The Inquisition - A Critical and Historical Study of the Coercive Power of the Church
by E. Vacandard
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Nihil Obstat. THOMAS J. SHAHAN, S.T.D.

Imprimatur. + JOHN M. FARLEY, D.D Archbishop of New York.

NEW YORK, June 24, 1907.

Copyright, 1907, by BERTRAND L. CONWAY

All Rights Reserved

First Edition, February, 1908 Registered, May, 1908 New and Cheaper Edition, September, 1915


In the print edition of this book, footnote numbers began with 1 on each page, and the footnotes appeared at the bottom of each page. In this electronic edition, the footnotes have been re-numbered beginning with 1 for each paragraph, and they appear directly below the paragraph that refers to them. A very few ascertainable errors have been caught and corrected. All else is intended to correspond as closely as possible to the contents of the print edition.


THERE are very few Catholic apologists who feel inclined to boast of the annals of the Inquisition. The boldest of them defend this institution against the attacks of modern liberalism, as if they distrusted the force of their own arguments. Indeed they have hardly answered the first objection of their opponents, when they instantly endeavor to prove that the Protestant and Rationalistic critics of the Inquisition have themselves been guilty of heinous crimes. "Why," they ask, "do you denounce our Inquisition, when you are responsible for Inquisitions of your own?"

No good can be accomplished by such a false method of reasoning. It seems practically to admit that the cause of the Church cannot be defended. The accusation of wrongdoing made against the enemies they are trying to reduce to silence comes back with equal force against the friends they are trying to defend.

It does not follow that because the Inquisition of Calvin and the French Revolutionists merits the reprobation of mankind, the Inquisition of the Catholic Church must needs escape all censure. On the contrary, the unfortunate comparison made between them naturally leads one to think that both deserve equal blame. To our mind, there is only one way of defending the attitude of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages toward the Inquisition. We must examine and judge this institution objectively, from the standpoint of morality, justice, and religion, instead of comparing its excesses with the blameworthy actions of other tribunals.

No historian worthy of the name has as yet undertaken to treat the Inquisition from this objective standpoint. In the seventeenth century, a scholarly priest, Jacques Marsollier, canon of the Uzes, published at Cologne (Paris), in 1693, a Histoire de l'Inquisition et de son Origine. But his work, as a critic has pointed out, is "not so much a history of the Inquisition, as a thesis written with a strong Gallican bias, which details with evident delight the cruelties of the Holy Office." The illustrations are taken from Philip Limborch's Historia Inquisitionis.[1]

[1] Paul Fredericq, Historiographie de l'Inquisition, p. xiv. Introduction to the French translation of Lea's book on the Inquisition.

Henry Charles Lea, already known by his other works on religious history, published in New York, in 1888, three large volumes entitled A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. This work has received as a rule a most flattering reception at the hands of the European press, and has been translated into French.[1] One can say without exaggeration that it is "the most extensive, the most profound, and the most thorough history of the Inquisition that we possess."[2]

[1] Histoire de l'Inquisition au moyen age, Solomon Reinach. Paris, Fischbacher, 1900-1903.

[2] Paul Fredericq, loc. cit., p. xxiv.

It is far, however, from being the last word of historical criticism. And I am not speaking here of the changes in detail that may result from the discovery of new documents. We have plenty of material at hand to enable us to form an accurate notion of the institution itself. Lea's judgment, despite evident signs of intellectual honesty, is not to be trusted. Honest he may be, but impartial never. His pen too often gives way to his prejudices and his hatred of the Catholic Church. His critical judgment is sometimes gravely at fault.[1]

[1] The reader may gather our estimate of this work from the various criticisms we will pass upon it in the course of this study.

Tanon, the president of the Court of Cassation, has proved far more impartial in his Histoire des Tribunaux de l'Inquisition en France.[1] This is evidently the work of a scholar, who possesses a very wide and accurate grasp of ecclesiastical legislation. He is deeply versed in the secrets of both the canon and the civil law. However, we must remember that his scope is limited. He has of set purpose omitted everything that happened outside of France. Besides he is more concerned with the legal than with the theological aspect of the Inquisition.

[1] Paris, 1893.

On the whole, the history of the Inquisition is still to be written. It is not our purpose to attempt it; our ambition is more modest. But we wish to picture this institution in its historical setting, to show how it originated, and especially to indicate its relation to the Church's notion of the coercive power prevalent in the Middle Ages. For, as Lea himself says: "The Inquisition was not an organization arbitrarily devised and imposed upon the judicial system of Christendom by the ambition or fanaticism of the Church. It was rather a natural—one may almost say an inevitable—evolution of the forces at work in the thirteenth century, and no one can rightly appreciate the process of its development and the results of its activity, without a somewhat minute consideration of the factors controlling the minds and souls of men during the ages which laid the foundation of modern civilization."[1]

[1] Preface, p. iii.

We must also go back further than the thirteenth century and ascertain how the coercive power which the Church finally confided to the Inquisition developed from the beginning. Such is the purpose of the present work. It is both a critical and an historical study. We intend to record first everything that relates to the suppression of heresy, from the origin of Christianity up to the Renaissance; then we will see whether the attitude of the Church toward heretics can not only be explained, but defended.

We undertake this study in a spirit of absolute honesty and sincerity. The subject is undoubtedly a most delicate one. But no consideration whatever should prevent our studying it from every possible viewpoint. Cardinal Newman, in his Historical Sketches, speaks of "that endemic perennial fidget which possesses certain historians about giving scandal. Facts are omitted in great histories, or glosses are put upon memorable acts, because they are thought not edifying, whereas of all scandals such omissions, such glosses, are the greatest."[1]

[1] Vol. ii, p. 231.

A Catholic apologist fails in his duty to-day if he writes merely to edify the faithful. Granting that the history of the Inquisition will reveal things we never dreamed of, our prejudices must not prevent an honest facing of the facts. We ought to dread nothing more than the reproach that we are afraid of the truth. "We can understand," says Yves Le Querdec,[1] "why our forefathers did not wish to disturb men's minds by placing before them certain questions. I believe they were wrong, for all questions that can be presented will necessarily be presented some day or other. If they are not presented fairly by those who possess the true solution, or who honestly look for it, they will be by their enemies. For this reason we think that not only honesty but good policy require us to tell the world all the facts.... Everything has been said, or will be said some day.... What the friends of the Church will not mention will be spread broadcast by her enemies. And they will make such an outcry over their discovery, that their words will reach the most remote corners and penetrate the deafest ears. We ought not to be afraid to-day of the light of truth; but fear rather the darkness of lies and errors."

[1] Univers, June 2, 1906.

In a word, the best method of apologetics is to tell the whole truth. In our mind, apologetics and history are two sisters, with the same device: "Ne quid falsi audeat, ne quid veri non audeat historia."[1]

[1] Cicero, De Oratore ii, 15.




The Teaching of St. Paul on the Suppression of Heretics The Teaching of Tertullian The Teaching of Origen The Teaching of St. Cyprian The Teaching of Lactantius Constantine, Bishop in Externals The Teaching of St. Hilary


Imperial Legislation against Heresy The Attitude of St. Augustine towards the Manicheans St. Augustine and Donatism The Church and the Priscillianists The Early Fathers and the Death Penalty


Adoptianism and Predestinationism The Manicheans in the West Peter of Bruys Henry of Lausanne Arnold of Brescia Eon de l'Etoile Views of this Epoch upon the Suppression of Heresy


Executions of Heretics The Death Penalty for Heretics Legislation of Popes Alexander III and Lucius III and Frederic Barbarossa against Heretics Legislation of Innocent III The First Canonists


The Origin of the Catharan Heresy Its Progress It Attacks the Hierarchy, Dogmas, and Worship of the Catholic Church It Undermines the Authority of the State The Hierarchy of the Cathari The Convenenza The Initiation into the Sect Their Customs Their Horror of Marriage The Endura or Suicide


Louis VIII and Louis IX Legislation of Frederic II against Heretics Gregory IX Abandons Heretics to the Secular Arm The Establishment of the Inquisition


The Monastic and the Episcopal Inquisitions Experts to Aid the Inquisitors Ecclesiastical Penalties The Infliction of the Death Penalty The Introduction of Torture


Heresy and Crimes Subject to the Inquisition The Procedure The Use of Torture Theologians Defend the Death Penalty for Heresy Canonists Defend the Use of the State The Church's Responsibility in Inflicting the Death Penalty


Its Field of Action The Excessive Cruelty of Inquisitors The Penalty of Imprisonment The Number of Heretics Handed Over to the Secular Arm Confiscation The auto-da-fe


Development of the Theory on the Coercive Power of the Church Intolerance of the People Intolerance of Sovereigns The Church and Intolerance The Theologians and Intolerance Appeal to the Old Testament England and the Suppression of Heresy The Calvinists and the Suppression of Heresy Cruelty of the Criminal Code in the Middle Ages The Spirit of the Age Explains the Cruelty of the Inquisition Defects in the Procedure Abuses of Antecedent Imprisonment and Torture Heretics who were also Criminals Heresy Punished as Such Should the Death Penalty Be Inflicted upon Heretics? The Responsibility of the Church Abuses of the Penalties of Confiscation and Exile The Penitential Character of Imprisonment The Syllabus and the Coercive Power of the Church



ST. PAUL was the first to pronounce a sentence of condemnation upon heretics. In his Epistle to Timothy, he writes: "Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered up to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."[1] The Apostle is evidently influenced in his action by the Gospel. The one-time Pharisee no longer dreams of punishing the guilty with the severity of the Mosaic Law. The death penalty of stoning, which apostates merited under the old dispensation,[2] has been changed into a purely spiritual penalty: excommunication.

[1] 1) Tim. i. 20. Cf . Tit. iii. 10-11. "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid, knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment."

[2] Deut. xiii. 6-9) ; xvii. 1-6.

