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rials and acts procured by
vii. In order to gain credit to this new ecclesiastical Forged memo- system, so different from the ancient rules of
church government, and to support the haughty ehen belasti heir pretensions of the pontiffs to supremacy and inde
pendence, it was necessary to produce the authority of ancient deeds, to stop the mouths of such as were disposed to set bounds to their usurpations. The bishops of Rome were aware of this; and as those means were looked upon as the most lawful that tended best to the accomplishment of their purposes, they employed some of their most ingenious and zealous partisans in forging conventions, acts of councils, epistles, and such like records, by which it might appear that, in the first ages of the church, the Roman pontiffs were clothed with the same spiritual majesty and supreme authority which they now
assumed.” Among these fictitious supports of the
papal dignity, the famous decretal epislles, as they are called, said to have been written by the pontiffs of the primitive times, deserve chiefly to be stigmatized. They were the production of an obscure writer, who fraudulently prefixed to them the name of Isidore, bishop of Seville, to make the world believe they had been collected by that illustrious and learned prelate. Some of them had appeared in the eighth century, but they were now entirely drawn from their obscurity, and produced with an air of ostentation and triumph, to demonstrate the supremacy of the Roman pontiffs. The decisions of a certain Roman
z There is just reason to imagine, that these decretals, and various other acts, such as the grants of Charlemagne and Lewis the Meek, were sorged with the knowledge and consent of the Roman pontiffs ; since it is utterly incredible, that these pontiffs should, for many ages, have constantly appealed, in support of their pretended rigbts and privileges, to acts and records that were only the fictions of private persons, and should, with such weak arms, have stood out against kings, princes, councils, and bishops, who were unwilling to receive their yoke. Acts of a private nature would have been useless here, and public deeds were necessary to accomplish the views of papal ambition. Such forgeries were in this century esteemed lawful, on account of their supposed tendency to promote the glory of God, and to advance the prosperity of the church ; and therefore it is not surprising that the good pontiffs should feel no remorse in imposing upon the world frauds and forgeries, that were designed to enrich the patrimony of St. Peter, and to aggrandize his successors in the apostolic see.
a It is certain that the forger of the decretals was extremely desirous of persuading the world, that they were collected by Isidore, the celebrated bishop of Seville, who lived in the sixth century. See Fabricii Biblioth. Latin. medii ævii, tom. v p. 561. It was a cuş. tom among the bishops to add, from a principle of humility, the epithet peccator, i. e. sinner, to their titles ; and accordingly the forger of the decretals has added the word peccator after the name of Isidore ; but this some ignorant transcribers have absurdly changed into the word mercator ; and hence it happens that one Isidorus Mercator passes for the fraudulent collector or forger of the decretals.
b See Dom. Calmet, Histoire de Lorraine, tom. i. p. 528. B. Just. Hen. Bohmer. Præf. ad novum Edit. Juris Canon. tom. i. p. x. xix. Not.
c Beside the authors of the Centuriæ Magdeburgenses and other writers, the learned
council, which is said to have been held during the pontificate of Sylvester, were likewise alleged in behalf of the same cause; but this council had never been so much as heard of before the present century, and the accounts now given of it proceeded from the same source with the decretals, and were equally authentic. Be that as it may, the decrees of this pretended council contributed much to enrich and aggrandize the Roman pontiffs, and exalt them above all human authority and jurisdiction.'
