A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages.
By Henry Charles Lea - 1888
Book 1. Origin And Organization
Chapter I: The Church
As the twelfth century drew to a close, the Church was approaching a crisis in its career. The vicissitudes of a hundred and fifty years, skilfully improved, had rendered it the mistress of Christendom. History records no such triumph of intellect over brute strength as that which, in an age of turmoil and battle, was wrested from the fierce warriors of the time by priests who had no material force at their command, and whose power was based alone on the souls and consciences of men. Over soul and conscience their empire was complete.
No Christian could hope for salvation who was not in all things an obedients on of the Church, and who was not ready to take up arms in its defence; and, in a time when faith was a determining factor of conduct, this belief createda spiritual despotism which placed all things within reach of him who could wield it.
This could be accomplished only by a centralized organization such as that which had gradually developed itself within the ranks of the hierarchy. The ancient independence of the episcopate was no more. Step by step the supremacy of the Roman see had been asserted and enforced, until it enjoyed the universal jurisdiction which enabled it to bend to its wishes every prelate, under the naked alternative of submission or expulsion. The papal mandate, just or unjust, reasonable or unreasonable, was to be received and implicitly obeyed, for there was no appeal from the representative of St. Peter.
In a narrower sphere, and subject to the pope, the bishop held an authority which, at least in theory, was equally absolute; while the humbler minister of the altar was the instrument by which the decrees of pope and bishop were enforced among the people; for the destiny of all men lay in the hands which could administer or withhold the sacraments essential to salvation.
Thus intrusted with responsibilityfor the fate of mankind, it was necessary that the Church should possesst he powers and the machinery requisite for the due discharge of a trust so unspeakably important. For the internal regulation of the conscience it had erected the institution of auricular confession, which by this time had become almost the exclusive appanage of the priesthood.
When this might fail to keep the believer in the path of righteousness, it could resort to the spiritual courts which had grown up around every episcopal seat, with an undefined jurisdiction capable of almost unlimited extension. Besides supervision over matters of faith and discipline, of marriage, of inheritance, and of usury, which belonged to them by general consent, there were comparatively few questions between man and man which could not be made to include some case of conscience involving the interpellation of spiritual interference, especially when agreements were customarily confirmed with the sanction of the oath; and the cureof souls implied a perpetual inquestover the aberrations, positive or possible, of every member of the flock. It would be difficult to set bounds to the intrusion upon the concerns of every man which was thus rendered possible, or to the influence thence derivable.
Not only did the humblest priest wield a supernatural power which marked him as one elevated above the common level of humanity, but his person and possessions were alike inviolable. No matter what crimes he might commit, secular justice could not take cognizance of them, and secularofficials could not arrest him. He was amenable only to the tribunals of his own order, which were debarred from inflicting punishments involving the effusion of blood, and from whose decisions an appeal to the supreme jurisdiction of distant Rome conferred too often virtual immunity.
The same privilege protected ecclesiastical property, conferred on the Church by the piety of successive generations, and covering no small portion of the most fertile lands of Europe. Moreover, the seignorial rights attaching to those lands often carried extensive temporal jurisdiction, which gave to their ghostly possessors the power over life and limb enjoyed by feudal lords.
The line of separation between the laity and the clergy was widened and deepened by the enforcement of the canon requiring celibacy on the part of all concerned in the ministry of the altar. Revived about the middle of the eleventh century, and enforced after an obstinate struggle of a hundred years, the compulsory celibacy of the priesthood divided them from the people, preserved intact the vast acquisitions of the Church, and furnished it with an innumerable army whose aspirations and ambition were necessarily restricted within its circle. The man who entered the service of the Church was no longer a citizen. He owed no allegiance superior to that assumed in his ordination. He was released from the distraction of family cares and the seduction of family ties. The Church was his country and his home, and its interests were his own. The moral, intellectual, and physical forces which, throughout the laity, were divided between the claims of patriotism, the selfish struggle for advancement, the provision for wife and children, were in the Church consecrated to a common end, in the successof which all might hope to share, while all were assured of the necessities of existence, and were relieved of anxiety as to the future.
The Church, moreover, offered the only career open to men of all ranks and stations. In the sharply-defined class distinctions of the feudal system advancement was almost impossible to one not born within the charmed circle of gentle blood. In the Church, however much rank and family connections might assist in securing promotion to high place, yet talent and energy could always make themselves felt despite lowliness of birth. Urban II. and Adrian IV. sprang from the humblest origin; Alexander had been a beggar-boy; Gregory VII. was the son of a carpenter; Benedict XII., of a baker; Nicholas V., of a poor physician; Sixtus IV., of a peasant; Urban IV. and John XXII. were sons of cobblers, and Benedict XI. and Sixtus V. of shepherds; in fact, the annals of the hierarchy are full of those who rose from the lowest ranks of society to the most commanding positions. The Church thus constantly recruited its ranks with fresh blood.
Free from the curse of hereditary descent, through which crowns and coronets frequently lapsed into weak and incapable hands, it called into its service an indefinite amount of restless vigor for which there was no other sphere of action, and which, when once enlisted, found itself perforce identified irrevocably with the body which it had joined.
The character of the priest was indelible; the vows taken at ordination could not bethrown aside; the monk, when once admitted to the cloister, could not abandon his order unless it were to enter another of more rigorous observance. The Church Militant was thus an army encamped on the soil of Christendom, with its outposts everywhere, subject to the most efficient discipline, animated with a common purpose, every soldier panoplied with inviolability and armed with the tremendous weapons which slew the soul.
There was little that could not be dared or done by the commander of such a force, whose orders were listened to as oracles of God, from Portugal to Palestine and from Sicily to Iceland.
"Princes," says John of Salisbury, "derive their power from the Church, and are servants of the priesthood." "The least of the priestly order is worthier than any king," exclaims Honorius of Autun; "prince and people are subjected to the clergy, which shines superior as the sun to the moon."
Innocent III. used a more spiritual metaphor when he declared that the priestly power was assuperior to the secular as the soul of man was to his body; and he summed up his estimate of his own position by pronouncing himself to be the Vicar of Christ, the Christ of the Lord, the God of Pharaoh, placed midway between God and man, this side of God but beyond man, less than God but greater than man, who judges all, and is judged by none. That he was supreme over all the earth-over pagans and infidels as well as over Christians was legally proved and universally taught by the mediaeval doctors.
Sources Of Its Demoralization
Though the power thus vaingloriously asserted was fraught with evil in many ways, yet was it none the less a service to humanity that, in those rude ages, there existed a moral force superior to high descent and martial prowess, which could remind king and noble that they must obey the law of God even when uttered by a peasant's son; as when Urban II., himself a Frenchman of low birth, dared to excommunicate his monarch, Philip I., for his adultery, thus upholding the moral order and enforcing the sanctions of eternal justice at a time when everything seemed permissible to the recklessness of power.
Yet, in achieving this supremacy, much had been of necessity sacrificed. The Christian virtues of humility and charity and self- abnegation had virtually disappeared in the contest which left the spiritual power dominant over the temporal. The affection of the populations was no longer attracted by the graces and loveliness of Christianity; submission was purchased by the promise of salvation, to be acquired by faith and obedience, or was extorted by the threat of perdition or by the sharper terrors of earthly persecution.
If the Church, by sundering itself completely from the laity, had acquired the services of a militia devotedwholly to itself, it had thereby created an antagonism between itself and the people. Practically, the whole body of Christians no longer constituted the Church; that body was divided into two essentially distinct classes, the shepherds and the sheep; and the lambs were often apt to think, not unreasonably, that they were tended only to be shorn. The worldly prizes offered to ambition by an ecclesiastical career drew into the ranks of the Church able men, it is true, but men whose object was worldly ambition rather than spiritual development. The immunities and privileges of the Church and the enlargement of its temporal acquisitions were objects held more at heart than the salvation of souls, and its high places were filled, for the most part, with men in whom worldliness was more conspicuous than the humbler virtues.
This was inevitable in the state of society which existed in the early Middle Ages. While angels would have been required to exercise becomingly the tremendous powers claimed and acquired by the Church, the methods by which clerical preferment and promotion were secured were such as to favor the unscrupulous rather than the deserving. To understand fully the causes which drove so many thousands into schism and heresy, leading to wars and persecutions, and the establishmentof the Inquisition, it is necessary to cast a glance at the character of the men who represented the Church before the people, and at the use which they made, for good or for evil, of the absolute spiritual despotismw hich had become established. In wise and devout hands it might elevate incalculably the moral and material standards of European civilization; in the hands of the selfish and depraved it could become the instrument of minute and all-pervading oppression, driving whole nations to despair.
As regards the methods of election to the episcopate there can- not be said at this period to have been any settled and invariable rule. The ancient form of election by the clergy, with the acquiescence of the people of the diocese, was still preserved in theory, but in practice the electoral body consisted of the cathedral canons; while the confirmation required of the king, or semi-independent feudal noble, and of the pope, in a time of unsettled institutions, frequently rendered the election an empty form, in which the royal or papal power might prevail, according to the tendencies of time and place.
The constantly increasing appeals to Rome, as to the tribunal of last resort, by disappointed aspirants, under every imaginable pretext, gave to the Holy See a rapidly-growing influence, which, in many cases, amounted almost to the power of appointment; and Innocent II., at the Lateran Councilof 1139, applied the feudal system to the Church by declaring that all ecclesiastical dignities were received and held of the popesl ike fiefs.
Whatever rules, however, might be laid down, they could not operate in rendering the elect better than the electors. The stream will not rise aboveits source, and a corrupt electing or appointing power is not apt to be restrained from the selection of fitting representatives of itself by methods, however ingeniously devised, which have not the inherent ability of self-enforcement. The oath which cardinals were obliged to take on entering a conclave- "I call God to witness that I choose him whom I judge according to God ought to be chosen" -was notoriously inefficacious in securing the election of pontiffs fitted to serve as the viceregents of God; and so, from the humblest parish priest to the loftiest prelate, all grades of the hierarchy were likely to be filled by worldly, ambitious, self-seeking, and licentious men. The material to be selected from, moreover, was of such a character that even the most exacting friends of the Church had to content themselves when the least worthless was successfnl.
St. Peter Damiani, in asking of Gregory VI. the confirmation of a bishop-elect of Fossombrone, admits that he is unfit, and that heought to undergo penance before undertaking the episcopate, but yet there is nothing better to be done, for in the whole diocese there was not a single ecclesiastic worthy of the office; all were selfishly ambitious, too eager for preferment to think of rendering themselves worthy of it, inflamed with desire for power, but utterly careless as to its duties.
Under thesecircumstancessimony, with all its attendant evils, was almostuniversal, and thoseevils madethemselveseverywhere felt on the character both of electors and elected. In the fruitless war waged by Gregory VII. and his successors against this all-pervading vice, the number of bishops assailed is the surest index of the means which had been found successful, and of the men who thus were enabled to represent the apostles.
Simony and Favoritism
As Innocent III. declared, it was a disease of the Church immedicable by either soothing remedies or fire; and Peter Cantor, who died in the odor of sanctity, relates with approval the story of a Cardinal Martin, who, on officiating in the Christmas solemnities at the Eoman court, rejected a gift of twenty pounds sent him by the papal chancellor, for the reason that it was notoriously the product of rapine and simony.
It was related as a supreme instance of the virtue of Peter, Cardinal of St. Chrysogono, formerly Bishop of Meaux, that he had, in a single election, refused the dazzling bribe of five hundred marks of silver. Temporal princes were more ready to turn the power of confirmation to profitable account, and few imitated the example of Philip Augustus, who, when the abbacy of St. Denis became vacant, and the provost, the treasurer, and the cellarer of the abbey each sought him secretly, and gave him five hundred livres for the succession, quietly went to the abbey, picked out a simple monk standing in a corner, conferred the dignity on him, and handed him the fifteen hundred livres.
