Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Forty-First Letter (Item 47): Pope Stephen I to the Bishop Hilarius

Your blogger must once again apologize for the delay. Pseudo-Isidore managed to escape me entirely last week; teaching, the distractions of the job market, and sundry other events were to blame. Now we return to the slog.

Today's letter is mostly stuff we've heard before, though it does have something new to offer. It's in the name of Stephen I, who writes to answer the question of a certain Bishop Hilary, styled as Stephen's "beloved brother and close friend." Ps. Stephen borrows the words of Leo the Great (ep. 85) to assure Hilary that there's no doubt he's doing well and behaving properly, but that it has nevertheless seemed a good idea to write out of friendship. To this kind little sentence Ps.-Stephen adds a slight jab: Hilary is advised to persist in good deeds and avoid bad ones; he is to maintain communion with men of good conversatio and steer clear of perverse men who persecute bishops, unless he's trying to goad the wayward back to the right path. Ps. Stephen warms to his theme, quoting first I Cor. 15:33 -- "Evil communications corrupt good manners" -- and then throwing an entire chapter of Ecclesiasticus at Hilary. I guess Pseudo-Isidore is on an Ecclesiasticus kick, because we had the same thing last time with Lucius. Now it's the thirteenth chapter, and it's all vaguely on point (sample verse: "He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled with it.")

Only on the other side of this quote -- more than halfway through the letter -- does Ps. Stephen get down to answering Hilary's question. His trusted correspondent has apparently asked which people are to be considered infames, and which are to be excluded form the clergy.

Naturally, these are topics dear to Ps. Stephen's heart, and he dives right in with a long list of undesirables. Some of these Ps. Stephen gets from other, authentic sources, among them:

-those who hold ecclesiastical statutes in contempt
-those guilty of capital offenses
-violators of graves
-those who take up arms against clergy
-those widely known to be infamous (a bit tautological but anyway)
-those guilty of incest
-those guilty of calumny against their fellow brothers
-those who make accusations that they can't prove
-those who pervert the minds of princes to anger against the innocent

Ps. Stephen also rounds out this list with some additional categories from Benedictus Levita and the other related forgeries. According to these sources, other infames include

-those who reject the norms of Christian law
-thieves and the sacriligeous
-anyone who has been declared anathema
-everyone whom ecclesiastical or secular law calls infamis (yes, the letter actually says that)

Kind of weak, colorless and redundant compared to the stuff you get in the authentic sources, no? And Ps. Stephen's own additions are still more tepid and repetitive. Also infames, Ps. Stephen would have us believe, are

-those who violate the statutes of the fathers and their successors
-those who seek to hold indigna loca for themselves (not clear what this means: is this about misrepresenting one's qualifications for ecclesiastical office?)
-those who unjustly seize facultates ecclesiae (i.e., church income? church property)
-those who have been driven from their churches because of their crimes

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that none of these guys can hold ecclesiastical office. Also among those barred from clerical ranks are slaves, penitents, the twice-married, those who serve at court, those who are not of sound mind or body, those who lack understanding, those who disobey the decrees of the saints, and those who are mad (furiosi). All this from authentic sources of course.

We get the historical hook right at the end. Stephen's bio in the Liber Pontificalis says that "He forbade priests and deacons to use their consecrated garments for daily wear save in the church" (Loomis's translation again). Ps. Stephen latches onto this and spends the rest of his letter telling Hilary that "ecclesiastical vestments ... should be consecrated and honored." No one is to use them for any extra-ecclesiastical purposes, "lest the divine vengeance that struck Balthazar fall upon the transgressors who presume to do such things." This threat, interestingly, seems to come from the 836 Council of Aachen.

Right at the end there's some boilerplate about obedience. We conclude with a few lines from the same Leo letter that we started out with: Hilary is to conduct his office with moderation, to remember to be both benevolent and just, to conduct his office impartially, and to protect the catholic faith.


Recipient: a bishop named Hilary

Date: 3 May 255 (Valeriano et Gallicano vv. cc. conss.: the end of Stephen's pontificate)

Sources: letter of Leo the Great, the Bible (major excerpt from Ecclesiasticus; other stuff from I Corinthians and Mark); the Lex Romana Visigothorum and some other bits of Roman law; Benedictus Levita, perhaps also the First Council of Carthage (or maybe Pseudo-Isidore only has that through Benedictus Levita); the preface to the Twelfth Council of Toledo; a letter of Gregory the Great; the Liber Pontificalis

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 836 Council of Aachen

Words: 1100

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Fortieth Letter (Item 46): Pope Lucius I to Bishops in Gaul and Spain

This is the only decretal that Pseudo-Isidore ascribes to Lucius I. The pope says he's gotten letters from bishops in Gaul and Spain complaining of persecution at the hands of heretics. This persecution has driven many from the church and made it all but impossible to minister to the remaining faithful.

Lucius declares that all bishops are to keep two or three priests or deacons with them, to serve as witnesses; there are a lot of people conspiring against the church, and Lucius is worried that his correspondents might be falsely accused. The basis for this command is Lucius's biography in the Liber Pontificalis, which has Lucius declaring that "in every place two priests and three deacons should abide with the bishop to be witnesses for him to the church" (from Loomis's translation: Duchesne's edition is in some reshelving limbo after my adventures earlier this week). Pseudo-Lucius of course is much more insistent on this point, but not out of step with the LP here.

