– For the context of these translations click here –
Left, Mass of St. Gregory, c. 1490, attributed to Diego de la Cruz, oil and gold on panel (Philadelphia Museum of Art).
From Gregory I, the humble servant of servants, until the 20th century it is well known that the popes had their feet kissed. The peculiarities were regulated by the ceremonial books. But, as we also know, the one who was actually being kissed was not his foot, but God’s. That is why all the emperors, including Charles V, also regularly performed this ugly rite on the portico of St. Peter’s basilica.
It is understood that Gregory’s personal conscience was marked by the origin, career and status of his character. He always made himself respected by both the clergy and the laity. In modern parlance it could be said that he was a Law-and-order type, a person of order, a former prefect of police, a judge of the criminal who strongly insisted on obedience and discipline, especially by monks and nuns, taking a special interest in their morality—or immorality—as well as in the observance of their vow of poverty.
Gregory used to call his clerics and officials, whose influence was decisive in the Roman municipal administration, ‘soldiers of Peter’ and also ‘soldiers of the Roman Church’ (milites beati Petri, milites Ecclesiae romanae). The first monk elevated to the pontifical throne administered the Lateran almost in the manner of a monastery, populating it in any case with monks, whom he elected to high offices. But he, who adopted the humble monastic catchphrase of ‘servant of the servants of God’—which after his death became an official title of the popes—naturally wanted to be ‘the first servant in the Church of God’ (Altendorf).
Gregory never used the name of St. Peter without the tag ‘prince of the apostles’. He strictly forbade subjects (subditi) to dare to pass judgment on the life of prelates or superiors (praepositi). Even if they were unworthy and justly deserved to be censured, they should not be reproached. Rather, one had to voluntarily embrace the yoke of reverence.
The man of double standards
Where he had power, Gregory exercised it without regard, very proud of his justice in front of his subordinates. Archdeacon Lorenzo, who for his sake was preferred in the papal succession and who could not hide his disappointment, lost his post. A year later, Gregory burned him in a solemn ceremony and in the presence of all the clergy ‘for his pride and other crimes’.
Yet more significant is the following event. The monk Justus, a doctor at the Monastery of Saint Andrew, who cared for the increasingly ill pope, confessed to brother Copious that he had hidden three gold coins. When Gregory found out, he rigorously forbade anyone to treat Justus, that no one from the monastery should visit him on his deathbed or assist him. And after his death his corpse had to be thrown with the three coins into a dunghill while the assembly shouted: ‘To hell with you and your money!’
With such severity Gregory understood the monastic vow although, personally, everything that he hadn’t given to his monasteries he sold, distributing the money among the poor. As a monk he was so wealthy that in 587 he was able to make another donation to the Monastery of Saint Andrew (to which with the expression of owner he called ‘my monastery’). Furthermore, at least thirteen years after becoming a Benedictine monk, he still possessed many rustic goods.
Undoubtedly, the pope was also a man of compromise and double standards. As hard as he was always with the defrocked monks and nuns, forcing them to return to the monastery, in the case of nobles he could make exceptions.
Venantius, a patrician of Syracuse and probably a friend of Gregory, left his monastery in contempt of the ecclesiastical precept. He took home the beautiful and dominant lady Italica who made him the father of two girls, also becoming the epicentre of a circle of anti-monastic literati. But Gregory didn’t force him to return to the monastery. He only tried with great effort to convince him to do it voluntarily, although in vain. What is more, he aided the children born of that anti-canonical marriage, proving once more—as Jeffrey Richards, his modern and often benevolent biographer says—‘that in Gregory’s image of the world was a law for the rich, and another for the poor’…
One last example about Gregory’s double standards: When Bishop Andrew beat a poor woman who lived off ecclesiastical charity so barbarically that she died shortly after, the pope simply forbade him to celebrate Mass for two months—perhaps to the satisfaction of the bishop himself. On the contrary, Gregory had ‘all carnal sinners’ locked up in the prisons of the monasteries, so that a modern researcher (Grupp) writes that this ‘evokes the old slaveholders’, taking such crowds into those monastic houses of repression that according to the monk John Climacus—a contemporary of Gregory, somewhat younger than him—they ‘could hardly take a step’.
Editor’s note. ‘But, as we also know, the one who was actually being kissed was not his foot, but God’s’.
This means that even proud kings had to symbolically kiss the feet of the god of the Jews, since the god of the New Testament is the same as the god of the Old Testament.
When will American white nationalists see something so obvious? Or is it that they don’t realise that the Christian religion of our parents is somehow connected with the empowerment of Jewry?