Persecutions of Heretics


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    They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that mislike it, heresy: and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.
    Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan


    In the first century there was no heresy for the simple reason that there was no orthodoxy. The "heresies" referred to in old translations of the New Testament are merely differences of opinion*. Small Christian communities believed what they wanted to and worshipped as they chose. As we have seen, there were no central authorities, no set rituals, no agreed canon of scripture, no Church hierarchy and no established body of doctrine. In line with the toleration practised throughout the Empire, each group of Christians was free to believe whatever it wanted. The natural consequence of this state of affairs was that ideas and practices in different communities diverged.

    Towards the end of the second century Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, saw the dangers of numerous opinions developing. He attempted to establish an orthodox body of teaching. He wrote a five-volume work against heresies, and it was he who compiled a canon of the New Testament. He also claimed that there was only one proper Church, outside of which there could be no salvation. Other Christians were heretics and should be expelled, and if possible destroyed. The first Christian Emperor agreed. Gibbon summarises the edict that announced the destruction of various heretics:

    After a preamble filled with passion and reproach, Constantine absolutely prohibits the assemblies of the heretics and confiscates their public property to the use either of the revenue or of the catholic church. The sects against whom the Imperial severity was directed appear to have been the adherents of Paul of Samosata; the Montanists of Phrygia, who maintained an enthusiastic succession of prophecy; the Novatians, who sternly rejected the temporal efficacy of repentance; the Marcionites and Valentinians, under whose leading banners the various Gnostics of Asia and Egypt had insensibly rallied; and perhaps the Manichæans who had recently imported from Persia a more artful composition of oriental and Christian theology.

    The design of extirpating the name, or at least of restraining the progress, of these odious heretics was prosecuted with vigour and effect. Some of the penal regulations were copied from the edicts of Diocletian; and this method of conversion was applauded by the same bishops who had felt the hand of oppression and had pleaded for the rights of humanity*.

    Further laws against heresy appeared in 380 under the Christian Emperor Theodosius I, who laid down the new rule:

    We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom we adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of our own initiative, which we shall assume in accordance with divine judgement*.

    St Augustine taught that error has no rights. He cited biblical texts to justify the use of compulsion, notably Luke 14:16-23 (especially Luke 14:23). Had not Christ himself blinded St Paul in order to make him see the true light? According to Augustine, coercion using "great violence" was justified. He made a distinction between unbelievers, who persecuted because of cruelty, and Christians, who persecuted because of love. A war to preserve or restore the unity of the Church was a just war, a bellum Deo auctore, a war waged by God himself.

    He also found a way to avoid churchmen getting blood on their hands: dissension against the Church amounted to dissension against the State, so anyone condemned by the Church should be punished by the State. Centuries in the future such ideas would culminate in the activities of the Inquisition, which also required the secular authority to execute its judgements of blood. Augustine is often recognised explicitly as the father of the Inquisition, since he was responsible for adopting Roman methods of torture for the purposes of the Church in order to ensure uniformity. Already, in 385, the first recorded executions for heresy had been carried out under Emperor Maximus at the request of Spanish bishops. Priscillian, Bishop of Ávila, had been charged with witchcraft, although his real crime seems to have been agreeing with Gnostic opinions. Along with his companions he was tried and tortured. They confessed and were executed. The Church now had precedents for both witch-hunting and for persecuting heretics , with a moral unpinning provided by St Augustine.

    In theory heresy was the denial of some essential Christian doctrine, publicly and obstinately*. In practice any deviation from the currently orthodox line could be judged heretical. By the fifth century there were over 100 active statutes in the Empire concerning heresy. From St Augustine onward, for well over 1,000 years, virtually all Christian theologians agreed that heretics should be persecuted, and most agreed that they should be killed. Heresy was explicitly identified as akin to leprosy. It was a disease that threatened to destroy a healthy body of believers if they strayed from the Church's view of religious orthodoxy, just as leprosy was a disease that threatened the healthy bodies of individuals if they strayed from the Church's view of sexual orthodoxy. Diseases like this had to be eradicated at all costs. St Thomas Aquinas thought it virtuous to burn heretics and favoured the option of burning them alive. From around the turn of the millennium, executing heretics became ever more common, and the grounds for doing so became ever more absurd. A group of Christians at Goslar in Germany who declined to kill chickens were executed for heresy in 1051.

