Sad State of Europe Pre-Reformation: Rome Routs Christianity (Chapter 1)

State of Europe Before the Reformation
Excerpt adapted from History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century by J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, Swiss Protestant minister, translated by H. White (Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh: 1846).

Chapter 1

How the Catholic Church Usurped Early Christianity

The Emergence of Authentic Christianity

The enfeebled world was tottering on its foundations when Christianity appeared. The national religions, which had satisfied the parents, no longer proved sufficient for their children. The new generations could not repose contented within the ancient forms. The gods of every nation lost their oracles when transported to Rome, as the nations themselves had there lost their liberty.  Brought face to face in the Capitol, they had destroyed each other, and their divinity had vanished. A great void was occasioned in the religion of the world.

A kind of deism, destitute alike of spirit and of life, floated for a time above the abyss in which the vigorous superstitions of antiquity had been engulfed. But like all negative creeds, it had no power to reconstruct. National prepossessions disappeared with the fall of the national gods. The various kingdoms melted one into the other. In Europe, Asia, and Africa, there was but one vast empire, and the human race began to feel its universality and unity.

Then the WORD was made flesh.  God appeared among men, and as man, to save that which was lost. In Jesus of Nazareth dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

This is the greatest event in the annals of the world. Former ages had prepared the way for it: The latter ages flow from it. It is the center of their bond of unity.

Henceforward the popular superstitions had no meaning, and the slight fragments preserved from the general wreck of incredulity vanished before the majestic orb of eternal truth.

The Son of man lived thirty three years on earth, healing the sick, converting sinners, not having where to lay his head, and displaying in the midst of this humiliation such greatness and holiness, such power and divinity, as the world had never witnessed before. He suffered and died; he rose again and ascended into heaven. His disciples, beginning at Jerusalem, traveled over the Roman empire and the world, everywhere proclaiming their Master as the author of everlasting life. From the midst of a people who despised all nations, came forth a mercy that invited and embraced all men.

A great number of Asians, Greeks, and Romans, hitherto dragged by their priests to the feet of dumb idols, believed the Word. It suddenly enlightened the whole earth, like a beam of the sun. A breath of life began to move over this wide field of death. A new people, a holy nation, was formed upon the earth; and the astonished world beheld in the disciples of the Galilean a purity and self-denial, a charity and heroism, of which till then it had lost the idea.

Two Distinctive Principles: Christianity Vs. Paganism

Two principles especially distinguished the new religion from all the human systems that fled before it. One had reference to the ministers of its worship, the other to its doctrines.

The ministers of paganism were almost the gods of these human religions. The priests of Egypt, Gaul, Dacia, Germany, Britain, and India led the people, so long at least as their eyes were not opened. Jesus Christ, indeed, established a ministry, but he did not found a separate priesthood: he dethroned these living idols of the world, destroyed an overbearing hierarchy, took away from man what he had taken from God, and reestablished the soul in immediate connection with the divine fountain of truth, by proclaiming himself sole Master and sole Mediator. “One is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

As for doctrine, human religions had taught that salvation is of man: the religions of the earth had devised an earthly salvation. They had told men that heaven would be given to them as a reward: they had fixed its price; and what a price! The religion of God taught that salvation comes from him alone; that it is a gift from heaven; that it emanates from an amnesty; from the grace of the Sovereign Ruler: “God hath given to us eternal life.”

Undoubtedly Christianity cannot be summed up in these two points; but they seem to govern the subject, as far as history is concerned. And as it is impossible for me to trace the opposition between truth and error in all its features, I have been compelled to select the most prominent.

Such were the two constituent principles of the religion that then took possession of the Roman empire and of the world. With these we are within the true limits of Christianity, and beyond them Christianity disappears. On their preservation or their loss depended its greatness or its fall.

They are closely connected: for we cannot exalt the priests of the Church or the works of the faithful without lowering Christ in his twofold quality of Mediator and Redeemer.

One of these principles was to predominate in the history of the religion; the other in its doctrine. They both reigned at the beginning. Let us inquire how they were lost; and let us commence by tracing the destiny of the former.

