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Jerome of Prague and the Foundations of the Hussite Movement$

Thomas A. Fudge

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190498849

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190498849.001.0001

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(p.325) Appendix 10 Giacomo Balardi, Bishop of Lodi, Sermon against Jerome, Constance, May 30, 1416

(p.325) Appendix 10 Giacomo Balardi, Bishop of Lodi, Sermon against Jerome, Constance, May 30, 1416

Jerome of Prague and the Foundations of the Hussite Movement

Thomas A. Fudge

Oxford University Press

Invoking the name of the Supreme Trinity, I came upon a text deserving to be expounded for the present purpose, namely: “He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart,” in the last chapter of Mark and the gospel of the current octave.1

Most reverend fathers, orthodox lords, and other faithful Catholics. Since, in the words of Aurelius Augustinus, perverse and obstinate men are not to be met with light words but rather with harsh ones, as it often happens that when mild correction is ignored, a severe or bitter blow commands more attention: so he who is not convinced by kind words must be confuted more vigorously.2 Wounds that cannot be healed by mild remedies must be cut away with pain, says Isidore in De summo bono.3 Indeed we see that the toughest knot in wood can only be forced out with the toughest tool, says Ambrose.4 The more pestilential the disease, the stronger the treatment that must be administered, and the deeper the wound, the more skillfully it must be bandaged. And as (p.326) long as the hard iron does not readily conform to the mold, it is proper to subject it to fiercer fire and heavier hammer blows.

Therefore, Jerome, after seeing your enduring obstinacy, after noting your persistent defiance and hearing your last shameless reply, I certainly can say to you what is written in Isaiah 47: “I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass.”5 But take heed that “An obstinate heart shall be laden with sorrows at the last” (Eccl. 3).6

Consider too, that though my reproof may sound dreadful to the ear, yet a charitable delight in mercy dwells within it, and as I may not spare you by the words of my mouth, so I intend to rebuke your faults with goodwill and gentle charity. By no means should one assent to evils, that they be approved, nor ignore them, that they remain hidden. So do not think that I wish to heap affliction upon one who is already afflicted or to stir up the fire with the sword. My purpose is not to goad a second time him who kicks back, or to crush the unbeliever, or to confute the stubborn, but that you may more clearly recognize the charity with which you are rebuked, the love with which you are censured, the long-suffering and gentle kindness with which you have been and will be exhorted and desired to see reason,7 for this reason I have selected my text which I repeat in the same words: “He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart,” as above.

As this holy Council has rebuked8 the unbelief of those treacherous men, namely John Wyclif and Jan Hus and their followers, so it rebukes your own unbelief and hardness of heart. Your unbelief is bad, as it has nourished heresy and perfidy. But far worse is your hardness of heart, as it demonstrates your obstinacy and stubbornness. Error reveals the unbeliever, but obstinacy convicts the heretic, for those who defend their opinion, false though it be, without stubbornness or obstinacy and are prepared to mend their ways are in no way to be counted heretics; only those who, despising the opinions of the fathers of old, contend that they can fully defend the perfidy of their errors, prepared to die rather than be corrected, these are called heretics. The words are those of Augustine against Faustus. Nobody is named merely from a tendency, but according to their fully formed character. Hence not every (p.327) unbeliever is a heretic, but only he who errs obstinately, since error in reason is the beginning of heresy, but obstinacy and willful hardness of heart are its fulfillment. To err and to deceive are the condition of human frailty. Hence we see that those who possess, I do not say a better or more healthy, but a more acute intelligence are quicker than others to fall into foolishness, since our intelligence by nature is not idle, and so when it strays from the path of truth it plunges into the labyrinth of error. To understand otherwise than is the case is human temptation. But to be excessively enamored of one’s own opinion, despising the decisions of the sacred fathers and ending up in the sacrilege of heresy, is the obstinacy of the devil, says Augustine against the Donatists.9

Thus error and unbelief are alike to be reproved, but hardness of heart is to be more severely condemned. He who pardons present guilt bequeaths vice to the future, and he harms the good who spares the bad, says Seneca the moralist.10 Human wickedness would spread without limit, leading to our destruction, like putrefaction, unless dried up by medical intervention. So evil continues growing as long as it lasts, and prompt correction of sin is the healing good, says the blessed Gregory. Sin unless washed away by penitence will drag us into greater sin by its own weight.

