Thursday, October 24, 2013

Question for Catholics: Why Not the Pope?

Two weeks ago was my second attempt at a “theme week” focusing on royal topics from a particular region. The first was Scandinavia, then two weeks ago was Southeast Asia. Here at The Mad Monarchist your humble correspondent makes an effort to cover the royal heritage of every part of the world, not just the popular monarchies or former monarchies most in this audience are probably most familiar with. However, who you are will always have some effect on what you do and so, in spite of my efforts to leave no continent or region neglected, I am sure I have naturally tended to talk more about the monarchies of those places I am most familiar with; Europe and East Asia. Not surprisingly for someone like me, I have long been fascinated by both the similarities and the vast differences between these two sides of the world. Recently, while thinking about the ways of the major monarchies of East Asia, a question occurred to me regarding the oldest succession in the western world; the Roman Pontiff. I pose this question to Catholic readers, not to exclude anyone, but because others would have no reason to even have the vaguest clue of an answer. The question is; why was the Pope never made Emperor? There must be some really smart Catholic readers out there who could take a crack at this one. Here is how I arrived at such a thought:

In the Far East the usual translation for what westerners have called the emperor is some variation of the term “celestial sovereign”. It is a position that holds supreme political as well as religious authority with some variations in one or the other from time to time. In Japan, for example, His Majesty the Emperor was considered the highest political authority (even when he did not exercise such authority) as well as being the chief priest of the ancient Shinto faith of Japan. Similarly, in China (and Sino-influenced countries), the Emperor was the “Son of Heaven” who, at the top of the Confucian hierarchy, said prayers and made sacrifices to Heaven on behalf of humanity. He was the national pontiff, so to speak, linking the upper and middle kingdoms. A similar situation exists or existed in those monarchies more influenced by India than China such as in Thailand where the King is regarded as an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and (reflecting Hinduism being supplanted by Buddhism) as an enlightened one. He too performs religious rituals on behalf of his country, in a way acting as their pontiff, in traditional beliefs being the center of all things. This is all, of course, very different from the way things are or were done in the west. Kings at times claimed to be the viceroys of God on earth, particularly in Protestant countries during the height of Protestant fervor, but they always had to be careful not to be too overt about it for fear of resembling their primary enemy; the Pope in Rome.

Leo III crowns Charlemagne
However, if we go back far enough (but not too far) the monarch and the pontiff were one and the same. The title of the Pope, Supreme Pontiff, of course goes back to the pre-Christian religious leaders of pagan Rome and from the beginning of the Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus, the Emperor of Rome was also the Supreme Pontiff. This tradition actually carried on even into the early days of Christian Rome until the Emperor Gratian decided it was rather odd that he still be titled as the Supreme Pontiff when the Bishop of Rome was basically doing that job in the new Christian religion of the empire. So, from that time on there was an Emperor and a Pontiff but they were never again one and the same. And, as we know, there was not always an emperor (just as there is not today) but there has always been a Pope. We also know that, when there was again a Pope and an Emperor (after 800 AD) they did not enjoy a peaceful relationship terribly often. The feuds between the two most powerful figures in western Christendom were quite unfortunate for everyone but it is not surprising considering the rather complicated nature of their relationship. The Pope needed the Emperor politically but did not want to be subject to him while the Emperor did not exactly need the Pope politically, the Pope could certainly help or hurt your cause and then, for the true believers amongst them, there was the whole burning in Hell for eternity thing if you did not fall in line with him. So, trouble.

It would seem at least plausible that all of this might have been avoided if the Pope had simply made himself emperor rather than constantly having to crown an emperor only to then excommunicate or attempt to depose him when he did something wrong. Likewise, the emperors went to a great deal of trouble dealing with popes who opposed them like calling councils to depose them, setting up anti-popes and waging war against them. Even Emperor Charles V, one of the great champions of the Catholic cause, made war on the Pope and his troops came very close to killing the Pontiff. This relationship remained somewhat complicated even long after the days when wars were fought over religion in Europe. The Emperor of Austria, for example, (successor of the Holy Roman Emperors) retained the right to veto papal candidates they thought would be a threat to their national interests until 1904 when Pope Pius X forbid any outside interference in papal elections. There was, in any event, only one other papal election before there was no more Austrian emperor and, indeed, no more emperors in Europe at all (unless one counts the Tsar of Bulgaria but he was Orthodox in any event). So, almost up until the very end, there was still this possible cause of contention between the Pope and emperor.

