That these dioceses continued independent of the Popes, until the beginning of the twelfth century.
I ACKNOWLEDGE, that were the business to be decided by the modern pretensions of the Popes of Rome to the empire of all the Churches of the world, and in particular to a patriarchate over all the Churches of the west, we should be forced to own, that they had been subject to them ever since the time that the Gospel was first preached in Gaul, in both these respects. They have made it their business to persuade mankind, that the whole world is but the Pope’s parish; and that more particularly the Churches of the west, which have been founded by their ancestors, who sent them the first preachers of the Gospel, do belong to their patriarchate; as if these envoys of the ancient Popes, in their endeavours to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, had designed to establish the Papal empire over all the new conquests that they acquired to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
But notwithstanding all these new-found claims and pretensions of the Popes, we can prove, that nothing can be imagined more vain, or more destitute of any ground or foundation, than they are. For it is not true that those Churches, which have received the Gospel from another, are therefore subject to it, as we can demonstratively evince by the examples of the Churches of Vienna and Lyons, which were founded by persons sent from the Churches of Asia; upon which account it was, that St. Irenaeus sent them a relation of the persecution they suffered. Neither is it true, that the ancient Popes, how careful soever otherwise they might be to promote their own authority, did ever pretend to be the Patriarchs of all the west, or of Gaul in particular.
This is a truth we can unanswerably prove, by the testimony of the first Council of Nice, which assigns no other jurisdiction to the Pope, save that which he enjoyed in those which Rufinus calls the suburbicarian regions, and which the learned men of the Church of Rome at present own to have been comprehended within the ten provinces of Italy, to which the Papal ordination did belong, as we see it was under Honorius, and which were distinguished from the diocese of Italy, properly so called, that is to say, the seven provinces which constituted the diocese of Milan. This canon therefore looks upon it as a thing not to be questioned, that Gaul was a diocese distinct from that of the Popes, having its authority within itself, governed by its own synods, without having the ordination of its Clergy, the determination of its affairs, or the authority of its assemblies, subjected to the Pope’s authority as their superior.
If we had not this canon of the first Council of Nice, which distinctly determines the Pope’s diocese, yet would it be very easy to prove it by other arguments, such as these:
1. We find, that the Churches of Gaul convocated a synod, upon the contest about Easter, towards the end of the second century, without receiving any orders from Pope Victor for so doing.
2. We find, that when the Donatists were condemned by the Pope, they desired the Emperor that they might be judged by the Bishops of Gaul: and accordingly we find that Marinus, Bishop of Arles, presided in the great Council of Arles in the year 314, at which were present eighty-three Bishops, twenty-one of Italy, eleven of Spain, eleven of Africa, five of Britain, and thirty-five of Gaul.
Since the Council of Nice, we find the Churches of Gaul governing themselves with the same independency, under the conduct of their several Metropolitans.
We are to observe in general, that these Churches had their peculiar code of canons, made by themselves, and that these canons continued to have the force of a law till the eighth century, when their discipline began to receive a great alteration, by the cares of Bonifacius, Bishop of Mentz, and his successors. This is amply proved by Justel, in the preface to his collection of the ancient canons. Now it is visible, that a Church which had its particular rules could not be dependent on the Pope, whose diocese had its own particular rules and canons.
We can truly affirm, that the Bishops of Gaul were so far from acknowledging the Pope as their Patriarch, that his name was not so much as ever recited in the Churches of Gaul till the year 529, as may be clearly collected from the Council of Vaison; where it was first determined, that the Pope should be mentioned in their public prayers.
And indeed if we inquire into the constant conduct of the Bishops of Gaul, throughout the several centuries that are past since the Council of Nice, we shall easily perceive, that they never conceived themselves to be subject to the Pope of Rome.
In the year 337, Maximinus, Bishop of Triers, defends St. Athanasius, as Pope Julius also did, and admits to his communion Paul, Bishop of Constantinople, and writes in favor of him to the Council of Sardica.
In 356, Saturninus, Bishop of Arles, convened the Council of Beziers, which condemned St. Hilary, of Poictiers, in consequence of which he was sent into banishment.
