by Nicolo Machiavelli
Concerning Ecclesiastical Principalities
IT ONLY remains now to speak of ecclesiastical principalities, touching which all difficulties are prior to getting possession, because they are acquired either by capacity or good fortune, and they can be held without either; for they are sustained by the ordinances of religion, which are so all-powerful, and of such a character that the principalities may be held no matter how their princes behave and live. These princes alone have states and do not defend them, they have subjects and do not rule them; and the states, although unguarded, are not taken from them, and the subjects, although not ruled, do not care, and they have neither the desire nor the ability to alienate themselves. Such principalities only are secure and happy. But being upheld by powers, to which the human mind cannot reach, I shall speak no more of them, because, being exalted and maintained by God, it would be the act of a presumptuous and rash man to discuss them.
Nevertheless, if any one should ask of me how comes it that the Church has attained such greatness in temporal power, seeing that from Alexander backwards the Italian potentates (not only those who have been called potentates, but every baron and lord, though the smallest) have valued the temporal power very slightly yet now a king of France trembles before it, and it has been able to drive him from Italy, and to ruin the Venetians although this may be very manifest, it does not appear to me superfluous to recall it in some measure to memory.
Before Charles, King of France, passed into Italy, this country was under the dominion of the Pope, the Venetians, the King of Naples, the Duke of Milan, and the Florentines. These potentates had two principal anxieties: the one, that no foreigner should enter Italy under arms; the other, that none of themselves should seize more territory. Those about whom there was the most anxiety were the Pope and the Venetians. To restrain the Venetians the union of all the others was necessary, as it was for the defence of Ferrara; and to keep down the Pope they made use of the barons of Rome, who, being divided into two factions, Orsini and Colonna, had always a pretext for disorder, and, standing with arms in their hands under the eyes of the Pontiff, kept the pontificate weak and powerless. And although there might arise sometimes a courageous pope, such as Sixtus [IV], yet neither fortune nor wisdom could rid him of these annoyances. And the short life of a pope is also a cause of weakness; for in the ten years, which is the average life of a pope, he can with difficulty lower one of the factions; and if, so to speak, one pope should almost destroy the Colonna, another would arise hostile to the Orsini, who would support their opponents, and yet would not have time to ruin the Orsini. This was the reason why the temporal powers of the pope were little esteemed in Italy.
Alexander VI arose afterwards, who of all the pontiffs that have ever been showed how a pope with both money and arms was able to prevail; and through the instrumentality of the Duke Valentino, and by reason of the entry of the French, he brought about all those things which I have discussed above in the actions of the duke. And although his intention was not to aggrandize the Church, but the duke, nevertheless, what he did contributed to the greatness of the Church, which, after his death and the ruin of the duke, became the heir to all his labours.
Pope Julius came afterwards and found the Church strong, possessing all the Romagna, the barons of Rome reduced to impotence, and, through the chastisements Alexander, the factions wiped out; he also found the way open to accumulate money in a manner such as had never been practised before Alexander's time. Such things Julius not only followed, but improved upon, and he intended to gain Bologna, to ruin the Venetians, and to drive the French out of Italy. All of these enterprises prospered with him, and so much the more to his credit, inasmuch as he did everything to strengthen the Church and not any private person. He kept also the Orsini and Colonna factions within the bounds in which he found them; and although there was among them some mind to make disturbance, nevertheless he held two things firm: the one, the greatness of the church, with which he terrified them; and the other, not allowing them to have their own cardinals, who caused the disorders among them. For whenever these factions have their cardinals they do not remain quiet for long, because cardinals foster the factions in Rome and out of it, and the barons are compelled to support them, and thus from the ambitions of prelates arise disorders and tumults among the barons. For these reasons his Holiness Pope Leo found the pontificate most powerful, and it is to be hoped that, if others made it great in arms, he will make it still greater and more venerated by his goodness and infinite other virtues.