ix. There were not however wanting among the Latin bishops men of prudence and sagacity, who saw the success of through these impious frauds, and perceived the these trauus. chains that were forging both for them and for the church. The French bishops distinguished themselves in a particular and glorious manner, by the zeal and vehemence with which they opposed the spurious decretals, and other like fictitious monuments and records, and protested against their being received among the laws of the church. But the obstinacy of the pontiffs, and particularly of Nicholas I. conquered this opposition, and reduced it to silence. And as the empire, in the periods that succeeded this contest, fell back into the grossest ignorance and darkness, there scarcely remained
any who were capable of detecting these odious impostors, or disposed to support the expiring liberty of the church. The history of the following ages shows, in a multitude of deplorable examples, the disorders and calamities that sprung from the ambition of the aspiring pontiffs ; it represents these despotic lords of the church, labouring by the aid of their impious frauds to overturn its ancient government, to undermine the authority of its bishops, to engross its riches and revenues into their own hands; nay, what is still more horrible, it represents them aiming perfidious blows at the thrones of princes, and endeavouring to lessen their power, and to set bounds to their dominion. All this is unanimously acknowledged by such as have looked, with attention and
Blondel has demonstrated, in an ample and satisfactory manner, the spuriousness of the decretals, in his Pseudo Isidorus et Żurrianus vapulantes ; and in our time the cheat is acknowledged even by the Roman catholics, at least by such of them as are possessed of any tolerable degree of judgment and impartiality. See Buddeus's Isagoge in Theologiam, tom. ii. p. 762; as also Petr. Coustantius's Prolegom. ad Epistolas Pontificum, tom. i. p. 130; and a Dissertation of Fleury, prefixed to the sixteenth volume of his Ecclesiastical History.
d See Jo. Launoius. De cura Ecclesic erga pauperes et miseros, cap. i. Observat. i. p, 576, tom. ii. part. ii. opp. VOL. II.
impartiality, into the history of the times of which we now write, and is ingenuously confessed by men of learning and probity, that are well affected to the Romish church and its sovereign pontiff. x. The monastíc life was now universally in the highest
esteem, and nothing could equal the veneration The meastic that was paid to such as devoted themselves to
the sacred gloom and indolence of a convent. The Greeks and orientals had been long accustomed to regard the monkish orders and discipline with the greatest admiration; but it was only since the beginning of the last century, that this holy passion was indulged among the Latins to such an extravagant length. In the present age it went beyond all bounds; kings, dukes, and counts, forgot their true dignity, even the fulfilling with zeal the duties of their high stations, and affected that contempt of the world and its grandeur, which they took for magnanimity, though it was really nothing else but the result of a narrow and superstitious spirit. They abandoned their thrones, their honours, and their treasures, and shut themselves up in monasteries with a view of devoting them. selves entirely to God. Several examples of this fanatical extravagance were exhibited in Italy, France, Germany, and Spain, both in this and the preceding century. And if the allurements of worldly pleasures and honours had too much power over the minds of many, to permit their separating themselves from human society, during their lives, such endeavoured to make amends for this in their last hours ; for when they perceived death approaching, they demanded the monastic habit, and actually put it on before their departure, that they might be regarded as of the fraternity, and be of consequence entitled to the fervent prayers and other spiritual succours of their ghostly brethren.
But nothing affords such a striking and remarkable Monks and ab- proof of the excessive and fanaticalveneration that boer was paid to the monastic order, as the treat
ment they received from several kings and em
perors, who drew numbers of monks and abbots from their cloisters, and placed them in stations entirely foreign to their vows and their character, even amidst the
and called to the courts of princes
e See the above-mentioned author's treatise, entitled Regia Potestas in Causis Matri. monial. tom. i. part ii. opp. p. 764; as also Petr. Coustantius, Præf. ad Epist. Romanor. Pontiff. tom. i. p. 127.
splendour of a court, and at the head of affairs. The transition indeed was violent, from the obscurity of a convent and the study of a liturgy, to sit at the helm of an empire, and manage the political interests of nations. But such was the case; and pious princes alleged as a reason for this singular choice, that the government of a state could never be better placed than in the hands of such holy men, who had subdued all irregular appetites and passions, and were so divested of the lust of pleasure and ambition, as to be incapable of any unworthy designs, any low, sordid, or selfish views. Hence we find in the history of these times frequent examples of monks and abbots performing the functions of ambassadors, envoys, and ministers of state, and displaying their talents with various success in these high and eminent stations.
