THE RIGHT TO HERESY OR, HOW JOHN CALVIN KILLED A CONSCIENCE
The Servetus Affair
FROM time to time history seems to choose out of the millions one outstanding figure, as if to symbolize some peculiar philosophic outlook. Such a man need not be a genius of the first rank. Often destiny is satisfied to make a haphazard name conspicuous among many, which is thenceforward ineradicably impressed in the memories of our race. Thus Miguel Servetus was not a man of supreme intelligence, but his personality has been made memorable by his tragic fate. He had many gifts, multifarious talents, but they were ill-assorted and badly arranged. He had a powerful, alert, inquisitive, and stubborn mind, but he inclined to flit from one problem to another; his keen desire to unveil the truth was blunted by a lack of creative clarity. His Faustian intelligence never acquired a thorough knowledge of any science, although he studied them all. He was a free lance in philosophy, medicine, and theology, often dazzling the reader by his bold observations, but soon lapsing into quackery. Once, amid his prophetic revelations, he made a pioneer observation, announcing the medical discovery of the lesser or pulmonary circulation; but he never took the trouble to exploit his discovery, or to trace its relationships in the world of scientific achievement; so his flash of insight was a transitory gleam of illumination upon the dark visage of his century. He had much intellectual energy, though he was incapable of following his own lights, and nothing but the sustained endeavour to reach a goal can transform an able spirit into a creative genius.
It has become a commonplace to say that every Spaniard has some of the traits of a Don Quixote; but certainly the remark applies admirably to Miguel Servetus, the Aragonian. His physique was frail, his face pallid, with a beard trimmed to a point, so that outwardly he resembled the long, lean hero of La Mancha, while inwardly he was consumed by Don Quixote's splendid though grotesque craving to fight on behalf of the absurd, and to tilt blindly against the windmills of reality. Utterly devoid of the power of self-criticism, always making or believing himself to have made new discoveries, this knight errant of theology, lance in hand, rode furiously against all possible obstacles. Nothing but adventure could stimulate him, nothing but the preposterous, the unusual, the dangerous; and he laid about him contentiously, exchanging shrewd blows with those who differed from him as to what was right or wrong, never joining a party or belonging to a clan, the eternal solitary, imaginative in the good sense and fanciful in the bad-and always unique and eccentric.
Being thus puffed up with conceit, a man everlastingly ready to do battle, it was inevitable that he should raise up adversaries wherever he went. Still, his student days, first at Saragossa, and then at Toulouse, were comparatively peaceful. Charles V's confessor, making his acquaintance at the University of Toulouse, carried him off as private secretary to Italy and subsequently took him to the Augsburg Diet. There the young humanist, like most of his contemporaries, succumbed to the prevailing passions as far as the great religious dispute was concerned. The ferment of the conflict between the old doctrine and the new set to work in him. Where all were combative, this contentious fellow must be combative like the rest; where so many were eager to reform the Church, he must have a hand in the game; and he considered, in his haste and heat, that every previous departure from the teachings and solutions of the ancient Church had been timid, lukewarm, indecisive. Even such able innovators as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin were not revolutionary enough for him in their cleansing of the gospels, for they had not broken away from the dogma of the Trinity. Servetus, with the uncompromising spirit of youth, declared, at twenty years of age, that the Council of Nicaea had decided wrongly, and that the dogma of the three eternal hypostases was incompatible with the unity of the divine nature.