Gregory VII absolves Henry IV
Now, just to be clear, I am not suggesting that the Pope should have become the emperor or that everything would have worked out for the better if he had. I have no idea, I am just wondering what reasons others might have for why this was never done. Obviously, the recreation of the imperial office by the Pope was done for practical reasons; the Pope needed protection and the King of the Franks had the muscle to do it. However, most of the time, the Catholic Church does not seem to rely on solely practical explanations for things but usually points to some higher reason for why or how the Church does things. There are also reports, though I am not sure if they are believable or simply examples of the many accusations made about the Popes by their religious or political enemies that certain pontiffs fancied themselves as emperors. There are stories of one or two even dressing in imperial robes and some claim that, Boniface VIII perhaps, exclaimed, “I am Caesar! I am the Emperor!” before a crowd of pilgrims. That may not be true but the thought has occurred to me; why not? What would be the problem with it? After all, it is not as though the popes were ever deemed to be too lofty to deal with politics and government. For much of history between the fall of Rome in the west and 1870 the Pope was a temporal ruler who maintained ships and soldiers, levied taxes, enacted laws, arrested criminals and maintained diplomatic alliances and trade.

The relationship never seems to have been very well defined or thought out before Pope Leo III restored the Western Empire by crowning Charlemagne the Emperor of the Romans. At least one source says that, after he did so, Pope Leo bowed his head to the ground before Charlemagne in the manner that was done to the past Roman Emperors, portraying himself as the Emperor’s subject. After that, Emperor Charlemagne not only essentially ruled over those lands his father Pepin had entrusted to the Pope but even ruled in religious matters. As any Catholic with a catechism can attest, however, it is only supposed to be the Pope who has absolute authority and protection from error when it comes to matters of faith. Later on, the appointment of bishops became a major bone of contention but there almost never ceased to be at least some unfortunate infighting or at least tension over the simple political jurisdiction of the two. The Emperor was, after all, supposed to be the “Emperor of the Romans” and so he was, at least at first, but very early on the Pope, while still recognizing the German monarch as Roman Emperor, fiercely guarded his own political authority over Rome and the surrounding territory. So the Emperor of Rome was titled the Emperor of Rome by the Pope but the Pope would not allow him to actually exercise that office as it was really the Pope who ruled the Romans. It can get more than a little confusing.

Pope Caesar Boniface VIII
Eventually, the Pope being the absolute monarch of his own central Italian kingdom was deemed as essential so that the Pope could exercise his spiritual office without being dependent and thus partial to influence by any secular monarch. A very good argument. Yet, it did not start out that way as, obviously when the Roman Empire first became Christian the Bishop of Rome was an imperial subject and had no secular authority at all and later on when the restored Western Empire or what eventually became the German “Holy Roman Empire” came into being, Rome was clearly a part of the Empire over which the German monarch reigned as Holy Roman Emperor. It is also true that in all the time that the Pope was master of his own country, it was never a country that was strong enough to stand completely on its own and thus he was often at the mercy of foreign powers; if not controlled by them at least forced to shift in alliances between the French and the Germans to keep either one from dominating his territory. Upon reflection, it seems slightly amazing to me that no Pope ever decided to just simplify things by saying that since the spiritual authority is greater than the secular authority and since I claim the right to crown and depose the emperor, I will just be emperor myself and make it a part of the whole papal package. It could not have been a hereditary monarchy but the Holy Roman Empire, at least on paper, was not hereditary either. Papal elections might have been extremely troublesome affairs, but they were in any event and eventually calmed down to be carried out peacefully and without controversy.

It was not until 1177 with the Treaty of Venice (after the Italians had defeated a German invasion led by Emperor Frederick I) that it was ever really spelled out that the Papal States, over which the Pontiff ruled, were to be considered an independent sovereign state apart from the Holy Roman Empire. At that point it could have been truthfully stated that Frederick I was no more “Emperor of the Romans” than he was the “Emperor of the Muscovites” and that he should be satisfied with the title of “King of Germany” while the Pope took the title of Roman Emperor for himself. There was, unfortunately, the minor fact that even then the Romans were not prepared to submit to the Pope (he was driven out of the city a couple of years later) but the fact that many if not most would have been reluctant to submit to the Pope as their temporal monarch does not move me much as a reason for this never having been done. After all, even when all of western Europe was Catholic, not everyone submitted to the Pope even in spiritual matters and despite the outbreak of numerous heresies, the long-term silent treatment with the Orthodox half of Christendom and the rise of Protestantism, the Pope never ceased to maintain his pontifical title and position in spite of all those who denied it.

Again, I am not trying to make a case here, at all, for the Pope being the Emperor. I am not trying to argue that everything would have been better if he had, though nor am I saying things would have been worse. I am simply asking the question and throwing it out to any who may wish to answer it. There is no “right” answer I am looking for, nor can there be a “wrong” answer, this is purely speculative. Are there some concrete religious or political reasons why this was an absolute impossibility that I am ignorant of? Did anyone ever suggest such a thing in the past? Let me know what you think.


