"Sex, free will, reincarnation and the use of force: How Christian Church fights with changes, to control the human spirit and create a world without God other than created on their (priests) likeness" ~ Helen Ellerbe. Part 1

Part 1
(selected parts from book: "The Dark Side of Christian History" by Helen Ellerbe)

The Church formulated its doctrine regarding sex, free will and reincarnation in response to early heretics. In each case, it chose ideological positions which best justified Church control over the individual and over society. The Church also developed a doctrine which justified its use of force in order to compel obedience. It was not long before the Church needed that doctrine to defend its violent suppression of heresy.

"Heresy" comes from the Greek hairesis meaning "choice." In the early centuries there was much to choose from within Christianity — and consequently, many... "heresies". Gnostics were joined by Marcionites, Montanists, Arians, Sabellians, Nestorians, Monophysites, the Copts in Egypt, the Jacobites in Syria, and the Armenian Orthodox Church in disagreeing with the Catholic Church. The heresies surrounding Pelagius, Origen, and the Donatists led to particularly significant new doctrine. The Mannichaean heresy, while not leading to specific doctrine, set a precedent for the Church's denial of unpopular aspects of its own ideology.

The Pelagian controversy brought about Church doctrine regarding human free will and sexuality. Pelagius, an Irish monk who arrived in Rome at the beginning of the fifth century, believed that a person had freedom of will and responsibility for his or her actions. He believed that a person's own efforts play a part in determining whether or not he or she will be saved. In Pelagius's eyes, reliance upon redemption by Christ should be accompanied by individual responsibility and efforts to do good. In granting humans responsibility for their acts, the Creator gave them freedom. As one historian writes:

"Pelagius fought for the immeasurably precious good of man's freedom. That freedom cannot be surrendered without loss of human dignity... Unless man's freedom to make his own decisions is recognized, he is reduced to a mere marionette. According to Pelagius, the Creator conferred moral authority upon man, and to detract from that authority is to cast doubt upon man's likeness to God."

Pelagius' most vehement opposition came from St. Augustine, the celebrated Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Hippo. Salvation, as Augustine saw it, is entirely in God's hands; there is nothing an individual can do. God has chosen but a few people to whom He will give bliss and salvation. It is for these few that Christ came into the world. All others are damned for all eternity. In Augustine's eyes, it is only God's grace and not any action or willingness on the part of the individual that leads to salvation.

Augustine believed that our freedom of will to choose good over evil was lost with the sin of Adam. Adam's sin, that, in Augustine's words, is in the "nature of the semen from which we were propagated," brought suffering and death into the world, took away our free will, and left us with an inherently evil nature. To sin is now inevitable. Should we occasionally do good, it is only because of irresistible grace. "When, therefore, man lives according to man, not according to God, he is like the devil," Augustine wrote. An individual, according to Augustine, has little power to influence his or her predetermined fate and is entirely dependent upon God for salvation.

Human sexuality, to Augustine, clearly demonstrates a human inability to choose good over evil. Augustine based this belief upon his own experience. Having himself led a promiscuous life in his youth during which he fathered and then abandoned an illegitimate child, he thought that sex was intrinsically evil. He complained of sexual desire:

"Who can control this when its appetite is aroused? No one! In the very movement of this appetite, then, it has no 'mode' that responds to the decisions of the will... Yet what he wishes he cannot accomplish... In the very movement of the appetite, it has no mode corresponding to the decision of the will."

According to Augustine, human will is powerless either to indulge sexual desire or to suppress it:
"But even those who delight in this pleasure are not moved to it at their own will, whether they confine themselves to lawful or transgress to unlawful pleasures; but sometimes this lust importunes them in spite of themselves, and sometimes fails them when they desire to feel it, so that though lust rages in the mind, it stirs not in the body. Thus, strangely enough, this emotion not only fails to obey the legitimate desire to beget offspring, but also refuses to serve lascivious lust; and though it often opposes its whole combined energy to the soul that resists it, sometimes also it is divided against itself, and while it moves the soul, leaves the body unmoved."

"This diabolical excitement of the genitals," as Augustine referred to sex, is evidence of Adam's original sin which is now transmitted "from the mother's womb," tainting all human beings with sin, and leaving them incapable of choosing good over evil or determining their own destiny.

