The Papacy: a changing Institution over Time
What we have seen this far ...
• Final court of appeal
• Date of Easter
• Instructions to missionaries
• Calls councils
• Could call crusades
• See Boniface’s obedience
Question: How did he get his power and how did it evolve?
I. The Claims to Papal Primacy: Origins and Development
• Slow process based on circumstance and specific conflicts that began to define the
authority of the Pope differently
(1) Significance of Rome
• Where the bishopric is
• Added status
• The capital of the empire
• Place where Peter and Paul were martyred (the heads of the Church) – connected to fame
and glory of martyrdom
• The key city is not Jerusalem because it was destroyed in the 2 century
(2) The Petrine Doctrine
• Based on Matthew 16:18-19
− And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the
gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of
heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you
loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
• Peter singled out and given authority • Was the first “bishop” of Rome
• Clergy pointed to bible and call Peter the head of the apostles and having the rights of the
bishop of Rome
• Theory ofApostolic Succession – Bishop of Rome inherits authority and the plenitude of
power that God gave to Peter (the keys of the kingdom)
(3) Official Pronouncements of Popes – articulates the Pope’s authority
• Gregory VII (1073-1085) – Dictatus Papae: Declares that the Pope cannot be judged
by anybody. The first major expression of papal primacy and plenary of power.
• Innocent III (1198-1216): Declares that the Pope is pre-eminent over all and the Vicar
of Christ. Formerly there were vicars of Peter, but now the Pope is a “replacement” for
Christ – a midway between God and man, so better than human beings.
• Boniface VIII (1294-1303)
− Clericis Laicos (1296): priority of Pope in the face of secular rulers
− Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam (1302): the most powerful legal expression. The
Pope is declared to be necessary for salvation. Salvation hinges on obedience to
Him and his supreme power
• Official pronouncements of Pope develop hierocratic theory of power
− The pope is superior to secular powers and rulers. This develops slowly.
(4) Claims to Primacy over Secular Rulers
• Gelasius I (5 century): a pope who argued that there were two important powers but
that spiritual matters were more important and higher.
• The Donation of Constantine: stated that Constantine was so grateful for his
conversion that he gave territory of the Western Empire to the Pope.
− This claim was made in the 8 century
− Document was forged – claimed it was written in the 4 century to claim power
over secular rulers
• Gregory VII: claimed he could depose emperors • Innocent III: Pope’s pre-eminence over all. The Pope is the Sun and the King is the
• Boniface VIII: more explicit terms of how secular power if subject to the church and
have power to interfere in secular matters.
Why was this theory so important?
• Secular rulers were in control of appointments
• Is pope is over secular rulers then they should be able to restore the power of the church.
II. The Reality of Papal Primacy
• In the first 500 years some Popes could exercise supreme power
− For example, Gregory the Great (540-604). He sent missionaries, clergy were
obedient, and you can see in the readings that he had authority over the growing
• The power was sporadic – how could they make such claims when secular rulers had so
• 900-1050 were the DarkAges for the Papacy
− Coincided with the invasions of barbarians
− Pope takes refuge in Rome under aristocrats who where appointing people and
eventually the Pope.
− Corruption, factions of nobles, 3 Popes in power at once, murdered popes etc.
• 1050-1215 Papal power grows and reaches its height in the 13the century
− Push back against lay investiture
− Lay Investiture Controversy – Emperor Henry IV vs. Gregory VII
o The result did not come until G