History of the christian church



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The rite is performed by the bishop, who is the successor of the Apostles, who uses the words, "I sign thee with the sign of the cross, I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Chrism, or sacred oil, which is the symbol of the Spirit, is applied, and the cross is signed upon the forehead, the most prominent part of the body. 1653 It is there shame shows itself when young Christians lack the courage to acknowledge their profession.


§ 115. The Eucharist.
The eucharist, called by the Schoolmen the crown of the sacraments and the sacrament of the altar, was pronounced both a sacrament and a sacrifice. In the elaboration of the doctrine, scholastic theology reached the highest point of its speculation. Albertus Magnus devoted to it a distinct treatise and Thomas Aquinas nearly four hundred columns of his Summa. In practice, the celebration of this sacrament became the chief religious function of the Church. 1654 The festival of Corpus Christi, commemorating it, was celebrated with great solemnity. The theory of the transmutation of the elements and the withdrawal of the cup from the laity were among the chief objects of the attacks of the Reformers.

The fullest and clearest presentation of the eucharist was made by Thomas Aquinas. He discussed it in every possible aspect. Where Scripture is silent and Augustine uncertain, the Schoolman’s speculative ability, though often put to a severe test, is never at a loss. The Church accepted the doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrificial meaning of the sacrament, and it fell to the Schoolmen to confirm these doctrines by all the metaphysical weapons at their command. And even where we are forced by the silence or clear meaning of Scripture to regard their discussion as a vain display of intellectual ingenuity, we may still recognize the solemn religious purpose by which they were moved. Who would venture to deny this who has read the devotional hymn of Thomas Aquinas which presents the outgoings of his soul to the sacrificial oblation of the altar?



Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium.

Sing my tongue the mystery telling. 1655


The culminating point in the history of the mediaeval doctrine of the eucharist was the dogmatic definition of transubstantiation by the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215. Thenceforth it was heresy to believe anything else. The definition ran that "the body and blood of Christ are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body and the wine into the blood by divine power."6 The council did not foist upon the Church a new doctrine. It simply formulated the prevailing belief.

The word "transubstantiation" is not used by Hugo of St. Victor and the earlier Schoolmen. They used "transition" and "conversion," the latter being the favorite term. The word "transubstantiation" seems to have been first used by Hildebert of Tours, d. 1134. 1657 According to Duns Scotus, the doctrine cannot be proved with certainty from the Scriptures and must be accepted upon the basis of the decision of the Church. 1658 The passages, chiefly relied upon for proving the doctrine, are John 6 and the words of institution, "this is my body," in which the verb is taken in its literal sense. Rupert of Deutz is the only Schoolman of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries who dissented from it. He seems to have taught the theory of impanation. 1659

Three names, applied to the eucharist, had special significance.0 It is a sacrifice because it repeats Christ’s oblation on the cross. It is a communion because it presents the unity of the Church. It is a viaticum because it is heavenly manna for pilgrims on their way to heaven. Thomas Aquinas also uses the term of John of Damascus, assumption, because the sacrament lifts us up into the Deity of Christ, and calls it hostia, or the host, because it contains Christ himself, who is the oblation of our salvation. 1661 It was also called the mass.

The elements to be used are wheaten bread, either leavened or unleavened. Water is to be mixed with the wine as Christ probably mixed them, following the custom in Palestine. Water symbolizes the people, and the wine symbolizes Christ, and their combination the union of the people with Christ. The mixture likewise represents the scene of the passion. Thomas Aquinas also finds in the water flowing in the desert, 1 Cor. 10:4, a type of this custom. He relied much, as did Albertus Magnus 1662 before him, upon the words of Prov. 9:5, Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mingled for you. But the admixture of the two elements is not essential. The synods of Cologne, 1279, Lambeth, 1281, etc., prescribed two or three drops of water as sufficient.

At the moment of priestly consecration, the elements of bread and wine are converted into the very body and blood of Christ. The substance of the bread and wine disappears. The "accidents"—species sensibiles — remain, such as taste, color, dimensions, and weight. What becomes of the substance of the two elements? asks Peter the Lombard. There are three possible answers. First, the substance passes into the four original elements or into the body and blood of Christ. Second, it is annihilated. Third, it remains in part or in whole. Duns Scotus adopted the second explanation, the substance is annihilated.3 The Lombard, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas adopted the view that the substance is converted into the body and blood of Christ. Against the theory of annihilation Thomas used the illustration that it does not follow because air, from which fire is generated, is not here nor there, that it has been annihilated. The change on the altar is altogether supernatural. The body of Christ is in the sacrament not quantitatively, per modum quantitatis, but in substance; not in its dimensions, but by a sacramental virtue, ex vi sacramenti, in a way peculiar to this sacrament. It is on the altar and is apprehended by faith only. 1664

Upon the basis of the separate existence of substance and "accidents" the Schoolmen proceeded to perfect their theory. What the substance of bread is, if it is not its nutritive power, and how it is possible to think of bread without those qualities which make it bread to us, the practical mind cannot understand. Scholastic dialectics professed to understand it, but the statements are nothing more than a fabric of mystifying terms and gratuitous assumptions. Wyclif thoroughly exposed the fallacious reasoning.

Thomas Aquinas went so far as to declare that, though the substance of bread and wine disappears, these elements continue to preserve the virtue of their substance.5 Luther said the Schoolmen might as well have set up a theory of transaccidentation as of transubstantiation. Thomas Aquinas anticipated his objection and argued that by a providential arrangement this was not so for three reasons: 1. It is not the custom for men to eat human flesh and drink human blood, and we would revolt from eating Christ’s blood and flesh under the form of bread and wine. 2. The sacrament would become a laughing stock to infidels if Christ were eaten in his own form. 3. Faith is called forth by the enveilment of the Lord within the forms of bread and wine. The body of Christ is not broken or divided by the teeth except in a sacramental way. 1666 Creation, said this great Schoolman, is easier to understand than transubstantiation, for creation is out of nothing, but in the sacrament the substance of bread and wine disappear while the accidents remain.

A second statement elaborated by the Schoolmen is that the whole Christ is in the sacrament, divinity and humanity, —flesh, bones, nerves, and other constituents, —and yet the body of Christ is not there locally or in its dimensions. 1667

This is the so-called doctrine of concomitance, elaborated by Alexander of Hales, Thomas Aquinas, and other Schoolmen with great subtilty. According to this doctrine the divinity of Christ and his body are never separated. Wherever the body is, there is also the divinity, whether it be in heaven or on the altar. The determination of this point was of importance because the words of institution mention only Christ’s body.

A third integral part of the scholastic treatment of the eucharist was the assertion that the whole Christ is in each of the elements,8a view which offered full justification for the withdrawal of the cup from the laity. Anselm had taken this view, that the entire Christ is in each element, but he was having no reference to the withdrawal of the cup. 1669

Two serious questions grew out of this definition; namely, whether the elements which our Lord blessed on the night of his betrayal were his own body and blood and what it was the disciples ate when they partook of the eucharist during the time of our Lord’s burial. To the second question the reply was given that, if the disciples partook of the eucharist in that period, they partook of the real body. Here Duns Scotus brought to bear his theory that a thing may have a number of forms and that God can do what to us seems to be most unreasonable. As for the first question, Hugo of St. Victor shrank from discussing it on the sensible ground that such divine mysteries were to be venerated rather than discussed.0 The other Schoolmen boldly affirmed that Christ partook of his own body and blood and gave them to the disciples. "He had them in His hands and in His mouth." This body, according to Thomas, was "immortal and not subject to pain." 1671 Thomas quoted with approval the lines: 1672
The King, seated with the twelve at the table,

Holds Himself in His hands. He, the Food, feeds upon Himself.


