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The middle Ages is the period of European history from the fifth to fifteenth century. It comes after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and before the early modern era. The central middle ages witnessed important events in the long history of the church. This is the period when forms were cast that would eventually outline essential features of the Christian church through its entire life. The papacy which had been involved in scandals was awakened and made to assume active leadership roles. Due to the exhilaration of its awakening, the popes served the church effectively though divisions were soon evident. This paper will seek to discuss the guiding theological principles for developments of reforms and try to evaluate if the church and the society today is living with the consequences of these developments.
The 11th century experienced a wave of reformers in the papacy that tried to introduce changes which brought about ecclesial authority. Several popes worked hard to reform the process by which elections were conducted in the church. They stamped out the vice of buying church offices and enforced celibacy for all priests. This consequently eliminated heirs to offices in the church. Among the popes who championed for these reforms were Leo, Calixtus and Gregory. Moreover, the church wanted to show a difference from the various European monarchs and bring itself out as a separate superior spiritual authority. It is thought that Pope Innocent enjoyed a superior authority that extended over various other worldly rulers in the peak of the papal authority. Leo was a key figure in developing reforms that aided in restoration of order in the monastic tradition. Amongst his recognized efforts were outlawing of simony and promotion of clerical celibacy. These reforms were supported by the popes who came after him where Pope Nicholas who facilitated the removal of pope appointing authority from the Roman Emperors and vested the authority in the cardinals (Halsall, 1996). Pope Gregory who had started reforms with Leo continued with the same reforms in England where he successfully promoted clerical celibacy and stumped out simony (Gonzales 286). Nonetheless, things were not smooth for Gregory as he experienced stiff resistance from Henry of Germany and Philip of France. Henry plundered and destroyed churches in open conflict with the Holy See. He continued with the vice of influencing elections of church leaders devoted to him. The French clergy with the backing of Phillip refused to comply with the reforms. Henry was excommunicated from the church severally (Coakley and Sterk 319-324).
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Conflict between the secular and church authorities continued. A structure was laid out by the Concordat of Worms by which elections of the bishops in Germany would be undertaken without any violence or simony and in presence of the Emperor (Halsall, 1996). The Emperor would then vest civil authority upon the bishops. Even so, division of power between the state and church would be realized where ecclesial authority signified by the ring and staff would be bestowed upon the clergy by the pope (Halsall, 1996). The vice of simony never ended as the battle for supremacy continued over the years where Emperor Barbarossa and his son Henry tried using their imperial power in influencing the election of pope. However, the cardinals had their way in electing a new pope Innocent after the death of Henry. Pope Innocent experienced the stature of papal power in the struggle that ensued between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Holy See. Soon after Innocent ascended to power, he set the tone for his sovereignty in a letter to the nobles of Tuscany and the perfect Acerbius in which according to Coakley he said “just as the moon derives its light from the sun and is indeed lower than it in quantity and quality, in position and in power, so too the royal power derives the splendor of its dignity from the pontifical authority” (319-324). Innocent prohibited usury in France where he declared that taxes would not be collected by feudal lords in churches and a person found disobeying this directive would be excommunicated. Innocent enormous power once came into the limelight when he pronounced an interdict against the whole of France after the French King Augustus married a third wife. Innocent succeeded in reversing the process as Augustus’s nobles and bishops forced him not to marry the third wife (Gonzales 309). As much as Innocent was seen as a reformist, he also had his negative side. Ironically, Innocent is seen as condoning the same vice he was against. He named Otto as Holy Roman Emperor after setting aside Fredrick.
The churches today stand firmly in the above developments experienced in the central middle Ages. The catholic popes are still elected by cardinals and celibacy is practiced by priests. Though it is claimed that the powers of the state and the church are completely separate, spiritual leaders are known to give recommendations regarding political situations and these recommendations are used by Christians in making political choices. This is the main reason why in the run up to elections, candidates for the office of the president make advances towards conventional religious groups in an attempt to secure votes. There are also instances of selective use of government powers to enforce political detachment for religious institutions exempted from paying taxes.
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