Evil must be confronted, that which leads others to sin11 must be confronted, that wickedness unpunished should not thrive with the passage of time, and iniquity should not gain strength in secret, but rather that ignorance should be instructed by due correction and obstinacy and hardness of heart be quelled by severe discipline. Manifest crimes are not to be expiated by secret correction, but public sinners must be openly convicted, so that as they are brought to reason by public reprimand, those who have erred by imitating them may be corrected. By rebuking one, many are corrected. And it is better that one guilty one be punished for the good of many, than that many be endangered by the impunity of one, as Gregory says (Registrum) and Isidore (De summo bono, III).

Therefore heretics are to be publicly extirpated, lest they bring others to ruin by their evil example, false doctrine, and pernicious influence. If they despise faith, the purifier of hearts, what can unbelievers do with their understanding of the subtlest arguments about the nature of our mind, except be damned by (p.328) the witness of their own understanding? There are those, says Gregory, who discovering more by thought than they can comprehend, burst out in wrong-headed dogmas, and forgetting to be humble followers of the truth become teachers of error. So just as true and learned simplicity is to be approved, so cunningly concocted falsehood must be rebuked, which entangles men in its errors and lays snares of deception by ornate language.

While every unbeliever must be deservedly rebuked for his perfidy, yet it is most important to consider in what matters and how far he has strayed and how easily he is corrected, or how obstinately he seeks to defend his error. Unbelief, when it accepts correction, deserves to be pardoned. But stubbornness and obstinacy can only be punished by utter extermination. Let no one then be presumptuously stubborn and contumacious in his heart, let no one be confident in his own vain fancy. That obstinacy is of the Devil which commits its own life for a certainty, and that hope is deceptive which hopes to be saved amid the fuel of sin. Victory is doubtful, fighting amid enemy arms, and salvation is impossible, surrounded by flames yet not to be burnt.

He is over hasty who rushes in where he has seen others fall, and reckless who is not struck with fear when others perish. A fault defended is doubled. And he piles sin on sin, who shamelessly and obstinately defends misdeeds. Hardness of heart is therefore to be detested, above all when it is not healed by contrition, nor softened by devotion, nor moved by prayer, which resists threats and is strengthened by blows. Hence he is inexcusably guilty and fatally criminal who refuses the remedy of repentance and will not reject his pride.12

Among human errors there are two which are too hard to be tolerated: presumption before the truth is known, and once it is known, presumptuous defense of falsehood. As unbelief is born of pride, so hardness of heart is nourished by its own presumption. No presumptuous man will confess his fault, because he does not believe himself guilty. Even if he sees it, he will not suffer it to be thought or shown that he has erred. Most damnable, therefore, is a presumptuous pride and a proud presumption: where it is, justice is not, for it will arrogate to itself a fictitious justice and will not cease to be proud of its knowledge. (p.329)

Jerome, I fear lest that great presumption and that high opinion which you entertain of yourself be the cause of your utter ruin. Here is the hidden precipice, here is your labyrinth of error, these things will procure the doom of your obstinacy. Though you are a learned man and have been a teacher, yet I think you have been deceived by your excessive presumption. Your error has prepared a multifarious stairway to error.

I have purposed to smite you, Jerome, on both cheeks, though always with that fitting charity which heals while it wounds and soothes while it pierces. Therefore, do not turn your face toward me like a flinty rock, but rather in accord with the teaching of the gospel: whoever shall smite you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. I will smite you, therefore, and would that I might heal you. You ought to be softened by the recollection of the crimes you have committed or by the sight of such kindness on the part of your judges.

In the first place, it is not another’s shit that I cast in your face, but your own, that you may see and repent of your crimes. Would that your obstinacy could so be mollified.

Mark, I pray you, my Catholic lords, how great was the presumptuous temerity of these men, I speak of Jan Hus and Jerome, that such mean, plebeian, low men of unknown birth should dare to stir up all the noble kingdom of Bohemia, to incite the barons and princes to strife and schism, call out the soldiers, overturn ancient and worthy governments, call up armies, divide peoples, foment bitter dissension among the citizens, lead gangs, keep henchmen, keep men in arms, commit murders or have them committed, plunder churches and profane altars. Oh happy kingdom of Bohemia, had that man not been born! How utterly detestable it is that men of the church, under some pretext of sanctity, who should be devoted to God, who should pray day and night, pray for the sins of the people whose goods they consume, spend all their time in prayer, do not shrink to vex the courts of kings, princes, and barons, to stir up disputes, to overturn the decrees of the kingdoms at will, to devote themselves to quarrels.