Early Encroachments against True Christianity

The Church was in the beginning a community of brethren, guided by a few of the brethren. All were taught of God, and each had the privilege of drawing for himself from the divine fountain of light. The Epistles which then settled the great questions of doctrine did not bear the pompous title of a single man, of a ruler. We learn from the Holy Scriptures, that they began simply with these words: “The apostles and elders and brethren send greetings unto the brethren.”

But these very writings of the apostles already foretell that from the midst of this brotherhood there shall arise a power that will destroy this simple and primitive order.

Let us contemplate the formation and trace the development of this power so alien to the Church.

Paul of Tarsus, one of the greatest apostles of the new religion, had arrived at Rome, the capital of the empire and of the world, preaching in bondage the salvation which cometh from God. A Church was formed beside the throne of the Caesars. Composed at first of a few converted Jews, Greeks, and Roman citizens, it was rendered famous by the teaching and the death of the Apostle of the Gentiles. For a time it shone out brightly, as a beacon upon a hill. Its faith was everywhere celebrated; but erelong it declined from its primitive condition. It was by small beginnings that both imperial and Christian Rome advanced to the usurped dominion of the world.

The first pastors or bishops of Rome early employed themselves in converting the neighboring cities and towns. The necessity which the bishops and pastors of the Campagna felt of applying in cases of difficulty to an enlightened guide, and the gratitude they owed to the church of the metropolis, led them to maintain a close union with it. As it has always happened in analogous circumstances, this reasonable union soon degenerated into dependence. The bishops of Rome considered as a right that superiority which the surrounding Churches had freely yielded. The encroachments of power form a great part of history; as the resistance of those whose liberties are invaded forms the other portion. The ecclesiastical power could not escape the intoxication which impels all who are lifted up to seek to mount still higher. It obeyed this general law of human nature.

Emerging Influence of Rome with the Cooperation of the Bishops

Nevertheless, the supremacy of the Roman bishops was at that period limited to the superintendence of the Churches within the civil jurisdiction of the prefect of Rome. But

the rank which this imperial city held in the world offered a prospect of still greater destinies to the ambition of its first pastor. The respect enjoyed by the various Christian bishops in the second century was proportionate to the rank of the city in which they resided. Now Rome was the largest, richest, and most powerful city in the world. It was the seat of empire, the mother of nations. “All the inhabitants of the earth belong to her,” said Julian; and Claudian declared her to be “the fountain of laws.”

If Rome is the queen of cities, why should not her pastor be the king of bishops? Why should not the Roman church be the mother of Christendom? Why should not all nations be her children, and her authority their sovereign law? It was easy for the ambitious heart of man to devise such arguments. Ambitious Rome devised them.

Thus, when pagan Rome fell, she bequeathed to the humble minister of the God of peace, sitting in the midst of her ruins, the proud titles which her invincible sword had won from the nations of the earth.

The bishops of the various parts of the empire, fascinated by that charm which Rome had exercised for ages over all nations, followed the example of the Campagna, and aided this work of usurpation. They felt a pleasure in yielding to the bishop of Rome something of that hour which belonged to the queen city of the world.  There was originally no dependence implied in the honor thus paid. They treated the Roman pastor as if they were on a level with him. But usurped power increased like an avalanche. Admonitions, at first simply fraternal, soon became absolute commands in the mouth of the pontiff. A foremost place among equals appeared to him a throne.

The Western bishops favored this encroachment of the Roman pastors, either from jealousy of the Eastern bishops, or because they preferred submitting to the supremacy of a pope, rather than to the dominion of a temporal power.

On the other hand, the theological sects that distracted the East, strove, each for itself, to interest Rome in its favor they looked for victory in the support of the principal church of the West.

Rome carefully enregistered these applications and intercessions and smiled to see all nations voluntarily throwing themselves into her arms. She neglected no opportunity of increasing and extending her power. The praises and flattery, the exaggerated compliments and consultations of other Churches, became in her eyes and in her hands the titles and documents of her authority. Such is man exalted to a throne: the incense of courts intoxicates him, his brain grows dizzy. What he possesses becomes a motive for attaining still more.