During the first three centuries, as long as the era of persecution lasted, the early Christians never thought of using any force save the force of argument to win back their dissident brethren. This is the meaning of that obscure passage in the Adversus Gnosticos of Tertullian, in which he speaks of "driving heretics (i.e., by argument), to their duty, instead of trying to win them, for obstinacy must be conquered, not coaxed."[1] In this work he is trying to convince the Gnostics of their errors from various passages in the Old Testament. But he never invokes the death penalty against them. On the contrary, he declares that no practical Christian can be an executioner or jailer. He even goes so far as to deny the right of any disciple of Christ to serve in the army, at least as an officer, "because the duty of a military commander comprises the right to sit in judgment upon a man's life, to condemn, to put in chains, to imprison and to torture."[2]

[1] Adversus Gnosticos Scorpiace, cap. ii, Migne, P.L., vol. 11, col. 125.

[2] De Idololatria, cap. xvii, P.L., vol. i, col. 687.

If a Christian has no right to use physical force, even in the name of the State, he is all the more bound not to use it against his dissenting brethren in the name of the Gospel, which is a law of gentleness. Tertullian was a Montanist when he wrote this. But although he wrote most bitterly against the Gnostics whom he detested, he always protested against the use of brute force in the matter of religion. "It is a fundamental human right," he says, "a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his convictions. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion. It must be embraced freely, and not forced."[1] These words prove that Tertullian was a strong advocate of absolute toleration.

[1] Liber ad Scapulam, cap. ii, P.L., vol. i, col. 699

Origen likewise never granted Christians the right to punish those who denied the Gospel. In answering Celsus, who had brought forward certain texts of the Old Testament that decreed the death penalty for apostasy, he says: "If we must refer briefly to the difference between the law given to the Jews of old by Moses, and the law laid down by Christ for Christians, we would state that it is impossible to harmonize the legislation of Moses, taken literally, with the calling of the Gentiles.... For Christians cannot slay their enemies, or condemn, as Moses commanded, the contemners of the law to be put to death by burning or stoning."[1]

[1] Contra Celsum, lib. vii, cap. xxvi.

St. Cyprian also repudiates in the name of the Gospel the laws of the Old Testament on this point. He writes as follows: "God commanded that those who did not obey his priests or hearken to his judges,[1] appointed for the time, should be slain. Then indeed they were slain with the sword, while the circumcision of the flesh was yet in force; but now that circumcision has begun to be of the spirit among God's faithful servants, the proud and contumacious are slain with the sword of the spirit by being cast out of the Church."[2]

[1] Deut. xvii. 12.

[2] Ep. lxii, ad Pomponium, n. 4, P.L., vol. iii. col. 371. Cf. De unitate Ecclesiae, n. 17 seq.; ibid., col. 513 seq.

The Bishop of Carthage, who was greatly troubled by stubborn schismatics, and men who violated every moral principle of the Gospel, felt that the greatest punishment he could inflict was excommunication.

When Lactantius wrote his Divinae Institutiones in 308, he was too greatly impressed by the outrages of the pagan persecutions not to protest most strongly against the use of force in matters of conscience. He writes: "There is no justification for violence and injury, for religion cannot be imposed by force. It is a matter of the will, which must be influenced by words, not by blows.... Why then do they rage, and increase, instead of lessening, their folly? Torture and piety have nothing in common; there is no union possible between truth and violence, justice and cruelty.[1] ... For they (the persecutors) are aware that there is nothing among men more excellent than religion, and that it ought to be defended with all one's might. But as they are deceived in the matter of religion itself, so also are they in the manner of its defence. For religion is to be defended, not by putting to death, but by dying; not by cruelty but by patient endurance; not by crime but by faith.... If you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, by tortures and by crime, you no longer defend it, but pollute and profane it. For nothing is so much a matter of free will as religion."[2]

[1] Cf. Pascal, Lettre provinciale, xii.

[2] Divin. Institut., lib. v, cap. xx.

An era of official toleration began a few years later, when Constantine published the Edict of Milan (313), which placed Christianity and Paganism on practically the same footing. But the Emperor did not always observe this law of toleration, whereby he hoped to restore the peace of the Empire. A convert to Christian views and policy, he thought it his duty to interfere in the doctrinal and ecclesiastical quarrels of the day; and he claimed the title and assumed the functions of a Bishop in externals. "You are Bishops," he said one day, addressing a number of them, "whose jurisdiction is within the Church; I also am a Bishop, ordained by God to oversee whatever is external to the church."[1] This assumption of power frequently worked positive harm to the Church, although Constantine always pretended to further her interests.

[1] Eusebius, Vita Constantini, lib. iv, cap. xxiv.

When Arianism began to make converts of the Christian emperors, they became very bitter toward the Catholic bishops. We are not at all astonished, therefore, that one of the victims of this new persecution, St. Hilary, of Poitiers, expressly repudiated and condemned this regime of violence. He also proclaimed, in the name of ecclesiastical tradition, the principle of religious toleration. He deplored the fact that men in his day believed that they could defend the rights of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ by worldly intrigue. He writes: "I ask you Bishops to tell me, whose favor did the Apostles seek in preaching the Gospel, and on whose power did they rely to preach Jesus Christ? To-day, alas! while the power of the State enforces divine faith, men say that Christ is powerless. The Church threatens exile and imprisonment; she in whom men formerly believed while in exile and prison, now wishes to make men believe her by force.... She is now exiling the very priests who once spread her gospel. What a striking contrast between the Church of the past and the Church of to-day."[1]

[1] Liber contra Auxentium, cap. iv.

This protest is the outcry of a man who had suffered from the intolerance of the civil power, and who had learned by experience how even a Christian State may hamper the liberty of the Church, and hinder the true progress of the Gospel.

To sum up: As late as the middle of the fourth century and even later, all the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers who discuss the question of toleration are opposed to the use of force. To a man they reject absolutely the death penalty, and enunciate that principle which was to prevail in the Church down the centuries, i.e., Ecclesia abhorret a sanguine[1] (the Church has a horror of bloodshed); and they declare faith must be absolutely free, and conscience a domain wherein violence must never enter.[2]

[1] Canons of Hippolytus, in the third or fourth century, no. 74-75; Duchesne, Les origines du culte chretien, 2e ed., p. 309; Lactantius, Divin. Institut., lib. vi, cap. xx.

[2] Lactantius, Divin. Institut., lib. v, cap. xx.

The stern laws of the Old Testament have been abolished by the New.


CONSTANTINE considered himself a bishop in externals. His Christian successors inherited this title, and acted in accordance with it. One of them, Theodosius II, voiced their mind when he said that "the first duty of the imperial majesty was to protect the true religion, whose worship was intimately connected with the prosperity of human undertakings."[1]

[1] Theodosii II, Novellae, tit. iii. (438).

This concept of the State implied the vigorous prosecution of heresy. We therefore see the Christian emperors severely punishing all those who denied the orthodox faith, or rather their own faith, which they considered, rightly or wrongly, the faith of the Church. From the reign of Valentinian I, and especially from the reign of Theodosius I, the laws against heretics continued to increase with surprising regularity. As many as sixty-eight were enacted in fifty-seven years. They punished every form of heresy, whether it merely differed from the orthodox faith in some minor detail, or whether it resulted in a social upheaval. The penalties differed in severity; i.e., exile, confiscation, the inability to transmit property. There were different degrees of exile; from Rome, from the cities, from the Empire. The legislators seemed to think that some sects would die out completely, if they were limited solely to country places. But the severer penalties, like the death penalty, were reserved for those heretics who were disturbers of the public peace, e.g., the Manicheans and the Donatists. The Manicheans, with their dualistic theories, and their condemnation of marriage and its consequences, were regarded as enemies of the State; a law of 428 treated them as criminals "who had reached the highest degree of rascality."

The Donatists, who in Africa had incited the mob of Circumcelliones to destroy the Catholic churches, had thrown that part of the Empire into the utmost disorder. The State could not regard with indifference such an armed revolution. Several laws were passed, putting the Donatists on a par with the Manicheans, and in one instance both were declared guilty of the terrible crime of treason. But the death penalty was chiefly confined to certain sects of the Manichcans. This law did not affect private opinions (except in the case of the Encratites, the Saccophori, and the Hydroparastatae), but only those who openly practiced this heretical cult. The State did not claim the right of entering the secret recesses of a man's conscience. This law is all the more worthy of remark, inasmuch as Diocletian had legislated more severely against the Manicheans in his Edict of 287: "We thus decree," he writes Julianus, "against those men, whose doctrines and whose magical arts you have made known to us: the leaders are to be burned with their books, their followers are to be put to death, or sent to the mines." In comparison with such a decree, the legislation of the Christian Emperors was rather moderate.

It is somewhat difficult to ascertain how far these laws were enforced by the various Emperors. Besides, we are only concerned with the spirit which inspired them. The State considered itself the protector of the Church, and in this capacity placed its sword at the service of the orthodox faith. It is our purpose to find out what the churchman of the day thought of this attitude of the State.

The religious troubles caused chiefly by three heresies, Manicheism, Donatism, and Priscillianism, gave them ample opportunity of expressing their opinions.

. . . . . . . .

The Manicheans, driven from Rome and Milan, took refuge in Africa. It must be admitted that many of them by their depravity merited the full severity of the law. The initiated, or the elect, as they were called, gave themselves up to unspeakable crimes. A number of them on being arrested at Carthage confessed immoral practices that would not bear repetition, and this debauchery was not peculiar to a few wicked followers, but was merely the carrying out of the Manichean ritual, which other heretics likewise admitted.[1]

[1] Augustine, De haeresibus, Haeres, 46.

The Church in Africa was not at all severe in its general treatment of the sect. St. Augustine, especially, never called upon the civil power to suppress it. For he could not forget that he himself had for nine years (373-382), belonged to this sect, whose doctrines and practices he now denounced. He writes the Manicheans: "Let those who have never known the troubles of a mind in search of the truth proceed against you with vigor. It is impossible for me to do so, because for years I was cruelly tossed about by your false doctrines, which I advocated and defended to the best of my ability. I ought to bear with you now, as men bore with me when I blindly accepted your doctrines."[1] All he did was to hold public conferences with their leaders, whose arguments he had no difficulty in refuting.[2]

[1] Contra epistolam Manichaei quam vocant Fundamenti, n. 2, 3.

