Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/265

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FRIAR ROGER BACON.

but he has no good words for either of them or for their works and ways. The men of no century have listened willingly to criticism delivered in this temper. That his strictures were substantially just did not make them more acceptable in Bacon's case, nor four centuries later, in the case of Galileo. It was of no avail that his life was pure, that he had not sinned against the faith, that he had not rebelled against authority. His real offence was the censorious temper which made him enemies on every hand.

A new opportunity came to Bacon with the election of Guy Foulques (Clement IV.) to the papacy. The new pope had been a soldier, a learned jurisconsult, and Secretary of Saint Louis, before taking religious orders. While he was legate of the reigning pope in England he heard that Bacon was writing a treatise on the reformation of learning, and on many occasions he endeavored to communicate with him by letters which were intercepted by the Franciscans. In the second year of his own pontificate (1266) the new pope. Head of the Church, succeeded in sending a letter to Bacon by private hand. The letter orders Bacon "in the name of our apostolic authority and notwithstanding any injunctions to the contrary from any prelate whatsoever, and notwithstanding the constitution of your Order, to send, without delay, a copy of the work for which we asked at the time of our legation into England"; and the pope especially charges his correspondent that all this should be done "with all the secrecy possible." What a commentary upon the strictness of Bacon's imprisonment is this letter from the Head of the Church, the successor of St. Peter, with power to bind and loose! If it exhibits the persecution of Bacon, the power of the Orders, the penances of fasts and macerations, the misery of the prisoner, it also exhibits in the best and strongest light the existence in the Church of enlightened and generous spirits. Everything in the picture is not dark.

Bacon was released in 1267 by order of the pope who had then received his Opus Majus, and he returned to Oxford to find his group of noble friends dispersed or dead. Here he resumed his studies, his writings, his criticisms, his bitter and censorious polemics.

His protector, Clement IV., died in 1268 and the new pope soon had good reason to distrust the English friar. Bacon vehemently attacked the orders, the pope, the court at Rome, the prelates, the laïcs, the clerks, the doctors of the Church, the theologians. He swept the world clean of friends and followers. "Consider," he says, "every rank of society and you shall find an infinite corruption everywhere, beginning at the summit. The court at Rome is dominated by the Civil Law * * * this sacred seat is the prey of crime and deceit, justice is perishing, peace is violated, pride reigns, avarice burns there, gluttony corrupts manners, envy eats their hearts, luxury