A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages.
By Henry Charles Lea - 1888
Chapter V: Persecution
Growth of Intolerance in the Early Church
The Church had not always been an organization which considered its highest duty to be the forcible suppression of dissidence at any cost. In the simplicity of apostolic times its members were held together by the bond of love, and the spirit with which discipline was enforced is expressed in St. Paul's precept to the Galatians (VI. 1, 2) -
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
Christ had commanded his disciples to forgive their brethren seventy times seven, and as yet his teachings had been too recent to be buried beneath a mass of observances and doctrines in which the letter which kills overpowered the spirit which saves. The great primal principles of Christianity were enough for the fervor of the faithful. Dogmatic theology, with its endless complexities and metaphysical subtleties, as yet was not. Even its vocabulary had still to be created and its innumerable points of faith to be evolved out of the chance expressions of writers on other topics, and by the literal interpretation of the imagery of poetical diction.
It is an inexpressible relief to turn from the heated wranglings over questions scarce appreciable by the average human intellect to St. Paul's reproof to the Ephesians for giving heed to fables and endless genealogies, and questions which had in them little of godly edification, for
"the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (I. Tim. I. 4, 5).
Those who indulged in these vain janglings he denounces as men
"desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm." (Ibid 7), and he commands his chosen disciple, "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they engender strife" (II. Tim. II. 23).
The Ebionitic section of the Church agreed with the Pauline branch in this simplicity of teaching -
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jakes, I. 27).
Yet already was the seed scattered which was to bear so abounding a harvest of wrong and misery. St. Paul will listen to no deviation from the strictness of his teachings -
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed" (Galat. I. 8);
and he boasts of delivering unto Satan Hymenæus and Alexander "that they may learn not to blaspheme" (I. Tim. I. 20). How this spirit increased as time wore on may be seen in the apocalyptic threats with which the backsliders and heretics of the seven churches are assailed.
The process went on with accelerating rapidity. Theology could not form itself without starting a cloud of questions unsettled by the gospel: earnest disputants arose who, in the heat of controversy, magnified the points at issue till they assumed an importance rendering them the vital test of Christianity, and men believed with the most fervid conviction that their adversaries were not Christians because they differed on some infinitesimal dogma which only the mind trained in the dialectics of the schools could comprehend.
When Quintilla taught that water was not necessary in baptism, Tertullian shrieks to her that there is nothing in common between them, not even the same God or the same Christ. The Donatist heresy with its deplorable results arose on the question of the eligibility of an individual bishop. When Eutyches, in his zeal against the doctrines of Nestorius, was led to confuse in some degree the double nature of Christ, thinking that he was only defending the dogmas of his friend St. Cyril, he suddenly found himself convicted of a heresy as damnable as Nestorianism; while his defence against the practised rhetoric of Eusebius of Dorylæum shows that he was not able to grasp the subtle distinction between substantia and subsistentia - a fatal failing which proved the ruin of thousands.
Thus, during the first six centuries, as men explored the infinite problems of existence here and hereafter, new questions constantly arose and were disputed with merciless vehemence. Those who held commanding positions in the Church and could enforce their opinions were necessarily orthodox; those who were weaker became heterodox, and the distinction between the faithful and the heretic became year by year more marked.
Nor was it merely the odium theologicum that raised these passions; not only pride of opinions and zeal for the purity of faith. Wealth and power have charms even for bishop and priest, and in the Church, as it grew through the centuries, wealth and power depended upon the obedience of the flock. A hardly disputant who questioned the dogmatic accuracy of his ecclesiastical superior was a mutineer of the worst kind; and if he succeeded in attracting followers they became the nucleus of a rebellion which threatened revolution, and every motive, good or evil, prompted the suppression of such sedition at all hazards and by every available means.
If the sectaries became sufficiently numerous to form a community of their own, cutting them off from the communion of the Church was of no avail; the keenest shafts of ecclesiastical censure rebounded harmless from their armor of conscientious belief. This naturally led to an animosity against the m greater than that visited on the worst of criminals. No matter how trivial may have been the original cause of schism, nor how pure and fervent might be the faith of the schismatics, the fact that they had refused to bend to authority, and had thus sought to divide the seamless garment of Christ, became an offence in comparison with which all other sins dwindled into insignificance, neutralizing all the virtues and all the devotion which men could possess.
Even Augustin could see nothing to soften his heart in the enthusiastic ardor with which the Donatists endured, and even courted, martyrdom. Had they carried Christ in their hearts their self-abnegation might have merited praise, but as it was they acted only under the promptings of Satan, like the swine who were driven into the sea by the unclean spirit. Martyrdom, even for Christ's sake, could not save heretic or schismatic from sharing eternal fire with Satan and his angels.
Yet the spirit of persecution was too repugnant to the spirit of Christ for its triumph to come without struggle, which can be traced in the writings of the early fathers. Tertullian warmly defends the freedom of conscience; it is irreligious to enforce religion; no one wishes to be venerated unwillingly, so that God may be assumed to desire only the worship which comes from the heart. Still, when the combative energy of the man was aroused in disputation with the Gnostics, it was not difficult for him to find in Deuteronomy and Numbers ample warrant for the maxim that obstinacy is to be conquered, not persuaded. Cyprian says that it is for us to endeavor to become wheat, leaving the tares to God, and he qualifies as sacrilegious presumption the spirit which assumes the function of God in seeking to separate and destroy the tares; yet Cyprian had no hesitation in cutting off from the Church all who differed from him, and consigning them to perdition, which was the only form of persecution at that time within reach.
It was, indeed, natural that a persecuted Church should plead for toleration, and the fact that, even in this early period, there should be these flashes of intolerance gives ample warning of what was to come with the power of enforcing dogma on the recalcitrant. Lactantius was the last of the fathers of the persecuted Church, and he could feelingly argue that belief is not to be enjoined by force, that slaughter and piety are in no sense connected, and he boasts that none are coerced into remaining in the Church, for he who lacks piety is useless to God.
Persecution Commences under Constantine
The triumph of intolerance was inevitable when Christianity became the religion of the State, yet the slowness of its progress shows the difficulty of overcoming the incongruity between persecution and the gospel. Hardly had orthodoxy been defined by the Council of Nicæa when Constantine brought the power of the State to bear to enforce uniformity. All heretics and schismatic priests were deprived of the privileges and immunities bestowed on the clergy and were subject to the burdens of the State; their meeting-places were confiscated for the benefit of the Church, and their assemblies, whether public or private, were prohibited.
There is an instructive illustration of theological perversity in the watchful energy with which these provisions were enforced to the suppression of heresy while yet the pagan temples and ceremonies remained undisturbed. Yet while the churchmen might feel it to be a duty thus to obstruct the development and dissemination of teachings which they regarded as destructive to religion, they still shrank from pushing intolerance to extremity and enforcing uniformity with blood, although the Emperor Julian declared that he had found no wild beasts so cruel to men as most of the Christians were to each other.