[2] Cf. Dom Leclerc, L'Afrique Chretienne, Paris, 1904, vol. ii, pp. 113-122.

The conversions obtained in this way were rather numerous, even if all were not equally sincere. All converts from the sect were required, like their successors, the Cathari of the Middle Ages, to denounce their brethren by name, under the threat of being refused the pardon which their formal retraction merited. This denunciation was what we would call to-day "a service for the public good." We, however, know of no case in which the Church made use of this information to punish the one who had been denounced.

. . . . . . . .

Donatism (from Donatus, the Bishop of Casae Nigrae in Numidia) for a time caused more trouble to the Church than Manicheism. It was more of a schism than a heresy. The election to the see of Carthage of the deacon Caecilian, who was accused of having handed over the Scriptures to the Roman officials during the persecution of Diocletian, was the occasion of the schism. Donatus and his followers wished this nomination annulled, while their opponents defended its validity. Accordingly, two councils were held to decide the question, one at Rome (313), the other at Arles (314). Both decided against the Donatists; they at once appealed to the Emperor, who confirmed the decrees of the two councils (316). The schismatics in their anger rose in rebellion, and a number of them known as Circumcelliones went about stirring the people to revolt. But neither Constantine nor his successors were inclined to allow armed rebellion to go unchallenged. The Donatists were punished to the full extent of the law. They had been the first, remarks St. Augustine, to invoke the aid of the secular arm. "They met with the same fate as the accusers of Daniel; the lions turned against them."[1]

[1] Ep. clxxxv, n. 7.

We need not linger over the details of this conflict, in which crimes were committed on both sides. The Donatists, bitterly prosecuted by the State, declared its action cruel and unjust. St. Optatus thus answers them: "Will you tell me that it is not lawful to defend the rights of God by the death penalty? ... If killing is an evil, the guilty ones are themselves the cause of it."[1] "It is impossible," you say, "for the State to inflict the death penalty in the name of God,"—But was it not in God's name that Moses,[2] Phinees,[3] and Elias[4] put to death the worshippers of the golden calf, and the apostates of the Old Law?—"These times are altogether different," you reply; "the New Law must not be confounded with the Old. Did not Christ forbid St. Peter to use the sword?"[5] Yes, undoubtedly, but Christ came to suffer, not to defend Himself.[6] The lot of Christians is different from that of Christ.

[1] De Schismate Donatistarum, lib. iii. cap. vi.

[2] Exod. xxxii. 28.

[3] Numb. xxv. 7-9.

[4] 3 Kings xviii. 40.

[5] John xviii. 11.

[6] De Schismate Don., cap. vii.

It is in virtue, therefore, of the Old Law that St. Optatus defends the State's interference in religious questions, and its infliction of the death penalty upon heretics. This is evidently a different teaching from the doctrine of toleration held by the Fathers of the preceding age. But the other bishops of Africa did not share his views.

In his dealings with the Donatists, St. Augustine was at first absolutely tolerant, as he had been with the Manicheans. He thought he could rely upon their good faith, and conquer their prejudices by an honest discussion. "We have no intention," he writes to a Donatist bishop, "of forcing men to enter our communion against their will. I am desirous that the State cease its bitter persecution, but you in turn ought to cease terrorizing us by your band of Circumcelliones. . . . Let us discuss our differences from the standpoint of reason and the sacred Scriptures."[1]

[1] Ep. xxiii, n. 7.

In one of his works, now lost, Contra partem Donati, he maintains that it is wrong for the State to force schismatics to come back to the Church.[1] At the most, he was ready to admit the justice of the law of Theodosius, which imposed a fine of ten gold pieces upon those schismatics who had committed open acts of violence. But no man was to be punished by the state for private heretical opinions.[2]

[1] Retract. lib. II, cap. v.

[2] Ep. clxxxv, n. 25.

The imperial laws were carried out in some cities of North Africa, because many of St. Augustine's colleagues did not share his views. Many Donatists were brought back to the fold by these vigorous measures. St. Augustine, seeing that in some cases the use of force proved more beneficial than his policy of absolute toleration, changed his views, and formulated his theory of moderate persecution: temperata severitas.[1]

[1] Ep. xciii, n. 10.

Heretics and schismatics, he maintained, were to be regarded as sheep who had gone astray. It is the shepherd's duty to run after them, and bring them back to the fold by using, if occasion require it, the whip and the goad.[1] There is no need of using cruel tortures like the rack, the iron pincers, or sending them to the stake; flogging is sufficient. Besides his mode of punishment is not at all cruel, for it is used by schoolmasters, parents, and even by bishops while presiding as judges in their tribunals.[2]

[1] Ep. clxxxv, n. 23.

[2] Ep. cxxxxiii, n. 2.

In his opinion, the severest penalty that ought to be inflicted upon the Donatists is exile for their bishops and priests, and fines for their followers. He strongly denounced the death penalty as contrary to Christian charity.[1]

[1] Ep. clxxxv, n. 26; Ep. xciii, n. 10.

Both the imperial officers and the Donatists themselves objected to this theory.

The officers of the Emperor wished to apply the law in all its rigor, and to sentence the schismatics to death, when they deemed it proper. St. Augustine adjures them, in the name of "Christian and Catholic meekness,"[1] not to go to this extreme, no matter how great the crimes of the Donatists had been. "You have penalties enough," he writes, "exile, for instance, without torturing their bodies or putting them to death."[2]

[1] Ep. clxxxv, n. 26; Ep. cxxxix, n. 2.

[2] Ep. cxxxiii, n. 1.

And when the proconsul Apringius quoted St. Paul to justify the use of the sword, St. Augustine replied: "The apostle has well said, 'for he beareth not the sword in vain.'[1] But we must carefully distinguish between temporal and spiritual affairs."[2] "Because it is just to inflict the death penalty for crimes against the common law, it does not follow that it is right to put heretics and schismatics to death." "Punish the guilty ones, but do not put them to death." "For," he writes another proconsul, "if you decide upon putting them to death, you will thereby prevent our denouncing them before your tribunal. They will then rise up against us with greater boldness. And if you tell us that we must either denounce them or risk death at their hands, we will not hesitate a moment, but will choose death ourselves."[3]

[1] Rom. xiii. 4.

[2] Ep. cxxxiv, n. 3.

[3] Ep. c, n. 2; cf. Ep. cxxxix, n. 2.

Despite these impassioned appeals for mercy, some Donatists were put to death. This prompted the schismatics everywhere to deny that the State had any right to inflict the death penalty or any other penalty upon them.[1]

[1] Contra Epistolam Parmeniani, lib. i. cap. xvi.

St. Augustine at once undertook to defend the rights of the State. He declared that the death penalty, which on principle he disapproved, might in some instances be lawfully inflicted. Did not the crimes of some of these rebellious schismatics merit the most extreme penalty of the law? "They kill the souls of men, and the State merely tortures their bodies; they cause eternal death, and then complain when the State makes them suffer temporal death."[1]

[1] In Joann. Tractat. xi, cap. xv.

But this is only an argument ad hominem. St. Augustine means to say that, even if the Donatists were put to death, they had no reason to complain. He does not admit, in fact, that they had been cruelly treated. The victims they allege are false martyrs or suicides.[1] He denounces those Catholics who, outside of cases of self-defense, had murdered their opponents.[2]

[1] Ibid.

[2] Ep. lxxxvii, n. 8.

The State also has the perfect right to impose the lesser penalties of flogging, fines, and exile. "For he (the prince) beareth not the sword in vain," says the Apostle. "For he is God's minister; an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."[1] It is not true to claim that St. Paul here meant merely the spiritual sword of excommunication.[2] The context proves clearly that he was speaking of the material sword. Schism and heresy are crimes which, like poisoning, are punishable by the State.[3] Princes must render an account to God for the way they govern. It is natural that they should desire the peace of the Church, their mother, who gave them spiritual life.[4]

[1] Rom. xiii. 4; Augustine, Contra litteras Petiliani, lib. ii, cap. lxxxiii-lxxxiv; Contra Epist. Parmeniani, lib. i, cap. xvi.

[2] Contra Epist. Parmeniani, ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] In Joann. Tractatus xi, cap. xiv.

The State, therefore, has the right to suppress heresy, because the public tranquillity is disturbed by religious dissensions.[1] Her intervention also works for the good of individuals. For, on the one hand, there are some sincere but timid souls who are prevented by their environment from abandoning their schism; they are encouraged to return to the fold by the civil power, which frees them from a most humiliating bondage.[2]

[1] Ep. lxxxii, n. 8.

[2] Ep. clxxxv, n. 13.

On the other hand, there are many schismatics in good faith who would never attain the truth unless they were forced to enter into themselves and examine their false position. The civil power admonishes such souls to abandon their errors; it does not punish them for any crime.[1] The Church's rebellious children are not forced to believe, but are induced by a salutary fear to listen to the true doctrine.[2]

[1] Ep. xciii, n. 10.

[2] Contra litteras Petiliani, lib. ii. cap. lxxxiii; Ep. clxxxv, n. 21; Ep. xciii, n. 4.

Conversions obtained in this way are none the less sincere. Undoubtedly, absolute toleration is best in theory, but in practice a certain amount of coercion is more helpful to souls. We must judge both methods by their fruits.

In a word, St. Augustine was at first, by temperament, an advocate of absolute toleration, but later on experience led him to prefer a mitigated form of coercion. When his opponents objected—using words similar to those of St. Hilary and the early Fathers—that "the true Church suffered persecution, but did not persecute," he quoted Sara's persecution of Agar.[1] He was wrong to quote the Old Testament as his authority. But we ought at least be thankful that he did not cite other instances more incompatible with the charity of the Gospel. His instinctive Christian horror of the death penalty kept him from making this mistake.

