THE MAN WHO conquered the papacy for Cluny was called Hildebrand. His name meant pure flame, but St. Peter Damian called him “holy Satan.”
Born to poor parents in the marshes of Tuscany around 1023, Hildebrand came to Rome as a young boy, where he was educated in the Cluniac-influenced convent of St. Mary on the Aventine and probably took monastic vows.
First rising to prominence as Pope Gregory VI's chaplain, Hildebrand entered the monastery of Cluny after his benefactor's death. Although he may not have become a member of the Cluniac congregation, he shared Cluny’s ideals and relied on its corporate support. One of his closest advisers was St. Hugh of Cluny, whom he affectionately dubbed the “gentle tyrant.”
Returning to the Vatican in the service of Pope Leo IX in 1049, Hildebrand made himself the most powerful man in Rome. For portions of three decades he controlled papal policy and even the selection of popes from his position as Archdeacon of the Roman Catholic Church. It was commonly said that if you wanted to live in Rome you had to obey the pope's lord, rather than the lord pope.
In 1073 Hildebrand finally took the papal tiara for himself under the name Gregory VII. His choice aptly evoked the memory of Pope Gregory the Great, the first corporate pope. Like his namesake, he believed in the supremacy of the papacy. Likewise, he realized that the religious corporations were the means for the pope to achieve more effective, centralized control over the church.
Hildebrand laid the foundation by tightening monastic obedience with brutal corporal punishment. He encouraged the practices of Abbot Trasmund, who tore out the eyes and tongues of monks whose behavior offended him. When Abbot Didier of Monte Cassino condemned Trasmund, Archdeacon Hildebrand stepped in to protect him, declaring he had acted “not cruelly, but firmly and worthily, to evil men.” Later when he became pope, he made Trasmund a bishop.
Hildebrand wanted this same monastic discipline extended to the rest of the church, especially the traditional clergy. More than any one person, he made clerical celibacy the practice of the Catholic Church. As archdeacon and later pope he steadfastly attacked the traditional liberties of the ordinary parish priests, especially the right of marriage. With his help, the Lateran Council of 1059 excommunicated any priest who kept a wife. Significantly, that same synod also created the first hybrid order of monk/priests, the Augustinians, to compete with the non-corporate clergy.
The History of the Corporation
Astonisher.com is pleased to present The History of the Corporation, Volume One by Bruce Brown.
Here is the Table of Contents for excerpts from the entire book, which covers 1,000 years from the birth of the first modern corporation through the the First Dominion of the corporation.
About the Author: Bruce Brown is the author of eight books, including Mountain in the Clouds, an environmental classic, and The Windows 95 Bug Collection, which was put on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
He has done investigative reporting for the New York Times (the Karen Silkwood story), foreign correspondence for Atlantic Monthly (baseball in Cuba), and book reviews for the Washington Post Book World, as well as script-writing for PBS-TV (The Miracle Planet).
He is also a successful businessman and CEO, having created BugNet and built it into the world’s largest supplier of PC bug fixes before it was acquired by a Fortune 500 company at the height of the dot com boom.
Up until then the priesthood and the monastery were considered separate callings with separate functions. Even Gregory the Great, who pioneered the practice of employing monks as missionaries, considered the two vocations inconsistent. As celebrants of the Eucharist empowered to grant absolution, priests were the main representatives of God in the world. They were responsible for tending His flock. Monks, by comparison, were devoted to saving only one soul: their own. Their retreat from an active ministry was symbolized in their retreat from the world.
Monks and priests were further divided by their organization and rules of behavior. From the earliest days of the Christian Church, priests were ordained by bishops, to whom they were answerable for their conduct. The bishops' power was further strengthened by the Aachen Decrees promulgated by St. Benedict of Aniane in 817. Since many contemporary bishops had themselves been appointed by lay authorities like the emperor this meant that their priests obeyed secular rule. Cluniac monks, by comparison, were exempt from episcopal authority, and answerable only to Rome.