- Taking control of principalities under the control of the Catholic Church is difficult, as it requires either unusual good fortune or skill. [C11, P1]
- Neither good fortune or skill is required by rulers of such principalities. So long as it is perceived that rulers are in compliance with "god's law", they can do as they please, without sanction. [C11, P1]
- Religious principalities do not need to be defended and their subjects require no rule, since the people are in the grip of religious law and do not dare dissent, lest they be sanctioned by their fellow citizens. [C11, P1]
- Aggressors towards religious principalities do not dare to aggress, lest they run afoul of the "power of god" and unified populations "rallying to defense". [C11, P1]
- Religious principalities are always secure and happy, as they exist by superior forces, to which the human mind does not reach... exalted and maintained by God. [C11, P1]
- Points out that prior to Alexander the Great, religious interests placed little value on temporal power and yet, in Machiavailli's time, religious interests had vast tmporal power, sufficient to make the King of France tremble, to drive the French from Italy and ruin the Venetians. [C11, P2]
- Machiavelli offers an account of how the Church came to have "such greatness in temporal affairs".
- Popes Alexander VI and Julius II greatly increased the power of the Church by using armed force to weaken other existing factions, accumulating wealth to strengthen the Church's own position, and nurturing factionalism within any remaining factions.
- The current Church, under the leadership of Pope Leo X, has been made strong through the force of arms.
- Machiavelli argues that the factors which lead to the Catholic Church gaining control over Italian principalities are not essentiallydifferent than those used by other princes to gain power.
 The power of the church was psychological and terror of "god", based on the fact that virtually all European education and information, Machiavailli's included was monopolized / controlled by the church (Today: states, "official truth"). Church teachings were a moral force to be reckoned with and virtually nobody, Machiavailli and kings included dared to publicly challenge church teachings, nor behave contrary to church mores lest religious populations rise against them under the banner of "heretec". Thus, Machiavailli's opinions regarding religious principalities should be treated with skeptism. For example, where were these religious utopias where men were free and unmolested by rulers? Machiavailli was as blinded by the subverted religious education of his day as we today are blinded by statist, groupthink, anti-freedom subverted media and educational propaganda.
Recall that Machiavailli wrote "The Prince" in 1505. The temporal power (wealth) of the church was based on the church fraud that your sins could be forgiven and you could buy your way into heaven by contributing to the church. Many estates were willed to the church, the church sold what were called "indulgences" for sin forgiveness and favors from the church. Church coffers became flush and, church officials corrupt in even proportion. This was one of the catalysts that sparked / outraged Martin Luther to vigorously dissent in 1517 and publish the Ninety-Five Theses that sparked the Protestant Reformation, splintering the church.
A previous event, the printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1454 allowed literate citizens to see the vast difference between what agents of the church, using Biblical teachings as pretexts for their own greed were claiming versus what the Bible actually stated. This set the stage (provided the social / intellectual environment, opportunity) that Martin Luther, a church insider used to attack and severely weaken the church for its hyprocrisy. Even today, five centuries later, the ripples of these two shots manifests with a severe public distrust of organized religion.
This was the beginning of the end of the churches monopoly on education and "official truth". Secular, intelligent forces took over, ended the church imposed dark ages and the Renassence, Age of Reason, freedom and western civilization were born. Today, other monopolistic forces control and enforce "official" truth. The uncontrollability and freedom of information of the internet is rapidly corroding and destroying the ability of entrenched forces to continue to manipulate and enslave inherently free humanity.
The power of pervailing social mores (propagandized religion in Machiavalli's time) are so great that even rulers tremble before them. Under no condition should rulers provide the perception they believe or behave contrary to prevailing social mores (values). To do so is to be judged "heretec" and have virtually the entire population, inflamed by those who manipulate the social values intent on your demise. No ruler can withstand opposition of this magnitude.
 Had Machiavailli been able to observe beyond his educationally induced blinders regarding organized religion, he would have noted that religious forces behave identically (under color of "god") to his astute observations regarding secular forces, differing only by self-alleged ideaology (pretexts). The same may be accurately claimed regarding modern political idealogies, differing in pretexts, but, the exact same actions. Politics are no more than ever changing pretexts for tax eating, predatory statists to prey. Note that "the law" has also devolved to mere "political philosophy", a collection of subjective opinions, enforced on all dissenters.
Bill Ross is an electronic design engineer in Oakland, Ontario, Canada. The above article is either an excerpt from, supporting evidence for or logical implication of HumanNature, an evolving objective study of humanity and civilization and dissection of the lies of those who incorrectly believe they are in control from the factual, provable perspective. Feedback is welcome. Email Author
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