Rejection of the Magna Carta

Pope Innocent III, in Etsi Karissimus in Christo, 1215, declared:

“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 to be null, and void of all validity for ever. Wherefore, let no man deem it lawful to infringe this document of our annulment and prohibition, or presume to oppose it. If anyone should presume to do so, let him know that he will incur the anger of Almighty God and of SS Peter and Paul his apostles.”

Context: King John of England had made himself a vassal of the pope, who thenceforth considered England his fief. This condemnation of the Magna Carta is an example of how medieval popes asserted their absolute authority in profane as well as sacred matters.


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