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society, that is, of the Christians who lived there. Ecclesiastical historians are anxious to maintain that from the earliest time the clergy alone had the privilege of voting on the subject, while the people were only asked for their consent to the choice thus made. Not all even of the orthodox writers on the subject insist on this; and it is far more probable that the Eoman Bishop was in the earliest ages chosen by the whole body of the faithful, and that most likely by some more or less fixed and orderly process, not in perfect accordance with any regular system of votation.
We thus find Boniface I., who had reason to fear that the peace of the Church might be troubled after his death by the turbulence of an Antipope, one Eulalius, writing in 419 to the Emperor Honorius a letter, in which he enjoins on him that no one should be elected Pope by means of intrigues, but that he only should be considered the legitimate Pope Avho should be chosen by Divine judgment and with the consent of all.* The vague nature of this recommendation is sufficiently indicative of the uncertain and unregulated practices that prevailed in the election. The address of this letter to the Emperor, moreover, and the reply of the latter, mark the fact that the Emperors had already begun to exercise a more or less admitted and recognised influence over the pontifical elections. A few years later, in 461, St. Hilarius finds it necessary to decree that no Pope shall appoint his own successor. In 499 St. Symmachus, in a council held at Eome, and attended by seventy-two bishops, decrees that he shall be accepted as Pope who
:': LaLbo, Concil., torn. iii. col. 1582.
shall have united all the suffrages of the clergy, or at least of the greater part of them. In this same briefjwe find the earliest promulgation of a rule which sundry later Pontiffs, notably Paul IV., in 1558, confirmed and made more stringent, and which to the present day is held as one of the fundamental and most important rules of all connected with the election of a successor to St. Peter. It provides that while the Pope lives no negotiation or conference shall take place with regard to his successor, and this under pain of excommunication and forfeiture of all offices. At the death of Symmachus, we find Odoacer publishing a law, given by Labbe under the year 502 (Concil., tom. iv. col. 1334), by which he forbids any pontifical election to be proceeded with without the participation in the deliberations of himself or a pretorian prefect on his behalf. The barbarian king, however, alleged that Symmachus had requested him to take this step; and the ecclesiastical historians admit that some such request may have been made, but assert that Odoacer availed himself of it to usurp a power which it had never been intended to confer on him. As late as 1072 we find the election of Gregory VII., the great Hildebrand, promulgated in the following terms: "-We, the cardinals of the holy Eoman Church, and the clergy, acolytes, subdeacons, and priests, in the presence of the bishops and abbots and many other personages ecclesiastical and lay, this day, the 21st April, 1072, in the church of St. Peter in Vincula, elect as the true Vicar of Christ the Archdeacon Hildebrand, a person of much learning," &c, &c, &c, "and we will that he
* Labbo, Concil., torn. iv. col. 1313.
should have that same authority in the Church of God which St. Peter exercised over that same Church by the will and ordinance of God."* In short, for more than a thousand years the elections of the Eoman Pontiffs got themselves accomplished in all sorts of varying and irregular ways, as best might be, with now more and now less attention on the part of the electors to the real, or at least professed, objects and nature of the office, and now more and now less intervention of corruption within the Church and high-handed lay violence from without. In process of time, as the number of clergy became very much larger, and disorders in the proceedings at the papal elections became more serious, it was thought desirable before the close of the eleventh century to determine that the election of the Bishop of Eome should be entrusted to the leading priests in Eome—" preti primari "—and the bishops of the immediately neighbouring sees exclusively.
The variations of practice during the five hundred years previous to this date, 1072, are chronicled by Moroni, f who counts up eighteen different methods used during this period in the process of election. It will hardly be deemed necessary that the points of difference which characterize these eighteen modes of election should be registered here. It will be sufficient to say that the general tendency of them all was to place the power of election in the hands of a small clerical oligarchy, and to exclude the lay element, especially as represented by crowned heads, from any participation in
* Baronius, ad an. 1074. Labbe, torn. x. col. 6.
f Dizionario di Erudizione Storico-ecclesiastica, vol. xxi. p. 199.
it. It cannot be denied that this restriction, and the practice and claim which grew out of it, were justified, and it may almost be said necessitated, by the circumstances of the time and the nature of the case. It is no doubt a monstrous thing that a handful of Eoman priests should possess the privilege and right of nominating an indiyidual to exercise such a power in Christendom as that of the Popes grew to be. And though the more modern practice of selecting the members of the Sacred College from a much larger field, while adhering nominally to the ancient practice by virtue of the titles still assumed by the cardinals, may be held to have greatly modified the crude excess of the pretension as it was originally put forth, it is still an outrageous claim that the creature of such a body as the Sacred College should exercise such authority as is attributed to the Pope over the entire body of the Church, which claims to be de jure co-extensive with the world. But it may be safely assumed that neither the better nor the worser men of the curiously heterogeneous band of admirable saints and turbulent self-seeking sinners which constituted the Eoman clergy of that time had any clear notion of the greatness of the thing they were arrogating to themselves. And it is at the same time very diflicult, whether from the standpoint of the fifth or that of the fifteenth century, to imagine any scheme by which the end to be attained could have been on the whole more advantageously reached. It may be admitted further, that (though the circumstances which determined and finally fixed the pontifical election in the method which it has followed for more than a thousand years will doubtless be eventually found to operate, like the canker at the root of a widely-branching tree, to the ultimate destruction of the institution) the amount of success which has been achieved by an arrangement so little promising in its appearance is one of the most interesting and curious problems which the history of the world offers to the statesman and sociologist.