The Chinon Parchment and the Church apologia on the Templars

Below is a video that I mentioned in the interview with Freeman Fly that will air on The Free Zone this Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 8 PM EST, promoting my new book written with Alexander Rivera, Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, which is set to go to press this weekend. The video features Barbara Frale, discoverer of the controversial Chinon Parchment, offering what seems like propaganda and apologia on behalf of both the Church and the Templar Knighthood they chartered.

In the Freeman interview, I question the way the Parchment was allegedly found: suddenly after 700 years of being lost in the Vatican Secret Archives. I also question the way that the media has chosen to portray the contents of the Parchment: as being exculpatory of the Templars on the issues of heresy, blasphemy, and sexual immorality (as those terms were defined at the time).

As part of this discussion, I mentioned a National Geographic documentary I saw on YouTube featuring Ms. Frale. The show presents the entire Church leadership as hapless pawns in the hands of the king of France, and the Templars as innocent casualties of politics and greed. Frale, a paleographist who’s worked at the Vatican Secret Archives since 2001, comes across as a Church spokeswoman almost apologizing for what happened to the knights, and offering up excuses for why the Pope failed to protect them from Philip. While Philip’s control of Clement has long been known, to me it seems that an attempt is being made here to rehabilitate the reputations of both the Church and the Temple. These issues are discussed at length in my upcoming Baphomet book.

Starting at 0:41, the program first begins to tell the story of the French throne’s essential takeover of the Papacy:

Narrator: The Pope is the only man who can save the Templars. But the Papacy is at its weakest moment in history. Pope Clement V is a puppet, and Philip IV has the strings. The King single-handedly destroyed the previous Pope, and forced the appointment of Clement in his place. Now, Philip makes sure the Pope knows who’s in charge.

Frale: Philip IV’s agents wrote many anonymous letters accusing the Pope of heresy. It was an attempt to undermine Clement V’s reputation on all fronts. It was even said that he had an affair with a very beautiful lady, the wife of a French noble.

Narrator: Clement is forced to conspire with the French king. For the first time in history, the Papacy is relocated. They leave the Vatican for Avignon, France. The Pope is in exile.

Frale: Pope Clement V wanted to go to Italy, to the Vatican, because he would have been safer there. But he was always stopped. The king of France kept him as a kind of hostage in his kingdom.

Narrator: But the Pope has one final lifeline that might still save the Templars. The Pope is obligated to investigate any accusation of heresy. So he launches a papal inquiry into the Templar case….

We then hear the story of the cardinals that were sent to interview some of the leadership of the Templars in their prison cells, where they were being held after confessing to the accused crimes brought against them by the French crown. As I said in the Freeman interview, the reality of what the Chinon Parchment (a questionable document in itself) says versus the way it was portrayed in the news when Frale published a book on the subject in 2007, are two different things. For instance, here is an utterly misleading description of the document’s content from BBC News, using Frale’s own words:

However, according to Prof Frale, study of the document shows that the knights were not heretics as had been believed for 700 years.

In fact she says “the Pope was obliged to ask for pardons from the knights… the document we have found absolves them.”

Actually, according to the Parchment, they did confess to blasphemy, including denying Christ and spitting on the cross, as the National Geographic documentary describes, as does the very same BBC article quoted above:

In the hearings before Clement V, the knights reportedly admitted spitting on the cross, denying Jesus and kissing the lower back of the man proposing them during initiation ceremonies.

This mention of the “kiss on the lower back” (which was also applied to the navel and mouth, according to the National Geographic documentary) is as close as the BBC comes to addressing one of the most shocking things that one of the knights confessed to Clement’s cardinals: a doctrine condoning homosexuality. As the show relates, the knights were obliged to swear off all contact with women the moment they joined (dumping their wives and children, in many instances). So, as one of the knights told the cardinals questioning him, they were instructed that if they got horny they should turn to each other for relief. As the narrator explains at 6:44:

Templar Hughes de Pérraud goes further, outlining the details of sexual depravity among initiates. He testifies that after they received their Templar cloaks, they’re ordered to denounce the crucifix, and to kiss men, at the bottom of the back, in the navel, and then on the mouth.

Frale is then shown explaining this as a hazing rite of “humiliation” for the neophyte. But then the narrator gives us the real juice, at 7:23:

Hughes de Pérraud also confesses to encouraging homosexuality, an act the Church considers an abomination. The Chinon Parchment says de Pérraud orders the men to be celibate, but if they can’t, they should join themselves with brothers of the Order.

