Historical insights – The Church of Rome’s law on the extermination of heretics


Lightning over the outskirts of Oradea, Romania, during the August 17, 2005 thunderstorm which went on to cause major flash floods over southern Romania. Wikipedia, Public Domain.

Luke 9

51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.


 The Church of Rome has two sources of authority, Tradition and Holy Scripture. While this might sound benign it has led to deadly error. The suppression of heresy by the punishment, banishment, and extermination of heretics is one of the errors springing from Rome’s refusal to come under the sole authority of God’s Word. (John 8:31Proverbs 30:6)

I first learned about the extermination of heretics from Protestant sources, such as, The History of the Waldenses by J. A. Wylie, but here is a primary source that demonstrates that this was Catholic policy codified in law about the time of Rome’s Crusade against the Albigenses of Southern France.

Medieval Sourcebook:
Twelfth Ecumenical Council:
Lateran IV 1215

Source: Fordham University

CANON 3

Text. We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that raises against the holy, orthodox and Catholic faith which we have above explained; condemning all heretics under whatever names they may be known, for while they have different faces they are nevertheless bound to each other by their tails, since in all of them vanity is a common element. Those condemned, being handed over to the secular rulers of their bailiffs, let them be abandoned, to be punished with due justice, clerics being first degraded from their orders. As to the property of the condemned, if they are laymen, let it be confiscated; if clerics, let it be applied to the churches from which they received revenues. But those who are only suspected, due consideration being given to the nature of the suspicion and the character of the person, unless they prove their innocence by a proper defense, let them be anathematized and avoided by all 1-intil [until] they have made suitable satisfaction; but if they have been under excommunication for one year, then let them be condemned as heretics. Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath. But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province. If he refuses to make satisfaction within a year, let the matter be made known to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler’s vassals absolved from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled lay Catholics, who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance and preserve it in the purity of faith; the right, however, of the chief ruler is to be respected as long as he offers no obstacle in this matter and permits freedom of action. The same law is to be observed in regard to those who have no chief rulers (that is, are independent). Catholics who have girded themselves with the cross for the extermination of the heretics, shall enjoy the indulgences and privileges granted to those who go in defense of the Holy Land.

We decree that those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronize them, are excommunicated; and we firmly declare that after any one of them has been branded with excommunication, if he has deliberately failed to make satisfaction within a year, let him incur ipso jure the stigma of infamy and let him not be admitted to public offices or deliberations, and let him not take part in the election of others to such offices or use his right to give testimony in a court of law. Let him also be intestable, that he may not have the free exercise of making a will, and let him be deprived of the right of inheritance. Let no one be urged to give an account to him in any matter, but let him be urged to give an account to others. If perchance he be a judge, let his decisions have no force, nor let any cause be brought to his attention. If he be an advocate, let his assistance by no means be sought. If a notary, let the instruments drawn up by him be considered worthless, for, the author being condemned, let them enjoy a similar fate. In all similar cases we command that the same be observed. If, however, he be a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, that the greater the fault the graver may be the punishment inflicted.

If any refuse to avoid such after they have been ostracized by the Church, let them be excommunicated till they have made suitable satisfaction. Clerics shall not give the sacraments of the Church to such pestilential people, nor shall they presume to give them Christian burial, or to receive their alms or offerings; otherwise they shall be deprived of their office, to which they may not be restored without a special indult of the Apostolic See. Similarly, all regulars, on whom also this punishment may be imposed, let their privileges be nullified in that diocese in which they have presumed to perpetrate such excesses.

But since some, under “the appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” as the Apostle says (II Tim. 3: 5), arrogate to themselves the authority to preach, as the same Apostle says: “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:15), all those prohibited or not sent, who, without the authority of the Apostolic See or of the Catholic bishop of the locality, shall presume to usurp the office of preaching either publicly or privately, shall be excommunicated and unless they amend, and the sooner the better, they shall be visited with a further suitable penalty. We add, moreover, that every archbishop or bishop should himself or through his archdeacon or some other suitable persons, twice or at least once a year make the rounds of his diocese in which report has it that heretics dwell, and there compel three or more men of good character or, if it should be deemed advisable, the entire neighborhood, to swear that if anyone know of the presence there of heretics or others holding secret assemblies, or differing from the common way of the faithful in faith and morals, they will make them known to the bishop. The latter shall then call together before him those accused, who, if they do not purge themselves of the matter of which they are accused, or if after the rejection of their error they lapse into their former wickedness, shall be canonically punished. But if any of them by damnable obstinacy should disapprove of the oath and should perchance be unwilling to swear, from this very fact let them be regarded as heretics.