  1. My guess is that there is some intricate theological reasoning behind it. I'm not sure where the idea came from exactly, but my guess would be that somewhere early on the distinction between the spiritual realm and corporeal realm was injected into Catholic thought. Then it only seemed natural that you'd have a ruler for each.

    Another idea I'm having is perhaps differences in religiosity. For whatever reason, the Asian power was strong enough to transfer into politics. Perhaps the Pope's power (or relevance, or popularity, or what have you) was not exactly comparable to the Asian phenomenons. Maybe a bit more tenuous.

    Just some thoughts. As always, great article, always enjoy your work!

  2. Several reasons, actually.

    The most cited of course was Jesus order to 'give to caeser what is caeser's and to God what is God's'. This set the tone for a sort of seperation of Church and state, but nothing of the ugly kind America now suffers from, but rather, what went on to become known as the marriage of throne and altar in Europe.

    Prior to Christianity, kings as high priests or high priests as kings, being both head of state and church were pretty normal fare. Christianity had a huge problem with this, at least as far as it concerned rulership on the scale of an Empire. And of course much of this has to do with Early Christianity’s development. The religion espoused followers must be loyal to their secular rulers, even if the ruler is a heathen and the early Christians were by and large loyal Roman citizens, even as the emperor hated them at times. This created the dichotomy early on, “I must obey my Emperor, however my Emperor has asked me to worship him as well, my God commands me otherwise, therefore I must obey my God first.” After the fall of the roman empire in the west, the Pope did enjoy his first stint as both secular and spiritual ruler as governor of the Papal States in Italy and the only true remnant of the Western Roman Empire. So in a sense he was the Emperor in that respect, however that was not the case and could not be the case by that point.

    As it was with the eastern Patriarch, the western Pope recognized Emperors when they came to power, not become them, founding the legitimizing aspect of religion in the Empire as being separate from the control of the Emperor, although during Roman times, the recognition was in the west, much as it was in the east, expected and generally not refused. This is best known as Caeseropapism, when the ecclesial power of the priesthood was subject to absolute approval of the secular ruler, the ‘Byzantine Papacy’ in 537AD is an example of such action in the West. This is undesirable as a true union of state and ecclesial powers, even if at first it has the Theocratic ruler rather than the secular one, is in the long run unhealthy for the life of the Church, both historically and theologically. As the West fell and the Papacy navigated the myriad barbarian invasion and reconversion of the West, the Pope found himself with phenomenal secular liberty and, as became evident with the crowning of Charlemagne, a change in the relationship of Church and state, that of the Church having the power of ‘Kingmaking’.

    This is a much more agreeable state of affairs from the Papal perspective as it is not jeopardizing tradition, nor does it run the risk of jeopardizing the Papacy as it had already learned the hard way. Empires fall, but the Church can survive it, it is much better for the Church that kingdoms and Empires look to the Church as a means of formal recognition of authority and continuity rather than as secular overlord and as the course of history has shown, this has proven wise. It did lead to the destruction of caeseropapism in the west for a while, the Pope put the kibosh on that whole ‘priest-king’ business those cheeky dark aged kingdoms were trying to pull, but it came back with the reformation. For although corruption, war and usurpation of the integrity of the Papacy has occurred plenty of times, it would have been far worse had the Papacy been at the height of both the ecclesial AND the secular intrigues of the Empire and, yet again, the Papacy has survived the death of Empire yet again as the last continuous autonomous institution of the Roman Empire. Granted it has survived worse for wear and scarred by the terrible secularism and libertinism of the age, but it is still there.

    It seems almost absurd to the modern ear, but Christianity really does need an Emperor, one separate and working with the Papacy, the two headed eagle is an apt symbol and rightly associated with Empire and right government. Too much decay has occurred in the wake of secular powers usurping the power of the priesthood.

    1. But does the command to "render unto Caesar" apply to the Pope? Even today, within the walls of the Vatican, he is the Caesar and even today it is the Italian government that 'renders unto' him rather than the other way around. I understand that a case can be made that it was a good thing that there be separate spiritual and temporal powers, that to do otherwise would be "unhealthy" as you say -however, what puzzles me about the issue at the heart of that is that the Pope did (and to an extremely limited extent does) hold secular power so, if it is good for some, why not for all?