[1] Ep. clxxxv, n. 10.

. . . . . . . .

Priscillianism brought out clearly the views current in the fourth century regarding the punishment due to heresy. Very little was known of Priscillian until lately; and despite the publication of several of his works in 1889, he still remains an enigmatical personality.[1] His erudition and critical spirit were, however, so remarkable, that an historian of weight declares that henceforth we must rank him with St. Jerome.[2] But his writings were, in all probability, far from orthodox. We can easily find in them traces of Gnosticism and Manicheism. He was accused of Manicheism although he anathematized Manes. He was likewise accused of magic. He denied the charge, and declared that every magician deserved death, according to Exodus: "Wizards thou shalt not suffer to live."[3] He little dreamt when he wrote these words that he was pronouncing his own death sentence.

[1] On Priscillian and his work, cf. Dom Leclerc, L'Espagne Chretienne, Paris, 1906, ch. iii; Friedrich Paret, Priscillianus, Wuerzburg, 1891; Kuenstle, Antipriscilliana, Freiburg, 1905.

[2] Cf. Leclerc, p. 164.

[3] Exod. xxii. 18.

Although condemned by the council of Saragossa (380), he nevertheless became bishop of Abila. Later on, he went to Rome to plead his cause before Pope Damasus, but was refused a hearing. He next turned to St. Ambrose, who likewise would not hearken to his defense.[1] In 385 a council was assembled at Bordeaux to consider his case anew. He at once appealed to the Emperor, "so as not to be judged by the bishops," as Sulpicius Severus tells us, a fatal mistake which cost him his life.

[1] Cf. Sulp. Sev. Chronicon, ii. P.L., vol. xx, col. 155-159; Dialogi, iii. 11-23, ibid., col. 217-219.

He was then conducted to the Emperor at Treves, where he was tried before a secular court, bishops Idacius and Ithacius appearing as his accusers. St. Martin, who was in Treves at the time, was scandalized that a purely ecclesiastical matter should be tried before a secular judge. His biographer, Sulpicius Severus, tells us "that he kept urging Ithacius to withdraw his accusation." He also entreated Maximus not to shed the blood of these unfortunates, for the bishops could meet the difficulty by driving the heretics from the churches. He asserted that to make the State judge in a matter of doctrine was a cruel, unheard-of violation of the divine law.

As long as St. Martin remained in Treves, the trial was put off, and before he left the city, he made Maximus promise not to shed the blood of Priscillian and his companions. But soon after St. Martin's departure, the Emperor, instigated by the relentless bishops Rufus and Magnus, forgot his promise of mercy, and entrusted the case to the prefect Evodius, a cruel and hard-hearted official. Priscillian appeared before him twice, and was convicted of the crime of magic. He was made to confess under torture that he had given himself up to magical arts, and that he had prayed naked before women in midnight assemblies. Evodius declared him guilty, and placed him under guard until the evidence had been presented to the Emperor. After reading the records of the trial, Maximus declared that Priscillian and his companions deserved death. Ithacius, perceiving how unpopular he would make himself with his fellow-bishops, if he continued to play the part of prosecutor in a capital case, withdrew. A new trial was therefore ordered. This subterfuge of the Bishop did not change matters at all, because by this time the case had been practically settled. Patricius, the imperial treasurer, presided at the second trial. On his findings, Priscillian and some of his followers were condemned to death. Others of the sect were exiled.

This deplorable trial is often brought forward as an argument against the Church. It is important, therefore, for us to ascertain its precise character, and to discover who was to blame for it.

The real cause of Priscillian's condemnation was the accusation of heresy made by a Catholic bishop. Technically, he was tried in the secular courts for the crime of magic, but the State could not condemn him to death on any other charge, once Ithacius had ceased to appear against him.

It is right, therefore, to attribute Priscillian's death to the action of an individual bishop, but it is altogether unjust to hold the Church responsible.[1]

[1] Bernays, Ueber die Chronik des Sulp. Sev., Berlin, 1861, p. 13, was the first to point out that Priscillian was condemned not for heresy, but for the crime of magic. This is the commonly received view to-day.

In this way contemporary writers viewed the matter. The Christians of the fourth century were all but unanimous, says an historian,[1] in denouncing the penalty inflicted in this famous trial. Sulpicius Severus, despite his horror of the Priscillianists, repeats over and over again that their condemnation was a deplorable example; he even stigmatizes it as a crime. St. Ambrose speaks just as strongly.[2] We know how vehemently St. Martin disapproved of the attitude of Ithacius and the Emperor Maximus; he refused for a long time to hold communion with the bishops who had in any way taken part in the condemnation of Priscillian.[3] Even in Spain, where public opinion was so divided, Ithacius was everywhere denounced. At first some defended him on the plea of the public good, and on account of the high authority of those who judged the case. But after a time he became so generally hated that, despite his excuse that he merely followed the advice of others, he was driven from his bishopric.[4] This outburst of popular indignation proves conclusively that, if the Church did call upon the aid of the secular arm in religious questions, she did not authorize it to use the sword against heretics.

[1] Puech, Journal des Savants, May 1891, p. 250.

[2] Cf. Gams, Kirchengeschichte von Spanien, vol. ii. p. 382.

[3] Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi iii, 11-13.

[4] Sulp. Sev., Chronicon, loc. cit.

The blood of Priscillian was the seed of Priscillianism. But his disciples certainly went further than their master; they became thoroughgoing Manicheans. This explains St. Jerome's[1] and St. Augustine's[2] strong denunciations of the Spanish heresy. The gross errors of the Priscillianists in the fifth century attracted in 447 the attention of Pope St. Leo. He reproaches them for breaking the bonds of marriage, rejecting all idea of chastity, and contravening all rights, human and divine. He evidently held Priscillian responsible for all these teachings. That is why he rejoices in the fact that "the secular princes, horrified at this sacrilegious folly, executed the author of these errors with several of his followers." He even declares that this action of the State is helpful to the Church. He writes: "the Church, in the spirit of Christ, ought to denounce heretics, but should never put them to death; still the severe laws of Christian princes redound to her good, for some heretics, through fear of punishment, are won back to the true faith."[3] St. Leo in this passage is rather severe. "While he does not yet require the death penalty for heresy, he accepts it in the name of the public good. It is greatly to be feared that the churchmen of the future will go a great deal further."

[1] De Viris illustribus, 121-123.

[2] De haeresibus, cap. 70.

[3] Ep. xv, ad Turribium, P.L., vol. liv, col. 679-680.

The Church is endeavoring to state her position accurately on the suppression of heresy. She declares that nothing will justify her shedding of human blood. This is evident from the conduct and writings of St. Augustine, St. Martin, St. Ambrose, St. Leo (cruentas refugit ultiones), and Ithacius himself. But to what extent should she accept the aid of the civil power, when it undertakes to defend her teachings by force?

Some writers, like St. Optatus of Mileve, and Priscillian, later on the victim of his own teaching, believed that the Christian State ought to use the sword against heretics guilty of crimes against the public welfare; and, strangely enough, they quote the Old Testament as their authority. Without giving his approval to this theory, St. Leo the Great did not condemn the practical application of it in the case of the Priscillianists. The Church, according to him, while assuming no responsibility for them, reaped the benefit of the rigorous measures taken by the State.

But most of the Bishops absolutely condemned the infliction of the death penalty for heresy, even if the heresy was incidentally the cause of social disturbances. Such was the view of St. Augustine,[1] St. Martin, St. Ambrose, many Spanish bishops, and a bishop of Gaul named Theognitus;[2] in a word, of all who disapproved of the condemnation of Priscillian. As a rule, they protested in the name of Christian charity; they voiced the new spirit of the Gospel of Christ. At the other extremity of the Catholic world, St. John Chrysostom re-echoes their teaching. "To put a heretic to death," he says, "is an unpardonable crime."[3]

[1] Ep. c., n. 1.

[2] Cf. Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi, iii, 12, loc. cit., col. 218.

[3] Homilia xlvi, in Matthaeum, cap. 1.

But in view of the advantage to the Church, either from the maintenance of the public peace, or from the conversion of individuals, the State may employ a certain amount of force against heretics.

"God forbids us to put them to death," continues St. Chrysostom, "just as he forbade the servants to gather up the cockle,"[1] because he regards their conversion as possible; but he does not forbid us doing all in our power to prevent their public meetings, and their preaching of false doctrine. St. Augustine adds that they may be punished by fine and exile. To this extent the churchmen of the day accepted the aid of the secular arm. Nor were they content with merely accepting it. They declared that the State had not only the right to help the Church in suppressing heresy, but that she was in duty bound to do so. In the seventh century, St. Isidore of Seville discusses this question in practically this same terms as St. Augustine.[2]

[1] Ibid., cap. ii.

[2] We think it important to give Lea's resume of this period. It will show how a writer, although trying to be impartial, may distort the facts: "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 by 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, 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" (vol. i, p. 215). If we read carefully the words of St. Leo (p. 27, note 1), we shall see that the Emperors are responsible for the words that Lea ascribes to the Pope. It is hard to understand how he can assert that the imperial Edicts decreeing the death penalty are due to ecclesiastical influence, when we notice that nearly all the churchmen of the day protested against such a penalty.


FROM the sixth to the eleventh century, heretics, with the exception of certain Manichean sects, were hardly ever persecuted.[1] In the sixth century, for instance, the Arians lived side by side with the Catholics, under the protection of the State, in a great many Italian cities, especially in Ravenna and Pavia.[2]

[1] In 556, Manicheans were put to death in Ravenna, in accordance with the laws of Justinian.

[2] We may still visit at Ravenna the Arian and Catholic baptisteries of the sixth century. Cf. Gregorii Magni Dialogi, iii, cap. xxii, Mon. Germ., ibid., pp. 534-535.

