6. History of the Franciscan Movement (3)|
From the death of St.Bonaventure (1274)
to Michele da Cesena (1328)
2.28. During the Council of Lyon (1274) many thought that Gregory X wanted all
mendicant Orders to accept property in common, like the old monastic Orders.
This move would have contradicted what the Franciscan Rule states. Therefore,
a group of friars from the Marches of Ancona decided to observe the Rule in a
strict way. Their leader was Corrado d'Offida. These friars were directly
involved in the transmission of the oral tradition of the "Actus S. Francisci
et sociorum eius"and the "Fioretti", which were written towards the end of the
14th century. They were known as Spirituals, a name linked to the age of the
Spirit predicted by Joachim of Fiore.
2.29. Many of these friars were humble and even saintly. Some, however, were
militant against the institution of the Church and the Community of the Order,
whom they saw as betraying the Franciscan ideal. Among them, the most famous
were Angelo Clareno, Pietro da Macerata, Tommaso da Tolentino, Ubertino da
Casale, in Italy (Marches and Tuscany), and Hugh of Digne, Pierre Jean Olieu
(Pierre Giovanni Olivi) in Provence. Some are even authors of polemical
writings, such as the "Arbor vitae crucifixae Jesu"of Ubertino da Casale, the
"Historia septem tribulationum Ordinis Minorum" of Angelo Clareno, and the
"Expositio Regulae" of Hugh of Digne.
2.30. The Ministers General after St. Bonaventure include Girolamo da Ascoli
Piceno (1274-1279), who was then elected Pope in 1288 and took the name
Nicholas IV. He gave the Rule "Supra montem" to the Third Order of St. Francis
in 1289. Next in the line of Generals is Bonagrazia di S. Giovanni in
2.31. The General Chapter of Assisi (1279) asked for a new Cardinal Protector,
in the person of Matteo Orsini. The capitulars also asked for a revision of
the various papal interpretations on the Rule. Pope Nicholas III nominated a
commission to revise this legislation, and on 14 August 1279 published the Bull
"Exiit qui seminat". In this document the Pope distinguished between "usus
juris" and "usus facti". The friars had no use of right upon any goods; all
they had was the use in fact, which was to be moderate. The Order's property
remained in the hands of the Pope, but the Ministers had the right to
administer the use of goods. In 1283 Pope Martin IV introduced the figure of
the "sindacus apostolicus", who was a lay person nominated by the Minister to
administer the goods of the friars.
2.32. The Chapter of Milan elected Arlotto da Prato as Minister General
(1285-1287). During the Chapter the writings of Olivi were examined. But
after the Chapter of Montpellier (1287), the new Minister General, Matteo da
Aquasparta, one of the Franciscan masters of Paris, sent him to lecture in
Florence. Matteo was elected cardinal in 1289, and Raymond Godefroy was
elected General instead. This practice of giving the cardinal's hat to
Minister Generals was detrimental to the stability of the Order. In 1295
Godefroy had to resign, because Pope Boniface VIII suspected him of being a
Spiritual. Giovanni Mincio da Murrovalle (1296-1304) was elected instead.
2.33. By now the Spirituals were causing real trouble in the Order. During the
short reign of Pope Celestine V (1294), a group of Spirituals, whom Godefroy
had sent as missionaries to Armenia in 1289, to defend them from imprisonment,
returned to Italy. Pope Celestine V gave them permission to live in small
hermitages and observe the Franciscan Rule without any papal interpretations.
They changed their name to Celestine friars or Poor Hermits. Pietro da
Macerata was their leader. Naturally they were persecuted by the Community,
and also by the other Spirituals. They even went so far as to reject Boniface
VIII as Pope. The natural result was their excommunication. When Pietro da
Macerata died in 1305, Angelo Clareno took over the leadership of this
2.34. The successor of Murrovalle was Gonsalvus of Valboa, from Spain
(1304-1313), who had been one of Duns Scotus' lecturers in Paris. During his
generalate Pope Clement V summoned him, together with Ubertino da Casale and
other experts, to discuss the issues of tension in the Order. This move came
as a result of the deliberations of the Council of Vienne (1311), which had
discussed the issue of Church reform. Clement V, as Boniface VIII and Benedict
XI had done before him, tried to solve the problem regarding the mendicant's
deteriorating relations with the secular clergy as a result of their privilege
of exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. He also addressed the issue of the
tension between the Community and the Spirituals. On 20 November 1312 Clement
V issued the Bull "Exivi de paradiso", in which the Pope dealt with the
precepts and counsels of the Franciscan Rule, and also mentioned the various
abuses in the Order regarding poverty. His hopes to ease tensions were
short-lived. The Order was divided between the Community, which wanted the
Order to have large convents, studies, papal privileges and the like, and the
Spirituals, who wanted a return to the poverty and insecurity of the early days
of the Order, but among whom there were elements tainted with heresy.
2.35. The downfall of the Spirituals was now imminent. Some of them fled to
Sicily, and were excommunicated in 1314. After the death of Gonsalvus of
Valboa, Alessandro di Alessandria was elected General (1313-1314). After his
death, the Order remained without a Minister until 1316, because even the
Church was without a Pope after the death of Clement V. In 1316 a new Pope was
elected, John XXII (1316-1334), and a new Minister General, Michele Fuschi da
Cesena (1316-1328). The final war of the Spirituals had begun.