In 358, the Bishops of Gaul condemned the confession of faith of Sirmium, as we are informed by Sulpicius Severus. In the year 360, St. Hilary vigorously defended the faith against the Arian party, in favor of which Pope Liberius had declared himself; and it is well known what anathemas were discharged in Gaul by St. Hilary and his friends, against that apostate Pope.
Pope Leo was so fully convinced of their authority as independent upon his, that he sent to them in the year 450 that dogmatical epistle which he was to send to the east, as soon as the synods of Gaul had approved of it. And it was upon the same account that he sent them the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon against the Eutychians.
In the sixth century we find Avitus, Bishop of Vienna, using his utmost endeavors to appease the differences between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople.
We find likewise Pope Hormisda communicating to the Bishops of Gaul his reconciliation with the Patriarchs of Constantinople.
We find in 529 the Fathers of the Council of Orange handling the questions about grace, and sending their decrees to Boniface II. who approved them the year following.
In 550 Pope Vigilius gives an account to the Churches of Gaul, of what had passed in the East; and the Prelates of Italy entreat the Bishops of Gaul, to endeavor to appease Justinian in favor of Vigilius and Dacius Bishop of Milan.
In the seventh century we find, that the Gallican Bishops confirmed the Lateran Council that was assembled under Martin I.
We find Pope Agatho inviting the Bishops of Gaul to come to a council that he intended to call, whither also they sent their deputies at his request.
The eighth century being in a manner wholly spent in wars, affords us little or nothing considerable in this matter; however, we may easily discern that this diocese did even then maintain its authority, in spite of all the Popes endeavors to the contrary: whereof we have two most evident instances. First, Pope Adrian I. was so little informed of what passed in France, that he knew not whether the city of Bourges was subject to the jurisdiction of another Archbishop or no; as appears from the Codex Carolinus, Epist. 87. Secondly, Their independency clearly appears from the several councils assembled about the controversy of images, contrary to the designs of the Popes, and particularly from the Council of Francfort.
We find the same spirit also in the following century. And to speak truth, whatever change the ancient discipline underwent by occasion of the new decretals which the Pope’s emissaries had published, in order to subjugate all the west, and France in particular; yet we find that the Bishops of France hindered the Popes from concerning themselves with their affairs: the business of Hincmar of Laon alone evidently shews, that they did not acknowledge that new right, invented to make them buckle to the Papal yoke; for we see that they maintained, that the determinations of their synods were not to be altered by the Popes, they having no power to concern themselves about their ordination, or any part of their jurisdiction.
About the end of the tenth century, in the year 991, we find the Bishops of France that were assembled at Rheims, maintaining themselves by the canons of the African Code, in opposing the Pope’s encroachments, who would, in pursuance of those spurious decretals of the ancient Popes, arrogate to himself a right of reviewing and altering the determinations that were made by the synods of France.
I own, that since the middle of the fifth century, we find the Popes granted a kind of vicarship to some of the Bishops of South Gaul; but withal, we know that this power was so extremely wavering, that it stood in need of being confirmed at the instance of Leo I. by the Emperor Valentinian III.
Secondly, That these were in a manner of no efficacy at all, these Vicars having scarcely had the power of convening synods, but in virtue of the right they had as they were Metropolitans, and little or no authority as to the ordination of Bishops in general, and of Metropolitans in particular.
It cannot be denied also, but that the Popes, since the eighth century, began to grant divers privileges, to the violating of the ancient discipline, though under the pretense of preserving it in the monasteries, against the attempts of the Bishops, because most of the Bishops, being turned soldiers, thought of nothing else but robbing them, under color of holding their visitations. But it is worth our while to consider the esteem that Hincmar, of Rheims, had of these sort of privileges, in his letter to Nicholas I.
“Now I did not,” saith he, “desire the privileges of the apostolical see, as supposing that the holy canons and decrees, which the Church of Rome grants to every Metropolitan, were not sufficient; neither did I nor do I desire any other or ampler privileges, than what have been formerly granted to the Church of Rheims; but because not only my diocese, but also my province, is divided between two kingdoms, belonging to two several kings; and because the concerns of the Church, committed to my charge, seem to lie under the jurisdiction of several princes, from whom our Church can reap little or no advantage; because the ancient constitutions being already condemned by some carnal and brutal men, they might at least be frightened by these new decretals into a more reverential carriage towards the Church, which is committed to the care of me, though unworthy.”