      Perhaps I should have added that taxation was one of the contentious issues between Pope Boniface VIII and the King of France with the Pope being opposed to the religious rendering unto Caesar at all -Caesar being the King of France. He issued a papal bull that all religious people and clerics could pay taxes no no one but the Pope and, of course, the King of France retaliated with a royal edict that prevented the Pope from collecting anything. That, as probably most know, came to a head with the famous bull by Boniface VIII that to attain salvation absolutely everyone must be a subject of the Pope. Also, in the zenith of Catholic power under Pope Innocent III, the Pontiff held direct or indirect political control over most or all of Italy, Spain, England, France and Germany on the basis that, as the spirit is greater than the flesh, the Church must trump the State. Given that, I cannot help but wonder why some did not consider just eliminating the 'middle man' in that arrangement.

      I do appreciate you answer btw, and, of course, feel free to follow up.

  3. I am not sure if this answers your question, which is a good one, but I'll try. I am going to assume you do not question why none of the Popes declared himself emperor while there was an emperor in Rome (i.e., until 476). Obviously, Jesus did not come to found a political kingdom, and St. Peter did not declare himself emperor when he came to Rome. So the tradition from the beginning of the Church was to have the temporal and spiritual offices separate.

    I assume your question arises after the fall of the last western emperor. It should be noted that after Romulus abdicated, the Roman Senate requested that the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno reunite the two halves of the empire under one ruler, to which he agreed. So it is somewhat incorrect to say that Rome was without an emperor during this period. In 494, Pope Gelasius in a famous letter to Emperor Anastasius discussing the "two swords" by which the world is ruled--the temporal and spiritual. Beginning with that letter, the disputes between the Popes and the Eastern Emperors led to the development of the view that the offices had separate roles and should be separate. The crowning of Charlemagne was a continuation of that tradition (and in some ways a continuation of the dispute with the eastern emperors).

    1. Again, I understand the circumstances of how the division of powers happened. The problem with the Eastern Emperor was that, regardless of claims of jurisdiction, he did not actual rule over Rome and for a time the Pope didn't either. Hence the coronation of Charlemagne as the Pope lacked the military forces needed to restore order and the King of the Franks provided that. It is later on that the idea of the two swords starts to seem as though one sword is rather redundant. If the Pope can make someone emperor, if the Pope can command an emperor and if the Pope can deprive an emperor of his authority; why can the Pope not be emperor himself?

      The part that peaked my interest when giving this issue some thought was the principle at the heart of it. Christ did not come to found a political state but eventually the Pope did become a temporal monarch, and technically is still so today. So, if, in principle, the Pope can rule over some people; why not more?

      To look at it another way; the Church has been clear that the secular power cannot intrude on the spiritual power, however, the spiritual power can (and some would say must) intrude on the secular power. Even today we see that there is hardly any political issue, be it farm laborers, environmental protection, immigration, foreign policy, criminal justice, healthcare or national defense that the bishops of the Church or even the Pope himself have not issued instructions on. So, if the emperor cannot do the job of the Pope (as no one has suggested) but the Pope can, in effect, do the job of the emperor; what principle would prevent that?

      Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtful response (and all others). I'm not looking for a "right" answer on this, it may come down to there being no answer at all but I am interested in what others think about it. Feel free to follow up or just share any other thoughts you might have.

    2. "If the Pope can make someone emperor, if the Pope can command an emperor and if the Pope can deprive an emperor of his authority; why can the Pope not be emperor himself?"

      I think this question has a false premise. Strictly speaking, the Pope cannot make someone emperor, command an emperor, or deprive an emperor of his authority. Legitimate authority comes from God and, in theory, God makes someone an emperor, commands an emperor, and withdraws his support for an emperor. In theory, the Pope merely speaks for God on such matters.

      Similarly, your statement that "the Church has been clear that the secular power cannot intrude on the spiritual power" is also somewhat untrue. For instance, Constantine called the Council of Nicea, clerics are subject to most secular laws, secular rulers proclaim and preside over holidays and festivals, rulers--not the church--has traditionally punished heresy, and as you note, the Emperor could veto the selection of the Pope.

      The secular and spiritual spheres are not distinctly separate. It is not improper for temporal rulers to opine or act on religious matters--indeed, temporal rulers often played a role in the conversion of their subjects to Christianity and served as defenders of the faith. Similarly, it is not improper for spiritual leaders to opine or act on secular matters. The fact that the Pope has served as a temporal monarch over a small area is proper in the same way the the Emperor's role in deciding what to do about the Protestant Reformation was proper--sometimes in the performance of one's duties the temporal flows into the spiritual and vis versa. That does not diminish the fact that the Emperor and the Pope had different jobs--both of which in theory derive from a grant of authority from God.

