12. Christendom

12.5 The Great Apostasy

12.5.1 The Responsibility of the Church

Pope Boniface died in 1303, after the emissaries of Philip IV of France had rudely mishandled him. The Holy See was thereafter transferred to Avignon. The French Popes who occupied the papal seat appeared so much greedy pawns of the French rulers that their authority was largely undermined. In addition, they were depraved. The pope and his cardinals copulating with prostitutes in the Papal palace of Avignon, the priests copulating in their parishes with concubines and confessing females, the nuns offering themselves to monks had admitted the decree of Hildebrand who instituted celibacy to ordained priests, following Plato’s recommendation, but they refused chastity, in line with the Genesis that ordered procreation.

The financial needs of a depraved Church, soon headed by three popes at once, were amplified by the return of Martin V to Rome in 1417. The desire to rebuild the Vatican, the carnal appetites of the Hierarchy (Alexander VI had 5 children, among whom were Alexander Borgia and Pope Jules II) drained money from Christendom to Rome whereas the possessions of the Church remained untaxed. The internal Reform so evidently needed and demanded by lucid people proved impossible to accomplish. In the mean time, a thorough analysis of the Bible was taking place, with an avocation to primeval simplicity. In addition, the justification of the papal domain in central Italy was disputed: in 1439, cleric Lorenzo Valla disclosed that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery. Despite this indiscretion, he became cardinal but he first sought protection by the king of Aragon, in Naples. The need to Reform became more pressing but remained unheeded from within. In Italy, the monk Savonarole was burned on the 23rd of May 1498 because he advocated a Reform from within.

12.5.2 England

The prestige of the Vatican vacillated not only for moral reasons but also because of its diplomatic maneuvers. After the birth of Edward III of England in 1312, the French rulers, intent to avoid their legal elimination which was bound to occur with the union of the French and English Crowns under this descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, decided in 1316 that, according to the Salic law of the Franks, the French Crown could not pass through feminine hands 22. This refusal of Germanic laws of heritage kindled the Hundred Years war in 1337. In parallel to the war, proletarian dictatorships arose, first in Flanders (1345) and thereafter in many other parts of Europe (London, Cologne, Rouen, Florence, Strasbourg, Paris, etc.) and lasted until 1382.

During the war, the Church drew money from England to loan it back as a war treasury to the French. As a result, Wycliffe, in 1377, advocated the separation of the Church of England from the Papacy. Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, discovered the simplicity of Christ and advocated a return of the Papacy to the saintly principles of evangelic poverty. The social aspects of the doctrine developed by Wycliffe prepared the Peasant Revolt of 1381 during which John Ball, the crazy priest of Kent, preached communism. The revolutionaries began to destroy, loot, rape, burn and kill. Repression followed, with the hanging, drawing and quartering of Ball. Henry VIII freed the country completely from Rome with the execution of Thomas More and the creation of the Anglican Church (15 May 1532) but the Roman Church did not reform.

12.5.3 Bohemia

The socialistic dream and demand of reform of the Church surged in the years 1400 in Prague. Hus and the Taborites advocated nudism and a communism that extended to their nubile wives, ignorance and a total abandonment of all social rules, i.e. anarchy. Hus was excommunicated in 1410, betrayed and burned in Constanz in 1415. The Reform again was postponed.

12.5.4 Spain

In Spain, racial, social and religious disorders frequently led to progroms and upheavals. In a heterogeneous country composed of several nations (the Basques, Goths, Arabs, Berbers, Spaniards, Vandals) and religions (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish), adding to this the converts, the half-converts and the secretly non-converts, the Crown decided in 1478 to fight for Unity through the Church.

