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Bishop Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to all the bishops, dukes, counts and other loyal defenders of the Christian faith in the land of the Germans, greeting and apostolic benediction.
We have heard that certain among you utter complaints and are doubtful, concerning the excommunication which we have passed against the king, whether he has justly been excommunicated and whether our sentence has proceeded from the authority of a censure that is permissible, and with due deliberation. Therefore, as best we could, our conscience bearing witness, we have taken care to lay before the eyes and intellects of all how we were led to excommunicate him; not so much in order to throw before the public, with our Glamour as it were, the separate causes -which, alas, are too well known-as to satisfy the doubts of those who think that we have seized the spiritual sword rashly, and through a sudden impulse of our mind, rather than through fear of God and zeal of justice.
Previously, when we were exercising the office of deacon, a dark and very disgraceful report of the king's actions having reached us, we, for the sake of the imperial dignity and out of reverence for his father and mother-also with the hope and desire of correcting him-often admonished him, through letters and envoys, to desist from his wickedness and, mindful of his most distinguished race and dignity, to order his life according to rules of conduct suitable for a king and, if God should grant it, a future emperor.
Moreover, his age and his depravity keeping pace with each other,-after we, though unworthy, came to be supreme pontiff, the more diligently did we urge him in every way, by arguing, exhorting, rebuking, to amend his life; knowing that God Almighty would the more strictly demand his soul at our hands the more we, above all others, had been given permission and authority to rebuke him. ~:e, while often sending to us devoted letters and greetings excusing himself both with his age, which was pliable and frail, and because evil was often recommended to him by those who had the court in their hands, promised, indeed, in words, from day to day, that he would most readily receive our warnings; but in fact, and by increasing his faults, he entirely trod them under foot.
In the mean while we called to repentance some of his associates by whose counsels and machinations he had, with simoniacal heresy, defiled bishoprics and many monasteries, introducing, for money, wolves instead of shepherds. For we wished both that, while there was yet time to make amends they should restore to the venerable places where they belonged the goods of the church which they, through so shameful a traffic, had with sacrilegious hand received- and that they themselves, through the lamentations of penitence, should render satisfaction to God for the iniquity perpetrated. But when we learned that they had scorned the terms appointed for carrying out these things and were obstinately continuing in their accustomed iniquity, we justly separated them, as sacrilegious persons and ministers and members of the devil, from the communion and body of the whole church. And we warned the king to expel them, as excommunicate, from his palace and his counsels and from all intercourse with himself.
But meanwhile the cause of the Saxons gained the upper hand against the king. And when he saw that the forces and the protectors of the land were ready, for the most part, to abandon him, he once more directed to us a letter, supplicatory and full of all humility. In it he acknowledged his guilt towards God Almighty, St. Peter and ourselves; praying that, whatever faults he might have committed in ecclesiastical matters against the institutions of the canons and the decrees of the holy fathers, we, with our t: apostolic foresight and authority, should strive to correct. And in this matter he promised us, in every way, obediences consent and faithful aid. Afterwards, being admitted to penance by our brothers and legates Humbert bishop of Praeneste and Gerald bishop of Ostia whom we sent to him, he renewed to them and confirmed this promise. swearing by the sacred stoles which they bore about their necks.
But when, after a time, a battle was fought with the Saxons, these are the thanks and the sacrifices which he offered to God in return for the victory which he gained: he straightway broke the vows that he had made concerning his improvement, and, carrying out none of his promises received those who had been excommunicated into companionship and intercourse with himself, dragging down the churches into the same confusion as formerly.