Constantine, it is true, commanded the surrender of all copies of the writings of Arius under penalty of death, but it does not appear that any executions actually took place in consequence; and at last, tired of the endless strife, he ordered Athanasius to admit all Christians to the churches without distinction. No effort of the sovereign, however, could soothe the bitterness of doctrinal strife, which grew fiercer and fiercer. In 370 Valens is said to have put to death eighty orthodox ecclesiastics who had complained to him of the violence of the Arians, but this was not a judicial execution, but in pursuance of a secret order of the Prefect Modestus, who decoyed them on board of a vessel and caused it to be burned at sea.
The Church Adopts the Death-penalty for Heresy
It was in 385 that the first instance was given of judicial capital punishment for heresy, and the horror which it excited shows that it was regarded everywhere as a hideous innovation. The Gnostic and Manichæan speculations of Priscillian were looked upon with the peculiar detestation which that group of heresies ever called forth; but when he was tried by the tyrant Maximu, at Trèves, with the use of torture, and was put to death with six of his disciples, while others were banished to a barbarous island beyond Britain, there was a most righteous burst of indignation.
Of the two prosecuting bishops, Ithacius and Idacius, one was expelled from the episcopate and the other resigned. The saintly Martin of Tours, who had done all in his power to prevent the atrocity, refused to join in communion with them, or with any who communed with them. If he finally yielded, in order to save the lives of some men for whom he had come to Maximus to beg mercy, and also to prevent the tyrant from persecuting the Priscillianists of Spain (where, like the subsequent Cathari, they were detected by their pallor), yet, in spite of the consoling visit of an angel, he was overcome with grief at what he had done, and he found that he had lost for some time the power to expel devils and heal the sick.
Uncertainty as to Form of Punishment
If the Church thus still shrank from shedding blood, it had by this time reached the point of using all other means without scruple to enforce conformity. Early in the fifth century we find Chrysostom teaching that heresy must be supressed, heretics silenced and prevented from ensnaring others, and their conventicles broken up, but that the death-penalty is unlawful. About the same time St. Augustin entreats the Prefect of Africa not to put any Donatists to death because, if he does so, no ecclesiastic can make complaint of them, for they will prefer to suffer death themselves rather than be the cause of it to others.
Yet Augustine approved of the imperial laws which banished and fined them and deprived them of their churches and of testamentary power, and he consoled them by telling them that God did not wish them to perish in antagonism to Catholic unity. To constrain any one from evil to good, he argued, was not oppression, but charity; and when the unlucky schismatics urged that no one ought to be coerced in his faith, he freely admitted it as a general principle, but added that sin and infidelity must be punished.
Step by step the inevitable progress was made, and men easily found specious arguments to justify the indulgence of their passions. The fiery Jerome, when his wrath was excited by Vigilantius forbidding the adoration of relics, expressed his wonder that the bishop of the hardy heretic had not destroyed him in the flesh for the benefit of his soul, and argued that piety and zeal for God could not be cruelty; rigor, in fact, he argues in another place, is the most genuine mercy, since temporal punishment may avert eternal perdition. It was only sixty-two years after the slaughter of Priscillian and his followers had excited so much horror, that Leo. I., when the heresy seemed to be reviving, in 447, not only justified the act, but declared that if the followers of heresy so damnable were allowed to live there would be an end to human and divine law.
The final step had been taken, and the Church was definitely pledged to the suppression of heresy at whatever cost. It is impossible not to attribute to ecclesiastical influence the successive edicts by which, from the time of Theodosius the Great, persistence in heresy was punished with death.
A powerful impulse to this development is to be found in the responsibility which grew upon the Church from its connection with the State. When it could influence the monarch and procure from him edicts condemning heretics to exile, deportation, to the mines, and even to death, it felt that God had put into its hands powers to be exercised and not to be neglected.
Evasion of Responsibility by the Church
At the same time, with natural human inconsistency, it could argue that it was not responsible for the execution of the laws, and that its own hands were unstained with blood. Even Ithacius, in the case of Priscillian, had shrunk from the function of prosecutor and had put forward a layman in his place. Similar devices, as we shall see, were practised by the Inquisition, and in either case they were transparently false. In the vast body of imperial edicts inflicting upon heretics every variety of disability and punishment, the most ardent churchmen might find conviction that the State recognized the preservation of the purity of the faith as its first duty.
Yet whenever the State or any of its officials lagged in the enforcement of these laws, the churchman was at hand to goad them on. Thus the African Church repeatedly asked the intervention of the secular power to suppress the Donatists; Leo the Great insisted with the Empress Pulcheria that the destruction of the Eutychians should be her highest care; and Pelagius I., in urging Narses to suppress heresy by force, sought to quiet the scruples of the soldier by assuring him that to prevent or to punish evil was not persecution, but love. It became the general doctrine of the Church, as expressed by St. Isidor of Seville, that princes are bound not only to be orthodox themselves, but to preserve the purity of the faith by the fullest exercise of their power against heretics.
How abundantly these assiduous teachings bore their bitter fruit is shown in the deplorable history of the Church during those centuries, consisting as it does of heresy after heresy relentlessly exterminated, until the Council of Constantinopole, under the Patriarch Michael Oxista, introduced the penalty of burning alive as the punishment of the Bogomili. Nor were the heretics always behindhand, when they gained opportunity, in improving the lesson which had been taught them so effectually. The persecution of the Catholics by the Arian Vandals in Africa under Genseric was quite worthy of orthodoxy; and when Hunneric succeeded his father, and his proposition to the Emperor Zeno of mutual toleration was refused, his barbarous zeal was inflamed to pitiless wrath. Under King Euric the Wisigoth, also, there was a spasmodic persecution in Aquitaine.
Decline of Persecuting Spirit under the Barbarians
Yet, as a rule, the Arian Goths and Burgundians set an example of toleration worthy of imitation, and their conversion to Catholicism was attended with but little cruelty on either side, except a passing ebullition in Spain at the crisis under Leuvigild, about 585, followed by disturbances which were rather political than religious. Later Catholic monarchs, however, enacted laws punishing with exile and confiscation any deviations from orthodoxy, which are notable as the only examples of the kind under the Barbarians. The Catholic Merovingians in France seem never to have troubled their Arian subjects, who were numerous in Burgundy and Aquitaine. The conversion of these latter was gradual and apparently peaceful.
The Latin Church through all this had taken little part in actual persecution, for the Western mind lacked the perverse ingenuity of the East in originating and adopting heresy. With the downfall of the Western Empire it commenced the great task which absorbed its energies and by which it earned the thanks of all succeeding generations - the conversion and civilization of the Barbarians. Its new converts were not likely to indulge in abstruse speculations; they accepted the faith which was taught them, acquiesced for the most part in the established discipline, and while oft unruly and turbulent, gave little trouble on the score of orthodoxy.
