The king aspired – and especially when he became the German emperor and as such the continuation of the Holy Roman Empire – and claimed to represent as protector all Christendom, Christendom as a whole, the secular as well as the religious. On the other hand, Pope Gregory VII claimed the same thing from the hierarchical side. He made claims transcending everything which was done before, and of which even he could reach only a limited amount. He identified himself with all bishops; he is the universal bishop. All episcopal grace comes from the pope, who is Peter and in whom Peter is present, and in Peter, Christ is present, So there is no bishop who is not dependent on the pope in his episcopal sacramental power” This is the universal monarchy of the pope in the Church. But he goes beyond this: the Church is the soul of the body; the body is the secular life. Those who represent the secular life are related to him who represents the life of the — soul, as the limbs of the body are to the inner self which is the soul. And so, as the soul shall govern the limbs of the body, so the pope shall govern the kingdoms and all feudal orders.
Now this was expressed –a fter compromises had to be made and became unavoidable – by the famous doctrine of the two swords. There are two swords, the earthly and the spiritual. As the bodily existence is subjected to the spiritual existence, so the earthly sword, that of the king and of the feudal groups, is subjected to the spiritual sword: the pope. Therefore every being on earth has to be subject to the pope at Rome. This was the doctrine of Pope Boniface VIII, in which the papal aspirations are expressed radically.
The emperors fought against it, compromises were made, but generally speaking the popes prevailed – up to a certain moment. They prevailed as long as there was this one reality about which they – emperor and pope – were fighting: namely, the one Christianity. But this was not the final answer. New forces arose in the Middle Ages. The first and main force was the national states. The national states claimed something which neither suited the pope nor the emperor, namely independence from both of them. And since the national feeling is behind them – this is partly the importance of Joan of Arc because, in her, French nationalism first arose and came of course immediately into conf lict with the pope. But others followed, and at the end of the Middle Ages the national states had taken over much of the papal power.
Again France was leading; Phillip the so-called handsome” took the pope to Avignon in France, and the schism between the two popes undercut the pop’s authority most radically. But these princes and kings who slowly became independent and created the national states – the same thing was going on in England and Spain – were at the same time religious lords, and they put themselves also in the place of what the emperor wanted to do: in the place of the religious lords. So we have in England theories about the king of England being Christ for the Church of England, as the pope is the vicar of Cf lrist. Here you see the new forces slowly developing, both against the emperor and against the pope. On this basis another theory arose, especially against the pope. The bishops of these developing national states were not simply subjects of the pope, but they wanted to get the position the bishops had in the period, let us say, of the Council of Nicaea.
They developed the idea called conciliarism (from curia, the papal court): the papal court is the monarchic power over Church and state; conciliarism (i. e. , the council of the bishops, which is practically the majority of the bishops) is the ultimate authority of the Church. And in alliance with the national reaction against state and Church at the same time, this was a very radical movement, and the pope was in great danger for a certain time, but not in the long run because the national separations and the splits of all kinds, the desire of the later Middle Ages to have a unity in spite of all this, gave the pope the power finally to destroy the reform councils in Basle and Constance, where conciliarism triumphed; but the pope took away the triumph from them after, and finally ecclesiasticism and monarchism prevailed in the Roman church, and prevails up to now – even the cardinals have no power whatsoever against the monarchy of the pope.