Pope Innocent III issues the papal bull Vergentis in senium (Inclining toward Decay). Directed specifically at the city of Viterbo, Pope Innocent III says that heresy is a form of treason against God and must therefore be punished like secular government punishes treason.
Pope Innocent III writes:
"In those areas, which are subject to our lay jurisdiction, we will arrange the confiscation of the goods of the defenders, harbourers, supporters and believers in heretics. …
In this way the lay punishment will lead back those which church discipline cannot bring to reason…
How much more must the secular goods be taken from those who, having fallen from the right belief, insult Jesus Christ the Son of God and therefore from the head of our church, who is Christ are, have been separated."
This same letter will be sent next year to Languedoc.
The punishments are especially harsh, not just because they are imposed on "defenders, harbourers, supporters, and believers" as well as heretics, but also because is disinherits even the Catholic children of heretics, a step not taken before by the Catholic Church nor even by the Roman laws on which Vergentis in seniumis based.
Pope Innocent III also complains about priests who don't speak out against heresy - they are "dumb as dogs who do not bark."