Nor does the sacredness of the office extend to him who chances to hold it. Philip the Fair himself could hardly treat Boniface VIII. worse than he. With wonderful audacity, he declares the Papal throne vacant by the mouth of Saint Peter himself.2 Even if his theory of a dual government were not in question, Dante must have been very cautious in meddling with the Church. It was not an age that stood much upon ceremony. He himself tells us he had seen men burned alive, and the author of the Ottimo Comento says: ‘I the writer saw followers of his [Fra Dolcino] burned at Padua to the number of twenty-two together.’3 Clearly, in such a time as this, one must not make ‘the veil of the mysterious verse’ too thin.4 In the affairs of this life Dante was, as we have said, supremely practical, and he makes prudence the chief of the cardinal virtues.5 He has made up his mind to take things as they come, and to do at Rome as the Romans do.
By malison of theirs is not so lost
Eternal Love that it cannot return.Purgatorio, III. 133, 134.
In the world of thought it was otherwise, and here Dante's doctrine, if not precisely esoteric, was certainly not that of his day, and must be gathered from hints
Ah, savage company! but in the Church
With saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons!Inferno, XXII. 13,14.