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Qualiter et quando stressed the elimination of scandal, the need to ensure damage was not done to the Church, the importance of regulating excessus, and the need to prosecute public crimes. The unfolding of the above cases however gives reason to wonder how far these aims were met by the application of inquisitorial procedure. What the legislation said it sought and what the legal practice produced might be quite different.

Episcopal accountability, as exacted by canonical procedures, helped to shape and express expectations of episcopal conduct. The dynamic through which it expressed it—coerced liability to answer public rumours—added an important colour. That colour has been occasionally lurid here and this chapter has deliberately emphasized the dexterity in procedural gymnastics demonstrated by bishops, chapters, and others in disagreements about episcopal conduct. This leaves one far from clear that inquisitorial accountability provided a satisfactory means of evaluating and then asserting a ‘positive’ idea or ideal of episcopal practice. This is again to point out that it seems wrong-headed to expect institutions for securing accountability to produce compelling characterizations of official conduct. They often served as substitutes when that conduct was deemed lacking.

Being a bishop—like being a bailiff or sheriff—then was constructed by the interaction of positive norms and coercive regulations. As in those cases, where the stress fell varied. If the Church could not rely on positive norms as a sufficient guarantee of episcopal sollicitudo neither could it rely on inquisitorial procedure satisfactorily to produce that sense of episcopal conduct that a Geoffrey of York seemed so spectacularly to lack. Nor could inquisitorial procedure prevent its own manipulation in the hands of inquisitorial impetratores, as one suspects in Langton’s case. Its openness to ‘manipulation’ was partly how it functioned. Langton’s case is problematic not because any innocence is presumed on his part, but because there are strong reasons to suppose that the allegations made against him were exaggerated. Extreme allegations signalled both the potential seriousness of the case and the potentially spurious nature of those claims. Whatever the messy truth of his relationship with Lovetot’s family, Langton’s Register is demonstrable proof of some routine episcopal competence on a day-to-day basis.[1] But good administration is not incompatible with homicide, back-kissing, and devil-worship, and a large part of the difficulty arising from canonical inquisitorial accountability was that its flexibility enabled both those investigating and those triggering inquisitions to indulge in questionably unaccountable behaviour. Procedurally, there does not seem to have been a conceivable alternative to reliance on local perceptions of scandalum and infamia. It was the necessary strength and the weakness of canonical inquisitorial accountability that it risked the building to test the columns on the say-so of a potentially very broad range of people. That was the cost of guarding episcopal guards at all.

  • [1] Historians have disagreed whether Langton was negligent (Haines, ‘Langton, Walter (d.1321)’) or not (Hughes in Register of Walter Langton, i. xxxiii). The growth of episcopal delegation inthis period made bishops’ own absences less problematic in practice: see Hope, ‘Hireling Shepherds’,78, 140—2, 228—9. Langton’s concessions during the 1307—11 trial show at least that he was a deeplyunethical treasurer.
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