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§ 86. The Inquisition. Its Origin and Purpose.


The measures for the repression and extermination of heresy culminated in the organized system, known as the Inquisition. Its history presents what is probably the most revolting spectacle in the annals of civilized Europe.11161116    Such a calm Church historian as Karl Müller, an expert in mediaeval history, pronounces a similar judgment, "Die Thätigkeit der Inquisition ist vielleicht das entsetzlichste was die Geschichte der Menschheit kennt."Kirchengesch., I. 590.g as arbiters over human destiny in this world, and in the name of religion applying torture to countless helpless victims, heretics, and reputed witches, and pronouncing upon them a sentence which, they knew, involved perpetual imprisonment or death in the flames. The cold heartlessness, with which the fate of the heretic was regarded, finds some excuse in the pitiless penalties which the civil tribunals of the Middle Ages meted out for civil crimes, such as the breaking of the victim on the wheel, burning in caldrons of oil, quartering with horses, and flaying alive, or the merciless treatment of princes upon refractory subjects, as when William the Conqueror at Alençon punished the rebels by chopping off the hands and feet of thirty-two of the citizens and throwing them over the walls. It is nevertheless an astounding fact that for the mercy of Christ the Church authorities, who should have represented him, substituted relentless cruelties. In this respect the dissenting sectaries were infinitely more Christian than they.

It has been argued in extenuation of the Church that she stopped with the decree of excommunication and the sentence to lifelong imprisonment and did not pronounce the sentence of death. And the old maxim is quoted as true of her in all times, that the Church abhors blood—ecclesia non sitit sanguinem. The argument is based upon a pure technicality. The Church, after sitting in judgment, turned the heretics over to the civil authorities, knowing full well that, as night follows day, the sentence of death would follow her sentence of excommunication.11171117    The usual expression for turning heretics over to the civil tribunal was saeculari judiciore relinquere, and for perpetual imprisonment, in perpetuum carcerem retrudi orperpetuo commorari.teran forbade priests pronouncing judgments of blood and being present at executions, but at the very same moment, and at the pope’s persistent instigation, crusading armies were drenching the soil of Southern France with the blood of the Albigenses. A writer of the thirteenth century says in part truly, in part speciously, "our pope does not kill nor condemn any one to death, but the law puts to death those whom the pope allows to be put to death, and they kill themselves who do those things which make them guilty of death."11181118    Martène, Thes., V. 1741.

The official designation of the Inquisitorial process was the Inquisition of heretical depravity.11191119    Inquis. haereticae pravitatis. The first case, so far as I know, of the use of the expression "inquisition of heretics,"inquis. haereticorum, was by the synod of Toulouse, 1229. Heretical depravity was the usual expression for heresy, Inn. Ep., II., 142, etc.; Migne, 214. 698. The term "inquirare" was a judicial term in use before. See Schmidt. witches in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the Spanish Inquisition organized in 1480.11201120    This is the date given by Lea, Span. Inq., I. 161. Sixtus IV. authorized the Spanish Inquisition, Nov. 1, 1478.X., Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas. A parallel is found in the best Roman emperors, who lent themselves to the bloody repression of the early Church. The good king, St. Louis, declared that when a layman heard the faith spoken against, he should draw his sword and thrust it into the offender’s body up to the hilt.11211121    De-Joinville, Bohn’s ed., p. 362.

The Inquisition was a thoroughly papal institution, wrought out in all its details by the popes of the thirteenth century, beginning with Innocent III. and not ending with Boniface VIII. In his famous manual for the treatment of heresy the Inquisitor, Bernard Guy, a man who in spite of his office elicits our respect,11221122    Practica, p. 176, habet excellentiamaltitudinis ex sua origine, quia immediate a sede apostolica dirivatur, committitur et noscitur institutum. been instituted by the Apostolic see itself." This was the feeling of the age.

Precedent enough there was for severe temporal measures. Constantine banished the Arians and burned their books. Theodosius the Great fixed death as the punishment for heresy. The Priscillianists were executed in 385. The great authority of Augustine was appealed to and his fatal interpretation of the words of the parable "Compel them to come in,"11231123    Cogite intrare. Ep., 93, ad Vincent, contra Gaudent., I. 1. On the other hand he expressed himself against putting upon them the sufferings they deserved. Ep., 100, ad Donat., etc.; Migne, 33. 360. beyond what that father probably ever intended. From the latter part of the twelfth century, councils advocated the death penalty, popes insisted upon it, and Thomas Aquinas elaborately defended it. Heresy, so the theory and the definitions ran, was a crime the Church could not tolerate. It was Satan’s worst blow.

