all
the intestine troubles.[524] So when, in 1073, Gregory, shortly after
his accession, addressed letters to Erlembaldo urging him to persevere
in the good work, and to the Lombard bishops commanding them to assist
him, the object of his labors is assumed to be the extirpation of
simony and the restoration of the clergy to the purity becoming their
sacred office.[525] And when, in 1076, the schismatic bishops, under
the lead of Tedaldo of Milan, met in council at Pavia to renounce
all obedience to Gregory, one of the articles of accusation brought
against him was that he separated husbands and wives, and preferred
licentiousness to marriage, thus giving, in their grounds of complaint
against him, especial prominence to his zeal for the introduction of

Yet at last the question of sacerdotal marriage sank out of sight when
the civil broils of Milan merged into the European quarrel between the
empire and papacy. When, in 1093, Henry IV. was driven out of Italy
by the revolt of his son Conrad, and the latter was created King of
Lombardy by Urban II. and the Countess Matilda, the dependence of the
young king upon the pope rendered impossible any further open defiance
of the laws of the church, and public marriage there, as elsewhere,
was doubtless replaced by secret immorality.[527] The triumph of the
sacerdotal party was consummated at the great council of Piacenza,
held by Urban II. in February, 1095, to which prelates flocked from
every part of Europe, and the people gathered in immense numbers. If,
as the chronicler informs us, four thousand ecclesiastics and thirty
thousand laymen assembled on the occasion, and the sessions were held
in the open air because no building could contain the thronging masses,
we may reasonably attribute so unprecedented an assemblage to the wild
religious ardor which was about to culminate in the first Crusade.
That council condemned Nicolitism in the most absolute and peremptory
manner, and there is no reason to believe that the power of so
formidable a demonstration was lightly disregarded.[528] Yet in Milan,
as we shall see elsewhere throughout Europe, the custom of sacerdotal
marriage had become so thoroughly established that it could not be
eradicated suddenly. It continued to survive stubbornly after every
attempt at repression with more or less openness as the persecution of
married priests was more or less severe. A synod held in Milan in 1098
is discreetly silent as to wedlock or concubinage among ecclesiastics,
though it is severe upon the concurrent vice of simony, and though its
prohibition of hereditary succession in church benefices and dignities
would show that marriage among their incumbents must have been by no
means infrequent. Moreover, even as late as 1152, Mainerio Boccardo, a
canon of Monza, in his will specifies that certain provisions for the
benefit of his brother canons shall not be enjoyed by those who are
married, thus proving that the Hildebrandine reforms had not yet been
successful, though Rome had long since attained its object in breaking
down the independence of the Ambrosian church.[529]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not to be supposed that the story of Milan is an exceptional
one. Perhaps the factions there were fiercer, and the contest more
prolonged, than elsewhere; but the same causes were at work in other
Italian cities, and were attended with results similar in character,
if differing in intensity. In Lucca, for instance, in 1051, we
find Leo IX., when confirming the possessions of the canons of the
cathedral church of St. Martin, expressing the hope that God would
liberate them from their married priests, who dissipated the property
of the foundation, while utterly unworthy of partaking of the divine
oblation.[530] His desire that they would live in concord and harmony
with their bishop was, however, not destined to be long gratified. When
St. Anselmo, in 1073, accepted the episcopate at the urgent request of
his friend, Gregory VII., he labored for years to reform the dissolute
lives of his clergy, until at length finding threats and expostulations
alike ineffectual, he implored the intervention of the Countess
Matilda. Even the sovereign of Tuscany was unable to accomplish the
submission of the recalcitrant ecclesiastics, and in 1074 St. Anselmo
took advantage of the presence of Gregory VII. in the city to invoke
his interposition. The resolute pope, finding his personal efforts
fruitless, summoned the offenders to trial before a court of bishops,
presided over by the celebrated Pietro Igneo, Bishop of Albano.
Being condemned and excommunicated, they resisted by force of arms,
excited a rebellion in the city, drove out St. Anselmo, and joined the
imperialists; and when, in 1081, Guiberto the anti-pope came to Italy,
he consecrated their leader, a subdeacon named Pietro, as bishop, in
place of the exiled martyr.[531] In Piacenza, the schismatics were
guilty of excesses more deplorable, for, not content with deposing
Bonizo, who had been set over them as bishop, they gave him the fullest
honors of martyrdom by plucking out his eyes and then cutting him to
pieces.[532] Similar troubles occurred in Parma, Modena, Reggio, and
Pistoia, and it was not until the death of their respective schismatic
bishops that the Countess Matilda was able to recover her authority in
those places.



Alexander II. died April 21st, 1073, and within twenty-four hours the
Archdeacon Hildebrand was elected as his successor—a promptitude and
unanimity which showed the general recognition of his fitness for the
high office. For more than twenty years he had been the power behind
the throne which had directed and given purpose to the policy of Rome,
and the assertion of his biographers that his disinclination for the
position had alone prevented his previous elevation may readily be
believed. Whether he was forced on the present occasion to assent
to the choice of the conclave, against his earnest resistance, is,
however, more problematical.

Hildebrand was the son of a poor carpenter of Soano, and had been
trained in the ascetic monachism of Cluny. Gifted by nature with
rare sagacity, unbending will, and indomitable spirit, imbued with
the principles of the False Decretals, and firmly believing in the
wildest pretensions of ecclesiastical supremacy, he had conceived
a scheme of hierarchical autocracy, which he regarded not only as
the imprescriptible right of the church, but also as the perfection
of human institutions. To the realization of this ideal he devoted
his life with a fiery zeal and unshaken purpose that shrank from no
obstacles, and to it he was ready to sacrifice not only the men who
stood in his path, but also the immutable principles of truth and
justice. All considerations were as dross compared with the one object,
and his own well-being and life were ventured as recklessly as the
peace of the world.

Such a man could comprehend the full importance of the rule of
celibacy, not alone as essential to the ascetic purity of the church,
but as necessary to the theocratic structure which he proposed to
elevate on the ruins of kingdoms and empires. The priest must be a
man set apart from his fellows, consecrated to the one holy purpose,
reverenced by the world as a being superior to human passions and
frailties, devoted, soul and body, to the interests of the church, and
distracted by no temporal cares and anxieties foreign to the welfare
of the great corporation of which he was a member. We have seen the
strenuous efforts which, for a quarter of a century, successive
pontiffs had unceasingly made to accomplish this reform, and we have
also seen how fruitlessly those efforts were expended on the passive
or active resistance of the priesthood. When Hildebrand took the reins
into his vigorous grasp, the change at once became manifest, and the
zeal of his predecessors appears lukewarm by comparison. He had had
ample leisure to note how inefficient was the ordinary machinery to
accomplish the result, and he hesitated not to call to his assistance
external powers; to give to the secular princes authority over
ecclesiastics at which enthusiastic churchmen stood aghast, and to
risk apparently the most precious immunities of the church to secure
the result. The end proved his wisdom, for the power delegated to the
laity for a special object was readily recalled, after it had served
its purpose, and the rebellious clerks were subdued and rendered fit
instruments in the lapse of time for humiliating their temporary
masters. In one respect, however, Hildebrand’s policy proved a
blunder. The faithful readily submitted to the restoration of clerical
immunity, but the idea that ecclesiastics forfeited their privileges
by sin became a favorite one with almost all heretics, as we shall see
hereafter in the case of the Albigenses, Waldenses, Wickliffites, and
Hussites, costing the church many a desperate struggle.

To Gregory, as we must hereafter call him, was generally attributed, by
his immediate successors, the honor of introducing, or of enforcing,
the absolute chastity of the ministers of the altar. Some chroniclers
mention Alexander II. or Leo IX. as participating in the struggle, but
to his vigorous management its success was popularly conceded.[533]
He earned the tribute thoroughly, for during his whole pontificate
it seems to have been ever present to his thoughts, and whatever were
his preoccupations in his fearful struggle with the empire, on which
he risked the present and the future of the papacy, he always had
leisure to attend to the one subject in its minutest details and in the
remotest corner of Christendom.

Perhaps in this there may have been an unrecognized motive urging him
to action. Sprung from so humble an origin, he may have sympathized
with the democratic element, which rendered the church the only career
open to peasant and plebeian. He may have felt that this was a source
of hidden power, as binding the populations more closely to the
church, and as enabling it to press into service an unknown amount of
fresh and vigorous talent belonging to men who would owe everything
to the establishment which had raised them from nothingness, and who
would have no relationships to embarrass their devotion. All this
would be lost if, by legalizing marriage, the hereditary transmission
of benefices inevitably resulting should convert the church into a
separate caste of individual proprietors, having only general interests
in common, and lazily luxuriating on the proceeds of former popular
beneficence. To us, retrospectively philosophizing, it further appears
evident that if celibacy were an efficient agent in obtaining for
the church the immense temporal power and spiritual authority which
it enjoyed, that very power and that authority rendered celibacy a
necessity to the welfare of civilization. When even the humblest priest
came to be regarded as a superior being, holding the keys of heaven
in his hand, and by the machinery of confession, absolution, and
excommunication wielding incalculable influence over each member of
his flock, it was well for both parties that the ecclesiastic should
be free from the ties of family and the vulgar ambition of race. It
is easy to see how the churchmen could have selected matrimonial
alliances of the most politic and aggrandizing character; and as
possession of property and hereditary transmission of benefices would
have necessarily followed on the permission to marry, an ecclesiastical
caste, combining temporal and spiritual power in the most dangerous
excess, would have repeated in Europe the distinctions between the
Brahman and Sudra of India. The perpetual admission of self-made men
into the hierarchy, which distinguished the church even in times of
the most aristocratic feudalism, was for ages the only practical
recognition of the equality of man, and was one of the most powerful
causes at work during the Middle Ages to render rational liberty
eventually possible with advancing civilization. Looking therefore
upon the church as an instrumentality to effect certain beneficent
results in the course of human improvement, we may regard celibacy as a
necessary element of sacerdotalism, the abolition of which would have
required the entire destruction of the papal system and the fundamental
reconstruction of ecclesiastical institutions.

What we may now readily discern to have been a means, to Gregory,
however, was an end, and to the enforcement of celibacy as necessary
to that object he devoted himself with unrelenting vigor. The belief
that he was appointed of God, and set apart for the task of cleansing
the church of the Nicolitan heresy which had defied his predecessors is
well illustrated by the contemporary legend of some pious Pisans, who,
spending the night before his election in prayer in the basilica of St.
Peter, saw that holy saint himself traverse the church accompanied by
Hildebrand, whom he commanded to gather some droppings of mares with
which the sacred edifice was defiled, to place them in a sack, and
to carry them out on his shoulders.[534] The severe austerity of his
virtue, moreover, was displayed by his admirers in the story that once,
when dangerously ill, his niece came to inquire as to his health. To
relieve her anxiety he played with her necklace, and jestingly asked if
she wished to be married; but on his recovery he found that he could
no longer weep with due contrition over his sins, and that he had lost
the grace of repentance. He long and vainly searched for the cause, and
finally entreated his friends to pray for him, when the Virgin appeared
to one of them, and sent word to Gregory that he had fallen from grace
in consequence of the infraction of his vows committed in touching the
necklace of his niece.[535]

       *       *       *       *       *

His first movement on the subject appears to have been an epistle
addressed in November, 1073, to Gebhardt Archbishop of Salzburg,
taking him severely to task for his neglect in enforcing the canons
promulgated not long before in Rome, and ordering him to carry them
rigidly into effect among his clergy.[536] This, no doubt, was a
circular letter addressed to all the prelates of Christendom, and it
was but a preliminary step. Early in Lent of the next year (March,
1074), he held his first synod, which adopted a canon prohibiting
sacerdotal marriage, ordering that no one in future should be admitted
to orders without a vow of celibacy, and renewing the legislation of
Nicholas II. which commanded the people not to attend the ministrations
of those whose lives were a violation of the rule.[537] There was
nothing in the terms of this more severe than what had been decreed in
innumerable previous councils—indeed, it was by no means as threatening
as many decretals of recent date; but Gregory was resolved that it
should not remain, like them, a mere protest, and he took immediate
measures to have it enforced wherever the authority of Rome extended.

The controversy as respects Italy has already been so fully described
that to dilate upon it further would be superfluous. Even though
Alexander II. in his later years had shrunk somewhat from the contest,
yet from Naples to the Tyrol the question was thoroughly understood,
and its results depended more upon political revolutions than on
ecclesiastical exertions. Beyond the Alps, however, the efforts of
preceding popes had thus far proved wholly nugatory, and on this field
Gregory now bent all his energies. The new canon was sent to all the
bishops of Europe, with instructions to promulgate it throughout their
respective dioceses, and to see that it was strictly obeyed; while
legates were sent in every direction to support these commands with
their personal supervision and exertion.[538]

That the course which Gregory thus adopted was essentially different
from that pursued by his predecessors is amply attested by the furious
storm which these measures aroused. The clergy protested in the most
energetic terms that they would rather abandon their calling than their
wives; they denounced Gregory as a madman and a heretic, who expected
to compel men to live as angels, and who in his folly, while denying to
natural affection its accustomed and proper gratification, would open
the door to indiscriminate licentiousness; and they tauntingly asked
where, when he should have driven them from the priesthood, he expected
to find the angels who were to replace them.[539] Even those who
favored celibacy condemned the means adopted as injudicious, contrary
to the canons, and leading to scandals more injurious to the church
than the worst of heresies.[540] Gregory paid little heed to threats
or remonstrances, but sent legate after legate to accuse the bishops
of their inertness, and to menace them with deposition if they should
neglect to carry out the canon to the letter, and he accompanied these
measures with others of even more practically efficient character.

The bishops, in fact, were placed in a most embarrassing position,
which may be understood from the adventures of three prelates, who
took different positions with regard to the wishes of Gregory—Otho of
Constance, who leaned to the side of the clergy; St. Altmann of Passau,
who was an enthusiastic papalist; and Siegfrid of Mainz, who was a
trimmer afraid of both parties.

To Otho, Gregory, in 1074, sent the canons of the synod inhibiting
marriage and simony, with orders to use every exertion to secure
the compliance of his clergy. Otho apparently did not manifest much
eagerness to undertake the unpopular task, and Gregory lost little
time in calling him to account. Before the year expired, we find the
pope addressing a second epistle to the bishop, angrily accusing him
of disobedience in permitting the ministration of married priests,
and summoning him to answer for his contumacy at a synod to be held
in Rome during the approaching Lent. Nor was this all, for at the
same time he wrote to the clergy and people of the diocese, informing
them of the disobedience of their bishop and of his summons to trial,
commanding them, in case of his persistent rebellion, to no longer
obey or reverence him as bishop, and formally releasing them from all
subjection to him. Otho doubtless considered it imprudent to show
himself at the synod of 1075; consequently in that of 1076 he was
excommunicated and deprived of his episcopal functions. During the
autumn of the same year, however, the legate Altmann of Passau restored
him to communion at Ulm, but without granting him the privilege of
officiating. Otho disregarded this restriction, and not only persisted
in exercising his functions, but openly favored and protected the
married clergy. For this Gregory absolved his flock from all obedience
to him, whereupon Otho abandoned the Catholic party and formally
joined the imperialists, who were then engaged in the effort to depose
Gregory. From some motives of policy, the pope granted the hardened
sinner three years for repentance, at the expiration of which, in 1080,
he sent Altmann to Constance to superintend the election of another
bishop. The new incumbent, however, proved incapable through bodily
infirmity; and, in 1084, Otto of Ostia was sent to Constance, and under
his auspices Gebhardt was elected bishop, and duly consecrated in
1085.[541] Evidently Gregory was not a man to abandon his purpose, and
those who opposed him could not count upon perpetual immunity.

St. Altmann of Passau was renowned for his piety and the strictness
of his religious observance. When the canon of 1074 reached him, he
assembled his clergy, read it to them, and adjured them to pay to it
the respect which was requisite. His eloquence was wasted; the clerks
openly refused obedience, and defended themselves by immemorial custom,
and by the fact that none of their predecessors had been called upon
to endure so severe and unnatural a regulation. Finding the occasion
unpropitious, the pious Altmann dissembled; he assured his clergy that
he was perfectly willing to indulge them if the papal mandate would
permit it, and with this he dismissed them. He allowed the matter
to lie in abeyance until the high feast of St. Stephen, the patron
saint of the church, which was always attended by the magnates of the
diocese. Then, without giving warning of his intentions, he suddenly
mounted the pulpit, read to the assembled clergy and laity the letters
of the pope, and threatened exemplary punishment for disobedience.
Though thus taken at advantage and by surprise, the clerks were not
disposed to submit. A terrible tumult at once arose, and the crafty
saint would have been torn to pieces had it not been for the strenuous
interference of the nobles, aided, as his biographer assures us, by the
assistance of God. The clergy continued their resistance, and when,
not long after, the empire and papacy became involved in internecine
strife, they sought the protection of Henry IV., who marched upon
Passau, and drove out St. Altmann and his faction. How unbending was
this opposition, and how successfully it was maintained, is manifest
from the fact that when St. Altmann at length returned to his diocese
as papal legate, about the year 1081, even Gregory felt it necessary
to use policy rather than force, and instructed him to yield to the
pressure of the evil times, and to reserve the strict enforcement of
the reform for a more fortunate period.[542] The political question had
thus, for the moment, overshadowed the religious one.

The archiepiscopate of Mainz was, both temporally and spiritually,
one of the most powerful of the ecclesiastical principalities of
Germany. To the Archbishop Siegfrid, Gregory sent the canon of 1074
with instructions similar to those contained in his epistle to Otho
of Constance. In reply, Siegfrid promised implicit obedience; but,
recognizing the almost insuperable difficulties of the task assigned
him, he temporized, and gave his clergy six months in which to make up
their minds, exhorting them to render willing obedience and relieve
him from the necessity of employing coercion. At the expiration of the
period, in October, 1074, he assembled a synod at Erfurt, where he
boldly insisted that they should give up their wives or abandon their
functions and their benefices. Their arguments and entreaties were
in vain. Finding him immovable, they retired for consultation, when
some proposed to separate and return home at once, without further
parley, and thus elude giving sanction to the new regulations; while
bolder spirits urged that it would be better to put the archbishop to
instant death, before he could promulgate so execrable a decree, thus
leaving for posterity a shining example, which would prevent any of his
successors from attempting so abominable an enterprise.

Siegfrid’s friends advised him of the turn which affairs were likely
to take. He therefore sent to his clergy a request that they would
reassemble in synod, promising that he would take the first opportunity
to apply to Rome for a relaxation of the canon. They agreed to this,
and, on meeting them the next day, Siegfrid astutely started the
question of his claims on the Thuringian tithes, which had shortly
before been settled by the Saxon war. Indignant at this, the Thuringian
clergy raised a tumult, flew to arms, and the synod broke up in
the utmost confusion. In December, Gregory wrote to the shuffling
archbishop an angry letter, reproaching him with his lukewarmness in
the cause, and ordering him to present himself at the synod announced
for the coming Lent. Siegfrid obediently went to Rome, but was with
difficulty admitted to communion. What promises he made to obtain it
were not kept, for again in September, 1075, Gregory addressed him with
commands to enforce the canons. Stimulated by this, Siegfrid convoked
a synod at Mainz in October, where the Bishop of Coire appeared with
a papal mandate threatening him with degradation and expulsion if he
failed in compelling the priests to abandon either their wives or
their ministry. Thus goaded, Siegfrid did his best, but the whole body
of the clergy raised such a clamor and made demonstrations so active
and so formidable that the archbishop saw little prospect of escaping
with life. The danger from his mutinous flock was more instant and
pressing than that from the angry pope; his resolution gave way, and
he dissolved the synod, declaring that he washed his hands of the
affair, and that Gregory might deal as he saw fit with a matter which
was beyond his power to control. Thus placed between the upper and the
nether millstone, it is not to be wondered at if Siegfrid took refuge
in the party of the imperialists, nor that his name stands at the head
of the list of bishops who in 1076 passed judgment on Gregory, and
pronounced that he had forfeited all claim to the papacy; neither is
it surprising that Gregory lost no time in excommunicating him at the
Roman synod of the same year.[543]

These examples are sufficient to illustrate the difficulties with
which Gregory had to contend, and the manner in which he endeavored
to overcome them. The incidents are by no means exceptional, and his
marvellous vigor and energy in supervising the movement everywhere,
encouraging the zealous co-worker and punishing the lukewarm
and indifferent, are abundantly attested by his correspondence.
He apparently had an eye on every corner of Europe, and lost no
opportunity of enforcing his views with threats or promises, as the
case might seem to demand.[544]

It did not take long, however, to convince him that he could count
upon no efficient assistance from the hierarchy, and that if the
church was to be purified, it must be purified from without, and not
from within. To the unutterable horror of those strict churchmen who
regarded the immunity from all temporal supervision or jurisdiction
as one of the most precious of ecclesiastical privileges, he took, as
early as 1074, the decided and unprecedented step of authorizing the
laity to withdraw their obedience from all prelates and priests who
disregarded the canons of the Holy See on the subjects of simony and
incontinence.[545] This principle, once adopted, was followed up with
his customary unalterable resolution. In October, 1074, he wrote to a
certain Count Albert, exhorting him not to mind what the simoniacal
and concubinary priests might say, but, in spite of them, to persist
in enforcing the orders which emanated from Rome. Still more menacing
was an epistle addressed in January, 1075, to Rodolf, Duke of Swabia,
and Bertolf, Duke of Carinthia, commanding them—“whatever the bishops
may say or may not say concerning this, do you in no manner receive
the ministrations of those who owe promotion or ordination to simony,
or whom you know to be guilty of concubinage ... and, as far as you
can, do you prevent, by force if necessary, all such persons from
officiating. And if any shall presume to prate and say that it is not
your business, tell them to come to us and dispute about the obedience
which we thus enjoin upon you”—and adding a bitter complaint of the
archbishops and bishops who, with rare exceptions, had taken no steps
to put an end to these execrable customs, or to punish the guilty.[546]

These extraordinary measures called forth indignant denunciations
on the part of ecclesiastics, for these letters were circulars sent
to all the princes on whom he could depend, and he insured their
publicity by causing similar orders to be published in the churches
themselves. Thus Theodoric, Bishop of Verdun, who had inclined to
the side of Gregory and had secretly left the Assembly of Utrecht in
1076 to avoid countenancing by his presence the excommunication then
pronounced against the pope, in a letter to Gregory bitterly reproaches
his own folly in promulgating the decretal and in not foreseeing its
effect as destructive to the peace of the church, to the safety of the
clerical order, and as creating a disturbance which threatened even the
Christian faith.[547] So Henry, Bishop of Speyer, indignantly denounced
him as having destroyed the authority of the bishops and subjected the
church to the madness of the people;[548] and when the bishops, at the
Diet of Worms, threw off their allegiance to him, one of the reasons
alleged, in Henry’s letter to him, is the surrender which he had made
of the church to the laity.[549] Yet Gregory was not to be diverted
from his course, and he was at least successful in rousing the Teutonic
church from the attitude of passive resistance which threatened to
render his efforts futile. The princes of Germany, who were already
intriguing with Gregory for support in their perennial revolts against
their sovereign, were delighted to seize the opportunity of at once
obliging the pope, creating disturbance at home, and profiting by the
church property which they could manage to get into their hands by
ejecting the unfortunate married priests. They accordingly proceeded to
exercise, without delay and to the fullest extent, the unlimited power
so suddenly granted them over a class which had hitherto successfully
defied their jurisdiction; nor was it difficult to excite the people
to join in the persecution of those who had always held themselves as
superior beings, and who were now pronounced by the highest authority
in the church to be sinners of the worst description. The ignorant
populace were naturally captivated by the idea of the vicarious
mortification with which their own errors were to be redeemed by the
abstinence imposed upon their pastors, and they were not unreasonably
led to believe that they were themselves deeply wronged by the want
of purity in their ecclesiastics. Add to this the attraction which
persecution always possesses for the persecutor, and the license
of plunder so dear to a turbulent and barbarous age, and it is not
difficult to comprehend the motive power of the storm which burst over
the heads of the secular clergy, and which must have satisfied by its
severity the stern soul of Gregory himself.

A contemporary writer, whose name has been lost, but who is supposed
by Dom Martène to have been a priest of Trèves, gives us a very lively
picture of the horrors which ensued, and as he shows himself friendly
in principle to the reform attempted, his account may be received as
trustworthy. He describes what amounted almost to a dissolution of
society, slave betraying master and master slave; friend informing
against friend; snares and pitfalls spread before the feet of all;
faith and truth unknown. The peccant priests suffered terribly. Some,
reduced to utter poverty, and unable to bear the scorn and contempt
of those from whom they had been wont to receive honor and respect,
wandered off as homeless exiles; others, mutilated by the indecent
zeal of ardent puritans, were carried around to exhibit their shame
and misery; others, tortured in lingering death, bore to the tribunal
on high the testimony of blood-guiltiness against their persecutors;
while others, again, in spite of danger, secretly continued the
connections which exposed them to all these cruelties. In the midst
of these troubles, as might be expected, the offices of religion were
wholly neglected; the new-born babe received no holy baptism; the dying
penitent expired without the saving viaticum; the sinner could cleanse
his soul by no confession and absolution; and the devotee could no
longer be strengthened by the daily sacrifice of the mass.[550] Another
writer, of nearly the same date, relates with holy horror how the laity
shook off all the obedience which they owed to their pastors, and,
despising the sacraments prepared by them, trod the Eucharist under
foot and cast out the sacred wine, administered baptism with unlicensed
hands, and substituted for the holy chrism the filthy wax collected
from their own ears.[551]

When such was the fate of the pastors, it is easy to imagine the
misery inflicted on their unfortunate wives. A zealous admirer of
Gregory relates with pious gratulation, as indubitable evidence of
divine vengeance, how, maddened by their wrongs, some of them openly
committed suicide, while others were found dead in the beds which they
had sought in perfect health; and this being proof of their possession
by the devil, they were denied Christian sepulture. The case of Count
Manigold of Veringen affords a not uninstructive instance of the
frightful passions aroused by the relentless cruelty which thus branded
them as infamous, tore them from their families, and cast them adrift
upon a mocking world. The count had put in force the orders of Gregory
with strict severity throughout his estates in the Swabian Alps. One
miserable creature thus driven from her husband swore that the count
should undergo the same fate, and, in the blindness of her rage, she
poisoned the Countess of Veringen, whose widowed husband, overwhelmed
with grief, sought no second mate.[552]

Nor was the customary machinery of miracles wanting to stimulate the
zeal of the faithful in this pious work, and to convince the doubters
whose worldly wisdom or humanity might shrink from the task assigned
them. Unchaste priests at Mass would find sudden blasts of wind
overturn the cup, and scatter the sacred wine upon the ground, or
the holy wafer would be miraculously snatched out of their polluted
hands. The saintly virgin Herluca saw in a vision the Saviour, with his
wounds profusely bleeding, and was told that if she desired to escape a
repetition of the horrifying spectacle, she must no longer be present
at the ministrations of Father Richard, the officiating priest of her
convent—a revelation which she employed effectually upon him and his
parishioners. The same holy maiden being observed staring intently out
of the window, declared, upon being questioned, that she had seen the
soul of the priest of Rota carried off by demons to eternal punishment;
and, on sending to his habitation, it was found that he had expired at
the very moment.[553] Puerile as these tales may seem to us, they were
stern realities to those against whose weaknesses they were directed,
and whose sufferings were thus enhanced by every art which bigotry
could bring to bear upon the credulous passions of a barbarous populace.

It cannot be a matter of surprise if men, who were thus threatened
with almost every worldly evil, should seek to defend themselves by
means as violent as those employed by their persecutors. Their cruel
intensity of fear is aptly illustrated by what occurred at Cambrai in
1077, where a man was actually burned at the stake as a heretic for
declaring his adhesion to the Hildebrandine doctrine that the masses
of simoniacal and concubinary priests were not to be listened to by
the faithful.[554] So, in the same year, when the pseudo-emperor
Rodolf of Swabia was elected by the papalists at the Diet of Forcheim
as a competitor to Henry IV., he manifested his zeal to suppress
the heresies of avarice and lust by refusing the ministration of a
simoniacal deacon in the coronation solemnities at Mainz. The clergy
of that city, who had so successfully resisted, for two years, the
efforts of their archbishop Siegfrid to reduce them to subjection to
the canons, were dismayed at the prospect of coming under the control
of so pious a prince, who would indubitably degrade them or compel
them to give up their wives and simoniacally acquired churches. They
therefore stirred up a tumult among the citizens, who were ready to
espouse their cause; and when Rodolf left his palace for vespers, he
was attacked by the people. The conflict was renewed on his return,
causing heavy slaughter on both sides, and though the townsmen were
driven back, Rodolf was forced to leave the city.[555]

       *       *       *       *       *

This incident affords us a glimpse into the political aspects of
the reform. In the tremendous struggle between the empire and
papacy, Gregory allied himself with all the disaffected princes of
Germany, and they were careful to justify their rebellions under the
specious pretext of zeal for the apostolic church. They of course,
therefore, entered heartily into his measures for the restoration of
ecclesiastical discipline, and professed the sternest indignation
towards those whom he placed under the ban. Thus, after Henry, in 1076,
had caused his bishops to declare the degradation of Gregory, when the
revolted princes held their assembly at Tribur, and in turn decreed
the deposition of Henry, they used the utmost caution to exclude all
who had communicated with Henry since his excommunication, together
with those who had obtained preferment by simony, or who had joined in
communion with married priests.[556] The connection, indeed, became so
marked that the papalists throughout Germany were stigmatized by the
name of Patarini—a term which had acquired so sinister a significance
in the troubles of Milan.[557] In this state of affairs it was natural
that common enmities and common dangers should unite the persecuted
clergy and the hunted sovereign. Yet it is a curious illustration
of the influence which the denunciations of sacerdotal marriage had
exercised over the public mind, that although Henry tacitly protected
the simoniacal and married ecclesiastics, and although they rallied
around him and afforded him unquestionable and invaluable aid, still
he never ventured openly to defend them. Writers both then and since
have attributed the measure of success with which he sustained the
fluctuating contest, and the consequent sufferings of the unbending
pope, to the efforts of the recalcitrant clergy who resisted the yoke
imposed on them by Rome.[558] Yet Henry had formally and absolutely
pledged his assistance when Gregory commenced his efforts, and had
repeated the promise in 1075;[559] and from this position he never
definitely withdrew. Even when the schismatic bishops of his party,
at the synod of Brixen, in 1080, pronounced sentence of deposition on
Gregory, and filled the assumed vacancy with an anti-pope, the man
whom they elected never ventured to dispute the principle of Gregory’s
reforms, although the Lombard prelates, at that very time, were warmly
defending their married and simoniacal clergy.[560] Indeed, Guiberto
of Ravenna, or Clement III., took occasion to express his detestation
of concubinage in language nearly as strong as that of his rival,
although he threatened with excommunication the presumptuous laymen
who should refuse to receive the sacraments of priests that had not
been regularly tried and condemned at his own papal tribunal.[561] In
thus endeavoring to place himself as a shield between the suffering
priesthood and the persecuting populace, he was virtually striving
to annul the reforms of Gregory, since in no other way could they be
carried into effect; but he was forced to coincide with Gregory as to
the principle which dictated those reforms. Notwithstanding all these
precautions, however, the papalists were not disposed to allow their
opponents to escape the responsibility of the alliance which brought
them so much strength by dividing the church, and no opportunity was
lost of stigmatizing them for the license which they protected. When
Guiberto and his cardinals were driven out of Rome in 1084 by Robert
Guiscard and his Normans, the flying prelates were ridiculed, not
for their cowardice, but for their shaven chins, and the wives and
concubines whom they publicly carried about with them.[562]

At length Henry and his partisans appear to have felt it necessary to
make some public declaration to relieve themselves from the odium of
supporting and favoring a practice which was popularly regarded as a
heresy and a scandal. When the papalists, under their King Hermann,
at the Easter of 1085 (April 20th), convened a general assembly of
their faction at Quedlinburg and again forbade all commerce with women
to those in orders,[563] the imperialists lost no time in putting
themselves on the same record with their rivals. Three weeks later
Henry gathered around him, at Mainz, all the princes and prelates who
professed allegiance to him, for the purpose of securing the succession
to his eldest son, Conrad, as King of Germany, and there, in that
solemn diet, marriage was formally prohibited to the priesthood.[564]
Gregory was then lying on his dying bed in the far off castle of
Salerno, and ere the news could reach him he was past the vanities of
earthly triumph. Could he have known, however, that the cause for which
he had risked the integrity and independence of the church had thus
received the support of its bitterest enemies, and that his unwavering
purpose had thus achieved the moral victory of forcing his adversaries
to range themselves under his banner, his spirit would have rejoiced,
and his confidence in the ultimate success of the great theocratic
system, for the maintenance of which he was thus expiring in exile,
would have softened the sorrows of a life which closed in the darkness
and doubt of defeat.



Hildebrand had passed away, leaving to his successors the legacy of
inextinguishable hate and unattained ambition. Nor was the reform for
which he had labored as yet by any means secured in practice, even
though his opponents had been reduced to silence or had been forced
to render a formal adhesion to the canons which he had proclaimed so

The cause of asceticism, it is true, had gained many adherents among
the laity. Throughout Germany, husbands and wives separated from each
other in vast numbers, and devoted themselves to the service of the
church, without taking vows or assuming ecclesiastical garments; while
those who were unmarried renounced the pleasures of the world, and,
placing themselves under the direction of spiritual guides, abandoned
themselves entirely to religious duties. To such an extent did this
prevail, that the pope was applied to for his sanction, which he
eagerly granted, and the movement doubtless added strength to the party
of reform.[565] Yet but little had thus far been really gained in
purifying the church itself, notwithstanding the fearful ordeal through
which its ministers had passed.

As for Germany, the indomitable energy of Henry IV., unrepressed by
defeat and unchilled by misfortune, had at length achieved a virtual
triumph over his banded enemies. But four bishops of the Empire—those
of Wurzburg, Passau, Worms, and Constance—owed allegiance to Urban
II. All the other dioceses were filled by schismatics, who rendered
obedience to the anti-pope Clement. In 1089 the Catholic or papalist
princes offered to lay down their arms and do homage to Henry if he
would acknowledge Urban and make his peace with the true church. The
emperor, however, had a pope who suited him, and he entertained too
lively a recollection of the trials from which he was escaping to open
the door to a renewal of the papal pretensions, which he had at length
successfully defied, nor would he consent to stigmatize his faithful
prelates as schismatics.[566] He therefore pursued his own course, and
Guiberto of Ravenna enjoyed the honors of the popedom, checkered by
alternate vicissitudes of good and evil fortune, until removed by death
in the year 1100,[567] his sanctity attested by the numerous miracles
wrought at his tomb, which only needed the final success of the
imperialist cause to enrich the calendar with a St. Clement in place of
a St. Gregory and a St. Urban.[568]

Under such auspices, no very zealous maintenance of ecclesiastical
discipline was to be expected. If Clement’s sensibilities were humored
by a nominal reprobation of sacerdotal marriage, he could scarcely
ask for more or insist that Henry should rekindle the embers of
disaffection by enforcing the odious rules which had proved so powerful
a cause of trouble to their authors and his enemies. Accordingly,
it cannot surprise us to observe that Urban II., in following out
the views of his predecessors, felt it necessary to adopt measures
even more violent than those which in Gregory’s hands had caused so
much excitement and confusion, but whose inefficiency was confessed
by the very effort to supplement them. In 1089, the year after his
consecration, Urban published at the council of Amalfi a decree by
which, as usual, married ecclesiastics were sentenced to deposition,
and bishops who permitted such irregularities were suspended; but where
Gregory had been content with ejecting husbands and wives, and with
empowering secular rulers to enforce the edict on recalcitrants, Urban,
with a refinement of cruelty, reduced the unfortunate women to slavery,
and offered their servitude as a bribe to the nobles who should aid in
thus purifying the church.[569] If this infamous canon did not work
misery so wide-spread as the comparatively milder decretals of Gregory,
it was because the power of Urban was circumscribed by the schism,
while he was apparently himself ashamed or afraid to promulgate it in
regions where obedience was doubtful. When Pibo, Bishop of Toul, in the
same year, 1089, sent an envoy to ask his decision on various points
of discipline, including sacerdotal marriage (the necessity of such
inquiry showing the futility of previous efforts), Urban transmitted
the canons of Amalfi in response, but omitted this provision, which
well might startle the honest German mind.[570] Perhaps, on reflection,
Urban may himself have wished to disavow the atrocity, for in a
subsequent council, when again attacking the ineradicable sin, he
contented himself with simply forbidding all such marriages, and
ordering all persons who were bound by orders or vows to be separated
from their wives or concubines, and to be subjected to due penance.[571]

Yet even in those regions of Germany which persevered in resisting
Henry and in recognizing Urban as pope, the persecution of twenty
years was still unsuccessful, and the people had apparently relapsed
into condoning the wickedness of their pastors. In an assembly held
at Constance in 1094, it was deemed necessary to impose a fine on all
who should be present at the services performed by priests who had
transgressed the canons.[572] When this was the case in the Catholic
provinces, it is easy to imagine that in the imperialist territories
the thunders of Gregory and Urban had long since been forgotten, and
that marrying and giving in marriage were practised with as little
scruple as ever. A fair illustration, indeed, of the amount of respect
paid to the rules of discipline is afforded by a discussion on the
choice of a successor to Cosmo Bishop of Prague, who died in 1098.
Duke Brecislas, in filling the vacancy with his chaplain Hermann,
endeavored to rebut the arguments of those who objected to the foreign
birth of the appointee by urging that fact as a recommendation, since,
as a stranger, he would not be pressed upon by a crowd of kindred nor
be burdened with the care of children, thus showing that the native
priesthood, as a general rule, were heads of families.[573] For this,
moreover, they could not plead ignorance, for a Bohemian penitential
of the period expressly prohibits priests from having companions whose
society could give rise to suspicion of any kind.[574]

       *       *       *       *       *

At length the duel which, for more than thirty years, Henry had so
gallantly fought with the successors of St. Peter drew to a close. Ten
years of supremacy he had enjoyed in Germany, and he looked forward
to the peaceful decline of his unquiet life, when the treacherous
calm was suddenly disturbed. Papal intrigues in 1093 had caused the
parricidal revolt of his eldest born, the weak and vacillating Conrad,
whose early death had then extinguished the memory of his crime. That
unnatural rebellion had gained for Rome the North of Italy; and as
the emperor’s second son, Henry, grew to manhood, he, too, was marked
as a fit instrument to pierce his father’s heart, and to extend the
domination of the church by the foulest wrongs that man can perpetrate.
The startling revolution which in 1105 precipitated Henry from a throne
to a prison, from an absolute monarch to a captive embracing the knees
of his son and pleading for his wretched life, established forever the
supremacy of the papacy over Germany. The consequent enforcement of the
law of celibacy became only a question of time.

As the excuse for the rebellion was the necessity of restoring the
empire to the communion of Rome, one of the first measures of the
conspirators was the convocation of a council to be held at Nordhausen,
May 29, 1105, and one of the objects specified for its action was the
expulsion of all married priests.[575] The council was duly held,
and duly performed its work of condemning the heresy which permitted
benefices to be occupied and sacred functions exercised by those who
were involved in the ties of matrimony.[576] Pope Paschal II. was not
remiss in his share of the ceremony, by which he was to receive the
fruits of his treacherous intrigues. The following year a great council
was held at Guastalla, where, after interminable discussions as to the
propriety of receiving without re-ordination those who had compromised
themselves or who had been ordained by schismatics, he admitted into
the fold all the repentant ecclesiastics of the party of Henry IV.[577]
The text of the canon granting this boon to the imperialist clergy
bears striking testimony to the completeness of the separation which
had existed between the Teutonic and the Roman churches in stating that
throughout the empire scarce any Catholic ecclesiastics were to be
found.[578] It scarcely needed the declaration which Paschal made in
1107 at the synod of Troyes, condemning married priests to degradation
and deprivation,[579] to show that the doctrines of Damiani and
Hildebrand were thenceforth to be the law of the empire.

The question thus was definitely settled in prohibiting the priests
of Germany from marrying or from retaining the wives whom they had
taken previous to ordination. It was settled, indeed, in the rolls
of parchment which recorded the decrees of councils and the trading
bargains of pope and kaiser, yet the perennial struggle continued, and
the parchment roll for yet awhile was powerless before the passions of
man, who did not cease to be man because his crown was shaven and his
shoulders wore cope and stole.

Cosmo, who was Dean of Prague, who had been bred to the church, and
had been promoted to the priesthood in 1099, chronicles, in 1118, the
death of Boseteha, his wife, in terms which show that no separation
had ever occurred between them; and five years later he alludes to
his son Henry in a manner to indicate that there was no irregularity
in such relationship, nor aught that would cause him to forfeit the
respect of his contemporaries in acknowledging it.[580] Even more
to the point is the case of a pious priest, his friend, who, on the
death of his wife (“presbytera”), made a vow that he would have no
further intercourse with women. Cosmo relates that the unaccustomed
deprivation proved harder than he had expected, and that for some
years he was tortured with burning temptation. Finding at length that
his resolution was giving way, he resolved to imitate St. Benedict
in conquering the flesh; and having no suitable solitude for the
execution of his purpose, he took a handful of nettles to his chamber,
where, casting off his garments, he thrashed himself so unmercifully
that for three days he lay moribund. Then he hung the nettles in a
conspicuous position on his wall, that he might always have before his
eyes so significant a memento and warning.[581] Cosmo’s admiration for
this, as a rare and almost incredible exhibition of priestly virtue
and fortitude, shows how few were capable of even remaining widowers,
while the whole story proves that not only the clergy were free to
marry, but also that it was only the voluntary vow that prevented
a second marriage. At the close of the century Pietro, Cardinal of
Santa Maria in Via Lata, sent as Legate to Bohemia by Celestin III.,
was much scandalized at this state of affairs; and when a number of
postulants for holy orders were assembled in the church of St. Vitus
at Prague, before ordaining them he pronounced a discourse on the
subject of celibacy and demanded that they should all swear to preserve
continence. Thereupon all the priests who were present rushed forward
and urged them not to assume an obligation hitherto unknown, and when
the Cardinal ordered the Archdeacon to repress their somewhat active
demonstrations, they proceeded to pummel that unhappy official and the
tumult was with difficulty repressed by the soldiery who were summoned.
The legate sentenced some of the rioters to be starved to death in
prison and the rest to be exiled—a wholesome severity which broke
the spirit of the Bohemian priesthood and led to the introduction of

That this state of things was not confined to the wild Bohemian
Marches, but obtained throughout Germany in general, is sufficiently
attested by the fact that when Innocent II. was driven out of Rome by
the anti-pope Anaclet, and was wandering throughout Europe begging
recognition, he held, in conjunction with the Emperor Lothair, in
1131, a council at Liége, where he procured the adoption of a canon
prohibiting priestly marriage or attendance on the mass of married
priests. Not only does the necessity of this fresh legislation show
that previous enactments had become obsolete, but the manner in which
these proceedings are referred to by the chroniclers plainly indicates
that it took the Teutonic mind somewhat by surprise, and that the
efforts of Gregory and Urban had not only remained without result, but
had become absolutely forgotten.[583]

If these proceedings of Innocent had any effect, it was only to
make matters worse. The pious Rupert, Abbot of Duits, writing a few
years later, deplores the immorality of the priesthood, who not only
entered into forbidden marriages, but, knowing them to be illegal,
had no scruple in multiplying the tie, considering it to be, at their
pleasure, devoid of all binding force.[584] And in Liége itself,
where Innocent had held his council, Bishop Albero, whose episcopate
commenced in 1135, permitted his priests to celebrate their marriages
openly, so that, as we are told, the citizens rather preferred to give
their daughters in marriage to them than to laymen; and the naïve
remark of the chronicler that the clergy gave up keeping concubines
in secret and took wives openly would seem to show that the cause of
morality had not gained during the temporary restriction imposed by
Innocent.[585] It was not to much purpose that Albero was deprived of
his see for this laxity, for the same state of things continued. No
province of Germany was more orthodox than Salzburg, yet the archdeacon
of the archiepiscopal church there, writing in 1175, bewails the
complete demoralization of his clergy, whom he was utterly unable
to reform. Priests who were content with their own wives and did
not take those of other men were reputed virtuous and holy; and he
complains that in his own archidiaconate he was powerless to prevent
the ordination and ministry of the sons of priests, even while they
were living in open adultery with women whom they had taken from their
husbands.[586] How little sympathy, indeed, all efforts to enforce the
rule called forth is instructively shown by the wondering contempt
with which a writer, strictly papalist in his tendencies, comments
upon the indiscreet reformatory zeal of Meinhard, Archbishop of
Trèves. Elevated to this lofty dignity in 1128, he at once undertook
to force his clergy to obey the rule by the most stringent measures,
and speedily became so odious that he was obliged to leave his
bishopric within the year; and the chronicler who tells the story
has only words of reprobation for the unfortunate prelate.[587]
Even as late as the end of the twelfth century, a chronicler of the
popes, writing in southern Germany, calls Gregory VII. an enforcer of
impossibilities—“præceptor impossibilium”—because he had endeavored
to make good the rule of celibacy;[588] and a council of Ratisbon, in
the thirteenth century, while lamenting the fact that there were few
priests who did not openly keep their concubines and children in their
houses, quotes the canon of Hildebrand forbidding the laity to attend
at the ministrations of such persons, but without venturing to hint at
its enforcement.[589]

       *       *       *       *       *

Hungary had been Christianized at a time when the obligation
of celibacy was but lightly regarded, though it had not as yet
become obsolete. In reducing the dreaded and barbarous Majjars to
civilization, the managers of the movement might well smooth the path
and interpose as few obstacles as possible to the attainment of so
desirable a consummation. It is probable, therefore, that restrictions
on marriage, as applied to the priesthood, were lightly passed over,
and, not being insisted on, were disregarded by all parties. Even
the decretals of Nicholas II. and the fulminations of Gregory VII.
appear to have never penetrated into the kingdom of St. Stephen, for
sacerdotal celibacy seems to have been unknown among the Hungarians
until the close of the century. The first allusion to it occurs in the
synod of Zabolcs, held in 1092, under the auspices of St. Ladislas
II., and is of a nature to show not only that it was an innovation on
established usages, but also that the subject required tender handling
to reconcile it to the weakness of undisciplined human nature. After
the bitter denunciations and cruelly harsh measures which the popes
had been promulgating for nearly half a century, there is an impressive
contrast in the mildness with which the Hungarian church offered
indulgence to those legitimately united to a first wife, until the
Holy See could be consulted for a definitive decision;[590] and though
marriages with second wives, widows, or divorced women were pronounced
null and void, the disposition to evade a direct meeting of the
question is manifested in a regulation which provided that if a priest
united himself to his female slave “uxoris in locum,” the woman should
be sold; but if he refused to part with her, he was simply to pay
her price to the bishop.[591] Whether or not the pope’s decision was
actually sought, we have no means of knowing; if it was, his inevitable
verdict received little respect, for the Synod of Gran, held about the
year 1099 by the Primate Seraphin of Gran, only ventured to recommend
moderation to married priests, while its endeavor to enforce the rule
prohibiting marriage after the assumption of orders shows how utterly
the recognized discipline of the church was neglected. The consent of
wives was also required before married priests could be elevated to the
episcopate, and after consecration separation was strictly enjoined,
affording still further evidence of the laxity allowed to the other
grades. The iteration of the rules respecting _digami_ and marriage
with widows also indicates how difficult was the effort to resuscitate
those well-known regulations, although they were universally admitted
to be binding on all ecclesiastics.[592]

King Coloman, whose reign extended from 1095 to 1114, has the credit
of being the first who definitely enjoined immaculate purity on the
Hungarian priesthood. His laws, as collected by Alberic, have no
dates, and therefore we are unable to affix precise epochs to them;
but his legislation on the subject appears to have been progressive,
for we find edicts containing injunctions respecting _digami_ and
irregular unions in terms which indicate that single marriages were
not interfered with; and these may reasonably be deemed earlier than
other laws which formally prohibit the elevation to the diaconate of an
unmarried man without exacting from him a vow of continence, or of a
married man without the consent of his wife. The import of this latter
condition is explained by another law, which provided that no married
man should officiate at the altar unless his wife professed continence,
and was furnished by her husband with the means of dwelling apart from
him.[593] As these stringent regulations form part of the canons of a
council held by Archbishop Seraphin about the year 1109,[594] they were
probably borrowed from that council by Coloman, and incorporated into
his laws at a period somewhat later.

I have not met with any indications of the results of the legislation
which thus combined the influence of the temporal and ecclesiastical
authorities. That it effected little, however, is apparent from the
evidence afforded by Dalmatia, at that time a province of Hungary.
Shortly before it lost its independence, its duke, Dimitri, resolved
to assume the crown of royalty, and purchased the assent of Gregory
VII. at the price of acknowledging him as feudal superior. Gregory took
advantage of Dimitri’s aspirations to further the plans of reform, of
which he never lost sight; for, in the coronation oath taken in 1076
before Gebizo, the papal legate, the new king swore that he would take
such measures as would insure the chastity of all ecclesiastics, from
the bishop to the subdeacon.[595] The new dynasty did not last long,
for before the end of the century St. Ladislas united the province of
Dalmatia to the kingdom of Hungary; but neither the oath of Dimitri,
the laws of Coloman, nor the canons of the national councils succeeded
in eradicating the custom of priestly marriage. When we find, in 1185,
Urban III. in approving the acts of the synod of Spalatro, graciously
expressing his approbation of its prohibiting the marriage of priests,
and desiring that the injunction should be extended so as to include
the diaconate,[596] we see that marriage must have been openly enjoyed
by all ranks, that the synod had not ventured to include in the
restriction any but the highest order, and that Urban himself did not
undertake to apply the rule to subdeacons, although they had been
specially included in Dimitri’s oath. Yet still pope and synod labored
in vain, for fourteen years later, in 1199, another national council
complained that priests kept both wives and benefices. It therefore
commanded that those who indulged in this species of adultery should
either dismiss their partners in guilt, and undergo due penance,
or else should give up their churches; while no married man should
be admitted to the diaconate, unless his wife would take a vow of
continence before the bishop.[597] Even yet, however, the subdiaconate
is not alluded to, although the legates who presided over the council
were those of Innocent III.

Of how little avail were these efforts is shown by the national council
held at Vienna as late as 1267, by Cardinal Guido, legate of Clement
IV. It was still found necessary to order the deprivation of priests
and deacons who persisted in retaining their wives; while the special
clauses respecting those who married after taking orders prove that
such unions were frequent enough to require tender consideration in
removing the evil. The subdiaconate, also, was declared liable to the
same regulations, but the resistance of the members of that order was
probably stubborn, for the canons were suspended in their favor until
further instructions should be received from the pope.[598]

       *       *       *       *       *

Poland was equally remiss in enforcing the canons on her clergy. The
leaning of the Slavonic races towards the Greek church rendered them,
in fact, peculiarly intractable, and marriage was commonly practised
by the clergy at least until the close of the twelfth century.[599] At
length the efforts of Rome were extended to that distant region, and
in 1197 the papal legate, Cardinal Peter of Capua, held the synod of
Lanciski, when the priests were peremptorily ordered to dismiss their
wives and concubines, who, in the words of the historian, were at that
time universally and openly kept.[600] The result of this seems to have
amounted to little, for in 1207 we find Innocent III. sharply reproving
the bishops of the province of Gnesen because married men were publicly
admitted to ecclesiastical dignities, and canons took no shame in the
families growing up around them. The children of priests were brought
up to the sacred profession of their fathers, assisted them in their
ministrations, and succeeded to their benefices. Whether or not the
other disorders which Innocent designated as infecting the churches
were the result of the carnal affections which thus superseded the
spiritual we may fairly doubt, in view of the abuses still prevailing
in more favored regions.[601] The effort was continued, and was
apparently at length successful, at least in the western portions of
the Polish church, for at the council of Breslau, held in 1279, there
is no mention of wives, and the constitution of Guido, legate of
Clement IV., is quoted, depriving of benefices those who openly kept

       *       *       *       *       *

The church of Sweden was no purer than its neighbors. That the rule
was recognized there at a tolerably early period is shown by the fact
that when the people of Scania, about the year 1180, revolted against
the exactions of Waldemar I. of Denmark, they demanded to be released
from the oppression of tithes and that the clergy should be married.
Singularly enough, the clerks stood by their bishop, Absalom, when he
laid an interdict on the province, and the arms of Waldemar speedily
subdued the revolt.[603] Not much, however, was gained for church
discipline by this. In 1204, the Archbishop of Lunden reported to
Innocent III. that he had used every endeavor to enforce the canons
and had brought many of his priests to observe chastity, but that
there still were many who persisted in retaining their women, whom
they treated as though they were legitimate wives, with fidelity and
conjugal affection. To this Innocent replied that the recalcitrants
must be coerced by suspension, and, if necessary, by deprivation of
benefice.[604] How little result this achieved is evident when we find
the archbishop again writing to Innocent III. complaining that the
Swedish priests persisted in living with their wives, and that they
moreover claimed to have a papal dispensation permitting it. Innocent,
in reply, cautiously abstained from pronouncing an opinion as to the
validity of these pretensions until he should have an opportunity of
examining the document to which they appealed.[605] The efforts at
this time were fruitless, for, in 1248, we find the Cardinal of St.
Sabina as legate of Innocent IV. holding a council at Schening, of
which the principal object was to reform these abuses, and so firmly
were they established, that the Swedes were considered as schismatics
of the Greek church, in consequence of the marriage of their priests.
The council supported by the royal power, succeeded in forcing the
Swedish ecclesiastics to give up their wives, by a liberal use of all
the punishments then in vogue, together with the significant threat of
abandoning them to the tender mercies of the secular tribunals.[606]

       *       *       *       *       *

In Denmark and along the northern coasts of Germany, there was equal
delay in enforcing the canon of celibacy. It is suggestive of some
powerful intercession in favor of the married clergy when we see
Paschal II., in 1117, writing to the King of Denmark that the rule
was imperative, and that he could admit of no exceptions to it.[607]
His insistence, however, was of little avail. In 1266, Cardinal
Guido, legate of Clement IV., held a council at Bremen, where he was
obliged to take rigorous measures to put an end to this Nicolitan
heresy. All married priests, deacons, and subdeacons were pronounced
incapable of holding any ecclesiastical office whatever. Children born
of such unions were declared infamous, and incapable of inheritance,
and any property received by gift or otherwise from their fathers
was confiscated. Those who permitted their daughters, sisters, or
other female relatives to contract such marriages, or gave them up in
concubinage to priests, were excluded from the church. That a previous
struggle had taken place on the subject is evident from the penalties
threatened against the prelates who were in the habit of deriving
a revenue from the protection of these irregularities, and from an
allusion to the armed resistance, made by the married and concubinary
priests with their friends, to all efforts to check their scandalous

In Friesland, too, the efforts of the sacerdotalists were long set at
naught. In 1219 Emo, Abbot of Wittewerum, describing the disastrous
inundations which afflicted his country, considers them as a punishment
sent to chastise the vices of the land, and among the disorders which
were peculiarly obnoxious to the wrath of God he enumerates the public
marriage of the priests, the hereditary transmission of benefices, and
the testamentary provision made by ecclesiastics for their children
out of the property which should accrue to the church; while his
references to the canon law inhibiting these practices, show that these
transgressions were not excusable through ignorance.[609] The warning
was unheeded, for Abbot Emo alludes incidentally, on various subsequent
occasions, to the hereditary transmission of several deaneries as a
matter of course.[610] The deans in Friesland were ecclesiastics of
high position, each having six or more parishes under his jurisdiction,
which he governed under legatine power from the Bishop of Munster.
When, in 1271, the people rose against them, exasperated by their
intolerable exactions, in some temporary truce the deans gave their
_children_ as hostages; and when, after their expulsion, Gerard of
Munster came to their assistance by excommunicating the rebels, the
latter defended the movement by the argument that the deans had
violated the laws of the church by handing down their positions from
father to son, and that each generation imitated the incontinence of
its predecessor.[611] Hildebrand might have applauded this reasoning,
but his days were past. The church by this time had gained the position
to which it had aspired, and no longer invoked secular assistance to
enforce its laws. Even Abbot Menco, while admitting the validity of the
popular argument, claimed that such questions were reserved for the
decision of the church alone, and that the people must not interfere.

       *       *       *       *       *

After thus marking the slow progress of the Hildebrandine movement
in these frontier lands of Christendom, let us see what efforts were
required to establish the reform in regions less remote.



Gregory VII. had not been so engrossed in his quarrels with the Empire
as to neglect the prosecution of his favorite schemes of reform
elsewhere. If he displayed somewhat less of energy and zeal in dealing
with the ecclesiastical foibles of other countries, it was perhaps
because the political complications which gave a special zest to his
efforts in Germany were wanting, and because there was no organized
resistance supported by the temporal authorities. Yet the inertia of
passive non-compliance long rendered his endeavors and those of his
successors equally nugatory.

