This particular series of Augnet pages examines how a theological view of a close relationship of dominion and grace became a common thread through Pre-Reformation and Reformation history that linked Giles of Rome O.S.A., William of Cremona O.S.A., Archbishop Richard Fitz Ralph, John Wyclif, John Hus and Martin Luther.
In his defence of Pope Boniface VIII, Giles of Rome O.S.A. – a pupil of Thomas Aquinas and probably the Augustinian Order’s greatest-ever theologian - pushed the theories of St Augustine on the origin of civil power to conclusions went beyond Augustine’s. On this topic, Giles became more Augustinian than Augustine!
Giles began from the general principle that lordship, as a gift of God, must be founded on God's justice, and justice is absent in all those who, by sin or lack of baptismal regeneration, are without the grace of God. The logical conclusion — if you leave out common sense and the spirit of the gospels — is that sin, whether original or personal, deprives the sinner of all rights to property, to possessions and to rule.
On this logic, Philip the Fair, a verbal opponent of the Pope, was no longer legitimately King of France because he was, by his determined opposition to the pope, in the state of sin. In stretching his argument to that conclusion, Giles was making more use of Aristotle and canon law than he was of the thought of Augustine.
Giles of Rome was not aware that he lit a time-fuse when he propounded this view that you could not legitimately hold power unless you were in the state of grace. Though he later retracted that view and it was repeated in the Augustinian Order only by William of Cremona O.S.A., it spread beyond the order and gained significant supporters. Giles never succeeded in extinguishing that fuse; it ran on for two centuries, in unexpected quarters, until it finally exploded with Martin Luther soon after 1515.
The teaching on dominion and lordship expressed by Priors General Giles of Rome O.S.A. and William of Cremona O.S.A. was taken up by one of the most lively controversialists of the fourteenth century, Richard Fitz Ralph. He was also one of the most outstanding scholars of his day. Born at Dundalk in Ireland, educated at Oxford, where he became chancellor of the university, and then was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland in 1346.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
Picture 1: John Wyclif (see next page).
Picture 2: John Hus (see next page).
Picture 3: Martin Luther.