    A long series of popes supported the extirpation of those who disagreed with the current papal line. Arnold of Brescia, a pupil of Abélard, shared his master's critical views of the Church, and also embraced the republican ideals of ancient Rome. He held that papal authority was a usurpation and that the wealth and power of the Church was unchristian. He led a movement to re-establish a Roman republic and return the clergy to apostolic poverty. He was hanged and then burned as a heretic in 1155 by Pope Adrian IV.


    Waldensians, Vaudois

    The Waldensians, or Vaudois, followers of Peter Waldo of Lyon, provided the next major target. They gave their money to the poor and preached the Christian gospel. Waldo attracted the hatred of the clergy when he commissioned a translation of the Bible into Occitan, the language of what is now southern France. The Waldensians started off as perfectly orthodox Roman Catholics, but after reading the bible their heresies mushroomed. They denied the temporal authority of priests and objected to papal corruption. They rejected numerous accretions, including the Mass, prayers for the dead, indulgences, confessions, penance, church music, the reciting of prayers in Latin, the adoration of saints, the adoration of the sacrament, killing, and the swearing of oaths. They also allowed women to preach. They were excommunicated as heretics in 1184 at the Council of Verona, and persecuted with zeal for centuries.

    Tthey were formally declared schismatics by Pope Lucius III in 1184 at the Synod of Verona, In 1211, more than 80 Waldensians were burned as heretics at Strasbourg. They were declared to be heretics during the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The Council stated that their principal error was "contempt for ecclesiastical power", but they were also accused of teaching "innumerable errors" which the council did not specify. Any deviation from Catholic teaching was an "error", and priovided sufficient grounds to incur the death penalty. Persecutions were soon stepped up.

    Mass Burning of the Waldensians in Toulouse in the 13th century,
    by an anonymous 17th Century engraver


    detail from a 1451 manuscript, Hexenflug der Vaudoises(Witch-flight of the Waldensians) by Martin Le FranceIn a single day in 1393, 150 Waldensians were burned at Grenoble. Survivors fled to remote valleys in the Alps.

    As usual, the Catholic propaganda machine swung into action to prove the satanic nature of the Church's enemies. Waldensians were accused of various enormities identical to those supposedly committed by Cathars and witches. All of them worshipped black cats. They milked the handles of brooms into buckets. They used the brooms to fly - churchmen drew pictures of them doing it (see right)

    In 1487 Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull for the extermination of the Vaudois. In response, Alberto de' Capitanei, archdeacon of Cremona, organized a crusade and launched offensives in the provinces of Dauphine and Piedmont. The areas were devasted and survivers fled to Provence and to southern Italy. On 1 January 1545 King Francis I of France issued an order called the "Arrêt de Mérindol". He assembled an army against the Waldensians of Provence, which carried out another series of massacres. Deaths in the Massacre of Mérindol ranged from hundreds to thousands, depending on the estimates, and several villages were devastated

    Persecution of Waldensians in Piedmont
    Men, women and children were hanged, drowned, forced over precipices, stabbed or clubbed to death


    In January 1655 the Duke of Savoy commanded the Waldensians to attend Mass or remove themselves to the upper valleys, giving them twenty days to sell their houses and lands. The order, in the middle of winter, was intended to force the Waldensians to attend mass, but ; most of them chose to take to the remote upper valleys, Old men, women, little children and the sick "waded through the icy waters, climbed the frozen peaks, and at length reached the homes of their impoverished brethren of the upper Valleys, where they were warmly received." By mid-April, the Duke, having failed in his objective tried another approach. He sent troops into the upper valleys and required that the locals to quarter them in their homes, On 24 April 1655, at 4 a.m., the signal was given for a general massacre. Catholic forces are reported to have unleashed a campaign of looting, rape, torture, and murder. According to a report by a Peter Liegé:

    "Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers, clasped by their tiny feet, and their heads dashed against the rocks; or were held between two soldiers and their quivering limbs torn up by main force. Their mangled bodies were then thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were flayed alive, some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees in their own orchards, and their hearts cut out. Some were horribly mutilated, and of others the brains were boiled and eaten by these cannibals. Some were fastened down into the furrows of their own fields, and ploughed into the soil as men plough manure into it. Others were buried alive. Fathers were marched to death with the heads of their sons suspended round their necks. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first outraged [raped], then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die."

    Some 1,700 Waldensians were slaughtered. This well documented attrocity became known as the Piedmont Easter. It aroused indignation throughout Europe (and prompted John Milton to write a poem "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont"). Protestant rulers offered sanctuary to surviving Waldensians. Oliver Cromwell threatened to send military forces to their rescue. Councillors of the city of Amsterdam chartered ships to take 167 Waldensians to their colony in the New World (Delaware) on Christmas Day 1656. A few who stayed behind in Piedmont formed a guerilla resistance movement..