As early as 1056 we find Victor II., by means of his vicars at the
council of Toulouse, enjoining on the priesthood separation from their
wives, under penalty of excommunication and deprivation of function
and benefice.[612] This was followed up in 1060 by Nicholas II., who
sought through his envoys to enforce the observance of his decretals on
celibacy in France, and under the presidency of his legate the council
of Tours in that year adopted a canon of the most decided character.
All who, since the promulgation of the decretal of 1060, had continued
in the performance of their sacred functions while still preserving
relations with their wives and concubines were deprived of their grades
without hope of restoration; and the same irrevocable penalty was
denounced against those who in the future should endeavor to combine
the incompatible duties of husband and minister of Christ.[613]

In what spirit these threats and injunctions were likely to be
received may be gathered from an incident which occurred, probably
about this time. A French bishop, as in duty bound, excommunicated
one of his deacons for marrying. The clergy of the diocese, keen
to appreciate the prospect of future trouble, rallied around their
persecuted brother, and rose in open rebellion against the prelate.
The latter, apparently, was unable to maintain his position, and the
matter was referred for adjudication to the celebrated Berenger of
Tours. Although, in view of the papal jurisprudence of the period,
the bishop would seem to have acted with leniency, yet Berenger
blamed both parties for their precipitancy and quarrelsome humor, and
decided that the excommunication of a deacon for marrying was contrary
to the canons, unless rendered unavoidable by the contumacy of the

Even more significant was the scene which occurred in 1074 in the
council of Paris, where the holy St. Gauthier, Abbot of Ponthoise,
undertook to sustain the decretal by which Gregory VII. prohibited
attendance on the masses of married and concubinary priests. The
assembly manifested its disapprobation of the measure in a manner so
energetic that its unlucky advocate, after being furiously berated and
soundly pummelled, was glad to escape with his life from the hands of
his indignant brethren.[615]

When such was the spirit of the ecclesiastical body, there was little
to be expected from any internal attempt at reform. At the stormy
synod of Poitiers, in 1078, the papal legate, Hugh, Bishop of Die,
succeeded in obtaining the adoption of a canon which threatened with
excommunication all who should knowingly listen to the mass of a
concubinary or simoniacal priest,[616] but this seems to have met with
little response. Coercion from without was evidently requisite, and in
this case, as we have seen, Gregory did not shrink from subjecting the
church to the temporal power. In Normandy, for instance, a synod held
at Lisieux in 1055 had commanded the degradation of priests who resided
with wives or concubines. This was, of course, ineffective, and in 1072
John, Archbishop of Rouen, held a council in his cathedral city, where
he renewed that canon in terms which show how completely all orders
and dignitaries were habitually liable to its penalties.[617] The
Norman clergy were not disposed to submit quietly to this abridgement
of their accustomed privileges, and they expressed their dissent by
raising a terrible clamor and driving their archbishop from the council
with a shower of stones, from which he barely escaped alive.[618] At
length, in view of the utter failure of all ecclesiastical legislation,
the laity were called in. William the Conqueror, therefore, in 1080,
assisted the Archbishop of Rouen in holding a synod at Lillebonne,
where the stern presence of the suzerain prevented any unseemly
resistance to the adoption of most unpalatable regulations. All who
were in holy orders were forbidden, under any pretext, to keep women in
their houses, and if, when accused of disobedience, they were unable
to prove themselves innocent, their benefices were irretrievably
forfeited. If the accusation was made by the ecclesiastical officials,
the offender was to be tried by the episcopal court, but if his
parishioners or feudal superior were the complainants, he was to be
brought before a mixed tribunal, composed of the squires of his parish
and the officials of the bishop. This startling invasion of the dearest
privileges of the church was declared by William to proceed from no
desire to interfere with the jurisdiction of his bishops, but to be
a temporary expedient, rendered necessary by their negligence. Nor
was this remarkable measure the only thing that renders the synod of
Lillebonne worthy of note, for it affords us the earliest authoritative
indication of a practice which subsequently became a standing disgrace
to the church. The fifth canon declares that no priest shall be forced
to give anything to the bishop or to the officers of the diocese beyond
their lawful dues, and especially that no money shall be exacted on
account of women kept by clerks.[619] A tribute known as “cullagium”
became at times a recognized source of revenue, in consideration of
which the weaknesses of human nature were excused, and ecclesiastics
were allowed to enjoy in security the society of their concubines. We
shall see hereafter that this infamous custom continued to flourish
until the sixteenth century, despite the most strenuous and repeated
endeavors to remove so grievous a scandal.

It is probable that the expedient of mixed courts for the trial of
married and concubinary priests was not adopted without the concurrence
of Gregory, who was willing to make almost any sacrifice necessary
to accomplish his purpose. That they were organized and performed
the functions delegated to them is shown by a reference in a charter
of 1088 to one held at Caumont, which required a priest to abandon
either his wife or his church.[620] So far, indeed, was Gregory from
protesting against this violation of ecclesiastical immunities, that he
was willing even to connive at the abuses which immediately crept into
the system, and to purchase the assistance of the laity by allowing
them to lay sacrilegious hands on the temporalities of the church.
Many of the nobles who thus assisted in expelling the offending clergy
seized the tithes and retained them. The papal legate, Hugh, Bishop of
Die—better known by his subsequent primatial dignity of Lyons—proceeded
against these invaders of church property in the usual manner, and
excommunicated them as a matter of course. Gregory, however, who under
ordinary circumstances would have promptly consigned the spoilers
to the bottomless pit, now virtually took their side. He discreetly
declined to confirm the excommunication, reproved his legate for
superserviceable zeal, and ordered him in future to be more guarded and
temperate in his proceedings.[621]

Church and state—the zeal of the ecclesiastic and the avarice of the
noble—vainly united to break down the stubbornness of the Norman
priesthood, for marriage continued to be enjoyed as openly as ever. The
only effect of the attempted reform, indeed, appeared to be that when a
priest entered into matrimony he took a solemn vow never to give up his
wife, a measure prompted doubtless by the fears of the bride and her
kindred. The nuptials were public; male issue succeeded to benefices by
a recognized primogeniture, and female children received their fathers’
churches as dower, when other resources were wanting. About the
beginning of the twelfth century, three enthusiastic ascetic reformers,
the celebrated Robert d’Arbrissel, founder of Fontevrault, Bernard
Abbot of Tiron, and Vitalis of Mortain traversed Normandy and preached
with great earnestness against these abuses, the result of which was
that they nearly came to an untimely end at the hands of the indignant
pastors and their more indignant spouses. On one occasion, when Bernard
was preaching at Coutances, a married archdeacon assailed him, with a
crowd of priests and clerks, asking how he, a monk, dead to the world,
presumed to preach to the living. Bernard replied that Samson had
slain his foes with the jaw-bone of a dead ass, and then proceeded with
so moving a discourse on Samson, that the archdeacon was converted, and
interfered to save him from the mob.[622]

If William the Conqueror found his advantage in thus assisting the
hopeless reform within his duchy of Normandy, he had no hesitation
in obstructing it when his policy demanded such a course in his
subject province of Britanny. During the three and a half centuries
through which the Breton church maintained its independence of the
archiepiscopal see of Tours, its metropolis was Dol. Judhaël, who
occupied its lofty seat, not only obtained it by simony, but sullied
it by a public marriage; and when the offspring of this illicit union
reached maturity he portioned them from the property of the church.
This prolonged violation of the canons attracted the attention of
Gregory soon after his accession, and in 1076 he informed William
that he had deposed the offender. William, however, saw fit to defend
the scandal, and refused to receive Evenus, Abbot of St. Melanius,
whom Gregory had appointed as a successor.[623] Judhaël, indeed, was
no worse than his suffragans. For three generations the diocese of
Quimper was held by father, son, and grandson; while the Bishops of
Rennes, Vannes, and Nantes were openly married, and their wives enjoyed
the recognized rank of countesses, as an established right.[624] How
much improvement resulted from the efforts of Gregory and his legate
Hugh may be estimated from the description, in general terms, of the
iniquities ascribed to the Breton clergy, both secular and regular,
in the early part of the next century, by Paschal II. when granting
the pallium to Baldric, Archbishop of Dol. All classes are described
as indulging in enormities hateful to God and man, and as having no
hesitation in setting the canons at defiance. In Britanny, as in
Wales and Spain, the centralizing influence of Rome was at fault, and
priestly marriage was persevered in long after it had been abrogated

       *       *       *       *       *

In Flanders, Count Robert the Frisian and Adela, his mother, were well
disposed to second the reformatory measures of Gregory, but, doubting
their right to eject the offenders, they applied to him, in 1076, for
instructions. His answers were unequivocal, urging them to the most
prompt and summary proceedings.[626] The spirit in which the clergy
met the attack was manifested by the incident already described, when,
in 1077, an unfortunate zealot was burned at the stake in Cambrai for
maintaining the propriety of the papal decretals. The same disposition,
though fortunately leading to less deplorable results, was exhibited
in Artois. At the instance of Adela, Robert, in 1072, had founded
the Priory of Watten, near St. Omer. Despite this powerful interest
and patronage, the house had a severe struggle for existence, as
its prior, Otfrid, lent his influence to support the reform and to
enforce the decrees of Gregory. Reproaches and curses were showered
upon the infant community, and it was openly threatened with fire and
sword, until the unfortunate brethren felt equally insecure within
their walls and abroad. At length the Countess Adela took Otfrid
with her on a pilgrimage to Rome, and there the holy man procured
from Gregory a confirmation of the privileges of his house. On his
return, he found that this instrument only made the persecution more
vehement. Accusations of all kinds were made against the priory, and
its enemies succeeded in causing the brethren to be brought for trial
before the local synod, where the production of the papal charter was
ordered. It was at once pronounced a forgery, was taken away by force,
and was retained by the Bishop, Drogo of Terouane, in spite of all

The opposition of the clergy was not lessened by the manner in which
the secular authorities exercised the power bestowed upon them. Count
Robert saw the advantages derivable from the position of affairs and
seems to have been resolved to turn it thoroughly to account. Among
other modes adopted was that of the “jus spolii,” by which he seized
the effects of dying ecclesiastics, turning their families out of doors
and disinheriting the heirs. These arbitrary proceedings he defended on
the ground of the incontinence of the sufferers, boldly declaring that
wicked priests were no priests—as if, groaned the indignant clerks,
sinful men were not men.[628] In 1091, the Flemish priests complained
of these acts to Urban II., and he vainly endeavored to interfere in
their behalf.[629] Finding this resource fail, they appealed to their
metropolitan, Renaud, Archbishop of Rheims, who by active measures
succeeded in putting an end to the abuse in 1092.

Amid all this the church proved powerless to enforce its laws, and
again it called upon the feudal authority for assistance—this time in
a manner by which it admitted its impotence on a question so vital.
In 1099, Manasses of Rheims held a provincial synod at St. Omer,
which instructed the Count of Flanders, Robert the Hierosolymitan, to
seize the wives of all priests who after excommunication declined to
abandon their guilty partners; and in this he was not to ask or wait
for the assent of the bishop of the diocese. The sturdy Crusader would
doubtless have carried out this order to the letter, with all its
attendant cruelty and misery, but the clergy of the province united
in remonstrances so vehement that Manasses was forced to abandon his
position. He accordingly requested Robert on no account to disturb the
married priests and their wives, or to permit his nobles to do so,
except when assistance was demanded by the bishops. He acknowledged the
injustice he had committed in overslaughing the constituted authorities
of the church, and deprecated the rapine and spoliation which so
ill-advised a proceeding might cause. At the same time he admonished
his suffragans to proceed vigorously against all who married in orders,
and to call on the seigneurial power to coerce those who should prove

Harsh and violent as were the measures thus threatened, there appears
to have been extreme hesitation in carrying them out. A certain clerk
known as Robert of Artois committed the unpardonable indiscretion of
marrying a widow, and openly resisted all the efforts of his bishop
to reduce him to obedience. Not only his original crime, but his
subsequent contumacious rebellion would assuredly justify the severest
chastisement, yet both the secular and ecclesiastical powers of the
province seem to have been at fault, for it was found necessary to ask
the interference of no less a personage than Richard, Bishop of Albano,
then enjoying the dignity of papal legate in France. In 1104 the legate
accordingly addressed the Count of Flanders with the very moderate
request that the obstinate rebel and his abettors should be held as
excommunicate until they should reconcile themselves to their bishop.
Robert finally appealed to Rome itself, but in the end was obliged to
succumb. Similar was the case of two Artesian deacons who refused to
abandon their wives until Lambert, the bishop of Artois, excommunicated
them, when they travelled to Rome in hopes of reconciliation to the
church. Paschal II. absolved them on their taking a solemn oath upon
the Gospels to live chastely in future, and he sent them back to
Lambert with instructions to keep a careful watch upon them.[631]
These cases, which chance to remain on record, show how obstinately
the clergy held to their wives and how difficult it was to convince
them that the authorities of the church were determined to enforce
the canons. We therefore need not be surprised to find Paschal II.,
after the year 1100, writing to the clergy of Terouane, expressing his
astonishment that, in spite of so many decretals of popes and canons of
councils, they still adhered to their consorts, some of them openly and
some secretly. To remedy this, he has nothing but a repetition of the
old threat of deprivation.[632]

       *       *       *       *       *

The confusion which this attempted reformation caused in France was
apparently not so aggravated as we have seen it in Germany, and yet it
was sufficiently serious. Guibert de Nogent relates that in his youth
commenced the persecution of the married priests by Rome, when a cousin
of his, a layman of flagrant and excessive licentiousness, made himself
conspicuous by his attacks on the failings of the clergy. The family
were anxious to provide for young Guibert, who was destined to the
church, and the cousin used his influence with the patron of a benefice
to oust the married incumbent and bestow the preferment on Guibert.
The priest thus forcibly ejected abandoned neither his wife nor his
functions, but relieved his mind by excommunicating every day, in the
Mass, Guibert’s mother and all her family, until the good woman’s fears
were so excited that she abandoned the prebend which she had obtained
with so much labor.[633] We can readily conceive this incident to be
a type of what was occurring in every corner of the kingdom, when, in
an age of brute force, the reverence which was the only defence of the
priesthood was partially destroyed, and the people hardly knew whether
they were to adore their pastors as representatives of God or to dread
them as the powerful ministers of evil.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the religious ardor of Europe rose to the wild excitement that
culminated in the Crusades, and Pope Urban II. astutely availed himself
of the movement to place the church in possession of a stronger
influence over the minds of men than it had ever before enjoyed, it
was to no purpose that the great council of Clermont, in 1095, took
the opportunity to proclaim in the most solemn manner the necessity
of perfect purity in ministers of the altar, to denounce irrevocable
expulsion for contravention of the rule, and to forbid the children of
ecclesiastics from entering the church except as monks or canons.[634]
It was the weightiest exposition of church discipline, and was
promulgated under circumstances to give it the widest publicity and the
highest authority. Yet, within a few years, we find Gualo, Bishop of
Paris, applying to Ivo of Chartres for advice as to what ought to be
done with a canon of his church who had recently married, and Ivo in
reply recommending as a safe course that the marriage be held valid,
but that the offender be relieved of his stipend and functions.[635]
His answer, moreover, is written in a singularly undecided tone, and
an elaborate argument is presented as though the matter were still
open to discussion, although Ivo’s laborious compilations of the canon
law show that he was thoroughly familiar with the ancient discipline
which the depravity of his generation had rendered obsolete.[636]
Hardly less significant is another epistle in which Ivo calls the
attention of Daimbert, Archbishop of Sens, to the conduct of one of his
dignitaries who publicly maintained two concubines and was preparing
to marry a third. He urges Daimbert to put an end to the scandal, and
suggests that if he is unable to accomplish it single-handed, he should
summon two or three of his suffragans to his assistance.[637] Either
of these instances is a sufficient confession of the utter futility of
the ceaseless exertions which for half a century the church had been
making to enforce her discipline. Nor, perhaps, can her ill-success
be wondered at when we consider how unworthy were the hands to which
was frequently intrusted the administering of the law and the laxity
of opinion which viewed the worst transgressions with indulgence. The
archdeacons were the officials to whom was specially confided the
supervision over sacerdotal morals, and yet, when a man occupying that
responsible position, like Aldebert of Le Mans, publicly surrounded
himself with a harem, and took no shame from the resulting crowd of
offspring, so little did his conduct shock the sensibilities of the age
that he was elevated to the episcopal chair, and only the stern voice
of Ivo could be heard reproving the measureless scandal.[638]

       *       *       *       *       *

Equal looseness pervaded the monastic establishments. Hildebert, Bishop
of Le Mans, made numerous fruitless attempts to restore discipline
in the celebrated abbey of Euron, the monks of which indulged in the
grossest licentiousness, and successfully defied his power until he was
obliged to appeal to the papal legate for assistance.[639] Albero of
Verdun, after fruitless attempts to reform the monastery of St. Paul,
in his episcopal city, was obliged to turn out the monks by force and
replace them with Premonstratensians, who were then in the full ardor
of their new discipline.[640] The description which Ivo of Chartres
gives of the convent of St. Fara shows a promiscuous and shameless
prostitution, on the part of the nuns of that institution, even more
degrading.[641] Instances like these could be almost indefinitely
multiplied, such as that of St. Mary of Argentueil, reformed by
Heloise, the great foundation of St. Denis, previous to the abbacy of
Suger, and that of St. Gildas de Ruys in Britanny, as described by
Abelard;[642] who, moreover, depicts the nuns of the period, in general
terms, as abandoned to the most hideous licentiousness—those who were
good-looking prostituting themselves for hire, those who were not so
fortunate hiring men to gratify their passions, while the older ones,
who had passed the age of lust, acted as procuresses.[643] Innocent
III. may therefore be absolved from the charge of exaggeration when,
in ordering the reform of the nuns of St. Agatha, he alludes to their
convent as a brothel which infected with its evil reputation the whole
country around it.[644] A contemporary chronicler records as a matter
of special wonder that John of Salisbury, Bishop of Chartres, forced
his canons to live in cloisters according to the Rule of St. Augustin;
and he adds that, stimulated by this example, his uncle, John of
Lisieux, and his successor, Geoffrey of Chartres, attempted the same
reform, but without success.[645] It is true that some partial reform
was effected by St. Bernard, but the austerities of the new orders
founded by enthusiasts like him and St. Bruno, Robert d’Arbrissel
and St. Norbert, did not cure the ineradicable vices of the older

       *       *       *       *       *

With such examples before us, it is not difficult to believe the truth
of the denunciations with which the celebrated Raoul of Poitiers,
whose fiery zeal gained for him the distinctive appellation of Ardens,
lashed the vices of his fellows; nor can we conclude that it was mere
rhetorical amplification which led him to declare that the clergy, who
should be models for their flocks, were more shameless and abandoned
than those whose lives it was their duty to guide.[646] Peter Cantor,
indeed, deplores the superiority of the laity to the clergy as the
greatest injury that afflicted the church.[647]

The natural result of such a state of morals was the prevalence of
the hereditary principle against which the church had so long and so
perseveringly striven. How completely this came to be regarded as a
matter of course, is shown by a contemporary charter to the ancient
monastery of Bèze, by which a priest named Germain, on entering it
bestowed upon it his holding, consisting of certain specified tithes.
This deed of gift is careful to declare the assent of the sons of the
donor, showing that the title of the monastery would not have been
considered good as against the claims of Germain’s descendants had
they not joined in the conveyance.[648] Even as late as 1202 we find
Innocent III. endeavoring to put a stop to the hereditary transmission
of benefices in the bishopric of Toul, where it was practised to an
extent which showed how little impression had as yet been made by the
unceasing efforts of the last hundred and fifty years.[649]

When in the presence of so stiff-necked and evil disposed a generation,
all human efforts seemed unavailing to secure respect for the canons of
councils and decretals of popes, we need scarcely wonder if recourse
was had to the miraculous agencies which so often proved efficacious
in subduing the minds of men. Wondrous stories, accordingly, were not
wanting, to show how offended Heaven sometimes gave in this world a
foretaste of the wrath to come, awaiting those who lived in habitual
disregard of the teachings of the church. Thus Peter the Venerable
relates with much unction how a priest, who had abandoned himself to
carnal indulgences, died amid the horrors of anticipated hell-fire.
Visible to him alone, the demons chuckling around his death-bed
heated the frying-pan of burning fat in which he was incontinently
to be plunged, while a drop flying from the sputtering mass seared
him to the bone, as a dreadful material sign that his agony was not
the distempered imagining of a tortured conscience. A miracle equally
significant wrung a confession of his weakness from the Dean of Minden
in 1167.[650]

If Heaven thus miraculously manifested its anger, it was equally ready
to welcome back the repentant sinner. In the first energy of the
reforms of St. Bernard, a priest entered the abbey of Clairvaux. The
rigor of the Cistercian discipline wore out his enthusiasm; he fled
from the convent, returned to his parish, and, according to the general
custom, (“sicut multis consuetudinis est”) took to himself a concubine,
and soon saw a family increasing around him. The holy St. Bernard
chanced to pass that way and accepted the priest’s warm hospitality
without recognizing him. When the Saint was ready to depart in the
morning he found that his host was absent performing his functions
in the church, and, turning to one of the children, he sent him with
a message to his father. Though the child had been a deaf-mute from
birth, he promptly performed the errand. Roused by the miracle to a
sense of his iniquity, the apostate rushed to the Saint, threw himself
at his feet, confessed who he was, and entreated to be taken back to
the monastery. St. Bernard touched by his repentance, promised to call
for him on his return. To this the priest objected, on the ground that
he might die during the interval, but was comforted with the assurance
that if he died in such a frame of mind, he would be received by God
as a monk. When St. Bernard returned, the repentant sinner was dead.
Inquiring as to the ceremonies of his interment, he was told that the
corpse had been buried in its priestly garments; whereupon he ordered
the grave to be opened, and it was found arrayed, not in its funeral
robes, but in full Cistercian habit and tonsure, showing that God had
fulfilled the promises made in his name.[651]

Such was the condition of the Gallican church when, in 1119, Calixtus
II. stepped from the archiepiscopal see of Vienne to the chair of
St. Peter. His first great object was to end the quarrel with the
empire on the subject of investitures, the vicissitudes of which
rendered the papacy at the time of his accession an exile from Italy;
his second was to carry out the reforms so long and so fruitlessly
urged by his predecessors. To accomplish both these results he lost
no time in summoning a great council to assemble at Rheims, and when
it met in November, 1119, no less than fifteen archbishops, more
than two hundred bishops, and numerous abbots responded to the call,
representing Italy, France, Aquitaine, Spain, Germany, and England.
The attempted reconciliation with the Emperor Henry V. failed, but
the vices and corruptions of the church were vigorously attacked and
sternly prohibited for the future. All commerce with concubines or
wives was positively forbidden under pain of deprivation of benefice
and function. No choice was granted the offender, for continuance
in his sin after expulsion was punishable with excommunication; and
the hereditary transmission of ecclesiastical dignities and property
was strictly prohibited.[652] Whether it was the lofty character
of the new pope, his royal blood and French extraction, or whether
the solemnity of the occasion impressed men’s minds, it is not easy
now to guess, but unquestionably these proceedings produced greater
effect upon the Transalpine churches than any previous efforts of the
Holy See. Calixtus was long regarded as the real author of sacerdotal
celibacy in France, and his memory has been embalmed in the jingling
verses which express the dissatisfaction and spite of the clergy,
deprived of their ancestral privileges.

    O bone Calliste, nunc clerus odit te;
    Olim presbyteri poterant uxoribus uti;
    Hoc detruxisti quando tu papa fuisti,
    Ergo tuum festum nunquam celebratur honestum.[653]

Calixtus was not a man to rest half way, nor was he content with an
empty promise of obedience. Under the pressure of his influence, the
French prelates found themselves obliged to take measures for the
vigorous enforcement of the canons. What those measures were, and the
disposition with which they were received, may be understood from the
resultant proceedings in Normandy. Geoffrey, Archbishop of Rouen, on
leaving the council of Rheims, promptly called a synod, which assembled
ere the month was out. The canon prohibiting female intercourse roused
abhorrence and resistance among his clergy, and they inveighed loudly
against the innovation. Geoffrey singled out one who rendered himself
particularly prominent in the tumult, and caused him to be seized and
cast into prison; then, leaving the church, he called in his guards,
whom, with acute anticipation of trouble, he had posted in readiness.
The rude soldiery fell upon the unarmed priests, some of whom promptly
escaped; the rest, grasping what weapons they could find, made a
gallant resistance, and succeeded in beating back the assailants. A mob
speedily collected, which took sides with the archbishop. Assisted by
this unexpected reinforcement, the guards again forced their way into
the church, where they beat and maltreated the unfortunate clerks to
their heart’s content; when, as the chronicler quaintly observes, the
synod broke up in confusion, and the members fled without awaiting the
archiepiscopal benediction.[654]

The immediate effect of the reformation thus inaugurated may perhaps
be judged with sufficient accuracy by the story of Abelard and
Heloise, which occurred about this period. That Abelard was a canon
when that immortal love arose, was not, in such a state of morals, any
impediment to the gratification of his passion, nor did it diminish
the satisfaction of the canon Fulbert at the marriage of his niece,
for such marriages, as yet, were valid by ecclesiastical law. In her
marvellous self-abnegation, however, Heloise recognized that while the
fact of his openly keeping a mistress, and acknowledging Astrolabius
as his illegitimate son, would be no bar to his preferment, and would
leave open to him a career equal to the wildest dreams of his ambition,
yet to admit that he had sanctified their love by marriage, and had
repaired, as far as possible, the wrong which he had committed,
would ruin his prospects forever. In a worldly point of view it was
better for him, as a churchman, to have the reputation of shameless
immorality than that of a loving and pious husband; and this was so
evidently a matter of course that she willingly sacrificed everything,
and practised every deceit, that he might be considered a reckless
libertine, who had refused her the only reparation in his power. Such
was the standard of morals created by the church, and such were the
conclusions inevitably drawn from them.

Nor were these conclusions erroneous, if we may judge by an incident of
the period. An archdeacon of Angoulême had committed the unpardonable
crime of seducing the abbess of a convent in the district under his
charge. When the results of the amour could be no longer concealed,
and the Count of Angoulême ventured to remonstrate with Gérard, the
bishop of the diocese, that worthy prelate protected the offender by
dismissing the charge with a filthy jest. Yet so far was Gérard from
forfeiting the respect of his contemporaries by this laxity, that he
was soon afterwards appointed papal legate.[655] Somewhat similar is
the conclusion to be drawn from an occurrence about the same time in
the diocese of Comminges, where a deacon was entangled in a guilty
connection and was summoned with his paramour before the bishop, St.
Bertrand. The reproof of the holy man reduced the deacon to contrition,
but the woman was defiant. He escaped punishment, while she was seized
by demons and expired on the spot.[656]

Yet there are evidences that the efforts of Calixtus, and of the
fathers whose assembled authority was concentrated at Rheims, did not
by any means eradicate a custom which had now become traditional. Soon
afterwards King Louis-le-Gros, in granting a charter to the church
of St. Cornelius at Compiègne, felt it necessary to accompany the
privileges bestowed with a restriction, worded as though it were a
novelty, to the effect that those in holy orders connected with the
foundation should have no wives—a condition which shows how little
confidence existed in the mind of the sagacious prince as to the
efficacy of the canons so portentiously promulgated by the rulers, and
so energetically resisted by the ruled.[657] That he was justified
in this lack of confidence is evident when we see, further on in the
century, an epistle of Alexander III., undated, but probably written
about 1170, complaining of the canons of St. Ursmar and Antoin who
openly kept concubines in their houses, while some of them did not
hesitate to marry;[658] while as late as 1212 a council of Paris was
obliged to adopt canons forbidding clerks married in the lower orders
to hold parishes while retaining their wives, and suspending from
benefice and functions all those who marry while in holy orders.[659]



We have already seen what was the condition of the Anglo-Saxon
church when William the Manzer overran the island with his horde
of adventurers. Making all due allowance for the fact that our
authorities are mostly of the class whose inclination would lead
them to misrepresent the conquered and to exaggerate the improvement
attributable to the conquest, it cannot be doubted that the standard
of morality was extremely low, and that the clergy were scarcely
distinguishable from the laity in purity of life or devotion to their
sacred calling.

If the reformatory efforts of the popes had not penetrated into the
kingdom of Edward the Confessor, it was hardly to be expected that
they would excite attention amid the turmoil attendant upon the
settlement of the new order of political affairs and the division of
the spoils among the conquerors. Accordingly, even the vigilance of
Gregory VII. appears to have virtually overlooked the distant land of
Britain, conscious, no doubt, that his efforts would be vain, even
though the influence of Rome had been freely thrown upon the side of
the Norman invader, and had been of no little assistance to him in his
preparations for the desperate enterprise. In fact, though William saw
fit to aid in the suppression of matrimony among the priests of his
hereditary dominions, and had thereby earned the grateful praises of
Gregory himself,[660] he does not seem to have regarded the morals of
his new subjects as worthy of any special attention. It is true that in
his system of transferring all power from the subject to the dominant
race, when Saxon bishops were to be ejected and their places filled
with his own creatures, it was necessary for him to effect his purpose
in a canonical way, and to procure the degradation of his victims
by the church itself, as it was impossible for him to lay unhallowed
hands upon their consecrated heads, or to remove prelates from their
sees on questions of mere political expediency. To accomplish this,
the scandals and irregularities of their lives afforded the promptest
and most effective excuse, and it was freely used. The vigor with
which these changes were carried into effect is visible in the synods
of Winchester and Windsor in 1070, where numerous bishops and abbots
were deprived on various pleas; and the character of the prelates
removed may be assumed from the description of the Bishop of Litchfield
(Chester) by Lanfranc, in a letter of the same year to Alexander
II., where his public maintenance of wife and children is alleged,
in addition to other crimes of which he was accused.[661] Though a
puritan, like Lanfranc, bred in the asceticism of the Abbey of Bec,
might seek to enforce the canons in an individual case, as when he
orders Arfastus, Bishop of Thetford, to degrade a deacon who refused
to part with his wife,[662] yet that no general effort was made to
effect a reform in the ranks of the clergy is evident from an epistle
addressed in 1071 to William by Alexander II., in which, while praising
his zeal in suppressing the heresy of simony, and exhorting him to
fresh exertion in the good work, no mention whatever is made of the
kindred error of Nicolitism, which is usually inseparable in the papal
diatribes of the period.[663] Equally conclusive is the fact that when,
in 1075, Lanfranc held a national council in London for the purpose of
reforming the English church, canons were passed to restrain simony,
to prevent incestuous marriages, and to effect other needful changes,
but nothing was said respecting sacerdotal marriage, at that time the
principal object of Gregory’s vigorous measures.[664]

How thoroughly, indeed, clerical marriage and the hereditary descent of
benefices was received as legitimate by common consent is manifested by
a case quoted by Camden from the MS. records of the Abbey of St. Peter
and St. Paul of Shrewsbury. Under the Conqueror, Roger de Montgomery in
founding that house bestowed upon it the church of St. Gregory, subject
to the life estate of the canons then holding it, whose prebends as
they died should fall within the gift of the monks. The children of the
canons, however, disputed the gift, claimed that they had a right to
their fathers’ holdings, and actually gave rise to a great lawsuit to
defend their position.[665]

       *       *       *       *       *

The first steps to check the irregularities of the priesthood appear to
have been taken in 1076, at the council of Winchester, and the extreme
tenderness there displayed by Lanfranc for the weakness of his flock
shows how necessary was the utmost caution in treating a question
evidently new, and one which deprived the English clergy of a privilege
to which no taint of guilt had previously been attached. We have seen
by the instance related above that when Lanfranc could act according
to his own convictions, he was inclined to enforce the absolute rule
of celibacy, and we may therefore conclude that on this occasion he
was overruled by the convictions of his brother prelates that it was
impossible to obtain obedience. All that the council would venture upon
was a general declaration against the wives of men in orders, and it
permitted parish priests to retain their consorts, contenting itself
with forbidding future marriages, and enjoining on the bishops that
they should thereafter ordain no one in the diaconate or priesthood
without a pledge not to marry in future.[666]

Such legislation could only be irritating and inconclusive. It
abandoned the principle for which Rome had been contending, and thus
its spirit of worldly temporizing deprived it of all respect and
influence. Obedience to it could be therefore invoked on no higher
ground than that of an arbitrary and unjustifiable command, and
accordingly it received so small a share of attention that when, some
twenty-six years later, the holy Anselm, at the great council of London
in 1102, endeavored to enforce the reform, the restrictions which he
ordered were exclaimed against as unheard of novelties, which, being
impossible to human nature, could only result in indiscriminate vice,
bringing disgrace upon the church.[667] The tenor of the canons of
this council, indeed, proves that the previous injunctions had been
utterly disregarded. At the same time they manifest a much stronger
determination to eradicate the evil, though they are still far more
lenient than the contemporary Continental legislation. No archdeacon,
priest, or deacon could marry, nor, if married, could retain his wife.
If a subdeacon, after professing chastity, married, he was to be
subjected to the same regulation. No priest, as long as he was involved
in such unholy union, could celebrate mass; if he ventured to do so,
no one was to listen to him; and he was, moreover, to be deprived of
all legal privileges. A profession of chastity was to be exacted at
ordination to the subdiaconate and to the higher grades; and, finally,
the children of priests were forbidden to inherit their father’s

One symptom of weakness is observable in all this. The council
apparently did not venture to prescribe any ecclesiastical punishment
for the infraction of the rules thus laid down. If this arose from
timidity, St. Anselm did not share it, for, when he proceeded to put
the canons in practice, we find him threatening his contumacious
ecclesiastics with deprivation for persistence in their irregularities.
A letter of instruction from him to William, Archdeacon of Canterbury,
shows the earnestness with which he entered upon the reform, and also
affords an instructive insight into the difficulties of the enterprise,
and the misery which the forcible sundering of family ties caused
among those who had never doubted the legality and propriety of their
marriages. Some ecclesiastics of rank sent their discarded wives to
manors at a distance from their dwellings, and these St. Anselm directs
shall not be molested if they will promise to hold no intercourse
except in the presence of legitimate witnesses. Some priests were
afraid to proceed to extremities with their wives, and for these weak
brethren grace is accorded until the approaching Lent, provided they
do not attempt meanwhile to perform their sacred functions, and can
find substitutes of undoubted chastity to minister in their places. The
kindred of the unfortunate women apparently endeavored to avert the
blow by furious menaces against those who should render obedience,
and these instigators of evil are to be restrained by threats of
excommunication.[669] Another letter to the Bishop of Hereford, who
had applied for instructions on the subject, directs him to replace
recalcitrant priests with monks and to stir up the laity to drive from
the land the obstinate parsons and their wives.[670] In the enforcement
of these reforms he seemed to meet with questions for which he was not
prepared, for about this time we find him seeking instructions from
Paschal II. on several knotty points: whether a priest living with his
wife can be allowed to administer the viaticum at the death-bed in the
absence of one professing continence; and what is to be done with him
if he refuses his ministration on the ground that he is not allowed to
celebrate mass. Paschal replies, sensibly enough, that it is better to
have the ministrations of an unchaste priest than to die unhouselled,
and that a priest refusing his offices under such circumstances is to
be punished as a homicide of souls. This abandoned the Hildebrandine
theory and practice, and Anselm was more consistent when he assumed
that a layman could perform baptism in preference to an unchaste

Notwithstanding these zealous efforts of the primate, and the
countenance of Henry Beauclerc, in whose presence the council had been
held, Eadmer is forced sorrowfully to admit that its canons received
but scant respect. Many of the priests adopted a kind of passive
resistance, and, locking up their churches, suspended the performance
of all sacred rites.[672] Even in Anselm’s own diocese, ecclesiastics
were found who obstinately refused either to part with their wives
or to pretermit their functions, and who, when duly excommunicated,
laughed at the sentence, and continued to pollute the church with
their unhallowed ministry.[673] Soon after this Anselm fell into
disfavor with the king and was exiled. His absence promised immunity,
and the clergy were not slow to avail themselves of it. In 1104 one of
his friends, in writing to him, bewails the utter demoralization of
the kingdom, of which the worst manifestation was that priests still
continued to marry; and two years later another letter informs him that
those who had apparently reformed their evil ways were all returning
to their previous life of iniquity. Finally, Henry I. resolved to turn
to account this clerical backsliding, as a financial expedient to
recruit his exhausted treasury. All who were suspected of disobedience
to the canons of the council of London were seized and tried, and
the property of those who could be proved guilty was confiscated. By
this time Anselm had been reconciled to the king, and he promptly
interfered to check so gross a violation of ecclesiastical immunity.
His remonstrances were met by Henry with well-feigned surprise, and
finally the matter was compromised by discharging those who had not
been fined, while those who had been forced to pay were promised three
years’ undisturbed possession of their positions.[674]

That it was impossible to effect suddenly so great a change in the
habits and lives of the Anglican clergy was, indeed, admitted by
Paschal II. himself, when, in 1107, he wrote to Anselm concerning the
questions connected with the children of priests. While reminding him
of the rules of the church, he adds that as, in England, the larger and
better portion of the clergy fall within the scope of the prohibition,
he grants to the primate power of dispensation, by which, in view of
the sad necessity of the times, he can admit to the sacred offices
those born during their parents’ priesthood, who are fitted for it
by their education and purity of life. A second epistle on the same
subject attests the perplexity of the pope, recalling to Anselm’s
recollection his former injunctions, and recommending that, as there
was no personal guilt involved, those of the proscribed class who were
in orders should, if worthy of their positions, be allowed to retain
them, without the privilege of advancement.[675] The question, indeed,
was hotly debated. There is extant a letter written about this time by
Thibaut of Étampes, a dignitary of Oxford, to a certain Rosceline, who
with more zeal than discretion had promulgated the doctrine that the
sons of priests were canonically ineligible to ordination. Thibaut
characterizes this as not only an innovation, but a blasphemy, and
seems utterly unconscious that there was any authority for such a

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be remarked that thus far the proceedings of the reformers were
directed solely against the marriage of ecclesiastics. It may possibly
be that this arose from general conjugal virtue, and that, satisfied
with the privilege, no other disorders prevailed among the clergy; but
it is more probable that the heresy of marriage was so heinous in the
eyes of the sacerdotalists, that it rendered all other sins venial,
and that such other sins might be tacitly passed over in the endeavor
to put an end to the greater enormity. Be this as it may, the stubborn
wilfulness of the offenders only provoked increasing rigor on the part
of the authorities. We have seen that the council of 1102 produced
little result, and that when the secular power interfered to enforce
its canons, the church, jealous of its privileges, protested, so that
many priests retained their wives, and marriage was still openly
practised. King Henry, therefore, at length, in 1108, summoned another
council to assemble in London, where he urged the bishops to prosecute
the good work, and pledged his power to their support.[677] Fortified
by this and by the consent of the barons, they promulgated a series
of ten canons, whose stringent nature and liberal denunciation of
penalties prove that the prelates felt themselves strengthened by the
royal co-operation and thus able to compel obedience. The Nicene canon
was declared the unalterable law of the church; those ecclesiastics who
had disregarded the decrees of the previous council were debarred from
performing their functions if longer contumacious; any priest requiring
to see his wife was only to do so in the open air and in the presence
of two legitimate witnesses; accusations of guilt were to be met by
regular canonical purgation, a priest requiring six compurgators, a
deacon four, and a subdeacon two, each of his own order. Disobedience
to these canons was declared punishable with deprivation of function
and benefice, expulsion from the church, and infamy. Only eight days of
grace were allowed; further persistence in wrong-doing being visited
with instant excommunication, and confiscation to the bishops of the
private property of the transgressors and of their women, together
with the persons of the latter. A very significant clause, moreover,
shows that grasping officials had discovered the speculative value
of previous injunctions, and that the degrading custom of selling
indulgence was already in common use, for the council required of all
archdeacons and deans, under penalty of forfeiture, an oath that they
would not receive money for conniving at infractions of the rule, nor
permit priests who kept women to celebrate mass or to employ vicars to
officiate for them.[678]

From the account of the historian, we may assume these to be rather
acts of parliament than canons of a council, and that the assembly was
convened for the special purpose of devising measures for subduing the
recalcitrant clergy. The temporal power was thus pledged to enforce
the regulations, and as so enterprising and resolute a monarch as
Henry had undertaken the reform, there can be little doubt that he
prosecuted it with vigor. Anselm died in 1109, and the clergy rejoiced
in the hope that their persecution would cease with the removal of
their persecutor, but the king proceeded to enforce the regulations
of the council of London with more vigor than ever, and soon obtained
at least an outward show of obedience. Eadmer darkly intimates that
this resulted in a great increase of shocking crimes committed with
those relatives whose residence was allowed, and he is at some pains to
argue that Anselm and his attempted reforms were not responsible for an
effect so little contemplated in their well-meant endeavors. Finally,
the ardor of the king cooled off; ecclesiastical officials were found
readily accessible to bribes for permitting female intercourse,
and those who had grown tired of the wives from whom they had been
separated found no difficulty in forming more desirable unions with new
ones. Eadmer sorrowfully adds that by this time there were few indeed
who continued to preserve the purity with which Anselm had labored so
strenuously to adorn his clergy.[679]

The evil influences of this laxity in the Anglican church were not
altogether confined to Britain. At that period the Swedish bishoprics
were frequently filled by Englishmen, and it is quite possible that
from them was derived the laxity which, as we have seen, at a later
period, caused the Swedes to be regarded as heretics adhering to the
Greek schism. An incident occurring about this time shows the wisdom
of the church in her endeavors to sunder the earthly ties of her
ministers. An English priest named Edward was promoted to the Swedish
episcopate of Scaren. Unluckily, he had left a wife behind him in
England, and, after a short residence in his new dignity had enabled
him to collect together the treasures of his see, he absconded with
them to his spouse, leaving his diocese widowed and penniless.[680]

At length the condition of the church in England attracted the
attention of the pontiffs who had bestowed so much fruitless energy
on the morals of the Continental priesthood; and Honorius II. sent
Cardinal John of Crema to England, for the purpose of restoring its
discipline. In September, 1126, the legate held a council in London,
where he caused the adoption of a canon menacing with degradation
all those in orders who did not abstain from the society of their
wives, or of other women liable to suspicion;[681] and the expressions
employed show that previous legislation had been altogether nugatory.
That the cardinal’s endeavors excited the opposition of at least a
powerful portion of the clergy is fairly deducible from the unlucky
adventure which put a sudden termination to his mission. After fiercely
denouncing the concubines of priests and expatiating on the burning
shame that the body of Christ should be made by one who had but just
left the side of a harlot, he was that very night surprised in the
company of a courtesan, though he had on the same day celebrated mass;
and the suggestion that he had been entrapped by his enemies, while it
did not palliate his guilt, may be assumed to indicate the power and
determination of those who opposed his reforms.[682]

The energy of the reformers and the stubborn obstinacy of the clergy
are alike manifested by the council of Westminster, held the following
year, which found it necessary to repeat the prohibition and to guard
it with stringent provisions, based upon those of 1108.[683] This,
however, proved as ineffectual as its predecessors, and another effort
was made the next year under auspices which promised a happier result.
King Henry seemed suddenly to recover the holy zeal which had lain
dormant for a score of years, and in the summer of 1129 he convened
a great assembly of all the bishops, archdeacons, abbots, priors,
and canons of England, who found that they were summoned to meet for
the purpose of putting an end to the immorality of the clergy. After
long discussion, it was decreed that all who should not put away
their wives by St. Andrew’s day (November 30th) should be deprived of
their functions, their churches, and their houses; and the assembly
separated, intrusting to the zealous sovereign the execution of the
decree. Perhaps Henry remembered how St. Anselm had interfered in 1106
to protect the guilty clergy from the royal extortioners; perhaps
the experience of his long reign had shown him the fruitlessness
of endeavoring to impose an impossible virtue on carnal-minded
men. His exchequer, as usual, was in danger of collapse. The whole
transaction may have been a deeply-laid scheme to extort money, or the
sudden promptings of temptation may have been too powerful for his
self-denial—who now can tell? We only know that he at once put into
action an extended system of “cullagium,” and having, by the blind
simplicity of his prelates, the temporalities of nearly all the minor
clergy in his power, he proceeded to traffic in exemptions shamelessly
and on the largest scale. As a financial device, the plan was a good
one; he realized a vast sum of money, and his afflicted priests were at
least able to show their superiors a royal license to marry or to keep
their concubines in peace.[684]

       *       *       *       *       *

The repetition of almost identical enactments, year after year, with
corresponding infinitesimal results, grows wearisome and monotonous.
If, therefore, I refer to the synod of Westminster, held in 1138, by
the papal legate Alberic, Bishop of Ostia, which deprived of function
and benefice all married and concubinary ecclesiastics,[685] it is only
to observe that no notice was taken of the doctrine of the invalidity
of sacerdotal marriage, which at that period Innocent II. was engaged
in promulgating. So, if I allude to an epistle of Lucius II. in 1144,
reprehending the general English custom by which sons succeeded to the
churches of their fathers, it is merely to chronicle the commencement
of the direct efforts of the popes, fruitlessly continued during the
remainder of the century, to abolish that wide-spread and seemingly
ineradicable abuse.[686]

What was the condition of the church resulting from these prolonged
and persistent efforts may be guessed from one or two examples. When,
in 1139, Nigel, Bishop of Ely, revolted against King Stephen, he
intrusted the defence of his castle of Devizes to his concubine, Maud
of Ramsbury. She bravely fulfilled her charge and repulsed the assaults
of the king, until he bethought him of a way to compel a surrender.
Obtaining possession of Roger, son of Maud and Nigel, the unhappy youth
was brought before the walls, and preparations were made to hang him in
his mother’s sight. At this her courage gave way, and she capitulated
at once.[687] Though the monkish chronicler stigmatizes Maud as “pellex
episcopi,” she may probably have been his wife—in either case the
publicity of the connection is a sufficient commentary on the morals
and manners of the age which took no exception to the elevation of
Richard Fitz-Neal, another son of the same reverend prelate, to the
bishopric of London and to the post of treasurer to King Henry II.

If this be attributed to the unbridled turbulence of Stephen’s reign,
we may turn to the comparatively calmer times of Henry II., when
Alexander III., amid his ceaseless efforts to restore the church
discipline of England, in 1171, ordered the Bishops of Exeter and
Worcester and the Abbot of Feversham to examine and report as to
the evil reputation of Clarembald, abbot-elect of St. Augustine’s
of Canterbury. In the execution of this duty they found that that
venerable patriarch had seventeen bastards in one village; purity
he ridiculed as an impossibility, while even licentiousness had no
attraction for his exhausted senses unless spiced with the zest
of publicity.[688] That a man whose profligacy was so openly and
shamelessly defiant could be elected to the highest place in the
oldest and most honored religious community in England is a fact which
lends color to the assertion of a writer of the time of King John,
that clergy and laity were indistinguishably bad,[689] and perhaps
justifies the anecdote told of Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, who assumed
that the clergy were much worse than the laity.[690] How little these
scandals shocked the public is shown by the fact that it required papal
interference to cause the reformation of the nunnery of Avesbury.
The abbess had borne three children and the nuns, as the chronicler
informs us, were worse than their superior, but when Alexander forced
an investigation no canonical punishment was inflicted on the guilty.
Such of the nuns as promised to live chastely in future were allowed
to remain, and the rest were simply dismissed, while the abbess was
pensioned liberally with ten marks a year to preserve her from disgrace
and want. The vacancies thus created were filled with nuns from
Fontevraud, who proved to be as bad as those whom they replaced.[691]
The same insensibility is manifested in a legal transaction of the
period, when Witgar, the priest of Mendlesham, desired to secure the
reversion of his benefice to his son Nicholas, and applied to the
patron of his church, Martin, Abbot of Battle Abbey, who agreed to
conform to his wishes on condition that the annual payment exacted
from the church in question should be increased from ten shillings to
forty. Witgar agreed, and on an appointed day, accompanied by his son,
he met the abbot and his attendants at Colchester, where oaths were
publicly interchanged and a formal agreement was entered into.[692]

       *       *       *       *       *

The efforts of Alexander and his successors were seconded by frequent
national and local synods, to whose special injunctions it is scarcely
worth while to refer in full. One noticeable point about them, however,
is that the term “wife” disappears, and is replaced by “concubina” or
“focaria”—the latter meaning a person who was a permanent occupant
of the priest’s hearth, but was not recognized by the authorities as
a lawful wife. Deans and archdeacons were enjoined to hunt up these
illegal companions, but from the frequency of the injunctions, we may
safely conclude that the search was not often successful, and that
the officials found the duty assigned to them too difficult or too
unprofitable for execution. That it was not impossible, however, when
earnestly undertaken, is shown by the readiness with which King John
unearthed the unfortunate creatures when it suited his policy to do
so. During the long dispute over the election of Giraldus Cambrensis
to the see of St. David’s, the king, who was resolved that no Welshman
should hold that preferment, instructed his officers, in 1202, to seize
the women of all the cathedral chapter who persisted in supporting
Giraldus.[693] The measure was doubtless an efficacious one, and he
repeated it when, in 1208, he persecuted the clergy in his blind
impotence of wrath at the interdict set upon his kingdom by Innocent
III. Discerning in these quasi-conjugal relations the tenderest spot in
which to strike those who had rebelled against his authority by obeying
the interdict, and at the same time as the surest and readiest means of
extorting money, among his other schemes of spoliation he caused all
these women to be seized, and then forced the unfortunate churchmen to
buy their partners back at exorbitant prices.[694]

The ease, indeed, with which the eyes of the officials were blinded
to that which was patent to the public was the subject of constantly
recurring legislation, the reiteration and increasing violence of
which bears irrefragable testimony at once to its necessity and its
impotence. Not only in grave synods and pastorals was the abuse
reprehended and deplored, but it offered too favorable a subject for
popular animadversion to escape the shafts of satire. In the preceding
century, Thomas à Becket, in a vehement attack upon simony, includes
this among the many manifestations of that multiform sin—

    Symon auffert, Symon donat;
    Hunc expellit, hunc coronat;
    Hunc circumdat gravi peste,
    Illum nuptiali veste.[695]

There were few more popular poems in the Middle Ages than the
“Apocalypsis Goliæ,” the more than doubtful authorship of which, at the
close of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century, is claimed
for Walter Mapes in England and Gautier de Châtillon in France; and the
enduring reputation of which is attested by an English version as late
as the sixteenth century. The author, whoever he be, inveighing against
the evil courses of the archdeacons, assumes that the extortion of the
“cullagium” was almost universal.

    Seductam nuntii fraude præambuli
      Capit focariam, ut per cubiculi
      Fortunam habeat fortunam loculi,
      Et per vehiculum omen vehiculi.
    Decano præcipit quod si presbiteri
      Per genitivos scit dativos fieri,
      Accusans faciat vocatum conteri,
      Ablatis fratribus a porta inferi.[696]

Towards the middle of the thirteenth century, Peter de Vinea also has
his fling at the same corruption, and though the part he took in the
fierce quarrels between his master Frederic II. and the papacy renders
him perhaps a prejudiced witness, still his ample experience of the
disorders of the church makes him an experienced one.

    Non utuntur clerici nostri vestimentis:
    Sed tenent focarias, quod clamor est gentis—
    —Dehinc reum convocant, et, turba rejecta,
    Dicunt: Ista crimina tibi sunt objecta;
    Pone libras quindecim in nostra collecta,
    Et tua flagitia non erunt detecta.
    Reus dat denarios, Fratres scriptum radunt;
    Sic infames plurimi per nummos evadunt:
    Qui totam pecuniam quam petunt non tradunt,
    Simul in infamiam et in pœnam cadunt.[697]

The example which King John had set, however instructive, was not
appreciated by the ecclesiastical authorities, and the “focariæ” were
allowed to remain virtually undisturbed, at least to such an extent as
to render them almost universal. Although by rigid churchmen they were
regarded as mere concubines, there can be little doubt that the tie
between them and the priests was of a binding nature, which appears to
have wanted none of the rites essential to its entire respectability.
Giraldus Cambrensis, who died at an advanced age about the year 1220,
speaks of these companions being publicly maintained by nearly all
the parish priests in England and Wales. They arranged to have their
benefices transmitted to their sons, while their daughters were
married to the sons of other priests, thus establishing an hereditary
sacerdotal caste in which marriage appears to have been a matter of
course.[698] In 1202 the Bishop of Exeter complained to Innocent III.
of the numerous sons of parish priests and vicars who seized their
churches and claimed to hold them of right, actually appealing to Rome
when he sought to interfere with them. Innocent of course ordered
their removal and subjection to discipline without appeal: but the
evil continued, and in 1205 we find him writing on the subject to the
Bishop of Winchester whom he required to eject the sons of priests
who in many cases held their father’s benefices.[699] The propriety
of the connection, and the hereditary ecclesiastical functions of the
offspring are quaintly alluded to in a poem of the period, wherein a
logician takes a priest to task for entertaining such a partner—

    L.—Et præ tot innumeris quæ frequentas malis,
        Est tibi presbytera plus exitialis.

    P.—Malo cum presbytera pulchra fornicari,
        Servituros domino filios lucrari,
        Quam vagas satellites per antra sectari:
        Est inhonestissimum sic dehonestari.[700]

Even the holy virgins, spouses of Christ, seem to have claimed and
enjoyed the largest liberty. To this period is attributed a homily
addressed to nuns, which earnestly dissuades them from leaving
their blessed state and subjecting themselves to the cares and
toils inseparable from matrimony. The writer appeals to no rules
of ecclesiastical law that could be enforced to prevent them from
following their choice, but labors drearily to prove that they would
not better their condition, either in this world or the next, by
forsaking their heavenly bridegroom for an earthly one.—“And of godes
brude. and his freo dohter. for ba to gederes ha is; bicumeth theow
under mon and his threl to don al and drehen that him liketh.”[701]

       *       *       *       *       *

Innocent III. had not overlooked such a state of discipline, especially
after the transactions between himself and John had rendered him the
suzerain of England, and doubly responsible for the morals of the
Anglican Church. Thus as early as 1203 we find him expressing to the
Bishop of Norwich his surprise that priests in his diocese contend
that they can retain their benefices after having solemnly contracted
marriage in the face of the church. All such are peremptorily ordered
to be removed without appeal, either by the bishop himself, or by
his superior in cases in which he had personally conferred the
preferment.[702] His zealous efforts to effect an impossible reform are
chronicled by a rhymer of the period, who enters fully into the dismay
of the good pastors at the prospect of the innovation, and who argues
their cause with all the sturdy common-sense of the Anglo-Saxon mind.

    Prisciani regula penitus cassatur,
      Sacerdos per hic et hæc olim declinabatur;
      Sed per hic solummodo nunc articulatur,
      Cum per nostrum præsulem hæc amoveatur.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Quid agant presbyteri propriis carentes?
      Alienas violant clanculo molentes,
      Nullis pro conjugiis fœminis parcentes,
      Pœnam vel infamiam nihil metuentes.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Non est Innocentius, immo nocens vere,
      Qui quod Deus docuit studet abolere;
      Jussit enim Dominus fœminas habere,
      Sed hoc noster pontifex jussit prohibere.

    Gignere nos præcipit vetus testamentum;
      Ubi novum prohibet nusquam est inventum.
      A modernis latum est istud documentum,
      Ad quod nullum ratio præbet argumentum.[703]

Nor were the Anglican bishops remiss in seconding the efforts of the
pope to break down the opposition which thus openly defied their
power and ventured even to justify the heresy of sacerdotal marriage.
Councils were held which passed canons more stringent than ever;
bishops issued constitutions and pastorals denouncing the custom;
inquests were organized to traverse the dioceses and investigate
the household of every priest. The women especially were attacked.
Christian sepulture was denied them; property left to them and their
children by their partners in guilt was confiscated to the bishops;
churching after childbirth was interdicted to them; and, if still
contumacious after a due series of warnings, they were to be handed
over to the secular arm for condign punishment.[704] How much all this
bustling legislation effected is best shown by the declaration of the
legate, Cardinal Otto, in 1237, at the great council of London. He
deplores the fact that married men received orders and held benefices
while still retaining their wives, and did not hesitate to acknowledge
their children as legitimate by public deeds and witnesses. After
descanting upon the evils of this neglect of discipline, he orders that
all married clerks shall be deprived of preferment and benefice, that
their property shall not descend to wife or children, but to their
churches, and that their sons shall be incapable of holy orders unless
specially dispensed for eminent merit; then turning upon concubinary
priests, he inveighs strongly against their licentiousness, and decrees
that all guilty of the sin shall within thirty days dismiss their women
forever, under pain of suspension from function and benefice until full
satisfaction, persistent contumacy being visited with deprivation. The
archbishops and bishops are commanded to make thorough inquisition
throughout all the deaneries, to bring offenders to light, and also to
put an end to the iniquitous practice of ordaining the offspring of
such connections as successors in their father’s benefices.[705]

This legislation produced much excitement, and the legate even had
fears for his life. Some prelates, indeed, maintained that it only
was binding on the church of England during the residence of Otto,
but they were overruled, and it remained at least nominally in force
and was frequently referred to subsequently as the recognized law in
such matters. Its effect was considerable, and some of the bishops
endeavored to carry out its provisions with energy, as may be presumed
from a constitution of William of Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester,
issued in 1240, ordering his officials to investigate diligently
whether any of the clergy of the diocese had concubines or were

To this period and to the disturbance caused by these proceedings are
doubtless to be attributed several satirical pieces of verse describing
the excitement occurring among the unfortunate clerks thus attacked in
their tenderest spot. The opening lines of one of these poems indicate
the novelty and unexpectedness of the new regulations:—

    Rumor novus Angliæ partes pergiravit,
    Clericos, presbyteros omnes excitavit,

           *       *       *       *       *

    Nascitur presbyteris hinc fera procella:
    Quisquis timet graviter pro sua puella.

