Friday, April 9, 2010

The Second Letter (Item 8): Pope Clement I to James, Jesus's Brother, Once Again

Distinguished readers, we march onwards.

As I said before, the second letter, like the first, purports to be from Clement to James, and it is once again based on a pre-Pseudo-Isidorian forgery. In this case the underlying document is not widely known outside the context of Pseudo-Isidore, and though it may have been inspired by the Recognitiones (insofar as it uses the device of a letter from Clement to James, reporting on Peter's instructions), it otherwise has nothing to do with the Pseudo-Clementine apocrypha. It's full of rules for the proper handling of the consecrated bread and wine and the sacramental vestments. The document in pristine form -- without Pseudo-Isidore's manipulations -- is conveniently ed. at PL 56, col. 893, if any of you want to have a look (it's JK +11 in Jaffe).

Anyway, Pseudo-Isidore handles this document much like he did the last one. The first seventy lines are the foundation document (with one important interpolation, which we'll get to); the last hundred or so lines are Pseudo-Isidore's contribution.

Clement opens by assuring his readers that what follows is straight from St. Peter. He then outlines a series of draconian instructions relating to the "sacraments of the divine secrets." What remains of the Lord's body after Mass is to be guarded "with fear and trembling." Nobody is to keep anything overnight; it should all be consumed that same day. The ministers who consume the remaining hosts are to fast aftewards, so that they don't pollute the Lord's body by bringing it into contact with ingested food. Oh, and the ministers are to try as hard as possible to consecrate no more bread than is necessary for the faithful, though Clement/Peter understands that there will sometimes be leftovers.

The clergy are to burn worn-out altar coverings, and bury the ashes in some corner of the baptistery where nobody walks. Or they can put them underneath the paving stones in the church, or in a wall -- the main thing is that nobody step on them. It is particularly important that everyone remember that dead bodies are not to be wrapped in altar cloths before burial, and that the deacon is not to cover his shoulders with a velum that has been used at the altar. Offenders are to be excommunicated. Also, altar cloths are to be washed inside the secretarium and not taken outside.

Then we get to an interesting bit. Clement/Peter doesn't want any clerics going to the houses of women by themselves (they're supposed to go in twos or threes instead), and nobody should enjoy excessive familiarity with women who aren't their relatives. Sounds reasonable enough, and originally Clement/Peter left it at that. Pseudo-Isidore, though, expands these provisions with a great big chunk of prose that seems to be modeled on a canon promulgated at the 418 Council of Carthage, or perhaps a provision in Benedictus Levita: Priests are also to avoid gossiping with women, and no archdeacon or deacon "under pretext of humility" is to visit any matron's house, or to entrust anything in secret to any matron through his clerks and/or servants. If any such secret transaction is discovered, she's to return whatever she received and is no longer to be allowed in church. But if there's some excuse/objection (? -- the Latin is intercessio, and I'm not quite sure how to take that given the context), the matter should be submitted for review to the bishop. And of course if there's a woman whom the bishop needs to visit, for whatever pious reason, he's allowed to go, or he may direct others (you guessed it) in groups of two or three.

Sort of an eccentric passage to stick in there, no? Especially given its distance from Pseudo-Isidore's pet themes about episcopal authority and episcopal accusations and whatnot.

Back to the original letter, which at this point is almost over. All that remains is a warning about keeping the chalice clean, and some final bellowing that only worthy sorts should be selected to minister at mass. We're now around line 70, and we've reached the end (more or less) of the foundation document. Pseudo-Isidore pops up right at the end just to emphasize that nobody's to ignore these orders and that everyone should be careful not to touch the "divine sacraments" carelessly.

Now onto Pseudo-Isidore's additions. These are strangely colorless and limp compared to what's come before. We get a long passage pulled out of the Recognitiones full of vacuous moral advice: observe modesty, avoid the society of the unfaithful and dishonest, pray to God with your whole heart. Then, via other sources, we're advised that it's the priests' duty to correct the faithful, provide a good example, and steer them towards salvation. Anyone who sins against priests is to be absolutely condemned (this from Benedictus Levita, in part), and bishops shouldn't persecute each other. At least we got a few fireworks at the end.

And then before you know it we're done. I neglected to mention it earlier, but the first Clement letter ends with a paragraph taken from the conclusion of the underlying document here. It's just a brief passage in which Pseudo-Clement emphasizes that he's gotten all of this "from the mouth of St. Peter," and assures us that anyone who doesn't keep these precepts is anathema. Interestingly, our forgers keep this conclusion for their second Clement letter as well, which means we have identical passages at the ends of two successive decretals.

Wouldn't that have struck a contemporary reader as deeply odd? Together with the obvious seam between Recognitiones and non-Recognitiones material in the first letter, that gives us two clumsy and suspicious fumbles in a row.


Recipient: James again

Date: None (we're still in that initial sequence of eight undated decretals)

Sources: An earlier forged Clement letter (JK +11), the Recognitiones, Prosper of Aquitaine, the Bible, a document associated with the a 567 Council of Tours, Justinian's Confessio rectae fidei against the Three Chapters; Benedictus Levita; a provision from the Second Council of Constantinople; Gregory the Great (ep. IX.121); and Gregory III to Boniface (these last two just mined to fill out the concluding rhetoric).

Lines: 176 (hurray for shorter forgeries)

Cross references: None

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