Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Council of Pisa

To understand where this story begins, you should see this post first, and check out the map to the left.

There were two series of popes, one in Avignon and one in Rome. There was an attempt to bring the Gregory XII and Benedict XIII together in Savona, but at the last moment each side backed out when they feared being attacked and captured by the rival faction.

Following this, unrest among Gregory's cardinals caused him to summon them to Lucca and forbid them from abandoning the city. Then he really annoyed them by making four new cardinals to cement his support. This was the final straw: not only had he earlier promised not to make any more cardinals, but the four he made were his nephews.

Most cardinals deserted Gregory at this point, meeting together and writing a manifesto to all Christian nations, urging them to come to a Council at Pisa. Benedict in Avignon refused to participate, convoking his own Council of Perpignan. Gregory fled Lucca with his sole remaining loyal cardinal and wound up a guest of a powerful Italian family, the House of Malatesta. Much of Christianity, however, wanted the chaos ended and sent bishops, university theologians, and prelates to Pisa.

This Council of Pisa met on 25 March 1409. It included 22 cardinals and 80 bishops; "proxy votes" represented 100 additional bishops, 87 abbots, 41 priors or religious orders, and a total of 300 doctors of theology or canon law. A general council was declared to begin the next day.

On 26 March, convened in the Cathedral of Pisa, representatives went to the doors, opened them, and loudly in Latin called upon Benedict and Gregory to appear. Obviously the rival popes were not present, whereupon the general council condemned them essentially for contumacy (basically, contempt of court). This ritual would be repeated the next day, then the 30th, and then twice in April on the 15th and 24th, giving the pontiffs plenty of time to appear or send representatives.

The charges against the two were read on 24 April, taking three hours to go through 38 charges. After debate and determinations that lasted for weeks about the papal infractions—completely ignoring the fact that the cardinals present had aided and abetted these same—Benedict and Gregory were offered the chance to defend themselves. Their representatives were unsuccessful.

One of the issues that needed to be addressed was the merging of the two alternate colleges of cardinals. There was argument over which cardinals had remained faithful to the papacy and which were to be considered rebels caused hostility between the groups, but it was ultimately decided that it was their duty to withdraw from both popes and join together.

All in all, the council went on for weeks. Realizing that, of course, a new pope had to be elected, a new concern arose that there were too many French cardinals among them, and there could be a French pope elected who would try to remove the papacy to the Avignon complex. The argument was made that everyone, not just the cardinals, should vote. They decided to stick with canon law, however, and leave it to the assembled cardinals. The cardinals themselves met and agreed that the election of a new pope would need unanimity or a 2/3 agreement of the 10 Avignon cardinals and a 2/3 agreement of the 14 Rome cardinals. Everyone else agreed to this, and that the Conclave, the gathering of the College of Cardinals to elect a pope, should take place tomorrow.

...and I will tell you result tomorrow.

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