Hesitation to Punish in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries
Under these influences the persecuting spirit died out. Claudius of Turin, whose iconoclastic zeal destroyed all the images in his diocese, escaped without punishment. Felix of Urgel was forgiven his Adoptianism, and was welcomed back into the Church in spite of his repeated tergiversations, and though not restored to his see, his residence for fifteen or twenty years at Lyons does not seem to have been an imprisonment, for he secretly maintained his doctrines, and an heretical declaration was found among his papers after his death.
No force is alluded to when Archbishop Leidrad converted twenty thousand of the Catalan followers of Felix, whose principal disciple, Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, retained his primatial seat although there is no evidence that he ever recanted his errors. In the case of the monk Gottschale, who disseminated his predestinarian heresy in extensive wanderings throughout Italy, Dalmatia, Austria, and Bavaria, apparently without opposition, Rabanus of Mainz finally summoned a council which condemned his doctrine in the presence of Louis le Germanique.
Yet it did not venture to punish him, but sent him to his prelate, Hincmar of Reims, who, with the authority of Charles de Chauve, declared him an incorrigible heretic in the Council of Chiersy in 849. So little disposition was there to inflict penalties for heresy, though his theories struck at the root of the mediatory power of the Church, that the scourging ordered for him was carefully stated to be merely the discipline provided by the Council of Agde for the infraction of the Benedictine rule prohibiting monks from travelling without commendatory letters from their bishops; and if he was imprisoned, we are told that this was simply to prevent him from continuing to contaminate others.
The Temporal Authority Coerced to Persecute
The Carlovingian legislation was exceedingly moderate as to heretics, merely classing them with Pagans, Jews, and infamous persons, and subjecting them to certain disabilities.
The stupor of the tenth century was too profound for heresy, which presupposes a certain amount of healthy mental activity. The Church, ruling unquestioned over the slumbering consciences of men, laid aside the rusted weapons of persecution and forgot their use. When, about 1018, Bishop Burchard compiled his collection of canon law he made no reference to heretical opinions or their punishment save a couple of regulations exhumed from the forgotten Council of Elvira in 305, respecting the treatment of apostates to idolatry. Even the introduction of the doctrine of transubstantiation was received submissively until, two centuries after Gottschale, Berenger of Tours called it in question; but he had not in him the stuff of martyrdom, and yielded to moderate pressure.
The warmer faith of the Cathari, who commenced to disturb the stagnation of orthodoxy in the eleventh century, called for energetic measures, but even with those abhorred sectaries the Church was wonderfully slow to resort to extremities. It hesitated before the unaccustomed task; it shrank from contradicting its teachings of charity and was driven forward by popular fanaticism.
The persecution of Orleans in 1017 was the work of King Robert the Pious; the burning at Milan soon after was done by the people against the will of the archbishop. So unfamiliar was the Church with its duty that when, about 1045, some Manichæans were discovered at Chalons, Bishop Roger applied to Bishop Wazo of Liége for advice as to what he should do with them, and whether he should hand them over to the secular arm for punishment; to which the good Wazo replied, urging that their lives should not be forfeited to the secular sword, as God, their Creator and Redeemer, showed them patience and mercy; and Canon Anselm, Wazo's biographer, strongly condemns the executions under Henry III., at Goslar, in 1052, saying that if our Wazo had been there he would have acted as did St. Martin in the case of Priscillian.
The same lenity was manifested by St. Anno of Cologne about 1060, when some of his flock refused, after repeated commands, to abandon the use of milk, eggs, and cheese during Lent, and the archbishop at length allowed them to have their own way, saying that those who were firm in the faith could not be much harmed by a difference in food. Even as late as 1144 the Church of Liége congratulated itself on having, by the mercy of God, saved the greater part of a number of confessed and convicted Cathari from the turbulent mob which strove to burn them. Those who were thus preserved were distributed among the religious houses while awaiting the response of Lucius II., to whom application was made for advice as to what should be done with them.
It is not worth while to repeat in detail the cases related in a former chapter which show how uncertain was the position of the Church towards heresy at this period. There was no definite policy, no fixed fule, and heretics continued to be treated with rigor or with mercy according to the temper of the prelate concerned. Theodwin, Wazo's successor in the see of Liége, writes in 1050 to King Henry I. of France, urging him to punish the followers of Berenger of Tours without even giving them a hearing. This uncertainty is well reflected by St. Bernard in his remarks on the occurrence at Cologne in 1145, when the zealous populace seized the Cathari and burned them despite the resistance of the ecclesiastical authorities.
He argues that heretics should be won over by reason rather than by coercion, and if they will not be converted they are to be avoided; he approves the zeal of the people, but not of their action, for faith is to be spread by persuasion and not by force; yet he assumes the duty of the secular power to avenge the wrong done to God by heresy, and, blind to the danger of man's assuming himself to be the minister of the wrath of God, he quotes St. Paul,
"For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, and revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Rom. XIII. 4).
Alexander III. leaned decidedly to the side of mercy when, in 1162, he refused to pass judgment on the Cathari sent to him by the Archbishop of Reims, saying that it was better to pardon the guilty than to take the lives of the innocent.
Even at the close of the century Peter Cantor dared to argue that the apostle ordered the heretic to be avoided, not slain, and he dwelt upon the inconsistency of the severity shown to the slightest deviation from faith, while the grossest sins and immoralities were allowed to go unpunished.
This hesitation and uncertainty extended to the punishment appropriate to heresy. We have seen numerous cases of burning alive interspersed with sentences of imprisonment, and it was long before a definite formula was reached. Even when Alexander III., at the Council of Tours, in 1163, sought to check the alarming progress of Manichæism in Languedoc, he only commanded the secular princes to imprison the heretics and confiscate their property; though in the same year the Cathari detected in Cologne were sentenced to be burned by judges appointed for the purpose. In 1157 the punishment inflicted by the Council of Reims was branding in the face; and the same expedient was resorted to by that of Oxford in 1166. Even as late as 1199, the first measures of Innocent III. against the Albigenses only threaten exile and confiscation; there is no allusion to any duty on the part of the secular power beyond enforcing these penalties, and their enforcement is rewarded by the same indulgences as those to be gained by pilgrimage to Rome or to Compostella. As the struggle increased in bitterness, we have seen how stronger measures were adopted; yet even Simon de Montfort, in the code promulgated at Pamiers, December 1, 1212, while stimulating persecution to the utmost, and rendering it the duty of every man, does not formally adjudge the heretic to the stake, although in this very year eighty heretics were burned in Strassburg.
This form of punishment had been enacted for the first time in positive law, as already stated, by Pedro II. of Aragon, in his edict of 1197, but the example was not speedily followed. Otho IV., in his constitution of 1210, simply places heretics under the imperial ban, orders their property confiscated and their houses torn down. Frederic II., in his famous statue of November 22, 1220, which made the persecution of heresy a part of the public law of Europe, only threatened confiscation and outlawry, although this, it must be added, placed their lives at the mercy of the first comer.
