Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/235

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215
THE DEATH PENALTY ADOPTED

could not be cruelty; rigor, in fact, he argues in another place, is the most genuine mercy, since temporal punishment may avert eternal perdition. It was only sixty-two years after the slaughter of Priscillian and his followers had excited so much horror, that Leo. I., when the heresy seemed to be reviving, in 447, not only justified the act, but declared that if the followers of heresy so damnable were allowed to live there would be an end to human and divine law. The final step had been taken, and the Church was definitely pledged to the suppression of heresy at whatever cost. It is impossible not to attribute to ecclesiastical influence the successive edicts by which, from the time of Theodosius the Great, persistence in heresy was punished with death.[1]

A powerful impulse to this development is to be found in the responsibility which grew upon the Church from its connection with the State. When it could influence the monarch and procure from him edicts condemning heretics to exile, deportation, to the mines, and even to death, it felt that God had put into its hands powers to be exercised and not to be neglected. At the same time, with natural human inconsistency, it could argue that it was not responsible for the execution of the laws, and that its own hands were unstained with blood. Even Ithacius, in the case of Priscillian, had shrunk from the function of prosecutor and had put forward a layman in his place. Similar devices, as we shall see, were practised by the Inquisition, and in either case they were transparently false. In the vast body of imperial edicts inflicting upon heretics every variety of disability and punishment, the most ardent churchmen might find conviction that the State recognized the preservation of the purity of the faith as its first duty. Yet whenever the State or any of its officials lagged in the enforcement of these laws, the churchman was at hand to goad them on. Thus the African Church repeatedly asked the intervention of the secular power to suppress the Donatists; Leo the Great insisted with the Empress Pulcheria that the destruction of the Eutychians should be her highest care; and Pelagius I., in

  1. *Hieron. Epist. 109 ad Ripar.: Comment. in Naum I. 9.-Leonis PP. I. Epist. 15 ad Turribium.-Lib. xvI. Cod. Theodos. Tit. v. l. 9, 15, 34, 80, 51, 56, 64. Constt. 11, 12 Cod. Lib. I. Tit. v.-Novell. Theod. IL Tit. vi.-Pauli Dinc. His tor. Lib. xvI.-Basilicon Lib. r. Tit. 1-33