During the Carlovingian period, we come across a few heretics, but they gave little trouble.

The Adoptianism of Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, and Felix, Bishop of Urgel, was abandoned by its authors, after it had been condemned by Pope Adrian I, and several provincial councils.[1]

[1] Einhard: Annales, ann. 792, in the Mon. Germ. SS., vol. 1, p. 179.

A more important heresy arose in the ninth century. Godescalcus, a monk of Orbais, in the diocese of Soissons, taught that Jesus Christ did not die for all men. His errors on predestination were condemned as heretical by the Council of Mainz (848); and Quierzy (849); and he himself was sentenced to be flogged and then imprisoned for life in the monastery of Hautvilliers.[1] But this punishment of flogging was a purely ecclesiastical penalty. Archbishop Hincmar, in ordering it, declared that he was acting in accordance with the rule of St. Benedict, and a canon of the Council of Agde.

[1] "In nostra parochia ... monasteriali costudiae mancipatus est." Hincmar's letter to Pope Nicholas I, Hincmari Opera, ed. Sirmond, Paris, 1645, vol. ii, p. 262.

The imprisonment to which Godescalcus was subjected was likewise a monastic punishment. Practically, it did not imply much more than the confinement strictly required by the rules of his convent. It is interesting to note that imprisonment for crime is of purely ecclesiastical origin. The Roman law knew nothing of it. It was at first a penalty peculiar to monks and clerics, although later on laymen also were subjected to it.

About the year 1000, the Manicheans, under various names, came from Bulgaria, and spread over western Europe.[1] We meet them about this time in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. Public sentiment soon became bitter against them, and they became the victims of a general, though intermittent, persecution. Orleans, Arras, Cambrai, Chalons, Goslai, Liege, Soissons, Ravenna, Monteforte, Asti, and Toulouse became the field of their propaganda, and often the place of their execution. Several heretics like Peter of Bruys, Henry of Lausanne, Arnold of Brescia, and Eon de l'Etoile (Eudo de Stella), likewise troubled the Church, who to stop their bold propaganda used force herself, or permitted the State or the people to use it.

[1] Cf. C. Schmidt, Histoire et doctrine de la secte des Cathares, vol. 1, pp. 16-54, 82.

It was at Orleans in 1022 that Catholics for the first time during this period treated heretics with cruelty. An historian of the time assures us that this cruelty was due to both king and people: regis jussu et universae plebis consensu.[1] King Robert, dreading the disastrous effects of heresy upon his kingdom, and the consequent loss of souls, sent thirteen of the principal clerics and laymen of the town to the stake. It has been pointed out that this penalty was something unheard-of at the time. "Robert was therefore the originator of the punishment which he decreed."[2] It might be said, however, that this penalty originated with the people, and that the king merely followed out the popular will.

[1] Raoul Gleber, Hist., lib. iii, cap. viii, Hist. des Gaules, vol. x, p. 38. For other authorities consult Julien Havet, L'heresie et le bras seculier au moyen age, in his OEuvres, Paris, 1896, vol. ii, pp. 128-130.

[2] Julien Havet, op. cit., pp. 128, 129.

For, as an old chronicler tells us, this execution at Orleans, was not an isolated fact; in other places the populace hunted out heretics, and burned them outside the city walls.[1]

[1] Cartulaire de l'abbaye de Saint-Pere de Chartres, ed. Guerard, vol. i, p. 108 and seq.; cf. Hist. des Gaules, vol. x, p. 539.

Several years later, the heretics who swarmed into the diocese of Chalons attracted the attention of the Bishop of the city, who was puzzled how to deal with them. He consulted Wazo, the Bishop of Liege, who tells us that the French were "infuriated" against heretics. These words would seem to prove that the heretics of the day were prosecuted more vigorously than the documents we possess go to show. It is probable that the Bishop of Chalons detested the "fury" of the persecutors. We will see later on the answer that Wazo sent him.

During the Christmas holidays of 1051 and 1052, a number of Manicheans or Cathari, as they were called, were executed at Goslar, after they had refused to renounce their errors. Instead of being burned, as in France, "they were hanged."

These heretics were executed by the orders of Henry III, and in his presence. But the chronicler of the event remarks that every one applauded the Emperor's action, because he had prevented the spread of the leprosy of heresy, and thus saved many souls.[1]

[1] Heriman, Aug. Chronicon, ann. 1052, Mon. Germ, SS., vol. v. p. 130. Cf. Lamberti, Annales, 1053, ibid., p. 155.

Twenty-five years later, in 1076 or 1077, a Catharan of the district of Cambrai appeared before the Bishop of Cambrai and his clerics, and was condemned as a heretic. The Bishop's officers and the crowd at once seized him, led him outside the city's gates, and while he knelt and calmly prayed, they burned him at the stake.[1]

[1] Chronicon S. Andreae Camerac, iii, 3, in the Mon. Germ. SS., vol. vii, p. 540. We have a letter of Gregory VII in which he denounces the irregular character of this execution. Ibid., p. 540, n. 31.

A little while before this the Archbishop of Ravenna accused a man named Vilgard of heresy, but what the result of the trial was, we cannot discover. But we do know that during this period other persons were prosecuted for heresy, and that they were beheaded or sent to the stake.

At Monteforte near Asti, the Cathari had, about 1034, an important settlement. The Marquis Mainfroi, his brother, the Bishop of Asti, and several noblemen of the city, united to attack the castrum; they captured a number of heretics, and on their refusing to return to the orthodox faith, they sent them to the stake.

Other followers of the sect were arrested by the officers of Eriberto, the Archbishop of Milan, who endeavored to win them back to the Catholic faith. Instead of being converted, they tried to spread their heresy throughout the city. The civil magistrates, realizing their corrupting influence, had a stake erected in the public square with a cross in front of it; and in spite of the Archbishop's protest, they required the heretics either to reverence the cross they had blasphemed, or to enter the flaming pile. Some were converted, but the majority of them, covering their faces with their hands, threw themselves into the flames, and were soon burned to ashes.

Few details have come down to us concerning the fate of the Manicheans arrested at this time in Sardinia and in Spain; exterminati sunt, says a chronicler.[1]

[1] "Exterminati sunt," says Raoul Glaber, Hist., lib. ii, cap. xii, Hist. des Gaules, vol. x, p. 23. Exterminati may mean banished as well as put to death. The context, however, seems to refer to the death penalty.

The Cathari of Toulouse were also arrested, and executed. A few years later, in 1114, the Bishop of Soissons arrested a number of heretics and cast them into prison until he could make up his mind how to deal with them. While he was absent at Beauvais, asking the advice of his fellow-bishops assembled there in council, the populace, fearing the weakness of the clergy, attacked the prison, dragged forth the heretics, and burned them at the stake. Guibert de Nogent does not blame them in the least. He simply calls attention to "the just zeal" shown on this occasion by "the people of God," to stop the spread of heresy.

In 1144 the Bishop of Liege, Adalbero II, compelled a number of Cathari to confess their heresy; "he hoped," he said, "with the grace of God, to lead them to repent." But the populace, less kindly-hearted, rushed upon them, and proceeded to burn them at the stake; the Bishop had the greatest difficulty to save the majority of them. He then wrote to Pope Lucius II asking him what was the proper penalty for heresy.[1] We do not know what answer he received.

[1] Letter of the church of Liege to Pope Lucius II, in Martene, Amplissima collectio, vol. i, col. 776-777.

About the same time a similar dispute arose between the Archbishop and the people of Cologne regarding two or three heretics who had been arrested and condemned. The clergy asked them to return to the Church. But the people, "moved by an excess of zeal," says an historian of the time, seized them, and despite the Archbishop and his clerics led them to the stake. "And marvelous to relate," continues the chronicler, "they suffered their tortures at the stake, not only with patience, but with joy."[2]

[1] Letter of Evervin, provost of Steinfeld to St. Bernard, cap. ii, in Bernardi Opera, Migne, P.L., vol. clxxxii, col. 677.

One of the most famous heretics of the twelfth century was Peter of Bruys. His hostility toward the clergy helped his propaganda in Gascony. To show his contempt for the Catholic religion, he burned a great number of crosses one Good Friday, and roasted meat in the flames. This angered the people against him. He was seized and burned at St. Giles about the year 1126.[1]

Henry of Lausanne was his most illustrious disciple. We have told the story of his life elsewhere.[1] St. Bernard opposed him vigorously, and succeeded in driving him from the chief cities of Toulouse and the Albigeois, where he carried on his harmful propaganda. He was arrested a short time afterwards (1145 or 1146), and sentenced to life imprisonment, either in one of the prisons of the Archbishop, or in some monastery of Toulouse.

[1] Vie de Saint Bernard, 1st edit., Paris, 1895, vol. ii, pp. 218-233.

Arnold of Brescia busied himself more with questions of discipline than with dogma; the only reforms he advocated were social reforms.[1] He taught that the clergy should not hold temporal possessions, and he endeavored to drive the papacy frown Rome. In this conflict, which involved the property of ecclesiastics and the temporal power of the Church, he was, although successful for a time, finally vanquished.[2] St. Bernard invoked the aid of the secular arm to rid France of him. Later on Pope Eugenius III excommunicated him. He was executed during the pontificate of Adrian IV, in 1155. He was arrested in the city of Rome after a riot which was quelled by the Emperor Frederic, now the ally of the Pope, and condemned to be strangled by the prefect of the city. His body was then burned, and his ashes thrown into the Tiber, "for fear," says a writer of the time, "the people would gather them up, and honor them as the ashes of a martyr."[3]

[1] For details concerning Arnold of Brescia, cf. Vacandard, Vie de Saint Bernard, vol. ii, pp. 235-258, 465-469.

[2] Otto Frising, Gesta Friderici, lib. ii. cap. xx. Cf. Historia Pontificalis, in the Mon. Germ. SS., vol. xx, p. 538.

[3] Boso, Vita Hadriani, in Watterich, Romanorum pontificum Vitae, vol. ii. pp. 326, 330.