From whence we may see what it was that Hincmar meant.
We may make the same reflection upon those vicarships aforementioned: we have an illustrious example to this purpose in the case of Ansegisus, Archbishop of Sens, 11. kalend. July, indiction 9.
“After the Bishops were met together, and the Gospels were read before the synod, and in view of the imperial throne, (which were afterwards laid up at Pontyon,) the Emperor Charles came with the legates of the apostolical see, and after the singing of several hymns, and a prayer pronounced by John, Bishop of Tusculanum, the Emperor took his seat in the synod. After which, John, the Bishop of Tusculanum, read some letters sent from the Pope, and amongst them one, recommending to them Ansegisus, Archbishop of Sens, for their Primate; that as oft as the interest of the Church should require it, either in calling of synods, or in the managing of other concerns in France and Germany, he might be looked upon as the apostolical Vicar; and so by his means the decrees of the apostolical see might be made known to the Bishops; and on the other hand, that any matters of importance might by him be communicated to the apostolic see, and that all affairs of moment and difficulty might, by his suggestion, be recommended to the apostolic see, to be cleared and determined. Whereupon the Emperor demanded of the Bishops, what answer they designed to return to these apostolical letters: who answered to this effect, that saving the right and privileges of each Metropolitan, according to the sacred canons, and the decrees of the Popes of the see of Rome, promulged from the said sacred canons, they would obey the apostolical commands of Pope John. And when the Emperor and the apostolical legates had done their utmost endeavors to persuade the Bishops to an absolute answer, that they would obey without reserve, in accepting of Ansegisus for their Primate, as the Pope had written, yet could they never draw from them any other answer. Then the Emperor commanded a chair to be set above all the Bishops of his Cisalpine kingdom, next to John, Bishop of Tusculanum, who sat at his right hand, and commanded Ansegisus to take place of all the Bishops that had been ordained before him, and to sit down in that chair; the Archbishop of Rheims protesting against it in the hearing of them all, as a thing directly contrary to the sacred canons. In like manner, the day before the ides of July, the same letter concerning the primacy of Ansegisus was read a second time at the Emperor’s command, and the Bishops answer demanded thereupon. Whereupon the Archbishops answered severally for themselves, that as their predecessors had been regularly obedient to his predecessors, so would they be to his decrees. So likewise, at the command of the apostolical legates, that the Bishops should meet the 17th day before the kalends of August; the Emperor entered the synod at nine o’clock in the morning — being accompanied by the apostolical legates — and all took their places as before. Then Johannes Aretinus read a certain paper, which had neither reason nor authority. Afterwards Odo, Bishop of Beauvais, read some articles set down by the apostolical legates, and by Ansegisus and Odo, without the knowledge of the synod, between — — containing nothing to the purpose; and besides, void of all reason and authority, which for that reason are not here added. And then again a motion was made concerning the primacy of Ansegisus, who, after all, could obtain no more this last time than he did at the first day of the synod.”
From which account it is most evident, that notwithstanding all the pains Charles the Bald took to oblige the Pope, whose friendship he had occasion for, and whose ambition he maintained by trampling upon the ecclesiastical laws, and the rights of the Prelates of France; yet the Bishops continued firm in their judgments, and would not suffer themselves to be enslaved, as the Pope would fain have had them. This happened in the year 876.
In particular, we may justly observe concerning these parts where the Albigenses have appeared with the greatest lustre. First, That the greatest part of these dioceses, being rent off from the empire after the year 409, when Alaric made Tholouse the seat of the kingdom of the Visi-Goths, it continued so divided till it was again reduced under the power of the French, by Clovis, in the year of our Lord 507. Secondly, That since that time, we find that these parts of France have been almost always united with the Churches of Spain, as appears from the subscriptions of the synods held in Spain. Thirdly, That they were never, to speak properly, reunited with the body of the Churches of France, till the reign of the Emperor Charlemain. Fourthly, That the power of the Popes in France hath been so very inconsiderable, that a legate of the Pope, having undertaken to consecrate a chapel in Anjou by the Duke’s order, but without consent of the Bishop, Radulphus Glaber, who relates this history, could not forbear exclaiming against this encroachment: Baronius, on the other hand, storms against Glaber, but the one of them writ what those of his time thought and spoke concerning it; whereas the other gave himself entirely up to the power of prejudice, and followed the design he had undertaken of accommodating ancient history with the interest of the court of Rome, on which he had his dependance.