So radical a view was not anything remarkable in that period when the currents of religious excitement ran high. Whenever values are being revalued and laws are being restated, people claim for themselves the right of breaking away from tradition and of thinking independent thoughts. What was disastrous to Servetus was that he took over from the quarrelsome theologians, not only their fondness for debate, but also their worst quality, their fanatical and dogmatical disputatiousness. He was eager to show the leaders of the Reformation that their remoulding of the ecclesiastical doctrines had been wholly inadequate, and that he, Miguel Servetus, was alone acquainted with the truth. He hastened to visit the greatest scholars of the day-in Strasburg, Martin Bucer and Capito; in Basle, Oecolampadius--to urge them to make short work, as far as the Evangelical Church was concerned, with the "erroneous" dogma of the Trinity. The reader can imagine the fury and disgust of these dignified and mature preachers and professors, when a Spanish greenhorn forced his way into their houses and, with the uncontrol of a vigorous but hysterical temperament, insisted that they instantly modify their views and unhesitatingly adopt his revolutionary thesis. They felt as if the devil himself had sent one of his minions, and they crossed themselves to exorcize this fanatical heretic. Oecolampadius drove him away as he would have driven away a rabid dog, declaring him to be a "Jew, Turk, blasphemer, and a man possessed." Bucer, from his pulpit, denounced Servetus as a child of the devil. Zwingli expressly warned his adherents against this "criminal Spaniard, whose false and evil doctrine would, if it could, sweep away our whole Christian religion."
But, just as little as the knight of La Mancha was to be cured of his delusions by abuse or violence, just so little would this quixotic theologian listen to argument or accept reproof. If the leaders could not understand him, if the wise and the prudent would not listen to him in their studies, then he must carry on his campaign among the public at large. The whole Christian world should read his theses. He would publish a book. At twenty-two, Servetus gathered together the last of his funds and had his views printed at Hagenau (De Trinitatis erroribus libri septera, 1531). Thereupon the storm broke. Bucer did not hesitate to say that the rascal deserved "to have the guts torn out of his living body"; and throughout the Protestant world Servetus from this hour was considered to be nothing more nor less than an emissary of Satan.
It need hardly be said that one who had assumed so provocative an attitude, who had declared both Catholic and Protestant doctrines to be false, could no longer find a resting-place among Christians, or discover a roof beneath which he could lay his head. From the time when Miguel Servetus had, in cold type, been guilty of espousing the "Arian heresy," he was hunted like a wild beast. Nothing could save him but disappearance from the scene and the adoption of an alias, since his name was in such evil odour. He therefore returned to France as Michel de Villeneuve and, under this fancy appellation, secured work as proof-corrector to the Brothers Trechsel in Lyons. In this new sphere of life his amateurish but strongly imaginative insight soon found fresh stimulus and other polemic possibilities. When correcting the proofs of an edition of Ptolemy's geography, Servetus, betwixt night and morning, transformed himself into a professional geographer, and provided the work with a detailed introduction. Again, when he was revising the proofs of medical books, his mobile mind became that of a doctor, and ere long he did actually devote himself to the study of medicine. Removing to Paris with this end in view, he worked beside Vesalius upon the preparation of dissections and gave anatomical lectures. But here likewise, as before in the field of theology, the impatient man, ere he had completed his studies and had been granted a medical degree, began to teach others and tried to excel his competitors. Then, in the medical school at Paris, he announced that he was going to give lectures on mathematics, meteorology, astronomy, and astrology; but the physicians at the university were exasperated at this mishmash of astrology with the healing art, and they took some of his quackeries amiss. Servetus Villanovus fell into disfavour with the authorities; and the parlement of Paris received a complaint that he was doing much mischief with his "judicial astrology," a science condemned both by divine and mundane laws. Once more Servetus saved himself by flight, although not before the identity of "Michel de Villeneuve" with the wanted heretic Miguel Servetus had been disclosed. Still, Villanovus the instructor quitted Paris as inconspicuously as Servetus the theologian had previously quitted Germany. For a long time nothing was heard of him; and when he cropped up again, he was wearing a new mask. Who would suspect that Pierre Paulmier, archbishop of Vienne, could have engaged as his physician in ordinary one who had been outlawed as a heretic and condemned by the parlement of Paris as a charlatan? Anyhow Michel de Villeneuve was careful, in Vienne, to abstain from enunciating heretical theses. He sang small and remained inconspicuous; he visited and cured many of the sick; he earned considerable sums of money; and the wealthy burghers of Vienne raised their hats whenever, with Spanish grandeza, Monsieur le docteur Michel de Villeneuve, physician in ordinary to his archiepiscopal eminence, encountered them in his walks abroad. "What a distinguished, pious, learned, and modest man!"
