Jeremy Taylor on Canon Law

After savaging the idea that councils are infallible for several pages, Bishop Taylor discussed canon law:

For 1) the popes of Rome have made innumerable decrees in the Decretum, Decretals, Bulls, Taxes, Constitutions, Clementines, and Extravagants. 2) They, as Albericus de Rosate, a great canonist, affirms, sometimes exalt their constitutions, and sometimes abase them, according to the times. And yet 3) all of them are verified and imposed under the same sanction by the council of Trent, {Session xxv. c. 20. [tom. x. col. 189]} all I say which were ever made in favor of ecclesiastical persons and the liberties of the church, which are indeed the greater part of all after Gratian’s decree; witness the Decretals of Gregory the ninth, Boniface the eight, the Collectio diversarum constitutionum et literarum Romanorum pontificum, and the Decretal epistles of the Roman bishops in three volumes, besides the Ecloga bullarum et motuum propriorum. All this is not only an intolerable burden to the christian churches, but a snare to consciences, and no man can tell by all this that is before him, whether he deserved love or hatred, whether he be in the state of mortal sin, of damnation, or salvation. But this is no new thing: more than this was decreed in the ancient canon law itself. Sic omnes apostolicæ sedis sanctiones accipiendæ sunt tanquam ipsius divini Petri voce firmatæ. And again, Ab omnibus quicquid statuit, quicquid ordinat, perpetuo et irrefragibiliter observandum est, ‘ all men must at all times with all submission observe all things whatsoever are decreed or ordained by the Roman church.’ Nay, licet vix ferendum, ‘although’ what that holy see imposes be as yet ‘scarce tolerable,’ yet let us bear it, and with holy devotion suffer it, says the canon ‘In memoriam.’ And that all this might indeed be an intolerable yoke, the canon ‘Nulli fas est’ adds the pope’s curse and final threatenings; Sit ergo ruinæ suæ dolore prostratus, quisquis apostolicis voluerit contraire decretis; and every one that obeys not the apostolical decrees is majoris excommunicationis dejectione abjiciendus: the canon is directed particularly against the clergy. And the gloss upon this canon affirms, that he who denies the pope’s power of making canons (viz., to oblige the church) is a heretic. Now considering that the Decree of Gratian is Concordantia discordantiarum, a heap or bundle of contrary opinions, doctrines and rules; and they agree no otherwise than a hyena and a dog catched in the same snare, or put into a bag; and that the decretals and extravagants are in very great parts of them nothing but boxes of tyranny and error, usurpation and superstition; only that upon those boxes they write ecclesia catholica, and that all these are commanded to be believed and observed respectively; and all gainsayers to be cursed and excommunicated; and that the twentieth part of them is not known to the christian world, and some are rejected, and some never accepted, and some slighted into desuetude, and some thrown off as being a load too heavy, and yet that there is no rule to discern these things; it must follow that matters of faith determined and recorded in the canon law, and the laws of manners there established, and the matter of salvation and damnation consequent to the observation or not observation of them, must needs be infinitely uncertain, and no man can from their grounds know what shall become of him.

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