Posted in category "Accountability"

Benedetta Carlini – First Lesbian Nun Story

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 13, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

Benedetta Carlini (1590-1661) was a mystic, seductress and nun. Dr. Judith C. Brown chronicled her life in the 1986 book, Immodest Acts. The book came on the heels of Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan’s bestseller, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, which was published in 1985. Benedetta was Abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God in Pescia, Italy when she was accused of heresy and “female sodomy.” Her story is important not only as a documented lesbian relationship in the convent, but how an intelligent, persuasive woman gained, experienced and exercised power and celebrity within Catholicism’ male-dominated structure.  In the end, she was brought low by jealousy and her own excesses. She also had miscalculated the tectonic shift in the Church from the Counter Reformation: principally an emphasis on correction of clerical abuses, and more emphasis on intellectual understanding vs. supernatural manifestations of divine favor.

The story of Abbess Benedetta Carlini was discovered by accident by Dr. Brown, a historian at Stanford University while she was researching the economic history of the region and the Medici rule.  “I found Benedetta Carlini by chance, by leafing through an inventory of nearly forgotten documents in the State Archive of Florence.  The entry in the inventory read: ‘Papers relating to a trial against Sister Benedetta Carlini of Vellano, abbess of the Theatine nuns of Pescia, who pretended to be a mystic, but who was discovered to be a woman of ill repute.’”  This discovery of an ecclesiastical investigation contained what is probably the earliest account of a sexual relationship between two nuns. The documents concerning Abbess Benedetta Carlini consisted mostly of transcripts of a series of inquests between 1619 and 1623.

In 1986, Dr. Brown published her book about Benedetta’s life, investigations, and trials.  Titled Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.  It was widely reviewed in both scholarly and popular journals and publications.  I talked to Dr. Brown about speaking at the Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) West Coast conference in May 1986.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t available to participate.  Too bad, because many scholars are dry and pedantic, and I found Dr. Brown to be both engaging and knowledgeable. She was one of a handful of women at that time to write an even-handed account of lesbianism who was not a lesbian herself.  The book served as a prop in Su Friedrich’s sensational 1987 film, Damned If You Don’t.  

Benedetta’s parents brought her to the convent in 1599 when she was nine years old. She entered the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, more commonly known as the Theatines. The order was founded in 1583 by the Venerable Ursula Benincasa, who was famous for her visions and piety. The fame she gained from her visions led some to accuse her of being possessed by a devil. In 1617, Ursula had her most famous vision, where Jesus (in some versions, Mary) appeared to her. In the vision Jesus praised her order and promised them salvation.  Ursula died in 1618 at the age of 71. Benedetta grew up learning about Ursula’s visions and the fame and power that proceeded from them.

Like the Venerable Ursula, Benedetta had visions.  In 1613, when she was 23, she reported visions to the mother superior and her confessor. A young boy helped her climb the “Mountain of Perfection;” she was surrounded by wild animals, only to be saved by Jesus.  In another vision, while praying one morning, she found herself “in a garden, surrounded by fruits and flowers.” Male figures came to dominate her visions—a beautiful youth, young men who beat her with sticks, chains, and swords; a handsome guardian angel named Splenditello, and Jesus himself.  Over time, the visions increased in intensity and detail, and Benedetta became well known for them.  Fearful that Sister Benedetta was being harassed by demonic forces, Sister Bartolomea Crivelli was assigned to share her cell, observe her, and help her if possible.

On the second Friday of Lent 1619, Benedetta received an unmistakable sign of divine favor, the stigmata.  Prior to this event Benedetta and others in her community were unsure if her visions were divine or diabolical in origin; but by manifesting the wounds of Christ she proved their divinity.

Her celebrity as a mystic blossomed.  That same year the Theatine nuns elected her as their abbess.

Shortly after her election, she began to deliver sermons to the other nuns.  She spoke in a trance, an angel speaking through her, exhorting the nuns to purify themselves, and be grateful for Benedetta’s presence in their midst. In the months that followed, there were more trances and visitations: from St. Catherine of Siena and an angel—a beautiful youth in a white robe named Splenditello, even Jesus himself.  They spoke from within Benedetta, at times with loving praise, other times harshly or issuing commandments, such as a ban on eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.

