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Taxatio Ecclesiastica

pope, clergy, church, england, rome, tenths, temporal and king

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TAXA'TIO ECCLESIA'STICA, signifies the assessment and levy of taxes upon the property of the church and of the clergy. The pope once claimed in all countries the first year's whole profits and the tenth part of the whole annual profits of every ecclesiastical benefice. These were called " First-Fruits and Tenths " ; TENTHS], and were, for the most part, paid willingly by the clergy to their ecclesias tical superior. The popes founded their claim upon scriptural precepts and practice, from the time of Melchizedek. The pope had his collectors in every diocese, who sometimes by hills of exchange, but generally in specie, yearly returned the tenths and first-fruits of the clergy to Rome.

But while the clergy were thus liable to taxation by their ecclesias tical head, it was maintained by the Roman Catholic church that their property enjoyed complete immunity against all claims of temporal powers, being set apart for the service of God, the support and dignity of the Christian church, and for works of charity. Upon this point frequent contests very naturally arose, and the vast possessions of the church tempted the pope and temporal princes by various modes to exact contributions from the clergy. The means resorted to by these respective powers to raise a revenue from the clergy, and the laws and customs that prevailed upon the matter, may be conveniently stated by dividing the subject into— I. Taxation of the church or clergy by the pope for ecclesiastical purposes.

2. By temporal princes for the service of the state.

1. The pope was by no means satisfied with the regular contributions of the clergy, but continually applied to them for extraordinary funds for special purposes. In 1199, Pope Innocent III, issued a bull com manding the prelates and clergy of the Christian church to pay the fortieth part of all their revenues to defray the expenses of a crusade. This is said to have been the first attempt to impose a tax on the clergy of all nations by the authority of the pope as head of the church. The practice became frequent ; and in 1225 the pope enter tained a project by which the revenues of two prebends in every cathe dral, and the portion of two monks in every monastery, in all the countries in communion with the Church of Rome, were to have been granted to the pope for the better support of his dignity. When this project was laid before the parliament of England in 1226, they evaded a direct answer to the papal legate, by alleging "that this affair con cerned all Christendom ; and that they would conform to the resolu tions of other Christian countries." (Wilkin's Concilia,' vol. i.)

Two years afterwards, the king of England, Henry IlL, in order to induce the pope to interfere in a dispute concerning the appointment of an archbishop to the see of Canterbury, recently vacant by the death of Cardinal Langton, promised him a tenth of the moveables not only of the clergy but of the laity. In this proceeding there appears to have been a twofold peculiarity. First, a temporal prince offered the pope a contribution from his clergy. which commonly originated with the pope; and, secondly, a tax was to be levied upon the laity, not for the service of the state, but for the benefit of a foreign ecclesiastic. The strangeness of the circumstances, however, did not prevent the pope from taking immediate advantage of the king's offer, and ho accordingly sent a legato into England to collect the tenths. His demand met with some opposition, chiefly from the barons, but the pope and the king together were too powerful to be resisted. In the same reign the pope's legates were constantly demanding presents from the bishops, monasteries, and clergy, and convening assemblies of the church, with no other object than to extort money. Their proceedings created such disgust that the great barons sent orders to the wardens of the seaports to stop all persons bringing any bulls or mandates from Rome, and at last succeeded in driving the legate himself out of the kingdom ; but the sums which the pope continued to draw from the clergy at that time appear to have been enormous, and the histories of that period are full of complaints and remonstrances against papal exactions. An act was passed by the parliament in 1307 (' Statute of Carlisle,' 35 Edward I.) to restrain, in some measure, the exactions of the see of Rome, but apparently with little good results ; for seventy years afterwards we find the Commons in parliament still protesting against the extortions of the pope. In their remonstrance to the king upon that grievance, they asserted " that the taxes paid to the pope yearly, out of England, amounted to five times as much as the taxes paid to the king." (Cotton's Abridgment.) Although complaints continued long after this period, no measures were effectual in limiting the demands of the court of Rome until the pope's authority was altogether suppressed iu England at the Reforma tion in the reign of Henry VIII.

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