Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/54

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34
THE CHURCH.

for fees, always prompted the episcopal officials to support their claims and demand their release. The Church thus became responsible for crowds of unprincipled men, clerks only in name, who used the immunity of their position as a stalking-horse in preying upon the community.[1]

The similar immunity attaching to ecclesiastical property gave rise to abuses equally flagrant. The cleric, whether plaintiff or defendant, was entitled in civil cases to be heard before the spiritual courts, which were naturally partial in his favor, even when not venal, so that justice was scarce to be obtained by the laity. That such, in fact, was the experience is shown by the practice which grew up of clerks purchasing doubtful claims from laymen and then enforcing them before the Courts Christian — a speculative proceeding, forbidden, indeed, by the councils, but too profitable to be suppressed. Another abuse which excited loud complaint consisted in harassing unfortunate laymen by citing them to answer in the same case in several spiritual courts simultaneously, each of which enforced its process remorselessly by the expedient of excommunication, with consequent fines for reconciliation, on all who by neglect placed themselves in an apparent attitude of contumacy, frequently without even pausing to ascertain whether the parties thus amerced had actually been cited. To estimate properly the amount of wrong and suffering thus inflicted on the community, we must bear in mind that culture and training were almost exclusively confined to the ecclesiastical class, whose sharpened intelligence thus enabled them to take the utmost advantage of the ignorant and defenceless.[2]

The monastic orders formed too large and important a class not to share fully in the responsibility of the Church for good or for evil. Great as were their unquestioned services to religion and culture, they were peculiarly exposed to the degrading tendencies


  1. Stephani Tomacens. Epist. xii. — Innocent. PP. III. Regest. vi. 183; vin. 192-193; X. 209-210, 215 ; xv. 202. For the subsequent career of V^aldemar of Sleswick, see Regest. xi. 10, 173; xii. 63; xiii. 158; xv. 3; Supplement. 187, 224, 228, 243. Cf. Arnold. Lubecens. vi. 18; vii. 12, 13; and Vaissette, Hist. G6n. de Languedoc, IV. 80 (ed. 1742). For details of clerical immunity, see the author's " Studies in Church History," 2d edition, 1883.
  2. Concil. ap. Campinacum ann. 1238, c. 1, 6.