The Council of Rouen, in 1050, complains bitterly of the pernicious custom by which ambitious men accumulated, by every possible means, presents where with to gain the favor of the prince and his courtiers in order to obtain bishoprics, but it could suggest no remedy.
Prostitution of the Episcopal Office
The council was directly concerned only with the Norman dukes, but the contemporary King of France, HenryI., was notorious as a vendor of bishoprics. He had commenced his reign with an edict prohibiting the purchase and sale of preferment under penalty of forfeiture of both purchase-money and benefice, and had boasted that, as God had given him the crown gratis, so he would take nothing for his right of confirmation, reproaching his prelates bitterly for the prevalence of the vice which was eating out the heart of the Church. Yet in time he yielded to the custom, and a single instance will illustrate the working of the system.
Abuses of Patronage
A certain Helinand, a clerk of low extraction and deficient training, had found favor at the court of Edward the Confessor, where he had ample opportunities of amassing wealth. Happening to be sent on a mission to Henry, he made a bargain by which he purchased the reversion of the first vacant bishopric, which chanced in course of time to be Laon, where he was duly installed. Henry's successor, Philip L, was known as the most venal of men, and from him, by a similar transaction, Helinand purchased, with the money acquired from the revenues of Laon, the primatial see of Reims.
Such jobbers in patronage were accustomed to enter into compacts with each other for mutual assistance, and to consult astrologers as to expected vacancies. The manipulation of ecclesiastical preferment was reduced to a system, calling forth the indignant remonstrance of all the better class of churchmen. Instances of these abuses might bemultiplied indefinitely, and their influence on the character of the Church cannot easily be overestimated.
Even where the consideration paid for preferment was not actually money, the effect was equally deplorable. Peter Cantor assures us that, if those who were promoted for relationship were required to resign, it would cause general destruction throughout the Church; and worse motives were constantly at work. Though Philip L, for his adultery with Bertrade of Anjou, was nominally deprived of the confirmation, or, rather, nomination, of bishops, there were none to prevent his exercise of the power.
About the year 1100 the Archbishop of Tours, having gratified the king by disregarding the excommunication under which he lay, claimed his rewardby demanding that the vacantsee of Orleans should be given to a youth whom he loved not wisely but too well, and who was sonotorious for the facility with which he granted his favors (the preceding Archbishop of Tours had likewise been one of his lovers) that he was popularly known as Flora, in allusion to a noted courtesan of the day, and ribald love-songs addressed to him were openly sung in the streets. Such of the Orleans clergy as threatened trouble were put out of the way by false accusations and exiled, and the remainder not only submitted, but even made a jest of the fact that the election took place on the Feast of the Innocents
Under such influences it was in vain that the better class of men who occasionally appeared in the ranks of the hierarchy, such as Fulbert of Chartres, Hildebert of Le Mans, Ivo of Chartres, Lanfranc, Anselm, St.Bruno, St.Bernard, St.Norbert, and others, struggled to enforce respect for religion and morality.
The current against them was too strong, and they could do little but protest and offer an example which few were found to follow. In those days of violence the meek and humble had little chance, and the prizes were for those who could intrigue and chaffer, or whose martial tendencies offered promise that they would make the rights of their churchesand vassalsrespected. In fact, the military character of the mediaeval prelates is a subject which it would be interesting to consider in more detail than space will here admit.
The wealthy abbeys and powerful bishoprics came to be largely regarded as appropriate means to provide for younger sons of noble houses, or to increase the influence of leading families. By such methods as we have seen they passed into the hands of those whose training had been military rather than religious. The mitre and cross had no more scruple than the knightly pennant seen in the forefront of battle. When excommunication failed to bring to reason restless vassals or encroaching neighbors, there was prompt recourse to the fleshly arm, and the plundered peasant could not distinguish between the ravages of the robberbaron and of the representative of Christ.
One of the early adventures of Rodolphof Hapsburg, by which he won the reputation which elevated him to the imperial throne, was the war declared by Walter, Bishop of Strassburg, against his burghers, because the had refused to aid him in gratuitously interfering in a quarrel between the Bishop of Metz and a trouble- some noble. As they disregarded his excommunication, Bishop Walter attacked them vigorously, when they placed themselves underthe command of Rodolph, and utterly defeated thei rpastor, after a war which desolated every portion of Alsace.
The chronicles of the period are full of details of this nature. Worldly and turbulent, there was little to differentiate the prelate from the baron, and the latter had no more scruple in making reprisals on Church property than on secular possessions. In the dissensions which reduced the wealthy Abbey of St. Tron to beggary, the pious Godfrey of Bouillon, shortly before the crusade which won for him the throne of Jerusalem, ravaged the abbey lands with fire and sword.
The people, on whom fell the crushing weight of these conflicts, could only look upon the baron and priest as enemies both; and whatever might be lacking in the military ability of the spiritual warriors, was compensated for by their seeking to kill the souls aswell as the bodies of their foes. This was especially the case in Germany, where the prelates were princes as well as priests, and where a great religious house like the Abbey of St. Gall was the temporal ruler of the Cantons of St.Gall and Appenzel, until the latter threw off the yoke after a long and devastating war. The historian of the abbey chronicles with pride the martial virtues of successive abbots, and in speaking of Ulric III., who died in 1117, here marks that, worn out with many battles, he at last passed away in peace. All this was in some sort a necessity of the incongruous union of feudal noble and Christian prelate, and though more marked in Germany than elsewhere, it was to be seen everywhere.
In 1224 the Bishops of Coutances, Avranches, and Lisieux withdrew from the army of Louis VIII. at Tours, under an agreement that the king should make legal investigation to determine whether the bishops of Normandy were bound to servep ersonally in the royal armies; if this was found to be the case, they were to return and pay the amercement for deserting him.
The decision apparently went against them, for in 1272 we find them serving personally under Philippe le Hardi. This indisposition to fight the battles of others was not often shown when the cause was their own. Gerochof Keichersperg inveighs bitterly against the warlike prelates who provoke unjust wars, attacking the peaceful and delighting in the slaughter which they cause and witness, giving no quarter, taking no prisoners, sparing neither clergy nor laity, and spending the revenues of the Church on soldiers, to the deprivation of the poor.
Such a prelate was Lupold, Bishop of Worms, whose recklessness provoked his brother to say,
"My lord bishop, you scandalize us laymen greatly by your example. Before you were a bishop you feared God a little, but now you care nothing for him,"
to which Bishop Lupold flippantly retorted that when they both should be in hell he would exchange seats if his brother desired. During the wars between the emperors Philip and Otho IV. he personally led his troops in support of Philip, and when his soldiers hesitated about sacking churches, he would tell them that it was enough if they left the bones of the dead.
The story is well known of Eichard of England, and Philippe of Dreux, the warlike Bishop of Beauvais, who had shown himself equally skilful and ruthless in the predatory warfare of the age, and who, when at last captured by Earl John, complained to Celestin III. of his imprisonment as a violation of ecclesiastical privileges. When Celestin, reproving him for his martial propensities, interceded for his release, King Eichard sent to the pope the coat of mail in which the prelate had been captured, with the inquiry made to Jacob by his sons,
"Know, whether it be thy son's coat?"
to which the good pontiff responded by abandoning the appeal.
A different result, not long afterwards, attended a similar experience of Theodore, Marquis of Montferrat, when he defeated and captured Aymon, Bishop of Vercelli. It happened that Cardinal Tagliaferro, papal legate to Aragon, was tarrying at Geneva, and, hearing of the sacrilege, wrote in threatening wise to the marquis, who responded with the same inquiry as King Eichard, sending him the martial gear of the prelate, including his sword still stained with blood.
Yet proud noble felt his inability to cope with his spiritual foes, and not only liberated the bishop, but surrendered to him the fortress which had been the occasion of the war.
Even more instructive is the case of the Bishop-electof Yerona, who, in 1265, when marching at the head of an army, was taken prisoner by the troops of Manfred of Sicily. Although UrbanIV. was busily urging forward the crusade which was to deprive Manfred of life and kingdom, he had the assurance to demand the liberation of his bishop, telling Manfred that if he had a spark left of the fear of God he would dismisshis prisoner.
When Manfred replied, evading the demand with exuberant humility, Clement IV., who had meanwhile succeeded to the papacy, called upon Jayme I. of Aragon to intervene. Neither pope seemed to imagine that there could be any hesitation in acceding to the preposterous claim, and King Jayme interposed so effectually that Manfred offered to release the bishop on his swearing not to bear arms against him in future. Even this condition was not accepted without difficulty. When the spiritual character thus only served to confer immunity for acts of violence, it is easy to understand the irresistible temptation to their commission.
A clerical rhymer of the thirteenth century describes the prelates of the day-
"Episcopi cornuti "sicut fortesincedunt
conticuere muti; et a Deo discedunt.
ad prsedamsunt parati ut leonesferoces
et indecentercoronati, et ut aquilaeveloces,
pro virga ferunt lanceam ut apri frendentes
pro infula galearn. exacueredentes."
Carmina Burana, p. 15 (Breslau. 1883).
Condition Of The Eposcopate
The impression which these worldly and turbulent men made upon their quieter contemporaries was, that pious souls believed that no bishop could reach the kingdom of heaven. There was a story widely circulated of Geoffroide Peronne, Prior of Clairvaux, who was elected Bishop of Tournay, and who was urged by St. Bernard and Eugenius III. to accept, but who cast himself on the ground, saying, "If you turn me out, I may become a vagrant monk, but a bishop never"
On his death-bed he promised a friend to return and report as to his condition in the other world, and did so as the latter was praying at the altar. He announced that he was among the blessed, but it had been revealed to him by the Trinity that if he had acceptedthe bishopric he would have been numbered with the damned.
Peter of Blois, who relates this story, and Peter Cantor, who repeats it, both manifested their belief in it by persistently refusing bishoprics; and not long after an ecclesiastic in Paris declared that he could believe all things except that any German bishop could be saved, because they bore the two swords, of the spirit and of the flesh.
All this Caesarius of Heisterbach explains by the rarity of worthy prelates, and the superabounding multitude of wicked ones; and he further points out that the tribulations to which they were exposed arose from the fact that the hand of God was not visible in their promotion. Language can scarce be stronger than that employed by Louis VII. in describing the worldliness and pomp of the bishops, when he vainly appealed to Alexander III. to utilize his triumph over Frederic Barbarossaby reforming the Church.
In fact, the records of the time bear ample testimony to the rapine and violence, the flagrant crimes and defiant immorality of these princes of the Church. The only tribunal to which they were amenable was that of Rome. It required the courage of desperation to cause complaints to be made there against them, and when such complaints were made, the difficulty of proving charges, the length to which proceedings were drawnout, and the notorious venality of the Roman curia, afforded virtual immunity.
When a resolute and incorruptible pontiff like Innocent III. occupied the papal chair, there was some chance for sufferers to make themselves heard, and the number of such trials alluded to in his epistles show how wide-spread and deep-rooted was the evil. Yet, even under him, the protraction of the proceedings, and the evident shrinking from final condemnation, show how little encouragement there was for prosecutions likely to react so dangerously on the prosecutor. Thus, in 1198, Gerardde Rougemont, Archbishop of Besancon, was accused by his chapter of perjury, simony, and incest. When summoned to Rome the accusers did not dare to prosecute the charges, though they did not withdraw them, and Innocent, charitably quoting the woman taken in adultery, sent him back to purge himself and be absolved. Then followed along course of undisturbed scandals, through which religion in his diocese became a mockery.
He continued to live in incest with his relative, the Abbess of Remiremont, and other concubines, one of whom was a nun, and another the daughter of a priest; no church could be consecrated or preferment conferred without payment; by his exactions and oppressions his clergy were reduced to live like peasants, and were exposed to the contempt of their parishioners ; and monks and nuns who could bribe him were allowed to abandon their convents and marry.