This monstrous conception involved a further question. Did Judas partake of the true body and blood of the Lord? This the Schoolmen answered in the negative. The traitor took only natural and unblessed bread. Leaning upon St. Augustine, they make the assertion, upon a manipulation of Luke 22 and John 13 according to which Christ distributed the bread and the wine before Judas took the sop, that the sop, or immersed morsel, was delusive. Judas was deceived. 1673

Another curious but far-reaching question occupied the minds of Albertus Magnus, Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas, and other Schoolmen. Does a mouse, in eating the consecrated host, actually partake of its consecrated substance? Thomas argued in this way: the body and blood of Christ would not be withdrawn, if the consecrated host should be cast into the mire, for God allowed Christ’s body even to be crucified. As for mice, they were not created to use the bread as a sacrament, and so they cannot eat Christ’s body after a sacramental manner, sacramentaliter, but only the accidents of the elements, per accidens, just as a man would eat who took the consecrated host but did not know it was consecrated.4 Bonaventura, quoting Innocent III., took the more reasonable view that the body of Christ is withdrawn under such circumstances. Peter the Lombard had said that an animal does not take the body of Christ in eating the bread. But what it does take and eat, God alone knows. Duns Scotus took up the similar question, what occurs to an ass drinking the water consecrated for baptism and sensibly called it a subtilitas asinina, an asinine refinement, for the virtue of ablution inhering in such water an ass could not drink. 1675 To the theory of transubstantiation, Rupert of Deutz has been referred to as an exception. John of Paris was deprived of his chair at the University of Paris for likening the union of Christ’s body and the bread to the coexistence of the divine and human natures in Christ’s person. He died, 1306, while his case was being tried at Rome. Ockam tentatively developed the theory of impanation whereby Christ’s body and the bread are united in one substance, but he expressed his readiness to yield to the dogma of the Church.

The sacrificial aspect of the eucharist was no less fully developed. In Hugo of St. Victor we hear nothing of a repetition of the sacrifice on the cross. He speaks of the mass as being a transmission of our prayers, vows, and offerings—oblationes — to God. 1676 Peter the Lombard said the sacrifice on the altar is of a different nature from the sacrifice on the cross, nevertheless it is a true sacrifice. The later Schoolmen, following Alexander of Hales, laid stress on the sacrificial element. The eucharist is an unbloody but "real immolation" performed by the priest.

The altar represents the cross, the priest represents Christ in whose person and power he pronounces the words of consecration, 1677and the celebration represents the passion on the cross. The priest’s chief function is to consecrate the body and blood of Christ. 1678

The sacrifice may be offered daily, just as we stand daily in need of the fruits of Christ’s death and as we pray for daily food. And because Christ was on the cross from nine till three o’clock, it is proper that it should be offered between those hours, at any rate during the daytime and not in the night, for Christ said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: for the night cometh, when no man can work," John 9:4.

To the discussion of the twofold effect of the eucharist as a sacrament and as a sacrifice, the Schoolmen also give much attention. Like the other sacraments, the eucharist has the virtue of conferring grace of itself.9 As a sacrament it inures to our nourishment and perfection in Christ; as a sacrifice to the removal of sins venial and mortal. As a sacrament it benefits those who partake; as a sacrifice its benefits accrue also to persons who do not partake, living and dead. 1680 For this position Thomas Aquinas quotes side by side the words of our Lord, Luke 22 and Matt. 26, "which is shed for you" and "which is shed for many for the remission of sins," the latter passage being taken to include parties not present in the benefits of the sacrifice on the altar.


§ 116. Eucharistic Practice and Superstition.
The celebration of the eucharist is the central part of the service of the Latin Church. Thomas Aquinas said it is to be celebrated with greater solemnity than the other sacraments because it contains the whole mystery of our salvation. He gives the meaning of the various ceremonies, 1681such as the signing with the cross, the priest’s turning his face to the people a certain number of times with reference to Christ’s appearances after the resurrection, the use of incense, the stretching forth of the priest’s arms, the breaking of the bread, and the rinsing of the mouth after the wine has been taken. How important the prescriptions were considered to be, may be inferred from the careful attention this great Schoolman gives to them. If a fly, he says, or a spider, be found in the wine after consecration, the insect must be taken out, carefully washed and burnt, and then the water, mingled with ashes, must be thrown into the sacrary. If poison be found in the consecrated wine, the contents of the cup are to be poured out and kept in a vessel among the relics. 1682

The priest’s fitness to consecrate the elements lies in the sacerdotal power conferred upon him at his ordination. He consecrates the elements not in his own name but as the minister of Christ, and he does not cease to be a minister by being bad, malus.3 He alone is the mediator between God and the people, so that it lies not within the power of a layman to administer the eucharist. The Angelic doctor declares that, while in the other sacraments the benefits accrue through the use of the elements, in the eucharist the benefit consists in the consecration of the elements by the priest and not in their use by the people. 1684

Ecclesiastical analysis and definition could go no farther in divesting the simple memorial meal instituted by our Lord of the element of immediate communion between the believer and the Saviour, and changing it as it were into a magical talisman. It would be disingenuous to ignore that with the Schoolmen the devotional element has a most prominent place in their treatment of the eucharist. Especially when they are treating it as a sacrifice is emphasis laid upon devotion on the part of the participants.5 But, after this is said, the Protestant Christian still feels that they did not appreciate in any adequate degree, the place of faith as the necessary organ of receiving the divine grace extended through this sacred ordinance. The definition which the mediaeval theologians gave to the Church and the mediatorial power they associated with the priesthood precluded them from estimating faith at its true worth. 1686

The theory of the sacrificial efficacy of the mass encouraged superstition. It exalted the sacerdotal prerogative of the priest7who had it in his power to withhold or give this viaticum, the spiritual food for pilgrims looking forward to heaven. The people came to look to him rather than to Christ, for could he not by the utterance of his voice effect the repetition of the awful sacrifice of the cross! The frequent repetition of the mass became a matter of complaint. Albertus Magnus speaks of women attending mass every day from levity and not in a spirit of devotion who deserved rebuke. 1688 Councils again and again forbade its being celebrated more than once a day by the same priest, except on Christmas and Easter, and in case of burial. Masses had their price and priests there were who knew how to sell them and to frighten people into making provision for them in their wills. 1689

The elevation and adoration of the host were practised in the Latin Church as early as the twelfth century. Honorius III., 1217, made obligatory the ringing of a bell at the moment the words of institution were uttered that the worshippers might fall on their knees and adore the host. The Lambeth synod of 1281 ordered the church bells to be rung at the moment of consecration so that the laboring man on the field and the woman engaged in her domestic work might bow down and worship. Synods prescribed that the pyx, the receptacle for the host, be made of gold, silver, ivory, or, at least, of polished copper. A light was kept burning before it perpetually. In case a crumb of the bread or a drop of the wine fell upon the cloth or the priest’s garments, the part was to be cut out and burnt and the ashes thrown into the sacrary. And if the corporale, the linen cover prescribed for the altar, should be wet in the blood, it was to be washed out three times and the water drunk by a priest. If a drop happened to fall on a stone or a piece of wood or hard earth, the priest or some pious person was to lick it up.

The festival of the eucharist, Corpus Christi, celebrated the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday, had its origin in the vision of Juliana, a nun of Liege, who saw the full moon, representing the church year, with one spot on its surface. This spot indicated the Church’s neglect to properly honor the real presence. She made her vision known to the bishop of Liege and the archdeacon, James Pantaleon. A celebration was appointed for the diocese, and when James became pope, under the name of Urban IV., he prescribed, in 1264, the general observance of the festival. John XXII. inaugurated the procession wherein, on Corpus Christi day, the host was carried about the streets with great solemnities.0 The liturgical service used on Corpus Christi was prepared by Thomas Aquinas at the appointment of Urban IV. Two important changes occurred in this period in the distribution of the elements,—the abandonment of the communion of children and the withdrawal of the cup from the laity.

The communion of children practised in the early Church, and attested by Augustine and still practised in the Greek Church, seems to have been general as late as the reign of Pascal II. Writing in 1118, Pascal said it was sufficient to give the wine to children and the very sick, as they are not able to assimilate the bread. In their case the bread was to be dipped into the wine. 1691 Just how the change took place is unknown. Odo, bishop of Paris, 1175, forbade the communion of children. The synod of Treves, 1227, denied to them the bread, and the synod of Bordeaux, 1255, the wine as well as the bread. The greater Schoolmen do not treat the subject. The Supplement of Thomas Aquinas’ Theology says that the extreme unction and the eucharist were not administered to children because both sacraments required real devotion in the recipients. 1692

The denial of the cup to the laity, the present custom of the Roman Catholic Church, became common in the thirteenth century. It was at first due to the fear of profanation by spilling the consecrated blood of Christ. At the same time the restriction to the bread was regarded as a wholesome way of teaching the people that the whole Christ is present in each of the elements. Among other witnesses in the twelfth century to the distribution of both the bread and the wine to the laity are Rupert of Deutz and pope Pascal II. Pascal urged that this custom be forever preserved.3 But it is evident that there was already at that time divergence of practice. The Englishman, Robert Pullen, d. ab. 1150, refers to it and condemned the dipping of the host into the wine as a Judas communion, with reference to John 13:26. 1694

By the middle of the thirteenth century the feeling had grown strong enough for a great authority, Alexander of Hales, to condemn the giving of the cup to the laity and on the doctrinal ground that the whole Christ is in each of the elements. As a means of instructing the people in this doctrine he urged that the cup be denied. But Albertus Magnus, his contemporary, has no hint justifying the practice.5 Thomas Aquinas followed Alexander, giving as his chief reason the danger of profanation by spilling the sacred contents of the chalice. It is sufficient, he said, for the priest to partake of the cup, for the full benefit accrues by the participation of a single element, communio sub una specie. 1696 Christ distributed bread only and not drink to the five thousand.

