The special field of activity of the Mendicants, however, which more particularly concerns us, was that of the conversion and persecution of heretics — of the Inquisition, which they made their own. It was inevitable that this should fall into their hands as soon as the inadequacy of the ancient episcopal courts required the organization of a new system. The discovery and conviction of the heretic was no easy task. It required special training, and that training was exactly what the Orders sought to give their neophytes to fit them for the work of preaching and conversion. With no ties of locality, soldiers of the Cross ready to march to any point at the word of command, they could be despatched at a moment's notice whenever their services were required. Moreover, their peculiar devotion to the Holy See rendered them specially useful in organizing the papal Inquisition which was to supersede by degrees the episcopal jurisdiction, and prove so efficient an instrument in reducing the local churches to subjection.
That Dominic was the founder of the Inquisition and the first inquisitor - general has become a part of Roman tradition. It is affirmed by all the historians of the Order, and by all the panegyrists of the Inquisition; it has the sanction of infallibility in the bull Invictarum of Sixtus Y., and it is confirmed by quoting a bull of Innocent III. appointing him inquisitor - general. Yet it is safe to say that no tradition of the Church rests on a slenderer basis. That Dominic devoted the best years of his life to combating heresy there is no doubt, and as little that, when a heretic was deaf to argument or persuasion, he would cheerfully stand by the pyre and see him burned, like any other zealous missionary of the time ; but in this he was no more prominent than hundreds of others, and of organized work in this direction he was utterly guiltless. Indeed, from the year 1215, when he laid the foundation of his Order, he was engrossed in it to the exclusion of all other objects, and was obliged to forego his cherished design of ending his days as a missionary to Persia. We shall see that it
1492, No. 2 ; ann. 1493, No. 2-8.— Rodulphii Hist. Seraph. Relig. Lib. i. fol. 120.— Paramo de Orig. Offic. S. Inquisit. p. 238.
In 1246 Innocent IV. received a very civil letter from Melik el-Mansur Nassir, the ruler of Edessa, expressing his regret that mutual ignorance of each others' language prevented his engaging in tlieological disputation with the Dominicans sent for liis conversion. — Berger, Registres d'Innoc. IV. No. 3031.