As far as the absolution the BBC refers to in their article, this was presumably the absolution of sin after confession, which the Pope of course had the right to issue. It in no way negated the fact that the sin had taken place. But why did the BBC’s writers have the wrong idea here? Even the Catholic News Agency presented the news with this spin when Frale’s book came out in 2007, using the word “exonerated”:

The investigation took place in Rome between 1307 and 1312. According to the document, Pope Clement V exonerated the Templars on the charge of heresy, but found them guilty of other infractions. He also ordered the Knights Templar to disband.

The BBC article had also used the word “exonerated,” and went even further:

The official who found the paper says it exonerates the knights entirely.

How does this square with what the National Geographic documentary featuring Frale says? Or with what the BBC article itself says several paragraphs earlier about their confessions?

None of it makes any sense, and even turning to one of Barbara Frale’s English-language books on the subject, The Templars: The Secret History Revealed, doesn’t really clear the matter up.

Barbara Frale standing next to her $9000-per-copy book published by the Vatican
Barbara Frale standing next to her $9000-per-copy book published by the Vatican

In her first chapter she declares that her discovery has finally set the record straight on the Templar issue, even using the word “innocent”:

. . . [I]t reveals that the grand master and other high-ranking Templars were found innocent of the charges of heresy, were absolved for less serious offenses by the apostolic authority, and were fully integrated into the Catholic community. Historians believed that the Templars were innocent of the charges brought against them by Philip IV, but many outside academia still suspected the Templars of having been heretics and occultists. The Chinon Parchment is the definitive and incontrovertible proof of the Templars’ innocence and should finally put this question to rest.

Apparently, only the uneducated ever had any doubt in the first place! But what constitutes innocence, in her mind? As you will see, this is purely her interpretation on the matter, which involves a great deal of guesswork and assumption of unknown facts on her part.

She tells the story of the circumstances that led up to the papal inquiry. Prior to sending the cardinals to question the knights, and prior to Philip’s arrest of them, in March 1307 Pope Clement personally interviewed a couple of them. First he called in grand master Jacques de Molay himself “and immediately demanded an explanation for the infamous rumors of the idol said to be secretly venerated in the Temple. . . .” This the grand master denied, and insisted that the matter be investigated to clear the Order’s reputation. She writes:

The grand master of the Templars, indignant at the rumors the sovereign had been spreading, expressly requested the pope to open an inquest into the state of the Temple so as to demonstrate that the slanderous accusations were unfounded. . . .

“Slander” of course would mean that they were the targets of willful lies. But is that what we’re talking about here? When the Pope then interviewed Hughes de Pérraud, he “confirmed to the pope that the Templars practiced a ritual that required new members to spit on the cross during their induction ceremony.”

Templars Jacques De Molay and Geoffrey de Chamey being burnt at the stake
Templars Jacques De Molay and Geoffrey de Chamey being burnt at the stake

After the knights were arrested by Philip, Clement sent the cardinals to question the leaders mentioned, and that is when they all, including De Molay, confirmed many of the accusations, as we have discussed. That is also when all of the details about the initiation ceremony finally came out. Frale’s description of events is full of contradictions. For instance, she writes:

The written statutes of the Temple, which date back to the second half of the thirteenth century, contain the complete text of the initiation ceremony.

But she then admits that the controversial final elements of the ceremony were not written in the Rule, and “can be constructed only from the testimony given at the trial.” So the statutes didn’t in fact give the complete ceremony, as she’d said earlier.

Frale then gives the details of the ceremony, which she put together from all of the similar elements found in the confessions of the knights. As she put it:

After donning the mantle, the new Templar was led to an isolated place (in the sacristy, behind the altar, or in another room), and here the preceptor said: “Sir, all the vows you have made to us are empty words. Now you will have to prove yourself with deeds.” And without providing any explanation, the preceptor ordered the new Templar to deny Christ and spit on the cross, showing him a cross painted on a missal or using a liturgical cross. The novice Templar was often left speechless, and, having regained his senses after the shock, refused to obey. At that point the preceptor said: “You have sworn to obey any command from your superiors, and you now dare to display your disobedience?”

