before it is named

May 20, 2011

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Rationalism in Europe re. Magic and Witchcraft

“We frequently find, in the writings of the inquisitors, language which implies that a certain amount of scepticism was, even in their time, smouldering in some minds. It was not indeed sufficient to make any deep impression on public opinion. It is identified with no great name, and produced no great book; but it was yet sufficiently evident to elicit the anxiety of some theologians. ‘Those men, ‘ wrote Gerson, ‘should be treated with scorn, and indeed sternly corrected, who ridicule theologians whenever they speak of demons, or attribute to demons any effects, as if these things were entirely fabulous. This error has arisen among some through want of faith, and partly through weakness and imperfection of intellect… for, as Plato says, to refer everything to the senses, and to be incapable of turning away from them, is the greatest impediment to truth.’ Sprenger also, in a long chapter, instructed theologians how to meet a spirit of vague scepticism which had arisen among certain layment; ‘who had, indeed, no fixed method of reasoning, but were blindly groping in the dark, touching now on one point, and now on another.’ ((…)) in the north of Italy, a positive rebellion had broken out, accompanied by a tone of incredulity which ((Spina)) piteously laments. ‘Most imprudent, most undevout, and most unfaithful men will not believe the things they ought to believe; and what is still more lamentable, they exert all the influence to obstruct those who are destroying the enemies of Christ.’ Such a conduct was full of danger for those who were guilty of it, as they might themselves be justly punished for conniving at the crime: and it was a distinct reflection upon the Church which was represented by the inquisitors and upon the Pope by whom the inquisitors were commissioned. We find too, the clergy claiming, in a very peremptory tone, the supreme jurisdiction of these cases, and occasionally alleging the misconduct of lay judges who had suffered witches to depart unharmed.” – WEH Lecky

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