Western Schism

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Map showing support for Avignon (red) and Rome (blue) during the Western Schism; this breakdown is accurate until the Council of Pisa (1409), which created a third line of claimants. Western schism 1378-1417.svg
Map showing support for Avignon (red) and Rome (blue) during the Western Schism; this breakdown is accurate until the Council of Pisa (1409), which created a third line of claimants.

The Western Schism, also called Papal Schism, Great Occidental Schism and Schism of 1378, was a split within the Catholic Church lasting from 1378 to 1417 [1] in which two, by 1410 three, men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope, each excommunicated one another. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418). For a time these rival claims to the papal throne damaged the reputation of the office.

Pope leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

Excommunication censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community

Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to end or at least regulate the communion of a member of a congregation with other members of the religious institution who are in normal communion with each other. The purpose of the institutional act is to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular, those of being in communion with other members of the congregation, and of receiving the sacraments.

Council of Constance synod

The Council of Constance is the 15th-century ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418 in the Bishopric of Constance. The council ended the Western Schism by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining papal claimants and by electing Pope Martin V.

Contents

The affair is sometimes referred to as the Great Schism, although this term is typically reserved for the more enduring East–West Schism of 1054 between the Western Churches answering to the See of Rome and the Orthodox Churches of the East.

The East–West Schism, also called the Great Schism and the Schism of 1054, was the break of communion between what are now the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches, which has lasted from the 11th century. The Schism was the culmination of theological and political differences between the Christian East and West which had developed over the preceding centuries.

Origin


The schism in the Western Roman Church resulted from the return of the papacy to Rome under Gregory XI on January 17, 1377, [2] ending the Avignon Papacy, which had developed a reputation for corruption that estranged major parts of Western Christendom. This reputation can be attributed to perceptions of predominant French influence and to the papal curia's efforts to extend its powers of patronage and increase its revenues.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Pope Gregory XI Pope from 1370 to 1378

Pope Gregory XI was Pope from 30 December 1370 to his death in 1378. He was the seventh and last Avignon pope and the most recent French pope. In 1377, Gregory XI returned the Papal court to Rome, ending nearly 70 years of papal residency in Avignon, France. He was the seventh and last of the Avignon Popes. His death shortly after was followed by the Western Schism.

Avignon Papacy Period during which the popes resided in Avignon, France

The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon rather than in Rome. The situation arose from the conflict between the papacy and the French crown, culminating in the death of Pope Boniface VIII after his arrest and maltreatment by Philip IV of France. Following the further death of Pope Benedict XI, Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Clement V as pope in 1305. Clement refused to move to Rome, and in 1309 he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the "Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy".

After Pope Gregory XI died in 1378, the Romans rioted to ensure the election of a Roman for pope. On April 8, 1378 the cardinals elected a Neapolitan when no viable Roman candidate presented himself. Urban VI, born Bartolomeo Prignano, the Archbishop of Bari, was elected. Urban had been a respected administrator in the papal chancery at Avignon, but as pope he proved suspicious, reformist, and prone to violent outbursts of temper. Many of the cardinals who had elected him soon regretted their decision: the majority removed themselves from Rome to Anagni, where, even though Urban was still reigning, they elected Robert of Geneva as a rival pope on September 20 of the same year. Robert took the name Clement VII and reestablished a papal court in Avignon. The second election threw the Church into turmoil. There had been rival antipope claimants to the papacy before, but most of them had been appointed by various rival factions; in this case, a single group of leaders of the Church had created both the pope and the antipope.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Pope Urban VI pope

Pope Urban VI, born Bartolomeo Prignano, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 8 April 1378 to his death in 1389. He is so far the last pope to be elected from outside the College of Cardinals. His reign, which began shortly after the end of the Avignon Papacy, was marked by immense conflict between rival factions as part of the Western Schism.

The Apostolic Chancery was a dicastery of the Roman Curia at the service of the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. The principal and presiding official was the Cardinal Chancellor of Holy Roman Church who was always Cardinal-Priest of the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Damaso. The original, principal function of the office was to collect money to maintain the Papal Army. Pope Pius VII reformed the office when Emperor Napoleon I of France obviated the need for Papal armies. In the early 20th century the office collected money for missionary work. Pope Paul VI abrogated the Cancellaria Apostolica on 27 February 1973. Its obligations were transferred to the Secretariat of State.

