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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 1619: Heresy and Political Activity, II

Thursday 16 July 2009, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Björn Weiler, Department of History & Welsh History, Aberystwyth University
Paper 1619-aThe Wrath of God: The Role of Divine Vengeance in 11th- and 12th-Century Ecclesiastical Culture
(Language: English)
Kate E. McGrath, Deaprtment of History, Central Connecticut State University
Index terms: Crusades, Ecclesiastical History, Language and Literature - Latin, Mentalities
Paper 1619-bExcommunication as a Political Instrument in West Francia during the Reign of Charles the Bald and Hincmar of Rheims
(Language: English)
Frederik Keygnaert, Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven
Index terms: Canon Law, Ecclesiastical History, Politics and Diplomacy
Paper 1619-cMuslim Persecution of Heretics during the Umayyad Period (661-750)
(Language: English)
Steven Judd, Department of History, Southern Connecticut State University
Index terms: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Religious Life, Theology

The papers in this session explore uses of ideas of heresy as part of political discourses and conflicts in a range of faith contexts.

Paper -a:
While the Vulgate emphasizes the righteousness of God's anger, it, nonetheless, cautions humans against the dangers of expressing anger themselves. This potential conundrum of how to express divine vengeance, which often used human agents in its execution, without causing sin is an important question for 11th- and 12th-century theologians and ecclesiastics. This paper will argue that ecclesiastical authors fashioned a conventional script, in accordance with the models of divine vengeance articulated in the New Testament, that emphasized penitence and atonement such that God would have no need to unleash divine anger at the sinner. This allowed ecclesiastics to position themselves in God's stead either by showing mercy and granting forgiveness to the reformed, penitent sinner or by justly punishing the obstinate sinner. This script, then, had long-term repercussions for the practice of anger in medieval society: from the representation of divine anger by monastic communities in feuds with local lords to the later condemnation of heretics.

Paper -b:
Recent literature has represented the reign of Charles the Bald as the last successful royal attempt at upholding Carolingian unifying leadership. One argument to prove this political continuity has been the maintenance of the Church as an instrument of royal government. Still, one particular element constituting the bonds of power between Church and royal command has yet to receive thorough academic attention. In this paper, I would like to focus on this particular element, namely punishment by excommunication, which was deployed by Charles and his powerful ally, Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, as an important political instrument against their enemies. However, Charles's ambitions and those of his archbishop did not go unchallenged. Soon, they were faced with threats of excommunication by Pope Nicholas I and by Hincmar's suffragan, Hincmar of Laon. Once designed to bring the sinful to repentance, excommunication had now become an instrument for gaining political power. Ample evidence is found in narrative sources as well as in papal and episcopal correspondence.

Paper -c:
The dynamics of heresy and orthodoxy in early Islam differed from those in Christianity. The concentration of political and religious authority in the hands of the caliph meant that coercive power affected the process of doctrinal coalescence at an early stage. This paper examines the treatment of heresy and dissent during the Umayyad period (661-750), focusing on the increasingly systematic pursuit of heretics and the narrowing parameters of permissible disagreement that Umayyad political consolidation created. The paper also addresses the difficulty inherent to distinguishing heresy from ordinary resistance in an environment where political and religious authority were fused.