DECREE above), which is given in
See also:Law to those letters of the
See also:pope which formulate decisions in ecclesiastical law; they are generally given in answer to consultations, but are sometimes due to the initiative of the popes . These furnish, with the canons of the
See also:councils, the chief source of the legislation of the
See also:church, and
See also:form the greater
See also:part of the Corpus
See also:Juris . In this connexion they are dealt with in the article on Canon Law (q.v.) . The False
See also:Decretals . A
See also:interest, however, attaches to the celebrated collection known by this name . This collection, indeed, comprises at least as many canons of councils as decretals, and the decretals contained in it are not all forgeries . It is an amplification and
See also:interpolation, by means of
See also:spurious decretals, of the canonical collection in use in the Church of Spain in the 8th century, all the documents in which are perfectly authentic . 1 Distinguish " coy," affectedly shy or modest, from O . Fr.
See also:Lat. quietus, quiet . With these amplifications, the collection
See also:dates from the
See also:middle of the 9th century . We shall give a brief account of its contents, its
See also:history and its influence on canon law . The author assumes the name of Isidore, evidently the arch-
See also:bishop of Seville, who was credited with a preponderating part in the compilation of the Hispana; he takes in addition the surname of Mercator, perhaps because he has made use of two passages of
See also:Marius Mercator .
See also:custom of alluding to the author of the collection under the name of the pseudo-Isidore . The collection itself is divided into three parts . The first, which is entirely spurious, contains, after the preface and various
See also:introductory sections, seventy letters attributed to the popes of the first three centuries, up to the council of Nicaea, i.e. up to but not including St
See also:Silvester; all these letters are a fabrication of the pseudo-Isidore, except two spurious letters of
See also:Clement, which were already known . The second part is the collection of councils, classified according to their regions, as it figures in the Hispana; the few spurious pieces which are added, and notably the famous Donation of
See also:Constantine, were already in existence . In the third part the author continues the series of decretals which he had interrupted at the council of Nicaea . But as the collection of authentic decretals does not begin till
See also:Siricius (385), the pseudo-Isidore first forges
See also:thirty letters, which he attributes to the popes from Silvester to
See also:Damasus; after this he includes the authentic decretals, with the intermixture of thirty-five apocryphal ones, generally given under the name of those popes who were not represented in the authentic collection, but some-times also under the names of the others, for example, Damasus, St
See also:Vigilius and St
See also:Gregory; with one or two exceptions he does not interpolate genuine decretals . The series stops at St Gregory the
See also:Great (d . 604), except for one
See also:letter of Gregory II . (715—731) . The forged letters are not, for the most part, entirely composed of fresh material; the author draws his inspiration from the notices on each of the popes given in the
See also:Liber Pontificalis; he inserts whole passages from ecclesiastical writers; and he antedates the evidences of a discipline which actually existed; so it is by no means all invented . Thus the authentic elements were calculated to serve as a
See also:passport for the forgeries, which were, moreover, quite skilfully composed . In fact, the collection thus blended was passed from
See also:hand to hand without
See also:meeting with any opposition .
At most all that was asked was whether those decretals which did not appear in the Liber canonum (the collection ofDionysius Exiguus, accepted in France) had the force of law, but Pope
See also:Nicholas having answered that all the pontifical letters had the same authority (see Decr . Gra . Dist. xix. c . 1), they were henceforward accepted, and passed in turn into the later canonical collections . No doubts found an expression until the 15th century, when
See also:Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (d . 1464) and Juan Torquemada (d . 1468) freely expressed their suspicions . More than one
See also:scholar of the 16th century,
See also:George Cassander,
See also:Erasmus, and the two editors of the Decretum of
See also:Gratian, Dumoulin (d . 1568) and Le
See also:Conte (d . 1577), decisively ,rejected the False Decretals . This contention was again upheld, in the form of a violent polemic against the papacy, by the Centuriators of
See also:Magdeburg (Ecdesiastica historia,
See also:Basel, 1559—1574); the attempt at rehitation by the Jesuit Torres (Adversus Centur . Magdeburg. libri quinque, Florence, 1572) provoked a violent rejoinder from the
See also:David Blondel (Pseudo-Isidorus et Turrianus rapulantes,
See also:Geneva, 1620) .
