Defining Heresy

Inquisition, Theology, and Papal Policy in the Time of Jacques Fournier


Author: Irene Bueno
In Defining Heresy, Irene Bueno investigates the theories and practices of anti-heretical repression in the first half of the fourteenth century, focusing on the figure of Jacques Fournier/Benedict XII (c.1284-1342). Throughout his career as a bishop-inquisitor in Languedoc, theologian, and, eventually, pope at Avignon, Fournier made a multi-faceted contribution to the fight against religious dissent. Making use of judicial, theological, and diplomatic sources, the book sheds light on the multiplicity of methods, discourses, and textual practices mobilized to define the bounds of heresy at the end of the Middle Ages. The integration of these commonly unrelated areas of evidence reveals the intellectual and political pressures that inflected the repression of heretics and dissidents in the peculiar context of the Avignon papacy.

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Irene Bueno, PhD (2010), European University Institute, has been Marie Curie Fellow at the EHESS, Paris. She is the author of Le eresie medievali (Rome, 2013), was guest editor for Medieval Encounters (2015) and has published articles in various journals, including Speculum (2014).


1 At the Crossroads of Justices: A Bishop’s Court in the Early Fourteenth Century
1.1 Secular Justice in Languedoc
1.2 Sharing Rights in the City of Pamiers
1.3 The Decretal Multorum querela
1.4 The Internal Organization of the Court of Pamiers
1.5 The Accused of Jacques Fournier

2 Repressing secundum iura. Jacques Fournier, inquisitorial procedures and dissimulation
2.1 Inquest and Preliminary Stages
2.2 Oath
2.3 Informatio and preventio
2.4 Proof, Confession, Memory
2.5 Persuasion and Coercion: How to Get a Confession
2.6 “The Way that Heretics Usually Respond”
2.7 Abjuration and Sentence

3 Questioning Heretics: Proving Error according to Tradition
3.1 On the Fact of Heresy
3.2 Questions about Belief

4 The Extension of Heretical Paradigm
4.1 The Bishop-Inquisitor and the Duality of Justice
4.2 The Bishop-Administrator and the Anticlerical Protest
4.3 From Observation to Religious Doubt


5 Heresy in Fournier’s Theological and Exegetical Writings
5.1 Jacques Fournier and the Theological Consultations of John XXII
5.2 Fournier’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew
5.3 Organization of the Work

6 Heretics in Fournier’s Commentary on Matthew
6.1 Corrupting Faith, Corrupting Customs
6.2 False Prophets
6.3 “Beware of Heretics”
6.4 Falsity
6.5 Improbity
6.6 Guile
6.7 Malice and Cruelty

7 The Signs of Heresy: How to Tell a Plant from its Fruit
7.1 Recognizing a Heretic by their Words and Actions
7.2 Heresy as Absolute Evil
7.3 Sweet and Useful Fruits, Bitter and Useless Fruits

8 The Origin of Evil and Individual Responsibility
8.1 The Origin of Evil by Reason of Being
8.2 The Origin of Evil by Reason of Possibility
8.3 The Condemnation of Bad Plants


9 Heretics, Rebels, and Schismatics in the Pontificate of Benedict XII
9.1 Beguins, Friars, and Fraticelli in Benedict XII’s Political Horizon
9.2 Reconciliation and Obedience: The Failure of Negotiations with Louis the Bavarian

10 Apostolico conspectui: Heretics and Inquisitors between Centre and Periphery
10.1 The Protection of Secular Lords
10.2 Against Inquisitorial Abuse
10.3 Magic and Sorcery, Divination and Devil Invocation

11 Schismatics and Infidels Beyond the Frontiers of Latin Christianity
11.1 Border Clashes in the Iberian Peninsula
11.2 The Schism of the East and the Crusade Against the Turks
11.3 The Errors of the Armenians
11.4 The Universal Shepherd and the Conversion of the Tartars


List of Abbreviations


All those interested in medieval culture and religious history, and especially in the history of the Church, heresy and inquisition, biblical exegesis, and the papacy in the late Middle Ages.