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Whatever may have been the scandals and abuses of the middle ages, is wholly irrelevant to the English schism, which originated manifestly and exclusively in the ungovernable passion of the monarch. As long as his own feelings were not interested, he took pride in professing his attachment to the Church, and repelled, with the applause of the Pontiff, the attack made by Luther on her sacraments. There is not the slightest evidence that he was moved in the least degree by the consideration of the disorders recorded in history, or of the examples in his own times, to break the bonds of unity. As for Cranmer, for whom you claim the praise of leader in the work of Reformation, his two successive marriages, in violation of his college obligations and priestly vows, show at once that moral considerations did not influence his career.

LETTER XIX.

On Persecution.

RIGHT REVEREND SIR:

HE proofs which Dr. Milner adduced from

TH

Tertullian, St. Leo, St. Ambrose, St. Martin, and St. Gregory the Great, that the Church disclaims the principle of persecution, have elicited from you an avowal of the fact, which, however, you limit to their times. The first instance of burning heretics alive, which you give, is in the ninth century. "This new and horrible punishment became," you say, "universal through all the countries in Europe by established law." You then charge the Popes, the Bishops, and the clergy generally, with the chief influence in the enactment of the laws during the whole period of the middle ages, and especially of these laws. If you had told your readers, that Michael Curopalates, Emperor of Constantinople, was author of those executions in the ninth century, you would not have had the opportunity to charge them on the Church. The Patriarch Nicephorus opposed the imperial decree, and

succeeded for a time in checking the too ardent zeal of the Emperor, observing to him that it was proper to leave room for repentance, and that ecclesiastics are not allowed to condemn to death. The Emperor Justinian II. had decreed that the Manicheans should be prosecuted, and if found guilty, burnt alive, as was done in regard to some of them. It is false that "the Church first invented the diabolical law of burning heretics." That law emanated from the civil power, which alone could inflict capital punishment. The influence of the Church was employed in the days of St. Augustin, and for ages afterwards, to prevent it. When the Circumcellions, by acts of violence and by bloodshed, had provoked the severity of the authorities, he wrote to the Proconsul of Africa, beseeching him through Jesus Christ not to punish them capitally: "We wish them to be corrected, but not put to death."*

Your chief reliance to fasten on us the principle of persecution, is the decree of the fourth Council of Lateran, held under Innocent III., in the year 1215. "We excommunicate and anathematize," say the fathers, "every heresy that raiseth itself up against this holy, orthodox, and catholic faith, which we have set forth above; condemning all heretics, by whatsoever names they may be designated, having indeed

* Ep. c. olim. cxxvii.

different faces, but their tails being joined together, since they come to the same thing through vanity." This canon is an act of the ecclesiastical authority, of an unmixed kind, and is necessarily received by all Catholics. The enactments which follow are of a different character. They are practical measures adapted to the circumstances of the times and places for which they were made: they were never generally carried out; and they have long ceased to have any force whatever. You strive hard to prove that they establish a principle which every Catholic is bound to admit, although from the very terms you must perceive, that they were directed against the pernicious errors that then threatened the destruction of society.

In the profession of faith, which is premised, the fathers declare their belief in one God, the Creator of all things, and that the devils were not from eternity, but fell by sin: they add that persons may be saved in the married state, as well as in celibacy. From this we may easily deduce the errors which were then prevailing, the same as St. Leo described, which in his time. had provoked the severity of the civil authorities. Justly did our fathers, in whose times this impious heresy burst forth, use every exertion throughout the whole world to expel the wicked frenzy from the entire Church; since even secular princes had such horror of this sacrilegious madness, that they struck the author of it, and

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many of his followers, with the sword of the public laws. For they saw that every regard for decorum was removed, the marriage tie dissolved, and divine and human laws subverted, if such men, professing such principles, were allowed to live anywhere. That severity was for a long time advantageous to the lenity of the Church, which, although contented with her priestly judgment, she shrinks from sanguinary revenge, is nevertheless aided by the severe enactments of Christian princes, inasmuch as those who fear corporal punishment, sometimes have recourse to the spiritual remedy."*

It is remarkable that the third Council of Lateran, held in 1179, employed this passage to explain and justify its decrees against the sectaries. The fourth Council proceeded in the same spirit, and on the same grounds, having in view their abominable practices and outrages, and accordingly directed that in case of conviction, they should be left to the bailiffs or civil officers to be punished according to law. No punishment was specified; for the confiscation of property, which is mentioned, was incidental to capital punishment, which the civil law assigned to the crime of heresy, and was only referred to probably because, by an arrangement with the authorities, the property of clergymen was excepted from the general law, and reserved to the Church

* Ep. ad Turibium.

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