The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges embraces twenty-three articles.
Continuing Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges,
with a selection from A History of the Church of France from the Concordat of Bologna to the Revolution by W. Henley Jervis published in 1872. This selection is presented in 2.5 easy five minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages
Previously in Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.
The position, however, though logically open to objections, was not without its practical advantages. For, since France maintained a good understanding with both the contending parties, both found it conducive to their interests to send deputations to the Council of Bourges: Pope Eugenius, with a view to obtain its support for the rival council which he had opened at Ferrara; the Fathers of Basel, in order to make known their decrees, which, as agreeing with the received doctrine of Gallican theologians, would, it was hoped, meet with a cordial welcome throughout France. The assembly at Bourges did not fail to profit by these exceptional circumstances. It accepted the decrees of Basel, yet not absolutely, but after critical examination and with certain modification; a course which, by implication, asserted a right to legislate for the concerns of the French Church even independently of a general council acknowledged to be orthodox. The following explanation of this proceeding was inserted in the preamble of the celebrated statute agreed upon by the authorities at Bourges. It is there stated that this policy was adopted, “not from any hesitation as to the authority of the Council of Basel to enact ecclesiastical decrees, but because it was judged advisable, under the circumstances and requirements of the French realm and nation.” So that it appears, on the whole, that while the French professed great zeal on this occasion for the dogma of the superiority of a general council over the pope, the principle practically illustrated at Bourges was that of a supremacy of a national council over every other ecclesiastical authority. Such were the anomalies which arose out of the strange necessities of the time.
The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges embraces twenty-three articles. The first treats of the authority of general councils, and of the time and manner of convening and celebrating them. The second relates to ecclesiastical elections, which are enjoined to be made hereafter in strict accordance with the canons, by the cathedral, collegiate, and conventual chapters. Reserves, annates, and “expective graces” are abolished; the rights of patrons are to be respected, provided their nominees be graduates of the universities and otherwise well qualified. The pope retains only a veto in case of unfitness or uncanonical election, and the nominations to benefices “in curia vacantia,” i.e., of which the incumbents may happen to die at Rome or within two days’ journey of the pontifical residence. The king and other princes may occasionally recommend or request the promotion of persons of special merit, but without threats or violent pressure of any kind.
Other articles regulate the order of ecclesiastical appeals, which, with the exception of the “causa majores” specified by law, and those relating to the elections in cathedral and conventual churches, are henceforth to be decided on the spot by the ordinary judges; appeals are to be carried in all cases to the court immediately superior; no case to be referred to the pope “omisso medio,” i.e., without passing through the intermediate tribunals. The remaining clauses consist of regulations for the performance of divine service, and various matters of discipline. The reader will remember that Pope Eugenius, on the occasion of his temporary reconciliation with the Council of Basel in 1433, expressed his approbation of all its synodal acts up to that date; and this sanction of their validity is held by Gallicans to extend to the period of the second and final rupture in 1437. It follows that the provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, so far as they coincide with the decrees of Basel prior to 1437, were authorized by the holy see; and this includes them all, with two exceptions.
The Pragmatic Sanction was registered by the Parliament of Paris on July 13, 1439; becoming thereby part of the statute law of France. Its publication caused universal satisfaction throughout the kingdom. At Rome, on the other hand, it was indignantly censured and resolutely opposed. Eugenius IV vainly strove to obtain the King’s consent to an alteration of some of its details. Nicholas V protested against it without effect; but the superior genius and subtle measures of Pius II were more successful. This Pontiff denounced the Pragmatic at the Council of Mantua in 1460 as “a blot which disfigured the Church of France; a decree which no ecumenical council would have passed nor any pope have confirmed; a principle of confusion in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Since it had been in force, the laity had become the masters and judges of the clergy; the power of the spiritual sword could no longer be exerted except at the good pleasure of the secular authority. The Roman pontiff, whose diocese embraced the world, whose jurisdiction is not bounded even by the ocean, possessed only such extent of power in France as the parliament might see fit to allow him.” The ambassadors of Charles VII, however, reminded his holiness that the Pragmatic Sanction was founded on the canons of Constance and Basel, which had been ratified by his predecessors; and when the Pope proceeded to threaten France with the interdict, and to prohibit all appeal from his decisions to a future council, the King caused his procureur-general, Jean Dauvet, to publish an official protest against these acts of violence, concluding with a solemn appeal to the judgment of the Church Catholic assembled by the representation. While awaiting that event, Charles declared himself resolved to uphold the laws and regulations which had been sanctioned by previous councils.
Louis XI, urged by alternate menaces, entreaties, and flattery from Rome, revoked the Pragmatic Sanction shortly after his accession. This step accorded well with his own arbitrary temper; for he could not endure the privilege of free election by the cathedral and monastic chapters; nor was he less jealous of the influence exerted, under the shelter of that privilege, by the high feudal nobility in the disposal of church preferment. He seems to have expected, moreover, that while ostensibly conceding the right of patronage to the apostolic see, he should be able to retain the real power in his own hands. The event disappointed his calculations. No sooner was the decree of Bourges rescinded than the Pope resumed and enforced his claim to the provision of benefices in France. Simony and the whole train of concomitant abuses reappeared more scandalously than ever; and Louis found himself despised by his subjects as the dupe of papal artifice.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history