Pope Clement II (1046-47)
Who was Pope Clement II?
Pope Clement II arose to power during a difficult time for the Church. In the autumn of 1046 the King of Germany, Henry III, crossed the Alps at the head of a large army and accompanied by a brilliant retinue of the secular and ecclesiastical princes of the empire, for the twofold purpose of receiving the imperial crown and of restoring order in the Italian Peninsula.
The condition of Rome in particular was deplorable. In St. Peter's, the Lateran, and St. Mary Major's, sat three rival claimants to the papacy. Two of them, Benedict IX and Sylvester III, represented rival factions of the Roman nobility. The position of the third, Gregory VI, was peculiar.
The reform party, in order to free the city from the intolerable yoke of the House of Tusculum, and the Church from the stigma of Benedict's dissolute life, had stipulated with that stripling that he should resign the tiara upon receipt of a certain amount of money. That this heroic measure for delivering the Holy See from destruction was simoniacal, has been doubted by many; but that it bore the outward aspect of simony and would be considered a flaw in Gregory's title, consequently in the imperial title Henry was seeking, was the opinion of that age.
Strong in the consciousness of his good intentions, Gregory met King Henry at Piacenza, and was received with all possible honours. It was decided that he should summon a synod to meet at Sutri near Rome, at which the entire question should be ventilated. The proceedings of the Synod of Sutri, 20 December, are well summarized by Cardinal Newman in his "Essays Critical and Historical" (II, 262 sqq.).
Of the three papal claimants, Benedict refused to appear; he was again summoned and afterwards pronounced deposed at Rome. Sylvester was "stripped of his sacerdotal rank and shut up in a monastery". Gregory showed himself to be, if not an idiota, at least a man miræ simplicitatis, by explaining in straightforward speech his compact with Benedict, and he made no other defence than his good intentions, and deposed himself (Watterich, Vitæ Rom. Pont., I, 76); an act by some interpreted as a voluntary resignation, by others (Hefele), in keeping with the contemporary annals, as a deposition by the synod.
The Synod of Sutri adjourned to meet again in Rome 23 and 24 December. Benedict, failing to appear, was condemned and deposed in contumaciam, and the papal chair was declared vacant. As King Henry was not yet crowned emperor, he had no canonical right to take part in the new election; but the Romans had no candidate to propose and begged the monarch to suggest a worthy subject.
Henry's first choice, the powerful Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, positively refused to accept the burden and suggested his friend Suidger, Bishop of Bamberg. In spite of the latter's protests, the king took him by the hand and presented him to the acclaiming clergy and people as their spiritual chief. Suidger's reluctance was finally overcome, though he insisted upon retaining the bishopric of his beloved see. He might be pardoned for fearing that the turbulent Romans would ere long send him back to Bamberg.
Moreover, since the king refused to give back to the Roman See its possessions usurped by the nobles and the Normans, the pope was forced to look to his German bishopric for financial support. He was enthroned in St. Peter's on Christmas Day and took the name of Clement II. He was born in Saxony of noble parentage, was first a canon in Halberstadt, then chaplain at the court of King Henry, who on the death of Eberhard, the first Bishop of Bamberg, appointed him to that important see. He was a man of strictest integrity and severe morality.
His first pontifical act was to place the imperial crown upon his benefactor and the queen-consort, Agnes of Aquitaine. The new emperor received from the Romans and the pope the title and diadem of a Roman Patricius, a dignity which, since the tenth century, owing to the uncanonical pretensions of the Roman aristocracy, was commonly supposed to give the bearer the right of appointing the pope, or, more exactly speaking, of indicating the person to be chosen (Hefele).
Had not God given His Church the inalienable right of freedom and independence, and sent her champions determined to enforce this right, she would now have simply exchanged the tyrrany of Roman factions for the more serious thraldom to a foreign power. The fact that Henry had protected the Roman Church and rescued her from her enemies gave him no just claim to become her lord and master.
Short-sighted reformers, even men like St. Peter Damiani (Opusc., VI, 36) who saw in this surrender of the freedom of papal elections to the arbitrary will of the emperor the opening of a new era, lived long enough to regret the mistake that was made. With due recognition of the prominent part taken by the Germans in the reformation of the eleventh century, we cannot forget that neither Henry III nor his bishops understood the importance of absolute independence in the election of the officers of the Church.
This lesson was taught them by Hildebrand, the young chaplain of Gregory VI, whom they took to Germany with his master, only to return with St. Leo IX to begin his immortal career. Henry III, the sworn enemy of simony, never took a penny from any of his appointees, but he claimed a right of appointment which virtually made him head of the Church and paved the way for intolerable abuses under his unworthy successors.
Clement lost no time in beginning the work of reform. At a great synod in Rome, January, 1047, the buying and selling of things spiritual was punished with excommunication; anyone who should knowingly accept ordination at the hands of a prelate guilty of simony was ordered to do canonical penance for forty days. A dispute for precedence between the Sees of Ravenna, Milan, and Aquileia was settled in favour of Ravenna, the bishop of which was, in the absence of the emperor, to take his station at the pope's right.
Clement accompanied the emperor in a triumphal progress through Southern Italy and placed Benevento under an interdict for refusing to open its gates to them. Proceeding with Henry to Germany, he canonized Wiborada, a nun of St. Gall, martyred by the Huns in 925. On his way back to Rome he died bear Pesaro. That he was poisoned by the partisans of Benedict IX is a mere suspicion without proof.
He bequeathed his mortal remains to Bamberg, in the great cathedral of which his marble sarcophagus is to be seen at the present day. He is the only pope buried in Germany. Many zealous ecclesiastics, notably the Bishop of Liège, now exerted themselves to reseat in the papal chair Gregory VI, whom, together with his chaplain, Henry held in honourable custody; but the emperor unceremoniously appointed Poppo, Bishop of Brixen, who took the name of Damasus II.
- Catholic Encyclopedia