The author then describes a great council, attended by more than ten
thousand ecclesiastics, assembled to deliberate on the course to be
pursued in so delicate a conjuncture. An old priest commences—

    Pro nostris uxoribus sumus congregati;
    Videatis provide quod sitis parati,
    Ad mandatum domini papæ vel legati,
    Respondere graviter ne sitis dampnati.[707]

Another poem of similar character describes a chapter held by all
orders and grades to consider the same question. The various speakers
declare their inability to obey the new rule, except two, whose age
renders them indifferent. A learned doctor exclaims—

    Omnis debet clericus habere concubinam;
    Hoc dixit qui coronam gerit auro trinam:
    Hanc igitur retinere decet disciplinam.

The general belief in the legality of the connection is shown by the
remark of another—

    Surgens unus presbyter turba de totali ...
    “Unam” dixit “teneo amore legali,
    Quam nolo dimittere pro lege tali.”

Another expects to escape by paying his “cullagium”—

    Duodecimus clamat magno cum clamore:
    “Non me pontifex terret minis et pavore:
    Sed ego nummos præbeam pro Dei amore,
    Ut in pace maneam cara cum uxore.”

Another urges the indiscriminate immorality attending upon the attempt
to enforce an impossible asceticism—

    Addidit ulterius: “Sitis memor horum,
    Si vetare præsul vult specialem torum,
    Cernet totum brevi plenum esse chorum
    Ordine sacrorum adulterorum.”

And at length the discussion closes with the speech of a Dominican, who
ends his remarks by predicting—

    Habebimus clerici duas concubinas:
    Monachi, canonici totidem vel trinas:
    Decani, prælati, quatuor vel quinas:
    Sic tandem leges implebimus divinas.[708]

Notwithstanding these flights of the imagination, no organized
resistance was offered to the reform. The clergy sullenly acquiesced,
and submitted to a pressure which was becoming irresistible. The
triumph of the sacerdotal party, however, was gradual, and no exact
limit can be assigned to the recognition of the principle of celibacy.
In 1250 the idea of married priests was still sufficiently prevalent to
lead the populace of London to include matrimony among the accusations
brought against Boniface, Archbishop of Canterbury, when his tyranny
had aroused general resistance;[709] and in 1255 Walter Kirkham, Bishop
of Durham, still felt it necessary to prohibit the marriage of his
clergy under pain of suspension and deprivation.[710] It is perhaps
noteworthy, however, that, not long after this, Horne, in his Myrror
of Justice, when treating of exceptions to the benefit of clergy,
specifies second marriages, but not single marriages, as depriving
clerks of the privilege of ecclesiastical trial.[711]

By this time, however, priestly marriage may be considered to have
become nearly obsolete in England. When, in 1268, the Cardinal-legate
Ottoboni held a great national council in London, and renewed the
constitutions of his predecessor Otto, he made no allusion to marriage,
and only denounced the practice of concubinage, which he endeavored to
eradicate by commanding all archdeacons to make a thorough inquisition
annually into the morals of the clergy under their jurisdiction.[712]
These constitutions of Otto and Ottoboni long remained the law of the
English church, and we find them constantly referred to in the canons
of councils and pastorals of bishops, ceaselessly laboring to effect
the impossible enforcement of discipline; even as late as 1399 the
Archbishop of Canterbury ordered his suffragans to have them read
and explained in the vernacular in all their episcopal synods.[713]
How hard was the task may be readily conceived when we see, in 1279,
the primate Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury, applying to Rome for
assistance in prosecuting a certain bishop against whom he had long
been vainly endeavoring to bring the law to bear. A concubine had
confessed to having borne five children to the offender;[714] he had
himself admitted his guilt in a private interview with Peckham, for
which he had afterwards claimed the seal of the confessional; yet the
archbishop complains that his efforts will be unsuccessful unless he is
fortified with letters from the pope himself. His strict injunctions
of secrecy on his correspondent, and his evident dread lest the
criminal’s agents in Rome should get wind of the application, show how
difficult was the enterprise, and how rarely prelates could be expected
to undertake duties so arduous and so unpromising.[715]

Perhaps the man to whom the church owed most for his energy and
activity in promoting the cause of reform was the celebrated Robert
Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln. The leading part which he took in the
political troubles of the stormy reign of Henry III. has thrown his
ecclesiastical character somewhat into the shade, and he is better
known as the friend of Leicester than as the untiring churchman.
Notwithstanding his consistent opposition to Henry III. and to the
encroachments of the papacy, he was the inflexible enemy of clerical
irregularities, and he enforced the decretals throughout his diocese
with as firm a hand as that which he raised in defence of the rights
of the nation and the privileges of the Anglican church. Thus, in
1251, he made a rigorous inquisition in his bishopric, forcing all his
beneficed clergy to the observance of the strictest chastity, removing
from their houses all suspected women, and punishing transgressors with
deprivation. It is not easy to approve of his brutal expedient for
testing the virtue of the inmates of his nunneries,[716] the adoption
of which could only be justified and suggested by the conviction that
general licentiousness was everywhere prevalent; and though such
treatment of the spouses of Christ was to the last degree degrading,
yet it was doubtless more efficacious than the ordeal of the Eucharist,
which was frequently resorted to in special cases. Not only, however,
did he thus endeavor to reform the morals of his flock, but he made
the closest scrutiny into the character of applicants for ordination.
In this he was largely aided by his ascetic friend and admirer, Adam
de Marisco, and the correspondence between them shows not only the
importance which they reasonably attached to the subject, but the
sleepless vigilance required to counteract the prevalent immorality of
the clergy, and the incredible laxity with which the patrons of livings
bestowed the benefices in their gift.[717]

The rule was now fairly established and generally acknowledged;
concubinage, though still prevalent—nay, in fact almost universal—was
not defended as a right, but was practised with what concealment was
possible, and was the object of unremitting assault from councils
and prelates. To enter into the details of the innumerable canons
and constitutions directed against the ineradicable vice during the
succeeding half century would be unprofitable. Their endless iteration
is only interesting as proving their inefficacy. A popular satirist of
the reign of Edward II. declares that bribery of the ecclesiastical
officials insured the domestic comfort of the clergy and their female
companions;[718] while in time the canon law seems to have lost all its
terrors. One of the earliest acts of the reign of Henry VII. was a law
empowering the ecclesiastical officials to imprison “priests, clerks,
and religious men” convicted of incontinence, and guaranteeing them
against prosecution by the offenders.[719] That the aid of the secular
legislator should thus have been invoked for protection under such
circumstances showed the audacity resulting from long immunity, and is
the abject confession that the ceaseless labor of four centuries had
utterly failed.

       *       *       *       *       *

In one part of England, however, the reform seems to have penetrated
even more slowly. We have seen above, on the testimony of Giraldus
Cambrensis, that in the early part of the thirteenth century the
marriage of priests and the hereditary transmission of benefices
were almost universal in Wales. As in the wild fastnesses of the
Principality the ecclesiastical regulations seemed powerless, recourse
was had to the secular law, which was employed to inflict various
disabilities on offenders and their offspring, and the repetition of
these shows how obstinately the custom was adhered to by the clergy
until a comparatively late period. Thus, in the Gwentian and Dimetian
Codes there is a provision that the son of a married priest, born
after the ordination of his father, shall not share in the paternal
estate;[720] and this provision is retained and repeated in a
collection of laws which contains the date of 2 Henry IV., showing it
to be posterior to the year 1400.[721] The same collection enumerates
married priests among “thirteen things corrupting the world, and which
will ever remain in it; and it can never be delivered of them.”[722]
In the same spirit, the Book of Cynog, which is of uncertain date,
declares “nor is a married priest, as he has relinquished his law, to
be credited in law,” and it therefore directs that the testimony of
such witnesses shall not be receivable in court;[723] while another
collection of laws, occurring in a MS. of the fifteenth century,
repeats the provision—“their testimony is not to be credited in any
place, and they are excluded from the law, unless they ask a pardon
from the pope or a bishop, through a public penance.”[724] In fact,
we may, perhaps, almost hazard the conclusion that, notwithstanding
the efforts of both ecclesiastical and secular legislators, sacerdotal
marriage scarcely became obsolete in Wales before it was once more
recognized as legitimate under the Reformation.



In a previous section it has already been shown that the rule of
celibacy was observed by the Celtic churches of the British Islands
during a period in which their Christianity was a model for the rest
of Europe. Their religion, however, could not preserve its purity and
simplicity amid the overwhelming barbarism of those dreary ages. From
an ancient commentary on the “Cain Patraic,” or Patrick’s Law, of
uncertain date, but probably belonging to the ninth or tenth century,
it would seem as though there were at that time two classes of bishops,
one bound by monastic vows, the other permitted to marry; and, what is
somewhat singular, the law appears to favor the latter, for the “cumad
espuc,” or virgin bishop, is condemned to perpetual degradation or to
the life of a hermit for offences which the “bishop of one wife” can
redeem by prompt penance.[725]

The Feini, prior to the advent of St. Patrick, were far in advance of
the contemporary barbarian tribes, and their conversion to Christianity
introduced a new and powerful element of progress. It was not lasting,
however, and they lapsed into a condition but little removed from
that of savages. The marriage-tie was virtually unknown or habitually
disregarded among the laity.[726] What was the condition of the clergy
may be inferred from the fact that the episcopates were regarded as
the private property of certain families in which they descended by
hereditary succession. Thus, in the primatial see of Armagh, fifteen
archbishops were of one house, the last eight of whom were married. At
length Celsus, who died about the year 1130, bequeathed the dignity to
his friend St. Malachi. The kindred rose in arms at this infringement
of their rights, and two of their members successively occupied the
position, which Malachi was not able to obtain until the anger of God
had miraculously destroyed the whole family.[727]

During all this period the Irish church had been completely independent
of the central authority at Rome, but the extension of influence
resulting from the labors of Hildebrand and his successors soon began
to make itself felt. In the quarrels concerning the succession of
Archbishop Celsus, there figures a certain Bishop Gilbert, who is
described as being the first papal legate seen in Ireland.[728] When
Malachi abandoned Armagh and revived the extinct episcopate of Down, he
resolved on a pilgrimage to Rome to obtain the _pallium_, a powerful
instrument of papal authority, until then unknown on the island; and
perhaps the opposition manifested to his wishes by his friends as well
as by the authorities may be attributable to a repugnance towards the
gradual encroachments of Romanizing influence.[729]

Malachi returned from Rome armed with legatine powers, and proceeded
vigorously with the reforms which he had long before commenced. He
held numerous councils, extirpating abuses everywhere, renovating the
ancient rules of discipline and introducing new ones, bending all
his energies to abrogating the national institutions and replacing
them with those of Rome.[730] The earnest asceticism of his nature,
exaggerated by the training of his youth, led him to give a strongly
monastic character to the church of which he was thus the second
founder. On his journey homeward from Rome, he had tarried a second
time at Clairvaux to see his friend St. Bernard, and had left there
four of his attendants to be exercised in the severe Cistercian
discipline that they might serve as missionaries and as models for his
compatriots, who had heard, indeed, of monkhood, but had never seen
it.[731] His efforts, in this respect, were to a considerable extent
successful, at least in a portion of the island, though his death in
1149, at the comparatively early age of 54, cut short his labors before
they could yield their full fruit.[732]

The incongruous character thus imparted to the Irish church is
described by Giraldus Cambrensis some forty years later. The prelates
were selected from the monasteries, and the church was completely
monastic. Chastity was the only rule of discipline thoroughly
preserved, and Giraldus confesses his wonder that it could be
maintained, in contradiction to all former experience, when gluttony
and drunkenness were carried to excess. The monastic principle of
selfishness was all-pervading, and the pastors took no care of their
flocks. Among the people, marriage was still unknown, incest was of
common occurrence, even the rudiments of Christian faith were left
untaught, and the church was regarded without reverence.[733] His
account of the absence of regular stipends and tithes is confirmed
by the fact that an Irish bishop attending the council of Lateran in
1179, in complaining of the condition of his native church, stated that
his only revenues were derived from three milch cows, which his flock
were bound to replace as they became dry.[734] This poverty, however
apostolic in itself, can only, in an age of magnificent sacerdotalism,
be regarded as an indication of a church whose degradation could
command neither the respect nor the support of its children. That
the reforms of Malachi, one-sided as they were, extended only over
a portion of the island, is evident from the inquiry which, a few
years later, the Archbishop of Cashel addressed to Clement III. as
to whether the children of bishops could receive orders and hold
benefices; and the exceptional character of the Irish establishment
was recognized by the pope when he decided that they could, provided
they were born in wedlock, and were otherwise worthy of position.[735]
This requisite of legitimacy was apparently not imposed in ignorance,
for at the council of Cashel in 1171 we find an effort made to enforce
Christian marriage among the people, who are still described as
indulging in unrestricted polygamy and disregarding the nearest ties of

When about this period the English commenced the conquest which was
to lead to five centuries of cruel anarchy, they of course carried
with them their civil and ecclesiastical institutions. The original
conquerors—the Butlers, the Clares, and the Fitzgeralds—speedily
became incorporated with the native race, and were as Irish as the
O’Briens and the McCauras. Although the royal authority was limited
practically to the confines of the Pale, and embraced little beyond the
Ostman ports, yet it is easy to understand that the clerical license
habitual to the English spread beyond the political boundaries, and
the monastic spirit of the Hibernians was grievously wounded by the
unchastity which was disseminated like a contagion from the dissolute
priests who followed in the wake of Strong-bow and Prince John.[737]
Not twenty years after the first invasion, a council, summoned in 1186
by John in Dublin, was troubled by a quarrel between the Saxon priests
of Wexford, who mutually accused each other of publicly marrying and
keeping wives. This being duly proved, they were promptly degraded, to
the intense satisfaction of the Irish clergy, triumphant in their own
comparative purity of morals.[738] When, therefore, in 1205, Innocent
III. specially ordered his legate, Cardinal Julian, to put an end to
the hereditary transmission of benefices common in Ireland, the abuse
to which he referred was probably confined to the English Pale.[739]
The church establishments, in fact, were distinct, and consequently
when an Irish synod was held in Dublin, in 1217, its canons cannot be
considered as having authority beyond the narrow territory through
which the king’s writ would likewise run. Those canons show us that
the morality of the Saxon priesthood had not improved by the example
made of the priests of Wexford. The denunciations of concubinage
indicate the prevalence of that vice, and the severities threatened
against the unfortunate women contrast strangely with the lenity shown
to their more guilty partners.[740] A century later, if we may believe
the declaration of the synod of Ossory in 1320, the evil continued to
flourish, open, avowed, and universal, resisting alike the authority
of the church and the efforts to repress it by severity.[741] Whether
the offenders dismissed their consorts after the thirty days’ grace
allowed by the synod may well be doubted. With the spread of English
domination, the purity of the native church disappeared, and so great
became the general disregard of the canons that shortly before the
Reformation it was not an unusual thing for Irish priests to be openly
married, nor do those who did so seem to have thereby forfeited the
esteem of their neighbors.[742]

       *       *       *       *       *

In Scotland, the Christianity introduced by St. Columba had fallen
into the hands of the Culdees. These were originally monks of a more
than ordinary strictness of discipline, to whom the earliest recorded
allusion occurs in Ireland towards the close of the eighth century—the
name, Céle-dé (Keledeus, or Servus Dei) meaning simply Servant of
God. In the course of time the Culdees had so relaxed their rule that
they reappear in the eleventh century as an order nominally of monks,
yet fulfilling the functions of the secular clergy, and enjoying free
permission to marry, only abstaining from their wives when employed in
the actual ministry of the altar. With marriage had come the hereditary
transmission of the endowments of the church to their children, so that
the ancient abbeys and churches were well-nigh stripped of all their
possessions, and the distinction between clergy and laity was rather in
term than in fact. It may please the poet to construct a world of his
own, peopled by imaginary beings of angelic purity—

    Peace to their shades! The pure Culdees
      Were Albyn’s earliest priests of God,
    Ere yet an island of her seas
      By foot of Saxon monk was trod,
    Long ere her churchmen by bigotry
    Were barred from wedlock’s holy tie.
    ’Twas then that Aodh, famed afar,
      In Iona preached the word with power,
    And Reullura, beauty’s star,
      Was the partner of his bower—

but in sober truth the Culdees were pure as long as they kept the
tradition of their founder, and it was not until they sank to a level
with their savage compatriots that they transgressed the rule and
became worldly and corrupt.[743] In 1125 the Cardinal-legate, John
of Crema, whose unlucky adventure in London has been already alluded
to, visited Scotland in the execution of his reformatory mission.
There he found on the throne David I., a prince whose life was devoted
to rescuing his subjects from their primæval barbarism. We know few
details of the history of those times, but it is fair to conjecture
that the exhortations of the legate had a share in arousing David to
a realization of the deficiencies and the corruptions of the Scottish
church, and in guiding him to the course which he adopted in its
reformation. After some fruitless efforts to restore the order of
Culdees to its original condition, he resolved on the sweeping measure
of removing all who should prove incorrigible. They were accordingly
turned out bodily from their establishments, such property as could be
traced was restored, and donations on an extended scale were made both
to the old foundations and to the new ones which the royal reformer
established—donations which gained for him, from an ungodly descendant,
the appellation of “Ane soir sanct for the crown.” These foundations
were then filled with regular clergy, brought from France and
England—chiefly canons of the order of St. Augustin—and the unfortunate
Culdees were turned adrift unless they would promise to observe the
strictness of monastic rule. It is probable that in a few places they
did so, for references to Culdees still occur occasionally even in the
next century, but these measures were effective and practically they
and their customs disappeared together.[744]

In a church thus constructed from the regular clergy, the heresy of
marriage could find no foothold, especially as it had been so sternly
punished in the expulsion of the Culdees. Still was the desired purity
not yet attained. In 1181, during the long quarrel between William the
Lion and the papacy on the subject of the archbishopric of St. Andrews,
an interdict was pronounced on all ecclesiastics who should refuse to
recognize the papal candidate John, whereupon the King persecuted those
who obeyed the mandate, and the chronicler, in expatiating upon his
cruelty, is careful to mention that he did not spare their children,
even to babes in their mothers’ arms, who were remorselessly driven
into exile.[745] The state of things indicated by this remained without
improvement. In 1225, Honorius III. ordered the Scottish ecclesiastics
to assemble in council for the correction of the many enormities which
were committed with impunity; and the council held in obedience to the
papal command denounced the shameless licentiousness of the clergy
as a disgrace to the church.[746] Inquests to detect the offenders,
suspension and deprivation to punish them, were ordered with all the
verbal energy of which we have already witnessed so many examples,
and were attended with the same plentiful lack of success. With what
disposition the clergy regarded these efforts for their improvement
we may guess from the reception which they gave to the constitutions
of Cardinal Ottoboni. Reference has already been made to the council
held by that legate in London in 1268. The church of Scotland had been
ordered to join in this council, and had sent two bishops and two
abbots as its representative delegates. These took home with them the
constitutions of Ottoboni, which the clergy of Scotland utterly refused
to obey.[747]



We have already seen (p. 121) that among the Wisigoths of Spain the
rule of celibacy had never been successfully enforced, and that during
the later period of the Gothic dynasty the demoralization of the clergy
was daily increasing. The Saracenic invasion, and the subsequent
struggles of the Christians, who founded petty kingdoms among the wild
mountainous regions of the North and East of the Peninsula, were not
favorable to the growth of regular discipline and settled observances.
The centralized sacerdotalism of Rome, which took so remarkable an
extension in the ninth and tenth centuries, and which penetrated every
portion of the Carlovingian empire, was powerless to intrude into
the strongholds of the Jalikiah, whence the descendants of Pelayo
and his companions gradually extended their frontiers from Oviedo to
Toledo. Communication with the apostolic city was rare. The nominal
subjection of Barcelona and Navarre to the Carlovingians, indeed,
brought the eastern provinces of Spain under the domination of the
Archbishops of Narbonne, and kept them, to a certain extent, under the
influences which were moulding the rest of Europe; but the kingdoms
of Leon and Castile grew up in complete ecclesiastical independence.
Even at the close of the eleventh century a Spanish ecclesiastic
describes his contemporary brethren as rude and illiterate, owning no
obedience to the mother church of Rome, and governed by the discipline
of Toledo.[748] Wild and insubordinate as was a large portion of the
European clergy, the ecclesiastics of Spain were even wilder and
more insubordinate. Another writer of the period, himself a canon of
Compostella, and subsequently Bishop of Mondonego, speaking of his
brother canons previous to the reforms of Diego Gelmirez, denounces
them as reckless and violent men, ready for any crime, prompt in
quarrel, and even occasionally indulging in mutual slaughter.[749] How
little, indeed, there was to distinguish the clerk from the layman is
evident from a regulation promulgated by the council of Compostella
in 1113. It provides that all priests, gentlemen, and peasants shall
devote themselves to wolf-hunting on every Sunday, except Easter and
Pentecost, under a penalty of a fine of five sols for the priest and
gentleman, and one sol, or a sheep, for the peasant—visitation of the
sick being the only excuse exempting the priest from the performance
of this duty. Every church, moreover, was bound to furnish for the
hunt seven iron-tipped reeds.[750] A similar condition of society is
indicated at the other end of Spain, where, in 1027, the Synod of Elna,
in Roussillon, had forbidden, under pain of excommunication, any one to
attack a monk or a clerk who was without arms.[751]

In such lack of social organization it is easy to imagine that the
rule of celibacy received little attention. According to Mariana, the
clergy of the period were, for the most part, publicly married;[752]
and when, in 1056, the council of Compostella specifically forbade to
bishops and monks all intercourse with women, except with mothers,
aunts, and sisters wearing the monastic habit,[753] the inference is
fair that even so elementary a prohibition was an innovation, and that
the secular clergy, below the episcopate, were not regarded as subject
to any restriction.

In the comprehensive efforts, however, made during the later half of
the eleventh century by the Roman church to bring all Christendom under
its domination, the rising states of Spain were not likely to remain
undisturbed in their independent isolation; nor was it to be expected
that so complete a defiance of the canons would be passed unobserved by
the pontiffs who were convulsing the rest of Europe in their efforts
to reform the church. Accordingly, in 1068, we find the Cardinal Hugo
of Silva Candida, as legate of Alexander II., assembling a council
at Girona, and procuring the adoption of a regulation reducing to
the condition of laymanship all who, in holy orders, either entered
into matrimony or kept concubines; while those who should dismiss
their wives were promised immunity for the past and security for the
future.[754] In 1077, Gregory VII. sent a certain Bishop Amandus as
his legate, with an epistle addressed to the Spaniards, in which he
told them that Spain had anciently belonged to St. Peter and the Roman
church; that the carelessness of his predecessors, and the Saracenic
conquest, had caused the papal rights to be forgotten, but that the
time had come for them to be revendicated, and that he consequently
claimed implicit obedience.[755] Accordingly, in 1078, we find the
legate presiding over another council at Girona, which confirmed the
canons of the previous one, and added several others to prevent the
ordination of sons of priests, and the hereditary transmission of
benefices.[756] Such slender reforms as may have resulted from these
efforts were probably confined to Catalonia and Aragon; but not long
afterwards influences were brought to bear upon the rest of Spain,
which had a powerful effect in extending the authority of Rome over the
Peninsula. Constance of Burgundy, Queen of Alfonso VI. of Castile and
Leon, prevailed upon her husband to ask of Gregory a legate to reform
the church, and to condemn the Gothic or Mozarabic ritual, which was
jealously preserved by the people as a symbol of their independent
nationality. The prayer, of course, was granted. Richard, Abbot of
Marseilles, was sent, and in 1080 he held a council at Burgos, where
he commanded the ordained clergy to put away their wives. The novelty
and hardship of this order created great excitement. The pope, who
was rightly regarded as its author, became the object of no little
abuse and insult, and was held up to popular derision in innumerable

All of these efforts were nugatory. The Spaniards, engaged in an
interminable and often doubtful struggle with the Infidel, might well
claim consideration from the Holy Father, while the independent spirit
which they manifested in their resistance to the introduction of the
Roman ritual was a warning that it would be prudent not to proceed too
abruptly in the process of bringing them within the fold of St. Peter.
Whatever be the motives, indeed, which induced such strenuous apostles
of celibacy as Gregory, Urban, Paschal, and Calixtus to abstain from
urging upon them the reform which was so earnestly enforced elsewhere,
certain it is that little effort was made to deprive the Spanish clergy
of their wives. In all the epistles of the popes up to 1130 I can find
but one allusion to the subject, though communication between Spain
and Italy became daily more frequent, and the papal authority was
constantly exercised with greater decisiveness in the internal affairs
of the Spanish church.

When, in 1101, Diego Gelmirez succeeded in obtaining the see of
Compostella, Paschal II. addressed him an epistle, reproaching him
with the utter contempt of discipline in his diocese, and commanding
a reform. He chiefly complained of the incongruous common residence
of monks and nuns, which he severely condemned and peremptorily
prohibited, but he made some concession to the necessities of the time
in permitting the ordination of the sons of those priests who had,
“according to the ordinary custom of the country,” married prior to
the promulgation of what the pope significantly termed the Roman law;
and he carefully abstained from ordering a separation between them and
their wives, or even an enforcement of the canons for the future.[758]

Diego, who possessed no common measure of vigor and ambition, and who
needed the particular favor of the popes for the success of his plans
in elevating and aggrandizing his see, accordingly proceeded to reform
his clergy. There is extant a minute and circumstantial contemporary
history of his episcopate, written by his admiring disciples, who dwell
with much instance on his labors and success in reducing to discipline
the refractory canons of his cathedral seat; but in the numerous
allusions to these reforms there is no mention of the enforcement of
celibacy, while the fact that he would not allow them to minister at
the altar without canonical vestments is made the subject of repeated
gratulation and praise.[759] The absolute silence of the authors
with respect to the clergy at large shows that the reticence of Pope
Paschal was not misunderstood, and that there was no effort made to
bring the secular priesthood under subjection to the Roman discipline.
In the twenty-five canons of the council of Compostella in 1113 it
therefore need not surprise us that there is no reference whatever to
the subject, beyond an allusion to the children of ecclesiastics, whose
nurses were declared entitled to clerical privileges, thus giving them
a recognized and highly prized position.[760]

That Diego’s reforms, indeed, did not extend to the abrogation of
clerical marriage is evident from several incidental circumstances.
Thus, in 1114, the lords of the monastery of Botoa made it over to
the church of Santiago of Compostella, reserving to themselves their
life interest, with a reversion to any of their descendants who should
be ecclesiastics, and who might be willing to profess celibacy,
showing that the matter was optional with the secular clergy.[761]
That even the canons were bound by no absolute rules on the subject
is manifested by a very curious transaction which may be worth
recounting as illustrative in several aspects of the spirit of the
age. In 1127, Diego, at the head of his Gallician troops, accompanied
Alfonso VIII. on an expedition into Portugal. On their return, the army
halted at Compostella, where the archbishop received and entertained
his sovereign. They were bound by the closest ties, for Diego had
baptized, knighted, and crowned him, and had, moreover, constantly
stood his friend throughout his stormy youth, in the endless civil
wars which marked the disastrous reign of his mother, Queen Urraca.
Yet, prompted by evil counsellors who were jealous of Diego, the king
suddenly demanded of him an enormous sum of money, to pay off the army,
under threat of seizing and pillaging the city. After considerable
resistance, Diego was forced to submit, and to pay a thousand marks of
silver. He then sought a private interview, in which he solemnly and
affectionately warned Alfonso of the ruin of his soul which would ensue
if he did not undergo penance for thus impiously spoiling the Apostle
Santiago. Alfonso listened humbly, and professed entire willingness
to repent, but for the difficulty that he had always been taught that
penitence was fruitless without restitution, and restitution he was
unable and unwilling to make. Diego then suggested that he should meet
the chapter and discuss the case, to which he graciously assented. In
the assembly which followed, Diego proposed that the king should follow
the example of his father, Raymond of Gallicia, in commending himself
to the peculiar patronage of Santiago, and in bequeathing his body to
be buried in their church, promising, moreover, that if he should do
so they would pray specially for him, which, from the promise of his
youth, bade fair to be no easy task. Alfonso was delighted to escape
so easily: he eagerly accepted the proposition, and added that he
would like to become a canon of their church, in order to enjoy the
fullest possible share in the Masses of such holy men. To this the
chapter assented at once; he was forthwith duly installed as a canon
of the church which he had just despoiled, and his conscience was set
at rest, while the church felt that it had acquired a moral supremacy
over the spoiler.[762] In thus formally becoming a canon, there could
have been no assumption of celibacy, expressed or implied. Alfonso
was but twenty-one years of age, and in the following year he married
Berengaria, daughter of the Count of Barcelona.[763]

In fact, in the absence of urgency on the part of Rome, the question
of sacerdotal celibacy seems to have been virtually ignored in Spain.
How little importance was attached to the preëminent sanctity of
asceticism becomes evident when we are told that in the whole of
Gallicia there was no convent of nuns until Diego, in 1129, founded
the house of S. Maria of Conjo.[764] Equal indifference is manifested
in the legislative assemblies of the church. The council of Leon and
Compostella, in 1114, only prohibited the residence of such women as
were forbidden by the canons,[765] which, in the existing discipline
of the Spanish church, may safely be presumed to offer no impediment
to the marriage relation; and a synod held at Palencia in 1129 is
even more significant in its reticence, for it merely provides
that notorious concubines of the clergy shall be ejected, without
apparently venturing to threaten any punishment on the reverend

Towards the close of his restless life, however, Archbishop Diego
found time, amid his military, political, and ecclesiastical schemes
of aggrandizement, to undertake the much needed reform of a single
monastery. The Abbot of S. Pelayo de Antealtaria was a paragon of
brutish sensuality, who wasted the revenues of his house in riotous
living and took no shame in a numerous progeny. The archbishop
remonstrated with him long and earnestly, both in public and private:
seven times in the general chapter of the diocese he admonished and
threatened the offender without result. At length, in 1130, after
forbearance so remarkable, Diego held a chapter in the abbey for his
trial, when he was proved by competent witnesses to have kept no less
than seventy concubines. He was accordingly deposed, but was so far
from being canonically punished that a benefice in the abbey lands was
assigned for his support. A new abbot was then appointed, who swore to
observe the Benedictine rule as far as he should find himself able to
do so.[767] It is a significant commentary on the state of discipline
and opinion to find so weak an effort to remove and punish the grossest
licentiousness characterized by the biographer of Diego with the
warmest expressions of wondering admiration as a work which doubtless
gave ineffable satisfaction to the Divine Omnipotence, and which was
without example in previous history.

It is very evident that the pontiffs who so energetically enforced the
rule of celibacy throughout the rest of Europe were content to offer
little opposition to the obstinacy of the Celtiberian priesthood.
We can safely conclude, indeed, that matters were allowed to remain
virtually undisturbed, and that the clergy were permitted to retain
their wives. A council held in Gallicia in the early part of the
thirteenth century, for the purpose of reforming ecclesiastical
discipline, preserves absolute silence on the subject of marriage and
concubinage;[768] and, about the middle of the same century, we find
Alfonso the Wise of Castile obliged to formally interdict matrimony to
those in holy orders. In the elaborate code drawn up by that monarch
and known as “Las Siete Partidas,” there is a law punishing sacerdotal
marriage with deprivation of function and benefice; while the wives, if
vassals of the church, are to be reduced to servitude, and if serfs,
are to be sold and the proceeds appropriated for the benefit of the
church of the offender. The wording of the law would seem to indicate
that it was an enactment intended to repress existing disorders, and
not merely a well-known provision inserted in the code for the purpose
of completing a compilation of statutes;[769] while the existence in
secular legislation of such invasions of the province of ecclesiastical
law is a convincing proof of the continued independence of Rome
asserted by the Spanish church and state. The prelates were further
authorized to command the assistance of the secular power in enforcing
these barbarous penalties to their full measure of severity, and this
secular legislation seems to have accomplished what the ecclesiastical
authorities had so utterly failed to effect. After this we hear little
of regular marriage, which was replaced by promiscuous concubinage or
by permanent irregular unions.

In Valencia a council in 1255 prohibited the residence with priests of
all women, except mothers and sisters and such others as were beyond
suspicion, but no penalty was prescribed for infractions of the rule;
and the character of the clergy with whom the council had to deal is
sufficiently shown by its complaint that the priests of the country
parishes frequented the city too much and indulged there in disgraceful
excesses, for which reason it forbids them from visiting the city more
often than twice a month, and requires them to return home the same
day.[770] Arnaldo de Peralta, Bishop of Valencia, not long after,
deplores the utter contempt with which all previous efforts to suppress
clerical concubinage had been received, and the prevalence of the
custom by which ecclesiastics endowed their bastards with the spoils of
the church. Yet the only punishment he finds himself able to threaten
is a fine of thirty maravedis on public concubinarians and of five
on parish priests who connive at such offences or neglect to report
them to the bishop. Ecclesiastics, indeed, are directed to put away
their children, but no penalty is indicated for disobedience.[771]
The council of Gerona in 1257 was more energetic, for it decreed the
deprivation of all concubinary priests who persisted in their sin,
but this apparently was not effectual, for in 1274 the threat was
repeated, with the addition that the women should be excommunicated and
should receive after death the burial of asses;[772] and very similar
was the legislation of the council of Peñafiel in 1302.[773] However
well meant these efforts were, they proved as useless as all previous
ones, for in 1322 the council of Valladolid, under the presidency of
the papal legate William Bishop of Sabina, animadverts strongly on the
indecency of ecclesiastics, from the highest prelates down, officiating
at the nuptials of their children, both legitimate and illegitimate.
For those who publicly kept concubines it provides a graduated scale
of confiscation, ending in the deprivation of the persistently
contumacious who gave no prospect of amendment, the exceedingly
elaborate regulations prescribed showing at once the difficulty of the
subject and the importance attached to it. The acts of this council,
moreover, are interesting as presenting the first authentic evidence
of a custom which subsequently prevailed to some extent elsewhere,
by which parishioners were wont to compel their priest to take a
female consort for the purpose of protecting the virtue of their
families from his assaults. The iniquity of this precaution seems to
have especially scandalized the legate, and he treats the audacious
laymen concerned in such transactions with much less ceremony than
the concubinary clergy.[774] The elaborate regulations promulgated by
this council produced little effect. The council of Salamanca in 1335
renews the previous repressive legislation, adding a threat of _ipso
facto_ excommunication for those who give Christian burial to priestly
concubines, including all who are present on such occasions, who are
not to be absolved until they shall have paid a fine of fifty maravedis
to the cathedral church.[775] At length, in 1388, a national council
held at Palencia under Cardinal Pedro de Luna, papal legate, made a
determined effort to eradicate the ineradicable vice. It renewed the
regulations of the council of Valladolid, which it stated were not
obeyed, and added to them a clause by which all benefices were held
under a sort of tenure of chastity, and subject to forfeiture. Besides
this, all ecclesiastics who, within two months of death, had kept
concubines, were declared incapable of testating, and their property
was adjudged, one-third to the fabric of their churches, one-third
to the Ordinary of the diocese, and one-third to the fund for the
redemption of captives under the care of the Orders of Trinidad and
Mercede, who were empowered to seize their share. Moreover, all bishops
were commanded to appoint official Visitors, who were to report at
annual synods, to be held thereafter, all cases of infraction of the
rules.[776] The desolation which the enforcement of such regulations
would have wrought may be inferred from the description which a
contemporary, Alvarez Pelayo, Bishop of Silva in Portugal, gives us of
his fellow ecclesiastics. He states that many of the clergy in holy
orders throughout the Peninsula publicly associated themselves with
women, frequently of noble blood, binding themselves against separation
by notarial acts and solemn oaths, endowing their consorts with the
goods of the church, and celebrating with the kindred these illegal
espousals as joyously as though they were legitimate nuptials. Yet even
this flagrant defiance of the canons was better than the wickedness
common between confessors and their penitents, or than the promiscuous
and unrestrained licentiousness of those who were not fettered by the
forms of marriage, whose children, as Pelayo asserts, almost rivalled
in number those of the laity.[777] These excesses were not suppressed
by the council of Palencia. In 1429 the council of Tortosa, under the
presidency of the Cardinal de Foix, papal legate, renewed the lament
that the canons of Valladolid remained unobserved, and in repeating
them it added a penalty of incarceration for pertinacious offenders,
indicating, moreover, one of the worst abuses to which the subject
gave rise, in forbidding all officials to take bribes from those who
transgressed the rules.[778] This effort was as fruitless as all
previous ones had been, and we shall see hereafter that the same state
of affairs continued until the sixteenth century was well advanced.



In a former section we have seen the efforts made by Calixtus II. to
enforce the received discipline of the church, and we have noted the
scanty measure of success which attended his labors. He apparently
himself recognized that they were futile, and that some action of
more decided character than had as yet been attempted was necessary
to accomplish the result so long and so energetically sought, and
so illusory to its ardent pursuers. On his return to Italy, and his
triumph over his unfortunate rival, the anti-pope Martin Burdino, he
summoned, in 1123, the first general council of the West, to confirm
the Concordat of Worms, which had just closed half a century of strife
between the papacy and the empire. Nearly a thousand prelates obeyed
his call, and that august assembly promulgated a canon which not only
forbade matrimony to those bound by vows and holy orders, but commanded
that if such marriages were contracted they should be broken, and the
parties to them subjected to due penance.[779]

This was a bold innovation. With the exception of a decretal of Urban
II. in 1090, to which little attention seems to have been paid, we have
seen that, previous to Calixtus, while the sacrament of marriage was
held incompatible with the ministry of the altar and with the enjoyment
of church property, it yet was respected and its binding force was
admitted, even to the point of rendering those who assumed it unfitted
for their sacred functions. At most, and as a concession to a lax and
irreligious generation, the option was allowed of abandoning either
the wife or the church. At Rheims, Calixtus had deprived them of this
choice, and had ordered their separation from their wives. He now went
a step further, and by the Lateran canon he declared the sacrament
of marriage to be less potent than the religious vow: the engagement
with the church swallowed up and destroyed all other ties. This gave
the final seal to the separation between the clergy and the laity, by
declaring the priestly character to be indelible. When once admitted
to orders, he became a being set apart from his fellows, consecrated
to the service of God; and the impassable gulf between him and the
laity bound him forever to the exclusive interests of the church.
It is easy to perceive how important an element this irrevocable
nature of sacerdotalism became in establishing and consolidating the
ecclesiastical power.

The immensity of the change thus wrought in the practice, if not in
the doctrine, of the church can best be understood by comparing the
formal command thus issued to the Christian world with the unqualified
condemnation pronounced in earlier times against those who attempted to
dissolve marriage under religious pretexts.[780] And in all ages the
church has regarded the chastity of the monastic orders as even more
imperative than that of the secular clergy.

Revolutions never go backwards. Perhaps the Lateran fathers who adopted
the canon scarcely realized its logical conclusions. If they did,
they at all events shrank from expressing them openly and fully, and
left the faithful to draw their own deductions as to the causes and
consequences of such an order. Time, however, familiarized the minds of
ardent churchmen with the idea, and it was seen that if the practice
thus enjoined was correct, doctrine must be made to suit and to justify
it. To this end an additional stimulus was afforded by the failure of
the canon to accomplish the results anticipated from it, for the custom
of sacerdotal marriage was as yet by no means eradicated. The council
of Liége, held by Innocent II. in 1131, referred to in a preceding
section, and those of Clermont and Rheims, over which he likewise
presided, in 1130 and 1131, show how little had been accomplished,
and how generally the clergy of Europe disregarded the restrictions
nominally imposed upon them, and the punishments which they so
easily escaped.[781] In the canons of these councils not only is it
observable that the question of marriage and celibacy is treated as
though it were a matter now for the first time brought to the attention
of the clergy, but also that the innovation attempted by the council of
Lateran, only seven or eight years previous, is prudently suppressed
and passed over without even an allusion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Innocent, restored to Rome and to power, was bolder than when wandering
through Europe, soliciting the aid of the faithful. Surrounded by a
thousand bishops at the second great council of Lateran, in 1139, he
no longer dreaded to offend the susceptibilities of the clergy, and he
proceeded to justify the canon of 1123 by creating a doctrine to suit
the practice there enjoined. After repeating the canons of Clermont
and Rheims, he unhesitatingly pronounced that a union contracted in
opposition to the rule of the church was not a marriage.[782] He draws
no argument from the conflict of sacraments assumed to be incompatible;
a simple vow dissolves the sacrament of marriage, and renders it null
and void—or rather destroys its efficacy and anticipates its existence.

The abounding wickedness of a perverse generation caused this decree
of the loftiest Christian tribunal to fall still-born and abortive as
its forerunners had done.[783] The church, however, was irrevocably
committed to the new doctrine and to all its consequences. When
Eugenius III. was driven out of Rome by Arnold of Brescia, he presided,
in 1148, over a council held at Rheims, where eleven hundred bishops
and abbots from Northern and Western Europe assembled to do honor
to the persecuted representative of St. Peter, and to condemn the
teachings of Gilbert de la Porrée. From this great assembly he
procured the confirmation of the new dogma by their adoption of the
Lateran canon; while the repetition of that of Clermont and Rheims (of
1130 and 1131) shows that the evil which it was intended to repress
still existed in full force.[784] The vague assertion of Eugenius
that he was but following in the footsteps of the holy fathers, and a
special reference to Innocent II. as his authority, render it probable
that the members of the council demurred in committing themselves to
the new principle, and that it was only by showing that the matter was
already decided under the irrefragable authority of a general council
that the consent of the Transalpine churches was obtained.

St. Bernard himself, the impersonation of ascetic sacerdotalism,
hesitated to subscribe to the new dogma, and when the monks of
Chartres asked him to reconcile it with the teachings of Augustin
and Gregory the Great he candidly confessed that his dialectical
skill was unequal to the task.[785] So when an abbot applied to him
for advice in the case of one of his monks, who had left the convent
and married, St. Bernard stigmatized the act as highly improper, but
hesitated to pronounce it unlawful. He recommended that an attempt be
made to convince the parties that they were perilling their salvation,
and if this failed he thought that perhaps they might be separated
by episcopal authority.[786] In fact, four years after the council
of Rheims, St. Bernard reproached Eugenius with having caused the
adoption of canons which no one pretended to obey. If he thought that
they were enforced, he grievously erred; if he did not think so, he
had sinned either by decreeing what was not to be observed or in
neglecting to punish their non-observance—and no one was punished for
his disobedience.[787]

Even in Rome itself the point was still disputed. At that very
time Gratian, the greatest canonist of the age, was engaged in
the compilation of his “Concordia discordantium Canonum,” a work
undertaken at the request of the papal curia to restore to the canon
law the preëminence which it was fast losing in consequence of the
recently revived study of the Justinian jurisprudence. Published in
1151 under the auspices of Eugenius himself, and presented to the world
as the authoritative exposition of the laws and discipline of the
church, it was everywhere received with acclamation, and has remained
to this day the foundation of the canon law. Yet Gratian himself, in
this work without appeal, distinctly declares his opposition to the
doctrine of Innocent and Eugenius, asserting that a deacon can lawfully
marry if he chooses to abandon the ministry, and that the sacrament of
marriage is so potent that no antecedent vow can render it void.[788]

The new law was long in winning its way to general respect, nor can it
be a subject of wonder if those who disregarded the acknowledged canons
of the church by marrying in orders, or by permitting such marriages in
those under their charge, should neglect a rule of recent origin and of
more than doubtful propriety. The church, however, was committed to it,
and, moreover, could see in its eventual recognition a more effectual
means of accomplishing the long desired object than in any expedient
previously tried. By destroying all such marriages, pronouncing them
null and void, inflicting an ineffaceable stigma on wife and offspring,
subjecting the woman to the certainty of being cast off without
resource and without option on the part of the husband, the position of
the wife of an ecclesiastic would become most unenviable; her kindred
would prevent her from exposing herself to such calamities, and no
priest could succeed in finding a consort above the lowest class, whose
union with him would expose him to the contempt of his flock.

How slender was the immediate result of the efforts of Innocent and
Eugenius, however, is manifested by the allusions of Geroch, Provost
of Reichersperg, who, writing about the middle of the century,
complains that any one who would shun intercourse with Nicolitan and
simoniacal heretics must quit the world, for it was full of them, and
he maintains the propriety of calling them heretics because they openly
defended and justified their evil courses.[789] Indeed, so shamelessly
were their transgressions displayed, that the faithful were sometimes
scandalized by the sight of the priests’ wives assisting their husbands
in the ministry of the altar;[790] while conventual discipline had
sunk so low that nuns were in the habit of deferring their formal vows
until the lassitude of old age should render the restraints thereby
assumed easy to be endured,[791] and canons led a life which was only
distinguishable from that of the laity by its shamelessness.[792] Nor
was this confined to Germany. In France, Hugh, Archbishop of Rouen,
complains that those who married in orders openly defended their evil
practices and quoted Scripture to sustain themselves.[793]

In England, as seen in a preceding section, the new theory of Innocent
and Eugenius remained a dead letter. Indeed, as late as 1470 Sir John
Fortescue incidentally alludes to a recent case in which a priest named
John Fringe, who had lived in orders for three years, procured two
false witnesses to swear that he had previously been betrothed to a
certain maiden, and this preliminary promise of marriage was held by
court to supersede his priestly ordination; he was ejected from the
priesthood and compelled to marry the girl, with whom he lived fourteen
years, until he was executed for treason by the Lancastrians during the
wars of the Roses.[794] In Spain, as we have already seen, priestly
marriage was forbidden by the secular law as late as the latter half
of the thirteenth century, and priests in consequence were wont to
protect their partners by entering into the most solemn compacts, the
customary employment of which shows that they must have been habitually
enforced by the municipal tribunals regardless of the censures of the

       *       *       *       *       *

The long pontificate of Alexander III., extending from 1159 to 1181,
was absorbed for the most part by his deadly strife with Frederic
Barbarossa. Yet, even before he was released from that ever-present
danger, he found leisure to urge the cause of sacerdotal celibacy; and
after the humiliation of his mortal enemy he devoted himself to it
with a zeal which earned for him among his contemporaries the credit
of establishing its observance.[795] He who, as the legate Roland,
had nearly paid, under the avenging sword of Otho of Wittelsbach, the
forfeit of his life for his rude boldness at the imperial court, was
little likely to abate one jot of the claims which the church asserted
on the obedience of layman and clerk; and he recognized too fully the
potency of the canons of Lateran and Rheims not to insist upon their
observance. The very necessity under which he found himself, however,
of repeating those canons shows how utterly neglected they had been,
and how successfully the clergy had thus far resisted their reception
and acknowledgment. Thus when, in 1163, he held the council of Tours,
he was obliged to content himself with a canon which allowed three
warnings to those who publicly kept concubines, and it was only after
neglect of these warnings that they were threatened with deprivation of
functions and benefice;[796] and when, in 1172, his legates presided
over the council of Avranches, which absolved Henry II. for the murder
of A’Becket, the Norman clergy were emphatically reminded that those
who married in holy orders must put away their wives, and this in terms
which indicate that the rule had not been previously obeyed.[797]
Yet notwithstanding this formal declaration, only a few years later
we find the Archbishop of Rheims applying to him for counsel in the
case of a deacon who had committed matrimony, to which Alexander
of course replied that the marriage was no marriage, and that the
offending ecclesiastic must be separated from the woman, and undergo
due penance.[798] The persistence of the pope, and the necessity
of his urgency, are farther shown by sundry epistles to various
English bishops, in which the rule is enunciated as absolute and
unvarying;[799] and he takes occasion to stigmatize such marriages with
the most degrading epithet, when he graciously pardons those concerned,
and permits their restitution after a long course of penitence, on
their giving evidence of a reformed life.[800]

Yet even Alexander was forced to abate somewhat of his stern
determination, in consideration of the incorrigible perversity of
the time, though he seems not to have remarked that he abandoned the
principle by admitting exceptions, and that the reasons assigned in
such individual cases might, with equal cogency, be applied to the
total withdrawal of the rule. When the Calabrian bishops informed
him that clerks in holy orders throughout their dioceses committed
matrimony, he ordered that priests and deacons should be irrevocably
separated from their wives; but, in the case of subdeacons of doubtful
morals, he instructed the prelates that they should tacitly connive at
the irregularity, lest in place of one woman, many should be abused,
and a greater evil be incurred, in the endeavor to avoid a less.[801]
This worldly wisdom also dictated his orders to the Bishop of Exeter,
in whose diocese subdeacons were in the habit of openly marrying. He
directs an examination into the lives and characters of the offenders;
those whose regular habits and staid morality afford fair expectation
of their chastity in celibacy are to be forcibly separated from their
wives; while those whose disorderly character renders probable their
general licentiousness if condemned to a single life are not to be
disturbed—taking care, however, that they do not minister at the altar,
or receive ecclesiastical benifices.[802]

Alexander adopted the principle that a simple vow of chastity did
not prevent marriage or render it null, but that a formal vow, or
the reception of orders, created a dissolution of marriage, or a
total inability to enter into it;[803] but Celestin III. carried the
principle still farther, and decreed that a simple vow, while it did
not dissolve an existing connection, was sufficient to prevent a future

Alexander did not confine himself to this portion of the question, but
with ceaseless activity labored to enforce the observance of celibacy
in general, and to repress the immorality which disgraced the church
throughout Christendom—immorality which led Alain de l’Isle, the
“Universal Doctor,” to characterize the ecclesiastics of his time as
being old men in their inefficiency and young men in their unbridled
passions.[805] Alexander’s efforts were particularly directed to put
an end to the practice of hereditary priesthood, and its constant
consequence, hereditary benefices. If I have made little allusion to
this subject during the century under consideration, it is not that the
church had relaxed her exertions to place some limit on this apparently
incurable disorder, or that the passive resistance to her efforts had
been less successful than we have seen it on previous occasions. The
perpetual injunctions of Alexander show at once the universality of
the vice, and the determination of the pontiff to eradicate it. At
the same time it became a frequent, and no doubt a profitable portion
of the duties of the papal chancery, to grant special dispensations
when those who held such preferment, or who desired to retain their
wives, underwent the dangers and expense of a journey to Rome, and
were rewarded for their confidence in the benignity of the Holy Father
by a rescript to their bishops, commanding their reinstatement in the
benefices from which they had been ejected.[806] The power to grant
such dispensations was shrewdly reserved as the exclusive privilege
of the papal court;[807] and a high churchman of the period assures
us that there was no difficulty in obtaining them.[808] It need not,
therefore, surprise us that Alexander’s successor, Lucius III., found
the hereditary transmission of the priestly office claimed as an
absolute right.[809] And not only did the claims of the papal chancery
thus interfere with the execution of the law by its power of granting
dispensations, but its appellate jurisdiction was constantly used to
avert punishment from the worst offenders. Thus Lucius III., about the
year 1181 was obliged to grant to Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris,
the right to dispossess of their benefices and functions, without
appeal, certain notorious concubinarians who, on being threatened with
the application of the law, had defied him by interposing an appeal to
Rome.[810] This centralization of all power in the papal court, and the
unblushing venality of the Roman officials, meet us in every age as
the efficient obstacle to the efforts of reforming prelates throughout

The uncertainty of this conflicting legislation, at times enforced,
and at times dispensed with by the supreme power, led to innumerable
complications and endless perplexity in private life. Indeed, a large
portion of the canons are founded on responses given by the popes to
settle cases of peculiar difficulty arising from ignorance or neglect
of the discipline enjoined, and many of these reveal extreme hardship
inflicted on those who could be convicted of no intentional guilt.
Perhaps the most noteworthy instance of the troubles caused by the
new regulations was that of Bossaert d’Avesnes, which resulted in
a desperate war to determine the possession of the rich provinces
of Flanders and Hainault. As it illustrates the doubts which still
environed these particular points, and the conflicting decisions to
which they were liable, even from the infallibility of successive
popes, it may be worth briefly sketching here.

When Baldwin of Flanders, Emperor of Constantinople, died in 1206,
his eldest daughter Jane succeeded to his territories of Flanders
and Hainault, while his second child, Margaret, was placed under
the guardianship of Bossaert d’Avesnes. Bossaert was a relative of
her mother, Mary of Champagne, and though he held the comparatively
insignificant position of chantre of Tournay, he was yet a man of
great repute and influence. With the assent and approbation of the
estates of Flanders, Margaret and Bossaert were married, the issue of
the union being three sons. Whether the fact of his having received
the subdiaconate was publicly known or not is somewhat doubtful; but
he seems at length to have been awakened to a sense of his uncertain
position, when he went to Rome for the purpose of obtaining a
dispensation and legitimating his children. Innocent III. not only
refused the application, but commanded him to restore Margaret to
her relatives and to do penance by a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Disregarding these injunctions, he lived openly with his wife after his
return and was excommunicated in consequence. At length Margaret left
him and married Guillaume de Dampierre, while Bossaert was assassinated
during a second visit to Rome, where he was seeking reconciliation
to the church. When at last, in 1244, the Countess Jane closed her
long and weary career by assuming the veil at Marquette, without
leaving heirs, the children of Margaret by both marriages claimed
the succession, and Margaret favored the younger, asserting, without
scruple, that her elder sons were illegitimate. The difficult question
was referred to St. Louis for arbitration, and in 1247 the good king
assigned Flanders to Gui de Dampierre and Hainault to Jean d’Avesnes,
thus recognizing both marriages as legitimate. This, of course,
satisfied neither party. Innocent IV. was appealed to, and in 1248 he
sent commissioners to investigate the knotty affair. They reported
that the marriage of Bossaert had been contracted in the face of all
Flanders, and that the d’Avesnes were legitimate, which judgment was
confirmed by Innocent himself in 1252. Thus fortified, Jean d’Avesnes
resisted the proposed partition, and a bloody civil war arose. The
victory of Vacheren placed the Dampierre in the hands of their
half-brothers, and promised to be decisive, until Margaret called in
Charles de Valois, bribing him with the offer of Hainault to complete
the disinheriting of her first-born. The war continued until Louis,
returning from the East in 1255, compelled the combatants to lay down
their arms, and to abide by his arbitration.[811]

In this case we see Innocent III. deciding that marriage was
incompatible with the subdiaconate. Yet it is a striking illustration
of the uncertainty which still surrounded the matter to find the
same pope, in 1208, commanding a subdeacon of Laon to return to the
wife whom he had abandoned on taking orders, and to treat her in all
respects as a wife. Innocent is not to be suspected of any temporizing
concession to prevailing laxity, and yet in this case he overruled the
uninterrupted tradition of the canons that married men taking orders
should thenceforth treat their wives as sisters; and the doubts which
experienced ecclesiastics entertained with regard to the law are
visible in the fact that when the wife complained of her abandonment
to the metropolitan authorities at Rheims they did not pretend to give
judgment, but sent the testimony in the case at once to Innocent for
his decision.[812]

Another curious case occurring about the same time illustrates the
complexity of the questions which arose and the manner in which the
selfishness of ascetic zeal sometimes eluded even the very slender
barriers with which the church limited its gratification. As we have
seen, it was an ancient rule that no man could assume monastic vows
without the assent of his wife, with the additional condition that
she must at the same time enter a nunnery. It appears that a husband
desiring to become a monk, and finding his wife obstinately opposed
to his designs, enlisted the services of various priests to influence
her, carefully concealing from her the obligation which her assent
would impose upon her to take the veil. Still she obstinately refused,
until at last he threatened to castrate himself, when she yielded
and went through the ceremony of placing with her own hands his head
on the altar. The wife thus abandoned took to evil courses, and the
husband-monk applied in person to Innocent III. to learn whether he
ought to remain in his order, seeing that his continence might be
responsible for her unchastity. In spite of the deceit practised upon
the wife, Innocent resolved his doubts in favor of the maintenance of
his vows, giving as a reason that her adulteries deprived her of claim
on him. At the same time, nothing was said as to compelling the woman
to take the veil.[813]

       *       *       *       *       *

In view of these perplexities, it is no wonder that even the resolute
spirit of Alexander III., dismayed at the arduous nature of the
struggle, or appalled at the ineradicable vices which defied even
papal authority, at times shrank from the contest and was ready to
abandon the principle. If we may believe Giraldus Cambrensis, who, as
a contemporary intimately connected with the highest ecclesiastical
authorities in England, was not likely to be mistaken, and whose long
sojourn at the court of Innocent III. would have afforded him ample
opportunities of correcting a misstatement, Alexander had once resolved
to introduce the discipline of the Greek church in Western Europe,
permitting single marriages with virgins. To this he had obtained
the assent of his whole court, except his chancellor Albert, who was
afterwards pope under the name of Gregory VIII. The resistance of
this dignitary was so powerful as to cause the abandonment of the
project.[814] Alexander, indeed, was not alone in this conviction.
Giraldus himself was fully convinced that such a change would be most
useful to the church, though as archdeacon of St. David’s he had
displayed his zeal for the enforcement of the canon by measures too
energetic for the degeneracy of the age, and though he occupies, in
his “Gemma Ecclesiastica,” twenty-one chapters with an exhortation to
his clergy to abandon their evil courses.[815] Men of high character
did not hesitate to take even stronger ground against the rule. The
celebrated Peter Comestor, whose orthodoxy is unquestioned, taught
publicly in his lectures that the devil had never inflicted so severe a
blow on the church as in procuring the adoption of celibacy.[816]

These were but individual opinions. The policy of the church remained
unaltered, and Alexander’s successors emulated his example in
endeavoring to enforce the canons. Clement III. took advantage of the
profound impression which the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin (Oct.
1187) produced on all Europe, when the fall of the Latin kingdom
was attributed to the sins of Christendom. He preached a general
reformation. Abstinence from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays for
five years, and various other kinds of mortification were enjoined
on all, to propitiate a justly offended Deity, but the clergy were
the objects of special reproof. Their extreme laxity of morals, their
neglect of the dress of their order, their worldly ambition and
pursuits, drinking, gambling, and flocking to tournaments, and the
unclerical deportment which left little difference between them and
the laity, were some of the accusations brought against them. To their
incontinence, however, was chiefly attributed the wrath of God, besides
the measureless scandals to which their conduct exposed the church, and
they were commanded to remove all suspected females from their houses
within forty days, under pain of suspension from their functions and
revenues.[817] That these rebukes were not the mere angry declamation
of an ascetic is shown by the declaration of Celestin III., a few years
later, that throughout Germany the custom still prevailed of fathers
substituting in their benefices their sons, born during priesthood, so
that frequently parent and offspring ministered together in the same
church;[818] and the extent of the demoralization is evident when we
find the sons of priests and deacons alluded to as a class ineligible
to knighthood in a constitution of Frederic Barbarossa in 1187.[819]
The regular clergy offered no exception to the general relaxation of
discipline. In 1192 Odo, Bishop of Toul, felt himself forced to deplore
the wickedness of monks who left their monasteries and publicly took to
themselves wives, but he could devise no better means of arresting the
scandal than excommunicating them and their growing families.[820]

Yet, with all his ardor, Clement admitted that celibacy was only
a local rule of discipline, and that there was nothing really
incompatible between marriage and the holy functions of the altar.
The time had not yet come when the council of Trent could erect the
inviolable continence of the priesthood into an article of faith, and
Clement was willing to allow that priests of the Greek church, under
his jurisdiction, could legitimately be married and could celebrate
mass while their families were increasing around them.[821]

       *       *       *       *       *

Innocent III., who, by the fortunate conjunction of the time in which
he flourished with his own matchless force of character, enjoyed
perhaps the culmination of papal power and prerogative, at length
brought to the struggle an influence and a determination which could
scarcely fail to prove decisive on any question capable of a favorable
solution. By his decretals and his legates he labored assiduously to
enforce obedience to the canons, and when, in 1215, he summoned the
whole Christian world to meet in the fourth council of Lateran, that
august assembly of about thirteen hundred prelates, acting under his
impulsion, and reflecting his triumph over John of England and Otho of
Germany, spoke with an authority which no former body since that of
Nicæa had possessed. Its canons on the subject before us were simple,
perhaps less violent in their tone than those of former synods, but
they breathed the air of conscious strength, and there was no man that
dared openly to gainsay them. A more rigid observance of the rules was
enjoined, and any one officiating while suspended for contravention
was punishable with perpetual degradation and deprivation of his
emoluments. Yet the rule was admitted to be merely a local ordinance
peculiar to the Latin church, for, in the effort made by the council to
heal the schism with Constantinople, the right of the East to permit
the marriage of its priests was acknowledged by a clause visiting
with severer penalties those who by custom were allowed to marry, and
who, notwithstanding this license, still permitted themselves illicit
indulgences. The disgraceful traffic by which in some places prelates
regularly sold permissions to sin was denounced in the strongest terms,
as a vice equal in degree to that which it encouraged; and the common
custom of fathers obtaining preferment in their own churches for their
illegitimate offspring was reprobated as it deserved.[822]

There is nothing novel in these canons, nor can they in strictness be
said to constitute an epoch in the history of sacerdotal celibacy. They
enunciate no new principles, they threaten no new punishments, yet are
they noteworthy as marking the settled policy of the church at a period
when it had acquired that plenitude of power and vigor of organization
which insured at least an outward show of obedience to its commands.
The successive labors of so long a series of pontiffs, during more
than a century and a half, carrying with them the cumulative authority
of Rome, had gradually broken down resistance, and the Lateran canons
were the definitive expression of its discipline on this subject.
Accordingly, though we shall see how little was accomplished in
securing the purity of the priesthood, which was the ostensible object
of the rule, yet hereafter there are to be found few traces of marriage
in holy orders, except in the distant countries to which reference has
already been made.

