The Spaniard Quietist Miguel de Molinos
The Church, since its origins has suffered from the attack of heretics
and their heresies which have caused many controversies and schisms within it.
However, many of the conflicts are the result of other than heresies. There are
cases where conflicts arose because of ambition of power, lack of moral, and
intrigues, other because of lack of wisdom and a poor theological understanding.
One of the instances in which a mixture of the elements mentioned above
were present was the case of the Spaniard quietist Miguel de Molinos during the
XVII century. Molinos was accused by the Church with charges of heresy as well
as of immoral misconduct. His main work La Gua Espiritual (“The spiritual
Guide”) was placed in the Index of the Church, and Molinos himself was
condemned to life imprisonment, “to be perpetually clothed in the penitential
garb, to recite the Credo and one third of the Rosary, and to make confession
four times every year”.
Molinos recanted publicly. His admirers said that he was behaving
consistently with what he believed and taught. His accusers said that his
recanting was a proof of his guilt.
What were real motives why Molinos admitted his “guilt”? Molinos once
said: “The true quietists are always quiet, serene and eve-minded in Graces and
in extraordinary favors as also in the most rigorous and bitter torments. No
news causes them to rejoice, no event saddens them”.Was Miguel de Molinos
trying to be consistent way with his mystical teachings of total passivity?, or
was he really guilty as charged? Was Molinos a victim of the jealousy of the
Jesuits? Was his fall caused by “the machinations of a corrupt clergy who saw
that they would loose their living if his plain and simple method of devotion
were generally adopted”? Did he ever had any other options than recant
admitting his culpability? Was martyrdom his only other option?
Molinos was a man of noble character and a “brilliant and widely
cultured mind”. His reputation of director of consciences and spiritual guide
granted him the admiration and esteem of all kinds of people among whom was
Cardinal Benedict Odescalchi who later became pope Innocent XI. At his arrest
those who new him close were very distressed. His servants kissing his feet and
calling his “a saint” where convinced that all was a mistake. When all this
took place in 1685 Molinos was fifty-seven years old, (he was born in 1628 ).
Although when arrested he lost control , during the trial he show no
apprehension, “he was a quietist by conviction” .
The pope Innocent XI ( former Cardinal Benedict Odescalchi and personal
friend of Molinos ) was born in Como (Italy) and pursued his studies in Geneva,
Rome, and Naples. He was elected pope by the Cardinal College in 1676. He is
portrayed by catholic historians as pope that was committed to keep an
honorable life, which was hard to do in his age – and office -. He made reforms
in the Church specially in relation with the abuses of nepotism. In order to be
consistent with his convictions he kept his own nephew away from the Roman Curia.
Because of his campaign against king Louis XVI Innocent was called the
Protestant pope by the Gallican party. He was considered a man of “iron hand”
when needed. “He made some prescriptions concerning the behavior of the clergy,
forbade the entering of women into the Vatican Palace (except the royalty), ….
and condemned the Quietism of Molinos”. Concerning his former friendship with
Molinos he claimed “Veramente siamo engannati”.
III. The Conflict
The teachings of Molinos were not knew for the Church. In Spain the
mystic Juan Falcon (1596-1638), had a large number of followers during his
lifetime. Another group, the “Alumbrados” influenced many people in Cadiz and
Seville in the late 1500’s. They taught that vocal prayer, and thinking in the
humanity of Jesus or in his passion must be avoided. In 1623 the Inquisition
condemned them as heretics. It is clear that both, Falcon and the Alumbrados,
influenced Molinos’ thought.
Molinos’ doctrines about mysticism were world wide appreciated and
practiced. It is said that in Naples he had “more that 20.000 followers”. His
popularity among the royalty was notable. Queen Christina of Sweden, and
princess Borghese were among his devoted followers. The main work of Molinos La
Gua Espiritual was subject of investigation by the “Holy Office”. However the
conflict arose when the Jesuits begun to question his practices and the
teachings found in his writings which at one time were highly praise by the
clergy . Molinos has taught that “if souls in a high state of prayer are
tempted to commit the most obscene and blasphemous acts, they must not leave
their prayer to resist the temptation; the devil if being allowed to humiliate
them, and if the actions are committed, they are not to be confessed as sins”.
For him Quietism was the mean to reach God and to find peace: ” Rest is
necessary for the soul as well as the body; rest in which the force of grace
refresh and recreate the
soul. This rest can not be obtained by employing the soul in various
spiritual activities. Just as the body needs sleep in order to recruit his
energies, so the does the soul requires a silent resting if the presence of God”.
This kind of teachings caused that in many convents the nuns thought lightly if
confessions, indulgences, penance, and vocal prayer, and regarded themselves as
not blameworthy for their material faults. After months of investigation of
his books, and personal letters (about 20.000 were analyzed by the Inquisition),
the Inquisition sponsored by the Jesuits presented 263 charges against Molinos.
Sixty eighth of his propositions were condemned as “Heretical, erroneous,
blasphemous, dangerous, and in practice, incompatible with Christian morality”.
It is interesting that only two witness accused him with of obscenities . What
were those so called obscenities? It is not possible to answer this question.
There is no access to the reports of Molino’s trial. They are “buried in
the secret files of the Holy Office”.
Molinos retracted from his teaching publicly in 1687 at the Church of
Santa Mara Sopra Minerva. Along with Molinos more than two hundred persons
were arrested in Rome, and “several communities of nuns” found themselves
implicated in the scandal. One month after his sentence the “Gazette de France”
published the news of Molino’s dead; however, historians tells us that Molinos
lived nine more years, dying at the age of sixty-eight on December 28, 1696.
The Catholic Encyclopedia ends its article about Molinos saying: “He lived 9
more years of pious and exemplary behavior, perhaps practicing his teaching that
elevated souls seek only the humiliations and scorn that it might please God to
IV. Possible Options
It is evident that the Molinos was facing a dilemma. The Church has
called him to repent of serious charges.What should be his response to the
mandate of the Church? Shall he be consistent with his Quietism and recant in
obedience? He chose to recant admitting the charges against. In doing so he
tried to be consistent. By the other hand the other only option was to keep
himself standing in his beliefs and to pay a the higher price of martyrdom. We
probably never know what was in his mind during the trial. It may be that the
accusations of immoral behavior were real and that he just was “caught” and had
no other option.
V. Biblical Principles.
The Scriptures leave no place for immorality and lack of repentance in
the life of true believers . We don’t know the heart of man, (God is the final
judge), but if Molinos was living an immoral lifestyle the Bible have very clear
teachings. The Apostle Paul dealing with immorality in the Church of Corinth
says: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such
fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have
his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he
that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 1 Cor. 5:1-2. The
Church must never allow immoral people to continue living in sin. In 2 Th. 3:6
Paul again gives specific commandment concerning this issue: “Now we command you,
brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from
every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he
received of us”. There is not only immorality that is to be forbidden inthe
Church but heresy as well: “A man that is an heretic after the first and second
admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being
condemned of himself, Titus 3:10-11. Was this the case of Molinos? Was he one of
those whom “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him”? Titus 1:16.
Miguel de Molinos have passed to the history as accused of being both
heretic and immoral. He has been judged by the Roman Catholic Church and found
guilty. However the lack of historical evidences bring doubts upon his blame.
Only God the Supreme Judge of all men will have the last word concerning the
case of this mystic of the middle ages.
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