Then it's on to the subject of accusations, with words from Benedictus Levita and/or the Capitula Angilramni. Earlier, I said that Pseudo-Isidore likes to tightly edit his borrowings from these sister forgeries, but as always there are exceptions, and this is one of them. Pseudo-Lucius gets most of  his discussion from one long, unedited passage (c. 43 of the Capitula Angilramni = Benedictus Levita III.358), though he does round it out with a few supplementary extracts. Anyway, the technique may be different but it's nothing we haven't heard before: Bishops are not to be lightly accused, and wronging a bishop is the equivalent of wronging Christ. Accusations againt maiores natu are likewise forbidden, except in the case of criminal accusations, but even then the character of the accuser is to be taken into account. Appeals from lesser to greater judges are to be permitted in every case.

After this our letter turns suddenly to the idea of metropolitan authority, with precepts that are once again quite familiar -- and obviously, very closely related to the issue of accusations in Pseudo-Lucius's mind. No archbishop is to interfere in matters outside of his diocese without the advice and consent of all his suffragans; otherwise he risks demotion. Nor can any metropolitan hear cases without all his suffragans in attendance. Each bishop should look after his own province, and lesser bishops (episcopi posteriores -- i.e., less senior bishops?) should not prefer themselves to their superiors (i.e., more senior bishops?). Any matter extending beyond the boundaries of a single diocese is to be dealt with by all the bishops of the province, not just the metropolitan.

After this comes the most substantial original passage of the letter. Pseudo-Lucius declares that it would be great if an evil seed of persecution had not been sown within the church to thwart those priests of the Lord who live justly and piously. Sadly, though, this seed has been sown; the resulting plant is creeping into all parts of the church, and it is therefore necessary to excise it with an ecclesiastical and apostolic sword, lest God's servants and priests all die off. Pretty strong language, and Pseudo-Lucius must be tired from all that shouting because he immediately cedes the stage to the Vulgate. We get a long, long excerpt from Ecclesiasticus (10.16-34 and 11:1-36), which Lucius intends as a warning against leaving the right faith.

On the other side of this quotation, we get some saber rattling against those who seize church property and carry off the offerings of the faithful. These wrongdoers are equated with Judas, who according to the Gospel of John (12:6) stole offerings for the poor.

No sooner has our letter quoted Psalm 82 (all of it) against these thieves than we're back to the subject of  heresy and deviation from the true faith -- exactly how we started out. Cribbing from the acta of the Third Council of Constantinople, Pseudo-Lucius assures us that the apostolic church has never been wrong in matters of faith or fallen from the path of righteousness. This concluding passage, which Lucius rounds off with some snippets from a letter of Leo the Great (ep. 7), is interesting for its verbatim recurrence at the end of two other forged decretals: the third letter ascribed to Pope Felix (also in Part I) and the only letter ascribed to Pope Mark (in Part III).


Reciepients: bishops in Gaul and Spain

Date: 1 April 252/3 (Gallo et Volusiano vv. cc. conss.: the first year of Lucius's pontificate)

Sources: Leo the Great, letters; the Bible (especially long excerpts from Ecclesiasticus), the Liber Pontificalis, Benedictus Levita, the Lex Romana Visigothorum, the Capitula Angilramni, the Sentencdes of Sextus, letter of Boniface, acta of the Third Council of Constantinople;

Contemporary Carolingian Legislation: 836 Council of Aachen?

Words: 2200

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More on the Dates of the False Decretals

Earlier, in my discussion of the anatomy of a forged decretal, I talked a bit about the dates. From the first letter of Evaristus, I said, Pseudo-Isidore concludes each of the letters he forges with a date: the day of the month, followed by the consuls who served in the year the letter was issued. Pseudo-Isidore gets his consuls' names from the Liber Pontificalis, and so I rushed passed them to consider the distribution of calendar dates, which Pseudo-Isidore invents outright. I even had a groovy chart.

In the process, I made the error of assuming that the outright fabrications of Pseudo-Isidore are somehow more significant than his borrowings. I should have been thinking about the consuls, which are far more interesting. They've been bothering me for some time, but it was only today that I made the trek down to the fourth floor of the library to unearth the Liber Pontificalis. I have now compared all the consular dates that Pseudo-Isidore gives in Part I of his decretals to the consular dates on offer in the Liber Pontificalis (in the course of which work I also found this helpful online list of Roman consuls, which has freed me from my Cappelli).I have tabulated the results in an Excel spreadhseet, and am finally ready to pass the distilled version on to you.