    The Murder of the children of Waldensians. Detail from Samuel Moreland's "History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piedmont" published in London in 1658.


    In Piedmont in the middle of the seventeenth century, further attempts were made to extirpate them. Anyone in Villaro who declined to go to a Roman Catholic Mass was liable to be crucified upside down, but there was some variation in the manner of killing in other towns. Some were maimed and left to die of starvation, some had strips of flesh cut off their bodies until they bled to death, some were stoned, some impaled alive upon stakes or hooks. Daniel Rambaut had his toes and fingers cut off in sections: one joint being amputated each day in an attempt to make him recant and accept the Roman faith. Some had their mouths stuffed with gunpowder, which was then ignited. Paolo Garnier of Roras was castrated, then skinned alive. Children were killed in various ways before the eyes of their parents. Those few who escaped to the mountains were mostly killed by exposure, starvation or disease*.

    In France, in 1685 Louis XIV revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes, and more massacres followed, with many more thousands losing their lives for the crime of disagreeing with Catholic doctrine.


    This image is found on page 345 of Samuel Moreland's "History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piedmont" published in London in 1658. It is one of a number of prints illustrating the massacre of the Waldenses in Provence in 1655. The woman being tortured to death here is Anna, daughter of Giovanni Charboniere of La Torre.


    Heretics burned at the stake, British Library, Royal 20 E III f.177v, 1487



    The Ever-expanding concept of Heresy

    The term heresy covered ever more and more areas of belief. Paschal II, who occupied the papal throne between 1099 and 1118, claimed (quoting a forged document) that anyone who disagreed with the apostolic see was a heretic. In 1199, Pope Innocent III declared heresy to be high treason against God, having already called for the execution of those who persisted in their heresies after being excommunicated. He also said that those who interpret literally Jesus" statements about limiting their statements to a straight Yes or No were heretics worthy of death — confirming that those who refused to swear in court should be executed. In 1229 Pope Gregory IX declared that it is the duty of every Roman Catholic to persecute heretics. He preached a crusade against the Stedingers, a Germanic people living near the River Weser, whose heresy amounted to no more than rejecting the temporal authority of the Archbishop of Bremen. An army of 40,000 was raised under the bishops of Ratzebourg, Lubeck, Osnabrück, Münster and Minden. Of the 11,000 or so Stedingers able to bear arms, most were slaughtered on the field of battle. The rest were killed later, many of them being drowned in the Weser along with women, children and old men.

    Following the apostolic commands of Pope Innocent IV, the Archbishop of Narbonne consigned 200 heretics to the flames in 1243. All manner of activities constituted heresy. It was heretical to eat meat on Friday, to read the Bible, to know Greek, to criticise a cleric, to refuse to pay Church taxes, or to deny that money lending was sinful. St Augustine's idea that error has no rights became a favourite of persecutors, and the great saint was often cited as authority for oppression of all sorts. Under Pope John XXII and later fourteenth century popes, Franciscan spirituals were burned at the stake for such behaviour as claiming that Christ and the apostles had not owned property, preaching absolute poverty, wearing traditional hoods and habits and refusing to lay up stores of food. The Apostolicals, a sect founded in 1300, tried to live like the apostles. The luckier ones were burned at the stake like the sect's founder, but others suffered worse fates. Dulcino of Novara, the successor to the founder, was publicly torn to pieces with hooks, as was his wife.

    The Knights Templar were accused of heresy in the early fourteenth century. The charges are generally acknowledged to have been trumped up by King Philip of France and inspired by his desire to seize their wealth. A Church Council was summoned to consider the question, but despite extensive torture, there was not enough evidence to proceed against the Templars, let alone to condemn them. When King Philip turned up with an army, Pope Clement V, a puppet of the French monarchy, forced the unwilling council to reconsider, and the Order was dissolved*. Clement had already permitted individual Templars throughout Western Christendom to be tortured and burned as heretics to appease the king. Under torture they had confirmed that they rendered feudal homage to the Devil. This idea was largely responsible for the belief that there existed organised groups of people who worshipped Satan, much as Christians worshipped God — and this belief was in turn largely responsible for making witches into malignant agents of the Devil.

