Temporal power

Temporal power

The temporal power of the Popes is the political and governmental activity of the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church, as distinguished from their spiritual and pastoral activity, which is also called "eternal power", to contrast it with the Church's "secular power".

For centuries, its secular activities brought the Papal States into a status as a country bearing some relation with other countries of the world. [ Some authorsFact|date=April 2007 define it as a theocracy, but this indication is often contested with a regular standing army and an active international political life.] Some historians identify the crowning of Charlemagne in 800 as the moment in which the Church started having an international importance in a modern sense, although the temporal power can be traced to the earlier Donation of Pepin in 756. In his "Pastoral Care", Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604) had discussed the extensive range of duties that bishops owed their flock as "huius saeculi potentes", "the powers of these ages"; hence some historians prefer to see the origins of secular powers in the age of the Byzantine suzerainty over the bishop of Rome. Yet "Justinian I succeeded in imposing his ecclesiastical policies on the papacy and Pope Gregory the Great maintained an attitude of political loyalty to the empire." [T. S. Brown, "The Church of Ravenna and the Imperial Administration in the Seventh Century" "The English Historical Review" 94, No. 370 (January 1979, pp. 1-28) p. 1 ]

Charlemagne's crowning, however, was perhaps the first moment in which the Church was generally granted a power of control of the imperial dignity, thus demonstrating a sort of power of international veto. Subsequently, the Donation of Constantine was forged to provide a legal basis for the temporal power.

The temporal power has often been discussed in politics, in philosophy and in theology, mainly given that its practical effects were often very far from the official religious doctrine. The same story with the inquisition, quite commonly considered as a mere instrument of the temporal power (therefore with no accepted religious meaning); it is perhaps the moment of the greatest distance between the Gospel and the Roman curia. The common reply to critics usually considers that the final goal of spreading the Good News (working for the diffusion of the Catholic faith), was so important that some "unavoidable" passages had to be crossed, practising at times some of Machiavelli's political lessons.

The temporal power was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte, who dissolved the Papal States and incorporated Rome and Latium into his French Empire. The temporal power was restored by the Great Powers at the 1815 Congress of Vienna. The Napoleonic civil laws were abolished, and most civil servants were removed from office. Popular opposition to the reconstituted corrupt clerical government led to numerous revolts, which were suppressed by the intervention of the Austrian army.

G. S. Godkin wrote the following about Leo XII, who succeeded Pius VII in 1823.

:"He was a ferocious fanatic, whose object was to destroy all the improvements of modern times, and force society back to the government, customs, and ideas of mediaeval days. In his insensate rage against progress he stopped vaccination; consequently, small-pox devastated the Roman provinces during his reign, along with many other curses which his brutal ignorance brought upon the inhabitants of those beautiful and fertile regions. He curtailed the old privileges of the municipalities, granted new privileges to the religious communities, and enlarged the power of the clergy to the extent that bishops and cardinals had the power of life and death in their hands. He set the Inquisition to work with new vigour; and though torture had been nominally abolished in 1815, new kinds of torment were invented, quite as effectual as the cord, the thumbscrew, and the rack of old times. He renewed the persecution of the Jews; drove them back into the Ghetto from whence they had begun to emerge, rebuilt its walls, and had them locked in at night; and issued an edict ordering all Israelites to sell their goods within a given time on pain of confiscation." [G. S. Godkin, "Life of Victor Emmanuel II," Macmillan, (1880), pp. xiii-xiv]

When Pius IX was elected pope in 1846, one of his first acts was to grant an amnesty to more than 2,000 political prisoners. In November 1848, following the assassination of his minister Pellegrino Rossi, Pius IX fled Rome. During a political rally in February 1849, a young Roman priest, the Abbé Arduini, described the temporal power of the popes as a "historical lie, a political imposture, and a religious immorality." [Jasper Ridley, "Garibaldi", p. 268] . On 9 February 1849, the newly-elected Roman Assembly proclaimed the Roman Republic (19th century). Subsequently, the Constitution of the Roman Republic [ [http://www.domusmazziniana.it/materiali/costirep.htm Constituzione] ] abolished the temporal power, although the independence of the pope as head of the Catholic Church was guaranteed by article 8 of the "Principi fondamentali." Religious freedom was guaranteed by article 7, while the death penalty was abolished by article 5, and free public education was provided by article 8 of the "Titolo I".

At the end of June 1849, the Roman Republic was crushed by 40,000 French troops sent by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III), at the urging of the rabid ultramontane French clerical party. The temporal power was restored and propped up by a French garrison.

For practical purposes, the temporal power of the popes ended on 20 September 1870, when the Italian Army breached the Aurelian Walls at Porta Pia and entered Rome. This completed the Risorgimento.

On 20 September 2000, there was an item in the Catholic publication "Avvenire," which stated:quotation|che nel 1970, proprio il 20 settembre, Paolo VI inviò a Porta Pia il cardinale vicario, Angelo Dell'Acqua, a celebrare il significato "provvidenziale" di quella perdita del potere temporale. Da allora, almeno da allora, è anche festa cattolica, Porta Pia! (that in 1970, precisely on 20 September 1970, Pope Paul VI sent Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua, his vicar for Rome, to Porta Pia to celebrate the "providential" significance of the loss of the temporal power. Since then, at least since then, Porta Pia has also been a Catholic celebration!)

Formally, the temporal power ended in 1929 with the treaty between the Vatican State and Italy (Concordat), when the papacy accepted to have no more interests on Italy, its closest neighbour, and therefore on any other country. Of course, the influence of the Vatican still is relevant and evident, even now, and is mostly considered as a spiritual voice.

Some small degree of temporal power persists in the formal government of the Vatican City as an independent state.


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