Magi and Religion and Priests

One of the players in my Troupe has a Magi characters who was been ordained prior to apprenticeship. The back story is very clever and interesting. He also is particuarly pious, even for most at the time, let alone a magus. This again, I think is very interesting. However, he proposes to still act as a Priest, believing he can straddle the divide between the Order of Hermes and Catholicism.

Personally I think this can create several very interesting plot stories and challenges for the player. However, there are two practical points I think might inhibit the story. First, the Church would only grant a temporary absence for a Priest and so would expect him to return "to service". Secondly, if he interacts with mundanes and the Church (which it appears he may well do) is this not likely to be deemed a transgression of the Code?

I would welcome any thoughts on the subject generally and on these particular issues.

Ordination was supposed to be forever. This character is expected - by church and society - to act as a priest for all his life, unless he gets defrocked. Yes, there were a few rare exceptions, where even a cardinal could return layman at peace with the church, if e. g. he was the last male representative of a noble or royal bloodline which otherwise would face sure extinction and consequent political turmoil. But in general receiving the ordination was irreversible, unless the priest did it great dishonor. I recommend to study the obligations of priests at the time and place of your campaign: these the character must not shirk. They will quite certainly include reading mass daily.

Being a priest did not automatically imply holdng a church position or benefice (like a post as capellanus, a parish, an administrative function in the bishopric or such).
And here you should decide on the stance of the Order of Hermes, and the relevant Peripheral Code of your Tribunal, about magi holding church benefices and posts. It might very well be forbidden, as it would be kind of court wizardry. But if you look at Cunfin in Champagne from TLatL, p.106f, the Peripheral Code of the Normandy Tribunal in 1220 appears to be less rigid.

Anyway the character would cause least trouble to your campaign, if he just fulfilled all the obligations brought about by his ordination and never sought further function in the church. The wealth necessary for this he would typically have as a magus in a covenant, and many covenants have chapels within or nearby allowing him to live as a priest in the covenant.

Indeed, after the 4th Council of the Lateran (see ... he_Lateran) he might help the covenant obeying canon 21 "omnis utriusque sexus" by acting as confessor for the magi and covenfolk. The local bishop would likely have to allow this, though.


Notwithstanding the historical realities, I would suggest changing them to fit your saga. If the player wants to act as a priest after a few years post-apprenticeship, have the church demand that of him. If you think he will have more fun if the Church demands this of him immediately post-gauntlet, do that. Another option is to make the Church demand that during his apprenticeship, and for his master to have "bought off" the Church with some bribe or similar action that comes back to haunt the magus (whenever it suits the saga).

As One Shot said, the position within the Church is also something to consider. Not knowing much about the Church's structure, I imagine all priests are subordinate to their local bishop and, ultimately, the pope. Getting the bishop to place the character in a position he desires would be one story, and keeping him from transferring the magus to an undesired position would be another.

Likely? Oh, yes. I frankly would consider priesthood to be an oath of fealty to a mundane lord, classifying it under court wizardry. "Objectively", I think this character would never be allowed, in any tribunal, by any quaesitor. But it your saga, you should fit the setting to serve your preferences.

And clearly, the issue is not so evident in your tribunal. Magi haven't yet given the matter much thought, but when the character's enemies raise this point in tribunal there could be lots of action where the PCs will eventually convince the tribunal not to decide the case yet, and further stories later of how they consolidate a coalition to the next tribunal, with support perhaps of House Jerbiton or so on, and then how they face ramifications when unexpected consequences occur (perhaps pagan priests, or a covenant swearing allegience to the pope and starting to act openly as wizards, or...). And in time, the issue will stand before a Grand Tribunal. In short, for the needs of your saga the Code should be flexible enough so that this point becomes an axis for stories.

Think of all of this from the Church's perspective as well. Perhaps the local bishop is a learned man that knows of the Order, and agreed to let the master teach the young priest magic. He would surely have some use for a magus-Priest in mind. But perhaps the local abbot is not so pleased with this development. Perhaps he calls on the pope in Rome to investigate this "demonc magic". And what happens when the bishop dies, and is replaced? And once the precedent of a magus-priest is established, what would the papacy think of the matter? Would they be interested in ordaining more such priests, for "special duties"? Or maybe set up an order of Magi-Monks? Or would they consider the magi too unreliable, with vast powers and conflicting loyalties? What happens if they ask the character to teach Gifted monks magic, without swearing the Code? What happens when they start employing magi to brew longevity rituals? How would the Church consider Hermetic law, as opposed to Canon law? What will those in the Church that think all magic is demonic do? There are lots and lots of opportunities to tell stories here. Have fun with it. :slight_smile:

I frankly disagree. An oath of serve God and the Holy Church is quite different from fealty to a mundane lord. In fact, that difference is a lynchpin of the whole structure of medieval society. The Church is fully seperate from the nobility. Therefore, the prohibition against court wizardry absolutely does not apply. Now, the broader prohibition against mundane interferance means that a priest-magus would have to walk a very, very fine line indeed. Also, the specifics of the priest-magus's position must be considered. A magus who is a lord's chaplin is clearly a court wizard by another name. A magus who is a rural parish priest, no so much (but is probably in danger of being branded a hedge wizard by his fellows). A magus who is a monk, is probably quite safe so long as his actions do not incur the wrath of his mundane brethren.

Also, it's worth noting that RoP: Divine includes a Hermetic version of the Monastic Vows flaw and The Church includes a sidebar about the story possibilities of a Magus-Bishop... so clearly ArsM canon does not discount the possibility of a priest-magus out of hand.

Thanks guys, this is useful stuff.

The Magus-Bishop story seed is particularly useful, though it does highlight the likely charges which will be brought. However, one would assume in that story the Magus would have been a Priest beforehand. Query therefore why no charges have been brought already, though I guess there could be several explanations.

Actually one need not be a priest to be elected a bishop. Medieval history is rife with examples of men who were ordained priests in the morning and made bishop that afternoon. My personal favorite is King Henry I making his larderer Bishop of Hereford.

Don't forget Andru, Primus of Jerbiton, is interested in having the Church declare The Gift a charism, so such a character may be drug into a smtory along those lines rather easily.

I agree here, that the charge or 'court wizardry' would not target the ordination proper of the magus. It might target specific benefices and offices, though. Just think about an arch-deacon who is also a magus, and runs a bishopric day-by-day.
it is also important to note the relative inefficiency of medieval church hierarchy, which makes it easy for a priest to live outside of it, once he moved from the bishopric where he was ordained to another. (Many catholic priests became vagabonds, minstrels and such in 12th century middle Europe - so at the beginning of the 13th most bishops are careful to ordain only those priests which their diocesis can support.)
An interesting approach might be, to make a magus-priest quite publicly the capellanus of a covenant, based on a chapel there.


I'm not totally sure I buy that. The bishop has a court too, and bishops are often very similar to nobles. Many bishops have extensive estates, raise taxes, and sometimes even have knightly vassals, and in parts of Mythic Europe bishops are secular lords too. So, acting as a wizard in a bishop's court seems at least questionable.

However, I don't think that there has to be an inherent problem with being both a magus and deacon/priest/bishop etc. Of course, he will be vulnerable to accusations of mundane interference, and from the reverse direction he will be vulnerable to accusations of heresy. It all depends on what the magus actually does, and how, and either way it is story opportunities.

There is nothing preventing the "temporary absence" being repeatedly renewed. Of course, he might run into difficulties if his bishop is replaced (or something similar), but that's just a story problem to be resolved.

Also, if the covenant has a chapel (the covenfolk need to worship somewhere?), then his "service" might be as the covenant chaplain (as One Shot suggests).

You are, I believe, correct. I should have made my point for precisely and less emphatically. I was caught up in the moment. :slight_smile:

What I mean to say is that the prohibition against court wizardry does not apply to being ordained a priest.

As I went on to say, there are certain positions a priest can hold when it would apply... such as being a lord's chaplin, or a bishop's dean. However, there are likewise positions where a magus would be quite safe from that specific charge and still be able to maintain himself as a priest. Indeed, I think a magus who is an ordained monk in cloister is even less likely to interfer in the affairs of mundanes as his more conventional solades in a covenant. As with any magus who involves himself in mundane society, a priest-magus must walk a fine line.

I pretty much agree with all that.

Effectively every priest is like a vassal of his bishop, although the clergy probably wouldn't describe the relationship quite with that phrase. However, there is plenty of scope for a player character to be relatively independent, either legitimately, or merely by being "bad".

Which is why I see it as covered by the "court wizardy" rulings. I see magi as arrogantly dividing humans into "mundanes" and "magi". You can swear alleigience to another magus, or to a supernatural entity (including God), sure. But swearing allegience to a "mundane" - from a hedge wizard to the pope, they are all on the same "level" - is forbidden. I thought this was established by RAW, but now that I look at the text the RAW is far more loose. I may be remembering something from 4th edition or something. Anyway, with the RAW the way it is I agree things are much looser than I thought and whether the above position holds is a YSMV thing.

Sure, a magus being a priest definitely looks dubious and it probably makes many a quaesitor show his frown face. However, in practise, I think a magus could easily get away with it --- depending on what he actually does, of course.

Afterall, even the "court wizard" rulings only directly prohibit "working as a court wizard". Working in a court in some other capacity (as a priest, say)? That smells a bit like an arguable loop-hole.

Alternatively, you can always tell stories about "not getting away with it" with the player character (eventually) having to choose between church and magic.

It strikes me that if the saga is starting in Stonehenge Tribunal between 1208 and 1213 (I think I have thoses dates at least close), it may be possible for an ordained magus to go unnoticed by the Church for a while, given Pope Innocent's Interdict and the excommunication of King John. Once the Interdict was lifted, there was still enough chaos among the clergy and nobles that I would be okay with an ordained magus effectively becoming an "itinerant priest" unassigned to a particular parish. Until the local bishop figured out what was going on...