Jews had come to Spain in the tenth century: Caliph Abd al-Rahman III had a Jewish minister. This man imported a number of Jewish intellectuals from Babylon and protected their installation in Islamic Spain. Soon, a large Jewish community flourished, that sided with the Muslim rulers and did not integrate. Maimonides, in the twelfth century, tried to reshape the Semitic Bible to fit into Greek doctrine but he failed to abandon the biblical account of the universe’s creation. This meant opposition to Aristotle’s teaching. In the thirteenth century, Cabbalism spread. Hebrews, like the Greeks, used letters to represent numbers. This could be used to interpret the hidden meaning of words. The kabala was more than simply number crunching. It was also a mystical tradition that profoundly diverged from the Christian view. Finally, the Jewish newcomers were not only intellectually superior to the Christian population, they also were not adverse to take an interest when lending money. After the expulsion of the Muslims, the expulsion of the Jews was ineluctable. They did not return to Babylon but moved to imperial lands (the Netherlands, Germany) where the emperor protected them. In later times, Protestants welcomed them.

Ferdinand and Isabelle energetically reformed the morals of the clergy. The Crown established with Rome a Concordat and secured the right to name ecclesiastic dignitaries and the authorization to name inquisitors in charge of religious repression. The Bull was granted in 1478. From then on, religion in Spain was submitted to the State. Human sacrifices were restored in 1481. The government paid for the expenses of the Inquisition and cashed in the revenues. To be rich became a sin and the peasants actively helped in the denouncement of the heretics. The Spanish inquisition acquired a reputation of pitiless cruelty that is traced to modern exaggerations and falsifications. This repressive organization was much less distinguished by its cruelty than by the power of its means. Aware of the resentment of the delators, it refused the temptation of power by a refusal of a purely racial repression, of systematic torture, of massacre of sorcerers, by the acceptance of Indian idolatry and did not follow the Roman inquisition in the condemnation of Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo. The magnitude and cruelty of the repression attained repulsive summits under the guidance of the Reformed Churches, also in the New World.

12.5.5 France

Louis XII recognized Francis I of Valois, King of France from 1515 to 1547, as a fool and predicted that his heir would destroy the country. Francis (fig. 12.34) succeeded beyond the wildest expectations. In thirty two years, a rich and populous country turned into a miserable, devastated battlefield 23. He started the hostilities against the German empire by conquering Milan, which was an imperial possession. Ignorant of History, Francis continued by coveting the Imperial Throne. Thereafter, he allied temporarily with the England of Henry VIII to repeatedly attack the Empire in Flanders, Spain, the Savoy and Italy. He supported the Reform and Revolt in the Empire while seeking the alliance 24 of the Turks who attacked the Empire in the Balkans, in Hungary and in Nice He thereafter planned to invade England

At home, orthodoxy and obedience were the rule. Thrifty citizens were robbed from the fruit of their efforts and were bled white with taxes. Those who rebelled were tortured with refinement. The syphilitic hedonist no longer had the opponents to the regime simply burned but they were repeatedly plunged into a furnace and taken out again until they were roasted. These martyrs financed the French Renaissance and allowed Francis to encourage the Reform in Germany.

One year before the Apostasy of Luther, Francis established a Concordat with Rome in 1516, whereby the Gallic Church was commanded from the king’s Palace. The New Testament translated into French in 1523 had been taken by workers and peasants as a revolutionary pamphlet and the Concordat allowed the quelling of this revolution in blood.

12.5.6 Germany

Luther, an Augustinian monk as Erasmus, was born in Saxony in 1483. He lived in a century of hedonism, of curiosity, of intellectual activity, of refinement and of pleasures to which the Papacy was fully addicted. The search of pleasure demanded money. The rulers of France, Spain and England had acquired an autonomous management of the Church in their provinces. The German realm was still fully controlled by Rome and thus most frequently a contributor to the financing of the Italian Renaissance. The Germans had never forgotten nor forgiven Canossa, nor the imposition of celibacy on the priests against the teaching of the Genesis, which ordered procreation. The formidable accumulation of knowledge, the sexual indulgence of the papal court, the strong anticlerical feelings of the German population, the surge of nationalistic tendencies, the plebeian arrogance of Luther, the conciliatory patience of the Pope all worked in synergy to provoke a schism.