In 1148, the Council of Rheims judged the case of the famous Eon de l'Etoile (Eudo de Stella). This strange individual had acquired a reputation for sanctity while living a hermit's life. One day, struck by the words of the liturgy, Per Eum qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos, he conceived the idea that he was the Son of God. He made some converts among the lowest classes, who, not content with denying the faith, soon began to pillage the churches. Eon was arrested for causing these disturbances, and was brought before Pope Eugenius III, then presiding over the Council of Rheims. He was judged insane, and in all kindness was placed under the charge of Suger, the Abbot of St. Denis. He was confined to a monastery, where he died soon after.

Strangely enough, some of his disciples persisted in believing in him; "they preferred to die rather than renounce their belief," says an historian of the time. They were handed over to the secular arm and perished at the stake. In decreeing this penalty, the civil power was undoubtedly influenced by the example of Robert the Pious.

It is easy to determine the responsibility of the Church, i.e., her bishops and priests, in this series of executions (1020 to 1150). At Orleans, the populace and the king put the heretics to death; the historians of the time tell us plainly that the clergy merely declared the orthodox doctrine. It was the same at Goslar. At Asti, the Bishop's name appears with the names of the other nobles who had the Cathari executed, but it seems certain that he exercised no special authority in the case. At Milan, the civil magistrates themselves, against the Archbishop's protest, gave the heretics the choice between reverencing the cross, and the stake.

At Soissons, the populace, feeling certain that the clergy would not resort to extreme measures, profited by the Bishop's absence to burn the heretics they detested. At Liege, the Bishop managed to save a few heretics from the violence of the angry mob. At Cologne, the Archbishop was not so successful; the people rose in their anger and burned the heretics before they could be tried. Peter of Bruys and the Manichean at Cambrai were both put to death by the people. Arnold of Brescia, deserted by fortune, fell a victim to his political adversaries; the prefect of Rome was responsible for his execution.[1]

[1] The case of Arnold, however, is not so clear. The Annales Augustani minores (Mon. Germ. SS., vol. x, p. 8) declare that the Pope hanged the rebel. Another anonymous writer (cf. Tanon, Hist. des tribunaux de l'Inq. en France, p. 456, n. 2) says with more probability, that Adrian merely degraded him. According to Otto of Freisingen (Mon. Germ. SS., vol. xx, p. 404), Arnold principis examini reservatus est, ad ultimum a praefecto Urbis ligno adactus. Finally, Geroch de Reichersberg tells us (De investigatione Antichristi, lib. i, cap. xiii, ed. Scheibelberger, 1875, pp. 88-89) that Arnold was taken from the ecclesiastical prison and put to death by the servants of the Roman prefect. In any case, politics rather than religion was the cause of his death.

In a word, in all these executions, the Church either kept aloof, or plainly manifested her disapproval.

During this period, we know of only one bishop, Theodwin of Liege, who called upon the secular arm to punish heretics. This is all the more remarkable because his predecessor, Wazo, and his successor, Adalbero II, both protested in word and deed against the cruelty of both sovereign and people.

Wazo, his biographer tells us, strongly condemned the execution of heretics at Goslar, and, had he been there, would have acted as St. Martin of Tours in the case of Priscillian.[1] His reply to the letter of the Bishop of Chalons reveals his inmost thoughts on the subject. "To use the sword of the civil authority," he says, "against the Manicheans,[2] is contrary to the spirit of the Church, and the teaching of her Divine Founder. The Saviour ordered us to let the cockle grow with the good grain until the harvest time, lest in uprooting the cockle we uproot also the wheat with it.[3] Moreover, continues Wazo, those who are cockle to-day may be converted to-morrow, and be garnered in as wheat at the harvest time. Therefore, they should be allowed to live. The only penalty we should use against them is excommunication."[4]

The Bishop of Liege, quoting this parable of Christ which St. Chrysostom had quoted before him, interprets it in a more liberal fashion than the Bishop of Constantinople. For he not only condemns the death penalty, but all recourse to the secular arm.

[1] Vita Vasonis, cap. xxv, xxvi, Migne, P.L., vol. cxlii, col. 753.

[2] Ibid., col. 752.

[3] Matt. xiii. 29-30.

[4] Vita Vasonis, loc. cit., col. 753.

Peter Cantor, one of the best minds of northern France in the twelfth century, also protested against the infliction of the death penalty for heresy, "Whether," he says, "the Cathari are proved guilty of heresy, or whether they freely admit their guilt, they ought not to be put to death, unless they attack the Church in armed rebellion." For the Apostle said, "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid;" he did not say: "Kill him." "Imprison heretics if you will, but do not put them to death."[1]

[1] Verbum abbreviatum, cap. lxxviii, Migne, P.L., vol. ccv, col. 231.

Geroch of Reichersberg, a famous German of the same period, a disciple and friend of St. Bernard, speaks in a similar strain of the execution of Arnold of Brescia. He was most anxious that the Church, and especially the Roman curia, should not be held responsible for his death. "The priesthood," he says, "ought to refrain from the shedding of blood." There is no doubt whatever that this heretic taught a wicked doctrine, but banishment, imprisonment, or some similar penalty would leave been ample punishment for his wrong-doing, without sentencing him to death.

St. Bernard had also asked that Arnold be banished. The execution of heretics at Cologne gave him a chance to state his views on the suppression of heresy. The courage with which these fanatics met death rather disconcerted Evervin, the provost of Steinfeld, who wrote the Abbot of Clairvaux for an explanation.[1]

[1] Evervin's letter in Migne, P.L., vol. clxxxii, col. 676 and seq.

"Their courage," he replies, "arose from mere stubbornness; the devil inspired them with this constancy you speak of, just as he prompted Judas to hang himself. These heretics are not real but counterfeit martyrs (perfidiae martyres). But while I may approve the zeal of the people for the faith, I cannot at all approve their excessive cruelty; for faith is a matter of persuasion, not of force: fides suadenda est, non imponenda."[1]

[1] In Cantica, Sermo lxiv, n. 12.

On principle, the Abbot of Clairvaux blames the bishops and even the secular princes, who through indifference or less worthy reasons fail to hunt for the foxes who are ravaging the vineyards of the Savior. But once the guilty ones have been discovered, he declares that only kindness should be used to win them back. "Let us capture them by arguments and not by force,"[1] i.e., let us first refute their errors, and if possible bring them back into the fold of the Catholic Church.

[1] Ibid., n. 8.

If they stubbornly refuse to be converted, let the bishop excommunicate them, to prevent their doing further injury; if occasion require it, let the civil power arrest them and put them in prison. Imprisonment is a severe enough penalty, because it prevents their dangerous propaganda:[1] aut corrigendi sunt, ne pereant; aut, ne perimant, coercendi.[2] St. Bernard was always faithful to his own teaching, as we learn from his mission in Languedoc.[3]

[1] De Consideratione, lib. iii, cap. i, n. 3.

[2] Ibid.; cf. Ep. 241 and 242. For more details, cf. Vacandard, Vie de Saint Bernard, vol. ii, pp. 211-216, 461-462.

[3] Cf. Vacandard, op. cit., vol. ii, pp. 217-234.

Having ascertained the views of individual churchmen, we now turn to the councils of the period, and find them voicing the self-same teaching. In 1049, the Council held at Rheims by Pope Leo IX declared all heretics excommunicated, but said nothing of any temporal penalty, nor did it empower the secular princes to aid in the suppression of heresy.[1]

[1] Cf. Labbe, Concilia, vol. ix, col. 1042.

The Council of Toulouse in 1119, presided over by Calixtus II, and the General Council of the Lateran, in 1139, were a little more severe; they not only issued a solemn bull of excommunication against heretics, but ordered the civil power to prosecute them: per potentates exteras coerceri praecipimus.[1] This order was, undoubtedly an answer to St. Bernard's request of Louis VII to banish Arnold from his kingdom. The only penalty referred to by both these councils was imprisonment.

[1] Council of Toulouse, can. 3, Labbe, vol. x, col. 857; Council of Lateran, can. 23, ibid., col. 1008.

The Council of Rheims in 1148, presided over by Eugenius III, did not even speak of this penalty, but simply forbade secular princes to give support or asylum to heretics.[1] We know, moreover, that at this council Eon de l'Etoile was merely sentenced to the seclusion of a monastery.

[1] Can. 18, Labbe, Concilia, vol. x, col. 1113.

In fact, the execution of heretics which occurred during the eleventh and twelfth centuries were due to the impulse of the moment. As an historian has remarked: "These heretics were not punished for a crime against the law; for there was no legal crime of heresy and no penalty prescribed. But the men of the day adopted what they considered a measure of public safety, to put an end to a public danger."[1]

[1] Julien Havet, L'heresie et le bras seculier au moyen age, in his OEuvres, vol. ii, p. 134.

Far from encouraging the people and the princes in their attitude, the Church through her bishops, teachers, and councils continued to declare that she had a horror of bloodshed: A domo sacerdotis sanguinis questio remota sit, writes Geroch of Reichersberg.[1] Peter Cantor also insists on the same idea. "Even if they are proved guilty by the judgment of God," he writes, "the Cathari ought not to be sentenced to death, because this sentence is in a way ecclesiastical, being made always in the presence of a priest. If then they are executed, the priest is responsible for their death, for he by whose authority a thing is done is responsible therefor."[2]

[1] De investigatione Antichristi, lib. i, cap. xlii, 1oc. cit., pp. 88, 89.

[2] Verbum abbreviatum, cap. lxxviii, Migne, P.L., vol. ccv, col. 231.

Was excommunication to be the only penalty for heresy? Yes, answered Wazo, Leo IX, and the Council of Reims in the middle of the eleventh century. But later on the growth of the evil induced the churchmen of the time to call upon the aid of the civil power. They thought that the Church's excommunication required a temporal sanction. They therefore called upon the princes to banish heretics from their dominions, and to imprison those who refused to be converted. Such was the theory of the twelfth century.