In his constitution of March, 1224, he went further and decreed death by fire or loss of the tongue, at the discretion of the judge; and the contemporary practice in Germany left the penatly to be similarly decided. It was not until 1231, in the Sicilian Constitutions, that Frederic rendered the punishment by cremation absolute. This was in force merely in his Neapolitan dominions, and the edict of Ravenna, in March, 1232, while inflicting the death penalty does not prescribe the method; but that of Cremona, in May, 1238, embodied the Sicilian law and thus rendered the fagot and stake the recognized punishment for heresy throughout the empire, as we find it subsequently embodied in both the Sachsenspiegel and the Schwabenspiegel, or municipal laws of northern and southern Germany.
In Venice, after 1249, the ducal oath of office contained a pledge to burn all heretics. In 1255 Alonso the Wise of Castile decreed the stake for all Christians who apostatized to Islam or Judaism. In France the legislation adopted by both Louis IX. and Raymond of Toulouse, for carrying out the provisions of the settlement of 1229, is discreetly silent with regard to the penalty of heresy, though under it the use of the stake was universal, and it is not until Louis issued his Établissments, in 1270, that we find the heretic formally condemned to be burned alive, thus rendering it part of the recognized law of the land, although the terms in which Beaumanoir alludes to it show that it had long been a stettled custom. England, which was free from heresy, was even later in adopting it, and it was not until the rise of the Lollards caused fear in both Church and State that the writ "de hœretico comburendo" was created by statute in 1401.
Burning Alive Adopted in the Thirteenth Century
The practice of burning the heretic alive was thus not the creature of positive law, but arose generally and spontaneously, and its adoption by the legislator was only the recognition of a polular custom. We have seen numerous instances of this in a former chapter, and even as late as 1219, at Troyes, an insane enthusiast who maintained that he was the Holy Ghost was seized by the people, placed in a wicker crate surrounded by combustibles, and promptly reduced to ashes.
The origin of this punishment is not easily traced, unless it is to the pagan legislation of Diocletian, who decreed this penalty for Manichæism. The torturing deaths to which the martyrs were exposed in times of persecution seem to suggest, and in some sort to justify, a similar infliction on heretics; sorcerers were sometimes burned under the imperial jurisprudence, and Gregory the Great mentions a case in which one was thus put to death by the Christian zeal of the people. As heresy was regarded as the greatest of crimes, the desire which was felt alike by laity and clergy to render its punishment as severe and as impressive as possible found in the stake its appropriate instrument.
With the system of exegesis then in vogue, it was not difficult to discover an emphatic command to this effect in John, XV. 6.
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned."
The literal interpretation of Scriptural metaphor has been too frequent a source of error for us to wonder at this application of the text. An authoritative commentary on the decree of Lucius III. in 1184, ordering heretics to be delivered to the secular arm for due punishment, quotes the text of John and the imperial jurisprudence, and thence triumphantly concludes that death by fire is the penalty due to heretics, not only by divine but also by human law and by universal custom.
Nor was the heretic mercifully strangled in advance; the authorities of the Inquisition assure us that he must be burned alive before the people, nay, even a whole city may be burned if heretics dwell there.
Whatever scruples the Church had, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as to its duty towards heresy, it had none as to that of the secular power, though it kept its own hands free from blood. A decent usage from early times forbade any ecclesiastic from being concerned in judgments involving death or mutiliation, and even from being present in the torture-chamber where criminals were placed on the rack.
This sensitiveness continued, and even was exaggerated in the time of the bloodiest persecution. While thousands were being slaughtered in Languedoc the Council of Lateran, in 1215, revived the ancient canons prohibiting clerks from uttering a judgment of blood or being present at an execution. In 1255 the Council of Bordeaux added to this a prohibition of dictating or writing letters connected with such judgments; and that of Buda, in 1279, in repeating this canon, appended to it a clause forbidding clerks to practise any surgery requiring burning or cutting.
The pollution of blood was so seriously felt that a church or cemetery in which blood chanced to be shed could not be used until it had been reconciled, and this was carried so far that priests were forbidden to allow judges to administer justice in churches, because cases involving corporal punishment might be tried before them. Had this shrinking from participation in the infliction of human suffering been genuine, it would have been worthy of all respect; but it was merely a device to avoid responsibility for its own acts. In prosecutions for heresy the ecclesiastical tribunal passed no judgments of blood. It merely found the defendant to be a heretic and "relaxed" him, or relinquished him to the secular authorities with the hypocritical adjuration to be merciful to him, to spare his life and not to spill his blood.
What was the real import of this plea for mercy is easily seen from the theory of the Church as to the duty of the temporal power, when inquisitors enforced as a legal rule that the mere belief that persecution for conscience' sake was sinful was itself a heresy, to be visited with the full penalties of that unpardonable crime.
The early teachings of Leo and Pelagius were revived as soon as heresy became alarming. Early in the twelfth century Honorius of Autun proclaimed that the rebels against God who were obdurate to the voice of the Church must be coerced with the material sword. In the compilations of canon law by Ivo and Gratian the allusions to the treatment of heretics by the Church are singularly few, but there are abundant citations to show the duty of the sovereign to extirpate heresy and to obey the mandates of the Church to that end. Frederic Barbarossa gave the imperial sanction to the theory that the sword had been intrusted to him for the purpose of smiting the enemies of Christ, when he alleged this in 1159 as a reason for persecuting Alexander III. and supporting his antipope, Victor IV.
The second Lateran Council, in 1139, orders all potentates to coerce heretics into obedience; the third, in 1179, sanctimoniously says that the Church does not seek blood, but it is helped by the secular laws, for men will seek the salutary remedy to escape bodily punishment. We have seen how inefficacious all this proved; and in despair of voluntary assistance from the temporal princes the Church took a further step by which it assumed for itself the responsibility for the material as well as the spiritual punishment of heretics. The decree of Lucius III. at the so-called Council of Verona, in 1184, commanded that all potentates should take an oath before their bishops to enforce the ecclesiastical and secular laws against heresy fully and efficaciously. Any refusal or neglect was to be punished by excommunication, deprivation of rank, and incapacity to hold other station, while in the case of cities they were to be segregated and debarred from all commerce with other places.
The Church thus undertook to coerce the sovereign to persecution. It would not listen to mercy, it would not hear of expediency. The monarch held his crown by the tenure of extirpating heresy, of seeing that the laws were sharp and were pitilessly enforced. Any hesitation was visited with excommunication, and if this proved inefficacious, his dominions were thrown open to the first hardy adventurer whom the Church would supply with an army for his overthrow.
Whether this new feature in the public law of Europe could establish itself was the question at issue in the Albigensian crusades. Raymond's lands were forfeited simply because he would not punish heretics, and those which his son retained were treated as a fresh gift from the crown. The triumph of the new principle was complete, an it never was subsequently questioned.
