The Spaniard Quietist Miguel de Molinos
The Church, since its origins has suffered from the attack of heretics
and their heresies which have caused many controversies and schisms within it.
However, many of the conflicts are the result of other than heresies. There are
cases where conflicts arose because of ambition of power, lack of moral, and
intrigues, other because of lack of wisdom and a poor theological understanding.
One of the instances in which a mixture of the elements mentioned above
were present was the case of the Spaniard quietist Miguel de Molinos during the
XVII century. Molinos was accused by the Church with charges of heresy as well
as of immoral misconduct. His main work La Guia Espiritual (“The spiritual
Guide”) was placed in the Index of the Church, and Molinos himself was
condemned to life imprisonment, “to be perpetually clothed in the penitential
garb, to recite the Credo and one third of the Rosary, and to make confession
four times every year”.
Molinos recanted publicly. His admirers said that he was behaving
consistently with what he believed and taught. His accusers said that his
recanting was a proof of his guilt.
What were real motives why Molinos admitted his “guilt”? Molinos once
said: “The true quietists are always quiet, serene and eve-minded in Graces and
in extraordinary favors as also in the most rigorous and bitter torments. No
news causes them to rejoice, no event saddens them”. Was Miguel de Molinos
trying to be consistent way with his mystical teachings of total passivity?, or
was he really guilty as charged? Was Molinos a victim of the jealousy of the
Jesuits? Was his fall caused by “the machinations of a corrupt clergy who saw
that they would loose their living if his plain and simple method of devotion
were generally adopted”? Did he ever had any other options than recant
admitting his culpability? Was martyrdom his only other option?
Molinos was a man of noble character and a “brilliant and widely
cultured mind”. His reputation of director of consciences and spiritual guide
granted him the admiration and esteem of all kinds of people among whom was
Cardinal Benedict Odescalchi who later became pope Innocent XI. At his arrest
those who new him close were very distressed. His servants kissing his feet and
calling his “a saint” where convinced that all was a mistake. When all this
took place in 1685 Molinos was fifty-seven years old, (he was born in 1628 ).
Although when arrested he lost control , during the trial he show no
apprehension, “he was a quietist by conviction” .
The pope Innocent XI ( former Cardinal Benedict Odescalchi and personal
friend of Molinos ) was born in Como (Italy) and pursued his studies in Geneva,
Rome, and Naples. He was elected pope by the Cardinal College in 1676. He is
portrayed by catholic historians as pope that was committed to keep an
honorable life, which was hard to do in his age – and office -. He made reforms
in the Church specially in relation with the abuses of nepotism. In order to be
consistent with his convictions he kept his own nephew away from the Roman Curia.
Because of his campaign against king Louis XVI Innocent was called the
Protestant pope by the Gallican party. He was considered a man of “iron hand”
when needed. “He made some prescriptions concerning the behavior of the clergy,
forbade the entering of women into the Vatican Palace (except the royalty), ….
and condemned the Quietism of Molinos”. Concerning his former friendship with
Molinos he claimed “Veramente siamo engannati”.
III. The Conflict
The teachings of Molinos were not knew for the Church. In Spain the
mystic Juan Falconi (1596-1638), had a large number of followers during his
lifetime. Another group, the “Alumbrados” influenced many people in Cadiz and
Seville in the late 1500’s. They taught that vocal prayer, and thinking in the
humanity of Jesus or in his passion must be avoided. In 1623 the Inquisition
condemned them as heretics. It is clear that both, Falconi and the Alumbrados,
influenced Molinos’ thought.
Molinos’ doctrines about mysticism were world wide appreciated and
practiced. It is said that in Naples he had “more that 20.000 followers”. His
popularity among the royalty was notable. Queen Christina of Sweden, and
princess Borghese were among his devoted followers. The main work of Molinos La
Guia Espiritual was subject of investigation by the “Holy Office”. However the
conflict arose when the Jesuits begun to question his practices and the