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1377 Condemnation of Wycliff

As we have seen, the opulence of the Church had started to attract some savage criticism. Drawing on a rich vein of attack that threaded back through Petrarch to Ockham to Marsilius of Padua, John Wyclif wrote vitriolic attacks on the Church in England and on the lax life of the clergy and monks. An English intellectual who had studied at Oxford at the same time as Adam  (see the 14th Century Church section) Wyclif hit a nerve with the population at large and started to attack the authority and power of the Church and its right to levy taxation in particular.

Adam was instrumental in fighting the doctrine of John Wyclif in England. Wyclif's attacks struck a chord with his political masters, Edward III and his son John of Gaunt, who were always looking for excuses to avoid papal taxes. Adam saw the danger of Wyclif's views at a time when the papal court in Avignon and later Rome remained in blissful ignorance of them. He took care to keep himself informed, corresponding with his old Norwich colleague Thomas Brinton amongst others. Throughout the 1370's Wyclif's attacks on the Church grew bolder and more and more acerbic yet only Adam seemed to appreciate the danger and single handedly set about trying to do something about it.

We have seen that in 1376 the pope struck out against Wyclif. Now in 1377 he issued a bull attacking the specifics of his doctrine pointing out the errors in his beliefs. It is exactly the sort of tract that Adam Easton would have researched and written - and most probably he did on this occasion too. Gregory was in Rome and Wyclif remained in the relative safety of England. There was of course one Englishman at the papal court who had access to Wyclif’s writings and that was Adam Easton. But there are other clues. John Wyclif’s propositions were condemned in a Papal Bull the condemned text being recorded in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Register at Lambeth Palace as follows:
 

Conclusiones magistri Johannis Wyclif

1.      Totum genus concurrentium citra Christum non habet potestatem simpliciter ordinandi, ut Petrus et omne genus suum dominetur politice super mundum.

2.      Deus non potest dare homini pro se et  haeredibus suis in perpetuum civile dominium.

3.      Chartae humanitus adinventae de haereditate olim perpetua sunt impossibiles.

4.      Quilibet existens in gratia gratifice et fideliter, nedum habet ius, sed in re habet omnia Dei.

5.      Homo potest solum ministratorie dare tam naturali filio quam imitationis in schola Christi, tam temporale dominium, quam aeternum.

6.      Si Deus est, domini temporales possunt legitime ac meritorie auferre bona fortunae ab ecclesia delinquente.

7.      Numquid ecclesia est in tali statu vel non, non est meum discutere, sed dominorum temporalium examinare; et posito casu confidenter agere, et in poena damnationis aeternae eius temporalia auferre.

8.      Scimus, quod non est possibile, quod vicari Christi pure ex bullis suis, vel ex illis, cum voluntate et consensu suo, et sui collegii, quemquam habilitet vel inhabilitet.

9.      Non est possibile hominem excommunicari, nisi prius et principaliter excommunicaretur a seipso.

10.  Nemo ad sui deteriorationem excommunicatur suspenditur, vel aliis censuris cruciatur, nisi in causa Dei.

11.  Maledictio vel excommunicatio non ligat simpliciter nisi quantum fertur in adversarium legis Christi.

12.  Non est examplificata potestas a Christo, vel suis discipulis excommunicandi subditos, praecipue, propter negationem temporalium sed e contra.

13.  Discipuli Christi non habent potestatem coacte exigere temporalia per censuras.

14.  Non est possibile de potentia dei absoluta, quod si papa vel alius praetendat se quovismodo solvere vel ligare, eo ipso solvit vel ligat.

15.  Credere debemus quod solum tunc solvit vel ligat, quando se conformat legi Christi.

16.  Hoc debet catholice credii, quilibet sacerdos rite ordinatus habet potestatem sufficientes sacramenta qualibet conferendi, et per consequens quemlibet contritum a peccato quolibet absolvendi.

17.  Licet regibus auferre temporalia a viris ecclesiasticis ipsis abutentibus habitualiter.

18.  Sive domini temporales, sive santi papae, sive sancti, sive caput ecclesiae qui est Christus dotaverint ecclesiam bonis fortunae vel graticie, et excommunicaverint eius temporalia auferentes, licet tamen propter conditionem implicatam delicto proportionabili eam temporalibus spoliare.

19.  Ecclesiasticus imo et Romanus pontifex potest legitime a subditis et laicis corripi et etiam accusari.

Beneath the 19 listed conclusions is a missive from Simon Archbishop of Canterbury and William Bishop of London addressed to the Chancellor of the University of Oxford and dated as follows: “Dat apud Ottforde xv kalends januarii anno domini millesimo ccclxxvii”

Ex register Sudbury folio 46v and r

 

However a detailed study of Adam’s own great work the Defensorium Ecclesiastice Potestatis shows that he was clearly very familiar with the condemned texts. Most of them appear verbatim as he argues against the propositions and defends the position of the Church at large. Yet Adam was writing this work even at the same time as Gregory was having his Bull drafted against Wyclif. It is too much of a co-incidence:
 

Totum genus concurrentium citra Christum non habet potestatem simpliciter ordinandi, ut Petrus et omne genus suum dominetur politice super mundum. Folio 357

Deus non potest dare homini pro se et  haeredibus suis in perpetuum civile dominium. Folio 357

Chartae humanitus adinventae de haereditate olim perpetua sunt impossibiles. Folio 355/6

Quilibet existens in gratia gratifice et fideliter, nedum habet ius, sed in re habet omnia Dei. Folio 356

Homo potest solum ministratorie dare tam naturali filio quam imitationis in schola Christi, tam temporale dominium, quam aeternum. Folio 356

Si Deus est, domini temporales possunt legitime ac meritorie auferre bona fortunae ab ecclesia delinquente. Folio 302

Scimus, quod non est possibile, quod vicari Christi pure ex bullis suis, vel ex illis, cum voluntate et consensu suo, et sui collegii, quemquam habilitet vel inhabilitet. Folio 326

Non est examplificata potestas a Christo, vel suis discipulis excommunicandi subditos, praecipue, propter negationem temporalium sed e contra. Folio 356

Discipuli Christi non habent potestatem coacte exigere temporalia per censuras. Folio 331

Hoc debet catholice credii, quilibet sacerdos rite ordinatus habet potestatem sufficientes sacramenta qualibet conferendi, et per consequens quemlibet contritum a peccato quolibet absolvendi. Folio 330

Licet regibus auferre temporalia a viris ecclesiasticis ipsis abutentibus habitualiter. Folio 356