"Verily those who drew up the articles were most moderate, for his writings are much more atrocious."
This continuous teachings of the Church let its best men to regard no act as more self-evidently just than the burning of the heretic, and no heresy less defensible than a demand for toleration. Even Chancellor Gerson himself could see nothing else to be done with those who pertinaciously adhered to error, even in matters not at present explicitly articles necessary to the faith. The fact is, the Church not only defined the guilt and forced its punishment, but created the crime itself. As we shall see, under Nicholas IV. and Celestine V., the strict Franciscans were preeminently orthodox; but when John XXII. stigmatized as heretical the belief that Christ lived in absolute poverty, he transformed them into unpardonable criminals whom the temporal officials were bound to send to the stake, under pain of being themselves treated as heretics.
There was thus a universal consensus of opinion that there was nothing to do with a heretic but to burn him. The heretic as known to the laws, both secular and ecclesiastical, was he who not only admitted his heretical belief, but defended it and refused to recant. He was obstinate and impenitent; the Church could do nothing with him, and as soon as the secular lawgivers had provided for his guilt the awful punishment of the stake, there was no hesitation in handing him over to the temporal jurisdiction to endure it. All authorities unite in this, and the annals of the Inquisition can vainly be searched for an exception. Yet this was regarded by the inquisitor as a last resort. To say nothing of the saving of a soul, a convert who would betray his friends was more useful than a roasted corpse; and, as we have seen, no effort was spared to obtain recantation. Experience had shown that such zealots were often eager for martyrdom and desired to be speedily burned, and it was no part of the inquisitor's pleasure to gratify them. He was advised that this ardor frequently gave way under time and suffering, and therefore he was told to keep the obstinate and defiant heretic chained in a dungeon for six
- Rodrigo, Historia Verdadera de la Inquisition, Madrid, 1876, I. 176-77.—Von der Hardt, IV. 317-18.
- Von der Hardt, III, 50-1