Archbishop Arnulf of Orleans (+1003) and the Synod of Verzy (991AD) on the Papacy

“Looking at the actual state of the papacy, what do we behold? John [XII.] called Octavian, wallowing in the sty of filthy concupiscence, conspiring against the Sovereign whom he had himself recently crowned; then Leo [VIII.] the neophyte,, chased from the city by this Octavian; and that monster himself, after the commission of many murders and cruelties, dying by the hand of an assassin. Next we see the Deacon Benedict, though freely elected by the Romans, carried away captive into the wilds of Germany by the new Caesar [Otto I.], and his Pope Leo. Then a second Caesar [Otto II.], greater in arts and arms than the first, succeeds; and in his absence Boniface, a very monster of iniquity, reeking with the blood of his predecessor, mounts the Throne of Peter. True, he is expelled and condemned; but only to return again, and redden his hands with the blood of the holy Bishop John [XIV.]. Are there, indeed, any bold enough to maintain that the priests of the Lord over all the world are to take their law from monsters of guilt like these–men branded with ignominy, illiterate men, and ignorant alike of things human and divine? If, holy fathers, we be bound to weigh in the balance the lives, the morals, and attainments of the meanest candidate for the sacerdotal office, how much more ought we to look to the fitness of him who aspires to be the lord and master of all priests! Yet how would it fare with us, if it should happen that the man the most deficient in all these virtues, one so subject as not to be worthy of the lowest place among the priesthood, should be chosen to fill the highest place of all? What would you say of such an one, when you behold him sitting upon the Throne glittering in purple and gold? Must he not be the Antichrist, ‘sitting in the Temple of God, and showing himself as God’? Verily such an one lacketh both wisdom and charity; he standeth in the temepl as an image, as an idol, fromw hich as from dead marble you would seek counsel.

“But the Church of God is not subject to a wicked pope; nor even absolutely, and on all occasions, to a good one. Let us rather in our difficulties resort to our brethren of Belgium and Germany than to that city, where all things are venal, where judgment and justice are bartered for gold. Let us imitate the great Church of Africa, which, in reply to the pretensions of the Roman Pontiff, deemed it inconceivable that the Lord should have invested any one person with his own plenary prerogative of judicature, and yet have denied it to the great congregation of his priests assembled in Council in different parts of the world. If it be true, as we are informed by common report, that there is in Rome scarcely a man acquainted with letters,—without which, as it is written, one may scarcely be a doorkeeper in the House of God,—with what face may he who had himself learnt nothing set himself up for a teacher of others? In the simple priest ignorance is bad enough; but int he high priest of Rome,—in him to whom it is given to pass in review the faith, the lives, the morals, the discipline, of the whole body of the priesthood, yea, of the universal Church, ignorance is in nowise to be tolerated….Why should he not be subject in judgment to those who, though lowest in place, are his superiors in virtue and in wisdom? Yea, not even he, the prince of the Apostles, declined the rebuke of Paul, though his inferior in place, and, saith the great Pope [St]. Gregory I [the Dialogist], ‘if a bishop be in fault, I know not any one such who is not subject to the holy see; but if faultless, let every one understand that he is the equal of the Roman Pontiff himself, and as well qualified as he to give judgment in any matter.’ ” [Speech by Archbishop Arnulf of Orleans (+1003AD), Synod of Verzy in 991 AD; quoted in Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church, Volume 4”, pages 290-292]