Templars place in the church and history

I do not know if this is the right forum or not. But the Templars rise and fall was grand. In the end the French king wanted them tortured. What was the Church’s position on their failure? Did they sin? Were they considered sinners? If so did they receive absolution. I’ve heard their story from secular sources. Now I want to know the church’s position.


The Church was the instrument of their demise. The Fifteenth Ecumenical Council of the Church (the Council of Vienne in 1312) had just one item on its agenda - disbanding the Knights Templar (which it did).

I would say that makes the position of the Church pretty clear, from the Church Herself.

Pope Clement-5 was a puppet of the French king Philip-4, who opposed the Knights. This is why Clement called an Ecumenical Council (held in neutral territory) so that the decision would not just be coming from him as a proxy of Philip.

It’s also an illustration of why Ecumenical Councils, contrary to popular belief, do not always teach dogmatically. Like a Pope, they MAY teach dogmatically. It’s hard to imagine how the Fifteenth Council could have promulgated dogma simply by disbanding an organization.

I’m also curious about OP’s question. Additionally, does anyone here give any credence to the claim that Freemasons are connected to the ancient Templars? Or is it just a case of Masons playing make-believe and pretending they’re ancestors were knights, etc.? Does this explain the alleged animosity and thirst for “vengeance” Masons have for the Church? I still remember kids I knew growing up talking endlessly about their De Molay club, and as we got older those same kids always did express a lot of bile toward the Church…

The Masons really don’t have a connection with the Templars. As for the Catholic Church’s role, yes, it was subject to the French monarchy in many ways. However, the disbanding of the order is also suspected as a measure to protect the order’s members from prosecution. Furthermore, there were plenty of other similar monastic military orders around, especially in Iberia, where many of the ex-Templars flocked to join.

I don’t think the Catholic Church ever officially condemned the Templars, the papacy at least. However, they were interrogated by some clergy in line with a few states on charges of heresy. If I recall correctly, both Aragon and Poland refused to prosecute the Templars and were somewhat dismayed when the papacy disbanded the order.

All of this being said, we actually have very few documents regarding the Templars. We have far more information on the sister orders, such as the Knights Hospitallars. If you want to find out more about their trial, there is a book that contains the court records and an introduction to the material: The Knights Templar Absolution: The Chinon Parchment and the History of the Poor Knights of Chrisby by A. A. Grishin.

I watched a youtube video that said that Saladin was gaining ground and the knights Templar just were not able to protect the Holy Lands anymore. This video didn’t get into any conspiracy theories or stances by the Church. It mentioned just that French King. So has the Church made any errors? In calling a council just to disband the Knights. So was their disbanding what caused them to lose ground? As I mentioned this was a secular video. Interesting point of view but it didn’t get into the Church’s involvement.


I’m not quite sure how Phillip IV of France could “accuse of heresy” other persons. Isn’t that a job of the church?


First of all – No, the Church didn’t want the Templars gone. The King of France wanted them gone, because he wanted their money and their lands. It was much the same as what Henry VIII did later, except he despoiled and slandered the entire clergy and all the orders, instead of just one.

Second, the Vatican archives recently found the records of the Pope’s later court proceedings. His inquiry cleared the Templars of all wrongdoing.

Third, the disbanding of the Templars was largely meant to protect the remaining members of the order, and the financial stability of Europe. (Because the Templars were Europe’s bank, or at least its financial communications network.)

Since the Pope didn’t have any sort of science ninja death squad to enforce his will on the grabby French king, and since poor Pope Clement was actually one of the Avignon popes who was physically under the French king’s thumb, it was too late to go back to the status quo.

Under the circumstances, declaring the Templars disbanded by bull, but not declaring them heretics as King Philip desired, was about as much as the Pope could do. Privately clearing their name by inquiry was a symbolic act, but at least it was done.

With France’s Templars dead or fled, and with French laws threatening prosecution of anybody from the Templars who traveled through a good chunk of Europe, new national orders were created as homes for the Templars in some countries, and Templars were folded into other orders in other countries. (Everywhere else, monarchs and lords were getting grabby like France, so the Templars had to get the heck out of those places while the getting was good.)

I see. So it wasn’t really Saladin and his advances that made them flee. Sounds like they were getting hit by all sides.


It might have been. But the Church did not disband the Knights because they had become (or would become) an ineffective military force. The Knights Templar had become corrupt, which is why they were disbanded. The Pope convoked an Ecumenical Council to disband them, so that the decision would be of the whole Church, and not just himself. It was a very clever move.

From a tactical perspective, disbanding the Knights was a stupid move. A corrupt force is, tactically, far better than a disbanded force. A disbanded force is no force at all. Everybody knows that.

And Jerusalem fell. DUH!

Would Jerusalem have stood if the Knights had not been disbanded? We don’t know. Does it matter? Had the Knights NOT been disbanded, and could have held Jerusalem, would this mean that the Church (not the Pope) was WRONG to disband them?

Does the end justify the means, even if the means are corrupt and evil? What does Scripture teach us about this?