Truth to tell, the arch-heretic was by no means dead in this passionate and impatient Spaniard. Miguel Servetus was still animated by the old spirit of inquiry and unrest. When an idea has taken possession of a man, he is as if stricken by a fever. His ideals acquire independent vitality, seeking expansion and liberty. Inevitably to every thinker comes the hour when some leading notion seeks exit as irresistibly as a splinter seeks issue from a suppurating finger, as a child seeks to come forth from the mother's womb, as a swelling fruit seeks to burst its shell. A man as passionate and self-assertive as Servetus will not, in the long run, endure the constraint of thinking his leading thoughts solely for himself; he craves irresistibly to compel the world to think with him. For Servetus it was a daily torment to see how the Protestant leaders continued to promulgate what he regarded as the erroneous dogmas of infant baptism and the Trinity; how Christendom was still contaminated by "antiChristian" errors. Was it not his duty to come into the open and proclaim his mission on behalf of the true faith? We cannot doubt that Servetus must have suffered spiritual agonies during these years of enforced silence. The unspoken message rioted within him, and, as an outlaw and one for whose safety it was essential that he should remain invisible, he was compelled to keep his mouth shut. Servetus at length decided to find a sympathetic correspondent with whom to carry on intellectual converse. Since, in his present home, he could not venture to discuss his theological convictions with anyone by word of mouth, he would discuss them secretly in writing.
The disastrous thing for Servetus was that, in his blindness, he pitched upon Calvin as a theologian worthy of his confidence, hoping that this bold and revolutionary innovator would be ready to sympathize with even bolder interpretations of Holy Writ. It may be that, in approaching Calvin, Servetus was merely renewing an old acquaintanceship and resuming a conversation begun long before. As undergraduates they had certainly met in Paris; but it was not until Calvin had become master of Geneva, and until Michel de Villeneuve was physician in ordinary to the archbishop of Vienne, that through the intermediation of Jehan Frellon, scholar and publisher in Lyons, correspondence was opened between the pair. The initiative came from Servetus. With urgency, nay with importunacy, he applied to Calvin, hoping to win for his anti-Trinitarian theses the support of the most outstanding theoretician of the Reformation. With this end in view, Servetus wrote letter after letter. Calvin's answers were at first only in the tone of one who corrects errors in dogma. Believing it to be his duty to lead back into the true path those who had strayed, to guide wandering sheep into the true fold, Calvin did his best to convince Servetus of error. But at length he grew irritated at the overbearing and presumptuous tone used by Servetus. Assuredly, to write to Calvin, authoritarian, opinionated, and prone to become splenetic at the slightest contradiction: "I have often explained to you that you are on the wrong path in disregarding the vast differences between the three divine essences," was to touch a dangerous adversary on the raw. But when Servetus at length dared to send the distinguished author of the lnstitutio religionis Christianae a copy of that book in which, like a master dealing with a schoolboy's composition, the Spaniard had marked the supposed errors in the margin, it is easy to understand how wrathful must have been the Genevese dictator at such arrogance on the part of an amateur theologian. "Servetus seizes my books and defiles them with abusive remarks much as a dog bites a stone and gnaws it," wrote Calvin contemptuously to his friend Farel. Why should he waste his time disputing with such an incurable idiot? He rids himself of Servetus's arguments with a kick. "I care as little for this fellow's words as I care for the hee-haw of a donkey ('le hin-han d'un ane')."