Yet the readiness to relax the rule when a substantial advantage
was to be gained still continued, and when the effort, commenced at
the council of Lyons in 1274, to reunite the Greek church under the
supremacy of the Holy See was apparently successful, Nicholas III.
stoutly insisted upon the addition of “_filioque_” to the Symbol, but
was discreetly silent as to separating the wives of priests from their
husbands, promising in general terms that in all that merely concerned
ritual observances the way should be made easy for them.[823]

In Southern Italy, when the churches were actually brought together
under the domination of Rome, priests of Greek origin were allowed
to retain their wives, but married clerks of Latin parentage were not
permitted to enter holy orders without separation. It not infrequently
happened that the latter endeavored to elude the prohibition by getting
themselves ordained in the Greek church, and it became necessary to
denounce severe penalties not only against them, but against the
prelates who permitted it.[824]



The unrelaxing efforts of two centuries had at length achieved an
inevitable triumph. One by one the different churches of Latin
Christendom yielded to the fiat of the successor of St. Peter, and
their ecclesiastics were forced to forego the privilege of assuming
the most sacred of earthly ties with the sanction of heaven and the
approbation of man. Sacerdotalism vindicated its claim to exclusive
obedience; the church successfully asserted its right to command the
entire life of its members, and to sunder all the bonds that might
allure them to render a divided allegiance. In theory, at least, all
who professed a religious life or assumed the sacred ministry were
given up wholly to the awful service which they had undertaken: no
selfishly personal aspirations could divert their energies from the
aggrandizement of their class, nor were the temporal possessions
of the establishment to be exposed to the minute but all-pervading
dilapidation of the wife and family.

If these were the objects of the movement inaugurated by Damiani and
Hildebrand, and followed up with such unrelenting vigor by Calixtus
and Alexander and Innocent, the history of the mediæval church attests
how fully they were attained. It is somewhat instructive, indeed, to
observe that in the rise of the papal power to its culmination under
Innocent III. it was precisely the pontiffs most conspicuous for their
enforcement of the rule of celibacy who were likewise most prominent in
their assertion of the supremacy, temporal and spiritual, of the head
of the Roman church. Whether or not they recognized and acknowledged
the connection, they labored as though the end in view was clearly
appreciated, and their triumphs on the one field were sure to be
followed by corresponding successes on the other.

Yet in all this the ostensible object was always represented to be
the purity of the church and of its ministers. The other advantages
were either systematically ignored or but casually alluded to. One
warning voice, indeed, was raised, in a quarter where it would have at
least commanded respectful attention, had not the church appeared to
imagine itself superior to the ordinary laws of cause and effect. While
Innocent II. was laboring to enforce his new doctrine that ordination
and religious vows were destructive of marriage, St. Bernard, the
ascetic reformer of monachism and the foremost ecclesiastic of his day,
was thundering against the revival of Manichæism. The heresies of the
Albigenses respecting marriage were to be combated, and, in performing
this duty, he pointed out with startling vigor the evils to the church
and to mankind of the attempt to enforce a purity incompatible with
human nature. Deprive the church of honorable marriage, he exclaimed,
and you fill her with concubinage, incest, and all manner of nameless
vice and uncleanness.[825] It was still an age of faith; and while
earnest men like St. Bernard could readily anticipate the evils
attendant upon the asceticism of heretics, they could yet persuade
themselves, as the Council of Trent subsequently expressed it, that
God would not deny the gift of chastity to those who rightly sought it
in the bosom of the true church—though St. Bernard himself confessed
that crimes which he dared not even to name commonly followed after
the fornication, adultery, and incest which specially characterized
innumerable ministers of Christ.[826] It remains for us to see what was
the success of the attempt thus deliberately to tempt the Lord.

It is somewhat significant that when, in France, the rule of celibacy
was completely restored, strict churchmen should have found it
necessary also to revive the hideously suggestive restriction which
denied to the priest the society of his mother or of his sister. Even
in the profoundest barbarism of the tenth century, or the unbridled
license of the eleventh; even when Damiani descanted upon the disorders
of his contemporaries with all the cynicism of the most exalted
asceticism, horrors such as these are not alluded to. It is reserved
for the advancement of the thirteenth century and the enforcement of
celibacy to show us how outraged human nature may revenge itself and
protest against the shackles imposed by zealous sacerdotalism or
unreasoning bigotry. In 1208, Cardinal Guala, Innocent’s legate in
France, issued an order in which he not only repeated the threadbare
prohibitions respecting focariæ and concubines, but commanded that
even mothers and other relatives should not be allowed to reside with
men in holy orders, the devil being the convenient personage on whom,
as usual, was thrown the responsibility of the scandals which were
known to occur frequently under such circumstances.[827] That this
decree was not allowed to pass into speedy oblivion is shown by a
reference to it as still well known and in force a century later, in
the statutes of the church of Tréguier.[828] And that the necessity
for it was not evanescent may be assumed from its repetition in the
regulations of the see of Nismes, the date of which is uncertain, but
probably attributable to the close of the fourteenth century.[829]
At the same time, we have evidence that Cardinal Guala’s efforts
were productive of little effect. Four years later, in 1212, we find
Innocent formally authorizing the prelates of France mercifully to
pardon those who had been excommunicated under Guala’s rules, with
the suggestive proviso that the power thus conferred was not to be
used for the purpose of extorting unhallowed gains.[830] Still more
significant is the fact that in the same year Innocent dispatched
another legate, Cardinal Robert, duly commissioned to renew the endless
task of purifying the Gallican church. Guala’s efforts would seem to
have already passed into oblivion, for in a council which Cardinal
Robert held in Paris, he gravely promulgated a canon forbidding the
priesthood from keeping their concubines so openly as to give rise to
scandal, and threatening the recalcitrants with excommunication if they
should persist in retaining their improper consorts for forty days
after receiving notice.[831] That monachism was no less productive of
sin in the depraved moral atmosphere of the age is rendered evident
by other canons of the same council, which prohibit both monks and
nuns from sleeping two in a bed, with the avowed object of repressing
crimes against nature.[832] It may well be asked what was the value of
the continence aimed at in monastic vows when the whole body of the
monastic orders was the subject of such degrading regulations as these.

The clergy of France were not exceptional, and, unfortunately,
there can be no denial of the fact that notorious and undisguised
illicit unions, or still more debasing secret licentiousness, was a
universal and pervading vice of the church throughout Christendom.
Its traces amid all the ecclesiastical legislation of the thirteenth,
fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries are too broad and deep to be
called into question, and if no evidence remained except the constant
and unavailing efforts to repress it, that alone would be sufficient.
National and local synods, pastoral epistles, statutes of churches,
all the records of ecclesiastical discipline are full of it. Now
deploring and now threatening, exhausting ingenuity in devising new
regulations and more effective punishments, the prelates of those
ages found themselves involved in a task as endless and as bootless
as that of the Danaidæ. Occasionally, indeed, it is lost sight of
momentarily, when the exactions and usurpations of the laity, or the
gradual extension of secular jurisdiction monopolized the attention
of those who were bound to defend the privileges of their class; but,
with these rare exceptions, it may be asserted as a general truth that
scarcely a synod met, or a body of laws was drawn up to govern some
local church, in which the subject did not receive a prominent position
and careful consideration. It would be wearisome and unprofitable to
recapitulate here the details of this fruitless iteration. Without by
any means exhausting the almost limitless materials for investigation,
I have collected a formidable mass of references upon the subject, but
an examination of them shows so little of novelty and so constant a
recurrence to the starting-point, that no new principles can be evolved
from them, and their only interest lies in their universality, and in
demonstrating how resultless was the unceasing effort to remove the
uneffaceable plague-spot.

Spasmodic efforts, it is true, occasionally wrought a temporary
improvement, as when Alexander IV., in 1259, proclaimed to the world
that licentious ecclesiastics were the cause of all the evils under
which the church was groaning, for through them the name of God was
blasphemed throughout the world, the sacraments were polluted, the
Catholic religion lost the reverence of the faithful, the people were
deprived of the benefits of divine service, the substance of the
church was dissipated, the Word of God was defiled by their impure
lips, heretics were encouraged in their opposition, oppressors were
emboldened to persecution, and the sacrilegious were able to expose the
whole church to mockery and contempt. To alleviate these troubles, he
not only ordered the prelates of Christendom to prosecute all offences
of this nature with the utmost severity, but, recognizing his own court
as an obstacle to reform, he surrendered his appellate jurisdiction in
such cases, and forbade all appeals to Rome.[833] His earnestness bore
some fruit, and many prelates were stimulated to reform their flocks,
causing large numbers of ecclesiastics to be expelled. A contemporary
rhymester, Adam de la Halle (better known perhaps as Le Bossu d’Arras),
thus alludes to the effects of the Bull:—

    “Et chascuns le pape encosa
    Quant tant de bons clers desposa.—
    —Romme a bien le tierche partie
    Des clers fais sers et amatis.”[834]

As in all similar attempts, however, the results were but transitory.
Ferry, Bishop of Orleans, would scarce have been murdered, in 1299, by
a knight whose daughter he had seduced, had the father felt that there
was any chance of punishing the criminal by having the canons enforced
against him.[835]

In the confessed nullity of penal legislation it was natural for the
church to have recourse to her supernatural armory, and accordingly
we have ample store of legends framed with the hope of frightening
by spiritual terrors those who were indurated to canon and decretal.
The dead concubine of a priest was seen chased by infernal demons,
and a knight who sought to protect her had a handful of hair left in
his grasp by her mad terror; and the reality of the awful scene was
verified on opening her tomb and finding her tresses deficient. So
a nun who had yielded to temptation and had sought to conceal her
frailty by murdering her child, dying unconfessed, was seen wandering
hopelessly with a burning infant clasped to her bosom, which she
proclaimed was to be her torment throughout eternity.[836] It is no
wonder that the well-meant ingenuity which devised these tales met
with slender reward, and that the threat of post-mortem punishment
was as powerless as that of temporal penalties, for these tales were
counterbalanced by other superstitions, such as that which taught that
the most sinful, even among laymen, could obtain eternal salvation
by the simple expedient of enveloping himself in a monastic habit
on his death-bed. The Benedictines had well-authenticated cases in
plenty where the most vicious of men, by adopting this plan, were
rescued by St. Benedict himself from the hands of demons conducting
them to eternal punishment, in spite of Satan’s complaints that he
was defrauded of his rights.[837] The Franciscans contended with the
Benedictines as to the efficacy of their respective patrons, and
related with pride that St. Francis visited purgatory every year and
carried with him to heaven the souls of his followers—a general plan of
salvation which gave his vestments a decided superiority over those of
the older order. As the practice became more common, it was recognized
as equally dangerous to the welfare of the faithful and to the revenues
of the church, and was condemned as a pernicious error.[838]

       *       *       *       *       *

So open and avowed was the shame of the church that the Neapolitan
code, promulgated about 1231 by the enlightened Frederic II.,
absolutely interfered to give a quasi legitimacy to the children of
ecclesiastics, and removed, to a certain extent, their disability of
inheritance. The imperial officials were ordered to assign appropriate
shares in parental estates to such children, notwithstanding their
illegitimacy, conditioned on the payment of an annual tax to the
imperial court; and parents were not allowed to alienate their
property to the prejudice of such children, any more than in cases of
the offspring of lawful wedlock.[839] The numbers and influence of
the class thus protected must indeed have been great to induce such
interference in their favor.

We have already seen ecclesiastical authority for the assertion
that in the Spanish Peninsula the children sprung from such illicit
connections rivalled in numbers the offspring of the laity. That they
were numerous elsewhere may be presumed when we see Innocent IV.,
in 1248, forced to grant to the province of Livonia the privilege
of having them eligible to holy orders, except when born of parents
involved in monastic vows,[840] for necessity alone could excuse so
flagrant a departure from the canons enunciated during the preceding
two centuries. A similar conclusion is deducible from the fact that
in the municipal code in force throughout Northern Germany during the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they were deemed of sufficient
importance to be entitled to a separate place in the classification of
wer-gilds, or blood-moneys; while the aim of the lawgiver to stigmatize
them is manifested by his placing them below the peasant, deeming them
superior only to the juggler;[841] and that this was not a provision
of transient force is clear from the commentary upon it in a body of
law dating from the end of the fourteenth century.[842] Nor is the
evidence less convincing which may be drawn from the use of the old
German word _pfaffenkind_, or priest’s son, which became generally used
as equivalent to bastard.[843] It would not, indeed, be difficult to
understand the numbers of this class of the population if ecclesiastics
in general followed the example of Henry III., Bishop of Liége, whose
natural children amounted to no less than sixty-five.[844]

The direct encouragement thus given to illicit connections, by
providing for the children sprung from them, neutralized one of the
principal modes by which the church endeavored to suppress them.
The innumerable canons issued during this period, forbidding and
pronouncing null and void all testamentary provisions in favor of
concubines and descendants, prove not only how much stress was laid
upon this as an efficient means of repression, but also how little
endeavor was made by the guilty parties to conceal their sin. As all
testaments came within the sphere of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, it
would seem that there should have been no difficulty in enforcing
regulations of this kind, yet their constant repetition proves either
that those who were intrusted with their execution were habitually
remiss, or else that the popular feelings were in favor of the
unfortunates, and interfered with the efficacy of the laws.

A single instance, out of many that might be cited, will illustrate
this. In 1225 the Cardinal-legate Conrad held, at Mainz, a national
council of the German empire, of which one of the canons declared
that, in order to abolish the custom of ecclesiastics leaving to
their concubines and children the fruits of their benefices, not only
should such legacies be void, but those guilty of the attempt should
lie unburied, all who endeavored to enforce such testaments should be
anathematized, and the church where it was permitted should lie under
an interdict as long as the wrong was permitted.[845] The terrible
rigor of these provisions shows how deep seated was the evil aimed at;
nor were they uncalled for when we see a will, executed in 1218 by no
less a personage than Gotfrid, Archdeacon of Wurzburg, in which he
leaves legacies to the children whom he confesses to have been born in
sin, and of whom he expects his relatives to take charge.[846] Had any
earnest attempt been made to enforce the canons of the Legate, they
would have been amply sufficient to eradicate the evil; yet their utter
inefficiency is demonstrated by the council of Fritzlar in 1246, and
that of Cologne in 1260. The former of these was held by the Archbishop
of Mainz; it has no canons directed against concubinage, which was as
public as ever, but it deplores the dilapidation of the temporalities
of the church by the testamentary provisions of priests in favor of
their guilty partners and children, and it repeats, with additional
emphasis, the regulations of 1225.[847] The latter renews the complaint
that priests not only continue their evil courses throughout life,
but are not ashamed, on their death-beds, to leave to their children
the patrimony of Christ; and another provision is equally significant
in forbidding priests to be present at the marriages of their
children, or that such marriages should be solemnized with pomp and
ostentation.[848] The following year another council, held at Mainz,
repeated the prohibition as to the diversion of church property to the
consorts and natural children of priests;[849] while that regarding the
solemnization of their children’s marriages was renewed by the synod of
Olmutz in 1342.[850] In 1416 the synod of Breslau deplored that the old
canons were forgotten and despised, and that priests were not ashamed
to bequeath to their bastards accumulations of property which would
form fit portions for lofty nobles.[851] How thoroughly in fact it was
deemed a matter of course for the children of ecclesiastics to marry
well and to have good dowries, is to be seen in Chaucer’s description
of the wife of “deinous Simekin”, the proud miller of Trompington:——

    “A wif he hadde, comen of noble kin;
    The person of the toun hire father was.
    With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
    For that Simkin shuld in his blood allie.
    She was yfostered in a nonnerie.” (The Reves Tale.)

As time wore on, and the clergy, despite the innumerable admonitions
and threats which were everywhere showered upon them, persisted in
retaining their female companions, they appear, in some places, to
have gradually assumed the privilege as a matter of right; and, what
is even more remarkable, they seem to have had a certain measure of
success in the assumption. In 1284 the Papal Legate, Gerard Bishop
of Sabina, at the Council of Amalfi, renewed and strengthened the
decretals of Alexander III. respecting the concubinary priests of the
Neapolitan provinces, ordering the ejection of all who should not
separate from their partners within a month, suspending all prelates
who should neglect to enforce the rule, and fining heavily those who,
as in so many other places, made the frailties of their subordinates
a source of filthy gain.[852] The severity of these provisions was as
unsuccessful as usual, and at length the secular power endeavored to
come to the assistance of the ecclesiastical authorities. The pious
Charles the Lame of Naples, whose close alliance with Rome rendered
him eager in everything that would gratify the head of the church,
about the year 1300 imposed a heavy fine on the concubines of priests
if they persisted in their sin for a year after excommunication. This
law, like so many similar ones, soon fell into desuetude, but in 1317,
under his son Robert the Good, the justiciary of the Principato Citra
undertook to put it into execution. In the diocese of Marsico the
clergy openly resisted these proceedings, boldly laid their complaints
before the king, and were so energetic that Robert was obliged to issue
an ordinance directing the discontinuance of all processes before the
lay tribunals, and granting that the concubines should be left to the
care of the ecclesiastical courts alone. These women thus, by reason of
their sinful courses, came to be invested with a quasi-ecclesiastical
character, and to enjoy the dearly prized immunities attached to that
position, at a time when the church was vigorously striving to uphold
and extend the privileges which the civil lawyers were systematically
laboring to undermine. Nor was the pretension thus advanced suffered to
lapse. Towards the close of the same century, Carlo Malatesta of Rimini
applied to Ancarono, a celebrated doctor of canon and civil law (“juris
canonici speculum et civilis anchora”), to know whether he could
impose penalties on the concubines of priests, and the learned jurist
replied decidedly in the negative; while other legal authorities have
not hesitated to state that such women are fully entitled to immunity
from secular jurisdiction, as belonging to the families of clerks—_de
familia clericorum_.[853] When a premium was thus offered for sin,
and the mistresses of priests—like the _maîtresses-en-titre_ of the
Bourbons—acquired a certain honorable position among their fellows from
the mere fact of their ministering to the unhallowed lusts of their
pastors, it is not to be wondered at if such connections multiplied
and flourished, and if the humble laity came to regard them as an
established institution.

Robert of Naples was not the only potentate who found an organized
resistance to his well-meant endeavors to restore discipline. When, in
1410, the stout William, Bishop-elect of Paderborn, had triumphed with
fire and sword over his powerful foes, the Archbishop of Cologne and
the Count of Cleves, he turned his energies to the reformation of the
dissolute morals of his monks. They positively refused to submit to the
ejection of their women from the monasteries, and he at length found
the task too impracticable even for his warlike temper. For seven long
years the quarrel lasted, legal proceedings being varied by attempts
at poison on the one side, and reckless devastations by the episcopal
troops on the other, until the prelate, worn out by the stubbornness of
his flock, was obliged to give way.[854]

Equal success waited on the resistance of the Swiss clergy when, in
1230, the civil authorities of Zurich sacrilegiously ordered them to
dismiss their women. They resolutely replied that they were flesh
and blood, unequal to the task of living like angels, and unable to
attend to the kitchen and other household duties. The townsmen entered
into a league against them, and succeeded in driving away some of the
sacerdotal consorts, when the Bishop of Constance and his chapter,
allowing perhaps the pride of the churchman to get the better of
ascetic zeal, interfered with a threat of excommunication on all who
should presume to intervene in a matter which related specially to the
church. He absolved the leaguers from the oaths with which they were
mutually bound, and thus restored security to the priestly households.
About the same time Gregory IX. appointed a certain Boniface to the
see of Lausanne. On his installation, the new bishop commenced with
ardor to enforce the canons, but the clergy conspired against his life,
and were so nearly successful that he incontinently fled, and never
ventured to return.[855]

If the irregular though permanent connections which everywhere
prevailed had been the only result of the prohibition of marriage,
there might perhaps have been little practical evil flowing from it,
except to the church itself and to its guilty members. When the desires
of man, however, are once tempted to seek through unlawful means the
relief denied to them by artificial rules, it is not easy to set bounds
to the unbridled passions which, irritated by the fruitless effort at
repression, are no longer restrained by a law which has been broken or
a conscience which has lost its power. The records of the Middle Ages
are accordingly full of the evidences that indiscriminate license of
the worst kind prevailed throughout every rank of the hierarchy.

Even supposing that this fearful immorality were not attributable to
the immutable laws of nature revenging themselves for their attempted
violation, it could readily be explained by the example set by the
central head. Scarcely had the efforts of Nicholas and Gregory put an
end to sacerdotal marriage in Rome when the morals of the Roman clergy
became a disgrace to Christendom. How little the results of the reform
corresponded with the hopes of the zealous puritans who had brought it
about may be gathered from the martyrdom of a certain Arnolfo, who,
under the pontificate of Honorius II., preached vehemently against the
scandals and immorality of the ecclesiastics of the apostolic city.
They succeeded in making away with him, notwithstanding the protection
of Honorius, and the veneration of the nobles and people who regarded
him as a prophet.[856] When such was the condition of clerical virtue,
we can scarcely wonder that sufficient suffrages were given in 1130 by
the sacred college to Cardinal Pier-Leone to afford him a plausible
claim to the papacy, although he was notoriously stained with the
foulest crimes. Apparently his children by his sister Tropea, and his
carrying about with him a concubine when travelling in the capacity of
papal legate, had not proved a bar to his elevation in the church, nor
to his employment in the most conspicuous and important affairs.[857]
A severer satire on the standard of ecclesiastical morality could
scarcely be imagined than the inculcation by such a man, in his
capacity as pope, of the canons requiring the separation of priests
from their wives, on the plea of the spotless purity required for the
service of the altar.[858]

What were the influences of the papal court in the next century may be
gathered from the speech which Cardinal Hugo made to the Lyonese, on
the occasion of the departure of Innocent IV. in 1251 from their city,
after a residence of eight years—“Friends, since our arrival here,
we have done much for your city. When we came, we found here three
or four brothels. We leave behind us but one. We must own, however,
that it extends without interruption from the eastern to the western
gate”—the crude cynicism of which greatly disconcerted the Lyonese
ladies present.[859] Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, therefore
only reflected the popular conviction when, on his deathbed in 1253,
inveighing against the corruption of the papal court, he applied to it
the lines—

    Ejus avaritiæ totus non sufficit orbis,
    Ejus luxuriæ meretrix non sufficit omnis.[860]

A hundred years later saw the popes again in France. For forty years
they had bestowed on Avignon all the benefits, moral and spiritual,
arising from the presence of the Vicegerent of Christ, when Petrarch
recorded, for the benefit of friends whom he feared to compromise by
naming, the impressions produced by his long residence there in the
household of a leading dignitary of the church. Language seems too weak
to express his abhorrence of that third Babylon, that Hell upon Earth,
which could furnish no Noah, no Deucalion to survive the deluge that
alone could cleanse its filth—and yet he intimates that fear compels
him to restrain the full expression of his feelings. Chastity was a
reproach and licentiousness a virtue. The aged prelates surpassed their
younger brethren in wickedness as in years, apparently considering
that age conferred upon them the license to do that from which even
youthful libertines shrank; while the vilest crimes were the pastimes
of pontifical ease.[861] Juvenal and Brantôme can suggest nothing
more shameless or more foul. Nor was the tone of morality heightened
when, fifty years later, Nicholas de Clemanges takes up the tale.
His brief reference to the adulteries and vileness with which the
cardinals befouled the papal court, and the obscenities in which their
families imitated their example, shows that the matter was so generally
understood that it needed no details.[862]

The Great Schism perhaps could scarcely be expected to improve the
morals of the papal court. Yet when the church universal, to close
that weary quarrel, agreed to receive one of the competitors as its
head, surely it might have selected, as the visible representative of
God upon earth, some more worthy embodiment of humanity than Balthazar
Cossa, who, as John XXIII., is alone, of the three competitors,
recognized in the list of popes. When the great council of Constance in
1415 adopted the awful expedient of trying, condemning, and deposing a
pope, the catalogue of crimes—notorious incest, adultery, defilement,
homicide, and atheism—of which the fathers formally accused him, and
which he confessed without defending himself,[863] is fearfully
suggestive of the corruption which could not only spawn such a monster,
but could elevate him to the highest place in the hierarchy, and
present him for the veneration of Christendom. It affords a curious
insight into the notions of morality prevalent in the Papal court to
observe that when he had as chamberlain of Boniface IX., scandalized
Rome by openly keeping his brother’s wife as a concubine, the remedy
adopted for the disorder was to create him Cardinal and send him as
legate to Bologna, while the lady was conveyed to her husband in
Naples. The result of this course of procedure was that during his sway
at Bologna two hundred maids, matrons, and widows, including a few
nuns, fell victims to his brutal lust.[864] So obtuse, in fact, were
the sensibilities of the age, that after his release from the prison to
which he had been consigned by the fathers of Constance, his successor,
Martin V. consoled him in his degradation by creating him Dean of the
Sacred College.

If the Councils of Constance and of Bâle worked some apparent reform
in the outward morality of the papacy, their effect soon passed away.
The latter half of the fifteenth century scarcely saw a supreme
pontiff without the visible evidences of human frailty around him, the
unblushing acknowledgment of which is the fittest commentary on the
tone of clerical morality. Sixtus IV. was believed to embody the utmost
possible concentration of human wickedness,[865] until Borgia came to
divide with him the preëminence of evil. The success of Innocent VIII.
in increasing the population of Rome was a favorite topic with the wits
of the day;[866] but the epitaph which declared that filth, gluttony,
avarice, and sloth lay buried in his tomb[867] did not anticipate the
immediate resurrection of the worst of those vices in the person of his
successor Alexander VI. If the crimes of Borgia were foul, their number
and historical importance have rendered them so well known that I may
be spared more than a passing allusion to a career which has made his
name synonymous with all that can degrade man to a level at once with
the demon and the brute.[868]

Such men as Alexander can hardly be deemed exceptional, save inasmuch
as brilliant talents and native force of character might enable them
to excel their contemporaries in guilt as in ambition. They were the
natural product of a system which for four centuries had bent the
unremitting energies of the church to securing temporal power and
wealth, with exemption from the duties and liabilities of the citizen.
Such were the fruits of the successful theocracy of Hildebrand, which,
intrusting irresponsible authority to fallible humanity, came to regard
ecclesiastical aggrandizement as a full atonement for all and every
crime. That the infection had spread even to the ultimate fibres of
the establishment can readily be believed, for the supremacy of the
Papal authority gave it the power of controlling the character of every
parish in Christendom. We shall see hereafter, as we have already seen,
how that power was habitually abused, and how the nullification of the
canons was a recognized source of income to the successor of St. Peter
and his needy officials. The evil was one that had long been recognized
and complained of since Hincmar of Rheims so emphatically denounced
it. St. Bernard declared that Rome was the acknowledged refuge of all
ambitious and licentious men who desired either promotion or to retain
the preferment which they had forfeited.[869] In the fiery zeal with
which he warns his protégé, Eugenius III., not to be deceived by such
suitors, he shows us how useless were local efforts at reformation
when they could be so readily set aside and rendered nugatory by the
venal influences at work in the Apostolic court. But the abuse was
too profitable to be suppressed, and it continued until after the
Reformation had shown the necessity of some decent reticence in the
exercise of powers no longer regarded as wholly irresponsible.

       *       *       *       *       *

My object has been to consider the subject of ascetic celibacy as
a portion simply of ecclesiastical history, and yet I cannot well
conclude this section without a hasty glance at its influence on
society at large. That influence, as far as the secular clergy were
its instruments, was evidently one of almost unmixed evil. The parish
priest, if honestly ascetic, was thereby deprived of the wholesome
common bond of human affections and sympathies, and was rendered less
efficient for good in consoling the sorrows and aiding the struggles
of his flock. If, on the other hand, he was a hypocrite, or if he had
found too late that the burden he had assumed was too heavy for his
strength, the denial of the natural institution of marriage was the
source of immeasurable corruption to those intrusted to his charge,
who looked up to him not only as a spiritual director, but as a
superior being who could absolve them from sin, and whose partnership
in guilt was in itself an absolution.[870] That such was the condition
of innumerable parishes throughout Europe, there is unfortunately no
reason to doubt, and all of the severer churchmen of the period, in
attacking the vices of the clergy, give us to understand that either
their example led the laity into evil, or that their immorality
rendered it impossible for them to correct the vices of the flocks. As
Cæsarius of Heisterbach says, “Since the priesthood mostly lead evil
and incontinent lives, they soothe rather than excite the consciences
of the worldly.”[871] The incongruity of this may perhaps explain to
some extent the anomaly of the practical grossness of the Middle Ages,
combined with the theoretical ascetic purity which was held out as the
duty of every Christian who desired to be acceptable to his Creator.

The curious contrasts and confusion of the standard of morality,
arising from this striving against nature, are well illustrated by
a homily of the thirteenth century against marriage, addressed to
youthful nuns, which exhausts all the arguments that the ingenuity
of the writer could suggest. On the one hand he appeals to the pride
which could be so well gratified by the exalted state of virginity;
he pictures the superior bliss vouchsafed in heaven to those who were
stained by no earthly contamination, confidently promising them a
higher rank and more direct communing with the Father than would be
bestowed on the married and the widowed; he rapturously dwells upon
the inward peace, the holy ecstasy which are the portion of those who,
wedded to Christ, keep pure their mystic marriage vow; and his ascetic
fervor exhausts itself in depicting the spiritual delights of a life of
religious seclusion. Mingled inextricably with these exalted visions of
beatific mysticism, he presents in startling contrasts the retribution
awaiting the sin of licentiousness and the evils inseparable from
a life of domestic marriage. With a crude nastiness that is almost
inconceivable, he minutely describes all the discomforts and suffering,
physical and mental, attendant upon wifehood and maternity, entering
into every detail and gloating over every revolting circumstance that
his prurient imagination can suggest. The license of Shakespeare, the
plain speaking of Chaucer, Boccaccio, and the mediæval trouvères show
us what our ancestors were, and what they were is easily explained when
such a medley of mysticism and grossness could be poured into the pure
ears of innocent young girls by their spiritual director.[872]

Thus, with the fearful immorality of which we have seen such ample
evidence, the church still presented the same exaggerated asceticism
as her guiding principle. The rhapsodies of St. John Chrysostom and
St. Aldhelm were rivalled in an age when the priest was forbidden to
live in the same house as his mother, because experience had shown the
danger of such propinquity. How the estimate placed on purity increased
as virtue diminished is fairly illustrated in a characteristic legend
which was very popular with ecclesiastical teachers in the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries. It relates how a pagan entering a heathen
temple saw Satan seated in state on a throne. One of the princes of
Hell entered, worshipped his master, and proceeded to give an account
of his work. For thirty days he had been engaged in provoking a war,
wherein many battles had been fought with heavy slaughter. Satan
sharply reproached him with accomplishing so little in the time, and
ordered him to be severely punished. Another then approached the throne
and reported that he had devoted twenty days to raising tempests at
sea, whereby navies had been wrecked and multitudes drowned. He was
likewise reproved and punished for wasting his time. A third had for
ten days been engaged in troubling the wedding festivity of a city,
causing strife and murder, and he was similarly treated. A fourth then
entered and recounted how for forty years he had been occupied in
tempting a hermit to yield to fleshly desire, and how he had that night
succeeded. Then Satan arose and placed his crown on the head of the
new-comer, seating him on the throne as one who had worthily achieved
a signal triumph. The spectator, thus seeing the high estimate placed
by the Evil One on ascetic chastity, was immediately converted, and
forthwith became a monk.[873]

While thus attaching so fanciful a holiness to virginity, the church
came practically to erect a most singular standard of morality, the
influence of which could but be most deplorable on the mass of the
laity. In the earlier days of celibacy, the rule was regarded by
the severer ecclesiastics as simply an expression of the necessity
of purity in the minister of God. Theophilus of Alexandria, in the
fifth century, decided that a man, who as lector had been punished
for unchastity and had subsequently risen to the priesthood, must be
expelled on account of his previous sin.[874] We have seen, however,
how, when celibacy was revived under Damiani and Hildebrand, the
question of immorality virtually disappeared, and the essential point
became, not that a priest should be chaste, but that he should be
unmarried, and this was finally adopted as the recognized law of the
church. In 1213 the Archbishop of Lunden enquired of Innocent III.
whether a man who had had two concubines was ineligible to orders as
a _digamus_, and the pontiff could only reply that no matter how many
concubines a man might have, either at one time or in succession, he
did not incur the disability of digamy.[875] When such was the result
of seven centuries of assiduous sacerdotalism in a church which was
daily growing in authority; when the people thus saw that sexual
excesses were no bar to ecclesiastical preferment in that church which
made extravagant pretensions to purity; when the strict rules which
forbade ordination to a layman who had married a widow, were relaxed
in favor of those who were stained with notorious impurity, it is no
wonder that the popular perceptions of morality became blunted, and
that the laity did not deny themselves the indulgences which they saw
tacitly allowed to their spiritual guides.

Nor was it only in stimulating this general laxity of principle that
the influence of the church was disastrous. The personal evil wrought
by a dissolute priesthood was a wide-spreading contagion. The abuse
of the awful authority given by the altar and the confessional,
was a subject of sorrowful and indignant denunciation in too many
synods for a reasonable doubt to be entertained of its frequency or
of the corruption which it spread through innumerable parishes and
nunneries.[876] The almost entire practical immunity with which these
and similar scandals were perpetrated led to an undisguised and cynical
profligacy which the severer churchmen acknowledged to exercise a
most deleterious influence on the morals of the laity, who thus saw
the examplars of evil in those who should have been their patterns of
virtue.[877] In his bull of 1259, Alexander IV. does not hesitate to
declare that the people, instead of being reformed, are absolutely
corrupted by their pastors.[878] Thomas of Cantinpré, one of the early
lights of the Dominican order, indeed, is authority for the legend
which represents the devil as thanking the prelates of the church for
conducting all Christendom to hell;[879] and the conviction which thus
expressed itself is justified by the reproach of Gregory X., who, in
dismissing the second council of Lyons, in 1274, told his assembled
dignitaries that they were the ruin of the world.[880] Unfortunately,
his threat to reform them if they did not reform themselves, remained
unexecuted, and the complaint was repeated again and again.[881]

That this state of things was clearly understood by the laity is only
too visibly reflected in contemporary records. When, in 1374, the
dancing mania, one of those strange epidemics which afflicted the
Middle Ages, broke out through Germany and Flanders, the populace
called to mind the forgotten regulations of Damiani and Hildebrand,
and found a ready explanation of the visitation by assuming it to be
a consequence of the vitiated baptism of the people by a concubinary
priesthood.[882] Chaucer, with his wide range of observation and shrewd
native sense, took a less superstitious, and more practical view of the
evil, and in the admirable sermon which forms his “Persone’s Tale” he
records the convictions which every pure-minded man must have felt with
regard to the demoralizing tendencies of the sacerdotal licentiousness
of the time.[883]

How instinctively, indeed, the popular mind assumed the immorality of
the pastor is illustrated by a passage in the earliest French pastoral
that has reached us, dating from the latter half of the thirteenth

    WARNIERS. Segneur je sui trop courechiés.

    GUIOS. Comment?

    WARNIERS. Mehalès est agute,
           M’amie, et s’a esté dechute;
           Car on dist que ch’est de no prestre.

    ROGAUS. En non Dieu! Warnier, bien puet estre;
        Car ele i aloit trop souvent.

    WARNIERS. Hé, las! jou avoie en couvent
        De li temprement espouser.

    GUIOS. Tu te puès bien trop dolouser,
        Biaus très dous amis; ne te caille,
        Car ja ne meteras maaille,
        Que bien sai, à l’enfant warder.[884]

Those who were heretically disposed were keen to take advantage of a
weakness so general and so universally understood. The author of the
“Creed of Piers Ploughman” does not hesitate to assert with Gregory X.
that the clergy were the corruption of the world—

    For falshed of freres
    Hath fullich encombred
    Manye of this maner men,
    And made hem to leven
    Her charité and chastité,
    And shosen hem to lustes,
    And waxen to werly,
    And wayven the trewethe,
    And leven the love of her God.[885]

The widely received feeling on this subject, perhaps, finds its fittest
expression in a satire on the mendicant friars, written by a Franciscan
novice who became disgusted with the order and turned Wickliffite.
The exaggerated purity and mortification of the early followers of
the blessed St. Francis had long since yielded to the temptations
which attended on the magnificent success of the institution, and the
asceticism which had been powerful enough to cause visions of the holy
Stigmata degenerated into sloth and crime which took advantage of
the opportunities afforded by the privilege to hear confessions. The
grosser accusations of the writer are, perhaps, unfit for quotation,
but the spirit in which the Franciscan friars were regarded is
sufficiently indicated by the following lines:

    For when the gode man is fro hame
    And the frere comes to oure dame,
    He spares, nauther for synne ne shame,
      That he ne dos his will.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Ich man that here shal lede his life
    That has a faire doghter or a wyfe
    Be war that no frer ham shryfe
        Nauther loude ne still.[886]

When such was the moral condition of the priesthood, and such were
the influences which it cast upon the flocks intrusted to its
guidance, it is not to be wondered at if those who deplored so
disgraceful a state of things, and whose respect for the canons
precluded them from recommending the natural and appropriate remedy
of marriage, should regard an organized system of concubinage as a
safeguard. However deplorable such an alternative might be in itself,
it was surely preferable to the mischief which the unquenched and
ungoverned passions of a pastor might inflict upon his parish; and
the instances of this were too numerous and too glaring to admit of
much hesitation in electing between the two evils. Even Gerson, the
leader of mystic ascetics, who recorded his unbounded admiration for
the purity of celibacy in his “Dialogus Naturæ et Sophiæ de Castitate
Clericorum,”[887] saw and appreciated its practical evils, and had no
scruple in recommending concubinage as a preventive, which, though
scandalous in itself, might serve to prevent greater scandals.[888]
It therefore requires no great stretch of credulity to believe the
assertion of Sleidan that in some of the Swiss Cantons, it was the
custom to oblige a new pastor, on entering upon his functions, to
select a concubine, as a necessary protection to the virtue of his
female parishioners, and to the peace of the families intrusted to
his spiritual direction.[889] Indeed, we have already seen, on the
authority of the council of Palencia in 1322, that such a practice was
not uncommon in Spain.

In thus reviewing the influences which a nominally celibate clergy
exercised over those intrusted to their care, it is perhaps scarcely
too much to conclude that they were mainly responsible for the laxity
of morals which is a characteristic of mediæval society. No one who
has attentively examined the records left to us of that society, can
call in question the extreme prevalence of the licentiousness which
everywhere infected it. Christianity had arisen as the great reformer
of a world utterly corrupt. How earnestly its reform was directed to
correcting sexual immorality is visible in the persistence with which
the Apostles condemned and forbade a sin that the Gentiles scarcely
regarded as a sin. The early church was consequently pure, and its
very asceticism is a measure of the energy of its protest against the
all-pervading license which surrounded it. Its teachings, as we have
seen, remained unchanged. Fornication continued to be a mortal sin,
yet the period of its unquestioned domination over the conscience of
Europe was the very period in which license among the Teutonic races
was most unchecked. A church which, though founded on the Gospel,
and wielding the illimitable power of the Roman hierarchy, could
yet allow the feudal principle to extend to the “jus primæ noctis”
or “droit de marquette,” and whose ministers in their character of
temporal seigneurs could even occasionally claim the disgusting right
themselves[890] was evidently exercising its influence not for good but
for evil.

There is no injustice in holding the church responsible for the
lax morality of the laity. It had assumed the right to regulate
the consciences of men and to make them account for every action
and even for every thought. When it promptly caused the burning of
those who ventured on any dissidence in doctrinal opinion or in
matters of pure speculation, it could not plead lack of authority to
control them in practical virtue. Its machinery was all-pervading,
and its power autocratic. It had taught that the priest was to be
venerated as the representative of God and that his commands were to
be implicitly obeyed. It had armed him with the fearful weapon of
the confessional, and by authorizing him to grant absolution and to
pronounce excommunication, it had delegated to him the keys of heaven
and hell. By removing him from the jurisdiction of the secular courts
it had proclaimed him as superior to all temporal authority. Through
ages of faith the populations had humbly received these teachings and
bowed to these assumptions, until they entered into the texture of the
daily life of every man. While thus grasping supremacy and using it to
the utmost possibility of worldly advantage, the church therefore could
not absolve itself from the responsibilities inseparably connected
with power, and chief among these responsibilities is to be numbered
the moral training of the nations thus subjected to its will. While
the corruption of the teachers thus had necessarily entailed the
corruption of the taught, it is not too much to say that the tireless
energy devoted to the acquisition and maintenance of power, privileges,
and wealth, if properly directed, under all the advantages of the
situation, would have sufficed to render mediæval society the purest
that the world has ever seen.

That the contrary was notoriously the case resulted naturally from
the fact that the church, after the long struggle which finally left
it supreme over Europe, contented itself with the worldly advantages
derivable from the wealth and authority which surpassed its wildest
dreams. If, then, it could secure a verbal submission to its doctrines
of purity, it was willing to issue countless commands of chastity
and to tacitly connive at their perpetual infraction. The taint of
corruption infected equally its own ministers and the peoples committed
to their charge, and the sacerdotal theory gradually came to regard
with more and more indifference obedience to the Gospel in comparison
with obedience to man and subservience to the temporal interests of
the hierarchy. As absolution and indulgence grew to be a marketable
commodity, it even became the interest of the traders in salvation to
have a brisk demand for their wares. When infraction of the Divine
precepts could be redeemed with a few pence or with the performance of
ceremonies that had lost their significance, it is not surprising if
priest and people at length were led to look upon the violation of the
Decalogue with the eye of the merchant and customer rather than with
the spirit of the great Lawgiver.[891]

The first impulse in the reaction of the sixteenth century was to recur
to the Gospel and to interpret its commands in accordance with the
immutable principles of human conscience rather than with the cunningly
devised subtleties of scholastic theology. The reformers thus stood
face to face with God, and, needing no intermediary to negotiate with
Him, vice and sin reappeared to them in all their hideous deformity and
attended with all their inevitable consequences.[892] For the first
time since primitive Christianity was absorbed in sacerdotalism, were
the doctrines of morality enforced as the primal laws of man’s being
and of human society, and the world was made to see, by the energetic
action of Puritan sects, that virtue was possible as the rule of life
in large communities. We may smile at the eccentricities of Puritanism,
but the rescue of modern civilization from the long heritage of ancient
vice, and the decency which characterizes modern society, may fairly be
attributed to the force of that fierce reaction against the splendid
corruptions of the mediæval church.

       *       *       *       *       *

In considering, however, the influence of the regular clergy, or
monastic orders, we find a more complex array of motives and results.
The earlier foundations of the West, as we have seen, to a great
extent neutralized the inherent selfishness of monachism by the
regulations which prescribed a due proportion of labor to be mingled
with prayer. The duty which man owes to the world was to some extent
recognized as not incompatible with the duty which he owed to his
God, and civilization has had few more efficient instruments than the
self-denying work of the earnest men who, from Columba to Adalbert,
sowed the seeds of Christianity and culture among the frontier
lands of Christendom. When discipline such as these men inculcated
could be enforced, the benefits of monachism far outweighed its
evils. All the peaceful arts, from agriculture to music, owed to the
Benedictines their preservation or their advancement, and it would be
difficult to estimate exactly the influence for good which resulted
from institutions to which the thoughtful and studious could safely
retire from a turbulent and barbarous world. These institutions,
however, from their own inherent defects, carried in them the germs
of corruption. The claims to supereminent sanctity, which secured for
them the privileges of asylums, were inevitably used as means for the
accumulation of wealth wrung from the fears or superstition of the
sinner. With wealth came the abandonment of labor; and idleness and
luxury were the prolific parents of license. True-hearted men were
not wanting to combat the irrepressible evil. From Chrodegang to St.
Vincent de Paul, the history of monachism is full of illustrious names
of those who devoted themselves to the mission of reforming abuses and
restoring the ideal of the perfect monk, dead to the seductions of the
world, and living only to do the work which he deems most acceptable to
God. Many of these mistakenly assumed that exaggerated mortification
was the only gateway to salvation, and the only cure for the frightful
immorality which pervaded so many monastic establishments. Others,
with a truer insight into the living principles of Christianity, sought
to turn the enthusiasm of their disciples to account in works of
perennial mercy and charity, at a period when no other organizations
existed for the succor of the helpless and miserable.

Yet when we reflect how large a proportion of the wealth and intellect
of Europe was absorbed in the religious houses, it will be seen that
the system was a most cumbrous and imperfect one, which gave but a
slender return for the magnitude of the means which it involved. Still,
it was the only system existing, and possibly the only one which could
exist in so rude a structure of society, individualized to a degree
which destroyed all sense of public responsibility, and precluded all
idea of a state created for the well-being of its component parts.
Thus, the monastery became the shelter of the wayfarer, and the
dispenser of alms to the needy. It was the principal school of the
poor and humble; and while the Universities of Oxford and Paris were
devoting their energies to unprofitable dialectics and the subtle
disputations of Aristotelian logic, in multitudes of abbey libraries
quiet monks were multiplying priceless manuscripts, and preserving to
after ages the treasures of the past. When fanciful asceticism did not
forbid the healing of the sick, monks labored fearlessly in hospitals
and pest-houses, and distributed among the many the benefactions which
they had wrung from the late repentance of the few. As time wore on,
even the religious teaching of the public passed almost exclusively
into their hands, and to the followers of Dominic and Francis of Assisi
the people owed such insight as they could obtain into the promises of
the gospel. If the enthusiasm which prompted labors so strenuous did
not shrink from lighting the fires of persecution, we must remember
that religious zeal, accompanied by irresponsible power, has one
invariable history.

While thus, in various ways, the ascetic spirit led to institutions
which promoted the progress of civilization, in others it necessarily
had a directly opposite tendency. Nothing contributes more strongly
to the extension of knowledge and of culture than the striving for
material comfort and individual advancement in worldly well-being.
Luxury and ambition thus have their uses in stimulating the inquiring
and inventive faculties of man, in rendering the forces of nature
subservient to our use, and in softening the rugged asperities which
are incompatible with the regular administration of law. Every
instinct of human nature has its destined purpose in life, and the
perfect man is to be found in the proportionate cultivation of each
element of his character, not in the exaggerated development of those
faculties which are deemed primarily good, nor in the entire repression
of those which are evil only when their prominence destroys the balance
of the whole. The ascetic selected for eradication one group of human
aspirations, which was the most useful under proper discipline, and
not perhaps the worst even in its ordinary excess. Only those who have
studied the varied aspects of mediæval society can rightly estimate the
enormous influence which the church possessed, in those ages of faith,
to mould the average habits of thought in any desired direction. It
can readily be seen that if the tireless preaching of the vanity of
human things and the beatitude of mortification occasionally produced
such extravagances as those of the flagellants, the spirit which now
and then burst forth in such eruption must have been an element of no
little power in the forces which governed society at large, and must
have exercised a most depressing influence in restraining the general
advance of civilization. Not only did it thus more or less weigh down
the efforts of almost every man, but the ardent minds that would
otherwise have been leaders in the race of progress were the ones most
likely, under the pervading spirit of the age, to be the foremost in
maceration and self-denial; while those who would not yield to the
seduction were either silenced or wasted their wisdom on a generation
which believed too much to believe in them. When idleness was holy,
earnest workers had little chance.

The effect of monastic asceticism in moulding the character may be seen
in the admiring picture drawn by a disciple in the fifteenth century
of a shining light of the Carthusian order in the monastery of Vallis
Dei, near Seez in Normandy. He had every virtue, he was an earnest
reader and transcriber of MSS., and he practised mortifications even
greater than those prescribed by the severe rules of the order. He
rarely slept on the couch provided for each brother, but passed his
nights in prayer on the steps of the altar. In the hair shirt worn
next his skin he cultivated lice and maggots so assiduously that they
were often seen crawling over his face, and he scourged himself for
every unhallowed wandering thought. He had preserved his virginity
to old age, and his life had been passed in the church, yet in his
daily confessions he accused himself of every sin possible to man, and
he rigorously performed whatever penance was assigned to him. With
all this maceration, the flesh would still assert itself, and he was
tormented with evil desires which the sharp cords of the discipline
failed to subdue. His office of procureur of the abbey required him to
make frequent visits on business to the neighboring town, and he never
left the gates of his retreat without lamenting and expressing the
fear that he should not return to it the same as he left it.[893] If
we consider what might have been effected by the energies of thousands
of men such as this, had those energies not been absorbed in lifelong
asceticism, we may conceive in some measure the retardation of human
progress wrought by the influence of monachism.

Another result which may fairly be attributed to the ascetic teachings
of the church is the slow growth of population during the mediæval
period. Notwithstanding the gross and flagrant disregard of the rule,
it was impossible to immure in convents men and women by the hundred
thousand during successive generations without retarding greatly
the rate of increase of the species. The rudeness of the arts and
sciences, war, pestilence and famine were doubtless efficient causes,
yet were they less efficient than enforced celibacy. This is evident
when we see the rapid rate of growth established on the abrogation
or even relaxation of the rule. The suppression of the monastic
orders in France followed soon after the reforms by which Joseph II.
discouraged them throughout the Austrian empire, and the result is
visible in the enormous increase of European population which followed,
notwithstanding the fearful destruction of life in the Napoleonic
wars. It is calculated that in 1788 Europe numbered 144,561,000 souls,
which within fifty years had been augmented to 253,622,000, or about
seventy-five per cent. Of late years the birth-rate has decreased in
consequence of the severity of conscription in the military monarchies,
but the enormous growth in the half-century following the French
Revolution is the best commentary on the influences which for so many
ages kept the population almost stationary.[894]

       *       *       *       *       *

It required the unbelief of the fifteenth century to give free rein
to the rising commercial energies and the craving for material
improvement that paved the way for the overthrow of ascetic
sacerdotalism. The fearful corruptions of the church, which indirectly
caused and accompanied that awakening of the human mind, will be
alluded to hereafter when we come to consider the movements leading to
the great Protestant Reformation. At present we must turn aside for a
moment to consider one or two external developments of the religious
activity of the Middle Ages.



The Military Orders were the natural expression of the singular
admixture of religious and warlike enthusiasm, reacting on each
other, which produced and was fostered by the Crusades. When bishops
considered that they rendered a service acceptable to God in leading
vast hosts to slaughter the Paynim, it was an easy transition for
soldiers to turn monks, and to consecrate their swords to the bloody
work of avenging their Redeemer.

When the Hospitallers—Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes,
or of Malta—first emerged from their humble position of ministering
to the afflictions of their fellow-pilgrims, and commenced to assume
a military organization under Raymond du Puy, about the year 1120,
their statutes required the three ordinary monastic vows of poverty,
obedience, and chastity.[895] In fact, they were at first Benedictines;
but when they became numerous enough to form a separate body, they
adopted the rule of St. Augustin.

When the rule for the Templars—“Regula pauperum commilitonum sanctæ
civitatis”—was adopted in 1128, at the council of Troyes, it contained
no special injunction to administer a vow of celibacy, but the context
shows that such a condition was understood as a matter of course.[896]
Some little difficulty was evidently experienced at first, since, from
the nature of the case, novices had to be trained warriors who must
frequently have been bound by family ties, and whose education had not
been such as to fit them for the restraints of their new life. It is
probable also that the perpetual nature of the obligations assumed was
not easy to be enforced upon the fierce members of the brotherhood,
for, in 1183, Lucius III., in confirming the privileges of the order,
specially commands that no one who enters it shall be allowed to return
to the world.[897]

The history of these two orders is too well known to require it to
be traced minutely here. If, with the growth of their reputation and
wealth, the austere asceticism of their early days was lost, and if
luxury and vice took the place of religious enthusiasm and soldierly
devotion to the Cross, they but obeyed the universal law which in
human institutions is so apt to render corruption the consequence of
prosperity. One conclusion may be drawn, however, from the proceedings
by which the powerful order of the Temple was extinguished at the
commencement of the fourteenth century. Notwithstanding the open and
scandalous licentiousness of the order, it is a little singular that
the interminable articles of accusation against the members contain
no allusion to unchastity, while crimes most fantastic, practices
most beastly, and charges most frivolous are heaped upon them in
strange confusion.[898] As the object of those who conducted the
prosecution was to excite a popular abhorrence that would justify the
purposed spoliation, it is evident that the simple infraction of vows
of chastity was regarded as so venial a fault and so much a matter
of course that its proof could in no way serve the end of rousing
indignation against the accused.

It is somewhat remarkable that the same century which saw the
foundation of the orders of the Hospital and Temple also witnessed one
which, although bound by the rule of St. Augustin, and subjected to the
ordinary vows of obedience, property in common, and inability to return
to the world, yet allowed to its members the option of selecting either
marriage or celibacy, and even of contracting second marriages. This
was the Spanish Order of St. James of the Sword. What we have seen of
the want of respect paid by the Spanish church to asceticism may lessen
surprise at the founding of an order based upon such regulations, yet
it is difficult to understand how so great a violation of established
principles could be sanctioned by Alexander III., who confirmed the
order in 1175,[899] or by Innocent III. and Honorius III., who formally
approved its privileges.[900] Perhaps these military vassals of the
pope, to whom they were bound in implicit obedience as their head, were
too important a source of power and influence to be lightly rejected.
Perhaps, also, Honorius III. may have quieted his conscience when, in
confirming their charters in 1223, he commanded that their principal
care and watchfulness should be devoted to seeing that those who were
married preserved conjugal fidelity, and that those who elected a
single life maintained inviolable chastity.

