Saturday, January 26, 2013

Church & State, Part 2 of 3

The meeting of Pope and Emperor
Yesterday we looked at some of the history of political philosophy analyzing the proper relationship between the spiritual institution of the Church, headed by the papacy, and the temporal institution of the State, represented by nations (and, for later writers, by the Holy Roman Empire). We could see a progression from Augustine to Aquinas to Alighieri of the importance of the State as a natural and essential part of Man's existence, related to but separate from the Church.

Aquinas believed that there was no inherent connection between the State and sin, and that the State, as a natural institution approved by God, would have existed even if the Fall in Eden had not taken place. Putting the State and the Church on equal footing supported the metaphor of the Two Swords. Pope Gelasius I (pope from 492 until his death in 496) had offered this metaphor, but he saw the State as the temporal support of the superior Church.

The papacy preferred this view, which was further explicated by Giles of Rome (1246-1316) in his De ecclesiastica potestate (On ecclesiastical power). Giles repeats the metaphor of the Two Swords, and reinforces that the Church possesses the power of the State. The Church does not wield temporal authority directly, but should wield it indirectly, by telling the State what to do.

This idea was drawn on by Pope Boniface VIII in his bull Unam Sanctam, in which he declared that everyone must be subordinate to the pope. Boniface thought he was establishing the last word on the subject, and that he would at least have the clergy on his side. Boniface was wrong.

[to be continued]

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