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The king, at the request of many of the Temporal Lords and several of the Commons, ordered the case to be argued at a meeting held at Blackfriars at which the judges were present. At this debate, Dr. Henry Standish, a Friar Minor, defended the action of Parliament, and maintained that it was a matter of public policy that clerks guilty of such offences should be tried by the ordinary process of law. In reply to the assertion that there was a decree or canon forbidding it, and that all Christians were bound by the canons under pain of mortal sin, Standish said: "God forbid; for there is a decree that all bishops should be resident at their cathedrals upon every festival day, and yet we see the greater part of the English bishops practise the contrary." Moreover, he maintained that the right of exemption of clerks from secular jurisdiction had never been allowed in England. The bishops were unanimously against the position of Standish, and there can be little doubt that they had put forward the Abbot of Winchcombe to be their spokesman at St. Paul's Cross. Later on, Standish was charged before Convocation with holding tenets derogatory to the privileges and jurisdiction of ecclesiastics. He claimed the protection of the king, and the Temporal Lords and judges urged the king at all costs to maintain his right of royal jurisdiction in the matters at issue.
Again a meeting of judges, certain members of Parliament, and the king's council, spiritual and temporal, were assembled to deliberate on the matter at the Blackfriars. Dr. Standish was supposed to have said that the lesser Orders were not Holy, and that the exemption of clerks was not de jure divino. These opinions he practically admitted, saying with regard to the first that there was a great difference between the greater Orders and the lesser; and in regard to the second, "that the summoning of clerks before temporal judges implied no repugnance to the positive law of God." He further partially admitted saying that "the study of canon law ought to be laid aside, because being but ministerial to divinity it taught people to despise that nobler science." The judges decided generally against the contention of the clergy, and they, with other lords, met the king at Baynard's Castle to tender their advice on the matter. Here Wolsey, kneeling before the king, declared "that he believed none of the clergy had any intention to disoblige the prerogative royal, that for his part he owed all his promotion to his Highness' favour, and therefore would never assent to anything that should lessen the rights of the Crown." But " that this business of conventing clerks before temporal judges was, in the opinion of the clergy, directly contrary to the laws of God and the liberties of Holy Church, and that both himself and the rest of the prelates were bound by their oath to maintain this exemption. For this reason he entreated the king, in the name of the clergy, to refer the matter for decision to the Pope." Archbishop Warham added that in old times some of the fathers of the Church had opposed the matter so far as to suffer martyrdom in the quarrel. On the other hand, Judge Fineux pointed out that spiritual judges had no right by any statute to judge any clerk for felony, and for this reason many churchmen had admitted the competence of the secular courts for this purpose.
The king finally replied on the whole case. "By the Providence of God," he said, "we are King of England, in which realm our predecessors have never owned a superior, and I would have you (the clergy) take notice that we are resolved to maintain the rights of our crown and temporal jurisdiction in as ample manner as any of our progenitors." In conclusion, the Archbishop of Canterbury petitioned the king in the name of the clergy for the matter to rest till such time as they could lay the case before the See of Rome for advice, promising that if the non-exemption of clerks was declared not to be against the law of God, they would willingly conform to the usage of the country.
On this whole question, Saint-German maintained that the clergy had been granted exemption from the civil law not as a right but as a favour. There was, in his opinion, nothing whatever in the nature of the clerical state to justify any claim to absolute exemption, nor was it, he contended, against the law of God that the clergy should be tried for felony and other crimes by civil judges. In all such things they, like the rest of his people, were subject to their prince, who, because he was a Christian, did not, for that reason, have any diminished authority over his subjects. "Christ," he remarks, " sent His apostles," as appears from the said words, " to be teachers in spiritual matters, and not to be like princes, or to take from princes their power."1 Some, indeed, he says, argue that since the coming of our Lord " Christian princes have derived their temporal power from the spiritual power," established by Him in right of His full and complete dominion over the world. But Saint-German not only holds that such a claim has no foundation in itself, but that all manner of texts of Holy Scripture which are adduced in proof of the contention are plainly twisted from their true meaning by the spiritual authority. And many, he says, talk as if the clergy were the Church, and the Church the clergy, whereas they are only one portion, perhaps the most important, and possessed of greater and special functions; but they were not the whole, and were, indeed, endowed with these prerogatives for the use and benefit of the lay portion of Christ's Church.
