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third of the above steps bear most evident traces of the influence of the clergy in inculcating, by necessarily slow degrees, a true system of Christian ethics.
But the ever more powerful authority exercised by the clergy over public morality may be deduced as well from the external evidence of history as from the contemporary statutes and canons. We have an instance, little satisfactory, it is true, in convincing us of the beneficial effect of exorbitant clerical interference in such cases, but which we may fairly consider as presenting an instance of the abuse of a power which taken by itself, and unperverted by papal influence, cannot have been otherwise than beneficial. I allude to the vigorous theological and political strife raised by the unfortunate marriage of King Lothaire, son to the emperor of the same name, with Theutberga, when an action, which a century before would have passed unnoticed by the most strenuous upholder of the rights of the clergy as interpreters of the Canon Law, was only finally settled by the arbitration of the Pope*.
So far we have confined ourselves to the influence exercised by the clergy as the moral guides and legislators of the people. It was, as has been said, accompanied, and in a great measure produced, by a great increase of strictness in all matters of Church discipline se redimere unquam valeat. Et si convenerit ut ad compositionem quisque descendat, nullus de parentibus aut amicis eum quicquam adjuvet. Quod si fecerit, suum vuirgildum omnino componat. ]
* Sismondi, Hist. des Fr. t. iii. pp. 143—158.
and government; and although the student of French history naturally ascribes all the glory of such reforms to the Carlovingian monarchs, yet we must not forget that the clergy and the state stood in a position to act and react upon each other, and that the salutary changes which were carried into execution by the weight of the royal authority had been suggested in the councils of the monarch, and carried through those of the nation, by the preponderating influence of ecclesiastical dignitaries. Remembering this circumstance, we shall look with more interest on the process by which the clergy were restored to so large a share of their former purity, for we shall see in it the consequence of a spirit which had perhaps never been completely extinct even in the most corrupt of churches. The piety of the early Carlovingians had checked the evils of commendator bishoprics and abbeys *, and among the acts of Charlemagne are numerous decrees, ensuring the due performance of their holy functions by the various orders of churchmen. The most remarkable document, perhaps, which is extant on the subject is a general letter t addressed by the same monarch to the archbishops throughout the Empire, in which, after exhorting them to a seemly carefulness in the duties of their sacred office, he questions them concerning their mode of teaching and explaining some of the most important doctrines, as Baptism, the Apostles' Creed,
* Baluz. Capit. Reg. Franc. t. i. coll. 169, 170.
and the various forms acknowledged by the Church for exorcisms and mysterious ceremonies.
But of all the documents relating to the ecclesiastical discipline of the period the most remarkable is the Capitulary of Aix-la-Chapelle, of the year 789*, in which the decrees of the old councils are brought forward again and enforced by the severest penalties. It is true, we can hardly believe that all its numerous provisions were faithfully carried out; yet it affords us strong proofs of the completeness of the reorganization rendered necessary by previous ages of laxity, and of the wise zeal with which the Frank sovereign promoted the interests of his faith. Thus, one clause is to the effect that no bishop is to ordain a candidate without strict previous enquiry into his moral character and intellectual capabilities. Another restrains what seems during the preceding age to have been a common breach of ecclesiastical order, the interference of one prelate with the diocese of his neighbouring brethren: while a third checks the already prevalent tendency towards an immoderate multiplication of the names of martyrs and confessors.
But this amelioration, which appears at first sight as a change consequent upon secular action from without, may be placed in an instructive connexion with another which simultaneously made its appearance among the clergy themselves, and to whose effects we must attribute the most salutary results during the centuries immediately following upon its institution. Chrodegang, bishop of
* Baluz. (Capit. Aquisgran. c. 71) t. i. coll. 237, 8.
Metz, was the first to establish, among the clergy in more immediate intercourse with himself, a rule of life not very much dissimilar to that which had been formed at Hippo by the exertions of Augustine, three centuries before. And he found speedy imitators in all the cathedral churches of the Empire. The model of life established among the secular priesthood of each episcopal seat by this new attempt at combining the practical activity of the priest with the contemplative powers of the monk may be gathered from a clause of the same Capitulary of Aix-la-Chapelle, where, after enjoining upon monks a strict adherence to the vows of their order, the legislator adds the following words: “And we desire that such as enter upon the clerical office, or, as it is termed, the canonical life, should live in every respect according to their own rules, and that their Bishop should regulate their manner of life as an Abbot does that of his monks*.” Here then was an institution in every respect admirably adapted to the genius of the age; for it united all the meditative retirement and disciplined life of the monastic orders with all the pastoral power and activity wherein lay the influence of the secular clergy. The priestly influence over the inhabitants of the towns, who during the whole period we are investigating continued to rise into more marked importance relatively to the agricultural population, was immeasurably enhanced by the regularity of life thus secured; for contrasts of the severe discipline and earnestness of the monks with the comparative laxity and occasional absolute immorality of the secular clergy had been frequent, and had conduced, as we have seen during our last section, to the very considerable social pre-eminence attained by the former over their more worldly brethren.
* Capit. Aquisgran. c. 71. (Baluz. t. 1. col. 238.) [“Similiter qui ad clericatum accedunt, quod nos nominamus canonicam vitam, volumus ut illi canonice secundum suam regulam omnimodis vivant, et Episcopus eorum regat vitam, sicut Abba monachorum.]
Hitherto we have confined our attention to the influence of clerical action, direct or indirect, upon the people during the prosperity of the Carlovingian race, and have scarcely cast a glance on the century subsequent to the death of Charles the Bald. And, in truth, of the ten centuries over which we have passed there is none less worthy of our notice; for not only did the clerical body, seduced by the temptations to inordinate ambition consequent on the degradation of all that had been mighty in secular authority, present sure tokens of that gigantic cancer which was wasting the energies of the Church', but their degeneracy was relieved by nothing that was noble or praiseworthy among the laity; in fact, it was, as far as we can see, the only period of the world's history in which men so utterly unworthy of their illustrious spiritual ancestry could have attained a power far
1 Frodoard, writing about 966, complains of “these latter times,” in which “ deficiente religione” the once numerous clergy of the basilica of Ss. Timothy and Apollinaris at Rheims were reduced to a single priest (Hist. Eccl. Rem. lib. i. c. 4. ap. Guizot, Coll. des Mém. v. 11; Couvenier, pp. 19, 20).