Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius Of Padua, an eminent opponent of the papacy, was born towards the close of the 13th century, and was probably a native of Italy. He first attracted notice at the University of Orleans, in France, and later at that of Paris, where he studied jurisprudence, and also paid some attention to philosophy, medicine, and theology, and in 1312 became rector. It was not, however, until 1324 that he became particularly noted. In that year he composed his principal work, Defensor pacis s. de re imperatoria et pontificia. In this work, written in the interest of the emperor Louis IV, the Bavarian, and against the papacy, he describes the papacy of his time as the most dangerous foe to peace and prosperity, supporting his assertion by a reference to events then current, e.g. the quarrel of Boniface VIII with Philip the Fair of France, the arrogance of Clement V towards the emperor Henry VII, and the treatment accorded by pope John XXII, then reigning, to Louis the Bavarian. In order to prevent such scandals for the future, he declares that the axe must be laid at the root of the evil; and he then proceeds to consider,

1, the nature, origin, and end of the state, with constant reference to peace and quietness as the highest good of social life;

2, the relation between Church and State, opposing to the exaggerated pretensions of the Curia a doctrine of the Church which he grounds on reason, tradition, Scripture, history, and ecclesiastical law. The leading thoughts are these:

(1) The official duties and authority of every priest are confined to the ministration of the Word and sacraments. His power is spiritual and moral; the civil power alone may employ force, and the priest, even if he be bishop or pope, is subject to the civil power.

(2) All priests, whatever their name, are equal in spiritual rank and authority; there was no distinction in the apostolic Church between bishops and presbyters; and the N.T. shows that there was no primacy of Peter, but that the apostles were all equal. In externals and non-essentials there may be distinctions between priests, and gradations of office, so far as circumstances require, but as a merely human arrangement.

(3) There is only one divinely-appointed Head of the Church — Christ himself.

(4) The highest authority on earth in ecclesiastical matters does not inhere in a single priest or bishop, not even in the bishop of Rome, but in a general council, composed as well of intelligent laymen, who are versed in the Scriptures, as of priests. Christ has promised to be with his Church unto the end of the world, and a general council is the proper exponent and organ of the Church. The pope has not even authority to convene a council, since the case is possible that he should be guilty of conduct which itself would require the attention of a general council. This authority, therefore, belongs to the sovereign, as supreme lawgiver.

(5) The Scriptures, including what must be necessarily inferred from their teaching, alone deserve an unconditional assent. The principles thus submitted by Marsilius found a practical application in 1338, when the heiress of the Tyrol sought a divorce from her husband, John of Bohemia, in order to marry a son of the emperor; a step which was sanctioned by Louis IV (in 1342), regardless of the fact that the parties were within the degrees of consanguinity in which marriage was prohibited by the Church, public opinion everywhere censuring the emperor's action. Both Marsilius and the learned Franciscan, William Occam, came forward in the emperor's defense, in a work bearing the title in each case, Tractatus de jurisdictione Imeperattoris in causis matrimonialibus. They are complementary to each other, Marsilius treating especially of the dissolution of the former marriage, and Occam of the dispensation on account of consanguinity. Marsilius here also advanced the principle, that the ministers and teachers of the Word are to decide on the sufficiency of any reason for divorce under the divine law, but that the sovereign legislator must decide, on grounds of human law, whether such sufficient reason exists in any given case. Because of his work Defensorpacis, Marsilius was placed under the ban in 1327. His death is generally assigned to 1328, but Louis IV speaks of him as living, in a letter addressed to pope Benedict, in 1336, and there is no reason to doubt the genuineness of his work on marriage, which appeared in 1342. He must therefore have lived until after that date. In his life he appears as one of the most determined opposers of the unlimited pretensions of the papacy; and in his views of the headship of the Church as centering in Christ, and of the Scriptures as furnishing the sole rule of faith and practice for the Church, we recognize him as a forerunner of the Reformation. His works were published in Goldast's Monarchia s. Romans imp. (Frankf. 1668). See Schrsckh, Kirchengesch. 31:79 sq.; Neander, Christian Dogm. 2:599 sq.; Milman, Hist.of Latin Christianity, 7:89 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyclop. 20:109 sq.; Wetzer und Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 6:896 sq.; Friedberg, Zeitsch. f. Kirchenrecht (Tiibilmg. 1869), 8:69 sq.

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