Papal Documents - The Prophet - 738 

many years, gave the brothers his unstinting support, as did his two successors, and the controversy died down for some time.

But following the death of Clement IV in 1268, a long vacancy in the Holy See ensued. This provided an opportunity for a new round of attacks by the secular masters, this time led by Gérard of Abbeville. In 1269 Bonaventure composed a vigorous response, the Apologia pauperum ("The Defense of the Poor"). A new Pope, Gregory X, was finally elected in 1271. The next year he called for a general council; one of the items on the agenda was the status of the mendicant orders in the church. Gregory eventually named Bonaventure a cardinal and a member of the preparatory commission for the assembly. Despite strong opposition against the friars, the Second Council of Lyons ended in July 1274 by endorsing the valuable work of the Franciscans and Dominicans.

This still-simmering secular-mendicant controversy provides the atmosphere in which this decree was composed. Its author, Pope Nicholas III, was the former Giovanni Gaetano Orsini; Bonaventure had specifically asked to have him named Cardinal Protector of the Order in 1261. This choice proved to be a wise one: Orsini was Bonaventure's close collaborator for the rest of his long generalate, and a strong defender of the Order. When he became Pope in 1278, Nicholas decided to take the initiative to support the brothers. Shortly after the chapter of Assisi in 1279, he met with the newly elected general minister, Bonagratia of San Giovanni in Persiceto; they agreed on the need for a new and definitive commentary on the Rule. To assist him, Nicholas named a special commission including the two Franciscan cardinals,a Bonagratia himself, several prominent provincial ministers, and a number of eminent Curial canonists,b who examined the issues for several months over the summer. The Pope, acting quickly on their recommendations, issued this decree in August of 1279.

In many ways the deceased Bonaventure is the virtual "ghost writer" of Exiit Qui Seminat.c The Papal committee basically took over the main arguments of Bonaventure's Apologia pauperum. These provide the grounds for the Pope's assertions that the Lesser Brothers are perfect imitators of the poverty of Christ. In the lengthy closing twenty-third article, Nicholas incorporates Bonaventure's teachings into the official collection of the church's doctrinal statements, prescribing penalties for theologians who dissented from them. But in addition to its apologetic function, Exiit was also intended to respond to the vast changes which had taken place among the Franciscans




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 738