Friday, August 9, 2013

Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore: Part IV

Last time, I proposed a preliminary, tentative date for the beginning of work on the interpolated Hispana, the corrected and slightly enhanced legal collection that served as a vehicle for the False Decretals of Pseudo-Isidore. That date is 8 July 833. Now we need to ask what that means. A big part of answering that question involves asking another:

What is the interpolated Hispana, anyway? And more broadly, what was it for? Was it developed specifically as a vessel for the decretal forgeries? Or does it represent some other project that was later appropriated by the Pseudo-Isidorians?

We begin by recalling that the interpolated Hispana is a reworking of the Hispana Gallica, a rather corrupt (but completely authentic) version of the Hispana that circulated, as its name implies, in Carolingian Gaul. Most of the reworking in question was undertaken to iron out corruptions and solve other obvious and crippling problems with the text of the Hispana Gallica. A very small subset of this reworking, however, involved the inauthentic revision of Hispana texts. These inauthentic revisions have been most thoroughly discussed by Friedrich Maassen, in his Pseudoisidor-Studien. He identifies the following fourteen especially clear instances of inauthentic interpolation:
c. 34 of Carthage III:
The sick, if they cannot respond for themselves, may still be baptized if witnesses can attest to their intention. The interpolator adds that the penitent in similar circumstances are to receive absolution. 
c. 6 of Carthage V:
In cases of uncertainty, possibly baptized children are to be (re)baptized without hesitation. The interpolator adds that the same thing is to happen with respect to uncertainly consecrated churches.
c. 13 of Arles I:
Clergy guilty of traditio in the time of Diocletian are to be removed from office. Clergy are also to demonstrate their innocence by referring to the public acta taken down by the persecuting officials. This is necessary, we read, because many clergy are trying to get off by paying witnesses. Our interpolator, first, introduces a few variants from another recension of this canon that changes the force slightly; instead of trying to avoid deposition through purchased witnesses, the malefactors in question are trying to raise accusations against other clergy via said witnesses. (The Hispana Gallica carries a serious corruption at exactly this point, so it seems likely that our interpolators merely collated this canon against another recension to resolve the problem--not because they were interested in altering this aspect of the meaning.) Therefore, to be admitted to accusation, such accusers will need to refer to the acta publica (presumably to buttress their case). Our interpolator then adds a modification of his own: Nobody can accuse, unless they can show, via the public acta, that they are personally above all suspicion. 
c. 26 of Agde
Anyone suppressing or otherwise denying documentation of church property, such that the church incurs loss, is to repay the loss from his own resources and is to be excommunicated Anyone who has received such ill-gotten gains is to be subject to the same sentence. Our interpolator adjusts the Latin to add clarity and emphasis to this second point.
c. 32 of the same council
Clerics are not to approach a secular judge without episcopal permission. But, if they have approached a secular judge despite this prohibition, the judge should respond. Our interpolator inserts "non": The judge should NOT respond.
c. 61 of the same council (al., c. 30 from the Council of Epaon)
Incest is forbidden, and it is offensive even to articulate all the relationships constitute incest. Nevertheless, union with the widow of one's uncle (maternal or paternal) or with one's stepdaughter are henceforth forbidden. Those currently in such marriages are to be separated, but are allowed to enter other marital unions. Our interpolator revises the entire passage to include a blanket prohibition against any consanguineous marriage at all (in addition to the specifically prohibited cases), and says anyone entering such marriages is to remain among the catechumens until they have made "legitimate satisfaction." 
c. 12 of Toledo III
