Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/315

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oughly in opposition to their original design. Their members, moreover, were peculiarly subject to temptation. Wanderers by profession, they were relieved from supervision, and were subject only to the jurisdiction of their own superiors and to the laws of their own Orders, thus intensifying and rendering peculiarly dangerous the immunity common to all ecclesiastics.[1]

The "Seraphic Religion" of the Franciscans, as it was based on a lofty ideal, was especially subject to the reaction of human imperfection. This was manifest even in the lifetime of St. Francis, who resigned the generalate on account of the abuses which were creeping in, and offered to resume it if the brethren would walk according to his will. It was inevitable that trouble should come between those who conscientiously adhered to the Rule In all its strictness and the worldlings who saw in the Order the instrument of their ambition ; and it did not need the prophetic spirit to lead Francis to predict on his death-bed future scandals and divisions and the persecution of those who would not consent to error — a forecast which we will see abundantly verified, as well as that in which he foretold that the Order would become so defamed that it would be ashamed to be seen in public. His successor in the mastership, Elias, gave the Order a powerful impetus on its downward path. Reckoned the shrewdest and most skilful political manager in Italy, he greatly increased its influence and public activity, till his relaxation of the strictness of the Rule gave such offence to the more rigid brethren that, after a hard struggle, they compelled Gregory IX. to remove him, whereupon he went over to the party of Frederic II., and was duly excommunicated. As the Order spread it was not in human nature to reject the wealth which came pouring in upon it from all sides, and ingenious dialectics were resorted to to reconcile its ample possessions with the absolute rejection of property prescribed by the Rule. The humble hovels which Francis had enjoined became stately palaces which arose in every city, rivalling or putting to shame the loftiest cathedrals and most sumptuous abbeys. In 1257 St. Bona Ventura, who had just succeeded John of Parma as General of the Order, varied his controversy with William of St. Amour by an encyclical to his provincials in which he bewailed the contempt

  1. Potthast Regest. No. 8326, 9172, 11209.— Martene Thesaur. V. 1816, 1830.