Since then, the conclusion has been accepted, and all researches have been of an almost exclusively
See also:historical character . One by one the details are being precisely determined, and the question may now almost be said to be settled . In the first place, an exact determination of the date. of the collection has been arrived at . On the one hand, it cannot go Date. back further than 847, the date of the False Capitularies, with which the author of the False Decretals was acquainted.' On the other hand, in a letter of Lupus,
See also:abbot of ' The False Capitularies are for
See also:civil legislation what the False Decretals are for ecclesiastical legislation: three books of Capitularies of the Frankish
See also:kings, more of which are spurious than authen- Ferrieres, written in 858, and in the synodical letter of the council of
See also:Quierzy in 857 are to be found quotations which are certainly from these false decretals; and further, an undoubted allusion in the statutes given by
See also:Hincmar to his
See also:diocese on the 1st of
See also:November 852 . The composition of the collection must then be dated approximately at 85o . The
See also:object which the forger had in view is clearly stated in his preface; the reform of the canon law, or rather its better application . But, again, in what particular respects Aim of the he wishes it to be reformed can be best deduced from authpr . certain preponderant ideas which make themselves
See also:felt in the apocryphal documents . He constantly harps upon accusations brought against bishops and the way they were judged; his wish is to prevent them from being unjustly accused, deposed or deprived of their
See also:sees; to this end he multiplies the safeguards of procedure, and secures the right of
See also:appeal to the pope and the possibility of restoring bishops to their sees . His object, too, was to protect the
See also:property, as well as the persons, of the
See also:clergy against the encroachments of the temporal power . In the second place, Isidore wishes to increase the strength and cohesion of the. churches; he tries to give absolute stability to the diocese and the ecclesiastical province; he reinforces the rights of the bishop and his comprovincials, while he initiates a determined
See also:campaign against the chorepiscopi; finally, as the
See also:keystone of the arch he places the papacy . These aims are most laudable, and in no way subversive; but the author must have had some particular reasons for emphasizing these questions rather than others; and the examination of these reasons may help us to determine the
See also:nationality of this collection .
The name of Isidore usurped by the author at first led to the supposition that the False Decretals originated in Spain; thisopinion no longer meets with any support; it is enough Nation-to point out that there is no
See also:manuscript of the nifty of collection, at least until the 13th century . In the 16th the
See also:coke" century the Protestants, who wished to represent the tion. forgeries in the
See also:light of an attempt in favour of the papacy, ascribed the origin of the False Decretals to Rome, but neither the manuscript tradition nor the facts confirm this view, which is nowadays entirely abandoned . Everybody is agreed in placing the origin of the False Decretals within the Frankish
See also:empire . Within these limits, three different theories have successively arisen: "At first it was thought that Isidore's domicile could be fixed in the province of
See also:Mainz, it is now about fifty years ago that the
See also:balance of opinion was turned in favour of the province of Reims; and now, after the lapse of about twenty years, several authors have suggested the province of
See also:Tours " (P . Fournier, Etude sur
See also:les Fausses Decretales) . In favour of Mainz, especial stress was laid on the fact that it was the
See also:country of
See also:Benedictus Levita, the compiler of the False Capitularies, to which the False Decretals are closely related . But Benedict, the deacon of Otgar of Mainz, is as much of a hypothetical personage as Isidorus Mercator; moreover, in the middle of the 9th century the
See also:condition of the province of Mainz was not disturbed, nor were the chorepiscopi menaced . In favour of Reims, it has been pointed out that it was there that the first judicial use of the False Decretals is recorded, , in the trials of Rothad, bishop of
See also:Soissons (d . 869), and of Hincmar the younger; bishop of Latin (d. c . 882); and an application of the
See also:axiom has been attempted: Is fecit cui prodest . But both these trials took place later than 852, at which date the existence of the collection is an established fact; the texts of it were used, but they were in existence before . Between 847 and 852, the province of Reims was disturbed by another affair, that of the clergy ordained by Ebbo at the
See also:time of his
See also:short restoration to the see of Reims, in 840—841; these clerics, Vulfadus (afterwards archbishop of
See also:Bourges), and a few others, had been suspended by Hincmar on his election in 845 .
