Second Part.



28.  Our task as regards the principal question is now discharged.  But as, for the quieting of my reader’s conscience and to enable him to see his duty clearly, I undertook to discuss not the principal question only—whether a Catholic in accepting the Vatican definition is in reality bound to accept these thirteen propositions as articles of faith—but also to examine any other incidental questions which might arise out of the expressions and doings of Popes to which our attention has been directed, I will now briefly discuss this second question.  It resolves itself into two heads, to which these Papal expressions and acts refer: first, ‘the relation of Popes to the State;’ and secondly, ‘their treatment of heretics.’  Now as regards the relation of Popes to the State we must bear in mind that all the expressions and acts of the Popes towards the State which have been mentioned in the principal propositions occur in the period from the eleventh to the sixteenth century.  Hence it follows:

(1)  The Jus publicum, as it was then laid down and acknowledged, must be accepted as furnishing us with the means of forming a right judgment of the precedents which took place in this period.

(2)  This Jus publicum was founded upon the general understanding, then prevalent, that European Christendom was based on the principles of the Catholic religion and derived its stability from it.

(3)  Accordingly, a man who did not belong to the Catholic Church could hold no position in public life.

(4)  Every one who was invested with any public office was obliged to direct his life according to the doctrines and principles of the Catholic religion.

(5)  If he did not do this, he fell under the penal authority of the Church and of the State.

(6)  The penal authority of the Church was, in its supreme instance, exercised by the Popes, who being independent, did justice fearlessly, even against the great and mighty of this world.

(7)  Nor must it here be left out of consideration what an important influence the laws of the old Roman Empire, Justinian’s code, and the ‘Novellæ’ exercised in the West, and how many and what important rights (‘jura’) were conceded to the Church by means of these old Roman statutes.[89]

(8)  Nothing can give plainer evidence of the prevailing opinion in those times with regard to the Jus publicum  in social life than the fact that kings again and again had recourse to the Popes to obtain their judgment on a matter.[90]  Had this practice not been grounded in the Jus publicum of the time, the Emperor Frederick II. would never have undertaken to defend himself at the first general council of Lyons before Pope Innocent IV., through his plenipotentiary ambassador, in order to escape the Pope’s condemnation.  This shows how fully he recognized the Pope’s right.

(9)  According as this great family of nations brought out in different ways its internal conviction that its social life rested on a Catholic foundation, and must be penetrated through and through and guided by the Catholic truth, so it considered it its duty to spread everywhere the knowledge of the Christian Catholic religion.

(10)  Temporal dominion was undoubtedly everywhere recognized as ordained by God.[91]

These, then, we find to be (1) the generally received views of law (jus) in that period, but these views are in no sense (2) Papal definitions of faith made for all periods till the end of time.

These two things, then, must be kept quite distinct.

Here I am going to take the liberty to introduce a passage which bears upon this subject from an historical work of one of our most celebrated German authors, which will, I think, tend to throw the light on our subject, and enable us to see it in its true proportions.  The writer is Frederick Hurter.  In his history of Innocent III., having made a thorough investigation of the records of that time, he says: ‘The Church was the source of all higher social life in the human race; hence in her there was safety, outside of her there was no safety.  In her mission, which was to include the whole world, in order to bring all people of the earth to the knowledge and adoration of the true God, he who was at the head of the Church was compelled, as his most sacred obligation, to bring into her dominion those who were afar off, to remove those who had separate from her, and so had to consider that the gain of those who entered into the great hospice of salvation was of more importance to themselves than to the Church.’ (Book II.)

Again: ‘The Church secured the Empire against that absolutism which will not endure by its side any law but its own.  The veneration of the Empire for the Church procured that universal recognition of her in all countries, without which Christendom would have been abandoned to the separatist influence of ideas, customs, and inclinations of peoples, and split asunder into ever so many sects, or perhaps have become the property of a school.  But so (by this mutual support) it formed itself into that bond of union which embraced the nations, which sustained their social life, promoted civilization, and maintained the spiritual rights of all, and enabled the Christian West, as one whole in living faith, to sustain the shock of the Mahometan East, which was contending with it for the empire of the world in all the fresh vigour of a doctrine kindled by human passion.’ (Book II.)

Again: ‘There lay in Christendom for all its votaries a uniting and a binding power.  The rights of all were put under its protection, the duties of all were marked out and consecrated by it.  He who stood at the head of the great Christian community had to protect some, and yet to be mindful of others.[92]  And thus there was founded  a world-government which gave due honour to each lawful authority when moving in its own proper sphere.’

Again: ‘If ever the dream of a universal peace is to be realized, it can only be possible by the general acknowledgment of some one spiritual power, raised above all others, to investigate and smooth the way in the strifes of kings and peoples, to mediate and to adjust; and when that king or nation shall be treated as the common enemy, who, trusting in his own strength, shall refuse to acknowledge the decisions of this supreme spiritual power.’  (Book XX. Hurter’s History of Innocent III.)

29.  In close connection with this stands the treatment of heretics in that period.

The Catholic Church and heresy are, in their own nature, and in the mind of the Church, antagonistic as truth and error.

I mean, in the mutual relation they hold one to the other as regards the inner self of both the one and the other.