The example was one of evil import in the Peninsula. The Council
of Valladolid in 1322 felt itself obliged to denounce under severe
penalties the practice of dowering children with the possessions of
the community, in which the military orders followed the precedent set
them by the church.[901] During the universal license of the fifteenth
century, when ascetic vows became a mockery, and the profligacy of
those who took them exposed all such observances to contempt, the
military orders formed no exception to the general shamelessness. In
1429 the council of Tortosa deplored the destruction and waste of
the temporal possessions of the religious knights from the general
concubinage in which they indulged, and to effect a cure it promulgated
regulations of peculiar severity, threatening with a liberal hand
the penalties of excommunication and degradation.[902] These proved
as powerless as usual, and not long after a more sensible remedy was
adopted by Eugenius IV. when he released the ancient and renowned Order
of Calatrava from the obligation of celibacy, for reasons which would
have led him to extend the privilege of marriage to the whole church,
had the purity of ecclesiastics been truly the object of the rule. He
recounts with sorrow the disorderly lives of the knights, and, quoting
the text which says that it is better to marry than to burn, he grants
the privilege of marriage because he deems it preferable to live with
a wife than with a mistress.[903] How could he avoid applying his own
reasoning to the church in general?

Similar arguments were employed to extend the same privilege to the
Orders of Avis and of Jesus Christ, of Portugal. The former was founded
in 1147 by Alfonso I., under the Cistercian rule, and chastity was one
of its fundamental obligations;[904] the latter was the continuation of
the order of the Temple, which, preserved in Portugal by the humanity
of King Dionysius, assumed in the fourteenth century the name of Jesus.
Both institutions became incurably corrupted; their preceptories were
dens of avowed and scandalous prostitution, and their promiscuous
amours filled the kingdom with hate and dissension. When at length,
in 1496, King Emanuel applied to Alexander VI. to grant the privilege
of marriage, in hopes of reforming the orders, it is interesting to
observe how instinctively the minds of men turned to this as the sole
efficient remedy for the immorality which all united in attributing to
the hopeless attempt to enforce a purity impossible in the existing
condition of society. Alexander assented to the request, and bestowed
on the orders the right of marriage on the same conditions as those
enjoined on the Knights of St. James of the Sword.[905] It is true that
Osorius doubts whether the benefits of the change were not exceeded by
its evils, as he states that it lowered the character of the orders,
opened the door to unworthy members, and led to the dissipation of
their property.[906]

There was another Portuguese order of a somewhat different character.
Twenty years after founding the Knights of Avis, Alfonso I., in 1167,
to commemorate his miraculous victory over the Moors at Santarem,
instituted the Order of St. Michael. The knights were allowed to marry
once; if widowed, they were obliged to embrace celibacy; and the Abbot
of Alcobaça, who was the superior of the Order, was empowered to
excommunicate them for irregularity of life, to compel them to give
up their mistresses. They were moreover bound to perform the same
religious exercises as lay brothers of the Cistercians. The Order is
interesting as forming a curious link between the secular, religious,
and military elements of the period.[907]

During all this, the knights of St. John adhered to their ancient
statutes, and endeavored from time to time to reform the profligacy
which seemed inseparable from the institution. When the ascetic Antonio
Fluviano, who held the grand mastership from 1421 to 1437, promulgated
a regulation that any one guilty of public concubinage should receive
three warnings, with severe penalties for contumacy,[908] it suggests
a condition of morals by no means creditable to the brethren. So, a
century later, the stern Villiers de l’Isle-Adam was forced to declare
that any one openly acknowledging an illegitimate child should be
forever after incapacitated for office, benefice, or dignity.[909] What
the knights were soon afterwards, the scandalous pages of Brantôme
sufficiently attest.

The Marian or Teutonic Order, perhaps the most wealthy and powerful
of all, was founded in 1190, and adopted the rule of the Templars as
regards its religious government, with that of the Hospitallers to
regulate its duties of charity and hospitality. For a full century of
its existence it was sorely oppressed with poverty,[910] but at length,
when transferred from the Holy Land to Northeastern Germany, it bore
a prominent part in Christianizing those regions, and what it won by
the sword it retained possession of in its own right. With wealth
came indolence and luxury, and the order became corrupt, as others
had been.[911] Its history offers nothing of special interest to us
until, in 1525, the grand master Albert of Brandenburg went over to
Lutheranism with many of his knights, founded the hereditary dukedom
of Prussia, and married—of which more hereafter. Those of the order
who adhered to Catholicism maintained the organization on the rich
possessions which the piety of ages had bestowed upon them throughout
Germany, until this worn-out relic of the past disappeared in the
convulsions of the Napoleonic wars.



Allusion has already been made to the introduction of Manichæism into
Western Europe through Bulgaria and Lombardy. Notwithstanding its
stern and unrelenting suppression wherever it was discovered during
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, its votaries multiplied in secret.
The disorders of the clergy, their oppression of the people, and their
quarrels with the nobles over their temporal possessions made them many
enemies among the laity; and the simplicity of the Manichæan belief,
its freedom from aspirations for temporal aggrandizement, and its
denunciations of the immorality and grasping avidity of the priesthood,
found for it an appreciative audience and made ready converts. Towards
the close of the twelfth century the South of France was discovered
to be filled with heretics, in whom the names of Cathari, Paterins,
Albigenses, &c., concealed the more odious appellation of Manichæans.

It is not our province to trace out in detail the bloody vicissitudes
of Dominic’s Inquisition and Simon de Montfort’s crusades. It is
sufficient for our purpose to indicate the identity of the Albigensian
belief with that of the ancient sect which we have seen to exercise
so powerful an influence in moulding and encouraging the asceticism
of the early church. The Dualistic principle was fully recognized.
No necessity was regarded as justifying the use of meat, or even of
eggs and cheese, or in fact of anything which had its origin in animal
propagation. Marriage was an abomination and a mortal sin, which could
not be intensified by adultery or other excesses.[912]

Engrafted on these errors were others more practically dangerous,
as they were the inevitable protest against the all-absorbing
sacerdotalism which by this time had become the distinguishing
characteristic of the church. In denying the existence of purgatory,
and the efficacy of prayers for the dead and the invocation of saints,
a mortal blow was aimed against the system to which the church owed
its firmest hold on the souls and purses of the people. In reviving
the Hildebrandine doctrine that the sacraments were not to be
administered by ecclesiastics in a state of sin, and in exaggerating
it into an incompatibility between sin and holding church preferment,
a most dangerous and revolutionary turn was given to the wide-spread
discontent with which the excesses of the clergy were regarded.[913]
So sure a hold, indeed, had such views upon the popular feeling, that
we find them reappear with every heresy, transmitted with regular
filiation through the Waldenses, the Wickliffites, and the Hussites, so
that in every age, from Gregory to the Reformation, the measures with
which he broke down the independence of the local clergy returned to
plague their inventors.

Yet with all this, the heretics to outward appearance long continued
unexceptionably orthodox. Industrious and sober, none were more
devoted to all the observances of the church, none more regular at
mass and confessional, more devout at the altar or more liberal at the
offertory. Hidden beneath this fair seeming, their heresy was only the
more dangerous, as it attracted converts with unexampled rapidity.
Priests gave up their churches to join the society, wives left their
husbands, and husbands abandoned their wives; and when questioned as
to their renunciation of the duties and privileges of marriage, they
all professed to be bound with a vow of chastity. Yet if so ardent a
combatant as St. Bernard is to be believed, their rigorous asceticism
was only a cloak for libertinism. It is possible that the enthusiastic
self-mortification of the sectaries led them to test their resolution
by the dangerous experiments common among the early Christians, and
possibly also with the same deplorable results. St. Bernard at least
argues that constant companionship of the sexes without sin would
require a greater miracle than raising the dead, and as these heretics
could not perform the lesser prodigy, it was reasonable to presume
that they failed of the greater—and his conclusion is not unlikely
to be true.[914] Be this as it may, the virtue of these puritan sects
rendered chastity dangerous to the orthodox, for the celebrated Peter
Cantor relates as a fact within his own knowledge, that honest matrons
who resisted the attempts of priests to seduce them were accused of
Manichæism and condemned as heretics.[915]

The orthodox polemics, in controverting the exaggerated asceticism of
these heretics, had a narrow and a difficult path to tread. Their own
authorities had so exalted the praises of virgin purity, that it was
not easy to meet the arguments of those who merely carried out the same
principle somewhat further, in fearlessly following out the premises to
their logical conclusion.[916] There is extant a curious tract, being
a dialogue between a Catholic and a Paterin, in which the latter of
course has the worst of the disputation, yet he presses his adversary
hard with the texts which were customarily cited by the orthodox
advocates of clerical celibacy—“qui habent uxores sint tanquam non
habentes,” “qui non reliquerit uxorem et filios propter me non est me
dignus,” &c.; and the Catholic can only elude their force by giving to
them metaphorical explanations very different from those which of old
had been assumed in the canons requiring the separation of man and wife
on ordination.[917]

The stubborn resistance of the Albigenses to the enormous odds brought
against them shows the unconquerable vitality of the antisacerdotal
spirit which was then so widely diffused throughout Southern Europe.
In a different shape it had already manifested itself during the first
half of the twelfth century, when Pierre de Bruys infected all the
South of France with the heresy called, after him and his most noted
follower, the Petrobrusian or Henrician. This was an uncompromising
revolt against the whole system of Roman Christianity. It not only
abrogated pædo-baptism, and promulgated heretical notions respecting
the Eucharist, but it abolished the visible symbols and ceremonies
which formed so large a portion of the sacerdotal fabric—churches,
crucifixes, chanting, fasting, gifts and offerings for the dead, and
even the mass. But little is known respecting the Petrobrusians,
except what can be derived from the refutation of their errors by
Peter the Venerable. He says nothing specifically respecting their
views upon ascetic celibacy, but we may assume that this was one of
the doctrinal and practical corruptions which they assailed, from
a passage in which, describing their excesses, he complains of the
public eating of flesh on Passion Sunday, the cruel flagellation of
priests, the imprisonment of monks, and their being forced to marry by
threats and torments. Even after de Bruys was burned alive in 1146, his
disciple, Henry, boldly carried on the contest, and the papal legate,
Cardinal Alberic, sent for St. Bernard to assist him in suppressing
the heretics. The latter, in a letter written in 1147 to the Count of
Toulouse, describes the religious condition of his territories as most
deplorable in consequence of the prevalence of the heresy—the churches
were without congregations, the pastors without flocks, the people
without pastors, the sacraments without reverence, the dying without
consolation, and the new-born without baptism. Even making allowance
for some exaggeration in all this, there can be no doubt that the
heresy received extensive popular support and that it was professed
publicly without disguise. At Alby it was dominant, so that when the
Cardinal-legate went there, the people received him in derision with
asses and drums, and when he preached, scarce thirty persons assembled
to hear him; but two days later St. Bernard so affected them with his
eloquence that they renounced their errors. He was less successful
at Vertfeuil where resided a hundred knights-banneret, who refused
to listen to him, and whom he cursed in consequence, whereof they
all perished miserably. Though St. Bernard was forced to return to
Clairvaux without accomplishing the extirpation of the heresy, Henry
was finally captured, and probably died in prison.[918]

In Britanny, about the same period, there existed an obscure sect
concerning whom little is known, except that they were probably a
branch of the Petrobrusians. Their errors were nearly the same,
and the slender traces left of them show that their doctrine was a
protest against the overwhelming sacerdotalism of the period. The
papal legate, Hugh, Archbishop of Rouen, sought to convert them by
an elaborate denunciation of their tenets, among which he enumerates
promiscuous licentiousness and disregard of clerical celibacy. Daniel,
he gravely assures them, symbolizes virginity; Noah, continence; and
Job, marriage. Then, quoting Ezekiel XIV. 13-20, wherein Jehovah,
threatening the land with destruction, says, “Though these three men,
Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own
souls through their righteousness,” he proceeds triumphantly to the
conclusion that recantation alone can save his adversaries from the
fate which their errors have deserved.[919]

It was probably another branch of the same sect which was discovered
at Liége in 1144, described as brought thither from the south and
pervading all France and the neighboring countries. Its followers
denied the efficacy of baptism, of the Eucharist and of the imposition
of hands; they rejected not only oaths and vows, but marriage itself,
and denied that the Holy Spirit could be gained except through
good works. These heretics, however, had not in them the spirit of
martyrdom, and speedily recanted on being discovered.[920]

Connected probably in some way with these movements of insubordination,
was the career of the singular heresiarch, Éon de l’Étoile. During one
of the epidemics of maceration and fanaticism which form such curious
episodes in mediæval history, Éon, born of a noble Breton family,
abandoned himself to the savage life of a hermit in the wilderness.
Drawn by a vision to attend divine service, his excited mysticism
caught the words which ended the recitation of the collect, “Per _eum_
qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos;” and the resemblance of
“eum” with his own name inspired him with the revelation that he was
the Son of God. Men’s minds were ready for any extravagance, and Éon
soon had disciples who adored him as a deity incarnate. Nothing can be
wilder than the tales which are related of him by eye-witnesses—the
aureole of glory which surrounded him, the countless wealth which
was at the disposal of his followers, the rich but unsubstantial
banquets which were served at his bidding by invisible hands, the
superhuman velocity of his movements when eluding those who were bent
on his capture. Éon declared war upon the churches which monopolized
the wealth of the people while neglecting the duties for which they
had been enriched; and he pillaged them of their treasures, which he
distributed lavishly to the poor. At last the Devil abandoned his
protégé. Éon, when his time had come, was easily taken and carried
before Eugenius III. at the Council of Rouen, in 1148. There he boldly
proclaimed his mission and his power. Exhibiting a forked staff which
he carried, he declared that when he held it with the fork upwards,
God ruled heaven and hell, and he governed the earth; but that when
he reversed its position, then he had at command two-thirds of the
universe, and left only the remaining third to God. He was pronounced
hopelessly insane, but this would not have saved him had not his
captor, the Archbishop of Rheims, represented that his life had been
pledged to him on his surrender. He was therefore, delivered to Suger,
Abbot of St. Denis, to be imprisoned, and he soon afterwards died.
Even this did not shake the faith of his disciples. Many of them,
in their fierce fanaticism, preferred the stake to recantation, and
numbers of them were thus put to death before the heresy could be

       *       *       *       *       *

When, about the middle of the twelfth century, the sudden death of
a companion so impressed Peter Waldo of Lyons that he distributed
his fortune among the poor, and devoted himself to preaching the
supereminent merits of poverty, nothing was farther from his thoughts
than the founding of a new heresy. Ardent disciples gathered around
him, disseminating his views, which spread with rapidity; but
their intention was to establish a society within the church, and
they applied, between 1181 and 1185, to Lucius III. for the papal
authorization. Lucius, however, took exception to their going barefoot,
to their neglect of the tonsure, and to their retaining the society
of women. They were stubborn, and he condemned them as heretics.[922]
The enthusiasm which the church might have turned to so much account,
as it subsequently did that of the Franciscans and Dominicans, was
thus diverted to unorthodox channels, and speedily arrayed itself in
opposition. The character of the revolt is shown in a passage of the
_Nobla Leyczon_, written probably not long after this time, which
declares that all the popes, cardinals, bishops, and abbots together
cannot obtain pardon for a single mortal sin; thus leading directly to
the conclusion that no intercessor could be of avail between God and

  Ma yo aus o dire, car se troba en ver,
  Que tuit li papa que foron de Silvestre entro en aquest,
  Et tuit li cardinal et tuit li vesque e tuit li aba,
  Tuit aquisti ensemp non han tan de potesta,
  Que ilh poissan perdonar un sol pecca mortal.
  Solament Dio perdona, que autre non ho po far.[923]

Still, they did not even yet consider themselves as separated from
the church, for they consented to submit their peculiar doctrines to
the chances of a disputation, presided over by an orthodox priest.
Of course, the decision went against them, and a portion of the
“Poor Men of Lyons” submitted to the result. The remainder, however,
maintained their faith as rigidly as ever. From Bernard de Font-Cauld,
who records this disputation, and from Alain de l’Isle, another
contemporary, who wrote in confutation of their errors, we have a
minute account of their peculiarities of belief. Their principal
heresy was a strict adherence to the Hildebrandine doctrine that
neither reverence nor obedience was due to priests in mortal sin,
whose ministrations to the living and whose prayers for the dead
were equally to be despised. In the existing condition of sacerdotal
morals, this necessarily destroyed all reverence for the church at
large, and Bernard and Alain had no hesitation in proving it to be
most dangerously heterodox. Their recurrence to Scripture, moreover,
as the sole foundation of Christian belief, with the claim of private
interpretation, was necessarily destructive to all the forms of
sacerdotalism, and led them to entertain many other heretical tenets.
They admitted no distinction between clergy and laity. Every member of
the sect, male or female, was a priest, entitled to preach and to hear
confessions. Purgatory was denied, and the power of absolution derided.
Lying and swearing were mortal sins, and homicide was not excusable
under any circumstances.[924] Yet naturally they did not repudiate
the ascetic principles of the church, and they regarded continence as
counselled, though not commanded, by the Christian dispensation—

    La ley velha maudi lo ventre que fruc non a porta,
    Ma la novella conselha gardar vergeneta.[925]

Though marriage is praised and its purity is to be preserved—

    Gardes ferm lo matrimoni, aquel noble convent,[926]

thus showing their disapproval of the Manichæan doctrines of the
Cathari and Paterins.

Independence such as this could only result in open revolt against
sacerdotalism in general, and it shortly came. The Waldensian
exaltation of poverty was grateful to the nobles, who were eager to
grasp the possessions of the church; its condemnation of the pride and
immorality of the clergy secured for its sectaries the goodwill of the
people, who everywhere suffered from the oppression and vices of their
pastors. Under such protection the sect multiplied with incredible
rapidity, not only throughout France, but in Italy and Germany.
Enveloped, with the Albigenses, in merciless persecution, they endured
with fortitude the extremity of martyrdom. The Germans and Italians
sought refuge in the recesses of the Alpine valleys, and in the Marches
of Brandenburg and Bohemia, where they seem to have adopted the custom
of sacerdotal marriage, and where in time they merged with the churches
of the Orthodox Brethren.[927] Some feeble remnants also managed to
maintain an obscure existence in Provence, but their tacit revolt
could not be forgotten or forgiven, and at intervals they were exposed
to pitiless attempts at extermination. These are well known, and the
names of Cabrières and Merindol have acquired a sinister notoriety
which renders further allusion to the Waldenses unnecessary, except to
mention that in 1538 they formally merged themselves with the German
reformers by an agreement of which the 8th and 9th articles declare
that marriage is permissible, without exception of position, to all who
have not received the gift of continence.[928]

       *       *       *       *       *

The antisacerdotal spirit, however, did not develop itself altogether
in opposition to the church. Devout and earnest men there were, who
recognized the evil resulting from the overgrown power and wealth of
the ecclesiastical establishment, without shaking off their reverence
for its doctrine and its visible head, and the authorities at length
saw in these men the effective means of combating the enemy. In thus
availing themselves of one branch of the reformers to destroy the other
and more radical portion, the chiefs of the hierarchy were adopting an
expedient effective for the present, yet fraught with danger for the
future. The Franciscans and Dominicans were useful beyond expectation.
They restored to the church much of the popular veneration which had
become almost hopelessly alienated from it, and their wonderfully
rapid extension throughout Europe shows how universally the people had
felt the want of a religion which should fitly represent the humility,
the poverty, the charity of Christ. Yet when Innocent III. hesitated
long to sanction the mendicant orders, he by no means showed the
want of sagacity which has been so generally asserted by superficial
historians; rather, like Lucius III. with the Waldenses, his far-seeing
eye took in the possible dangers of that fierce ascetic enthusiasm
which might at any moment break the bonds of earthly obedience, when
its exalted convictions should declare that obedience to man was revolt
against God.

Before the century was out, the result was apparent. When St.
Francis erected poverty into an object of adoration, attaching to
it an importance as insane as that attributed to virginity by the
early ascetics, he at once placed himself in opposition to the whole
system of the church establishment, though his exquisite humility
and exhaustless charity might disguise the dangerous tendency of
his doctrines.[929] As his order grew in numbers and wealth with
unexampled rapidity, it necessarily declined from the superhuman
height of self-abnegation of which its founder was the model. Already,
in 1261, the council of Mainz can hardly find words severe enough to
condemn the mendicant friars who wandered around selling indulgences
and squandering their unhallowed gains in the vilest excesses. One of
these lights of the order publicly preached, in the horse-market of
Strassburg, the doctrine that a nun who surrendered her virtue to a
monk was less guilty than if she had an intrigue with a layman.[930]
This falling from grace naturally produced dissatisfaction among
those impracticable spirits who still regarded St. Francis as their
exemplar as well as their patron. The breach gradually widened, until
at length two parties were formed in the order. The ascetics finally
separated themselves from their corrupted brethren, and under the
name of Begghards in Germany, Frèrots in France, and Fraticelli in
Southern Europe, assumed the position of being the only true church.
Their excommunication at the council of Vienne, in 1311, in no wise
disconcerted them. The long-forgotten doctrines of Arnold of Brescia
were revived and intensified. Poverty was an absolute necessity to
true Christianity; the holding of property was a heresy, and the Roman
church was consequently heretic. Rome, indeed, was openly denounced as
the modern Babylon.

While thus carrying out to its necessary consequences the
sanctification of poverty, which was the essence of Franciscanism, they
were equally logical with regard to the doctrines of ascetic purity
which had been so earnestly enforced by the church. Their admiration
of virginity thus trenched closely on Manichæism, and in combating
their errors the church was scarcely able to avoid condemning both
the vow of poverty and that of celibacy, which were the corner-stones
of the monastic theory.[931] Active persecution, of course, aroused
equally active resistance. The Fraticelli espoused the cause of the
Emperor Louis of Bavaria, in his long and disastrous quarrel with John
XXII., whom they did not hesitate to excommunicate. Exterminated after
a prolonged and desperate struggle, their memory was blackened with
the slanders disseminated by a priesthood incapable of emulating their
ascetic virtues; and principal among these slanders was the accusation
which we find repeated on all occasions when an adversary is to be
rendered odious—that of promiscuous and brutal licentiousness. No
authentic facts, however, can be found to substantiate it.[932]

The Fraticelli form a connecting link in the generations of heresy.
Their errors, as taught by one of their most noted leaders, Walter
Lolhard, who was burned at Cologne in 1322, had a tinge of the
Manichæism of the Albigenses, for Satan was to them an object of
compassion and veneration.[933] Their prevalence in Bohemia prepared
the ground for Huss, and left deep traces in the popular mind which
were not eradicated in the eighteenth century; while their proselytes
in England served to swell the party of Wickliffe, and eventually
gave to it their name, though their peculiar doctrines bore little
resemblance to his.[934] Antisacerdotalism, however, was the common
tie, and in this Luther, Zwingli, and Knox were the legitimate
successors of Dolcino and Michael di Cesena.

Another precursor of Wickliffe and Huss was John of Pirna, who in 1341
taught the most revolutionary doctrines. According to him, the pope was
Antichrist and Rome was the whore of Babylon and the church of Satan.
The Silesians listened eagerly to his denunciations of the clergy, and
the citizens of Breslau, with their magistrates, openly embraced his
heresy. When the Inquisitor, John of Schweidnitz, was sent thither
by the Holy Office of Cracow, the people rose in defence of their
leader and put the Inquisitor to death. John of Pirna appears to have
maintained his position, but after his death the church enjoyed the
pious satisfaction of exhuming his body, burning it, and scattering the
ashes to the winds.[935] It was easier to do this than to destroy the
leaven which was working everywhere in men’s minds. No sooner were its
manifestations repressed in one quarter than they displayed themselves
in another.

In the ineradicable corruption of the church, indeed, every effort to
purify it could only lead to a heresy. Except on the delicate point of
Transsubstantiation, Wickliffe proposed no doctrinal innovation, but
he keenly felt and energetically sought to repress the disorders which
had brought the church into disrepute. His scheme swept away bishop,
cardinal, and pope, the priesthood being the culminating point in
his system of ecclesiastical polity. The temporalities which weighed
down the spiritual aspirations of the church were to be abandoned,
and with them the train of abuses by which the worldly ambition of
churchmen was sustained—indulgences, simony, image-worship, the
power of excommunication, and the thousand other arts by which the
authority to bind and to loose had been converted into broad acres
or current coin of the realm. In all this he was to a great extent a
disciple of the Fraticelli, but his more practical mind escaped their
leading error, and he denounced as an intolerable abuse the beggary
of the mendicant friars. Indeed, the monastic orders in general were
the objects of his special aversion, as having no justification in
the precepts of Christ, and his repeated attacks upon them have a
bitterness which shows not only his deep-rooted aversion, but his sense
of their importance as a bulwark of the abuses which he assailed.[936]
He reduced holy orders to two—the priesthood and diaconate—but he
maintained the indelible character of ordination as separating the
recipient from his fellows, and he urged that all ministers of Christ
should live in saintly poverty.[937] All this was unreasonable enough
in a perverse and stiff-necked generation, but his unpardonable
error was his revival of the doctrine of Gregory VII. regarding the
ministrations of unfaithful priests, which he carried out resolutely to
its logical consequences.[938] According to him, a wicked priest could
not perform his sacred functions, and forfeited both his spiritualities
and temporalities, of which laymen were justified in depriving him. Nay
more, priest and bishop were no longer priest or bishop if they lived
in mortal sin, and his definition of mortal sin was such as to render
it scarce possible for any one to escape.[939]

What his opinions were on the subject of clerical celibacy was a
mooted point even shortly after his death. Thomas of Walden, the
confessor of Henry V., in his _Doctrinale Fidei_, written to confute
the errors of Lollardry, declares that he could not persuade himself
that the Wickliffites derived from their leader their opposition to
celibacy until he had recently read in Wickliffe’s Sermon on Midsummer
Eve the passage which says that “prestis ben dowid and wyflees agens
Goddis autorite.... And this is the caste of the fend to kyndle fir
in heerdis” &c.,[940] and Mr. Arnold, the latest editor of Wickliffe,
seems to entertain no doubt as to the authenticity of the text, or of
the views of the reformer as expressed there, and in other passages of
tracts attributed to him.[941] Yet had Wickliffe taught this doctrine
it would have been as widely known as his other errors, it would have
been condemned in the repeated proceedings taken against him and his
teachings, and it would not have been left for Thomas of Walden to
discover it in one of the numerous sermons which passed from hand to
hand as the works of the heresiarch. Wickliffe was too earnest and
sincere in his convictions to leave anyone in doubt as to his belief on
any point that he thought worth discussion.

What his views were on this subject can perhaps best be sought in the
most mature of his works, the Trialogus, the authenticity of which I
believe is indisputable. No one can read the chapters on Sensuality and
Chastity without seeing that the whole line of argument is directed
towards proving the superiority of virginity over marriage, even to
the fanciful etymology of “cœlibatus” from the state of the “beati
in cælo;” while in the chapter on the riches of the clergy, they are
regarded as virgins betrothed to Christ, and the vow of chastity which
they take is likened to their similar vow of poverty, and not to be
infringed.[942] Wickliffe’s austerity, in fact, was deeply tinged
with asceticism, and in aiming to restore the primitive simplicity
of the church, he had no thought of relegating its ministers to the
carnalities of family life, which would render impossible the Apostolic
poverty that was his ideal. Even the laity, in his scheme, were to be
so rendered superior to the lusts of the flesh that he pronounced those
who married from any other motive than that of having offspring to be
not truly married.[943] He evidently had no intention to interfere
with clerical celibacy, and the passages which have been cited to the
contrary may safely be regarded as supposititious. Either the writings
in which they occur have been erroneously ascribed to Wickliffe, or the
passages themselves have been interpolated by too zealous disciples,
eager to procure the authority of the master for the later development
of doctrines that were not his—a pious fraud too common in all ages of
the church to excite surprise.

It is easier to start a movement than to restrain it. Wickliffe might
deny the authority of tradition, and yet preserve his respect for
the tradition of celibacy, but his followers could not observe the
distinction. They could see, if he could not, that the structure of
sacerdotalism, to the overthrow of which he devoted himself, could not
be destroyed without abrogating the rule which separated the priest
from his fellow-men, and which severed all other ties in binding him
to the church. In 1394, only ten years after Wickliffe’s death, the
Lollards, by that time a powerful party, with strong revolutionary
tendencies, presented to Parliament a petition for the thorough
reformation of the church, containing twelve conclusions indicating the
points on which they desired change. Of these, the third denounced the
rule of celibacy as the cause of the worst disorders, and argued the
necessity of its abrogation; while the eleventh attacked the vows of
nuns as even more injurious, and demanded permission for their marriage
with but scanty show of respect.[944] This became the received doctrine
of the sect, for in a declaration made in 1400 by Arundel, Archbishop
of Canterbury, concerning the Lollard heresies, we find enumerated
the belief that those in holy orders could take to themselves wives
without sin, and that monks and nuns were at liberty to abandon their
profession, and marry at pleasure.[945]

The fierce persecutions of Henry V., to repress what he rightly
considered as a formidable source of civil rebellion as well as heresy,
succeeded in depriving the sect of political power; yet its religious
doctrines still continued to exist among the people, and even sometimes
obtained public expression.[946] They unquestionably tended strongly to
shake the popular reverence for Rome, and had no little influence in
paving the way for the revolt of the sixteenth century.

       *       *       *       *       *

John Huss was rather a reformer than a heresiarch. Admirer though
he was of Wickliffe, even to the point of wishing to risk damnation
with him,[947] he avoided the doctrinal errors of the Englishman
on the subject of the Eucharist. Yet his predestinarian views were
unorthodox, and he shared in some degree Wickliffe’s Gregorian ideas
as to the effect of mortal sin in divesting the priesthood of all
claim to sacredness or respect. According to his enemies, he asserted
that no one could be the vicar of Christ or of Peter unless he were an
humble imitator of the virtues of him whom he claimed to represent;
and a pope who was given to avarice was only the representative of
Judas Iscariot.[948] His friend, Jerome of Prague, maintained with
his latest breath that Huss was thoroughly orthodox, and was only
inspired by indignation at seeing the wealth of the church, which was
the patrimony of the poor, lavished on prostitutes, feasting, hunting,
rich apparel, and other unseemly extravagance.[949] In the Bohemian
clergy he had an ample target for his assaults, for they were in no
respect better than their neighbors. During the latter half of the
fourteenth century scarce a synod was held which did not denounce their
vices, gambling, drunkenness, usury, simony, and concubinage; and when
to put an end to the latter irregularity a strict visitation was made
throughout the archiepiscopal diocese of Prague, the cunning rogues
sent away or secreted their partners in guilt, and openly recalled
them as soon as the storm had passed. The following year, Archbishop
Sbinco peremptorily commanded that all concubines should be dismissed
within six days, under pain of perpetual imprisonment, but this was
evidently regarded as a mere _brutum fulmen_, for the next year a new
device was resorted to, by pronouncing all concubinary priests to be
heretics.[950] All this might certainly seem to warrant any effort that
might be made to accomplish what the authorities so signally failed
in doing, but that any individual should assert the right of private
judgment in reforming the church in its head and its members threatened
results too formidable to the whole structure of sacerdotalism, and
the condemnation of Huss was inevitable. Still, like Wickliffe, he was
a devout believer in ascetic purity. His denunciations of the wealth
and disorders of the clergy raised so great an excitement throughout
Bohemia that King Wenceslas was forced to issue a decree depriving
immoral ecclesiastics of their revenues. The partisans of Huss took a
lively interest in the enforcement of this law, and brought the unhappy
ecclesiastics before the tribunals with a pertinacity which amounted to
the persecution of an inquisition.[951]

Unlike the Lollards, the Hussites maintained the strictness of their
founder’s views on the subject of celibacy. If the fiercer Taborites
cruelly revenged their wrongs upon the religious orders, it was to
punish the minions of Rome, and not to manifest their contempt for
asceticism; and, at the same time, even the milder Calixtins treated
all lapses from clerical virtue among themselves with a severity
which proved their sincerity and earnestness, and which had long
been a stranger to the administration of the church.[952] One of the
complaints against the priesthood formulated in the proclamation of
Procopius and the other chiefs in 1431, at the assembling of the
Council of Bâle, was that the clergy were all fornicators, committing
adultery with men’s wives, or having wives and “presbyterissæ” of
their own;[953] and when, in 1562, the Emperor Ferdinand endeavored to
procure from the Council of Trent the use of the cup for the Utraquists
or Calixtins of Bohemia, he urged in their favor that they would not
admit the ministrations of any priest who did not lead a celibate
life.[954] Traces of the teachings of the Fraticelli, moreover, are
to be found in the doctrines which dissevered temporal from spiritual
power, and denied to the clergy all ownership or dominion over landed

The Hussite movement thus was an efficient protest against some of
the forms of sacerdotalism. The nominal reconciliation effected by
the Council of Bâle, against the wishes of the papacy, afforded
considerable scope for religious liberty, which was strengthened by the
alliance between Bohemia and Poland. The reigns of George Podiebrad,
Vlasdislav, and Louis, which extended from 1458 to 1525, favored this
spirit and prepared the soil for the rapid spread of Lutheranism
throughout those regions, which in the sixteenth century narrowly
escaped permanent separation from Catholic unity.

One fragment of the Hussites, however, held wholly aloof from
reconciliation to Rome and professed to uphold in their purity the
doctrines of their founder. These called themselves the Orthodox
Brethren, but were stigmatized by their adversaries with the
opprobrious name of Picardi, in allusion to an obnoxious heresy of the
previous centuries. In process of time they admitted the validity of
priestly marriage, though it was discouraged among them in view of the
dangers to which they were exposed and the constant risk of martyrdom
incurred by all who ventured to be conspicuous among them, for Hussite
and Catholic alike sought their extermination. Yet they bravely
maintained their existence until the Reformation, when they eagerly
fraternized with Luther,[956] such minor differences as existed in the
organization of the respective churches being amicably regulated in
1570 by the agreement of Sendomir.[957]

       *       *       *       *       *

Wickliffe and Huss were not the only inheritors of the antisacerdotal
spirit of the Fraticelli. About the close of the fourteenth century
there arose in Thuringia a heresiarch of the flagellants named Conrad
Schmidt, whose teachings swept away the forms and observances which
had so thickly incrusted the simple doctrines of Christianity. The
sacrifice of the mass, image-worship, fasting, feasts, purgatory,
confession, and absolution, all fell before the fearless logic of the
reformer, and his disciples fondly treasured him in memory as a second
incarnation of Enoch. For forty years the sect flourished in secret,
but at length it was discovered in Misnia, where its members were known
as Brethren of the Cross, and where it was exterminated in 1414 by the
fagots of Sangerhausen. The licentious doctrines attributed to them
by the monkish chronicler show that sacerdotal celibacy was one of
the observances which they repudiated.[958] Similar in its tendency,
and almost identical in details, was the heresy which, in 1411, was
condemned in Flanders by Peter d’Ailly, Archbishop of Cambrai. Giles
Cantor, a layman, and a Carmelite known as William of Hilderniss
gathered around them followers who assumed the title of Men of
Intelligence. Like Conrad Schmidt, they rejected the empty formalism
which had to so great an extent usurped the place of religion. The
Atonement had satisfied God for all; there was no necessity for the
intervention of sacerdotal ministrations, for confession and absolution
were useless, Christ was not present in the sacrament, purgatory did
not exist, and all mankind, besides the fallen angels, would in the end
be saved. There was, however, little of the temper of martyrs about
them, and a public renunciation of their errors at Brussels speedily
deprived them of all importance.[959]

       *       *       *       *       *

Savonarola can scarcely be classed among heretics. Though he was
tortured and put to death by the church for his rebellious attempts to
purify it, still his doctrines never varied from strict orthodoxy, and
Benedict XIV. even included him in a catalogue of the holy servants of
God.[960] Yet Savonarola, when his career was cut short, was rapidly
becoming a schismatic, as was inevitable with all reformers of ardent
temperament as soon as they discovered the impossibility of removing
the corruptions of the establishment. If, instead of the fickle
support of the Florentine populace, which betrayed him at his utmost
need, he had enjoyed the steadfast protection of such a patron as the
Elector Frederic of Saxony, he would doubtless have ripened in time,
as Luther subsequently did, into a full-blown heresiarch, though his
innate defects of character would scarcely have enabled him, under any
circumstances, to conduct successfully so complicated a movement as a
separation from the church.

The principal feature of his history which concerns us is the
good-natured indifference with which Alexander VI. endured his repeated
attacks on the scandals and vices of the papal court. There were so
many political interests entangled in Savonarola’s career that it is
not always easy to reach the hidden springs of action at work, but it
may be assumed that Alexander, if left to himself, would have allowed
the reformer to declaim unmolested. More than once he interdicted the
Dominican from preaching and ordered him to Rome, but took little
heed of disobedience. At length he launched an excommunication, which
for nearly a year received as little respect as his previous orders,
and when at length a sudden revulsion of feeling among the Florentine
mob enabled him to dispose of his adversary under the forms of law,
it is probable that even then he would not have pushed matters to
such extremity had not Savonarola been led to an act of aggressive
rebellion. The Duke of Milan forwarded to the pope intercepted letters
in which the reformer, by command of God, urged the monarchs of Europe
to call a general council under pretext that the church was without
a head, since Alexander was an infidel who had obtained the tiara by
simony and had polluted it with unimaginable vices. In his capacity
of prophet, Savonarola promised the rulers triumph over their enemies
if they would aid in the good work of cleansing the church, and he
engaged to prove before the council the truth of his allegations by
working miracles.[961] It would probably be unjust to condemn him as
an imposter, but such conclusion is only to be escaped by pronouncing
him partially insane. That fierce age was not apt to invoke such
considerations in palliation of so flagrant an attempt at revolution,
and Savonarola was doomed.

       *       *       *       *       *

While thus trampling out these successive revolts, the church was
blind to the lesson taught by their perpetual recurrence. The minds of
men were gradually learning to estimate at its true value the claim
of the hierarchy to veneration, and at the same time the vices of the
establishment were yearly becoming more odious, and its oppression
more onerous. The explosion might be delayed by attempts at partial
reformation, but it was inevitable.



Neither the assaults of heretics nor the constant efforts at partial
reform attempted by individual prelates had thus far proved of any
avail. As time wore on, the church sank deeper into the mire of
corruption, and its struggles to extricate itself grew feebler and
more hopeless. We have seen that, early in the fifteenth century,
Gerson advised an organized system of concubinage as preferable to the
indiscriminate licentiousness which was everywhere prevalent. Even
more suggestive are the declarations of Nicholas de Clemanges, Rector
of the University of Paris and Secretary of Benedict XIII. (Pedro de
Luna). He does not hesitate to say that the vices of the clergy were
so universal that those who adhered to the rule of chastity were the
objects of the most degrading and disgusting suspicions, so little
faith was there in the possible purity of any ecclesiastic. He also
records the extension of a custom to which I have already alluded
when he states that in a majority of parishes the people insisted on
their pastors keeping concubines, and that even this was a precaution
insufficient for the peace and honor of their families.[962] In another
tract he describes the mass of the clergy as wholly abandoned to
worldly ambition and vices, oppressing and despoiling those subjected
to them and spending their ill-gotten gains in the vilest excesses,
while they ridiculed unsparingly such few pious souls as endeavored
to live according to the light of the gospel.[963] In most of the
dioceses the parish priests openly kept concubines, which they were
permitted to do on payment of a tax to their bishops. Nunneries were
brothels, and to take the veil was simply another mode of becoming a
public prostitute.[964] Cardinal Peter d’Ailly declares that he does
not dare to describe the immorality of the nunneries.[965] In a similar
indignant mood Gerson stigmatizes the nunneries of his time as houses
of prostitution, the monasteries as centres of trade and amusement, the
cathedral churches as dens of ravishers and robbers, and the priesthood
at large as habitual concubinarians.[966] That he felt these evils to
be inseparable from the condition of the church is evident when, in
an argument to prove the necessity of celibacy, he is driven to the
assertion that it is better to tolerate incontinent priests than to
have no priests at all.[967] He argues that the clergy are worthy of as
many sentences of damnation as they seduce souls to perdition by their
corrupt example, and he asks, when he who destroys himself by his own
sins is to be condemned, whether he who draws with him numerous others
is not still more worthy of perdition.[968] Theodoric a Niem represents
the bishops of Scandinavia as carrying with them their concubines on
their pastoral visitations, and as inflicting penalties on such of the
parish priests as they found living without similar companions, while
these women habitually took precedence in church of the wives of the
neighboring gentry—and he adds that the clergy of the south of Europe
were no better.[969] Theodoric Vrie, a learned and pious churchman
of Saxony, is equally unsparing in his denunciations of the Teutonic
clergy[970]—and, indeed, the testimony of the writers of the period
is so unanimous that their descriptions of clerical vices cannot be
regarded as the mere rhetorical declamation of disappointed reformers.

It was evident that the efforts of local synods were fruitless to
eradicate evils so general and so deeply rooted, while the necessity
for some reform became every day more apparent. Though Lollardry had
been crushed in England under the stern hand of Henry V., yet it was
reappearing in Bohemia in a form even more threatening. The council
of Pisa had not succeeded in healing the Great Schism, and there arose
a general demand for an Œcumenic Council in which the church universal
should assemble for the purpose of purifying itself, of eradicating
heresy, and of settling definitely the pretensions of the three
claimants of the papacy. John XXIII. yielded to the pressure, and the
call for the Council of Constance went forth in his name and in that of
the Emperor Sigismund.

So powerful a body had never before been gathered together in Europe.
It claimed to be the supreme representative of the church, and though
it acknowledged John XXIII. as the lawful successor of St. Peter, it
had no scruples in arraigning, trying, condemning, and deposing him—an
awful expression of its supremacy, without precedent in the past, and
without imitation in succeeding ages. As regards heresy, it did the
best it could, according to the lights of its age, by burning John Huss
and Jerome of Prague. Its functions as a reformer, however, required
for their exercise more nerve than even the condemnation of a pope.
Many members were thoroughly penetrated with the conviction that reform
was of instant necessity, and such men as Gerson, Peter d’Ailly of
Cambrai, and Nicholas de Clemanges were prepared to shrink from none of
the means requisite for so hallowed an end. In the existing corruption,
however, of the body from which representatives were drawn, such men
could scarcely form a controlling majority. After the council had
been in session for nearly two years, the reformers began to despair
of effecting anything, and Clemanges did not hesitate to assert that
nothing was to be expected from men who would regard reform as the
greatest calamity that could befall themselves;[971] while another of
the members of the council declared that every one wanted such a reform
as should allow him to retain his own particular form of iniquity.[972]
These estimates, indeed, of the character of the majority of the good
fathers of Constance is borne out by the contemporary accounts of the
multitudes who flocked to it to ply their trades among the assembled
dignitaries of the church, showing that they were by no means all
devoted to mortifying the flesh.[973]

The feelings of those who sincerely desired reform, as they saw the
prospect rapidly fading before their eyes, may be estimated by a sermon
of a sturdy Gascon abbot, Bernhardus Baptisatus, preached before the
council in August, 1517, about three months before the conservatives
succeeded in carrying their point by electing Martin V. He denounces
the members of the council as Pharisees, falsely pretending to be
devout in order to elude the punishment due to their crimes. The masses
and processions, which were the main business of the assemblage, he
declares to be valueless in the eye of God, for most of those who
so busily took part in them were involved solely in worldly cares,
laughing, cheating, sleeping, or demoralizing the rest with their
ungodly conversation. The Holy Spirit did not hold the acts of the
council acceptable, nor dwell with its unrighteous members.[974] Such a
convocation could have but one result.

It is easy therefore to understand the influences that were brought
to bear to defeat the expectations of the reformers; how the subject
could be postponed until after the questions connected with the papacy
and with heresy were disposed of; and how, after the election of
Martin V., those who shrank from all reform could assume that it might
safely be intrusted to the hands of a pontiff so able, so energetic,
and so virtuous. In all this they were successful. The council closed
its weary sessions, April 22, 1418, and during its three years and
a half of labor it had only found leisure to regulate the dress of
ecclesiastics, the unclerical cut of whose sleeves was especially
distasteful to the representative body of Christendom.[975]

Still, the reformers had made a stubborn fight, and had procured the
appointment of a commission to consider all reformatory propositions
and prepare a general scheme for the adoption of the council. This
body labored as diligently as though its deliberations were to be
crowned with practical results, and various projects of reform proposed
by it have been preserved. In one of these the severest measures of
repression were suggested to put an end to the scandal of concubinage
which was openly practised in the majority of dioceses. Under this
scheme, while all the canonical punishments heretofore decreed were
maintained in full vigor, deprivation was pronounced against all
holders of ecclesiastical preferment, from bishops down, who should
not within one month eject their guilty partners; their positions
were declared vacant _ipso jure_, and their successors were to be
immediately appointed. Those who did not hold benefices were similarly
to be declared ineligible to preferment. It appears that scandals
had arisen in many places from the Hildebrandine and Wickliffite
heresy whereby parishioners declined the ministrations of those who
were living in open and notorious sin; and to avoid these, while the
commission declined to pass an opinion on the propriety of such action,
it advised that such private judgment should not be exercised.[976]
In another elaborate system of reform, which bears the marks of long
deliberation, the attempt was made to eradicate the long-standing abuse
of admitting to preferment the illegitimate children of ecclesiastics,
and it was declared that papal dispensations should no longer be
recognized except in cases of peculiar fitness or high rank.[977] The
same code of discipline struck a significant blow at the inviolability
of the monastic profession when it endeavored to check the prevailing
and deplorable licentiousness of the nunneries by decreeing that no
woman should be admitted to the vows beneath the age of twenty, and
that all vows taken at a younger age should be null and void.[978]
These projects are interesting merely as indicating the direction in
which the reforming portion of the church desired to move, and as
showing that even they did not propose to remove the celibacy which was
the chief cause of the evils they so sincerely deplored.

       *       *       *       *       *

Martin V. had assumed the responsibility of reforming the church, and
he did, in fact, attempt it after some fashion, though he apparently
took to heart Dante’s axiom—

    Lunga promessa, con l’attender corto
    Ti farà trionfar nell’ alto seggio.

In 1422 Cardinal Branda of Piacenza, his legate, when sent to Germany
to preach a crusade against the Hussites, was honored with the title
of Reformer General, and full powers were given to him to effect
this part of his mission. The letters-patent of the pope bear ample
testimony to the fearful depravity of the Teutonic church,[979] while
the constitution which Branda promulgated declares that in a portion of
the priesthood there was scarcely left a trace of decency or morality.
According to this document, concubinage, simony, neglect of sacred
functions, gambling, drinking, fighting, buffoonery, and kindred
pursuits, were the prevalent vices of the ministers of Christ; but
the punishments which he enacted for their suppression—repetitions of
those which we have seen proclaimed so many times before—were powerless
to overcome the evils which had become part and parcel of the church

What was the condition of clerical morals in Italy soon after this
may be learned from a single instance. When Ambrose was made General
of the austere order of Camaldoli he set vigorously to work to reform
the laxity which had almost ruined it. One of his abbots was noted for
abounding licentiousness; not content with ordinary amours, he was
wont to visit the nunneries in his district to indulge in promiscuous
intercourse with the virgins dedicated to God. Yet Ambrose in taking
him to task did not venture to punish him for his misdeeds, but
promised him full pardon for the past and to take him into favor, if he
would only abstain for the future—a task which ought to be easy as he
was now old and should be content with having long lived evilly and be
ready to dedicate his few remaining years to the service of God.[981]
When a reformer, who enjoyed the special friendship and protection of
Eugenius IV., was forced to be so moderate with such a criminal, it is
easy to imagine what was the tone of morality in the church at large.

While the Armagnacs and Burgundians were rivalling the English in
carrying desolation into every corner of France, it could not be
expected that the peaceful virtues could flourish, or sempiternal
corruption be reformed. Accordingly, it need not surprise us to
see Hardouin, Bishop of Angers, despondingly admit, in 1428, that
licentiousness had become so habitual among his clergy that it was
no longer reputed to be a sin; that concubinage was public and
undisguised, and that the patrimony of Christ was wasted in supporting
the guilty partners of the priesthood. That gambling, swearing,
drunkenness, and all manner of unclerical conduct should accompany
these disorders, is too probable to require the concurrent testimony
which the worthy bishop affords us.[982] Alain Chartier, Archdeacon of
Paris and Secretary to Charles VI. and Charles VII., confirms this in
a more general way, when he attributes to enforced celibacy and the
temporal endowments of the church the vices and crimes which rendered
the clergy so odious and contemptible to the laity that he looks
forward to the speedy advent of Antichrist to wipe out the whole system
in universal ruin.[983] Apparently its corruption was too deep-seated
to hope for any milder means of reformation. To this we may at least
partially attribute the utter loss of respect for sacred things which
rendered the churches and their pastors a special mark for pillage and
persecution during the dreary civil wars of the period.[984]

In England, which had enjoyed comparative immunity from civil strife,
matters were quite as bad. At the request of Henry V., in 1414, the
University of Oxford prepared a series of articles for the reformation
of the church, whose shortcomings were vehemently attacked by the
Lollards. It is not easy to imagine a more humiliating confession than
is contained in the 38th article, directed against priestly immorality.
The carnal and undisguised profligacy of ecclesiastics is declared
to be a scandal to the church, and its impurity to be a dangerous
temptation to others. It is therefore recommended that all public
fornicators be suspended for a limited time from the ministry of the
altar, and that some corporal chastisement be inflicted on them, in
place of the trifling pecuniary mulct, which, levied in secret, had no
effect in deterring them from their evil courses.[985]

Such was the state of sacerdotal morals when the great council of Bâle
attracted to itself the hopes of Christendom as the sole instrument by
which the purification of the church could be effected—a purification
which was felt to be the only safeguard against a revolutionary
uprising of the indignant laity. When Eugenius IV., towards the close
of the year 1431, dreading the antagonism between the council and the
papacy, sent his Bull ordering its dissolution, his legate, Cardinal
Cesarini, took the responsibility of refusing obedience. His letter
explaining the reasons of his contumacy affords a curious picture of
the internal condition of the church and of the relations existing
between it and the laity. The extreme corruption of ecclesiastical
morals had been the principal object of convoking the council and had
given rise to a feeling of fierce hostility towards the church. To this
was attributable the success which had attended the Hussite movement,
and unless the people could have reason to anticipate amendment, there
was ample cause to fear a general imitation of the Hussites. So many
provincial synods were daily held without result that confidence was
no longer felt in the ordinary ecclesiastical machinery; the state of
the public mind grew constantly more threatening as fresh scandals were
wrought by the clergy, and the hopes entertained of the council were
the only restraint which prevented the breaking out of a wide-spread
revolt. As a proof of his assertions, the legate refers to various
local troubles. Magdeburg had expelled her archbishop and clergy, was
preparing wagons with which to fight, after the Bohemian fashion, and
was said to have sent for a Hussite to command her forces. Passau had
revolted against her bishop, and was even then laying close siege to
his citadel. Bamberg was engaged in a violent quarrel with her bishop
and chapter. These cities were regarded as the centres of formidable
secret confederacies, and were believed to be negotiating with the
Hussites.[986] The good fathers evidently recognized the full magnitude
of the danger. The results of the inaction of the Council of Constance
were full of pregnant warnings. The reformers could no longer be
brought to trust the papacy, and those who might secretly deprecate
reform were fully alive to the threatening aspect of affairs. They
therefore addressed themselves resolutely to the removal of the cause.
All who were guilty of public concubinage were ordered to dismiss
their consorts within sixty days after the promulgation of the canon,
under pain of deprivation of revenue for three months. Persistent
contumacy or repetition of the offence was visited with suspension from
functions and stipend until satisfactory evidence should be afforded of
repentance and amendment. Bishops who neglected to enforce the law were
to be held as sharing the guilt which they allowed to pass unpunished;
and those prelates who were above the jurisdiction of local tribunals
or synods were to be remanded to Rome for trial. The council deplored
the extensive prevalence of the “cullagium,” by which those to whom was
entrusted the administration of the church did not hesitate to enjoy a
filthy gain by selling licenses to sin. A curse was pronounced on all
involved in such transactions; they were to share the penalties of the
guilt which they encouraged, and were, in addition, to pay a fine of
double the amount of their iniquitous receipts.[987] In the Pragmatic
Sanction, moreover, agreed upon in 1438 between the Emperor Albert II.
and Charles VII. of France, the regulation confiscating three months’
revenues of concubinary priests was embodied.[988]

Honest, well-meant legislation this; yet the fathers of the council
or the princes of Christendom could hardly deceive themselves with
the expectation that it would prove effectual. If legislation could
accomplish the desired result, there had already been enough of it
since the days of Siricius. The compilations of canon law were full
of admirable regulations, by which generation after generation had
endeavored to attain the same object by every imaginable modification
of inquisition and penalty. Ingenuity had been exhausted in devising
laws which were only promulgated to be despised and forgotten.
Something more was wanting, and that something could not be had without
overturning the elaborate structure so skilfully and laboriously built
up by the craft and enthusiasm of ten centuries.

How utterly impotent, in fact, were the efforts of the council, is
evident when, within five years after the adoption of the Basilian
canons, Doctor Kokkius, in a sermon preached before the council of
Freysingen, could scarcely find words strong enough to denounce
the evil courses of the clergy as a class;[989] and when, within
fifteen years, we find Nicholas V. declaring that the clergy enjoyed
such immunity that they scarcely regarded incontinence as a sin—a
declaration sustained by the regulations promulgated for the restraint
of the officials of his own court, which imply the previous open and
undisguised defiance of the canons.[990]

Even in this attempt of Nicholas, however, is to be seen one of the
causes which perpetuated the corruption of the church. He orders that
all who thereafter persist in keeping concubines in defiance of the
regulations shall be incapable of receiving benefices without special
letters of indulgence from the Holy See.[991] Shrouded under a thin
veil of formality, this in substance indicates the degrading source of
revenue which was so energetically condemned in inferior officials. The
pressing and insatiable pecuniary needs of the papal court, indeed,
rendered it impotent as a reformer, however honest the wearer of the
tiara might himself be in desiring to rescue the church from its
infamy. Reckless expenditure and universal venality were insuperable
obstacles to any comprehensive and effective measures of reformation.
Every one was preoccupied either in devising or in resisting extortion.
The local synods were engaged in quarrelling over the subsidies
demanded by Rome, while the chronicles of the period are filled with
complaints of the indulgences sold year after year to raise money
for various purposes. Sometimes the objects alleged are indignantly
declared to be purely supposititious; at other times intimations are
thrown out that the collections were diverted to the private gain of
the popes and of their creatures.[992] The opinion which the church in
general entertained of the papal court is manifested with sufficient
distinctness in a letter from Ernest, Archbishop of Magdeburg, to his
ambassador at Rome. The prelate states that he has deposited five
hundred florins in Fugger’s bank at Augsburg, for which he desires
to procure certain bulls, one to enable him to sell indulgences, the
other to compel the chapter of Magdeburg to allow him to dispose of
the salt-works of Halle, in defiance of the vested rights of his
church—thus taking for granted a cynicism of venality which it would
be difficult to parallel in the secular affairs of the most corrupt of
courts.[993] Even the power to dispense from the vow of continence was
occasionally turned to account in this manner. One of the accusations
against John XXIII. was that for 600 ducats he had released Jacques de
Vitry, a Hospitaller, from his vows, had restored him to the world,
and enabled him to marry.[994] In fact, when a pope like Sixtus IV.
was found who openly sold all preferment, who kept a regular scale for
every grade from the cardinalate downwards, and who only varied from
his fixed prices by putting up at auction some choice benefice,[995] it
can hardly be expected that discipline could be enforced or the ideal
of chastity realized.