Augustine's views regarding sexuality differed sharply from pre-Christian views which often considered sex to be an integral part of the sacredness of life. His views did, however, represent those of many Christians. With the exception of minor heretical groups such as the Gnostic Carpocratians who exalted sex "as a bond between all created things," nearly all Christians thought that sex should be avoided except for purposes of procreation. St. Jerome warns, "Regard everything as poison which bears within it the seed of sensual pleasure." In her book Adam, Eve and the Serpent, Elaine Pagels writes:

"Clement (of Alexandria) excludes oral and anal intercourse, and intercourse with a menstruating, pregnant, barren, or menopausal wife and for that matter, with one's wife 'in the morning', 'in the daytime', or 'after dinner'. Clement warns, indeed, that 'not even at night, although in darkness, is it fitting to carry on immodestly or indecently, but with modesty, so that whatever happens, happens in the light of reason...' for even that union 'which is legitimate is still dangerous, except in so far as it is engaged in procreation of children.' Sex as an act that empowers the individual threatens a religion intent upon controlling society. As Clement said, "lust is not easy to restrain, being devoid of fear..."

Denying human free will and condemning sexual pleasure made it easier to control and contain people. Augustine wrote:

...man has been naturally so created that it is advantageous for him to be submissive, but disastrous for him to follow his own will, and not the will of his creator...

In April of 418 the pope excommunicated Pelagius.

The Church formulated its position regarding reincarnation in response to the controversy surrounding Origen. Origen, a Christian scholar, thought that the human soul exists before it is incarnated into a physical body and then passes from one body to another until it is reunited with God, after which it no longer takes on a physical form. He believed that all souls eventually return to God. He thought that while Christ could greatly speed the reconciliation with God, such reconciliation would not take place without effort by the individual. Since humankind had fallen from God by its own free will, he argued, so humankind must also reunite with God through its own volition. The orthodox opposed Origen's theories, insisting that they depended too heavily upon individual self-determination.

Orthodox Christians also thought the theory of reincarnation minimized the role of Jesus Christ, downplayed the necessity for salvation in this lifetime, and diminished the unique nature of Christ's resurrection. A person's salvation, in orthodox eyes, depends not upon self-determination and free will, as Origen's theories suggest, but only upon embracing Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if a person could choose to reunite with God in any one of many lifetimes, then there would be little fear of eternal damnation—and fear was deemed essential by the orthodox. Origen's idea that the soul is separable from the body also seemed to diminish the extraordinary nature of Christ's resurrection. If, however, each soul periodically overcomes death by separating from one body and entering into another, then Jesus's feat would not have been unique.

Origen's work also challenged the Church's control of intellectual and spiritual pursuit. Although he meticulously cited scripture to support his beliefs, Origen found that the scriptures provided limited direction in certain areas. Having received the education of a learned Greek, Origen continued to seek answers both in Platonic philosophy. Augustine, too, had pondered questions to which scripture provided little guidance.

Whereas Origen continued to contemplate and explore such questions, Augustine retreated from inquiry outside the scripture. He wrote:
Either I would like to know those things of which I am ignorant as to the origin of the soul, or else I should like to know if it is not for us to learn such things as long as we live here in this world. And yet, what if this is one of those things of which we are told: 'Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into the things that are above thy ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think of them always and in many of his works be not curious.' (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

Although Origen died in 284, debate over his theories continued until 553 when he was officially anathematized, or cursed, by the Second Council of Constantinople. In condemning Origen, the Church indirectly dealt with the issue of reincarnation. Christians were not to believe in the pre-existence of souls, the existence of discarnate consciousness, or that a person has any more than this one lifetime to turn to the Christian God without being subject to eternal damnation. Furthermore, the anathemas against Origen served as another reminder that, regardless of the sincerity of one's faith, one should always remain within the ideological confines of scripture.

The Most Holy (100% male) Trinity with SS. John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus

In dealing with the Donatist heresy, the Church set a precedent for using violence to suppress dissent. When the Donatists demanded higher standards of the clergy than the Catholic Church, their movement spread like wildfire, with Donatists outnumbering Catholics in Africa by the middle of the fourth century. Having long maintained that no one should be forced to believe against his will, Augustine tried to bring the Donatists back into the Catholic fold through discussion. Yet, when the talks failed, he resorted to force, invoking the newly established Theodosian laws against heresy. The Church followed his advice and brutally crushed the Donatist movement.

