The Devil And The Religious Controversies Of — страница 3

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accepted nor rejected.”12Protestant reformers in many parts of Europe launched a savage attack on certain beliefs which they considered to be inherently noxious superstitions of a predominantly ignorant population. They maintained that all souls were either saved or damned, and that these souls proceeded directly to heaven or hell. While most Protestant intellectuals did not expressly deny the existence of spirits, they insisted that apparitions were not the souls of dead men but rather were evil spirits sent by the devil to lure weak souls through guile and deception into devilry and wickedness. Keith Thomas contends that, “although it may be a relatively frivolous question today to ask whether or not one believes in ghosts, it was in the sixteenth century a shibboleth which

distinguished Protestant from Catholic almost as effectively as belief in the Massor the Papal Supremacy.13 As we have seen from the story of Nicole Obri, however, this issue was not confined to the polemical debates of Catholic and Protestant doctrinaires. There was real confusion among the populace over the whole spectrum of the supernatural ghosts, demons and the like.This confusion is further evinced by the actions of the parish curate and the friar from the local priory. The Dominican who came to observe Nicole’s condition quickly disabused the family, as well as the ingenuous curate, of the idea that the souls of the dead might take possession of a human body. Such heresies were condemned in the exorcism manuals,14 so it was immediately determined that Nicole had been

possessed by a demon. Boulaese’s account contains all of the necessary indications of a true possession as established by the Catholic authorities. In the first stage, which has already been described, Nicole demonstrated knowledge of the secrets or unconfessed sins of others and reacted with violent revulsion to the consecrated host. When the exorcisms continued, at Laon and now conducted by the bishop, the other two conventional signs of possession appeared: superhuman strength and a knowledge of foreign tongues. Nicole had been restrained on a dais at the east end of the cathedral nave. When the bishop raised the host during the consecration, she miraculously broke free from those men holding her and leapt more than six feet in the air.16From this point the exorcism becomes

even more conspicuously propagandistic. The eucharist occupies a central position in this account, as the short title suggests, “La Victoire du Sacrement de l’autel.” At one point during the exorcism, the demon, acting through Nicole, “looked as if it had wanted to speak to those who did not bow their heads before the precious Body of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ,”17 as though a special rapport existed between the demon and the irreverent Protestants who refused to acknowledge the real presence or transubstantiation. On this same day, 8 February 1566, the exorcism was temporarily successful, and the devout Catholics “were repeatedly saying that they would die in order to uphold that our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ is in the Sacrament of the Altar.” Boulaese

admitted that the exorcism did not succeed in convincing all of the Protestants, but some were converted.18 Walker asserts that the eucharist played an abnormally conspicuous role in this account, for traditionally it did not “occupy a privileged place in exorcisms; indeed it had a less important one than holy water, the sign of the cross, and other holy objects.”19 Clearly, the author was promoting the doctrine of transubstantiation. In the days that followed this initially successful exorcism, Nicole was repeatedly repossessed. Each time, only the host was effective in exorcising the demon.21It is significant that Boulaese emphasized the fact that Nicole’s proclivity to believe that the ghost was her grandfather was largely responsible for the possession. This suggests

that he was writing not only to refute Protestant doctrine but also to correct the misguided views of an unwary populace. Some of the contemporary pamphlets reveal that such beliefs could often be outlandish. In 1596 Claude Prieur, a Franciscan from Laval in Maine, published a tract entitled Dialogue de la Lycanthropie ou transformation d ‘homme en loups. One of the participants in the Dialogue, who represents the extreme views against which the author’s work was directed, inquired: “Do you not believe in metamorphosis, that man can assume another bodily form?”22 In response, Proteron, the disputant who relates the author’s position, embarked upon a lengthy discourse, in which he refuted the widely-held notion that men often transformed themselves into wolves and