We wish, therefore, and in virtue of obedience strictly command, that to carry out these instructions effectively the bishops exercise throughout their dioceses a scrupulous vigilance if they wish to escape canonical punishment. If from sufficient evidence it is apparent that a bishop is negligent or remiss in cleansing his diocese of the ferment of heretical wickedness, let him be deposed from the episcopal office and let another, who will and can confound heretical depravity, be substituted.


Any understanding of “extermination” as to send beyond the boundaries of, in other words, as to banish, denies the facts of history: the burnings of Savonarola, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, William Tyndale, and Archbishop Cranmer; the Albigensian Crusade; frequent wars of extermination against the peaceful Waldensian Christians; the massacre of French Reformed Christians (Huguenots) on St. Bartholomew’s feast day and the days following; and certainly, the Inquisition. These things happened because the Church of Rome instituted, and her people followed, the tradition of the temporal authority of the pope leading to the policy of extermination. This policy contradicts the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 8.

I hope and pray that you will see that Tradition + Scripture = madness. Go back and reread the passage from Luke 8, please! If you wish to confront me with Protestant sins, I understand this and confess them.

Revelation 18

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. 


 


 

Apologizing for mass murder

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POPE FRANCIS WALDENSIAN
Pope Francis shakes hands with Eugenio Bernardini, the Moderator of the Waldensian Church, during the first ever visit of a pope to the Waldensian evangelical church, in Turin, northern Italy, Monday, June 22, 2015. (L’ Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

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(Disclaimer: only a glimpse of the history of relations between the papacy and Waldensian Christians can be gleaned from these excerpts. Sitting popes came against them over a very long period of time. See J.A. Wylie’s History of the Waldenses, available in several formats.)

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A recent Papal apology

Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness For Catholic Church’s Persecution Of Waldensians

This HUFF POST RELIGION article by Philip Pullella (REUTERS) majors on Francis’ personality and the probable motive behind this apology – the push for “Christian” unity.

“Pope Francis asked forgiveness on Monday for the Roman Catholic Church’s ‘non-Christian and inhumane’ treatment in the past of the Waldensians, a tiny Protestant movement the Vatican tried to exterminate in the 15th century.

“Francis made his plea during the first ever visit by a pope to a Waldensian temple on the second day of a trip to Italy’s northern Piedmont region, the centre of the Waldensian Church, which has only about 30,000 followers worldwide.

“While the movement is miniscule compared to the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church, the gesture is part of Francis’ drive to promote Christian unity and it has taken on added significance ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

“‘On behalf of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness for the un-Christian and even inhumane positions and actions taken against you historically,’ he said. ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!’

“The Waldensians, who now live mostly in Italy and Latin America, were founded by Peter Waldo in France in the late 12th century. He gave up his wealth and preached poverty but as the movement grew it came into increasing theological conflict with the papacy.

“The movement, an early precursor of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, was branded as heretical and in 1487 Pope Innocent VIII ordered its extermination.”

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"LIGHT SHINES IN DARKNESS"
Waldensian motto “Light Shines In Darkness”

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How faithful Waldensians view his apology

Pope meets the Waldensian Church

On July 3, 2015, the website of the group of Christians named “Sentieri Antichi Valdesi” (“Old Waldensian Paths”) published an analysis of the Pope’s apology and his reception in a Waldensian temple. 

“We believe that ‘hugs’ and forgiveness in this context, has little meaning. This is because the Catholicism represented by the current pope and the version of faith represented by the current ‘Waldensian’ moderator has very little to do with the actual Catholics and Waldensians who were in conflict. They may consider themselves their successors, and true ‘representatives’ but, in our view, they are not. Instead, they are an ‘evolution’, not necessarily for the best.

“Pope Bergoglio is a typical representative, in his own way, of post-modernist relativism. The lips which kiss the Waldensian Bible belong to the same pope who kisses statues of the Madonna and honour John Bosco, a staunch opponent of the Waldensians. These lips also pray in mosques and Buddhist temples. The pope seems to ‘value’ without discernment each form of religiosity, pretending to keep them all together, in the name of an unspecified spirituality. Undoubtedly, to the ‘ecumenical’ modern relativist this is pleasing. It avoids the question of truth arising. Everything is resolved in a sentimental ‘love’ without discernment.

