Chapter 8

Student: Although I would not doubt that none among mortals is superior to the supreme pontiff, I want to know all the same the manner in which opponents attempt to answer the arguments which demonstrate this.

Master: Not all who hold that the emperor is the pope's superior and his normal judge agree on how to formulate the point and therefore they do not reply to the aforewritten arguments in the same way.

Student: State those various formulations.

Master: There are some who say [John of Paris, ch. 13] that the pope is in no way subject to the emperor in spiritual affairs yet is subject to him as to temporal jurisdiction on the basis of Christ's dispensation, because, they say, Christ, as to temporal jurisdiction, did not exempt any apostle from the emperor's temporal jurisdiction, but wanted them all to be subordinated in such matters to secular rulers, indicating this [Matthew 17:23-26] by his own personal payment of tribute. Others however say [Marsilius, I.xv.4; II.viii.7-8; II.x.8] that the emperor, in so far as he represents the Christian people, is the pope's superior and his normal judge in all areas, spiritual as well as temporal.

Student: Move right through this discussion of the temporal jurisdiction of pope and emperor, for I shall raise a number of questions with you about the issue in the treatise Concerning the doctrines of John XXII.

Master: Perhaps you construe temporal jurisdiction differently from them.

Student: I understand temporal jurisdiction to mean what someone is subject to by reason of the estates which he holds from the emperor.

Master: These opponents interpret it differently.

Student: In what way ?

Master: They say [Marsilius, I.xvii] that temporal jurisdiction affects not only properties and wordly riches but also persons; for all persons who reside within the dominion of some ruler, whether they be rich or poor, are subject to the ruler's jurisdiction, so that if they break the law he has the duty to punish them with appropriate measures, unless they have been exempted by him or by some other superior.

Student: I see what they understand by temporal jurisdiction but am ignorant of what they refer to as spirituals. [See also 3.2 Dial. 2.4]

Master: They call spirituals those matters which are particular to the Christian religion, which are found in no other sect nor belong to the law of nature, such as what pertains to the administration of ecclesiastical sacraments and to final decisions about causes of faith , and what is associated with crimes that are committed directly against the Christian religion [John of Paris, ch. 12]. The emperor ought not to involve himself in such issues save to the extent that other Christians do. For a Christian emperor does not at all on the basis of his office enjoy greater power or jurisdiction than pagan emperors did. Christian emperors are their successors and thus are known on account of the empire to have a right identical to that of their predecessors and not some different right. Therefore since it in no way pertained to pagan emperors to involve themselves in spirituals of this kind, neither are such the concern of a Christian emperor in his capacity as emperor [ Ockham, De imperatorum et pontificum potestate, ch. 12].

Student: Therefore according to these opponents if a pope were to commit murder, theft, adultery and similar crimes, which pagan emperors and kings were wont to punish, the emperor would be in a position to punish him ?

Master: Many concede this [John of Paris, ch.13; Marsilius, II.viii.7-8], although some of them say that the emperor ought not to depose him unless the pope were proved to be incorrigible [John of Paris, ch. 13].

Student: Now I understand their point of view (though I would reckon it should be listed among the heresies) and propose to debate this opinion with you at length in the treatise Concerning the doctrines of John XXII. And now state the manner in which these opponents respond to the arguments and authorities in favour of the contrary assertion. Say nothing for the moment however about the second formulation.

Master: Their response to the first argument is to deny the minor which holds that by Christ's dispensation, and as to temporal jurisdiction, the emperor is inferior to the pope and subject to his jurisdiction. In matters of this kind, therefore, the pope is not the judge of the emperor; although he could possibly at some moment have been the judge of the emperor as a trustee or delegate of the Roman people.

Student: These words are astounding and unheard of, nor do I understand them; but make me understand them if you can, and then I shall appraise them with greater certainty.

Master: In order to understand these words you must realize that in the view of these opponents the emperor and any temporal king, even if he somehow holds his temporal jurisdiction by divine mediation (for according to the Apostle in Romans 13[:1] "there is no power but of God"), nevertheless holds his jurisdiction immediately from the people [ Marsilius, I.ix.2; I.xv.2]: the emperor from the Roman people, the king of France from his people, the king of Castile from his people; and thus every king has his jurisdiction from his people unless there is a king whose people is subject to someone else who has authority to give the people a king, as emperors once upon a time gave kings to various peoples because these peoples were subject to the emperor and to the Roman people. The emperor , therefore, obtained his jurisdiction from the Roman people; but the Roman people just as it had appointed the emperor could for reasonable cause have removed him from office [ Marsilius, I.xv.2; I.xviii], and diminished or increased his jurisdiction [ Marsilius, I.xii.3]. It follows from this that the Roman people for reasonable cause could have in some case subjected the emperor to the jurisdiction of another, to whom it would have committed this jurisdiction ; the Roman people could therefore have delegated the cause of the emperor to the pope, in which case the pope as delegate or trustee could have obtained jurisdiction over the emperor by authority of the Roman people. This jurisdiction blessed Peter did not receive from Christ, and thus the pope in no way possesses it in his capacity as the successor of blessed Peter.

Student: Now I understand the aforementioned words though I would believe them to be wrong. Proceed therefore with the opponents' responses to the arguments.

Master: Due to the variety of adversarial opinions it behooves me to express them before outlining how the arguments are explicitly dealt with.

Student: State the nature of these opinions.

Master: As we touched upon earlier there are some who say that the Roman pontiff has no more jurisdiction or authority by Christ's ordination than other priests of whatever category [Marsilius, II.xv; 1 Dial. 5.17], but that he received every single dignity of his and power beyond that of the other priests from the emperor [1 Dial. 5.18] or from the church [1 Dial. 5.15]or the general council [Marsilius, II.xxii; 1 Dial. 5.19]. Others say that blessed Peter did receive from Christ for himself and for his successors the papal dignity and primacy over all the other faithful; but, they say, this dignity and primacy only consists in the ordination and appointment of bishops, priests, and doctors for the Christian people, and has no annexed coercive jurisdiction from Christ's dispensation just as it has no annexed temporal possessions. But just as the papacy received temporal goods from the orthodox faithful so did it obtain coercive jurisdiction exclusively from this community. For every community may appoint someone over itself with power to coerce evil-doers; and for that purpose the church of the faithful appointed the pope over itself, while in no way diminishing the jurisdiction even of pagan emperors: it could in fact not do this given that at the time all catholics were subjected to unbelieving emperors.

Student: I should entirely like to move away from this material concerning the emperor's jurisdiction and defer it until another treatise, but you consistently pull towards it more and more. Hence, putting aside all these problems, give a brief account of the manner in which opponents respond to the authorities and arguments which have been put forward.

Master: There are some who give a single general response to all the authorities which claim that the pope has jurisdiction over emperor and kings, and that he is superior to them as to jurisdiction. They say that such authorities do not contain the truth and are therefore in no way admissible. Others however believe that the understanding of the holy fathers is consonant with the truth, but they say that many clerks, blinded by ambition and avarice, have interpreted their words too broadly and against the fathers' intended meaning.

Student: These are the people whose responses I want to hear.

Master: For the purpose of clarifying their responses they say that one must grasp the fact that penance is counted among the ecclesiastical sacraments and therefore pertains to prelates. Consequently it is their function to learn the sins of penitents in the forum of conscience {the confessional} and to impose upon them an appropriate penalty. And because of this power which priests are known to possess in the forum of conscience all Christians are subject to them; while outside of the forum of conscience priests have no jurisdiction from Christ immediately, but they obtain it from the community of believers or from the one to whom the community of believers has transferred its power.