Of the opposition that was made by a part of these Churches to the attempts of the Popes, and of their separation from the communion of Rome before Peter Waldo.
IT is difficult precisely to set down the year wherein a considerable part of these dioceses rejected the power of the Pope’s legates, and loudly condemned the errors which they would have introduced under the name of councils, which the Popes had so often assembled against Berengarius. But we have great reason to conclude, that it happened under Gregory VII. when he undertook to oblige the Bishops of France to swear an oath of fidelity to him, in much a like form as vassals swear to the lords of the fee; for in reality it is the very same. This strange piece of novelty, which at one blow destroyed all the rights of the Church, excited both pastors and people to defend their liberties, and to reject this imperious yoke. Then it was also, that he endeavoured to change the common service of the Church, by striking out all that was not agreeable to the Roman service, which was very proper to inflame the minds of the people, and make them more watchful for the preservation of the doctrine and ceremonies of religion, which they had received from their ancestors.
For instance, it is certain that in the eleventh century they changed the collects which concerned the prayer for the dead. We have an example of it that was inserted in the decretal of Gregory IX. It is an answer of Innocent III. to John de Beauxmains, Archbishop of Lyons, who at that time was retired in the abbey of Clairvaux. It contains the question which that Archbishop, who was the persecutor and condemner of Peter Waldo, propounds to Innocent III. together with the Pope’s answer. “Your brothership has inquired why there was a change made in the service of Saint Leo; so that whereas the ancient books express the prayer thus, Grant to us, Lord, that this offering may be of advantage to the soul of thy servant Leo; in the modern books it is expressed thus, Grant to us, O Lord, we beseech thee, that by the intercession of St. Leo this offering may be of advantage to us?”
“To which we answer, saith the Pope, that since the authority of Scripture assures us, that he doth an injury to a martyr, who prays for a martyr, we are by a parity of reason to judge the same of other saints, because they need not our prayers, as being perfectly happy, and enjoying all things according to their wishes: but it is we rather that stand in need of their prayers, who being miserable, are in continual trouble, by reason of the evils that surround us.
Wherefore such expressions as these, that such an offering may be of advantage to this or that saint, for their glory and honor, which we meet with in most prayers, are thus to be understood, that it may conduce to this end, that he may be more and more glorified by the faithful here on earth. Though most suppose it a thing not unworthy of the saints, to assert that their glory is continually increased until the day of judgment; and therefore that the Church may in the mean time lawfully wish for the increase of their glorification. But whether in this point that distinction may take place, which teacheth us, that of those who are dead some are very good, others very bad, others indifferently good, and others indifferently bad; and therefore whether the suffrages of believers in the Church for the very good are thanksgiving; for the very bad, comforts to the living; for those who are indifferently good, expiations; and for the indifferently bad, propitiations; I leave to your prudence to require.”
Moreover, the Popes, Nicholas II. and his successors, undertook to defend the celibacy of the Clergy, by which means a great many Pastors were deprived of the functions of their ministry, which obliged also a vast number of them to separate themselves from the communion of the Pope, whose creatures, after the decree was passed for authorizing celibacy, looked upon the married Clergy to be no more than simple laymen; not to mention now that the multiplicity of schisms and Antipopes had reduced most of the dioceses of France into a strange confusion; some holding for one Pope, others for another.
But though we cannot assign the precise epocha of the beginning of this courageous opposition to the see of Rome, which had no other original but the just defense of their liberties, and the desire of preserving their ancient truths; yet thus much seems to be certain, as far as we can gather from the poor remainder of records which the barbarity of the Inquisitors hath suffered to come down to us:
1. That this public opposition against the efforts of Popery was made about the beginning of the twelfth century.
2. That without great ignorance, both in history and chronology, it cannot be supposed that the Albigenses were the disciples of Peter Waldo, and that consequently they are to be looked upon as a colony of the Vaudois.
It is necessary that we prove both these articles with the greatest clearness that may be; as well, on the one hand, to make it appear that the Bishop of Meaux hath no ground to suppose that these dioceses were peaceably united to the Church of Rome, and in dependence upon it, before the Albigenses appeared amongst them; and on the other hand, to disabuse some of our own people, who too lightly have believed, because the Albigenses are esteemed by some to be the same with the Vaudois, that they borrowed their light from Peter Waldo.
The first article can be very solidly proved by an argument which seems beyond all exception; I observe therefore, that Radulphus, Abbot of Tron, about the year 1125, would not return from Italy through the southern parts of France, audiebat pollutam esse inveterata haeresi de corpore et sanguine Domini,
“because he heard they were polluted with an inveterate heresy concerning the body and blood of our Lord.”
