Saturday, August 07, 2004

HYW(Duncan2): Defender of Pilgrims

A party of pilgrims being harrased by brigands was suddenly rescued by several knights bearing what appeared to be the banner of Ralph Neville, Baron of Aylshm and Herald to the King of England. The knights, however, never revealed themselves and as the story reached Avignon, the Pope wrote a letter to the Herald, wanting to know if the defenders were indeed part of the House of Neville. Rolfe Neville, the younger son of Ralph Neville, confirmed in a reply that it was him - along with two brothers - who came to the pilgrims' rescue, but at the same time felt remorseful because "by aiding them I was remis in my duties to my brothers as Knights" - he had to momentarily abandon his tasks in order to fight the brigands - "and thus have fallen short of the demands I accepted in my oath of service and fealty as their Squire." "Worse," he added, "in waving the sword about as if to thrash them, I have broken my promise not to take up arms, even if I had only meant to scare them off, never actually acting with the intent to “lay on” as it where." Below is the response of Pope Benedict XII addressing such concern of conflicting duties, dated Spring 1338.

My child, young Rolfe,

It is the nature of truth and goodness that at times what is right can seem to be in conflict with another notion of what is right. But truely I advise you, your obligation to God through your protection of the poor is a direct obligation, while your knightly oaths are yet and indirect obligation to God, since secular authority is established by God for the purpose of human governance. So when confronted with a direct duty to God and an indirect duty to God, your direct obligation outweighs the indirect. Your soul and its care is an eternal duty, your temporal obligations are temporary.

We herby confir upon you and your brother John, knighthoods in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Should a crusade be called in the Holy Land, your attendence would also confir on you a Lieutenancy in that same order.

May the face of the Lord continue to shine on you,

Bishop of Rome


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