At last another attempt was made, in 1211, to remove him, which, after more than a year, resulted in a sentence that he should undergo canonical purgation; i. e., find two bishopsand three abbots to join him in an oath of disculpation, when negotiations as to the character of the oath ensued, lasting until 1214. Finally the citizens rose and drove him out; he retired to the Abbey of Bellevaux, where he died in 1225.
Maheu de Lorraine, Bishop of Toul, was a prelate of the same stamp. Consecrated in 1200, within two yearshis chapter applied to Innocent for his deposition, alleging that he had already reduced the revenues of the see from a thousand livres to thirty. It was not until 1210 that his removal could be effected, after a most intricate series of commissions and appeals, interspersed with acts of violence. He was wholly abandoned to debauchery and the chase, and his favorite concubine was his daughter by a nun of Epinal, but he retained a valuable preferment, as Grand-prevot of Saint-Die.
In 1217 he caused his successor Eenaud de Senlis to be murdered, soon after which his uncle, Thiebault, Duke of Lorraine, happening to meet him, slew him on the spot.
Difficulty Of Punishing Bishops
Ordinary justice, apparently, could do nothing with him.
Very similar was the case of the Bishop of Venee, whom Celestin III. had ordered suspended and sent to Rome to answer for his enormities, and who had defiantly continued in the exercise of his functions.
On Innocent's accession, in 1198, his excommunication was ordered, which was equally ineffectual; and at length, in 1204, Innocent sent peremptory orders to the Archbishop of Embrun to investigate the charges, and, if they were foundcorrect, to depose him.
Meanwhile the diocese had been brought to the verge of ruin, the churches were demolished, and divine service was performed in only a few parishes. Soin Narbonne, the headquarters of heresy, the Archbishop, Berenger II., natural son of Raymond Berenger, Count of Barcelona, preferred to live in Aragon, where he held a rich abbey and the bishopric of Lerida, and never even visited his province.
Consecratedin 1190, he had never seen it in 1204, though he drew large revenues from it, both in the regular way and by the sale of bishoprics and benefices, which were indiscriminately bestowed on children or on men of the most abandoned lives. The condition of the province, the highest ecclesiastical dignity of France, was consequently shockingi n the extreme, through the misconduct of the clergy, the boldness of the heretics, and the violence of the laity.
As early as the year 1200, Innocent III. summoned Berenger to account. In 1204 he made another attempt, continued during the following years, as no amendment was visible, and as the farce of appeals from legate to pope was persistently kept up. At length, in 1210, we find Innocent still writing to his legate to investigate the archbishops of Narbonne and Ausch and execute without appeal whatever the canons require, but it was not until 1212 that Berenger was removed. It is probable that even then he might have escaped had not the legate, Arnaud of Citeaux, been desirous of the succession, which he obtained.
We can readilv believe the assertion of a writer of the thirteenth century, that the process of deposing a prelate was so cumbrous that even the most wicked had no dread of punishment.
Even where the enormity of offences did not call for papal intervention, the episcopal office was prostituted in a thousand ways of oppression and exaction which were sufficiently within the law to afford the sufferers no opportunity of redress.
How thoroughly its profitable nature was recognized, is shown by the case of a bishop who, when fallen in years, summoned together his nephews and relatives that they might agree among themselves as to his succession. They united upon one of their number, and conjointly borrowed the large sums requisite to purchase the election.
Unluckily the bishop-elect died before obtaining possession, and on his death-bed was heartily objurgated by his ruined kinsmen, who saw no means of repaying the borrowed capital which they had invested in the abortive episcopal partnership. As St. Bernard says, boys were inducted into the episcopate at an age when they rejoiced rather at escaping from the ferule of their teachers than at acquiring rule; but, soon growing insolent, they learn to sell the altar and empty the pouches of their subjects.
In thus exploiting their office the bishops only followed the example set them by the papacy, which, directly or through its agents, by its exactions, made itself the terror of the Christian churches. Arnold, who was Archbishop of Treves from 1169 to 1183, won great credit for his astuteness in saving his people from spoliation by papal nuncios, for whenever he heard of their expected arrival he used to go to meet them, and by heavy bribes induce them to bend their steps elsewhere, to the infinite relief of his own flock.
In 1160 the Templars complained to Alexander III. that their labors for the Holy Land were seriously impaired by the extortions of papal legates and nuncios, who were not content with the free quarters and supply of necessaries to which theywereentitled, and Alexander graciously granted the Order special exemption from the abuse, exceptwhen the legate was a cardinal.
Abuses Of Papal Prerogative
It was worse when the pope came himself. ClementV., after his consecration at Lyons, made a progress to Bordeaux, in which he and his retinue so effectually plundered the churches on the road that, after his departure from Bourges, Archbishop Gilles, in order to support life, was obliged to present himself daily among his canons for a share in the distribution of provisions; and the papal residence at the wealthy Priory of Grammont so impoverished the house that the prior resigned in despair of being able to reestablish its affairs, and his successor was obliged to levy a heavy tax on all the houses of the order.
England, after the ignominious surrender of King John, was peculiarly subjected to papal extortion. Rich benefices were bestowed on foreigners, who made no pretext of residence, until the annual revenue thus withdrawn from the island was computed to amount to seventy thousand marks, or three times the income of the crown, and all resistance was suppressed by excommunications which disturbed the whole kingdom.
At the general council of Lyons, held in 1245, an address was presented in the name of the Anglican Church, complaining of these oppressions in terms more energetic than respectful, but it accomplished nothing. Ten years later the papal legate, Rust and, made a demand in the name of Alexander IV. for an immense subsidy - the share of the Abbey of St. Albans was no less than six hundred marks - when Fulk, Bishop of London, declared that he would be decapitated, and Walter of Worcester that he would be hanged, sooner than submit; but this resistance was broken down by the device of trumping up fictitious claims of debts due Italian bankers for moneys alleged to have been advanced o defray expenses before the Roman curia, and these claims were enforced by excommunication.
When Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln found that his efforts to reform his clergy were rendered nugatory by appeals to Rome, where the offenders could always purchase immunity, he visited Innocent IV. in hopes of obtaining some change for the better, and on utterly failing, he bluntly exclaimed to the pope,
"Oh, money, money, how much thou canst effect, especially in the Romancourt!"
This special abuse was one of old standing, and complaints of its demoralizing effect upon the priesthood date back from the time of the establishment of the appellate jurisdiction of Rome under Charles le Chauve. Prelates like Hildebert of Le Mans, who honestly sought to better the depraved lives of their clergy, constantly foundt heir efforts frustrated, and had scant reticence in remonstrating.
Remonstrances, however, were of little avail, though occasionally an upright pope like InnocentIII., whose biographer finds special cause of praise in his refusal of "propinas" -gifts or bribes for issuing letters - would sometimes recall a letter of remission avowedly issued in ignorance of the facts, or would even grant to a prelate the right to punish without appeal, while other popes were found who sought to neutralize the effects of their letters without diminishing the business and fees of the chancery. Even when papal letters were not of this demoralizing character, they were never issued without payment. When Luke, the holy Archbishop of Gran, was thrown in prison by the usurper Ladislas, in 1172, he refused to avail himself of letters of liberation procured from Alexander III., saving that ne would not owe his freedom to simony.
This was by no means the only mode in which the supreme jurisdiction of Rome worked inestimable evil throughout Christendom. While the feudal courts were strictly territorial and local, and the judicial functions of the bishops were limited to their own dioceses so that every man knew to whom he was responsible in a tolerably well-settled system of justice, the universal jurisdiction of Rome gave ample opportunity for abuses of the worst kind.
The pope, as supreme judge, could delegate to any one any portion of his authority, which was supreme everywhere; and the papal chancery was not too nice in its discrimination as to the character of the persons to whom it issued letters empowering them to exercise judicial functions and enforce them with the last dread sentence of excommunication-letters, indeed, which, if the papal chancery is not wronged, were freely sold to all able to pay for them.
Forgery Of Papal Letters
Europe thus was traversed by multitudes of men armed with these weapons, which they used without remorse for extortion and oppression. Bishops, too, wrere not backward in thus fanning out their more limited jurisdictions, and, in the confusion thus arising, it was not difficult for reckless adventurers to pretend to the possession of these delegated powers and use them likewise for the basest purposes, no one daring to risk the possible consequences of resistance. These letters thus afforded a carte blanche through which injustice could be perpetrated and malignity gratified to the fullest extent.
An additional complication which not unnaturally followed was the fabrication and falsification of these letters. It was not easy to refer to distant Rome to ascertain the genuineness of a papal brief confidently produced by its bearer, and the impunity with which powers so tremendous could be assumed was irresistibly attractive.
When Innocent III. ascended the throne he found a factory of forged letters in full operation in Home, and although this was suppressed, the business was too profitable to be broken up by even his vigilance. To the end of his pontificate the detection of fraudulent briefs was a constant preoccupation. Nor was this industry confined to Rome. About the same period Stephen, Bishop of Tournay, discovered in his episcopalcity a similar nest of counterfeiters, who had invented an ingenious instrumentfor the fabrication of the papal seals. To the people, however, it mattered little whether they were genuine or fictitious; the suffering was the same whether the papal chancery had received its fee or not.
When the comprehensive annual curse, known as the Bull in Csena Domini, camein fashion, falsifiers of papal letters werei ncluded in its anathemas, until the abrogation of the custom in 1773.
Thus the Roman curia was a terror to all who were brought in contact with it. Hildebert of le Mans picture sits officials asselling justice, delaying decisions on every pretext, and, finally, oblivious when bribes were exhausted. They were stone as to understanding, wood as to rendering judgment, fire as to wrath, iron as to forgiveness, foxes in deceit, bulls in pride, and minotaurs in consuming everything.
In the next century Robert Grosseteste boldly told Innocent IV. and his cardinals that the curia was the source of all the vileness which rendered the priesthood a hissing and a reproach to Christianity, and, after another century and a half, those who knew it best described it as unaltered.
When such was the example set by the head of the Church, it would have been a marvel had not too many bishops used all their abundant opportunities for the fleecing of their flocks. Peter Cantor, an unexceptionable witness, describes them as fishers for money and not for souls, with a thousand frauds to empty the pockets of the poor. They have, he says, three hooks with which to catch their prey in the depths - the confessor, to whomis committed the hearing of confessions and the cure of souls; the dean, archdeacon, and other officials, who advance the interest of the prelate by fair means or foul; and the rural provost, who is chosen solely with regard to his skill in squeezing the pockets of the poor and carrying the spoil to his master. These places were frequently farmed out, and the right to torture and despoilthe people was sold to the highest bidder.
The general detestation in which these gentry were held is illustrated by the story of an ecclesiastic who, having by an unlucky run of the dice lost all his money but five sols, exclaimed in blasphemous madness that he would give them to any one who would teach him how most greatly to offend God, and a bystander was adjudged to have won the money when he said,
"If you wish to offend God beyond all other sinners, becom ean episcopal officialor collector."
Formerly, continues Peter Cantor, there was some decent concealment in absorbing the property of rich and poor, but now it is publicly and boldly seized through infinite devices and frauds and novelties of extortion. The officials of the prelates are not the only leeches who suck and are squeezed, but are strainers of the milk of their rapine, retaining for themselves the dregs of sin.
Extortions Of The Bishops
From this honest burst of indignation we see that the main instrument of exaction and oppression was the judicial functions of the episcopate. Considerable revenues, it is true, were derived from the sale of benefices and the exaction of fees for all official acts, and many prelates did not blush to derive a filthy gain from the licentiousness universal among a celibate clergy by exacting a tribute known as "cullagium," on payment of which the priest was allowed to keep his concubine in peace, but the spiritual jurisdiction was the source of the greatest profit to the prelate and of the greatest misery to the people.
Even in the temporal courts, the fines arising from litigation formed no mean portion of the income of the seigneurs; and in the Courts Christian, embracing the whole of spiritual jurisprudence and much of temporal, there was an ample harvest to be gathered. Thus, as Peter Cantor says, the most holy sacrament of matrimony, owing to the remote consanguinity coming within the prohibited degrees, was made a subject of derision to the laity by the venality with which marriages were made and unmade to fill the pouches of the episcopal officials.