The conflicts quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize:

Kingdom of France kingdom in Western Europe from 843 to 1791

The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.

Crown of Aragon Composite monarchy which existed between 1162–1716

The Crown of Aragon was a composite monarchy, also nowadays referred to as a confederation of individual polities or kingdoms ruled by one king, with a personal and dynastic union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona. At the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy controlling a large portion of present-day eastern Spain, parts of what is now southern France, and a Mediterranean "empire" which included the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta, Southern Italy and parts of Greece. The component realms of the Crown were not united politically except at the level of the king, who ruled over each autonomous polity according to its own laws, raising funds under each tax structure, dealing separately with each Corts or Cortes. Put in contemporary terms, it has sometimes been considered that the different lands of the Crown of Aragon functioned more as a confederation than as a single kingdom. In this sense, the larger Crown of Aragon must not be confused with one of its constituent parts, the Kingdom of Aragon, from which it takes its name.

Crown of Castile Former country in the Iberian Peninsula

The Crown of Castile was a medieval state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and, some decades later, the parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then Castilian king, Ferdinand III, to the vacant Leonese throne. It continued to exist as a separate entity after the personal union in 1469 of the crowns of Castile and Aragon with the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs up to the promulgation of the Nueva Planta decrees by Philip V in 1715.

In the Iberian Peninsula there were the Fernandine Wars (Guerras fernandinas) and the 1383–1385 Crisis in Portugal, during which dynastic opponents supported rival claimants to the papal office.

Consequences

Habemus Papam at the Council of Constance Habemus Papam 1415.jpg
Habemus Papam at the Council of Constance

Sustained by such national and factional rivalries throughout Catholic Christianity, the schism continued after the deaths of both Urban VI in 1389 and Clement VII in 1394. Boniface IX, who was crowned at Rome in 1389, and Benedict XIII, who reigned in Avignon from 1394, maintained their rival courts. When Pope Boniface died in 1404, the eight cardinals of the Roman conclave offered to refrain from electing a new pope if Benedict would resign; but when Benedict's legates refused on his behalf, the Roman party then proceeded to elect Pope Innocent VII.

In the intense partisanship, characteristic of the Middle Ages, the schism engendered a fanatical hatred noted by Johan Huizinga: [3] when the town of Bruges went over to the "obedience" of Avignon, a great number of people left to follow their trade in a city of Urbanist allegiance; in the 1382 Battle of Roosebeke, the oriflamme, which might only be unfurled in a holy cause, was taken up against the Flemings, because they were Urbanists and thus viewed by the French as schismatics.[ citation needed ]

Efforts were made to end the Schism through force or diplomacy. The French crown even tried to coerce Benedict XIII, whom it supported, into resigning. None of these remedies worked. The suggestion that a church council should resolve the Schism, first made in 1378, was not adopted at first, because canon law required that a pope call a council.[ citation needed ] Eventually theologians like Pierre d'Ailly and Jean Gerson, as well as canon lawyers like Francesco Zabarella, adopted arguments that equity permitted the Church to act for its own welfare in defiance of the letter of the law.

Eventually the cardinals of both factions secured an agreement that Benedict and Pope Gregory XII (successor to Innocent VII) would meet at Savona. They balked at the last moment, and both groups of cardinals abandoned their preferred leaders. A church council was held at Pisa in 1409 under the auspices of the cardinals to try solving the dispute. At the fifteenth session, 5 June 1409, the Council of Pisa attempted to depose both Pope and antipope as schismatical, heretical, perjured and scandalous, [4] but it then added to the problem by electing a second antipope, Alexander V. He reigned briefly from June 26, 1409, to his death in 1410, when he was succeeded by antipope John XXIII, who won some but not universal support.

