The Thrust of Greatness Part 9

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No one was more patient than Charles in his attempts to bring the to sides together before resorting to rougher measures, and when he last he did act, he was no more brutal than anyone else involved in the bitter religious struggles of the day; indeed, he was less brutal then many.

Moreover, it was an age in which appalling cruelty was commonplace and condemned by few; for certain crimes a man might be hanged by the neck, cut down while still alive, disemboweled, dismembered limb by limb, and finally beheaded, and almost no one raised his voice in protest.

No doubt, too, Charles had heard stories of the excesses of people like the Anabaptists – stories which lost nothing in the telling – and as a result had reluctantly come to the conclusion that anything was better than that the Christian world should be allowed to slide down a slippery heretical slope into religious chaos and anarchy. Compared with such a disaster, the burning of a few contentious heretics was a lesser evil.

The Catholic Church might be corrupt and desperately in need of reform; indeed, it was, and no one knew better than Charles how far short of perfection some of the Popes had fallen (on one occasion, Charles referred to one of them contemptuously as `that poltroon’), but neither the corruption of the Church nor the inadequacy of the Popes seemed to him good reason for abandoning the fight to preserve the  truth once delivered to the saints or the unity of Christ’s holy Catholic and apostolic Church. Fidelity to such aims seemed supreme to Charles, and one the whole he pursued them with more moderation and less brutality than most of his contemporaries.

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