Excommunication was another fruitful source of extortion. If an unjust demand was resisted, the recalcitrant was excommunicated, and then had to pay for reconciliationin addition to the original sum. Any delay in obeying a summons to the court of the Officiality entailed excommunication with the same result of extortion. When litigation was so profitable, it was encouraged to the utmost, to the infinite wretchednessof the people. When a priest was inducted into a benefice, it was customary to exact of him an oath that he would not overlook any offences committed by his parishioners, but would report them to the Ordinary that the offenders might be prosecuted and fined, and that he would not allow any quarrels to be settled amicably; and though Alexander III. issued a decretal pronouncing all such oaths void, yet they continued to be required.
As an illustration of the system a case is recorded where a boy in play accidentally killed a comrade with an arrow. The father of the slayer chanced to be wealthy, and the two parents were not permitted to be reconciled gratuitously.
Peterof Blois, Archdeacon of Bath, was probably not far wrong when he described the episcopal Ordinaries as vipers of iniquity transcending in malice all serpents and basilisks, as shepherds, not of lambs, but of wolves, and as devoting themselves wholly to malice and rapine.
Even more efficient as a cause of misery to the people and hostility towards the Church was the venality of many of the episcopal courts. The character of the transactions and of the clerical lawyers who pleaded before them is visible in an attempted reformation by the Councilof Eouen, in 1231, requiring the counsel who practised in these courts to swear that they would not steal the papers of the other side or produce forgeries or perjured testimony in supportof their cases. The judges were well fitted to preside over such a bar.
They are described as extortioners who sought by every device to filch the money of suitors to the last farthing, and when any fraud was too glaring for their own performance they had subordinate officials ever ready to play into their hands, rendering their occupation more base than that of a pimp with his bawds.
That money was supreme in all judicial matters was clearly assumed when the Abbey of Andres quarrelled with the mother-house of Charroux, and the latter assured the former that it could spend in any court one hundred marks of silver against every ten livres that the other could afford; and in effect, when the ten years litigation was over, including three appeals to Rome, Andres found itself oppressed with the enormous debt of fourteen hundred livres parisis, while the details of the transaction show the most unblushing bribery. The Roman court set the example to the rest, and its current reputation is visible in the praise bestowed on EugeniusIII. for rebuking a prior who commenced a suit before him by offering a mark of gold to win his favor.
Neglect Of Preaching
There was another source of oppression which had a loftier motive and better results, but which was none the less grinding upon the mass of the people. It was about this time that the fashion set in of building magnificent churches and abbeys, and the invention of stained glass and its rapid introduction show the luxury of ornamentation which was sought. While these structures were in some degree the expression of ardent faith, yet more were they the manifestation of the pride of the prelates who erected them, and in our admiration of these sublime relics of the past, in whatever reverential spirit we may view the towering spire, the long-arched nave, and the glorious window, we must not lose sight of the supreme effort which they cost - an effort which inevitably fell upon suffering serf and peasant.
Peter Cantor assures us that they were built out of exactions on the poor, out of the unhallowed gains of usury, and out of the lies and deceits of the quaestuarii or pardoners; and the vast sums lavished upon them, he assures us, would be much better spent in redeeming captives and relieving the necessities of the helpless.
It was hardly to be expected that prelates such as filled most of the sees of Christendom should devote themselves to the real duties of their position. Foremost among these duties was that of preaching the word of God and instructing their flocks in faith and morals. The office of preacher, indeed, was especially an episcopal function; he was the only man in the diocese authorized to exercise it; it formed no part of the duty or training of the parish priest, who could not presume to deliver a sermon without a special license from his superior.
It need not surprise us, therefore, to see this portion of Christian teaching and devotion utterly neglected, for the turbulent and martial prelates of the day were too wholly engrossed in worldly cares to bestow a thought upon a matter for which their unfitness was complete.
In 1031 the Council of Limoges expressed a wish that preaching should be done, not only at the episcopal seat, but in other churches, when the will of God inspires a competent doctor to the task; but the Church slumbered on until the spread of heresy aroused it to a sense of its unwisdom in neglecting so powerful a source of influence.
In 1209 the Council of Avignon ordered the bishops to preac hmore frequently and diligently than heretofore, and, when opportunity offered, to cause preaching to be done by honest and discreet persons.
In 1215 the great Council of Lateran admitted the impracticability of bishcps attending to this among so many more pressing avocations, and directed them to provide and pay proper persons to visit their parishes and edify the people by word and example.
Yet little improvement could be expected from exhortations such as these, and the heretics had the field virtually to themselves until the Preaching Friars arose and were steadily rebuffed by those whose negligence they replaced. TheTroubadour Inquisitor Izarn does not hesitate to declare that heresy never could have spread had there been good preachers to oppose it, and that it never could have been subdued but for the Dominicans.
The character of the lower orders of ecclesiastics could not be reasonably expected to be better than that of their prelates. Benefices were mostly in the gift of the bishops, though, of course, advowsons were frequently held by the laity; special rights of patronage were held by religious bodies, and many of these latter filled vacancies in their own ranks by co-optation. Whatever was the nominating power, however, the result was apt to be the same.
It is the universal complaint of the age that benefices were openly sold, or were bestowed through favor, without examination into the qualifications of the appointee, or the slightest regard as to his fitness. Eventhe rigid virtue of St. Bernardd id not prevent him, in 1151, from soliciting a provostship for a graceless youth, the nephew of his friend the Bishop of Auxerre, though repentance induced by cooller reflection led him to withdraw his application, which he could the more easily do on learning that his friend, in dying, had left no less than seven churches to his beloved nephew.
In the same year he was more cautious in refusing Count Thibaut of Champagne some preferment which he had asked for his son, a child of tender years; but the mere request for it shows how benefices, when not sold, were wont to be distributed; and it is safe to say that there were few like St.Bernard, with courage and conviction to reject the solicitations of the powerful.
It is true that the canon law was full of admirable precepts respecting the virtues and qualifications requisite for incumbents, but in practice they were a dead letter.
Alexander III. was moved to indignation when he learned that the Bishop of Coventry was in the habit of giving churches to boys under ten years of age, but he could only order that the cures should be intrusted to competent vicars until the nominees reached a proper age, and this age he himself fixed at fourteen; while other popes charitably reduced to seven the minimumage for holding simple beneficesor prebends.
No effectual check for abuses of patronage, of course, could be expected of Rome, when the curia itself was the most eager recipient of benefit from the wrong. Its army of pimps and parasites was ever on the watch to obtain fat preferments in all the lands of Europe, and the popes were constantly writing to bishops and chapters demanding places for their friends.
That pluralities, with all their attendant evils and abuses, should be habitual under such a system follows as a matter of course. In vain reforming popes and councils issued constitutions prohibiting them; in vain indignant moralists inveighed against the scandals and injuries which they occasioned, the ruin of the temporalities, the sacrifice of souls, and the general contempt excited for the Church.
Forbidden by the canon law, like all other abuses they were a source of profit to the Roman curia, which was always ready to issue dispensations when the holders of pluralities found themselves likely to be disturbed in their sin; or they could be used for purposesof statecraft, as when Innocent IV., in 1246, by skilful useof such dispensations broke up the menacing combination of the nobles of France. In fact, learned doctors of theology were found to defend the lawfulness of the abuse, as was done in a public disputation aboutthe year 1238 by Master Philip, Chancellor of the University of Paris, who was a notorious pluralist himself. His fate, however, was a solemn warning to others.
On his death-bed his friend, William, of Auvergne, Bishop of Paris, urged him to resign all his benefices but one, promising to make good the sacrifice if he should recover, but Philip refused, on the ground that he wished to experience whether he should be subjected to damnation on that account.
The disputatious ardor of the schoolman was gratified. Soon after his death a dusky shade appeared to the good bishop at his prayers, announced itself to be the chancellor's soul, and declared that it was damned to eternity; though it must be admitted that habitual licentiousness was superadded to pluralismasa cause of hopeless perdition.
A clergy recruited in such a manner ands ubjected to such influences could only, for the most part, be a curse to the people under their spiritual direction. A purchased beneficewas naturally regarded as a business investment, to be exploited to the utmost profit, and there was little scruple in turning to account every device for extorting money from parishioners, while the duties of the Christian pastorate received little attention.
The Tithe. Sale Of Sacraments
One of the most fruitful sources of quarrel and discontent was the tithe. This most harassing and oppressive form of taxation had long been the cause of incurable trouble, aggravated by the rapacity with which it was enforced, even to the pitiful collections of the gleaner. It had proved the greatest of the obstacles to Charlemagne's proselyting efforts among the Saxons, and, as we shall see, in the thirteenth century it led to a most devastating crusade against the Frisians.
The resistance of the people to its exaction in some places was such that its non-payment was stigmatized as heresy, and everywhere we see it the cause of scandalous altercation between pastor and flock, and between rival claimants, giving rise to a very intricate branch of canon law.
Carlyle states that at the outbreak of the French Revolution there were no less than sixty thousand cases arising from tithes then pending before the courts, and though the statement may be exaggerated, it is by no means improbable. Anciently the tithe had been divided into four parts, of which one went to the bishop, one to the parish priest, one to the fabric of the Church, and one to the poor, but in the prevailing acquisitiveness of the period, bishop and priest each seized and held all they could get, the Church received little, and the poor none at all.
The portion of the tithe which the priest could retain in this scramblewas rarely sufficient for his wants, addicted as he frequently was to dissolute living, and exposed to the rapacity of his superiors. The form of simony which consists in selling his sacred ministrations therefore became general. Thus confession, which was now becoming obligatory on the faithful and the exclusive function of the priest, afforded a wide field for perverse ingenuity.
Some confessors rated the sacrament of penitence so low that for a chicken or a pint of wine they would grant absolution for any sin, but others understood its productiveness far better. It is related of Einhardt, the priest of Soest, by a contemporary, that he sharply reproved a parishioner who, in preparation for Easter, confessed incontinence during Lent, and demanded of him eighteen deniers that he might say eighteen masses for his soul.
Another came who said that during Lent he had abstained from his wife, and he was fined the same amount for masses because he had lost the chance of begetting a child, as was his duty. Both men had to sell their harvests prematurely to raise money to pay the fine, and, happening to meet up on the market-place, compared notes, when they complained to the Dean andC hapterof St.Patroclus, and the story came out, to the scandal of the faithful, but Einhardt was permitted to continue his speculative career.
Every function of the priest was thus turned to account, and the complaints of the practice are too frequentand sweeping for us to doubt that it was a general custom. Marriage and funeral ceremonies were refused until the fees demanded were paid in advance, and the Eucharist was withheld from the communicant unless he offered an oblation. To the believer in Transubstantiation nothing could be more inexpressibly shocking, and Peter Cantor well describesthe priests of his day as worse than Judas Iscariot, who sold the bod yof the Lord fort hirty pieces of silver, while they do it daily for a denier.
Not content with this, many of them transgressed therules which forbade, excepton special occasions, the celebration by a priest of more than one mass a day, and it was almost impossible to enforce its observance; while those who obeyed the rule invented an ingenious evasion through which, by repeating the Introit, they would split a single mass up into half a dozen, and collect an oblation for each.
If the faithful Christian thus was mulcted throughout life at every turn, the pursuit of gain was continued to his death-bed, and even his body had a speculative value which was turned to account by the ghouls who quarrelled over it. The necessity of the final sacraments for salvation gave rise to an occasional abuse by which they werere fused unless an illegal feeor perquisite was paid, such as the sheet on which the dying sinner lay, but this we may well believe was not usual.
More profitable was the custom by which the fears of approaching judgment were exploited and legacies for pious uses were suggested as anappropriate atonement for a life of wickedness or cruelty. It is well known how large a portion of the temporal possessions of the Church was procured in this manner, and already in the ninth century it had become a subject of complaint.
