He is interested in papal power and canon, or church, law, and their impact on Western society in the later middle ages. His monograph, based on his doctoral thesis, focussed on a sanction of the Western Church called the interdict, which had the effect of closing churches and suspending religious rites usually for communities or regions, including kingdoms. It was often used by the papacy as a political weapon in its clashes with secular rulers. As a collective sanction, it raised important questions about medieval notions of community, including questions of collective guilt. The book examines how medieval canonists and theologians justified the sancion, and how the canon law of the interdict both shaped and was shaped by the sanction's operation in practice. His research interests have since moved on to the records of the papal penitentiary, the highest office in the later medieval Church concerned with matters of conscience. It issued special favours available only from the pope, which this office issued on his behalf, including marriage dispensation and absolution from grave sins such as killing clergy. The records of this office held in the Vatican have only been available to researchers since 1983, and even now can only be consulted and published with special Vatican permission. Peter and his research collaborator Patrick Zutshi have published extensively on these records, including a three-volume edition of the records concerning England and Wales (1410-1503) appearing in the Canterbury and York Society Series (2013-15). They plan an edition of the English and Welsh penitentiary records from 1503 to 1569. Peter's interests are thus increasingly moving into the early modern period and focussing on medieval religious continuities beyond the Reformation.
Professor Peter Clarke
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