The usage gradually spread. The chapter of the Cistercians in 1261 forbade monks, nuns, and lay brethren of the order to take the cup. The few Councils which expressed themselves on the subject were divided. 1697

The council of Constance threatened with excommunication all who distributed the wine to the laity. It spoke of many "perils and scandals" attending the distribution of the wine. Gerson, who voted for the enactment, urged the danger of spilling the wine, of defilement to the sacred vessels from their contact with laymen’s hands and lips, the long beards of laymen, the possibility of the wine’s turning to vinegar while it was being carried to the sick, or being corrupted by flies, or frozen by the cold, the difficulty of always purchasing wine, and the impossibility of providing cups for ten thousand or twenty thousand communicants on Easter. The council of Trent reaffirmed the withdrawal of the cup as an enactment the Church was justified in making. Gregory II. had commanded the use of a single chalice at communion.8

Some strange customs came into vogue in the distribution of the wine, such as the use of a reed or straw, which were due to veneration for the sacred element. Many names were given to this instrument, such as fistula, tuba, canna, siphon, pipa, calamus. The liturgical directions required the pope to drink through a fistula on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. He still follows this custom at the public mass. The practice maintained itself in some parts of the Lutheran Church as in Hamburg and vicinity, and Brandenburg down to the eighteenth century.9

Another custom was the practice of cleaning the mouth with a rinsing cup of unconsecrated wine, after one or both the elements had been received, and called in German the Spülkelch. A synod of Soissons of the twelfth century enjoined all to rinse their mouths after partaking of the elements. Peckham, archbishop of Canterbury, 1281, enjoined priests to instruct the people that in partaking of the bread they were partaking of the whole Christ, and that what was given them in the cup was only wine, given that they might the more easily swallow the sacred body.0 The custom of taking a meal immediately after the sacrament, dating back to the fifth century, is also found in this period. 1701

This treatment of the mediaeval theory of the eucharist would be incomplete without giving some of the marvellous stories which bear witness to the excessive reverence for the sacred host and blood. One of the most famous, the story of the monk, who was cured of doubts by seeing the host exude blood, is told by Alexander of Hales, Bonaventura,2and others. Cases when real blood was seen in the chalice were not infrequent. The host sometimes remained uninjured amid the ashes of a burnt church. 1703 Caesar of Heisterbach relates several cases when a snow-white dove was seen sitting near the chalice at the celebration of the mass and a number of cases of the appearance of Christ in visible form in the very hands of the consecrating priest. Thus one of the monks, present when the mass was being said by Herman, abbot of Himmelrode, saw after the consecration of the host the Christ as a child in the abbot’s hands. The child rose to the height of the cross and then was reduced again in size to the dimensions of the host, which was eaten by the abbot. 1704 The same writer narrates that a certain monk, Adolf, of the Netherlands, after consecrating the host, saw in his hands the virgin carrying the child, Christ, in her arms. Turning the host, he saw on the other side a lamb. Turning it back again, he saw Christ on the cross. Then there was nothing left but the visible form of the bread, which the pious monk ate. The writer goes on to say that Adolf did not feel full joy over this vision, for he kept a concubine. 1705 A Fleming woman of the town of Thorembais, who had been refused the sacrament by a priest, was visited the same night by Christ himself, who gave her the host with his own hands. 1706

At a church dedication in Anrode, the invited priests engaged in conviviality and while they were dancing around the altar, the pyx was overthrown and the five hosts it contained scattered. The music was at once stopped and search was made but without result. The people were then put out of the building and every corner was searched till at last the hosts were found on a ledge in the wall where the angel had placed them.7

Perhaps the most remarkable case related by the chronicler of Heisterbach is that of the bloody host of St. Trond, Belgium. This he had himself seen, and he speaks of it as a miracle which should be recorded for the benefit of many after generations. In 1223 a woman in Harbais, in the diocese of Liège, kissed her lover with the host in her mouth, in the hope that it would inflame his love for her. She then found she could not swallow the host and carefully wrapped it up in a napkin. In her agony, she finally revealed her experience to a priest who called in the bishop of Livland who happened to be in the town. Together they went to the place where the host was concealed and lo! there were three drops of fresh blood on the cloth. The abbot of Trond was called in and it was then found that half of the host was flesh and half bread. The bishop thought so highly of the relic that he attempted to carry off two of the drops of blood, but sixty armed men interfered. The sacred blood was then put in a vase and deposited among the relics of the church of St. Trond.8 This case was fully believed by Caesar, and he expresses no doubt about the many other cases he reports.

Another case related by Etienne of Bourbon 1709is of a farmer who, wanting to be rich, followed the advice of a friend and placed the host in one of his beehives. The bees with great reverence made a miniature church, containing an altar, on which they placed the sacred morsel. All the bees from the neighborhood were attracted and sang beautiful melodies. The rustic went out, expecting to find the hives overflowing with honey but, to his amazement, found them all empty except the one in which the host had been deposited. The bees attacked him fiercely. He repaired to the priest, who, after consulting with the bishop, went in procession to the hive and found the miniature church with the altar and carried it back to the village church while the bees, singing songs, flew away.

These stories, which might be greatly multiplied, attest the profound veneration in which the host was held and the crude superstitions which grew up around it in the convent and among the people. The simple and edifying communion meal of the New Testament was set aside by mediaeval theology and practice for an unreasonable ecclesiastical prodigy.


§ 117. Penance and Indulgences.
The sacrament of penance was placed in close connection with baptism by the Schoolmen, as it was later by the council of Trent, which called it a "sort of laborious baptism." 1710 Baptism serves for the deletion of original sin; penance for the deletion of mortal sins committed after baptism. Using Tertullian’s illustration, the Schoolmen designated penance the second plank thrown out to the sinner after shipwreck as baptism is the first. 1711 In daily religious life, penance became the chief concern of the people and also the chief instrumentality of the priesthood in securing and strengthening its authority. The treatment given to it by the Schoolmen is even more elaborate than the treatment they give to the eucharist. 1712

One feature in which this sacrament differs from the others is the amount of positive activity it requires from those who seek the grace involved in it. Contrition, confession to the priest, and the performance of good works prescribed by the priest were the conditions of receiving this grace. Everything depends upon God, and yet everything depends upon the subjection of the penitent to the priest and his act of absolution. It is in connection with this sacrament that the doctrine of the keys comes to its full rights. Here a man is absolved from sin and reunited with the Church, and reconciled to Christ through the mediation of the sacerdotal key.3

Two perversions of Scripture were the largest factors in developing the theory of meritorious penance. The first was the false interpretation of John 20:23, "Whosoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven, and whosoever sins ye retain they are retained." The passage was interpreted to mean that Christ conferred upon the Apostles and the Church judicial authority to forgive sins. The Protestant theory is that this authority is declarative. The second factor was the Vulgate’s translation of the New Testament for the word "repent," poenitentiam agite, "do penance," as if repentance were a meritorious external exercise, and not a change of disposition, which is the plain meaning of the Greek word metanoevw, "to change your mind."4

The confusion of the New Testament idea and the Church’s doctrine is evident enough from the twofold meaning Peter the Lombard and Thomas Aquinas give to the thing called penance. Baptism, they said, is a sacrament, but penance is both a sacrament and a virtuous state of the mind. In the New Testament the latter is intended. The theologians added all the mechanism of penance.5

At the close of the twelfth century a complete change was made in the doctrine of penance. The theory of the early Church, elaborated by Tertullian and other Church fathers, was that penance is efficient to remove sins committed after baptism, and that it consisted in certain penitential exercises such as prayer and alms. The first elements added by the mediaeval system were that confession to the priest and absolution by the priest are necessary conditions of pardon. Peter the Lombard did not make the mediation of the priest a requirement, but declared that confession to God was sufficient. In his time, he says, there was no agreement on three aspects of penance: first, whether contrition for sin was not all that was necessary for its remission; second, whether confession to the priest was essential; and third, whether confession to a layman was insufficient. The opinions handed down from the Fathers, he asserts, were diverse, if not antagonistic.6

Alexander of Hales marks a new era in the history of the doctrine. He was the first of the Schoolmen to answer clearly all these questions, and to him more than to any other single theologian does the Catholic Church owe its doctrine of penance. Thomas Aquinas confirmed what Alexander taught.7

In distinction from baptism, which is a regeneration, Thomas Aquinas declared penance to be a restoration to health and he and Bonaventura agreed that it is the efficacious remedy for mortal sins. Thomas traced its institution back to Christ, who left word that "penance and remission of sins should be preached from Jerusalem," Luke 24:47. James had this institution in mind when he called upon Christians to confess their sins one to another.8 Penance may be repeated, for we may again and again lose our love to God.

