Monday, May 10, 2010

The Thirty-Seventh Letter (Item 43): Pope Fabian to the Bishop Hilary

The third and last letter that Pseudo-Isidore ascribes to Pope Fabian is addressed to a certain Hilarius episcopus. No word on this bishop's see, though a later phrase in the letter implies that he's somewhere in the West. The name may have been suggested by item 76 of the Hispana, a letter issued by Pope Hilary (d. 468) that is among Pseudo-Isidore's sources for this piece.

Nothing here is all that new, though there are a few interesting twists here and there. Fabian writes that he has heard the devil is causing problems for people "in occiduis partibus" where Hilary lives; he is leading not only the laity but also certain priests astray. Fabian thinks that these errors ought to be corrected before the sickness spreads.

If you thought he was gearing up for a theological discussion, though, you'd be wrong. All that rumbling about heresy comes from some letters out of the Hispana. Once Pseudo-Fabian is done with these, he brings discussion around to matters nearer and dearer to his heart. He declares that nobody can bring any accusations against priests who is not of good conversatio, whose life, faith or status is questionable -- the same litany, more or less, that we got last time. Additionally, those who are involved in or suspected of crimes cannot accuses maiores natu.

Fabian rushes onwards to pontificate against  peregrina iudicia. This is absolutely forbidden, unless a) the pope decides to permit it (one of those famous phrases again: "salva in omnibus apostolica auctoritate generali sanctione") or b) an appeal is involved. This is the first time I've encountered Pseudo-Isidore acknowledging that his appeal system could lead to the otherwise dreaded "foreign judgment." As we saw in the last letter, Pseudo-Isidore acknowledges the possibility of appealing only to one's primate and/or to Rome. A cleric appealing a judgment handed down by his diocesan bishop would thus presumably leap over the head of his metropolitan, heading off to someone else's province -- assuming that his primate wasn't also his archbishop. It's like the forgers just realized the potential contradiction and have stepped in to clarify.

Anybody should feel free to appeal any adverse judgment, Fabian says: Nobody should hinder the appeals process. Even criminal matters should be appealed. "Nor should the power to appeal be denied to someone who has already been sent off to punishment in accordance with his sentence." Anyone who has been driven from his see can bring this fact before his judge, if he wishes; anytime a deposed bishop appeals all proceedings against him are to be brought to a halt.

The argument is already getting pretty specific, and it gets more specific still. Look at this odd bit: Anyone accusing anyone else of a crime out of anger has to submit the accusation in writing and promise to prove the charge; if the irate accuser is unwilling to repeat the charge he made out of anger and write it down, the case against the accused cannot proceed. In fact, Fabian says, ANYBODY bringing a criminal accusation has to promise, in writing, to provide proof. Anyone unable to prove said accusations is to suffer the the very
penalty that the accused would have suffered had guilt been proven. You can see how these provisions might have a chilling effect on the judicial process. And does it seem to you, as it seems to me, that Pseudo-Isidore is referencing some recent, infamous incident where some cleric was angrily denounced and deposed?

Fabian finishes his disquisition on the matter of accusations by declaring that all the faithful are to come to the aid of anyone who is unjustly oppressed. Pseudo Isidore has been quoting other sources -- primarily Beneditus Levita -- throughout this entire discussion, though he emphasizes in his own words that his correspondent, Hilary, and all his fellow bishops should help one another to avoid falling into the abyss of mutual detraction and persecution. Bishops should show only charity to one another.

All of that and we're still only halfway through the letter. Two long quotes from Ecclesiasticus (27:18-33 and 28:1-30) and a passage from Ephesians (6:10-17) take up the rest; the closing words come from the register of Gregory the Great.


Recipients: the bishop Hilary

Date: 16 Oct.

Sources: letters of Pope Hilary and Felix III (from the Hispana); Benedictus Levita; Capitula Angilramni; letter of Pope Hadrian; the bible; Gregory the Great, letters

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: a capitulary of 789 (though it's not quite clear whether Pseudo-Isidore uses this independently or whether he's getting it through Benedictus Levita)

Words: 1400

1 comment:

  1. Re. accuser suffering penalty of accusee if he doesn't prove his case. It's worth checking whether this isn't Roman law. I vaguely recall its being so. WG


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