In opposing the Donatists, Augustine set forth the principle Cognite intrare, "Compel them to enter", that would be used throughout the middle ages to justify the Church's violent suppression of dissent and oppression of difference. Augustine contended:

"The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. To love with sternness is better than to deceive with gentleness... In Luke 14:23 it is written: 'Compel people to come in!' By threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws souls to the Son."

Even at the beginning of the twentieth century Pope Leo XIII still argued that the ends justified the means:

"The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious means for the Church to attain its end when rebels act against it and disturbers of the ecclesiastical unity, especially obstinate heretics and heresiarchs, cannot be restrained by any other penalty from continuing to derange the ecclesiastical order and impelling others to all sorts of crime... When the perversity of one or several is calculated to bring about the ruin of many of its children it is bound effectively to remove it, in such wise that if there be no other remedy for saving its people it can and must put these wicked men to death."

Another controversy, the Mannichaean heresy, demonstrated the Church's willingness to deny its own ideology when it was unpopular and unprofitable. Begun by the Persian Mani in the third century, Mannichaean theology is the logical consequence of the belief in singular supremacy. The belief in one all powerful God often elicits the question of why there is pain and evil in the world. Why does an almighty God, who creates everything, create human suffering? The most common answer is that there must be a conflicting force, power, or god creating the evil; there must be a devil. A dualistic theology arises which understands life to be a struggle between God and satan, between good and evil, and between spirit and matter.

The concept of a devil is exclusive to monotheism; evil is easier to understand and does not pose the need for a devil when there are many faces of God. In his book Religion and the Decline of Magic, Keith Thomas writes of early, pre-monotheistic Judaism:

"The early Hebrews had no need to personify the principle of evil; they could attribute it to the influence of other rival deities. It was only the triumph of monotheism which made it necessary to explain why there should be evil in the world if God was good. The Devil thus helped to sustain the notion of an all-perfect divinity."

Mannichaeans embraced orthodox Christian ideology more completely than the early Catholic Church. They took the idea seriously that spirituality and godliness are detached from the physical world. The belief in a singular supremacy creates a hierarchy that separates its components, creating a division between heaven and earth, between spirit and matter. The components higher up on the hierarchy are considered good; the components lower down are considered evil. Accordingly, Mannichaeans advocated stringent asceticism and withdrawal from the world. Women, seen to tempt men with the earthly pleasures of sex and family, were considered to be part of satan's forces. To be closer to God, Mannichaeans believed that one must avoid anything that would bind one to earthly life.

Although the Church itself would adopt just such a Mannichaean theology centuries later during the Reformation, in the early years it could not politically afford to fully embrace such monotheism. The Church was struggling to incorporate vast numbers of people who still understood the world in a pagan, pantheistic and polytheistic context. Most people thought that everything within the physical world was imbued with a sense of the divine, that there was little separation between spirit and matter, and that divinity was personified in many different faces.

To advocate a complete renunciation of the physical world as satan's realm and to abolish all but one divine persona would have led to certain failure in the Church's efforts to spread Christianity. So, although it still maintained the belief in a singular supremacy and in its implicit hierarchy, the Church also allowed worship of not only the Holy Virgin Mary, but also a multitude of angels and saints. Mannichaeanism may have been more consistent with orthodox ideology, but it was politically imprudent. Mannichaeans and all others who promoted similar ideas in the centuries that followed were labelled heretics.

The tenets formulated in response to early heretics lent doctrinal validation to the Church's control of the individual and society. By opposing Pelagius, the Church adopted Augustine's idea that people are inherently evil, incapable of choice, and thus in need of strong authority. Human sexuality is seen as evidence of their sinful nature. By castigating Origen's theories of reincarnation, the Church upheld its belief in the unique physical resurrection of Christ as well as the belief that a person has but one life in which to obey the Church or risk eternal damnation. With the Donatists, it established the precedent of using force to compel obedience. And with the Mannichaeans, the Church demonstrated its willingness to abandon its own beliefs for political expediency.

Have you ever wondered why only sculptures of Virgin Mother bleed?

The spirit of the Middle Ages challenged the Church's nowestablished authority. The Church responded by bolstering its authoritarian structure, asserting the Pope's supremacy over all imperial powers, and rallying Europe against Muslims, Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians. When the crusades failed to unify Europe under its control, the Church attacked whomever it perceived as an enemy: money-lenders, supporters of nationstates, and the Cathars.