Luther believed strongly in predestination, in redemptory faith, in devils and angels, in the End of the World. If Luther spoke at night with Lucifer and danced with his nun, it is because Christ himself faced the Devil in the desert, spoke to Mary-Magdalene and never expressly demanded chastity from the servants of God. The Vatican had lost its credibility and the Word of God, the Bible, became the supreme reference point. The Bible was taken as literally authentic and the attempt of Erasmus to harmonize the Scriptures with Reason through allegoric interpretations was claimed blasphemous. Luther considered Reason the greatest enemy of Faith. Reason was the greatest prostitute of the Devil and should be drowned in Baptism. He translated the Bible, printed it in the Saxon language, which became German, and invited his fellow men to read it and live according to it.

Luther put the dangerous contents of the Bible in reach of everybody able to read vernacular, so that the interpretations and exegesis by theologians could be bypassed. There is nothing wrong to induce people to think by themselves, and the reading of the Bible in modest protestant families improved their literacy over that of Catholics. However, the results were dramatic. Peasants destroyed abbeys 25, monasteries and libraries, killed humanists and secular rulers. In 1522, Luther wrote to Wenzel Mink: “We triumphed over political tyranny; how easily will we now smash the princes themselves”. The Reform was a proletarian revolution. Churches were sacked, monasteries abandoned, believers lapidated, biblical polygamy advocated, music banned, books destroyed, schools closed, medicine and healing refused, universities deserted. Ignorance was a virtue. The low clergy, who saw in the Communion of the Apostles a communist manifest, supported this proletarian revolution (1524-1526). Luther abandoned his vindictive flock and his socialist ideas in 1525 and the ensuing repression was ten times bloodier than the revolt.

12.5.7 Switzerland

John Calvin, French lawyer persecuted by Francis I, fled to Basle in 1534. He was obsessed with God, Evil, Truth and the Bible. The guide of the Christian was not the fallible pope but the infallible Book. The thoughts of Augustine and Paul were developed to their logical extreme consequences: we are in a valley of tears and misery. He found in Hus arguments for predestination and brought this creed to its logical summit. People are saved or damned, despite their respective merits, through the arbitrary Good Will of God. Few will be saved. He defined the Church neither as the clergy nor as the body of the Christians but restricted it to the Elected. He and his followers, the Puritans, are the “Elected”. The children of the “Elected” are automatically elected themselves, by the will of God.

In Calvin’s Universe, there is no purgatory, no pity and no reason or common sense but there is the newly evolved Logic. This man, intolerant and fanatic, had a concept of God that was most blasphemous and absurd. This integrist’s creed based on censorship, torture and capital executions spread like fire throughout Europe and extended thereafter to the New World.

In the Geneva of Calvin, 35 people were executed for sorcery in the year 1545 alone. Between 1570 and 1630, from 30,000 to 50,000 sorcerers were burned, mostly in Protestant land ravaged by the Thirty-Years War. In some cases, the clergy opposed it but the civil authorities favored the witch-hunt. The sorcerers they judged and burned, also sometimes indicted the judges, who also were burned! In this, the Calvinists merely followed the recommendation of EX. 22:17 “you will not leave a magician alive”. Witch-hunts were currently practiced in the years 1692-1694 in New England, where the minds were obsessed by the Word of the Book instead of by the Spirit of the Christian Revelation. The last sorcerer of Scotland was burned in 1722 and the last sorcerer of Switzerland went up in flames about 220 years ago, in 1782. In Africa, the Portuguese priests active in the Congo burned an indigenous “Jeanne d’Arc” at about the same time.


23. T. More describes the foolishness of the French Crown’s foreign policy in Utopia.

24. Letter to Suleiman the magnificent, in 1541.

25. From abbas (father in Syriac): an abbey is a monastery headed by an abbot. Monastery comes from Greek, monos, alone, i.e. a place where people who wish to live retired from the world assemble.

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