What Is The Source Of The Roman Empire? Opinion 3: The Roman Empire Is From The Pope Chapter 20 ~ William Of Ockham

UNKNOWN GOLDSMITH, 
German Herimann Cross 
c. 1050 

What is the source of the Roman Empire?

Opinion 3: The Roman Empire is from the pope

Chapter 20

Student Bring forward another argument for that opinion.

Master The gloss on dist. 10, c. Quoniam idem (cols. 33-4) implies another argument. [3] The following argument can be taken from it. The Roman empire is from that man who transfers and can transfer the Roman empire from one house or people to another. But the pope transferred the empire from the Greeks to the Germans (Extra, De electione, c. Venerabilem [c.34, col.79]. The Roman empire, therefore, is from the pope.

Student That argument seems incontestable; nevertheless I want to know whether some people try to refute it.

Master Some people think that from that argument, understood as certain people do understand it, a manifest absurdity follows, namely that the pope can transfer any kingdoms at all, of christians and others, from house to house and from people to people, and so he could transfer the kingdom of France from the Franks to the English or to the Germans or to the Spanish or to others, just as he transferred the Roman empire from the Greeks to the Germans. That this absurdity follows, moreover, they prove by a certain foundation on the basis of which many people try to prove many things about this subject. This is the foundation, moreover, which was also touched on above, namely that Christ gave blessed Peter no special power over the Roman empire which he did not give him over the kingdom of the Franks and any other kingdoms. They try to show this in two ways.

First, as follows: In the whole of sacred scripture wherever there is mention of the power granted to blessed Peter there is no mention of special power over the Roman empire and no kingdom is excepted from that power. For when Christ said to blessed Peter, "Whatever you bind on earth" etc, and again when he said, "Feed my sheep", he no more excepted the kingdom of France or any other kingdom from that power than the Roman empire, and it is the same in all the texts by which papal power is proved. When it is said, for instance, in Genesis 1:16, "God made the two great lights" etc, by which kingdom and priesthood are understood, and when it is said in Jeremiah 1:10, "See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms", and when it is said in Luke 22:38, "Look, here are two swords", and in similar examples, there is no special mention of the kingdom of France or another kingdom such that it is understood to be specially excepted, more than the Roman empire, from any power at all given by Christ to blessed Peter. Blessed Peter received from Christ, therefore, no power over the Roman empire that he did not receive over France and other kingdoms. If by the power given by Christ to blessed Peter, therefore, the pope can transfer the Roman empire from people to people, he can by the same power transfer the kingdom of France from people to people.

Second it is proved similarly, as follows: greater power was not given to blessed Peter over the Roman empire than over parts of the Roman empire or over kingdoms that were subject to the Roman empire. But when Christ gave blessed Peter papal power, the kingdom of France, like other kingdoms too, was part of the Roman empire or subject to the Roman empire. Blessed Peter did not receive greater power from Christ over the Roman empire, therefore, than over the kingdom of France.

Student Perhaps some people would say as long as the kingdom of France was subject to the Roman empire, all the power which the pope had over the Roman empire he also had over the kingdom of France. But he does not have it now because the kingdom of France is not subject to the Roman empire.

Master That reply seems absurd to some people, (i) because the pope should not be deprived of any power by the rebellion or exemption of the kingdom of France, (ii) because the power which the pope has by Christ's decree can not be changed or removed from him by anyone inferior to Christ, (iii) because then he who was pope after the rebellion or exemption of the king of France would not have been equal in power to the pope who preceded him and so would not have been a true successor.

Student You have set down how that argument is attacked; explain now how a response is made to it.

Master The reply to it is that Pope Zacharias deposed the king of France and substituted Pippin, as was brought forward above, through the sort of authority through which, or through similar authority, he transferred the Roman empire from the Greeks to the Germans. He did not depose the king of France, however, by the authority or power given to him by Christ but he did this (i) either by the authority of the Franks, who gave him such authority and power on that occasion [[?illa vice]] (ii) or, as the gloss on the chapter Alius [col. 1083] says, "He is said to have deposed because he agreed with those who were deposing". So the pope did not transfer the empire from the Greeks to the Germans through the authority or power given to him by Christ but (iii) through the authority of the Romans who gave such power to him in that office as the most excellent person among the Romans. (iv) Or he can be said to have transferred it because he agreed with those who were transferring.

Student That reply seems to be based on the opinion which maintains that the pope has some power directly from Christ, that is power in spiritual matters and the right of sharing in the material goods necessary for his sustenance, and, in carrying out his duty, he has some authority from general councils, some from the congregation of the faithful, at least by their tacit consent, some from different peoples or emperors or princes or others of the faithful. I can find many things about this opinion in the tractate, "On the power of the pope and clergy". For the moment, therefore, I will pass over many attacks on that reply and bring forward just one, as follows.

When something is said to be done by the apostolic see it is not understood to be done by some power granted to the person of the pope only but is understood to be done by the authority of the office entrusted to him by Christ. That decretal [Extra, De electione c.] Venerabilem says, however, that the apostolic see transferred the empire from the Greeks to the Germans. For these are the words of that decretal [col.80]: "We acknowledge that it is to those princes to whom it is known that they pertain by right and ancient custom that we owe the right and power of choosing the king to be afterwards promoted to emperor, especially since this kind of right and power has come to them from the apostolic see which transferred the Roman empire from the Greeks to the Germans in the person of Charles the Great." The pope transferred the Roman empire, therefore, by the authority of the office entrusted to him by Christ.

Master The reply to this attack is that often "pope" is taken for "apostolic see" and often that which is from the pope as a person is said to be done by the apostolic see. And therefore because one having power from the Romans transferred the empire, the apostolic see is said to have transferred the empire.



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