Visible Unity of the Church Compromises True Invisible Unity

The doctrine of the Church and the necessity of its visible unity, which had begun to gain ground in the third century, favored the pretensions of Rome. The Church is, above all things, the assembly of “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:2); “the assembly of the first born which are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).

Yet the Church of our Lord is not simply inward and invisible; it is necessary that it should be manifested, and it is with a view to this manifestation that the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were instituted.

The visible Church has features different from those which distinguish it as an invisible Church. The invisible Church, which is the body of Christ, is necessarily and eternally one. The visible Church no doubt partakes of the unity of the former; but, considered by itself, plurality is a characteristic already ascribed to it in the New Testament. While speaking of one Church of God, it no sooner refers to its manifestation to the world, than it enumerates “the Churches of Galatia, of Macedonia, of Judea, all Churches of the saints.” These Churches may undoubtedly, to a certain extent, look for visible unity; but if this union be wanting, they lose none of the essential qualities of the Church of Christ.

The strong bond which originally united the members of the Church, was that living faith of the heart which connected them all with Christ as their common head.

Different causes soon concurred to originate and develop the idea of a necessity for external union. Men accustomed to the political forms and associations of an earthly country, carried their views and habits into the spiritual and eternal kingdom of Christ. Persecution, powerless to destroy or even to shake this new community, made it only the more sensible of its own strength, and pressed it into a more compact body. To the errors that sprung up in the theosophic schools and in the various sects, was opposed the one and universal truth received from the apostles and preserved in the Church.

This was well, so long as the invisible and spiritual Church was identical with the visible and external Church. But a great separation took place erelong: the form and the life became disunited. The semblance of an identical and exterior organization was gradually substituted for that interior and spiritual communion, which is the essence of the religion of God. Men forsook the precious perfume of faith and bowed down before the empty vessel that had contained it. They sought other bonds of union, for faith in the heart no longer connected the members of the Church; and they were united by means of bishops, archbishops, popes, mitres, canons, and ceremonies.

The living Church retiring gradually within the lonely sanctuary of a few solitary hearts, an external Church was substituted in its place, and all its forms were declared to be of divine appointment. Salvation no longer flowing from the Word, which was henceforward put out of sight, the priests affirmed that it was conveyed by means of the forms they had themselves invented, and that no one could attain it except by these channels. No one, said they, can by his own faith attain to everlasting life. Christ communicated to the apostles, and these to the bishops, the unction of the Holy Spirit; and this Spirit is to be procured only in that order of succession! Originally, whoever possessed the spirit of Jesus Christ was a member of the Church; now the terms were inverted, and it was maintained that he only who was a member of the Church could receive the Spirit.

As these ideas became established, the distinction between the people and the clergy was more strongly marked. The salvation of souls no longer depended entirely on faith in Christ, but also, and in a more especial manner, on union with the Church. The representatives and heads of the Church were made partakers of the trust that should be placed in Christ alone, and became the real mediators of their flocks. The idea of a universal Christian priesthood was gradually lost sight of; the servants of the Church of Christ were compared to the priests of the old covenant; and those who separated from the bishop were placed in the same rank with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram! From a peculiar priesthood, such as was then formed in the Church, to a sovereign priesthood, such as Rome claims, the transition was easy.

The Alleged Primacy of St. Peter Gives Rise to Popes and Patriarchs

In fact, no sooner was the erroneous notion of the necessity for a visible unity of the Church established than another appeared: the necessity for an outward representation of that union. Although we find no traces in the Gospel of Peter’s superiority over the other apostles; although the very idea of a primacy is opposed to the fraternal relations which united the brethren, and even to the spirit of the Gospel dispensation, which on the contrary requires all the children of the Father to “minister one to another,” acknowledging only one teacher and one master; although Christ had strongly rebuked his disciples, whenever ambitious desires of preeminence were conceived in their carnal hearts the primacy of St. Peter was invented and supported by texts wrongly interpreted, and men next acknowledged in this apostle and in his self-styled successors at Rome, the visible representatives of visible unity: the heads of the universal Church.