2.36. John XXII was determined to control the upsurge of evangelism and
Joachimite tendencies in the Franciscan Order. Some were even using the name
Franciscan to hide their heretical tendencies. This was the case of the
"friars of the free spirit", led by a certain Dulcino. Some of these heretics
ended up burnt alive at the stake. Many others were imprisoned or exiled. In
1317 John XXII called a group of Spirituals from Provence to appear before him
at Avignon, together with Angelo Clareno and Ubertino da Casale. As soon as
they arrived they were imprisoned. Clareno was excommunicated, but Ubertino da
Casale was spared after being defended by Cardinal Giacomo Colonna. On 7
October 1317 John XIII published the constitution "Quorundam exigit", which
marks the official suppression of the Spirituals. Angelo Clareno rebelled
against the Pope and fled to Basilicata, where he became leader of the
Spirituals, who began to be called Clareni or Fraticelli. Clareno died in
1337, but the Fraticelli continued to exist until the mid-15th century. In the
Bull "Sancta Romana" (1317) John XXII formally condemned the Fraticelli.
2.37. The Pope also wanted the Order to revise its doctrine regarding poverty.
He did not agree with the doctrine of voluntary poverty, based upon the
assertion that Christ and the Apostles were without possessions. The issue was
to cause a great deal of trouble for Michele da Cesena during the Chapter of
Marseilles in 1321. In 1322 John XXII commissioned a group of masters of
theology and prelates of the curia to propose their views regarding the
question of the poverty of Christ.
2.38. The answers of the commission varied. But the majority were against the
theory that Christ and the Apostles did not possess goods, because that would
have condemned the Church's own right for possessions. In 1322 John XXII
issued the Bull "Quia nonnumquam", in which he hinted that the Pope had the
right to revise decrees made by his predecessors. He was referring to the
"Exiit qui seminat". This would have dealt a blow upon the Franciscan ideal of
poverty, and Michele da Cesena was not prepared to give in easily to the
challenge. During the Chapter of Perugia, in May 1322, the capitulars
declared: "To say or assert that Christ, in showing the way of perfection, and
the Apostles, in following that way and setting an example to others who wished
to lead the perfect life, possessed nothing either severally or in common,
either by right of ownership and 'dominium' or by personal right, we
corporately and unanimously declare to be not heretical, but true and
catholic". One of the Franciscan experts during the Chapter was Bonagrazia di
Bergamo, who defended the thesis of the friars' "simplex usus facti" (simple
use of necessities).
2.39. John XXII replied by the Bull "Ad conditorem canonum", which was affixed
to the doors of the cathedral of Avignon on 8 December 1322. In it the Pope
said that, although the Church reserved the right of ownership of the friars'
goods, it had not interest whatever to own anything which they, in fact, used.
In other words, the theory separating "usus" from "dominium" made no sense.
The Church did not want to retain any possessions of the friars any longer.
This decision naturally destroyed the very foundations of the Franciscan ideal
of poverty. On 23 November 1323 the Pope issued another Bull, "Cum inter
nonnullos", in which he declared it heretical to deny that Christ and the
Apostles used their right to temporal possessions.
2.40. Tensions rose to uncontrollable proportions. In 1324 the emperor Louis
of Bavaria sided with the friars and accused the Pope of heresy. John XXII
replied with the "Quia quorundam", in which he ordered his views to be taught
in the universities. In 1328 Michele da Cesena was summoned to Avignon to
explain the Order's intransigence in refusing the Pope's orders and its
complicity with Louis of Bavaria. Michele was imprisoned in Avignon, together
with Francesco d'Ascoli, Bonagrazia di Bergamo and William of Ockham, one of
the masters of the Oxford Franciscan school. Since the Chapter was due to be
celebrated on 22 May 1328, the Pope sent Cardinal Bertrand of Poietto to
preside it, and left the Minister General in prison.
|A typical street in Assisi
2.41. The Chapter met in Bologna, with instructions to depose Michele da
Cesena. The capitulars duly obeyed - by re-electing Michele! John XXII
excommunicated Michele, together with Bonagrazia and Ockham, and nominated
Cardinal Bertrand as Vicar of the Order until the next General Chapter.
2.42. In the meantime, on 12 May 1328, Louis of Bavaria had entered Rome and
was crowned emperor. He declared John XXII a heretic and an antichrist, and
chose the Franciscan Pietro da Corbaro as antipope. Pietro took the name of
Nicholas V (1328-1333).
2.43. On 26 May 1328 Michele and his companions fled from Avignon. The group
sought refuge in the court of Louis of Bavaria. The Pope addressed the Bull
"Quia vir reprobus" to the rebel Minister General. Michele died on 29 November
1342, still holding the seal of the Order. Bonagrazia died in 1343, and Ockham
died reconciled to the Church in 1349, and gave back the seal of the Order.
2.44. Less than half of the Ministers Provincial were present at the Chapter of
Paris of 1329, in which Gerald Eudes (Odonis) was elected Minister General
(1329-1342). Eudes was a personal friend of John XXII, and was definitely
inclined towards the Conventual family of the Order.
© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm