The Peter Guilday Prize for 2017 is given to Kathleen Walkowiak of Saint Louis University for her article “Public Authority and Private Constraints: Eugenius III and the Council of Reims” that appeared in Volume 103 (Summer, 2017).
This well-researched and written study re-evaluates Pope Eugenius III and demonstrates that he should not be seen as an ineffectual pope because of the poor reception of his conciliar decrees. Rather, by examining his roles as mediator and counselor, theologian and jurist, ruler and symbol, Eugenius emerges as a skillful manager of the various pressures on him at the Council of Reims and as a very attractive and humane prelate. To arrive at this new assessment of the pope, Ms. Walkowiak critiques the historical sources for their various biases. She notes how Eugenius used elaborate ceremonies to manifest and aggrandize his papal authority, the spiritual and political significance of his giving the golden rose to King Alfonso VII of Castile, the public cutting up of a book to demonstrate his authority over questions of heresy, the choice of the date of Laetare Sunday to promote crusades, and his dramatic prostrating himself at the feet of a count to pressure him to be reconciled with this spouse.
Eugenius III exercised papal power with compromise and in collaboration, with calm and in an objective manner. He balanced off factions and squabbles and tried to uphold the decisions of his predecessors. As a marriage counselor he made emotional appeals in an effort to resolve marital conflicts. As an arbiter of theological disputes, he found it difficult to understand the new technical terminology of the dialecticians with their use of logic and grammar to speculate on the mystery of the Trinity, and negotiated a compromise whereby Bishop Gilbert of Poitier accepted the four points composed by Bernard of Clairvaux and thus escaped condemnation.
The decrees his council issued were most re-iterations of earlier decrees, but some were modification of these, and others were new. The ways Eugenius III managed the Council of Reims, as demonstrated by Ms. Walkowiak, reveal a papal monarch who managed effectively the various pressures on him. For this new assessment of an important medieval pope the Peter Guilday Prize is gladly awarded to Ms. Kathleen Walkowiak.