Contrary to what might have been supposed, the difficulty between the clergy and laity about the exemption of clerics from all lay jurisdiction did not apparently reach any very acute stage. Sir Thomas More says that "as for the conventing of priests before secular judges, the truth is that at one time the occasion of a sermon made the matter come to a discussion before the king's Highness. But neither at any time since, nor many years before, I never heard that there was any difficulty about it, and, moreover, that matter ceased long before any word sprang up about this great general division." 1
1 Ibid., cap. vi.
One question, theoretical indeed, but sufficiently practical to indicate the current of thought and feeling prevalent at the time, was as to the multiplication of holidays on which no work was allowed to be done by ecclesiastical law. Saint-German, in common with other laymen of the period, maintained that the king, or Parliament, as representing the supreme will of the State, could refuse to allow the spiritual authority to make new holidays. About the Sunday he is doubtful, though he inclines to the opinion that so long as there was one day in the week set apart for rest and prayer, the actual day could be determined by the State. The Sunday, he says, is partly by the law of God, partly by the law of man. "But as for the other holidays, these are but ceremonies, introduced by the devotion of the people through the good example of their bishops and priests." And " if the multitude of the holidays is thought hurtful to the commonwealth, and tending rather to increase vice than virtue, or to give occasion of pride rather than meekness, as peradventure the synod ales and particular holidays have done in some places, then Parliament has good authority to reform it. But as for the holidays that are kept in honour of Our Lady, the Apostles, and other ancient Saints, these seem right necessary and expedient." *
In his work, Salem and Bizance, which appeared in 1533 as a reply to Sir Thomas More's Apology, Saint-German takes up the same ground as in his more strictly legal tracts. He holds that a distinction between the purely spiritual functions of the clergy and their position as individuals in the State ought to be allowed and recognisedThe attitude of ecclesiastics generally to such a view was> perhaps not unnaturally, one of opposition, and where the State had already stepped in and legislated, as for instance in the case of " mortuaries," their action in trying to evade the prescription of the law, Saint-German declared was doing much harm, in emphasising a needless conflict between the ecclesiastical and secular jurisdiction. "As long," he writes, " as spiritual rulers will pretend that their authority is so high and so immediately derived from God that people are bound to obey them and to accept all that they do and teach, without argument, resistance, or murmuring against them," there will be discord and difficulty.1
1 English Works (ed. 1557), p. 1o17.
'A treatyse, &c., ut sup., cap. vi., sig. E. i.
Christopher Saint-German's position was not by any means that of one who would attack the clergy all along the line, and deprive them of all power and influence, like so many of the foreign sectaries of the time. He admitted, and indeed insisted on, the fact that they had received great and undoubted powers by their high vocation, having their spiritual jurisdiction immediately from God. Their temporalities, however, he maintained, they received from the secular power, and were protected by the State in their possession. He fully agreed "that such things as the whole clergy of Christendom teach and order in spiritual things, and which of long time have been by long custom and usage in the whole body of Christendom ratified, agreed, and confirmed, by the spirituality and temporality, ought to be received with reverence." *
To this part of Saint-German's book Sir Thomas More takes exception in his Apology. The former had said, that as long as the spiritual rulers will pretend that their authority is so high and so immediately derived from God that the people are bound to obey them and accept all that they do and teach " there would certainly be divisions and dissensions." "If he mean," replies More, "that they speak thus of all their whole authority that they may now lawfully do and say at this time: I answer that they neither
1 Salem and Bizance, a dialogue betwixte two Englishmen, whereof one 'was called Salem and the other Biiance (Berthelet, 1533), I. 76. 'Ibid., f. 84.