On May 20, 1619, Jesus appeared to Benedetta and told her he wanted to marry her in a special ceremony.  He had specific ideas for the procession, the chapel decorations, list of guests and the ceremony itself. At the wedding, while the other nuns watched and listened, Benedetta claimed the Blessed Mother looked on benevolently while Jesus placed a gold ring on her finger. Speaking through her, Jesus said, “I would like that this, my bride, be empress of all the nuns.” He added that the Great Duke of Tuscany should be informed of her greatness. All those who did not obey, believe, and cherish her would be punished.

Although the nuns had gone along with Benedetta’s visions, the self-flagellation during trance-sermons and even a ban on salami and cheese; the wedding with Jesus and his dictate that they should obey her or face divine punishment was a step too far. They reported her to the ecclesiastical authorities, who investigated her twice between 1619 and 1623. They discovered that she had faked the stigmata by pricking herself with a needle; secretly ate salami and mortadella during her “ban” on meat and dairy and painted on her miraculous wedding ring with saffron.

But the most damning, was the confession of Sr. Bartolomea Crivelli, Benedetta’s assigned companion.  She described her two-year affair with the abbess.  The women met for sex at least three times a week.  “Embracing her, she would put her under herself and kissing her as if she were a man, she would speak words of love to her. And she would stir so much on top of her that both of them corrupted themselves.” They also masturbated each other and had oral sex to orgasm.  Mutual fondling carried a relatively light penalty—two years of penance, plus the loss of Benedetta’s status as abbess. The fact that Benedetta claimed “Splenditello” the angel committed the sexual acts allowed clerical investigators to classify all of Benedetta’s supernatural visions as diabolic in nature. In their report, investigators criticized Benedetta’s “immodest and lascivious language,” and “the great display of vanity” of her mystical marriage with Jesus. 

Benedetta, 36, was condemned to involuntary hermitage and spent the remaining 35 years of her life in solitary confinement.  The only other mention of Benedetta is an August 1661 entry in an unnamed nun’s diary stating that Benedetta Carlini died at age 71 of fever and colic pains. The nun added that Benedetta was “always popular among the laity.”  For her confession, Sr. Bartolomea Crivelli was spared any punishment. She died in 1660, a year before Benedetta.

Why the long solitary confinement?  I suspect jealousy, anger at her duplicity, and fear that her charm and intelligence could help her reclaim a leadership position led some nuns to promote her isolation within the community. She would feel her losses every day.  Church authorities wanted to discourage her dangerous popularity with the laity. Her supernatural claims were unwanted in the new age of science and Counter-Reformation.

There is no record of what Benedetta thought and felt after she was led to her lonely cell. Did she have any regrets? Did she revisit her visions– real, imagined or devised? Did her thoughts ever stray to Bartolomea, lying in her bed nearby?

Benedetta Carlini has been the inspiration or subject of films, plays and articles.  They include:

Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith Brown, Oxford University Press, 1986

Damned If You Don’t – a film by Su Friedrich in 1989.  If you want to see the film, below are the links for streaming and for DVD

Damned If You Don’t

Vimeo streaming for $3.99
DVD for $24.99

Discourses of Desire: Sexuality and Christian Women’s Visionary Narratives,” by E. Ann Matter, Journal of Homosexuality, 1989-1990

Big Gay Portal to Hell, a podcast by Catherine Clune-Taylor on Caveat

Stigmata, a 2011 play by Carolyn Gage

Vile Affections: Based on the True Story of Benedetta Carlini, a 2006 play by Vanda

Benedetta Carlini: Lesbian Nun of Renaissance Italy, a play by director and playwright, Rosemary Rowe.

Benedetta, an upcoming film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Virginia Efira as Benedetta.  The film is scheduled to premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

George Floyd and Willful Blindness

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 6, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Pious Trash, Politics

“My friends,” he said, “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” – Pope Francis, June 3, 2020

That message should sting all those “pro-life” Catholic bishops, priests, prominent lay people and voters who supported Donald Trump for president in 2016.