Legacies For Pious Use
In 811 Charlemagne, in summoning provincial councils throughout his empire, asks them whether that man can be truly said to have renounced the world who unceasingly seeks to augment his possessions, and by promises of heaven and threats of hell persuades the simple and unlearned to disinherit their heirs, who are thus compelledby poverty to robbery and crime.
To this pregnant question the Council of Chalons, in 813, responded by a canon forbidding such practices, and reminding the clergy that the Church should succor the needy rather than despoil them; that of Tours replied that it had made inquiry and could find no one complaining of exheredation; that of Reims prudently passed the matter over in silence; and that of Mainz promised restoration in such cases. This check was but temporary; the Church continued to urge its claims on the fears of the dying, and finally Alexander III., about 1170, decreed that no one could make a valid will exceptin the presence of his parish priest.
In some places the notary drawing a will in the absence of the priest was excommunicated and the body of the testator was refused Christian burial.
The reason sometimes alleged for this was the preventing of a heretic from leaving his property to heretics, but the flimsiness of this is shown by the repeated promulgation of the rule in regions where heresy was unknown, and the loud remonstrances against local customs which sought to defeat this development of ecclesiastical greed. Complaints were also sometimes made that the parish priest converted to his personal use legacies which were left for the benefit of pious foundations.
Even after death the control which the Church exercised over the living and the profit to be derived from him were not abandoned. So general was the custom of leaving considerable sums for the pious ministrations by which the Church lightened the torments of purgatory, and so usual was the bestowal of oblations at thefuneral, that the custody of the corpse became a source of gain not to be despised, and the parish in which the sinner had lived and died claimed to have a reversionary right in the ashes which were thus so profitable.
Occasionally intruders would trespass upon their preserves, and some monastery would prevail upon the dying to bequeath his fertilizing remains to its care, giving rise to unseemly squabbles over the corpse and the privilege of burying it and saying mortuary masses for its soul.
As early as thefifth century Leo the Great did not hesitate to condemn in the severest terms the rapacity which led the monasteries to invite the living to their retreats for the sake of the possessions which they would bring with them, to the manifest detrimentof the parish priest, thus deprived of his legitimate expectations. Leo therefore ordered a compromise, by which one half of the good sand chattels thus acquired should be transferred to the church of the deceased, whether he had entered the monastery dead or alive. Thep arish churches at last came to claim the bodies of their parishioners as a matter of right, and to deny to the dying the privilege of electing a place of sepulture. It required repeated papal decisions to set aside claims so persistently urged, but these decisions invariably conceded to the churches a portion of one fourth, one third, or one half the sum the deceased had set apart for the careof his soul.
In some places the parish church asserted a right by custom to certain payments on the death of a parishioner, and the Council of Worcester, in 1240, decided that when this claim would reduce the widow and orphans to beggary, the Church should mercifully content itself with one third of the estate and relinquish the other two thirds to the family of the defunct; while in Lisbon the last consolations of religion were denied to any one who refused to leave a portion, usually one third, of his property to the Church.
Under other local customs, the priest claimed as a perquisite the bier on which a corpse was brought to his church, leading, in case of resistance, to quarrels more lively than edifying. In Navarre thelaw stepped in to define the amount which the poore rclasses should give as anoffering in the mortuary mass, being two measures of corn for a peasant.
Among the caballeros the usual offering was the incongruous one of a war-horse, a suit of armor, and jewels; and the cost of this was frequently defrayed by the king to honor the memory of some distinguished knight.
That the amounts were not small is evident when we see that, in 1372, Charles II. of Navarre paid to the Franciscan Guardian of Pampeluna thirty livres to redeem the charger, armor, etc., offered at the funeral of Masen Seguin de Badostal.
With the rise of the mendicant orders and their enormous popularity, the rivalry between them and the secular clergy for the possession of corpses and the accompanying fees became more intense than ever, creating scandals of which we shall have more to say hereafter.
On no point were the relations between the clergy and the people more delicate than on that of sexual purity. I have treated this subject fully in another work, and can be spared further reference to it, except to say that at the period under consideration the enforced celibacy of the priesthood had become generally recognized in most of the countries owing obedience to the Latin Church. It had not been accompanied, however, by the gift of chastity so confidently promised by its promoters. Deprived as was the priesthood of the gratification afforded by marriage to the natural instincts of man, the wife at best was succeeded by the concubine; at worst by a succession of paramours, for which the functions of priest and confessor gave peculiar opportunity. So thoroughly was this recognized that a man confessing an illicit amour was forbidden to name the partner of his guilt for fear it might lead the confessor into the temptation of abusing his knowledgeof her frailty.
No sooner had the Church, indeed, succeeded in suppressing the wedlock of its ministers, than we find it everywhere and incessantly busied in the apparently impossible task of compelling their chastity - an effort the futility of which is sufficiently demonstrated by its continuance to modern times. The age was not particularly sensitive on the subject of female virtue, but yet the spectacle of a priesthood professing ascetic purity as an essential prerequisite to its functions, and practising a dissoluteness more cynical than that of the average layman, was not adapted to raise it in popular esteem; while the individual cases in which the peace and honor of families were sacrificed to the lusts of the pastor necessarily tended to rouse the deepest antagonism.
As for darker and more deplorable crimes, they were sufficiently frequent, not alone in monasteries fromw hich women were rigorously excluded; and, moreover, they were committed with virtual immunity.
Not the least of the evils involved in the artificial asceticism ostensibly imposed on the priesthood was the erection of a false standard of morality which did infinite harm to the laity as well as to the Church. So long as the priest did not defy the canons by marrying, everything could bef orgiven.
Alexander II., who labored so strenuously to restore the rule of celibacy, in 1064 decided that a priest of Orange who had committeda dultery with the wife of his father was not to be deprived of communion for fear of driving him to desperation; and, in view of the fragility of the flesh, he was to be allowed to remain in holy orders, though in the lower grades. Two years later the same pope charitably diminished the penance imposed on a priest of Padua who had committed incest with his mother, and left it to his bishop whether he should be retained in the priesthood. It would be difficult to exaggerate the disastrous influence on the people of such examples.
Yet perhaps the most efficient cause of demoralization in the clergy, and of hostility between them and the laity, was the personal inviolability and the immunity from secular jurisdiction which they succeeded in establishing as a recognized principle of public law. While this was doubtless necessary for the independence, and even for the safety of a presumably peaceful class in an age of violence, it worked unhappily in a double sense.
The readiness with which acquittal was obtainable in ecclesiastical procedur eby canonical purgation, or the "wager of law," and the comparative mildness of the penalties in case of conviction, relieved the ecclesiastic in great measure from the terrors of the law, and removed from him the necessity of restraining his evil propensities.
Immunity Of The Clergy
At the same time it attracted to the Church vast numbers of worthless men, who, without abandoning their worldly pursuits, entered the lower grades and enjoyed the irresponsibility of their position, to the injury of its character and the detriment of all who came in contact with them. How, in maintaining its privileges, the Church habitually threw its regis over those least deserving of sympathy, is well illustrated by the intervention of Innocent III. in favor of Waldemar, Bishop of Sleswick. He was the natural son of Cnut V. of Denmark, and had lead an armed insurrection against Waldemar II., the reigning king, on the suppression of which he was cast into prison. Innocent demanded his liberation, as his incarceration was a violation of the immunities of the Church. Waldemar naturally hesitated thus to expose his kingdom to the repetition of revolt, and Innocent at first modified his command in so far as to order the offender conveyed to Hungary and liberated there, promising that he should not be permitted again to disturb the realm; but he subsequently evoked the case to Rome, where, in spite of the bishop bein gthe offspring of a double adultery and thus ineligible to holy orders, and in spite of the representations of the Danish envoys that he had been guilty of perjury, adultery, apostasy, and dilapidation, Innocent, in behalf of the liberties of the Church, restored him to his bishopric and patrimony, with the special privilege of administering it by deputy if he feared that residence would endanger his personal safety.
When requested to decide whether laymen could arrest and bring before the episcopal court a clerk caught red-handed in the commission of gross wickedness, Innocent replied that they could only do so under the special commandof a prelate - which was tantamount to granting virtual impunity in such cases.
A sacerdotal body, whose class-privileges of wrong-doing were so tenderly guarded, was not likely to prove itself a desirable element of society; and when the orderly enforcement of law gradually established itself throughout Christendom, the courts of justice found in the immunity of the ecclesiastic a more formidable enemy to order than in the pretensions of the feudal seigniory. Indeed, when malefactors were arrested, their first effort habitually was to prove their clergy, that they wore the tonsure, and that they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the secular courts, while zeal for ecclesiastical rights, and possibly for fees, always prompted the episcopal officials to support their claims and demand their release.
The Church thus became responsible for crowds of unprincipled men, clerks only in name, who used the immunity of their position as a stalking-horse in preying upon the community.
The similar immunity attaching to ecclesiastical property gave rise to abuses equally flagrant. The cleric, whether plaintiff or defendant, was entitled in civil cases to beheard before the spiritual courts, which were naturally partial in his favor, even when not venal, sot hat justice was scarce to be obtained by the laity. That such, in fact, was the experience is shown by the practice which grew up of clerks purchasing doubtful claims from laymen and then enforcing them before the Courts Christian - a speculative proceeding, forbidden, indeed, by the councils, but too profitable to be suppressed. Another abuse which excitedl oud complaint consisted in harassing unfortunate laymen by citing them to answer in the same case in several spiritual courts simultaneously, each of which enforced its process remorselessly by the expedient of excommunication, with consequent fines for reconciliation, on all who by neglect placed themselves in an apparent attitude of contumacy, frequently without even pausing to ascertain whether the parties thus amerced had actually been cited.
To estimate properly the amount of wrong and suffering thus inflicted on the community, we must bear in mind that culture and training were almost exclusively confined to the ecclesiastical class, whose sharpened intelligence thus enabled them to take the utmost advantage of the ignorant and defenceless.
The monastic orders formed too large and important a class not to share fully in the responsibility of the Church for good or for evil. Great as were their unquestioned services to religion and culture, they were peculiarly exposed to the degrading tendencies of the age, and their virtues suffered proportionally.
At this period they were rapidly obtaining exemption from episcopal jurisdiction and subjecting themselves immediately to Rome. This inevitably stimulated conventual degeneracy. Richard, Archbishop of Canterbury, complained bitterly to Alexander III. of the fatal relaxation thus induced in monastic discipline, but to no purpose.
It abased the episcopate; it increased the authority of the Holy See, both directly and indirectly, through the important allies thus acquired in its struggles with the bishops; and it was, moreover, a source of revenue, if we may believe the Abbot of Malmesbury, who boasted that for an ounce of gold per year paid to Rome he could obtain exemption from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Salisbury.
In too many cases the abbeys thus became centres of corruption and disturbance, the nunneries scarce better than house sof prostitution, and the monasteries feudal castles where the monks lived riotously and waged war upon their neighbors as ferociously as the turbulent barons, with the added disadvantage that, as there was no hereditary succession, the death of an abbot was apt to be followed by a disputed election producing internal broils and out sidei nterference. Thus in a quarrel of this kind occurring in 1182, the rich abbey of St. Tron was attacked by the Bishops of Metz and Liege, the town and abbey were burned, and the inhabitants put to the sword.
The trouble lastedu ntil the end of the century, and when it was temporarily patched up by a pecuniary transaction, the wretched vassals and serfs were reduced to starvation to raise the funds which bought the elevation of an ambitious monk.
It is true that all establishments were not lost to the duties for which they had received so abundantly of the benefactions of the faithful. In the famine of 1197, though the monastery of Heisterbach was still young and poor, the Abbot Gebhardt distributed alms so lavishly that sometimes he fed fifteen hundred people a day, while the mother-house of Hemmenrode was even more liberal, and supported all the poor of its district till harvest-time.
