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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 1 — Progress From the First to the Fourteenth Century

Chapter 10 — Erection of Tribunal of Inquisition

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The Crusades still continued in the Albigensian Territory — Council of Toulouse, 1229 — Organizes the Inquisition — Condemns the Reading of the Bible in the Vernacular — Gregory IX., 1233, further perfects the Organization of the Inquisition, and commits it to the Dominicans — The Crusades continued under the form of the Inquisition — These Butcheries the deliberate Act of Rome — Revived and Sanctioned by her in our own day — Protestantism of Thirteenth Century Crushed — Not alone — Final Ends.

THE main object of the crusades was now accomplished. The principalities of Raymond VI., Count of Toulouse, and Raymond Roger, Viscount of Beziers, had been "purged" and made over to that faithful son of the Church, Simon de Montfort. The lands of the Count of Foix were likewise overrun, and joined with the neighboring provinces in a common desolation. The Viscount of Narbonne contrived to avoid a visit of the crusaders, but at the price of becoming himself the Grand Inquisitor of his dominions, and purging them with laws even more rigorous than the Church demanded, [1]

The twenty years that followed were devoted to the cruel work of rooting out any seeds of heresy that might possibly yet remain in the soil. Every year a crowd of monks issued from the convents of Citeaux, and, taking possession of the pulpits, preached a new crusade. For the same easy service they offered the same prodigious reward — Paradise — and the consequence was, that every year a new wave of fanatics gathered and rolled toward the devoted provinces. The villages and the woods were searched, and some gleanings, left from the harvests of previous years, were found and made food for the gibbets and stakes that in such dismal array covered the face of the country. The first instigators of these terrible proceedings — Innocent III., Simon de Montfort, the Abbot of Citeaux — soon passed from the scene, but the tragedies they had begun went on. In the lands which the Albigenses — now all but extinct — had once peopled, and which they had so greatly enriched by their industry and adorned by their art, blood never ceased to flow nor the flames to devour their victims. It would be remote from the object of our history to enter here into details, but we must dwell a little on the events of 1229. This year a Council was held at Toulouse, under the Papal legate, the Cardinal of St. Angelo. The foundation of the Inquisition had already been laid. Innocent III. and St. Dominic share between them the merit of this good work. [2] In the year of the fourth Lateran, 1215, St. Dominic received the Pontiff's commission to judge and deliver to punishment apostate and relapsed and obstinate heretics. [3] This was the Inquisition, though lacking as yet its full organization and equipment. That St. Dominic died before it was completed alters not the question touching his connection with its authorship, though of late a vindication of him has been attempted on this ground, only by shifting the guilt to his Church. The fact remains that St. Dominic accompanied the armies of Simon de Montfort, that he delivered the Albigenses to the secular judge to be put to death — in short, worked the Inquisition so far as it had received shape and form in his day. But the Council of Toulouse still further perfected the organization and developed the working of this terrible tribunal. It erected in every city a council of Inquisitors consisting of one priest and three laymen, [4] whose business it was to search for heretics in towns, houses, cellars, and other lurking-places, as also in caves, woods, and fields, and to denounce them to the bishops, lords, or their bailiffs. Once discovered, a summary but dreadful ordeal conducted them to the stake. The houses of heretics were to be razed to their foundations, and the ground on which they stood condemned and confiscated — for heresy, like the leprosy, polluted the very stones, and timber, and soil. Lords were held responsible for the orthodoxy of their estates, and so far also for those of their neighbors. If remiss in their search, the sharp admonition of the Church soon quickened their diligence. A last will and testament was of no validity unless a priest had been by when it was made. A physician suspected was forbidden to practice. All above the age of fourteen were required on oath to abjure heresy, and to aid in the search for heretics. [5] As a fitting appendage to those tyrannical acts, and a sure and lasting evidence of the real source whence that thing called "heresy," on the extirpation of which they were so intent, was derived, the same Council condemned the reading of the Holy Scriptures. "We prohibit," says the fourteenth canon, "the laics from having the books of the Old and New Testament, unless it be at most that any one wishes to have, from devotion, a psalter, a breviary for the Divine offices, or the hours of the blessed Mary; but we forbid them in the most express manner to have the above books translated into the vulgar tongue." [6] In 1233, Pope Gregory IX. issued a bull, by which he confided the working of the Inquisition to the Dominicans. [7] He appointed his legate, the Bishop of Tournay, to carry out the bull in the way of completing the organization of that tribunal which has since become the terror of Christendom, and which has caused to perish such a prodigious number of human beings. In discharge of his commission, the bishop named two Dominicans in Toulouse, and two in each city of the province, to form the Tribunal of the Faith; [8] and soon, under the warm patronage of Saint Louis (Louis IX.) of France, this court was extended to the whole kingdom. An instruction was

at the same time furnished to the Inquisitors, in which the bishop enumerated the errors of the heretics. The document bears undesigned testimony to the Scriptural faith of the men whom the newly-erected court was meant to root out. "In the exposition made by the Bishop of Tournay, of the errors of the Albigenses," says Sismondi, "we find nearly all the principles upon which Luther and Calvin founded the Reformation of the sixteenth century." [9]

