Catholic History

Listverse
John Wycliffe

WycliffeIt didn’t take long for Wycliffe to irritate a few Catholics, especially Pope Gregory XI. Their animosity toward each other may be without rival in the history of the Catholic Church. Gregory issued no less than five Papal Bulls attempting to shut Wycliffe up, but he would not be silent. Wycliffe went so far as to argue that the pope and the Antichrist were practically equivalent, and denounced the papal throne as the throne of Satan on Earth. He may have been the first to declare this now-popular idea (popular among Protestants).

In a nutshell, John Wycliffe presaged Martin Luther as a Protestant reformer. Wycliffe lived from c. 1328 to 31 December 1384, about a hundred years before Luther, and Wycliffe saw very much the same problems in the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism itself was fine with him, but the Church was largely corrupt by his day. A lot of its practices will make entries farther down. Wycliffe wanted people to worship God and Jesus according to the Bible, not according to the popes and their bishops and priests. He saw that people are corruptible, while the Bible is not, and thus, there was no good sense in taking one’s troubles to a priest, so the priest could make one feel better. Communication directly with God, via prayer, was not impossible, but required an understanding of the Bible, and the next entry outlines a specific grievance Wycliffe had with the Church on this subject. Wycliffe preached in England, and on the Continent, that priests should do nothing more than oversee church services and help the laypeople interpret the Bible for themselves. He argued based on various Bible passages that secular kings and queens had a divine right, direct from God Almighty, to be kings and queens. Thus, their rule should not be opposed by anyone, anymore than God’s rule should be opposed. The popes, however, routinely told Europe’s monarchs what was what in every field of activity. It didn’t take long for Wycliffe to irritate a few Catholics, especially Pope Gregory XI. Their animosity toward each other may be without rival in the history of the Catholic Church. Gregory issued no less than five Papal Bulls attempting to shut Wycliffe up, but he would not be silent. Wycliffe went so far as to argue that the pope and the Antichrist were practically equivalent, and denounced the papal throne as the throne of Satan on Earth. He may have been the first to declare this now-popular idea (popular among Protestants). He was the first to translate the complete Bible into English, which did not endear him to the Catholic hierarchy. The Church did not attempt to catch and kill Wycliffe, ostensibly because it could not find him (he traveled extensively in England, France, and the Netherlands), or because it did not like the risk of invading England to get him. He died three days after suffering a stroke during Mass. 30 years later, the Council of Constance ended “the three popes’ reign” and elected Alexander V, who immediately denounced Wycliffe as a heretic, had as many of his books burned as could be found on the Continent and in England, excommunicated and consigned to everlasting flames from the moment of his death. In 1428, Pope Martin V had him dug up and burned at the stake.

Galileo

 20050719015343!Justus Sustermans - Portrait Of Galileo Galilei, 1636Galileo was of the opinion that Nicholas Copernicus was right. The Earth is not the center. The Church didn’t want to hear that. Galileo went to Rome to persuade the Church not to ban Copernicus’s works, and instead of convincing them, the Church officials turned on Galileo and demanded that he desist with his ideas of Heliocentrism. He refused, but did back off for a few years. Urban VIII tried what he dared to help him, but the facts themselves were deemed vehemently heretical, and Galileo was finally brought before an Inquisition (more on those later), and forced under threat of excommunication and torture to “abjure, curse, and detest” heliocentrism.

The trial of Galileo Galilei is one of the most infamous and embarrassing moments in Catholic history. It still hasn’t gone away. Galileo seems to have been always at odds with the Catholic Church’s hegemony on all education, even though he was good friends with Pope Urban VIII, and dedicated some of his works to him. But he discovered, via his own pet design for the refracting telescope, that Jupiter has moons, and Jupiter’s moons orbit Jupiter, NOT Earth. Know what that means? Orbits are based on gravity, not mankind’s arrogance. This idea is called heliocentrism, which is, Mr. Sun is at the center of the solar system, and Earth, like everything else nearby, orbits Mr. Sun. Galileo was of the opinion that Nicholas Copernicus was right. The Earth is not the center. The Church didn’t want to hear that. Galileo went to Rome to persuade the Church not to ban Copernicus’s works, and instead of convincing them, the Church officials turned on Galileo and demanded that he desist with his ideas of Heliocentrism. He refused, but did back off for a few years. Urban VIII tried what he dared to help him, but the facts themselves were deemed vehemently heretical, and Galileo was finally brought before an Inquisition (more on those later), and forced under threat of excommunication and torture to “abjure, curse, and detest” heliocentrism. The legend goes that, seated in a chair in a bare room before the table of Inquisitors, Galileo sighed, put his hands behind his back, crossed his fingers and said something to the effect of, “Fine. The Earth does not move around the Sun.” Then, under his breath, he muttered, “E pur si muove,” which is, “And yet it moves.” How much of this is true cannot be ascertained for certain, but at one point he did let his Italian temper get the better of him (after several years of aggravation), when he stood and bellowed, “The Bible tells you how to go to Heaven! It does NOT tell you how the heavens go!” The Catholic Church did not lift its ban on heliocentrical thought until 1758. It was not until 1992, 350 years after his death, that a pope, John Paul II, formally apologized for the Church placing Galileo under house arrest for the last 9 years of his life, and denouncing his discoveries which, ironically, were also incorrect as Galileo taught that the Sun was the center of the universe – not just our solar system. John Paul II’s successor, Benedict XVI, is on record as stating that the Catholic Church’s “verdict against Galileo was rational and just and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune.” Politically, mind you; not factually.