But we are especially to observe, that the Popes never began to exercise their absolute power there, till they had settled their legates in those parts, and had brought all causes to be tried at their tribunal. Thus Paschal II. appointed Girard, Bishop of Angoulesm, to be his Vicar in the provinces of Bourges, Bourdeaux, Tours, and Britain, in the year 1l07, as appears by the commission granted by Paschal II. to Girard, Bishop of Angoulesm, published by D’Achery.
Thus the legantine power, in the diocese of Ausch, was given after the year 1102, to William, Archbishop of Ausch, as De Marca shews, on the Council of Clermont.
What I have just now observed is so certain, that Mezeray hath publicly owned it in his Chronological Abridgment. From the time of the eighth century, the Popes found ways to lessen the power of Metropolitans, by obliging them by the decree of a Council held at Mentz by St. Boniface, which forced them to receive the Pallium at Rome, and to subject themselves, and be canonically obedient in all points to the Church of Rome; which profession was afterwards changed into an oath of fidelity under Gregory VII. They also attributed to themselves, excluding all others, the power of annulling the spiritual marriage which a Bishop contracts with his church, and to give him the liberty to espouse another. They had extended their patriarchal jurisdiction all over the west, by obliging the Bishops to take confirmation from them, for which they paid certain dues, which, in process of time, were changed into what they called annates, and by taking cognizance of those things which belonged to the Bishops only. Nay, what is more, they had in a manner wholly abolished the provincial councils, in taking away their soveregnity, by hulling of their decrees; so that these assemblies were at last wholly left off as useless, because they afforded nothing to those who assisted at them, save the displeasure of frequently seeing their determinations made void at Rome, without once hearing their reasons. Gregory VII. established it for a rule of common right, that nobody should dare to condemn any person who had appealed to the holy see. But they never made a greater breach upon the liberties of the Gallican Church, than when they introduced this opinion, that no council could be assembled without their authority; and when, after several attempts to establish perpetual Vicars in Gaul, they found the way of having their legates received there. To this purpose they first made use of a canon of the Council of Sardica, which gave them power to send legates into the provinces, to examine the processes and the depositions of any Bishops, in cases where any complaint was made.
After that they had thus accustomed the French Bishops to admit their legates in this case, they by little and little gained another point, when the princes were weak, which was to send some amongst them without any complaint or appeal at all; and at last, after they had submitted to the yoke, Alexander II. established it as a rule, that the Pope ought to have the government and administration of all Churches.
Of these legates, some had a whole kingdom under their jurisdiction, others some part only: they came thither with full power to depose Bishops, yea, the Metropolitan himself, whenever they pleased to assemble the councils of their district, and to preside therein with the Metropolitan; but taking place of him, to make canons, to send the decision of those matters to the Pope, to which the Bishops would not give their consent, as likewise all the acts of the council, whereof he disposed at his will and pleasure. And it is to be observed, that their suffrages outweighed those of all the Bishops together, and that oftentimes by their simple authority they judged and determined the causes of the elections of Bishops, of benefices, of the excommunications of laymen, and the like. Insomuch, that these assemblies, which before were so sacred and so sovereign, for the supporting and maintaining of discipline, having no power any longer, were, to speak properly, rather councils to authorize and ratify the will and pleasure of the Pope, than any lawful or free councils.
So that it was not till the Papacy of Alexander II. and Gregory VII. that the Churches of Aquitain saw themselves in danger of losing their liberty, by submitting to the Papal yoke, as well as the rest of the French Churches. We are now to see how they avoided this yoke, which was thus imposed upon them in some measure.