       *       *       *       *       *

The aspirations of Christendom had culminated in the council of Bâle
in the most potent form known to the church universal. If the results
were scarce perceptible while the influences of the council were yet
recent, and while the antagonistic papacy was under the control of
men sincerely desirous to promote the best interests of the church,
such as Nicholas V. and Pius II., we can feel no wonder, if the
darkness continued to grow thicker and deeper under the rule of such
pontiffs as Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII., and Alexander VI. Savonarola
found an inexhaustible subject of declamation in the fearful vices
of the ecclesiastics of his times, whom he describes as _ruffiani e
mezzani_.[996] In the kingdom of Naples the state sought to share with
the church in the profits of impurity, and a regular tax was laid upon
the concubines of ecclesiastics. In a document still preserved in the
Neapolitan archives, Alfonso I. complains that this tax had not been
paid for three years, and directs his bishops to compel its collection
in their several dioceses.[997] In the assembly of the Trois États
of France, held at Tours in 1484, the orator of the Estates, Jean de
Rély, afterwards Bishop of Angers, in his official address to Charles
VIII., declared it to be notorious that the religious orders had lost
all devotion, discipline, and obedience to their rule, while the canons
(and he was himself a canon of Paris) had sunk far below the laity in
their morals, to the great scandal of the church.[998]

In England, the facts developed by the examination which Innocent
VIII. in 1489 authorized Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, to make
into the condition of the religious houses, present a state of affairs
quite as bad. Henry VII.’s first Parliament, in 1485, had endeavored
to accomplish some reform by passing an Act empowering the episcopal
authorities to imprison all priests and monks convicted of carnal
lapses,[999] but this, like all similar legislation, whether secular or
ecclesiastical, appears to have been useless. Innocent describes the
monasteries, in his bull to the archbishop, as wholly fallen from their
original discipline, and this is folly confirmed by the results of the
visitation. The old and wealthy abbey of St. Albans, for instance, was
little more than a den of prostitutes, with whom the monks lived openly
and avowedly. In two priories under its jurisdiction the nuns had been
turned out and their places filled with courtezans, to whom the monks
of St. Albans publicly resorted, indulging in all manner of shameless
and riotous living, the details of which can well be spared.[1000]
These irregularities were emulated by the secular ecclesiastics. Among
the records of the reign of Henry VII. is a memorial from the gentlemen
and farmers of Carnarvonshire, complaining that the seduction of their
wives and daughters was pursued systematically by the clergy.[1001]
That the prevalence of these practices was thoroughly understood is
shown in a book of instructions for parish priests drawn up by a canon
of Lilleshall about this period. In enumerating the causes for which a
parson may shrive a man not of his own parish, he includes the case in
which the penitent has committed sin with the concubine or daughter of
his own parish priest.[1002]

Spain was equally infected. The council of Aranda, in 1473, denounced
bitterly the evil courses by which the clergy earned for themselves the
wrath of God and the contempt of man, and it endeavored to suppress the
sempiternal vice by the means which had been so often ineffectually
tried—visitations, fines, excommunication, suspension, forfeiture
of benefice, and imprisonment—but all to as little purpose as
before.[1003] The trouble continued without abatement and the council
of Seville, in 1512, felt itself obliged to repeat as usual all the old
denunciations and penalties, including those against ecclesiastics who
officiated at the marriages of their children, which it prohibited for
the future under a fine of 2000 maravedis—a mulct which it likewise
provided for those who committed the indecency of having their children
as assistants in the solemnity of the Mass.[1004]

What was the condition of morals in Germany may be inferred from some
proceedings of the chapter of Brunswick in 1476. The canons intimate
that the commission of scandals and crimes has reached a point at
which there is danger of their losing the inestimable privilege of
exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. They therefore declare that for
the future the canons, vicars, and officiating clergy ought not to keep
their mistresses and concubines publicly in their houses, or live with
them within the bounds of the church, and those who persist in doing
so after three warnings shall be suspended from their prebends until
they render due satisfaction.[1005] In this curious glimpse into the
domestic life of the cathedral close, it is evident that the worthy
canons were moved by no shame for the publicity of their guilt, but
only by a wholesome dread of giving to their bishop an excuse for
procuring the forfeiture of their dearly prized right of self-judgment.

The Hungarian church, by a canon dating as far back as 1382, had
finally adopted a pecuniary mulct as the most efficacious mode of
correcting offenders. The fine was five marks of current coin, and by
granting one-half to the informer or archdeacon, and the other to the
archiepiscopal chamber, it was reasonably hoped that the rule might
be enforced. The guardians were not faithful, however, for two synods
of Gran, one in 1450 and the other in 1480, reiterate the complaint,
not only that the archdeacons and other officials kept the whole fine
to themselves, but also, what was even worse, that they permitted the
criminals to persevere in sin, in order to make money by allowing them
to go unpunished.[1006] This state of affairs was not to be wondered
at if the description of his prelates by Matthias Corvinus be correct.
They were worldly princes, whose energies were devoted to wringing
from their flocks fabulous revenues to be squandered in riotous
living on the hordes of cooks and concubines who pandered to their
appetites.[1007] The morals of the regular clergy were no better, for
a Diet held by Vladislas II. in 1498 complained of the manner in which
abbots and other monastic dignitaries enriched themselves from the
revenues of their offices, and then, returning to the world, publicly
took wives, to the disgrace of their order.[1008]

In Pomerania the evil had at length partially cured itself, for the
female companions of the clergy seem to have been regarded as wives
in all but the blessing of the church. Benedict, Bishop of Camin,
in 1492, held a synod in which he quaintly but vehemently objurgates
his ecclesiastics for this wickedness; declares that no man can part
such couples joined by the devil; alludes to their offspring as beasts
creeping over the earth, and has his spleen peculiarly stirred by the
cloths of Leyden and costly ornaments with which the fair sinners were
bedecked, to the scandal of honest women.[1009] His indignation was
wasted on a hardened generation, for his successor, Bishop Martin, on
his accession to the see in 1499, found the custom still unchecked.
The new bishop promptly summoned a synod at Sitten in 1500, where he
reiterated the complaints of Benedict, adding that the priests convert
the patrimony of Christ into marriage portions for their children,
and procure the transmission of benefices from father to son, as
though glorying in the perpetuation of their shame. What peculiarly
exasperated the good prelate was that the place of honor was accorded
as a matter of course to the priests and their consorts at all the
merry-makings and festivities of their parishioners, which shows how
fully these unions were recognized as legitimate, and, apparently, for
prudential reasons, encouraged by the people.[1010]

Similar customs, or worse, doubtless prevailed in Sleswick, for when
Eggard was consecrated bishop in 1494, he signalized the commencement
of his episcopate by forbidding his clergy to keep such female
companions. The result was that before the year expired he was forced
to abandon his see, and five years later he died, a miserable exile in

The monastic orders were no better than the secular clergy. When
Ximenes was made Provincial of the Franciscan order in Spain, he set
himself earnestly at work to force the brethren to live according to
the Rule. A large portion of them, known as Claustrals, led disorderly
lives, almost purely secular, and refused absolutely to submit to the
observance of their vows. King Ferdinand being appealed to pronounced
sentence of banishment upon them, and they absolutely preferred
existence in exile to the insupportable yoke of their Order. Yet they
considered themselves so aggrieved that when they left Toledo they
marched in procession through the Puerta Visagra with a crucifix at
their head, singing the 113th Psalm “In exitu Israel de Egypto.” When
Ximenes was promoted to the primatial see of Toledo, the malcontents
appealed to the Vicar General of the Order in Rome, who came to Spain
and warmly espoused their cause, being only forced to desist by the
decided stand taken by Queen Isabella in favor of Ximenes.[1012] It
was the same with the other monastic orders. A bull of Alexander VI.,
issued in 1496 for the purpose of reforming the Benedictines, describes
the inhabitants of many establishments of both sexes in that ancient
and honored institution as indulging in the most shameless profligacy;
and marriage itself was apparently not infrequently practised.[1013]
Savonarola did not hesitate to declare that nuns in their convents
became worse than harlots.[1014] Even the strictest of all the
orders—the Cistercian—yielded to the prevailing laxity. A general
chapter, held in 1516, denounces the intolerable abuse indulged in
by some abbots who threw off all obedience to the rule, and dared to
keep women under pretence of requiring their domestic services.[1015]
To fully appreciate the force of this indication, it is requisite
to bear in mind the stringency of the regulations which forbade the
foot of woman to pollute the sacred retirement of the Cistercian

The efforts constantly made to check these abuses produced little
result. A Carthusian monk, writing in 1489, deplores the fact that
while monasteries were everywhere being reformed, few if any of
them maintained their morals, but returned to their old condition
immediately on the death of the zealous fathers who had sought to
improve them.[1017] That condition is described by a Benedictine Abbot,
the celebrated Trithemius, in general terms, as that of dens in which
it was a crime to be without sin, their inhabitants for the most part
being addicted to all manner of vices, and being monks only in name and

That the clergy, as a body, had become a stench in the nostrils of
the people is evident from the immense applause which greeted all
attacks upon them. In 1476 a rustic prophet arose in the hamlet of
Niklaushausen, in the diocese of Wurzburg, who was a fit precursor of
Muncer and John of Leyden. John of Niklaushausen was a swineherd, who
professed himself inspired by the Virgin Mary. From the Rhine-lands
to Misnia, and from Saxony to Bavaria, immense multitudes flocked to
hear him, so that at times he preached to crowds of twenty and thirty
thousand men. His doctrines were revolutionary, for he denounced
oppression both secular and clerical; but he was particularly severe
upon the vices of the ecclesiastical body. A special revelation of the
Virgin had informed him that God could no longer endure them, and that
the world could not, without a speedy reformation, be saved from the
divine wrath consequent upon them.[1019] The unfortunate man was seized
by the Bishop of Wurzburg; the fanatical zeal of his unarmed followers
was easily subdued, and he expiated at the stake his revolt against the
powers that were.

Such being the state of ecclesiastical morality throughout Europe,
there can be little wonder if reflecting men sought occasionally to
reform it in the only rational manner—not by an endless iteration
of canons, obsolete as soon as published, or by ingeniously varied
penalties, easily evaded or compounded—but by restoring to the minister
of Christ the right to indulge legitimately the affections which
bigotry might pervert, but could never eradicate. Even as early as
the close of the thirteenth century, the high authority of Bishop
William Durand had acknowledged the inefficacy of penal legislation,
and had suggested the discipline of the Greek church as affording a
remedy worthy of consideration.[1020] As the depravity of the church
increased, and as the minds of men gradually awoke from the slumber
of the dark ages, and shook off the blind reverence for tradition,
the suggestion presented itself with renewed force. At the council
of Constance Cardinal Zabarella did not hesitate to suggest that if
the concubinary practices of the clergy could not be suppressed it
would be better to concede to them the privilege of marriage,[1021]
and shortly after the failure of the council to effect a reform had
became apparent, Guillaume Saignet wrote a tract entitled “Lamentatio
ob Cælibatum Sacerdotum” in which he attacked the existing system, and
called forth a rejoinder from Gerson. When the council of Bâle was
earnestly engaged in the endeavor to restore forgotten discipline,
the Emperor Sigismund laid before it a formula of reformation which
embraced the restoration of marriage to the clergy. His orator drew
a fearful picture of the evils caused by the rule of celibacy—evils
acknowledged by every one in the assembly—and urged that as it had
produced more injury than benefit, the wiser course would be to follow
the example of the Greek church.[1022] A majority of the council
assented to the principle, but shrank from the bold step of adopting
it. Eugenius IV. had just been forced to acknowledge the legitimacy
of the body as an œcumenic council; the strife with the papacy might
again break forth at any moment, and it was not politic to venture on
innovations too audacious. The conservatives, therefore, skilfully
eluded the question by postponing it to a more favorable time, and the
postponement was fatal.

One of the most celebrated members of the council, Cardinal Nicholas
Tudeschi, surnamed Panormitanus, whose preëminence as an expounder
of the canon law won for him the titles of “Canonistarum Princeps”
and “Lucerna Juris,” declared that the celibacy of the clergy was not
essential to ordination or enjoined by divine law; and he records his
unhesitating opinion that the question should be left to the option of
the individual—those who had resolution to preserve their purity being
the most worthy, while those who had not would be spared the guilt
which disgraced them.[1023] So Æneas Sylvius, who as Pius II. filled
the pontifical throne from 1458 to 1464, and who knew by experience
how easy it was to yield to the temptations of the flesh, is reported
to have said that marriage had been denied to priests for good and
sufficient reasons, but that still stronger ones now required its
restoration.[1024] Indeed, when arguing before the Council of Bâle in
favor of the election of Amedeus of Savoy to the papacy, he had not
scrupled to declare that a married priesthood would be the salvation of
many who were damned in celibacy.[1025] And we have already seen that
Eugenius IV., in 1441, and Alexander VI., in 1496, granted permission
of marriage to several military orders, as the only mode of removing
the scandalous license prevailing among them.

This question of the power of the pope to dispense with the necessity
of celibacy seems to have attracted some attention about this period.
In 1505, Geoffroy Boussard, afterwards Chancellor of the University of
Paris, published a tract wherein he argued that priestly continence
was simply a human and not a divine ordinance, and that the pope was
fully empowered to relax the rule in special cases, though he could
not abolish wholly an institution of such long continuance which had
received the assent of so many holy fathers and general councils. At
the same time, one of his arguments in favor of its enforcement shows
how little respect was left in the minds of all thinking men for the
claims of the church to veneration. He quotes Bonaventura to the effect
that if bishops and archbishops had license to marry they would rob
the church of all its property, and none would be left for the poor,
for, he adds, “since already they seize the goods of the church for
the benefit of distant relatives, what would they not do if they had
legitimate children of their own?”[1026]

       *       *       *       *       *

When the advantages and the necessity of celibacy thus were doubted
by the highest authorities in the church, it is no wonder if those
who were disposed to question the traditions of the past were led to
reject it altogether. In 1479 John Burckhardt, of Oberwesel, graduate
of Tubingen, and Doctor of Theology, in his capacity of preacher at
Worms, openly disseminated doctrines which differed in the main but
little from those of Wickliffe and Huss. He denied the authority of
popes, councils, and the fathers of the church to regulate matters
either of faith or discipline. The Scripture was the only standard,
and no one had a right to interpret it for his brethren. The received
observances of religion, prayers, fasts, indulgences, were all swept
away, and universal liberty of conscience proclaimed to all. Of
course, sacerdotal celibacy shared the same fate, as a superstitious
observance, contrived by papal ingenuity in opposition to evangelical
simplicity.[1027] Thus his intrepid logic far outstripped the views of
his predecessors, and Luther afterwards acknowledged the similarity
between his teachings and those of John of Oberwesel. Yet he had not
the spirit of martyrdom, and the Inquisition speedily forced him to
a recantation, which was of little avail, for he soon after perished
miserably in the dungeon in which he had been thrust.[1028]

Still more remarkable as an indication of the growing spirit of
independence was an event which in July, 1485, disturbed the stagnation
of the centre of theological orthodoxy—the Sorbonne. A certain Jean
Laillier, priest and licentiate in theology, aspiring to the doctorate,
prepared his thesis or “Sorbonique,” in which he broached various
propositions savoring strongly of extreme Lollardry. He denied the
supremacy of the pope, and indeed reduced the hierarchy to the level of
simple priesthood; he rejected confession, absolution, and indulgences;
he refused to acknowledge the authority of tradition and legends,
and insisted that the fasts enjoined by the church had no claim to
observance. Celibacy was not likely to escape so audacious an inquirer,
and accordingly, among his postulates were three, declaring that a
priest clandestinely married required no penitence; that the Eastern
clergy committed no sin in marrying, nor would the priests of the
Western church, if they were to follow the example; and that celibacy
originated in 1073, in the decretals of Gregory VII., whose power to
introduce the rule he more than questioned. The Sorbonne, as might be
anticipated, refused the doctorate to so rank a heretic, and Laillier
had the boldness not only to preach his doctrines publicly, but even
to appeal to the Parlement for the purpose of forcing his admission to
the Sorbonne. The Parlement referred the matter to the Bishop of Paris
and to the Inquisitor; Laillier’s audacity failed him, and he agreed
to recant.[1029] In Poland, too, there were symptoms of similar revolt
against the established ordinances of the church, as shown in a book
published at Cracow in 1504, “De Matrimonia Sacerdotum.”[1030]

       *       *       *       *       *

The corruption of the church establishment, in fact, had reached a
point which the dawning enlightenment of the age could not much longer
endure. The power which had been intrusted to it, when it was the only
representative of culture and progress, had been devoted to selfish
purposes, and had become the instrument of unmitigated oppression in
all the details of daily life. The immunity which had been necessary
to its existence through centuries of anarchy had become the shield
of unimaginable vices. The wealth, so freely lavished upon it by
the veneration of Christendom, was wasted in the vilest excesses.
All efforts at reformation from within had failed; all attempts at
reformation from without had been successfully crushed and sternly
punished. Intoxicated with centuries of domination, the muttered
thunders of growing popular discontent were unheeded, and its claims
to spiritual and temporal authority were asserted with increasing
vehemence, while its corruptions were daily displayed before the people
with more careless cynicism. There appeared to be no desire on the part
of the great body of the clergy to make even a pretence of the virtue
and piety on which were based their claims for reverence, while the
laity were daily growing less reverent, were rising in intelligence,
and were becoming more inclined to question where their fathers had
been content to believe. Such a complication could have but one result.



The opening of the sixteenth century witnessed an ominous breaking
down of the landmarks of thought. The revival of letters, which was
fast rendering learning the privilege of all men in place of the
special province of the legal and clerical professions; the discovery
of America, which destroyed reverence for primæval tradition, and
accustomed men’s minds to the idea that startling novelties might
yet be truths; the invention of printing, which placed within the
reach of all inquirers who had a tincture of education the sacred
writings for investigation and interpretation and enabled the thinker
and the innovator at once to command an audience and disseminate
his views in remote regions; the European wars, commencing with the
Neapolitan conquest of Charles VIII., which brought the nations into
closer contact with each other, and carried the seeds of culture,
civilization, and unbelief from Italy to the farthest Thule; all these
causes, with others less notable, had been silently but effectually
wearing out the remnants of that pious and unquestioning veneration
which for ages had lain like a spell on the human mind.

In this bustling movement of politics and commerce, arts and arms,
science and letters, religion could not expect to escape the spirit
of universal inquiry. Even before opinion had advanced far enough
to justify examination into doctrinal points and dogmas, there was
a general readiness to regard the shortcomings of sacerdotalism, in
the administration of its sacred trust, with a freedom of criticism
which could not long fail to destroy the respect for claims of
irrefragable authority. John of England and the Emperor Otho might
gratify individual spite, in the intoxication of anticipated triumph,
by insultingly defying the sacerdotal power. Philippe-le-Bel, a man
far in advance of his age, might reduce the papacy to temporary
subjection by means of rare instruments such as Guillaume de Nogaret.
Philippe de Valois, with the aid of his civil lawyers, might essay
to limit the extent of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Wickliffe, and
Huss, and Savonarola might raise the standard of opposition to papal
usurpation—but these were sporadic instances of rebellion, resulting
either from the selfish ambition of rulers or the fanatical enthusiasm
of individuals, unsupported by the concurrent opinion of the masses of
the people, and their permanent results were rather remote than direct.
At the period to which we have arrived, however, the disposition
to criticise the abuses of the ecclesiastical system, to note its
shortcomings, and to apply remedial measures was general, and savored
little of the respect which an infallible church had for so many
centuries inculcated as one of the first of Christian duties. Its past
services were forgotten in present wrongs. Its pretensions had, at
one time, enabled it to be the protector of the feeble, and the sole
defence of the helpless; but that time had passed. Settled institutions
were fast replacing anarchy throughout Europe, and its all-pervading
authority would no longer have been in place, even if exercised for
the common benefit. When it was notorious, however, that the powers
and immunities claimed by the church were everywhere employed for
the vilest ends, their anachronism became too palpable, and their
destruction was only a question of time.

Signs of the coming storm were not wanting. In 1510 a series of
complaints against the tyranny and extortion of Rome was solemnly
presented to the emperor. The German churches, it was asserted, were
confided by the successors of St. Peter to the care of those who were
better fitted to be keepers of mules than pastors of men, and the pope
was significantly told that he should act more tenderly and kindly to
his children of Teutonic race, lest there might arise a persecution
against the priesthood, or a general defection from the Holy See,
after the manner of the Hussites.[1031] The emperor was warned, in his
efforts to obtain the desired reform, not to incur the censures and
enmity of the pope, in terms which show that only the political effects
of excommunication were dreaded, and that its spiritual thunders had
lost their terrors. He was further cautioned against the prelates in
general, and the mendicant friars in particular, in a manner denoting
how little reverence was left for them in the popular mind, and how
thoroughly the whole ecclesiastical system had become a burden and
reproach, a thing of the past, an excrescence on society, and no longer
an integral part of every man’s life, and the great motive power of

       *       *       *       *       *

It was evident that the age was rapidly outstripping the church,
and that the latter, to maintain its influence and position, must
conform to the necessities of progress and enlightenment. On previous
occasions it had done so, and had, with marvellous tact and readiness,
adapted itself to the exigencies of the situation in the long series
of vicissitudes which had ended by placing it supreme over Europe.
But centuries of almost uninterrupted prosperity had hardened it. The
corruption which attends upon wealth had rendered wealth a necessity,
and that wealth could only be had by perpetuating and increasing the
abuses which caused ominous murmurs of discontent in those nations not
fortunate enough to be defended by Concordats or Pragmatic Sanctions.
The church had lost its suppleness, and was immovable. A reform such
as was demanded, while increasing its influence over the souls of men,
would have deprived it of control over their purses; reform meant
poverty. The sumpter-mule loaded with gold, wrung from the humble
pittance of the Westphalian peasant, under pretext of prosecuting the
war against the infidel, would no longer cross the Alps to stimulate
with its treasure the mighty genius of Michael Angelo, or the
fascinating tenderness of Raphael; to provide princely revenues for the
bastards of a pope, or to pay mercenaries who were to win them cities
and lordships; to fill the antechamber of a cardinal with parasites,
and to deck his mistresses with the silks and jewels of Ind; to feed
needy men of letters and scurrilous poets; to soothe the itching
palms of the Rota, and to enable all Rome to live on the tribute so
cunningly exacted of the barbarian.[1033] The wretched ending of the
council of Bâle rendered any internal reformation impossible which
did not derive its initiative and inspiration from Rome, as was shown
by the failure of the council of Pisa. In Rome, it would have required
the energy of Hildebrand, the stern self-reliance of Innocent, the
unworldly asceticism of Celestin combined, to even essay a reform which
threatened destruction so complete to all the interests accumulated by
sacerdotalism around the Eternal City. Leo X. was neither Hildebrand,
nor Innocent, nor Celestin. With his voluptuous nature, elegant
culture, and easy temper, it is no wonder that he failed to read
aright the signs of the times, and that he did not even recognize the
necessity which should impose upon him a task so utterly beyond his
powers. The fifth council of Lateran had no practical result. Blindly
he plunged on; money must be had at any cost, until the salvation
mongering of Tetzel, little if any worse than that of his predecessors,
could no longer bear the critical spirit of the age, and Teutonic
insubordination at length found a mouth-piece in the Monk of Wittenberg.

It would be a mistake to credit Luther with the Reformation. His bold
spirit and masculine character gave to him the front place, and drew
around him the less daring minds who were glad to have a leader to whom
to refer their doubts, and on whom their responsibility might partly
rest; yet Luther was but the exponent of a public sentiment which had
long been gaining strength, and which in any case would not have lacked
expression. In that great movement of the human mind he was not the
cause, but the instrument. Had his great opponent Erasmus enjoyed
the physical vigor and practical boldness of Luther, he would have
been handed down as the heresiarch of the sixteenth century.[1034] He,
too, had borne his full share in preparing the minds of men for what
was to come. The whole structure of sacerdotalism felt the blows of
his irreverential spirit, which boldly declared that the Scriptures
alone contained what was necessary to salvation.[1035] Theological
subtleties and priestly observances were alike useless or worse than
useless. For the living, it was idle to attend mass; for the dead, it
was folly to look to such a means for extrication from purgatory.[1036]
The confessional was to be visited only as a formal prerequisite to
partaking the Eucharist;[1037] pilgrimages and the veneration of
relics were ridiculed with a reckless freedom which showed that the
advance of enlightenment had utterly destroyed the reverence of the
past.[1038] Nothing, indeed, can give us a more thorough conviction
of the readiness of the public to welcome a radical change than the
wealth of indignant bitterness which Erasmus, himself a canon regular
and a priest, heaps upon all orders of the church, and the immense
applause which everywhere greeted his attacks. His sarcastic humor, his
biting satire, his exquisite ridicule, nowhere find a more congenial
subject than the vices of the monks, the priests, the prelates, the
cardinals, and even of the pope himself, until even Luther, as late as
1517, feels constrained to deplore that the evils which afflicted the
church should be thus exposed to derision.[1039] It affords a curious
illustration of the times to read those writings which a century
earlier would have consigned him to the dungeon or the stake, and to
reflect that he was not only the admiration of both the learned and the
vulgar of Europe, but also the petted protégé of king and kaisar, the
correspondent of popes, and finally the champion of the system which he
had so ruthlessly reviled, and which he never ceased to deplore.[1040]
The extraordinary favor with which his works were received by all
classes shows how fully he was justified in the indignation which he
so unsparingly lavished on clerical abuses, and how eagerly the public
appreciated one who could so well express that which was felt by all.
Equally significant was the popularity of the “Epistolæ Obscurorum
Virorum,” in which the learned wits of the new school poured forth upon
the clergy a broad and homely ridicule which exactly suited the taste
of the age;[1041] while Cornelius Agrippa more than rivalled Erasmus
in the wealth of vigorous denunciation with which he lashed the vices
of all the orders of ecclesiastics, from the pope to the béguine.[1042]

Not less indicative of the dangerous state of opinion was an address
delivered in the Diet held at Augsburg in 1518, when the legates of
Leo X. appealed to Germany for a tithe to assist in carrying on the
war against the Turk. The orator who replied to them did not restrain
his indignation at the deplorable condition of the church, which he
attributed solely to the worldly ambition of the popes. Since they had
united temporal with spiritual dominion—or, rather, since they had
allowed temporal interests to divert them wholly from their spiritual
duties—all had gone amiss. Christendom was despoiled from without,
and filled with tumult within. Religion was openly contemned; Christ
was daily bought and sold; the sheep were shorn, and the pastor took
no care of them. He did not even hesitate to charge, with emphasis
and at much detail, that the money extorted from Germany under pious
pretexts was squandered in Italy on the private quarrels and for
the aggrandizement of the papal houses, and those of the members
of the sacred college.[1043] All other nations were protected from
papal rapacity and tyranny by formal agreements. Germany alone was
surrendered defenceless, and not only were her bishops plundered but
even the smallest benefice could not be confirmed without the recipient
running the gauntlet of a horde of officials whose exactions forced him
to sell the very furniture of his church. As the rules of law and the
dictates of justice were equally disregarded, the popular sentiment
was becoming openly hostile to the church.[1044] A state of feeling
which dictated and permitted such a declaration from the supreme
representative body of the empire, when brought into collision with the
pretensions of the Holy See, now more exaggerated than ever, could have
but one result—Revolution.

With all this license Germany was still, by the force of circumstances,
less independent of the papacy than any other Tramontane power. What
was going on elsewhere in Europe may be guessed from the humiliating
conditions exacted in 1517 of Silvester Darius, the papal collector,
on his assuming the functions of his important office in England. He
bound himself by oath not to execute any letters or mandates of the
pope injurious to the king, the kingdom, or the laws; not to transmit
from England to Rome, without a special royal license, any gold, or
silver, or bills of exchange; not to leave the kingdom himself without
a special license under the great seal; with other less notable
restrictions, the practical effect of all being to place him and
his duties wholly under the control of the king.[1045] The position
of England had changed since the days of Innocent and John. Had the
dissensions of Germany permitted equal progress, Luther might perhaps
have only been known as an obscure but learned orthodox doctor, and
the inevitable revolt of half of Christendom have been postponed for a

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not my province to follow in detail the vicissitudes of the
Reformation, but only to indicate briefly its relations with sacerdotal
asceticism. Luther, at first, like Wickliffe and Huss, paid no
attention to the subject. In fact, when, on the 31st of October, 1217,
he nailed on the church door of Wittenberg his celebrated ninety-five
propositions, nothing was further from his expectations than to create
a heresy, a schism, or even a general reform in the church. He had
simply in view to vindicate his ideas on the subject of justification,
derived from St. Augustin, against the Thomist doctrines which had been
exaggerated into the monstrous abuses of Tetzel and his fellows.[1046]
In the general movement of the human mind at that period so much had
been said that was inimical to the received practices of the church,
without calling forth the thunders of Rome, that men seemed to think
the day of toleration had at last come. The hierarchy sat serenely
upon their thrones and in the confidence of unassailable power appeared
willing to allow any freedom of speculation which did not assail their
temporal privileges. Yet amid the general agitation and opposition
to Rome which pervaded society, it was impossible for a bold and
self-reliant spirit such as Luther’s not to advance step by step in a
career of which the ultimate goal was as little foreseen by himself
as by others. Still his progress was wonderfully slow. Even in 1519
he still considered himself within the pale of the church, and held
that no wrong committed by her could justify a separation or excuse
any resistance to the commands of a pope;[1047] and in the same year,
in a sermon on matrimony, he alluded not unfavorably to the life of
virginity.[1048] Events soon after forced him to further and more
dangerous innovations, yet when Leo X., in June, 1520, issued his
celebrated bull, “Exsurge Domine” to crush the rising heresy, in the
forty-one errors enumerated as taught by Luther, there is no allusion
to any doctrine specially inimical to ascetic celibacy.[1049]

This condemnation, followed as it was by the public burning of his
writings, aroused Luther to a more active and aggressive hostility
than he had previously manifested, In his book “De Captivitate
Babylonica Ecclesiæ” he attacked the sacrament of ordination, denied
that it separated the priest from his fellows, and ridiculed the
rule concerning digami, which excluded from the priesthood a man
who had been the husband of any but a virgin, while another who had
polluted himself with six hundred concubines was eligible to the
episcopate or papacy.[1050] Finally on Dec. 10th, 1520, he proclaimed
war to the knife by burning at Wittenberg the books of the canon law
and justifying this act by a manifesto recapitulating the damnable
doctrines contained in them. Among these he enumerates the prohibition
of sacerdotal marriage, as the origin and cause of excessive vice
and scandal.[1051] As he said himself, hitherto he had only been
playing at controversy with the Pope, but this was the beginning of
the tragedy.[1052] Soon after this, in a controversy with Ambrogio
Catarino, he stigmatized the rule of celibacy as angelical in
appearance, but devilish in reality, and invented by Satan as a fertile
source of sin and perdition.[1053]

In the mighty movement which was agitating men’s minds, Luther had been
anticipated in this. As early as 1518, a monk of Dantzic named James
Knade, abandoned his order, married, and publicly preached resistance
to Rome. It is evident that in this he had the support of the
people, for though he was imprisoned and tried by the ecclesiastical
authorities, the only punishment inflicted on him was banishment.[1054]
In the multitude of other questions more interesting to the immediate
disputants this point of discipline seems to have attracted but little
attention until 1521, when during Luther’s enforced seclusion in
Wartburg, Bartholomew Bernhardi, pastor of Kammerich, near Wittenberg,
put the heresiarch’s views into action in the most practical way by
obtaining the consent of his parish and celebrating his nuptials
with all due solemnity. Albert, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg,
addressed to Frederic, Elector of Saxony, a demand for the rendition
of the culprit, which that prudent patron of the Reformation skilfully
eluded, and Bernhardi published a short defence or apology in which
he denounced the rule of celibacy as a “frivolam traditiunculam.” He
argued the matter, quoting the texts which since his time have been
generally employed in support of sacerdotal marriage; he referred
to Peter and Philip, Spiridon of Cyprus, and Hilary of Poitiers, as
examples of married bishops, quoted the story of Paphnutius, and relied
on the authority of the Greek church. This apparently did not satisfy
the archbishop, for Bernhardi felt obliged to address a second apology
to Frederic of Saxony, to whom he appealed for protection against
the displeasure of his ecclesiastical superiors.[1055] In spite of
molestation, he continued in the exercise of his priestly functions
until death. Less fortunate were his immediate imitators. A priest of
Mansfeld who took to himself a wife was thrown into prison at Halle
by the Archbishop of Mainz, and Jacob Siedeler, pastor of Glashütten,
in Misnia, who was guilty of the same crime, perished miserably in
the dungeon of Stolpen, to which he was committed by Duke George of

The enthusiastic Carlostadt, relieved for the time from the restraint
of Luther’s cooler wisdom, threw himself with zeal into this new
movement of reform, and lost no time in justifying it by a treatise
in which he argued strenuously in favor of priestly marriage, and
energetically denounced the monastic vows as idle and vain. Luther,
however, in his retreat, seems not yet prepared to take any very
decided position. In a letter of Jan. 17th, 1522, to Wolfgang Fabricius
Capito, one of the officials of the Archbishop of Mainz, he takes
the latter severely to task with respect to his action in a case of
the kind—probably that of the priest of Mansfeld alluded to above.
The man had been set at liberty, but forced to separate himself from
his wife, and Capito had defended himself on the ground that the
woman was a harlot. Luther asks him why he had been so earnest with a
single strumpet, when he had taken no action with so many under his
jurisdiction in Halberstadt, Mainz, and Magdeburg, and adds that when
the priest had acknowledged the woman as his wife there should have
been nothing further done. He proceeds to say, however, that he does
not ask for the freedom of sacerdotal marriage, and that he is not
prepared to take any general position concerning it, except that it
is lawful under God.[1057] Either with or without his approbation,
however, his friends lost no time in enforcing the new dogma which
they proclaimed to the world in the most authoritative manner. During
the same year Luther’s own Augustinian order held a provincial synod
at Wittenberg, in which they formally threw open the doors of the
monasteries, and permitted all who desired it to return to the world,
declaring that in Christ there was no distinction between Jew and
Greek, monk and layman, and that a vow in opposition to the gospel
was no vow, but an impiety. Ceremonies, observances, and dress were
pronounced futile; those who chose to abide by the established rule
were free to do so, but their preferences were not to be a law to their
fellows. Those who were fitted for preaching the word were advised to
depart; those who remained were obliged to perform the manual labor
which had been so prominent a portion of primæval Teutonic monasticism,
and mendicancy was strictly forbidden. In a few short and simple canons
a radical rebellion thus declared itself in the heart of an ancient and
powerful order, and principles were promulgated which were totally at
variance with sacerdotalism in all its protean forms.[1058]

This broad spirit of toleration did not suit the views of the more
progressive reformers. In Luther’s own Augustinian convent at
Wittenberg, one of his most zealous adherents, Gabriel Zwilling,
preached against monachism in general, taking the ground that salvation
required the renunciation of their vows by all who had been ensnared
into assuming the cowl; and so great was his success that thirteen
monks at once abandoned the convent. Yet even on Luther’s return to
Wittenberg, he at first took no part in the movement. He retained
his Augustinian habit, and continued his residence in the convent;
but before the close of the year (1522) he put forth his work, “De
Votis Monasticis,” in which he fully and finally adopted the views
of his friends, and showed himself as an uncompromising enemy of
monasticism.[1059] How difficult it was for him, however, to shake off
the habitudes in which he had been trained is shown by the fact that,
even at the end of 1523, he still sometimes preached in his cowl and
sometimes without it.[1060]

Notwithstanding the zealous opposition of the orthodox ecclesiastical
authorities, the doctrine and practice of Wittenberg were not long in
finding earnest defenders and imitators. But few such marriages, it is
true, are recorded in 1522, although Balthazar Sturmius, an Augustinian
monk of Saxony, committed the bolder indiscretion of marrying a widow
of Franconia. In that year, however, we find Franz von Sickingen,
knight-errant and condottiero, who was then a power in the state,
advocating the emancipation and marriage of the religious orders, in
a letter to his father-in-law, Diedrich von Henthschuchsheym. Still
more important was the movement inaugurated in Switzerland by Ulrich
Zwingli, who, with ten other monks of Nôtre-Dame-des-Hermites, on
the 2d of July, 1522, addressed to Hugo von Hohenlandemberg, Bishop
of Constance, a petition requesting the privilege of marriage. The
petitioners boldly argued the matter, citing the usual Scriptural
authorities, and adjured the bishop in the most pressing terms to
grant their request. They warned him that a refusal might entail
ruinous disorders on the whole sacerdotal body, and that, unless he
seized the opportunity to guide the movement, it might speedily assume
a most disastrous shape. They asserted, indeed, that not only in
Switzerland, but elsewhere, it was generally believed that a majority
of ecclesiastics had already chosen their future wives, and that a
return to the old order of things was beyond the power of man to

In this assertion, Zwingli and his companions followed perhaps rather
the dictates of their hopes than of their judgment, for the revolution
was by no means as universal or immediate as their threats or warnings
would indicate. Its progress, nevertheless, was rapid and decided.
Luther, whom we have seen, in the earlier part of 1522, still giving
but a qualified assent to the daring innovation of his followers, in
February, 1523, wrote to Spalatin in favor of a married pastor who was
seeking preferment at the hands of the Elector Frederic;[1062] and
in April, 1523, he himself officiated and preached a sermon in favor
of matrimony to a multitude of distinguished friends at the wedding
of Wenceslas Link, vicar of the Augustinian order, one of his oldest
and most valued supporters, who had stood unflinchingly by him when
arraigned by Cardinal Caietano before the Emperor Maximilian at the
Diet of Augsburg.[1063] Not less important was the countenance given to
the innovation, two days later, by the Elector Frederic, who consented
to act as sponsor at the baptism of the first-born of Franz Gunther,
pastor of Loch;[1064] the ceremony being performed by the honest
chronicler Spalatin himself.

It is curious to see in Spalatin’s diary how each successive marriage
is recorded as a matter of the utmost interest, the hopes of the
reformers being strengthened by every accession to the ranks of those
who dared to defy the rules which had been deemed irreversible for
centuries. Nor was it an act without danger, for no open rupture
had as yet taken place between the temporal power of any state and
the central authority at Rome. Even in Electoral Saxony, though
Duke Frederic, by a cautious course of passive resistance, afforded
protection to the heretics, yet he still considered himself a
Catholic, and the ritual of his chapel was unaltered. Elsewhere the
ecclesiastical power was bent on asserting its supremacy over the
licentious apostates who ventured to sully their vows and prostitute
the sacrament of marriage by their incestuous unions. The old charge
of promiscuous intercourse was resorted to in their case, as it has
been with almost every heresy in every age, for the purpose of exciting
popular odium,[1065] and wherever the discipline of the church could
be enforced, it was done unsparingly. The temper of these endeavors to
repress the movement is well illustrated by the regulations promulgated
under the authority of the Cardinal-legate Campeggi, when, in 1524, he
succeeded in uniting a number of reactionary princes at the Assembly of
Ratisbon. Deploring the sacrilege committed in the marriages of priests
and monks, which were becoming extremely common, he granted permission
to the secular powers to seize all such apostates and deliver them to
the ecclesiastical officials, significantly restraining them, however,
from inflicting torture. The officials were empowered to condemn the
offenders to perpetual imprisonment, or to hand them over to the
secular arm—a decent euphuism for a frightful death; and any negligence
on the part of the ordinaries exposed those officers to the pains and
penalties of heresy.[1066]

In spite of all this, however, the votaries of marriage had the
support and sympathy of the great body of the people. It shows how
widely diffused and strongly implanted was the conviction of the evils
of celibacy, when those who four centuries earlier had so cruelly
persecuted their pastors for not discarding their wives now urged them
to marriage, and were ready to protect them from the consequences of
the act. Thus, during the summer of 1524, Wolfgang Fabricius Capito,
provost of St. Thomas and priest of the church of St. Peter at
Strassburg, whom we have seen two years earlier prosecuting a married
priest, took to himself a wife, by the request of his parishioners,
and when the chapter of canons endeavored to interfere with him, the
threatening aspect of the populace warned them to desist. Nor was this
the only case, for Bishop William undertook to excommunicate all the
married priests of Strassburg, when the senate of the city resolutely
espoused their cause, and even the authority of the legate Campeggi
could not reconcile the quarrel.[1067]

Even higher protection was sometimes not wanting. When Adrian II., in
1522, reproached the Diet of Nürnberg with the inobservance of the
decree of Worms and the consequent growth of Lutheranism, and King
Ferdinand, in the name of the German states, replied that a council
for the reformation of the church was the only remedy, the question of
married priests arose for discussion. The German princes alleged that
they could find in the civil and municipal laws no provisions for the
punishment of such transgressions, and that the canons of discipline
could only be enforced by the ecclesiastical authorities themselves,
who ought not to be interfered with in the discharge of their duty by
the secular authorities.[1068] This was scant encouragement, but even
this was often denied in practice. When, in 1523, Conrad von Tungen,
Bishop of Wurzburg, threw into prison two of his canons, the doctors
John Apel and Frederic Fischer, for the crime of marrying nuns, the
Council of Regency at Nürnberg forced him to liberate them in a few
weeks.[1069] This latter fact is the more remarkable, since, but a
short time previous (March 6th, 1523), the Imperial Diet at Nürnberg,
under the auspices of the same Regency, had expressed its desire to
give every assistance to the ecclesiastical authority in enforcing the
canons. In a decree on the subject of the religious disturbances, it
adopted the canon law on celibacy as part of the civil law, pronouncing
sentence of imprisonment and confiscation on all members of the clergy
who should marry, and ordering the civil power in all cases to assist
the ecclesiastical in its efforts to punish offenders.[1070]

The emancipation of nuns excited considerable public interest, and in
many instances was effected by aid from without. A certain Leonhard
Kopp, who was a determined enemy of monachism, rendered himself
somewhat notorious by exploits of the kind. One of the earliest
instances was that by which, on Easter eve, 1523, at considerable risk,
he succeeded in carrying off from the convent of Nimptschen, in Misnia,
eight young virgins of noble birth, all of whom were subsequently
married, and one of whom was Catharine von Bora.[1071] The example was
contagious. Before the month was out six nuns, all of noble blood,
left the abbey of Sormitz, and soon after eight escaped from that of
Peutwitz, at Weissenfels.[1072] Monks enfranchised themselves with
still less trouble. At Nürnberg, in 1524, the Augustinians in a body
threw off their cowls and proclaimed themselves citizens.[1073]

Finally, Luther gave the last and most unquestionable proof of his
adhesion to the practice of sacerdotal marriage by espousing Catharine
von Bora, whom we have seen escaping, two years before, from the
convent of Nimptschen. Scandal, it would seem, had been busy with
the intimacy between the pious doctor and the fair renegade, who
had spent nearly the whole period of her liberty at Wittenberg, and
Luther, with the practical decision of character which distinguished
him, suddenly resolved to put the most effectual stop to rumors which
his enemies doubtless were delighted to circulate. On the evening of
June 13th, 1525, without consulting his friends, he invited to supper
Pomeranius, Lucas Cranach, and Apellus, and had the marriage ceremony
performed.[1074] It took his followers completely by surprise; many of
them disapproved of it, and Justus Jonas, in communicating the fact to
Spalatin, characterizes it as a startling event, and evidently feels
that his correspondent will require the most incontrovertible evidence
of the fact, when he declares that he himself had been present and
had seen the bridegroom in the marriage bed.[1075] If the portraits
after Lucas Cranach given in Mayer’s Dissertation on Catharine be
faithful likenesses, it was scarcely the beauty of his bride that led
Luther to take this step, for her features seem rather African than

When Luther had once decided for himself on the propriety of sacerdotal
marriage, he was not likely to stop half-way. Some of the reformers
were disposed to adopt the principles of the early church, and, while
permitting married priests to officiate, denied to them the right
to marry a second time or to espouse any but virgins, declaring all
_digami_ worthy of death and calling upon the people to drive them
out. Against these Luther, in 1528, took up the cudgels vigorously,
arguing the question in all its bearings and arriving at the conclusion
that only bigamists were to be shunned or deemed unworthy of holy
orders.[1077] Yet at the same time his thoroughly practical mind
prevented him from losing sight of some of the evils inseparable
from the revolution which he had wrought in an institution so deeply
affecting daily life as monasticism. As late as 1543, in a letter to
Spalatin, while congratulating him on the desire expressed by some
nuns to leave their convent, he cautions them not to do so unless
they have a certainty or, at least, a speedy prospect of marriage. He
complains of the number of such cases in which he had been obliged to
support the fugitives, and he concludes by declaring that old women
who had no chance of finding husbands had much better remain in their

It is not difficult to explain why there was so ready and general an
acquiescence in the abrogation of a rule established by the veneration
of so many centuries. Not only had the doctrines of the reformers
taken a deep and firm hold of the popular heart throughout Germany,
destroying the reverence for tradition and antiquity, and releasing
the human mind from the crushing obligation of blind obedience, but
there were other motives, natural, if not particularly creditable. The
ecclesiastical foundations had long neglected the duties of charity,
hospitality, and education, on which were grounded their claims to
their broad lands and rich revenues. While, therefore, the temporal
princes might be delighted with the opportunity of secularizing and
seizing the church possessions, the people might reasonably hope that
the increase of their rulers’ wealth would alleviate their own burdens,
as well as release them from the direct oppression which many of them
suffered from the religious establishments. Even more potential was the
disgust everywhere felt for the flagrant immorality of the priesthood.
The dread experienced by every husband and father lest wife and
daughter might at any moment fall victims to the lust of those who had
every opportunity for the gratification of unholy passions, led them
to welcome the change, in the hope that it would result in restoring
decency and virtue to a class which had long seemed to regard its
sacred character as the shield and instrument of crime.

The moral character of the clergy, indeed, had not improved during the
busy and eventful years which marked the first quarter of the sixteenth
century. There is a curious little tract, printed in Cologne in 1505,
with the approbation of the faculty, which is directed against
concubinage in general, but particularly against that of the priests.
Its laborious accumulation of authorities to prove that licentiousness
is a sin is abundant evidence of the existing demoralization, while
the practices which it combats, of guilty ecclesiastics granting
absolution to each other and mutually dispensing themselves from
confession, show how easily the safeguards with which the church had
sought to surround her ministers were eluded.[1079] The degradation of
the priesthood, indeed, can readily be measured when, in the little
town of Hof, in the Vogtland, three priests could be found defiling
the sacredness of Ash-Wednesday by fiercely fighting over a courtesan
in a house of ill-fame;[1080] or when Leo X., in a feeble effort at
reform, was obliged to argue that systematic licentiousness was not
rendered excusable because its prevalence amounted to a custom, or
because it was openly tolerated by those whose duty was to repress
it.[1081] In fact, a clause in the Concordat with Francis I. in 1516,
renewing and enhancing the former punishments for public concubinage,
would almost justify the presumption that the principal result of the
rule of celibacy was to afford to the officials a regular revenue
derived from the sale of licenses to sin[1082]—the old abuse, which
rises before us in every age from the time of Damiani and Hildebrand,
and which, since John XXII. had framed the tariff of absolutions for
crime known as the “Taxes of the Penitentiary,” had the authority of
the papacy itself to justify it. In this curious document we find that
a concubinary priest could procure absolution for less than a ducat
“in spite of all provincial and synodal constitutions;” while half a
ducat was sufficient to absolve for incest committed with a mother or a

That no concealment was thought necessary, and that sensual indulgence
was not deemed derogatory in any way to the character of a Christian
prelate, may be reasonably deduced from the panegyric of Gerard of
Nimeguen on Philip of Burgundy, granduncle of Charles V., a learned and
accomplished man, who filled the important see of Utrecht from 1517
to 1524. Gerard alludes to the amorous propensities and promiscuous
intrigues of his patron without reserve, and as his book was dedicated
to the Archduchess Margaret, sister of Charles V., it is evident
that he did not feel his remarks to be defamatory. The good prelate,
too, no doubt represented the convictions of a large portion of his
class, when he was wont to smile at those who urged the propriety of
celibacy, and to declare his belief in the impossibility of chastity
among men who, like the clergy, were pampered with high living and
tempted by indolence. Those who professed to keep their vows inviolate
he denounced as hypocrites of the worst description, and he deemed them
far worse than their brethren who sought to avoid unnecessary scandal
by decently keeping their concubines at home.[1084]

Even this reticence, however, was considered unnecessary by a large
portion of the clergy. In 1512, the Bishop of Ratisbon issued a series
of canons in which, after quoting the Basilian regulations, he adds
that many of his ecclesiastics maintain their concubines so openly
that it would appear as though they saw neither sin nor scandal in
such conduct, and that their evil example was the efficient cause of
corrupting the faithful.[1085] In Switzerland the same abuses were
quite as prevalent, if we may believe a memorial presented, in 1533, by
the citizens of Lausanne, complaining of the conduct of their clergy.
They rebuked the incontinence of the priests, whose numerous children
were accustomed to earn a living by beggary in the streets, but the
canons were the subjects of their especial objurgation. The dean of
the chapter had defied an excommunication launched at him for buying
a house near the church in which to keep his mistress; others of the
canons had taken to themselves the wives of citizens and refused to
give them up; but the quaintest grievance of which they had been guilty
was the injury which their competition inflicted on the public brothel
of the town.[1086] What was the condition of clerical morality in
Italy may be gathered from the stories of Bishop Bandello, who, as a
Dominican and a prelate, may fairly be deemed to represent the tone
of the thinking and educated classes of society. The cynical levity
with which he narrates scandalous tales about monks and priests shows
that in the public mind sacerdotal immorality was regarded almost as a
matter of course.[1087]

The powerful influence of all this on the progress of the Reformation
was freely admitted by the authorities of the church. When the legate
Campeggi was sent to Germany to check the spread of heresy, in his
reformatory edict issued at Ratisbon in 1524, he declared that the
efforts of the Lutherans had no little justification in the detestable
morals and lives of the clergy, and this is confirmed by his unsparing
denunciation of their licentiousness, drunkenness, quarrels, and
tavern-haunting; their traffic in absolution for enormous offences;
their unclerical habits and hideous blasphemy; their indulgence in
incantations and dabbling in witchcraft.[1088] Very significant is
his declaration that the canonical punishments shall be inflicted on
concubinary priests, in spite of all custom to the contrary or all
connivance with the prelates.[1089]

How little, indeed, licentious ecclesiastics might reasonably dread
the canonical punishments is illustrated in the report, by the
celebrated jurisconsult Grillandus, of a case which came before him
while he was auditor of the Papal Vicar in Rome. A Spanish priest
and Doctor of Canon Law, residing in the Christian capital, became
enamoured of several young nuns at once, and endeavored to seduce them
by teaching them that, as they and he were alike spouses of Christ,
carnal affection between them was their duty. Failing in this, he
sought to compel the assistance of God in his designs, and, being a
man of literary culture, he composed a number of prayers of singular
obscenity, and bribed various ignorant priests to recite them amid
the ineffable mysteries of the Mass, hoping thus to obtain the aid of
heaven in overcoming the chastity of his intended victims. At length he
chanced to offer one of these prayers to a priest of somewhat better
character, who was sufficiently shocked by it to communicate with the
authorities. Brought before Grillandus, the guilty Spaniard sought to
justify himself by alleging various Scriptural texts, but, upon being
warned that such a defence would subject him to a prosecution for
heresy, he recanted and acknowledged his errors. For this complicated
mingling of lust and sacrilege, his only punishment was a short
banishment from Rome.[1090] When the papal court set such an example,
what was to be expected of less enlightened regions?

How keenly these evils were felt by the people, and how instinctively
they were referred to the rule of celibacy as to their proper origin,
is shown by an incidental allusion in the formula of complaint laid
before the pope by the imperial Diet held at Nürnberg early in 1522,
before the heresy of priestly marriage had spread beyond the vicinity
of Wittenberg. The Diet, in recounting the evils arising from the
ecclesiastical jurisdiction which allowed clerical offenders to
enjoy virtual immunity, adduced, among other grievances, the license
afforded to those who, debarred by the canons from marriage, abandoned
themselves night and day to attempts upon the virtue of the wives and
daughters of the laity, sometimes gaining their ends by flattery and
presents, and sometimes taking advantage of the opportunities offered
by the confessional. It was not uncommon, indeed, for women to be
openly carried off by their priests, while their husbands and fathers
were threatened with vengeance if they should attempt to recover them.
As regards the sale to ecclesiastics of licenses to indulge in habitual
lust, the Diet declared it to be a regular and settled matter, reduced
to the form of an annual tax, which in most dioceses was exacted of all
the clergy without exception, so that when those who perchance lived
chastely demurred at the payment, they were told that the bishop must
have the money, and that after it was handed over they might take their
choice whether to keep concubines or not.[1091] In the face of this
condition of ecclesiastical morality, it required some obtuseness for
Adrian VI. to compare Luther to Mahomet, the one seeking to attract to
his party the carnal-minded by permitting marriage, even as the other
had established polygamy,[1092] and, further, to abuse him for uniting
the ministers of Christ with the vilest harlots.[1093]

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the diverse opinions of existing evils and their remedy, it is
interesting to see what was the view of the subject taken by those
ecclesiastics whose purity of life removed them from all temptation to
indulgence, and who yet were not personally interested in upholding the
gigantic but decaying structure of sacerdotalism. Of these men Erasmus
may be taken as the representative. His opinion on all the questions
of the day was too eagerly desired for him to escape the necessity of
pronouncing his verdict on the innovation portended by the one or two
marriages which took place near Wittenberg in 1521, and accordingly, in
1522, from his retreat at Bâle he issued a short dissertation on the
subject, which, although addressed merely to Bishop Christopher of that
city, was evidently intended for a European audience. In this essay,
after sketching the rise of celibacy and attributing it to the purity
and fervor of the early Christians, he proceeds to depict the altered
condition of the church. Among the innumerable multitude of priests
who crowd the monasteries, the chapters, and the parishes, he declares
that there are few indeed whose lives are pure, even as respects open
and avowed concubinage, without penetrating into the mysteries of
secret intrigue. As, therefore, there is no Scriptural injunction of
celibacy, he concludes that, however desirable it might be to have
ministers free from the cares of marriage and devoting themselves
solely to the service of God, yet, since it seems impossible to conquer
the rebellious flesh, it would be better to allow those who cannot
control themselves to have wives with whom they could live in virtuous
peace, bringing up their children in the fear of God, and earning
the respect of their flocks. No more startling evidence, indeed, of
the demoralization of the period could be given than the cautious
fear which Erasmus expresses lest such a change should be opposed by
the episcopal officials, who would object to the diminution of their
unhallowed gains levied on the concubines of the clergy.[1094]

       *       *       *       *       *

When such was the condition of ecclesiastical morality, and such were
the opinions of all except those directly interested in upholding the
old order of things, it is no wonder if the people were disposed to
look with favor on the marriage of their pastors, and if the rejection
of celibacy gave a fresh impetus to the cause of Lutheranism. In the
early days of all sects, it is only those of ardent faith and pure
zeal who are likely to embrace a new belief, with all the attendant
risks of persecution and contumely. The laxity of life allowed to the
Catholic clergy would attract to its ranks and retain those whose aim
was sensual indulgence. Thus, necessarily, the reformers who married
would present for contrast regular and chaste lives and well-ordered
households, purified by the dread of the ever-impending troubles
to which the accident of a day might at any time expose them. The
comparison thus was in every way favorable to the new ideas, and they
flourished accordingly.

Nor, perhaps, were the worldly inducements to which I have before
alluded less powerful in their own way in advancing the cause. Shortly
before Luther’s marriage, whatever influence was derivable from an
aristocratic example was obtained when the Baron of Heydeck, a knight
of the Teutonic order, renounced his vows and publicly espoused a nun
of Ligny.[1095] This may possibly have encouraged his superior, Albert
of Brandenburg, grand-master of the order, to execute his remarkably
successful coup d’état in changing his religion and seizing the estates
of the order, thus practically founding the state which chance and
talent have exalted until it has been able to realize, at least for a
time, the day-dream of a united Germany. The liberty of marriage which
he thus assumed was soon turned to account in his advantageous alliance
with Frederic, King of Denmark, whose daughter Dorothea he espoused,
the Bishop of Szamland officiating as his proxy, and the actual
marriage being celebrated June 14, 1526.[1096]

Luther may reasonably be held excusable for counselling and aiding a
transaction which lent such incalculable strength to the struggling
cause of the Reformation, and it is not to be wondered at if he
endeavored to follow it up with another of a similar character. The
nephew of the Duke of Prussia, also named Albert of Brandenburg,
occupied the highest place in the Teutonic hierarchy, as Archbishop
both of Mainz and Magdeburg, in the latter of which powerful sees the
Lutheran heresies had taken deep root. Luther sought to induce the
archbishop to follow his uncle’s example; to take possession in his
own right of the Magdeburg territories, and to transmit them to the
posterity with which heaven could not fail to bless his prospective
marriage—a scheme which met the warm approbation of the leading nobles
of the diocese. Albert thought seriously of the project, especially as
the Peasants’ War then raging was directed particularly against the
lands of the church, but he finally abandoned it, and his flock had to
work out their reformation without his assistance.[1097]

Perhaps some plans of territorial aggrandizement may have stimulated
the zeal of the Count of Embden, who boasted that he had assisted
and encouraged the marriage of no less than five hundred monks and
nuns;[1098] yet the process of secularizing the monastic foundations
was in many places by no means sudden or violent. Thus, when the Abbot
of Ilgenthal in Saxony died, in 1526, the Elector John simply forbade
the election of a successor, and placed the abbey in charge of a
prefect, while the remaining monks were liberally supplied until they
one after another died out,[1099] and in 1529, when Philip, Count of
Waldeck, took possession of the ancient monastery of Hainscheidt, he
caused all the monks to be supported during life.[1100]

       *       *       *       *       *

Through all this period the hope had never been abandoned of such an
arrangement as would prevent an irrevocable separation in the church.
Moderate and temperate men on both sides were ready to make such
concessions of form as would enable Christendom to remain united, as
the great vital truths on which all were agreed so far outweighed the
points of divergence. Whether these hopes were well or ill-founded
was to be determined at the Diet of Augsburg, to which, in June,
1530, both parties were summoned for the purpose of submitting their
differences to the emperor. Charles came to Germany in the full flush
of his recent extraordinary triumphs, the most powerful prince since
the days of Charlemagne. Europe was at length at peace, even the Turk
only looming in the East as a probable, not as an existing, enemy. But
Charles, newly crowned at Bologna, came ostensibly as the steadfast
ally of the pope, and Clement VII. had not the slightest intention of
renouncing the traditional and imprescriptible rights of the Holy See.
The Catholic princes of Germany, too, had their grounds of private
quarrel with their Protestant peers, and, holding an unquestioned
majority, were not disposed to abandon their position. The Protestant
princes, on the other hand, were firm in their new-found faith, and,
however disposed to avert the threatened storm by the sacrifice of
non-essentials, their convictions were too strong for them to retrace
the steps which they had taken during so many long and weary years.
It is evident that, with such materials on either side, no reunion
was probable; and, even had an accommodation on points of doctrine
been possible, there was one subject which scarcely seemed to admit of
satisfactory compromise. In the states of the reform, the downfall of
monachism had placed in the hands of the temporal powers large bodies
of sequestrated abbey lands. To the Catholic it was sacrilege to leave
these in the hands of the spoiler; the Protestant would not willingly
give up the spoil.