Of how great evils was the presumption of those two uncouth provincials the root! How many have been killed on either side, how many duly ordained clergy have been forced out, how many exiled, how many driven away with violence, how many robbed, how many beaten, how many killed, how many buried, how many churches laid waste, how many altars profaned, how many monasteries destroyed? (p.330)

Even if you wished to pursue bad clergy, Jerome, then why did you afflict the good? The example you quoted yesterday, Jerome, I would pray you repeat today and say, “Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast born me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!”13 May you not recall with revulsion those holy Carthusians of Prague, whose prior you caused to be driven out and monastery plundered, to the ruin of your souls?14

I have smitten you on one cheek, turn to me the other, and mark well the gentleness of the lords your judges. Some if not all men know, and I too should know, the rigorous method that should be observed in relation to those convincingly reported to be heretics. They are to be diligently sought out, arrested, and committed to close prison. Second, accusations are to be received against them and the testimony of any witnesses admitted against them, even that of infamous persons such as usurers, bawds, and public prostitutes. They are to be sworn on oath to tell the truth. Should they fail to do so, they are to be tortured on the rack15 and other instruments of torture. None may be admitted to see them except in extraordinary circumstances, and they should not be heard in public. If they renounce, they are to be mercifully pardoned. But if they persist, they are to be condemned and handed over to the secular arm.

You have certainly not been treated with such rigor as this, though universally notorious for your heresies. Not Arius, not Sabellius, not Faustus, not Nestorius, not any other heretic was ever so notorious during his lifetime as you were. The infamy of your heresy has spread through England, all Bohemia, France, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Italy, and all of Germany. You were arrested, as such men should be, and brought before the Council, and through urgent necessity alone imprisoned. In regard to this imprisonment my most reverend in Christ fathers and lords cardinals of Ursinis, Aquileia, Cambrai, and Florence personally inquired whether you could be accommodated more comfortably elsewhere. And had they not feared you would escape, for you have done so more than once, any one of them would have willingly received you not only in his home, but at his table and in his chamber.

None but respectable witnesses were admitted to testify against you, masters of sacred theology, doctors of canon law, numerous bachelors, curates of (p.331) great churches and other venerable men, who gave sworn testimony in your presence, and you found no fault with any of them. Most of the accusations brought against you were proven to be true.

You were not tortured. Would that you had been, for had you been so humbled you might have rejected your errors, the pain would have opened your eyes which your guilt had closed. Whoever wished to come and console you, all were allowed. Remember how kindly,16 how gently the most reverend lords cardinals and many others exhorted you, pitying you from their hearts. How many times did they implore you to come to your senses?

Several public hearings were granted to you at your own wish. Would that they had been refused! I fear those hearings rendered you excessively audacious.

By those hearings six mischiefs were inflicted on you by yourself. In the first place, you stopped the mouths of all those who kindly wished to excuse you, who said in your defense,17 moved by affection, that you were deranged, demented, foolish, or crazy. But, pray, who but a madman would call you crazy or deranged, a man who could plead with such elegance and speak with such precision? Those who excused you had better keep silent now and say no more, for your speech betrays you.18

The second mischief that you did yourself in your hearings was that you did not deny that you are guilty of rebellion and have brought about murders.

The third was that you attempted to prove that those who bore witness against you in many narratives and lengthy examples had lied, yet the uniqueness of your own testimony proves that what they said against you was the veriest truth.

The fourth was this, that by claiming that the testimony brought against you did not amount to demonstrative proof, you showed that you cannot distinguish between logic and rhetoric. You must know that demonstration in logic differs in its nature from demonstration in rhetoric. Logic demonstrates by absolute propositions and expository syllogisms, rhetoric by praise and invective. A natural philosopher demonstrates by other means than an ethical and moral philosopher. Hence a canon or civil lawyer demonstrates by pleadings (p.332) and proofs alone. Thus the case against you is demonstrated by legal, proven pleadings fully adequate to establish the truth. I ask you, who could demonstrate more against you than you have demonstrated against yourself! You alone are your enemy, you alone are your adversary, you alone are in conflict with yourself. We all pity you, you alone are fully proved cruel to yourself. All good men stand by you, you alone are turned against yourself.