Dramatic changes after the turn of the millennium ushered in the high Middle Ages. An agricultural society began to give way to rapidly growing towns as the population exploded in a surge unparalleled in the Western world until the 19th and 20th centuries. Many more people began making their livelihoods in commerce and industry, giving rise to a new social class of traders and manufacturers. These merchants often served as examples that through wit, activity and industry one could change one's lot in life. Merchants also disseminated new information and ideas from the Arab and Greek worlds as they traveled along trade routes from northern Spain and southern Italy.

Latin classics, largely lost under Christian rule, were translated from Arabic back into Latin. When Aristotle's work was reintroduced to the West, its example of systematic thought spawned scholasticism, a discipline that challenged the Church's demand that one accept its assertions on blind faith. The twelfth century Peter Abelard, for example, used the scholastic method to encourage individual decision-making, to question authoritarian assertions, and to point out contradictions in Church doctrine and scripture.

The Church's confinement of all education and creativity to monasteries began to break down. Not only were lay schools created to provide elementary education to merchant and artisan classes, but universities were formed in urban areas such as Paris, Oxford, Toulouse, Montpellier, Cambridge, Salerno, Bologna and Salamanca. The age saw literary epics and romances such as The Romance of the Rose, The Song of the Cid, Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, the Nibelungenlied, and Dante's Divine Comedy. Court jesters or fools provided contemporary sources of vernacular poetry and literature. Renewed interest in architecture produced the culmination of the Romanesque style and the beginning of Gothic artistic and engineering feats. Even within twelfth century monasteries, the art of illumination and ornamentation of manuscripts came alive. Art, literature, philosophy and architecture all began to flourish again during the high Middle Ages.

Having prospered and thrived while society remained subdued and quiescent, the Church now resisted the many changes taking place. Papal prohibitions in 1210 and 1215 restricted the teaching of Aristotle's works in Paris. By 1272 discussion of any purely theological matter was forbidden. St. Bernard of Clairvaux gave voice to Church sentiment when he said of Abelard's scholasticism, "everything (is) treated contrary to custom and tradition." Bernard wrote:

"The faith of simplicity is mocked, the secrets of Christ profaned; questions on the highest things are impertinently asked, the Fathers scorned because they were disposed to conciliate rather than solve such problems. Human reason is snatching everything to itself, leaving nothing for faith."

The Church demonstrated a similar disdain for the revival of classical literature. As the twelfth century Christian Honorius of Autun asked:

"How is the soul profited by the strife of Hector, the arguments of Plato, the poems of Virgil, or the elegies of Ovid, who, with others like them, are now gnashing their teeth in the prison of the infernal Babylon, under the cruel tyranny of Pluto?"

The Church regarded poetry with particular disfavor, sometimes classifying poets with magicians whom the Church despised. The illustrations in the twelfth century Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg, for example, depict four "poets or magicians," each with an evil spirit prompting him. Clerics insisted that court jesters also "have no use or virtue" and are "beyond hope of salvation." Orthodox Christians expressed disdain for the flourishing creativity and declared supporters of the arts to be heathens and pagans. The outspoken fifteenth century Dominican prophet Girolamo Savonarola believed that classical poets should be banished and that science, culture and education should return entirely to the hands of monks. He wrote:

"The only good thing that we owe to Plato and Aristotle is that they brought forward many arguments which we can use against the heretics. Yet they and other philosophers are now in hell... It would be good for religion if many books that seem useful were destroyed. When there were not so many books and not so many arguments and disputes, religion grew more quickly than it has since."

Savonarola carried out his moral reforms in Florence using techniques characteristic of a police state: controlling personal morality through the espionage of servants and organizing bands of young men to raid homes of items that were inconsistent with orthodox Christian ideals. Books, particularly those of Latin and Italian poets, illuminated manuscripts, women's ornaments, musical instruments, and paintings were burned in a huge bonfire in 1497, destroying much of the work of Renaissance Florence.

Yet medieval society abounded with dissent. Many began to seek a relationship with God outside of the Church. Common people in the Middle Ages found little in the Church to which they could relate. Churches had become grander and more formal, sharply emphasizing the difference between the clergy and laity. In some churches, a choir screen would even segregate the congregation from the altar. The language of the Mass, which in the fourth century had been changed from Greek to Latin so as to be more easily understood, was by the end of the seventh century totally incomprehensible to most people, including many priests. As a result, services were often an unintelligible mumbling which was absolutely meaningless to the congregation.

