Of the morals of the Albigenses, and of their ecclesiastical government.


HAVING thus justified the Albigenses as to their doctrine and worship, it is time now to proceed to shew the regularity of their discipline, by representing the nature of their Church government, and the conduct of those Churches in matters that related to their manners. This will not be a matter of any difficulty; for it is easily conceived that these dioceses being stored with people who maintained the doctrine of Berengarius, as the Abbot of Tron tells us, they had a great party of the Clergy at the head of them. I do not say this without good grounds; for, first, we see that in the councils held against Berengarius, there were very great contests about this matter, and that the opposite party carried their point only by downright violence. Secondly, That, according to the testimony of Sigebert, if many persons wrote against Berengarius, many also wrote in favor of him, and who can doubt of their being Churchmen? Thirdly, That his own Bishop Bruno, Bishop of Angers, where he was Archdeacon, declared himself for him. Fourthly, That in Aquitain, in the year 1075, Giraldus, Legate of Pope Gregory VII. was obliged to call a council at Poictiers, where Berengarius narrowly escaped being murdered, as we are assured by the Chronicle of St. Maixant, the circumstances whereof, there set down, they that published it took care to leave out. Fifthly, That five years after they were obliged to convocate another council at Bourdeaux, where Berengarius gave an account of his faith, as the same Chronicle acquaints us. We ought naturally to observe that from the year 1050, wherein Berengarius appeared at Rome, where he maintained his opinions with so much courage, that Leo of Ostia, Abbot of Mont-Cassin, owns that there was nobody able to oppose him, until the year 1080, in which the Council of Bourdeaux met; the Church of Rome could not overthrow Berengarius’s party, though she had employed by turns both councils and violence, which shews that there were amongst Berengarius’s followers a considerable party of the Clergy, and of those of Aquitain in particular. Neither was it only this difference in point of doctrine that strengthened the Berengarian party, but also the regulations of Pope Nicholas II. and his successors; and, above all, those of Gregory VII. in the Council of Rome, in 1074. and 1075. We may see the effect of his prohibiting matrimony to Priests, as Sigebert has recorded it upon the year 1074.

“Gregory the Pope,” saith he, “at a synod held by him, anathematized all that came into preferments by simony, and removed all married Priests from their functions, and forbad laymen to assist at their masses, by not only an unheard of precedent, but also (as several people thought at that time) by an inconsiderate prejudice, contrary to the opinion of the holy Fathers, who have written, that the sacraments used in the Church, to wit, baptism, chrism, and the body and blood of our Lord, have the selfsame efficacy by the secret operation of the Holy Ghost, be the dispensers of them good or bad. Wherefore then, since they are quickened by the Holy Spirit, so that they are neither amplified by the worthiness of the good dispensers, nor lessened by the sins of the wicked, whence is this man that baptizes? which thing hath given so great occasion of scandal, that never was the holy Church rent with a more dangerous schism at any time by a prevailing heresy than it is now, whilst some act for righteousness, others against it; some openly are guilty of simony, others cover the stain of covetousness with an honest name, selling that under the name of charity, which they pretend to give freely, as Eusebius saith of the Montanists, whilst under the name of offerings, they more artificially receive bribes. By this means also things are brought to that pass, that there are very few that practice continence, whilst some make only an hypocritical shew of it for gain and boasting; and others aggravate their incontinence by forswearing themselves, and by multiplied adulteries. Besides, upon this occasion laymen rise up in rebellion against the holy orders of the Church, shaking off the yoke of ecclesiastical subjection; laymen profane holy mysteries, and dispute about them, baptize infants, using the filthy excrement of the ears, instead of the holy oil and chrism; on their death-beds they scorn to receive at the hands of married Priests the Lord’s provision for their last journey, and the usual service of Church burial. The tithes that are assigned to the Priests they consume with fire: and that by one horrid profanation you may make an estimate of the rest, laymen have been often seen to trample the body of our Lord, that had been consecrated by married Priests, under their feet, and wilfully spill his blood upon the ground; and many such things against the laws of God and man are daily committed in the Church. By this means also many false teachers rise in the Church, who, by their profane innovations, alienate the minds of the common people from the discipline of the Church.”

This therefore was the great occasion that was given to many of the Clergy and people of Aquitain, not to entertain any communion with the Church of Rome, or to submit themselves to the yoke which she was preparing for all the western Churches.

I have, in my Remarks upon the History of the Churches of Piedmont, given an account of the rise of the opinion of those who believed that the Pope’s excommunications deprived such as had been duly ordained, of all power to exercise their functions, and did incapacitate them to confer orders upon other ministers. This was the true reason that made all that maintained the principles of the Church of Rome look upon the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, who had thus renounced the Roman communion, as a company of laymen, and to consider their ordinations as null. I need not repeat the same here, it being sufficiently confirmed by the passage of Sigebert, which I just now quoted.

It appears therefore that the discipline of the Albigenses was the same that had been practiced in the primitive Church: they had their Bishops, their Priests, and their Deacons, whom the Church of Rome at first held for schismatics, and whose ministry she at last absolutely rejected, for the same reasons that made her consider the ministry of the Waldenses as null and void. We find in Peter, the Abbot of Clugny, that he reproacheth the Petrobusians for being joined with schismatics; whereas they took the name of apostolical men. See how he speaks to them: Vos magistri errorum, et caeci duces caecorum, faeces haeresium, et reliquiae schismaticorum!

“O you masters of errors, and blind leaders of the blind, the dregs of heresies, and the relics of schismatics!”

Who were these schismatics but the Berengarians? It is manifest that union with the Church of Rome being become impossible, by reason of the errors she had defined, and the tyranny she had usurped over the State and Church; there was even before his time a separation made of the greatest part of the dioceses of Narbon, Toulouse, Agen, and other places; and that Peter Bruys and his disciples were of his party, appears from his 2d Epistle, which is considerable, to this purpose.

“In your parts,” saith he “the people are re-baptized, the churches profaned, the altars overthrown, crosses burnt, and flesh eaten on the very day of our Saviour’s passion; Priests are whipped, Monks imprisoned, and forced by terrors and torments to marry. The heads of which contagion you have indeed by the Divine assistance, and the help of Catholic princes, driven out of your country; but the members, as I have already said, remain yet amongst you, infected with this deadly poison, as I myself lately perceived.”

By which passage we find that the same disorders had happened in those dioceses which he speaks of, that Sigebert had before observed. Bouchet, in his Annals of Aquitain, understands the thing after the same manner, where he speaks thus of the voyage of St. Bernard.

“In the mean time, whilst all these things were a doing, Godfry, Bishop of Chartres, and Innocent’s legate in France, and St. Bernard, who were employed to purge the schismatics out of Aquitain, or to reduce them to the union of the Church, went first to Nantes,” etc.

I have shewed how Henry opposed himself to the abuses and superstitions which the Church of Rome endeavored to introduce into these dioceses. But whatever efforts the Romish party made use of to overthrow this happy work, it seems that they could never attain their end. We have a letter writ by an Earl of Toulouse to the Abbot of Cisteaux, and to the general Chapter of that order, in the year 1177, which declares that the Clergy sided with the party which he accuseth of Manicheism; and that the Popish churches were reduced to extreme desolation, he himself being in no condition to remedy it, or to oppose himself against the torrent, most of the great Lords having declared themselves for them.

“So far,” saith he, “hath this noisome heretical infection prevailed, that almost all closing with it believe that in so doing they do God good service; and the wicked one, who is now exerting the mystery of iniquity in the children of unbelief, doth so transform himself into an angel of light, that the wife separates from her husband, the son from his father, and the daughter-in-law from her mother-inlaw. And, O miserable! has the gold lost its lustre amongst us to that degree, that it is trod under the Devil’s feet like dirt? for even the Priests are depraved with the filth of heresy; and the ancient and once venerable churches appointed for worship, are left desolate, and lie in ruins. — And now what shall I say? there are none that consider with themselves, and say in their hearts, What do we do? for we see that these men do a great deal of mischief. If we let them alone, all men will believe in them; and he who hath swallowed down a river already, will not wonder at it, from the boldness of his wicked Presumption, if Jordan should flow into his mouth. For my part, who am girt with one of the two divine swords, and who do own myself an avenger of the divine wrath, and minister of God appointed for that purpose, whilst I endeavor to set bounds, and put a stop to this infidelity, do find that my power is too weak to effect such and so great a work, because the most part of the gentry of my dominion, having drunk of this poison of infidelity already, are wasted away with its contagion, and together with them, the greatest part of the common people, fallen from the faith, pines likewise; so that I neither dare nor am able to undertake it.”

Roger Hoveden sets down a letter of Peter, Cardinal Legate at Toulouse, wherein he makes mention of the Albigensian Pastors, Raymond Baimiac, Bernard Raimond, and some other chief heretics, who came to speak with him, under his and the Earl of Toulouse’s safe conduct, and made profession of their faith in a great assembly in the Church of St. Stephen.

He afterwards gives us an account of a letter of Henry Abbot, of Clairvaux, who, lamenting the corruption of Toulouse, by these archheretics, adds these words:

“Yea, so far had this plague prevailed in the land, that they had not only made to themselves Priests and Bishops, but had also their Evangelists, who, having depraved and cancelled the truth of the Gospel, had copied to themselves new Gospels, and from their wicked hearts preached to the deceived people new doctrines. I lie, if there was not amongst them a man of a great age, of a very plentiful estate, who had several brethren and friends, and who had the reputation of a great man amongst the greatest of the city, whom, in punishment for his sins, the Devil had so blinded, that he declared himself to be John the Evangelist, and he distinguished the Word that was in the beginning with God, from another principle of things, as from another God. He was the head of these miserable wretches, and the ringleader of the heretics in this city; who, though a layman and an idiot, and so knew nothing, yet, as a fountain of diabolical wisdom, the bitter waters of perdition and death flowed from him amongst them. A company of dark owls associated to him at nights, where he, sitting amongst them in a garment like a rochet, and a surplice over it, seemed like a king with his army standing about him, and was the preacher to these fools. He had filled the whole city with his disciples and doctrine; nobody daring to oppose him, because of his power and riches. Yea, so great was the licentiousness of these heretics, that at our entrance into the town, as we passed through the streets and lanes, they mocked us, and pointed at us with their finger, calling us apostates, hypocrites, and heretics.”

Peter, Monk of Vaux Cernay, owns that the Albigenses had their teachers, whom they called Bishops and Deacons. He takes notice that the Earl of Toulouse, who never went any whither without a New Testament, had always with him some of these ministers for his instruction and consolation.

We find in the Council of Montpellier, in the year 1214, that there was some difference between the heretics that were the pastors, and the believers, that is to say, the people; as it is particularly taken notice of in the Preface, and in the 29th Canon of the Council of Gallia Narbonensis.

We find in Matthew Paris a letter of the Bishop of Porto, the Pope’s Legate for this business of the Albigenses, written in the year 1223, to the Archbishop of Roan, where he mentions one Bartholomew, a Bishop of the heretics, who had removed himself into the country near Toulouse, where he created Bishops, and set rules to the churches of his communion. His words are these: Etenim de Carcassona oriundus, vices illius Antipapae gerens, Bartholomaeus haereticorum Episcopus, funestam ei exhibendo reverentiam, sedem et locum concessit in villa quae Perlos appellatur, et seipsum transtulit in partes Tholosanas. Iste Bartholomaeus, in literarum suarum undique discurrentium tenore, se in primo salutationis alloquio intitulat in hunc modum, Bartholomaeus servus servorum sancfae fidei, tali salutem. Ipse etiam inter alias enormitates creat Episcopos, et Ecclesias perfide ordinare intendit.

“For this Bartholomew, the Bishop of the heretics, Vicar to that Antipope, originally of Carcasson, paying him an unhappy reverence, yielded him his seat and his place in the village called Perlos, and removed himself into the country near Toulouse. This Bartholomew styled himself servant of the servants of the holy faith, and in his letters which he sent about amongst his flock, as also in his first salutations of those who addressed themselves to him, he always assumed that character. He also added to his other crimes that of creating Bishops, and perfidiously took upon him the government of those churches.”

Lucas Tudensis speaks of one of their Bishops that was burnt. William of Puylaurens, in his Chronicle, at the beginning, speaks of the great respect that was given to these ministers of the Albigenses, whom he calls Waldenses, because of the holiness of their lives.

Lastly, we see in the Acts of the Inquisition of Toulouse several names of those that were pastors of the Albigenses, and who had been ordained to the holy ministry by men of their own communion. This therefore was the government of these churches, the succession whereof we cannot distinctly set down; but this ought not to surprise any body: the captains of the croisade, and the Inquisitors, can best satisfy the world in this point, wherein we must acknowledge our inability.

As for their morals and behavior, who ever will but reflect upon the debauchery and general corruption which reigned in the eleventh century, will easily judge, that those who renounced the communion of the Church of Rome, and who called her the mystical Babylon, because of her false worship, and the horrid corruption of her ministers, must needs be more pure in their morals, and more orderly in their behavior; and indeed we find it true in the Albigenses, as well pastors as people.

The pastors recommended to the people the having of the books of the New Testament in their mother-tongue, and pressed the reading thereof with so much care and application, that Raymond, Earl of Toulouse, never stirred any whither without taking that holy book with him. This was the certain badge and mark of all these heretics, and that whereby they defended themselves. For which reason, the Council of Toulouse, fearing lest their croisades should not be able to exterminate the Albigenses, as long as they had the Bible in the vulgar tongue, took care to prohibit the having of it in these terms;

“We prohibit the permission of the books of the Old and New Testament to laymen, except perhaps they might desire to have the Psalter, or some Breviary for the divine service, or the Hours of the blessed Virgin Mary, for devotion; expressly forbidding their having the other parts of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue.”

It was by means of this purity of their morals, that, as Petrus Cluniacensis witnesseth, the Petrobusians found so much favour with many of the Clergy, of the Bishops, of the Princes, and of the laity, at the same time when they preached openly, that the Church of Rome was not the Church; but that they were the true Church, as being truly apostolical.

Indeed a cursory reflection upon the nature of the enormous crimes laid to their charge, as if those abominations had been the general character of their religion, is sufficient to discover the imposture of their accusers: for they are crimes that overturn the foundations of all society, by destroying the honor of families, and filling every place with abominable adulteries and incests. Can any man imagine that such a sect as this could ever have been able to propagate itself throughout all Europe, as Wilhelmus Newbrigensis declares the Waldenses did, if the manners of those that profess it had been founded upon principles that trample upon the laws of nature, which have always been respected even amidst the thickest darkness of Paganism? We do not find that Manicheism went so far, even then when it caused the greatest disturbance in the world, nor that the corruption into which it plunged those that were tainted with it had any very great influence upon others: whereas we find, that the religion of the Albigenses hath spread its roots far and near, and even procured esteem and affection from those of the Romish party that were not wholly transformed into the nature of brutes and madmen, being natural consequences of that insulting spirit which has animated the Popes and the Clergy in these latter ages.

What I say here is evident from the testimony of William of Puylaurens, in his Chronicle, who owns that the Albigenses had a show of godliness, though, saith he, they denied the power of it; that they were had in extreme veneration by the people; and that more legacies were left to them than to Churchmen: whereas, on the other hand, the Romish Clergy were fallen to that extreme contempt, that laymen, instead of the common wish, I had rather be a Jew, used to say, I had rather be a Chaplain.

The case must needs have been very evident; since Pope Innocent III. who left nothing unattempted to root it out, yet could not but do them the justice to own, that they were very free from several vices. Indeed we may easily judge of their morals and demeanour, by their constancy in suffering the most cruel torments in the defense of the truth. Matthew Paris tells us of one Robert, an Inquisitor, who buried alive, or burnt, fifty of them in two months’ time; and yet not one of them renounced his faith, in the midst of the greatest violence of their torments. Perrin and Chassagnon give us great numbers of parallel examples, as well as the Acts of the Inquisition of Toulouse. Lucus Tudensis, who endeavours to ridicule this constancy of their martyrs, is at the same time a witness for it, beyond all manner of controversy.

Mezeray was juster than the Bishop of Meaux; for though he was not ignorant of the slanders cast upon them, yet he hath given this testimony, of the Albigenses, whom he calls Waldenses: he saith, “There were two principal sorts of them; the one of them were very ignorant, and given to lewdness and villany: these men maintained gross and filthy errors; and these were indeed a kind of Manichees. The others were more learned, and less disorderly, and keeping themselves at the greatest distance from the filthinesses now mentioned, maintained much the same opinions with the Calvinists, and, to speak properly, were Henricians and Waldenses.”

This testimony, so agreeable to truth, may well make those blush who copy the forgeries of the Jesuit Mariana, who, to make the Albigenses pass for Atheists and Epicureans, has changed the title of Lucus Tudensis’s book, which was only in these terms, Concerning another Life, and Controversies of Faith, by adding to it, against the errors of the Albigenses.


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