At this we, much afflicted-although, after his scorning the kindness of the Heavenly lying, we had lost almost all hope of correcting him-decided that an attempt must still be made to reach his conscience, desiring rather that he should give ear to the apostolic clemency than experience its severity. Accordingly we sent to him admonitory letters: he was to remember what he had promised and to whom; he was not to believe that he could deceive God, -whose wrath, when He commences to judge, is so much the more severe the more long suffering His patience has been; he was not to dishonour God by honouring himself, nor was he to try and extend his own power to the contempt of God and to the shame of the papacy-knowing that while God resists the proud He also gives grace to the humble. Moreover we sent to him three men of the clergy, his own faithful followers, warning him through them in secret that he should do penance for his climes -which are indeed horrible to speak of, known moreover unto many and divulged in many places; and, on account of them, the authority of divine and human laws sanctions and orders that he should not only be excommunicated until he renders suitable satisfaction, but that he should be deprived of all honour in his kingdom without hope of regaining it. Finally we warned him that, unless he should cease to hold intercourse with those who had been banned, we could judge or decree nothing else of him than -that, being cut off from the church, he should share the fate of the excommunicate, with whom he preferred to have his portion rather than with Christ. But if he should be willing to receive our warnings and to correct his life, we called and do call God to witness how greatly we should rejoice concerning his safety and honour, and with what love we would fold him in the lap of the holy church as one whoa haying been made prince of a people and holding the reins of a most extended kingdom, ought to be a defender of catholic peace and justice.
But his deeds declare how much he thought either of our writings or of the messages sent through our legates. For offended at being taken to task or rebuked by any one, he not only could not be induced to make amends for the deeds perpetrated, but, carried away by a still greater fury of spirit, did not cease until he had caused the bishops- nearly all of those in Italy; in German lands as many as he could-to shipwreck the faith of Christ, compelling them to deny the obedience and honour due to St. Peter and the apostolic see and granted to them by our Lord Jesus Christ. We, therefore, seeing his iniquity advance to a climax, for these causes:-first, namely, that he was unwilling to abstain from intercourse with those who had been excommunicated for sacrilege and for the sin of simoniacal heresy; then because, for the criminal acts of his life, he was not willing-I will not say to undergo-but even to promise penance, that repentance which he had promised before our legates having been feigned; finally because he has not flinched at rending the unity of the holy church, which is the body of Christ:-for these faults, I say, we have excommunicated him by sentence of a synod to the end that, since we could not recall him by gentleness, we might either lead him back to the way of salvation by severity, God helping us, or that, should he not even fear the censure of the bann-which God forbid -our soul might not at length succumb to the charge of negligence or fear.
If any one, therefore thinks that this sentence has been unjustly or unreasonably imposed-if he be such a one as is able to apply his intellect to the sacred canons-let him treat with us in the matter and let him acquiesce after hearing patiently, not what we, but what the divine authority teaches, what it decrees, what the unanimous voice of the holy fathers declares. We, indeed, do not think that there is one of the faithful who, knowing the ecclesiastical statutes, is so bound by this error as not to say in his heart,, even though he do not dare to publicly affirm it, that we have acted rightly. But even if we-which God forbid-had bound him with such bann for no sufficiently grave reason or in a too irregular manner: even then, as the holy fathers assert, it would not have been right to scorn the sentence, but absolution should have been sought with all humility.
But do ye, beloved, who have not been willing because of the royal indignation or of any danger to desert the justice of God, paying little heed to those who at the last shall be announced as cursers and liars, stand boldly and be comforted in the Lord; knowing that ye defend the part of Him who, as an unconquerable lying and glorious Victor, is about to judge the quick and the dead, rendering unto each man according to his works. Concerning His manifold retribution ye also can be assured if ye shall to the end have remained faithful and unshaken in His truth. Wherefore we also incessantly pray to God for ye that He may cause ye to be strengthened in His name through the Holy Spirit, and that He may so turn the heart of the king to repentance that he also at some time may know that we and ye more truly love him than those who now pander to and favour his iniquities. But if by Cod's inspiration he be willing to come to his senses, no matter what he shall attempt against us, he shall always, notwithstanding, find us ready to receive him into the holy communion as ye, beloved, have counselled us to do.
Henderson, Ernest F.
Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages
London : George Bell and Sons, 1896.