Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Third Letter (Item 9): Pope Clement I to All Faithful

Now that we've got all of Clement's letters to James out of the way, it's time to backtrack and cover his universal epistles. Both are heavily dependent on the Recognitiones.

This, the third epistle ascribed to Clement, is all about obeying bishops. We get this theme right up front, in the first thirty-five lines or so. Priests, we read, are to teach the faithful, and people are in turn to obey the priests as if they were God. Also, priests, deacons, subdeacons and the lower clergy, together with "all princes" of any rank, and the entirety of the people, are to obey the bishops. Those who don't are infames; they'll be excluded from the kingdom of God and from the church. Clement insists that nothing is worse than sons who rebel against their father, or clerics or laypeople who rebel against their teachers, or disciples who disobey their masters (some of this from the Recognitiones). Like the unfaithful, these disobedient wretches will bear no fruit. He quotes Matt. 7:19: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

Then we get a long, long pastiche of Recognitiones material: about 170 lines of it. While the forgers have mashed together all kinds of disparate passages here, they've done very little editing of textual snippets. The result reads like a long sermon delivered by somebody who's had too much coffee. The faithful are admonished to look after churches and widows, first of all. Then we hear about baptism, the place of man in God's creation, faith, true and false teaching, free will, sin, and prophecies of the Incarnation. I've probably left a few things out, but that's most of it.

Around line 200 Pseudo-Isidore steps out from behind the curtain to have another go at the theme of obedience. Priests, deacons and the rest of the clergy are not to do anything without episcopal license, and priests in particular are not to celebrate or baptize anyone without their bishop's permission. God, we read, gives great gifts to the obedient, while those who resist bishops oppose the Lord himself.

Only about thirty lines of that, and we're back to Recognitiones stuff. This time we get to hear about salvation through Jesus Christ and various stuff on evangelization (some of it lifted from the Acts of the Apostles). In closing, Clement tells his readers that nobody can be saved unless they obey the precepts outlined in this letter.

All in all, a longer decretal, but the contents are pretty thin. What's the point of pulling in all this Recognitiones material anyway? Is the idea just to show Clement acting all pastoral?


Recipients: all faithful

Date: None

Sources: Letters of Gregory II, Celestine I, Lull of Mainz; 418 Council of Carthage; Canones Apostolorum; Recognitiones; the Bible; Benedictus Levita

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 829 Council of Paris

Lines: 314

Cross references: None

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