« PrécédentContinuer »
In or about 880, the Church of Beauvais having been vacant for some time, Archbishop Hincmar and the prelates of the province of Rheims proceeded to election, and chose one Odo. The clergy and people had chosen another, named Odoacer, who had been rejected by the bishops as an incompetent person. The bishops, apprehending royal interference, wrote to the king, begging him not to meddle, but to leave the province to settle its own ecclesiastical affairs, and stating that as soon as a bishop had been consecrated he should be sent to the king to receive from him institution into the temporalities of the see, of which the throne was the guardian, as the Church was of the spiritualities. The king, Louis III., wrote sharply back, to say that it was his intention to govern ecclesiastical as well as civil matters, and that he ratified the nomination of the people, Odoacer.
Hincmar answered him, that the king had no authority to nominate, that, according to Catholic rule, the nomination lay with the people, the clergy, and the bishops, and he added that he, as metropolitan, should inhibit Odoacer, if the king persisted in intruding him into the diocese of Beauvais. Louis at once invested Odoacer with the revenues of the see, and Hincmar thereupon excommunicated him, and wrote a circular letter to all the priests and faithful of the diocese forbidding them to acknowledge the man appointed by the Crown.
It seems that at one time a charge had been brought against this same Hincmar, that his appointment had been influenced by Court pressure; and in one of his epistles he indignantly denies the charge, and declares that he was canonically elected by the votes of the people and priests of Rheims, and by the unanimous choice of the bishops of the province.
The Capitularies of Louis the Godly (816) left the clergy and people their ancient liberty of choosing their bishops. The seventieth letter of Adrian II. (868) is addressed to the Bishop of Embrun, rebuking him severely for having consecrated a bishop to Vienne other than him who had received the suffrages of the diocese.
In 950, Bishop Atto of Vercelli wrote a treatise on the persecutions and sufferings of the Church. He divides these into three, of which the second is the interference of the Crown with the election of bishops. He says that in his day princes had usurped a prerogative which was not theirs by the law of God nor of man; that they violated the constitution, the inalienable rights, and the sacred liberties of the Church, by interfering with the appointment of bishops. Kings appoint, not for virtue, but for wealth, parentage, and political services; the proper qualifications for the episcopal office in royal eyes are not holiness, love of the poor, zeal for God, but a bribe, a recommendation by some influential courtier, or relationship to a favoured statesman.
The Council of Rheims, held in 1049, before Pope Leo IX. on the occasion of his consecrating the abbey church of S. Remi, passed a canon forbidding nominations made otherwise than by diocesan election. This council was convened because the Crown had in several instances usurped the nominations and had flooded the French Church with incompetent persons, and men who were mere courtiers and servants of despotism.
By degrees the right of the people was refused, as the king assumed to represent the lay voice, and the clergy were considered as the proper electors; then the right was withdrawn from the clergy generally and was limited to the chapter, which being nominated by the Crown
was filled with creatures of its own, who would not throw out the candidate recommended by the king. But in 1517 a concordat was made between Francis I. and Pope Leo X., in virtue of which the chapters were despoiled of this privilege, and the nomination was vested in the Crown, subject to the consent of the Holy See. The parliament of Paris refused to enregister this iniquitous bargain, till forced to do so by repeated orders of the king. Public prayers were offered up to obtain its abolition, and the States-General protested energetically against it, whilst the voice of the Church was silenced by the king forbidding for the future the assembly of the decennial councils in which the Church had hitherto proclaimed her rights.
The Crown having uncontrolled power over the Church, exercised this power to fill all benefices at its disposal with those whose interest in the welfare of religion was subordinate to their devotion to the State, and to crush out all liberty of opinion and freedom of action.
In 1789, when the cahiers were sent into the StatesGeneral containing the grievances of the nation, a repeal of this iniquitous law was demanded, and a restoration of the ancient rights of the Church. In the celebrated civil constitution of the Church drawn up in 1790, the nomination of the bishops was restored to the Church, and was made by way of election. In two particulars alone did it contravene ancient precedent, and these were serious. It imposed no religious condition on the electors, so that Jews, Protestants, and infidels had votes equal in value to those of the Catholics. Thus, in Strasbourg, where Calvinists and Jews were in the majority, they would appoint the spiritual governor over the churchmen, a flagrant injustice. Also, those most immediately under the