THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL. 383.
ly, the General of the Franciscans in his Introduction. "The Everlasting Gospel" was declared by its adherents to have supplanted the New Testament, as that had supplanted the Old-these three books constituting a threefold revelation, answering to the Trinity of the Godhead. At once there was a cry from the whole hierarchy. The Pope, Alexander IV., without delay, took measures for the destruction of the book. Whoever kept or concealed a copy was excommunicate. But among the lower mendicants-the Spiritualists, as they were termed-the work was held in the most devout repute. With them it had taken the place of the Holy Scriptures. So far from being suppressed, it was followed, in about forty years, A.D. 1297, by the Comment on the Apocalypse, by John Peter Oliva, who, in Sicily, had accepted the three epochs or ages, and divided the middle one-the Christian-into seven stages: the age of the Apostles; that of the Martyrs; that of Heresies; that of Hermits; that of the Monastic System; that of the overthrow of Anti-Christ, and that of the coming Millennium. He agreed with his predecessors in the impending abolition of Roman Christianity, stigmatized that Church as the purple harlot, and with them affirmed that the pope and all his hierarchy had become superfluous and obsolete-" their work was done, their doom sealed." His zealous followers declared that the sacraments of the Church were now all useless, those administering them having no longer any jurisdiction. The burning of thousands of these "Fratricelli" by the Inquisition was altogether inadequate to suppress them. Eventually, when the Reformation occurred, they mingled among the followers of Luther. To the internal and doctrinal troubles thus befalling the Church, material and foreign ones of the most vital importance were soon added. The true reason of the difficulties into which the papacy was falling was now coming conspicuously into light. It was absolutely necessary that money should be drawn to Rome, and the sovereigns of the Western kingdoms, France and England, from which it had hitherto been largely obtained, were determined that it should be so no longer. They had equally urgent need of all that could be extorted themselves. In France, even by St. Louis, it was enacted that the papal power in the election of the clergy should be restrained; and, complaining of the drain of money from the kingdom to Rome, he applied the effectual remedy of prohibiting any such assessments or taxations for the future. We have now reached the pontificate of Boniface VIII., an epoch in the intellectual history of Europe. Under the title of Celestine V. a visionary hermit had been raised to the papacy-visionary, for Peter Morrone (such was his name) had long been indulged in apparitions of angels and the sounds of phantom bells in the air.
384 POPE BONIFACE VIII.
Peter was escorted from his cell to his supreme position by admiring crowds; but it very soon became apparent that the life of an anchorite is not a preparation for the duties of a pope. The conclave of cardinals had elected him, not from any impression of his suitableness, but because they were evenly balanced in two parties, neither of which would give way. They were therefore driven to a temporary and available election. But scarcely had this been done when his incapacity became conspicuous and his removal imperative. It is said that the friends of Benedetto Gaetani, the ablest of the cardinals, through a hole perforated in the pope’s chamber wall, at midnight, in a hollow voice, warned him that he retained his dignity at the peril of his soul, and in the name of God commanded him to abdicate. And so, in spite of all importunity, he did. His abdication was considered by many pious men as striking a death-blow at papal infallibility. It was during his pontificate that the miracle of Loretto occurred. The house inhabited by the Virgin immediately after her conception had been converted, on the death of the Holy Family, into a chapel, and St. Luke had presented to it an image, carved by his own hands, still known as our Lady of Loretto. Some angels, chancing to be at Nazareth when the Saracen conquerors approached, fearing that the sacred relic might fall into their possession, took the house bodily in their hands, and, carrying it through the air, after several halts, finally deposited it at Loretto in Italy. So Benedetto Gaetani, whether by such wily procurements or not, became Pope Boniface VIII., A.D. 1294. His election was probably due to King Charles, who held twelve electoral votes, the bitter personal animosity of the Colonnas having been either neutralized or overcome. The first care of Boniface was to consolidate his power and relieve himself of a rival. In the opinion of many it was not possible for a pope to abdicate. Confinement in prison soon (A.D. 1296) determined that question. The soul of Celestine was seen by a monk ascending the skies, which opened to receive it into heaven; and a splendid funeral informed his enemies that they must now acknowledge Boniface as the unquestioned pope. But the princely Colonnas, the leaders of the Ghibelline faction in Rome, who had resisted the abdication of Celestine to the last, and were, therefore, mortal enemies of Boniface, revolted. He published a bull against and them; he excommunicated them. With an ominous anticipation of the future-for they were familiar with the papal power, and knew where to touch it to the quick-they appealed to a " General Council." Since supernatural weapons did not seem to avail, Boniface proclaimed a crusade against them. The issue answered his expectations. Palestrina, one of their strong-holds, which in a moment of weakness they had surrendered, was utterly devastated and sown with salt.