ARTICLE V. -THE ERRORS OF MICHAEL MOLINOS. – 29.-The unsound Book of Molinos called the “Spiritual Guide.” 30.-His impious Doctrine, and the consequences deduced from it. 31. -His affected sanctity; he is found out and imprisoned, with two of his disciples. 32.-He is condemned himself, as well as his Works; he publicly abjures his errors, and dies penitent. 33. -Condemnation of the Book entitled ” The Maxims of the Saints.”


  1. The heresy of the Beghards, of which we have already treated (Chap, x, art. iv, n. 31), was the source of the errors of Molinos. He was born in the Diocese of Saragossa, in Arragon, and published his book, with the specious title of ” The Spiritual Guide, which leads the Soul by an interior way to the acquisition of perfect contemplation, and the rich treasure of internal Grace.” It was first printed in Rome, next in Madrid, then in Saragossa, and finally in Seville, so that in a little time the poison infected Spain, Rome, and almost all Italy. These maxims were so artfully laid down, that they were calculated to deceive not alone persons of lax morality, who are easily led astray, but even the purest souls, given totally to prayer. We ought to remark, also, that the unfortunate man did not, in this book, teach manifest errors, though he opened a door by it for the introduction of the most shocking principles (1).
  2. Hence, the consequence was, that those who studied this work were oppressed, as it were, by a mortal lethargy of con templation and false quietism. Men and women used to meet together in conventicles, professing this new sort of contemplation; they used to go to Communion satisfied with their own spirit, without confession or preparation; they frequented the churches like idiots, gazing on vacancy, neither looking to the altar where the Holy Sacrament was kept, nor exciting their devotion by contemplating the Sacred Images, and neither saying a prayer, nor performing any other act of devotion.

(1) Bernin. Hist, de Heres. t. 4, sec. 17, c. 8; Gotti, Ver. Rel. 120.

It would be all very well if they were satisfied with this idle contemplation and imaginary quietude of spirit, but they constantly fell into gross acts of licentiousness, for they believed that, while the soul was united with God, it was no harm to allow the body unbridled license in sensuality, all which, they said, proceeded solely from the violence of the devil, or the animal passions; and they justified this by that text of Job (xvi, 18) : ” These things have I suffered without the iniquity of my hand, when I offered pure prayers to God.” Molinos, in his forty-ninth Proposition, gives an impious explanation to this text; ” Job ex violentia Dæemonis se propriis manibus polluebat,” &c. (2).

  1. This hypocrite lived in Rome unfortunately for twenty- two years, from the year 1665 till 1687, and was courted by all, especially by the nobility, for he was universally esteemed as a holy man, and an excellent guide in the way of spiritual life. His serious countenance, his dress neglected, but always clerical, his long and bushy beard, his venerably old appearance, and his slow gait all were calculated to inspire devotion; and his holy conversation caused him to be venerated by all who knew him. The Almighty at length took compassion on his Church, and exposed the author of such iniquity. Don Inigo  Carracciolo, Cardinal of St. Clement, discovered that the Diocese of Naples was infected with the poisonous error, and immediately wrote to the Pope, imploring him to arrest the progress of the heresy by his supreme authority, and several other Bishops, not only in Italy, but even in France, wrote to the same effect. When his Holiness was informed of this, he published a circular letter through Italy, pointing out, not so much the remedy as the danger of the doctrine, which was extending itself privately. The Roman Inquisitors then, after taking information on the subject, drew up a secret process against Molinos, and ordered his arrest. He was, accordingly, taken up, with two of his associates, one a Priest of the name of Simon Leone, and the other a layman, called Anthony Maria, both natives of the village of Combieglio, near Como, and all three were imprisoned in the Holy Office (3).

(2) Gotti, n. 2, 3. (3) Gotti, loc. cit. . 4, 5, 6.

  1. The Inquisition, on the 24th of November, 1685, prohibited the ” Spiritual Guide” of Molinos, and on the 28th of August, 1687, condemned all his works, and especially sixty- eight Propositions extracted from his perfidious book “The Guide,” and of which he acknowledged himself the author, as we read in Bernino (4). He was condemned himself, together with his doctrine, and after twenty-two months imprisonment, and the conviction of his errors and crimes, he professed himself prepared to make the act of abjuration. On the 3rd of September, then, in 1687, he was brought to the Church of ” the Minerva,” before an immense concourse of people, and was placed by the officials in a pulpit, and commenced his abjuration. While the process was read, at the mention of every heretical proposition and every indecent action proved against him, the people cried out with a loud voice, “fuoco, fuoco” ” burn him.” When the reading of the process was concluded, he was conducted to the feet of the Commissary of the Holy Office, and there solemnly abjured the errors proved against him, received absolution, was clothed with the habit of a penitent, and received the usual strokes of a rod on the shoulders; he was then again conducted back to the prison of the Holy Office by the guards, a small apartment was assigned to him, and he lived for ten years with all the marks of a true penitent, and died with these happy dispositions. Immediately after his abjuration, Pope Innocent XI. published a Bull on the 4th of September, 1687, again condemning the same Propositions already condemned by the Holy Inquisition; and on the same day the two brothers, the disciples of Molinos, Anthony Maria and Simon Leone, already mentioned, made their abjuration, and gave signs of sincere repentance (5).
  2. About the end of the 17th century there was a certain lady in France, Madame Guion, who, filled with false notions of spiritual life, published several manuscripts, against which Bossuet, the famous Bishop of Meaux, wrote his excellent work, entitled ” De Statibus Orationis,” to crush the evil in the bud. Many, however, deceived by this lady’s writings, took up her defence, and among these was Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambray, who published another work, with the title of ” Explanation of the Maxims of the Saints on Interior Life.” This book was at once condemned by Innocent XII., who declared that the doctrine of the work was like that of Molinos.

(4) Bernin. loc. cit. (5) Burnin. 4, c. 8,

When Fenelon heard that his book was condemned, he at once not only obeyed the decision of the Pope, but even published a public Edict, commanding all his Diocesans to yield obedience to the Pontifical Decree (6). The Propositions condemned by the Pope in this book were twenty-three in number; they were condemned on the 12th of March, 1G99, and Cardinal Gotti gives them without curtailment.