We must not forget, however, that the penalty of imprisonment, which was at first a monastic punishment, had two objects in view: to prevent heretics from spreading their doctrines, and to give them an opportunity of atoning for their sins. In the minds of the ecclesiastical judges, it possessed a penitential, almost a sacramental character. In a period when all Europe was Catholic, it could well supplant exile and banishment, which were the severest civil penalties after the death penalty.


THE development of the Canon law and the revival of the Roman law could not but exercise a great influence upon the minds of princes and churchmen with regard to the suppression of heresy; in fact, they were the cause of a legislation of persecution, which was adopted by every country of Christendom.

In the beginning of this period, which we date from Gratian,[1] the prosecution of heresy was still carried on, in a more or less irregular and arbitrary fashion, according to the caprice of the reigning sovereign, or the hasty violence of the populace. But from this time forward we shall see it carried on in the name of both the canon and the civil law: secundum canonicas et legitimas sanctiones, as a Council of Avignon puts it.[2]

[1] The Decree of Gratian was written about 1140.

[2] This council was held in 1209, d'Achery, Spicilegium, in-fol., vol. i, p. 704, col. 1.

In Germany and France, especially in northern France, the usual punishment was the stake. We need not say much of England, for heresy seems to have made but one visit there in 1166. In 1160, a German prince, whose name is unknown, had several Cathari beheaded. Others were burned at Cologne in 1163. The execution of the heretics condemned at Vezelai by the Abbot of Vezelai and several bishops, forms quite a dramatic picture.

When the heretics had been condemned, the Abbot, addressing the crowd, said "My brethren, what punishment should be inflicted upon those who refuse to be converted?" All replied: "Burn them." "Burn them." Their wishes were carried out. Two abjured their heresy, and were pardoned, the other seven perished at the stake.[1]

[1] Hugo Pictav., Historia Vezeliacensis monasterii, lib. iv, ad. finem, Hist. des Gaules, vol. xii, pp. 343-344.

Philip, Count of Flanders, was particularly cruel in prosecuting heretics.[1] He had an able auxiliary also in the Archbishop of Rheims, Guillaume aux Blanches-Mains. The chronicle of Anchin tells us that they sent to the stake a great many nobles and people, clerics, knights, peasants, young girls, married women, and widows, whose property they confiscated and shared between them.[2] This occurred in 1183. Some years before, Archbishop Guillaume and his council had sent two heretical women to the stake.[3]

[1] Raoul de Coggeshall, in Rerum Britann. medii aevi Scriptores, ed. Stevenson, p. 122.

[2] Sigeberti, Continuatio Aquicinctina, ad. ann. 1183, in the Mon. Germ. SS., vol. vi, p. 421.

[3] Raoul de Coggeshall, loc. cit.; Hist. des Gaules, vol. xviii, p. 92.

Hugh, Bishop of Auxerre (1183-1206), prosecuted the neo-Manicheans with equal severity; he confiscated the property of some, banished others, and sent several to the stake.

The reign of Philip Augustus was marked by many executions. Eight Cathari were sent to the stake at Troyes in 1200, one at Nevers in 1201, and several others at Braisne-sur-Vesle in 1204. A most famous case was the condemnation of the followers of the heretic, Amaury de Beynes. "Priests, clerics, men and women belonging to the sect, were brought before a council at Paris; they were condemned and handed over to the secular court of King Philip." The king was absent at the time. On his return he had them all burned outside the walls of the city.

In 1163 a council of Tours enacted a decree fixing the punishment of heresy. Of course it had in view chiefly the Cathari of Toulouse and Gascony: "If these wretches are captured," it says, "the Catholic princes are to imprison them and confiscate their property."[1]

[1] Can. 4, Labbe, Concilia, vol. x, col. 1419.

This canon was applied probably for the first time at Toulouse in 1178. The Bishop began proceedings against several heretics, among them a rich noble named Pierre Mauran, who was summoned before his tribunal, and condemned to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His property was confiscated, although later on when he professed repentance it was restored to him, on condition that he dismantle the towers of his castles, and pay the Count of Toulouse a fine of five hundred pounds of silver.

In this meantime the Cathari increased with alarming rapidity throughout this region. Count Raymond V (1148-1194), wishing to strike terror into them, enacted a law which decreed the confiscation of their property, and death. The people of Toulouse quoted this law later on in a letter to King Pedro of Aragon to justify their sending heretics to the stake, and when the followers of Simon de Montfort arrived in southern France, in 1209, they followed the example of Count Raymond by sending heretics to the stake everywhere they went.

The authenticity of this law has been questioned, on account of its unheard-of severity. But Pedro II, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, enacted a law in 1197 which was just as terrible. He banished the Waldenses and all other heretics from his dominions, ordering them to depart before Passion Sunday of the following year (March 23, 1198). After that day, every heretic found in the kingdom or the county was to be sent to the stake, and his property confiscated. It is worthy of remark, that in the king's mind the stake was merely a subsidiary penalty.

In enacting this severe law, Pedro of Aragon declared that he was moved by zeal for the public welfare, and "had simply obeyed the canons of the Holy Roman Church." With the exception of the death penalty by the stake, his reference to the canon law is perfectly accurate. Pope Alexander III, who had been present at the Council of Tours in 1163, renewed, at the Lateran Council in 1179, the decrees already enacted against the heretics of central France. He considered the Cathari, the Brabancons, etc., disturbers of the public welfare, and therefore called upon the princes to protect by force of arms their Christian subjects against the outrages of these heretics. The princes were to imprison all heretics and confiscate their property. The Pope granted indulgences to all who carried on this pious work.

In 1184, Pope Lucius III, in union with the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, adopted at Verona still more vigorous measures. Heretics were to be excommunicated, and then handed over to the secular arm, which was to inflict upon them the punishment they deserved (animadversio debita).[1] The Emperor decreed the imperial ban against them.

[1] Canon 27, inserted in the Decretals of Gregory IX, lib. v, tit. vii, De Haereticis, cap. ix.

This imperial ban was, as Ficker has pointed out, a very severe penalty in Italy; for it comprised banishment, the confiscation of the property, and the destruction of the houses of the condemned, public infamy, the inability to hold public office, etc. This is beyond question the penalty the King of Aragon alluded to in his enactment. The penalty of the stake which he added, although in conformity with the Roman law, was an innovation.

The pontificate of Innocent III, which began in 1198, marks a pause in the development of the Church's penal legislation against heresy. Despite his prodigious activity, this Pope never dreamt of enacting new laws, but did his best to enforce the laws then in vogue, and to stimulate the zeal of both princes and magistrates in the suppression of heresy.

Hardly had he ascended the pontifical throne when he sent legates to southern France, and wrote urgent letters full of apostolic zeal to the Archbishops of Auch and Aix, the Bishop of Narbonne, and the King of France. These letters, as well as his instructions to the legates, are similar in tone: "Use against heretics the spiritual sword of excommunication, and if this does not prove effective, use the material sword. The civil laws decree banishment and confiscation; see that they are carried out."[1]

[1] Letters of Innocent III in Migne, P.L., vol. ccxiv-ccxvi.

At this time the Cathari were living not only in the cities of Languedoc and Provence, but some had even entered the papal States, e.g., at Orvieto and Viterbo. The Pope himself went to these cities to combat the evil, and at once saw the necessity of enacting special laws against them. They may be read in his letters of March 25, 1199, and September 22, 1207, which form a special code for the use of the princes and the podesta. Heretics were to be branded with infamy; they were forbidden to be electors, to hold public office, to be members of the city councils, to appear in court or testify, to make a will or to receive an inheritance; if officials, all their acts were declared null and void; and finally their property was to be confiscated.

"In the territories subject to our temporal jurisdiction," adds the Pope, "we declare their property confiscated; in other places we order the podesta and the secular princes to do the same, and we desire and command this law enforced under penalty of ecclesiastical censures."[1]

[1] Letter of March 25, 1199, to the magistrates and people of Viterbo; constitution of September 23, 1207, Ep. x, 130.

We are not at all surprised at such drastic measures, when we consider the agreement made by Lucius III with Frederic Barbarossa, at Verona. But we wish to call attention to the reasons that Innocent III adduced to justify his severity, on account of the serious consequences they entailed. "The civil law," says the Pope, "punishes traitors with confiscation of their property and death; it is only out of kindness that the lives of their children are spared. All the more then should we excommunicate and confiscate the property of those who are traitors to the faith of Jesus Christ; for it is an infinitely greater sin to offend the Divine Majesty than to attack the majesty of the sovereign."[1]

[1] Letter of March 25, 1199, to the magistrates of Viterbo, Ep. ii, 1.

Whether this comparison be justified or not, it is certainly most striking. Later on Frederic II and others will quote it to justify their severity.

The Lateran Council in 1215 made the laws of Innocent III canons of the universal Church; it declared all heretics excommunicated, and delivered them over to the State to receive due punishment. This animadversio debita entailed banishment with all its consequences and confiscation. The council also legislated against the abettors of heresy, even if they were princes, and ordered the despoiling of all rulers who neglected to enforce the ecclesiastical law in their domains.[1]

[1] Labbe, Concilia, vol. xi, col. 148-150; Decretales, cap. xiii, De haereticis, lib. v, tit. vii.

In practice, Innocent III, although very severe towards obdurate heretics, was extremely kind to the ignorant and heretics in good faith. While he banished the Patarins from Viterbo,[1] and razed their houses to the ground, he at the same time protected, against the tyranny of an archpriest of Verona, a society of mystics, the Humiliati, whose orthodoxy was rather doubtful. When, after the massacre of the Albigenses, Pope Innocent was called upon to apply the canon law in the case of Raymond, Count of Toulouse, and to transfer the patrimony of his father to Simon de Montfort, he was the first to draw back from such injustice. Although a framer of severe laws against heresy, he was ready to grant dispensations, when occasion arose.

