Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/83

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63
THE SACRAMENTS IN POLLUTED HANDS.

force by Gregory VII., in 1074, it produced immense confusion, for continent priests were rare exceptions. So violent was the contest excited that, in 1077, at Cambrai, the married or concubinary priesthood actually burned at the stake an unfortunate who resolutely maintained the orthodoxy of the papal rescripts. The orders of Gregory were reiterated by Innocent II. as late as the Council of Reims, in 1131, and in that of Lateran, in 1139, and Gratian embodied the whole series in the canon law, where they still remain. Although Urban II. had endeavored to point out that it was merely a matter of discipline, and that the virtue of the sacraments remained unaltered in the hands of the worst of men, still it was difficult for the popular mind to recognize so subtle a distinction. A learned theologian like Geroch of Reichersperg might safely declare that he paid no more attention to the masses of concubinary priests than if they were those of so many pagans, and yet be unimpeached in his orthodoxy, but to minds less robust in faith the question presented insoluble difficulties. Albero, a priest of Mercke, near Cologne, shortly afterwards, when he taught that the consecration of the host was imperfect in sinful hands, was forced, by the unanimous testimony of the Fathers, to recant; but he adopted the theory that such sacraments were profitable to those who took them in ignorance of the wickedness of the celebrant, while they were useless to the dead and to those who were cognizant of the sin. This was likewise heretical, and Albero's offer to prove its orthodoxy by undergoing the ordeal of fire was rejected on the logical ground that sorcery might thus enable false doctrine to triumph. The question continued to plague the Church until, about 1230, Gregory IX. abandoned the position of his predecessors, and undertook to settle it by an authoritative decision that every priest in mortal sin is suspended, as far as concerns himself, until he repents and is absolved, yet his offices are not to be avoided, because he is not suspended as regards others, unless the sin is notorious by judicial confession or sentence, or by evidence so clear that no tergiversation is possible. To the Church it was, of course, impossible to admit that the virtue of the sacrament depended upon the virtue of the ministrant, but these fine-drawn distinctions show how the question troubled the minds of the faithful, and how readily the heresy could suggest itself that transubstantiation might fail in the hands of the wicked. In fact,