CHAPTER X. – THE HERESIES WHICH SPRUNG UP FROM THE ELEVENTH TO THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
We pass over the Tenth Century, because in that age no new heresy sprung up in the Church; but Danæus (1) says, that there was both great ignorance and great disunion in the West, so that even the Apostolic See was not exempt from intrusions and expulsions. Graveson (2) states the same, and says, that it was a great mark of Divine Protection, that, amid so many evils, a schism did not arise in the Church.
ARTICLE I. – HERESIES OF THE ELEVENTH CENTURY. – 1. -Stephen and Lisosius burned for their Errors. 2.-The new Nicholites and the Incestuosists. 3.-Berengarius, and the principles of his Heresy. 4.-His Condemnation and Relapse. 5.-His Conversion and Death.
- The first heresy of this century was an offshoot of Manicheism, or, rather, a collection of errors, which may be called Atheism itself. It was first discovered in Orleans, in France, where it was introduced by an Italian lady, and was embraced by many persons, but especially by two Ecclesiastics, of the name of Stephen and Lisosius, who were considered both holy and learned men. They taught, that all that the Scriptures say about the Trinity and the Creation of the World is mere nonsense, as the heavens and the earth are from all eternity, and never had a beginning. They denied the Incarnation and the Passion of Christ, and, consequently, the value of Baptism.
(I) Danes, gen. tem. not. p. 275. (2) Graveson, His. Ecclesias. t. 3, sec. 10, coll 2.
They condemned Matrimony, and denied that good works were rewarded, or evil ones punished, in the next life. They used to burn an infant eight days old, and preserved his ashes for the Viaticum of the Sick. A Norman gentleman, called Arefastus informed Robert, King of France, of the practices and doctrines of those wretches, and he, at once, went to Orleans himself, accompanied by the Queen, and a number of Bishops. These Prelates finding Stephen and Lisosius obstinate in their errors, held a Synod, and deposed and degraded them, and they were then, by the King’s orders, brought outside the city, shut up in a cabin with several of their followers and burned alive (1).
- The new Nieholites also made their appearance in this century. These were some clergymen in Holy Orders, who preached that it was lawful for them to marry. The sect called Incestuosists also then disturbed the Church. These taught that it was lawful to contract marriage within the four prohibited degrees of consanguinity (2).
- The remarkable heresy of Berengarius also sprung up in this century, and it is one of the prodigies of Divine Mercy, to see that this heretic, after so many relapses, in the end died a true penitent, and in communion with the Church. Berenger, or Berengarius, was born in the early part of this century, in Tours; he first studied in the school of St. Martin, and then went to prosecute his studies at Chartres, under Fulbert, the Bishop of that city. A certain author (3), speaking of his haughtiness, says, that while only a scholar he cared but very little for his master’s opinions, and despised altogether anything coming from his fellow-students; he was not, however, deeply grounded in the abstruse questions of philosophy, but took great pride in quibbles, and strange interpretations of plain words. His master, Fulbert, well aware of his petulant genius, and his desire of novelty, frequently advised him to follow in every thing the doctrine of the Fathers, and to reject all new doctrines. He returned to Tours, and was received among the Chapter of the Church of St. Martin, and was appointed a dignitary, the Master of the School, as it was called.
(1) Fleury, t. 8, I. 58, n. 53 & 55; Graves, t. 3, sec. 11, coll 3; Gotti, Ver. Relig. t. 2, c. 86, sec. 1; Berti, sec. 11, c. 3; Van Ranst, sec. 11, p. 173, & seq. (2) Van Banst, sec. 11, p. 167; Berti, Brev. His. sec. 11, c. 3. (3) Quidmond, f. 1, de Corp. xti. ver. in Euch.