The constitution of the Patriarchate contributed in like manner to the exaltation of the Papacy. As early as the three first centuries the metropolitan Churches had enjoyed peculiar honor. The council of Nice, in its sixth canon, mentions three cities, whose Churches, according to it, exercised a long-established authority over those of the surrounding provinces: these were Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. The political origin of this distinction is indicated by the name which was at first given to the bishops of these cities: they were called Exarchs, from the title of the civil governors. Somewhat later they received the more ecclesiastical appellation of Patriarchs. We find this title first employed at the council of Constantinople, but in a different sense from that which it afterwards received. It was not until shortly before the council of Chalcedon that it was given exclusively to the great metropolitans. The second general council created a
new patriarchate, that of Constantinople itself, the new Rome, the second capital of the empire.
The church of Byzantium, so long obscure, enjoyed the same privileges, and was placed by the council of Chalcedon in the same rank as the Church of Rome. Rome at that time shared the patriarchal supremacy with these three churches. But when the Mahometan invasion had destroyed the sees of Alexandria and of Antioch, when the see of Constantinople fell away, and in later times even separated from the West, Rome remained alone, and the circumstances of the times gathered all the Western Churches around her see, which from that time has been without a rival.

New and more powerful friends than all the rest soon came to her assistance. Ignorance and superstition took possession of the Church, and delivered it, fettered and blindfold, into the hands of Rome.

Yet this bondage was not effected without a struggle. Frequently did the Churches proclaim their independence; and their courageous voices were especially heard from Proconsular Africa and from the East.

Roman Hierarchy Secures Cooperation of Secular Princes

But Rome found new allies to stifle the cries of the churches. Princes, whom those stormy times often shook upon their thrones, offered their protection if Rome would in its turn support them. They conceded to her the spiritual authority, provided she would make a return in secular power. They were lavish of the souls of men, in the hope that she would aid them against their enemies. The power of the hierarchy which was ascending, and the imperial power which was declining, leant thus one upon the other, and by this alliance accelerated their twofold destiny.

Rome could not lose by it. An edict of Theodosius II and of Valentinian III proclaimed the Roman bishop “rector of the whole Church.” Justinian published a similar decree. These edicts did not contain all that the popes pretended to see in them; but in those times of ignorance it was easy for them to secure that interpretation which was most favorable to themselves. The dominion of the emperors in Italy becoming daily more precarious, the bishops of Rome took advantage of this circumstance to free themselves from their dependence.

France under Charlemagne Seduced by Roman Catholic Power

But already had issued from the forests of the North the most effectual promoters of the papal power. The barbarians who had invaded and settled in the West, after being satiated with blood and plunder, lowered their reeking swords before the intellectual power that met them face to face. Recently converted to Christianity, ignorant of the spiritual character of the Church, and feeling the want of a certain external pomp in religion, they prostrated themselves, half savage and half heathen as they were, at the feet of the high priest of Rome. With their aid the West was in his power. At first the Vandals, then the Ostrogoths, somewhat later the Burgundians and Alans, next the Visigoths, and lastly the Lombards and Anglo Saxons, came and bent the knee to the Roman pontiff. It was the sturdy shoulders of those children of the idolatrous north that succeeded in placing on the supreme throne of Christendom a pastor of the banks of the Tiber.

At the beginning of the seventh century these events were accomplishing in the West, precisely at the period when the power of Mahomet arose in the East, prepared to invade another quarter of the world.