[1] Gesta Innocentii, cap. cxxiii, Migne, P.L., vol. ccxiv, col. clxi.

We must remember also that the laws he enacted were not at all excessive compared with the strict Roman law, or even with the practice then in vogue in France and Germany. It has been justly said: "The laws and letters of Innocent III never once mention the death penalty for heresy. He merely decrees against them banishment, and the confiscation of their property. When he speaks of having recourse to the secular arm, he means simply the force required to carry out the laws of banishment enacted by his penal code. This code, which seems so pitiless to us, was in reality at that time a great improvement in the treatment of heretics. For its special laws prevented the frequent outbreaks of popular vengeance, which punished not only confessed heretics, but also mere suspects."[1]

[1] Luchaire, Innocent III, et la croisade des Albigeois, pp. 57, 58. Julien Havet also says: "We must in justice say of Innocent III that, if he did bitterly prosecute heretics, and everywhere put them under the ban, he never demanded the infliction of the death penalty. Ficker has brought this out very clearly." L'heresie et le bras seculier, p. 165, n. 3. For Ficker's view, cf. op. cit., pp. 189-192.

In fact, the development in the methods of suppressing heresy from the eleventh century, ends with Innocent III in a code that was far more kindly than the cruel customs in vogue at the time.

The death penalty of the stake was common in France in the twelfth century, and in the beginning of the thirteenth. Most of the executions were due to the passions of the mob, although the Roman law was in part responsible. Anselm of Lucca and the author of the Panormia (Ivo of Chartres?) had copied word for word the fifth law of the title De Haereticis of the Justinian code, under the rubric: De edicto imperatorum in damnationem haereticorum.[1] This law which decreed the death penalty against the Manicheans, seemed strictly applicable to the Cathari, who were regarded at the time as the direct heirs of Manicheism. Gratian, in his Decree, maintained the views of St. Augustine on the penalties of heresy, viz., fine and banishment.[2] But some of his commentators, especially Rufinus, Johannes, Teutonicus, and an anonymous writer whose work is inserted in Huguccio's great Summa of the Decree, declared that impenitent heretics might and even ought to be put to death.

[1] Tanon, op. cit., pp. 453-454.

[2] Decretum, 2 Pars, Causa xxiii, quest. 4, 6, 7.

These different works appeared before the Lateran Council of 1215.[1] They are a good indication of the mind of the time. We may well ask whether the Archbishop of Rheims, the Count of Flanders, Philip Augustus, Raymond of Toulouse, and Pedro of Aragon, who authorized the use of the stake for heretics, did not think they were following the example of the first Christian emperors. We must, however, admit that there is no direct allusion to the early imperial legislation either in their acts or their writings. Probably they were more influenced by the customs of the time than by the written law.

[1] The collection of Anselm of Lucca is prior to 1080. The Panormia was written about the beginning of the twelfth century; the Decree about 1140; the three commentaries were written a little before 1215.

As a matter of fact, Gratian, who with St. Augustine mentioned only fine and banishment as the penalties for heresy, was followed for some time. We learn from Benencasa's Summa of the Decree that heretics were punished not by death, but by banishment and confiscation of their property.[1]

[1] Biblioth. Nation., Ms. 3892, Summa of Benencasa: 41, cap. 23, q. 4, Non invenitur.

The Councils of Tours and Lateran also decreed confiscation, but for banishment they substituted imprisonment, a penalty unknown to the Roman law. The Council of Lateran appealed to the authority of St. Leo the Great, to compel Christian princes to prosecute heresy.[1]

[1] Canon 27, Labbe, Concilia, vol. x, col. 1522; Leonis, Epist. xv, ad Turribium, Migne, Pat. Lat., vol. liv, col. 679-680.

From the time of Lucius III, owing to the influence of the lawyers, the two penalties of banishment and confiscation prevailed. Innocent III extended them to the universal Church.

This was undoubtedly a severer penal legislation than that of the preceding age. But, on the other hand, it was an effective barrier against the infliction of the death penalty, which had become so common in many parts of Christendom.

Besides, during this period, the Church used vigorous measures only against obdurate heretics, who were also disturbers of the public peace.[1] They alone were handed over to the secular arm; if they abjured their heresy, they were at once pardoned, provided they freely accepted the penance imposed upon them.[2] This kind treatment, it was true, was not to last. It, however, deserves special notice, for the honor of those who preached and practiced it.

[1] Innocent III merely condemned to prison in a monastery the heretical abbot of Nevers; cf. letter of June 19, 1199, to a cardinal and a bishop of Paris. Ep. ii, 99.

[2] Cf. Canon 27 of the Lateran Council (1179), which we have quoted above, and which is inserted in the Decretals of Gregory x, cap. ix, De haereticis, lib. v, tit. vii.


WHILE Popes Alexander III, Lucius III, and Innocent III, were adopting such vigorous measures, the Catharan heresy by its rapid increase caused widespread alarm throughout Christendom. Let us endeavor to obtain some insight into its character, before we describe the Inquisition, which was destined to destroy it.

The dominant heresy of the period was the Albigensian or Catharan heresy;[1] it was related to Oriental Manicheism[2] through the Paulicians and the Bogomiles, who professed a dualistic theory on the origin of the world.

[1] The heretics called themselves "Cathari," or "the Pure." They wished thereby to denote especially their horror of all sexual relations, says the monk Egbert: Sermones contra Catharos, in Migne, P.L., cxcv, col. 13.

[2] On the origin of the Manichean heresy, cf. Duchesne, Histoire ancienne de l'Eglise, pp. 555, 556.

In the tenth century, the Empress Theodora, who detested the Paulicians, had one hundred thousand of them massacred; the Emperor Alexis Commenus (about 1118), persecuted the Bogomiles in like manner. Many, therefore, of both sects went to western Europe, where they finally settled, and began to spread.

As early as 1167, they held a council at St. Felix de Caraman, near Toulouse, under the presidency of one of their leaders, Pope or perhaps only Bishop Niketas (Niquinta) of Constantinople. Other bishops of the sect were present: Mark, who had charge of all the churches of Lombardy, Tuscany, and the Marches of Treviso; Robert de Sperone, who governed a church in the north, and Sicard Cellerier, Bishop of the Church of Albi. They appointed Bernard Raymond, Bishop of Toulouse, Guiraud Mercier, Bishop of Carcassonne, and Raymond of Casalis, Bishop of Val d'Aran, in the diocese of Comminges. Such an organization certainly indicates the extraordinary development of the heresy about the middle of the twelfth century.

About the year 1200 its progress was still more alarming. Bonacursus, a Catharan bishop converted to Catholicism, writes about 1190: "Behold the cities, towns and homes filled with these false prophets."[1] Cessarius, of Heisterbach, tells us that a few years later there were Cathari in about one thousand cities,[2] especially in Lombardy and Languedoc.

[1] Manifestatio haeresis Catharorum, in Migne, P.L., vol. cciv col. 778.

[2] Dialogi, Antwerp, 1604, p. 289.

There were at least seven to eight hundred of "the Perfected" in Languedoc alone; and to obtain approximately the total number of the sect, we must multiply this number by twenty or even more.[1]

[1] This is Doellinger's estimate, Beitraege, vol. i, pp. 212, 213.

Of course, perfect unity did not exist among the Cathari. The different names by which they were known clearly indicate certain differences of doctrine among them. Some, like the Cathari of Alba and Desenzano, taught with the Paulicians an absolute dualism, affirming that all things created came from two principles, the one essentially good, and the other essentially bad. Two other groups, the Concorrezenses and the Bagolenses, like the ancient Gnostics, held a modified form of dualism; they pretended that the evil spirit had so marred the Creator's work, that matter had become the instrument of evil in the world. Still they agreed with the pronounced dualists in nearly all their doctrines and observances; their few theoretical differences were scarcely appreciable in practice.[1]

[1] On the Catharan doctrines, cf. Dollinger's Beitraege.

Still, contemporary writers called them by different names. In Italy they were confounded with the orthodox Patarins and Arnaldists of Milan; which explains the frequent use of the word Patareni in the constitutions of Frederic II, and other documents.

The Arnaldists or Arnoldists and the Speronistae, were the disciples of Arnold of Brescia, and the heretical Bishop Sperone. Although the chief center of the Cathari in France was Toulouse and not Albi, they were called Albigeois (Albigenses), and Tisserands (Texerants), because many were weavers by trade; Arians, because of their denial of Christ's divinity; Paulicians, which was corrupted into Poplicani, Publicani, Piphes and Piples (Flanders); Bulgarians (Bulgari), from their origin, which became in the mouths of the people of Bugari, Bulgri, and Bugres. In fact about 1200, nearly all the heretics of western Europe were considered Cathari.

Catharism was chiefly a negative heresy; it denied the doctrines, hierarchy and worship of the Catholic Church, as well as the essential rights of the State.

These neo-Manicheans denied that the Roman Church represented the Church of Christ. The Popes were not the successors of St. Peter, but rather the successors of Constantine. St. Peter never came to Rome. The relics which were venerated in the Constantinian basilica, were the bones of someone who died in the third century; they were not relics of the Prince of the Apostles. Constantine unfortunately sanctioned this fraud, by conferring upon the Roman pontiff an immense domain, together with the prestige that accompanies temporal authority.[1] How could anyone recognize under the insignia, the purple mantle, and the crown of the successors of St. Sylvester, a disciple of Jesus Christ? Christ had no place where to lay His head, whereas the Popes lived in a palace! Christ rebuked worldly dominion, while the Popes claimed it! What had the Roman curia with its thirst for riches and honors in common with the gospel of Christ? What were these archbishops, primates, cardinals, archdeacons, monks, canons, Dominicans, and Friars Minor but the Pharisees of old! The priests placed heavy burdens upon the faithful people, and they themselves did not touch them with the tips of their fingers; they received tithes from the fields and flocks; they ran after the heritage of widows; all practices which Christ condemned in the Pharisees.

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