Sunday, 23 November 2014

Saint Bonaventure, The Seraphic Doctor by Rev. Fr. Laurence Costelloe, O.F.M. Part 4.

The commotion caused by William of St. Amour's book extended to the Court, and the pious King Louis, desirous of removing the scandal, formally referred the matter to the Holy See. Two doctors of the Paris University were appointed to take the book to the Papal Court and present it for examination to the Pope. This project having become public, William and his chief adherents determined to defend their views and set out for Anagni. The Pope received the King's envoys and regarded the matter as of very grave importance. He appointed a Commission of Cardinals carefully to examine the {24} book and to judge between the Mendicants and their opponents.
A public discussion was instituted at which were present representatives of both parties. On the side of the Mendicants were the Ministers General of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders--Humbert of Rome and John of Parma--Albert the Great, St. Thomas of Aquin, O.P., Bertrand of Bajona, O.F.M., and, according to some authors, St. Bonaventure. We cannot say with certainty who the defenders of St. Amour's book were. It is doubtful if he himself had arrived at Anagni before the work was condemned. Albert the Great and St. Thomas powerfully vindicated the cause of the Mendicants. The treatise composed by the latter, "Contra impugnantes Dei cultum," is a masterly defence of the principles attacked by St. Amour. St. Bonaventure's work on "Evangelical Perfection" is no less solid and convincing. It was written in connection with this dispute and was very probably submitted to the Commission. This may account for the assertion put forward by some writers that Bonaventure was present at Anagni and took part in the discussion--an assertion which more accurate investigation has almost entirely discredited. On the arrival of William and his followers a strenuous effort was made to avert the impending condemnation, and even to effect its revocation, but to no purpose.
After an examination extending over several {25} weeks the Cardinals gave their decision. It was an unconditional condemnation of Amour's book, which was ordered to be publicly burned both at the Papal Court and at the University of Paris. The sentence was proclaimed by the Pope in the Bull Romanus Pontifex issued on 5 October, 1256. Referring to William and his supporters the Pontiff says:--[Footnote 10]

[Footnote 10: Cf. Wadding, Tom. IV, Anno 1256. No. 31.]

"They heaped calumny on the Brethren and placed a stumbling-block in the way of the chosen children of the Church. Nay, more, in the excess of their bitterness they burst forth into malicious invectives, and composed a certain book which is most pernicious and detestable--a book not only not according to reason but utterly opposed to it; not true but false; not edifying but scandalous; not enlightening but misleading. This book having been brought to Our knowledge, We entrusted it for examination to certain Cardinals that they might discover and diligently consider all that it contained. Which having carefully and with due deliberation performed, they report to Us that the said book contains many things false and pernicious concerning the Pope and the bishops, also concerning those who, overcoming the world and its works, live by alms in strict poverty. It also assails those who, burning with zeal for souls and devoted to sacred science, greatly further the spiritual welfare of God's Church. It condemns the state of life of {26} poor Religious, such as the Friars Preachers and Friars Minor, who by the power of the Spirit, having abandoned earthly things, aspire with all their force to the heavenly reward. The book is a veritable hot-bed of scandal and disorder, and greatly injures souls by withdrawing them from devotion, the giving of alms, and entrance into holy Religion. This same book which bears the title 'Perils of the Last Times,' with the advice of Our Brethren and by Our Apostolic authority We reject and condemn for ever as wicked, iniquitous and execrable, and containing bad, false and nefarious sentiments. We strictly command all its possessors to burn it and procure its destruction within eight days from the issue of this Our condemnation. Against those who despise Our command We pronounce sentence of excommunication."
This condemnation does not appear to have produced the desired effect. The agitation against the Friars still continued. It was found necessary to counteract the pernicious influence of Amour's teaching by some more direct and forcible method, and to this end the Pope addressed [Footnote 11] the following letter 19 October, 1256, to King Louis and the French bishops:--

[Footnote 11: Ibid. No. 33.]

"Not without much bitterness of heart and trouble of mind, We have learnt that certain Masters and Doctors and others, 'sharpening their tongues like swords,' and 'bearing the poison of {27} asps in their lips,' for the defamation, vexation and destruction of the innocent, have wickedly poured it out in slander and injuries on our beloved sons, the Brothers of the Order of Preachers and Friars Minor. By lecturing and preaching and otherwise, they have dared to say that they were not in the way of salvation; that their Mendicancy was neither salutary or meritorious, since health permitting, and other reasonable hindrances ceasing, they should work with their hands and not depend for necessary help upon others. Furthermore, they have asserted that they may not preach nor hear confessions, even when authorized by the Pope or the bishop, lest they encroach upon the rights of the parish priests, and many other things false and reprehensible have they uttered against them. Now these same Orders for some time back have been approved by the Holy See as holy, renowned and illustrious. And some of the Brothers thereof, having reached their heavenly country, are inscribed in the catalogue of the Saints and shine like suns in the Church of God, whilst by their Brethren the light of holy doctrine is shed over the whole world, the Gospel of Christ is earnestly and efficaciously preached, and right and sound counsel and salutary example prevail. Furthermore, as the aforesaid Brothers are assiduously and continually engaged in the study of the Holy Scriptures and the Word of God, in saying the Divine Office and in prayer, they are by no means indulging in idleness, but exercising {28} themselves in the best and highest pursuit, for wisdom is the noblest attainment; nor do they do more who devote themselves to external labours, than those who are engaged in the study of divine things. Hence, the Lord, whilst Martha was busy working and ministering, commended principally the docility and devout attention of Mary to His word. From this it appears clearly that the Brothers are not bound to work with their hands. Nay more, were they to neglect spiritual things for manual labour they would be abandoning, not without detriment to their souls, the greater for the lesser, the necessary for the unnecessary. Moreover, these Brothers, having left all things for God, when they beg the bare necessaries of life, imitate the poor Christ and practise Evangelical Perfection. Hence, it clearly follows that they are in the way of salvation, and by the observance of their Rule merit eternal life. Furthermore, by commission or command of the Roman Pontiff or the Bishop of the Dioceses they may lawfully preach and hear confessions. Therefore, We strictly command all the Doctors or Masters who have dared to deny these things, publicly to retract and renounce the same and hold and proclaim the contrary. Should they refuse to do this they must be proceeded against by suspension, excommunication, and the perpetual deprivation of their benefices. Lay people transgressing in this matter are to be seriously reprimanded."
Some of the prominent adherents of William of St. Amour accepted the Papal condemnation in a submissive spirit and publicly retracted their false opinions, and promised on oath never more to maintain them. Amongst these were Christian of Beauvais and Odo of Douay. William himself was not so tractable. He had recourse to evasions and explanations, and endeavoured to show that his views were not really condemned. He continued to foster a spirit of hostility to the Mendicants amongst his partisans at Paris, and eventually he drew upon himself the sentence of perpetual banishment from France. Under pain of excommunication and forfeiture of all his benefices he was forbidden ever to return, and under like penalties he was prohibited to preach or teach. His friends at Paris did all in their power to procure his recall, but they were strenuously opposed by the Mendicants. Thus, the ill-feeling between the two parties was maintained, and it was only by the renewed intervention of the Pope and the employment by him of stringent measures against the secular professors that order was established and the Mendicants treated with justice and tolerance.
After ten years' exile Pope Clement permitted William to return to Paris. He had not abandoned his old opinions, and it needed a severe reprimand on the part of the Pope accompanied by a threat of further banishment to restrain him from again assailing the Mendicants. After his death, some {30} years later, the agitation against the Friars gradually died out, and they regained the esteem and confidence in which they had formerly been held.