The unlucky Don Quixote, instead of perceiving before it was too late against what an armour-plate of self-satisfaction he was tilting with his slender lance, returned to the charge. Calvin, who will have nothing to do with him, is the very man whom, above all others, he wants to convince. It almost seemed as if Servetus, to quote Calvin's words, had been "possessed by the devil." Instead of fighting shy of Calvin as the most formidable of possible opponents, Servetus sent to Calvin the proofs of a work of his own which had not yet issued from the press, a theological hook, whose very title was enough to enrage Calvin. For Servetus had named his work Christianismi Restitutio, in order to demonstrate to the world that Calvin's Institutio must be counterblasted by a Restitutio. For Calvin the morbid. controversialist's craving to convert him, and the Spaniard's importunity, were now too much. He wrote to inform Frellon, the bookseller who had acted as intermediary in this correspondence, saying that he (Calvin) had a better use for his time than to read the letters of such an inflated idiot. Simultaneously, he penned words which were subsequently to be of terrible moment. Here is what he wrote to Farel: "Servetus wrote to me lately, and besides his letter sent me a great volume full of his ravings, maintaining with incredible presumption in the letter that I shall there find things stupendous and unheard of till now. He declares himself ready to come hither if I wish him to; but I will not pledge my faith to him; for if he did come here, I would see to it, in so far as I have authority in this city, that he should not leave it alive."
We do not know whether Servetus was informed of this threat, or whether (in a lost letter) Calvin may have given him a hint of it. Certainly the Spaniard seems at length to have realized that he had roused in Calvin a spirit of murderous hatred. For the first time he became uneasy about the manuscript, which he had sent Calvin "sub sigillo secreti"; for it might prove disastrous that this document was in the hands of one who so openly expressed hostility. "Since you opine," wrote Servetus to Calvin in alarm, "that I am Satan, I propose to go no further. Send me back my manuscript, and may all be well with you. But if you honestly believe the pope to be Antichrist, you must also be convinced that the Trinity and infant baptism, which are parts of papistical doctrine, are devilish dogmas."
Calvin made no reply. He had no intention of sending Servetus's manuscript back to the author, but put the heretical writing carefully away in a drawer, where he could lay his hand on it whenever he should need it. For both the contending parties knew, after the acrimony of their last utterances, that a fiercer struggle was inevitable; and, his mind full of gloomy anticipations, Servetus wrote at this time to a theologian: "It is now perfectly plain to me that I am doomed to suffer death in this cause, but the thought cannot shake my courage. As one of Jesus's disciples, I shall advance in the footsteps of My Master."
Castellio and Servetus and a hundred others had occasion to learn that it is extremely dangerous to contradict so fanatical a dogmatist as Calvin, or to challenge such a man even upon minor points of doctrine. In these respects Calvin was true to type, being rigid and methodical. He did not succumb to outbursts of passion, as did Luther, the berserk, or to the churlishness which was characteristic of Farel. His hatred was as harsh, as sharp, as incisive, as a rapier, not deriving, like Luther's, from the blood, from temperament, from passion, or from spleen. Calvin's tenacious and cold rancour sprang from the brain, and his hatred had a terribly good memory. Calvin never forgot. De la Mare, the pastor, wrote of him: "Quand il a la dent contre quelqu'un ce n'est jamais fait." A name once inscribed upon the tablets of his memory would remain indelible until the man himself had been erased from the book of life. Thus it mattered not that several years would elapse during which Calvin heard no more of Servetus. Calvin continued to bear Servetus in mind. The compromising documents lay silent in the drawer where they had been put for safe keeping; arrows were ready in his quiver; hatred smouldered in his inexorable soul.
For years Servetus made no move. He gave up the attempt to convince a man who was unteachable, devoting himself passionately to his work. With the most touching devotion, the archbishop's physician in ordinary toiled in secret at his Christianismi Restitutio, a book which would, he hoped, effect a reformation enormously superior to Calvin's, Luther's, and Zwingli's. It would be true where their reformations had been false. Servetus's reformation was to redeem the world by the diffusion of genuine Christianity.
For Servetus was never that "cyclopean despiser of the gospel" that Calvin in later days pilloried; and still less was he the bold free-thinker and atheist whom those that believed themselves to be his followers sometimes extol today. Servetus always kept on the rails in religious matters. How earnestly he regarded himself as a pious Christian who must be prepared to stake his life for faith in the divine is shown by the appeal in the preface to his book. "O Jesu Christe, Son of God, thou which art given us from heaven, reveal thyself to thy servant, that so great a revelation may become truly clear to us. It is thy cause which I, following an inward divine urge, have undertaken to defend. In former years I made a first attempt. Now, since the times are fulfilled, I am constrained to do so anew. Thou hast instructed us not to hide our light under a bushel. Woe unto me if I fail to proclaim the truth!"