The fifth was that you did not shrink from praising Jan Hus after having previously anathematized him under oath. I ask you, what impudence, what audacity, what shamelessness could induce you to raise up this man who was a rebel and a heretic and who brought about murders?

I remember you once saying that he was neither a drunkard nor a fornicator. But what is the use, my godly lords, of abstaining from drink and being intoxicated with wrath, pride, and contention? What is the use of fasting with the guts and wallowing in hunting? Abstaining from food and straying in sin? (86. dist. 12; Quid prodest).19 What is it to save the wine and not shrink from shedding blood?

What is it to avoid getting drunk on wine but to spatter blood shed with the teeth, to pointlessly tear the flesh of one’s neighbors and destroy them by ceaseless persecution?

You said he was not a fornicator. You might as well have said he was not a heretic. There is no worse fornication than that which he practiced against the Catholic faith.

The sixth and last was that in this public hearing you condemned yourself by your own testimony. Would that you had kept silent! What could tell more forcibly against you than your own testimony, which proved you a liar, a perjurer, nay, a madman and a relapsed heretic, in that you repudiated the holy oath you had sworn and so fell into worse and more serious error?

Wherefore this holy Council, on which all earthly authority is conferred, will judge you according to your ways (Ezekiel 7), even though he who does not believe is condemned already (John 3). In judgment or rebuke, as Seneca says (De clemencia ad Neronem), the law has three objects which the ruler or judge should aim at: the correction of him who is punished, or the deterrence of others by his punishment, or the safety of others through the evil being removed. (p.333)

Therefore this holy Council proposes now to pass judgment upon you. Would that you would renounce your folly and quell the stubbornness of your heart! But you will be judged according to the rules of equity and the sanctions of the sacred canons. And although you should refuse, far be it!, to be converted, yet the Council must render judgment so as to convert the unbelieving to wisdom, that is, to prepare a people perfect for God through the holy knowledge of faith. Which may he happily grant to this holy Council who is the just judge of the living and the dead, Jesus Christ, blessed forever. Amen.

FRB, vol. 8, pp. 494–500.


(1.) Mark 16:14. Misprints: incredulitarem > incredulitatem, occurentis > occurrentis.

(2.) Not identified.

(3.) Isidore, Sententiae (De summo bono) 3:46:11, in PL, vol. 83, col. 716.

(4.) Ambrose on Matthew 21. I cannot identify the exact tool referred to, though the name oppressorium and the context indicate that it is one by which pressure or force is applied to a knot.

(5.) Isaiah 48:4.

(6.) Ecclesiasticus 3:27.

(7.) recipisceres > resipisceres (misprint).

(8.) exprobavit > exprobravit (misprint).

(9.) Augustine, De Baptismo contra Donatistas, Lib. II Cap. 5, in PL, vol. 43, cols. 129–130.

(10.) Though widely quoted in the form bonis nocet quisquis malis pepercit, I have been unable to substantiate the attribution to Seneca.

(11.) The phrase appears to refer to the biblical “stumbling block,” i.e., the σκάνδαλον‎.

(12.) Praesumptio, superbia, cupiditas, and sciendi were intellectual sins recognized by mainstream medieval thought. See Edward Peters, “Libertas inquirendi and the vitium curiositatis in Medieval Thought,” in La Notion de liberté au moyen âge. Islam, Byzance, Occident, ed. George Makdisi, Dominique Sourdel, and Janine Sourdel-Thomine (Paris: Les belles lettres, 1985), pp. 91–98.

(13.) Jeremiah 15:10.

(14.) The first reference to “you” in this sentence is singular, while the second “you” is plural.

(15.) Suspected misprint: aculeo > eculeo. Otherwise, aculeo is “with a spike.”

(16.) Misprint: benique > benigne.

(17.) Misprint: de defenderent > te defenderent.

(18.) Matthew 26:73.

(19.) D.86 c.12, Quid prodest, in Friedberg, vol. 1, col. 300.