The Rise of Popular Heresies
Let's first define
. The technical definition is "error, obdurately held," which
meant, in the Middle Ages, that a person believed something that was contrary to
the "revealed truth" offered by God to humanity through the Church, and that the
person continued to hold that belief even after it had been pointed out to him or her
how that belief was contrary to "revealed truth." Heresy was both hated and feared.
People believed in physical Hell, in which sinners would suffer the most
excruciating pain imaginable forever and would be aware that their agony would
never end. You would do well to think about that for a moment. The Church
taught, and most people believed, that the only way to avoid such a fate was by
following the teachings and being protected by the rituals (sacraments) of the
Church. A heretic was doomed to Hell, but could also convince others of his or her
wrong belief and so lead them to Hell also. So, a heretic was regarded as we might
regard someone carrying a highly contagious and incurable disease. We would lock
such a person up where they would not come in contact with anyone; the people of
the Middle Ages killed them. Moreover, they often killed them in public and
horrible ways as a warning to everyone of how dangerous heretics were.
To round out the matter of definitions, the opposite of
"right belief." There had been heresies since the emergence of the organized
Church in the fourth century, but they had generally been disputes over points of
theology: Arianism over the relationship between God the Father and God the Son,
Donatism over the ability of sinful priests to administer efficacious sacraments,
Pelagianism over the relative importance of faith and works in achieving salvation,
and so forth. During the twelfth century, however, several heresies arose that were
in fact criticisms of the practices of the Church rather than religious theory, and
gained widespread support among the laity. Another matter of definitions. Church
officers, such as priests, monks, bishops, and the like, are
and those who are not are called
. Taken as a group, Church personnel are
, while those who are not officers of the Church are called
is an adjective meaning "having to do with the Church,"
refers to the world outside of the Church.
bishops, and others whose work brought them in close contact with the laity. Lay
criticism of Church practices is called
There were numerous reasons for the rise of anti-clerical among the laity during
the twelfth century.
The growth of the educated class, including laymen, brought about by the