||Magna Carta: Heresy!
By Gary Macy
One of the most venerable and
foundational documents of English common law, the legal tradition that
underlies most of United States law, is the Magna Carta. The barons of England
under the leadership of Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury and former
Parisian theologian forced (bad) King John (of Robin Hood fame) to sign the
famous charter in the early 13th century. This much of the history of the
document is well-known. What is not often mentioned is that the Magna Carta was
almost immediately condemned by Pope Innocent III in no uncertain terms:
On behalf of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and by the
authority of Ss. Peter and Paul his apostles, and by our own authority, acting
on the general advice of our brethren, we utterly reject and condemn this
settlement [the Magna Carta] and under threat of excommunication we order that
the king should not dare to observe it and that the barons and their associates
should not require it to be observed: The charter, with all undertakings and
guarantees whether confirming it or resulting from it, we declare it to be null
and void of all validity forever. Wherefore, let no man deem it lawful to
infringe this document of our annulment and prohibition or presume to oppose
it. If anyone presume to do so, let him know that he will incur the anger of
Almighty God and of Ss. Peter and Paul His apostles.
That seems to cover it. By the way, you wont find this
pretty definitive papal statement in Denzinger.
Gary Macy is a theology professor at the University of