We see clearly that the heresy that reigned in these dioceses was that of Berengarius, who had bestowed the title of Mystical Babylon upon the Church of Rome, and not that of the Manichees. This passage of Radulphus of Tron agrees perfectly with what Petrus Cluniacensis, and Baronius after him, tell us, that Peter de Bruis had preached in the diocese of Arles about the beginning of the twelfth century. Now it is ridiculous to suppose that one can declare a country to be infected with an inveterate heresy, except there be great numbers of men who publicly profess it. True it is, that they bestow the name of Petrobusians upon the disciples of Peter de Bruis, as if he had been the author of that sect; but this doth not overthrow what we have said, and only shews that the Papists are usually ready to bestow upon the disciples the name of their masters, thereby to reflect upon them as innovators. Thus they called the followers of Berengarius Berengarians, as if he had been an innovator, who indeed took upon him the defense of the old notions against the innovations of Paschasius Radbertus. In like manner, they called those Henricians, who followed the doctrine of Henry, who yet followed and preached the doctrine of Peter de Bruis and Berengarius; so that it doth not follow from thence, that Henry was the first that ever preached that doctrine. Thus afterwards they gave the name of Esperonites to the disciples of Esperonus, as if he had been the first author of that sect. And is not this very conformable to that ancient method, whereby Lindanus, Bishop of Ruremonde, made as many heads of the Reformation as there were men of note that had a hand in that great work? A different method, or the least article wherein they did not agree with their brethren, serving him for a sufficient pretense to make them so many different heads of distinct parties.
The proofs I am about to produce in confirmation of the second article do no less shew the truth of what I have laid down, that these dioceses had a long time since a great number of people and pastors, who were of different opinions from those of the Church of Rome. I do acknowledge that, towards the end of the twelfth century, there may have been some of the disciples of Peter Waldo in these dioceses of Aquitain and Narbon; which has occasioned that several Popish writers have almost persuaded some Protestants that the Waldenses were the authors of the Reformation amongst the Albigenses. Perrin takes it for granted in the beginning of his History, which he was the more easily persuaded to believe, since he had observed that the Albigenses have maintained the same faith with the Waldenses.
But it is not true that the Waldenses ever carried their faith into these countries, but they found it there already established, and they joined themselves to those who defended the same, before ever any of Waldo’s disciples came thither to seek refuge for themselves.
This is a matter of fact which it is easy to prove beyond controversy; for seeing that St. Bernard was in that country in the year 1147, to preach there, and that he made but small progress in it, (so firmly were they grounded in their faith,) we must necessarily infer from hence, that they had for a long time been engaged in the same. And indeed it appears from the manner of St. Bernard’s expressing himself in his Sermons, and in his Epistle to the Count of St. Gilles, that these opinions, so opposite to those of the Church of Rome, had of a long time been entertained in these countries.
We have the fourth canon of the Council of Tours in the year 1163, which declares the antiquity of this pretended heresy in Gascoin and the country about Tholouse, and speaks of their meetings, which the title of the canon justly refers to the Albigenses, in these words;
“In the country about Tholouse, there sprung up long ago a damnable heresy, which by little and little, like a cancer, spreading itself to the neighboring places in Gascoin, hath already infected many other provinces; which, whilst, like a serpent, it hid itself in its own windings and twinings, crept on more secretly, and threatened more danger to the simple and unwary. Wherefore we do command all Bishops and Priests, dwelling in these parts, to keep a watchful eye upon these heretics, and, under the pain of excommunication, to forbid all persons, as soon as these heretics are discovered, from presuming to afford them any abode in their country, or to lend them any assistance, or to entertain any commerce with them in buying or selling; that so at least, by the loss of the advantages of human society, they may be compelled to repent of the error of their life. And if any prince, making himself partaker of their iniquity, shall endeavor to oppose these decrees, let him be struck with the same anathema. And if they shall be seized by any Catholic princes, and cast into prison, let them be punished by confiscation of all their goods: and because they frequently come together from divers parts into one hiding-place; and because they have no other ground for their dwelling together, save only their agreement and consent in error; therefore we will, that such their conventicles be both diligently searched after, and when they are found, that they be examined according to canonical severity.”
This canon expressly declares, first, That this pretended heresy had appeared a long time before. Secondly, That it had infected several provinces of these dioceses. Thirdly, That most severe methods were made use of to reduce them. This appears by the Council of Lateran, in the year 1179, in the last chapter. And it is plain also from the letters of the Archbishop of Narbon to King Lewis VII.
“My Lord the King, we are extremely pressed with many calamities, amongst which there is one that most of all affects us, which is, that the Catholic faith is extremely shaken in this our diocese, and St. Peter’s boat is so violently tossed by the waves, that it is in great danger of sinking.”
Now, since Lewis VII. died in the year 1180, having reigned ever since the year 1137, it appears clearly, that Languedoc was full of the disciples of Peter de Bruis and Henry, a long time before ever Waldo or any of his disciples had begun to preach.