A systematic analysis of all the testimony revealed that at this point most of the brothers resigned themselves to doing what had been commanded, perhaps attempting to spit in the direction of the cross without actually hitting it, while others adamantly refused. . . . Sometimes a candidate’s firmness was respected, and he was asked nothing more, but more often his brothers threatened him with prison or death, beating him brutally with their bare fists or holding a sword to his throat. Then the preceptor gave him the kiss of monastic brotherhood—on the mouth. Often this kiss, common to all religious orders, was followed by two more kisses on the belly and the posterior, which was usually covered by the tunic, but at times there were officiators who exposed their bottoms and, according to some witnesses, even obscenely proposed kisses on the penis. Most postulants obeyed without arguing when the request was moderately humiliating, such as a kiss on the behind, and refused in more extreme cases. While the preceptors demanded that a postulant at least deny Christ or spit on the cross, they usually overlooked a refusal of kisses, and unwilling candidates were not forced to comply.

Templars spitting on Jesus
Templars spitting on Jesus

Earlier, Frale had written about the policy the Templars had in their official Rule since the beginning regarding their vows of chastity upon joining:

The rule provided that if a brother allowed himself to be tempted by a prostitute, he was not to reveal this to his brethren, so as not to create a precedent and occasion for sinful thoughts… As late as the beginning of the fourteenth century, during the initiation ceremony, some preceptors instructed the new Templar to abstain from keeping the company of women, but if he could not refrain, he had to ensure that no one found out about it.

But from the confessions (as summarized in the National Geographic program), it appears that this policy had been augmented to take on quite a different flavor:

Finally, the preceptor exhorted the new Templar not to have sexual relations with women, inviting him, should he absolutely not be able to live chastely, to unite with his brothers and not refuse them should they request sexual favors from him. The novice often reacted angrily, but there were no consequences because the ritual sequence did not provide for any concrete application of this “precept of homosexuality.”

But hey, no worries. They were just making sure that the new member understood he had to make himself available for this. They weren’t ever actually going to do it, Frale says. Or, at least, almost never, and in these cases, it wasn’t exploitation or even lust. They were truly in love! Frale writes:

The surviving trial testimony consists of approximately one thousand depositions with only six attesting to homosexual relations, all of which were described as long-term relationships that almost always had a dimension of affection. . . .

Well, that’s a relief, isn’t it? So nobody was sexually victimized, right? Right Ms. Frale? No, and apparently, their consciences weren’t scarred either because they were encouraged to confess their “sins” immediately afterwards. This is in fact how all those “slanderous” rumors got started, she says– you know, the slanderous rumors that accurately stated exactly what the Templars were doing? As she put it:

At the end of the ceremony, the “victim” of all these impositions was invited to report to the chaplain of the order to confess the sins he had just committed and ask for forgiveness. The priests of the Temple comforted these penitents by telling them that they had not committed grave offenses and that if they demonstrated remorse and shame, they would be absolved. Often, however, the brothers confessed to priests outside the Temple, generally Franciscans or Dominicans, who, naturally, were dumbfounded and amplified the brothers’ moral disquiet by telling them that they had committed mortal sins, sometimes encouraging them to leave the order. These indiscretions of these honest priests, who were totally ignorant of the real function of the secret ceremony within the Temple, undoubtedly contributed to the gossip circulating in the secular world about the “dark side” of the order.

Now by putting the word “victim” in quotation marks, Ms. Frale is in no way continuing the Church’s practice of minimizing the significance of the sexual abuse of underlings by superiors in Catholic institutions, right? I mean, at least all the “victims” were adults, right? Not really. Frale even quotes the Parchment when it described a confessed induction into the Order of an 11–year-old boy who was a relative to the king of England:

At some point (when asked to spit on the cross) the boy refused and began to ask the whereabouts of his uncle and other worthy persons who had accompanied him there; the preceptor told him, “They’re gone away. And now you must obey me.” But since the boy steadfastly refused, the preceptor, in the face of such determined resistance, made him a proposal: “I’ll credit you with having done these things if you will swear on the Gospels that you’ll say you did them to any Templar who may ask you!” The boy swore a solemn oath, and the preceptor excused him from doing all except this: having covered the cross with his hand, he ordered the boy to spit on his hand. . . .

It doesn’t say if they asked the boy to kiss their behinds or penises, or if he was ordered to give in to his brothers’ sexual demands.

So what exactly is the “innocent” explanation for all of this? Ms. Frale trips all over herself to argue that it was just a test of the postulant’s mettle.

Bernard of Clairvaux. . . insisted on inserting into the text of the Rule a clause exhorting the leaders of the order not to accept new vocations too hurriedly, but rather to subject candidates to a test to ascertain their character and commitment. The exact nature of the test is unclear. Bernard elegantly alluded to Saint Paul’s advice to “put them to the test to see if they come from God. . . .”

The written Rule offers no details as to how the preceptor might discourage postulants who were less than totally convincing. . . .