Innocent III. wrote that as treason was punished with death and confiscation of goods, how much more should these punishments be meted out to those who blaspheme God and God’s Son. A crime against God, so he reasoned, is surely a much graver misdemeanor than a crime against the secular power.11241124    Ep., II. 1. Hurter, II. 264, thus describes Innocent’s attitude to incorrigible heretics. They are fallen under the power of Satan, should be deprived of all their possessions, and the bodies of the dead dug up from consecrated ground. Secular princes were to draw the sword against them, for the Lord has confided it to the mighty for the protection of the pious and the dismay of evil-doers and nowhere could it be put to better use than upon those who were seeking to lure others away from the true faith and rob them of eternal life.

The calm discussion, to which the eminent theologian, Thomas Aquinas, subjects the treatment due heretics, was made at least a quarter of a century after the Inquisition was put into full force. Leaning back upon Augustine and his interpretation of "compel them to come in," he declared in clearest terms that heretics deserved not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but to be excluded from the earth by judicial death.11251125    Meruerunt non solum ab ecclesia per excommunicationem separari sed etiam per mortem a mundo excludi. Summa, II. Pt. II. 11; Migne’s ed., III. 109.ith. The heretic of whose reclamation the Church despairs, it delivers over to the secular tribunal to be executed out of the world. The principle was that those who were baptized were under the immediate jurisdiction of the Church and the Church might deal with them as it saw fit. It was not till the fourteenth century, that the jurisdiction of the Church and the pope was extended to the heathen by Augustinus Triumphus, d. 1328,11261126    This is the interpretation Hefele puts upon the passage, V. 716.e, 1312, to allow their Mohammedan subjects to practise the rites of their religion.11271127    Pagani jure sunt sub papae obedientia, 23, art. I.

The legislation, fixing the Inquisition as a Church institution and elaborating its powers, began with the synod of Tours in 1163 and the oecumenical council of 1179. A large step in advance was made by the council of Verona, 1184. The Fourth Lateran, 1215, and the council of Toulouse, 1229, formally established the Inquisition and perfected the organization. Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and Alexander IV. enforced its regulations and added to them. From first to last the popes were its chief promoters.

The synod of Tours, 1163, called upon the bishops and clergy to forbid the Catholics from mingling with the Albigenses and from having commercial dealings with them and giving them refuge. Princes were instructed to imprison them and confiscate their goods. The Third Lateran, 1179, extended the punishments to the defenders of heretics and their friends. It gave permission to princes to reduce heretics to slavery and shortened the time of penance by two years for those taking up arms against them. At the council of Verona, 1184, pope Lucius III. and the emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, joined in making common cause in the sacred undertaking and announced their attitude in the cathedral. Frederick had the law of the empire against heretics recited and threw his glove down upon the floor as a token that he would enforce it. Then Lucius announced the decree of the council, which enjoined bishops to visit, at least once a year, all parts of their sees, to try all suspects, and to turn them, if guilty, over to the civil authorities. Princes were ordered to take an oath to support the Church against heresy upon pain of forfeiting their dignities. Cities, refusing to punish offenders, were to be cut off from other cities and, if episcopal seats, were to be deprived of that honor.

Innocent III., the most vigorous of persecutors, was no sooner on the throne than he began to wage war against heretical infection. In one letter after another, he struck at it and commended military armaments for its destruction. The Fourth Lateran gave formal and final expression to Innocent’s views. The third canon opens with an anathematization of heretics of all names. It again enjoined princes to swear to protect the faith on pain of losing their lands. To all taking part in the extermination of heretics—ad haereticorum exterminium — was offered the indulgence extended to the Crusaders in Palestine. All "believers" and also the entertainers, defenders, and friends of heretics were to be excommunicated and excluded from receiving their natural inheritance.11281128    Credentes, praeterea receptores, defensores et fautores haereticorum. Frederick II., in his Constitution of 1220, uses these terms, and they became the accepted, legal form of statement. See Bernard Guy, pp. 176, 194, etc. The term "fautor" became the usual term, in the subsequent history of the Inquisition, for the abettors of heresy. The term "believers" is the technical term used for the Cathari, etc. case of neglect, they were to be deposed.