The precautions taken by Servetus in the typesetting of this book show that the author was well aware of the dangers he was conjuring up by its publication. What a desperate undertaking for one who was physician in ordinary to an archbishop to issue, in a gossipy provincial town, a heretical book running to seven hundred pages. Not only the author, but .also the publisher and the distributors, were staking their lives upon this foolhardy venture. Yet Servetus gladly devoted all that he had saved during his practice as physician to fire his hesitating collaborators. It was thought expedient to remove the printing press from its usual place to a remote house rented by the author solely for this purpose. There, in defiance of the Inquisition, the heretical theses were set up and printed by trustworthy persons who swore to guard the secret. The finished volume contained no sign to show where it had been printed or published. Servetus, however, disastrously for himself, left in the colophon, over the date, the identifying initials M.S.V. (Miguel Servetus Villanovus), thus giving the bloodhounds of the Inquisition an irrefutable proof of authorship.
Still, it was a work of supererogation for Servetus to betray himself thus, since his ruthless adversary, though apparently slumbering, was in reality kept awake by the spur of hatred. The elaborate organization for espionage that Calvin had established in Geneva-a network whose meshes grew continually finer-extended its operations into neighbouring lands, being in France even more effective than was the Holy Inquisition. Before Servetus's book had been actually published, when the thousand volumes were still warehoused in Lyons or were on their way to the Frankfort book-fair, when so few individual copies had been distributed that today only three have come down to us, Calvin was already in possession of one. The Genevese dictator at once addressed himself to the task of annihilating both the heretic and his writings.
Not many people are aware that Calvin opened his campaign against Servetus by a furtive attempt at "liquidation" of an adversary which was even more repulsive than the subsequent success on the plateau of Champel. For if, after the perusal of what he naturally regarded as an extremely heretical book, Calvin wanted to thrust his opponent into the clutches of the Inquisition, he might have chosen an open and honest way. It would have sufficed for him, from the pulpit, to warn Christendom against the book, and the familiars of the Inquisition would have discovered the author of this wicked work even though he lived within the shadow of the archiepiscopal palace. But the great reformer saved the papal authorities the trouble of looking for Servetus, and did so in the most perfidious way. Vainly do Calvin's apologists seek to defend him even in this; their attempts throw a most sinister light upon his character. Calvin, who in his personal behaviour was an honest zealot and a man animated by profoundly religious intentions, became unscrupulous whenever his doctrine was impugned, or when the "cause" seemed to him at stake. For his dogma, for his party, he was ready (like Loyola) to approve any means that were effective. Almost as soon as Servetus's book was in his hands, one of Calvin's intimates, a French refugee named Guillaume Trie, wrote from Geneva, under date of February 16, 1553, to a cousin, Antoine Arneys-as fanatical a Catholic as he himself was a fanatical Protestant. In this letter Trie began by describing in general terms how effectively Protestant Geneva suppressed heretical intrigues, whereas in Catholic France these weeds were allowed to grow rankly. Then, what had opened as friendly chaff suddenly grew serious. In France, for instance, there was a heretic who ought to be burned the instant the authorities could lay hands on him ("qui merite bien d'etre brule partout ou il sera").
Can we fail to be reminded of Calvin's "if he did come here, I would see to it . . . that he should not leave [the city] alive"? But Trie, Calvin's henchman, wrote even more plainly, disclosing the miscreant's name: "I refer to an Aragonian Spaniard, whose real name is Miguel Servetus, but who calls himself Michel de Villeneuve, and practises as a physician"; and he went on to give the title of Servetus's book, the table of contents, and a transcript of the first four pages. He concluded his letter with a lamentation concerning the sinfulness of the world.
