Righteous Persecution: Inquisition, Dominicans, and Christianity in the Middle Ages

Righteous Persecution: Inquisition, Dominicans, and Christianity in the Middle Ages

Righteous Persecution: Inquisition, Dominicans, and Christianity in the Middle Ages

Righteous Persecution: Inquisition, Dominicans, and Christianity in the Middle Ages

Synopsis

Examines the controversial involvement of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, with inquisitions into heresy in medieval Europe. This title recounts how Dominican inquisitors and their supporters crafted and promoted explicitly Christian meanings for their inquisitorial persecution.

Excerpt

Christ came to persecute. That is, according to the Dominican friar and inquisitor Moneta of Cremona (d.1250), Christ indeed came to earth not to bring peace, but rather a sword. and to Moneta and fellow later medieval churchmen, this admonition—or, perhaps, promise—to the twelve disciples, recounted in the book of Matthew, had come powerfully to pass. Christ’s model of just persecution, the wielding of a righteous sword, was for Moneta and many colleagues neither simply theoretical (an arid affair for biblical exegesis, bounded by university walls) nor historical (limited to the antique world; bounded by the past). It was, rather, as horribly perdurant as the interpenetration of sin and human experience. As Moneta’s contemporary inquisitor Étienne de Bourbon wrote, “Christ the persecutor” ever struck in righteous judgment. God, eternal, had nearly eternal enemies; until the final judgment, there were those who could turn away from him, could seek to sabotage the manifest of his truth, and his community of truth, on earth. the near-unending of this error meant the unending of its punishment, a holy chastening both here below and beyond, both in our time and forever.

And to Moneta of Cremona and his fellows, the persistence of evil’s battle against God was proven by the existence of heresy in the Christian West. As many medieval historians have observed, after late antiquity “heresy” was largely nonexistent in western Christendom until a few anomalous incidents in eleventh-century France. Religious movements deemed heretical by the Roman church—often explicitly reformist, concerned about the church’s involvement in a money economy, and challenging the very content of . . .

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