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Faculty Essay


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"A historian once ended his work on Clement VII (r. 1523-34) by stating, “No pope ever began so well, or ended so miserably.” True enough in the sense that most contemporary observers were more thankful than mournful at Clement’s passing. However, one might also see in his papacy a vigorous defense of papal rights against the growth of monarchial power, a diplomatic and even pastoral struggle to retain the ancient division within Christendom of the priestly and kingly offices. Should the new monarchs of the early modern period reduce the papacy to a mere appendage of secular authority, religious issues would become little more than state policy. Control of bishops and cardinals could and, in the recent past, had led to the election of popes. Therefore, as his predecessors before him and his successors after him, Clement VII attempted to restrain the expansion of royal power and maintain the independence of Rome and of papal prerogatives."

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