From: The Inquisition - Hammer of Heresy

By Edward Burman cpyrt. 1984 Pub. by Dorset Press, a division of Marboro Books Corp., by arrangement with Harper Collins Publishers, UK. 1992 Dorset Press ISBN: 0-88029-909-6 Sold by Barnes and Nobel


Pages 41-42

Peter's death on 6 April seems to have provoked an immediate and violent reaction on the part of Innocent IV, who announced perhaps the most terrible of all Bulls in the history of the Inquisition on 15 May 1252, Ad Extirpanda .

Ad Extirpanda

Innocent IV, like his predecessors in the great line of lawyer-popes, Innocent III and Gregory IX, was a master of canon law, and even wrote a famous commentary on it. His pontificate was dominated by the final stage of the long struggle for power between Frederick II and the papacy. After Frederick's death in 1250, the political situation in Italy changed dramatically and a rapid succession of Bulls to the Dominican provincials gave fresh momentum to the Inquisition. It was also at this point that the Franciscans became involved as inquisitors on a large scale. This frenetic activity of Innocent IV culminated with the Bull Ad Extirpanda, 'to extirpate', which 'sought to render the civil power completely subservient to the Inquisition, and prescribed the extirpation of heresy as the chief duty of the state'.

Ad Extirpanda effectively established a police state in Italy and is noteworthy for having introduced the use of torture into inquisitorial procedure, and for explicitly condoning burning alive at the stake for relapsed heretics. Resistance amongst secular lords was overcome by a brilliant diplomatic manoeuvre: Innocent incorporated the Sicilian Constitutions of 1239 into a subsidiary Bull, Cum adversus haereticam, thus turning Frederick's legislation against the heretics and Ghibellines that the Emperor had previously protected.

This terrible weapon provided for:

I. torture as a means of obtaining confessions;

2. the death penalty at the stake;

3. a police force at the service of the Office of the Faith (that is, the Inquisition);

4. the preaching of a crusade against heretics in Italy with the same indulgences and privileges as in a crusade to the Holy Land;*

5. the extension of the principle of confiscation to the heirs of heretics.

Later Bulls served to refine this legislation, and it is interesting to see amendments being made constantly in response to specific demands or problems that arose in the work of inquisitors: personal letters written by the Pope carry the force of Bulls. But Innocent IV had, with this single stroke, instituted a system of repression that was then honed by Alexander IV (1254-1261), Urban IV (1261-1265), and Clement IV (1265-1268), himself an ex-inquisitor, and finally codified by Boniface VIII in the Liber Sextus of 1298. The provisions of the Bull were accorded theological respectability by St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica.

Super Extirpatione (30 March 1254)

In 1246 Innocent IV had officially called upon the Franciscans to join the Dominicans in the work of the Inquisition. As individuals, they had been closely involved from the beginning; we have already met Gerhard, follower of Conrad of Marburg, and it seems that Blessed Pietro d'Arcagnano was an inquisitor in Milan as early as 1234. But, perhaps pressed by necessity and seeking fresh impetus in the Inquisition, Innocent IV divided Italy into two inquisitorial provinces with the Bull Super Extirpatione: the Franciscans were to have central and north-east Italy (mainly Tuscany, Umbria and the Veneto), while the Dominicans presided over the remainder of the country.

(Footnote) *For example, in April 1253 Innocent ordered the Dominicans of the Roman province to preach a crusade against the heretics of Lombardy and Tuscany. Padua was sacked by these "crusaders" (cf. Lea Inquisition in the Middle Ages, vol. ii, pp. 226-7).

Church law was contained in five books of bulls and decrees edited by Raymond of Penafort in 1234. Book V was called De Haereticus, and contained the principle constitutions of the Inquisitions.

All the later bulls, including those of Innocent IV, were added by Boniface VIII in 1298. Hence its title, the "sixth book". *END QUOTE*