From this time the evil continued to increase. In the eighth century we see the Roman bishops resisting on the one hand the Greek emperors, their lawful sovereigns, and endeavoring to expel them from Italy, while with the other they court the mayors of the palace in France, begging from this new power, just beginning to rise in the West, a share in the wreck of the empire. Rome founded her usurped authority between the East, which she repelled, and the West, which she summoned to her aid. She raised her throne between two revolts. Startled by the shouts of the Arabs, now become masters of Spain, and who boasted that they would speedily arrive in Italy by the gates of the Pyrenees and Alps, and proclaim the name of Mahomet on the Seven Hills; alarmed at the insolence of Astolphus, who at the head of his Lombards, roaring like a lion, and brandishing his sword before the gates of the eternal city, threatened to put every Roman to death: Rome, in the prospect of ruin, turned her frightened eyes around her, and threw herself into the arms of the Franks. The usurper Pepin demanded her pretended sanction of his new authority; it was granted, and the Papacy obtained in return his promise to be the defender of the “Republic of God.” Pepin wrested from the Lombards the cities they had taken from the Greek emperor; yet, instead of restoring them to that prince, he laid they keys on St. Peter’s altar, and swore with uplifted hands that he had not taken up arms for man, but to obtain from God the remission of his sins, and to do homage for his conquests to St. Peter. Thus did France establish the temporal power of the popes.

Charlemagne appeared; the first time he ascends the stairs to the basilic of St. Peter, devoutly kissing each step. A second time he presents himself, lord of all the nations that formed the empire of the West, and of Rome itself. Leo III thought fit to bestow the imperial title on him who already possessed the power; and on Christmas day, in the year 800, he placed the diadem of the Roman emperors on the brow of the son of Pepin. From this time the pope belongs to the empire of the Franks: his connection with the East is ended. He broke off from a decayed and falling tree to graft himself upon a wild and vigorous sapling. A future elevation, to which he would have never dared aspire, awaits him among these German tribes with whom he now unites himself.

Charlemagne bequeathed to his feeble successors only the wrecks of his power. In the ninth century disunion everywhere weakened the civil authority. Rome saw that this was the moment to exalt herself. When could the Church hope for a more favorable opportunity of becoming independent of the state, than when the crown which Charles had worn was broken, and its fragments lay scattered over his former empire?

Popes Manufacture Forged Documents to Fool the People

Then appeared the False Decretals of Isidore. In this collection of the pretended decrees of the popes, the most ancient bishops, who were contemporary with Tacitus and Quintilian, were made to speak the barbarous Latin of the ninth century. The customs and constitutions of the Franks were seriously attributed to the Romans in the time of the emperors. Popes quoted the Bible in the Latin translation of Jerome, who had lived one, two or three centuries after them; and Victor, bishop of Rome, in the year 192, wrote to Theophilus, who was archbishop of Alexandria in 385. The impostor who had fabricated this collection endeavored to prove that all bishops derived their authority from the bishop of Rome, who held his own immediately from Christ. He not only recorded all the successive conquests of the pontiffs, but even carried them back to the earliest times. The popes were not ashamed to avail themselves of this contemptible imposture. As early as 865, Nicholas I drew from its stores of weapons by which to combat princes and bishops. This impudent invention was for ages the arsenal of Rome.

Disorders in Rome Discredit Papal Legitimacy

Nevertheless, the vices and crimes of the pontiffs suspended for a time the effect of the decretals. The Papacy celebrated its admission to the table of kings by shameful orgies. She became intoxicated: her senses were lost in the midst of drunken revellings. It is about this period that tradition places upon the papal throne a woman named Joan, who had taken refuge in Rome with her lover, and whose sex was betrayed by the pangs of childbirth during a solemn procession. But let us not needlessly augment the shame of the pontifical court. Abandoned women at this time governed Rome; and that throne which pretended to rise above the majesty of kings was sunk deep in the dregs of vice. Theodora and Marozia installed and deposed at their pleasure the self-styled masters of the Church of Christ, and placed their lovers, sons, and grandsons in St. Peter’s chair. These scandals, which are but too well authenticated, may perhaps have given rise to the tradition of Pope Joan.

