Heresies and inquisitions
As Christianity emerged from its Jewish roots, questions arose about how best to express the faith. In some places attempts to accommodate
local religion and philosophy led to controversy. Usually the local bishop dealt with this, but sometimes the problem could not be contained and regional or even universal councils were called to settle the matter. Many of the early heresies were about a proper understanding of Christ’s humanity and divinity.
Some councils, such as Ephesus and Nicaea issued carefully worded
professions of faith (or creeds). These were incorporated into the
In the early Middle Ages investigation of heresy was a duty of the bishops. Alarmed especially by the spread of Albigensianism*, the popes issued increasingly stringent instructions as to the methods for dealing with heretics. Finally, in 1233, Pope Gregory IX established the papal Inquisition, dispatching Dominican friars to France to conduct inquests.
When an inquisitor arrived, a month of grace was allowed to all who wished to confess to heresy and to recant; these were given a light penance, which was intended to confirm their faith. After the period of grace, persons accused of heresy who had not abjured were brought to trial. The defendants were not given the names of their accusers, but they could name their enemies and thus nullify any testimony by these persons. After 1254 the accused had no right to counsel, but those found guilty could appeal to the pope. The trials were conducted secretly in the presence of a representative of the bishop and of a stipulated number of local laymen. Torture of the accused and his witnesses soon became customary and notorious, despite the long-standing papal condemnation of torture (e.g., by Nicholas I); Innocent IV ultimately permitted torture in cases of heresy.
Most trials resulted in a guilty verdict and the church handed the condemned over to the secular authorities for punishment. Burning at the stake was thought to be the fitting punishment for unrecanted heresy, probably through analogy with the Roman law on treason. However, the burning of heretics was not common in the Middle Ages; the usual punishments were penance, fine, and imprisonment. A verdict of guilty also meant the confiscation of property by the civil ruler, who might turn over part of it to the church. This practice led to graft, blackmail, and simony and also created suspicion of some of the inquests. Generally the inquisitors were eager to receive abjurations of heresy and to avoid trials. Secular rulers came to use the persecution of heresy as a weapon of state, as in the case of the suppression of the Knights Templars.
The Inquisition was an emergency device and was employed mainly in Southern France, Northern Italy and Germany. In 1542, Paul III assigned the medieval Inquisition to the Congregation of the Inquisition, or Holy Office. This institution, which became known as the Roman Inquisition, was intended to combat Protestantism, but it is perhaps best known historically for its condemnation of Galileo. After the Second Vatican Council it was replaced (1965) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which governs vigilance in matters of faith.
The Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition was independent of the medieval Inquisition. It was established in 1478 by Ferdinand and Isabella with the reluctant approval of Sixtus IV. One of the first and most notorious heads was Tomas de Torquemeter. It was entirely controlled by the Spanish kings and the pope's only hold over it was in naming the inquisitor general. The popes were never reconciled to the institution, which they regarded as usurping a church prerogative.
The purpose of the Spanish Inquisition was to discover and punish converted Jews (and later Muslims) who were insincere. However, soon no Spaniard could feel safe from it; thus, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Theresa of Ávila were investigated for heresy. The censorship policy even condemned books approved by the Holy See. The Spanish Inquisition was much harsher, more highly organised and far freer with the death penalty than the medieval Inquisition; its autos-da-fé became notorious. The Spanish government tried to establish the Inquisition in all its dominions; but in the Spanish Netherlands the local officials did not cooperate and the inquisitors were chased (1510) out of Naples, apparently with the pope's connivance. The Spanish Inquisition was finally abolished in 1834.
developed as a form of
religious life usually conducted in a community under a common rule. Monastic
life is bound by ascetical practices expressed typically in the vows of
celibacy, poverty and obedience. These are sometimes called the evangelical
counsels. Monasticism is traditionally of two kinds: the more usual form is
characterised by a completely communal style of life; the second kind entails a hermit's life of almost unbroken solitude and is now very rare.
The earliest Western forms of monasticism imitated those of the East. Western forms of monasticism spread with Christianity to Ireland in the sixth century, where the church was organised around the monasteries. In Italy, St. Benedict (6th century) began the work from which sprang the Benedictines and the more moderate monastic rule that gradually became universal in the West, even the Celtic foundations assimilating to the Benedictine practice. The role of monasticism in the development of the new civilisation of the West is incalculable. Monasteries were islands of stability and their inhabitants, almost alone, preserved learning in the West, particularly during periods of instability and upheaval.
In the early thirteenth century, the Dominicans and Franciscans abandoned enclosure as a principle and with the other friars became a feature in the town life of Europe until the Reformation. Their energy gave the universities and schools definitive form and they dominate the whole history of scholasticism.
The Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people and peaking in Europe in the years 1348–50 CE. Spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, the Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60% of Europe's total population. The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social, and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The plague reoccurred occasionally in Europe until the 19th century. Read more…
The first of the Crusades began in 1095, when armies of Christians from Western Europe responded to Pope Urban II's plea to go to war against Muslim forces in the Holy Land. After the First Crusade achieved its goal with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, the invading Christians set up several Latin Christian states, even as Muslims in the region vowed to wage holy war (jihad) to regain control over the region. Deteriorating relations between the Crusaders and their Christian allies in the Byzantine Empire culminated in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Third Crusade. Near the end of the 13th century, the rising Mamluk dynasty in Egypt provided the final reckoning for the Crusaders, toppling the coastal stronghold of Acre and driving the European invaders out of Palestine and Syria in 1291. Read more....
LIturgy of The Hours
Liturgy of the Hours or Prayer of the Church
From earliest times, the Church has prayed according to the rhythm of the day – morning and evening are the times that are ‘ripe for prayer’; they are the ‘hinges’ on which the rhythm of daily prayer turns! This prayer is a liturgy of time – it is ‘time made holy’ and is based on the Church’s long tradition of praying at certain times of the day, morning, noon, evening and night-time. Those praying this prayer are praying as the Church, the Body of Christ and are praying on behalf of all peoples – hence its power to unite the praying community with all peoples of the world.
It follows a particular pattern of Psalms, Scripture readings and intercessions. The usual structure is as follows:
Invitation to Prayer
Gospel Canticle (Morning-Canticle of Zechariah; Evening-Canticle of Mary)
The Lord’s Prayer
This structure may be adapted for use with children, but its essential elements are Psalms, Scripture reading and intercessions.
An example of a Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours – The Divine Office – is provided here.