Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/250

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wicked to corrupt the faith on which depends the life of the soul than to debase the coinage which provides merely for temporal life; wherefore, if coiners and other malefactors are justly doomed at once to death, much more may heretics be justly slain as soon as they are convicted. Yet in its mercy the Church will always receive the heretic back into its bosom, no matter how often he may have relapsed, and will kindly give him penance whereby he may win eternal life; but charity to one must not be allowed to work evil to others. Therefore for once the heretic who repents and recants will be received and his life be spared; but if he relapses, though he may be received to penance for his soul's salvation, he will not be released from the death-penalty. This is the definite expression of the policy of the Church, which, as we shall see, became its unalterable rule of practice.[1]

Nor was the Church content to exercise its power over the living only; the daed must feel its chastening hand. It seemed intolerable that one who had successfully concealed his iniquity and had died in communion should be left to lie in consecrated ground and should be remembered in the prayers of the faithful. Not only had he escaped the penalty due to his sins, but his property, which was forfeited to Church and State, had unlawfully descended to his heirs, and must be recovered from them. Ample reason therefore existed for the trial of those who had passed to the judgment-seat of God. It had been a debatable question in the earlier Church whether excommunication, with all its tremendous penalties, here and hereafter, could be directed against departed souls. As early as the time of Cyprian the custom of excommunicating the dead had come into fashion; and about 382 St. John Chrysostom had denounced the frequency of such sentences as an interference attempted with the judgment of God. Leo I., in 432, took the same position, and it was confirmed by Gelasius I. and a council of Rome towards the end of the century. At the fifth general council, however, held in Constantinople in 553, the question came up as to the power of the Church to anathemize Theodoret of Cyrus, Ibas of Edessa, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had been dead for a hundred years. Many of the fathers of the council doubted it, when Eutychius, a man well versed in Scripture, pointed out that the

  1. S. Thom. Aquinat. Summæe Sec. Sec. Q. xi, art. 3, 4