The Wounds of the Church

Any stock-taking of the pre-Columbus Church must include some account of several 'wounds'—to borrow an expression used by Innocent IV (pope 1243-54) in his opening homily at the First Council of Lyons (1245) and by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati (1797-1855) for the title of his book on ecclesiastical reform, The Five Wounds of the Church. We name three such wounds from the pre-1492 Church: the exile of popes in Avignon and the strife over antipopes; the persecution of Jews and heretics; deteriorating relations with Muslims.

Within the body of Christian believers, the recurrent presence of antipopes down to 1449 (all faithfully listed along with the popes in an appendix to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church) weakened Catholic life and continued to hamper attempts at reunion with the Orthodox Church. Matters were exacerbated by 'the Babylonian Captivity', a phrase applied by Francesco Petrarch (1304-74) and later writers to the exile of popes in Avignon from 1309 to 1377.

Clement V (pope 1305-14), a member of an important French family, started these seventy years of papal exile from Rome by fixing his residence at Avignon in 1309. Generally subservient to the interests of the greedy and unscrupulous Philip IV, called the Fair (French king 1285-1314), Clement encouraged scholarship but harmed the papacy by selling ecclesiastical positions and imposing heavy taxes. Encouraged by revelations she received after the death of her husband in 1341, St Bridget of Sweden (c.1303-73) campaigned for the reform of Church life and the return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome. In 1349 Bridget took up residence in Rome but

On this crusade and related matters see J. Gillingham, Richard I (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999).

died before the 'Babylonian Captivity ended. Eventually Gregory XI (pope 1370-8), seemingly encouraged by St Catherine of Siena (¿.1347-80), transferred the papacy from Avignon back to Rome. His premature death occasioned 'the Great Schism', a period of thirty-nine years that saw Western Christendom divided between eight popes and antipopes and ended only when the Council of Constance elected Martin V (pope 1417-31).

Persecutions of Jews and heretics inflicted a second wound on the life of the Church. Wrongly encouraged by certain NT texts (e.g. Matt. 27: 24-5; 1 Thess. 2: 14-16), from the fourth century some Christian writers indulged in anti-Jewish polemics. Thus St John Chrysostom (d. 407), while still a presbyter in Antioch, preached eight sermons to stop Christians from attending synagogues and following Jewish practices. His sharp rhetoric cast a long shadow on Christian-Jewish relations. Collectively accused of being 'Christ-killers' and deicides ('God-killers'), from the eleventh century Jews suffered violent attacks; in some cases whole communities were wiped out. Bernard of Clairvaux raised his voice in protest against such crimes, addressing a notorious anti-Semite, the monk Raoul, in the language John 8: 44 used of the devil: 'I suppose that it is enough for you to be as your master. He was a murderer from the beginning, a liar, and the father of lies' (Epistola, 365). Bernard saw faith as always a matter of persuasion and never of compulsion, and so rejected forced conversions of Jews or others. Nevertheless, dreadful legends about Jews murdering children, poisoning water supplies, and desecrating the Eucharist fostered killings and expulsions. Jewish people were expelled from England (1290), France (1394), Spain (1492), and Portugal (1496). The Fourth Lateran Council had helped to trigger evil results. Its 1215 decree on Jews excluded them from public employment, confined them to ghettos, and required them to wear yellow stars in public.

In Medieval Europe struggles with heretics, unlike the persecutions of the Jews, often involved armed conflicts—a hint of terrible religious wars to come with the Reformation. Several sects (in France, Germany, and Italy), which admitted to membership only the morally and doctrinally pure, were dubbed 'Cathars (the pure)'. The most significant of such groups, named 'Albigensians' after Albi, their centre in Southern France, understood redemption as the soul's liberation from the flesh, dismissed matter as evil, and hence rejected Christ's incarnation, the sacraments, and the resurrection of the body. Its adherents were divided into the perfect, who did not marry and lived a very austere existence, and ordinary believers who led normal lives until they came to be in danger of death (DH 800-2; ND 19-21).

Pope Innocent III organized a series of preaching missions (1203-8) among the Albigensians and other Cathars; for this campaign he enlisted the help of Dominic and his followers. When a papal legate was assassinated in 1208, Innocent authorized an anti-Albigensian Crusade, which led to the notorious Massacre of Beziers on 22 July 1209. Both sides committed atrocities, and fighting continued sporadically until the Treaty of Paris in 1229 signalled the victory of the Northern (Catholic) forces. Alongside its strong religious dimension, the Albigensian conflict was also connected with independence movements in that part of France. But one cannot overlook the way this crusade put into practice the teaching of the Third Lateran Council (1179); its canon 27 urged the use of force by secular authorities against heresy.40 Pope Gregory IX, £.1233, set up ecclesiastical tribunals to detect and prosecute the Albingensian heresy, with the inquisitors drawn mainly from the Dominican and Franciscan Orders. At the height of this Inquisition in Southern France, each year perhaps three persons were burnt at the stake for heresy.41