The Church, now enormously wealthy, interested itself more in collecting money than in relating to its members. The medieval Church's preoccupation with riches was such that its ten commandments were said to have been reduced to one: "Bring hither the money." Priests were selected more on the basis of their money than upon any other virtue. A huge disparity developed not only between the clergy and the laity but also between ranks of the clergy. The income of a wealthy bishop, for example, could range from 300 times to as much as 1000 times that of a vicar. In the twelfth century the Church forbade clergy to marry in order to prevent property from passing out of the Church to the families of clergy. The incongruity of an extravagantly wealthy organization representing the ideals of Jesus Christ prompted the papal bull or edict Cum inter nonnullos in 1326 which proclaimed it heresy to say that Jesus and his Apostles owned no property.

Many heretics insisted upon a direct relationship with God. Despite the danger, they translated the Bible into common or vernacular languages which lay people could understand. Simple possession of such a Bible was punishable by death.

The cult of the Virgin blossomed in the Middle Ages. The Virgin Mary became a figure to whom one could turn for forgiveness and who could protest God's judgment and unrelenting law. In his book The Virgin, Geoffrey Ashe tells of the stories which illustrate her kindness and compassion:

"A thief prays to her before going out to rob, and when he is hanged, she sustains him in the air till the hangman acknowledges the miracle and lets him live. A nun who leaves her convent to plunge into vice, but keeps praying to Mary, returns at last to find that Mary has taken her place and no one has missed her."

Complete litanies were devoted to the Virgin Mary. The grandest of medieval cathedrals were dedicated to her: at Paris, Chartres, Reims, Amiens, Rouen, Bayeux, Coutances, Noyon, and Laon. She developed names like "spiritual vessel," "cause of our joy," "Ark of the Covenant" and "Seat of Wisdom." Chaucer refers to her as the "almighty and all merciful Queen." A painted wooden figure of the Madonna and child by a fourteenth century German artist gives an indication of medieval veneration for this female image of divinity. When her figure is opened, the Madonna is shown to contain the whole Trinity.

The Church responded, not by trying to meet people's needs, but by strengthening its own authoritarian structure, developing its own judicial system, and more forcefully asserting its supremacy over all. The papacy expanded its administrative and advisory council called the curia, increased its regulation of bishops, began again to summon councils, and, most significantly, used papal legates. Papal legates were officers who could override the authority of bishops and archbishops, effectively eroding the local authority of bishops and bringing the monasteries more directly under papal control.

Mother Mary and Jesus Christ- From birth Till Death

The Church developed its own system of law to claim authority in secular matters. The revival of civil law, derived from Roman and Germanic law, had been replacing many feudal customs and facilitating trade by implementing principles with wider application than rural customs which could differ with each locale. Roman law, however, did not recognize the Pope. By 1149 St. Bernard had realized the implicit threat of civil law to the Church and complained that the courts rang with Justinian's laws rather than those of God. By 1219 the Pope had forbidden priests to study Roman law and had altogether prohibited its teaching at the University of Paris.

Instead, the Church drew up its own system called canon law. The eleventh century Ivo of Chartres and the twelfth century Gratian reworked the bulk of uncoordinated and often conflicting decrees and letters into comprehensive codes that asserted the Pope's supremacy. Should the Pope himself find these laws inconvenient, however, he was allowed under these same canon laws to dispense with them at any time. Ecclesiastical tribunals claimed jurisdiction over all cases in which Church interests were at stake such as those concerning tithes, benefices, donations and wills. To protect its own, the Church claimed the right to try all members of the clergy. The Church also claimed jurisdiction over any matter pertaining to a sacrament or an oath. As one historian points out, "there was scarcely a limit to [the Church's] intervention; for in medieval society wellnigh everything was connected with a sacrament or depended upon an oath."

Many of the Church's efforts at systematizing and adding credence to canon law focused upon establishing the Pope's supremacy over imperial powers. The theory of the "plentitude of power" gave the Pope as the vicar of Christ full authority over both secular and spiritual affairs. It allowed him to prohibit the distribution of sacraments within an imperial realm and to both excommunicate and depose a king. Dictates of canon law invalidated the ordination of imperially appointed Popes, called anti-popes, and any members of the clergy ordained as a result of such imperially appointed Popes.

Ancient letters were "discovered" and incorporated into canon law as evidence of the Pope's supremacy over imperial powers. One such letter, the "Donation of Constantine," purported to be a letter from Emperor Constantine to Pope Sylvester in which Constantine attributes his power to the Pope. It reads, "We give to... Sylvester, the Universal Pope... the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts, and cities of Italy and the Western regions..." By the sixteenth century these letters were exposed as total forgeries.

