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John XXII

(1249—1334)


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(7 Aug. 1316–4 Dec. 1334)

The cardinals took over two years to find a successor to Clement V. Meeting first at Carpentras, they dispersed because of violence, and only reassembled at Lyons, under pressure from Philip, count of Poitiers (soon to be Philip V of France: 1316–22), in Mar. 1316. Divisions along national lines (Gascon, Italian, etc.) aroused passionate feelings, but they at last agreed on a compromise candidate, Jacques Duèse, who had the backing of both Philip and King Robert of Naples (1309–43). Born at Cahors c.1244 of rich bourgeois stock, trained in law at Montpellier and in theology at Paris, though he left without graduating, he became bishop of Fréjus in 1300, from 1308 to 1310 was chancellor to Charles II (1285–1309) and then Robert of Naples, and was made bishop of Avignon in 1310, cardinal priest of S. Vitale in 1313, cardinal bishop of Porto in 1313. Second of the Avignon popes, he consolidated the stay of the papacy there in spite of early statements that he wished to move to Rome. He lived first in the Dominican priory, later in the episcopal palace.

Elderly, feeble in health, diminutive and wisp-like, John was immensely energetic as well as administratively experienced, and did much to restore the efficient working of the curia and its financial viability, both badly run down by his predecessor. Authoritarian by nature, he greatly extended direct papal provision, or nomination, to benefices, enlarged the pool available by forbidding (Execrabilis: 19 Nov. 1317) the holding of more than two, and virtually removed the election of bishops from chapters. To increase efficiency he split up excessively large dioceses and redrew the boundaries of others; and he created a new fiscal system, extending to all countries the payment to the holy see of annates, i.e. the first year's revenue of a benefice, reserving (1319) all minor benefices for three years to the papacy, and levying special subsidies. He compiled a new tax book fixing fees for documents issued by his chancery, and augmented and partly reorganized the curia. Their authority being uncertain, he officially published Clement V's decretals (the Clementines) in 1317, while his own decretals (the two books of the Extravagantes) long remained the basis of ecclesiastical jurisprudence.

Early in his reign John took sharp action, at the instance of Michael of Cesena, general of the Franciscans (1316–29), against the Spirituals, banning their abbreviated habit and ordering them to obey their superiors, and accept the legitimacy of laying up stores of provisions (1317); those who proved obstinate were handed over to the Inquisition, and four were burned at the stake (1318). He soon came to blows, however, with the order itself when its general chapter at Perugia, directed by Michael of Cesena, pronounced (June 1322), in defiance of a decision of the Inquisition, that it was orthodox teaching, endorsed by Nicholas III's Exiit qui seminat, that Christ and the Apostles owned nothing as their own. John's reaction was, first, to renounce ownership of the order's property, titularly vested in the holy see, and then to denounce the Perugia declaration as heresy (12 Nov. 1323). The entire order was outraged, and some members branded John as a heretic himself, not least for having contradicted Exiit qui seminat and breaking Nicholas III's ban on further discussion, and although the majority submitted in summer 1325 a large minority went into schism. This included Michael of Cesena, who escaped in May 1328 from detention at Avignon and fled, with William of Occam (c.1285–1347) and Bonagratia of Bergamo, to the court of Louis IV the Bavarian (1314–47), who in the Sachsenhausen Appeal (1324) had already accused the pope of heresy and called for a general council. John excommunicated them in Apr. 1329, and on 16 Nov. issued a bull (Quia vir reprobus) declaring that the right to hold property pre-dated the Fall, and that Scripture depicted the Apostles as owning personal possessions.

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Subjects: Christianity.


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