A Franciscan Brother stands up to the inquisition in Southern France, and the inquisition backs down!
The Dominicans, “the hounds of the Lord,” were the leaders in the conflict between Catholic Orthodoxy and the Cathars. O’Shea’s third book on the subject (Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World, 2007) reinforces his reputation as an expert on medieval France and shows how much he has expanded his knowledge of the Cathars’ philosophy and practices. The Albigensian “heretics” came to life in reaction to the technocratic institutionalism of the church. They sought heaven through a life of poverty and new, vernacular interpretations of scriptures, rejecting the wealth and spiritual remoteness of the Catholic Church. Looking upon the church as the enemy, they denied all the sacraments and the cross as anything but an instrument of Roman torture. After the Albigensian Crusade failed to eliminate the Cathars, the Dominicans used the inquisition to complete their total annihilation. From their beginnings in the early 13th century, the inquisitors accused, tried and convicted those denounced as heretics. Once condemned, all lands and possessions were confiscated and their families were left in penury. Those not executed were confined in “the wall,” a prison in Carcassonne where they were tortured and starved to the end of their lives. This prison was the tipping point for Brother Bernard Délicieux, who used his great rhetorical gifts to convince the king’s magistrate to secure a personal audience for him with Philip the Fair. Délicieux’s formidable powers of persuasion convinced the king to take steps against the Dominican abuse, but he did not free the prisoners of the wall. Délicieux enjoyed support from the king, his magistrates and certainly from the Franciscan Order as he continued his fight to eliminate the inquisition—but the deviant inquisitors. His status was so great that his Order appealed to him to calm rising tempers in Carcassonne.
O’Shea’s thorough research and effortless writing exposes the political and economic side of the inquisition and its irreversible damage to the Catholic Church.