Pope John XXII
Who was Pope John XXII?
John XXII (1244– 1334), born Jacques Duèze, was Pope from 7 August 1316 until his death. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy (1309–1377), elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by King Louis X's brother Philip, the Count of Poitiers, later King Philip V of France.
Like his predecessor, Clement V, he centralized power and income in the Papacy and lived a princely life in Avignon. He opposed the political policies of Louis IV of Bavaria as Holy Roman Emperor, which prompted Louis to invade Italy and set up an antipope, Nicholas V. Pope John XXII faced controversy in theology involving his views on the Beatific Vision, and he opposed the Franciscan understanding of the poverty of Christ and his apostles. He canonized St. Thomas Aquinas.
The death of Pope Clement V in 1314 was followed by an interregnum of two years due to disagreements between the cardinals, who were split into two factions. After two years, Philip V of France finally in 1316 managed to arrange a papal conclave of twenty-three cardinals in Lyon. This conclave elected Jacques Duèze, who took the name John XXII and was crowned in Lyon. He set up his residence in Avignon rather than Rome, continuing the Avignon Papacy of his predecessor.
John XXII involved himself in the politics and religious movements of many European countries in order to advance the interests of the Church. This made him a very controversial pope at the time. Also his close links with the French crown created widespread distrust of the papacy.
Before John XXII's election a contest had begun for the imperial crown between Louis IV of Bavaria and his opponent, Frederick I of Austria. John XXII was neutral at first, but in 1323, when Louis IV had won and became Holy Roman Emperor, the Guelph (papal) party and the Ghibelline (imperial) party began a serious quarrel.
This was partly provoked by John XXII's extreme claims of authority over the empire and also partly by Louis IV's support of the Franciscan Spirituals. Louis IV invaded Italy, entered Rome and set up Pietro Rainalducci as Antipope Nicholas V in 1328. The project was a fiasco. Guelphic predominance at Rome was later restored, and Pope John excommunicated William of Ockham. However, Louis IV had silenced the papal claims and John XXII stayed the rest of his life in Avignon.
Pope John XXII was an excellent administrator and did much efficient reorganizing. He had sent a letter of thanks to the Muslim ruler Uzbeg Khan, who was very tolerant of Christians and treated Christians kindly.
John XXII has traditionally been credited with having composed the prayer "Anima Christi, sanctifica me ...", which has come down to us in English as "Soul of Christ, sanctify me ..." and as the hymn, "Soul of my Saviour, sanctify my breast".
On 27 March 1329 John XXII condemned many writings of Meister Eckhart as heretical in his papal bull In Agro Dominico.
Pope John XXII was determined to suppress what he considered to be the excesses of the Spirituals, who contended eagerly for the view that Christ and his apostles had possessed absolutely nothing, either separately or jointly, and who were citing Exiit qui seminat in support of their view.
In 1317, John XXII formally condemned the group of them known as the Fraticelli. On 26 March 1322, with Quia nonnunquam, he removed the ban on discussion of Nicholas III's bull and commissioned experts to examine the idea of poverty based on belief that Christ and the apostles owned nothing. The experts disagreed among themselves, but the majority condemned the idea on the grounds that it would condemn the Church's right to have possessions.
The Franciscan chapter held in Perugia in May 1322 declared on the contrary: "To say or assert that Christ, in showing the way of perfection, and the Apostles, in following that way and setting an example to others who wished to lead the perfect life, possessed nothing either severally or in common, either by right of ownership and dominium or by personal right, we corporately and unanimously declare to be not heretical, but true and catholic."
By the bull Ad conditorem canonum of 8 December 1322, John XXII, declaring it ridiculous to pretend that every scrap of food given to the friars and eaten by them belonged to the pope, refused to accept ownership over the goods of the Franciscans in future and granted them exemption from the rule that absolutely forbade ownership of anything even in common, thus forcing them to accept ownership.
And, on 12 November 1323, he issued the short bull Quum inter nonnullos, which declared "erroneous and heretical" the doctrine that Christ and his apostles had no possessions whatever. John XXII's actions thus demolished the fictitious structure that gave the appearance of absolute poverty to the life of the Franciscan friars.
Influential members of the order protested, such as the minister general Michael of Cesena, the English provincial William of Ockham and Bonagratia of Bergamo. In 1324, Louis the Bavarian sided with the Spirituals and accused the Pope of heresy.
In reply to the argument of his opponents that Nicholas III's bull Exiit qui seminat was fixed and irrevocable, John XXII issued the bull Quia quorundam on 10 November 1324, in which he declared that it cannot be inferred from the words of the 1279 bull that Christ and the apostles had nothing, adding: "Indeed, it can be inferred rather that the Gospel life lived by Christ and the Apostles did not exclude some possessions in common, since living 'without property' does not require that those living thus should have nothing in common."
In 1328 Michael of Cesena was summoned to Avignon to explain the Order's intransigence in refusing the Pope's orders and its complicity with Louis of Bavaria. Michael was imprisoned in Avignon, together with Francesco d'Ascoli, Bonagratia and William of Ockham. In January of that year Louis of Bavaria entered Rome and had himself crowned emperor.
Three months later, he declared John XXII deposed and installed the Spiritual Franciscan Pietro Rainalducci as Pope. The Franciscan chapter that opened in Bologna on 28 May reelected Michael of Cesena, who two days before had escaped with his companions from Avignon. But in August Louis the Bavarian and his pope had to flee Rome before an attack by Robert, King of Naples.
Only a small part of the Franciscan Order joined the opponents of John XXII, and at a general chapter held in Paris in 1329 the majority of all the houses declared their submission to the Pope. With the bull Quia vir reprobus of 16 November 1329, John XXII replied to Michael of Cesena's attacks on Ad conditorem canonum, Quum inter nonnullos, and Quia quorundam. In 1330, Antipope Nicholas V submitted, followed later by the ex-general Michael, and finally, just before his death, by Ockham.
Beatific Vision controversy
Pope John XXII was involved in a major theological controversy concerning the Beatific Vision. Even before he was pope, John XXII argued that those who died in the faith did not see the presence of God until the Last Judgment. The point is important to Catholics, since if the dead are not in the presence of God, then the whole idea of prayers to the saints would seem to be undermined.
The idea is also important to Protestants who believe that, as soon as one dies, one goes to heaven; otherwise, they would need to believe in a Purgatory that lasted until the end of time. Whereas most Protestants do not believe in Purgatory, John's idea would be difficult to say the least had it stood the test of time.
John XXII continued this argument for a time in sermons while he was pope, although he never taught it in official documents. He eventually backed down from his position, and agreed that those who died in grace do indeed immediately enjoy the Beatific Vision.
Despite holding for many years a view widely held to be heretical, John XXII is not considered a heretic because in his day the doctrine he had contradicted had not been formally defined by the Church, a lacuna that his successor Benedict XII immediately filled by the encyclical Benedictus Deus, which formally defined this doctrine as part of Church teaching.
- "Pope John XXII." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.