At the same time a Cistercian abbey in Westphalia slaughtered all its flocks and herds and pledged its books and sacred vessels to feed the starving. It is satisfactory to be assured that in each case the expenditures were more than made up by the donations which the establishments received in consequence of their charity.
Such instances go far to redeem the institution of monachism, but for the most part the abbeys were sources of evil rather than of good. This is scarce to be wondered at if we consider the material from which their inmates were drawn.
It is the severest reproach upon their discipline to find so enthusiastic an admirer of the strict Cistercian rule as Csesarius of Heisterbach asserting as an admitted fact that boys bred in monasteries made bad monks and frequently became apostates. As for those who took the vows in advanced life, he enumerates their motives as sickness, poverty, captivity, infamy, mortal danger, dread of hell or desire of heaven, among which the predominance of selfishi mpulses was not likely to secure a desirable class of devotees. In fact, he assures us that criminals frequently escaped punishment by agreeing to enter monasteries, which thus in somes ort became penal settlements, or prisons, and he illustrates this with the case of a robber baron in 1209, condemned to death for his crimes by the Count Palatine Henry, who was rescued by Daniel, Abbot of Schonau, on condition of his entering the Cistercian order. Scarcely less desirable inmates were those who, moved by a sudden revulsion of conscience, would turn from a life stained with crime and violence to bury themselves in the cloister while yet in the full vigor of strength and with passions unexhausted, finding, perhaps, at last their fierce and untamed natures unfitted to bear the unaccustomed restraint.
The chronicles are full of illustrations of this passionate religious energy in natures wholly untrained in self-control, and they explain much that otherwise would seem incredible to the calmer and more self-contained world of to-day.
For instance when, in 1071, Arnoul III. of Flanders, fell at Montcassel in defending his dominions against his uncle, Eobert the Frisian, Gerbald, the knight who slew his suzerain, was seized with remorse for his act and wandered to Rome, where he presented himself before Gregory VII. with the request that his hands be stricken off as a fitting penance. Gregory assented, and ordered his chief cook to do the service, secretly instructing him that if, when the axe was raised, Gerbald shrank or wavered, he was to strike without mercy, but if the penitent was firm, then he was to announce that he was spared. Gerbalddid not blench, and the pope declared to him that the hands thus preserved were no longer his but the Lord's, and sent him to Cluny to be placed under the charge of the holy Abbot Hugh, wherethe fierce warrior peacefully ended his days.
Demoralization Of Monachism
If, as sometimes happened, these untamable souls chafed under the irrevocable vow, after the fit of repentance had passed, they offered ample material for internal sedition and external violence.
Among these ill-assorted crowds it was impossible to maintain the community of property which was the essence of the rule of Benedict. Gregory the Great, when Abbot of St. Andreas, denied the last consolations of religion to a dying brother, and kept his soul for sixty days in the torments of purgatory, because three pieces of gold had been found among his garments. Yet the good monks of St. Andreas, of Yienne, found it necessary to adopt a formal constitution segregating as a sacrilegious thief any of the brethren detected in stealing clothing from the dormitory, or cups or plates from the refectory, and threatening to call in the intervention of the bishop if the offence could not be otherwise suppressed. So it is mentioned that in the Abbey of St. Tron, about the year 1200, each monk had a locked cupboard behind his seat in the refectory, wherein he carefully secured his napkin, spoon, cup, and dish, to preserve them from his brethren.
In the dormitory matters were even worse. Those who could procure chests threw into them their bed-clothes on rising, and those who could not were constantly complaining of the thievish propensities of their fellows.
The nameof monk was rendered still more despicable by the crowds of "gyro vagi" and "sarabaitae" and "stertzerr" - wanderers and vagrants, bearded and tonsured and wearing the religious habit, who traversed every corner of Christendom, living by begging and imposture, peddling false relics and false miracles.
This was a pest which had afflicted the Church ever since the rise of nionachism in the fourth century, and it continued unabated.
Though there were holy and saintly men among these ghostly tramps, yet were they all subjected to common abhorrence. They were often detected in crime and slain without mercy; and in a vain effort to suppress the evil, the Synod of Cologne, early in the thirteenth century, absolutely forbade that any of them should be received to hospitality throughout that extensive province.
It was not that earnest efforts were lacking to restore the neglected monastic discipline. Individual monasteries were constantly being reformed, to sink back after a time into relaxation and indulgence. Ingenuity was taxed to frame new and severer rules, such as the Premonstratensian, the Carthusian, the Cistercian, which should repel all but the most ardent souls in search of ascetic self-mortification, but as each order grew in repute for holiness, the liberality of the faithful showered wealth upon it, and with wealth came corruption.
Or the humble hermitage founded by a few self-denying anchorites, whose only thought was to secure salvation by macerating the flesh and eluding temptation, would become possessed of the relics of some saint, whose wonder-working powers drew flocks of pious pilgrims and sufferers in search of relief. Offerings in abundance would flow in, and the fame and riches thus showered on the modest retreat of the hermits speedily changed it to a splendid structure where the severe virtues of the founders disappeared amid a crowd of self-indulgent monks, indolent in all good works and active only in evil.
Few communities had the cautious wisdom of the early denizens in the celebrated Priory of Graromont, before it became the head of a powerful order. When its founder and first prior, St.Stephen of Thiern, after his death in 1124, commenced to show his sanctity by curing a paralytic knight and restoring sight to a blindman, his single-minded followers took alarm at the prospect of wealth and notoriety thus about to be forced upon them. His successor, Prior Peter of Limoges, accordingly repaired to his tomb and reproachfully addressedhim:
" O servant of God, thou hast shown us the path of poverty and hast earnestly striven to teach us to walk therein. Now thou wishest to lead us from the straight and narrow way of salvation to the broad road of eternal death.
Thou hast preached the solitude, and now thou seekest to convert the solitude into a market-place and a fair.
We already believe sufficiently in thy saintliness. Then work no more miracles to prove it and at the same time to destroy our humility. Be not so solicitous for thy own fame as to neglect our salvation; this we enjoin on thee, this we ask of thy charity.
If thou dost otherwise, we declare, by the obedience which we have vowed to thee, that we will dig up thy bones and cast them into the river."
This min- gled supplication and threat proved sufficient, and until St. Stephen was formally canonized he ceased to perform the miracles so dangerous to the souls of his followers. The canonization, which occurred in 1189, was the result of the first official act of Prior Girard, in applying for it to Clement III., and as Girard had been elected in place of two contestants set aside by papal authority, after dissensions which had almost ruined the monastery, it shows that worldly passions and ambition had invaded the holy seclusion of Grammont, to work out their inevitable result.
Fruitless Monastic Reforms
In the failure of all these partial efforts at reform to rescue the monastic orders from their degradation, we hardly need the emphatic testimony of the venerable Gilbert, Abbot of Gemblours, about 1190, when he confesses with shame that monachism had becomean oppression and a scandal, a hissing and reproach to all men.
The religion which was thus exploited by priest and monk had necessarily become a very different creed from that taugh tby Christ and Paul. Doctrines are beyond my province, but a brief reference is requisite to certain phases of belief and observance to render cleart he relation betweenc lergyand people, and to explain the religious revolt of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
The theory of justification by works, to which the Church owed so much of its power and wealth, had, in its development, to a great extent deprived religion of all spiritual vitality, replacing its essentials with a dry and meaningless formalism. It was not that men were becoming indifferent to the destiny of their souls, for never, perhaps, have the terrors of perdition, the bliss of salvation, and the never-ending efforts of the arch-fiend possessed a more burning reality for man, but religion had become in many respects a fetichism. Teachers might still inculcate that pious and charitable works to be efficient must be accompaniedwith a change of heart, with repentance, with amendment, with an earnest seeking after Christ and a higher life; but in a gross and hardened generation it was far easier for the sinner to fall into the practices habitual around him, which taught that absolution could be had by the repetition of a certain number of Pater Fosters or Ave Marias accompanied by the magical sacrament of penitence; nay, even that if the penitent himself were unable to perform the penance enjoined, it could be undertaken by his friends, whose merits were transferred to him by some kind of sacred jugglery.
When a congregation, in preparation for Easter, was confessed and absolved as a whole, or in squads and batches, as was customary with some careless priests, the lesson taught was that the sacrament of penitence was a magic ceremony or incantation, in which the internal condition of the soul was a matter of virtual indifference.
More serviceable to the Church, and quite as disastrous in its influence on faith and morals, was the current belief that the posthumous liberality of the death-bed, which founded a monastery or enriched a cathedral out of the spoils for which the sinner had no further use, would atone for a lifelong course of cruelty and rapine; and that a few weeks service against the enemies of a pope would wipeout all the sins of him who assumed the cross to exterminate his fellow-Christians.
The use, or abuse, of indulgences, indeed, is a subject which would repay extended investigation, and a brief reference to it may be pardoned here, in view of the frequent allusions to it which will occur hereafter.
That sin, confessed and repented, could be remitted through penance, was a doctrine dating back to primitive times. That penance could be redeemed by sacrifices made for the Church was a corollary of later origin, but yet well established at this period. Thus, in 1059, we see Guido, Archbishop of Milan, imposingon himself a penance of one hundred years, to atone for rebellion against Rome, and redeeming it at a certain sum for each year - a transaction which satisfied even so stern a moralist as St. Peter Damiani.
Then the schoolmen invented the theory of the treasure of salvation, accumulated through the merits of the Crucifixion and of the saints, and the pope, as the vicar of God, had the unlimited dispensation of that treasure. It was for him to prescribe the methods by which the faithful could partake of it, and no theologian before Wickliffe was hardy enough to question his decisions.
In the administration of this treasure the pope issued "pardons," either plenary or partial, the former releasing the soul absolutely from the purgatorial punishment of its sins after their guilt had been wiped out in the sacrament of penitence, the latter shortening the punishmentby the equivalent of the penance remitted by the terms of the concession.
At first this partial indulgence was granted in return for pious works, pilgrimages to shrines, contributions towards the building of churches, bridges, etc. - for a spiritual punishment could be commuted to a corporal or to a pecuniary one, and the power to grant such indulgence was a valuable franchise to the church which obtained it, for it served as a constant attraction to pilgrims.
Abuses, of course, crept in, denounced by Abelard, who vents his indignation at the covetousness which habitually made a traffic of salvation. Alexander III., about 1175, expressed his disapproval of these corruptions, and the great Council of Lateran, in 1215, sought to check the destruction of discipline and the contempt felt for the Church by limiting to one year the amount of penance released by any one episcopal indulgence. At length St. Francis of Assisi was said to have procured, in 1223, from Honorius III. the celebrated "Portiuncula" indulgence, whereby all who visited the Churchof Santa Maria le Portiuncula, at Assisi, from the vespers of August 1st to the vespers of August 2nd, obtained complete and entirere mission of all sins committed since baptism; and even the fact that St. Francis had been directed by Godto apply to Honorius for it, and the admission of Satan that this indulgence was depopulating hell, did not serve to reconcile the Dominicans to so great an advantage given to the Franciscans.
Boniface VIII., when he conceived the fruitful idea of the jubilee, carried this out still further by promising to all who should perform certain devotions in the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul, during the year 1300, not only "plena venia" but "plenissima" of all their sins. By this time the idea that an indulgencemight avert the entire penalty of all sins had become familiar to the Christian mind.
When the Church sought to arouse Europe to supreme exertion for the redemption of the Holy Sepulchre some infinite reward was requisite to excite the enthusiastic fanaticism requisite for the crusades.
If Mahomet could stimulate his followers to court death by the promise of immediate and eternal bliss to him who fell fighting for the Crescent, the vicegerent of the true God must not be behind handing his promises to the martyrs of the Cross.