“All this certainly has its own logic, but is it something we want to subscribe to? The same applies to the modern ‘Waldensians’. While the Waldensian Church is formally the same institution as it was, modern Waldensians, despite their claims, have little in common with their historic predecessors who drafted their confession of faith and joined the Reformation in Geneva. Although formally subscribing to this, the modern Waldensians leaders continually contradict it or believe they have ‘moved on’ from it. They are not children of the the Reformation, but children of Enlightenment rationalism and higher biblical criticism, which sought to undermine the authority of the Bible (so that it would not longer be considered the Word of God). They have sold out to the myth of ‘progress’. They are enthusiastic supporters of any ideology that is fashionable. Undoubtedly, they speak about ‘love’, but it is love without discernment or defined in a very questionable way. Above all, this love is devoid of the moral criteria established by God in His law, which is relativised.

“What, then, do we think of this meeting of the pope and the modern Waldensians? We consider it essentially mystifying, a ‘reconciliation’ acted out ​​by people and institutions with which, as Christians, we do not identify with and which do not represent us.”

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An older Papal apology

Pope Asks Forgiveness for Errors Of the Church Over 2,000 Years

The New York Times article by Alessandra Stanley (2000) shows the complexity of formal apologies for past sins in the thinking of the Catholic hierarchy; reveals the probable motivation for them; highlights crimes against the Jewish people; and, reveals the RCC’s belief that there is a need for mutual forgiveness. I believe that leveling a reproach in the context of any apology undercuts the value of the apology. 

“The public act of repentance, solemnly woven into the liturgy of Sunday Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica, was an unprecedented moment in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, one that the ailing 79-year-old pope pushed forward over the doubts of even many of his own cardinals and bishops. He has said repeatedly that the new evangelization he is calling for in the third millennium can take place only after what he has described as a church-wide ‘purification of memory.'”

“The pope, broadening a process of reconciliation that began in the 1960’s during the Second Vatican Council, has issued apologies before, notably regretting in a 1998 document the failure of many Catholics to help Jews during the Holocaust. [At the time,] That document, ‘We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,’ disappointed many leading Jewish groups, which complained that the pope did not go far enough in apologizing for the silence of church leaders, including the wartime pope, Pius XII.”

“The pope also mentioned the persecution of Catholics by other faiths. ‘As we ask forgiveness for our sins, we also forgive the sins committed by others against us,’ he said.”

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The Official view 

MEMORY AND RECONCILIATION: THE CHURCH AND THE FAULTS OF THE PAST

Except for these excerpts, I didn’t read this document. The topic was studied, and the document written, at the direction of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

PRELIMINARY NOTE

The study of the topic “The Church and the Faults of the Past” was proposed to the International Theological Commission by its President, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in view of the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. A sub-commission was established to prepare this study; it was composed of Rev. Christopher BEGG, Msgr. Bruno FORTE (President), Rev. Sebastian KAROTEMPREL, S.D.B., Msgr. Roland MINNERATH, Rev. Thomas NORRIS, Rev. Rafael SALAZAR CARDENAS, M.Sp.S., and Msgr. Anton STRUKELJ. The general discussion of this theme took place in numerous meetings of the sub-commission and during the plenary sessions of the International Theological Commission held in Rome from 1998 to 1999. The present text was approved in forma specifica by the International Theological Commission, by written vote, and was then submitted to the President, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who gave his approval for its publication.

CONCLUSION

At the conclusion of this reflection, it is appropriate to stress yet again that in every form of repentance for the wrongs of the past, and in each specific gesture connected with it, the Church addresses herself in the first place to God and seeks to give glory to him and to his mercy. Precisely in this way she is able to celebrate the dignity of the human person called to the fullness of life in faithful covenant with the living God: “The glory of God is man fully alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” By such actions, the Church also gives witness to her trust in the power of the truth that makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). Her “request for pardon must not be understood as an expression of false humility or as a denial of her 2,000-year history, which is certainly rich in merit in the areas of charity, culture, and holiness. Instead she responds to a necessary requirement of the truth, which, in addition to the positive aspects, recognizes the human limitations and weaknesses of the various generations of Christ’s disciples.” Recognition of the Truth is a source of reconciliation and peace because, as the Holy Father also states, “Love of the truth, sought with humility, is one of the great values capable of reuniting the men of today through the various cultures.” Because of her responsibility to Truth, the Church “cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging her children to purify themselves, through repentance, of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and slowness to act. Acknowledging the weaknesses of the past is an act of honesty and courage…” It opens a new tomorrow for everyone.

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