MARCH 15, 1081

Bishop Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved brother in Christ, Hermann, Bishop of Metz, greeting and apostolic benediction.

It is undoubtedly owing to the grace of God that you are ready, as we have learned, to go through trials and dangers in the defence of the truth. For such is His ineffable grace and immense mercy that He never permits that those chosen by Him go entirely astray and never allows them to fall or to be cast down completely. On the contrary, letting them pass through a time of persecution as a useful probation, He makes them stronger than before, even after some trepidation. And because among strong men he who acts bravely and goes forward with fervour inflames virile hearts--like-wise among cowards fear induces one to flee more shamefully than the other--we wish to impress upon your Grace, with admonishing voice, the following: that you should be pleased to stand among the first in the army of the Christian religion if you do not doubt that they are nearest to God the Victorious, and that they are the most worthy ones.

It seems, however, hardly necessary to us to comply with your request, namely to be somewhat assisted by a letter from us and fortified against the madness of those who keep repeating with perverse mouth: that the Holy and Apostolic See has no authority to excommunicate Henry a man who despises the Christian law, destroys the Churches and the Empire, sponsors and supports heretics--and to absolve any one from the oath of fealty to him. We hardly deem it necessary because so many and quite clear proofs of this can be found on the pages of Holy Scriptures. Nor do we believe that those who accumulate for themselves damnation by despising and opposing the truth, have added these views to the defence of their audacious standpoint either by ignorance or by madness and wretched desperation. And no wonder. For such is the habit of the wicked that looking for protection of their iniquity they defend those who are similar to themselves; and they attach no importance to the fact that they incur perdition for lying.

Now, to say only a few words out of many, who does not know the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who says in the Gospel, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth shall be loosed also in Heaven"? Are the kings excepted here? Are they not among the sheep that the Son of God committed to St. Peter? Who, I ask, can consider himself as exempted from this universal power of binding and loosing, conferred upon St. Peter, unless such an unfortunate one who, unwilling to bear the yoke of the Lord, subjects himself to the burden of the devil and refuses to be among Christ's sheep? For such a one it will add very little to his wretched liberty if he shakes from his proud neck the power divinely granted to St. Peter; the more any one, out of his pride, refuses to bear it, the more heavily it shall press upon him and he shall carry it to his damnation at the Judgment.

The Holy Fathers, supporting and serving the Holy Roman Church with great veneration, called her the Universal Mother in Councils and also otherwise in their writings and acts. By this doing they supported and served this institution of Divine will, this pledge of a dispensation to the Church, this privilege handed over since the beginning to St. Peter, chief of the Apostles, and confirmed to him by a heavenly decree. And accepting the proofs of all this and including them in the confirmation of the faith and in the doctrine of the holy religion, they also accepted her judgments; consenting in this, they agreed as if with one spirit and one voice: that all major affairs and important matters, as well as jurisdiction over all churches, ought to be referred to her as to a mother and head; that from her there is no appeal; and that no one should or could retract or repudiate her sentences. Consequently, when the blessed Pope Gelasius wrote, armed with Divine authority, to the Emperor Anastasius, he instructed him what and how he should think in the matter of the primacy of the Holy and Apostolic See as follows: "Although the faithful should be obedient to all priests in general who duly fulfil the duties of religion, how much more must they give adherence to to ruler of that See which the Supreme God-head wished preside over all priests and the subsequent piety of the whole Church has always honoured? So your prudence will perceive that by no human design of any sort whatever can any one set himself up as equal by privilege or acknowledgment to him whom the Voice of Christ has made supreme, and whom the venerable Church has always recognized and held in honour as her Primate. . . ."

