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Summis desiderantes affectibus (English: Desiring with supreme ardor)[1][2] was a papal bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII on December 5, 1484.

The bull was written in response to the request of Dominican Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer for explicit authority to prosecute witchcraft in Germany, after he was refused assistance by the local ecclesiastical authorities.[2]

The bull recognized the existence of witches:

"many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother's womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals; these wretches furthermore afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, whence husbands cannot know their wives nor wives receive their husbands; over and above this, they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of Mankind they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses to the deadly peril of their own souls, whereby they outrage the Divine Majesty and are a cause of scandal and danger to very many (...) the abominations and enormities in question remain unpunished not without open danger to the souls of many and peril of eternal damnation."[3]

and gave full papal approval for the Inquisition to move against witches and permission to do whatever necessary to get rid of them. The bull essentially repeated Kramer's view that an outbreak of witchcraft and heresy had occurred in the Rhine River valley, specifically in the bishoprics of Mainz, Cologne, Trier, Salzburg and Bremen, including accusations of certain acts.[4]

The bull urged local authorities to cooperate with the inquisitors and threatened those who impeded their work with excommunication.[5]

Despite this threat, the bull failed to ensure that Kramer got the support he had hoped for, causing him to retire and to compile his views on witchcraft into his book Malleus Maleficarum, which was published in 1487. Summis desiderantes affectibus was published as part of the preface of the book, signaling papal approval for the work.[6]

The bull, which synthesized the spiritual and the secular crimes of witchcraft,[7] is often viewed as opening the door for the witchhunts of the early modern period. However, its similarities to previous papal documents, emphasis on preaching, and lack of dogmatic pronouncement complicate this view.[2] The Catholic Encyclopedia dismisses the importance attached to the encyclical in the context of the ensuing witch hunts as "altogether illusory".[8]

Some scholars view the bull as "clearly political", motivated by jurisdictional disputes between the local German Catholic priests and those of the Inquisition who answered more directly to the pope.[9]

Notes

  1. ^ The name is sometimes abbreviated Summis desiderantes (Kors and Peters, p. 180; Burr, p. 7). Burr also refers to this document as The Witch-Bull of 1484.
  2. ^ a b c Kors and Peters, 2000, p. 177.
  3. ^ Quotes from the 1928 English translation of the bull.
  4. ^ Black, 2003, p. 6.
  5. ^ Darst, 1979, p. 299.
  6. ^ Russell, 229-231
  7. ^ This specific cultural and intellectual background that made the German witchhunts possible is explored by H. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany, 1562-1684,(Stanford University Press) 1972, with full bibliography.
  8. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Witchcraft" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ Darst, 1979, p. 298.

References

Published in the series: Translations and reprints from the original sources of European history ; v. 3, no. 4.

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Up to date as of January 22, 2010
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From Wikisource

Summis desiderantes
by Pope Innocent VIII
The original text is from Innocent VIII's Papal Bull; this edition is from George Lincoln Burr's "The witch-persecutions" (Translations and reprints from the original sources of European history; v. 3, no. 4, 1907: bibrec).

Deccember 5th, 1484 Bullarium Romanum (Taurinensis editio), sub, anno 1484.

Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, Ad futuram rei memoriam. Desiring with supreme ardor, as pastoral solicitude requires, that the catholic faith in our days everywhere grow and flourish as much as possible, and that all heretical depravity be put far from the territories of the faithful, we freely declare and anew decree this by which our pious desire may be fulfilled, and, all errors being rooted out by our toil as with the hoe of a wise laborer, zeal and devotion to this faith may take deeper hold on the hearts of the faithful themselves. It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, as well as in the provinces, cities, territories, regions, and dioceses of Mainz, Koin, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith , give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; that they afflict and torture with dire pains and anguish, both internal and external, these men, women, cattle, flocks, herds, and animals, and hinder men from begetting and women from conceiving, and prevent all consummation of marriage; that, moreover, they deny with sacrilegious lips the faith they received in holy baptism; and that, at the instigation of the enemy of mankind, they do not fear to commit and perpetrate many other abominable offences and crimes, at the risk of their own souls, to the insult of the divine majesty and to the pernicious example and scandal of multitudes. And, although our beloved sons Henricus Institoris and Jacobus Sprenger, of the order of Friars Preachers, professors of theology, have been and still are deputed by our apostolic letters as inquisitors of heretical pravity, the former in the aforesaid parts of upper Germany, including the provinces, cities, territories, dioceses, and other places as above, and the latter throughout certain parts of the course of the Rhine; nevertheless certain of the clergy and of the laity of those parts, seeking to be wise above what is fitting, because in the said letter of deputation the aforesaid provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and other places, and the persons and offences in question were not individually and specifically named, do not blush obstinately to assert that these are not at all included in the said parts and that therefore it is illicit for the aforesaid inquisitors to exercise their office of inquisition in the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and other places aforesaid, and that they ought not to be permitted to proceed to the punishment, imprisonment, and correction of the aforesaid persons for the offences and crimes above named. Wherefore in the provinces, cities, dioceses territories, and places aforesaid such offences and crimes, not without evident damage to their souls and risk of eternal salvation, go unpunished. We therefore, desiring, as is our duty, to remove all impediments by which in any way the said inquisitors are hindered in the exercise of their office, and to prevent the taint of heretical pravity and of other like evils from spreading their infection to the ruin of others who are innocent, the zeal of religion especially impelling us, in order that the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and places aforesaid in the said parts of upper Germany may not be deprived of the office of inquisition which is their due, do hereby decree, by virtue of our apostolic authority, that it shall be permitted to the said inquisitors in these regions to exercise their office of inquisition and to proceed to the correction, imprisonment, and punishment of the aforesaid persons for their said offences and crimes, in all respects and altogether precisely as if the provinces, cities, territories, places, persons, and offences aforesaid were expressly named in the said letter. And, for the greater sureness, extending the said letter and deputation to the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, places, persons, and crimes aforesaid, we grant to the said inquisitors that they or either of them joining with them our beloved son Johannes Gremper, cleric of the diocese of Constance, master of arts, their present notary, or any other notary public who by them or by either of them shall have been temporarily delegated in the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and places aforesaid, may exercise against all persons, of whatsoever condition and rank, the said office of inquisition, correcting, imprisoning, punishing and chastising, according to their deserts, those persons whom they shall find guilty as aforesaid. And they shall also have full and entire liberty to propound and preach to the faithful word of God, as often as it shall seem to them fitting and proper, in each and all of the parish churches in the said provinces, and to do all things necessary and suitable under the aforesaid circumstances, and likewise freely and fully to carry them out.

And moreover we enjoin by apostolic writ on our venerable brother, the Bishop of Stratsburg, that, wither in his own person or through some other or others solemnly publishing the foregoing wherever, whenever, and how often soever he may deem expedient... he permit [these inquisitors] not to be molested or hindered in any manner whatsoever by any authority whatsoever in the manner of the aforesaid and present letter, threatening all opposers... they may be, with excommunication, suspension, interdict and still other more terrible sentences, censures, and penalties.

Let no man, therefore, dare to infringe this page of our declaration, extension, grant, and mandate, or with rich hardihood to contradict it. If any presume this, let him know that he incurs the wrath of almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

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Original:
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