Penance consists of four elements: contrition of heart, confession with the mouth, satisfaction by works, and the priest’s absolution. The first three are called the substance of penance and are the act of the offender. The priest’s absolution is termed the form of penance. 1719

1. Contrition was defined as the sorrow of the soul for its sins, an aversion from them, and a determination not to commit them again. The Lombard and Gratian taught that such contrition, being rooted in love, is adequate for the divine pardon without confession to a priest or priestly absolution.0

At the side of the doctrine of contrition the Schoolmen, beginning with Alexander Hales, placed the novel doctrine of attrition, which was most fully emphasized by Duns Scotus. Attrition is the negative element in contrition, a sort of half repentance, a dread of punishment, Galgenreue, "scaffold-repentance," as the Germans call it.1 This state of the heart the Schoolmen found represented in the experience of the prodigal at the moment when the father went out to meet him. According to this doctrine, a man may be forgiven and saved who is actuated simply by the fear of hell and punishment and has neither faith nor filial love in his heart. All he is required to do is to diligently go through the other steps of the process of penance, and the priest’s pardon will be forthcoming. 1722



2. Confession to the priest, the second element in penance, is defined by Thomas Aquinas as the making-known of the hidden disease of sin in the hope of getting pardon.3 Not even the pope has the right to grant a dispensation from it any more than he may offer salvation from original sin without baptism. 1724 It covers mortal sins. For the remission of venial sins, confession is not necessary. The Church makes daily supplication for such offences and that is sufficient. They do not separate the soul either from God or the Church. 1725 They are simply a sluggish movement of the affections toward God, not an aversion to Him. They are removed by holy water and other minor rites.

By the action of the Fourth Lateran, 1215, confession to the priest at least once a year was made a test of orthodoxy. Beginning with Alexander of Hales, the Schoolmen vindicate the positions that confession, to be efficacious, must be made to the priest, and that absolution by the priest is an essential condition of the sinner’s pardon. Bonaventura, after devoting much time to the question, "Whether it is sufficient to confess our sins to God," answered it in the negative. At greater length than Peter the Lombard had done, he quoted the Fathers to show that there was no unanimity among them on the question. But he declared that, since the decision of the Fourth Lateran, all are to be adjudged heretics who deny that confession to the priest is essential. Before that decision, such denial was not heresy. 1726

Confession must be made to the priest as Christ’s vicar. In case of necessity, no priest being available, a layman may also hear confession.7 By such confession the offender may be reconciled to God but not to the Church, and in order to be so reconciled and admitted to the other sacraments he must also, as opportunity offers, confess again to the priest.

Priests were forbidden to look at the face of a woman at the confessional, and severe punishments were prescribed for betraying its secrets, even to degradation from office and life-long confinement in a convent. 1728 The mendicant monks were confirmed by Clement IV. and Martin IV. in their right to shrive everywhere. A contemporary declared that the whole of the Jordan ran into their mouths. 1729

3. Satisfaction, the third element in penance, is imposed by the priest as the minister of God and consists of prayer, pilgrimages, fastings, payments of money, and other good works. These penal acts are medicines for spiritual wounds and a compensation to God for offences against Him, as Thomas Aquinas,0following Anselm, taught. The priest is the judge of what the act of satisfaction shall be. Among the more notable cases of public penance were those of Henry II. after Becket’s death, Philip I. of France, and Raymund of Toulouse.

Satisfaction differs from contrition and confession in the very important particular that one person can perform it for another. To prove this point, Thomas Aquinas used the words of the Apostle when he said, "Bear ye one another’s burdens." Gal. 6:2.

4. The fourth element in the sacrament of penance was the formal sentence of absolution pronounced by the priest. This function, which Schwane calls the main part of the sacrament of penance, 1731or the power of the keys, potestas clavium, belongs primarily and in its fulness to the pope and then, by distribution, to bishops and priests. Its use opens and shuts the kingdom of heaven to immortal souls.
§ 118. Penance and Indulgences.
The year 1200 marks the dividing line between opinions differing most widely on the meaning of the priests absolution. Peter the Lombard represented the prevailing view of the earlier period when he pronounced the absolution, a declarative announcement. Alexander of Hales represented the later period, when he pronounced it a judicial sentence. According to Peter, God alone remits sins. It was the Lord who restored the lepers to health, not the priests to whom be sent them. They did nothing more than bear witness to the healthy condition of the lepers. The priest’s prerogative is ended when he "shows or declares those who are bound and those who are loosed." 1732 This view of the Master of Sentences the later theology set aside.

Before the end of the thirteenth century, the petitional form of absolution was in general, though not exclusive, used and the priest made intercession for the grace of forgiveness upon the offender. 1733 After that, the positive forensic form was substituted, "I absolve thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," the form which Thomas Aquinas vindicated against all others. 1734 Hugo of St. Victor had advocated this form and pronounced the contrary form more laughable and frivolous than worthy of refutation. He was followed by Richard of St. Victor who emphasized the distinction between the priest’s right to remit the punishment of sin and God’s prerogative which is to forgive the guilt of sin. 1735 The priest’s absolution effects the deletion of sin. He acts towards the sinner as Christ did toward Lazarus when he said, "Loose him and let him go."

The absolution from certain offences was reserved to the bishops, such as murder, sacrilege in the use of the eucharist or the baptismal water, perjury, poisoning, and letting children die without being baptized. 1736 Other offences came under the exclusive jurisdiction of the papal chair, such as the abuse of the person of a priest or monk, the burning of church buildings, and falsifying of papal documents.

In the article of death, the sacrament of absolution is in no case to be refused. At such times works of satisfaction cannot be required, even as they were not required of the thief on the cross.

The extent to which absolution is efficacious called forth careful discussion and statement. Does it cover guilt as well as punishment and does it extend to the punishments of purgatory? The answer to these questions also was positive and distinct from the time of Alexander of Hales. Peter the Lombard was the last of the prominent Schoolmen to declare that the priest did not give absolution for guilt. The later Schoolmen with one consent oppose him at this point and teach that the priest absolves both from the guilt and the punishments of sin in this world and in purgatory. Thomas Aquinas asserted that, "if the priest cannot remit these temporal punishments,—for the punishments of purgatory are temporal,—then he cannot remit at all and this is contrary to the words of the Gospel to Peter that whatsoever he should loose on earth should be loosed in heaven." 1737

The ultimate and, as it proved, a most vicious form of priestly absolution was the indulgence. An indulgence is a remission of the guilt and punishment of sin by a mitigation or complete setting aside of the works of satisfaction which would otherwise be required. A lighter penalty was substituted for a severer one.8 Gottlob 1739has recently divided indulgences into three classes: (1) indulgences which are secured by going on a crusade; (2) such as are secured by the payment of money for some good church cause, and (3) such as are secured by the visiting of certain churches.