But it should also sting liberal/progressive educators, union leaders and their apologists. They know education is the biggest ticket out of poverty. Instead, they make excuses for schools that continue to fail their students. They don’t use their considerable political capital to fund school social services, get rid of bad teachers, or change the curriculum to reflect the students they teach.

 

Pious Trash: The REAL Rainbow Plague in Poland

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 16, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals, Sex

The 2019 Polish documentary on clerical sex abuse, “Tell No One” highlighted a problem:  Many of the priestly sex abusers and credibly accused child molesters are well-loved and respected national and local figures.  Some people are pushing for a total accounting; others stress individual forgiveness and resumption of public ministry.  Notable figures include –

-Father Henryk Janknowski, one of the founders of the Solidarity union. He had his statue removed in Gdansk.

– Father Eugeniusz Makulski, who oversaw the construction of Poland’s biggest basilica. He commissioned a statue of himself offering the building to St. Pope John Paul II.  I found his kneeling in front of the pope an apt pose, considering what he is. Makulski’s representations have been removed from the shrine. 

-Father Franciszka Cybula, personal chaplain to anti-Communist hero Lech Walesa.  Slawoj Leszek Glodz, Archbishop of Gdansk, lavished praise on Cybula and gave him a grandiose funeral.

– Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, a much-loved figure who helped lead Poland’s anti-Communist movement.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former archbishop of Krakow and papal envoy.  He was quietly recalled from the Dominican Republic in 2013. Wesolowski was accused of possessing child pornography and paying poor boys and teens for sex acts.  Luckily, he died of a “heart attack” before his canonical trial was about to begin.  Wesolowski was also wanted on sex abuse charges in Poland. It seemed to me he had quite a good clerical showing at his funeral. 

On August 1, 2019, Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow celebrated a Mass commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.  Archbishop J?draszewski said in his homily: “The red [communist] plague no longer walks on our earth, but a new neo-Marxist one that wants to conquer our souls, hearts, and minds has appeared. It is not a red, but a rainbow plague.”

Did he mean Poland’s pedophile and sex abuser priests, bishops and cardinals; or, was he referring only to Polish LGBT activists?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Catholic Register Stumbles Over Archbishop Vigano’s Poison Pen

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 8, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Dissent, Fishy Fridays, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics

I’m glad I’m not Jeanette DeMelo, editor-in-chief of the National Catholic Register.  Today will not be a good day in the office. Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin received a few demerits, too.  No holy card prize for best writer this week.

Yesterday, May 7, 2020, the Register published “Appeal for the Church and the World.” Read the letter here. Drafted by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the letter claimed that the coronavirus pandemic has been exaggerated to foster widespread social panic and undercut freedom, as a preparation for the establishment of a one-world government.  It is a religious freedom screed along the lines of “Easter People” – a petition released a month ago by Dr. Janet Smith, ex-Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor.

Vigano’s letter was published by several EWTN-owned media companies, including the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency (CNA). Campaign Life Coalition, an ultra-conservative Canadian organization, also published the letter on their website, LifeSiteNews.

Listed right after Archbishop Vigano as a major signatory was Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.  Cardinal Sarah denied signing the letter.  “I share on a personal basis some of the questions or concerns raised with regard to restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” he tweeted on his Twitter account, “but I have not signed this petition.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, the Bishop of Tyler, Texas, told Catholic News Agency in a May 7 email that he “did not sign off on this letter.”

DeMelo said that Archbishop Vigano had vouched for the authenticity of Cardinal Sarah’s signature.  “The Register contacted Archbishop Vigano the principal author, and asked him specifically about the authenticity of the signature of Cardinal Sarah and he said: “I can confirm 100% that Cardinal Sarah signed it,” DeMelo told CNA.

Either Archbishop Vigano or Cardinal Sarah are lying.  Which one?

It is safe to say the Register won’t be publishing any more letters from Archbishop Vigano and his minions anytime soon without independently verifying every statement and name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumb and Nasty

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 28, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Fishy Fridays, Scandals

Paul E. Lubienecki, 62, an adjunct professor at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY was arrested on February 12, 2020, on two felony cyberstalking charges.  He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Agents from the FBI’s Buffalo, NY field office arrested Lubienecki in connection to a death threat made against 7 Eyewitness News investigative reporter Charlie Specht. Specht has won state and national awards for his investigations of the Diocese of Buffalo.  In the last six months Specht and his wife had received over 50 threatening calls from an unknown individual.

The voicemails began in August 2019, just as the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team reported on scandals at Christ the King Seminary, where multiple seminarians quit the seminary because of alleged abuse and corruption in the diocese. The messages referenced members of Specht’s family and urged Specht to stop his reporting on the diocese. “You’re still a bad Catholic and a horrible reporter,” one voicemail warned. “I hope to God I don’t see you walking around.”

On December 4, 2019, the day Specht reported on Bishop Malone’s resignation he received this message: “Oh, you must be so happy. You destroyed the Diocese of Buffalo and Bishop Malone. Oh, you must be so proud. You’re a piece of shit, you are really a piece of shit… You must be so proud of how you destroyed everything. I’m gonna destroy your career.”

On February 4, 2020, a few hours after the diocese announced the closure of Christ the King Specht gave a live report from the seminary.  Moments later, a caller left a voicemail. “You must be so happy the seminary’s closing. You’re a bad person.  I know where you live…I’m gonna find you.  I’m gonna kill you.”

Lubienecki had nothing to say as he left the courthouse after his arraignment. “Do you have anything to say about the cyberstalking charge?” asked 7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley. “Why would you make a threat to somebody, especially to kill them. Isn’t that against the teaching of the catholic faith?” questioned Buckley.

Censor Librorum Notes:  No wonder the Church is a mess with a dumb-ass like that teaching ethics at a seminary.

 

 

Lent 2020 – To Be A Catholic

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 26, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Politics

“Catholicism is a religion of the head as well as the heart, and to be a Catholic is to commit to dogmas that distinguish our faith from others. Like most religions, it also requires a lifelong struggle to practice that faith day to day. The practice can be difficult. Today’s America is a consumer-driven society filled with endless distractions and temptations for people struggling to live by spiritual as well as material impulses.” – Mario Cuomo, Commonweal Magazine, 2002

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) was governor of New York from 1983-1994.

An Examen for Ash Wednesday.  Have a good Lent.

 

 

 

Pious Trash: President Trump’s National Prayer Breakfast Appearance

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 7, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Faith, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

The National Prayer Breakfast is a Washington, DC tradition that stretches back to 1953, when president Dwight Eisenhower established it at the suggestion of evangelist Billy Graham.  It is a bi-partisan event with political, business and civic leaders coming together to pray.  Many members of Congress normally attend.

Yesterday’s breakfast had a different vibe.  President Trump used the podium to attack supporters of his impeachment drive.  “As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said.  He scolded his opponents by saying impeachment supporters “know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”  He added, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” He went on, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘ I pray for you’ when you know that is not so.”  The last jab was directed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has previously said she prays for him. 

Pelosi responded in a news conference after the event.  She told reporters it was “completely inappropriate” for Trump to criticize people for looking to their faith as a basis for their decisions–“especially at a prayer breakfast.”  “I pray hard for him because he’s so off the track of our constitution, our values, our country,” she said. “He really needs our prayers.”

I’m not sure all the prayers in the world will help our dysfunctional Congress, and the nasty, pathological liar we have for a president.  President Trump is Roy Cohn resurrected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Church Militant Comes Out Fighting

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 31, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Celebrities, Faith, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash

Bishop Robert Baron, the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, and probably the top social media prelate in the world, floated the idea that bishops should consider an official designation for Catholic teachers on social media. He runs the famously successful Word on Fire ministry.

In a January 24, 2020 interview with the National Catholic Register Baron said he believes it is within the scope of a diocesan bishop’s authority to apply a vetting and recognition process for online teachers of the faith, similar to the mechanism Pope St. John Paul II developed in the 1990 apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae for colleges and universities.

