1179 A.D. - Eleventh Ecumenical Council - “As St. Leo says…the discipline of the church should be satisfied with the judgment of the priest and should not cause the shedding of blood.” “[Rather] it is helped by the laws of Catholic princes so that people often seek a salutary remedy when they fear that a corporal punishment will overtake them.” (Canon 27)
1215 A.D. - Twelfth Ecumenical Council - “No cleric may decree or pronounce a sentence involving the shedding of blood, or carry out a punishment involving the same, or be present when such punishment is carried out. If anyone, however, under cover of this statute, dares to inflict injury on churches or ecclesiastical persons, let him be restrained by ecclesiastical censure. A cleric may not write or dictate letters which require punishments involving the shedding of blood, in the courts of princes this responsibility should be entrusted to laymen and not to clerics.” (Canon 18)Unknown Date - The Formula Used by Inquisitors when Handing Over Convicted Heretics to the Authorities - “'We cast thee out from our ecclesiastical court and give thee over, or rather leave thee to the secular arm and the power of the secular court, efficaciously entreating said secular court that it temper its sentence close to and on this side of the shedding of blood and the peril of death.” (Cambridge Mediaeval History, VI, 724.)1482 A.D. - Pope Sixtus IV condemned the violence of the Inquisitors, and intervened on behalf of the accused. He said: “In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many. … Provoked by the complaints of many men against this, we desire to and are bound to provide that the office [of the Inquisition] itself is duly carried out by such means that no one is unnecessarily and unjustly harmed. … In the example of [Jesus], whose vicar we are on earth (cujus vices gerimus in terris), not willing the death of sinners but rather desiring to restore their salvation, we choose to show mercy rather than to punish.” (Papal Bull Ad Perpetuam Rei Memoriam, reproduced in page 587 of Volume 1 of Henry Charles Lea’s “A History of the Inquisition of Spain.”)
1528 A.D. - St. Thomas More - “The fear of [the] outrages and mischiefs [which] follow upon [non-Catholic] sects and heresies, with the proof that men have had in some countries thereof, have been the cause that princes and people have been constrained to punish heresies by terrible death, whereas else more easy ways had been taken with them.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 13)
And: “[The princes] never indeed [would have] fallen so sore to force and violence against heretics, [unless] the violent cruelty first used by the heretics themself against good catholic folk, [drove] good princes thereto.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 13)
And: “[As] I said before, if the heretics had never begun with violence, though they had used all the ways they could to [attract] the people by preaching…yet if they had set violence aside, good Christian people [would have perhaps] yet unto this day used less violence toward them than they do now.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 13)
And: “[For] in the beginning, never were [heretics] by any temporal punishment of their bodies anything sharply handled till that they began to be violent themself.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 13)
And: “[Therefore] the order of the [ecclesiastical] law therein is both good, reasonable, piteous and charitable, and nothing desiring the death of any man therein.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 13)
And: “[A]ll the sore punishment of heretics wherewith such folk as favour them would fain defame the clergy, is, and hath been, for the great outrages and temporal harms that such heretics have been alway wont to do, and seditious commotions that they be wont to make, beside the far passing spiritual hurts that they do to men’s souls.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 18)
And: “[The severe punishments were] devised and executed against them of necessity by good Christian princes, and politic[al] rulers of the [kingdom], for as much as their wisdoms well perceived that the people should not fail to fall into many sore and intolerable troubles if such seditious sects of heretics were not by grievous punishment repressed in the beginning, and the sparcle (spark) well quenched ere it were suffered to grow to over great a fire.” (Dialogue Concerning Heresies Part 4 Chapter 18)
Notice that the third quotation is indented. I did that in order to set it off from the rest of these quotes in order to give it a closer look. It is the main subject of this thread.
I recently found that quote in a book called Liberty or Equality by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. As anyone may notice, the source he quotes, the Cambridge Mediaeval History, is not a primary source document. (The other quotes on this list Are primary sources.) In this thread I’d like to try to find the primary source from which the Cambridge Mediaeval History is quoting.
So I was wondering: do any of you know where that quote comes from, where the Cambridge book might have gotten it from? Is it in an early papal letter or a record of one or more inquisition trials? What?
Also, what other evidence do you know of that helps show that the medieval Catholic Church ordinarily opposed using the death penalty for heretics?