Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gregory VII and Libertas Ecclesiae

In light of the issues of the day, we can hardly let this Friday of Memorial Day weekend pass without acknowledging today's feast of Gregory VII, the great reformer of the medieval church who died on this date in 1085. Here is a short excerpt from a discussion of Gregory's legacy in Alasdair MacIntyre's Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (pp. 159-60):

Gregory's particular reforms were all aimed at enabling the concrete organizational forms of the church to express more adequately this universality and this sovereignty [of the church]. The widespread breakdown in maintaining priestly celibacy and in preventing simony, and the tendency of bishops to value the favors conferred by princes rather than the authority of the papacy, were all understood by Gregory as ways in which sex, money, and political power were used to subvert the independence, the libertas, of the church. So that in his identification of the points at which he found himself compelled to enter into political conflict, most notably with the Emperor Henry IV, what is always in question is a vindication of the ability of the church to determine its own structure in a way that conforms to the sovereignty of God.

Libertas, therefore, is a condition for iustitia, and when both political societies and the universal church are ordered in accordance with justice, the appropriate libertas of each will also have been achieved. In affirming the order of iustitiaagainst those ostensibly Christian secular rulers in the established powers of Europe, the Salian Reichand the France of the Capetian kings, whose aggrandizement violated that order, the second responsibility of Gregory VII's papacy was discharged. The order of iustitia is an order embodied in the universal church, an order in which each human being has his or her own allotted place and his or her own allotted duties. To occupy that place and to perform that function well is to be just. To refuse to occupy that place or to discharge its duties badly or to rebel against the order defining that place is to fail in respect of justice.


Moreland, Michael | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Gregory VII and Libertas Ecclesiae :


                                                        Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.