Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Struggles on the Inside, Troubles on the Outside

Written by Rev. C.A. Schouls
This heading aptly describes the condition of the Church between 843 and 1244. Sometimes troubles on the outside were sought to relieve tension inside. We look at three aspects: Corruption, Conflict and Crusades.
Corruption
With the division of the empire between the descendants of Charlemagne (843) a period of decline set in. Charles II reigned only a few years; his sons, Charles III (ÒThe FatÓ), Louis the Pious and Lothair were not strong rulers. Charles the Fat and Louis the Pious could not keep their hands off the central strip running from Holland to Italy--it was a very unnatural division! When Charles the Fat died in 876, the line of Charlemagne really came to an end. With the decline of the Carolingian House, the fortunes of the papacy also went down. Remember, all this is in the setting of ÒWho is in control--the king or the pope?Ó

In this period, popes followed each other quickly. It is a dark page in the history of the papacy--even Rome admits this. Popes were deposed, murdered and replaced by their murderers and imprisoned. Towards the close of the 900's (exactly 1,000 years ago) the situation was so bad that many of the common people expected Christ to return on January 1, 1,000. They had taken the notion of the Millennium (1,000-year reign) literally. Pope John XII was a monster of iniquity. Pope at age 18, he turned the Vatican into a Òhouse of ill repute.Ó When he was condemned by a Synod, he threatened to excommunicate them all. Boniface VII is described as Òa papal monster who in his abject depravity exceeds all mortals.Ó He had personally strangled his predecessor. Benedict IX, pope at age 12 (!) was Òguilty of gross disorders of conduct, and was driven out of Rome by the local population more than once because of his disorderly conduct.Ó There were 21 popes in 65 years!

Despite all this, the boundaries of Christendom extended greatly during this period. Hamburg, in northern Germany, saw an archbishopric established; Bohemia and Moravia were Christianized as were Norway which sent missionaries to Iceland. Leif the Lucky brought the faith to Greenland; King Olaf I established it in Sweden and Canute the Great did the same in Denmark while Stephen I (ÒSt. StephenÓ) did it in Hungary. Russia was won by Eastern Orthodox missionaries and the Slavs as one body embraced that faith when their king Vladimir was baptized.

Conflict
In 1073 Hildebrand, son of an Italian carpenter, took the papal throne with the name of Gregory VII. He was one of the greatest popes ever. With reforms he tried to clean up many of the abuses. He tried to gain control over church and state and to do this he did three things: 1. Abolish Òsimony;Ó 2. Establish celibacy and 3. Settle the question of ÒinvestitureÓ. Simony (after Simon the Magician, Acts 8) is the buying and selling of church offices (positions).

Investiture - Kings felt they had the right to appoint (invest) bishops. The bishops controlled half of the land in France and Germany and the kings needed the right to tax these lands and to raise armies from their people. They appointed bishops who would be willing to help them in these things. Gregory said that any lay person who appoints to office, and the one who accepts such appointment, is guilty of sin. A conflict developed with Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. Five of Henry's councillors had been placed under the ban (excommunicated) for simony. Henry and the Pope both had a candidate for a certain office. Henry disregarded the pope's orders. The pope summoned Henry to appear before him in Rome. In the year 1076 Henry called a council at Worms, in Germany (the same place where less than 500 years later another German took his stand against the pope) which rejected papal authority. Henry was excommunicated and his subjects told they no longer owed him allegiance. If they disobeyed, the whole land would be under the ban, meaning all churches would be closed.

Today, it is hard to realize what impact this would have upon an entire nation: in addition to not having your daily sins forgiven, there would be no baptisms, no weddings, no ÒChristianÓ burials which meant no access to heaven. The German nobles forced Henry to reconcile. There was much pressure; his kingdom was about to split. Finally, Henry appeared at the Pope's castle in the snowy Alps, in mid winter. The Pope left him standing in the snow filled courtyard for three days; then he finally accepted the apology and lifted the excommunication. How sincere was Henry? Seven years later he invaded Rome with an army, drove this pope, Hildebrand or Gregory VII, into exile where he died in 1085.