Bishop Baron called the current era “a golden age of evangelization and apologetics” because the internet makes it much easier to access Catholic content. But be also addressed the downside of social media. “There are, to be blunt,” he said, “a disconcerting number of such people on social media who are trading in hateful, divisive speech, often deeply at odds with the theology of the Church and who are, sadly, having a powerful impact on the people of God.”

In order to stop online misinformation from people or groups claiming to represent what the Church teaches, Barron told the Register that perhaps he and his brother bishops could “introduce something like a mandatum for those who claim to teach the Catholic faith online, whereby a bishop affirms that the person is teaching within the full communion of the Church.” 

This suggestion got an immediate reaction from Michael Voris, 58, who runs St. Michael’s Media and its website, Church Militant.  Church Militant is a gossipy, gadfly site with a focus on LGBT issues and personalities, and church officials he doesn’t consider orthodox enough.  These include Pope Francis, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Voris’ own bishop, Archbishop Allen Henry Vigneron of Detroit.  Voris’ homosexual past was made public in 2016. He said he is chaste now.

“Now, the latest Barron insanity and legalism comes in the form of his reportedly saying, while on his ad limina visit to Rome, that U.S. bishops need to come up with some kind of list or plan to tackle what he believes is a serious division of faith,” Voris begins.  “That’s rich, coming from a man who shot to instant, celebrity-priest stardom by so nuancing the teaching of the Church on the doctrine of Hell so as to empty it of its content.” 

Voris went on to “out” several bishops that he felt could not be fit as judges of Catholic material.  These included Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, NJ “involved in more gay crap than a gay bar on a Friday night;” and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC.  “He certainly knows his way around from his days as Bernadin’s gay frontman,” Voris stormed.

But he saved his worst smack for last.

“Or how about Bp. Barron himself, who almost always has in tow a couple of body-builder producers who still to this day have up all over social media some pictures which leave little to the imagination. Hey, the past is the past, but have you ever told them to take them down now, or is that part of the Word on Fire online presence? What would people think if a priest had female workers who had pictures of themselves from a prior life scantily clad? Why does Barron get a free pass on this?”

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Marguerite Porete and Her Killers

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 20, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Dissent, Faith, History, Politics, Popes, Scandals

The chronicler William of Nangis describes the trial and execution of Marguerite Porete, 1310: 

“Around the feast of Pentecost is happened at Paris that a certain pseudo-woman from Hainault, named Marguerite and called ‘la Porete,’ produced a certain book in which, according to the judgement of all the theologians who examined it diligently, many errors and heresies were contained; among which errors (were the beliefs), that the soul can be annihilated in the love of the Creator without censure or conscience or remorse and that it ought to yield to whatever by nature it strives for and desires.  This (belief) manifestly rings forth as heresy.  Moreover, she did not want to renounce this little book or the errors contained in it, and indeed she even made light of the sentence of excommunication laid on her by the inquisitor of heretical depravity, (who had laid this sentence) because she, although having been lawfully summoned before the bishop, did not want to appear and held out in her hardened malice for a year and more with an obstinate soul. In the end her ideas were exposed in the common field of La Greve through the deliberation of learned men; this was done before clergy and people who had been gathered specially for this purpose, and she was handed over to the secular court. Firmly receiving her into his power, the provost of Paris had her executed the next day by fire. She displayed many signs of penitence, both noble and pious, in her death. For this reason, the faces of many of those who witnessed it were affectionately moved to compassion for her; indeed, the eyes of many were filled with tears.”

Marguerite

Marguerite Porete was a 14th century French mystic who wrote a book entitled “The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls and Those Who Only Remain in Will and Desire of Love.”  Written during the 1290s, the book was condemned by the French Inquisition as heretical.  Marguerite was jailed for a year and a half and asked to recant. When she refused to respond to her inquisitors, she was condemned to death. 

