CONTINUED PERSECUTION IN THE UKRAINE AND ELSEWHERE
THOUGH STAGGERING from the brutal blow they had received at Ráków, the Socinians spent no time in wringing their hands, but at once rallied to secure their future. Late in that very month they convened a general Synod at Kisielin, the seat of their strongest church in Volhynia.1 In this quarter of Poland, in the Palatinates of Volhynia and Kijów, the region now known as the Ukraine, Socinianism had long found quiet shelter, and in the first quarter of the seventeenth century a whole series of churches and schools had sprung up here, which in the end numbered probably thirty or more. They won numerous and powerful adherents among the great landed proprietors, and were patronized by magnates whose domains were wide and whose wealth was princely, especially the Czaplices of Kisielin, the Sienutas of Lachowce, the Niemiryczes of Uszomir, and the Hojskis of Hoszcza.2 Socinians were indeed so numerous among the nobility that in the local dietines they had the majority, though the dominant religion in these parts was not Roman Catholic but that of the Greek Church. Prince Konstanty Ostrogski, however, though orthodox by profession, was suspected of being a Socinian at heart, was sympathetic with the Socinians, and gave them his protection; for his daughter was wife of Jan Kiszka, the great Socinian magnate in Lithuania. It was therefore natural for the shattered church to try to re-establish itself in this region, distant from Catholic centres, and presumably safe from Catholic persecution. One of the first acts of the Synod was to send a letter soliciting the help and counsel of Prince Christopher Radziwill, who though a Calvinist was not an enemy of the Socinians. The letter was sent by the hand of one of his councilors, Samuel Przypkowski, who was an eminent Socinian and could give a full account of what had taken place. The letter bore an impressive list of signatures of both Socinians and Greek Catholics.3 Radziwill in turn addressed a letter to the Palatine Stanislas Lubomirski of Krakow, asking for aid and consideration for the Socinians; but the answer to it was a downright refusal to do anything for such wicked heretics.4
The Synod also sent representatives to the Reformed Synod at Krasnobrod in September to see whether a political union might be formed with the Calvinists with a view to joint action at the next Diet in de fence of religious toleration; but the proposal was rejected. 5 At the same time Martin Ruar, 6 who had for several years been in active correspondence with Hugo Grotius, then self-exiled from Holland and living in Paris as Swedish ambassador, wrote him a full account of the tragedy at Ráków, as did also Jan Stoinski asking his intervention. 7 Grotius wrote in turn to the Swedish Chancellor Oxenstiern, lamenting the event, and foreseeing that this present attack by intolerant Catholics upon the weakest of the Protestant sects foreboded a danger threatening also the stronger ones in time to come. 8
Besides these emergency measures, the Synod dealt with measures for carrying on church life in an unbroken sequence. Still obsessed with the notion that by reasoned arguments they could convince the Catholics of one’s natural right to religious freedom, and restrain them from intolerant acts, they requested Przypkowski to finish his work on freedom of conscience and that on the Confederation, and charged Ruar to prepare for press an unfinished work of the late Joachim Stegmann on religious controversies, To fill the place of the college at Rakow, it was voted to bring the school at Kisielin up to the Racovian standard, to bring the Rakow professors thither, and to appoint from influential noble families seven directors for the Socinian community, in order to provide against fresh dangers.9 The new college and its theological department, together with a branch at Beresko, soon won a reputation that drew students from all confessions, and for some five years it enjoyed high prosperity. Kisielin became the new capital of Socinianism, and a center of vigorous propaganda; but the rapid growth that now took place also aroused enmity among the other confessions. As early as 1640 therefore the clergy cited three brothers Czaplic before the court, charged with giving shelter to ministers and teachers expelled from Ráków, arbitrarily opening an ‘Arian’ academy and other schools to corrupt Christian youth, holding sectarian synods, and in general propagating the ‘Arian’ sect forbidden by decrees of Diets and Tribunals and declared by common law and universal opinion to be diabolical. All ‘Arian’ ministers and teachers at Kisielin and Beresko were also included in the summons. The case dragged on for four years, but ended with a decree of the Tribunal ordering the churches and schools closed, their buildings burned, and the heretics banished, besides a fine of 1,000 florins and a threat of infamy for George Czaplic if he did not produce the ministers and teachers before the court. As the latter had fled, Czaplic was branded with infamy, and further fined 10,000 forms. Nor did punishment of the living suffice. Matthew Twardochleb and Joachim Rupniowski, sometime ministers at Kisielin and Beresko, but already in their graves, were also declared infamous, and a fine was demanded for them as well, so that Czaplic had in all to pay over 20,000 florins. 