The calumnies raised against the Albigenses, refuted by the conference of Montreal.


THOSE who will reflect a little upon the innocence of the primitive Christians, and the horrid slanders cast upon them, will not be much surprised to see the innocence of the Albigenses attacked after the same manner. The Devil having found this method succeed in the first beginnings of Christianity, was not so careless of his interest to forget to employ the same against those who opposed themselves to the corruptions which he had introduced, and which he was willing to substitute instead of the religion of Jesus Christ.

He made use of the same method against those of the reformed religion. Whoever reads the writings of the Jesuits shall find that they have accused our Reformers of the same heresies which the Devil raised to put a stop to the progress of Christianity. The Jesuit Gauthier alone may be a sufficient witness hereof, in his Chronological Table; and we may well say, that in this point he hath at least equalized the impudence of Feuardentius, if he hath not outdone him. Why should any man therefore think strange, that the Church of Rome and her adorers should take the same course against the Albigenses, which she practiced in our days; and which she hath not yet left, because she believed it would not fail of certain success? so prodigious is the stupidity of the people of her communion. And truly the managers for the Church of Rome were no less diligent to employ these devilish artifices against the Albigenses, than against us. Here are some instances of it, for it is impossible to relate all; I begin with some of the more general articles:

1. They accused them of novelty, sometimes supposing them to have been only known since the time of Peter de Bruis, or of Henry his disciple; though the contrary be evident from the history of this Church, as we have set it down; and by the public Liturgy, which the Papists themselves have published not long since.

2. They accused them of being the disciples of Peter Waldo, and from thence raised this accusation, that they were only a company of laymen, without either ministry or right to administer the sacraments; whereas it is certain, that they had a lawful ministry, and indeed a thousand times more lawful than that of the Church of Rome.

3. They accused them in general of being Manichees, perhaps, because formerly the Priscillianists, who were a branch of the Manichees, had a party in that province, or near it, as Philastrius tells us, and of whom some were scattered through Languedock, after the year 1010, though indeed the Albigenses disputed against them, and solidly confuted them, as we are informed by William Puylaurens.

4. They endeavored to make them own the opinions and crimes that were proper to the Manichees, by producing false witnesses to convict them thereof. We have an illustrious example of this, in the History of the Earls of Toulouse. William Catel, Counsellor for the King in the Parliament of Tholouse, tells us, that two heretics, whereof the one was called Raymond, the other Bennett, having appeared before the Popeís legate, it was witnessed against them, that they had been heard to preach that there were two gods, the one good, and the other evil; that Priests could not consecrate the holy Host; that married persons could not be saved, if they had to do with their wives; that baptism is not necessary to infants; and many other heresies, which they would never acknowledge, notwithstanding all the witnesses that appeared against them; but said, they were false witnesses, and that they believed what the Catholic religion engageth us to believe. But notwithstanding these their solenm protestations, they further object against them all the consequences of Manicheism as natural inferences from the former opinions, of which they pretended that they had convicted them by witnesses. This probably was the rise of those fine controversies we find in Alanus Magnus, and other polemical writers who copied him.

5. They have been charged with forswearing themselves before a court of justice without scruple, though at the same time they are accused for maintaining that every lie is a mortal sin. This is done by Alanus, who falls upon them very heavily upon that account.

6. They are accused of being Arians, though Alanus distinguisheth them, and that the Popish Priests ought rather to be accused of favoring Manicheism and Arianism, than the Albigenses, who subtilly disputed against these heresies.

But it will be easy to refute these calumnies, by the conference of Montreal, in the year 1206, related by the Monk of Vaux Cernay. It was offered to the Bishops by the Albigenses, under certain conditions: That there should be moderators appointed on both sides, men of authority, able to hinder any tumult or sedition. Also, that the place where the conference was to be, might be free and safe for all those that should assist at it: moreover, that the subjects to be disputed upon should be agreed to by joint consent, and not to be quitted till they were wholly discussed; and that those that could not maintain their opinions by the word of God, should be looked upon as overcome. The Bishops and Monks accepted of all these conditions. The place they agreed upon was Montreal, near Carcasson, in the year 1206; the moderators agreed on on both sides, were B. of Villeneuve, and B. of Auxerre, for the Bishops; and for the Albigenses, R. de Bot, and Anthony Riviere: Arnoldus Hot, the Pastor of the Albigenses, accompanied with those that were thought fit for this action, appeared first at the place and time assigned; and afterwards came the Bishop of Ozma, and the Monk Dominic, a Spaniard, with two of the Popeís legates, Peter Castel and Radulphus de Lust, Abbot of Candets; P. Bertrand, Prior of Auterive, as also the Prior of Palat, and several other Priests and Monks.

The theses propounded by Arnoldus were, that the mass and transubstantiation were the invention of men, and not the ordinance of Jesus Christ or his Apostles.

That the Church of Rome was not the spouse of Christ, but the Church of confusion, drunk with the blood of the martyrs.

That the polity of the Church of Rome was neither good nor holy, nor established by Jesus Christ.

Arnaud sent these propositions to the Bishop, who demanded a fortnight to prepare his answer, which was granted. At the day appointed the Bishop failed not to appear with a large writing; whereupon Arnaud Hot desired leave to be heard upon the spot, extempore, declaring that he would answer all the particulars contained in the said writing, desiring, the auditors not to be tired, if he took up some time in answering so long a discourse; they promised he should be heard with attention and patience, without the least interruption. He discoursed at several times for four days together, with so much admiration of the assistants, and dexterity on his part, that all the Bishops, Abbots, Monks, and Priests, could have been willing to have been farther off; for he deduced his answer according to the several points laid down in that writing, with so much order and perspicuity, that he made his auditors perceive, that, though the Bishop had writ much, yet he had concluded nothing that could be made use of, to the advantage of the Church of Rome, against these propositions. This done, Arnaud demanded, that, since the Bishops and he stood engaged to one another at the beginning of their conference, to prove their assertions by the word of God alone, the Bishops and Priests might be commanded to prove the authority of the mass, as it was sung in churches, piece by piece; that it was instituted by the Son of God, and sung in the same manner by his Apostles, beginning at the Introit, as they call it, to the Ite missa est: but the Bishops could not prove that any of those parts had been instituted for that purpose by Christ or by his Apostles. Here it was that the Bishops were covered with shame and regret; for Arnaud had reduced them to the single canon, which they pretended was the best piece of the mass; where he proved that the holy supper of the Lord was not the mass; saying, that if the mass were the Lordís supper, there would be all after consecration that there was before in the Lordís supper: whereas, said he, in your mass there is no bread, for by transubstantiation the bread vanisheth; wherefore the mass, being without bread, cannot be the supper of the Lord, wherein all know there is bread. Jesus Christ brake bread, Saint Paul brake bread, the Priest breaks the body, not bread; therefore the Priest neither doth what Jesus Christ nor what St. Paul did. As Arnaud was about to proceed in these anti-theses between the Lordís supper and the mass, to prove that it was neither of Christís nor of the Apostlesí institution, the Monks, Bishops, Legates, and Priests thought fit to withdraw themselves, being resolved to hear no more, for fear they might fix impressions on those that were by, which might extremely shake their belief of the mass.

The Monk of Vaux Cernay endeavored to render this action suspected, in saying, that when these heretical judges perceived the weakness of their cause, and the misfortune of engaging in such a dispute, they refused to pronounce any judgment concerning it, as likewise to restore us our own writings, for fear, adds he, they might come to be published, but restored the heretics theirs. But how could two of the Popeís Legates, and so many Bishops, Abbots, Monks, and Priests suffer themselves to be drawn into a place, there to be thus abused and tricked? The Monk himself saith in the same place, that the heads of the heretics came to meet with the Catholics at the castle of Montreal, to dispute with them: the Catholics therefore were in possession of the castle; there could be therefore no opportunity of foul play, nor of any such violence; neither was it necessary that the moderators should pronounce their judgment in a case of dispute; seeing they hold that no other judgment is necessary but that of the Pope, who cannot err. Besides, how could this Monk know that the Albigenses were overcome, seeing that no sentence was given?

Perrin could have given us a faithful extract of this conference, because himself observes, that it had been brought to him from the Albigenses by Mr. Rafur, minister of the church of Montreal, in an old manuscript: from whence, though he doth not express it in so many words, I judge that he reduced the points in question between the Albigenses and the Church of Rome to six articles.

I. Article. The doctrines which they asserted in opposition to the Church of Rome were, that the Church of Rome was not the holy Church, nor the spouse of Christ, but that it was a Church which had drunk in the doctrine of devils; the whore of Babylon, which St. John describes in the Revelations, the mother of fornications and abominations, covered with the blood of the saints.

II. That the mass was neither instituted by Christ nor his Apostles, but a human invention.

III. That the prayers of the living are unprofitable for the dead.

IV. That the purgatory maintained in the Church of Rome is no better than a human invention, to satisfy the avarice of the Priests.

V. That the saints ought not to be prayed unto.

VI. That transubstantiation is a human invention, and erroneous doctrine; and that the worshipping of the bread is manifest idolatry. That therefore it was necessary to separate from the Church of Rome, in which the contrary was said and taught, because one cannot assist at the mass, without partaking of the idolatry there practiced, nor expect salvation by any other means than by Jesus Christ, nor transfer to creatures the honor which is due to the Creator, nor say concerning the bread, that it is God, and worship it as such, without incurring the pain of eternal damnation, because idolaters shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. For all these things therefore which they asserted, they have been hated and persecuted to death.

This account of the conference of Montreal, which I have copied from Perrin, is enough in my judgment fully to refute any scruple that might remain in the mind of a reader who reads in Roger Hoveden the letters of Peter, Cardinal of St. Chrysogon writ in the year 1178; which testify, that the Manichees of Toulouse had been convicted by the confession which many of them had made of the greatest part of the articles of that heresy. It is very visible that it was upon the authority of these letters, or upon some informations of this nature, that Alanus, who was born at Lisle in Flanders, and who had spent the greatest part of his time at the university of Paris, has built his catalogue of the heresies which he refutes in his treatise against the Albigenses, whereof I have given an extract in the foregoing chapter.

So that it is necessary to suppose one of these three things: either that the Earl Raymond of Toulouse, and those whom he protected, were really Manichees, as they are accused to be by the Popeís Legates, by the Bishops, and by Peter of Vaux Cernay, who sets down this accusation, and the forced confessions of the Albigenses, who own themselves to be Manichees; or that the Albigenses, who were the disciples of Peter de Bruys and of Henry, that were no Manichees, had gone over to that sect towards the end of the 12th century, and afterwards again became Petrobusians and Henricians at the beginning of the 13th, as it plainly appears they then were, from the conference of Montreal, where they freely proposed their opinions, entirely opposite to Manicheism; or that the Legates and Monks, that persecuted them with fire and sword, were great impostors in taking advantage against them from some confessions extorted from Manichees, who were here and there scattered in those dioceses, and which they made use of to animate the people of the Roman communion, and to engage the Princes and Bishops of all places to exterminate without mercy a sort of people who utterly subverted all the rules of morality, which is the band of society, and all the principles of both natural and Christian religion.


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