It was to be a death-struggle between the two faiths, and Christianity must not be less liberal than Islam in its bounty to its recruits. Accordingly when Urban II. held the great Council of Clermont, which resolved on the first crusade, and where thirteen archbishops, two hundred and fifteen bishops, and ninety mitred abbots represented the universal Church Militant, the device of plenary indulgence was introduced, and the military pilgrims were exhorted to have full faith that those who fell repentant would gain the completest fruit of eternal mercy.
The device was so successful that it became an established rule in all the holy wars in which the Church engaged; all the more attractive, perhaps, because of the demoralizing characterof the service, for it wasa commonplace of the jongleurs of the period that the crusader, if he escaped the perils of sea and land, was tolerably sure to return home a lawless bandit, even as the pilgrim who went to Rome to secure pardon came back much worse than he started.
As the novelty of crusading wore off, still greater promises were necessary. Thus, in 1291, Nicholas IV. promised full remission of sins to every one who would send a crusader or go at another's expense; while he who went at his own expense was vaguely told that in addition he would have an increase of salvation - a term which the Decretalists perhaps could not find it easy to explain.
Finally, forgotten sins were included in the pardon, as well as those confessedand repented.
The mediaeval doctrine of indulgence is truly expressedby Alonso, Bishop of Avila, in 1443, when disculpating himself to Eugenius IV. from an accusation of doubting the papal power:
"Papa etiam potcst absolvere ab omnibus peccatis et potcst dare plenariam indulgentiam, liberando homine a tota pcena Purgatorii, scilicet faciendo quod non veniet in ilium etiamsi uiulta pcena (peccata) commiserit".
Yet when an enthusiastic Franciscan taught at Tournay, in 1482, that the pope at will could empty purgatory, the University of Paris qualified the proposition as doubtful and scandalous. The same year the University again interfered, when the church of Saiutes, having procured a bull of indulgence from Sixtus IV., announced publicly that, no matter how long a period of punishment had been assigned by divine justice to a soul, it would fly from purgatory to heaven as soon as three sols were paid in its behalf to be expended in repairing the church.
In 1518 the university was obliged to repeat its condemnation of the same promises made to those who would contribute a teuton for the crusade which was always under way and never attempted. Yet the doctrine thus condemned by the university was pronounced to be unquestionable Catholic truth by the Dominican Silvestro Mozzolino, in his refutation of Luther's Theses, dedicated to Leo X. (F. Silvest. Prieriatis Dialogus, No. 27).
As Silvestro was made general of his order and master of the sacred palace, it is evident that no exceptions to his teaching were taken at Rome. Those who doubt that the abuses of the system were the proximate cause of the Reformation can consult Van Espen, for their continuanceinto the eighteenth century.
The modem commercial spirit has not failed to take advantage of the indulgence. The Libreria Religiosa of Barcelona is enabled to advertise what various additional inducement to crusaders they were, moreover, released from earthly as well as heavenlyj ustice, by being classed with clerks and subjected only to spiritual jurisdiction.
When accused, the ecclesiastical judge was directed to take them from the secular courts by the use of excommunication, if necessary, and when found guilty of enormous crime, such as murder, they were merely divested of the cross, and punished with the same leniency as ecclesiastics.
This became embodied in secular jurisprudence, and its attraction to the reckless adventurers who formed so large a portion of the papal armies is readily conceivable. When, in 1246, those who had taken the cross in France were indulging themselvesin robbery, murder, and rape, St.Louis was obliged to appeal to Innocent IV., and the pope responded by instructing his legate that such malefactors were not to be protected.
Still further rewards were offered when personal ambition and vindictiveness were to be gratified in the crusade preached by Innocent IV. against the Emperor Conrad IV., after the death of Frederic II., when he granted a larger remission of sins than for the voyage to the Holy Land, and included the father and mother of the crusader as beneficiaries in the assurance of heaven.
A profitable device had also been introduced by which crusaders, unwilling or unable to perform their vow, were absolved from it on a money payment proportioned to their ability, and very large sums were raised in this manner, which were expended, nominally at least, for the furtherance of the holy cause.
The development of the system continued until it came to be employed in the pettiest private quarrels of the popesas masters of the patrimony of St. Peter. If Alexander IV. could use it successfully against Eccelin da Komano, the next century saw John XXII. have recourse to it, not only in making war against a formidable antagonist like Matteo Visconti or the Marquis of Montefeltre, but even when he wished to reduce the rebellious citizens of little places like Osimo and Kecanati, in the March of Ancona, or the turbulent people of Rome itself.
The ingenious method of granting indulgences to those who took the cross, and then releasing them from service for a sum of money, had become too cumbrous, and the purchase of salvation simplified itself into a direct payment, so that John was able to raise funds for his private wars by thus distributing the treasures of salvation over Christendom, and ordering the prelates everywhere to establish coffers in the churches by which the pious could help the Church while they saved their souls.
The prelates who saw with regret the coins of their parishioners disappear into the never-satisfied maelstrom of the Holy See, in vain endeavored to resist. They were no longer independent, and the slender barriers which they sought to erect were easily swept away.
These money payments were doubtless more practically efficacious than an indulgence, remitting a certain number of days of penance, offered to all who would earnestly pray to God, especially during the solemnity of the mass, for the success of the same pope in his death-struggle with Louis of Bavaria.
This is a specimen of the minor indulgences which were frequently granted as a stimulus to acts of devotion, such as visiting cathedrals on the anniversaries of their patron saints; reciting, for the peace and prosperity of the Church, on bended knees, the Pater Koster five times, in honor of the five wounds of Christ; the Ave Maria seven times, in honor of the seven joys of the Virgin, and other similar practices.
A more demoralizing system of indulgences was that of sending out "quaestuarii," or pardoners, sometimes furnished with relics, by a church or hospital in need of money, and sometimes merely carrying papal or episcopal letters, by which they were authorized to issue pardons for sin in return for contributions.
Though these letters were cautiously framed, yet they were ambiguous enough to enable the pardoners to promise, not only the salvation of the living, but the liberation of the damned from hell for a few small coins. Already, in 1215, the Council of Lateran inveighs bitterly against these practices, and prohibits the removal of relics from the churches; but the abuse was too profitable to be suppressed.
Needy bishops and popesw ere constantly issuing such letters, and the business of the pardoner became a regular profession, in which the most impudent and shameless were the most successful, so that we can readily believe the pseudo Peter of Pilichdorf, when he sorrowfully admits that the "indiscreet" but profitable granting of indulgences to all sorts of men weakened the faith of many Catholics in the whole system.
As early as 1201 the Council of Mainz can hardly find words strong enough to denounce the pestilent sellers of indulgences, whose knavish tricks excite the hatred of all men, who spend their filthy gains in vile debauchery, and who so mislead the faithful that confessionis neglected on the ground that sinners have purchased forgiveness of their sins. Complaint was useless, however, and the lucrative abuse continued unchecked until it aroused the indignation which cured a divorce from her on the plea of consanguinity, becauses he remained barren after twenty years of marriage, and in a short time, while hunting, he was ambushed and slain by an enemy. His nephew and successor, Josceliu, took warning by this, and was very particular in constantly repeating the Ava Maria, and forcing his troopers to do likewise, so that, although he wrought much evil, yet he made a good ending.
Somewhat similar is the story of the knight, who, though cruel and revengeful, had such veneration for the cross that he never passed one without descending from his horse and adoring it. Once, when riding alone through a dense forest, he was assailed by the kinsmen of a noble whom he had slain, and was forced to seek safety in flight. Coming to a cross-road, where stood a cross, he dismounted and knelt before it, when his enemies, coming up, were struck with sudden blindness, and groped vainly around, while he rode quietly away.
The sale of indulgences illustrates effectively the sacerdotalism which formed the distinguishing feature of mediaeval religion. The believer did not deal directly with his Creator - scarce even with the Virgin or hosts of intercessory saints. The supernatural powers claimed for the priest interposed him as the mediator between God and man; his bestowal or withholding of the sacraments decided the fate of immortal souls; his performance of the mass diminished or shortened the pains of purgatory; his decision in the confessional determined the very nature of sin itself. The implements which he wielded the Eucharist, the relics, the holy water, the chrism, the exorcism, the prayer-became in some sort fetiches which had a power of their own entirely irrespective of the moral or spiritual condition of him who employed them or of him for whom they were employed; and in the popular view the rites of religion could hardly be more than magic formulas which in some mysterious way worked to the advantage, temporal and spiritual, of those for whom they were performed.
How sedulously this fetichism was inculcated by those who profited from the control of the fetiches is shown by a thousand stories and incidents of the time. Thus a twelfth-century chronicler piously narrates that when, in 887, the relics of St. Martin of Tours were brought home from Auxerre, whither they had been carried to escape the Danish incursions, two cripples of Touraine, who earned an easy livelihood by beggary, on hearing of the approach of the saintly bones, counselled together to escape from the territory as quickly as possible, lest the returning saint should cure them and thus deprive them of claims on the alms of the charitable.
Their fears were well founded, but their means of locomotion were insufficient, for the relics arrived in Touraine before they could get beyond the bounds of the province, and they were cured in spite of themselves. The eagerness with which rival princes and republics disputed with each other the possession of these wonder-working fetiches, and the manner in which the holy objects were obtained by force or fraud and defended by the same methods, form a curious chapter in the history of human credulity, and show how completely the miraculous virtue was held to reside in the relic itself, wholly irrespective of the crimes through which it was acquired or the frame of mind of the possessor.
Thus in the above case, Ingelger of Anjou was obliged to reclaim from the Auxerrois the bones of St. Martin at the head of an armed force, more peaceful means of recovering the venerated relics having failed; and in 1177 we see a certain Martin, canon of the Breton church of Bomigny, stealing the body of St.Petroc from his own church for the benefit of the Abbey of St.Mevennes, which would not surrender it until the intervention of King Henry II. was brought to bear. Two years after the capture of Constantinople the Venetian leaders, in 1206, forcibly broke into the Churcho f St. Sophia and carried off a picture of the Virgin, said to have been painted by St. Luke, in which popular superstition imagined her to reside, and kept it in spite of excommunication and interdict launched against them by the patriarch and confirmed by the papal legate.
Fairly illustrative of this belief is a story told of a merchant of Groningen who in one of his voyages coveted the arm of St.John the Baptist belonging to a hospital, and obtained it by bribing heavily the mistress of the guardian, who induced him to steal it.
On his return the merchant built a house and secretly encased the relic in a pillar forming part of the structure. Under its protection he prospered mightily and grew wealthy, till once in a conflagration he refused to take measures to save the house, saying that it was under good guardianship. The house was not burned, and public curiosity was so much excited that he was forced to reveal his talisman, when the people carried it off and deposited it in a church, whereit worked many miracles, while the merchant was reducedto poverty. It was a superstition even less rational than that which led the Romans to conjure into their camp the tutelary deity of a city which they were besieging; and the universal wearing of relics as charms or amulets had in it nothing to distinguish it from the similar practices of paganism.
Even the images and portraits of saints and martyrs had equal virtue. A single glance at the representation of St.Christopher, for instance, was held to preserve one from disease or sudden death for the rest of the day -
" Christopheri sancti speciem quicumque tuetur
Illo namque die nullo languore tenetur-
and a huge image of the gigantic saint was often painted on the outside of churches for the preservation of the population. The custom of selecting a patron saint by lot at the altar is another manifestation of the same blindness of superstition.
The Eucharist was particularly efficacious as a fetich. During the persecution of heresy in the Rhinelands by the inquisitor Conrad of Marburg, in 1233, one obstinate culprit refused to burn in spite of all the efforts of his zealous executioners, until a thoughtful priest brought to the roaring pile a consecrated host.
This at once dissolved the spell by a mightier magic, and the luckless heretic was speedily reduced to ashes. A conventicle of these same heretic possessed an image of Satan which gave forth oracular responses, until a priest entering the room produced from his bosom a pyx containing the body of Christ, when Satan at once acknowledged his inferiority by falling down. Not long afterwards St. Peter Martyr overcame, by the same means, the imposture of a Milanese heretic in whose behalf a demon was wont to appear in a heterodox church in the shape of the Virgin, resplendent and holding in her arms the holy Child.
