The Gregorian Reforms were a series of reforms initiated by Pope Gregory VII and the circle he formed in the papal curia, circa 1050–80, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy. These reforms are considered to be named after Pope Gregory VII (1073–85), however he personally denied this and claimed his reforms, like his regnal name, honored Gregory the Great.
Although at each new turn the reforms were presented to contemporaries as a return to the old ways, they are often seen by modern historians as the first European Revolution.
The powers that the Gregorian papacy gathered to itself were summed up in a list called Dictatus papae about 1075 or somewhat later. The major headings of Gregorian reform can be seen as embodied in the Papal electoral decree (1059), and the resolution of the Investiture Controversy (1075-1122) was an overwhelming papal victory that by implication acknowledged papal superiority over secular rulers. Within the Church important new laws were pronounced on simony — the purchasing of positions relating to the church – and on clerical marriage.
The reforms are encoded in two major documents: Dictatus papae and the bull Libertas ecclesiae. The Gregorian revolution depended in new ways and to a new degree on the collections of Canon law that were being assembled, in order to buttress the papal position, during the same period. Part of the legacy of the Gregorian Reform was the new figure of the Papal Legist, exemplified a century later by Pope Innocent III.
Gregory also had to avoid the Church ever slipping back into the seriously embarrassing abuses that had occurred in Rome, during the Pornocracy, between 900 and 1050. In 1054 the "Great Schism" had divided western European Christians from the eastern Greek Orthodox church, and the Church had to reassert its importance and authority to its followers.
Central status of the Church
The reform of the Church, both within it, and in relation to the Holy Roman Emperor and the other lay rulers of Europe, was Gregory VII's life work. It was based on his conviction that the Church was founded by God and entrusted with the task of embracing all mankind in a single society in which divine will is the only law; that, in his capacity as a divine institution, he is supreme over all human structures, especially the secular state; and that the pope, in his role as head of the Church under the petrine commission, is the vice-regent of God on earth, so that disobedience to him implies disobedience to God: or, in other words, a defection from Christianity. But any attempt to interpret this in terms of action would have bound the Church to annihilate not merely a single state, but all states. Thus Gregory, as a politician wanting to achieve some result, was driven in practice to adopt a different standpoint. He acknowledged the existence of the state as a dispensation of Providence, described the coexistence of church and state as a divine ordinance, and emphasized the necessity of union between the sacerdotium and the imperium. But at no period would he have dreamed of putting the two powers on an equal footing; the superiority of church to state was to him a fact which admitted of no discussion and which he had never doubted.
He wished to see all important matters of dispute referred to Rome; appeals were to be addressed to himself; the centralization of ecclesiastical government in Rome naturally involved a curtailment of the powers of bishops. Since these refused to submit voluntarily and tried to assert their traditional independence, his papacy is full of struggles against the higher ranks of the clergy.
Clerical celibacy policy confirmed
This battle for the foundation of papal supremacy is connected with his championship of compulsory celibacy among the clergy and his attack on simony. Gregory VII did not introduce the celibacy of the priesthood into the Church, but he took up the struggle with greater energy than his predecessors. In 1074 he published an encyclical, absolving the people from their obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. The next year he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues. Both the campaign against priestly marriage and that against simony provoked widespread resistance.
The Pope was to be the absolute head of the church. This was a unique, universalist idea of the church. According to the Dictatus papae, he was to be judged by no one, and the Roman Church had never been, and would never be, wrong. The Dictatus papae also declared the Pope's authority to depose emperors.
- "The Papacy 900–1050" (PDF). FMG. Archived from the original on 2005-04-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20050424202821/http://fmg.ac/FMG/Articles/Popes.pdf.
- Donation of Constantine
- Pope Gelasius I and the "Gelasian doctrine"
- Donation of Pippin
- Concordat of Worms
- First Council of the Lateran
- Diplomas Ottonianum
- Liber Gomorrhianus
- Cluniac Reforms
- Walk to Canossa
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