Pens and paper of the 14th century

Pope John XXII was a most difficult man. His argumentative nature, his waffling decisions and his absolute desire to have ecclesiastical authority be supreme all made him hard to deal with.

Born Jacques Dueze in 1244 at Cahors in southern France. His father could have been one of the international bankers in that Cahors. Jacque studied canon and Roman law at both Montpelier and Orleans.

He was middle-aged before he became well known. In 1300 King Charles II of France recommended him to be the new Bishop of Frejus. He soon became chancellor to Charles.  In 1307, two men attempted assassination by poison. They ended up in jail. Then, he went on to win more awards. In 1310, he became Bishop of Avignon. During his term, he delivered legal opinions concerning the Templars. These men were destroyed within a few years. In 1312 he became a cardinal-priest and the next year a cardinal-bishop.

Pope Clement V died 20 April 1314. Two years later, the split cardinals had still not voted in a new pope. The new king of France, Philip, had no intention of this continuing. He insisted that the cardinals to stay together until a vote was satisfied. The cardinals voted for the 72 yo Nuon 26 June 1316. They went to Lyons for the crowning on 5 September where he took the name John XXII. They then headed for Avignon for residence.

Numerous disputes during his reign

1.      The Franciscans had branched into two sections, the Spirituals and the Conventuals. The Spirituals were of the opinion that Christ and the Apostles owned nothing and that they should imitate them. Pope Clement V tried to redirect their ardor to no avail. After Clement and Gonzalvez, the General of the Minorities, died, the Spirituals in France and Italy rebelled, saying that the pope did not have the power to release them from the rule of poverty. Then they drove the Conventuals from their houses and moved in. This was a scandal! The newly elected general, Michael of Cesna, appealed to John. In 1317, John ordered the Spirituals to submit to their superiors. He ordered those doctrines and opinions be investigated. He announced that many doctrines were erroneous on 23 January 1318. Some of the Spirituals refused to yield. They were treated as heretics. Some burned at the stake or escaped to Sicily.

The general chapter at Perugia then declared the Franciscans’ support of the dogma of no possessions individually or in common. Pope John declared that statement null and void in 1322. The next year he named it heretical. The Spirituals and the followers of Michael of Cesna protested. In 1324, Pope John confirmed his decision and claimed those who were against him were heretics and enemies. He ordered Michael of Cesna to Avignon. Michael came but would not yield. To avoid incarceration, Michael escaped to King Louis of Bavaria with others.

2.      By the time John took the reign, there was a problem. The Holy Roman Empire was vacant. Two men were up for election, Louis of Bavaria and Frederick of Austria. They both played political games for several years, trying to attract John’s support. Once Louis declared himself the winner, Pope John insisted Louis wait for the go-ahead to appoint vicars and ambassadors. Louis would not and went to Rome to be crowned. He got excommunicated.

3.      Pope John preached several sermons in his last year saying that when people die, they do not attain the Beatific Vision immediately, but have to wait until the Final Judgement. This was not acceptable to many of the theologians of the time. In the days before he died, he insisted that he agreed with the theologians.

4.      Pope John XXII had a very organized style. The Church government had a highly bureaucratic style. He charged special fees to archbishops and their dioceses. Therefore, many foreign entities paid benefices, the most coming from France. Taking minor benefices became a big source of income, which he needed for his huge household expenses and the wars his soldiers fought. Even with all those expenses, he left 800,000 florins at his death.

By the time of his death, 4 December 1334, the distrust of the papacy was palpable. This led to consequences that destroyed the health of the Church.