The contest was opened by the Protestants submitting a statement
of their belief, divided into two parts, the one devoted to points
of faith, the other to matters of practice. Prepared principally
by Melanchthon, it presents their tenets in the mildest and least
objectionable form, and becoming the recognized standard of their
creed, it has attained a world-wide renown under the name of the
Confession of Augsburg. The questions of celibacy and monastic vows
were ably and temperately argued; their post-scriptural origin was
shown, and the reasons which induced the reformers to reject them
were placed in a light as little offensive as possible.[1101] At
first, a counter-statement was anticipated from the Catholics, and
negotiations were expected to be carried on by a comparison of the
two, but they took higher ground, and contented themselves with
drawing up a refutation of the Confession. The emperor was firm.
His aspirations for the universal monarchy, which ever eluded his
grasp, did not comport with encouraging independence of thought and
freedom of religious belief. In his theory, uniform subordination of
religion was a necessary element of the political system which was to
make him sovereign of Europe, and he would listen to no compromise.
He was inclined to summary measures, but the Catholic princes were
hardly prepared for the consequences of an immediate rupture, and,
after a threatening interval, another effort was made to effect a
reconciliation. Conferences between the leading theologians on both
sides took place, and the Lutherans, warned of their danger, were more
disposed than ever to make concessions and to accept such terms as
the stronger party were willing to offer them. At length, on the 8th
of September, the draft of a proposed plan of accord was laid before
the Diet. In this the points in dispute were referred to that future
œcumenic council which had so long been demanded as the panacea for
all ecclesiastical ills, and which, after more than thirty years of
continued expectation, was destined to fail so miserably in reconciling
difficulties. Such monasteries as had not been destroyed were to be
maintained in the exercise of the customary rites and observances
of religion. Abbots and communities who had been ejected were to be
allowed to return; and all religious houses which had been emptied of
their occupants were to be placed in the hands of officers appointed
by the emperor, who were to administer to their possessions until
the future council should decide upon all the points relating to
monachism; the Protestants thus relieving themselves of the accusation
that they were actuated by motives of worldly gain. Similar proposals
were made with regard to communion in the two elements and clerical
marriage. These were left as open questions for the council to settle,
while a phrase of doubtful import subjected them in the mean time
to the governments of the several states.[1102] The concessions in
this project, however, though they might suit the views of temperate
doctors and princes in Germany, and though even the Roman curia might
be willing to grant them in order to save its threatened temporal power
over the Teutonic states, did not suit the policy of Charles, who
regarded the church as simply one of the instruments with which he was
to build up his universal empire.[1103] It was not difficult for him,
therefore, to bring to naught all such schemes of conciliation. The
restoration of all abbots and monks was ordered; restitution of church
lands was commanded, or their delivery to the emperor to be held until
the assembling of the future council; and when the Diet adjourned,
Charles issued a decree enjoining on all married priests to abstain
from their wives, to eject them, and to seek absolution from their

The threatening aspect of affairs warned the Protestant princes that no
time was to be lost in making provision for mutual defence, and ere the
year was out the famous League of Schmalkalden enabled them to present
a united front to the powers which they had virtually defied. Into the
political history of that eventful time it is not my province to enter.
Suffice it to say that they were able to maintain their position, and
in their own states to oppose the reactionary movement which at times
seemed to be on the point of destroying all that had been accomplished.

In this their task was complicated by the extravagances of those whose
enthusiasm, unbalanced by reason, carried them beyond restraint. If
Luther had found it no easy task to break the chains which for so
many ages had kept in check the spirit of free inquiry, he discovered
that it was impossible to control that spirit once let loose; and the
wild excesses of Anabaptism were at once the exaggeration and the
opprobrium of Lutheranism. Originally earnest and self-denying, the
primitive Anabaptists had captivated the fiery soul of Carlostadt,
while Luther was in his Patmos of Wartburg, but the pure asceticism
of Storck and Muncer gradually grew irksome to the followers who
flocked to their standard, and, if we may believe contemporary writers,
the unchaining of human passions in that lawless horde resulted in
the _igneum baptisma_, or fiery baptism, by which at Munster John
Mathison encouraged the most hideous licentiousness in the elect, to be
followed up by his successor, John of Leyden, who, in imitation of the
patriarchs, promulgated the law of polygamy.[1105]

Luther, however, was quite as resolute in setting limits to his
movement as Rome had been in forbidding all progress, and the
Anabaptists were to him enemies as detestable as Catholics. The
Protestant princes, moreover, had too much worldly wisdom to
imperil their dangerous career by any alliance with fanatics
whose extravagances provoked abhorrence so general. The cause of
the Reformation, therefore, although it suffered no little from
so portentous an illustration of the dangers resulting from the
destruction of the ancient barriers, escaped all contamination in
itself, and its leaders pursued their course undeviatingly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile the League of Schmalkalden accomplished its purpose.
Henry VIII. and Francis I. were eager to seize the opportunity of
encouraging dissension in the empire. The Turk became more menacing
than ever. Charles, always ready to yield for a time when opposition
was impolitic, gracefully abandoned the position assumed at Augsburg;
and the negotiations of Schweinfurth and Nürnberg resulted in the
decree of the Diet of Ratisbon in 1532, by which, until the assembling
of the future council, all religious disturbances were prohibited,
and the imperial chamber was commanded to undertake no prosecutions
on account of heresy. Toleration was thus practically established for
the moment, but the abbots and monks who had been ejected, and who
had been anticipating their restoration, became naturally restive.
Charles cunningly sent from Italy full powers to the chamber to decide
as to what causes arose from religious disputes, and what were simply
civil or criminal. Thus intrusted with the interpretation of the
Ratisbon decree, the chamber assumed that claims on church lands were
not included in the forbidden class, while old edicts prohibiting the
observances of Lutheranism brought all religious questions within the
scope of criminal law. The promised toleration was thus practically
denied, but, fortunately for the Protestants, Ferdinand was anxiously
negotiating for their recognition of his dignity as king of the Romans,
and by the Transaction of Cadam in 1533 he purchased the coveted homage
by accepting their construction of the edict of Ratisbon.

Still the Protestants complained of persecution and the Catholics of
proselytism. The ensuing fifteen years were filled with a series of
bootless negotiations, pretended settlements, quarrels, recriminations,
and mutual encroachments which year after year occupied the successive
Diets, and kept Germany constantly trembling on the verge of a
desolating civil war. It would be useless to disturb the dust that
covers these forgotten transactions, which can teach us nothing save
that the Protestants still refused to recognize that the schism was
past human power to heal; that Rome, recovering from her temporary
hesitation, would not abate one jot of her pretensions to save her
supremacy over half of Christendom;[1106] and that Charles, as a wily
politician, was always ready in adversity to abandon with a good grace
that which he had arrogantly seized in prosperity.[1107] How eager,
indeed, were the Protestants to effect some compromise which should
relieve them from their exceptional position is strikingly manifest in
the Articles which Melanchthon and his friends, in 1535, submitted to
Francis I., after the Sorbonne had refused to enter into a disputation
or conference with them. In this document all non-essentials were
abandoned; doctrinal dissidences were skilfully evaded, and stress only
was laid upon such regulations as should remove the external corruption
of the church. Melanchthon proposed that the monastic orders should be
continued, but that the vows should not be perpetual, so that religion
might not be disgraced by the excesses of those who had mistaken their
vocation. So, as regards priestly celibacy, he proposed that, as human
nature rendered it impossible to supply the multitude of parishes with
men able to live in continence, those who could not preserve their
purity should be allowed to marry; while, to prevent the dilapidation
of church property, the higher positions should be reserved to men of
mature age, who could lead a single life.[1108] The Sorbonne, in reply,
condescended to no argument, but contented itself with asserting that
the Protestants desired the subversion of all religion, while, on the
other hand, Melanchthon had the satisfaction of being proclaimed a
traitor by the Germans.

In all this the only point which possesses special interest for us is
another authoritative attempt at reconciling the irreconcilable which
occurred in 1541. After a conference between Melanchthon and Dr. Eck at
Worms, Charles himself presented to the Diet of Ratisbon a statement
of the questions in dispute, with propositions for mutual concession
and compromise. In the course of this, he reviewed the practice of the
church in various ages with regard to sacerdotal celibacy, admitting
that the enforcement of it was not in accordance with the ancient
canons, and indicating a willingness to see it abrogated.[1109] The
Protestants, who were ready to make many sacrifices for peace, hailed
this intimation with triumph, stoutly insisting on the repeal of the
obnoxious rule, which they stigmatized as unjust and pernicious.[1110]
So nearly did the parties at length approach each other, that there
appeared every reason to anticipate a successful result to the effort,
when Paul III. again interfered and pronounced all the proceedings
null and void, as the church alone had power to regulate its internal
affairs. The expectations excited by these negotiations naturally
stimulated the desire of the people for a change in the discipline of
the church, and the next year we find Paul III. obliged to exhort the
Bishop of Merseburg to resist the clamors of his subjects, who demanded
the abrogation of priestly celibacy and the use of the cup for the
laity, under threats of ejecting him. The pope evidently considered the
Germans unduly impatient, since they objected to await the assembling
of the Council of Trent, which was called to decide upon these

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles had long recognized that the perpetual menace of a powerful
confederation such as the Schmalkaldic League, entertaining constant
relations with the external enemies of the empire, was incompatible
with the peace of Germany and with an imperial power such as he was
resolved to wield. The time at last came for the development of his
plans. The skill of Alva and the treachery of Maurice of Saxony were
crowned with success. The battle of Muhlberg broke the power of the
Protestants utterly, and laid them helpless at the feet of their
bitterest foes. Yet the progress of the new ideas had already placed
them beyond the control of even the triumphant Charles, though he had
the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse in his dungeons. When,
at the Diet of Augsburg, in 1548, he proposed the curious arrangement
known as the _Interim_, by which he hoped to keep matters quiet until
the final verdict of that œcumenic council which constantly vanished
in the distance, he felt it necessary to permit all married priests to
retain their wives until the question should be decided by the future
council. A faint expression of a preference for celibacy, moreover, was
significant both in what it said and what it left unsaid.[1112]

The Interim, of course, satisfied neither party. The Catholics regarded
it as an unauthorized reformation, the Protestants as disguised popery.
Charles, however, in the plenitude of his power, obliged many of the
Lutheran states to accept it; while, as regards the Catholics, he was
perhaps not sorry to show the pope that he, too, like Henry VIII.,
could regulate the consciences of his subjects, and prescribe their
religious faith. He had broken with Paul III.; the council of Trent,
against his wishes, had been removed to Bologna on a frivolous pretext;
and a schism like that of England was apparently impending. At the
least, Charles might not unreasonably desire to manifest that at last
he was independent of that papal power with which mutual necessities
had so long enforced the closest relations, and to prove that deference
to his wishes was henceforth to be the price of his all-important
support. He demanded that legates should be sent to Germany armed with
extraordinary powers, among which was included authority to grant
dispensations to married priests. Paul III. referred the request to the
Sacred College and to the council then sitting at Bologna, and it was
unanimously replied that it should be granted, with the limitations
that monks should not be included, and that priests thus permitted
to retain their wives should not exercise their functions or enjoy
the fruits of their benefices.[1113] That Paul forthwith dispatched
three nuncios entrusted with authority to do this shows not only
the disposition which then existed to relax the rigor of the canons
respecting celibacy, but also the importance which the question had
assumed in the religious disputes of the time,[1114] though an absolute
refusal was soon afterwards returned to the request of a German prince
(supposed to be the Duke of Bavaria) requesting for his subjects the
use of the cup, priestly marriage, and the relaxation of the obligation
of fasting.[1115]

Temporary expedients and compromises such as these are interesting
merely as they mark the progress of opinion. Paltry makeshifts to
elude the decision of that which had to be decided, they exercised
little real influence on the history of the time. It is true that
when Charles, in 1551, at the Diet of Augsburg, issued a call for the
reassembling of the council of Trent, he confirmed the Interim until
that council should decide all unsettled questions,[1116] yet this
confirmation was destined to be effective for a period ludicrously
brief. A fresh treason of Maurice of Saxony undid all that his former
plotting had accomplished; and, while Henry II. was winning at the
expense of the empire the delusive title of Conqueror, Charles found
himself reduced to the hard necessity of restoring all that his crooked
policy had for so many years been devoted to extorting. The Transaction
of Passau, signed August 2d, 1552, gave full liberty of conscience to
the Lutheran states, until a national council or Diet should devise
means of restoring the unity of the church; and in case such means
could not be agreed upon, then the rights guaranteed by the Transaction
were granted in perpetuity.[1117] If Charles was disposed to withdraw
the concessions thus exacted of him, the miserable siege of Metz and
the increasing desire for abdication prevented him from attempting
it; and, at the Diet of Augsburg, in 1555, the states and cities of
the Augsburg Confession were confirmed in their right to enjoy the
practices of their religion in peace.[1118]

The long struggle thus was over. The public law of Germany at last
recognized the legality of the transactions based upon the Reformation,
and not the least in importance among those transactions were the
marriages of the ministers of Christ.



The abrogation of celibacy in England was a process of far more
perplexity and intricacy than in any other country which adopted the
Reformation. Perhaps this may be partially explained by the temperament
of the race, whose fierce spirit of independence made them quick to
feel and impatient to suffer the manifold evils of the sacerdotal
system, while their reverential conservatism rendered them less
disposed to adopt a radical cure than their Continental neighbors.

In no country of Europe had the pretensions of the papal power been so
resolutely set aside. In no country had ecclesiastical abuses been more
earnestly attacked or more persistently held up for popular odium, and
the applause which greeted all who boldly denounced the shortcomings
of priest and prelate shows how keenly the people felt the evils to
which they were exposed. William Langlande, the monk of Malvern, was no
heretic, yet he was unsparing in his reprobation of the corruptions of
the church:—

    “Right so out of holi chirche,
    Alle yveles springeth,
    There inparfit preesthode is,
    Prechours and techeris
      .. .. .
    And prechours after silver,
    Executours and sodenes,
    Somonours and hir lemmannes;
    That that with gile was geten,
    Ungraciousliche is despended;
    So harlotes and hores
    Arn holpe with swiche goodes,
    And Goddes folk, for defaute thereof,
    For-faren and spillen.”[1119]

And he boldly prophesied the violent downfall of the whole fabric—

    “Right so, ye clerkes,
    For youre coveitise, er longe,
    Shal thei demen _dos ecclesiæ_,
    And youre pride depose.
    _Deposuit potentes de sede_, etc.
      .. .. .
    Leveth it wel ye bisshopes
    The lordshipe of your londes
    For evere shul ye lese,
    And lyven as _levitici_, etc.”[1120]

But while the people greeted these assaults with the keenest pleasure,
they were attached to the old observances, and were in no haste to see
the predictions of the poet fulfilled. A little sharp persecution was
sufficient to suppress all outward show of Lollardry, and there was
no chance in England for the fierce revolutionary enthusiasm of the

As the sixteenth century opened, John Colet did good work in
disturbing the stagnation of the schools by his contempt for the
petrified theological science of the schoolmen. His endeavor to
revert to the Scriptures as the sole source of religious belief was a
step in advance, while he was unsparing in his denunciations of the
corruptions which were as rife in the English church as we have seen
them elsewhere. Yet Colet, though at one time taxed with heretical
leanings, kept carefully within the pale of orthodoxy, and seems never
to have entertained the idea that the evils which he deplored were to
be attacked save by a renewal of the fruitless iteration of obsolete
canons.[1121] Perhaps, however, his friend and disciple, Sir Thomas
More, is the best example of this frame of mind in England’s worthiest
men, the besetting weakness of which made the Anglican reformation a
struggle whose vicissitudes can scarce be said to have even yet reached
their final development.

Before Luther had raised the standard of revolt, More keenly
appreciated the derelictions of the church, and allowed his wit to
satirize its vices with a freedom which showed the scantiest respect
for the sanctity claimed by its hierarchy.[1122] Yet when Luther came
with his heresies to sweep away all abuses, More’s gentle and tender
spirit was roused to a vulgarity of vituperation which earned for him
a distinguished place among the foul-mouthed polemics of the time, and
which is absolutely unfit for translation.[1123] As regards ascetic
observances, before the Lutheran movement, More seems to have inclined
towards condemning all practices that were not in accordance with human
nature, though he appears willing to admit that there may be some
special sanctity, though not wisdom, in conquering nature.[1124] After
the commencement of the Reformation, however, his views underwent a
reaction, and he not only defended monastic vows, but he even went so
far as to argue that by the recent marriages of the Saxon reformers God
had manifested his signal displeasure, for in the old law true priests
could be joined only to the chastest virgins, while God permitted these
false pastors to take to wife none but public strumpets.[1125] If he
accused Luther of sweeping away the venerable traditions of man and of
God,[1126] he showed how conscientious was this rigid conservatism when
he laid his head upon the block in testimony for the principal creation
and bulwark of tradition—the papal supremacy.

A community thus halting between an acute perception of existing
evils and a resolute determination not to remove them was exactly in
the temper to render the great movement of the sixteenth century
as disastrous to themselves as possible. How to meet the inevitable
under such conditions was a problem which well might tax the acutest
intellect, and Wolsey, whose fate it was to undertake the task, seems
to have been inspired with more than his customary audacious ingenuity
in seeking the solution.

Wolsey himself was no ascetic, as the popular inscription over the
door of his palace—“Domus meretricium Domini Cardinalis”—sufficiently
attests. A visitation of the religious houses undertaken in 1511
by Archbishop Warham had revealed all the old iniquities without
calling forth any remedy beyond an admonition.[1127] In 1518, Wolsey
himself had attempted a systematic reformation in his diocese of York,
and had revived the ancient canons punishing concubinage among his
priesthood;[1128] and in 1519 we find him applying to Leo X. for a Bull
conferring special power to correct the enormities of the clergy.[1129]
When, in 1523, he proposed a general visitation for the reformation
of the ecclesiastical body, Fox, Bishop of Winchester, urged it as in
the highest degree necessary, stating that he himself had for three
years been devoting all his energies to restore discipline in his
diocese, and that his efforts had been so utterly fruitless that he
had abandoned all hope of any change for the better.[1130] Cranmer,
indeed, in his “Confutation of Unwritten Verities,” had no hesitation
to say that “within my memory, which is above thirty years, and also
by the information of others that be twenty years elder than I, I
could never perceive or learn that any one priest, under the pope’s
kingdom, was ever punished for advoutry by his ordinary.”[1131] It
may readily be believed, therefore, that Wolsey fully recognized the
utter inefficiency of the worn-out weapons of discipline. Yet he was
too shrewd a statesman not to foresee that reformation from within or
from without must come, and, in taking the initiative, he commenced by
quietly and indirectly attacking the monastic orders. As a munificent
patron of letters, it was natural that he should emulate Merton and
Wykeham in founding a college at Oxford; and “Cardinal’s College,” now
Christ Church, became the lever with which to topple over the vast
monastic system of England.

The development of the plan was characteristically insidious. By a
Bull of April 3d, 1524 (confirmed by Henry, May 10th), Clement VII.
authorized him to suppress the priory of St. Frediswood at Oxford,
and to remove the monks for the purpose of converting it into a
“Collegium Clericorum Seculorum.”[1132] This was followed by a Bull,
dated August 21st of the same year, empowering him as legate to make
inquisition and reformation in all religious houses throughout the
kingdom, to incarcerate and punish the inmates, and to deprive them
of their property and privileges, all grants or charters to the
contrary notwithstanding.[1133] The real purport of this extraordinary
commission is shown by the speedy issue of yet another Bull, dated
September 11th, conceding to him the confiscation of monasteries to the
amount of 3000 ducats annual rental, for the endowment of his college,
and alleging as a reason for the measure that many establishments had
not more than five or six inmates.[1134]

The affair was now fully in train, and proceeded with accelerating
momentum. On the 3d of July, 1525, Henry confirmed the incorporation of
the college; his letters-patent of May 1st, 1526, enumerate eighteen
monasteries suppressed for its benefit, while other letters of May
10th grant seventy-one churches or rectories for its support, and yet
other grants are alluded to as made in letters which have not been
preserved.[1135] In 1528 these were followed by various other donations
of religious houses and manors; and during the same year Wolsey founded
another Cardinal’s College at Ipswich, which became a fresh source of

Had Henry VIII. entertained any preconceived design of suppressing the
religious houses, his impatient temper would scarcely have allowed
him to remain so long a witness of this spoliation without taking his
share and carrying the matter out with his accustomed boldness and
disregard of consequences. At length, however, he claimed his portion,
and procured from Clement a Bull dated November 2d, 1528, conceding to
him, for the benefit of the old foundations of the King’s Colleges at
Cambridge and Windsor, the suppression of monasteries to the annual
value of 8000 ducats.[1137] This was followed by another, a few days
later, empowering Wolsey and Campeggi, co-legates in the affair of
Queen Katharine’s divorce, to unite to other monasteries all those
containing less than twelve inmates—thus suppressing the latter,
of which the number was very large.[1138] Another Bull of the same
date (November 12th) attacked the larger abbeys, which had thus far
escaped. It ordered the two cardinals, under request from the king,
to inquire into the propriety of suppressing the rich monasteries
enjoying over 10,000 ducats per annum, for the purpose of converting
them into bishoprics, on the plea that the seventeen sees of the
kingdom were insufficient for the spiritual wants of the people.[1139]
The report of the cardinals apparently seconded the views of Henry,
for Clement granted to them, May 29th, 1529, the power of creating and
arranging bishoprics at their discretion, and of sacrificing additional
monasteries when necessary to provide adequate revenues.[1140] It
is probable that the monks who had been unceremoniously deprived of
their possessions did not in all cases submit without resistance, for
the Bull of November 12th, 1528, suppressing the smaller houses, was
repeated August 31st, 1529, with the suggestive addition of authority
to call in the assistance of the secular arm.[1141]

Wolsey was now tottering to his fall. Process against him was commenced
on October 9th, 1529, and on the 18th the Great Seal was delivered to
More. His power, however, had lasted long enough to break down all the
safeguards which had for so many centuries grown around the sacred
precincts of ecclesiastical property; and the rich foundations which
covered so large a portion of English territory lay defenceless before
the cupidity of a despot, who rarely allowed any consideration, human
or divine, to interfere with his wishes, whose extravagance rendered
him eager to find new sources of supply for an exhausted treasury,
and whose temper had been aroused by the active support lent by the
preaching friars to the party of Queen Katharine in the affair of the
divorce. Yet it is creditable to Henry’s self-command that the blow did
not fall sooner, although it came at last.

It is not my province to enter into the details of Henry’s miserable
quarrel with Rome, which, except in its results, is, from every
point of view, one of the most humiliating pages of history. The
year 1532 saw the proclamation of the king commanding the support
of his subjects in the impending rupture, and the subscription of
the clergy to a paper which, with unparalleled servility, placed the
whole ecclesiastical constitution of the kingdom in his absolute
power.[1142] The following year his long-protracted divorce from
Katharine of Arragon was consummated; the annates were withdrawn from
the pope, and Henry assumed the title of Supreme Head of the Church of
England.[1143] In 1535 an obedient Parliament confirmed the acts of
the sovereign, and forbade the promulgation of any canons by synods or
convocations without his approval. The power of the pope was abolished
by proclamation; and Universities and prelates rivalled each other in
obsequiously transferring to Henry the reverence due to Rome.[1144]

The greater portion of the monasteries, which had already experienced a
foretaste of the wrath to come, hastened to proclaim their adhesion to
the new theological autocracy, and means not the most gentle were found
to persuade the remainder. The Carthusians of the Charter House of
London gave especial trouble, and the contest between them and the king
affords a vivid picture of the times. There is something very affecting
in the account given by Strype of the humble but resolute resignation
with which the prior and his monks prepared themselves for martyrdom in
vindication of the papal supremacy.[1145] Their courage was soon put to
the test. Between the 27th of April and the 4th of August, 1535, the
prior and eleven of his monks were put to death with all the horrors of
the punishment for high treason;[1146] but neither this nor the efforts
of a new and more loyal prior were able to produce submission. In 1536
ten of the most unyielding were sent to other houses, where several
of them were subsequently executed, and in 1537 ten more were thrown
into Newgate, where nine of them died almost immediately—it is to be
presumed from the rigor of their confinement and the foulness of the
jail. In 1539 the few that remained were expelled; the house was seized
and used as an arsenal, until it was given to Sir Edward North, who
changed it into a residence, pulling down the cloisters and converting
the church into his parlor.[1147]

The most conspicuous of the recalcitrants, however, was the powerful
order of the Franciscans. These refused the oath exacted of them,
causing no little trouble, and affording a cover for the intrigues
of that large body of the clergy who were dissatisfied with the
innovations, but afraid of open opposition.[1148] This precipitated the
ruin of the monastic orders, which could not, under any circumstances,
have been long delayed, and a general visitation was considered
the most effective means of encompassing their destruction. It was
accordingly ordered in 1535, and as their immorality and neglect of
their sacred duties had passed almost into a proverb, there was not
much difficulty in accumulating evidence to justify the measure.
The visitation was commanded to examine into the foundation, title,
history, condition of discipline, and number and character of the
inmates of all religious houses;[1149] and, as might have been
expected, the report disclosed a state of affairs which called for the
immediate removal of so foul a source of corruption and scandal. The
visitors had their work assigned them in advance, and they performed it
thoroughly; but we cannot assume that the evils which they described
were the creation of their own invention to gratify the wishes and
advance the purposes of their master.

One of the earliest abbeys visited was that of Langdon, where the
visitor, Dr. Leighton, suddenly breaking open the abbot’s door, found
him with his concubine, whose disguise as a man was discovered secreted
in a coffer. Leighton’s account of this little adventure “scribullede
this Satterday,” to his patron, Cromwell, is full of humor, showing how
thoroughly he enjoyed his success, and how fully he was assured that
the Secretary would likewise be gratified by it.[1150] Bishop Burnet’s
general summary of the result of the visitation asserts that “for the
lewdness of the confessors of nunneries, and the great corruption of
that state, whole houses being found almost all with child; for the
dissoluteness of abbots and the other monks and friars, not only with
whores, but married women; and for their unnatural lusts and other
brutal practices; these are not fit to be spoken of, much less enlarged
on, in a work of this nature. The full report of the visitation is
lost, yet I have seen an extract of a part of it, concerning 144
houses, that contains abominations in it equal to any that were in

The good bishop was not likely to extenuate what he had read, but
we yet may readily believe the truth of his account of it, for we
cannot assume that the charges were manufactured, like the accusations
against the Templars, for the purpose of serving as an excuse for
confiscation. The monasteries were not likely to have improved in
morals since Archbishop Morton described a similar condition of affairs
half a century earlier; nor is there any ground for imagining them
better than their Continental contemporaries, whose lapses were the
subject of animadversion by censors favorable to the monastic system.
Scarce anything, indeed, can be conceived worse than the condition of
the German convents as described in a document drawn up by command of
the Emperor Ferdinand to stimulate the sluggishness of the council of
Trent.[1152] A short account of “The Manner of Dissolving the Abbeys,”
by a contemporary,[1153] states the result of the visitation in
terms even stronger than those of Burnet, and Strype gives some most
suggestive extracts from the report of the visitation of the diocese of
Litchfield.[1154] Descriptions of the disorders of special houses are
very frequent in the private letters of the visitors and commissioners
to Cromwell,[1155] which may be the more readily believed, since they
also report favorably of many abbeys as being well governed, and of
the utmost benefit to their neighborhoods through their generous
hospitality and charity. It should be added that, in some districts
at least, the morals of the laity were no better than those of the
clergy.[1156] Nicander Nucius, who visited England about the year
1545, in relating the suppression of the monastic orders, gives as
bad an account of their discipline as Burnet. He is not, of course,
an original authority, but, as an impartial observer, his statements
are worthy of consideration as reflecting the current views of society
at the period.[1157] It was evidently for the purpose of influencing
public opinion abroad that a book on the subject was written in Italian
by William Thomas, who summed up by stating that the visitors found
“not seven, but more than 700,000 deadly sins,” and who received the
reward of his vivacity by being put to death under Queen Mary.[1158]

A portion of the people were ready and eager to welcome the
secularization of the religious houses. Their views and arguments are
set forth with more force than elegance in the well-known “Beggars’
Petition,” which calculates that, besides the tithes, one-third of the
kingdom was ecclesiastical property, and that these vast possessions
were devoted to the support of a body of men who found their sole
serious occupation in destroying the peace of families and corrupting
the virtue of women. The economical injury to the commonwealth, and the
interference with the royal prerogative of the ecclesiastical system,
were argued with much cogency, and the king was entreated to destroy it
by the most summary methods. That any one should venture to publish so
violent an attack upon the existing church, at a time when punishment
so prompt followed all indiscretions of this nature, renders this
production peculiarly significant both as to the temper of the educated
portion of the people, and the presumed intentions of the king.[1159]

The visitation produced the desired effect. In 1536, after reading
the report, Parliament passed without opposition a bill suppressing,
for the benefit of the crown, all monasteries with less than twelve
inmates or possessing a revenue under £200 per annum. Three hundred
and seventy-six houses were swept away by this act, and the “Court of
Augmentations of the King’s Revenue” was established to take charge of
the lands and goods thus summarily escheated. The rents which thus fell
to the king were valued at £32,000 a year, and the movable property at
£100,000, while the commissioners were popularly supposed to have been
“as careful to enrich themselves as to increase the king’s revenue.”
Stokesley, Bishop of London, remarked, concerning the transaction,
that “these lesser houses were as thorns soon plucked up, but the
great abbots were like putrefied old oaks, yet they must needs follow,
and so would others do in Christendom before many years were passed.”
But Stokesley, however true a prophet in the general scope of his
observation, was mistaken as to the extreme facility of eradicating the
humble thorns. The country was not as easily reconciled to the change
as the versatile, more intelligent, and less reverent inhabitants of
the cities. Henry, unluckily, not only had not abrogated Purgatory by
proclamation, but had specially recommended the continuance of prayers
and masses for the dead,[1160] and thousands were struck with dread as
to the future prospects of themselves and their dearest kindred, when
there should be few to offer the sacrifice of the mass for the benefit
of departed souls. The traveller and the mendicant, too, missed the
ever open door and the coarse but abundant fare, which smoothed the
path of the humble wayfarer. Discontent spread widely, and was soon
manifested openly. To meet this, most of the lands were sold at a very
moderate price to the neighboring gentry, under condition of exercising
free hospitality, to supply the wants of those who had hitherto been
dependent on conventual charity.[1161]

The plan was only partially successful, and soon another element
of trouble made itself apparent. Of the monks whose houses were
suppressed, those who desired to continue a monastic life were
transferred to the larger foundations, while the rest took
“capacities,”[1162] under promise of a reasonable allowance for their
journey home. They received only forty shillings and a gown, and
with this slender provision it was estimated that about ten thousand
were turned adrift upon the world, in which their previous life had
incapacitated them from earning a support. The result is visible
in the act for the punishment of “sturdy vagabonds and beggars,”
passed by Parliament in this same year, inflicting a graduated scale
of penalties, of which hanging was the one threatened for a third

This was a dangerous addition to society when discontent was
smouldering and ready to burst into flame. The result was soon
apparent. After harvest-time great disturbances convulsed the
kingdom. A rising, reported as consisting of twenty thousand men, in
Lincolnshire, was put down by the Duke of Suffolk with a heavy force
and free promises of pardon. In the North matters were even more
serious. The clergy there were less tractable than their southern
brethren, and some Injunctions savoring strongly of Protestantism
aroused their susceptibilities afresh. Unwilling to submit without
a struggle, they held a convocation, in which they denied the royal
supremacy and proclaimed their obedience to the pope. This was rank
rebellion, especially as Paul III., on the 30th of August, 1535, had
issued his Bull of excommunication against Henry, and self-preservation
therefore demanded the immediate suppression of the recalcitrants.
They would hardly, indeed, have ventured on assuming a position of
such dangerous opposition without the assurance of popular support,
nor were their expectations or labors disappointed. The “Pilgrimage of
Grace,” according to report, soon numbered forty thousand men. Although
Skipton and Scarboro’ bravely resisted a desperate siege, the success
of the insurgents at York, Hull, and Pomfret Castle was encouraging,
and risings in Lancashire, Durham, and Westmoreland gave to the
insurrection an aspect of the most menacing character. Good fortune
and skilful strategy, however, saved the Duke of Norfolk and his little
army from defeat; the winter was rapidly approaching, and at length
a proclamation of general amnesty, issued by the king on the 9th of
December, induced a dispersion of the rebels. The year 1537 saw another
rising in the North, but this time it only numbered eight thousand men.
Repulsed at Carlisle, and cut to pieces by Norfolk, the insurgents were
quickly put down, and other disturbances of minor importance were even
more readily suppressed.[1164]

Strengthened by these triumphs over the disaffected, Henry proceeded,
in 1537, to make the acknowledgment of papal authority a crime liable
to the penalties of a præmunire;[1165] and, as resistance was no longer
to be dreaded, he commenced to take possession of some of the larger
houses. These did not come within the scope of the act of Parliament,
and therefore were made the subject of special transactions. The abbots
resigned, either from having been implicated in the late insurrections,
or feeling that their evil lives would not bear investigation, or
doubtless, in many cases, from a clear perception of the doom impending
in the near future, which rendered it prudent to make the best terms
possible while yet there was time. Thus, in these cases, the monks
were generally pensioned with eight marks a year, while some of the
abbots secured a revenue of 400 or 500 marks.[1166] In an agreement
which has been preserved, the monks were to receive pensions varying
from 53_s._ 4_d._ to £4 a year, according to their age.[1167] In some
cases, indeed, according to Bishop Latimer, in a sermon preached before
Edward VI., the royal exchequer was relieved by finding preferment
for most unworthy objects—“however bad the reports of them were, some
were made bishops and others put into good dignities in the church;
that so the king might save their pensions that otherwise were to be
paid them.”[1168] An effectual means, moreover, of inducing voluntary
surrenders was by stopping their source of support, and thus starving
them out. Richard, Bishop of Dover, one of the commissioners in Wales,
writes to Cromwell, May 23d, 1538: “I thinke before the yere be owt
ther schall be very fewe howsis abill to lyve, but schall be glade to
giffe up their howseis and provide for them selvys otherwise, for their
thei schall have no living.” In anticipation of the impending doom,
many of the abbots and priors had sold everything that was salable,
from lands and leases down to spits and kitchen utensils, leaving
their houses completely denuded. The letters of the commissioners
are full of complaints respecting this sharp practice, and of their
efforts to trace the property. Another mode of compelling surrenders
was by threatening the strict enforcement of the rules of the order.
Thus, in the official report of the surrender of the Austin friars of
Gloucester, we find the alternative given them, when “the seyd freeres
seyed ... as the worlde ys nowe they war not abull to kepe them and
leffe in ther howseys, wherfore voluntaryly they gaffe ther howseys
into the vesytores handes to the kynges use. The vesytor seyd to them,
‘thynke nott, nor hereafter reportt nott, that ye be suppresseyd,
for I have noo such auctoryte to suppresse yow, but only to reforme
yow, wherfor yf ye woll be reformeyd, accordeyng to good order, ye
may contynew for all me.’ They seyd they war nott abull to contynew,”
whereupon they were ejected.[1169]

In the year 1538 the work proceeded with increased rapidity, no less
than 158 surrenders of the larger houses being enrolled. Many of the
abbots were attainted of treason and executed, and the abbey lands
forfeited. Means not of the nicest kind were taken to increase the
disrepute of the monastic orders, and they retaliated in the same
way. Thus, the Abbot of Crossed-Friars, in London, was surprised in
the day time with a woman under the worst possible circumstances,
giving rise to a lawsuit more curious than decent;[1170] while, on
the other hand, the Abbess of Chepstow accused Dr. London, one of the
visitors, of corrupting her nuns.[1171] Public opinion, however, did
not move fast enough for the rapacity of those in power, and strenuous
exertions were made to stimulate it. All the foul stories that could
be found or invented respecting the abbeys were raked together; but
these proving insufficient, the impostures concerning relics and images
were investigated with great success, and many singular exposures were
made which gave the king fresh warrant for his arbitrary measures,
and placed the religious houses in a more defenceless position than

Despite all this, in the session of 1539 all the twenty-eight
parliamentary abbots had their writs, and no less than twenty sat
in the House of Lords.[1173] Yet the influence of the court and the
progress of public opinion were shown in an act which confirmed the
suppressions of the larger houses not embraced in the former act,
as well as all that might thereafter be suppressed, forfeited, or
resigned,[1174] and May 9th, 1540, by special enactment, the ancient
order of the Knights of St. John was broken up, pensions being granted
to the grand prior and some of the principal dignitaries.[1175] These
measures consummated the ruin of the monastic system in England.
Henceforth it was altogether at the king’s mercy, and his character
was not one to temper power with moderation. In 1539 there are upon
record fifty-seven surrenders of the great abbeys,[1176] and a large
number in 1540, the good house of Godstow being the last of the great
monasteries to fall. Of the old monastic system this left only the
chantries, free chapels, collegiate churches, hospitals, &c., which
were gradually absorbed during the succeeding years;[1177] until
the necessities of the king prompted a sweeping measure for their
destruction. Accordingly in 1545 a bill was brought in placing them
all at his disposition. There were some indications of opposition, but
the king pleaded the expenditures of the French and Scottish wars, and
solemnly promised his Parliament “that all should be done for the glory
of God and common profit of the realm,” whereupon it was passed.[1178]
It is computed that the number of monasteries suppressed by these
various measures was 645; of colleges, 90; of chantries and free
chapels, 2374; and of hospitals, 110.[1179]

A vast amount of property thus passed into the hands of the court.
The clear yearly rental of the suppressed houses alone was rated at
£131,607 6_s._ 4_d._—an immense sum in those days; but Burnet states
that in reality it was almost tenfold the amount.[1180] Small as may
have been the good effected by these enormous possessions in the
hands of the monks, it was even more worthless under the management
of its new masters. Henry admitted the heavy responsibility which he
assumed in thus seizing the wealth which had been dedicated to pious
uses, and he entertained magnificent schemes for devoting it to the
public benefit, but his own necessities and the grasping avarice
of needy courtiers wrought out a result ridiculously mean. Thus he
designed to set aside a rental of £18,000 for the support of eighteen
“Byshopprychys to be new made.”[1181] For this purpose he obtained
full power from Parliament in 1539,[1182] and in 1540 he established
one on the remains of the Abbey of Westminster. Those of Chester,
Gloucester, and Peterboro’ were established in 1541, and in 1543 those
of Oxford and Bristol,[1183] and one of them, that of Westminster, was
suppressed in 1550, leaving only five as the result. The people were
quieted by assurances that taxes would be abrogated forever and the
kingdom kept in a most efficient state of defence; but subsidies and
benevolences were immediately exacted with more frequency and energy
than ever.[1184] Splendid foundations were promised for institutions
of learning, but little was given; a moderate sum was expended in
improving the sea-ports, while broad manors and rich farms were granted
to favorites at almost nominal prices; and the ill-gotten wealth
abstracted from the church disappeared without leaving traces except in
the sudden and overgrown fortunes of those gentlemen who were fortunate
or prompt enough to make use of the golden opportunity, and who to
obtain them had no scruple in openly tendering bribes and shares in
the spoil to Cromwell, the omnipotent favorite of the king.[1185] The
complaints of the people, who found their new masters harder than the
old, may be estimated from some specimens printed by Strype.[1186]

If it be asked what became of the “holy idle thieves” and “sturdy
loobies” whom the Beggars’ Petition so earnestly desired to be thrown
upon the world, the answer may be found in the legislation of Edward
VI. A poor-law, the commencement of a series which to this day has
pressed upon England with ever-increasing weight, was enacted in
1552.[1187] This tells its own story, but even more suggestive was
another bill for the suppression of vagabondage, the provisions of
which mark not only the inhumanity of the age, but the magnitude of
the evil caused by the violent acts of Henry. Every able-bodied man
loitering in any place for three days without working or offering to
work was held to be a vagabond. He was thereupon to be branded on
the breast with a letter V, and adjudged as a slave for two years to
any one who might bring him for that purpose before a justice of the
peace.[1188] Such was the ignominious end of the powerful and wealthy
monastic orders of England.

The monastic establishments of Ireland shared the same fate.
Rymer[1189] gives the text of a commission for the suppression of a
nunnery of the diocese of Dublin, in 1535. The insubordination of
the island, however, rendered it difficult to carry out the measure
everywhere, and finally, in 1541, it was accomplished by virtually
granting their lands to the native chieftains. These were good
Catholics, but they could not resist the temptation. They joined
eagerly in grasping the spoil, and the desirable political object was
effected of detaching them, for the time, from the foreign alliances
with the Catholic powers which threatened serious evils.[1190]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a striking proof of Henry’s strength of will and intense
individuality of character, that, in thus tearing up by the roots the
whole system of monachism, he did not yield one jot to the powerful
section of his supporters who had pledged themselves to the logical
sequence of his acts, the abrogation of sacerdotal celibacy in general.
While every reason of policy and statesmanship urged him to grant
the privilege of marriage to the secular clergy, whom he forced to
transfer to him the allegiance formerly rendered to Rome; while his
chief religious advisers at home and his Protestant allies abroad used
every endeavor to wring from him this concession, he steadily and
persistently refused it to the end, and we can only guess whether his
firmness arose from conscientious conviction or from the pride of a

Notwithstanding his immovable resolution on this point, his power
seemed ineffectual to stay the progress of the new ideas. An assembly
held by his order in May, 1530, to condemn the heretical doctrines
disseminated in certain books, shows how openly the advocates of
clerical marriage had promulgated their views while yet Wolsey was
prime minister and Henry gloried in the title of Defender of the Faith.
Numerous books were denounced in which celibacy was ridiculed, its
sanctity disproved, and its evil influences commented upon in the most
irreverent manner.[1191] These doctrines were sometimes carried into
practice, and the orthodox clergy had little ceremony in visiting them
with the sharpest penalties of the canons. It was about this time that
Stokesley, Bishop of London, condemned to imprisonment for life Thomas
Patmore, the incumbent of Hadham in Hertfordshire, for encouraging
his curate to marry and permitting him subsequently to officiate;
and the unfortunate man actually lay for three years in gaol, until
released by the intercession of Cranmer.[1192] This severity offers a
significant contrast to the lenity which punished priestly incontinence
with trifling fines and penalties, or sold licenses to sin almost

If the reforming polemics were thus bold while Henry was yet orthodox,
it may readily be imagined how keenly they watched the progress of
his quarrel with the pope, and how loud became their utterances as
he gradually threw off his allegiance to Rome and persecuted all who
hesitated to follow in his footsteps. He soon showed, however, that
he allowed none to precede him, and that all consciences were to be
measured by the royal ell-wand. Thus his proceedings against the
Carthusians and Franciscans in 1534 were varied by a proclamation
directed against seditious books and priestly marriages. As we have
seen, some unions had taken place, and all who had committed the
indiscretion were deprived of their functions and reduced to the laity,
though the marriages seem to have been recognized as valid. Future
transgressions, moreover, were threatened with the royal indignation
and further punishment—words of serious import at such a time and under
such a monarch.[1194]

In spite of all this, the chief advisers of Henry did not scruple to
connive at infractions of the proclamation. Both Cranmer and Cromwell
favored the Reformation; the former was himself secretly married, and
even ventured to urge the king to reconsider his views on priestly
celibacy;[1195] while the latter, though, as a layman, without any such
personal motive, was disposed to relax the strictness of the rule of
celibacy. During the visitation of the monasteries, for instance, the
Abbot of Walden had little hesitation in confessing to Ap Rice, the
visitor, that he was secretly married, and asked to be secured from
molestation. The confidence thus manifested in the friendly disposition
of the vicar-general was satisfactorily responded to. Cromwell replied,
merely warning him to “use his remedy” without, if possible, causing
scandal.[1196] A singular petition, addressed to him in 1536 by the
secular clergy of the diocese of Bangor, illustrates forcibly both the
confidence felt in his intentions, and the necessity of the Abbot of
Walden’s “remedy” in the fearful state of immorality which prevailed.
There had been a visitation in which the petitioners admit that many of
them had been found in fault, and as their women had been consequently
taken away, they pray the vicar-general to devise some means by which
their consorts may be restored. They do not venture to ask directly for
marriage, but decency forbids the supposition that they could openly
request Cromwell to authorize a system of concubinage. Nothing can
be more humiliating than their confession of the relations existing
between themselves, as ministers of Christ, and the flocks entrusted
to their spiritual care. After pleading that without women they cannot
keep house and exercise hospitality, they add: “We ourselves shall
be driven to seek our living at ale-houses and taverns, for mansions
upon the benefices and vicarages we have none. _And as for gentlemen
and substantial honest men, for fear of inconvenience, knowing our
frailty and accustomed liberty, they will in nowise board us in their

The tendencies thus exhibited by the king’s advisers called forth
the remonstrances of the conservatives. In June, 1536, the lower
house of convocation presented a memorial inveighing strongly against
the progress of heresy, and among the obnoxious opinions condemned
was “That it is preached and taught that all things awght to be in
comen and that Priests shuld have wiffes,” and they added that books
containing heretical opinions were printed “cum privilegio,” were
openly sold among the people, and were not condemned by those in
authority.[1198] Possibly it was in consequence of this that in the
following November Henry issued a circular letter to his bishops in
which he commanded them—“Whereas we be advertised that divers Priests
have presumed to marry themselves contrary to the custom of our Church
of England, Our Pleasure is, Ye shall make secret enquiry within your
Diocess, whether there be any such resiant within the same or not”—and
any such offenders who had presumed to continue the performance of
their sacred functions were ordered to be reported to him or to be
arrested and sent to London.[1199] Curiously enough, there is no
reference to the subject in the “Articles devised by the Kinges Highnes
Majestie to stablyshe Christen Quietnes and Unitie amonge us,” issued
by Henry in this year.[1200]

Notwithstanding the ominous threat in the letter to the Bishops there
appears, about this period, to have been great uncertainty in the
public mind respecting the state of the law and the king’s intentions.
Two letters happen to have been preserved, written within a few days
of each other, in June, 1537, to Cromwell, which reveal the condition
of opinion at the time. One of these complains that the vicar of
Mendelsham, in Suffolk, has brought home a wife and children, whom he
claims to be lawfully his own, and that it is permitted by the king.
Although “thys acte by hym done is in thys countre a monstre, and many
do growdge at it,” yet, not knowing the king’s pleasure, no proceedings
can be had, and appeal is therefore made for authority to prosecute,
lest “hys ensample wnponnyched shall be occasion for other carnall
evyll dysposed prestes to do in lyke manner.” The other letter is
from an unfortunate priest who had recently married, supposing it to
be lawful. The “noyse of the peopull,” however, had just informed him
that a royal order had commanded the separation of such unions, and
he had at once sent his wife to her friends, threescore miles away.
He therefore hastens to make his peace, protesting that he had sinned
through ignorance, though he makes bold to argue that “yf the kyngys
grace could have founde yt laufull that prestys mught have byn maryd,
they wold have byn to the crowne dubbyll and dubbyll faythefull; furste
in love, secondly for fere that the byschoppe of Rome schuld sette yn
hys powre unto ther desolacyon.”[1201]

It is evident from these letters that there was still a genuine popular
antipathy to clerical marriage, and yet that the royal supremacy was so
firmly established by Henry’s ruthless persecutions that this antipathy
was held subject to the pleasure of the court, and could at any moment
have been dissipated by proclamation. In fact, the only wonder is that
any convictions remained in the minds of those who had seen the objects
of their profoundest veneration made the sport of avarice and derision.
Stately churches torn to pieces, the stone sold to sacrilegious
builders, the lead put up at auction to the highest bidder, the
consecrated bells cast into cannon, the sacred vessels melted down,
the holy relics snatched from the shrines and treated as old bones and
offal, the venerated images burned at Smithfield—all this could have
left little sentiment of respect for worn-out religious observances in
those who watched and saw the sacrilege remain unpunished.

Notwithstanding the reforming influences with which he was surrounded,
Henry sternly adhered to the position which he had assumed.[1202] When,
in 1538, the princes of the Schmalkaldic League offered to place him at
its head, and even to alter, if possible, the Augsburg Confession so as
to make it a common basis of union for all the elements of opposition
to Rome, Henry was well inclined to obtain the political advantages
of the position tendered him, but hesitated to accept it until all
doctrinal questions should be settled. The three points on which the
Germans insisted were the communion in both elements, the worship in
the vulgar tongue, and the marriage of the clergy. In the Convocation
of that year a series of questions was submitted for decision embracing
the contested points, and the clergy decided in favor of celibacy,
private masses, and communion in one element.[1203] Thus sustained,
Henry was firm, and the ambassadors of the League spent two months in
conferences with the English bishops and doctors without result. On
their departure (August 5th, 1538), they addressed him a letter arguing
the subjects in debate—the refusal of the cup, private masses, and
sacerdotal celibacy—to which Henry replied at some length, defending
his position on these topics with no little skill and dexterity, and
refusing his assent finally.[1204] The reformers, however, did not yet
despair, and the royal preachers even ventured occasionally to debate
the propriety of clerical marriage freely before him in their sermons,
but in vain.[1205] An epistle which Melanchthon addressed him in April,
1539, arguing the same questions again, had no better effect.[1206]

In the spring of 1539 Henry renewed negotiations with the German
princes, and his envoys in soliciting another visit from deputies
of the League held out some vague promises of his yielding on the
point of celibacy. The Germans in turn, to show their earnest desire
for union with England, submitted a series of propositions, in which
they suggested that the marriage of priests might be left to the
discretion of the pope, and that if it were to be prohibited only
persons advanced in life should be ordained.[1207] Both parties,
however, were too firmly set in their opinions for accord to be
possible. Notwithstanding any seeming hesitation caused by the policy
of the moment, Henry’s mind was fully made up, and the consequences
of endeavoring to persuade him against his prejudices soon became
apparent. Even while the negotiations were in progress he had issued
a series of injunctions degrading from the priesthood all married
clergy, and threatening with imprisonment and his displeasure all who
should thereafter marry.[1208] Argumentation confirmed his opinions,
and he proceeded to enforce them on his subjects in his own savage
manner, “for though on all other points he had set up the doctrines of
the Augsburg Confession,” yet on these he had committed himself as a
controversialist, and the worst passions of polemical authorship—the
true “odium theologicum”—acting through his irresponsible despotism,
rendered him the cruellest of persecutors. But a few weeks after
receiving the letter of Melanchthon, he answered it in cruel fashion.

In May a new parliament met, chosen under great excitement, for the
people were inflamed on the subject of religion, and animosities
ran high. The principal object of the session was known to be a
settlement of the national church, and as the reformers were in a
minority against the court, the temper of the Houses was not likely
to be encouraging for them.[1209] On the 5th of May, a week after its
assembling, a committee was appointed, at the king’s request, to take
into consideration the differences of religious opinion. On the 16th,
the Duke of Norfolk, who was not a member of the committee, reported
that no agreement could be arrived at, and he therefore laid before
the House of Lords, for full discussion, articles embracing—1st.
Transsubstantiation; 2d. Communion in both kinds; 3d. Vows of Chastity;
4th. Private Masses; 5th. Sacerdotal Marriages; and 6th. Auricular
Confession. Cranmer opposed them stoutly, arguing against them for
three days, and especially endeavoring to controvert the third and
fifth, which enjoined celibacy, but his efforts and those of his
friends were vain, when pitted against the known wishes of the king,
who himself took an active part in the debate, and argued in favor of
the articles with much vigor. Under such circumstances, the adoption
of the Six Articles was a foregone conclusion. On the 30th of May the
chancellor reported that the House had agreed upon them, and that it
was the king’s pleasure “that some penal statute should be enacted to
compel all his subjects who were in any way dissenters or contradicters
of these articles to obey them.” The framing of such a bill was
intrusted to two committees, one under the lead of Cranmer, the other
under that of the Archbishop of York, and they were instructed to lay
their respective plans before the king within forty-eight hours. Of
course the report of the Archbishop of York was adopted. Introduced on
the 7th of June, Cranmer again resisted it gallantly, but it passed
both Houses by the 14th, and received the royal assent on the 28th. It
was entitled “An Act for abolishing Diversity of Opinions in certain
Articles concerning Christian Religion,” and it stands as a monument of
the cruel legislation of a barbarous age. The Third Article was “that
Priests after the order of Priesthood might not marry by the Law of
God;” the Fourth, “that Vows of Chastity ought to be observed by the
Law of God,” and those who obstinately preached or disputed against
them were adjudged felons, to suffer death without benefit of clergy.
Any opposition, either in word or writing, subjected the offender
to imprisonment during the king’s pleasure, and a repetition of the
offence constituted a felony, to be expiated with the life of the
culprit. Priestly marriages were declared void, and a priest persisting
in living with his wife was to be executed as a felon. Concubinage was
punishable with deprivation of benefice and property, and imprisonment,
for a first offence; a second lapse was visited with a felon’s death,
while in all cases the wife or concubine shared the fate of her
partner in guilt. Quarterly sessions were provided, to be held by the
bishops and other commissioners appointed by the king, for the purpose
of enforcing these laws, and the accused were entitled to trial by
jury.[1210] Vows of chastity were only binding on those who had taken
them of their own free will when over twenty-one years of age.[1211]
According to the Act, the wives of priests were to be put away by June
24th, but on that day, as the act was not yet signed, an order was
mercifully made extending the time to July 12th.[1212]

Cranmer argued, reasonably enough, that it was a great hardship, in the
case of the ejected monks, to insist on the observance of the vow of
chastity, when those of poverty and obedience were dispensed with, and
when the unfortunates had been forcibly deprived of all the advantages,
safeguards, and protection of monastic life.[1213] The matter, however,
was not decided by reason, but by the whimsical perversity of a
self-opinionated man, who, unfortunately, had the power to condense his
polemical notions in the blood of his subjects.

