|Pope Leo and King Francis Agree To Destroy the Liberty of the French Church|
Consider a recent unsurprisingly unpublicized and uncelebrated anniversary of the Vatican: five hundred years ago, in 1515, France's King Francis I, after his decisive destruction of the Pope's military allies at Marignano, convinced Pope Leo X (above) to enter the unholy and immoral Concordat of Bologna. By this treaty, the Pope gave control of the French church's offices to Francis to avoid military defeat in return for some direct subsidies to Rome at the cost of the French church.
|Battle of Marignano|
The Pope gained more than nothing by the deal. In return for his official and financial control of the French church, Francis agreed to abandon his nation's principled commitment to conciliarism, (i.e. the Council of Basle's constitutionalist teaching that the decrees of a church council were superior to the pope and that the pope must obey conciliar canons and call regular councils). French kings didn't like conciliarism anyway because its principles form the basis for legal control over all political authorities. Conciliarism is the soil from which the idea of modern constitutionalism (law controls government) grew. For his part, fighting a domestic battle with French Christians who thought their tithes should support their own churches not Vatican armies, Francis was glad to agree that the Pope had absolute authority to command local churches to accept the king's appointments and pay taxes to the king.
Thus, as part of the Concordat, Francis formally negated the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, which had allowed local French church selection of bishops etc. and prevented the pope collecting his annual dues from France until he agreed to hold regular councils. The negation of the Pragmatic Sanction also allowed the Pope to start collecting a portion of France's church revenues again. The big losers were the local church communities that lost their ability to elect their own church leaders and now had to pay tithes to both king and pope. Francis gained a lot, the Pope a little, and French Christians paid for the gains of both. This corrupt deal also helps explains Francis' hostility to the Reformation; he didn't have any control over the appointment of Protestant church leaders or collect any tithe from their churches.
Today, no Pope would claim that he could faithfully do such an outrageous thing as hand over church office selection to a king. What greater responsibility does the church have than to make sure that those in ecclesial offices are good men who "hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught"? (Titus 1:9) This can't be delegated to the state. But then Francis did have an army in the Pope's backyard threatening his worldly possessions and power. It also allowed Leo to purge and displace the conciliarist elements in France. The monarchists were glad to affirm papal supremacy against them because it secured their newly secured rights to tax and appoint under the Concordat. All this was a horrible thing for Leo to agree to. The Reformers certainly were unimpressed with the ecclesiology that the Concordat expressed. But, given the circumstances, as Pope Francis might say, "Who am I to judge?"
Without judging Pope Francis, we still may ask what similar difficulty must have made Pope Francis neglect Christ in his speeches before Congress and the U.N.? His rhetoric was literally unchristian in the sense that he did not name Jesus Christ. Let's concede that he gave good political speeches just as Leo made a politically justifiable Concordat. But what horrible pressure must be put on a man who claims the office of Peter to turn from Christ again in such a way? Is this how sheep are fed?
I assume that Pope Francis' actions like Leo's are a sign of enormous pressure: steeply declining attendance at mass in the United States and elsewhere, continued fall out over cover-ups of child sexual abuse, a world elite hostile to the most basic aspects of Christian truth and life. This is a man who apparently wanted to meet with Kim Davis but could only do so in secret and only confirmed the meeting with reluctance, and threw her under the bus as soon as challenged about the meeting. Now I think things are bad today. But I assume that Pope Francis knows much better how bad things are. If he is afraid to mention Jesus' name in Congress or meet with Kim Davis in public, how much more terrible things must be. If the Pope can only "challenge" the U.S Congress by demanding they do want what they want to do: more "to protect the environment," i.e., take even more power away from people and aggregate more to themselves, then what horrible threats he must see. I hope he ultimately negotiates a better bargain for what he surrenders than Leo did with Francis.