It was applied from the highest to the lowest, and the Church made every dignitary feel that his station was an office in a universal theocracy wherein all interests were subordinate to the great duty of maintaining the purity of the faith. The hegemony of Europe was vested in the Holy Roman Empire, and its coronation was a strangely solemn religious ceremony in which the emperor was admitted to the lower orders of the priesthood, and was made to anathemize all heresy raising itself against the holy Catholic Church. In handing him the ring, the pope told him that it was a symbol that he was to destroy heresy; and in girding him with the sword, that with it he was to strike down the enemies of the Church. Frederic II. declared that he had received the imperial dignity for the maintenance and propagation of the faith. In the bull of Clement VI. recognizing Charles IV. the first named of the imperial duties enumerated are the extension of the faith and the extirpation of heretics; and the neglect of the Emperor Wenceslas to suppress Wickliffitism was regarded as a satisfactory reason for his deposition.
In fact, according to the high churchmen, the only reason of the transfer of the empire from the Greeks to the Germans was that the Church might have an efficient agent. The principles applied to Raymond of Toulouse were embodied in the canon law, and every prince and noble was made to understand that his lands would be exposed to the spoiler if, after due notice, he hesitated in trampling out heresy. Minor officials were subjected to the same discipline.
According to the Council of Toulouse in 1229, ady bailli not diligent in persecuting heresy forfeited his property and was ineligible to public employment, while by the Council of Narbonne in 1244, any one holding temporal jurisdiction who delayed in exterminating heretics was held guilty of fautorship of heresy, became an accomplice of heretics, and thus was subjected to the penalties of heresy; this was extended to all who should neglect a favorable opportunity of capturing a heretic, or of helping those seeking to capture him. From the emperor to the meanest peasant the duty of persecution was enforced with all the sanctions, spiritual and temporal, which the Church could command.
Not only must the ruler enact rigorous laws to punish heretics, but he and his subjects must see them strenuously executed, for any slackness of persectution was, in the canon law, construed as fautorship of heresy, putting a man on his purgation.
These principles were tacitly or explicitly received into the public law of Europe. Frederic II. accepted them in his cruel edicts against heresy, whence they passed into the general compilations of civil and feudal law, and even into bodies of local jurisprudence. Thus we see in the statues of Verona, in 1228, the Podestà swearing, on taking office, to expel all heretics from the city; and in the Schwabenspiegel, or code in force throughout southern Germany, it is laid down that a ruler who neglects to persecute heresy is to be stripped of all possessions, and if he does not burn those who are delivered to him as heretics by the ecclesiastical courts he is to be punished as a heretic himself. The Church took care that this legislation should not remain a dead letter. Frederic's decrees in all their atrocity were required to be read and taught in the great law-school of Bologna as a fundamental portion of jurisprudence, and were even embodied in the canon law itself.
We shall see that they were repeatedly ordered by the popes to be inscribed irrevocably among the laws of all the cities and states which they could control, and the inquisitor was commanded to coerce all officials to their rigid enforcement, by excommunicating those who were negligent in the good work. Even excommunication, which rendered a magistrate incompetent to perform his official functions, did not relieve him from the duty of punishing heretics when called upon by bishop of inquisitor.
In view of this earnestness to embody in the statute-books the sharpest laws for the extermination of heretics and to oblige the secular officials to execute those laws, under the alternative of being themselves condemned and punished as heretecs, the adjuration for mercy with which the inquisitors handed over their victims to be burned was evidently, as we shall see hereafter, a mere technical formula to avoid the "irregularity" of being concerned in judgments of blood. In process of time the moral responsibility was freely admitted, as when in February, 1418, the Council of Constance decreed that all who should defend Hussitism, or regard Huss or Jerome of Prague as holy men, should be treated as relapsed heretics and be punished with fire - "puniantur ad ignem." It is altogether a modern perversion of history to assume, as apologists do, that the request for mercy was sincere, and that the secular magistrate and not the Inquisition was responsible for the death of the heretic.
We can imagine the smile of amused surprise with which Gregory IX. or Gregory XI. would have listened to the dialectics with which the Comte Joseph de Maistre proves that it is an error to suppose, and much more to assert, that Catholic priests can in any manner be instrumental in compassing the death of a fellow-creature.
Not only were all Christians thus made to feel that it was their highest duty to aid in the extermination of heretics, but they were taught that they must denounce them to the authorities regardless of all considerations, human or divine. No tie of kindred served as an excuse for concealing heresy. The son must denounce the father, and the husband was guilty if he did not deliver his wife to a frightful death. Every human bond was severed by the guilt of heresy; children were taught to desert their parents, and even the sacrament of matrimony could not unite an orthodox wife to a misbelieving husband.
No pledge was to remain unbroken. It was an old rule that faith was not to be kept with heretics - as Innocent III. emphatically phrased it, "according to the canons, faith is not to be kept with him who keeps not faith with God." No oath of secrecy, therefore, was binding in a matter of heresy, for if one is faithful to a heretic he is unfaithful to God. Apostasy from the faith is the greatest of all sins, says Bishop Lucas of Tuy; therefore if any one has bound himself by oath to keep the secret of such inexplicable wickedness, he must reveal the heresy and perform penance for the perjury, with the comfortable assurance that, as charity covereth a multitude of sins, he will be gently dealt with in consideration of his zeal.
Thus the hestitation as to the treatment of heretics which marked the eleventh and twelfth centuries disappeared in the thirteenth, when the Church was involved in mortal struggle with the sectaries. There was no pretence of moderation, and, save in the technical adjuration for mercy, no attempt to evade the responsibility. St. Raymond of Pennaforte, the compiler of the decretals of Gregory IX., who was the highest authority in his generation, lays it down as a principle of ecclesiastical law that the heretic is to be coerced by excommunication and confiscation, and if they fail, by the extreme exercise of the secular power.
The man who was doubtful in faith was to be held a heretic, and so also was the schismatic who, while believing all the articles of religion, refused the obedience due to the Roman Church. All alike were to be forced into the Roman fold, and the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was invoked for the destruction of the obstinate.
St. Thomas Aquinas, whose overshadowing authority superseded all his predecessors, and who brought canon and dogma into a permanent system still in force, lays down the rules with merciless precision. Heretics, he tells us, are not to be tolerated. The tenderness of the Church allows them to have two warnings, after which, if pertinacious, they are to be abandoned to the secular power, to be removed from the world by death. This, he argues, shows the abounding charity of the Church, for it is much more wicked to corrupt the faith on which depends the life of the soul than to debase the coinage which provides merely for temporal life; wherefore, if coiners and other malefactors are justly doomed at once to death, much more may heretics be justly slain as soon as they are convicted.
Yet in its mercy the Church will always receive the heretic back into its bosom, no matter how often he may have relapsed, and will kindly give him penance whereby he may win eternal life; but charity to one must not be allowed to work evil to others. Therefore for once the heretic who repents and recants will be received and his life be spared; but if he relapses, though he may be received to penance for his soul's salvation, he will not be released from the death-penalty. This is the definite expression of the policy of the Church, which, as we shall see, became its unalterable rule of practice.
