Boniface to Pope Zacharias On His Accession to the Papacy, 742

To our beloved lord Zacharias, who bears the insignia of the supreme pontificate, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God.

We confess, Father and Lord, that after we had learned through messengers that your predecessor Gregory, of holy memory, had departed this life, nothing gave us greater comfort and happiness than the knowledge that God had appointed Your Holiness to enforce the canonical decrees and govern the Apostolic See. Kneeling at your feet, we earnestly beg that, as we have been devoted servants and humble disciples to your predecessors in the See of Peter, we may likewise be counted obedient servants, under canon law, of Your Holiness.

It is our firm resolution to preserve the Catholic faith and the unity of the Church of Rome, and I shall continue to urge as many hearers and disciples as God shall grant me on this mission to render obedience to the Apostolic See.

We must also inform you, Holy Father, that owing to the conversion of the German people we have consecrated three bishops and divided the province into three dioceses. We humbly desire you to confirm and establish as bishoprics, both by your authority and in writing, the three towns or cities in which they were consecrated. We have established one episcopal see in Wurzburg, another in Buraburg and a third in Erfurt, formerly a city of barbarous heathens. These three places we urgently beg you to uphold and confirm by a charter embodying the authority of the Holy See, so that, God willing, there may be in Germany three episcopal sees founded and established by Saint Peter’s word and the Apostolic See’s command, which neither present nor future generations will presume to change in defiance of the authority of the Apostolic See.

Be it known to you also, Holy Father, that Carloman, Emperor of the Franks, summoned me to his presence and desired me to convoke a synod in that part of the Frankish kingdom which is under his jurisdiction. He promised me that he would reform and re-establish ecclesiastical discipline.- which for the past sixty or seventy years has been completely disregarded and despised. If he is truly willing, under divine inspiration, to put his plan into execution, I should like to have the advice and the instructions of the Apostolic See. According to their elders, the Franks have not held a council for more than eighty years; they have had no archbishop nor have they established or restored in any place the canon law of the Church. The episcopal sees, which are in the cities, have been given, for the most part, into the possession of avaricious laymen or exploited by adulterous and unworthy clerics for worldly uses. If I am to undertake this task at your bidding and on the invitation of the Emperor I must have at once, with the appropriate ecclesiastical sanctions, both the command and the decision of the Apostolic See.

Should I discover among these men certain deacons, as they are called, who have spent their lives since childhood in debauchery, adultery and every kind of uncleanness ” who have received the diaconate with this reputation, and who even now, when they have four or five or even more concubines in their beds at night, are brazen enough to call themselves deacons and read out the Gospel: who enter the priesthood, continue in the same career of vice and declare that they have the right to exercise the priestly functions of making intercession for the people and offering Mass, and who, to make matters worse, are promoted, despite their reputations, to higher offices and are eventually nominated and consecrated bishops, may I in such cases have a written and authoritative statement regarding the procedure to be followed, so that they may be convicted as criminals and condemned by apostolic authority? Among them are bishops who deny the charges of fornication and adultery but who, nevertheless, are shiftless drunkards, addicted to the chase, who march armed into battle and shed with their own hands the blood of Christians and heathens alike. Since I am recognised as the servant and legate of the Apostolic See, my decisions here and your decisions in Rome ought to be in complete agreement when I send messengers to receive your judgment.

In another matter, also, I must crave your advice and permission. Your predecessor of holy memory bade me, in your presence and hearing, to appoint a certain priest as my successor to rule this diocese after my death. If this be the will of God, I concur. But now I have my doubts whether it is feasible, for in the meantime a brother of that priest has murdered the duke’s uncle, and at the moment I see no possibility of settling the quarrel.

I beg you, therefore, to give me your authority to act on the advice of my colleagues regarding the choice of a successor, so that in common we may do what is most advantageous for God, the Church and the safeguard of the faith. May I have your permission to act in this matter as God shall inspire me, for without defying the wishes of the duke the former choice seems impossible.

I have further to seek your advice, Holy Father, in connection with a perplexing and scandalous report that has lately reached our ears. It has greatly disturbed us and filled the bishops of the Church with shame. A certain layman of high rank came to us and asserted that Gregory, of blessed memory, Pontiff of the Apostolic See, had granted him permission to marry his uncle’s widow. This woman had previously married her own cousin and deserted him during his lifetime. She is known to be related in the third degree to the man who wishes to marry her and who now declares that the necessary permission has been granted. Furthermore, before her first marriage she had made a solemn vow of chastity and, after taking the veil, threw it aside.

For this marriage the man states that he has permission from the Holy See. This we cannot accept as true. For, at a Synod of the Church beyond the sea, where I was born and bred, namely, the Synod of London, convoked by the disciples of Saint Gregory, the archbishops, Augustine, Laurence, Justus and Mellitus, such a marriage was declared on the authority of Holy Scripture to be a heinous crime, an incestuous and execrable union and a damnable sm. For this reason, I beg you, Holy Father, to state the truth of the matter, so that it may not give rise to scandals, dissensions and new errors among the clergy and the faithful.

Because the sensual and ignorant Allemanians, Bavarians and Franks see that some of these abuses which we condemn are rife in Rome, they think that the priests there allow them, and on that account they reproach us and take bad example. They say that in Rome, near the church of Saint Peter, they have seen throngs of people parading the streets at the beginning of January of each year, shouting and singing songs in pagan fashion, loading tables with food and drink from morning tin night, and that during that time no man is willing to lend his neighbour fire or tools or anything useful from his own house. They recount also that they have seen women wearing pagan amulets and bracelets on their arms and legs and offering them for sale. All such abuses witnessed by sensual and ignorant people bring reproach upon us here and frustrate our work of preaching and teaching. Of such matters the Apostle says reprovingly: ” You have begun to observe special days and months, special seasons and years. I am anxious over you: has all the labour I have spent on you been useless? ”

And Saint Augustine says: “The man who puts his faith in such nonsense as incantations, fortune-tellers, soothsayers, amulets or prophecies of any sort, even though he fasts and prays and runs continually to church, giving alms and doing all kinds of penances, gains nothing as long as he clings to such sacrilegious practices.”

If Your Holiness would put an end to these heathen customs in Rome it would redound to your credit besides promoting the success of our teaching of the faith.

Frankish bishops and priests, whose reputation as adulterers and fornicators was notorious, whose children, born during their episcopate or priesthood, are living witnesses to their guilt, now declare on their return from Rome that the Roman Pontiff has granted them full permission to exercise their offices in the Church. Our answer to them is that we have never heard of the Apostolic See giving judgment contrary to the canonical decrees.

All these matters, beloved master, we bring to in order that we may give these men an authoritative r we, under your guidance and instruction, overcome an these ravening wolves and prevent the sheep from being astray.

Finally, we are sending you some small gifts, a warm rug and little silver and gold. Though they are too trifling to be offered to Your Holiness, they come as a token of our affection and our devoted obedience.

May God protect Your Holiness and may you enjoy health and long life in Christ.