Weekly reading review #1


In chapter five of The Medieval Church, Joseph H. Lynch and Phillip C. Adamo articulate the genesis of major problems the Reformed and Anglican traditions will eventually call into question. The Papal-Frankish Alliance of the eighth century begins years before the normalizing of a Church/State governmental system.

In section one, “The Anglo-Saxon Missions,” we are thrust into a world of extremes. The Irish monasteries focused on Latin literacy, piety, and self-sufficiency while the culture of the continent was intellectually and morally decaying.

Within section two, “The Frankish Mayors of the Palace,” we find a parallel between the inner workings of the kingdoms and the bishoprics. The infrastructure of power held by the mayor of the palace on one side, and the bishops, monks, and nuns on the other. Confiscation of the Church land and simony was becoming standard practice.

In section three, “The Papacy,” the Byzantine Emperor Leo III engaged in a two-front war; physically against the Muslim invaders and theologically against the use of icons in the Churches. This combination sent many monks, nuns, clergy, and wealthy lay people to Rome who eventually turned to the Franks for help against the Lombards due to their distrust of Leo III.

By section four, “The Papal-Frankish Alliance of 751,” we have an overthrow of the nominal king Childrich III by Pippin, the former mayor of the palace, with the backing of Pope Zachary. Pippin is elected king by the Franks and anointed by the Pope with holy oil replacing the royal bloodline of ruling emperors. After Pippin defeated the Lombards in central Italy, he donates to the Church what will become the start of the Papal States.

Lynch and Adamo show that the historical turning point of the Papal-Frankish alliance was not a stand-alone agreement by two sides but the infrastructure that enabled both players to form this coalition. By highlighting the Anglo-Saxon missionaries as intermediaries, a sort of lubricant in the gears of history, which allow events to transpire with little influence on the exact direction due to ecumenism. This worldview will inevitably lead to the corruption that feeds the reformers, although I’m curious to see if Lynch and Adamo attribute any blame here or point fingers at the main players later.