Towards the close of this period this substitution usually took the form of a money-payment. For a lump sum absolution for the worst offences might be secured. It became a tempting source of gain to churches and the Roman curia, which they were quick to take advantage of. The dogmatic justification of this method of remission found positive expression before the practice became general. Alexander of Hales here again has the distinction of being the first to give it careful definition and unequivocal emphasis. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventura, and the other Schoolmen follow him closely and add little. Thomas Aquinas declared it impious to say the Church might not dispense indulgences. 1740

The first known case occurred about 1016 when the archbishop of Arles gave an indulgence of a year to those participating in the erection of a church building.1 The Crusades furnished the popes the occasion to issue indulgences on a magnificent scale. Urban II,’s indulgence, 1095, granting plenary absolution to all taking the journey to Jerusalem was the first of a long series of such papal franchises. That journey, Urban said, should be taken as a substitute for all penance. Granted at first to warriors fighting against the infidel in the Holy Land, they were extended so as to include those who fought against the Slavs, as by Eugenius III., 1147, against the Stedinger, Albigenses, and the Hussites, 1425, and against all enemies whatsoever of the papacy, such as Frederick II. and Manfred. Innocent II., in 1135, promised full remission to those who fought the battle of the papal chair against Roger of Sicily, and the anti-pope, Anacletus II. In these cases such expressions are used as "remission and indulgence of penances," "relaxation or remission from the imposed penance," "the relaxation of the imposed satisfaction," and also "a lightening or remission of sins." 1742

The free-handed liberality with which these franchises were dispensed by bishops became so much of a scandal that the Lateran council of 1215 issued a sharp decree to check it. More than half a century before, in 1140, Abaelard had condemned the abuse of this prerogative by bishops and priests who were governed in its lavish exercise by motives of sordid cupidity.3

The construction of bridges over rivers, the building of churches, and the visiting of shrines were favorite and meritorious grounds for the gifts of indulgence. Innocent III., 1209, granted full remission for the building of a bridge over the Rhone; Innocent IV. for rebuilding the cathedrals of Cologne, 1248, and Upsala, 1250, which had suffered from fire.4 According to Matthew Paris, Gregory IX., in 1241, granted an indulgence of forty days to all worshipping the crown of thorns and the cross in the chapel at Paris and, in 1247, the bishop of Norwich, speaking for the English prelates, announced a remission of all penances for six years and one hundred and forty days to those who would worship the Holy Blood at Westminster. 1745 Indulgences for building bridges and roads were common in England. 1746

To the next period belongs the first cases of indulgence granted in connection with the Jubilee Year by Boniface VIII., 1300. Among the more famous indulgences granted to private parties and localities was the Portiuncula indulgence giving remission to all visiting the famous Franciscan shrine at Assisi on a certain day of the year,7and the Sabbatina, granting to all entering the Carmelite order or wearing the scapulary deliverance from purgatory the Saturday after their death. 1748

The practice of dispensing indulgences grew enormously. Innocent III. dispensed five during his pontificate. Less than one hundred years later, Nicolas IV., in his reign of two years, 1288–1290, dispensed no less than four hundred. By that time they had become a regular item of the papal exchequer.

On what grounds did the Church claim the right to remit the works of penance due for sins or, as Alexander of Hales put it, grant abatement of the punishment due sin?9The statement was this: Christ’s passion is of infinite merit. Mary and the saints also by their works of patience laid up merit beyond what was required from them for heaven. These supererogatory works or merits of the saints and of Christ are so abundant that they would more than suffice to pay off the debts of all the living.0 Together they constitute the thesaurus meritorum, or fund of merits; and this is at the disposal of the Church by virtue of her nuptial union with Christ, Col. 1:24. This fund is a sort of bank account, upon which the Church may draw at pleasure. Christ relaxed the punishment due the woman taken in adultery, not requiring her to do the works of satisfaction which her offences would, under ordinary circumstances, have called for. So, likewise, may the pope, who is Christ’s viceregent, release from sin by drawing upon the fund of merit. Thus the indulgence takes the place of the third element of penance, works of satisfaction.

These statements of the Schoolmen received explicit papal confirmation at the hands of Clement VI. in 1343. This pontiff not only declared that this "heap of treasure,"—cumulus thesauri,—consisting of the merits of "the blessed mother of God and the saints," is at the disposal of the successors of Peter, but he made, if possible, the more astounding assertion that the more this storehouse is drawn upon, the more it grows. 1751 Like the wood of the true cross, it has the power of infinite self-expansion. It is, however, fair to say that the papal briefs granting this saving grace almost invariably gave it on condition of contrition and confession of the recipient. 1752

Down to the latter part of the thirteenth century, the theory prevailed that an indulgence dispensed with the usual works of penance by substituting some other act. Before the fourteenth century, another step was taken, and the indulgence was regarded as directly absolving from the guilt and punishment of sins, culpa et poena peccatorum. It was no longer a mitigation or abatement of imposed penance. It immediately set aside or remitted that which acts of penance had been designed to remove; namely, guilt and penalty. It is sufficient for the Church to pronounce offences remitted. Wyclif made a bold attack against the indulgence "from guilt and punishment," a culpa et poena, in his Cruciata. Now that it is no longer possible to maintain the spuriousness of such papal indulgences, some Roman Catholic writers construe the offensive phrase to mean "from the penalty of guilt," a poena culpae.

Such was the general indulgence given by pope Coelestin V., 1294, to all who should on a certain day of the year enter the church of St. Mary de Collemayo in which he had been consecrated.3 This view had been stated almost thirty years before by Thomas of Chantimpré. 1754 And, about 1280, Peter of Olivi declared the indulgence granted to the Portiuncula church to be an "indulgence for all sins and from all guilt and penalty." 1755 It is evident from these documents that, at the close of the thirteenth century, the formula a culpa et poena, "from guilt and punishment," was quite familiar.

Boniface VIII. probably included the guilt of sin when he announced "full pardon for all sins," and succeeding popes used the form constantly. 1756 John XXIII., at the beginning of the fifteenth century, was especially prodigal in the distribution of this kind of indulgence and in vain did the council of Constance attempt to put some check upon the practice. Tetzel was following the custom of two centuries when he offered "remission and indulgence of guilt and penalty."

As for the application of the sacrament of penance to souls in purgatory, Alexander of Hales argued that, if the sacrament did not avail for them, then the Church prays in vain for the dead. Such souls are still under the cognizance of the Church, that is, subject to its tribunal,—de foro ecclesiae. 1757 Altars and chapels, called in England chantries, were built and endowed by persons for the maintenance of a priest, in whole or in part, to pray and offer up masses for their souls after their departure from this life. The further treatment of the subject belongs properly to the period just preceding the Reformation. It is sufficient to say here, that Sixtus IV., in 1476, definitely connected the payment of money with indulgences, and legislated that, by fixed sums paid to the papal collectors, persons on earth may redeem their kindred in purgatory. Thus for gold and silver the most inveterate criminal might secure the deliverance of a father or mother from purgatorial pain, and neither contrition nor confession were required in the transaction. 1758 Such was the ultimate conclusion of the sacramental doctrine of penance, the sacrament to whose treatment the Schoolmen devoted most time and labor. The council of Trent reasserted the Church’s right to grant indulgences. 1759 But what could seem to be more agreeable to the plain statements of Scripture than that men have the right of immediate access to Christ, who said, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out," and what more repugnant to its plain teachings than to make confession to a priest and the priest’s absolution conditions of receiving pardon!



The superstitious, practical extravagances, which grew out of this most unbiblical penitential theory of the Middle Ages, are reported in the pages of the popular writers of the age, such as Caesar of Heisterbach and De Voragine, who express no dissent as they relate the morbid tales. Here are two of them as told by De Voragine which are to be taken as samples of a large body of similar literature. A bishop, by celebrating thirty masses, helped out of purgatory a poor soul who was frozen in a block of ice. In the second case, a woman who had neglected, before dying, to make a confession to the priest, was raised from her bier by the prayer of St. Francis d’Assisi. She went and confessed to the priest and then had the satisfaction of lying down in peace and dying over again. 1760
§ 119. Extreme Unction, Ordination, and Marriage.
Extreme Unction,—unctio infirmorum,—the fifth in the list of the sacraments, is administered to those who are in peril of death, and is supposed to be referred to by James 5:14. "Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." The earlier view, represented by Hugo of St. Victor, Peter the Lombard, and also by Bonaventura, was that the sacrament is of Apostolic institution. Thomas Aquinas traced it directly to Christ. Many things, he said, were spoken by Christ to the Apostles which are not contained in the Gospels.1 Thomas was followed by Duns Scotus and the council of Trent. The effect of the sacrament is to remit venial sins and the remainders of sin left after penance, and to heal the body. It may be repeated. Extreme unction as well as the eucharist is to be denied to children on the ground that their bodily diseases are not caused by sin. 1762 Some Councils restricted it to those over fourteen. 1763 The element used is oil, consecrated by the bishop, and it is to be touched to the eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands, feet, and loins.

