Benedict XII, Pope
BENEDICT XII, POPE
Pontificate: Dec. 20, 1334 to April 25, 1342; b. Jacques Fournier, at Saverdun (Ariège) France; d. Avignon. The talent of this cistercian for inquisitorial matters was used by john xxii, who sought his advice concerning cases of heresy being appealed to the papal court. As bishop of Pamiers (1317) and of Mirepoix (1326), he freed the dioceses of any waldenses, ca thari, and albigenses still infesting them. He was a
zealous inquisitor, masterfully wresting confessions from the accused and never faltering in his integrity. A harsh man on occasion, he showed clemency to heretics who confessed their guilt: only four Waldenses and one relapsed Catharist died at the stake (see inquisition). He was made cardinal priest in 1327. A doctor of theology from Paris, he took part in the great controversies of the age centering on the poverty controversy and the beatific vision; he wrote a treatise against the fraticelli; a refutation of the errors of joachim of fiore and Meister eckhart; a dissertation on the doctrines propagated by michael of cesena, william of ockham, and peter john olivi; an explanation of the state of the holy souls before the Last Judgment and of questions concerning the theories of durandus of saint pourÇin.
Succeeding John XXII during the avignon papacy, Benedict was crowned pope on Jan. 8, 1335. He quickly ended the discussion on the beatific vision, imprudently begun by his predecessor in 1331. John had stated that before the resurrection of the body the souls of the just would not enjoy the intuitive vision of God, but only after the Last Judgment, and that they would remain until then sub altare Dei, diverted by the view of the humanity of Christ. Benedict's bull benedictus deus of Jan. 29, 1336, held that just souls immediately see the divine essence with an intuitive and even facial vision. As a reformer, Benedict set up an inquest that confirmed the existence of many abuses in the papal court. He then decreed salutary regulations for his Curia.
As a former abbot of fontfroide, Benedict was aware of the contemporary defects of discipline in the religious orders: the cistercians, the benedictines, and the franciscans were compelled to observe new severe constitutions, which regulated the question of the orders' temporal power, prescribed the regular holding of chap ters and visitation of monasteries, demanded that young religious attend the universities, and repressed luxury and vagrancy. As for the secular clergy, Benedict's revocation of commendation, restriction of expectancies, insistence on residence, tailoring on annates, and encouragement toward sacred studies assured its proper behavior. In the states of the church, scrupulous inspections were a prelude to reforms. In the diplomatic domain the rigid character of the pope hardly predisposed him for compromise, and almost nothing but defeats are recorded. Instead of maintaining an armed force in Italy, he allowed himself to be duped by minor local tyrants; the temporal authority of the Church in the Romagna, the March of Ancona, and even in Bologna, practically ceased to exist. Such events made him little anxious to return to Rome, and he began building the papal palace at avignon. Negotiations to reconcile Emperor louis iv the Bavarian with the papacy were fruitless. On the one hand, Benedict was influenced by King Philip VI of France and the king of Naples, who, for private political reasons, were hostile to all compromise, while, on the other hand, Louis promulgated the edict Licet juris (1338), which sanctioned the decision of the electors at Rense to free the imperial dignity from the customary approval and sanction of the Holy See (see holy roman empire). He was unable to curb Edward III and the nascent Hundred Years' War.
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