The Liber Pontificalis gets its dates for the early popes from the Liberian Catalogue, which provides consuls for pontificates through the time of Pope Liberius (d. 366). The compiler of the Liber Pontificalis handles this source pretty loosely. He typically gives the consuls for the beginning of pontificates, but sometimes omits the concluding dates, or vice versa (and the Liberian Catalogue is itself not entirely consistent). This means that Pseudo-Isidore is constrained to dating most of his letters to either the first year or the last year of every pontificate. Now the Liber Pontificalis enjoyed reasonably wide circulation in Carolingian Europe, so you'd think that Pseudo-Isidore would have thought twice about forging dates from its pages. How likely is it, after all, that absolutely every early pontiff should have issued absolutely every decretal* on either his first or last year in office? And because his source is so limited, less than half of the decretals in Part I of Pseudo-Isidore have unique consular dates; the remaining letters with dating clauses share their consuls with at least one other epistle. Surely that would have looked odd to any enterprising, attentive reader.

Pseudo-Isidore compounds these difficulties with remarkable carelesness. Given the paucity of information that the Liber Pontificalis provides about Roman consuls, I would have bet that our forgers would like to change their dates up as much as possible -- that is, provide different consular dates whenever possible. They do this in the letters ascribed to Denis, Eutichian, Victor, Evaristus, and Sother: Each of these popes gets two letters, and in each case the first letter has consuls from the beginning of that pope's pontificate, and the second letter has consuls from the end of it.  But in three other cases (Viginus, Zepherinus and Felix), two sets of consuls are on offer and Pseudo-Isidore uses only one of them for both letters -- the first set in each case. As if to balance this out, two of the three popes who have only one letter in Pseudo-Isidore, but two sets of consul dates in the Liber Pontificalis (Gaius and Elutherius), write their decretals on their last year in office (that is, they get the second set of consuls). In the case of Anicitus, however, Pseudo-Isidore mixes the consuls, and gives us one from the beginning and one from the end of the pontificate.

Nor is that the only error. Mixed consuls occur again in a letter ascribed to Fabian, and on four further occasions in Part I (letters in the name of Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus and Felix), Pseudo-Isidore mistakes emperors for one or both of the consuls (the Liberian Catalogue, and thus the Liber Pontificalis, frequently supplied emperors who held power during various pontificates). Interestingly, Alexander, Felix and Fabian are also three of the four popes who contribute three letters in Part I -- everyone else getrs only one or two. It's like something goes haywire with Pseudo-Isidore's dating process when he has to deal with more than two letters in one pope's name.

A final tidbit: Some recensions of the Liber Pontificalis fail to give consular dates for Urban, and all recensions lack consular dates for Cornelius. In both cases our forgers borrow them from the preceding pope's biography -- Calixtus in Urban's case, and Fabian in Cornelius's case (where Pseudo-Isidore again provides a mixed set of consuls).

*The prefatory material claims that Pseudo-Isidore has all papal decretals from the Clement through Damascus.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Thirteenth Letter (Item 19): Pope Alexander I to All Priests

At last, your blogger returns. In the months of his absence, he has read Homer, Euripides and Plato; gained a little weight after prolonged exposure to the culinary temptations of the West Village; developed the need for a hair cut; moved offices; acquired a niece; and bought a new bicycle. I had intended to resume the slog through Pseudo-Isidore a few weeks ago, but the minor chaos of a new semester has delayed things a bit. The internet, I know, has seemed a dry and boring place without continual updates on the false decretals.

I now sit in a coffeeshop with a false decretal in front of me -- namely the third and last letter in the name of Pope Alexander I. It's what I grabbed at random when I left my office on Friday, and I fear it's not the most substantial forgery in the history of mankind.

It does have an interesting address, though, cribbed from I Peter 1:2. Alexander writes to "everyone exercising the divine priesthood," and wishes for the furtherance of peace, mercy, wisdom and good will. Much of the letter that follows is pieced together from other biblical passages: snippets from 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, Romans, 1 John, Tobit, the Gospel of John, Ecclesiasticus, Ephesians,  the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew and Jude; and two longer passages from Micah (2:1-8) and Nahum (1:7-12).

The text opens with some generic remarks about divine grace, but gathers momentum as it pivots to emphasize love and harmony. Pseudo-Alexander tells his readers to judge nobody, and emerges from the scriptural quotations briefly to declare that "the height of inqiutiy is to disparage and accuse your brothers" (i.e., fellow bishops).  I John 3:15 ("Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer") helps Alexander out here: this is a favorite scriptural citation of Pseudo-Isidore, recurring in letters ascribed to Clement and Anacletus, as well as the first book of Benedictus Levita.

By the end of the letter Alexander has exhausted most of scriptural citations, and turns to the Sentences of Sextus for some pithy concluding rhetoric. It is easy to deceive man but not God; he who does harm is not wise; he who is faithful does not will evil. All of this is just a warm-up for Pseudo-Isidore's own sentiments (and the only really original passage of the whole decretal): Those who persecute priests are persecuting the Lord. He who suffers violence indeed endures great torment, but is nevertheless blessed if he endures this persecution on behalf of justice. Then a citation from Jude 14-15 ("Behold, the Lord cometh with thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all and to reprove all the ungodly for all the works of their ungodliness"), followed by Alexander's insistence that his precepts be respected and observed. The alternative is eternal damnation.


Recipient: all priests of Christendom

Date: 1 May

Sources: the Bible; the Sentences of Sextus; the acta of the Second Council of Seville

Words: 652