 Joan of Arc

Image-1 During this farce, the inquisitors (French Bishops who favored the rule of the English), especially Jean LeMaitre, tried to trap Joan with her own words, just like the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with his own words. And Jesus is probably quite proud of how Joan handled herself, because she calmly and carefully turned all their traps back against them.

Joan of Arc believed that God had called her to lead the French in kicking the English out of France once and for all. She instigated an uprising in 1429, and led a successful relief force to the besieged city of Orleans, where she aided Gilles de Rais (who, you may recall from another list, was also a savage serial killer), as well as Jean de Dunois and Jean de Brosse, in lifting the siege and routing the English oppressors. Long story short, Joan roused the political irritation of quite a few Catholic honchos in the area. But when they set about opening up a trial against her, they could find no legitimate evidence. But they opened the trial anyway, and also refused to allow her any legal counsel. This was patently against their own rules. During this farce, the inquisitors (French Bishops who favored the rule of the English), especially Jean LeMaitre, tried to trap Joan with her own words, just like the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with his own words. And Jesus is probably quite proud of how Joan handled herself, because she calmly and carefully turned all their traps back against them. She left them no ground at all on which to base her execution, so of course, they killed her anyway. They hated her and wanted to kill her. In the end, they had to lie. Joan of Arc was executed for heresy, not because she claimed to hear the voice of God, not because she defied and killed the English, but because she was said to have worn a man’s clothing while in prison. This was also forbidden, and thus punishable by being burned at the stake. She requested that her last meal be Holy Communion. The Church officials refused, in essence trying everything they could to consign her to Hell. It was even discovered after her death that she had never worn a man’s clothing. Her case was successfully appealed 25 years later, and she was exonerated by the Pope at the behest of St Joan’s mother. Nevertheless, the Church did not canonize her until 16 May, 1920, five hundred years after she was killed.

 Jan Hus

Jan Hus 2 Jan Hus (c. 1369 – 6 July 1415) was a Czech priest and Catholic reformer who could not stand what he saw as various corruptions rife throughout the Roman Catholic Church. It would take too long to explain every detail of his arguments with the Church, but they can all be simplified to his view that the priests, bishops, archbishops and popes were immoral and given to sin, just as any other human.

Along with the next entry, this is one of the two most appalling incidents of criminal cowardice in the history of the Catholic Church. Jan Hus (c. 1369 – 6 July 1415) was a Czech priest and Catholic reformer who could not stand what he saw as various corruptions rife throughout the Roman Catholic Church. It would take too long to explain every detail of his arguments with the Church, but they can all be simplified to his view that the priests, bishops, archbishops and popes were immoral and given to sin, just as any other human. Thus, any rule the Church established was corrupt, because 100% of the rules necessary for Christian living and salvation had already been written by God in the Bible. He made no secret of his disdain and outright antagonism for the Church in his Prague pulpit. He was strongly influenced by #10, and when #10 died a peaceful death, Hus carried on in his place. He especially wanted the papal schism to end. There were two popes at the time, Gregory XII and Benedict XIII. In 1409, Alexander V was elected to appease both sides, but this backfired. Hus saw it was one more proof that the Church was a human institution, and no longer divine. In 1411, indulgences received a sudden surge of popularity following the death of Prague’s Archbishop, Zbynek Zajic, when Antipope John XXIII advocated indulgences to insure that all those under his bishopric would be cleaned of the sin of following Hus. Hus sternly preached against indulgences. So, in 1415, the Church convened the Council of Constance to put an end to the papal schism, but also to put an end to Hus. They tricked him into coming to the Council under a letter of indemnity, which meant they promised to do no harm at all to him. All they wanted was to talk. While he was there, the Church started the rumor that he was trying to escape the city of Constance (Konstanz). He was not trying to escape, because he wrote his will before leaving Prague. He knew they might try to kill him, and they did, arresting, trying and imprisoning him for heresy. He was held in an underground dungeon, fed very little, contracting the flu and possibly pneumonia. He was ordered to recant his teachings, and he refused, stating that he stood firmly and solely on the Bible, that for the Church to demand his recantation of the Bible was the same as demanding God’s genuflection to the Roman Catholic Church. This infuriated the Church officials, who promptly sentenced him to death. They refused him the Last Rites and burned him at the stake.

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