Dante writes Canto XIX as an indictment of church practices that remove its members from the spiritual sphere and give them too much political power. When corrupt people gain power in the Church, their corruption compromises the Church's status and negatively affects the entire political atmosphere of Europe. This is why simoniacs are punished in the 8th circle of hell Below thieves, prostitutes, and even murderers.. Specifically, Dante singles out three popes who used simony to further their political ends - Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, and Clement V. Their corruption had negative affects on the Church, Tuscany, and even Dante himself indirectly leading to his exile from Florence in 1302.
[...] This reflects the way the pope twists his power in the Church to further his own secular ends. Unsurprisingly, Clement, worst of the simoniacs, himself came to power through an act of simony. His election to the papacy came as a result of a desire to please the French monarchs, including Phillip the Fair. which conceded some of his power to the control of these secular, outside rulers. Clement moved the papal seat to Avignon, putting himself under the influence of the ambitious Phillip the Fair. [...]
[...] Dante uses Canto XIX to show that church corruption, represented by simony, is one of the worst sins punished in the Inferno because of its spiritual and political effects. The three popes that were condemned to the circle of the simoniacs all acted in ways that betrayed the spiritual nature of the Church. Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, and Clement V used their spiritual power, originally intended to uphold the eternal glory of the Church, to reduce it to a material commodity. [...]
[...] As the cycle of nepotism and corruption continued with Boniface's reign, the negative effects of simony on Tuscany and Florence increased. Those reading the Inferno when it was published would know that it was Boniface who in 1300 invested the governorship of Tuscany in Charles of Valois, brother of King Phillip the Fair of France a secular ruler soon to gain inappropriate influence over papal power. As a result of Charles' intervention, the Black Guelphs of Florence gained control of the city and the Whites, including Dante, were exiled. [...]
[...] The increasing and ultimately corrupt power of the Church is exemplified in Canto XIX by the three contemporary popes that the Poet condemns to the eighth circle of Hell for their acts of simony. By doing this, Dante intends to showcase specific examples of corruption in the Church and remind the readers of the damage that it has wrought on both itself and on Tuscany. He believes that the Church holds too much political power, and he points this out by showing the effects of the corruption in the Church on the rest of the world through the actions of its highest officials. [...]
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