If a man seeks penance, the bishop/priest is first to tonsure him; then poenitentia may be granted. A woman cannot receive penance unless she has first "changed her dress" ("...mutaverit habitum..."). These measures are prescribed because many of the laity (laici) return to their lamentable crimes after they receive penance, when penance has been granted negligently. Our interpolator adds that the bishop/priest is to make the male candidate for penance EITHER receive tonsure OR change his dress to ashes and rags ("in cinere et cilicio habitum mutare faciat"); the woman, similarly, is EITHER to be veiled OR to change her dress. Finally, the interpolator laments the relapse not only of laity, but of "laity together with women."
c. 14 of the same council
The original canon states that the following provision was ordered by "gloriosissimus dominus noster" (a reference to Reccared) at the council's suggestion. The interpolator has revised the canon to read that "conventus noster" was solely responsible for what follows.
c. 19 of the same council
People are not to construct churches and then request that the bishop consecrate said churches, while trying to keep the financial endowment of the church beyond the bishop's control. This is, according to the authentic text, "against the institutions of the canons." This was problematic in the past and is forbidden in the future. According to the interpolator, it is contrary to "every authority"; those cases where it happened in the past are to be corrected; naturally it is also forbidden in future times, lest it happen again.
c. 21 of the same council
The fathers gathered at Toledo have observed that in many cities, the servants of the church and the bishops and all the clergy are harassed in their various duties by judges and public officials. The interpolator alters the construction to read that fathers at Toledo are sorrowful over the fact that this harassment is occurring.
c. 8 of Toledo VI
According to Leo the Great, the maritally incontinent, after completing penance, may return to their previous marriages, lest they lapse once again into adultery. Yet this is not a general legal precept (generaliter et legitime praeceptum), but rather an indulgence on account of human fragility (pro humana fragilitate indultum). Our forgers substitute "canonical" (canonice) for "legal" (legitime); the clarification is therefore that Leo's provision was not a "general canonical precept." 
c. 11 of the same council
One who has been accused cannot be judged until the accuser has been proven to meet the necessary legal requirements; the case of treason is an exception. Our interpolator removes all reference to the exception of treason; accusers therefore have to prove that they meet the necessary legal requirements in call cases.
c. 7 of Seville II
This lengthy canon addresses the sacramental faculties of priests, who above all are not to consecrate altars. A long list of other sacramental prohibitions for priests follows. Our interpolator retouches the entire text such that the prohibitions apply to chorbishops as well as priests, and he also inserts the clarification that chorbishops and priests are identical.
Innocent I to Victricius of Rouen, Etsi tibi frater (JK 286)
The opening passage of this letter addresses cases and disputes among both the higher and the lower clergy. These cases are to be decided in the provinces where they originate, and are not to be taken elsewhere, save for perhaps to Rome, the opinion of whose bishop in all cases should be respected. So-called "majores causae," however, are to be referred to the apostolic see, in accordance with ancient custom, after episcopal judgment has been issued. Our interpolator extensively revises this passage, first by inserting a reference to the laity, such that the provincial synod (and the pope) acquire jurisdiction not only over clerical cases, but also over cases involving the laity and the clergy. The interpolator keeps the prohibition on taking cases outside the province, but adds the extra and perhaps unnecessary clarification that these cases are not to be taken elsewhere for the purposes of seeking the judgment of the bishops of other provinces. Finally, the interpolated Hispana says that the appeal of "maiores causae" to Rome is permitted not only by ancient custom, but also by synodal decree. 
It is your humble blogger's intention to edit the interpolated Hispana, and when he gets around to that task we will enjoy a great deal more clarity about the extent and precise number of the interpolations. For now, I can only assure you that Maassen's list is not only highly representative, but fairly complete: This really is, as far as I can tell, the greater part of inauthentic alterations that we find in the interpolated Hispana. Studying this list brings us to some interesting and seldom-articulated conclusions:

1) The vast, vast majority of editorial activity expended upon the interpolated Hispana is about addressing textual corruption. Only in a very few and specific instances--namely, those listed here--do our editors press a little too far and stray into the realm of inauthentic fiddling.

2) This inauthentic fiddling only occasionally surrounds passages favored by our decretal forgeries. This is particularly the case with the last item in our list, Innocent's letter to Victricius of Rouen. The opening passages of this letter have been substantially and inauthentically revised, and our decretal forgers frequently resort to the interpolated version of this helpful passage. Crucially, this is also one of the key canonical citations underlying the argumentation of Divinis praeceptis, where the telltale reference not only to ancient custom, but also to the synodal decree, recurs. It is from this specific citation--and this citation alone--that we are allowed to suspect that Divinis praeceptis is not simply using any old Hispana recension, but is dependent on our recension in particular.

3) Otherwise, diligent readers of the False Decretals will detect some thematic distance between the interpolations contributed to the Hispana and the preoccupations of the decretal forgers. In future posts, we will see in gruesome (and tedious!) detail that our decretalists are above all concerned to limit accusations, specifically by placing restrictions on who can accuse and subjecting accusers to various processes of examination. No element of Pseudo-Isidore's program gets more play than this single theme. Here he have some glimmer of that agenda, particularly with the interpolations to c. 13 of Arles I and c. 11 of Toledo VI. But these two adjustments compete with a variety of other themes. In no way do they stand out from the crowd.

4) These other themes are all over the map. Our editorial board is interested in incest (c. 61 of Agde), in penance (c. 39 of Carthage III and c. 12 of Toledo III), in chorbishops (c. 6 of Carthage V, maybe; c. 7 of Seville II certainly), in church income and property (c. 26 of Agde, c. 19 of Toledo III), in the autonomy of ecclesiastical legislative and judicial structures (c. 32 of Agde, c. 14 of Toledo III), and, as already noted, in opening the path for appeals to Rome (Innocent to Victricius). There is nothing systematic about the introduction of these themes; certain conciliar acta (Agde, Toledo III) get multiple interpolations, while most get none at all. One has the impression that our interpolators were just paging through the Hispana, doing their thing, when some random sequence of capitula caught their attention. There is absolutely no attempt to systematically revise the canonical tradition. Consider those poor guys that the Pseudo-Isidorians love to hate, the chorbishops. A variety of canons addressing chorbishops and their sacramental competence are allowed to stand wholly unmolested, and then out of the blue our editorial board alights on a canon that is concerned only with priests (c. 7 of Seville II) and twists its clauses to address the sacramental faculties of the chorepiscopate.

5) These ancillary themes are not necessarily absent from the decretal forgeries, but they're not center-stage either. A lot of ink has been spilled on Pseudo-Isidore's approach to chorbishops (to continue with this thread), but only two or three decretal forgeries (of 96!) address them in any direct manner. Penance is a passing theme in one or two fake decretals, as is incest; church property and income get a bit more play, but still take a firm backseat to the overwhelming concern of our decretal forgers with judicial process. Put another way: The decretals are 90% about judicial process and 10% about all this other stuff. The interpolations in the Hispana are equally divided among judicial process and the other stuff.

6) Some of this other stuff aligns in rather interesting ways with the decrees enacted at Paris in 829. Consider once again the Toledo III interpolations regarding chorbishops. In Charlemagne's Admonitio Generalis of 789 the chorepiscopate had been advised not to exceed the limits of their authority, but otherwise they were not a common concern of Carolingian-era conciliar legislation. Yet the bishops who met at Paris for the great 829 reform council had them on their agenda, and they promulgated a lengthy capitulum (1.27) taking aim at their sacramental faculties, and specifically their tendency to impart the Holy Spirit at confirmation, which was to be reserved for the episcopate. No previous Frankish conciliar legislation had sought to limit the sacramental competence of chorbishops, who before 829 were presumed capable of performing all episcopal functions, provided they acted with episcopal permission and as the representatives of their diocesan. The interpolations to Toledo III are right in line with the Paris agenda, only more extreme: They seek to equate the chorepiscopate with priests, and therefore to sharply limit their competence across the board.

7) We will have a lot more to say about Pseudo-Isidore on the chorepiscopate in the future, but for the moment you will have to take my word for it that the few False Decretals that address this subject are in general much more extreme than even the Toledo III interpolator. So we have a continuum of viewpoints: Paris 829, which tries to limit chorbishops in specific ways; the Toledo III interpolations, which try to limit chorbishops much more generally; and the False Decretals, which more or less aim to abolish the position entirely.