But the affair of Ebbo's clergy did not becomecritical till the council of Soissons in 853; up till then these clergy had, so far
See also:tic . The author gives himself out as a certain Benedict, a deacon of the church of Mainz; hence the name by which he is usually known, Benedictus Levita . The two false collections are closely akin, and are doubtless the fabrication of the same hands . as we know, produced no documents, and the citations from the False Decretals made in their later writings do not prove that they had forged them . Moreover, Hincmar would not have cited the forged letters of the popes in 852; above all, this theory would not explain the chief preoccupation of the forger, which is to protect bishops against unjust judgments and depositions . We must, then, look for conditions in which the bishops were concerned . It is precisely this which has suggested the province of Tours .
See also:Brittany, which was dependent on the province of Tours, had just for a time recovered its independence, thanks to its duke Nominoe . The struggle between the two nationalities, the Celt and the
See also:Frank, found a reflexion in the sphere of religion . The Breton bishops were for the most part abbots of monasteries, who had but little
See also:consideration for the territorial limits of the civitates; and many of the religious usages of the Bretons differed profoundly from those of the Franks . Charlemagne had divided up the Breton dioceses and established in them Frankish bishops . Nominoe hastened to depose the four Frankish bishops, after wringing from them by force confessions of
See also:simony; he then established a metropolitan see at
See also:Dol .
Hence arose incessant complaints on the part of the dispossessed bishops, of the metropolitan of Tours, and his suffragans, notably those of
See also:Angers and Le Mans, which were more exposed than the others to the incursions of the Bretons; and this gave rise to numerous papal letters, and all this throughout a
See also:period of thirty years . There were
See also:requests that the bishops should be judged according to the rules, protests against the interlopers, demands for the restoration of the bishops to their sees . These circumstances fall in perfectly with the questions about which, as we have pointed out, the pseudo-Isidore was mainly concerned : the
See also:judgment of bishops, and the stability of the ecclesiastical organizations . In the province of Tours, attempts have been made to define more clearly the centre of the forgeries, and the most
See also:recent authorities
See also:fix upon Le Mans . The
See also:argument, though a very weighty one, is found in the undeniable relation, revealed in an astonishing similarity both in expressions and composition, which exists between these forgeries and some other documents certainly fabricated at Le Mans, under the episcopate of Aldric (832-856), notably the Actus Pontificum Cenomanis in urbe degentium, in which there is no lack of forged documents . These certainly bear the mark of the same hand . Though we cannot admit that the False Decretals were com- posed in
See also:order to enforce the rights of the papacy, we may at least consider whether the popes did not make use of the False Decretals to support their rights . It is certain that in 864 Rothad of Soissons took with him to Rome, if not the collection, at least important extracts from the pseudo-Isidore; M . Fournier has pointed out in the letters of the pope of that time, " a
See also:literary influence, which is shown in the choice of expressions and metaphors," not- ably in those passages
See also:relating to the restitutio spolii; but he concludes by affirming that the ideas and acts of Nicholas were not modified by the new collection: even before 864 he acted in affairs concerning bishops, e.g. in the case of the Breton bishops or the adversaries of Photius,
See also:patriarch of Constantinople, exactly as he acted later; all that can be said is that the False Decretals, though not expressly cited by the pope, " led him to accentuate still further the arguments which he drew from the decrees of his predecessors," notably with regard to • the exceptio - spolii . In the papal letters of the end of the 9th and the whole of the loth century, only two or three insignificant citations of the pseudo-Isidore have been pointed out; the use of the pseudo-Isidorian forged documents did not become prevalent at Rome till about the middle of the 11th century, in consequence of the circulation of the canonical collections in which they figured; but nobody then thought of casting any doubts on the authenticity of those documents . One thing only is established, and this may be said to have been the real effect of the False Decretals, namely, the powerful impulse which they gave in the Frankish territories to the move- ment towards centralization
See also:round the see of Rome, and the legal obstacles which they opposed to unjust proceedings against the bishops .
DECREE (from the past participle, decretus, of Lat....
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