Caesaropapism

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A small cross of gold foil, with rubbings of coins of Justin II (Emperor: 565-574) and holes for nails or thread, Italian, 6th century

Caesaropapism /ˌszərˈppɪzəm/ is the idea of combining the power of secular government with the religious power, or of making secular authority superior to the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. Justus Henning Böhmer (1674–1749) may have originally coined the term caesaropapism (Cäseropapismus).[1] Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote: "a secular, caesaropapist ruler... exercises supreme authority in ecclesiastic matters by virtue of his autonomous legitimacy".[2] According to Weber's political sociology, caesaropapism entails "the complete subordination of priests to secular power."[3]

In its extreme form, caesaropapism is a political theory in which the head of state, notably the emperor ("Caesar", by extension a "superior" king), is also the supreme head of the church (pope or analogous religious leader). In this form, caesaropapism inverts theocracy (or hierocracy in Weber) in which institutions of the church control the state. Both caesaropapism and theocracy are systems in which there is no separation of church and state and in which the two form parts of a single power-structure.

Caesaropapism in the Eastern Church[edit]

Caesaropapism's chief example is the authority that the Byzantine (East Roman) Emperors had over the Church of Constantinople and Eastern Christianity from the 330 consecration of Constantinople through the tenth century.[4][5] The Byzantine Emperor would typically protect the Eastern Church and manage its administration by presiding over Ecumenical Councils and appointing Patriarchs and setting territorial boundaries for their jurisdiction.[6] The Emperor exercised a strong control over the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and the Patriarch of Constantinople could not hold office if he did not have the Emperor's approval.[7] Such Emperors as Basiliscus, Zeno, Justinian I, Heraclius, and Constans II published several strictly ecclesiastical edicts either on their own without the mediation of church councils, or they exercised their own political influence on the councils to issue the edicts.[8] According to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the historical reality of caesaropapism stems from the confusion of the Byzantine Empire with the Kingdom of God and the zeal of the Byzantines "to establish here on earth a living icon of God's government in heaven."[9]

However, Caesaropapism "never became an accepted principle in Byzantium."[10] Several Eastern churchmen such as John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople[6] and Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, strongly opposed imperial control over the Church, as did Western theologians like Hilary of Poitiers and Hosius, Bishop of Córdoba.[11] Saints, such as Maximus the Confessor, resisted the imperial power as a consequence of their witness to orthodoxy. In addition, at several occasions imperial decrees had to be withdrawn as the people of the Church, both lay people, monks and priests, refused to accept inventions at variance with the Church's customs and beliefs. These events show that power over the Church really was in the hands of the Church itself – not solely with the emperor.[12]

Caesaropapism was most notorious in the Tsardom of Russia when Ivan IV the Terrible assumed the title Czar in 1547 and subordinated the Russian Orthodox Church to the state.[13] This level of caesaropapism far exceeded that of the Byzantine Empire[14] and was taken to a new level in 1721, when Peter the Great replaced the patriarchate with a Holy Synod, making the church a department of his government.

Caesaropapism in the Western Church[edit]

The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy combines Western and Byzantine elements.

Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna. The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii (liaisons from the pope to the emperor) or the inhabitants of Byzantine Greece, Byzantine Syria, or Byzantine Sicily.

Analogue in the Church of England[edit]

When Henry VIII of England declared the Church of England to exist as an entity separate from and independent of the Roman Church, he declared himself to be the "Supreme Head" of that church, to which declaration the English Parliament acceded by passing the Act of Supremacy 1534 at Henry's behest. When Elizabeth I restored royal supremacy, she replaced the title "Supreme Head" with that of "Supreme Governor", a change both conciliatory to English Catholics on a political level and reflecting a shift toward a more metaphysically and theologically modest stance involving only a claim to supreme authority over the Church of England's conduct in temporal matters. Since then, the monarchs of England, of Great Britain, and of the United Kingdom have claimed the "Supreme Governor" status as well as the title of Defender of the Faith (which was originally bestowed on Henry VIII by Pope Leo X but later revoked by Pope Paul III).

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Kenneth Pennington, "Caesaropapism," The New Catholic Encyclopedia: Supplement 2010 (2 Vols. Detroit: Gale Publishers 2010) 1.183-185 Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Swedberg, Richard; Agevall, Ola (2005). The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford Social Sciences Series. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 9780804750950. Retrieved 2017-02-02. Weber's formal definition of caesaropapism in Economy and Society reads as follows: 'a secular, caesaropapist ruler... exercises supreme authority in ecclesiastic matters by virtue of his autonomous legitimacy.
  3. ^ Swedberg, Richard; Agevall, Ola (2005). The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford Social Sciences Series. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 9780804750950. Retrieved 2017-02-02. Caesaropapism entails 'the complete subordination of priests to secular power,' and it essentially means that church matters have become part of political administration [...].
  4. ^ Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A. (1983), Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 218
  5. ^ Douglas, J.D. (1978), The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (revised ed.), Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 173
  6. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, II, 1985, pp. 718–719
  7. ^ Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1975), A History of Christianity to A.D. 1500, I (revised ed.), San Francisco: Harper & Row, pp. 283, 312
  8. ^ Schaff, Philip (1974), History of the Christian Church: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600, II (5th ed.), Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 135
  9. ^ Ware, Timothy (1980), The Orthodox Church (revised ed.), New York: Penguin Books, p. 50
  10. ^ Meyendorff, John (1983), Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (rev. 2nd ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, p. 6
  11. ^ Dawson, Christopher (1956), The Making of Europe (2nd ed.), New York: Meridian Books, pp. 109–110
  12. ^ Meyendorff, John (1983), Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (rev. 2nd ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, p. 5
  13. ^ Bainton, Roland H. (1966), Christendom: A Short History of Christianity, I, New York: Harper & Row, p. 119
  14. ^ Billington, James H. (1966), The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, New York: Random House, p. 67