Papal Simony

papacy

‘Simony’ (corruption and sale of ecclesiastical offices) and ‘nepotism’ (favouritism shown by the popes to their ‘nephews’) had long been in vogue but had increased greatly in the course of the preceding century. It was scarcely ever claimed any longer that any pope had been elected without simony; legation reports gave precise details of payments and promises of high honours made during the elections. The sales of ecclesiastical offices, of both high and medium rank, had become recognized practice; the cardinals themselves pressed the pope to resort to this well-tried means when money was short. A further well-known custom, and one that was bitterly contested, especially abroad, was ‘pluralism’ – the bestowal of three, four and up to as many as ten or fifteen high offices on a single favoured individual; it was forbidden under canon law but practised widely without compunction. In Luther’s day there was hardly a cardinal who did not enjoy the rich rewards of four of five highly lucrative offices, in many cases aboard; usage permitted these to be transferred to members of family, thus creating a further nepotism within the great nepotism of the popes. But the establishment of their nephews and cousins in high office by the popes, which had been going on for centuries, now developed on a really big scale; the papal families became great Italian landowners. Duchies and even kingdoms were demanded for the clan. These had to be wrested from someone and this necessitated wars and campaigns, which were waged with all the means of ‘ecclesiastical power’, including excommunication and interdict. Italy became a battlefield, above all when the foreign powers – France, Spain, Germany – were drawn in. Source: Luther by Richard Friedenthal

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One thought on “Papal Simony

  1. Pingback: Luther and Simony | The Antipas Chronicles

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