      Now, if the question is why does God think it is a good idea for the temporal and spiritual powers to be held by different people, I'm not sure we can know the answer. As one of the other commentators noted, the separation of prophet and king appears to be God's preference going back to the Old Testament.

    3. My apologies, I thought it would be understood that I was speaking of the present in regard to the state staying out of clerical matters. I believe I mentioned in the article that Charlemagne issued edicts on specifically religious matters.

      For the moment, I will stand by that initial statement though about the powers claimed by the Pope over the Emperor. I don't want to complicate this further by arguing over free will vs. God's plan, I maintain that it was the Pope who placed the crown on Charlemagne's head in 800 AD and not the Almighty Himself. Pope did command emperors such as calling them to go on crusade (they were not always obeyed of course) and when a Pope excommunicated an emperor it was most certainly intended to deprive him of his authority.

      I suppose, at least in the course of this discussion, what I am failing to grasp is how or why scale should matter when it comes to a principle. Ruling so much land or so many people is good and even necessary but ruling this much more land or people would be wrong. I'm having a hard time getting my mind around that premise. If, as you say, the secular and spiritual spheres are not distinctly separate this may be one question for which the Catholic Church has no answer (the Empire last for over a thousand years, if they couldn't clear up jurisdiction in that time, perhaps it cannot be done).

      This has all been very informative though, I can honestly say. I am beginning to wonder if this might not have something to do with why republicanism rose up first and spread so much faster in the western world than in the near and far east. Obviously there would be much more to it, but with so much undefined and both sides having their authority challenged it certainly could not have helped the idea that some things are above dispute or questioning.

    4. A Chief Financial Officer and Chief Technology Officer have different functions within a company, but it's not improper for a CFO to manage the accounting technology or for the CTO to manage a purchasing budget. It would be improper, however, for the CFO to try to take on all the CTO's duties and vis versa.

      The same is true for the Pope and the Emperor. God has given them different jobs, which have areas of overlap. It would, however, be improper for the Pope to take on all the duties of the Emperor and improper for the Emperor to take on all the duties of the Pope.

      If your question is how many secular powers can the Pope take on before he's gone too far, then you may be right that there is no answer. If your question is, why did the Pope not declare himself Emperor, then the answer is that declaring himself Emperor is on the "impermissible" side of that unknown dividing line.

      I think it is also worth pointing out that the Pope's rule over the Papal States was approved and consented to by the Emperors, originally under the Byzantines and later under Charlemagne. Just as the CFO/CTO are expected to work out their responsibilities in areas of overlap, the Emperors and Popes often did the same.

      I think republicanism arose not from the division of religious and secular authority in Catholic areas, but from the recombination of the two powers in the hands of secular rulers in Protestant territories. This is certainly the case in England with respect to Cromwell and in the Dutch republic, both of which produced many of the intellectual support for republicanism.

  4. I would suspect that the precedent of Israel/Judah exerted an influence. Israel stood out among many of its neighbors in as much as the King and the High Priest were not the same person. Each had influence in the others' sphere, but there was a theoretical division of power. This is what gave rise to the Byzantine notion of "symphony" between Basileus and Patriarch; doubtless, since Rome was part of the Christian Empire (in reality at first, then in theory for some time), the influence carried over.

    1. Possible, but it seems unlikely to have been much of an influence if for no other reason than that, as you say, it is too similar to the Orthodox policy (or what passed as one since it was never really set in stone) with there being no doubt that the chief cleric was a subject of the monarch. The Emperor appointed Patriarchs, Patriarchs did not appoint emperors and while the Emperor was expected to protect the faith and the Church, if there were problems the Patriarch was expected to suffer persecution as God willed rather than to establish his own sovereignty or state-within-a-state as was the case in Rome. I don't think there was any such parallel in old Israel and I keep coming back to the point that the Pope did have a political position (at times an extensive one) so I feel I must be missing something whereby a certain degree of territorial sovereignty is okay but just extending that to all the imperial territory would be out of bounds.

    2. The Jewish precedent of division of powers was overturned after the Maccabbean revolt. Judaea eventually fell in with their neighbors - beginning with the reign of the Hasmonean Aristobulus I, the High Priest and Basileus of Judaea were, in fact, the same person. This arrangement lasted until the accension of Herod the Great.

    3. The Patriarchs did, however, crown the Basileus (at least normatively).

      True about the Hasmonean period, but it would not have been considered normative by those who looked to Biblical precedent.


  5. I think, really, it comes down more to the fact it was easier and more expedient for the Pope politically to use the doctrine of the spiritual over the temporal than to try and usurp the power of the reigning monarchs. Think about what happened when even virtuous, pious monarchs felt like their secular power and authority was threatened: the near-destruction of Rome. It was more expedient to maintain that the Pope was the physical representative of Jesus Christ and therefore should be listened to while hop-scotching in and out of politics to maintain just as much of a lack of culpability by not being too directly involved and a "diplomatic immunity" by being, well, Jesus.

