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The Great Schism Of The Catholic Church.

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According to Catholicism the Pope is the direct successor of the disciple Peter, whom Jesus decided upon to build his church. The importance of the Papacy in European history is unquestionable. The Catholic Church was a key factor in the shaping of European society after the fall of the Roman Empire. In medieval Europe the Catholic Church was believed to be the highest authority and unquestionable. Catholicism became intertwined with everyday life. However, by the end of the fourteenth century the Church had fallen into turmoil. A crisis known as the Great Schism had befallen the Church. By 1378 A.D. the Church had been splintered. Rival factions of clergy began holding elections and naming popes. At one point in time there were as many as three individuals claiming to be the legitimate successor to the papacy. The Church was in chaos until the matter was resolved by the Council of Constance which lasted from 1414-1417 A.D. The period known as "the Great Schism" was brought about by numerous events; it cast the Church into years of international turmoil resulting in an evolution of the Churches role in European society.

The Great Schism can not be understood simply by studying the events which took place between the years 1378-1417 A.D. To understand the significance of the crisis one must also look at the period building up to the crisis. A new social structure was arising in Europe. There was a growing sense of patriotism fostering strong European Nations and producing powerful monarchs. This fact in itself did not thrust the Church into turmoil but it "can safely be maintained that sentiment of nationalism contributed to the Schism." The Church would have to find its place in this emerging system encountering numerous conflicts along the way. During the late thirteenth century the Office of the Papacy was at the height of its power. There had been a long succession of powerful popes that had significantly increased papal authority both secularly and spiritually. The centralization and reorganization of papal authority propelled the Office of the Pope to a position as the most influential force in medieval Europe. However, by the mid-thirteenth century the Church was in decline. A negative shadow was starting to fall upon the papacy. The common people were losing faith in the papacy because it became, "the puppet of European politics; it was made to serve purposes and interests foreign to its own intrinsic functions." The driving forces behind the Church had always been political and financial. The late-medieval Church had exceeded its means when its, "political requirements forced forward centralization and the exploitation of ecclesiastical resources by the papacy." During the late thirteenth century papal authority tried to reach a new peak under Pope Boniface VIII, whose papacy was one of the many catalysts thrusting the Church into crises. Pope Boniface VIII held the Office between the years 1294-1303 and became the Catholic Churches most able politician though the strides he made would eventually lead the Church down a negative path and cast a bad shadow upon his legacy. He was an avid proponent for universal sovereignty of the Papacy over the whole of Christendom. As Pope, Boniface assumed more power than his predecessors. He exerted his will in such a way that he soon found himself caught up in European politics, quarreling with European powers and calling into question the sovereignty of European Nations and their monarchs. His most notable confrontations were with King Phillip IV of France. At the time a war was raging between France and England. The quarreling between the two started when Boniface issued a decree called "clericis laicos", forbidding the taxation of clergy with the intent of preventing either country from using Church funds to rage their war against each other. King Phillip IV immediately ordered that all exports of clerical funds to Rome be ceased, funds which were crucial for the Church to operate. Boniface had to yield, recanting his order allowing for taxation during times of emergency. The fighting didn't end there. Boniface continued to make strides to increase Papal authority on both secular and religious matters. He continuously thrust himself into international controversy. In 1302 he issued the "Unum Sanctum", claiming that it was necessary for salvation that all matters both temporal and spiritual to fall under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. This called into question France's sovereignty under Phillip's rule resulting in the French clergy's labeling of Boniface's decree as heretical. When Phillip refused to submit to Boniface's decree he was excommunicated. While Boniface was away from Rome at his retreat in Anagni, the place of his birth just outside the city of Rome, a French army surprised him calling for his resignation. When he declined he was taken hostage and tortured severely for three days until he was freed by the townspeople. Boniface never recovered from his injuries and died three weeks later. After the short conciliatory Papacy of Benedict XI, the next stage in the sequence of events leading up to the crisis unfolded with the move of the Roman Curia from Rome to Avignon. This move cast a lot of suspicion upon the Papacy because, "when the Papacy was at Avignon, there was a strong current of feeling both in England and in Germany that the papacy, by taxation and disposal of beneficies, was taking money out of the country for the benefit of the enemy, France." Rome and the Catholic Church have a long history together. For centuries Rome was the center for Catholicism. So, it is understandable why a controversy would eventually arise out of Clement V's move of the Roman Curia from Rome to Avignon in 1305. That fact is that "Rome was nearer the edge of Christendom, more periphrial to it; but Avignon could never be in the fullest sense the proper seat of the papacy." Clement V was born in Southern France and owed his election directly to the overwhelming number of French cardinals within the Sacred College though he may not have succumbed to French influence as much as was suspected. Instead of moving to Rome Clement decided to take residence at the Papal States in Avignon where he tried to attend to the problems set forth by his predecessor, Boniface VIII. Clement V was a reasonable man whose Papacy reflects so. Many controversies arose during previous papacies forcing Clement V to try and deal with these ongoing conflicts, however, "he could not choose between the brutal alternatives thrust upon him, hesitating between the merits and dangers of decision: he was too conscious of the human and material factors involvedÐ'... constantly seeking compromise; and in seeking it sacrificed many of the more radical pretensions of his predecessors." During this time Avignon

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