Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/263

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CHAPTER VI

THE MENDICANT ORDERS.

In the struggle which the Church was making to regain its forfeited hold upon the veneration of Christendom its most efficient instrument was not force. It is true that the dignitaries at its head relied solely on persecution, and by skilful use of popular superstition and princely ambition they succeeded in crushing the open revolt which threatened its supremacy. Something more was required to render that success permanent by arousing anew the trust and confidence of the people, and that something could not be supplied by a worldly and ambitious prelacy. Far down in the ranks of the Church, however, were men with truer insight and nobler aspirations, who saw its fatal omissions and who sought in their humble spheres to do the work which lay immediately around them. They builded better than they knew, and to them rather than to the Innocents and the de Montforts did the hierarchy owe the restoration of the tottering edifice. The response which they met showed how deep was the popular longing for a church which should in some degree fitly reflect the precepts of its Founder.

It is not to be supposed that the corruption of the ecclesiastical body was allowed to pass unnoticed and unreproved by the pious among the orthodox, and that occasional efforts at reform were not made by those who would have shrunk with horror from open opposition or even secret dissidence. The free speaking of St. Bernard, Geroch of Reichersberg, and Peter Cantor show how deeply the offences of priest and prelate were felt and how sharply they were criticised. The self-imposed mission of Peter Waldo was an effort to evangelize the Church, which in its inception had no thought of antagonizing the existing order, and was forced into schism by the obstinacy of the disciples in recurring to Scripture, and the natural dread which conservatism feels of all enthusiasm