10 Thus after less than six years the school at Kisielin came to an end. 11 Czaplic testified at his trial that the ministers and teachers at Kisielin had in fact never held office at Rakow, but his testimony was disregarded; and when the case was tried before the supreme Tribunal, to which it had been appealed, the ‘Arian’ members of the court were excluded from its deliberations. 12
At about the same time a similar case was brought against the noble Sienuta, proprietor of Lachowce, charged with secretly sheltering Jan Stoinski, banished from Rakow. The case issued in a decree of the Lublin Tribunal in 1644 condemning all ‘Arians’ there to banishment, touching Stoinski with infamy and depriving him of his noble rank, and heavily fining Sienuta.13 To mention but one instance more, George Niemirycz was the chief patron of the Socinians in the Ukraine, and had valiantly supported them in the Diet when the Rakow case was on trial, and enjoyed the favor of the King to such an extent that despite the fanatical opposition of both the Bishop and the Palatine, he was appointed Chamberlain of Kijów. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach him, his enemies finally had him prosecuted in 1643 for sheltering fugitive ministers and teachers from Rakow, organizing new churches on his domains, and spreading heresy in general. At Kijów the case seems to have been decided in his favor, but on appeal to the Lublin Tribunal he was convicted and sentenced in 1646 to pay a line of 10,000 florins, and was ordered to close the churches on his estates. 14 Under a government and courts overwhelmingly Catholic, the guarantees of the Confederation of Warsaw had by this time be come a dead letter, especially for Socinians, who could no longer look to the other Protestants for support, and whom the Catholics were now professing to regard not as Dissidents, nor even as mere heretics, but as blasphemers and atheists wholly outside the Christian pale. Through their representatives in the Diet they might still appeal to their con stitutional rights, but their appeals fell on deaf ears. In various other parts of the Ukraine at this period similar suits were brought against ‘Arians,’ all leading to heavy fines, infamy, banishment and the like, and all aiming at the same end, the extinction of ‘Arianism.’ These cases were tried before a Tribunal composed half of Catholic clergy, and with ‘Arian’ members excluded. To the nobility of the region, of all confessions, such prejudiced trials gave general offence, but their protests before the national Diet, and their demands that the decrees of the Tribunal be annulled, were inevitably defeated by the fanaticism of the Catholic party. Such was the desperate situation of Socinianism in the southeastern provinces of Poland when the Cossack war over whelmed the country, and hastened the churches there to a ruin from which they never rallied.
Kisielin was not the only place to which members of the college at Rakow withdrew after their expulsion from there. Many of the students and several of the ablest teachers removed to Luclawice, 15 a convenient location in a territory where the Socinian population was very numerous, and where there was one of the oldest and strongest of their churches. Here, where Socinus had spent his last years, they might find safe protection on the estates of sympathetic nobles; and here there had long been a Socinian school, which was now raised to the rank of a college in which advanced studies were pursued, including theology. It took on a marked growth after the closing of Kisielin, especially under the seven years’ rectorship of Valentin Baumgart, a graduate of Konigsberg who had been converted by Ruar and had already been Rector at Kisielin.16 As the school lay near the Hungarian border, it had active relations with the Unitarians of Transylvania, of whom many sent their sons here to learn Polish and finish their education. The college was finally broken up when the country was overrun during the war with Sweden; but both church and school at Luclawice had already fallen victims to local mob violence in 1651, and ‘Arian’ homes had been sacked. In the end the buildings of both were given to the neighboring Franciscan monastery by the proprietor, Achacy Taszycki, who had now become Catholic, and were then torn down. 17
