Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/52

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32
THE CHURCH.

an essential prerequisite to its functions, and practising a dissoluteness more cynical than that of the average layman, was not adapted to raise it in popular esteem ; while the individual cases in which the peace and honor of families were sacrificed to the lusts of the pastor necessarily tended to rouse the deepest antagonism. As for darker and more deplorable crimes, they were sufficiently frequent, not alone in monasteries from which women were rigorously excluded ; and, moreover, they were committed with virtual immunity. Not the least of the evils involved in the artificial asceticism ostensibly imposed on the priesthood was the erection of a false standard of morality which did infinite harm to the laity as well as to the Church. So long as the priest did not defy the canons by marrying, everything could be forgiven. Alexander II., who labored so strenuously to restore the rule of celibacy, in 1064 decided that a priest of Orange who had committed adultery with the wife of his father was not to be deprived of communion for fear of driving him to desperation ; and, in view of the fragility of the flesh, he was to be allowed to remain in holy orders, though in the lower grades. Two years later the same pope charitably diminished the penance imposed on a priest of Padua who had committed incest with his mother, and left it to his bishop whether he should be retained in the priesthood. It would be difficult to exaggerate the disastrous influence on the people of such ex- amples.[1]

Yet perhaps the most efficient cause of demoralization in the clergy, and of hostility between them and the laity, was the personal inviolability and the immunity from secular jurisdiction

which they succeeded in establishing as a recognized principle of public law. "While this was doubtless necessary for the independence, and even for the safety of a presumably peaceful class in an age of violence, it worked unhappily in a double sense. The readiness with which acquittal was obtainable in ecclesiastical procedure by canonical purgation, or the "wager of law," and the comparative mildness of the penalties in case of conviction, relieved the ecclesiastic in great measure from the terrors of the law, and removed from him the necessity of restraining his evil


  1. Caesar. Heisterbac. Dial. Mirac. Dist. iii. cap. 27. — P. Cantor. Verb, abbrev. cap. 138.— Lowenfeld Epistt. Pont. Rom. ined. No. 92, 114 (Lipsiae, 1885).— See the Author's " Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy," 2d edition, 1884.