Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Investiture Controversy

The Concordat of Worms that
ended the Investiture Controversy
There was a recent mention that Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV was best known for the Investiture Controversy. Investiture was the act of conferring on someone honors or titles. In this case, the controversy was over who had authority to name clergy, the king of the country in which the bishop would preside, or the pope?

Obviously, kings would like to choose the people who would manage ecclesiastical courts, and stock the positions with those loyal to the throne. The pope (and other clergy) would much rather have the Church decide on these positions and not owe any particular loyalty to secular governments.

The concern of the secular authority was based on the fact that a bishopric carried with it a grant of land, and the secular lords wanted to make sure those lands were still under some kind of control. A bishop named by the pope would not necessarily be loyal to the local lord.

Pope Gregory tried to reform some church practices, including bringing the power of investiture completely under the papacy. For a long time, Germany was in the position of ratifying popes, but when Henry IV first became king of the Germans in 1056, he was only six years old, and so the Gregorian reformers acted fast to wrest the power of the papacy away from German control. The Church created the College of Cardinals as the body authorized to elect a new pope.

In 1075, Gregory declared that the sole universal power in the world was the pope's; secular power only applied to local concerns. He also declared that the pope alone had power to appoint or depose clergy, and the pope had power to depose an emperor.

Henry opposed this, and continued to appoint clergy, but the pope excommunicated him. If his nobles had stayed loyal, the outcome might have been different, but much of the aristocracy turned on him, forcing him to make the Walk to Canossa. Even the resolution at Canossa did not stop the battle between popes and emperors.

In 1122, a "final" resolution was made with an agreement between Henry V and Pope Calixtus II. Called "The Concordat of Worms" (because the meeting took place near Worms), it gave the German kings the power to grant or withhold secular power (lands, titles) to clergy, but not to make them clergy.

This controversy did not exactly begin (or end) with Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. The debate between papal and secular authority to confer titles was confused on Christmas Day 800 when Pope Leo III placed the crown of the Holy Roman Emperors on his head during Mass. This raised the question whether the pope had the authority to pick an emperor or king. And the Concordat did not exactly resolve the issue everywhere: just between Germany and the pope. England and the papacy also butted heads over this, which we will look at tomorrow.

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