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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

politics

Politics--The Never-Changing Struggle

Papal Politics: How about a 12th-Century Scandal?
Originally Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 9:31 AM

Today, let's get back to Arnulf of Lisieux, who began to shape his own reputation during a papal schism.  After the death of Pope Honorius in 1130, a disputed election and a split in the College of Cardinals led to the consecration of two popes.  One of them was a Roman and a Benedictine monk by the name of Pietro Pierleone.  Thirty cardinals supported his election. He took the name Anacletus II and soon won the support of southern Germany, the people of Rome and almost all of Italy, and a few Frenchmen, including Gerard of Angouleme.

The second pope was  a reluctant cardinal, Gregory Papareschi. A faction of only eight cardinals elected him and seated him on the papal throne, but they had the advantage of being seen as the "older and wiser" members of the College. Gregory became known as Innocent Ii, but he was soon driven out of Rome to take refuge in France, where he had the support of such young reformers as Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux, along with almost all of northern Europe.

Now enter Arnulf. He was still a minor clergyman, just learning his trade, but he was highly skilled in the use of words as weapons.  My book reveals that St. Bernard hired him to write a particularly nasty article addressed to Gerard of Angouleme. In it, Arnulf demanded to know how Gerard could possibly support a man as evil as Anacletus II.  The accusations go on and on: he led a debauched youth, full of sinful indiscretions -- he raped his own sister and fathered her children, so that his nephews were really his sons. He also kept a mistress in the Vatican, hiding her by having her dress like a man. Were those charges true?  Probably. The transvestite mistress is pretty well documented, and the sons/nephews were ever favored by their doting father/uncle.

Then came the nastiest charge of all, one that Arnulf formed  as a denial, saying that he refused to mention the fact that . . . (wait for it! ) . . . Anacletus was really a Jew and the son of a Jew. How could such a man now lead the church? Arnulf thus played right into the hands of a rising wave of dangerous anti-Semitism that was sweeping through Europe.  

Was the charge true?  It may have been true that one of Pietro Perleoni's eight great-grandparents was a converted Jew.  But Pietro was a Benedictine monk, and there was no evidence that he had ever practiced Judaism.  It was simply character assassination in one of its ugliest forms.

In the end, Pope Innocent II won.  Anacletus II died in 1138, and St. Bernard argued so emotionally about the saintly character of Innocent that the schism failed to elect another anti-pope, As for Arnulf, he had achieved one important goal -- he wanted fame.  Almost all of Europe now recognized his name as the author of that vicious piece of invective. But he was also labelled as a man you did not want as your enemy.  People knew that he would not hesitate to lie, exaggerate, and attack from behind.  He would do and say whatever it took to achieve his purposes.

But now he faced another hurdle.  Could he prove himself to be worthy of a bishopric?

Black Churches and Politics

Another aspect of South Carolina politics often misunderstood is the relationship between black churches and political action. This, too, had its roots in Reconstruction. In the passage below, Hector Moreau, a former slave turned political activist, tries to explain it to Jonathan, who sees politics as a matter to be handled by education. The setting is upper South Carolina in 1870.


   Hector, too, had listened carefully when Robert Smalls outlined what Jonathan could do within the schools to make sure  new black citizens became effective voters. He realized that black churches could perform much the same role. Under his direction, the small African-American church he had helped to establish in Aiken became a center for adult education and for the effective exercise of voting rights. 
   When the Grenvilles returned to the Aiken farm for the summer, Hector was eager to meet with Jonathan again and discuss what he had accomplished.  
   “Our little AME church has become the center of the black community,” he began. “I suggested we start a kind of political club to keep our members informed of what the Republican Party was doing.  The idea went over well, and it soon became a group that also offered social events. Wednesday night suppers proved popular and greatly increased our attendance. And now the gathering also provides assurance that members will help one another in times of crisis such as illness or the death of family members.”
   “That sounds like an interesting progression. I wish my school classes on voting were that effective.”
   “I think the real key is that the lines that separate religion from political action have begun to blur. Our people see voting as one of the obligations they owe to one another and to their faith. What begins as a political rally can turn seamlessly into a revival meeting, and our worship services frequently end with a call to political action. ”
   Once again, Jonathan was not prepared to follow Hector’s lead. “But the United States was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. It sounds to me as if you may be treading dangerous ground by combining the two.”
   “It’s who we are, Jonathan. In the minds of my people, political action is a religious duty.  I can’t even imagine how you can separate the two.”


Read more in Yankee Reconstructed -- available through Valentine's Day in Kindle Book Store for only ninety-nine cents.

Now for the Democrats in the 1870s

Northern Democrats were older than the upstart Republicans, at least in political years. They tended to be Catholics, Lutherans, or other no-evangelical Protestants. They favored low tariffs and minimal government. They were reluctant to take a stand against slavery, even at the height of the Civil War, because they supported the principle of States Rights. In places like New York State, they were also masterminds of the political machine. 