Ordination conveys sacramental grace to seven orders of the ministry: presbyters, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, and ostiarii or door-keepers. These seven correspond to the seven graces of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Cor. 12. The first three orders were instituted by Christ; the last four by the Church. 1764 The bishops do not constitute a distinct order, but are of the order of the priesthood. The episcopate is an office, a function; and as Peter Lombardus and Thomas Aquinas say again and again, it is not an order. Consecration to it has no sacramental character. The Schoolmen do not fail to insist upon the superior dignity of the bishop, but sacramental grace is exhibited in its highest form in empowering the priest to celebrate the mass. For the sake of "fulness" there are placed above the priesthood, the episcopate, patriarchate, and papacy. 1765

The tonsure, a requirement for admittance to orders, is a sign of rule and perfection, for it is made in a circle. It also indicates that the mind is withdrawn from temporal things and fixed upon the contemplation of divine things.6

According to Thomas Aquinas, there is more reason for regarding ordination a sacrament than for ascribing a sacramental character to the other six sacred ordinances, for ordination confers the power of administering the others. Its efficacious potency resides chiefly with the person dispensing the sacrament.7 From him grace is transmitted. The form or the symbols, used in the ceremony, are of subordinate or little importance. In fact, the symbols are scarcely referred to by Councils or Schoolmen in this period. 1768

Ordination confers an indelible character upon those admitted to any of the orders. Its virtue is not affected by the character of the person ordained.9

As for the validity of the sacramental acts of heretic and schismatic clergymen, great difference of opinion existed. The problem was so difficult as to appear to Gratian and Peter the Lombard insoluble or almost so. The difficulty was increased by the acts of Councils, condemning as invalid the ordinations of anti-popes and the ordinations performed by bishops whom anti-popes had appointed.0 The statements of Thomas Aquinas are difficult to understand. He made a distinction between the power—potestas — of ordination and the jurisdiction to perform the sacrament. Schismatic or heretic bishops retain the power; otherwise when such a bishop is reconciled to the Church, he would be ordained over again, which is not the case. 1771 But they have not the jurisdiction. As the bishop by his promotion to the episcopate receives no sacramental grace, so, as bishop, he possesses no indelible character. He is ordained not directly for God but for the mystical body of Christ. And those whom a schismatic bishop ordains do not in reality receive ordination, for they are ordained in the face of the prohibition of the Church.

As far as we can understand the Angelic doctor’s position it is: the Church may withdraw from a bishop his right to confer orders while at the same time he retains the episcopal power to confer them. He insisted most strenuously on the permanence of the "bishop’s power" received at consecration. The solution of the problem is of far-reaching importance, for it has a bearing on the sacramental efficacy of the acts of many priests who have been cut off from the Latin Church and the ecclesiastical titles of schismatic bodies, such as the Old-Catholics and the Jansenist Church of Holland.



Marriage has the last place among the sacraments because it has the least of spirituality connected with it. 1772 At first, the bed was undefiled, conception was without passion, and parturition without pain. Since the fall, marriage has become a remedy against lust and a medicine for unholy desire. 1773 At first it signified the union of the soul with God. Since it became a sacrament, it signifies, in addition, the union of Christ and the Church and the union of two natures in one person. The Vulgate’s false translation of Ephes. 5:31, "this is a great sacrament," confirmed the Schoolmen in placing matrimony among the sacraments. That which constitutes the sacramental element is the verbal consent of the parties, and also, as Thomas Aquinas thought, the priest’s Benediction. 1774

Thomas was inclined to permit marriage for boys after the age of fourteen and girls after the age of twelve.5 According to the same authority, children are to follow the social condition of the mother. 1776 The impediments to marriage were carefully catalogued and discussed. Their number was put at twelve, such as kinship, mistake, vows, and misrepresentation, and couched in the lines which Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas quote:—


error, conditio, votum, cognatio crimen,

cultus disparitas, 1777 vis, ordo, ligamen, honestas,

si sis affinis, si forte coire nequibis

haec socianda vetant connubia, facta retractant.
The Fourth Lateran modified some of the more severe restrictions of marriage within the limits of consanguinity, but declared children illegitimate whose parents were within the forbidden limits, even though the ceremony were performed in the church. The Councils of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries give frequent rules for marriage. They were to be performed before the Church and only after public announcement. The children of parties marrying unbelievers and the offspring of clandestine marriages were made illegitimate.8

Death dissolves marriage and the surviving party has the right to marry again to the fourth time or even more often. Otherwise the marriage bond is perpetual—vinculum matrimonii est perpetuum. This follows from two considerations: marriage involves the training of the children and is a symbol of the union between Christ and the Church. Matrimony becomes absolutely binding only upon copulation. Before that has taken place, one party or the other may go into an order and in this case the other party has the right to marry again.

Divorce was allowed for one cause only, fornication. The Schoolmen supported this position from the words of Christ. Divorce, however, is a separation, not a release with license to marry again. Marriage can never be annulled by the act of man. What God hath joined together, no man can put asunder.9 Only after the death of the offending party may the innocent party enter again into a marriage contract. 1780 The second and subsequent marriages are a sacrament as the first marriage is.
§ 120. Sin and Grace.
Sin.—The Schoolmen are unanimous in affirming that the infection of original sin has passed down upon all Adam’s descendants and involved them all in guilt and eternal death. Following Augustine, Anselm called the race a sinning mass—peccatrix massa. By the Fall, man’s body, or flesh, was made, like the beast, subject to carnal appetites and the mind, in turn, became infected with these appetites. 1781 If man had not sinned, his nature would have been propagated as it was originally created by God. In condemning Abaelard, the synod of Sens, 1141, condemned the heresy that Adam’s guilt does not pass down to his posterity.

Man does not secure his sinful nature by imitation of Adam, but by inheritance through generation from Adam. The flesh is tainted, being conceived in concupiscence, and concupiscence is both a taint and guilt. Nay, it is original sin, as the Lombard says. 1782 Before the first sin, the man and the woman came together without the passion of concupiscence and the bed was undefiled; but, after the Fall, they could not join in marital intercourse without libidinous lust. 1783 These are the views of all the Schoolmen, yet they agree in rejecting the doctrine of traducianism. 1784 The flesh only is carried down from parent to child, not the spirit.

Original sin is defined by Alexander of Hales and by Thomas Aquinas as the want or the "deficiency of original righteousness." 1785 It involves the loss of superadded grace and a wounding of the natural powers. 1786 This wound, or original sin, is a lasting quality or condition of depravity—a habitus corruptionis or vitium — like a bodily disease. It is not merely a defect. It is a depraved tendency—inordinata dispositio. In another place, Thomas defines original sin to be in substance concupiscence or lust and in form a defect of original righteousness. 1787 God cannot be the author of sin because sin is an offence against order.

Thomas taught that the taint of original sin is inherited not from the mother but from the father who is the active agent in generation. If Eve only had sinned and not Adam, the children would not have inherited the taint. On the other hand, if Adam had sinned and Eve remained innocent, their descendants would have inherited original sin. 1788 According to Peter the Lombard, Albertus Magnus, and others, pride was the original root of sin. 1789

At much length, the Schoolmen elaborate upon the sin against the Holy Ghost and the seven "capital or principal" offences,0the number of which they base on Proverbs 6:16, "These six things doth the Lord hate, yea, seven are an abomination unto Him." The question as to whether there would have been any admixture of the sexes if Adam had not sinned was answered in the affirmative, in view of the command to be fruitful and to replenish the earth. Bonaventura also elaborately discussed the question whether the number of male and female descendants would have been equal had man not sinned. This he also answered in the affirmative, partly on the ground that no woman would have been without a husband and no husband without a wife, for in paradise there would be neither polygamy or polyandry. He also based his conclusion upon Aristotle’s reason for the unequal conception of male and female children which is now due to some weakness or other peculiarity on the part of one of the parents. 1791 The ultimate purpose in the birth of children, had our first parents remained innocent, was that they might fill up the number of the elect angels.