Nor was the Church content to exercise its power over the living only; the daed must feel its chastening hand. It seemed intolerable that one who had successfully concealed his iniquity and had died in communion should be left to lie in consecrated ground and should be remembered in the prayers of the faithful. Not only had he escaped the penalty due to his sins, but his property, which was forfeited to Church and State, had unlawfully descended to his heirs, and must be recovered from them. Ample reason therefore existed for the trial of those who had passed to the judgment-seat of God. It had been a debatable question in the earlier Church whether excommunication, with all its tremendous penalties, here and hereafter, could be directed against departed souls.
Persecution of the Dead
As early as the time of Cyprian the custom of excommunicating the dead had come into fashion; and about 382 St. John Chrysostom had denounced the frequency of such sentences as an interference attempted with the judgment of God. Leo I., in 432, took the same position, and it was confirmed by Gelasius I. and a council of Rome towards the end of the century. At the fifth general council, however, held in Constantinople in 553, the question came up as to the power of the Church to anathemize Theodoret of Cyrus, Ibas of Edessa, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had been dead for a hundred years. Many of the fathers of the council doubted it, when Eutychius, a man well versed in Scripture, pointed out that the pious King Josiah had not only put to death the priests of pagandom, but had dug up the remains of those who were deceased.
The argument was irrefragable, and the anathema was pronounced in spite of the protest of Pope Vigillius, who stubbornly refused to be convicted. The ingenuity of Eutychius, till then an obscure man, was rewarded with the patriarchate of Constantinople, and Vigilius was compelled, by means not the most gentle, to subscribe to the anathema. In 618 the Council of Seville denied the power of condemning the dead; but in 680 the sixth general council, held at Constantinople, exercised the largest liberty in anthematizing all whom it regarded as heretical, both living and dead. In 897 Stephen VII. accordingly held himself authorized to dig up the body of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, then seven months in the tomb, drag it by the feet and seat in the synod which he had assembled in judgment, and, after condemning it, to cut off two fingers of the right hand and throw it into the Tiber, whence it chanced to be rescued and buried.
The next year, however, a new pope, John IX., annulled these proceedings and caused a synod to declare that no one should be condemned after death, for the accused must have the opportunity of defence. This did not prevent Sergius III., in 905, from again exhuming the body, when it was clothed in pontificial robes, seated on a throne, and once more solemnly conemned, beheaded, three more fingers cut off, and thrown in the Tiber.
Yet the iniquity of these proceedings was proved when the restless remains were dragged from the river by some fishermen, and, on being carried to the church of St. Peter, the images of saints there bowed before them and saluted them reverently. About the year 1100, St. Ivo of Chartres, the foremost canonist of his day, pronounced unhesitatingly that the power of the Church to bind and to loose was confined to things on earth; that the dead had passed beyond human judgment, they could not be condemned, and burial must not be refused to those who had not been tried while living.
Yet as heresy multiplied and its obstinacy seemed to justify the passionate hatred which it excited, the churchman might well feel himself unable to endure the thought that the bones of heretics polluted the sacred precincts of church and cemetery, and that unconsciously he was including them in his prayers for the dead. It was easy to find a method of reaching them. The Council of Verona in 1184, and subsequent popes and councils, repeatedly and formally excommunicated all heretics.
It was an old rule of the Church that all excommunicates who did not within a year apply for absolution were condemned. All heretics who died without confession or recantation were thus self-condemned, and were ineligible to sepulture in consecrated ground. Though they could not be excommunicated, being already under ipso facto excommunication, they could be anathematized. If mistakenly they had received Christian burial, as soon as the fact was discovered they were to be dug up and burned; the inquisition which established their guilt was merely an examination into the facts, not a condemnation, and the penalties followed of themselves.
That it required some effort to establish the rule is shown by an epistle of Innocent III., in 1207, to the abbot and monks of St. Hippolytus of Faenza, who had refused, at the order of a legate, to exhume the body of Otto of damnable memory, a heretic buried in their cemetery, or to observe the interdict pronounced against them in consequence, and Innocent is obliged to threaten the most energetic measures to compel them to obedience. With time, however, the principle became firmly established; it was recognized as a grievous offence knowingly to bury the body of a heretic or a fautor of heretics - an offence only to be pardoned on condition of the offender exhuming the remains with his own hands, while the grave was accursed forever.
We shall see that the business of investigating the record of the dead became no small or unimportant part of the duties of the Inquisition.
The influence which these teachings and practices had in guiding the actions and policy of the age is well exemplified in the career of Frederic II. Half Italian in blood, and wholly Italian in training, he was a philosophical free-thinker. The accusations of Gregory IX., that he was secretly a disciple of Mahomet, and the tradition that he was privately in the habit of calling Moses, Christ, and Mahomet the three impostors, contradict each other, but show what ground he gave for such imputations. Yet this man, whom Gregory declared to take the sacrament only to show his contempt for excommunication, was to sagacious not to recognize that he could only reign over a Christian people by at least pretending zeal in the work of exterminating heresy.
He obtained his coronation in St. Peter's, November 22, 1220, by issuing the edict which is memorable in the history of persecution; and, as part of the solemnities, Honorius paused in the ineffable mysteries of the mass to fulminate an anathema in the name of Almighty God against all heresies and heretics, including those rulers whose laws interfered with their extermination. To the function thus assumed Frederic was ever true, perhaps even more so because, in his recognition of the necessity of ecclesiastical reform, he indulged in dreams of a caliphate in which he would wield both the temporal and spiritual swords. However this may be, his lifelong quarrel with the papacy only rendered him the more merciless in his extirpation of heresy; and just when Gregory IX. was engrossed in laying the foundation of the Inquisition we find Frederic audaciously urging him to greater zeal in defence of the faith, and suggesting his own example as one which the pope would do well to follow.
Cruelty of the Middle Ages
The cruel ferocity of barbarous zeal which, through so many centuries, wrought misery on mankind in the name of Christ, has been explained in many ways. Fanatics on the other side have denounced it as mere bloodthirstiness or selfish lust of power. Philosophers have traced it to the doctrine of exclusive salvation, through which it seemed the duty of those in authority to coerce the recalcitrant for their own benefit, and prevent them from leading other souls to perdition.
Another school has taught that it arose from the survival of the atavistic notion of tribal solidarity, expanded into that of Christendom, making all share the guilt of sin offensive to God which they neglected to exterminate. Human impulses and motives, however, are too complex to be analyzed by a single solvent, even in the case of an individual, while here we have to deal with the whole Church, in its broadest acceptation, embracing the laity as well as the clergy. There is no doubt that the people were as eager as their pastors to send the heretic to the stake.
