What counts with God is a man’s intention; sin is not something done (it is not res); it is uniquely the consent of a human mind to what it knows to be wrong. Abelard also wrote Dialogus inter philosophum, Judaeum et Christianum (“Dialogue between a Philosopher, A Jew, and a Christian”), and a commentary on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the Expositio in Epistolam ad Romanos, in which he outlined an explanation of the purpose of Christ’s life, which was to inspire men to love him by example alone.
On the Mont-Sainte-Genevieve Abelard drew crowds of pupils, many f them men of future fame, such as the English humanist John of Salisbury. He also, however, aroused deep hostility in many by his criticism of other masters and by his apparent revisions of the traditional teachings of Christian theology. Within Paris the influential Abbey of Saint-Victor was studiously critical of his doctrines, while elsewhere William of Saint-Thierry, a former admirer of Abelard, recruited the support of Bernard of Claivaux, perhaps the most influential figure in Western Christendom at that time.
At a council held at Sens in 1140, Abelard underwent a resounding condemnation, which was soon confirmed by Pope Innocent II. He withdrew to the great monastery of Cluny in Burgundy. There, under the skillful mediation of the abbot, Peter the Benerable, he made peace with Bernard of Clairvaux and retired from teaching.
Now both sick and old, he lived the life of a Cluniac monk. His death at the nearby priory of Saint-Marcel at Chalon-sur-Saone probably occurred in 1144. His body, first sent to the Paraclete, now lies alongside that of Heloise in the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise in Paris. Epitaphs composed after his death suggest that Abelard impressed some of his contemporaries as one of the greatest thinkers and teachers of all time. – (D.E.L)