The Development of the Inquisition

Extracts from Father Terry Fulton’s Verbal Conscience website
(originally at; now archived at, Chapter 9: Handouts 124, 125, 119, 120:

1. The birth of the episcopal Inquisition: decisions of the Council of Toulouse (1229 A.D.)

In every parish in the city and outside the city the bishops shall designate a priest and two or three laymen, or even more if necessary, of unsullied reputation, who shall be committed on oath to search out assiduously and faithfully the heretics living in the parish. They shall be assiduous in visiting suspected houses, rooms and cellars and the most hidden nooks of places which are about to be demolished. If they discover heretics or people giving credence or favor, sanctuary or protection to heretics, they shall take steps to prevent their flight and denounce them as soon as possible to the bishop and to the lord of the place or his bailiff. The temporal lords shall carefully search out the heretics in the villas, the houses and the forests where they meet and destroy their lairs.

2. Letter of Pope Gregory IX to the Bishops of France, 13 April, 1233 A.D.

Seeing that you are caught up in the whirlwind of your many occupations, and have hardly time to breathe because of the difficulty of having too much work to do, and therefore thinking it reasonable that you should share your activities with others, we are sending you the aforesaid Friars Preachers [i.e., Dominican friars] to the kingdom of France and neighboring regions. Their mission is to combat the heretics. We ask you to receive them with kindness and to give them their due, to offer them your advice, help and goodwill, in these matters and in others, so that they can fulfill the mission that has been entrusted to them.

3. The Waldenses, or the Poor Men of Lyons

[Editor’s note: A large number of internal documents from dissident groups were destroyed by the inquisitors charged with repressing these groups. We often have to resort to the inquisitors to get to know their victims. Clearly their presentation is always malicious.]

The sect or heresy of the Waldenses or Poor Men of Lyons emerged about the year of Our Lord 1170 A.D. The person responsible for it was an inhabitant of Lyons, Valdes or Waldo, hence the name of these sectarians. He was rich but having given away all his possessions, he planned to observe poverty and gospel perfection, in imitation of the apostles. He had the Gospels and some other books of the Bible translated into the vernacular for his use along with some sayings of Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose and Saint Gregory, arranged under titles, which he and his supporters called Sentences. They read them very often, but did not have much understanding of them; however, in their infatuation, although they were barely literate, they usurped the function of the apostles and dared to teach the gospel on the streets and in public places. The aforesaid Valdes or Waldo drew into this presumptuous way of behaving numerous accomplices of both sexes whom he sent out to preach as disciples.

Sent word by the Archbishop of Lyons, Lord John of the Fair Hands, who forbade them to be so presumptuous, they refused to obey him, arguing in mitigation of their folly that they had to obey God rather than men. God ordained that the apostles should preach the gospel to every creature, they repeated, applying to [themselves] what had been said of the apostles. They even rashly declared themselves to be the imitators and successors to the apostles, by a false profession of poverty and under the veiled image of sanctity. In fact they scorned prelates and clergy because they said that these had abundant riches and lived in luxury.

Called on to give up speaking publicly, they disobeyed and were declared contumacious, subsequently being excommunicated and expelled from their city and homeland.

Contempt of ecclesiastical power had been and still is the main heresy of the Waldenses…they argue that all oaths, whether in law or elsewhere, are forbidden by God without exception or explanation.

Source: Bernard Gui (1260-1331), Inquisitor’s Manual, II.1f

4. The New Manichaeans or Cathari

[Editor’s note: The same comments can be made here as on the previous text. The doctrines of those who were called Cathari were not always so extreme.]

The sect, the heresy and the deluded adherents of the Manichaeans acknowledge and confess two Gods or two Lords, namely a good God and an evil God. They affirm that the creation of all things visible and material is not the work of God the heavenly Father–whom they call a good God – but the work of the devil and Satan, the evil God. They thus distinguish two creators, God and the devil, and two creations, one of invisible and immaterial beings, and the other of visible and material things.

Likewise, they imagine two churches: one, the good church, which they say is their sect; this they claim to be the church of Jesus Christ. In their view the other, the evil church, is the Roman church; they impudently call it the mother of fornications, great Babylon, harlot and basilica of the devil, synagogue of Satan.

For baptism with water they substitute another baptism, a spiritual one, called consolamentum of the Holy Spirit, when for example they receive a person, well or ill, into their sect or their order, laying of hands according to their execrable rite …They deny the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary Ever Virgin and argue that he did not take a true human body nor true human flesh like other men by virtue of human nature, that he did not suffer and die on the cross, that he was not raised from the dead, and that he did not ascend to heaven with human body and flesh. All this, they say, is figurative.

They call imperfect heretics those who have in truth the faith of heretics but do not follow them in their life-style and do not observe the rites; they are called believers in the lying language of the heretics.

By contrast, they call perfect the heretics who have professed the faith of the heretics and live their life in conformity to it, fulfilling and observing the rites involved; these are they who dogmatize the others.

Source: Bernard Gui, op.cit., I,1.