By now, you've probably realized that I'm trying to draw a line between our Hispana interpolators on the one hand, and our decretal forgers on the other. It is fairly clear to me that the men behind the False Decretals observe different procedures and articulate different views than the editorial team responsible for our interpolated Hispana. This is a divide that I would also like to deploy to explain the differences we observed earlier between the False Decretals and Divinis praeceptis. The latter shares many of our decretal forgers' concerns, and it does indeed raise arguments that strike us as powerfully Pseudo-Isidorian. Yet it argues almost exclusively on the basis of authentic texts from the Hispana, and it lacks Pseudo-Isidore's boldest inventions.

In fact, the connections between Divinis praeceptis and the interpolated Hispana are strong enough that I think we are entitled to wonder whether all of the attention that our interpolators have given to Innocent I's letter to Victricius of Rouen (the only decretal that they seriously worked over) is an artifact of this decretal's importance for the argumentation of Divinis praeceptis. The latter asserts  that Aldric ought to appeal to Rome because his is a "major case," and the underlying source for this assertion is Innocent's letter to Victricius about the appeal of "maiores causae" to Rome. Perhaps it was in the course of drafting their text for Aldric that our interpolators came to study the Innocent decretal more closely and to adjust its text along more convenient lines?

Also too, we saw a while ago that this letter is especially interesting in insisting that Aldric be allowed to appeal before episcopal judgment. Our other Pseudo-Isidorian texts allow accused prelates to appeal at absolutely any point in the process, while the underlying source, Innocent I to Victricius of Rouen, is very specific that the appeal of maiores causae are to occur after episcopal judgment--post iudicium episcopale. Yet Divinis praeceptis is so insistent that Aldric be allowed to appeal before any conviction is handed down that its author actually trims the key phrase, post iudicium episcopale, out of its Innocent citation. Fascinatingly, when the False Decretals use this Innocent letter, in every case but one they also carefully trim out the post iudicium episcopale phrase--despite the fact that the False Decretals do not share the argument of Divinis praeceptis on this point. Put another way, the False Decretals use a quotation of Innocent I that has been manipulated to support an argument made only in Divinis praeceptis.

So while we may want to draw a line between the interpolated Hispana and Divinis praeceptis on the one hand, and the False Decretals on the other, we also have to accept that the False Decretals are deeply influenced by these earlier sources. The interpolated Hispana gets reworked as a vessel to house the decretal forgeries, and the canonical citations of Divinis praeceptis are repurposed for the related but rather more radical procedural prescriptions of the decretal forgers.

And one final point: To the extent that we can take Divinis praeceptis at its word, and presume that it really was produced for Aldric's protection, we have come close to pinpointing one point of precise contact between real-world events and the the procedural law concocted by our forgers. Post iudicium episcopale seems not to have worked for Aldric, and that somehow leads to its removal from Innocent citations in the decretal forgeries more broadly. We might therefore wonder what other connections exist between the decretal forgeries and the historical events of the 830s and 840s.

But before we start down that path, we need to look more closely at the chorepiscopate, and more specifically at another decretal that, like Divinis praeceptis, seems to fall on the interpolated-Hispana side of the divide we have begun to articulate. There is a little more to learn here, as we'll see in Part V.

Back to Part I, Part II, Part III, or ahead to Part V: Addendum.


  1. I'd say that most of the interpolations you call "all over the map" can be traced fairly easily to one single overarching issue, and that's the ol' argument of church vs. state, questions of hierarchy, and who has the right to denounce and dethrone whom, as it would later crop up again with the Investiture Controversy (which is also when, unsurprisingly under this working hypothesis, the False Decretals began to *REALLY* take off in reception and success and Pseudo-Isidorian ideas truly became widely spread).