Equipped, then, with such enactments and authorities, many bishops have excommunicated, sometimes kings, sometimes Emperors. If special mention of the names of these princes is sought, it can be pointed out that the blessed Pope Innocent excommunicated the Emperor Arcadius, because he consented to drive out St. John Chrysostom from his See. Another Roman Pontiff, Zacharias, deposed the king of the Franks from his kingdom, not so much because of his crimes, as because he was not suitable to exercise such great authority; and he set up in his place Pippin, father of Charlemagne the Emperor, and absolved all the Franks from he oath of fidelity which they had taken to the previous king. Holy Church often does the same thing by virtue of its authority when it absolves vassals from the bond of an oath which has been taken to those bishops who have been deposed from pontifical rank by the Apostolic authority. Blessed Ambrose, though a saint, was not bishop over the Universal Church; yet he excommunicated and shut out from the Church the Emperor Theodosius the Great for a sin which was not looked upon as serious by other priests. He also shows in his writings that the priestly dignity is as high in comparison with the royal power as gold is in comparison with lead. He writes in this way near the beginning of his pastoral letter: "The episcopal honour and sublimity, brethren, can not be compared with any other. If you compare them to the splendour of kings and the diadem of princes it would be far worse than to compare the metal lead to the glitter of gold; so you may indeed see that the necks of kings and princes are bowed before the knees of priests and, after the monarchs have kissed the hands of the priests, they believe themselves to be strengthened by their prayers." Shortly afterwards he says: "You should know, brethren, that we have mentioned all these things to show that nothing may be found in this world more excellent than priests or more sublime than bishops."

You ought to have remembered, Brother, that greater power is granted to an exorcist, when he is made a spiritual emperor to drive away demons, than is obtained by any layman by reason of secular dominion. Indeed it is unfortunately true that demons rule over all the kings and princes of the earth who do not live a godly life and do not fear God in their deeds as they ought, and they torment them with wretched captivity. For such men desire authority, not for the honour of God and the salvation of souls, as do religious priests who are led by Divine love; but in order that they may show their insupportable pride and the ambition their mind, they desire to dominate others. Blessed Augustine spoke of them in the first book of his De Doctrina Christiana: "Indeed whoever strives to gain control over those who are naturally his equals, that is men, is intolerably proud in every way." Now exorcists, as we have said, have power from God over demons; therefore they have far greater power over those who are subject to, and in companionship with, demons. If, then, exorcists so far surpass the earthly rulers, how much more will priests surpass them!

Furthermore, every Christian king, when he comes to his end, seeks as a poor suppliant the aid of a priest, so that he may escape the prison of hell, make his way from darkness to light and appear absolved from the chains of his sins before the judgment of God. But who among laymen (leaving priests out of the question), when near to death, has begged the assistance of an earthly king for the salvation of his soul? And what earthly king or Emperor is able by the office committed to him to snatch any Christian from the devil's power by Holy Baptism, and to number him among the sons of God, and to strengthen him with the Holy Chrism? And which of them is able to make with his lips the Body and Blood of the Lord, which is the greatest deed in the Christian religion? Or to which of them has been given the power of binding and loosing on earth and in Heaven? From these considerations it is obvious that the authority of the priests is by far pre-eminent in power. "To take another case, which of these earthly potentates can ordain any cleric in Holy Church? Much less can he depose a cleric for any fault. For in the ecclesiastical hierarchy the power of deposition is ranked as higher than that of ordination. For bishops can ordain other bishops, but can in no case depose them without the authority of the Apostolic See. What man of even mediocre intelligence is able to doubt, then, that priests are to take precedence of kings? But if kings should be judged for their sins by priests, by whom should they more rightly be judged than by the Roman Pontiff?

To sum up, it might be more fitting to consider any good Christians as kings than to consider bad princes to be such. The former, pursuing the glory of God, exercise strict control over themselves; but the latter, their own worst enemies, pursuing not the things of God but their own interests, oppress other men despotically. The former are the Body of Christ, the true King; the latter are the body of the devil. The former govern themselves so that they may reign eternally with the Supreme Emperor; but the authority of the latter has as its result that they perish in eternal damnation with the prince of darkness, who is king over all the sons of pride.

Nor indeed should it be a matter for great surprise that bad bishops ally themselves with a wicked king, whom they love and fear because of the honours which they have obtained from him by evil means; who, ordaining simoniacally whom they please, sell even God for a contemptible price. For, just as the elect are inseparably united to their head, so also the reprobates are joined together primarily against the good, with him who is the head of the malice. . . . These remarks apply to kings and emperors who, puffed up with excessive worldly glory, reign not for God but for themselves. But because it is part of our office to distribute advice to each person according to the status and dignity which he enjoys, we make it our business, under the inspiration of God, to provide weapons of humility for Emperors, kings and other princes, so that they may be able to restrain the floods of their pride, rising, as it does, like the sea. For we are aware that worldly glory and secular anxiety usually do draw into pride, in particular those who rule; as a result, neglecting humility and pursuing their own glory, they perpetually yearn to dominate the brethren.


Source: ζ
Hosted by www.Geocities.ws