While these events were disturbing the outward face of Socinian affairs, the inner life of their churches seems to have proceeded soberly. Annual synods were held as usual, and the needs of churches and ministers were attended to. Ministers were ordained and appointed to their stations; appropriations were voted to promising students to continue their studies abroad. With a view to an indefinite future, a manual of their ecclesiastical polity was ordered to be prepared, provision was made for writing a careful history of their movement thus far, and a collection of hymns in German was authorized for use in the growing number of German congregations. 18 Especially noteworthy were the evidences of literary activity, for at nearly every synod one or more books were approved for publication, though the printing must be done in greatest secrecy in Poland, or else by sympathetic presses in Holland. The ablest pen at this period was wielded by Jonas Schlichting. Born of a noble family, he had been highly educated and was widely traveled, and was relied upon to undertake various important affairs. As a matter of course he became the champion of the Socinian cause in a protracted debate with the Catholics. It was the longest and most intense of any in Socinian history, lasted from 1641 to 1662, and comprised no fewer than twenty-five separate items. 19
The controversy began in 1641 when a Jesuit professor, Nicholas Cichowski of Poznan, one of the most active and persistent foes of the Socinians, published a book, expanding a discussion had with Jan Stoinski two years before into a hundred arguments for the supreme divinity of Christ, addressed to ‘Arians,’ and urging that the Diet pass a law of banishment against them. One of these arguments was that the ‘Arians’ regard the Devil as a God, 20 and worship him accordingly, a statement that he was to repeat in later works with great popular effect. As the Socinians had now lost their press, they were unable to reply; but to the surprise of all, a little book of twenty-six pages appeared the following year, with no indication of author or place, 21 designed to support the Socinian faith by showing that it was in entire agreement with the Apostles’ Creed. It took the Creed article by article, explained the simple meaning of each, and quoted supporting texts of Scripture, concluding that as the Socinians sincerely believed this Creed they should be recognized as Christians. It altogether ignored, however, many teachings current among the Socinians which are not supported by the Creed, but were regarded by Catholics as heretical.
The Catholics were scandalized that such a book should have been published so boldly, not because there was heresy in it, for when the Bishops requested an opinion from the University professors they were told that the book contained nothing but what is said in Scripture, 22 but because it so openly defied the prohibitions of the Rakow decree. The matter was brought before the Diet, and again trial was had by summary process. As Schlichting, whose authorship had now become known, did not answer the summons to appear, a decree was passed in 1647 condemning him to death, confiscating his property, touching him with infamy, proscribing him from the Kingdom, ordering his books publicly burned by the executioner, suppressing all ‘Arian’ schools and printing-presses, and threatening with banishment and confiscation of goods any one offering him shelter or circulating or even keeping his books. 23 Schlichting had to flee the country, and for several years lived in remote exile beyond the Dnieper, or was in hiding around Luclawice. It was 1651 before feeling had subsided enough for him to venture to show himself in Poland. The new decree much depressed the other Socinians, who began to see clouds foreboding worse storms to come. The printed controversy with Cichovius went on, however, without interruption. Schlichting was an eager controversialist, too hasty to be careful, while Cichovius, cool, keen and adroit, was quick to take advantage of every opening, attacked his opponent first on one side and then on another, employing invective, logical argument, or appeals to feeling as the case might be. He was right in his contention that the Apostles’ Creed was not a true summary of characteristic Socinian teaching, which in its most offensive doctrines was as far beyond the belief of the early Church as it was contrary to the Catholic tradition. But in truth argument between the two was wasted, for the situation had drifted beyond the field of logical reasoning, and the case was already prejudged, and only awaited formal decision and a final verdict.