We may gather the same from what is related by Henry, Abbot of Clairvaux, in the Annals of Hoveden, anno 1178, where he saith, That this plague was come to such a head in that country, that they had not only made themselves Priests and Popes, but also had their Evangelists.
I own that Hoveden seems to suppose that the faith of these Albigenses came from Italy, by his calling them Paterines; for as for the name of Publicans, it was like that of Cathari, given them on purpose to blacken them, and is the same with that of Bulgarians and Paphlagonians; all relating to the original of the Manichees, who came out of those countries at first.
Thirdly, It appears from the edicts quoted by Hoveden, that they were made against people of a more ancient standing than the disciples of Waldo.
“Wherefore, because the damnable perverseness of those heretics, whom some call Cathari, others Publicans, others Paterines, and others by other names, is increased in Gascoin, the country of Alby, and other places, so far that they do no more now, as in other places, exercise their impiety in private, but manifest their errors publicly.”
Stephen of Tournay is an unquestionable witness to the same truth; he wrote a letter to Johannes de Beauxmains, Bishop of Polctiers, in the year 1181, to persuade him to comply with the election of those of Lyons, who desired him for their Archbishop, and lays before his eyes the notorious infidelity of the dioceses of Languedoc, Gascoin, and Septimania, and the general desolation of the churches of the Romish party in those parts. “Far be it, Father,” saith he, “from your clemency, that you should have any inclination for the barbarity of the Goths, the levity of the Gascoins, or for the cruel and savage manners of those of Septimania, where infidelity is above faith, famine above fame, treachery and trouble more than can be conceived. I lately saw in my passage, when the King sent me to Tholouse, a terrible image of death, frequent and fervent in that country, the walls of churches half demolished, sacred buildings half burnt down, their foundations digged up, and where there were formerly the dwellings of men, now nothing but the habitations of beasts. I confess I shaked and trembled when I heard you were invited to those parts, in which, though you might chance to be a Bishop, yet you might easily be so without any advantage.”
We have the concurrent testimony of the Archbishops and other Prelates assembled at Lavaur against the Albigenses, who declare in their letters to Innocent III. that this heresy had been sown in these countries long before, in these terms:
“For whereas the heretical pestilence, which of old time hath been sown in those parts, was now grown to that height, that Divine worship was scorned and derided, and the heretics on one hand, and the robbers on the other, harassed the Clergy and the Church’s revenue, and that both prince and people, being given over to a reprobate mind, swerved from the true faith; now, by means of your armies, by which you have most wisely designed to purge away the infection and noisomeness of this pestilence, and their most Christian leader, the Earl of Montfort, an undaunted warrior, and unconquered fighter of the Lord’s battles, the Church, which was so miserably ruinated, begins again to lift up her head; and both enemies and errors being for the most part destroyed, the land which hath so long been wasted by the followers of these opinions, will at length accustom itself again to the worship of God.” Lastly, The same thing appears by the testimony of Peter, a Monk of Veaux Cernay, in the first chapter of his History:
“In the province of Narbon, where formerly the faith flourished, the enemy of the faith has begun to sow his tares. The people there are distasted with the sacraments of Christ, who is the savor and wisdom of God, being become profane and unwise, by forsaking the wisdom of true godliness.”
And after having represented how the Monks, Petrus de Castro Novo and Radulphus, the Pope’s legates, had forced those of Tholouse to abjure their faith for fear of punishments, but that soon after they returned again to their former opinions; he adds,
“For being perjured, and relapsing into their former calamity, they concealed the heretics that preached at midnight in their conventicles. O how difficult a thing it is to pluck up a deep-rooted custom! This treacherous city of Tholouse, from its very first foundation, (as it is said,) hath seldom or never been clear of this detestable plague; this poison of heretical pravity and superstitious infidelity having been successively diffused from father to son.
Wherefore she also, as a due vengeance for so great wickedness, has endured the effects of avenging hands, and the ruin of a just desolation. — Yea, what is more, she has suffered this heretical nature and home-bred heresy, after it had been driven out by a well-deserved severity, to return again upon her; being desirous to imitate her ancestors, and refusing to degenerate. By the example of whose neighborhood, as one rotten grape taints another, and as a whole herd of swine are infected by the scabbiness of a single hog, so the neighboring cities and towns, having once had these archheretics rooted amongst them, are become wonderfully and miserably infected with this plague, by the springing shoots of their infidelity; the Barons of the several lordships in these provinces being almost all of them become the defenders and entertainers of heretics, loving them sincerely, and defending them against God and the Church very warmly.”
One needs only to reflect upon what I have here produced concerning the time of the promotion of Johannes de Beauxmains to the archbishopric of Lyons, and to recollect that it was he that persecuted Peter Waldo, to make us acknowledge that we cannot suppose the Albigenses to have been the disciples of this Peter Waldo.