Influence of Asceticism
There is no doubt that men of the kindliest tempers, the profoundest intelligence, the noblest aspirations, the purest zeal for righteousness, professing a religion founded on love and charity, were ruthless when heresy was concerned, and were ready to trample it out at the cost of any suffering. Dominic and Francis, Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas, Innocent III. and St. Louis, were types, in their several ways, of which humanity, in any age, might well feel proud, and yet they were as unsparing of the heretic as Ezzelin da Romano was of his enemies. With such men it was not hope of gain or lust of blood or pride of opinion or wanton exercise of power, but sense of duty, and they but represented what was universal public opinion from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.
To comprehend it, we must picture to ourselves a stage of civilization in many respects wholly unlike our own. Passions were fiercer, convictions stronger, virtues and vices more exaggerated, than in our colder and more self-contained time. The age, moreover, was a cruel one. The military spirit was everywhere dominant; men were accustomed to rely upon force rather than on persuasion, and habitually looked on human suffering with indifference. The industrial spirit, which has so softened modern manners and modes of thought, was as yet hardly known.
We have only to look upon the atrocities of the criminal law of the Middle Ages to see how pitiless men were in their dealings with eath other. The wheel, the caldron of boiling oil, burning alive, burying alive, flaying alive, tearing apart with wild horses, were the ordinary expedients by which the criminal jurist sought to deter crime by frighful examples which would make a profound impression on a not over-sensitive population.
An Anglo-Saxon law punishes a female slave convicted of theft by making eighty other female slaves each bring three pieces of wood and burn her to death, while each contributes a fine besides; and in mediæval England burning was the customary penalty for attempts on the life of the feudal lord. In the Customs of Arques, granted by the Abbey of St. Bertin in 1231, there is a provision that, if a thief have a concubine who is his accomplice, she is to be buried alive; though, if pregnant, a respite is given till after childbirth. Frederic II., the most enlightened prince of his time, burned captive rebels to death in his presence, and is even said to have encased them in lead in order to roast them slowly. In 1261 St. Louis humanely abolished a custom of Touraine by which the theft of a loaf of bread or a pot of wine by a servant from his master was punished by the loss of a limb.
In Frisia arson committed at night was visited with burning alive; and, by the old German law, the penalty of both murder and arson was breaking on the wheel. In France women were customarily burned or buried alive for simple felonies, and Jews were hung by the feet between two savage dogs, while men were boiled to death for coining. In Milan Italian ingenuity exhausted itself in devising deaths of lingering torture for criminals of all descriptions. The Carolina, or criminal code of Charles V., issued in 1530, is a hideous catalogue of blinding, mutilation, tearing with hot pincers, burning alive, and breaking on the wheel. In England poisoners were boiled to death even as lately as 1542, as in the cases of Rouse and Margaret Davie; the barbarous penalty for high treason - of hanging, drawing, and quartering - is well known, while that for petty treason was enforced no longer ago than 1726, on Catharine Hayes, who was burned at Tyburn for murdering her husband. By the laws of Christian V. of Denmark, in 1683, blasphemers were beheaded after having the tongue cut out.
As recently as 1706, in Hanover, a pastor named Zacharie Georg Flagge was burned alive for coining. Modern tenderness for the criminal is evidently a matter of very recent date. So careless were legislators of human suffering in general that, in England, to cut out a man's tongue, or to pluck out his eyes with malice prepense, was not made a felony until the fifteenth century, in a criminal law so severe that, even in the reign of Elizabeth, the robbing of a hawk's nest was similarly a felony; and as recently as 1833 a child of nine was sentenced to be hanged for breaking a patched pane of glass and stealing twopence worth of paint.
The nations thus habituated to the most savage cruelty, moreover, regarded the propagation of heresy with peculiar detestation, as not merely a sin, but as the worst of crimes. Heresy itself, says Bishop Lucas of Tuy, justifies, by comparison, the infidelity of the Jews; its pollution cleanses the filthy madness of Mahomet; its vileness renders pure even Sodom and Gomorrah.
Whatever is worst in other sin becomes holy in comparison with the turpitude of heresy. Less rhetorical, but equally emphatic, is Thomas Aquinas, when his merciless logic demonstrates that the sin of heresy separates man from God more than all other sins, and therefore it is the worst of sins, and is to be punished more severely. Of all kinds of infidelity, that of heresy is the worst. So sensitive did the clerical mind become on the subject that Stephen Palecz of Prague declared, in a sermon before the Council of Constance, that if a belief was Catholic in a thousand points, and false in one, the whole was heretical. The heretic, therefore, who labored, as all earnest heretics necessarily did, to convert others to his way of thinking, was inevitably regarded as a demon, striving to win souls to share his own damnation, and none of the orthodox doubted that he was the direct and efficient instrument of Satan in his warfare with God.
The intensity of the abhorrence thus awakened can only be realized by those who recognize the vividness of mediæval eschatology, the living horror which all men felt as to the possibilities of the dread hereafter.
That this view of heresy and of the duty of its suppression was not reached at once by the mediæval Church and peoples we have seen in the hesitation and vacillation which characterized the proceedings of the eleventh and twelfth centuries; and this shows that the idea of solidarity in the responsibility before God, while in undoubtedly had a share in exaggerating the persecuting spirit, cannot by any means wholly account for it.
It stimulated the masses, who snatched the sectaries from the hands of protecting priests, but had less influence on the educated clergy. As heresies increased and grew more threatening, and milder means seemed only to aggravate the evil, the minds of earnest and enlightened men brooding over it, and contemplating the awful possibilities of the future, when the Church of God might be overthrown by the conventicles of Satan, grew inflamed, and fanaticism inevitably followed.
When this point was reached, when people and pastor alike felft that the Church Militant must strike without pity if it would prevail against the legions of hell, no firm believer in the doctrine of exclusive salvation could doubt that the truest mercy lay in sweeping away the emissaries of Satan with fire and sword. God had wonderfully raised the Church to fight this battle. It had become supreme over temporal princes, and could command their implicit obedience. It had full power over the sword of the flesh, and with that power came responsibility. It was responsible not only in the present, but also for the souls of the faithful yet unborn through countless generations, and, if weakly untrue to its trust, it could not plead inability in extenuation.
In view of the awful possibilities of neglected duty, what were the sufferings of a few thousand hardened wretches who, deaf to the solicitations of repentance, were hurried, but a few years before their time, to their master the Devil?
We must also bear in mind the character which Christianity had assumed in the gradual development of its theology, and its consequent influence on those who guided the policy of the Church. They knew that Christ had said "I am not come to destroy the law but to fulfil" (Matt. v. 17). They also knew from Holy Writ that Jehovah was a God delighting in the extermination of his enemies. They read how Saul, the chosen King of Israel, had been divinely punished for sparing Agag of Amalek, and how the prophet Samuel had hewn him in pieces; how the wholesale slaughter of the unbelieving Canaanites had been ruthlessly commanded and enforced; how Elijah had been commended for slaying four hundred and fifty priests of Baal; and they could not conceive bow mercy to those who rejected the true faith could be aught by disobedience to God.
