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Corruption and Controversy: Simony, lay investiture, and clerical marriage and celibacy in the Catholic Church during the eleventh and twelfth centuries

Corruption and Controversy: Simony, lay investiture, and clerical marriage and celibacy in the Catholic Church during the eleventh and twelfth centuries

By Andrea Toven

Undergraduate Paper, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, 1999

Introduction: Three major problems faced the Western church during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Simony, lay investiture, and clerical marriage and celibacy all affected the church. They placed unnecessary power in the hands of lay rulers. They corrupted the office of the papacy to a degree. They also caused controversy throughout the church.

Simony is the buying and selling of church offices. This was one of the most controversial issues in the medieval church. Taking money for gifts given by the Holy Spirit was seen as a grave sin. Higher church leaders began to demand payment for the granting of offices and positions to their peers. Later, secular leaders dipped their hands into the pot, demanding similar tributes be paid to them by church leaders.

Simony received its name from Simon Magus, who in the book of Acts attempted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit from the apostles. He wished to obtain this power so that anyone whom he laid hands upon would also receive the Holy Spirit. Peter is shocked by this. He tells Simon Magus, “You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God.” Simon is admonished to repent of what he has tried to do and to pray for forgiveness because he was “in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” More often than not, future church leaders ignored Peter’s demand to not purchase gifts of the Holy Spirit and to repent if one did sin in this way.

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