Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/71

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

would work evil on the person against whom it was directed. Nay, it was even used in connection with the immemorial superstition of the wax figurine which represented the enemy to be destroyed, and mass celebrated ten times over such an image was supposed to insure his death within ten days.[1]

Even confession could be used as a magic formula to escape the detection of guilt. As demons professed a knowledge of every crime committed, and would reveal them through the mouth of those whom they possessed, demoniacs were frequently used as detectives in case of suspected persons. Yet when sins were con- fessed with due contrition, the absolution wiped them forever from the demon's memory, and he would deny all knowledge of them — a fact which was regularly acted on by those afraid of exposure ; for even after the demon had revealed the guilt, the perpetrator could go at once and confess, and then confidently, return and challenge a repetition of the denunciation.[2]

Examples such as these could be multiplied almost indefinitely, but they would only serve to weary the reader. What I have given will probably suffice to illustrate the degeneracy of the Christianity superimposed upon paganism and wielded by a sacerdotal body so worldly in its aspirations as that of the Middle Ages.

The picture which I have drawn of the Church in its relations with the people is perhaps too unrelieved in its blackness. All popes were not like Innocent IV. and John XXII. ; all bishops were not cruel and licentious ; all priests were not intent solely on impoverishing men and dishonoring women. In many sees and abbeys, and in thousands of parishes, doubtless, there were prelates and pastors earnestly seeking to do God's work, and illuminate the darkened souls of their flocks with such gospel light as the superstition of the time would permit. Yet the evil was more apparent than the good ; the humble workers passed away unobtrusively, while pride and cruelty and lust and avarice were demonstrative and far-reaching in their influence. Such as I have

  1. Caesar. Heisterbac. Dial. Mirac. Dist. x. cap. 56. — Wibaldi Abbat. Corbeiens. Epist. 157. — P. Cantor. Verb, abbrev. cap. 29.
  2. Caesar. Heisterbac. Dial. Mirac. Dist. iii. cap. 2, 3, 6 ; Dist. v. cap. 3.