Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/41

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
21
EXTORTIONS OF THE BISHOPS.


are strainers of the milk of their rapine, retaining for themselves the dregs of sin.[1]

From this honest burst of indignation we see that the main instrument of exaction and oppression was the judicial functions of the episcopate. Considerable revenues, it is true, were derived from the sale of benefices and the exaction of fees for all official acts, and many prelates did not blush to derive a filthy gain from the licentiousness universal among a celibate clergy by exacting a tribute known as "cullagium," on payment of which the priest was allowed to keep his concubine in peace, but the spiritual jurisdiction was the source of the greatest profit to the prelate and of the greatest misery to the people. Even in the temporal courts, the fines arising from litigation formed no mean portion of the income of the seigneurs ; and in the Courts Christian, embracing the whole of spiritual jurisprudence and much of temporal, there was an ample harvest to be gathered. Thus, as Peter Cantor says, the most holy sacrament of matrimony, owing to the remote consanguinity coming within the prohibited degrees, was made a subject of derision to the laity by the venality with which marriages were made and unmade to fill the pouches of the episcopal officials. Ex-communication was another fruitful source of extortion. If an unjust demand was resisted, the recalcitrant was excommunicated, and then had to pay for reconciliation in addition to the original sum. Any delay in obeying a summons to the court of the Officiality entailed excommunication with the same result of extortion. When Utigation was so profitable, it was encouraged to the utmost, to the infinite wretchedness of the people. When a priest was inducted into a benefice, it was customary to exact of him an oath that he would not overlook any offences committed by his parishioners, but would report them to the Ordinary that the offenders might be prosecuted and fined, and that he would not allow any quarrels to be settled amicably ; and though Alexander III. issued a decretal pronouncing all such oaths void, yet they continued to be required. As an illustration of the system a case is recorded where a boy in play accidentally killed a comrade with an arrow. The father of the slayer chanced to be wealthy, and

  1. P. Cantor, Verb. abbrev. cap. 24.-Cf. Petri. Blesensis Epist. 23; Johann. Saresberiens. Polycrat. Lib. VII. cap. 21, Lib. viii. cap. 17.