Externally, however, we find that in the course of centuries the Church has adopted a very different conduct towards heretics, according to the different circumstances in which she has been placed in her intercourse with the world.

Thus we may distinguish four different period.

The “First Period’ reaches from the commencement of the Christian era to the first decade of the fourth century.  During this time, in treating with heretics, Christians acted according to the words and examples of the Apostles.  What this way was, the Apostle Paul told the faithful: ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition avoid, knowing that he that is such an one is subverted and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment’ (Titus iii. 10, 11).  And the Apostle John says: ‘If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, nor say to him, God speed you’ (2 John v. 10).  This is the way in which the early Catholics protected themselves from heretics; they excluded them from their communion, and, in some cases, even broke off intercourse with them in order that they might not be corrupted by their errors.

The ‘Second Period’ begins with the First Council of Nicæa, A.D. 325, at which time the Christian rulers of the Roman Empire sent the principal teachers of error into banishment[93] from political reasons, and in order to prevent their doing mischief, because there was good reason for considering them disturbers of the public peace; and severe fines and other punishments were imposed on those who were the disciples of their errors.  This period lasted for some centuries, as long as the Roman law was in force.

In the “Third Period,’ that of the Middle Ages, rulers went farther; fines were not only followed by confiscation of goods, but even capital punishment or imprisonment for life was pronounced against heretics, and this by the imperial laws of the Emperor Frederick II.[94] and other emperors; to these laws the Popes were a party, as Leo X.[95] expressly testifies.  At that time, people looked upon heresy as a breach of the imperial law, to be punished with the loss of honour, forfeiture of goods, deprivation of civil rights, &c.  Testimony of this is expressly given by Frederick II., who declares that in punishing heretics, he was but exercising his own temporal power, wholly independently, and was not acting under the influence of any spiritual authority.  The reason the emperor gives for inflicting such heavy penalties was because it was a greater breach of the law to offend against the Divine Majesty than against any earthly majesty.  This was the general way of viewing men’s public social relations at that time.  This Period lasted till well on into the sixteenth century.

The ‘Fourth Perod,’ which has been running its course up to the present time from the seventeenth century, did away with those penal enactment which had been passed under very different circumstances, as the reasons which had led to their being enacted, and the principles on which they rested, were no longer in force since the establishment of Protestant States in Europe.  This is the period in which we meet with only protests or the reservation of rights, when, that is, the rights of the Church, whether divine, or legal, or accruing to her from contract, were violated in favour of heretics.


[88] Translator’s heading.

[89] Vide Savigny’s History of the Roman Law in the Middle Ages, 2d edit. Vol. iii., Heidelberg, 1834, p. 87, where he says: ‘As far back as from the times of Charlemagne it had been the custom to look upon a large portion of the European nations and states as in one lasting alliance, and to assume a solidarity even in, it might be, that special thing which distinguished them one from another.  In this range of matters common to all were comprised “The Imperial Power,” “The Roman Catholic Church Constitution,” “The Clerical State,” “The Latin, the language of all social transactions;” and under this category fell also “The Roman Statute Law,” which was considered not as the special law of any Roman province nor even as the private law of any particular State, but as the common Christian European law.’

[90] The decretal of Pope Innocent III. may serve as an example of this, in cap. 13, Novell. De Judiciis, whence we see that the King of England cited the King of France before the Pope in order to have right done to him.  Vide also c. 15, De Foro Competenti, ii. 2.

[91] Pope Innocent III. in his decretal, Solitæ, c. 6. De M. et O., i. 33, says this expressly in the following words: ‘Ad firmamentum igitur cœli, hoc est, universalis ecclesiæ fecit Deus duo magna luminaria, id est, duas instituit dignitates, quæ sunt Pontificalis auctoritas et regalis potestas.’  This may serve as a confutation of Dr. Schulte’s false proposition, as though the Popes had taught ‘the temporal power is from the wicked one.’  P. 29 of his work.

[92] This passage recalls the words of a French philosopher which may interest our readers: ‘Est-ce un si grand mal de rappeler aux princes memes leurs devoirs et les droits des nations lorsqu’ils les oublient?  Qui réclamera donc en faveur des peoples, si la religion, cette seule et unique barrière, qui nous reste contre le despotisme et le désordre, se tait?  N’est pas à elle a parler, lorsque les lois gardent le silence?  Quie enseignera la justice, si la religion ne dit rien?  Qui vengera les mœuers, si la religion est muette?  En un mot, de quoi servira la religion, si elle ne sert à réprimer le crime?’

[93] In this way Arius, and the few Bishops who had voted against the majority of 318, in the definition of faith made at that Council, were sent into banishment by the Emperor Constantine, as was also, later on, Nestorius: see Sozom. Hist. Eccl. Lib. i. c. xx. xxi; Philostorgii, Hist. Eccl. Lib. i. n. 9, 10; Evagree, Hist. Eccl. Lib. i. c. vii, ed. Vales; Cod. Theodos. De Hæreticis (xvi. 5)m 1. 13, 14, 19, 30, 31, 31, 33, 34, 45, 52, 54, 64, ed. Ritter, t. vi. p. i. Lipsiæ, 1743.

[94] Vide Pertz, Mon. Germ. Legum t. ii. pp. 287, 288.

[95] Vide Bull Exsurge Domine, Bullar. Rom. t. iii. p. 488.