This discourse certainly did honor to the good sense of France.
Today’s installment concludes Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges,
the name of our combined selection from W. Henley Jervis and René F. Rohrbacher. The concluding installment is by René F. Rohrbacher from Histoire Universelle de l’Église Catholique published in 1853. The combined selection is serialized in five installments for daily reading. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages
Previously in Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.
[King Charles VII of France continuing his address to the Pope – jl]
These considerations, most holy Father, have touched the most Christian King; and to mitigate these two extremes, he has resolved to solicit the convocation of a general council. That of Basel pushed the second extreme too far when it undertook to suppress the truth as to the supreme power in one alone. That of Florence, which you are now holding, has well elucidated this truth, as may be seen in the decree concerning the Greeks; but it has determined upon nothing to temper the use of this power. This has caused many to believe it too near to the first extremity. A third will be able, therefore, to take the just mean and restore everything to order.
“I shall be told, no doubt, that there is no more need of general councils; that there have been enough of them up to this time; that the Roman Church suffices to terminate all controversies; that a prince does not willingly entrust his rights to the multitude; that we would be again exposed, by the convocation of another council, to the movements which agitated the assembly at Basel; but, in order to answer that, it is sufficient to cast our eyes upon the present state of the Church. There should rest in you, most holy Father, and in all other prelates, two kinds of authority; one of divine power and institution, the other of confidence in the people and of good reputation. The first, although it cannot fail you, has, however, to be amenable to the second, and you will obtain this by means of a general council, not such a one as that of Basel, but such as the most Christian King asks; that is to say, a council which shall be held at your order, and which shall be regulated according to the decrees of the holy fathers. Such an assembly will not be a confused multitude; and your monarchical power, which comes from heaven, which is attested by the Gospel, which is recognized by the saints and by the universal Church, will not be exposed to any danger.”
The orator then shows how dangerous it is to refuse the convocation of this council, dwelling long upon the enterprises of the prelates of Basel, whom he emphatically blames, even to the extent of saying that, from their practice and their maxims, there is no more peace possible in the Church, and that a great many are asking if this schism be not that great apostasy of which St. Paul spoke to the Thessalonians, and which should open the door to the Antichrist. He finishes the address by this declaration:
I have desired to say all this in public, most holy Father, in order to make known to you the upright intentions of the King my master in the present affair. He does not attach himself to flesh and blood, but he hears the voice of the celestial Father. From this source he learns to recognize you and to revere you as the sovereign pontiff and the head of all Christians, the vicar of Jesus Christ, conformably with the doctrine of the saints and of the whole Church. And because he sees that these truths are obscured to-day, he asks for the call of the general council. In this he equally manifests his justice and his piety.
“As for your person, most holy Father, he has sentiments for you which pass the limits of ordinary filial affection. He always speaks of you with consideration. He does not like to have others speak otherwise. He conceives the most favorable hopes of you. He counts upon it that, after having reconciled all the orientals to the Roman Church, you will also reestablish the affairs of the Occident.”
This discourse certainly did honor to the good sense of France. In spite of the intrigues of the learned doctors of the university, the King and the episcopacy early and clearly remarked the revolutionary and anarchistic tendency of Basel. As for the amicably regulating relation of the churches of France with the holy see to remedy certain abuses, the thing was not difficult. It would have been sufficient to send some more bishops to Florence like the Bishop of Meaux. All would have been very quickly arranged, to the satisfaction of everybody, and the example of France would have drawn the rest of the Occident. But to desire a third council was not of the same wisdom. Thus the Pope took good care not to consent to it.
In 1444 Eugenius IV created the Dauphin of France, who was afterward King Louis XI, grand gonfalonier of the Roman Church, granting him a pension of fifteen thousand florins, to be taken annually from the apostolic chamber. The Dauphin made an expedition to the gates of Basel, where he overcame a corps of Swiss and spread consternation among those who were still at the pretended council. This expedition was followed by a long truce between France and England; an event which was considered as the prelude to a good peace. In order to obtain from God this good, so necessary and so much desired, there were public fetes at Paris, among others a solemn procession in which were carried all the holy relics of the city.
In November, 1446, King Charles VII, being at Tours, made with his council a plan of accommodation between the two parties that divided the Church. It arranged that all the censures published on one side and the other should be revoked; that Pope Eugenius should be recognized by all as before the schism; that Monsieur de Savoie, called Felix by his adherents, should renounce the popedom; that he should hold the highest rank in the Church, next to the person of the Pope, and that his partisans should be also maintained in their dignities, grades, and benefices.
[The offer was rejected. The Reformation was less than a century away. – jl]
This ends our selections on Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- A History of the Church of France from the Concordat of Bologna to the Revolution by W. Henley Jervis published in 1872.
- Histoire Universelle de l’Église Catholique by René F. Rohrbacher published in 1853.
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