The church as a political force
The Times Atlas of World History makes it clear that the church soon became a political force. Talking of the sixth century it says:
… when Rome succumbed to barbarian attack, the Church and its bishops, with their vast estates and pervasive influence … guided Europe, as well as Christendom, into the new age.
Pope Gregory VII in 1075 showed the political aims of the popes. Chronicle of the World gives the following imaginary newspaper report:
Rome, April 1075
Pope Gregory VII is making a strong bid to establish the primacy of the papacy and its authority over kings and princes as well as archbishops. Dictatus Papae (Sayings of the Pope) contains 27 short and pithy sentences which leave no doubt at all where the ultimate authority lies. The assertions include “That he [the pope] alone may use the imperial insignia”; “That he may depose emperors, that he himself may be judged by no one”. … Gregory sees the papacy primarily as a governmental institution which must be backed by laws.
It is clear from these quotations that the church became a very powerful political force exerting its influence at the highest political levels. The result of this was that the church became involved in political and religious disputes which often led to conflict and war. The principle of non-aggression that we considered at the start was not very much in evidence.
Vatican City – home of the Popes
A quotation from World History shows how the church exercised its political influence in promoting war:
The Pope declared that Christian kings had a right to conquer heathen lands. Some Catholic friars and, later, Jesuits did identify with the cause of the native people, but even their mission stations were instruments of colonial control.
The crusades which began in 1095 are a good example of the church becoming involved in war. The book World History tells us:
In 1095 the Byzantine emperor appealed to the pope for assistance against the Turks. The pope answered the call by preaching a Holy War.
The result was much bloodshed and suffering spread over many years.
World History also tells us that the popes were little different from politicians. Talking of the fifteenth century we are told:
… the pope ruled the Papal States as any other temporal monarch, and involved himself in the politics of the peninsula… During this period the lifestyle of the popes was little different from that of any other monarch. They led troops into battle, promoted family interests, including those of their children, and built themselves enormous monuments.