Providing a citiation from Ecclesiatical law for the proprietor of Playing D&D with Porn Stars, that’s like work when you’re a librarian, but I’m a sucker…

No cleric may decree or pronounce a sentence involving the shedding of blood, or carry out a punishment involving the same, or be present when such punishment is carried out. If anyone, however, under cover of this statute, dares to inflict injury on churches or ecclesiastical persons, let him be restrained by ecclesiastical censure. A cleric may not write or dictate letters which require punishments involving the shedding of blood, in the courts of princes this responsibility should be entrusted to laymen and not to clerics. Moreover no cleric may be put in command of mercenaries or crossbowmen or suchlike men of blood; nor may a subdeacon, deacon or priest practise the art of surgery, which involves cauterizing and making incisions; nor may anyone confer a rite of blessing or consecration on a purgation by ordeal of boiling or cold water or of the red-hot iron, saving nevertheless the previously promulgated prohibitions regarding single combats and duels. — from the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215

Zak of “Playing D&D with Porn Stars,” thought that he might have seen something on my blog about why D&D clerics are prohibited from using edged weapons, and asked if I could recall it.  I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed this explicitly but he was pretty sure I had a really explicit quote about it.  That’s absolutely the sort thing I ought to have here!  OK, now I do.  Despite the many apocryphal explanations for this D&D trope (Archbishop Turpin in Charlemangian legends, Bishop Odo using a club on the Bayeux Tapestry, etc.) this must be the most specific reason the rule was introduced (apart from the possible game design purpose of denying clerics the use of magic swords!).

Probably this quote is also why the Inquisition always turned people over to the secular authorities for torture and execution.

I’m a librarian but I don’t work the reference desk, so this took me a while to figure out, and I kept sending him secondary sources instead of this primary source.    I wish I could say Google had no role in my finding this answer but I can’t. 😦

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Published in: on May 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The inspiration of Bishop Odo for the original clerical limitation on weapons isn’t apocryphal. Gygax mentioned it specifically in one of the Q&A sessions on ENWorld: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?193204-Gary-Gygax-Q-amp-A-Part-XIII/page110

    • That’s interesting. His (Odo’s) brother William is also shown using a cudgel or mace on the Tapestry. I think that maces or clubs represent authority, as in the ‘rod’ of the Pharaoh and biblical figures, and the ceremonial maces still carried into churches and government chambers at times. I worked a university that a huge gilded “mace” that basically looked like a giant’s scepter, you see them from time to time.

  2. I am a reference librarian (law) and there is no shame in using Google to answer a question.


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