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Avoiding Detection

The Roman Church found it exceedingly difficult to pin the Waldensians down in court. This was largely because they were highly skilled in the art of avoiding the question.

This situation is best illustrated in a quote from Bernard Gui who wrote in the early fourteenth century: "When one of them is arrested and brought for examination, he appears undaunted , and as if he were secure and conscious of no evil in himself. When he is asked if he knows why he has been arrested, he answers very sweetly and with a smile, 'My Lord, I should be glad to learn the reason from you.' Asked about the faith which he holds and believes, he replies, 'He who believes as Holy Church teaches him to believe.' When he is asked what he means by 'Holy Church', he answers, 'My lord, that which you say and believe is the Holy Church.' If you say to him, 'I believe that the Holy Church is the Roman Church, over which the lord pope rules; and under him, the prelates,' he replies 'I believe it', meaning that he believes that you believe it."

"Interrogated concerning the articles in which he believes, such as the Incarnation of Christ, His Resurrection and Ascension, he promptly answers, 'I firmly believe.' Asked if he believes that in the mass the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ by the words of the priest and by the divine power, he says, 'Should I not, indeed, believe this?' If the inquisitor says 'I do not ask if you should believe, but if you do believe,' he replies 'I believe whatever you and other good doctors command me to believe.'..."

"When he is questioned concerning this deception and many others like it, and asked to answer explicitly and directly, he replies, 'If you will not interpret what I say simply and sanely, then I do not know how I should answer you. I am a simple and illiterate man. Do not try to ensnare me in my words.' If you say to him, 'If you are a simple man, answer simply, without dissimulation,' he says, 'Willingly'."

"I have seen some of them who, in such great anxiety, confessed their errors, in order to escape. Others, however, then declared openly that, if it would be of no avail for their escape to swear once or a certain number of times and no more, they refused to swear at all, and said that swearing is unlawful and sinful. And when one of them was asked why he wished to swear, if he considered it unlawful, he replied: 'I wish to deliver myself from death by doing this, and to conserve my life, and I shall do penance afterward for my sin'."

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