    Churchmen exhuming John Wycliffe, and burning his bones.
    John Wycliffe (c. 1320 – 1384) was an English Scholastic philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, reformer and university teacher at Oxford University. On 4 May 1415, thirty years after his death, the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic and under the ban of the Church. It was decreed that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed. The exhumation was carried out in 1428 when, at the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift.


    Cecco d"Ascoli, an Italian scientist, was burned at the stake in 1327 for having calculated the date of Jesus" birth using the stars. But there were more significant heresies than astrology. Movements to reform the Church, based on the teachings of John Wycliffe (England), Jan Hus (Bohemia) and Gerard Groot (Netherlands) were all condemned as heretical, although their popularity guaranteed their survival. In time these teachings would trigger the Reformation. Heresy still covered everything from refusing to take oaths to refusal to pay church tithes. Any deviation from Church norms was enough to merit death: vegetarianism, the rejection of infant baptism, even holding the (previously orthodox) view that people should be given both bread and wine at Mass.

    The condemnation of Jan Hus took place on 6 July 1415, in the presence of the assembly of the Council of Constance in the Cathedral. After the High Mass and Liturgy, Hus was led into the church. The Bishop of Lodi delivered an oration on the duty of eradicating heresy; then some theses of Hus and Wycliffe and a report of Hus's trial were read. Executioners undressed Hus and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and bound his neck with a chain to a stake. Wood and straw were piled up so that they covered him to the neck. He was then burned at the stake, and his ashes thrown into the Rhine River. He is shown here wearing a heretics cap.


    In 1482, under Pope Sixtus IV, 2,000 heretics were burned in the tiny state of Andalusia alone. Pope Leo X condemned Martin Luther in 1520 for daring to say that burning heretics was against the will of God. Evidently he thought it presumptuous for an ordinary human being to claim to know God's will. Perhaps he was right, because Luther changed his mind in 1531 and started advocating the death penalty for heretics and blasphemers. He thought it should be a capital offence to deny the resurrection of the dead or the reality of Heaven and Hell.

    Translating the Bible into vernacular languages, or helping with the printing of such versions of the Bible, was heresy according to the Roman Church. Generally, in Europe, women were buried alive for this offence. Men were burned alive. One printer in Paris was burned on a pyre of his own books. In the sixteenth century William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. In danger of arrest and in fear for his life he fled the country. He was arrested in the Netherlands, and in 1536 was executed for heresy for agreeing with the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith.

    Copper engraving by Jan Luyken from the 1685 edition of the Martyrs' Mirror.
    This woman is about to be burned alive in Amsterdam in 1571 for the crime of believing in adult baptism.
    Tied to a ladder, she will be tipped face first into a fire.

    Anabaptists, the precursors of modern Baptists, were persecuted by Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists alike. The Anabaptists" main crimes were to call for social reform, to favour adult baptism over infant baptism, and to embrace pacifism — they would not kill, condone capital punishment or serve in armies. They also allegedly advocated ancient Antinomian views*.Their leaders died in various ways. Thomas Münzer was burned at the stake in 1525. Feliz Manz drowned in 1526 (drowning was a favourite way of executing Anabaptists because of their views on baptism). Michael Sattler had his tongue cut out, was mutilated by red-hot pincers, and was burned alive in 1527 for a range of beliefs, none of which would now merit a criminal prosecution. When a whole town, Münster, went over to the Anabaptists in the 1530s, Roman Catholics and Protestants joined forces to retake the city. The Anabaptist leaders were publicly tortured to death with red-hot pincers and their bodies put on public display outside a church.

    In January 1536, the Anabaptist leaders, John of Leiden, Bernhard Knipperdolling and Bernhard Krechting, were tortured and executed in the marketplace of Münster. Their bodies were exhibited in three cages, which hung from the steeple of St. Lambert's Church. Their bones were later removed , but the cages still hang there.


    The range of offences that were considered heretical was flexible and ever-expanding. It was still a crime to read the Bible or cite inappropriate passages from it. A Protestant writing master from Toledo was burned at the stake in 1676 for having decorated a room with the full text of the Ten Commandments. (The Roman Church has traditionally omitted the first part of the second commandment — the one that forbids the worship of images.)

    In England the persecution of heretics was less popular than elsewhere in Europe, but not unknown. A group of refugees, probably Cathars, who denied the necessity for baptism, matrimony and the Mass, fled from the continent to England under Henry II to escape persecution. In 1166, at Oxford, they were tried by an ecclesiastical court with the King himself presiding, and were found guilty of heresy. Since no statute or precedent existed for sentencing, they were seared on the forehead with hot irons, whipped through the streets, stripped to the waist, and sent into the countryside to die of exposure in the winter snow. No one would offer them food or shelter. To have done so would have been to disobey the word of God (2 John 10) and to abet heresy, and would therefore have been sinful and unchristian.

