John of Paris

John Of Paris, a celebrated French Dominican of the 13th century, was professor of theology at the University of Paris. He owes his renown to the part he took in the controversy then waging between his king, Philip the Fair, and pope Boniface VIII. The latter, fearing his deposition on the plea that the resignation of his predecessor Celestine was illegal, took every means to advance the doctrine of papal absolutism. Not only in matters spiritual, but also in matters temporal, the pope was to be regarded supreme; in short, to save his office; he carried his schemes, for the enlargement of the papal power to the verge of frenzy. Unluckily for Boniface, however, he found his equal in Philip the Fair, who not only denied the temporal power of the pope, but finally even scorned the foolish conduct of Boniface in seeking to frighten him by issuing bulls against him and his kingdom. The University of Paris sided with the king, and among his most outspoken friends were John of Paris and Accidius of Rome. The former even published a work against the papal assumptions, entitled De regia potestate papali (in the collection of Goldast, vol. 2), in which he dared to assert that "the priest, in spiritual things, was greater than the prince, but in temporal things the prince was greater than the priest; though, absolutely considered, the priest was the greater of the two." He also maintained that the pope had no power over the property either of the Church or her subjects. As the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual one, having its foundation in the hearts of men, not in their possessions, so the power conferred on the pope relates simply to the wants or to the advantage of the universal Church. He also stood up in defense of the independent power of the bishops and priests, and denied that this is derived from God through the mediation of the pope alone, maintaining that it springs directly from God, through the choice or concurrence of the communities. "For it was not Peter, whose successor is the pope, that sent forth the other apostles, whose successors are the bishops; or who sent forth the seventy disciples, whose successors are the parish priests; but Christ himself did this directly. It was not Peter who detained the apostles in order to impart to them the Holy Ghost; it was not he who gave them power to forgive sins, but Christ. Nor did Paul say that he received from Peter his apostolical office, but he said that it came to him directly from Christ or from God; that three years had elapsed after he received his commission to preach the Gospel before he had an interview with Peter." But more than this he argued. The pope himself was even amenable to a worldly power for his conduct in the papal chair. As such he regarded not simply the Ecumenical Council, but to the secular princes also he believed this right belonged, subject, however, to a demand on the part of the clergy for aid. Neander says (Ch. Hist. 5, 18), "If the pope gave scandal to the Church, and showed himself incorrigible, it was in the power of secular rulers to bring about his abdication or his deposition by means of their influence on him or on his cardinals." If the pope would not yield, they might so manage as to compel him to yield. They might command the people, under severe penalties, to refuse obedience to him as pope. John of Paris finally enters into a particular investigation of the question whether the pope can be deposed or can abdicate, a query that had been raised by the family of the Colonnas, whom the pope had estranged, and who were. anxious to make null and void the resignation of pope Celestine, and to reassert the latter's claim to the papacy. What conclusions he must have arrived at on this point may be gathered from the preceding remarks. He distinctly affirmed that, as the papacy existed only for the benefit of the Church, the pope ought to lay down his office whenever it obstructed this end, the highest end of Christian love. Though he measurably served Boniface VIII by his last conclusions, he had yet sufficiently aroused the hatred of the Roman see to fear for his position in the Church; and no sooner did an opportunity present itself to Boniface than John was made to feel the strong arm of his opponent. Having advocated in the pulpit, contrary to the Roman Catholic dogma, of the real presence, a so-called impanation, viz. "that, in virtue of a union of the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine, like the union of the two natures in Christ, the predicates of the one might be transferred over to the other," he was prohibited from preaching by the bishop of Paris. An appeal to the pope, of course, proved futile, and his troubles ended only with his life, in 1304. He embodied his views of the sacrament in his work Determinatio de modo existendi corporis Christi in Sacramento altaris (London, 1686, 8vo): — Correctorium doctrinoe sancti Thomoe. See Neander, Ch. Hist. 4, 340; 5, sect. 1; Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. bk. 3, cent. 13, pt. 2, ch. 3, § 14. SEE BONIFACE; SEE PAPACY; SEE LORDS SUPPER.

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