Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Trapezuntine Scandal!

Here are two letters about the ecclesiastical scandal that broke out under Manuel III of Trebizond because Manuel bribed electors in order to get his candidate for metropolitan of Alania elected. Both letters were written sometime in 1401. I haven't yet tried to pin down more exact dates, but here are draft translations of pretty good letters.

Letter to the metropolitan of Trebizond

Most holy metropolitan of Trebizond, honored exarch of all Lazica, our Moderation’s beloved brother in the Holy Spirit and fellow servant, may God grant grace and peace to your Holiness.

We are writing to inform you that our Moderation was greatly hurt, offended, and angered by the illegal action carried out there which is forbidden in the Church of Christ by the divine and sacred canons. As your Holiness well knows, the canons of the holy apostles and nearly all the ecumenical councils damn anyone elected for money and his elector, and the canons eject this from the Church as simony. Our Moderation because of the danger by sea posed by the infidel due to the siege gave you all permission to elect a metropolitan of Alania there canonically and with ecclesiastical precision and we laid out how it was to be carried out by my exarch, but the people there overpowered him and locked him up using force and violence on him in order to effect the election contrary to the divine and sacred canons as well as illegally by bribes of the man that the secular rulers wanted and had already marked out for the post, who they forced unwillingly and gave bribes to have elected. Perhaps this is not to be unexpected from the worldly rulers who do many other things out of contempt for others, but I am amazed that your Holiness, a long time high priest of the Church of Christ fully aware of the laws and canons, did not do your best to prevent such illegal actions, but that you actually aided and abetted it. For this reason, we are furious with your Holiness and our exarch the monk Nathaniel. We are greatly offended and angered that this illegal action was not resisted until the last drop of blood, but that it was permitted and let come to pass and also that an ordained man would have risked his own position by daring to so great an effrontery be committed against the Church of Christ. The man elected over Alania will be judged by the synod and if someone will accuse him of this when the time comes, he will receive all that the holy and sacred canons demand. Our Moderation will not correspond with him, nor shall we address him as metropolitan until he has his hearing. We have returned as well although they were sent here to the clergy and my cell the five somia to the abbot of Saint Sophia, the hieromonk Gedeon, who gave them to us. We are poor and needy and we and this clergy live off the pity of Christians, but were all the gold in the world obtained illegally offered to us, we would not take it. Rather we would say to the people giving us it what Saint Peter said, “To hell with them and their money.” Tell the man appointed over Alania this.

May the grace and pity of God be with your Holiness.

Letter to the Emperor of Trebizond Manuel III

Beloved brother-in-law of my mighty and holy emperor, most noble, most glorious, most brave, most prudent emperor of Trebizond and all Lazica, most dear son of our Moderation in the Holy Spirit, lord Manuel Komnenos, our Moderation prays God Almighty grant you grace, peace, spiritual and corporal health, all else that is good.

The letter sent by your Imperial Majesty with the hieromonk was received by the divine and sacred superior synod. We have convened one, two, three times and thoroughly read and pondered it. We found much difficulty and contrariness in what you wrote as it goes against the rule set down by the Holy Fathers and against your Imperial Majesty’s letter which you wrote previously about the man of Alania in which you wrote, “We ask that this one thing happen”, and elsewhere, “We will not seek this.” Because of all this, it appeared difficult now as up to this time the divine and sacred superior synod has consented to your pleading and requests because of our friendship and love for your Imperial Majesty and because of the good and praiseworthy reputation which the hieromonk and spiritual Symeon has and because of the love and affection which you all have for him, to let him come here and happen to him as the canons command and as you request, if only your Imperial Majesty will give written satisfaction and assurance to the divine, sacred, and superior synod that you shall speak no further of this individual or write anything further in regards to it as this is against the letter and law of the canons. Let him come here therefore without summons following spring in March during the four month period he was given to come here. If he does not come, then the synod will do what is required by the canons to this church of ours. Do not present us with anything whether it is money or anything else because we do not need anything. In regards to this man of Alania, we are amazed how your Imperial Majesty thought that if we did not give in for 5 somia, we would give in for eight. In doing this, you revealed that you are ignorant of us and our aim. We admit we are poor now and we will be in the future, but not so much as eight gotten from such a means or even eight thousand would we touch, rather likewise we would return them as we would snakes and scorpions. In regards to the man of Alania, since a bad reputation and one very unflattering to Church leadership has fallen through him on the Chuch of Christ and since many have been harmed and scandalized on his account, it is our Moderation’s decision that he need come here and face the charges against him and show himself innocent. If he returns with papers of innocence given in synod by our Moderation, then those who were scandalized by him will be satisfied. So let him come here himself after March during the four month period we are giving him, which once it has passed if he has still not given an account of himself to the synod, then our Moderation will consider him free from leadership position in the Church by decision of the synod. Please take back the money the somia you gave us.

May God preserve your Imperial Majesty disease-free, happy, healthy, and free from all cause for grief.

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