The book provoked controversy, likely because of statements such as “a soul annihilated in the love of the Creator could, and should, grant to nature all that it desires,” which some took to mean that a soul can become one with God and that when in this state it can ignore moral law, it had no need for the Church and its sacraments or code of virtues. This is not what Marguerite taught, since she explained that souls in such a state desired only good and would not be able to sin.

Not much is known about Marguerite’s early life, except that she was born in Hainault in what is now Belgium around 1248 or 1250. She lived during different periods in Valenciennes, Lorraine, Reims and Paris. She seems to have been a stubborn woman, determined to share her ideas despite ecclesiastical censure.  I don’t know why she refused to speak to her inquisitors during her trial and captivity.  It may have been disdain or defiance, or it may have been to induce a similar helplessness and frustration in her persecutors.  She refused to participate in an outcome that they had already decided.

Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, London, said: “Little is known about Porete, apart from the record of her trial and what can be gleaned from her writings. It seems likely she was associated with the Beguines, a women’s religious movement which spread across northern Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries. Although the Beguines devoted themselves to charity, chastity and good works, they took no religious vows and their lifestyles varied greatly, from solitary itinerants (of which Porete was likely one) to enclosed communities. The Beguines were part of an era of vigorous spiritual flourishing during the Middle Ages. They were condemned by the Council of Vienne (1311-1312), which also condemned the Free Spirit Movement with which the Beguines were sometimes (and probably erroneously) identified.”

Her Killers – Bishops, Inquisitor, King

Gui de Colle Medio (or de Colmier) was bishop of Cambrai from 1296-1306.  He condemned The Mirror and ordered it publicly burned in Marguerite’s presence in Valenciennes. She was ordered not to circulate her ideas or the book again.

The next bishop of Cambrai, Philippe de Marigny, made her life worse.  His persecutions combined politics and religion.  Philippe Le Portier de Marigny was appointed bishop of Cambrai in 1301 and archbishop of Sens in 1309.  His half-brother, Enguerrand de Marigny, Baron Le Portier, was the chamberlain and chief minister to Philip IV, the king of France.  Enguerrand was influential in obtaining these appointments for his brother. Philippe de Marigny became an important figure in the trials of the Knights Templar, and in the execution of Templar’s grand master, Jacques de Molay. De Molay was burned alive with three other Templar leaders on a scaffold in front of Notre Dame Cathedral on March 18, 1314. He uttered his famous curse, and both King Philip IV and Pope Clement V followed him to death (and judgement) within a year. The new king of France, Louis X, had Enguerrand de Marigny hanged for sorcery in April 1315. 

Marguerite Porete’s main persecutor and tormenter was the Inquisitor William of Paris, also known as William of Humbert. This Dominican priest and theologian was the confessor to King Philip IV.  Appointed Inquisitor in 1303, William also played an important role in the trials and persecution of the Knights Templar. Interestingly, William died in 1314, the same year as Jacques de Molay, King Philip IV and Pope Clement V. Perhaps Molay included him in his curse.

The piety and politics of King Philip IV helped shape the deaths of Marguerite and the Knights Templar.  Many of the enemies of the crown were cast as heretics; a convenient label for a self-appointed defender of the Faith.  William of Paris supported the political machinations of the French king by suppressing the Knights Templar. The King aided the Dominican’s interests in ridding him of Marguerite—an independent and potentially dangerous religious voice.

Arrest and Trial

In 1308 William had Marguerite Porete arrested along with a Beghard, Guiard de Cressonessart, who was also put on trial for heresy.  Their trial began early in 1310 after they were held in prison in Paris for a year and a half.  Under tremendous pressure, de Cressonessart eventually confessed and was found guilty.  Marguerite refused to recant, withdraw her book or cooperative with the authorities, refusing to take the oath required by the Inquisitor to proceed with the trial.  William was not going to have any easy time proving her a heretic. Marguerite had consulted three church authorities about her writing and gained their approval, including the highly respected Master of Theology Godfrey of Fontaines at the University of Paris.  Godfrey’s involvement was an important factor in William’s handling of the trial, requiring him to build his case as carefully as possible.  He consulted over 20 theologians—an excessive number–on the question of The Mirror’s orthodoxy. 