In her imagination, without specific instruction it was only logical that over time tests would be devised that involved blaspheming Jesus and making people kiss their private parts. But she simultaneously makes two contradictory claims about the purpose of this:

1) To see if a candidate would have the courage not to renounce Christ if the Saracens tried to force him to.
2) To see if a candidate would be obedient to his superiors no matter what.

So which were they looking for: loyalty to the Order, or loyalty to Christ and Christian morality? Apparently, nobody flunked the test no matter how they reacted.

Frale’s opinion on the matter is confusing (especially when she claims that it has somehow been established by the evidence of the Parchment whilst still admitting that it’s purely theoretical on her part). Regarding the need for strict obedience within the Order, she states:

A cardinal point of the Templars’ ethical code was absolute obedience to one’s immediate superiors. . . .

As for the idea that they were testing their recruits to see how they’d stand up to the religious persuasion tactics of the Muslim enemy, here is what she bases it on. She says:

Perhaps they [did these things] because it immediately confronted the new Templar with the violence that he would be subjected to if he were captured by the Saracens.
. . .
We know that the Saracens used to beat and torture captured Christians, forcing them to deny Christ and spit on the cross before ultimately compelling them to convert to Islam.”
. . .
The ritual took place according to a fixed script based on the actual experiences of Templar escapees from Muslim prisons, and dated back to the earliest days of the order… Over time, extraneous elements were added, such as the kiss on the buttocks, a true example of hazing aimed at humiliating the recruit in front of the veterans, and the verbal exhortation to homosexuality, which probably started as a parody of the precept that required Templars to give their whole selves to the order and to their brethren. These vulgar and derisive practices were typical of the often crude behavior found among military corps, and probably arose when the order’s traditional discipline began to deteriorate.

Yeah, maybe, Ms. Frale. Maybe. But if you’re just going to speculate wildly, I might as well get in on the fun too. How is it that men who were charged never to retreat on the battlefield when fighting Muslims for God would crumple under a bit of peer pressure when asked by their superiors to renounce Christ? Also, how does committing the blasphemy beforehand, without torture, help to prevent you from doing so again later under torture from the enemy? If renouncing Christ is a big deal with real spiritual ramifications, and they were being trained to avoid having to do that, why would they go ahead and commit the blasphemy during the training?

At any rate, this is what the Templars confessed to, twice, both to the king of France’s inquisitors, and to the Pope’s. So while they may have had their reasons (if you follow and believe Frale’s twisted apologist logic), and while they may have been absolved (as any murderer or rapist who confessed to a priest would be), they were certainly not innocent, either by contemporary standards, or today’s. Contrary to the sweeping claims of Barbara Frale (who in 2009 also claimed to have found the name of Jesus written on the Shroud of Turin), the question of why they did these things, and the extent to which they did, as well what other crimes they may have committed, is as unanswered today as before the Chinon Parchment was discovered in 2001.

Members of DeMolay International, a club for boys named after the convicted and executed Templar grand master, performing a quasi-Masonic ritual
Members of DeMolay International, a club for boys named after the convicted and executed Templar grand master, performing a quasi-Masonic ritual

Note: Thanks to Alexander Rivera and Philip Gonzalez for helping with the research for this article.


Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled by Tracy R. Twyman and Alexander Rivera.

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“Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

For seven centuries, the enigma of Baphomet has mystified both scholars and the general public. Did the Knights Templar really worship a demonic idol of that name? If so, what does the word mean? What is the origin of this figure? What was the nature of the rituals that the Templars performed in secret? What were their covert beliefs? And why, if the Templars initially described their idol as a mummified severed head, is this figure now represented as a hermaphrodite human with the head of a goat?

Authors Tracy R. Twyman and Alexander Rivera have dived head-first into the bottomless abyss of mystery and returned with some astounding wisdom to share. Here for the first time they reveal the genesis of these symbols, showing how they relate to the Witches’ Sabbath, traditions of Sufi Islam, alchemy, Gnosticism, cabalism, the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, and so much more.

Learn why the Templars and their beloved severed head are frequently associated with John the Baptist, and how this connects to his student, Simon Magus. Discover the known facts about things like the Chinon Parchment, the Book of the Baptism of Fire, the Templar Abraxas seals, and newly-found documents which claim that the Templars discovered the real Temple of Solomon during a secret trip to Mecca.

Join Twyman and Rivera on this exciting adventure into the unknown. Immerse yourself in this knowledge, if your heart has the strength. It is certain that your mind will never be the same.