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By William Howell (sometimes spelled Howel)

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The peccant priests were exposed to the scorn and contempt of the laity, reduced to extreme poverty, or even mutilated by the populace, tortured and driven into exile. Their wives, who had been legally married with ring and religious rites, were insulted as harlots, and their children branded as bastards. Many of these unfortunate women died from hunger or grief, or committed suicide in despair, and were buried in unconsecrated earth. 7 5 In a letter to Sicardus, abp. of Aquileja, Jan. 24, 1074, Gregory complained of princes who treated the Church as a servant-maid, quasi vilem ancillam, etc.

His Church ideal formed a striking contrast to the actual condition of the Church, and he could not actualize it without raising the clergy from the deep slough of demoralization to a purer and higher plane. His reforms were directed against simony and Nicolaitism. What he had done as Hildebrand, by way of advice, he now carried out by official authority. In the war on simony he was altogether right from the standpoint of Protestant as well as Roman Catholic ethics. The traffic in ecclesiastical dignities was an unmitigated nuisance and scandal, and doubly criminal if exercised by bishops and popes.

Gregory threatened also King Philip of France with deposition, but did not execute it. Now the heir of the crown of Charlemagne was declared an outlaw by the successor of the Galilean fisherman, and Europe accepted the decision. There were not wanting, indeed, voices of discontent and misgivings about the validity of a sentence which justified the breaking of a solemn oath. All conceded the papal right of excommunication, but not the right of deposition. If Henry had commanded the respect and love of his subjects, he might have defied Gregory.

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An Institution of General History (1685) William Howell - Volume Three by William Howell (sometimes spelled Howel)


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