This Genevese mine was skilfully laid to explode in the right place. Everything worked out as the informer had designed. The pious Catholic Arneys, beside himself with indignation, hurried off to show the letter to the ecclesiastical authorities of Lyons; and with equal speed the cardinal betook himself to the papal Inquisitor, Matthieu Ory. The stone thus set rolling by Calvin reached the bottom of the hill with frightful momentum. The denunciation was sent from Geneva on February 26, and on March 16 Michel de Villeneuve was formally accused at Vienne.
It must have been a great disappointment to the zealous informers in Geneva that, after all, their mine missed fire. Some helpful person must have cut the fuse. Probably the archbishop of Vienne gave his physician in ordinary a timely hint. When the Inquisitor appeared in Vienne, the printing press had mysteriously disappeared; the journeymen printers solemnly swore that they had never set up or printed any such work; and the highly respected physician Villanovus indignantly repudiated his alleged identity with Miguel Servetus. Strangely enough, the Inquisition was content with having made a protest, and the remarkable forbearance of this terrible institution strengthens our belief that some powerful person must have extended a protective hand over the culprit. The ecclesiastical court, which usually began its work with the thumb-screw and the rack, left Villeneuve at large; the Inquisitor returned to Lyons, having effected nothing; and Arneys was informed that his accusation had proved unfounded. The Genevese attempt to get rid of Servetus by setting the Inquisition to work proved a failure. It is possible that the whole matter would have come to nothing had not Arneys applied to Geneva, begging his cousin Trie to supply additional and more damnatory material concerning the aforesaid heretic.
Up to now it might seem possible to suppose, if we wish to take a lenient view, that Trie acted on his own initiative in thus lodging a charge with his Catholic cousin about an author with whom he had no personal acquaintance; and that neither he nor Calvin had dreamed that their denunciation would leak through to the papal authorities. But now, when the machine of justice had been set in motion, and when the group of zealots in Geneva must know that Arneys was writing to them for further information, not in idle curiosity, but under promptings from the Inquisition, they could not doubt the nature of the springes they were setting. Surely an evangelical pastor would shrink from playing the part of informer to the terrible authority which had roasted so many Protestants over a slow fire! But Servetus had good reason for thundering at Calvin: "Do you not realize that it ill becomes a servant of the gospel to make himself an official accuser, and to take advantage of his official position in order to set snares?"
Calvin, let me repeat, was unscrupulous when his doctrine was at stake. Servetus must be "liquidated"; and since Calvin was a good hater, he cared not a jot what means were employed. Nothing could have been more shameful than these means. Trie's second letter to Arneys, unquestionably dictated by Calvin, was a masterpiece of hypocrisy. The writer declared himself greatly astonished that his cousin had handed over the letter to the Inquisition. "It was intended only for your eye," he said. "I had no other object than to give you a demonstration how little zeal for the faith have those who style themselves pillars of the Church." But now, when he knew that the faggots had already been piled, instead of repudiating the idea of further activity on the part of the Inquisition, this contemptible informer went on to say unctuously that, since the mistake had already been made, there could be no doubt "God purposes to rid Christendom of this foul and deadly plague." What followed seems unbelievable. After dragging God's name in to cover an inhuman manifestation of human hatred, Trie sent his cousin the most compromising material he could find: letters penned by Servetus's own hand together with portions of the manuscript of the book. Now those who were to take sharp measures against a heretic could get quickly to work.
Letters in Servetus's own handwriting were sent. How did Trie, who had never corresponded with Servetus, get hold of such letters? There is no possibility of glossing over this matter. We must bring Calvin, who wanted to remain in the background, out into the limelight. Servetus's letters, and some pages of the manuscript work, were those sent by Servetus to Calvin; and Calvin knew perfectly well for what purpose he took them out of his drawer. He knew to whom the documents would be sent; to those very "papists" against whom, from the pulpit, he daily fulminated as "Satan's spawn," and who were in the habit of torturing and burning his own disciples. He could not but know that the documents were needed to bring Servetus to the stake.