One brief ray of hope relieved the general discouragement of these times. King Ladislas was much concerned to promote the internal strength of his country by securing peace among the contending religious parties, and when one of his secretaries, who had been a Lutheran and a Calvinist minister, but had lately accepted the Catholic faith, urged upon him that it might be easy to unite all the Christian confessions if only a friendly discussion could be brought about, he gladly fell in with the idea. Hence came the celebrated Colloquium charitativum or friendly conference of Thorn (Torun),24 to which the King and the Catholic Synod issued invitations for the Protestants. The proposal aroused high hopes among all the non-Catholics, not least among the Socinians. Their synod at Siedliska appointed as delegates Schlichting, Ruar and Christopher Lubieniecki,25 who were the first to arrive and present their credentials on the day appointed, October 10, 1644. The other Protestant confessions refused to make any joint appearance with them at the proposed discussion; and when they presented themselves alone and the presiding Bishop asked which confession they represented, they said, the Christian. He politely replied that discussion had been authorized with only the Lutherans and the Calvinists, and asked to be excused for the present from having any further conference with them. 26 They were of course disappointed, yet in fact little was lost. The conference was deferred until the following August to accommodate the Protestants; but when met, the parties quarreled from the beginning, the Lutherans being most in tractable of all. Neither side was willing for the sake of harmony to yield any ground; and although 50,000 guests had crowded the city, and enormous expense had been incurred, the assembly came to an end after 36 fruitless sessions without any result except increased acrimony between the Protestants. Indeed, a prominent historian has expressed the opinion that this was probably the real purpose in arranging the discussion at all. 27
Although after the fall of Ráków ‘Arianism’ was theoretically tolerated (except in those on whom the Ráków decree had fallen), the decrees of the Tribunal against such ‘Arians’ as came before it grew steadily more frequent and severe. The printed controversy between Schlichting and Cichowski kept the flame of hatred against them constantly fanned, and not a few of the younger generation yielded to pressure and returned to the Roman Church. One Abraham Hulewicz, who had been convicted before the Tribunal of blasphemy against the Trinity, escaped the decreed punishment by making public recantation of his ‘Arianism’ in 1647. 28 After the Protestant fiasco at Thorn, the Catholic reaction gathered fresh strength and vigor. Simon Starowolski, Canon of Krakow, published in 1644 a Fraternal Admonition to the Dissidents, 29 citing various unrepealed laws against heretics, and attacking the guarantees of the Warsaw Confederation as illegal and invalid; and thus showing on what dangerous ground they stood, he urged them in their own interest to remain quiet and stir up no disturbance in the Diets or elsewhere.
Though the writing was not addressed especially to the Socinians, they felt that it called for a prompt and decisive reply, which the synod asked Przypkowski to make. 30 He made a general and detailed denial of his opponent’s assertions, and a strong appeal for religious toleration as a foundation of civil liberty. In Prussia during all this period, though the prevailing religion was strongly Lutheran, there were many secret Socinians who had their own congregations for religious worship. They made some notable converts, insomuch that the authorities were aroused to take aggressive action to prevent the heresy from spreading further. Thus in 1647 the King issued an edict prohibiting ‘Arians’, especially in Prussia, from making converts, under pain of death, loss of property, and expulsion of all the sect from the Kingdom.
The interregnum after the death of King Ladislas in 1648, and the election of a new King, furnished an opportunity for a fresh outbreak of religious hatred. The new King, Jan Casimir (Kazimierz), took the usual oath at his coronation, to maintain peace and tranquility among Dissidents as to the Christian religion, and to allow no oppression on account of religion; 31 but this oath no longer had any practical meaning for the Socinians, for the term Dissidents, which had at first signified all religions without distinction, and had later come to be used of the Protestant sects alone, had now by deliberate interpretation been restricted to the three orthodox sects subscribing the Consensus Sendomiriensis, from which ‘Arians’ had been expressly excluded. 32 The way was therefore more than ever open to persecution of the Socinians on any pretext or on none at all.
As early as 1636 at a Prussian dietine at Grudziaz he Bishop of Chelmno had argued that the ‘Arians’ were not included in the pro visions of the Confederation, and moved that the Arian deputies to the Diet be excluded; 33 and in 1648 the Bishops issued a manifesto to the same effect. 34 At the Diet in 1648 at which Jan Casimir was elected King, protest was made against the vote of George Niemirycz as an ‘Arian,’ and Paul Iwanicki, another ‘Arian’, was refused a vote; but though he was permitted to remain, he was advised not to present him self as a deputy again. It was voted that ‘Arian’ nobles might indeed stay in the country, but might not build more churches or buy more land.35 In the same year, when at a dietine at Proszowice a resolution had been voted concerning religious rights and immunities, several formal protests were entered against the acts being subscribed by ‘Arians’ or Anabaptists;36and repeatedly at Diets and local dietines in the first decade of King Jan’s reign, things were said and measures adopted showing that the Socinians could no longer expect to enjoy the political rights and privileges that were open to the other nobles, 37 but must submit to being classed with Tatars, Cossacks and heathen. Thus year by year and month by month the bands that were slowly strangling them were drawn closer and closer, until the prime source of all their ills, as one of their writers later called it, 38 but in reality only the final and fatal blow, fell upon them in the outbreak of the Cossack war in 1648, which laid all Poland prostrate, and brought the Socinian churches within immediate sight of total extinction.
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