Death

On May 31, 1310 William of Paris read out a sentence that declared Marguerite “called Porete,” a beguine from Hainault, to be a relapsed heretic and released her to secular authority for punishment. He ordered all copies of a book she had written to be confiscated.  William called her a “pseudo-mulier” (fake woman) and described The Mirror as “filled with errors and heresies.” William next consigned Guiard de Cressonessart, a would-be defender of Marguerite to life imprisonment.  Marguerite condemned to be burnt at the stake as a relapsed heretic.  On June 1, 1310 Marguerite was burned alive along with a relapsed Jew at the Place de Greve – today the Place de l’Hotel de Ville – in Paris.

Why Was Marguerite a Target?

 There are several possible reasons why so much effort was made to put Marguerite on trial and kill her.

  • A growing hostility to the Beguine movement by Franciscans and Dominicans. Beguines were lay religious women who were not under male authority and direction and were outside civic and ecclesiastical structures.  In 1311—the year after Marguerite’s death—ecclesiastical officials made several specific connections between Marguerite’s ideas and deeds and the Beguine status in general at the Council of Vienne.
  • The popularity of The Mirror of Simple Souls gave Marguerite a prominent profile other lay writers didn’t possess. She also wrote in French, not Latin.
  • Marguerite’s perceived association with the Free Spirit Movement or Brethren of the Free Spirit. Free Spirits were not a single movement or school of thought, but they caused great unease among churchman.  They were considered heretical because of their antinomian views.  One of beliefs some Free Spirits held is that they could not sin by having sexual relations with any person.  Extracts of The Mirror of Simple Souls were cited in the bull Ad Nostrum issued by the Council of Vienne to condemn the Free Spirit movement as heretical.

Was there a whiff of homophobia in William of Paris’ denunciation of Marguerite as a “pseudo-woman”?

Marguerite Porete’s era is a mirror to our own.  40 years ago conservative political and religious leaders like President Ronald Regan and Pope John Paul II colluded on major political actions and social change. Lay Catholics began to search for new ways to experience a direct relationship to God.  Many of these explorations were condemned since they were outside of traditional structures.  The prevailing norms of sexual and gender expression were openly questioned by ordinary people.  Sex and sexuality are fraught and fearful topics for the Catholic hierarchy, and many bishops tried their best to suppress them.  Their best allies were presidents focused on wealth and expansion.  Today, President Trump sounds and acts a lot like King Philip IV.

We can point to one improvement in the last 700 years.  We can no longer be burned at the stake. 

Further Reading:

The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart by Sean L. Field

Allegories of Love in Marguerite Porete’s ‘Mirror of Simple Souls’ by Suzanne Kocher

A Companion to Marguerite Porete and the Mirror of Simple Souls by Robert Stauffer and Wendy R. Terry

The World on the End of a Reed by Francesca Caroline Bussey

The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages by Robert E. Lerner

Courting Sanctity: Holy Women and the Capetians by Sean L. Field

Transmitting the Memory of a Medieval Heretic: Early Modern French Historians on Marguerite Porete by Danielle C. Dubois

Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls by Ellen Babinsky

 

 

Pious Trash: Is Racism a Part of Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Campaigns?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 10, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Pious Trash, Politics

According to a study cited in a July 6, 2019 New York Times article, “When ‘Black Lives Matter’ Is Invoked in the Abortion Debate,”black women have the highest abortion rate at 27.1 abortions per 1,000 women compared to 10 per 1,000 white women.  Yet, I rarely see black infants in anti-abortion ads.  The majority of babies are white.

When I look at news coverage of pro-choice demonstrations, I rarely see groups of black women as part of the marchers or in the leadership vanguard.

Unwanted pregnancy is not the only issue.  Economics is a big factor in abortion decisions.

Would conservative white donors to pro-life campaigns use their influence and money to promote economic opportunities for young African-Americans?

Would liberal white donors to pro-choice campaigns use their influence and money to shake up education and teachers unions in predominately black neighborhoods?

Why are pro-choice and pro-life groups so concerned with fetuses, but much less concerned with children?