    To put it simply, traditionally, the Pope was not viewed as having to be a secular ruler to exercise his power, but it did make things easier. The Papal States wouldn't exist without the Pope, but the Pope could exist without the Papal States - even without Vatican City, as tragic as a loss that would be.

    What would've happened if, instead of supporting and converting the current monarchs who weren't necessarily hostile to the Church, the Pope had declared himself the only true heir to the Roman Empire? He had no army, no legion, no administration outside of bishops and dioceses, and in some places not even popular support. Odds are, he would've been ignored and crushed by those who wanted Italy for himself because his claims to Papal Primacy would've been seen as a religious pretext for his new empire. I can't say for certain this would've happened, but as a man who believes that the Holy Spirit guides the Papacy and the Church, things happened the way they did for a reason. I believe that reason is that, had the Popes done what you're suggesting, it would've been seen as the Pope trying to play too much in a game that wouldn't be seen as his to play.

    In short: traditionally, that wasn't the Pontiff's job description. Secondly, even trying to do so would've most likely been seen as suicide and would've turned out to be just that. By playing the European Power Sphere the way the Popes did, they were able to engineer an ingenious system. Then again, this is just my opinion, from hindsight.

    1. All perfectly valid points. If the Pope had tried, it seems at least very unlikely that he could have succeeded given how the disputes that did occur turned out. The Pope did usually have an army though and some, like Julius II, wielded it quite well. Usually though, it seems to me that it is preferred to have something more than "it wouldn't work" to justify some inaction or even "it would work better" to justify an action. For example, the Church does not say, 'priestly celibacy is the rule because priests with families would be a burden on the Church and dealing with inheritance disputes over property would be a headache'. That is something to consider, but the practical is not usually the reason given, the reason is the example of Christ, the words of St Peter and the idea that a priest must devote himself to the service of God rather than family matters.

      Similarly, rather than saying the Pope never made himself Emperor because it could never be done is quite different from saying the Pope cannot make himself Emperor because of this fundamental principle...etc whatever that may be. It seems some came close or even tried to be but I was just wondering if anyone knew of any fundamental principle at play that would have prevented it -which as I have stated would be problematic in an of itself since the Pope was a temporal ruler with his own lands and subjects and military and all the rest.

      In any event, I hope readers will have at least enjoyed pondering this issue as I have found it very interesting myself.

  6. You ask why the Popes why the Popes were temporal rulers of the Papal States but if he had it there then why not the rest of Europe? First you must understand that in the views of the Popes and of many Catholics, God had chosen the City of Rome as the New Jerusalem so therefor the the Rule of the Popes over Rome was seen as being connected to the Rule of the Church, the Popes never ruled anymore than the Papal States because the States were seen only as a buffer to protect the City of Rome from becoming the territory of another Kingdom or Empire, you see the Papal States were shortly of the the invasion of the Italian Peninsula by the Lombards, and in the eyes of the Popes they did not want to see Rome be a city of just any Nation, nor did the Popes want the City to be the capital of any particular country or nation, the City of Rome must remain as the Caput Mundi, Capital of the World, Rome is a Universal City not a National one,that is also why during the unification of the Italian Peninsula the City of Rome was the Last to be incorporated and is was only done through force of arms and the arrest of the Pope, for the Pope did not want Rome to become the Capital of a Nation, the Capital of Italy, Rome is to remian the Caput Mundi, for the Popes, the Roman Empire was chosen by God because Rome was the only City to to go from a City-State to the Capital of an Empire and not of a Nation or of one ethnic group of people. In the eyes of us Catholics and the Popes, Rome had been Baptized and had gone from being the Rome of the Conquerors to the Rome of the Evangelizers,from the Rome of the Caesars to the Rome of the Popes, this is also why the Eternal City of Rome was never Capital of the Holy Roman Empire, for it had become an Empire of the German Nation, it had been a National Empire and not a Universal one, much like Byzantium had been something of a Roman Empire of the Greek Nation, The Papal States were ruled by the Popes to ensure that Rome would never become a National Capital, but remain a universal one.

    1. Okay, but the Pope did crown Charlemagne and later Otto "Emperor of the Romans". It wasn't just 'Defender of the Church' or 'Champion of Christendom' but "Emperor of the Romans" which would seem an odd thing to do if Rome was not to be under the rule of any secular figure. And it was a part of the Holy Roman Empire for a fair space of time. On just the practical front, there is also the fact that the Papal States did not prove a very effective buffer against invasion. It was conquered by various factions, by Spanish-German forces, by the French, by revolutionaries and lastly by the nationalists.