Vainly, therefore, did he subsequently endeavour to cover up his tracks, writing sophistically: "It is rumoured that I took steps to secure the arrest of Servetus by the familiars of the Inquisition; and some even say that it was dishonourable of me to hand him over to the deadly enemies of our faith and to fling him into the wolf's jaws. Let me ask my accusers how I could have suddenly got into touch with the pope's satellites. It is surely incredible that I could have any such associations, and that those who are to me as Belial was to Christ could have joined with me in a conspiracy." But the evasion is too palpable; for when Calvin asks naively: "How could I have suddenly got into touch with the pope's satellites?" the documents provide a clear and crushing answer. It was through the instrumentality of his friend Trie, who, in his letter to Arneys, frankly avows Calvin's collaboration. "I must admit that only with great pains was I able to secure from Monsieur Calvin the documents I enclose. I do not mean to imply that he is not convinced measures must be taken to suppress such abominable blasphemy, but that he considers it his duty to convince heretics by sound doctrine and not to attack them with the sword of justice." Fruitless, therefore, is the attempt (manifestly at Calvin's instigation) of this clumsy correspondent to avert blame from the real offender, writing: "I was so importunate as to declare that if Monsieur Calvin would not help me, the reproach of bringing an unwarrantable charge would attach to me, unless he handed over to me the confirmatory material I enclose."
Actions are more impressive than words. Reluctantly or not, Calvin delivered over Servetus's private letters to the "pope's satellites," that they might be used for the destruction of their author. Calvin, and Calvin alone, was responsible for Trie's letter to Arneys (really a letter addressed to the Inquisition); Calvin alone enabled Trie to enclose the incriminatory material and to conclude his letter to Arneys with the following words: "I think I am sending you some irrefutable proofs, so that you will have no further difficulty in getting Servetus arrested and brought to trial."
It is on record that Cardinal de Tournon and Grand Master Ory burst into uproarious laughter when these irrefutable proofs of Servetus's guilt were forced upon their attention by their deadly enemy, the heretic Calvin. Indeed it is easy to understand why the princes of the Church were so delighted. Pious excuses might hide from us that Trie's motives were anything other than goodness of heart and gentleness and loyalty to his friend-but they cannot hide the preposterous fact that the leader of Protestantism was so accommodating as to help Catholic Inquisitors to burn a heretic. Such courtesies were not usually exchanged between the notables of the respective faiths, who, throughout the globe, were accustomed to use fire and sword, the gallows and the wheel, in the attempt to destroy one another. Anyhow, after this mirthful interlude, the Inquisitors devoted themselves to their task. Servetus was arrested and stringently examined. The letters and the fragments of manuscript supplied by Calvin furnished such overwhelming proofs that the defendant could no longer deny the authorship of the book, or that Michel de Villeneuve and Miguel Servetus were one and the same person. His cause was lost. The faggots were piled in Vienne, and soon the flames would rage.
For the second time, however, it appeared that Calvin's hope to rid himself of his arch-enemy by summoning other arch-enemies to his aid was premature. Either Servetus, having made himself beloved as physician, possessed influential friends, or else (which is more probable) the ecclesiastical authorities preferred to be weary in well-doing for the very reason that Calvin was so eager to send this man to the stake. Anyhow, the jailers were lax. Would it not be better to let an unimportant heretic escape than to please the heretic-in-chief in Geneva? Servetus was not closely guarded. The usual practice as regards heretics was to keep them in narrow cells, chained to the wall. Servetus enjoyed exceptional treatment. He was allowed to go for a walk in the garden every day, that he might breathe the fresh air. On April 7, during one of these walks, the prisoner vanished, leaving for the head-jailer nothing but a dressing-gown and the ladder with which the fugitive had climbed over the garden wall. Still, the faggots were not wasted, for, instead of the living Servetus, his effigy and five packages of the Restitutio were burned in the marketplace at Vienne. The Genevese plan of using the hands of foreign fanatics to rid themselves of a foe, while they kept their own hands clean, had proved a fiasco. Henceforward Calvin would be an object of scorn in the eyes of all humane persons. He would have to accept full responsibility for continuing his campaign against Servetus, and for contriving a man's death for the sole reason that he detested the man's convictions.
Chapter Five: The Murder of Servetus
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