The Thirteenth Century: The English King and the Pope

“In the Middle Ages amidst the nations of Europe, two powers contended for supremacy—the Pope and the King.

“The Pope, as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, first assumed the title of Universal Bishop, and afterwards claimed temporal dominion over all the monarchs of Christendom. Long and fierce struggles ensued in consequence of this claim and much blood was shed. In some countries the strife was carried on for centuries, but in England it was happily terminated at an early period. The great man to whose wisdom, patriotism, and piety the nation owes this happy result, was
John Wicliffe.

“In the early years of the thirteenth century, the kingdom of England became subject to the Pope. A dispute had arisen between King John and the canons of Canterbury concerning the election of an archbishop for that diocese, in place of Hubert, who died in 1205. Both the canons and the king appealed to the Pope, and sent agents to Rome. The pontifical chair was then filled by Innocent III, who like his predecessor, Gregory VII, was vigorously striving to subordinate the rights and powers of princes to the Papal See, and to take into his own hands all the ecclesiastical appointments of the Christian nations.

“Innocent annulled both the election of the canons and also that of the king,
and caused his own nominee, Cardinal Langton, to be chosen to the see of Canterbury. But more than this, he claimed the right for the Pontiff of
appointing to this seat of dignity for all coming time…” p. 9–10

“King John braved this state of things for two years, when Innocent pronounced sentence of excommunication upon him; absolving his subjects from their allegiance, and offering the crown of England to Philip Augustus, King of France. Philip collected a mighty armament, and prepared to cross the Channel and invade the territories of the excommunicated king.

“At this time, John was on bad terms with his barons on account of his many vices, and dared not depend upon their support. He saw the danger in which he stood, and …determined upon an unconditional surrender to the Pope…He then ‘resigned England and Ireland to God, to St. Peter and St. Paul and to Pope Innocent and his successors in the apostolic chair,’ agreeing to hold these dominions as feudatory of the Church of Rome, by the annual payment of a thousand marks…”

On May 15, 1213, “…The King of England kneeling before the legate of the Pope, and taking the crown from his head, offering it to Pandolf, saying, ‘Here I resign the crown of the realm of England into the Pope’s hand, Innocent III, and put me wholly in his mercy and ordinance.’

“…The barons determined that they would never be the slaves of a Pope, and unsheathing their swords, they vowed to maintain the ancient liberties of England or die in the attempt. On the 15th of June, 1215, they compelled John to sign Magna Charta at Runnymede, and thus in effect to tell Innocent that he revoked his vow of vassalage, and took back the kingdom which he had laid at his feet. The Pope was furious. He issued a bull declaring that he annulled the charter, and proclaiming all its obligations and guarantees void.

“From this reign England may date her love of liberty and dread of popery…” p.11, 12

“But while feeling a dread of thepapacy, the people still held to the doctrines of Rome. Enveloped in ignorance and sunk in social degradation and vice, they had not the Scriptures to enlighten their path. The Bible was a sealed book. Freedom of conscience was denied, and the religion of the country consisted in outward ceremonials appealing to the senses but not influencing the heart…” p. 13

“In this age of liberty it is difficult to imagine the arbitrary power exercised by the popes of the Middle Ages. In England during the fourteenth century a battle was constantly being carried on between the King and his Parliament on the one side, and the Papal Court on the other.” p.44

“In Wicliffe’s time, it was a maxim that the reading of the Bible was injurious to the laity, and accordingly the priests forbade it…” p. 77

Wicliffe’s “idea was to give the whole Bible in the vernacular to the people of England, so that every man in the realm might read in the tongue wherein he was born the wonderful works of God.” p. 77

Wicliffe’s “great aim was to bring men back to the Bible. He exalted it as the one great authority before which all should bow…” p. 100

excerpts from: John Wicliffe: The Morning Star of the Reformation
by D. J. Deane, sixth edition, excerpts

This information is for my post:
The Real Presence in the Eucharist: Evangelization of America through Politics


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