Rome became one wild theater of disorders, the possession of which was disputed by the most powerful families of Italy. The counts of Tuscany were generally victorious. In 1033, this house dared to place on the pontifical throne, under the name of Benedict IX, a youth brought up in debauchery. This boy of twelve years old continued, when pope, the same horrible and degrading vices. Another party chose Sylvester III in his stead; and Benedict, whose conscience was loaded with adulteries, and whose hands were stained with murder, at last sold the Papacy to a Roman ecclesiastic.

The emperors of Germany, filled with indignation at such enormities, purged Rome with the sword. The empire, asserting its paramount rights, drew the triple crown from the mire into which it had fallen, and saved the degraded papacy by giving it respectable men as its chiefs. Henry III deposed three popes in 1046, and his finger, decorated with the ring of the Roman patricians, pointed out the bishop to whom the keys of St. Peter should be confided. Four popes, all Germans, and nominated by the emperor, succeeded. When the Roman pontiff died, the deputies of that church repaired to the imperial court, like the envoys of other dioceses, to solicit a new bishop. With joy the emperor beheld the popes reforming abuses, strengthening the Church, holding councils, installing and deposing prelates, in defiance of foreign monarchs: The Papacy by these pretensions did but exalt the power of the emperor, its lord paramount. But to allow of such practices was to expose his own authority to great danger. The power which the popes thus gradually recovered might be turned suddenly against the emperor himself. When the reptile had gained strength, it might wound the bosom that had cherished it: and this result followed.

Hildebrand Becomes Pope Gregory VII Who Consolidates Roman Power

And now begins a new era for the papacy. It rises from its humiliation, and soon tramples the princes of the earth under foot. To exalt the Papacy is to exalt the Church, to advance religion, to ensure to the spirit the victory over the flesh, and to God the conquest of the world. Such are its maxims: in these ambition finds its advantage, and fanaticism its excuse.

The whole of this new policy is personified in one man: Hildebrand. This pope, who has been by turns indiscreetly exalted or unjustly traduced, is the personification of the Roman pontificate in all its strength and glory. He is one of those normal characters in history, which include within themselves a new order of things, similar to those presented in other spheres by Charlemagne, Luther, and Napoleon.

This monk, the son of a carpenter of Savoy, was brought up in a Roman convent, and had quitted Rome at the period when Henry III had there deposed three popes and taken refuge in France in the austere convent of Cluny. In 1048, Bruno, bishop of Toul, having been nominated pope by the emperor at Worms, who was holding the German Diet in that city, assumed the pontifical habits, and took the name of Leo IX; but Hildebrand, who had hastened thither, refused to recognize him, since it was (said he) from the secular power that he held the tiara. Leo, yielding to the irresistible power of a strong mind and of a deep conviction, immediately humbled himself, laid aside his sacerdotal ornaments, and clad in the garb of a pilgrim, set out barefoot for Rome along with Hildebrand (says an historian), in order to be there legitimately elected by the clergy and the Roman people. From this time Hildebrand was the soul of the Papacy, until he became pope himself. He had governed the Church under the name of several pontiffs, before he reigned in person as Gregory VII. One grand idea had taken possession of this great genius. He desired to establish a visible theocracy, of which the pope, as vicar of Jesus Christ, should be the head. The recollection of the universal dominion of heathen Rome haunted his imagination and animated his zeal. He wished to restore to papal Rome all that imperial Rome had lost. “What Marius and Caesar,” said his flatterers, “could not effect by torrents of blood, thou hast accomplished by a word.”

Gregory VII was not directed by the spirit of the Lord. That spirit of truth, humility, and long suffering was unknown to him. He sacrificed the truth whenever he judged it necessary to his policy. This he did particularly in the case of Berenger, archdeacon of Angers. But a spirit far superior to that of the generality of pontiffs, a deep conviction of the justice of his cause, undoubtedly animated him. He was bold, ambitious, persevering in his designs, and at the same time skillful and politic in the use of the means that would ensure success.