    John Wycliffe, the proto-Protestant rector of Lutterworth in Leicester, was the most eminent scholar at Oxford, giving him a measure of protection during his lifetime, especially since there was then still no official statute in England covering the offence of heresy. On the other side of Europe, Jan Hus, the Rector of Prague University, was heavily influenced by Wycliffe's ideas, and refused to surrender his books when ordered to do so by the Pope. Supported by King Wenceslas he denounced the practice of granting indulgences. His preaching spread Wycliffe's ideas far and wide. Then, travelling under a safe conduct from the emperor Sigismund, he was arrested and tried by the Church Council of Constance. The council disregarded his safe conduct on the grounds that a Church Council did not need to keep faith with a heretic. Hus was burned on 6 th July 1415, making him a Czech national hero. Hussite ideas spread rapidly from Bohemia to Austria, Silesia, Saxony, Brandenburg, Bavaria and Hungary. Attempts at reconciliation with the Roman Church failed, and the Reformation loomed another step closer.

    Back in England the Church had no way to deal with Wycliffe or his followers, who were called Lollards. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtney, and his bishops filled in the omission by forging an Act of Parliament to deal with heresy. But Parliament spotted the imposture and the House of Commons petitioned the King in 1383 to annul this bogus statute "never assented to nor granted by the Commons"*. Genuine mild statutes were passed three years later, but the Church was still not happy. Prelates insisted on the death penalty, and a series of statutes, called de haeretico comburendo, were passed in 1401, under King Henry IV, introducing the death penalty for heresy. They failed to define the offence, so heresy would continue to be whatever the Church said it was. Once convicted, the heretic was handed over to the sheriff, who had no option but to execute the Church's judgement. Unrepentant heretics were to be publicly burned to death, as they were on the continent. The statutes came too late to catch John Wycliffe himself, but they caught many of his followers.

    King Henry IV had introduced the death penalty not only for heresy but also for possession of a bible. Now it was a capital crime to disagree with the Church, or read its holy scriptures, and bishops made it clear they would enforce the new law.

    William Sawtrey, a Norfolk curate and a Lollard, preached in London and attracted the attention of Archbishop Thomas Arundel. Sawtrey was summoned to appear before a convocation at St. Paul's. Following his trial Sawtrey was condemned as a heretic and was burned in chains at Smithfield in 1401.

    Lollards continued to be condemned to the stake up until the 1530s. Others were caught too. Around 1520 the diocese of Lincoln alone was convicting over 100 people a year for the crime of "not thinking catholickly"*. Ever careful with its money, the Church offered 40 days reduction of one's time in Purgatory for every faggot of sticks contributed for the stake. Responsible parents encoraged their children to collect as much kindling as possible, making parents and children alike complicit in burning people alive for their thought crimes.

    The families of heretics were often treated as heretics too, including children and even new-born babies. In one infamous case Katherine Cawches and her two daughters were burned alive on the Isle of Guernsey on 18 July 1556. One of the daughters, Perotine Massey, was pregnant. In pagan times pregnant women could not be executed, but Catholics in the sixteenth century had no qualms about killing the unborn. A jury aquitted the women of the crime they were charged with, but a Catholic Dean and four Rectors in an Ecclesiastical court found them guilty of heresy (for not attending church). All three were condemned to be burned at the stake. Witnesses reported that Perotine gave birth as she burned. The newborn baby boy was rescued by a bystander but then cast back into the flames. As the dead mother's uncle later complained in one of the surviving records of the incident "the baby born of one of them being taken up and cast into the fire again, four being executed, though only three had been condemned."*

    The Burning of Katherine Cawches And Her Two Daughters On the Isle of Guernsey on 18 July 1556.
    This is a coloured woodcut from Foxe's Book of Martyr's - based on eye-witness and official reports and showing the newborn baby in the flames.

    Espousing unorthodox views, however trivial, could result in death. In 1528 Patrick Hamilton was burned at St Andrews for holding heretical opinions, notably a denial of the freedom of the will. In 1546 Anne Askew was burned at Smithfield because of her beliefs about the Eucharist. In 1592 Henry Barrow and John Greenwood, who preached congregationalism*, were hanged at Tyburn for "obstinately refusing to come to church". Unitarians were executed in 1612 in London and Lichfield, and one in 1651 in Dumfries. William Prynne, a Puritan lawyer, published criticisms of Archbishop Laud. For this he had his ears hacked off by the public hangman in 1633. Along with others he was charged again and tried by the Star Chamber in 1637. The others charged had their ears cropped, and as it was discovered that Prynne still had stumps left on the side of his head, these were severed too. He was also branded on the cheeks, and then imprisoned for life along with the others.

