The Papal Reformation had altered forever the character of the West.
The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation, by John Strickland
This reformation occurred during the second half of the eleventh century, spanning the time from the election of Pope Leo IX to the death of Pope Gregory VII. One must keep in mind the chaos that was Europe and the papacy in the century preceding this: the case of Emperor Otto III at the end of the tenth century; invasions by Vikings, Magyars, Saracens; the Cadaver Synod at the end of the ninth century.
Europe was a mess, the papacy corrupt, the Church corrupted by the nobles. These realities cannot be discounted when considering Strickland’s views on the downsides to Christendom brought on by such reforms.
A sampling of the reforms, per Strickland: kings ordered to defend the papacy (yet, to what extent could a pope “order” a king, when the king had the military might); soldiers mobilized to extend the reach of the Latin Church; universities founded; and, inquisitions were held. A mixed bag here, at least how I see it – like many human endeavors even those led by men of goodwill.
In this mix, the Great Schism. Whereas Christendom (East and West) had grown by humility and repentance and revealed the presence of paradise in this world, in the West paradise and this world were now split in two.
And, on this, I must again refer to a couple of thoughts: the intrigue in the Byzantine court can easily match anything that occurred in the West – either by the papacy or in the position of the western emperor. Further, the East had lost significant territory and significant numbers of the faithful to Muslim military advances, while the West turned the tide and stopped these Muslim advances both in France (eventually driving Muslims out of Spain) and in southeastern Europe; how to balance humility and also be prepared to defend one’s own has been and remains a difficult issue for Christians and Christendom.
Returning to Strickland: in the West, Christianity transformed to an instrument for engineering a new order:
This was not, to be sure, a secular utopia. As we shall see, the kingdom of heaven remained its standard of cultural integrity. But with its instrumental approach to Christianity, it set the West on a course toward modernity.
How did it set the West on this course? Strickland explains that these changes would subvert the idea of heavenly immanence. God was no longer working directly in the Church – “Church” being understood as the entire body of believers. Instead, given the two cities (man and God) and the two classes – cloister and castle – the West attempted to limit God to work only through the Church as the institution.
An ecclesiological culture thus arose in which heavenly immanence was no longer intrinsic to the divine-human body of Christ. It was now extrinsically mediated through the clerical – that is human – establishment.
Which, it seems, is one of the things that the Protestant Reformation would come to address. And I don’t mean to comment on the theological viewpoints, only to try and draw out how such events have impacted later – sometimes centuries later – events.
Strickland returns to the Eastern (and before the eleventh century, Christendom’s) idea of Symphony, described as assigning to “Christian rulers the responsibility of working in harmony with bishops for the good of the Church.”
But it could be violated if the ruler placed earthly priorities before those of the Church.
And, if so, who or what would place a check on the ruler?