THE THRONE OF THE WORLD
One can make an exception when the man in question is able and has rendered real service, when circumstances compel it, and when all the electors are in agreement. In Palestine Moslem converts came breez- ily to the baptismal font with the four wives the Koran permitted them and their bounteous offspring. Could they become Christians? This time Innocent hesitated; but then he bethought himself of Abraham and the other fathers who had lived no differently from the Turks. The Gospel itself, he said, contains no page in which po- lygamy is expressly forbidden. And since it seems that the heathens can lawfully have several wives according to the laws of their own cults, they may keep them in accordance with the custom of the Pa- triarchs when they become Christians. His principle that mercy stood higher than the law did not prevent the Pope from insisting upon an upright juridical practice, nor did it keep him from exercising mer- ciless sternness when judges were found to sponsor dubious interpreta- tions of the law.
The greatest successes of Innocent's policy were obtained outside the scope of the German problem. In England John Sansterre, whom his own brother Richard of the Lion Heart had excluded from the succession in his testament, came under suspicion as having murdered the heir apparent and was summoned to appear in France for trial by the Breton nobles. When he did not respond, he was deprived of his lands in France. England appealed to Innocent for a decision, but Philippe Auguste forbade the Church to interfere in this quarrel be- tween kings; for he himself had run afoul of the Pope by reason of his marital troubles. Innocent did not abandon his right and duty to either side. When the election of a bishop to the See of Canterbury resulted in a dual choice, the chapter appealed to him and he charged an English commission with conducting a free election in Rome. John, however, refused to recognize the Archbishop-elect, Cardinal Stephen Langton, took action against the monks of Canterbury, con- fiscated their property and berated the Pope. When all means of spiritual influence were exhausted, Innocent placed England under the interdict in 1208. No divine service was held in the churches, no candle burned, the Cross and every statue were veiled. The dead were borne along the streets without prayer or benefit of clergy. Only children were baptized, and the dead were given the Viaticum.