Their symbol, the donkey, originated in 1828 during the campaign of Andrew Jackson, whose opponents called him a jackass.  He exploited the label to emphasize their stubbornness.

In the South, the Democrats were the old Confederates. They were willing to humbly apologize for their roles in the Civil War and begged for forgiveness from President Andrew Johnson, especially when they meant they might get their old lands back again. But they never gave up their basic beliefs in states' rights, their devotion to the Old South, or their opposition to abolishing slavery. In their minds, blacks would always be inferior, 3/5th human beings, and their political goals centered on wrestling political control away from blacks to restore it to the hands of the old slave-based aristocracy.

In the 1870s, the Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations became the terrorist arm of the Democratic party in the South. But they will need a post of their own.

The Republican Party in 1870s

While "Yankee Reconstructed" is making its way through the last hurdles of the publishing business, I thought we might use the time to fill in some historical background that will help you understand the political shenanigans going on in the story.

First, I worry a bit that with all the current political talk making the rounds, hearing the terms "Republican" and "Democrat" will lead to confusion. So please keep in mind that the political parties immediately after the Civil War bear no resemblance to their similarly-named counterparts today. What I outline below will give you a rough and dirty look at those making up the two sides.

The Republican Party (The Grand Old  Party) grew out of the remnants of the Whigs around 1856  and was often referred to as "The Party of Lincoln." In the North, its members were largely white evangelical Protestants, primarily Methodists and Baptists.) They had high moralistic standards and wanted a government that would control the use of alcohol and keep people from doing business on Sundays. They were industrialists, bankers, railroad magnates, and favored high tariffs to protect their businesses. They were generally (although not passionately) in favor of getting rid of slavery, and they supported Lincoln's goal of holding the Union together because they wanted a strong country with a strong government.

In the Southern states, the party looked quite different. White Republicans tended to be Scalawags (Southerners who opposed slavery and the  Confederacy) or Carpetbaggers (Northerners who came South hoping to make money from the crumbling economy.) Jonathan Grenville, in this book, was a dedicated Republican who supported abolition, emancipation, and giving Negroes full rights of citizenship.

The majority of the party, however, was made up of newly-emancipated slaves. Freed blacks made up a large majority of the population of the South, and when they worked together to achieve their political goals, they were almost invincible. Republican politicians sometimes exploited their numbers in order to gain support for themselves.  For example, in South Carolina, police and fire protection was almost non-existent after the war. The Republican governor created militias by recruiting blacks who needed work. He was quick to put weapons into their hands, but less eager to actually train them in the niceties of law enforcement.

Blacks ran for both state and national offices and brought a much different attitude toward government. They were quick to realize that political power also gave them economic advantages. And from there, a slippery slope of government corruption developed --- a trait that would weaken the Republican Party.

In Politics, It Can Be Dangerous To Chose Sides

A quick look, today, at the role Arnulf played in the English Civil War.  From the beginning, Arnulf followed the example  of the bishops of Normandy in supporting King Stephen against the claims of Matilda. Stephen was, of course, a Frenchman, but then too, so was Matilda's husband Geoffrey of Anjou. Arnulf, hoping to become a bishop himself, knew he needed the support of the ruler of Normandy, and he followed the guidance of his uncle, John of Lisieux.

In 1139, the two claimants to the English throne brought their case before the pope at the Second Lateran Council.  Because of his growing reputation as an attack dog, Arnulf was asked to argue the case against Matilda.  There is no record of what he said, but letters from those who were there make it pretty clear.

Arnulf called Matilda a royal bastard, just like her 22 other illegitimate siblings.  Why? Well, he said, Henry I found his wife, Maud, in a nunnery . But since he needed a wife with Anglo-Saxon blood, he forced her to leave and marry him.  She had taken final vows as a nun, Arnulf assured his listeners.  Therefore, the marriage was illegal and Matilda, the only child of that union, was not Henry's legal heir. Was it true? Historians still argue the case. For Arnulf, it didn't matter.  The charge was simply a rhetorical trick that allowed him to use church teachings against a political foe. (Does any of that sound familiar today?)

Pope Innocent did not rule in favor of one or the other side but simply dismissed them, but he later gave tacit approval to Stephen by recognizing his occupation of England. Did that mean Arnulf had chosen the right side?  Not so fast! In Normandy, Geoffrey of Anjou laid liege to the city of Lisieux.  Bishop John set fire to the city rather than surrender to Geoffrey, but his defiance did little good.  When John died in 1141, Arnulf was in line for the bishopric, but Geoffrey prevented him from taking his seat until he paid a huge fine. 

And then, of course, the two sides found a way to settle their own dispute, in a way that left Matilda's son Henry as the lawful king of England and ruler of Normandy. You might guess that the young Henry II was not amused by the bishop who had publicly called his mother a bastard.