Resolution

Finally, a council was convened by Pisan antipope John XXIII in 1414 at Constance to resolve the issue. This was endorsed by Pope Gregory XII, thus ensuring the legitimacy of any election. The council, advised by the theologian Jean Gerson, secured the resignations of John XXIII and Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415, while excommunicating the second antipope, Benedict XIII, who refused to step down. The Council elected Pope Martin V in 1417, essentially ending the schism. Nonetheless, the Crown of Aragon did not recognize Pope Martin V and continued to recognize Benedict XIII. Archbishops loyal to Benedict XIII subsequently elected Antipope Benedict XIV (Bernard Garnier) and three followers simultaneously elected Antipope Clement VIII, but the Western Schism was by then practically over. Clement VIII resigned in 1429 and apparently recognized Martin V.

The line of Roman popes is now recognized as the legitimate line, but confusion on this point continued until the 19th century. Pope Pius II (died 1464) decreed that no appeal could be made from pope to council, to avoid any future attempts to undo a papal election by anyone but the elected pope. No such crisis has arisen since the 15th century, and so there has been no need to revisit this decision. The alternate papal claimants have become known in history as antipopes. Those of Avignon were dismissed by Rome early on, but the Pisan popes were included in the Annuario Pontificio as popes well into the 20th century. Thus the Borgia pope Alexander VI took his regnal name in sequence after the Pisan Alexander V.

Gregory XII's resignation (in 1415) was the last time a pope resigned until Benedict XVI in 2013.

Aftermath

After its resolution, the Western Schism still affected the Catholic Church for years to come. One of the most significant of these involved the emergence of the theory called conciliarism, founded on the success of the Council of Constance, which effectively ended the conflict. This new reform movement held that a general council is superior to the pope on the strength of its capability to settle things even in the early church such as the case in 681 when Pope Honorius was condemned by a council called Constantinople III. [5] There are theorists such as John Gerson who explained that the priests and the church itself are the sources of the papal power and, thus, the church should be able to correct, punish, and, if necessary, depose a pope. [6] For years, the so-called conciliarists have challenged the authority of the pope and they became more relevant after a convened council also known as the Council of Florence (1439-1445) became instrumental in achieving ecclesial union between the Catholic Church and the churches of the East. [7]

There was also a marked decline in morality and discipline within the church. Scholars note that although the Western Schism did not directly cause such a phenomenon, it was a gradual development rooted in the conflict, effectively eroding the church authority and its capacity to proclaim the gospel. [8] This was further aggravated by the dissension caused by the Protestant Reformation.

Historiography

According to Broderick, in 1987:

Doubt still shrouds the validity of the three rival lines of pontiffs during the four decades subsequent to the still disputed papal election of 1378. This makes suspect the credentials of the cardinals created by the Roman, Avignon, and Pisan claimants to the Apostolic See. Unity was finally restored without a definitive solution to the question; for the Council of Constance succeeded in terminating the Western Schism, not by declaring which of the three claimants was the rightful one, but by eliminating all of them by forcing their abdication or deposition, and then setting up a novel arrangement for choosing a new pope acceptable to all sides. To this day the Church has never made any official, authoritative pronouncement about the papal lines of succession for this confusing period; nor has Martin V or any of his successors. Modern scholars are not agreed in their solutions, although they tend to favor the Roman line. [9]

Notes

  1. "Western Schism". britannica.com. December 2014.
  2. J.N.D. Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, p. 227
  3. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages , 1924:14
  4. J. P. Adams, Council of Pisa: Deposition of Benedict XIII and Gregory XII, with additional references. Retrieved 02/26/2106.
  5. Bausch, William; Cannon, Carol Ann; Obach, Robert (1989). Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications. p. 211. ISBN   0896223957.
  6. Bausch, Cannon, & Oback, p. 211.
  7. O'Connor, James Thomas (2005). The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 204. ISBN   1586170767.
  8. Coriden, James (2004). An Introduction to Canon Law. New York: Paulist Press. p. 21. ISBN   0809142562.
  9. Broderick, J.F. 1987. "The Sacred College of Cardinals: Size and Geographical Composition (1099–1986)." Archivum historiae Pontificiae, 25: p. 14.

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