Although the crusades, as hitherto waged, were now ended, they continued under the more dreadful form of the Inquisition. We say more dreadful form, for not so terrible was the crusader's sword as the Inquisitor's rack, and to die fighting in the open field or on the ramparts of the beleaguered city, was a fate less horrible than to expire amid prolonged and excruciating tortures in the dungeons of the "Holy Office." The tempests of the crusades, however terrible, had yet their intermissions; they burst, passed away, and left a breathing-space between their explosions. Not so the Inquisition. It worked on and on, day and night, century after century, with a regularity that was appalling. With steady march it extended its area, till at last it embraced almost all the countries of Europe, and kept piling up its dead year by year in ever larger and ghastlier heaps. These awful tragedies were the sole and deliberate acts of the Church of Rome. She planned them in solemn council, she enunciated them in dogma and canon, and in executing them she claimed to act as the vicegerent of Heaven, who had power to save or to destroy nations. Never can that Church be in fairer circumstances than she was then for displaying her true genius, and showing what she holds to be her real rights. She was in the noon of her power; she was free from all coercion whether of force or of fear; she could afford to be magnanimous and tolerant were it possible she ever could be so; yet the sword was the only argument she condescended to employ. She blew the trumpet of vengeance, summoned to arms the half of Europe, and crushed the rising forces of reason and religion under an avalanche of savage fanaticism. In our own day all these horrible deeds have been reviewed, ratified, and sanctioned by the same Church that six centuries ago enacted them: first in the Syllabus of 1864, which expressly vindicates the ground on which these crusades were done — namely, that the Church of Rome possesses the supremacy of both powers, the spiritual and the temporal; that she has the right to employ both swords in the extirpation of heresy; that in the exercise of this right in the past she never exceeded by a hair's breadth her just prerogatives, and that what she has done aforetime she may do in time to come, as often as occasion shall require and opportunity may serve. And, secondly, they have been endorsed over again by the decree of Infallibility, which declares that the Popes who planned, ordered, and by their bishops and monks executed all these crimes, were in these, as in all their other official acts, infallibly guided by inspiration. The plea that it was the thirteenth century when these horrible butcheries were committed, every one sees to be wholly inadmissible. An infallible Church has no need to wait for the coming of the lights of philosophy and science. Her sun is always in the zenith. The thirteenth and the nineteenth century are the same to her, for she is just as infallible in the one as in the other.

So fell, smitten down by this terrible blow, to rise no more in the same age and among the same people, the Protestantism of the thirteenth century. It did not perish alone. All the regenerative forces of a social and intellectual kind which Protestantism even at that early stage had evoked were rooted out along with it. Letters had begun to refine, liberty to emancipate, art to beautify, and commerce to enrich the region, but all were swept away by a vengeful power that was regardless of what it destroyed, provided only it reached its end in the extirpation of Protestantism. How changed the region from what it once was! There the song of the troubadour was heard no more. No more was the gallant knight seen riding forth to display his prowess in the gay tournament; no more were the cheerful voices of the reaper and grape-gatherer heard in the fields. The rich harvests of the region were trodden into the dust, its fruitful vines and flourishing olive-trees were torn up; hamlet and city were swept away; ruins, blood, and ashes covered the face of this now "purified" land.

But Rome was not able, with all her violence, to arrest the movement of the human mind. So far as it was religious, she but scattered the sparks to break out on a wider area at a future day; and so far as it was intellectual, she but forced it into another channel. Instead of Albigensianism, Scholasticism now arose in France, which, after flourishing for some centuries in the schools of Paris, passed into the Skeptical Philosophy, and that again, in our day, into Atheistic Communism. It will be curious if in the future the progeny should cross the path of the parent.

It turned out that this enforced halt of three centuries, after all, resulted only in the goal being more quickly reached. While the movement paused, instrumentalities of prodigious power, unknown to that age, were being prepared to give quicker transmission and wider diffusion to the Divine principle when next it should show itself. And, further, a more robust and capable stock than the Romanesque — namely, the Teutonic — was silently growing up, destined to receive the heavenly graft, and to shoot forth on every side larger boughs, to cover Christendom with their shadow and solace it with their fruits.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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