XI. The morals however of the monks, were far from being so pure as to justify the reason alleged above for their promotion. Their patrons and protec- lic order attors, who loaded them with honours and prefer- templed. ment, were sensible of the irregular and licentious lives that many of them led, and used their utmost efforts to correct their vices, and to reform their manners. Lewis the Meek distinguished his zeal in the execution of this virtuous and noble design; and to render it more effectual, he employed the pious labours of Benedict, abbot of Aniane, in reforming the monasteries first in Aquitaine, and afterward throughout the whole kingdom of France, and in restoring, by new and salutary laws, the monastic discipline, which was absolutely neglected and fallen into decay. This worthy ecclesiastic presided, in the year 817, in the council of Aix la Chapelle, where several wise measures were taken for removing the disorders that reigned in the cloisters; and in consequence of the unlimited authority he had received from the emperor, he subjected all the monks, without exception, to the rule of the famous Benedict, abbot of mount Cassim, annulled that variety of rites and customs that had obtained in the different monasteries, prescribed to them all one uniform method of living, and thus united as it were into one general body or society, the various orders which had hitherto been connected by no common bond.' This admirable discipline, which acquired to Bene
s Jo. Mabillon, Acta Sanctor. Ord. Benedict. Sæc. i. part i. Præf. p. xxvii. and Præf. ad Sæc. v. p. xxv, Ejusdem, Annales Ordin. S. Benedict. tom. ii. p. 430. Calmet, Histo
dict of Aniane the highest reputation, and made him be revered as the second father of the western monks, flourished during a certain time, but afterward declined through various causes, until the conclusion of this century, when, under the calamities that oppressed both the church and the empire, it almost entirely disappeared.
XII. The same emperor, who had appeared with such Canons and zeal both in protecting and reforming the monks,
gave also distinguished marks of his favour to the order of canons, which Chrodegangus had introduced in several places during the last century. He distributed them through all the provinces of the empire, and instituted also an order of canonesses, which was the first female convent known in the Christian world. For each of these orders the zealous emperor had a rule drawn up, A. D. 817, in the council of Aix la Chapelle, which he substituted in the place of that which had been appointed by Chrodegangus, and this new rule was observed in inost of the monasteries, and convents of the canons and canonesses in the west until the twelfth century, notwithstanding that it was disapproved of by the court of Rome. The author of the rule that was appointed for the canons was undoubtedly Amalarius, a presbyter of Metz ; but it is not so certain whether that which was drawn up for the canonesses was composed by the same hand.' Be that as it may, the canonical order grew into high repute ; and from this time a great number of convents were erected for them through all the western provinces, and were richly endowed by the liberality of pious and opulent Christians. But this insti
de Lorraine, tom. i. p. 596. For a particular account of Benedict of Aniane, and his illustrious virtues, see the Acta Sanctor. tom. ii. Febr. p. 606 ; and the Histoire Literaire de la France, tom. iv. p. 447.
g See Mabiilon, Annal. Ordin. S. Benedicti, tom. ii. p. 428.
h This rule was condemned in a council held at Rome, a. D. 1059, under the Pontifi Nicholas II. The pretexts used by the pontiff and the assembled prelates, to justify their disapprobation of this rule, were, that it permitted the canons to enjoy the possessions they had before their vows, and allowed to each of them too large a portion of bread and wine ; but the true reason was, that this order had been instituted by an emperor without either the consent or knowledge of the Roman pontiff. For an account of the rule and discipline of these canons, see Fleury's Eccles. Hist. tom. X. p. 163, 164, &c. Brussels edition in 12mo.
i Lud. Thomassin, Disciplin. Eccles. Vet. et Nova, part i. lib. iii. cap. xlii. xliii. Muratori Antiq. Ital. medii ævi, tom. v. p. 186, 540. No accounts of the canons are less worthy of credit, than those that are given by writers, who have been themselves members of that order, such as Raymond Chapponel's Histoire des Chanoines, published at Paris in 8vo. in the year 1699; for these writers, from fond prejudices in favour of their institution, and an ambitious desire of enhancing its merit and rendering it respectable, derive the origin of canonical order from Christ and his apostles, or trace it up at least to the first ages of the Christian church: