Knights Templar

I was just reading about the knights templar and how they were executed by the Church. I understand that they committed some really heinous crimes against the church . But did they really deserve to be burned at the stake.

I just don’t understand how the church allowed that for a period of time until it was abolished.
by a Pope.

It’s my understanding that the secular government of Phillip the Fair laid the charges and carried out the execution, not the Church.

Most of this is a myth and/or misunderstandings of Church history by non-Catholic academics. The Church never executed anyone. Anytime people were put to death, it was always by secular authorities. Note, sometimes individual bishops or priests were secular leaders in addition to being Church leaders.

Priests were allowed to have public office until after Vatican II.

Actually, the Knights Templar did not do much to my understanding. King Philip of France had them tortured and under duress they said they had done many terrible things. Whether they did or not…

Of course, as people said before, the Church didn’t execute anyone. It was mainly the secular states who wanted the vast wealth of the Templars. The Templars were so influential that one of the Kings of Spain bequeathed his entire kingdom to the order. It didn’t come to pass of course. Too much politics.

Catholic historian Joseph Darras writes that the pope opposed the torture and execution of the Templars. He says on the matter:

“The sudden arrest, the trial, the question by torture and the capital sentence, are the work of [King] Philip [the Fair], and of [him] only.” source

He compares that to the more gentle treatment of the Templars by the pope:

“Juridical inquiry [involved an] examination without any appearance of torture, [and] the canonical investigation [was] carefully carried on through four years… [F]inally the sentence of suppression [was promulgated] without the slightest bodily pain…in the fifteenth general council at Vienne… [This] constitutes the part taken by [Pope] Clement V in this famous trial. This is the capital point of the whole case. Whatever opinion we may adopt as to the guilt or innocence of the Templars, the conduct of the Sovereign Pontiff must be unconcerned in our judgment. As Pope he suppressed a religious order…but he sent no one to torture or to the stake.” source

That author also points out that Philip the Fair was the one who burned at the stake 59 Templar Knights at the time of the Fifteenth Ecumenical Council: “Without consulting either [the] Pope or [the] council, Philip had already begun the work of punishment. The years 1310 and 1311 witnessed those extraordinary executions which filled the nation with astonishment and terror, and especially that of the fifty-nine Templars burnt in Paris near the Porte Saint-Antoine. After the Council of Vienne, the judicial investigation [was] wholly intrusted to the ecclesiastical tribunals, [and] these executions ceased. That of the Grand Master, Jacques Molay, and of Guy of Auvergne, was a deplorable violation on the part of Philip of all ecclesiastical rights; Clement V, had no part in the deed.” source

Here is how he summarizes the matter: “Clement V suppressed the order; Philip the Fair burned the Templars. It belongs to posterity to give to each one the credit of his works.” source

A couple of other points -

King Phillip was in desperate need of money, and nobody had more money than the Templars, so he had them arrested and admit, under torture, of heinous sins, none of which likely occurred. The Templars were eventually put to death, but King Phillip never did see much of the Templars riches, and much of the Templar lore today surrounds the mystery of what happened to all their riches.

As for Pope Clement V, he owed much of his papacy to King Phillip, who backed him heavily, so his hands were tied to a certain degree, and he had little power to free the Templars. He did eventually suppress the order however, but I think that was more likely due to the fact that the Templars were an order without a mission. The Crusades were over and their military power wasn’t needed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.