When St. Paschal died, factional feeling which had flared up in the killing
of Theodore and Leo, embittered the election. The nobles, who stood against
Paschal's independent policy, prevailed and secured the election of the
archpriest Eugene. Abbot Wala, a great minister of Charlemagne and Louis,
who was present in Rome at the time, threw his weight to Eugene. Eugene,
a spiritual man, may have been the candidate of a faction, but he was no
tool. As archpriest he had been in charge of Santa Sabina Church and had
an excellent reputation for learning and goodness.
Emperor Louis naturally was pleased at the election, and quick to seize the
favorable moment, sent his son Lothair to Rome to put imperial relations
with the papacy on a more favorable footing. The imperialist nobles were
now reinstated. Some were brought back from exile; others recovered
confiscated property. Lothair then arranged with the Pope a Roman
Constitution which definitely recognized the Emperor as overlord of Rome
while it conceded immediate temporal power to the Pope. Papal elections
were to be held correctly, but the newly elected pope could not be
consecrated until in the presence of imperial envoys he had taken an oath
of loyalty to this Constitution. The increasing weakness of the Carolingian
empire, however, doomed this Constitution to an early death.
The Eastern Emperor, Leo V, had been assassinated in 820. His successor,
Michael II, the Stammerer, though an image-breaker, at first showed an
inclination to compromise; but when he found out that the Orthodox had no
wish for compromise with heretics he resumed the persecution. St. Theodore
Studites had written to him urging the Emperor to consult the Pope as head
of the Church. Michael did write to Pope Eugene and to Emperor Louis the
Pious, but nothing came of the matter. Louis had some Frankish bishops
study the matter, and they, still misunderstanding the acts of the Seventh
Ecumenical Council, wrote an attack on the straw men their imaginative
ignorance had constructed. Naturally this was no help in clarifying ideas
In 826 Pope Eugene held a council at Rome which passed thirty-eight canons,
most of them concerning reform. Simony was strictly forbidden; churches
destroyed by war were to be rebuilt; schools were to be opened in all
Archbishop Abbo had given up the work of converting the Danes, but the
great St. Ansgar stepped into his place. Pope Eugene encouraged the Apostle
of the Scandinavians and commended him to all Catholics.
Eugene died in August, 827.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.