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say — as some slanderously claim that we say — “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just! [Romans 3:5-8]

What I had in mind when I said “was the church wrong?” Was more like, was the Pope and others in calling a council just to get rid of the Knights wrong. Is that what councils are for? IDK.


Well, this goes to the whole idea of “right” and “wrong.” Do you mean morally right/wrong, or tactically right/wrong? The Knights were an effective military (tactical) force which had become morally corrupt.

For much of Church History, the Church has been BOTH a military and a spiritual institution. Popes have personally led armies into battle.

Disbanding the Knights Templar was WRONG from a tactical (military) perspective. It was RIGHT from a moral perspective.

Is that what councils are for? IDK.

Councils serve to organically benefit the Church - not to specifically disband or uphold a military force. Under certain circumstances, the two tasks might coincide, and the Church must weigh the benefits of an effective tactical force against the liability that the force is morally corrupt.

The Church chose morality over tactics (a Good Thing). And Jerusalem fell (a Bad Thing). Was the Church “right” or “wrong?”

It all depends on how you define the terms.

Not sure, but I believe Jerusalem fell long before the Templar were disbanded. The fall of Jerusalem was largely the product of poor leadership and envy. The Templar took as their leader a man who was suspect in every way (although they did not know it yet) and he caused incredible damage to the Order. The King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, was a rather pathetic king, and his tactical blunders cost the Kingdom heavily.

Envy between Templar and Hospitaller, as well as other forces of Christendom in Outremer, caused even drawn swords and slain men among themselves, as far as I know.

Regine Pernoud is a solid French historian. She writes good history, and sets about her task of dispelling the myths that “lay people” (non-historians) accept as fact. Among her works are one about the Knights of the Temple. It is called “The Templars” (unless you can read French and wish to take the book in its original). I recommend it for anyone interested in their history. She loves grinding myths into dust and showing only what the actual historical data tells us.

There are two separate strands to this argument, and it would be helpful to keep them apart.

First, the question of timing. Which came first, the loss of the Holy Land or the disbanding of the Templars?
Here are the dates:
Battle of the Horns of Hattin, 1187
Battle of La Fourbie, 1244
Fall of Akko (Acre), 1291
Arrest of Jacques de Molay, 1307

Akko, on the coast a few miles north of Haifa, was the last small scrap of territory that the Christian armies had managed to hold on to after the two decisive defeats, first at the Horns of Hattin, near the Sea of Galilee, where Saladin had crushed the Crusader army, and later at La Fourbie, near Gaza, where an Egyptian army was victorious. As the dates show, by the time the French king had the Templars in his territory arrested, tortured, and killed, there had been no Christians left in the Holy Land for sixteen years.

Second, the question of the king’s motives. The Templars were the bankers of Europe. Their order was enormously wealthy. As I understand it, Mintaka (#7 on this thread) has got it exactly right:

If heresy was a civil offense as well as a theological offense (such as it was) then civil authorities can bring civil charges, including heresy.

It is, however, the place of the Church to determine guilt or innocence. Which is what happened. This is what the Inquisition was all about.

Oh I wasn’t thinking of civil authorities only ecclesiastic. The Inquisition. Now that I believe really was a stain on the church’s history.


Then you don’t understand the Inquisition. Many nations had (and still have) civil laws against heresy. The Church can’t do anything about that. In many instances, heresy was (and still is) a capital offense. The Church can’t do anything about that, either.

The Church could step back and not participate in such accusations, leaving the defendant subject to a state trial (or summary trial). The state already thinks the accused is guilty (that’s why he was arrested in the first place). A trial would pretty much be a formality (as it often was involving secular charges).

OR the Church could step in and decide if the person is really a heretic. MANY people were exonerated and safely returned to their homes and families, or (if truly guilty) were given the opportunity to repent and renounce their heresy, avoiding execution.

But, if the Church is gonna participate, the Church has to be an honest participant - if the guy is really an unrepentant heretic, the Church must say so, even if that means the state will carry the guy off to execution (the Church never executed anybody).

Well the church to me even today happens to be not only the oldest of our institutions but one of the most superstitious. I just don’t go with the idea and the church must’ve for example of Black Cats being sent from and posessed of the devil. I just don’t go for it. In middle eastern history, well they had “Satan”. but this idea of “Devil” seems to me to come from European origins.
Also how can you defend the selling of indulgences? The civil authorities surely have nothing to do with that?


Sorry I don’t want to go too OT. But I just wanted to say that.

I really have no idea what you are talking about. I know that black cats have historically been associated with familiars of witches. What does this have to do with the Catholic Church? Are you saying that the Church has EVER taught such a thing? Sorry, you’re gonna have to cite that.

Also how can you defend the selling of indulgences? The civil authorities surely have nothing to do with that?

Sorry I don’t want to go too OT. But I just wanted to say that.

Well, it’s your thread - you are the OP, so if you want to derail your own thread into OT-land, you are really the only person who has a right to do so.

I don’t defend the “selling” of indulgences, and neither does the Church. Such abuses (which originated in the late Middle-Ages) were condemned and censured by the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), and again by the Council of Trent (1562).