The evidence in favor of heresy seemed to be overwhelming, until St. Peter dispelled it by presenting to the demon a host, and saying,
"If thou art the true Mother of God, adore this thy Son,"
whereupon the demon disappeared in a flash of lightning, leaving an intolerable stench behind him. The consecrated wafer was popularly believedt o possess a magic efficacy of incomparable power, andstories are numerous of the punishment inflicted on those who sacrilegiously sought thus to use it.
A priest who retained it in his mouth for the purpose of using it to overcome the virtue of a woman of whom he was enamoured, was afflicted with the hallucination that he had swelled to the point that he could not pass through a doorway; and on burying the sacred object in his garden it was changed into a small crucifix bearing a man of flesh and freshly bleeding. So when a woman kept the wafer and placedi t in her beehive to stop an epidemic among the bees, the pious insects built around it a complete chapel, with walls, windows, roof, and bell-tower, and inside an altar on which they reverently placed it.
Another woman, to preserve he rcabbages from the ravages of caterpillars, crumbled a holy wafer and sprinkled it over the vegetables, when she was at once afflicted with incurable paralysis. This particular form of fetichism was evidently not regarded with favor, but it was the direct evolution of orthodox teaching.
It was the same in respect to the water in which a priest washed his hands after handling the Eucharist, to which supernatural virtues were ascribed, but the use of which was condemned as savoring of sorcery.
The power of these magic formulas, as I have said, was wholly disconnected with any devotional feeling on the part of those who employed them. Thus the efficacy of St. Thomas of Canterbury was illustrated by a story of a matron whose veneration for him led her to invoke him on all occasions, and even to teach her pet bird to repeat the formula "Sancte Thonia adjuva me!"
Once a hawk seized the bird and flew away with it, but on the bird uttering the accustomed phrase, the hawk fell dead and the bird returned unhurt to its mistress. So little, indeed, of sanctity was requisite, that wicked priests employed the mass as an incantation and execration, mentally cursing their enemies while engaged in its solemnization, and expecting that in someway the malediction would work evil on the person against whom it was directed.
Nay, it was even used in connection with the immemorial superstition of the wax figurine which represented the enemy to be destroyed, and mass celebrated ten times over such an image was supposed to insure his death within ten days.
Even confession could be used as a magic formula to escape the detection of guilt. As demons professed a knowledge of every crime committed, and would reveal them through the mouth of those whom they possessed, demoniacs were frequently used as detectives in case of suspected persons. Yet when sins were confessed with due contrition, the absolution wiped them forever from the demon's memory, and he would deny all knowledge of them - a fact which was regularly acted on by those afraid of exposure; for even after the demon had revealed the guilt, the perpetrator could go at once and confess, and then confidently return and challenge a repetition of the denunciation.
Examples such as these could be multiplied almost indefinitely, but they would only serve to weary the reader. What I have given will probably suffice to illustrate the degeneracy of the Christianity superimposed upon paganism and wielded by a sacerdotal body so worldly in its aspirations as that of the Middle Ages.
The picture which I have drawn of the Church in its relations with the people is perhaps too unrelieved in its blackness. All popes were not like Innocent IV. and John XXII.; all bishops were not cruel and licentious; all priests were not intent solely on impoverishing men and dishonoring women.
In many sees and abbeys, and in thousands of parishes, doubtless, there were prelates and pastors earnestly seeking to do God's work, and illuminate the darkened souls of their flocks with such gospel light as the superstition of the time would permit. Yet the evil was more apparent than the good; the humble workers passedaway unobtrusively, while pride and cruelty and lust and avarice were demonstrative and far-reaching in their influence. Such as I have depicted the Church it appeared to all the men of the time who had the clearest insight and the loftiest aspirations; and its repulsiveness must be understood by those who would understand the movements that agitated Christendom.
No more unexceptionable witness as to the Church of the twelfth century can be had than St. Bernard, and he is never weary of denouncing the pride, the wickedness, the ambition, and the lust that reigned everywhere. When fornication, adultery, incest, palled upon the exhausted senses, a zest was sought in deeper depths of degradation. In vain the cities of the plain were destroyed by the avenging fire of heaven; the enemy has scattered their remains everywhere, and the Church is infected with their accurse dashes.
The Church is left poor and bare and miserable, neglected and bloodless. Her children seek not to bedeck, but to spoil her; not to guard her, but to destroy her; not to defend, but to expose; not to institute, but to prostitute; not to feed the flock, but to slay and devour it. They exact the price of sins and give no thought to sinners.
"Whom can you show me among the prelates who does not seek rather to empty the pockets of his flock than to subdue their vices?"
St. Bernard's contemporary, Potho of Pruhm, in 1152, voices the same complaints. The Church is rushing to ruin, and not a hand is raised to stay its downward progress; there is not a single priest fitted to rise up as a mediator between God and man and approach the divine throne with an appeal for mercy.
The papal legate, Cardinal Henry of Albano, in his Encyclical letter of 1188 to the prelates of Germany, is equally emphatic though less eloquent. The triumph of the Prince of Darkness is to be expected in view of the depravity of the clergy - their luxury, their gluttony, their disregard of the fasts, their holding of pluralities, their hunting, hawking, and gambling, their trading and their quarrels, and, chief of all, their incontinence, whence the wrath of God is provoked to the highest degree and the worst scandals are created between the clergy and the people.
Peter Cantor, about the same time, describes the Church as filled to the mouth with the filth of temporalities, of avarice, and of negligence, so that in these points it far surpasses the laity; and he points out that nothing is more damaging to the Church than to see laymen superior, as a class, to the clergy.
Gilbert of Gemblours tells the same tale. The prelates for the most part enter the Church not by election, but by the use of money and the favor of princes; they enter, not to feed, but to be fed; not to minister, but to be ministered to; not to sow, but to reap; not to labor, but to rest; not to guard the sheep from the wolves, but, fiercer than wolves, themselves to tear the sheep.
St. Hildegarda, in her prophecies, espouses the cause of the people against the clergy.
"The prelates are ravishers of the churches; their avarice consumes all that it can acquire. With their oppressions they make us paupers and contaminate us and themselves.. . .
Is it fitting that wearers of the tonsure should have greater store of soldiers and arms than we? Is it becoming that a clerk should be a soldier and a soldier a clerk? . . . God did not command that one son should have both coat and cloak and that the other shouldgo naked, but ordered the cloak to be given to one and the coat to the other. Let the laity then have the cloak on account of the cares of the world, and let the clergy have the coat that they may not lack that which is necessary."
One of the main objects in convoking the great Council of Lateran, in 1215, was the correction of the prevailing vices of the clergy, and it adopted numerous canons looking to the suppression of the chief abuses, but in vain. Those abuses were too deeply rooted, and four years later Honorius III., in an Encyclical addressed to all the prelates of Christendom, says that he has waited to see the result. He finds the evils of the Church increasing rather than diminishing. The ministers of the altar, worse than beasts wallowing in their dung, glory in their sins, as in Sodom. They are a snare and a destruction to the people. Many prelates consume the property committed to their trust and scatter the stores of the sanctuary throughout the public places; they promote the unworthy, waste the revenues of the Church on the wicked, and convert the churches into conventicles of their kindred. Monks and nuns throw off the yoke, break their chains, and render themselves contemptible as dung.
"Thus it is that heresies flourish. Let each of you gird his sword to his thigh and spare not his brother and his nearest kindred."
What was accomplished by this earnest exhortation may be estimated from the description which Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, gave of the Church in the presence of Innocent IV. and his cardinals in 1250. The details can well be spared, but they are summed up in his assertion that the clergy were a source of pollution to the whole earth; they were antichrists and devils masquerading as angels of light, who made the house of prayer a den of robbers. When the earnest inquisitor of Passau, about 1260, undertook to explain the stubbornness of the heresy which he was vainty endeavoring to suppress, he did so by drawing up a list of the crimes prevalent among the clergy, which is awful in the completeness of its details.
A church such as he describes was an unmitigated curse, politically, socially, and morally.
This is all ecclesiastical testimony. How the clergy were regarded by the laity is illustrated in a remark by William of Puy Laurens, that it was a common phrase
"I had rather be a priest than do that" just a some might say "I had rather be a Jew"
It is true that the priests had the same contempt for the monks, for Emeric, Abbot of Anchin, tells us that a clerk would never associate with any one whom he had once seen wearing the black Benedictine habit. But priest and monk were both comprehended in the general detestation of the people.
Walther von der Yogelweide sums up the popular appreciation of the whole ecclesiastical body, from pope downward:
"St. Peter's chair is filled to-day as well
As when 'twas fouled by Gerbert's sorcery;
For he consigned himself alone to hell,
While this pope thither drags all Christentie.
Why are the chastisementsof Heaven delayed?
How Ions? wilt thou in slumber lie, 0 Lord ?
Thy work is hindered and thy word gainsaid,
Thy treasurer steals the wealth that thou hast stored.
Thy ministers rob here and murder there,
And o'er thy sheep a wolf has shepherd's care."
Walther's echo is heard from the other end of Europe in the Troubadour Pierre Cardinal, who enlarges on the same theme in a manner to show how popular were these invectives and how completely they expressed the general feeling:
"I see the pope his sacred trust betray,
For, while the rich his grace can gain alway,
His favors from the poor are aye withholdcn.
He strives to gather wealth as best he may,
Forcing Christ's people blindly to obey,
So that he may repose in garments golden.
The vilest traffickers in souls are all
His chapmen, and for gold a prebend's stall
He'll sell them, or an abbacy or mitre.
And to us he sends clowns and tramps who crawl
Vending his pavdon briefs from cot to hall
Letters and pardons worthy of the writer,
Which leave our pokes, if not our souls, the lighter.
"No better is each honored cardinal.
From early morning's dawn to evening's fall,
Their time is passedin eagerly contriving
To drive some bargain foul with each and all.
So, if you feel a want, or great or small,
Or if for some preferment you are striving,
The more you pleaseto give the more 'twill bring,
Be it a purple cap or bishop's ring.
And it need ne'er in any way alarm you
That you are ignorant of everything
To which a minister of Christ should cling,
You will have revenue enough to warm you-
And, bear in mind, that lessergifts won't harm you.
" Our bishops, too, are plunged in similar sin,
For pitilessly they flay the very skin
From all their priests who chance to have fat livings.
For gold their seal official you can win
To any writ, no matter what's therein.
Sure God alone can make them stop their thievings.
'Twere hard, in full, their evil works to tell,
As when, for a few pence, they greedily sell
The tonsure to some mountebank or jester,
Whereby the temporal courts are wronged as well,
For then these tonsured rogues they cannot quell,
Howevertheir scampishdoingsmay us pester,
While round the churcli still growing evils fester.
"Then as for all the priests and minor clerks,
There are, God knows, too many of them whose works
And daily life belie their daily preaching.
Scarcebetter are they than so many Turks,
Though they, no doubt, may be well taught-it irks
Me not to own the fulness of their teaching-
For, learned or ignorant, they're ever bent
To make a traffic of each sacrament,
The Mass's holy sacrifice included;
And when they shrive an honest penitent,
Who will not bribe, his penancethey augment,
For honesty should never be obtruded-
But this, by sinners fair, is easily eluded.
"Tis true the monks and friars make ample show
Of rules austerewhich they all undergo,
But this the vainest is of all pretences.
In sooth, they live full twice as well, we know,
As e'er they did at home, despite their vow,
And all their mock parade of abstinences.
No jollier life than theirs can be, indeed;
And specially the begging friars exceed,
Whose frock grants license as abroad they wander.
These motives 'tis which to the Orders lead
So many worthless men, in sorest need
Of pelf, which on their vices they may squander,
And then, the frock protects them in their plunder."
It was inevitable that such a religion should breed dissidence and such a priesthood provoke revolt.