Another question which was discussed with much warmth was which of the two sinned the more grievously, Adam or Eve, a question Hugo of St. Victor, Peter the Lombard, Albertus Magnus, Bonaventura, and other great Schoolmen united in attempting to solve—a question which arose quite naturally from Paul’s statement, 1 Tim. 2:14, that the woman was beguiled and not the man. The conclusion reached was that the preponderance of guilt was with Eve. The Lombard is inclined to be lenient with Adam and makes out that when he yielded to the persuasions of his wife, he was actuated by sympathy and was unwilling to give her pain by refusing her request. He was inexperienced in the divine severity and his sin was a venial, not a mortal fault. In fact this theologian distinctly gives it as his belief that Adam would not have given way to the temptation of the devil. 1792 Eve sinned by pride, desiring to be equal with God. Adam was not seduced by the devil at all and had in mind the mercy of God and intended later to make confession of his sin, and secure absolution. Eve’s sin was the more grievous for she sinned against herself, against God, and against her neighbor. Adam sinned against himself and God, but not against his neighbor. Hugo of St. Victor said that the woman believed that God was moved by envy in forbidding them to eat the fruit of the tree. Adam knew this to be false. His sin was in consenting to his wife and not correcting her. 1793 Albertus Magnus seems inclined to draw a more even balance. In that which pertained to the essence of sin, he said, Eve was the greater offender, but if we look at Adam’s endowment and at other circumstances, Adam was the greater offender. 1794 Bonaventura laid down the proposition that the gravity of sin depends upon three things: ingratitude, lust, and the corruption which follows the sinful act. 1795 Applying these rules to the Fall, he declared that, so far as ingratitude goes, Adam’s sin was the greater and, so far as lust goes, the woman’s sin was the greater. As for the evil consequences flowing from the sin, Adam sinned the more grievously as the cause of damnation to his posterity and Eve the more grievously as the occasion of such damnation. But as Eve was also the occasion of Adam’s sinning, her sin and guilt must be pronounced the greater.



Grace.—In the doctrine of grace, the mediaeval theology used the terminology of Augustine but makes the impression of departing from him in the direction of semi-Pelagianism. 1796 The treatment which Thomas Aquinas gave to two elements he found in the African father, namely, freewill which man preserves after the Fall, and the doctrine of merit, has the appearance of a de-Augustinianizing tendency. In reality Thomas taught that all that is good in man is from God and he can have no merit before God except by the prearrangement of a divine decree. 1797 In no other sense is an act of righteousness—that is, the doing of what we owe—to be called a meritorious act. Without the grace of the Holy Spirit it is not possible to merit eternal life. Man is not even able to make the preparation necessary to receive the light of grace. Prevenient grace is essential to beget in him the disposition to holiness,—interior voluntas. The number of the elect is fixed even to the persons of the saved, and persevering grace is given to those who remain steadfast to the end. Man cannot even know the truth without help from above. 1798

Thomas distinguished two kinds of merit or meritorious works: the merit which comes by the proper use of our natural gifts, — meritum de congruo,—and the merit which comes from the proper use of the gifts of grace,—meritum de condigno. In his original state, man was enabled by the superadded gift of grace to love God above all things. In the fallen state, grace is required to restore this ability, and no works of this second sort can be done without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Such statements as these could be multiplied almost indefinitely. There is, however, notwithstanding these clear statements, a tone in Thomas’ treatment which makes the impression that he modified strict Augustinianism and made a place for the real merit of works, and in this the Catholic Church follows him.

As for the satisfaction of Christ, Thomas Aquinas followed Anselm in holding that Christ’s death was not a price paid to the devil.9 He did not lay down a very exact definition of the mode in which the atonement was made efficacious; but he laid stress upon the merit which Christ won by the assent of his own will to the will of God. He does not speak of the propitiation of Christ in the way Abaelard and Peter the Lombard 1800did as an exercise of love drawing man to God. The love and obedience of Christ are efficient, through the sufferings he endured on the cross, in reconciling man to God and redeeming man from the power of the devil.

Thomas very clearly states the consequences of Christ’s atonement. The first is that thereby man comes to know how great the love of God is, and is provoked to love God in return. 1801 By the cross Christ set an example of humility, righteousness, and other virtues. He also taught men the necessity of keeping free from sin, overcoming the devil, and conquering death by dying to sin and the world. God might have pardoned man without the satisfaction of the cross, for all things are possible with Him. This was in opposition to Anselm’s position that God could have redeemed man in no other way than by the cross.

Bonaventura went further in opposition to Anselm and distinctly asserted that God could have liberated and saved the race otherwise than He did. He might have saved it by the way of pity—per viam misericordiae —in distinction from the way of justice. And in choosing this way he would have done no injury to the claims of justice. 1802 His chapter on this subject he closes with the words, "It would be dangerous for me to put a limit on God’s power to redeem, for He is able to do above what we are able to think."

No distinction was made by the mediaeval theologians between the doctrine of justification and the doctrine of sanctification, such as is made by Protestant theologians. Justification was treated as a part of the process of making the sinner righteous, and not as a judicial sentence by which he was declared to be righteous. Sanctification was so thoroughly involved in the sacramental system that we must look for its treatment in the chapters on the seven sacraments, the instrumentalities of sanctification; or under the head of the Christian virtues, faith, hope, and love, as in Bonaventura’s treatment. 1803 Thomas Aquinas discusses it under the head of the atonement and in special chapters entitled "the division of grace," 1804by which he means the distinction between prevenient, or preparatory, and cooperant grace,—gratia gratis data, or the grace which is given freely, and the gratis gratum faciens, or the grace which makes righteous.

Justification, says Thomas, is an infusion of grace. 1805 Four things are required for the justification of the sinner: the infusion of grace, the movement of the freewill to God in faith, the act of the freewill against sin, and the remission of sins. As a person, turning his back upon one place and receding from it, reaches another place, so in justification the will made free at once hates sin and turns itself to God.

Setting aside the distinction between justification and sanctification, there seems to be complete religious accord between Thomas Aquinas, the prince of the Schoolmen, and our Protestant view of redeeming grace as being from beginning to end the gracious act of God in view of the death of Christ. His theory of the sacraments, it is true, seems to modify this position. But this is an appearance rather than a reality. For the sacraments have their efficacious virtue by reason of God’s prior and gracious enactment attaching efficacy to them.



Faith.—In its definition of faith, the mediaeval theology came far short of the definition given by the Reformers. The Schoolmen 1806begin their discussion with the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews 11:1, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, and define faith as the grace by which things which are not seen are believed. And they scarcely get beyond this definition. Although several of Paul’s statements in the Epistle to the Romans are quoted by Thomas Aquinas, neither he nor the other Schoolmen rise to the idea that it is upon the basis of faith that a man is justified. Faith is a virtue, not a justifying principle, and is treated at the side of hope and love. These are called the "theological virtues" because they relate immediately to God and are founded ultimately upon the testimony of His Word alone. Christian faith works by love and is not a grace unless it be conjoined with love. The devils have intellectual faith without love, for they believe and tremble.

Faith manifests itself in three ways, in believing God, in trusting God, and believing in God. 1807 To believe God is to believe that He is. To trust God is to accept what He says as true. These two kinds of faith the devils have. To believe in God is to love God in believing, to go to Him believing, to be devoted to Him in believing, and to be incorporated with His members. This knowledge of faith is more certain than other knowledge because it is based upon God’s Word and is enlightened by the light which proceeds from the Word.

The Schoolmen insist that without faith it is impossible to please God, and preachers, like Honorius of Autun, declared that as a fish cannot live without water, so no one can be saved without faith. 1808 And yet Thomas Aquinas scarcely gets beyond the definition that faith is an assent of the intellect, assensus intellectus. 1809 However, love and faith, he says, are so closely conjoined that love may be called a form of faith, a mode of its expression, 1810and without love faith is dead. A sufficient faith in Christ demands four things, said the Lombard: assent to his nativity, his death, his resurrection, and his coming again for judgment. 1811 Thomas requires an explicit acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity even by the Old Testament saints, for the Trinity was revealed in the beginning when God said, "Let us make man in our own image." There can be no belief in the incarnation without belief in the Trinity. Faith ceases when the mind disbelieves a single article of the faith. 1812 He who disbelieves a single one of the articles of the Apostles’ Creed has no faith at all. 1813 After quoting Rom. 4:5, this great theologian stops with saying, that, in justification, an act of faith is required to the extent that a man believe that God is the justifier of men through the atonement of Christ. 1814

The Schoolmen did not understand Paul. The Reformers were obliged to re-proclaim the doctrine of justifying faith as taught in the epistles to the Romans and the Galatians. On the other hand, it is the merit of the Schoolmen that they emphasize the principle, that true faith worketh by love and that all other faith is vain, inanis. The failure of Protestant theologians always to set this forth distinctly has exposed the Protestant doctrine to the charge that faith is sufficient, even if it be unaccompanied by good works, or works of love towards God and man.5 The fault of the Schoolmen lay chiefly in their unscriptural and dangerous theory of sacramental grace which led to the substitution of a series of outward exercises, recommended by the priest, for simple trust in Christ’s free grace.


§ 121. The Future State.
The unseen world of spirits was divided by the mediaeval theology into five distinct regions or abodes,—receptacula animarum,—as Thomas Aquinas calls them—heaven, hell, purgatory, the limbus patrum, or the temporary abode of the Old Testament saints, and the limbus infantum, or the abode of children who die without being baptized.