      For the rest, I'm not sure how to respond, unless you do not mean what it seems to me you are saying. Rome is a capital city, it is currently the capital of the Italian Republic. It is an Italian city, even in the Vatican the language of the Pope and the curia is Italian and anyone working there has to learn it. Even the Swiss Guards have as their first requirement to take classes to speak Italian. It has a much wider significance to people across the western world because of its history's definitely an Italian city.

    2. There was no problem with Rome being under secular leadership, and the Title of Roman was considered universal, for the Title of the Emperor was that he was ruler over all Christendom,the early Christians would preach the the Romans were God's new Chosen People, the Roman Empire was seen as a Universal Empire under a Universal Emperor, with its Universal Pontiff and its Universal Capital of Rome. And yes the Papal States were not very effective in protecting the City of Rome, how ever the Popes never wanted Rome to be bound up under some National banner, yes today Rome is an Italian city, but it was forced to become an Italian City under the Unification of the Italian peninsula, however, during the Middle Ages there was no unified Italy, and the Popes were dead set against it happening, the Popes of the Middle Ages would not be very happy to see the City of Rome in its current form as just Some National capital of the Italian Nation instead of being the Capital of the World. Italy is not Universal, France nor Spain or Germany are universal, but Rome is. This was the view of the Popes.

    3. I'm gonna have to throw in the towel on this one, I don't think we're playing in the same ball park. I thought "Catholic" meant "universal" and "Roman" meant "of Rome". Evidently there's a difference of opinion on that one.

  7. Dear MadMonarchist,

    The clerical aspect of the Papacy is essential to the Papal office. The secular aspect of the Papacy is an accidentally attribute that is taken up due to extraordinary circumstances. In order for a Pope to justify becoming Emperor he would have to show that there was some extraordinary circumstance tha thrust upon the Papacy the responsibility of being Emperor. This seems very unlikely and suspicious.

    I think a perfect world would operate in the way Magna Carta spells out where the Church has strict immunity from the State and the State operates independently of the Church; however the two cooperate on issues where their spheres overlap. This is not an anti-clerical separation of Church and State that is popular today, but a separation where the Church and State happily work together but our two independent bodies.

    Finally, the Pope still is the supreme authority on earth. However, he expresses this supremacy in different ways concerning the Church and the State. He indirectly rules over the State, except in extraordinary circumstances, and he directly rules over the Church. Some of the ways he indirectly rules over the State is through the infallible teaching of faith and morals, which it is every good States duty to uphold and enforce where practical.

    These are some of my thoughts; hopefully they contribute to the conversation.

    P.S. St. Bellarmine is pretty famous for writing about the Pope's proper authority with regards to the State. That might be an interesting read for you.


    1. That is very interesting and something I will have to look into. I cannot help but note however that the most powerful pontiff in history, Pope Innocent III, after making England one of his fiefdoms, actually declared the Magna Carta null and void (not that it mattered to anyone in England but he did).

      A possible question though: if it was the case that the Pope could have taken the imperial title for himself but did not because it was not necessary or there was no extraordinary circumstance as you say; would it have been out of order to cite the excommunication of an emperor, the wars between the popes and emperors or the wars between fellow-Christian monarchs as sufficient reason for doing so?

      Anyway, thank you for your sentiments.

  8. Really all I meant concerning Magna Carta was that the Church should have immunity from the State, which Pope Innocent III would never have abandoned, and that the State should operate its own affairs without direct interference from the Papacy.

    Concerning making England into a fiefdom, this seems in keeping with my point. The arrangement was basically that the Pope would support England's claims and England would do its duty as a Catholic country and submit to the Pope concerning faith and morals presumably. I do not think that the Pope or King John wanted the Pope to act as a temporal ruler, rather he acted as the Prince of the Apostles, as St. Peter, Christ's vicar here on earth.

    If the Pope took the title he would have done like he did and given it to the most worthy candidate, as he also did with Charlemagne. Now in the case of the Papal States, the Pope needed geographical cushion to keep the point of the king's sword off his neck, as the Byzantine Emperor always had his sword close to his patriarch's neck, and the same treatment was noticeable also in Russia (the Russian Czar had the Patriarch on a short leash).

    The Pope's claim to Rome is and has always been that Peter's blood was spilled there. Political capitals change, and it is not important that Rome be the capital of the Roman Empire. All of the West was a successor to the Roman Empire, mostly because they all submitted to the Supreme authority on earth, the Roman pontiff. The same way I still consider myself a true Roman, since I am indeed a Roman Catholic. So it is perfectly sensible that Vienna be the secular capital of the Roman Empire, or Frankfurt, or Nurenburg etc etc.

