Geneva vs. Servetus

On my mind: writing an article on (the apparently but not actually oxymoronic concept of) what individualism and a right understanding of individual rights owes to John Calvin (and the Puritans.)

But for now here's a second-hand contribution to clarity and precision in understanding whether Calvin was responsible for the death-by-burning of Michael Servetus. The latter is often held, alas by the ignorant, to be reason enough to hold Calvin in contempt.

From "John Calvin: His Life and Influence" (written by a brilliant, former professor of mine).

Michael Servetus (b. 9/29/1511) believed he was the "Michael" cited in the Book of Revelation. Servetus saw himself, accordingly, as "fighting against both the dragon of Rome and the 'Simon Magus' or 'magician' of Geneva [Calvin], thus destined to 'reform' both the papacy and the Reformation..."

Calvin was involved in "exhausting, time-consuming" efforts to set Servetus straight. When Servetus rebuffed all such attempts, Calvin broke off contact with him.

When Servetus entered Geneva on August 13, 1553 and was arrested (then tried and burned at the stake on October 27) he had already been convicted of heresy and blasphemy by a papal tribune at Vienne, France and "had already been condemned to be burned at the stake by slow fire."

The author points out that the civil authorities in Geneva "feared that the papal authorities would have grounds to charge them and Protestantism in general with being indifferent, if not unfavorable, to heresy if they spared him."

"Servetus' execution by fire was decided by the secular Little Council (of Geneva), the majority of whose members at this time were opposed to Calvin's entire ministry, and not by Calvin..."

The author points out that Calvin wasn't a citizen of Geneva and couldn't have run for political office or voted, and "therefore could not have voted in judicial matters and certainly did not vote to execute Servetus."

Calvin was chief prosecution witness against Servetus. And although he loaned Servetus (who wanted Calvin executed) "from his own library whatever ancient books he requested for the preparation of his defense..." Calvin did believe -according to the fashion of the age -that Servetus should be convicted and executed. Calvin pled for a more humane method of execution.

More to be added later......
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