Traditionally Catholic priests could possess private property like anyone else, but monks could not. The monastery demanded complete corporate communism. Everything was owned in common. Although surrounded by kingly luxury, a monk could not even call a writing stylus his own. Those guilty of owning private property were punished, depending on the value of the item found. If less than four pence, the offender was sentenced three day's disgrace. More serious miscreants were cut off from the brethren and fed on the bread and water of affliction.
Nothing set monks and priests apart more than marriage, though. Traditionally, the priesthood admitted married men. Clerical celibacy did not appear in Christianity until monasticism began to infiltrate the church nearly two centuries after Christ. Resistance to the corporate ethos was fierce, and clerical marriage continued for a long time. Pope Hadrian II (867-72) was himself a married man, and Ailred of Rievaulx was son, grandson and great grandson of priests. The Eastern Church continued to allow clerical marriage as did the Jews but in Rome the call for celibacy became more and more insistent.
Showing much more strenuous opposition to sins of the flesh than sins of avarice, corporate Catholicism produced a great body of writing opposing clerical marriage which ultimately culminated in a prohibition against ordaining married men. In this respect Hildebrand was merely following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Damasus II, Leo IX, and Victor II. The thing that set Hildebrand apart was the enthusiasm with which he attacked the clergy of his own church. Not content to merely excommunicate married priests and introduce direct corporate competition, Hildebrand was willing to use force to prevent them from performing their services.
Popular sentiment strongly supported the traditional priests and their wives in many areas. Reforming Archbishop John of Rouen was driven with stones out of his diocesan synod in 1072, exclaiming “O God, the heathen are come into your inheritance!” The year 1074 saw angry scenes in Paris, where the clergy condemned the Hildebrandine decrees as “intolerable and therefore unreasonable.” Hildebrand was relentless, though. When Bishop Otto of Constance protected married priests, Hildebrand excommunicated him too. Finally, he commanded the dukes of Swabia to forcibly sunder the traditional clergy from their flock.
Wido of Ferrara reported that Hildebrand had been enthralled by military matters since boyhood, and the fascination persisted into his papacy. In the spring of 1074 he led an army against the Norman duke, Robert Guiscard. Writing to Beatrice, daughter of Countess Matilda, the pope confided, “As for those vile little Normans, with twenty thousand men, if it pleases God, we can attack and vanquish them, for we have on our side Prince Richard and all the inhabitants of his lands, and the protection of God and the Apostles, which will be with us.”
Hildebrand's subsequent defeat by those same vile Normans failed to diminish his interest in generalship, or his involvement in temporal politics. That same year he attempted to enlist Emperor Henry IV in a war against the infidel in the Holy Land. Hildebrand proposed to personally command this expedition, which would ultimately see fruition three decades later in the Crusades. Meanwhile, Hildebrand continued to intrigue against Guiscard. In 1075 he wrote to Svend, King of Denmark, that there was “a very rich province not far from us on the sea coast held by vile heretics,” and suggested that the king's son oust the Normans and take possession of the province.
Before long, Hildebrand's conviction that the pope was superior to every other authority on earth brought him into conflict with the man he initially sought as an ally, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. The investiture of bishops provided the spark. When Henry exercised the emperor's traditional right to appoint the bishops of Bamberg and Turin, Hildebrand became furious and threatened the emperor with excommunication.
Henry IV was not overawed, however. He simply convened 24 German bishops in the town of Worms. The Diet of Worms proceeded to condemn Hildebrand for licentiousness, cruelty and witchcraft. Noting that Hildebrand had not been elected pope in accordance with the decree of 1059, the diet pronounced the pope deposed. All bishops present signed the decree, which was sent to Hildebrand with the biting subscription: “Henry, King not by usurpation but by God's ordinance, to Hildebrand, not pope but false monk”...
"The History of the Corporation, Volume One" © Copyright 2003 Bruce Brown
Jacket illustration and design by Running Dog.