    After Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) published his book Leviathan in 1651 , the English bishops wanted to have him killed. They used their influence in the House of Lords to sponsor a motion to have him burned as a heretic soon after the Restoration*. The philosopher feared for his life when, in October 1666, Parliament talked about reviving the old statutes De haeretico comburendo of 1401, which had fallen into disuse. But nothing came of the bishops" fulminations, and Hobbes escaped prosecution. Leviathan was merely condemned by Parliament, and Hobbes was ordered to stop writing controversial books. The old statutes were repealed the following year. From that time on, no one in England need live in fear of burning for heresy. In Ireland the heresy law was repealed in 1696, and in most of Continental Europe much later. A schoolmaster was hanged in Spain in 1826 for heresy. His heresy had been to substitute the words "Praise be to God" in place of "Ave Maria" in school prayers.

    Because of secular laws the Churches now have more difficulty in persecuting heretics, but persecution is still part of mainstream Christian thought. The oath taken by Roman Catholic bishops at their consecration includes the following undertaking "with all my power I will persecute and make war upon heretics".


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    § Antinomians thought they could not sin whatever they did, relying on St Paul's assertion that ".... if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18).

    § Congregationalism is a type of Church organization in which each congregation, or local Church, has free control of its own affairs.

    §. The Authorised Version uses the word heresy for example in 1 Corinthians 11:19, Galatians 5:20 and 2 Peter 2:1. Modern translations tend to prefer words like differences. The Greek haeresis also occurs in Acts 26:5, where it is usually translated into English by the word sect.

    §. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin, p 386.

    §. Cod. Theod. 16.1.2. See J. Stevenson, Creeds, Councils and Controversies (1966).

    §. Whitehead, Church Law, "Heresy". Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, defined heresy as "an opinion chosen by human perception, contrary to holy scripture, publicly avowed and obstinately defended" , but this definition would not catch many traditional "heresies", which are not contrary to holy scripture or not publicly avowed. According to RC Canon 751, in the 1983 code of canon law, "Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith".

    §. For specific examples of these and many other killings see Scott, A History of Torture pp 56-9, 182, 216.

    §. These events at the "Ecumenical" Council of Vienne in 1311 were remarkably similar to those that took place in 1308 at Poitiers. See Barber, The Trial of the Templars, pp 229-231, and also Barraclough, The Medieval Papacy, p 143.

    §. Levy, Blasphemy, p 78, citing Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, A History of the Criminal Law of England before the Time of Edward I (Cambridge, 1899, 2nd ed., 2 vols.), vol. 2, pp 404-13.

    §. Levy, Blasphemy, pp 80-81.

    §.Source: LA 2002 Guernsey Museums Education Service (From Edith Carey's account of 16th Century Social History in Guernsey). A full account is provided, at, including several independent primary sources, including the following:

    In this case, on leaving the Court the dismal procession will have filled up to Tower Hill, where there stakes were set up, the mother being placed in the middle. They were first strangled, but the rope broke before they were dead and they were cast out into the flames, and to Perotine Massey, in that raging furnace, a male child was born. He was picked out alive from the flames by a bystander the master gunner and surgeon "cannonier et cirugien" of the island called William House, and was brought by the Sheriff to the Bailiff, who said he was to be cast back into the flames. And by so saying has insured eternal infamy for his memory.

    Harding, Father Parsons the Jesuit, and others have endeavoured to contradict these facts, but they are confirmed not only by the official records at the Greffe and the detailed trial report in Foxe's Book of Martyr's but the petition presented in 1562, to Her Majesty's Commissioners by Matthew Cauchés, brother to Catherine, embodying the above statements, gathered, as he says, "By the faithful relation both of French and English, of them which were then present, witnesses and lookers on;" pointing out that the verdict was due to "malicious hatred" by the Dean and his accomplices who had "illegally condemned his sister and his two nieces for heresy, they declaring all the time their innocence, and, moreover, the baby born of one of them being taken up and cast into the fire again, four being executed, though only three had been condemned."

    §. Aubrey's Brief Lives ( Oxford, 1898), edited by Andrew Clark, vol. 1, p 339.









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