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Historiography of the Failures of the Late Medieval Papacy - Essay Example

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The Decline of the Late Medieval Papacy The latter part of the Middle Ages saw the decline of the papacy as an institution. What this means is that such decline is not only exclusively characterized by the unpopularity or ineffectual regime of individual popes during the period…
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Historiography of the Failures of the Late Medieval Papacy

Download file to see previous pages... Particularly, their views on the causes of the fall of the papacy between 1400 and 1800 will be reviewed and compared. Reasons Ullmann’s main position with regards to the decline of the papacy during the late Middle Ages is that it was caused by the Church’s secularization. He has provided several arguments for this position. The most important of these is the allusion to the Great Schism that culminated in 1400s as the greatest crisis in the history of papacy, which, according to him, finally sank the institution enormously in European regard, dragging the Church with it as the world watched deeply pained and scandalized with the way the Church conducted its affairs during the period. There are several underlying issues entailed in this event. And these are excellently demonstrated in the way Ullmann recounted the elections of the pope. He cited the year-long process wherein the College of Cardinals elected a pope early in the fourteenth century with such bitterness of the debates and intrigue. A French-sponsored candidate was elected and because of this the papacy was moved to France wherein six consecutive French popes ruled until 1377 when the papacy finally returned to Rome. The election of the next pope saw rioting in Rome, as people clamored for a Roman pope, fearing further French influence. Ullmann highlighted how conclave, fearing for their lives, elected an Italian, who turned out later on to be not of their liking. According to Ullmann, the Reformation is not the fundamental reason for the decline of the papal authority and power. It was the succession of individuals whose sole qualifications were their wealth and Italian social status that made the papal institution fade into the background. The series of developments afterwards would then become the height of the so-called Great Schism, which severely damaged the papacy. Several popes would hold office at the same time, with a number of Church councils asserting their power further aggravating the situation. Ullmann identified the Fifth Lateran Council, the last medieval council that aimed to reform the Church, as one of the demonstrations by which the Great Schism has damaged the papal institution: The papacy here showed itself in perhaps its worst light: instead of insisting upon the enforcement of the law it dispensed with from the observation of these decrees. And in so doing the whole panoply of papal weapons including the plenitude of power, was invoked. In a way, the fifth Lateran Council was a conciliar swan song of the medieval papacy and the precursor of Trent in this same century.1 Meanwhile, Misner also echoed Ullmann’s position, that the Church decline as undermined by the papacy has been a consequence of the corruption of the popes. Central to this argument is the system of infallibility, which, in Misner’s view, “formed a vicious cycle in which the Roman communion had imprisoned itself without hope of escape.”2 An important variable must be highlighted here. Misner also believed that the papal institution and the mechanisms and systems that it entails, had, not only corrupted the personalities that held the office but also provided no means of escape or alternative for a pope to pursue reform or impose a righteous regime. He noted that the pope was merely a figurehead and instrument of the system and that the Pope’s primacy could only be sustained if he upholds a corrupt system. The corruption ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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