The quarrel was continued until an agreement was drawn up at Worms according to which the emperor consented to the church to permit it to elect bishops and abbots and invest them with spiritual power. It settled the issue for a while. During this time, Henry was excommunicated once again. He died in 1106, after having been dethroned by his son.

Crusades
All during this time the Turks had raided various Mediterranean coastal areas. The forces of Islam, the religion founded by Mohammed in the seventh century, had subdued all of the Middle East. Sweeping across the northern coasts of the African continent, they had penetrated even into Spain. The Turkish Empire, militantly Islam, had emerged as the dominant power in this area. Now, in Jerusalem, they are in control and pilgrims are no longer able to visit the shrines without danger and trouble. All of Europe is in an uproar. Gregory would have raised an army but was too busy with the Henry affair.

Peter the Hermit, who had been literally roughed up in Palestine by the Turks, with permission of the new pope, Urban II, preached a ÒcrusadeÓ (a war on behalf of the Cross). Support for his wild plan to raise an army to throw out the ÒinfidelsÓ and liberate the holy places came from all over western Europe. Pope Urban also stirred up the church to this end, figuring that if they are fighting the Turks they cannot fight each other or him. Priests preached and urged people to go, telling them that if they died on a crusade, their sins would be forgiven. People couldn't lose!

The crusade movement lasted for 200 years at an estimated cost of 5 million lives! Some of the major crusades were:

First Crusade - An untrained rabble of whom many died en route. Peter led one group. The Turks killed many at Nicea. Other groups followed, led by Godfrey, Duke of Bouillon. They took Nicea, Antioch and finally, Jerusalem in July of 1099. This last capture was with a great slaughter of Turks. Men, women and children were indiscriminately put to death. These ÒChristiansÓ held Jerusalem for 50 years.

Second Crusade: 114 - Led by the king of France and the emperor of Germany and preached by the famous Bernard of Clairveaux. It met with several defeats along the way, especially at Damascus. This encouraged the Turks, who retook Jerusalem in 118 7.

Third Crusade: As a result of the recapture of Jerusalem, there is great consternation throughout Europe. Another crusade is organized, led by three kings: Frederick Barbarossa (ÒRed Beard) of Germany, Philip Augustus of France and Richard the Lion Hearted of England. Frederick drowned in a creek in Turkey. The other two went by sea and landed on the coast of Palestine. Armies were struck by disease; the leaders quarrelled, Philip went home in disappointment and disgust. Richard got as far as Emmaus, within sight of Jerusalem, but saw he could not take it. He made a deal with Saladin, the Turkish ruler: the pilgrims were not to be molested or taxed. Richard then shipped home (to be succeeded by his brother John of Magna Carta fame--the Ògreat charterÓ he was forced to sign by his nobles, meeting at the meadow called Runnymede in 1215, which is really the start of parliamentary government).

ÒChildren's CrusadeÓ - Two children, Stephen in France and Nicholas in Germany, claimed to have had visions that, where the armies of Europe had failed, the Holy Land could be taken by children. Stephen said the sea would open up for them and they could just walk in. Thousands of children, average age 12, from Germany and France, went on the march (often singing ÒFairest Lord JesusÓ). Many died crossing the Alps. When the sea did not divide, many returned home. Five thousand went by seven merchant ships--two sank with all hands; the other five were captured and the children sold into Moslem slavery.

Sixth Crusade Ð Led by the pious French king ÒSt. Louis.Ó It failed. Louis was captured by the sultan of Egypt and had to buy his freedom.

Seventh Crusade - Edward I of England joined Louis. Louis died along the way; Edward returned home.

Although there continued to be a small Christian presence of some sort in Palestine, control remained in the hands of the Islamic peoples for centuries. The great Ottoman Turk Empire was the last to wield this control until the British defeated them in 1917. After World War I, Palestine was made a British ÒmandateÓ which it remained until the modern state of Israel was founded in 1948.

The Kingdom of Christ is not of this world! This has been a hard lesson for the Church to learn!

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