Life & Soul

Heretic of the week: Miguel de Molinos

Miguel de Molinos (1628-1696) was a Spanish priest renowned as the founder of the Quietist heresy. Trained at a Jesuit school and ordained in 1652, he joined the Valencia branch of a brotherhood called the School of Christ, which was somewhat aligned with the Oratory of St Philip Neri and had spread throughout the Spanish Empire.

In 1663, at the request of the king and hierarchy of Spain, Fr de Molinos was sent to Rome to encourage and report back on the process of the beatification of Venerable Francisco Jerónimo Simón (d 1612).

Once ensconced in Rome, he became the head of the local School of Christ, which he ran autocratically. He soon became a great favourite as a spiritual director in the Eternal City. Among other notables, Cardinal Benedetto Odescalchi and the exiled Queen Christina of Sweden became admirers (although the Queen regarded Fr de Molinos’s huge appetite for food with sceptical amusement).

While he continued to work on the Venerable Francisco’s Cause during all this time, by 1675 he had to admit that it was a failure: his royal commission and line of credit were withdrawn.

In that same year, however, he published his Spiritual Guide, which purported to lead the reader through the various stages of the spiritual life to perfection in this world, whereby one would remain perfectly passive before God as the highest state. Once there, a person need not fear sins committed under the temptations of the Devil, but should remain at peace, even after committing the vilest acts.

Apparently practising what he preached, he antagonised the Jesuits by attacking St Ignatius’s teachings on meditation. Although his friend Cardinal Odescalchi was now Pope Innocent XI, he was arrested in 1685, dying in prison after recanting.