Pope Gregory VII Mandates Celibacy of the Priesthood

His first task was to organize the militia of the church. It was necessary to gain strength before attacking the empire. A council held at Rome removed the pastors from their families and compelled them to become the devoted adherents of the hierarchy. The law of celibacy, planned and carried out by popes, who were themselves monks, changed the clergy into a sort of monastic order. Gregory VII claimed the same power over all the bishops and priests of Christendom, that an abbot of Cluny exercises in the order over which he presides. The legates of Hildebrand, who compared themselves to the proconsuls of ancient Rome, traveled through the provinces, depriving the pastors of their legitimate wives; and, if necessary, the pope himself raised the populace against the married clergy.

But chief of all, Gregory designed emancipating Rome from its subjection to the empire. Never would he have dared conceive so bold a scheme, if the troubles that afflicted the minority of Henry IV, and the revolt of the German princes against that young emperor, had not favored its execution. The pope was at this time one of the magnates of the empire. Making common cause with the other great vassals, he strengthened himself by the aristocratic interest, and then forbade all ecclesiastics, under pain of excommunication, to receive investiture from the emperor. He broke the ancient ties that connected the Churches and their pastors with the royal authority, but it was to bind them all to the pontifical throne. To this throne he undertook to chain priests, kings, and people, and to make the pope a universal monarch. It was Rome alone that every priest should fear: it was in Rome alone that he should hope. The kingdoms and principalities of the earth are her domain. All kings were to tremble at the thunderbolts hurled by the Jupiter of modern Rome. Woe to him who resists! Subjects are released from their oaths of allegiance; the whole country is placed under an interdict; public worship ceases; the churches are closed; the bells are mute; the sacraments are no longer administered; and the malediction extends even to the dead, to whom the earth, at the command of a haughty pontiff, denies the repose of the tomb.

Rome’s Domination of Secular States Enslaves Europe

The pope, subordinate from the very beginning of his existence successively to the Roman, Frank, and German emperors, was now free, and he trod for the first time as their equal, if not their master. Yet Gregory VII was humbled in his turn: Rome was taken, and Hildebrand compelled to flee. He died at Salerno, exclaiming, “I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore do I die in exile.” Who shall dare charge with hypocrisy these words uttered on the very brink of the grave?

The successors of Gregory, like soldiers arriving after a victory, threw themselves as conquerors on the enslaved Churches. Spain rescued from Islamism, Prussia reclaimed from idolatry, fell into the arms of the crowned priest. The Crusades, which were undertaken at his instigation, extended and confirmed his authority. The pious pilgrims, who in imagination had seen saints and angels leading their armed bands, who, entering humble and barefoot within the walls of Jerusalem, burnt the Jews in their synagogue, and watered with the blood of thousands of Saracens the places where they came to trace the sacred footsteps of the Prince of Peace, carried into the East the name of the pope, who had been forgotten there since he had exchanged the supremacy of the Greeks for that of the Franks.

In another quarter the power of the Church effected what the arms of the republic and of the empire had been unable to accomplish. The Germans laid at the feet of a bishop those tributes which their ancestors had refused to the most powerful generals. Their princes, on succeeding to the imperial dignity, imagined they received a crown from the popes, but it was a yoke that was placed upon their necks. The kingdoms of Christendom, already subject to the spiritual authority of Rome, now became her serfs and tributaries.

Thus everything was changed in the Church.

Roman Catholic Corruption of the Doctrine of Christ

It was at first a community of brethren, and now an absolute monarchy was established in its bosom. All Christians were priests of the living God, with humble pastors as their guides. But a haughty head is upraised in the midst of these pastors; a mysterious voice utters words full of pride; an iron hand compels all men, great and small, rich and poor, bond and free, to wear the badge of its power. The holy and primitive equality of souls before God is lost sight of. At the voice of one man Christendom is divided into two unequal parties: on the one side is a separate caste of priests, daring to usurp the name of the Church, and claiming to be invested with peculiar privileges in the eyes of the Lord; and, on the other, servile flocks reduced to a blind and passive submission: a people gagged and fettered, and given over to a haughty caste. Every tribe, language, and nation of Christendom, submits to the dominion of this spiritual king, who has received power to conquer.

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