Philip IV the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII had several conflicts in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. These conflicts are important because the result led to the Avignon period of the papacy, which is sometimes called the “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy”.
When Philip IV taxed the clergy without the Pope’s permission, Pope Boniface VIII responded with the document Clericos Laicos, which said that all clergymen who pay the taxes are excommunicated and the bishops who do so will be deposed. All kings who tax the clergymen he declared excommunicated and their kingdoms placed under interdict. Philip would not let the pope boss him around, and declared that no resources may leave the Church in France for Rome. Boniface backed down, and urged the clergy to pay.
Boniface wanted to be on good terms with Philip, especially because he had many other enemies in Italy, Sicily, and among some of the Franciscan friars. So, Boniface helped reconcile them for a time with the canonization of Louis IX, and earlier French King. But when Philip imprisoned the Bishop of Pamiers, denying him an ecclesiastical trial, Boniface demanded that he be freed. He also suspended all the privileges he gave to him over the taxation of the clergy. Boniface also called a council in France in 1302. He composed a private letter, Ausculta Fili, to try to reason with Philip, but the king and his men doctored it and distributed a new version, which made the pope look bad. Boniface then wrote Unam Sanctam, another decree, in which he said that the popes could judge the actions of kings.
Philip’s aides insisted that Boniface was a heretic and not a real pope, so Philip brought together all of Boniface’s political enemies against him. Boniface excommunicated Philip in 1303, leading several French soldiers to confront him at Anagni. They rough up the pope, one of them even slapping him in the face. Boniface was so shocked by this that he died a month later.
Clement V, who came soon after, was eager to please Philip. He withdrew Boniface’s Unam Sanctam and modified Clericos Laicos. He also gave in on other matters as well. He moved the seat of the papacy to Avignon, just across the French border, and a period of French dominance over the church began. All seven popes who reigned in this period were French, and 111 of the 134 cardinals (roughly 83%) were also French. Although many people tend to think that the popes in this period were weak and lived luxurious lives, they were mostly great administrators and did not spend luxuriously on themselves from the funds that came in. The seat of the papacy returned to the traditional seat in Rome in 1377 under Gregory XI, who was the last of the Avignon popes.
An Italian scholar named Marsilius of Padua wrote an important work called Defensor Pacis. He believed that the ecclesiastical proceeds from the community and the emperor. The church, he said, has no visible head according to scripture. He argued that the Pope was just a bishop like the others, and that Peter, who Catholics say is the first pope, had no more authority than the other apostles, and that it is uncertain that he was even in Rome at all. People like Boniface VIII enraged him, obviously.
Even though he wanted the pope to have less authority in Europe, he did say that the Pope had the authority to call an ecumenical council. But, the council would be superior to him and his job was to enforce it. He also said that the pope’s decrees should not be binding, except when enforcing the decisions of an ecumenical council. He also said that the community should be in charge of electing the parish priest and overseeing the clergy.
He said that the community or the state was the most important, and that the church should only play a small part. He also said that the church could not legislate, adjudicate, possess goods, sell, or purchase without authorization. He said that the emperor should have power over ecumenical councils and popes, and that there should be only one authority in one jurisdiction, in other words, no states or provinces.
Marsilius expressed many modern views, such as the belief that the Government should be based on the consent of the people. He was not so concerned about the form of the government, as long as it was based on the consent of the people. He said that more people involved in the government makes it less likely to have only a few people favored by law. He believed in centralization, with the state as everything. He said that political authority exists to resolve conflicts. In his view, the state is everything.