To comprehend the full iniquity of this savage measure we must
remember the rapid progress which the new opinions had been making in
England for twenty years; the tacit encouragement given them by the
suppression of the religious houses, and by the influence of the king’s
confidential advisers; and the hopes naturally excited by Henry’s
quarrel with Rome and negotiations with the League of Schmalkalden.
In spite, therefore, of the comparatively mild punishments hitherto
imposed on priestly marriage, which were no doubt practically almost
obsolete, such unions may safely be assumed as numerous. Even Cranmer
himself, the primate of Henry’s church, was twice married, his second
wife, then living, the niece of Osiander, being kept under a decent
veil of secrecy in his palace.[1214] When, after his fruitless
resistance to the Six Articles, the bill was passed, he sent his wife
to her friends in Germany, until the death of his master enabled him
to bring her back and acknowledge her openly;[1215] but vast numbers
of unfortunate pastors could not have had the opportunity, and perhaps
lacked the self-control, thus to arrange their domestic affairs.
Even the gentle Melanchthon was moved from his ordinary equanimity,
and ventured to address to his royal correspondent a remonstrance
expressing his horror of the cruelty which could condemn to the
scaffold a man whose sole guilt consisted in not abandoning the wife
to whom he had promised fidelity through good and evil, before God and
man—a cruelty which could find no precedent in any code that man had
previously dared to frame.[1216]

As might be expected, numerous divorces of married priests followed
this Draconian legislation, and these divorces were held good by
the act of 1549, which, under Edward VI., granted full liberty in
the premises to ecclesiastics.[1217] Even Henry, however, began to
feel that he had gone too far, and the influence of Cromwell was
sufficient to prevent the harshest features of the law from being
enforced in all their odious severity, especially as the projected
marriage with Ann of Cleves and the alliance with the German Lutherans
rendered active persecution in the highest degree impolitic. When
the comedy of Henry’s fourth marriage culminated in the tragedy of
Cromwell’s ruin (June, 1540), the reactionary elements again gathered
strength. There can be no little doubt that the atrocity of the law
had greatly interfered with its efficient execution and had aroused
popular feeling, for now, although the Vicar-General was removed, the
Catholics passed with speedy alacrity a bill moderating the act of the
Six Articles, in so far as it related to marriage and concubinage. For
capital punishment was substituted the milder penalty of confiscation
to the king of all the property and revenue of the offenders.[1218]

The Six Articles, as thus modified, remained the law of England during
the concluding years of Henry’s reign, nor is it likely that any one
ventured to urge upon him seriously a relaxation of the principles to
which he had committed himself thus definitely. The fall of Cromwell
and the danger to which Cranmer was exposed for several years were
sufficient to insure him against troublesome remonstrants, even if
his increasing irritability and capriciousness had not made those
around him daily more alive to the danger of thwarting or resisting
his idlest humor. How little progress, indeed, the Reformation had
thus far made in England is shown in a letter written in 1546 by John
Hooper, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, during the exile
into which he was forced by the act of the Six Articles—“Our king has
destroyed the pope, but not popery; he has expelled all the monks
and nuns, and pulled down their monasteries; he has caused all their
possessions to be transferred into his exchequer, and yet they are
bound, even the frail female sex, by the king’s command, to perpetual
chastity. England has at this time at least ten thousand nuns, not
one of whom is allowed to marry. The impious mass, the most shameful
celibacy of the clergy, the invocation of saints, auricular confession,
superstitious abstinence from meats, and purgatory, were never before
held by the people in greater esteem than at the present moment.”[1219]

On the 28th of January, 1547, Henry VIII. died, and Edward VI.
succeeded to the perilous throne. Not yet ten years of age, his
government of course received its direction from those around him,
and the rivalry between the protector Somerset and the chancellor
Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, threw the former into the hands
of the progressives, as the latter was the acknowledged head of the
reactionary party. The ruin of Southampton and the triumph of Somerset,
strengthened by his successful campaign in Scotland, soon began to
develop their natural consequences on the religion of the country.
Under the auspices of Cranmer, a Convocation was assembled, which was
empowered to decide all questions in controversy. When the primate was
anxious to again enjoy the solace of his wife’s company and to relieve
both her and himself from the stigma of unlawful marriage, it is easy
to understand that the subject of celibacy would receive early and
appropriate attention; and so confident were the reformers of success
that they did not hesitate to enter into matrimony without waiting
for any formal sanction.[1220] Accordingly, on December 17, 1547, a
proposition was submitted to the effect that all canons, statutes,
laws, decrees, usages, and customs, interfering with or prohibiting
marriage, should be abrogated, and it was carried by a vote of 53 to
22. No time was lost. Two days afterwards a bill was introduced in the
Commons permitting married men to be priests and to hold benefices. It
was received with so much favor that it was read twice the same day,
and on the 21st it was sent up to the Lords; but in the Upper House it
raised debates so prolonged that, as the members were determined to
adjourn before Christmas, it was laid aside. This might be the more
readily agreed to, since on the 23d an act was approved which abolished
numerous severe laws of the former reign, including the statute of the
Six Articles, and was immediately followed by another granting the use
of the cup to the laity and prohibiting private masses.[1221]

The repeal of the Six Articles left the marriage of the clergy subject
to the previous laws of Henry, imposing on it various pains and
penalties, but with the votes recorded in Convocation and Parliament,
it is not likely that much vigor was displayed in their enforcement.
Those interested could thus afford to await the reassembling of the
Houses, which did not take place until November 24, 1548, but they
claimed the reward of their patience by an early hearing in the
session. On the 3d of December a bill was introduced, similar to that
of the previous year, rendering married men eligible to the priesthood;
it passed second reading on the 5th, and third reading on the 6th.
Apparently encouraged by the favorable reception accorded to it, the
friends of the measure resolved on demanding further privileges. The
bill was therefore laid aside, and on the next day a new one was
presented which granted the additional liberty of marriage to those
already in orders. It conceded to the established opinions the fact
that it were better that the clergy should live chaste and single,
yet, “as great filthiness of living had followed on the laws that
compelled chastity and prohibited marriage,” therefore all laws and
canons inhibiting sacerdotal matrimony should be abolished. This bill,
after full discussion, was read a second and third time on the 10th and
12th, and was sent up to the Lords on the 13th. Again the Upper House
was in no haste to pass it. It lay on the table until February 9, 1549,
when it was stoutly contested, and, after being recommitted, it finally
passed on the 19th, with the votes of nine bishops recorded against

Cranmer and his friends were now at full liberty to establish the
innovation by committing the clergy individually to marriage, and by
enlisting the popular feeling in its support. During the discussion
they had not been idle. Much controversial writing had occurred on
both sides, in which Poynette, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, took
an active part, while Bale, Bishop of Ossory, distinguished himself
on the same side by raking together all the foul stories that could
be collected concerning the celibate clergy—a scandalous material
not likely to be lacking in either quantity or quality. Burnet
declares that no law passed during the reign of Edward excited more
contradiction and censure, and the matrimonialists soon found that,
even with the act of parliament in their favor, their course was not
wholly a smooth one. Cranmer ordered a visitation in his province, and
directed as one of the points for inquiry and animadversion, “Whether
any do contemn married priests, and, for that they be married, will
not receive the communion or other sacraments at their hands,”[1223]
which distinctly reveals the difficulties encountered in eradicating
the convictions of centuries from the popular mind. Sanders says, and
with every appearance of probability, that the Archbishop of York
united with Cranmer in ordering a visitation of the whole kingdom,
during which the visitors investigated particularly the morals of the
clergy, and used every argument to impel them to marriage, not only
declaring celibacy to be most dangerous to salvation, but intimating
that all who adhered to it would be regarded as papists and enemies of
the king.[1224] The active interest which Cranmer took in the question
is manifested by the fact that when Dr. Richard Smith, who had fled to
Scotland in consequence of having endeavored to stir up a tumult at
Oxford against Peter Martyr, desired to make his peace and return, the
inducement which he offered to the Archbishop of Canterbury to obtain
for him the king’s pardon was that he would write a book in favor of
priestly marriage, as he had previously done against it.[1225]

The Reformers speedily found that they were not to escape without
opposition. The masses of the people throughout England were in a state
of discontent. The vast body of abbey lands acquired by the gentry and
now inclosed bore hard upon many; the raising of rents showed that
secular landlords were less charitable than the ancient proprietors of
the soil; the increase of sheep-husbandry threw many farm laborers out
of employ;[1226] and the savage enactments, already alluded to, against
the unfortunate expelled monks show how large an element of influential
disaffection was actively at work in the substratum of society. Those
priests who disapproved of the rapid Protestantizing process adopted
by the court could hardly fail to take advantage of opportunities so
tempting, and they accordingly fanned the spark into a flame. The
enforcement of the new liturgy, on Whitsunday, 1549, seemed the signal
of revolt. Numerous risings took place, which were readily quelled,
until one in Devonshire assumed alarming proportions. Ten thousand
men in arms made demands for relief in religious as well as temporal
matters. Lord Russel, unable to meet them in the field, endeavored to
gain time by negotiation, and offered to receive their complaints.
These were fifteen in number, of which several demanded the restoration
of points of the old religion, and one insisted on the revival of the
Six Articles. On their refusal, another set was drawn up, in which not
only were the Six Articles called for, but also a special provision
enforcing the celibacy of the clergy. This was likewise rejected;
but during the delay another rising occurred in Norfolk, reckoned at
twenty thousand men, and yet another of less formidable dimensions in
Yorkshire. Russel finally scattered the men of Devon, while the Earl
of Warwick succeeded in suppressing the rebels of Norfolk, when the
promise of an amnesty caused the Yorkshiremen to disperse.[1227]

The question of open resistance thus was settled. Cranmer and his
friends had now leisure to consolidate their advantages and organize a
system that should be permanent. In 1551, he and Ridley prepared with
great care a series of forty-two articles, embodying the faith of the
church of England, which was adopted by the convocation in 1552, and
was ordered to be signed by all men in orders and all candidates for
ordination.[1228] Burnet speaks of it as bringing the Anglican doctrine
and worship to perfection. It remained unaltered during the rest of
Edward’s reign, and under Elizabeth it was only modified verbally in
the recension which resulted in the famous Thirty-nine Articles—the
foundation stone of the Episcopalian edifice. Of these forty-two
articles, the thirty-first declared that “Bishops, priests, and deacons
are not commanded by God’s law to vow the estate of a single life or to
abstain from marriage.”[1229]

The canon law had thus invested the marriage of the clergy with all
the sanctity that the union of man and wife could possess. Yet still
the deep-seated conviction of the people as to the impropriety of such
proceedings remained, troubling the repose of those who had entered
into matrimony, and doubtless operating as a restraint upon the
numbers of the imitators of Cranmer. Among the interrogatories drawn
up by John Hooper for the visitation of his diocese of Gloucester, in
1552, is one which enquires whether any midwife refuses to attend the
confinement of women who are married to ministers of the church[1230]—a
suggestion which indicates how rooted was the popular aversion to
such matches. If Strype’s description of the clergy of the period,
indeed, be correct, there was nothing in the character of the body
to overcome the popular aversion in consideration of its purity and
devotion to its sacred duties.[1231] The act of 1549 had to a certain
extent justified these prejudices by admitting the preferableness of a
single life in the ministers of Christ, and it was resolved to remove
every possible stigma by a solemn declaration of parliament. A bill
was therefore prepared and speedily passed (Feb. 10th, 1552), which
reveals how strong was the popular opposition, and how uncertain the
position of the wives and children of the clergy. It declares “That
many took occasion, from the words in the act formerly made about this
matter, to say that it was only permitted, as usury and other unlawful
things were, for the avoidance of greater evils, who thereupon spoke
slanderously of such marriages, and accounted the children begotten in
them to be bastards, to the high dishonor of the King and Parliament,
and the learned clergy of the Realm, who had determined that the laws
against priests’ marriages were most unlawful by the law of God; to
which they had not only given their assent in the Convocation, but
signed it with their hands. These slanders did also occasion that
the Word of God was not heard with due reverence.” It was therefore
enacted “That such marriages made according to the rules prescribed in
the Book of Service should be esteemed good and valid, and that the
children begot in them should be inheritable according to law.”[1232]
A still further confirmation of the question was designed in a body
of ecclesiastical law which was for several years in preparation by
various commissions appointed for the purpose. In this it was proposed
to make the abrogation of celibacy even more distinctly a matter of
faith, for, in the second Title, among the various heresies condemned
is that which, through the suggestion of the Devil, asserts that
admission to holy orders takes away the right to marry. This work,
however, though completed, had not yet received the royal assent, when
the death of Edward VI. caused it to pass out of sight until 1571, when
it was printed by Foxe and brought to the attention of Parliament, but
was laid aside owing to the opposition of Queen Elizabeth.[1233]

       *       *       *       *       *

If the Protestants indulged in any day-dreams as to the permanency of
their institutions, they were not long in finding that a change of
rulers was destined to cause other changes disastrous to their hopes.
Even the funeral of Edward, on the 8th of August, 1553, afforded them
a foretaste of what was in store. Although Cranmer insisted that the
public ceremonies in Westminster Abbey should be conducted according
to the reformed rites, Queen Mary, still resident in the Tower, had
private obsequies performed with the Roman ritual, where Gardiner
celebrated mortuary mass in presence of the queen and some four hundred
attendants. When the incense was carried around, after the Gospel,
it chanced that the chaplain who bore it was a married man, and the
zealous Dr. Weston snatched it from him, exclaiming, “Shamest thou not
to do thine office, having a wife as thou hast? The queen will not be
censed by such as thou!”[1234]

Trifling as was this incident, it foreboded the wrath to come. Though
Mary was not crowned until October 1st, she had issued writs for
a parliament to assemble on the 10th, and, as an entire change in
the religious institutions of the country was intended, we may not
uncharitably believe the assertion that every means of influence and
intimidation was employed to secure the return of reactionary members.
These efforts were crowned with complete success. The Houses had
not sat for three weeks, when a bill was sent down from the Lords
repealing all the acts of Edward’s reign concerning religion, including
specifically those which permitted the marriage of priests and
legitimated their offspring; and after a debate of six days it passed
the Commons.[1235]

The effect of this was, of course, to revive the statute of the Six
Articles, and to place all married priests at the mercy of the queen;
and as soon as she felt that she could safely exercise her power,
she brought it to bear upon the offenders. A day or two after the
dissolution of parliament she commenced by issuing a proclamation
inhibiting married priests from officiating.[1236] The Spanish marriage
being agreed upon and the resultant insurrection of Sir Thomas Wyatt
being suppressed, Mary recognized her own strength, and her Romanizing
tendencies, which had previously been somewhat restrained, became
openly manifested. On the 4th of March, 1554, she issued a letter
to her bishops, of which the object was to restore the condition of
affairs under Henry VIII., except that the royal prerogatives as
head of the church were expressly disavowed. It contained eighteen
articles, to be strictly enforced throughout all dioceses. Of these the
seventh ordered that the bishops should by summary process remove and
deprive all priests who had been married or had lived scandalously,
sequestrating their revenues during the proceedings. Article VIII.
provided that widowers, or those who promised to live in the strictest
chastity, should be treated with leniency, and receive livings at some
distance from their previous abode, being properly supported meanwhile;
while Article IX. directed that those who suffered deprivation should
not on that account be allowed to live with their wives, and that due
punishment should be inflicted for all contumacy.[1237]

No time was lost in carrying out these regulations. By the 9th of the
same month, a commission was already in session at York, which cited
the clergy to appear before it on the 12th. From an appeal which is
extant, by one Simon Pope, rector of Warmington, it appears that men
were deprived without citation or opportunity for defence;[1238] and
that this was not infrequent is probable from the proceedings commenced
against offenders of the highest class, designed and well fitted to
strike terror into the hearts of the humbler parsons. On the 16th a
commission was issued to the Bishops of Winchester (Stephen Gardiner),
London (Bonner), Durham, St. Asaphs, Chichester, and Landaff, to
investigate the cases of the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of St.
Davids, Chester, and Bristol, who, according to report, had given a
most pernicious example by taking wives, in contempt of God, to the
damage of their own souls, and to the scandal of all men. Any three
of the commissioners were empowered to summon the accused before
them, and to ascertain the truth of the report without legal delays
or unnecessary circumlocution. If it were found correct, then they
were authorized to remove the offenders at once and forever from their
dignities, and also to impose penance at discretion. This was scant
measure of justice, considering that the marriage of these prelates had
been contracted under sanction of law, and, if that law had recently
been repealed, that at least the option of conforming to the new
order of things could not decently be denied; yet even this mockery
of a trial was apparently withheld, for the congé d’élire for their
successors is dated March 18th, only two days after the commission was

During the summer the bishops went on their visitations. The articles
prepared by Bonner for his diocese are extant, among which we find
directions to inquire particularly of the people whether their
pastors are married, and, if separated, whether any communication or
intercourse takes place between them and their wives; also, whether any
one, lay or clerical, ventures to defend sacerdotal matrimony.[1240]
Few of the weaker brethren could escape an inquisition so searching as
this, and though some controversy arose, and a few tracts were printed
in defence of priestly marriage,[1241] such men as Bonner were not
likely to shrink from the thorough prosecution of the work which they
had undertaken.

When the convocation assembled in this year, it was therefore to
be expected that only orthodox opinions would find expression.
Accordingly, the lower House presented to the bishops an humble
petition praying for the restoration of the old usages, among the
points of which are requests that married priests be forcibly separated
from their wives, and that those who endeavor to abandon their order
be subjected to special animadversion. This clause shows that many
unfortunates preferred to give up their positions and lose the means of
livelihood, rather than quit the wives to whom they had sworn fidelity,
demanding, as we shall see, much subsequent conflicting legislation.
The social complications resulting from the change of religion are also
indicated in the request that married nuns may be divorced, and that
the pretended wives of priests have full liberty to marry again.[1242]

Everything being thus prepared, the purification of the church from
married heretics was prosecuted with vigor. Archbishop Parker states
that there were in England some 16,000 clergymen, of whom 12,000 were
deprived on this account, many of them most summarily; some on common
report, without trial, others without being summoned to appear before
their judges, and others again while lying in jail for not obeying the
summons. Some renounced their wives, and were yet deprived, while those
who were deprived were also, as we have seen, forced to part with their
wives. We can readily believe that the most ordinary forms of justice
were set aside, in view of the illegal and indecorous haste of the
proceedings against the married bishops described above, but Parker’s
estimate of the number of sufferers is greatly exaggerated. According
to Dr. Tanner, in the diocese of Norfolk—then estimated at one-eighth
of the whole kingdom—there were only 335 deprivations on this account;
and at York, from April 27th to December 20th, 1554, there were only
fifty-one ejected.[1243] It is probable, therefore, that the list
throughout England would not exceed three thousand; yet when to these
are added the hosts who no doubt succeeded in retaining their positions
by a compliance with the law in quietly putting away their wives,[1244]
it will be seen that the privilege of marriage had been eagerly
improved by the clergy, and that an amount of misery which it would be
difficult to estimate was caused by the enforcement of the canons.

The proceedings in the case of John Turner, rector of St. Leonard’s,
London, would seem to show that the extremity of humiliation was
inflicted on these unfortunates. Cited on March 16th to answer to the
charge of being a married man, he confessed the accusation, and we
find him on the 19th condemned to lose his benefice and be suspended
from all priestly functions, to be divorced from his wife, and to
undergo such further punishment as the canons required. The sentence
of divorce soon followed, and on May 14th he was obliged to do penance
in his late church in Eastcheap, holding a lighted candle in his hand
and solemnly declaring to the assembled congregation—“Good people, I
am come hither, at this present time, to declare unto you my sorrowful
and penitent heart, for that, being a priest, I have presumed to marry
one Amy German, widow; and, under pretence of that matrimony, contrary
to the canons and custom of the universal church, have kept her as my
wife, and lived contrary to the canons and ordinances of the church,
and to the evil example of good Christian people; whereby now, being
ashamed of my former wicked living here, I ask Almighty God mercy and
forgiveness, and the whole Church, and am sorry and penitent even from
the bottom of my heart therefore. And in token hereof, I am here, as
you see, to declare and show unto you my repentance: that before God,
on the latter day, you may testify with me of the same. And I most
heartily and humbly pray and desire you all, whom by this evil example
doing I have greatly offended, that for your part you will forgive
me, and remember me in your prayers, that God may give me grace, that
hereafter I may live a continent life, according to His laws and the
godly ordinances of our mother the holy Catholic Church, through and
by His grace. And do here, before you all, openly promise for to do
during my life.”[1245] Such scenes as these were well calculated to
produce the effect desired upon the people, but we can only guess at
the terrorism which was requisite to force educated and respectable men
to submit to such degradation.

All this was done by the royal authority, wielding the ecclesiastical
power usurped by Henry VIII. Strictly speaking, it was highly irregular
and uncanonical, but as the papal supremacy was yet in abeyance it
could not be accomplished otherwise. At last, however, the kingdom
was ripe for reconciliation with Rome. In calling the parliament of
1554, the queen issued a circular letter to the sheriffs commanding
them to admonish the people to return members “of the wise, grave,
and Catholic sort.”[1246] Her wishes were fulfilled, and ere the year
was out Cardinal Pole was installed with full legatine powers, and
Julius III. had issued his Bull of Indulgence, reuniting England to the
church from which she had been violently severed.[1247] An obedient
parliament lost no time in repealing all statutes adverse to the claims
of the Holy See, but its subserviency had limits, and one class largely
interested in the reforms of Henry had sufficient influence to maintain
its heretical rights. The church lands granted or sold to laymen were
not revendicated. Indeed, the queen, in her call for the parliament,
had felt it necessary to contradict the rumour that she and Philip
intended the “alteration of any particular Man’s Possessions.” Though
the transactions by which they had been acquired were wholly illegal;
though no duration of possession could bar the imprescriptible rights
of the church, yet the nobles and country gentlemen enriched by the
spoliation were too numerous and powerful, and the reclamation of the
kingdom was too important, to incur any peril by unseasonably insisting
on reparation for Henry’s injustice. The abbatial manors and rich
priories, the chantries, hospitals, and colleges were therefore left
in the impious hands of those who had been fortunate enough to secure
them,[1248] and the miserable remnants of the religious orders were
left to the conscience of the queen, who made haste to get rid of such
fragments of the spoil as had been retained by the crown.[1249]

Whatever tacit understanding there may have been on this delicate
subject between Queen Mary and Pope Julius was not assented to by
the imperious Caraffa who shortly afterwards ascended the chair of
St. Peter. Elected May 23, 1555, he lost no time in proclaiming the
imprescriptible rights of the church, and by his Bull “Injunctum nobis”
issued June 21st, he pronounced null and void “de apostolicæ potestatis
plenitudine” all transactions by which ecclesiastical possessions
had passed into the hands of laymen, who were duly threatened with
excommunication for prolonged attempts to hold their unhallowed
acquisitions.[1250] The effort of course was fruitless, but the spirit
in which the English protestants watched the apparent opening of a
breach between England and Rome is well expressed in a letter of Aug.
23, 1555, from Sir Richard Morrison to Henry Bullinger—“This anti-Paul,
Paul of the apostasy, the servant of the devil, this antichrist newly
created at Rome, thinks it but a very small plunder that is offered
to him, that he is again permitted in England to tyrannise over our
consciences, unless the revenues be restored to the monasteries, that
is, the pigsties; the patrimony, as he calls it, of the souls that
are now serving in the filth of purgatory. Our ambassadors, who went
to Rome for the purpose of bringing back the wolf upon the sheep of
Christ, are now with the emperor, and bring us these demands of the
chief pontiff: God grant that he may urge them in every possible
way.”[1251] The hopes of the reformers however were disappointed, for
Paul IV. gave way, and on the reassembling of Parliament, Oct. 23,
1555, a Bull was read by which the pope assented to the arrangement
agreed to by Cardinal Pole, confirming the church lands to their new

Cardinal Pole, indeed, was not remiss in giving the sanction of the
papal authority to all that had been done. Convoking a synod, he
issued, in 1555, his Legatine Constitutions, by which all marriages of
those included in the prohibited orders were declared null and void.
Such apostates were ordered to be separated by ecclesiastical censures
and by whatever legal processes might be required; all who dared to
justify such marriages or to obstinately remain in their unholy bonds
were to be rigorously prosecuted and punished according to the ancient
canons, which were revived and declared to be in full force in order to
prevent similar scandals for the future.[1253] As the queen by special
warrant had decreed that all canons adopted by synods should have the
full effect of laws binding on the clergy, these constitutions at once
restored matters to their pristine condition. It was doubtless in order
to mark in the most conspicuous manner his detestation of clerical
marriage that Pole descended to the pettiness of ordering the body of
Peter Martyr’s wife to be dug up from its resting-place, near the tomb
of St. Frideswide in Christ’s Church, Oxford, and to be buried in a

It was easy to pass decrees; it was doubtless gratifying to eject
married priests by the thousand and to grant their livings to hungry
reactionaries or to the crowd of needy churchmen whom Italy had ever
ready to supply the spiritual wants and collect the tithes of the
faithful. All this was readily accomplished, but the difficulty lay
in overcoming the eternal instincts of human nature. The struggle to
effect this commenced at once.

It was, indeed, hardly to be expected that those who had entered into
matrimony with the full conviction of its sanctity would willingly
abandon all intercourse with their wives, although they might yield a
forced assent to the pressure of the laws, the prospect of poverty,
and the certainty of infamous punishment. Accordingly we find that
the necessity at once arose of watching the “reconciled” priests, who
continued to do in secret what they could no longer practise openly.
Some, indeed, found the restrictions so onerous that they endeavored
to release themselves from the bonds of the church rather than to
submit longer to the separation from their wives; and this apparently
threatened so great a dearth in the ranks of the clergy that Cardinal
Pole, as Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1556, forbade the withdrawal of
any one from the mysteries and functions of the altar, under pain of
the law.[1255]

Notwithstanding all this legislation, royal, parliamentary, and
ecclesiastical, the question refused to settle itself, and the
Convocation which assembled on the 1st of January, 1557, was obliged
to publish an elaborate series of articles, which demonstrated that
previous enactments had either not been properly observed or that
they had failed in effecting their purpose. Thus the prohibition of
marriage to those in priests’ orders was formally renewed. Such of
the married clergy, who had undergone penance and had been restored,
as still persisted in holding intercourse with their separated wives,
were to be deprived irrevocably of their office, and only to be
admitted to lay communion—thus reversing the policy of Cardinal Pole’s
injunctions. As all priests who had been married were obnoxious to the
people, they were to be removed from the priesthood; or, at least, on
account of the scarcity of ministers, to act only as curates, and to
be incapable of holding benefices until a thorough course of penance
should have washed away their sins. Even then, in no case were they to
officiate in the dioceses wherein they had been married, but were to be
removed to a distance of at least sixty miles, and if detected in any
intercourse with their wives, they were to incur severe punishment, a
single interchange of words being sufficient to call down the penalty.
To insure the observance of these rules, all synods were directed to
make special inquiry into the lives of these unfortunates, who were
thus to exist under a perpetual surveillance, at the mercy of inimical
spies and informers.[1256] This may, perhaps, be considered a moderate
expiation for men who, in those days of fierce religious convictions,
possessed that flexibility of faith which enabled them to change their
belief with every dynastic accident.

If the rigid rules now introduced were successful in nothing else,
they at all events succeeded in restoring the old troubles with the
old canons. Denied the lawful gratification of human instincts, the
clergy immediately returned to the habits which had acquired for them
so much odium in times past, and the rulers of the church at once
found themselves embarked in the sempiternal struggle with immorality
in all its shapes and disguises. If the scandalous chronicles of the
period be worthy of credit, neither Gardiner nor Bonner, nor other
active promoters of the canons, were without the visible evidences of
the frailty of the flesh;[1257] and though they were above the reach
of correction, the minor clergy were not so fortunate. The Convocation
of 1557, which issued the stringent regulations just quoted, was also
obliged to promulgate articles concerning the residence of women with
priests, and the punishment of licentiousness, similar to those which
we have seen reproduced so regularly for ten centuries. Cardinal Pole,
too, in his visitation of the same year, directed inquiries to be made
on these points in a manner which shows that they were existing, and
not merely anticipated evils.[1258]

       *       *       *       *       *

Fortunately for the character of the Anglican clergy, the reign of
reaction was short. On the 17th of November, 1558, Queen Mary closed
her unhappy life, and Cardinal Pole followed her within sixteen hours.
The Marian persecution had been long enough and sharp enough to give
to heresy all the attractions of martyrdom, thus increasing its
fervor and enlarging its circle of earnest disciples; and the sudden
termination of that persecution, before it had time to accomplish its
work of extirpation, left the reformers more zealous and dangerous than
ever. Heresy had likewise been favored by the discontent of the people
arising from the disastrous and expensive war with France, which aided
the improvident restoration of the church lands in impoverishing the
exchequer and in rendering necessary heavy subsidies from the nation,
repaid only by cruelty and misfortune. Dread of Spanish influence also
had a firm hold of the imagination of the masses, while the church
itself was especially unpopular, as the conviction was general that
the ill-success of Mary’s administration was attributable to the
control exercised by ecclesiastics over the public affairs. Under such
auspices, the royal power passed into the hands of a princess who,
though by nature leaning to the Catholic faith and disposed to tread
in the footsteps of her father, was yet placed by the circumstances of
her birth in implacable hostility to Rome, and who held her throne only
on the tenure of waging eternal warfare with reaction. The reformers
felt that the doom of Catholicism was sealed. Emerging from their
hiding-places and hastening back from exile, the religious refugees
proceeded at once to practise the rites of Edward VI. Elizabeth,
however, after ordering some changes in the Roman observances, forbade,
on the 27th of December, all further innovations until the meeting of
Parliament, which was convoked for January 23, 1559.

Parliament assembled on the appointed day and sat until the 8th of
May. It at once passed acts resuming the ecclesiastical crown lands
and restoring the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical matters, and it
repealed all of Mary’s legislation concerning the power of the papacy.
Several other bills were adopted modifying the religion of the kingdom,
with a view of discovering some middle term which should unite the
people in a common form of belief and worship.[1259] Anxious to avoid
all extremes, it negatived the measures introduced by the ardent
friends of the Reformation, and among the unsuccessful attempts was one
which proposed to restore all priests who had been deprived on account
of marriage. This, indeed, was laid aside by the special command of the
queen herself.[1260]

The question of clerical marriage was thus left in a most perplexed and
unsatisfactory condition. The Six Articles had been repealed by Edward
VI., and had been virtually revived by Mary; but Mary’s efforts had
been to restore the independent jurisdiction of the church, and she
had therefore not continued to regard the Six Articles as in force,
the canons of synods and the legatine constitutions of Pole being the
law of her ecclesiastical establishment. This was now all swept away,
a statute to fill the void was refused, and men were left to draw
their own deductions and act at their own peril. Elizabeth refused
the sanction of law to sacerdotal marriage, and would not restore the
deprived priests, yet she did not enforce any prohibitory regulations,
and even promoted many married men. Dr. Parker, the religious adviser
of Ann Boleyn, who had left him in charge of her daughter’s spiritual
education, was married, and one of Elizabeth’s earliest acts was to
nominate him for the vacant primacy of Canterbury, which after long
resistance he was forced to accept. The uncertainty of the situation
and the anxiety of those interested are well illustrated by a letter
to Dr. Parker, dated April 30th, just before the rising of Parliament,
from Dr. Sandys, afterwards Bishop of Worcester: “The bill is in hand
to restore men to their livings; how it will speed I know not....
Nihil est statutum de conjugio sacerdotum, sed tanquam relictum in
medio. Lever was married now of late. The queen’s majesty will wink at
it, but not stablish it by law, which is nothing else but to bastard
our children.”[1261] In this, Dr. Sandys spoke nothing but truth, and
those who were married were obliged formally to have their children
legitimated, as even Dr. Parker found it necessary to do this in the
case of his son Matthew.[1262]

At length Elizabeth made up her mind, and in the exercise of her royal
supremacy she asked for no act of Parliament to confirm her decree.
Archbishop Parker has the credit of being the most efficient agent in
overcoming her repugnance to the measure, and the ungracious manner
in which she finally accorded the permission shows how strong were
the prejudices which he had to encounter. In June, 1559, she issued
a series of “Injunctions to the Clergy and Laity” which restored the
national religion to nearly the same position as that adopted by
Edward VI., and it is curious to observe that when she comes to speak
of sacerdotal matrimony, she carefully avoids the responsibility of
sanctioning it herself, but assumes that the law of Edward is still
in force. All that she does, therefore, is to surround it with such
limitations and restrictions as shall prevent its abuse, and although
this form had perhaps the advantage of establishing the legality
of all preëxisting marriages, yet the regulations promulgated were
degrading in the highest degree, and the reason assigned for permitting
it could only be regarded as affixing a stigma on every pastor who
confessed the weakness of his flesh by seeking a wife.[1263]

From the temper of these regulations it is manifest that if Elizabeth
yielded to the advice of her counsellors and to the pressure of the
times, she did not give up her private convictions or prejudices, and
that she desired to make the marriage of her clergy as unpopular and
disagreeable as possible. It was probably for the purpose of meeting
her objections that the order for a return of the clergy, issued by
Archbishop Parker, October 1st, 1561, contained in the blanks issued
the unusual entry classifying them as married or unmarried,[1264]
and Strype informs us that in the Archdeaconry of London the returns
show the ministry for the most part to have been filled with married
men.[1265] Even the haughty spirit of the Tudor, thus, could not
restrain the progress which had now fairly set in. Those around her who
controlled the public affairs were all committed to the Reformation,
and were resolved that every point gained should be made secure. When,
therefore, in 1563, there was published a recension of the Forty-two
Articles issued by Edward VI. in 1552, resulting in the well-known
Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, care was taken that
the one relating to the liberty of marriage should be made more
emphatic than before. Not content with the simple proposition of the
original that “Bishops, priests, and deacons are not commanded by
God’s law either to vow the estate of a single life, or to abstain
from marriage,” the emphatic corollary was added, “Therefore it is
lawful for them as for all other Christian men to marry at their
own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to
Godliness”[1266]—such as we find it preserved to the present day. This
specific declaration in a special article marks the necessity which was
felt to place the matter beyond controversy, as a rule of practice. The
Articles on Justification and Works of Supererogation (Arts. xi. and
xix.) would have sufficed, so far as principle was concerned.

This was not an empty form. Not only the right to marry at their own
discretion, thus expressly declared, did much to relieve them from
the degrading conditions laid down by the queen, but the revival
and strengthening of the article marked a victory gained over the
reaction. When, in 1559, the queen appointed a commission to visit
all the churches of England and enforce compliance with the order of
things then existing, the articles prepared for its guidance enjoin
no investigation into opinions respecting priestly marriage, showing
that to be an open question, concerning which every man might hold his
private belief.[1267] After the adoption of the Thirty-nine Articles,
however, this latitude was no longer allowed. In 1567 Archbishop
Parker’s articles of instruction for the visitation of that year
enumerate, among the heretical doctrines to be inquired after, the
assertion that the Word of God commands abstinence from marriage on the
part of ministers of the church.[1268] As we shall see, it was about
the same time that the council of Trent likewise erected the question
of clerical marriage into a point of belief.

Yet Elizabeth never overcame her repugnance to the marriage of the
clergy, nor is it, perhaps, to be wondered at when we consider the
contempt in which she held the church of which she was the head,[1269]
and her general aversion to sanctioning in others the matrimony which
she was herself always toying with and never contracting. When she made
her favorites of both sexes suffer for any legalized indiscretions
of the kind, it is scarcely surprising that she always looked with
disfavor on those of the clergy who availed themselves of the privilege
which circumstances had extorted from her, and which she would fain
have withheld. When Archbishop Parker ventured to remonstrate with
her on her popish tendencies, she sharply told him that “she repented
of having made any married bishops.” This was a cutting rejoinder,
but even more pointed was the insolence from which his life-long
services could not protect his wife. The first time the queen visited
the archiepiscopal palace, on her departure she turned to thank Mrs.
Parker:—“And you—madam I may not call you, mistress I am ashamed to
call you, so I know not what to call you—but, howsoever, I thank
you.”[1270] So in Ipswich, in August, 1561, she found great fault with
the marriage of the clergy, and especially with the number of wives and
children in cathedrals and colleges—a feeling possibly justified by
occasional disorders not unlikely to occur. In 1563 we find Sir John
Bourne complaining to the Privy Council that the Dean and Chapter of
Worcester had broken up the large organ, the pride of the cathedral,
which had cost £200; the metal pipes whereof were melted into dishes
and divided among the wives of the prebendaries and the case used to
make bedsteads for them; the copes and ornaments, he added, would
likewise have been distributed had not some of the unmarried men
prevented it, “and as by their Habit and Apparel you might know the
Priests wives, and by their Gate in the Market and the Streets from an
hundred other Women: so in the Congregation and Cathedral Church they
were easy to be known by placing themselves above all other of the
most ancient and honest Calling of the said City.”[1271] There was no
lack of persons to pour such stories into the queen’s ear, and, with
her well-known tendencies, it is no wonder that her counsellors found
it difficult to restrain her to the simple order which she issued from
Ipswich, declaring “that no manner of person, being either the head or
member of any college or cathedral church within this realm, shall,
from the time of the notification hereof in the same college, have,
or be permitted to have, within the precinct of any such college, his
wife, or other woman, to abide and dwell in the same, or to frequent
and haunt any lodging within the same college, upon pain that whosoever
shall do to the contrary shall forfeit all ecclesiastical promotions
in any cathedral or collegiate church within this realm.” Burghley,
in sending this royal mandate to Parker, remarks, “Her Majesty
continueth very evil affected to the state of matrimony in the clergy.
And if [I] were not therein very stiff, her Majesty would openly and
utterly condemn and forbid it. In the end, for her satisfaction, this
injunction now sent to your Grace is devised. The good order thereof
shall do no harm. I have devised to send it in this sort to your
Grace for your province; and to the Archbishop of York for his; so
as it shall not be promulged to be popular.”[1272] It is doubtless
to this occurrence that we may attribute the last relic of clerical
celibacy enforced among Protestants, that of the Fellows of the English

This injunction of Queen Elizabeth caused no little excitement. Though
Burghley had prudently endeavored to prevent its becoming “popular,”
yet Cox, Bishop of Ely, in remonstrating against its cruelty to
those whom it affected in his cathedral seat, shows that it was
speedily known to all men, and that it gave exceeding comfort to the
reactionaries—“What rejoicing and jeering the adversaries make! How
the godly ministers are discouraged, I will pass over.”[1273] In the
Universities, where crowds of young men were collected, there might
be some colorable excuse for the regulation, but in the splendid
and spacious buildings connected with the cathedrals some milder
remedy might easily have been found, and the mandate was particularly
unpalatable to married bishops. Parker himself, who was individually
interested in the matter, made a personal appeal to the queen, the
result of which was to wound him deeply, as well as to show him
how extreme were her prejudices on the subject. He pours forth his
feelings in a letter to Burghley describing the interview—“I was
in an horror to hear such words to come from her mild nature and
Christianly learned conscience, as she spake of God’s holy ordinance
and institution of matrimony. I marvel that our states in that behalf
cannot please her Highness, which we doubt nothing at all to please
God’s sacred Majesty.” He deplores the effect which it must produce on
the people—“We alone of our time openly brought in hatred, shamed and
traduced before the malicious and ignorant people, as beasts without
knowledge to Godward, in using this liberty of his word, as men of
effrenate intemperency, without discretion or any godly disposition
worthy to serve in our state. Insomuch that the queen’s Highness
expressed to me a repentance that we were thus appointed in office,
wishing it had been otherwise.” The interview had evidently been
stormy, and Parker had been made to feel the full force of Elizabeth’s
perverseness—“I have neither joy of house, land, or name, so abased by
my natural sovereign good lady; for whose service and honor I would not
think it cost to spend my life”—and he even goes so far as to threaten
resistance—“I would be sorry that the clergy should have cause to show
disobedience, with _oportet Deo obedire magis quam hominibus_. And what
instillers soever there be, there be enough of this contemned flock,
which will not shrink to offer their blood to the defence of Christ’s
verity, if it be either openly impugned or secretly suggilled.”[1274]
Evidently, before Parker could have been driven to such scarcely
covered threats, there must have been an intimation by the angry queen
that she would recall the permission to marry, which, in the existing
state of the law, she could readily have done.

The same spirit which rendered the marriage of a pastor dependent on
the approbation of the neighboring squires caused the retention of
ancient rules, which prove the profound distrust still entertained as
to the discretion and morality of the clergy, and the difficulty with
which the Anglican church threw off the traditions of Catholicism.
Thus, even in 1571, Grindal, Archbishop of York, promulgates a
modification of the canon of Nicæa, forbidding the residence with
unmarried ministers of women under the age of sixty, except relatives
closely connected by blood.[1275] Indeed, in some remote corners of the
kingdom the old license was kept up. Archbishop Parker, about the year
1565, in speaking of the diocese of Bangor, states—“I hear that diocese
to be much out of order, both having no preaching there and pensionary
concubinary openly continued, notwithstanding liberty of marriage
granted.”[1276] It evidently required time to accustom the clergy to
the substitution of the new privileges for the old.

Although sacerdotal marriage was now fully sanctioned by the organic
canon law of the church, yet it was still exposed to serious
impediments of a worldly character. When thus frowned upon by her
who was in reality, if not in name, Supreme Head of the church; when
the wife of the primate himself could be exposed to such indelible
impertinence; when the marriage of every unfortunate parson was
subjected to degrading conditions, and when it was assumed that
his bride must be a woman at service, the influences affecting the
matrimonial alliances of the clergy must have been of the worst
description. The higher classes of society would naturally model their
opinions on those of the sovereign, while the lower orders had not
as yet shaken off the prejudices in favor of celibacy, implanted in
them by the custom of centuries. Making due allowance for polemical
bitterness, there is therefore no doubt much truth in the sarcastic
account which Sanders gives of the wives of the Elizabethan clergy.
Taking advantage of the refusal of Parliament to formally legalize such
marriages—a refusal which could not but greatly affect the minds of
the people—he assumes that the wives were concubines and the children
illegitimate in the eyes of the law; consequently decent women refused
to undergo the obloquy attached to a union with a minister of the
church, who was therefore forced to take as his spouse any one who
would consent to accept him. The wives of prelates were ostracized;
not received at court, and sharing in no way the dignities of their
husbands, they were kept closely at home for the mere gratification
of animal passion. The members of universities had been wholly
unsuccessful in their efforts to obtain the same license, which was
only granted to the heads of colleges, under condition that their wives
should reside elsewhere, and should rarely pollute with their presence
the learned precincts.[1277]

The accuracy of this sarcastic description is confirmed by a statement
made by Percival Wiburn for the benefit of his friends in Zurich,
subsequent to the adoption of the Thirty-nine Articles. He asserts
that “The marriage of priests was counted unlawful in the times of
queen Mary, and was also forbidden by a public statute of the realm,
which is also in force at this day; although by permission of queen
Elizabeth clergymen may have their wives, provided only they marry by
the advice and assent of the bishop and two justices of the peace, as
they call them. The lords bishops are forbidden to have their wives
with them in their palaces; as are also the deans, canons, presbyters,
and other ministers of the church, within colleges, or the precincts
of cathedral churches.”[1278] It is not a little curious, indeed, to
observe that in spite of the formal declaration in the Thirty-nine
Articles, the absence of a special act of Parliament long caused the
question to remain a doubtful one in the public mind. As late as July,
1566, Lawrence Humphrey and Thomas Sampson, two zealous Protestants,
in denouncing “some straws and chips of the popish religion” which
still defaced the Anglican church, state that “the marriage of the
clergy is not allowed and sanctioned by the public laws of the kingdom,
but their children are by some persons regarded as illegitimate;” in
answer to which, Bishops Grindal and Horn rejoined that “the wives of
the clergy are not separated from their husbands, and their marriage
is esteemed honorable by all, the papists always excepted.”[1279] The
matter evidently was still regarded as a subject of controversy, not
yet decided beyond appeal; and the experience of the previous quarter
of a century had accustomed men to too many vicissitudes for them to
feel safe with so slender a guarantee as the Articles afforded. The
Catholics still constituted a very large proportion of the population,
and they scarcely concealed their feelings towards the innovation.
When Sir John Bourne quarrelled with Dr. Sandys, Bishop of Worcester,
among the formal articles of accusation which he presented to the Privy
Council was the assertion that the Bishop in a sermon had ridiculed
celibacy and had decried the virtue of unmarried priests.[1280] The
knight apparently believed that this would be damaging to the bishop,
and the latter seems likewise to have thought so, for in his answer he
emphatically denied it, retorting that his adversary was a papist who
had mass celebrated in his house and who was in the habit of applying
the most opprobrious epithets to the wives of priests.[1281] So when in
1569 the Catholics of the North rose in insurrection under the Earls of
Westmoreland and Northumberland, one of the grievances of which they
complained was the marriage of the ministers of Christ.[1282] During
the whole of this transition period the question was evidently one
which occupied largely the public mind, and in the diversity of opinion
it was not easy to see what the ultimate decision might be. When an
irrevocable step such as marriage was legal only during the pleasure of
a capricious woman, whose assent was known to have been extorted from
her, it is no wonder that it should be looked upon with disfavor by all
prudent relatives of women inclined to venture on it.

Such a state of feeling could not but react most injuriously on the
character of the great body of the clergy. It deprived them of the
respect due to their sacred calling, and consequently reduced them to
the level of such scant respect as was accorded to them. How long this
lasted, and how materially it degraded the ministers of Christ as a
body, cannot be questioned by any one who recalls the description of
the rural clergy in the brilliant third chapter of Macaulay’s History
of England. In 1686 an author complains that the rector is an object
of contempt and ridicule for all above the rank of the neighboring
peasants; that gentle blood would be held polluted by any connection
with the church, and that girls of good family were taught with equal
earnestness not to marry clergymen, nor to sacrifice their reputation
by amourous indiscretions—two misfortunes which were commonly regarded
as equal.[1283]

Thus eagerly accepted and grudgingly bestowed, the privilege of
marriage established itself in the Church of England by connivance
rather than as a right; and the evil influences of the prejudices thus
fostered were not extinguished for generations.



When John Calvin formulated the system of theology which bears his
name, sacerdotal marriage had already become recognized as one of
the necessary incidents of the revolt against Rome. That the French
Huguenots should accept it accordingly was therefore a matter of
course. Calvin himself manifested his contempt for all the ancient
prejudices by marrying, in 1539, Idelette de Bure, the widow of the
Anabaptist Jean Stordeur, whom he had converted.[1284] The Huguenot
Confession of Faith was drawn up by him, and was adopted by the
first national synod, held at Paris in 1559. Of course the Genevan
views of justification swept away all the accumulated observances
of sacerdotalism, and ascetic celibacy shared the fate of the
rest.[1285] The discipline of the Calvinist church with regard to
the morality of its ministers was necessarily severe. The peculiar
purity expected of a pastor’s household was shown by the rule which
enjoined any church officer whose wife was convicted of adultery to
dismiss her absolutely, under pain of deposition, while laymen, under
such circumstances, were exhorted to be reconciled to their guilty
partners.[1286] Any lapse from virtue on the part of a minister was
visited with peremptory deposition;[1287] nor was this a mere idle
threat such as were too many of the innumerable decrees of the Catholic
councils quoted above, for the proceedings of various synods show that
it was carried sternly into execution. A list of such vagrant and
deposed ministers was even kept and published to the churches, with
personal descriptions of the individuals, that they might not be able
to impose on the unwary. Indeed, the national synod of Lyons, in 1563,
went so far as to punish those ministers who brought contempt upon the
church by unfitting marriages;[1288] and, though this was omitted from
the final code of discipline, it shows the exceeding strictness with
which the internal economy of the ecclesiastical establishment of the
Huguenots was regulated.

The relations of the Catholic church with its apostates were somewhat
confused, and they varied with the political exigencies of the
situation. Ecclesiastics who left the Catholic communion did not
hesitate to enter into matrimony;[1289] and when the desolation of
civil war rendered a forced tolerance of the new religion necessary,
their position was a source of considerable debate, varying with
the fluctuations of the tangled politics of the time. The Edict of
Pacification of Amboise, in March, 1562, was held by the Huguenots
to legalize the marriages of these apostates, but the explanatory
declaration of August, 1563, ordered their reclamation by the church
under pain of exile. When the Spanish alliance gave fresh assurances
of triumph to the Catholics this was enforced with increased severity.
The Edict of Roussillon, in 1564, commands that all priests, monks, and
nuns, who had abandoned their profession and entered into matrimony,
shall sunder their unhallowed bonds and return to their duties.
Recalcitrants were required to leave the kingdom within two months,
under pain, in the case of men, of condemnation to the galleys for
life, and in that of women, of perpetual imprisonment.[1290] As most
of the Calvinist ministers necessarily belonged to the class thus
assailed, the effect of this legislation in stimulating the troubles of
the kingdom can readily be perceived.

The dismal strife of the succeeding ten years at length showed that,
in spite of the Tridentine canons, the toleration of this iniquity
was a necessity. Thus in the Edicts of Pacification issued by Henry
III. in 1576 and 1577 there is a provision which admits as valid the
marriages theretofore contracted by all priests or religious persons
of either sex. The issue of such unions was declared competent to
inherit the personalty of the parents and such realty as either parent
might have acquired, but was incapable of other inheritance, direct or

The church was forced to submit to this temporizing tolerance of evil,
and condescended to entreaty since force was no longer permitted. In
1581, the council of Rouen, while deploring the number of monks and
nuns who had left their convents, apostatized and married, directs
that they shall be tempted back, treated with kindness, and pardon
be sought for them from the Holy See.[1292] In the final settlement
of the religious troubles, the concessions made by Henry III. were
renewed and somewhat amplified by the Edict of Nantes in 1598.[1293]
When the reaction came, however, these provisions were held to be only
retrospective in their action, and were not admitted as legalizing
subsequent marriages. Thus in 1628 a knight of Malta, in 1630 a nun,
and in 1640 a priest of Nevers, who had embraced Calvinism, ventured on
matrimony, but were separated from their spouses and the marriages were
pronounced null.[1294] These decisions were based on the principle that
the celibacy of ecclesiastics was prescribed by municipal as well as by
canon law, and that a priest in abjuring his religion did not escape
from the obligations imposed upon him by the laws of the kingdom.[1295]

In Scotland, as in France, the question of sacerdotal marriage may
be considered as having virtually been settled in advance. Lollardry
had not been confined to the southern portion of Great Britain. It
had penetrated into Scotland, and had received the countenance of
those whose position and influence were well calculated to aid in its
dissemination among the people. In 1494, thirty of these heretics,
known as “the Lollards of Kyle,” were prosecuted before James IV. by
Robert Blacater, Archbishop of Glasgow. Their station may be estimated
from the fact that they escaped the punishment due to their sins by the
favor of the monarch, “for divers of them were his great familiars.”
The thirty-four articles of accusation brought against them are mostly
Wickliffite in tendency, and their views on the question of celibacy
are manifested in the twenty-second article which accuses them of
asserting “That Priests may have wives according to the constitution of
the Law and of the Primitive Christian Church.”[1296]

The soil was thus ready for the plough of the Reformation; while the
temper of the Scottish race gave warrant that when the mighty movement
should reach them, it would be marked by that stern and uncompromising
spirit which alone could satisfy conscientious and fiery bigots, who
would regard all half-measures as pacts with Satan. Nor was there
lacking ample cause to excite in the minds of all men the desire for a
sweeping and effectual reform. Corruption had extended through every
fibre of the Scottish church as foul and as all-pervading as that which
we have traced throughout the rest of Christendom.

Not long after the year 1530, and before the new heresy had obtained
a foothold, William Arith, a Dominican, ventured to assail the vices
of his fellow churchmen. In a sermon preached at St. Andrews, with
the approbation of the heads of the universities, he alluded to the
false miracles with which the people were deceived, and the abuses
practised at shrines to which credulous devotion was invited. “As of
late dayes,” he proceeded, “our Lady of Karsgreng hath hopped from one
green hillock to another: But, honest men of St. Andrewes, if ye love
your wives and daughters, hold them at home, or else send them in good
honest company; for if ye knew what miracles were wrought there, ye
would thank neither God nor our Lady.” In another sermon, arguing that
the disorders of the clergy should be subjected to the jurisdiction
of the civil authorities, he introduced an anecdote respecting Prior
Patrick Hepburn, afterwards Bishop of Murray. That prelate once,
in merry discourse with his gentlemen, asked of them the number of
their mistresses, and what proportion of the fair dames were married.
The first who answered confessed to five, of whom two were bound in
wedlock; the next boasted of seven, with three married women among
them; and so on until the turn came to Hepburn himself, who, proud
of his _bonnes fortunes_, declared that although he was the youngest
man there, his mistresses numbered twelve, of whom seven were men’s
wives.[1297] Yet Arith was a good Catholic, who, on being driven from
Scotland for his plain speaking, suffered imprisonment in England under
Henry VIII. for maintaining the supremacy of the pope.

How little concealment was thought requisite with regard to these
scandals is exemplified in the case of Alexander Ferrers, which
occurred about the same time. Taken prisoner by the English and
immured for seven years in the Tower of London, he returned home to
find that his wife had been consoled and his substance dissipated
in his absence by a neighboring priest, for the which cause he not
unnaturally “spake more liberally of priests than they could bear.” By
this time, heresy was spreading, and severe measures of repression were
considered necessary. It therefore was not difficult to have the man’s
disrespectful remarks construed as savoring of Lutheranism, and he was
accordingly brought up for trial at St. Andrews. The first article
of accusation read to him was that he despised the Mass, whereto he
answered, “I heare more Masses in eight dayes than three bishops there
sitting say in a yeare.” The next article accused him of contemning the
sacraments. “The priests,” replied he, “were the most contemnors of the
sacraments, especially of matrimony.” “And that he witnessed by many
of the priests there present, and named the man’s wife with whom they
had meddled, and especially Sir John Dungwaill, who had seven years
together abused his own wife and consumed his substance, and said:
because I complain of such injuries, I am here summoned and accused
as one that is worthy to be burnt: For God’s sake, said he, will ye
take wives of your own, that I and others whom ye have abused may be
revenged on you.” Old Gawain Dunbar, Bishop of Aberdeen, not relishing
this public accusation, sought to justify himself, exclaiming, “Carle,
thou shalt not know my wife;” but the prisoner turned the tables on
him, “My lord, ye are too old, but by the grace of God I shall drink
with your daughter or I depart.” “And thereat there was smiling of the
best and loud laughter of some, for the bishop had a daughter married
with Andrew Balfour in that town.” The prelates who sat in judgment
found that they were exchanging places with the accused, and, fearful
of further revelations from the reckless Alexander, commanded him to
depart; but he refused, unless each one should contribute something to
replace the goods which his wife’s paramour had consumed, and finally,
to stop his evil tongue, they paid him and bade him begone.[1298]

All prelates, however, were not so sensitive. When Cardinal Beatoun,
Archbishop of St. Andrews, primate of Scotland, and virtual governor
of the realm, about the year 1546 married his eldest daughter to the
eldest son of the Earl of Crawford, he caused the nuptials to be
celebrated with regal magnificence, and in the marriage articles,
signed with his own hand, he did not hesitate to call her “my
daughter.” It is not difficult, therefore, to credit the story that
the night before his assassination was passed with his mistress,
Marion Ogilby, who was seen leaving his chamber not long before Norman
Leslie and Kirkaldy of Grange forced their way into his castle.[1299]
His successor in the see of St. Andrews, John Hamilton, was equally
notorious for his licentiousness; and men wondered, not at his
immorality, but at his taste in preferring to all his other concubines
one whose only attraction seemed to be the zest given to sin by the
fact that she was the wife of one of his kindred.[1300]

This is testimony from hostile witnesses, and we might perhaps impugn
their evidence on that ground, were it not that the Catholic Church
of Scotland itself admitted the abandoned morals of its members when
the rapid progress of Calvinism at length drove it in self-defence to
attempt a reform which was its only chance of salvation. In the last
Parliament held by James V. before his death in 1542, an act was passed
exhorting the prelates and ecclesiastics in general to take measures
“for reforming of ther lyvis, and for avoyding of the opin sclander
that is gevin to the haill estates throucht the spirituale mens ungodly
and dissolut lyves.”[1301] Nothing was then done in spite of this
solemn warning, though the countenance afforded to the Reformers by
the Regent Arran, strengthened by his alliance with Henry VIII., was
daily causing the heresy to assume more dangerous proportions. When,
therefore, the Catholic party, rallying after the murder of Cardinal
Beatoun, at length triumphed with the aid of France, and sent the young
Queen of Scots to marry Francis II., they seemed to recognize that
they could only maintain their advantage by meeting public opinion in
endeavoring to reform the church. Accordingly, in November, 1549, a
council was convoked at Edinburgh, of which the first canon declares
that the licentiousness of the clergy had given rise to the gravest
scandals, to repress which the rules enjoined by the council of Bâle
must be strictly enforced and universally obeyed. The second canon is
no less significant in ordering that prelates and other ecclesiastics
shall not live with their illegitimate children, nor provide for them
or promote them in the paternal churches, nor marry their daughters to
barons by endowing them with the patrimony of Christ, nor cause their
sons to be made barons by the same means.[1302]

This was of small avail. Ten years afterwards, the progress of heresy
becoming ever more alarming, another council was held, in March, 1559,
to devise means to put a stop to the encroachments of the enemy. To
this assembly the Catholic nobles addressed an earnest prayer for
reformation. After alluding to the proceedings of the Parliament
of 1542, they add, “And siclyk remembring in diverss of the lait
provinciale counsales haldin within this realm, that poynt has been
treittet of, and sindrie statutis synodale maid therupon, of the
quhilks nevertheless thar hes folowit nan or litill fruitt as yitt,
bot rathare the said estate is deteriorate ... it is maist expedient
therefore that thai presentlie condescend to seik reformation of thir
lyvis ... and naymlie that oppin and manifest sins and notor offencis
be forborn and abstenit fra in tyme to cum.” In this request they
had been anticipated by the Reformers, who, the previous year, in
a supplication addressed to the queen-regent, included among their
demands “That the wicked, slanderous and detestable life of Prelats
and of the State Ecclesiasticall may be reformed, that the people by
them have not occasion (as of many dayes they have had) to contemne
their Ministrie and the Preaching whereof they should be Messengers.”

The council, thus urged by friend and foe, recognized the extreme
necessity of the case, and did its best to cure the immedicable
disease. Its first canon reaffirmed the observance of the Basilian
regulations, and appointed a commission empowered to enforce them; and,
that nothing should interfere with its efficiency, the Archbishops of
St. Andrews and Glasgow made a special renunciation of their exemption
from the jurisdiction of the council. The second canon, in forbidding
the residence of illegitimate children with their clerical fathers,
endeavored to procure obedience to the rule ordered by the council of
1549, by permitting it for four days in each quarter, and by a penalty
for infractions of £200 in the case of an archbishop, £100 in that of a
bishop, and leaving the mulct to be imposed on inferior ecclesiastics
at the discretion of the officials. The third canon prohibited the
promotion of children in their father’s benefices, and supplicated the
queen-regent to obtain of the pope that no dispensations should be
granted to evade the rule. The fourth canon inhibited ecclesiastics
from marrying their daughters to barons and lairds, and endowing them
with church lands, or making their sons barons or lairds with more than
£100 annual income, under pain of fine to the amount of the dowry or
lands abstracted from the church; and all grants of church lands or
tithes to concubines or children were pronounced null and void.[1303]

When such legislation was necessary, the disorders which it was
intended to repress are acknowledged in terms admitting neither of
palliation nor excuse. The extent of the evil especially alluded to in
the latter canons is further exemplified by the fact that during the
thirty years immediately following the establishment of the Reformation
in Scotland, more letters of legitimation were taken out than were
issued in the subsequent two centuries. These were given to the sons
of the clergy who were allowed to retain their benefices, and who then
made over the property to their natural children.[1304]

       *       *       *       *       *

Such being the state of morals among the ministers of the old
religion, it is easy to appreciate the immense advantage enjoyed by
the Reformers. They made good use of it. Knox loses no opportunity of
stigmatizing the “pestilent Papists and Masse-mongers” a