Hell, the place of punishment or eternal dolors, 1816is the lake of sulphur and fire in which lost men and demons suffer eternal torment. It is a region of jet darkness, a deep prison as compared with heaven, into which the demons are thrust down. 1817 The longings and passions of those confined there go on continually burning and are never satisfied. Its fires burn but do not consume. No other heat can compare with its heat. 1818 The Schoolmen are agreed that the passages of Scripture, bearing on the fire of hell, are not figurative. The fire is material fire which afflicts both the spirits and bodies of the lost. 1819 The degree of torture is according to the desert.

The limbus patrum corresponds to Abraham’s bosom in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, the place where the worthies of the Old Testament dwelt till Christ descended into hades and released them. Before that time they enjoyed exemption from pain. Since then they have enjoyed heavenly bliss. Circumcision released them from original sin. Hell and this locality are probably in the same region or, at any rate, contiguous. 1820 The view, that the patriarchs remained in hades till Christ’s death, goes back to Hermas and Clement of Alexandria.

The limbus puerorum or infantum is the abode of children dying in infancy without having been baptized. They are there for original sin which only baptism can wash away. 1821 According to Thomas Aquinas, this region is probably a little lower than the limbus patrum. These children are free from pain, but are like the lost in being deprived of the vision of God and physical light. Theirs is the punishment of eternal death,—supplicium mortis aeternae,—but their damnation is the lightest of all—omnium levissima. They have no hope of beatitude. God, in His justice, provides that they never make any advance nor go back, that they neither have joy nor grief. They remain forever unchanged. 1822 Such is the hopeless doom to which the great Dominican and the great Franciscan theologians of the Middle Ages consigned all children dying unbaptized. Strange that the Schoolmen, in the interest of a more merciful doctrine, did not use Christ’s blessed words, "Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God." But they did not. The doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of the necessity of water baptism for salvation were carried to their extreme logical conclusions without regard for the superabounding grace of God. So also Augustine had taught and so most of the Reformers taught at a later time.

Christ’s descent into hades was carefully discussed by the Schoolmen. It occurred as soon as his soul was separated from the body at his death. He was in the infernal regions during the three days of his burial, but did not assume their pains. The reason for this visit was twofold, says Bonaventura, —to release the Old Testament saints and to confound the adversaries of the Gospel, the demons. 1823 Thomas Aquinas tried to show that, when Job said, Job 17:16, "my hope shall go down to the bars of Sheol," or into the "deepest hell," as the Vulgate puts it, he meant that he went no farther than the limbus patrum and not to the abode of the lost. 1824 Christ descended into hades, according to Thomas, 1825for a threefold purpose, to deliver us from the necessity of going there ourselves; to release the Hebrew saints by breaking the bars of hell—vectes inferni,—that is, by "spoiling principalities and powers," Col. 2:15; and third, to make show of his divinity—manifestatio divinitatis — to the demons by preaching, 1 Pet. 3:19, and by enlightening those dark spaces with his presence, as it is said, Ps. 24:7, "Lift up your doors, O ye princes, and the king of glory shall come in." Here again the Vulgate is responsible for a mistake, the word "gates" being translated "princes." 1826 Christ’s descent into hades did not help the unbaptized children. After this life it is too late to acquire grace. 1827

Purgatory is a sort of reformatory school for baptized Catholics who are not good enough at death to go directly to heaven. They are there in that intermediate region for actual transgressions,8whose guilt the sacrament of penance and extreme unction had not fully removed. The existence of purgatory is based mainly upon 2 Mac. 12:40 and the universal teaching of the Church. 1829 Its inhabitants belong to the communion of saints and are within the reach of human intercession. Masses for the dead are instituted to meet their case. For infants in the limbus puerorum, such intercessory works are of no avail. But one who has been baptized in infancy or manhood, no matter how flagitious or criminal his career may have been, for him there is hope, nay there is certainty, that in time he will pass out of purgatory into the company of the blessed.

Heaven includes three kinds of rewards, said Bonaventura: the substantial reward or the vision of God; the consubstantial or the glorification of the body to which belong the qualities of transpicuity, lightness, agility, and impassibility which are granted in the degree we exercise love here on earth; 1830and the accidental reward or the ornament of the aureole given for preaching and leading others to salvation, for virginal purity and martyrdom.

The bliss of heaven, said Thomas Aquinas, consists in the immediate vision of God. 1831 It is a state from which there will be no lapse. The beatified know what is occurring on earth, hear the prayers that ascend to them, and by their merits intercede for their brethren here. St. Bernard, in his homilies on the Canticles, 1832and Anselm 1833give us lofty descriptions of the blessedness of the heavenly estate. And the satisfaction and glory of the soul in heaven has never been quite so well portrayed as in the poem of Bernard of Cluny:—


O sweet and blessed country, the home of God’s elect,

O sweet and blessed country, that eager hearts expect;

Jesus in mercy bring us to that sweet land of rest,

To be with God the Father and Spirit ever blest.


It remained for Dante to give to the chilling scholastic doctrines of purgatory and the lower regions a terrible reality in poetical form and imagery and also to describe the beatific vision of paradise.

The remarkable vision which a certain Englishman, Turchill, had of the future world, as related at length by Roger of Wendover 1834and others, reveals the crass popular ideas of the future state. St. Julian appeared to this honest laborer, and took him off to "the middle of the world," where they entered a church which, as Turchill was told, received the souls of all those who had recently died. Mary, through her intercession, had brought it about that all souls born again should, as soon as they left the body, be taken to this church and so be freed from the attacks of demons. Near one of the church walls was the entrance to hell through which came a most foul stench. Stretching from another wall was the great lake of purgatorial fire in which souls were immersed, some to their knees, some to their necks. And above the lake was a bridge, paved with thorns and stakes, over which all had to pass before they could arrive at the mount of joy. Those who were not assisted by special masses walked over the bridge very slowly and with excruciating pain. On the mount was a great and most wonderful church which seemed to be large enough to contain all the inhabitants of the world. St. Nicolas, St. James, and other saints had charge of the church of Mary and the purgatorial lake and bridge. Turchill also saw St. Peter in the church of Mary and before him the souls were brought to receive sentence. The devil and his angels were there to hurry off to the infernal regions those whose evil deeds tipped the balances. Turchill was also taken by a certain St. Domninus to behold the sports the devils indulge in. Coming to the infernal realm, they found iron seats, heated to a white heat and with nails driven in them, on which an innumerable multitude was sitting. Devils were sitting around against the walls poking fun at the unfortunate beings for the evils they had been guilty of in this life. Men of different occupations and criminal practices, the soldier, tradesman, priest, the adulterer, thief, and usurer, were then brought forth and made to enact over again their wicked deeds, after which their flesh was fiercely torn by the demons and burnt, but again restored. Such are the popular pictures which form the vestibule of Dante’s Inferno.

Of all the gruesome religious tales of the Middle Ages, the tales representing the devil as torturing the naked soul were among the most gruesome. The common belief was that the soul, an entity with form as the Schoolmen defined it, is at death separated from the body. Caesar of Heisterbach tells of an abbot of Morimond with whose soul the demons played ball, rolling it from hill to hill, across the valley between, until God allowed the soul to enter the body again. This was before the abbot became a monk.

Another of these stories, told by Caesar of Heisterbach, 1835concerned a student to whom the devil gave a stone. As long as the student held it in his hand, he had supernatural knowledge. When he died, his body was taken to the church, and while his fellow-students stood around it singing, the devil carried his soul to hell. There the demons played ball with it. Their sharp claws stuck deep into it and gave it unspeakable pain. But, at the intercession of the saints, the Lord rescued the soul and reunited it with the body and the young man suddenly arose from his bier. In telling his experience he related that his soul had been like a round piece of glass through which he could see on every side. Fortunately, the fellow was scared badly enough to go to a convent and do sound penance. Bernard of Thiron bore witness that he saw the devils carry an unfaithful monk’s soul out of the window. 1836

The severity of the purgatorial pains is vouched for in this story by Thomas of Chantimpré,7for which he quotes Albertus Magnus. A good man, after suffering from a severe sickness for a year, had this alternative offered him by an angel: to go to purgatory and suffer for three days or endure for a year longer his sickness and then go directly to glory. He chose the first. So his soul took its departure, but the purgatorial agony of a day seemed like the pains of ages and the sufferer was glad to have the opportunity of returning to his body, which was still unburied, and endure his sickness for another year.

Such stories are numerous and reveal the coarse theology which was current in convent and among the people.



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