For more than a century after Innocent, the enforcement of the rules for the detection and punishment of heretics form the continual subject of bulls issued by the Apostolic see and of synodal action especially in Southern France and Spain. Innocent IV. and Alexander IV. alone issued more than one hundred such bulls.11291129    Between 1255-1258, Alexander IV., according to Flade, p. 1, issued no less than thirty-eight bulls against heretics.

The regulations for the episcopal supervision of the Inquisition were completed at the synod of Toulouse, 1229. Bishops were commanded to appoint a priest and laymen to ferret out heretics—inquirant haereticos—in houses and rooms. They were authorized to go outside their sees and princes outside of their realms to do this work. But no heretic was to be punished till he had been tried before the bishop’s tribunal. Princes were ordered to destroy the domiciles and refuges of heretics, even if they were underground. If heretics were found to reside on their lands without their knowledge, such princes were to be punished. Men above fourteen and women above twelve were obliged to swear to inform on heretics. And all, wishing to avoid the charge of heresy, were bound to present themselves at the confessional at least once a year. As a protection against heretical infection, boys above the age of seven were obliged to go to church every Sabbath and on festival days that they might learn the credo, the pater noster, and the ave Maria.

The legislation of the state showed its full sympathy with the rules of the Church. Peter of Aragon, 1197, banished heretics from his dominions or threatened them with death by fire. In 1226, Don Jayme I. of Aragon forbade all heretics entering his kingdom. He was the first prince to prohibit the Bible in the vernacular Romancia, 1234. From another source, whence we might have expected better things, came a series of severe edicts. At his coronation, 1220, Frederick II. spoke of heretics as the viperous sons of perfidy, and placed them under the ban of the empire.11301130    Vipereos perfidiae filios. Frederick’s oath ran Catharos, Patarenos, Speronistas, Leonistias, Arnaldistas, Circumcisos et omnes haereticos utriusque sexus quocumque nomine censeantur perpetua damnamus infamia, diffidamus atque bannimus. See Bréholles, II. 6, 7, and Mirbt, p. 137. Hefele says Torquemada himself could not have used more vigorous language than Frederick used on this occasion. V. 993. was renewed at Ravenna, 1232, and later in 1238, 1239. The goods of heretics were to be confiscated and to be diverted from their children, on the ground that it was a far graver thing to offend against the spiritual realm than to offend a temporal prince. Four years later, 1224, the emperor condemned them to the penalty of being burned, or having their tongues torn out at the discretion of the judge.11311131    Ignis judicio concremandus, ut vel ultricibus flammis pereat aut cum linguae plectro deprivent. Bréholles, II. 422; Mirbt, 138. Flade, p. 9, is wrong in saying that the first express mention of burning as the punishment for heretics in Frederick’s laws was in 1238.retics previously condemned by the Church.11321132    The terms Frederick used at this time drew heavily upon the dictionary. He calls heretics fierce wolves, most wicked angels, children of depravity, serpents deceiving the doves, serpents vomiting out poison. Bréholles, IV. 5. Gregorovius, V. 162, says Frederick issued decrees against heretics every time he made peace with the pope. "His laws against heresy form the harshest contrast to his otherwise enlightened legislation."

The princes and cities of Italy followed Frederick’s example. In Rome, after 1231, and at the demand of Gregory IX., the senator took oath to seize heretics pointed out by the Inquisition, and to put them to death within eight days of the ecclesiastical sentence. In Venice, beginning with 1249, the doge included in his oath the pledge to burn heretics. In France, the rules of the Inquisition were fully recognized in Louis IX.’s laws of 1228. The two great codes of Germany, the Sachsenspiegel and the Schwabenspiegel, ordered heretics burned to death.11331133    For the Sachsenspiegel, see Mirbt, 139. The act of the Schwabenspiegel runs "where persons are believed to be heretics, they shall be accused before the spiritual court. When convicted, they shall be taken in hand by the secular court, which shall sentence them as is right, that is, they shall be burnt at the stake." Wackernagel’s ed., p. 241, sqq.ll a century later, 1401.

That the Church fully accepted Frederick’s severe legislation, is attested by the action of Honorius III. who sent the emperor’s edict of 1220 to Bologna with instructions that it be taught as part of the canon law. Frederick’s subsequent legislation was commended by popes and bishops,11341134    Thus the Archbishop of Milan reënforced it at a provincial council, 1287. Hefele, VI. 253, and Lea, I. 322 sq. The synod of Mainz, 1233, instructed bishops to scrupulously observe the imperial and papal edicts. Hefele, V. 1027.