The Pope became increasingly involved in directing political conflicts and the conquering of lands. Pope Boniface VIII wrote to the Hapsburg Albert of Austria, "We donate to you, in the plentitude of our power, the kingdom of France, which belongs of right to the Emperors of the West." In his letter to King Henry II of England, the twelfth century Pope Adrian IV sanctioned the English invasion of Ireland. He wrote:

"It is not doubted, and you know it, that Ireland and all those islands which have received the faith, belong to the Church of Rome; if you wish to enter that Island, to drive vice out of it, to cause law to be obeyed and St. Peter's Pence to be paid by every house, it will please us to assign it to you."

Papal desire for power grew insatiable. Seeing themselves as superior to all other mortals, Popes claimed not only that every person was subject to papal authority, but that the Pope himself was accountable to no one but God. In 1302 Pope Boniface issued the bull Unam Sanctam:

"Therefore, if the earthly power errs, it shall be judged by the spiritual power... but if the supreme spiritual power errs it can be judged only by God, and not by man... Therefore we declare, state, define and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff."


Understandably, arguments erupted over who would be Pope and hold such power. In what was called the Great Schism, two separate lines of Popes, one living in Rome and one in Avignon, reigned from 1378 to 1417. They disagreed, not over matters concerning Christian ideology or religious practices, but over politics and who should reign.

Another means with which the Church responded to the time was an attempt to focus attention away from the tumultuous social changes and towards an outside enemy. In 1095 Pope Urban II called for the knights of Europe to unite and march to Jerusalem to save the holy land from the Islamic infidel. The crusades provided an opportunity to vastly increase the influence of the Catholic Church. They also served a political purpose much closer to home. When the Pope initiated the first crusade in 1095, many of the imperial powers were outside the Church: the King of France, the King of England, and the German Emperor. The crusades were a means of uniting much of Europe in the name of Christianity.

Crusaders, caught up in their sense of righteousness, brutally attacked the Church's enemies. Pope Gregory VII had declared, "Cursed be the man who holds back his sword from shedding blood. " The chronicler, Raymond of Aguilers, described the scene when a band of crusaders massacred both Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem in 1099:

"Wonderful things were to be seen. Numbers of the Saracens were beheaded... Others were shot with arrows, or forced to jump from the towers; others were tortured for several days, then burned with flames. In the streets were seen piles of heads and hands and feet. One rode about everywhere amid the corpses of men and horses. In the temple of Solomon, the horses waded in the blood up to their knees, nay, up to the bridle. It was a just and marvelous judgement of God, that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers."

Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine chronicler, wrote, "Even the Saracens (the Muslims) are merciful and kind compared to these men who bear the cross of Christ on their shoulders."

Another enemy targeted by the crusades was the Eastern Church based in Constantinople. The cultures of the East and West had been growing apart for centuries. Having upheld more respect for the arts, literature and education, Eastern culture seemed more sophisticated than the West. The East had reverently preserved the writings of the ancient Greeks. Greek remained the official language of law, government, the Eastern church, and Eastern literature. In the West, however, even the Greek alphabet was lost. As the historian Charles H. Haskins writes, "at the hands of the medieval scribe a Greek word becomes gibberish or is omitted with grecum inserted in its place—it was "all Greek" to him." Starting in the late 700's the two cultures began to use different coinage. Disparity between the two cultures grew as the churches each developed their own forms of Christian rites. They celebrated Easter on different days. They differed in their views regarding the use of icons, and in the ordering of the Holy Trinity in the Nicene Creed. There was little that the East and West now shared in common other than that they both considered themselves Christian.

In 1054, after attempts at reconciling the differences between Rome and Constantinople failed, the two branches of Christianity formalized their separation. To a Roman Church that vigorously asserted its supremacy over all, however, such a separation was seen as an affront to and a rejection of the Pope's authority. With the help of priests who encouraged the idea that the schismatic Greeks were satan's henchmen and were to blame for every misfortune, the People's Crusade of 1096 sacked Belgrade, the chief imperial city after Constantinople. A Greek chronicler wrote of the Pope:

"...he wished to compel us to recognize the Pope's primacy among all prelates and to commemorate his name in public prayers, under pain of death against those who refuse."


to be continued soon...



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