The Evil Influence of the Pope's Missionaries

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 13
Sad as it is to reflect on the fearful slaughter of the Saxons, and the forced baptism of the helpless remnant, our sadness is infinitely increased when we find that the professed messengers of mercy were the great movers in these long and exterminating wars. In place of being the merciful missionaries of the gospel of peace, they were in reality the cruel emissaries of the papacy—of the power of darkness: Charlemagne was, no doubt, to a great extent deceived and urged on by the priests.
Under the avowed object of cementing the union between Church and State, for the temporal and spiritual benefit of mankind, and for the enduring strength of the imperial government, the artful priests saw the way opening for their own temporal greatness and the more absolute sovereignty of Rome. And so it happened, as all history affirms. They very soon gained a position of worldly greatness over the conquered people and their lands. An entire change takes place just at this time in the outward condition of the clergy, and indeed in society generally. Ancient history disappears, we are told, at the death of Pepin, and mediaeval life begins. A new state of society is inaugurated by his son—the last of barbaric kings and the first of feudal monarchs. But it is with ecclesiastical history we have to do, and here, again, we prefer giving a few extracts from the Dean—so often referred to—who will not be accused of unnecessary severity, but whose testimony is of the very highest integrity.
"The subjugation of the land appeared complete before Charlemagne founded successively his great religious colonies, the eight bishoprics of Minden, Seligenstadt, Verden, Bremen, Munster, Hildesheim, Osnaburg, and Paderborn. These, with many richly endowed monasteries like Hersfuld, became the separate centers from which Christianity and civilization spread in expanding circles. But though these were military as well as religious settlements, the ecclesiastics were the only foreigners. The more faithful and trustworthy Saxon chieftains, who gave the security of seemingly sincere conversion to Christianity, were raised into counts: thus the profession of Christianity was the sole test of fealty....
"Charlemagne, in christian history, commands a more important station even than for his subjugation of Germany to the gospel, on account of his complete organization, if not foundation, of the high feudal hierarchy in a great part of Europe. Throughout the Western empire was, it may be said, constitutionally established this double aristocracy, ecclesiastical and civil. Everywhere the higher clergy and the nobles, and so downwards through the different gradations of society, even of the same rank, and liable to many of the same duties, of equal, in some cases of co-ordinate, authority. Each district had its bishop and its count; the dioceses and the counties were mostly of the same extent
"Charlemagne himself was no less prodigal than weaker kings of immunities and grants of property to churches and monasteries. With his queen Hildegard, he endows the church of St. Martin, in Tours, with lands in Italy. His grants to St. Denys, to Lorch, to Fulda, to Prum, more particularly to Hersfuld, and many Italian abbeys, appear among the acts of his reign.
"Nor were these estates always obtained from the king or the nobles. The stewards of the poor were sometimes the spoilers of the poor. Even under Charlemagne there are complaints against the usurpation of property by bishops and abbots, as against counts and laymen. They compelled the poor free man to sell his property, or forced him to serve in the army, and that on permanent duty, and so to leave his land either without owner, with all the chances that he might not return, or to commit it to the custody of those who remained at home in quiet, and seized every opportunity of entering into possession. No Naboth's vineyard escaped their watchful avarice.
"In their fiefs the bishop or abbot exercised all the rights of a feudal chieftain.... Thus the hierarchy, now a feudal institution, parallel to and co-ordinate with the temporal feudal aristocracy, aspired to enjoy, and actually before long did enjoy, the dignity, the wealth, the power, of suzerain lords. Bishops and abbots had the independence and privileges of inalienable fiefs; and at the same time began either sullenly to contest, or haughtily to refuse, those payments or acknowledgments of vassalage, which sometimes weighed heavily on other lands. During the reign of Charlemagne this theory of spiritual immunity slumbered, or rather had not quickened into life. It was boldly announced -so rapid was its growth—in the strife with his son, Louis the Pious. It was then asserted by the hierarchy, that all property given to the church, to the poor, to the saints, to God Himself—such were the specious phrases—was given absolutely, irrevocably, with no reserve. The king might have power over the knights' fees; over those of the church he had none whatever. Such claims were impious, sacrilegious, and implied forfeiture of eternal life. The clergy and their estates belonged to another realm, to another commonwealth; they were entirely, absolutely, independent of the civil power."