To more efficiently carry out the purpose of the Inquisition, the trial and punishment of heresy were taken out of the hands of the bishops and put into the hands of the monastic orders by Gregory IX. As early as 1227, this pope appointed a Dominican of Florence to proceed against the heretical bishop, Philip Paternon. In 1232, the first Dominicans were appointed inquisitors in Germany and Aragon.11351135    Frederick II. united in appointing the Dominicans inquisitors of Germany. Bréholles, IV. 298-301.11361136    Potthast, 8932, 9126, 9143, 9152, 9153, 9235. From the appointment of the Dominicans grew up the false notion that Dominic was the founder of the Inquisition. So Limborch (I. ch. X.) who calls him a "cruel and bloody man." Lacordaire, I. 197 sqq. shows Limborch’s authorities to be unreliable. But the eloquent French Dominican, in his zeal, goes too far when he declares Philip II. the author of the Inquisition. Philip II. had enough sins to bear without this one being added to the heap.an, disassociated from the pastoral care of souls. The friars were empowered to deprive suspected priests of their benefices, and to call to their aid the secular arm in suppressing heresy. From their judgment there was no appeal except to the papal court. The Franciscans were afterwards joined with the Dominicans in this work in parts of Italy, in France, and later in Sardinia and Syria and Palestine. Complaint was made by bishops of this interference with their prerogatives,11371137    See Lea, I. 348 sq. listened to the complaint so far as to decree that no death penalty should be pronounced without consulting with them. The council of Vienne ordered the prisons containing heretics to be guarded by two gaolers, one appointed by the Inquisitor and one by the bishop.

One more step remained to be taken. By the famous bull ad exstirpanda, of 1252, Innocent IV. authorized torture as a measure for extorting confessions. The merciless use of this weapon was one of the most atrocious features of the whole procedure.

The Inquisitors, in spite of papal authority, synodal action, and state legislation, did not always have an easy path. In 1235, the citizens of Narbonne drove them out of their city. In 1242, a number were murdered in Avignon, whom Pius IX., in 1866, sought to recompense by giving them the honor of canonization as he had done the year before to the bloodiest of Inquisitors, the Spaniard Arbues, d. 1485. Parma, according to Salimbene,11381138    Coulton, p. 203.t for the act of "certain fools" who broke into the convent of the Dominicans and killed one or two friars in retribution for their having burned for heresy a certain noble lady and her maid. The distinguished Inquisitor, Peter of Verona, otherwise known as Peter Martyr, was murdered at Como, 1252. In Germany the resistance of the Inquisition was a frequent occurrence and more than one of its agents atoned for his activity by a violent death. Of these, Konrad of Marburg was the most notorious.

Down to the very close of the Middle Ages, the pages of history were disfigured by the decrees of popes and synods, confirming death as the penalty for heresy, and for persons supposed to be possessed with witchcraft. The great council of Constance, 1415, did not get away from this atmosphere, and ordered heretics punished even by the flames,—puniantur ad ignem. And the bull of Leo X., 1520, condemning Luther, cursed as heresy the Reformer’s liberal statement that the burning of heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit.

To the great humiliation of the Protestant churches, religious intolerance and even persecution unto death were continued long after the Reformation. In Geneva, the pernicious theory was put into practice by state and church, even to the use of torture and the admission of the testimony of children against their parents, and with the sanction of Calvin. Bullinger, in the second Helvetic Confession, announced the principle that heresy should be punished like murder or treason. The treatment of the Anabaptists is a great blot on the page of the Reformation, Strassburg being the only centre that tolerated them. Cranmer persuaded Edward VI. to burn women. Elizabeth saw the death penalty executed upon Puritans. The spirit of intolerance was carried across the seas, and was as strong in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the American colonies, with some exceptions, as it was in Europe. The execution of Quakers in Boston, and of persons accused of witchcraft in Salem, together with the laws of Virginia and other colonies, were the unfortunate survivals of the vicious history of the Middle Ages, which forgot Christ’s example as he wept over Jerusalem, and the Apostle’s words, "vengeance is mine, I will repay," saith the Lord.

So far as we know, the Roman Catholic Church has never officially revoked the theory and practice of the mediaeval popes and councils, but on the contrary the utterances of Pius IX. and Leo XIII. show the same spirit of vicious reprobation for Protestants and their agencies.



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