Moreover, Jehovah was a God who was only to be placated by the continual sacrifice of victims. The very doctrine of the Atonement assumed that the human race could only be rendered eligible to salvation by the most awful sacrifice that the human mind could conceive - that of one of the members of the Trinity. The Christian worshipped a God who had subjected himself to the most painful and humiliating of sacrifices, and the salvation of souls was dependent on the daily repetition of this sacrifice in the mass, throughout Christendom. To minds moulded in such a belief, it might well seem that the extremity of punishment inflicted on the enemies of the Church of God was nothing in itself, and that it was an acceptable offering to him who had commanded that neither age nor sex sould be spared in the land of Canaan.
These tendencies had been fostered and exaggerated by the growth of asceticism. That mortal life was a thing to be despised and that heaven was to be purchased by shunning the pleasures of existence and extinguishing all human affections, was a lesson taught broadly throughout the hagiology of the Church. Maceration and mortification were the surest roads to Paradise, and sin was to be redeemed by self-inflicted penance. This theory worked in a double sense. On the one hand, the practices of the zealot - strict celibacy, fasting, solitude, are direct incentives to insanity, as is shown by the epidemics of diabolical possession and suicide which were so frequent in the stricter monastic establishments; and without assuming that such a man as St. Peter Martyr was mad, it is impossible to read the extremity of ascetic maceration which he habitually practised - fasts, vigils, sourgings, and every device which perverse ingenuity could suggest - without recognizing morbid mental conditions which could readily render him a monomaniac on any subject which greatly engrossed his feelings. On the other hand, the men who thus tamed their own strong passions and mastered the rebellious flesh by these means, were not likely to feel for the suffering of those who had abandoned themselves to Satan, and who might be saved by temporal fire from eternal flame. Or if, perchance, they had softer hearts and compassionated the agonies of their victims, they might well regard the repression of their own emotions at the spectacle as part of the penance which they were called upon to endure.
In any case, life was but an infinitesimal point in eternity, and all human interests shrank into nothingness in comparison with the one overmastering duty of keeping the flock from straying and of preventing an infected sheep from communicating his poison to his fellows. Charity itself could not hesitate over whatever methods might be requisite to accomplish this.
That the men who conducted the Inquisition and who toiled sedulously in its arduous, repulsive, and often dangerous labor, were thoroughly convinced that they were furthering the kingdom of God, is shown by the habitual practice of encouraging them with the remission of sins, similar to that offered for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Besides the consciousness of duty performed, it was the only recognized reward of their joyless lives, and it was considered enough.
How, moreover, cruelty to the heretic could be conjoined with boundless love and good-will to men is well exemplified in the career of the Dominican, Frà Giovanni Schio da Vicenza. Profoundly moved by the condition of northern Italy, filled with dissensions which raged, not only between city and city, and burgher and noble, but which divided families in the factions of Guelf and Ghibelline, he devoted himself to the mission of an Apostle of Peace. In 1233 his eloquence at Bologna induced the opposing parties to lay aside their arms, and led enemies to swear mutual forgiveness in a delirium of joyful reconciliation. So great was the enthusiasm which he excited that the magistrates submitted to him the statutes of the city and allowed him to revise them at discretion. The same success attended him at Padua, Treviso, Feltro, and Belluno. The lords of Camino, Romano, Conigliano, and San Bonifacio, and the republics of Brescia, Vicenza, Verona, and Mantua made him the arbiter of their differences and urged him to alter their political organization as he saw fit.
On the plain of Paquara, near Verona, he called a great assembly of Lombard peoples, and that innumerable multitude, swayed by his fervor as by a voice from heaven, proclaimed a general pacification. Yet this man, so worthy a disciple of the Great Teacher of divine love, when installed in power of Verona, proceeded to burn in the public square sixty men and women of the principal families of the town, whom he had condemned as heretics; and twenty years later he reappears as the leader of a Bolognese contingent in the crusade preached by Alexander IV. against Ezzelin de Romano.
In fact the zealot, however loving and charitable he might otherwise be, was taught and believed that compassion for the sufferings of the heretic was not only a weakness but a sin. As well might he sympathize with Satan and his demons writhing in the endless torment of hell. If a just and omnipotent God wreaked divine vengeance on those of his creatures who offended him, it was not for man to question the righteousness of his ways, but humbly to imitate his example and rejoice when the opportunity to do so was vouchsafed to him.
The stern moralists of the age held it to be a Christian duty to find peasure in contemplating the anguish of the sinner. Gregory the Great, five centuries before, had argued that the bliss of the elect in heaven would not be perfect unless they were able to look across the abyss and enjoy the agonies of their brethren in eternal fire. This idea was a popular one and was not allowed to grow obsolete. Peter Lombard, the great "Mater of Sentences," whose "Sentences," produced about the middle of the twelfth century, was the leading authority in the schools, quotes St. Gregory with approbation, and enlarges upon the satisfaction which the just will feel in the ineffable misery of the damned. Even the mystic tenderness of Bonaventura does not prevent him from echoing the same terrible exultation. When such were the sentiments in which all thinking men were trained, and such were the views which they disseminated among the people, it is not to be supposed that any feelings of compassion for the sufferers would deter the most charitable from the rigid exercise of justice.
The ruthless extermination of heresy was a work which could only be pleasing to the righteous, whether simply as spectators or whether they were called by conscience or by station to the higher duties of active persecution. If, notwithstanding this, any scruple remained, the schoolmen easily removed it by proving that persecution was a work of charity, for the benefit of the persecuted.
It is true that all popes were not like Innocent III. nor all inquisitors like Frà Giovanni. Selfish and interested motives were at work, as they are in all human institutions, and the actions even of the best may doubtless have unconsciously been stimulated by pride of opinion and by ambition as well as by a sense of duty to God and man. The religious revolt threatened the temporal possessions of the Church and the privileges of its members, and the desire to preserve these had its share in the resistance which was organized against innovation. Selfish as this desire may have been, we must not forget that, in the thirteenth century, the power and wealth of the hierarchy, however much abused, had yet long been recognized by the public law of Europe.
The rulers of the Church could only regard as a sacred duty the maintenance of rights which they had inherited, against audacious assailants whose doctrines threatened the overthrow of what they regarded as the basis of social order. Sympathize as we must with the Waldenses and the Cathari in their hideous martyrdom, we cannot but feel that the treatment which they endured was inevitable, and we should pity the blindness of the persecutor as well as the sufferings of the persecuted.
Man is seldom wholly consistent in the practical application of his principles, and the persecutors of the thirteenth century made one concession to humanity and common-sense which was fatal to the completeness of the theory on which they acted. To carry it out fully, they should have proselyted with the sword among all non-Christians whom fate threw in their power; but from this they abstained. Infidels who had never received the faith, such as Jews and Saracens, were not to be compelled to Christianity.
Even their children were not to be baptized without parental consent, as this would be contrary to natural justice, as well we dangerous to the purity of the faith. It was necessary that the misbeliever should have been united with the Church by baptism in order to give her jurisdiction over him