Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages/Book IV/Letter of the Bishops to Gregory VII.

6. Letter of the Bishops to Gregory VII., Jan. 24, 1076.

Siegfried archbishop of Mainz, Udo of Treves, William of Utrecht, Herrman of Metz, Henry of Laudun, Ricbert of Verdun, Bibo of Touls, Hozemann of Spires, Burkhard of Halberstadt, Werner of Strasburg, Burkhard of Basel, Otto of Constance, Adalbero of Wurzburg, Rodbert of Bamberg, Otto of Ratisbon, Ellinard of Frising, Odalric of Eichstädt, Frederick of Miinster, Filbert of Minden, Hezil of Hildesheim, Benno of Osnabrück, Eppo of Naples, Imadus of Paderbom, Tiedo of Brandenburg, Burkhard of Lausanne, Bruno of Verona: to brother Hildebrand.

Although it was well known to us, when thou didst first invade the helm of the church, what an unlawful and nefarious thing thou, contrary to right and justice, wast presuming with thy well-known arrogance to do: we nevertheless thought best to veil the so vicious beginnings of thy elevation by a certain excusatory silence; hoping, namely, that such wicked commencements would be rectified, and to some degree obliterated by the probity and zeal of the rest of thy reign. But now, as the lamentable state of the church universal proclaims and bemoans, thou dost, with pertinacious continuance, fulfill the promises of thy evil beginnings through the still worse progress of thy actions and decrees. For although our Lord and Saviour impressed upon his faithful followers the special advantages of peace and charity—in testimony of which toomany proofs exist to be comprised in the extent of a letter—thou, on the contrary, striving after profane novelties, delighting more in a widely known than in a good name, being swelled with unheard of pride, hast, like a standardbearer of schism, torn with proud cruelty and cruel pride all the members of the church, which, following the apostle, were enjoying a quiet and tranquil life before thy times. Thou hast, with raging madness, scattered through all the churches of Italy, Germany, Gaul and Spain the flame of discord which, through thy ruinous factions, thou didst start in the Roman church. For by taking away from the bishops, as well as thou wast able, all the power which is known to have been divinely conferred upon them through the grace of the holy Spirit, which chiefly manifests itself in ordinations; and by giving over to the fury of the people all the administration of ecclesiastical affairs —seeing that now no one is bishop or priest over any one unless he has bought this by most unworthy assent from thy magnificence—thou hast disturbed, with wretched confusion, all the vigour of the apostolic institution and that most beautiful distribution of the members of Christ which the Teacher of the nations so often commends and inculcates. And thus, through these thy boasted decrees, —we can not speak of it without tears—the name of Christ has almost perished. Who, moreover, for the very indig- nity of the thing, is not astounded that thou should' st usurp and arrogate to thyself a certain new and unlawful power in order to destroy rights which are the due of the whole brotherhood ? For thou dost assert that no one of us shall have any further power of binding or loosing any one of our parishioners whose crime, or even the mere rumour of it, shall reach thee—save thou alone, or him whom thou dost especially delegate for this purpose. What man that is learned in the sacred Scriptures does not see the more than madness of this decree ? Since, therefore, we have decided that it is worse than any evil longer to tolerate that the church of God should be so seriously endangered—nay, almost ruined—through these and other workings of thy presumptions,—we have agreed, by common consent of all of us, to make known to thee that about which we have hitherto kept silent : why it is that thou neither now may'st, nor at any time could' st preside over the apostolic see. Thou thyself, in the time of the emperor Henry (III.) of blessed memory, did'st bind thyself by an oath in person, never while that emperor lived, or his son our master the most glorious king who is now at the head of aifairs, thyself to accept the papacy, or, so far as thou could' st prevent it, to permit any one else to receive it without the assent and approbation either of the father during his life, or of the sou so long as he too should live. And there are very many bishops who can to-day bear witness to this oath, having seen it at that time with their eyes and heard it with their ears. Re- member this also, how, when the ambition of securing the papacy tickled some of the cardinals, thou thyself, in order to remove rivalry, did'st bind thyself by an oath, on the condition and with the understanding that they should do the same, never to accept the papacy. See how faithfully thou hast observed both these oaths ! Moreover, when, in the time of pope Nicholas, a synod was held with 125 bishops in session, this was established and decreed : that no one should ever become pope except by election of the cardinals, with the approbation of the people and through the consent and authority of the king. And thou thyself wast the author, the sponsor and the signer of this decree. Furthermore thou hast filled the whole church, as it were, with the ill odour of a most grave charge concerning the too familiar living together and cohabitation with a strange woman. By which thing our sense of shame suffers more than our cause, although this general complaint has resounded every where: that all the decrees of the apostolic see have been set in motion by women—in a word, that through this new senate of women the whole circle of the church is administered. For no amount of complaining suffices concerning the injuries and insults against bishops whom thou most unworthily dost call sons of harlots and the like. Since, therefore, thy accession has been inaugurated by such perjuries; since, through the abuse of thy innovations, the church of God is in danger through so severe a storm; and since thou has defiled thy life and conversation with such manifold infamy: we renounce the obedience which we never promised to thee, nor shall we in future at all observe it. And since, as thou did'st publicly proclaim, not one of us has been to thee thus far a bishop, so also shalt thou henceforth be pope for none of us.