The most notorious offender was the Dominican Friar Johann Tetzel, who was the subject of Luther’s several objections. Tezel acted in what he considered the best interests of the Church, but not in accord with authorized Church doctrine or practices. His actions were condemned by the Church both before and after he performed them.

The Catholic Church has had MANY sinful friars, priests, Bishops, and even Popes. If someone wants to impugn the Catholic Church by the conduct of one of Her ministers, Tetzel is a poor choice. We have no cause to believe that he ever abused his Office for personal gain (he never skimmed money, as far as we know).

If you want to say that Tetzel was a nutjob, then I doubt you will find much opposition here. If you want to say that the Catholic Church, in any way, supported or encouraged or endorsed his practices then you will have to cite something resembling actual Church teaching (and not just the misguided actions of a well-intentioned nutjob).

The Black cats were admittedly a societal thing. So much of Europe was killed off all because of things leading back to that idea. I am not saying the church officially taught black cats were familiars. If there is such a thing. but I’m sure in some conversations in parish halls or Cathedrals or confession booths there have been whispers “Hey stay away from the cats” by priest or parishioner at some point.

But this is what I am getting at. If I am correct the Holy Spirit is to guide the church. At least I hope so or I don’t know what we’ll do. Exactly how I have not been able to put a finger on. Some have said “faith and morals.” If the church has never erred as you say there have been some bad popes. IMO Innocent viii and “Hammer against the witch” which by its’ existence implies the church supports a belief that there is a such thing. Maybe it depends on your trying to define. And of course Alexander vi who had affairs and he might be the one who tortured cardinals. We can have bad popes and bad priests and the Holy Spirit still guides? Exactly how ? Hope I’m clear. I want to get the churches idea of things because I not only want to know what to believe but there is so much that goes around about the church not from the church. And I think you know me well enough that I like to get an objective view too. From many angles. Not that I buy into them all but I want to know. :slight_smile:



Main article: Knights Templar (Freemasonry)

Since at least the 18th century, Freemasonry has incorporated Templar symbols and rituals in a number of Masonic bodies,[5] most notably, the “Order of the Temple” the final order joined in “The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta” commonly known as the Knights Templar. One theory of the origins of Freemasonry claims direct descent from the historical Knights Templar through its final fourteenth-century members who took refuge in Scotland whose King, Robert the Bruce was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church at the time, or in Portugal where the order changed its name to Knights of Christ, other members having joined Knights of St. John. There have even been claims that some of the Templars who made it to Scotland contributed to the Scots’ victory at Bannockburn. This theory is usually deprecated on grounds of lack of evidence, by both Masonic authorities[88] and historians.[89]

The Roman Catholic Church has historically opposed Freemasonry since it began to emerge, under the belief that the group is a “Secret Society” and has a deeply hidden agenda that opposes the church and its beliefs. Members of the Church found to be Freemasons were commonly excommunicated. This has often led to the misguided belief that the Church somehow also opposed the Knights Templar, however the Church makes distinction between the Templars, a public monastic order, and “Secret Societies”.

The penalty of excommunication for joining the Masonic Lodge was explicit in the 1917 code of canon law (canon 2335), and it is implicit in the 1983 code (canon 1374). Because the revised code of canon law is not explicit on this point, some drew the mistaken conclusion that the Church’s prohibition of Freemasonry had been dropped. As a result of this confusion, shortly before the 1983 code was promulgated, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement indicating that the penalty was still in force. This statement was dated November 26, 1983 and may be found in Origins 13/27 (Nov. 15, 1983), 450.[90]

Modern popular culture
Main article: Knights Templar in popular culture

Based on Freemasonic speculation and popular literature since the 19th century, the Templars and associated “legends” or “mysteries” have become a common trope in modern pop culture.

Beginning in the 1960s, there have been speculative popular publications surrounding the Order’s early occupation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and speculation about what relics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant,[91] or the historical accusation of idol worship (Baphomet) transformed into a context of “witchcraft”.[92]

The association of the Holy Grail with the Templars has precedents even in 12th century fiction; Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival calls the knights guarding the Grail Kingdom templeisen, apparently a conscious fictionalization of the templarii.[93]

Modern fictionalization of the Templars begins with Ivanhoe, the 1820 novel by Sir Walter Scott, where the villain Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert is a “Templar Knight.” The popular treatment of the Templars as a topic of esotericist “legend” and “mystery” begins in the later 20th century. Les Rois Maudits or The Accursed Kings (1973 et seq) by Maurice Druon depicts the death of the last Grand Master of the Order, and plays with the legend of the curse he laid on the pope, Philip the Fair, and Guillaume de Nogaret. Esotericist treatments become common in the 1980s. Among them, the 1982 The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail would prove most influential. The 1988 novel by Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum, a 1988, satirizes the presentation of the Templars in esotericist or pseudohistorical conspiracy theories. A revival of the 1980s themes took place in the 2000s due to the commercial success of The Da Vinci Code, the 2003 novel by Dan Brown (adapted into a film version in 2006).

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