He next became Treasurer of the Church, and then went to Angers, and was appointed Archdeacon by the Bishop Eusebius Bruno, one of his own scholars. It was in Angers, according to Noel Alexander and Graveson (4), that he first began, about the year 1047, to disseminate his errors; and Baronius says, that the Bishop Eusebius connived at it, though Noel Alexander acquits him (5). At first, he attacked the Sacrament of Matrimony, the Baptism of infants, and other dogmas of the Faith; but he soon gave up all other questions, and confined himself to one alone the denial of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. He attacked Paschasius Radbert, who, in 831, wrote a learned treatise on the Eucharist, and held up to admiration John Scotus Erigena, who flourished in the ninth century, and is believed to have been the first who attacked the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Cardinal Gotti, however, remarks that Berenger is looked on as the founder of this heresy, as the Church was obliged to summon several Councils to condemn it, as we shall see hereafter (6).
- Berengarius was first condemned in the year 1050, in a Roman Council, held under Pope St. Leo IX., but he took so little notice of this, that he called it the Council of Vanity. He was condemned, likewise, in the Council of Vercelli, held the same year, and that Council also condemned the book of John Scotus. He was again condemned in a Council held in Paris, under the reign of King Henry I.; and Victor II., the successor of St. Leo, condemned him in a Synod, held in Florence, in the year 1055. In this same year he abjured his errors convinced by Lanfranc that he was wrong in a Council held at Tours, and swore never again to separate himself from the Faith of the Catholic Church; but his subsequent conduct proved that he was not sincere in this recantation. In the year 1059, therefore, Pope Nicholas II. convoked a Council in Rome of 113 Bishops, and then Berengarius again made his profession of Faith, according to the form prescribed to him, and swore again never to deviate from it, and threw his own works, and those of John Scotus, into a great fire, which was lighted in the midst of the Council.
(4) Nat. Alex. t. 14, sec. 11, c. 4, art. 2; Graves, t. 3, sec. 11, coll. 3 (5) Nat. Alex. t. 14, diss. 1, art. 4. (6) Gotti, Ver. Rel. t. 2, c. 87, sec. 1 . & 2; Fleury, t. 8, l. 59, n. 65; Graves, loc. cit.
Still he was unchanged : on his return to France, he again relapsed, and even wrote a book in defense of his heresy, and in defiance of the Church of Rome. Alexander II., the successor of Nicholas, paternally admonished him by letter; but he not only obstinately held out, but even sent him a disrespectful answer. Maurilius, Archbishop of Rouen, therefore, considered himself obliged to adopt extreme measures, and in a Council, held in 1063, excommunicated him and all his followers, and the Decres of this Council were confirmed by another, held in Poietiers, in 1075. Finally, St. Gregory VII., to put an end to the scandal altogether, convoked a Council, in Rome, of one hundred and fifty Bishops, in 1079, in which the Catholic doctrine was confirmed, and Berengarius, confessing himself convinced, took an oath to the following effect : ” I confess that the bread and wine placed on the altar are substantially converted into the true Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ, by the mystery of Sacred Prayer and the words of our Redeemer, not alone by the sign and virtue of a Sacrament, but by the truth of substance, &c.” (7).
- Notwithstanding all this, when Berengarius returned to France, he again retracted his confession by another writing (8); but in the year following, 1080, he obtained from the Divine Mercy the grace of a true conversion, and in a Council, held at Bordeaux, retracted this last work of his, and confirmed the profession of faith he made at Rome; and he survived this last retractation for nearly eight years, and in the year 1088, at the age of nearly ninety years, he died a true penitent, in communion with the Church, after spending these eight years in retirement in the island of St. Cosmas, near Tours, doing penance for his sins (9). William of Malmesbury (10) says, that when just about to die, Berengarius exclaimed, remembering all the perversions his heresy had caused : ” To-day Jesus Christ shall appear to me either to show me mercy on account of my repentance, or, perhaps, to punish me, I fear, for having led others astray.”
(7) Fleury, t. 9, l. 62, n. 60; N. Alex. loc. cit. art. 17; Gotti, loc. cit. s. 3. (8) Mabillon, pref. 2, sec. 6, n. 31. (9) Fleury, t. 9, /. 63, n. 40.
(10) Villel. Malmesb. de rebus, Angl. l. 3.
St. Antoninus, De Bellay, Mabillon, Anthony Pagi, Noel Alexander, Graveson, and several other authors, assert that his repentance was sincere, and that he never relapsed during the last years of his life a remarkable exception to so many other heresiarchs, who died in their sins.