In 1174 a rich citizen of Lyons, (Peter) Valdes (d. before 1219) distributed his wealth among the poor and began preaching in southern France. By frequently attacking worldly corruption in the Church, he and his followers provoked constant friction. After efforts failed to win them back, in 1182 or 1183 they were excommunicated and expelled from Lyons. Their rejection of any kind of violence, refusal to take oaths, preaching without official approval, and questioning of the validity of sacraments administered by unworthy priests made the rift too wide to heal. When Innocent III launched the Crusade against the Albigensians, that also affected the Waldensian bases in southern France. Many Waldensians migrated to Spain, Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Savoy, and Piedmont. Eventually those who did not return to the Catholic Church looked for contacts

40 See The History of the Albigensian Crusade: Peter of Les Vaux-de-Cernay's Historia Albigensis , trans. W. A. and M. D. Sibly (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1998).

41 See 'Inquisition, the', The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church , 836—7. In recent years scholarly research into the records of the Inquisition in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere has shown how the inquistors sometimes or even often acted with an enlightenment and tolerance that purveyors of popular legends continue to ignore; see A. Hamilton, 'Rewriting the Black Legend', Times Literary Supplement , 28 January 2000, 29.

with the Protestant Reformation, and some adopted Calvinist confessions of faith and ecclesiastical structures.42

Relations with Muslims that worsened from the eleventh century must be named as a third wound in the Catholic Church. Early in the eighth century the forces of Islam crossed from North Africa and conquered Spain. The new Muslim rulers normally tolerated Christians (and Jews) as 'people of the book', even if some episodes of persecution occurred. From 850 to 859 fifty Christians were killed in Cordoba, but some of them had rashly provoked martyrdom by entering a crowded mosque to preach Jesus Christ. For centuries tolerance usually prevailed between Muslims, Christians, and Jews, especially in such major cultural centres as Cordoba. An outstanding Arabic philosopher and polymath, Averroes (1126—98) was born and lived there. His commentaries on Aristotle exercised a considerable influence on Christian thinkers in Paris and elsewhere. The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138—1204) was also born in Cordoba and eventually settled in Old Cairo. Writing in both Hebrew and Arabic, he influenced such Christians as Thomas Aquinas by his principal treatise, the Guide for the Perplexed,, which aimed to synthesize divine revelation with the findings of human reason produced by Aristotle. The gradual reconquest of Spain by Christian principalities and the Crusades, however, changed relations with Muslims and Jews.

The preaching of Peter the Hermit encouraged the First Crusade (proclaimed in 1095),43 the start of a series of expeditions undertaken by Western Christian forces to 'liberate' the Holy Land from Islamic domination and keep it under Christian control. Military threats to Constantinople and the Eastern Empire, growth of population in the West, ambitions of political leaders, and a fresh devotion to the earthly life of Jesus and to the places where he lived and died joined in motivating these military-style pilgrimages. The Fifth Crusade ended in 1270 with the death of the French king, St Louis IX. This is normally considered the final crusade, even if Christian expeditions against the Turks continued in

On the Waldensians see G. Audisio, The Waldensian Dissent: Persecution and Survival (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). On conflict with the Waldensians and related issues, see A. Ferreiro (ed.), The Devil, Heresy & Witchcraft in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honor of Jeiffrey B. Russell (Leiden: Brill, 1998); see also DH 790—7, 809, 913; ND 403, 640, 1301, 1411, 1504, 1703, 1802.

See J. Philipps (ed.), The First Crusade: Origins and Impact (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); J. Riley-Smith (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

later centuries. The crusades fired the imagination of writers and painters, as well as increasing cultural contacts. But they had lasting evil effects on Christian—Muslim relations, as well as on relations between Eastern and Western Christians. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in July 1099, they killed around ten thousand Muslims, as well as many Jews. This barbaric slaughter sent shock waves around the Mediterranean world. Christian minorities in Muslim countries experienced hardships that they had not known before. In 1204, when the Fourth Crusade switched to Constantinople from its original objective (Egypt), the Crusaders sacked the city and set up the Latin Empire and patriarchate; they achieved only a temporary reunion between the Eastern and Western Churches. The long-term effect of the Fourth Crusade was to seal more or less the schism between Rome and Constantinople and weaken the Eastern Empire against Muslim inroads.

A few years later, in 1236, Christian forces reconquered Cordoba. When Granada, the last Spanish territory held by the Muslims, surrendered in 1492, the new Christian Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella failed to incorporate its Muslim minority, as well as expelling its Jewish population. A few years earlier (1478), Ferdinand and Isabella had set up the Spanish Inquisition, an efficient instrument of ecclesiastical and civil control. Not long before, the Ottoman Empire, founded around 1300 in Turkey, had captured (Christian) Constantinople in 1453. By the end of the sixteenth century the Ottoman power extended from Hungary, through the Balkans and Greece to Egypt. This Muslim expansion into Europe, at least by sea, was dealt a crushing blow by the naval forces of the Christian League at the battle of Lepanto (North of the Gulf of Corinth) in 1571. By that time the expeditions of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) to the West Indies, Central America, and South America had changed the direction of world and Catholic history.

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