This week in Christian history: Salem Witch Trials begin, Ethelbert Talbot dies, pope issues decree on clergy taxes

Pope Boniface VIII issues decree about clergy paying taxes – Feb. 25, 1296

Boniface VIII (1235-1303), former head of the Roman Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States.
Boniface VIII (1235-1303), former head of the Roman Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States. | Wikimedia Commons

This week marks the anniversary of when Pope Boniface VII issued a papal bull demanding that the Catholic Church be consulted by the state when determining when their taxes are being used for secular purposes.

Known as “Clericis Laicos,” the edict came in response to concerns leveled by Catholic clergy in response to what they considered problematic financial demands from secular officials in France and England.

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“The two underlying principles of this Bull, viz. (I) that the clergy should enjoy equally with the laity the right of determining the need and the amount of their subsidies to the Crown, and (2) that the head of the Church ought to be consulted when there was question of diverting the revenues of the Church to secular purposes, were by no means strange or novel in that age,” explained Catholic Answers.

“The Bull has been criticized for the unconventional vehemence of its tone, for its exaggerated indictment of the hostile attitude of the laity of all ages towards the clergy, and for its failure to make clear the distinction between the revenues of the purely ecclesiastical benefices and the lay archical order.”

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