    I am trying not to ramble on and should like to hear your thoughts if you care to devote the time.


    1. No one expected the Pope to actually govern his vassal states but if he could have done a better job himself, what principle would prevent that? It's looking more to me like there was or is no fundamental principle to prevent such a thing.

      The Pope's claim to Rome being based on the martyrdom of St Peter is an interesting point I have not heard before. I understood it to be common knowledge that the spiritual supremacy of the Bishop of Rome is based on St Peter having such authority and being the Bishop of Rome, but I've never heard that given as the basis for papal rule over Rome. The first thought that comes to mind is; where are the spiritual/geographic boundaries drawn? Rome is in Italy, Italy is in Europe, so why would the claim be limited to Rome?

    2. Even in the transfer of authority between King John and Pope Innocent III, if you look at the words, the King of England does not recognize the Pope as his emperor/king, but rather he recognizes his "Petrine Patrimony." I imagine the whole thing was designed as a way for King John to add legitimacy to himself and the Pope to get his due recognition without policy actually changing at all.

      Basically King John was only recognizing the reality that the Pope is indeed the supreme authority on earth, which was actually the case before hand anyway; it’s just now it is being expressed in more concrete terms. The same way reason is the handmaiden of faith, so the State is the handmaiden of the Church.

      Basically, any Catholic State recognizes the Petrine Patrimony, which does not make the State exactly a vassal, but a vassal of sorts in that the State submits to the authority of the Pope over issues of faith and morals which has a direct impact on policy making.

      The Pope's temporal authority again is accidental and does not come from any sort of necessity. So I suppose the Pope could become Emperor as you say in some extraordinary circumstance, but once the extraordinary circumstance had passed the Pope ought to give the rule back to the laity where it belongs. The Pope's essential and necessary mission of leading the church/Bishops and looking over his diocese and all of the other duties that go along with being the Pope and the Bishop of Rome are too demanding to share with running an Empire. There are many negative things that would come out of him also being Emperor, to include the huge amount of scandal that would surely befall the Papacy due to intrigue caused by power hungry fools and the difficulties of managing an Empire.

      So instead the typical Pope (and the Holy Spirit) never pushed for much more than what was necessary as a cushion between him and power hungry princes. Of course there were some Popes who tried to dominate and brought scandal upon the Church doing so, like Julius II, but it appears the Holy Spirit guided the Church away from such temporal dominance to fulfill her true mission to save the souls of the elect.

  9. I suppose the simplest reason is that, during the era when such a
    thing would have been possible, either no Pope thought to do it, or no
    Pope felt secure enough in his position to do it, if the thought did

    There really isn't any dogma preventing it - if the Pope can be the
    Sovereign of the Papal States or of Vatican City State, he can/could
    certainly be Emperor of the Papal States or Emperor of Vatican City,
    or Emperor of the Romans, or whatever permutation of the title.

    Its just that the right things never came together - a Pope who both
    had the right opportunity AND the desire to take the title.

    I think the last time any such thing was considered was during the
    unification of Italy when there was some discussion of merging all the
    smaller Italian kingdoms, duchies, city states, etc. into a
    confederation under at least the nominal rule of the Pope, as a
    compromise to achieve unity without totally destroying all the
    existing countries. What new temporal title the Pope would have taken
    in that arrangement I don't think was ever decided - it could have
    been Emperor of Italy, President of the Italian Confederation, or he
    could have just been referred to by his religious title as well.

    1. That seems to be the best answer from all I have gathered. No opportunity to do so but no concrete reason why, in theory, he could not have done it. Pope Innocent III came the closest probably to holding such a position in fact if not name and I think Pope Boniface VIII wanted to but was never able to make it a reality.

      As you say, the "Neo-Guelph" plan (which we have talked about here before) envisioned the monarchs of the Italian states coming together to form a united Italy with the Pope, as the senior monarch among them, being the president of the confederation though I think he would have still been referred to by his papal title which is rather higher in dignity than "president".

  10. The Pope "governs over the consciences" of all catholics in the world, not only over some extension of land. The Pope is a absolute king, supported by an aristocracy made of highly prepared "professionals", that runs the Holy Church without any bit of democracy.
    Horrible for today republican standards? Of course, but to hell with the modern day "politically correctness". Everything goes very well in the Church because the Church is compromissed with the Salvation of souls, not with low politics, power, money etc. (despite misinterpretations made by enemies of the Church, for example). The Salvation is not decided by vote.


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