To what extent the Church was responsible for this may be judged by the terrible condition of Rome under Innocent VIII [around 1490.] Outrages of all kinds were committed with impunity so long as the criminal could pay the papal chancery. When Cardinal Borgia, the vice-chancellor, was reproached with this, he piously replied that God did not desire the death of the sinner, but that he should pay and live. A census of the public women showed them to number 6800, and when the vicar of the city issued a decree ordering all ecclesiastics to dismiss their concubines, Innocent VIII sent for him and ordered its withdrawal, saying that all priests and members of the curia kept them, and that it was no sin. Power such as was claimed and exercised by the Church could only be wielded by superhuman wisdom. Human nature was too imperfect not to convert it into an instrumentality for the gratification of worldly passions and ambition, and its inevitable result was to plunge society deeper and deeper into corruption, as unity of faith was enforced by persecution. In this enforcement, as I have said, faith became the only object of supreme importance, and morals were completely subordinated, tending naturally to the creation of a perfectly artificial and arbitrary standard of conduct. If, to win the favor of Satan, a man trampled on the Eucharist believing it to be the body of Christ, he was not liable to the pains of heresy; but if he did so out of disbelief, he was a heretic. If he took interest for money believing it to be wrong, he was comparatively safe; if believing it to be right, he was condemned. It was not the act, but the mental process, that was of primary importance, and willful wrong-doing was treated more tenderly than ignorant conscientiousness. Thus the divine law on which the Church professed to be founded was superseded by human law administered by those who profited by its abuse. As Cardinal d'Ailly tells us, the doctors of civil law regarded the imperial jurisprudence as more binding than the commands of God, while the professors of canon law taught that the papal decretals were of greater weight than Scripture. Such a theocracy, practically deeming itself as superior to its God, when it had overcome all dissidence, could have but one result. When we consider, however, the simple earnestness with which multitudes of humble heretics endured the extremity of outrage and the most cruel of deaths, in the endeavor to ascertain and obey the will of God in the fashioning of their lives, we recognize what material existed for the development of true Christianity, far down in the obscurer ranks of society. We can see how greatly advanced might be the condition of humanity had that leaven been allowed to penetrate the whole mass in place of being burned out with fire. Unorganized and unresisting, the heretics were unable to withstand the overwhelming forces arrayed against them. Power and place and wealth were threatened by their practical interpretation of the teachings of Christ. The pride of opinion in the vast and laboriously constructed theories of scholastic theology, the conscientious belief in the exclusive salvation obtainable through the Church alone, the recognized duty of exterminating the infected sheep and preserving the vineyard of the Lord from the ravages of heretical foxes, all united to form a conservatism against which even the heroic endurance of the sectaries was unavailing.Of course that was 500 years ago. Everything is good now.
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