The Papacy in the Mid-Eleventh Century

Extracts from Father Terry’s Verbal Conscience website (; see archived Table of Contents at:, Handouts 100, 102

1.  Sentence of excommunication delivered by Cardinal Humbert against Michael Cerularius

[Editor’s note: In 1015 A.D. Humbert entered the monastery of Moyenmoutier in the Vosges and became a fervent supporter of reforming the church. Pope Leo IX, who had been Bishop of Toul, brought him to Rome as secretary, made him a cardinal and entrusted several missions to him, including one to Constantinople. He was a man of character but unbending, uncompromising and without pity.

Michael Cerularius (1000-1058 A.D.), born of a great family in Constantinople, had become a monk following his imprisonment for a plot against the emperor. The friendship of another emperor brought him the status of patriarch in 1043 A.D. He proved very hostile to the Latins. In 1058 A.D. he was arrested and deported by the Emperor Isaac Comnenus and died before being brought to trial.]

As for Michael, who has improperly been given the title patriarch, and those who share in his folly, they sow an abundance of heresies each day in their midst (in the city of Constantinople). Like the Simonians, they sell the gift of God; like the Valesians, they make their hosts [see Note] eunuchs and then elevate them up not to the priesthood but also to the episcopate. Like the Nicolaitans, they allow ministers of the holy altar to be contracted in marriage … Like the Pneumatomachi (those who fought against the Spirit) they have suppressed the procession of the Holy Spirit a filio [“from the Son”] in the creed. Like the Manichaeans, they declare that fermented bread is alive …Moreover, allowing beard and hair to grow, they refuse communion with those who, following the custom of the Roman church, cut their hair and shave their beard …

That is why, being unable to bear these unprecedented injuries and these outrages directed against the chief apostolic see… we sign against Michael and his supporters the anathema that our most reverend pope has pronounced against them if they do not return to their senses …

May Michael, the neophyte, who improperly bears the title of patriarch . . . and all those who follow him in the above mentioned errors, may they all fall under the anathema, Maranatha, with the Simonians. .. and all the heretics, and indeed with the devil and his angels, unless they return to their senses … Amen, Amen, Amen!

[Note: This word probably should be guests, not hosts. The Valesians were an early Christian sect that practiced self-castration, and also forcibly castrated travelers and guests who visited them.]

2. Reforming Decrees

The election of the pope: decree of 1059 (Nicholas II)

Instructed by the authority of our predecessors and other holy fathers, we have decided and established that after the death of a pope of the universal church of Rome, first of all the cardinal bishops shall together, and with the most careful attention, seek out the most worthy person, and then present him to the cardinal clergy; finally, the rest of the clergy and the people shall come forward to support the new election.