    Remember, these themes of power (also, money = power), authority, and hierarchy already appear with Charlemagne's Admonitio Generalis and the Council of Paris, and in a way, the False Decretals seem to continue in this veign. Incidentally, I now see on Wikipedia that the chorbishops were called ''missi'' as the Pope's messengers at the time, so much about my earlier theory that these "messengers" would be the forgers. Sounds more like the "missi" blurbs next to sections to-be-excerpted for Pseudo-Isidore were sort-of a warning: "Remember this, ye oldfashioned messengers that we seek to replace...!"

  2. However, considering the fact I first learned of Pseudo-Isidore in the context of Benedict Levita's role in the history of sodomy in the West at the very time when older harsh secular laws upon sexual deviance threatened to be superseded by hitherto "soft" ecclesiastical penitentials ("Pray and/or feast for so many weeks" or, at outmost, "You're excluded from last rites forever"), it's interesting to note that in Agde 61, the proto-forgers of the interpolated Hispana specifically targeted a canon on sexual relations, and in Toledo VI 8 a canon on adultery.

    Another fun fact: The definitions of 'infames' given in the False Decretal letter Ps. Stephens (that you cite at ) in that particular set or grouping of charges associated with 'infames' people pretty much echo those from Tacitus's "ignavi, imbelles, et corpore infames" in his "Germania" which were according to Tacitus a category of criminals ritually killed by proto-historic Germanics. The exact nature of their crimes as persecuted by proto-historic Germanics have in modern times been interpolated (by incorporating other sources on proto-historic Germanic or Norse mythology and comparative religion) to include mainly treason, desertion, violation of graves, cowardice, perjury, murder by poisoning/witchcraft (pretty much the only known legal Germanic definition of murder, with poisoning in turn as the pivotal definition of witchcraft), and especially sexual deviance (particularly same-sex relations among males and bestiality), all included in the one Germanic adjective 'earg' (as the one defining quality of this category of criminals) which covered all three aspects as related by Tacitus's "ignavi, imbelles, et corpore infames".

  3. And where the plot really starts to thicken is when you remember that Benedict and Pseudo-Isidore were cooked up in the Germanic kingdom of Francia, and that Benedict is the first known source in the West since at least the Old Testament to introduce burning at the stake as the standard punishment for sodomy or sexual deviance (which he, too, equated with witchcraft) outside of Germanic tribal law. Hence, "everyone whom [...] secular law calls 'infamis' " could mean more than just Roman law. It even makes me wonder if "indigna loca" could actually mean something like "wrong holes", but it could just as well refer to defilement of graves or, within the context of witchcraft (veneficium = poisoning), the places where witches sabbaths would be held.

    "Changing one's dress", while you give a perfectly sound explanation, suspiciously reminds me of Germanic 'yki' swearwords or accuses closely related to being 'earg', which frequently (many, many Germanic tribal and guild laws of Francia, the Mark of the Danes, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Langobardian Northern Italy, and Terra Anglo-Saxia attest to this) refer to the crime of male transvestism, i. e. wearing female clothes as a male. On the other hand, the medieval Christian form of "ashes and rags" (Büßerhemd) consisted of a fur rag, which is said to have been derived from the pre-Christian vernacular custom of stigmatizing certain criminals by making them wear fur rags, as sexual predators were traditionally likened to raging wolves in Germanic mythology.

    Benedict also equated sodomia with satanism, that is he maintained a link between sexual deviance with pure evil and thus adopted another traditional Germanic association, and particularly this link was later capitalized upon by Sprenger & Institoris in their "Malleus maleficarum" in a line directly descendent from Benedict. In fact, it seems like satanism as later conceived and persecuted by the Inquisition was indeed originally the Germanic charge of witchcraft (aka a demonic kind of both poisonous and lecherous black magic known as 'seid' in the Germanic language) as translated into Christianity by Benedict.

    And to tie this all up in a neat, coherent package by referring to the old church-vs.-state debate above: What better propaganda tool to scare and bluntly bludgeoning people into submission during a power struggle than a good ol' moral panic related to a seemingly innate, congenital, ubiquitious, all-conquering, and all-devouring menace of Original Sin, particularly carnal sin?